Monthly Archives: March 2020

Turbo, run, and blowing in the wind

After running and using the turbo trainer on Thursday I gave myself a day off on Friday. I was tired and not motivated but we went for a long walk and spotted 7 deer in one of the nearby fields which was good.

On Thursday the UK had its highest day of Coronavirus deaths – 181 – taking our cumulative total to 759. It’s entirely natural to focus on your own country’s experience but, although it doesn’t alter the tragedies behind all of the UK deaths, it was sobering to realise that the cumulative total we reached on Thursday was less than the deaths in Spain on that day alone.

So sad for Spain – and very worrying if it is true that we are tracking their experience, but two weeks behind. Let’s hope that our trajectory is helped by recent measures and that Spain (and Italy which is suffering even more) can soon see signs of getting through the worst.

Still feeling rather helpless but we are part of our village’s response and have been appointed as buddies to some of our neighbours – and we have both signed up to the national voluntary service to support the NHS and vulnerable members of society.

I used my Saturday’s one-a-day outside exercise pass to deliver cards for the village buddy scheme so I did 45 minutes on the turbo later and I ran on Sunday – a ridiculously hard 13.75km (8.5miles) in a cold 40mph northeasterly wind. If I thought all runs were going to be that tough that would probably have been my last.

A decent number of people out walking but very few cars which is a good sign.

Three runs (30km) and two turbo sessions (43.5km) for the week. More of a tick-over than anything but it’s fresh air and exercise.

Although it’s a trivial and (currently at least) futile exercise, I’ve been trying to think of appropriate challenges for when this is all over (or in the first significant lull). It’s good to try to focus on better times ahead and I’d like something to celebrate survival.

The hardest things are trying to work out what sort of shape I might be in at that time – and when ‘that time’ might be.

On the assumption that the ultra marathon is postponed, it might still be possible to do it later this year or in 2021. If it’s cancelled, I will try to get up on the Ridgeway and run some of the route solo. Logistics (and likely lack of fitness) would say it will be a rather shorter run but I’ll aim at a half marathon at least – or better still 25km, to do half of the real thing.

For 2021, if timings work out, I plan to do either

  • the Marmot (174km and 5,180 metres of climbing) including the cols Telegraph and Galibier, Glandon and finishing up Alpe d’Huez. or
  • the JPP sportive that finishes in Les Carroz. The eponymous ‘JPP’ is Jean-Pierre Papin, the former French footballer who won the Ballon d’Or in 1981. The longest route is 130km with over 3500m of clmbing. The fact that the start is about 8 miles, and the finish just a matter of a few hundred metres, from the apartment would be a bonus (as would the easier – but still not easy – course).

The Marmot is notoriously tough – I’ve done the Telegraph/Galibier double climb (excellent) and the Alpe (I was a bit underwhelmed – perhaps I was expecting too much) – but not together and not with something like Glandon. Our older son was in one of the bars in Carroz last year and got talking to a Brit who recommended the JPP sportive and it’s daft not to do one that is so local (and cheaper and with a free cycling shirt).

The other thing to try is a duathlon. I’ve done a short triathlon but my swimming holds me back from trying one in open water. I will see if I can improve my swimming so I can go for a ‘proper’ triathlon, but in the meantime a duathlon looks like fun.

Has it really been less than a week of lockdown?

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 22

21/3 44

28/3 113

Le Tour de France, sans spectateurs?

Yesterday I read that the authorities in France are thinking about allowing the Tour de France to take place as planned in June/July – without spectators. Hard to believe, but could it be possible?

With the Giro already postponed, it would be a great statement in the face of the Coronavirus.

Of course, the French would love it to happen. Although football might be the country’s favourite sport, I think the tour is its favourite event and is closer to the country’s heart than any other (despite their last winner being Hinault in 1985).

I’ve seen estimates of 12m people travelling to watch it and a tv audience of 3.5 billion worldwide.

