Navigating Dublin

Monday, 26 August 2013

How time flies. It seems only yesterday that the disappointment of West Highland Way Race was a very live memory but in fact it's been eight weeks since that 84 mile run. The eight week time frame, although not apparent in casual thought, is proven when I look at the figure '84' and wonder 'could I have pushed it and finished the race?' Like child birth, the pain and suffering of that experiencing is waning with time.

But my intention here is not to torture myself but to examine how one's body and fitness can deteriorate over 8 weeks. Without a real goal to aim for (Glen Ogle, Glenmore 24 and the River Ayr Way are all possibilities, but having taken all my leave at work I'm waiting to see the outcome of the Fire Brigade Union's ballot for industrial action and whether any strike action will coincide with any of those races) I've pretty much been idle for eight weeks.

Enter former professional footballer and ultra runner, Stephen Tennant and a request to make up numbers in his team to tackle the Commando Shuffle in four week's time. The Commando Shuffle is a 30 mile race against the clock on Dartmoor following the route of the Royal Marines recruits' final test while carrying 35lb of kit. It happens that, strike action or not, the date fits with my time off so I needed little encouragement to answer yes.

All I need to do now is get my body ready for such an undertaking. Not too difficult a task, after all it's only 30 miles and I own a body that was pushed through 84 miles of the Scottish Highlands only.......eight weeks ago.

So training session one was a five mile run along Old Father Thames before work. Just to get my limbs, heart and lungs working again. Hmm....the struggle I encountered there was obviously down to my recent back injury and the polluted atmosphere of London.

Training session two was a pliometrics session at the gym of squat jumps, lunges, box jumps and bridges. Hmm....the struggle I encountered there was obviously down to the stuffy air of the gym and tiredness following two night shifts.

Training session three was a speed session of four miles on the treadmill. Hmm....the struggle I encountered there was obviously down to the accumulated effect of training sessions one and two.

As I ponder today's training session number four I've decided to stop kidding myself and accept that eight weeks of sitting on my ever expanding arse has had a detrimental but understandable effect on my fitness and fuck all to do with pollution, tiredness and all that other stuff.

Anyway, I reckon I can execute a reasonable four week training programme to put me on the start line of the race with a more than good chance of finishing. What else have I got going in my favour? Well, in 1996 I did a similar race on Dartmoor with five colleagues and recorded a third place finish from 60 teams; probably my finest achievement in the ultra field ever. I'm also familiar with this type of event having done similar in the army and am a demon map and compass user.

Dartmoor Dash 3rd Place Finishers 15th June 1996
Mrs Mac might take me to task with that final statement and remind me of the time in Dundee when, after leaving a Jake Bugg gig, we disagreed about the route back to the hotel. Cue a spit in the palm, a handshake, and a race back to said hotel along our chosen routes and Mrs Mac was sipping wine in our room while I was lost somewhere down by the docks.

Jake Bugg stage...before the race home
But I scored a return goal in the navigation stakes when we were in Dublin last week. We had eaten an early dinner in a traditional Irish restaurant on Temple Bar and left to make our way to Whelan's, the location for the pub scene in 'PS I Love You' and the gaff where the Los Angeles based indie folk band, Lord Huron were playing that night. I'd checked the place on a map and had a reasonable, alcohol unaffected idea of how to get there: pretty much a dog leg then a straight road would see us in Whelan's in about 15 minutes.

Mrs Mac preferred a more modern approach and decided to follow an electronic arrow on the GPS on her smart phone. Being a modern kind of guy myself I capitulated to the female insistence and followed her as the GPS directed us here and there down alleys and along back roads. It was as we were following this convoluted route that we entered a housing estate and my south London street wisdom sparked some concern. In the distance was a large group of bored looking teenagers hanging all over the pavement and we were headed directly for them. Meanwhile Mrs Mac was lost in the electronic map in front of her completely unaware of her surroundings. Now, I'm not saying this group were particularly nefarious, but if you lived in a rundown manor and were given to relieving clueless travellers of their possessions, a gift was right there in the hand of an approaching tall Scottish burd.

'Put your phone away,' I said.

'No, we're nearly there now, it's just up here and round the corner,' answered Mrs Mac.

'Put your phone away now or you're gonna lose it.'

Mrs Mac looked up and saw the group of kids in front of us who were now quite interested in the pair of foolish tourists who had entered their territory.

There was nothing for it but to confidently bowl straight through the group and hope their desperation hadn't descended to a place where confrontation was an attractive concept.

Laughter and abuse were thrown our way as we passed and an urge to throw my hands about prickled but was kept in check in equal measure by maturity and a desire to avoid the inside of a Garda Siochana station.

Whelan's was indeed just up there and round the corner and we arrived without too much incident. The gig was excellent and the venue everything we'd hoped for but when we left we used my inbuilt compass rather than Mrs Mac's smart phone to get back.


Anyway, I got here by speaking about the effect of eight weeks abstinence from exercise and I've just spent another half an hour or so tip-tapping away on this blog and avoiding the gym, so I'm off for a mixed treadmill and pliometrics session.

Running Up Goat Fell

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A comment about running I promised to make and a comment about running I will make here.....well, sort of. If you can define a 'run' as a walk up Goat Fell on Arran, interspersed with periods of running, while wearing running shoes.

Interestingly that particular Corbett is known as both Goat Fell (the undergraduate's bible, Wikipedia terms it such) and Goatfell (the Ordnance Survey and National Trust both mark it as the latter). So I will disambiguate here as the former because Wikipedia and I are both so received a hammering when I was studying for my degree.

One word or two?

This confusion over identification is nothing new to me; I live in a place where the train station had 'Ashtead' on platform one and 'Ashstead' on platform two. The former is correct although my favourite local curry house chose the latter to decorate all their linen and crockery. But being dual named is where any similarity between my home town and the island of Arran ceases so I'll stop wittering on about Surrey and get back to Scotland.

So Mrs Mac and I were on Arran for a week's much needed holiday. We'd gone with the recommendation that you must 'do' Goat Fell, and as the island's skyline is dominated by the hill, 'doing' Goat Fell is something that is probably a consideration for any semi fit visitor. Like Ben Nevis, I suspect the hill is occasioned by both flip flop wearing chavs and loafer wearing businessmen, hence the visibility of the local mountain rescue team, but on the day we chose to go we mainly encountered over-dressed hill walkers with enough gear to summit the Eiger.

We chose to take the path up from Corrie because it looked the most direct route. Also I reckoned the flip flop and loafer clad brigade would be probably on the gentler path from Brodick Castle. Dressed in shorts, tee shirt and off road running shoes, our trip up was never gonna be a casual affair of smelling flowers and admiring views, although at that stage I hadn't informed Mrs Mac.

So we set off up the steep metalled road from the shoreline and before long were on a minor path surrounded by giant ferns. At this stage running would have been hazardous because we couldn't see our footing so we marched upward at a pretty swift lick. Soon the ferns gave way to rock which was being heated nicely by the midday sun. Up and up we went passing a couple of groups laden with bergens, waterproofs and other outdoor paraphernalia. I'm sure I heard the leaders of said groups sniff and criticise us for being under prepared for a day out on the hill, but in the small day sack I had enough gear to get us off the hill safely should the weather change. And in any case, the route up is pretty self explanatory, options for going wrong are few, and all routes eventually lead down.
Mrs Mac strides purposefully up the hill

At one point Mrs Mac pointed down to another, more obvious path and queried whether we were correct. 

'Tell me,' she said. 'When was the last time you looked at that map you insisted we needed?'

'I looked at it in the cottage,' I answered. 'It's all up here now,' I said as I tapped the side of my head, and stormed off up the hill with her in hot pursuit. Right now I'm tempted to make some comment about the male aptitude for navigation compared with the female ability to get lost going to the shops. But I'm reminded of the time in Dundee when Mrs Mac and I disagreed about the route back to the hotel; we decided to race one another on our insisted routes and I ended up down by the docks while she was in the hotel sipping wine.

Anyway, back to Goat Fell: when the going allowed I broke into a run and the feeling of joy and freedom I used to get from running began to return. You see, I came to long distance running from hill walking and as the years have passed and 'must do' races accumulated, any hill walking took a back seat. It never became something I got bored with, merely time and distance presented an unassailable barrier.

