Friday, December 10, 2010

Revolting Students...


For the first time since starting this blog I feel prompted to write on something non sporting.  You may find it slightly controversial.  If so, please know that I don't court controversy, nor do I want to engage in a argument with you.  These are my opinions and I'm fed up of keeping them to myself.

I see thousands of foul-mouthed, hoodied 'students' defacing statues of Winston Churchill, smashing the windows of our democratic institutions and climbing willy-nilly over memorials to our war dead.

For Chrissakes... what the hell is going on here.

I'll tell you what's going on.  We've gone soft.  Successive governments and generations of parents have turned this once great country into a pampering, one size fits all, everyone is a winner nation of layabouts and good for nothings who expect the world delivered to them on a plate.

And we're all to blame.  As parents we abdicate responsibility to schools.  We eschew discipline, allowing our children freedoms and 'rights' that they're not equipped to deal with.   It's made us lazy and complacent.  So lazy and complacent in fact that we've become part of the 'X Factor' generation, where success is dished out and not earned.  This carries over not only to the world of work but education.

Are we really saying that, by the standards of past generations, so many of our children are equipped to attend a university?  Nonsense.  Of course not.  Yes, I grant you, they are equipped to attend those establishments now known as universities.  But real universities, for extremely intelligent young adults?  I don't think so.

So why are there so many 'universities' and why are so many of our children shovelled through an education system by awarding them undeserved and worthless exam grades now so meaningless that, seemingly, a new 'top' grade needs to be invented every couple of years.   I'll tell you why... because there are no jobs for these kids to leave school for and successive governments (this is an apolitical rant) have avoided grasping the nettle of realising that many trades need to be learned at the proverbial coal face rather than in the classroom.  Could it possibly be that hundreds of thousands of school leavers are also kept off the dole queues if they attend further education, enabling them to be classed as adults when they leave and therefore not reflecting so badly on a continually failing education system.

Further education is not a 'must have' for all.  A 'right' yes, but not a 'must have'.

As long as we enable our kids to believe that they're all suited to universities, then they'll all want to go.  Why wouldn't they?  

Listen up and listen good.  Universities are for bright kids.  They are not a three year holiday.

Also, if someone goes to university in a system that allows everyone to go then it's going to cost.  Pure and simple.  In the past, when numbers were limited, it was free... the state could afford it.  Now they can't.  So whoever goes will pay.  Get used to it.  We pay for pretty much everything in life and, after all, education is free until the age of sixteen.   Students should thank their lucky stars they don't have to pay in advance or at the point of receiving 'the goods'.   Can you imagine walking into The Savoy, demanding a suite and meal in the restaurant and not having to pay for it for several years, and only then when you earned a good enough wage to be able to afford it.

Some home truths to the protesters:

1.  Marchers have the right to march.  Police have the right to police.  Don't be surprised if you get 'kettled' when you join up with a bunch of thugs.

2.  If the thugs are a minority then you've failed in organising your march.  We expect better of students.

3.  If you're sixteen or under:  Tough.  You either shouldn't be there or you didn't figure out the risks.  I don't want to hear your bleating about being on Westminster Bridge for eight hours.  Unlucky.

4.  You achieve nothing by violence.  You undermine your cause.  The nation looks at you and loses all sympathy.  

5.  You are not French students and never will be.  At least they do a proper job of demonstration and have a track record of quality work at the barricades.

6.  The statues of the people your thugs defaced are in memory of greater men and women than they will ever be.

7.  This country owes you nothing yet.  You owe it and your parents everything.  Start delivering as a generation and we may consider funding for your ongoing education in a more benevolent light.

8.  Say 'please' and 'thank you' a bit more.

9.  Forget the lottery.  Forget 'X Factor'.  Work hard and life will deliver.  Don't and it won't.

10.  University will cost you money.  If you're bright enough to go to university you must be bright enough to figure out if it will be of benefit.  Do the math and make a decision.  If you can't figure it out you shouldn't be at university.

Peace, love and kisses to you all, politicians and students alike.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Honourable discharge...

Visited Mr Kitson, my spinal surgeon yesterday.  He's delighted with the progress I've made and, effectively, has discharged me.  "I'm here if you need me," were his parting words.  I hope to bejaysus that I never do... I tell you, that is one part of my life I never want to re-visit.  Oscar Wilde once opined that (and I paraphrase) we should try everything once, 'except incest and morris dancing'.  Well, I'd like to add herniated discs to that list.

Truth be told, I've engaged in rehab like never before.  This is a make or break time for me.  I'm 48 years old and was closing down on becoming a sub 10 hour Ironman.  Some might think I've pushed my body too far.  My thoughts are that the engine is fine, but the mechanics needed a lot of tweaking.  A couple of the wheels have come off.  I need to spend a while getting those mechanics right and then - and only then - can we see what the future holds.

In the meantime, I continue my back rehab exercises and begin my second battle against the achilles.  I'm now addressing some key mechanical issues which have developed over the years since my rugby injuries, particularly the weak glutes and collapsing knee on the right side of my body (coincidentally the same side as the disc herniation and the achilles tendon problem).  It's too early to say what the results will be but, once again, it will be a long, long struggle.

But I'm good at those.

In the meantime I must keep my weight down and my spirits up.  I'm kind of enjoying being back at the gym as it allows me to focus on rehab without running up mountains or cycling in 20 miles per hour winds and the like.  The downside is some kind of ear infection brought on (I'm pretty sure) by the pool and a general lack of tattoos which makes me stand out in the changing room like a schoolboy at Wormwood Scrubs.

What else have I been up to?  I've enjoyed a day at Twickenham watching a rejuvenated England lose against New Zealand's All Blacks (see pic right... great seats for once at Twickers!).  We had a reunion of the Manchester University Rugby Football Club and it was terrific to see many faces from nearly 30 years ago.  I'll be returning to Twickenham again in a couple of weeks to see England versus South Africa.

Work is ticking over and I'm taking the opportunity to re develop my website and company showreel before hitting the phones to try and shake the business tree.  It's never been a part of my life that I relish but I know that it results in work which I love and which is also so rewarding to us here at O'Neill Towers :)

Fiona is overseeing work on our bathroom and the main guest bedroom which is being gutted.  It's long overdue really and amazing how one begins to accept things that they'd sworn to change.  I guess that's true of life and a reminder of why it's never too late to chase a dream or take on a new challenge.

Today's main photo is from last week when the weather was great and I hopped onto my R3 for the first time since July.  It was so good to be riding again.  Long may it continue.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Update...

That's not me, by the way.  It's just supposed to represent the millions of back exercises I've been doing lately.

Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive over the past few weeks.  I was at a screening of the great Tour de France movie, 'Chasing Legends', last night and bumped into a few of my Team MK colleagues who expressed their surprise and delight at seeing me on my feet and mobile.

So I thought I'd update you.

Whilst I can't say I've had a miracle cure, the progress I've made has been absolutely first class.  Since the SNRB injection I have dedicated myself to rehabilitating the injury.  I now undergo a daily exercise regime designed to strengthen the lower core and stretch my still troublesome back.  I have begun to take several key supplements each day specifically to aid my disc recovery (including Vitamin C and Omega 3) and, for the first time in many years, I've joined a gym.

At present I'm 'dahn the gym' between three and six times a week and I work on the mat for 20 minutes, doing my back specific exercises.  Then I'll do 30 minutes on the static bike followed by a swim (I'm now up to 800 metres).  Finally, I'll sit in the steam room to allow the back to expand by way of 'reward'.

