Sunday, 29 January 2012

I'd like to thank....

I'm a middle-aged man, and a fairly grumpy one at that. Rarely angry, frequently grumpy. Among the many things that get my goat - a long list, and it has to be said that this one would barely make it to my top 50 - are TV award ceremonies, such as the National Television Awards that took place last week. I mean, a tv show showing the giving of awards to other tv shows - self-indulgent w**k if you ask me. (Something that also makes me grumpy and would get into my top 50 are overblown, self-important, jargon-ridden job titles. This week I read in the Evening Standard [London village's daily comic - you can tell I'm spending lots of time there; I'm already becoming patronising to those that don't - as if you needed telling what what the Standard is for goodness sake] that one London borough, I forget which, has someone who has the job title 'Director of Parking Enforcement Solutions'. Apart from its ridiculous pomposity, it's also technically wrong, as he/she aren't actually forcing anybody to park. Moving on in the interests of my blood pressure...)

And so it is with some trepidation that quite a lot of this week's offering is inspired by and devoted to my small band of loyal readers. In no particular order (and I hope you'll know who you are):

- following last week's post I now have excellent fodder to feed Mrs Monmarduman when it comes to the great bath vs shower debate. I think I can safely look forward to soaking my weary limbs a bit more often

- the identity of a mystery and significant donor to my 2011 fundraising efforts was recently revealed. All I can say is a massive thank you, and that your cross-Irish Sea contraband smuggling business must be going very well (you do make plenty of trips after all).

A brief diversion - there's to be no charity or sponsorship-seeking events for me this year. A few reasons - first, I've hit the usual suspects for about 5 years running now, and I think they all deserve a year off. Second, setting up a 'justgiving' site may be effective, but it's just so unoriginal and impersonal. And third, as I blogged last year, too many requests for sponsorship are to give people money for doing things that are easy or pleasant or both. It's time we sponsored people to do dull, but much more communally-constructive things - I'd give a fiver to someone who was going to spend a couple of hours litterpicking in my local park for example. If and when I go back to begging for money, that'll be the kind of activity I do it for.

- to my youngest regular reader (I think), who has just started either cycling a busy and hard 13 miles or taking a two-hour tedious bus journey to a job in Birmingham that isn't the most glamorous in the world. Chapeau mademoiselle, one day you will get your rewards for the graft and grind you're putting in at the moment

- and to all those who also blog: I sometimes wonder why I do this, but when I have my weekly sweep of your blogs I think I get the answer - I'm not sure about mine, but yours enlighten and amuse, and make my day a little bit better than it would have been otherwise. Eeughh, that's not nearly grumpy enough, and is definitely tapping back into the awards ceremony vibe. Time to get back to moaning...

I was saying to the good lady Mrs M yesterday that when I get back from a decent run (and yesterday's long one was 14 miles, which just about counts) it feels like an army assessing its losses after a battle - a bit of bruising here, a soupcon (add your own cedilla svp) of chafing there. Sometimes it's better than you expect, other times worse. This week, it's better, though generous amounts of vaseline were involved, missus. Tune in next week for more aches and pains news.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Nice weather for ducks

Nice weather for ducks....one of the favourite sayings of my old dad, long before it was the title of a song on an album by Lemon Jelly that was nominated for the 2003 Mercury Music Prize. Normally it meant the weather was really, very, extremely, quite wet. Well, it wasn't this morning - the rain had been and gone overnight - but that didn't stop there being dozens of ducks wherever I ran. This is perhaps not surprising by the side of a waterway, but the Macclesfield Canal (which runs for 26 miles from Marple to near Kidsgrove) seemed to have become the duck equivalent of Britain in the EU - they were all flocking (geddit?) here for its benefits. It was also very windy today, maybe that had something to do with it - do ducks not like flying in windy weather? Perhaps an ornithologist can enlighten us. They were certainly pretty ungainly when they were taking off as they moved out of my path.

Anyway, today was the only run I've managed in the open air this week. I did manage to get to my glamorous (hmm) new gym in Southwark 3 times during the week for a run, but good grief, it's warm in there. I'd forgotten how warm gyms can get not having been in one for 4 years in so. After one run there this week if I'd have stood by the side of the road for too long the traffic would have stopped my head was so red. And normally I aim to do 2 outdoors runs at the weekend, but this weekend it was not to be...

