Run x5, turbo, gym, (plus hill reps and sterilised hippos)

Back to the Thames Path for Saturday’s run

The week started with a fairly gentle run with my wife. My back had coped well with the ride on Saturday so I wanted to see how it was with some running. A bit sore but the 5.8km (3.6 miles) went OK.

We ran again on Tuesday – this time I joined my wife doing hill reps for the first time in years. I know I should have done them in training for the 2019 Rotterdam Marathon and last year’s ultra – but I’ve been diligently protecting my dodgy Achilles tendons. Hill reps would be a great addition to my training for next year’s 100km ultra and it seemed worth trying now because the tendons are behaving pretty well. If I do aggravate them again, at least they’ve got plenty of time to rest and recover.

I’m not sure what a good hill for hill reps actually looks like, but the hill we chose involves a very steep climb of about 26m over around 200m, at an average of 13% (having written ‘13%’ I now understand why running up it was so hard).

I did 8 reps of a slightly longer segment incorporating the hill – in all a run of 8.5km with a total of 263m of height gain. Probably not the most sensible, gentle, introduction to hill reps but at least it should tell me whether my Achilles’ are up to training on hills.

On Wednesday morning the Achilles tendons were fine. I could feel the run in my quads (probably as much from the running downhill as up) but nothing beyond a reminder that I’d worked hard the previous day.

Every now and again a small glimmer of common sense breaks through my clouds of madness. Wednesday wasn’t one of those days so my wife and I went for a run (a gentle one, with no extra hills) in the morning, 7.2km (4.5 miles).

In the evening we went to the 60th birthday supper of the friend I rode with on Saturday. It was a terrific evening with great food, drink and company, which resulted in the start to Thursday morning being even slower than usual. I got on the turbo in the early evening, for another hard and hot 45 minutes @25.8kph (16mph).

A standard Friday morning saw me in the gym and then in the charity bike shop. I’ve been a bit underwhelmed with enjoyment of the gym recently but seemed to get a lot of that back in this session so there’s a big plus.

We drove up to London in the afternoon to see both sons for supper, which was excellent and we stayed up in London for the night. Staying in London means one thing if I’m lucky – a run in the morning. I ran to Hammersmith and then down the Thames Path to Craven Cottage and back – 7.26km at better than 5.30 per km, which is my fastest for some time. It was lovely.

I ran with my wife on Sunday – 7.2km (4.5 miles). The 7th straight day of exercise for me, probably too much but I’ve been enjoying it.

I think I’m now over my post-event slump. I guess it’s mainly just the passing of time but some exercise variety has helped and I’ve particularly enjoyed the ‘purposeful’ run West Kensington to Kingston-Upon-Thames, the birthday ride with friends, the hill rep session and the run in London. I also enjoyed the gym more than I have for a few weeks – I’ve switched to 4 sets of 10 reps instead of 3 sets of 12, a minor change but a change nevertheless.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Do not look where you fell. Look where you slipped

2. BBC News website: Colombia sterilises drug lord’s hippos

Paulo Escobar, who was shot dead by police in 1993, illegally imported exotic animals, including a male and a female hippo – dubbed the “cocaine hippos”. Since then, a growing population has been taking over the countryside near his former ranch, Hacienda Nápoles.

Colombian environmentalists say the hippos, believed to be the biggest herd outside Africa, are an invasive species and have pushed away the native fauna.

3. BBC News website: Spain’s Prime Minister pledges to criminalise prostitution

Prostitution was decriminalised in Spain in 1995 and in 2016 the UN estimated the country’s sex industry was worth €3.7bn (£3.1bn, $4.2bn). A 2009 survey found that up to one in three Spanish men had paid for sex.

The industry boomed since decriminalisation and it is estimated that around 300,000 women work as prostitutes in Spain. A 2011 UN study cited Spain as the third biggest centre for prostitution in the world, behind Thailand and Puerto Rico.

As someone with no direct experience of the matter (!), this looks like a tough one. If criminalisation prevents exploitation, great. If it deprives women of a freely-chosen livelihood and drives prostitution underground, is that so good?

4. 96-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary appears in court

Between June 1943 and April 1945, the accused worked (starting at the age of 18) in the office of the camp commander. Prosecutors say she took dictation of the SS officer’s orders and handled his correspondence. She is charged with complicity in the murder of more than 10,000 people at the camp in occupied Poland.

The prosecution follows a 2011 trial in which the judge said that regardless of how small a person’s role had been, as long as it could be proven they had been “cogs” in the “machinery of destruction”, they could be held responsible for the crimes committed.

Another really tough one. Without, for a moment, downplaying the horror of the holocaust, is it right, 76 years after the end of the war, to prosecute a 96 year-old who was a teenage secretary at the time?

5. True life – What’s in a name

For some time now we have been members of a group of 6 friends who meet regularly to host a supper party and watch one or two episodes of a current TV series. It’s a great format.

Most recently, we have worked our way through the 5 series of Peaky Blinders and have called our group ‘the Peakys’, simply taking the first word of the title of the show we are watching.

We have just decided that the next series will be Schitt’s Creek.

I think we may keep the name Peakys.

Turbo, run, turbo, wood stacking, gym, ride (now with added sprinkles)

Last ride this year with the carbon wheels? – just about got away with them on a slightly damp Saturday

After last Sunday’s cold swim, I discovered that the lake is host to an Olympic distance triathlon in September. If the dates fit, that can go with May’s sprint triathlon and July’s 100km ultra.

To celebrate (sort of) I got on the turbo for 45 minutes Monday evening. It felt much harder than it should have considering I managed only a 26.1kph (16.2mph) average.

I ran with my wife on Tuesday. The mornings now have a definite nip in the air so a compression top, hat and gloves made an appearance for the first time in months. Typical early Autumn running – chilly at the start but hot before half way round. It was 7.24km (4.5 miles) @6.13/km – bravo to my wife, she’s getting faster.

With the swim on Sunday, that’s another triathlon completed – who said three day eventing was only for horses?

Back to the turbo on Wednesday evening. It was even harder than Monday despite being even slower – 45 minutes at an average just under 26kph. It can’t be me, it must be the machinery ….