So, whilst there's a long way to go, I'm most definitely heading in the right direction.  The key is not to overdo things and to concentrate on stability of and around the back.  So, in my mind, I'm committed to this ongoing regime until xmas, when I hope to resume base training for the summer.  It will then become clear what state the injury is at and I'll either continue, or back off, depending on the results.

I have a feeling also that my achilles was most definitely caused by my back problems.  This injury is showing signs of strong recovery too.  So I'm in a decent enough place at the moment and am thinking only positive thoughts.

Otherwise we are all well.  My book is with a couple of literary agents, one of whom has already sent it back with a list of notes as long as my arm.  Sometimes I think people feel they need to change things for the sake of it.  I mean, if you don't like the material, say so.  Don't hide behind 'notes' to try and explain your position.  Because even if I re-wrote it to the exact specification of those notes, you'd still not like it.  Best simply to say... 'not for me, here's why, good luck'.   But - as any author, JK Rowling included, will tell you - you only need one person to like it and you're up and running.

I'm busy at work and thankfully the injury now allows me to travel.

Speaking of which, I must head into London for an edit.  I figured you'd like to hear how things were going.


Friday, September 24, 2010

SNRB and other such terms I'd never heard of...


I'll try and keep it brief.

We returned from a terrific family holiday in Portugal's Algarve on August 18th.  On August 19th the back pain I'd been feeling for a while exploded like a hand grenade someone had secreted deep within my gluteal muscles.  The pain radiated down into my leg and I had a sinking feeling about the whole thing.

Over the next few days I managed to complete my duties with work whilst the pain became far, far worse.  I'd written a letter to my GP and booked an appointment with him the following week (he's a popular man).  In the letter I'd described my symptoms as 'searing pain radiating down the outside of my thigh, down into my shin and foot'.  By this time I was unable to sit down, stand, drive or think straight.

I took an emergency appointment with a locum at my GP's surgery and he felt it might be piriformis syndrome.  I'd looked at this myself and initially had the same thoughts but something was telling me more and more that this was disc related.  I was referred to a local physiotherapist who immediately voiced her concern that something was wrong with my back, probably an L4/L5 disc problem.  (The L refers to the 'Lumbar' part of the spine which, I now know, is labelled as four different parts, each with their numbered vertebrae.)  My trip coincided with a phone call from my GP who had seen my letter and immediately diagnosed the same issue, referring me (at my request) to a specialist spinal surgeon.

The pain, by now, was at its most intense.  I was taking industrial strength prescription painkillers called Tramadol.  These are an opiate based (addictive) painkiller and usage is capped at 400mg a day.  But they simply didn't touch the agony I felt whenever I moved and at the height of the problem I was taking 2 x 50mg tablets six times a day.  Each time I took the Tramadol I'd also take two 400mg paracetamol tablets.  In the evening I'd take 50mg of Amytriptylene (a drug initially designed as an anti-depressant but now used almost exclusively for nerve pain) to help with my attempts to sleep.

It doesn't take a genius to realise that this was not a good situation to be in.

Over the next three weeks or so I learned to live with the problem and travelled the long road through diagnosis and treatment.  I say the 'long road' but I was phenomenally lucky to have private health and this expedited matters considerably.  Within four days of my GP's call I was seeing a specialist surgeon.  The next day I had an MRI scan.  Six days later I had a consultation that revealed a laterally herniated disc in the L5/S1 vertebrae.   A lateral herniation is when - unusually, the disc (the disc is the cushioning membrane between vertebrae) 'slips' or moves out of line not to the back and into the spinal canal but out to the side.  This herniated disc was/is pressing on the nerve that runs from the L4/L5 joint, giving similar symptoms of sciatica to a conventional L4/L5 herniation.

My specialist - Jon Kitson - advised a SNRB injection, a procedure where cortisone and local anaesthetic is injected into the nerve root close to the disc affected.  The hope is that this will 'shut down' the nerve and result in partial eradication of pain in the leg.  The procedure has a 75% success rate and, if successful, can have an effective  lifespan of anything between two days and forever.  The hope is that by eradicating the pain in the leg (which is 90% of the debilitating nature of the condition) the patient is equipped to lead some kind of normal life and to progress with re-habilitation.

A note here on 're-habilitation'.  It was explained to me that in 95% of cases, this type of disc herniation will heal naturally.  All the people I spoke to - from the anecdotal man in the street, through GPs, physios, chiropractors, those who had suffered with the problem through to my surgeon himself - everyone to a person said that surgery was absolutely a 'last choice' option.  I'm happy to go along with that.

I underwent the procedure last Monday at Spire BUPA Hospital in Harpenden.  I was in and out in a day and the results are encouraging.  It is now 96 hours since the needle and the pain in my legs has reduced to something like tolerable.  I am pain free when lying down and becoming much more mobile, able to drive myself short distances.  I've come off all the medication, partly to assess the success or otherwise of the injection and partly just to rid myself of that awful, drowsy, drugged feeling that the painkillers brought.  The pain now is in my glutes and lower back and there is also a pain that recurs in the lower leg, outside the shinbone.

I'm able to commence physio exercises to engage my inner core and sleep - whilst not perfect - is now at least possible in sporadic bursts.  I look forward to returning to the marital bed though that is another story.

There is, of course, a considerably large sword of Damocles hanging over my head in that the efficacy of the procedure could cease at any time.  The thought of being faced with that kind of pain again fills me with dread so I'm dedicating myself to a regime of self healing which will hopefully speed up the shrinkage of the disc back to its normal position.  This includes, but is not limited to, ongoing physiotherapy and stretching, posture revisions, diet change to include more natural anti-inflammatories, a regime of vitamin supplements including omega 3, Vitamin C and Glucosamine Sulphate (which I already take anyway) and more alcohol.

I could be joking about the alcohol.

So that's where we are.  It may heal, it may not.  It may take a few weeks, it may take months, it may take years.  I may be ready to begin training for an Ironman in January, I may not.

Those of you who know me won't need me to say that I'm contemplating nothing other than a full recovery in the optimum amount of time that leaves me fitter and stronger than ever before.

But I've said it anyway.

This post is by way of letting everyone know the current situation.  You will all have had a link to this site and it's impossible to name you all.  You are my physiotherapists, chiropractors, surgeons, family, friends, fellow athletes and fellow warriors against back pain.

But know this... your support, advice, guidance and assistance has been and will continue to be invaluable.  Please keep it coming.  It helps so much in the fight to return to normal.

Finally, a special thanks to Fiona, who has looked after me, ferried me around, fetched me things,  and generally performed a service above and beyond the call of duty with a smile and dedication that I should not be surprised about.  And, to tell you the truth, I'm not.  But it would be remiss of me not to tell her how much I appreciate it.

Treasure your spine.


Monday, August 02, 2010


Like radioactive nuclear waste that was once so threatening and full of life-endangering vitality, I now sit here decaying slightly and a shadow of my former self.  Don't worry, it's not a permanent state of affairs, simply the culmination of various ailments that have conspired to occur simultaneously.  Just as, it seems, bad news always arrives in more than one form, so do injuries and illnesses.

The past few weeks have seen me struggling to recover from a urine infection which has knocked me for six, leaving me with incredible kidney pain, nausea and the feeling of uncontrollable tiredness.  I thought we'd gotten (just for my American readers) to the bottom of it with a course of antibiotics but I fear it may not have been shaken completely and the little blighter may still be up to no good, buried deep inside my urinary tract.

