Uh, yeah. About that unstructured posting format, huh?
I have a few week’s worth of news that I’ve been trying to update on, and every time I get close something happens to get in the way or distract. There’s something I need to write about, but there’s another two half-written posts first to get done, and this is weighing on me.
So today I said fuck it. You know what? If unstructured is the goal, unstructured it’ll be. Have a bunch of half written posts. Maybe they’ll be illuminating. Maybe I’ll write a follow up post to actually explain how these would have ended, could I have found the energy.
At Arm’s Length
When you combine moving, launching a novice triathlon training programme, trying to get back into some kind of rhythm with my own training, and a change in job role at work things can get pretty hectic. In between all of that, I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of races. Both running races, both run under entirely different philosophies, both illuminating and heartbreaking in their own ways. Also, finally an excuse to get some more pics on this thing. Yay!
(This is post 1 of 2 that I’ve been working on – another more intimate one to follow shortly, ish, kinda, when I feel like it)
(Actually now I’m worried it might be 1 of 3 this has been a really drawn out process)
(Oh god halp)
First, the Human Race Winter Run 10k. I ran this last year and did pretty well, and with my recent running form and another free entry from work on the cards (this time including free photos illustrating that my eyes are shut 5/7ths of the time when I’m running) the time felt right to have a good, honest crack at a sub-34 minute 10k. Mind and body prepared, fellow office runners informed loudly and proudly of this goal – hey, someone’s gotta hold me accountable – I clicked through the entry forms, memories of last year’s ducking and weaving through voluminous hordes of fun-runners in mind. Less than 36 minutes. First wave please.
Of course they put me in the last wave. I’m not entirely sure why, but can only assume that all of the corporate entries must have been chucked in this wave by default. There was some grieving involved, and then Coach Tim talked some sense into me and everything was okay, and then the actual race happened. I skipped around the course at decidedly less than full whack, but still faster than planned because it was bloody arctic and running slow meant lower heart rate meant cold. Of course then I had to bugger off very quickly to do some more move-related activities, but I did pause to briefly note some thoughts, as they were at the time, for the inevitable write-up.
Friday: human race bag of dicks rahrahrah
Saturday: its okay all part of the plan i am an enlightened running fellow
Sunday: things i hate in life include people who run with headphones, people gather in large non-mobile groups to take selfies, people who stop in the middle of the race course to take selfies, people who stop in the middle of the race course to change music, people who don’t look behind them before pulling out, people
Yeah, that’s, er, actually the manner I make inevitable write-up notes in.
I get that I’m lucky when it comes to running. I’m lucky enough to have discovered a talent that lay dormant for quarter of a century before stirring. I’m lucky enough be to damn quick and somehow still getting quicker, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the hours I actually put into running. People who dedicate themselves to running are jealous of how effortlessly I manage it. People who have cycled for years sometimes are as well, for similar reasons. People who swim… actually no, they just try not to cringe, and resist the urge to leap in and save me from myself.
The Winter Run event isn’t really aimed at competitive runners, I get that too. It’s a mass participation event with a significant charity/feelgood focus, and that’s fine. Anything that gets more people up and moving, promoting some sort of healthy lifestyle, I would say, is totally cool. There needs to be more of that in the world. I also never wanted to be that over-competitive arsehole who takes sports way too seriously.
God damn though, I won’t do that event next year. I try really hard to be arseholish about it, but I do enjoy running, and I do enjoy pushing myself. It’s what I’m there for, and I’m trying not to be a dick about it, and not make people feel bad, or barge past them, or act overly and unashamedly inconsiderate towards others. There were so many people behaving in a way that I’d consider inconsiderate towards others at that event that it was basically 40 minutes of anxiety as I weighed my own frustration versus trying not to piss off anyone around me, and managed neither. Apparently I shouldn’t run fast, it makes other people feel bad.
It’s made me significantly wary about next year’s plans. I’ve been considering running a major marathon, and had half an eye on trying to nab a spot for London in the Chasers club ballot, but I definitely don’t think I’d do that route anymore without qualifying through Good For Age/Championship entry (be fast/be really fucking fast), which means doing either a half or full marathon before June. Not going to happen with Lanzarote at the end of May, is it?
Oh well, at least there’s one running picture with me actually looking where I’m going.
Reset, carry on. Coach Tim’s wise words were basically a reminder that I had a race to smash the weekend after and have two achilles tendons made of glass, so maybe I should consider not going balls to the wall on the Winter Run anyway so I can save something for the more important of the two: the final race in the Surrey Crosscountry (XC) League. A relegation scrap loomed and I needed to be firing on all cylinders the following weekend.
