Tuesday, 27 December 2011

2011 - A Review


I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.  And allow me to wish you an early 'Happy New Year' as well.

This is almost certainly going to be a longer post than normal so bear with it a bit.  I'm going to do my usual stuff about running and all that but finish off with a bit of a review of 2011 and a look forward to next year.

I mentioned in my last blog that I had three runs left before New Year.  Sadly that didn't quite turn out to be true.  I was all geared up to go running on Christmas Eve morning but I'd been feeling a bit more of an ache in my foot than was 'normal' so I decided to give it a miss.  I beat myself up about it for the rest of the day, but I think it was the right thing to do.  It seems like there's no point doing all the hard work just to be belligerent and run when I don't think my body can take it.

I did, however, get up at 6:45 this morning and managed 4 miles in a respectable 46 minutes.  The route is below, although I can't stress enough how steep two hills are over this distance.  Fortunately, these coincided with a couple of walk breaks so that was quite good...

It was nice to see the sun rising as I made it to the top of the first hill.  It was also nice to think I only had a mile left by that point as well.  Running on the flat feels really good and I managed a bit of downhill running as well today which felt OK.  I suppose training on the slopes of Sheffield can only be beneficial for the relatively flat course in London.

I'm starting to feel the after effects a bit more now and I'll have an ache and a bit of pain for a few days after each run now where before that wasn't the case.  With that in mind, I've decided to cut back down to 2 runs a week for a little while and see if that helps.  It'll make training a bit more difficult but as I've said a few times already, it was never going to be easy.  

I've negotiated Christmas Day and Boxing Day meals relatively unscathed diabetes wise which is really promising as well.  It's fair to say that December hasn't been as controlled as other months, but I feel like my understanding has been refreshed and that in itself means I can get through more difficult periods like Christmas without feeling like I'm spiralling out of control.

I've done pretty well to resist the various cakes, chocolates and biscuits that are laying around the house (to a certain degree at least).  I think my experiences with my diet and migraines over the last week or two is a bit of a factor in that as much as the diabetes, and, when all's said and done, I don't have the same appetite I used to have when I could eat plates of food without thinking.  I guess the diet and exercise has paid off quite a bit.

I had a bit of a difficult moment on Boxing Day when all the family went to my sister's house for lunch.  I'd just done my insulin injection (into my stomach as usual) when my daughter asked me what I was doing.  I told her that daddy had to do some medicine (which I've told her before).  But then she lifted her top up and started copying me saying "I do medicine".

I think I mentioned a while back when I was talking about my sponsorship and things about how I constantly have a worry that I've passed on my diabetes to her.  When she started mimicking my actions, it was quite difficult to take.  I'm now torn between doing my shot away from her so she can't see, or carry on as everything is "normal" - which of course it is for me.  I guess that's something I'll deal with over the next few weeks.

So - what has 2011 mean for me?  I've been thinking about some of the major things that have happened this year and while it's impossible to remember or mention everything, here are a few that have stood out for me:
  • We finally moved house to be back closer to our family.  We sold pretty much a year ago and finally moved at the beginning of March
  • Celebrated my daughter's first birthday (and now her second is on the horizon already), the old saying about how time flies never seems more true than when you're watching your kids grow up
  • I had my first casino experience when I went to Las Vegas in September.  I've wanted to go for so long and it exceeded my expectations more than I thought possible
  • I've made a lot of trips to see my beloved Sheffield Wednesday this season - one of the perks of being back home
  • I've made a lot of new friends and contacts on Twitter which is really good
  • I've got my physical condition back under control after a good three years of disregarding what I should be doing
  • I've started running again after almost 4 years back when I thought it would never actually be possible again.  I know that sounds melodramatic but it's the honest truth
And now there's 2012 to look forward to:
  •  My daughter's second birthday
  • Running/walking/crawling round the London marathon course and hopefully making my magic £1,000 fundraising target
  • A trip to the Olympics in London over the summer
  • Hopefully a couple of long weekends away somewhere
  • A friend's wedding in Poland on my birthday
And finally a few resolutions:
  • Get good enough at photography to get one picture published somewhere
  • Keep running and training for the Sheffield Half Marathon in 2013 (my nemesis)
  • Do my best to focus on expanding my company 
  • Stay involved with the community through sponsorship and donations
  • Try and turn some online friendships into real life ones (if anyone online wants to of course)
  • See at least 12 gigs (one a month seems a reasonable goal)
  • Carry on my blog in some form or another after the marathon
I think that's about it for this year.  Thanks for all your support and kind words over the last 4 months or so. It's really encouraging and I hope I can do you all proud in April.  Remember, you can always donate to the cause on my fundraising page  if you'd like. Every single pound is most gratefully received and will do wonders for both charities. 

