Fitness Big Year: Call me old

Unexpectedly this year, I’ve no longer been able to complete 10-km runs. I petered out after 6 or even 5 kms, sapped of all physical energy. Why? Who knows. Was cycling ripping the strength out of my running legs? Was the body, accustomed to four jogs a week, rebelling at twice weekly? Was my mind saying, “isn’t bike riding so much more manageable?”

Last year I moaned but completed 170 of my 10-km outings. This year . . . none.

I tried all manner of tactics. Clearly, good old grit didn’t work for me. At first I was almost heartbroken, then I grew resigned to the fact of pulling up short. I began to do what I’d promised myself never to do last year, that is, keeping going with a mixture of jogging and walking, and logging the mileage onto Strava anyway. Last year I’d have called that cheating. This year I didn’t care, I needed the kilometres.

Over the past fortnight I’ve attempted a desperate remedy. If I can’t run 10 kms, why not run further? So I’ve been increasing the distance, each time also increasing how far I ran before pulling up winded (and then walk/running). I made life as easy as it could be, constructing a route with barely any hills; I called my route Pancake Flat.

Yesterday a minor triumph resulted. Pancake Flat is now 12 kms and I ran the first 10 kms nonstop, so in essence I’ve got my 2016 distance back again. Next, over the upcoming month or so, I’m going to build up until I can run Pancake Flat, all 12 kms, without a pause. I’m slower now but going further. On completion yesterday, I was drained but once again, as on the wet cycle the day before, a burning joy coursed through me.

This Big Year has been nothing but a reminder of aging, but now, nearly three months in, I believe something fine is occurring.

Fitness Big Year: Joy can surprise you

Cycling, the new challenge, as well as the old mainstays, the jogging and the gym weights, have all tested me this year. Minor niggles, unexpected setbacks, receding goals . . . This week saw me tackling my new weekly cycling target of 110 kms for the second week in a row, and yesterday I set off on my regular week’s longest exercising stint, 50 kms in over three hours.

Rain had been and rain was forecast, but the skies were clear, and I was hopeful. A neophyte, I’d never taken the bike through wet weather, and to be honest, I was apprehensive, so my thinking was that if luck was with me, the clouds would stay light-coloured. An hour in, the fluffy variety left, dark skyborne beasts flew in, and suddenly the sky erupted into a violent storm. Suddenly I had no choice. Wet I’d get and wet I’d be, so I put my head down, tried to maintain visibility and took a slower pace through the trails of Melbourne. Rain lashed. Rivers flowed down the tracks. One of my under-bridge routes can be seen to be washed out.

Here’s what surprised me. In the moment, coping as best I could, and determined to log 50 kms onto Strava (let’s be clear, the Big Year demanded that), all my exercising grizzles vanished. I was fully absorbed, bleached of mental struggles. I just kept on. A tyre punctured. I recovered. Arriving home wet through and covered in trailside grit, even more weary than usual, I grinned with pleasure. This Big Year works!

Rock Music Big Year: Don’t I just need this!

What is the next sizzling sound, the next lingering lyric? Well, this NYT playlist (“25 songs that tell us where music is going“, image from the article) is wonderfully presented but, like all such curations, very much aligned to specific tastes. For me, too much rap, soul and grossly popular. However, I’ll take a look at Kongs, Church of Misery, Mica Levi & Oliver Coates, and . . . I think that’s about it, a miserly haul indeed. You might extract more and if so, how wonderful!

Writing Big Year: Can one take a day off?

Doesn’t that sound plaintive, perhaps even whiny? Nonetheless for me it’s a serious question. This big year requires daily adherence to, essentially, waking up early, but when I signed up, I knew some “holidays” would be needed. Not many holidays at all, just enough to alleviate strain. I thought I’d maybe take three six-day breaks, say for hiking, and in each of the nine other months, a “long weekend” of three days’ break.

Well, so far, my January hike was 7 days not 6, and tiredness (due to the Fitness Big Year!) has led to sleeping in 9 times. Over the first three months, instead of rising late 12 times, it’s been 16. Should I call the Big Year a failure?

It doesn’t take long to decide that a better course of action is to get back to the early start and stick to the original “days off” framework for the rest of the year. This Big Year’s purpose is to grant me time and energy. Abandoning it now makes no sense. So . . . I forgive and push on.