Running, skiing, sneezing and moaning

In Life by All This Running Around2 Comments

Yes, it’s another one of those posts that begins with a lame, uninteresting excuse for not having written anything for ages. No doubt it will be followed by a sincere promise to write more in 2013. Whatever. I’m here now, so I might as well tell you what’s been going on.

Since my last post (a rant about Nike’s bullshit) I’ve had a bit of an up-and-down time of it. The running, I’m pleased to say, was going very well. From late October until just before Christmas, I ran every day. That’s great, but what was really great is that I was running with no pain. None. Not in my feet, not in my shins, not in my calf muscles, not in my ankles… Nowhere. Mine has been a pain-free existence. And it’s been something of a revelation, albeit one I’m very cautious about. I’ve had periods before where I thought I’d got over the aches and pains related to barefoot running, only for some new and interesting pain to suddenly flair up. But so far, so good. I’m writing this in January (obviously) and still no pain.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before, but during one of my regular moans about my injuries on Barefoot Ted’s Google group last year (at which time I was probably no more than four or five months into running in sandals), I received a really great bit of running wisdom. Basically it was recommended to me that I not get too hung up on form and just accept that it was going to take some time for my body to adjust to running in a barefoot style. Am I there? It certainly feels like it. We’ll see.

So, I got myself a good little streak going. But the plan was always to stop just before Christmas as we were going to skiing for a week during the holiday. It was kind of nice actually. I proved to myself that running every day isn’t as hard as you might think, but I wasn’t kidding myself either. I decided not to record my runs, just go out and do whatever I felt like each day and forget about the times. I know I did a daily minimum of three miles by virtue of the fact that I was running my usual routes, but I’ve no idea how quick I was going. It felt quick at times.

Looking back, I wish I’d timed those runs. It somehow feels more real¬†when you can look back and see the miles you’ve clocked. But it’s also true that (at times) I’ve ended up not relaxing and enjoying my run as much as I should because I wanted to beat (or at least get close to) my best time. However, there was another reason. I’m still using Strava’s iPhone app. It’s great, the GPS is occasionally a little bit shonky but it’s good enough for my needs. But there is one obvious downside, namely that I have to take my iPhone with me when I run. I have a strap-mounted case that purports to be waterproof. It isn’t. Light shower proof, possibly. But English weather proof? No way.

I’m sick of the weather in England. 2012 was the second wettest on record, and it had a huge effect on my running, particularly in the second half of the year. Constant rain has left the ground saturated. The paths and trails around where I live are essentially unusable now, and have been since October. The only time it’s really possible to run them is when it’s cold and the ground freezes up. So I’ve been doing a lot more road running that I would like, which is a big pain in the arse. (Or ‘ass’, for our American cousins.) I went out earlier today for an exploratory run across the fields and ended up having to walk about half of it since I was ankle deep in mud. I hate losing that rhythm when I run; as soon as I start having to think about not falling over I’m pretty much mentally done with the run.

But whatever. Knowing my luck we’ll have a blisteringly hot summer this year and you can all read my bitching about that as well.

Anyway, we were due to fly to Italy on the 20th of December. It was my first time skiing in two decades, and I was desperately looking forward to it. I managed to convince myself that if I carried on running right up to the day before, I’d end up hurting myself. Law of The Sod and all that. So I stopped about a week before we were due to leave. A couple of days before we flew, my wife came down with some kind of virus. Now I like to think that even during the very worst illnesses, a positive mental attitude can do wonders for a person. Simply by refusing to acknowledge the presence of whatever germs are attempting to drag me down, I have found that I am more or less able to counter the effects of any illness. (I have yet to test this method on something like Ebola or rabies, but I’m reasonably confident that it will still work.)

My wife, on the other hand, was having none of it. A dark cloud descended on the Coward household with my wife suspended in the middle of it like some kind of sentient body of miserable precipitation with a runny nose. Even before we left, she had started to make noises about not being able to do any skiing. Things were not looking good. Still, the children and I were in fine fettle, so at least three quarters of the family were happy to land in Milan without Ryanair having killed or poisoned us with their hilariously revolting croissants and ‘coffee’.

