Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Things to do...

There are several things I want to do before xmas

1.  Teach my daughters to play chess.
2.  Complete another screenplay.
3.  Begin to run again without injury.
4.  Hang my recently purchased artworks at home.
5.  Go to the movies (at least once) with my wife.
6.  Take on a new client at work.
7.  Spend less time on the internet.
8.  Visit my brother in Amsterdam.
9.  Re-commence swimming sessions.
10.  Drink a little less booze.
11.  Eat a little less dairy.
12.  Keep my weight below 14st 7lb (92.3kg)
13.  Walk in the countryside once a week with my wife.
14.  Get an eye test.
15.  Improve my posture.
16.  Strum the guitar more.
17.  Plan some goals for next year.

There will be more.  But these will do for the time being.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Super 8

I've not used the blog for film reviews but there's always a first time.  I went to see the new JJ Abrams movie, SUPER 8, last night.  My review?  Well, in a pithy one liner, I'd say it's more Standard 8 than Super 8.  That, of course, is an in joke for those of you who might have made your own films as a teenager before the advent of video.

In truth, the movie was okay but it rarely raised itself higher than the sum of its parts.  It borrowed shamelessly from eighties classics like THE GOONIES, ET and even STAND BY ME.  Stephen King's IT was referenced too.  The resultant story was entirely formulaic and the film makers seemed to give up on the nice conceit of the movie within a movie (the kids that form the centre of the story are making their own movie) and resort to explosions and tired cliche's of the town being evacuated, explosions and, naturally, the happy Hollywood ending.

The one thing I did take from SUPER 8 though, and what has stayed with me to this morning, was that it rekindled in me the fires that burned so brightly as a youngster when I first picked up my dad's wind up cine camera and began to make my own movies.  The freedom to experiment, the love of working with your friends, the blissful ignorance of 'rules' governing story and style allowing a totally individual approach to expressing yourself through angles and shot making.  This is the cinema and movie making that I yearned to be a part of and wanted so much to make my career.

I've been lucky (and determined, I guess) that I've managed to do that.  But the freedom of those days has long gone and SUPER 8 reminded me that it's still out there.   Why is it that those of us with experience seem unable to tap into it so freely as those without?

Well, from now on... I'm going to think freely and cease to worry about rules and industry expectations.

Let's see what happens.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mission Accomplished...

So... the plan was to get to the start line and I managed that just fine.  How would the race go?  Well, let's backtrack a bit.  Aleck (my buddy from Team MK) and myself shared driving duties on the wednesday on a journey which took us under the channel, across Europe and down to Nuremberg in Germany.  We met our other Team MK mates and supporters and were soon on the lash in a Bier Keller, drinking litres of strong lager.

Perfect Ironman preparation.  Whilst Roth was a good race - we'll come to this later - the town itself isn't the best place to hold one of the world's largest triathlons.  Organisationally it was all a bit demanding, with the swim some 15km and T2 about 1km from the finish.  Add to this that there is only one hotel in the entire town and the whole thing adds up to an event which, in my opinion, has far outgrown its origins.

Anyway, I had the car so that made it easier than for most.

As for the race itself, having achieved my goal of starting I wanted to finish.  That may sound strange and what I mean by it is this;  all my efforts had been focussed on getting to the start line.  Once there, I realised that the one thing that would nail me was the run, specifically getting there too tired or pushing too fast whilst on the run.  Either of these could cause the achilles to give up on me and I very much didn't want that to happen.  So my plan was to keep a lid on proceedings throughout the day.

The swim start was in waves, with me off in wave number two of the age groupers.  In front of me were the Pros, the women and the elite age groupers, plus the faster wave.  My previous IM swims had been 63, 63 and 60 mins (not counting Switzerland last year where I swam from the back as a training swim). I figured that with the reduced mileage this year and also with not wanting to push too much and over rotate my back my swim time would be around 65 minutes.  Guess what... my swim time was 65 minutes.

I took longer than usual in transition to stretch the back and achilles, met up with Aleck who was in the swim wave before me, and  headed out onto the bike course.

Roth is a fast course... no two ways about it.  But you have to ride what's in front of  you.  You have to have a plan otherwise you'll crash and burn.  Witness the fact that two of our fastest cyclists posted their most disappointing IM times.  My cycling times on IM courses had come down over consecutive years with my fastest currently sitting at 5 hours 20 mins for the 112 miles, requiring an average speed of 21 mph.  I'd been cycling well this year so my plan was to sit at a 21mph and see how I felt.

In the end, I felt good.  The course is rolling and my size allowed me to pick up speed on the downhills and use it to power up the inclines.  I tried to keep my power output constant and to ride at a higher cadence than I had been doing a year or so ago.  I saw Aleck pass me and followed him for a long time but in the end let him pull away.

My first lap was done at just over 22mph average speed but I eased back on the second lap and ended with a bike split of 5 hrs and 6 minutes, at an average speed of 21.8 mph.  More importantly I felt good.  I'd got my nutrition right, constantly slurping from my aero bottle and eating reasonably well all the way round.

Time to run.

