Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sub aqua distractions...

So what do I think about when I swim? Well, tonight I started with counting... but then, with 25m widths or 50m lengths (depending on which way they've got the pool configured), I have to count or I'd never know what distance I'd covered. It has a similar effect, though, to the counting with which I start each run; it's a zoning out exercise and a bit like going under with the hypnotist, "3, 2, 1 and you're gone...."

That done I then moved on to thinking about work: re-running some of the conversations I'd had during the day... Stop! There's nothing different here from what you said you think about when you run? No, that's right; the first part is all about physically settling into a pace by mentally processing the day at work. My first 100m of swimming is very similar to my first 1000m of running.

Anyway, where was I...? I then moved on to thinking about my last visit to this pool on Tuesday and what a bad experience that had been. I was settling into my pace now. I thought about how I might have handled the situation differently and I started to replay the scene in my head... When a man in a pair of rather well fitting sky blue shorts swam past me in the next lane. He had an athletic build, a light dusting of dark body hair in all the right places and... Did I already mention that he fitted his sky blue shorts rather well?

His swimming technique left much to be desired; too many extraneous movements to be mistaken as a competition swimmer but he swam with an energy and vigour that was quite attractive. I endeavoured to keep up with him, honing in on his rather well fitted sky blue shorts like a dazzling beacon drawing me on. But try as I might he soon left me behind and soon all I could see of him as he disappeared into a chlorinated blur was his wake of silvery effervescence.

We passed each other from time to time in our adjacent lanes but these were fleeting glances. I returned to concentrating on my swim but my counting had been eradicated and forgotten. Had I completed my 500m? Had I excelled with an impressive 1000m? Who knows, all I remember is a pair of rather well fitting sky blue shorts.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A running focus...

So what do I think about when I run? Well, tonight I started with counting, which is what I normally do. It's not a conscious thing but I've noticed that I count for the first 160 or so steps. I think it's a zoning out exercise that I've subconsciously developed. It's a bit like going under with the hypnotist, "3, 2, 1 and you're gone...."

That done I then moved on to thinking about work: re-running some of the conversations I'd had during the day; had I given the best response and had I given that response in the best way? I chewed this over for the first kilometer as my muscles began to warm and my breathing found its own rhythm.

I then moved on to thinking about a hospital appointment I'd attended during the afternoon today. As a diabetic, I have regular check ups and today's was my 6 monthly visit to the ophthalmologist. This appointment always generates some anxiety in me as I have a fear of losing my sight (Who wouldn't?) and a loathing of their laser treatment. I've only had laser treatment once before and, I swear, you can smell burning flesh after they've zapped your rods and cones!

I get a little nervous days in advance of this appointment. The appointment begins with eye drops to dilate the pupils. These drops are the modern synthetic equivalent of belladonna. Belladonna was used cosmetically in the Middle Ages to dilate women's pupils so that they looked more doe-eyed and lovelorn - hence belladonna meaning beautiful lady. Today, its equivalent is used to dilate diabetic patients' pupils so that it's easier to inspect the retina at the back of the eye for damage. Thankfully, on inspection, my retinas are stable and laser treatment was not required today. A sense of relief bordering on air-punching celebration began to permeate every stride and any fatigue seemed banished as I settled into the run.

One of the side effects of these eye drops is an inability to focus and a hypersensitivity to bright light. Today was a beautifully sunny day and this evening saw the brilliant sunshine throw long shadows in my wake. Consequently, I spent most of the first 3km of my run wincing and squinting as my vision was reduced to that of a small burrowing mammal.

But as the run progressed, mole became owl, my vision re-adjusted and my thoughts turned to food. By the 4km point in my run my thoughts had segued solely into food and what dinner preparations I needed to make.

And so, the bridge was constructed and I'd crossed it:
  •  Pearl Barley
  • Carrots
  • Fine Beans
  • Courgettes
  • Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes
  • Red Onion
  • Chickpeas
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Feta Cheese
  • Spinach
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Bread
  • Seasoning
Cook what you need to cook of the above ingredients. Combine with those that you don't need to cook. Serve.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Underwater no one can hear you scream...

I used to run 15km three times a week. Then in December 2009 my knee said, "No more!" I took up swimming whilst the physiotherapist got me back into shape and running again.

I hadn't swum in years; not since they demolished the Empire Pool in 1998 to make way for the Millennium Stadium in the centre of Cardiff. I got back into swimming quite quickly and really started to enjoy it. In my mind's eye I sliced through the water with minimal effort, like a well buttered dolphin, whereas the reality was probably nearer a rasping, injured and distressed amphibian thrashing out life's final gasps. No matter; it was an enjoyable alternative until I was given the green light to begin running again.

When that green light came, rather than ditch the swimming, I kept it going and have done to this day. I became a member of the Cardiff International Pool and go swimming there on the days when I don't run. My 500m splashes are not going to win me any prizes or give me that much coveted swimmer's physique but I find they loosen me up, calm me down and ensure that my joints keep moving. I look forward to it in the same way I look forward to running; as a bridge I need to cross from the world of work into the evening.

Today had been a busy work day and I was looking forward to my cool and calming swim. However, this was not to be. The staff at the pool had decided to let some teenagers with raging hormones spill over from the leisure pool into the 50m laned pool for some running, diving, horseplay and heavy petting sessions. After being barged twice and kicked once I got out and complained.

It was the look on the pool attendant's face of "What do you expect me to do about it?" that really sent me overboard.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Nothing but an orthotic wearing, high arched, under pronator...

...I'm also a 48 year old, Welsh, gay diabetic. Oh, and I like to run.

There, that's that out of the way. So why am I telling you this? Well, I  always find it difficult knowing when to drop information about myself into conversations and whenever I do, it always sounds like a small explosion. I guess I'd rather get it all out the way at the beginning. So, now you know...

On Saturday I bought myself a new pair of trainers for running. My old ones had started making a funny slapping noise with every step and after 18 months wear it was time I changed them. It's always difficult buying new trainers: whilst I was ready to trade in the old ones, my feet were still best friends with them. I'd done some research on the internet and made a note of some pairs (suitable for a high arched, under pronator) I'd like to try on. That done, one pair stood out from the rest: the flagship cushioning shoe in the Asics collection, the Gel-Nimbus 12.

As soon as I got home I went for a 5km run. Whilst you're actually running, it's hard to know whether a new pair of trainers are good because during the run you scrutinise every step: is that twinge because of the new trainers, are my legs just heavy today, what's that slight ache in the small of my back...? And on it goes. Nothing conclusive during the run.

After the run I noticed that my slight back ache had not subsided. And then I realised; I'd forgotten to insert my orthotics. I've worn inserts in my trainers ever since I broke my ankle 3½ years ago; I get a bad back if I don't use them. How did I forget to insert the orthotics? Duh!

On Sunday I went for another run. Only 3km this time. Just long enough to test drive the new trainers - with orthotic inserts this time! The run was fairly comfortable and I tried to forget I was wearing new trainers and just enjoy it. This I managed to do, despite the sweltering heat at the end of a beautiful day but after the run as the evening wore on... how my poor legs ached. With every trip to refill my wine glass my simian gait grew more pronounced!

I was dreading tonight's run. My calf muscles have been tight in work all day and the thought of my run this evening only drew a foreboding gloom that I'd bought the wrong trainers and all this would be confirmed by tonight's agonising 5km. However, tonight's run was nothing but pleasurable. Yes, my calf muscles are still a little tight, yes, my back still aches slightly and yes, the shoes still feel a bit "new" but they seem to be bedding in.

Whilst they're not quite best friends yet, my feet are well on their way to getting to know my new trainers.