Monthly Archives: April 2022

Run (x4), swim, gym (plus some confusing birthdays and un-celebrations)

The two belt bags I ran with for last year’s ultra

No swim doctor session on Monday because of the Bank Holiday but I ran with my wife on a lovely warm morning – 7.2km (4.5 miles). Minor foot niggles tell me three days running in a row is enough.

The penalty for not having the swim session on Monday was that I went to the pool on Tuesday morning with my training partner (who has much better discipline with the swimming than I do). My aim was to swim a non-stop 1km to see if I could do it faster than I had before the swim doctor sessions – but that went out of the window once I saw that there were 5 others in the ‘fast’ lane.

I did about 800m trying some a bit faster, and some a bit smoother so it was a decent swim, but not exactly what I’d hoped for. I can swim 25m in 30 seconds (still slow but faster than before) but the extra effort means I can’t keep that going for long.

The rest of Tuesday was spent starting to address a large block paved driveway which needs attention, raking out, and killing the weeds in, the cracks between blocks. It’s back-breaking work which will take a few days of effort.

At least this effort shows

I took a car in to the garage on Wednesday morning and ran back – 5.5km (3.4 miles) before more work on the drive.

Thursday was the usual 8 hill reps for 8.6km and 287m of ascent (5.4 miles and 941 feet) and then another three hours of hard labour on the driveway, it rather puts training and exercise in its place.

Gym and bike shop, as ever, on Friday morning, followed by a bonfire as the wind was in the right direction to blow the smoke away from the village and then out for a very good supper with friends in the evening.

After a morning tending the still smoking bonfire and doing more on the driveway, we went to the wedding of some friends’ daughter on Saturday. A terrific wedding which we left in the early hours to walk the 3 miles home. After picking up the car I went for a steady run in fairly warm weather – 13.7km (8.5 miles).

Bonfire tended and still producing wisps of smoke, driveway still breaking my back.

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

I’m starting to wonder about kit to take on the run. If I need anything new, I’d better get it and try it out soon.

For last year’s 50km I had a tri-belt with two small pockets and bottle holder, and a small (but expandable) running belt. They took everything I needed: phone, necessary first aid bits, credit card and cash, sanitiser, face mask, sun cream, a light jacket and the Garmin. I guess the only extra thing needed this year might be a torch. I believe that I complied with the compulsory kit list but it was never checked.

With food stations no more than 15km apart, I didn’t need to carry food and I never put more than 150ml in the bottle. Unless it’s a lot hotter this year, I can’t think I’ll need to carry much more drink so, for now, I’m not planning on a vest specifically for hydration purposes.

However, for general storage I guess it all comes down to how much you want to carry and how comfortable the various options are. I know some people don’t like straps around the waist but that’s a simple and cheap way to tackle it – would a vest be both more comfortable and hold more?

The event’s training plan had this week as a cut-back week so I don’t feel bad about having run less than usual – unfortunately, next week will be tricky too. There’s only been one week so far when I haven’t exceeded the event’s plan (I was 1km short – but that week I rode a 70 mile sportive so I don’t feel I short changed myself).

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
9 25 35
Cumulative total 264 418

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes but the monkey remains

2. BBC News website: Man wins $450k lawsuit after unwanted office birthday party

A man has been awarded $450,000 (£345,314) after his company threw him a surprise birthday party. The man suffers from anxiety disorders and had asked his manager to not celebrate his birthday at work, as it could result in a panic attack and would bring back uncomfortable childhood memories.

Despite this, the company threw him a surprise party, triggering a panic attack. The claim said that he was “confronted and criticised” at a meeting the following day, where he was accused of “stealing his co-workers joy” and “being a little girl”. The meeting prompted a second panic attack, and two days later the company fired him, citing concerns about workplace safety. 

The jury awarded him $450,000, including $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages.

3. BBC News website: How old re you – in Korea, there could be three answers 

Officially, the country has used the international counting system, using a person’s birth date, in most legal definitions and administrative processes since 1962.

The country also has another official way to count age, in which babies are born at the age of 0, and gain a year every January 1. Under this, a baby born in December 2020 would be two years old by January 2022, even if they wouldn’t officially turn two until December of that year.

