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Sunday, June 23, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (23 weeks to go)

One of my favourite days of the year: the annual Supported Learning trip to Drayton Manor! We take all of our students out of the classroom, let them eat and drink what they want, and let them loose in a theme park! The students relate to each other differently, they see a different side to us, and the emphasis is on fun! Of course, there are many benefits for a lot of our students - some of them don't get the opportunity to travel outside of Birmingham, some of them have rarely ever been on a day trip. It allows them to build new friendships and reinforce existing ones,. It also gives them a degree of responsibility as we trust them to behave appropriately and safely in a new environment.
Three of my own students handed their phones to me to keep for the whole of the trip. These are people I normally see bent over the little flickering screen every spare moment they get. On the bus on the way back, another student asked me if I was happy because everyone had got some fresh air and had been active! He knows me well!
Of course, in between roller coasters, dodgems and the Drunken Barrels, I also found time for chocolate, sweets and chips!
At home, I tried to undo some of the damage by cooking a healthy dinner and then lifting some weights.
Weight training, junkfood, no alcohol.

Eric's birthday!
I cycled in to work and back. Then the family went over to see Jane and Eric and, of course, to have a huge dinner and eat birthday cake! I even had a couple of beers. So much for my Karate training...
No exercise, junkfood, 2 beers

I cycled in to work and back. In the evening, I made a chicken and mushroom stir fry for the family and then, about 90 minutes later, did a fast and light weights session. I was rather worn out by the end of it so I went straight to bed.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

I cycled in to work and back and then went for my weekly 10K run. It was a huge effort to get motivated today and I suffered for most of the run. I got round in 64m and 30s. My legs ached terribly for the rest of the evening.
10K run, no junkfood, no alcohol.

I got up at 6:10am to lift some weights!
I was aching from yesterday's run, but by the time I got to the end of the session I was feeling good and full of endorphins!
I had to lift early today because I'm going to the pub straight after work so couldn't fit in my hour of exercise anytime else. I cycled in to work and then Debbie was kind enough to drive my group and me down to the park to play football in the sunshine. After a couple of meetings in the afternoon, I cycled up to the pub to drink beers with Trev, Clive, Dodgy Debbie and Lucy. I found a fantastic local beer called North Star which is brewed by Silhill Brewery. It was on at £2.15 a pint! I dispatched four of those while talking nonsense with my good mates. I then cycled carefully home!
Weight training, no junkfood, 4 pints

A slow start to the day. I got up when I was ready and then made bacon and eggs for Lucy and myself. We watched Gardener's World on TV.
Debbie and the Cakemaker arrived at 10:30 and they took Lucy off to look at some old house and gardens. I don't know where it was but it involved driving up and down motorways. Rather them than me...
It was a glorious day. Beautiful sunshine and hardly any wind. I got a lot of washing done and soon had it dry. I did some ironing, tidied the man cave, vacuumed the stairs and did the washing up. Phew.
One of the things I love about the Saturday Karate session is that everyone gets there early and we have a bit of kata seminar when the higher grades help the lower grades to develop their technique. I worked on the heian kata and then tekki shodan. Before the lesson started I was already dripping with sweat!
This afternoon's Karate session was run by Sensei Tony and Sensei Gary. We did nothing but kata for the whole hour (well, after a big stretch to start with.) I got hotter and hotter and more and more tired as the hour crept by. It was excellent grading practice! At the end, Sensei Gary had a look at my Basai Dai. I was hoping he would sign off some of my kata in my black belt syllabus. He was kind enough to sign off my heian kata along with basai dai. I went home feeling chuffed!
It feels strange that my black belt journey could come to an end this year (with a new journey starting at exactly the same moment!) It seems that I've been working towards this goal for almost half of my life. To have the first signatures in the syllabus makes it more real for me.
It's really happening!
Back at home, Lucy was watering the back garden with a hose. I was in the back garden without my shirt on. It suddenly occurred to me that she was getting closer to me with the hose and I was convinced she was going to spray me! So I legged it up the garden and leapt through the open sliding doors and into the dining room. Tilly was in the dining room at the time and heard the crack when I landed on my bad ankle. I went down like I'd been shot. The pain flared up through me and I was convinced it worse than before. My next thought was that my black belt journey was over for at least a year.
Lucy and I discussed a trip to the hospital. The fact that Tilly had heard the crack when I landed convinced us that it must be broken. However, it didn't swell up much -  nowhere near as much as last time.
After a few minutes, I was helped to my feet and I discovered that I could walk! Wow! What a lucky escape!
I still don't know what that crack noise was. I was convinced it was a broken bone.
I ended the evening by cooking a chicken and mushroom curry and then enjoying a few beers watching the end of the day's cricket.
Karate, no junkfood, 3 beers

The ankle was sore and still a little swollen when I woke up. It hurt to walk downstairs.
However, when Crazy Ed called for me at 8:30, my bike and I were ready to head off into the lanes! We met up with Jonnie and Rog and then blasted off to Wilmcote. I'm not sure what happened or why, but we set off at a tremendous pace! We sped along and I managed, without trying, to collect three Strava PRs including the downhill section at Tom Hill!
Ed, returning from a serious back condition that first affected him in October, had no trouble keeping up. He's obviously fit and was quite happy to roll along and have a chat at a 15.4mph average speed to the cakestop. We arrived at Wilmcote earlier than anyone expected. We enjoyed lovely homemade cake and terrible tea in the sunshine. I stripped off to one layer (Jonnie and Rog had started in one layer - hard men!) before setting off again. We convinced Ed that he was fit enough to add some miles to our planned route so we went back via the Temple Purity route: through Temple Grafton and then past the Purity brewery.
We had more chats, didn't worry about the average, and everyone got back safely. What a splendid morning's cycling! And the ankle hardly hurt at all.

