Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ironman UK

Guys and Gals,

It took 12 hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds (if you're interested it was 1:02:35 for the swim, 6:29:26 for the bike and finally 4:31:27 for the marathon from hell).

The weather was atrocious and the Pros were posting times 20 minutes slower than normal. It was extremely windy, churning up the lake in one direction so I kept swallowing water (this must have kept me hydrated - every cloud....??). The swim course was very long and narrow, which had the psychological effect of making it look a very long way. And the very real physical effect of channelling 1600+ swimmers into a narrow space resulted in the entire first lap (about 30 minutes) spent being kicked, punched and swum over. Is the correct past tense swum?, it always sounds funny to me.

Anyway the winds meant the energy was sapped out of my legs by about 90 miles round the bike and the magic healing power of pepsi cola had to carry me the last 22 miles of the bike course. Oh yeah did I mention the course was hilly? The bike course was hilly. The course seemed to me to be morphing spontaneously as the race went along, hills got exponentially more frequent, steeper and longer as I progressed over the second and then third laps.

The run course was great. I don't even like running! It was a miracle I found I could actually run off the bike. In fact I was very glad not to be in the saddle as I just been 6 and a half hours in that position. The first 10 miles of the run were a dream, it seemed so easy. I was not going fast but I wasn't hurting as I imagined I would. The course took us through Sherborne town centre past crowds and through the castle grounds past more crowds - seeing people really lifted the spirits when the going got tough towards the end.

I kept eating and drinking disgusting sports gels, water, pepsi and pretzels at the aid stations. Miles 10 to 16 things started to hurt. I could tell I had been awake since 3:30am and I started to brood over all the rubbish little things that I tend to brood over. What they really need is someone at the aid stations to slap people round the face. This is what I picture as you go past....


"er, no thanks..."


"er, no thanks..."


"yeah baby"

Anyway this is just a passing thought.

Between miles 10 and 16 I had to have a little walk as my energy started to fade. I would go past the aid stations but that pepsi buzz could not quite carry me to the next one.

The final 10 miles were surreal. I had to walk and jog whenever I had any mental/physical energy left. This was when seeing the official Oxford Tri Club Support Squad in the crowd each lap really helped. A big thanks for showing up. Really.

Anyway with two miles to go I thought to myself something like

"two miles to go"

which lead to this rather foolish thought

"I'll try and jog this last bit and ignor my body. Yeah."

which lead to my left calf going

"Oi mate!! What do you think you're playing at? Thats it I've had it. Go find yourself a new leg"

my calf was very stubborn about this. I had to walk the last two miles.

The finish was amazing. It was so loud. Everyone was going absolutely nuts. It was great. I tried a smile at the finish and found my face muscles were still obeying me. I got the medal, a photo and was pleasantly surprised to find the good people at Ironman provide beer and curry in the athletes area.

Next year I think I will stick to half IM (or under) distance races . The way I see it is you can do half as much training. I'm pretty sure that most coaches and sporty types differ from me on this opinion. Or I might try something different altogether. Who knows.


xx James xx

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Pang

It has been said that humans have five senses - touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing. A recent episode of QI (actually its probably 10 years old as I saw it on Dave) informed me that we had many more. Some estimate that we have up to 21 senses. I won't list them all because I can't.

Here are a few I do remember, hopefully not so many that you get bored, loose interest, look out the window, chew your finger nails and finally begin to gnaw at your own fleshy bits just to see what it feels like.....

'Proprioception' refers to the ability to know the position of your limbs when your eyes are shut. Some think that more abstract senses exist - like hunger. There are senses that human physiology utilises but are not thought of in the classic, original five. Like heat or thermoception as it is known. Or balance.

Then it occurred to me that the brain is part of the body and capable of some very strange things. Do emotions count as senses? They guide our actions like smells and colours.

