Comfortably numb

Behind the swan-like exterior of this blog there’s a special workshop-cum-shed where all the magic happens. On the work bench of that shed there sits a perfectly formed blog post about how I have ascended to the zen like state of running 10 pretty nippy miles every second day on nowt but fresh air and dreams. All injury free and with shoes made of gossamer.

The blog post still sits there on the work bench because, surprising as it may seem, I am (fairly) honest.

That and the fact that I’ve felt a strange tingling in my trousers over the past week or so.

The sort of tingling that means you’re less teenage boy and more chronic user of google as a GP.

I appear to have developed something called meralgia paraesthetica which is caused by:

  • Being morbidly obese
  • Wearing skinny jeans
  • Running too much

(Not all at the same time)

All a very glamorous way of saying that the outside of my left hip has a trapped nerve that doesn’t cause me too much pain but does feel weirdly like someone elses hip (I’ve no sensation in the skin on the hip).

The treatment for this condition is that  you lose weight, wear a smock with no pants on or stop running. There’s not much weight to lose and I am currently considering my options on the smock.

The last option will clearly never work.

I will keep you posted on the smock shopping front.

Before I forget, I have changed running shoe – to a lightweight racing flat – the New Balance 1400 – more to follow in the next post.

New Shoes. New me

New Shoes. New me

Docks Grab Bucket

Mechanical Symmetry

Mechanical Symmetry


On the way back to the car after the trip around the LÉ Aoife I saw the this bulk cargo grab bucket asleep waiting for the next load of feed or fertilizer to arrive in Cork. The colour of the bucket, all polished rust in the sun is what drew me to it; the symmetry only became apparent back at the laptop. 

A real case of form following function.



Escaping Rope

For the second half of our heritage day here in Cork last Saturday  we took the easy option and took a tour of the Irish Naval Vessel the LÉ Aoife (LÉ stands for Long Éireannach and means Irish Ship for all the non-natives reading this).

Is it heritage?

Well, judging by the age of the vessel it soon would be. It was laid down in 1978 and has been in active service since 1979. It has the sturdy build quality that started to go out of fashion as our disposable society started in earnest in the early 1980’s. Two screws instead of one.

The nice thing about these boats is they’re all named after characters from Irish mythology. Aoife was the step-mother of the Children of Lir for those of you wondering.

Wikipedia is as good a place as any to read up on these things if you’ve the curiosity to drag you over there.

When you’re 14 the idea of 20mm cannons is enough to get you dreaming of a life of Rum, Sodomy and the Lash. when you have a 6 year old moaning and hanging off your arm it’s less enticing.

But the regimented routine that ships life brings is always interesting to us land lubbers.

I read something over the weekend about photography that said that  looking through a camera view finder  was the best way of being able to look at the world without needing a camera. I suppose it has something to do with being able to see everyday objects out of context and seeing how they might mean something else with a little sprinkle of imagination.

Off to get some shade

Off to get some shade

Look at the rope. While no one was looking it decided it had had enough of being coiled up in the hot sun and had just decided to head off to look for some shade.

Running is still fine although 10 miles yesterday in the rain has left me with very tender nipples – might try some cabbage leaves…..

Cork Heritage

It’s Heritage Week here in Cork. This is the time of the year when you start to realise that you don’t know your city very well!

Big E, Small T

Big E, Small T

This is a tiny neglected graffiti covered lane way in an old part of Cork. It was the Beverly hills of it’s day though as it was one of the first suburbs to be built outside the demolished city walls.

Samuel Pike was a 37 year old Quaker who had branched out into property development. There must have been a dispute between the stone masons and the stone cutters as the quality of the lettering on the sign is pretty appalling.

This morning I was blissfully unaware of all of this but thanks to the knowledge of Tom Spalding I am now even more informed about my city.


Running is going well.  The new shoes haven’t killed me yet.

Budgie Smugglers

You’re on a beach, preferably foreign – so you don’t have a full  handle on the societal norms – and you’re wearing your regular swimming gear.

If you’re a middle-aged man it’s a pair of trunks, with a leg length somewhere above or at the knee that are either a plain colour or some sort of exotic print – it depends on how much peacock you have in your DNA. As a woman it’s some sort of costume that covers enough without making you feel like you’re either a nun or your mother.

You look around and you start to notice that most of the people your age are wearing decidedly less swimsuit than you are. And they seem to be getting away with it. It’s not pretty, but it’s not as grotesque as you might have thought. nobody’s in their prime past 35 but most people are looking good for their age in their budgie smugglers and strappy bikinis. After a few days of this you start to feel that the old aphorism Less is more might actually mean something and not just be a reference to Apple design.

