Monthly Archives: September 2022

Run (x2), swim (x3), turbo, La Manga, parkrun, a tasty snack and vicious windows

View from the balcony, La Manga

Last Sunday we drove our younger son back to London after the weekend at home and the local 10km race. We dropped him off at his flat and went on to ours for the night.

We were up at 4.30 the following morning to head off to Gatwick airport to fly out to Spain. Friends had decided to rent an apartment in La Manga for a month and invite some others to join them for a few days. Luckily, flying from Gatwick was not affected by the Queen’s funeral – some flights were cancelled from Heathrow to keep the sky quiet for the funeral, as a mark of respect.

La Manga is on a several kilometre spit off the south east coast of Spain and forms the Mar Menor, a very large salt water lagoon. Our friends had driven out there, complete with dog, and very kindly provided us with a personal transfer service to and from Mercia airport.

The apartment was beautifully located overlooking a marina and we had a great time relaxing in the sun – upper 20s℃ (upper 70s℉) – and eating and drinking. I managed to run once (with Graham, our host, who was a good runner but hasn’t run for ages, so I think my presence had some beneficial effect) and swam three times. Against all odds, I did manage to lose some weight before the run last weekend – but those pounds have returned and brought some friends with them.

We also had a few long dog walks along parts of undeveloped coastline. Like so much of Spain, the area has a lot of high rise developments and then some large desolate tracts of land where they lost interest (or started to reap the consequences of over-development and saturation of the housing market). There are even a few building ‘skeletons’ (just the concrete framework, long since abandoned) in La Manga, a legacy of the collapse in the market in about 2008.

Back home late on Thursday so I gave the gym a miss on Friday morning. I did the usual stint in the bike shop, which turned out to be 4 hours instead of 2 when a lady brought in a completely disassembled mountain bike that she had crashed in the European seniors duathlon cross championships in the week. A nice carbon framed Orbea which seems to have escaped with little damage (unlike the rider who cracked a couple of ribs).

On Saturday I did my first ever Parkrun (and my first ever ‘timed’ 5k), prompted by my friend and training partner. It was in Grove, about 12 miles away. It’s a shame that we don’t have anything closer but the course was good and pretty flat, mostly grass but with some confusing loops. There were 122 people and the whole event was very friendly and positive.

I’m always ridiculously nervous before these things (as if anyone cares, or even notices, what I’m doing) but at least there were fewer club running vests than there had been at the 10km last Sunday.

Against low expectations, it went pretty well. I probably set off a bit too fast and I gave my friend a target to aim for. He reeled me in at the end and we finished together, which was great, both clocking an official 25 minutes 06 seconds for the 5km. My Garmin measured it 2 seconds faster and 5.12km making an average pace of 4.54/km – goodness knows which is right.

We were 28th and 29th out of the 122 runners but the ‘age grading’ they give (to make times comparable, taking account of age) put me in 6th place. My grading was just over 68% which says I’m almost ‘regional class level’ (whatever that means).

I’m now going to have to do it again to find those pesky 7 (official) seconds to get under 25 minutes.

Just a turbo session on Sunday afternoon, a hard 30 minutes @ 31.5kph (19.57mph). Quite a week in many ways – I’m looking forward to an evening doing nothing.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Do not treat your loved one like a swinging door: you are fond of it but you push it back and forth

2. BBC News website: Bodies in suitcases story (mentioned a couple of weeks ago)

South Korean police have arrested a woman accused of murdering her two children who were found in abandoned suitcases bought in a sale in New Zealand last month.

The bodies were believed to have been stored for a few years. Korean police said the victims were aged 7 and 10. The woman is a 42-year-old New Zealand national of Korean descent and had fled to South Korea in 2018 after the children’s deaths.

3. BBC News website: Working from home or shirking from home?

A major new survey of more than 20,000 staff across 11 countries shows that bosses and workers fundamentally disagree about productivity when working from home.

While 87% of workers felt they worked as, or more, efficiently from home, 80% of managers disagreed.

It is untrue that 70% of workers could not be contacted because they were out

4. BBC News website: Latest Tesla recall

Tesla is recalling nearly 1.1 million cars in the US because the windows might not react correctly after detecting an obstruction and so close too fast and pinch people’s fingers.

