Monthly Archives:

Sportive – lessons learnt (and forgotten lessons re-learnt)

Looks like it’s back to the bike after July’s ultra

After Sunday’s sportive, I postponed the usual Monday morning gym session. I was interested to see how the knee would be when I got up and was pleasantly surprised to find no ill effects.

The sportive was a fascinating example of doing almost everything wrong, but getting away with it. Especially interesting, as its a rather hilly and normally testing sportive but with the wind and cold this year it became – to use the most common, repeatable, description used by folks I saw finish – ‘brutal’.

I’ve ridden outside for just 140km (under 90 miles) this year and not done much on the turbo either. That left me very underprepared for the 112km (70 miles) sportive. To look on the bright side, it would have been so disappointing to have arrived at the start in great shape, intending to go a fast time – and then be entirely thwarted by the weather.

Although it was very hard, the main consequence of riding only 100km (62 miles) on my ‘proper’ bike beforehand was that my backside was not properly hardened for the strip of carbon fibre I call a saddle.

We got away late in the window allowed for starting, which meant we saw very few chains of cyclists that we might have been able to join to share the work into the wind. Although three of us set off together one shot off ahead and the other did the longer route so I cycled with him for 30km (about 19 miles) and then 51 miles (82km) alone.

I took 750ml of water and several oat bars and gels with me. I drank about 250ml and ate nothing. Before starting I’d had two oat bars and half a cup of coffee. It was so cold I wasn’t exactly sweating – but that doesn’t quite seem to be enough food or fluid.

It looks like just about everyone suffered in terms of time – mine was good enough for 1st in the over 60s category (and 4th overall) but was only 30 minutes inside my best for the longer distance which is an extra 20 miles (32km).

I like to get good advice but am stubborn enough to want to go with my own view until I end up proving that I was wrong and so validate the advice. My recent experiences have demonstrated that I am no sort of athlete but am almost within reach of ‘barely adequate’ (for an old bloke) at running and cycling.

However, to get better at the running I need to run more – and the knee may not be up to that. On the other hand, cycling doesn’t seem to come with as many inevitable injury prospects (in the absence of falling off).

To demonstrate my pig-headedness I do plan to do July’s ultra marathon (on a reduced training schedule) as some friends want to do some sponsorship for a charity we support and it’s a proper challenge. After that I’ll be limiting the running and going back to cycling as the main hobby and fitness regime. Thanks Jim and the Unironedman.

As this is a post outside the normal weekly routine, just one bit of Interesting stuff (early) this week

African wise words: You must attend to your business with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market

Gym (x2), ride (a small one), ride (a much bigger and very hard one)

A Monday morning gym session is part of my regime in the brave new world of Covid-lockdown relaxation. I was the only person there for the hour it took me to lift some weights.

A big advantage of the gym is that, at the end of a session I always do some stretches – something I almost never remember to do properly at home. I’m working on the basis that the strengthening and stretching must be helping mend my knee.

Back to Bournemouth on Tuesday for more gardening and house maintenance and hedge planting at home on Wednesday. After I defrosted from an hour in the gym on Thursday morning (it was ‘see your breath’ cold in there) I drove to our son’s house just outside London to leave him a car to drive down to Bournemouth for a few days.

The original intention was that I’d run the 8 miles from his place to our flat and then on a train back home. The knee put paid to that so I stowed a bike in the back of the car and cycled from him to our place, leaving the bike there to be collected next time we go up (remembering not to use my wife’s Mini for that trip).

The only times I’ve cycled in London have been for the Ride London sportive – very early to get to the start or on closed roads for the sportive itself. As it turned out, there were bike lanes and wide pavements shared between pedestrians and cyclists for most of the way so it was very enjoyable even though my route ran along a major road.

I took my wife’s hybrid bike and that was a good move as I never felt any need or inclination to go particularly fast. In the end, 12.4km (a bit under 8 miles) in a leisurely 37 minutes. Then a trip across London and a train back.

