Monthly Archives: December 2021

Turbo, run (hill reps), run, gym and Happy Christmas

An earlier post this week – exercise finished, family all back home and I now expect to devote myself to eating my body weight in chocolate. I wish everyone a very happy Christmas.

Back home on Sunday night after the Covid-tested get-together with my wife’s brothers and (some of their) families. It was a cold Monday but I managed 45 minutes on the turbo for 22.35km @30kph.

Very high volumes of new UK Covid cases continue – for now no tighter restrictions are being put in place, but nor have they been ruled out. I wasn’t exactly feeling the joy of running on a cold Tuesday morning but managed to haul myself out for 8 reps of the usual hill – this time Strava made it 8.5km with 286m of ascent (5.3 miles and 938 feet).

Later I got in the car and drove to London to pick up our younger son. He’s been very careful and fortunate (and long may he stay so) and has stayed clear of the virus, despite being in a shared London flat where one flatmate recently had it, and working on placement in a London school for the last few months.

Wednesday was cold and frosty so our younger son and I canned the intended run but in the evening I drove to pick up our older son who had come out of Covid quarantine having tested negative for a few days. He was not able to join us last year because of last minute Covid restrictions so it’s great to all be here this year.

I drove to Bournemouth on Thursday to check on the house and an internet provider change – all is well. It was supposed to be mild and dry but it rained all the way down there. Happily, it cleared long enough for me to get a run down the seafront to Boscombe Pier and back – just over 8.5km (5.3 miles) and a negative split thanks to the headwind on the way out.

Gym on Friday morning for an hour, sticking with the increased weights.

100k corner (an occasional place for ultra worries and plans)

I hate to tempt fate but (at a fairly low level of intensity) so far so good. The knee and Achilles tendons that have been problems for a couple of years are behaving reasonably well (right hip slightly less so) and the hill reps that they stopped me doing for all that time seem to be working well. I can do three or four runs a week for 30+km (20+ miles) but the true test will be when it all ramps up as proper training starts in a couple of months.

The frustrating thing is that I’d give a lot to be in this sort of shape in the early Spring rather than in December. I think the sensible approach is to keep doing as much as I feel able to without (I hope) risking injury. Easy, eh? With the triathlon in May, what I should be doing is improving my swimming – but it’s dark and cold so that will have to wait.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The axe forgets but the tree remembers

2. BBC News website: ‘Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie’*

An ambitious plan to eradicate mice from an island in the South Atlantic appears to have failed as a camera trap on Gough Island (roughly halfway between Africa and South America and home to one of the world’s largest seabird colonies) showed that at least one mouse had survived. The presumption is that where there is one mouse there are likely to be more.

Mice are thought to have been introduced to the island by sailors in the 19th century and have been feeding on the chicks and eggs of seabirds. The entire project costed more than £9million (about $12m) and the aim was that it would be a “one off”, to turn the clock back and eliminate the mice once and for all.

*’To a mouse’ by Robert Burns

3. BBC News website: South Korean dairy giant, Seoul Milk, apologises for advert

The clip starts with a man with a camera wandering through the countryside who then, hidden in bushes, films a group of women drinking from a stream and doing yoga. When he steps on a twig it startles the women who suddenly turn into cows.

The advert has sparked a national debate over sexism and gender sensitivity issues but some also voiced concerns about the man surreptitiously filming the group of women, with spy cam crimes in South Korea having risen over the past few years.

OK marketing department, who thought that could possibly be a good idea?

4. BBC News website: Brazil wildfires killed an estimated 17 million animals

Wildfires burned in the Brazilian Pantanal wetlands between January and November 2020. Scientists attempted to count the animals killed by huge wildfires and estimate that as many as 17 million vertebrates – including reptiles, birds and primates – died.

22,000 separate fires recorded during the year destroyed about 30% of the world’s largest tropical wetland.

So sad. It’s hard to comprehend the scale of the destruction

5. BBC News website: Money manager disappears with $313m

A company that was once one of China’s biggest property developers says it has “lost contact” with a British Virgin Islands-registered wealth manager, that has $313m (£235m) of its money.

Fortune Land said it had expected the investment through China Create Capital to generate annual interest of 7% to 10% until the agreement was due to expire at the end of 2022 but it is now unable to contact the money manager.

I assume China Create Capital thinks it’s managed that money rather well

6. BBC News website: Chip shortage in Japan

For once it’s not a lack of semiconductors that is causing the problem but McDonald’s is suffering a potato shortage in Japan due to the global supply chain crisis. As a result it will only sell small portions of its French fries in Japan from Friday until 30 December.