The world’s largest electric-vehicle manufacturer has had repeated run-ins with federal safety regulators, who chief executive Elon Musk calls “the fun police”. He criticised the ‘recall’ terminology as the matter will be fixed by an over-the-air software update. Previous recalls have been due to: rear-view cameras; bonnet latches; seat-belt reminders; and sound-system software.

5. BBC News website: Who nose about veganism?

The chief operating officer of a vegan food giant has been arrested for reportedly biting a man’s nose during a row in the US.

It is alleged that the incident occurred on Saturday night as he left a parking garage in Arkansas after a football game and became involved in a dispute with another driver. He faces charges of “terroristic threatening” and third-degree battery.

No laughing matter, but he just had to be COO of a vegan food company, didn’t he?

Gym (x2), run (x3), turbo, (plus festivals, donkey parts, power outages and a 10k race)

Particular thanks to the marshal at the Longworth 10k who was manfully trying to stop a
small heard of cattle crossing the run route as I passed by

My back had improved further by Monday morning so I went to the gym, but kept to the machines. I gave the Swim Doctor session a miss for once. to go to a meeting at the village hall.

The meeting was about a project to look at a ground-source heating system for the whole village. I’m all in favour if it’s greener (and cheaper) but although the village has a real mix of houses, there are others like ours that is large, very old and built without cavity walls or any thought of energy efficiency. How these schemes work with a lot of energy-inefficient properties is not very clear.

For us, there is the added difficulty that we are ‘listed’ which means we are limited in what we can do to the property because of its age/architectural interest. It all looks quite problematic but what is obvious is that we should all be doing what we can sensibly to insulate and reduce our demand for power.

Hill reps on Tuesday – I managed the usual 8 reps and they were (a little) better and faster than the last two sessions. This time it measured 8.3km and 266 metres of ascent (5.1 miles and 873 feet). Exactly the same run was a kilometre longer last week!

I don’t obsess about my weight but I’m certainly over my cycling-up-mountains weight of under 67kg. I decided that a bit lighter would be a bit better for the 10km race on Sunday so I resigned myself to restraint for a day or two. I got on the turbo in the evening – 45 minutes for just over 22km @ 29.4kph (14 miles @ !8.3mph). It was a bit easier than last time, once I put some more air in the rear tyre.

Down to Bournemouth on Thursday to mow and check the troublesome electrics that had misbehaved last time we were there. All was well. Our older son had asked if he and his girlfriend could come back for the weekend, having just endured a stressful few days over some works to their house (happily resolved, but stressful nonetheless) and they arrived on Thursday evening.

That’s any chance of weight-loss gone, as my wife slips into cooking-overdrive.

On Friday morning I ran to, and back from, the gym with my training partner and did a weights session in between. Autumn is coming and there was a distinct nip in the air first thing. Only about 5.6km (3.5 miles) in total but quicker than usual. The normal stint in the bike shop after that.

No exercise on Saturday, just a lot of ferrying our younger son about from the station and to and from the wedding and evening reception. I could have done with the last taxi trip being before midnight – but at least it saved me from an evening with a bottle of red wine.

Sunday’s 10k race

Sunday morning (at a civilised 11am) saw the local 10km race I entered with my training partner and his wife – also joined by both our sons and our older son’s girlfriend. It’s a small village event but sees about 150 entrants, and I’m sure 80% of runners were wearing club vests. Last year, the winner – an under 18 – clocked 33.22 and it would have required 52 minutes to get in the top half of finishers. It’s not even a fast course!

The village sits a bit above the Thames so the race starts with a decent drop (on a rough stony track) to a section through fields and along the river itself, before turning back towards the village (with a sizeable hill) and a a narrow bridleway before the finish. It’s all off road and although it was dry, a lot of the paths were cracked and a fair bit of care was needed.

For me, it was going to be less of a ‘race’ and more of a ‘run’, I had no real target in mind but 56 minutes was the dream. I found it difficult not to push fairly hard in the ‘race’ environment so it didn’t end up as a gentle jog.

