Occasional normality

It’s been another busy week at work and I’m really glad it’s the weekend. Geth and I are going to parkrun tomorrow morning! It’s finally back in England for the first time since that strange weekend in March 2020, and I’m very excited to return. Our home parkrun has a new name (formerly Newcastle, now Town Moor due to several other parkruns now existing in Newcastle) and a new course and a mostly-new core team running it, so it’s a bit of a new era all round. It feels very strange that we can finally parkrun again after so many false starts, but it feels like the right time. I hope Scotland and Wales aren’t too far behind.

Other than that I’m going to be chilling out with videogames this weekend, both creating and playing. I have returned to Final Fantasy I this week so I’ll be spending some time with that! I’ve also still got a lot of ParserComp entries to get through before the voting deadline next weekend, and I’m really excited to get some coding done as well.

The weather is still hot and not conducive to long runs. I’ve moved my long run day to Thursday, both because of events happening later in the training programme (to be precise, due to COVID-induced race lag, the rescheduled GNR falls precisely three weeks before the rescheduled-rescheduled London Marathon, and in a marathon training programme you’re supposed to do your 22-miler three weeks before marathon day, and I’m not doing an extra nine miles before or after the GNR! …so I’ll do it on the Thursday and have a gentle plod round the dodgily-rerouted ‘GNR’ three days later, no racing it) and because mental health wise I need FULL WEEKENDS at the moment that are not completely taken up with running, so it’s best to squeeze the long run in on a weekday instead. My last two long runs have ended up being cut short due to heatwave collapse, so next week I’m going to grit my teeth and attempt an out-and-back in the hope that, by the time I’m struggling, I’ll already be ‘on my way home’ and so it’ll be mentally easier.

Lots of groups and classes from pre-pandemic life now inviting me back, but as I’ve always said, these things will need to happen very gradually for me as I don’t want to jump straight back into Constantly Doing Stuff. Ignoring the FOMO and doing my own thing for a while longer.

Weeping willow
My favourite tree in the garden. It looks great in the summer.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Yuna’s Theme’
Crowded House – ‘Weather With You’
Don Henley – ‘Boys Of Summer’
Duran Duran – ‘Give It All Up’

Sunday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Cosmo Canyon’

Monday

Paul Weller – ‘You Do Something To Me’

Tuesday

Calvin Harris – ‘Summer’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘To Zanarkand’

Wednesday

Therion – ‘Summer Night City’
Duran Duran – ‘To The Shore’

Thursday

Boston – ‘More Than A Feeling’
Levellers – ‘The Fear’
Duran Duran – ‘Shadows On Your Side’

Friday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Airship Theme’
John Waite – ‘Missing You’
Manami Kiyota – ‘Satorl Marsh (Night)’

Trying not to burn out

I didn’t have much of a weekend last week because I was too busy with work, and I’ve been working every evening till late this week as well. As such, I have zero brainspace left and I need some time off. Part of the reason I worked evenings this week was because I wanted today off so that I could have a three-day weekend, as I knew that the first day would just be a ‘staring into space’ recovery day after the last few weeks. I also aimed to do my weekend long run today in order to get it out of the way early. However it’s been really, really hot today – too hot for running comfortably – and I ended up cutting the run short after halfway, as the heat was making it unsafe. Next week I’ll get up really early so I can get out and back in before the heat gets too bad.

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the weekend now. Brain rest will be amazing.

Sofa
Laptop, loungewear, sofa. It’s been that way for weeks, but this weekend it will be that way in a non-work way.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Dragon Quest Town Theme’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’

Sunday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Chocobo Jam’
Paula Abdul – ‘Straight Up’

Monday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Yuna’s Theme’
Duran Duran – ‘Give It All Up’
Simply Red – ‘Something Got Me Started’

Tuesday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘To Zanarkand’
Cast of The Sound Of Music – ‘Edelweiss’

Wednesday

Duran Duran – ‘Pressure Off’

Thursday

Robbie Williams – ‘Time For Change’
Duran Duran – ‘Winter Marches On’
Duran Duran – ‘My Antarctica’

Friday

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Yuna’s Theme’

A few scattered running thoughts

I won’t lie – running has been a bit tough for the last few weeks. When I’m very busy and/or stressed in other areas of my life, I find that I feel lethargic and lacking in energy when I’m out on my runs, and my pace slows right down. It also doesn’t help that my body has been busy healing from my uveitis attack. Still, I’ve been getting out there every day and getting on with my daily run streak, even though I’m finding it frustrating and confusing that I can’t seem to manage faster than an 11:30-minute mile after doing 10-minute miles all the way through the Sunderland 10k three weeks ago.

