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Cycle training (x2), swim, turbo, gym, mechanic – the triathlon approaches with added jeopardy …

Back to the gym – but it seems to remain little used

A slow start to the week after being busier than usual recently. I don’t feel much less able to do stuff as I age but I do seem to recover slower. A day of mowing, after two weeks of grass-neglect.

On Tuesday morning I got a call to see if I could cover for a volunteer who wasn’t able to take up his slot on the week’s cycle training course which has a dozen children on it. I could, so I had a couple of unexpected hours doing that and then off to the pool in the evening. I was lucky that I had a lane to myself and I swam further than usual, clocking up 1500 metres fairly comfortably.

There are two main things telling me that I’m not a swimmer. One is a general lack of ability and the other is the reaction of my sinuses – I sneezed for an hour after getting out the pool and started sneezing again at 4am, with a simultaneously blocked and running nose, for 2 hours.

On Wednesday I did the morning cycle training session I had originally signed up for, followed by the delight of an afternoon bonfire getting rid of garden stuff and the wallpaper we had scraped off our son’s walls.

More mowing on Thursday with bonfire tending and gardening. The bonfire site has had a few good blazes recently but that means the build-up of a central pile of soil, stone and ash which will not help future fires burn with a good hot core. If you are looking for a really good exercise for your own core, I recommend digging out and sieving a bonfire heap to separate the good compost material from the rubbish.

I felt that the mowing, digging and sieving excused me from major exercise later in the day so it was just a hot 30 minutes on the turbo at a (for me) quick 31.5kph (19.6mph).

Friday was much as usual – gym (which was tough after a gap of a three weeks) followed by a session at the cycle shop, which continues to go very well. After more work in the garden I drove to London so I could make an easier and earlier start to our older son’s place in Kingston-upon-Thames on Saturday morning. On the agenda this time were the rerouting of a section of guttering and removal of a water butt and some work on the fence to the front garden.

The jobs seemed to go well – but the guttering is untested – and then I drove back to Oxfordshire with our son and his girlfriend late Saturday, for a family gathering and BBQ on Sunday.

With just two weeks to go, my triathlon buddy and I have booked a swim in that Scary Open Water on Thursday. At the moment, my plan is to go for the full triathlon 750m, non stop and without the lovely pool ends that come every 25m at the leisure centre.

An email from the organisers this week struck a note of terror into my heart – they confirmed that they will be testing the water temperature to see if wetsuits are allowed. I really need that extra buoyancy – the SOW will become even scarier without one.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The laughter of a child lights up the house

… but electricity is more reliable

2. BBC News website: Pontoon aims to stop Wally the walrus sinking more boats

Since being spotted in Ireland, the 800kg (125st) walrus has travelled 4,000km (2,485 miles) and been seen in France, Spain and the UK where he is said to be sinking one or two boats in every harbour he enters (by tipping them over as he gets aboard or gets off them). The idea is for him to have his own pontoon.

I doubt that we really know that his name is Wally. It’s a bit like the ‘joke’ “What’s your dog’s name?” “I don’t know but we call him Rover.”

3. BBC News website: Tanzania’s President criticised for footballer comments

The President said that while female footballers were making the East African country proud by winning trophies, some did not stand a chance of getting married because of the way they looked, adding “If we bring them here and line them up, for those with flat chests, you might think they are men – not women”.

The President added that while some sportswomen were married, most of them were not, “and for the way they are, a life of marriage… is a just a dream”.

Possibly the most shocking thing here is that Tanzania’s President is a woman

4. BBC News website: McDonald’s runs out of milkshakes

McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes and some bottled drinks at restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales. The fast-food chain said it was facing supply chain issues affecting the availability of shakes and bottled drinks at its 1,250 outlets.

The end of civilisation as we know it

Swim, turbo, hard work (x3), too many miles in the car, run and Kew Gardens

The beautiful Palm House at Kew Gardens, London

We got home early on Monday afternoon after an excellent weekend in Bournemouth. I excused myself from any further exercise until Tuesday evening when it was back to the pool for a 1km swim.

