Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Long Road Ahead...3 Months To Go

There's little under 3 months to go until I take on my greatest physical challenge and partake in the London Marathon for the first time. Since I last posted an update on my training, back in October last year, I suggested that I hadn't set any personal targets, but one thing I soon came to realise is that having goals is immeasurably important, especially when taking on the huge commitment of running 26.3miles at the age of 39!

I want to run the London Marathon along it's entire length (as opposed to the odd spells of walking) so in those early few weeks the biggest issue I had was pacing myself to something I felt was realistic for covering that sort of distance. The problem I was having was that my usual regular routes were 4 or 5 miles max and ran in around 7.33 min per mile, so to pace for a marathon meant slowing down quite dramatically. I failed miserably. No matter what I tried I would naturally end up running my usual pace and rhythm over time. In the end I just decided to see how far I can push myself by running freely, and as the training runs have got longer - I'm currently up to 15 miles - my average pace has levelled out to just over 8 minute miles, which I'm well chuffed with. Of course, what all that means is my biggest target has been set; run the marathon in under 4hrs.

Physically I've coped well, but I genuinely think so much of the marathon training is in the head. Knowing you have to head out on cold nights or on days when the wind and rain are cutting in to you is commonplace for me as I've ran regularly for we'll over a decade. Having to change aspects of my diet has been a bonus rather than a chore, and having to be disciplined where alcohol is concerned has not been an issue. The one thing I just cannot get used to is the cold baths after the long runs. Good advice suggests you should take an ice bath for 1 min for every mile you've ran. There's no doubting how effective it is in the recovery of your muscles, but knowing I have that utter agony to endure at the end of my run is almost an incentive to keep on running!

I have also decided what Charity I will run for. Considering the larger charities are well catered for on events like this I made the decision to support a small local charity in my home town of Bishop's Stortford. Grove Cottage provides social and educational activities for people with learning disabilities and, perhaps equally as important, much needed support for their families. Although a Mencap centre, they receive no financial support whatsoever and rely solely on donations. My wife is setting me up one of those Just Giving pages if you're keen to offer your support, but failing that, if my efforts have inspired you, please give something to a charity of your choice.

People of a certain age may recall the Beano cartoon character, Edd Case (noted above), who was a hapless chap who had little people living inside his head who essentially controlled his body and mind. They were called Numskulls. Now, as those who know me will testify, not only do I (unfortunately) have more than a passing resemblance to poor old Edd, but I'm convinced those little folk have taken up residence inside my bonce. They do all they can to discourage me and every passing mile they scream at me to stop, but unlike Edd, I'm winning this little battle of wits!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Daisy Cutters & Lollipops...

Well that was a strange feeling, wasn't it; returning home from the Valley on a Saturday afternoon after a Charlton league win? Not since the final home game of last season back in May have the Addicks managed a home victory on the traditional day of football and our failure to do so was becoming somewhat of a worrying hoodoo. Rather interestingly, despite the step-up in divisions, Charlton fielded only 3 changes yesterday from that last Saturday victory against Hartlepool, with Lawrie Wilson the only new face in the starting line-up.

Perhaps feeling the effects of a bitterly cold day in SE7 and yet more changes to the side, Charlton started slowly as Blackpool enjoyed much of the possession in the first quarter of the game. Powell had opted for a 4-5-1 formation and although it meant we were less likely to be overrun in midfield, we created little going forward. It was somewhat of a surprise when, after our first meaningful attack of the game, skipper Johnnie Jackson's right foot daisy-cutter trickled over the line to give us the lead on 23mins (pic above). It might not have bulged the net, but any goal is a good goal in my book! The returning Wagstaff, fully of willing running as always, scored our second at the very best possible time, just before the break. So often a point of criticism this season, Charlton had taken their two best chances well. Noses in front...and on a Saturday!

We had opportunities to extend the lead in the second half, but it was Blackpool who finally found the net via a decent strike late on from Nathan Eccleston. The former Addick loanee took to Twitter post match to thank Addicks for the warm welcome he received. He played for Charlton at a very difficult time and the Addickted tend to remember those who's effort was unquestionable.

