I’m Not A Nazi, I’m Temporarily Disabled

It’s been a sod of a week. I’ve done a lot less running than I should have done. I’ve done a lot more swearing than is strictly necessary, even for me. I’ve accidentally done a Nazi salute. Tony Benn and Bob Crow died. Not a good week at all.

On the other hand, I’ve spent time with lovely people, had the best heart attack on a plate I’d had in ages on Thursday morning only to have it beaten this afternoon, spent quality time with my beautiful wife, run on the Roman Road for the first time this year and made a start on clearing out the jungle in my back garden. Gytha the Chicken is pleased with me, at least.

This was supposed to be my peak week of mileage on my marathon plan. Rest on Monday, 9 miles on Tuesday with some strides slipped in, 13 miles on Wednesday, 5 miles recovery on Thursday, 14 on Friday, 6 on Saturday and 22 today.

I had a problem nearly all week with limited mobility in my right shoulder. I must have slept awkwardly on it on Sunday night because it was sore on Monday morning. There wasn’t a problem with my arms but moving the shoulder led to stabbing pains down the front or the back of the arm depending on whether I wanted to move it backwards or forwards. It became worse each day. Typing on Tuesday was particularly comedic. I couldn’t reach the Y key on the keyboard without moving my right arm with my left hand.

I was coaching on Monday. Mile reps. I still had Sunday’s half marathon PB in my legs so I wasn’t going to be nailing every rep myself. Instead, I ran with the quickest group and paced them round. My Monday group isn’t as quick as Tuesday’s club sessions so I can keep up easily with all of them nearly all the time. What was a brisk pace for me was quite a hard rep for them. It was a really good recovery session for me.

Tuesday was 4 x 6:00 with 3:00 recoveries. Go out in one direction for the first rep and back the way you’ve come on the second. Try to push a little faster so you go beyond your start point. Same again on each successive rep. I found running hard quite difficult because I couldn’t swing both arms freely. I was well off the pace of the quickest group. Only on the final rep did I give it a proper go. I paid for it afterwards.

I had to drive to Lancaster on Wednesday morning after two nights of very poor sleep. I had meetings all day with academics in the Management School. I had to suppress a little yelp of pain very time I shook someone’s hand. I didn’t always succeed. “Hi! I’m Richard from Compass. It’s nice to meet you. Thaaaaaaaaaaarghaaank you for seeing me.”

The drive from Lancaster to Leeds that evening was properly miserable. I couldn’t reach the top of the steering wheel with my right hand until I adjusted the steering column downwards. The wheel was almost between my knees. I still couldn’t use my right arm to turn the wheel but at least I could rest my hand easily on it. Occasionally, I’d forget and drop my right hand from the wheel and whimper or yell or call Christ a cunt.

The thing about an injury like this is that it’s easy to forget you have it. It was seldom painful when I kept the shoulder still or moved it gently so when I was just walking around it was fine. More or less. The problems came when I moved it quickly or further than it wanted to go. When a cheery wave to a friend across the street turns into a Nazi salute and a yell of “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” problems can arise. That’s all I’m saying.

Wednesday night was quite unpleasant. I struggled to eat dinner. I couldn’t quite raise my fork to my mouth. It got to just below my chin before I’d have to dip my head towards the delicious morsel of red snapper with a zesty lemon risotto. My glass of lime and soda was too heavy to lift. I had to leave it on the table and use a long straw.

Bob Crow died. I’m a supporter of strong trades unions playing a part in the running of successful enterprises. I’m really a 70s socialist. I remember learning about mixed economies and free collective bargaining. I don’t much like the class war but I have a soft spot for some class warriors. Bob Crow was one.

I don’t think Tony Benn would ever have taken part in anything so ungentle as class war. He was still an effective and passionate advocate for Labour without ever mounting a personal attack. I heard him speak on several occasions and had a taxi ride with him once. He spent almost the entire journey asking questions about me and what I did and who I was and where I came from and my parents and my family. I said at one point how moved I was by what he’d written when his wife had died and how much it had helped me when I was having some trouble with grieving. I wanted to hear him talk about challenging Roy Hattersley for the deputy leadership or about life in the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet but he just wanted to hear about my life and interests. I’ll miss him but his family and his friends will miss him much, much more.

