"for the happy, the sad, I don't want to be, another page in your diary"

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Always A Pleasant Surprise

There is a girl sat in my car when I get to it after work on Monday, always a pleasant surprise, and a studious one with a book too. Not that we’re on snogging terms because she says she’s ill.

After giving L a lift home the boys and I go training, which has been moved from Tuesday this week.

L doesn’t improve on Tuesday and cancels her PT but we do manage a family walk on the park. If the opportunity presents itself, we can all chase the deer together.

With my lovely Iphone SE refusing to charge I take it into the O2 shop who are incredibly unsympathetic and accuse me of deliberately breaking it. They offer to send it away for analysis for a fee and depending on the findings will then fix it for an even bigger fee. To show they are not totally unsympathetic they offer to see if they have an old Nokia at the bottom of a drawer somewhere to lend me. Alternatively they can sell me a new phone.

Forced over a barrel, I buy an Iphone 6s, the most pocket friendly model that Apple still do. It’s flimsy and cheap looking unlike my SE.

On Wednesday I’m out with my old school chums. We have a few beers in the Alexandra and the Brunswick as usual but the Brunswick turn us down for food. Their one chef can’t cope with the number of orders. They have been pedalling this excuse for about five years now and it’s why we stopped going for lunch there. You’d think they’d get them a helper; they’d certainly make the money back. We have a very average meal at Antibos instead.

Afterwards I miss the Red Arrow and have to slow bus it back on the i4.

On Thursday, I manage to cycle while L’s health is described as ‘alright’ which means, of course, that things are pretty bad although she does still manage her tennis.

(Thursday 18th April)

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Run In The Woods

On Saturday L and Daughter do Colwick Parkrun and then run home via the cafĂ©. I don’t run which means the Lad is initially distraught because that means he can’t run either but then Daughter offers to run with him.

He is elated and MD is elated to get the morning off but after warming up with him, she hands him back and takes MD instead. Both dogs look crestfallen but MD puts a brave face on it. He loves his running really.

In the afternoon I watch Derby maintain their Play Off push by putting four past Bolton then I pick L up from the hospital.

On Sunday, with me out of action, L gets to fill her boots with an off-road 10k called Run In The Woods at Bourne in Lincolnshire . I would have thrown my hands up in horror had I feel fit enough to run it.

It doesn’t actually look too bad, it seemed to be mostly on firm tracks but it was still better to be a spectator. There was a coffee stall and bacon rolls. Although I think the Lad would rather have ran but probably just because I wouldn’t share my roll with him. 

(Sunday 14th April)

Friday, 12 April 2019

Destroying The Evidence

Everyone keeps asking L if I’m pleased with my marathon time and she doesn't quite know what to say. Anyone who’s actually seen me doesn’t have to ask...

Actually I’m not that disappointed and the calf does feel a bit better this morning, I’m even considering running home. Only kidding... I have a committee meeting to go to.

The week starts calmly on Dog TV, after a hard weekend the Lad doesn’t even need to get the tea towels out. Until Tuesday that is, when he is seen having a right old time with what appears to be a pair of knickers on his head. Looks like L’s left the wash basket out. There could be quite a collection in the hall by the end of the day.

Manchester Marathon email me. Not to ask how I am, oh no, but to tell me that entries are now open for next year.

L’s boss gives her a Cadbury's Creme Egg. I’m told to confiscate it and destroy the evidence. I do as instructed.

She also tells me that she’s been getting emails threatening to send photos of her ‘doing things’ to all her friends and ruin her social life. So it’s not just me who’s been caught by our non-existent webcam then.

By Wednesday, I feel my calf is ‘recovered’ enough to bike to work. Admittedly it wasn’t totally pleasant going uphill or walking over the bridge at the Wyvern but all that was minor compared to hopping round a marathon. I even manage dog training in the evening.

On Thursday, L is given another Cream Egg and I offer to again eat it for her if she foam rolls my calf. She agrees but then falls asleep before I can get my evening roll. She does apologise in the morning and says I need a livelier woman but I don’t think that was a serious offer.

I bike again on Friday while L comes home with yet another Cream Egg, saying she didn’t want to offend her boss by saying no. I again have to intervene.

Her Dad has now been discharged from the main hospital and has been moved to the Community Hospital. We go over to see him. 

