Friday, 29 June 2012

Springsteen & Sheffield - 22-24 June 2012

I said I’d write about Springsteen’s Etihad concert on June 22. I also said I’d write about my weekend in Sheffield. And I will – just won’t go on and on and on. Because some things are best said with pictures, anyway.

Firstly, this was the best Springsteen show I’d seen since 2001, when I had the privilege of seeing him from the side of the stage at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, N.J.. Bruce was up for it, the band were on form… I could bore you with a song-by-song dissection but won’t. Here’s the setlist: and here’s hoping Paris, next week, won’t now disappoint.
(It was chucking it down in Manchester when I got there and my friend wasn’t set to meet me for another hour. The options: spend an extra hour in the Manchester & County Wetherspoons or take in the glorious Northern rain by wandering around. Ooh, it felt so good! Proper stuff! The Manchester Art Gallery was also good. Proper rock fans, we are! But after that I was truly ready for a pint and a burger)

As for Sheffield, I can but quote @CarlMaloney (25/04): “Ahhhh Sheffield. It's good to be back in your grey, wet buzzom!” And it was. It was lovely to spend time with my cousins (four of them, anyway), with Auntie Dawn and Uncle Richard, and indeed bump into a few people from… from… well, from a very long time ago! I could try to convey what it meant to me to have a day to myself to wander along the river Don and then through the City Centre, from West Street to Fargate, from Castle Market to Surrey Street, from the museums to Norfolk Street and The Moor. What it meant to see my alma mater, Sheffield Hallam University, and even the new, shiny buildings which now house ANT Marketing, which seems to be doing quite well for itself since the days when it paid me £3.15/hr and gave me my first taste of an office job. Just how much I enjoyed the freedom of wandering wherever, whenever for seven and a half hours, alone: as much as I love my family, I feel that time like this helps refocus the mind and reenergise the soul.

I started off following a map for The Five Weirs Walk: whilst accurate, this ultimately proved to be somewhat incomplete, in so much that at the point where I thought I’d be turning round and “retracing [my] steps and returning by the same route” (the map’s words) the signs kept willing me on further down the Don… pretty much all the way to Don Valley Stadium. So I’ll be using a different one next time! In the end, I gave up and turned round: I wasn’t tired, but I did want to spend some time in the centre (and in Decathlon, for some… er, running gear) before meeting up with Uncle Tim for Early Bar, a family/friends institution which involves a bar early on on a Saturday evening. Streetsy (who got a mention on here three weeks ago) was absent and never did return my morning text: then again, had I realised he was at his daughter’s wedding in Croatia I may not have texted him! Always good to see Sooty, Jonah and Ian T, though, and to be joined by Sam. Oh, and I missed the 6pm target anyway: I had to catch a bus for the last couple of miles up to Banner Cross and was still a few minutes late when Tim came to pick Sam and me up. And didn’t he let me know so!
As well as being late, I was unable to let my cousins know where I was and what my ETA might be. They were frantically texting, unaware that RunKeeper had killed my phone! How did we cope without mobiles?
I had written off this weekend for training purposes and didnt want to track what I was doing, but I did get curious on the way back as to how long I’d been walking and where and I paid for it. Anyway, I’m guesstimating 20km.
During those 7 ½ hours, I took 175 photos. To the right is a spoiler and here’s a selection of one hundred (I couldnt edit it down any further). So c’mon, join me for a walk and let’s retrace those steps…
…and if you think the sequence looks a bit odd, I can explain. Yes, I followed a map on the way out: but I followed my nose on the way back. And my nose doesn't have a great track record, to be honest. But it was just good to get myself lost and found again in Sheffield. Just trust me. Find my way in a city that’s mine and yet that I don’t know well enough, certainly not when it comes to the practicalities and the geography. I’m sure I didn’t need to walk through you, Pitsmoor, but it was a nice detour!
S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6 (!), S9, S11… I earnt some stripes on Saturday!
(I do genuinely find Sheffield non-threatening. There were times when ethnicity may have set me apart, where I may have been a minority of one, yet I always felt I fitted. That may be the rose-tinted glasses or it may be the confidence that comes with being a 6ft-summatalbeitnotmuch, relatively stocky bloke who wouldn’t be your obvious pick for a fight, not least because his constantly mardy face makes him look far more menacing than he could ever be in reality. But I just prefer to think its reality)

As for Sunday, I took things a little easier. That included returning a pair of trail running shoes to Decathlon: having slept on it (and spoken to Nats and Ollie, who are practicing on the right course!), my Asics will do. Hopefully. But going into Decathlon and spending £81.94 on running gear is a crime. When you cant stand running, that is. Spent the afternoon in Endcliffe Park and then headed Darn Saath. Just in time to see Italy beat England on penalties. Penalties gotta lovem, right? As long as youre neither English nor a Blade. Allegedly.

Hmm… I said I’d not go on and on and on… and for Springsteen I managed it… but Sheffield, you got me. Again. Always.

Oh, and yes, of course I know that Springsteen and Sheffield have, in the past, made the perfect combination. Not least on July 9 & 10, 1988, when the venue was Bramall Lane
… dates I know off the very top of my ever-thinning head. Because I was there? Heck, no. Because on July 9 I was arriving in Sheffield for my summer holidays and traffic was a nightmare. I only got into Bruce the following October - and this is the footage that did it for me. But I do so love the video for Spare Parts, featuring scenes of Sheffield and Bramall Lane almost as good as my photos… c'mon, you know you want to.

p.s.: a very small part of Sunday was spent discussing the 101010 route. But more of that another time. Actually, there’s not much to say: Cousin Nats told me about the initial steep hill and that, after that, it’s a steady rise with no real flat sections. Which sounds pretty much like my training routes round here, to be fair! Olly and her are running it in around 45’… my 10k two days ago took me 1h11’… just as well it’s not a race (and there’s none of my usual sarcasm there)! Just got to hope it’s no tougher than my training routes and I’ll be fine. Would have loved to check out the route first hand, but one can only achieve so much – even if a Sheffielder and a Blade!

p.p.s.: on the outward part of my Five Weirs Walk I passed a very ‘basic’ smoking area and took a photo. On the return leg, probably only 20’ later, a couple of “possibly inebriated gentlemen” had occupied it and the larger one asked me if I’d taken enough photos… before asking me to take one of him. Nothing menacing, just jolly. Everything about it is just quintessentially Sheffield. Or, as I like to say, Squintessentially Sheffield.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Pleased with meself!

