Monthly Archives: May 2021

Run, run, swim (pool), swim (open water!), gym, mechanic, run

Hammersmith Bridge – still closed (and will be for some years yet)

A gentle run to start the week – one of the usual routes for just over 7km (4.4 miles) at just under 6 min/km. The weather is still bizarre – very pleasant on the run, hailstones soon after we finished.

I’d contemplated swimming in the evening but in the afternoon I did some digging and fencing of the new vegetable area with our son, between showers, and that finished me off for the day.

We all ran the same 7km route on Tuesday morning (with the amount of rain we’ve had recently, it seems the safest bet) but I managed to mow for the first time in a couple of weeks. I’m told that last year in May we had 20 days of 20℃ (68℉) or more – so far this year there had been just the one.

In the evening I went back to the pool. There is a lot to think about with this swimming lark – not least ‘breathe out with face under the water and in with face out of the water’. One theory seems to be that the more you swim, more stuff becomes natural, leaving you to concentrate on fewer but more important things. If I ever find out what on earth those important things might be I’ll be making progress.

I managed another 1.1km – with the 1km in 28 minutes again.

I’m nowhere near to mastering swimming but it’s a more comfortable experience than it was … and having made it more comfortable I’m going to try it in the open water to increase the discomfort factor exponentially.

Thursday came with improved weather. The coaching session was being shared with a friend (who has also signed up for the triathlon in September) so we dutifully turned up at the lake – it’s an old gravel pit about 20 miles away – with wetsuits and little in the way of swimming skills or confidence.

I’ll admit to having serious concerns about the whole thing as I had never swum in a river or lake and am a wimp in the cold. I have no idea whether it was especially cold or not for open water swimming but the water was 16.4℃ (61.5℉). The instructor was very good with the necessary acclimatisation and gave us just a small number of things to work on, rather than throwing a dozen things at us to confuse us completely.

We were in for nearly 50 minutes which was spent getting us happy in the open water and working on breathing, the leg kick and sighting. I expect we swam no more than 800m but I did at least do a 100m swim (which is no big deal for most people, but is a step up from lengths of a 25m pool).

Clearly, there is basic swimming technique to be learned and honed – and then open water techniques to be added to that, but I came away feeling much happier about swimming in the open water.

To my surprise I really enjoyed the session – and the pike, swans, geese and goslings didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence. For a poor swimmer, it’s a bit daunting to realise what 750m of water looks like – but it has given me some confidence that I might be able to do it. We are going to book another open water session in July.

One new concern – I loved the extra buoyancy the wetsuit provided but my transition time between the swim and the cycle could be as long as the swim itself, given my total incompetence at getting out of it.

An hour in the gym on Friday morning, followed by a session in the bike shop and supper with friends.

On Saturday I drove up to London with my wife after a day in the garden. We stayed at the flat overnight (the first time for over a year!) and had lunch with friends on Sunday, but not until one of my great delights from any trip to London – a run along the Thames Path in the morning.

West Kensington to Hammersmith, join the Path at Hammersmith Bridge, down to Putney Bridge, over that and a short way up the Path on the other side, and back again. A very nice 10km in an hour and the first run for many months without a compression top beneath the running shirt.

An interesting week in many ways. The knee is ok but I’ve almost forgotten about training for the ultra in July as that would make me want to ramp the mileage back up and that might not be wise. I’ll keep the running going for the sheer pleasure of it – and I now have an aim of improving the swimming. The instructor said that three times a week is needed to improve significantly – it’s going to be difficult to fit that in with the gym and cycling too.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The storm worsens when it’s ending

2. BBC News website: New dark matter map reveals cosmic mystery

An international team of researchers has created the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of so-called dark matter in the Universe but the results are a surprise because they show that it is slightly smoother and more spread out than the current best theories predict. The observation appears to stray from Einstein’s theory of general relativity – posing a conundrum for researchers.

I may not sleep tonight

3.BBC News website: Robot submarine Boaty McBoatface in Loch Ness dive tests

An online initiative in 2016 asked the public to suggest a name for a new polar exploration ship.

‘Boaty McBoatface’ was the suggestion that gained most support (124,109 votes) but UK government ministers rejected this as inappropriate, and ordered that the ship be called RRS Sir David Attenborough. It was decided, however, that one of its robot submarines could be named Boaty McBoatface.