Cycle shop on Friday morning and friends over for drinks in the evening. I had a restful Saturday because Sunday saw the White Horse Challenge sportive.

With little cycling (four previous rides this year and the dodgy knee), riding the White Horse Challenge sportive was a bit of a no-brainer (as in ‘you must have no brain to come to that decision’). However, the sensible thing I did was to opt for the 70 mile route with over 4900 feet of climbing, rather than the 90 miler with over 5500 feet of climbing.

(That’s 112km with 1500m of climbing rather than 144km with 1700m).

It was really tough – cold at the start (3℃, 37℉) and there was a relentless 20+mph wind, which I rode into, solo, for about 30 miles. I managed 4hrs 34 min, not very quick but it was certainly not a day to post personal bests. To my surprise, that was gold standard and I was 4th overall of those on the 70mile route and 1st out of the over 60s.

With apologies for being a knee bore (but hoping not to become a knee jerk), it is still improving, but slowly. Having now ‘invested’ over two weeks in not running I’m uncertain as to when to restart. I risked the cycling (and seem to have got away with it) but would be a shame to spoil the recuperation by running again too soon. Still a while away from running yet I think.

I’ve abandoned the original training plan for the ultra – even if the knee healed tomorrow I’m more likely to follow the plan on the event website from here on.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 6: Miles (Km) 20 (32)
‘Running’ Totals 87.5 (140) 120 (193)
Week 6, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A fish has nothing to do with a raincoat

2. BBC News website: Ambulance Service dropped woman, 89, at wrong house

Elizabeth Mahoney had been in hospital for 10 weeks but when she was discharged, instead of being taken home, she was put to bed in a stranger’s house. The man who lived there had been expecting the arrival of his sister, who had dementia, but had not immediately realised Mrs Mahoney was not his sister.

Mrs Mahoney had tried telling the crew she was not the patient they thought she was, and that she was being left at the wrong house – but was then frightened because she thought she was being put in a home.

3. BBC News website: Product placements may soon be added to classic films

in 2019 the total global product placement industry, across films, TV shows and music videos, was said to be worth $20.6bn (£15bn). Now technology can insert computer-generated images so that the human eye does not realise has been done post-production.

Soon there could be new labels on the champagne bottles in Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, and different background neon advertising signs to Ocean’s 11. Then a few weeks, months or years later the added products could be switched to different brands.

I must be in a minority – product placements put me off because I feel they are trying to play me for an impressionable fool

4. BBC News website: Hospital employee accused of skipping work for 15 years

A hospital employee in Italy is alleged to have stopped turning up to work at the Ciaccio hospital in the southern city of Catanzaro in 2005.

The police have also accused him of threatening his manager to stop her from filing a disciplinary report against him. That manager later retired and his ongoing absence was never noticed by her successor or human resources. Six managers at the hospital are also being investigated in connection with the alleged absenteeism.

Gym (x2), turbo (x2), mechanic, ride (what, no running?)

Re-opened on Monday 12th April, with the machines moved further apart taking up the leisure centre foyer and one of the squash courts

Monday was important in the UK’s lockdown easing. Non-essential shops, services, outdoor attractions and gyms reopened, pubs and cafes could serve outside. It snowed. That, Alanis, is ironic.

I decided that if the gym was taking the trouble to open the least I could do was to turn up, so I was there just after 8am (slightly late as a result of clearing snow off the cars). There was only one other person in there during my 50 minutes and it felt very safe (and, happily, not as cold as it was before Christmas but I had hat, gloves and jacket, just in case).

It was good to be back after nearly 4 months but I reduced most of the weights I lift, just to be cautious. With all the running I’ve been doing, I was surprised by how hard some of it was. It just goes to show (I guess) how important variety is in an exercise regime.

