Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I'm getting old - but not there yet.

I’ve realised I’m getting old – I’ll come to the symptoms later, but I’m not young any more. Ask me how old I am and I’ll actually do a mental calculation based on my date of birth. I don’t include the quarters or halves any more (although I did relatively recently – I think turning 30 killed that one off).

Yes – here I am – a guy in his early thirties, married and settled and not really wondering what to do next. Kids aren’t really on the horizon (although many of my friends are now totally in the family way, (one of my best mates just popped number 2 and 3 – twins – a boy and a girl – I can’t imagine what they are going through!) and of the 5 of us who were in our student house, we have 6 kids between us, ranging from fresh to primary school (and one Artemis Fowl book away from being a full on evil genius – she’s got the genius aspect down pat)) which is fine by me. I have far more interesting things to do at the moment (which doesn’t mean that what my friends are doing isn’t interesting – I have to be careful with such statements – like when I suggest that my life is more than just running marathons – am I implying that other’s lives aren’t?) oh my goodness – I’ve just had to count up all the brackets so I know how many I need to close now... I don’t need to close any – just a full stop will do.

I have more than my fair share of grey hairs, but I have done since I was about 22, so that doesn’t make me any older (or feel any older or look any older really), but still less than my mum had at this point.

Our age is defined by our peers. (it isn’t, but that is the stance I’m taking to make this mean anything.

Of the 5 of us in our student flat, I am the second youngest, both in years, and in peer years.

The youngest (age) is the oldest compared to us, as he has the oldest and most established kids, is onto his third house, and has started and sold a business.
The second oldest, matches his actual age, with the twins, and the other one. Third matches third again, with a single kidlet, and has been married for ever (pretty much since the first week of university they behaved like they’d been married for many years.
The second youngest (peer) is also the second youngest (age) – me.

The oldest – (age) is the youngest (peer) as he is single, childless, living in a rented flat, free to jetset round the world doing what he loves, and I envy him daily. Although he did go bald at about 21. Not fair.

I have the Lady GaGa album. Not only do I have it – but I think it is rather good. I called it rather good, and not – well dub – so I am a bit old, but not as old as some. I pay attention to the charts, but only because it is news these days, and the BBC tells me I should pay attention. I certainly wouldn’t buy something as it is popular, but I am pleased when something I like becomes popular. I’d only heard of Lady GaGa because she was popular, but I like her because I like her. I liked the Noisettes before they were popular (some might say before they sold out to the man and mazda) so I am still pretty cool (re – young) there too.

I also – ahem – listen to radio 4. The radio station – not the dubious 90s indie band. I know they are dubious as we have at least one of their CDs upstairs, and the wife has never suggested we listen to it – so they may well be a guilty pleasure of hers. This is a tangent.

If it is 6.30 pm, and I’m in the kitchen, I’ll switch on the digital radio (young) and listen to radio 4 (old) but only for the comedies. I’ll pay attention to the news at 7, but as I am not by brother, and mid 30s going on retired and sitting in a rocking chair with my pipe and slippers, I will TURN IT OFF BEFORE THE ARCHERS STARTS. This is something I associate with age. My grandparents listened to the archers. I understand my brother also listens to farming today, but I also understand he needs to get a life.

Therefore I am still young – in the grand scheme of things. I am closer to birth than to death (I hope) and I’m certainly closer to the start of my career than to the end (I hope too!)
Next time we’ll move on to my parents, and I’ll look like I’m still in nappies compared to them.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Paris post mortem

Ok - it has been a few days, and I’ve had my chance to go over it. As you'll have seen from the twitter feed - I didn't have the best of times on Sunday, finishing a tad over my target time of 4 hours, in 4.46...

The wife kicked butt of course - smashing her pb, and her target time of 3.45 by a good 2 minutes.

So where did it all go wrong? I talked it up pretty well I thought, but I didn't have it in me on the day. Here’s the blow by blow account - set your excuseometer to full.

Preparation - not too bad, but as previously discussed - it is a fine line between training fully, and getting ill with me, and I chose the healthy option - if I felt my health dwindling I cut back the training. Other runners get injured - I seem to get ill.

Night before - not a bad night’s sleep, there were some noisy shaggers in the room next door, but my ear plugs soon sorted them out (you'd be amazed how much it spoils the mood having ear plugs flung at you via a balcony and an open window).

Morning of the race - my normal upset stomach didn't materialise until it was too late to do anything about it - I was in the queue trying to get into the 4 hour pen when it kicked in an I felt quite uncomfortable. mind over matter, and it seemed to go away

The start - while I was still elbowing my way into the pen, and well before the actual start, the organisers decided to open the front of all the other pens, allowing all the 4 and a half hour runners to surge forward, before all the 4 hour runners were in there. By the time I got in, there were a good 5000 "slower" runners in front of me all shuffling forwards. I could see the people with the green flags, showing they were the 4 hour pacemakers about 200 yards in front, so I aimed to keep them in view.