Back at Jonnie's, we had some proper tea (thanks Harry!) and watched the cricket for a little while. Sally got back from her successful ride with Dynamic Rides. What a fit lot we are!
I got home, had a Scotch egg, a banana and glass of milk, and then took the dogs out to the park. It was a lovely day so I strolled around in shorts and t shirt.
This evening's Karate session was awesome. Sensei Ronnie took us through a black belt mock grading. I got incredibly hot and sweaty in the first hour (kihon and kata) but then things thankfully slowed down when we got to kumite because I was partnered with children. The mock grading served two purposes: firstly, it showed me that I'm nowhere near ready to take the grading. Secondly, and crucially, it showed exactly where I need to improve. Essentially, my kihon is failing. Sensei Ronnie told me that I usually have "really good form" but as soon as I'm asked to move quickly, my technique suffers. I have to be fast and accurate!
After two hours of top-drawer Karate, I went home to man a barbecue in the backgarden, eat loads of food, drink some beers and listen to loads of 70s albums on vinyl! 
What a fantastic day.
Cycling, Karate, junkfood, 3 beers

Monday, June 17, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (24 weeks to go)

The weather forecast was for heavy rain so I wore waterproofs and layered up for cycling this morning. It didn't rain so I sweated like a pig on the ride to work and on the way back.
I had a good day at work today. I love my job.
I did a good weight lifting session and then cooked a protein rich dinner.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol.

The weather was foul: howling winds and driving rain. I had to sign in at 8am in order to invigilate a GCSE exam so I decided to drive instead of ride. I had another great day at work and got lots done in the afternoon. I also received a few updates from Sensei Gary who is currently training in Japan with two other instructors from the club. It sounds like they're having a fantastic time with some of the best training in the world!
This evening, Martha and I went along to the dojo for a session run by Sensei Mark and Sensei Russell. We concentrated on kumite but still found time to do some intensive work on kata (Kanku Dai!) For the Kumite, I was lucky enough to be partnered with Sensei Joey who offered lots of insight and advice for me. Martha and I headed home sweaty and happy!
After a big homemade dinner I switched off for the day with cycling on the TV and 3 bottles of ale!
Karate, no junkfood, 3 beers

Weight: 9st 13lbs
I'm the lightest I've been so far this year, the first time I've been below 10st for a long time.
The weather was wet. I cycled in to work and got rather damp. I cycled home after another fantastic day working with young people. Mr Roger was away today so there was no circuit training. I did my own weight training programme instead and set the weight very slightly heavier than I did on Monday.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Another soggy day, another wet ride into work, another enjoyable day's teaching. I discovered that one of my student's used to practise Karate but gave up after he 'became lazy.' He demonstrated a yoko geri kekomi which was far higher than any kick I've ever done! My mission is to hopefully convince him back to martial arts. He has a bit of a chaotic homelife and would benefit from the structure and guidance. He said that he started training initially because he was rather naughty and it was thought he would benefit from the discipline of Shotokan.
I cycled home in a drizzle and then set off on my 10K run. My legs were aching! It felt like they were turning to stone as I hobbled round for 6 slow miles. I was very glad to get home but had set a terrible time of 66m and 19s. At least I kept going and didn't slow to a walk at any point.
I hate running.
At home, I had a shower, a shave and homemade beef chilli!
10K run, no junkfood, no alcohol.

I rode in to work in the pouring rain. I got completely soaked but had remembered to bring a change of clothes with me.
It was a stressful morning at work, whereas the afternoon was very relaxed. I cycled home to get ready for Karate.
This evening's session was very challenging. Sensei Ronnie Christopher was in charge. He told us we were going to continue with jiyu ippon but this time on our left side. I wasn't sure when we were continuing on from. Last Friday's session was run by Sensei Mark. Perhaps Sensei meant carrying on from Sunday's lesson, which I missed? Anyway, I got stuck in as best I could.
We have recently adopted a bent knee stance in freestyle which I feel very awkward using after being in a natural stance for so many years. Sensei let me know I wasn't doing it properly and even had a young lower grade stand next to me to examine my stance and to tell me what was wrong with it! It didn't make me feel good and it's certainly not a teaching technique I'd use in my classroom, but it was effective! I spent the rest of the hour with my calf muscles screaming at me as I bent my knees and tried to balance on my toes. It was a high-paced, high-intensity session. I was lucky enough to be partnered with Sensei Jason, and we put each other under pressure. I managed to get a couple of good kicks in on him and he got me with an ear-ringing punch to the head!
The last five minutes were given over to freestyle. Fighting is certainly not my strength but I did manage to give as good as I got when I was partnered with a fellow adult 1st kyu.
Another fantastically useful session at Ruach. I got very hot and sweaty so it's also good fitness training! I went home with plenty of new bruises.
I enjoyed some real ales with my healthy dinner of fish, sweet potatoes and green beans.
Karate, no junkfood, 3 beers

