Archive for June, 2010

Heads, hands and feet

June 24, 2010

The blogging muse has descended on me again. I am beginning to regret the title to my series of blogs. It seems to have become a bit of an albatross around my neck. “Master”, I may be in athletics terms. “Faster” I am definitely not at the moment.

My last blog ended with me approaching what I hoped would be a string of worthwhile competitions, fresh back from holiday and as raring to go as I’ve felt for a while. Unfortunately, it turned to pants at the first event. I had a small fall and rather nastily broke my right thumb. This was coupled with a fair bit of damage to the tendons around it. A week with my hand completely immobilised put paid to more training. That was a couple of weeks ago, and although I now have a rather more forgiving splint, I am still unable to make much use of the hand, and have now realised why the opposable thumb is one of the things that singles certain species of ape out from the rest of the animal kingdom! I am also very right handed. There are definitely times when my left hand seems incapable of doing what it is told. Left handed keyboarding for example. Try Ctrl-Alt-Delete with one hand!

As I write this, I’ve not long completed my first few training sessions after the latest mishap. I was initially reduced to cranking it out a bit on a static “spinning” bike, and doing a load of plyometric and agility work. I really felt the need to get some aerobic work going again, but the pain when I shake my hand about still rules out serious running, so much-needed track sessions are out. Mind you, it was nice and sweaty, and did me good in several ways. Ten days until the British national Masters Championships in Cardiff, and less than three weeks until I depart for the European Masters in Hungary. Even if I don’t run in either of these, I still need to find a comfortable way to hold my cameras. Upside down seems an option. Sense the desperation creeping in?

I’m not feeling very philosophical about things at present. Not unless you count simply accepting that “s**t happens” is philosophical. It’s basically just a case of getting on with it, isn’t it? An injury like this wasn’t on my radar. There are some things for which I think a Masters athlete holds a contingency plan in the back of his/her mind. You know, muscle strains, colds, etc. I simply didn’t have one for this. I think that’s good, though. If we all went around with every possible mishap covered by a “do this if…..” type of card tucked away in the mental filing system, there would be no room left for the cards saying “have fun”, and “be your best”. My wife is a psychotherapist and is studying “resilience” at present. Very interesting, and I have some theories of my own, though I sense I might be about to become a case study.  A potential future blog.

On the fun side, I succumbed to a pair of Vibram “Five Fingers” shoes, bought on e-Bay. These are seriously weird, and fantastically comfortable. I’d not ventured out in them but on the second time of wearing at home, the uppers began to split. My local running shop (which doesn’t stock them) told me they had heard of fake pairs being sold. This turned out to be very true, as seen here. And mine are exactly like one of the pairs pictured as fakes. I chased a refund, which has now been agreed, but once I have it, I will be straight off to buy a genuine pair. Fakes or not, the pair I had were terrific and I look forward to using the genuine, more robust item at the gym. They are the nearest you can come to having a rubber sole sprayed directly on to your foot!

Next blog will probably be just before the European Champs in Hungary.

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Words of Deeds

June 5, 2010

To begin, an apology. This blog might end up seeming like a bit of an advert. We’ll see how it goes. It’s also about reading, again!

I’ve had the great good fortune in the last month to do some quality reading. By “quality”, I mean stuff that has completely grabbed my imagination, played video in my head, as it were, entertained, and at the end, actually made me think “Hey, I am a better person for having read that!”. I don’t mean that in a big-headed sense, but if you have ever discovered places, read words, seen images, etc, that engaged you emotionally or vicariously with the subject-matter, and the experience left you enlivened or enlightened, you will know what I mean. You’ll have felt it too.

What’s more, the elements of the reading were nothing overtly “intellectual”, “spiritual” or what have you. One was a biography, one a motor sport magazine. The connection between these is less than intuitive. They fitted neatly into a very small amount of space, in my necessarily restricted luggage for a wonderful 2,000 mile (3,200km) motorcycle tour recently, from home to Monte Carlo and back, over eleven days at the end of May. If you know me and my bike, you’ll know that my idea of “restricted” is going to be somewhat more generous than might otherwise be conjured up by the words “motorcycle tour”, but the equation needed to take my wife’s luggage into account as well….

The biography was a story of a professional cyclist in Italy in the 1950’s and the early 1960’s, Franco Balmamion. Although I profess to be a fairly well-read cycling fan, and an unashamed italophile, I had never heard of him. It was also the first book by a writer who was also completely unknown to me. Here’s the advert. The hooks for me were the characterisations in the book. The story of the stars of the races described was set within the context of these men as they are today – most still living, most in their 70’s and 80’s, and most still able to tell it “like it was just yesterday”. I guess I realised early on that these sportsmen were the generational counterparts of many of the senior statesmen in my own sport, and were the newspaper material of their age, much like today’s young athletes will read of Armstrong, Contador, or Wiggins. My aim’s not to write a book review in this blog. I did that here, anyway, but this was a book that charmed me, taught me, and entertained me. Better than any medicines.

I don’t read much motorsport writing. My web-site explains something about my fondness for classic motorsport. This underpins my monthly indulgence in purchasing “the big green one”, aka “Motorsport” magazine. It has firmly established itself as containing something for everyone, be it intelligent reflection on the modern Formula One scene, nostalgic looks back at the olden, golden days, usually without benefit of the rose-tinted lenses, or chewing the cud with those at the fast end, then and now. What really did it for me was the mix of styles. The magazine served me for the best part of the week, just as a volume of the best short stories might have done.

It was also the incongruity of finding parallels between a sport I have only ever stood and gawped at, and one that has for years drained me of sweat and tears. Witness Jacky Ickx describing the relationship between sports car racing drivers in the Ferrari scuderia in the early 1970’s: “The biggest difference between us was the degree of desire. There was less difference between the amount of talent. OK, some were more fit than others, more resilient, but the key was the desire to win. This is a very individualistic sport: one thing that never changes is that your team-mate may be your best friend – but he’s also your worst enemy!” We Masters Athletes know that feeling!

I have a whole string of competitions coming up over the next month. It will help bulk out my 2010 track CV, which currently reads “run one, won one”. Could be worse.

A bientôt.