A Leisurely Start to 2018

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Whoops… seems I took the Christmas holidays a bit to heart there, stretching them beyond the end of February… I’d like to say there goes the leisurely life of a gentleman sportsman – a bit of kayaking here, some running and swimming there, plenty of road-biking of course, an entry to the Journal dashed off there, some work on the novel... The truth is that my working life descended into chaos on 3rd January and it’s taken this long to scramble out of it. There’s one deliciously silly thing in all of this though – the inbuilt irony in the idea of not contributing to a non-training journal… The concept's almost tautological. Perhaps it will implode, or fold itself into the fourth dimension.

Still, here’s to a lively 2018, full of physical endeavour. Hopefully I shall describe many far flung races and events from around the world, though be reassured I’d never write about anything as lumpen as the training needed to complete them.

In fact the year has been filled with physical endeavour already. I wrote this in New Zealand, where I was competing in an adventure race, the Kathmandu Coast to Coast. In fact, I should be more specific: it’s the world’s original adventure race, and it’s set in the home of the sport, the South Island. The Coast to Coast is a magnificent race, 240 plus kilometres of running, road-biking, kayaking from one side of the island to the other, plus some what they euphemistically call ‘mountain running’, which basically means scrambling through rock-strewn riverbeds that lie between nearly flat and 45 degrees. Rock-hopping skills are at a premium, then. Ideal for me, for whom running on the flat is still a deeply unpleasant experience (both my Achilles were in jeopardy for the whole of last year from running, but they were quite happy to cope with the eccentric demands of scrambling up riverbeds). The race is lots of fun though, particularly when your support crew includes a former Maori All Black prop. Lee Lidgard is a mountain of a man, who can lift a kayak with his little finger. However, I am writing it up for the FT, which means I cannot go into too much depth at the moment. I’ll link to it when the article comes out later in the year. Meantime, here’s a link to the Coast to Coast website.

Joe the Physio has been on the case, trying to perfect me, or at least take the wreck and get it back out onto the race course. Hence some Achilles exercises. Does everyone keep a rucksack of sand in their office?

Sadly my next adventure has just been canned. I have previously admitted to a bit of kayaking, leisurely weekday mornings spent tooling up and down the Thames, hoping it won’t disappear. After many years and many, many miles paddling boats, I thought I ought to get a bit of technique, so I have been learning to work those impossibly unstable marathon kayaks that you see paddled by triangular people in the Olympics and along the Thames. One of this year’s events was intended to be the DW… That’s a hideous 125 miles non-stop along the Kennet and Avon Canal and then down the Thames, from Devizes to Westminster. It takes place over Easter weekend at the end of March into April, which means the temperature can be anything from sub-zero to baking hot. Maybe next year, then. Meantime, here’s a link to the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race website.

So more adventures needed…

And meantime I have been working hard to rejoin the land of the physically fit, in physio terms, that is. Yes, Joe the Physio has been on the case, trying to perfect me, or at least take the wreck and get it back out onto the race course. Hence some Achilles exercises. Does everyone keep a rucksack of sand in their office? They say the human brain can only be properly focussed and creative for 20 minutes at a time, before it needs to shaken up and concentrate on something else for a moment. Well, I sling the rucksack onto my back and work on my Achilles tendons. The weight is up to 25kg now. As I mentioned, they both pinged last year as I relearned to run. Yes, that’s relearning how to run. Apparently even running styles have moved on since I was a lad.

Well, it’s one thing to extend the Christmas holidays till the end of February, but I was right in the sense that it has taken this long for the winter to see some snow. London has actually had three or four inches, and predictably found it all rather difficult to cope with. That settles it then. I’m certainly not heading out to Richmond Park on my slicks and nor am I going to scurry around the park after the trouble this poor woman caused herself, see below, snow texture and all. It looks like swimming’s the only option left for a leisurely gentleman sportsman. Or perhaps I should just lie around in a hammock.