I woke up rather early and was dismayed to find my right shoulder was aching furiously. I hoped it would loosen up in time for dojo.
I set about getting some jobs done. I put the washing out and then made breakfast for Lucy and myself. I put a space saver wheel on the punctured car and then took it down to Kwik Fit. Later, I went to the post office and then home to clean windows, clean the wooden floors, do some vacuuming and then get on with the ironing. I had a healthy lunch while watching the cricket. By one o'clock my chores were done. Unfortunately, my shoulder was aching worse than it was when I woke up.
Martha and I went along to this afternoon's Karate session. I did a proper dynamic warm up followed by a blast through five kata. By the time the lesson started my shoulder felt fine. Once again, Sensei Tony ran a session that was full of enthusiasm and Karate spirit. We concentrated on kihon and then Martha and I got to do some teaching towards the end. Good stuff.
Back at home, I listened to the cricket, put some stuff on eBay and, although I did try to resist, I ended up enjoying three beers while watching the Criterium du Dauphine!
Karate, no junkfood, 3 beers

The bright sunlight woke me at 6am.
I stumbled out of bed at 6:30 for a healthy breakfast. Denise (my partner for the 100 mile Velo) turned up on time with her bike and wearing her Lycra. However, she obviously wasn't very well and, realising it was about to rain, decided to head back home again! A wise decision.
When I got round to call for Sally I was pleased to see that Roger was already there and ready to go. Unfortunately, Sally's friend Jo had cancelled. With Jonnie away, that left only three of us out of the five who were supposed to be doing a beginner's ride today. We quickly changed plans and I called Jane to let her know that we would be heading down to Wilmcote after all.
Sally is new to cycling. She has done some miles with Jonnie on some of our usual routes and has also joined in with a Dynamic Rides beginner's ride. She has a proper Specialized road bike with a 105 group set and is certainly focused and determined to get fitter!
We set off on the direct route along the country lanes through Ullenhall. I was on the front and Roger was protecting Sally from traffic at the rear. I was impressed by Sally's power on the flat and she was quick to tell me that we weren't going fast enough! She was happy to roll along at around 16mph as we approached Tanworth in Arden. So far so good!
She ground her way up the climbs with no complaints and seemed stable and confident on the descents. She can ride one handed so we didn't have to stop for drinks breaks. After just 5 or 6 rides she is already a competent rider.
We were glad to reach the halfway point so Roger and I could indulge in homemade cake and we could all enjoy 2 cups of hot tea each. We even had the cricket on the TV.

Me, the Cakemaker, Sally.
Back in the lanes, the challenge had shifted slightly: we now had the wind behind us, but we were going uphill for the next 15 miles! Initially, we were wafted along at 17mph but as soon as we hit the climbs, the pace began to drop. Sally pushed hard, never gave up, and we all got back safe and sound. 30 miles done! We had another cup of tea, and some more cricket, before I headed off to walk the dogs around the park. 
In the evening, the girls gave me all their lovely Father's Day presents and cards. I was thoroughly spoilt as usual! 
How spoilt am I?
 Jane and Eric came round for dinner and we celebrated Father's Day with them too. Lucy had made two different casseroles along with loads of freshly prepared vegetables. I ended up drinking more than I should and then staggered off to bed before I could fall asleep on the couch in front of the Tour du Dauphine!
Cycling: 30 miles, junkfood, 4 beers

Monday, June 10, 2019

How to Achieve a Black Belt in Your Forties (25 weeks to go)

The title of theses blog posts has changed and so has the emphasis of my training.
There are now only six months before I take part in a black belt grading which will hopefully end with me being awarded my 1st dan (Shodan) grade at Ruach Karate.
I will still monitor my health and occasionally make reference to my weight, blood pressure and resting heart rate, because these things are important, but now my focus is primarily on achieving a single goal: a black belt in Shotokan Karate.

Monday 3rd June (181 days to go)
I cycled in for the first day back at work after the half term holiday.
Back at home, I did a light weight training session. I noted that the right shoulder is feeling a little better, but the left bicep, which has been plaguing me for over a year, is still a little sore.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

I cycled to work and back.
Martha and I went along to tonight's Karate session. This evening, we covered the three Ks (kihon, kumite and kata) at a quick pace and I got a bit sweaty. Perfect training! I was asked to partner some of the younger students who seemed to be lacking enthusiasm. One lad responded brilliantly - he raised his game and got stuck in. Just what we wanted. The other chap just didn't seem to want to be there and couldn't look me in the eye. I ended up accidentally knocking his weak defending hand back into his own face. Thankfully, he didn't cry!
All we're looking for from the youngsters is the right spirit, the right attitude. As Master Funakoshi wrote: Spirit before technique.
We finished with some kata. Once again, we were given the opportunity to go through my new favourite kata: Kanku Dai.
Sensei Gary very kindly acknowledged my hard work in the dojo tonight.
Martha and I went home feeling rather red-faced and happy!
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

I had to use the car for work today because I had to stay late to do some interviews and then rush home to make dinner.
Tonight was another light weights session, although it was very slightly heavier than Monday's effort.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

I cycled in to work and back.
At home, I got ready for my run while watching the last few overs of Australia vs The Windies in the ODI World Cup. My 10K time was rubbish: 64m 53s. I want to get my time under an hour before I take my black belt grading.
At dinner, a nice surprise: Jane arrived with a gift from her sister Mary. I was presented with a box of 20 Racefood Farbar endurance bars! A very welcome gift indeed!

