To-do list

Kim and I are possibly / probably / undoubtedly weird [delete as appropriate] and one of the signs of this is that we prepare a Weekend Task list.  This might include good tasks such as sculpting or going to the cinema, but more often consists of chores to be actioned.  Bleaching and treating the mould in the shower room is a frequent one, as is cleaning the stainless steel in the kitchen, cleaning the glass on the wood burner or taking rubbish to the tip.

I’m guessing that this in itself is not highly abnormal, but the relish with which we then attack the list surely is.  And the delight in crossing the chores off when they are complete.  

This last weekend, one of the chores that was added to the list after it had been completed and ceremoniously crossed out again, was sorting out the gazebo.  The wooden structure outside my study window, with its honeysuckle creeper and bamboo-cane roof, looked really pretty, but it was covered in green lichen and the bamboo canes were well past their best.  

Kim half-jokingly suggested I tackle it and instantly had second thoughts… but too late.  Within a short space of time the roof was off and the cross-members detached.  MUCH later, the structure was reassembled, cleaned and treated but sans roof.  Whilst this was primarily because the roof had fallen to bits upon removal, I was also interested to see the effect it would have on my office.

I can report that, what was the coldest, darkest room in the house is currently flooded with sunlight and is passingly warm… I suspect the roof will not be replaced!

Two other things on the list that did not get done on the weekend were a run and the writing of the blog… the latter is clearly in progress (will have been finished if you are reading this) whilst the former was dispatched earlier this morning.

I was not feeling much like a run, but Daren pitched up at 7.30am so I had little choice.  It’s always great to run with Daren as he favours a ‘chilled out’ speed, ideal for conversation and enjoying the scenery.  We headed out via the Royal Oak to Wivelsfield, south through West Wood and then followed an arc around to the south of the town onto Wellhouse Lane.  Crossing Ockley Lane  we went past the water tower to the railway line then north back the the house.

The 6.7 miles took us one hour, five minutes, a respectable 6.2 mph bearing in mind we were aimlessly chatting as we went.

I’ve been suffering from hay-fever lately so it was also good to find some more nettles to grasp… I still can’t categorically state that the old wives tale works, but I can report that it makes your hands tingle (even now) and it most certainly amused Daren!

Wednesday run

One of the great things about getting up at six every morning coming out of winter was watching the dawn break earlier and earlier.  Now when I get up it’s already light and this morning was clear and bright and spring-like.  From inside, at least.  Outside, there was a keen edge to the wind which made me change my Rono long sleeve top for my Gore jacket at the last minute.  The super-soft Rono under-layer stayed firmly in place, as did the shorts… my token gesture to acknowledge it’s slowly getting warmer.

The aftermath of my Sunday run was not pretty… the back end of Sunday and pretty much all of Monday were spent energy-less… stuffing verily knocked out.  However, Daren encouraged me to run this morning so out I went.

The first thing I noticed was that it was not as cold as I’d thought.  I followed the same route as March 8th, being Royal Oak, Wivelsfield, West Wood, Industrial Estate, Magical Path, Common back and en-route came across Lew standing in his back field supping coffee.  If I was a serious runner I would have waved and carried on, but I’m not.  People are far more important and so we stood & chatted for a while over his garden fence, if that’s what he calls it!  I was glad I had worn my jacket, standing chatting.

En route back I realised why it had seemed warmer… I had been running with the light wind.  With it in my face across the Common it was way colder and once again the protection of the jacket was appreciated.

Mud-wise, the ground was springy, firm and beaten flat, with a small amount of surface mud from the rain yesterday.  I’m sure I’ll find a lot more mud as the Spring develops, but I had brushed off the caked-on mud after my Sunday run so at least today my uppers were clean.  Ish.

The 5.2 mile route took me 55 minutes, somewhat longer than on the 8th, but I had stood chatting for a while… if it was longer than 5 minutes, which I suspect it was, then I’m running faster than I was then.  That makes the exertion of Sunday more worthwhile.

