Monthly Archives: September 2020

Run, hard work, ride, gym, apples, run, gym, London

Beech tree starting to turn colour – autumn is coming

Laps of Badbury hill fort on Monday morning – 8.6km (5.3m). With Sunday’s run, that was over 25km – half of next July’s ultra .. but spread over two days. Hmm, these ultras do seem to be a long way,

We have been enjoying an Indian summer of late but the mornings have started to get a little nip in the air before turning into very pleasant days so autumn is coming. Apologies to American friends, but I think it’s a nicer word for it than ‘fall’.

Would Keats have written ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun’ in a poem To Fall?). The smallest beech tree is starting to turn colour, the innumerable rabbits are getting bigger and the squirrels are getting even busier.

After the run, back to the construction of the new compost bays and more post driving. The post driver weighs over 21kg (47lbs) and I’m grateful for that every time it hits the top of a post … but equally, I curse each pound of it every time it needs lifting. It is genuinely hard work with more than 40 blows for each of the 15 posts.

Also back up in the tree picking apples – at of close of play on Monday, we’d put 26 bags on the front wall of the house (with about 5kg of apples in each) and 21 had been taken.

After the run and labouring on Monday I woke feeling better than I had any right to so I went for a ride. As individual time trials go, it won’t have Pogacar worried, but 38.62km @28.7kph (24miles @17.8mph) is good enough for me, having done so little cycling this year.

I ran out of a bit of steam coming back into a fresh breeze which got me wondering about the value of running as training for cycling. No doubt both are good examples of valuable cross training for the other but the much more limited range of knee and hip movement used in running makes me guess that it might be easier for a cyclist to move into running than a runner to cycling. I assume it’s fairly simple – if you want to be a cyclist, do more cycling and some running – if you want to be a runner do the opposite.

It also reminded me that I need to think about challenges for next year and work out how to prepare for them properly.

Picking a couple of hundred windfall apples from the lawn, mowing, clearing and mending gutters and fixing the bottom bracket on the bike from the pop-up shop, filled Tuesday afternoon.

I booked a session in the gym for Wednesday which was good – I was half expecting our newly re-tightened anti-Covid measures to put the gym under threat but it’s still OK so far, although it is still much quieter than it was early in the year. As it was always a very low-key gym with a lot of fairly elderly folks (even I look relatively young at times) I suppose it’s not too much of a surprise if they haven’t flocked back. I wonder how many people are still paying membership fees, whether or not they are using the facilities?

On Thursday morning I put the gently smoking bonfire out as the wind had changed direction – a good performance to have lasted the whole week. That was followed by a shorter run with my wife (5.5km – 3.4miles), then painting before the rain came in again. Back to the gym for another hour on Friday before a frustrating 7+ hours with no electricity as high winds blew trees/branches onto the main power cables (again).

Happily, I was saved from the folly of extending my 9 successive days of exercise (5 runs, one ride and three trips to the gym) by driving up to London on Saturday morning. The aim was to plumb in the new dishwasher at the flat but I ended up driving the 8 miles (50 minutes!) to join our elder son and his girlfriend in a couple of house viewings.

We saw both of them and our younger son for lunch on Sunday, a lovely brasserie looking out onto the Thames by Hammersmith Bridge. I managed the plumbing job before lunch and it works well.

A really good weekend with two days off exercise, which I guess will do me no harm at all.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The rain does not fall on one man’s roof.

2. BBC news website: New Forest Fairy Festival organisers ‘devastated’ by cancellation of a popular event where people dress up as fairies.

Sad – sensitive folks those fairies

3. BBC news website: ‘My bank is shutting my account because of Brexit’

As Brexit means UK banks lose their European ‘Passport’ to do business in other member states, some will pull out of those markets which means closing accounts of expat Brits without an address in the UK. Disappointing for those involved perhaps but let’s get a sense of perspective on what is really important just now.

4. BBC news website: France street harassment: Strasbourg woman attacked ‘for wearing skirt’

French police have opened an investigation after a student, 22, said she was punched in the face “by three individuals who complained about me wearing a skirt”.

Words fail me

Gym, run, gym, run, run (and remembering the Col des Glières)

Rest day on Monday after 6 straight days of exercise (and 12 in 13 – too many) so I started painting – nothing creative or beautiful but the more mundane matter of windows and doors in the garage block.