The first 5k - just trying to get any sort of flow on in my running was impossible, as I was struggling to avoid slower people in front of me, and faster people behind me did their very best to elbow me out of the way. the usual people running as groups didn't help, and my only choice (if I wanted any hope of hitting my target time) was to keep running at my 9 minute mile pace, and if that meant going sideways, then so be it. I know this is a bad idea, but I knew it would be cutting it fine to get me on pace, and losing even a few minutes early on would have left me needing to run ludicrously quickly (for me) for another 23 miles, which wasn't going to happen.

First water station - absolute hell. For reasons best known to themselves - the organisers put this at a narrow corner, and the entire race stops to grab a bottle of water, and half a banana. (This in turn means the cobbled street is covered by wet banana skins - which isn't such a problem, as running at this point was not an option.) another 2 and a half minutes wasted. I had a gel and tried to make the most of the rest, which I didn't need

10k - well behind schedule (about 5 minutes) I attempted to up the pace a little, but not too much - as in London last year I’d caught up 3 minutes by the half way point, and it wore me out just to put on that much of a burst of "speed".

13 miles - shocking. feeling tired, no energy left and not really worrying, but a tiny bit worrying pains across my ribs (I won't call them chest pains, as I never thought my life was in danger) I was 10 minutes behind schedule. realising I was exhausted, and to get a sub 4 marathon would have meant smashing my half marathon PB (and then some) and to get a marathon PB I would have to pretty much get a half marathon PB (my half marathon PB isn't that great) and feeling the way I did at that point it was NOT going to happen.

14 miles – still going, and seeing what happened. I was running – or doing what I call running. Most others would still call it jogging.

16 miles – barely moving. I saw the 26 km marker twice, and started wondering if I was hallucinating (I decided I just saw 25 and mistook it for 26 later) this was the point at which we went through underpasses, tunnels, and last of all the scene of the crash that killed the Queen of Hearts (TM). Walking through the airless tunnels, with the occasional word of encouragement from my French counterparts, I could hardly face another step.

17 miles – walking, and not on the official course, I had a nice stroll along the banks of the Seine, admiring the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and the Statue of Liberty on the river (not hallucinating – look it up), I scanned for a metro station. If I’d seen one, the emergency 5 Euros would have been utilised to get me back to the Arc de Triumph. Fortunately I didn’t find one. With 9 miles to go, I wondered about walking directly to the arc, but my sense of direction, in addition to my sense of shame (one of the advantages of getting sponsored, and of going on about it so often to the world and his wife about my fifth marathon, and telling the parents how they could track my progress online, and imagining them watching my chip be scanned through every 5km point (actually they were shopping, but I didn’t know that) so I told myself the following.

9 miles isn’t that far. That’s a jog home from work.
I would only get lost trying to walk back
I would look like a right old quitter, trudging the streets of Paris in my vest and number.
Even if I walked the 9 miles – I’d get there eventually, I’d get a medal, and I’d finish the marathon.
Finishing 5 marathons is still pretty cool, even if one of them (ok – 3 of them, almost 4 of them) was pretty rubbish by my standards

Onwards. Back on the course

20 miles – walking and running, I kept on going. 10k – is 10k, and I can do that standing on my head.

22 miles – bumped into a fellow club member – it was nice to see her, and we chatted for a while, I made sure that she wouldn’t slow down for me, and I did my best to keep up with her.

23 miles – The Marathon De Beaujolais Neuvoux were advertising their race, by giving away wine. Nice, warm red wine, in little glasses. Two years ago, I was tempted, but I was taking it seriously that time. With nothing to lose, other than my lack of a headache, I accepted the offer of a cheeky beverage from a beautiful girl dressed as a nun, then went to catch up my team mate.

24 miles – the stand for the Marathon De Medoc (another heavily wine based marathon – 26 miles, 26 vineyards) provided more red and another one offering cold white wine (my favourite wine of all) and I was much happier. With 2 miles to go, I kept on jogging along. I passed a pair of camels at one point. The wife has no recollection of them – I may have been elsewhere at the time, head wise.

26 miles – no chance of a sprint finish, I posed for the photographers (they missed me completely), crossed the line, accepted my medal, and had a look around for the wife. No sign of her, and it was beyond the 1 hour cut off period we’d set for giving up meeting at the finish, and heading for the hotel, so I headed for the hotel.

I’d just showered by the time she got back – she must have been on the train behind me. We exchanged stories, and that was that.