(Friday 12th April)

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The One Legged Marathon Race

Today is the day. The Manchester Marathon. We had looked at staying over in Manchester but as we’re taking the boys with us the logistics were difficult, so it’s a stupid o’clock start instead as we drive over.

We have pre-booked parking in Manchester United’s official car park which you would think would make things easier and probably does, once we’d found it. A lot of the roads were closed, as you would expect, but more with roadworks than the race I think and the signage was confusing. There was lots of signs for car parks without telling you which one was which but we got there in the end after several U-turns.

From there we can walk to the Race Village which is at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground and then on to the start. Just as I’m warning up Daughter joins us, so now my full support crew has been assembled and I head to my start pen.

Normally in a half marathon I would get a start pen pretty close to the front of the field but here I am over halfway back in start 5 (I think). Clearly this is now serious. Each start is set off five minutes apart, consequently it takes me nearly 20 minutes to get to the start line.

When I do get there we are held on the line for a few minutes and I’m on the front row, like an elite! It also meant I have a completely open road in front of me which I squander by heading over to high five the dogs and of course L and Daughter.

I have been training for this for months and the aim is not only to beat my only previous marathon time of 4:02:27 at Birmingham in 2017 where in blew up in the last few miles but to go under four hours. My schedule is to run 3:55.

Manchester not only has a 4:00 pacer but a 3:59 and 3:58 pacer to split up what is a popular target time. So I start with the 3:58, planning to start at that pace and then edge it faster after the first 10k. The thing is I struggle to stay with her, she’s too slow! Four hour pace is 9:09 and I run 8:50 for the first two miles and I’m getting a crick in my neck looking backwards to see where she is.

The route starts with a mini loop around Trafford which then takes you back close to the start where I get chance to see my awesome support team again about three miles in. I had hoped they might then be able to get the tram further down the course but, as everyone else had the same idea, sadly that didn’t happen. Meanwhile I head off through Timperley and towards Sale.

As I knew I probably wouldn’t see them again and hadn’t left any gels with L as I did last time, I had instead loaded up my triathlon number belt with them. I hadn't tried this in training and this is probably why it was an unmitigated failure. The High 5 gels I use are too narrow to fit snugly in the slots in the belt and I soon lost several of them. That’s one lesson to learn for next time.

Unfortunately not long after I’d passed my support crew I felt my calf start to tighten. This is an old problem of mine that I haven’t suffered with throughout all my months of training and now it has come back to haunt me on race day. In truth, I had had the odd twinge in the last week but I’d shrugged it off. I stop and stretch; it eases a bit but not much. The too slow 3:58 pacer passes me and I'm sure she was laughing as she did so. 

I hobble off in pursuit but soon stop again and do more stretches, then I sit down remove the calf support off my good leg and put it on top of the one already on my the bad one. I theory offering twice the support. The 3:59 pacer passes me.

Mile 5 takes me all of 10:36 and I consider giving up. Can I run another 21 miles with only working leg? Probably...

So I tough it out. I manage to keep off my toes and heel strike every step of the way to minimise calf movement. I settle into full on fast hobble mode aka a pace of about 09:25. The 4:00 pacer passes me.

Oh well, at least I can admire the view. Erm, perhaps not. The course takes us through a lot of residential areas and it isn’t one for the sightseer. They rather cheekily announced before today that next year’s route will include the city centre and more of the city’s landmarks. Just to rub it in. However, the crowds are large, vocal and brandishing gifts of jelly babies and the like

A large proportion of the course, about 4 miles worth, takes place in Altrincham which is actually quite nice. I go through halfway in 02:02:40 which isn’t that bad but obviously I’m not going to break four hours.

Then we leave Altrincham and head back to Sale with only ten miles to go. Only 10 miles... hobble hobble.

They say the first half of a marathon is about patience and the second half is about determination. In my case the first half was about preservation but now the determination kicks in and you know what? I do it. 

Obviously 4:06:48 wasn’t what I was looking for but it’s quite an impressive time for someone with one leg. 9:28 per mile. I was 6,728th out of 13,654 finishers.

The race medal is ok and the t-shirt very nice, black and wearable. I now have two marathons under my belt, I just hope my calf will allow me a third.

A Nottingham one would be nice. Manchester reckon this year’s race boosted their local economy by about £6.8M, attracting thousands of visitors, 75% of whom were from outside the north-west of England. Next year, with the race taking in the city centre as well, they expect it to provide an even bigger economic boost. Nottingham get on it.