You can follow me on Twitter (@BroomOwl) or drop me an email (broomowl@gmail.com) if you fancy a chat.

Again, I hope you all have a great New Year's Eve, whatever you've got planned and I hope 2012 brings you joy and happiness.

Thanks for reading, take care


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

So this is Christmas...

The eagle-eyed amongst you have probably spotted that I've been naming most of my recent blog posts after 'appropriate' song lyrics so this title should come as little surprise.

This is the penultimate post of 2011 so I'll be firmly on topic for today.  Next week's will be a bit of a mix of training progress and a 2011 review/2012 preview.

I'm a bit sketchy on my dates this week (blame the impending chaos of Christmas) but I think I've run twice since I last updated this - 6 miles in total.  I had a mostly very pleasant 2.5 mile jog round Centre Parcs (Sherwood Forest) on Saturday morning.  It would have been completely pleasant had I not accidentally run through a bush at the side of the road and cut my face.  Whilst this is apparently amusing, I didn't see the funny side at the time.

Tonight I've done 3.5 miles (a new best distance) in 39 minutes which is just inside a 12 minute mile time.  Here's the route:

I managed my most sustained period of running to date as well which was pleasing.  I managed all the way from the start marker (above) to practically the Crown & Cushion pub.  It's not that far (just over a mile) but it represents a lot to me which is good.  Being able to take that impact without needing a break is good and hopefully over the next few weeks I'll be able to improve on that.

I've got 3 runs left before January and I'm hoping I can get a decent 4 mile run in before New Year.  My fundraising page tells me I've got 123 days to go before the marathon.  I truly believe that if I keep chipping away at it, I'll get there no problem!

Being diabetic this week has been....challenging.  As you probably know we had a long weekend at Centre Parcs this weekend.  That basically involved eating out for 3 meals a day for the better part of 4 days.  It also meant more indulgences that a) I'm used to and b) should have.  I roughly managed my blood sugar OK.  By that I mean I probably did as best I could given how difficult it was to find time to test my blood and make an educated guess about what I was eating.  I managed a horrifying 20mmol on the Saturday morning, and swung the other way to 2.7mmol on Sunday night.

As I've probably mentioned a few times, it can be quite frustrating when you're not exercising the amount of control you should be and that was certainly true this weekend.  I also 'confirmed' something that I've suspected for a little while, which is that a bad diet, even for a short time, leads to migraines.  I was in tears with pain on Sunday night which is probably the worst I've been for a long time.  I also know that once it's started, it's a good 3 or 4 days before it subsides properly.  It's just even more of an incentive to eat properly I guess.  Apologies for that segue...

I shall sign off there for this week.  To summarise, running - good, diabetes - OK, diet - causes migraines.

Thanks ever so much for all your support and kind words since I started this blog, you're all incredible and I truly thank you for all your encouragement.  Hopefully I'll do you all proud next year.  Remember you can donate (or invite others to) at the fundraising link above.   I know the charities don't affect a lot of you personally and I wouldn't dream of asking you to support something you didn't want to.  But if you know anyone who might like to then please feel free to share the link to the blog.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and a good break from work if you're taking one.

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Hi - thanks for stopping by to read.

I'll start off with an apology - I feel like the last couple of (on topic) posts have had little variation of substance and it's unfair of me to expect you to keep reading if I'm not going to try to keep to a standard.  I'll be making a more concerted effort going forward.