Thursday morning saw an unreasonably early start (for someone who prefers not to see anything before 8am) as I received a 2 cubic metre load of logs for the wood burners. Stacking that and cycling in and out from the garage, sorting out an MOT for another car, filled the day.

I started out bending over to pick up logs, carrying them to the log store and stacking them – using a terrible lifting technique. Not long after I realised that I had broken my back, I worked out that kneeling and putting them in the wheelbarrow, wheeling them to the store and stacking them from the height of the barrow was a far superior method. I have patented it but licences are available for purchase, to help fund a new back.

By some miracle, the shattered vertebrae repaired themselves overnight and I woke with little more than a very stiff back. I decided to try the usual Friday and went to the gym followed by a stint in the charity cycle shop. Using machines rather than free weights – and with some care and no sit-ups – the gym was OK on my back. I had a bit of a scare in the afternoon until I remembered that I’d been eating beetroot.

A friend is celebrating a birthday in a few days time but asked me and a few others to join him in a birthday ride on Saturday. He’s pretty much a life-long cyclist and was the first person to come with me for a cycling trip to the alps way back in 2003.

He’s a very good cyclist so I was hoping the the others might dilute the general ability pool down to my level (but – with a dry weather forecast – I put the deep section carbon wheels back on, just in case).

In the end there were five of us – and four of the six who go out to the Alps each (normal) year. We had a delightful ride of 85km (53 miles) around the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside, with coffee and lunch and nearly 900m (3,000 feet) of climbing.

Back not too bad – legs not so good. There is no doubt that running is not a complete training for cycling (and not the other way round either, in my experience).

On Sunday morning we had a pair of Roe deer in the garden, eating apples – if they stick to windfalls, we might be able to co-exist happily but if they start on the plants, we’ll be looking for ways to keep them out. I abandoned the planned run as the rain set in early on, but we drove up to London for a lovely lunch with our younger son, who is a month or so into his post-graduate teaching course.

Quite a week in many ways, decent exercise, back in the saddle outdoors, and a painful reminder not to take liberties with the heavy lifting.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you want to know the end, look at the beginning

2. BBC News website: Bestselling biscuit binned over banned sprinkles row

A bakery has had to stop making one of its bestselling biscuits after being told it was topping the treats with illegal sprinkles. Trading Standards said the sprinkles contained a food colouring know as Erythrosine, which is only approved for use in the UK and EU in cocktail cherries and candied cherries.

This is what people want – a blog that is prepared to confront the really big issues and is liberally sprinkled with …… sprinkles

3. BBC News website: Privacy case won over smart doorbell and cameras

A judge has ruled that security cameras and a Ring doorbell installed in a house “unjustifiably invaded” the privacy of a neighbour. The Ring doorbell captured images of the claimant’s house and garden, while the shed camera covered almost the whole of her garden and her parking space.

The Judge found that audio data collected by cameras on a shed, in a driveway and on the Ring doorbell was processed unlawfully under data Protection legislation. “Personal data may be captured from people who are not even aware that the device is there, or that it records and processes audio and personal data,” she said in her judgement.

4. BBC News website: Eliud Kipchoge to race public in Paris 2024 event

Eliud Kipchoge will take on members of the public on 31 October in a running challenge to mark 1,000 days until the start of the Paris 2024 Games.

It will be a pursuit-style 5km race against 2,000 runners. With the field split into different groups based on ability, the challenge is to out-run Kipchoge, who will cover a longer distance and aim to catch up with the rest of the pack. Those who manage to hold off the 36-year-old will secure their entry for the mass participation marathon at Paris 2024.

It’s sobering to think that if I was running 5km I’d need him to be running over 10km to have any chance at all

5. BBC News website: Official wizard removed from payroll after 23 years service

Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, was paid NZ$16,000 (£8,200; $11,280) a year to provide “acts of wizardry” and promote the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. However the city has now ended his contract, saying it is going in a more modern and diverse direction.

If he was a good wizard, I’d be nervous about sacking him

Run, run, run, gym, swim – navigational errors and cold water

Part of Lake 32 – the triangle with the yellow buoys is 200m and with the
blue buoys (far right and far left) is 400m

After a very wet week, Monday dawned cool, but dry and bright. I got out for a run – 7.6km (4.7miles) – and even found the motivation to add on a sizeable hill at the end.

I’m not over the exercise slump, but the fact that I was up for the hill must mean something. Tuesday was another nice early autumn day (but blowy) and I ran with my wife – a bit over 7.2km (4.5 miles).

My sister and brother-in-law called in on Wednesday as they passed by – we don’t get together very often so it was good to see them. After that we went in to Oxford to watch the new Bond film which was excellent escapist entertainment.

On Thursday I took a train to London, checked on our flat and then ran to our older son’s place in Kingston-upon-Thames to pick up the car he’d borrowed.

The start of the run was great, alongside the Thames, and even Putney High Street (usually a bit of a nightmare) was OK. That was followed by a long haul up to Putney Common, before the route runs up to a large roundabout where you join the A3.

As I approached the roundabout I spotted some running/cycle tracks so I used those to miss out the junction itself. It was a good idea but poorly executed. I joined the wrong road and ran on at 90 degrees to the correct route.

I realised I’d gone wrong after a few minutes of running downhill but I didn’t have the heart to retrace my steps so I decided to wing it – which had me running through Roehampton. It also meant more running through Richmond Park than I had intended (which was, admittedly, a bonus) but it added about 3.5km to the distance.

In all, over 15.5km (9.6 miles). It didn’t meet my ‘get back to running by doing shorter distances’ plan but it was most certainly a ‘useful’ run and I really enjoyed it – another example of how running a ‘journey’ from A to B so easily beats running circular routes.

I will admit to being a bit of a ‘weight weenie’ when it comes to running and cycling, so I didn’t take a rucksack or a change of clothes with me. Luckily, I drove back to Oxfordshire alone, gently steaming in the running kit.

Friday was the usual session at the gym followed by a stint taking care of the charity bike shop. When I got back I received an invitation to get a flu jab so I signed up and went to get it on Saturday morning. I’m not very worried about influenza but I wouldn’t want to be a burden on the health service if I did get it.

