Monthly Archives: July 2013

Dust and Delerium – My Second 10K

 

After managing to finish my first 10k last year despite going up one of the steepest hills instead of around it and stopping to tie my shoelaces, I decided to try it this year.

I intended to carb-load the night before, that is filling yourself with carbohydrates (as the Mighty Mo Farrah recommends) to fuel you through. However as I was at a barbecue for dinner I couldn’t stomach it.

The weather forecast was great if you wanted to sunbathe, but not ideal for a race. Twenty-one degree heat was predicted, which feels double that when you’re wheezing your guts out.

I hadn’t trained more than once a week, although I have been cycling to work for a week or two. You need to exercise about five days a week to really push your stamina levels up according to my doctor dad and lately I have been getting to work faster and faster.

I was already feeling tired as I had not been able to get to sleep the night before, being hot and restless.

It seemed to take an age to register. We got some gimicky freebies in a goody bag – foot cream, sweat towel and so forth.

My boyfriend and I limbered up in the dust bowl of my local farm’s lane as an athletic, macho crowd gathered. I wondered whether I was crazy. What was I doing here? The only other females were honed toned and looked rather pleased with themselves already.

My friend couldn’t contain her excitement, paparazzi-style and I was grateful for her support.

The “ready, set go” of the race wasn’t quite the shock of the starting gun I was hoping for, but off we went, long lean bodies jostling for position, elbows flying. It was almost as risky as a mosh pit.

Pretty soon we fell into line and I felt charged with the energy and vitality of the competitors. The breaths behind spurred me into action, giving it all I got with my weak legs. They felt empty of all strength and drive, the result of a couple of hours sleep and an early start. The running devil in my head wondered whether I was going to have to walk it, but I didn’t pay any attention. The voice I wanted to give attention to was the angel saying “go on, you can do it, you’ll be fine, you’re doing well”. Later on in the race I verbalised that voice and found it gave me incredible comfort and support.

We wound round country lanes and up hills, in fact almost all the race was a hill. The sun beat down us and the air was frustratingly still and warm. I found myself sweating all over and gasping for air. I felt like I was drowning. My heartbeat wouldn’t slow down, it raced and raced faster than my feet did. I tried to regulate it and at first succeeded but as it got faster it got more difficult.

Thankfully there were stiles to give a welcome break as I waited for the queue to jump it. I felt like a ninja, Ipod blaring, vaulting them with ease. But once I was off the stile I became a car low on fuel again. Without the carbs my body was almost stalling, and on the hills my pace slowed to that of walking.

But I refused to let the running devil win. I wasn’t going to walk, otherwise I might stroll round the course and it would cease to be a race.

So on I went, gasping, wheezing, with sweat sticking my clothes to me. I was grateful when we ran in shade but a lot of the track was open to the harsh rays. It was a real test of motivation to keep going. Half way round the line of girls in front began walking and I knew then that I was too far back. I was so frustrated with my body, where was the power my legs needed? I could almost hear the thud of my heart over the music in my headphones, a dull cacophony of desperation. Surely it wasn’t going to be this body-breaking all the way around.

Two runners gave me motivation. One was embarrassingly near the start, by a strangely cheerful young man. Another was towards the halfway mark. As I began to give way to the running devil and seriously consider walking, just for a little bit, only for a bit, a lady encouraged me just at the right time. There she was, running but still smiling. I had seen her walking ahead for a while but my pace had been so slow that I hadn’t been able to overtake anyone! These words of advice were just what I needed and suddenly I found myself on the right track and not just physically. I had a new determination, a new power from within. I felt like Asterix after he had drunk the magic strength potion. Suddenly I had new belief in myself and the angel kicked the devil out for good.

I felt my legs charge up, my heart-rate slow and my body relax. Stamina had arrived.

The female motivational runner, who had said I would “overtake her at the next stile” in a rather patronising manner suddenly realised that sometimes if you motivate people it actually works. She tried in vain to catch up, keeping the pressure on for some time as I wound through woodland now almost alone. I could dimly see my competitors in front. I aimed for them, not taking my eyes off them. I would not be beaten. I would not.

We were through the woods and I had caught up to the dim figures. I began to run into the downhill slope, whereas they ran in a lop-sided careless fashion. This enabled me to overtake them on the hill, I was perfectly balanced this way, bending my knees more and taking the hill in my stride literally.

