Monthly Archives: February 2022

Run (x4), swim, gym, plus forest living and the perfect hat-trick (nearly)

No bluebells yet although there were loads of snowdrops this week – Spring must be on its way?

Recently, Monday exercise has been just an evening ‘swim doctor’ session. This week my wife, back from an injury, decided on a morning run so I went with her in a cold and very strong wind.

We set out to do hill reps thinking it would be more sheltered from the wind that was gusting to 50mph (80kph) – but we cut them short (I’d done 6) after a sizeable branch fell from the trees overhead. I did a loop to add some mileage and recorded 9.3km (5.8 miles) with 215m of ascent (705 feet).

All the others at the evening swim session were beginners so they were doing drills width-wise. That stopped me swimming lengths so I joined in with their drills. At the end of the session, lengths became possible and, to my surprise, I was swimming them in a much improved (but still relatively poor) 24 strokes compared to my previous (completely pathetic) rate of nearer 30 strokes. Some progress, at last.

After a bit of research, I had found a spray that looked likely to help with my sinus’ sensitivity to the pool’s chlorine. I tried a dose before I went and one when I got back – no sneezing fits during the night and relatively clear sinuses which is encouraging.

My running partner still hors de combat thanks to his dodgy ankle – sadly, a bit dodgier than it initially appeared – and will be off running for a little while yet. He runs and cycles well (ankles permitting) but, like me, finds the swimming harder. Replacing running with swimming for a couple of weeks won’t exactly be fun but might pay off for him in triathlon terms?

The 20-week ultra marathon training programme started on Monday but I’m ignoring that for now as I’ll be doing more mileage anyway in the early weeks. I didn’t fancy going up to run on the Ridgeway in the current bitingly cold winds so, in my friend’s absence, I’ve decided to see if I can do 40+km each week, with one longer run. The first week that the training plan gets beyond 40km is week 11.

I took Tuesday off exercise but ran with my wife on Wednesday – just over 7km (4.4 miles). I swapped days at the gym and went with my training partner on Thursday for what turned out to be a good session. With more running, I’m cutting back a bit on the leg exercises and doing more on the core and upper body to help my swimming. Struggling with technique? Go for brute force.

The rest of the day was for doing chores and being gravely sad about the Russian invasion of Ukraine – I didn’t think I’d live to see any such military action in Europe. There were reports of more than 1700 arrests at anti-war protests across Russia on Thursday – brave people. Everything seems horribly trivial in comparison to what’s going on there.

On Friday, I resisted another visit to the gym but after my stint at the charity bike shop the weather was so much better than the recent muck we’ve been having that I decided to go for the week’s long slow run. With no hat, gloves, buff or jacket, but with a plan for about 18km, I pushed on to complete the half marathon – 21.3km (13.2 miles), very slowly.

Having doubled up on Monday, I took a second rest day on Saturday but on Sunday I made up for the two missed hill reps from Monday (by running three of them) and finished off with six laps around the old hill fort – 10.9km (6.8 miles). It was sunny but chilly – hat, buff, gloves and jacket all made a return.

A decent week for the exercise with some swimming progress and 48.5km (just over 30 miles) of running – but still the saddest week I can remember for a long time.

Running shoes

On Monday a second pair of Puma Speed 500 Ignites (how do they come up with the names?) went through 800km and have been retired from active service. The soles confirm that I still under-pronate and run heavier on my left foot than my right. Pair 3 are at 230km and pair 4 are waiting in their box.

One pair of Puma ‘Netfits’ are well used with a second new pair also in a box. My trail shoes and two pairs of Asics have about 300km between them and my minimalist shoes have 50km and are waiting for better weather.

Even with over 1000km of ultra training to be run by July, it feels like I have plenty enough – but what if any of them split, or rip, or start to hurt, or leave home to join the circus …. and does anyone really have enough in the way of running shoes?

Two new pairs of Puma Velocity Nitro running shoes have arrived!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A fish that keeps its mouth closed never gets hooked

2. BBC News website: Disney appoints executive to lead metaverse strategy

Technology giants, including Facebook owner Meta and Microsoft, are pouring billions of dollars into the metaverse which Disney chief executive Bob Chapek said is “the next great storytelling frontier”.

