Friday, 27 January 2012

Dartmoor experiences

Update - So a weather warning has been put in place. Supposedly, this week, we are going to have a cold snap, centred on the South West and Wales - Dartmoor gets a direct mention.

It so happens that I have a tendency to organise hiking trips, only for it to materialise that dangerous weather is expected specifically for organised destination, on that particular date. It happened three times by coincidence last year in a total of 4 organised trips across the winter. We haven't called one off yet and generally I have had a pretty memorable one on each of these occasions, so we are gonna make sure we are prepared for the worst and go for it I recon.

We head to Dartmoor soon. The infamous animal and I. We are meeting my mate Frank, or Will as people call him now - long story - and one of his good friends. As Frank said himself the other day, considering we live so close and have such similar interests, it a shame we don't meet up more. We have tried several thousand times to do a hiking trip, each time one or both of us is unable to do it for one reason or another. Fingers crossed this time we'll be able to follow the plans through and head down to the South West.

One of my favourite ever walks was when I headed down to Dartmoor to meet Frank/Will and his group of friends, but managed not to meet them. The plan was to contact him when I got down there, but being used to signal whereever in the flatlands around London, we overlooked the fact that once both of us were in the steep Dartmoor valleys, neither of us was likely to have phone signal. Needless to say we ended up within a mile of each other, but didn't come across each other in the 24 hours I was there. Classic!

I made the best of a bad situation and just went for an explore. 14 miles later, I arrived back at my car in twilight having had a truly awesome day! It was one of those days where I was in such good condition and spirit, that I was walking along beside a river and just decided I felt like running, so ran for a while. It was brilliant! I ended up crossing a rather treacherous stepping stone bridge over the swollen River Dart and spent some time just sitting and listening to its meanderings. Wonderful sound! I met some great people along the way and with significant gradient change, was happy that it was a hard fought 14 miles.

If a trip with my good friends can end up getting anywhere close to that day, then we are in for a treat. I look forward to it! And in the spirit of intrepid exploration, we are just going to walk for three days, bivvying down as we please and see where we end up. I'm gonna take my climbing shoes and hope that we come across some good craggy tors as well. Here's hoping!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Taking stock 2 - If you make a promise to yourself...

Odd as it is, at the minute I feel tired, lethargic and run down. I am the least fit I have been in a long time because of a lack of strenuous activity, yet I feel as fatigued as though finishing a multi-month focused training program. I don't doubt two weeks of man flu have not helped in this, but it is an overiding feeling of tiredness.

I have not ridden my bike much at all recently, which is odd as in previous years, my focus, much to my own and everyone's surprise has been on winter training, braving the cold and wet to be fit for the spring, only not to benefit from all that hard work - either unable to ride through injury or just by choice for an unknown reason. Maybe my lack of riding this winter boads well for an enjoyable summer, though I feel particularly slow and unfit in my main sport.

Running, a sport that I vowed I would never subject my body to has now become a major activity for me, in recent times probably holding station as my main activity, so explaining my lack of cycling.
Starting up any new sport will bring with it enough fatigue and physical adjustment, not to allow you to overdo it, and so in getting used to running it seems I have been unable to fit riding in around it without overstepping the mark fatigue wise.

With cycling, I can push myself, because I have years of conditioning, but with running, not only am I taking it on more seriously than ever before, but I have started barefoot running technique, utilising muscles that I never have before and in the process, I have started from an even lower level.

Eitherway, trail running is something I am enjoying more than I ever thought I could. I feel it is a particularly healthy for my mental state to have an activity like running purely for enjoyment and cycling more for the competitive side. This may change, but as it is now, I am enjoying this balance. This is not to say I won't try and run fast sometimes. If it feels right and enjoyable to do so, then why not?! If it feels right and enjoyable to do so then I'll run off track or stop at a good view, whereas I might be a bit more disciplined with the cycling.

Weight - so having hit my target weight of 11 stone (even reaching 10, 13 at one point) during the summer I very quickly put it back on since then. Back up to my heaviest for a while at 11 stone 7. I am now back on the way down, being around 11,5/4. It is a good task in itself to stay disciplined enough to lose weight, but as mentioned probably harder since I've been doing less activity. The most important thing to realise is that generally we westerners over eat. Shifting your mindset to eat less and smaller portions is a challenge, but once adjusted, it is fine and in fact, for me, I feel more cormfortable.

