The cycling hill climb at Coxhoe in Durham and organised by Houghton was the last of the short season events for me and I delivered a moderate ride over 3 minutes to finish yet again in the bottom half of the field. It only proves that you need to train for an event rather than just rolling up and hoping for the best. The climb was short and not really sufficiently steep to suit me. I think next season I may consider moving to the Alps to improve. The cost of living there might be a factor however. When I dropped into Geneva last month paying for drinks and dinner was like handing over monopoly money. I didn't even get to put a hotel on a square.
So, with the cycling season over, I reverted to my latest misjudged adventure: Karate.
Saturday morning was like waiting outside the headmasters office. A cold sweat. An unwelcome churning in the gut. I was sure I could find a relevant paragraph in the Book of Revelation describing what was about to unfold as I waited for 3 hours for my debut appearance at 'kumite' (a karate term which broadly means 'individual sparring'). All this turmoil took place at the North of England Karate Championships. I was entered into the individual kumite and the team kumite. Two minutes a bout.
As an aside, I am a fifty something man of small stature. I am not in the peak of youth. I remember the test card and the tufty club. I remember Fanny's Johnny.
There is, I understand, a condition described as 'small man syndrome'. It can result in small men having a chip o'nt shoulder. Being small doesn't have to be a syndrome, though. I don't feel the need to prove myself every day. I'm even considered quite tall in Glasgow.
I also spend a considerable time trying to loose weight; or, at least, trying to avoid too much rubbish. Watching the Great British Bake off leaves me cold and not wanting to pick up a rolling pin, unlike Aunt Aggie who likes nothing better than a elegant slice of Prinzregententorte, a workmanlike wedge of parkin or a gobful of rum baba, shoe horned in between her breaks for chanter practice. Don't get me wrong, I love cakes, just that to a runner, they represent the enemy (except at the end of a race or run, when they're your best friend and you've earned it). Mostly, I quite like being the height I am. What I draw from all the above, therefore, is that I'm a good candidate for having sand kicked in my face.
It was pointed out to me by Mrs Mac, an impartial viewer at Saturdays event (and who was struggling to work out what the f*7c was going on), that, at least in boxing, the lightweights fight the other lightweights and the big bruisers stick to their own; not so in this martial art.
My adversary turned out to be a large man in white pyjamas. Perhaps an athletic 16 stoner. He didn't take long to make prompt contact with my eye socket (among other things) shortly after I laid him low with a reverse kick to the abdomen, which the referee advised against. Swift and merciless justice was bestowed on me for my impertinence. He progressed to the next round. I failed to score any points and bowed my way out of the ring to await my fate in the team event (another 2 minute bout of pain and loathing in Wearside). Later that afternoon I lasted another two minutes without injury, but failed to score any points. I wasn't downbeat however, even as I felt my left eye puffing up and blackening as I shuffled again out of the fighting square. Simply more practice required. That, and some corrective surgery to add another 5 or 6 inches to my spine, arms and legs and a few more cakes. I left the meeting with a feeling of exhaustion and relief. I had a karate hangover yesterday and spent the wet afternoon doing family history. This could be my new calling.
However, the end of the bike season means I get to return to running and I was welcomed at 4pm when I slid back the glass door in the bedroom cupboard by all the jostling from the various pairs of trainers, looking up hopefully and shouting 'me', 'me', 'me', in their little trainer voices.
After 6 miles through the wet and leaf strewn woods, I relaxed back home with a cuppa, a well fingered copy of the Bruce Lee Courier and a couple of Aggies rum babas. What am I like?