Alongside that I've had some form of virus that the docs think may be related.  They can't put their finger on it but feel that it's now 'on the way out'.  I think they could be right about this.

My lower back has been absolute agony for a few weeks now (this is a mechanical pain not the pain caused by the infection) resulting in difficulty standing for long periods of time.

And, of course, my achilles is still injured.

Of all the ailments, my achilles shows most signs of recovery - which is good.  I've been having intensive work on it from Dr John, my chiro and sports injury bod.  Every morning I go to his practice and do weight bearing drops on the achilles from an exercise step.  As I'm doing this he's grinding a set of specialist Graston tools (photo right) against the achilles to stimulate blood flow.  I'm also keeping going with my eccentric excercises mentioned in previous weeks.  I'm not able to run yet, but I've cautiously jogged a few hundred meters and the pain is low and constant compared with high and increasing several months ago.

So, I feel we're making progress.

Work has been incredibly busy - which I'm not complaining about.  I've been shooting and editing ads for a regular client as well as quoting on projects to come.  Long may this continue.

Still no news on my book.  It's been with three literary agents for two months now and I've heard nothing back.  There's little point in pestering my agent... I just have to accept that it's 'out there' and in whatever passes as a system at this point in an author's life.

So, for all sorts of reasons, not least that I feel my body is telling me, I'm ready for a rest.

Fortuitous then that we have a holiday approaching.  In a few days we'll be off to one of our favourite retreats, Portugal's Algarve coast.  We've taken a peaceful villa with its own pool and I will be dedicating the two weeks to rest and recuperation.

Without fail I will be ensuring I do the following things:

1.  Play with and enjoy the company of my children.
2.  Ditto my wife.
3.  Increase my sleep.
4.  Decrease my alcohol consumption.
5.  Read books.
6.  Relax

There will be other things but the above will be given the utmost priority.

I recently returned from IMCH (Ironman Switzerland) where I'd gone to support my friends from Team MK.  You'll remember I had to accept I couldn't complete the race due to my achilles injury and, as it happens, with my back injury and infection descending upon me the week before, I'd have been unable to race competitively anyway.

But I had a swim skin with me and my old winter bike so I managed to do the swim in Lake Zurich and hop out for a lap of the bike course.  I'm glad I did as it confirmed that my love affair with Ironman is not yet over and that I feel I have more in the tank in terms of performance.

All my mates did well, as did my Team MK mates at yesterday's Ironman UK race - one of the toughest on the Ironman calendar.

Special congratulations this week go to my Canadian buddy, Bryan Payne for qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona in October.  Bryan has raced three Ironman races this year so far and finally qualified at IM Lake Placid.  His resolute determination to achieve a super-ambitious goal is something I can identify with and I, for one, know that beneath the projection of a beer drinking, carefree soul lies the steely heart and unshakeable resolve of a great competitor in life and sport.  A man who I could do business with - in the figurative sense, of course.  Well done, buddy.

Finally - congratulations must also go to my great mate Tom Williams who races in his last ever Irondistance triathlon this weekend.   I met Tom and his wife Helen at my first Ironman - 2007 in Austria.  Since that time our friendship has grown and our families have become great buddies with them regularly visiting us and our enjoying relaxed weekends together.  Tom has been a constant source of encouragement and advice on my Ironman journey whilst undergoing his own.  You've been an inspiration mate.  I look forward to years of friendship formed out of this great sport and wish you enjoyment in whatever sporting, business and life challenges you are moving on to.

On that positive note I feel energised and revitalised.  I'm sorry I've not been on the blog for a long time. I'll try and not make that mistake again.

Sleep well.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A New Beginning...

Watching England crash out of The World Cup has reminded me that painful though these things are, they bring with them a moment of epiphany that can ultimately be much more rewarding than simply struggling on.

As far as the football goes, the simple fact is that we weren't good enough.  Our players are drained from an exhausting schedule playing in the toughest league in the world and the manager continued to play a system which was palpably not working.  So we crashed out and I've been left confused and angry as to why we didn't put up a better show.

But once that anger has subsided I am left hopeful that an opportunity can be seized to change things once and for all.  What better time than now to rebuild the system, clear out the dead wood of the old players and bring in a fresh manager with  new ideas - someone who can undertake a root and branch revision of the way we do our international footballing business.  Sir Clive Woodward as performance director working alongside Roy Hodgson's management?  I tell you what, say what you want about it but I guarantee that we'd do a hell of a lot better in four years time under that management team.  However,  I doubt, in this case, that the nettle will be grasped.

In life too we can re-invent ourselves at moments of perceived weakness.  I'm convinced that this continual revision of goals and methods is a fundamental part of keeping life interesting and fresh.

I figure I have the opportunity to do just that whilst I'm re-habing from my achilles injury.  It's a great opportunity to look back at what I've been doing and look ahead to what I might want to do in the future.  Do I want to continue with Ironman?  Perhaps more swimming?  Perhaps more 'event' cycling?  How am I training?  Could my train/work/family balance be better?  Lots of challenging questions and opportunity for revision.

We shall see.

In the meantime there are signs of slight improvement on the injury.  I am three and a half weeks into the twelve week plan and, whilst I still can't jog on the achilles, it is now showing signs of strengthening due to the repetition of the eccentric exercises that I've been doing.  I figure that this strengthening is part of the healing process and am focussing on these positives rather than being concerned with what I can't do.  I actually had a dream the other night that I could run again.  What a day it will be when I can.

Anyway... time to rush on and do a bit of re-invention.  Waiting to hear back from some literary agents about my book but am not holding my breath.  I don't have enough rejection letters yet to be considered a serious author!  Work is ticking over but it seems as if everyone is in some kind of World Cup/Heatwave torpor.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

They wanted me to go to Re-hab...

 ... and I said, 'yeah, yeah, yeah'...

So, we're exactly a week into the programme and here's an update on how its going.  I started by engaging in the exercises that physio JD had given me.  These consisted of stretching the achilles and calf for a minute or so, then performing warm up exercises by rising on both sets of toes.  Once warmed up I was then to do some light eccentric calf drops - demonstration by someone else here.

But the achilles wasn't calming down.  It continued to be aggravated and tender.  So I've decided to cut right back on all exercising of the injury until I get rid of the tenderness.  Three or four days later, it's improving.  But now I've made the decision to re-hab I'm not in any rush.  It will heal when it heals.  The key is to let it heal.

Swimming's still going on though and I'm doing a mix of pool and open water swimming.  Along with some weights, stretching and core it's keeping me sane.

I'm enjoying the time I have around the house, and the girls are enjoying having me around.  We had a car boot sale for Erin's trip to Mongolia last sunday and raised £ 152.  Good going I think and something I really enjoyed doing with my family - something I wouldn't have had the chance to do if I was training.

I'm shooting on Friday - a video for TNT - which will take my mind of these early days of not training.  We've also got the World Cup coming up which I can't wait for.

I've caught up with some good movies too.  Watched THE VISITOR last night, a great US Indie and hugely recommended as a touching, character based drama.   We watched WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE as a family and the girls loved it.  Other movies have included AN EDUCATION, MOON and PUBLIC ENEMIES.  I'm fully intending to get back to the movies on a more regular basis.

So, in short, all is well with the world.  I'm optimistic, as ever.

