Saturday, March 29, 2008

A different kind of reality...

Thanks to a prompt from Ewen I guess it is high time I popped up an update on what is going on with me at the moment.

Well, in a nutshell, life is different.

The change of jobs in January did not bring many dramatic changes at first as my boss was overseas for almost the entire first month, so I was twiddling my thumbs a bit. But once he got back I discovered what an earnest and intense and, er, moody, person he is, so work life has been a bit interesting since. More pressure, more stress. The job itself isn't especially taxing except that I am forced to try and perform it in Japanese, business meetings and the like, which was not something I represented myself at the interviews as being capable of doing-- in fact I was careful to explain my Japanese level fairly accurately. Daily conversation fine, but native Japanese technical and business discussions are beyond my comprehension, so I have a long, hard challenge ahead.

I have not been running much because I have decided to try to get my nasty left Achilles better. It is slowly, slowly improving, but the change is barely perceptible really. It doesn't hurt much in daily life, except sometimes in the mornings for a little while. It has a kind of hard swelling in the middle of the tendon, which is tender when gently squeezed, so I really think I am in for a long haul getting it to come good. My concern then has been how to keep my weight down. I've been going to the gym sometimes for weights and bike or X-trainer, but can only do that in the evenings and can therefore only fit that in once or twice on week nights and maybe once on the weekend. I ran a long-committed-to 6-km ekiden leg on March 20th that showed up my dwindling fitness (and made the Achilles hurt like buggery). I did a short (6k) easy run last Sunday and another last Wednesday night ... partly social, partly just to burn a few calories and partly to see how the Achilles felt. I haven't even logged them yet. In both cases the pain in my Achilles was much as it has been all along -- not enough to force me to stop, but enough to make running unenjoyable. So I continue to abstain and hope that the damn thing starts healing soon, but I am prepared to give it as long as it takes.

The other thing, of course, has been Dad, Mick, passing away. He has been on my mind, if not constantly, then at least very very often. We shared our birthdays, you know, and he was always such an enormous part of my life, my consciousness, even my identity. I am not exactly sad and mournful, because he had a good and long life and his death went about as well as death can go. We all had enough forewarning, got to say our goodbyes, and he himself was absolutely ready to go and kept his dignity through to the end, passing peacefully at home with a pain-managed terminal-stage cancer of the liver. So, his death itself is easy enough to accept and deal with. At the funeral we were able to celebrate his life while shedding some tears for the loss of this remarkable person from our lives. So I am not sad, and yet, I just miss him so much and somehow feel different with him being gone...I can't really put it any other way.

I suppose, in summary, I am currently dealing with three losses: the loss of my previously comfortable (though tending towards boring) work life; the loss of Mick; and the loss of least for the foreseeable future. Considering this situation I think I am bearing up reasonably well (at least I still have beer and brewing and my family!) and am aware that it is just one of those flat periods that life throws up and it is up to me to deal with the issues involved with each loss. Work I am accepting as an interesting and exciting challenge, the pain of Mick's loss I know will fade with time, and running, well, that's the hard one. But I'm determined to get this Achilles right so that I can make and reach some new goals in the future, like running Six Foot Track!

I am also improving on my didgeridoo, so be warned, I might put up a little video one day!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mick 10.2.1922 - 3.3.2008

James Thomas Lacey it says on the birth certificate, but we called him Mick. We called him Mick because Mick is what he was called. And though fathers are normally called "Dad", our dad, our Mick, somehow transcended the role of father. "Dad" was too plain an epithet for someone so unique.

He was our supporter, our rock, our mate. He loved quietly, with restraint, and without flamboyance. He never embarrassed you with showy displays of affection. But it was love that was no less fierce and no less felt. In fact it was intensified by its restraint. To feel his love and contemplate his mortality was something I could, from an early age, find crushing. So I have been preparing for this moment for a long time. He was mischievous, enjoyed a laugh, a yarn, a tease that bordered on torment. But it was the most gentle and affectionate torment you could ask for, and instead of being injured by his velvet barbs, you felt the more loved. Didn't you?

