Endgame – Day 2/10

Today, I ache. I ended up doing my EA Active workout last night – as promised – and it, combined with a gym session, and the previous aches, have left me feeling rather useless.

You don’t see rest days slotted within montage clips, do you? And for that reason, being a man who believes that television, movies, video games and comics are based upon, or sufficient evidence to support a way of life, I’m not going to back out of doing at least something today.

There is also some strange twisted truth to muscle aches however – they make you feel rather ripped whilst you continue to feel the burn. Your biceps keep their rigidity for longer periods. It’s a sort of twisted way for your body to tell you that the suffering is worth it.

The morning has already been lost to a lie in and a bit of grazing in front of the TV before Sarah had to go to work, coupled with a naughty bacon and fried egg bagel. And I’ve already made some plans to be places, so I’ve got about an hour or so to do something. Mentally, I could quite easily excuse myself out of doing anything, and physically, I’d be more than happy.

Adding in some adaptations to my methods as each of the next 10 days goes by, today I’m making sure I up my fluid intake. Hydration has been the reason for a number of poor runs in the past, so I’m not prepared to lose performance because I didn’t have enough to drink. Similarly, today is the last day of the current food shopping supplies, and tomorrow I intend to stock up on those boring yet recommended foods. Oily fish and rice seems like a decent lunch for the next 8 or so days, and if it fuels me up, all the better.

Right, I’ll get to it…

Endgame – Day 1/10 (2)

So the gym didn’t go too well.

No sooner had I posted the previous blog entry, did I decide to down a big cup full of my special protein-y energy milkshake stuff. Straight before the gym. Not a good idea.

Taken about 17 minutes before I got onto a treadmill. I’ve already used the “Milk was a bad choice” gag once, but it’s even more appropriate this time.

Sufficed to say, my stomach was making all kinds of crampy sensations during my run. I hit 5km and had to call it a day. Plus, what with my legs still aching (this is getting ridiculous), I figured 5km is better than nothing on my first day. Took about half an hour at a 10kph-12kph variable, which isn’t my race pace, and isn’t too impressive all told.

I started off during my gym session on the vibration plates, figuring they’d sort my legs out. A fakey-bakey girl was already on another plate when I got there, and as I did my usual subtle glances, I could see she was doing lots of rather worthless 10 second blasts (the god damned instructions are right next to the plates and they say at least 30-60 seconds per rep). And she kept doing that until I’d finished my 5km. I have no idea what she was thinking, as she then sauntered of to get changed looking rather pleased with herself. Amazing.

What is equally amazing is that the music videos that are pumped out around the gym haven’t changed in well over 6 months. I’m listening to my own walkman whilst I work out, but the eyes need to gaze at something, and I’m under the impression I’ll get in a lot of trouble if I constantly gaze at the girls.

From what I can tell, all the music videos are for dance / hip hop sort of stuff. It’s really weird watching these videos without the music. I’m not sure the music would give them context (it wouldn’t for me anyway, seeing as my radio jumps between Radio 4 and Jazz FM), but take this video description as an example (money for whoever can tell me the song!) – a rather angry looking blonde woman is in a nightclub (isn’t that how they always are) – she starts pushing and shoving a dark handsome bloke around, then some suited up men in giant unicorn heads appear, the woman turns all sultry in a psycho sort of way and then tries to stick her tongue down a unicorn’s throat. Cue more anger directed at the camera, and then the woman and the man have a laser battle using guns which are basically their own fingers, playground-style. The lasers blow up some unicorns and then the screen fades out. W. T. F?

If you spend time looking at these “female artists” who are making music these days, and watch these music videos, they are all really angry. They’re all pushing blokes around and looking utterly dissatisfied with their lives atop giant high heels in big brightly lit caverns full of flashing lights and giant diamonique. And somehow these things are brainwashing girls into thinking this is cool. No wonder I used to be so terrified of going out and “trying to pull” – girls are basically being told to look at a bloke as if he just spat on her. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the girls spit back in some videos. Nasty stuff.

