Monday, June 30, 2008

Nearly Time...

... And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death...

Those words come, of course, from 'Time' by Pink Floyd.

I've been musing about time this week for more than one reason. It's less than two weeks to Ironman Austria now and I've watched as the counter ticks down from over three hundred and sixty days when I installed it to its current paltry day display. Also, my script involves time or, more specifically, a character's sudden ability to re-visit a certain incident in their past.

Now, I know that Ironman blogs aren't supposed to muse over the meaning of life and characteristics of the universe, but stay with me while I postulate on time. What is time? Essentially a measuring device of our experiences I guess. But our experiences only happen in the present. There is only the present. There is no past and there is no future, for these things are gone just as is the moment a second or go that I typed this sentence. It's gone. And it's only because we, as humans, have a memory that the notion of time exists so that we can somehow file away and order our experiences. And, as we've realised that we have memory, so every force must have an opposite and we've given ourselves 'the future'.

Load of balls, I hear you say. No more than the musings of an intellectual pygmy punching above his weight. Well, you're probably right but we're nearly done and, at the very least, it will help you understand why I've put a bloke with a ball of string at the top of the post. Y'see I think the future and the past are like a giant ball of string. At our birth it rolls out ahead of us in a linear line and we walk that line BUT - and hear's the biggie - we don't just leave it trailing behind us. As we walk our ever unravelling piece of string (and it's constantly unravelling because our future isn't pre determined) we have to gather up the string of our past and stuff it into the pocket that is our memory. Imagine that - having to fit a never ending piece of string inside a pocket of limited proportions. Would the string stay in a nice, straight, linear form. Nope. It would buckle and bend and twist back on itself. There would be no order to the shape of it and, when you put your hand into your 'memory' to access it, there would be no sense to the exact part of it that you grabbed.

That's why, I think, for no apparent reason certain memories are stronger than others. How is it we can remember (as I can) a five year old boy showing me his Clarks Tracker shoes (with a compass in the shoes and animal paw prints on their sole) at my primary school in Preston in the early 1970's, yet I can't particularly remember my long bike from last Sunday. I could go on forever but work calls so must wrap up this week's post.

A few things to sort out first. Firstly - I don't use a web counter and consequently have no idea who reads this blog so don't be afraid to leave posts. It's always nice to know we're not alone.

Secondly... big news this week is that I signed up for Ironman Germany in 2009. So (and I can almost hear the collective groan from here) that's a year's worth of posting to come. I fully intend to deal with splitting the atom and finally unify Einstein's unproven theory of everything in the next twelve months. I'm looking forward to completing Ironman Austria and re-assessing my goals for the coming year. I've also enjoyed my few months membership of Team Milton Keynes Tri Club and am excited that we've chosen Germany as our Ironman event of 2009 so I'll have my regular training buddies in place.

Thirdly - I guess I should touch on my training this week. I'm officially tapering and going through grumpy and frustrating feelings which is, apparently, normal in the taper. Some days I feel like a Greek God, others like a donner kebab. But I'm putting all my faith in my coach, Mark K, to get me to the start line in tip top condition.

Here's the week that was:

Monday - 45 minutes pool swim drills, 30 minutes running (20 mins at 80% max heart rate)
Tuesday - 45 minutes open water swim, 30 minutes non fatigue bike session (easy high cadence)
Weds - 45 minutes bike (pyramid efforts with recovery in between), 60 minutes running (40 minutes at 85% or Max HR, including gels and nutrition practice)
Thurs - 45 minutes open water swim
Friday - 45 mins 10 mile Bike Time Trial plus warm ups and downs, 15 minutes back to back run, 42 minutes run including tempo half marathon pyramid sessions
Saturday - 45 minutes open water swim, 15 minutes run, 80 minutes strong bike, 30 minutes run (all back to back)
Sunday - 2 hours and 5 minutes bike including 1 hour 30 minutes at Half Ironman pace, practing nutrition, 50 minutes running (including 40 minutes at 85% Max HR and practicing nutrition).

Total training this week 12.45 hours.

Highlights have been the fact that I dragged myself out on my own in the heavy winds and completed our A505 10 mile Time Trial course (on my training wheels) in a new PB of 24:16. I'm also pleased with my running and specifically with the fact that even when running back to back off the bike, I'm having to run extremely fast to get my heart rate up to 85% of maximum. Often I'll be needing to run sub 6:30 minute miles to get into my training zone which, I think, is testament to the level of fitness that Mark K's training has brought me to.