Sunderland 10k
Powering towards the line at Sunderland. (Photo: AWOL Adventure.)

I’m also now marathon training, which does slow my general pace right down if I’m not careful. However, it’s only two weeks until parkrun starts again in England, and once Geth’s on his annual leave from work we’re going to try and get our Tuesday interval sessions going again, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some speedwork in to mitigate the sloth-like pace of my long runs.

I’ve also got plans for changing my running week around a bit and not loading all my big sessions into the weekend. However, that will have to be gradual, as I need other areas of my life to start playing ball first (and/or the sudden onset of an ability to get up at 5am, which is… unlikely). Still, once I’ve got it sorted, I think it’ll work really well! I’ll keep you posted.

A quick running post

I’m having a quiet weekend and so taking a break from my race reviews / race memories, but I thought I’d do a quick running update seeing as I’m on an extended break from my running vlog at the moment.

Pixel runner
Running is easier in pixels. I promise you I don’t look this fast in real life.

I am technically in the early stages of marathon training for the London Marathon, though the smattering of medical issues I’ve had over the last week or so mean that I’ve been taking it easy and not quite doing the high mileage just yet. I’m going to build it up very carefully over the next few weeks.

Though I’ve been very slow during this week, I’m still buzzing about my 10k PB from last weekend. It really proved to me that I’m not stuck on the slow path when it comes to races, and that I can run faster in the right conditions. I’m looking forward to parkrun starting again (current return date for England: 24th July), as it will mean I’ll be able to run in a race-type atmosphere every week.

July should also be a little bit easier than June in terms of my non-running life (I’ll still be coding but not frantically so, as there are no game competition deadlines!). As such, I’m hopeful about settling into a good marathon training groove. I’ll keep you posted!

The point at which it starts to wear

It’s not been the most straightforward of weeks. I’ve had a uveitis attack for the first time in two years, so I spent half of Wednesday in the hospital waiting to be seen. I’m on the usual course of eye drops, which as usual provided almost instant relief when I started using them, but they are making my vision very blurry so I’m having to take a lot of screen breaks.

There have been good things happening this week as well, though. I’m still buzzing from the big PB I got at the Sunderland 10k on Sunday, even though it really took it out of me and I’m still not fully recovered yet! I’m also in a really good place with the short game I’ve made for the current competition after putting my big work-in-progress on hold for now. I’ve just prepped it for testing and am hoping to hear back from some potential playtesters soon. My chief playtester (Geth) has promised to have a good go over the weekend as well!

Summer, such as it is, is starting to wear on me now. I always feel really uncomfortable at this time of year. The endless daylight makes me feel a bit ill, and the whole season feels a bit strange and otherworldly to me. We get (occasional) hot weather! That’s not supposed to happen in this part of the world! Also, I sort of feel like the season lacks a focused celebration. Autumn has Hallowe’en, winter has Christmas, spring has Easter, summer has… your summer holiday? Which I haven’t felt I’m in a position to take properly for well over a decade, as it’s a busy time for my business, so even when I do travel in the summer I’m usually still working from wherever I am in the world. It’s a bit of a dragging time of year, and I generally spend most of it trying not to wish time away and get too excited about the autumn. Especially when they keep releasing news about the upcoming series of Strictly!

On the whole, then, it’s probably for the best that this is an especially busy summer (well, by pandemic standards), meaning I’ve got lots of things to keep me occupied. I’ve got quite a few ongoing clients booked for over the next month, and I expect the Masters dissertations will start to arrive in August, so there’ll be no shortage of day job work. I’ve also got a lot of games to make, and a lot of games to play… and a marathon to train for!

In short, the summer might not feel as long as it usually does…

Wagons
Another picture from the Causey Arch trip a couple of weeks ago. I took a lot and have used some of them for graphics in my new game!