We joined the tourist path at the east ridge and immediately appreciated taking the route from Corrie. While there were no flip flops or loafers there were plenty of people who looked as if this was their single, annual period of physical exertion. While sitting on rocks smoking cigarettes, a couple sneered at Mrs Mac and I as we skipped past in our shorts.

As we neared the summit the sun was covered by dark clouds which would prevent a view from the top but we couldn't complain as the weather had been kind on the way up. The summit of Goat Fell is much like many other hill tops: spoilt by a triangulation pillar and one of those metal map things. 

Trig point atop Goat Fell....Goatfell...aahh, whatever...

We hung around and took the obligatory photographs and briefly the clouds parted to allow us a view of the excellent looking ridge line. Then we were off down the hill like Vanessa Feltz chasing an ice cream van. I've always had a bit of down hill ability that outweighs anything else I can do in running shoes so I indulged myself a bit and left Mrs Mac picking her way carefully across the rocks. The stickiness afforded by my Inov-8s out performed her skitty road shoes and I waited for her at the bottom of the hill before congratulating ourselves and jumping back in the motor to go off and do family type stuff.

Elsewhere in another blog post I mentioned Goat Fell reigniting a passion for running. Now, there was a definite possibility that might happen but the flame was well and truly doused a few days later on the last day of our holiday.

We woke up on that final day in our very expensive rented cottage.

'What time d'ya reckon we've got to check out?' Mrs Mac enquired.

'This place is so expensive I reckon they'll be pretty relaxed about when we leave,' I answered (naively).

It was 10:45 when the lady knocked on the door.

She was greeted by us in our underwear, a cottage mid tidy up, and two sofa covers drying by the fire.

' do understand that 10:00 was the check out time, right?' The woman asked. The clues were all there to answer her question so I'm hoping it was more of an informative statement, but it prompted us to rush around like blue arsed flies anyway.

The bags got corralled by the front door and I decided that the same bags, corralled outside the door, would send a visual message that the process of leaving was well under way.

It was after loading the fifth bag onto my shoulder, and as I bent down to pick up the sixth and final bag, that I felt the pain in my lower back bite.

I managed to get the bags outside but the damage was done. The 20 year old injury, caused by squatting and dead lifting ridiculously heavy weights, returns with a vengeance if I ever fail to respect it's presence, and attempting to carry a mixture of suitcases, rucksacks and holdalls, is a serious lack of respect.

Cue a week lying on my back considering the contrast of skipping over rocks coming off Goat Fell. All I can say is thank fuck it happened at the end of our holiday and not the start.


A man unaware he's looking forward to a week in bed

A Lesson in How to Adapt and Overcome

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Since my engagement with the West Highland Way Race in June there has been a serious lack of training from Yours Truly.

Was I injured? No.
Was I ill? No.

Quite surprisingly I was fit enough to run within days of my withdrawal from the race after 83 miles. Despite failing to finish the race I think my swift recovery is testament to the six months of solid, hardcore training I'd committed to since December last year. The reason for me not actually lacing on a pair of running shoes has been purely a lack of motivation.

Without a race planned, without a boxing match to prepare for, without any kind of sporting event in the pipeline, training feels like nothing more than going out the door for going out the door's sake or going to the gym for going to the gym's sake. Even the attraction of the early day MILFs that proliferate David Lloyd Epsom, with their spray tans and expensive, matching gym wear has not been enough to make me a regular attendee in the bear pit.

On top of this lack of motivation was a brutally chaotic domestic situation that I won't air publicly here. But on the horizon was a planned holiday on the Isle of Arran with Mrs Mac. For me that was the golden prize, the pound coin stuck in the pile of dog shit you just stepped in, missing the last train to discover the only other stranded passenger is Kelly get the idea, huh?

So the day came, Saturday, 27th July. The car was loaded to the brim with bags, the dog was fed and watered and crammed into the back seat, Mrs Mac had even created an itinerary that had a built in fail safe in the event of traffic congestion en route to Ardrossan where we were to catch the ferry to Brodick.

We jump in the motor, sunglasses on, the words of Cliff Richards 'Summer Holiday' being sung from the back seat by Wee Hannah and her pal, Laura, and we're off on our holiday.

Ten miles or so later we're cruising along a country road heading westward and there's a slight hiss, the engine dies, the car slows to a halt and Mrs Mac says:

'I've lost power.'

No shit, Sherlock.

Thank fuck for fail safe itineraries.

Mrs Mac suggests that I have a look under the bonnet and rectify the problem. That's about as much use as presenting me with a patient with a brain injury and asking me to carry out sub cranial surgery.

Quick as a flash she's out of the motor, instructing me to unload the car and on the phone to her brother who is sat at home ten miles away. At this point he was unaware he was about to drive two adults, two young girls, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and a shit load of luggage to Ardrossan ferry terminal.

'What are we gonna do about your motor?' I ask Mrs Mac.

'Bollocks to it,' she says. 'It can stay here til we get back, I'm going on my holiday.'

Fast forward a couple of hours and we're in Brodick on Arran having arrived as foot passengers. 

'What the fuck are we gonna do now?' I ask. 'We've got enough luggage to open a fuckin' suitcase shop and no wheels.'

'Wait here you lemon,' she says, and scoots off into the distance like Vanessa Feltz on her way to an eat all you can lunch deal.

20 minutes later a cab pulls up with Mrs Mac is in the passenger seat. 'Chuck the bags in the boot and get in,' she says. 'I've got us a taxi to the cottage and I've  hired a motor that we're picking up on Monday.'

And that, Dear Reader, is an example of how to adapt and overcome, how to make the best of a rapidly deteriorating situation, how to extract the pound coin from the pile of shit you just stepped in.

But I started this blog post off with a sorry tale of a lack of motivation and no training....what the fuck has that got to do with a holiday on Arran?

Return soon, Dear Reader and I'll explain how Goat Fell on a sunny day can reignite one's passion for running and how being on the Isle of Arran, with enough luggage to open a suitcase shop, and having returned your hire car can result in you being in bed for a week with an injured back.

At least I've had a decent reason for not training.


One Under

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sometimes, just sometimes, I think there's something wrong with me. Chaos and disaster seem to follow me around like frightened children.

Admittedly I rarely plan stuff, and despite purchasing an iPad last year, upon which I detail all of my engagements, I still get a surprise nudge in the goolies every time the iPad reminder alerts me to the fact that I need to go to work or not go to work. So, as the old adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, but I'm not talking about simply turning up to a wedding with only flip flops to accompany my suit (yep, done that), I'm talking about the type of disaster befalling me that an iPad alert and an electronic diary are gonna do absolutely fuck all about.

Take my journey home after assisting Mrs Mac with the Clyde Stride ultra marathon. It's Sunday morning and I need to be at work, in London, for 20:00 (excuse the use of the 24 hour clock.....I've been trying to polish off some of the remaining militaristic ingressions left over from my army days but I can't face saying eight O'clock when that might either be bacon and egg time or wine and kebab time). A swift look at the iPad and its handy train timetable app tells me I'm gonna have a battle getting home. Sunday, is of course, the day when track maintenance is carried out because every one is at church or sitting down to a roast dinner with the family. Not this call sign.

It's gonna take me the best part of the day to travel from Strathaven to Glasgow, then onward to Edinburgh, then, and only then, start heading south for Englandshire and eventually, London. I can't lie any longer in this bed, I need to get my sorry arse up and shake a tail feather.

A short while later I'm at Glasgow Queen Street with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier by my side and we're saying goodbye to Mrs Mac. The journey to London is aboard a train that has two overheating carriages. I wander through the train looking for somewhere that Mason (dog) and I can park our butts. The carriages are crammed with passengers and luggage and looks of disgust and bemusement are fired my way whenever the suggestion that I might sit down is demonstrated. In my years of travelling with a pooch I've discovered that the majority of the transport using public prefer to share their space with other bipeds rather than a four legged fighting dog.

As I enter carriage 'F' the heat hits me. It's not unlike walking into a sauna but there are seats abound in this carriage sans air con. I take a seat and Mason (dog) stretches out in the aisle. Before long I've stripped off most of my clothes down to a running vest and shorts yet the cushioning under my arse is getting damper by the minute as I sweat into it.

Just over four hours to London; I reckon I can hack it and with a regular ingestion of bottled water should be able to avoid heat stroke. Then, as we approach York, the bastard train in front of us breaks down and we're stuck for ages on a train that ain't moving, in a carriage that is slowly cooking my flesh.

