Short Story

He was dead!

In a frozen, frantic, second he took it all in. His own face reflected in Kasabian’s mirror sunglasses. (How was that his face? He’d never seen it before.) The pistol in Kasabian’s hand. (Who was Kasabian? Why had he shot him?) The realisation he was a second from death. (Who was he?) His lifeless fingers falling away from the pistol in it’s shoulder holster (Why did he have a pistol? Human life is sacrosanct, he could never kill someone.) The deck of the boat rising to meet him as his body fell limp.

A frenzy of information assailed his mind while a mania of questions threatened his sanity.

He was in a car.

WHAT?

He threw the wheel over, brakes locking, bumped up the pavement and slid to a stop. There was a long and frightening horn blast as a lorry slewed around him.

What? What? What?

He looked around frantically. In a car. Where was Kasabian? Where was he? He was on the pavement of a dual carriageway, not on a boat deck. He looked down, his suit was unmarked. He patted himself, not trusting his eyes, no bullet wounds. What?

He took a few deep breaths, trying to calm the mind-numbing panic.

First things first. Not dead. That was good.

Try to be logical.

OK. Not dead. Still good. In an old fashioned sports car. Could be worse. He adjusted the rear view mirror and looked at himself. The same face he’d seen reflected in Kasabian’s sunglasses. A white, thirty something man. Clean shaven, slicked, black hair, blue eyes, ruggedly handsome. It was consistent, but still not his face. Who was he? He couldn’t even remember his own name, or one single fact before dying. Oh no. Dying. Dying! He felt the rise of panic. Stop it! Work it out!

Clues.

He did a quick search of his pockets. In the right hand suit jacket inside pocket he found a long slim wallet. He snatched it out and opened it. A driver’s licence! Bingo! He looked at the face on the card, it was the one in the mirror, then the name. Charles Whyte.

He was Charles Whyte. Charles. Charlie. Char. Whytey. He said them all a few times, testing for any sort of response from his memory. Nothing. A stranger’s face with a stranger’s name.

He shuffled in his seat and felt in his trouser pockets. A few pound coins. He patted down his suit, only then noticing the bulge under his arm. He was so accustomed to it he hadn’t even noticed it. As his hand struck it he became suddenly, horribly, aware of it. Fearing, but knowing, what he was going to find, he pulled his jacket open. The butt of a pistol met his gaze, projecting temptingly from a shoulder holster.

Oh no.

Why? Why did he have a gun? To kill a human would be… his thoughts dissolved into incomprehensible panic. He started again. He couldn’t… his thoughts skittered away from him… do *that thing*. It was literally unthinkable. So why did he have a gun?

He gingerly took it from it’s holster, opened the glove box and placed the gun inside. He saw some papers so removed them. More clues?

There was a paper map (really? A paper map?) and a newspaper cutting (from a physical newspaper! What?) He read the cutting. “WORLD HELD TO RANSOM! MADMAN THREATENS TO NUKE!”

Was this a joke?

The rest of the article implied, in lurid tabloid hyperbole, that a nuclear warhead had been stolen and it was only a matter of time before someone demanded something of someone else. What they lacked in fact they made up for in speculation. He wanted to screw it up and throw it away, but the last sentence grabbed his attention. The police were looking for any information regarding the theft, particularly as regards to a person or group known only as Kasabian.

Oh.

He slid the paper clip off the cutting and unfolded the map to which it was attached. It was a large scale, tourist looking, map of London. The first thing that caught his eye was a circle around a road next to the Thames with “Nero, 13.30, 21.08.21” written neatly next to it. The two items had to be connected. Was Nero Kasabian’s alias? Was Kasabian meeting Nero? To exchange the nuke? Were people still called Nero? Well, it was happening at 1.30pm on the 21st. With a feeling of inevitability he looked at his watch. 09.35, 21st of August. Of course it was.

He checked the rest of the car, then got out and opened the boot, but all he found was a spare wheel, no further clues.

He was out of options really. He had no memory of who he was, no explanation for anything that had happened so far, and nobody he could ask. There was only one person who could possibly give him any answers and they had already killed him once.