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Eric Hammond – ‘Berlin (Königgrätzer Marsch)’

Sunday

Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘The Crab Raft’

Monday

Dee Cooke – ‘Outside Building’
Duran Duran – ‘Ordinary World’
VNV Nation – ‘Genesis’

Tuesday

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Dragon Quest Town Theme’
Andy Taylor – ‘Night Train’

Wednesday

Roxette – ‘Fading Like A Flower’
Laura Branigan – ‘Self Control’
Alice Cooper – ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’

Thursday

Michael Land – ‘DeSinge’s Theme’
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – ‘Locomotion’

Friday

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Dragon Quest Town Theme’

Medals

Race Review: Sunderland City 10k 2021

Sunderland is a favourite running event. I did my first 10k there in 2016 (slow and painful but I did it!), moved up to the half in 2017, didn’t enjoy it, and have been sticking to the 10k ever since. The 10k is a great course. It’s mostly flat and I always get a PB there without fail. I had reason to expect that this year would be no exception.

Until this morning’s trip to Sunderland, I hadn’t raced a 10k since the Great North 10k 2019, nearly two years ago (thanks pandemic). My previous 10k PB was 1:09:13, set at Sunderland in May 2019. However, I managed a 1:03:30 10k split in the first half of last September’s Virtual Great North Run (not sensible! I was trying to keep up with faster runners), and more recently have been consistently running around 1:10 during easy 10k training runs. I knew, even with the weight gain and loss of fitness that has come about during the last fifteen months of lockdown, that a PB was almost certain. I also believed, judging by my recent running, that sub-1:05 might be possible. However, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, so I told myself I would be happy with a PB of any amount. I’m not sure I ever really believed that though!

Medal stack
The medal stack keeps growing!

I went off a little too fast, but that was expected. I need to get used to running races with other people again, and not letting others around me set my pace for me (this is a really difficult balance as I also use this initial atmosphere as a boost to get me into the mindset of running faster than usual, and so I’m not sure I’ll ever get it 100% right). However, I kept up really well for the rest of the race, and didn’t burn out. I tired a little in the last couple of miles – I’d made the 5k marker in 31 minutes and was convinced sub-1:05 was on, but in the last mile I really didn’t think I would do it! However, the finish line appeared sooner than expected (they move it around slightly from year to year), and I was able to sprint – sort of! – for the line, finishing in 1:04:41. I am absolutely over the moon.

The great thing is that I’m now considerably closer to something that’s been a goal for the whole six years I’ve been running – a sub-hour 10k. The two 10ks I’ve got lined up in the autumn/winter are tougher courses, so I don’t think I’ll do it this year, but if I train hard and lose the lockdown weight then I think I’ve got a really good chance of getting it at Sunderland next year.

Race t-shirt
It looks red but it’s pink. My first pink race t-shirt!

I’ve been really wiped the rest of the day – surprisingly so. I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired after a 10k before. However, I’m going to take that as a good sign, as it means I raced it properly!

No more in-person races now until the Great North Run in September. London Marathon training will keep me busy in the meantime…

Adapting

There’s been a lot to adapt to over the last few weeks. This weekend will be the fifth in a row where Geth and I have something on, which after a year of nothing at all has been a bit overwhelming at times. I’m going to enjoy my race on Sunday (it is really nice to be racing again!), but I’m already looking forward to next weekend, which is nice and empty now that the parkrun return date has been delayed by another month due to the government roadmap.

I made the decision this week to delay the release of the big game I’ve been working on for the last three months. I wanted to put it into the currently-running competition, but it would be a rush job to get it finished in time for the deadline and I’ve worked so hard on it that I don’t want to put out a rushed, substandard, buggy release. Delaying it to the next big competition gives me an extra three months to get it perfect. In the meantime, I’m having a great time making a fun little game for the current competition instead – I coded the entire game in a few hours yesterday, and now have another twelve days for bells and whistles, polish and playtesting! It is really nice to feel ahead of the game rather than stressfully behind.

Work is still fairly busy too, so life is a bit of a balancing act at the moment.

