Sunday, 20 November 2011

Self-doubt

I still get reminders. Days that feel as hopeless and dark as they used to.

Luckily they are relatively few and far between. They still don't feel any less real, or any easier to deal with. In some ways it feels like there is more to lose. I'm daring to dream, daring to do more than that. I'm daring to back myself again and put trust in my own ability, drive and my own sense of who I am.

But that allows for self-doubt to creep in. Whether it be work, relationships, money, or just whether I like myself very much. I question myself. Am I really good enough/fit enough/strong enough to achieve my racing goals? Am I driven/committed/intelligent enough to find a job I excel in and enjoy? Will I actually end up in a relationship where I am happy and make the other person happy? Does it matter? It's not life or death... in fact, for the most part I'm not even risking hurting anyone else. Perhaps I should stop being so self-obsessed.

I've thrown away a proverbial safety blanket of doing only what I know I can do. I've started taking more risks again. Nothing special in many ways. Nothing that any normal person wouldn't associate with living a full life. I'm trusting my mental strength to see me through. So, when my head has a wobble, it is that much harder.

Today, I had a wobble. No specific reason behind it. I woke up feeling panicked, empty and deeply low. A horrible, introverted, unattractive self-loathing. I've done nothing all day. I've not wanted to communicate. I've not wanted to do, or be anything. I've not told anyone... in fact, I've had no direct communication with anyone all day. Not even the electronic kind. I don't want it.

I hate that I've lost a day... but while my head feels unable to comprehend being able to do anything with what remains of Sunday, already I have a tiny chink of optimism about Monday. I want to run. I want to feel damp, clammy, cold autumn air fill my lungs, sweat condense on my base layer, cold muscles warming from the inside out. Maybe, after that, things will feel a little brighter, a little more achievable again.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Moving on, staying me

Wow, it's been a long time since I updated this blog.

For those of you who don't know, I've set up a new website:
http://projectenduranceracer.com/

I decided to set it up, as it is very much about looking forward and new goals. I've always said I don't want depression to define me. And I don't want it to define my future.

A new website and new longer term goals has coincided with a more positive, more stable outlook in general. I feel more confident, happier (yup - actual happiness) and genuinely feel like I'm enjoying life at the moment. I'm still having therapy, which is helping me maintain focus. In fact, I'm considering lowering my dose of anti-depressants (with support from my GP of course).

I will continue to update this blog, particularly when talking about "head stuff", but for the time being my ramblings will be more frequent over on the other side.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Therapy

I went to a therapy assessment today. I asked for a referral from my GP a few weeks ago. I've mentioned on here that I've been through a course of CBT and how beneficial that was.

Over the last few months though, I've become increasingly aware that there are so many other issues which are nagging there. But, fundamentally, I'm just not that happy a lot of the time. I'm not the person I know I can be, I know I have been, and I am utterly determined to rediscover the drive and confidence I once had.

I know some of the things I need to do to achieve this, but there are other areas where I feel like I'm spinning around in circles and simply feel weak, helpless and lost. I had a 45mins consultation with a therapist today. The idea was to work out what the most appropriate next steps will be.

It's bloody hard sitting opposite a stranger and talking about how many times you think about killing yourself. It's even harder trying to consider whether you would ever actually go through with those thoughts (I don't believe I will by the way). But, we talked or rather, I did. The therapist suggested something called IPT. I'd never heard of it, but it sounds like it has the potential to be incredibly beneficial.

I'm now exhausted. Deeply, deeply tired. The sadness and stress of yesterday, on top of the raw exposure of my deepest thoughts today have taken their toll. Time to sleep.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Two people

Sitting in the office.
Eyes beginning to fill.
Confirmation of what I maybe already knew.
The end of uncertainty?
What is better? A chance of happiness, no matter how remote, or the safety of the grey?
Heartbroken.
Relationships... two people.
I can think about my own feelings, I can choose to commit, I can offer my love. No matter how hard the decision is to risk everything, the decision is in my hands.
But then, the other person has to make a decision. Is it right for them? Can they take that risk? Are they ready to?
We came to different conclusions.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

1 month to go...

Just over actually, but a month of proper "training" time to go until the Nokia Coast to Coast.

I honestly can't describe the exercise that I've been doing as training. It has lacked real structure... and fluctuated according to my moods. There have been time when bigger issues have stripped any motivation away, and other times where exercise has felt like the only medicine that worked.

