20 March 2011

Between blue and me

My whole week centred around the book launch party on Thursday. Drinks, glasses and ice were delivered first, so we were putting ice in tubs and bottles in ice. I hadn't shaved in the morning, thinking I'd leave it until closer to the start of the party, so about half past four I went to shower and shave - the bathroom is off the meeting room we were using for the party. To avoid overheating when the room filled with bodies we'd turned off the heating, and it was only when I got in the shower that I found it wasn't only the heating that was off. Fortunately there was hot water for a shave in the other toilet, but my shower was curtailed ...

Then Arthur turned up with the canapés, which had to be unloaded from his car on a yellow line outside the office and carried up to the first floor - an interesting relay job. The first guest appeared half an hour early, to add to the confusion, but then all went very well. Had all 100 or so acceptances turned up we might have had problems, but about half stayed away and we had ample food and drink and a most enjoyable evening was had by all. My publishers even sold about 7 books!

En route back to Oxford afterwards, the coach broke down and we crawled home very late. I was due at my publicist's birthday party last night but realised when I got myself to the office that I wasn't really in any shape for a third party in three days - especially one that began at 8 o'clock and could have continued until goodness knows when. Shame, as I was looking forward to it. To make matters worse, I reached the office - at about 2 o'clock - to find my BlackBerry missing. I'd taken an incoming call at 1.23, just before I bought lunch at The People's Supermarket, so it was probably on a 55 bus to Leyton.

On Saturday, having received and set up a replacement BlackBerry, I was good for nothing but watching three rugby matches on the TV, dozing through some of them and through a perfect running afternoon. But Sunday was also good for running, and I managed the seven-mile loop before lunch, meeting Louis at about 2.5 miles - coming the other way - and fixing to meet him next weekend for a run. Took over three minutes off the previous time too, though it is still taking over an hour. On the other hand, it's a slightly longer route than the one I ran for years which took under the hour. Not a bad pace, and not much stiffness in the PF this evening. I hope that bodes well for good runs in London this week, when I commute every day.

15 March 2011

Diminished but not finished

When I set out to feed the horses this morning, the car stuttered before I'd even got out of the cul-de-sac, so I turned round, parked it up and found a lead for Boston, intending to give him an enjoyable walk for three miles to the field - and back, too. If I could have trusted him I'd have taken him for a run, but his approach - constant stops, lots of sniffing around, doubling back - reduces my pace to 20 minute miles plus.

We managed even less distance than in the car before he felt the need to make several small deposits on the footpath, and I had refrained from bringing a plastic bag with me because I had no intention of carrying it around for a couple of hours if it had to be used. So it was back home for one, then back to the scene of the crime, by which time the window of opportunity for a walk had closed (was deemed, by me, to have closed). I changed into running kit (long-sleeved top, in deference to the fact that it is still March) and left Boston snoozing at home.

I hadn't gone more than about a mile before I was distinctly warm and wishing I'd selected a short-sleeved shirt. The sun was high in a beautiful blue sky, not quite so bright that I needed shades, and it was arming the countryside very nicely. The hedgerows still looked bare, the trees too, but they'll be budding soon, and the ground underfoot was good and firm. It was, in short, a perfect morning for a run, and I was delighted to have taken it.

I had conservatively chosen to run in my Mizuno shoes, which although old - they were pretty old when I ran the Capital City Marathon (the souvenir timing chip from which still adorns them) nearly two years ago - still give a reasonable amount of cushioning and the motion control I need. The Luna sandals will have to wait - perhaps in the coming couple of days I'll get them out. It wasn't the day even to practice pose running or any other alternative to my regular heel-banging, but it got me to the field without discomfort and after throwing some hay at the ponies I felt absolutely good enough to continue up the hill to the Ridgeway instead of doubling back. The difference, at the end, would only be a mile anyway.

I paused when I reached the ancient road and untied my shoes, even took one off, but they thought better of stripping naked (from the ankles down). My left foot was taped up to keep the plantar fasciitis under control, and it seemed to be working: the tape wouldn't last long with nothing to protect it. So I trotted along the lovely grass, so much better since vehicles were banned from it.

And so I eventually returned home, in a bit over an hour - I have varied the once-regular route to make it a little longer, but even so I should be well under an hour for this. Never mind, it's the first run of my latest comeback, on a perfect day, and very, very satisfying.

