Monday, 23 February 2009

Heath Streak, banter and sacrifice.

February was a pretty busy month for me. I started off the month skiing for the first time, my wife Nicky and I flying, off to Morgins in Switzerland for 3 days to celebrate her 30th birthday. It was absolutely awesome, summer holidays will be taking a backseat now as I cannot wait to get back. I fell on my backside in excess of 60 times over the holiday and Nicky fell over 4 times - livid. So I need to get back, practice and regain some semblance of male pride.

On the Everest front, I travelled down to Cardiff in some seriously cold conditions for my first real team bonding weekend since I signed up. Now I won't bore you with the stories that have already been told, suffice to say that Tooves over reacted to a bit of simple banter and I had to watch several rugby games that to be honest, all looked the same to me. I also got to test out my coat, boots and sleeping bag - all of which were absolutely brilliant.

What has come to light since the trip was that I made the journey on a stone cold, flat tyre. German engineering didn't see fit to alert me to the fact and only my when the eagle eyed wife saw it did I get it sorted. Oh, and the other tyre had a split in it - 2 tyres - £520 please. Moving on....

I did 2 trim trails - the first one I nearly vomited, no exaggeration. The second one was just as brutal as the Sharlands ran me into the ground late on a Thursday night somewhere in South London.

I netted at the Oval - Good fun, I batted ok and bowled decent lines. Accidentally dug one into Mike Preston and spent the next ten minutes apologising - he is a big fella. Apart from that, the standard was pretty good, everyone keen to learn and work hard even after we stuck a few k's on the clock for a warmup.

Finally, there was the trip to G's country pad - I had assumed G Man was a Metropolitan Police Officer, so when we were invited to his "country pad" in Oxford I was beginning to wonder where my tax was going....Mike Lowry anyone?

Anyway, I am bound my the official secrets act as to the content of our well organised and elite training camp, but rest assured Hillary, the Tenzing cricketing machine is looking fit and formidable. The journey back was a shocker - 4 hours via Heathrow - but it couldn't take the shine off a great weekend.

Anyone for hangman? I'll start you off : M _ _ _ _ _ _

In summary, I am glad I made the difficult decision to travel to Cardiff, it defined what the expedition will be all about. I am also pleased that I am getting to trim trails and nets as well, South West London is a long way from Epping late at night but I enjoy every minute I am there. Finally, the most recent weekend at G's- just awesome, met some great people who I am sure will be good value and become good friends over 18 days on a mountain. The banter was pretty much incessant, but there was an underlying seriousness and determination in everything we did.

On a personal level it has been hard. I haven't been home much at all so haven't seen the family as much as I would like to. It has also become clear that I am going to miss pretty much the rest of my football season, as the weekend training comes thick and fast. I captain the side and we lost our first game of the season at the weekend whilst I was away at G's, so I am feeling like I let the boys down a bit at the moment, but I know they appreciate what I have committed myself to.

March is equally busy for me - there is the London to Brighton bike ride, more nets and the Bath Half Marathon to be followed by a bike ride with Kimbo and co. before finishing with the Hillingdon March Duathlon at the end.

All this and I turn 33 next week, not bad for the second oldest person on the expedition (cheers Mark..!) eh?

Remember it isn't the taking part, but the WINNING that counts.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

My first day at school.....well, kind of.

When I received an email from Kirt asking whether or not I would be interested in joining the freeze, my first thought was to neatly sidestep it and meet everyone in the relatively comfortable environs of Lords for a net and a beer. That is what the old James Butler would have done for sure......not now, I chose freeze!

The day did not start well. After a conversation with Tooves on Friday afternoon, I was to be at Liverpool St station for 8.30 to meet with him and several of the other lads, before making our way down to the initial meeting point. By 8.50 I realised that Nick was not going to show.

Apoplectic with rage, I walked down to the tube and realised I didn't really know where I was going, so stomped back up the stairs to the taxi rank, demanding someone take me to the "big wheel thing on the other side of the river" (confession number one - I got the driver to drop me 5 minutes away because I didn't want to look "flash" on my first meeting with the group). £10 lighter, I spotted some people dressed in whites, now I am no Sherlock Holmes, but....

15 minutes later, the grinning Australian buffoon turned up "Oh sorry maaate, I had a few beers at lunch on Friday and don't even remember that conversation"...His time will come....

After 3 hours of calling Wes, Kirt and Kirt, Wes it was time for the cricket to begin....

When we got to Lords, there was a meeting and I stood up to introduce myself....I blanked completely, who am I? No idea. What am I doing here? No idea. I defaulted to a bit of self deprecation and sat down, ensuring I made no eye contact with anyone, least of all Tooves....

On my initial email introduction to the group, Kirt said I was fit and good at cricket - the next 3 hours showed him up to be the liar he is. I was pretty confident about the bleep test if I am to be honest, I hadn't done one of these for 15 years but genuinely thought I would pish it - how wrong I was. After spending 5 minutes taunting a panicking Tooves during the warm up, the test began and went ok at first - no worries - I was coasting and felt fine, but man those bleeps started to come quickly and I crashed out at a hugely disappointing level 9. Something to work on and improve there.

Then the nets began and I was pretty bad there as well. It was a little like school trials all over again as my mind filled with various contradictory thoughts, should I dig in and bat properly? It is a 20 over game after all, so maybe I should be a bit more aggressive? I did neither in the end and looked pretty average I imagine, plenty of time to prove myself however, with the nets at the Oval starting in the new year.

Since that day, the enormity of what we are doing has hit home. I realise I need to be fitter and that I need to understand more about the challenge ahead, so I have joined a few of the group on the Bath half marathon. This is a new experience for me as well and I have begun to train in earnest - my first 2 mile jog became a 3 mile jog and I am keen not to just participate, but to post a respectable time, time will tell I guess.

It also gave me the opportunity to indulge in more kit and a Nike I-Run, I love a gadget me - I am not called ATGNI (all the gear no idea) for nothing...

I also had an article written in the local paper and have attached the link

Anyway, one blog down - happy new year everyone and I will see you at nets in January.