Lowlights? This is LIFE. There are no lowlights :-).

Last week's film quote was:

"I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It's inspiring in a way. "

And was spoken by Andie MacDowell's character in GROUNDHOG DAY.

This week's quote is our easiest yet and is especially for Robert Quantrell who's been grumbling that he can't get the quotes. It could easily have described me a couple of years ago...

"You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself. "

Usual question... who said it and in what movie?

Finally, a couple of 'good lucks'. Good luck to my youngest daughter Alice, who is participating in the regional school sports today. And, after a year of superb training and blogging, my mates Tom and Helen are finally ready for their assault on Ironman Germany on Sunday and, hopefully, a slot at Kona in Hawaii in the process. Tom's surname is Williams, Helen's is Turton. Follow their progress this Sunday with and their live athlete tracker.

Good luck guys... it's been a pleasure and a privilige sharing it with you. Now it's time to deliver.

Monday, June 23, 2008

B Story...

Good morning my blogging friends. Here's a photo of my heroes (or should that be heroines? I always think that sounds like a bunch of female drug dealers). Reading from left... Erin, Fiona's sister Jane, Fiona, other sister Claire and (front row) Alice... all took part in Sunday's Race For Life, walking 5km in aid of Cancer Research and, more specifically, in memory of my mother in law, Margaret, who succumbed to cancer after a long and brave battle several years ago.

It was a great event and a privilige for me to go and support them when it's usually they that are braving the elements to cheer me on.

Well done girls.

And this event got me thinking... 'B story'... what's that all about, then? Well, as you know I'm busy constructing the story and plot of my next script and I'm at that point when I have to give some thought to the B story.

Y'see a movie isn't just about one thing. Oh no. That would be too easy. A movie's usually about several things. One of them is always the key story - the main theme - but there is ALWAYS a B story (and often a C and D story) that supports that theme, underpinning it and eventually influencing the resolution of the story in its finale. An example? Oh dear... I figured you might ask for that...

Okay... Let's take my favourite movie of all time - THE GRADUATE. This is a story about Benjamin Braddock being worried about his future life. We're very clear on this. It's stated at the beginning of the movie and it's drilled into us all the way through. Even the poster screams at us... 'This is Benjamin - he's a little worried about his future'. He's a boy/man in flux, having just left university and struggling to come to terms with growing up and the direction his life is going to take. That's our A story.

As a result of our A story, Ben starts a misguided affair with Mrs Robinson, a friend of his parents. This is still part of our A story... Ben is confused, not only in life but love. However, a B story emerges when Ben meets Elaine, Mrs Robinson's daughter, and begins to fall in love with her.

As Ben's life unravels (A story) so his love for Elaine (B story) grows. The two are seemingly irreconcilable until, in a dramatic finale, Ben rushes to the church where Elaine is marrying another man, drags her from it and they escape together into a happy future. Finally, in a glorious moment we have A and B story synthesis. Ben's love for Elaine has finally been requited (B story), he's become a man by 'rescuing' her from the unhappy marriage she was about to commit to and secured his own future happiness (A story) by so doing.

So... that's how a B story works. Every movie has one. Go find them in your favourites and report back :-).

But Sunday got me thinking. There I was, watching those I love doing their thing at the Race For Life having struggled through the previous week to complete my training and to thread the B story through my own story idea. (Thanks for asking - I'm getting there!)

It struck me that Ironman is one of those things that starts off as a B story in one's life but can rapidly become the A story. Now... it's important that a B story stays where it belongs - in the background - underpinning the main A story. Otherwise the story becomes unbalanced and unfocussed. It's important, I think, to remember that Ironman is something which drives us forward and informs our life, not the other way round. Hard I know... but important at this time to keep things in check and go forward to the race with a balanced mind, happy that all elements of our lives are moving in sync.

So ... with those pompous words of wisdom in mind... BIG UP to my Ironbuddy Gabriel who left his sleeping wife and kids at 1am on thursday morning and went out with a friend to ride 120 miles in circuits around London's Regents Park, returning home at 8am to kiss the kids, grab 3 hours sleep and go to work. Dude... awesome... and, as Roy Castle once said, "Dedication's what you need". If anyone can beat that for a training frenzy... please, please let me know.