I'm a little scared about what I face, scared of the pain mainly. But, overall, I bloody can't wait.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Keep taking the medicine

40mg Citalopram daily
One programme of CBT complete
 
And something new... I'm meeting with a counsellor on Wednesday to decide whether it will be appropriate/useful for me to have some more general talking therapy. At my last appointment with my GP, I discussed with her that I still feel as though there are underlying root causes to my depression that I'm simply not getting to the bottom of. I hope this might help.
 
I'm also aware that I'm putting myself through lots of additional stress at the moment (see last post). For the most part I'm coping fine, but I also know that there are the odd signs that it is getting to me. I'm having more "off days", and my sleep is less settled. Not surprising in many ways, and I'm not overly worried, but also know that if I'm not careful I could slide down much deeper, which will help no one.
 
So, despite really, really not in the mood, I'll be going out for a run today. It's all part of the medicine.

Reconciliation

Love. A very little word, that covers an incredible range of attached emotions.
 
According to all romantic comedies love will conquer all. No matter how dumb the people have been, no matter how impossible the situation, love will shine through. It's just meant to be... and it is.
 
Back in reality. A little look back over my relationship history. Bit of a late start with serious girlfriends. I wasn't a particularly good looking, or confident teenager. But since then... serial monogamist is probably a an accurate, if not entirely flattering description. Lived with three different girls. Had other shorter relationships in-between the serious ones. I ended most, feeling guilt ridden that I was hurting someone whom I cared about. And I always did care... but deep down, knew I didn't love.
 
Nearly a year ago, things were different. I could feel a relationship that had felt different to any other slipping through my fingers. But in some ways that was the least of my worries. I was beginning to suffer from panic attacks I was permanently exhausted. The quality of my work was slipping. I couldn't concentrate on anything. I felt the deepest, clawing sadness, that I couldn't escape from. And to make matters worse, I had lost any ability to articulate what was going on.
 
Fast forward a few months, and the first girl I had ever known I was going to spend the rest of my life with was leaving. Moving out. The end of the relationship. She needed to for her own health and sanity as much as mine. The stress and strain of trying to cope with everything broke her too. I will feel eternally guilty for the pain I caused. There was no big bang. No finality. Just like the sea gradually reclaiming a sandcastle... it was gradually washed away, drowned in bigger individual problems.
 
As time went on, there were bouts of awkward, painful contact. I would be left reeling for days afterwards. It felt as though it would be better for both of us to simply not see each other at all. But there was always a curious, or fateful draw. And the meetings became less painful. There was always a feeling of deep emptiness afterwards though. We both opened up. Both talked. Both began to understand, forgive, move on. But as that happened, old emotions were reawakened. I don't think I ever stopped loving her, but at least when there was little or no contact, there was no reminder. It almost felt cruel. A few hours of blissful life in a bubble. Talking and laughing and being "us", before returning back to the house that used to be ours. To the double bed that I now sleep in the middle of. Despite this, I couldn't help but be drawn back for more. And neither could she. Regular Thursday evenings. The odd day trip. Sometimes staying over. Jokes and frivolous emails exchanged daily.
 
But all the time in our bubble. No real interaction with the other people who are important in our life. Always just us. Always with gnawing fears lurking in the back of our minds. Must not get too deep. Must not let this affect our own mental health. Must not get hurt. Must not fall back in love.
 
Shit.
 
I fell back in love. She tells me she has too, and I believe her... except when I'm lying in bed by myself, feeling vulnerable and scared. Then, for a while at least, my mind runs riot. Thoughts of jealousy. Insecurity.
 
We talked. And still talk and talk. Do we do this? Do we really get back together, after everything? Are we strong enough to? Why weren't we strong enough before? Is this honestly the right thing to do? What happens if I get ill again? How would we cope? What if I hurt her? What if I get hurt? How do we rebuild the trust with friends who were there for me, but not her?
 
And now... limbo. Too in love to walk away. Too scared to take the next step. The safety of the bubble threatens to be popped. We both know that we need to make a decision. And have utter conviction in that choice.
 
This is never in those bastard films.
 
I don't want to lose her all over again. I need to be strong enough to be able to though.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2011

Hot.
 
Fast.
 
Longer/harder than previous years?
 
Steep ascent and descent.
 
Lovely midcamp sunbathing.
 
Midges.
 
Sunburn.
 
Dehydration.
 
Spent.
 
5th Day 1. Down to 10th by Day 2.
 
Average.
 

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Run

Had a great run into work yesterday.

Wind had died back to a light breeze, weather was mild but fresh. Feet felt light, despite a heavier than normal rucksack.

Cruised around Roundhay Park lake, which had more runners out than normal. I know it is childish, and not a race, but I do like playing "hunt the runner in front of me", trying to reel them in as quickly as possible.