And if you can't be optimistic, what's the point in going on.

Come on England !!!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Line in the Sand...

That's what my physio told me yesterday. 

"We have to draw a line in the sand," he said. 

And, reluctantly, I knew he was right.

My achilles injury has been going on for too long now.  I have, in no particular order, tried the following treatments to help clear it up.  Massage, manipulation, achilles bowing, icing, compression, elevation, heat treatment, cold-freeze treatment, deep-penetration massage oil treatment, graston manipulation, chiropractic intervention, gait analysis and orthotic inserts, heel lifts and pads, running shoe cutaways, acupuncture,  stretching, eccentric loading, extended heel raises, weight bearing exercises, balance boards, strapping (you name the tape, I've used it), anti-inflammatories (both ibuprofen and diclofenac) and almost anything else you could care to mention.

So please; I hope you'll understand if I ask you not to suggest treatments.   Simply put, barring surgical intervention I have done everything I can to right this wrong.  And I have no intention of embarking on surgery around the achilles area.  None whatsoever.

Following an ultrasound scan last Friday I was told I had the following:  'The achilles is thickened, heterogeneous in its appearance and shows significant hyperaemia indicating a Grade 3 tendinopathy.'  It went on to mention an 'ultrasound guided pre-Achilles injection' as possibly being of use. 

Wonderful!  Fantastic!  Amazing!  I had a miracle cure.  Only... I didn't.  Despite so wanting to believe that the magic cortisone bullet would be fired from the syringe into my ailing achilles and a fully restored Ironman would in a few weeks be pounding his marathon around the streets of Zurich - I've been forced to do something I don't do too often or too well in my life. 

I've been forced to listen.

Prevailing medical opinion is that steroid injections into the achilles are dangerous.  They lead to a significant increase in the risk of achilles rupture.  In case you're in any doubt, this is a bad thing.  Who says?  Well, pretty much everyone.  My physio, JD, is an Ironman and physiotherapist to the GB Olympic Triathlon and Badminton squads.  He says so.  My mate Gabriel is a sub 10 Ironman and noted vascular surgeon.  He says so.  My club mate Chris Herman is a GP and Half Ironman.  He says so.  My chiropractor, John Williamson, is an ex international sprinter and top class rugby player.  He says so. 

I could go on.  But frankly, what's the point of asking these people if I'm going to disregard what they say.  To a man they all advise rest and a structured process of rehabilitation as being the best way forward.

So that's what I'm going to do. 

You seen the only thing I haven't done over the past few months is accepted that I have serious injury and given myself over to a structured rehab program which will last for 12 weeks.

Unfortunately that means no Ironman Switzerland this year for me. 

But just as I have to HTFU (for those of you unversed in such niceties, this stands for 'Harden The F**k Up) in Ironman races and battle through all manner of adverse problems, now I have to treat my ongoing athletic career as a race in itself.  I need to HTFU and make the tough decision to take a breather.  This is a long race and I'm not even halfway through it.  If I pull up now, rest awhile and take my penalty box medicine, I'll get back on the bike and be stronger, faster and ultimately more successful for the rest of the race.  (sorry for the tortuous Ironman analogies but it all makes perfect sense to me and will do to most of the triathletes reading this).

I am turning this into a positive. 

Watch me.

I'm going to re-charge my batteries, stay fit and focus on the future.  See... I've started already.

And finally.  Please.  No sympathy.  This is a minor issue.  People are dying.  Families lose loved ones.  Hopes and dreams are regularly dashed by unforseen events. 

I am a super-fit, healthy middle-aged bloke with a great life and an irritating injury.  That's all.  Let's get these things into perspective.

Thanks for still being here on the journey.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a leg to stretch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

It's been a long time since we last spoke.  You'll be detecting that my heart seems no longer to be in weekly blogging.

You're right.

Don't know why and can't explain it.  Sometimes the mojo just isn't with you and I no longer feel compelled to write every monday.

Sorry.  No promises but I'll think about getting back to it on a more regular basis.

Thinking about it, it may well be due to my desire, at the beginning of the season, to make this year's Ironman training more relaxed than previous years'.   I dispensed with my coach, exchewed my Garmin and trained more on feel than stats.  And, I have to say I enjoyed that very much.  I also wanted to delay my fitness peak as I believe that in my last two Ironman races, I'd been peaking around mid June time.   With this race not happening until the end of July, I felt no urgency to get super fit, super quick, relying on the drip drip drip of steady improvement.

How does the saying go; 'be careful what you wish for, it might just come true'?  Something like that, anyway.  Well, it appears to be the case in my situation.  My fitness is certainly being delayed.  Not due to a training regime, but due to the lack of it.

I've been battling an achilles injury for the best part of  the year now.  It started in february and was with me a month or so before stretches and calf-strengthening sidelined it.  It returned, however, in late March and - being the dullard that I am - I kept trying to run on it to 'test it'.

Doh - it didn't need 'testing' - it was telling me there was a  problem.  Three weeks ago, things reached a head when, following a four day, 300 mile cycling trip to the Peak District with some Team MK buddies, I tried to run once again.  After a couple of miles the achilles tightened dramatically and began to give me a  huge amount of pain.  I was forced to hobble in and take stock.

It's taken three weeks to show any sign of improvement and only now am I beginning to be able to walk without pain.   The thought of even jogging is a long way off but at least with the recent improvement I've seen I can see some light at the end of the tunnel whereas for the past three weeks I've been in a bit of a dark place.

All this got me thinking about the insular nature of our worlds.   Isn't it the case that everything orbits our 'world', with it taking an almost superhuman effort to see things from the edge of the galaxy that contains us.  There I am feeling like it's the end of my world when all I have is a tight achilles.  People are dying and suffering the most awful diseases and tribulations yet here's me, with all my relative riches ('life' riches rather than monetary riches) feeling glum about a self inflicted sporting injury.  What wouldn't those with real problems give to exchange places with me?

Frankly, I feel ashamed of my behaviour at times and it's a humbling and strengthening exercise to force oneself out of one's bubble now and then and see your problems from another's perspective.  Things are never as bad as they seem.

I've cancelled all my races up to Ironman Switzerland.  These included Grendon Sprint, Marshman Half IM, Bala Middle and The European Championships in Ireland.  Needs must.  I have only one 'A' race and if I can take part I want to, even if it means doing so relatively unfit and having to walk the marathon.

I'll keep you posted but if you hear me whinging, prod me and tell me to stop being a morose f***er.

Photos this week are, as my girls would say, random.  My new Cervelo R3 road bike, Erin and Alice, me after climbing Winnats Pass in The Peak District, the dreaded achilles when taped up.

I'm sure we have much family news but it's been so long that I'll limit it to this.  We are all well.  The girls are healthy.  Fiona is still my wife.  The weather is wonderful.

We are blessed to be here.  So lucky to be just passing through.  Even a sore achilles can't dull my underlying love of life and sense of joy at the wonder of it all.

I hope you are all well and your problems are tiny ones.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm all a Twitter...

Blogging.  One minute I was marching with the Avant Garde, the next I'm bringing up the rear of life's platoon.  Amazing how technology moves on, isn't it.  I find myself neglecting my blog - and, if you're a regular visitor, you won't need me to tell you this.

For that I apologise.

It's strange.  When I write, I enjoy it - but the thought of doing it fills me with a wee bit of dread.  It's been the same with all my writing - whether it be my film scripts or my (unpublished) novel.  Once I'm into it, it's fine but I don't want to start.