I also did some more work on the new raised vegetable beds. When I am out in the garden I tend to let the chickens out of their run – they joined me in the digging (but ate more worms). Once they understand exactly where to dig, they will be more useful.

Gym session on Tuesday morning. Although I enjoy the gym, I’ve been a bit unsure about its value beyond adding a little variety to my exercise regime. I’ve decided that I should carry on with it while I enjoy it, but should concentrate on strengthening my legs and core and leave the specific cardio stuff to the running or cycling outside.

Gardening and then supper with friends Tuesday evening and a rest day on Wednesday that turned out to be one of those rest days that’s so much harder than training. The idea was to run late in the afternoon but by the time I’d cleared a few hundred apples from the lawn and moved about 3 cubic metres (over 100 cubic feet) of compost into the new raised beds, I didn’t even have the strength to get into my running kit.

We ran on Thursday morning – 7km (4.3m). While running I realised that the stiff breeze was coming from the East (a bit of a rarity) making it exactly right for a bonfire as it would take the smoke away from the village and across the fields. With all the recent gardening the bonfire was huge and accounted for the next several hours of constant attention as it went up like a good ‘un but needed feeding from numerous piles accumulated around the garden.

There was enough time to watch Le Tour riding in the area near our apartment. They rode some of the climbs I’ve done in recent years – particularly Aravis and Glières. The latter is an ‘Hors Categorie’ climb – and that’s exactly how I remember it, really hard with a testing gravel plateau at the top. As I recall, the sign at the bottom says it’s 5.8km at an average of 11.5%.

An hour at the gym on Friday morning which was good – after that I mowed and worked on the bottom bracket of a very old bike that was a latecomer to the pop-up charity cycle shop. Many of the ball bearings could have passed as square and the races were unrecognisable.

I borrowed a post driver from a friend and knocked in some large stakes to support the new raised beds and the revamped compost heap dividers. I shouldn’t have bothered going to the gym.

We ran on Saturday morning, back to the flatter road, going for a faster 5km (3.1m). My pacemaking still leaves a lot to be desired (a bit too fast this time after being a bit too slow last time) but we were significantly faster at 30:09. Although I stopped to wait for her for a few seconds a few times, that’s got to be about 6:10 per km for my wife which is excellent going – with a headwind on the way back.

The bonfire was rekindled by the addition of some more weeds – happily no change in the wind direction – and then I watched Le Tour’s individual time trial. What a spectacle and so unexpected. Bravo Pogacar (who takes the yellow, polka dot and white jerseys – bordering on greedy) but I really feel for Roglic who must have thought the yellow jersey was his.

That was followed by some apple picking – twelve bag-fulls currently disappearing from the front wall, taken by anyone who wants them, and another 4 bags delivered to friends.

A run on Sunday morning – I had no real plan in mind but thought I might go further in view of having only two previous runs this week. Along Puddleduck Lane and then on to farm roads and footpaths, it was breezy but lovely and I ran 16.5km (just over 10.2 miles) taken steadily in about 1h 40m.

The plan is to put my feet up for the rest of the day and watch the end of Le Tour. It’s been really enjoyable but it has just underlined how much I’ve missed my annual cycling trip to the Alps.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A man wearing tattered clothes should not leap over the fire.

2. BBC News website: German police have launched a homicide investigation after a woman died during a cyber-attack on a hospital. Hackers disabled computer systems at Düsseldorf University Hospital and the patient died while doctors attempted to transfer her to another hospital.

Of all the risks associated with hospitals and operations …

3. Bodies pile up as island funeral director gets Covid.

The governor of San Andrés says bodies are piling up on the Caribbean island after its only funeral parlour was hit by coronavirus. The parlour’s owner has Covid-19 and has been flown to hospital on the Colombian mainland. Her son has also tested positive, leaving only one employee at work.

Very sad – but note, Ms Morissette, that’s ironic

4. BBC News website: Leicester in talks with Roma over Under

Leicester City Football Club are hoping to sign Cengiz Under from Roma FC.

Reminds me of the film Airplane – Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?
Tower Radio, clearance, over. That’s ‘Clarence Oveur’, over. Roger. Huh? Roger, over.

