Gym (x2), short trial run, turbo, mechanic, 2nd jab, run(!)

I had thought about running on Monday but the cast of Les Miserables kept telling me “One more day” so I followed the advice and decided that, all being well, I’d try a run on the gym’s treadmill.

We entertained again on Monday evening after moving the gazebo from the garden and onto the driveway (hidden from the road) where the house would give it some shelter from the forecast 44mph (70kph) winds.

I’ll admit that it is slightly surreal, sitting in the pouring rain, eating and drinking in a gazebo on a block paved driveway just a two yards from the house – but in three weeks we will be allowed groups of up to six inside the house! Oh, be still my beating heart!

Gym on Tuesday – as with the certainties of life being death and taxes, the gym was cold and empty.

After the normal routine I decided try the treadmill. I will admit to bit of apprehension but it seemed sensible as it would offer a bit of ‘give’, promised a safe footing and would be easy to get off in the event of a problem. As it was, I did just a trial 1km which went OK but suggested that the knee might not be quite ready and has confirmed that I really do not like treadmills.

Wednesday saw no great reaction to Tuesday’s short run so I got on the turbo in the early evening – just 30 minutes at a little over 28kph (17.4mph). It was very hard so I need to keep it going to maintain the cardio fitness in the absence of running.

Gym again for an hour early on Thursday, still ‘hat and gloves cold’ but just to make me a liar there were up to 4 other people there at any one time.

Thursday was our younger son’s 29th birthday. It was a slightly muted celebration but at least we could go to a pub for lunch (outside, and rather cold) this time – last year he was by himself in his flat in London. He chose the evening meal – and like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, he chose ‘wisely’ by opting for Tartiflette.

Another cycle shop stint on Friday morning before a trip to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford for my second Covid vaccination (the UK has decided to have about 12 weeks between jabs). The process first time had been very slick and, other than a sore arm, had no side effects. This time the process was equally slick and (as of Sunday when I’m posting this) equally without side effects – and no sore arm.

Later on Friday my son and I put up (a third of) our marquee to enable the entertaining we had arranged for the weekend as the weather forecast suggested that the gazebo was not going to be man enough for the job. The whole marquee is 12m x 6m (nearly 40ft x 20ft) so I’ve found a way of cannibalising it to a more domestic size when we only have a group of 6. We hosted drinks in it on Saturday and Sunday nights – and they were very enjoyable.

On Sunday morning I ran for the first time in over 4 weeks (ignoring the 1km test on the treadmill). I just did our shortest regular run with my wife – 5.5km and took it gently. Monday will reveal the results of this particular experiment.

Most surprisingly, the high mileage I ran in the first 4 weeks of training (which I’m fairly sure caused the knee problem) means I am still (almost) exactly on track with the mileage on the training plan on the event website. That won’t last as I’m not going to try to up the mileage too quickly.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 8: Miles (Km) 17 (27) 4 (6.5)
‘Running’ Totals 125 (202) 124 (200)
Week 8, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1.African wise words: Don’t shelter under the banana plant then cut it down when the rains ends

2. BBC News website: Shopper spends six years using each spot at supermarket

A man from south-east London made his weekly supermarket shop “less mundane” by parking in every one of the 211 available spaces, a challenge he took six years to finish.

“For the last six years I’ve kept a spreadsheet listing every parking spot I’ve used at the local supermarket in a bid to park in them all,” he tweeted.

I was thinking he’s a man who needs to get out more – but perhaps it would be better to keep him inside

3. BBC News website: Japanese town builds giant squid statue with relief money

A seaside town in Japan reportedly used 25m yen ($228,500; £164,700) of funding from an emergency Covid-19 relief grant to build a giant statue of a squid.

The town received 800m yen ($7.3m; £5.3m) through the national grants, which were intended as an emergency economic boost to help regional areas affected by the pandemic, reports Yahoo Japan.

Officials have told local media it is part of a long term plan to lure tourists back after the pandemic.

4. BBC News website: Shark attack survivor to keep tooth left in surfboard

An Australian surfer lost his leg and was in a coma for 10 days after he was attacked in 2015. The shark’s tooth was embedded in his board, but State rules ban people from possessing parts of protected species (which include sharks).

Now the state has granted him an exemption, and he’s keeping the tooth as a “souvenir”. He said “The shark isn’t getting its tooth back [and] I’m not getting my leg back.”

5. BBC News website: China mystery animal box craze causes outrage

The “blind box” craze which sees people order a box containing an animal that is then sent to them through the post has caused outrage in China after 160 cats and dogs were located inside a courier company’s truck, many distressed and some dead.

According to Chinese law the transportation of live animals is prohibited, but “blind boxes”  are increasingly popular, state media reports. A range of the boxes containing animals such as tortoises, lizards and rats have been reported for sale on various websites.

Gym, gym, mechanic (easy week post sportive and before the resumption of running?)

I took Monday off after the sportive on Sunday – I didn’t fancy getting up early and there was the real prospect of some aches and pains (which, happily, didn’t materialise – my knee was happy too).

Back to the gym on Tuesday for an hour – again the only person in there. I don’t see how they will be able to continue unless they are busy at other times of the day or have a lot of people who are still paying for memberships but simply not turning up.

Wednesday was foul – cold and wet so I lacked motivation to exercise but I got to the gym again on Thursday morning with a friend (we were the only two in there), for another bitterly cold hour.

Another session manning the charity’s bike shop with my son on Friday morning with two more bike sales. I also spent time on sorting out some wheel bearings and a pedal that was shedding ball bearings as you rode. I appear to have become Bearings Man – given my lack of skill in the area, the other volunteers must be terrible at them.