There are parallels here with my current situation regarding training.  This year has been and is destined to be a fractured year.  Already I've had several injuries which have stopped me from training.  An inflamed achilles and pulled back are the current culprits.  One of the reasons I've always tried to train through injuries is that - for me - Ironman training is half based on routine as much as the physicality of doing the work.  What I mean is that we do such huge distances as Ironmen that were we to think about the prospect of going for, say a 3km pool swim followed by a 60  mile bike ride (which at this part of the season for me would be a fairly normal morning session), then our minds would put the brakes on and question it.

No, far better to be in a routine where one doesn't think, one simply 'does'.   No thought processes, no 'why am I doing this' - just get up, get your gear on and go.  Bike time is thinking time, not pre bike time.

Injuries, though, present the mind with too much operating space.  Just as I thrive on being busy at work, crashing through all manner of stuff, I thrive from being busy training.  With an injury it's hard to get back into the routine and, the more I think about it, the more I can find other things to do.

Like lead a normal life.

Not that Twitter is normal, but I've been enjoying it recently.  I guess you could call it the mortar between the bricks of my life.  The notion of a worldwide mini-community intrigues me and I enjoy the brevity of posting required.  Though if you were to add together all that brevity, I'm sure it would play out as a sizeable chunk of wasted life - or at least that's what Fiona tells me.

Work has been really busy and has kept me distracted from blogging type things.  I've been producing ads for several clients and working on my book which - and I can't remember where I was last time we spoke - I'm currently re-writing.

The re-writing process has been an eye-opener for me and has affected the work quite dramatically.  At least, I think it has.  I'm going through the manuscript removing what I refer to as 'author's voice', or at least the overtly obvious 'author's voice'.  My film writing has left me more than capable of telling a story in a brisk and entertaining way and I think I need to prune the novel back to that type of story-telling, especially as it's aimed at a younger market.  I've told my agent that I'll take a look at it once it's done and see which I prefer.  Already I think I know.

We had a wonderful trip to our good friends Jonny and Alli down in Devon, staying with them and their two children Solly and Mattilda.  A splendid time was had by all and our trip coincided with a turn in the weather which I hope is hear to stay.  The feeling of warmth on your bones really does lift the spirits, doesn't it.  There's a photo up above of Alice and Mattilda.  How fantastic it was to be on a beach again. I miss the coast, having grown up by the sea.

Erin, Alice and Fiona are all well.  I've enjoyed the Easter break with them and - despite their penchant for sleepovers (the kids, not Fiona) they remain able to function normally most of the day.  It's been a pleasure working with Erin on a school writing project she's doing - she's the type of student that rarely requires any parental input but working with her on writing has been fulfilling and rewarding.   I've said to her that she should think seriously about a life as a writer... if only to eliminate it.

I keep saying to my kids... you can do anything you want to in life.  It's important to repeat that message to them until it becomes second nature.  Already I can see an independent streak in Alice which will lead to her ploughing her own furrow.

Been seeing a few movies too but, alas, my new year's resolution to visit the cinema once a week seems to have crashed and burned as might an aeroplane flying through a cloud of volcanic ash.   I may well find a couple of days, tot up my ticket purchases, work out what I'm short and then see several movies back to back to catch up.

Then again... this may prove difficult if I'm back to training.

And I so, so, so hope that I am.  I'll keep you posted, I promise.

And I promise to try and maintain the blog a little more.

I'm going to have news of my new road bike soon, so there's an opportunity to keep you updated.

My training since I last saw you has been as follows:

lots and lots of hours, hundreds of miles on the bike, followed by injury and hardly any training.  Felt glum, now feeling better.

Onwards and upwards my friends.  Onwards and upwards.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Apology...

To my good buddy, Robert Quantrell.

Rob, you are right.

Surrogates is a crap movie.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Busy Busy...

I've been up and down between the office and Manchester recently, putting the finishing touches to a series of TV ads I'm making.  I've also been doing some radio commercials.  Consequently, training has been a little fractured and I've needed to be light on my feet to fit in sessions.  But I'm pleased with what I've done and staying at the Marriott has helped as they have complementary membership of a gym in Manchester.

Here's how the week went down:

Monday - Day off
Tuesday - 75 min swim, 10 x 400m off 7'30"
Weds - 45 min 2km swim, 45 min run, 30 mins core and stretch (gym)
Thurs - 45 min run, 30 mins core and stretch, 30 mins run, 15 mins weights (gym)
Friday - 1 hour 8 mile run
Saturday - 103 mile bike, 6 mile run (back to back)
Sunday - 45 min recovery bike, 30 min easy run

Total time training 14.6 hrs
Swim 6km
Bike 118 miles
Run 27 miles (approx)

I'm still keeping up with my new year's resolution to see a film at the cinema once a week.  Or, rather, to buy 52 cinema tickets throughout they year as sometimes it's not feasible to go every week.  This week I took advantage of being away from home to go and see GREEN ZONE, which I wasn't to impressed with, and SHUTTER ISLAND which I really enjoyed.  I also saw (not at the cinema)  SURROGATES which was a little tiresome.

Must rush as time is pressing.  I've got to finish up all my ads, travel to Manchester and continue re-drafting my book which I'm filleting down as an experiment to see what it feels like without too much verbiage.

Onwards and upwards.  Have a great week.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Question of Balance...

I've been working on 'good form' recently.  In swimming this is concentrating on steady, rhythmic cadence with a good catch of the water and keeping my arse in the air.  In cycling it's my pedaling stroke, push and pull rather than up and down.  In running it's concentrating on my foot strike and a correct roll thereafter, in addition to keeping my arms relaxed and my elbow angle at no more acute than 90 degrees.

I'm hoping it will give me a better balance when undertaking all three disciplines that will, in turn, lead to increased speed combined with a saving in energy.  We'll see how it goes.

Yet there's another balance to be undertaken when we IM train.  The balance of the disciplines themselves.  I see and hear of a lot of folk spending hours in the pool and hammering away at the swim.  Yet, in reality, swimming is (at least for me) less than 10% of my total IM time.  Biking and running are by far the largest constituents, with biking being the most important.


Well Ironman isn't just about putting together a good bike time.  It's about putting together a good bike time and being able to run a fast marathon off it.  And there's a world of difference between the two.  To achieve both, there is no other way than to get on the bike and ride. 

Miles and miles.

I'm trying to get to a stage where I can reduce my bike time from the 5 hrs 20 mins I took in IMDE last year, yet expend less energy in doing so.  I'm working on my core so I can be more productive in the aero postion and also be stronger when finally upright and on my feet.  I'm also getting used to pushing a big gear and keeping my heart rate low.  I think this is the key to Ironman biking.  Low heartrate. 

So I've decided to reduce my swim sets to, at most, three a week and focus more and more on bike and run.  Even though I'm doing a fair amount of biking as it is.  It's a question of balance in my training and I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.

Here's what last week looked like:

Mon 3.3km swim set
Tues 33 mile bike, 5.6 mile run
Weds 60 mile bike, 2.5 mile run
Thurs 5.6 mile run
Fri 2km swim, 30 mile bike, 5.6 mile run
Sat 63 mile bike
Sun 11.3 mile run

So, that's

Swim 5.3km
Bike 186 miles
Run 30.8 miles

Total training time 18.15 hours including a sports massage.  That broke down into 11% swim, 61% bike and 21% run with the rest going to core and stretching.

