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Run, run, run (a great end to the week … or am I being sarcastic?)

Les Lacets de Montvernier that I cycled last year. This year’s alpine cycling trip is looking doomed

A hard day’s manual labouring in the garden on Thursday. After eight straight days with a run or session on the turbo trainer, that turned it into a ‘rest day’ of sorts as I couldn’t face either a run or the bike.

Running with my wife on Friday reminded me of another valuable lesson – the benefit of rest days. We don’t run that fast (although she is now routinely running sub 7 minute kms – bravo to her), but it felt a really good 4 miles with a fair bit of spring in my step.

Of course, it didn’t feel quite as good on Saturday when I really needed it – but almost 14km (over 8.5miles) at just under 6 minute kms. Embarrassingly, I made the rookie error of dressing appropriately for the slightly cool start to the run with no thought to the fact that I was going to be boiling by the time of the rather warm weather finish.

Warm again on Sunday when I ran 6.75km (4.2miles) with my wife.

At the moment we are in another 3 weeks of lockdown – accompanied by a lot of talk about how, and when, to come out of it. With much discussion of how to finish the football season and re-start other sports, we also have the opposite message with the 27th September Berlin Marathon being cancelled (poignant as today would have been the London Marathon).

To be honest, I don’t blame the politicians and medical experts for not knowing the answers – we are in uncharted waters.

That’s it for another action-packed week. Five runs (over 40km in all) and a turbo session. (Say it quietly, but I’ve also stepped up to the croquet challenge in a big way.)

Interesting things in the news this week

1. BBC website: “Tennis pro Clarke benefits from live-in coach“. Britain’s No5 rated male tennis player (currently world No 166, no less) is lucky that he lives with his brother, who is his coach.

A fine example of the desperation of the sports writer when there is no sport to write about.

2. I thought I had a good sense of sarcasm. However, now Pres. Trump has explained that his comments on injecting disinfectant were sarcasm I realise that I have no grasp whatsoever of what sarcasm sounds like.

Also, I now realise that I have no understanding of when sarcasm might be appropriate.

I quite like the advice “When you’re in a hole, stop digging”.

3. A well-meaning cleaner took the opportunity to give a locked-down UK library a thorough clean and replaced all of its books on the shelves – in size order.

An excellent idea. I’ve always found those books which are 8.5 inches tall to be best although, personally, I like to organise them by colour – books in red covers are invariably good.

4. A Syrian national based in Lebanon has been arrested for allegedly putting up a Nigerian maid for sale in Facebook advert. A passport photo of the 30-year-old domestic worker was included in the advert, saying she was for sale for $1,000 (£807).

Hard to believe this can happen in the 21st century.

5. Headline on the BBC News website: Coronavirus: ‘I had to shave off my beard so I could wear a face mask’

That’s getting to the heart of the big issues facing us today.

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

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

Run, turbo, run, (and a lesson re-learnt, soon to be re-forgotten, no doubt)

The bluebells putting on a great show

I learnt a lesson last week – or more accurately, re-learnt a lesson I’ve learnt and forgotten many times before, and no doubt will learn and forget again many times in the future.

Of course, warming up, cooling down and stretching are necessary to keep my ageing body working without the otherwise inevitable aches and pains. The big problem is that I remember that when I have a particular issue to address but forget it as soon as the issue goes away.

I remember them as remedial actions – and forget about them as preventative ones.

The calf I tweaked last Saturday benefitted from confinement to the turbo on Sunday but was not properly right by the time this week started (as many do) with a run with my wife on Monday. We went through the village together, with her then doing hill reps while I ran round the old hill fort – about 5 miles for me.

All the better for the bluebells being out.

Turbo for 45 minutes on Tuesday to be kinder to the calf and knees. It went reasonably well but it was my 7th day of exercise in a row and I was starting to flag so it was going to be a rest day on Wednesday – but my personal trainer duties took over and I ran with my wife, nearly 5 miles, on Wednesday.

A lovely run in glorious weather, spoilt only by being passed by a delivery van that my wife thought might have a delivery for her. Urged to go ahead to make sure we didn’t miss it by being out, I sprinted the last km, arriving at the house sweating and breathing heavily, only to find there was no delivery, the driver was just taking a break by hiding at the end of the village for a few minutes.

Things I’ve enjoyed this week

1. I struggle with the concept of oil prices going negative. If anyone in the States would like to pick up and store a few barrels for me, you can let me have them, and the cash you’ll owe me, later in the year.

2. Kenyan proverb: “An old man never knows what makes him look after cattle at his age.”

What?

