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Turbo (with added pseudo-science), gym, gym, run (and the small matter of the Giro d’Italia)

Blinding the turbo with science

Back to the turbo trainer on Monday. Typically, I tend to do it like a time trial – trying to work hard and steadily throughout – but should I be a bit more ‘scientific’ to get the best out of it?

I think that means that at least some sessions should incorporate hills (in the absence of any resistance adjustability, I can try to replicate hills by knocking the bike up a couple of gears and pushing hard) and/or sprints.

On Monday I tried it with one minute hard efforts on 2 short hills and 3 short sprints. That made for a tough 45 minutes (@31kph – 19.4mph) as I probably aimed too high by keeping the ‘recovery’ bits at around 30kph – there was relatively little recovery going on.

On Tuesday I was back in the gym for an hour. Nearly one person has asked what I do there. More for my records that anything else, it’s: leg press, abductors, adductors, chest press, leg curl, leg extension, 200 sit-ups, 6 minutes of a plank regime, single leg calf rises (4×20 each leg) and some stretching to finish. Each of the machine exercises is at least 4 sets of 8 reps.

I’ve also started with the shoulder press machine – but I am so bad that the puny weight I lift is almost embarrassing. Perhaps that’s the best reason for sticking with it.

Two days off exercise on Wednesday and Thursday, partly as it felt that an easier week would be a good idea and partly because our older son and his girlfriend came to stay for a few days. Luckily they had been staying at the house in Bournemouth – if they’d been in London the visit would not have been permitted. We are also fortunate that we can keep appropriate social distances here and let them have necessary exclusive facilities.

Gym on Friday, followed by a run back from the garage after dropping off a car for its MOT (6.4km – 4 miles). I found a run straight after the gym quite hard but, to my surprise, I managed sub 6 minute kms.

I decided to take Saturday and Sunday off too. It felt odd not exercising but I stuck with my idea of taking an easier week – the easiest I’ve had for many months. I wonder if next week will see any benefit?

On a week with slim pickings, a short stocktake: body all seeming to work properly (for its age); resting pulse 48; weight about 66kg (146 lbs).

Finally, just as Ineos’ season was being written off after the (relative) failures of Bernal, Thomas and Froome, my congratulations to Tao Geoghegan Hart who won the Giro d’Italia in the final time trial – without ever having been in the leader’s Pink Jersey. The fifth (male) British Grand Tour winner (after Wiggins, Froome, Thomas and Simon Yates). Phenomenal.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When you see the bird dancing know that someone is beating the drum

2. BBC News website: Luton Airport: Too many passengers at front of plane caused take-off issue

An Airbus A320 was replaced with an A321 ahead of a flight, but an email about the change was not passed on which meant the passenger seating plan was not adjusted to the bigger craft. When the aircraft did not respond twice to the pilot’s normal take-off commands, extra thrust was needed for it to depart safely.

Scary how fragile things can be, when even stuff of this importance falls through the cracks.

3. BBC News: Coronavirus: France puts 46 million under night curfew

The French government is imposing a curfew on two-thirds of the country – 46 million people – from Friday night for six weeks, after a record 41,622 new coronavirus infections in one day.

Wow – a huge infection rate and a huge response for a country of about 65million

4. Cat missing since 2018 found 60 miles away in Coventry

A cat that went missing two-and-a-half years ago has been reunited with its owner after being found about 60 miles away on an industrial estate. The delighted owner thinks the cat stowed away to the Midlands in a lorry.

Nothing like a ‘lost cat reunited with family’ story to lighten the gloom

5. A Nasa probe sent to collect rock from an asteroid several hundred million kilometres from Earth has grabbed so much that samples are spilling out.

I had a picture of a substantial rock pile – perhaps enough for me to make another wall – but the craft is believed to have collected some 400g (14oz) of fragments

Gym (x2), run (x3), dig (x2), turbo, (sloes: picking and gin making) – and an important question

Sloe season – this year’s seem smaller but it feels like there are at least five times as many

Monday’s lunch with friends turned out to be excellent, but rather larger and longer than I’d expected so I ducked out of the evening’s planned turbo session and booked the gym for Tuesday morning.

As the second wave of the virus hits the UK, we are in an area rated in the lowest of the three risk categories so we are subject to the rules in place nationally, but not any stricter local rules. Being retired, our restrictions are mainly about limiting indoor social groups to six, observing social distancing, wearing a face mask in shops and some restrictions in restaurants.

No big deal for us but I do feel for the majority who have job and family worries and those in high risk areas who are subject to stricter local measures. No matter where you stand on the face mask/lockdown/personal freedom debates, please be careful and stay safe out there.