He never took life, or himself, too seriously, and was quick to make a rude face at anything or anyone that smacked of pomposity, self-importance, or self-promotion: politicians of all types and across the generations, the Royals, bureaucrats, Rex Mossop and Tony Greig were all objects of his scorn. Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety Bird and Precious Pup were more his style. He even spent years using the same snicker as Precious Pup.

He loved the Australian bush. Not the obsessive and studied love of an amateur naturalist, but a sheer uncomplicated love of the simple and sensuous pleasure that the bush offered. As a younger chap living at Five Day Creek, he would roam bare-footed up and down the creek fishing for perch, affectionately accused by the locals of being half-native, though that is not the word they used. Later, on return camping visits to the Macleay, the fishing was just an excuse to be out there surrounded by the water, the gum trees, the gnarley hills, the cicadas, the birdlife, the dry summer heat, a bloody good campfire, and his mates...some of whom may not have even been family. When in this element, Mick was truly at his happiest.

Unlike most blokes of his generation, he cooked: meat and three veg, stews, steak & kidney, curried this or that, pea and ham soup, damper, Mickles Pickles. His flagship was definitely Mickles Pickles. But no baking as far as I can recall. No, he left the Anzacs to Nancy. But his nightly cooking, his support of Mum, was one thing that stood as testament to the rock and pillar of the family that he was. There are many things he may not have been, but he was there if you needed him. Always.

He had his faults too. He was a hopeless handy man and I don't think I ever saw him do more to a motor car than put in petrol or fill an over-heated radiator. Changing a tyre was possibly achievable, but a challenge. Maybe he changed a spark plug in the mower once. He had a weakness for pulpy Westerns and could snooze away the afternoon at the drop of a hat. Until his final years he loved a drink with friends -- the mainstay being beer, but port or muscat with soda made a refreshing change…and in later years an occasional snort of Butterscotch Schnappes (or was it snatch? He was never quite sure.) For 50 odd years he smoked. Rollies, never tailor-mades. Log Cabin or Havelock, thanks. He also had a weakness for black jelly beans and crystallized ginger, but these are hardly faults are they? They were just some of his guilty, or maybe not so guilty, pleasures. Along with mangos, fresh prawns, oysters, mud crab, and Crème de Menthe and ice cream. He was an epicure before his time, was Mick.

There is more, so much more that could be said, that will be said, about his life. What he did and what he achieved. His teaching, his golfing, his marriage, his friendships. But not now. Not here. In these few words, I just wanted to try to capture a little of what he was. At least to my eyes. The essence of my Mick. My dad. And to put down this memory, the one that I shall carry of him forever.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TM 08, Post-race Analysis

I've had the following half-written post sitting in my drafts folder for the past couple of weeks. I was probably going to write some more, but it is gone now. I will just pop this up as is in case it is of interest to someone and for my own future reference.


This chart shows a week by week summary of my training between Ohtawara marathon on November 23 and Tokyo (Feb 17). Things went pretty well up until the 23rd of December, just recovering and slowly building back up, but then the travel to Australia upset the usual routine, and although I managed to keep up reasonable mileage, I wasn't able to churn out the 110+ km weeks with 35+ km long runs that I felt were needed to go up another level in fitness. The inability to crank up both mileage and intensity was determined more by niggles than any other factor. I definitely had the motivation and opportunity to train more, but was constantly having to take a more conservative line just to keep my poor old old chassis on the road. The main injuries were the chronic problem in my left Achilles and then some recurrences of minor strains to the biceps femoris (one of the hamstring muscles) in both legs as well as a few other less serious niggles that just added up to make running a lot less enjoyable than it should have been.

Because of the niggles I had no particular problem doing a proper taper. I was reasonably keen to do another long run two weeks out, but knew it was too close to risk it. So after that it was a model taper except that there were not as many speed workouts as I would have liked, again, a decision taken to try to keep the injuries at bay.

Final Preparation
Nutrition from Thursday to Saturday was key. I think the advice Joachim gave me about maltodextrin loading prior to Ohtawara has proven invaluable. Not that I am convinced that malto has any magical properties of itself, but it really does make sure that you take in plenty of carbs without stressing the digestive system. I couldn't get malto powder this time, but stocked up on some cheap energy gels and took one on Thursday and two each on Friday and Saturday, plus I bought a whey-protein drink and some amino acid supplements because I have come to believe that this important, but can't really explain why.