Long on resolve

After a late and boozy evening in London on Friday night, and a freezing walk home from the station, Saturday dawned bright and sunny.  One of the great things about having your own sun-trap is that it’s possible to sit outside on otherwise quite chilly days and since the sculpture that I had started last year was calling to me, I sat outside and tapped away for a while.

Within an hour or so I had shed fleece, socks, sweatshirt, T-shirt and jeans in favour of an old pair of shorts, it was that warm, although I had to put more clothes on to cut the grass as the micro climate did not extend more than a few feet away from the house.

An hour of sculpting turned into four or five in the end at the end of which the still-really-unfinished piece returned to the house as polished as it had started, just a little lighter!

This morning I would have been quite happy to replay the whole of yesterday, maybe just sitting quietly reading in the sun, but the longer you don’t run, the more difficult it is to persuade yourself to go.  So on went the running shorts and my caked-in-mud trainers and out I went into another chilly, but bright morning.

Oh boy, it was hard running down the road!  Neither mind nor body were totally enamoured by the idea, and it was a good ten minutes before I managed to put those feelings behind me.  By then I had run down towards Oldlands Mill, with the loose goal of running into Ditchling and back again.

Ditchling Beacon is on the other side of the village and I was not entirely surprised to find myself running towards it, feet following well-run paths, almost before I realised what was happening.  

I always think of the climb as a test of resolve, something which is a really useful attribute when you run your own company… and especially one that specialises in change management.  I make myself run every last step to the very top… people must think I’m mad!

I think that one day last year I made the top in 45 minutes, so to get there in 52 was pretty pleasing bearing in mind how little running I’ve been doing. 

I then retraced my steps home again, pausing only to take a couple of photos of the view, making it back in one hour 42 minutes… pretty much 6mph for the 10.25 miles.

That’s the first long run since December, which is pretty appalling, but maybe now I can get back into the swing of things!

Monday Mirth (and legs finally out)

Last weekend was a little jam-packed for a run.  We made the most of the weather on Saturday by spending it clearing winter out of the garden.  I scarified and cut (and scarified again) the grass, cut out dead wood from shrubs where appropriate and moved the pots back out from their winter shelter.  Kim, meanwhile, patiently excavated the huge and complex root of an old philadelphus, thus finally removing this once pretty, but long overgrown shrub from sight.

Knackered and ready for a G&T, I then substantially modified a storage cabinet that I had created for my study on Friday night.  The cabinet, which includes a simple distribution board to hide the myriad of plugs & cables and a home for the computer box, is now installed and working in a most pleasing way.  However, by the time I was done, I really was done!

Sunday morning Kim went for a run while I caught up on some work and then we went to north London for a family lunch & dinner.

Then it was Monday and at 7.30am on the nose, the BIG man Daren arrived to take me for a run.  He claimed that it had been frosty, but all I could see was a weak sun trying to break through an early morning mist.  Irrespective of the temperature, I had guessed correctly that he would be wearing shorts regardless and thus I went out for the first time this year wearing shorts and two layers… without my trusty Gore jacket or gloves.

It was a little chilly to start with, but as the sun broke through the mist, our clothing began to make more sense… or at least not seem quite so crazy.

Daren was on good form, having managed to lose some of his excess girth by visiting the gym more regularly over the last few months and generally trying to avoid walking through the galley!  One can only hope that the girth reduction was limited to his waist, otherwise we might have to start calling him Little man Daren, which really doesn’t sound quite right.

Our run took us gently out to Ote Hall, past the llama fields and into Wivelsfileld, then up Hundred Acre Lane and through the West Wood to the industrial estate.  We returned down the magical path & across the common.  7.25 miles in one hour ten minutes makes 6.2mph.

The run and bonhomie, allied to sitting out in the garden in the sun to eat breakfast, made a great way to start the week!

Spring forth!