Climbing, what a great fun sport. Hard though! The mental aspect, physical and fear factor all combine. After my 3rd session I had week long tendonitis. I think I've got over the worst of that now after another light session. Heading to Brighton to climb with my brother tomorrow. He has just started attempting 6b climbs, after one term at uni. I am having trouble on 5s and have no idea of how doing 6 grades is possible. Watching videos of people doing 8c's, I am looking on in wonder. It is very rare that I am amazed by human feats in sport after watching day after day of tour de france and more recently ultra marathons, but the extreme short term physicality of climbing, blows my mind. I am very excited to be introducing a friend to it tomorrow. I very much hope he likes it!

Climbing is also an interesting experience for me. In my life so far, I have generally got to a pretty good level in sports pretty quickly. I think I am lucky to be able to adapt fast. However, climbing is a different matter. Granted it is early days, even by my adaptation standards, but I might have found my sporting nemisis (after golf) which inspires me quite a lot. A further challenge, as if it wasn't hard enough already! The ultimate goal is to get onto the rockfaces outdoors. Outdoors, outdoors, outdoors.

There is also the change to not eating meat. Much has been written about this, so there is no point in going into it here. My diet has been going that way for a while now, so not as drastic a change as I'd first imagined. The only situations I have had to actively consider this change have been when there were meaty 'nibbles' at christmas, when we were out and free bacon sarnies were brought out and yesterday when my mum suggested sausage and mash. Now that really hurt! Otherwise, not to tough so far!

Simple enough to say that I see it as a step in the right direction. Eventually it may go further. I was gonna say "I don't know if I could do without eggs", but then I spent years as a Carnivore, saying I'd could never be a veggie and would never listen to dance music. Every time I listen to the Thirty seconds to Mars song where the geezer says, "If you make a promise to yourself, you have to keep it", I think about how his words are absolute twoddle. I would love to talk to the guy and suggest that he might consider an alternative, "If you make a promise to yourself, you should look at the circumstances in which you made that promise, work out whether you were just being a naive douchebag and decide from there whether you should keep that promise. It is important in hindsight to review that promise, considering whether change in you, has made you realise that you should very rarely make promises to yourself. Simply make the best decision in the moment with the information you have available to you." I don't know if that would have fitted well in the song. I hope that wasn't too righteous a paragraph!

That probably was enough to justify my search for a seemingly 'profound' thought I always hope to eeeeek out of these posts. So there we are, a snapshot of Gandalf as he exists in activity and condition now. Man, back ache. Time for bed me thinks!

Oh and my biodegradable plastic shoes arrived today. More on that soon!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Taking stock and leaving work 1

This is close to running thought process, so forgive the randomonium and lack of structure!

So this is a bit of a period of change for me. It seems I've stopped being lazy in my outlook and have decided to think about every aspect of my life more thoroughly, rather than living comfortably in ignorance. In my immature thinking as it is, I feel that change is required. There is just 'too much', to commit my years to a 'career'.

I keep on thinking that I have to say as a fall back, [almost a justification] that "I know this is a cliched thought and a romantic notion to think that I can just give up work and still live a good life" but why should I have to say that, to justify? Surely it is also a romantic notion to want to have a career, to be happy in your job, to get a nice house and have a nice family. (And how often is this romantic notion achieved these days?- not as often as you may hope)

Doesn't it come down to the fact that if your life is to work, are you really happy with that? Are you happier working or not? I know which one I'd say.

So I am seeing if it is possible that I just work a little, but live my life better. Living for the weekend is just not how it should be. I mean, come on. My friend and I have tried to be spontaneous in our adventures, but we have had to book that months in advance!so......

I suppose I'd prefer to actually learn that a career is a neccesity rather than just assume it. Is this the problem. We just assume! It is easier to assume than to spend time learning isn't it?

We assume it is easier and better for us to do as others do right?! -And work to provide ourselves with endless comfort.
We assume that the more money we have, the better life will be.
We assume that we are weird for thinking that 'this can't be right' (certainly those who read on might have)- and because of this...
We assume no-one else feels this way
We assume wrongly

We assume that humans are progressing! And this is the one that I am loving particularly at the mo. Now, these are very basic thoughts and lets just say, convenient for someone caught in a whirlwind of new found thought, so possibly not that well thought out or balanced, but as general views, perhaps you will just let it go.