Sadly, we don’t help boost Manchester’s economy in the evening as we have to head home and we go out in Nottingham instead. We have some decent beer but our second time in the Marrakesh Moroccan restaurant is a disappointment.

(Sunday 7th April)

Friday, 5 April 2019

Mastering Calmness

On Wednesday L gives me a lift to work in the car as she heads over to the hospital. Then I get the bus home.

In the evening I take the boys training. The Lad is so very keen as regards his training but has yet to get anywhere close to mastering the calmness he needs to master it.

On Thursday he uses a tea towel (or rather several tea towels) to work out his stress levels. I notice there is quite a collection of them in the hall when I look in on Dog TV. By which point he’s having a nap. No wonder, if he’s been that busy.

Thursday is still my run night despite this Sunday being Marathon day. I run to Sandiacre, a distance of about 13k before getting the bus home. L says I should be taking it easy. I thought I was.

Friday is ‘Walk To Work Day’ but I don’t participate. The 15 miles would have mean leaving home about 3:30am and anyway I ran most of it last night.

In the evening we both visit L’s Dad in hospital.

(Friday 5th April)

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Escape Artist

The legs can’t be too bad after Sunday’s five and a bit laps of Bedford Autodrome as I manage a dog jog on Monday with L and Daughter. Given a brief run of freedom off the lead, the Lad tries to scale the six foot high wall out of the park in pursuit of a squirrel. It was nearly a disastrous moment with the main road the other side of it but thankfully he fails to defy gravity.

He is becoming, rather worryingly, quite an escape artist. On Tuesday morning he escapes through the fence on the park, has a quick swim in the lake there before reappearing. 

In the evening, I'm at Rock City to see The Zutons.  

I miss the first band Queenzee but do catch The Fernweh. They are a sort of folk come 60s\70s psychedelic rock band. It seems more of a jam session than a concert amid which you get the feeling that the guitarist is dying to burst into a rendition of 'Purple Haze' but daren’t. They are curiously pleasant but they don’t really hold the crowd’s attention.

How do you cause an argument on the Zutons comeback tour where they are playing their debut album ‘Who Killed...... The Zutons?’ in full. This was the album which was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2004 but lost out to Franz Ferdinand. You do so by telling the fan next to you that you think their second album ‘Tired of Hanging Around’ was nuch better. Oops.

Tonight, eleven years after their third and final album and, aside from a one-off tribute gig in 2016, nine years since playing live I am ticking another band off my ‘must see’ list. 

The band take the stage and open with ‘Zuton Fever’ off ‘Who Killed...... The Zutons?’, of course.

Personally I’m not a great fan of ‘album in full’ shows so they get great kudos for (a) omitting a track - oddly ‘Nightmare Part II’ (b) not playing it in order and (c) inserting throughout tracks from that superior (ha ha) second album. So, yes, it's a great show.

Despite being a six-piece, your attention is clearly drawn to the three with the big hair at the front of the stage. After an exhausting opening four tracks ending with a delightful ‘Valerie’ both lead singer Dave McCabe and saxophonist Abi Harding take time out to adjust their hair. Dave half-heartedly tries and fails to keep his out of his eyes, Abi simply takes an age putting hers up. Guitarist Boyan Chowdhury just doesn’t care.

While it’s McCabe who does the audience interaction in his thick Scouse drawl, it is Harding who does the dancing. Is now the time to mention her leather trousers which that could be classed as a sexist remark but then had any of the guys been wearing the like I’d certainly have mentioned it too. Also, how can she dance in those heels? And no, none of the guys are wearing heels or even making a half decent fist of dancing.

While the album tracks are well received it is the singles that standout. The more fast paced ones like ‘Pressure Point’ and ‘Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)’ ramp up the crowd but it is perhaps the more nuanced ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Confusion’ that steal the show.

The set finishes with a rather sweet communal rendition of ‘Moons and Horror Shows’ at the front of the stage before the band return for an encore of ‘Hello Conscience’ and then close of course, with the stop-start melodies of ‘You Will You Won't’.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

The Beauty Of Marathon Training

Saturday is parkrun and after being 4th last week at Shipley, The Lad and I are 84th at much more popular Markeaton Park this week with a remarkably similar time, which is very sobering.

Derby start a late tilt at the Play-Offs by demolishing Rotherham 6-1. After which I pick up L and Daughter from the hospital.