He was feeling a bit calmer now. He wasn’t in immediate danger. He couldn’t begin to answer any of the questions looping around in his head, but he was accepting that for the time being. And he was taking the only possible action in the circumstances. He adjusted his rear view mirror, started the car, put on his indicator and pulled out. London it is.

He took a slip road onto the M4 at Guilford, following the signs for London. He had the map open on the passenger seat but realised he hadn’t had to check it. He hadn’t wondered where he was starting from, or how to get where he was going. He just knew. Was this a regular drive for him? Another question to add to the list.

He drove into the heart of the city keeping to the speed limits. He was painfully aware he had a pistol in his glove compartment and didn’t want to attract any attention. He drove around the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace at a steady 30mph, then carried on past Tower Bridge until he came to the street circled on the map; St Katherine’s Way. As he drove along it he saw a marina of luxury yachts. His subconscious must have already made the connection because he wasn’t at all surprised to see the biggest yacht was called Nero. Was that the boat he’d been shot on? It was too absurd to say “died upon”, he had died, he was sure of it, but he was here, and he was sure of that, the two couldn’t both be true. He checked his watch, 10.55, then drove around the block and parked up out of sight.

He was going to have to get very close to the Nero, possibly board it, to spy on Kasabian. Without getting seen and killed. That was going to be the trick. He thought about the gun in the glove compartment. He was repulsed by it, by it’s function. But on some subconscious level he was drawn to it. He wanted to leave it in the glove compartment, or destroy it, preferably, but at some level he needed to wear it. He knew he couldn’t …foggy thoughts… use it, but just holding it might deter others from trying to kill him. He was rationalising the compulsion to take the gun, he knew. Waving a pistol about was just as likely to get him shot him from someone panicking. He was fighting a losing battle. He had to have the evil thing. Looking around for security cameras (none) or witnesses (none) he carefully lifted the pistol out and quickly slid it into it’s holster. When he’d discovered it it had sat as comfortable and natural as a body part. Now he was conscious of it like it was a ticking bomb.

He locked the car and tried to walk casually back towards the marina. Like he wasn’t a recently deceased amnesiac with a loaded lethal weapon. Yeah, keep thinking like that, that’s the way to pull off ‘casual’, idiot. He checked his watch, 11.12, he had over an hour before the time on the map. He made his way to a coffee shop overlooking the marina and ordered a drink, then sat by the window. His window was shaded from an awning so he should be invisible from outside, he had his back to the wall, a clear line of sight to the Nero, and could see the entrance door. He was feeling quite good about himself. He’d considered the options and made a good strategic choice. He was doing the best he could. Nobody could surprise him from this position. Now he just had to consider his next step and execute that with the same considered tactical precision. He was starting to think this might work.

“Hello Charles” .

He spat coffee as a tall, blonde woman walked around the corner of the bar.

He’d checked. There was only him and the barista in the place. How? Who?

She was about 5′ 10″, late twenties, slim, blonde, pretty, and wearing what he thought of as an evening dress, black, long, and stylish.

He applied himself to cleaning up the spilled coffee with some paper serviettes, while he desperately thought how he could proceed. He had no idea. The woman walked up to his table and sat across from him.

Oh no.

He looked up from his cleaning. She was looking him in the eye and smiling.

He really didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with a beautiful mystery woman, but there was no way he could bluff. He had no idea who she was. Apparently she knew him, and liked to be overdressed for noon coffee, that was all he knew about her.

“I’m sorry, I seem to have lost my memory. Do I know you?”

Her smile raised a little. “Don’t worry. He” she glanced at the Nero “doesn’t suspect a thing.”

“You’re with Kas… And suddenly he knew. The Lady Katrina Hamilton. Age 28, height 5′ 10”, black belt in Thai boxing, marksman with a pistol, suspected intelligence officer of uncertain allegiance and occasional lover.

“Whoa!” He felt stunned. That was a hell of a memory dump.

Katrina sat still, keeping the same expression, as he processed the information.

“Katrina, Kat” he corrected himself “what am I doing here? Who am I?”

“Charles! He’ll be meeting his connection at 1 o’clock. When I walk to the stern and hold the stern rail, then go back inside, that will be your signal to come aboard. Try not to kill anyone.” He observed her closesly but her face kept the same expression, there was no sign that was a joke.

