Monthly Archives: March 2021

Run, run, run, labourer, mechanic, run, run (2nd week of ultra training – and I’ve not failed yet)

Although many restrictions remain, our ‘stay at home’ requirement ends tomorrow. We’ll be able to go to Bournemouth even though we can’t stay in our own place down there until 12 April

Monday is a training plan rest day but my wife and son decided to run so I went with them. The usual 7km but I added a bit more to take it to 11.3km (7 miles), one mile over the plan’s target.

I shifted Wednesday’s run to Tuesday. It was supposed to be ‘4 miles – hills’ so we did an undulating course and then I added 10 reps of the small hill in the village for 8.3km (5.1m) with 151m of ascent (495 feet). I don’t know if that qualifies as a hill session – but it will have to do.

It all felt unreasonably hard – especially to begin with. I guess it’s just the cumulative effect of 5 consecutive days running for a total of about 52km (32 miles) so I didn’t run on Wednesday. I needed the break and the garden benefitted in the afternoon.

I ran with my son on Thursday – 10.1km (6.3 miles) @5.27/km, against a plan target of 5 miles. In the afternoon we laboured at the cycle park, barrowing around a large pile of wood chippings to improve some muddy pathways.

The training plan goes for a rest day on Friday, a shorter run on Saturday and a longer one on Sunday so I went for that, having manned the charity cycle shop again on Friday morning. Saturday’s weather was pretty good, if a bit windy, but I ran 10.2km (6.35 miles) @5:31/km.

For Sunday, that left either: just over 8 miles to hit the weekly total, or 12 miles for the specific run set out in the plan. I assume that the long runs are probably the most important feature in the plan so my son and I set out for the longer of the alternatives on Sunday morning.

I was rather underprepared, having forgotten that the clocks had gone forward in the night. Admittedly, my usual preparation is nothing more than a couple of cups of coffee but I missed out on one which, I’m sure, made all the difference. It was cloudy and with a wind strong enough to almost stop us in our tracks at times, which made for a very hard 20.25km (12.6 miles) at 6:05min/km.

A decent week – but all running, no turbo or cycling. Just over the 60km mark and, two weeks in, 5 miles over the training plan requirement.

I’m still in long running tights but now down to one compression and one running top (both long-sleeved, plus headband and gloves, of course, let’s not carried away just yet).

 Target Actual
Week 2: Miles (Km) 33 (53) 37.3 (60)
‘Running’ Totals 64 (103) 68.9 (111)
Week 2, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A tree that stands beside the river understands the language of the fish

2. BBC News website: Two headlines on the same summary page

‘EU plan for tougher controls on vaccine exports’

‘EU denies proposing Covid jab export ban’

One man’s control may be another man’s ban?

3. BBC News website: Jockey’s regret at positive cocaine test

A jockey has expressed regret after he was 1,000 times above the cocaine limit in a test in 2020. He said he was depressed during lockdown and took the drug four or five times while drinking in a pub a day or two before the fixture.

I know nothing about cocaine but would have assumed that, to be 1000 times over the limit, you’d be wiping powder from your nose as you walked into the testing room.

4. BBC News website: Ship blocking the Suez Canal could be dislodged Saturday

The 400m-long (1,300ft), 200,000-tonne vessel ran aground on Tuesday morning in high winds and became wedged in the canal, forcing companies to reroute ships around Africa and causing a huge traffic jam of more than 200 ships in the Red Sea.

About 12% of global trade passes through the 193km (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. The alternative route, around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, can take two weeks longer.

Saturday’s attempts to release it failed

I feel I should complain less next time I’m trapped in a motorway jam – but I know I won’t

5. On the ‘accumulating pairs of odd socks by keeping the good one when the other has a hole’ issue, the answers are in.

The kindest view is that it’s ‘frugal’. The most honest answer is that, yes, it is weird. My approach that ‘I am saving the planet, one sock at a time, by reducing unnecessary consumption and wastage’ is merely cover for inherent meanness.

Please rest assured that this post was written entirely while wearing matching socks

Turbo, mechanic, ride, run (x5). Start of ultra training – and a triathlon entry

Perhaps the best thing about Saturday’s run

I decided not to run on Monday, still feeling a bit stiff-legged from Saturday’s 25km (15.5m). Instead, it was on the turbo trainer in the early evening – 45 minutes @ 28.4kph (17.6 mph).

Monday was the first day of my 16 week ultra marathon training programme. Happily, it started with a rest day so I found myself well up to date with its gruelling schedule.

Tuesday was the first of the training plan runs, I did 9.1km (5.6 miles, against a target of 5m). It was done at 5:59/km but felt much harder – I don’t know why. A bit faster for the 10.3km (6.4miles, target 4m) run on Wednesday.