So, buoyed by this new sense of liberty, encouraged by the laissez-faire attitude of the locals, you find yourself in the local beach shop browsing the cheese wire that passes for swimwear.

You leave the shop with your tiny package (and your new swimming togs) and you head back to your accommodation to try them on.

You’re hoping for more Tom Daley on the 10m board than Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast as you arrange your equipment into the new speedos and head out to the beach.

As you settle yourself on the beach you feel slightly self-conscious as the fresh air gusts around your upper thighs and the application of sun oil to your freshly revealed milky white bits feels disconcertingly like a service you should be paying for.

After a few minutes of lying there you’re wondering how long you can hold in your midriff before it all falls apart. In the end you realise that if you lie on your front you can relax like a walrus on a beach. You survey the beach in front of you with your chin propped on the fist column and you come to the slow realisation that almost everyone else is at the same thing.

Trying, beyond hope, to make do with what they’ve got. There are only one or two decent human specimens on the beach and they’re emotionally infantile narcissists. As deep as a puddle. Genetically perfect but not the polymath we all become as we get older.

F*** it, you think, I look fine and what’s more, (Another benefit of getting older) I don’t care.

The old - trusty beach shorts

The old – trusty beach shorts

As this is a running blog and stories about running are invariably not that interesting the above allegory is a more interesting way of saying I have just bought some new running shoes.  They are smaller and lighter than my normal ones and only time will tell if they work out for me. I took them out for 10 miles yesterday and they seem to make running fast easier but I suspect that over longer distances I will suffer some sort of injury (think of your equipment falling out of your speedos).

The new - my speedos

The new – my speedos

Unusual Injury

This is a bona fide post about running. This is the justification for me telling people I have a running blog as opposed to a part of t’internet where my over active brain vents.
I’ve had a pretty good (by my standards) few weeks of running. The astral eclipse of motivation, lack of injury, available time and good weather have meant that I’ve been putting in 10 mile hill runs every other day for the last 3 or 4 weeks. This is the sort of foundation that great things are built on – if you have stuff to build with – stuff that I seem to have neglected to collect from the supply store of running – stuff like ability, consistency, other words that end in y.
All was going well until I picked up the weirdest injury you could imagine. Like most runners I am in a constant state of repair/injury/anxiety about the condition of my body from the waist down (excluding the non-running bits – I’d need to be an extreme porn star for the same emotional condition to exist). This injury is an upper body injury. Some sort of cracked or bruised rib or intercostal muscles.
I was out last Sunday for a 10 miler in between the heavy summer showers that made up the death throes of some Atlantic hurricane. The sort of 5 minute showers that were short enough not to need a rain jacket but intense enough to almost hypnotise you as you watched (from shelter) the precipitation. This was mile 1 of a 10 miler so getting fussy about the rain was pointless given the amount of sweat I’d have on me by the end of the run.
That said, I have one of those Garmin watches that doesn’t work very well in the rain. How they got this sort of product past any sort of product development or focus group is beyond me. Can you imagine the pitch that was made for this sort of things (think Bob Newhart tobacco sketch): OK, so this is a GPS watch for running and cycling? yea. Right, and sweat and rain make it malfunction? yea…………OK, seems fine, when can we start shipping?
There is a little “press all the buttons at once” trick you can do with these watches that allows you to remove this malfunction in the rain function they have built into them. I was running along – on the Blackrock railway line – deserted in the rain- staring and fiddling with my watch when all of a sudden….boom.
I ran straight into the only other person stupid enough to be out in the rain. She (a lady runner) saw me at the very last second and put up her hands to stop a serious collision (for her). I never saw her so I had a serious collision.
I was totally unprepared for the impact so the area of impact couldn’t flex up for protection. The outer edge of the left pectoral and ribcage took the full brunt of the impact.
All of this took place in a split second in case you thought it was a slo-mo kung-fu movie sort of event.
Not wanting to let on that I was so hurt I might need my mammy I ran on (as did she) but I pulled up about 200m later to survey the damage. Everything was working but it felt very sore. I did what all sensible runners would do at that point: I kept going with the run hoping that i could run the injury off. To be fair, the endorphins meant that the injury didn’t seem so bad (at the time).
Now, one run and three days later I can’t raise my left arm over my shoulder, can’t sleep properly and am generally sore.
I have toyed with going to the Doctor for it but that seems like a waste of €50. As it’s still sore I suspect it’s some sort of rib injury or a bruise where a key muscle inserts into the bone. Doctors normally prescribe pain killers and rest for this sort of thing. You don’t get a big plaster cast or no homework so what’s the point? You’d be €50 poorer and just look dumb.
No, the only solution to this sort of injury is to ignore it and it will blend into the other injuries that are simmering away under the delicate veneer of good health I present to the outside world.
As my mother always says to me: Always look where you’re going

My Syringe

If you spend any amount of time in the company of small children you’ll realise that they have the enthusiasm of a dog chasing cars and the attention span of a goldfish. Everything is brilliant and cool and they’re able to commit themselves so completely to the latest intense but passing desire that it comes as a shock to us that their love was only a fleeting thing and the next latest gee-gaw to catch their eye is the object of their desire five minutes later.