Although my Garmin registered a bit under the 10k, my son’s device showed it at just about the right distance and my personal timing gave me a time of 52 minutes 58 seconds, which was well beyond my highest hopes on what is billed as ‘not a course for personal bests’.

Our older son broke 50 minutes and younger son was just behind me. Great times all round including our friends and older son’s girlfriend.

An excellent event, well organised, friendly and with a lovely route (despite the treacherous ground underfoot in places). My only gripe is that the age categories for the results were too wide – veterans were in one group which included everyone over 44 years of age!

A fine weekend with all the family around, a run with our sons and a decent time, I loved it.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who refuses to obey cannot command

2. BBC News website: Music festival goes ahead but orgies are banned

Revellers have begun to arrive at Itanda Falls on the banks of the River Nile for the Nyege Nyege music festival. Uganda’s parliament had issued a directive that it should be cancelled over alleged immorality.

However, the festival will bring in much-needed revenue following the Covid-19 lockdown and promotes the country’s profile as a tourism hub so festival organisers have been issued with a number of guidelines to follow, including that minors are barred from the venue, sex orgies and nudity are prohibited as well as vulgar language, songs, expressions and gestures.

I’m not a festival goer, but does that undermine the whole idea of festivals?

3. BBC News website: BBC News website: The cost of traditional Chinese medicine?

Nigeria’s customs service has intercepted 7,000 donkey penises at an airport, that were headed to Hong Kong. The animal parts were packed in 16 sacks found in the animal export section.

The consignment is estimated to be worth 200 million Naira ($478,000; £416,000). Donkey parts are sought after in China where they are used to make traditional medicine but Nigerian law forbids such exports.

4. BBC News website: First instalment of invasion reparations paid

In a rare case of accountability for violations of international law, Uganda has handed over $65m (£55m) as the first instalment of a fine it was ordered to pay the Democratic Republic of Congo for invading the east of the country two decades ago.

In February, the International Court of Justice ( ICJ) ordered Uganda to pay $325m as reparations, made up as: $225m for damages to persons; $40m for damages to property; and $60m for the looted resources.

5. BBC News website: Sale of iPhones banned if a power adapter is not included

Brazilian consumer agency Senacon said Apple’s decision not to include power adapters with new iPhones discriminates against consumers by selling an “incomplete product” and Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security said it has fined Apple 12.275 million reais (£2.04m).

Apple stopped including power adapters and headphones in iPhone boxes with the launch of iPhone 12 in 2020 saying that the move would help reduce Apple’s carbon footprint, by making packaging smaller.

Apple said it will appeal against the ban.

and there I was thinking that no adapter or headphones was just cost saving

Gym (x2), swim, turbo, run (x2) – a very sad loss and some of the usual trivial nonsense

I went for the ‘rustic aesthetic’ rather than the craftsman look. for the olive tree container.
The tree itself is due some judicious pruning in the Spring (and the beech hedge soon)

Monday was exciting. I had a session in the gym in the morning – for the second week there was nobody to interrupt me so it was pretty hard … but the real excitement was … (drum roll) …

… getting tickets for Bob Dylan’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ tour.

I’ve had a lot of experience of sitting at the laptop for ages trying to get tickets for major concerts (for my wife) – and failing miserably. To be honest, I’m a bit reluctant to get tickets for most of the acts I’ve loved over the years on the basis that I’d prefer to remember them as they were, not as they are now. Although I appreciate that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m prepared to make an exception for Bob Dylan.

I got tickets for the early November show at our local theatre in Oxford. With fewer than 1800 seats it’s one of the smaller venues he’s playing and I did not even (quite) need a mortgage. Now I just have the agonising wait to see if the event happens or is thwarted by Covid, bronchitis, accident, injury etc etc (and hoping that he isn’t too self-indulgent but plays a lot of the old, great stuff) … but, hey, it’s Bob Dylan!

The swim doctor session in the evening was good but a bit of an anti-climax. I can’t say it’s All I Really Want To Do – I’m less Forever Young, and more Going, Going, Gone. A decent 900m despite that.

Tuesday was wet so I worked on making a wooden ‘box’ that the olive tree can sit in (in its pot). I opted for the turbo in the early evening – 45 minutes @ 26.8kph (16.7mph), with sprint efforts.