In other gym news, it seems that hipsters are starting to infiltrate my little realm. Today, on a treadmill a couple down from me, was a hipster girl with a mullet-cum-mohawk. A mullet-hawk, if you will. And she was wearing stupid hipster glasses whilst jogging. I couldn’t see, but I’d put money on her using a CD or tape walkman, just because.

Finally, I want to let you in on a little tip. Sarah rolls her eyes constantly at the very sight of this, but here is my secret weapon for getting through tough times in runs. I call them…air guitar recoveries. I think the title speaks for itself. Your walkman plays a guitar-laden track, and you lay down some air riffs whilst running. From where I’m looking, I’m sure I look freaking awesome. Drums work too. But only in smaller doses. Typically, an air guitar recovery – sorry Air Guitar Recovery TM – can go on for up to 20 seconds, then you need to refocus on your form. But, after 20 seconds, you’ve gotten through the hard times and you’re good to go.

Unless you filled your belly full of milk less than half an hour earlier. Stupid Gaz.

Anyway, time check – 6.50pm. Need to fit in another EA Active workout and that’s Day 1 done.

Endgame – Day 1/10 (First Half)

Doesn’t Endgame sound rather epic?

Actually, it sounds like the idle title of the final book in a fantasy trilogy. However, it is also the title of the 2-part finale of Star Trek: Voyager, which is never a bad thing.

Nonetheless, the next 10 days of this blog are hereby going to be all titled Endgame.

Anyway…

Well, the evening after I wrote my last blog entry (2 nights ago now), I decided that enough was enough, and I couldn’t hang around and wait to get back into motion and restart my training. I popped EA Active 2 on my PS3.

I haven’t mentioned this game / program before, as I incidentally bought it for Sarah something like 2 Christmases ago, and ended up having a go at it myself for a couple of months. Nowadays, its ended up in bargain bins (and the game itself notified me that the online serves are now turned off, so that means a sequel is looming, or the franchise has been binned. I’m not sure which), but I have to say it’s a bit of a hidden gem.

In the box you get the software, which looks a bit like a HD version of Wii Fit, and you also get three sensors that you have to attach to your biceps and right thigh with stretchy velcro straps. They all contain gyroscopes and the left bicep one also contains a heartrate tracker. As well as being three big lumps of white plastic protruding from your limbs, they also have bright blue LEDs on them, making the whole thing totally classy and not in the least embarassing.

Unless you’re David Beckham, who can make anything look attractive. (And I just realised, you don’t wear the arm sensors on your biceps. Crap).

However, once you get over the looks of them (and work out how to get the straps feeling comfortable) you actually realise that the sensors are really clever, and the workouts are actually really good.

There are hundreds of different sessions you can bolt together to make a full workout set, or you can ask the system to set once up based on your needs. Plus, there are two that it recommends and are ready out of the box – a 3-week “Cardio Kickstart” or a 9-week “Total Body Programme”.

I stuck on the Cardio Kickstart based on my time constraints and set the intensity to High. It came up and told me the first session would be 21 minutes long, which sort of let me down, and as I’d laced my trainers up and set myself up mentally for a full hour. The kit also comes with one of those elastic resistance bands for certain exercises, but you can (as I did) set it up so I used my heavy hand weights instead. (Like Beckham, above)

Let me tell you, I was glad when the cool down came around after 20 minutes. The system really does have you tripping over yourself, and the sensors make sure you can’t cheat. At the end, I’d apparently burned 140 calories and the heart tracker showed that I was well over 160bpm for most of the session. Good stuff.

Unsurprisingly, my enthusiasm came back to bite me the next day – yesterday – in the form of some rather crappy stiffness and cramping in my thighs. That would be from the squats she had me doing. (She being the other Woman I now also listen to. Let’s call her Simone to save getting caught up in feminine nouns and pronouns).

Today, being the first of only ten days I have to get things going, funnily enough, my thighs are still giving me some trouble. I’ve ended up going into town, hoping a good stroll might loosen things up. It has, a bit, but not much.

However, should I have been fine and raring to go today, hoping to hit the pavements and get a road run in, the man upstairs has yet again taken it upon himself to scupper that little plan. The last few days have been rather gorgeous. Today? Hail, of all things. And because the temperature isn’t too low, it’s all making some rather lovely slush everywhere. A real deathtrap for running.

