Monthly Archives: February 2021

Turbo, run, run, ride(!), run, run (and has Spring sprung?)

The week started wet so I resorted to the turbo on Monday evening. I’m not quite sure why it was so hard but I had to knock it down a gear half way through – an hour @27.2kph (17mph).

It was cooler and much windier by the time I ran on Tuesday – 10.4km (6.5m) at 4 hour marathon pace, but it felt harder. We all ran on Wednesday (7km – 4.3m), very mild but, again with a considerable wind. My wife is doing a very good job with the running – not long ago the target was sub 7 minute kms. and now she’s regularly sub 6:30s.

While running on Sunday we met a very good friend (the chap I did the ‘Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux’ challenge with in 2015, here). He suggested a ride together later in the week so I cleaned the bike (yes, I am a disgrace and do not regularly clean it after rides) and gave it a bit of a fettle.

It made me realise how little cycling I’ve done over recent months as I never bothered to put the winter wheels on (or even the second-best normal wheels) – it still has the 50mm carbon wheels. I left them on as it looks like being dry and, given how much my friend has been cycling, I decided I was likely to need all the help I could get.

I will admit to a bit of apprehension before the ride – partly not being sure how my cycling would be and partly being unsure of what to wear. To my shame, it was over 2 months since my last ride outside and the previous one to that was 5 months ago.

As it was, the cycling was very good (around some lovely back roads of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire) but the clothing choice was less good. At about 8℃ (46℉) it was a few degrees cooler than I had expected. I underestimated the wind chill and was a bit cool throughout the 60km (38m) – which was taken at a gentlemanly and social 25.4kph (15.8mph). So much for me deciding not to be a cold weather wimp.

One strange thing on the ride was noticing that my friend’s saddle was about an inch (2.5cm) higher than mine, despite the fact that he is probably the same amount shorter than me. Have I really been riding the bike for 5 years with the set-up so far out?

I know I should go for a bike fit, but for now I have raised the saddle and I am expecting the change to add at least 10% to my speed, cure my knee, repair my Achilles and make me rich and more attractive to women …

Such was the shock of having been out on the bike on Thursday, I took Friday off to recover – but ran with my wife on Saturday. It was a glorious spring-like day and I did 8.2km (5m) around the, surprisingly dry, old hill fort.

Sunday was another lovely day, I ran with my son and, having agreed to push the distance a bit, we had a very good 16.5km (10.25miles), taken fairly steadily.

It is not clear whether the White Horse Challenge sportive will go ahead in April. The Government recently revealed its roadmap to the end of our Covid restrictions in late June. That suggests it should be possible for cyclists to ride in groups of up to 6 in April – but getting 600 sportive entrants away like that might be an issue. The inevitable bunching at the start, finish and food stops might also be a problem? I suppose it’s best to assume that it will happen, until I know that it won’t.

No London Marathon place for me through the ballot and I can’t work up the enthusiasm to do the race ‘virtually’ so if I’m still mobile after the ultra in July, I might have to look for another challenge for later in the year.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you pick up one end of the stick you also pick up the other

2. BBC News website: Tiger Woods suffers serious leg injuries in a car crash

He suffered “open fractures affecting the tibia and fibula bones” in his lower right leg “stabilised by inserting a rod into the tibia”. He had to be “extricated from the wreck” by firefighters and paramedics.

A deputy from the LA County Sheriff’s Department, said the golfer was “not able to stand under his own power” before being removed from the vehicle.

All that law enforcement observational training wasn’t wasted

My best wishes to Tiger for a speedy and complete recovery

3. An MP taking part in a House of Commons virtual debate was told he was not allowed to speak until he was “properly dressed”.

The Conservative MP tried to speak from his kitchen while wearing a jumper but the debate chairwoman made him skip his turn until he wore a jacket. She explained “It’s not about etiquette or fashion, it’s about respect.”

Maintaining standards in the time of Covid

4. BBC News website: Forest Green launch new shirt partly made of coffee waste

The football club’s players already wear shirts made of bamboo, but the owner says using leftover coffee grounds makes them more eco-friendly and lighter to wear.

OK, time to fill your boots with the coffee-related puns: putting a new spin on grinding out a result; the team will be an instant success; they are favourites for the FA ‘Cup’puccino; if they lose, they’re a team of complete mugs; that should perk them up; I wonder if the shirts ‘Costa’ lot of money; that will put the mochas on their chances in the league …

Run, turbo, run, run, (jab!), run, run

As if someone flicked a switch, we went from freezing all last week to about 10℃ (50℉) on Monday. I made the most of it and ran 10.3km (6.4m). Sadly, a second switch is about to turn on the rain. 

