Tuesday, 29 December 2009

It's Christmas Time...

This is what Christmas is all about!! It's Christmas Eve and as you can see Evie and Ellie are super excited. In fact the whole house was a bubbling cauldron of excitement. It's traditional for Sarah to have a 'Night before Christmas' present and she could hardly wait this year. Her Mam buys her one and Sarah buys her Mam one, Eileen couldn't even wait until Christmas Eve, she opened hers on the 23rd...

Christmas was great this year. My Mum and Dad arrived on Christmas Eve for 5 days and it was lovely to have them around for a nice long time so we could all really relax and they could spend some decent time with the girls. It was great to spend some quality time with my Dad. I got him a 12 Day pass for the DW Fitness Gym and although we only managed a couple of sessions it was awesome to work out with him, riding the spin bikes, some weights and some core work with the medicine ball. We also had a great 9 mile walk through the snowy fields and woods together before meeting the girls for a picnic in the woods on Boxing Day.

As usual the living room overflowed with presents and for a while the adults presents were untouched as we watched the faces of Evie and Ellie as they discovered what Santa had left, magical. Sarah was the first to dig in! I think I did pretty well and surprised her with a few gifts (every year she gets worried by my lack of shopping and every year I pull it out the bag) Mum and Dad enjoyed their selection of gifts and I must have been a good boy this year because I was thoroughly spoilt by my naughty wife! My big surprise was an iPod Classic! Wowsers I have put nearly 100 albums on it and not even made a dint in the memory. I love my music, but up till now it's a bit all over the place, CD's, Computer and iPod mini, now it can all live in one easily accessible place. Scooters, dolls, battery powered hamsters, Cinderella and Mini Mouse Dressing-up outfits, books, puzzles, crafty making stuff and much much more covered the floor for the next few days, awesome.

Sarah had got us all tickets to see the 'Snow White' Pantomime at the Grand Theatre in York. That proved to be a great present, we all had a fun filled afternoon, "Oh no we didn't", "He's behind you" etc, etc. A really friendly, family orientated production. If you haven't been to the Pantomime for a few years, you've still got time, it really is great fun.

Ellie and Evie have been superstars over the Christmas period. There is so much anticipation and excitement, presents and chocolate where ever you look, yet they still sat down and ate every meal with us, went to bed when they were asked to and played so well together, sharing each others toys and goodies. I have had a great time with them. Ellie is becoming a beautiful, caring little girl. She had saved all her Christmas cards from her school friends, and written us all at least 10 different cards each. She brought down this great big bag of cards on Christmas Eve which we opened, then we played 'Pass the Parcel' with a present she had wrapped up. She worked the music and made sure everybody won a stage and got a treat. Evie is also fabulous in a totally different way. Her energy and energetic manner is great, I love seeing her charge around, jumping and giving me that cheeky little look she does so well. Yet this Christmas her calm side also started to show through as we have sat and made puzzles, read books and watched DVD's. One of the girls favourites and mine on TV was the 'Gruffalo' Did you see it? A really simple, short story with great music and animation, fun.

A common theme ran through one set of presents....

Well, we do have three types of washes in our house whites, darks and pinks!!!! I had a great Christmas, and am enjoying the final days of 2009, hope you are to. Have a great New Years Eve, see you in 2010....

Monday, 21 December 2009

Holiday Time; Week 1

Most folks are still working hard with a view of taking some time off over Christmas and hopefully between Christmas and New Year, I however am firmly in Holiday mode, yippee. I kind of consider myself fortunate when it comes to holidays, but at the same time it was me who decided to be a teacher, so actually I am not fortunate at all!! By the same token if you don’t like something, then do something about it and do something else, I have a pretty low tolerance for folks who moan about their job, particularly moaning teachers.

Much to Sarah’s amazement I have had a great week of training and chilling. I say to her amazement because she has yet to see much evidence of me shopping and is getting a little concerned whether her Christmas stocking will be slim this year??? I of course have everything under control. Ellie still had a week left at school, Evie was in nursery on her usual days and Sarah had a pretty normal week of work. More carefully planned than the invasion of Iraq (actually that is a really bad analogy) I constructed a week of training around the girls, school and nursery drop off’s and pick up’s and other things that were in the weeks planner. This post will be largely training based because next week there will be far more exciting things to write about; at least I hope so because I have been a good boy this year!! Before we get on to my training a little of the rest of the week.