Thirdly, there’s the “Korean age” method, which is used more typically by everyone in society, where everyone is automatically a year old at birth, and become a year older on New Year’s Day regardless of their birth date.

4. BBC News website: ‘Biohacker’ has 32 pieces of technology in his body

Dutchman, Patrick Paumen, has a contactless payment microchip injected under his skin so that placing his left hand near a contactless card reader allows him to make payments.

The chip weighs less than a gram and is little bigger than a grain of rice. It has regulatory approval, works immediately after being implanted, and will stay firmly in place. It also does not require a battery, or other power source. The firm supplying the chip says it has now sold more than 500 of them.

His other implants include chips to open doors and imbedded magnets.

Swim, turbo, run (x4), gym (plus opera and the W boson putting on weight)

On Monday the only issue from the sportive was a slightly sore backside (which had not been ready for 5 hours in the saddle) but I was very happy to settle for just the evening swim doctor session.

I feel that my swimming has improved but am still putting off an attempt at a quick kilometre, for fear that it turns out to be no faster than before the lessons. Sooner or later I will have to bite that particular bullet but the real test will come when I get back to the open water (which is not going to happen until the lakes warm up).

I had no enthusiasm for a run on Tuesday but I (just) managed to get on the turbo in the early evening. Although I rode the sportive fairly gently, it must have taken more out of my legs than I’d realised as there wasn’t much there for the turbo – just 13km in 30 minutes. I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised as nearly 5 hours of fairly gentle peddling is still a lot of peddling.

My legs were just about recovered enough for hill reps on Wednesday. True to its capricious self, this time the Garmin measured the usual 8 reps as 8.5km and 257m of ascent (5.3 miles and 843 feet) and cheated me out of a one hill segment.

I was still lacking motivation on Thursday – I guess it’s the usual post-challenge slump, courtesy of the sportive. To my surprise, in the afternoon I managed to find a left over scrap of enthusiasm in the back of a drawer and ran a gentle 13km (8.1 miles).

No shop on Good Friday but I went to the gym with my training partner who is still not in the clear for running but is making strides (if you know what I mean) in the pool.

After the pleasure of some mowing, we went to Oxford for an excellent Lebanese early supper and a terrific production of Puccini’s Tosca. I sometimes surprise myself with my love of opera and it was a wonderful evening with friends (two of whom are opera buffs and two experiencing opera for the first time – I do hope it’s not their last).

The production featured the Ukrainian National Municipal Opera of Kyiv and their production of a Ukrainian flag at the curtain call, and their singing of the Ukrainian national anthem was very moving.

I don’t know if it was the uplifting music, the delightful evening out or just the passing of 5 days since the sportive but I ran on a very warm Saturday morning – 13.3km (8.3 miles). Later we drove up to London for supper with our younger son and his girlfriend.

Of course, staying in London overnight meant a run on Sunday morning – the usual route to Hammersmith Bridge and down the Thames Path to Fulham’s football ground and back. For a while now I’ve been running very slowly (even for me) – I don’t need to run fast (which is handy, because I can’t) but I decided to push a bit harder and managed 7.2km (4.45 miles) at 5:29/km.

After a very unpromising start, it turned out to be a good week in many ways. The opera was the highlight but I also managed to do 42km of running. Although I didn’t have a day off I’m hoping I’ll get away with that thanks to the fairly easy days on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

Happy Easter!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No person is born great. Great people become great when others are sleeping

2. BBC News website: Wind and solar generate 10% of global electricity

The growth in the need for electricity last year was the equivalent of adding a new India to the world’s grid but solar and wind and other clean sources generated 38% of the world’s electricity in 2021 and, for the first time, wind turbines and solar panels generated 10% of the total.

Fifty countries now get more than a tenth of their power from wind and solar sources. The fastest switching took place in the Netherlands, Australia, and Vietnam. All three have moved a tenth of their electricity demand from fossil fuels to green sources in the last two years.

3. BBC News website: Mass of a sub-atomic particle is not what it should be

A team of scientists in Chicago has found that the particle, a W boson, is more massive than the theories predicted, a result that is at odds with one of the most important and successful theories of modern physics.

The difference is just 0.1%, but if confirmed by other experiments, the implications are enormous. The discovery could lead to the development of a new, more complete theory of how the Universe works.

