Anyone who’s been handcuffed to their seat by an air marshal before being deposited at the nearest airport and forced to stand naked on one leg in their own blood in a stifling jail a cell for three days knows that alcohol and altitude don’t mix. It’s a lesson we all end up learning.
Happily, I learnt it the easy way while mountain training in Nepal.
At 4,500ft above sea level, running in the Kathmandu valley allegedly affords athletes the opportunity to build an unusually high concentration of red blood cells. The air’s thinner, you see, and that’s the body’s way of compensating for the scarcity of oxygen. The idea is that when the runner returns to his or her sea level home (Brighton in my case), performance improves for 10-15 days. Now this might be inexcusable crap but, ever the corner-cutter, I thought I’d give it a whirl. At the very least I’d see some nice hills.
And, as an early aside to this post, here they are. Captured by my own fair iPhone.
Operation red blood cell: the results
I tend to run 10k two or three times a week and I record my times with this here Nike running app.
So, comparing my fastest weekly times for 10k in the run-up to Kathmandu with those during and after, I was able to test the theory. Here’s what I found.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve done the altitude training and I’ve not been this piss poor at running for weeks. I’m not even at square one. Baffled, I looked back through my holiday snaps. Was there some subtle clue hiding among them as to my drop in form?
So I compiled a second graph, this time comparing my 10k times to my ‘fuel’ intake (i.e. food and drink) – just in case there had been a change in behaviour I had not spotted. And that’s when I detected something.
Using the scientific method, I had unearthed evidence that beer might have played a factor in my downfall. Looking back, it makes sense. What I haven’t mentioned so far in this post is that my brother, Frankie, was my host. He is a foreign correspondent, international jetsetter and one of Kathmandu’s most notorious residents. Frankie won’t mind me telling you he prefers trepanning to drinking his Merrydown and is up till the small hours most nights working on his new invention – a sherry that is 103% alcohol.
Needless to say, we mixed training with leisure and that, ladies and gents, is why I’m now as mobile as a plate of shepherd’s pie with six weeks to go until my triathlon.
Triathlon, you say?
When you commit to doing something you weren’t built for, it can be enriching. In fact, I would go so far as to say it can nourish the soul. This morning, as you can see from my tweet, was one of those times:
Lovely run this morning just before sunrise. Really bright, warm and still and no cars. These runs, I think, are what running is all about.
— Michael Taggart (@michael_taggart) March 23, 2012
Equally, it can be lonely and desolate. I’m lucky because Mrs Taggart, a qualified personal trainer, is providing the support and arse-kicking I need (she claims she’s finally penned my training schedule, although I’m one of those people who needs to have empirical evidence of the existence of something before I’m prepared to believe it’s real).
Many people don’t have that support. Which is why, I think, that when you’re running for a charity, especially a big, well-resourced charity, they should do what they can to give you a leg up.
The Royal National Institute for Blind People goes way further. As you’ll see from the picture above (taken this morning) – they’ve sent me a vest to compete in. There was also a pack with fundraising tips and some bumph about what they do, which has inspired me a bit and made me remember why I want to help them. Not only that – but it provides useful facts that I can deploy to blackmail you lot into sponsoring me (it only takes a minute here).
The pack came with training tips, case studies and – my favourite part – some letters to iron onto my vest
I received an unsolicited email of support and a even a phone call from a fundraising manager. How nice is that? How did they even know my number?
It’s these little things that make you feel appreciated, make you feel part of a team and drive you on to try and raise as much money as you can. They even have a great Facebook page, where you can connect with other fundraisers and they’ll (sometimes) retweet your tweets if you mention them.
Top work RNIB!
P.S. If you’re wondering how my training’s going, I’m still on schedule half a month through it, slowly increasing distances and circuits. Mrs Taggart tells me I’ve got TWO training sessions today!
I’m competing in the Brighton Marina Triathlon in September for the RNIB. Please sponsor me here and make life a little easier for a blind person.