This week has been a 3-run week and I've managed 7.5 miles since last Wednesday.  I was feeling somewhat under the weather last week so I did a smaller, 1.5 mile route just to keep some momentum.  Fortunately my man-flu had mostly subsided by Saturday morning and so I went for my longest distance to date and did 3 miles - something I repeated this evening.

Saturday morning was OK as things go.  I'd forgotten my inhaler before I left (I have mild asthma on top of everything else) and it was incredibly icy.  I managed the route in 40 minutes which felt OK considering the circumstances.  I wanted another crack at it without the ice slowing me down and did the same route in 37 minutes tonight - roughly on track for 12 minute miles.

The problem is that I feel like I'm my own worst enemy sometimes.  I got about a mile into my run tonight before I started with stitch again.  I'd been round Leeds Christmas market after work tonight and naively thought that a German sausage then wouldn't hurt before I came home to go running.  What I neglected to tell myself is that it was still only a couple of hours before and that being in a different city doesn't actually make a difference.   I need to be a lot stricter and more disciplined with myself because silly things like that don't help.

The good news is that I'm starting to believe that I can actually make it round 26 miles if I continue to be sensible.  I'm not usually low on self belief, but I'm wary of jinxing myself a bit with this.  When I'm out running, I feel like I can actually do it and that sort of belief is pushing me on.

I'm taking a lot of care when I run and I'm getting better at measuring my stride so I'm not coming down off a curb onto my bad foot and I'm not pushing off with it going back up a curb either.  I'm also starting to feel like I can open up my stride a bit and push myself a bit more.

I've had a bit of a roller-coaster week diabetes wise.  I had a work Christmas do on Friday and I had a decent reading before bed (6 ish if I remember correctly) but it was 20.5 when I woke up Saturday morning!  In trying to correct that I ended up going low three times that day and I've felt like I've hit peaks and troughs since then rather than any real stability.   I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was sort of anticipating this with Christmas coming up.  I just need to work extra hard to keep it in check over the next few weeks now.  If I was consistently getting high readings I'd be concerned but it's just a product of the time of year I think.  Hopefully I can keep it relatively under control.

I've also finalised my fund raising page on Virgin Money Giving today - you can see it here: AndyRunsTheMarathon2012  I also gave myself the first donation to kick start it.  I've talked about the charities a fair bit over the last week or two so please feel free to skip back a few posts and read up about the work they do.  I wanted to just briefly talk about my fundraising goal before I sign off.

My aim is to raise what I'd like to think is a relatively modest amount of money for each charity - namely £500 each.  It's not a lot in the scheme of things as far as the charities themselves are concerned (for examples, it's only about 12% of the funds The Children's Hospital need just to run their diabetes camp for kids for one summer - let alone the rest of their projects) but it's a target I think I can achieve.

I worked out that if every one of my Twitter followers gave £2 (less than the price of a pint as I understand it) then I'd reach my goal with money to spare.  I'm not for a single second suggesting that I'd expect or even ask that they would, but it's just an illustration of why I think it's achievable.  I've put £50 in myself to start and hopefully that'll grow and grow over the coming months.  I'm committing that my company will make up any shortfall to the £1000 total but I'll also put in £500 extra if I can raise more than £1000 in total.  I know Christmas isn't the best time to discuss these things, especially given the current financial climate, but I wanted to just talk about my goals for fundraising and given you my honest viewpoint on what I'm trying to do.

This has been a bit of a longer post than I'd anticipated so I'll leave it there.  I need to rest my foot a bit as the aches, whilst not crippling, are worse after a run and I could do with my feet up for half an hour before bed.

Thanks again for reading (if you made it this far) and don't forget you can always find me for a chat on Twitter (@BroomOwl) or drop me an e-mail (broomowl@gmail.com).

Take care and I'll update you in my last blog before Christmas next week


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

An off week


I'd just like to say thanks to everyone who read and also messaged me with comments on the couple of music-based posts I did this last week.  You're all very kind and I've now got some new suggestions to be getting on with.

I'm firmly back on topic today though although it may be a bit briefer than usual.

