Monday, December 29, 2008

And Finally...

... the year comes to a close. I know I said I probably wouldn't blog this week but I changed my mind.

I'll keep it short and sweet.

Our festive celebrations were held at Old Thatch this year with several family members coming over to us for the day. Pictured around the table are Fiona, her brother Christian and his family, her sister Jane and her family and their father (and recent heart attack victim - see previous blog) Maurice. Thirteen of us in total and, once again, Fiona did us proud (as you can see from the empty plates). It was a fantastic day and the six cousins (Erin, Alice, Luke, Joseph, Thomas and Emily) had a terrific time, as did the various aunties and uncles.

I've managed to keep extremely active this holiday, doing something every day and even including a brisk 5k run on Christmas Day itself. Other highlights included a 2km swim session, an 8 mile Boxing Day cross country run with Colin and Alex, a 45 mile solo bike ride and a tough fixed wheel bike session. I come to you today off a 12 mile brisk run at just over 7:30 pace which, for December 29th is - for me at least - a good place to be.

I'm anxious now to begin training for the new season and Sunday will see a session with Team MK specifically aimed at all of us gearing up for Ironman in the summer. Can't wait.

Last week's film quote was spoken by nobody in particular - in fact the guy who is running the whole alien/mother ship landing experiment - in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. My great mate Jonny Kurzman got it but couldn't figure out how to post on the blog... Jonny, get with the programme, mate.

Last one of 2008. Who can place this baby, and the person that said it:

"My idea of Heaven is a solid white nightclub with me as a headliner for all eternity, and they love me."

This has been my second season in triathlon and it's seen a marked improvement in my performance. Thanks are due in no small measure to many people.

First and foremost, of course, to Fiona, Erin and Alice... the lights of my life, who joined me in Austria this year and were bitten by the Ironman and Triathlon bug. I think they understand what it is I'm chasing... at least I hope they do because then they can explain to me exactly what it might be ! But for showing patience, love and understanding... my thanks and love.

Also, in no particular order...

Thanks to my coach, Mark Kleanthous, for never once doubting I could go sub 11 and training me to be at peak fitness for my one and only A race and helping me deliver a 10:42. Thanks also for holding me back when all I want to do is go out and do too much... a voice of calm and reason.

To my training buddies from Team MK, especially Graham Mackie, who made me so welcome in my first season at the club. It's been terrific to be able to surround myself with so many top class athletes and I look forward to another season in the saddle.

To Colin, Alex, Simon and all the local triathletes with whom I train, drink and laugh. Great mates and great fun. Good luck to Colin in his attempt to qualify for the GB age groupers at sprint distance in 2009.

To Tom, Helen, Gabriel and others for sharing everything, supporting from afar and the joint training sessions we've had. I look forward to more in the months ahead and good luck with your challenges this coming year.

To Rob Quantrel... with whom I've never trained but undoubtedly will soon. Thanks Rob, for shadowing me on the marathon of our epic Ironman in Austria. Congratulations on a sensational first Ironman and here's to more success in 2009.

To Cervelo for making bikes of such extraordinary genius that any more words are redundant.

To whoever up there is watching over me for allowing my knee to remain - somehow - still functioning. Just another season, honest (well, maybe a couple more after that...)

And of course, you knew you were going to be in here, didn't you... thanks to you, whoever you are... anonymous or not... for reading and being part of the blog. I hope that the year has been a successful one, that some of your dreams have come true, but enough have remained unfulfilled for you to be hungry for the challenges ahead. For challenges and struggle are an inevitable part of life and the way we deal with them goes a long way to defining how we are perceived by others and how we feel about ourselves.

Anyway... must rush... I have an opportunity now. I need to drink as much ale as possible before I give up for January.

Next week we all get to set our new year's resolutions.

I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

But remember this.

Anything is possible.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Night Fever...

I've been something of a Night Owl recently and it's set me thinking about the way I'm going to operate next year in certain aspects of my life.

Firstly, to the big occurrence of the week, the 25th anniversary reunion of The Log Cabin, our infamous Manchester University home. From left you'll see myself and my great mates Mark Goodson, Andy Fulbrook, Jim Doyle and Dan Moore. I spent three of the happiest years of my life with these guys, experiencing things I wouldn't dare tell you in person, let alone publish on a blog. We've remained great friends ever since, not meeting as much as we should - like many friendships - but always slotting back into place the moment we reconvene. We were joined for a day of ale and festivities in Soho by our old university mucker Dick Durrant who proved that he still can't play fizzbuzz. We started with lunch at Soho House and made our way up to the armchairs of said establishment, leaving around 8pm as we were in danger of falling asleep. The photo catches us outside The Dog and Duck in Soho, where several more 'nightcaps' were consumed before we wended our ways home.

