Enter The Dedicated Trainer

Saturday, 29 December 2012

I have a dirty, dirty secret that I need to disclose to you, Dear Reader.

Is it that I have been secretly dressing as a woman? That I stole the contents of a charity box? That I have purchased an album of songs recorded by Susan Boyle?

None of that.

It's worse.

I have actually begun training seriously for the West Highland Way Race.

I honestly have.

Let me take you back to a former blog post where I discussed my involvement in the Glen Ogle 33 mile ultra. I had run the total of three training events over ten miles in the previous 12 months and relied on nothing more than muscle memory and blind stupidity to get me through. Get me through it did but attractive and impressive it definitely wasn't.

Anyway, Dale Jamieson commented and kindly offered to share a training programme that was written specifically for him in order to take him to the Highland Fling. I accepted his offer and he duly emailed me this creation that would see the person undertaking it virtually living in the gym during the week and pounding the trails at weekends. Now due to my commitments to the London Fire Brigade shift pattern (48 hours in four days covering whichever culturally significant days that see others in the bosom of their family.....birthday, Easter, Christmas.....you name it, we work it) it took a bit of tweaking but now I have it. I have a programmed system of torture that has seen me mixing it with the hat wearing fools in the bear pit at the gym; pedalling away like a lunatic and getting nowhere on the static bike; and plodding away on the treadmill watching my heart beat telemetrically transposed to a screen in front of me.

That's right, Dear Reader, I have become a gadget sporting, diet considered, dedicated trainer. And I'll be honest and say that I do actually feel different. In the distant past I once was a hat wearing fool that lived in the bear pit. I measured my biceps and recorded my heaviest squat. But my aerobic fitness was shit. Then I became an ultra runner and ran everywhere. I suffered every running injury known to man, looked like Max fuckin' Wall and could run remarkable distances. But my strength was lacking.

With this new training plan things appear to be more balanced and I think 2013 might be an interesting year.

Presently I'm in Mrs Mac's house where I drove after completing a shift that saw me on duty on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the day following. 400 miles to see my burd and I'm about to skip out the door to go to the gym. Last night we had the sum total of two glasses of Cava each to celebrate 'our' Christmas and I declined an offer of a lift to the off licence to purchase some vino collapso.

Instead I went to bed early after ingesting a protein shake.

I might end up with no girlfriend and a collection of gym hats but 2013 WILL be an interesting year.


Podcasting Blues

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Some might call this lazy blogging, but I was asked to provide a podcast submission for the West Highland Way Race. This was one of a series of offerings I've made under the title of Waterman's Piratical Ramblings and it involved my memories of this year's race.

I'd like to be able to say that I can simply turn on a voice recorder and wittier on, unhindered, to create something quite magical. In actual fact, if I were to do that, I'd probably create a rambling monologue littered with Anglo Saxonisms. So, in creating a voice recording I'm first required to write down what I want to say then read it. That way I can ensure the deficiency of all swear words and cussing.

So this lazy blogging involves simply copying and pasting my words below. Mrs Mac says that this might be of help to anyone struggling with my Cockney accent that she reckons is thicker than the butter on Vanessa Feltz's toast. She also reckons that I've adopted a kind of Ross Kemp-esque, pause-for-effect quality to my voice recordings.

I'm not sure Mrs Mac's correct on that.........

But if she is..........

So be it...

The podcast can be heard here with contributions from Antonia Johnson and my pal, Keith 'Corned Beef' Hughes.


And the text, if you're struggling with me Lahndan accent:

Waterman's Piratical Ramblings.
Distant Memories of June

As I look out of the window here in South Lanarkshire I'd like to be able to say that the balmy temperatures of June are but a memory compared to the brass monkey weather that is howling outside. I'd like to be able to tell you that suffering the below zero temperatures here in December are worth it for memories of a warm and dry West Highland Way Race last summer.

But I can't.

Nope, even with the passing of six months, memories of torrential downpours and cold temperatures throughout the first night of this year's race haunt me in my sleep and pester me during the day. And I wasn't even running the thing!

Nope, for the first time in seven years I stood in the car park of Milngavie train station surrounded by individuals that looked like refugees from a Max Wall convention in need of a good meat pie, without being dressed like Max Wall needing a meat pie myself. And I'll be honest, it was painful that I'd decided not to run.