I spent a really chilled afternoon on Thursday with Sarah curled up on the sofa watching the film ‘Australia’ and munching on Terry’s Chocolate Orange. It was great to be able to spend some quality time together and not a bad film.

We now have a couple of outdoor Christmas lights on the Garage, much to the joy of Ellie. I think this is the start of the slippery slope, more planned for next year adding a couple yearly until we have a house resembling that of the Character played by Robson Green in Northern Lights (a nice film, see it if you haven’t)

We travelled north to Newcastle for the weekend. Sarah’s Dad took me and Sarah out on Friday night to a Christmas Party at his local. Bernie changed his local pub a few years ago and rather amusingly the refurbished Pub he now frequents has become a focal point for the Gateshead and Felling Gay community. The owner (an energetic lady in her 50’s) and most if not all of the bar boys and girls are camper than camp people in a camper van in a campsite. All involved in the pub have been great to Bernie over the years, especially with his various problems associated with his Parkinsons and balance difficulties, they are great bunch and really look after him. Anyway I ‘camped’ it up a bit with my outfit, and we went out. A nice Christmas meal was followed by some live music from a group calling themselves ‘Souled on Sax’ It looked promising and the first song a great version of Santana and Rob Thomas ‘Smooth’ was excellent, unfortunately the music went to a rock place and the Saxophone stayed on its stand (much to Sarah and Bernie’s disappointment) But this said it was still great to be out. The band were good, the Saxophonist and lead Singer looked pretty good in her black catsuit, knee high 6” heeled boots, and their rendition of Bon Jovi Living on a Prayer brought back a few teenage memories!!! Geordie women just don’t care!! Age or size is no barrier to getting dressed up and having good time, fair play to them. There was plenty on show, the main outfitters must have been ‘TopShop’ and the vast majority a size 18, throw in the bar staff and their friends and you get a bit of an idea of what the night was like. We had fun, the wine flowed and it was a good evening, thanks Bernie.

Sarah and her Mam went shopping into Newcastle on Saturday whilst Bernie and I entertained the girls and watched some of the Cricket. We spent the afternoon at his local ‘Gay Bar’ chilling out whilst Ellie and Evie played in the indoor soft play centre. Eileen’s new super deluxe spa bath complete with underwater lights got some action, (nearly fell asleep in it on Saturday night) and as usual we were very well fed and thoroughly spoilt by Eileen, a nice weekend.

Training wise I have had a great week, currently I feel aerobically very fit but I also feel like I am getting quite strong from the recent gym activity. I put quite a bit of emphasis on strength training. I think it is key (along with stretching) to not incurring repetitive injuries from running and swimming, leg strength is important for the bike when the road goes up or higher levels of power are called for, plus in my mind a strong body is a fit body and this is vital for everyday living and more so as we age, finally I really enjoy the variety of being in the gym lifting weights. Recently I have been doing loads of Core work with Medicine Balls with my Judo friend Dane and on Thursday we had a monster session. Not particularly Triathlon specific but a great Power and Plyometric session. Power Cleans and Tuck Jumps, Power Squats and Bench Drop jumps, Power Bench Press and Plyometric Press ups, Rows and Kettle Bell Torso Rotations, Medicine Ball Side Throws and Seated Overhead Throws followed by some really challenging core work. I really enjoyed pushing Dane hard and enjoyed trying to match him in my own performance. Needless to say I was sore and stiff on Friday.

On Monday I hooked up with Ove for a Run. After a steady 30 minute warm up we put in 6 hill repeats each lasting 50 secs, taking it in turns to lead and set the pace. There is something very motivational about being on the front, I think we both upped our game. We then ran home giving us a 7 mile run with some hard work in the middle.

Tuesday was long day in the gym. A steady 2k swim, was followed by an hour on the spinning bike, then the spin class group turned up, so I thought it was rude not to join in. 45 minutes later after some tough fast spinning and high resistance, slow cadence work I was cooked. I had a bite to eat and then met Dane for a 90 minute strength session including heavy squats and leg press. I once read that Gordo Byrn at the end of a long ride or Ride and Run would do a few tyre pull intervals to really work himself hard. His thinking, if he could run some intervals with the tyre pulls at the end of a long day he would easily find the extra effort to push through in the final k’s of the Ironman, also none of his competitors were doing it!! Tuesday was a 4 hour day, nice.