I went for a 2 mile run on Saturday morning as my usual Friday night slot was occupied by babysitting.  I'm actually considering switching to Saturday mornings altogether.  Firstly, it means I can enjoy my Friday night at the end of the week without feeling like I have to get a run 'out of the way' and secondly, it'll be good to get used to running in the mornings in preparation for April next year.

It was a really good run as it happens, managed 11 minute miles which, if I was looking to pace myself, that's what I'm aiming for.  I also managed longer periods of sustained running without cramping up or feeling like I had to stop because of the old injury.  Most of all, I felt no after effects which is really promising stuff - hopefully that will all continue.

Diabetes wise, it's been a bit of a struggle for the latter part of this week as I've ben struck down with the dreaded man-flu.  What I'd forgotten is how much being even a tiny bit off colour can affect your blood sugar.  As a rule, I'll just aim to keep my readings under 10mmol while I'm ill and even that's been a struggle this week.

I couldn't explain to you why it happens, but I know that it does and so the last 3 days I've been dialling my insulin dose up a bit to try and stay in control.  It'll pass soon enough and then I imagine a short period of adjustment will follow before I'm back to normal again.  That might coincide with Christmas a bit, but that's just one of those things - no-one can help being ill.

I'm still undecided if I'll go running tonight.  I want to (which is good).  I feel better than I have done for 3 days (also good) but I can't tell if I'm really physically up to it.  It's difficult because I don't want to feel like I'm losing ground, especially as I feel like I'm already behind where I'd like to be.  On the other hand, running for the sake of it, when I don't fee right is quite plainly silly.

If I feel right later on I might do a shorter run (1.5 miles) just to get the blood flowing a bit.  I'm looking at a longer run on Saturday morning (3 miles) which will be good to get the momentum going.

I'm going to leave it there for now.  Thanks for reading - appreciate it's a bit thin on content this week but I didn't want to ramble on for the sake of it.

Feel free to give me a tweet (@BroomOwl) or an e-mail (broomowl@gmail.com) if you fancy a chat.

Take care


Friday, 2 December 2011

OFF TOPIC - Top 20 of 2011 - The Shortlist

Good evening.  Thanks for dropping in.

This is the post where I'll reveal the (eagerly anticipated) songs that make up my Top 20 of 2011.

A few words before I do.  You won't agree with me.  Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of.  Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices.  Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off.  And that's fine.  My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be.  This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that.

The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included.  Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist.   I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred.  So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one.  This is only to add variety.

The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist (Album).  They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good compilation.  I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroomOwl and tag your posts #top20of2011

1. Inhaler - Miles Kane (Colour of the Trap) - I could have picked any one of about 4 tracks off this album and it's one I've really enjoyed this year.  Inhaler is just a good pick me up song and probably my favourite track on the album

2. Lowlife - Skint & Demoralised (This Sporting Life) - a "proper" song in my opinion - full of energy and passion and one that makes me want to shout along - again, arguably my favourite off what is a very good album

3. Mazes - Moon Duo (Mazes) - I love the guitar on this - a good toe tapper and one you can easily get lost in for a while

4. Two Cousins - Slow Club (Paradise) - this was a tough choice but I eventually chose this over 'Paradise' because it stuck in my head more - not a great reason, but probably what a good song should do.

5. Puppet to the Man - Kurt Vile (Smoke Ring for my Halo) - this has some excellent grungy guitar.  Kurt Vile was recommended to me by a friend which I'm very thankful for

6. Only if for a Night - Florence & The Machine (Ceremonials) - I think Florence is someone who'll divide opinion and you either love her haunting voice or hate it.  I'm in the former camp and have been since I saw her on an NME tour a few years back where she was somehow bottom of the bill.