My training has been solid and focussed once again. I feel this week has possibly been my best week's training this year. Every session has counted and I'm now officially beginning to taper down my volumes. Here's what was done:

Monday - 45 mins pool swim (drills and 25m sprints), 45 mins run at 80% of Max heart rate
Tuesday - 45 mins open water swim, 2km. 30 mins non fatigue bike, 70 mins strong run at 85% max HR
Weds - Rest Day
Thurs - 45 mins open water swim, 2km, 90 mins bike (60 mins at full pace in aero position), 60 mins run back to back with bike at sub 8 min miles pace.
Fri - 45 mins intense short bike sprints, 60 mins easy run at 75% Max HR
Sat - strong open water swim, 3km at 51 minutes followed by 15 minute run. 70 minutes bike (turbo due to weather) medium pace, back to back run 55 minutes - strong and controlled concentrating on good form
Sun - 2 hours 15 mins bike fatigue session (turbo due to weather) including 1 hour 45 minutes at Half Ironman pace, 45 minutes back to back run at 85% Max Heart Rate

Total time training this week 15.11 hours.

Last week's film quote:

"You know we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day".

was spoken by Dr Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (Burt Lancaster) in the movie FIELD OF DREAMS.

Well done to Carl and Richard who got it right. However, several of you are getting a bit leery and dissing my cryptic clues... so let's see how you go without the clue this week. Particularly apt for some of us:

"I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It's inspiring in a way. "

Congratulations to my mate Dave Harvey who completed the grueling Ironman France course yesterday.

Welcome to the world of triathlon to my housemate at Manchester Uni - Dan Moore. Dan, we'll have you doing an Ironman faster than you can say "I used to be managing partner of a prestigious law firm".

Best get on with my A story... in the words of Ken Dodd...

"Tatty Bye"...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Egg Cracking...

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I'm not the most decrepit pooch in town but I've certainly learned a lot this week.

If you know me, you'll acknowledge that I'm not the shy, retiring type. Now, this can be a great benefit in life... fortitude, ploughing on in the face of adversity, a resolute determination to reach one's goals etc, etc. It can also - I acknowledge - be a limitation... I can be stubborn, pig headed and fail to see the advice of others as being in any way anything that might outweigh my own ideas and notions - even though these might be formed with a fraction of the knowledge of the advice given to me by others.

It's this last point which is relevant in this case. My coach Mark K has been trying to hold me back as long as we've been together. Last season - my first in triathlon - he took a large ex-rugby player with dodgy knees and guided him to a 12 hour Ironman. Needless to say, the time would have been sub 12 hours if I'd listened to my coach about transiton speeds and nutrition on the bike.

This year I set him the target of guiding me to a sub 11 time. No easy feat, especially with me taking his coaching plans and regularly going 'off piste'. Oft would be the time I'd crash into an unscheduled long ride or my legendary long training day with Tom and Helen without Mark's knowledge. He'd sigh (I can hear him sighing at his home in Wing, some 12 miles away) and warn me of the dangers of not listening to him.

Well, Mark... I'm listening now. I felt tippety-top at Bala, racing well and finishing with something to spare. Whilst everyone is crashing into their max weeks of training, Mark is holding me back, insisting that I spend no longer than three hours at a time on the bike and that I focus on fitness and quality at the expense of distance. His reasoning: I have the distance in my legs and lungs - it's all been done: now is the time to sharpen up and make every session a focussed piece of training and the best way of doing that is if I'm fresh for every one, rather than being burnt out after a long weekend in the saddle.

I have to say - it's worked well this week. I feel light and refreshed, a week after Bala but was amazed to see I'd completed 15 hours of training.

Monday - Post Bala Rest Day
Tuesday - 45 mins 2km Open Water Swim, 45 mins recovery run, 40 mins recovery bike
Weds - 2 hrs 40 mins easy bike (approx 45 miles) 51 mins run at IM pace
Thurs - 45 mins OWS, 2km
Fri - 75 mins cycling starting with 10 mile Time Trial, 45 mins run at IM pace
Sat - 45 mins 2km OWS, 3 hours bike, 56 miles, 30 mins run at IM pace
Sun - 2 hrs 10 mins 14 mile tough and hilly x country run at steady pace

Total time training this week - 14.85 hours

It's been a good week for learning in other respects too. I've promised to keep you up to date with my writing and it's going well. I'm writing in short bursts, still constructing the bones of the story which, for me, is the hardest part. If I'm blocked, I walk away, or go out training (or visit Tri Talk :)). But whaadyaknow... the story is coming. Evolving. And for a story that is pretty complex I'm pleased with where we're at. Previously I'd be sitting staring at a blank screen but I'm learning that when it comes it comes and when it ain't there... well, it just... ain't... there.