(I tried one of the bars on the Sunday bike ride. It tasted good!)
Run, no junkfood, no alcohol


I had to drive again today. I invigilated a GCSE English exam at a different campus (our women's centre) before heading back to Hall Green to do an afternoon of internal verification of units. Busy day!
The dojo session was another fantastic hour of training, this time under Sensei Mark. He placed the emphasis on kumite today. I was paired with some higher grades which is great experience. Sensei Jason nearly flattened me once or twice!
Later, we finished with Kanku Dai once again. I'm really starting to get to grips with that kata. I reckon I can get it almost perfect within the next 20 years...
Sensei Jason said I was looking sharp and he can tell that I'm determined to get my Shodan this year.
I got home for some healthy homemade food and no alcohol.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Rain, rain, rain. After some shopping and chores, I went along to the Saturday session run by Sensei Tony. He has done a great job of whipping the young students into shape! They have fantastic spirit, they kiai at the end of every technique and show proper dojo etiquette. Even the young ADHD karateka was totally switched on and focused. I hardly had to say a word to him! Sensei Tony himself said that if Sensei Ronnie walked in to observe the students, his reaction would be 'Wow!' I totally agree. A very enjoyable session indeed.
In the evening, we had a late dinner of delicious homemade chicken curry. I stayed up late to let my dinner go down.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol.

It was a warm sunny morning with a bit of a breeze coming up from the south. Perfect for cycling! I jumped on my bike after breakfast and then headed up to call for Jonnie. We set off on our Honiley route, happily chatting and enjoying the sunshine. After a while, we both noticed that we were maintaining a good pace (compared to our usual efforts) of 15.4mph. We decided to keep the pressure on and Jonnie led the charge by storming off the front after the descent from Norton Lindsey. Then we stopped for a wee.
Once through Snitterfield, it was my turn to be on the front so I put in an effort along The Armouries. I did my best to keep the speed above 15mph uphill. Once onto Featherbed lane I was pleased to find that I could hold Jonnie's wheel. He normally leaves me in his wake on a flat road!
The cakestop was a very jolly affair with lots of family and friends turning up for lunch at Jane's place. The cake helpings were even larger than usual! Jonnie struggled to finish his so I bravely volunteered to eat the rest of his too.
The sun was shining brightly and the wind was in the right direction. I stripped off my base layer and rode in just a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. Jonnie and I had a 15mph target fixed firmly in our minds and rode accordingly. We kept the pace high up the hills but still found time for a chat as we sped along. By the time we got to the bottom of the Danzey Green climb it was clear we were going to be successful so we could relax a little bit. We got back to Jonnie's place with a rather satisfying 15.3mph average speed over 40 miles. Frustratingly, I didn't pick up a single Strava achievement for the day!
We rewarded ourselves with two bottles of beer each and put our feet up in front of the World Cup cricket.
At home, I stuffed my face with leftover chicken curry, did some jobs and then sat in the back garden listening to the cricket while drinking more beers! We had a very late dinner of homemade lasagne.
Cycling, cake, 5 beers

Friday, June 7, 2019

How to Lose a Belly When You're 44 (part 27)

Monday 13th May
Weight lifting session, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Cycled in to work and back, went along to the dojo and then had a couple of beers watching the disappointing season 8 of Game of Thrones.

Cycled in to work and back, did a weightlifting session, ate healthily and didn't drink booze.

Cycled in to work and back. Plodded round on my 10K route in 63 minutes and 39 seconds.
No junkfood, no alcohol.

I cycled in to work and back. This evening, I went a long to the Karate session at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre. Tonight, the whole class was run by Sensei Gary. It was a real masterclass! He had a full range of abilities and ages to teach and he managed to include something for everyone in an hour that went by in a flash! He was discussing the history of our martial art and even quoting Master Funakoshi (all while he had us standing in a deep stance with the leg muscles burning!)
Great training and education.

I did a light weight training session and treated myself to some beer and naughty food.

More weightlifting, more beers, but no junkfood.

Monday 20th May
Weight training, no junkfood, no booze.

Karate, no junkfood, no booze

I cycled in to work and, after lessons, joined in with the circuit training/interval training provided by Mr Roger in the college gym.
This evening, he had four of us doing a variety of exercises including step ups, dumbbell inclined presses, weighted lunges, 4 different kinds of sit up core exercises and lots of other techniques I can't remember the names of! By the end of it we were all aching and spent so I led us through a warm down with plenty of stretches.
I cycled home to cook dinner for the family.
No junkfood, no booze.

I cycled to work and back and then set out on a 10K run. I managed to get round in 66m 49s
At home, I didn't drink beer and I didn't eat junkfood.

We broke up for half term! No work for the next nine days.
I started my holiday with another great Karate session at Ruach.

