Friday, 18 April 2008

Faster than a speeding octogenarian

I did another 2k test erg earlier this week. It went well. I was looking for 7:40, which I suspected may have proved to be a little ambitious, but happily (for my time, at least) I arrived at the boathouse to find men on the scene.

"Is that your 2k? Do you need someone to shout for you?"

Translation for non-rowers: "Are you doing that horrendously painful, stuff-of-nightmares workout? Can you beast yourself sufficiently or would you like some encouragement to inflict ever more pain on yourself?"

"Err..." I replied, my mind racing to come up with a plausible excuse for why I needed to be left alone to kill myself at my leisure in the corner, rather than with a bunch of chaps urging me onto greater and more painful efforts. Unfortunately, excuses have never been my strongest subject and I somehow ended up with what seemed like an inordinate number of people encouraging me to hurt myself a lot and then with 10% extra pain thrown in for free. This went on until I'd finished the 2k in less time than I'd initially thought was ambitious. Bloody men... :)

So, the upshot of that little escapade was that I pulled 7:38.8. Courtesy of some research undertaken at the Concept 2 records, I can report that this means that I:

  • Have done a 2k faster than every octogenarian on the planet of which the kind folk at Concept 2 know;
  • Am faster than every woman of 65 years or over;
  • Am still slower than some women more than twice my age and who are older than my mother (but I will fix this by losing another eight seconds from my time);
  • Would make a roughly world-class 60-year-old (with a UK record to boot);
  • Am still being beaten over 2k by 12 year old girls (This Hurts A Lot, and will be fixed by dropping another 8.5 seconds from my time).

Having managed to roundly beat the times of a bunch of (admittedly rather special) pensioners, I spent the evening coughing feebly to myself (something that seems to happen after strenuous exercise, and which seems related to the chest infection I picked up following rather stupidly deciding to inhale the Zambezi river - this is daft for two reasons: a) The volume of the Zambezi is far greater than that of my lungs, and b) the Zambezi contains all sorts of bacteria that my lungs evidently weren't designed to cope with).

With the erg safely out of the way, I could focus on task 2 for the week: The Stairs.

As a postgrad student working on the 6th floor of a chemistry block, I used to race my colleagues back upstairs after Friday pub lunches. I took the stairs, carrying a couple of pints, a steak and a heavy stomach. They took the lift. I would usually win, and feel rather smug if a little out of breath and possibly regretting that second steak or extra pint of beer...

A few years on, and many months into working on the 20th floor of a tallish building, I suggested racing the stairs to a colleague. (This would have to effectively be a time trial rather than racing the lift as my guess of 10 seconds a flight would give a projected time for the stairs of 3 minutes 30 seconds*, and even on a bad day, the express lift doesn't usually take longer than a minute and a half including arrival time and stopping at every possible floor). He responded to my suggestion by arriving back on the floor several minutes later, having run the stairs in 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Damn him. I wanted to get the first marker down, and head up the leaderboard, if only by virtue of having gone first.

Another colleague took up the challenge and posted a 3:27 time. Nothing new to worry about there, then. But it seemed that the race was firmly on.

I mentioned this little competition which I'd accidentally established to the chap who sits behind me, who is a sporty, outdoorsy kind of guy. It evidently pressed all the right buttons with him, as he spent the next hour fidgeting. It then took only my consulting buddy arriving breathless on the scene having done the stairs in 2:52 for the chap behind me to remove his tie and extraneous pocket-junk and make his way to the bottom of the building. He made it up in 3:14, looking and sounding rather the worse for wear. I had the small matter of a test erg to get out of the way before posting my effort to join them on the leaderboard.

I was looking for a sub 2:50 time, aiming at 8 seconds a flight to bring me in at 2:48. (Being a rower, pain is one of the things I do best, as is expecting all of the major problems in life to be solved by working out a split time and then sticking to it.) I took the lift down to the ground floor, then made my way to the bottom of the main stairwell. The air was warm, still, stifling. I took an unsatisfactory deep breath and started what should have been a rhythmic trot up twenty-one flights of stairs.

By the seventh floor, I wasn't having much fun, but was still on for 8 seconds a flight, but probably not for much longer. I could see my pre-attempt confidence that I would be running up twenty flights without needing to walk rapidly evaporating. In addition to the gloomy realisation that I probably wouldn't be shooting to the top of the leaderboard, it was hot and sticky in the stairwell. I would smell for the rest of the day. It was only 8am...

