Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh Danny Boy...

This is a huge rush as I'm about to go to Erin's GCSE options evening... I know, it doesn't seem a moment since she was in nappies. Bloody hell, that's the way it goes.

Also, it doesn't seem a moment since I took myself off to The Empire Leicester Square to see a little British movie called SHALLOW GRAVE. I remember then thinking that its director, Danny Boyle, was bound for great things and Danny (a good Lancashire lad) got his just reward earlier today when his movie SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE cleaned up at the oscars.

Well done everyone concerned with this great movie.

Quick news then... my leg op was - I guess - a success. The process was simple and straightforward, in and out in the day and under the knife for an hour and a half of general anaesthetic. My recovery has been good too, with only moderate pain and - if I'm honest - far too much activity culminating in a very painful 10km run today, so I'm now going to ease back a bit.

The week's schedule was as follows:

Monday 30 miles recovery bike ride, 1 hour 38 mins
Tuesday 45 minutes easy run
Wednesday 5km run followed by operation
Thursday 5km walk
Friday 10 mins weights, 10 mins jogging, 15 minutes cycling
Saturday 30 mins run at 8:30 minute miles
Sunday 5 mile walk (easy) then 19 mile bike ride on road bike at 18 mph average speed

The hardest part of the training is getting past the initial pain and discomfort of the wounds themselves ( I have a 3cm wound in my groin and a similar slice at the back of my knee, plus dozens of smaller nicks all over my calf where smaller pieces of the vein where removed). But I'm happy I can move on from here and I'll be taking my barbequed leg swimming at some stage this week (though I'll have to wear my compression tights as children would be running screaming from the pool where I to not cover it!).

I was very proud of the fact that my heart rate was 43 beats per minute immediately before the op, causing the heart rate monitor to which I was wired to emit a warning beep every few seconds. I told them about the Ironman thing and they smiled understandingly (secretly thinking I was a complete dingbat). The guy behind me told me they were laughing about it when his heartbeat reached 127 !

Anyway, here I am, out the other side and thanks to everyone for their positive thoughts and good wishes. Here's the last ever shot of the veins prior to them being whipped out but after being 'marked for death' by the surgeon's marker. It's the first time in 20 years that you can't see the damned things !!

More film quotes next week I'm afraid, just a word about some movies I've seen this week. I watched the Spanish movie .REC which was a very good horror flick, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD which is over-rated crap with a cast that should know better and IN BRUGES which is outrageously black and funny and I urge you to see.

Checking up my oscar predictions I think I got three wrong which I can live with...

Congrats to Ben who's also back training.

Sorry to rush but school beckons. I tell you, it's no fun getting old, but I'm glad it's not my 'O' Levels again !!!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And the Oscar goes to...

A bonus post this week. Oscar predictions? Well, here's who I'd like to win with an acknowledgment of where I think others might pip it due to sympathy etc... no doubt I'll be way off...

Best Film - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director - Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor - Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress - Angelina Jolie, Changeling (though Kate Winslett will probably get it)

Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona (though Marisa Tomei may well get it for The Wrestler)

Best adapted screenplay - Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Best original screenplay - In Bruges, Martin McDonagh

Best Cinematography - Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire (though Claudio Miranda may well win for Benjamin Button)

Best Editing - Chris Dickens, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Art Direction - Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo, Benjain Button
(though I hope Nathan Crowley gets it for Dark Knight as he's my mate)

Best Costume Design - Michael O'Connor, The Duchess

Best Make Up - Greg Cannom, Benjamin Button

Best Original Score - AJ Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Song - AJ Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Sound - Ian Tapp, Richard Prkye, Resul Pookutty, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in sound editing - Richard King, The Dark Knight

Best Achivement in Visual Effects - Eric Barba et al, Benjamin Button

Best Animated Feature Film - Wall E

Best Foreign Language Film - Waltzing with Bashir (Israel)

Best Documentary - Man on Wire (UK)

Best Documentary Short - Absolutely no idea
Best Animated Short - Absolutely no idea
Best live short - Absolutely no idea

We shall see...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Under The Knife...

I've been training hard this week. Two reasons really. Reason one... I like training. Reason two... the snow has disappeared. Reason three... I go under the knife on wednesday.

Okay I grant you, that's three but what's a reason between friends.

Dealing with one and two first, it's been a pleasure to be able to get back on the road again for all my disciplines (simply driving to the pool has proved difficult over the past few weeks). The snow finally cleared around thursday meaning that my road bike (newly refurbished thanks to Marcus at my LBS) could be unclipped from that most evil of torture machines, the turbo trainer.