Surprised that I don't seem to have lost too much speed, despite not running a great deal in the last month. Ace.

Brilliant tingly endorphins saw me through a crazy day of "this job is more urgent than your current really urgent job, but they both need to be done today" type stuff.

Ooops

Turns out that I'm already doing the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon on the first weekend in July.

Ah well... will have to have a look around for another race later in the year.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Endurance

I'm becoming increasingly aware that some of my targets for this year are getting closer. And my main target is still an extremely scary prospect.
 
To recap, it is a Coast-to-Coast race, across Scotlandhttp://www.scotlandcoasttocoast.com/. It mixes on and off road cycling, trail running and a little bit of kayaking. Non stop. Not only do I want to complete it, I want to complete it having felt like I've done as well as I can. Feeling like I competed. I'm under no illusions about winning or anything, but I want to put in a good show.
 
So. Training... it's been there. I've done a fair bit. But it hasn't been as structured as it should be, and it hasn't been as regular either. I've bouts of very good, very focused training. But then weeks where things have fallen apart. I've felt myself reach levels of fitness that I've not had for a few years, then drifted back to something nearer "average". Much of this has been linked to my moods. When I've been down, it has often been so hard to force myself out. The prospect of doing something just felt way too big. I've packed my bag, got everything ready to run to work, then shrunk inside myself, changed into my work clothes and hopped on the bus. I've then beaten myself up about it. I don't understand. It is one of the things I concentrated on with my CBT... the almost self-destructive tendency to hide from the one thing that will actually make me feel better. It annoys me that I still let myself beat me sometimes.
 
Positive approach:
-Go for a run or ride
-Enjoy the experience, because I always do
-Feel better afterwards, because I get all the lovely endorphins
-Feel better because I know I'm getting fitter and it's a step towards my goals
-Feel better because I don't feel like I've got a "chore" hanging over me
 
Or the Tom approach:
-Think I must go for a run or ride
-Feel "heavy" feeling. Forget that this is a good thing
-Feel like I must go. Feel a bit trapped.
-Try to escape the trapped feeling. Decide not to go.
-Feel bad about that decision.
-Decide I will go.
-Repeat.
-End up feeling tired from all the thinking.
-Sometimes go and remember how good it is.
-Sometimes don't, then feel guilty for being rubbish. Miss the endorphins. Hide away.
 
Once I've got out a few times in a row, then all is good, I rediscover the motivation. I enjoy life so much more.
 
But... anyway. I'm feeling inspired by Pyllonhttp://pyllon.wordpress.com/ today. I think I might enter my first ever ultra-marathon. Actually it'll be my first ever running race that is 26miles or longer. I've run the distance plenty of times, just for the sake of running, but never felt the motivation to race. I'm thinking about the Osmotherley Phoenix, on July 2nd. I need to check my diary, but I think I'm free. 33 miles, so not a huge amount further than a normal marathon. But it is trail running, and it includes 4000ft of climb. I think it'll be suitably hard. Looking forward. A lot.
 
Better get training :-)
 

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, 23 May 2011

Blowing away Monday cobwebs

Now, THAT was a ride. Wind pushing me through jinking bone dry single track, drifting wide, casually locking up the rear end, nose to stem, hands in drops, grinning like a loon. Grinding out climbs, battling for every piece of forward momentum, while red kites hunted around me. And hooligan antics dodging cars, hitting the perfect apex around roundabouts, sprinting for lights.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Cake

My first review is up on Patisserie Cyclisme.

The website is the idea of the lovely Louise. Got a few more reviews to write up when I get a moment.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Morning coffee break blog

First run since I didn't run the Three Peaks.
 
Best part of a month. Just haven't felt motivated. Have felt low, have done a bit of biking, but haven't felt in the mood for really pushing myself (and I am almost physically incapable of "just going out for a jog").
 
On reflection there has probably been a few factors causing this.
-The highs of Skye, of escaping, of just living, no real-world worries
-The crushing low of coming home and falling ill immediately, driving to the start of the 3 Peaks after 2 hours sleep, 12 hours throwing up and unable to keep down food. Sitting in the car, realising that I was an absolute idiot for even attempting to drive that far, let alone set off on a 24 mile run.
-Picking myself up from missing one of my big targets for the year. Realising that I can, to an extent, make my head better. I'm still at the whim of passing bugs though.
-My ex-girlfriend appearing back in my life. I've never stopped thinking about her, but seeing her, talking to her, spending time with her, and laying some of the longer lasting questions and thoughts to rest (on both sides) was both cathartic and deeply upsetting. Almost traumatic. While exercise should have been my perfect way of processing and coping, I ended up retreating and hiding.
 
