2020 Vision

IN WHICH WE HAVE MORE TANGENTS THAN A WHOLE SCHOOLFUL OF GEOMETRY BOOKS WHILST WE TEASE OUT THE OPTIONS FOR A BRIGHT, SHINY NEW YEAR, INCLUDING A BRIEF TREATISE ON THE PERILS OF MIXING UP ‘BONKING’ WITH ‘BONKING’…


Oh how tedious that blog title must read. How many editors (and sub-editors, and sub-sub-edi… yeah, okay, we get the picture… get on with it…)

Well, what I was going to do was carefully craft a piece all around that rather predictable title with a rather predictable post about what sort of ‘vision’ I was planning for 2020. I mean; the year demands such a thing, I believe. It’s a simple set-up. The ball has been tossed gently into the air. All I have to do is knock it out of the park.

Or something.

Truth is, I don’t really have a vision for 2020. I have some ideas; don’t get me wrong: I am not totally devoid of imagination. Au contraire. I never had a shortage of that commodity. But as raw materials go, it’s the sort of stuff that you need to build just about anything. What you do with it is the trick. It’s the oxygen for the fire. Or perhaps that’s a bad analogy (I can certainly think of better ones…) and in any case, can we get back to the main topic, please?

So, if we just limit this post to the sort of basic ‘out and about’ running, swimming, cycling’ sort of lark, what have you got planned for 2020, unironedman? Well, I’m glad you asked me that. (Insert suitable Jimmy Rabbite quote from The Commitments here. And if you don’t understand the reference, you must undergo a 24-hour crash course in Irish socio-economic life from about 1940 onwards, which will include questions about the immersion heater, going for the messages, and the importance of Gay Byrne and the Late Late Show).

commitments-bathtub-interview.jpg
The character Jimmy Rabbitte, played by Robert Arkins, from the film The Commitments.

There are a number of short-cut quizzes online, and while we can’t really endorse them as any true test of Irishness, nonetheless, you can get a sense of the craic to be had: here’s one such quiz… Come back to me in about a month when you are satisfied that you have a good grasp of what makes this country tick. I’ll still be here. Promise. But there may be questions. Just to warn you…

So, now we’ve got that out of the way, back to trivial pursuits. In simple terms, my only plan is to run the Royal Canal. It’s a sketchy plan at best, and at one end of the scale (the crazy end), I am going to run all 145kms of it in one sitting (or standing. You get the point). Or, I split it up into two days. Or, I actually thru’-hike it. Or, I cycle it.

As you can see, as plans go, it truly is sketchy. But I have to admit, I am tempted to run the whole thing in one go. The only questions then are: which direction, and what time to get going?

The only section that is actually dangerous (and by dangerous, I mean risk of mugging, assault and possible death) are a couple of sections near Dublin city centre. Therefore it seems wise to plan to avoid this stretch at ‘muggable’ hours. I don’t have a list of muggable hours, but I am guessing any self-respecting mugger probably does their best work at twilight. The direction issue is a factor here. Although I live about 11 miles from Dublin, and there are public transport options to get me home from there, I am more tempted to head the other direction and finish out by the Shannon. In fairy-tale terms, that would be ‘far, far away…’

But at least that way, if nothing else, I can dictate what time I leave Dublin. And given that the journey could take up to 30 hours with lots of rest and food stops, a parting time may be no bad thing.

Running the Royal Canal Greenway is essentially going from the east coast to the midlands. Or halfway across the country.

Perhaps inspired by the character of Jimmy Rabbitte (above) in the bath, I had my own soak in the tub and began to ponder the logistics. There is always something beautifully simple about running, as any runner will tell you. Which is why a little part of me dies when I see folks out doing the 5k parkrun clutching water bottles, with smartphones strapped to their extremities, listening to music. And yes, that makes me a running snob; guilty as charged. But popping on a pair of runners and slipping out the door for an easy 10k is what makes running so seductive.

Of course, this all flies out of the window when you start getting into endurance running, and especially unsupported solo running over long distances. We all know the mantra by now: we burn about 100 calories, on average, per mile. We have about 1,800 calories in the tank, on average, per runner. Ipso facto, we can run about 18 miles on a full tank before we run out of fuel and seize up, hence the Marathon ‘wall’. My American friends use the term ‘bonk’. A word of caution here: there are many words that made it across the Atlantic (and many more were gifted back in return), but not all kept their original meaning. Fanny is one such word. It’s an old English term for the lady parts (or vulva, if you prefer to keep things on a strict anatomical keel). And it also can be used (like the best vulgar slang) as a verb, as in: “stop fannying about and do some work”.

I appreciate that across the pond (the big one, as opposed to the Irish Sea), the fanny is the rather less vulgar term for your backside. And so you can see how mixing up those two meanings could have unintended consequences. Well, the same applies to bonk.

In America, when a runner ‘bonks’, they run out of gas. The needle is on empty. They’ve miscalculated their effort and they’re out of calories. In the UK (and by extension, but to a lot lesser extent, Ireland), if you are bonking, you are having sex. Incidentally, Googling ‘what’s bonking’ is guaranteed to raise a smile, as in ‘what does bonking feel like?’ And if you are a fan of Four Weddings And A Funeral, you will fondly recall this scene.

You can see how that word could be misconstrued (with potentially hilarious consequences). Though any runner who has ‘bonked’ (US) during a marathon will appreciate that there would no danger of bonking (UK) during a marathon. If you get me. I think we’ll, em… just leave that there, so…

Image result for what's bonking

So, back to lying in the bath and musing about calories, water and other matters pertaining to energy. I guess it just means wearing the mini water backpack I have, and a few other ‘fanny packs’ around my waist, and stocking up with the usual fare of gels and bars. And then planning stops at various pubs and cafés along the way. I don’t plan on making a meal out of it, but I do plan on having a few. (Who writes this stuff?)

Then the only other bit to work out is how clever it might be to be mooching along a canal towpath in the dark. Assuming we leave this adventure ’til the middle of Summer, we still have the guts of six hours of darkness to contend with. So there is a risk of falling into the canal, I suppose, what with casually-placed grassy tussocks, the odd mooring rope from a barge, and a large dollop of exhaustion. Not withstanding the use of head torches, which tend to hypnotically draw the runner’s focus into a very small, dancing pool of light; the sort of environment that allows for the mind to wander off without realising you are about to run into a parked car or a badger. That sort of thing.

What could possibly go wrong?

Apart from that bit of frivolity, I plan to get out on the bike a lot more, and get back into the pool (not at the same time, of course). All of which does suspiciously like a man shaping up for another tilt at triathlon. Which may indeed happen. But we shall see. There are many other demands on life at the moment, and in the general scheme of things, they are all more important.

I would love to get my parkrun time under 20 minutes, but that would require a lot of speed work, and as we discovered last year, long, slow running is not the ideal prep for a shot at such a target.

And so, my friends, enjoy the new year and whatever it may bring. As you have probably worked out by now, the year is one long extension of your Christmas morning present-opening extravaganza. There will be some gems in there. There will be some socks and jumpers too. And the odd electric blanket. Cherish them all. Hey, look. On the bright side, at least someone was thinking about you 😉

And they’ll all give you some comfort when the darker times arrive.

I commend this vision to the house!


P.S. 20/20 vision isn’t the ‘best’ eyesight marker. Check out this site, for example. 20/20 vision is really what we might call normal eyesight, or visual acuity. Amazing what you can learn with a little searching online.

P.P.S. The Irish for ‘vision’ or ‘dream’ is aisling. Just thought I’d add that in there…


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