I was lucky enough to ride the Etape in 2013 and I’ve watched the race live on many occasions (London, Yorkshire, Colombiere twice, Bourg d’Oisans, Ramaz twice, Le Bettex, Domancy, Araches, Sallanches twice, Annecy, etc).

I love it – but I’ve nearly always been in a big and enthusiastic crowd which adds to the excitement and atmosphere, would it be the same without that? Although the tour doesn’t go up Alpe D’Huez this year, imagine it with an empty Dutch Corner and without the tunnel of faces lining the big climbs.

More importantly, would it be practical for the race to be run without crowds? It must be a huge drain on police resources in a normal year (although I expect that any gendarme who can ride a motorbike would kill for the job) – could they ensure that about 3000km of open roads are clear of spectators?

I suppose that if there were a few scattered spectators for the early stages, it could be argued that it wasn’t a huge risk – but wouldn’t that mean there were going to be more spectators encouraged to try their luck as the race went on? Even if it could be policed, I rather think the police might have better things to do, even in June/July.

I suppose it all depends on the view taken as to the likely behaviour of the French public – would they follow or ignore any directives that the race was happening ‘behind closed doors’ (but without the doors).

The tour is a huge event, even without the spectators. About 200 riders, mechanics, chefs, medical and related staff, police, marshals, tv and press coverage, (perhaps not the caravan as that is more for the spectators) and an apparently ridiculous number of minor officials. How could it be safe for them? I’ve seen a report that says there are 4,500 people on the tour each day – without counting spectators.

I love the idea of a peloton riding with 2m social-distancing gaps.

The idea is at least free of one potential drawback – it won’t suffer from a lack of ticket sales (other than for a few viewing stands the start and finish, perhaps). It’s a wonderful circus but I guess it’s funded by sponsors, tv and host towns – not the spectators.

I was planning to get to some of the tour as part of my annual cycling trip out to the alps but I’m sure that isn’t going to happen.

It’s virtually impossible to imagine the tour going ahead on this basis and watching on tv wouldn’t be the same – but I’d do it, willingly.

Run, run, turbo. Louder, louder, And we'll run for our lives

Still sharing space with some less hardy plants … but closer to getting them back out in the garden

I rarely feel sorry for politicians – but (like him or not) I’ll make an exception for Boris Johnson. December, elected; March, having to remove basic freedoms like never before in peacetime.

Poor soul, when he came to power Brexit looked like the UK’s biggest issue but just weeks later nobody mentions Brexit as everything is overshadowed by coronavirus.

We now join so many nations in a lockdown – for an initial three weeks we are required to stay at home and only leave for shopping for “basic necessities”, medical reasons, to provide care, or to help a vulnerable person and travelling to and from work, if it is “absolutely necessary”. Gatherings of more than two people (excluding those who live together) are banned. Parks have remained open but people are able to go out to exercise no more than once a day.

The aim is to protect the National Health Service as much as possible by slowing the growth in severe cases that otherwise will threaten to overwhelm it’s capacity to look after those in need of intensive care. All very grim, but necessary – and harsher could still be in the pipeline if people don’t take the current rules sufficiently seriously.

On Tuesday I made use of the ability to exercise and ran for 10.4km (nearly 6.5miles). In other circumstances, it would have looked like the sort of early spring day that gets you thinking that all is well with the world. It was pretty quiet out but the walkers, runners and dog walkers were all friendly and all happy to keep proper social distancing.

I enjoyed it – but it does feel even more irrelevant than it used to, with so many people facing such severe issues at the moment. For those of us without skills that would be really useful currently, perhaps our obligations are simply to help neighbours where possible, follow the rules and maintain what normality we can.

Now many people are ‘working’ from home and allowed only one exercise session a day, I wonder whether we might see people valuing the opportunity to get out more than they would previously (‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’), and starting a slightly healthier lifestyle? It would be a terrible irony if the pandemic had that sort of positive spin-off (sadly, a very small positive compared to such huge, and tragic, negatives).

