Saturday, 23 February 2008


I went for a run yesterday - I'd finished early for the day and decided to make the most of a few extra bonus hours of daylight, so packed provisions for a riverside run west to Kew, east to Putney and then home. It's a distance of about 20 km.

There were a few things I should have thought of before setting off. The first was that I spent the first few miles running into a stiff headwind, which wasn't exactly my idea of fun. Secondly, and more soggily, I should have checked the tide times. About 50 m of my route was made impassable through flooding at high tide. Being a bit of an idiot, and being on the home stretch, and also deciding that a bit of water might help cool me down, I decided to run through the flood rather than detour.

Note to self 1: River water is unpleasantly cold at this time of year.
Note to self 2: Thames floodwater isn't exactly the cleanest liquid to splash through.
Note to self 3: Next time you're running about 20 km, remember that a few hundred metres of detour isn't exactly a problem, and besides, the point of this exercise was to run a long way. Fool...

Half a mile further on, a little lad out for a stroll with his family was amused to find me wringing out my socks, insoles and trainers. His mother (I assume...) tried to explain to him what I was doing. God knows why she thought I'd been for a paddle in the river in my trainers and socks. She made it sound so... so stupidly premeditated. It wasn't. I'd just been an idiot and not checked the tide conditions before heading out, and continued to be an idiot in deciding to run through the water anyway. Perhaps it would have been better for her to tell her son this rather than trying to invent an unlikely tale about how some people like to go paddling in their shoes and socks because it protects their feet...

Pulling my socks over my cold, wet, unresponsive and grit-covered feet was horribly unpleasant, particularly as the visual cues I was receiving which told me I was indeed putting my feet back in my soggy socks in no way married up to the lack of sensation in my feet and numb, cold hands. Heck, I'd been stupid. My feet were going to be fertile territory for blister-cultivation, and the combination of broken skin and dilute sewage has never been one I've eagerly anticipated. Luckily, I only had another half hour to go. As I squelched the remaining water out of my trainers, I took the opportunity to wring out my cap, too. At least that was only drenched in sweat, a far more predictable and altogether less grim substance than the dilute effluent known as The Thames.

I got home with my pack now considerably lighter, having been relieved of two litres of fluid, one maltloaf and half a pack of peanuts and raisins along the way, and my kit considerably heavier (thanks to all that sweat and floodwater).

A shower and a few drinks later, I felt brave enough to sort out my kit. My trainers, socks and insoles went for a long, cool shower. I didn't want to take a chance on leaving my trainers to dry without a decent rinse first to get rid of any Thames nasties which might have made themselves at home.

As for my sweat-soaked cap:

20 km later...

I wasn't sure what that white stuff on the cap was - it certainly hadn't been there when I'd set off. Then I wondered... I poked it a bit, looked at the crystals, had a bit of a sniff and then resorted to the chemist's standby of tasting it and hoping not to die in the process of identification.

My suspicions were confirmed. The white stuff on the (free with a job interview) cap was salt. Not so long ago, it'd been sitting happily dissolved in my bloodstream, having an escorted tour of my arteries, capillaries and veins, before ending up in a sweat gland on my head, from where it was dragged out of my body in a watery fluid in an attempt to keep me cool (this was no doubt before I ran through that floodwater - brrrr!). Having then leached through my cap to the cap-sweat-air interface, the water has evaporated leaving the salt to fend for itself. After my identificatory tasting, some of it has been recycled, and is enjoying its second journey on the scenic route to my eccrine glands. A bit more of my sweaty salt will now be on its way out to sea via my shower and washing machine, a friendly local wastewater treatment works, and discharge into a handy stream or river. No doubt some of it will end up as table salt in due course.

I was pondering this as I tucked into my egg and chips after this morning's outing. I wondered who'll next be consuming the sweat from my brow, and whose ex-coolant fluid was I sprinkling over my chips?

Saturday, 16 February 2008


This is wrong.

I should not be blogging.

I should instead have been having my first lie-in since Christmas*. However, I've been rudely awakened by an accursed SIM update at 0815hrs. On a Saturday. Did no-one think about the scheduling of these updates?

Damned technology...


*36 hours of norovirus-induced narcolepsy does not meet the criteria for a lie-in.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Post-Valentine's Day

I have a new love!

It's VERY exciting!!

It's unrequited, of course :(

It's a bridge...

It's a thumping, fantastic, ornate Thames landmark of a bridge, the first suspension bridge over the Thames, and possibly the most beautiful bridge on the river.

It's Hammersmith Bridge.

OK, it's far from being amongst the most beautiful bridges in the world, but they don't make them like this anymore. The last time this bridge was rebuilt, they didn't spare attention to detail...

I love Hammersmith Bridge. For sure, it'll never be the most exciting of bedfellows, and I suspect any attempt to share a duvet with it would leave me exposed for the night, but that's not going to stop me from worshipping this bridge from afar, or even from being up close and personal with it. Or underneath it.

Why do I love it?

It's a stone's throw from the boat club, an unmistakable landmark, and a welcome sight at the end of a long outing. It's dependable. It's (touchwood) not going to go wrong. It's also pretty useful for when you need to get across the river and don't have a boat handy. And it's unashamedly, disgustingly ornate. Why it was felt necessary to paint it in that off-putting green colour, I have no idea...

