Regular readers will no doubt agree with me that I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. Present me with a disappointing meal or a grammatically incorrect sign and I’ll witter on for pages. Sorry, what was that? It’s hard to be a regular reader of something not regularly written? Okay, I concede, you make a most valid point. Please bear with me and allow me to explain my recent lack of documentation. Clearly I have not given up whinging; I’ve simply not been updating my most recent gripes on here. In stark contrast to my aforementioned and natural creature-of-habit status, I have recently been stepping out of my comfort zone in a variety of ways (my staunch excuse for my erstwhile lack of bloggage).
Firstly, and not leastly, I went and got myself a new job. This sounds kind of simple, but it was actually rather time-consuming and all-encompassing and involved a telephone interview followed by three face-to-face interviews. Three. As someone who doesn’t really do ‘smart’, the wardrobe choices alone involved untold volumes of deliberation. See, I told you I didn’t have time to be blogging.
The fact I had to don a pair of heels (three times!) aside, the most stressful part of the entire job-acquiring process was a moment post interview #2 but pre #3. My friend asked how difficult the questions had been and then proceeded to tell me his own boss’s favourite interview question (“I want you to imagine your mum has a terrible illness and you work for a pharmaceutical company that supplies the drugs that she can’t afford but which would save her life. You’ve asked to buy them at a discounted rate and been told no. Would you steal the drugs to save your mother’s life?”) Imagine. Just imagine being asked that in an interview.
Despite turning up at #3 full of trepidation and all ready to tell all kinds of lies about everyone in my immediate family being followers of Jehovah and not believing in medical intervention, I didn’t get asked any Sophie’s choice-esque questions. It was almost a disappointment. My top interview tip (I’ve partaken in a fair few recently, remember) is to make sure you’re massively nervous about something else in the run-up to take your mind off things. It really works. I may try and apply that tactic to all aspects of my life henceforward.
During the interview process, I was awaiting, with no little fear, my first half marathon. I really didn’t have the space in my brain to stress about anything else. Most nights in the run up I had nightmares that I fell over, or forgot to wear my sports bra, or decided to wear my walking sandals instead of my trainers, or got lost half way round the course…
The half marathon was a case of me quite literally (note the correct use of ‘literally’) stepping out of my comfort zone. Every step I took – well certainly the last three miles – was massively massively uncomfortable. I’m not going to bore you with a lengthy description of the race itself, but below is a concise list of Things I Learned:
- When signing up for a race, don’t modestly state that you think it will take you 25% longer than you actually think it will take you. Everyone else drastically under-estimates their race time. This means that you will set off in a group consisting of people dressed up as massive animals, people with stookies on various limbs, groups who decide their action plan is to walk the race three a-breast, and (I’m really trying to be polite here) the BMI-ally challenged. Take it from me, spending your first three miles trying to squeeze your way through this group is in no way conducive to a nice endorphin-fuelled start.
- Don’t assume that your race will start when the race starts. Oh no. Don’t discard the old jumper you so smugly brought with you to keep you warm until the start as soon as 10:00am arrives (Incidentally, Runners World top tips aren’t nearly as good as Take a Break’s). The start for you is likely to be a good 45 minutes after those elite runners set off; you’ll be standing around shivering until then, your old jumper languishing under a load of energy gel packets in a bin somewhere.
- Don’t panic when you get to a water station and, instead of a sensible bottle, are handed a squidgy pouch of water with a flaccid spout of sorts. Just remember that if you hold it one way up, you will be able to suck and suck until you are light-headed, only to be rewarded with a solitary drop of water. Hold it the other way up and you will probably choke. I did. I managed to choke on three separate occasions. I blame the bad design. On a plus-note, it’s good for picking up speed as you keenly prove to onlookers that you are fine and not dying and actually drank it like that on purpose.
- Don’t be nervous; if you forget for a moment the pain of the miles between 10 and 13.1, all the annoying, seemingly unsupervised children en-route (thrusting their sticky hands at you to touch, ringing bells out of time to actual music, holding fists of jelly babies out somewhere near your knees and just generally looking like they might dash out in front of you at any given moment) and the vile special-edition flavours of Lucozade Sport being consumer-tested on you, it’s actually not that bad!