She rose elegantly and walked to the bar, through the raised flap and into the back room. Well, that explained how he’d missed her. A minute or so later she walked past the coffee shop window without sparing it a glance. He watched her cross the distance to the marina, up the gangplank, and into the body of the huge yacht.

He finished his coffee, still mulling over “try not to kill anyone.” He could barely even think about it in general terms. He couldn’t even think about … it… towards a human being. But the compulsion was there. The same subconscious force that had made him bring the pistol (he’d forgotten he was wearing it for a while) was urging him on. He was consciously rationalising subconscious drives again. If he could… stop… one person, he could retrieve the nuke and possibly save a million lives. It was unthinkable, but he knew at some level that this was all about retrieving the nuke. At any cost. He also knew he could never achieve his goal if that’s what it took. Also, he noticed, he’d come here to discover who he was, but now he felt driven to save the nuke, even at the expense of ever finding out.

He stared out of the window, lost in thought. He needed to be clear headed, ruthless, and focused on his objective if he was going to stand any chance of success. Instead he was locked in “must kill/ can’t kill/ must kill/ can’t kill”.

He was so absorbed in the dilemma he only noticed Kat as she was letting go of the stern rail. He watched as she walked back inside, never looking around. He still hadn’t reached any conclusion, but now it was too late to worry about it. He pushed it to the back of his mind and tried to concentrate on the job in hand. Save the nuke. Even as he did so he knew he’d just conceded more ground to the compulsion.

He stood and made his way out of the cafe. There was no-one in sight but he felt horribly exposed as he walked into the marina. Act as if you belong. This is your boat, you have every right to be here, you do this every day. That was how he should act, he realised he was terrible at it, though. He reached the gangplank and walked straight on, never slowing his pace. What choice did he have?

He walked to the stern and in looked where Kat had gone into the ship. There was an open door into a corridor, he went in. There were doors lining the corridor to either side and one at the far end of the corridor. He walked to the far one and opened it a crack. He heard voices it sounded like at least two men. He froze for a second, torn by indecision. Should he try another door? Stay here and risk detection but maybe overhear something? Or go in and try to sneak closer to see what was going on? The voices were muffled, so presumably not directly behind the door. He eased the door open a little further. No shouts of alarm or approaching footsteps. He knelt down and peered around the door. A large, open room, seats and benches around two sides, a sloped glass window across the whole of the front of the room, overlooking the prow, and a large table in the middle of the room. No source for the voices. He stepped into the room. Where were the voices coming from? They had stopped but now he heard them again. And a woman’s voice. Kat! Was she in danger? He followed the sound to the rear corner of the room. A secret room? On a boat? Then he caught the trick of it, the door was just painted to blend in with the wall. There was no handle but as he reached to push it it started to swing towards him. He dove to one side of the door and put his back to the wall, his pistol in his hand. WHAT? The pistol unnerved him more than this whole stupid plan so far. He forced it back in to the holster and took a breath. After a few seconds the door silently swang closed again. He took a closer look at the door. Above it was a small sensor. Ah, automatic door. Idiot. He felt relieved, then, realising he hadn’t spotted the sensor, suddenly anxious. A rich person’s luxury yacht, how many cameras had he walked past without noticing? Nothing he could do about that. He waved his hand under the sensor and waited for the door to fully open. It had opened twice and nobody had noticed. He swung his head around the door. A flight of stairs leading up to another door. The voices were much clearer now, possibly in the room at the top of the stairs.

A man’s voice “Mr K ordered us to keep the comms secure. This is a restricted area and you aren’t authorised.”

A woman’s voice, unmistakably Kat’s “You do know who I am? I am allowed anywhere.”

A second man’s voice “Oh, Mr K knows who you are. Don’t you worry about that.” There was an edge of malicious glee to the statement. “Our orders are clear.”

