Saturday, 18 October 2014

Twas the night before a run, and the next challenge...

The bowl of pasta sits steaming...

The trainers and socks sit at the end of the bed...

The shorts and top gently rotate in the washing machine (modern synthetics, and the amount I sweat are not a good combination)...

And I smile...

Tomorrow is Beat the Reaper, a 10k around a local park. The reapers wander through the woods, and silently stare at the runners, scythe in hand. It'd be easy to put too much meaning on any run where a GUCH is racing death, so I won't.  I'll go back to smiling and knowing I won't be fast tomorrow, I'll be again heading for a 70min 10k.

The last couple of weeks have been about getting back into the groove, feeling good when I run, irrespective of the time it takes.  The night jog last Sunday, the pop out dragging a mate from work out for a slow dash are slowly getting easier mentally.  Not great distances, not great speed, but the point is I'm getting back out there and I'm smiling when I do it.

Marathon, and Ultra, running is (according to much sager runners than me) as much mental as it is physical - and not just the 26.2 miles.  For months you run three or four times a week, pushing your endurance, your mental strength is in keeping it going accepting the bad runs, the good runs and majority in the middle. Time management is essential - I was running over 6 hours a week, come rain or shine, most of them on my own. in my own head. That's the bit that still tires me out when I think about it.  The loneliness of the long distance runner is a over used phrase, but for an out and out extrovert its very real.

Which brings me to the anniversary challenge... In three weeks time its the anniversary of the dicky ticker operation that has kept me going, without too many hassles, for the last 40 years.  It's also my birthday the day before. 

So, the Wirral Circular path beckons, I did it last year as a night hike and did 38 miles, so I need to overlap a little to bring it up to 40 miles.  There's no collection box, this is something I'm doing for me.  As it will daylight, I'm less likely to walk past quite so many active dogging sites and will have access to more shops.

The pasta is eaten, the trainers are still there, the washing stopped spinning... enough navel gazing, tomorrow I race Death himself... and get a cool t-shirt & medal:-)

TTFN

Paul



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Not time for a chest shave yet…


The annual check-up, an event to get even the roughest and toughest GUCH to have a few collywobbles…

As I said last week I was 99% sure that everything is ok, hell it’s a year where I’ve run my two fastest marathons, my second fastest half marathon and done other mad stuff as well.  But paranoia is a great friend, and yet again my cardiologists are being sensibly paranoid about my pulmonary valve.

It’s a known weakness in those of us with Fallots, and various doctors have been paranoid about mine since I was 16… So whatever the outcome of the next six-months I’ve had a damn good run.

So there is some evidence that my pulmonary is weakening, and that my right ventricle is expanding a bit.  Is it a problem – not right now.  The exercise test (boo hiss on a bike), is form rather than function – when the cardiologist sits there and almost goads you with “you’ll probably beat everyone in the hospital, including the staff” you know it’s going to be fun.  It’s the MRI that’ll give the main chunk of data on what’s going on….

Possible outcomes – 1) I’m still within range, bugger off and come back in 12 months; 2) On the cusp, see you in 6 months 3) might need to do something about it…

3) is the odd one, clinically I’m nowhere near the point where something needs t be done – but thinking has changed and they’d prefer to things earlier these days to maximise strength for recovery.

If it is 3) then there’s more options depending on my quirky cardiac physiology a) traditional open heart b) transcatheter. I do so hope b) is an option… but if not, and there may be other reasons why not so be it.

If this all sounds cold, its because I’ve worked through these scenarios many, many times in my head.  And fundamentally nothing has changed from Wednesday night to Thursday lunchtime – none of my activities are restricted, I’m just another GUCH having a few tests to keep things plodding along!

Even I needed a distraction though, and this was provided in spades with the CHF Dinosnores sleepover.  The Natural History Museum is where my love of science started, on a trip following a check-up to Great Ormond Street as a kid of about 7. In my mind’s eye I can see mini-Paul looking up at Dippy and smiling in wonder.  That wonder is still there, topped up by my years at Liverpool Museum, enhanced by the friends I’ve taken around and (probably) bored with my tales… I also have gotten to use the collections at NHM, lingering over Darwin’s specimens of my bugs (literally true, hemiptera).  I’ve also bumped into Dawkins there, and heard him speak on science, rather than the stuff he gets muddled up in these days…

So, twenty odd young adventurers… a gaggle of volunteers and a night at the museum… I got 4 and a half hours kip, with a couple of minor interruptions… But the kids (and me) got to chase around the dinosaurs with only torches, made t-shirts (kids only), learnt about giant squid, sharks & angler fish and saw live animals from around the world as well as all of the great fossils.