We entertained (outside) on Friday night and again on Saturday lunchtime (garden gazebo to the fore as it’s not been getting beyond about 11℃ (or 52℉). I mowed on Sunday but couldn’t get motivated to get on the turbo. Next week I think I owe myself some better exercise sessions.

Still no running (just over 3 weeks now) as I follow good advice from the Olderrunner and wait until I feel the knee is better … and then wait another week.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 7: Miles (Km) 22 (35)
‘Running’ Totals 109.5 (175) 120 (193)
Week 7, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Life is like a mud pot; handle with utmost care

2. BBC News website: Kanye West’s Yeezy trainers sell for record

A pair of shoes designed and worn by the musician Kanye West have sold for $1.8m (£1.3m) at auction – the highest amount ever paid for trainers. The Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes beat the previous record, which was held by a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s that sold for $615,000 last year.


3. BBC News website: Oscars 2021 – Audiences turn off

The number of people watching the Oscars dropped to an all-time low on Sunday, overnight figures reveal. The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg described it as ‘in some ways, a trainwreck’.

Seems appropriate as IMDb lists 31 films with trainwrecks

4. BBC News website: ‘More than a million Moroccans arrested’ for Covid breaches

Moroccan media report that more than 1.5 million Moroccans have been arrested in the last nine months for not respecting the country’s Covid-19 precautionary measures – about 4% of the population.

This translates to a rate of more than 5,700 people arrested every day during that time.

Now that’s Covid non-compliance on an industrial scale

5. BBC News website: Ex-leader accused of jumping vaccine queue tests positive

Peru’s former president has tested positive for Corona virus just days after he was banned from public office for allegedly jumping the queue to receive the vaccine.

He said he was a volunteer in a trial, but the university hosting it said he asked to be vaccinated. The scandal broke in February and hundreds of other civil servants and public officials have also been implicated.

Only 2.5% of Peruvians have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and the country is going through a second wave, registering record numbers of cases and deaths in recent weeks.

6. As a sad but slightly trivial bit of news, we lost our two last chickens. No sign of how anything got into the run (which has been secure for many years) – but something did. Although we hadn’t given names to any chickens for many years, these last two were often referred to as Methuselah and Enoch due to their old ages. According to the Bible, Methuselah lived to 969 and his father, Enoch, lived to 365 before he was ‘taken by God’ which some traditions interpret as him not having died.

First time chicken-less for something like 16 years. Ahh

Sportive – lessons learnt (and forgotten lessons re-learnt)

Looks like it’s back to the bike after July’s ultra

After Sunday’s sportive, I postponed the usual Monday morning gym session. I was interested to see how the knee would be when I got up and was pleasantly surprised to find no ill effects.

The sportive was a fascinating example of doing almost everything wrong, but getting away with it. Especially interesting, as its a rather hilly and normally testing sportive but with the wind and cold this year it became – to use the most common, repeatable, description used by folks I saw finish – ‘brutal’.

I’ve ridden outside for just 140km (under 90 miles) this year and not done much on the turbo either. That left me very underprepared for the 112km (70 miles) sportive. To look on the bright side, it would have been so disappointing to have arrived at the start in great shape, intending to go a fast time – and then be entirely thwarted by the weather.

Although it was very hard, the main consequence of riding only 100km (62 miles) on my ‘proper’ bike beforehand was that my backside was not properly hardened for the strip of carbon fibre I call a saddle.

We got away late in the window allowed for starting, which meant we saw very few chains of cyclists that we might have been able to join to share the work into the wind. Although three of us set off together one shot off ahead and the other did the longer route so I cycled with him for 30km (about 19 miles) and then 51 miles (82km) alone.

I took 750ml of water and several oat bars and gels with me. I drank about 250ml and ate nothing. Before starting I’d had two oat bars and half a cup of coffee. It was so cold I wasn’t exactly sweating – but that doesn’t quite seem to be enough food or fluid.

It looks like just about everyone suffered in terms of time – mine was good enough for 1st in the over 60s category (and 4th overall) but was only 30 minutes inside my best for the longer distance which is an extra 20 miles (32km).

I like to get good advice but am stubborn enough to want to go with my own view until I end up proving that I was wrong and so validate the advice. My recent experiences have demonstrated that I am no sort of athlete but am almost within reach of ‘barely adequate’ (for an old bloke) at running and cycling.

However, to get better at the running I need to run more – and the knee may not be up to that. On the other hand, cycling doesn’t seem to come with as many inevitable injury prospects (in the absence of falling off).

To demonstrate my pig-headedness I do plan to do July’s ultra marathon (on a reduced training schedule) as some friends want to do some sponsorship for a charity we support and it’s a proper challenge. After that I’ll be limiting the running and going back to cycling as the main hobby and fitness regime. Thanks Jim and the Unironedman.

As this is a post outside the normal weekly routine, just one bit of Interesting stuff (early) this week

African wise words: You must attend to your business with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market

Gym (x2), ride (a small one), ride (a much bigger and very hard one)

A Monday morning gym session is part of my regime in the brave new world of Covid-lockdown relaxation. I was the only person there for the hour it took me to lift some weights.

A big advantage of the gym is that, at the end of a session I always do some stretches – something I almost never remember to do properly at home. I’m working on the basis that the strengthening and stretching must be helping mend my knee.

Back to Bournemouth on Tuesday for more gardening and house maintenance and hedge planting at home on Wednesday. After I defrosted from an hour in the gym on Thursday morning (it was ‘see your breath’ cold in there) I drove to our son’s house just outside London to leave him a car to drive down to Bournemouth for a few days.