McDonald’s said it usually imports the potatoes it uses from a port near Vancouver in Canada but ships have faced delays due to flood damage and the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain. It will now turn to alternative measures, including flying supplies to Japan.

Forget Covid – this is the end of civilisation as we know it

Run, turbo, run (hill reps), turbo, gym, run, (plus squashed eyeballs and essential frowns)

Hammersmith Bridge, still shut to cars and lorries but part of a great running route

I was in London overnight on Sunday which meant the pleasure of a Monday morning run over Hammersmith Bridge, down to Putney Bridge and back up the Thames Path – 10.4km (6.5miles) @5:35/km.

The trip to London on Sunday had been rather less pleasurable. I drove to a main line station just before all trains got cancelled because of a problem on the line. Eventually a train took us one stop in the other direction to use the line to another London terminus. Then came the news that the next train to London would be going via the original (newly cleared) line. An hour and a half after I first arrived at it, I passed through the original station on a slow train to London.

Back to Oxfordshire later on Monday (without any travel dramas) and back onto the turbo on Tuesday – 45 minutes @30kph (18.6mph).

All of that was completely overshadowed by the news that our older son had been diagnosed with Covid, having felt a bit rough on Monday. He’s double jabbed so we’d guess it’s the highly transmissible Omicron variant which has little respect for the first two jabs – it looks like the next wave of infections will be something of a tsunami. We hope that the other part of its reputation is true and it is less severe in its effects. We have our fingers firmly crossed that a family Christmas is going to happen.

We ran hill reps on Wednesday morning. A bit short of time so I did 8 of the usual hill – 8.6km and 263m of ascent (5.3 miles and 863 feet) and just managed to make the last rep the fastest (or, more accurately, least slow).

On Thursday morning I got a ‘ping’ from the Corona virus app to tell me that, on Monday, I’d been in close proximity to someone who had since tested positive. That was probably either travelling in, or back from, London. I felt fine so was not too worried – but I did a lateral flow test which was negative.

Less happily, France tightened its rules on UK visitors (they are also experiencing very high infection rates, but fewer Omicron cases) so that’s our skiing holiday in January out of the window. It’s feeling a little bleak – successive daily infections records, news that a niece also just tested positive and a drinks party for Friday has been cancelled (a good call by the hosts; we were a bit nervous but planned to go and stay out in the garden).

Getting on the turbo on Thursday felt as pointless as ever – that didn’t stop me doing it but did stop me doing it very well – 45 minutes @29kph (18mph).

Gym on Friday. Recently I’ve increased to 4 sets of 10 reps on each machine but now I’ve upped the weights and cut to 3 sets of 10. I have no idea whether that’s a good idea or not. Then the usual stint in the bike shop.

Although the week’s 5 exercise sessions accounted for just under 4h 30m, I took Saturday off and had the pleasure of doing tax returns. Later we drove to London to make the trip to Sunday lunch with one of my brothers-in-law easier. That meant a run on Sunday morning – in a neat symmetry, I did the same run as Monday morning, 10.4km (6.5miles) but a whole 18 seconds faster! I may not be good, but I’m consistent.

Although we should have been 12 and turned out to be only 8 (all Covid tested specially for the occasion), we had an excellent lunch. In all, a really good week – and our older son is feeling good after a couple of slightly rough days. Roll on us all being able to get together for Christmas.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The earth is a beehive, we all enter by the same door

2. BBC News website: Sleeping bag to solve astronauts’ squashed eyeball disorder

Some astronauts experience vision problems because, over time, in zero-gravity fluids float into the head and squash the eyeball. It’s regarded as one of the riskiest medical problems affecting astronauts, and could compromise missions to Mars.

Scientists have now developed a hi-tech sleeping bag that could prevent the problem. It sucks fluid out of the head and towards the feet, countering the pressure build-up.

Odd, I wouldn’t have guessed that squashed eyeballs was one of the big risks of space travel

3. BBC News website: Peloton’s ability to resurrect the dead

Fitness equipment maker Peloton was, no doubt, delighted to feature in the new Sex and the City series but the firm’s shares slumped after a key character died while using one of the company’s exercise bikes.

The company approved the show’s use of its bikes but said it was not told that the character Mr Big would die after the workout. Peloton has now released an advert that brings the character back to life.

4. BBC News website: UK Sports Personality 2021

The shortlist of six has been announced for this award, which is the subject of a public vote. Yet again, I failed to make the final 6 (indeed, I doubt I made the long list of 25 million).

They are diver Tom Daley, boxer Tyson Fury, swimmer Adam Peaty, tennis player Emma Raducanu, footballer Raheem Sterling and Paralympic cyclist Dame Sarah Storey.

