Sunday, 28 April 2013

World War 3...

But dear, I can't miss the game...

One sizable downside to Charlton's recent explosive form was that it was taking me on a collision course of seismic proportions. As hopes were raised for a cheeky play-off place, I was gearing up for world war 3! You see, a few months ago, when we more likely to be in a relegation battle, I gave my blessing to a weekend away with 'er Indoors and some friends. Worst still, it was billed as part of the 'celebrations' for me turning 40 this summer (not that I care). Cue great excitement as there was 'something to look forward to' on the calendar. Charlton's season would be over by then and Sir Chris and his battle-weary charges would be sunning themselves on sandy beaches...wouldn't they?

What idiot books up a weekend away at the same time as the Championship play-off final?

I'd set out my battle plans. They were simple enough. If the unthinkable happened (and God knows I was praying they would) I'd just grit my teeth, stand firm and accept the fallout like a man. If needs be I'd make a bolt for the door and I'm confident I'd out run the missus and her rolling pin! 

Anyway, thankfully for the sake of my marriage, the endless list of required permutations unsurprisingly never materialised, and peace remains in Hungry Ted Towers for now. Even if Charlton had held on for all 3 points yesterday, results elsewhere went against us. 

Not that I'm complaining. What a fantastic run we've been on of late, and how typical of Powell and his team to fill us with pride against the odds. To have even had an outside chance of the play-off's shows how far we've come. Charlton are assured of a top half finish, which is quite remarkable considering the lack of investment in the team.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Long Road Ahead...Done!

Only on one other day in my life have I gone through the full range of emotions to such extremes as I did yesterday and that was at Wembley in the '98 play-off final. Running the London Marathon is quite an experience, that's for sure. Whether I can say I enjoyed it is debatable, but I'm so pleased I've given it a go.
After 6 months of dedicated training, I thought I was as ready as I could be yesterday, but in truth, nothing can prepare you for the event itself. I run regularly to enjoy solitude and there I am amongst 37,000 runners, taking part in a global televised event! I felt totally bewildered, if I'm honest. And then there's the crowds that line every inch of the route. I pass the odd dog walker who may bid me good morning, but having people shout my name and hand me orange quarters and jelly babies was unbelievable.
What nobody could have prepared for was the heat. As nice as it was for the spectator, it was not good for the runner. I was told it was only 13 degrees, but it felt considerably hotter than that, especially with the clear blue sky. I'd spent 6 months training in temperatures that regularly went below freezing and there I am in a short sleeve shirt for the first time this year.
Despite crippling nerves I started at a good, sensible pace and kept that up quite comfortably until 18m in when, just like a car running out of petrol, I could feel myself slowing down alarmingly. That's never happened to me before and by 19m I knew I was in trouble. Still I plodded on, occasionally reaching almost a fast walking pace.
I saw my wife, kids and a few friends at around 22m which gave me a morale boost, but the worst was to come...
From 23m it was everything I could do simply to put one foot in front of the other. At just the time that the London Marathon gets interesting in terms of scenery, I remember nothing, not even passing Big Ben! I was in a pretty dark place. I was struggling massively.
The last 800m should have been an emotional high. I should have even tried a glory burst to the finish line, but I literally had nothing left. I stumbled over the finish line in 4:05:37 and before I knew it I was met by a lovely young lady with a huge grin who grabbed and steadied me and hung the medal around my neck. No feeling of elation from me - I couldn't even speak to her. I just wanted to go home.
Before I could even get my breath back myself and another female runner had to come to the aid of a runner who was seconds away from collapsing. His eyes were rolling and he was on his way down. The chap was much bigger than I was and I could have well done without trying to catch him and drop him gently to the floor. I have to say, the first aid available on the day was first class. All around the course runners were dropping like flies and all were surrounded within seconds.
I can't deny I'm disappointed with my time. I'd have loved to have sneaked below 4hrs at least. In the end perhaps I'd put too much pressure on myself. Perhaps I'd pushed myself too much. My poor old feet show show the signs of my labour.

WARNING: Graphic image of gnarled feet!

As things stand, I've raised close to £800 for a very worthy cause. That is something that definitely makes the effort worthwhile.

So the question is whether I'd ever do it again? I want to say no, I really do, but I was pretty close to the 4hrs, after all. Tantalisingly close...