The original intention was that I’d run the 8 miles from his place to our flat and then on a train back home. The knee put paid to that so I stowed a bike in the back of the car and cycled from him to our place, leaving the bike there to be collected next time we go up (remembering not to use my wife’s Mini for that trip).

The only times I’ve cycled in London have been for the Ride London sportive – very early to get to the start or on closed roads for the sportive itself. As it turned out, there were bike lanes and wide pavements shared between pedestrians and cyclists for most of the way so it was very enjoyable even though my route ran along a major road.

I took my wife’s hybrid bike and that was a good move as I never felt any need or inclination to go particularly fast. In the end, 12.4km (a bit under 8 miles) in a leisurely 37 minutes. Then a trip across London and a train back.

Cycle shop on Friday morning and friends over for drinks in the evening. I had a restful Saturday because Sunday saw the White Horse Challenge sportive.

With little cycling (four previous rides this year and the dodgy knee), riding the White Horse Challenge sportive was a bit of a no-brainer (as in ‘you must have no brain to come to that decision’). However, the sensible thing I did was to opt for the 70 mile route with over 4900 feet of climbing, rather than the 90 miler with over 5500 feet of climbing.

(That’s 112km with 1500m of climbing rather than 144km with 1700m).

It was really tough – cold at the start (3℃, 37℉) and there was a relentless 20+mph wind, which I rode into, solo, for about 30 miles. I managed 4hrs 34 min, not very quick but it was certainly not a day to post personal bests. To my surprise, that was gold standard and I was 4th overall of those on the 70mile route and 1st out of the over 60s.

With apologies for being a knee bore (but hoping not to become a knee jerk), it is still improving, but slowly. Having now ‘invested’ over two weeks in not running I’m uncertain as to when to restart. I risked the cycling (and seem to have got away with it) but would be a shame to spoil the recuperation by running again too soon. Still a while away from running yet I think.

I’ve abandoned the original training plan for the ultra – even if the knee healed tomorrow I’m more likely to follow the plan on the event website from here on.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 6: Miles (Km) 20 (32)
‘Running’ Totals 87.5 (140) 120 (193)
Week 6, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A fish has nothing to do with a raincoat

2. BBC News website: Ambulance Service dropped woman, 89, at wrong house

Elizabeth Mahoney had been in hospital for 10 weeks but when she was discharged, instead of being taken home, she was put to bed in a stranger’s house. The man who lived there had been expecting the arrival of his sister, who had dementia, but had not immediately realised Mrs Mahoney was not his sister.

Mrs Mahoney had tried telling the crew she was not the patient they thought she was, and that she was being left at the wrong house – but was then frightened because she thought she was being put in a home.

3. BBC News website: Product placements may soon be added to classic films

in 2019 the total global product placement industry, across films, TV shows and music videos, was said to be worth $20.6bn (£15bn). Now technology can insert computer-generated images so that the human eye does not realise has been done post-production.

Soon there could be new labels on the champagne bottles in Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, and different background neon advertising signs to Ocean’s 11. Then a few weeks, months or years later the added products could be switched to different brands.

I must be in a minority – product placements put me off because I feel they are trying to play me for an impressionable fool

4. BBC News website: Hospital employee accused of skipping work for 15 years

A hospital employee in Italy is alleged to have stopped turning up to work at the Ciaccio hospital in the southern city of Catanzaro in 2005.

The police have also accused him of threatening his manager to stop her from filing a disciplinary report against him. That manager later retired and his ongoing absence was never noticed by her successor or human resources. Six managers at the hospital are also being investigated in connection with the alleged absenteeism.

Gym (x2), turbo (x2), mechanic, ride (what, no running?)

Re-opened on Monday 12th April, with the machines moved further apart taking up the leisure centre foyer and one of the squash courts

Monday was important in the UK’s lockdown easing. Non-essential shops, services, outdoor attractions and gyms reopened, pubs and cafes could serve outside. It snowed. That, Alanis, is ironic.

I decided that if the gym was taking the trouble to open the least I could do was to turn up, so I was there just after 8am (slightly late as a result of clearing snow off the cars). There was only one other person in there during my 50 minutes and it felt very safe (and, happily, not as cold as it was before Christmas but I had hat, gloves and jacket, just in case).

It was good to be back after nearly 4 months but I reduced most of the weights I lift, just to be cautious. With all the running I’ve been doing, I was surprised by how hard some of it was. It just goes to show (I guess) how important variety is in an exercise regime.

We went down to Bournemouth on Tuesday, something else we can now do for the first time for months. We went to check on the house, mow the lawns and make sure it’s OK for our older son and his girlfriend to go down in a couple of weeks. Sadly, much as I love running along the promenade, I didn’t run while we were there. Partly, that was due to being tight for time and partly out of respect for my knee.

I am not a vain person*/I am inclined to be scruffy* (*delete as applicable) so I was not bothered that I’d not had a haircut for 4 months. However, my hair is a very personal shade of blond (some who don’t know any better call it grey) and somewhat unruly. A higher authority decided that it needed cutting so I went on Wednesday. On my return I got “Oh no, you’ve lost your curls”.

To my knowledge, hairdressers tend to cut the ends off the hairs rather than wind the excess back into the scalp – how could I get it cut without losing the curls? Sometimes you just can’t win.

I did 30 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday evening – 14km @28kph (17.4mph) and was back on it again on Thursday – 21km in 45 minutes @28kph (17.4mph). Hard.

Gym again on Friday morning, using slightly increased weights compared to last week, but with more reps and extra care on anything involving the left knee. After that, the regular Friday session in charge of the cycle club’s charity bike shop with my son – we sold the shop’s 50th bike since its reopening 4 weeks ago (and the 51st and 52nd).