7. Troubles - TV on the Radio (Nine Types of Light) - I've been into TV on the Radio for a while purely because each album is so wholly varied - I don't think 'alternative' even begins to sum them up.  This is a bonus track off the deluxe version of the album and surprised me at the end when I was certain nothing was going to beat 'You' onto the short list

8. Ritual Union - Little Dragon (Ritual Union) - definitely one of my favourite tracks from this year - again recommended to me by a friend and I always seem surprised how good it is every time I hear it - great to listen to at the end of a night out

9. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes (Cat's Eyes) - a side project of Faris Badwan (of The Horrors), this seems really familiar but also quite unlike anything else.  I was convinced something from The Horrors' album 'Skying' would make this list but this pipped it at the end 

10. Under Your Thumb - The Vaccines (What Did You Expect From The Vaccines) - this is also one of my favourite albums of the year - one where picking a mandatory 'weak' track is nigh on impossible.  There were more obvious choices than this track, but I'm forever singing 'Eleanor' for hours after I've heard it

11. Suck It And See - Arctic Monkeys (Suck It And See) - I don't think I'm alone in believing that Alex Turner is probably the finest lyricist this country has seen in a very long time.  A lot of people disliked their fourth album but I continue to be impressed - his ballads are superb and this is one of my favourites

12. The Runner - Boxer Rebellion (Cold Still) I started listening to Boxer Rebellion a while back when iTunes gave one of their tracks away as a single of the week.  I think this is the catchiest track off their second album

13. So Tired In The Morning - Erland & The Carnival (Nightingale) I picked up their first album in an independent shop in Leeds last year and loved it.  They describe their own music as weird and wonderful and it is. But in a good way. Incidentally, this track describes exactly how I feel every day...

14. Demons - Mechanical Bride (Living with Ants) Again, someone turned me onto Mechanical Bride earlier this year.  The instrumentals in this are just amazing - one you should definitely have a listen to.

15. Otis - Jay-Z and Kanye West (feat. Otis Redding) (Watch The Throne) I wouldn't for a second claim to be a rap/hip-hop expert, but like everyone, I know what music I like and what I don't.  This album was everything I hoped it would be but the sample on this one makes it stand out for me

16. Eyes - The Naked & Famous (Passive Me, Aggressive You) Another one that someone suggested I'd like and I'm glad they told me.  It's quite 'floaty' music and one that's easy to listen to whilst being good enough to keep your full attention

17. With Each New Day - About Group (Start And Complete) This album was a revelation for me.  It might be one of those that really only works later at night - I'm not sure.  But I do really like it - possibly the most understated album of the year in my opinion.  I listened to this track 5 times straight the first time I heard it.

18. One Hundred And Thirteen - Middleman (Spinning Plates) This song is really out of character from the rest of the album but it is utterly incredible. More spoken word than singing, but don't let you put that off.  The chorus is outstanding and I wish I'd written the whole thing myself.

19. Welcome To Your Wedding Day - Airborne Toxic Event (All At Once) I heard an old ATE song on the radio about 3 years ago and sought out everything they'd done off the back of it.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Sheffield about a year ago and they were phenomenal.  Second album stands up well and this is a great anthem.

20. Everything Happens For a Reason - The King Blues (Punk & Poetry) This isn't the best song off the album (listen to '5 Bottles of Shampoo' because it's incredible) but this particular song evokes some special memories for me and for that reason it's one of my favourites.  The King Blues are exceptional (although you may disagree with their politics, their music is world class) and this album would probably coast into my Top 5 of the year.

Here is the short list as a Spotify playlist - I hope it works as I have no idea what I'm doing.  If not then...make one yourself - you're clever enough.

A couple of final thoughts before I go.  There was some music I was disappointed in this year.  I've always enjoyed the Pigeon Detectives' stuff but I really felt their third album was a way off what they're good at.  Standalone, it's OK, but compared to what they can do, it fell short of the mark for me.  Similarly, Brother (or Viva Brother I think they're called now).  I read an interview with them early this year and they were mouthing off about how brilliant they were.  In my humble opinion, they're deluded.  At best they're average and I was disappointed in what it had to offer.

A lot of good bands didn't make the shortlist and sadly that's the nature of the beast.  Not wanting to show obvious bias to my home city, but Sheffield has some excellent bands coming through (Alvarez Kings and In Helsinki) and hopefully I'll be talking about them in 12 months.  Check out any song on the longlist and I'd hope you wouldn't be disappointed.

Thanks for reading all that - hopefully some of it will give you as much pleasure as it's given me.  If I've got it all wrong, remember, my details are at the top of this post so tweet me and tell me why.

Happy listening