And in the very early hours, if anyone else had been awake they’d have seen maxi-Paul standing looking at Dippy, and saying thank you very quietly.





For the kids, I hope (and know) that it was a magically night, life as a junior or full blown GUCH can be full of the dark side of life.  But if events like this one add a bit of lightness then they are worth the hard work, and as I've said on many occasions its a privilege to be trusted by the kids and their parents to do this sort of thing.  That it was at somewhere I think of as special is even better...


So, I have runs and walks to sort out – Beat the Reaper 10k is next and then I need to start planning.  I know I have one thing to do, the 40 miles to celebrate the 40 years anniversary of my surgery… Now, where’s my OS maps…

TTFN

Paul

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Two Blogs for the Price of One

Two of the sides of my existence are coming into close alignment...

So, the walking and running...

After the madness of a half marathon followed by a long distance path, it's been a week of gentle recovery and then off to the Isle of Man for a week of fun, visiting historic and prehistoric sites and as there was a long distance path... well it'd be rude not to!


It's a walk of two halves - the first half was near perfect walking; rolling hills, short sharp ascents in places and finished at a pub with a cracking burger! It's the Crosby in Crosby.   Then its road and trail walking all the way to Castletown... where I met up with some of the extended dickey ticker family (who treated me to tea!).

Home from the Island it was a rapid tour of Liverpool with the Icelandic branch of the dickey ticker extended family, and a quick hug with one of the Norwegian branches... Yes, my life is as mad as it sounds.

Then to a 10k, my plan was to just try and get round with minimal walking.  And I did, no walk breaks, just a solid plod.  It was 10 min slower than my PB, but I'm missing over 10 weeks of running, and all of my running since 1st Jan has been long-distance or prepping for long distance.  I also know I probably could've gone faster, but the confidence built up from running 3 or 4 times a week has also gone a bit.


Which is a nice Segway into the next part of the blog... Thursday is my annual check-up... the heart will be ECG'd and echo'd, I'll have a chat about things and I'm 99% certain that I'll be going back in a years time.  There may be another MRI somewhere in the next year, possibly some other tests (and I may even ask for an exercise test - not had one in a long time). 

The 1% is problem, that gnawing doubt that something may be lurking, that after almost 40 years something will have started playing up.  I don't feel anything wrong, but have too many GUCH friends who haven't felt anything before getting some bad news to put too much faith in feeling good.

So, the 1% will nag and gnaw - is the 10k pace solely down to not being as fast due to a lack training, and being heavier than I prefer to be? Is there something lurking... My body says that its the legs, the near perfect concentration on endurance events, and the lay-off.  But the 1% will always be there...

So, I will be twitchy, and I will be grumpy, and I will keep planning next year...

TTFN

Paul

Saturday, 13 September 2014

That was the walk that was...

I enjoyed that, I've a few blisters and the dull tiredness of someone whose done a lot. 

I said I'd need to gain a few extra miles to make it up to the hundred... I managed that walking to the starting pen of the GNR - we're now doing 15 miles... That's without the hike to the bus stop and back... The extras on the GPS come from route detours, of which there were two, and the walk to the hotel - which as its in Stanwick is on the site of one of the biggest Roman wall forts.

My poor little Fitbit ran out of juice for the last day - fortunately my lovely phone has a pedometer built into the chip so the numbers could be lifted...

On the GPS its 163.9 km - which comes out at 101.8 miles

On the Fitbit its 201.1 km - which comes out at 125 miles

Both mean I did what I aimed to - be in the run with a million finishers, and I was about 200 m away from the millionth person so saw the ensuing madness and also do a hundred miles in 4 days.
In pictures:



A warm GNR

 
One of very few bilingual stations in the UK



 
A classic view...

 
Wall!

 
Me & Wall!

 
Another Classic View

 
Sycamore Gap - proving Morgan Freeman wrong

 
The end of the day's rollercoaster

 
This is the view of the gorgeous Northumberland National Park from the highest point on Hadrian's Wall!


 
The Day got better

 
Almost too good

 
Carlisle tries...

 
A hammer...

 
The Solway plain



 
Finem ambula
 
 
Would I do it again - probably, but I'd spend a day doing stuff rather than the slog out to Bowness. Sorry Bowness, its not you its me honest ;-) I'd also probably detour to some of the other sites along the way. 

Would I recommend it - yes, but think about the number of days - the guidebooks have itineraries ranging from my 4 days, through to 8... Pick something that suits you...

As for adding the GNR - I'd not presume to recommend that additional fun.  But my caravan is booked for next year and there's St Cuthbert's or St Oswald's Ways to do in the same area... Yes, I'm planning 2015 already!