I took Saturday off but watched the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Our younger son went up to Kensington Palace a few years ago to collect his Gold Award under the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. The Duke spoke to a small group of award winners and asked if anyone had a job. Our son was on his gap year at the time and piped up that he was working as a barman. “A barman! No doubt your parents were glad to get you off their hands.” was the Duke’s response. Nicely non-PC, to my mind.

Sunday was lovely and after a bit of gardening I had a quick fettle on the bike to sort out some slightly unhappy gears. To give it a test, and to see how the knee would go on a bike in the real world I decide to go for a quick solo ride – only my third outside this year. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive but it was really good and (for me) surprisingly fast – 42km @29.5kph (26 miles @18.3mph).

Figuratively, my knee has been all over the place this week (although, literally, it has had the decency to remain between the bones of my upper and lower leg). It has felt much better at times and has then started hurting for no apparent reason – and at times the pains have seemed to be coming from at least three different points.

However, after 10 days without running, on the plus side, the Achilles is cured (I hope) and the knee is improving. On the negative side, my guess is that I’ve sprained the Medial Collateral Ligament, just as I did back in December 2019. I’m assuming that it’s a grade 1 sprain and it should heal within a few weeks.

I’ll keep a careful watch on its progress and run when it seems sensible. I am still going to do the ultra marathon in July – it just remains to be seen how much training (beforehand) and therefore running (during) will be possible.

At least I’m still way beyond the demands of the event website training plan (plan 1).

 Target Plan 1 My Actual Target Plan 2
Week 5: Miles (Km) 19 (30) 39 (63)
‘Running’ Totals 67.5 (108) 120 (193) 172 (277)
Week 5, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who runs faster, tires faster

Omil’s less wise words: He who runs further messes up his knee

2. BBC News website: Korean cosmetics brand apologises for beauty product that is less environmentally friendly than its packaging suggests.

Last year a green-tea beauty product was launched in what was labelled a “paper bottle” as part of the brand’s initiative to reduce the use of plastic packaging.

A customer questioned the product’s eco-friendly credentials and shared photos of the product showing that it was actually packaged in a plastic bottle wrapped in paper.

3. BBC News website: Facebook mistakenly removes French town’s page

The social network’s algorithm confused the name of the town Ville de Bitche, with the English insult. Bitche’s mayor said the Facebook page of the town (population 5,000) was removed on 19 March for violating site rules. “The name of our town seemed to suffer from a bad interpretation,” he added.

Facebook said it had reinstated the page on Tuesday after spotting the error.

Residents of the Oxfordshire village of ‘Great Coxwell’ are nervous

4. BBC News website: Chinese man kidnapped and killed in body swap scheme

in Guangdong province all dead bodies must to be cremated. A family hired someone to provide them with a substitute body, which was cremated in place of a deceased family member who was then secretly buried in a traditional burial.

But, while the family assumed the man they hired would look for another dead body, he murdered someone in order to fulfil the deal.

5. BBC News website: Egypt seizes ship that blocked Suez Canal

Egypt will impound the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal last month until its Japanese owner pays $900m (£652m) in compensation.

One of the Ever Given’s insurers described the claim, which includes $300m for a salvage bonus and $300m for loss of reputation, as “extraordinarily large” and “largely unsupported”.

6. Another ‘almost’ joke: Name five footballers with names associated with meat

Bary Venison, Tony Currie, Frank LeBoeuf, Patric Berger and Paulo Wanchope

Like last week, my apologies to those who do not follow football (soccer)

Run, run, limp, hobble, mechanic, turbo, (if the wheels haven’t actually come off, they’re very loose)

I am very confused. The first three weeks of the training plan I’m following had 163km of running (longest 23km). The event website’s equivalent plan had 63km over those three weeks (longest 10km).

I understand that different plans will be … er … ‘different’ … but these are, literally, miles apart. The fourth week of the event’s plan is 15km whereas the plan I’ve been following has 51km. I’ve checked that it isn’t merely number dyslexia, so how can the plans be that different?

I’m now not sure what to do. I feel fairly sure that doing more training leads to a better race result. That might mean easier or faster – I’m not too worried about faster but I’ll sign up for easier. After 100+ miles in the first three weeks I don’t want the next 13 weeks of the current plan to spoil my enjoyment of running, or damage my suspect knee which has been a bit of an issue for many weeks. (I wrote this on Monday and turned out to be a prophet).

I think I’m going to ‘suck it and see’ by looking at both plans (I’ve added the plan from the event website to my table at the end of the post as ‘Plan 1’) and do what feels possible and ‘right’ for me. I’m also bearing in mind that the gym will reopen soon and 5 days of running plus the gym, sounds like too much – especially as I need to start swimming in view of September’s triathlon.

Monday was a rest day, thank goodness, but I ran with my wife on a cold breezy Tuesday – 9km (5.6 miles). Later on Tuesday it snowed and there was a little snow on the ground early on Wednesday.

That softened the blow of missing out on my first training plan run as I spent the morning rigging up a canopy and wind break for my wife who had invited some friends for lunch. Our lockdown rules are gradually relaxing and allow such gatherings but only if they are outside. They were out in the garden in 4℃ (40℉) with coats, rugs, gloves and hats – but they seemed to have a great time over their first shared lunch for months.

We all ran on Thursday – 9km (5.6 miles) but by the end of it I had a knee that was more painful than the usual niggle. We had friends over for an excellent early supper making more good use of the canopy arrangement – but this outdoor dining lark is mightily cold in the current poor weather.