There was the slapping sound of something hard impacting with flesh and a female grunt. Without thinking Charles mounted the stairs, pushing at the door as the sensor was opening it, and burst into the room. The two henchmen (from the exhange he’s overheard he couldn’t think of them as anything else) each held one of Katrina’s arms. They all turned to look at him in surprise, Katrina with blood on her mouth from a split lip. “Who?” began the man to Kat’s right. Holding Kat had slowed them for a second but they both relased her and reached for machine pistols that were dangling on their hips from shoulder straps. In the frozen moment Charles realised he had lost. By instinct he had reached for the pistol, his hand had already closed arount the hilt, but his reason overrode it. He couldn’t kill someone. He looked at Kat, to say sorry. She looked irriated but nothing else. Not scared or cowed. Then she exploded into action. She brought her right knee up, then smashed her foot down through the thug on the right’s knee, he screamed as he pitched over. Following the momentum of the kick she span around and slammed her elbow into the other henchman’s temple. He dropped without a sound. In a fluid motion she slammed her hand into the screaming guard’s temple, silencing him. She withdrew her hand, leaving the end of thin spike protruding from the guard’s skull. She stood and wiped the blood from her mouth. “I was going to style it out, but you’ve forced my hand.” She picked up one of the guard’s machine pistols, unclipped the magazine, slid the action back, looked up the breach, looked at the magazine contents, then replaced the clip and released the action. She did it seemingly without conscious thought, just a part of picking up a weapon. “Well, I’m not going to talk my way out of this mess” she didn’t even look at the two dead men who Charles presumed were the ‘mess’, “but at least it simplifies things. Plan B is just grab the nuke and shoot our way out.”

She walked past Charles, who was staring at the bodies, his hand still on his pistol butt, his mind all but closed down. “Thanks for the assist, by the way, you were a total asset.” He felt the change in the room as the door behind him swung open. He was still locked in position, unable to process the violence he’d just seen or the bodies on the ground.

“They’re dead”, he finally managed. “You killed them.”

Kat’s hand on his shoulder broke his paralysis. “Come on, Charles. We are on the clock here”

He turned and followed her out.

She lead him through the ship to a room with just a single crate in it. She walked over and waved her wrist over it. Her wrist watch changed display and started making the classic geiger counter clicking. “That’s the package. Grab it and we’ll get out of here.” Charles had reservations about picking up a box that was clearly emitting radiation, but then the full ridiculousness of the situation struck him. It wasn’t a radioactive box, it was a nuclear bomb. Doubltess protected by trigger happy criminals. Of the things that could disasterously wrong, the risk of radiation poisioning was almost an afterthought.

He picked up the crate. It was a solid steel box, 3 feet long, by 2 feet wide, 2 feet high, containg a nuclear bomb, but he lifted it without effort. He followed Kat back through the ship and up to the corrirdor he entered, out on to the stern deck. They took two steps out into the sunlight then a voice stopped them. “That’s far enough.”

Kat span round, raising her weapon, then stopped. Charles, slower to react, turned around as she was lowering her weapon to the ground. The upper deck was prickling with rifle barrels, all pointing at them. Charles very slowly opened his jacket and removed his pistol, placing it on the box at his feet. As he straightened up, empty handed, Kasabian stepped from behind his men. He wore the same mirror sunglasses and the same black trousers and black polo neck outfit that Charles remembered. He made a hand gesture and a man from each side of the upper deck shouldered their weapons and slid down the ladders, then instantly resumed their menacing positions pointing their weapons at Kat and Charles. Kasabain slowly descended to the lower deck, apparently savouring the moment.

Maiden Voyage.

It’s taken me 5 weeks, and so much more trouble than I ever anticipated, but yesterday I finally got my boat on the water. It took me ages to work out how to rig it. The ones at the club already have all the lines (ropes), blocks, and fittings attached, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. I got mine out from under it’s boat cover and it was a bare mast, boom, and a bag of different lines. I finally got it together (not quite right, it turns out, but enough to work.) When it’s all at rest it looks fine, it’s not until you examine every inch of it closely, by assembling it, that you notice the flaws.