However, positive mental attitude to the rescue – I’m off to the gym as soon as I’ve published this entry. I’ve got to do something…

Final Countdown

Okay, it happened.

I’m sure a lot of you out there are now holding out hands and expecting your bookies to pay up on what, frankly, wasn’t that much of an outsider.

Since my last post in February, things have been a bit useless on the running front. I have no excuses as to why. Yes, I spent probably the best part of two weeks during March locked away playing Mass Effect 3, but that is only two weeks out of the last ten or twelve.

Having said that, those were some pretty influential two weeks with Mass Effect 3. This is how I dress for work now, for crying out loud. (Points to those who understand. Double-points for those who applaud me.)

I think during that time I’ve been to the gym a handful of times. The last time I can really have any recollection, I clocked up 8km in about 45 minutes. Which isn’t bad really, but then again it isn’t much better than how it was back around the New Year. It would be remiss of me to be so ignorant to say I’ve hit a performance wall and not realise why. Performance obviously improves with training, of which I have done next to none.

The “big race” is in two weeks as of today, and I haven’t been training in the past 9 days for one simple reason – a bloody cold (no, I’m not sneezing blood, I was just cursing). Yes, of all the times to get a cold, I end up with one smack bang in the month before my big test. I wrote a blog entry way back last year about having a cold, and how my research clearly told me to avoid running, otherwise face nastier consequences. So, I’ve followed my mother’s advice, “kept warm, had fluids and rested”. And rested. And rested. And now, after nine days of resting, I’m rather pissed off. There is still phlegm rattling around my chest. My nose still needs blowing. And I still need more time to shake it off.

Last week, Bupa sent through my pre-race pack. My number patch, or whatever running people call it, informs me I’m number B2937 in red. And, according to the race guide, that places me in the second wave to be released out of nine. They release the elites and pros, and I’m literally in the next wave after that. I feel like raising my hand and telling the race planner “Excuse me, you may remember I filled in my form to say I’d do this in 40 odd minutes, like everyone else with a red ‘B’ on their chests? Well, that may have been a tiny lie. Maybe you should give me a patch with a green ‘C’ on it, like those guys over there running as a camel.”

And yet, another part of me thinks that this is still do-able.

Realistically, I’m going to be running again come this Tuesday, which is the 15th. With or without this phlegm in the back of my throat. I’m now off work (well after tomorrow anyway) until we go down to London, which leaves me with…(counting on my fingers)…10 full days to make a dent in my training.

That just leaves the question as to what I can accomplish in 10 days? My brain, raised since the 1980’s on movies where the hero always manages to overcome any obstacle, means that I’m left with acute optimism. However, I’ve learnt one important lesson from my brief fling with running so far. Positive mental attitude isn’t everything that athletes make it out to be. Not unless you’ve already trained your body to peak physical perfection. Otherwise, like in my case, I slip on my trainers, switch on my running playlist, and for the next 10 minutes I feel like nothing can stop me…and then something inside me really wants to. Whether it’s the niggling early onset of a stitch, a weird twinge in a calf muscle, or just an elevated heartrate that seems unsustainable, eventually my body will fail on me.

Yes, I can slow down and maintain a comfortable, constant running pace. But, when I’m out there in London in two weeks’ time and I’m in the middle of a group of racers who believe (and probably can) run the race in about 40-45 minutes, that means they’ll be running at something like 12-15kph. My current comfort zone is closer to 10kph when I set myself up on a treadmill, and when I do what feels right on the road, I end up at 13kph and end up with one of the list of ailments above well before I hit 5km.

With 10 days to prepare, I’m both excited and utterly, utterly intimidated by this situation. And above all, pissed off with myself for giving up when the going was good. I hate to think where I would be now if I’d kept running properly for the last 5 months. Probably running 10km in 40mins I guess.

I guess the big question is this – can adrenaline and sheer determination save the day? 

I admit it. There is not a single reason that this picture is here other than a fairly useless tie in to the blog title. However, Nick does look like he’s gazing at me with the disappointment he rightfully has in me. Suzie and Rachel seem happy though. Fair enough – with their support, I can do this dammit!

Because We’re Better Than You

I’ve started to feel like White Goodman recently.

