Getting Better All the Time

After work this evening I headed out with Miss 19 and put another few kilometres in the bank. I’m not sure what she’s been eating – it might have something to do with her being nearly thirty years younger than me – but she FLEW tonight. Of course she complained that this hurt, or that hurt, but she FLEW.

So. Running done. Kitchen cleared up. Kids ominously quiet. Time to sit in the junk room listening to spotify and attempt to come up with a few insightful or entertaining words. Except of course I don’t really do insightful or entertaining any more – it’s more humdrum, chores, frustrations, and the struggle is real.

I sometimes look at other people’s blogs, and think “how do they DO that” – and then I realise they don’t work, and appear to have a magically bottomless bank account, which funds restaurant meals, endless clothes shopping expeditions, and a camera that cost more than our car to take photos of it all – filed everywhee with a “#nofilter” tag.

I’m not bitter. Just jaded I suppose. Cynical. Tired.

No matter how hard I try, I always seem to end up back where I started. Getting ahead is temporary – I have learned that now. It always seems to involve luck rather than hard work. Maybe the world just works that way – some people work their arse off and get nowhere, whereas some people fall on their feet continually. Maybe that Bruce Willis movie “Unbreakable” was right – balance extends to everything.

Spotify just stopped. I wonder if that means I’ve listened to all of it now ?

(a few moments pass while I pick another playlist)

I just noticed the “Favourite Coffeehouse” playlist has vanished. Dammit. You know sometimes you just want a not-too-terrible playlist on in the background that you don’t hate too much? That was the favourite coffeehouse playlist for me. What am I going to do now? I’m not sure I can be bothered to curate anything.

In other news, I downloaded all of the old Infocom text adventure games to my laptop at lunchtime. I’m about to go sit on the sofa in the living room with it and open the mailbox to the west of an old white house. If you guessed the game, you win the nerd lottery.

Putting the Work In

Four sets of six minutes running, and one minute walking around the back streets of town this evening with the running club. The running intervals are slowly ramping up. I’m guessing the ultimate aim is to get the group running for half an hour without rest.

It’s been interesting to run along near the back, watching the behaviour of the rest of the group. Some naturally gravitate to the front, and others to the back – and while you might think that’s driven mostly by each individual’s level of fitness, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s more going on. Two guys in particular push their way to the front continually – even after being looped to the back in order to make the slower runners feel better about themselves. I guess for some people it really is all about “me”, rather than “us”.

Anyway – super proud of Miss 19 this evening. She completed the intervals without cheating. For a time I drifted away from her – leaving her running with strangers on purpose – hoping that peer pressure would kick in (it did). She learned a valuable lesson too – that after the initial wave of tiredness passes, running becomes all about rhythm – longer runs are actually easier than shorter intervals.

After saying goodnight to the group, I walked across the park to the hockey pitches, and found our 15 year old waiting at the edge of the pitches with her goal tender kit in an enormous bag by her feet. After shaking her coach’s hand and introducing myself, I hefted the bag onto my back and began the mile and a half walk home. My other half was supposed to be picking her up, but had got timings wrong – she found herself waiting on the touchline of a football pitch a few miles away, waiting for Miss 14 to finish training with her team.

It’s now ticking past 10pm, and I’m sitting in the dark of the junk room at home. The shower has just shut down for the night. I imagine the washing machine will be full of towels again in the morning – it feels like the washing is never-ending.

I could murder a bar of chocolate, but I’m “being good”. Why do I have to hold myself accountable – why can’t I cave like everybody else and stuff my face with secret chocolate? lol

As Little as Possible

When I went out for the regular training run last night, I knew there was some tightness in my chest, but dismissed it as a virus of some kind – all sorts have been doing the rounds at work, so it would be no suprise if I had caught something or other.

And then I woke this morning finding it difficult to breathe in properly.

I emailed work, and informed them I was taking a day off. Of course then while setting “out of office” on my work phone I spotted an email from a client, and had to fight every instinct to get changed, jump on my bike, and cycle in.

The world can wait for once. I’ve been warned more than once by friends that always putting everybody else first all the time is a recipe for disaster. The torrential rain throughout the day may also have influenced my decision.

Here’s the thing – sitting quietly at home and doing nothing is REALLY difficult. I will admit I didn’t actually do “nothing” – I filled the washing machine about five times, and tidied up around the house throughout much of the afternoon. For the rest of the time though – as little as possible.

I’m not good at “as little as possible”.

Bill Bryson, Rugby Sevens, and Late Night Running

On Saturday night we visited Oxford – the city I think of as my real home – to see Bill Bryson present a show at the New Theatre in George Street. I had no pre-conceptions going in, other than it might follow the format of so many other “an audience with” type productions – and I was more or less right.

If you’ve not read any of Bill Bryson’s books, I urge you to do so – from “The Lightning Bolt Kid”, about growing up in rural Des Moines, Idaho, to “Notes from a Small Island”, about living in England, to “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”, about his return to live in the US with his family after twenty years in England. He has written many, many books, and they are without exception brilliant.