There was a nice moment late on when substitute and Charlton youth product, Callum Harriot, lifted the Valley crowd with some mesmerising step-overs in front of the Covered End that drew widespread cheers around the Valley. I seem to recall Big Ron Atkinson used to call those 'Lollipops' back in the day! 

In reality, other than the freezing weather and me feeling the effects of a virus, it was quite a comfortable afternoon. Charlton were disciplined, worked hard and looked steady and reassuring. The win lifted Charlton up to 14th, and to within dreaming distance of the Play-Off's!     

Friday, 4 January 2013

Welcome Distraction...

OK, I understand it's not the most glamorous of ties, but it is the FA Cup 3rd round and it is at the Valley! Just think, you could be a Huddersfield supporter who has a daunting seven hour round trip (at best) to watch us just six weeks after making the same journey to SE7 in the league. After all, the groan was just as audible in West Yorkshire as it was in South London when our two numbers were drawn from the hat. 
On the back of a great result at Watford, I personally think a distraction from the rigours of the Championship should be welcomed. No, I am not trying to convince myself; I am genuinely looking forward to the game on Saturday. And so should you!

Either way, whether you're looking forward to it or not, you should still go and back the team. Never once in close to two decades of attending games at the Valley have I ever made a decision not to attend a game based on the fixture or opposition alone. I just can't think that way.   

With league consolidation the priority, this game might represent a chance for Sir Chris to try out a few fresh faces. Perhaps David Button will be preferred to Hamer in the onion bag, Taylor may finally make a return in defence, Midfielders Cook and Wagstaff might get long awaited starting roles and BWP may be unleashed up top once again. Of course, where Taylor, Wagstaff and BWP are concerned, their absence from the matchday squad may hint to possible exits from the Valley altogether as they avoid being cup-tied to weaken their stock. 

Huddersfield haven't won a game since beating Barnsley 1-0 in mid-November and we've not been on the best run ourselves. Our excellent win at Watford should hopefully prove a turning point and we should be looking to make the 4th round draw, when, you never know, we may get one of those 'big' Premiership superstars!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

London Pride...

There really is an unsightly side to Watford, and I'm not referring to the awkward arrangement of disused terraces and stands alongside one flank of the pitch! The 'Golden Boys' bought a disgraceful level of play-acting and histrionics upon every challenge that must have been an embarrassment to the home crowd, who, other than cheer their goals, made little effort to get behind their team. I was surprised at quite how bad the theatricals were and given that it was across the whole side (although Forestieri and Neuton outshone everyone) perhaps the saddest part is it would appear this unsavoury element is being coached into them as a team. Strange really, as I don't recall Gianfranco Zola as being that sort of player. In fact, quite the opposite. When other foreign imports were writhing around after featherweight challenges it was he who would make every effort to carry on playing football. It's what we admired about the player. And don't even get me started on the time-wasting...
Taking the above in to account, quite honestly, never has a result been so satisfying!
Yesterday was one of those games that will long live in the memory. It ebbed and flowed as the goals went in, with Charlton's sheer refusal to give up the trump card on the day. 4-3 to Charlton...who predicted that? What an honour it was to be amongst the travelling Addicks, who, lead by the much-maligned Red Division boys down the front of the away section, were in fine form.
I'm assuming you followed the action in some form, but if you're interested, match reports can be found via various sources here. Charlton's 4th and eventual winner came from our leader and captain, Johnnie Jackson (above), with a bullet header following a decent corner from Stephens. After the game Jackson commented via his twitter account that he was "so proud to skipper this group of lads". Top bloke!
I noticed a few rumours floating around late last night regarding one or two Premiership teams wanting to take iron-lunged Pritchard. It's silly season again and I suppose it's a compliment to how well Bradley has been doing this season that he's being noticed (of course, it's far more likely the stories are completed nonsense). Like Solly and Stephens in the last transfer window, Pritchard must not be allowed to leave.
Post-match I was fortunate enough to enjoy a good few beers with Marco, Al Gordon, Crispy and Jim McGinty in Watford and then back at Euston.  Never has a pint of London Pride tasted so good. Cheers for inviting me along, chaps, it topped off a thoroughly enjoyable day out