It probably won’t come as a surprise to the faithful reader of this blog that I don’t really “do” Christmas. This began at quite an early age. Nothing like a Catholic childhood to knock the joy out of it all. After a (very) few hedonistic years, my wife and I found Christmas repeatedly off the calendar too – she (a nurse then) was working shifts, while I (mountain-mad) was usually in a tent (or even once, a snow-hole) in the hills somewhere north of home, with like-minded friends, determined to “get away from it all”. Strange concept, because this seemed to involve taking quite a lot of “it” with us – Christmas booze, a token sprig of holly. I even recall taking the guys each a waterproof Christmas card one year.
No surprise then, that when my wife and I had the chance regularly to have Christmas together more often, we saw nothing unusual in simply leaving the country and spending it somewhere else. This was actually good economics, and pretty good for the digestion. It also gave us near-deserted skiing, and the delights of a simple, non-Disney Christmas with our sort-of adopted family in Italy’s Sud Tirol region. Several snow-free, globally warmed Christmases took the gloss off that, and it’s been our habit for a good few years since, to find a bolt-hole somewhere in Tuscany. This isn’t glamorous or extravagant, just a simple opportunity to be wowed by landscape, local food, and culture. Where else would you be able to sit on Christmas morning in a 12th Century church, listening to two monks singing plainsong, while two beams of the most radiant sunlight pour in to light the interior?
It’s a definite break from training for me. I had a decent session the day before we left this year, and I was in the gym within 8 hours of getting home the other day. Really. If you don’t have an excess to work off, and you’re training when many others aren’t, doesn’t that make it twice as beneficial?
It’s good to be able to say that last Christmas was my last one on antidepressants, and that this year was my first one for a while completely off them. Someone told me once that their worst side effect is to rob you of your vitality. Looking back, I think that was spot on. While under the regime of pills, training was always a struggle, and results almost non-existent. Particularly for someone who had come oh-o close to a World Championship medal, and for whom personal expectations had become high. If they did nothing else for me, antidepressants balanced the equation, because it was the pressure of those self-imposed expectations that I believe started my slide. I’m now putting in three quality training sessions a week, enjoying doing so, and enjoying simply musing on what their effect is going to be.
One thing that won’t come from this winter’s work is any appearance at the World Masters Indoor Championships in Jyvaskyla, Finland, just before Easter. “Where?” you ask? It’s another in the line of near-inaccessible one-horse towns that no one would really ever want to go to, that World Masters Athletics, the bundle of fat cats and free-lunchers who make up our “governing body”, has chosen for a major championship. Try the names Lahti, Kamloops, or Porto Allegre on your friends if you want to see more blank looks. More than that, the hotel and flight cartels involved make getting there far more expensive than should ever be the case. And all to race on a four-lane indoor track. This represents pathetic facilities by any athlete’s domestic standards, let alone those of a World Championship. Sorry WMA, MTH. Must try harder.
So, there’s me, mellowed by sojourns with Giotto, Botticelli, Michaelangelo, Rai 2 Sport and such, home just in time for the winter “sales” in the shops. Being an assiduous shopper during the year, I seldom want anything in the sales. This year, sales time clashed with me needing to find a support brace for my left wrist, which I’ve managed to injure while weight training. May yet be carpal tunnel syndrome; we wait to see. My local sports shop had more bargain training shoes and t-shirts than you could wave the proverbial stick at. And lo, they had a whole display of wrist supports…..all of them for the right wrist. What do they teach shop assistants these days? When I asked, quick as a flash, he told me “It’s far more common for people to injure their right wrist, you know.” Disbelieving, I said I thought that left wrist injuries could never be ruled out, and so where were the left wrist supports. “Oh, we’ve sold them all,” he said. Go figure.
More at another time. I need a lie down in a dark room after that.
To the song-watchers, the title of this blog is, of course, from a song of that name by Melanie. The title seemed to convey the right idea.