Buzzing away in a damp bunker and singing Hallelujah

1

Did you know that thinking about your death or mortality before a race improves your performance? That’s what I read in an article. There’s something about that thought which puts our brains into hyper-survival mode and improves physical capability. I will give this idea a go at my next racing event.

I didn’t just randomly start with the above in mind. In order to run Paris, I need to provide the organizers a form signed by my doctor which basically says that I won’t die half way through the marathon.

As a perfectly sane and rational male of the 21st century, I’ve been successfully avoiding the doctor for the last six years. Why see a doctor if I I’m invincible and can Google everything, right? And this time has been amazing. However, all good things come to an end.

In late December I surmised all my courage and dialed the local GP (General Practitioner – that’s what they call a doctor here) on my phone. I had to physically go there to fill in a form to register – it couldn’t be done online. I sort of expected to see a doctor once I handed in the application but they said it’ll take about a week to process it. Things aren’t exactly efficient here at the NHS (National Health Service).

Anywho, about two weeks later I found myself being examined by Dr K. That sounds a bit dull, so let’s call her Dr Dre. At first she was a bit puzzled about why I was there and why she had no prior medical data about me on the system. She asked me the same questions from the form I had already filled in – so much for “processing” my form.

I explained that I needed her to sign my paper so I can run in Paris. Dr Dre decided to measure my blood pressure instead. It was high. She did it again. High. And a third time. Still high. I had to come back next week. She didn’t sign anything.

I came back to see the nurse for a new reading. This time the blood pressure was lower but still high. The second and third measurements were slightly lower but not good enough. I had to book another appointment.

Today I went back to get a blood pressure thingy on my arm, which I need to have on me over the next 24 hours. It takes a reading every 20-50 minutes and buzzes and clicks as it does its magic. Each time it registers the reading and then the doctors can get an average over a day. The whole idea is to rule out white coat syndrome where my blood pressure shoots through the roof whenever I see a doctor or nurse. If it’s still high even after the 24 hours they will need to do some further more invasive tests. By the way the device scares the crap out of me every time it starts – I’m rather skeptical about whether this device will do the trick for me.

Obviously, the moment I got my new toy I went off to my acting class. I thought the other kids would never notice… The class started as usual with all of us sitting in a circle sharing ideas of any good or bad acting we’ve seen in movies/plays/theaters to share experiences and make recommendations. Then we had to put the chairs back to the walls. That’s then it started buzzing – I need to sit still and try to relax during the measuring. And the bloody thing doesn’t get its reading on the first go, or the second, or the third. It stopped making noises after the fourth try and by then everybody was staring at me thinking why is this guy ignoring the teacher’s instructions. I explained it quickly and they all now probably think that I’m dying or something. My flu and occasional coughs didn’t exactly do me any favors.

Let me fill you in on the flu as well. I ran a half marathon when it was nice and cold outside – around 2 degrees. I was sick before the race and as a completely reasonable human being I thought that a little run can’t make it any worse. Oh boy was I wrong. First of all it was a fairly crappy finishing time (1 hour 34 minutes and something) which was followed by a week of coughing my lungs out. 10/10 experience, totally worth it. 😀

I know what you’re thinking… acting!!! Where did that come from? Well, boys and girls, it gets better. I didn’t add just acting classes to my repertoire I’m also learning to sing.

The seed was planted when I started my new job as a financial adviser – a job which is quite different from anything I’ve done before. I started singing classes to add vocal variety to my speech – this will hopefully make it more interesting for my clients to listen when I talk and help me have more “presence” with my voice in meetings. The acting classes have a big improvisation component and client meetings have a big element of that – I need to learn to think on my feet, also entertain and make it an enjoyable and memorable experience.

In all fairness I thought that acting and singing would make me very uncomfortable and that it would be a massive move out of my comfort zone – but it’s not as bad as I imagined. Yes, we do things which are uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing but it gets better with practice.

My favorite part about the acting classes is watching the other kids perform an impromptu sketch. They always mess it up and it’s hilarious. The course ends with us performing a small scene where two of us are in a bunker and the world has ended due to a nuclear war.