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Long Road Ahead...The Final Push

So, after six months of the most intense, gruelling, self-imposed training regime I will ever encounter and throughout one of the harshest, never-ending freezing winters on record, I am just days away from running my first London Marathon. I have pushed myself as hard as I can and I know in my heart I can't do any more to prepare. Only time will tell if I can achieve the goals I have set myself.
In those early days my only aim was to run the entire length of the marathon distance, but over time, as my training runs have lengthened and I've become more focused, so has my desire to achieve a finish in under 4 hours. By the time I'd completed my final long distance training run of 20 miles two weeks ago (completed in 2:43.32), my 8.11 mins per mile pace would suggest I'm inside that target by some margin, which is encouraging. Since then I've picked up a nasty ear and throat infection which has knocked my training at just about the worst time, but I'm trying to stay positive in mind and hopeful my efforts in the last 6 months will not be wrecked. I'd be absolutely gutted if that was the case.
I never followed any set training regimes and have instead listened to my body and pretty much kept to my usual routine of running approx. 16 miles per week over 3 runs whilst adding a longer run (typically over a weekend) that gained around 10% in distance each week. I've taken plenty of good advice from people I can trust, but it's in my nature to find my own way. 
Notably, against the advice of sports scientists I'm sure, I ditched isotonic sports drinks very early on because I found they left me feeling too weighed down and sticky with sugar. I now feel far happier with plain old water for hydration.
I have decided to take everything in to the marathon that I've used throughout my training, which means I'll carry a hydration bladder with me and I'll wear earphones. Plenty of people have told me that if I run with music I'll miss the occasion going on around me. They perhaps don't understand that what is going on around me will be of complete irrelevance. Right or wrongly, I have only one focus on the day and I won't be trying to pick faces out of a crowd that's for sure.
I spent a good few hours sorting out my running playlist yesterday and it gave me a real lift after not feeling too well in the past couple of weeks. Music has always played a massive part in my life and there will be times my favourite tunes will give me a much needed lift. Music also allows me to completely zone out, which will help in those relentless mile after mile.
In the last few days before the event my main focus will be on diet and ensuring I have that right balance of rest whilst staying as fit as I can.
In case you feel inspired to sponsor me, my Just Giving page can be found here. Once again, I should say that Roger, or more typically Rod, is my real name! Many thanks to the Addicks that have already offered their support, notably David Thomson, Robert Addison and John Beaumont, whom I have sat next to at the Valley for countless years.  

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Silent Celebration...

You Did Good - Obika & Powell (image by @pedwards72)

I think it's fair to say that whilst we've been sadly lacking in home wins this season, we've certainly had our fill of unforgettable moments at the Valley. The visit of Cardiff and Bolton will take some beating for drama, but today young striker, Jonathan Obika, supplied us with another magic moment that will keep Addicks smiling all week and could well have ensured Championship football at the Valley next season. With just seconds left of 4 agonising injury time minutes, Charlton got their just rewards; a last-gasp match winner and 3 well deserved points.

Obika must have wondered whether it was even worth getting changed for the game when Powell opted to bring Kerkar on for Fuller on 77 mins, before switching Harriott up front for close to 10 mins. It's never ideal being handed your 'chance' on the 86th minute, but Obika responded wonderfully. He looked hungry and very nearly set up Solly for what looked like a certain goal within seconds of coming on.

It was Wiggins who floated in a right footed cross for Obika, who'd cleverly found space in the box to glance a sweet headed effort home. The Valley erupted!

I've been laid up most of the week with an ear and throat infection, and despite jumping around like a madman, I made no sound whatsoever, which, if viewed in isolation, would have appeared most odd. At one stage on Friday I wondered whether I'd even be fit enough to attend the game, but once that was confirmed I made myself promise I'd not aggravate my already painful throat by shouting or cheering a goal. Incredible discipline, wouldn't you agree?

Earlier in the game Johnnie Jackson had given us the lead before ex-Addick Luke Varney equalised from a rather fortuitous effort that appeared to take a sizable deflection towards goal. A draw just wouldn't have been fair at all.

So Charlton move up to 12 in the table, but most significantly, a massive 7 points clear of the relegation zone. It's inconceivable to think we could go down now, surely?

Outside the ground before the game I noted that Chris Solly appears the clear favourite in the Supporters Player of the Year award. Glancing across every clip-board I passed, his name carried the most ticks by a long way. I'm not surprised. I voted for him last year, but this time around I've gone for the likely runner up, Johnnie Jackson, who is a fantastic leader of our club. 

Last word to the Leeds fans who were impressive in numbers and noise and generous with their applause when our award winning Academy lads walked around the pitch at half time. It was a nice touch from a set of fans who don't always get the best of press.