Bloggy McBlogface hopes that Nessy McNessface isn’t bothered by the intrusion into its lake

4. BBC News website: New Zealand fugitive charters helicopter to police station

A man who had been on the run in rural New Zealand hired a helicopter to fly to a police station and surrender. The man, who faces assault charges, spent five weeks apparently hiding in a small town in North Otago.

He told local media his time there had been “great”, but he was ready to leave “the middle of nowhere”.

On release from jail, I wonder if he’ll get the job as the town’s PR and tourism consultant

5. BBC News website: Man arrested for ‘flying’ dog with helium balloons

Indian police have arrested a YouTuber for tying helium balloons to his pet dog “in an attempt to make it fly”.

The man shot a video showing his dog attached to balloons, which he then lets go of as the pet starts to fly in the air. A few seconds later, someone on the balcony of the second floor of a building catches the dog.

Mr Sharma said he followed all safety measures, but deleted the video after a social media backlash.

I wonder where you find the list of ‘all safety measures’ for tying your dog to helium balloons

Swim (sort of), swim (ish), swim (nearly), run (x2), gym, cycle trainer, turbo

On Monday I went to the local swimming pool. I was nervous getting back to running after my lay-off, but nothing compared to the thought of swimming for the first time in a few years.

I learnt to swim at school but they were more ‘not drowning’ lessons than actual ‘swimming’ lessons as there was no real attention to technique – just short term survival in the water.

In theory I can swim very well – I’ve studied the websites and YouTube videos – it’s just when it comes to doing it in real life that it all falls apart. I can make some forward progress in the water, but it is nothing like a fair return for all the effort, gasping and splashing that goes into it. On Monday I swam for about 30 minutes, front crawl(ish) but with no idea of how many lengths I managed.

The triathlon in September has an open water swim so I have an open water training session arranged in less than two weeks (hence getting into the water now) but so much more practice is going to be needed to get anything useful out of that session.

My biggest problem is that I have been told that with open water swimming there are no pool ends every 25 metres where you can pretend to be turning while desperately clinging on and sucking in air. What are they thinking of?

I was in rather the more comfortable surroundings of a run of just over 7km (4.4 miles) on Tuesday morning – dry land is much underrated in my opinion.

However, I must try to improve my swimming fairly quickly, and, sadly, the best way of doing that seems to be to do more swimming. Therefore it was back to the pool in the evening for 30 minutes, but remembering to count the lengths swum – 40 (1km).

After a day off on Wednesday it was back to the gym for an hour on Thursday morning and back in the pool in the evening. Another 1km but just a little faster at 28 minutes.

I don’t know if it’s a sign that I’m doing it right or doing it wrong but I can feel some muscles (the latissimus dorsi – the ‘lats’?) being worked by the swimming that haven’t been worked in the same way by the running, cycling or gym. Up to now, I’ve not had too much use for arms or shoulders either so they are also getting a better workout in the pool.

Bike shop volunteering session on Friday morning – a nice variety, working on a child’s bike, an adult’s mountain bike and an old Dawes Galaxy tourer, complete with bar end shifters. Quite a bike in its day and a generous donation by someone.

I went for a solo run on Saturday, pushing the pace and distance a little – 10.5km (6.5 miles) at just under 4 hour marathon pace. I keep thinking that the training in the gym, running, swimming and on the bike will come together so that all of them will miraculously improve. No sign of that happening.

It was cycle training lessons for children at the cycle park on Sunday morning (pretty well non-stop jogging by the side of nervous young cyclists) and I got on the turbo trainer in the late afternoon for a lacklustre 13.4km (8.3 miles) in 30 minutes.

A tough week with 7 sessions of one sort or another. Even though the swimming doesn’t take too long, I find it very tiring – perhaps I should try doing it better?

After three session of flailing around in the pool this week, I can confirm that I can swim in the sense of making some forward progress in the water – but cannot swim in the sense of looking like I know what I’m doing.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A doctor who invoked a storm on his people cannot prevent his house from destruction

2. BBC News website: Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua fight less likely

Fury had agreed to fight Joshua in a highly-anticipated fight in August but the boxing authorities have concluded that Deontay Wilder had a contractual right to face Fury for a third time, by 15 September.

Fury said Wilder asked for $20m (£14m) to forego his right to the fight and allow Fury to fight Joshua, while Wilder’s trainer said he had no interest in step-aside money and wanted the fight.

I’d just like to say that I would be prepared not to fight Tyson Fury for much less than $20m.

3. BBC News website: Yoga can now legally be taught in Alabama public schools

The state’s department of education barred yoga in 1993, citing its connection to Hinduism.