He describes the metaverse as a “perfect place to pursue our strategic pillars of storytelling excellence, innovation, and audience focus” giving “an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories.

I thought we had enough problems with the current universe (or perhaps that’s why we have to invent another?). I don’t intend to apply for a passport to any metaverse

3. BBC News website: in Man lives, unnoticed, in forest for 30 years

The 79 year old grew up in a village which was knocked down in the 1980s to make way for new high-rise buildings in Singapore, one of the world’s most highly urbanised countries. Unable to secure new government accommodation and not wanting to impose on his family he went to a forest close to his old home and started to spend nights in a makeshift shelter before making the move permenant.

He grew his own food and sold flowers and vegetables in the markets. He even managed weekly trip to an Indonesian island where, in his 60s, he had a child with a local woman.

The now shares a small one bedroom flat with another man and works as a driver, and sometimes a gardener. He says he prefers living in a flat but misses the freedom of life in the forest. “I return to the forest every single day. I wake up at 3 AM, get dressed and head out to check on my vegetables, all before my workday begins.”

Good for him. I’ll bet he’s excited at the prospect of the metaverse.

4. BBC News website: Man dies after allegedly having leg sawn off

A man has been charged with murder after allegedly sawing another man’s leg off in north-eastern Australia. Police believe the man and the suspect had some sort of arrangement in which the younger man would amputate the older man’s leg.

Police said the men drove to the park together before the 36-year-old allegedly cut the other’s leg off under the knee with a circular saw. The suspect assisted the injured man back to the car before leaving on foot. A passer-by found the injured man and called the emergency services, but the 66-year-old died shortly afterwards.

5. BBC News website: New Zealand defender Meikayla Moore hits hat-trick

In fact, in the match against the USA, she scored the ‘perfect’ hat-trick – one goal with with her left foot, one with her right foot and one with a header. Sadly, they were all in her own net.

Swim, run (x4), gym, plus Big Jim and Chinese Friends having a chat(!)

Rather inconsequential local storm damage

Monday was Valentine’s Day. I went for broke in the cooking this year with lobster thermidor – a good choice as it just about made up for me going to the swim doctor session in the early evening.

The session was based on the breaststroke, which is of little interest to me as I really only want to swim front crawl for the purpose of triathlons. However, no matter how bad I was at the drills (and I was really bad), I enjoyed the session (I don’t know why). It’s all valuable learning – I now know that while the medial collateral ligament I hurt a couple of years ago is happy with running, cycling and crawl leg kick, it doesn’t like the sideways pressure of a breast stroke leg kick.

The lobster thermidor was a great success, despite the fact that I’d never tackled a lobster before (I bought whole lobsters and had to ‘dismantle’ them) and had little idea of what a thermidor sauce was before making one.

Last week, my usual reaction to the pool (the chlorine?) had been mild, this week, I started sneezing at 3am. Half an hour and three handkerchiefs later that stopped but I couldn’t breathe through my nose for the rest of the night – rather miserable. I’m not sure what to do about it – I could try a nose clip but I have tried one before and wasn’t keen. Perhaps there is a sinus spray I can try – I’ll research it.

The plan had been to do hill reps on Tuesday but I was tired and still unable to breathe freely – and it was cold and very wet. It didn’t take much to decide not to run but I did get out to pick up our younger son who came home for a ‘reading week’ during his PGCE (teacher training) course. He and I did a very enjoyable 10.4km (6.4 miles) in much milder – but still windy – conditions on Wednesday morning.

My running partner is, sensibly, protecting a less-than-100% ankle so our planned Ridgeway run for Thursday was postponed. With enthusiasm, I embraced the concept of a cut-back week (for long, or trail, runs at least) but that didn’t mean I was excused 8 hill reps on Thursday – which logged 8.6km with 293m of ascent (5.5 miles and 960 feet). I creaked for the rest of the day and the gym on Friday was quite difficult too but the stint in the bike shop was therapeutic.

Europe, including the UK, has been hit by a couple of storms this week with very dangerous winds which, sadly, caused some fatalities. In Oxfordshire, we have been lucky to be only on the edge of the worst affected areas – we suffered little more than a short power failure, but we spent the rest of the day hunkered down in the house.