Post-race, and having resigned myself to the fact that I will not be wearing sandals at any point over the summer – my current toe-nail count standing at 6 (remaining, not lost), I signed up for another couple of events: a 10k this Sunday and a race named Brutal Enduro (18-hour-over-night as-many-10ks-as-you-possibly-can-relay in July…) I might start worrying about the prospect of walking in proper shoes at the New Job to take my mind off that one… I’m also contemplating signing up for the Bournemouth marathon in October (it’s beside the sea, it has to be flat, right?! Incidentally, exactly what I once assumed about the South Coast Path…)
Having signed up for all these ridiculous races I got a bit above my station in terms of the exercise malarkey and thought I might be getting a little bit good at it…However, it soon became apparent that nothing brings me down to earth with a bump like a lengthy cycle (not literally in this case, thankfully). It turns out that despite my new-found love of running, I’m still a rubbish cyclist. You may remember the last time I went for a cycle (you can read about it here: https://caththebruce.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/100daysofgrievances-33-sunny-sunday-sports-shop-hell/ ).
Well this expedition was a vast improvement on that, but not without its moments… Note to self, if you ever see a sign like the one below, at your own peril should you venture forward without the support of a sports bra.
Mile 4: “If I was with Ryan, we’d be there by now. I imagine we’d be drinking a pint.”
Mile 5: “I feel like we’ve been cycling really, really slowly for a very, very long time.”
Mile 6: “Yeah, I know I said we wouldn’t need snacks because it wasn’t that far, and that you were silly for bringing them, but I didn’t expect to be going quite so slowly, can I have a snack, please?”
Mile 7: “Can’t you go any faster? I’ve been free-wheeling most of the way. And that was really embarrassing when that family with all the children overtook us.”
Mile 9: “Don’t worry, what you lack in cycling prowess, you make up for in other things.”
Mile 11: “why aren’t you trying?”
Mile 15: “Your dad cycled all the way from Scotland!” (The implication being, I have no doubt, that an affinity for cycling far too fast along tow paths should somehow be in my blood).”
Mile 18: “Okay fine, I’ll go on ahead, just make sure you don’t get lost. Are you sure you know the way back? Make sure you follow the signs and go back the way we came. Have you got Google Maps on your phone?”
I got lost.
It’s fine though, I fully intend to get my own back. On my last day at the current job, I’m going to see if I can keep my hi-viz as a souvenir. My sole purpose being that I can continue wearing it to meet him in the pub of a Friday evening. He should never have told me it embarrassed him.
It is abundantly clear that cycling is not something I am ever going to do comfortably or quickly; I can live with that fact. Something I have, however, become increasingly more relaxed about lately is holding squawking babies. When I was at university, I worked for a while in Early Learning Centre (not quite sure how I swung that particular interview…) and there was nothing that instilled fear quite like that moment when a customer would thrust their infant at me as s/he hunted for money/their other offspring/their sanity. That fear never quite wore off… That was until I met wee baby Ru. Here we are together – don’t we look comfortable?!
I’m not for a single moment implying that I’m in some mad rush to procreate (I’ve got a marathon to train for, let’s not forget!); I’m simply stating I’m not quite as totally and utterly petrified of dropping the offspring of others anymore.
Wee Ruaraidh is the baby of one of my oldest, bestest friends and I simply wasn’t given the opportunity to shy away from him (Mummy Karen has always been a force to be reckoned with!) From the moment I walked through the door, he was brandished at me in all his wriggly, noisy glory. By the end of my stay we were firm friends.
I did, however, manage to successfully resist all ‘offers’ of changing a nappy. “Why don’t you have a wee go changing his nappy? Aw go on, he’d like that!” (The tone of voice implying I couldn’t fail to find it anything other than a fun experience). I did not give in to those wheedling tones, so reminiscent of those she employed in days of yore. Way back when, she was usually convincing me to stay for “just one more drink” or trying to recruit me to join her in her endeavour to get as close to a festival stage as possible, but the fluttering eyelashes and the cajoling intonation were exactly the same!
And that brings me nicely to my conclusion. My conclusion being that as much as I have been indulging in new pursuits, I am never happier than when ranting about my fellow humans, especially humans at festivals and gigs. Allow me to share with you a short story…
Since I’ve been doing all this running, I am a complete and utter lightweight; I’m half-cut on half a pint. So at a recent folky dolky gig (Bellowhead for anyone who’s interested) whilst feeling a little warm and fuzzy after a couple of bevs, I decided I wasn’t close enough to the front (I seldom decide this anymore – it’s a sign I am getting old, I fear. Or perhaps it is simply due to the fact that Karen and I now live approximately 500 miles apart). The crowd was an odd one, a bit staid and posh – nothing like your usual folky audience. I carefully manoeuvred my way forward (by that I mean I only spilt half my pint, and that wasn’t my fault – I mean who puts their handbag on the floor of a gig?!) I got to a good vantage point and was feeling pretty chipper until a fellow audience member turned round during a lull in proceedings and announced “You have just ruined the equilibrium of this entire section of the audience.” I’m going to leave you with that gem of idiocy. Until next time x