Getting Into Gear

Behold the caber! Roped it to the car roof yesterday along with the fence rails I was transporting up to Robyn’s to re-fence the copse (that’s today’s delight). I now have a 12-foot caber, between 4 and 6 inches in diameter, nicely sanded and varnished at the business end. Not tapered, but hey. I’ll manage. I’m just pleased to HAVE a caber!

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I also followed Alan H’s instructions to make myself a practice Scottish Hammer, and was extremely pleased with the results, so I’m going to detail the process here: I picked up some weight plates in Tesco (my second home). They didn’t have enough 1kg plates, so I grabbed two 2kg plates and two 1kg plates and cable-tied ’em together in a neat stack like so:Image

I also bought myself a length of plastic electrical conduit, cut it to 50″ and reinforced one end slightly (thanks for the tip, Rob) by inserting a suitable piece of roundish wood (actually, the remains of last year’s radical hedge-trimming) about six inches long. Drilled holes either side of where the weight stack would go, then inserted bolts.

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Attached the weight stack and secured it in place with the second bolt:

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From this angle you can see the piece of wood inside the tube. Rob pointed out that if I were to just drill holes in the tubing, it would be a weak point, whereas if there was something reinforcing the head-end, it would not only be that much stronger, but the tube would flex along the handle rather than trying to flex from the end. How right he was.

Once I had the hammer assembled, I added some hockey tape reinforcement to the weight stack, before realising that gaffer tape (duct tape) really was going to be the order of the day. Now I look as if I have the world’s biggest silver lollipop, or possibly a kilo of cocaine on a stick:Image

Chupa Chup, anybody?

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One final modification was to wrap the handle to about halfway down with black hockey tape, then add rings of hockey tape at hand-width intervals so I could carry the thing without the tube sliding through my hand (thanks again for the idea, Rob):Image

Yes, that is a scythe leaning against my workbench! I borrowed it from Robyn’s garage in order to engage in a bit of slash-and-burn gardening the other day. My soi-disant “lawn” had become a kind of unlovely cross between a tyre dump, a piece of derelict waste ground and the sort of tussocky, waist-high weed-fest that you see on programmes like ‘Ground Force’. My poor abused lawnmower would probably have been swallowed whole by the jungle, so I brought in The Equaliser to whop everything off at ankle-height and give it a fighting chance.

I love using the scythe! It’s just incredibly therapeutic, and it feels stupidly cool to carry it tilted over your shoulder like Death’s more casually-dressed young cousin. It also gives you a hell of a workout for your core muscles – you grip it by the handles and do a big, powerful, dipping sweep from right to left, move a pace forwards and do it again, and again, and again. I had the waist-high wasteland chopped flat in about fifteen minutes, and that includes the time taken to wrench the blade free when I got it stuck in the wooden hen-run (yeah, sorry about that, ladies).

So, off fencing today (yippee skip). Hopefully I’ll have enough energy left later on to try out my new gear, which is waiting for me up at the farm!

 

[Update: One VERY long day’s fencing later, and no, I have no energy left for anything beyond crawling into my bed. On the plus side, I’ll really need the exercise tomorrow, otherwise I’m going to be stuck in a pretzel-shape, so I should get some good practice in with the WFD, Hammer and caber. I may even be able to persuade one of the daughters to take some photos.]

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A Field Day

It has been noted that I am veering off topic on this blog – away from all that tedious training stuff, away from the struggle to become an athlete in a sport dominated by men, and towards blogging about the colour of my nail varnish and what I had for breakfast.

Busted!

In the absence of my lead photographers today, I’ll introduce you to the place I spend a lot of time in doing my throws training: The Field. It belongs to my friend Robyn, suitably enough, as she was the one who got me into this pickle in the first place. I keep my horse at her smallholding, so I’m up there a lot doing all the backbreaking slogwork that keeping a horse entails.

I only seem to have taken photos up there when it’s done something picturesque like snowing, so here is the view from my training-ground in one direction:

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And in the other direction:

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You’ll just have to imagine it without snow and with added mud and rain. Wind is a big feature of this place! It’s rare for the air to be still up there. I figure I’ll have to contend with all that at the different Games anyway, so bracing against the howling gale is probably good practice!