Truth be told, my trusty Specialized is running as well as it ever has, as it should thanks to Marcus fitting new Shimano 105 wheels, a new ultegra 12-25 rear block, new chain, new brakes yadda, yadda, yadda. I was out today on the annual 'Tour of The Brickhills' a tough and unforgiving hilly 55 mile ride organised by North Bucks Riding Club. Despite coming off in the ice I was pleased with my ride (I'm not a mountain goat and never will be) of 3 hours, for an 18.3 mph average and 22nd overall in the company of some strong cyclists, several of whom were Cat 1 level.

I've obviously been keen to put it out there too due to my upcoming varicose veins operation which is on Wednesday 18th. For those of you keen to know what the procedure involves, there's a link here to give you all the gory details. I particularly like the movie that explains how they stick a wire into your veins and strip the offending beasties out of your leg. Anyway... I'll keep you posted on how I go.

Being quite mad by now due to incessant exposure to ludicrous amounts of training, I'm going to attempt to train every day, including the day of surgery. My plan is to go for a 5k run the morning of the op just to get the heart racing, recover through Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning and, on thursday afternoon, do some light weights and core work. From there on I'll do a little every day, hopefully seeing the green shoots of recovery in short order.

That's the plan, anyway. As a veteran of half a dozen or more general anaesthetics, I'm aware that the anaesthesia itself can be as debilitating as the surgery. I'll listen to my body and - rest assured, fair reader - a sensible course will be steered.

This week's training looked like this:

Mon - Rest day, 45 minute 10km run in the snow
Tues - 1 hour 2.7km swim session, 65 minute tempo run
Weds - 1 hour 2.8km swim session, 2 hrs 25 minutes brick session (20 mins on turbo at 85% MHR followed by 3.5 mile run x 3)
Thurs - 80 minutes 2.8km swim session, 40 minutes turbo session (high cadence), 15 mins upper body strength weights
Fri - 1.5 hours easy bike with lunch stop
Sat - 2 hour long slow run, 25 minutes easy spinning on the road bike
Sun - 3 hours 55 mile hilly bike, 15 mins running off the bike

Total time training 15.5 hours

Swim: 8.3 km
Bike: 110 miles
Run: 39.7 miles

Mark Robson got last week's film quote. It was spoken by KEVIN SPACEY as VERBAL KINT in THE USUAL SUSPECTS and the link with the previous week is Pete Postlethwaite who was in both movies.

Here's this week's:

"In this life, it's not what you hope for, it's not what you deserve - it's what you take!"

Who said it, in what film and what (or who) links it to last week's quote?

I put the latest story treatment of my script to bed last week and sent it off to my Agent Sean and my writer/director mate Robert in LA for reading. I guess I'll hear back this week. I'm happy with it and, for me, that's a lot of the battle.

Enjoyed my ride out with Colin this week. We ride out to a tea room in Stewkley and have soup and a baguette and, sometimes a little extra treat. I had a 'lightweight' samosa this week, Colin took the 'heavyweight' option of the Lasagna... the pic says it all - and he was surprised he was slower on the way back !!

I've been keeping up to speed on the movie front, seeing a few this week in addition to last week's THE LOST BOYS and GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK. On Wednesday I saw Michael Hanecke's CACHE (with an acute accent on the 'e') or HIDDEN to give it it's English title. I'm a big fan of Haneke's work - check out the original Austrian version of FUNNY GAMES for a really scary movie - and HIDDEN was an intriguing piece that still has me thinking as I write this. The following day Fiona and I continued our 'Oscar Watch', going to see THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON which looked great, was superbly directed but frankly didn't add up to a hill of beans. SLUMDOG all the way for me in this particular race. Friday I saw 28 WEEKS LATER which was a formulaic sequel to Danny Boyle's excellent 28 DAYS LATER and - the best till last - last night, Fiona and I watched THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. I remember my favourite critic - Mark Kermode, announcing it was his movie of the year in 2007 and I found it equally inspiring. If you want to see a great Brad Pitt performance, save your dosh and rent JESSE.

Good luck to Team MK members Alan and Lynne Coldray who have just started up their B and B in France, catering for all but specialising in looking after cyclists and skiers.  Looks great and there's a link on the right.

Anyhow that's it. Next time I chat with you it will be in a lighter vein.


Have fun and think of me on Wednesday morning...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Hard Yards...