It has since occurred to me that most but not all the senses I can think of can be explained or described mathematically. E.g. hearing - sound has the Decibel unit; touch - pressure has the Pascal and PSI, vectors to describe movement, calories quantify hunger (tenuous as this really describes the cause of hunger but go with it).

This is heading somewhere. Promise. I think it is time we decimalise the sense of guilt. The unit I propose to achieve this completely irrelevant goal is the 'Pang'. We need to invent a sort of sliding scale. Possibly an exponential one like the Richter scale that describes earthquakes, where 2 is ten times as big as 1, 3 is ten times as big as 2 and a hundred times as big as 1, etc, etc.

Here goes:

1 Pang; would describe the general background guilt involved with living this far into the 21st century. It is an interesting fact that some people deal with this with ease and others don't. In fact some people deal with it too well and buy Hummers to pose in.

2 Pangs; try and think of you own now that I've got you started. I find being creative very time consuming and tiring. You could probably get some good 'your mum' stuff going on.

3 Pangs; see above

10 Pangs; ending up at something like how the blue whale felt at the end of its life when it discovered in its dying moments that contrary to widespread popular belief plankton are actually conscious sentient beings and did not think being digested along side hundreds of thousands of their close relatives was a favourable or satisfying way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Pointless ramblings of a lunatic

Have you missed me?

I have been drunk and dazed for four days and for some unknown reason everything in the middle of summer has made me tired and glum and grey. Pizza, a feeling of sweat and a strange sweaty-pizza-kind-of-a-smell is permeating my inner being.

Just the time to write a blog to confuse, amuse, and generally distract me from myself. How gorgeously pretentious.

Marmite in squeezy bottles. Sucks. Because I like Marmite. And because I like Marmite I like to be able to access the stuff. Once I have exchanged my hard earned dollar pounds for the happy, sticky, black, succulent devil-tar I want to eat it in mind-bogglingly huge quantities. I like it on toast, half an inch thick, so when you chew the skin of your soft pallet burns. The squeezy jars just don't work for me. After about two thirds of the way through the plastic jar starts farting and dispensing air. And happy, sticky, black, succulent devil-air on toast is not nice.

Now for the science bit. When you have a squeezy ketchup bottle you can give it a shake and ketchup will always obey the force you apply. It is sent obediently down to the bottom of the bottle, ready to be emptied over your low grade meat and rusk sausage. Marmite is an altogether smarter enemy. It is like it doesn't want to be eaten. You shake the squeezy bottle and the Marmite reacts with a stubborn amount of inertia and stays put. In the bottle. Not on your toast. The result is margarine on toast and a single tear running out of the corner of my eye at half past seven in the morning.

Boo the Marmite design engineers. Its not even like their glass jars were best shape anyway! How about tubes like toothpaste?? Huh?? You could even do the gimmicky push-button-style toothpaste tubes if you want to charge loads of dollar pounds. Brand identity blah blah blah. You suck. I wish you could still buy imitation Marmite but the supermarkets seem to have phased out that little puppy.

Now to fuel the whirligig of my mind-pool with some acid like white wine.

What has been good (or at least worth mentioning) recently...

Well C.S. Lewis seems to come in good forms (books and radio adaptations) and bad forms (Hollywood's 'Prince Caspian' and the better, but still wetter than a squid's ink diluted in a swimming pool that kids wee in, BBC 'Chronicles of Narnia' TV series).

Newsradio - American sitcom first introduced to me by the mighty Mat Lewis. So good I have watched over twenty episodes in two days. And I want more. And I could swear I have done binge watching of Newsradio before.

Ale in glasses with handles. And one-and-a-half-pint glasses.

Toothache. Ironically this has only occurred after seeing the dentist the last two times I have been. Last time my front tooth was chipped by the lady who polishes all the brown stains out of my teeth because I'm worth it. This time its my wisdom teeth slowly and painfully making their dash for freedom. Could it be that dentists are like those dodgy mechanics who drop a few nuts into your gearbox so that you come back again? Either way the only cure for the pain in full swing is whiskey held still against the gum for a few minutes. And tragically all I have for this affliction is single malt Isle of Jura. Woe is me.