Happy St Patrick’s Day to everyone.

Thursday was supposed to be a running day but our son and I did a session in the bike shop in the morning and we got out for a quick spin on a mountain bikes in the afternoon – 25km exercising and doing a couple of chores on the way.

Friday would have been a rest day but I swapped it with Thursday and ran in the morning (9.3km – 5.7 miles against a target of 5 miles) before I drove my wife to get her first Covid jab (the Astra Zenica jab). I voted to stay in the EU but, my word, the bloc has been a shambles over its vaccination programmes. The day finished with a few hours on a fine bonfire.

That put me up to 28.7km (17.8 miles) of running for the week with 21.4km (13.3 miles) to go to hit the plan’s 31 mile target. The plan had a shorter run on Saturday and a longer one on Sunday.

I decided to take credit for the extra mileage so far in the week and go for the 31 miles in total, rather than run the weekend’s prescribed 6 and 11 milers. Back to back weekend runs are a key part of getting used to running on tired legs (as if I don’t do that pretty much all the time already).

I (sort of) fell into line and ran 15.3km (9.5 miles) on Saturday, further than I expected and it felt hard although only at 5:57/km. Another 7.1km (4.4 miles), a little faster, on Sunday to get (just) beyond the week’s plan target.

This rather demonstrates my intended approach to the training plan which is ‘approximate adherence’ with maximum flexibility. I expect I’m older than the people the plan is designed for and I doubt I’ll be able to keep up with the mileage. I’ll do what I can and that will have to be enough.

Target Actual
Week 1: Miles (Km) 31 (50) 31.6 (51)
Week 1, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Foolishness of the week

One other development this week – a friend got in touch saying he’d seen a triathlon advertised for September, and would I be interested in keeping him company. We entered the ballot and both got places. Its a sprint (750m swim, 19.8km ride and 5.4km run) so not too far … but the swim is open water in the lake at Blenheim Palace.

To be honest, I’d be more than happy to triple the ride and the run if I could halve the swim. The gyms had better open soon so I can get into the pool – and I’m going to need some open water swimming lesson.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Better little than too little

2. BBC News website: Calculating the cost of living

The UK inflation rate is calculated by monitoring the prices of a basket of more than 700 items. The make-up of the basket is reviewed regularly and high demand for items such as hand sanitiser and loungewear mean they have now been added.

Hand weights (for stuck-at-home-gym-goers), smartwatches, hybrid and electric cars and WiFi lightbulbs have also been added to the basket but white chocolate, ground coffee and sandwiches bought at work, are out.

We have sanitiser but ‘loungewear’ fills me with dread and I have no smartwatch, electric or hybrid car, my hand weights are 40 years old and I don’t even understand the concept of the WiFi lightbulb. However I am, single handedly, prepared to eat enough white chocolate to restore it to the basket.

3. BBC News website: Scam and nuisance calls

A 2018 report estimated that 85 billion auto-dialled calls (robocalls) were made world-wide with Spain, UK, Italy, France, Argentina and the US the top 6 recipient countries, in order.

Last week a caller, who claimed to be from Microsoft’s technical department, was asked “Take me off the list,” – “Give me £1,000 and I will,” she replied.

Quick thinking on her part, no doubt, but I’m not sure I’d trust her …

4. BBC News website: Dutch general election

The Dutch went to the polls this week for a general election with 37 candidate parties. Being the Dutch, there were ‘ride through’ polling stations for cyclists.

5. BBC News website: Tanzania’s President John Magufuli dies

As mentioned in my last post, the President had not been seen in public since 27 February amid rumours that he was in hospital with Covid. On Monday, 4 people were arrested on suspicion of spreading rumours on social media that the president was ill. His death was announced on Wednesday from ‘heart complications’.

6. Not such interesting stuff this week: A question

I have several pairs of black sports socks – essentially identical, other than for a maker’s logo. When one is holed, I keep the good one and, eventually, pair it up with the good one from another pair, even if that is from a different manufacturer. Is that weird?

Turbo, mechanic, run (x4 and the long run is getting longer)

I wonder how many times I’ve run along here in the last two or three years

After Saturday’s 21km run in a chilly 3℃, Spring returned Monday at 9℃ (48℉). Good running weather but my knee was whinging about the run so I used the turbo – 45 minutes @ 28.6kph (17.8mph).

Last Monday, watching Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury, I managed 29.1kph. I’m pleased that I have, scientifically and irrefutably, proved that 1970s kung fu is 0.5kph faster than a modern early evening quiz show.