All very worthy, no doubt, but if you like sporting facts that are almost beyond belief, in the 100m breaststroke, Adam Peaty has recorded all of the 16 fastest times in history.

5. The Daily Telegraph: No laughing matter in N Korea

North Koreans have been banned from showing joy for 11 days to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il. It is reported that the police are looking out for those who do not look upset and so harm the mood of collective mourning.

Turbo (x2), run (x3 – inc. hill reps), plus good negatives and beautiful camels

Back to the running means back to the usual routes

After returning from France on Saturday night we went into self-isolation pending negative Covid PCR tests. It was a slick process, most importantly with the right result as we both tested negative.

We’d arrived back in the UK at 6pm on Saturday. Our PCR kits had already arrived and we did the tests on Sunday morning, dropping them off for a 15.30 collection. By 21.30 we got emails confirming that the samples were at the laboratory in Northern Ireland. My result arrived at 5:04 on Monday morning (no, I didn’t wait up for it) and my wife’s just before 9:30 (a slightly anxious wait for that one). Pretty slick.

Of course, the best way to celebrate the end of the self-isolation is by going out for a run … but it was cold and wet so I got on the turbo in the late afternoon – 45 minutes @30.3kph (18.8mph).

It was cold again on Tuesday morning but I ran with my wife – a few minor niggles came and went of their own accord during a gentle 7.2km (4.5miles).

It was back to the turbo later on Wednesday. I might be able to come up with several reasons why that was a good training idea, but really it was a reluctance to go out and run in the cold and wind. The conservatory is unheated which gives the strange sensation of sweating profusely while still having cold feet – but I pushed on for an hour @29kph (18mph).

Another hill reps run on a rather brighter but still cold Thursday. 10 reps again – just over 10km (6.2 miles) and over 330m of ascent (1,100 feet). It was hard – so it must be doing me good, and must be making next July’s ultra and the sportives and triathlons easier (or simply possible) right?

I missed out on the gym on Friday morning by oversleeping and a lack of commitment but I did the charity bike shop and then lunch with old workmates. I’m not used to eating much at lunch so that blew out the notion of any exercise later in the day but I ran with my wife on Saturday – 5.6km (3.5miles).

Sunday was earmarked as a day for household chores – which was a shame as it was the best day of the week by a long way, bright and mild. However, a deal is a deal so I’m sticking to the domestic stuff to round off a week of getting back into things after the trip to France.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who digs a grave for his enemy might as well be digging one for himself

2. BBC News website: Camel beauty pageant cracks down on cosmetic enhancements

More than 40 camels have been disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s beauty pageant for receiving Botox injections and other cosmetic enhancements. The contest is a highlight of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, where $66m (£45m) in prize money is at stake for camels with key attributes including long, droopy lips, a big nose and a shapely hump.

Judges used “advanced” technology to uncover tampering with camels on a scale not seen before, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

3. BBC News website: Fine of €1,200 ($1,357; £1,028) for causing TDF crash

The peloton was 45km (28 miles) from the end of the first stage, when the French woman’s cardboard sign clipped German rider Tony Martin. He fell to the ground and dozens of other riders to followed suit, in one of the tournament’s worst ever crashes.

The identity of the woman, who was a spectator at the race, was withheld after she was targeted by a torrent of online abuse.

4. BBC News website: ‘There’s gold in them thar hills’

In 2013, a climber stumbled upon a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires that had been buried on France’s Mont Blanc.

It is believed that the box belonged to someone on board an Indian plane that crashed in 1966, but now he has been rewarded with half of the trove of hundreds of precious stones, with the local authority in Chamonix taking the other half, after an unsuccessful attempt to locate the family of the owner.

5. BBC News website: Medics attending Christmas party test positive for Covid

68 medics among about 170 who attended a Christmas party in Spain have since tested positive for Covid-19. Most of the infected are doctors and nurses working in the intensive care unit at Málaga’s regional hospital.

All guests returned negative antigen tests before the event but more than half are now isolating. The infected staff were all fully vaccinated and are showing no symptoms, health authorities said.

Physician, heal thyself

Minimal exercise, maximum driving, France (plus fake arms and sleeping sportsmen)

View from the rear balcony in France. Almost interestingly, the mountains in the backdrop are the other side of the Autoroute Blanche, in the valley over 500 metres below

It snowed on Sunday night – only a thin covering here but still well below freezing on Monday morning. I was feeling suitably smug at having put the winter wheels and tyres on just last week.