The new law limits yoga to stretches and poses, and prohibits non-English descriptions as well as “any aspect of Eastern philosophy and religious training”. Chanting is also not allowed, including the use of the sound “om”. 

um …

4. BBC News website: Severe weather kills cross-country runners

At least 21 people have died as high winds and freezing rain hit participants in the 100km (60-mile) race in the Yellow River Stone Forest, a tourist site in Gansu province, China, state-run media reported.

The race was halted when some of the 172 runners went missing, Xinhua news agency said. The bodies were found by search-and-rescue teams on Sunday.

That is so sad and so extreme. It puts all my whinging about a bit of rain on a run into perspective

5. Did you know: The collective noun for a group of flamingos is ‘a flamboyance’

Gym (with short run), short ride, gym, mechanic, AAA screening, run, run

After Sunday’s run I took Monday as a rest day. It’s not that the run was at all far or fast but being the first for over 4 weeks there was an element of the unknown when it came to the knee’s reaction.

Fair to say the knee is not as good as new – but is much improved. Strangely, after the cycling and innumerable gym heel drops and raises, both calf muscles were a bit tight.

What now? I’m sure it would be daft to try to pick up the training plan straight away – I’ll have to ease my way into it and simply do what I can without aggravating the knee again. If I have to take another few weeks off running in order to get to the ultra start line, I’ll do that. I wonder what the record is for the least distance run in training for an ultra marathon?

Gardening (repossessing the conservatory by evicting the geraniums, dahlias, lemon and olive trees, catmint and lily of the valley) and then drinks with friends filled the rest of Monday. On Tuesday morning it was the gym for an hour, then to lunch with friends.

Since the gyms reopened I’ve cut the weights back by 10% but increased the reps by 20% – it feels OK and I fitted in another 1km on the treadmill on Tuesday. It wasn’t even too cold and the door can be shut from 17 May!

Back up to London on Wednesday: train to our flat, pick up the bike I left there when I dropped the VW Golf off to our older son a few days ago, short cycle (12.8km – 8 miles) to Kingston Upon Thames to collect the car after his week in Bournemouth, then drive it back home. I may be getting the thin end of this car lending lark.

Gym for an hour on Thursday morning and a slightly short stint at the charity bike shop on Friday as I was recently offered ‘Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening’. It is an age-related programme to detect weakening of the aorta, so I thought I might as well take part.

The good news is that my aorta is behaving extremely well – it is 1.7cm wide so it is not enlarged. I need no treatment or ongoing monitoring as it seems that, having got to 65 without any problems, I’m not likely to live long enough for any issues to materialise. I’m not sure if I’m encouraged or depressed by that.

A friend who is exactly 2 months older than me (and with whom I rode the Cinglés du Mont Ventoux and L’Eroica) had his test a while ago and was also measured at 1.7cm – I think we may be twins.

More friends for drinks on Friday and I ran, between rain showers, with my younger son on Saturday. I’ll admit to some apprehension at running again as it was only the second ‘proper’ run in 6 weeks – but we did about 7.3km (4.5 miles) at 6 minute/km pace and it felt OK.

The plan was to take down the marquee as we are allowed to entertain indoors from Monday – but it rained pretty well continually and getting wet taking it down was as unattractive as putting it away wet so we watched the FA Cup final instead.

My wife ran with us on the same run on Sunday, and only a little slower than the day before. Everything is holding up well and only the calf muscles are really protesting. Obviously, I’ve not been working them very hard in the gym while I’ve not ben running but I think that’s just because of concern for the Achilles tendons (and they are OK with the running so far).

Falling behind the training plan now – but that’s expected as I get back into it gently. The best thing is that I managed two consecutive days running.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 9: Miles (Km) 25 (40) 9 (15)
‘Running’ Totals 150 (242) 133 (215)
Week 9, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you carry the egg basket do not dance

2. BBC News website: No news today

91 years ago, on 18 April 1930, the BBC’s news announcer had nothing to communicate. “There is no news,” was the script of the 20:45 news bulletin, before piano music was played for the rest of the 15-minute segment.

3. BBC News website: Hedgehog study to assess danger of robot lawn-mowers

[NB: I think ‘Hedgehog study’ in the headline is a study of and not by hedgehogs]

Every spring, reports abound that robot lawn-mowers are injuring and even killing hedgehogs as they (the hedgehogs, not the mowers, I guess) emerge from hibernation.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is sponsoring research to find out what is really going on. The aim is to work with manufacturers to give hedgehog-friendly mowers some sort of official badge so shoppers can look out for them.

