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Faster, stronger, longer. For a longer health span. It’s well-established that exercise can significantly reduce the risk of major diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Also, being fitter and more physically healthy leads to improved mental health. I’m 67 years old, and while I was an average athlete at best as a young man, I’m now at the high end of performance and key health metrics for my age group. The message is clear to me. Working hard, being faster and stronger, and training for longer durations works. Especially when attention is paid to nutrition and other lifestyle factors. See here a summary of the benefits of exercise and, conversely, the risks of frailty, disease and mental illnesses when more sedentary lifestyles are enacted.

Follow my blog and social feeds, where you will see the type of exercise and nutritional strategies I use. I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in sports, sports nutrition, and functional foods for thirty years. As a result, I have a good idea of what works and what is BS. I will support the former with scientific evidence and call out the latter.

Please remember that the challenges I set myself are truly challenging for me. I only complete some of them. If I were to hit every target, then I would not be setting the bar high enough. Injury can stop me, or life can get in the way. But I will give them my best shot and document the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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June 15, 2024Self-Doubt Rules It’s twenty weeks before my Run Moony Run attempt on the New York Marathon. According to the official site, 140 days and a few hours to go. I’m half anxious and half depressed about the venture. It’s only eight weeks since I did a decent job of trying to wipe myself out in a cycling accident in Spain. It’s only a few days since I discarded my sling, which was helping support my surgically repaired collarbone. On Wednesday I had my first physio system and reluctantly admitted to my excellent physio Stephen that I was feeling pain in my shoulder blade and ribs. Somewhere in that admission to Stephen, I obliquely mentioned I was planning to run the New York Marathon, and then I muttered something about me having run a few times in the last ten days. He would make a great diplomat because he didn’t call me a fuckwit, although the slight flicker in his eyes told me all I needed to know. Running may be slowing the recovery in my ribs and shoulder blade. Which I knew, but don’t hear simply because my head is stuck in the sand. And my fingers are in my ears at the same time. The prescription is some low-impact cardio, such as a stationary bike or the lower body action of a cross-trainer. No running. Cue depression, doubt, self-loathing, plagues of locusts, and pestilence. Why Do I Set Goals? I set goals for obvious and non-obvious reasons. For most of my life, I set daft goals and chased them hard. To my credit, I have often utilised my stubbornness to achieve the goal; sometimes, even when it became obvious that the goal wasn’t remotely worth the effort, I achieved in a lot of minor areas that the world will never register. It was a while before I realised that, in addition to the positive aspect of goal setting, some of my daftest pursuits involved setting myself up to fail. Why would I do that? to prove to myself that I was a worthless individual, a failure, a deadbeat, and a weapons-grade waste of space. Somewhere along the winding road of my life, I started scrapping the setting myself up to fail script and saying, “I can do this.” It’s been one of the characteristics that gets stronger as I travel the road. If I say I will do something, it’s more likely than not to happen. I have gotten better at figuring out if something is worth achieving, which is a blessing in my later life, and I don’t find myself tilting at too many windmills these days. That Which Does Not Kill Us Interestingly, my last handful of years have seen me deal with clinical depression and two serious road accidents. That’s made me more determined, not less. It’s made me more positive, not less. I have never thought much of the Nietzsche quote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” But I see it now. After a few days of moping, I decided to take the middle road. For the balance of this month, which includes a holiday and, by definition, some downtime, I will do what I can. If, over the next two weeks, I can work on my shoulder mobility and associated rehabilitation and fit in the odd non-running cardio session, that’s a start. When 1st July comes around, that’s the official start of my 16-week training programme. So, I’ll start and see where I go. My original plan was to have a 26-week lead-in, but my poor bike-handling skills paid for that. That can’t be undone, so there’s no use sulking about it. I can deal with what’s in front of me and try and improve it. Run Moony Run I believe is hard, but with the right mindset and careful preparation, is achievable. Setting goals helps me focus. They also help me see what is worth chasing and what isn’t as important as I initially thought. It will spur me to research the subject and make a plan. The plan will then make me get on and do the work, even when I don’t feel like it. My goals have shifted from being a stick to beat myself with to something that brings out the best in me. So why the long face this week? There Are Only So Many Laps When Stephen told me this week to take it easy with my running, it was a reality check for me. The next day, I saw an old friend and told him the story, and instead of him aligning with me, he said, “Man, it’s only a few weeks since you nearly killed yourself. Give yourself a break.” My wife encouraged me to take a longer-term view – “Running is a lifelong activity; it doesn’t matter if you run New York this year or next.” Another good friend – “Be kind to yourself, and your recovery will look after itself.” All wise advice, but advice that also scares the hell out of me. I’ve only got so many more laps of the sun left. Run Moony Run was conceived entirely from the concept of those diminishing laps. I fear that if I put things off, then that’s another lap run, and the probability of me completing a skipped task diminishes. One day, I will wake up and realise that I don’t do much anymore and I’m just hanging around in death’s waiting room. Don’t get me wrong, I have no false illusions about what I can achieve and for how long. But I want to wear out and not rust out. That’s why I was both sad and angry this week. I barely have enough training weeks left to look myself in the eye and say, “Let’s run.” Sensible and concerned people around me are telling me to get back to health. And I’m bothered about another lap coming off the board without me achieving the marathon. Of course, my early life feelings of being a failure when faced with a tough task are lurking around, too. Run Moony Run After a few days of moping, I decided to take the middle road. For the balance of this month, which includes a holiday and, by definition, some downtime, I will do what I can. If, over the next two weeks, I can work on my shoulder mobility and associated rehabilitation and fit in the odd non-running cardio session, that’s a start. When 1st July comes around, that’s the official start of my 16-week training programme. So, I’ll start and see where I go. My original plan was to have a 26-week lead-in, but my Girona cycling accident put paid to that. That can’t be undone, so there’s no use sulking about it. I can deal with what’s in front of me and try and improve it. I will give it my all. If it comes up short, it will mean that every effort has been made and all options have been explored. I’m a fortunate man; I count my blessings every day. Millions of people have far more significant challenges daily, with no choice and no glimmer of hope of their problems ever receding. My getting over a few injuries to attempt to run an iconic marathon is a blessing. If I succeed, I will be a mentally and physically stronger person. If I fail, I will be a mentally and physically stronger person. There’s no downside here. Run Moony, Run [...]