...I woke up yesterday with the beginnings of a cold; sneezes, sore throat and the like. It was hardly surprising really. This was the first week in my new job, and not only was I frantically busy for all the reasons you usually are when you start a new job, and I was also mingling with Joe Public all week - 4 nights in a hotel, 4 train journeys, 2 flights, 2 buses, countless tubes, and 23 meetings - being exposed to their full range of germ warfare. Combine that lot with not sleeping brilliantly, and the immune system had taken a bit of a battering. So I overdosed on fruit, vegetables and fluids yesterday, and got in two nights of 10 hours sleep each.

All of which combined to leave me just about in a fit state to do something this morning. The training plan said 8.4 miles of easy running, and when I left home that felt ambitious, but as so often happens when you hit your stride and don't go off too quickly, a second wind came from somewhere and I ended up running 10.5 miles in 1 hour 25 minutes. That's not an especially quick average speed, but given the state of the canal towpaths at the moment, about 8 miles felt more like a cross-country run than a proper running training session. I came home caked in mud from the knees down, which was a great excuse for a bath (Mrs M isn't keen on me having baths too often due to her utility bill-phobia. Normally I sneak them when she's out, but today I seized the bull by the horns, manned the you-know-what up, and declared I was going to use those 4 inches of water and be damned with it. She acquiesced, but the look on her face meant it's not a stunt I'll pull too often I fear).

I've some strange aches and pains in my right foot and ankle at the moment, but they don't seem too debilitating, so I'm just going to carry on running and trust they disappear. Sensible heh?! Right, that's it I think for this week. Few shafts of inspiration, radical polemic-starting stuff, or frankly anything that interesting, but the year is young and I'm not, so there's hope for the future.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Why, if you have a stomach, to't, monsieur!

When I first started blogging last year I launched into full explanations of why I was doing the events I'd chosen. Might as well do it again then...

So, up first in the year is the Shakespeare Marathon, a 2 circuit route round, through and about Stratford-on-Avon, and of course a fantastic excuse to use a load of bard quotations for the titles of various posts between now and the event. Today's of course comes from All's Well That Ends Well, though the levels of cultivation and sophistication are so high among my readership that I know you knew that already, and didn't have to go anywhere near an online Shakespeare quotation engine, unlike your philistine correspondent.

I've basically decided to run in Jan, Feb, March and April this year, and ride my bike in May, June, July and August. Why? Any number of reasons. The running first: having started a new job which keeps me in London most of the time, it fits the rest of my life well first off. Second, I love targets, and having temporarily run out of realistic ones in cycling, doing a marathon in 3:30 is a genuine ambition. Next, and I can't believe I'm writing this, but the house needs quite a lot of decorating and maintenance doing on it, and I could do with getting stuck into that in the next couple of months - a 2 hour run can be accommodated around that, a half-day ride can't. And finally, on weekends like this one, all crisp and frosty and sunny, running is pretty safe compared to bowling around slippy back roads on 23mm of rubber.  However, the cycling, ahh the cycling - I won't launch  into an ode to its joy and beauty, but when push came to shove I couldn't go a year without doing something interesting. I fear I'm a conditional lover though - the joy and beauty only really make themselves known to me in foreign climes these days; cycling on many British roads is too much an exercise in self-preservation for my liking. If the source of the danger is a swooping hairpin that I'm trying to negotiate at 30 mph, fantastic, but if it's a dozy punter checking their texts behind the wheel, count me out thanks.

So running it is for the moment. I've managed a fairly modest 30 miles this week, but that's ok for this far out from the event; I'm just reminding the joints, ligaments and tendons what it's like to take the strain. I'm going to have to do something different in training this year to shave the 10% off last year's marathon time that I need to, on the basis of that hoary old management aphorism that if you do what you always did you'll get what you always got. I think it boils down to 3 things at the moment:
- more mileage: I'd only run a total of 300 miles last when I ran the marathon; that's just not enough really
- more speed work: to get used to going faster
- sort out the ITB (muscle/tendon group between the knee and thigh, illotibial band to give it its full name) down my right hand side. I've come to the conclusion that was the source of the searing pain in last year's marathon, and which caused me to have to walk a couple of times.


