Friday, 24 October 2014

Funny walks

This is the year I moved up in my running to half marathon distance. Various memory tags recall the progression.

My first 21 km training run on 21 April made me over confident. I pulled a muscle in my knee two days later, which interrupted my running for 6 weeks.

My first half marathon race was on 6 July. Time just under two hours.

Then I embarked on a training schedule to improve my time and knocked 15 minutes off in my next half marathon just over two months later.

In the final half marathon of the year before easing back on the training, I knocked another 5 minutes off my time, while feeling much more comfortable on the run. My pace over the 21 km was 4:37/km, which also gave me my fastest 10 km time of about 46 minutes.

I am now going to concentrate of 5 km and 10 km races for a while to try to improve my pace further. My next race will be 10 km and I have a target to beat 45 mins.

I feel I am still a long way from my potential. At the moment I sense improvement will come from strengthening my leg muscles to improve power and technique.

On training runs I think about two aspects to strengthen my hamstring muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris (long and short head). I'm cribbing this information from this website:

At some point I think about pushing further back to strenthen the hip-flexing function of the muscles.

At another point, I think of the knee-flexing function, so lift my heels more powerfully.

It feels like I am Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks. Going from a flat, extended rhythm to a bumpy, bum flicking trot. Both exercises cause my legs to ache in a good way, telling me the muscles are working.

At inervals, I'll recover by easing back on these exercises. My achilles-flexing push-off then becomes more of a focus.

Then I try putting it all together, which is faster, but tiring. With time, as my muscles strengthen, I will hopefully become faster and less tired.

My 5 km time is already falling and consistently below 21 minutes. My next target is to knock a few seconds off my best time to drop below 20 mins.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Post office

This is another example of how this process of remembering every day that passes enables me to capture other information I do not want to forget. It helps me to remember the names of birds and trees, for example, something I previously found difficult.

Now I've applied it to remembering when the Post Office is open. My memory tag for Wednesday, October 15 is going for a coffee with my wife at lunchtime to a particular café. Instead of these visits merging into a single generic visit in my recollection I can now differentiate between them by something specific that happened.

So on this day we went via the Post Office to send a birthday card to a nephew. The Post Office closed at lunch time and does not re-open on Wednesdays.

Now I will remember.

The next day on the way home from work I called in at the central depot and posted the card there. I noticed that on Wednesdays it is not only open in the afternoon, but stays open until 8 pm. So registering that fact is in my memory tag. Having a common theme to consecutive days is one of the memory tricks I sometimes use.

Whenever I refresh the memory tags, I will remember when the local Post Office is closed in the afternoon - and that the depot is open late that day.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Thinking about you

My memory tag for October 16 this year includes the fact my wife went to the capital to visit a friend we have not seen for a while.

I was unable to go myself and when she returned she passed on our friends best wishes. They had tried to work out when we had last all been together.

As I can remember every day of the nearly three years since beginning this process, I was able to say immediately that it was July 16, 2012 and recount where we went and what we did.

It was made a little easier than it might have been as a few hours before I had run through the 16th day of each month as part of the process of refreshing the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags, so I had briefly relived the captured moment.

This is a strength of my current system.

As well as being able to remember people and events, I periodically bring them to mind. I can honestly say, 'I was thinking about you recently'.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Memory reboot

I had to reboot my memory last week as this process of remembering every day that passes went into meltdown. It happened just as I reached the 1000 day milestone.

I was having a hectic time and was unable to complete my daily review of memory tags for the same day of the month stretching back to 2011.

Whenever this happens, I catch up by reviewing consecutive days the following day. For example, today is 17 September, so I will review the 17th of each month. If I hadn't completed the review yesterday, I would call up the images pinned to my mental calendar for the 16th and 17th of each month.

Last week the missed days piled up so I was faced with reviewing not two, but three then four days of each month, which began to feel overwhelming. If I didn't complete the review, the next day I'd have even more days to run through.

The solution seemed obvious: full memory reboot.

I did something I have not done for a long time. I ran through every day from the start of this process on 17 December 2011.

It took several days as I had to fit it into spare moments, just as with my usual day-per-month review.

My day still began with a more detailed review of the past 6 months, though here too I was experiencing problems as I explained in my last post. I only fully recovered all the memory tags for the last month yesterday.

Once the 6-month review was out of the way - or as much of it as I could manage - I picked up the full run through from where I had left off. There was something comforting in this. The feeling of being overwhelmed at having missed several days of reviews left me. Even though I knew this would take some time, I would still be revisiting past days with less than the month-long gap my established method involved, so could stop worrying that images would fade away in the time it took for me to reach them.