This morning was BEAUTIFUL, although the wind has since blown up and brought rain!  I couldn’t wait to get out and as you can see above, it really was gorgeous!

I did my default circuit, out to the Royal Oak, across to Wivelsfield, up through the woods to Ditchling Industrial Estate and back along the magical path & across the Common.  I probably would have gone further if I had remembered it’s only 5.2 miles and the 50 minutes time shows how out of shape I am.  6.25mph.

Still, it was stunning out there!

And in contrast to Jason’s new shoes, this is what mine look like!

New starters & runner-returners

For those of you getting into running, or back into running, here are a few tips.

First & foremost, get some decent gear.  This will make the whole running experience WAY more enjoyable and whilst you don’t instantly need to go to the expense of breathable fabrics and gore waterproofs (although they do help with the desire to go running in inclement conditions), a decent pair of runners is essential.  We swear by Run in Hove (you hadn’t guessed?), but any small running-focused store staffed by enthusiasts rather than shop assistants is probably okay.

We took Kim’s son Jason into Run yesterday for a pair of trainers and having assessed his needs, Kurt explained why Jason sometimes experiences painful knees.  He then offered a specific choice of shoes that would help him prevent injury, the chosen pair (above) weighing in at less that the price of a run-of-the-mill pair from a high street chain, despite being the latest technology.

So now you can go running, right?  Yup, it’s that easy and having warmed up gently, there are three things that are worth focusing on: your breathing, the point of contact and relaxing your jaw.  This is not exhaustive, but it’s good to have a simple, initial focus.

Breathing.  To start with, try to run no faster than you can while breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Aside from helping prevent over-exertion, this means you get into a good breathing habit early on.  Later, when you want an additional burst of speed, you can breath in through your nose and mouth together and will really notice the effect.

Point of contact.  Your heels and modern running shoes are generally designed so that you land on the outside corner of the heel.  The foot / shoe is then rolled onto its sole before departing from the toe.  When running, focus on the heel landing and the big toe departing as this will help you adopt a good running gait.

Relax your jaw.  In order for your jaw to be relaxed, you have to relax your shoulders, arms, hands and upper torso and since most of the running power comes from the legs, there is no need for the rest of you to be tense.  Later, when you want an additional burst of speed, you can straighten your fingers and with your hands pointing forwards, pump your arms forward and backward.  You’ll see what I mean when you try it.

You can look on the running blogs for more things to focus on as you start to get the running bug, but for now there is just one other thing that will make your experience a positive one.  Stretching.  

It’s a great habit to get into when you’re doing anything physical and especially running.  Start as soon as you get back, while your muscles are all still warm.  The key muscles to focus on are the calves, the quads, the buttocks and those tricky muscles that seem to join the two legs together, which I get to by squatting down, knees apart with my hands on the floor and elbows propped against the inside of my knees.  As I transfer the weight forward onto my hands, the elbows push the knees apart and stretch the said muscles.

Get someone to show you the other stretches (I could be here a long time trying to explain them without a diagram) and get into the habit of spending five to ten minutes stretching after each run.  Running and stretching both release endorphins so you should feel GREAT by the time you’re done.  

And if you then go and eat some protein, it will help to build the muscles that you’ve just been working, ready for next time you go out.


Floor idea

I’m quite aware that there’s a big chunk of time missing from the blog at the moment… in fact, there’s been a total absence of running going on and precious little other exercise too, on account of our having been AWAY!

After a couple of weeks with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s in sunny Florida, I’ve been super-cold this week and glugging a mouthful of swimming pool water the other evening hasn’t helped how I feel.  That being the only exercise to write home about at the moment, I swam 32 lengths in a super-short session of about half an hour.  8 lengths were crawled… not counting me crawling out of the pool afterwards.

I think that it’s now safe to start running again, what with the weather likely to improve and the fact that, over lunch the other day, Cliff seems to have tacitly accepted that I won’t make it to Prague!