Nagatha Krusti. Wow. Hold on, I'm not blowing anyone's trumpet here, let alone me own. Its just that last band practice Chris and Lenny had touchingly learnt my favourite song. They played "Black Leg Miner" for me as a sexy little treat. If you're unfamiliar with this tune it is an anonymous folk classic about strike braking miners and the terrible punishments visited upon them by the community..... And apart from that the Steeleye Span version from their first album is an AMAZING piece of music. You'll tap your feet. And your one-and-a-half pint glass resplendent with handle.

I am going to listen to it now.

Now people, that is my bestist audio object what I own. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I will happily make a CD of this for anyone who asks me. Even though this would be a terrific waste and the rest of the CD would have to be blank, or better still, would be that song over and over until you've gone mad.

It is good though.

I have handed in my notice at the bike shop.

Big whoop. But then again you don't care and probably shouldn't have read this far anyway.

I was suddenly very tired of doing it and have really, really, really worried about handing in my notice. My guilty feeling was compounded by forgetting to go into work last week. I know that sounds weak but I really thought I had booked it off. Anyway I mustered up the courage this morning and faced my boss with the attitude of a school boy caught in the act of being really very naught indeed, all red handed and red faced. Anyway, to be nice I will stay on till September.

Seriously, I woke up today dreaming of a confrontation with the aforementioned boss, thankfully reality was more mundane. The worst said was "you have left us in the sh___ really" which, although not ideal, I can deal with.

I think that when your job enters your dreams accompanied by a feeling of dread it is time to move on.

Anyway it seems that I'm writing this all backwards so how about a little description of what working in a bike shop is (soon was) like. Ok? Yay.....

Now I love bikes. I mean I really like them. I think they are the pinnacle of human engineering thus far. I see beyond the function and form, and on to the affect on mind and body and soul. I am in touch with the world immediately round me in an intimate way for miles and miles via my bike. They are simple, efficient and using one will keep you young, fit and able to deal with most things for a long time. So you see they are a passion of mine.

Just setting the scene OK?

Now I am not the most practical of fellows (like my phraseology?) so mending stuff has never been my forte. Wow, I just made me being a bit 'cack handed' sound sophisticated. Anyhow I got a job in a bike shop mainly because it would train me to fix and assemble bikes. And it paid more than the Star - but thats not saying much (oh er.. I still want a job if your out there Andrew/Rob). And over and above all this it would encourage me to drink less. Well here is the rub:

I am miserable. I'm drunk as ever (yes drunk right now and even writing this is becoming tricky, so god bless the spell checker). I am still untrained and unskilled in any practical way. I have shown no real affinity for learning the art of setting up gears, straightening wheels or any real hands on stuff. I simply haven't had time to learn every single bike sold and their corresponding 1000s of accessories, or how to fit them, or how much they cost or the myriad of other things I need to do to work there properly. All in all I have found it eye opening, humbling and I have renewed respect for the mechanics and staff of bike shops* generally. But it is not for me.

Forcing myself to get up to work on saturday mornings is bad, bad, bad after a few months. Trying to describe what this is like on top of a self imposed training regime that sometimes brings you happiness and sometimes does not is tricky. Lets just say I am actually really, really tired right now. This is periodical, interspersed with immense energy, vim, vigour and optimism. And sometimes all vim and vigour leaves you. Well me anyway.

Next I want to try my hand at A-level biology tutoring now because I think I could do it well and get paid loads. Hmmmmmmmm. I wish my tooth was hurting because I need an excuse for that Isle of Jura.

Anyway just so as not to end on a downer........

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I did. Jokes on you.

* this applies to all bike shops, except 'Bicycle King' on the Cowley Rd. These people don't sell bikes but misrepresent the word 'bicycle' with hunks of junk made to look good for a couple of minutes and then rust for eternity. I hate them and all they stand for.

