Tuesday, 26 January 2010

New running shoes and Rachel's iPod

"Wow" said Becky, "Just look at the sky Dad, you've just gotta photograph that! Just look at those colours, do you think it'll snow tonight....?"

Yesterday was a treat for us. Having taken a week from work we could go to the gym together but I needed to buy some more running shoes. Reckon my current ones are 75% worn out.

We went to the gym later and I quite like following Rachel around while she does her things. Normally, she says, she has all of the Easy Line equipment to herself. It looks a bit OAP-like through being finished in shades of beige and you can't exactly load huge weights onto it. So, there was Rachel, going around with her white headphones in and jiggling around in tune to some music. By then I'd realised that it wasn't plugged into anything, the jackplug was just in her pocket, not connected to anything! This could only be Rachel; I can't think of anyone who would make such a cheapskate comment on other gym-goers (including myself) and yet this is just one of the many reasons why I love her - only Rachel could get away with this.

I couldn't keep up wih Rachel who was flitting from one thing to another. Half way 'round the Easy Line stuff we were suddenly off onto the Treadwalkers. There's a maximum 20 minutes allowed on these machines, which always seem to be in demand. On mine I was holding the metal grip and watching my heart beat go up and down a little - but Rachel couldn't get hers to work so she switched onto a machine on the other side of me. That was nice. Then, as I was only half way through, she zoomed off going rowing. Then a few minutes later she was off going swimming! Quite an impressively varied workout and I couldn't keep up wih that and besides, I wanted to try out my running shoes by RUNNING.

I decided to do a straight mile and achieved that in exactly 6.40. No Roger Bannister performance but it equaled my best to date. Felt really great afterwards and that I could have done it faster (need to get pacing myself better sorted). I tried to imagine what it would be like to run like those athelites who complete full marathons in a little over two hours. "Wow" I thought "that would mean averaging about 13mph" and I can only keep 10mph up for a few minutes. Some way to go....

A scary bike ride

With all the snow of late, its been hard trying to spot the right opportunity for a bike ride. That combined with family life has made it almost impossible.

So last Saturday, we needed a few things from Sainsbury's so I decided to cycle there, but to go there via a running route. Just as I was out in the countryside I was suprised to find that there was still a little snow lying in a ditch; it must have been there since before Christmas. This ride is about 7 miles, not too far by any means.

There were quite a few scary bits. My front light - normally very bright - was just not bright enough when bombing down some slopes. I just couldn't see clearly enough in front of me to avoid all those usual hazards - potholes, gravel etc. It seemed quite weird losing all sense of whether I was going on a flat road, up or downhill until the speed changed significantly. Suddenly finding yourself gathering speed on gravel was really scary. And then through the woods. Remember, completely dark, no other cars around. Normally when I run this stretch I can hear anything around me and just know what's going on. I'd forgotten you just don't get this the same way on a bike. Anyone could spot me a mile off and I wouldn't know.

So the best bit was back on a main road and speeding down the road that comes from the Downs back into town. That's a nice smooth fast road and some lights around at the bottom. I was down on the dropped handlebars, tears streaming from my eyes and enjoying the feeling of the freezing cold blast on my face. I was almost in the middle of the road, just on myside of the white line (I figured that was the safest) and I couldn't resist that "Wa Heeeeeeeeee" when I was at top speed!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Some pleasant training

This is the village I ran to on Sunday, although this photograph was taken on Christmas Day, see below.

Every now and then we have to do mandatory training, sometimes relevant, other times not so relevant. The not-so-relevant training is normally to allow the organisation to tick a helpful box somewhere and most are left wondering why.

Today was almost one of those occasions with Child Protection training. As I'm not front line and the only manager on the list, I did wonder what box we were therefore corporately ticking, together with all of the other things I could be doing. That soon drifted away from my mind once the training was underway. The trainers were Will and Emma and I like their styles very much, they're nice people and together work well.

The whole day was fairly easy going, nothing too taxing, quite a pleasant easy-going day. One of the exercises was about looking at a scenario and determining what kind of abuse was evident - physical, neglect, emotional or sexual. Most were fairly clear cut. There were, however, a couple that to me seemed more of a description who was in need of some help and this was in contrast to some colleagues who tend to be more conscious of risk, defensible decisions, expect the worst etc. I think during the day some of my points might have been agreed with afterall. It reminded me of sometime last summer when, in the same room I did some domestic violence awareness training (perhaps less of a tick-box event and more of a reminder). Whilst I can't quite remember all the ins and outs, I do recall saying that if only we could help people re-kindle love into some relationships. Clearly it's not for a Government agency as such to start running a dating service but getting people to understand what love and commitment really mean is something worthwhile.