They were as irritated at being beaten as the last girl and again tailed me for some distance. Finally I saw the first man I had seen in the race for a while up ahead. I felt like I was improving – their had only been one man walking further back. I took advantage of the shade from the trees and my new slower heart beat to allow myself to go faster.

It took much longer this time but I closed in on my prey, a tall long-limbed man in a black shirt and shorts. The wrong colour for hot weather. He tried in desperation to quicken his pace but it was to no avail. I finally overtook him, but he overtook me and stayed just ahead for some time. Shortly after him was my first motivational speaker. He had run too fast at the start and was running in a manner which said let me finish this please. At this point the elevation went up and down with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. He looked exhausted. As I passed him I returned the encouragement. He instantly brightened up and a smile returned to his face. I saw the life go back into him in a way which I felt when I was spurred to success.

But I was not going to let him win now. Not when I had returned the favour, that would be embarrassing. The first man I had passed, dressed in black, was just ahead as I went up the hill, telling myself to come on, growling out the strain. I must have looked completely crazy.

As we went over the last hurdle (or stile) and went through a funnel of trees before the finish I was tantalisingly close to my prey. One last push and I could beat him. He tried to quicken his pace but he was too exhausted. The tunnel vision kicked in and I gave it all I had, sprinting past him to the finish line.

In the end I was only a minute faster than last year! Completing it in an hour and six minutes. But it was such a sense of achievement to have done it in the high 20 degree heat and it was thrilling to finally beat the guy in front. I enjoyed my free burger and sports massage, just what I needed post-race!

027

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

10k Run on Sunday, tips please!

 

I’m excited to be doing my second ever 10k on Sunday. Last year I went the wrong way and went up one of the steepest hills instead of around it. The guy that followed me was not happy! I even stopped to do my shoelaces, but still somehow managed to do it in 1 hour 7 minutes.

I’m trying to take it more seriously this time. I’ve heard carb-loading is good, but other than that I don’t really have any idea what to do before a race/during the race/after the race. Any advice on what to eat before the race or how to avoid injury or better regulate my breathing would be greatly appreciated!

Please post a comment below and help me run better this year.

5 Comments

Filed under Running, Uncategorized

A Near Miss

Commuter cycling is the most dangerous form of transport, especially in the morning rush hour. Perhaps this explains why only 2% of us get to work on two wheels. 

I enjoy it because it gets me more alert and relaxed and saves me £11.50 a week, which adds up over time. It’s also exciting whizzing along as clumsy cars wait in a queue.

A few days ago though, I took my eyes off the road for the first time and the unthinkable happened.

I knew it was a possibility – all our cycling friends had been hit at least once. But I thought I was too careful for it to happen to me.

I was a little concerned about setting off late, it was already 8.15am and the roads were incredibly busy. There was a traffic jam briefly in the bus lane and I had to dodge round buses, motorbikes, school transport vehicles and even other cyclists. It was mayhem.

But after the jam everything seemed fine and I continued as usual. 

On my way to the junction I was keeping an eye out for pedestrians, giving space for cars coming out of side roads, slowing down when cars were switching lanes ahead, following all the usual safety precautions.

But as the lights went green I felt the angry breath of the car’s radiator on my back as I sensed it trying to turn impatiently. So I put my head down to get some speed for a split second. Then I looked up just as a white van was turning into me. It hadn’t seen me speeding through in my bright blue top and high visibility vest. I immediately applied the breaks hard, skidding along. I looked opened mouthed at it coming towards me, bracing myself for the inevitable. But by some miracle I stopped just before the bonnet.

I pedalled on furiously in both senses of the word. How could they not see me? I had right of way, they SHOULD have seen me. Arriving at my destination shaken, I got myself some calming chamomile tea and talked about it. They reminded me that the van’s driver would only have seen a blur if anything.

I later celebrated my survival with an indulgent shop at Waitrose.

Cyclist versus vehicle is all too common. In 2011 52 490 cyclists were injured on the roads and the number killed or seriously injured increased by 9%. In my city alone, 15% of “slight accidents” had risen between 2006-11.

In my experience red lanes are inadequate, badly maintained and sometimes completely illogical, like the lane which stops before a vehicle bottleneck. We need street signs raising awareness of bicycles using the lanes.