Singing is weird. It’s not something I normally do but I quite enjoy it. I even made a YouTube playlist of videos which have lyrics on them so I can sing along. My current favorite is the Hallelujah song from the movie Shrek. A close second is Let It Go from Frozen (although it’s quite a tongue-twister). I sing when I’m sad and then I’m a little less sad. It’s amazing how that works.

The Protein Deficient Vegan

I move again

0

I’ve been sick for the last two weeks – ebola, bubonic plague mixed with the common flu – no biggie. It’s the sickest I’ve been in at least 5 years. At one point (or… uhm… many points) I even considered seeing a doctor – what a novel idea. However, my pride got in the way. I haven’t been to a doctor in many years and I ain’t going to no doctor now.

The other minor complication was that I don’t have a GP (general practitioner) here in the UK. I’ve never bothered to register with a surgery. I once tried to get it done… back when I was still living in Chelmsford. Unfortunately it didn’t get anywhere because they asked me for proof of address, which I didn’t have as I don’t pay any bills (my bills were always included in my rent). Also, at that time I had moved recently and the address on my bank statement was incorrect – I even went to an HSBC branch to get this sorted – but they didn’t want to co-operate and sent me home. They said I need to wait until the end of the month to get a new statement with the correct address in the post. And that’s the story how I almost got a GP. Why can’t this be easy? England is like that – ridiculously stupid, full of red tape and regulation.

One other thing: I’m moving house again. The landlady is moving in and everybody needs to move out by the 4th April. My ebola was pretty bad and I managed to outsource the majority of the flathunting responsibility to my housemate Romario.

Believe me, flathunting when sick is a very miserable experience. For example I went to one address and I was there at 6:15 PM – bang on the money. Romario was nowhere to be seen and my battery ran out on my phone. I wasn’t going to wait around in the cold hoping for Romario to show up, so I went home and proceeded with coughing my lungs out. Later my housemate said that the flat wasn’t that great.

Another day, we had a second viewing. Well… “had” is a strong word. This time the two of us were outside the building waiting but the real estate agent didn’t even bother to show up. Romario called him and demanded justice, but the fucker didn’t care and said he can’t make it. Real estate agents are scum.

Luckily we had a second viewing that day. This viewing was for me really as Romario already checked that flat out a bit earlier. The new place was amazing and we decided to rent it. It’s right between the Holborn and Chancery Lane tube stations i.e. only 950 meters from where I work.

Later that day I got home and my ebola took on a turn for the worse. I had a massive fever and I was very cold. I ran a hot bath and stayed in it until the skin on my fingers got all wrinkly and gross. Then I put on 3 pairs of trousers and 6 layers of T-shirts and sweaters because I was still cold. I tried to get some sleep under my duvet but that proved to be difficult because of a massive headache.

It’s a strange sensation to be cold and shivering with so many clothes on… I survived and now (about a week later) I’m a lot better – I think I’ll even go for a run tomorrow.

Coming back to the flat. Our real estate agent told us a bunch of lies about the property i.e. “the council tax here is one of the lowest in London” and that we could have four people in that three-bed apartment no problem.

The next day the agency called me and tried to increase the rent and they were successful. I foolishly agreed to a slightly higher price to make sure we got the flat. Agents are full of shit and will tell you anything to get more money out of you. Later on they tried to get even more money out of us (i.e. a 10% increase if there’s 4 people in the flat because of more “wear and tear”). We would also need to apply for some kind of license (which costs £500 or so) as three tenants is the maximum in that flat because of some “health and safety” regulation. None of this was mentioned to us when we first saw the property.

Later on we had to get our references done by a third company. This was such a headache – I had to send bank statements, payslips, proof of my savings etc. Then it turned out one of my bank statements wasn’t up to their standards because it didn’t show a salary being paid into my account (this is because my statements are generated on the 24th each month but I get paid on the 26th). In addition I had to sign stuff and scan and email to my company’s HR team and to the agency and the whole process made me feel like a criminal. To add insult to injury, I’m the one who’s paying for this referencing “service”. It was such a bad experience that at one point I didn’t even care whether I pass the referencing credit and whatever other checks they did. I just wanted this ordeal to end.