For now this kind of thing simply isn't on the agenda, which is a shame given the need that's there. There's so much harm caused by relationships not working and often a recognised factor in things going wrong. We as a criminal justice system recognise this but do very little about it. We are just not ready for that. Besides, it gets into the values and circumstances of people delivering the work. Reminds me of a time when a colleague mentioned to me that it was her 20th wedding anniversary that very day, followed up by saying that she felt inhibited at sharing this news with anyone else. I asked why, saying that seemed a shame not to share such a positive thing with the people working around us. She explained that nobody else in the team was anywhere near that stage. In fact, she went onto tell me, everyone else seemed to be unhappy relationship-wise. Everyone was either divorced, separated or unhappily single and wouldn't appreciate the significance of reaching a 20th wedding anniversary by a happily married couple.

I haven't really thought of running much today, which is a real shame as I haven't had the chance to run over the last few days. Had a fair run in the snow on Sunday afternoon followed by a couple of fast one mile runs on the gym's treadmill. The fastest mile dash was 6 mins 50 seconds. That's 10 seconds off my personal best. The snow has thawed quite a bit today and will probably be OK for me to go running outside over the weekend, maybe Saturday morning. It'll seem strange for the first couple of miles but no doubt I'll be buzzing when I get home - how could I leave it that long, treadmills just aren't the same.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Back at work

I always used to worry about going back to work. What's been happening? What's happended to my cases? Suppose something has gone wrong? Whose pouring over my work, reading my notes?

Nothing much ever used to happen but it doesn't normally stop me worrying a bit. There was the time, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, when I strolled back into the office to be greeted by my manager who straight away asked me "how was the dentist, Doug?". That was a little confusing, to which I expressed that by asking "it was two weeks ago when I went to the Dentist but thank you for asking, oh it was fine, so why are you asking and isn't that one of my files you've got there?". Well something had happened that merited my manager digging out the file. I asked "so has he murdered someone?". The reply was no he hadn't but something had. It seemed a big deal to him at the time but it wasn't anything in particular but he'd been reading my last comment about seeing this man at a different time as I had to go to see the Dentist.

I've kind of taught myself not to worry because nothing much ever seems to go wrong. Having much more autonomy nowadays also makes a difference because things going wrong are normally within my sphere and nobody else's. That doesn't stop the dread of logging on to see my emails, although sometimes I do try and see how long I can get away with it. Sometimes I've been able to avoid it for a day or so although sometimes people are perplexed when they get my out-of-office message after they've been in a meeting with me.

So no great disasters while I was away. The first week back was an extraordinary week and where the Chief Officer correctly suggested we would remember for a long time to come. We were being inspected all week long with files being read, people being interviewed and focus groups galore. That coupled with the heaviest snow falls for many years all indeed led to an interesting week. We've had some inspection feedback with few suprises which will inevitably lead to various recommendations and action plans once the final conclusions have been finalised.

The trick for me is to stay one step above all of this as a way of not being too preoccupied. Thinking of things outside of work combined with always needing something to look forward to is very helpful. The effect of this approach seems to be working, so thinking through some personal challenges is really a good thing to do. I've been toying with the idea for sometime of pushing myself with endurance. All about never being satisfied with myself, or comparing myself with someone else who is ahead and never behind, always knowing I can push myself further along. So, is it to be a long distance cycle ride or a run?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Back to work

Went back to work today after the Christmas break but took the kids to school en-route, together with a lad who goes to the same school. Much speculation about whether we'll have more snow and, more to the point, whether the school will need to close with obvious excitement from the kids. Just as I was dropping the kids at school, Sarah asked me when I'd be home.
"about teatime, I expect"
"well what time do you think you'll actually be home" she pressed
"about 6, maybe 6.30" I said and that was received by a comforted smile.

I always know when I've had a decent time away from the office when I can't remember my password and this was almost the case today. In the time it took me to open a couple of internal mail envelopes, it came back to me, grrrrr. At home it always takes time to forget about work completely and it's often useful to have my things-to-do book in easy reach so I can jot down things as they occur to me. Thankfully I don't think I touched it once.

