Monday, 17 November 2014

We assailed Slieve Donard yesterday. It took us a full 5 hours to make the 10km round trip and it was worth every hard fought minute.
There was a full team in the expedition. There was baby on Papa's back with Moma following close behind for the feeding stops. Bringing up the rear were sherpas Tatiana and Vitali who carried the water, the flask of soup and the nappies.
The weather was kind to us. There was no rain or snow this time just an awful lot of fog.

We do this trip every year now. You might say it has become something of a family pilgrimage. Next year it promises to be even harder to do when Alicia could be twice as heavy and still unable to walk much of the way.
I guess her donkey called Papa had better stay in shape..

Friday, 31 October 2014

Of Pre Training Schedule Work Outs

I've spent this week experimenting trying to give myself a rough idea of just how far off an Ironman I really am.

My exercise this week looked like this :

Monday : 100 lengths of the pool (25 metres)
Tuesday : 50 lengths and 6 mile run (80 minutes)
Wednesday : 50 lengths
Thursday : rest day and work on new bike that has arrived
Friday : 100 lengths (time 75 minutes)
Saturday : the plan is to do 28 miles on the bike
Sunday : the plan is to do 14 miles bike followed by 6 mile run.

Although all of the above are slow if I repeated the distances in the Ironman and added distance at the same pace I would beat the disqualification times. This is heartening.

The other piece of good news from all of this is that although I was tired after each bit of exercise I wasn't dead beat. As I approach the weekend I don't feel any more tired than if I had done nothing at all. In fact I think I feel a good bit better. I've noticed your day feels so much better if you began it on top of a decent aerobic work out.

My weight is under control now too. I now weigh 13.5 stones or 86 kilos. That's a full half stone lighter than I was 3 months ago.

The next project is to sort out the bike. I need to make sure the cleats on the pedals fit well and that I fit the bike.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Of 7 Months to Uberman

It's officially game on!

I entered the Mallorca 2015 Ironman last week. In so doing I applied to do an event that requires you to swim 2.4 miles, then cycle 112 miles then run 26.2 miles all in under 17 hours.
The race is in May of next year which gives me 7 months to train for it and I think I'll need everyone one of them. Last Friday I ran 6 miles in over 1 hour and I was exhausted after it.

I have been contemplating doing this event for a number of years and as I'm 50 next year it seemed a good time to finally stop contemplating and move through the gears to planning, training and then completing.

I have to confess to being quite nervous about it already but when I thought about it closely there was just too much to lose by not doing this. The benefits in giving this a rattle are huge and include :

# Achieving a level of fitness superior to anything I have ever experienced in my life at any age;
# Understanding how my body works and how to get the most out of it;
# Learning about food, diet and nutrition and how to "fuel up" properly;
# Achieving a greater level of mental strength and discipline than ever before
# Sharing a platform for at least a day with some really focused and driven people.

I'm lucky enough to live very close to a great swimming pool, in amongst some fabulous countryside which makes for ideal jogging territory.. I live opposite the "7 Mile Straight" a perfect cycling track . So I've no excuses to hand as to why I can't train for this.

The next 7 months promise to be hard. Very hard. Game on.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Of Wise Words and Lyrics

Recently, at a Black Tie Dinner at the Waterfront I sat next to a very wise man who was great company for the evening. He noted that my wife was pregnant soon parenthood so came into the conversation. When I asked him for one piece of parenting advice for a novice like me he thought for a while and then replied "Love them unconditionally". It was great advice which I've reflected upon many times afterwards.

At the end of the evening we swapped business cards. Last week I popped him an email with news about Alicia. He replied as follows :

I like the singer Marc Cohn's words

"The Things We've Handed Down" (Marc Cohn) Don't know much about you Don't know who you are ...
We've been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don't know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we'd give you all our love

Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I've heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we've handed down

I wonder who you'll look like
Will your hair fall down and curl
Will you be a mama's pet
Or daddy's little girl
Will you be a sad reminder
Of what's been lost along the way
Maybe you can help me find her
In the things you do and say

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we've handed down

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Of Russian and the ABC of Learning a Language

Hey! I've just found out I've got a grade B in GCSE "O" level Russian!

What follows is a brief account of how I managed it and what I've learnt in doing so aside from an awful lot of Russian.