Monday, 11 February 2008

What I do at lunch once I've eaten lunch.

Errrrrrrrrrgh! Not that. Pervert.


I am listening to the drunk, spoken word/beat poet stylings of Mr Tom Waits whilst staring out my window. It is an impossibly yellow hue on a sunny January day and (contrary to what you may now be thinking) I'm not actually a sixth form poet. Granted I couldn't actually spell the previous sentence without my automatic spell checker going nuts. Who cares? You wouldn't have known unless I admitted it. Now try to guess which word I struggled with. This is a little tactic I'm employing to make reading more fun - I'll tell you what it was at the end. See? - now you have something to look forward to.

Recently my spelling has gotten worse. I'm not sure how to combat this. And every time I type the word "the" I end up typing "th" and putting the "e" at the beginning of the next word. Every time. Its bloody infuriating but I can't stop doing it. (Nice child friendly curse back there). And No. I won't type slower. How can I excrete my consciousness out onto the page if I have to think about coordinating my motor skills too? Huh? Can't be done. By me anyway.

Anyhoo my life is coming together. Rather like a plan drawn up by th eA-team (see!).

I sleep better now I no longer work night shifts down the beer mine. Which means I can wake up easier. And I'm finding that waking up is generally useful. This won't affect you the reader in the least. But this blog is about feeding the self-obsessed side of my personality so I don't care. Me, me, me.

Real time news flash: I just saw someone drop what looked like an architect's plan out of a window four floors up from the building opposite mine. I'm going to see how long it takes her to fetch it.

If she fetches it.

Can you tell I'm bored? Brain the size of a planet you see. I bore easy.

(Long temporal event here)

She isn't going to bother.

It was 'impossibly'.

You had probably guessed right. It was the only sensible candidate because all the other words were quite short (I also would have accepted "stylings" as I had to add that to my dictionary).

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Adverts from the telly n that

Here are a couple of adverts that I think are worth a mention. When you examine them you realise that the underlying message is actually a bit twisted. I know this is nothing new. Ooooooooo thats an evil way of selling something!! has been pointed out a million times but these two take the biscuit...........

1. The Kleenex advert

This advert consists of lots of different people being lured onto a blue sofa in the middle of a random street with the inticing words "fancy a chat" being uttered by the Kleenex man. It shows close ups of these saps engaging with the Kleenex man and they're all smiles and chatty. Then it shows them starting to get a bit emotional. And the Kleenex man is right on hand to give them a tissue. Thus pointing out the purpose and usefulness of thin sheets of paper that have been balm coated. Fine and good.

Cue slogan "Let it out" written accross screen and the advert ends.

Then I got to thinking about what was meant to be happening. This Kleenex man was taking random people, clearly of a slightly fragile disposition and making them cry. Kleenex man is obviously very good at manipulating people. He knows just what buttons to press that can break a person down in a short space of time. The bastard. Not a person I'd want my product associated with.

2. The Toyota Yaris advert

This advert is basically glorifying revenge as something aspirational. It tells the story of a woman who breaks her boy friend's model plane because her boy friend recently shut the door of her car using his foot. (He was using both hands to carry something heavy for her at the time).

Now what is their selling point hear?

Our car is bought by the petty demograph. The kind of folk who have OCD. The kind of people who bear a grudge against a kind person for an act that had no consequences anyway. What were they thinking?

Right. Rant over.

FYI to make myself feel better I installed a CD player in my office at Brookes this afternoon. I listened to "Paint a lady" by Susan Christie and everything was OK. Instantly. Even though I was at work. Ahhhhhhhhhh. (That is an expression of how soothing the song was and not "Ahhhhhhhhhh" in pain or anguish as it could be interpreted). If you also want to hear this amazing bit of music then beg or borrow (I don't endorse theft) a copy of Folk is not a four letter word, Vol 2. Selected by Andy Votel. I promise you will not regret any effort spent in tracking this down. Unless you have no soul. In which case you probably work in advertising.