With Jonnie preparing for a huge party at his house, I set off on a solo ride. I went along the Chip Shop High Cross route.
In the afternoon, Lucy, Mouse and I went to party with Harry for his 18th birthday. There were loads of people there, and loads of booze. Jonnie and I got completely smashed until the small hours of the morning. 

And that's the end of my training! After the party, I enjoyed myself thoroughly over the half term with plenty of naughty food and ales and not much exercise. 
There was even a second dinner party up at Jonnie's place where I got to shoot an air rifle!
Jonnie supervising the target range. I'm trying to look like I know what I'm doing.

Jonnie I and did manage a cracking ride in the sunshine at the weekend which included two or three PRs for me on very familiar sections. Maybe I needed a rest from a healthy lifestyle!?

However, it is now almost exactly 6 months before I step up to take my black belt grading on the 1st of December. It's now time to get serious...

Friday, May 17, 2019

Velo 100: How to Lose a Belly When You're 44 (part 26)

Weight: 10st 1lbs
Blood Pressure: 147/73
Resting Heart Rate: 43 bpm
Bank Holiday!
I did a spot of weight lifting and then pottered about the house for the rest of the day. I did some housework and put stuff on eBay.
In the evening, I had some cava with Lucy and then a couple of beers.
Weight training, no junkfood, alcohol


Weight: 10st 0lbs
Blood Pressure: 154/68
Resting Heart Rate: 53 bpm
What a fantastic day!
It started off a little ropey with a bit of a hangover after a disturbed night's sleep. Then, I was dismayed to have a rather high blood pressure reading this morning. However, things got a lot better as soon as Lucy, Mouse and I left the house. It was a beautifully bright sunny morning.
At work, the day went by in a flash with lots of laughs meeting the new students who will be joining us in September. I even found time to take my Specialized in to Scott's Cycles to have Pete give it the once over before the big day (Velo 100 on Sunday.)
Tonight's Karate session saw Sensei Mark take us through Kanku Dai step by step. Exactly what we needed! I now feel that I know the kata so Sensei invited me at the front to guide the rest of the class through it. However, I did make a couple of mistakes including getting stuck towards the end. I wouldn't have messed up like this on my own but with the eyes of all the senior grades on me the pressure was a bit much!
Then, a special treat: Sensei Mark performed the kata for us in its entirety. I don't recall ever seeing an instructor perform a kata at Ruach. I remember when I first started Karate, Sensei Paul Hexley used to always perform a kata for us before he taught it. It was a good way to see what the kata was meant to look like.
Later on, after a wonderful homemade dinner and cheering Liverpool to victory against Barcelona, I went into the quiet of my man cave to measure my blood pressure again. This time it was a rather good result:121/73. It seems obvious that my blood pressure is dependent on the time of day. Is this a sign of a problem or just normal?
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Weight: 10st 0lbs
Blood Pressure: 138/72
Resting Heart Rate: 57 bpm
I drove over to our Handsworth campus. I soon found out that I wasn't needed so I went back to Hall Green to get loads of paperwork done while listening to heavy metal in my classroom.
In the evening, I did some more weight training (still very light because of my injured shoulder) before cooking stir fry for the family.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol.


Weight: 10st 1lb
Blood Pressure: 147/73
Resting Heart Rate: 56 bpm
After a good day at work, I staggered around on my 10K route in just over 67 minutes. I enjoyed a wonderful homemade dinner of chicken and potatoes and drank a couple of ales in the man cave.
Running, no junkfood, alcohol

Weight: 10st 1lb
Blood Pressure: 144/75
Resting Heart Rate: 51 bpm
I got up early and had bacon and eggs just because I fancied it. Work was good: a chilled out atmosphere with lots of colleagues sponsoring me for the 100 mile Velo ride on Sunday.
I picked the bike up from Scott's Cycles. Pete had changed the bearings in the rear hub and swapped out the worn cassette body for a new one. It sounded so much better!
The bike is ready. Am I ready?

After work, I went along to the dojo session run by Sensei Ronnie Christopher.
It was another fantastic kata session where we went through the Heian katas before getting to grips with Kanku Dai! Towards the end of the session, Sensei asked people to volunteer to perform kata individually in front of the class. I stepped up to do Heian Yondan. Unfortunately, adrenaline got the better of me and I did a bit of a scruffy rushed version!
I went up again to do Tekki Shodan. This time I felt it was stronger and less rushed.
Finally, when Sensei asked who felt they could do Kanku Dai, I was the only one who put his hand up! I was asked to lead the class through the kata. It felt weird having black belts following me. I did get stuck just once and Sensei gave me a verbal instruction to get me going again. I was reasonably happy with my performance but I know I could spend a lifetime improving this one kata!
At the end, a couple of the chaps expressed surprise that I was "still a brown belt", but it's Sensei's opinion that counts. Sensei Ronnie is still concerned about my balance of weight and 'bouncing' when I move. I still have a long way to go to get ready for my grading in December.
I went home feeling good and enjoyed an enormous but healthy homemade dinner. I then sat in the man cave and ate a whole chocolate Easter egg while typing these very words!
Karate, junkfood, no alcohol

