We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job.
9th February, 1941
Okay, a quote from Churchill is perhaps an odd way to start a blog post, considering this is a blog about running, triathlons, and generally having a mid-life crisis that doesn’t involve sports cars or bad haircuts. There’s a reason… stick with me here.
This last week is, I suppose, a taper week. As Jim of Fit Recovery would say, “I’ll taper when I’m dead“. Which seems a bit hardcore for me. Plus, I’m a bit of an eejit for a plan, not least when it’s printed out and stuck on the ‘fridge. This gives it added legitimacy, or something. The printed word has always carried a bit more cred than the online alternative. Which is why we still shell out for a newspaper but don’t peep over the pay-wall for the web equivalent. And this despite a plethora of devices knocking about the house on which to read it. Anyway, let’s not digress. Or, at least, let’s not digress any further… Tapering. Yes. We taper here at unironedman.
This week I got out running five times and clocked up about 46k. That’s not a bad week, all told, but next Saturday I will have to do more than that in one sitting. And by sitting, I mean… yeah, we get the point. The Donadea 50k is on, and this is the first time I can recall really worrying about the back marker. Sure, there was a cut-off in the Hardman, but it was generous enough, and with the amount of athletes who pulled out at various stages due to the weather and exhaustion, the organisers were understandably generous with these times. Though from memory I don’t believe anyone came in after the official cut-off times. That’s mainly because quite a lot didn’t make it that far, but that’s for another day. With Donadea, the sweeper is always there, right behind you. Waiting for you to falter. I don’t think it’s quite Stephen King-esque in that they shoot you if you drop below the pace (or perhaps a version of Speed with Keanu Reeves where your timing chip is also an explosive device… hmmm, now there’s a sport!).
I’ve done as much as I can do now. Next week will be fairly easy, and then it’s all guns blazing for the big one. Well, by blazing, I mean just a tad under 6 minutes per kilometre, which I would normally find too slow in training. But this is my first ultra-marathon, and to paraphrase a running mate of mine, you must respect the distance.
The other noticeable thing about running of late is that the days are getting longer. Now, let’s not be pedantic. We know the days are of course the same length. But, to put that in Irish parlance, there’s ‘a grand stretch in the evenings’.
Whilst I enjoy the night runs, there is so much more ‘stuff’ you need to consider. The whole ‘throw on a pair of runners and get out for a quick spin’ is just not possible when it’s close to freezing, and you need to carry fire service alerters, radios, watches, flashing lights, bibs, head torches… I won’t really miss the night runs, though I did have a close encounter with a badger this week in the park, and that’s always fun.
I am slowly getting through a few of those Winter projects that I always have on a never-ending list each year. The garden is always on this list, but there was a more interesting one this time around. I needed to get all my good wood-working tools together and make some leather pouches. So most evenings of late I have been sitting in front of the TV, cutting and stitching leather.
The four pouches are finished now, so my spoon-carving gouges, chisels, knives and wood-carving tools are all snug and safe.
Kristian of MDS Challenge is also on the final leg of an epic journey. He is taking on the Marathon des Sables in about 60 days. It really is quite the adventure, and we wish him the very best. He’s well up for it, too, if his training diary is anything to go by, and if I could borrow his legs next Saturday, I’d have no worries about the sweeper. In a recent blog, he linked to a rather excellent post called I Hate Running, and you can read it here.
Many runners will identify with much of this sentiment. As with the act of running itself, you will laugh, you will cry and you will find enlightenment. Okay, perhaps I’m over-selling it a bit, but head over and give it a read. It’s a short enough piece. You will pause to question your own relationship with running, I suspect. If like me you occasionally feel like you are actually a slave to the sport, then you too my friend are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Are you running, or is running running you? Are you free to run whenever you wish, or are you a hostage to running? Do you sometimes wish you could just stop running, sit down, and have a fag and a beer? That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong. Well, there’s nothing REALLY wrong, per se. Just try and avoid going down the rabbit hole. Or drinking the Kool-Aid. And by this I mean getting too caught up in the minutiae and missing out on the big picture.
The most recent device I saw in a magazine is a drinks bottle and foam roller COMBINED! I mean, what the feck is that all about? When would you ever need to use a foam roller and then have a drink, but be so disorganised (or out in the wilds) that you couldn’t have a drink in the normal fashion. This is a classic case of solving a problem that doesn’t exist. But it obviously sells and some mugs are buying. And if you’re one of those mugs, please get in touch below and tell me how indispensable this thing is in your training routine. I know I have two foam rollers behind the couch somewhere, and so many water bottles they occasionally fall off the shelf in the pantry and threaten to do damage to my toes.
There’s an awful lot of crap out there for the gullible fitness freak. I know, because I have quite a lot of it. But I think I have halted the slide.
And finally, some gratuitous Holly pics for dog fans.
My son put his PLO scarf on Holly the other day, and she was rather pleased with herself. She also pops in to the office sometimes, not least when I am swearing at the computer. It’s a nice therapeutic interlude, and brings my blood pressure back to normal. She will often jump up on my lap until I have settled down. Clever dog. Most of the time.
Happy training. And step away from the bargain bin… you don’t need any more gear!