ARoundWithRog - Get fit for it
With such an enormous physical and stamina challenge looming, I soon realised that some serious fitness work would be required in order to get me through the 21 days of my challenge.
But, being 6'8" tall, I have suffered with lower back problems from an early age. From September, at the outset of my challenge plans taking shape, I consulted an osteopath to try and sort the latest in a long line of issues in my lumbar region . After around eight sessions and many hours spent at home doing the flexiibility exercises recommended, I had resolved the latest issue. It had taken four months, but was in time for the long planned week's skiing.
At this point, I think it is time to outline some of the physical challenges associated with this marathon. For those who have not played golf, there are a number of elements that make it tiring. Firstly, you walk around five miles in the process of one game. Never having worn a pedometer, it could be that you walk further than this, as army golf (left-right-left-right!) and looking for lost balls can significantly increase the distance walked. Secondly, the twisting motion of the body puts strain on the lower back. Road running, tennis and golf are the three sports that are hardest on lower backs, two of which I participate in regularly. Thirdly, being out in the open, especially when the wind blows, combined with cold and rain can make for a real tired glow on your face as you head back into the warm. Last, but by no means least, there is the concentration and mental control. You need to focus on your shots, trying to ensure your mind stays on top of every tiny body movement. If you hit a bad shot, you have to control your emotions to ensure you put it behind you and move on, keeping a clear head, focussed on rescuing the situation.
It does all sound very melodramatic, but those who play the sport to any level will understand and relate to my written word. Many would probably add a few more too!
Motorcycling over long distances is also physically tiring due to the amount of 'windblast' that you have to deal with. How much you have to cope with depends to a great extent on the bike's fairing - or wind protection characteristics. My bike offers me low to medium wind protection. This is mainly from the windscreen, but due to my height, my head protrudes higher into the airstream that has been deflected over the top of the windscreen. The positive side, is that it affords me an upright seating position, making it far more comfortable over long distances than super-sports or race replica bikes.
The mental tiredness that comes about from motorcycling is due to the levels of concentration required. You need to be alert, anticipate other road users actions in time to avoid incident and accident. However, this is all in the context of the power of an average family saloon being transferred to the ground on a contact patch far smaller than one wheel of a car, on a vehicle that weighs only 220 kgs and where the bike can just outsprint a £150,000 supercar. The tiring elements include the constant noise and the need to concentrate 100% of the time. The knowledge that any loss of grip can have dire consequences serves to ensure that your concentration does not dip. Loss of grip can result from many things:
Hitting a patch of diesel can result in sudden and complete loss of grip (so you need to anticipate where lorries may have spilt some (exits of banked roundabouts near filling stations would be top of the list), followed by surface grit on a corner, wet white line, wet manhole covers, wet tar banding (road repair seams), or just plain ham fistedness with the throttle or brakes.
If you didn't already, you should now know why anybody would need to be in shape to attempt this marathon.
So the gym was a requirement. Never having been a fan of gyms, this was going to be a trial of commitment to the cause, but at least my back was finally in good shape. The first week, I completed running, steps and rowing, plus a series of weights to strengthen my body. This provided a good basis for our Austrian skiing holiday in the Eastern Tirol. As we were visiting friends in Southern Germany on the way there and relatives on the way back, driving seemed the only option. Two things happened. Firstly, I caught a bad cold on the last day, which took three weeks to sufficiently recover from in order to get back into the gym. Secondly, the long drive back had aggravated an old back injury involving the sciatic nerve, different to the one I had just solved. I was needing regular anti-inflammatory pain killers, to give it a chance to settle.
So the next three weeks were spent, playing golf and tennis as per usual, but serious training in the gym had to wait. Instead, I had signed on for a 'pilates' class supervised by Lorna, who was a different osteopath to the one who had been treating me. Once a week she put us through the motions. Pilates is designed to help build core strength, by isolatig individual muscles and engaging the pelvic floor with each exercise. Eventually, I was well enough to venture back to the gym and completed another cardio-vascular session, my fourth in total. However, in my training schedule, it was now time to measure progress, so I embarked on playing golf every day for nine days in a row. After day 5, my fragile back gave way, but I pressed on, helped by pills as before. My golf was not spectacular, scoring 19, 16, 14, 14, 15, 11, 15, 17 and 14 over par for each of the rounds; in other words, on only one occasion in nine attempts, I played as well as my handicap prescribes that I should.
Apart from giving me a pain in the butt, thanks to my sciatic nerve, this had served to establish that I was fit enough, but probably not strong enough. With only seven weeks before the start of my challenge, being injured but without the resources of Manchester United at my disposal, and without Wayne Rooney's youth (and oxygen tent to aid powers of recovery), the doubts have crept in about whether I can complete what I have set out to do.
On strict advice from the osteopath, it was recommended that I rest for ten days, taking strong anti-inflammatory pills, to give my back a chance - the diagnosis was disc bulge, the first stage of a slipped disc. This was not what I needed. Rest, stretches, more pilates, more pills, weekly back cracking on the osteopath's couch and moderate sport have been the prescription since, helped along by a session of acupuncture from my GP!
Just to pile the pressure on myself, I have organised a fundraiser which requires me to complete scoring at all of the courses that I visit. With some fantastic prizes including a full set of custom fit Taylor Made Woods and irons worth £1500, I am asking people for £10 to guess how many strokes it will take me to complete the 20 rounds of golf. That way, my only option is to drive forward and complete the task.
This article is the last that I will write ahead of the forthcoming challenge as I need to work on tying all the loose ends together. However, I do hope that if I have the time, inclination, energy or IT resource, to write something during the event itself. So watch this space. Meanwhile, if you feel you can also help support my challenge in any way that you can, please do so. All the details are on my website, www.ARoundWithRog.co.uk. Thanks!
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