Wednesday I worked to submit the application for probate on my father’s estate. He’d have hated the current situation – he’d have been 96 by now and confinement to the house would have been miserable for him (he was still driving himself to Rotary club and the church every week up to his final illness in December).

Thursday it was back to some sort of exercise as I ran with my wife in the morning, had a large bonfire in the afternoon and used the turbo trainer in the evening (the run having used my ‘one outdoor exercise a day’ allowance). 6.2km running and 45 minutes on the turbo for 21.57km (appropriately watching the game show ‘Pointless’).

After my ‘everesting’ in 2017, the solo ride out to the alps in 2018 and the marathon last year, 2020 is looking rather sad with April’s sportive already gone, July’s ultra shaky to say the least, our trip to walk in the Lake District looking doomed and my annual week’s cycling in the alps under severe threat. What sporting challenge is left for 2020?

On the assumption that there will at least be a lull in the crisis (and that I will still be fit and healthy by then) I’ve started to think what I might try to do later in the year by way of challenge and celebration of being able to take one on.

On a happier note to all the gloom around at the moment, the garden is full of birds from rooks, jackdaws and the regular woodpeckers (heard but not yet seen), down to the robins, innumerable LBJs* and – best of all – the wrens are back.

*’Little Brown Jobs’ (several species of small similar looking birds that a non-ornithologist like me cannot tell apart).

Run, run (and reflections)

Goodbye gym, it was fun while it lasted

I ran on Friday – not necessary as one of the challenges I set for this year has already gone by the wayside (and the other will), but I’m sure it’s going to be important to stay as fit and active as possible.

I did my usual 10.2km route (a little over 6.3 miles) at just under 6 minutes a km in cool and breezy conditions.

The fact that some old bloke in Oxfordshire, England went for a run has always been (rightly) irrelevant to the world at the best of times but I think I’m going to carry on doing it, and recording it, for the sake of a bit of normality (for me at least).

We had the weekend up in London checking the flat. We managed to meet one of our sons and I had a really good walk with him along the Thames Path – but we were very surprised at the number of people out and walked back by various back streets to practice better social distancing.

The number of people out helped me decide that I was not going to run the route on the Sunday – in fact, the social distancing advice became firmer overnight so we left the flat and came back to Oxfordshire. I did a run in the afternoon – the same 10+km as Friday but faster, to my surprise.

That made it one session on the turbo, one in the gym and three runs (for a total of just over 16 miles – 28km) in the week.

That was supposed to be the first of the 16 week training plan for the ultra in July. Oh well.

The gym is now shut too. Having been there on Thursday, it actually felt very safe – almost empty and very good for sprays and wipes for the machines. However, I appreciate that these things need to be bans for all or none – there isn’t any scope for arguing a case for an individual gym (!) so, sadly, it has gone for the time being.

If you like irony, on the day all the gyms were told to shut, I got a letter from mine telling me they were increasing the monthly fee.

One trivial thing is that I am reminded how much I love sport. I don’t see loads of it live on TV (I object to satellite stations pricing the terrestrial ones out of so many of the markets so won’t subscribe), but I have the BBC sports page open throughout the day and follow football, rugby and cricket (and many others) on the internet. Now the BBC sports page changes very little, and even then usually for updates that are gloomy, pointless or trivial (or all three). The fact that I miss it is a very small matter – but just one of the things that emphasises the absence of much normality.

Although I am not going to live in a hut in the woods and go off grid, all this makes me wonder whether society (western, first world, society at least) has got too complicated and wasteful (and perhaps indulgent). As a very simple example, I saw the CEO of a supermarket chain saying they had cut the number of product lines they carried to ensure good supplies of essentials. He said that they had carried 60 types of sausage.

Just for fun I also went on a well-known UK sports website. I tapped in ‘mens running shoes’ and it came up with just over 1,600 options (and that just includes model of shoe, nothing about different sizes).