Still no great swimming breakthrough so I’ll have to get to the lake next week for more wetsuit and ‘no-end-of-pool-to-cling-on-to’ practice. Although I have swum over 18km this year, I would be very relieved to prove to myself that I can do the triathlon’s 750m distance in open water and without stopping.

On Wednesday evening I got on the turbo – pushing on for a hard and hot 45 minutes @30kph (18.6mph).

We left home early on Thursday morning and drove to Kingston-upon-Thames (just outside London) to the house shared by our older son and his girlfriend. We (and our younger son) had volunteered to help strip woodchip paper off the sitting room walls and ceilings, do some gardening, sort out the leaking guttering and shut off the squirrels’ access to the loft.

It was a full-on Thursday followed by an evening at our flat and then a second day at their place on Friday. Two surprisingly hard days, not helped by one of the hired wallpaper steamers blowing the steam pipe out of its housing and giving our younger son a significant scare but, thankfully, no burns. I’m prepared to admit that the scary open water swimming is well matched by the scary ‘working off a ladder at full stretch at gutter height’.

Back to Oxfordshire in the evening and I drove back to Kingston on Saturday morning for ‘hard work part three’ with me and our younger son helping on the house again (my wife having a prior commitment). Yet more paper stripping, making good the walls (recognising that woodchip paper is usually put on walls to hide defects in the surface). I even managed to replace their gateposts and rehang the garden gate.

After that I drove back to the flat where I met up with my wife, pretty exhausted. In the morning the stars (just) aIigned – the right location and the opportunity were there and (after 3 hard days) I managed to gather the enthusiasm to get out for a run.

Hammersmith Bridge is now open to pedestrians and cyclists so I used it and ran along the Thames Path on the far side of the river, across Putney Bridge and back. A thoroughly enjoyable 11.3km (7 miles) @5.40 min/km.

Later we drove to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in West London – a UNESCO world heritage site of about 300 acres with over 50,000 different kinds of living plant. We met up with our sons who were treating us to a visit by way of the second part of my wife’s birthday present.

I’d never been before but it was quite magnificent – the only downside is that it makes your own attempts at gardening look very feeble. We walked for another 3 miles or so, I guess, but it was a great afternoon in good weather.

Back to the flat and back to Oxfordshire. A really full-on week but really constructive and really enjoyable. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Patience is the mother of a beautiful child

2. BBC News website: UK’s rude place names to be toured by man on moped

In a charity fundraising trip in memory of a friend who died of cancer, the man’s journey will begin in Shitterton and will take in locations such as Twatt and Booze.

Other destinations include Pity Me, Dull, and neighbouring hamlets of Crazies Hill and Cockpole Green. Street names on his itinerary include The Knob, Butthole Lane, and Titty Ho.

My apologies, but it is for charity

3. BBC News website: Ice cream van banned from street over noise complaint

An ice cream van operator has been banned from a street over a complaint that one of its vehicles sounded its chimes for too long. Lamarti’s may not enter the street after a member of the public reported that its chimes played for more than 20 seconds.

Almost unbelievably, there is a Code of Practice for ice cream van chimes!

Vendors cannot sound chimes: for longer than 12 seconds at a time; more often than once every two minutes; more than once when the vehicle is stationary at a selling point; except on approach to or at a selling point’; when in sight of another vehicle which is trading; when within 50m of schools during school hours, hospitals, and places of worship on Sundays or other recognised days of worship; more often than once every two hours in the same length of street; louder than LAmax 80dB at 7.5m; before 12:00 or after 19:00.

4. BBC News website: Man sues after being startled by dumpster-diving bear

A tourist has filed a claim against a Nevada condominium group, alleging he was injured after being startled by a dumpster-diving bear. The lawsuit claims the bear got inside the rubbish skip due to a faulty latch, and lunged at the man when he opened the bin.

A short pause would be barely out of place to consider the potential grizzly consequences, I think

5. BBC News website: Uganda police hunt mass chapati buyers

Police in Uganda have started arresting people buying five or more chapatis, suspecting they could be feeding cattle rustlers. The idea is that stopping their supply of food will force the rustlers out of hiding and surrender their weapons.