As with everything, my practice gear is makeshift, to say the least. Here’s my trig:

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Practically indistinguishable from the real thing, right? Guys?

OK, it’s an electric fence pole laid on the ground. Sheesh.

Here is my 8lb stone, for the putting thereof:

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Pretty, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a big smooth lump of stone a bit bigger and heavier than a large housebrick. It’s the closest I could find to an oval on the day I went down to the river. So sue me.

And, for the grand finale of gear-tat, may I present the Sue Rann 13lb Weight For Distance!

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Yes, it’s a 6kg kettle-bell attached to a heavy iron ring with a piece of sash-cord. What of it?

This, by the way, is the 20ft Thistle. That is, it’s not a thistle that’s 20ft high, but the thistle growing right about 20ft from the trig in the general direction I throw in. Very useful when measuring.

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I’d show you a picture of my revolting, slimy, worm-eaten practice caber, but I’m off to the builders’ merchants today to pick up a 4″x4″ post about 14ft long, which is going to be my NEW, non-revolting practice caber. I’ll see if I can sweet-talk the guys at the depot into taking the corners off for me, otherwise I’ll be doing some fancy footwork tomorrow morning with my electric saw, tapering the thing. Then I’ll go over it with a sander. Then I’ll take it up to the Field and throw it around.

Oh, the things a girl has to do!

Store-cupboard Brekkies

Yes, it’s another porridge post!

I figured everyone needed something calming after all yesterday’s… excitement.

So, got up at six this morning to get the firstborn on the bus to college. Starving. REALLY starving. And thought, “Aha! Porridge! I think I’ll just swing by Tesco and pick up some blueberries and yogurt raisins to go on top.” Then remembered that it was the crack of dawn and Tesco’s was firmly shut till eight. Foiled again!

Stared moodily into the cupboard. Tried another cupboard with no better result. Rifled through the tins, and found a small tin of crushed pineapple. Inspiration struck! So herein may I proudly present:

PIÑA COLADA PORRIDGE

Oh, yeah.

First you make your plain ordinary porridge. Then you add half the tin of pineapple, and mix it in.

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If you like cinnamon, add a goodish sprinkle, and mix again.

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I intended to add shredded or dessicated coconut to the actual porridge as it was cooking, but a quick search through the kitchen cupboards revealed that after last month’s ill-advised out-of-date-food blitz, I didn’t have any, so I substituted a good glug from a tin of coconut milk. This had the unexpected but welcome side-effect of making the whole thing very creamy-tasting. Cat optional. *Cat-hair probably not optional.

(*see my post from a few days ago)

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At this point I tasted it, decided it wasn’t quite pineappley enough, and dumped in the rest of the tin.

Top with a proud twirl of aerosol cream and a leetle sprinkle of demarara sugar, et voila!

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If you don’t have to actually function today, you could go the whole hog and add Malibu. Just sayin’.

Tastes nice cold, too.

I Am Not The Walrus.

I’m not sure a category exists in which to place this post.

I have a question. A delicate, ticklish question which nevertheless, sweet readers, I place before you this afternoon:

WHY OH WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT’S HOLY DO MEN HAVE TO MAKE SEX NOISES AT THE GYM?

I’m sure not all men do it (the sex noises at the gym thing, that is). Some are exemplars of stoical quietude. Others, like me, opt for the martial-arts-movie noises when they feel the need to make a noise at all – you know, the ones that go “Hahhh!” or “Hunkh” or “Eeeeyaarrgh!” – just some intentional-sounding vaguely word-like utterance of effort.

Not the guy who was in there yesterday. Ohhh, no. I could hear him clean down the stairs at the reception desk, and the urgency with which he was expressing himself made me linger a few minutes longer warming up on the cross-trainer in hopes that whatever was going on in the free weights room would be finished by the time I got there. It sounded as if it might involve a bull walrus.