The evening in the theatre flew by – wrapped in stories about Bill’s various adventures, and delivered in a self deprecating humor, mischievousness, and irreverence that has become his trademark. The anecdote about Russell Crowe writing him a fan letter that turned into a drink in London, and then lead to an acting masterclass at Durham University where Bill had been invited to act as Chancellor was one of those stories that could never be made up – because you see Durham University doesn’t have a drama course at all – and Russell Crowe still doesn’t know that.

During the interval, halfway through the theatre show, I looked around the audience, and a scene stuck in my mind. On the edge of the first tier of seats above us, a young man – perhaps twenty years old – was standing, leaning on the wall, engrossed in his mobile phone. Standing directly in front of him was the most strikingly beautiful girl I have seen in quite some time – I’m guessing his girlfriend. She looked a little lost, gazing at him, and occasionally across the audience below – while he continued to obsess over whatever was on his phone. When will the millennials wake up and realise that life exists outside of their phones? It was both the best and worst illustration of the problem the mobile internet has caused that I’ve ever seen.

This morning (Sunday) we headed off around London on the M25 towards St. Albans, and a rugby “Sevens” tournament for Miss 14 and 15. My other half has somehow been enlisted as the club medic, given the training she has received through work (she’s the lady that decides to call ambulances at the infant school, along with 1001 other duties).

Nobody could have guessed that we would end up calling for two ambulances.

Our girls were fine – our youngest scored a cracking try – running the length of the pitch, and our middle girl threw herself into perhaps the most spectacular tackle I have seen – taking down the opposition’s biggest player in a do-or-die last-girl-standing defence of the try-line. Unfortunately at least two families we know through the team ended up in accident and emergency at nearby hospitals.

After getting home from rugby, emptying the car, cooking dinner, and clearing the decks, I went out for another training run with our eldest daughter. Another set of intervals around the back-streets of the town. Given the bad run earlier in the week, I was somewhat apprehensive, but in the end everything worked out fine. We went slowly, I distracted her throughout, and she completed the intervals with a smile on her face. She’s starting to suffer from shin-splints, but I’m guessing that will sort itself out over the coming weeks – she’s getting fitter and faster, and putting more strain on her legs.

Looking at the clock, it’s somehow now 11pm on Sunday evening. The weekend has gone. I’m wondering about grabbing a bowl of cereals before bed – give my body some fuel to help re-build me ready to go again in the morning.

Running Around in Circles

After getting in from work last night (and eating home-made pizza), I finally made it out with Miss 19 for a training run – the one that was supposed to have happened the night before. It didn’t really go to plan – she had her first “bad run” – but the important thing was that she got out there and did something at least. It all counts, I suppose.

Today the roof of the world seems to be falling on us – rain has been drumming off the flat roof all night, and all morning so far. My other half is still sitting in bed with a book – I’m up and about, getting chores done, and procrastinating with this post. The kids had a friend stay for a sleepover last night – they were all up at ridiculous o’clock.

(ten minutes pass while I re-load the washing machine, hang clothes in the air dryer, and make a coffee)

I weighed myself a little over a week ago (for the first time in years), and then again a couple of days ago – to see if all the running, and not eating so much rubbish was having an effect. Somehow I lost 5 pounds in a week. This is obviously an anomaly, because nobody loses weight that fast, but at least it proves something to the kids. I probably have about 20 pounds to lose until I’m anywhere near where I should be.

In other news, I’ve been informed that we’re off to see Bill Bryson tonight. He’s doing some sort of “audience with” thing in Oxford – I’m guessing to help sell his latest book (that I spotted in a book shop last weekend). I nearly bought a copy, before reminding myself about the leaning tower of unread books on my bedside table.

Anyway. Better get on I suppose. Thanks for reading if you did 🙂

Two Miles with Miss Fourteen

Ever since the children were little, we have tried to eat dinner at the table as a family. I suppose it started as an excuse to talk to the children, and to get them to talk – to tell stories about what we had done during the day. When I say “we”, I of course mean “everybody except me”, because nobody ever asks what I have done. I complained about it once – and my other half stopped the children:

“Why don’t you ask Dad what he did today?”

“What did you do today Dad?”

I had their undivided attention, and launched into a really interesting overview of a workflow I was building to integrate two business systems. My other half waited for me to finish, and then said this:

“And that’s why we don’t ask Dad what he did today.”

They all laughed.

Anyway. I sat down for dinner this evening and Miss 19 sat opposite, looking like thunder.

“Are we going running tonight then?”, I asked, in the most uplifting tone I could summon.

No answer.

“It’s training night!”

“I’m too tired.”

I very nearly lost my shit instantly. Thankfully Miss 14 interrupted.

“I’ll come running with you Dad!”

It’s very difficult to talk Miss 14 out of things – she is perhaps the most optimistic, persuasive, instantly likeable people pleaser I have ever known. And that’s how we ended up getting ready to go running together an hour after dinner.