I sent an angry email to the referencing company and after that they became much more civil. The whole thing was stupid, unnecessary, unpleasant and a proper pain in the ass but we got there in the end.

MyButtHurts

We’ve signed the contract, paid a ton of money for one month’s rent and 6 weeks deposit and various agency fees. It feels wrong to pay more than £6.5K and receive nothing in return – all we have is a contract which is only signed by me and Romario at this time.

I hope it all turns out well. We are still looking for a third tenant as Pilar will not join us – she’s moving to Spain in May and will stay at a friend’s place in between I think. Anywho, we’ve had plenty of interest in the room we advertised on Spareroom and tomorrow will probably have a new housemate sorted out.

I’m not sure if I mentioned previously but I was supposed to run a half marathon race in Silverstone (it’s a bit north west from London) about two weeks ago. I didn’t because of my ebola. I haven’t done any running in the last two weeks and now I have less than four weeks to train for the London marathon. Things are not looking good.

On the bright side, I won’t be homeless going forward. We will move to the new place on the 1st April. I’m really looking forward to it as I’m confident in the new flat I won’t feel rain droplets falling on me through the bedroom window when the weather gets nasty outside.

I hope you had a good Easter holiday,

Ivar the Salacious

The steps that broke the camel’s back

0

I’m sure you’ve all heard of “the law of attraction”. There was a book about it and also a movie – The Secret. The law basically says that everything which happens to you is because you attracted it.

Well… yesterday I went running. It was supposed to be an easy 26 km run. In my book that’s a short distance for a long run. After about 15 km my lower back started hurting. I ignored the pain since it was unusual. It got pretty bad but I kept telling myself that the fastest way home would be to continue running.

After I got home and took a shower I wasn’t able to walk anymore. I couldn’t put my bodyweight into my right leg. And today wasn’t much different from yesterday.

It’s pathetic.

The law of attraction says that this is what I wanted and therefore the Universe replied. Thank you Universe! This is exactly what I needed just 12 days before my marathon. How can I ever repay you?

Okay, okay. I don’t really blame “the Universe”. I did this to myself – I knew it wasn’t a good idea to keep going but I just wanted to finish the distance because I was supposed to run it on Sunday, not Monday. On Sunday the Lizard was pretty convincing. I heard things like “hey, you’re tapering, it’s cold outside and it’s raining, you don’t want to risk getting sick  just two weeks before your marathon” and I gave in. On Monday I felt bad about it. Maybe my subconsciousness was punishing me for my lack of discipline? I ran because I thought I deserved to be in pain?

I’m a bit worried whether my back will let me race in Uluru at all. Soooo… things aren’t going too well right now but I’m hoping for a miracle recovery. Wish me luck!

Oh and… my vegan week was a success and it wasn’t as difficult as I imagined to change my diet. I’m continuing the vegan thing for a whole month.

Ivar the Cripple

Hurt

0

The day after my jump was pretty good. I went for a 32km run and was quite happy to finish it in less than 3 hours. This was my longest non-stop run ever and I ran a total of 75 km that week – two personal bests. I was in a good mood all day long. Life was good again.

Two days later things changed. I went for a 16 km run but noticed that my shins started to hurt when running. Every. Step. Was. Painful. I only ran 5 km.

Shin splints I guess. I’m no doctor but that’s probably what it is. I took three days off and went for a 10K. My legs felt slightly better but I reckon I need more rest. I cancelled today’s long run and spent the day on my couch feeling sorry for myself. I’ve never skipped my long run. This week I only did 15 km, it’s probably 15 km more than you did my dearest reader. This is just sad. It really sucks to be hurt.

You know what makes things even worse? I’ve got a half marathon race next Sunday. A sub 90 minute finish was my goal when I signed up but now it feels I’m lucky to finish in less than 2 hours. “What have I become, my sweetest friend?… I will let you down. I will make you hurt…”

Friday was also my last work day, I’m starting a new similar job next week. I’m going to miss some of the idiots from work. 😀 and flipping rubber bands, attaching binder clips to shirts, suspending batches so that somebody else would process the difficult ones…  Not exactly excited about the change because the new job is mostly boring data entry and only for 4 weeks. I wish I could do something with a bit more meaning for work. So I started to apply for “real” jobs again. Hmm…  maybe I should become a math teacher?