May 16, 2024That Didn’t Last Long It’s marathon training plan time. Unfortunately, my best-developed plan has been torched before I’ve even run a step. I went into my Girona cycling trip with my TrainingPeaks plan informing me that I am 30% fitter than last year. Then, the plan was five good days in the Girona hills to top me off. Finally, back to the UK to start running on the 3rd of May, six months before my New York Marathon challenge. Unfortunately, I had a massive crash in Girona and have had a plate put into my broken clavicle this week. In addition, I need an investigation into some dizziness I have had since the accident. Nine ribs and a painfully fractured scapula need to heal, too. Bugger! The photo on the left is post-titanium insertion. It’s a huge irony. I crashed badly last year, and on my road back to health, I visited New York and watched the marathon. It very much inspired me. The morning after, I bought a pair of ASICS running shoes. I imagined it early and put my plan in place. And then, a handful of days before training started in earnest, I was scraping myself off the tarmac for only the second time in a long cycling love affair. Recovery I’m told I will be in a full-on shoulder sling for six weeks. That takes me to the end of June before I’m unencumbered. I can imagine that my ribs and shoulder will be healed by then. The head issue I am – possibly naively – assuming will be nothing of note; an imminent CAT scan should tell me. Therefore, I will have four months to train for the marathon. I’m told by various people that is enough time. But I’m also conscious that most people will go into the four-month marathon training plan with some fitness. My fitness leaks away like seawater through the sand; I will start with a very low fitness base. First marathon—tick. 67 years old—tick. Much larger than your average runner—tick. Starting with a poor fitness base—tick. It’s all good then; Jake and Ellwood Blues are preparing to drive to save the children’s home in Chicago. Ellwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Jake: “Hit it.” A handful of wise people have encouraged me to recover in my own time and worry about extreme physical challenges once that is sorted out. This makes sense; I’m highly competent at putting myself under unreasonable pressure. Another friend said to me this evening, “You’ve got this. This is right in your wheelhouse. Even if you have to run, walk, and run, you can do it.” At this stage, I’m saying to go for it. But medical advice may rule me out. If I don’t make it, I will go for a charity entry for London 2025 and roll over my NYC entry until 2025. I want to raise a reasonable amount for a cancer charity whenever I run; therefore, I don’t want to let down people who have donated. Is It Doable? I bought an off-the-shelf novice marathon run training plan, and the first session is on July 1. That’s not the issue. The problem is I will be carrying very low fitness into that first training day. My shoulder sling is due off in mid-June. I need to get resourceful. For example, can I at least wake up the aerobic system with some low-intensity indoor bike rides? How about some bodyweight lower body strength work during June? Taking a pessimistic perspective, this will be touch and go, and I can’t afford to lose any sessions for any reason. The margin for error has gone. But so what? I don’t want to have a ready-made excuse lined up and a brave withdrawal late in the day. This is my 2024 misogi, and it should be hard. A man who inspires me is Tommy Rivs, the American runner who returned from an aggressive lung cancer and 90 days in an induced coma to run New York a year later. As the New York Times documented, he finished in over nine hours. Matt Long, a New York fireman, suffered massive internal injuries and many fractures and returned to run the marathon. His book The Long Run is an inspiration. These men came back from much more severe illnesses and accidents than I did and ran the NYC Marathon. Sure, they were elite athletes and much younger, but their experiences were incredibly traumatic. It will be bloody hard, and a lot needs to go right. The big unknown is the potential for injury. Hangover issues from the recent crash, inflammation in my knees, and older bones challenged by common running injuries such as plantar fascitis or shin splints or the like. Let’s start with a plan. Without a plan, I’m dreaming. Before The Plan, The Goal It will be unmotivating and ultimately disappointing to aim for too challenging a target. This is my first marathon and I’m coming back from. a very serious accident. What would be an achievement? I did a straw poll among my cycling colleagues, and the answer was “finish the course.” That makes a lot of sense. Putting up something like five hours, for example, could be crushing if I miss by ten minutes. The odds are stacked against me. The goal is misogi level. That in itself should be more than good enough. My goal is to cross the start line at the New York Marathon on 3 November 2024 and to cross the finish line on the same day. I don’t care how many hours it takes and don’t mind whether I run, walk, or crawl. The goal is to complete the course. With a goal in place, let’s take a look at a plan to achieve the goal. My Holistic Marathon Training Plan I know that following a run training plan won’t help. Failures in other parts of my body and mind are much more likely to prevent me from achieving my goal. Some things are a given, like my age and the associated muscle loss and lack of mobility that comes with the territory. Personal weaknesses include osteoarthritis in my knees, and I have suffered lower back pain, shin splints and plantar fasciitis over the years. Situational weaknesses are the lack of mobility and localised pain from my recent accident. These areas require attention. I won’t list them as handy future excuses; rather. I highlight them as items to address. After addressing weakness, I turn to physiological matters. Once again, a running plan is not at the forefront of my thinking. Running won’t do anything to improve my muscle mass, and lack of focus on strength work will let me down later. Regular gym work, as well as helping to address some of my weaknesses, such as knees and relatively poor mobility, will also give me essential upper, core, and lower body strength to give me more resilience. I must address sleep and nutrition to get the most from my strength and running. Sleep is crucial, and to my credit, I have developed sleep routines to help improve my rest. Nutrition in the before, during, and after phases must be nailed consistently. Having spent a substantial part of my career in sports science and nutrition, I only have myself to blame if I screw up this part of the marathon training plan. Finally, a decent running plan. You thought I would never get there, didn’t you? I see all the other items as foundations to my performance pyramid, and only then does my specific training become the consideration. Without foundations, I’m doomed to fail. Here is my visualisation of what I’m looking to execute. I will briefly touch on each of these areas now, and cross-reference to any useful supporting material. The Foundations I’ve mentioned in another blog post the need to consume more protein. Older adults need more, and athletes benefit from more. I’m slightly over 100 kgs, and leading-edge sports scientists are adamant that I should take 200 gr of high-quality protein daily. That’s tough, but that’s what I will try to do. I supplement with protein powders and bars, so it’s doable. For example, I start my day with 40 gr of protein in a shake and like kefir-based protein yoghurts that deliver 30 gr. That goes a long way to bridging the gap from my regular diet to my target. I’m involved with an early-stage company called Hexis, which has developed a unique AI-driven personalised nutrition app. I know the importance of carbohydrates for sports performance, given my profession over the years, but now I have a tool which will enable me to optimise my carb intake. The Hexis technology is based on Carb Coding, conceived by a former colleague and good friend of mine, Professor James Morton. The technology looks at my training load, drawing down data from my Garmin. But it cleverly looks forward seven days at what is in the training plan logged in my TrainingPeaks calendar. Looking at actual and planned activities allows the technology