I set my alarm for an early get up - I was trying to get used to an early start in preparation for Sunday. I struggled out of bed at 5:20am. I felt awful. It was as if I was halfway between stressed and exhausted. By 7:45am I was parking up in Birmingham City Centre ready to pick up my numbers for the Birmingham Velo. It was fantastically organised! I was given my numbers and a goodie bag in less than a minute and then sent on my way.
On the way back to the car I encountered a bloke smoking a fag in a wheelchair. He had one and a half legs. He asked me to push him up a hill, which I gladly did. Then he explained that it was his birthday and he needed £6 to have a shower. When I truthfully told him that I didn't have any change with me, he lost interest in our friendship. Oh well, pushing that smelly chap up a hill was good exercise.
I parked up in Solihull (so much nicer than Brum) and got some bananas and Lucozade for the big ride. Then I posted some stuff at the Post Office. When I got home, It was only just 10am!
Lucy and Dodgy Debbie went off the Malvern Spring Festival and I walked the dogs, cleaned the floors and did some ironing.
This afternoon's Karate session was run by Sensei Tony. He did a good job of keeping the young people focused and training hard. He had time to give me some feedback too. I need to work on bringing my hips round when performing mawashi geri.
At home, I made myself a very healthy dinner of wholewheat pasta with green beans, tomatoes and tuna. I was in bed at about 9:30 but didn't actually manage to sleep until almost midnight.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

A cyclist died on the Velo today.
He was a chap in his 50s and he died out in the countryside when he crashed on one of the twisting downhill sections. I didn't see him crash but I saw the ambulance at the scene and the marshals telling us to slow down. At the time, I didn't see why we needed to slow down. Surely we could just continue past the ambulance on the other side of the road? I couldn't know that we were riding past a dying man.
I hope he loved cycling and that he had a good life with people who loved him. I hope he was enjoying himself in the sunshine today, hurling himself up and down hills on his bike with his friends.

I woke up with a start when my hateful alarm sounded at 4:20am. It was a titanic struggle to force myself downstairs and start eating. I didn't want breakfast, I wanted sleep. After double-checking everything, I threw it all in the car and headed off to our Digbeth campus where the SCCB Team were meeting before joining the ride directly outside. After faffing with photographs, 5 or 6 of us (including Steve Staunton of Aston Villa fame!) made our way to our starting pen. I got a bit of a shock when I turned round to see Chris Boardman lined up behind me! He was kind enough to talk to me and shake my hand but I didn't want to press him for a selfie!
It was a chilly start and I was glad I was wearing a total of 4 layers plus arm and leg warmers. However, I was also wearing shades because it was a beautifully bright and sunny day.
My riding partner for the day was Denise, a work colleague and lovely friend.
Denise is a new rider. She is a proven marathon runner who has now also turned her attention to cycling. She rides in trainers on flat pedals (not even toe clips) and, at the start of the day, wasn't sure how to use the gears on her bike! Her longest ride previously had been 30 miles...
When we set off at 7am, Denise and I were dismayed to find that the rest of the team simply dashed off without us! Undaunted, we kept up a steady pace although the sheer volume of riders was making it difficult to progress.

At the start in Birmingham City Centre: Denise just behind me following my wheel.

At first, Densie was uncomfortable without me on the front. She felt nervous if she couldn't see me. Of course, with literally thousands of riders out on the road, it was a little tricky to stay together, especially in the first ten miles when riders were very closely packed all over the road. As the day went on, Denise found more confidence and I was able to ride off the front or sometimes behind her and she was okay.
We set off a little too fast for my liking. We were swept along with some of the fast riders and found ourselves pressing hard to maintain a 19mph pace. We wouldn't last 100 miles at that speed! (Although plenty of riders do.)
We didn't stop at the first feed station because it looked terribly crowded. We stopped shortly afterwards to eat bananas and I took a few shots of passing riders.

Blue skies and dry roads.

Eventually, Denise and I started to get into a rhythm. As her confidence grew she was able to hold my wheel steadily while I negotiated a route through super-slow riders and pot holes. When we got to Arley, it was approaching 9am. People were waking up and we started to see more and more spectators (although, to be fair, there had been isolated groups of supporters all along the route from 7am this morning.) They put on a good show, with outdoor barbecues, kids in onesies cheering us on, and one young man belting out 'Bicycle Race' by Queen on his electric guitar on his front drive!
As we got through Arley, I stopped for a wee and Denise told me that she hadn't had a drink yet because she can't ride one-handed! I hadn't realised!
The rest of the ride continued at a much steadier pace than when we had set off at 19mph. Our average settled down at 14.4mph for much of the ride. Denise's confidence grew to the point where she told me she was beginning to enjoy herself.
At our first water station, after 40 miles, I stripped off two of my four layers, my hat, arm warmers and scarf, and took down my leg warmers. I felt a little chilly at first, but not for long!
It was a glorious day and I ended up getting sunburn on my nose, ears, neck, head and legs.
The ride through Coventry was a bit rubbish because riding on cobbles is just not fun (but it is fun to watch) and it's a really ugly city. The people were great though, and a lot of them turned up to cheer us on.

Coventry. With my leg warmers around my ankles.
We stopped at the main feed station in Packwood. It was incredibly busy! The bike racks were full so I found a field gate to lean our bikes against. The food choice was rather crap: crisps, tiny energy bars and chocolate. At least they had bananas but I was only allowed to take one. The queue for water and energy drinks was ridiculous so I decided to refill later.
I managed to call Lucy who told me that the rider tracking website wasn't working so none of our friends knew where we were! I gave her an estimated time to look out for us.
Sure enough, 10 miles later, I spotted Lucy standing on a traffic island cheering every one on as they rode through Shirley!
Denise and I stopped for a chat and to dump our unwanted clothing and water bottles. Thanks, babe!