The gym was good – still lightly used and well disciplined in cleanliness and disinfecting. Gyms in the highest Covid risk areas are having to shut from Wednesday but I intend to keep going for as long as I am allowed. For me, the small increase in my infection risk is outweighed by the health benefits and enjoyment factor.

The biggest drawback at the moment is that it is extremely cold in the gym. They can’t use the air conditioning so they have all the windows and doors open – and the heating is off for good economic and environmental reasons.

I’m now working out with a compression top under the normal top, long running trousers and wearing gloves. It would probably be OK if I was there to use the cardio machines – or perhaps I’m just not working hard enough.

A run with my wife on Wednesday morning – our usual 7km (3.4m) route. Chilly and breezy but dry and with some weak autumn sunshine. I had thought I might use the turbo in the evening but ended up doing some digging in the garden which felt like a more than adequate substitute.

I did more of the same on Thursday – it was hard work and it does occur to me that I could save the money spent on the gym if I had a ‘proper’ manual job (or, indeed, any job would be a start, I suppose).

Anyway, I did manage to get on the turbo afterwards – 45 minutes @31.6kph (19.6mph). Quite a step up from the 29.9kph last week and very hard indeed. I can’t calibrate using the turbo against riding on the road – but I do know that it is harder.

Gym on Friday, wrapped up warmly, and more gardening. On Saturday we ran one of the short routes – 5.5km (3.4m) – followed by my annual ritual of sloe picking. They don’t seem quite as big as recent years but the local crop is huge. I picked 5kg of sloes (11 pounds) – this year they are about the size of a blueberry so that’s a lot of sloes.

Laps of the old hill fort on Sunday morning for 8.2km (just over 5 miles). I’m sure the Garmin is under-recording laps which are beneath a pretty dense tree canopy – it will be interesting to see if it changes once the leaves have fallen. Then into sloe gin production – 5 litres (nearly 9 pints) so the family looks destined for ample supplies through 2021 (and beyond).

The day’s big issue

I have a question – while I see the benefit of most running-specific kit, is there any point in running socks? I exclude the ‘5 finger’ socks for use with the Vibram shoes but otherwise are running socks worth the trouble?

The ‘foot specific’ bit and the thicker bits of material in ‘key’ places seems impressive but is it really just a gimmick? I’ve been running in cheap sports socks for a while now (the sort you buy for little money in packs of 5) and I can’t tell the difference. I’ve always worn ‘proper’ socks for marathons, without ever really thinking about it – perhaps they just come into their own for long runs?

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who touches the leopard’s testicles must be ready to face its fury

I wonder why leopards in particular. I guess that someone, somewhere, is doing PhD research on the comparative responses of different species to having their testicles tickled.

2. Giro d’Italia: Mitchelton-Scott & Jumbo-Visma withdraw after positive Covid results

The Giro d’Italia appears to be in danger of unravelling as the Jumbo-Visma and Mitchelton-Scott teams withdrew from the Giro d’Italia before Wednesday’s stage after six positive results in the latest round of Covid-19 testing. There are nearly two weeks remaining of this delayed Grand Tour, but the first rest day’s coronavirus testing proves Covid 19 is now in the race ‘bubble’.

So sad, not only for those having to withdraw, but for the race itself.

3. BBC News website: 85 year old runner sets mile record

An 85-year-old runner has set a new record for his age group in the mile, recording a time of eight minutes 10.40 seconds.

Bravo sir

Turbo, gym, run, flu jab, run (hill reps!), gym, run

It still works!

My penance for sleeping in on Monday was to get on the turbo in the early evening. Strava says I last used it in May – it’s been replaced by the gym, a lot of running and a (very) few rides outside.

The aim was for a reasonably gentle half hour reintroduction – but it was going quite well so I pushed on to 45 minutes @29.9kph (18.6mph).

As we head towards winter I guess this is a glimpse into my future as my wimpish tendencies will mean that I’ll ride outside even more rarely. Although turbo trainers are of limited entertainment value (especially non-smart ones like mine) it’s probably a good thing to get back in the saddle as my next event is the White Horse Challenge sportive in April (Covid willing).

An hour in the gym Tuesday and then a run with my wife on Wednesday morning – one of our usual runs for 7km (4.3m). It was chilly and I’m grateful that what I’ve been wearing as a sweatband for some months, can now serve as a headband to keep my ears warm until a hat is necessary. I did say I had wimpish tendencies when it comes to cold weather.

Wednesday afternoon I received the greatest (perhaps only) reward coming my way for reaching the age of 65 – a flu jab.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have taken up the offer of the jab if it weren’t for the current pandemic. Touch wood, I rarely get flu (or any other illness in general) and am probably fit enough to fight it off if I did – but this year of all years I don’t want to be proved wrong and become an unnecessary burden on the National Health Service.