3. Romania has issued 200,000 fines in under a month to people who failed to comply with restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. The relatively high fines handed out between 24 March and 19 April amount to £69m (€78m), said to equal Romania’s February 2020 corporate tax take.

Taking the economy seriously!

4. Army veteran’s 100th-birthday walk for ‘magnificent’ NHS

Captain Tom Moore’s walk had a fund raising target of £1,000 and has now raised over £28 million. Needs no comment.

Run, turbo, run, turbo, run, turbo – rooks and rabbits

Keep calm and play croquet

We ran on Monday morning, without any great enthusiasm on the part of my knee. A short run (3 miles) in a biting wind which came as a nasty surprise after the good weather of the previous days.

Croquet again on Tuesday afternoon: we might be up the creek without a paddle, but we’re British – stiff upper lip and all that. I won’t record the results so far, not through false modesty but because I’m taking a beating.

On the subject of croquet, out of (possible) interest, the full name of All England Club which hosts the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, is actually the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Originally (1868) it was founded as the All England Croquet Club – tennis was introduced later.

I’ve decided to keep going with the exercise five or six times a week (I seem to be able to fit it into my busy schedule) but ease off on the intensity/duration. After 5 successive days with some sort of exercise session, I took Tuesday as a rest day but put in 45 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday.

I don’t know if the rest day was the difference but I did 23.38km @31.2kph (14.5miles @19.4mph) – much better than recent efforts. For some reason I was able to push a larger gear than has been the case lately, for the whole of the time.

Thursday morning was another run with my wife – about 4 miles in more decent weather – and another 45 minutes on the turbo on a wet and chilly Friday evening. Harder than Wednesday but not as fast. I really don’t understand this exercise lark.

Saturday morning it rained – a nice break from having to water the pots out in the garden but otherwise rather dreary, even after the rain stopped. I ran in the afternoon, just over 10.4km (about 6.5 miles). It was enjoyable except for the delinquent toe launching another attack on its neighbour.

My knee wasn’t too happy and I also tweaked my left calf on the run which meant that Sunday was another 45 minutes on the turbo. Sadly, that put an end to the possibility that I could do a training sequence of “run, turbo, run, turbo, run, run, run” in homage to Flanagan and Allen.

Big local news of the week, the dozen catmint plants I put out in a couple of the flower beds have survived the first few days – last year they were repeatedly dug up and destroyed by rabbits, although the catmint by the side of the driveway was left alone.

The rooks nesting in one of the loft spaces have made themselves very much at home. From the sound of it, they are holding line dancing sessions for the entire rookery. There is also a pair nesting above the garages – at times it’s like a scene from ‘The Birds’.

It’s easy to lose perspective at the moment. Quite rightly, coronavirus dominates the news but I saw a headline that, in the UK, one in five deaths is linked to the virus. Of course, one is too many but without actually thinking about it, I’d assumed that the virus was the main source of deaths at the moment.

I was astonished to read that it would be normal for there to be about 10,000 deaths a week in the UK at this time of year (around 500,000 – 600,000 pa). As we head into another three weeks of lockdown, it’s very sobering that while life seems to be on hold, death, sadly, is not.

Stay safe out there.

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

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44

28/3 – 113

4/4 – 356

11/4 – 653

18/4 – 1070

TdF lives!

The big sporting news (for me at least) is the announcement that the Tour de France has been rescheduled to begin on 29 August, using the original route, as planned.

At one point there was talk of holding the race as scheduled, but ‘behind closed doors’ – now the aim is to fit it in after the French ban on large gatherings ends (in fact the ban will still be in force at the start of the race so there is a bit of an issue) but in time (they hope) to get decent weather for the race, which will end on 20 September.

It is good news as a boost to the morale of fans of the tour – but probably owes a great deal to economics as well, given the importance of Le Tour to UCI finances.

In the UK, we are allowed out for exercise each day but there has been a lot of debate over how long the exercise should last. There are no official rules on the point but while many suggest that long rides well away from home are irresponsible, others suggest that the absence of restrictions and the health benefits of cycling leave it to the individual.

I guess Messrs Froome, Bernal, Thomas et al will be in the latter camp.

Happy Easter! Turbo, run, run, ride, croquet (and things you learn after nearly 33 years of marriage)

One outcome of the pandemic is simplicity. Normally for Easter we’d be up to London, or the boys would come to us or we’d all meet in Bournemouth. This year no choice: us here and them in London.

It’s very disappointing not to see them – but it’s the only possible decision. The weather is pretty good at the moment – I hope that people are sensible and resist the temptation to break the lockdown.

Of course, my wife had bought them Easter eggs before the lockdown began, which we can’t give them – and she has now sent them eggs through an online service. It means I have to eat my own egg and the spares that we still have for them. So much for weight control.