A pretty easy day spent reading e-mails, a few phone calls and a couple of short pieces of work. There was an email from my friend Wallie saying his Mum had died just before Christmas. Not unexpected and then I remembered I'd been thinking of him over Christmas, wondering how things were.

I had in mind going for a treadmill run in the gym this evening but it didn't happen. I sensed I needed to be at home this evening. I had a couple of short runs a few days ago, over the weekend. Maybe 1 or 2 miles each time, just enough to keep limbered up.

Irrational I know but I worry I'm going to lose all my strength if I go a week without running. I can feel the muscles in my legs aren't as taught as I like them to be, so easy to go off the boil, so to speak. Must go tomorrow. I have entered the Bath Half on 7th March and need to stay in good shape and do a couple of runs of that length beforehand. Although this is the first time I've entered a half marathon, I feel pretty confident I can cover the distance. But I want to enjoy it and finish in a reasonable time.

Sometimes, actually quite often, I give myself a hard time for easing off running, even though I'm still relatively new to the sport. I feel like I'm letting myself down, un-doing the progress I'd made and imagine I'm suffering some kind of withdrawal symptoms. Its almost like a kind of restlessness that can quickly go with the first buzz 10 minutes into an hour's run. On my regular run (about 6.75miles) there's a short but steep hill to climb and just over the other side is a gentle slope downwards, just right for picking up some more speed. Sometimes there's a bit of flooding across the road in a little dip. That's great to run through, feeling the (cold) water splash up my legs and instantly feel my shoes take on some water. If it's more than a few strides across I like to run as lightly as I can almost dancing across the water running on the outside edge of my feet. I look back afterwards hoping the water is still, it almost is still. So by that stage I feel like the run has welcomed me back again and rewarding me.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Getting my rambling's started....

This blog is an outlet for me, a way of sharing my thoughts, ideas, delights and challenges. I expect a lot of myself in many different ways, never quite satisfied with what I have achieved but always the optimist. Allegedly middle age but always believe the best is yet to come. The glass is never half empty but always half full and I cannot function without something to aim for or look forward to.

Now at the start of 2010, I cannot help but wonder what this year will bring; but not just this year but the decade. The last decade - the noughties - has been pretty good; it's certainly flown by.

The noughties started in such a memorable way. Rachel (8 months pregnant) and I were leaning out of our bedroom windows watching the fireworks light up the sky in our neighbourhood. Thirty-one days later our second daughter was born. Seeing her now, what a delight she is together with her elder sister.

During the last 10 years I have felt the stress and pressure of work a great deal. Two episodes stand out. In late 2002 I was suffering much stress from work which led to taking sick leave for a month, the first time I'd ever had a Doctor's sick note. To cut a long story short, the solution was to go for promotion and no sooner than I'd returned to work and opportunity arose. I knew at the time God was at work in that situation; I gained the promotion against the odds although I had no idea where it was going to lead.

The second stressful episode was in 2007-08 with work, once again, being the root cause. I should say that it wouldn't be fair to "blame" the (then) Home Office entirely but better to reflect on my own ability to handle various situations. Again I found myself facing a crossroad but whilst it seemed daunting, it was faith that provided the answer. Through asking "Lord, what can I do?" a whole range of options came flooding through. It is times like this that I do love Rachel so much in helping me work through these things. I remembered when I was in my early 20's getting a real kick out of being healthy and fit - especially pushing myself to breaking point when I ran and then going those extra few yards after the limit was reached. Wow that feeling of elation, nothing could stop me. So, with this in mind in 2008, I put aside thoughts of taking unpaid leave or even resigning and instead joined the local gym. Getting fit has provided a way of dealing with those pressures and strains. Those ridiculous targets and colleagues are still there but at least they're in perspective a bit better nowadays.

Other things to look back on during the noughties....

Our delightful daughters are growing. Our marriage is growing too. Many things have, perhaps surprisingly stayed the same. We still live in the same house, still go to the same Church, our lifestyle and standard of living is very similar. We went to Kenya in 2005 with YWAM and this might have planted a seed in our daughter's minds for later on in their lives. Again, we have faith that God has a plan for their lives.

So, in starting this blog for 2010, we'll see how life continues to unfold.....