So today, I got up. Did think, just ate breakfast, pulled on my trainers and took the short route into work. My rucksack felt heavier than usual. My legs lacked the spring. I was breathing more heavily. But I was loving it. Why the hell did I stop? Why do I end up cutting out part of my life that makes me feel good? What causes me to slowly reach over and press the self-destruct button? It might not be copious amounts of illegal narcotics, or a bottle of whisky each night, but equally, allowing myself to stagnate is bad for me.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Skye Day 3

Again... I typed this up in Word at the time... just after I got back from the ride.

Photos from the trip are here.

**********************************************************

Scenery so stunning that it’s hard to concentrate on the road. Which is interesting, as I have to dodge potholes, and oncoming cars along the singletrack roads.

Skye – Day 3… the biggie.

Fiskavaig>Sligachan>Portree>Sleet>Uig>Edinbane>Dunvagen>Fiskavaig

108miles

6hrs 30mins

I can only think of one ride that beats this for scenery… which was a winter conditions descent from Corrie Lagan.

Head feels floaty now, although that might be due to the beer I had in lieu of a proper “recovery” drink. Tasted a damn sight better though.

Sligachan – Camasunary Bay and back tomorrow on the mountain bikes. Brilliant.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Fleeting glimpses


What do you do when you catch a glimpse of another life?
 
One that you had. One that you thought was your life. One that was meant to be the way things were.
 
What do you do when you realise you miss it more than anything else? Miss a person. Miss sharing everything with them.
 
You see that person and talk to them. The pain of months of being apart gradually fades. You begin to joke, and laugh. You remember the exact shape their eyes make when they laugh. The weird, infectious, child-like giggle they have, that rings in your ears for hours after it's stopped. Forgotten familiarities. Locations of freckles, smell of hairspray, iffy application of fake tan, preferred drinks, shape of hand in hand.
 
Long blonde hair found on my t-shirt the next day.
 
A bigger, emptier void.
 
A child-like giggle that isn't there, except bouncing around an otherwise empty, cloudy head. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Dark clouds

Heavy hearted
Low
Sad
Withdrawn
Teary
Empty
Missing
Open
Closed
Weak
 
Not a great week so far.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Skye Day 1

Well... seeing as I can't be bothered leaving my sofa... I wrote this on the evening, sitting in the cottage, looking at the sea. No internet meant that I couldn't upload at the time.

I have an album of photos here.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Epic. My body hurts. My heart aches. My eyes are full, It’s silent, apart from the howling wind and crashing waves. And my deep, calm, tired breaths. I’m alive.

Skye – Day 1

The oroginal plan for today was the road loop I talked about last week. Hebridean weather doesn’t always play fair though. After a stunning travelling day yesterday, I woke at 5am to high winds and horizontal. Rain. Hmm… it might blow over. It didn’t by 9.30, so change of plan. Starting at Orbost, I ran out to Macleods maidens… pinnacles of rock standing proud of huge, imposing sea cliffs.

I stood standing closer to the edge than I probably should for quite some time. I can’t describe quite how I felt. Deeply sad. But not depressed. Alone, but stronger for the isolation. Very, very little. The weather had eventually broken, and the sea shone with the turquoise iridescence that I have only ever seen around the west coast of Scotland.

I skirted the edge of these huge cliffs for another couple of miles. No path to speak of, other than the occasional vague narrow ribbon of shorter grass or heather. I stopped, took photos, checked the map. Stopped thinking. Just was.

Eventually I turned my back to the sea, and branched off inland, I was surprised how quickly I was moving over pretty grotty ground. Bog, heather, tussocks. Typical mountain marathon country. Normally bloody frustrating. Of course I tripped over, of course my feet were sodden. But it was pretty good fun. The gradient picked up rapidly, and my run/trot pace turned into a walk, stop, walk, trot, stop kind of pace. Sweat stung my eyes. Really, really salty sweat.. After a wee, er, scenic detour (I did not misread the map), I hit the top of the first of Macleods tables (which on this particular loop was the southerly one). So called because of their strange, wide, flat summits. Few jelly babies and on to his second table, to dine on a flapjack.

Twinges of cramp kicked in on the descent. It was steep and technical and an over extended leg, was all it took for the initial shoots of pain to fire from calves and inside of my thighs. Hmm. Not great. Eat more jelly babies. Sip more drink.

I didn’t feel tired as such, just awkwardly stiff. No flowing rhythm to my footsteps any more. I reached into my rucksack, grabbed my ipod shuffle and pushed the earbuds deep into each ear hole. The last proper bit of ascent up to Macleods table (north). Steep, but no really chore, and the novelty of music kept me entertained.

