Fool, fool, back to the beginning is the rule.

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So, back in 2010 my brother said to me, “do you fancy doing a marathon?” Neither of us had ever really run before, and the one he emailed to me – the inaugural Kielder marathon – was a nightmare of hills and October chilliness a mere six months distant.

Of course we did it.

After that, though, I stopped running so much. There were a string of things that factored into it – work, stress, hospital visits, headaches, weird medication side effects – but mostly I just stopped. I lost a lot confidence in my ability to do things post-collapse, and running felt like too much of a struggle. I don’t just run slow. I run kind of ugly, too. I bob up and down when I should be going forward, and my left leg does this weird thing when I get tired and kicks out behind me, which Lisa thinks is hilarious. At almost five and a half hours to get round the marathon, it felt easier to just not bother.

I started again this morning. As you can expect after a three-year hiatus on distance running, It was not pretty. In all honesty, it wasn’t a hell of a lot of fun, either. My ipod is hiding somewhere in the house and my digital watch has died, so I spent the entire distance counting in my head. Counting.

I need to find that ipod.

To try and spur things on I installed a tracking app on my phone. I can’t get Zombies, Run!, because the new version won’t install on my HTC Desire, because Orange won’t upgrade the OS. I should sit and install it myself, but I’ve already had to format my phone once (oh yeah – to my friends reading this: if I had your number before, I probably don’t now – text me please!) and I feel drained at the thought of installing everything from scratch.

I went with MapMyRun instead. First impressions? Not too bad, although the pace counter is a little bit twitchy. At one point it clocked me as doing 21 km/h which I’m pretty sure is an anomaly. Also, I don’t mind ad support to make things free but it’s a bit heavy on the full-screen pop-ups. If anyone has a decent alternative, feel free to let me know.

I also re-started my Fitocracy account. Will it stick this time? I dunno. We’ll see how I do.

The exciting adventures of Failboat Mackenzie-Flumpkin.

I am not enjoying the hot weather.

Well, that’s not strictly true.  I’m not really getting the opportunity to enjoy the hot weather.  Hot weather, it seems, is something that happens when I have my back turned, or I’m standing in an air-conditioned lab for the best part of the day.  I get a good look at it, and other people’s enjoyment of it, on my hour’s commute in both directions.  Even with air conditioning, it’s still a sticky, uncomfortable drive.

That said, I’m not a hot weather person.  I can lounge comfortably indoors reading, or writing, or talking, or watching movies, or whatever.  Outside in the sun, I just fidget and wonder how long I have to endure it before I can go back inside.

Whenever I go to the beach, the fact that I’m going to the beach always comes as a surprise to me and thus I always arrive inappropriately attired, usually in jeans and wearing the wrong shoes – the last time was in Italy, on a shining stretch of pristine golden sand that I looked out over and thought to myself, “brilliant, I can go barefoot” and promptly burnt the soles of my feet on.  I should have known better, especially after climbing the tower of Pisa and discovering that standing on the sunward side of all that shining marble was like stepping into a solar furnace.

I want to go out for a run, but I daren’t do it while it’s still so hot out – I learned my lesson from the Hull 10k.  I might have to go to the gym later instead and set my alarm clock for an early-morning effort tomorrow.  After being ill for a fortnight, I’m way behind on training and if I don’t push myself now then next month’s 10k races will be dismal, and the half-marathons will be murder.  The marathon itself looms insurmountably in the distance and if I think too hard about it I start to panic a bit.  Hopefully Alistair and Nigel are getting on better with their training than I am.

That’s enough of that.  I am not going to be maudlin about it again.  That marathon will bend its knee before me, come hell or high water.*

Also, I am halfway through editing my novel about witches, which means that now half of it doesn’t suck as badly as it did a month ago.  Woo and, indeed, yay.

*Sod’s law dictates the latter may be an eventuality since it’s a trail round a lake.

My collection of rare, uncurable diseases! Violated!

Awful session at the gym tonight; not sure what that was about.  Perhaps I’m not quite over my cold yet, or maybe I just went a bit too hard at the start.  Either way, I think the most apt and quantitative description of my efforts this evening is crappy crappy crap crap.

On the subject of lyrical and masterful use of the English language, I had an idea for a short story this morning, which I may write up for the Bridport Prize.  Hell, I’m going to write it anyway, and I should probably think closely about what sort of market I should be pitching it too.  I’ve been submitting willy and, indeed, nilly all over the place and it has done me no good whatsoever aside from filling up my email inbox with rejection notices (which, surprisingly, aren’t quite as damaging as I expected them to be – I fully imagined the sensation would be akin to being crushed in a press with every fresh rejection but thankfully it’s just kind of “meh”).

So, I’m not going to go too deeply into what the story is, except to give you the high concept movie pitch version of it (as suggested by my friend Mark – credit where credit is due).

Ready?

Think The Good Life meets The Wicker Man.