75 miles in - photo by Lucy.
Soon after riding through Shirley, we headed out towards the Maypole. It was here that we encountered several of our friends in quick succession! Rachel, Michael and Ava were cheering everybody on as they approached the next water station. Rachel had made a superb banner to spur me on!

I was using the force!
At the water station, we discovered that our mate Julie was volunteering and was handing out the snacks and pouring the water. After a chin-wag with Julie, we set off again and found Leanne at the side of the road!

Leanne and her fantastic crew were out to cheer everybody on!
Next, we found things got lumpy on the Velo. The organisers had given us plenty of warning in the literature and on signs at the side of the road. The last 20 miles of the Velo involved a lot of climbing. For some reason, my legs felt good, probably better than they had at the start of the day. I'd been careful to make the time to eat and drink (Denise couldn't believe how much I was telling her to eat!) so I still felt strong. The climbing was a joy. I'm sure I could have gone twice as fast over the last 20 miles. However, I took it easy and stayed with Denise who, for an inexperienced rider, was doing an amazing job of climbing. I forgot myself at times and went into a little climbing trance: I found myself cruising past riders, just spinning my legs in a comfortable gear. But I always made sure to wait for Denise and then we'd speed down the hill together (we got a top speed of 34.5mph today!)
Of course, the fast men had already finished their 100 miles and were probably into their third pint of ale after their pizza. Denise and I were now riding with the determined charity riders and the people who fancied having a go at a big ride. We even saw some of the people who wear backpacks and/or ride mountain bikes on sportives. We also spotted a few baggy shorts and cotton t-shirts...
At the 100 mile mark, we were greeted by Colin and Suriya, just a few hundred yards from the finishing line.

Even more lovely friends out to see us.
Denise and I then headed over the line and went to collect our well-deserved medals!

A word about Denise: Even though she is an experienced marathon runner and therefore obviously fit, I expected her to struggle. I expected her to be slow, I expected her to complain and I even thought there may be tears. In the back of my mind, I considered the possibility that she may have to pull out of the event. Riding for 100 miles puts a big strain on the body, especially if you aren't properly prepared. Denise had only ever ridden 30 miles before today!
Consider this: she never complained, even though she couldn't ride one-handed and therefore couldn't drink on the move. She managed to maintain an average speed of 13.9mph even though she was riding flat pedals. She crossed the finishing line with a smile and told me that she'd enjoyed herself. What an amazing person.
After a sit down and a chat with Colin and Suriya, I headed off home to be congratulated by Mouse, Hydro and the Rangers before tucking into homemade lasagne and a couple of real ales!
100 miles of cycling, junkfood, alcohol

Monday, May 6, 2019

How to Lose a Belly When You're 44 (part 25)

Weight: 10st 4lbs
Blood Pressure: 134/71
Resting Heart Rate: 57 bpm
I have less than two weeks to get ready for the Birmingham Velo 100 mile cycle ride raising money for Cure Leukaemia (it would be great if you'd sponsor my team!) I can't do much to affect my fitness in this short space of time, but I can make sure I'm well rested and hydrated, and it couldn't hurt drop a few pounds of flab before the big day to make the climbing a little easier!
After work, I cooked a protein-rich dinner for the family and then, after a sit down followed by the washing-up, I did my first weight-lifting session for a while. My injured right shoulder/deltoid is still aching, especially on the bike, so I don't want to risk making things worse. However, I need to keep my muscles working so they don't waste away any more quickly than they need to.*
I reduced all of the weights I was using so the bar was embarrassingly light. I managed to complete my standard workout in half the time it usually takes, but was relieved to find that I still got the pleasant ache associated with a successful session. Obviously, I'll be looking to increase the weight gradually as my injury clears up.
Weight Training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Weight: 10st 2lbs
Blood Pressure: 151/75 or 120/73
Resting Heart Rate: 58 bpm
I was dismayed by my terrible blood pressure this morning. I cycled in to work.
For this morning's lesson, I did a health check up with the construction group and created spreadsheets of our results. We measured our height and weight, blood pressure, resting heart rate and calculated our BMI. We worked out the average results for the group.
I was surprised at the difference between my blood pressure at home at 7:15am and the measurement in my classroom at 11:30: The measurement in my lesson was 120/73, which is ideal! It's a very big difference compared to the result I got after breakfast. I need to know more about when to measure my blood pressure.
I cycled home.
Tonight's Karate session saw Sensei Lloyd taking control of the higher grades. Strangely, it was a kumite session. On Saturday we had Sensei George Best, a kumite champion, teaching kata! Now we had Sensei Lloyd, a kata encyclopedia, teaching kumite! Adaptability is one of the strengths of karate - you never know what to expect!
It was an enjoyable session in which we had to use some familiar and some not so familiar techniques.
At the end of the hour, Sensei Gary told me I wasn't sweaty enough. Must work harder!
Karate, no junkfood, no booze.