But my greatest new discovery of the week has been the cracked egg. "What the flip ('coz I know you speak like that) is 'the cracked egg'?" - do I hear you mumbling into your early morning lattes?

Well, the cracked egg is a game taught to me by my youngest daughter Alice. It involves sitting on the trampoline and tucking your knees up to your chest, holding onto them with your hands and arms wrapped around. The others bounce on the tramp, sending you into an uncontrollable boinging frenzy which - at some point - results in you having to let go of your legs. At that point, dear reader, your 'egg' is 'cracked'.

Fiona's egg is just about to crack in this pic...

It was the best part of a wonderful Father's Day, proving that the best thing in life really are the simple things.

I, of course, completely forgot to send my own father a card so here's a shameful and belated greeting - Happy Father's Day, Daddy... I love you.

We have a couple of 'well done's' this week but we'll leave them until after the film quote.

Gabriel correctly identified Ferris Bueller as the speaker of these words:

"A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn't deserve such a fine automobile".

He complained the cryptic clue wasn't cryptic enough. (The Big Wheel Skips School - geddit?)

Let's see how we do with this week's:

"You know we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day".

What film? You want a clue? Okay. Here it is... 'An ambitious crop'

BIG UP'S this week to Tom and Helen (again - this is becoming tiresome :-)). Tom for winning his age group and Helen for coming fourth in hers at the UK Half Ironman (or Ironman 70.3) on Sunday.

To Colin Bradley, my good mate and training companion... who beat me for the first time in a 10 mile TT on Friday with a personal best. Well done mate. Get ready to see much more of my arse in the future :-).

And finally - after a grievous omission last week... great big Kenny Everett sized clapping hands to my mate Jason Bulley. Jason is a Director of Photography with whom I've become great friends. We share a love of endurance sport and yesterday (following a season of marathon running) he completed The Comrades Marathon in South Africa - 55 punishing uphill miles - in 9 hours 52 mins. He's promised a photo so at some point I'll edit the blog and add it in. Well done Jason - great work, great preparation for your Marathon des Sables (though you've got a year more prep to do !!!) and thanks for the photos from Bala - it was great to see you there.

Good luck to Dave and Iain who set off this week for Ironman France.  I'll be following your progress, boys.

Have a good week, lovely people. And if you've got kids... have fun with 'em...

Monday, June 09, 2008

I love it when a plan comes together...


We open on a triathlete. Handsome. Tanned. Frustrated. He's struggling with his inner demons - looking to get started on a piece of work which he knows could change his life...

You ever have one of those weeks when things just seem to go well?

No? Then you don't know what you're missing.

I've been wrestling with the hows, ifs, whys and so on of putting pen to paper - or rather fingers to keyboard - on a new film script for the longest time now. But I've never been able to commit to doing it. Too much clutter. Too much work on. Too much training. I'd kind of lost sight that not only can I write movies, but that I actually enjoy it. The whole process had become a spiral of self-induced difficulty.

However, thanks to some serious 'knuckling down' and de-cluttering of my mind, I've put myself in a position to begin... and things are flowing... and what do you know - I'm enjoying it. I'm not going to curse the project or test the limits of your blogging patience and dedication by summarising it for you but I'll keep you posted on its progress as I work through all the elements of creating these characters, the story and the events that shape their lives. See what I mean... it IS kind of fun - isn't it?

Summer is also here and the gardens are looking fantastic. All the work Fiona has done in her planting over the last couple of years is bearing fruit (sometimes literally)

This weeks top photo is from yesterday's event at the Bala Middle Distance Triathlon (known as half Ironman for some) held in Snowdonia in Wales. It's a relentless course of hills and more hills (although the lake is reasonably flat :-)) comprising a 2km swim, 82km bike and 20km run. It was a 'B' race for me, with my main (and only) 'A' race being Ironman Austria in under five weeks time. I raced with my Team MK teammates (from left) Martin Erasmus, Andy Jones, (myself) and Graham Mackie and was really pleased with my sub 5 hour time of 4:54:53 comprising:

Swim and T1: 38'25
Bike and T2: 2:37'06"
Run: 1:39'22"

The rest of the week was a build up to Bala so my training volume was down slightly on previous weeks, though I did undertake my first ever 10 mile TT on my Cervelo P2C. Needless to say, the beast didn't let me down and I knocked a full 1'30" off my PB, bringing it down to 24'25".

I like to think that it's something to do with the cyclist as well!