to schedule my nutrition needs daily. The Foundations – Sleep and Supplements I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that I’m supported by the Tumeric Co and their excellent shots. This is a crucial supplement for me; inflammation could be a significant issue in my preparation, and my experience of the shots is that they dramatically reduce pain in my arthritic knees. I also take creatine daily; it is possibly the supplement with the most scientific support. This is a crucial habit in my efforts to maintain lean muscle mass. After I have dealt with my two particular must-do supplements, I will top off with some essential products which cover a range of general wellness and sports needs. I take vitamins K and D for general health purposes. Vitamin B12 and a high-quality Omega-3 are targeted at supporting my body through the stresses of training. My sleep has improved over the last 18 months. Seven hours is a good night for me. I monitor with an Oura ring; whether it’s accurate or not doesn’t matter to me; it’s all about the trend. I will hit the pillow consistently each night, and I’m good at rising in a fairly tight window, too. Before sleep, I will supplement with Valerian and a high-quality CBD oil from Naturecan. Physical Resilience – Muscle Mass Losing muscle mass is a given from as early as the mid-thirties. By my age, it’s possible to lose close to 20% of muscle mass unless something is done to address this. This phenomenon can then lead to a range of age-related issues, with infirmity becoming an issue, together with a sharp increase in mortality risk. Fortunately, we respond well to strength training not only in our sixties but also in the following two decades. If I do nothing, I will be less robust. I also know that running alone will not improve muscle mass. Therefore, my marathon training plan needs a couple of good gym sessions each week. Two strength sessions focus on my diet and sleep, and that’s an underrated yet important aspect of the plan dealt with. Physical Resilience – Target The Weaknesses My knees can become very painful. Before me falling and smashing a few bones, I would have said the major element which would stop me from achieving my goal would be soreness in my knees. I was initially diagnosed with arthritis in my knees after a meniscus tear three years ago. This was successfully tackled by utilising the methodology pioneered by Ben Patrick, aka @kneesovertoesguy. I come back to this regularly and, indeed, have bought the critical piece of training kit, the Tib Bar. I can quickly fit in Tib Bar raises, and other ATG Coaching bodyweight exercises such as calf raises and single-leg ATG squats. On one of my gym days, recent months have seen me gain a lot of benefits from single-leg quad raises and hamstring curls. It has built the crucial musculature around my knees impressively. Add to this the supplementation mentioned earlier, and I believe I can manage this fundamental weakness well. One thing is for sure, crossing my fingers and hoping I make it through is not a realistic plan. Marathon Training Plan – Structure, Miles, and Rest I have chosen a tried-and-tested Hal Higdon Novice plan for run training. There’s no silver bullet here, and I don’t believe one plan will have some hidden advantage over another. The Higdon plan has been around forever and has helped thousands of novice marathon runners. If I have a misgiving, it’s the three sessions early in the week. While only 3-4 miles each, the lack of a rest day may be an issue, and if I have any doubt, I will drop the second session. It’s been a while since I’ve followed a very structured training plan. My life has a slightly less pressured pace now, and I no longer leap out of bed in the morning darkness to smash high-intensity sessions out. However, this will need structure; I do not believe shortcuts in training frequency and miles will lead me to success. Proactively looking after rest and sleep will also be a huge success factor. In addition to making the time available, I intend to look for every edge, such as sleep regimes and natural supplements, including the previously mentioned CBD oil and Valerian. Regarding adaptation, good things will happen as I pound the road, but better things will happen while I sleep. Will I Be Fit Enough? The TrainingPeaks chronic training load – that is, my fitness – shows I can be in reasonable shape with a score of 74 as I climb on the flight to the USA. Not where I want to be, but also possibly good enough to see me finish. Of course, there is no scope for illness, injury, or missed sessions. It would have been great to build a base in May and June and then train in earnest from July. But the cards have been dealt; I know the plan and understand the risks. I’m using a Garmin 965 watch and Garmin HRM Pro heart rate monitor to log my performance, with all the data being uploaded to TrainingPeaks. I check my heart rate variability in the morning with an Ithlete Pro finger sensor. HRV is the gold standard for fitness and form monitoring and is also an early warning system when illness or overtraining becomes a risk. Excuses, Excuses I don’t have any excuses. My body will either see me complete the training plan, or it won’t. My plated collarbone may be a problem, as could my knees be the issue, or something else unforeseen. But worrying about what may happen will achieve nothing. I’ve got a marathon training plan and a nutrition and supplementation strategy, and I know to focus on rest and sleep. Those are things I can control simply by showing up. Illness and injury are uncontrollable, so what’s the point in wasting energy pondering those possibilities? Hell, I may even simply give up and say, “Not for me.” Who knows? I’m going to give it a crack. Draw on my tough times to motivate me. I’m going to seek to raise money for a worthy charity. Push my physical and mental limits. What’s not to like? Let’s do it. #runmoonyrun [...]
May 11, 2024Is This As Good As It Gets? That’s the question I asked myself this afternoon. I’m laying low to promote healing following my recent heavy crash. A beautiful, sunny spring afternoon, but a sense of emptiness hanging over me too, a feeling of loss. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Life is change and I’m trying to decipher what lays before me. It’s very clear to me that my primary sporting activity of the last fifty years must go. If it doesn’t, I’m not a considerate man. Neither am I reading the nudge that fate is giving me. Being alone on the bike for countless miles and millions of pedal strokes over the years has helped my physical and mental health immensely. For a dozen or so years, the sport was integral to my work, given the close contact I had with elite cycling. The recent handful of years has seen the sport become a major part of my social life too. It’s natural I would feel a sense of loss. But now what? Horizons It has taken me a lot of inner conversation to understand why I feel this way. It would make sense if the trauma of my accident was part of my mixed emotions. Some people said to me it was a life changing accident. It was. Thankfully, I have no serious injury or impediment. But an activity that has been something I have placed in the middle of my health and wellbeing suddenly disappearing does constitute a life change. Yet something deeper is bothering me. I don’t fear death. I want to live a productive life and hopefully my end phase is short. Fast, fast, stop. I fear living twenty years with my wellbeing and quality of life degrading. Someone said last week to me, “Give up cycling, you’re going to kill yourself.” Perhaps. But it’s crucial to keep an eye on physical health and the core pillars of wellbeing, or, well, I’m going to kill myself. Just in a slower way. What are the prospects for my horizons? Life is change, but how to make it positive? A Life Less Lived What has been stirring in my unconcious is this. I’m afraid of my life shrinking. I want to physically challenge myself as long as is possible. I would like to be intellectually stimulate until my last day. An active body and mind leads the way when it comes to feeling good and getting the most from one’s fleeting presence on the planet. I don’t fear death, but I do fear my horizons becoming narrower and narrower and my existence becoming a gussied-up waiting room where