We went down to Bournemouth on Tuesday, something else we can now do for the first time for months. We went to check on the house, mow the lawns and make sure it’s OK for our older son and his girlfriend to go down in a couple of weeks. Sadly, much as I love running along the promenade, I didn’t run while we were there. Partly, that was due to being tight for time and partly out of respect for my knee.

I am not a vain person*/I am inclined to be scruffy* (*delete as applicable) so I was not bothered that I’d not had a haircut for 4 months. However, my hair is a very personal shade of blond (some who don’t know any better call it grey) and somewhat unruly. A higher authority decided that it needed cutting so I went on Wednesday. On my return I got “Oh no, you’ve lost your curls”.

To my knowledge, hairdressers tend to cut the ends off the hairs rather than wind the excess back into the scalp – how could I get it cut without losing the curls? Sometimes you just can’t win.

I did 30 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday evening – 14km @28kph (17.4mph) and was back on it again on Thursday – 21km in 45 minutes @28kph (17.4mph). Hard.

Gym again on Friday morning, using slightly increased weights compared to last week, but with more reps and extra care on anything involving the left knee. After that, the regular Friday session in charge of the cycle club’s charity bike shop with my son – we sold the shop’s 50th bike since its reopening 4 weeks ago (and the 51st and 52nd).

I took Saturday off but watched the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Our younger son went up to Kensington Palace a few years ago to collect his Gold Award under the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. The Duke spoke to a small group of award winners and asked if anyone had a job. Our son was on his gap year at the time and piped up that he was working as a barman. “A barman! No doubt your parents were glad to get you off their hands.” was the Duke’s response. Nicely non-PC, to my mind.

Sunday was lovely and after a bit of gardening I had a quick fettle on the bike to sort out some slightly unhappy gears. To give it a test, and to see how the knee would go on a bike in the real world I decide to go for a quick solo ride – only my third outside this year. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive but it was really good and (for me) surprisingly fast – 42km @29.5kph (26 miles @18.3mph).

Figuratively, my knee has been all over the place this week (although, literally, it has had the decency to remain between the bones of my upper and lower leg). It has felt much better at times and has then started hurting for no apparent reason – and at times the pains have seemed to be coming from at least three different points.

However, after 10 days without running, on the plus side, the Achilles is cured (I hope) and the knee is improving. On the negative side, my guess is that I’ve sprained the Medial Collateral Ligament, just as I did back in December 2019. I’m assuming that it’s a grade 1 sprain and it should heal within a few weeks.

I’ll keep a careful watch on its progress and run when it seems sensible. I am still going to do the ultra marathon in July – it just remains to be seen how much training (beforehand) and therefore running (during) will be possible.

At least I’m still way beyond the demands of the event website training plan (plan 1).

 Target Plan 1 My Actual Target Plan 2
Week 5: Miles (Km) 19 (30) 39 (63)
‘Running’ Totals 67.5 (108) 120 (193) 172 (277)
Week 5, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who runs faster, tires faster

Omil’s less wise words: He who runs further messes up his knee

2. BBC News website: Korean cosmetics brand apologises for beauty product that is less environmentally friendly than its packaging suggests.

Last year a green-tea beauty product was launched in what was labelled a “paper bottle” as part of the brand’s initiative to reduce the use of plastic packaging.

A customer questioned the product’s eco-friendly credentials and shared photos of the product showing that it was actually packaged in a plastic bottle wrapped in paper.

3. BBC News website: Facebook mistakenly removes French town’s page

The social network’s algorithm confused the name of the town Ville de Bitche, with the English insult. Bitche’s mayor said the Facebook page of the town (population 5,000) was removed on 19 March for violating site rules. “The name of our town seemed to suffer from a bad interpretation,” he added.

Facebook said it had reinstated the page on Tuesday after spotting the error.

Residents of the Oxfordshire village of ‘Great Coxwell’ are nervous

4. BBC News website: Chinese man kidnapped and killed in body swap scheme

in Guangdong province all dead bodies must to be cremated. A family hired someone to provide them with a substitute body, which was cremated in place of a deceased family member who was then secretly buried in a traditional burial.