So -

Monday: 70 minutes tempo cycling
Tuesday: Rest due to nagging heel injury sustained through over running on holiday
Wednesday: 45 minutes 2.4km swim (800m reps), 2 hours 35 min bike at 20.5 mph average (53 miles), back to back run 35 minutes.
Thursday: 45 minutes open water swim 2km, 30 minutes bike set up for Bala.
Friday: 45 minutes bike including 10 mile TT at 24'25"
Saturday: 30 minutes bike, 15 minutes run as loosener for Bala
Sunday: 5 hours Bala Half Ironman

Total training this week - 12.83 hours

Last week's film quote was a tricky one:

"A hobby should pass the time, not fill it" was uttered by Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho'. Too true, Normy baby, too true.

Here's one from one of the funniest movies ever (IMHO)
"A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn't deserve such a fine automobile."

No IMDB but you can have a cryptic clue... 'The Big Wheel skips school'

Congrats to Helen and Iain for representing GB at the World Triathlon Championships in Vancouver, to Mrs O'Neill for enduring 20 years of marriage with me - bloody hell that makes me feel old - and still supporting me in everything I do and finally... big and hearty steak-pie-sized congratulations to you, fair reader, for being my Bloggies...

The writer breathes a sigh of relief, turns off his computer, lights up a cigar and we...


Monday, June 02, 2008

Now that's what I call Training...

Some things never change ! So what's an Ironman to do in Portugal when the weather's a bit dicey? Have a pint of course.

Apologies for missing a week of blogging but have been away on our annual family jaunt to the Algarve.

Family time is very important to me, as you know, and I really enjoy our hols in the sun, relaxing with the girls. Not much sun this time but plenty of relaxing and, I'm pleased to say, plenty of training too. Well, plenty of running anyway. I ran every day - distances from 10k upwards, including a half marathon run at Ironman pace with 15 minute walking 20 second breaks mimicking the Ironman rest stops. I also took over my wetsuit and swam in the sea but it was rather too rough for this non-fish and I called it quits after one tumble-dryer like session.

Prior to leaving on the friday I'd had a good week training including a five hour bike ride with a group from Team MK.

On my return I went straight into a 'simulated' half Ironman with the same guys, swimming 2.2km, biking 52 miles and running eight miles (alright then, a bit short on the run) to get the body back into training shape.

Yesterday was a short bike ride and an eight mile cross country run.

Only six weeks now to Ironman Austria and a key four weeks of training ahead prior to taper. I think I've been overdoing the running recently as my knee is playing up again (regular bloggers will remember I've had three knee ops on the right knee and have no cartilage in the anterior side of the knee - I think that's how you describe the outside part of it). It flares up and swells if I put it through too much impact and I think that's what's been happening. My right ankle is also suffering with some kind of repetitive strain - so I'm going to be taking it easier this week on the running front on the run up to my Half Ironman at Bala on Sunday.

The good news though is that the Cervelo continues to amaze me. I'm getting into the swing of it now and it's all becoming second nature. The difference it has made to my cycling is huge and I'm confident that I can get close to the 5:45 I've set myself for the bike split in Austria.

Last blog's film quote was, of course, from CITIZEN KANE and as you all know... "Rosebud" was actually his...

... I'm sorry, I can't spoil it for you. If you haven't watched one of the greatest movies ever made you should be ashamed of yourself. Go hunt it down and watch.

Another classic movie this week and a quote particularly apt for some of us:

"A hobby should pass the time, not fill it."

Who was responsible for these words (and in what movie) and who - when you're doing as much training as we are - actually believes it?

A final photo this week of the aforementioned three girls in my life enjoying themselves in Portugal. From left, Alice, Fiona and Erin. It was also Alice's eleventh birthday during the week. Time flies by and you've got to grab that precious time with them whilst you can. Happy days.

GOOD LUCK this week to my Ironmates Helen Turton and Iain Parsons who are representing Great Britain at the World Championships in Vancouver. A great honour and I'm sure you'll do us proud.

CONGRATULATIONS to Gabriel and Iain who completed Ironman Lanzarote - the toughest of courses in the toughest of conditions.  Gabriel came home in 11 hours 10 mins after enduring a hard bike but still completing a sub 4 hour marathon.  Iain came in at 13:39 after blowing up spectacularly on the run.  Guys, even though you were both over  your target times - you're still gnarly, time-served IRONMEN.  Relax and kick back a bit.  (I guess that may be a bit tricky with Iain being in Vancouver at the world champs and Gabriel due to compete at Ironman Austria.)

Nice to be back with you all and - as ever - please don't hesitate to drop in and leave a message/comment if you've got the time.