Great to see you, boys...

More night work this week as I've been hammering away at my film script. Actually I'm not at the script stage yet but you may remember I (foolishly) promised Agent Sean a treatment (or narrative outline of the film's story) before Christmas. I found my work during the day was prone to disruption but when I came up to the office at night, I was much more efficient. It's made me consider factoring in a late night writing session to my work regime next year.

Something else I've also been considering is whether to continue with my coach, Mark K. Mark's been extremely valuable to me over the last two years and we've made a great team. He's starting to get busy with clients, however and a price rise made me consider the validity of my having a coach.

I'm pleased to say that I've come down on the side of staying with Mark for the next year. Ironman is a lonely world and the experience and 'shoulder' of a friendly coach is a valuable commodity.

Mark... I 'm looking forward to another year in the saddle !

We're hear at Old Thatch this Christmas and shall have thirteen for lunch on Christmas Day. Our Turkey has arrived today from the free range luxury of Kelly Bronze. Suffice to say it cost almost as much as Tom and Helen's cabana!!!!

Training has been strong again this week. I've done a couple of swim session, some 10k runs and several bike rides of 20 - 30 miles. With only a week or so to go, I'm delighted that I'm weighing in at 91 kg, just under my target weight and over a stone or 6.5kg than I was weighing at this time last year. I have to think that the benefits of not having to lose a stone in weight through training will give me a flying start in January.

But there's still a week to go so I really need to keep the discipline this week.

Last week's film quote was spoken by JAMES STEWART as GEORGE BAILEY in the perennial Christmas favourite... IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

A nice easy one for you this week:

"If we're all ready on the Dark Side of the Moon... play the five tones."

Name of the film only will do just dandy thank you.

So... congratulations to you all, for all you've achieved this year. Thank you for being with me on my blog journey and I look forward to your company in the weeks ahead. I may well take a week off from blogging next week so may well talk to you next in 2009.

In the meantime, have a most festive Christmas with your friends and family.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Busy Busy Busy

Good Morning. Been a busy bee this week with client lunches, family parties (my brother's 40th), house duties - surely there can't be a man alive who doesn't relish the opportunity to turn his hands to lumpen blocks of ice whilst putting up the Christmas lights - and the like.

The upshot is that I must run as I have weight to shed and work to deliver to my agent. I also have only four days to do it in as Friday will see the re-union of 'The Log Cabin' - the notorious Manchester University house of too many years ago than I care to remember. Reports on that next week.

I had a distinctly average week training with all of the above and it looked like this:

Mon - brisk run of 9 miles in 1 hour 1 minute (6:49 min miles) to get rid of the energy stored up for the aborted Luton marathon.
Tuesday - no training
Weds - no training
Thurs - 25 mile bike ride with Colin, 1 hour swim session with Team MK
Friday - 10k run with Colin
Saturday - no training
Sunday - no training

Last week's film quote was correctly identified by Rob Quantrel (my how the boy has come on in recent months) as being from SNATCH.

Staying in the festive season... how about this:

"You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?"

You simply have to get that one... have to.

Congratulations this week to Tom and Helen who (once again :-)) tied the knot and who are now in Miami on honeymoon. Not that I'm jealous. Also to Conal, my youngest brother, who celebrated his 40th birthday at the weekend. Well done, big fella... I love you.

Apologies for the brevity but a more fulsome update next week...

Monday, December 08, 2008

I wish...

I wish I could tell you that I ran a PB in the Luton Marathon yesterday (that was never going to be likely to be honest). But I can't.

I wish I could tell you that I ran in the Luton Marathon yesterday. But I can't.

I wish I could tell you that the Luton Marathon took place yesterday. But it didn't.

The pic above is taken from the Luton Marathon website (where you'll also find a full explanation of what happened) and graphicaly shows the problem faced by the organisers. It's 11am, already one hour before the scheduled start and a thousand or so runners are waiting to head off onto a course that will take them directly into the path of an icy country lane, overturned car and recovery lorry. They were obviously unable to begin racing until the obstacle was cleared, by which time it was too late to start for the safety of the slower runners who would have to run the same country roads in the pitch black and icy conditions of the late afternoon.

So, nothing for it but to head home and be grumpy.

I went for a 10k run but half of the roads I run on were icy too, so... in retrospect... maybe it's not such a bad thing that the race was cancelled.

And what, after all, was this marathon? Frankly, only a small stepping stone crossing the raging river that is the journey to Ironman Germany. It's purpose was not to take part in a race the details of which I could relay to my grandchildren ("I've raced all around the world, played rugby at Twickenham in front of a full house, but to me the highlight will always be... The Luton Marathon 2008" - see, kind of doesn't ring true does it) but to form a goal, a target to which I could work with the express intention of working on my distance running through the autumn and keeping my weight at 14stone 7lb or whatever kilo that is... 92 I think.