My brother’s friend was knocked off in a hit and run, a family friend was injured by a car not leaving enough room, and a fellow zero emissions commuter told me how he once didn’t see a Land Rover and ended up in a neck brace. But even as a pedestrian the roads are perilous. A friend tripped over her shoes and landed across two lanes. The car on one side stopped but the bus didn’t see her. She rolled over and the wheels

This picture is not of the subjects referred to belowpassed inches from her head. Quick reactions can be the difference between life and death.

I think myself lucky that I escaped unharmed but learnt an important lesson. I haven’t let it stop me, indeed I cycled in to work today. Due to my added awareness I managed to avoid going into a car that had seen me, but thought that it could turn before I came towards it. How a driver can be on the road with that sort of spatial awareness I don’t know. I also avoided a car crossing into the lane I was in ahead of me, without leaving sufficient space.

I had inspired a friend to think about cycling to work, but she is now deterred by my near miss and safety warnings from her family.

However, I think it’s important to remember that if you keep safety in check, the health benefits will make two-wheeling worth it. Research shows that cyclists have lower weight, blood pressure and insulin levels. It can even cut the risk of breast cancer. I have certainly noticed my stamina and general fitness improve. I think it is still possible to cycle to work safely. Here’s how…

LEAVE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.

  • I have found that the earlier before 8am the better. The roads are quieter, less traffic and I haven’t had an incident yet before this time.
  • alarm-clock-ringing
  • THINK – CYCLE LIKE YOU’RE DRIVING A CAR
  • This is probably the best advice I have seen, from an accident lawyer. Since following this I have not had any trouble. Anticipate just as you would when driving.
  • 1. Pedestrians – are they about to cross the road? If they are crossing the road, have they seen you?
  • 2. Vehicles – have they seen you at junctions? Slow down until you can be sure they are not going to move off.
  • Are they switching lanes? Let them do this ahead of you as they may not have seen you and so may not allow enough room.
  • – Be aware of hidden side roads – cars can come shooting out of them so slow down when you pass them and look right into them.

DON’T RISK YOUR SAFETY FOR A

MOTORIST’S CONVENIENCE

  • If I hadn’t been rushing to try to allow the tailgating car behind me to turn, I would have seen the van coming turning towards me.
  • If I had been cycling in the middle of the lane the van would be more likely to have seen me. It is often better to cycle with the cars than at the side of the road, which can encourage them to pass you, sometimes without leaving enough room.

All this sounds obvious but it’s easily overlooked. Don’t ever get complacent because as soon as you lose concentration like I did, something could happen. But don’t let a brush with danger stop you getting on your bike. Stay safe out there everyone!

Bicycle+messenger+vs+car+in+Helsinki+106381

So what am I taking away from my experience?

 ALWAYS SLOW DOWN AND LOOK AS YOU GO THROUGH A JUNCTION.

share the road

3 Comments

Filed under Cycling, Life of Lydia

Legally Representing Myself (Law DIY)

This is not me

This is not me

This morning I acted as my own legal representative for the first time. It was both intimidating and exciting.

Unable to afford official solicitors, I decided to try it myself. I made my own court bundle of evidence and made sure I read up onMan with Bound Book legal and case points beforehand.

I wrote on my previous post about my Employment Tribunal claim for non-payment of wages and constructive dismissal. I described how I worked for 5 weeks as an English language teacher without pay, despite being given a contract. The excuse was that I was going to be paid but there was trouble with the bank. It has been seven months and I have not seen a penny of it.

Today was the big day. I nervously deliberated about what to wear. I decided on a dark grey business dress with pin lawyer-786478stripes which stopped just before the knee and was slightly figure hugging, with opaque black tights. It did not have sleeves so I wore a simple black cardigan, as I knew from being a legal secretary that sleeveless clothing was frowned on in legal proceedings.

I attempted to print off extra documents with my expensive white elephant of a printer (it only works when it feels like it) and spent extra time preening. Thankfully two of my former colleagues, Marilyn and Karen, who had also not been paid, agreed to meet me there and were both allowed in the Hearing room.