I reckon that's a good balance.

Congratulations this week to Mark Kleanthous for completing the fabulously hard IM China in 12 hrs and 29 mins, a fantastically good time in the 36 degree heat.  My Twitter friend Brian Payne had to quit after half the run but put up a great show until then.  He'll live to race another day.

Erin is super excited about being selected for her school's World Challenge Expedition to Mongolia in Summer 2011.  It's a huge challenge for which they have to raise £ 3,500 and will result in a month away in the land of Ghengis Khan.  What an opportunity!  I seem to remember we had a few trips to Chester Zoo!

Must rush as I've spent over an hour in the dentist's chair and now am off to London to record a voice over.

Train hard, play hard and make sure you get the life balance right.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A grown man...

I have to say I found myself wondering what the hell I was doing last week.  Work had taken me up to Manchester and, whilst my achilles injury seems to have cleared up thanks to the work of my physio, JD, I'm still plagued with my long standing back injury.  (Not complaining, it goes with the territory.  Ironmen generally have something wrong with them - it's always a bonus to be operating at full tilt).

I stayed at a hotel that allowed me membership of the local Virgin gym, so took full advantage of their facilities to stay on top of training.  But my back and, in particular, my glutes were giving me all sorts of gyp.  So I popped down to the Arndale Centre and bought a hockey training ball for £ 1.99.

That's bloody cheap.

It's some kind of moulded resin material that stinks to high heaven.  But all I knew was it was hard and that rolling around on a tennis ball, whilst moderately painful, had not solved my glutes problem.

And so it was that I found myself rolling around the floor of my 'junior suite' with a rock hard boulder of a ball beneath me.  I combined the session with a core work out and so began to work up a healthy sheen of sweat.  Now let me tell you, they may hoover those carpets every day, but when you're rolling around on them in your birthday suit you soon realise that there is a lifetime of other people's grime and dust lurking beneath the deceptively clean and luxurious looking shag pile.

Kind of nylony they are too, so I'm sure that were it not for said sweat layer, the static electricity would have caused me to spontaneously combust and burn my way through the floor like some kind China Syndrome meltdown.

Anyway, whilst all these thoughts were floating through my head in a desparate attempt to hold the agonising pain of the hockey ball at bay, another popped into my brain.

What the hell was I doing?

Whilst other businessmen were enjoying a glass of wine and a meal in the restaurant, I was grinding it out on this man made bed of dust, sweating and grunting in pain, before munching down a fruit salad from my fridge and getting an early night prior to the morning's 8 mile run.  What kind of life is that for a boy?

For a moment I began to think the allure of Ironman might be wearing off.

This season seems to be more of an effort to keep to the levels of training I set myself to remain competitive.  I don't know why this is;  maybe it's familiarity with the sport breeding something of a little contempt?  Whatever it is, I've lacked the vim and vigour of previous years.

That said, I'm doing things differently this year.  I have no coach and I've deliberartely delayed the onset of training in an attempt to peak in late July rather than peaking in early June as I feel I've been doing in recent years.  I still think this is the right strategy but it does leave one feeling a little 'rudderless' in these early stages.  This, combined with my virus (from which I'm only recently recovered) I think has served to make things feel a little strange this time around.

But, things are changing.  The sun is back in the sky, I feel like I'm recovering my energy reserves lost to the virus and, most importantly, for the first time in many months I seem to be running injury free.  The last item is key, as running has always been a strength.  My calf tear and achilles injury have served to leave me very short on run practice though and I've really not done that much since September time.

All that was put to bed last week though when, in true stupid-Jevon style I launched myself into a ridiculously demanding run schedule for someone returning from injury.  I ran 6 miles on Monday, 8 miles on Wednesday, 8 miles on Thursday, 15 miles on Saturday and 2.5 miles on Sunday.  Looking back on it - that was pretty stupid.  If Coach K had been with me he'd have insisted I'd have run nothing like that and he would have been right.  However, I seem to have got away with it.

The running was at the expense of the biking this week where I managed only one long-ish ride of 63 miles.  But seeing I was away and that I'd ridden long and hard the previous week I'm not too concerned about that.  My bike form is solid if not spectacular but I can't help thinking that things will become clearer when I get off my heavy winter bike with its slow wheels.  I'll have a clearer idea of where I stand come May-time.

But I've been putting in the hours, with 28.5 hours training over the last couple of weeks.

I've been keeping up my cinema going and am back on track with my new year resolution to see a cinema film every week this year.  Recent viewings have included FROM PARIS WITH LOVE, CRAZY HEART and SOLOMON KANE.  Friday night saw a screening of THE HURT LOCKER at our Old Thatch Cinema Society.  Pick of the bunch for me was CRAZY HEART, with Jeff Bridges' performance being a stand out.

I finally heard back from my agent about my book.  The first literary agent he sent it too 'passed' on it (meaning they feel it's not for them) which, to be honest, is disappointing but not surprising.  There isn't a writer alive who hasn't been 'passed' on, so it goes with the landscape.  We move onwards and upwards and will send it out to another.  If I get similar notes from this literary agent I'll take a look at the writing again.

Work is busy.  So that's always a welcome distraction, even if it does take me away from home and my girls.  I miss them a huge amount when I'm away and it's always a delight to be home and sharing the same living space with them (and I include Fiona, my wife, in that of course).

We have a French student, Pauline, staying with us for a week.  She's here as part of a student exchange programme and Erin will be going to France in a couple of weeks to stay with her family.  Erin has also applied for her school's World Challenge Programme in 2011 which will be a one month trip to Mongolia.   It's a fantastic opportunity and we'll hear this week if she's been selected to go (a process of random selection).  If so, more about it then.

I've rambled a long time.

Today's photo is my nasally offensive, visually repulsive, nerve shredding hockey ball.

Think of me and wince.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's a Virtue...

Patience that is! 

I think I'm a fairly relaxed, patient sort of bloke.  My parents tell me different.  As do my wife and children.  They tell me I'm in a hurry to get places and do things. 

Which I guess is fair comment. 

With Ironman training though, normal rules don't apply.  The distances are so long and the training volumes so high that it's necessary to start months before an event.  Truth be told we Ironmen get into the habit of always training.  Even through autumn and winter I was doing something most days - something which, prior to starting Ironman, I'd have regarded as a huge amount of training.  In truth, it's now just 'ticking over'.

So my base levels of fitness are much, much higher than they were a few years ago.  Consequently I can stand a few setbacks on the road to Ironman fitness.  It's kind of built into the schedule.  When the knocks and setbacks come, it's important not to try and make up what you might perceive you've lost.  Truth is - you haven't lost it.  You just think you have.  Trust in your training past and your training to come and get back in the game.  Your techinque in the pool will return, as will the strength in your bike legs.

It's like life.  Trust yourself.  Back yourself.  Believe in yourself.  You're a winner and winners don't have problems; only opportunities. 

Last week I was recovering from my bug.  I'd lost over 10lbs in the week of sickness and diorreah and was feeling pretty weak.  So I reigned back the training and gradually got back into it towards the end of the weeks with just under 7 hours of biking, swimming and core work.

This week I'm planning to be back to normal volumes.

