Friday, 19 January 2018

If it's on Facebook, it must be true.

I announced this triathlon to my peers today via Facebook. Shit just got real, yo.

I also announced it to the lady I still call 'boss', my former- and to-be-again coach, but that was by email.

I'm not sure if I told my parents yet, but someone will probably tell them.

So yeah, it's happening.

I ducked out of training last night though. It is a learning curve, doing endurance training again, and I had a shitty night's sleep on Wednesday. So last night, I was tired, and a bit stressed – which is actually an ideal recipe for exercise as it generally lifts one from a slump nicely. I thought, I'll get an early night instead. And I stayed up til not far off midnight, because I am a twat.

Learning curve lesson: don't be a twat. If you're not going to do some kind of evening session, sleep.

Swimming lesson 2 tomorrow. I practised a bit this week, but still can't do a length. But I'm sure I will be able to by the time I finish tomorrow's lesson.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Things that worry me.

There's not much that scares me in life*. I have a very simple philosophy – if there is a problem, deal with it. Take some form of action. And if you can't directly control it, don't worry about it too much.

Needles used to scare me into insensibility; now, not so much but they still put the shits up me. A phlebotomist described it as an irrational fear, but that's not really true. Needles had never bothered me until I was 16, and had to have an injection between my toes. That, Fact Fans, is fucking hideous. And I had to have it twice more at later dates, knowing what was coming. Fuck. That. Shit.

So there's what you might call a clear path for that particular fear.

What else? Well, bikling does actually worry me. Back in the day, when I was about... 28, I think, I used to cycle to work. Initially, this was 3-4 miles-ish. Later, it became just shy of 10 very hilly miles, so a little under 100 miles a working week. I had to drink a lot to stay fat then, believe me. Total dedication.

On the first route, an elderly driver decided that because he had indicated, he had right of way, and so turned across my path. It was on a very steep hill, I was coming down it. I wasn't doing more than about 20mph, as there were bus stops and speed bumps, and I could not go around the back of his car as there was another vehicle behind him. I almost missed him but clipped the back bumper, left the bike, and went flying down the hill. Which was steep enough that when I landed, I did so on my feet. I caught a leg on the car as I went over it, but that was all. I was basically unhurt, but for a big dent in the muscle that runs alongside the shin (another disproportionately large muscle on me, and I suspect that here it kept my leg from being more seriously hurt as it kept the collision away from the bone).

On the second route, on a bright sunny morning where I was wearing a white hoody, another driver turned right across the front of me. This time I went over the bonnet, managed to clear it except brushing my arm across those things that squirt water on the windscreen. Weirdly, that left a tiny scar for many years. Again, I was basically unhurt but this time, my bike didn't make it.

So there's some residual fear/worry about cycling that I just need to step into the face of, meet its eyes and say, "Hi. I'm badgerdaddy. Is there anything you would like to say to me?"**

I'm also, and this will sound stupid, worried about who I am. We define so much of ourselves by our fears and our habits, that to be facing fears for me leads me down a path of wondering who I might be at the end of it – or more realistically, if there is indeed an end or if I may have found a path of personal evolution that I can barrel down instead of living within zones of comfort or fear.

I have defined myself in the past with alcohol. Not consciously, but if I was away with work, I would find a bar, take a book and settle in. Same at home, frequently. More frequently in the last 10 years. I have a couple of million great stories that start with, "I was in this pub..." or "I was fucking shitfaced when..." I have not had a drink in four months. Four months today, actually, was my 'official' not drinking date, though I had not had any alcohol for a few days before that. But I think as animals, we need our arbitrary lines, and that's mine.

Who am I? I've not really got any idea at the moment. Not in a mid-life crisis stylee, but in a curious way. What defines me? Well, I know that fear doesn't. My most basic credo is that we choose out of two things every day, and in almost every decision: fear or love. I do my best to make the right choice every day. I don't always succeed. So does love define me? I hope it's a part of the package. I guess we'll find out on this journey, because if there is one thing endurance training has taught me, it's that you will find out exactly what you are made of at some point on the way.

*Beards of bees.
**"Nothing? Then get the fuck out."