When I ran my first West Highland Way Race back in 2006 Keith Hughes told : 'watch out cobber, this race will get under your skin.' And Keith was right.  I'd walked the Way three times prior to my first race so something kept calling me back. Not sure if it was the beautiful countryside, the amazing views, the challenge of covering 95 miles powered by nothing but human endeavour.....or the fact that, as an average, there is one pub for every five miles of the route. 

But something called me back to stand on the start line of the race in 2006 and every year since. Barring this year, of course when my role was as support crew for the two physically largest race entrants of 2012, Martin Hooper and David Ross. Together they weighed the same as a small family car and leave unstable structures in danger of collapse when ever they run. And built for running these two ain't. I suppose that the other runners in this year's race could content themselves that, as they stood there in the lashing down rain, waiting to start, the sheer expanse of surface area of my two runners must have absorbed a good deal of the precipitation that fell onto Mullguy.

It was then that any desire to run this years race began to subside. By the time I stood beneath cover at the Beech Tree Inn at Dumgoyne, eating a bacon roll and sipping a cup of tea, my  desire to run dissolved as the puddles under foot became deeper. But my admiration for those running became greater. Running 95 miles in the Highlands is a stiff undertaking. Running 95 miles in the Highlands when you're getting lashed with rain is something else entirely.

Of course your perspective of an event can only ever be told from your position within it, and mine was as support for two runners who ought to have a specific weight category of their own. Kodiak Bear status would probably be quite fitting.

And as the pair ate up the miles I saw nothing but joy on their faces. I've argued before that poor weather can be defined as bracing given the right mental attitude and Dave and Martin appeared to be enjoying bracing weather.

As the hours passed I discovered for the first time what a challenge being support can be. It mixes hours of inactivity with minutes of chaos where the requirement is to receive your runner, service his or her needs, feed him, patch him up and send him on his way with a hearty slap on the back.

The real challenge comes when that runner is flagging and a judgement call needs to be made regarding going on or stopping. I've been in that position as a runner myself and I know that it's not always the competitor that's best placed to make that judgement call. As a support crew we had our first dilemma at Tyndrum when for Big Dave Ross withdrawal was a distinct possibility. The decision to carry on was a close call and, if nothing else, attempting to cover the next seven or so miles to Bridge of Orchy sealed the deal that Dave had given everything he had to that race. 

I've often heard it said that all you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and you'll reach the end. But when that footfall sends waves of pain through your legs and every part of your being wants to stop, but you know that if you do stop you'll die of exposure, but actually you don't care, and you've got to place that footfall thousands of times, then that refrain becomes pretty meaningless.  And so half of my small family car withdrew at Bridge of Orchy and was packaged up and sent on to Fort Bill for a well earned rest.

The Hooper battled on valiantly and it appeared that the goblet that sits proudly on Martin's fire place would be joined by a second. By the time I reached Bridge of Orchy, which I have to say was a vision of hell. Forget fire and brimstone, if Satan wants to create an eternal misery, all he needs is a few thousand midges and some exposed flesh. Hooper had already left the Bridge by the time I'd arrived, and to be quite honest, who can blame him given the swarms of bloodsuckers....and Sean Stone of course. Hooper stormed across Rannoch Moor propelled on by memories from his recent deployment in Afghanistan with the Parachute Regiment. With only 14 miles left to reach the finish we waited for our hero at Kinlochleven Community Centre where we shot the breeze with Julie Clark, Chris Ellis and Pete Duggan and scoffed Geraldine's delicious orange cake. A phone call from Mark Hamilton who was accompanying the Hooper over the Devils Staircase fired us into action when we were told the pair were only a mile away. 

I suppose that the passing of over an hour before our charge appeared was a good indication that all was not  well. Martin was shuffling along like an extra from Shaun of the Dead and could barely lift his feet from the ground. Dr Chris's assessment was that life was not yet extinct, despite there being very little brain activity and the Hooper might reach the end.(this by the way is a normal state of being for Martin).

It became apparent very soon that the word might was loaded with optimism when Hooper struggled to even leave the community centre. For us, the war was over and we packaged up the remaining half of our small family car.

My memories of this year's race are still pervaded by the horrendous weather. And as I look out of the window at the snow and ice here in South Lanarkshire those memories are very much alive. But I'm banking on the fact that lightning won't strike twice and June 2013 will be positively Mediterranean.

My race entry is submitted as is that of Martin Hooper the Paratrooper. Together we will weigh the same as half a small family car with a rather heavy bag in the boot. See you in June.