5. BBC New website: Woman falls from car on M25 filming Snapchat video

She was hanging out of the window of the car being driven on the M25 (London’s orbital motorway) but was – almost unbelievably – not seriously hurt. Sometimes words fail me.

Run, gym, run, gym, mechanic, run, run – and what’s in a name?

Straighter and flatter than our normal running routes – no pavements and a bit boring, but probably a bit faster

The rest day on Monday worked well so I took myself out for a run on Tuesday morning. To maintain normal levels of stupidity, I decided to see if I could up the pace a bit.

The answer seems to be ‘yes’ I can run faster, but not by much. It was hard work but I did something over 10km (6.2miles) in a little under 56 minutes – fractionally under or fractionally over 5:30 per km (depending on your view of the various different lengths Strava gives for the same route).

Fortunately, next year’s ultra marathon won’t put speed high up on the list of essential requirements.

Lunch out with friends on Tuesday and then gym on Wednesday morning. My aim is to go twice a week which (I think) means I should focus on legs one day and upper body the other. However, cyclists and runners (sprinters aside) seem to have relatively little use for upper body muscles (apart from the entirely understandable vanity reasons) so I’m a bit at a loss what to do. I did more on the legs Wednesday which was very hard.

A happy hour in the afternoon spent in the apple tree picking from what is a bumper crop this year. We have supplied four sets of friends and started almost industrial scale apple chutney production here – no doubt we will end up putting apples on the front wall of the house to be taken by anyone who wants them. Happily I did not fall out of the tree like I did 2 years ago … progress!

I ran with my wife on Thursday, one of our usual routes (7km – 6.3miles) @ 6:21per km. That’s 6 seconds a km faster than she did it 10 days ago, which itself was the fastest she has done for a few years. Bravo to her.

The afternoon was spent buying the wood for, and constructing, a couple of raised vegetable beds of 3m x 1.5m x 0.3m (10ft x 5ft x 1ft) for a part of the garden we have worked to repossess from the weeds. As usual, I don’t really know what I’m doing but they look OK and I’ll fill them with a base layer of grass cuttings and then the contents of some large compost heaps, enriched with windfall apples and some commercially bought compost.

They should be ready for vegetables next spring – assuming they haven’t fallen apart or rotted away by then.

Back to the gym for an hour on Friday morning. Despite knowing that one session should be legs and the other upper body, I concentrated mostly on the legs again. I’ve increased the effort for the gym sessions – where I used to do 3 sets of 8 or 10 reps, I’m now doing 4 sets of 8 or 10.

I’m not sure why I’m doing this – I suppose it could just one of those rather trite ‘if you’re not improving you’re falling behind’ things. In the absence of any element of competition, I don’t know who I might be falling behind – or why on earth it could possibly matter.

Another stint as bike mechanic at the pop-up charity shop on Friday afternoon and a good run on Saturday with my wife – extending the distance a bit to 8.33km (5.2 miles). We ran again on Sunday, this time driving a short distance to a flatter bit of road that we used to run on a good deal a few years ago – we ran 5km (3.1miles) at 5:22 per km even with Saturday’s run in her legs. I did some very poor pacemaking.

We might try the same run again after she has had a rest day to see if we can get her back below 5:15 (many years ago we ran the ‘Oxford Town and Gown’ 10km in under 59minutes).

After that it was up to London later for lunch with our younger son who has recently returned to London and to work after several weeks of lockdown with us – and to check that our flat is still there and secure. It is.

After realising that 6 successive days of exercise last week was probably too much, I did exactly the same this week. I do wonder about myself.

Interesting stuff this week

1. What’s in a name? There is a local car dealership called (after its founder) Dick Lovett. Having had cars from there for over 30 years, it is no big deal to us but a friend who was selling a car found that the dealership name appearing on the number plates nearly lost him the sale to a young chap who, obviously, felt that it would threaten his manliness. The day was saved by black electrical tape.

2. Man blows up part of house while chasing fly: A Frenchman who was irritated by a fly buzzing around him picked up an electric fly swatter – but a gas canister was leaking in his home. A reaction between the device and the gas caused an explosion, destroying the kitchen and partly damaging the roof.

