Saturday, 24 January 2015

Well that was the flu...

So, in the seven weeks since I walked up Skiddaw I've jogged one five KM and walked a bit in the Peak District.

My least active day barely crept over 1000 steps.  That was for a loaf of bread and a tin of beans.

Before the anti-vaccination people start up, the flu jab is never going to be 100% effective the bastard thing mutates far too quickly for that.   If that was the one time its got through in the decade I've had the jab, then great, I escaped relatively lightly and although I did see the doctor (my fear is a chest infection), I was ill and it's taken a couple of weeks for me to feel like me. Ok that wasn't helped by going back into work after a week and walking into rather a lot of urgent stuff... but hey ho.

I've emails to answer, calls to return and worryingly not long until I'd hoped to be in tip top racing condition. 

Trust me I'm not.

I'm a stone and a bit heavier than I prefer to run at, as noted above I've not run (pretty much at all), and so it's time to recalibrate...

The Mad Dog is now a 10k training run, with friends.  The Cambridge Half is a long training run, with very good friends.  The Fellsman is, and always will a huge challenge, but is three months away, followed by the Rock and Roll Half marathon.

So, the positive is this is this year, not last year.  If I been this out of sorts running into London six years work would've have felt at risk.  So this was always going to be a walking and shorter run year and the planning for my Scottish adventure has begun in earnest - the maps are out, the choice of campsite or B&B being juggled with miles.

Apologies if you're awaiting me to work through my to-do list, I will get there...

Here's to a bug free, injury free rest of the year.

TTFN

Paul

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

So this is Christmas... a runners retrospective

Christmas is one of those times where I take a breath, look back and reflect...

and when reflecting its very easy to concentrate on the bits that are worst, or closest - the lingering cold that won't shift, the months with an injured foot and ankle, the grumbling intermittent attempts to get back into running...

Which would be doing myself, and this year, a disservice - the near perfect execution of a training plan, and then a PB marathon and my second fastest marathon and then a two-hour PB on my favourite ultra. It would be forgetting the second fastest half marathon and trekking across Hadrian's Wall in three and a half days. Oh, and the fourth highest mountain England.

And most of all it would be forgetting my friends, those who run, those I run with, and those who look on in horror. 

Looking back there's only one run that continues to frustrate me, the Fellsman - that dangerous obsession I've acquired for every April.  I've tried training specifically for it, and I've tried marathon training for it. I've got lost and injured respectively - will the third time be the charm? I don't know, but we will find out:-)

And thus with a single remembrance I've gone from reflective to prospective, the thoughts of building my fitness levels are making me smile... Yes, my weirdness remains intact:-)
So thank you for reading my inane mutterings, may your Christmas' be excellent and bring you whatever you wished for.  If you're looking for a more active Santa, then may I recommend the Keswick variant...

 
 
TTFN
 
Paul
 
 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Pushing...

A blog inspired by a spat on Facebook, who ever would have thought it...

As some of you will know I had a 24 hour ECG tape on during this week and someone suggested that it was unlike me I wasn't planning to "push" it - I reacted with a modicum of sarcasm, mainly because the individual involved should know more than most my approach to exercise.

However, as they obviously didn't get it I spent the 5 and a half hours I spent wandering up Skiddaw either itching the re-growing hairs on my chest, looking at the awesome views, panting and working out a new model of fitness.

This may not be completely new, so apologies to whichever guru I'm ripping off... I give you the balloon model of fitness.

I have one big fitness balloon - that's me in total, all of the walking, running, climbing, gym work etc. Each of those elements is a balloon within the bigger one.

My baseline fitness, my usual get up and go stuff is what the Fitbit tends to measure - its the minimum 10,000 steps I do, expect when ill, its the two climbing sessions a week.  Basically, its what I'd call a normal week.

When I'm following a training plan, I'm basically expanding the specific balloon I'm training on and as that grows the big overall balloon grows as well.  So if I follow a marathon training plan, my cardiovascular fitness and leg muscles will improve.  Gradually, and this is the frustrating element for me. I would say I have very, very rarely "pushed" my limit.  Over the years I've have blown the balloon of my general fitness up a lot, but that only takes me so far - say a 70min 10k - to overlay a training plan takes time.  So I follow, for the runs, a classic periodization pattern - I slowly build up distance, and try and increase speed. And surprise, surprise, the sports scientists are right - it works. How do I know, because if I train I get faster, and don't feel as tired at the end of a run.

My first run of this "year" was a 10km on the 31st Dec - it was the start of the London Marathon training plan, and it hurt and it was slow, a 78min 10km is a full 16 min slower than my PB.  It was cold, bleak and painful - and I remember it 11 months later.  Because it was the start, and 41 runs later I destroyed my Marathon PB - by doing the plan, blowing up the balloon little by little expanding my running balloon to the best its ever been.
That balloon, with little top ups and some specific training on hills, kept me going through the Liverpool Marathon and the Peak District Ultra.  Then the balloon started leaking, I got injured - my ankle, and a touch of plantar fasciaitis, which meant limited running.  So the balloon started shrinking, it wasn't being topped up.  Rest, recuperation, orthotics, friends giving me inspiration to keep focusing on the future rather than dwelling in my fugue of being unable to do something I enjoy.
But the balloon shrinks slowly, and the baseline fitness I had by the end of the spring was much better than I had at the start of the year. So when I started back from injury it was knowing that I had the endurance, but probably little of the speed was left... a slow GNR followed by 3 and half glorious days walking along Hadrian's Wall proved that.