I did 45 minutes on the turbo on Thursday – the first of the year with the conservatory doors open – and I regretted the long sleeve shirt and long trousers.

On Friday I ran to the old hill fort at Badbury and then laps round it. It was lovely – a couple of hills to get there but then a shaded track to run on. In all, I ran a little over 5 miles and, for the first time this year, it was in just one layer. I ran in the souvenir shirt from the Rotterdam Marathon which the printing on the shirt reminds me was a year ago last Tuesday. So much has changed since then …

I ran with my wife on Saturday – I did about 4.5 miles in even warmer weather. It’s taken nearly 33 years of marriage but I’ve realised how fundamentally incompatible we are – she prefers running early in the morning and I’m an afternoon/evening runner. Probably too late to do anything about it now.

I rode outside on Sunday – just the second of the year. It started out very hard but I got into the swing of it by the end – 51km @28kph (about 32miles @17.4mph). Lots of cyclists and dog walkers out but the relative absence of cars is great – I even took a few roads that I’d normally avoid because of the traffic.

Two turbo sessions, three runs and a ride in the week – to say nothing of the croquet games we managed once I’d got the ‘best’ lawn under some sort of control.

It’s odd – we do not seem to have turned the corner in fighting the coronavirus in terms of deaths (a little more encouraging about cases) and there is still news about the cancellation of events – but there is also more talk about when things might resume.

I have no medical knowledge but to me at least, it seems that the lockdowns are not simply going to be removed – but will merely be eased in some way, at some point. At the moment, the UK confirmed cases are in the order of 0.1% of the population – there will be a lot more mild cases that will not have been confirmed, I’ve seen 4% as a guess as to the full infection rate in the country.

Despite the severity of the issue, that’s a very small part of the total population. In the absence of a vaccination, aren’t the majority of us going to have to get the infection before it starts to die out?

Isn’t the approach simply to spread the infections over a longer time to help the health services cope? I hope I’m wrong, but to drip feed the infections, won’t there need to be lockdowns of some severity or other for quite a while yet?

89 hours of NHS volunteering – no calls! They have obviously realised that I’m the sort of helper who can make things so much worse.

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

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44

28/3 – 113

4/4 – 356

11/4 – 653 (still under 0.1%)

Turbo, run and a bit of gardening (has it really come to this?)

Dragon Hill from White Horse Hill, Uffington

On Monday I extended the ‘clap for the NHS’ concept. I decided that my evening training was a ‘Turbo for Covid19 sufferers’. 45 minutes for 21km – they deserved better.

Although I hold no particular brief for him, that includes Boris Johnson. Like him or not, agree with his politics or not, and whether he was the Prime Minister or not, he’s a human being and that alone justifies my hopes that he recovers – as I hope for everyone suffering with the infection.

He’s an interesting (and somewhat divisive) character, even ignoring the politics. I believe he is very intelligent but he can come across as a buffoon. While David Cameron never shook off the ‘Eton schoolboy’ tag (used as something of a slight), that never seems to be thrown at Johnson. He has a bit of a ‘teflon’ coating that means his mistakes don’t seem to stick and his reputed philandering doesn’t seem to be held against him very widely. I have no idea how he does it.

On Tuesday I ran with my wife – further than our usual runs together at 5.1 miles. It was the first time this year that I got properly warm on a run and it was great but I feel that the approaching need to move smoothly from complaining about the cold to complaining equally passionately about it being too hot.

I then enforced the eviction notice I had served on the plants seeking sanctuary in the conservatory. The forecast suggests we have no frosts on the horizon so the garden is now rich in geraniums, olive trees, catmint, erigeron, a lemon tree and some unidentified bulbs that have done nothing for months.

There were encouraging looking UK coronavirus numbers on Sunday and Monday but, sadly, they owed more to delays in reporting over the weekend and deaths in the UK rose again in the numbers released on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I’m sure that it’s important to look at the figures over a few days to understand them properly but the rate of growth seems to be slowing. The experience of Italy and Spain would suggest that the peak is still ahead (but getting closer).

Of course, then the question will be how to ease the lockdown – and what that does to the the infection rate. In the absence of a vaccination and no ‘herd immunity’ yet, I guess it’s not going away any time soon.

We continue to follow the rules and are relatively little affected on a day to day basis as we have no new work patterns to adapt to and no small children to accommodate, but have plenty of garden space, lots to do and great access to fairly empty and attractive running routes. Although it’s a great shame not being able to socialise with friends, the biggest issue is not being able to see our sons in London. One is ‘furloughed’ from the end of this week and the other is working as hard as ever from home – but both are safe and healthy, which is the main thing.