3. African wise words: The lizard is not angry at the person who throws a stone at him, but at the bystander who praises the stone-thrower’s marksmanship.

Deep thinkers, those lizards.

Age is not ‘just a number’

To be honest, six consecutive days of exercise (three runs, two gym sessions, one bike ride) from Tuesday to Sunday last week was probably more than I should have done – I was wiped out on Sunday evening.

I keep hearing that age is just a number – but I disagree. As I understand it, my age relates directly to the very real matter of the length of time I have been alive. As such it denotes all sorts of cumulations – most notably experience and physical wear and tear – more than ‘just a number’ could only dream about.

I’m happy with the experience cumulation but there is no getting away from the fact that my body has had 20 more years of wear than a 45 year old.

This does not mean that I have to accept slowly sinking into decrepitude without a fight – I plan to be the fittest 65 year old that I can be, but I do realise that I really cannot be a 45 year old any more.

It isn’t that ‘age is just a number’ – it’s more a case of ‘don’t let your age be the determining factor of what you can and can’t do’.

If someone tells me that next year, at 66, I’ll be too old to run my first ultra marathon, I won’t pretend that I’m not 66, I’ll just try to prove that their thinking about 66 year olds is wrong.

Soapbox dismounted.

Run, run, gym, gym, marquee erector, run, ride

Photographic debut of part of the new wall, with ‘edged’ lavender bed. The handle behind the wall belongs to a very large hand-pulled roller. The brick pier is straight … it’s just perspective in the photo (honestly).

Working in the garden on Monday – sawing through some high tensile steel hawsers. Long since redundant from their original job of bracing some fir trees, they were well embedded in the trunks.

I had a very warm run on Tuesday – a bit over 10km (6.2miles) at 5:41 per km, which is fairly quick for me. It was along roads and footpaths so I wore the minimalist shoes – I failed to spot just two stones in time to avoid treading on them but, happily, no lasting damage done.

On Wednesday I did laps of the old hill fort – 9.4km (just over 5.2miles) and then out in the garden (and blocking the entry point used by the jackdaws to get into the area above the garages). I booked an hour at the gym for Thursday morning, only to get a message from a friend asking if I was going on Friday. I did the only sensible thing and booked another hour for Friday.

It’s weird having to book gym sessions via the internet – a price of the gyms reopening in the time of Covid – but it still feels well run and as safe as it can be (and noticeably quieter).

Both days went OK – but I have learnt that two successive days in the gym may not be the best of ideas for me. I managed the normal weights on all the machines but it was noticeably harder on Friday than Thursday.

After the gym on Friday I took our marquee over to some friends’ house and helped to erect it in their back garden. It’s quite a big one (about 12m x 6m – 40 x 20 feet) but luckily there were 6 of us putting it up.

The aim is to celebrate the closure of the charitable pop-up shop with a garden party on Sunday for all those who helped make it a success. In the four weeks we were open, we raised over £5,000 ($6,600+) which has more than plugged the hole left in the charity’s finances by having to cancel the annual sportive, which is our biggest fund raiser.

It would be a fair observation that if the second consecutive day at the gym wasn’t the greatest of ideas, a run on Saturday, making five successive days with some significant exercise, probably wasn’t much of an improvement in the decision making process. It was very hard, despite being slow and short (5.5km – 3.4miles).

To complete the idiocy of six straight days I went out for a solo spin on the bike on Sunday morning before the garden party. I assumed that the bike might be easier than another run or gym session. It wasn’t – a nice still day on the way out and a bit of a freshening headwind on the way back. Just 36 km but at a decent 28.9 kph (22 miles @ 18 mph).

Shamefully, that was only my 10th ride outside on the bike this year (and no turbo since May either). Still, the pace suggests that the running has helped keep a degree of fitness that can translate over to the bike.

Strava tells me that I’m on course for over 1000km (620 miles) of running this year. It’s not an earth-shattering distance but such is the pressure of round numbers that I’ll go with it as a target.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: How can a man whose enemies have lit a fire for him go and rub oil on himself and lie close to the fire?

2. BBC news headline: Football match called off due to Covid-19 fears

Wow, could it really get that bad?

3. BBC news headline: Man in box of ice breaks world record

An Austrian man has broken a world record, by standing in a box filled with ice for over two-and-a-half hours.