And you know what... I did just that. So, in a way, job done. All the "I wishes" in the world won't make the race happen and, looking at it dispassionately, I'm glad I'm never in a position where I run a race and end up saying "I wish I'd done the training". Now that truly would be a nightmare.

Training this week was 'double light with an egg on top' as I was tapering for the aforementioned Mary Celeste of Marathons (and before you correct me, check it out - you'll find it's 'Mary' and not 'Marie' Celeste). It went something like this:

Mon 5.6 miles easy run
Tues 60 mins swim drills
Wed 3.5 miles easy run, sports massage with Dave
Thurs 60 mins swim session with Team MK
Fri 3.5 miles easy run
Sat 2 miles easy run
Sun 5.6 miles steady run

Last week's quote...? It was spoken by WOODY ALLEN, as ALVY SINGER in the movie ANNIE HALL. A movie I would find funny apart from the irritating self-styled 'kooky' presence of Dianne Keaton. And, as she plays the title role, that really doesn't leave me anywhere to go...

Both Tom and Rob Q have been asking for midweek clues. Frankly, boys, I'm a little disappointed. I mean... I'm training you up here. Getting some culture into your sport-filled athlete's domes. So don't question your coach. Ponder, muse, think... and ye shall gain entrance to a world of joy...

In the Christmas spirit, munch on this (easier) one a while:

"So the biblical scholars mis-translated the Hebrew word for "young woman" into the Greek word for "virgin," which was a pretty easy mistake to make, since there is only a subtle difference in the spelling. But back then it was the "virgin" that caught people's attention. It's not every day a virgin conceives and bears a son. So you keep that for a couple of hundred years, and the next thing you know, you have the Roman Catholic church."

Who to congratulate this week?

Ah yes... of course... in the words of the immortal Christopher Lambert in Russell Mulcahy's excellent 'HIGHLANDER' - "there can be only one".

One institution, that is... two people who joined it.

My great mates Tom and Helen tied the knot yesterday and became man and wife. A thousand million congratulations to you both my friends and much love from all our family. Happiness, success and challenges lie ahead. You will rise to all as the sun rises each day... indominatable and unstoppable.

And, on that happy note I shall leave you to enjoy another week.

Don't slip on the ice of life...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Feelin' Large

This is me following a training run at the weekend.

Well, not really but you get the picture. I've had three days now of eating... a business meal on Friday, dinner on Saturday night and family Sunday lunch at my brother in law's and, combined with the sort-of-mini-taper-thing that's happening before my marathon in Luton next Sunday, I'm starting to feel slightly lardy. Of course this is the way tapers work but it's not great and it feels strange to be feeling like this in winter instead of summer time prior to Ironman.

Still, the hard work of five or six weeks marathon prep is behind me and I'm glad I've done it whilst keeping things ticking over in the swim and bike departments. Watch next week's blog for progress.

Training this week was

Monday 11.2 mile run at 7:25 minute miles
Tuesday 45 minute swim drills
Wednesday 50 minute easy spin cycle, 10 minute run off the bike
Thursday 10km easy run, 1 hour swim with Team MK
Friday Easy 10km run
Saturday Steady 10km run with Colin
Sunday Day off

Not much this week... bit of swimming, bit of running, bit of biking before Sunday. Lots of sleep.

I'd like to share a poem with you this week. It's written by my youngest daughter, Alice (11) and it's about her sister, Erin (14). It kind of made my heart sing and its discovery was one of those moments that you become a parent for... (all alignment and punctuation by the author!)

A teenage girl,
Just like the wind,
Howling, shouting cooking up a storm,
Yet such a light breeze on a summer's day.
She moves as quickly as the breeze,
Soft speaking whilst gently running across
The moist grass,
Bobbing her head to music like a
Swaying in the wind.

Frankly, when eleven year olds write like that, who cares if they struggle a bit with maths.

Last week's film quote was spoken by STEVE BUSCEMI as MR PINK in RESERVOIR DOGS and was correctly identified by Carl. Duncan grumbled to me on Saturday night that he can never get the film quote and accused the Blog-ites of cheating. 'They used to', I replied, 'but that kind of behaviour is no longer tolerated and they know they must answer from memory rather than use the internet'. Dunc grumbled on about them being too hard but frankly, it's his fault for not watching enough quality entertainment.

Have a bash at this week's...

"A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

I had lunch with my agent last week at our favourite haunt of YO SUSHI in London's Poland Street. As ever, after a meeting with Agent Sean (so named to differentiate from Brother Sean) I'm re-incentivised and have promised him a full outline of my script before christmas. So I must leave you now with one of my favourite quotations.

"I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep" - Robert Frost.