The sail is shot. It’s old, old, old, (which I knew, and was OK with, it’s only for learning) but when I put it on the mast I saw the sleeve that fits over the mast is ripped. Two 3″ rips, quite close together, so it’s only a matter of time before the middle bit rips and then it’s a huge tear. That’s annoying. I’d previously read that because they are a one design boat, if you get a seaworthy Laser of any age and put a new sail on it you will have a boat that’s at least 95% as good as any top of the range new one. So, it was on my to-do list, if I liked the boat and stuck with it. The state of the sail has forced my hand a little early.

Some of the lines are a state. One is the wrong size, most are tired, some fraying at the ends, or in the case of the bungee type line (shockcord) that holds the daggerboard (the small keel thing that you can raise or lower to suit) the outer has totally separated and it only has the internal strands of elastic holding it together. Less than ideal.

Also the tiller has a wooden handle (I think it’s from a different boat) which is too long, so the tiller extension fouls the mainsheet.

Then for the real test. Is the hull any good?

I asked if I was OK to sail as they were having a race of some fancy boats. I said I just wanted to pootle about to test my ratty old Laser to check it wasn’t going to sink. It was a joke, they are literally unsinkable because they have that much buoyancy built in, but the guy took me seriously and said all new boats should do a buoyancy test. So before I could start I had to wade out then tip my boat on its side for ten minutes, then turn it over and try to sink the other side. It didn’t sink. Yay!

I took it out for a spin. The sail wasn’t acting right (old, and I hadn’t fitted the rigging right) and the mast seemed to be bending (turns out the mast sections have to be assembled a particular way). The tiller extension was getting in the way. And I was rubbish, obviously. There is a real skill to angling your sail to the wind, one I don’t yet have.

I took it back to shore and put it on the trailer. Then dragged it out of the water. It seemed a lot heavier. That was when I really got worried. A new sail and lines is one thing, if the hull wasn’t watertight I might as well just bin the boat. Well,no actually, apparently it’s a relatively easy job to apply some plastic paste stuff which hardens and repairs the hull, but come on. Sail, lines, tiller and hull? That’s virtually a boat.

I looked over the boat and right at the back is a screw-in, bung type thing. I asked one of the salty sea dogs as I wasn’t sure if that was to drain water from the cockpit or the hull. It was for draining the hull. I took it out and tipped the boat right up. Not a drop. Excellent. The rest is do-able.

As I was writing that I realised that the bank slopes down into the lake. Of course it’s going to feel heavier dragging it out. Idiot.

I told the salty sea dog that I was just testing the boat out, and already I had to buy a new sail. He said to just buy a generic one. Apparently if you want to race other Lasers, at proper Laser events, you have to have everything brand Laser. To keep it level playing field. And to gouge you twice as much for the same bit of kit. For racing at the club any old sail will do. And that isn’t my goal anyway, I want to get out on lochs and lakes and in the sea. It will take me a long time before I’m good enough to be thinking of entering a proper Laser class event. By then I’ll know if I want to buy a rip-off sail. I think by the time I’m that good I’ll probably be in a different class of boat anyway. Either a faster, more modern one for racing, or a bigger, slower one for leisurely cruising with Wendy.

I’ve found a sail kit online. It’s the more modern design of sail (only £20 dearer than the inferior, early design) the batons (sticks in the sail to help it hold its shape) and the big sail numbers to stick on.

Then I was looking at line kits. For the brand name, modern kit, it was nearly £300! You get the pulleys and such with it, but basically £300 for a bunch of lines. Then I found a video on how to rig a “classic” (old) Laser. It turns out they are different than the new ones, which is part of the reason I couldn’t rig mine by just following the online instructions. It was from an American firm trying to flog you lines, so they did a breakdown of every length and diameter of line and how to rig it. Perfect. Being American it was all “11 feet of 5 millimeter line” hahaha.

I noted everything down, added the lengths together and ordered it from a British supplier (sorry guys).

I was just going to get the lines that were shot, but what the hey, I might as well do the whole thing. £47 for all the lines for a completely fresh new boat. I’ve ordered some whipping twine so I can tidy up the ends when I cut it all to length. I’ve read you don’t actually need to as you can just melt the ends of modern plastic-ey ropes, but it will look neater and more sailor-ey.

First image I could find. Just imagine the line ending on one side of the twine.

