Monday, November 24, 2008

No Pain No Gain...

A few things have happened this week that have re-confirmed the belief I have in this oft-quoted mantra. To be honest, it's been a part of my life since I've been young. I've always known that to go the extra yard, to get one up on the opposition, to get what you want in life... well, that stuff doesn't come free does it.

It takes effort and sweat and toil and tears.

And pain.

Sometimes physical, sometimes metaphorical but always pain.

I was most minded of it on Saturday when I left Twickenham having seen a ruthlessly efficient South Africa dismantle a, frankly, extremely poor England side. I remembered not so many years ago going to the same stadium and seeing England beat South Africa by fifty points. Now the tables were turned. I remembered that the England side which won the world cup had to go through years of building, enduring numerous setbacks along the way, losing several Grand Slam deciders to weaker teams and more than once being accused of 'choking'. They took their medicine, suffered their pain and emerged from the furnace (if you'll allow me to mix my metaphors) forged into world champions.

No pain no gain.

Colin - my good mate and tri buddy - had a bit of good news recently. His son Adam passed his eleven plus. Big moment for the boy. But I happen to know that it didn't come easy for Adam. It wasn't just show up and collect the cash. He had to work hard. He practiced and practiced and practiced until answering those questions was second nature. And you know what... come the day of the examination, he wasn't found wanting.

No pain no gain.

The sudden downturn in the weather and our speedy slide into winter has reminded me of my mate Tom's saying that 'Ironmen are made in Winter'. I took those words to heart last year and those freezing cold mornings on the bike, literally crying in pain as the biting wind attacked my fingers and toes, were all worth it come July when I sailed to a PB by over half an hour in the Ironman bike leg. This year I'll be doing much the same and, in a strange way, because the notion of embracing pain and/or difficulty has been something that's been with me for as long as I can remember... I'm kind of looking forward to it.

No pain no gain.

That said, I've signed up for the Team MK warm weather training camp in Rimini, Italy for a week at the end of April. The guys at the club swear by it as fantastic preparation for the Ironman season and I hope that this year it will give my training an extra boost.

What's been occurring this week? Well, the weekend was dented by Twickers but I put in a solid week prior to that...

Monday 17 miles long run at 2 hrs 9 mins (just over 7'30" per mile)
Tuesday Deep sports massage by Dave
Weds 2 hour fixed wheel ride with Graham Mackie from Team MK
Thursday 10k easy run, 1 hour 15 mins swim session with Team MK
Friday 1 hour 15 mins easy 8 mile x country run
Saturday Too much ale
Sunday 45 mins swim drills with paddles and floats

The Luton marathon is in less than two weeks. I'm not quite sure how I'll taper, only that my distances have to come down. I'm approaching it as a training run that has been in the diary purely to 'keep me honest' and know enough about my training and the course to tell you that the weather and my standard of long distance fitness would make anywhere between 3:30 and 3:40 an extremely good race. Still, it's had the effect of giving me a focus for the latter part of the 'off season' and keeping my weight at or just below 14st 7lb (I think that's around 92kg).

Last week's film quote was pretty tricky. It was spoken by WALTER 'THE PAINLESS POLE' WALDOWSKI (played by JOHN SCHUCK) in the movie M*A*S*H and it was notable as being the first time that the word 'fuck' had been uttered in a Hollywood studio picture. Robert Altman was a revolutionary director and this movie also marked the first time that any degree of overlapping dialogue had been used in a movie. Strange to imagine now but audiences were bewildered by the complexity of hearing people speaking at the same time, whereas now we buy into that completely and call it 'realism'.

Speaking of pain... here's this week's:

"Somebody's shoved a red-hot poker up our ass, and I want to know whose name is on the handle!"

Go on... rack your brains. You've seen this movie. And if you haven't... well, you should have.

Have a painful week my friends...

Monday, November 17, 2008

As I was going to St. Pauls...

... I met a man with seven balls... sorry, that was my old 'rugby song' training getting the better of me for a moment.