On Sunday I managed to surprise myself. It’s getting harder to do that after 66 years but the friend I did the triathlon with had suggested that we try out a different lake at the water park we have been going to this summer. Despite the fact that I’d mentally put away all thoughts of outdoor swimming for the year, I agreed and we drove over on Sunday morning.

Considering that the two lakes are within 2 miles of each other and look much the same from their websites, this one felt quite different from the one we’ve used before. Lake 86 felt more like somewhere people go to train for open water swimming events – this one was more like a place to go for some sociable open water swimming. I guess there were 100 people in the water during the hour we were there, most of them women and mostly – to their credit and my (wetsuited) shame – just in swimsuits.

The water was around 16℃ (60℉) – as cold as we’ve had for any swim this year. We swam 1km – I don’t know if it was simply the cold or not having swum for over 3 weeks, but I found it pretty hard going. Despite that, the sense of satisfaction for having done it was huge, and the restorative powers of coffee and a bacon roll were magnificent.

100k corner (an occasional place for ultra worries and plans)

I could feel Thursday’s run in my Achilles tendons and left knee on Friday. Even though the ultra is 9 months away, I suspect that it’s going to be a balance between doing enough training to get through it, and not so much that I injure myself. ‘Twas ever thus.

One thing to remember is that, if I’m going to injure myself – like I did before this year’s 50km race – I should do it early enough to have the necessary break and still have time to get back to a bit of training before the run.

Interesting stuff this week

!. African wise words: Examine what is said, not who is speaking

I agree with this but, although I don’t want to question African wise words, I could also make a case for ‘Examine who is speaking, not what is said’

2. BBC News website: UK start-up makes one of the world’s smallest quantum computers

Most of the major players in this field use an approach involving freezing qubits down to near absolute zero which means large machines with costly infrastructure around them. The new computer is not cryogenically cooled and uses single photons – single units of light – which don’t interfere with the outside environment.

The new four-qubit machine has about the same power as a thermostat or an Apple watch and scaling up is likely to be a major challenge.

One of those cases where (qubits aside) I understand all the words individually but start to flounder when they are put into sentences

3. BBC News website: Nails, screws and knives removed from man’s stomach

A Lithuanian man has had more than a kilogram of nails, screws, nuts and knives removed from his stomach by doctors, local media report. Some of the objects retrieved during surgery were 10cm (4in) long.

He had been swallowing metal objects for a month after quitting alcohol, doctors said.

4. BBC News website: 26 Korean words added to Oxford English Dictionary

Through shows like Squid Game or listening to BTS hits many have had some kind of Korean influence in their life. That South Korean influence has reached the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as the “accepted authority on the English language” has added 26 new words of Korean origin to its latest edition.

They include banchan, bulgogi, kimbap, hallyu, K-drama, manhwa, and mukbang.

and, no, I have not seen the Squid Game, have only heard of BTS in passing and don’t know any of the new words

5. BBC News website: Daniel Craig gets Hollywood Walk of Fame star

Daniel Craig has capped the launch week of his final James Bond movie by becoming the 2,704th celebrity to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California. It was unveiled outside 7007 Hollywood Boulevard, in honour of the fictional British spy’s code number.

Stars on the Walk of Fame are awarded each year by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, chosen from hundreds of applications. Recipients pay a sponsorship fee of $50,000, which covers the creation and installation of their star, and the maintenance of the entire attraction.

I suppose if you’ve ‘made it’ sufficiently to get the star, the $50,000 is not much of an issue

Turbo, ride (short), run, gym, turbo (2022 100km ultra: entered)

After driving back to Oxfordshire we spent much of the rest of Tuesday catching up in general and doing washing. It was chilly and rained heavily – autumn might be here.

One of the chores was to swap over the bike’s carbon deep profile wheels for a slightly more modest pair which will be better suited to the coming weather. I should have done it before going up to the Lakes – the ride on Saturday reminded me that carbon rims (rightly) have a poor reputation for braking in the wet.

From comments, discussions and research, it seems that post challenge slump is ‘a thing’ and is fairly common. The ways to address it are extremely varied and appear to include:

  • the cerebral (book assisted analysis as to why we run and how to bring back the fun)
  • the visceral (sitting yourself down and giving yourself a good talking to)
  • the masochistic (sign up for another challenge).

I was lucky that last week’s trip to the Lakes was part of a biannual (Covid aside) series of trips with the group of three couples to the Lakes and either Bournemouth or the Alps – the main purpose of which (other than spending time with really nice people) is cycling and walking in the hills and mountains.

That meant the exercise required no real thought on my part, but I think my approach to the slump will now be to try to make the exercise slightly shorter and/or ‘useful’.

I took a car in for a service and MOT on Wednesday, driving carefully as we are in the midst of a fuel shortage. The fuel is available at the depots but it isn’t reaching the pumps as there are insufficient HGV drivers, partly through Covid and partly the loss of drivers who were EU nationals, due to Brexit.

Still not having rediscovered my exercise mojo, I got back on the turbo for a lacklustre 45 minutes @ 27kph (16.7mph) in the afternoon before cycling in to collect the car – useful exercise!

I managed to get some fuel – oh, the joy of a full tank (actually, a bit short of a half full tank as they were limiting it to £30 per customer).

Another car needed its MOT and a service on Thursday so I decided to run back (more useful exercise) – about 5.9km (3.6 miles) in 33 minutes. I’ll say it quietly – but I quite enjoyed the run.

Friday was the usual gym session first thing (but a few minutes shorter than normal) followed by my weekly stint at the charity bike shop. I decided to run on Saturday and was even looking forward to it – but it was chilly (below 10℃ – 50℉) and was raining solidly. I realised I wasn’t looking forward to the run that much, so I used the turbo instead (a ridiculously hard 45 minutes @26.7kph – 16.6mph).

Friends over for Sunday lunch finishes another week – one that also marked the end of the domestic cricket season, which is always a slightly sad occasion.

To celebrate cricket generally, I thought I’d share one of my favourite bits of commentary from the 1966 Lord’s Test between England v W Indies. A very fast Wes Hall delivery, the penultimate ball of the over, struck batsman Basil d’Oliviera an awful blow in ‘the groin’. He collapsed at the crease and, as play was eventually about to resume, the commentator came up with, “Yes, d’Oliviera ready to face Hall…. one ball remaining”.