If you want a good example of how having a running companion can be a benefit and a curse, Saturday is a case in point.

I woke still feeling creaky and decided that, at most, I might get on the turbo later in the day. Then our son came down in running kit and I immediately decided to go with him. By the time I got ready, it was raining heavily – I would have canned the run but the rain was set in for the day so we went anyway. Within 2km, the rain was colder and heavier, interspersed with sleet for light relief.

The best decision we made was at the point where we either turn back to make it 10km or carry on home for 7km. In all, 7.2km @ 5.48/km, completely soaked. It was strangely enjoyable, perhaps because normally it wouldn’t have happened and perhaps because it was properly daft to have done it.

My wife has been struggling with an injury but had improved enough to try a run on Sunday so we had a gentle outing for 7.88km (4.9 miles) to finish off the week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. The big news of the week was Big Jim over at Fit Recovery smashing through the 1 million views on his website where he tackles recovery from addiction, cycling, bowling, family, life and all that sort of stuff with humour and good sense. If you don’t know the site, why not have a look (after all, we’ve got to get him to 2 million).

By tradition, the African wise words are always first in this section – but not this week

2. African wise words: Don’t think there are no crocodiles just because the water is calm

3. BBC News website: Chinese streaming platforms accused of censoring Friends

Friends has a massive following in China, with many crediting the show with teaching them English and introducing them to US culture but Chinese fans have complained of scenes being deleted, including those that refer to a lesbian character, and another featuring a same-sex kiss.

Incorrect subtitles were also used to downplay sexual references. In one scene, the phrase “multiple orgasms” was translated to the Chinese phrase for “women have endless gossips”.

4. BBC News website: One-word gaffe invalidates thousands of baptisms

At the centre of the controversy is a pastor’s use of the word “we” instead of “I” in the phrase “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Catholic teaching is that only Jesus Christ has the power to baptise – not the wider community or the Church.

According to the Catholic Diocese, the Pastor was reciting the words incorrectly until 17 June 2021. The Church has declared all baptisms he conducted up to that date invalid – local media has put the number of baptisms affected in the thousands.

I wonder if God is as concerned about this as the church is?

5. BBC News website: Saudi Arabia: 28,000 women apply for 30 train driver jobs

For decades, Saudi Arabia had one of the world’s lowest female workforce participation rates and this is the first time such roles have been advertised for women.

In recent years the government has made efforts to increase the number of women in work as part of a plan to diversify the oil-dependent economy. As a result of such changes, the participation of women in the workforce has almost doubled over the past five years to 33%, and more women than men entered the workforce in the first half of last year.

6. BBC News website: American ultra runner breaks 100-mile world record

Camille Herron broke her own women’s world record in winning the USA Track and Field 100-mile Championships. The 40-year-old beat her previous mark by almost a minute and a half, winning in 12 hours 41 minutes 11 seconds – averaging around 7:37 minutes per mile. She finished almost half an hour ahead of first male athlete who came home in 13:10:25.


7. With the storms in the news this week, I’ve decided to write a book about the high winds – I’ve started the first draft.


Swim, run x3, gym, turbo (plus false teeth and Barry Manilow)

Happy days when there was sun coming into the gym – it was ‘see your breath’ cold this week

Monday saw my ‘swim doctor’ session. The pool turned out to be exclusively for those signing up for the lesson – just 7 of us – thus addressing my usual ‘too many people’ gripe.

There were a variety of drills – not really my sort of thing but doing them was a good discipline. I swam for about 750m but it was much tougher than 750m of ‘ordinary’ swimming and it was also hard having not swum since November. I still don’t love swimming but it has to be done with two open water triathlons signed up for this year.

It leaves me both discouraged and encouraged. There doesn’t seem to be a ‘silver bullet’ that will turn me into a much better swimmer – but nor I was consigned to the ‘no-hopers’ category. At one point the instructor said I swam well – I suspect she was being more kind than honest.

Perhaps the hardest thing is that doing drills to work on my (many) faults confirmed that I am unable to concentrate on anything new without forgetting everything else. This swimming lark is very complicated (and although the instructor was very pleasant, I don’t think she really is a doctor).