But, while the family assumed the man they hired would look for another dead body, he murdered someone in order to fulfil the deal.

5. BBC News website: Egypt seizes ship that blocked Suez Canal

Egypt will impound the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal last month until its Japanese owner pays $900m (£652m) in compensation.

One of the Ever Given’s insurers described the claim, which includes $300m for a salvage bonus and $300m for loss of reputation, as “extraordinarily large” and “largely unsupported”.

6. Another ‘almost’ joke: Name five footballers with names associated with meat

Bary Venison, Tony Currie, Frank LeBoeuf, Patric Berger and Paulo Wanchope

Like last week, my apologies to those who do not follow football (soccer)

Run, run, limp, hobble, mechanic, turbo, (if the wheels haven’t actually come off, they’re very loose)

I am very confused. The first three weeks of the training plan I’m following had 163km of running (longest 23km). The event website’s equivalent plan had 63km over those three weeks (longest 10km).

I understand that different plans will be … er … ‘different’ … but these are, literally, miles apart. The fourth week of the event’s plan is 15km whereas the plan I’ve been following has 51km. I’ve checked that it isn’t merely number dyslexia, so how can the plans be that different?

I’m now not sure what to do. I feel fairly sure that doing more training leads to a better race result. That might mean easier or faster – I’m not too worried about faster but I’ll sign up for easier. After 100+ miles in the first three weeks I don’t want the next 13 weeks of the current plan to spoil my enjoyment of running, or damage my suspect knee which has been a bit of an issue for many weeks. (I wrote this on Monday and turned out to be a prophet).

I think I’m going to ‘suck it and see’ by looking at both plans (I’ve added the plan from the event website to my table at the end of the post as ‘Plan 1’) and do what feels possible and ‘right’ for me. I’m also bearing in mind that the gym will reopen soon and 5 days of running plus the gym, sounds like too much – especially as I need to start swimming in view of September’s triathlon.

Monday was a rest day, thank goodness, but I ran with my wife on a cold breezy Tuesday – 9km (5.6 miles). Later on Tuesday it snowed and there was a little snow on the ground early on Wednesday.

That softened the blow of missing out on my first training plan run as I spent the morning rigging up a canopy and wind break for my wife who had invited some friends for lunch. Our lockdown rules are gradually relaxing and allow such gatherings but only if they are outside. They were out in the garden in 4℃ (40℉) with coats, rugs, gloves and hats – but they seemed to have a great time over their first shared lunch for months.

We all ran on Thursday – 9km (5.6 miles) but by the end of it I had a knee that was more painful than the usual niggle. We had friends over for an excellent early supper making more good use of the canopy arrangement – but this outdoor dining lark is mightily cold in the current poor weather.

My knee continued to get worse through the evening and it took until about 4am for me to find a way to make it comfortable in bed and get off to sleep. If I had any idea of running on Friday to make up for missing Wednesday, the knee put paid to that – but my son and I managed a session looking after the charity cycle shop in the morning. We sold a couple of bikes, took in two donations, fixed a few of repair issues and received another bike for repair.

The knee improved during Friday and I slept better that night but is it cartilage or ligament, or something else? Do I cut down the running or stop it completely – and for how long?

The question was easy to answer on Saturday as, although still improving, the knee was certainly not up to a run so I gave it another rest day. My heart wasn’t broken as it was cold and very wet.

The decision not to run on Sunday was easy as well – made for me by the knee. The question now is whether it needs just a few days rest or a few weeks rest to recover. Either way, it seems more sensible to give it the rest it needs now, rather than nearer the time of the ultra marathon.

I tried the turbo trainer late Sunday afternoon on the basis that might be OK in the absence of any impact or twisting on the knee. It was OK – 15km in 30 hard minutes.