 My feet still need to soak, but other than that I'm in good shape... Just need to find the next challenge...

TTFN

Paul

ps all the pics were taken with that lovely phone of mine... Lumia 1520, you rock!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Day 5: Job done

Well, according to my guidebook the citizens of Bowness on Solway worry that they're being forgotten as a terminus of Hadrian's Wall... And to be fair if you don't have walker's OCD there's not a great deal to recommend this section - for me its 17 miles of unremitting tarmac and farm tracks is important but not essential.

But the day starts with end of Carlisle, and follows the Eden out, and out...  There's little evidence of the wall, the odd section of the vallum and reused stonework in buildings. But it isn't unpleasant, just not the same as the soaring challenges as the days before.



The main challenge was keeping focused to make sure I made the bus back - inconveniently early afternoon or late afternoon... My feet, and their few blisters, felt tired and started cramping - the toes of the right foot being pulled back in sharp contractions isn't conducive for good walking.

The honesty shacks were again welcome oasis' - though I do despair that one has to have CCTV due to the amount of pillaging!

Plod, plod, plod goes the walk, trailing through Port Carlisle and then the finish...



Job done...

I had half an hour to find a tea shop before my bus - and couldn't, even the pub seemed closed. I had the entire bus to myself, a limo in stagecoach colours all the way back to Carlisle.

I didn't buy the t-shirt, mainly because I didn't like the one in the tourist information... but it is on order (from the people who run one of the honesty shacks from the day before - http://www.itrod.co.uk/hadrians-wall.php)

The maps from the GPS will be uploaded soon, especially as endomondo had a fit... I'll add in the kit review and my usual bits and bobs.  But for now I need another long soak in a hot radox bath...

Wisi enim ad lectionem, quia ambulavit in septimanam

TTFN

Paul

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day 4 - brutality & honesty

That was tough... The rollercoaster of ups & downs at the start wasn't a gentle easing into a long days walking,

The day had already started oddly. The French backpacker in my room at the hostel seemed unaccustomed to communal living... Including sleeping on the floor & lying on my socks... And being most put out when I asked for them back! Personally, my socks should be banned under the Geneva Convention. Oh well, a little late and annoyed...

The wall is a frequent companion, and you really begin to wonder what the Latin for "But Sarge... " is as there are many point where the rules were followed, and the line kept straight when an easier line could've been followed...

As the hills flatten out, the walking becomes more of a leg stretch, steps become paces and something similar to a march begins. The tea shops are again lumpy in their distribution... But the café at Birdswold was perfectly placed for lunch, on through Banks feeling slightly odd that for the first time in the walkings of the wall I'm not staying at the camping barn. The barn is half way for the day in distance, and the start of easy walking... As it got hotter, the inevitable happened and I dropped my water bottle...

Bugger...

Being me I have a spare bottle, and one of the delights of Hadrian's Wall is the honesty shacks; tea, coffee, water, nibbles in either shacks with well needed tables or just a box...

Monies paid, water taken on board it's the push to Carlisle, over the M6 and through the bucolic Rickerby Park. A mild detour to the hotel, and as the gloom turns into night I order my room service, slump in the shower and smile...

When I walked this with now defunct dickey ticker walking club this was two days walking, and as one day it's brutal, and to be honest about 3 miles longer than I'd have liked... However, it was done, often with a smile, no detours to the airport, and with a sense that the injuries must truly be over, because otherwise this day would not have finished...

TTFN

Paul

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Day 3 - thinking, t-shirts & singing...

Saving the best to last is normally a good strategy... And the last 5km of the walking was some of the best walking around. It also, at times, was more staircases than strolling.  Up a crag, down the other side. Pause, slurp from my water bottle. See if there's a photo opportunity, then stroll up again...

But that's getting ahead of myself... The first 20 miles went well, long stretches of gentle walking. The tea shop distribution was very uneven, so morning tea & nibbles was rapidly followed by lunch... And then nothing until arriving at the hostel.

I was asked by a fellow hosteler what I thought about when walking such a long way... Everything, and nothing... I think back on other walks, especially those with friends no longer around, I prepare discussion notes for essays & talks (the details never stock, but the gist does & that helps) and I revel in the sheer joy of having my existence reduced to putting one foot in front of the other...

After explaining my background & why I do these things I got the 'do you think about your heart' question. And the honest answer is sometimes, not linked to anything, there's been no funny beats or inability to reach top gear so far (my speed has been dictated by my legs & feet) but like a constant companion it sometimes whispers - don't forget to buy the T-shirt at the end, you've a check up next month...

And the madness, even I when confronted with the ups & downs of steel rigg well resort to counting or in desperation singing, well caterwauling, 'one more hill' to a tune from Les Mis... I got funny looks from sheep & humans alike.