I guess the turbo ride on Tuesday didn’t help with Wednesday’s hill reps session. I just about managed the usual 8 reps but they were as hard as I ever remember them being. This time it measured 9.14km and 263m ascent (5.7 miles and 863 feet).

I took Thursday off exercise and finished the planter for the olive tree. Not a piece demonstrating any great skill – what my father-in-law used to call ‘bush carpentry’. Putting it in the right place required a lot of lifting heavy things several times, including a staddle stone but, ultimately, I think it looks pretty reasonable.

On Thursday came the sad news of concerns about the Queen’s health. I can’t pretend to be a big royalist but I really do admire her and her many years of dedicated service. It’s strange that, even despite my advancing years, I’ve only lived under one monarch.

Sadly, Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 96, having reigned for over 70 years, the longest serving monarch in British history. We now have King Charles III, which does not fill me with great enthusiasm. Interestingly, with the next two in line being male, there won’t be another Queen of England in my lifetime.

Gym on Friday morning, suffering from the lifting done the day before with a sore back from poor lifting technique. Worse, I had to drop a weight on the shoulder and arm presses to complete the sets. Then the bike shop where my two hour stint turned into four, happily recabling brakes and gears, fixing punctures and doing a quick fix for a very pleasant young chap who suffered a snapped derailleur nearby, by turning his bike into a single speed to get him home.

My back hurt for the rest of the day, not too badly if I kept moving but it was very unhappy getting up from any significant period sitting. It improved a bit overnight but I abandoned thoughts of running and did chores around the house and garden.

Back still a bit sore on Sunday but I got out for a run. The weather was cool and misty so it was long tights and a warmer running top – both of which proved to be a mistake as the sun quickly burnt off the mist and the temperature climbed. None of the intended sprint intervals out of deference to my back, but 12km (7.5 miles) at under 6 minutes per km.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No-one needs help to see the location of the sun

During university holidays I worked for the local council. While fixing street lighting on a night shift, the chap with me shone his torch up on the street light to see if it had come on

2. BBC News website: Last living Monkey sues FBI

The Monkees, the 1960s made-for-TV pop group, were the subject of an FBI file linked to the Vietnam War and the last remaining band member, Micky Dolenz, 77, is suing the agency to find out more.

Portions of a heavily redacted FBI file, released in 2011, include reports of anti-US messages on the war in Vietnam. An FBI source said “subliminal messages” were depicted on screen at a 1967 concert “which constituted left wing innovations of a political nature”.

Happily, not a species extinction story, I guess the title should be ‘last remaining Monkee …’

3. BBC News website: Goalkeeper sent off for urinating in a hedge during match

The incident occurred in the 76th minute of Saturday’s FA Cup first qualifying round. The ball went out for a goal kick and the goalkeeper for Blackfield & Langley FC (who play in the ninth-tier Wessex League) needed to relieve himself – so he went up against a hedge. The referee sent him off.

Is that a good decision or was the referee taking the p…

4. BBC News website: More football madness

Chelsea football club have sacked manager Thomas Tuchel after less than 20 months in charge and despite winning three trophies (arguably the three biggest trophies available to a European club) in that time, and just after allowing him to spend £255.3m (over $293m) in the transfer window that just closed.

They have given the job to Graham Potter (currently Brighton’s manager) and it is said they are likely to have to pay £21m (over $24m) in compensation to Brighton, in addition to the compensation payable to Tuchel himself.

Monopoly money – one thing I really dislike about the Premier League

5. BBC News website: Interesting fact (in the unlikely event you like cricket)

With Queen Elizabeth’s long reign and the increasing frequency of matches, 86% of all the test matches ever played were played while she was on the throne.

Run (x3), swim, gym – plus cock(pit) fighting, tomatoes, pumpkins, axe throwing and pole dancing

Back to the croquet – this picture hurts as it reminds me
that the lawn used to look a bit like a lawn

We had a great Monday (a Bank Holiday) to round off an excellent weekend with the boys. A walk and a couple of games of croquet before taking them to the station to return to London.

No swim doctor session on Monday because of the Bank Holiday so I took the day off exercise after 7 sessions last week. There is no Strava activity category for croquet so I suppose that doesn’t count.

