Sunday, 28 September 2014

Two Blogs for the Price of One

Two of the sides of my existence are coming into close alignment...

So, the walking and running...

After the madness of a half marathon followed by a long distance path, it's been a week of gentle recovery and then off to the Isle of Man for a week of fun, visiting historic and prehistoric sites and as there was a long distance path... well it'd be rude not to!


It's a walk of two halves - the first half was near perfect walking; rolling hills, short sharp ascents in places and finished at a pub with a cracking burger! It's the Crosby in Crosby.   Then its road and trail walking all the way to Castletown... where I met up with some of the extended dickey ticker family (who treated me to tea!).

Home from the Island it was a rapid tour of Liverpool with the Icelandic branch of the dickey ticker extended family, and a quick hug with one of the Norwegian branches... Yes, my life is as mad as it sounds.

Then to a 10k, my plan was to just try and get round with minimal walking.  And I did, no walk breaks, just a solid plod.  It was 10 min slower than my PB, but I'm missing over 10 weeks of running, and all of my running since 1st Jan has been long-distance or prepping for long distance.  I also know I probably could've gone faster, but the confidence built up from running 3 or 4 times a week has also gone a bit.


Which is a nice Segway into the next part of the blog... Thursday is my annual check-up... the heart will be ECG'd and echo'd, I'll have a chat about things and I'm 99% certain that I'll be going back in a years time.  There may be another MRI somewhere in the next year, possibly some other tests (and I may even ask for an exercise test - not had one in a long time). 

The 1% is problem, that gnawing doubt that something may be lurking, that after almost 40 years something will have started playing up.  I don't feel anything wrong, but have too many GUCH friends who haven't felt anything before getting some bad news to put too much faith in feeling good.

So, the 1% will nag and gnaw - is the 10k pace solely down to not being as fast due to a lack training, and being heavier than I prefer to be? Is there something lurking... My body says that its the legs, the near perfect concentration on endurance events, and the lay-off.  But the 1% will always be there...

So, I will be twitchy, and I will be grumpy, and I will keep planning next year...

TTFN

Paul

Saturday, 13 September 2014

That was the walk that was...

I enjoyed that, I've a few blisters and the dull tiredness of someone whose done a lot. 

I said I'd need to gain a few extra miles to make it up to the hundred... I managed that walking to the starting pen of the GNR - we're now doing 15 miles... That's without the hike to the bus stop and back... The extras on the GPS come from route detours, of which there were two, and the walk to the hotel - which as its in Stanwick is on the site of one of the biggest Roman wall forts.

My poor little Fitbit ran out of juice for the last day - fortunately my lovely phone has a pedometer built into the chip so the numbers could be lifted...

On the GPS its 163.9 km - which comes out at 101.8 miles

On the Fitbit its 201.1 km - which comes out at 125 miles

Both mean I did what I aimed to - be in the run with a million finishers, and I was about 200 m away from the millionth person so saw the ensuing madness and also do a hundred miles in 4 days.
In pictures:



A warm GNR

 
One of very few bilingual stations in the UK



 
A classic view...

 
Wall!

 
Me & Wall!

 
Another Classic View

 
Sycamore Gap - proving Morgan Freeman wrong

 
The end of the day's rollercoaster

 
This is the view of the gorgeous Northumberland National Park from the highest point on Hadrian's Wall!


 
The Day got better

 
Almost too good

 
Carlisle tries...

 
A hammer...

 
The Solway plain



 
Finem ambula
 
 
Would I do it again - probably, but I'd spend a day doing stuff rather than the slog out to Bowness. Sorry Bowness, its not you its me honest ;-) I'd also probably detour to some of the other sites along the way. 

Would I recommend it - yes, but think about the number of days - the guidebooks have itineraries ranging from my 4 days, through to 8... Pick something that suits you...

As for adding the GNR - I'd not presume to recommend that additional fun.  But my caravan is booked for next year and there's St Cuthbert's or St Oswald's Ways to do in the same area... Yes, I'm planning 2015 already!

 My feet still need to soak, but other than that I'm in good shape... Just need to find the next challenge...

TTFN

Paul

ps all the pics were taken with that lovely phone of mine... Lumia 1520, you rock!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Day 5: Job done

Well, according to my guidebook the citizens of Bowness on Solway worry that they're being forgotten as a terminus of Hadrian's Wall... And to be fair if you don't have walker's OCD there's not a great deal to recommend this section - for me its 17 miles of unremitting tarmac and farm tracks is important but not essential.