Sunday brings my final warm up race before Manchester next week. Of course, the beauty of training for a spring marathon is that you get to run some fantastically dull events as there is really little else at this time of year. Hot on the heels of the Half Marathon at Prestwold Hall which was organised by RunThrough Events comes the Bedford Autodrome 5k\10k\Half Marathon\ 16 mile\20 mile\Marathon (delete as applicable) also organised by RunThrough. This is basically Prestwold again but with the least dull bits removed.

Whereas Prestwold was only mostly on a car racing circuit Bedford is entirely on one although this is one designed by none other than Jonathan Palmer. Which would be great but seriously Jonathon... I’m not impressed.

The 5k is one lap of the circuit, the 10k is two laps, the Half Marathon is four laps... you get the gist. Pity the poor souls in the marathon, eight laps! That’s not me this week, I have opted for the 16 Mile option which is five laps plus a mini lap to make sure the distance is right.

Not that I’m sure it is right as I run 6:07 for the first mile which is insanely unlikely. Then again it is perhaps just another case of random mile marking and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt about the overall distance.

The race itself is fine, once you’ve switched yourself off and got down to grounding out the laps. The tarmac is lovely and it’s all quite flat being on a motor racing track although there was a slight slope on one section of it. It was left to the strong wind to make it ‘interesting’, being behind you, then being a crosswind, then being in your face etc etc. Repeat for each lap.

They started the races in reverse order of length, so the marathon first, ending up with all the races on the track at the same time. So you never really knew who you were racing against but that was fine. No one cared who they were racing against, we were all here training for something else.

L ran the 10k and I did wonder if we’d get to run over the line together but it didn’t happen like that.

I think my time of 02:21:08 wasn’t great but having only Naseby to compare it, where I was three minutes quicker, it’s hard to tell and of course the Notts 20 did not give us any mile markers at all. I was also slow through 13 miles today but it’s all about getting some distance in a week out from the big one.

In the evening we do a mini pub tour, taking in the Hockley Rebel and then the Six Barrel Drafthouse, which is the first time we’ve drank there. Then we got to Taste Thai, which was once Thailand Number 1, for a meal.

(Sunday 31st March)

Friday, 29 March 2019

Brexit Day

Today the UK was supposed to leave the EU but it’s not happening. So, we can all rise up from the ‘Brace For Brexit’ position, at least temporarily. I have to say that it was abundantly clear to me that there was never going to be a consensus on this from the very start of the referendum campaign. So the current situation doesn’t surprise me in the slightest but then I take far more interest in politics, mostly a macabre one, than most people. At least what everyone said they wanted, to take back control, has happened. Parliament has most definitely taken full ownership of the cock up.

L goes over to visit her Dad again on Friday afternoon and, as I’m on the bus today, we meet up at the bus station to come home together or rather we don’t. We get side-tracked into having a swift one in the Exeter. As you do.

(Friday 29th March)

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Lifestyle Interrogation

After spending Sunday evening in the Holiday Inn near Heathrow we head back home the next morning via the kennels to collect the boys, who seem pleased to see us and we spend the day with them before going back to work on Tuesday. They both look very chilled looking and glad to be home on Dog TV.

L gets back to work to find that nothing has moved on her boss's desk because he hasn’t set foot in the building all week. While I’m greeted by the sight of a new fridge and thankfully someone has saved my yoghurts. I will have one later.

In the evening we get phone call from L's Mum midway through our evening meal. Which we abandon and rush over to Derby where L’s father is being ambulanced into hospital having suffered some sort of mental breakdown. L's sister immediately makes the trip up from Hertfordshire.

We're all there, including the dogs in the car, until about 2am. Then L goes back with her Mum, where she spends the night on the sofa and while I go home with the boys. Who I let finish off our evening meal as a reward for their patience.

The next day I have a NHS Health Check, which is very brief. I don’t get as much of a lifestyle interrogation as I did last time although the nurse did ask about my levels of gardening and housework even after I’d told her I was marathon training. My blood pressure is fine and my BMI is fine too. I’ve just got to wait for the blood test results.

There’s a Derby County Fans Forum in the evening but as they’d only let me have one ticket, and therefore I couldn’t take my Dad, I opt to skip it and I go dog training instead. L meanwhile is constantly nipping to the hospital to check on her Dad.