Ttfn

Paul

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Day 2 - there will be wall...

Well, the legs still work...

I started later than I like, I much prefer being up and out and walking by about 8, but getting to Wallsend & the queue in the post office to post my GNR stuff back to myself saw to that...

Hey Ho...

Day 1 is a stroll along the Tyne - the classic views of the bridges and then near silence... After Newcastle it gets quiet, miles go by with only the of cyclist or jogger passing by.

When I left the Tyne, and climbed to Heddon on the wall I'm afraid my bladder dictated a direct route to the pub rather than a detour to the wall remains there... Then it's undulations for what seems like every, the flights going into Newcastle airport my slightly noisy companions... The archeology is mostly lumps & bumps, with the occasional shaped stone appearing. Good enough to look at, not enough to take a photo of...

The pub can't be praised enough - I've never been confronted with two courses I couldn't finish... The nachos were larger than a sharing platter, and the gammon was huge... I'm almost hoping they tone it down for breakfast! Anyone thinking of doing Hadrian's wall, of just visiting could do worse than looking at robin hood inn:-)

Time to pack... & eat

Paul

Monday, 8 September 2014

GNR done, so time to start walking

The GNR is not the nicest half marathon course, it's crowded & packed... And yet, it's still up there as one of my favourite runs, because of the people...

There's the locals, who must clear the shelves of the local shops of oranges and sweets to hand out to us, the bairns who stick their hands out to be taped as you go passed.

There's the runners, the parts of the back and heartfelt 'keep going' when you slow. The shared experience forming a fleeting but deep bond.

And then there's my friends, the charity runners for CHF, MaxAppeal and related charities who know each other from meetings, events or Facebook. We run for a cause, and although we run for different aspects of it we are mostly family...

A 2:50 half is slow, but that's the first long run in 10 weeks, my feet held up, it was hot, and I enjoyed it.

So the warm up is done, time to stay walking:-)

TTFN

Paul

Monday, 25 August 2014

I am (not) Iron Man

I was called Iron Man by someone this weekend, mainly for the heart thing... To repeat something I've said before I've no intention of trying to do an Iron Man Tri - I may be mad, but... just but...

However, despite not being a dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr, not bring the correct personality type (as mentioned in an ACHA blog)  nor having a multi-billion budget, let alone a Pepper Potts to organise my life I would occasionally like a systems check from a Jarvis...

So, Jarvis - systems check

Yes Sir, top to bottom or bottom to top?

Let's start at the bottom...

Feet, within acceptable tolerances.

Ankles, left strong.  Right, residual weakness, may I suggest that you maintain the strapping


Recommendation noted - and accepted.

Calves - less strong than earlier in the year, Sir

That'll be two months off Jarvis...

Yes Sir, just ensuring you are factoring this into your calculations Sir.

Thank you Jarvis

Knees, surprisingly good for a man of your age and recreational activities. Thighs, similar to calves. Hip, slight tendonitis on the right.

An old injury, more like a friend these days, continue...

Core strength, within acceptable tolerances, but at the lower end - recommend restarting core strengthening activities

Agreed - Gym activities restart after GNR/Hadrian's wall...

Upper body strength, good - as evidenced by your holding some climbs you'd not have done recently

After a raise Jarvis?

More preparing you for the less good news, Sir. 
Ehh?

Well Sir, you could do with losing a bit of weight...

Agreed

Really Sir?
Jarvis, I've been doing endurance events, and been injured... If I didn't need to lose weight I'd be surprised.

There are times Sir where your logic is impeccable

Jarvis....

Your other issues Sir, well they are beyond my capabilities.

Thank you Jarvis - the cardiology check-up is October and the diabetes one should be November.

Very well Sir... Sir, what is your plan for the GNR?

Steady and controlled Jarvis.  I had hoped to be able translate the endurance work down with speed, but that hasn't happened. The plan will be to do it marathon style - 900m running, 100m walking and just tick them off..

And then the walk Sir, that walk which my databanks suggest most people do in seven days, and you are planning to do in four...

Jarvis, you're my butler, not my mother... For information, the only day that poses a significant challenge is Once Brewed to Carlisle... 27 miles. And as I'm staying in a bed, rather than camping, I have the luxury of arriving late and sleeping in comfort.

Comfort, Sir?

Relative comfort Jarvis.

Agreed Sir... Anything else Sir?

No Jarvis... I think that will do...   

So, systems check over - the climbing is going well, the running is getting there.  The injuries are clearing up and most importantly the passion is returning (not sure are auto-butler would pick that up).
TTFN

Paul