A local peace activist said the initiative would not work. “These warriors can survive without even eating chapati,” he said.

Not eating chapatis – the mark of a true warrior

Turbo, swim, Bournemouth, ride, walk, swim, ride, walk, ride

Bournemouth seafront with Hengistbury Head to to the left and the Isle of Wight in the distance

Working in the garden on Monday, repairing a wall and making a gate for a path that goes nowhere – apparently, it’s all about ‘the look’. 30 minutes of turbo reality later @30.9kph (19.2mph).

More domestic bliss on Tuesday, finishing both the wall and the gate and then off to the pool in the evening. I still don’t love the swimming but it needs to be done if the triathlon next month is going to begin without a complete disaster.

One good thing about the swimming is that it seems to be putting a little muscle on my puny runner/cyclist chest, arms and shoulders. I swam 1250m and then started sneezing before I reached the car park.

Still slow – but I did notice the benefit of the ‘drafting’ effect of swimming behind someone (before he swam away into the distance). With the buoyancy of the wetsuit, if I could latch on and follow a slow swimmer, it might just work.

On Wednesday we got ready to go down to Bournemouth for a long weekend with two couples who are very good friends. We drove down on Thursday morning fora bit more mowing and housework in preparation, and they all joined us later in the day.

Even though we have managed to have frequent evenings together, Covid has meant that we hadn’t done our usual group weekends in Bournemouth or the lake district for a couple of years, so it was great to resume a very fine social tradition.

On Friday all 6 of us cycled to Brockenhurst in the New Forest and had a really good 5 mile (8km) walk around the town and its surrounding area – lots of New Forest ponies on the loose and we found a very good site for a picnic. A round trip of just over 31 miles (50km) on the bikes.

I’m always nervous setting routes to places I don’t know because I feel responsible for everyone’s enjoyment of the ride. As it was, although I’d used the ‘avoid highways’ option the route finder, eventually, it had us on a slightly busier road than we’d want on the way there. We found a quieter alternative and came back by one of the national cycle routes which used a lot of defunct railway line paths – why would the route finder not know about those?

On Saturday we cycled across to the other side of Bournemouth to Compton Acres – 10 acres of really lovely gardens set in a valley heading down towards Poole Harbour. It was a bit of a punt on my part as I’d not been before but it was very good indeed, even though we had to cycle back along the roads rather than the promenade as that bans cycles between 10am and 6pm in July and August. Nearly 28km (17 miles).

Getting back reasonably early, we all went down to the beach for a (non-wetsuit) swim afterwards. It was cold with some moderate waves so not exactly triathlon training but good fun nevertheless and more acclimatisation to the SOW (scary open water). It reinforced my view that an open water triathlon swim in a lake is certainly plenty enough for me at the moment.

Sunday was one of our friend’s birthdays so we walked out along Hengistbury Head and had a picnic on the beach. When we got back, virtuously, David prepared a route and I rode it with him (about 25km – about 15.5 miles). Much more virtuously, Ian (who is the friend with whom I will be doing the triathlon) went back to the beach and swam, putting me to shame.

Everyone went off on Monday morning and we followed fairly close behind. Not a big week for training but a really excellent weekend with lovely, intelligent and interesting friends who are a delight to have as house guests.

The Fantasy Football competition started again on Friday, with the resumption of the Premier League. It’s very difficult in the first few weeks as teams settle down after so many players have been involved in international tournaments during the summer. Oh, the pressure.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Being happy is better than being king

2. BBC News website: Postcard from Chile arrives in UK after 30 years

A postcard sent from South America has been delivered to its intended recipient 30 years after being posted.

Neil Crocker sent the card from Chile in 1991 when he was serving with the Royal Navy, returning from the Falkland Islands, on board HMS Cumberland. He said he “vaguely” remembered writing and sending the card which commented that the “weather and beaches are lovely”.

Cutting edge news like that is worth waiting for

3. BBC News website: Germany fears thousands got saline, not vaccine from nurse

Authorities in north Germany have asked more than 8,000 people to get repeat Covid vaccinations because a nurse is suspected of having injected saline instead of vaccine in many cases.