In confirmation of my general lunacy, in addition to the sprint triathlon in May, I have now signed up for the ‘Race to the Stones’ 100km trail ultra marathon for next July. I did the 50km second day of the race this year so 100km is only double that … how hard can it be (a rhetorical question only).

Great respect to everyone running in today’s London Marathon – what a great event … and yes, I’ve just entered the ballot for a place next year.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Restless feet might walk you into a snake pit

2. BBC News website: ‘Missing’ man joins search party looking for himself

Beyhan Mutlu had been drinking with friends on Tuesday when he wandered into a forest in Bursa province (Turkey). When he failed to return, his wife and friends alerted local authorities and a search party was sent out.

Mr Mutlu stumbled across the search party and decided to join them, but when members of the search party began calling out his name, he replied: “I am here.”

He was taken aside by one of the rescue workers to give a statement. “Don’t punish me too harshly, officer. My father will kill me,” he reportedly told them.

3. BBC News website: GB number plate sticker no longer valid abroad

British motorists driving outside the UK must now remove old-style GB stickers or cover them up. Instead they should display a UK sticker or have the UK identifier on their number plate.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Changing the national identifier from GB to UK symbolises our unity as a nation and is part of a wider move towards using the UK signifier across government.”

Getting to the heart of the really important issues of the day

4. BBC News website: Mortar tanker tailed by drivers looking for petrol

A tanker driver was tailed by about 20 drivers who were dismayed to discover he was not transporting petrol.

He was transporting 44 tonnes of mortar to a building site in Northamptonshire and when he reached his destination, he saw a line of traffic backed up behind him.

The tanker driver said “The man at the front wound down his window and asked me which petrol station I was going to,” he actually said “You could have stopped and told us you weren’t a petrol tanker”.

5. BBC News website: Nazi Stutthof camp secretary flees as German trial starts

96 year old Irmgard Furchner, was due to stand trial in northern Germany on Thursday for complicity in 11,000 murders. She had worked as a typist in the office of the Stutthof concentration camp commandant and was said to have known key details of what went on at the camp. During a 1954 trial she revealed how the commandant had dictated messages to her but claimed she knew nothing of the Nazi murders at the camp.

However, just before the trial she disappeared after taking a taxi from her nursing home and then, it is thought, taking an underground train to a station on the outskirts of Hamburg.

In no way belittling the gravity of the charges or the horror of the camps, the idea of a 96 year old ‘on the run’ is bizarre. She was later caught in Hamburg.

6. BBC News website: Bone marrow recipient runs marathon with life-saving donor

Vicky Lawrence was born in 2000 – the year Elliott Brock signed up as a bone marrow donor. In 2008, Vicky’s parents became concerned when their usually very active eight-year-old began to feel tired all the time.

When she was eventually diagnosed with aplastic anaemia – doctors told them that if she had not been brought in she would have died within a month. Elliott donated the bone marrow that kept Vicky alive and on Sunday the pair will run the London marathon to raise money for Anthony Nolan, the charity that brought them together.

Something good among the doom and gloom

Turbo, run, walk, ride, walk, walk – head for the hills!

Rydal Water – probably my favourite in the Lake District

I don’t know if it’s widespread but I tend to suffer a bit with ‘post-challenge-slump’ syndrome. Generally it’s a reluctance to get out and exercise – and finding it less enjoyable when I do.

Following a significant physical challenge – like the cycle everesting or the ultra marathon – it’s easy to understand that could have a lot to do with general tiredness and the need to rest muscles. After those challenges and the ride of 550 miles out to the alps there was also an element of ‘what’s the point of a 40 mile ride or a 5k run?’.

But that doesn’t explain why I felt rather flat last week after the Blenheim triathlon. Since the triathlon was only 1hour 37 minutes of activity, and I didn’t feel any stiffness, and there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in the distances, I guess there must be more to it than just the physical side.

Like most things to do with the mind, I guess it’s a complex issue. For me, I think there is the fact that a challenge takes up a lot of hours a day either consciously or sub-consciously mulling it over and mentally rehearsing – the absence of that must be quite significant. That slightly single-minded focus on the challenge with everything building up to the day itself must create a bit of a vacuum once the event has passed.

It’s noticeable that as soon as a challenge is finished, I start thinking about the next ones. What was interesting last week was that the exercise I found myself enjoying most was the trip to the lake for a swim – that’s the exercise that continues to provide the biggest challenge.

Having retired, I sometimes wonder if I have replaced the stretch and achievement of work with sporting challenges as a means of feeling fulfilled and ‘validated’ … oh, that’s getting a bit deep for me …

Anyway, I have some likely, significant, challenges for next year, in particular the 100km ultra and the olympic distance triathlon, so even though they are some way off I can start to think about them.

I went to the pool midday on Tuesday but it was really busy and it didn’t look like I’d get a decent swim in so I canned that and got on the turbo in the evening – 45 minutes at 29.1kph (18mph). I must try to stop slipping back into 30 minute turbo sessions. I ran with my wife of Wednesday morning – one of our usual loops for just over 7km (4.4miles).

On Thursday we drove the 4+ hours up to the Lake District for a long weekend with the friends we’d been in Bournemouth with last month. We’d all gathered there by Friday mid morning and had a short walk (just under 7km) up Black Crag later in the day.

On Saturday the three men took to the bikes and we had an excellent ride of a little under 80km (50 miles) with nearly 1300m (over 4200 feet) of climbing, heading south west from Ambleside. The trip included a circuit of Coniston Water where Donald Campbell set various speed records before sadly perishing while making another attempt in 1967. A fine ride in excellent company – but it was tough in extremely wet weather and on a relentlessly hilly route.

We all hiked on Sunday, intending to get to Red Screes but (surprise, surprise) the weather turned against us. Although there were times when it was too warm for jackets, eventually we had to turn back before we reached the intended destination as the wind got up, the rain set in and the visibility reduced.

We still walked over 13km (8 miles) climbing nearly 600 metres (almost 2000 feet) – and got completely drenched. Who would have imagined that anywhere called the Lake District could be prone to so much rain???