I’m giving myself 18 months without running another marathon. Another small marathon will probably happen at some point. Maybe Leicester again (although hilly, I can train up for that) maybe Abingdon (a good one for a PB) or maybe somewhere else. I’ll keep on supporting the wife, but my body needs a break. It needs adrenaline, and the speedier events such as the triathlon and 5-10k races will be much better for me.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

12 hours to go

Resful day - check.

Drunk plenty of water - check.

Big pile of pasta - check.

I think i'm ready. we've spent the afternoon watching an entire series (nearly) of the office (US version) and generally lying around - we had a short walk this morning to the Gardin De Luxemborg at ate bread and hummus, and drank orangina, and we had a lovely swift meal at the same italian restaurant we ate at last night.

I'm as ready as i'll ever be.

I'm making sure i keep the pressure on myself - not in a bad way, but i'm very much aware that this is likley to be my last marathon (certainly for a while) and i want to give it my best shot. i know that i am my own worst enemy. I'll get about 3 miles in and want to give up, i'll get about 13 miles in and reckon i can do it, then i'll think i need a walking break at about 16 miles, and thats where it could all fall apart.

in my long runs previously, i've been getting much better at only walking when i really have to - crossing roads, avoiding pensioners, and that is pretty much it. my own laziness will be the killer, so i won't let it beat me. i'm more aware than ever before, that i really should be able to do this. if that fat guy can beat me in thanet, then i am capable of a lot more.

people occasionally suggest i should be able to go a lot faster than i do, and i agree, but for some reason, i don't seem to be able to. sometimes i wonder if illness while i was younger had adversely affected my abilities, or if my running style isn't as good as it might be, or as efficient. i really don't know - but looking at myself in the mirror, i'm lean, i'm gorgeous, and i'm ready. i can do this.

I'll be disappointed if i only finish. I'm sticking to my 5 minute 40 second kms (i have a nice wrist band to show me the actual times as i'm not too hot on my 5 minute 40 second times tables. curese the french and their sensible metric system - 9 minute miles is so much easier!)

i'll be happy if I get a PB (that would only need me to finish in 4 hours and 12 minutes, which means i could lose 30 seconds a mile and do it still) but i know i can get that sub 4 hour time.

I'll be back tomorrow evening to tell you how i got on, and to give you a damn good excuse as to why i didn't get it!

until then,

au revoir!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Free Hotel Wifi!

Woo hoo!

I'm online, and i can therefore bore you some more.

Went to the expo, got our numbers (lisa had someone else's for a while, but we sorted that out) and i bought a new gel belt, the only item i couldn't find before we left).

We've luckily ended up staying opposite 2 very nice looking italian restaurants - just had a lovely pizza for dinner tonight, and we'll probably go back for the essential pasta tomorrow night.

gosh everything is expensive here - our currency is obviously having a shocking time. We decided against having a glass of pop with dinner, as €5 for a coke is taking the mickey (although it would have been pretty mickey inducing when we were getting €1.5 to the pound!

anyhoo - we're going to watch some TV shows we downloaded earlier and get an early night - it is said that the night before the night before the marathon is the important one. i know i won't sleep well tomorrow whatever happens, so this is my only chance!

until later


Thursday, 2 April 2009

All running done - just the marathon now

Yep - the slightly too fast 2 and a half miles I ran yesterday were my lot. Training done. i'm not getting any fitter between now and sunday morning - I just need to rest - relax and above all, not walk for 6 hours up and down massive hills and steps like I did 2 years ago.

The down side is, the weather forecast is suggesting it will be pretty warm - 19degrees c might not seem that warm, but it will be enough to make me need to take headache pills before, and probably during the race, and be careful to have plenty of water all the way through. I'll be doing the wet hat trick too.

We head for paris tomorrow morning - stupidly early, need to leave the house at about 6! ghastly. (althogh only an hour earlier than a normal workday). Then we'll pick up numbers and t shirts and other goodies at the marathon expo in the afternoon, and scour the local area for pasta restaurants. We'll eat something else tomorrow, but the pasta is a vital aspect of our preparation for sunday.

We've both been off the booze since monday night, and we'll stick to that till after the race, although if i've sprained an ankle, or am feeling really dreadful, i reserve the right to have some wine/brandy/cider which i know will be offered between miles 22 and 25.

I have no idea if i'll be able to get online and twitter or facebook while we're away. it will all depend on free wifi... Ill keep scanning on the iphone and try and say hi when i can.

We're home on wednesday, and have a single day in work on thursday before another long weekend. bliss.

Anyway - thats all your getting, blogging, packing and eating in one lunch hour isn't going to get any of them done properly.

Catch you soon!

And wish me luck - I'm going to need it!