On Tuesday, my running partner and I started our weekly Ridgeway run above Wantage and headed east to where it passes under the A34 near West Ilsley in the neighbouring county of Berkshire, and back. We ran 17.4km (10.8 miles) at 6.16/km. Much harder than last week – further, hillier and the run back was into an even stronger headwind.

Over the last few weeks we’ve run a third of the whole 100km route (in fact we’ve run that third twice as all the runs have been out and back). It’s been really good but it is a bit daunting in the way it underlines the length of the ultra.

I had planned a turbo session on Wednesday but thought better of it after the tough trail run on Tuesday and my intention to do hill reps on Thursday.

I’m glad I did take Wednesday off as the 8 hill reps on a cold but dry Thursday – which logged 8.9km with 292m of ascent (5.5 miles and 960 feet) – were done on very tired legs. Despite that, I decided to see if I could do the session in less than an hour (recently it’s been stubbornly about 1:03). I did manage to break the hour – by just 18 seconds.

It was back to being ‘see your breath’ cold in the gym on Friday morning. A tough session, possibly because it followed a day with hill reps rather than the usual more gentle run? At least there is a heater in the bike shop where I did my usual stint.

On Saturday I was on the turbo, watching the first half of the Six Nations Rugby Match – France v Ireland. At 10-7 inside the first 9 minutes I was regretting my ‘random jeopardy’ approach of doing 15 revs sprint per point scored. Happily, they sorted out their defences and it was 19-7 at half time – but by then the damage had been done (to me). In all, 45 minutes @ 29.5kph (18.3mph).

Sunday morning was wet, cold and windy but I thought I’d found a gap in the rain and went for a run. The gap lasted nearly two minutes and then the rain resumed heavier than before. Still, the rule is that if you start a run it has to be finished and, setting out with low expectations, I surprised myself with 10.35km (6.4 miles) in 59 minutes.

I’ve lit the log burner for my wife’s eventual return from meeting up with her brothers yesterday, then it will be watching the rugby this afternoon as it continues to rain heavily. Nothing even resembling exercise, beyond a short walk up the village for what I know will be a great evening out with friends.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Confiding a secret to an unworthy person is like carrying grain in a bag with a hole

2. BBC News website: Original ending of Fight Club reinstated in China

As mentioned here, the original ending to the 1999 film Fight Club had been changed by a Chinese streaming service to show a message on screen saying the authorities won and saved the day.

The change ignited intense debate about cinematic censorship in China.

I’m too modest to claim that the news appearing in my blog made all the difference …

3. BBC News website: Lifelong fans gutted as soap faces uncertain future

The UK’s Channel 5 is dropping Australian soap ‘Neighbours” (first broadcast in 1985). The UK station has been the main place anyone in the world has watched Neighbours for several years – and that includes Australia.

One fan said he got hooked on Neighbours about a year ago because it was “very digestible”.

Ah, one of those one-year ‘lifelong fans’. I think dropping it might be good news as he can get out more

4. BBC News website: Tourist reunited with false teeth lost in Spain 11 years ago

A holidaymaker lost his false teeth 11 years ago while vomiting into a bin on a boozy night out in Benidorm. He rummaged around in vain for his dentures in the bin.

His dentures were found in a landfill and Spanish authorities used DNA records to track him down and the teeth have now been returned to his home in Manchester.

Classy .. but why would the authorities go to so much trouble, especially after 11 years?

5. BBC News website: Secret weapon against protesters – Barry Manilow

Authorities in New Zealand have been playing songs by the US singer on a 15-minute loop, along with the Spanish dance tune ‘Macarena’, in an attempt to dislodge protesters camped outside the parliament building.

Tactics used by the authorities to try and get rid of the protesters involved turning on the water sprinklers on the lawn where they were camped on Friday but they retaliated by digging trenches and building makeshift drainpipes to re-route the water.

Run x4, turbo and gym – plus troubled bridge over water

Monday morning it was back to the Ridgeway with my friend and running partner. This time we went from Sparsholt Firs heading east (and back) for a total of 14.5km @ 6m 12sec/km.