Good things started to happen on Thursday. Breakfast in the hotel was exceptional. Poached egg, bacon, sausage, black pudding, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, all very tasty. Piss-poor coffee as usual. I have yet to have a good cup of coffee in a hotel in Britain. Slightly odd orange juice. It made getting going after another night of poor sleep that much easier. I’d spent chunks of the awkward hours of Thursday morning really, really wanting to be at home in my own bed with my wife. My heart ached as much as my shoulder. I was using ibuprofen gel to relieve the pain and it didn’t really work. I was hoping for codeine gel. Or heroin gel. Fuck it, I’d have mugged a junkie for a fix at one point shortly after two on Thursday morning.

Thursday’s meetings passed with barely a whimper. “Hi, I’m Richard from Compass. Thank you for see – aargh – seeing me.” The drive home from Leeds took too long and I couldn’t go for my run when I got back but I had an early night without the ibuprofen gel smearing itself onto the bedsheets and pillow cases. I woke on Friday having slept for six uninterrupted hours. I had too much work to do to get out for a run that day.

Saturday marked Heidi and John’s leaving do from Cambridge parkrun. Not that they’re leaving. Heidi is stepping down as event director after four years. There were red wigs for her and fake mohicans and tattoos for John and it was fun. There was running and cake and a visit from PSH and the whole thing was simply marvellous. I had a nice run on heavy legs to log 22:36 for my first parkrun of the year.

In the afternoon, I did the Cambridge University Hare & Hounds’ Roman Road Run. Nine and a half miles from Horseheath to the Beechwoods at the end of Wort’s Causeway in Cambridge. I took it fairly steadily and logged 1:14:46. I was aiming for 1:16:30 so I was pleased. I was 8th home. It’s a handicap run. I was only overtaken by one guy who started 10 minutes behind me and he was flying. He came past on the final downhill stretch on the road once we left the Roman Road itself. I was beaten home by him, two people from my group and four from the group who set off five minutes ahead of me.

Saturday evening was spent at La Mimosa with Andy for his birthday. I’m not usually very sociable. I’m becoming a little more deaf and find it stressful to hear what people are saying in a crowded, noisy room. However, the company was lovely and nobody seemed to mind having to repeat what they were saying when we were trying to have a conversation. It was a late night though and I was very tired this morning. I haven’t run today but I have made a start on clearing out the back garden.

Good stuff and bad this week. It’ll all be over three weeks today. I just want to get it done now. I’m running well when I run. I don’t think missing my long run today is going to matter in the overall scheme of things. I’ve entered the Oakley 20 next Sunday. I’m not going to race it, especially as Becca says it’s a lumpy one which ruined her London Marathon a couple of years ago. I have some clubmates running and I can run around with them chatting all the way and pick up my hoodie to take to Manchester. Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it?

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What I Did At The Weekend

Regular readers of this blog will want to know where the digusting bit is, either to brace themselves for it, skip it or head straight there and miss all the boring, inspirational stuff about mates doing really well in races. Nasal lavage gets a mention later. More than that, I’m not willing to say.

I had an utter stonker of a weekend. I spent Saturday morning at the ashmei headquarters in darkest Buckinghamshire. I have been selected for assessment as an ashmei ambassador. Now, I’m a fan of the kit. It’s all about performance, quality and style. Stuart who founded the company explained that everything they do hinges on those three words.

He said that a new product begins with the fibre. They decide how they want the garment to perform and then select a fibre to deliver that performance. They specify the fabric using the fibre and only then begin to design the it. Price isn’t an issue for them as much as quality is so while a pair of shorts or a jacket is expensive, it will still provide value for money because you will be using it for years. They use top quality zips and fittings because they are already using top quality fabrics. He was very convincing except when he was talking about darts. I didn’t believe a word about them doing darts-wear next.