With news like this, a repeat of ‘No News’ is ever more unlikely in the future

4. BBC News website: Downing Street seeks to cancel a court judgment against the Prime Minister over an unpaid bill of £535.

The order was made against Mr Johnson on 26 October. The creditor and nature of the debt is not yet known and a Downing Street spokesperson said the claim against the PM was without merit.

UK public sector net debt stood at approximately £2,130 billion (nearly $3,000 billion) in February 2021. The £535 ($750) must be causing him sleepless nights

5. Real life: On Thursday one person in the States had 14 views on this blog but did not register a single ‘like’.

I feel I should apologise to that person for making what must have been a very boring visit.

On the other hand, if it takes 14 views before you realise it’s not interesting, you deserve everything you get.

Gym (x2), short trial run, turbo, mechanic, 2nd jab, run(!)

I had thought about running on Monday but the cast of Les Miserables kept telling me “One more day” so I followed the advice and decided that, all being well, I’d try a run on the gym’s treadmill.

We entertained again on Monday evening after moving the gazebo from the garden and onto the driveway (hidden from the road) where the house would give it some shelter from the forecast 44mph (70kph) winds.

I’ll admit that it is slightly surreal, sitting in the pouring rain, eating and drinking in a gazebo on a block paved driveway just a two yards from the house – but in three weeks we will be allowed groups of up to six inside the house! Oh, be still my beating heart!

Gym on Tuesday – as with the certainties of life being death and taxes, the gym was cold and empty.

After the normal routine I decided try the treadmill. I will admit to bit of apprehension but it seemed sensible as it would offer a bit of ‘give’, promised a safe footing and would be easy to get off in the event of a problem. As it was, I did just a trial 1km which went OK but suggested that the knee might not be quite ready and has confirmed that I really do not like treadmills.

Wednesday saw no great reaction to Tuesday’s short run so I got on the turbo in the early evening – just 30 minutes at a little over 28kph (17.4mph). It was very hard so I need to keep it going to maintain the cardio fitness in the absence of running.

Gym again for an hour early on Thursday, still ‘hat and gloves cold’ but just to make me a liar there were up to 4 other people there at any one time.

Thursday was our younger son’s 29th birthday. It was a slightly muted celebration but at least we could go to a pub for lunch (outside, and rather cold) this time – last year he was by himself in his flat in London. He chose the evening meal – and like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, he chose ‘wisely’ by opting for Tartiflette.

Another cycle shop stint on Friday morning before a trip to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford for my second Covid vaccination (the UK has decided to have about 12 weeks between jabs). The process first time had been very slick and, other than a sore arm, had no side effects. This time the process was equally slick and (as of Sunday when I’m posting this) equally without side effects – and no sore arm.

Later on Friday my son and I put up (a third of) our marquee to enable the entertaining we had arranged for the weekend as the weather forecast suggested that the gazebo was not going to be man enough for the job. The whole marquee is 12m x 6m (nearly 40ft x 20ft) so I’ve found a way of cannibalising it to a more domestic size when we only have a group of 6. We hosted drinks in it on Saturday and Sunday nights – and they were very enjoyable.

On Sunday morning I ran for the first time in over 4 weeks (ignoring the 1km test on the treadmill). I just did our shortest regular run with my wife – 5.5km and took it gently. Monday will reveal the results of this particular experiment.

Most surprisingly, the high mileage I ran in the first 4 weeks of training (which I’m fairly sure caused the knee problem) means I am still (almost) exactly on track with the mileage on the training plan on the event website. That won’t last as I’m not going to try to up the mileage too quickly.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 8: Miles (Km) 17 (27) 4 (6.5)
‘Running’ Totals 125 (202) 124 (200)
Week 8, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1.African wise words: Don’t shelter under the banana plant then cut it down when the rains ends

2. BBC News website: Shopper spends six years using each spot at supermarket

A man from south-east London made his weekly supermarket shop “less mundane” by parking in every one of the 211 available spaces, a challenge he took six years to finish.

“For the last six years I’ve kept a spreadsheet listing every parking spot I’ve used at the local supermarket in a bid to park in them all,” he tweeted.

I was thinking he’s a man who needs to get out more – but perhaps it would be better to keep him inside

3. BBC News website: Japanese town builds giant squid statue with relief money

A seaside town in Japan reportedly used 25m yen ($228,500; £164,700) of funding from an emergency Covid-19 relief grant to build a giant statue of a squid.