By the tenth floor, I was using the handrail to help haul myself up. I was also getting a bit dizzy from the long, clockwise spiral. I suppose it could have been the exertion, but I blame the spiralling, myself...

By the fourteenth floor, my thighs were sorely regretting my ever having suggested this challenge. I could see I would be having another attempt at this if I wanted to beat my colleague's 2:52, but I was determined to beat his first effort (and the then second fastest time) of 3:10. That was definitely possible. Come to think of it, three minutes was possible. Good, something to aim for.

By the time I'd got to the top I could have sworn I'd done enough work to justify a steak dinner. My thighs felt leaden and my chest was heaving. I emerged onto the floorplate and rounded the corner to the wing in which I work to be met by gales of laughter at my inability to breathe coming from those who think that all us stair runners are stark raving bonkers. I'd stopped my watch at the twentieth floor at 3 minutes and one second. I was seething at myself. Damn that extra second. Still, it's the best first attempt at the stairs, and I'm quite certain that a few weeks of taking the stairs instead of the lift twice a day will haul me up to top spot.

I had earlier calculated that hauling my twelve-ish stone body weight up twenty one flights of stairs with a rise in the region of 4 metres per flight would require approximately 63 kJ, or about 15 (food) Calories. That's about a seventh of an average apple. All that work for only a thin sliver of an unexciting fruit? It makes me wonder what I would have to do to work off the banana I ate yesterday...

With those thoughts in mind, perhaps it's as well that I'm laid up in bed with no appetite. After all the exertion of ergs and stairs, maybe it's not surprizing that I've succumbed to something. I think it's a virus - swollen glands and fever on Wednesday, diarrhoea yesterday and today, still not really managing to absorb fluids... It seems to be resolving, but it has at least persuaded me that, six months after moving, the time has come to register with a GP. (It should be noted that this is something of a record for me, it having taken 14 months and 8 months after my previous two moves for me to get around to registering with my local medics. The reason for this is that mostly they're not open when I'm able to get to them (GPs not being noted for opening their surgeries at times amenable to people working something like a 9 to 5), and therefore I don't get around to registering until I need their services (my logic being that if I have to take time off work to see them, I might as well ensure I get some benefit from it by being ill at the time of registering).)

I would normally think about feeling sorry for myself at this point (the point at which I could rightly feel miserable for finding getting out of bed a challenging concept (not a good thing to have with diarrhoea...) and a small flight of stairs representing a towering obstacle), but with my dad's health record and current right leg woes, I'm reminded that having a-bit-of-a-non-descript-virus-thing really isn't very much to be dealing with.

Plus, I can console myself with the knowledge that I am extremely unlikely to come across an 80 year old who I can't beat over 2k.

*For those of you who spotted the apparent inconsistency, it's a double height ground floor...


titration said...

This was a very sticky post. Or in other words I read the whole thing! And I must say you must have a major competative streak in you!

Thanks for the comment on mine. And hmmm. I won't be surprised if my friend Anita thinks in bullet points? Hmm.

Kahless said...

You are the second blogger tonight that has said they have the 'runs.'

DJ Kirkby said...

Reading about your competitive streak is the closest I will ever come to having one of my own! Thank you so much for the links to your dad'd blog. I move into working for the PH dept in May and found his posts invaluable for making some plans about which parts of the sector I will be visiting first (to try and bring about some positive changes). I am going to add your dad to my blogroll, his posts are so interesting!

But Why? said...

You read the whole thing?! After that feat of endurance, I strongly recommend you refuel yourself with a whole fruit of your own choosing!

Thanks for dropping by (I think I am beginning to understand some of the relief in-patients feel when visitors turn up).

I'm glad you've found my dad's blog useful (I do too, but not for work - it helps me know what to expect when I phone for a chat!)

My competitive streak is currently focused on getting out of bed and getting some fresh (well, London-fresh) air before lunchtime, with a stretch target of buying and cooking some extremely bland food for lunch.

hypoglycemiagirl said...

good story, I felt out of breath when you came to the tenth floor...

trousers said...

A number of things come to mind - but I'm not sure if I should post them ;-)

Firstly, I'm reminded of a friend in one of those forfeit games: without going into the whole rigmarole, there would at times be a situation where you would have to choose your own forfeit, and even the least sober person would have the nous to come up with something easy, like "stand up and sit down again." Whereas this friend of mine used to say things like "run up and down the stairs 20 times!" - the rest of us would watch him in a mixture of hilarity and sadness since he never twigged that he didn't HAVE to set himself such challenging forfeits...