So human's are progressing?! yes, no? In my book, the fact that our bodies can't deal with our lifestyles is funny. We can no longer run correcty. We have obesity issues. Our liver can process 3 teaspoons of sugar in a day, yet we ignorantly over reach on this point every single day. Smoking and alcohol. We neglect our bodies. Me myself as much as anyone> something I hope to rectify.

We are destroying our planet. Progress? To destroy what allows us this life. Hmmm?
We are probably the only animal on earth where we are our own problem - separate to those animal on animal problems naturally designed to restore balance - as there is no balance with humans.
Biggest progressions in human history - Guns, money and capitalism - all germs/infections really!

If progress is to make our population growth exponential, so that our own limited resources can't provide for us, then great.

Progress is what? In these terms to end up in a position better than before. That is really funny when we are speeding up our own demise.

Anyway, so instead of just thinking about how wrong I feel this all is, I've gone for active change. Change my life and hopefully be one more person seeing this all as madness and hopefully acting as much as possible not to add to the madness. And if in doing so I can influence some others on the way, then great!

Of course, to do this in a society set up as it is, is not a fair test, so I don't doubt to fail, but fuck it! It'll be experience, whether good or bad.

I am now officially leaving my job and just seeing what happens. Officially seeing what happens. I have some plans, but after reading a quote about 'plans breeding the mundane' and many discussions following this, I am going to try and be less rigid. Hopefully the expression "I don't exactly know" will follow the queries surrounding my plans. And if that can replace my current default of, "oh you know, same ol'". Then more the better!

This is all a learning experience and so it would not be realistic to go cold turkey on current aspects of my living. I am already changing a lot. Vegetarian, more considerate of the environment, more mindful/aware in general. I suppose 'one step at a time' right!

I started writing this post about taking stock of my active self, but it didn't seem enough, without looking at the general 'me' situation. As I started writing it, I kept on being drawn away in my thoughts to more overriding issues. As always, these posts are almost like diary posts, a tool for me to think about, investigate and record my thinkings and doings, so please if you are reading out of interest, forgive the ramble. I think I need the ramble as part of my thought processes. Anyway, I can do what I want, it's my bloody blog! haha

So this post is a basis for more to come! Taking stock part 1 I suppose.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Visiting a chum - Taking time

A standard visit to a friend's place for me would involve arriving at some late hour on a Friday after work, fatigued from a 9-5 week or in the evening after a busy saturday, probably still buzzing from getting a quick hour in on the turbo trainer. I'd have some drinks in a 'wired' state, after the rush to get there as soon as poss and then we'd move to a drinking establishment to see away many hours. I'd finish the night in an alcoholic haze in the early hours and rush off in the morning of the next day as soon as waking up to 'make the most of the day' - half alive because of lack of sleep and hang over.

Possibility to spend quality time with good friends = zero.

This problem with trying to fit too much in has come up before and was in fact the subject of a philosophical discussion between my brother and I on a cycling trip to the Alps in the summer of 2011. (See posts if interested) It was almost the holiday 'theme' i.e. Do we appreciate things if we do not take time to actually experience and appreciate, are we just doing?

So this weekend, being in a very thoughtful place right now, I was happy to make the decision and actively try to spend some quality time with a good friend, one that is often referenced here as a writer of thought provoking posts. Actually appreciate the friendship rather than just doing the friendship. He happens to be an animal and a good one at that! I was actually able to spend some time talking to the guy about meaningful subjects which was superb and a much better use of time than the usual visits. Catch 22 because you realise that the more you talk the more there is to talk about.

Here is one of his more recent posts about throwing stones at gandalf  (me) - Despite the seeming self interest here and despite my blog title's support of this, if I can give anyone an excuse to be introduced to this guys writing and thoughts, then I feel I have done them a service!

We threw some stones [not at me].It was fun! We also climbed trees and walked. This was also fun! We had fun!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The good ol' cow pat

Floating along a Hertfordshire footpath, skirting the grazing fields of a working and fully odourful farm. Running through truck churned slurry and striding through puddles, the mirror like surfaces screaming out to be disturbed from their perfectly serene, glass like state. What a brilliant way to start a lunch time trail run.

Left onto the bridleway and up into the trees, legs quietly complaining about the early introduction of  incline.

Over the bridge, to realise how motorways unrelentingly scythe their way through some of the most pristine countryside.

Into the grassy field beyond...

...and I don't know if this is just me, but there is a part of me that really just appreciates a well formed cow pat!!! And what a fine example this is!

Mr Cow. Well played sir! Good form!