"Ironmen are made in winter." So says a good friend of mine. It's a saying I hold dear to my heart and it means that when it's tough outside, it's time to get tough on yourself. Get out there and put in the hard work.

And so it was that this estimable mantra was put to the test this week. As I reported in last week's blog, we'd had snow and the children were off school for the day. In fact, last week, the snow continued almost unabated (and is still with us, thick and crunchy) and the girls managed only one day of school - imagine their disappointment.

So I had a couple of dilemmas. First dilemma - do I work through this (unfortunately, with an office five metres from my front door I can't claim transport problems) or do I play with the kids?

You know me too well.

My theory was this. There will be many days of work ahead and, when I eventually look back, I'm not sure I'll remember the days I spent working whilst it was snowing any more than I would a million other work days. But days with my children, spent sledging and snowman building... well, those are days you remember for ever, aren't they.

And so it was that, for monday and tuesday, we had some serious fun. Alice (11) and her buddies are old-school kids - like we were - they get out, get wet and cold and have no truck with adults 'nannying' it over them. They'd found a sledging spot some two miles trek over the hills and I was summoned on tuesday to join them. The pic I snapped shows them marching over to their destination. We had a great time and, although I think my best sledging days may well be behind me, it's a day I'll never forget.

Another similar day was Friday, when Fiona and I watched Erin (13) and Alice with their buddies having huge snowball fights on both the front and back lawns. Truly magical times.

All that said, it's presented me with dilemma number two: a training problem. Why? Well, look at the photos of the front garden and the road outside my house. Biking is obviously a no no, as is conventional running and the road to the swimming pool is fraught with danger and difficulty (more of that later).

So what's a boy to do? Well, improvise is what. For a start, it's my 'quiet' week this week in my 'three weeks on, one week off' cycle. So my levels weren't due to be as high as previous weeks. But this year's rule is absolutely no junk. If you can't make a session count, you don't do it. I needed a bit of canny planning but managed to improvise with judicious use of the turbo trainer (indoor bike trainer) and running around the snow on the Village Green.

The locals thought I was insane (as did Fiona, Erin and Alice) and it was hard going as the turbo trainer takes no prisoners and the heat and sweat of effort suddenly become the icy cold of a freezing run on the brick efforts I did (for the uninitiated, 'bricks' are blocks of bike/run, one after the other).

But the end result is a week of training I'm proud of. Some of the hardest yards I've managed, not particularly in the training itself but in the process of applying myself to the task in hand and knuckling down to the job of not letting a bit of the white stuff get in the way of my Ironman preparations.

So what did the week look like?

Monday - Rest day, just 30 minutes core and weights
Tuesday - 50 min 2.5k swim session, 45 minutes cross country run in snow
Wednesday - 1 hour 2.6k swim session, 2 hours arctic brick session with Graham ( 6 x 10 min bike plus 10 min run)
Thursday - 1 hour turbo session (increasing heart rate session), followed by 20 minute run
Friday - 1 hour turbo session followed by 15 minute run
Saturday - 1.5 hours turbo session (3 x 20 min bike plus 10 min run) followed by 45 minute 2.2k swim session
Sunday - Long slow x-country run in snow drifts. 1 hour 21 mins, followed by 35 minute 1.8k swim session

Total time training this week 11.86 hours

Swim distance covered - 9.1km
Bike distance - (turbo at, say 20 mph minimum) 80 miles
Run distance - 27 miles

Lots of you got last week's film quote, from WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO + JULIET, starring Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The words were spoken by Romeo and the link was, of course, Australia. Last week's movie, Muriel's wedding was an Australian movie and WSR+J was directed by Baz Luhrmann who hails from down under.

There's a link to this week's quote which is:

"It didn't make sense that I'd be there. I mean, these guys were hard-core hijackers, but there I was. I wasn't scared, I knew I hadn't done anything they could do me for. Besides, it was fun. I got to make like I was notorious."

A couple of curiosities this week... I'm having to use Fiona's car as mine is confined to the garage. Why is mine confined to the garage? A good question. Especially seeing as it's a BMW 730d turbo with more bells and whistles than a man could ever possibly want or need. I mean, the thing has a TV, fridge compartment, electric boot opener and closer yadda, yadda, yadda.

