Ooh, we’re in November, and so begins my pre-training training proper. My fat tax rebate cheque from last week finally got cashed, so I have been very busy spending it on all manner of things. What things, oh teller of interesting tales, I hear you cry/type/think really loudly? Well, I’ll tell you at the end. There’s other stuff to yap about first.
If you have not already watched Professor Green: Suicide and Me, I would urge you to go and do so. Not to curry favour with the prominent Chaser who has credits on it as the location producer (that might be the first time I’ve ever watched the credits on anything that isn’t a Marvel film, because I was terrified of getting that wrong), and certainly not because it’s a light relaxing watch for a Sunday evening. Don’t watch it tonight. Actually, don’t watch it tomorrow either, no use heading into the week on a downer. Watch it on Tuesday: it’s statistically the saddest day of the week – or Wednesday, depending on your source – so you’ll already be miserable. No harm can be done.
Why should you watch this? Two reasons. The first is that it continues the BBC’s record of putting out some cutting, insightful and engaging programs about mental health. There was this great one a year or two back called Don’t Call Me Crazy about a youth psychiatric ward, which is another fav of mine. Channel 4’s Bedlam was also very good, but I prefer the Beeb’s tendency to focus on the ‘everyday’ problems rather than go in for the most extreme cases.
The second reason, and one that really piqued my curiosity, is that it features the Maytree (time stamp 28:38; but really, just watch the whole thing). I didn’t know this when I decided to sit down and watch the program, and it kind of threw me. One condition of staying at the Maytree is that it’s a one off visit; they don’t have the resources to turn it into a constant care home. Five days, four nights, and that’s it; you don’t get to go back. It is, and they acknowledged this, the major problem of their system.
I was not expecting to see the inside of those walls again, even if it did end up being through the glare of an iPad screen. I remember sitting at that kitchen table, refusing food because I couldn’t bring myself to eat. I remember the befriending rooms or whatever they’re called now, which always felt a little claustrophobic to me, probably more because of my reaction at the time to opening up than due to the physical confines of the space itself. I remember the artwork on the walls and trying to get lost in it rather than be forced to confront thoughts I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to confront. Obviously a part of me did, because I was one of the few guests that came as a self-referral, but still. I remember Dave, who was around, I think, on the fourth day I was there? It may or may not have been a Thursday. He was asked to challenge me. He did.
If you’re vaguely interested in the charity fundraising I will be doing next year as a part of this whole thing, those five or ten minutes will give you a good insight into what I am raising money for.
Back to current events. As it’s half term, there hasn’t been much work on for me this week, so I’ve by and large been at home doing some much needed life admin, in between more exciting things such as attending talks by Special Guest Star Number Two: four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington.
It’s like your own game of Where’s Wally to go play… Thanks very much Sham Patel for providing me with the image!
The immediate observation is that my experience with being is the same room as Chrissie Wellington for two hours was not nearly as bloody painful as being in the same room as Daley Thompson for two hours. That’s a very, very good thing. She gave a very informative breakdown on her time as an athlete and her top training tips, which I learnt a lot from (my diet is shit, my race day diet is shitter, my training is shittest). There was a Q&A afterwards, and I kind of wanted to ask a question or two about positive/negative mental attitudes during racing, but chickened out, because there were plenty of people wanting to ask about actual racing things and I felt very conscious of not making everything and everywhere in life about mental health, so I refrained.
I immediately regretted this on leaving and emailed Chrissie when I got home. End result: Chrissie Wellington is fully confident I have what it takes to do an Ironman. If she says I can then I’m not going to argue.
Amongst other tips, there was a section in Chrissie’s talk about mental game and how to prepare yourself. One pointer in this that stood out to me was to have a personal motto or mantra to gee yourself up when you get to that point in a race that you’re failing. I guess it stood out because I already have one: ‘Rage Against the Dying of the Light’, a line taken from Dylan Thomas’ most well-known poem (usually goes by the name of Do Not Go Gentle). To me, the line is a reminder that just because everything is falling apart, you don’t have to just accept it and go quietly. I think it’s fitting. It kind of has to be fitting, because I have it tattooed right across my chest, anyway. My chest piece is very colourful, I consider it my equivalent of a Peacock’s tail plumage. Recent research has apparently shown that the size of a Peacock’s plumage can be seen as an indicator of fitness, with larger plumage equaling a fitter bird. I’m just going with the assumption that a large chest tattoo works in the same way.