I miss rugby and, for my sins, have taken to following England as some small substitute for no longer having the fix of playing. I've travelled to both their recent world cup finals, experiencing great joy in Sydney and disappointment in Paris. I think, though, after Saturday, that we could be in for a long old rebuilding process under Martin Johnson. We were out-thought and out manoueuvred by an average Australian side.

This doesn't bode well for my trip to Twickers on Saturday to see England v South Africa. Fortunately, a day at Twickers has other things to keep me busy if the rugby disappoints! I will report back in next week's blog.

A quiet week this week, due to Monday's run. I went out in the morning for a long run and the heavens opened, fast becoming the worst conditions I can ever remember having run in. Faced with the choice of coming in (I had to pass the house four times on my various laps) or toughing it out, I once again told myself to 'iron up' and get on with it. In the end I was pleased with just over twenty miles in 2 hrs 37 mins, especially as I must have weighed half a stone more than usual due to my clothes' water retention.

I continued to train and did a tough hill session on Wednesday night at Tring running club, which included a 5 mile run and 14 x 300m hill sprints. Come Friday, my intention of doing a staggered pace (slow, medium, fast) 10k was shot down in flames when I - and this isn't something I do often - had to stop due to leg fatigue. Ah well... I guess it was just a little overload is all. It's going to happen once in a while.

This week looked like this:

Monday - 20 mile run, 2 hrs 37 mins
Tuesday - 1 hour fixed wheel bike session
Wednesday - 2km swim, 1 hr 15 mins run and hill sprints (as detailed above)
Thursday - 1 hour Team MK swim session
Friday - 10km run (started hard but ended easy !!)
Saturday - 1 hr 30 mins easy spin bike
Sunday - Day off

Seems I'd underestimated how many of you enjoyed the movie STAND BY ME where last week's film quote was taken from, spoken by THE NARRATOR (played, of course, by Richard Dreyfuss).

This week:

"All right, Bub, your fuckin' head is coming right off."

Apologies for the profanity but there's a reason for it. So tell me where the quote came from and why it's important.

And remember... no IMDB allowed... and no private emails with the answer. Post on the blog.

Happy birthday this week to Fiona. Sunday saw us travel up to London for a 'family day' at St Paul's Cathedral followed by Sunday lunch at Shoreditch House. Erin and Alice loved it and were only disappointed they hadn't brought their swim costumes for the rooftop pool. Today's photo shows Erin and Alice outside St Paul's. We all loved the day and were reminded that the best things in life aren't complicated. But you know how I feel about all that stuff and, right now... I must go. I have films to write and miles to run...

Hugs and kisses to you all...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lest we Forget...

And how does this week find you my beautiful Blog-ites? Well, I hope. Important news first. Maurice, my father in law, remains in hospital, but continues to make good progress. We are waiting for the results of a second series of tests which will decide if he is to return home or go to Harefield Hospital where surgery will be necessary. I'll keep you posted.

It's been a busy week on all fronts. My latest script progresses well and I've finally got through one of the toughest parts which is the construction of the story... what happens, who it happens to, why it happens, what happens as a result of it. As someone who just wants to get stuck into the business end of writing, I find the plotting an interminable drudge and this process represents the toughest stage of any script for me which is probably:

a. why I've not done it before, preferring just to 'start writing'.
b. why I abandoned my previous script at this stage some months ago.

Anyway, I'm a lot clearer now about the story I'm telling and the themes within it which can only be a good thing, right? The pic is the first half of the script, with each card representing a scene. The second half is on another wall but, trust me, it looks very very similar.