But the day starts with end of Carlisle, and follows the Eden out, and out...  There's little evidence of the wall, the odd section of the vallum and reused stonework in buildings. But it isn't unpleasant, just not the same as the soaring challenges as the days before.



The main challenge was keeping focused to make sure I made the bus back - inconveniently early afternoon or late afternoon... My feet, and their few blisters, felt tired and started cramping - the toes of the right foot being pulled back in sharp contractions isn't conducive for good walking.

The honesty shacks were again welcome oasis' - though I do despair that one has to have CCTV due to the amount of pillaging!

Plod, plod, plod goes the walk, trailing through Port Carlisle and then the finish...



Job done...

I had half an hour to find a tea shop before my bus - and couldn't, even the pub seemed closed. I had the entire bus to myself, a limo in stagecoach colours all the way back to Carlisle.

I didn't buy the t-shirt, mainly because I didn't like the one in the tourist information... but it is on order (from the people who run one of the honesty shacks from the day before - http://www.itrod.co.uk/hadrians-wall.php)

The maps from the GPS will be uploaded soon, especially as endomondo had a fit... I'll add in the kit review and my usual bits and bobs.  But for now I need another long soak in a hot radox bath...

Wisi enim ad lectionem, quia ambulavit in septimanam

TTFN

Paul

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day 4 - brutality & honesty

That was tough... The rollercoaster of ups & downs at the start wasn't a gentle easing into a long days walking,

The day had already started oddly. The French backpacker in my room at the hostel seemed unaccustomed to communal living... Including sleeping on the floor & lying on my socks... And being most put out when I asked for them back! Personally, my socks should be banned under the Geneva Convention. Oh well, a little late and annoyed...

The wall is a frequent companion, and you really begin to wonder what the Latin for "But Sarge... " is as there are many point where the rules were followed, and the line kept straight when an easier line could've been followed...

As the hills flatten out, the walking becomes more of a leg stretch, steps become paces and something similar to a march begins. The tea shops are again lumpy in their distribution... But the café at Birdswold was perfectly placed for lunch, on through Banks feeling slightly odd that for the first time in the walkings of the wall I'm not staying at the camping barn. The barn is half way for the day in distance, and the start of easy walking... As it got hotter, the inevitable happened and I dropped my water bottle...

Bugger...

Being me I have a spare bottle, and one of the delights of Hadrian's Wall is the honesty shacks; tea, coffee, water, nibbles in either shacks with well needed tables or just a box...

Monies paid, water taken on board it's the push to Carlisle, over the M6 and through the bucolic Rickerby Park. A mild detour to the hotel, and as the gloom turns into night I order my room service, slump in the shower and smile...

When I walked this with now defunct dickey ticker walking club this was two days walking, and as one day it's brutal, and to be honest about 3 miles longer than I'd have liked... However, it was done, often with a smile, no detours to the airport, and with a sense that the injuries must truly be over, because otherwise this day would not have finished...

TTFN

Paul

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Day 3 - thinking, t-shirts & singing...

Saving the best to last is normally a good strategy... And the last 5km of the walking was some of the best walking around. It also, at times, was more staircases than strolling.  Up a crag, down the other side. Pause, slurp from my water bottle. See if there's a photo opportunity, then stroll up again...

But that's getting ahead of myself... The first 20 miles went well, long stretches of gentle walking. The tea shop distribution was very uneven, so morning tea & nibbles was rapidly followed by lunch... And then nothing until arriving at the hostel.

I was asked by a fellow hosteler what I thought about when walking such a long way... Everything, and nothing... I think back on other walks, especially those with friends no longer around, I prepare discussion notes for essays & talks (the details never stock, but the gist does & that helps) and I revel in the sheer joy of having my existence reduced to putting one foot in front of the other...

After explaining my background & why I do these things I got the 'do you think about your heart' question. And the honest answer is sometimes, not linked to anything, there's been no funny beats or inability to reach top gear so far (my speed has been dictated by my legs & feet) but like a constant companion it sometimes whispers - don't forget to buy the T-shirt at the end, you've a check up next month...