The rest of the journey is typified by a short shunt forward followed by a long spell static. By the time the train pulls into Kings Cross I'm already late for work and in serious need of rehydration. The  weekend model for public transport delivery is mirrored on the underground where the Northern Line is shut for maintenance. No problem, I skip across to the Victoria Line where I can travel to Vauxhall then onward to Clapham Junction where I can begin my night shift, albeit two hours late.

I stand on the platform alongside dozens of other weekend travellers. Next to me is a slightly dishevelled, middle aged man who stares blankly at the tracks. Something about him unnerves me so I take a half step backward. As the train slows down and travels along the platform approaching the head wall to the tunnel the fella standing next to me kind of flops down onto the tracks. In a flash he's lost under the train and gasps and cries ring out from our fellow travellers.

I've been here many times before. I know the drill. As a London firefighter I've lost count of the times I've crawled beneath a tube train to release an unfortunate victim but it's never done without ensuring the power is off and PPE is worn. And this is the first time I've witnessed the act first hand.
Some of the passengers on the platform are either unaware of what just happened or are lost in the unreality of the occurrence. They swarm around the carriage doors waiting for them to open and disgorge their travellers and allow them onto the train. I know the driver is sitting in his cab, informing control of a 'one under' and awaiting the arrival of my colleagues from Euston fire station. The doors ain't gonna open any time soon.
There's nothing I can do here so I head off as police officers and community support personnel come haring toward the platform. I understand the futility of their haste: I always tell my lads and lasses to never run to a one under, you'll get there quickly then wait around feeling useless while you wait for confirmation that power is off. Better to walk quickly while carrying out a dynamic risk assessment and going through a decision making model in your mind, it pays dividends at the scene.
I arrive at street level to see fire appliances arrive from Euston and the surrounding stations. I stop briefly to inform the officer in charge of the scene below ground before being castigated for being late for work.
And this, Dear Reader, is a typical day in my life. To prove it I direct you to the story in this blog where I was travelling home from a training session in Southwark a couple of years ago when gunshots rang in my ears and two police officers were shot. I'm not making this shit up.
I considered not telling this tragic tale of a person who decided that life was so terrible that an end to his misery would be found under a London Underground train. But I discovered recently that he was recovered by crews from Euston and is recovering in hospital so I've recounted it here. I got that shift off work so my lateness was never questioned. My Station Commander decided that attending two suicides in five days was enough for anyone and my welfare dictated a night off. To be honest, I've become used to it now and I was more affected by the overheating carriage and the torturous journey home.
And I tell this tale while aboard a Virgin Pendolino to Scotland. So far there are no occurrences other than Mason (dog) farting and my fellow passengers looking at me in disgust. But I'm used to that too.

Strikes, Pensions and General Bitching

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Within the virtual pages of this blog I would often discuss the details of my job. Never the sad or heartbreaking parts of it, just the amusing stories that punctuate the career of a firefighter. Like the time a colleague received two pairs of new uniform shoes; Doctor Marten style soled, slip-on gusseted, black leather numbers.

One of my other colleagues had switched a shoe from each box before the two boxes were given to the recipient, who for the detail of this story, will be known as Stewart.

Stewart's face was a picture when he opened the first box to discover two left footed shoes.

'Bloody typical.....they can't get anything right,' he exclaimed, as he held two identical shoes in his hands. 'They've sent me two left shoes. Good job I ordered two pairs.'

The second box is opened and Stewart's eyes widen before he shrieks,

'I don't believe it! What's the chances of that?! They've sent me two right footed shoes in this box!!'

My blog was once littered with these types of tale, mainly to provide some relief to the running related matters, which however you tell them, are as boring as hell. But some close attention from my employer back in 2011 led me to delete everything I'd written over a period of four years.

I've rarely discussed my job since, but the amusing occurrences are still there, as are the heartbreaking  and sad. 22 years of service has provided me with enough material to write a book, and when I finish the one I'm writing at the moment, I might just tell those stories for publication when I retire.

I suppose some of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in those 22 years are the two occasions when I've been forced to take strike action. The first being in 2002/3 when firefighter salaries were so poor some were in receipt of top up benefits, and the second in 2010 when we were threatened with mass sackings to change our shifts. On both occasions, after going back to work, I've prayed that I never have to remove my labour again.

Unfortunately, enter George Osborne, a morally bankrupt coalition government and the worst financial crisis in living memory, and that time has come again.

'You want more money!' 'You want to work fewer hours!' I hear you cry.

No we don't. We want the pension we signed up to when we joined the service. I could witter on endlessly about the ins and outs of the government's plans for our pensions but that would probably be as boring as reading about running. Just consider this: I have a colleague who has served 23 years and was looking forward to retiring in seven years' time. The government's plans, and the fact that his age dictates that he misses out on any protection, means he will no have to serve an extra 10 years, paying 10 years of extra contributions (somewhere in the region of £50,000) to receive a poorer pension than he was promised. Whatever your political persuasion, or your opinion of public sector workers, tell me if you find that fair.

In an almost perfectly timed kick in the bollocks, George Osborne, the archetect of the raid on our pensions, is about to receive a recommendation that his salary is increased. Now I actually agree that MPs are underpaid when a comparison is made with head teachers, chief fire officers etc. But if you're gonna reluctantly accept IPSA's recommendation on pay, how about taking notice of your own, independently compiled report that states it's impossible for firefighters to work til 60 without being a danger to themselves and others?

Anyway, enough of a rant on pensions and strikes. I'm on my way home from the fourth Clyde Stride Ultra Marathon where I performed the enviable role of Race Director's bitch. Yep, the race director, one Mrs Mac, had me running around like a blue arsed fly buying water, ice and beer and performing other general bitch duties. The race was, again, a runaway success although the sun persisted in shining all day with temperatures touching 30 degrees. For an RD's bitch that's fantastic, but put a runner in those conditions and things can get a bit uncomfortable. My pal, Dave Egan, who so valiantly supported me in the West Highland Way Race, became a victim of the conditions. You see Dave is of the red headed persuasion and doesn't react too well to intense sunlight. He made it 30 miles to Maudslie Bridge before being forced to withdraw. He wasn't alone. 

As well as being a running buddy Dave is also a fellow firefighter and victim of the raid on pensions. He is used to enduring heat, being treated appallingly and general discomfort so you can see how hard things in the race became for him to have to pull out.

I'm gonna sign off now as my train is approaching London. When I began writing this I was going to relate the detail of the incident we attended a week or so ago. The tale of a young man who decided his future was so bleak the answer was to lie in front of the Gatwick Express. I was going to ask how that goon, George Osborne would have coped in that situation, and whether he would consider it appropriate that 60 year old men and women attend such incidents. But I will leave the detail at the incident, it's not for retelling here.


A Tale of Bodily Movements in the West Highland Way Race

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I didn't really know how to do this without it becoming a sorrowful tale of woe so I decided not to. But Mrs Mac took the time to tell the story of the 2013 West Highland Way Race on her own blog and what a story it was. I couldn't hope to create something that contains so much emotion so you'll just have to put up with a sorrowful tale of woe. I was going to entitle it simply 'The West Highland Way Race' but after reading it through it was apparent that the tale is punctuated by faeces, urine and vomit, hence the title. 

This year, after seven years of mixed success and failure, with failure often accompanying almost zero training, the real boot in the backside to take things seriously came in April when Fi asked me to wear her race number. There's a couple of things you should know here: to a Londoner forenames are always reduced to one syllable, so Marmaduke becomes 'Duke', Muhammad becomes 'Mo' and Fiona becomes 'Fi.' The other thing you should realise is the three forenames used here are the names of fighters, Duke McKenzie, Muhammad Ali and Fiona Rennie. And it was the fight Fi was involved in that failed to allow her to run in her own number.

So with race day looming I meet a few race entrants and associated luminaries in a pub in Glasgow for a pre race social and some scoff. This was on Thursday. My intention was to sip something non alcoholic, to eat something easily digestible, and to go home having been a good boy. But I walk through the door and standing there, like some Highland Lazarus clutching a pint of foaming ale and sporting a wicked grin, is Uncle Duncan, founder of the West Highland Way Race.

