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

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)

Sunday 17 March 2019

Notts 20 Mud Fest

This morning L and go our separate race ways. She hops on the Red Arrow and then the Comet on her way up to the Kilburn Kilometres 10K. You’d think that the run would be a doddle after the transport arrangements but she says it was brutal with knee deep mud and loads of stiles to climb over. It took her 1 hour 24 minutes but naturally she loved it.

It sounds surprisingly like my race where there no stiles but still plenty of mud. Which wasn’t what I was expecting from the new Notts 20 Road Race.

I drive over to Holme Pierrepont nice and early which was a very good plan as the car park soon fills up. Parking anarchy breaks out with people abandoning their cars all over the place and it becomes apparent that they probably aren’t going to get 800 runners’ cars in but somehow everyone parks somewhere.

This is the first running of the race so there are going to be a few teething problems and that’s one for attention next year.

Practically everybody was doing this 20 miler to prepare for a marathon, so all the chat was about which one you were doing. Were you lucky enough to have got into London or were you doing Brighton or Manchester? Many were doing more than one of these.

The route consisted of two different loops out from the National Water Sports Centre. The first one of around 13 miles took us out through Radcliffe-on-Trent and Shelford. Then the second, of the remaining seven miles, took us out along the riverbank to the Victoria Embankment and back. The first part seemed to contain large chunks of the Outlaw bike course along with the legendary Adbolton Lane potholes while the second part seemed to contain large chunks of the Outlaw run course. So you could say it was all very familiar to me.

What I didn’t expect was that so much of it would be off road, around about two-thirds perhaps, and because the weather hadn’t been great of late, several sections of the course had turned in to either mini lakes or mud baths. It almost warranted trail shoes.

The last section along the riverbank was particularly grim with its puddles, mud and very narrow path. Which wasn’t the best choice for a race in March.

The other thing that made it a lot harder was the lack of miles markers. There were not at all. Apparently the organisers took the decision to take them down as they were in danger of becoming low flying missiles in the wind. Unfortunately, this looked a bit over the top with the wind having dropped considerably by race time. So once again I was wishing I had brought my GPS watch but we all ended up using the water stations, which were placed every three miles, as markers.

Anyhow it all went well in the end and it was all very well organised despite the less than perfect route. I was aiming to break three hours which I knew I was on to when I saw the three hour pacer behind me as we did an out and back section on the Embankment with around two miles to go.

I came home in 02:55:51 to claim a fairly naff medal but a very nice t-shirt.

(Sunday 17th March)

Saturday 16 March 2019

Not Saving The Legs

Possibly I should have saved my legs for tomorrow’s 20 mile race today and not done Parkrun but I don’t. Having decided to do Parkrun, I should have probably taken it easy but the Lad has other plans.

We run at Shipley Country Park and come 4th overall in a time of 21:55. The Lad is again disappointed with me as we were 3rd with less than a km to go. Clearly he’s not happy with merely being first dog. 

In the evening I rest my legs by going up to Sheffield to see the Slow Readers Club.
Support is from a super group called ShadowParty who consist of some of the members of Devo and New Order although they are not the ‘big’ names from those bands.   

The lead singer is Devo’s guitarist Josh Hagar and originally he was joined by drummer Jeff Friedl but Friedl isn't touring with them on this occasion. From New Order we have Tom Chapman who was Bernard Sumner's bass player in Bad Lieutenant before Sumner invited him to replace Peter Hook in New Order and we have Phil Cunningham who has been their guitarist since 2002.

They released an album last year which only really gives a cursory nod to both 'source' bands. That’s not to say it wasn’t decent and it sounds good live but then with all that experience in the band you’d assume they know what they are doing up on stage. American Hagar is quite chatty frontman too even dedicating one song to ‘our horrible orange man'. I wonder who he means.

They are joined on stage by Ellen Lewis, who must be half the age of the rest of the fortysomething band, and she takes lead vocals on one track 'Present Tense' while offering keyboards and backing vocals on the others. Overall, they are pretty good.

Talking of fortysomethings, before the Slow Readers Club come on stage I get chatting to the chap next to me who is a big Readers fan and says he has seen them loads of times. He says the crowds at their gigs are fantastic e.g. just like the old days e.g. lively. ‘The old days’ he says, are the ones that ‘fans like us in our late 30s and early 40s remember fondly’. As he has totally misjudged my age, we are now best friends forever. 

The Slow Readers Club have been slow burning their way through the conscience of the nation over the last eight years. Yes, there’s been nothing quick their rise and they have built the band up the old way, the hard way, through gradually building a fanbase. They remained unsigned, while still maintaining day jobs, until their third album was released last year. Finally, now the band have managed to go full time as a band.

They are about a third of the way through a massive 48 date UK and European tour and tonight they have sold out the Leadmill, making it their biggest gig so far outside of their homeland of Manchester.

They open with ‘Lunatic’, the big commercial moment from that third album ‘Build A Tower’. Everyone knows it and singer Aaron Starkie has to raise his voice to be heard above the singing crowd. From there, the only way could have been down but the Readers have too many good songs for that. 

‘Lives Never Known’ is followed by debut single ‘Sirens’ but they have so many good songs in fact that mixing the set up every night isn't a problem. The 17-song set is pulled in almost equal measure from all three Readers albums with songs from different albums segueing faultlessly into each other. Such as the excellent transition of ‘You Opened Up My Heart’ into ‘Plant The Seed’. In amongst all the old favourites is a brand new track ‘The Wait’. 

‘Forever In You Debt’ slow builds the start of the finale from which ‘Feet on Fire’ and ‘I Saw a Ghost’ from the excellent ‘Cavalcade’ album follow. Then finally their latest single ‘On The TV’. There is no encore, they have already left it all out there.
(Saturday 16th March)