The town received 800m yen ($7.3m; £5.3m) through the national grants, which were intended as an emergency economic boost to help regional areas affected by the pandemic, reports Yahoo Japan.

Officials have told local media it is part of a long term plan to lure tourists back after the pandemic.

4. BBC News website: Shark attack survivor to keep tooth left in surfboard

An Australian surfer lost his leg and was in a coma for 10 days after he was attacked in 2015. The shark’s tooth was embedded in his board, but State rules ban people from possessing parts of protected species (which include sharks).

Now the state has granted him an exemption, and he’s keeping the tooth as a “souvenir”. He said “The shark isn’t getting its tooth back [and] I’m not getting my leg back.”

5. BBC News website: China mystery animal box craze causes outrage

The “blind box” craze which sees people order a box containing an animal that is then sent to them through the post has caused outrage in China after 160 cats and dogs were located inside a courier company’s truck, many distressed and some dead.

According to Chinese law the transportation of live animals is prohibited, but “blind boxes”  are increasingly popular, state media reports. A range of the boxes containing animals such as tortoises, lizards and rats have been reported for sale on various websites.

Gym, gym, mechanic (easy week post sportive and before the resumption of running?)

I took Monday off after the sportive on Sunday – I didn’t fancy getting up early and there was the real prospect of some aches and pains (which, happily, didn’t materialise – my knee was happy too).

Back to the gym on Tuesday for an hour – again the only person in there. I don’t see how they will be able to continue unless they are busy at other times of the day or have a lot of people who are still paying for memberships but simply not turning up.

Wednesday was foul – cold and wet so I lacked motivation to exercise but I got to the gym again on Thursday morning with a friend (we were the only two in there), for another bitterly cold hour.

Another session manning the charity’s bike shop with my son on Friday morning with two more bike sales. I also spent time on sorting out some wheel bearings and a pedal that was shedding ball bearings as you rode. I appear to have become Bearings Man – given my lack of skill in the area, the other volunteers must be terrible at them.

We entertained (outside) on Friday night and again on Saturday lunchtime (garden gazebo to the fore as it’s not been getting beyond about 11℃ (or 52℉). I mowed on Sunday but couldn’t get motivated to get on the turbo. Next week I think I owe myself some better exercise sessions.

Still no running (just over 3 weeks now) as I follow good advice from the Olderrunner and wait until I feel the knee is better … and then wait another week.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 7: Miles (Km) 22 (35)
‘Running’ Totals 109.5 (175) 120 (193)
Week 7, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Life is like a mud pot; handle with utmost care

2. BBC News website: Kanye West’s Yeezy trainers sell for record

A pair of shoes designed and worn by the musician Kanye West have sold for $1.8m (£1.3m) at auction – the highest amount ever paid for trainers. The Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes beat the previous record, which was held by a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s that sold for $615,000 last year.


3. BBC News website: Oscars 2021 – Audiences turn off

The number of people watching the Oscars dropped to an all-time low on Sunday, overnight figures reveal. The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg described it as ‘in some ways, a trainwreck’.

Seems appropriate as IMDb lists 31 films with trainwrecks

4. BBC News website: ‘More than a million Moroccans arrested’ for Covid breaches

Moroccan media report that more than 1.5 million Moroccans have been arrested in the last nine months for not respecting the country’s Covid-19 precautionary measures – about 4% of the population.

This translates to a rate of more than 5,700 people arrested every day during that time.

Now that’s Covid non-compliance on an industrial scale

5. BBC News website: Ex-leader accused of jumping vaccine queue tests positive

Peru’s former president has tested positive for Corona virus just days after he was banned from public office for allegedly jumping the queue to receive the vaccine.

He said he was a volunteer in a trial, but the university hosting it said he asked to be vaccinated. The scandal broke in February and hundreds of other civil servants and public officials have also been implicated.

Only 2.5% of Peruvians have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and the country is going through a second wave, registering record numbers of cases and deaths in recent weeks.

6. As a sad but slightly trivial bit of news, we lost our two last chickens. No sign of how anything got into the run (which has been secure for many years) – but something did. Although we hadn’t given names to any chickens for many years, these last two were often referred to as Methuselah and Enoch due to their old ages. According to the Bible, Methuselah lived to 969 and his father, Enoch, lived to 365 before he was ‘taken by God’ which some traditions interpret as him not having died.

First time chicken-less for something like 16 years. Ahh