Did six miles at lunchtime today, three of them in Regent’s Park, and wondered whether it would be uncomfortable doing a triathlon in a bunny costume (we’ve been discussing Easter-themed marketing at work).
Last night, I hit St Ann’s Well Gardens with Mrs Taggart again for star jumps and press ups. Regular readers are probably wondering if Mrs T, a qualified personal trainer, has penned my training schedule yet.
No, she has not.
That’s it. Read this instead – it’s far more entertaining.
Better still sponsor me and make life easier for a blind person. I’m doing the Brighton Marina Triathon in September for the Royal National Institute for Blind People.
It’s day five and my training schedule has taken me deep into the concrete jungle.
That’s right, I’ve been elbowing my way through the dense soup of buskers, chuggers, beggers, preachers, pushers, hawkers, walkers, bikers, and bingers that congeals on London’s pavements most lunchtimes.
You see, when Mrs Taggart, a qualified personal trainer, finally gets round to writing my training schedule (no hurry, my wuvwy, wickle wugglebunny xxx), it will probably contain exercise on most days.
I’ll need not only to get fit – but to get fit three times in three different ways so I can compete in a swim, a cycle and a run all on the same day. Which, at the moment, seems only mildly less tricky than triplicating myself and doing all three at once.
This means I’ll need to pack as much training as possible into each week. And, with the cycling and swimming necessarily having to be chalked off at weekends, this necessitates either running in the dark (i.e. very early or late at home in Brighton) or running during work in London.
So there I was yesterday afternoon, manfully bounding through piles of dog puke and empty bottles of Buckfast wine as I pondered the feasibility of lunchtime running in a metropolis as a minor plank of my training strategy.
Central London is peculiar and small. You can literally be running by a grand old museum near a genteel and green square one minute, the next you’re in a scene from The Wire, then, a moment later, you’re being chased up Europe’s busiest shopping street by a homicidal bus driver in his death wagon.
Yes, it almost feels like dashing through the back gardens of twenty very, very different family homes. And, while it is small, there are simply too many humans crawling around the capital’s bolt holes and crevices.
Side-stepping within a cigarette paper’s width of a fully-laden outdoor dining table in Mayfair, I steamed forward toward the heaving, swaying crowds at Covent Garden Market. Finally, I arrived back at the office, slammed the door behind me and leaned against it as if holding out the Wolfman.
Lunchtime running in London will never be dull but is it to be continued? Well, it’ll have to be. There aren’t enough hours in a week for the strategy to be written off. I think I’ll find a nice park next time though.
I’m competing in the Brighton Marina Triathlon in September in aid of the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Please, please sponsor me at my Justgiving page.
But for me, the real benefit is that slide into a different mental gear as the rhythms of your brain become soothingly consonant.
I suppose it’s what we mean by being “in the zone” and it gives you time to think about things you don’t normally think about.
Tonight as we ran towards St Ann’s Well Gardens (for star jumps and press ups, since you’re interested), my wife and I remarked on two bright stars hanging in the misty sky, a formation we’d both subconsciously dismissed at various points during the previous few days.
It looked like a distant star coming into line with a planet, which was much too bright to be another star – and it turned out I was half right.
I went straight onto Google when we got home. Venus and Jupiter are to pass each other in a ‘close encounter’ in the night sky over the next few nights – they’re actually hundreds of millions of miles apart. You’ll be able to see the spectacle just after dusk for the next few evenings in the western sky – more on that here.
The star jumps were even more spectacular.
I’m running a triathlon for the Royal National Institute for Blind People in September. Please sponsor me at my Justgiving page.
Okay, so I realise how tedious training blogs usually are. But would you bear with me on a daily basis for the next six months while I indulge myself?
I’m doing a triathlon in September for the Royal National Institute of Blind People. My first training session was supposed to be this morning but the pub got in my way as I was walking home from work last night so I had to make adjustments to my schedule.
I realise I’ll have to watch out for this sort of thing.
See? Already learning. Tomorrow, I’ll start running.
Please sponsor me. Or tell someone else to. Or both.
We can do this thing.