the only visitor will be death. If my major activity of recent decades is no longer on my to-do list, then the window of my life narrows. That’s my fear and what has been, for a few days, driving my sense of loss and unease. So what’s the solution? No Amount Of … I do know that no amount of regret or rumination changes the past. And no amount of anxiety or catastrophising affects the future path we travel. The only change we can enact is that which is in front of us right now; this moment. Cycling is over for me, and it’s the right decision. So let it go. My future anxiety is about my horizons narrowing. Does the path meanders into dark obscurity from here? Screw that, deal with things now. I won’t let my horizons narrow, because I know that isn’t a life I want to enter into. Life is change, lean in. In the past handful of weeks I have decided to run a marathon. Running can be my new physical and mental health pillar. In the past weeks I have decided I’m going to write a novel. I’ve always wanted to learn to write, and it’s an activity I can partake in until my last breath. So no, I decline to allow my life to narrow. I accept that change is an inevitable part of life, a constant we must face and turn into a positive. I like the Alvin Toffler quote about change not merely being necessary, but being the very essence of life. New physical, mental, spiritual explorations are the focus. What’s The Answer? The answer is it gets better, if we take the golden opportunity this life gives us and we squeeze every pip out of the ripe fruit. That’s my mindset. I am not going to sit around feeling sorry for myself and I am not going to accept a slow decline. No sir, not me. Tomorrow I will blog about my #runmoonyrun challenge. The negative spirit that has been trying to rent space in my head has been pushing an agenda that I’ve rashly taken on the impossible. My person spirit is saying that a recent negative event has totally fucked my planning up. But that I’m going to adapt and continue to try. I would rather go down in flames trying than being one of those self-sabotaging people. Do not count me out. Check back tomorrow and let’s get into some planning. Life is change, so I’m getting on the front foot. [...]
May 8, 2024How Did I End Up Here? Run, Moony, Run. What gives? What’s with the Forrest Gump strapline? I will tell you an embarrassing tale. Blog readers, my loving family and my friends know that 11 months ago, I managed to have my first real cycling accident ever. I’ve ridden a bike in anger for around fifty years. Along the way, I spent some years riding time trials without incident. In my early-fifties years of despair, I gave up cycling for a few years. Signalled by a general falling out of love with life, neatly correlated with a rapidly expanding waistline and various indicators of declining cardiovascular markers. Not to mention a too-in-love relationship with alcohol, a sure-fire method of ineffectively dealing with my lifelong depression and anxiety. But cycling found me again and was the foundation of getting into good shape again. I even stopped drinking six years ago as part of my new-found self-belief and the profound erosion of my weapons-grade self-loathing. All good. I rode the Ride London 100 cycling event a week after birthday number 66 in May 2024. The subsequent severe accident is well documented elsewhere on this blog. It sounds perverse, but I’m a more rounded, optimistic, and philosophical man after the crash. Again, what gives? Doubling Down After crossing the finish line of a cycling Gran Fondo in Italy in 2017, I pulled to the curb of a rain-driven road, and as my front wheel touched a puddle, the submerged pothole stopped my front wheel dead. I couldn’t clip out of my pedal and, as a result, fell over at the blistering speed of one mile per hour. I fractured my elbow, but it was nothing a massive shot of grappa, and a few weeks of rest couldn’t remedy. Fast forward to 2023, and my first real crash happened, the result of poor riding by a rookie rider, which kicked off a chain reaction and me ending up in ICU. Fast-forward to April 2024 and the much-anticipated ChainGangCyclists’ annual pilgrimage to Girona, where they spend five days cycling around the beautiful Catalan hills. Close to fifty of us. The second full day was a decently testing climb up to Els Angels and then a loop back into Girona. A marvellous day on the bike. I found the drag up to the top of Els Angels testing. My fitness was not in question if the numbers were to be believed. Given my years on the clock, I think it’s simply a case of back-to-back riding days that do not agree with me as much. It’s all about the recovery after a particular birthday. Anyway, I did get to the top and went for the highly sophisticated nutritional remedy of a bottle of full-fat Coke and a Magnum ice cream. We pressed on, and then the group thinned out, given a mechanical and two colleagues nursing injuries. Five of us left: Yannick, his brother Darren, Tee Bone and Ben. Nice group. Laid back, enjoying the day, the weather, and the camaraderie. There was another long uphill drag to come, and we made it to the top, where we met a large contingent of Irish riders on tour. The lead man was well into his seventies and a bundle of energy. He had previously lived in Kilburn, London, where Yannick and Darren grew up. They swapped stories of various pubs; then he broke into a rendition of “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner,” and all twenty of us joined in. It was a glorious moment. Yannick and I rolled off down the hill and I mentioned what a bunch of characters they were, and that such meetings were precious. Yannick tapped the bars of my bike with his right knuckle saying, “It’s this. The bike brings together people who wouldn’t normally speak.” So true. Down the hill, we rolled. We stopped at a cafe, drank Cacaolat milk, and absorbed the relaxed afternoon sun, Tee Bone having sport with a couple of locals. Just a handful of miles to go now, and off we rolled again, Yannick and Darren up front, then me, and Ben and Tee Bone behind. Down a steepish hill, and I could see Darren and Yannick curving right over a bridge. Almost home. This Isn’t Happening I swept right onto the bridge and got on the brakes, as I could see a speed bump towards the end of the bridge. Over the hump, the road surface pitted and cratered on the other side. My front went into a pothole and suddenly my handlebars snapped hard left. Hard. I knew I was off. There was no other option. A strange thing happened in my lizard brain. When I crashed 11 months earlier, in a split second before impact, I saw two bikes flat on the ground and was able to make a tiny adjustment to try and bisect them. It didn’t work because I hit a downed rider, but it did give me a tiny advantage in that I hit the ground with my shoulder rather than face-first. The odd thing was that the incident was recorded by my on-bike GoPro, and while one bike was flat on the ground, together with its rider, the other bike was still upright and cut across the front of me. Indeed, this second bike went on its way. But the microsecond of high stakes reaction led to my brain think it had seen something else. 11 months on my bars snapped hard left. In the peripheral vision of my left eye, I saw another bike flat on the ground, some yards away from me. Yet it wasn’t there. Something had registered incorrectly in my brain in 2023, and 2024 drew on that and presented me with a similar and imaginary optical illusion. I don’t remember hitting the ground. The next thing I remember was waking up and being aware I was on the ground, and the fingers of my right hand in front of my face, and they were pouring blood. I had crashed, yet my brain wasn’t accepting that; I thought it was a dream about my previous accident. I remember saying, “I’m not doing this again. This isn’t happening.” I felt sleepy and thought I would settle down and nap. Stay With Me Bro Yannick could see something different. My helmet split and blood poured from a head wound. I had brown fluid coming from my nose. Blood was coming from somewhere else, too. This was clear to Yannick as he was kneeling a pool of blood. “Stay with me, bro” I remember him saying, while I was stubbornly trying to nod off. I could really use some sleep, and in any case I was in no mood