In April the nurse had admitted giving saline to six people to cover up the fact that she had dropped a vaccine vial on the floor but as the police investigation has suggested that many more people had been given saline instead of the vaccine.

4. BBC News website: Tusk reveals woolly mammoth’s massive lifetime mileage

Mammoth tusks were a bit like tree rings, insomuch that they recorded information about the animal’s life history and some chemical elements incorporated into the tusks while the animal was alive can serve as pins on a map, broadly showing where the animal went.

By combining these two things, researchers worked out that a male mammoth that lived 17,000 years ago in Alaska had covered 70,000km of Alaskan landscape during its 28 years on the planet. For comparison, the circumference of the Earth is 40,000km.

Run, swim, turbo, gym, run – heading back towards normality?

With no adverse reaction to Sunday’s turbo session, I guessed I might be through the food poisoning so I ran (gently) on a very warm Monday morning – just under 6km (3.7 miles).

I ran at just under 6min/km but it felt a bit harder than it should have – a reminder to play myself back in carefully. That’s fine, as I don’t think I’m going to do any particular training for September’s triathlon (other than in the water).

I worked in the garden on Tuesday but went to the pool in the evening and swam 1km – I’ve no real idea as to the time as they seem to have lost the poolside clock. I’m not sure I’m getting much faster but it is getting easier and I’ll settle for that at this stage.

That completes a (sort of) triathlon since the turbo session on Sunday. At about 56 hours it wasn’t the fastest and I must work on the transitions – T2 was over 30 hours.

After more time in the garden I took the rest of the day off – still not back to 100% by any means and I’d only put on 0.5kg of the 3kg I lost being ill last week. More work in the garden on a wet Thursday but I did manage to get on the turbo in the evening for 30 minutes @ 30.5kph (19mph).

Friday started with an hour in the gym and a session manning the cycle shop before we drove down to Bournemouth later on to spend Saturday working to clean the house before the next visit with friends. With the need for cleaning time, heavy rain on and off, high winds, and (still) less than 100% recovery, the running kit remained unused – but the cleaning got done.

Back to Oxfordshire late on Saturday and a run on Sunday which started badly but improved as it wore on – about 7.2km (nearly 4.5 miles) at just under 6m/km. Still not quite right – but improving.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today

2. BBC News website: Firm fined £2.6m for claiming clothes prevent Covid

An Australian activewear firm has been fined £2.6m for claiming its clothing “eliminated” and stopped the spread of Covid. A judge said the company’s claim was “exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous”.

The company maintained that it had been misled by its own supplier. “A trusted supplier sold us a product that did not perform as promised,” said Lorna Jane chief executive Bill Clarkson.

Not sure on what basis that claim could have been believed

3. BBC News website: Backlash over marriage question in Olympian’s interview

A Chinese state media interview with an Olympic gold medallist asking when she would get married and have children has sparked backlash online.

The CCTV segment with Gong Lijiao, who won the women’s shot put final on Sunday, also described her as a “manly woman”.

4. Athlete: Cindy Sember

Cindy Sember (full name Cynthia Nonyelum Sember née Ofili) is a US born athlete who competes for Great Britain, specialising in sprint hurdles.

Interestingly, she is also the answer to the question “When is Christmas?”

5. BBC News website: 13-year-old Sky Brown wins Olympic skateboarding bronze

“It was a super sick final,” she told BBC Sport. “All the girls were ripping it, it was insane.”

13 and speaking a foreign language. I did manage ‘super sick’ a week ago but I’m not sure that’s what she meant ….. I must be getting old

6. BBC News website: German pentathlon coach thrown out for punching horse

A German coach has been thrown out of the Olympics for appearing to punch a horse which was refusing to jump or trot during the modern pentathlon.

Coach Kim Raisner was heard on German TV urging tearful athlete Annika Schleu to “really hit” the horse while she struggled to control Saint Boy during the showjumping round of Friday’s women’s event.

