Friday, November 23, 2007

The Weather's Turning...

I had a few problems connecting to the internet.
After coming home from a long long day at work, and a fitness assessment in the gym, I wanted nothing more than to sit, chill out, and browse the web. No such luck, as the first popup message I get on logging in, is that the wireless network can't be detected.
Now let me explain the dread I felt.

I spend, maybe seven or eight hours a day on the internet. While my body sits motionless on my bed, my mind is soaring all over the world, absorbing information from a thousand sources, reading about events in places I've never been, learning about things that I'd never even heard of. Hundreds of millions of tunes, videos, stories, pictures, articles, all completely accessible for me to look at at my leisure. The Internet in short, makes me so much bigger than myself.

Being without the internet, when you're used to having it, is intolerable. You feel like you are trapped inside your own world. The internet allows all of us to communicate across the world, like some vast digital whalesong, it's an awesome and beautiful thing to behold.
When you're cut off from it, you're trapped in your own part of the world. Unable to express yourself, unable to explore, play or learn. While there is a whole world outside your front door, you become confined to only what you can see with your own eyes, to what you can sense with your own senses. While the world outside your window is the same world that everyone else lives in, their parts of the world are hundreds and thousands of miles away from you, and all you have to experience is the outside existance you've always known. It's like losing the sixth sense that the internet gives us...

That is the panic I feel when I see that the internet is not accessible.
Fortunatley, for me, this didn't last long, as you can see, and I managed to get the damn computer working. So here I am...

Yes, as the title says, the weather is indeed turning, and it is bitterly cold outside. By UK standards anyway. Outside thermometers put the temperature at 2.5C (36.5F), and with no clouds in the sky, and it only being 18:23, I suspect colder weather is to come.

I undertook a mock fitness assessment at work to see how I am doing with my goals. I have to admit, I got mixed results. So mixed that I honestly can't decide whether to be excited, or disappointed.
I had been optimistically aiming for a 1.5 mile time of 11:30. A time which may still be achievable, but only through considerable effort. I calculated the speed I need to run at to achieve 1.5 miles in 11:30 - some 12.6kph, and after half of the 11:30, decided that I am, at the minute, not fit enough to run the entire course at that speed.
Fair enough. On further research, One of the regiments that I had wanted to join, has a required 1.5 mile time of a more realistic 13:15. Easier to attain.
Out of a requirement of (approx) 45 pressups in two minutes, I managed to do 42.
Out of a requirement of around 50 situps in two minutes, I managed to do a pitiful 31.

Unfortunatley, that wasn't the worst of it.
I decided that the best way to run at a constant speed, was to use the treadmill, and set it to a certain speed. In retrospect, this was a very bad idea, as treadmills are extremely unforgiving on your shins. Indeed, after only 6ish minutes running, I stopped with substantial pain in my right, and moderate pain in my left shins. Seems to be a combination of having not stretched enough (5 minutes, as opposed to 30 reps), and running on too hard a surface.

Still, I'm optimistic - I hope - that given time, I will be able to make the grade. I'm going to let my legs recover for a day or two, and then I'm going to go running in the park again. As for situps and pressups - I'll be doing several sets daily. I am determined to get my arse out of my dead end job, and into a new carreer.

Right now though, it's 18:50, and I am going to have a couple of hours sleep. Just you try and stop me.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is it beginning to work?

I don't want to get my hopes up. So I'm going to try to avoid sounding optimistic or excited.

After months of believing that I was practically crippled with shin splints, after suffering from a mild stinging in the lower legs, I eventually got so frustrated that I decided to grab the bull by the horns, and actually go running, to see just how badly said condition affected me.

In retrospect I suppose it might have been a bit daft, but out of sheer desperation I decided to go for a run anyway, to see if I would run the mile, or be reduced to hobbling my way home.

I ran the mile.
I settled into a steady pace, running through what had turned into a rainstorm, at 00:30 in the morning through an unlit park, feeling like I was the only person in the world. Just me and the track - as corny or as cliched as it sounds, that's what I had to work with.

The run got harder very quickly, much earlier than I had expected it to, but I carried on through it. Even when, after running up the biggest/steepest hill on the circuit, when my legs were burning, my lower back was screaming for attention and my lungs felt like they were on fire, I carried on. I had to know, could I make the distance?

I ran over a mile - 1.09 miles to be exact, in 12 minutes. Over hilly terrain.
That's not bad, considering I haven't been running for a while.

But what about my shinsplints?
What about them?

I didn't feel any pain then, and I don't feel any more than the (very) slight background stinging that I felt before.
I won't articulate what this could mean in words, because I'm wary of bringing the entire thing crashing down around me.