Weight: 10st 2lbs
Blood Pressure: 128/72
Resting Heart Rate: 49 bpm
After work, the SCCB cycling team had a meeting at our Digbeth campus where we were given our new jerseys with all of our corporate sponsors' logos printed proudly on a white background.
A jersey full of sponsors
We discussed average speeds and what to do about the cold when we're trapped in the starting pens at 6:30am next week...
When I got back home, I was pleased to find the Cure Leukaemia jersey had been delivered. This one is far more stylish, but a lot tighter!
Super tight!
I made  a chicken and vegetable chow mein with egg fried rice for the family.
After my dinner had gone down, I did another light weights session. Once again, I completed it in super fast time compared to the hour it usually takes me.
Weight training, no junkfood, no alcohol

Weight: 10st 2lbs
Blood Pressure: 129/70
Resting Heart Rate: 57 bpm
I cycled in to work and back.
Tonight, I set off on my weekly 10K run as usual but this time I decided to run the route in reverse. It didn't make any difference. My legs were still aching badly and I set a very slow time of 64 minutes and 44 seconds.
Somehow, I managed to resist a beer when I staggered into the kitchen.
10K run, no junkfood, no alcohol.

Weight: 10st 2lbs
Blood Pressure: 136/67
Resting Heart Rate: 54 bpm
I cycled to work. I managed to resist all the lovely cakes and sweet things on offer (we had two birthdays in the staff room this week.) I cycled home.
Tonight's Karate session was fantastic. Sensei Ronnie Christopher, a kumite champion, taught nothing but kata for the whole hour and it was inspiring! He demonstrated each and every move of the first 6 kata and explained why the stances and techniques were important and often included their application. He didn't waste a second and kept the lesson moving at a good pace. There was even time for us to go through Jion twice before going home.
In total, I performed eight kata tonight with plenty of feedback from a highly respected 6th dan former international. Awesome stuff!
Sensei Ronnie tells some good stories. Most of them need to stay in the dojo and far away from my blog. However, Sensei was telling us about how his instructor, Sensei Enoeda, was featured in a TV advert for a snack! I managed to find it on the internet:

I spent the rest of my Friday night sipping tea and watching Fleabag.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Weight: 10st 1lb
Blood Pressure: 147/71
Resting Heart Rate: 52 bpm
Up at 7 for bacon and eggs. Lucy had me lugging 125 litre bags of compost in and out of the car. I made sure I was wearing my wrist straps and lifting belt because I didn't want to risk injury this close to the Velo! Later on, I painted a planter and then screwed it together in the backgarden. I had some lunch and then went to the dojo.
Sensei Gary had us working hard at kihon this afternoon. I found it very difficult to get all three aspects correct: speed, technique and staying relaxed. If I went fast, then my technique would suffer. If I focused on getting the technique spot on, it would slow me down. When I tried to go fast and get the technique right, I'd start to tense up...
A valuable session with lots to focus on. It's true that a karateka could spend a lifetime trying to perfect just one aspect of our martial art. As Master Funakoshi told his students, Karate is a lifelong pursuit. 
In the evening, the family went off to the Fieldhouse pub for drinks. Mouse and I stuck to orange juice while Lucy, Wolf and Ninja enjoyed wine and cocktails! I was sorely tempted by the draught ales but I managed to stay focused on the ride tomorrow.
Home for lovely homemade chicken and pasta dinner.
Karate, no junkfood, no alcohol

Weight: 10st 1lb
Blood Pressure: 135/71
Resting Heart Rate: 49 bpm
Up at 7am ready for the last training ride before the 100 mile Velo! Denise, a work colleague and part of Team SCCB, came along to ride with Jonnie and me. Unfortunately, her bike let her down and its bottom bracket crumbled on a climb only 7 miles into the ride. Denise has to call for a broom wagon...
Jonnie and I stormed on to Tutnall, Callow Hill and then Feckenham before turning onto The Salt Way. We stopped after 22 miles to devour some bananas.
We went through Coughton and then started heading south toward Cranhill on the B439.
From there, it was a case of keeping a steady pace up the Binton bends until we got to Wilmcote for cake! We'd covered 37 miles. 
I had double cake and Jonnie had a cheese sandwich and treacle tart!
The way back was via Snitterfield and then onto the Widowmaker. After that climb we made our way to Lowsonford, eventually turning west to follow our Ireland's Lane route. Another pair of bananas were dispatched before hauling ourselves up The Farm and then Tom Hill in quick succession. We landed back at Jonnie's place after 65 miles and 3870 feet of climbing at 13.2 mph.
I felt good when we finished, like I could have comfortably carried on. This is obviously very good for my confidence as the big day approaches. The only worry is my right shoulder. Sometimes, after a long period in one position on the bike, I'd try to shift around on the bike and my arm would feel completely weak and useless, locked in one position. To move it was rather painful. I'd have to shake it around a bit and ride one-handed for a while to get it moving again. It's the injury that just won't go away.
Back at home, I had my first ever protein shake! It tasted great - I wonder if it will make any difference?
In the evening, Jane and Eric came by to cheer on Judd Trump in the snooker world championships.
I managed to avoid alcohol and pudding and still have a pleasant evening!
Cycling, two slices of cake, no alcohol.

*Age-related loss of muscle mass is called sarcopenia.