At a supermarket this week, next to empty shelves where the pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, (yes, and toilet rolls) should have been, they had fresh pineapples. It struck me as a telling juxtaposition. I’m not anti-pineapple (I like them a lot) but I seem to remember the excitement, when I was a boy, when the shops got in the new seasonal fruit and vegetables. Now we are horrified if we don’t have kiwi fruit and bananas in December.

I don’t have a rose tinted view of the past and I’m not anti-progress either but we are very wasteful with the built-in obsolescence and non-repairability of much of what we buy and the ridiculous lack of any standardisation in so many areas – I wonder how many different types of car headlamp bulb there are.

I’m not linking the current circumstances to consumerism, or progress (or government covert science experimentation, or the roll out of 5G, etc) but perhaps we will start to value what we have, above what we want but don’t need?

Of course, I know it’s horribly complicated and our money helps the third world farmers, etc – I don’t have a solution and nor am I bright enough to understand the whole problem, I expect.

I will now shut my laptop, put my mobile phone in my pocket and drive my car to the supermarket to get some floor cleaner. I fear I’m a hypocrite – but perhaps I might not be beyond making some modest, sensible, changes.

Keep calm and hoard toilet paper … but community spirit thrives. (Turbo, gym)

I took my life in my hands on Tuesday and drove to our nearest large town to do some shopping. It was like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie – I found it reassuring that nothing had changed.

Only joking Swindon, you know I love you.

With just the two of us, and with both of us retired, we tend to eat fresh food, with several trips to the shops a week to buy it. That’s probably not the right shopping model now. I managed to get some stuff that we needed – but the shelves were notably depleted.

I hope someone is going to do a study of what keeps selling out fastest and what people are thinking when they panic-buy (here it includes toilet rolls, sanitiser, antiseptics, paracetamol, bread, dried pasta and pasta sauces – noticeably, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of panic-buying of fruit and vegetables). Madness. The shortages that the hoarders and panic-buyers are frightened of, wouldn’t happen but for the actions of the hoarders and panic-buyers.

With one of the key national strategies to fighting the virus being to travel less, I suppose the usual panic-buying of fuel may not happen. I am much against any panic-buying and wouldn’t stockpile fuel but I will try to keep the cars’ fuel tanks topped up for the next few months.

I must admit I’ve wondered whether it would be better to get a dose of Covid19 now, before the medical services get overwhelmed. Although old, I’m several years short of 70 and am in good health so, if I’m going to get it (and assuming I could guarantee a mild dose and subsequent immunity) I wonder if it would be better to get it over and done with? Academic only – I’m not going out looking for it.

Interestingly, I neither know anyone who has it – nor am I aware of knowing anyone who knows anyone who has it. It must be a bit like the ‘phoney war’ when very little happened in the way of hostilities for several months after the declaration of war in 1939. Somehow it makes it even spookier.

On balance, we seem to be in decent shape so far, on a parochial basis. I have two elderly chickens that I thought had been pensioned off from egg laying duties some months ago – but one at least has started laying again. I’ve not told them about the current situation as I don’t want to worry them about their prospects of ending in a pot if food gets scarce.

More seriously, it’s been great to see the village rallying round to make sure the elderly and infirm get the support they need. We have dozens of volunteers on the list and a ‘buddy’ system (with reserve buddies) assigned to particular folks likely to be in need of help. Heart warming to see community spirit in action.

Tuesday, 45 minutes on the turbo. I wasn’t sure about using the gym but it remains open so I went on Thursday after gardening on Wednesday. There were never more than two others while I was there and I wasn’t within 10 feet (about 3 metres) of anyone else. I’d promised my wife that I would not go in if there were many people in it.

Hand sanitiser was readily available and people were good at wiping the equipment down (but nobody was using the same machines as I was anyway). If they advise not using gyms, of course I’ll follow the advice.