A few months ago, I found comfort in the company of the unfit at the gym. Happily jogging along on the treadmill whilst people quickly came and left gave me comfort and confidence that I was doing well. Nowadays, I’d much rather be at Globo Gym.

The other day, I became fascinated by a fat man wandering around the resistance weights section. I’m talking about a proper fat man, the sort you get on Biggest Loser. The area was all free, and he could have used any item of equipment. What did he pick? The weird machine where you push up on your tiptoes to strengthen your calves.

His calves were fine, everything else was not.

And then we have the same old gang of slim girls who think that wandering around on the treadmill, set at a slight incline for 10 minutes, is enough to keep them looking good once their adolescent metabolism leaves them.

It all annoys me, particularly when I’m working really hard and feeling self-conscious for displaying a bit of sweat.

So, if anybody knows where the next best thing to Globo Gym can be found, get in touch. Please. Before I beat a fat woman to death with a kettle bell.

Beyond Limit Breaks

Running on the treadmill last night, two thoughts occurred to me:

1. The Nike+ system is not very rewarding in terms of showing your progression. I mean, I’m currently at “Green Level”, because I’ve done something like 300km, but I won’t get a higher level until I do 3000km, which is a bit rubbish.

2. I really do like my analogy for the “limit break” kicking in when I get past 40 minutes in a run. To reiterate my earlier blog, a limit break is something from the game Final Fantasy 7 whereby you earn a ‘super-attack’ for taking so much damage / punishment. The buzzy feeling I get in my legs after 40 minutes really does make me think I’m going through a Limit Break.

Therefore, during my lunch hour at work today, I conceived a new tracking system for my running progression. Funnily enough, based on Final Fantasy 7.

This all makes perfect sense.

I basic terms, my total calorie burn allows me to “level up”, meaning I’m currently level 14 out of 99. My total run distance unlocks different, superior weapons for me to use in battle as and when I achieve them, my average pace unlocks extra magic abilities, and my furthest run unlocks summon monsters. I really don’t think I should be bothering to explain these all to you as you will either know what all this means and be smiling by now, or otherwise have no interest in it, regardless of explanation.

Just let it be clear that this tracking system is a massive motivator for me. I really want to, for example, get some more advanced curative magic, unlock Bahamat ZERO and be able to use Ultima Weapon the next time I go to battle…in my mind.

Shut up. This helps!

Fus-Run-Dah!

It has become pretty obvious to me now as to why the running has been relegated into second place…Skyrim.

It took me a while to realise, however it should have been rather obvious, after having poured in excess of 100 hours into a video game in roughly two months.

For the uninitiated, Skyrim is the latest in a long line of role play games, in this case placing you into the role of “the chosen one”, born into a harsh northern realm, plagued with dragons which only you, being the “dragon born” can deal with.

A dragon born can “shout” in the dragons’ tongue, one such shout being “FUS-RO-DAH!” which means Push, Unrelenting Force. And I don’t know why I even wrote that.

Anyway…it’s a big game, and it was a game that was one of few games that I realised that I could earn a prestigious Platinum trophy playing. Again, to explain, on the Playstation, you are awarded trophies for doing certain things within a game, and getting all the trophies earns you a Platinum.

Now, for me, such a possibility is usually remote. You either have to play through on a ridiculous difficulty setting, or have to play both alone (great) and online with others (rubbish). Therefore, I usually write-off most games straight away.

There was one other game where I nearly did it. I earned 91% of the trophies on Assassins Creed 2 before I attempted to get one of the last 3 trophies, only to have the game glitch on me, making the whole thing an impossibility. Wonderful.

And so now, looking at the trophy list on Skyrim, I realised that it was a) not dependent on difficulty and b) single player only. Perfect. The only two things standing against me were the length of the game – probably 120 hours or more, and the fear that the game – renowned for its glitches – would be another impossibility.

Alas, after 100 hours, the end is in sight, and I have a handful of trophies to clock up in order to get the Platinum. I will get it. And unfortunately, it means that trips to the gym are a second priority.

Sorry that this post into my running blog has nothing to do with running, but that’s how it is right now. The sooner I get it done, the sooner I can get running again.