Saturday, 7 October 2017

Rage against the dying of the light

For the last 12 years or so, I've not necessarily been the strongest, fastest or most skilful sportsperson in the family, but I have been what a lot of people might call the 'fittest' - most stamina, endurance, that kind of thing. This blog has documented some of the things I've been able to do with that fitness.

But I fear that if I haven't relinquished that title already, I'll do so very shortly. T'youngest, you see, was selected at the end of the last academic year to be in Oxford Uni's lightweight rowing squad. These are the young women who have rowing ability, but aren't big or powerful enough to make the full squad. It's still a big deal however - if selected to row against Cambridge they get a full blue (representative honours), and last year 3 of their number went straight into the GB squad. So she's in the squad. But not the final 8. Selection of that won't happen until after Christmas, and between now and then it's a pretty rigorous selection process...

...starting with their training regime. They have 12 sessions a week, 6 on the water and 6 in the gym. Of the on-water sessions, 4 necessitate 5am starts, and the other 2 6.30am starts. The gym sessions vary; one this week was a 1 hour 45 min spinning session. They're training comfortably upwards of 20 hours a week. But that's the only thing that's comfortable. Liv's taken to 10pm bedtimes (she's a student!), drinking irregularly, and an amazingly clean diet. The coaches are hard, psychological, but, it seems, fair. On the one hand, it's brutal. On the other, it's a fantastic opportunity, to truly explore personal boundaries of resilience and performance. As you can probably tell, I'm very proud of Liv, of the achievement obviously, but also for having the guts to embark on that kind of programme. If she fails, I know it won't be for want of determination or persistence, but probably because of the genes her old man lumbered her with. And she will take a level of fitness that she'll struggle to ever match again.

Hence why I'll shortly be relegated. In a week when I passed my 51st birthday (which, in a way, was even more sobering than my 50th, as it was just another unheralded slow step towards infirmity [he wrote cheerfully]), that's just contributed to a sense of going backwards where I've been able to go forwards for the last few years.

Largely, though not completely, coincidentally, however, this was the week when Mendip Rouleur and I agreed between ourselves, and were pencilled in to do, our most ambitious cycling challenge yet. I won't say what it is, because although we've made our choice, we haven't paid our money yet. Suffice to say it's August 2018, and it's long and climby. Our last hurrah before we have to say goodbye to the Matterhorn and hello to the Peak District.

Will it get me my crown back as the fittest member of this branch of the Kinsey Clan? I don't know, and I don't care. Frankly, I'd be happy to be the 4th fittest member if the change were down to others progressing rather than me regressing. But in a week with too much bad news about the health of some of my contemporaries at university and earlier jobs, I'm also happy just to be able to rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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