A brief word about Ryanair. They should change their advertising slogan to, “Look, basically we’d charge you for not shitting in your hair if we could get away with it”. A more efficient way of relieving people of cash whilst simultaneously treating them like scum I have yet to witness. You can hardly blame them though, since at least 50% of the passengers do actually appear to be scum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: getting an early flight is not a good enough reason to start drinking pints of lager at five o’clock in the morning. It just isn’t. Perhaps I am wrong to label such people as scum. (I am definitely not wrong.)

We arrived, and were treated to a bracing taxi ride during which I was convinced my life was about to end on at least six occasions. It didn’t though, and no doubt my repeated sharp intakes of breath and occasional squeaks made me look like something of a big jessie in the eyes of our driver. (Although he was, for some reason, convinced that I was “BREETEESH MILITARRRY”.)

There was no way Mrs C was going to be venturing out onto the slopes, so it was down to me to get myself and the children kitted out. After much deliberation, I decided to do the precise opposite of what literally everyone I spoke had recommended: I hired a snowboard. I’d never done it before, but was still slightly troubled by a memory of coming down a red run in Kitzbuhel in the early 1990s. Being a cocky little shit, it was obvious to me that I was almost certainly one of the coolest people in Austria at that precise point, only to have the illusion shattered into a billion pieces as a snowboarder effortlessly shot past me, cutting a wide arc across the piste and generally looking cool in ways I had not previously imagined.

There is, it needs not be said, something of a disadvantage in deciding to do a thing, and then not actually doing it until two entire decades have passed. But to be honest, snowboarding wasn’t that difficult. By the second day I was linking my turns, but getting a little bit bored of having to do everything at a fairly sedate pace. So on day three I switched to skis. As I had been informed by a friend who had recently been in the same situation, it really was like getting back on a bike. Albeit a bike made of skis. I was relieved to discover that after an hour or so, I was zipping down the mountain and giving the approximate impression of somebody that might have been skiing before.

My kids didn’t fare quite so well. I booked them private lessons. My youngest (Charlie, three) lasted approximately one hour. I could actually hear him screaming from about three hundred metres further up the mountain. My oldest (Hannah, six) was excellent. I was thoroughly impressed by how quickly she took to skiing. So naturally, as soon as the lesson had finished, she declared that she didn’t like it and was never doing it again. So, both children and wife essentially refusing to take part in the activity one is generally expected to take part in when one goes on a skiing holiday. Brilliant.

There next few days followed a familiar pattern. I would go skiing, my family would stay in the hotel. It wasn’t quite what I’d envisaged. Hannah dutifully supported her mother by becoming very ill, and Charlie eventually fulfilled his part of the bargain by developing an impressive temperature. Towards the end of the week I began to feel a bit ropey myself. By the time we were back on English soil, I was prepared to admit that perhaps my wife hadn’t been putting it on after all. I felt so terrible on New Year’s Eve, I couldn’t even bring myself to stay up and scream obscenities at the television during ‘Jools’ Annual Hootenay’. And that is one of my highlights of the year.

So, as you can probably surmise, I didn’t feel much like running. All better now though, and Sunday of this week marked my first run in about twenty days. It wouldn’t be right if I hadn’t overdone it a little bit, so I did. I was enjoying it so much that a planned three miles turned in to almost six. Not exactly a huge distance, but it was enough to make my calf muscles grumble at me a bit. I gave it a rest yesterday and then went back out today for what amounted to a prolonged effort to keep upright in 6-12″ of mud. Not the best, but…

I’m back.

I’ve first started trying to make the transition to a barefoot/minimalist style of running about a year ago. If I can carry on in 2013, but without any of the injuries I had last year, I’ll be a happy man. My plans, aims? Very simple: to increase my mileage and to eat better. More on that soon(ish). I’m not going to worry too much about going fast, but I do want to go a bit further. We’ll see how it goes. I very much want to spend more time updating this site, as well as developing it a bit. Expect forthcoming posts to me shorter (phew!) and more frequent (bugger!). There’s also the whole streak thing. I had a false start with it last year, but I’m pretty sure I’m ready to do it now.

Posts coming up: why I’m quitting Facebook (and social media in general), a couple of reviews (VFFs and Vivo Barefoot), another Nike rant, my efforts to eat better and drink less, plus various other bollocks. Stay tuned. Or don’t.