Alas for my hopes. When I sauntered in, carrying my water bottle and nonchalantly pulling on my gloves, the Walrussing was still going strong. I selected a modest 8kg dumbbell and started doing one of my exercises, called (unfortunately for my state of mind) a one-arm snatch. Walrus Boy was doing bench presses with a very heavy-looking barful of weights, and every time he pressed the bar, he vocalised. Not just “Uugggh” or “Aaaagh” but a drawn-out, throaty moan of agonised effort that made you fear for his blood vessels.

I kept a straight face by concentrating sternly first on the floor between my feet when I squatted to pick up the dumbbell, then switching my attention to a pigeon trying to land on the windowsill outside as I lifted the weight above my head like a bad-ass Statue of Liberty. Floor. Pigeon. Floor. Pigeon. Floor. Pigeon. “Ooouuuuuunnnnggghuurrrh!” Dear God. Floorpigeonfloorpigeonfloorpigeon.

Thankfully Walrus Boy went off to do something a modicum less strenuous, and I moved over to the big bench-pressy machine. I’m sure it has a name, but I just think of it as the big bench-pressy machine thing. I removed all the weights but one (yeah, yeah, I know), and set the bench flat, and lay down underneath the bar to do my bench presses. So far so fine and dandy, though I have to tell you that as the sole female in the room, lying flat on your back on a bench with your legs apart staring at the ceiling does rather bring on delivery-room flashbacks. I did my reps, then looked at the sheet of paper I was toting around. Next item: incline bench presses. Now, I knew this one. Same thing, but with the bench raised so you’re sitting laid back as if in a Laz-e-Boy recliner to lift the weights. I adjusted the bench back (oddly like adjusting the height of an old-style ironing-board, by the way), and looked at the machine. If I slid under the weight bar where it was now, I’d strangle myself; it obviously needed to slide back a bit. But how far? Where was the optimum placement for incline bench presses?

Now, see, this was the point at which it would have been smart of me to go and find Jez or Eddy or Kay or anybody else who was on the staff. Instead I turned to the two young guys next to me, who were deep in a serious conversation about the best way to yank a doodle or crush a grape or something, and said, “‘Scuse me guys, could you tell me how far back this needs to be for an incline bench press?”

They were helpful. They pushed the bench back a touch, then suggested I get under the bar so they could see if it was in the right place. I obliged, and they stared hard at my upper body for several long, long seconds before saying, “Yeah, that looks… about right.”

Ack! I just practically invited two young blokes I don’t know from Adam to gaze at my boobs! Oh, the shame! At least I was wearing the Bra Of Steel (TM).

More exercises, this time in front of the mirror with a free weight bar. Hang cleans, which just sound hardcore (to me, anyway), and overhead presses. I was just coming to the end of my cycle of exercises when Walrus Boy started again, only this time, he was really going for it. Even my grape-crushing pals looked over. He was doing something painful and repetitive with a dumbbell, and in what seemed to my fevered ears at least to be an accelerating rhythm.

I downed the last of my water and fled. Next time I’m bringing my MP3.

One FREE* Cat-Hair With Every Meal

*Terms and Conditions apply.

The Terms and Conditions go like this:

You live in a house with five cats? Five house-cats, yet. You have (let’s be kind) less than fabulous focus on the housekeeping front. And you think there’s only going to be ONE cat-hair in every meal?

*Sigh.*

This was SUPPOSED to be a post about food. My breakfast porridge, in fact (‘breakfast’ being a loosely-defined term meaning ‘first meal of the day’ which today I am still eating, stone cold, at ten to two in the afternoon).

I was feeling quite good about the porridge, which I cooked up with dried-apple pieces and cinnamon, then topped with mini marshmallows, sultanas and teeny chocolate stars. Here is my Breakfast of Champions:

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Nice, non? Rather chic in a limited-palette kind of way. And then I saw it.

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Yup. One Tinkerbell Special, delivered fresh to my cereal bowl. Mmm-mmm.

This didn’t put me off my porridge, you understand. When you live with cats, you either come to terms (not to mention conditions) with their constant impact on your environment, or you have them shot and stuffed and give them a good thick coat of varnish.