The White Horse Challenge sportive has, of course, been called off. Not surprising as it was scheduled for late April. The ultra marathon in July is ‘under review’, according to the website. Although my annual trip out to the alps is self-organised, I’m wondering what travel restrictions will still be in place in mid July.

I’m not sure what this year’s sporting challenges will look like – but perhaps we all have a big enough, and much more important, challenge at the moment. From a personal point of view, I remain less worried about getting the virus (not famous last words, I hope) and more concerned about the elderly and the sick, the health and support services, power supplies and food supply chains.

As of Thursday there were 34 confirmed cases in Oxfordshire (22 cases 4 days ago, and 25 only yesterday) and 3 in Swindon (2 cases 4 days ago).

Stay safe.

Run, mow, the Von Trapp family and ‘to train or not to train’ is that the question?

I woke on Monday morning, not feeling any less healthy than when I’d gone to bed on Sunday night – so I went for a run with my wife in the weak March sunshine. The usual 3.9 miles (just over 6km).

I don’t remember the last time the lawns were actually dry but on Monday they were just about in a state to let me undertake one of the great annual events – the first mow of the season.

Of course, it’s not a quick or easy event but, after charging the battery, pumping two tyres and a trip to fill petrol cans, in the twinkling of three hours I was ready to go.

The start of the mowing season means the renewal of hostilities with the willow tree. On Monday it twice thought it had swept the ear defenders off my head but I caught them on both occasions so that doesn’t count. 1-0 to me, I think and a happy hour or two spent self-isolating on the mower.

With the Corona virus the garden might look very good this year – if gardening is the only thing I’m able to … alternatively it may look terrible if we are all confined within our own four walls for the next few months.

It’s disappointing (but not surprising) that the virus is already party-political. I hold no particular brief for our Prime Minister but I recognise that I don’t know what is the best thing to do – and nor do I expect him to know.

He is, at least, following the advice of the experts who have the key roles (and I’ve not heard it suggested that they are political appointees, or are under political pressure to come up with any particular advice) so I’m not sure I can expect much more of him at the moment. I hope the experts are as good as we need them to be.

No doubt, with hindsight, we will all be experts.

On that topic, I read that the Austrians have banned gatherings of more than 5 people. I assume that either doesn’t apply to domestic matters – or that the Von Trapps were the last Austrian family with more than 3 children.

The French have just closed all their ski resorts. I spoke to a friend out in Les Carroz, where we skied in January. He confirmed the inevitable – the snow and weather are now the best they have been all season.

At the moment there is no news on either the sportive due to be held in late April, or the ultra marathon in early July. Do I train as if both are going to go ahead or do I ease off to make sure I don’t weaken my immune defence system by training too hard?

Both events involve a decent number of contestants (about 600 for the sportive and 2000+ for the ultra?) but with both the people are spread across many miles of road/Ridgeway for most of the time. However, the starts and finishes and food stops will cause bigger groups – and will there be spare medics to make the events safe? Maybe that’s the key point – do we want stretched medical staff to be pulled away from the front line fight against the virus?

If the UK moves to cancel large gatherings in the fairly near future I guess the sportive will be off – but the ultra might be late enough to survive the cull? Hard to say but at my cycling club we are going to discuss whether we should cancel our own (smaller – about 200 riders) sportive scheduled for later in July.

One thing I think I can be sure of is that I’ll be in a worse state if I don’t train and the races are on, compared to training and then finding they are cancelled.

Looks like it’s carry on training for now, without going too mad with it. Of course, if we go the way of Spanish restrictions, it will not even be possible to go for a training run. I’m wondering whether it’s wise to give the gym a miss for a while.

So far in the UK we are just at the ‘stop non-essential contact with others and stop all unnecessary travel’ stage. Pubs, clubs, restaurants etc have not been shut but the advice is to avoid them. There’s a danger we are being treated as adults – will we live up to the challenge that poses?

‘Corona virus lockdown – lite’.