After last month’s efforts I was feeling the nerves in a big way pre-race. Everything was fine and dandy watching the ladies come agonisingly close to reclaiming the title in their league’s top flight, and then as they were finishing, bam. Stomach drops, cold sweats, the lot. Pretty sure someone commented on it. I didn’t want to be around people. I just wanted the race to be done already, so I could know if I’d managed to pull off the same magic trick twice.
I almost, almost made it happen.
The first lap was going grand. A nice easy start, letting everything settle a bit before starting to cut my way up the field, which worked so well in the last race. A little bit harder going underfoot this time, but frankly I was just happy to be moving, because as soon as I set off the nerves disappeared. Also the weather was miserable so the sooner I finished, the sooner I could put some real clothes on and not prance about in some ridiculous short-shorts and a vest.
Three quarters of the way around lap one, disaster numero uno: climbing a short rise, caught my foot on a mud-obscured branch and went down hard onto some mud-obscured stones. There goes the wind in the chest. Bugger. Unfortunately, it’s XC, and it’s a relegation battle, and there’s no time for a breather. I started running before I had anything in my lungs to really run with, and just focused on trying to hold onto the group of runners that I’d recently passed, and not flying head over tit when passing the sizeable Chasers support contingent on a very muddy downhill corner.
Somehow, somehow, I managed to hold on. It’s really rather painful to run when your lungs have decided to go on temporary strike, but eventually that subsided – just in time for me to dive into a waterlogged ditch (planned, not unexpected, it was part of the course) and twist my ankle as I landed on a stone, or something equally nefarious that I couldn’t see and was not doubt planted there by our relegation rivals. The swine.
Cue loud swearing – the lungs had clearly got their shit together at this point. Cue limping onwards for the last half a lap. Cue having to stop for a brief 5 seconds before the home straight, in a lot of pain but giving myself a very brief and angry pep talk (‘go fuck yourself, you’re not quitting’ was more or less the gist of it). Cue sprinting anyway on the home stretch because there was a guy somewhere behind me, and I didn’t know where but I knew he was from another club and gaining on me. Cue getting to the finish and struggling to hold in the vomit, usually the hallmark of a good race.
Running gone well
Time to refocus – FTP test
Long swim set before therapy – awful. Way too much time in own head. Technical cool, something to focus on.
But then we come to another problem in this whole nest of problems: I am an unreliable narrator. Maybe spending more time in my own head is, well, not a good thing, but a necessary thing?
I sit on the tube to therapy and I feel emotionally fragile, about as stable as an Easter egg before a blowtorch, and I walk from the tube station to therapy and I feel scared. I climb the stairs and I feel knackered, because this is post long swim and it’s on the fourth floor.
And then my hand is on the doorknob, and the door is opened, and into the room strides George the Stoic. George the Analyst. George, who says a lot of “I feel x, and I feel this because of y and z. And I have acknowledged this, and it is the truth, and if I am aware then I am in control, look upon my works and marvel for I am so very, very smart.” George the Stoic is an insufferable prick.
When I went through this process three years ago, I was sullen and withdrawn, emotionally and physically – the chairs are in the same place, and of the same design, but I sit differently now, less slouching. Now compared to then, I was like an angry kid. That’s the comparison I keep drawing myself, any time I’m there.
It’s not a complaint of my therapist, by I guess a mutual observation – now, I am too reserved. Therapy is no longer something to be tolerated, it’s a challenge to be overcome. Something to complete and excel at. I wonder how much of that is down to triathlon and forcing myself into a performance mindset. I wonder how much of it is growth, and how much of that is honest growth.
In a roundabout way, maybe I need to do the long swims. Maybe they’re the key towards me being a bit more open, slightly more heart than head.
So Here We Are
The crux of the problem is my Uncle unexpectedly died on Wednesday. It’s kind of eclipsed everything else.
I can’t write a great deal on it right now, because most everything I could say would be presumptive at this point. I can’t write about a hell of a lot else either though, because that would be unflinchingly cold.
I’m kind of worried about the results of the toxicology tests because there is an irrational part of me that is poised and ready to take up the blame-hammer and go to town in my internal narrative. It’s like watching a bomb fall very, very, very slowly. I want to take this junction to point out that the key word in this paragraph is irrational. Yes, I know it’s ridiculous.
Listening: Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Drowned World; one of my favourite modern composers, Sicario and Arrival both had sublime scores. I like this song cos it makes me think of the old Resident Evil soundtracks a bit. The sun has indeed gone dim, and the sky is very very dark.
Reading: Harukari Murakami – What I Think About When I Think About Running; yes, someone finally bought me this so I am finally reading it.