Friday, January 22, 2010

Out to play

So, as part of Operation Lardarse, we need to establish a routine. I know, routine is boring and saps your life away, “variety is the spice of life" etc etc. But I'm not going to try to living on spices alone, so there has to be some routine somewhere, and it may as well be here.

Tuesdays are, and have been for some time, biking night. The good, the bad and the ugly of 'Team Dogger' (see this post for an explanation of that one) head out for a night ride, usually on trails we all know quite well, either the Meanwood loop from Headingley or one of the loops out around Temple Newsam/Kippax/Aberford area from Laurent (the Frenchman)'s house.

Usually a couple of hours riding at least, with the odd stop for gossip. Over the winter I've dodged these on the basis of not getting back from work until after the others have set off - well, that's been my excuse anyway. Mainly I've wimped out of them. If I make sure my bike's in the car on a Tuesday morning, my lights are charged, and I've got a bit of extra food for the day, I've no excuse.

Last Tuesday was my first proper ride of the new year. There were 5 of us; myself, the Frenchman, Martin L, Giles and Gareth. We set off from Laurents just after 6:30, heading out into the cold dry air and soggy, wet ground. I'd changed the normal all-conditions tyres for my pair of Mud-X's in the hope of getting a bit more grip, and they certainly worked on the soggy grassy bits of the trail. However, this being a winter ride Laurent opted to avoid the wettest bits, so I felt like I was dragging a dead badger on the hardpack. Oh well...

The route's on the picture below, we rode anticlockwise. Myself, Martin and Gareth got misplaced for a little while (note - none of us actually carry a map. Martin happened to have mapping functions on his phone. This comes in handy sometimes, like when Giles and the Frenchman wander off and you need to know how to get home). We were out, including stopping to look at the waves on the river (kayakers, eh?), for about 2 and a half hours. I, personally, was a bit broken by the end of it. Combinations of lack of food, overheating, and very draggy tyres could be blamed, but mainly I place the responsibility firmly on the rather good pace and my lack of fitness.

In other news, I've got a new-ish programme (Nokia SportTracker) on my shiny new phone (Nokia N86) which will satellite track my routes, so expect more maps and updates as the Operation proceeds. Okay, it's geeky as hell, but it keeps me amused.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

So, it's that time of year again, the time for resolutions, 'never agains', maybe a hangover or three, sir? Well, if you don't mind... Ahem. Time to throw out old bad habits and replace them with new bad habits. Time to forget last year's regrets and set out to get yourself some new ones. And lots of time for looking downwards wondering what the large squidgy thing overhanging your jeans and blocking the traditional view of your toes is.

The excesses of the festive period have been, well, excessive, which isn't normally a problem, but unfortunately my normal counter-attack on the waistline - the paddling of numerous cold rivers - fell at the first when the rivers were all either empty or frozen. This, as you can imagine, poses a rather insurmountable defense, so we went sledging in the boats instead. I towed my kayak 2km along snowy trails like a pulk. We drank well, ate well, and slid down snow-covered hills in kayaks. Very good fun, but not what you'd call an intensive week of exercise.

So, now, in the cold light of January, I am left with two things: An extra couple of stone in weight, and the ever-more concentrated desire to get shot of them. I started 2009 at about 13 stone, with the admirable-if-a-little-vague aim of losing a bit and getting down to 12. I failed quite impressively, due to (amongst other half-arsed excuses) lack of time, too much work, utter lack of motivation and, to a small degree, lack of confidence. I've alluded to the latter of those in previous witterings, but they've all played their part. My exercise regime has generally been average to above-average, until the past 6 months where it had withered significantly.

I have, in broader terms, gone soft. This thought annoys me.

I've never before had to think so much about my diet. I've never really been in the position where I NEED to lose weight. Even at 13 stone it's always been a case of "well I could do, but...". However, I've known for some time that my diet is somewhat low in certain elements (fruit and veg) and overly high in others (pizza), and have been gradually working on it.

So, I’m annoyed. But that annoyance might just be something to cherish and to utilise, to make me get out for 3hr muddy grinding night rides where I end up on a minor bonk, to make me walk the three-quarters of an hour to town rather than get the bus, to make me go for a Saturday morning shuffle (to say 'run' would be very much an overstatement) instead of cowering under the duvet for another two hours. It's what I need to get me back into the swing of exercise, into the mindset of the Adventure Racer, into the position of actually wanting to do stuff.

A quick conference with Mr Gary Vallance, purveyor of things health and fitness, produced some advice considerably more helpful than the normal 'eat less, exercise more' adage that's trotted out on such occasions, normally by those who only have half the story. The wider picture is not eat just less but more eat better, and the exercise more is being flattened out to "how much more? and how?" The aim is for 6 sessions a week of at least 45 minutes, one per day with one rest day a week. The 'how' was the most constructive: Exercise is anything that raises your heart rate. That doesn't have to be a balls-out, tongue hanging, panting like a dog, blast, it can be a brisk walk around the block. So, for a couple of sessions a week there's our solution. A nice, 7km walk round the block.

Without direction, however, there is no velocity, and therefore no acceleration. Either that, or there is just well meaning aimless pottering. I'm not old enough for the latter, so to add to this particular physics problem we need a direction, a bearing, and a target.

It just so happens that in November, whilst on a jolly out in Portugal, a number of race concepts and bases were discussed. Mr James Thurlow, purveyor of fine Adventure Races, was talking about a new venture for 2010, the Adidas Terrex AR. This is to be a four day, 400km expedition race, in the Lake District, at the end of August. Home territory, suitably distant date for some quality training time, suitable length for a good swing, long enough to hurt but not a World Champs-scale epic. Hmmm.

That would appear to be a target, then. Okay.

Missile lock achieved. Commence Operation Lardarse...