Virus locally

On Monday the news showed 24 cases of the virus in Oxfordshire (up two from Saturday) and 2 in the nearest large town, Swindon (unchanged).

No Madrid, no sport – but an unexpected run (all put into a proper context by the pandemic)

If there was one (very small) bonus from our failure to fly to Madrid on Friday (the 13th, appropriately) it was that I had an extra weekend to do some exercise – if that was indeed a bonus.

The take-away fish and chips on Friday night was good, and all the better for being washed down by a bottle of champagne, but I’d have preferred to be in Madrid eating tapas.

I was in two minds about whether it would have been better to have been on a flight an hour earlier on Friday, so we would be in Madrid now. However, it is now very clear that being here at home is much better, given the huge jump in Spanish cases of infection – especially in Madrid – and the closure of most attractions, restaurants and shops in the city and the significant restrictions on the movement of individuals within the country. Getting back might also have been an issue.

Saturday afternoon, having run down food stocks ahead of the planned trip, I went to the supermarket. I felt a little left out as I wasn’t panic buying – are people concerned that they will be house-bound or concerned that deliveries to supermarkets will be affected?

After that, feeling rather bereft of sport with just about nothing significant to follow almost anywhere in the world, I did the only sensible thing and went for a run.

I was half expecting to see television cameras broadcasting my run as a highlight of the BBC’s sports coverage for the day, but none appeared. Shame – I think I was probably in the top 20 sporting events taking place in the UK on Saturday (nearly).

I did the 16.8km (10.5mile) route I did 11 days ago – but this time with regular faster bursts between telegraph poles, road signs, trees, etc. True, an observer might not have known when I was on a faster burst, but I knew.

It seems to have worked – I ran 20 seconds per km faster than last week. Reasonably consistent too – every km between 5:50 and 6:19.

That suggests to me that my ‘recovery’ speed between bursts can’t have been much different from my normal run pace. In turn, that might indicate that when I think I’m running at a good solid, constant pace, I’m really not working as hard as I think I am.

Of course, all the training for the ultra in July might be in vain if it gets cancelled. Our younger son is running a half marathon Sunday (but it’s now much more surprising to find an event still going ahead than one that has been cancelled or postponed). I’m expecting ever-increasing measures to restrict anything that would result in a significant group of people getting together.

I had intended to run on Sunday but I could feel the previous day’s run in my legs so I stayed in on a cold and windy day and did various exercises, including the plank routine, press-ups, sit-ups, lunges and some work with my weights.

In the evening some excellent friends took pity on us for missing out on Madrid and invited us over for supper. How kind of them.

Not an ordinary week by any measure. Two turbo sessions, one in the gym, one ride outside and one run. All put into context by the world situation with the coronavirus.

Stay safe out there.

Well done British Airways

A word of praise for British Airways. Although the passengers (two other couples were in exactly the same situation as us) at the gate got the change in Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice on travel before the gate staff, they reacted quickly and got our bag off the plane.

(Odd how I was travelling with one 7kg bag to go on the plane with me and my wife had a 16.5kg hold suitcase … and my bag included a full set of running kit in case I could get out into the Retiro park on Sunday morning).

By the time we had got back to the departure lounge we’d had a text message from BA offering us cancellation of the trip and a full refund. They got us back through airport security and reunited us with our case. While our failure to fly wasn’t our fault, it wasn’t theirs either – so well done BA. Much easier than an insurance claim.

Virus in the area

As of Saturday there were 22 virus cases in Oxfordshire (population about 690,000) and 2 in Swindon (our nearest sizeable town – over 220,000 people).

24 cases too many, of course.

Turbo and not Madrid (but so very, very nearly)

After turbo and gym sessions to start the week, the much needed variety of the ride outside on Wednesday has revitalised my training and even (slightly) changed my view of the turbo trainer.