We had a run with Stuart and Rob around the Ashridge Estate. It was a little less boggy than it was the last time I was there on the ashmei run a couple of months ago. There were still a few stretches where the mud was ankle deep. I did my usual thing and ploughed straight through the middle and trusted my inov-8 Baregrips would keep me upright. Lift the knees and make sure you keep your centre of gravity directly under you and you’ll be all right. I was. I splashed and dipped and trotted through the muddy and messy stretches and chatted to the other aspirant ambassadors.

There are some incredible athletes among them. Gemma is off to the European Duathlon championships soon. Benjamin is training for Marathon des Sables. Wanda is running the Ocean Floor Race in a couple of weeks. I’m just a bloke who runs a bit. I know how to swear pretty fluently in three languages – and can manage casual abuse in two more. I’m willing to risk drowning in a lake and crashing off my bike in front of a bus because I love triathlons now too. I will push myself harder than is strictly sensible just to see when I break. Pain is temporary but a foot injury can put you out of action for three weeks and all that jazz. I enjoy coaching because I want to see my friends excel. I’m not exceptional but I am willing to push my limits. I am everybloke, really.

I chatted with Rob from ashmei for a few minutes. He talked me into doing their trail ultra in Ullswater at the beginning of July. It’s only 40 miles… Actually, I’ve done some Rich Sums and discovered that it’s not that far, really. I’ve done 55k in a Thunder Run weekend and it’s not that much further than that. Walk uphills and jog the rest. I just have to keep going for two laps of Ullswater. How hard can it be?

All the others were every bit as nice as you’d expect runners to be. I had a great time in their company. Whatever happens, I think ashmei will have fine people to help them promote their brand.

When I got home, I changed out of the running gear and put on some cycling tights. I pulled my bike out of the conservatory and headed out onto the course for the Cambridge Half on Sunday. It’s become what I do the day before the race. I don’t like the word visualisation but that’s what I was doing. I was familiarising myself with the layout of the course and where the twists and turns were. Some of the course is quite tight and narrow and the surface along the side of the river on Jesus Green is heavily rutted and very uneven. I cycled it because running it would be too hard on my legs the day before the race. I pictured myself running the second lap. I knew it would be hard going from Silver Street to Fen Causeway on the second lap because that’s where it hurt most last year.

The race itself was brilliant again. I ran around the streets of my adopted home and savoured every second. It was a warm day – I have sunburn on my shoulders – and I probably lost time to the heat. I certainly lost time at the water stations. I slowed a little to pick up the a bag of water at each one. The little bags are easier to handle than cups or bottles but you have to squeeze the water out of them. Squeeze too hard and water goes up straight up your nose. Nasal lavage, remember? That happened on Bridge Street on the second lap. It was really unpleasant. I had my slowest km split there and the highest spike in my heart rate.

I loved having the support. There were crowds most of the way round the course. All the way down King’s Parade, round the Market Square and off along Sydney Street the noise was wonderful. I high fived kids who had their hands out and my coach Alan at the end of Trinity Street and then rocketed off round the Market on the first lap. The second lap was harder but I was going for home by then. I pushed hard from the end of Fen Causeway over the last couple of miles. I had places to make and I was tiring but determined. I picked off people one at a time. I don’t think more than two or three people overtook me but the ones who did were motoring. The last man did that going onto Midsummer Common with about 800m to go. I wasn’t going to let anyone else past.

I crossed the line in 1:37:16 (chip time). Not bad for an old bloke who had been doing hill reps for the camera the day before. I had a celebratory burger and chips in The Old Spring after the race and a piece of carrot cake and a coffee in Afternoon Tease after that. It was a good day and a great weekend. I’m very happy now and quite tired still. I’ll find out whether I’ve been selected as an ashmei ambassador soon. I’ll let you know.

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To Sleep, Fat Chance of Dreams

Can you sleep after a big race or a hard session? It ought to be easy, shouldn’t it? I mean, you’re completely wiped, nothing left in the tank at all. You’ve given it everything so staying awake should be more of a problem than not getting enough sleep.