My knee continued to get worse through the evening and it took until about 4am for me to find a way to make it comfortable in bed and get off to sleep. If I had any idea of running on Friday to make up for missing Wednesday, the knee put paid to that – but my son and I managed a session looking after the charity cycle shop in the morning. We sold a couple of bikes, took in two donations, fixed a few of repair issues and received another bike for repair.

The knee improved during Friday and I slept better that night but is it cartilage or ligament, or something else? Do I cut down the running or stop it completely – and for how long?

The question was easy to answer on Saturday as, although still improving, the knee was certainly not up to a run so I gave it another rest day. My heart wasn’t broken as it was cold and very wet.

The decision not to run on Sunday was easy as well – made for me by the knee. The question now is whether it needs just a few days rest or a few weeks rest to recover. Either way, it seems more sensible to give it the rest it needs now, rather than nearer the time of the ultra marathon.

I tried the turbo trainer late Sunday afternoon on the basis that might be OK in the absence of any impact or twisting on the knee. It was OK – 15km in 30 hard minutes.

 Target Plan 1 My Actual Target Plan 2
Week 4: Miles (Km) 9 (15) 11.2 (18) 32 (51.5)
‘Running’ Totals 48.5 (78) 120 (193) 133 (214)
Week 4, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

The gyms re-open tomorrow – I’ve booked in for a morning session.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Advice is a stranger; if he is welcome he stays for the night; if not, he leaves the same day

2. BBC News website: Italian navy captain accused of spying for Russia

The 54 year old was arrested in a car park on Tuesday, accused of exchanging secrets for thousands of euros.

He has refused to answer questions, but his wife said “He was just desperate”, being unable to cope with the financial strains of living on a monthly salary of €3,000 (£2,500; $3,500). She insisted he would do nothing to harm Italy. “He gave the minimum he could to the Russians” she said.

Odd. I’d have thought that ‘nothing’ is the minimum he could have given to the Russians

3. BBC News website: ‘Mrs World’ arrested over Sri Lanka pageant bust-up

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested the reigning ‘Mrs World’, after she allegedly injured a fellow beauty queen in an on-stage bust-up.

She was meant to crown the winner of the “Mrs Sri Lanka” title but, instead, pulled the crown off the winner’s head, claiming she could not hold the title as she was divorced. The winner later said she is separated from her husband, not divorced.

I do not believe that she is being considered for the lead role in ‘Miss Congeniality 2’

4. BBC News website: Fugitive Dutch cheese-seller jailed over false slavery claim

Branco van Wissen was a cheese seller working on a market in Cumbria. A rival trader selling flowers was, according to Wissen, “intimidating, menacing” and subjecting him to a “campaign of abuse and terror”.

Wissen contacted the police to accuse the rival of holding two people captive in slavery. He then fled to his native Netherlands, but was extradited and has been jailed for 18 months after admitting to an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

‘Fugitive Dutch cheese-seller’ is another thing I wasn’t expecting ever to write

5. Almost a joke: Name 5 F1 racing drivers with names linked to places in Scotland

Louis Hamilton, Eddie Irvine, Sterling Moss, Johnny Dunfries and Ayr Town-Centre

Apologies to non F1 fans to whom this probably makes no sense at all

6. RIP: The Duke of Edinburgh

I’m not much of a royalist but I do think that the Queen is magnificent and the Duke, who died on Friday at the age of 99, was possibly the last of his kind, having fought in WW2 and dedicated his life to the support of his wife and service of his adopted country. Quite a man.

Run x5, and which is further, a lap run clockwise or anticlockwise?

The training plan had Monday as a rest day. After the weekend’s 6 and 12 mile runs I embraced that warmly, devoting the day to bike mechanics and planting a bank in the garden with wild flowers.

The week’s training programme (in miles) requires 6, 5, 6 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) and 6 and 14 (Saturday and Sunday) for 37 miles in total. In Km that’s about 10, 8, 10, 10 and 22.5), total 60km.

On Tuesday I ran up the village with my wife and then did 10 laps of the old hill fort at Badbury Clump. It was glorious weather – my first run for months with no base layer or gloves. In keeping with my running shoe rotation policy, I ran in my minimalist shoes (shoes No6) and the whole thing was lovely. In all, it was 10.8km (6.7 miles).

For months I’ve whinged about how the lap of the old hill fort seems to be under-recorded on my Garmin – I may not run fast but I know that I’m running laps faster than the 7min/km which is sometimes what it’s been recording. This time, suddenly, I was running over a minute a km faster. As a creature of habit, I run the circuit clockwise. For some reason on Tuesday I ran it anticlockwise. What on earth is going on?

We all ran on Wednesday morning and I added a bit to make it 9.1km (5.65 miles). That made it something like 220km (136 miles) for the month and 577km (358 miles) running for the first three months of the year – nearly half of my total for the whole of 2020.

On a colder Thursday I went back to Badbury Clump and ran 9 circuits – 3 clockwise and 6 anticlockwise. I’ve checked again and the Strava segment for the circuit run clockwise is 0.59km but the segment for running it anticlockwise is 0.65km. Perhaps whoever set up the segments had better satellite reception for one than the other so that one segment is a bit approximate? Whichever way it was measured, I ran a total of 10.7km (6.6 miles) and will now carry on running anticlockwise.

Now I want all those miles back that I’ve been cheated out of over the years ….

End of ‘cluckdown

Since mid-December an outbreak of avian flu led to the lockdown of poultry in the country. That has now been lifted so the chickens are released from their much reduced wild-bird-secure run. They are very pleased – but to be honest they were never very grateful for my efforts on behalf of their safety.