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Swimming lessons

Before Christmas, I figured well, I can't cycle (I prefer saying bikle though), terrified to start running again, so I will get in the gym and pool. So I did.

I've been doing short gym sessions, more quality than quantity. So I get in and do maybe 30 minutes, hit the cross trainer, rower, maybe a watt bike and some leg weights, and a set or two with kettlebells. The cross trainer session is a pyramid, where I start with resistance on 1 and up it by 1 every 30 seconds; if I have time, I do this until I can barely move it (that would be around 21), then I drop it by 1 every 30 seconds. It's very effective and gives endurance, strength and cardio in a neat package.

Anyway, while in the pool, I generally do breaststroke. It's quite natural for me, and if I apply myself, I can keep up with a slow front crawler. Even overtake one or two. But I realised as it currently takes me 30 minutes to do half a mile, then 1.2 miles will take me almost up to the cutoff to finish the swim section of the race. So there's absolutely no cushion in there at all. My solution? Front crawl, motherfuckers!

Except it turns out I can't do it. Just cannot breathe, or roll to breathe, or any of it. So fuck that. Or rather, get a fucking teacher.

So I signed up for lessons with a group recommended by a friend. It's 1-1 teaching in a private pool at a local school, and I went for my first lesson last Saturday. What a fucking revelation that was. I entered the pool someone who could not crawl, and I left it as someone that could. In 30 minutes. Mazin!

Last night I went to my local pool and tried out what I had learned, and I can still do it! Problem is, I can't maintain it for a length, I find I am really gasping for air. I think it's a combination of trying to do it too fast and shitty cardio fitness; that said, I tried it much slower and found the same thing. I can do 2/3-3/4 of a length, but then find I am really struggling to catch my breath.

The solution, I think, is... to start running. It increases my cardio like nothing else, but also has a huge, huge impact on my lung capacity.

Back in the day when I was in a band, I wish I had been a runner not a smoker. The effect it has on my singing is also profound; I am still a shitty singer, but I can hold and maintain that shit for a lot longer. I can even do a passable rendition of this, if shitfaced and alone:

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And this (it's worth it just for the intro. It absolutely rocks.)

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TL;DR: Went to swimming lesson. Learned to swim.

Monday, 15 January 2018

How I got to this point

There seem to have been many false dawns - hell, I can see that just by scrolling down the posts on here - but this feels different. Is different, I should say.

In my last-but-one post, in July, I said something about doing some new shit or other, I had to get into shape, blah blah blah. Said it all before and for various reasons, it hasn't happened.

Shortly after that post in July, I was struck by gout. I'd had it in one short episode before, in the middle of a 2.5-year drunk; I knew what it was then, and  knew what it was when it came back in July. The previous visit was just for a day, really – a tiny flare, but it should have served as more of a warning and had I done the reading then, things may have been quite different.

Anyway, I didn't, and it came back, and much worse and for much, much longer. The average attack is 10-14 days, I had it for almost three months. Not massively, but it was there. I can't rest and stay off my feet, I have three young children and one of them is disabled so relies on her parents to help her around. It's just not an option. For a month, it was pretty bad; the following two, it flared up and down but never quite went away.

During this period, I saw the doctor a few times, as you would. She was patient, and listened, I didn't pull any punches with my history or lifestyle. I didn't lie, basically. She told me, if I got through my upcoming work trip without needing Colchicine, I could go on to Allopurinol when I got back. Well, it wasn't great while I was away, but I also got through it without the drugs. (I was in Vegas, FYI, and when the shootings kicked off I was downtown in my hotel with my foot up the wall, reading. A very, very strange time.)

So I started on Allo. This is a drug to inhibit the body's production of uric acid, which ultimately causes gout. Before they let you on it, you have to have a blood test which tells them your current levels, and allows them to test your kidney and liver function. This was my first ever blood test. and included a prescription for some numbing cream they use on children… It worked, but it still took me 25 minutes to let the phlebotomist actually take some blood. We got there though.