So, why are Sunday nights and the small, pointless hours of Monday morning so much sodding trouble? I call them the pointless hours because they should pass with you being completely unaware of them. The only people who should be awake at 2:30am on a Monday are criminals and therefore police officers out catching them. At a pinch, I’ll allow new lovers to gaze longingly at one another’s unfamiliar nakedness by candlelight at that time of night too. Possibly,  truckers out making a living by getting my new running shoes to me might also be out through the night.

I bloody shouldn’t!

I fall asleep eventually but then I wake up and feel rotten and lie there wondering why I can’t sleep when I’m so tired and why do my legs hurt and what is the cat doing to my feet now and I hope I don’t wake Anne and I could do with a sip of water and the loo! Oh fuck, I need to go to the loo and it’s so far away and my feet hurt and… Where’s the lampswitch? Never mind. Don’t need a light on now.

Right. Loo. Where’s the loo again? Now, ow! Sore feet, sore feet, sore feet. Ow, ow, ow, fucking, fucking ow! Lightswitch, lightswitch. Where’s that bit of string gone? It’s on a bit of string, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Can’t remember. Got it. BRIGHT LIGHT! Shit. Dazzled. Don’t look in the mirror. You won’t like what you see. Lid. Ooof. Shouldn’t bend over so much or so quickly. Don’t look in the mir… Who the fuck is that grumpy old man?

Can’t go now. Arse. All that for nothing. Literally. Need to turn the light out now. IT’S SO DARK! Don’t let me stand on the cat. I don’t want to stand on the cat. That was the cat. Sorry, Maddie!

Bed. Pillow. Legs. What do I do with my legs again? Need to sleep. Sleep. Legs. Cat. Coming in? No? No. Legs. Pillow. Arms. Duvet. Cat. Make your mind up. Don’t want to wake up Anne. Sleep. Sleep. Ahhh…

And then it all starts again an hour later. Is anyone else too tired to sleep?

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My race day didn’t start particularly well and I didn’t even notice. It wasn’t until I got to the race HQ for the Wymondonham 20 and tried to load up my gels into my pocket that I found out I’d put my short on back to front. And inside out. Go me. Idiocy is at its very finest when the idiot in question doesn’t even know he’s been an idiot.

The race itself went quite well for the most part. There were a couple of horrible drags up insidious slopes into a headwind and gutting those out were hard work. There were lots of supportive marshals and water stops every three miles or so.

This is where there is there is some of the lesser part again. I had a bit of a moment after the second water station. Now, you need to know that I don’t usually bother with water stations mostly because I can’t drink and run. It’s messy. Water in cups goes everywhere. Water in bottles goes everywhere. I haven’t tried water in little water bags, but it probably would go everywhere. I have a Camelbak for taking out on long runs and bike rides which is like an enormous bladder and a big, bendy straw. Water doesn’t go everywhere but I can’t really wear it for a race. I’d look like a plank.

So, I can’t get water down me during my race because I’m afraid I won’t look good. What I do instead is gulp down huge quantities of air along with tiny amounts of water and end up having to have a tactical chunder to clear out the air in my gullet. That looks great, doesn’t it? I managed to hurl this morning after the second water stop, quite a long way after the second water stop in fact, having had to slow down because I felt so uncomfortable. My puke skills are now so advanced I can run along and avoid all the emesis while reverse peristalsis is doing its thing.

I felt much better after that just in time to suffer the first of the uphill, into the wind, drags. The rest of the race was an exercise in trying to keep the pace up in the face of tiring legs. I missed my 2:40 target by just under three minutes clocking up 2:42:55 in 115th overall and 16th in the MV45 category.

I haven’t the least idea how I’m going to keep up that pace for another 10k and 50 minutes in Manchester but it’s got to be worth a go. If the weather is calm then it ought to be on. The Manchester course is flatter and there will be pacers available to help us achieve our targets. Go hard, or go home. If it works for Mo…

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