With Ove on Wednesday I had the wettest ride I have had for ages. By the time I got home I had ridden 55 miles, 3 ¼ hours and was soaked through. It was great to ride with Ove, nice and steady and good company, great motivation also, would I have stayed out for that long on my own? I tried to swim in the afternoon, but my arms were pretty sore so just settled for 1500m of chilled out drills. It did all add up to another 4 hour day.

My final session of the week was a Run in Newcastle. Fresh snow had fallen late Saturday afternoon so a nice off road hour’s run at a really steady pace, (dictated by the conditions) Crunching through fresh snow with blue skies above made a for lovely start to the day.

By the end of my first 7 days of holiday I had trained really consistently on 6 of them, including 2 4 hour days. I had managed a really nice balance of all disciplines and pushed myself in the gym, in total I trained for 14 hours, race season seems a way off, but I just love it!!

Christmas is firmly within our sights and our house is gearing up for a good one. I think I am as excited as the girls this year. My Mum and Dad are coming up on the 24th for 5 days, we are all looking forward to seeing them and spending plenty of time together. It goes without saying Ellie’s excitement goes up a notch every morning when she realises the Christmas is a day closer and Evie is mirroring her sister’s behaviour.

Enjoy Christmas week, try not to let the preparations take away from the real pleasures in your life, make some time for those close to you and for yourself, and then kick back and have fun.

P.S. Rage Against the Machine, such lovely boys!!!!
P.P.S This weeks photo is what happens when you let a toddler choose her clothes for nursery?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Family Time

Chatting to Ove today during our run we were discussing our lifestyles and in particular making the most of opportunities, and keeping things fresh. Recently he has been out quite a lot and talked about how much him and Emma were looking forward to a few weekends at home, I on the other hand was talking about the need, after a few too many weekends at home to get out, mainly for a bit of a change of scenery. It is with similar sentiments that Sarah and I decided to book a 3 night break away at Sherwood Castle Forest Log Cabins a few weeks ago, a change of scenery before the Christmas Festivities kick in.

Since Ellie was born Sarah has been going to Sherwood Castle with a group of friends who all had babies at the same time and met through the children, they have a yearly short break with the kids. When they were babies more a break for the adults, the last few years it has become a chance for the kids to see Santa at the nearby Sundown Adventure Land. Sarah has always said how good it was, so on Friday after my School Carol Service we set off down the A1.

I was quite excited, the cabins sounded great, we had gone for one with a Log burning Stove and a Corner Spa Bath and more importantly it was a chance for some quality family time. We hadn't unpacked the car before I had a huge roaring fire going, a theme for the weekend. We went through three big dustbins of logs and numerous bags of kindling wood!!

The girls had a lovely time at Sundown on Saturday, it really is a great place if you are under 8 years of age. Evie was really excited when she saw Santa, Ellie went a bit shy but soon told him not to come down our chimney because he would get stuck behind the wall, he said he had a special magical key so it would be alright. The weather was a glorious bright, cold day. Back in the cabin, log fire and curry....... and The X Factor. Sorry Folks had to do it, it was the Final and although Sarah had set it up to record, I knew she really wanted to watch it (I read the latest edition of Triathlon Plus, in between checking out Olly's backing dancer's!!!)

On Sunday we had a very leisurely morning. We got a bit carried away with bubbles in the spa bath, much to the amusement of Ellie and Evie. Went for a couple of walks in the woods, a play on the Outdoor Assault Course and a long play in the indoor play centre. We watched a couple of movies, Elf and some ice skating one, then when the girls were asleep me and Sarah flicked between X Factor and Sports Personality. With Ellie's school play "The Wiggly Nativity" taking place on Monday morning we had decided to stay Sunday night and just get up and drive the hour home first thing on Monday. It worked perfectly, we dropped Ellie off at school, then an hour latter went to watch her be an Angel in the play, where she sang her heart out and didn't stop smiling.
We had a lovely weekend. Although we still had to deal with the energy sapping energetic toddler that is Evie, and there were moments when Sarah and I wished it was just the pair of us, the change of scenery and opportunity to spend time with the girls and together as a family was great. We are already looking ahead to 2010 and planning a couple of similar weekend breaks.

I started my Holiday on Friday, three weeks off with not the hint of work, it's a great feeling, have a good week......