On Monday we walked for about 16km (10 miles) around Rydal Water and Grasmere in the usual 4 seasons of weather but in the evening we did a ‘meal deal’ at one of the two excellent vegetarian restaurants in Ambleside followed by a film. Although very much a meat eater, the restaurants are so good that I never notice the lack of meat and always enjoy the food.

Some of us chose to watch ‘The Alpinist’ which was terrific – I rarely recommend music, TV or films because everyone’s tastes are so different but the film was a rare delight.

We drove back on Tuesday – it was a great weekend with excellent company.

My one (very minor) regret was that we had taken swimming things (even wetsuits) in the hope that it might be possible to try a bit of wild swimming. It was always a long-shot and the weather and routes we took meant that it didn’t happen. We probably needed a walk to a lake where we could swim and then dry in the autumn sun but much of the time we were as wet at the side of the lake as we would have been in it.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

2. BBC News website: Fashion house in backlash over ‘racist’ $1,190 sweatpants

High end fashion label Balenciaga is facing a backlash, after critics said that a $1,190 (£860) pair of sweatpants it sells rips off black culture.

The garment features a built-in pair of boxer shorts peeking out from the waistband, mimicking a style popularised by hip hop musicians. A TikTok post which called the pants racist was viewed 1.6m times and black culture experts have raised concerns.

I always thought that racism was about prejudice, oppression, discrimination, or antagonism based on racial differences or perceived superiority. While ‘cultural appropriation’ might be in poor taste and cause annoyance, is it racist?

3. Public Information (a repeat): How many lakes are there in the English Lake District?

Officially only one (Bassenthwaite Lake) as the other 15 are ‘Meres’ or ‘Waters’, (plus there are many other – generally smaller – bodies of water referred to as ‘tarns’).

4. BBC News website: Glastonbury Festival – Traces of drugs found in river at site

Environmentally damaging levels of MDMA and cocaine have been found in the river running through the Glastonbury Festival site. It is suspected that public urination on the site finds its way into the river. Festival goers are being urged to use the toilets provided.

Anyone reading this nonsense might recall last week’s reference to German scientists training cows to use a ‘Moo Loo.’ Perhaps festival going should be restricted to well trained cattle?

Walk, turbo, swim, gym, mechanic, turbo – but what’s the next challenge?

I should have got out on the bike while the weather permits
but I’m not sure the turbo is really an easy option.

Monday came with no aches or pains from the triathlon – I’ll take that as another small win. I really enjoyed the event, faced up to my open water nerves, and an age group 6/34 is no disgrace.

My swim was faster than I’ve done before (but still slow), T1 was a bit slow, the bike ride was pretty good, T2 was fast (thanks to the good advice to cycle in the running shoes) and the run was OK. Lots to work on, but a decent effort.

The question now arises, as it always does after an event, ‘What next by way of sporting challenge?’

I appreciate that the more sensible question might be ‘Should there be any more sporting challenges?’ but rarely have I been accused of being sensible in such matters.

I think the focus has to be on next year as we head towards the UK’s winter. I’ll carry on running and cycling on a ‘tick-over’ basis and try to get to the gym and pool regularly. I’m not hardy enough for open water swimming through the winter but I do need to try to maintain the (low) level I’ve got to this year. The pool will be the hardest bit.

Of course, lessons would help me improve but I’m stubborn and would prefer to try to improve through practice rather than tuition (what an idiot).

Assuming I stay fit and healthy, three new challenges for next year are probably the Blenheim Palace Triathlon again, this time at the end of May (I guess it was September this year because of Covid disruption), the 100km version of the 50km ultra marathon I did this year in July, and an olympic distance triathlon (twice the length of Sunday’s effort) later in the summer. Couple those with the regular sportives in the form of the White Horse Challenge and my own club’s event, it looks like a good start.

All of them should be helped by the fact that the good friend I have done the triathlon training with is retiring and is looking for challenges to train for while his wife continues to work for another year or two in a job she enjoys.

For triathlons, he’s a better runner than I am and we are pretty well matched on the bike. Currently, I have the edge in the water, ironically because he is a good at breast-stroke. That means he can swap strokes if the crawl is getting hard, whereas the breast-stroke kick tends to annoy the knee ligament I tweaked last year, so I have no viable choice other than to tough out the front crawl.

I took this week gently. No exercise on Monday but Tuesday afternoon I drove my wife up to London to see Snow Patrol. I’ve seen them 4 times with her but still not one of them has bothered to come and watch me run, cycle or swim so I decided to boycott the show to teach them a lesson. I walked quite a bit of the way back to the flat after escorting her to the theatre – a very pleasant 2 mile (3km) stroll.

Turbo on a very hot Wednesday for 30 minutes @ 29.6kph (18.4mph) and on Thursday, I visited the swimming lake for one last(?) time this year, with my triathlon partner. The fact that I agreed when he suggested it must say something about my attitude to the open water. I’m still not in love with it but the year’s lake swimming has now at least brought some familiarity – I swam for about a kilometre and enjoyed it.

I reserve the right to call rivers and the sea ‘scary’ – but lakes of a ‘domestic’ size are, officially, no longer ‘scary open water’.

On Friday, I did the usual session in the gym, followed by the charity cycle shop and, in the evening, a very enjoyable visit to a pop-up pub in the village. Saturday was largely taken up with preparations for a dinner party in the evening but I did get on the turbo again on Sunday. I eased off from the usual pace but went a little longer and included some sprints and it was a hard 45 minutes @ 26.8kph (16.6mph).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Only a stupid cat challenges a lion because they look alike

I like cats but a cat that thinks it looks like a lion probably deserves all it gets

2. BBC News Website: Cows toilet trained to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Researchers in Germany attempted to teach 16 cows to use the toilet by being rewarded with food for urinating in the ‘MooLoo’. After this, they were then placed in an area next to the MooLoo and rewarded for walking into the pen and urinating. Those who urinated outside of the MooLoo were sprayed with water for three seconds.