On a barely related note! earlier that same day I had finally got around to watching Interstellar (here be spoilers if you’ve not seen it). Great film, really fantastic score. Two characters in the film heavily use the same Dylan Thomas poem; slightly ironic then that both characters are mad, either through loss of faith in humanity or through humanity’s loss of faith in them, and both use the poem as justification for their horrible, horrible actions. Oh. Er. Balls.
Between some emotionally taxing TV, brushing shoulders (almost) with some very niche celebrities and catching up on a few year’s worth of sci-fi films (Ex Machina and Coherence: also very good), I have been mainly spending all my hard-earned pennies on gearing up for next year. After discussions with the family, accommodation is all sorted, and Mum and older brother James have decided to come to Sweden for support, which is fantastic. Bright family roadtrip! Mum’s going to have all the bridges she could possibly ever want to not photograph (see this earlier blog post for that tale of horrific family holiday parental abuse).
Having James there will actually be very helpful, as he’s no stranger to long-distance racing himself – albeit he does it with a motorcycle, which the Lycra louts reading this may throw their chai-mocha-choca-soy-gluten free-eco lattes in the air about, with accusations of its got a motor, it must be cheating. You know what? Those things are bloody heavy, and not the easiest thing in the world to control (the motorbikes, not the ‘coffee’). I should know, I accidentally rode one into a bush when he asked me to hold it while he went to the loo once (his motorbike, not the… dirty bastards). A Trials rider turned Enduro rider, James is more used to lugging his bike around the course than the other way around. That might be because he’s a bit shit, or it might be because I don’t really understand the sports he does, but hey! It looks impressive.
I’m just kidding James! Please don’t remove your financial backing (James actually lent me the money to enter Ironman Kalmar, so none of this would be happening without him). The point I’m trying to make is he knows about long, lonely and tough days in the saddle, so it’ll be handy to have someone around with that experience, even if the context is slightly different. And if you thought I was/am a bad swimmer, Christ you should see this kid. If I have a sudden crisis of confidence I’ll drop him in the harbour and feel better within five minutes.
I’ve also been booking up my practice races – or I’ve been trying. See, Natwest kindly blocked my card when I started, thinking it was fraudulent behaviour. Even my bank don’t believe that I’ve turned all sporty! Anyway, I persisted, and after a few phone calls actually managed to spend some money. So far, the schedule is: April 17th, Brighton Marathon; May 15th, Chiltern 100 Sportive; June 6th (probably, the exact date hasn’t been released yet), Salty Sea Dog 3.8k Swim; and June 12th, Deva middle distance triathlon. Three races that are each the equivalent, more or less, to the individual discipline distances for a full Ironman; and then one half-distance triathlon to get me used to long distance racing and putting it all together. This all then segues comfortably into my peak training phase, allowing me no time after Deva to whinge and moan and decide that all of this is a horrible, stupid idea and consider quitting. Nope, I’m committed now.
On the subject of Deva, and this is largely aimed at Chasers/any other competing athlete I’ve picked up: if you’re planning to enter and haven’t already done so, please click on this link to do so! This way I get entered into a draw to earn my entry free back, with better odds for everyone that signs up through the link. Because I’m a magnanimous bastard, if I do happen to win the draw, I’ll take the reimbursed fee and put it straight towards the charity fund.
Just to prove there has actually been some sporting progress this week, here’s me absolutely definitely not dying on my feet at some crosscountry training yesterday. Minimalist trail shoes are weird, you can feel the grip nubs as you step, it’s like having an angry massage on the soles of your feet.
I haven’t done crosscountry since I was in secondary school, sneaking off into the bushes for a fag. Tune in next week to hear all about how my first crosscountry race goes! I’m predicting mud, blood and alcohol. It’ll be entertaining. There may also be talk about swimming, which is what I was meant to write about this week, before I got sidelined. D’oh.
Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!