to keep dreaming about an old accident. Next, a Spanish man leaning over me asked, “What’s your name?” and led me through some questions. Could I feel my hands? My feet? It was all good. He was a fireman; they were first on the scene. It felt like a rapid response, but I wasn’t clear how long the nap I had treated myself to had been. I’m moving into an ambulance now. My last year has told me it will hurt like hell when a slide board comes out. I was in the ambulance but was starting to become disoriented and panic-stricken. Something in my ass was killing me, something felt stuck in my right buttock. And I began to get thigh and calf cramps badly. The medical staff placed an odd covering on my pelvis. I feel my pelvis being compressed, and I am sitting in a box. I’m a seriously claustrophobic man. Any confined space and even any restriction to my movement causes waves of panic. That was starting to happen to me now, and I was moaning and bleating to anyone who would listen. Later, my record showed that I was given Fentanyl at this point to help manage my anxiety. Trauma Unit I was moved into a trauma unit in Girona Hospital. It was all a bit fragmented now. I remember a CAT scan machine and me still complaining about confined spaces and a medic assuring me it wasn’t really enclosed. The same guy pulling at my fingers on my right hand. I thought I was watching a cartoon as the little finger emerged joint by joint from my hand. My ass was still hurting, and I couldn’t figure out why. It turned out that I had damaged an artery in my pelvic region, hence the pain, and the reason for the tight compression in the ambulance. An endless period of X-rays, and I pondered how much radiation a man can absorb in a year. Then, in the morning, I moved to a trauma ward—a small, narrow bed in a metal frame with a handle hanging down. The ward was tiny and dark. I strongly felt that I had gone back in time, certainly to the mid-20th century. My spirit was down. I was not helped by the old guy in the bed next to me, randomly rambling all night. It only got bizarre when he started holding both sides of a conversation, with the second actor in the play being a woman. Him flipping nimbly between male and female voices. Fuck me. This was properly miserable. Tiny cramped ward, no sight of the outside world, tiny bed with my feet sticking out of the end. My lack of language skills not helping my situation at all. And to add insult to injury, my injuries hurt. The bruising was next level. I’ll spare you the sight of my flabby white ass and show you the rear of my right leg; now imagine the bruising going all the way around the front of the leg, up my pelvis, up my ribcage and into my armpit and then shoulder. Serious bruising. A couple of nights in, my spirits were low. I chatted with myself about this being my feelings and that they would pass. That line of thought did help, to my surprise, as I wasn’t saying it or hearing it with much conviction. Maybe I should have had my roommate put the case to me, given his stagecraft. It’s All About People The medics were superb. We got through in fractured English and sign language, and I felt well cared for. Regardless of the organisation, buildings, and systems, healthcare attracts compassionate humans to lead the broken through their journey. A couple of the service staff were deliberately awful. I found out later that there was some local backlash against tourists, and I can only assume this is what drove some needlessly unhelpful and borderline aggressive behaviour by some of the service staff. This latter issue wasn’t a big deal. If you think British NHS hospital food is terrible, you must understand there is a next level to plumb. I checked to see I hadn’t been sent to a Russian prison at one stage, so poor was the food. But help was at hand. My rambling roommate was transferred to another hospital and he was replaced by Mohammed, who was in for a knee replacement. His children, daughters in law and grandchildren all attended the ward for hours. They clocked the behaviour towards me, and as a result started sliding food to me that had been brought for Mohammed. The next morning, breakfast was brought in for me by Mohammed’s family. Don’t you just love humans? The Great Escape Mo’s Family Food notwithstanding, I had enough after five days and told the doctor I wanted to leave. 24 hours on oral painkillers rather than the intravenous stuff I had been receiving, and I’m free to go. “Deal!” seemed to translate, and I was out of there on day six. We planned to head to our hotel and hang out for a few days. Even the short bus ride to the town centre was a test. Why a bus? I couldn’t bend to get into a car. It was a short walk from the bus—a steep, short walk. I’ll be honest: The pain and crushing sense of fatigue brought me close to tears. This happened again the next day and the next. I found myself seriously short of reserves. But so glad to be out of my small hospital room. Two days later, we headed for the airport in a taxi, with me having consumed as much Tramadol as I was allowed, along with OTC painkillers. At the airport, I got a ride to the gate on one of those electric trolleys and was boarded first. Trust me, that was a low point in my life, on the chosen vehicle of the centenarians and terminally unwell. Is this it? The decline? All down hill from here, hearing aids, incontinence pads, and a permanently confused air about me. Decisions My last accident put my wife, Mish, through a lot. Too much. When someone has a severe life event, they are immediately surrounded by professionals and friends who are swarming to help and support. Somewhere on the periphery of this melee tends to be a loving partner overwhelmed by worry and anxiety. I know my first accident took a toll on her, and even months later, it was evident. Small things such as anxiety about whether my Garmin tracker came on at the start of a ride, for example. I was pulled out of the ambulance at Girona, and I heard Mish shriek and saw her move towards me. The primal sound was enough for me. My cycling days are over. I knew when I was lying on the road, and it was finalised when I heard Mish’s reaction to the sight of me seriously injured slightly less than a year after the last major off. The bike has been a significant part of my life, where a lot of solace has been found and where I have reflected and sorted tangled thoughts and emotions a thousand times. A solitary pursuit for most of my millions of pedal strokes, it has, in the post-COVID become central to my personal life, with a broad range of friends made. Cycling has possibly saved my life by giving me the space to straighten my anxious thoughts. And it has more than likely been a significant reason the cardiovascular killing fields of the fifty-something Western male didn’t consume me. Strangely, I wouldn’t hesitate to ride a bike again. But I’m not putting Mish through that anxiety for another second. And while I will miss those glory days on the road with friends, the bikes are up for sale. Run, Moony, Run was already forming in a dark corner of my mind. Silly Old Fool I went through a ‘people think I’m a silly old fool who isn’t fit to be on the road’ week. This thought will revisit me; it has already left its calling card. I’m getting ready to turn 67 years old and am what you would call an outlier in any cycling group. Age, height, and weight make me an unusual cycling specimen. I have never once contemplated slowing down my exercise regime. Indeed, I foresaw myself cycling into my eighties. There is an increasing body of science illustrating the health and longevity benefits of exercise, and cycling is an excellent cardiovascular exercise form. Being caught in a cascade of bikes falling in Ride London last year didn’t raise a question; there was nothing I could have done. This time, only a rough piece of tarmac and I were involved. Was it an error? Is he too old for this? After all, two accidents in less than a year can’t be a coincidence. Embarrassment and shame have been close companions these last couple of weeks. My long experience on the bike and spotless safety record were a source of quiet pride. As was my fitness, I was never at the front of the pack, but you could never drop me either, even when I was giving up decades in age and many pounds. This silly old fool phenomenon