I'm still suffering with my achilles injury but last week went to see John Dennis at Body Limits.  JD is a mate from Team MK, an accomplished age group triathlete in his own right and physiotherapist to the GB triathlon team.  He's pretty sure he's on the right track with my achilles and I'm working religiously on his exercises to strenghten my right calf.  I'm pretty sure it's working but won't know for sure until it's put to the test with a decent run.  I managed a 1km test run on concrete over the weekend with no ill effects so am optimistic.

What else is new? 

Well, it's busy at work.  I've a new commercial to produce and direct before Easter and several smaller projects also going on at the same time.  I've not heard back from my agent about my book so will be bothering him sometime this week to see if he's heard back from the writer's agent that he was sending it to (wheels within wheels).  I know these things take time so don't get too het up about the wait.  It can be frustrating though (or does this, once again, go to my being an impatient man?)

Alice had a fantastic parents evening at her school - The Sir Henry Floyd Grammar in Aylesbury.  She's at that age (12, rising 13) where she's now settled into senior school and is really starting to thrive and develop into a young lady.  Happy times.

I missed out on my new year's resolution last week of going to the movies but will try to go twice this week to make up for it.  I'm allowing myself a couple of lapses, as long as I buy 52 cinema tickets in the year!

I could go on but, frankly, find myself itching to get back to work.

Some might say I was impatient. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Look who came to stay...

 There I was... hammering away on the bike, cutting through the water like a blade and confident that my running form would return once my achilles injury healed up when POW!  My new buddy made himself known.  It was Wednesday morning and I was planning on a long ride.  But something felt wrong.  For the first time in as long as I could remember - I didn't fancy breakfast.  
Something told me to quit the ride and see what happened.  

Well, what happened was that I was laid low by the norovirus, the most malevolent, evil, hostile house-sitter you're ever gonna come across.  It's five days on now and in that time I've lost over 5kgs in bodyweight and quite honestly, I feel like I've been through the wringer.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts at isolation and copious amounts of disinfectant, I managed to infect Alice.  It also  looks like Fiona may be coming down with it.

So all bets are off.  All training is off.  I'm officially in recovery mode for a couple of weeks.

At least today I feel a little more human again.  The virus seems to have left my gut and moved to my chest, making me wheezy tired.  I'm sure that will pass though.

It got me thinking just how lucky we are to have our health.  Some folk have to live life with illness and immobility and pain and suffering an everyday part of their existence.  

In the last few days I've learned the true meaning of an 'ultra event'.  

So, I'm going to sign off.  I hope that next week I will have returned to training and be a little brighter.

Most importantly, I hope that you and yours are healthy and well.

Monday, February 08, 2010


I've just finished my weekly maths tutoring with Alice.  Some may think this is a case of the blind leading the blind but I think I'm more the one-eyed man in this particular kingdom.  She's prone to being downhearted because her test scores are low.  I tell her not to be because:

1.  Life is too short
2.  Maths is a rubbish subject
3.  It's a long race (see previous post)
4.  She's improving.  Her scores are getting better.

She works at it doggedly and refuses to be defeated or defeatist.  I learn a lot from her even though many of these genes have undoubtedly come from me.

I'm trying not to let my achilles injury get me down because:

1.  Life is too short
2.  Achilles tendons are rubbish parts of the body
3.  There's a long time before my race (see previous post)
4.  I always have injuries but I'm gradually improving.

This week has been fairly large on biking what with not being able to run.  The week that was looked like this:

Monday, 2.4km swim drills, 90 min x country brisk walking to protect achilles, 20 mins core session
Tuesday, 2.55km swim set, 45 mins hard bike turbo
Weds, 65 mile bike ride, 30 min easy run off the bike
Thurs, 20 mins core session, 2km Team MK swim set
Fri, 3km swim set, 25 mins run (achilles broke down again :(
Sat, 75 mile bike ride, 25 mins cross trainer (gym), 10 mins core
Sun, 60 mile bike ride


Swim 9.95km
Bike 220 miles
Run/Walk 16 miles

Total training time 20.33 hours

I'm back on the booze now, having lasted until Friday night when I succumbed to the pleasures of the amber nectar.  That said, I'm really not going at it in the way I used to and am enjoying the days more as a result.  That may change but, for the moment it's a good place to be.

I carried on my new year's resolution of going to the movies every week.  I checked out INVICTUS this week which was no better than okay (in my opinion, of course).  Decent enough acting, decent directing, decent plot but just... not... exceptional.  I'd expected more from Clint and this story.

I'll almost certainly not be running for a few weeks now, so painful is my achilles when I do so.  I'm having the usual treatment of ice and stretching and I'm sure it will die down but it's kind of annoying.  That said, I'm sure the bike and the swim are benefiting.

A brief post this week and no words of worldly wisdom which will be a welcome respite for most of you I'm sure.

Toodle pip.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It's a Long Race...

I say this to my girls.  Life is a long race.  I remember when I was at school, the so-called bright kids would be burned out by the time they were in their early twenties.  They didn't know it then, of course, but it was coming to them, as sure as eggs are eggs. 

You have to pace yourself, whatever you do.  Finishing strong is everything.  But you have to remember... and get this because it's really important... in life, the race never finishes.  Madness, you say.  The boy is spouting gibberish.  But it's true.

The more ambitious you are in life, the more targets you set yourself, the more you are in a 'race'.  And, having confirmed to yourself that you are the type of person that sets themselves targets and goals, then once these aims are achieved, then new ones will materialise to replace them. 

So it's best to treat your aims in life as races.  Plan them, train for them and, when the time is right, make your move and finish them ruthlessly.  When they're done and you've achieved what you set out to do, pat yourself on the back and set yourself a new goal.  You won't expect praise or plaudits because, to you, setting goals is as straightforward a thing as is watching afternoon TV for those who have no ambitions or dreams (or those who are too terrified to try and achieve them).

Remember this too.  The race is never against other people.  Never ever.  It's against yourself.  When you set yourself a goal you challenge yourself and nobody else.  Too often we hide behind, "I quit because I wasn't first."

That's bollocks. 

When I was a kid I wanted to be a film director.  I'm a film director now.  A few years ago I wanted to do an Ironman.  I'm an Ironman now.  I've always wanted to write a novel.  I've written a novel now.  I want to be a great father.  In this arena, I constantly strive to do my best. 

My point is this.  There are better film directors than me, quicker Ironmen, more accomplished novelists and most probably, better fathers (though I'm not sure how one measures fatherly qualities).  But my race has always been with myself.  I think of each box ticked as a lap on a never ending track of life.  Stamina and pacing are essential in order to keep on running. 

And keep on running we must, because it is this that makes us truly alive.

Speaking of running, my achilles flared up following a 13 mile run a couple of weeks ago.  Not surprisingly really - I should have worked up to this kind of distance rather than simply go out and run it with a group of mates from Team MK.  However, John - my chiropractor and sports injury doc (ex international sprinter) has taken me in hand and I'm seeing a gradual improvement.

My back is improving too, thanks to a core strengthening regime which I'm sure is going to pay dividends over the coming months. 

I've been back in the pool the last couple of weeks and can feel myself returning to some kind of form.  I'm swimming around 10km a week and focusing on drills and technique, believing that the speed will come once I'm in a lake.

Cycling still feels great.  Gabriel and I did a monstrously difficult 86 mile ride a week or so ago in torrential rain.  There were moments where we both struggled but I was pleased with my strength and fitness.

And... I've bought myself a present.  The Cervelo R3 frame (left)  is something I'm going to build up into a summer sportive road bike.  Think of it as an open top sports car. 