We went into a concealed small entrance into what looked like unassuming offices. A receptionist told us to go up to the Claimant’s area and we were met by a kindly, reassuring usher, who was sympathetic and a good listener. She told us how the building used to be a children’s school and still had a playground on the roof. There was another Claimant in there, a middle aged bespectacled man, red-faced and perspiring profusely. He looked in horror at my chronological, alphabetically ordered court bundle, no doubt wondering whether my overkill was common practice. We were told we may have to wait an hour, as he had been called in first. However soon after she told us this, another Judge magically appeared and within a mere half an hour I was ushered in.

I helped myself to a glass of water with trembling hands and waited for the Judge to arrive. A few minutes later he Employment_Tribunalentered. He was a tall, middle aged, slightly balding man with glasses and an intellectual, laid-back air. He instantly dismissed all formalities with a wave of his hand and said there was no need to go to the Witness Box, as no Respondent had arrived. He explained that this was considered admission of guilt in itself, as by non-attendance the Respondent had suggested that there was nothing to defend. It was a Remedy hearing, so he had already considered my evidence and made a decision in my absence.

“this is a sad situation which I see time and time again”

He told me that I was entitled to gross compensation rather than net compensation for my Schedule of Loss. This is a document showing how much the company owed me for work, holiday and notice pay, and how much I had comparatively lost in wages since my alternative employment. Jobseekers Allowance was not added on to the claim. The Benefits Office would issue a claim to the Respondent for public money owed as a result of my resignation following non-payment. I was not entitled to statutory pay as I had not worked there for two years. I reminded him that I was claiming under the exception of asserting a statutory right. He got rather irritated, shifted about in his chair and said “I am aware of that”. I quickly apologised and accepted his explanation.

We moved swiftly on and it emerged that the Judge agreed with everything I had claimed for. He told me a Judgement ordering the pay of almost £6 000 was in order. However, he said that I could not enforce any Order he made in the Employment Tribunal. I would have to transfer it into the County Court for that, but he believed that was free. He suggested he had previously worked in the legal field before becoming a Magistrate, which was reassuring.

I pointed out that my former colleagues were victims too, at which point he remarked on our “sad situation” and said it was something he saw “time and time again” with “a steady stream” of cases coming through “all the time”.

“this new change is a rogue’s judgement and will side with employers”

He also warned that it was “highly unlikely” the Respondent would pay as a result of the Order and that I would money_972_19521169_0_0_7049696_300probably need to pay to get it enforced. However I have heard that all my former employees have been dismissed and she has just established a third business with a different name.

“there will no longer be any justice for the common man or woman”

We then had a discussion about the injustice of legal fees coming in to the system from the end of July. Again, he completely agreed with me. He stated that although he was supposed to be politically impartial, he had to say that the new change to the system was a “rogue’s judgement, as you would expect under the Conservatives”, incriminating employees when employers are just as often at fault as those they hire. He agreed that there would be far less cases being pursued like mine, resulting in more scam employers getting away with it.

He said “there will no longer be any justice for the common man or woman like you and me”. He told me that a case like mine would cost in the region of £1 300, and that even if I just pursued the most simple claim it would still be £350.

We left and as I walked down the steps of the humble old building I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. It was finally over. Or was it?

We had a coffee in some public gardens with a large fountain. We watched two men barbecuing chicken legs until they were ticked off by one park warden, then his colleague. After a while a “bobby on a bike” turned up and then they finally agreed to leave. They strolled off with baggy pants falling down as soon as the policeman began to talk into his radio.

The sun was out and I felt so content until I felt the sun burning my shoulders. We went for lunch in a cafe and talked more about our experiences. Marilyn, as the unofficial detective of our group of former (unpaid) employees had found out all sorts of information about our former Director.

Emboldened by my first legal representation, I decided we should march down to the Police station right then and police-helmetthere and update them on their ongoing investigation. The detective was absolutely excellent. She came out to meet us and attempted to take us into an interview room, but there were none free. I updated her on Proceedings and she was most surprised that I would not be able to enforce anything. After all, what is the point of an Order that the miscreant will just ignore?

After a progress update we felt reassured. Marilyn and Karen were grateful to meet her, as they had been interviewed by some of her colleagues previously.

I walked out into the sunshine with them feeling rather proud. Things were making progress, I had been awarded more than I claimed for, a Judgement would be sent in the post and the Police enquiry was picking up pace.

Maybe I should train to be a lawyer…

4 Comments

Filed under Life of Lydia