How was training I hear you ask. It was okay thanks. Momentous moments included a 20 mile run which pretty much wiped me out for two days. The common consensus seems to be too much in too short a time (I've gone pretty much from zero to seventeen and twenty mile long runs each week in the past month). I'm going to do another long one today and see how things lie after that. Highlight of the week in training terms, though, was definitely Friday when I met up with Gabriel for a day's training in London-town. We swam 2.2km at an open air pool in Covent Garden, taking turns at leading for 10 laps at a time. From there we got changed and went out on an (approx) 11 mile run which took us down through Trafalgar Square, along The Mall, past Buckingham Palace through St James Park and on a couple of laps around Hyde Park and its Serpentine Lake before heading back to our lockers in Covent Garden. Quick sauna and shower and then off to my club in London - Soho House - where we kicked back and enjoyed a few beers and a most nourishing roast chicken dinner. Now that's what training's all about.

Also... it wouldn't be a normal week if I hadn't purchased a new bike, would it.

A couple of friends at Team MK have been riding fixed wheel bikes and I could resist the temptation no longer. Saturday morning saw me at my local bike shop - Phil Corley Cycles - picking up a brand new Specialized Langster Polish. And jolly polished it is too. I took it out on Saturday afternoon and absolutely love the fixed wheel side of riding. It's a bit tricky to get used to though, as the fixed wheel means you have to keep pedaling at speed otherwise you, er... get thrown off.

But I'm positive it's going to improve my cycling and that's what it's all about this year.

And my running.

And, of course, my swimming.

So, this week's training looked a little like this:

Monday: 20 mile slow run, 3 hours
Tuesday: Absolutely knackered... no training
Wednesday: 1 hour 30 minutes cycling
Thursday: 1 hour 30 minutes cycling
Friday: 2.2km swimming, 11 mile easy run (1 hr 30)
Saturday: Fixed wheel bike ride - 1 hour
Sunday: Day off

What else? Well, I took Erin to see Quantum of Solace yesterday and, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's had negative publicity but I found it a well crafted and tightly plotted movie. Which goes to show you should always make up your own mind about these things.

Prior to that we'd been to the Remembrance Service at our local church - a poignant reminder of those that paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we, the future generations, could sit here and blog. It's always very moving to see the traffic come to a stop as the lone bugler plays The Last Post at the war memorial. Sometimes it's not cool or trendy to say it... but this is one household that will never forget.

Film quotes? Yes, I know they're getting easier. But that could be a cunning ploy to lure you into my web... but let's just say if Rob Quantrel is getting three on the trot then that old web needs strengthening up a bit.

Last week's quote was, indeed, spoken by WES BENTLEY as RICKY FITZ in AMERICAN BEAUTY.

Here's this week's:

"It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant."

Rob ?

Great to see Joe Calzaghe doing the right thing at Madison Square Garden. Well done Joe. Good work, fella. Now get retired, whilst you're still a legend.

And get better soon to Alice, who's - unusually for her - laid low with a throat infection. Too much talking probably.

Next week folks. Keep on pedaling...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Family Matters

My father in law had a heart attack yesterday.

Not indigestion or severe chest pains but a proper, grown-up, full-bodied heart attack.

Here's how things unravelled:

Fiona wakes me at 5am on Sunday morning telling me that there are two messages on the answer machine from her dad, who tells her he thinks he's having a heart attack. Following Fiona's Mum's death in 2003, Maurice now lives in the same village as us. So, in double quick time I'm in the car, hurtling round the quarter mile or so to his place. I'm also remembering that at 11pm on Saturday night there was a phone call that left no message and - though I tried to find out who'd called - the 1471 option wasn't responding.

I figure I now know who made that call.

I arrive at his house and let myself in, to find him sat in his armchair in dressing gown and pyjamas, clutching his chest. It's now 5.05 am and he'd been in that chair since 1 am that morning and having a heart attack since 11pm the previous night (when he'd called us) but the answer machine had picked up. I have a rudimentary first aid training, having completed a five day intensive St John's course recently which involved all elements of resusc. and the like.