And the madness, even I when confronted with the ups & downs of steel rigg well resort to counting or in desperation singing, well caterwauling, 'one more hill' to a tune from Les Mis... I got funny looks from sheep & humans alike.

Ttfn

Paul

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Day 2 - there will be wall...

Well, the legs still work...

I started later than I like, I much prefer being up and out and walking by about 8, but getting to Wallsend & the queue in the post office to post my GNR stuff back to myself saw to that...

Hey Ho...

Day 1 is a stroll along the Tyne - the classic views of the bridges and then near silence... After Newcastle it gets quiet, miles go by with only the of cyclist or jogger passing by.

When I left the Tyne, and climbed to Heddon on the wall I'm afraid my bladder dictated a direct route to the pub rather than a detour to the wall remains there... Then it's undulations for what seems like every, the flights going into Newcastle airport my slightly noisy companions... The archeology is mostly lumps & bumps, with the occasional shaped stone appearing. Good enough to look at, not enough to take a photo of...

The pub can't be praised enough - I've never been confronted with two courses I couldn't finish... The nachos were larger than a sharing platter, and the gammon was huge... I'm almost hoping they tone it down for breakfast! Anyone thinking of doing Hadrian's wall, of just visiting could do worse than looking at robin hood inn:-)

Time to pack... & eat

Paul

Monday, 8 September 2014

GNR done, so time to start walking

The GNR is not the nicest half marathon course, it's crowded & packed... And yet, it's still up there as one of my favourite runs, because of the people...

There's the locals, who must clear the shelves of the local shops of oranges and sweets to hand out to us, the bairns who stick their hands out to be taped as you go passed.

There's the runners, the parts of the back and heartfelt 'keep going' when you slow. The shared experience forming a fleeting but deep bond.

And then there's my friends, the charity runners for CHF, MaxAppeal and related charities who know each other from meetings, events or Facebook. We run for a cause, and although we run for different aspects of it we are mostly family...

A 2:50 half is slow, but that's the first long run in 10 weeks, my feet held up, it was hot, and I enjoyed it.

So the warm up is done, time to stay walking:-)

TTFN

Paul

Monday, 25 August 2014

I am (not) Iron Man

I was called Iron Man by someone this weekend, mainly for the heart thing... To repeat something I've said before I've no intention of trying to do an Iron Man Tri - I may be mad, but... just but...

However, despite not being a dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr, not bring the correct personality type (as mentioned in an ACHA blog)  nor having a multi-billion budget, let alone a Pepper Potts to organise my life I would occasionally like a systems check from a Jarvis...

So, Jarvis - systems check

Yes Sir, top to bottom or bottom to top?

Let's start at the bottom...

Feet, within acceptable tolerances.

Ankles, left strong.  Right, residual weakness, may I suggest that you maintain the strapping


Recommendation noted - and accepted.

Calves - less strong than earlier in the year, Sir

That'll be two months off Jarvis...

Yes Sir, just ensuring you are factoring this into your calculations Sir.

Thank you Jarvis

Knees, surprisingly good for a man of your age and recreational activities. Thighs, similar to calves. Hip, slight tendonitis on the right.

An old injury, more like a friend these days, continue...

Core strength, within acceptable tolerances, but at the lower end - recommend restarting core strengthening activities

Agreed - Gym activities restart after GNR/Hadrian's wall...

Upper body strength, good - as evidenced by your holding some climbs you'd not have done recently

After a raise Jarvis?

More preparing you for the less good news, Sir. 
Ehh?

Well Sir, you could do with losing a bit of weight...

Agreed

Really Sir?
Jarvis, I've been doing endurance events, and been injured... If I didn't need to lose weight I'd be surprised.

There are times Sir where your logic is impeccable

Jarvis....

Your other issues Sir, well they are beyond my capabilities.

Thank you Jarvis - the cardiology check-up is October and the diabetes one should be November.

Very well Sir... Sir, what is your plan for the GNR?

Steady and controlled Jarvis.  I had hoped to be able translate the endurance work down with speed, but that hasn't happened. The plan will be to do it marathon style - 900m running, 100m walking and just tick them off..

And then the walk Sir, that walk which my databanks suggest most people do in seven days, and you are planning to do in four...

Jarvis, you're my butler, not my mother... For information, the only day that poses a significant challenge is Once Brewed to Carlisle... 27 miles. And as I'm staying in a bed, rather than camping, I have the luxury of arriving late and sleeping in comfort.