 Target Plan 1 My Actual Target Plan 2
Week 4: Miles (Km) 9 (15) 11.2 (18) 32 (51.5)
‘Running’ Totals 48.5 (78) 120 (193) 133 (214)
Week 4, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

The gyms re-open tomorrow – I’ve booked in for a morning session.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Advice is a stranger; if he is welcome he stays for the night; if not, he leaves the same day

2. BBC News website: Italian navy captain accused of spying for Russia

The 54 year old was arrested in a car park on Tuesday, accused of exchanging secrets for thousands of euros.

He has refused to answer questions, but his wife said “He was just desperate”, being unable to cope with the financial strains of living on a monthly salary of €3,000 (£2,500; $3,500). She insisted he would do nothing to harm Italy. “He gave the minimum he could to the Russians” she said.

Odd. I’d have thought that ‘nothing’ is the minimum he could have given to the Russians

3. BBC News website: ‘Mrs World’ arrested over Sri Lanka pageant bust-up

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested the reigning ‘Mrs World’, after she allegedly injured a fellow beauty queen in an on-stage bust-up.

She was meant to crown the winner of the “Mrs Sri Lanka” title but, instead, pulled the crown off the winner’s head, claiming she could not hold the title as she was divorced. The winner later said she is separated from her husband, not divorced.

I do not believe that she is being considered for the lead role in ‘Miss Congeniality 2’

4. BBC News website: Fugitive Dutch cheese-seller jailed over false slavery claim

Branco van Wissen was a cheese seller working on a market in Cumbria. A rival trader selling flowers was, according to Wissen, “intimidating, menacing” and subjecting him to a “campaign of abuse and terror”.

Wissen contacted the police to accuse the rival of holding two people captive in slavery. He then fled to his native Netherlands, but was extradited and has been jailed for 18 months after admitting to an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

‘Fugitive Dutch cheese-seller’ is another thing I wasn’t expecting ever to write

5. Almost a joke: Name 5 F1 racing drivers with names linked to places in Scotland

Louis Hamilton, Eddie Irvine, Sterling Moss, Johnny Dunfries and Ayr Town-Centre

Apologies to non F1 fans to whom this probably makes no sense at all

6. RIP: The Duke of Edinburgh

I’m not much of a royalist but I do think that the Queen is magnificent and the Duke, who died on Friday at the age of 99, was possibly the last of his kind, having fought in WW2 and dedicated his life to the support of his wife and service of his adopted country. Quite a man.

Run x5, and which is further, a lap run clockwise or anticlockwise?

The training plan had Monday as a rest day. After the weekend’s 6 and 12 mile runs I embraced that warmly, devoting the day to bike mechanics and planting a bank in the garden with wild flowers.

The week’s training programme (in miles) requires 6, 5, 6 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) and 6 and 14 (Saturday and Sunday) for 37 miles in total. In Km that’s about 10, 8, 10, 10 and 22.5), total 60km.

On Tuesday I ran up the village with my wife and then did 10 laps of the old hill fort at Badbury Clump. It was glorious weather – my first run for months with no base layer or gloves. In keeping with my running shoe rotation policy, I ran in my minimalist shoes (shoes No6) and the whole thing was lovely. In all, it was 10.8km (6.7 miles).

For months I’ve whinged about how the lap of the old hill fort seems to be under-recorded on my Garmin – I may not run fast but I know that I’m running laps faster than the 7min/km which is sometimes what it’s been recording. This time, suddenly, I was running over a minute a km faster. As a creature of habit, I run the circuit clockwise. For some reason on Tuesday I ran it anticlockwise. What on earth is going on?

We all ran on Wednesday morning and I added a bit to make it 9.1km (5.65 miles). That made it something like 220km (136 miles) for the month and 577km (358 miles) running for the first three months of the year – nearly half of my total for the whole of 2020.