By the end of the 10 training sessions, researchers found that 11 of the animals were successfully toilet trained so that the urine could be collected and treated, to stop it mixing with soil and turning into the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Getting them to wash their hooves afterwards is probably harder

3. BBC News Website: The place where it is 2014 and a year has 13 months

The Ethiopian calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western calendar, making Saturday the start of 2014. This is because the Catholic Church amended its calculation of the birth of Christ in 500 AD, but the Ethiopian Orthodox Church did not. The Ethiopian new year falls on 11 September in the Western calendar (12 September in leap years).

There is no need for Ethiopian children to learn rhymes to remember how many days each month has because 12 of their months each has 30 days and the 13th – the last of the year – has five or six days, depending on whether it’s a leap year.

4. BBC News Website: President and top officials negligent in tackling air pollution

Jakarta’s particulate pollution levels are six times the WHO’s guideline level and air pollution is said to be reducing residents’ life expectancy by 5.5 years. In a landmark decision in a lawsuit filed by residents in 2019, an Indonesian court has ordered monitoring stations and other measures to improve the capital’s air.

Meanwhile, the President is pressing ahead with plans to move the capital out of Jakarta to the island of Borneo, nearly 1,300km (800 miles) away. He has been quoted as saying that officials would benefit from the fresh air and the green environment there. 

Blenheim Palace Triathlon – race report

Today was the Blenheim triathlon – I did the sprint (750m swim, 19.8km bike, 5.4km run). The bike and run were likely to be OK – but my open water swim struggles have been well documented.

I got to Blenheim Palace a bit before 9, registered, stuck numbers on the bike and helmet, strapped the timing chip to my ankle and met up with my the friend who had also taken on the triathlon challenge. We were in the same starting wave at 10.20 so set up in the transition zone in the courtyard in front of the palace and headed to the lake.

Covid meant the swim used a ‘time trial’ start – we were arranged in two lines and set off in a constant stream of pairs. As a barely competent swimmer, I had already decided to hang back at the start to avoid the scrum of flying elbows and feet so the start suited me quite well – apart from the fact that there was no place to acclimatise for the water temperature. Luckily, the water was not very cold but (thank goodness) was cool enough for wetsuits to be compulsory.

The swim was about 600m straight (which looks a dauntingly long way from the start) and then just one sharp left turn. I set off as best I could and did a mix of sighting for myself and following others on the assumption that they knew what they were doing.

I was really grateful that our swim training had not adopted the marathon approach of not doing the full race distance beforehand. I know that 750m is no great swim for most people but the fact that I’d already done 1km in open water twice was a great comfort.

As expected, I was behind the average swimmer pace and was overtaken by more than I overtook but It went better than I could have expected at 18 minutes for the 750m. I got out of the water to be greeted by a 0.4km run, uphill, to transition. It always feels that I put in a disproportionate amount of effort into the swimming compared to the speed I achieve so the run to transition was surprisingly hard.

I managed to find my place in transition pretty quickly and peeled off my wetsuit a bit faster than usual. I am right in the middle of all the size and weight ranges they recommend for the size of suit I have but it is thick and tight so I do struggle with it. Resplendent in the tri-suit I had on underneath, I slipped into my running shoes, put on my number belt and remembered to put on my helmet before touching the bike itself.

I got out of transition after what seemed like a very long time and managed to get my feet into the toe clips on the pedals (having swapped out my clipless pedals to avoid another shoe change and running in cleats).

It was three laps on the bike – I can count up to three quite reliably but was a bit worried about the counting in the heat of battle. The course was most certainly ‘undulating’ (I saw some people walking up the steepest hill) but quite picturesque as it circled the part of the lake we’d just swam in and crossed the famous early 18C Grand Bridge built by Vanburgh.

People seemed to be quite well behaved about not drafting and I enjoyed myself – the bike is more familiar territory than the water. I found myself counting and by my reckoning I passed 121 people while being passed by only 17.

Heading back into transition 2, I racked the bike, removed my helmet and spun the belt to put the number at the front. That did all feel fairly quick and I headed out for two laps of the run course on jelly legs. Again it was undulating but quite picturesque as it circled another part of the lake and, again, crossed the famous bridge.

I tried to remember the mantra ‘if it’s not hurting, you’re not trying hard enough’ but found little difficulty in making it hurt – even though I wasn’t running very fast. I probably didn’t think enough about pacing and left too much on the course from the ride but I did manage to overtake a few more people than those who overtook me.

I won’t deny I was happy to see the finish line – the ride and the run were short but coming after the swim made them a bit harder than I’d expected and I pushed myself on the cycle leg as I was having fun.

I cleared my stuff out of transition and spent some time being a spectator watching other competitors ‘enjoying’ their own challenges.

Of course, a sprint triathlon is no big deal for most, but for me it was largely about taking on the open water swim, so completing it was great. Total time 1h 37m 37s.

My splits were:

Swim (750m): 18 minutes

T1: 6:04 minutes

Ride (19.8km): 40.39 @29.24kph

T2: 1:49 minutes

Run (5.4km): 31:06 @ 5.45m/km

I was 13 seconds per 100m slower than the average of all swimmers, 2 seconds/km ahead of the average run speed, but 3.48kph ahead of the average bike speed.

Overall, I was in the top third of competitors (out of nearly 4000), and the top 45% of men (out of 2286).

In my 65-69 age group, I was 6th out of 34, particularly thanks to my ride pulling back time lost to others on the swim.

My triathlon partner had a really successful race too. Like me, he swam faster than he’d have expected, had a fine ride and, in particular, he had a great run.

It was certainly enjoyable, but hard – although I suppose I made it that way by trying to make up on the bike and the run what I was going to lose in the water, recognising that my swim speed ‘is what it is’.

Considering where we both came from (in terms of the swimming in particular, where not being able to do it at all was a real possibility), I think we have every reason to be pleased … in a very modest way, of course.

Ride/run, run, award ceremony, Bournemouth, swim (SOW), gym – ready for the triathlon(?)

I was in two minds over swimming on Monday – but I resolved the dilemma by deciding not to. If only all problems could be solved so easily.

I had some chores to do by way of checking the bike and changing the pedals. This followed some good advice from the unironedman that I shouldn’t use the normal clip-in pedals and cycle shoes with cleats, as they would mean two changes of footwear and a certain amount of awkward running in them out of, and back into, transition.