Sunny garden
The weather has been fairly glorious recently so it’s been nice to enjoy the garden. Geth has worked hard on it recently and it’s a lovely place to sit.

Two weeks’ worth of earworm playlists:

Saturday 5th

Liam Payne and Quavo – ‘Strip That Down’
Mark Knopfler – ‘Local Hero’

Sunday 6th

Howard Jones – ‘Like To Get To Know You Well’

Monday 7th

Duran Duran – ‘The Seventh Stranger’

Tuesday 8th

Duran Duran – ‘The Seventh Stranger’
Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)’

Wednesday 9th

September ’87 – ‘Bad Dream Baby’
Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Dragon Quest Main Theme’
Duran Duran – ‘New Moon On Monday’
Duran Duran – ‘Too Late Marlene’
David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida – ‘Where Them Girls At’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

VNV Nation – ‘Genesis’

Thursday 10th

Duran Duran – ‘New Moon On Monday’

Friday 11th

Apoptygma Berzerk – ‘Eclipse’
Alexandra Burke – ‘Broken Heels’
Duran Duran – ‘Save A Prayer’
Duran Duran – ‘New Moon On Monday’

Saturday 12th

The Wonder Stuff – ‘Welcome To The Cheap Seats’
VNV Nation – ‘Beloved’

Sunday 13th

Mabel and Notes – ‘Fine Line’
VNV Nation – ‘Fearless’

Monday 14th

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Dragon Quest Main Theme’
ATB – ‘9pm Till I Come’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’

Tuesday 15th

Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)’
Duran Duran – ‘Girls On Film’
Metallica – ‘Enter Sandman’

Wednesday 16th

Duran Duran – ‘New Moon On Monday’
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – ‘Locomotion’
Duran Duran – ‘Come Undone’
Andy Taylor – ‘Night Train’

Thursday 17th

Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Dragon Quest Town Theme’
Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)’
Kuana Torres Kahele, James Ford Murphy and Napua Greig-Nakasone – ‘Someone To Lava’

Friday 18th

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – ‘Locomotion’

Saturday ’80s Photo: Summer Fields

There were a lot of summer fields on my long trail race today, so these ones from Shetland in 1985 feel appropriate today. My memory doesn’t quite go back far enough to remember this particular walk, but I am fairly sure being pushed in a buggy is easier than running/walking miles and miles under your own steam.

Shetland, 1985

On a related note, race review coming tomorrow!

Seeds of normality

I have a race tomorrow. An actual real race, not a virtual. There will be COVID-secure measures (we are starting in waves and have to wear face coverings at the start and finish), but it’s an actual race with other people, and I’m really excited. It’s a trail race with lots of hills, and it’s going to be hot, so I will be taking it very slowly and walking a lot. In some ways it should be easier than last week’s virtual half. I hope! I’m also going to be getting on public transport for the first time in fifteen months, which will be interesting.

This last week has been very busy between coding and day job work. It’s going to be like this for the rest of June while I finish my game. I’m doing really well with it on the whole, but I am looking forward to a bit of a break in July!

Summer has hit now, and it just doesn’t seem to get dark at the moment… especially seeing as I’m falling asleep so early. I always feel a bit out of sorts at this time of year as I’m not really built for it. Autumn is my time.

Excited that I’ll have another medal for my collection this time tomorrow. They’re coming thick and fast at the moment!

Whitley Bay
Geth took this photo of a very muggy and foggy Whitley Bay for me earlier this week.

This week’s earworm playlists (still very Duran-heavy):

Saturday

Duran Duran – ‘American Science’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’

Sunday

Harry Belafonte – ‘Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)’
Pitbull and Christina Aguilera – ‘Feel This Moment’

Monday

Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’
Traditional – ‘Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree’

Tuesday

Dee Cooke – ‘Outside Building’
Duran Duran – ‘Secret Oktober’
Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’

Wednesday

Duran Duran – ‘Secret Oktober’
The Midnight – ‘Endless Summer’
Cornershop – ‘Brimful Of Asha [Norman Cook Mix]’
Stephen Duffy – ‘Kiss Me’
Duran Duran – ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’

Thursday

David Guetta and Sia – ‘Flames’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’

Friday

Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’
The Wonder Stuff – ‘Golden Green’