My knee had stopped complaining by the time we ran on Tuesday which was another lovely back-to-Spring day. In the spirit of science established by my experiment on the turbo trainer effect of kung fu v quiz shows, I wore another pair of Asics running shoes. These were the ones that irritated my Achilles’ when I first got them in 2019 – with the Achilles’ improved, this seemed like the time to give the shoes one more chance.

The shoes felt good – well cushioned but a bit heavier and surprisingly warm. If I’ve just set my Achilles’ back a few months, at least I’ll have no one but myself to blame. It was a good run – 7.2km (4.4m) @ 6:08/km – my wife is getting faster so bravo to her.

Wednesday was cold, wet and windy – but the initial results of the change of shoes was encouraging with the Achilles continuing to improve and the knee complaining less. Despite the weather we all ran, but just the shortest of our usual routes – 5.5km (3.4m).

It was very windy on Thursday which made running hard – but I ran with our son who set a quick early pace that I struggled to stay with. It helped take us through 7.1km (4.4m) at 5:29/km (8:50/m).

I unpacked a new pair of Puma “Netfit” shoes. Once on, the fit is good – but they are significantly harder to get into. The box shows 5 different lacing options being ‘Standard’, ‘Stability’, ‘Wide Foot’, ‘Narrow Foot’ and ‘Heel Support’. Interestingly, the lacing arrangement they came with isn’t any of those – which makes no sense at all.

The charity bike shop has reopened so our son and I did a stint playing shopkeeper and bike mechanic on Friday morning and I have a bike I brought back for some work on the bottom bracket which needs either adjustment or new bearings. I took the rest of the day off.

Continuing with our plan to push the weekly long run distance, I ran with my son on Saturday. At various times we had sun, rain and hailstones – but the ever-present was a very strong wind. As always, you lose more running or cycling into the wind than you ever gain with it behind you, so that made it an unreasonably hard run.

In the end we did 25km (15.5m) – half the distance of July’s ultra – at 6:19/km. I’m not sure at what point ‘proper’ nutrition comes into the equation – pre run I had a couple of cups of coffee and a two finger Kit Kat bar and we took nothing with us.

Could I have run further? Yes.

Did I feel like turning round and doing the whole run for a second time? No.

I could have run today (Sunday) but showed some rare strength of mind and didn’t – not a difficult decision as my legs were rather sore. I’ve only once had a massage of any sort – while training for my first marathon in 1998 I had ITB problems in my left knee because of knots in the quads and a massage sorted it out perfectly. I suspect that I should consider a second once lockdown rules permit.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: An intelligent enemy is better than a stupid friend

2. BBC News website: ‘Toxic bullying’ at Sellafield nuclear site

The bullying of staff cannot be condoned, but the fact that it’s toxic seems horribly appropriate for a nuclear power station

3. BBC News website: Trader got painted stones instead of $36m (£26m) of copper

About 6,000 tonnes of copper blister was loaded into containers for shipment to China in more than 300 containers on eight vessels. It was surveyed by an inspection company and seals were fixed to the containers.

However, before its journey, the containers were opened and the copper replaced with paving stones, spray-painted to resemble copper. The fraud wasn’t discovered until the ships began arriving later that month.

All that glitters is not copper

4. BBC News website: Questions asked about missing Tanzanian president

President John Magufuli has not been seen in public for over a fortnight, as a leading Kenyan newspaper has an unconfirmed report that an African leader is in a Nairobi hospital with coronavirus.

Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world not to publish Covid data. Mr Magufuli declared Tanzania “coronavirus-free” last June but just last month seemed to accept that there is an issue although Tanzania has no plans to carry out a vaccination programme. He has previously promoted prayer and steam inhalation as a way of combatting the virus.

The government dismissed the claim saying that the President was ‘not a TV presenter or leader of a jogging club’ so he didn’t need to post selfies of himself every day, and the Prime Minister has claimed that the President is in his office, working hard.

I hope he is well and not working too hard

5. BBC News website: Brazil experts issue warning as hospitals ‘close to collapse’

Health systems in most of Brazil’s largest cities are close to collapse because of Covid-19 cases, its leading health institute warns.

Experts warn that the highly contagious variant in Brazil may have knock-on effects in the region and beyond. It has the second highest number of deaths in the world after the US and the third highest number of confirmed cases.

President Jair Bolsonaro has consistently opposed quarantine measures and expert advice on fighting coronavirus – he recently told Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ about Covid.

My very best wishes to them all

Turbo, dig, run (x5 – including a long one)

It started to feel like Spring last week but, although I don’t remember being asked to vote on it, we appear to have decided to miss out Summer and go straight into Autumn.

Accordingly, a dull and cool start to the week. To rest my legs after the weekend’s running I did 45 minutes on the turbo on Monday evening, expecting little but I managed an encouraging 29.1kph average (18.1mph).