Flapjack eaten, slurp of water, with that final gurgle and splutter as my camelbak empties. Clouds were starting to roll in, and the wind was picking up. My sweaty base layer cooled rapidly, so straight down… along a stepped, wide ridgeline. Again, the going isn’t easy. Long heather, tussocks, and the return of cramp. Proper killer twinges. Enough to bring me to pull me up, leave me helpless… trying to contort into a position that lessens the pain from one muscle, without triggering another to join in on the fun. Fuckety, fuckety, fuckety. I can see where the car is parked. It’s only 3 or 4 miles away. Somewhat frustrated, I start walking, slowly. The pain wears off. I pick up the pace. Then brave a little jog. OW FUCK. Start the process again. After a while, my body seems to get used to the idea that it’s probably not a good idea to piss about. And the sooner I get back to the car, the sooner it will have water and food.

The final few hundred metres along a farm track are heaven. I open my legs fully for the first time in four hours and power back to the car. Arriving gasping, rasping, sucking in air. I’d have smiled if it didn’t hurt so much.

P.s.

Sorry to the sightseer I confused when I pulled up in the lay-by near her. I guess I probably did look a bit silly, falling out of the car, and trying to stretch out a spasming muscle…

IOU

A couple of posts on Skye and one on the race that never was (for me)... the 3 Peaks. Will knock something up, maybe tomorrow am.

Need to pack for Ae first though.

Operation Butter knife>Sword fight

Racing! On a mountain bike!

I'm off to Ae Forest this weekend to compete in the first of the UK Gravity Enduro series. This is a brand new series of races, mostly to be held at trail centres across the country over the summer. Organised by Steve Parr, who used to organise a lot the downhill races a few years back, the series takes it's cues from euro-style "enduro" racing rather than what "enduro" has tended to mean in the UK.

This isn't a 100km endurance race.

The format takes that of rally special stages. Basically... pootle along and up the climbs... take your time, you aren't racing here. Get to the top. Wait for your allotted start time. Rag yourself silly downhill in the shortest time possible. Pootle to next start point. Repeat. Your final time = the cumulative total of all the stages.

I've done a two of these style races in the past. The Avalanche series has come to the UK for the last two years. Kielder Forest was the venue in 2009, Ae held the racing in 2010. I love the format. It really lends itself to the kind of sociable, relaxed, competitiveness that feels quite unique to mountain biking. You get to ride your bike much more than with UK downhill racing, and you can use your everyday trail bike.

So... 2011. Different race series, but same venue as last year. Looks like many of the stages are similar to last year, and broadly follow a loop of the red route, but also uses Shredder and the DH track.

I'll be riding exactly the same bike as last year... my trusty On-One 456 singlespeed. In "look at me" pink. It's fair to say that this is not exactly the perfect tool for the job. I had been hoping my Nukeproof Mega would be built and ready to roll by now, but delays at the factory have meant the frames haven't arrived on these shores yet.




On the plus side:
-Singlespeed gives me niche points
-And an excuse
-Hardtail isn't a massive disadvantage on some of the stages

On the downside:
-On the flat out, pedally sections, I spin out too quickly
-Hardtail is a disadvantage in terms of pure speed (and therefore time)
-Minimal "skill compensation" when I inevitably mess up a line

But, in the spirit of run what you brung, I'll have just as much fun, and to be honest, I'm nowhere near as skilful as the downhillers who will be racing, so it's not like choice of bike is going to be depriving me of podium places or anything. Still feels somewhat like bringing a butter knife to a sword fight however.

Weather forecast is, er rubbish. This is because we are camping. Very tempted to look into B+B options, if only to guarantee another sun-kissed weekend.

***Wuss update... B+B booked... Wuss update***

Friday, 22 April 2011

Buttery smooth

A bit of a cliche when it comes to suspension. Pretty accurate description of how my forks feel after a service from Loco Tuning though. I can't recommend the company enough. Posted the forks to them on Friday tea-time. They were posted back by Simon on Tuesday. Just got around to putting them on my bike and taking it for a round the streets/down the local steps test.

The forks glide through their travel and are wonderfully active - far more than they ever used to be. Supple.

Next time I round the mountain bike it'll probably with my back to the Sligachan Inn, heading over to Camasunary Bay. Little bit excited.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Skye road ride



Think I'll do this loop. It's 95 miles, but with a few extra miles for to get from Fiskavaig to Sligachan, it should take me nicely over the 100.