My kidney and liver function were described, miraculously in my opinion, as 'excellent', so we got started. They have to up the dosage gradually so that every bit of uric acid sitting in your joints and doing nothing doesn't just come loose and give you the attack to end them all. I'm about to have another blood test, I'm up to 300mg dosage and we're either there or very close to it. My blood urate levels are in the normal range and have been for a month, and I have been able to do some exercise.

Something else that's happened as a result of the gout: well, it two things actually. I have been mostly vegetarian for nearly four months, and I have not touched a drop of alcohol in that time either.

Never done either of those things before.

In those nearly four months, I have lost about 14lbs and done no exercise to speak of. Which is pretty cool. I look as though I have lost a lot more though, apparently, because my face has lost some puffiness. People are surprised by my appearance when they see me, one friend on Skype said, "I've never seen you looking like this before".

What else got me here? Oh yes, I bought a mid-life crisis bike, the kind that makes MAMILs out of even the most ordinary of us. It was an excellent deal, and it's a beautiful bike; it remains unridden though. When I was ready to get on and ride it (when I got the nod that my urate levels were 'normal'), I got a call from the bike shop to say that there was a global recall on that model and that replacement forks would be sent from the US as soon as possible. It looks like they might be here by the start of February, which is annoying but, what can you do?

I asked the shop to put different forks on so I could at least rack up a few miles. I collected the bike Saturday, still not ridden it. Last time I did much cycling, I was hit by a car on two occasions, and in another incident, chased by a driver (in his car) who wanted to kick the shit out of me. Fun times. But it can all leave a scar, and it's just another little hurdle to jump through and which takes me further from my comfort zone.

Then there's the running. Not run for quite a while, and I am afraid, slightly, of starting it again. I have been working on the hamstrings and glutes, and I know I am strong. I have been working in the pool a bit, and on cardio where I can, usually in short bursts in the gym. But I need to just get out there and do.

Fuck fear. There's more, but it can wait. Tomorrow you get to hear about… swimming lessons.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Comfort zones

The reason I started blogging, many years ago, was to warm my hands up before transcription. Boring? Fuck yes. But I thought I would share anyway, as you're probably already at least a bit bored, and therefore reading blogs fairly randomly.

I've been thinking, the last few years, about comfort zones. How we live almost entirely within them, despite evolving from creatures who damn nearly didn't have any. How we can actually go months and months without ever leaving the familiar. And from that, I was wondering about growth, personal growth, and how that happens. I concluded that it mostly develops from adversity of one type or another.

Anyway, I've shit on a few comfort zones this past few years. And I have loved it, mostly. I had kids - never planned to, met someone, they said it would be a good idea. I had a think about it, a lot actually, and I thought, fuck it. Let's go.

Always hated cars, and now I can drive. Way out of my comfort zone for that one. Now I regularly drive to airports via the motorway and shit like that. WOAH. I know, right?

So needlephobic it's utterly embarrassing. I mean, a big strong guy like me, afraid of a little thing like GET THAT FUCKING THING AWAY FROM ME. Yeah, it's that bad. Worse, actually. And yet I've done three blood tests in recent months, with another next week. And it gets easier every time.

Finally, I thought, let's get right out there. Let's enter a triathlon. I've had Ironman on my mind for a long time now, so let's just do it. I found a nice looking first tri, half Iron distance (1.2-mile open water swim, 56 miles on the bike, then 13.1-mile run if I remember right), in a lovely area. Be a great way to raise funds for one of the charities that supports my daughter so beautifully.

So I did it. The race is July 1st. Don't worry, I don't expect you to be there. But I would appreciate it if you'd join me for the journey. I promise it will be completely open and honest, and I promise promise to swear a lot.

More tomorrow.

Friday, 14 July 2017

I guess this blog needs waking up.

So, since I last posted, we had a son – he is quite ridiculously beautiful, incredibly funny, and he is now just over two years old. We also have another on the way; as I write this, Fern is 39 weeks pregnant, and the baby could be here any day.

We have moved house again after an awful experience with our landlords in the place described in the last post. While checking our legal footing, I learned they were defrauding two mortgage lenders and an insurer, so I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that they were such shitty landlords. I seem to remember them saying to me at one point, 'we're fed up of being told we are shit landlords'; all I did was ask them to fix some shit in the house they owned. You know, be a landlord. It's a role that comes with social responsibility whether you like it or not. We could have sued for various reasons – still could – but I chose not to because really, how much do you want people like that in your life? Fuck that shit.