Then comes the planning for next years adventures, the concentration on half marathons and endurance walking - what do I need to do to my balloons... Another training plan, this one for a half marathon in Cambridge.  I know I can do half marathons, I could do one tomorrow. It'd be ugly and it'd be slow but I could do one. This is about trying to expand the speed balloon - Cambridge is pancake flat and as close to a to a PB course as I've ever run without getting a PB (2 minutes and 30 seconds over 13.1 miles!!!).

The training plan is printed and on my desk - each run, each expansion of the balloon, is ticked off. They are run sequentially, specifically so no run is pushing it.  If you push too much air into a balloon too quickly it bursts, springs a leak through an injury.  Hence my sarcastic reaction to the suggestion of pushing it.  I've built my fitness over the last decade, with periodization for events, and I can only remember one or two occasions of "pushing it"; the mad headlong sprint for the PB, the exhilaration of chasing down another runner on the home straight... but they are the sort of "push" that anyone who straps a number of their chest will feel from time to time and just let rip.
But on a damp day in November, pushing it is not on the agenda and the suggestion that I push myself is deeply irritating, I blow up the balloons with deliberate care, long practice and dedication.  Pushing it is an instantaneous action, instinctive, everything I suggest any runner can only do so often and runners with dickey tickers should be more wary of than some.  If my deliberate care and dedication looks like pushing it to you, then remember for how long I've been balloon blowing, expanding them specifically and generally with the implicit and explicit agreement of my cardiologists.

Enough of the rant - I had a delayed birthday weekend of walking, and it was glorious...

 
 
 
 
And then as Sunday looked as good...



 
Castlerigg Stone Circle - Just after dawn
 

Derwentwater & Bassenthwaite from Wall Crag


 
Catbells
 
 

So, I hope the balloon analogy works, and reminds people that pushing it is often not the best way of doing things.  Most of all, enjoy the photos - I loved taking them and strolling through one of my favourite places - it may have been late but it was good birthday treat:-)

TTFN

Paul

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Time for a Rocky Style Training Montage...

After the disaster of my anniversary walk (two bikes in 30 min clipping me, more a precautionary stop than critical, but anti-inflammatories were needed) the time has come to knuckle down and do what I do well...

Start following the plan

Sixteen weeks to Cambridge, a training programme based around three runs a week (with extras for fun, and some long distance walks), the static bike work will continue (apart from anything else the stress relief is great from the combination of shortish intense work & an episode of something daft off amazon prime), the diet will have to improve, as will the hydration... The climbing will help with the core, and I've a sub-plan for what I want to achieve going vertical...

Why follow a plan? Partly its reassurance that its something I've done - though normally for marathons. So this is going to be fun, a lighter training load overlaid on the endurance I've retained should be good.

I'm also, for exercise, am fairly target orientated.  I use the plan to bully myself, I know I could walk a half-marathon now, but to run and enjoy it needs those miles in.  To run, and get close to my PB, I will need to train hard.

I'll be pre-empting the injuries - so the right foot will be strapped from the beginning, the orthopaedics are in the shoes, the compression leggings are ready for action.  The body glide is there on the side, the collection of running tops (no sleeve, short sleeve, long sleeve, thin gilet, wind proof, full water proof) are there for the inevitable weather changes.  I'll probably need a new pair of trainers about January, and some of my shorts and leggings are getting a bit worn... Oh dear, more gear shopping!

So, I apologise if my facebook & twitter feeds start getting (more) boring, this is about getting in the groove. 

It's also going to be a 16 week Rocky style training montage...

Adriaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane........

or something like that ;-)

TTFN

Paul

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sentimentality & Endurance

Thirty-Nine years and 51 weeks ago (give or take a few days) my parents handed me over to a team of near strangers.  Those strangers, including an Operation Market Garden veteran, one who would go on to be considered a legend and one who wouldn't...

I can't imagine what went through my parents minds as they signed the paperwork, what they felt as I was gassed up and sent down... or the frantic conversation that would've happened when there was a bleed and I had to be rushed back down.

There's a couple of trace memories from my time at Great Ormond Street - an odd dislike of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - I think linked to a painting on the corridor down to the operating room.  There's my active dislike of clowns, trust me some clowns in hospitals when the kid is in pain don't make you laugh, or be happy... they scare the living shit out of you!

There's a more physical memory, a scar on the top of my left hand's middle finger - during a post-op check I remember waving at a friend, and then a door shutting... and me screaming... couple of stitches later and I have an amusing story...

I'm not the world's most mushy sentimentalist, I tend to live in the here and now, but there are some anniversaries that it seems appropriate to mark. 

Forty Years is a long time - and looking back I've done a lot, and hopefully done some good in there as well. I know some don't like me, or the lifestyle I lead - well to be honest, that's their problem. I'm stubborn, cantankerous and most importantly right more often than I'm wrong (at which point my friends smile, my critics point and say "arrogant" and those who really know me know that know that being right often causes me as much pain as pleasure).

That confidence has taken me into things that I know would make that cardiology/cardiac surgery team intensely proud and probably a little surprised.  They couldn't have known how far I'd be able to push this body of mine, otherwise I'd have been allowed to play more sports at school, and the less said about the advice I got about my education the better - but trust me it didn't include Uni, post-grads or doing distance learning degrees for fun...

So, I'm a recreational ultra-marathon runner who enjoys multi-day long distance walking.  And I have an anniversary to celebrate. So, 40 miles for 40 years. That's Saturday the 8th sorted.  Once and a bit around the Wirral. Though I don't do mush there will be moments of reflection, the friends who've died, the parents I know who've lost so much and as importantly my friends who will be spending a Saturday doing exactly the same as everybody else.

So, if you see a random status on FB or Twitter on Saturday saying my feet are aching a bit, ignore me - I've chosen to do this, a mile for every year I've been able to be me. All being well, I'll raise a pint to that team of 40 years ago as well...

TTFN

Paul 


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