(Image taken from http://www.handsonevents.co.uk/ who run a sportive following the route every May)


Packing

  • 1 x pair of mountain bike clipless shoes
  • 1 x pair of road clipless shoes
  • 1 x pair of fell running shoes
  • 1 x road bike
  • 1 x mountain bike with 1 x gear
  • Lots x various combinations of lycra
  • Lots x waterproofs (more you bring, the less you need)
  • 2 x merino tops
  • 1 x Finisterre Etobicoke
  • 1 x Compass
  • 3 x OS Explorer maps
  • 2 x books
  • 2 x issues of Rouleur
  • 1 x digital SLR and mini tripod
  • 1 x teeny sketch pad and pencil
  • 1 x ipod shuffle
  • Maybe some "normal" clothes if they fit in the car...... but then I could maybe bring my cyclocross bike.....

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Skye must-dos

I'll be arriving on Saturday evening, leaving on Thursday. Staying near the Talisker distillery. So, 4 days to have some fun.
  • Sligachan Loop on the mountain bike.
  • A decent road ride... need to get the map out and work something out. 100miles or so.
  • A decent 20 or so miles running... again no route planned yet, but if the weather is good, it would be criminal not to get up high and take in a Cuillin or two.
  • A rest day. (Another) visit to Talisker? Something totally different? Bit of time with the family?
  • A few drinks in the Stein Inn. Love it there.
  • The Three Chimneys for an evening meal (already booked for Wednesday evening).
  • Read.
  • Take photos.
  • Maybe even update this blog.
  • Drink a whisky night cap each evening.
Only a day and a half of work to go. Cannot wait.

3 Peaks Fell Race preparation

I've done more running over the last 6 months or so than I have for the year before then. I've re-discovered the pleasure of pounding out mile after mile. A totally different feel to cycling. I still have a general love-hate relationship with running on the road. Unless I'm giving it beans, it is just plain boring much of the time. An ipod helps with the monotony. Searing lungs and an utter focus on maintaining pace helps too, but doesn't always motivate one to get out the door and actually run.
Running to work has helped. I only live around 5km away from the office, so I usually extend the run. Anything from 10km to 10miles. Carrying a change of clothes and some spare gym kit creates a pretty good work out, and has been a great start to the day, given the unseasonably good weather recently.
Mid-March. Feeling reasonably in shape. Running legs are definitely there. Time to try them out. Day booked off work. I wanted to familiarise myself with the full route. I've walked and run the 3 peaks before, but have never competed in the race, and haven't done the full loop for a good number of years. My uncle, and regular mountain marathon partner, Rog is also racing, so we met at the Pen-y-ghent cafe in Horton for a cup of tea and toast before taking on the 24 miles, under blue skies, warm sunshine and barely a breath of breeze. I was surprised how easy it felt. We took our time, particularly going up Pen-y-ghent and the long leg over to Whernside. My training was showing, as Rog and I are usually a similar pace, but I was feeling light footed and within my comfort-zone as Rog needed to ease off. The difference told as we headed up the steep side to Whernside. Again, nicely in my comfort-zone, I hit the ridge a good few minutes before Rog, and had time to chat with some walkers on the summit and soak up the hazy blue views. We completed the full loop in around 5 hours, including a 30min rest stop while Rog necked a pint of coke to try and combat nasty cramping in his legs after the descent of Whernside. A relatively small oversight of forgetting any high-5 powder took it's toll as we sweated miuch more than either of us expected. Our skin and jerseys had white salt tide marks, despite never being more than 80% exertion. It was warm.
I genuinely had no idea what time to aim for on the race day, but will now set myself against the 4 hour timings, and I reckon if things go to plan, I should be able to push harder in the second half of the race. We shall wait and see.
I won't have ideal preparation, as I'm on Skye for the entire week before, and if the weather is good, I want to make the most of my time there with some big rides and runs. A lack of tapering and tired legs come race day migth be the price I end up paying, but, hey, I'm never going to win. The experiences on Skye will be worth a slightly sub-optimal preparation.

I'm still here

So, it's been the longest time since starting the blog that I haven't updated. Lazily, I've written a few posts, but never got round to actually uploading them.
There are a few reasons for this tardiness. I guess I've been feeling less reflective generally, and have been "getting on with things". I've been busier with work, busier riding and running. I've thought about things to write, but never felt the burning desire to get them typed out.
One thing I did want this blog to be though was a record of some of the races I'm doing this year. So, with under a fortnight to go to the first major one of the year, it isn't a bad time to start hitting some keys again.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Head update

After a shaky week or so at the start of February, I'm feeling happier and stronger again.

Sunny intervals have well and truly returned.

Another race entered...