Comfort, Sir?

Relative comfort Jarvis.

Agreed Sir... Anything else Sir?

No Jarvis... I think that will do...   

So, systems check over - the climbing is going well, the running is getting there.  The injuries are clearing up and most importantly the passion is returning (not sure are auto-butler would pick that up).
TTFN

Paul

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Back to where it began... and a bit of a forward look

In less than a month I'll be going back to where it all started... Both the running and the long distance walking.

The Great North Run is one of those starting points that I would recommend to anyone, and yes one year they tried to suggest I shouldn't do it because of my heart condition, but they backed down when I reminded them I'd done it seven times...

Hadrian's Wall was first walked before it was a national trail, back in the days when the only stamps you were likely to get were from angry farmers as you cut through their fields.

Both, conveniently, are located in Newcastle (at least the start of the walk).

So, 13.1 miles to run

Followed by 84 miles of National Trail... in 4 days...

That'll be 21 miles, 22 miles, 27 miles and then with a nice almost symmetry 14 miles.

I'm sure I'll find the extra 3 miles to make it to the 100 miles. A ton in 5 days...

As the gang who walked it with me a few years back will know Hadrian's Wall isn't exactly flat.  But its not utterly brutal either. I just hope that the weather is a bit better...

Why repeat stuff? Even making it quicker doesn't change the fact that I've been there and done that... Well partly because its been such a good year (injuries excepted) and I want to celebrate it by doing something I know I'm going to enjoy.  There's also something important about doing things at least twice, to find out what's changed and whether the bits you enjoyed last time are still the best bits.

It's also an indulgence, a week off work to do something I love with no pressure.  This isn't a challenge in the sense that there'll be people waiting on my arrival at the end of each day, there'll be no medal for the full madness (the GNR had better give me one though!). I may buy the t-shirt though...

Oh, and this isn't a closing the circle of life thing - I'm carrying on afterwards... I have the glimmerings of two or three things for next year...

I've an anniversary in November that I intend to celebrate with some madness. Forty years since my surgery.  Which would suggest that 40 miles needs to be done, in one go... and maybe something climbing related...

For those who were expecting something about GUCHs showing off our scars, be patient...

TTFN

Paul


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Toughhearts 2014: A fixed point in space and time


That moves every two years…

The Eurohearts conferences exist in the hearts and souls of those who have been there, they occupy that special place between family and lovers and resonate with the hopes and fears of all of us.

Toughhearts 2014 in Baar, Switzerland was the latest of these fixed points, a week long opportunity to be amongst people who share something that normally makes us different, our heart conditions and the rest of the issues that these things bring.  We go from being unusual to being common, and that is a good thing every once in a while.

Toughheart 2014 was as innovative a conference as I can remember – a constantly updated website, a conference cocktail (one of many alcohol free ones designed especially for the hearty bar), a conference song and opportunities to discuss the tough things in our lives with some of those who have to tell us the tough things – the cardiologists themselves.

We got to tour Edwards’ Life Science’s heart valve plant, seeing the intricate care that is taken to hand sew the components together, hand sewn as no machine can sew the intricate 3-D shape as well. We visited Hell – or at least the caves leading to hell…

We did the politics we needed to, and chose the next venue for the conference… and the conference after that, and after that and after that…

The conferences are places where every emotion I heightened, the positives are euphoric and any downs are crashing – my advice to any who attend is that they spend some time readjusting after the conference, because from the Technicolor world the real world can seem very drab and black and white.

Every conference is tinged with the tragedies that are part of our lives, the friends who have died and those who aren’t as fit and strong as they once were. The conferences don’t shy away from these toughest of issues, but recognise them in our own way… The Greatest Football match in the world, which has now had its first proper injury, is where we remember and celebrate – and it was one of my greatest honours to lead the silent remembrance and the clapped celebration – and we play, for no greater reason than because we can.

The gala dinner is where we get to don our finery, talk in quiet corners, dance and thank the organisers – gifts from Europe and beyond were showered on the sexy, successful Swiss but most especially our gratitude and love. We wouldn’t have been there without them.

So it is back to the grey world of being normal, remembering that even with a toughheart it is possible to love and be loved.  And there is no greater point in space and time than that…

TTFN

Paul