On Wednesday I drafted the accounts for my father’s estate, having got the probate pretty quickly. It’s sobering and terribly sad to think how many people will be doing the same over the next few months.

Injury update

Knee: I was rather premature when I decided it was injury-free in December. I was probably whistling in the dark because I was going to ski on it in January, come what may. It still hurts a bit – not entirely cured but much better. With no sportive and no ultra marathon to train for I’m wondering if I should ease off to give it time to heal – but it had 9 weeks at the start of the year and an outbreak of good sense like that is unlikely to happen again so soon.

Achilles Tendons: these hurt every morning from about October to April last year, while I was training for the Rotterdam Marathon. I managed to carry on training with them but after the run itself they had a proper rest over the summer and are now fine. I found that hills aggravated them badly but now I might start to reintroduce hill running.

Calf muscles: I guess the problem with these hurting after a run was that I’d over-protected them because of the Achilles problems. Stretching after the runs and some work on them in the gym (ah, I remember the gym fondly) has sorted the problem out but I still stretch more diligently, just in case.

Run, not a run in with the rooks, and an own goal (not by a footballer)

My wife and I ran on Sunday morning, more circuits of the hill fort. Too early for the bluebells but it would normally be crowded – today just two walkers and no cars. Bravo local rule adherence.

That finished the week with three runs and three sessions on the turbo. A sensible tick-over perhaps but for now it’s more about staying fit, getting fresh air and fighting boredom.

This morning we saw two walkers, two other runners and one cyclist – all keeping a very good distance and all friendly. Sadly, the good weather has apparently been encouraging people to break guidelines and there are reports of large numbers gathering in some public places.

I fear that exercise outside the home will be under threat soon if that doesn’t stop. I must get out and measure a running track around the garden …

I’ve just realised that now my ultra has been shifted to 11th July next year, I’ll be 66 when I attempt it. Even to me, that sounds very old – but I’ve paid my entry fee and they don’t seem keen on giving refunds.

Perhaps 66 is an appropriate age to try a new Route (to get my kicks)?

It probably means that I can’t do the JPP sportive or the Marmotte next year – both of them were scheduled for 5 July this year, so they will probably clash next year too. Oh well, let’s get through 2020 first before worrying about any of that.

The afternoon was spent mowing and (nearly) battling rooks.

A few days ago we found a tile slipped from a roof. The next day we noticed twigs on the floor beneath the area of the slipped tile. Then we heard the rooks in the roof space. I was going to get into the loft space to tackle them before they laid eggs – but luckily checked the law first.

It would have been a criminal offence with a maximum of an unlimited fine or 6 months locked up! (I guess my current two weeks locked up wouldn’t have counted towards any sentence). Oh well, we have guests for the next few months.

With the absence of football, there have been few own goals to watch – until the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland lent a hand.

Last month, the Scottish government (very reasonably) issued a travel warning criticising the “irresponsible behaviour” of people with second homes and camper vans travelling to the Highlands in a bid to isolate. Yesterday, the Scottish CMO and her family were seen walking near their second home, a drive of more than an hour from their main home in Edinburgh.

Apparently, she has accepted a Police warning and has apologised “unreservedly”. That’s OK then. 

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

14/3 22

21/3 44

28/3 113

4/4 356

Generosity flourishes as normality recedes (and some irrelevant exercise)

Cancellation of sporting events is supremely unimportant just now, but to me there is an impact as they would have been a great distraction and their absence emphasises today’s lack of normality.

In the UK, our lockdown was for an initial 3 weeks. I’m sure we all knew that was just an opening bid but every sporting cancellation seems to underline the lengthening of the extreme measures.

To begin with, events in April went by the wayside. Then May, then June and now, most recently, the grass-based tennis season has been cancelled, including Queen’s (one of the main pre-Wimbledon tournaments) and Wimbledon itself. Wimbledon would have finished on 12 July.

Although the Olympics and the Euro 2020 football tournament had already been postponed by a year, the sheer scale of those events made early action a necessity – cancellation of ‘smaller’ things like Wimbledon bring it closer to home. It feels even more clear that July is not going to have seen a return to normal, although let’s hope we have, at least, moved a long way in that direction by then.

I expect the British Grand Prix and The Open to be next to go (both scheduled later in July) together with the further deferral of unfinished leagues. Will we get to the point where events such as the London Marathon, already postponed to October, are in the cancellation firing line?

Let’s keep following the rules – if we do, it may not come to that.