I’m sure we all suspected as much but were too polite to say

4. BBC News website: Length of life linked to speed of mutation of genetic code

Researchers discovered that mammals – from tigers to humans – have roughly the same number of mutations by the time they die of old age. A study of 16 species of mammal suggests that they all converged on “about 3,200” mutations (changes that creep into the instruction manual for building and running our bodies – our DNA) across their lifetime.

Mice rattle through nearly 800 mutations a year during their short lives, which last just under four years. Dogs have around 249 annual mutations, a lion 160 and a giraffe 99. Humans averaged 47.

5. BBC News website: But at least they must be good suits

A luxury tailor in Cairo that specialises in making clothes for celebrities is suing the Arabic language remake of the television series Suits, claiming that the production company has not paid for the suits – and other clothes – worn by the show’s stars.

The claim is for about $1.5m (£1.2m) but the production company denies the allegation and says it will counter-sue for defamation.

6. BBC News website: Man arrested after 183 animals are found in freezer.

The man admitted freezing some of the 183 animals found in his freezer (including dogs, cats, snakes and birds) while they were still alive, the Mohave County Sheriff’s office said. He has been charged with 94 counts of animal cruelty.

Run (x4), swim, ride (x2) plus cycling stupidity, honesty, trains and J-C van Damme

This week was always going to be odd as far as training was concerned but, to give it a fairly normal start, I ran on Monday morning and did the swim doctor session in the evening.

The run was hill reps – tough, as always, but great to have got them out of the way for the week. This time it measured 9.34km and 287m of ascent (5.8 miles and 941 feet). At the pool, the usual swimming instructor was away this week but the stand-in was good and the change meant some different drills which was refreshing.

I ran with my wife on a milder Tuesday morning, 7.2km (4.5 miles). The rest of the day I was playing plumber, replacing some split copper piping and an outside tap.

Originally, we had planned to ski this week but decided not to because it was half-term, unseasonably hot out in the alps and the snow was not great. Of course, as soon as we made the decision, it got cold and snowed heavily. Instead, after domestic stuff, we drove down to Bournemouth on Wednesday afternoon.

We had our fingers crossed as the last time we were there the house alarm triggered in Oxfordshire and I had a wasted journey back. We think it was probably the door to the attic rooms not being shut and moving in a draught – but we can’t be sure.

There was plenty of draught in Bournemouth too – I abandoned a walk down the seafront as I was being sand blasted. We found a fairly new tapas restaurant in a local row of shops in the evening, a modest looking place but great tasting food.

It was blowing a gale and raining really hard all night. The morning was bright and dry, but still windy but I love running down there so I ran along the seafront – 10.2km (6.3 miles) – the first 4km of which was straight into the teeth of a relentless 35kph (22mph) headwind that was gusting up to 57kph (37mph). At times I was almost stopped in my tracks and at one point I passed a chap who had just got off his bike in favour of walking it into the wind but, luckily, the sand being blown towards me wasn’t getting above knee height.

Those 4kms out to Boscombe pier were as hard as any I remember running, only the later part of the Rotterdam marathon in 2019, or the 5k I ran from Les Carroz to Les Molliets up the Col de Pierre Carrée – an alpine climb at over 6.5% – would compare (was that really 2018?). I was about 50 sec/km faster with the wind behind me on the way back along the front.

The exact same run on Friday was, surprisingly, very different. The wind had dropped but swung around 180 degrees and there was a cold and persistent drizzle. For some reason, the Thursday run was 20 seconds slower but recorded as a little longer.

A terrific lunch at The Jetty, overlooking Christchurch Harbour and then back to Oxfordshire after a really good couple of days’ break (but I’ve missed the skiing – just the second year without it in nearly 40).

On Saturday my bike came out into the wide world for the first time this year, blinking in the sunlight. I checked it over and took it for a short 25km (15.5 mile) test ride. The reason was the sportive on Sunday but the first few miles felt so bad that I was wondering what excuse to give for not doing the sportive.

Eventually, I (almost) remembered how to cycle but no matter how many times I have to learn it, the fact that running legs and cycling legs are very different things never fails to come as a horrible shock.

