Thursday, 19 February 2015

First and last steps

'It's best to update the blog about once a week,' advised Murray Lambden, 'just to help keep people interested.'
How easily can five vital weeks of training evaporate? On a couple of occasions I have been faced with a choice between going training and writing about going training, but mostly I have been unlucky with the timings of various other commitments and, crucially, ill.
It all started so optimistically. There was a terrific nineteen mile walk home from work with my fellow Noa Bakehouse team-mates, not failing to take the bureaucratic detour up to Lonan checkpoint and back. There was a draft for a blog entry saying 'I've never been so well trained by Febuary!' And there was a whole luxurious weekend booked off work to put in some seriously challenging miles. Several evenings had been spent eyeing up our giant Parish Walk map, fantasising about a number of picturesque new walking routes, but feeling doomed to face the arduous Rushen to Bride stretch that had proved effective in my 2013 training. In actuality, I got a headache and naseua midweek that never went away, and instead spent the weekend staring at the bedroom wall. Another bout of similar, if less intense, symptoms accompanied by a bizarre crack opening in my left heel this week means I missed my Thursday sprint-walk around Bride, and now face two weeks worth of little crosses over my precious training record. I feel suitably glum about my prospects of racing competetively in 2015, but there are fifteen weeks left to get this training schedule back on course.
Rosa Mapp's chances in the Parish Walk however are suddenly looking much more hopeful. It was another lovely morning playing in the house, a little while after breakfast, and the sun was low and bright through the dining room window. Rosa was pulling handfuls of my alphabetised CD's from their shelves and crawling around on the debris. Spontaneously, she decided to stand - not something she does very often without support from a convenient piece of furniture. Now aboout a metre from the bookcase, holding a glove in both hands, she realised that books too can be pulled onto the floor, and thought about getting over there. There was a chair to sidle along, and the CD rack, but she really didn't want to loosen her grip on the glove. And so she walked. Three steps, very slowly, and then stopped - but she definitely walked, for the very first time in her life, and I was right beside her, gobsmacked. To celebrate, we pulled all the books out together and then sat on them for a while.
It is a strange year. I've never been busier or happier. For the first time I'm paying detailed attention to what I eat and drink before, during and after training, and on the road I can't help feeling faster and healthier. But the strong sense of competetiveness that obsessed me in 2012 and 2013 has very much dissipated. Since Rosa's birth I have felt familiar with the world, rather than competing with it, and so much more a participant in life than an observer of it. When she goes to sleep, we laugh over photographs of her, and when I go training I worry about what I'm missing.
And yet, for all of that, there is no want of motivation for the 2015 walk. The obsession has merely mutated. My last year racing as an under-thirty-year-old, and my last year racing the Parish at all for a little while. And those persistent memories of a sunset over Maughold village, of over-hearing Uncle John saying 'If he's going to finish he's going to finish, but he's really not right,' - of lying on the hill as Emma and Hendy and Ali and Jax struggled to get the new socks over my monstrous feet.
On Saturday mornings, my alarm clock goes off at two am, and by quarter to three I've scaled the mountain and rolled down to the capital. The Finale of Haydn's 104th Symphony on a worn cassette tape is normally reaching the trick ending as I turn onto the black promenade, and the searching chords that follow it accompany my passing the war memorial. I try to feel it in my legs, imagine the thrill of finishing, remember the agony in my biceps and the waves of sickness. Rosa would be fast asleep - Emma perhaps at home, waiting to enjoy it with me.

The real ending, and then the strange, filtered hiss of magnetic tape. Maybe its an illusion, but I can feel the lack of training in my legs just pushing the clutch down as I approach the sea terminal. Fifteen weeks left, better make them count. And anyway, before all that, there are some one-thousand loaves of bread to bake.