On a colder Thursday I went back to Badbury Clump and ran 9 circuits – 3 clockwise and 6 anticlockwise. I’ve checked again and the Strava segment for the circuit run clockwise is 0.59km but the segment for running it anticlockwise is 0.65km. Perhaps whoever set up the segments had better satellite reception for one than the other so that one segment is a bit approximate? Whichever way it was measured, I ran a total of 10.7km (6.6 miles) and will now carry on running anticlockwise.

Now I want all those miles back that I’ve been cheated out of over the years ….

End of ‘cluckdown

Since mid-December an outbreak of avian flu led to the lockdown of poultry in the country. That has now been lifted so the chickens are released from their much reduced wild-bird-secure run. They are very pleased – but to be honest they were never very grateful for my efforts on behalf of their safety.

Friday was a rest day – we took advantage of the removal of the ‘stay at home’ requirement and drove to see our older son for only the second time since November (we helped him and his girlfriend move in February but that was hard work). We were outside and socially distanced but seeing him was a real treat, with the added bonus of a walk in the lovely (and huge – 2500 acres) Richmond Park.

The plan required runs on Saturday and Sunday – 6 and 14 miles respectively (10 and 22.5km). Since I am incapable of anything but blind adherence to the plan, that’s what I did. Saturday’s run was less enjoyable than usual with tired legs and a cold north-easterly breeze but we managed 10.14km (6.3 miles).

Sunday was brighter but still fairly cold, although the wind had turned to come from the west. The bonfire we lit on Thursday was still producing wisps of smoke but nothing to be a problem for the rest of the village. I ran the required 23km (14.4 miles) along farm some roads but found it very hard indeed at just under 6:30/km. Rarely has an Easter egg been more earned.

 Target Actual
Week 3: Miles (Km) 37 (60) 40 (64)
‘Running’ Totals 101 (163) 109 (175)
Week 3, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

White Horse Challenge

The White Horse Challenge sportive has been confirmed for 25 April. I can’t now get into any sort of cycling shape, especially with the demands of the ultra training, but I’ll ride it anyway, just for the pleasure of a long ride (it’s 90 miles – 144km). I’m not quite sure what to do about that week’s runs but I’ll think about it nearer the time.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When you befriend a chief remember that he sits on a rope

2. BBC News website: Endangered bird ‘has forgotten its song’

The ‘regent honeyeater’, is listed as critically endangered; just 300 individuals remain in the world. The Austrian songbird has become so threatened that it has started to lose its song, as “They don’t get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they’re supposed to sound like.” Scientists are now using recordings of wild birds to teach captive honeyeaters their own song.

3. BBC News website: France seeks Unesco heritage status for the baguette

The UN intangible cultural heritage register aims to protect traditions, knowledge and skills, so they are not lost over time. Altogether it contains more than 350 traditions and crafts, ranging from better known practices such as Spanish flamenco dancing and Indonesian batik fabric making to (even) more obscure items such as a Turkish oil wrestling festival and a Mongolian camel coaxing ritual.

France has now nominated its staple bread stick for inclusion. Some 10 billion baguettes are consumed in France each year, but about 20,000 bakeries have closed since 1970. French bakers say listing would safeguard an art that has been passed down through generations and protect the baguette from global plagiarists.

‘Global baguette plagiarists’?

4. BBC News website: Earth “safe” from asteroid for the next 100 years at least.

Apophis (named for the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and darkness) is Earth’s most threatening asteroid. Close calls in 2029 and 2036 were predicted and later ruled out. A slight threat still remained for 2068 but now, based on new analysis, Nasa has dismissed that threat.

We can now sleep at night

5. BBC News website: Spongy Roads – Slough’s new claim to fame

Slough (just to the west of London) is one of those places that has a bad, slightly comic, reputation. It was the setting for Ricky Gervais’ The Office and poet John Betjeman famously wrote ‘ Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough it isn’t fit for humans now’.

It now looks set to gain a new claim to fame as it will get the Chinese “sponge city” treatment. The flood defence system will see selected roads transformed with permeable surfaces that soak up surface water.