A germane story that proves this point. While on holidays in July I had a United Nations Nuclear Inspector negotiation moment with my son in a French supermarket where he had a paralysing desire for a box of €40 lego. His desire for the lego was so intense he was having trouble breathing – the sort of way you might find yourself when in the company of your first teenage crush and you realised that she kinda liked you as well.

Incoherent and desperate.

I bought him a Pain au chocolat (about 75c) as compensation and as he sat beside me covering his face in the special oven proof chocolate paste they put in these things in France he said: This is even better than Lego.

To prove that men (this one in particular) have the same mindset as little boys but they hide it under wrinkles, stubble and sore backs I have climbed the steps of the water slide, sat onto my rubber ring and splashed into the pool of puerile enthusiasm for my latest gee-gaw: A rusty 1987 peugeot bicycle.

Before you read on I just want you to think about someone who finds a syringe and decides to buy some heroin so the syringe doesn’t go to waste.

During our holiday I got the opportunity to go running in the little gaps in the day when the 10-legged brainless monster called the family forgot what it was supposed to be doing. On one of these runs – a particularly gruelling 12 mile run on steep hills and high temperatures  – the sort of run where it slowly dawns on you that wine and ice cream are not the best fuel for running. I spotted what looked like an abandoned bike lying next to a shed. The bike had a bit of paper slung around the cross bar but it had been there for so long the biro had faded. It had no pedals, the tyres were cracked and flat (and not attached to the bike) and the chain had the sort of rust rigor mortis  reserved for the terminally neglected bike. To say it was in a bad way was an understatement.

On I went, not really giving it another thought – too busy concentrating on not turning into a sloppy mess from all the sweating – until later as we drove past it on one of our visit a castle for culture expeditions.  I could feel the romantic fantasy of breathing new life in the old and worn out bike growing in me and before I could dampen the urge I said to my wife: I fancy buying that old bike. This was met with the usual look reserved for owning a man-child for a husband. The same look she gives the dog when he’s licking his balls.

As the holiday drew to an end I knocked on the farmhouse door to see if I could haggle a price with the owner. I was met by two 10 year old boys who told me they wanted €50 for the bike. I offered €40, they realised I was a sucker and agreed. All of this was done in my best pidgin French (in case you thought they spoke English). That was the easy bit.

10 speed

10 speed

Next I had to convince my wife that we had space for yet another bike on the trip home (we already had 5 bikes with us) and that I hadn’t just been conned by a bunch of schoolboys. That took an evening of being super compliant and cooperative. You know the sort of thing – being interested in your partner’s conversation and pretending to have an opinion. Asking constructive and agreeable questions like  really? and what did you say? Most husbands reserve this sort of behaviour for those times when they know they’re either about to end up in the shit or are trying to climb out of it.

Through a combination of my mousy behaviour and her realisation that she was stuck with me we got through this little marriage tester and I made it back to my front door with the peugeot.

Delicately balanced

Delicately balanced

I had my syringe.

Now I just needed to sort it out for some gear.

So as I type this some German bicycle warehouse is gathering together new wheels, a new rear cassette (the cogs at the back – they call them cassettes now-a-days), brake levers, cables and housings and other odds and sods to courier to me. Decathlon in Cherbourg came up trumps with a pair of €10 pedals, some Michelin classic flesh coloured tyres, bar tape, rim tape, tubes and lights. I have a vintage Italian set of aluminium drop bars that I had in the shed at my feet that are half polished.

The only problem with all of this pimp gear is that I emptied most of a can of WD-40 onto the bike once I got home, changed the left crank arm (the old one was dethreaded), pumped the tyres and popped a €9.99 Selle Royal race saddle I had from Aldi lying around and have been cycling to work for the past 3 weeks like a pro. While everyone around me thinks I look like a bit of a dick I think I’m Sean Kelly in the Tour de France.

1987 and 1971

1987 and 1971

And that’s the most important thing: the ability to play. Without the ability to play life is pretty pointless. Some people need to dress up like a 1970’s pimp and ruin a good walk to be able to play (that’s golf) and others need to dress up in leather and hurt themselves (that’s motorbikes) and others just need a bit of imagination and an ability to let go of being an adult.

The running is going great guns by the way – On the outside I’m a sweating, panting middle aged mess but on the inside I’m wondering who I’ll shame first: Mo Farah or David Rudisha.