Sadly, my dream of being refused entry to the hall on the basis that I could not possibly be as old as 65 remained just that – a dream.

We ran again on Thursday – my wife decided to do hill reps and as my alternative runs were likely to be sodden, I went to keep her company. I haven’t done hill reps for about two years – I had Achilles problems before I even began my training for the Rotterdam Marathon (in April 2019). They hurt every day for months so I avoided hills at all costs.

They’ve been behaving for some time now and I’ve been doing single leg calf rises and heel drops in the gym, so it seemed worth a try. The hill is steep – about 25m of climb in 0.2km (82 feet in an eighth of a mile). I make that an average of 12.5% so a good, sensible, reintroduction of hills to the running.

I did 7 reps for a total (with the run through the village there and back) of 213m of ascent in nearly 6km (700 feet in 3.7 miles). Funny – it doesn’t sound like much but I guess I’m more used to climbing numbers for cycling than running. It felt properly hard.

Out for supper with friends in the evening and back to the gym on Friday morning – with perfectly happy Achilles tendons, so that’s a result and – if it stays like that – adds an important option to my future running training. The only problem is that I tend to blame the absence of hill training for failing to break 4 hours for the Rotterdam Marathon – what am I going to blame for future failures?

We had more friends over for drinks on Friday evening and most of Saturday was spent painting (the whole week has been spent slapping wood preservative on various sheds and paint on the woodwork on the garage block).

After several hours of painting, I gave myself the treat of doing nothing in the evening but we did a relatively short run (5.5km – 3.4miles) on Sunday morning (no hat but, yes, I was wearing gloves) before going up to London for the evening. Sadly, not staying over so no run along the Thames to look forward to on Monday.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb: That which disturbs your sleep is of your own making

2. BBC News website: ‘Drive-in wedding’ bypasses Covid restrictions

A couple married as about 250 guests watched the ceremony from their cars on big screens in the grounds of the venue. The newlyweds then had a golf buggy tour of the grounds. Guests were given hampers of snacks and hand gel, and could use a website to order food, delivered by waiters.

Necessity being the mother of invention

3. BBC News website: Acquitted Kenya Westgate attack suspect abducted

A suspect in Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall terror attack case, who was freed by the court over lack of evidence, was was in a taxi on his way home with his sisters when unknown gunmen stopped them and abducted him.

Out of the frying pan …

4. BBC News website (update): US man avoids jail in Thailand over bad resort review

A US man in Thailand who was arrested for writing a negative hotel review will avoid legal action and jail time after he and the resort managed to reach an agreement, which included an apology to the hotel and to Thailand’s tourism authority.

2021 challenges (hoping it isn’t too optimistic to look that far ahead…)

Back to the White Horses in 2021 – view from the Uffington White Horse. Cycle up on the sportive and run close by on the ultra marathon

As we head into October, it’s time to think about next year’s challenges. Strangely, at the moment they look exactly like the ones I was planning for 2020 – how could that have happened?

Health, fitness and Covid willing, so far it looks like it’s the White Horse Challenge in April and in July it’s the Race To The Stones.

The Race to the Stones is a 50km ultra marathon (I’ll be doing the second day of the two day 100km event) along the Ridgeway from Wantage In Oxfordshire to the World Heritage site of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments at Avebury in WIltshire. Something of an unknown but a proper challenge. I plan a 16 week training programme and think – at this stage – that completion of the run is the real target (although finishing with a six in the hours column would be target 2).

The WHC sportive is billed as 90 miles and 1400m of climbing (not frightened to mix their imperials and metrics, those folks). I agree with the distance (145km) but I’ve recorded it at over 1700m (5600 feet) of ascent.

Next year will be my 9th attempt in the 10 editions since I first did it in 2011. That first year I was just outside 6 hours – my best (2017) was 5h 05m (with one DNF in 2019 as my legs hadn’t recovered from the Rotterdam Marathon).

The 5 hour target is a bit of a monkey on my back – next year feels like it might be my final attempt at it, how do I go under 5 hours?

Of course, if the weather is foul, I won’t manage the target anyway, but assuming a reasonable day for the event, I need to start thinking about a plan to manage the necessary 18mph (29kph) average.

I can ride at the required average for shorter distances – it would be great if I could ride the whole route solo at the necessary speed (I’m sure I can’t) but I don’t need to if I can join, and stay with, a group going at the right speed. That means getting underway reasonably close to the opening of the starting gates (departure is any time within an hour’s window) so I have a chance of latching on to a faster group as it passes me.