Anyway, my hamstring issues appear to be resolved, but I have put four stone (around 56lbs, fat fans) on in the meantime. Gah. I am now VERY heavy. I've added some muscle, quite a lot actually, but I've also got mega fat. Hmmmm.

I've been doing high-intensity strength training on my hams/glutes, so curling about 60-70kg (132lbs-154lbs) on them to bring the strength in that group up in line with my calves and quadriceps. It's worked very well, but I do have to maintain it.

And it means I can run again. I just have to get over the fear and get out there now. And yes, there is fear. Fear of being injured again, fear of this not being the solution, and fear of being such a fat fucker out 'running'. It's going to be a long hard road, and time will be at an absolute premium with the new baby. I can't even take the baby out running with me until it's six months and can hold its own head up etc, dagnabbit.

I'm in the ballot for the 2018 London Marathon, and I was hoping that by late next year I might even be in shape for a half Ironman. But right now, I'd like to just be able to run up a big hill without feeling that I'm going to throw up my lungs.

First run is imminent. More soon.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Massive life changes.

And training, and sleeping, and... Everything changes.

Whoever said the more things change, the more they stay the same was talking right out of their arse. In the last year I have experienced more change - and positive change - than probably in the previous 30.

It's been what, 10 or 11 months since I last posted. In that time I have fallen very much in love, conceived a child, effectively become a stepdad again, moved house, and much much more.

I become a father in around six weeks, all being well; the pregnancy is going very well, which both delights me and gives me a great feeling of pride toward my partner. I hope that doesn't sound patronising; my better half has a daughter who is nearly 2.5 years old who was very, very premature, so the pregnancy has not been without tension and worry.

We move into our new (rented) house together in the next couple of weeks; I finish painting the bedroom floor hopefully tonight, move furniture around tomorrow, then we can move my family in when the kitchen is painted. It will all be sorted in the next week or two.

These big changes also coincided with me discovering a problem, a weakness, in my right hamstring, which led to it feeling fatigued basically all the time. I still don't really know why this would be the case; the most plausible reason is from a sports masseur whose wife is an NHS physio; they think it's tightness in my calves and glutes, pulling both ways on the hamstring to create a barrel of crap. Given how tight my calves were, they may have something there.

A change in my overall focus also led to me saying goodbye to my coach; I suspect that a more focussed training is what highlighted the hamstring issue, and I need to resolve that before I go back to her group. My space is apparently safe, it was understood that my focus just needed to be elsewhere so I'm taking time out.

It amazes me how few hours there are in the day. Some days, I actually nap at work (I now have a small office in town, as we are moving out of town and I wanted to separate work and home life, so each gets the right attention at the right time, and I am fully engaged with whichever I am doing to the best of my ability.

Take an average Friday, for example. I get up around five, perform my ablutions, then head out with Millie Dog around 6am. I get Millie to the office about 6:25ish, settle her in, then leave for my first stint of lugging stuff on the market. I'm usually done with this within an hour. It's not heavy stuff, but it's lots of to-ing and fro-ing. My second market client usually arrives around 8am, so inbetween I go and give Millie some fuss. Client two's products are all hardwood, and a few are quite exceptionally heavy. One article in particular often needs three people to move it. It's hard work - but it only takes 15-20 minutes.

Finally, my last client turns up around 8:30am, and that's a solid hour of heavy lifting, unloading a van full of boxes of china and crockery.

Then I get to the office after 9:30 to do the day job, returning to client one around 2:30, client two 3:30, and client 3 around 4pm. Then back to the office for a bit more work, then stumble home.

When we move house, this will be preceded and followed by a 5.5-mile bike ride which rises by almost 1,000 feet over that distance. It's very undulant, and whichever route I take, quite punishing.

I don't think moving house is going to see me lose fitness, frankly. Also, behind the house is access to miles of trails and walks, all over 1000 feet, and it's like running or walking the roof of the world. It's beautiful.

I'm burbling. This is quite directionless. In short: life is good.