'You can fuck off with that soft drink pish,' says Dunc when I request a fatboy Coke. 'I've come from Newtonmore on the bus so you're drinking with me til five when I have to go home.'

Never one to be swayed from my intended path, unless beer and Uncle Dunc are involved, my resolve crumbles like a paper hat in the rain and me and Dunc are drinking ale and exchanging war stories til five. Then it's home with Mrs Mac who tells me we're meeting her Ma and Pa in the boozer. More ale and a half past midnight stagger home fail to set any alarm bells ringing. Fuelled by Guinness and kebab I am a Jolly Green Giant, striding the earth with a pair of running shoes, and the beer I consumed that day was the finest sports supplement known to man.

Until I awake on race day feeling tired and hungover.

Fast forward a few hours and for the eighth year in a row I'm in the car park in Milngavie dressed like Max Wall. All around me are other Max Wall lookalikes mingling with people who are doing a fair impression of escaped POWs. Mrs Mac feeds me a shop bought sandwich, that if beer on Thursday was mistake número uno, this was mistake number two (or número dos if you wanna be pedantic).

You see, these sneaky, shop dwelling sandwich makers have a habit of secreting lactose in anything they create. I wonder whether, in such politically correct times, it's their way of torturing a racially and sexually indistinct section of society....the lactose intolerant. How they must clap their little hands with glee every time they catch someone out and send them desperately searching for a public toilet whilst holding in a fart that may or may not become a flock of sparrows.

Anyway, the race starts and Martin Antoninus Horatio Hooper and I (or Hoops for short), run out of Milngavie chasing 170 or so others. The early stages of the race come and go but at Beechtree Inn I feel the flock of sparrows begin to awaken in my belly. A mile or so later I tell Horatio that I'll catch him up and I find a quiet spot where I bare my arse to the world. An explosion of fecal matter and fluid are left decorating a famer's field and the only evidence that a human is responsible are the shit stained dock leaves that performed the function of bio degradeable bog paper.

We crack on.

Balmaha comes and goes and the only remark I have about that is the strange lack of midges. Or maybe they have an aversion to the recently suffered lactose intolerant. The following six miles are always a bit of a struggle for me. It's the point at which things start to get uncomfortable before slipping into second gear, so I'm ready for a bit of a battle. But while negotiating those cheeky little hills and horrible asphalt the injury that has plagued me for nearly two years begins to surface. At the bottom of my spine, near the top of my arse cheeks, a sharp pain starts to bite. By Rowardennan it's singing like Susan Boyle and causing me just as much suffering as listening to the pan faced bint.

Mrs Mac feeds me some brufen (for fuck sake don't tell Dr Chris) and I'm cracking on. I'm wearing Fi's race number and in my bum bag is her small hip flask of Glengoyne so withdrawal before toasting Dario in the Angel's Playground and giving our departed Italian/Scottish friend a wee nip is absolutely unthinkable.

Forward progress is made and somewhere before Beinglas Farm I see a blue baseball cap hanging on a tree. A while later I look back for Horatio and he's got the thing perched on his swede.

'What the fuck you wearing that for?' I ask.

'Because I need a shit and I've got no loo roll,' replies Horatio. 'This baseball cap is a gift from God and I'm making full use of it.'

The grunting and rustling that emanates from a bush would have any casual passer by believing that bears are no longer extinct in the Highlands. A moment later Horatio emerges sans baseball cap but with a satisfied look on his face.

We crack on.

On arrival at Auctertyre Farm the pain in my back has been a constant companion but the miles are being eaten up slowly. At this stage runners are required to be weighed, primarily to identify a possible gain which might signify over hydration, but also with a weight percentage that shouldn't drop below. I stand on the scales and record a drop of two kilos. No problem. Then, as the recorder is looking away, I remove my bumbag and another two kilos fall away. A four kilo drop from a starting weight of 73.6 kg is a bit hefty and I see my concern mirrored in the eyes of Mrs Mac.

We crack on.

Before we hit Bridge of Orchy the sleep deprivation and over indulgence of the Thursday begin to exact their toll. I'm feeling exhausted. The lactose intolerant movement, the weight loss, the dehydration, the pain in my back and constant diet of brufen may or may not be causes of failure, but lumped together they make for a difficult time at the very least. I tell Mrs Mac that a quick kip at Glen Coe will recharge my batteries for the final push and the thought of laying my head in her lap pushes me up Jelly Baby Hill to meet Murdo the Magnificent. Jelly Babies are indeed doled out to me and Horatio then Murdo requests that I turn around. I dutifully do so, after all, an instruction from someone so magnificent should never be ignored, and a boot is placed firmly in my backside.

'That's from your remote coach, Andy Dubois,' states MtM. 'He told me to kick your arse so you can assure him that I did exactly that.'

The long drag over Rannoch Moor is never something that fills me with joy. Having bollocks that look and feel like they've been sandpapered is no joy either, despite the liberal application of Vaseline. But if you ever want to give yourself someting that really smarts, try splashing piss on your chafed area. You'll laugh!!

Anyway, Ba Bridge seems to get further away every time I cross Rannoch Moor but reaching it this year accompanies another nail in the coffin of David William Waterman. Dry heaving becomes full on vomiting and the ten minutes planned in Mrs Mac's lap at Glen Coe becomes an age with my head in a bowl discharging everything I try to consume. The feeling of nausea remains despite the sickness and the time ticks by. Then I'm informed that the sweepers are outside and my already murky mood darkens further. Horatio has cracked on and I'm at the back. How did it come to this? 

I tell Mrs Mac there's only one thing for it. I tell her to look away and shove my hand down my throat and rid myself of absolutely anything and everything in my stomach in an attempt to dispel the nausea.

It works.

I get rigged in warm clobber and me and Dave Egan, my co runner from Tyndrum, crack on through Glen Coe to Altnafeadh. At this point, despite being accompanied by the sweepers, I'm feeling positive  and think that I can probably muster something to claw back some time and places. Then, after climbing the Devil's Staircase, my eyesight becomes blurred and the exhaustion returns with a vengeance. Ideas of lying down on the ground enter my head and the granite rocks look as inviting as soft, feather pillows. I stop and ask one of the sweepers how long til we reach Kinlochleven. She looks at me and says a couple of hours. I know exactly how far it is but hope beyond hope that maybe I'd got it wrong. I didn't realise it at the time, mainly cos I was seeing double and enjoying strange hallucinations, but the sweeper was Rhona Mitchell who performed her roll admirably. 

As we descend that long, miserable path to Kinlochleven the idea that I might miss the cut off becomes a reality. I pretty much resign myself to this until we come across George Reid and Karen Donoghue. I feel nothing short of embarrassment at being in this condition and at this place in the race but indulge myself and lie down on the ground. Immediately the pain in my back is relieved and despite beneath me being mud, rock and dirt I feel myself drifting away to a land of plump duvets, crisp clean sheets and softly sprung beds.

'Get up you slacker,' shouts Karen, and hauls me to my feet. We begin to move slowly until George starts encouraging me to move faster.

'If you get a move on you'll make it. It's shit or bust,' says George. 'You can do this.'

We arrive in the town and George encourages me to run. The movement achieved you'll find in no instruction manual or magazine on running. If a periodical called 'OAP Shuffler's World' existed you might possibly find it there among adverts for Zimmer frames and false teeth, but the movement, and George's endless cajoling, gets me into the med centre somewhere around the cut off but within a time that I am permitted to continue. Mrs Mac is in tears and big George has something in his eye.

I sip some Coke and ice and exchange banter with Pete Duggan, resident of Kinlochleven, player of pipes, and Ramsay Round finisher. Inside me I feel a bit of a warm glow. 'It's in the bag, despite all the setbacks I can do this for Fi, ' I say to myself.

A few minutes later Dave Egan and I are on our way. I know the rest of the route well and think that a steady push up the hill should get me to Lairig Mhor in time to run the flats to Lundavra and maybe make some places up. The positivity lasts until we plateau then it was as if everything crashed. I could hear voices in my head....not malevolent stuff of horror films that might see me throw Dave Egan off the side of the hill, but nonesnse banter about cakes and things. I can see Facebook status updates written on rocks and my body has started to uncontrollably spasm. I attempt to move forward but my body lurches sideward toward the edge of the hill.

'What are you doing over there? Get away from the edge!' Shouts Egan.