The advantage of a sequential run through is many of the images for consecuitve days are linked. I put to one side any days that did not immediately come to mind and went back to them later. After four days I had gone through the 1000+ days since I began this process without losing a single memory tag.

As I passed the day of the month I would have been reviewing in my normal method, it gave me a boost to see I could soon switch back to it.

It did occur to me that a sequential review could become my new refresh technique. Instead of a day-per-month review, I could review say four consecutive months per day. In my present technique the same day comes around about every 30 days. Covering four months per day would give enable me to review 10 years of memory tags before the time between reviewing the same day hits 30 days.

I am not switching to this method just yet for a simple reason. Reviewing sequential days put me into that time period. I was reliving the past.

The day-per-month review is very different. It gives me perspective over time and links today to past days. That feels much more healthy.

Even so, I now have a memory reboot method should I need it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


My system for remembering every day that passes suffered total collapse last week. I was drawing blanks for almost the whole of the last month and felt bereft. It was as if a balloon had become deflated and I could not pump it up again.

It happened because I spent five intense days working. I had little sleep and had too much to do. I struggled to conduct my usual six-month review in the morning. The longer review process covering the memory tags going back to 2011 went neglected. I was faced with recalling not just one day per month, but then two, three and four just to keep up.

Everything is back on track again now. Tomorrow I'll explain the method I used for a memory reboot covering the longer period.

The more immediate past, usually so familiar, had become a foreign country. A change of scene or situation does give me a new perspective on past days, but this experience made them seem so alien I could barely grasp them.

The solution was perseverance. I had to put aside feelings of panic as day after day of my mental calendar hissed with the white static of forgotten. There were a few days with images and slowly these triggered associations. All the techniques I have developed to recover lost memories came into play and after four days of struggle during spare moments (I have still been very busy), the tags were back.

The memory reboot method I was using for the longer timespan, which I will explain tomorrow, no doubt also helped bring my memory muscles back into shape.

The deflated balloon of my memory began to inflate. In fact, it felt more like inflating an airbed with a foot pump, so slowly did it unfold itself and return to shape. Images that troubled me as incomplete gained their missing aspects and another crinkle popped away.

For a moment, when the immediate month just passed was a mess of missing and confused images, I thought this process had come to its natural end.

This morning I have done my usual six-month run through and all is well again.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Putting two things together

For a long time I've felt something was missing from my memory tag for 4 August 2013.

I remembered calling a good friend from temporary accommodation I had rented to be close to work and adopted that as the image pinned to my mental calendar. The 4th August comes up in the reviews on the 4th of every month and so this is the image I have refreshed, but for several months it has felt like a bit of a cheat.

On the run through yesterday, being 5 September, I recalled receiving news about a cousin on 5 January 2013. But it was not the news of his son attending college. That I had learned on another day directly from my cousin. I decided to make a point of creating an acronym to record where and what he was studying.

Suddenly I realised this nugget of information had been lost to me and that was because it had detached from my mental calendar: it was the missing memory tag from 4 August. I had stopped off to have lunch with my cousin on my journey.

It is now fixed back firmly in place, giving a sense of completion to my calendar once more.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Why I find associating dates with memory tags important

It being the 6 August, my morning review involved a quick run through the images pinned to my mental calendar for every day of the past month.

On Sunday 6 July I ran my first half marathon. Only a month ago. This surprised me. It seems a lot longer. I was unsure how it would go as I was recovering from an injury, but since then I have gone from strength to strength, embarked on a training programme for my next half marathon in September, and have run a 10 km race. The half marathon landmark feels like it should be further away given the progress along that road.

By contrast, when I came to Saturday 12 July, I found it hard to believe the memory captured was not more recent. I took my parents on an outing to old haunts. They are less mobile now and don't travel far on their own. We had a very enjoyable time and I suppose that is why it still seems fresh.

That same day Brazil was beaten by Holland in the 3rd place play-off in the soccer world cup. The following day, Germany beat Argentina to raise the trophy. Both events and the tournament as a whole already feel consigned to history. So 12 July left me perplexed, containing memories both recent and far away.

The following weekend, 19 and 20 July, I had a great time cycling with friends. I am glad I will not forgot those days and will revisit them forevermore in reviews. Again, it seems a shock they have already receded so far.

It was Sunday 27 July when I ran the 10 km race. Just over a week ago, but already done and dusted as my focus is on the training runs scheduled for this week.

Last week, I was preparing and travelling to a conference that took place at the weekend. The images for the week come as a package, linked together. But that package now has the lid closed and is tied up with string. I would probably think little more of it, except my review process stops it fading to nothing.

If these images were not pinned to my mental calendar, but simply drifted into my recollection, no doubt I would be hard-pressed to place them.

My sense of the time passed since an event is unreliable.