I’d got very bored with the turbo and having enjoyed my ride outside, logic might suggest that should have made it even harder to get back on it. However, it didn’t seem to work that way and I got back on the turbo on Thursday and even managed to summon the enthusiasm for some intervals to lighten what had become a bit of a one-paced slog.

I did 45 minutes for 22.32km @29.8kph (13.9 miles @ 18.5mph). The intervals even helped with the total distance. (Note to self: keep cycling on the proper road bike – its carbon fibre saddle requires a certain amount of hardening of the backside.)

The rest of the day was full of domestic chores preparing for a long weekend in Madrid. It had been a slightly nervous wait with the developing Coronavirus pandemic but we’d signed up for alerts to Government advice. We checked the governmental website on Friday morning and left for the airport.

Perhaps we should have cancelled?

I’m not fully aligned with the ‘flu is worse and we don’t get all excited about that’ brigade because the new virus still has some unknowns and no vaccine as yet, but nor do I want to overreact.

On the other hand, I’m not one to take silly risks (except when it comes to sporting challenges). On balance, as we are both fit and healthy (and my wife a few years younger than me) we decided to go and enjoy a slightly warmer climate and different culture for a few days.

To be honest we were less concerned about catching the virus than we were about being caught up, quarantined in a hotel for 14 days. After all, we could just as easily catch the virus the UK and we had insurance.

The drive to Heathrow was good, we parked, dropped off the bag and sailed through security. In the departure lounge I again checked the government website and nothing had changed so off we went to departure gate 48.

The moment we arrived at the departure gate, the news broke that the UK government had changed its advice on travelling to Spain – the new advice was not to travel to parts of Spain (including Madrid) unless the travel was essential.

Travel against government advice would have invalidated our travel insurance – exactly when we might have needed it most – so we did not board the plane.

Airports are funny places once you don’t fit the normal process. Our bag was taken off the plane but we had to be escorted back into the arrivals part of the airport in order to leave.

We were told that Heathrow limits such movements to 6 passengers per hour – what on earth would happen if a big Boeing failed to leave and deposited 500 passengers into the same boat? Presumably, Tom Hanks takes them through ‘The Terminal’ process.

As it was, we waited an hour to get into the next group of 6 to be escorted through a few checkpoints to the arrivals areas, and then had to wait while the suitcase was brought back to the baggage reclaim area.

We left the house just before 9am and we got back at about 5pm, having been nowhere but Heathrow airport.

As it is, we are in two minds – if the news had broken just minutes later, we’d have been on the plane and committed to going. We might have had a great trip.

On the other hand, we hear that much of Madrid is shut – particularly the galleries, museums and many shops and restaurants. Equally, we might have been been more likely to get the virus or to be caught in a quarantined hotel for two weeks.

On balance, probably best not to have gone. We celebrated by having a take-away (my first and probably one of six in the year) and a bottle of champagne.

Disappointing and frustrating for us, but not a patch on the disappointment of anyone who has trained for things like the London Marathon, and even less comparable to the suffering of those caught up in the worst areas and those who have the disease or those with loved ones who have died from it.

My thoughts are with you all.

Stay safe, people.

Turbo, gym, cycle OUTSIDE (who’d have thought it possible?)

On Monday I could feel the previous day’s 22km run in my legs but nothing was particularly painful (and even the knee didn’t hurt any more than normal so I’ll take that as a bit of a win).

The weather remains pretty poor so it was on the turbo in the early evening but I’m getting very bored of it.

There is a perfectly harmless game show on weekdays for 45 minutes, starting at 17.15. If I cycle for the duration of the show I get a decent, distracted, 45 minute ride. If I want to go longer I have to start before the programme starts – if I start cycling when the programme starts I struggle to carry on after it finishes. Subconsciously, I must associate the end of the programme with the end of the turbo session.

On Monday the trick worked – early start and then 1 hour for 27.56km (17.2miles).