Then, as if things could get no worse, the heavens open and Dave and I are treated to a cold shower that soaks through my clothes and into my bones. I start shivering.

It was then I knew I'd had enough. I had about five hours to cover 13 miles and knew I'd never make it. If I heard this tale in a pub in London, I'm pretty sure I'd scoff at it and say 'I could crawl 13 miles in five hours.' Well, that talk is cheap and I don't think I could have crawled anywhere.

'I don't think I'm gonna make it, Dave,' I say to my co runner. 'What do you think?'

'I think you were an idiot for getting out of the van at Glen Coe,' he replies.
I pull my plastic wrapped mobile phone from my race sack for the first time. My home and work life are complicated. I have four children of either adult or teenage years all of whom can be colourfully challenging. I work with 15 men who, at times, make my children seem statesman like. I told Mrs Mac that their problems would remain theirs until I finish the race and only in an emergency would my phone be switched on.

I switch it on.

'Can you come back to Kinlochleven for me babe, I'm done,' I speak into the phone.

'Are you sure?' asks Mrs Mac?

'Yes. Sorry,' I answer.

As I descend the hill back to Kinlochleven the West Highland Way Race retains one last kick in the bollocks for me. I'm about half way down the hill and I can see our rented Mercedes van parked in the distance on what appears to be a track. I can see the distinct silver/grey paintwork and blacked out windows. Mrs Mac has obviously found a route up I don't know exists. But I can't see her sitting in the driver's seat....she must be in the back preparing for my arrival. As I get nearer I'm slightly bothered by the idea of this track up the mountain. I've been here many times and never noticed it, but there in front of me is our van.

I must have been within 20 feet or so of the van when it became the rock that it always was. Mrs Mac was in Kinlochleven and I was right to be bothered by the (non existent) track up the mountain. Hallucinations are a well documented phenomenon in this race, and I filled my boots.

On arrival at the real van Mrs Mac peels my wet and stinking clothes off and puts me into a sleeping bag. Then I experience what it must be like to be dead. The last time I slept like that I had received a general anaesthetic before some surgeon repaired a torn diaphragm and sewed up the top of my stomach.

Some time later I was woken to be told Horatio was about to finish. Despite me being cocooned naked  in a sleeping bag from where I never wanted to emerge, I pulled on some clean clothes to see my mate reach the leisure centre. Martin is a lump, built for running he ain't. Last year he battled against injury to make it to Kinlochleven before withdrawing, unable to lift his feet from the ground. It was a joy seeing him finish this year. He had trained well, shifted some weight and had kept to his game plan throughout the race. Top man.

As for me, at the moment, I'm saying my love affair with the West Highland Way Race is over. I have three finishes and a clutch of DNFs that, quite frankly, I probably deserve for a failure to prepare. But this year, after training solidly and putting everything into it, the West Highland Way proved she can be a cruel mistress. 

As Uncle Dunc told me, anything can happen in that race.

And it did.

Beattie's Bunker

Monday, 13 May 2013

Pre Fling Wars

Friday, 26 April 2013

My arrival in Glasgow for the 2013 Hoka Highland Fling has not been without incident. More of that in a while.

I've always been a positive kind of fella. I've always had a 'can do' attitude even when the evidence clearly demonstrates I can't. Bite off more than you can chew, then masticate like fuck for as long as you can have always been watchwords for my life. I believe I've proven this in the past when I've toed the start line of the West Highland Way Race with nothing but two 20 mile training runs under my belt. On that occasion my cheery 'see you in Fort William' was probably an indication of my delirium rather than any positivity.

Never before will I have arrived in Milngavie so well trained and prepared. And on this occasion I only need to make it to the half way-ish point of the West Highland Way. But never before has so much doubt crowded my mind and affected my spirit. The injury that refuses to go away is still with me and I fully expect it to make itself known tomorrow somewhere on that beautiful course. I guess it all depends where and how hard it wants to bite.

Let me give you some idea of how this injury manifests itself and the problems it causes. Any run up to around ten miles is a piece of piss. I can run at a seven minute miling pace quite comfortably (providing the course is flattish) or I can back off and run slower with a game plan of retaining energy for a much longer distance. But regardless of how fast I run, after ten miles my lower back starts to ache. Then, as the miles increase, my hamstrings begin to noticeably tighten up and the ache in my back becomes a dull pain. I can feel my stride shortening as the hammies become like taut cables and the pain becomes sharper. Then the change in gait seems to affect my ankles and my feet start to numb.

'Toughen the fuck up, you blouse!!' I can hear you cry.

Of course I can toughen the fuck up and crack on. But it doesn't make the experience pleasurable and the last time I spent money and travelled to experience pain and suffering I was a member of a Sado Masochistic sex group (actually I wasn't, and never have been, but you get the idea).

I guess what I'm saying is, in order to look forward to my main goal, the West Highland Way Race in June, I really need a positive experience tomorrow, and to be honest given the evidence before me I can't see that happening.

Speaking of positive experiences, I've been a bit short of those since my arrival in Glasgow yesterday. I got off the train in a strange land where men wear skirts and women have a hierarchical system based on the number of their remaining teeth (competition to head that hierarchy is so great that Fiona Rennie recently had some of her teeth torn out so that she could become chief mama).

I'd had a wee refreshment on the train, as is my custom, and headed up Argyle Street toward Merchant City with Mason (dog) to meet Mrs Mac from work. She had booked my ticket to time my arrival to accommodate a foot journey around the city (I recently got off the train and took an unintended detour to reach her). Unbeknown to her on this occasion I took the most direct route and was outside her place of employment within 10 minutes.

Not a problem, there's a rather nice O'Neill's public house that serves a very good pint of Arthur's Black Gold just around the corner (Ok, it's a plastic chain establishment, but it's quite nice inside).

So Mason (dog) and I bowl through the door and head up to the bar. Behind said bar stands a potato headed fella with John Lennon glasses.

'A pint of Guinness and a bottle of water for the pooch please, Landlord,' I say in my finest Cockney accent.

'We don't allow dogs,' comes the answer from Potato Head.

I blink, think this through, and then say 'This is an Irish pub. Last time I was in Ireland there were dogs in every pub I went in.'

'This is not an Irish pub,' I'm firmly informed by the spud headed twat. 'This is an Irish themed pub.'

'Why can't my dog come in then?' I ask.

'Because we serve food,' states Potato Head.

'Where's the link?' I ask. 'What has my dog got to do with the fact that you serve some microwaved crap to your drunken punters?'

Potato Head smirks and says: 'Hygiene.'

'Fuck me!' I reply. 'The walking virus farm that's dressed in chef's whites and is presently stood outside the side door smoking is responsible for preparing and cooking your food. My dog is cleaner than him!'

30 seconds later I'm stood outside with the words 'you're barred, fuck off or I'm calling the police' ringing in my ears.

This altercation is timed perfectly with Mrs Mac leaving her work and a big row when she supported the publican's stance.

I don't think me analogising my battle with an International pub brand with some of my Dunkirk spirited race starts really washed.

Hey, ho! Maybe my lack of success against the Potato bonced employee of O'Neill's will be balanced by a victorious showing at the Fling.

Check in soon to see.


On Corporal Punishment. A Serious Meandering.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

In my last blog post I discussed pain and corporal punishment; two subjects that are quite obviously inextricably linked. I wonder what readers of that offering made of my musings? I candidly admitted behaviour that was clearly unacceptable of a 13 year old boy and needed addressing so I'm guessing the Daily Mail type consumer of online, idiotic ramblings might regard two strokes of the cane as nothing more than hors d'oeuvres to a thrashing resulting in near death. In contrast your average Guardian reader would probably recommend the miscreant be given a two week summer break at the expense of the tax payer and the teacher administering the punishment be offered counselling for issues clearly resulting from a tortured childhood.

Personally I sit somewhere between the two. I don't believe that perpetrating acts of violence against children achieves anything but the creation of violent adults. And my personal experience shows that when the child in question has no fear of the punishment, you can whip him all you like.

I wonder too what drives someone tasked with the care of children to choose beating with a stick over an alternative, non violent punishment? My own experience here is interesting. I told you of my third year art teacher, and the clay vase destruction, but there was another more disturbing occasion which too emanated from the art block.