I'll be doing this in June:


Solo. And with one gear, I think. Can't wait. Lovely wonderful trails, for a full seven hours. Pretty much a perfect days riding. Except there'll be a bit of added spice, because it's a race. And riding is riding. Racing is always racing.

The location and the concept of "it's only riding your bike for seven hours" has meant that a few of my friends have entered too. That's brilliant. I'm used to going to races by myself, or with one other mate. Seeing the odd familiar face there, then heading home by myself. I don't mind, racing is something I do for me, not necessarily to be sociable. But... I'm excited about sharing this with my riding buddies. Excited about the atmosphere. Excited about giving them encouragement out on the course. Excited about the beers and stories afterwards.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Literal and metaphorical headwind

Monday.
The day didn't really matter, other than I didn't really have the option of just hiding away. Work. Again... didn't really matter, except all I wanted to do was hide away.
I've felt like my mental health has slowly been declining for the last few days. I really don't know why. Tablets seemed to be doing the job. CBT has been interesting, hard, but a positive influence.
A few small personal things, that I won't go into here have knocked me slightly. And I know they have contributed. I'm getting a little scared it's more than that. I want it to be a blip, but I also want to make sure I don't ignore it.
I ran into work today. I wanted to try and kick-start my body and mind. There was a killer headwind the entire away. Headphones on. Nirvana Nevermind screaming into my ears for the first few mins, until all I wanted to do was listen to my breathing trying to keep it under control, concentrating on sucking in as much air as possible. Focussing on the speed of my legs. Never fucking allowing myself to ease up. But still, my bag felt heavy, my legs felt heavy. My heart felt heavy. Most importantly, my mind felt heavy.
I sat at my desk and the metaphorical headwind was still there. Putting in all my effort to just keep my mind moving. To stop it from getting blown back into the safe cocoon of fluffy, cloudy, half thinking/half sleeping. To stop it from drifting to darker, deeper, more poisonous thoughts. Never fucking allowing myself to ease up. I was exhausted by 11am. Talking and writing anything intelligent or insightful or coherent was nigh on impossible.
By lunch time I relaxed a little. Told a couple of people how I was feeling. Ate a big lunch. Felt more at ease, but still down.

I'm just back from a good gym session, and run home. Jesus, my legs felt tired. But, man o man did my head feel good. It's the good thing about a headwind I guess. Sometimes it turns face when you don't expect it, and you get blown along for a while.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Blank Canvas

I live in a lovely, small terraced house in Chapel Allerton, about three miles north of Leeds city centre.

I rent my house. Sometimes this frustrates me a lot. Sometimes I feel demoralised that I haven't been dedicated enough to save and be sensible and put down a deposit and buy somewhere. It's not like I don't earn enough.

Sometimes though, I like renting. This week my landlady has paid for decorators to come in and give all the rooms a flesh lick of paint. The house smells all emulsiony and new.

I used to share my lovely, small terraced house in Chapel Allerton, about three miles north of Leeds city centre, with my ex-girlfriend. It was our home. She moved out when things became far too much for us both, in November. Since then, it has been my house again (as it was before we met).

Most of her things went when she did, although there were the inevitable forgotten bits and pieces. Reminders. Hard, sad reminders.

One of the last reminders has just been painted over. The funny stain on the bathroom wall after a hair-dye "incident" is no more.

I miss her every single day, but I'm excited about the blank canvas a part of my life has become.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Hmmm

Feeling extremely empty and alone tonight.

Genuinely don't know why. There has been creeping fingers of darkness for a few days now. Nothing too bad. I probably wouldn't have even noticed them before going through everything. It's more tonight. I want to switch off. I'm not sure if I can.

I can play the game, give the textbook, robotic answer. "Yes, I've got wonderful friends and family. I'm not really alone. I know people would drop everything and come and see me if I asked."

Doesn't matter. Just feel alone.

Hoping it's just a blip. More Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on Thursday too.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Riding isn't just riding

Saturday: New friends, new trails

6am is a little earlier than I wanted to get up on a cold weekend morning. I felt shattered as I climbed out from under the duvet. A hectic week had led to a busier head than I've had for a while.

By 7.30am the car was packed, cyclocross bike on the rack, Sat Nav set for Cannock Chase.

By 9.20ish I was in the car park, talking to Nick from An Asthmatic Ant, admiring his new cross bike, ready for it's maiden voyage (sounded like an absolute bargain from On One/Planet X), and definitely looked the part.