Been busy watching movies too.  I'm keeping up with my new year's resolution to pay for a cinema ticket at least once every week.  The list of movies I've seen is on the right of the blog and there's a link to each of them on IMDB.  Highlights this week included seeing a brand new print of EASY RIDER at my local theatre - The Rex In Berkamsted - and being pleasantly surprised by TWILIGHT which I watched with Alice.

The photo this week is of Erin and Alice, taken at my mum's 70th birthday celebrations which we recently travelled up to Lancashire for.  Photo here is of my mum and dad themselves who will be horrified that they're on the blog but who, it must be said, are looking pretty damned good for a couple both in their 70s.  I hope I have their youthful genes!

So, tortuously, the point of my analogy:  Ironman training is once again upon us.  I've deliberately kept a low profile throughout January, not starting a programme proper as I know that it's a hell of a long time until July 25th.  There are no prizes for being super fit in January, no medals given out for PB's with six months to go before a race.  Pacing is everything, just as it is in the Ironman event itself. 

This week sees the beginning of my plan proper and I'll be keeping you up to date with the type of thing I've been doing.  I may even list a few times and distances!  If you feel I'm going off too fast or intense, then by all means point me to this post and remind me that it's a long, long, long race.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fear of Flying...

I've finished my book.

My novel.


I'll say it again.  I've finished my novel.  Sounds good, doesn't it.  In reality, though, it's terrifying.  Why is that?  I guess it's due fear of rejection.  A fear that it might not be 'good enough'.  Well, balls to that.  I don't care for fear.  Fear is the father of failure yet to succeed at anything, we need to make failure our friend.

We need to sleep with him, eat with him, work with him and carry him around on our backs as we swim, bike and run.  Only by getting to know him can we understand that he can be beaten.  And that he's nothing to be afraid of.

I think that fear of flying isn't fear of flying at all - it's fear of crashing.  Just as vertigo isn't fear of heights - it's the fear that you will somehow throw yourself from them.  So everything has an equal and opposite force or consequence.  And most of us are somehow 'hard-wired' to default to the fear of the opposite force of whatever we're trying to achieve.

Is someone who is fearful of doing an Ironman fearful of the pain it will require or, deep down, are they fearful that they might not finish.  I suspect the latter.

So far, these are merely observations.  What's the answer?  I guess the answer is to look for successes on the journey to whatever your end goal is.  My success is that I've finally written a novel (and a considerably different one to that which I thought I'd one day write).  As for its success in the 'outside world' - I'm relaxed about that.  I've lost sleep too many times before trying to second guess what may or may not be 'hot'.

Oh... hey... I tell you what might be hot though.  My mate Tom has started a podcast.  It's called 'Marathontalk' and it's available from itunes (free of course) or at
Give it a try.  I think you'll like it.

Any other news?   Training is good even though my body is railing against the sudden switch to Ironman (silly) season.  I'm back swimming this week after a five week lay off so my shoulders feel a bit like they've been through the mincer.   I generally post what training I've been doing on my Twitter account (@ironmanj) so you can keep up with it there by following me on Twitter.  I'll get round to posting the training on the blog as I get further into the season but for now it's not really important as it's all about base building.

No photo.

Today it's all about words...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Evolution not Revolution...

Today's photo is me, at home, in my office, snow bound. Office is top left, above the garage. And I'm looking at you right now.

Because I've been thinking about this whole Blogging thing. And frankly, it's become a bit of a chore. No more do I look forward to getting up on a monday morning and sharing my thoughts with the world. Sure, I feel the need occasionally to pontificate on things, but that's what pubs are for isn't it? But, in the main, for the past few weeks, blogging hasn't been something I've been looking forward to.

Which accounts for why I haven't done it.

I need to find out if I'm going to pursue it further or like some glorious writing mayfly it has simply come to the end of its time. And I'm not going to find out by ignoring it and hoping it will go away. So I've decided to apply the same principles to it that I'm going to be applying to my training regime this year.

I'll do things a little differently.

Notice that word 'little'. I'm a great beliver in re-inventing yourself as time goes by. It's impossible to sit in one phase of your life forever. We have to move on and, quite often, that forward movement is not by enormous leaps but by small incremental steps that, when one looks back, give the appearance of a monumental jump.

It's the key to a varied, fulfilled and exciting life.

Trust me.

So I figure I'll just play around with the blog a bit and see how it goes.

Some changes I'll definitely be making:

1. The look - because it's easy to select a new template and I can.
2. Frequency. Will be when I've something to say. Not just 'every Monday'. Why? Because I'm not a machine. Not this year.
3. Other stuff. I'm going to try and introduce a bit of other stuff, not sure what.
4. Free gifts to all those who subscribe by RSS Feed.

Okay, I lied about number 4.

And, if you're piqued by my reference to this year's training, then here's how it ties in with my thoughts.

This year I've decided to go 'on my own'. That's right, decided to walk the wire without a safety net. What the hell is he talking about, do I hear you say? Specifically, I'm talking about the fact that I've called my coach, Mark K, to let him know that I'm taking a swing at Ironman on my own this year. Why? Well, it's kind of complicated but simple too. I'll try to explain in as few a words as possible.

Anyone who knows me knows I lack nothing on the self-belief, self-motivation front. Frankly, getting out of bed and putting in the hard yards has never been a problem for me since I took a maths exam at 12 years old without doing any revision. I failed so badly and was so distraught that day, that I swore I would never ever take on anything again without being fully prepared. And I haven't. So, consequently it's become the way I live my life.

'99% preparation, 1% perspiration.'

'Fail to prepare: Prepare to fail.'

You know the sayings.

So, my coach's presence in my triathlon life has never been designed to motivate or make me work harder. At the end of 2005 I weighed 105 kgs and decided I was going to do an Ironman. I'd managed a marathon under 4 hours but had never cycled before and couldn't swim more than a couple of lengths of my local pool (and certainly couldn't dream of putting my face in the water as I did so).

I called Coach K and he took me on. I bought a bike and a set of earplugs for swimming. In 2006 I completed Ironman Austria in 12 hrs 10 mins. Two years later I'm down to 10:38, racing at 87 kgs, and I think I can go faster. All of this is due to Coach K. Great plans, great bloke.

But I'm me. I need to have a smack at this myself. I also think that I need to step back from the formulaic approach to training that coaching delivers and find out what it's like to de-mystify the process and coach myself. It's a challenge, for sure, but I guess it's only the same thing that made me start my own business at age 27. I'm also now used to being surrounded by great athletes at my tri club, Team MK.

And also, let's face it, most of you reading this won't have a coach.

Anyway, for better or worse, I'm going to see how it pans out. And I'll never be too proud to go back to Coach K if it doesn't work out. But I have a feeling I'll be okay.

But this isn't a major jump to me... it's a baby step. Same thing. Out swimming, onto the bike, running ... yadda yadda yadda. It's a minor switch. It's evolution not revolution.

So what do I have planned this year? Well, for certain I have Ironman Switzerland on July 25th. On July 3rd I have the European Sprint Championships in Ireland where I'm representing GB in my age group. I've signed up for the Duston Sprint Triathlon in April which is a qualifier for the World Championships and I've also committed to the MK half marathon on March 7th where I'm hoping to PB.

There'll be other stuff for sure, including a couple of half IM's before IMCH. But, for the moment, no targets, no goals, no times set in stone.

No pressure.

Hope you're all well.