has been hanging around for a while, waiting for an excuse to leap out with a ‘told you so’ smirk on its face. I come from a family and background where sport and exercise were not part of our lives. I’m naturally crap at sports too. Yet, a constant thread in my life has been my stubborn application. I am not even average as an athlete. At school, I used to drift around at the rear of the various humiliations of the playing fields. But I would always put the effort in, and eventually, a result would come. A miracle performance at the cross-country trials, completely against the form book. Forcing my way onto the rugby team through sheer effort when the naturally talented ones were slacking. And it has happened to me in life. I remain an average athlete at best. But here’s the secret: I’m still here. By staying in the game, I have become measurably very fit for my age. My VO2—now seen as the gold standard for healthy ageing—is in the top 10% for my age. I hold some Strava records for my cycling efforts. HRV is outstanding for my age group. I’m a silly old fool and will continue to be so. Playing golf and having a massive beer gut and diabetes legs hasn’t appealed to me much. You have to be in the game to get near to the podium. So stick in there and good things will happen. Aftercare It took me a while to get into the UK healthcare system. On the day of the accident, I had transferred from my old company healthcare to my new personal policy. The healthcare company wanted to know if any of the issues were preexisting; therefore, a GP letter was requested. The problem is the two-week lead time to see my GP. I hurt today, so I called NHS 111 and was told to attend a local hospital for an 8 p.m. appointment. On arrival, it was 8 pm to join a six-hour queue to see someone. After two hours my ribs would take no more and I went home. The last 11 months have shown me the best and worst of the NHS. Superbly professional medical staff, and a horrible feeling that the blob of bureaucracy is strangling the service. I’m not on board with the ‘blame the Tories’ campaign; the raw facts on investment over an extended period show the problem has been compounding for a long time. My Google-translated hospital report eventually persuaded the healthcare provider to do the right thing, and the past days have been a whirl of consultant appointments and tests. The have-and-have-not gap is brutally illustrated by the contrast in the quality of service I experienced at both ends of the spectrum this last week. Next week, I have an operation to insert titanium into my collarbone and scapula and also to remove some bone fragments from the latter area. I am also experiencing some balance issues; therefore, further neurological investigations are underway. This latter issue sounds scary, but is under control. The worst case is medication to manage blood flow for a few weeks. It could have been much worse. I consider myself lucky. Enjoy life, my friends, as none of us know what’s around the corner. Run, Moony, Run Where next? I was due to start my New York Marathon training immediately upon arriving home from Girona. That’s now been delayed, particularly given I have shoulder and collarbone surgery next week. Being realistic, even gentle running can only be contemplated at the beginning of July, and that only gives me four months to prepare. This was always going to be a tough mission, what with arthritic inflammation being a part of my post-run pain medley, and my lack of serious running miles in my life. Wise heads around me are telling me to take my time on recovery, and if the marathon has to be deferred to next year, then so be it. Don’t you hate rational and well-balanced people? I’m here in a festering mess of self-doubt, believing with every ounce of my being that if I don’t do the marathon, then no goals will mean no exercise, will mean declining health, and an inevitable spiral into an infirm old age. As an aside, I have another handy scenario that fuelled my professional career, where I end up broke and living under a bridge. I can do a doom-laden inner script to get my ass out of bed, it’s a winning characteristic. I like to declare my goals early and let people know. That brings a sense of accountability and makes the (cycle) wheels turn—or, in this case, the running shoes. Given my serious accident, the 2023 goals were blown out of the water. With my Girona accident, 2024 could well go the same way. So what? The what? Having nothing to aim for risks apathy creep up on me. I fear nothingness. I fear a gradual drift into inactivity and a shrinking life. Maybe that’s what ageing becomes, but I’m buggered if I’m going quietly. Wear out, don’t rust out. Don’t go quietly into the night. Because it will be night for more than long enough. That fear and the needs of others brought #runmoonyrun onto my radar. Run, Moony, Run Completing a marathon is a massive challenge for me. It’s a misogi level, and my chances of achieving it are less than 50%. My current travails make the challenge even more demanding. But my challenges are nothing compared to what others face. We can tend to get self-absorbed in our challenges and not see the immense life and health challenges others face daily. So, I decided to shift the playing field rather than moan and pre-script excuses for not doing a marathon. I’ll do the marathon and raise some cash to support others. Let me get it off my chest now. I’m done with professional victims telling me their problems on social media. That’s not me being a grumpy old man; it’s me saying open your eyes. Be aware of the social, economic and medical pain people go through daily, with no end. I’m a fortunate man who has had a little bad luck. Life is unfair; no one handed us a quality charter at birth that said, ‘Life will be golden. ‘ It’s not fair, and we use our best individual and collective capabilities to navigate life. But for millions, life is not fair. Use some perspective big boy, and count your blessings. A loving partner, great friends, economic independence, good health, etc. Don’t pathologise your every down day in order to accrue social media likes. Enjoy the journey. A good friend of mine is dealing with cancer at present. One of the last people you would imagine, and an outlier for the form of cancer in age terms. If they and their loving family can suffer this, then there is more to do when it comes to cancer research. Another great friend of more than thirty years beat cancer and sadly died of MND this week. Over the years, two terrific friends have suffered the same cancer my friend is currently dealing with. One died, and one continues to move forward while managing the symptoms. We have made massive strides in the battle against cancer in recent years. But it still brings pain and destruction to countless people and their families every year. There’s my #runmoonyrun cause: to raise money for cancer research. You’re Kidding, Right? Haven’t run for 25 years. Tick. Haven’t run close to a marathon in my life. Tick. Moderate arthritis in both knees. Tick. 67 years old on the day of the New York Marathon. Tick. 6’5″ and 235 pounds. Tick. Recovering from multiple fractures. Tick. Extremely low fitness level, given the last item. Tick. These are perfect conditions for me to launch my #runmoonyrun venture. Let’s raise some money for excellent causes. What’s the best that can happen? – I cross the line, arms over my head, the Rocky theme playing. The middle option? – I walk, run, walk, and get around in six hours, but the job gets done, and I quietly hum the Rocky theme to myself as I cross the line. The worst option? – I run out of training time and defer my fundraising run to London 2025 or New York 2025. I see the middle option as most likely, And even that messy failure delivers my misogi for 2024. Next week, I have an operation to plate my collarbone and shoulder blade. Six weeks to recover takes me to the start of July. Then I have four clear months to get marathon fit. It’s a tough one. But what the hell else will I do with my spare time? On the positive side, my old employer Science in Sport has agreed to be my nutrition sponsor for the marathon. Will they regret having such an atypical ambassador on their books? I don’t know the answer to that, but I am very grateful and I know nutrition before, during, and after every training session will be key. The older one gets, the more important nutrition becomes. I have been using daily turmeric shots from Thomas Robson-Kanu’s The Turmeric Co. range for three months, which has helped reduce some of the inflammation in my knees. Thomas has kindly offered to supply me with turmeric shots through my training. Again, this is crucial – the science behind turmeric is very sound, and these products will be essential to get me to the start line. The fundraising page will appear in September, and I’ll come round with the hat. You are warned. In the meantime – #runmoonyrun [...]