The bike is good for the job and the new deep section carbon wheels have certainly made it faster through improved aerodynamics, without making it any heavier for the hills but the uncomfortable truth is that the main lever left for me to pull is to improve the engine.

I’ve rather neglected the cycling for nearly 2 years – when I everested (on the bike – glorious madness if you like to point the front wheel uphill) in 2017 and rode to the alps in 2018 (550 miles in 84 hours – I loved it) I was nearly a cyclist but now it’s time to pick it back up again and work on both speed and endurance.

Sadly, the bulk will have to be done through the winter (and, as I am a wimp with the cold weather, most likely it will be on the turbo) but I’d better have a plan for the early spring.

March and April look like fun as I try to train for both events – and what do I do after July?

Run, run, gym, run, gym, (rain and thoughts of morbidity)

Coming soon, back to the turbo for the first time since May?

We stayed in London Sunday night to round off a very good weekend. On Monday my wife went to meet a friend for breakfast so I managed to fit in a run, always a highlight of a trip to London.

I planned to go over Hammersmith Bridge, down the Thames Path on the west side of the river to Putney Bridge and back up the east side. Unfortunately Hammersmith Bridge, which has been shut to motor vehicles for some months, is now also shut to cyclists and pedestrians so it was a marginally less interesting run down and back up the path on the east side of the river. Childishly, I still felt that I had to cross Putney Bridge and run a few hundred meters on the other side.

In all, a fraction over 10km on a cool but sunny and delightful morning – and with the added bonus that I now know a bit more about rowing technique from listening to the megaphoned coach putting an eight through its paces.

Not the most successful ‘say hello to other runners’ outing but the response rate improved on the way back – perhaps I was looking particularly bad and got a better reaction purely out of sympathy.

On Tuesday morning I drove my wife’s car to the garage for its MOT and ran back to the house – 5.28km (3.3m) – followed by lunch with friends. A second car had to be taken for its MOT on Wednesday morning so I did that after an hour in the gym, and then the same run back.

On a slightly morbid note, while in the gym, I found myself thinking about how the benefits of exercise play out against the inevitable ravages of age. Currently I’m increasing reps/weights but I wonder how long that can continue.

Research that suggests that physical decline accelerates after 45 (that’s accelerates, not starts) – but I think that is for populations as a whole and I’ve seen a suggestion that a good deal of the typical decline is simply through a lack of enthusiasm to exercise (or, indeed, to get out of a chair).

I may not be able to hold back the years – but I can maintain the enthusiasm. However, the time will still come when the reps or the weights (or both) decrease – it will be interesting (but a bit sad) to see how that works out.

The forecast rubbish weather arrived on Wednesday afternoon – cold and very wet. The BBC forecast currently has just 10 hour slots without rain between today and next Monday. At least I got some exercise in before it turns sour. Is that the turbo trainer I can hear calling?

Better weather than forecast on Thursday but if it was the turbo calling, I ignored it – four activities in the first three days of the week being plenty – but I went to the gym on Friday.

It rained pretty much non stop Saturday and Sunday so I stayed in and caught up with filing (cutting edge of exercise there).

The London Marathon was run on Sunday – for obvious reasons, 6 months late and just an elite race around laps of a course in front of Buckingham Palace, but with individual and group events around the country (and beyond) for those not able to take up places this year. I always love the event and memories of running it in 1998 and 1999 still come back vividly. I can’t help but wonder if I could run it one more time – I’ve entered the ballot for 2021, but it’s a hard race to get into.

I loved the way Kipchoge was the only runner in the early leading group of a dozen or so to be wearing white running shoes while everyone else was wearing the familiar pink Nike Alphafly/Vapourflys. Different shoes or just a different colour? Perhaps that’s where it went wrong.

Friends over for supper on Sunday – six of us, socially distanced (while we can?).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb: When you find a snake you call for help, yet when you find a grasscutter you want it all to yourself.

I thought this might be about collecting lawn mowers but apparently a grasscutter is a cane rat, and a source of animal protein

2. BBC News website: US man faces jail in Thailand over hotel review

A US man is facing up to two years in jail in Thailand, under the country’s strict anti-defamation laws, after posting negative reviews of a hotel he stayed in.

I’d like to say how much I enjoyed my visit to Thailand and how good the hotel was

3. BBC News website: Irish court rules that Subway rolls are too sugary to be bread.

The rolls used in Subway’s hot sandwiches have a sugar content of around 10% of the flour in the dough for both white and wholegrain rolls – too much sugar to be considered bread, according to Ireland’s Supreme Court.

‘Let them eat cake’. At 10%, sounds like they almost are?

4. London Marathon 2020: Eliud Kipchoge says race can bring hope to the world.

Nothing like setting the bar high