Dancing though is going pretty well and I do lots of it – about 10-12 hours a week. Clearly I’m enjoying it. I like that I’m not a beginner in some of my courses anymore. For example I’m taking Tango and Bachata intermediate lessons. Feels good to level up! There’s so much to learn. I also started hip hop for beginners. It was very different from Latin dancing but I’ll stick with it until they teach me to moonwalk.

Ivar

Am I going to die?

2

What’s the point of scheduling an appointment if nobody cares about it? My chest X-ray was supposed to be at 2 PM. I arrived 15 minutes earlier, waited in line for 20 minutes to get to the receptionist and then had to wait another 30 minutes to get to the “radiology” room. Welcome to Australia!

The real kicker was this: after taking the X-ray the radiologist told me that he needed to do a second X-ray. I told myself “no reason to panic, I probably moved when the picture was taken or something”. Before the second attempt I was asked whether I’ve had chest pains. Not to my knowledge. And that was it, no further comment about my lungs. Am I fine? What was wrong with the picture? Am I going to die? Great things to ponder about for the next couple of days…

Another retarded thing is that I need to come back to the clinic in 2 business days to pick up the X-ray paperwork and mail it to Sydney. Why can’t the people at the clinic mail it themselves? It’s just stupid.

I hope all this trouble is worth it,
Ivar

PS: It’s not my X-ray in the picture.

Getting lost

0

My training schedule has slow long distance runs on Sundays. This means that the longest distances will be covered on Sundays and the focus is on endurance not speed. A week ago I went for my 14.5 km run. That was supposed to be the longest run up to that point in my life. I was pretty excited about that.

The problem was I wanted to spice up my running and I went on a new route. I covered the first 8-10 km as planned and then I got lost. I took a left turn way too early.

I kept running because I thought the big street I was running on would eventually connect to a street I was familiar with. That never happened. So I used my inner GPS to navigate. That too was a mistake.

I started running at 5AM so there weren’t many people outside to ask for directions. Besides I looked like a crazy person since I run in nothing but my shorts – barefoot and with no shirt. I didn’t want anyone to call the cops on me (several years ago in the US there was a woman who called the cops for much less than that).

I kept running. It felt good. I reached a park and I knew that park was about 8 km north from home because I’ve been there before. I didn’t know how to get back. So I ran some more until I gave up on listening to my inner GPS. Suddenly I heard a noise. It was a train in the distance. That was my a’ha moment. I decided to follow the railroad because I knew it would take me home, eventually.

Once I reached a trainstation I was super happy but exhausted. I knew I was only about 5 km away from home. I tried to keep running but I just couldn’t. That was the first time in my runs when I had to walk. I ran a bit more and then walked again. I’d never been this tired and thirsty and hungry. I actually considered drinking from the puddles on the street. I slowly ran the last kilometer which got me home. Boy, was I glad. The day before I made a cake and that morning I ate about ¾ of it in less than 5 minutes. Nom-nom-nom-nom.

I also stopped my stopwatch which was on my kitchen counter. The display said 3:00:12. I checked on Google Maps and found out that I ran about 31 km – more than double than I planned. I was glad I covered the distance but I was a bit worried because my knee felt a bit odd. Maybe I hurt myself. At least I knew I was able to run a half marathon.

Things were pretty normal for the rest of the day but my knee started to hurt when I walked and my legs got quite sore. This wasn’t good.

The next two days I ran according to my training schedule but my knee was still playing up. So I had to take a rest day. This was the first time I had to deviate from my training plan. I felt quite lousy about that. I felt like a loser. I was a failure.

I picked up a book – „True Spirit“ by Jessica Watson. She is the world’s youngest person who sailed solo unassisted around the globe on a yacht. What made her story so incredible is that she did it all at the tender age of 16. She sailed the seas a bit more than 3 years ago. That made me think… what was I doing at that time? Why wasn’t I doing something incredible with my life? Her story was truly inspiring.