March 31, 2024You Can’t Improve It If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. The diagram on the left illustrates my Training Peaks fitness trend over the last year. A year ago, I was ramping up my fitness for the annual Girona cycling pilgrimage, which was a precursor to Ride London in May. As is documented elsewhere, Ride London saw me in the ICU for 12 days with multiple fractures. The graph bottom right shows my fitness fall precipitously. And then, my climb back. I have cycled, gone to the gym, and even taken up running—all to get back to fitness. And this morning, my fitness was higher than when I came into Ride London 2023. With Girona only three weeks away I had planned some hilly climbs in the month leading into the trip. Three sessions of North London hills. And yesterday, an absolutely brutal loop through the worst the Surrey Hills has to offer. When I finally got home, I was wracked in agony and was experiencing cramps. A long day in the saddle can do that for you. I don’t remember another day when I saw the gradient at 20% and over than yesterday. For a few seconds, I saw a reading of 28%. At 103 kgs, hills of that profile are no fun. Relatively Strong If you don’t measure it applies to other parameters, too. Garmin measures an approximation of VO2. This measure is increasingly seen as a good indicator of longevity – see this range of Peter Attia articles. We can go into a long argument about the accuracy of this Garmin measurement, but it counts for me. Firstly, because I will track a trend over time and if I’m maintaining or improving, that’s a good thing. If I did the fully-scientific VO2 test with a mask and dozens of sensors clipped to me I would probably get a different number. But then I would need to do it again and again and again in order to see progress. What I like about being in Garmin’s top 10% for my age and gender is the massive data pool. With millions of Garmin devices in circulation, my performance stacks up against a large peer group. I have two more areas in my ‘if you don’t measure it’ category: sleep and Heart Rate Variability. We are all aware of the importance of sleep in a wide range of physical and mental health areas. My trend for the last eight weeks is steadily downwards but still within the normal range. One to watch, for sure. The other measure is Heart Rate Variability. This is another critical measure when it comes to establishing base fitness, and it’s a great early warning system; summary here. My HRV is high, although yesterday’s smash fest has left my HRV with an amber signal, which tells me my recovery condition is marginal—a day to take it easy. It’s a good early indicator for colds and other illnesses. Quite often, I have seen my HRV fall in the days leading up to a cold. Summary There is no substitute for the ‘if you don’t measure it’ approach to fitness. Without points of reference, there is no way to understand whether you are genuinely making progress. Feel is a good indicator, but it isn’t definitive. The numbers never lie when looking at trends. I have settled on the three most essential measures available to us weekend warriors who don’t have access to full-blown sports laboratories. This routine fits into my life easily. Training Peaks and Garmin do their stuff in the background, while HRV takes me one minute with a finger sensor and app. However, for Apple and Garmin watches and Whoop wristbands, HRV is measured. I have found the wrist-based devices to be less consistent in measuring over a period, sometimes delivering wild swings for no reason. Golden rule? If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. [...]
March 28, 2024What Is Misogi? A traditional Japanese purification ritual centred on waterfall bathing. In the Shinto faith, ‘misogi’ means ‘water cleansing’. Standing under the icy waterfall purifies the soul and prepares one for the next 364 days of the year. In a contemporary context, misogi has extended into a comprehensive personal development and transformation approach. The goal remains purification and renewal, but it is achieved through a broader range of pursuits, including physical and mental challenges and spiritual practices. Mental resilience is a focus; a tough physical challenge challenges the psyche; therefore, techniques such as meditation and reflection help one to tackle significant challenges. In many misogi approaches, nature plays a significant role as its energy and purity can support the cleansing process. I was introduced to it by a friend some weeks ago, and it appealed to me. In his embracing the concept, he schedules an annual physical challenge. He failed last year, and I have understood that this is important. The misogi should challenge to the point there is a 50% probability of achieving the goal. Pushing oneself hard and looking internally for strength and resources is part of the spiritual cleansing. It cannot be in the comfort zone. Learning More The conversation led me to read The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter. He posits that our modern lifestyle is too comfortable. Driving, living in air-conditioned comfort, and more food than we can ever need all serve to undermine our spiritual and physical richness and resilience. He explores this at length, centring the book on him going into Arctic Alaska for five weeks, hunting to survive, enduring extreme weather, and none of the comforts we deem essential. Five weeks without washing was a footnote, given the scale of the challenges. I approached the book with scepticism, tired of ‘bro science’ and magical diets and exercise routines. This one boils down to one simple idea – to get out of our comfort zone. It prompted me to revisit this blog post on Mind Over Body, and I can see the threads of The Comfort Crisis running through this thinking. My Misogi(s) The notion appealed to me. I like to tackle hard things, not seeking to win but to prove that I can. In recent years, this has made me more resilient and self-aware, more in touch with my inner conversation, and more capable of managing my spiritual and mental health. I have already identified my 2024 misogi, with me entering the New York Marathon—my first-ever marathon and running a sport that I received medical advice to cease more than twenty years ago. Add osteoarthritis in the knees to my advanced years; I believe it’s misogi-worthy. Getting through the training and event will take a lot of mental resilience and introspection. I’m attempting a mental misogi. I have wanted to write a novel for most of my life, even as a teenager, yet I have always found a reason not to. I believe I don’t have the skills to get it done, that I’m not naturally inclined to the artistic, and have the necessary that I don’t have the inner knowledge to write something compelling. Definitely less than a 50% chance of achieving that. I find it almost incomprehensible that I can pull together a novel. So let’s go. I’m giving myself one year to arrive at an advanced draft of a novel. It’s my birthday in May, so to make the finish line easy to remember, let’s say the draft will be completed on 22 May 2025. It may take me two years; who knows? But it’s a big challenge that will test a lot of aspects of me, and that in my book, is a misogi. Putting It Out There This is a short blog, but it is important to me. I don’t want to be someone who casually throws around ideas prefaced with the words, ‘I might’. We all know people like that. Hell, I’ve done it myself. I am responsible if I tell you I will run a marathon and write a novel. There is no walking away from the misogi. Watch this space. And as a final question: what’s your misogi? [...]
20 weeks to @nycmarathon and a crisis of confidence appears. 🔗 in bio. #runmoonyrun