Already I’m conjuring up images of an old Felicity Kendal entering a taurobolium, being showered with the blood of a sacrificial beast, and emerging…renewed.  I think that’s a fantastic reason to harness the dark blood magicks – increasing the world’s Hot Felicity Kendal Quotient is a prime motivator for any (and all!) budding darke wyzardes.

I’ve also got another story in mind, a much shorter one, about a Kelpie.  As the Wiki notes, the Each Uisge is probably the more apt for a tale set in the Scottish Highlands, but I remember reading about Kelpies, dammit, and Kelpie it’s going to be!

Anyway, roll on the weekend.  I’ve got lots of writing to do (and cleaning!)

It’s what’s for dinner!

So despite this whole marathon thing, I still really like cross-training.  I know I should be out on the road more working on that actual running thing (first 10K race is on the 9th!) but I’m still not back up to a level of fitness that I’m happy with and the gym gives me a bit of a helping hand.

For starters, it means I can work on incline running.  This place is pancake flat, and although there’s a reasonable swell heading out the west side of the town, it’s a path next to one of the main roads and I fancy training without having an asthma attack into the bargain.

Following that, I know what I’m like with regards to overtraining.  I’ve injured myself several times in the past doing completely avoidable things, like injuring my left calf muscle – I wasn’t drinking enough water (I guess) and it seized up on me while I was on a rowing machine maybe eight or nine years ago, now I have to spend five minutes stretching it before every workout to make sure it doesn’t try to leap up under my knee again.

Between that and the rest of the twinges and aches that remind me of the bloody-minded stupidity with which I previously approached fitness, I’m taking the long view with regards to building things up.  Lots of low-impact interval work on the bike and stepper and the ever-joyful 900 calories per hour painfest that is the rowing machine gives me the range to keep building up my general fitness without pounding all my joints to dust.

I will do more road miles.  Just not right at this minute.

On a side note, I made spaghetti carbonara for dinner.  It’s the first time I’ve ever made it and I considered looking up a recipe until my brain kicked in and said “it’s eggs and cream, dumbass, just cook the damn thing“.

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I still don’t understand the instructions on the dried spaghetti you get in the UK, though.  It suggests boiling the spaghetti for 11-12 mins, when 6-7 is more than enough.  I can’t imagine what it must look, feel and taste like with an extra five minutes in it.

A kilogram a week.

Which is what I’ve gained in the past fortnight, giving me a BMI of 20.  Really I should measure myself at several places (thigh, waist, chest, upper arm, isn’t it?) and track changes that way, but a quick step onto the scales after showering at the gym is enough for me at the moment.  I’m not expecting or attempting radical changes in my body shape so I doubt that all the effort would result in anything spectacular.

Still, I’m feeling noticably fitter (although this morning I have a headache again; this one I blame on sun shining down onto my face while I was trying to sleep).  I did some weight training last night, and while the weights were nothing startling, I found myself able to lift/press/pull/etc a lot more than I was capable of at the start of March.

So what are the goals?  I need to work on that I think.  Unless I have some sort of structure to things, I’m just going to keep meandering round the gym doing this-and-that and find myself plateauing extremely rapidly.  I’ll have to think of something to aim for.

Do you have goals when you exercise?  What are you, dear reader, aiming for?
EDIT: One gym class and some lunchables (scrambled eggs and toast!) later, headache has evaporated.  Thank Christ for that.

The Worst Workout.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with rowing machines.  I was first introduced to their use as training equipment by a friend who was a rower, and he was so very keen that I felt almost obliged by his enthusiasm to give it a shot.  His suggestion was that I try doing a 3k race, with the aim of getting a split time of 2min/500m, so just 12 min total time.

For 12 minutes, it’s hard going.  It’s not a relaxing experience.  I would find myself trying to arrange my workouts round the 3k because if I started with it, I ended up going full out and wouldn’t want to do anything after it and if I left it too late in the session, I had to lie down on the floor next to the rowing machine because I felt too dizzy and sick to stand.  There have been a few times that gym staff have been concerned enough at my post-rowing state to come over and make sure I’m not going to pass out.

In recent years, though, as my fitness and motivation waned, I cut out the rowing.  I just couldn’t face it and, to be honest, the thought kind of scared me because I knew that a) I found it hard going when I was fit and b) I was no longer fit.

Last night I thought I’d try my hand at a 3k race, just for the hell of it.  I started with 20 mins of cycling to warm up, stretched, and then went for a row.  I was going to type something along the lines of “wasn’t too bad” or “I did OK” but again following the spirit of total honesty in this, the last 500 m felt like I was going to spit out my lungs.  I had forgotten how insanely painful it is when you hit that last 750m and you just start going for it because this is your last chance to make up for all those seconds you’ve lost on the middle section.

In other news I’ve been up at 6.15 twice this week for 7 am Body Pump classes.  I upped the weights this week, and although I reckon I could stand to put a little more on the bar, my elbows have been complaining about the lack of a thorough warm up, so it can wait another week before I start attempting anything heavier.