On Tuesday the ‘finger socks’ arrived. I know that the ‘go to’ brand is injinji – but they seem really expensive so I disguised my inherent meanness as mere caution in case I didn’t like them and went for something cheap from the internet. Apart from putting them on being every bit as difficult as getting a small child into a pair of gloves, I think they are really good. I’ll try them on a run later in the week.

Tuesday also saw me at the gym for an hour.

I know I’m probably doing too much training (13 days out of 14 now) but I can see the end of the week being bad and the flip side of the excitement at taking on challenges is the fear that I won’t complete them.

It’s fear that I’ll fall ill or get injured and won’t be able to train, or fear that my knee won’t let me run more than three times a week so I won’t be able to do the ultra marathon training properly.

Yes, I appreciate that excess training is likely to bring on the injuries or illnesses I’m concerned about – but my lucid moments only last a short while and I tend to forget that insight.

I fought back by deciding not to do the turbo session I’d planned on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday a few strange things were going on – it wasn’t raining, it wasn’t freezing, the wind dropped below 20mph and I went for a ride outside. My first since October!

I was fairly sensible apart from when I found myself at the bottom of the Uffington White Horse Hill and could not resist riding up it (about 1km at 9%) and on a wind-assisted stretch with 6.2km at over 40kph (nearly 4 miles at 25mph). In all, 42.8km in 1h 44minutes with 490m of ascent (26.6 miles and 1600 feet).

It was really enjoyable – I think the riding outside idea could catch on.

Gym, run, torn toenails, turbo, run, gym, turbo, run (a decent week … apart from the toenails)

Saturday and Sunday had seen my first runs on consecutive days for a long time. My knee wasn’t entirely happy with that so, rather than push my luck with another run, I went to the gym on Monday morning.

I had a good 50 minutes but it was noticeably hard – all thoughts of making Monday the week’s double exercise day were abandoned. I am concerned about these occasional outbreaks of common sense.

Tuesday was fairly cold and blowy but dry. It didn’t look like the rest of the week was going to be much better so I went for a run anyway. Again pushing the distance a bit – 16.85km (about 10.5 miles) at about 6:20 per km (a bit outside 10 minute miles). Not fast but a pretty consistent pace and it’s about distance not speed.

It was a decent run apart from the fact that, inside the first 3 miles, one toenail started attacking its neighbour and I finished with two torn nails and two bloodied toes. One of the toes has previous convictions and I’m thinking of trying a pair of ‘finger’ socks to stop the fighting.

OK, it’s not the most severe injury I’ve heard of recently (and I sympathise with those who have suffered worse) but it is closer to home.

Turbo for 45 minutes, 21.95 km (13.6miles) on Wednesday – shorter because of the longer run on Tuesday.

Thursday morning was cold and wet but we’d agreed to run and did our usual 6.24km (3.9miles). It was probably a good thing that I’d committed to run with my wife as, alone, I’d have found an excuse not to.

We had an excellent evening with friends over for supper but, with an effort, I managed to get myself to the gym on Friday morning for an hour’s weights. That went OK but I added the 5 minute planks routine on at the end and found it really hard.

I was feeling very jaded after 10 successive days with some form of exercise but I pushed myself to make it a double exercise day and got on the turbo in the evening (45 minutes for 21.7km – 13.5miles). That made it 12 sessions in those 10 days.

At least that was in the knowledge that a rest day loomed as we were having one of my goddaughters and her family over for Saturday lunch. I was ready for the rest on Saturday and had an exceptionally good day, before rounding off the week with another run on Sunday.

It started mild and windy, rained a little at the 3 mile mark, rained heavily and holizontally at the 6 mile mark but finished dry.

Again, I pushed the distance a bit – 22.11km (13.75miles). Yet again, not fast but consistent – no km faster than 6m 10s and only one of the 22 outside 6 minutes odd (and that was 7m 02 sec).

In all, three runs and over 28 miles, two gym sessions and twice on the turbo. That’s me done for the week – shattered.