It does make the gilding look particularly striking:

Mind you, I have heard the bridge described as "looking like a monsterous, overgrown Harrods bag..." That is possibly an unnecessarily unkind description of its charms, though in this case I'm prepared to admit that the observer may have had a point...

So, what do you think? Should I be worried? Or is falling in love with a bridge OK really??

Friday, 8 February 2008

Nuff respect

At risk of this becoming a rowing blog...

I did a 2km test erg on Tuesday - my first one of the year, pulling a reasonable 7min52s. This is some way off my best (set as a student with all the luxury of being able to train twice a day, have the college kitchen cook my food for me and deal with things like washing up, and feed me subsidised steak, leaving me plenty time to get extra bonus sleep and recover properly between sessions). I got a text message from our captain the next day. It read: Thanks for doing your 2k. Saw your time in the book. Good work! So far so good, but I'm not content with the score and am unshakeably confident that I can knock twenty to thirty seconds off that over the next twelve months with a bit more training, a few fewer post-work-stress beers, and a bit more adrenalin. (This does pre-suppose that I do not find myself commuting to the other side of the country on a daily basis.)

In a fit of benchmarking and seeking a second opinion, I checked out world records by age group for men and women, both heavyweights (open to all weights) and lightweights (that's 75kg (11st 11lb) or less for men, and 61.5kg (9st 9lb) or less for women). I've plotted the records as near as I have the data. My recent erg time is around the red line...

Thus, I would currently lose an indoor race to a couple of twelve year olds, a 60 year old lightweight woman and a 75 year old man, and only narrowly beat a 65 year old woman, and an 80 year old lightweight man. Whilst I have absolutely huge, massive, uber-amounts of respect for any pensioners who erg, and can barely fathom just how rock hard these world-beating erging pensioners are, I'd still like to be able to beat comfortably every octagenarian I might ever encounter, and (ideally) every twelve year old kid. Is that too much to ask of myself?

If that doesn't spur me into shifting those extra thirty seconds, what will?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Random Tag: 6 Quirks

I have been randomly tagged by Deepali and decided to play along, as I'm all blogged, raced and virused out and being told what to write is just what I need at the moment. I'm also half blogging and half watching England losing to Wales (rugby), which is saddening, as I will shortly receive a text from a Welsh friend who seems to get in touch only whenever Wales stuff England. C'est la vie....

Here're the groundrules, should you wish to play...

Rules on blog and links as appropriate. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. Tag six random people and let them know they've been tagged.

No surprizes there, then.

Of course, being a deeply dull person, I have no interesting quirks or characteristics, so you'll have to make do with the following...

  • I can't hold a pen properly. Even my boss attempts to wind me up over the way I hold writing implements.
  • I take great delight in inspecting my callouses. It's good to see how they're progressing - I've worked hard for them, and they're incredibly useful in preventing blisters, and tidying them up gives me something to do in otherwise dull meetings.
  • My left groin is far, far more stretchy than the right one. No, I have no idea why this is.
  • I can't use a pit latrine if I know it contains a frog. Latrines over-run with cockroaches are, on the other hand, perfectly usable.
  • I've always had difficulty with the number six.

My randomish nominated taggees are: (do please consider these nominations - I am more than aware that some people hate tags with a passion which I reserve only for the opposition on race day).

Kahless: Not a total random, of course, we job-share the awesome responsibility of Nerd Deity. Unfortunately, all our followers disappeared shortly after we took up our appointments. (It was during my watch, I'm afraid...)

I would have tagged Random Reflections for the obvious reason, but she's randomly tagged out. So, instead, I have pre-delegated the tag to titration. Titration got stuck with the nomination for three reasons - I did endless titrations (in both senses, though you may have to be a chemist to get the second meaning) in a previous job and finding a blog entitled titration which I found I actually wanted to read was thus rather incredible; secondly, I was heartily relieved to find that this was, in fact, a reference to titration as I understood and remembered it (an analytical methodology), and not a blog about the trials and tribulations of underfed sucklings...; and thirdly, it's an interesting read.

Ruby: To the best of my knowledge, Ruby might find this a challenge, being illiterate and having oversized paws which makes it difficult to type. I'm hoping that a period of intensive training, some voice-recognition software, a Boxer-English dictionary, the loan of a blog for the day, and possibly the help of a sympathetic owner might conspire to make this possible...

Veda: Because I feel the need to strike a blow for the much maligned owners of straight hair.

Signs: Not really a random, but I do feel rather guilty at having pinched your excellent name for a rather cheap shot at a post. (Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls, and all that.) So, tagging you as a pseudo-random is the least I can do to make amends...

P.S. Is it just me who found tagging randoms to be a bit like playing blind man's buff in an unfamiliar location with a bunch of people who might just thump you if you stumble into them?

P.P.S. I'm also going to belatedly tag Kindablue, who is currently giving the impression of having been abducted by potentially hostile extra-terrestrial lifeforms. (I would describe them as terrifying aliens, but fear tpe may use such words as evidence against me...)