The bike was not sure about coming out of the shed – I think it’s developed agoraphobia over the winter

At the start of the ride is was hovering about freezing. I did a slightly sensible thing and went for the 70 mile and 4065 feet of ascent (113km and 1239m) route instead of the 90 miler – and went for the ‘get round and don’t worry about the time’ approach. Two good decisions as the shorter distance was plenty far enough and although the legs protested they got me up all the big hills. I rode round non-stop in under 4h 50.

I’m happy to go on record that the distance was really too far for the training I’d put in. Not only were the legs not really ‘cycle fit’ but my backside needed much more toughening up before being subjected to nearly 5 hours on the sheet of carbon fibre that passes for my saddle. However, I did it, slowly, but without too much discomfort and I’m pleased with that. It was still enough to earn the ‘Gold Standard’ and I was fourth in my age group.

An odd week – four runs but no long one, no gym but plenty of time in the saddle. Friends are coming for supper tonight – I’m hoping I don’t fall asleep in my bowl of soup.

Interesting stuff this week

1. Africa wise words: If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do no harm

2. BBC News website: Liberian taxi driver: returning $50,000 changed a life

A struggling motorbike taxi driver found $50,000 (£40,000) wrapped in a plastic bag by the side of the road. He gave it to his aunt to look after and returned it to the rightful owner who appealed on national radio for help in finding the cash.

Some mocked him for his honesty but President George Weah handed him $10,000, a local media owner also gave him cash and the owner of the money donated $1,500-worth of goods.

He was also given a place at one of Liberia’s most prestigious schools and a US college offered him a full scholarship once he had completed his secondary education. He now has six years of secondary school ahead of him and will be 25 when he graduates. He wants to study accounting at university “to prepare myself to help guide the use of the country’s money”.

3. BBC News website: Cracks found in more than 180 trains

The rail regulator has found fatigue and corrosion led to high-speed trains being withdrawn from service. It said fatigue cracking was caused by the “trains experiencing greater loads from train movement than allowed for in the original design”.

… and there I was thinking that train design probably allowed for quite a lot of movement

4. BBC News website: Many Delhi meat shops closed for Hindu festival

Mayors of south and east districts said most people fast or abstain from eating meat during the festival and many had complained that they did not like seeing meat being cut in the open.

However, the move has riled many who have taken to social media to express outrage saying that it violates India’s pluralism, pointing out that someone’s choice to abstain from meat should not infringe on another’s freedom to eat meat or earn a livelihood.

Life is so complicated when trying to keep everyone happy

5. BBC News website: ‘Muscles from Brussels’ head to DR Congo

Famous action film hero Jean-Claude van Damme says he is thrilled to have been given a Congolese diplomatic passport.

“I am going to try to convince international stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jacky Chan and many others,” he said as he accepted his passport and role as cultural, youth and wildlife ambassador for the country. “There are also singers like Jennifer Lopez and footballers like Messi, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo. They must come to the country to show that it is safe, to show that Congo can protect those in showbiz.”

Not sure I got the reason why Jennifer Lopez Messi, Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo must come to the the Congo but I guess he might be quite persuasive

Swim, run (x4), gym (plus shrinkflation, fashion and heatwaves)

A friend has two dogs that my wife often walks with her. Our friend’s hurt her back so I was my wife’s assistant dog-walker on a crisp Monday morning giving the dogs a long walk around the fields.

After a day of mowing and car-cleaning, it was the swim doctor session in the early evening and another good mixture of drills and swimming.

Tuesday was odd – it’s rare that I don’t want to go for a run but that was one of those days. I suppose one of the differences between training and exercising is that runs are a bit less optional, so I got into the kit and ran. It was back to being chilly but, of course, as soon as I got outside I enjoyed it – 13km (8 miles) at a bit better than 6 minutes/km.

Back to the usual hill on Wednesday. Sadly, it’s continued to get colder and I’m back to running tights, three layers on top and gloves. This week, 8 reps measured 8.8km with 287m of ascent (5.5 miles 941 feet) – at least it felt better than last week’s horrible struggle.

I ran again on an even colder Thursday – 11.2km (7 miles) – complete with a few flakes of snow in the air and a bitter northerly – the wind chill made it feel a few degrees below freezing (a hat now added to the cold weather gear).

Three consecutive days of running is probably a bit much but having missed Monday it felt like it was worth doing to make the weekend easier. That just leaves the gym on Friday and one long run still to come …. and it took me beyond 500km of running in the first three months of the year, with over 7km of ascent.