I remember it was sometime around 1980 and having a supply teacher for the day because our own was off sick or something. We were instructed to create a picture of snakes in charcoal. I was always a bit of a dab hand at drawing so before I knew it I had two serpents, intertwined on the paper in front of me. I looked around and none of my fellow pupils had yet completed their task so I sat there with not much to do. The creative side of my began to take over and with the flourish of a hand and a flash of charcoal a Doctor Marten boot was drawn appearing from the top edge of the paper.

Again, my fellow pupils were still engrossed in the creation of their snakes so I flipped my paper over and began a spot of free drawing on the underside. Now my creative juices really got going and after 10 minutes I had a naked woman sat on a my opinion this was REAL art. Why was the woman naked? What time of day was it? Was she performing a number one or two? Was this her own loo or that of a friend?

Unfortunately the supply teacher's opinion didn't concur with mine. He was clearly flustered by the impressively endowed woman staring at him from the paper and I was sent to the Head of art, Mr Robinson, to show him my creation.

'Fuck that,' I thought and headed off to the loo where I disposed of the picture and waited for my next lesson.

It was while I was sat in Spanish that Mr Robinson came to find me. I was removed from the class and marched unceremoniously to Mr Robinson's office. Up until that point I'd had no interaction with the head of art and had no reason to have ever been in his office. Upon entering one of the first things I noticed were three lengths of bamboo of differing thicknesses.

'Tell me about this picture you drew, Waterman, ' demanded Mr Robinson.
'It was a naked woman sitting on the bog, Sir,' I replied sheepishly.
'Where is it?'
'I ripped it up and threw it away, Sir.'
'Why didn't you report to me as instructed?'
'Because I was scared, Sir.'

With that Mr Robinson sat back in his chair and looked into my eyes. 'You've never been before me, have you, Waterman?' He asked.
'No, Sir.'
'There's nothing wrong in drawing or painting nudes,' said the head of art. 'Some of the finest works of art depict naked women.'

At this point my spirits began to lift. Mr Robinson was clearly a man who appreciated my talent.

'But there is something wrong when you fail to follow instruction,' he added menacingly.
My elevated spirits again took a plunge. But they dipped even lower when Mr Robinson reached behind him and retrieved the largest piece of bamboo which must have been at least four inches in diameter.

'Now, Waterman, boys who continually appear before me become familiar with my friend, basher. He's quite a thing and not someone you ever want to get involved with,' said Mr Robinson as he caressed the largest cane. Then he replaced the four incher and retrieved a second cane that had a diameter of about an inch and a half.

'This is my other friend, whacker,' said the head as he looked closely at the inch and a half bamboo. 'If you ever appear before me again you and he will become good friends.'

Then he drew the smallest diameter cane from behind him and slashed it through the air. 'This,' he said menacingly, 'is tickle. And it is tickle who I will introduce you to today. Now are you right or left handed?'

'Right, Sir.'
'Then hold your left hand out straight and do not move.'

I offered my left hand and stood there quivering. Mr Robinson looked me in the eyes and raised the cane above his head. He paused momentarily then brought the cane down toward my hand. I heard it cutting through the air and briefly marvelled at the arc created by the air's resistance. I say briefly because my sense were assaulted by a loud 'CRACK' as the cane struck my hand.

Momentarily there was nothing. Then I felt the pain and saw the ugly welt that was forming across my palm.

'I told you not to move, boy,' said Mr Robinson with a look of unfulfilled lust in his eyes.
'I didn't move, Sir,' I protested.
'You moved your hand and now you've lied. Hold your hand out again.'

For a second time Mr Robinson went through the act of issuing corporal punishment to a 13 year old boy. And for a second time the cane slammed into my palm, creating a second welt across my flesh. This time I swear I saw Mr Robinson's feet leave the ground as he got as much of his body weight into the act as possible.

Beads of sweat appeared on the teacher's brow and he collapsed into his seat.

'Get out.' He said.

I knew better than to tell my parents that I'd been caned. Those were the days when the idea of an irate parent visiting the school to challenge an over zealous teacher was unheard of. Those were the days when a second helping of pain, care of my old man, was the order of the day.

As the years have passed I've thought about this and have realised that Mr Robinson enjoyed some kind of sadistic pleasure in delivering corporal punishment. I've dreamed too of bumping into Mr Robinson in my adult years and exacting vengeance. Of course, 33 years on he's probably an old man and not someone I might feel comfortable with slapping. But I'd have a fuckin' good go at scaring the evil bastard.

Medieval Artwork

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A 14 mile run in Richmond Park yesterday confirmed that the pain in my lower back is still causing me significant problems. As I trotted round the park I tried to convince myself that what I was feeling wasn't actually pain but simply slight discomfort, but I've never been too good at kidding myself. Then I tried to apply that well worn adage, 'pain is just weakness leaving the body.'


How the fuck does that work then? By that reckoning Nazi Germany should have created an army of powerhouses within its ghettoes and it's concentration camps. Alas, no, the pain and suffering that was experienced by those tragic souls was not weakness leaving the body; it was pure evil and brutality being visited upon them.

Of course comparing a slightly painful run around Richmond Park with the Holocaust is something that might be regarded as ridiculous if not out and out offensive. But these were the thoughts that meandered through my mind as I plodded on. I considered how I might transfer these thoughts to the written form within the virtual pages of this blog. An attempt at humour maybe.....a video blog about something new? A cartoon drawn on A4 paper and recreated here?

I used to be pretty good at art at school so a cartoon ought to be something I could manage. However, I haven't practiced any drawing or painting since the third year of The Beaufoy School for Boys back in 1979.

You see my art career was cut short by two events. The first was when I was in an art class making something from clay....I can't remember exactly what it was we were making but you can bet your bottom dollar at least half the class were busy recreating their own sexual organs. While we rolled out sausage shaped cylinders and spherical balls our art teacher worked away diligently on a vase he was making on a potter's wheel. He appeared lost in the moment and if it wasn't 11 years too early I'd swear he was recreating the famous scene from Ghost.

I admired the way he applied gentle pressure to the accelerator pedal and expertly formed perfect curves on what had begun as a mound of watery clay. After 40 minutes or so of work the teacher, whose name is lost on me now, looked like he'd been engaged in a dirty protest in prison and rose from his labour to go to the toilet.

'Right boys,' he said. 'I need you to think about finishing your work. I'll be back in five.'

In his absence the potter's wheel was like a glowing, attractive flame and I was an utterly seduced moth. The vase sat motionless on the wheel like a ballet dancer waiting to spring into life. What she needed was a director and some music.

Before I could even consider the outcome I was on my feet and at the wheel. I stamped my Doctor Marten encased foot onto the pedal and the ballet dancer sprung into life. But instead of repeating the graceful moves induced by my art teacher the vase was doing some kind of punk rock dance. As the vase spun around it began to lose its perfect form. One side started to collapse and spat droplets of clay at my fellow pupils. Of course at this point I probably should have eased off the gas and gone back to my seat. But I was an engrossed 13 year old and was completely beguiled by the destruction that was unfolding in front of me.

A bit more pressure on the pedal and the once beautiful creation left the potter's wheel and travelled in an arc across the classroom and hit a nearby wall. It stuck there momentarily before sliding downward to the ground, leaving a slimy scar on the pale blue paintwork. My teacher re entered the room to witness a lump of formless clay in the corner, an empty potter's wheel where once a crafted vase stood, and 29 boys cheering Waterman who was sat at the wheel looking pretty fucking sheepish.

Needless to say I was subject to the discipline of the day which was two strokes of the cane across my open palm. I remember the apprehension as I stood there, arm out-stretched in front of me. I remember quivering as the art teacher salivated in exacting vengeance for his lost art work. I remember thinking 'ouch' and blinking as the first lashing struck my hand. I remember too being slightly emboldened when a look of dismay crossed the teacher's face when no cry of pain or tears emitted following that first strike of the cane.

I remember too feeling like Alan fucking Ladd in Shane after the second lash struck my palm and I smirked at the teacher.

Is that all you've got?

Now that, Dear Reader, is what might be regarded as weakness leaving the body. If my teacher had really wanted to exact some revenge, waiting until I was 46 years of age then bundling me into his car and making me run 14 miles in Richmond Park with a bad back would have been far more successful. Of course if he tried that now I'd either give him a dry slap or say sorry for wrecking his vase and offer to buy him a beer.