But bravo Tom McEwen – who was at school with our sons (and I remember as a thoroughly nice lad) who won team gold and individual silver in the 3 day eventing at the Olympics.

Turbo, sick as a dog, turbo

A couple of days in Bournemouth and I didn’t even make it to the promenade

My run last Saturday was uneventful but by the afternoon my back hurt. Standing around at Saturday’s wedding and Sunday’s BBQ didn’t help so I gave it a day’s rest on Monday.

My back had improved by Tuesday but it wasn’t quite right so, out of an excess of caution, I shelved the planned run. Much of the rest of the day was spent at a funeral (and driving to and from it).

It was the funeral of my sister-in-law’s father – a very wealthy man, perhaps not always everyone’s cup of tea, but someone I got on well with. He did great things as a benefactor in sport and education to the tune of several 10s of millions of pounds.

An excellent ‘do’ which easily passed the test I usually apply to funerals: “would he have enjoyed that?”. I’m not sure that my back entirely enjoyed the 4 hours+ driving.

I’ve been noticeably slack in exercising since the ultra and sportive (the usual post-challenge motivation slump, I assume) so just the 30 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday, but a bit faster at 31kph (19.26mph).

On Thursday, our younger son and I drove back down to Bournemouth to do some work in the house and garden. We left later than planned as I was as sick as a dog Wednesday night. Classic food poisoning by the feel of it, no need to go into details but 6 times to the bathroom between 2 and 6.30am – a big personal best.

By midday I felt I could drive but after a journey of less than 2 hours and unloading the car, I was completely wiped out and needed to sleep. The pattern continued, I could make minimal efforts at anything but then needed to rest or sleep. No solid food throughout the day – just one cup of tea and some water.

My son mowed, but by Friday I had just about rejoined the land of the living. I had taken running kit but the chances of me managing more than 100 metres were about as good as me flying to the moon, so that was abandoned and replaced by fixing a shower cubicle, putting up coat hooks, bracing a slightly flimsy wall to the front garden and mending a gate.

Back to Oxfordshire late afternoon and then to a social do with the cycle club to thank all the volunteers for their efforts over recent months. We didn’t stay too long but I ventured to eat a little food – my first for over 48 hours. Still feeling rough, at least I did not see it again.

It was our older son’s birthday on Saturday so we drove up to see him and his girlfriend. Still a very low key day for me but I really enjoyed seeing them both.

Back home for a quiet Sunday, still improving and I ventured a turbo session in the evening while watching the Olympic 3 day event. Not something I’d normally watch but one of our team (in gold medal position with the show jumping to go) was in the year between our sons at school. A reasonably gentle 30 minutes @29kph – 18mph.

A week without a swim, a ride or a visit to the gym – unheard of. I finish the week older, no wiser, no fitter but, thanks to the food poisoning, 3kg (about 6.5lbs) lighter.

Interesting stuff this week

1 African wise words: Ugliness with a good character is better than beauty

2. BBC News website: Gold toilet found in Russian police bribery probe

A gilded toilet and other luxuries were found in a mansion raided by Russian investigators, who say they busted a gang of corrupt traffic police who, allegedly, took bribes for issuing fake permits to businesses.

Rather nicely, talking about the garish residence one Russian newspaper said “It’s sad that in 30 years we’ve learned how to steal, but not how to spend the money.”

3. BBC News website: Nigeria kidnappers abduct man delivering ransom

Kidnappers in Nigeria have seized a man who was sent to deliver a ransom payment to secure the release of dozens of abducted school children.

Six people were sent by the children’s parents after they managed to raise $73,000 (£53,000) by selling land and other possessions, to meet the kidnappers near the forest where the children were being held. The gunmen demanded that one of the group, an elderly man, follow them into the forest to count the cash but they later called to say the money was not sufficient.

4. BBC News website: Pensioner’s WW2 tank in basement

Lawyers in Germany are wrangling over how to deal with a pensioner who stored a World War Two tank, anti-aircraft gun and torpedo in his basement. The items were removed from a house in 2015 with the help of the army.

Possible penalties are now being negotiated, including a suspended sentence and a fine of up to €500,000 (£427,000).