Gym – still focusing on arms, chest, shoulders and core – and bike shop on Friday morning.

I’m happy (but probably foolish) to run up to about 26km (16 miles) without prior nutrition and without taking anything on the run, but to try something different I had porridge before setting off for my week’s long run on Saturday. After all, the fact that I can do it without doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be better with.

I started with bright and cold but soon got rain, snow flurries, more sun and a return of the rain. In all, a bit over 27km (nearly 17 miles) – I took no food or drink with me on the run, but felt no noticeable benefit from the porridge. I weighed in at a scrawny, and probably dehydrated, 65.5kg (144 pounds – 10 stone 4) at the end of the run.

That’s 60km (over 37 miles) in 4 runs over 5 days – it was tough and I’m now very weary. Our older son came back later on Saturday to return a car he’d borrowed – with the short notice, that meant our second take-away of the year for supper.

As always, it’s great to see him although it was a fleeting visit and I dropped him off at the station on Sunday. I felt in pretty good shape but, apart from that outing, I dedicated myself to a rest day.

I seem to have fallen into a training rut routine of 6 sessions a week (4 runs, a swim and a gym visit) but I should be cycling and swimming more. I also need to have a day off (preferably two) so I need to double up some days.

To fit in 7 sessions in a week, I’m sure one session a day with no rest is a bad idea – but I wonder if it’s better to do them over 6 days with one rest day, or cram them into 5 days, with 2 days off?

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

Week (of 20)Event’s training plan (km)My actual (km)
63560
Cumulative total161304
My training so far

My friend and training partner has recovered from Covid (I think it was nature’s way of telling him to give his ankle ligament more time off) and is – cautiously – restarting running. He’s been able to keep the swimming, gym and turbo trainer going so, as long as the injury is healing properly, he’ll be fine for the triathlon in late May but a question mark hangs over July’s ultra.

Last year I injured myself and had 9 weeks to train for the 50km ultra. In that time, I ran less than 150 miles (240km) and still enjoyed the event itself, never feeling that I wasn’t going to finish. It will be tough but I hope this year’s 100km is possible for him (in the absence of more illness or injury). There’s a potential fall-back of him doing half the run, which will still be an ultra … and that’s not to be sniffed at. Fingers crossed.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When an old man dies, a library is burned with him

In my case, they will probably just warm up a postcard

2. BBC News website: Shrinkflation

Cadbury has shrunk the size of some of its Dairy Milk bars by 10%, but will not reduce the price for customers. US Parent company Mondelez blamed costs associated with the production of its chocolate spiking, as it reduced the bars’ size from 200g to 180g.

In 2020, the company was accused of “shrinkflation” – reducing the size of a product while keeping the price the same to boost profits. At the time, Cadbury chocolate bars sold in multipacks were reduced in size to reduce their calorie count, said the company.

Ah, it was just for our own good in calorie reduction and there I was mistakenly thinking it was about profits

3. BBC News website: Europe to crack down on fast fashion

It is proposed to make the clothing made and worn here more durable, reusable, repairable and recyclable. Manufacturers will have to ensure clothes are eco-friendly and hard-wearing and consumers will be given more information on how to reuse, repair and recycle their clothes.

According to the European Environment Agency in Europe clothes have, on average, the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate, exceeded only by food, housing and transport.

One advantage of not worrying about being ‘in fashion’ is that I have little risk of ever going out of fashion

4. BBC News website: It’s getting hot in here

The Met Office defines a heatwave as when an area experiences daily maximum temperatures meeting or exceeding a certain level for three days in a row. As they become more common, forecasters have raised the temperature at which a heatwave is declared in several areas of England by 1C.

Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire now have a level of 28C (82F), Lincolnshire has a limit of 27C (81F) and the East Riding of Yorkshire has 26C (79F).

It is untrue that, in the rest of the country, a heatwave is declared if it ever stops raining

5. Football World Cup draw

The draw for the Football World Cup (to be held in November and December) took place on Friday. England’s initial group is the USA, Iran and (one of) Scotland, Ukraine and Wales.

I predict optimism, hope, expectation and eventual disappointment and despair. To be honest, that’s not much of a prediction, just a description of our usual World Cup journey