The next tranche of vaccinations in England (including us over 65s) was announced to be getting underway this week. On Monday I got my invite letter and by midday I had booked appointments for both jabs. Considering I have no (known) health issues and take no medicines, I’m sure there are more deserving cases – but I’m in the process and grateful for that.

The rain showers arrived over night on Monday – they weren’t as bad as forecast on Tuesday but I opted for an hour on the turbo – 28.5km (17.7m) – with a horrible example of how mind games can go wrong. I was deliberately not looking at the clock to avoid ‘death by watching time crawl by slowly’ but looked when I was sure I had done about 55 minutes. It was really deflating to see that I had done only 44. I’m surprised I managed not to bail out at the 45 minute mark.

I’m very impressed by people who have mastered new skills or learnt new languages during the various lockdowns. My own (rather pathetic) achievement is learning to sharpen my chainsaw chains. Much of Tuesday was spent cutting wood and taking some dead branches out of an apple tree. I’m not exactly setting the artistic or literary worlds alight.

Wednesday’s weather was also mild, breezy and wet. We decided to run (7km, 4.3m) between the forecast showers – but still got soaked. Much the same on Thursday but with a colder breeze and we did find a gap between showers for 5.5km (3.4m).

Friday was rather grey and dank so I took a rest day. It was really just laziness but I’ve decided to say I was mentally and physically preparing myself for an early evening trip to the football stadium in Oxford to get my first Covid jab. For die hard Swindon Town followers (we follow them but I refuse to support anyone to the degree that I have to hate anyone else) Oxford United are the great enemy.

Chanting is a ritual at British football matches – both to support your own team and to deride the opposition and their supporters. The Oxford stadium, quaintly, has stands on only three sides. At one match, taunting the (very quiet) away supporters, the Oxford fans chanted “Shall we sing you a song” to which the response came “Shall we build you a stand”.

It was a very slick vaccination process – in and out in under 15 minutes. Just a coincidence, surely, that I went to Oxford and got the Oxford Astra Zenica vaccine?

Happily, no side effects so on Saturday morning, other than a sore arm where I got the jab, so we all ran – fairly gently, just in case – for the usual 7km. It was surprisingly hard and I did feel very tired – I wonder if that was anything to do with the previous night’s vaccination. What is clear is that (sadly) there were no performance-enhancing additives in the Covid jab.

There would be no 6 Nations Rugby to watch while on the turbo on Sunday, so I went for a short run with my wife and son, before he and I added another loop for a total of 11.7km (7.25miles). The weather is improving and I ran in a short sleeve compression top and a long sleeved top that (it just occurred to me) I bought in 1997 for training for my first marathon – it doesn’t owe me a lot.


The running has been totally unstructured at present – no proper training schedule, no tempo runs, long slow runs, hill work, fartlek etc. – but at least my knee and Achilles are happier with the reduced mileage after January’s 200km.

I believe that the ultra will be OK (in the absence of injury or illness) but I am not sure if my ageing body will take the mileage of the proper training programme. As I am not too worried about how long the ultra takes, I may need to prioritise the longer training runs and replace some of the others with cycling.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No matter how beautiful and well crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for death

2. BBC News website: Dog left $5 million (£3.6 million) by deceased owner

Bill Dorris left Lulu the border collie in the care of his friend, Martha Burton. The will states that Burton is to be reimbursed for Lulu’s reasonable monthly expenses.

I am very happy to adopt Lulu (or indeed, be adopted by her)

3. BBC News website: Mercedes-Benz car recall

The problem is with the cars’ eCall feature, which alerts emergency services of an accident and relays a vehicle’s location to them. A fault means it is possible that the wrong location could be sent.

Luckily, Mercedes have their eCall system to locate the cars. Of a recall affecting over 1 million cars, only 50 have been found (sorry, Mercedes, I made that up)

4. BBC News website: Man fined £150 for fly-tipping leaves in a wood

He swept the leaves from the pavement in front of his house and drove 3 bags of them to nearby countryside and scattered them to degrade in a wooded area.

Not exactly dumping an old fridge by the roadside – they weren’t even his leaves!

5. BBC News website: Dutch crisis as court orders end to Covid curfew

The court said the 21:00 to 04:30 curfew breaches citizens’ rights to free movement and was imposed by an emergency law when there was no “acute emergency”.

Catch 22: When the cabinet decided on the curfew they sought the backing of MPs, but by waiting for parliamentary support, in the judges eyes, they had disproved the need for emergency legislation.