It was pretty obvious what was happening. So... two options. Bundle him in the car and hammer off to hospital or call 999. No choice really. That's what ambulances are for isn't it? So I call 999 and give them the info they need. In fifteen minutes or so an 'on call' paramedic had arrived and put Maurice on oxygen and helped to make him feel more comfortable until the ambulance arrived which it did, some ten minutes later. They hooked him up to an ECG, confirmed he was having a heart attack (most cases of suspected heart attacks aren't, in fact, heart attacks at all) and from there it was full on life saving mode.

And very calm and collected it was too. Pills were put under tongue, injections administered and before you can say 'something I'd wanted to do since I was eight' I was sat in the front seat of an ambulance with blue lights flashing, hopping red lights and arriving at A & E like they used to when I watched ER.

Maurice's condition improved and, although they weren't able to administer the normal anti- clotting drugs due to his low blood pressure, he became more stable and was admitted from the A & E ward to the cardiac ward where he currently resides.

All of which got me thinking about a few things:

First and foremost, how we turn to our family when things are tough.

Maurice lives in sheltered accomodation with an emergency cord and intercom in every room. (He's 81 and pretty robust and has never needed the intercom or cord but has used them once or twice so he knows what to do). Yet in the midst of six hours of searing pain with - for all he knows - his life about to end at any second, an emergency cord within a hands stretch of his armchair, all he could do was focus on calling his family to come and help him. Even when they didn't... he continued to call. Apparently it 'didn't occur' to him to pull the cord. He just wanted his family because - I guess - he knew they would help.

Secondly - and this is a cliche I know - but Jeez... life isn't a dress rehearsal. It hangs by a gossamer thread which can be snipped at any time. When people say that Sarah Palin is a 'heartbeat away' from having her finger on the button I now know what they mean. This points me in two directions. One - I hope Ms Palin is kept an Alaska-ish distance from The White House and, more importantly I have had a timely reminder (which I now share with you) that we should do the things we want to do, strive for happiness, kiss your children, tell those you love that you love them, buy the car you've always wanted and chase the goals that you've always dreamed of.

Like I say... something of a cliche. But too, too true.

So I figured I'd stick a pic of my family on the blog today. It was taken the day after IronMan Austria and features my two brothers and families and my mum and dad plus, of course, Fiona, Erin and Alice.

And - trying to make sense of that outpouring, it also occurred to me that we have a 'family' in whatever we do in life. At work, we have trusted confidants and those we can turn to in times of difficulty. At play too. At least I know I do. My coach, my mates that I train with and exchange tri stories, my extended 'family' on the Tri Talk website - I know that they're there to help with any problems I might have. So, no matter how lonely it might be on an Ironman journey or the journey of one's chosen career, no matter how individualistic a route you might have taken, no matter how isolated it might seem you are - remember, there are always others around you and their help can be of practical and spiritual benefit. These are your family and you should never be afraid to turn to them.

With all that in mind... I'm looking forward to sharing a bit of training this week. I'm meeting up with Gabriel - a mate from Ironman Austria - in London on Friday where we're going to swim and run and take in a few beers. Full details next week.

This week was, again, satisfying and enjoyable.

Monday Day off
Tuesday 17 miles easy run at 2 hours 25 mins (8:22 min miles)
Weds Rest day
Thursday 12 miles brisk run at 7:30 minute miles, 1 hour swim with Team MK
Friday 1 hour 30 mins single gear (34/17) bike ride
Saturday 45 minutes easy run, 2 hour mountain bike ride
Sunday Fast run, 5 miles at 6:56 minute miles

The only downside is that I, once again, turned my ankle whilst running off road on Satuday. It means my ankle still needs mucho work to get it back to full strength.

And I hate doing all that physio stuff.

A couple of you got last week's film quote, spoken by BRAD PITT as TYLER DURDEN in FIGHT CLUB. If you've not seen FIGHT CLUB recently I urge you to give it another go. I think it will become, in time, regarded as one of the great movies.

Who said this and in what movie?

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."

And so, my good and faithful friends, it is time to return to the real world. I wish you all well in your week and, as Gary Player once famously said (and I paraphrase) "Don't forget to stop and smell the roses once in a while."