Secondly, and this is meant not in a critical way, far from it - but this is a typically preposterous post from you. I mean this in the sense that I could never imagine, at the onset of reading, that by the end I would be utterly drawn into, and anxiously awaiting the outcome of, the results so far of a work-based-running-up-the-stairs time trial. And yet it's happened again! You have a masterly (mistressly?) way of making these things sound not only interesting and exciting, but necessary, and I salute you for that.

Thirdly, following on from your previous post, it occurred to me that - consciously or otherwise - you're attempting to position yourself in life in terms of your age: moments of forgetfulness (or was that me?) and "things were different back then" conversations, but you can damn well erg better than a pensioner!

Finally (I realise this isn't the shortest blog comment I've ever made) my sympathies with the diarrhoea: now I shan't go into much detail but it's something which has afflicted me of late, on a particular day each week..I've realised it's a combination of exercise the night before, followed by my first appointment the following day being with someone who always gives me coffee..nuff said.

But Why? said...

Today I feel exhausted after walking up the stairs at home(!) I'm supposed to be racing next weekend - I feel a long way from the start line today.

Firstly, you should always post thoughts - thought I reserve the right to delete any which are offensive/potentially offensive/jeopardise the success of my chosen self-delusion of the moment. Thinks: I will be in perfect shape by next Saturday...

Secondly (Your ref:Firstly), perhaps your friend liked running up and down stairs, or perhaps it was a good excuse to get time out to sober up mid drinking game?

Thirdly (Your ref:Secondly), If you worked on the change programme I'm working on, running up the stairs would very quickly strike you as being necessary (if only to stop yourself from contemplating the short way down to the ground floor (the window awaits...) I must thank you for your splendid description of my post as preposterous - not only is that a much-underused word, but I rather like the way you have woven it into a compliment. Bravo, Trousers.

Fourthly (Your ref: I'm losing count... or possibly my marbles. Now, where did I put my reading glasses??), Erm, yes. Well, ering pensioners follows on from my previous post on the subject (I would have reposted the graph, and in fact will do once I get sufficiently to grips with to enable me to do this (I keep telling myself that Calc is actually Excel with an altered user interface, but it seems I'm going to have to invest a bit more effort in familiarising myself to get value from going open-source)), and in my defence, I would argue that meeting up with people you haven't conversed with for a decade does rather suggest having conversations about how things have changed. (Doesn't it?? You've got worried now...)

And finally, my condolences. Judging from the comments here, diarrhoea seems to be raging throughout the blogosphere. I recommend staying off the coffee. Or the exercise. Or both. :)

LottieP said...

Hello. I feel compelled to comment as I've just competed in the Hong Kong Indoor Rowing Championships, an event I'd clearly have thought of as being the preserve of nutters prior to arriving here and learning to row (in my mid 30s, but it's never too late).

I can confirm it's OK to cough because your throat is trying to force more air down than is humanly possible and it's dry as hell afterwards.

And your time! I would be proud of that time. I can scarcely get under 8 minutes.

I will be in the Masters category next year and finally I might have a chance of winning something.

Having done it I know: this is one of the hardest physical challenges you can put your body through. You did brilliantly.


Tom Foolery said...

Blinking hell girl, I need a blast of oxygen just to get me up the stairs at home.
At least you haven't got a goat to milk! I read somewhere that it can take between 5 mins to 1/2 hour to milk a goat. Now there's a challenge ;)TF

But Why? said...

Welcome. Congratulations on erging at the champs - 40 seems punishing high to be entering age divisions - I'm just a couple of years shy of entering the 30-34 yrs division myself (sigh - my athletic prowess is being written off in a couple of years' time...)

It's funny how the erg sucks you in, isn't it? I've been rowing off and on for about ten years now, and I really do miss the workout if I haven't recently given myself a good sweating on the erg.

Thanks for doing the goaty research for me (despite it initially appearing a cunning plan, I hadn't actually got any further towards purchasing a goat to solve my milkless crisis. I think I might give it a miss if it's going to take me half an hour to get some of the white stuff - my coffee would already have gone cold.) In addition, does goat flavour go with coffee? Come to think of it, does cow flavour really go with coffe...?

Tom Foolery said...

On reflection, it might be wise to have a tin of condensed milk in stock TF

But Why? said...

Condensed milk? Ugh. I don't know how John Prescott could find it so appealing...

Tom Foolery said...

Because he never kept it down! TF