Depending on your personal stance, either this the court showing proper regard for the law, free from political pressure, or an example of the judges’ pig headed detachment from the real world

Turbo, turbo, run, turbo, run (baby it’s cold outside)

I planned to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday night but It begins late over here and I confess that I didn’t even manage to stay up to see the start. What a lightweight.

In part, that was due to an early start on Monday for a Covid-compliant ‘outing’ as our older son and his girlfriend moved house. Government lockdown guidance says that, where a removal firm cannot be used (it couldn’t as their completion came through quickly) one other household can help in the move, provided social distancing and appropriate hygiene is observed – so we helped.

It was tough, but rules are rules, so we were masked, distanced and sanitised like it was going out of fashion. It was also tough because it snowed gently throughout and a move across London means tortuous journeys. A hard 13 hours spent driving and shifting several car loads of packed boxes and bags down from their flat and into the new house.

Tuesday was equally cold so it was the turbo in the evening. No great payback for two days without a run – a hard 45 minutes @28.6kph (17.8mph). How did I ever get sufficiently cycle-fit to do the ‘everesting’?

A significant UK anniversary happened on Tuesday – but was certainly not celebrated. It was exactly a year since the arrival, in the back of an Uber, of London’s first Covid-19 patient at Lewisham Hospital. If only we’d known then what we know now …

Wednesday was (again) cold. As I was getting ready to run I remembered that nobody pays me to do it – I run for pleasure but was struggling to see what pleasure I might have got out of a run just then. Accordingly, the kit went back in the drawer and I decided that a session on the turbo in the evening was the better way to go.

I rationalised it away as part of my aim to reduce the running and increase the cycling this month ahead of April’s sportive and the start of the ultra marathon training in March – but I know I rather wimped out (and I can live with that). I did an hour on the turbo for 28.3km (17.6m).

Thursday was very cold again but it had almost climbed to freezing (other than for the significant windchill) by the time I ran in the afternoon. It was a cold 10.3km (6.4m) at 4 hour marathon pace (5:41/km).

Hard to believe, but Friday was very cold again – not Canada or Siberia type of cold, but cold for the UK. It’s not that it was too cold to run – just that it was too cold to want to run. Warm in my virtuous glow of having run on Thursday, I decided not to repeat the feat but I retreated to the turbo in the early evening. Another hour for 28.2km (17.5m).

Sorry for the broken record but it was below freezing again on Saturday with a biting wind. Going to the shops in the morning I’d seen a runner in shorts and T shirt – my kit, just after midday, included winter running trousers, three long sleeved tops and a gilet. The same 10.3km as Thursday, but 7 secs/km faster. Surprisingly enjoyable.

The cold snap started to break on Sunday, a little less cold but still with the bitter wind and with milder and wetter weather on its way – it will be good to be able to complain about the rain rather than the cold.

It appears that Valentine’s Day is not a day of exercise so my effort is going into eating and drinking.

Signs of hope with the virus in the UK as the second (tidal) wave of infections starts to recede but the lockdown continues to have severe effects in so many ways. For us, it’s less severe than for most and we are very grateful for that.

Missing out on our usual January family ski holiday is pitifully small beer in comparison to what others are missing out on. Sadly, it doesn’t look like skiing later in the season is going to happen as cases in France appear to be heading upwards and the resorts remain closed. It will be my first skiing missed in over 25 years. Roll on the vaccinations.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who runs after good fortune runs away from peace

2. BBC News website: Fines for breaching lockdown after a mountain rescue volunteer seriously injured in a fall while going to their aid

One man from Liverpool and another from Leicester were camping in breach of coronavirus rules above Kirkstone Pass (in the Lake District) in the face of severe weather warnings. The volunteer suffered “significant injuries” falling 150m (500ft) responding to reports of one of the campers suffering chest pains.

I struggle to see what part of ‘Let’s break the law, increase the risk of the spread of the virus, take on dangerous weather and put voluntary rescuers at risk’ is acceptable.

3. BBC News website: Katie Boulter (British tennis player) says she can win “a lot of matches” at Grand Slam level as she prepares to launch the British bid when the Australian Open starts on Monday. The 24-year-old is the only Briton playing on day one of the delayed Grand Slam, starting at about 03:00 GMT.

My heart sank when I read this and, of course, shortly after 04:00 GMT she was out of the tournament, beaten 6-1, 6-4.

4. BBC News website: Coup in Myanmar

The leader of the coup in Myanmar, General Min Aung Hlaing, has spoken on TV, seeking to justify the action amid mass protests. He said November’s election, won in a landslide by the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair.