I also watched a documentary about an Aussie bloke who went to the United States and drank nothing but juice for 60 days. He was overweight and sick and got much better after his juicing experiment. After watching the movie I did one juicing day too (thinking that this will help me recover from my running). I bought about $15-$20 worth of vegetables and fruits to juice that day. I didn’t really feel much better but I thought it was interesting to try.

Things got better after my rest day and today I ran 16 km on a new route without getting lost or injured. I’m so proud of myself :D. Exactly 2 weeks until my first half marathon (21.1 km). I’m looking forward to it!

Eating to win a half marathon

0

“It’s bad for you. It’s junk…”

I’ve heard it a lot. Many times before. Too many to count. And I’ve never really cared about it. I thought it didn’t really concern me. To some extent I still think so.

Whenever somebody talked about nutrition, bad carbs, junk food, I never understood what they meant by it. So I just discarded that information.

I’ve done some research and now I think the people who talk about junk food don’t even know themselves much about it. Here’s how I understand it. Junk food means food which is poor in nutrients. Ahh… there’s that word again. Nutrients. Nutritious meals, nutritious and delicious…  What does that even mean? Nutritious?

Luckily I’ve broken the code. Nutrients just mean vitamins and minerals (and of course proteins, carbs, fats, and fiber). There’s a bunch of them: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, K, and minerals Ca, Fe, Mg, Se, Zn, P, K, Na etc. The human body needs all of these vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs etc to function properly. And that’s it. Nobody ever told me that nutrition means food which is full of vitamins/minerals. That was my aha-moment. Clearly I’m a genius!

So I decided to find out how healthy my diet was. I wrote down every single thing I ate for a week (and I will continue to do so, YES, I have too much free time). I also noticed that the day I started recording my meals I added lots of healthy stuff to it which I’d normally avoid. Interesting how human behavior changes if someone has to document his actions. It’s like all of the sudden I tried to be a better person. I read something similar, I believe it was one of Van Tharp’s books, where he said that if you tell an alcoholic to write down exactly how many beers, glasses of wine… he drank, the ones who do will drink less. The alcoholics aren’t instructed to decrease alcohol consumption, just to document it. And still once they start documenting it they will start drinking less. They too want to become better people.

I googled the nutrition data for my various meals and the recommended daily amount (RDA) of each nutrient needed to stay healthy. That last part turned out to be pretty tricky because those recommendations keep changing and different websites say different things. I don’t know who to believe but I managed to get an idea of the RDA’s.

I’m a vegetarian and read an article which said that vegetarians find it hardest to get their daily amount of Ca (1000mg), Zn (15mg), Fe (18mg) and vitamin B12 (4-7μg, it used to be 2.4μg). So I just focused on making sure that I get enough of these 4 and then tweak my menu for all the other stuff.

B12 was the hardest, 1 boiled egg has about 0.5-0.6μg and 1 glass of milk (250ml) about 1μg of this precious vitamin. Sounds pretty easy, right? No! There’s all this discouraging information out there. I remember reading something about researchers saying that we absorb B12 really badly from eggs. One study said that you need about 200-400 eggs a day to satisfy your daily B12 requirements. That’s a lot of eggs and cholesterol. I don’t know about the absorption from dairy products. It seems that you can’t win! But hey, you can always just eat shit. Literally. (Just watch the video.) Anywho… B12 is a bitch. My strategy is to munch on B12 fortified cereal with some milk (for example Cheerios or Froot Loops).

You know what I like most about my nutrition tracking? It’s the sense of accomplishment when I look at my Excel spreadsheet and all the nutrient amounts have been satisfied. Feels good!

I hope this will also help me in my training and finishing my half marathon on March 24th. According to my calculations: If I get all the vitamins and minerals each and every day, combined with my optimized training plan (I used the gradient descent method to optimize) and if I run really really fast… faster than any other runner (this last component of the formula was statistically significant at a p-value of 0.05), I will surely win the race. 😀 That’s the plan. Now, all I need to worry about is what to do if the “finish ribbon” doesn’t brake when I win. Maybe I should just go under it or jump over it. Any advice?