That’s all the more sensible as my cycle shoes have a ratchet fastening so I couldn’t really leave them clipped into the pedals like the pros do with pure velcro-fastening shoes. It’s a short ride so I’m guessing the benefits will outweigh any minor loss of pedal power compared to what I would have got using the cleats. Simplification is good.

The first pedals I fitted rubbed the crank arm. I fashioned a spacer and then found that the shape of the pedals did not fit comfortably with my running shoes. The second pedals worked well enough so I decided on a small ‘brick’ session to test them out and to see how my legs reacted to a run straight off the bike. I had a 27km (17miles) ride @29kph (18mph) and then a 1km run.

This got dangerously close to proper triathlon training but my legs made it very clear that they did not like the experience one little bit.

I ran with my wife on a hot Tuesday morning 6.7km (4.2miles) and we then went for lunch with some friends who have just returned to the UK after some years out in Singapore. They have a house on the Cotswold Water Park which is built around some old gravel pits … including the one which has been developed as the lake where I do my open water swimming. I can’t get away from it.

We went straight from there to the presentation, by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, of the Queen’s Award for Volunteering to the cycle group. My wife and I (and our younger son, in absentia) were presented with badges in recognition for our efforts. Quite an achievement for a group that started as a few middle-aged Saturday cyclists.

Bournemouth on Wednesday to mow and fit various bathroom accessories, and hooks to the back of doors. We’ve only owned the place for 17 years – everything gets done in its own good time.

Thursday was the last open water swimming session before the triathlon. We both did the 1km that we set ourselves – last time was with 2 laps of the shorter course, this time it was one lap of the (significantly) more intimidating long course. I had thoughts of trying to go a little faster than before, but I have to accept that my swimming is not good enough to have much more than one speed.

I don’t know if this makes sense but it feels like my poor technique means I can’t swim faster just by putting in more effort – to go faster, I think I’d have to become a better swimmer. I have now come to terms with the fact that I swim just about as well as fish ride bicycles.

Friday was the usual gym session, followed by the cycle shop. I planned a gentle run with my wife on Saturday morning but wimped out as my knee felt a bit cranky.

I can now start to fret about the kit needed for the triathlon on Sunday. I have a check list of over 20 items (including the confirmation of the required clear lateral flow covid test performed on Friday).

I have already done the most important piece of preparation in fitting elastic laces (that a friend kindly gave me) to my running shoes. With only one pair of quick-fit shoes I can already feel my transition times come down to under an hour.

The bike and run courses are not flat, and cumulative tiredness and the transitions are unknowns, so getting round safely and enjoying it are the orders of the day – no time targets. I am told that the swim-to-ride transition involves a sharp uphill run of about 0.4km – oh joy.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who refuses to obey cannot command

2. BBC News website: Brazil v Argentina game stopped after 10 mins

The Brazil v Argentina football world cup qualifier was stopped on Sunday as health officials and police came onto the pitch and, according to commentator, detained the 4 UK based Argentina players for not quarantining on their arrival in Brazil.

The Brazilian authorities said “[The four players] were directed to remain isolated while awaiting deportation, but they did not comply.”

The Argentinian manager said that “At no time were we notified that they couldn’t play the match.”

Hmmm … hard to see how they can both be right

3. I always use my games of snooker to help with exam revision.

When I use the chalk, I ask myself a maths problem. When I play the blue, I ask myself a question on science. Pink is biology, black is geography … and the rest is history.

4. BBC News website: Climate change: Animals shapeshifting to stay cool

Scientists say warm-blooded species are evolving to have larger beaks, legs and ears to regulate body temperature as the planet warms up.

Wood mice are evolving to have longer tails, masked shrews are getting longer tails and legs, and bats in warm climates have bigger wings.

Several species of Australian parrot have shown a 4-10% increase in bill size since 1871, which correlates with the rising summer temperatures over the years, the study says.

The parrots have got off lightly – since Brexit, it feels like many of our bills have gone up more, and much faster

Run (x4), swim (SOW), mechanic, turbo – a week of big ups and downs on the flat

Back to the running – back to Puddleduck Lane

The family gathering on Sunday was good but surprisingly exhausting. Who would have thought that BBQing burgers, sausages, chicken and skewers of halloumi and courgette could be so tiring.

Monday was a Bank Holiday – we did very little but waved goodbye to our older son and his girlfriend in the afternoon. I drove our younger son back to London on Tuesday. Post lockdown, he’s been spending more time back there and was finally moving back to start a post-graduate teaching course. It’s been a real treat to have him – but it’s right that he gets back to London life.

After chores in the morning, I ran on Wednesday afternoon – my first run for nearly 2 weeks. I did just over 11km (nearly 7 miles) at no great pace but it was good to be back out running.

On a grey and breezy Thursday my triathlon friend and I drove over to the lake and swam in the scary open water. The aim was to do a test swim of the triathlon’s full distance, in the open water and without stopping. I appreciated that not being able to do it would be a bit of a disaster – but it seemed worth the gamble.

It was hard going from the first stroke and well before I got half way I was sure that the gamble had failed. I seemed to be moving very slowly, with no rhythm and was unable to get my breathing right. At that point it was clear that the triathlon was not going to happen for me because I was not able to do a 750m open water swim. No exaggeration for effect, it was completely dispiriting.

If I had been near the bank, or had a buoy to cling on to, I’m fairly sure I would have stopped and accepted that I could not do the triathlon’s swim. Only bloody mindedness and the fact that I was stuck out in the lake made me carry on.

However, bit by bit it didn’t seem to be getting any worse and by half way I thought I might as well try for a little further. Slowly, it started to improve and then came a glorious moment when I realised I could do it. In all, I swam a little over 1km (the triathlon swim is 750m) in about 27 minutes – a bit faster than I do it in the pool.

Interestingly, my friend also completed the swim but he too went through exactly the same feeling of despair that he was not going to be able to do it. I have no idea what was going on – perhaps it just hit us as we went beyond the distance we had previously swum without stopping? Whatever it was, I’m glad I experienced it then and not at the triathlon itself.

I still find the lake a ‘testing’ environment, but might it become the NQS SOW (not quite so scary open water)? My sighting in the water has improved but I need to do it more often as I am still largely unable to swim in a straight line outside the pool.