A few days previously I had to re-route the aerial for one of the TVs and had borrowed a lead from the one I use when on the turbo. With no TV to watch I had to use the integrated DVD and chose an old Bruce Lee film – ‘Fist of Fury’. Clearly 1970s kung fu is a good performance enhancer.

On Tuesday I ran with my son – 7km (4.3m) @ 5:33/km – faster than recent runs. The three of us did the same route on Wednesday and I even managed to get in the first mow of the year, before the afternoon rain. First cut on 3rd March? Probably another personal best.

The vaccination programme in the UK continues apace with about one third of adults having received their first jab – my wife now has dates for her jabs too.

Although the EU’s regulator approved the Astra Zenica vaccine for use with all age groups, the French President said that the A-Z vaccine was ‘quasi-ineffective’ for older people – completely bewildering given that the most cautious view I heard was simply that there were insufficient older people in some studies to give conclusive evidence as to its efficacy for them.

On Tuesday France reversed its stance and is making the vaccine available to the 65-74 age group. On Thursday came the announcement that Germany is now going to use the A-Z vaccine for all ages and Belgium is following the new stance taken by France. I hope the hiatus will not have caused any long-term damage.

On the vaccination topic, here is one thing I had never expected to write: ‘Kudos to Dolly Parton’. I might not be a fan of the music, but she is a real trooper!

I ran with my wife on Thursday – 5.5km (3.4m) and in the afternoon our son and I did a couple of hours of hard labour at the cycle park – charitable volunteering is an acceptable reason to leave home in the lockdown. The two bits of fitness equipment we installed last year are being well used and we had to dig out the rather muddy areas around their bases because they had become potential slip hazards. The areas will be filled with wood chippings.

Laps of the old hill fort on Friday – 9.9km (6.1m). I’m trying to run on different surfaces and using at least 4 different pairs of shoes which is supposed to help avoid injuries. I’m also trying to remember to stretch and do core exercises – but it’s so much easier to do those as part of my normal gym visits. The gyms are due to re-open on 12 April.

My son and I set ourselves the challenge of extending our long runs. We do 10km (6 miles) fairly regularly but last week pushed that beyond 16km (just over 10 miles) and had the aim of getting to a half marathon this week.

Saturday was cold (about 3℃ or 38℉) and it probably wasn’t the best day to choose being my seventh day of running in eight consecutive days of exercise – but it was dry and bright so off we went. We decided to run two different out and back routes to keep local.

We didn’t exactly undertake text-book preparation – I had a couple of cups of coffee and a chocolate bar before we went out and we didn’t take any food or water with us – but we ran steadily and did just a little more than the half marathon (21.24km, 13.2m) in a very enjoyable 2hours 12 minutes with no great dramas, unreasonable exertions or lasting pains.

I could have run (slowly) or cycled on Sunday but a rest day seems like a much better idea.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you do not have patience you cannot make beer

Fortunately, you can still drink it (in moderation, of course)

2. BBC News website: Briton sentenced for breaking Singapore quarantine

Nigel Skea, 52, was quarantined in a hotel but walked up 13 flights of an emergency staircase to spend the night with his fiancee who had booked into the same hotel, even though she lives in Singapore. They spent nine hours together.

I like the fact that the report mentions 13 flights of stairs and 9 hours – a sign of some admiration ..?

3. BBC News website: The BBC condemns online abuse

A reporter received ‘online abuse’ after her (to my mind, slightly crass, but nothing more) interviews after Wales’ 40-24 Six Nations rugby win over England.

She wrote on Twitter: “Toxic, embarrassing, disgraceful, appalling. Just some of the feedback I’ve had. Now imagine getting inundated with abuse for doing your job. In my car crying. Hope you’re happy.”

I don’t like to think of her upset but I do struggle a bit. Of course, abuse is not acceptable – but is the use of ’embarrassing’ and ‘appalling’ actually abuse or is it just criticism? No to abuse – but are people in the media exempt from reasonable and fair criticism? How and where is the line to be drawn?

4. BBC News website: Doctor joins Zoom court hearing while operating on patient

The surgeon was dressed in surgical scrubs in an operating theatre when he appeared at his virtual trial in a Californian traffic court. He said he was happy to go ahead, and that he had “another surgeon right here who’s doing the surgery with me”.

The judge said that would not be “appropriate” to proceed and postponed the trial. The Medical Board of California has said it will look into the incident.

And women say men can’t multi-task …

5. BBC News website: Malasian “sugar daddy” dating app

‘Sugarbook’ promised to link younger women (‘sugarbabies’) with older men who are expected to provide financial support. The app’s slogan is “where romance meets finance”.

The founder has been arrested under anti-prostitution laws