Friday was a rest day – we took advantage of the removal of the ‘stay at home’ requirement and drove to see our older son for only the second time since November (we helped him and his girlfriend move in February but that was hard work). We were outside and socially distanced but seeing him was a real treat, with the added bonus of a walk in the lovely (and huge – 2500 acres) Richmond Park.

The plan required runs on Saturday and Sunday – 6 and 14 miles respectively (10 and 22.5km). Since I am incapable of anything but blind adherence to the plan, that’s what I did. Saturday’s run was less enjoyable than usual with tired legs and a cold north-easterly breeze but we managed 10.14km (6.3 miles).

Sunday was brighter but still fairly cold, although the wind had turned to come from the west. The bonfire we lit on Thursday was still producing wisps of smoke but nothing to be a problem for the rest of the village. I ran the required 23km (14.4 miles) along farm some roads but found it very hard indeed at just under 6:30/km. Rarely has an Easter egg been more earned.

 Target Actual
Week 3: Miles (Km) 37 (60) 40 (64)
‘Running’ Totals 101 (163) 109 (175)
Week 3, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

White Horse Challenge

The White Horse Challenge sportive has been confirmed for 25 April. I can’t now get into any sort of cycling shape, especially with the demands of the ultra training, but I’ll ride it anyway, just for the pleasure of a long ride (it’s 90 miles – 144km). I’m not quite sure what to do about that week’s runs but I’ll think about it nearer the time.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When you befriend a chief remember that he sits on a rope

2. BBC News website: Endangered bird ‘has forgotten its song’

The ‘regent honeyeater’, is listed as critically endangered; just 300 individuals remain in the world. The Austrian songbird has become so threatened that it has started to lose its song, as “They don’t get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they’re supposed to sound like.” Scientists are now using recordings of wild birds to teach captive honeyeaters their own song.

3. BBC News website: France seeks Unesco heritage status for the baguette

The UN intangible cultural heritage register aims to protect traditions, knowledge and skills, so they are not lost over time. Altogether it contains more than 350 traditions and crafts, ranging from better known practices such as Spanish flamenco dancing and Indonesian batik fabric making to (even) more obscure items such as a Turkish oil wrestling festival and a Mongolian camel coaxing ritual.

France has now nominated its staple bread stick for inclusion. Some 10 billion baguettes are consumed in France each year, but about 20,000 bakeries have closed since 1970. French bakers say listing would safeguard an art that has been passed down through generations and protect the baguette from global plagiarists.

‘Global baguette plagiarists’?

4. BBC News website: Earth “safe” from asteroid for the next 100 years at least.

Apophis (named for the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and darkness) is Earth’s most threatening asteroid. Close calls in 2029 and 2036 were predicted and later ruled out. A slight threat still remained for 2068 but now, based on new analysis, Nasa has dismissed that threat.

We can now sleep at night

5. BBC News website: Spongy Roads – Slough’s new claim to fame

Slough (just to the west of London) is one of those places that has a bad, slightly comic, reputation. It was the setting for Ricky Gervais’ The Office and poet John Betjeman famously wrote ‘ Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough it isn’t fit for humans now’.

It now looks set to gain a new claim to fame as it will get the Chinese “sponge city” treatment. The flood defence system will see selected roads transformed with permeable surfaces that soak up surface water.

Run, run, run, labourer, mechanic, run, run (2nd week of ultra training – and I’ve not failed yet)

Although many restrictions remain, our ‘stay at home’ requirement ends tomorrow. We’ll be able to go to Bournemouth even though we can’t stay in our own place down there until 12 April

Monday is a training plan rest day but my wife and son decided to run so I went with them. The usual 7km but I added a bit more to take it to 11.3km (7 miles), one mile over the plan’s target.

I shifted Wednesday’s run to Tuesday. It was supposed to be ‘4 miles – hills’ so we did an undulating course and then I added 10 reps of the small hill in the village for 8.3km (5.1m) with 151m of ascent (495 feet). I don’t know if that qualifies as a hill session – but it will have to do.

It all felt unreasonably hard – especially to begin with. I guess it’s just the cumulative effect of 5 consecutive days running for a total of about 52km (32 miles) so I didn’t run on Wednesday. I needed the break and the garden benefitted in the afternoon.

I ran with my son on Thursday – 10.1km (6.3 miles) @5.27/km, against a plan target of 5 miles. In the afternoon we laboured at the cycle park, barrowing around a large pile of wood chippings to improve some muddy pathways.

The training plan goes for a rest day on Friday, a shorter run on Saturday and a longer one on Sunday so I went for that, having manned the charity cycle shop again on Friday morning. Saturday’s weather was pretty good, if a bit windy, but I ran 10.2km (6.35 miles) @5:31/km.

For Sunday, that left either: just over 8 miles to hit the weekly total, or 12 miles for the specific run set out in the plan. I assume that the long runs are probably the most important feature in the plan so my son and I set out for the longer of the alternatives on Sunday morning.

I was rather underprepared, having forgotten that the clocks had gone forward in the night. Admittedly, my usual preparation is nothing more than a couple of cups of coffee but I missed out on one which, I’m sure, made all the difference. It was cloudy and with a wind strong enough to almost stop us in our tracks at times, which made for a very hard 20.25km (12.6 miles) at 6:05min/km.

A decent week – but all running, no turbo or cycling. Just over the 60km mark and, two weeks in, 5 miles over the training plan requirement.

I’m still in long running tights but now down to one compression and one running top (both long-sleeved, plus headband and gloves, of course, let’s not carried away just yet).