Having only been back running for the last three months after over a  year of inactivity, I knew that the hardest part would be slowing myself down at the beginning enough to be in reasonable enough condition to get through the race.  I set out to run 9 minute miles which would have given me a sub 4 hour marathon.  By halfway, I was just drifting out on that time and decided to walk for a couple of minutes and slug back some coca cola.  My heart rate came down and so did my temperature and I was able to kick on again.  Fuelled by coke throughout the last 21km, I managed to keep a reasonably even pace to complete the marathon in 4 hrs 7 mins... not by any means a fast pace but, given that at one stage in the months previously I'd doubted whether I'd ever run again, one I was happy to embrace.

I crossed the line in 10 hrs 29 minutes and 56 seconds, which is another PB and I'm also I'm a newly minted member of the sub 10:30 club.

The injuries felt fine.  My back has behaved itself - testament I think to all the rehab done since my slipped disc in October - and my achilles never felt like it would be tested to destruction.  Yes, it's sore and tender, but it's resting now and it thanked me for putting it through another Ironman (I may be lying about that last bit).

So, that's it.  Injuries don't have to mean the end of athletic careers.  Don't listen to the naysayers and doom merchants.  Focus on what you can achieve and what you need to do to get better.

Anything is possible.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Let's Get Ready to Rumble...

Usually, my focus is all about finishing a race.  But the past eighteen months has been very different.  Everything has been with the express intention of making the start line on another Ironman Triathlon.  And here I am, barring last minute acts of God, about to fulfil that promise to myself by starting Europe's greatest irondistance triathlon - Challenge Roth - on Sunday morning.

There have been tough times, no doubt.  I couldn't run for over a year and my slipped disc saw me in excruciating pain for a couple of months, barely able to move at all.  But, as ever when faced with adversity, I simply set my focus on some seemingly impossible targets and resolutely refuse to buckle in my desire to achieve them.

This time the target was to start another Ironman within six months of my spinal surgery (injection).   So, the race itself will be icing on the cake.

It was touch and go for a while whether my achilles would recover in time to take part in the run but I'm at the stage now where I'm confident of getting out onto the marathon course.  From that point I'm in the lap of the gods.  It will either go well or badly.  But then that's always the case in an Ironman.  My great fear is that the achilles could simply flare up which would make running impossible - but the worse that can happen would be that I'd have to stop.

As a result of my focus on simply starting the race I've been a lot more relaxed in my training.  In a nutshell I've done far less swimming and am happy to accept a slower swim time if that's the result.  The constant rotating in the water was irritating my back and I think was a factor in the disc problems I had.  Running has been practically non existent until the last couple of months which, whilst saving me much wear and tear on my battered knees and achilles, has, of course, made me less confident of speed around the marathon course.  Bike has been good.  I'm stronger than ever before and I'm hoping for a decent time.  But I'm going to hold back and save something for the run.  The last thing I want to be is going out for a 26 mile run with my legs and lungs mashed.

So, let's see.  What will be will be.   To finish will be an epic achievement in terms of demonstrating that recovery from injuries is possible.  One thing's for sure... with this attitude of making the start the main focus, I've never been looking forward as much to a 'race'.

You can follow my progress on the Challenge Roth Website.  In a red band, just below the main photo, you'll see several categories of drop down menu.  One of them is ATHLETE TRACKER.  Click on this and put in my starter number of 1169 (they've messed up my surname).

Send me positive thoughts.  Everything helps.

cheers my lovely people...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Mental, Mental, chicken oriental...

I've been trying to train slow.  Specifically; to run slow.  And it's not easy.

My best ever IM marathon is 3:57 and it was achieved by rigorous discipline.  Started slow and kept the pace under wraps until the final 10k where I wound it up just a little.

On my run today (11.2 miles) I set out aiming to run at 8:50 pace which represents a marathon time of around 3:52... not so hot a a standalone but pretty good after swimming and cycling for over six hours.  I managed to do it at an average pace of 8:35 min/mile.  It made me remember just how important the mental discipline in an Ironman is... and how, as athletes, we overlook it.  Too often we train flat out with scant regard to the pacing required on the day.  When the day comes we are unable to regulate our power output in any meaningful way and our reserves are spent.  It's easy to recover from this after the swim, fairly tough during or after the bike but, when you're trying to run a marathon on zero reserves, if you start off too fast you're finished.  You have no chance.

So staying on top of my pace in the run is something I'll be turning my mind to for the next five weeks.

Good luck to all my friends doing their training runs at 7 minute miles.


Friday, May 27, 2011

An Ironman update...

I suspect the trick of blogging may be - from this point on - to keep it brief.

Halleluja, I hear you mutter.

Well, not so brief as to let you go after just three sentences.

You'll be familiar with my annus horribilis.  A chronic achilles injury that prevented me running for over a year.  Back surgery on a slipped/herniated disc and further surgery just over a month ago.  So, all in all, for most folk, a fairly debilitating time.

So, naturally, I'm aiming to complete another Ironman in July.

I don't want to sound glib about this - there's a lot more to it than simply rocking up and risking my health - I'd never do that.  But I've seen great progress with my achilles over the past few months, especially after using prescription orthotics, and am now up to running 15 miles.  I'm also able to 'push' with my running, running 10k at sub 7 minute miles average pace... so I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to at least embark on the IM marathon without too much trouble.  How I'll go when I get into the red zone in terms of distance and leg stress... we'll have to see.