20 weeks to @nycmarathon and a crisis of confidence appears. 🔗 in bio. #runmoonyrun

A true sporting great @markcavendish

A true sporting great @markcavendish

My brother. 35 years and counting.
As the ultimate niche sports trivia, you're looking at the owners of five national championship medals and six European championship medals. But which sport?

My brother. 35 years and counting.
As the ultimate niche sports trivia, you`re looking at the owners of five national championship medals and six European championship medals. But which sport?

Session with the genius artist @denibalbino today to finish my tiger, but also to check my now healed dragon out 🔥🔥🔥🐉🐉🐉🐲🐲🐲

Session with the genius artist @denibalbino today to finish my tiger, but also to check my now healed dragon out 🔥🔥🔥🐉🐉🐉🐲🐲🐲

Life changes. I used to love the unboxing of a new pair of cycling shoes or some expensive unobtanium gadget that would turn me into a Tour de France winner.

Now its running shoes, here my new @asicsrunning trail shoes. I am going through a grieving period for my decades long sport of choice, cycling. Trying to live running, and I don't; so I try to spice it up by setting almost impossible goal, so I don’t bottle out. A Poundland Goggins.

My medical advice is don't run for a good month. Because I'm disturbing the recovery from multiple fractures and also I am still suffering dizziness after a serious head injury. My journey quickly risking becoming Poundland Goggins is full of crap, if I don't make the @nycmarathon start. 

A lot of juggling of emotions, lifestyle choices, understanding the importance of goals and determination in my wrestling match with mortality and not wishing to go gently into the night.

The messy human condition, yet I recognize the process I'm in and lean in. No self pity, rather an attitude of this being learning and part of growth.
#runmoonyrun #mentalhealthawareness #mensmentalhealth

Life changes. I used to love the unboxing of a new pair of cycling shoes or some expensive unobtanium gadget that would turn me into a Tour de France winner.

Now its running shoes, here my new @asicsrunning trail shoes. I am going through a grieving period for my decades long sport of choice, cycling. Trying to live running, and I don`t; so I try to spice it up by setting almost impossible goal, so I don’t bottle out. A Poundland Goggins.

My medical advice is don`t run for a good month. Because I`m disturbing the recovery from multiple fractures and also I am still suffering dizziness after a serious head injury. My journey quickly risking becoming Poundland Goggins is full of crap, if I don`t make the @nycmarathon start.

A lot of juggling of emotions, lifestyle choices, understanding the importance of goals and determination in my wrestling match with mortality and not wishing to go gently into the night.

The messy human condition, yet I recognize the process I`m in and lean in. No self pity, rather an attitude of this being learning and part of growth.
#runmoonyrun #mentalhealthawareness #mensmentalhealth

An honour to take these fine gentlemen out to dinner last evening. My brothers helped me at the roadside when I had my massive off in Girona on 19 April. 

Sounds like I gave them a shock. We had a good debate as to whether it was cerebrospinal fluid or Cacaolat coming out of my nose. And I found out a ‘nurse’ attended to me with Reiki healing techniques while I was out cold and leaking blood and CerebroCacaloat. 

But most of all, after all the stories, it was great to enjoy the company of these fine men, eat some fine food, and reflect on how good life is.

An honour to take these fine gentlemen out to dinner last evening. My brothers helped me at the roadside when I had my massive off in Girona on 19 April.

Sounds like I gave them a shock. We had a good debate as to whether it was cerebrospinal fluid or Cacaolat coming out of my nose. And I found out a ‘nurse’ attended to me with Reiki healing techniques while I was out cold and leaking blood and CerebroCacaloat.

But most of all, after all the stories, it was great to enjoy the company of these fine men, eat some fine food, and reflect on how good life is.