Time to press on. I've got my ADSC to pass...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The weather turns...

Hello again folks.

As you're no doubt aware, Christmas hysteria is well and truly upon us, and I have to admit, it's nice to have a bit of it about. Everyone seems more relaxed at Christmas, more friendly, open and helpful. Which is odd, because when you think about it, behind the warm cozy scene, Christmas is probably one of the most stressful times of the year. Running around getting presents wrapped up, figuring out what it is people want, working overtime for the cash to pay for the presents, buying the food, cooking the food, etc, there's a lot of work behind the scenes...

But we wouldn't do it if it wasn't worth it, would we? I have to admit, I look forward to every christmas with plenty of anticipation and excitement. Not because (as was the case when I was younger) I had a shedload of new presents, but because for a week or so of the year, a kind of strange peace descends upon the country, and you do notice the change in peoples' behavior. It's nice, for me, to be able to see everyone having a good time, getting the presents they wanted, spending time with their family, it's all very nice.

With that in mind, I've started my christmas spending. Yes, in this capitalist technocracy of ours, round november december time, the financial transactions start coming thick and fast, as your bank balance deflates faster than a balloon that a hedgehog is trying to carry home on its back.*

So far, as is the norm for me, I'm well on my way to buying all the presents that I want to buy for my nephew, who I've always favoured (if I'm honest), and have actually bought a couple of presents for other people already as well. Now I've got to wrap them up, which is sort of pleasantly distracting and incredibly tedious at the same time.

Even the weather's turning, with snow reported over most of northern/central England, particularly around Birmingham and Solihull, but also Nottingham and even some on the other side of the city. Outside our house, it's just drizzling slightly, but apparently other parts of the town have been getting anything up to an inch or so, with Birmingham getting several inches of snow - this bodes well for a white christmas, and would be very fitting, and very nice, for what will possibly be my last christmas living in this house, for some years.

Yes, folks, this brings me neatly round to the Army again. Despite the shameless neglect and diabolical treatment of the armed forces at the hands of the Government and Ministry of Defence, despite several very high ranking officers complaining publicly** about the conditions that soldiers are fighting under, living in and generally subjected to, my enthusiasm for getting myself back into the green machine has increased substantially, as has my fitness. With that in mind, the part of my mind that is testosterone fuelled young man with a taste for adventure and glory is whispering "Why not join a teeth arm (teeth arm = combat regiment) instead of a support arm". To be honest, it appeals a lot more than the thought of getting stuck in a workshop for my entire carreer, though I have been given assurances that even if I did go for REME vehicle mechanic, that would probably not happen. If I did go for Vehicle Mechanic, with some luck, I'd be posted to all sorts of different units and get to ahem, "join in" for want of a better word, with whatever they're doing".

So what other carreers appeal to me?

I could join the Royal Armoured Corps as a tank crewman - Challenger 2's are supposed to be bloody good fun to work in, and there's a hell of a camaraderie when you're part of a four man crew that work, fight, sleep and chill out together.

On the other hand, I could go for the local regiment, and get myself into the Infantry. My TA unit when I was a kid was infantry and I have to admit I loved it. Never been shot at during training through, so I'm in no position to claim to "know the job".

I have also expressed an interest in joining the Royal Artilliery, as an AS90 Gunner.
Like a tank, but bigger, with a bigger gun, and a larger crew, AS90's are used for long range fire support. Supposed to be pretty cool.

Like I say, my fitness is coming on in leaps and bounds, I'm about to start running again, and my weight training is progressing at a decent pace too. I can feel and see myself getting stronger and fitter, so before long hopefully, I will finally, at long last, be ready for ADSC.

But, let's have christmas first, eh? work is continuing okay I suppose, though it is getting incredibly tedious and boring, and to be honest, the sooner I'm out of there, and training to serve, the better. Until then I'm gonna carry on here, keeping you updated and generally bimbling through life, while training hard and getting ready for my new life, at the same time.

Here's some pictures for you.
From left to right

1. REME Vehicle Mechanic working on what looks like an 8 tonne wagon
2. Challenger Armoured Recovery Vehicle - a cross between a tank, a dozer, and a towtruck!
3. A Challenger 2 Tank - the British Army's main battle tank - an absolute beast!

1. Part of an infantry section (a bunch of infantry soldiers) doing whatever it is they're doing.
2. An AS90 Self Propelled Gun. It's a big bugger, isn't it!

*At last, a metaphor that isn't "pointless".

** I hesitate to quote The Sun as a reference, since generally it is little better than a comic with news in, but it's the only news site that actually still has the story on from what I can see.