The general did not issue direct threats to protesters, saying only that no-one was above the law.

A very sad situation. I wonder if the bit about no-one being above the law applies to leaders of military coups?

5. BBC News website: Small digital photo gallery has pictures blocked by Facebook for containing “overtly sexual” content

The Winchester-based photographer’s banned images include:

  • a sign with the word “disco”, on the grounds that it was promoting alcohol
  • a set of tramlines in France, which went against Facebook’s ticket sales policy
  • a cow standing in a field
  • the England cricket team in a huddle
  • ripples on a pond which was said to be selling “adult products”
  • another “overtly sexual” photo, of a high-rise office building

Run (x5), turbo – (sadly, the hills aren’t alive with the sound of the midnight train to Georgia)

Back to Puddleduck Lane – no ducks but many, many puddles

My wife wanted to run on Monday (more accurately, ‘decided to run’, as she would never say she likes running – it’s just part of her fitness regime) so we all got out for the usual 7km (4.3m).

Tuesday would have been a good day for a run but I stuck to my ‘run less, ride more’ guns. We spent time clearing away bits of tree (and a few bottles and other bit of debris donated by humans) that we had pulled out of the drainage ditch over the weekend. Most of the wood is rotten so, in burning terms, it probably has the calorific value of celery. It’s probably only fit for the bonfire and the wood burner will miss out.

Onto the turbo in the early evening, 45 minutes @28kph (17.4mph). Not quick by recent efforts – I’m wondering if I’ve not been cycling enough, or running too much, or if I’m just lacking the motivation to pedal hard. At this stage I suppose it doesn’t matter too much as long as I get on the turbo and push.

I did 10.2km (6.3m) with my son on Wednesday, after which I give an honourable retirement to another pair of Puma “Speed 500 Ignite” running shoes. I’d put over 620 miles (1000km) on them – about 25% more than the usual recommended maximum life of a pair of running shoes.

They still look in pretty reasonable condition – but the the soles show signs of wear (on the outside edges – such is the way of the under-pronator) and they are very grubby. Although it would show how stupid I’ve been to stick with them for so long, I secretly hope that changing shoes will miraculously cure my knee.

I wasn’t going to run on Thursday but my wife decided she was – so all three of us went out. It was the shortest of our usual routes and after running the wet and muddy track at least I had the resolve not to add any extra mileage on to it. We ran 5.5km (3.4m).

Friday was lovely running weather early on and my wife went out for a socially distanced (and therefore permitted) dog walk with a friend. I was congratulating myself on sticking with my decision not to run when our son came down in running kit and my resolve melted away. We ran for the usual 7km (4.3m) – dodging showers fairly successfully.

Sunday’s forecast was not good so my son and I ran again on a cold and misty Saturday with temperatures hovering about freezing. We took a route that gave us a choice of 7 or 10km – when we got to the decision point we agreed that 7 was the luckier number, so 7km (4.3m). Nothing to do with cumulative tiredness, of course.

On Sunday I was tempted to use the turbo while watching the Six Nations Rugby (it can’t be worse than England v Scotland on Saturday), but good sense has got the better of me and I am taking the day off exercising.

I managed two of the week’s three aims by reducing my running (about 37km, down from 44km last week) and taking a day off – but I didn’t increase the cycling. At least Meatloaf would be proud of me.

Still running, still missing running in London and Bournemouth, still nervous about starting the ultra training, still trying to get back to some proper cycling, still on the lookout for that nasty virus.

Stay safe.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself

2. BBC News website: A Swedish nurse has won a competition to watch the entire 60-movie programme of the Goteborg Film Festival, alone, from a lighthouse on an isolated island off the coast of Sweden

Festival organisers were forced to curtail the festival by the pandemic. There will be no screenings in cinemas – instead, the entire programme will be streamed online.

Hate to think what the second prize might have been

3. British TV 5th February 2021: Quiz Question – ‘Who did Joe Biden pick as his running mate in the 2020 US Presidential Election?’ Contestant’s answer – ‘Donald Trump’.

Words fail me

4. Sad to see the death of Christopher Plummer who, I suppose, will always be best known for The Sound of Music but who had one heck of a career, including an Oscar in 2012. I wonder if it’s a bit galling to be known for just one of so many roles … but to be remembered at all must be some consolation!

Also sad to see the death of Jim Weatherly. It’s not naturally my type of music but ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ is a great song by any measure (even though it was originally performed as ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’ which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it).