Christmas is normally a time of the year where I completely let go. In my twenties I was a bit of a social addict, but in my thirties I seem to have replaced this with a new addiction – running. The truth is I normally need a few drinks to completely relax and since taking athletics seriously the number of evenings where I have more than one drink has taken a dramatic drop. There is no doubt in my mind that athletics is an addiction like any other. It’s a relatively healthy addiction, but an addiction nonetheless. Perhaps it is the endorphins, but for me it’s deeper. I’m driven to be the best I can be – to understand my limits. This sounds like an admirable cause, but is there really any end to the cause and what is the collateral damage?
Athletics is certainly an introverted pastime, particularly once you start hitting the 100 mile per week barrier. Running with a club and friends is great and indeed sociable, but typically accounts for a maximum of about 40% of running mileage for the endurance athlete. The rest is time alone. Surprisingly, it is in no way tedious – ask any athlete – there is something mesmerising about pounding the pavement. It’s particularly satisfying for me when focusing on a big goal. Without a goal, my weekly mileage drops dramatically (hence the addiction cannot be purely an endorphin buzz). With a goal I can push myself to complete exhaustion week after week.
The collateral damage from endurance running comes from becoming boring. I guess it’s similar to having a baby – it takes over. The serious athlete is normally only too delighted to lean conversations towards training and racing. Social engagements are kept to a minimum as they are a distraction to the ultimate goal. There is guilt associated with anything that could negatively impact performance. Everything is organised around the racing calendar. Is the end worth the means? For the moment I believe so, but it's not something I want to continue at this intensity indefinitely. I’ve achieved more than I originally thought possible when starting out as a novice runner, but now I’m starting to understand my body and its limits. There is more in the tank and now is not the time to quit.
Back to my opening sentence – my typical take on the 12 days of Christmas is to have at least 12 consecutive nights on the town. There’s always a fantastic vibe at night in Ireland around Christmas and it truly is a magical time of the year. I love spending time with friends and family at Christmas and this year I’m missing out. My typical 12 days of drinking are replaced with 12 consecutive days of training, with 140 miles clocked over my 12 days to date. Training has gone well – it’s a risk ramping up mileage quickly, but so far no ill effects. Instead of piling on the pounds over Christmas, I think I’m losing weight. No scales in sight, but mirrors seldom lie. I’m also getting in good core strength, leg strength and stretching at the gym. I never attended aerobic type classes before, but with time on my hands here I’m giving it a go. I would highly recommend classes to those starting on the exercise path. Classes provide clear direction, discipline, and structure. Results will follow. The stretching class was a particular eye opener for me. I like to consider myself a fit individual, but I certainly have an Achilles heel – no flexibility. My ego took a bashing as I was certainly the weakest in the room on flexibility – it was embarrassing. Endurance runners don’t need outstanding flexibility, but I can’t even touch my toes. Hopefully with a few more classes this will change. Other sessions went well. The core strength class on Thursdays is exactly what I need. Running sessions have improved – I must be getting used to the altitude. Sunday’s Ciclovía was a big improvement on the previous week. I got in 28km in 2 hours, with 10k at a good clip. Still not hitting times I would expect, but I don’t feel the need to yet. I’m only one week into my 16 week training plan before my next big target – looking like the Paris marathon.
|Christmas Cycle - dodgy camera work, but I was in motion|
As a predominately Christian nation, the Colombians celebrate Christmas in much the same manner as Ireland. There are decorations, Christmas trees and nativity cribs in every direction. But Christmas is primarily family time and without family it seems a little empty. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology our families didn’t seem too far away. Video and voice chats via Skype and similar technologies were the order of the day. Yet another tangent, but I reckon Vodafone, O2 et al will need to diversify quickly. Will the need for GSM/3G type networks disappear once Wi-Fi is widespread? For me, I think so. Why pay a mobile bill if you can achieve communication and much more without? Also, we’ve become too dependent on mobile devices. One relief with being on holidays is being able to leave the house without a device in my pocket. Will we ever get back to that level of freedom?
Christmas Eve involved some last minute shopping. Sharlene and I went in separate directions to get each other presents. So much choice, so little time. I eventually did get a few goodies and headed back for home. We were exhausted on returning, so our plans for a night on the town were replaced with steaks & drinks at home. We felt a little sorry for our security doorman, Alfonso, and so offered brownies and beer. He was on a 12 hour shift and we expected the brownies (6 mini ones) to last a few hours at least, but within minutes he was back with an empty plate. We were on a G&T buzz and offered him one. Again he downed within minutes, delighted with himself. Us Irish aren’t really used to people accepting offers so eagerly – we prefer a more cryptic acceptance process, where no typically means yes. It’s part of our culture to force people to drink cups of tea or pints of beer. There was no forcing Alfonso – he would have eaten us out of our home if given the chance. He is a great guy – it’s just a different perspective.
|Christmas Dinner - no turkey, ham or sprouts in sight!|
Bogotá was certainly peaceful on Christmas day. The traffic replaced by people slowly wandering around. The weather was a good, vastly different to what Ireland is experiencing at the moment. I went for a slow jog to check out the city and see where was open. The majority of shops and restaurants were closed, but there remained a few open. In the afternoon we cycled down to Parque 93 for our Christmas dinner. The typical turkey and ham was replaced by steak and ribs. Copious amounts of meat as we’ve come to expect in Colombia. It would be difficult eating out here as a vegetarian – it doesn’t really seem to be a word in their vocabulary. It’s surprising in a way as the selection of fruit & veg is truly amazing.
So it wasn’t a typical Christmas, but it was enjoyable. Now to plan for the 31st – a night on the town is overdue – I’d say the Colombians know how to ring in the new year, so I’m looking forward to it. In between it’s back to marathon training – much the same as last week, but with a slight mileage increase and will introduce long interval reps this week. Hopefully I’ve acclimatised to the altitude as otherwise it’s going to be torturous...