BUT !!!! Can it operate in the snow? Nope... it's like Bambi on ice - just slippin' and slidin' for all it's worth. And, when it hits anything too tricky - like the snow on my driveway, the computers take over. And you know what computers always say... computers say 'No'. I jest you not... wheels begin turning of their own accord, stopping, re-starting. And not only wheels on the same axle... the four hubs develop minds of their own. The beast got stuck on the driveway and I had to recruit a posse of eleven year olds to help push me clear while Fiona steered the thing back into the garage. Where it has remained since monday.

Luckily she has a manual car and we've been using that. Perfect. Not a problem. Trouble is, that's a built by our friends from Bavaria too so I'm not sure whether to be happy or mad or just laugh. I think I'll just laugh.

I also came across this on the internet recently in a moment of googling. It's the DVD cover of my last movie which has obviously been released in a new territory. France? I haven't been bothered to look it up but if anyone's got any ideas, let me have them. I kind of like the cover though.

Writing is going well... damned well. I've finished my latest treatment, given it a new (working) title, read through it and now must act on the 158 notes I gave myself.

This week sees me heading off to MK hospital for a pre-op assessment for my Varicose veins operation which is coming up on Feb 18th (more details next week). They made me laugh on the phone when I asked what it was for.

"To assess your fitness", they said. (I assume they meant my fitness for the operation).

"Well, if there's one thing you can be sure of", I replied, "it's that I'm fairly fit".

Until next week my hearties...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

It's not snowed properly for a couple of years around here, so imagine the excitement when we awoke to this.

The girls rushed out onto the village green to celebrate school closure and I allowed myself a lie in as the whole of southern England appears to be doing much the same.

For those of you who are interested in the geography of these things, I'm now sat in the large picture window of my office (to the left of the picture, above the double garage doors) typing my blog.

Old Thatch is gonna have a bit of snowman activity this afternoon I think.

Another reason for sleeping in was that I'd taken my first drink (or, to be strictly correct, my first few drinks of 2009). Colin - who's also had an alcohol free January - and I met in the pub last night and downed a few to toast the eleven months ahead. Forgive the quality of the iphone photo and the fact that it was taken by Westy who's obviously got a bad case of the shakes.

So what news this week? I've not really been keeping you up to date with my writing, have I. Latest is that, frankly, it's been tough but I'm coming through it. I'm still working on the treatment and structure of the story I want to tell before committing to a screenplay. Needless to say, that story needs to go through several passes to get it right. I found myself floundering a little recently but have re-grouped and applied a secret formula to my writing sessions which is enabling me to come up with some interesting new angles on the whole thing. Hopefully, after this pass... I'll have the thing ready for writing the script. I'll keep you in the loop.

A good week training, capped off by my ride yesterday in my first ever organised cycling sportive, an organised ride for club cyclists on the public roads. There were fifteen of us from Team MK and I surprised myself by cycling strong for an average of 19.6 mph over 70 miles, in very strong winds and snow showers, completing the course in just over 3.5 hours and coming fourth overall out of the whole field and second Team MK cyclist overall. All that too at an average heart rate of slightly less than 75%. There's a long way to go yet, but the seeds of my cycling improvement are slowly being sewn.


Monday Impromptu day off. Totally knackered.
Tuesday 50 mins, 1.9km endurance swim session, 45 mins, 5.6 mile Tempo run
Weds 50 mile wet and windy hilly bike ride with Graham, Olly and Rob (Team MK), easy 20 minute run off the bike
Thurs 45 mins 1.9km endurance swim session, 45 mins interval (IM, Mara and 10k pace) run session
Fri 50 mins 2.45km swim session (drills and endurance), 45 mins tempo run
Sat 1 hour 17 mins slow x country run with Mark K
Sun 3 hr 32 min, 70 mile Bike Ride, 19.6mph average followed by 35 minute run off the bike

Total time training this week: 13.37 hours

Swim 6.25 km
Bike 120 miles
Run 32 miles

Last week's movie quote was from MURIEL'S WEDDING and was spoken by MURIEL, played by TONI COLLETTE. The link was that Toni Collette also appeared in The Sixth Sense. Well done Westy for getting it.

Have a crack at this:

"Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die."

Film, actor and link please.

Speaking of movies, I saw only two last week. One was rubbish - 'Untraceable' - some serial killer on the computer thing. The other was sublime - Darren Arranofsky's THE WRESTLER, with Micky Rourke rightly nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. I think it's gonna be tight between The Rourkester and Frank Langella. See the movies... let me know what you think.

Until then I must leave you... I have snowment to build and stories to tell...

'Good night, you princes of Maine... you kings of New England'