It was still flipping freezing, but it was dry, and had been all week. We stayed warm in the cafe, waiting for everyone to arrive. Procrastination was the name of the game as group inertia meant there was no hurry in leaving the relative warmth of the cafe. One particular late-comer, yes you Gordon meant that there was a convenient excuse to reign in any remaining eagerness.

It was great meeting people who I have only ever shared 140 character messages with via Twitter, filling in the gaps between online persona and real life. I love the start of social rides... the slow pace, the continued chat, the moving to the front or the back of the group to chat or catch up with people. The hum of tyres, the anticipation of what is to come, sharing the very basic pleasure of enjoying turning pedals.

Thanks to Matt and Phil who showed us round lots of the unofficial trails on the Chase, nipping off the way-marked blue route, to rejoin it a little further along. We finished off on the last few km of the "Follow the dog" red trail, zipping and hopping along, getting rattled by braking bumps and giggling away while riding slightly inappropriate bikes (big hand to Gordon who was also riding a fixed wheel).

Sadly, I forgot to bring a camera, but Steve Makin took a few snaps. They are on his Flickr page, here.

Can't wait to meet up with some of these guys again in the near future. Nick has already promised me a guided tour around Delamere Forest. I'll be there as soon as I can.


Sunday: Local trails, a foreign land

Same early start. Less cold. A different bike... with new improved pinkness



7am. Car loaded, singlespeed mountain bike on the rack. Drove over to Holmfirth and met up with my friend Peter at his beautiful house, high up above Huddersfield. We rode straight from the front door, up the bridleway that begins at the bottom of his drive. Despite riding every kind of bike prolifically just a few miles north-west in the Calder Valley, I've never explored the hills between the M62 and north Peak District. I've missed out. The gradients felt slightly less harsh, but the quality of the views and mixture of landscape was wonderful. We had a great mix of singletrack climbs and descents, tarmac grovels, and wide sandy bridleways. The valleys felt more "open" than the dark wintery ones to the north, but more industrialised than the Peak. We cruised round a great 35 mile loop during the course of the morning and were back at Peter's in time for a lovely roast.

I was surprised how fresh my legs felt, and there feels like some genuine power is slowly beginning to return. Again no photos, but plenty of memories, and I'm looking forward to another visit to explore some more of what the area has to offer.

Sunday evening: went to the gym, sat in the steam room and Jacuzzi. My legs and body felt tired. My mind felt wide awake.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Contrasts

Sometimes. Just sometimes, the glimpses of the brightest prettiest colours accentuate how black the darkness is.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, 21 January 2011

Whirlwind

The last few weeks haven't flown by, so much as spun by. Generally, they have been remarkable fun. Not just fun "considering everything else" or "nice, but...". Just plain, simple fun. Nights out, bike rides, late nights, new people, old people, work (yes work - it's been hard, and difficult, but fun, and my head has finally, finally woken up. I can think again! I can make logical decisions! Even more importantly, I can make intuitive, intelligent decisions, based on lots of information/opinions/bollocks/fact... and they are the right ones. And, I'm arrogant enough to know they are right.)

I've re-found my voice. No sitting back and listening (or trying to listen while the dark, cloud side of my brain takes over), but listening, engaging, talking.

I'm not silly enough to think that, depression... well, that's that done and dusted. Equally, I'm not going to feel guilty for feeling happy again. I'm going to continue with CBT, try and reflect where I can, learn and continue growing.

Tis all good though!

Son, your ego is writing checks* your body can't cash

*yes, I know that it should be spelled cheques, but it's an American quote


I don't want to get busted.

Races have been entered. I can talk the talk. I have walked the walk. But not for a long time. "Training" has been relaxed to say the least for quite a while. The odd hard ride, gym session, long run. But no structure, purpose, not really pushing myself.

Latest excuse has been a nagging cold since Tod Cross at the start of January. All very well and good, but that was nearly a month ago now. I'm pretty much all over that, so... well, I think that's all the excuses exhausted.

I've got the last paper bag to punch through. A mental block. Fear of the pain that will come up. Fear of the dark nights and early starts. Fear of having to do something when sometimes I really don't want to. Fear of the obsession that will develop.

This week has been better. Some solid runs, some solid "functional" training at the gym. This weekend will be a decent length social ride one day, then a steady 50miles on the cyclocross bike followed by 10 or so miles run the next.

I need to start building some habits again. I will not turn up at a race podgy and under-prepared. Physical strength + mental strength = more fun during the pain.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Turning might bes into will bes

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2011. Entered.

Three Peaks Fell Race. Entered.

Need to redress the balance with a couple of mountain bike races.

Oh, and train, but that's all part of the fun.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Madnesses of the mind

An informative video on depression and other madnesses of the mind.

Not 100% serious