Not quite on the Wimbledon scale, but the ultra marathon scheduled for July has finally been put out of its misery and postponed to July next year. I’m trying to work out if the opportunity to train for another year is a benefit or a curse.

I’ve been spending a lot of time ‘on call’ as a NHS volunteer but no calls to respond to so far. I don’t expect any/many as we are in a slightly rural environment and a village that has established it’s own support service and a way of collecting medicines for those who can’t get out.

There is a lady in the village who grows a lot of plants to sell on behalf of the church – there has never been so much interest shown! I’m doing a lot of digging in my compost heaps to be able to offer some to people taking her up on the plants in a couple of weeks’ time.

Turning to the more mundane, on Thursday I got on the turbo for 45 minutes (with little to train for, an hour seems very unappealing). I ran through the village with my wife on Friday – she then did hills and I ran round the nearby old hill fort (continuing to protect my Achilles Tendons). Too early for the bluebells but I had a picture from a couple of years ago – something to look forward to. I rejoined my wife for her last hill rep – I managed a Strava PR.

One great thing I saw this week was Jos Buttler (the England wicket-keeper) auctioning the shirt he wore in the final of last year’s One-day Cricket World Cup (that we won after one of the game’s most extraordinary matches and a final ‘super over’ tie-break).

The money will go to charity, supporting two specialist heart and lung centres dealing with the coronavirus response – what a wonderful gesture.

As I write, bidding is standing at £65,800 – terrific, but what caught my eye is the fact that the auction asks for an additional £10 for postage! I hope the winning bidder has factored that in.

Pedant’s/grumpy old man’s corner

Things that get to me:

  1. Misuse of ‘literally’. On a baking programme this week, a contestant who did well kept saying “I’m literally over the moon” – she wasn’t, she was sitting on a stool in a big white tent.
  2. The unnecessary ‘So’ at the start of sentences: “What do you do Peter?” – “So, I work in marketing”

So, that’s me finished for now. I’m so tired I’m literally dead on my feet.

Turbo, turbo, run (and a politics-free zone, no soapbox)

With continued sad news on the global scale, it’s so far so good here although the chickens are a bit sniffy – it seems I was not sympathetic enough when they went through the avian flu outbreak.

Of course, people are not all behaving perfectly – we are told not to drive to our exercise and on Sunday I ran past two chaps getting their bikes out of a car parked in the village – but, in general, it’s not too bad here in rural Oxfordshire.

Goodness knows what comes next – more draconian restrictions on getting out, limits to the time/distance for exercise, total curfews? Let’s hope people are sensible as that’s probably the only thing which will remove the need for ‘lockdown plus’.

The supermarkets are getting back to almost normal as the panic buying slows – helped by more controls being exerted by the shops over the number of people allowed in at any time and restrictions on the number of some items that can be bought. Still shortages of sanitiser, pasta, eggs, bleach, flour and the like – but certainly bearable and the fresh fruit and vegetables are still there.

The organisers of July’s ultra have broken cover and come up with a masterly ‘highly likely to be postponed to either later in the year or into 2021’. I’m carrying on at exercise tick over – I haven’t even looked at the training plan I downloaded all those weeks ago. I assume that for now it’s keep fit (anti-virus training) and be ready to ramp it up as necessary once I know if/when the ultra is going to happen.

I used the turbo on Monday and Tuesday and ran with my wife on Wednesday (her fastest run for nearly 2 years – perhaps I’m improving as a personal trainer). I’m carrying on with the planks and also trying to get back to simple exercise regimes with press-ups, sit-ups etc.

I’m still missing sport – I haven’t yet resorted to following the Belarusian Premier League which, I believe, is the only professional football league in Europe that is continuing to play at the moment. Do they know something we don’t or is that just madness?

For no good reason other than I think I should, I’m reaffirming my commitment to this blog being non-political (party, national or international).

It comes to mind because a really nice blog I followed recently got into a bit of ‘Brit bashing’ in the comments section. Of course, we Brits (and many others) deserve a regular bashing for all sorts of things – but against that background I was really saddened by references to our virus situation. No doubt I’m being over-sensitive but it made me realise how careful I must be.

Chances are that, ironically, we are all going to get both hyper-sensitive and de-sensitised over the next few weeks.

I’m sure many people have some particular country or countries that they resent or distrust for a whole host of reasons. Let’s not forget that all countries are made up of people and the people need nothing but our best wishes.

Personally, I wish every nation a speedy return to normal (or, preferably, something much better than normal). From my point of view, that’s the most important thing and transcends politics and history, on all levels.

If I want to change any of that perhaps I’ll create the OMOS blog (Old Man On Soapbox).

What a sensitive fool I am becoming in my old age.