It was a good bit of the trail with a decent running surface for the most part and no really bad hills. The temperature was OK, although there was a very cool and brisk headwind on the return leg which made it a good deal harder – I’m surprised that we did it as quickly as we did. It’s a bit counter-intuitive but at some stage I need to practice running slower as (for me) that is (much) too fast for a 100km ultra.

The route of the ‘Race to the Stones’ is largely East to West but the prevailing wind is a westerly – 100km into a wind like the one we faced on Monday would be no fun at all. I like the route but a ‘Race from the Stones’, running it west to east is tempting.

Turbo on Tuesday – 45 minutes @ 29.5km (18.3mph). That was my best for nearly a month, immediately after my longest run for about 4 months. I still do not understand this exercise lark. Hill reps on Wednesday, I’m nothing if not boringly predictable consistent. Another 9 reps for 9.5km and 317m of ascent (nearly 6 miles and 1,040 feet).

On Monday the house electrics had tripped – which I diagnosed (from the depths of my general ignorance of such things) as the element in the fan oven. New element ordered on Tuesday and it was delivered and I fitted it on Wednesday. It often seems to be getting harder to get stuff delivered so credit where credit’s due.

On Thursday we did a shorter run – time off for good behaviour – just 5.6km (nearly 3.5 miles) and Friday was the inevitable gym and bike shop. In the evening I went to the cycle club’s very good winter dinner (I felt a bit of an interloper having hardly cycled recently – but I think my hours in the shop, meetings and cycle teaching justified my attendance).

I ran with my wife again on Saturday, one of our shorter runs for 7.2km (4.5miles). I nearly ran again on Sunday but thought better of it as I’d already done seven straight days with exercise and it was still very windy (winds that had, I assume, contributed to our power cut on Saturday night).

Common sense prevailed but I’ll take some comfort from the fact that I felt that I could have run. A slight shame not to have got to 50km for the week but no prizes for being in decent shape in February and then getting injured.

During the week I signed up for a ‘swim doctor’ session at the local pool. I’m not entirely sure what it is but it’s on Monday. For an investment of £3 can I expect the ‘silver bullet’ by way of advice that will double my swim speed for half the effort? I wait in eager anticipation.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Striking the ground with wood doesn’t scare away an elephant

2. BBC News website: Learner driver arrested twice on same day in same car

A learner driver was arrested twice on the same day, in the same car – for the same offence. The driver had a provisional licence and was arrested for driving without supervision on Wednesday. His car was seized and he returned later to get the car from the police pound. Officers said he was later arrested in the same car for, again, driving while unsupervised.

The driver of a car that picked up the arrested man for the second offence was also arrested for driving while disqualified.

3. BBC News website: Own goal by Europe’s football governing body

Uefa has decided not to take legal action against a German restaurant and its ‘Champignons League’ pizza.

European football’s governing body says its prestigious ‘Champions League’ competition can “happily live alongside” the mushroom pizza just a few days after sending the restaurant a letter threatening legal action over the name.

4. BBC News website: Historic bridge to be dismantled for Jeff Bezos

A record-breaking luxury yacht is being built by Dutch firm Oceanco for Mr Bezos. It is reported to be 417ft (127m) long and too tall to fit through Rotterdam’s Koningshaven Bridge which blocks its route to the sea.

Locals are not necessarily impressed and although it has been reported that the bridge will be dismantled (at Bezos’ cost) to let the yacht pass, Rotterdam’s mayor has denied that any decision has been made.

A bridge too far?

5. BBC News website: Cyclist updates

Egan Bernal is to have further surgery on his spine following his crash in his native Colombia after he hit a stationary bus while riding his time trial bike in January.

When using tri bars I am pretty cautious as I care about my ability to see properly – and I am nowhere like the position pros get into on time trial bikes.

The news about Amy Pieters is not great – she is said to be stable but still in a deep coma more than a month after her crash in training.

So sad, I’m still hoping for the best

6. BBC News website: Tom Brady retires

I’m not one to go with all the GOAT stuff – to many changes over the years to compare stars of one era with another, in my opinion ….. but with Brady I’m tempted to make an exception