My back is not at all bad.  That's to say it's not healed and I'm still aware of it but I've done a huge amount of core work and have changed many aspects of my life to accommodate its rehabilitation.  From how I sit, to how I run and walk, to what I eat, a daily exercise regime, a relevant vitamin intake... all these things have contributed to my being able to function pretty much as normal.

I've eased back from the swimming to protect my back but have still managed around 55km so far in May.

The bike has been going well.  I've been getting stronger every year and this year is no exception.  As ever, I started out on my heavy winter bike and only moved up to the faster carbon machines in April.   I'm concentrating now in trying to 'dial in' to the position on my TT bike to enable my back to get used to being bent over for 112 miles whilst my legs are delivering power.

I've even treated myself to a new pair of Giro cycling shoes.  After being a cyclist for four years, I figure I'm now decent enough to justify them.   They are extremely beautiful, unlike me.

I have also shaved my legs.   Fiona is horrified.  Erin and Alice are mystified.

But I'm happy and hell, shaving your legs doesn't hurt anyone.

The surgery I went through in April was for hemorrhoids and I refuse to get all embarrassed about stuff like that.  If we're to have a sensible approach to men's health in this country then issues of internal bleeding need to be looked at and addressed.  We wouldn't think twice if we were bleeding from our ears or our throats about getting these things checked out.  So why is it different from our bottoms?  I guess because we're still living with our Victorian legacy of finding 'toilet' humour funny and slightly embarrassing.  Anyway, I was fortunate.  It wasn't cancer, though it could well have been.  The problem has been fixed and, let me tell you, it was bloody painful.  The surgeon's advice was to begin cycling after three weeks.

So I was back on a bike within 48 hours.

Why?  Because it's called Ironman.  Not Sitonthesofaman.

Onwards now to Challenge Roth in Germany on July 10th.

Other news soon.

S'good to be back with you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

When is a blog not a blog...

I've been guilty of leaving my blog to rot, like some pile of festering manure in the back garden.   Words from previous posts seem to alphabetically biodegrade, so their meaning is diluted and changed with time.   When I look at them now, they are not what they once were.

And that's the same for all of us as we march through our lives.  No different for me.  We aren't what we were and it's kind of tricky to live in the past and expect your body to perform up to previous expectations.  I'm a great believer that one of the 'tricks' of a successful life (define success however you wish, though not monetarily) is to never stop re-assessing and, if necessary, re-inventing yourself.

In marriage, Fiona and I have changed from the eighteen year olds who fell in love.  We are different people and, like anything joined together, one needs to work in tandem with the other to maintain cohesion and attraction.  With children too, with business and with sport.  We must re-focus, look at where we are, who we are, and never be afraid to re-assess and re-set our goals and day to day routine.  That way, I think, we stay fresh, happy and, most importantly, challenged.

The above sounds like a 'Thought for the day' but it isn't meant to.  I think it's born out of the fact that, emerging from a horrific year of injuries, I have begun to see that I'm not the athlete that began this Ironman journey.   Gung-ho training has taken its toll and, more specifically, an inability to rest has not allowed my body to heal when it needs to.   But I've taken the time to analyse my shortcomings and, now that the injuries are showing signs of healing, I'm able to apply what I've learned to my training.

So, what of the injuries?   The back is going well.   I'm able to swim and cycle with (current) impunity although I will forever need a regime of daily back strengthening and stretching exercises.  I'm riding two long bikes a week of 60/70 miles at the moment plus shorter efforts of 20/30 miles in between.

Swimming was one thing that - in hindsight - I think really aggravated my back for minimal return.  All that twisting around the core was, I believe, the poor technique of someone who came late to swimming but didn't truly know how to swim.   So, whereas previously I would do MORE swimming to rectify this problem, now I'm planning on doing less.  So what if my swim time drops a little... I'll be in much better shape to peform further down the event, through the bike and run.  A 60 minute IM swim can become a 65 minute swim but my back will be stronger and, as I learned at Ironman Germany, you can't run a marathon when your spine is about to give way.

But running... ah, running.  That elusive goal.  Whilst my back has really improved, my achilles tendon has remained an obstinate, obdurate enemy.  Running has been all but impossible, but finally I'm hoping that it's light I'm seeing at the end of this particular tunnel, rather than the distant rays of another false dawn.  I've seen countless physios and specialists who have tried to help but to no avail.  Currently I'm seeing Boothy, a mate of mine and sports injury osteopath (and our main coach at Team MK) who has had similar injury issues to me in the past.  We're working on building up my arches to support my feet in what appears to be quite a complicated strike pattern when I walk and run.  I'd be lying if I didn't say there was some slight improvement.  But it's been so long that I can't tell any more for sure.

I am, though, an optimist.   Hope springs eternal in my breast.

Not only am I back training but I'm back blogging.

I think that's a good sign.

Happiness and karma to you all.

May your shadows never grow less.

May the skin on your backsides never line a banjo.