Some days, the varnish tin looks awfully attractive.

The Usual (Indeed, Only) Suspects:

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There is one other suspect, but the battery just gave out on my camera. Suffice it to say, if there WAS a photo of Reep, he would have the exact same expression of dubious, randomised “Whaaat?” as the rest of them. Except for Tiny at the top there, who as senior cat, is running with a more sinister “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to diiie!” vibe.

So, that’s my immune system’s daily workout sorted, then.

I sometimes wonder why I subject myself to all the irritating, messy, inconvenient, literal and figurative crap that goes with keeping animals. In fact, I have a lengthy, witty ‘bloody animals’ rant that will no doubt adorn this blog before too many more days have passed. Fact is, except when they’re being noisy, eating, shedding, fighting or being revoltingly incontinent, animals are FUN. Also way more rewarding than that last sentence makes them sound.

*Weak grin.*

Honest. Now, where did I put that tin of varnish…?

Holy Crap, I’m a Wuss!

I’m starting to love my gym. It’s not an intimidatingly sleek, potted-ficus, air-conditioned mind body and spirit type of place filled with intimidating, sleek, potted-ficus, air-conditioned mind body and spirit type of people. On the other hand, it’s not like the (her words) crap box haunted by my pal Ethelthedean where the pipes drip on you while you work out.

My gym has the Goldilocks factor: it’s just right. Cheap-ish, quiet-ish, unpretentious, friendly, informal. I can breeze in any time of the day, say hi to whoever’s on the desk, drop my bag behind the filing cabinet and just get the heck on with whatever it is I want to do. Sure, there are TVs everywhere blasting out some godforsaken rap crap about bros and hos and mofos and all that …shizzle, but it provides a good strong bass beat for when you’re goofing around on the cross-trainer, and other than that I can pretty much ignore it. I’m strong in the Force in these matters, having raised three daughters to teenage and therefore being acclimated to a hideously wide range of musical styles. Let’s just say it would take a strong stomach to open the playlists on my MP3 player.

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Sweet Baby Jesus! What the mofo shizzle is on that thing?!

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I know. I know. James Blunt, Nickelback, Rihanna, Erik Satie AND Hannah Montana. *sobs*

The sheer volume makes conversation a non-starter, so that’s another plus. 🙂

I have recently passed over an invisible barrier, gym-wise. I have ventured where, I’m finding, ladies don’t tend to tread very often – into the free weights room. This is testosterone territory. It even smells different to the rest of the gym: sweatier, oogier, male-er. I have been strolling in and out for a few weeks, doing some upright rows and dumbell curls with as much nonchalance as I can muster, and every time, whatever men are in there always stop and look.

I mean, it’s not that I’m drop-dead gorgeous, ripped, toned and semi-naked; really not. Trust me on this. It’s simply that I’m female and middle-aged. They’re probably wondering if I’ve lost my way en route to the Zumba class.

So I feel as if there’s a spotlight trained on me as I shove the press-bench out of the way so I can do my pully-uppy things on the big bar machine. This morning, I went in early (7.30am, people!) to settle on an accelerated weights program to fit my last 4 weeks of training before the Highland Games start.

And yeah, I know I’m 47 and starting pretty much from scratch, but how lame does it feel to have to take away every weight plate but one? I’m bench-pressing 15kg, sweating like a sweaty thing doing landmines with a 20kg bar! I just feel like such a colossal wuss. I even had to ask the guy to take the weight down on the bar I’m using for back squats because I was seriously worried that I wouldn’t be physically able to do 5 reps.

I’m aiming at this:

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But I fear at the moment I’m more resembling this:

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Just so long as I don’t go too far and end up like this… human balloon animal, I think I’ll make it.

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Mike the Emergency Inflatable Life-Raft

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Holy facepalm. Shoot me first!

Ninja Fingers

Just a quick update to the previous post: added bronzey-brown to the greens – it worked! Now, instead of looking as if I have an unfortunate case of fingernail fungus, I have Stealth Fingers (patent pending)… nobody will see them coming! World domination next week, provided I can remember how to get the top off the bottle…

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