First of all, it's perhaps worth noting 16 months ago that I was advised against entering for a GCSE Russian exam so quickly. Students who do Russian at school do a four year course I was informed by one language teacher and only the most academic of pupils do it to start with. They are the kind that do Mandarin and Greek as extra curricula "fun" topics she assured me.

When contemplating the challenge of a Russian GCSE there was a lot to put me off straight away. My track record learning foreign languages is not good. In truth, it's really lousy. I was chucked out of my O' Level French class at school as a no hope prospect and the school refused to enter me for the exam unless I paid for it which received a firm Non merci from me. But since my school days I've realised that what happened then is largely irrelevant to what you're capable of now and that one of the first and most important things is to keep reminding yourself of this.

So 16 months ago I drew up a quick plus/delta analysis of the pros and cons of me getting Russian GCSE in little over 12 months and it went far more in my favour than I was expecting.
It looked like this :

AGAINST ME :

# My track record in learning a language
# My limited amount of time for study
# My lack of knowledge of a language close to Russian
# The language itself. It's a tough one. Many experts seem to rate it in the top three languages in the world hardest to crack

FOR ME

# I understand now that what happened at school is irrelevant to my chances of learning and succeeding now
# I know myself really well in terms of how I best learn, when to study and how etc
# I'm brutally self disciplined. Tell myself that I have an hour of study to do every day and I'll do 80 minutes at least. This is a key factor in my favour.
# It's much easier to learn a language nowadays. Thanks to my Iphone I can plug in and do vocab work whilst travelling by train, jogging or shopping in Tesco.

What was critical for me was belief. If you believe you can do something you've a much better chance of succeeding than if you head into it convinced you'll fail. It's an obvious truth but one that you may have to work on before your mind is working for you and not against you. What convinced me was seeing Turkish and Egyptian traders also speaking good Russian within two years of Russian tourists arriving in any great numbers to their respective countries. Meaning no disrespect to these traders but their formal education at school was most likely a lot shorter than mine. Surely if that could do it so could I?

Of all the language lessons available and there are many good ones the star performer for me was Michele Thomas's Russian language course. This beats everything else in terms of getting a complete novice into a language and chucking out useful phrases in a very short space of time.

Finally, it's worth putting on record that however good the lessons are and however easy they are to access learning a language requires a lot of hard work. Russian GCSE had me out of bed most week day mornings at 5a.m. studying for an hour before getting ready for the working day.

What is Russian for "No Pain. No Gain" I wonder? I guess I might learn that for the A level...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Of Decisions Good and Bad



Someone once said it will prove to be the worse decision I have ever made buying an MG. But he was wrong. It was one of the best.
I loved my MG. Granted too, I hated it sometimes as well, when I jumped in it and it refused to move or even make a sound until I got some serious mechanics to it (and there have been many of those).
There's something added to a journey in terms of the unknown and the excitement when you're not completely sure you're going to get to where you are going. This is a sensation you rarely get nowadays with modern, reliable cars.
Yes it did pass it last MOT on first asking and yes it did breakdown on the way back from the MOT centre. Yes it leaked. But in the summer with the hood down and the music up burning through the country lanes of Donegal it made you feel alive and so grateful for it too.

Yesterday, I said good bye to my fine friend and a whole lot of memories wondering whether it was the worst decision of my life to sell it. But I reckoned it's time for her to find a new master and someone perhaps, with a little more patience and time on his hands than me right now.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Of Glenarm Round II

I ran the Glenarm Triathlon last week. It's full of any awful lot of really fit athletes. And me. It was my second go and I committed a number of school boy errors and I really should have known better.
In transition from sea to bike I forgot to take a gulp of  water to rinse my mouth out which meant I had a throat rasping with sea salt all through the bike ride. And as for the bike ride the saddle for some reason was far too high which meant hopping off to make adjustments as everyone zipped by. I was more ready for the bike ride this year that much is true and the damn hill that seems to start not far from the sea and carries on and on and on. I threw everything I had at it. Blood, tears, toil and sweat and an awful lot of swear words but the hill just seemed to give it all back and some...
The run was better this year although I did go wrong twice as some volunteer officials seemed to prefer to clap and cheer me on rather than indicate which direction I should be running.

My finishing time was 1hour 45 minutes total for all three disciplines. As I said,an awful lot of fit athletes. And me!