But I'll remind you that it was two events that brought my art career to an end and the one above merely set the ground for my expulsion from the art block. As I sit here on a train to the land of Jock I could quite easily spend the time detailing my final indiscretion but I think it deserves a post of its own.

Check in later for a tale of BDSM and how if I ever chance upon Mr Robinson again I'll get medieval on his ass.


King For a Day

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

In terms of a return on my investment I feel a bit cheated.

No, I don't have a large sum of cash deposited in a Cypriot bank, in fact I don't have a large sum of cash invested anywhere unless you regard my one handed attempt to drain the European wine lake as some kind of fiscal genius.

I'm talking about the volume of training I've committed to since before Christmas and my resulting performance at the D33. Admittedly with hindsight I would run the race differently ie employ my usual race plan of running off like a loon, keep going until I've proven my ambition completely outweighs my ability, then breathing through my arse and hanging on til the finish. I honestly believe this strategy might have paid greater dividends in that race.

I've employed a similar technique in other areas of my life with some success. For instance I'm reminded of a monthly budgeting strategy I once employed, something I called the 'Live In the Moment System of Money Management.' It involved being paid at the beginning of the month then eating fine foods from quality restaurants and drinking fine wines til I fell over. Lots and lots of fine wines. Getting to and from said restaurants involved hailing a fast black and tipping the driver generously. As a single man this lifestyle ensured for a successful love life between the first and fourth days of each month.

Such excesses were balanced by the remaining 26-27 days where nutritional needs were met with tins of spaghetti hoops; any desire for an alcoholic beverage involved considering the ABV percentage of my after shave; and carnal needs were taken care of by Madam Palm and her five sisters. What you should see here is an enforced balance. If my life were lived according to the model demonstrated on days one to four I would surely burn out like some South London based Jimi Hendrix (or Jim Morrisson, Sid Vicious, Elvis Presley, Amy get the idea). Whereas if I were to extend the restraint shown in model two throughout the month I would be guilty of failing to enjoy the gifts of life and may as well fuck off and live in a cave.

As I said earlier, this budgetary strategy was one I called the 'Live in the Moment System of Money Management' and it was one that I employed for some considerable time....until an old Guv'nor of mine highlighted it's pitfalls and renamed if the 'King for a Day, C*nt for a Month' method.

Since then I've become considerably more sensible and have attempted to ensure a steady flow of expenditure throughout the month. No more expensive restaurants, BOGOF wine deals from the supermarket and a generation of cab drivers who mourn the demise of a man that suffered from some kind of fiscal lycanthropy.

I'm just concerned that in applying this degree of sensibleness to running, and in particular, racing, I might have killed something off. Some spark might have been extinguished. Some fire doused....OK, enough of the firefighting metaphors, I promised not to discuss my employment within the pages of this blog anymore.

Since the D33 I gave my lower back seven days to repair and have now returned to training. There was an easy run out on Sunday with a few hill sprints; a 40 minute static bike session on Monday followed by some 'down in the basement' squats on the Smith Machine; then a 70 minute treadmill session yesterday involving eight x four minute hill reps at an incline of level six. Today will see me out for an hour out with the running club.

That, Dear Reader, is no 'King for a Day, C*unt for a Month' training plan. No, Siree, that is full on, balanced, 'Race like Bragg' exercise strategy.

If the D33 was a test, it was something of a failure. Yes, I avoided the dreaded DNF and achieved a personal best, but I was expecting something better. The next test is the Highland Fling which is about a month away. The last time I ran that race competitively I attempted to chase down a crazy burd in a tutu and failed. It's unlikely she'll be running this year so maybe I'll wear the tutu for her.



Monday, 18 March 2013

What does it say about society, or at least the consumers of online blog material, when a post entitled 'A Bigger Penis' makes your hit counter spike alarmingly? Someone, somewhere must have either wanted larger appendage themselves or was looking discreetly on behalf of their husband/boyfriend.

If anyone reading this happens to be one of those individuals please accept my apologies for disappointing you with tales of bread pudding and running. In proving your time has not been entirely wasted, and in attempting to provide some advice in that particular subject area, just let me say this: bread pudding definitely will not enlarge the size of your Hampton. But eaten in large enough quantities it will expand your waistline, which in turn, will reduce the comparative size of your chopper (indeed if it's minuscule to begin with you'll never see the fuckin' thing again).

Likewise with running; that particular activity will not enlarge the size of your custard launcher either. In fact, if you run when the weather's cold enough, you'll believe your beaver basher has become nothing more than an oversized clitoris.

Anyway, enough of that and on to the meat of this post: the D33 Ultramarathon. I did say that this would either be a tale of triumph or a story of woe. In fact it's neither really. Triumph would have been beating my target time of five and a half hours while woe would have been a DNF and neither of those occurred. But before I go on I should say that from an event perspective, and in terms of planning, preparation and execution, this race is the nuts. The Race Director, George Reid has created an early season event that's accessible, achievable and a whole lot of fun. And I'm not just saying that because he's my mate and he let me stay at his house. Over 300 people entered it so the numbers don't lie, but onward with my triumph-free-yet-woe-less tale.

It's the night before the race and after arriving in Stonehaven Mrs Mac and I head for the Station Hotel where we know the Race Director and his glamorous assistant, Karen 'Poopy' Donoghue, will be holding court. Indeed that's where we find them and they're surrounded by a group of runners. I know these people are runners for a number of reasons:

1. They look fit, lean and lithe.
2. They wear clothes with labels like 'The North Face' or 'Asics.'
3. The talked incessantly about training, split times and PBs.
4. I know quite a few of them.

Of course, in considering the above criteria numbered 1-3, none apply to me but I feel no inferiority on that score. Do you know why? Because I can drink most of them runners under the table and when it boils down to it that's all that really matters.

So, after five pints of Guinness we're off to George's gaff to get our heads down.

The morning comes around far too quickly and my desire to wear shorts and tee shirt is discarded in favour of full Max Wall clobber due to the below zero temperature. My plan is to start the race and allow my pace to be dictated by heart rate (keeping below 140 BPM), stick at 10 minute mile pace, and never venture ahead of Bob Allison. My reason for sticking behind Bob has nothing to do with my appreciation of his peachy derrière and everything to do with the fact that for seven years I've stormed out of the blocks at the West Highland Way Race leaving Bob eating my dirt, only for him to cruise past me before Conic Hill and make that shaky hand gesture favoured by irate car drivers.

The 10 minute miling, 140 BPM and staying behind Bob all seem to be working well but I feel I'm holding back a bit too much. Anyway, it's all going swimmingly up to the 10 mile point when Bob stops to fish something out of his bag.....SHIT.....this wasn't in the plan. I either stop to help him and risk being arrested by the local constabulary for apparently attempting to rob one of their fellow Scots, or I go past him.

Bob mutters: 'Fuck off Dave, I've had enough of you enjoying my slipstream,' which kind of makes my mind up for me so I do indeed fuck off.

A few miles later and my sorrowful position in the race is made apparent when the leaders come haring toward me having turned around at the half way point. At one stage some fella I don't know almost crashes into me....he steps left, I step right....I step left, he steps right.....we're doing this ridiculous dance in the middle of the Scottish countryside and he's getting angrier by the second as his finishing place is being compromised by some idiotic Londoner. Eventually we find a way round each other and he's off like a rocket while I continue on to the turn around point at half way.

At this point the pain in my lower back is beginning to concern me. This is a condition I've been afflicted with for over a year and it's put a stop to a number of races. At the half way point I ask John Duncan if he's got any pain killers and like a Scottish Pablo Escobar he furnishes me with enough drugs to get me a part in Trainspotting.

By the 3/4 way checkpoint my pace is slowing and the pain in my back is becoming unbearable. My body has betrayed me, the drugs don't work (see what I did there?), the five hour thirty minute finish time has dissolved and serious consideration of DNF is made.

Then I think of a friend who I won't name but her blog is linked to mine. She's presently having a bit of a fight with illness and would like nothing better to be racing in the Scottish countryside with nothing to bother her but a bit of rain and an insignificant pain just above her arse. Anyway, I neck a caffeine gel, stick the Airborne Toxic Event on my iPod, and remarkably the pain goes and I get moving again.

I find my pace and make up a good few places in the race. I'm running along singing to the music and feeling pretty good. Whether it was the gel, the music, or thoughts of my friend that pick me up I'm not sure but I'll be trying that combination again.