Sunday, 6 December 2009


#winterswim was an idea conceived by Tom, Ove and I during a Skype conference call chatting about 2010 triathlon races. Tom has worked his statistical magic and has designed a wicked challenge to keep anybody motivated, and hungry to put the hard work in through the winter. The basic concept is a maximal swim every fortnight. Week 2 a 400m, Week 4 a 100m, Week 6 another 400m, Week 8 a 200m, Week 10, 400m, Week 12, 800m, Week 14, 400m, Week 16 1500m, Week 18, 400m, Week 20, 3.8k, Week 22, 400m and finally a brucey bonus 10k for anybody Mad, up for a challenge, or fancying some serious lengths. To keep beginners and the super speedy motivated and to add in that competition, Tom is comparing peoples times against World Record Times and looking at % improvements from fortnight to fortnight. (not a job for me, but Tom has it firmly in hand, cheers mate)

My swim performance in Triathlons has always been pretty solid. I have always done very little swimming (a combination of lack of time, lack of decent pools to swim in and to be honest a somewhat smug satisfaction that every season on minimal swim training I have still been able to perform pretty good) I have thus done a little open water swimming pre-ironman races, and some very specific long sessions in the pool for a few weeks prior to a race. What I have done though, is lot's of upper body strength work and muscular endurance work in the gym 12 months of the year. I really enjoy gym work, whether it's maxing out on bench press or hitting some high reps on shoulder and lat exercises. This I feel has been very beneficial and allowed me to 'swim strong' in an open water environment. However with the #winterswim challenge firmly laid down I got myself a membership at JJB gym, which although it is only a 20m pool is 5 mins from my house and very convenient.

I have for the last 6 weeks swam more km's than I did for my entire swim training prior to Lanzarote IM last earlier this year. My #winterswim performance has been very encouraging. 400m = 6.33, 100m = 1.27, 400m = 6.19. Last night I swam 20 x 100m (mixing swim, drill HARD and swim) During the Hard 100m I was touching on between 1.31 and 1.34, and tonight an impromptu session saw a straight through 2000m, feeling strong throughout.

Swimming is such a solid training activity, I am convinced that I will be considerably faster in next seasons triathlons as a result of the hard work through the winter. In addition to the obvious swimming improvement, (measured in better swim splits) I will be getting on the bike feeling fresher, with the swim taking much less out of me. I also expect to see a leg strength benefit from swimming consistently. If I swim a 2k set that is 100 lengths and 100 legs drives off the wall. If I attack the wall and drive hard off it there will definitely be a training effect on my leg muscles, I bet it requires similar leg power to jump squats. Also there is the cardiovascular benefits associated with any form of aerobic and anaerobic training.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a Boxing Dinner on Wednesday by some good friends who move in the boxing circles. The guest speakers were Leon Spinks (beat Ali) John Stracey (World Welterweight Champion in the late 60's, 70's) and Brian London (British Heavy Weight) It was a good evening and with photos of Leon and Ali fighting it really brought home how good this guy was. It was a little sad to see Spinks, who in his 60's was in a pretty bad way, his movement was a slow shuffle and his speech was laboured and slurred, however this guy to boxing fans a LEGEND.

Saturday was the end of my schools Rugby Season, we move on to Football in the Spring term. It has been very successful season and given that I am in charge and responsible for the sport at the school it reflects the time and effort I put into it. I have coached the 1st Team this season and it has been a great one. The boys have trained hard, and have played some excellent Rugby. Our record is Played 13, Won 9, Drawn 1, Lost 3, compared to previous seasons this is like winning the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League. I would like to put all our success down to my coaching, but it's mainly due to having a greater selection of good players to choose from, because a large group of decent boys have stayed on into our 6th form these last couple of years. All the other teams have been more successful than in previous years so something must be going right. We are a very small school with just 20 to 28 boys in a year group, we have managed to field teams at u12, u13, u14, u15 and 1st xv this season, playing a combined total of 54 matches. It sometimes takes more of my time than I would like (especially at weekends) but it is a huge part of being a PE teacher and one where I do get a great deal of satisfaction from, here's to a successful Football Season.

The rest of the week has been as busy as usual, the house is now all 'Christmasified' and the girls (including Sarah) are starting to get quite excited. I have just 5 days of work left this year before a decent break until 4th January (holidays always make me excited, more training time and a chance to catch up with friends and of course loads more time with Sarah, Ellie and Evie) I will get to take Ellie to school and collect her.

I was asking Ellie what she wanted to get Mummy for Christmas, her response was great;

"Lipstick, because Mummy is really fussy about going out with out lipstick"

She's absolutely right, one of Sarah's little habits, lipgloss queen I call her....Enjoy your week :)