So, when my sail and lines get here I should be set with a proper decent boat. Then I can’t blame the tools anymore. I’ll give it a few more Sundays (when the rescue boat is out, how they like noobs to sail) then I can start going on Mondays when there’s nobody there. I’ll have the whole lake to myself then.

In other news, I’ve started my recovery rest period from running. My foot doesn’t feel smashed after my recent escapades so I’m hoping the recovery will be quicker and hopefully actually stick this time.

I read a very interesting piece on woman beating men on ultra long distance events.

( https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/03/female-ultra-athletes-leading-field-women-less-ego )

It’s well worth a read just to marvel at what some of them have achieved. For me though, the second half was a revelation. I’ve read similar in the past. “Women are better at handling pain, they have more stamina” etc. This went further by saying what’s wrong with men. They said women have less ego, so while men are all “I can take the pain, I’ve hardly trained but I’m going to smash it!” a woman at the same race wouldn’t turn up unless she was damned sure she was good for it. She’d have trained for the distance, the course, the pace and was ready for it. Men try to wing it, don’t put in the consistent work, go out too fast and burn out. To answer the question of my last blog, *THAT* is what just happened. My Manchester marathon DNF, through that lense, isn’t a mystery. It’s stupid, but obvious. I’ve always done it but never thought about it. I’ve always got away with it before. Now I know. When I get back to running I am going to be so much better thanks to that article.

To maintain some run fitness and build bike fitness I’ve got back on the Sufferfest. Getting started is a bit daunting because your first ride is an hour long beasting to set your fitness levels. Well, it’s not. It’s warm up, 5 second sprint x2, easy ride, 5 minutes flat out, easy ride, 20 minutes flat out, easy ride, then 1 minute flat out. It’s a fiendish test because each hard section saps your legs for the next one. Anyway, I got it done. Which is a double victory, one for just doing it, and two because I’ve had massive issues trying to get my trainer and Sufferfest to be compatible. This latest attempt seems to have worked. I’ve got a fortnight’s free trial of Sufferfest so I can see if it works for the training sessions as well. If so, crack on!

Wendy got her car back, so she’s delighted. It seems they hadn’t screwed the engine cover thing on . (That big stiff sheet thing under the car that keeps road muck off the engine.) The screws had shaken out, but rather than them possibly taking the car away again (if that was caused by the accident) I just cable tied it down. It seem fine. Next time it has to go in the garage we can see if they can fit it properly.

I only got two shifts last week so I’ve been doing a lot of reading. A woman on twitter suggested ‘The Ship Who Sang’ as a classic sc-fi book.

Read this for a first page:

Page 2 was “that’s all fine and dandy, now lets set off for jolly space romps”.

I’ve read some books in my time, and some go out of their way to paint a nasty villain, but I’ve never read one that takes the most distilled pure evil of nazi eugenics and cheerfully extols it as premise for an uplifting book.

A society where disabled kids are killed or have their body’s growth stunted, are encased in a steel shell, never to touch the outside world, nor to eat, breath, or even see except through a machine. Then they are brainwashed and forced into indentured servitude/ slavery until they’ve paid for the privilege.

It is pure evil. The rest of the book should be about destroying the ship programme and eradicating the nazi scum society that engendered it with extreme prejudice. It’s not. It’s about one woman’s fun space adventures.

I was genuinely horrified. The unconscious assumption behind the book, that that is acceptable.

Rant over. Just wow, though.

I had another horrifying glimpse of the future thanks to to Tory brexit. I went on to the new, online doctor’s thing, called Push Doctor. Check out the first thing that shows up.

But the Tories are totally not privitising the NHS. They are the caring face of fascism.

Right, bit of twitter and I’m done.

William Shatner (James T Kirk) got shot into space for real this week. He’s 90!

Later,

Buck.

What Just Happened?

It’s all gone pear shaped since my last blog.

It took us 6½ hours to get to Inverness on the way up. On the way back, due to it being Friday, it said 7½ hours on Google maps. Bad to start with. Then the satnav diverted us to avoid horrendous road works on the M74. But that lead us through a gridlocked town centre instead. We were both getting stressed out. Then I saw I sign for the M74, thought it couldn’t be any worse, and took it. We queued to get on to the slip road, then found out the southbound slip road was closed so we had to go north back to the beginning of the roadworks again. Another disaster ensued. In the end, with a 20 minute stop for the toilets and a brew, and another stop to fuel up, it took us nearly 9 hours to get back.