 Target Actual
Week 2: Miles (Km) 33 (53) 37.3 (60)
‘Running’ Totals 64 (103) 68.9 (111)
Week 2, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A tree that stands beside the river understands the language of the fish

2. BBC News website: Two headlines on the same summary page

‘EU plan for tougher controls on vaccine exports’

‘EU denies proposing Covid jab export ban’

One man’s control may be another man’s ban?

3. BBC News website: Jockey’s regret at positive cocaine test

A jockey has expressed regret after he was 1,000 times above the cocaine limit in a test in 2020. He said he was depressed during lockdown and took the drug four or five times while drinking in a pub a day or two before the fixture.

I know nothing about cocaine but would have assumed that, to be 1000 times over the limit, you’d be wiping powder from your nose as you walked into the testing room.

4. BBC News website: Ship blocking the Suez Canal could be dislodged Saturday

The 400m-long (1,300ft), 200,000-tonne vessel ran aground on Tuesday morning in high winds and became wedged in the canal, forcing companies to reroute ships around Africa and causing a huge traffic jam of more than 200 ships in the Red Sea.

About 12% of global trade passes through the 193km (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. The alternative route, around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, can take two weeks longer.

Saturday’s attempts to release it failed

I feel I should complain less next time I’m trapped in a motorway jam – but I know I won’t

5. On the ‘accumulating pairs of odd socks by keeping the good one when the other has a hole’ issue, the answers are in.

The kindest view is that it’s ‘frugal’. The most honest answer is that, yes, it is weird. My approach that ‘I am saving the planet, one sock at a time, by reducing unnecessary consumption and wastage’ is merely cover for inherent meanness.

Please rest assured that this post was written entirely while wearing matching socks

Turbo, mechanic, ride, run (x5). Start of ultra training – and a triathlon entry

Perhaps the best thing about Saturday’s run

I decided not to run on Monday, still feeling a bit stiff-legged from Saturday’s 25km (15.5m). Instead, it was on the turbo trainer in the early evening – 45 minutes @ 28.4kph (17.6 mph).

Monday was the first day of my 16 week ultra marathon training programme. Happily, it started with a rest day so I found myself well up to date with its gruelling schedule.

Tuesday was the first of the training plan runs, I did 9.1km (5.6 miles, against a target of 5m). It was done at 5:59/km but felt much harder – I don’t know why. A bit faster for the 10.3km (6.4miles, target 4m) run on Wednesday.

Happy St Patrick’s Day to everyone.

Thursday was supposed to be a running day but our son and I did a session in the bike shop in the morning and we got out for a quick spin on a mountain bikes in the afternoon – 25km exercising and doing a couple of chores on the way.

Friday would have been a rest day but I swapped it with Thursday and ran in the morning (9.3km – 5.7 miles against a target of 5 miles) before I drove my wife to get her first Covid jab (the Astra Zenica jab). I voted to stay in the EU but, my word, the bloc has been a shambles over its vaccination programmes. The day finished with a few hours on a fine bonfire.

That put me up to 28.7km (17.8 miles) of running for the week with 21.4km (13.3 miles) to go to hit the plan’s 31 mile target. The plan had a shorter run on Saturday and a longer one on Sunday.

I decided to take credit for the extra mileage so far in the week and go for the 31 miles in total, rather than run the weekend’s prescribed 6 and 11 milers. Back to back weekend runs are a key part of getting used to running on tired legs (as if I don’t do that pretty much all the time already).

I (sort of) fell into line and ran 15.3km (9.5 miles) on Saturday, further than I expected and it felt hard although only at 5:57/km. Another 7.1km (4.4 miles), a little faster, on Sunday to get (just) beyond the week’s plan target.

This rather demonstrates my intended approach to the training plan which is ‘approximate adherence’ with maximum flexibility. I expect I’m older than the people the plan is designed for and I doubt I’ll be able to keep up with the mileage. I’ll do what I can and that will have to be enough.

Target Actual
Week 1: Miles (Km) 31 (50) 31.6 (51)
Week 1, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Foolishness of the week

One other development this week – a friend got in touch saying he’d seen a triathlon advertised for September, and would I be interested in keeping him company. We entered the ballot and both got places. Its a sprint (750m swim, 19.8km ride and 5.4km run) so not too far … but the swim is open water in the lake at Blenheim Palace.

To be honest, I’d be more than happy to triple the ride and the run if I could halve the swim. The gyms had better open soon so I can get into the pool – and I’m going to need some open water swimming lesson.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Better little than too little

2. BBC News website: Calculating the cost of living

The UK inflation rate is calculated by monitoring the prices of a basket of more than 700 items. The make-up of the basket is reviewed regularly and high demand for items such as hand sanitiser and loungewear mean they have now been added.

Hand weights (for stuck-at-home-gym-goers), smartwatches, hybrid and electric cars and WiFi lightbulbs have also been added to the basket but white chocolate, ground coffee and sandwiches bought at work, are out.

We have sanitiser but ‘loungewear’ fills me with dread and I have no smartwatch, electric or hybrid car, my hand weights are 40 years old and I don’t even understand the concept of the WiFi lightbulb. However I am, single handedly, prepared to eat enough white chocolate to restore it to the basket.

3. BBC News website: Scam and nuisance calls

A 2018 report estimated that 85 billion auto-dialled calls (robocalls) were made world-wide with Spain, UK, Italy, France, Argentina and the US the top 6 recipient countries, in order.

Last week a caller, who claimed to be from Microsoft’s technical department, was asked “Take me off the list,” – “Give me £1,000 and I will,” she replied.