She still fits in her tennis on Thursday and I do my usual run home from work but I'm running late, so I don't get my usual grope\snog in the grounds of the University. It’s also a horrible run, the worst one I’ve done this year and I can barely walk afterwards. Good job I haven't got a marathon coming up.

(Thursday 28th March)

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Nordic Noir

It’s holiday time and the first task is to drop the dogs off at kennels. MD and I are distraught at this prospect whereas L and the Lad are doing cartwheels. The Lad is so excited that he practically jumps up on to the desk in reception to introduce himself.

Then we head down to Heathrow, from where we have a mid-afternoon flight to Oslo. We fly over with SAS and then spend the night in the Park Inn at the airport, which takes a bit of finding. It is there that we are introduced to the realities of life in Norway e.g. £9 for a beer, and a similar hike in food prices. The food though is of high quality and always seems to come with a unlimited supply of bread.

The next day, we pick up our hire car from Hertz which of course comes with the usual unavoidable free upgrade to a far bigger car than the one you want. Hertz say they don’t have anything smaller despite the fact my booking gave them a month’s notice to find one.

Then we have a two hour drive across an incredibly flat looking country which perhaps explains why Cross Country rather than Alpine skiing prevails here. There is, however, oodles of snow everywhere, even at airport. Then suddenly, as we approach the Swedish border, a small cluster of mountains appears. This is where we are headed.

We arrive in Trysil where we are staying at the Trysil Hotel which is a reception-free hotel and there are no keys either. They text us a keycode for both the entrance door and our own room. The other quirk of the Trysil Hotel is that it has its own brewery. Any thoughts that I booked this place deliberately can obviously be dispensed with but we would be mad not to check it out. So we do, every night.

There are twelve beers on their blackboard of which we chalk off nine on the first night with the help of a tasting palette. The other three last only as far as the next night. Towards the end of the week they introduce a thirteenth, a porter with no name which I name after absent furry friends.

We eat in their Kveik Restaurant every night where the food is excellent and I can heartily recommend the Elk Kebab. Everything comes with a large jug of water (from which we start to develop a water obsession) and the standard generous portion of bread which, in this case, is from the Kort & Godt craft bakery next door. This is also where we go for breakfast which is a standard sort of continental affair but also with the local delicacy of Brown Cheese.

The meals are very expensive but for some reason our barman, who works every night we are there, always seems to leave a few beers off the bill. I can’t work out whether he’s doing this deliberately to be generous or whether he’s just incapable of getting the bill right. We don’t complain.

They do have a cunning ploy in Norway to make you think that you aren’t being fleeced. Nowhere that we went accepted cash. So we never even bothered bringing any Norwegian Krone with us and we never saw any. Everywhere makes you pay on card. This means you also barely notice that a cup of coffee is no cheaper than a beer.

The Norwegian's also seem to have a weird toilet fetish.This is just one of the strange characters I met.

The skiing itself is good and not much different to what you’d get in the Alps. Possibly slightly easier due to lack of height of their mountains and definitely windier do to lack of mountains providing shelter.

We liven things up on the second day by deciding to get Nordic and have a go at Cross Country. I’ve done 30+ years of doing 'proper' skiing and in all that time I’ve never seen such flimsy a pair of skis.

Anyhow, we hit the cross country trails with our instructor Erik who is big on advice but low on sympathy. How hard can it be though, it’s all on the flat isn’t it? Apparently not. The first lesson to learn is how to go downhill and how to stop. Which is, we are told, exactly the same as with ‘proper’ skiing except for the flimsy things on your feet and the fact that your heel isn’t clamped down. The only thing I find easy is falling over backwards. Erik advises that you need to snowplough, like when you were eleven.

We must have enjoyed it as we do it again two days later. 

All too soon the holiday is over and we have to say goodbye to the brewery and the cross country embarrassment while my credit card heaves a huge sigh of relief. We haven’t even done a Parkrun. There are only four in Norway, none of which were very handy for this trip. So it’s a good job L’s not obsessed. It’s also a shame they’re all on Saturdays because looking at Scandinavia as a whole, there’s a nice little tour to be had there.

Back at the airport, SAS demand a ridiculous amount of money to transport our skis home despite Heathrow not charging us on the way out. They point to their hugely ambiguous terms and conditions that clearly I and Heathrow interpreted one way whereas Oslo Airport interpreted another way. I dig my heels in, refuse to pay and ask where I can abandon our skis. They agree to carry them free of charge.

(Sunday 24th March)