Nipped out for a run earlier. Added two stretches of flat road to what had been my longest circuit to try and breach the 10k barrier. And breach it I did: 10.59k. Yes, in a paltry 1:11:05: but there’s time to work on that (as per my comments yesterday) and a climb of 663m is both healthy and a decent excuse. OK, so my cousins are running the TenTenTen route in around 45’: golly for them, they’re in their 20s and fit. I’m in my 30s and, in spite of improvements, unfit. I’ll never be fit. But there is room for improvement… and just about two months to improve!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Training Update: Amsterdam (it's flat, tha knooes!)

Nah then… what did I promise you?
OK, let’s start with training. It’s going alreight, thanks. I did find myself doing something very scary last week, mind… on Tuesday I flew out to Amsterdam for work, see, and I…

…packed my running shoes! Then, when I got to Bristol Airport, I bought “Running Fitness”! Well, it was only £2.99… rumours that I am thinking about subscribing somewhat exaggerated. Besides, I did buy “FourFourTwo” an’all!

You think those two things are bad? Well, get this: on both Wednesday and Thursday morning I got up at 6:30am and went for a 5.5k run in Amsterdam. We were staying in the Crowne Plaza in the centre, so it was easy enough to get out and run along the harbour canal. But the mere fact that I got up to run… well, that’s now what someone who can’t stand running does, right?

You know, I’ve probably been to Amsterdam for work some 30-40 times in my lifetime/career. I used to work for a Dutch company and fly over twice a month and I’ve attended more conferences in what is a highly convenient location for all European travellers than I care to remember. So one reason I got out of bed was to see, to smell a city that so often has passed me by, since so many of those trips have been Schiphol-Meeting/Conference-Hotel and back. It was very pleasant to see the centre and the harbour just as the city started to come to life, an experience enhanced by a couple of canal cruises: one work-related on the Wednesday evening, one with a colleague on the Thursday. A rare pleasure indeed to appreciate one of my work destinations.

Running in Amsterdam was a marked change from my usual routes around Portishead. The next line won’t surprise you: it’s flat. So RunKeeper duly informs me that, over the 5.5k, I climbed all of 40m. On my 5.2k route back home, the climb is 343m. Just saying, like.

For the unbelievers (heck, I’d be one), here’s the note that accompanied a cereal bar and a smoothie upon my return to the hotel, all sweaty, on Wednesday morning. It was a genuine surprise which, sadly, set an unmet expectation for the Thursday. Thursdays are typically busy in business hotels as many international travellers head back, just as I was doing, so I will excuse the staff for being overwhelmed and unable to feed me. Just about, anyway.

So I got home late on Thursday… and hit the road again on Friday. This time for pleasure, mind: up to Manchester to see Bruce Springsteen, then across to the right side of the Pennines for the weekend. More about all that another time. From a pure training perspective, I wrote those three days off, although I did walk around 20km on Saturday: you decide whether that counts or not! What it did mean was that, by the time I headed out last night, I’d not run for three days…

…and I tackled my short 5k course but looking to up my pace. I succeeded, even though it did mean I did something I’d not done for quite some time: I stopped, mid-run! Three times, I think: nevertheless, I recorded a PB of 30’05”, around three minutes under the previous, or 9% on what is a short distance. Obviously I need to cut out the stops, maybe at the cost of finding a slightly slower pace: but it’s encouraging. See, what I want to avoid here is what happened with my Swimathons

…on both occasions, I started training not having set foot in a pool for years. On both occasions, first off I managed a hundred lengths. I subsequently trained for months, in the pool and on my bike, but never actually got any faster. I felt better, I lost weight, I listened to many a tip from the helpful folk at BadTri with whom I trained for the Swimathon… but hardly shaved anything off my time. So, whilst I feel I’m already in decent shape to run 10k, I want to ensure that a) I’m fit enough for the 101010 and b) I do myself justice in terms of time. The latter is not just about fitness: it’s about how my body was designed, whereby I always seem to cope better with stamina than speed. In a sporting environment, I hasten to add – before anyone’s mind starts going down inappropriate routes!

As if by magic, “Running Fitness” had some tips about improving speed this month. These were seasonal in so much that most regular runners, apparently, should practice shorter/sharper bursts at this time of the year, allowing as much recuperation time during sprints as they actually sprint for. Interesting enough, but I feel I can’t focus on that entirely as I still need to sort out stamina. But it has made me conscious of the need and opportunity to work on the speed side of things – hence my plan to run my 5k route at least once a week, complementing the stamina work on my 8.5k route (which I hope to upgrade to 10k shortly…). At some point I need to fit in some uphill work, too: not only for the fitness, but because Cousin Nats (who’s run the 101010 twice already and signed up for 2012 inspired by me) told me that the route is hardly ever flat. So… just like my 5k route, or indeed my 8.5k one, with its 531m of climb… heck, living on top of a hill has some benefits!

One last thing: If ever in Amsterdam, make sure you hit the Oporto bar. The landlord’s from Belfast and loves his classic rock. Top bloke, top bar, enough said.