Quick thinking on her part, no doubt, but I’m not sure I’d trust her …

4. BBC News website: Dutch general election

The Dutch went to the polls this week for a general election with 37 candidate parties. Being the Dutch, there were ‘ride through’ polling stations for cyclists.

5. BBC News website: Tanzania’s President John Magufuli dies

As mentioned in my last post, the President had not been seen in public since 27 February amid rumours that he was in hospital with Covid. On Monday, 4 people were arrested on suspicion of spreading rumours on social media that the president was ill. His death was announced on Wednesday from ‘heart complications’.

6. Not such interesting stuff this week: A question

I have several pairs of black sports socks – essentially identical, other than for a maker’s logo. When one is holed, I keep the good one and, eventually, pair it up with the good one from another pair, even if that is from a different manufacturer. Is that weird?

Turbo, mechanic, run (x4 and the long run is getting longer)

I wonder how many times I’ve run along here in the last two or three years

After Saturday’s 21km run in a chilly 3℃, Spring returned Monday at 9℃ (48℉). Good running weather but my knee was whinging about the run so I used the turbo – 45 minutes @ 28.6kph (17.8mph).

Last Monday, watching Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, I managed 29.1kph. I’m pleased that I have, scientifically and irrefutably, proved that 1970s kung fu is 0.5kph faster than a modern early evening quiz show.

My knee had stopped complaining by the time we ran on Tuesday which was another lovely back-to-Spring day. In the spirit of science established by my experiment on the turbo trainer effect of kung fu v quiz shows, I wore another pair of Asics running shoes. These were the ones that irritated my Achilles’ when I first got them in 2019 – with the Achilles’ improved, this seemed like the time to give the shoes one more chance.

The shoes felt good – well cushioned but a bit heavier and surprisingly warm. If I’ve just set my Achilles’ back a few months, at least I’ll have no one but myself to blame. It was a good run – 7.2km (4.4m) @ 6:08/km – my wife is getting faster so bravo to her.

Wednesday was cold, wet and windy – but the initial results of the change of shoes was encouraging with the Achilles continuing to improve and the knee complaining less. Despite the weather we all ran, but just the shortest of our usual routes – 5.5km (3.4m).

It was very windy on Thursday which made running hard – but I ran with our son who set a quick early pace that I struggled to stay with. It helped take us through 7.1km (4.4m) at 5:29/km (8:50/m).

I unpacked a new pair of Puma “Netfit” shoes. Once on, the fit is good – but they are significantly harder to get into. The box shows 5 different lacing options being ‘Standard’, ‘Stability’, ‘Wide Foot’, ‘Narrow Foot’ and ‘Heel Support’. Interestingly, the lacing arrangement they came with isn’t any of those – which makes no sense at all.

The charity bike shop has reopened so our son and I did a stint playing shopkeeper and bike mechanic on Friday morning and I have a bike I brought back for some work on the bottom bracket which needs either adjustment or new bearings. I took the rest of the day off.

Continuing with our plan to push the weekly long run distance, I ran with my son on Saturday. At various times we had sun, rain and hailstones – but the ever-present was a very strong wind. As always, you lose more running or cycling into the wind than you ever gain with it behind you, so that made it an unreasonably hard run.

In the end we did 25km (15.5m) – half the distance of July’s ultra – at 6:19/km. I’m not sure at what point ‘proper’ nutrition comes into the equation – pre run I had a couple of cups of coffee and a two finger Kit Kat bar and we took nothing with us.

Could I have run further? Yes.

Did I feel like turning round and doing the whole run for a second time? No.

I could have run today (Sunday) but showed some rare strength of mind and didn’t – not a difficult decision as my legs were rather sore. I’ve only once had a massage of any sort – while training for my first marathon in 1998 I had ITB problems in my left knee because of knots in the quads and a massage sorted it out perfectly. I suspect that I should consider a second once lockdown rules permit.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: An intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend

2. BBC News website: ‘Toxic bullying’ at Sellafield nuclear site

The bullying of staff cannot be condoned, but the fact that it’s toxic seems horribly appropriate for a nuclear power station

3. BBC News website: Trader got painted stones instead of $36m (£26m) of copper

About 6,000 tonnes of copper blister was loaded into containers for shipment to China in more than 300 containers on eight vessels. It was surveyed by an inspection company and seals were fixed to the containers.

However, before its journey, the containers were opened and the copper replaced with paving stones, spray-painted to resemble copper. The fraud wasn’t discovered until the ships began arriving later that month.

All that glitters is not copper

4. BBC News website: Questions asked about missing Tanzanian president

President John Magufuli has not been seen in public for over a fortnight, as a leading Kenyan newspaper has an unconfirmed report that an African leader is in a Nairobi hospital with coronavirus.

Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world not to publish Covid data. Mr Magufuli declared Tanzania “coronavirus-free” last June but just last month seemed to accept that there is an issue although Tanzania has no plans to carry out a vaccination programme. He has previously promoted prayer and steam inhalation as a way of combatting the virus.

The government dismissed the claim saying that the President was ‘not a TV presenter or leader of a jogging club’ so he didn’t need to post selfies of himself every day, and the Prime Minister has claimed that the President is in his office, working hard.

I hope he is well and not working too hard

5. BBC News website: Brazil experts issue warning as hospitals ‘close to collapse’

Health systems in most of Brazil’s largest cities are close to collapse because of Covid-19 cases, its leading health institute warns.

Experts warn that the highly contagious variant in Brazil may have knock-on effects in the region and beyond. It has the second highest number of deaths in the world after the US and the third highest number of confirmed cases.

President Jair Bolsonaro has consistently opposed quarantine measures and expert advice on fighting coronavirus – he recently told Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ about Covid.

My very best wishes to them all