05 March 2011

I threw it all away

I wrote in my notebook - with some irony - "another great day". Rushing to catch an early (for me) train, to make a client meeting, I begin by taking a slice out of my ear while shaving. I staunch the flow of blood then hurry to collect together what I need for a day in London with a cycle ride at each end, then head off to Didcot on my bike.

The sky is clear and the sun bright enough to make me think that I will need to get my shades out soon - but the temperature has plunged, no doubt because of the clear skies, and there's a slight headwind, so the weather might look nice but it's not great for cycling. I wonder whether I will be able to climb Hagbourne Hill without changing down a gear or few - such a hit-and-miss affair, especially under load, that gear-changing is best avoided. By dint of getting up out of the saddle earlier than usual, I struggle to the summit, speculating about what I might do if the handlebars break as I pull against them.

Turning right towards Upton, a Citroen Picasso passes me where the driver has an inadequate view of the road ahead, and oncoming traffic forces him to cut in sharply. I shake  my fist at him but I guess he's oblivious.

Passing through the Orchard Centre car park, I am balked by a middle-aged couple (much older than me, that means) strolling down the cycle path, stopping to talk to someone. My horn has become too feeble to attract anyone's attention - perhaps time to invest in a whistle.

At the station it takes me precious minutes to free the lock I leave there and secure my bike (I forget to pass a lock through my helmet, and leave that just fastened round the cross-bar) while I listen anxiously to the announcement which concerns my train but of which I can only hear part. Buying a ticket from the machine, I dash for the platform and discover that the announcer was telling of a delay, putting my 11 o'clock in considerable doubt (I eventually make it just a few minutes late).

When I get out my BlackBerry to call the client, it immediately dies through lack of juice, and I have to travel to London without telecommunications. But, on points, it's still not a bad day ...

The day remains OK throughout my time in the office, though there are a few stressful moments: the good vibes even survive my attempt to run back to Paddington. Feeling confident that my plantar fascia would cope for at least a few miles, I remained ready to dive into one of the several tube stations on my route should the need arise. At Temple, although there have only been a few twinges, I decide enough is probably enough, and it would be prudent to let the train take the strain from here. In any event it will get me to Paddington in time for the 1930, which running won't - but it doesn't anyway, so the tube fare was a bit of a waste.

By the time I reach Didcot and unlock my bike it's freezing cold again - probably literally. I ram my helmet over the famous green hat and pedal hard - but the fantastic number of stars visible as I ride home mean there's nothing to keep any heat from escaping - from me as well as from the world at large.

I ice my foot as I eat dinner, as the effects of the run are beginning to make themselves felt, but when I wake after a fitful night's sleep the PF is really painful. Back to square one - all that tedious rest and the attendant cabin fever thrown away - though that was never previously what I thought of when I heard this song. Sorry the fantastic Dylan rendition from the Rolling Thunder tour isn't on YouTube, but Elvis is a pretty good substitute - maybe even better than the man himself on a Johnny Cash TV show which is on YouTube.

02 March 2011

Runnning Blue

Still crocked by plantar fasciitis - it's improving, with ice, rolling a massage thingie under my foot, and resting - I've had to find another way to get my running fix. A substitute for something that's already a substitute, perhaps ... My local (to the office) bookshop, the excellent Camden Lock Books, procured a copy of The Coolest Race on Earth (the coolest title ever for a book, too) by my new online friend John Hanc, which proved a pretty good second-best to going for a run. Unfortunately it leaves me with an irresistible urge to run the Antarctica Marathon (as my old friend Charles Stewart did a few years ago, immediately after his retirement), as well as to tick off the five continents on which I have not yet run a marathon and get to the magical 100 mark, all of them pretty unlikely when "rest" is the only running activity on the agenda.

I'd recommend John's book to all my running friends - which is most of my friends now - and probably a lot of non-running friends too. It's not just about running the Antarctica Marathon - the Last Race on Earth, as it was originally billed - but also provides a great deal of interesting background about the geography and history of the continent. And it's written in the wonderful, almost breathless, style that seems to me to be fairly typical of American authors of this sort of book - full of colourful similes, nice turns of phrase and cultural references - which I thoroughly enjoy. Being a teacher of writing as well as a practitioner, he knows what he's doing. Well worth getting hold of, even if it has to be imported from the US.