SHE RAN TWO MILES!

We ran a loop into town, along the high street, and back towards home. Normally the training consists of intervals of several minutes running with a minute walk inbetween, but I wondered how far my younger daughter could run, given that I had never been out with her before. It’s worth noting that she goes to a special school – a sports academy, so does some form of sport every day.

I worried throughout the two miles that I would be causing some sort of lasting damage to her legs, so repeatedly slowed her to a gentle jog – asking again and again if she was ok – if she was tired.

“I’m fine”

Towards the end I think the people-pleaser side of her nature had kicked in, and she was actually knackered, but I didn’t say anything. While running we talked about all sorts of things (or at least, the all sorts of things that run through the mind of a 14 year old girl – mainly about her friend who’s online accounts had been hacked earlier in the evening after she told a stranger her passwords).

We both agreed that perhaps it might be best if she doesn’t tell her big sister how far she ran.

Talking of big sisters, apparently I’m heading back out tomorrow night with Miss 19 to do intervals training. I wonder if my legs will remember all about this running lark, or if they’ll start complaining bitterly?

While out running this evening, we passed one of the leaders from the club session earlier in the week, I presume out with her regular mid-week running friends. She waved and cheered as we passed each other – the smile on Miss 14’s face was priceless.

First Training Run

After walking nearly 5K to and from work today (thanks Mr Farmer for puncturing my bike tyres with your hedgerow annihilation device), I ate dinner, washed up, and then immediately got changed into my bargain basement running kit to head out with Miss 19.

We have been tasked with running “intervals” every other day inbetween the weekly meet-ups at the running club in town. This week we have to do ten sets of two minutes running, and one minute walking.

Here’s the funny thing – Miss 19 really, really didn’t want to go out this evening. Somehow I arm-twisted her into it, even though it was spitting with rain outside, and pretty damn cold. The complaints came thick and fast – “I’ve got a stitch”, “my legs hurt”, “I can’t do this”…

Here’s the even funnier thing – ten minutes later, her entire mood had turned around. She realised she COULD do it, and was DOING it. She ran every interval, didn’t cheat at all, and ended the evening with a huge smile on her face.

I’m SO proud of her.

Couch to 5K

My other half “suggested” that I might like to accompany our eldest daughter to the running club in town this week – to start on their “Couch to 5K” running programme. And that’s how I ended up walking across town in the rain after work this evening, and standing in front of a room full of strangers, pulling reflective bibs on, and listening to a confident sounding lady explain what we were going to do.

I kept quiet about eating half a packet of chocolate chip cookies after getting in from work.

Having missed the first week, it felt like most of the people already knew each other – they congregated into small groups, deep in conversation and laughter while waiting for everybody to arrive.

Eventually we all trudged out into the rain and started doing warm-up exercises – jogging this way and that, doing lunges, skipping, and whatever else the leader of the group thought up. There were perhaps twenty of us – ranging from late teens, through to late sixties.

I felt like a bit of a fraud, to be honest – for the next thirty minutes or so we ran and walked through town – two minutes running, one minute walking – repeating the pattern ten times. I could probably have run the whole thing. Yes, yes, I know you’re not supposed to do stupid things like that straight away, but then I don’t suppose anybody else on the course cycles six miles every day either.

Miss 19 did well. Considering she hasn’t done any exercise at all since perhaps her third year at secondary school (five years ago), she kept going like a trooper. Given that she’s nearly thirty years younger than me, I imagine she will over-take me by the time we get to the 5K “graduation” race at the end of the course – or at least she will if she sticks at it.

I ran in my usual heavy raincoat tonight – I don’t own a “running coat” – or at least I won’t until it arrives in the post tomorrow. I scoured Amazon for the cheapest bright yellow waterproof that had decent reviews. An order has also gone in for two head torches – the nights are drawing in, and the street lighting around town is pretty abysmal.

Anyway. First week done. Time to start recording some miles on the “Couch to 5K” app on my phone.

Running Shoes

I just ordered a pair of running shoes from Amazon – they will arrive tomorrow morning. I haven’t run any sort of distance in 10 years. I’m still wondering why (why I bought the shoes, not why I haven’t run).

My eldest daughter has been talking about doing a “couch to 5k” programme at our local running club – or rather, my other half told her about it, then talked to me about it in a “if you did it with her, I think she would really like it” kind of way. This roughly translates as “you’re going to do this, and if you don’t I will give you shit for quite some time about it”. A lot of my life kind of happens that way.

Here’s the funny thing – I’m looking forward to going running again. In the year or two before the children arrived in our lives I would routinely go running a couple of times a week – about five miles each time. In the ten years since I stopped running I’ve put on perhaps 20 pounds in weight (let’s blame it on pizza) – I could do with losing that extra baggage.

People automatically think that I should be ok at running because I cycle every day – but in reality running uses completely different muscles, so cycling ends up being oddly counter-productive.

Anywhere – there it is. Expect a blog post in the near future claiming I ran half a mile and nearly died.