It was awful. Like a really bad day at the office but worse because at least that’s just me, with Wendy in the car, who isn’t used to spending all day frustrated and raging, I was stressing over her stressing. So that was terrible.

On Saturday I’d volunteered to do some work at the boat club. The email requesting workers said that due to the 18 months of covid a lot had got overgrown with weeds, and stuff needed sorting to make room for more boats. As my boat hasn’t yet got an official berth (it’s in the temporary overflow at the top of the carpark) I thought I could help the club out and myself at the same time. I stipulated I would have to be on light duties as I had a marathon the next day.

Ha! I got there in my chunky boots I use for my motorbike (which I’m no longer used to clumping around in, always being in trainers) and my first job was dragging big tree branches up a field as they chainsawed them down. Then they said they wanted to make a new boat park. So I was digging up thick, clay-ey soil. Then they wanted 20 tonnes of tarmac/ gravel shoveling into wheelbarrows and moving to the new boat park. Which wouldn’t have been too bad except it had been there years and set solid. We had to pick axe it to break it up. Most of the people who turned up were quite old men, and there was only one pick axe, so me and another guy were taking it in turns navvy-ing. It was hard, hard work. I had to take my glasses off because I was sweating all over them. So much for light duties.

Today I got up early again and Wendy ran me into town, so I could get the train to Manchester, then the tram. I got there pretty smoothly. There was a 40 minute start time delay. We finally set off. I’d had a thought during the week, if I could maintain 9 m/m over the evil hills of Loch Ness, surely I could hold 8 m/m on a flat course? Then I got greedy and started thinking maybe 7.45? I did 7.47, 7.44, 7.44, 7.58, 7.50, 7.48, 8.03, 8.00, 8.08 and then it went to hell. 9 miles in and my calves were cramping, my feet were hurting and I just couldn’t hold the pace. I got an 8.36 for mile 10 and I was really struggling. I tried to adjust my expectations. If I could keep it under 9 m/m for the rest it would still be reasonable. By mile 13 I realised the best I could hope for was a finish. I had nothing left and I was hurting badly. I was looking at a DNF (Did Not Finish). I kept it going but by mile 19 I was stopping and walking sections. I finished mile 19 in 11.38! I knew it was over but I kept trying. I made it to mile 20 but by then I was walking more than running. I saw a tram stop and sacked it off. I had to do the Walk Of Shame with runners on the tram and trains who’d finished the marathon.

I don’t know what happened. I can blame last week’s marathon and yesterday’s hard graft, and my gob writing cheques my body couldn’t cash, but honestly I just don’t know. I’ve done 3 marathons on 3 successive weeks before now. And I’m often too ambitious for my meager ability, but I always get the job done, however badly. This is only my second ever DNF (the other was when they pulled me out of the sea swim on my first triathlon, because I hadn’t trained for sea swimming). I’m a bit shaken. I tried and tried, but my feet, calves and knees were killing me, and my legs just wouldn’t run.

I’m doubly sad because this was my last race of the season. I really thought I was in with a chance for a PB. Instead I’ve got to rest my hoof for months with that weighing on my mind.

Positives:

That’s a half marathon, an evilly hilly full marathon, and a 20 mile failure in 3 successive weeks, and (touch wood) no plague weakness. So it’s not directly linked to exertion. That’s good.

Wendy should be getting her car back on Tuesday. I’ve booked the day off to do the exchange.

The entries for that triathlon (for next September) are live today, so I might enter tomorrow, when I’ve slept on it and regained some self belief. (I always assume I’m going to do stuff. Maybe not as well as I’d like, but at least get it done. It’s quite a shock to totally fail.)

Also tomorrow I’m putting some air in my pushbike tyres and getting set up ready to get back on the Sufferfest. Lots of brutal exercise on the turbo trainer. Getting bike fit while my foot heals.

Well, it’s been an eventful 3 days, at least.

Bit of twitter then I’m done.

Later,

Buck.