I grind out the final few miles and arrive in Duthie Park in around six hours. I've scored a PB although I'm 30 minutes off my target time.

So what about a review of the race, of my training plan and the future? Well, with regard to the race I know a better time is in me and without the back pain I reckon I could have achieved my target. I reckon I could have bettered it too if I didn't hold back so much.

I intend to stick with the training plan and seek some physio. It's my belief that the back pain is caused by tight hamstrings so I'm presently looking at ways to solve that.

And the future is still on: The Highland Fling in April and the West Highland Way in June.

Finally, if you are one of my readers that came here looking for a bigger penis, I'm often told that size doesn't matter but here's something for you:

A Bigger Penis

Friday, 15 March 2013

Ok, so I said log in sometime after Saturday to discover the outcome of the D33 ultra marathon, but it's pre race day and I'm awake at 07:00 with a rumbling belly. The first of many carbohydrates are about to hit said stomach and I've decided that part of today will be set aside making bread pudding which will provide sustenance during the race.

For anyone unfamiliar with this cockney delicacy, it's a baked cake-like dish that's created from bread (the clue is quite clearly in the name), dried fruits, spices, milk (mine will be of the lactose free type......otherwise I'll receive a lifelong ban from Race Director, George) and butter (also of the lactose free type for the same reason). However, my version of this dish has a twist: the dried fruit spends a good few hours soaking in a bowl full of rum.

My theory behind using rum infused bread pudding as race food is this: it's soft and easily masticated, hence requires minimal energy to consume; it's created mainly from carb rich bread, so will fuel failing muscles; and has the inclusion of alcohol, which will give my undoubted sense of humour failure a lift and will act as a pain retardant. Fuckin' genius!!

Anyway, in poetic parlance this blog post is nothing more than a fact it's not even that, it's an epigram. And it is here to provide advice to fellow bloggers:

Avoid entitling your blog posts with something that, at first glance, might contain material that would be found under the counter at the local video shop (at least it would have done a few years ago before the advent of Internet adult related entertainment).

Using a title like 'Anally Inserted Love Eggs' might well act as a hook, and might even disappoint the hairy palmed enthusiast when he discovers the actual content has nothing to do with the suggested subject matter, but what it does do is attract and absolute avalanche of spam.

And I'm talking over 2,000 comments offering me Luis Vuitton bags, hair removal products, hair replacement products, and various ways of making my penis bigger.

Be sensible, fellow bloggers, don't do it.

Cutting the Grass

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I made a conscious decision that the days of tip tapping away in front of a screen while glugging red wine were behind me. I decided that Blogging is passé, entertaining virtual friends in the Blogosphere was sad, and in abandoning Subversive Running I'd developed into a more emotionally and psychologically mature individual.

That's all fine if you actually believe it. But those that know me well will realise that while the tip tapping away in front of a screen may have ceased, the glugging of red wine would continue in the same ferocious fashion it always has. They will also realise that any attempt at maturing my emotional and psychological sides is an exercise in futility and doomed to failure.

The fact is that public tale telling has some deep, deep pitfalls and I decided that for my own safety a step away from blogging, Facebook and Twitter was a good way forward. Well, blogging and Twitter at least. I've continued attempts to make the odd comical statement on Facebook but try to give that a bit of a wide berth when the cork comes out of the bottle.

I'll give you an example of how in the virtual world things can go from tripping along nicely to tits up in a heartbeat:

A couple of years ago I used to regularly relate tales from my employment as a London Firefighter. If you're a time served reader of this blog you may remember them; if not, have no fear, there was never any indulgence in airing the tragic, the gruesome or the pitiful, just some of the funnier sides of the job. Things like seeing ghosts in the laundry of an old folks home; chasing and capturing an exotic beetle that had escaped from a packing case from Egypt (later to discover it was a common or garden cockroach); and releasing an inebriated resident from his toilet because he was too drunk to open the door.......hold that thought......

So one day I'm hard at work in the fire station office. The phone rings and the discussion goes something like this:

'Hello, this is the local reporter from the Wandsworth Guardian, I'm phoning to see if you've had any newsworthy incidents lately.'

'I'm afraid not, we've been really quiet these past few days.'

'Really? Do you know anything about an incident where a local gentleman was locked inside his toilet?'

' do you know about that?'

'I read it on a blog called Subversive Running....'

'Cough.....splutter.....err......err......nope, I don't know what you're talking about, sounds like a work of complete fiction to me....'

So you can see my decision to leave the blogging alone was based on sensible and practical reasons. But having a blog that sits dormant is a little bit like having a garden that remains untended. You don't want to look at it because it's a mirror to your laziness and absenteeism.

So after braving the weeds and reading everyone else's blogs I should apologise. Particularly to the friend who has bravely related her current fight on her blog. You've ALWAYS accommodated the most lofty position in the female Scottish heirarchy regardless of owning your own teeth or otherwise.

Anyway, please view this post as me having got out the metaphorical lawnmower and hacked back the brambles. While not a horticultural showpiece of Chelsea standards my garden has at least seen some attention.

So what of training and running? Well, the training programme I've been following is still dictating my attendance at the gym and my presence on the hill. I had a bit of a hiccup when I was on a week long course in the flat lands of Lincolnshire a while ago and then a key long run of four hours turned into a shit short run of one hour after some kippers and toast played havoc with my lactose intolerance. You truly do not want me to say one more word about that.

The first test comes on Saturday when I run my first race of the season, the Dee 33 ultra. I ran this race last year after having done very little, if any, training. I reached the half way point successfully on a mission to finish in around five and a half hours then the wheels fell off. You can bluff it as an ultra runner up to a point only. Indeed entering an ultra marathon and knowing some of the participants does not an ultra runner make.

So hopefully a better performance will be recorded and it'll be upward and onward to June and the West Highland Way.

Check back in some time after Saturday to either read a tale of triumph or a story of woe and marvel at the developing garden. And if I foolishly eat something containing lactose you might be able to read of my exploits in the local paper. Imagine the headline:

'London Firefighter Dressed Like Max Wall Arrested for Exposing His Arse and for Causing Massive Bio Hazard Alert in the River Dee.'


Anally Inserted Love Eggs

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I've done this before at this time of the year. January brings optimism and ambition in equal measure, I make plans for the year, only to see them dashed by injury, lethargy and at times chaos. But if I fail to begin with ambition and give up before the year begins I'll most likely spend it in an alcoholic stupor getting fat on kebabs and KFC.

So my race year is planned, entries are submitted and paid for, and.......get this......I'm actually doing some training. When I say some training I ain't joshing either. I've been following this training plan I've adapted from one kindly shared by Dale Jamieson and it's pretty full on.

Now, having once been a dedicated weight trainer, and being a qualified boxing coach, I understand the tripartite composition of a successful exercise regime: you can train all you like but if you don't provide your body with the appropriate fuel you'll crash and burn. Red wine and kebabs may have fuelled the fantasies of a runner (I still hate that word and don't regard myself as such) who got by on muscle memory and grit, but even I comprehend that I'll need a slightly smarter nutritional strategy if I'm gonna spend half my life in the gym or on the trail.

Likewise, you can train all you like but if you fail to get adequate rest your body will fail to repair and injury and exhaustion will surely follow. Four hours kip might have satisfied the sleep requirements of a runner who barely ran anywhere, but I'm gonna need to spend a bit more time in the land of nod if I'm gonna spend half my life pedalling away on a static bike or haring round the track in Battersea Park.

So I've entered three races this year: the Dee 33, the Highland Fling and the West Highland Way. I started my new training programme before Christmas and so far have stuck to it more religiously than John Kynaston with a new Bible. And I've been eating properly and sleeping at night (and some of the day). But in the back of my mind the words of the back specialist I saw last year chime constantly:

'Just accept it, your ultra running days are over.'

The pain that exists in my lower back that numbs my legs and makes me walk like I'm making full use of a pair of anally inserted love eggs is a current companion. That companion has been quieted by Cocodamol and physiotherapy and I believe I'll be on top of it before the Celandine blooms. I'm determined to prove the specialist wrong, and to be fair, if I had been honest with her about the imbalance that existed in my training v racing she might have qualified her statement with:

'Your ultra running days are over as long as you continue to be an idiot.'

So there you have it, Dear Reader: a new year and new plans. Let's see what happens.