On Tuesday I headed for the hill that I use for hill reps. With holidays, tapering for the ultra and the post-ultra lull, I don’t think I’ve done a hill rep session for about 3 months and my Strava ‘local legend’ status on the segment is just about to expire.

The hill is just under 300m with about 28m of ascent and I usually run 8 reps. This time I was ready to call it quits at 6 but, having made the effort to get out there, I pushed on for the other 2. They were neither fast nor pretty (to be honest, nor were the first 6) but at least I did them. In all, 9.6km with 286m of ascent (6 miles and 940 feet).

I ran with my wife on Wednesday, a gentle but warm and muggy 5.7km (3.5 miles).

My friend and training partner had suggested a trip to the lake on Thursday – which was good as I wouldn’t have gone without that impetus. I’m not sure I was really looking forward to it but it turned out to be very enjoyable – about 2km.

Friday was, as usual, the gym – a very hard 55 minutes as I wasn’t lucky enough to have anyone there to interrupt me – followed by the stint in the bike shop.

I was going to run on Saturday morning but slept in. I’m happy to go with how I feel and I was very tired on Friday, even though the week hadn’t been particularly stressful and I hadn’t done too much exercise. Later, we drove the 2.5 hours to Brighton (it took 3) for a friend’s 60th birthday celebrations. We were planning to stop off overnight in London but, although that would have saved time on Saturday, it would have added to the journey overall so we decided to head home. A lot of driving but a good day.

The 10km race approaches. With only a couple of weeks to go, I’m not going to be able to make much difference but it seems that intervals are a good idea so I decided to do some of those (next week).

I decided that, for a 10km, running slightly over-distance is also probably a good idea so I ran on Sunday morning – 12km at 5.45 per km (7.5 miles at 9.17 per mile) … I’m not going to be setting the 10km race alight!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The fool speaks, the wise man listens

… or is the modern version of that, ‘the fool blogs, the wise man (or woman) reads’?

2. BBC News website: Cock fight in the cockpit

Two Air-France pilots have been suspended after the pilot and co-pilot exchanged blows as they flew an Airbus A320 from Geneva to Paris in June. Members of the cabin crew intervened after hearing the noise. One crew member stayed in the cockpit until the flight landed safely.

Impressive speed of falling out – the flight only takes 75 minutes

3. BBC News website: More than 150,000 tomatoes spilt across motorway

The splattered tomatoes caused seven cars to crash and closed much of the Interstate 80 highway in California, on Monday.

An initial collision caused the tomato truck to swerve into the central divide of the motorway, spilling fist-sized tomatoes across a 200ft section of the motorway, leaving a sea of red sauce about “two feet deep”. Three people had minor injuries and a fourth is in hospital with a broken leg.

This is fact – it’s not pulp fiction

4. BBC News website: Man paddles 38 miles in giant pumpkin

Duane Hansen set a new Guinness World Record for paddling 38 miles (61km) down the Missouri River in a giant pumpkin. He grew the 846lb (384kg) pumpkin in his garden with the aim of beating the previous record of 25.5 miles, set in 2018.

5. BBC News website: Pole dancing axe thrower

An Irish woman has been crowned the world champion after winning the Double Bit Axe Throwing competition in Canada. The 31-year-old was introduced to axe throwing by a friend while at university and said she hoped her win would inspire more women to get involved in the sport.

Pole dancing is another sport that she has done for a number of years. She said that it helped in axe throwing and that ‘The pole-dancing community is actually very similar to the axe-throwing community where you’ve got that love, camaraderie and support’.

6. BBC News website: ‘Man of the Hole’: Last of his tribe dies in Brazil

The man, whose name was not known, was the last remaining member of an indigenous group in Brazil and had lived in total isolation for the past 26 years. He was the last of an indigenous group whose other remaining six members were killed in 1995. The majority of his tribe were thought to have been killed as early as the 1970s by ranchers wanting to expand their land.

He was known as “Man of the Hole” because he dug deep holes, some of which he used to trap animals while others appear to be hiding spaces. His body was found on 23 August in a hammock outside his straw hut. There were no signs of violence.