I went out just after 9am to pick up some stuff from the nearest town a couple of miles away but turned back as I saw how a tiny amount of snow and drivers without winter tyres can very easily cause gridlock in rural Oxfordshire. Two hours later the traffic had disappeared like melting snow – unlike the snow itself which was still very much there.

Later we got our Covid booster jabs – all OK so far as neither of us had any reaction beyond a slightly sore arm where the jab was done.

Very early Tuesday morning we did a potentially very stupid thing – we set off for France. We had booked a few days previously – before the newest variant of the virus was identified in Southern Africa and so we had gone through the agonies of the damned as to whether we would be able to travel out (or back). New UK rules announced on Saturday introduced new isolation and testing requirements for our return (isolation being required until a negative PCR test is performed).

To be honest, it would have been easier to abandon the trip but we’ve not been to the apartment since we skied in January 2020 so a visit was long overdue. Les Carroz is a special place for us. We stumbled across it by accident but loved it and put the process of buying an apartment underway after two visits – and that’s over 20 years ago.

At least a trip down in the car and a stay in our own place was likely to be as safe as it would get and we wouldn’t be going out as the rules for getting a ‘pass sanitaire’ (necessary for going to bars and restaurants) changed at the last minute.

I’ve done the drive many (40+?) times with the skiing and, more recently, an annual cycle trip – but it’s not getting any shorter. Despite the best efforts of the M25 (London’s orbital motorway and sometimes orbital car park) we made good time to the Channel Tunnel and got put on a train an hour earlier than booked. We completed the whole 710 miles in about 13 elapsed hours with just over 11 hours of driving and just 2 stops in addition to the tunnel.

We had a really good time there, even though there were the usual clean, repair, enhance requirements to be satisfied. We rearranged the beds in the two mezzanines. With everything going on in the world, that did give me echoes of ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’ but in turbulent times, perhaps it’s carrying on with the ordinary things that keeps us sane?

I had taken running kit but it was below freezing and either raining or snowing most of the time – and the pavements were snow-covered and unsafe for running. I was sad about the running but decided to enjoy both the unexpected break from relentless exercise and even more smugness for fitting the winter tyres.

Perhaps I secretly suspected this was going to happen as I took books with me, including Haruki Marakami’s ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ and ‘A runner’s high’ by Dean Karnazes. I rarely re-read books but I made two exceptions here. They are very different books by very different authors but I love both for the simple reason that their love of running shines through.

I also took a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov which was delightful – perhaps more vignettes than stories because he clearly didn’t feel that they needed to finish with a conclusion or resolution.

On Saturday I drove the 710 miles back with just one stop in addition to the tunnel. A tough journey with the first 200 miles in heavy rain – but we made it back to Oxfordshire by mid-evening and entered isolation. In one respect we were lucky – within half an hour of getting back into England we got the news that if we had been returning two days later we’d also be required to have a clear Covid test in order to re-enter the UK.

In all, just shy of 1,500 miles of driving and away for 5 days. I’m in favour of new technologies and would like an electric car – but with range and recharging issues, I wonder how any other than those with the very longest ranges would cope with this sort of journey?

On Sunday, feeling well, we completed our PCR tests and took them to the drop-box (allowed within the rules of our isolation). We have now started the wait for the results.

A very different post from the usual tedious summary of the week’s running, cycling, gym (and possibly swimming). This time a tedious recounting of a trip to France.

To reach for some sense of normality, I nearly got on the turbo later in the afternoon – but I decided that, no matter what the personal cost might be, I would complete the week without ‘proper’ exercise – the nearest I got was signing up for next April’s White Horse Challenge sportive.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No medicine exists that can cure hatred

2. BBC News website: Former world snooker champion falls asleep during match

Mark Williams, lost in the second round of the UK championship. He said, “It was 3-2 and I was out. My head went down and I woke up and I didn’t have a clue where I was for about five seconds. It was a bit embarrassing but I was just shattered after contracting Covid-19 in October. I need to be playing in the mornings really, or afternoons. The more the day goes on the more tired I get.”

Personally, I like snooker but I expect many think that Williams was just joining most of the the audience

3. BBC News website: A long way for a postponed game

A couple from Dallas made a 34-hour journey just to see Tottenham Hotspur (their favourite football club) play – only to have the match postponed because of snow.

They were hoping to see Spurs’ next two home games but they could now be guests of honour as Spurs’ striker (and England captain) Harry Kane has invited them to be his guests at one of those matches.

4. BBC News website: Italian man tries to dodge Covid jab using fake arm

An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed.

The nurse told local media that when she had rolled up his sleeve, she found the skin “rubbery and cold” and the pigment “too light”. After being discovered, the man tried to persuade the nurse to turn a blind eye but instead she reported him to the police for fraud.