I'm off to my low-cost, high-tech (entry by finger print only) London gym tomorrow for the first time. Normally I can't bear treadmills, as 1 minute running outside feels more like 10 on one of those, but hey ho, needs must. I can't complain - the run in the forest this morning, before there were too many other souls around, looking down on a white and still Cheshire, reminded me of a Paul Simon line (not sure if he nicked it off someone else), "these are the days of miracle and wonder" - it was a joy to be out there, and the contrast was so huge with both what are folk are experiencing in the world now (Syria, Afghanistan et al), and have done in the past (went to see War Horse at Mrs Monmonduman's request yesterday; terrible schmaltz, but no-holds-barred depiction of First World War trenches and their horrors) was humbling. Enough already, before I test your tolerance of piousness too far.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hello, hello I'm back again (good to be back)

Politically incorrect as it may be these days to even quote a Gary Glitter song title, I'm not too bothered for two reasons. First, his subsequent misdemeanours don't stop it being a '70s classic, close as that may be to an oxymoron. And second, it's darned appropriate - I've not blogged since 14th December, by far the biggest gap since I started this mallarkey, and it's time to get the show back on the road.

Apart from the fact there hasn't been much physical activity type-stuff to blog about, it's been a prolonged period of introspection. The main cause has been having to make a big career decision, but the knock-on effect of that has been that all thoughts of what happens in 2012 by way of athletic events has had to go on hold. Anyway, I think that big decision has now been taken (I say "I think", as I've got one final meeting with the people whose option I rejected yet to happen), and that's letting me get on with planning the rest of this year.

Whichever option I'd chosen two things would have been the same. First, I'm going to be spending a heck of a lot of time in London, and second, I'm going to be working harder than I have done for at least the last couple of years. These are not helpful things when it comes to putting long training hours in, so my plans and ambitions are going to have to reflect that. They look like this so far:

* Run a marathon in 3 hrs 30 mins. OK, I've partly chosen this because running is really time-efficient from an effectiveness point of view - i.e. 6 hours running a week can produce really good results if you structure it properly. I've already chosen and entered my target marathon - the Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford-on-Avon on 29th April; enough time away to get some decent training in, but no so far that it's disappearing into the distance.
* Run a half-marathon with one of my kids - probably the eldest, but any of the others would be welcome to join. I fancy doing the White Peak Half-Marathon (the half version of the full marathon I did last year), on 20th May.
* Do the Pro-Strength Pyrenees Coast-to-Coast at the end of August. This is the even-more-difficult version of the Raid Pyrenean I did in 2010, and given our love for the Pyrenees I'm off again with Mendip Rouleur to bag a few of the cols we didn't do either that year or on our self-planned trip in 2011. Should be excellent, but I'm not planning on getting back on the bike seriously until the start of May, which means that I won't be riding at the front of the group this year.
* Improve on last year's time in the Tegg's Nose Fell Race at the start of August (73 mins is the time to beat). 
* Ride my bike more than 200km in a single sitting - which probably means doing a 300km Audax at some point during the summer. 

Compared to last year that feels fairly modest, but I suspect that's no bad thing. I've been bimbling around the lanes of both Cheshire and Brittany over the last few weeks on two feet, but ramped it up today with my first proper hilly run into Macc Forest. I'm going to find a way of uploading my routes onto here, but until then, I shall add details manually. Today I ran 8.39 miles in 1 hr 13 mins, including 888 ft of ascent, using 1112 calories. And now I'm quite stiff, and some more stretching is needed. I love the first hard run after Christmas - you really find out which bits need work and which are ok, and it's the first time you get that feeling of pleasurable-fatigue, so different from the feeling of knackered-fatigue that comes on at the end of a working week.

Right, that'll do for today. I promise future blogs will be more entertaining, though quite how I'll manage that when midweek runs will be done on a treadmill in a central London gym, I'm not sure. 
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