Another bit of good news – the water temperature of the lake was 18℃ (just over 64℉). Wetsuits are allowed up to 22℃ (71℉) so, if the lakes are similar, the triathlon swim will be in a wetsuit. Thumbs up for buoyancy and warmth – thumbs down for getting out of it in a hurry. Better weather is coming next week but it couldn’t raise the water temperature by 4℃ in just 8 days … could it …

Announcement – no sinuses were hurt in the making of this swim.

I ran with my wife on Friday morning. A gentle 6km (3.7miles) as she gets back into it after a manic August – that was followed by my regular session at the bike shop.

We ran the same route on Saturday morning, a bit faster in a good deal warmer weather and the same again on a cooler Sunday morning, a bit faster still. After that I mowed and got on the turbo in the afternoon – just the 30 minutes @ 30.6kph (19mph).

Quite a week in its own way – highs and lows with the swimming (happily not in that order) and back to the running. Roll on the triathlon.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No-one gets wealthy by throwing away what they have acquired

2. BBC News website: Paris speed limit falls to 30km/h

A speed limit of 30km/h (18mph) has come into force across Paris in a drive to improve the environment. The aim is to cut accidents, and reduce noise and pollution.

The number of street parking bays is being halved and most vehicles are expected to be banned from the city centre next year. Cycle lanes have increased and streets are being redesigned to make districts more pedestrian friendly.

There appears to be a majority in support of the measures and although there are opponents, others point out that the average speed in Paris is already less than 16km/h.

3. BBC News website: Does feeding garden birds do more harm than good?

Evidence has been building recently that supplementary feeding could disrupt a delicate ecological balance beyond our windowsills and gardens and now a research paper has posed the question of whether it might do more harm than good.

According to the research, there are a few species that are now habitual feeder users – familiar garden visitors including great tits and blue tits. They appear to be receiving a boost from feeding and this could be at the expense of other “subordinate” birds.

4. BBC News website: French police car crashes after passenger fires Taser in the direction of the driver

Six officers were in the vehicle when the driver lost control and hit a parked car in Roubaix, near Lille, on Saturday. The police car left the scene without stopping. “They were having fun amongst themselves and act like idiots,” said the lawyer for the officer who fired the Taser.

The officer who discharged the Taser will be prosecuted for intentional violence with a weapon and endangering the lives of others. Two off her colleagues are accused of hit-and-run and aiding and abetting a hit-and-run.

Les mots me manquent

Cycle training (x2), swim, turbo, gym, mechanic – the triathlon approaches with added jeopardy …

Back to the gym – but it seems to remain little used

A slow start to the week after being busier than usual recently. I don’t feel much less able to do stuff as I age but I do seem to recover slower. A day of mowing, after two weeks of grass-neglect.

On Tuesday morning I got a call to see if I could cover for a volunteer who wasn’t able to take up his slot on the week’s cycle training course which has a dozen children on it. I could, so I had a couple of unexpected hours doing that and then off to the pool in the evening. I was lucky that I had a lane to myself and I swam further than usual, clocking up 1500 metres fairly comfortably.

There are two main things telling me that I’m not a swimmer. One is a general lack of ability and the other is the reaction of my sinuses – I sneezed for an hour after getting out the pool and started sneezing again at 4am, with a simultaneously blocked and running nose, for 2 hours.

On Wednesday I did the morning cycle training session I had originally signed up for, followed by the delight of an afternoon bonfire getting rid of garden stuff and the wallpaper we had scraped off our son’s walls.

More mowing on Thursday with bonfire tending and gardening. The bonfire site has had a few good blazes recently but that means the build-up of a central pile of soil, stone and ash which will not help future fires burn with a good hot core. If you are looking for a really good exercise for your own core, I recommend digging out and sieving a bonfire heap to separate the good compost material from the rubbish.

I felt that the mowing, digging and sieving excused me from major exercise later in the day so it was just a hot 30 minutes on the turbo at a (for me) quick 31.5kph (19.6mph).

Friday was much as usual – gym (which was tough after a gap of a three weeks) followed by a session at the cycle shop, which continues to go very well. After more work in the garden I drove to London so I could make an easier and earlier start to our older son’s place in Kingston-upon-Thames on Saturday morning. On the agenda this time were the rerouting of a section of guttering and removal of a water butt and some work on the fence to the front garden.

The jobs seemed to go well – but the guttering is untested – and then I drove back to Oxfordshire with our son and his girlfriend late Saturday, for a family gathering and BBQ on Sunday.

With just two weeks to go, my triathlon buddy and I have booked a swim in that Scary Open Water on Thursday. At the moment, my plan is to go for the full triathlon 750m, non stop and without the lovely pool ends that come every 25m at the leisure centre.

An email from the organisers this week struck a note of terror into my heart – they confirmed that they will be testing the water temperature to see if wetsuits are allowed. I really need that extra buoyancy – the SOW will become even scarier without one.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The laughter of a child lights up the house

… but electricity is more reliable

2. BBC News website: Pontoon aims to stop Wally the walrus sinking more boats

Since being spotted in Ireland, the 800kg (125st) walrus has travelled 4,000km (2,485 miles) and been seen in France, Spain and the UK where he is said to be sinking one or two boats in every harbour he enters (by tipping them over as he gets aboard or gets off them). The idea is for him to have his own pontoon.

I doubt that we really know that his name is Wally. It’s a bit like the ‘joke’ “What’s your dog’s name?” “I don’t know but we call him Rover.”

3. BBC News website: Tanzania’s President criticised for footballer comments

The President said that while female footballers were making the East African country proud by winning trophies, some did not stand a chance of getting married because of the way they looked, adding “If we bring them here and line them up, for those with flat chests, you might think they are men – not women”.

The President added that while some sportswomen were married, most of them were not, “and for the way they are, a life of marriage… is a just a dream”.

Possibly the most shocking thing here is that Tanzania’s President is a woman

4. BBC News website: McDonald’s runs out of milkshakes

McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes and some bottled drinks at restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales. The fast-food chain said it was facing supply chain issues affecting the availability of shakes and bottled drinks at its 1,250 outlets.

The end of civilisation as we know it