Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Journey

I love this TED Talk.  It's Diana Nyad, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Watch it.


There are two things that I love about Diana Nyad and what she says here:

Firstly, it is her views on age. She has that telling line about being 64 but being in the prime of her life.  This fascinates me.  We conditioned to think that we should be at a certain stage at each decade of our life.  We think that there is an inevitability about this.  I am a sucker for this:  I apologise to my colleagues for being a middle aged man.  I assume that after the Arch 2 Arc I will go into decline gracefully having had a few good years doing odd endurance stuff.  But then I listen to Diana Nyad and I think "fuck it, I'm not giving in to this age stuff.  No one is going to tell me what I should and shouldn't be doing at certain age."  If  growing old were inevitable, why hasn't that voice in my age, that essence of me, ever grown old?  He's still 15 and until he starts maturing then I don't see why I should.  I read this great article in the Times a while back that debunks all these myths we have built around us about ageing.  Research has shown that the perceived wisdom that we begin to lose muscle mass once we hit 40 is nonsense.  The article quotes a study which examined muscles of amateur athletes who trained 4 to 5 times a week.  Guess what, if you exercise they don't decline and some muscles, notably in the shoulder and body actually generate more power as you age and are slower to tire out.  The only reason why we lose muscle mass is because our received wisdom told us to put on a pair of slippers, get out a pipe and sit and moan at the 10 0'clock news once we reach the age of 50.

Secondly, I love this description of her challenge as being a journey. I really relate to this.  When I finished my last can of Stella on November 22nd 2000 and began to train for the London Marathon, I saw that Marathon as a goal - an end.  But it was not to be.  I finished the marathon and my wife asked me what I was going to do next.  She was worried I would return to the endless lash of pubs and off licenses. Instead I said one of the few, if not only, profound things that I have ever said: "I don't think that is the end, I think that is just the end of the beginning".  13 years later on and I am on the cusp of attempting the Arch 2 Arc.  13 people have succeeded so far  - one more person than has stood on the moon, and I have a chance of succeeding.  But it has been the journey that has been so astonishing; the landmarks and achievements along the way.  Lots of setbacks, lots of pain, but always incrementally moving forward and moving closer.

I guess I just need to make sure that the journey continues afterwards...

Thursday, 13 February 2014

January Training

Okay, so January has come and gone.  That will mean that at the time of writing, I have eight months left to get myself in a position to run the 87 miles from Marble Arch to Dover, swim the Channel and...well actually if I get that far I will definitely cycle the 180 miles from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe.

The main highlights were an inordinate amount of swimming - that will be a theme that will run throughout the next few months - and the Country to Capital 45 mile endurance run.  Country to Capital is an event I do each year.  It starts at Wendover, weaves its way through the countryside and some very posh areas of the Home Counties, before joining the London canal system which leads to the end at Little Venice.  I normally do the run in about 8 hrs 20 to 8 hrs 30 minutes and I surprised myself this year by, once again, doing just that.  I am always left feeling slightly cheated because I kid myself that I can do the event quicker were it not for an inevitable meltdown at some point along the course.  This year it was just before the canal at Denholm.  Last year I tried to pull out of the event at Checkpoint 2, 24 miles in. (I was ill that year).  The first year I have no recollection of the last 5 miles at all as I drifted close to unconsciousness and was only pulled back from the brink thanks to vast amounts of midget gems and jelly babies force fed to me by my then new friend Richard.  I have learnt a lot from meltdowns; the main thing being that no matter how godawful the crisis is, you will, given some food and a small rest, bounce back.  It is this knowledge that has stopped me pulling out of many events on many occasions. Sermon over.

So, an okay month.  My base fitness is good and the main challenge apart from a family and full time job is how to fit enough decent running in whilst concentrating on the inordinate amounts of swimming that I must do to cross the Channel.