Monthly Archives: February 2023

Gym (x2), swim, turbo, run, plus schoolboy humour, fat trains and oily coffee

Having, as always, neglected to stretch after Sunday’s run I didn’t feel like running on Monday. Instead I drove to the gym where I’m fitting in more arm exercises to go with the normal routine. I found 5 different methods of making my biceps hurt – is that progress?

In the early evening I went to the swim doctor session with as much enthusiasm as usual. They were late setting up the lanes so it was 800m in about 25 minutes.

I discovered that last week was the first anniversary of my attendance at Monday swim doctor sessions. They are useful in ‘forcing’ me to go swimming but I’m not sure if I’m still improving and I still don’t love it. I wonder if continuing is fortitude, a lack of imagination or stupidity (noting that those options are not mutually exclusive).

Of course, to get better I need to go more than once a week – but that’s where the not loving it cuts in. Perhaps I need to go for an open session to swim 1km to see if I can beat the (approximately) 27 or 28 minutes that I could do before starting the lessons.

On leaving the pool, I started sneezing before reaching the car, equalling my personal best.

Not feeling great on Tuesday morning – a few aches and full of cold. I was thinking about a session on the turbo but decided against it and went for some more in-house bicep pain instead. The only good thing I can see from increasing the dumbbell weights to 12 kg is that it makes the previous 10kg seem easier.

I was still thick with cold on Wednesday, but able to enjoy helping the chap working on the house to break into his car, which he had managed to lock, with the keys inside. He had a spare set at home – but his house keys were in the car as well, together with his dog. I spotted that he had left a window open just half an inch and we were (eventually) able to get a piece of electrical trunking (what else?) through the gap and used it to push the unlock button.

Turbo in the early Wednesday evening – still not feeling great but I managed 30 minutes @27.9kph (17.3 mph) which might help to sweat out the cold? Still improving on Thursday but not feeling like a run so I bailed out of any exercise (other than the inevitable bicep curls, of course).

The hour in the gym on Friday morning was as hard as ever. It doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress on the chin-up challenge but it wasn’t long ago that I went up to 45kg on the lat pull down machine – and I’m now doing 55kg, so something must be happening. A 3 hour bike shop volunteering session after the gym.

I ran on a chilly and breezy Saturday morning. An annoying, aborted, start as I realised 0.5km into the run that although I’d locked the back door and set the alarm, I hadn’t locked what we call the ‘back, back door’ which the chap had been using to clear out his gear, having finished the work. An uninspiring 13.8km (8.6 miles).

Sunday was another trip to Kingston upon Thames for decorating at our older son’s place. A reasonably long day – out of the house for 11 hours – but together with his girlfriend’s parents, good progress is being made and there is every chance that they will return to somewhere that looks more like a house than a building site.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A small house will hold a hundred friends

2. BBC News website: What’s in a name, a stadium by another name would smell ..

Bolton Wanderers football club has agreed a sponsorship deal with local building manufacturer, Toughsheet, which means the League One side will be playing at the Toughsheet Community Stadium for the next five years.

The company’s boss acknowledged that the brand name is a bit tongue-in-cheek, a bit schoolboy humour.

and if people don’t like the name, that’s just ….

3. BBC News website: Breathe in, we’re approaching a tunnel

Two top Spanish transport officials have resigned over a botched order for new commuter trains that cost nearly €260m ($275m; £230m), as the trains could not fit into non-standard tunnels in the northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria.

The trains were ordered in 2020 but the following year manufacturer CAF realised that the dimensions it had been given for the trains were inaccurate and stopped construction The Spanish government says the mistake was spotted early enough to avoid financial loss but the region of Cantabria has demanded compensation. 

4. BBC News website: Oiling the wheels of big (coffee) business

Starbucks says it is launching a line of olive oil-infused drinks in Italy. It says olive oil’s “unexpected, velvety, buttery flavour… enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate.”

Starbucks is among the major US businesses that have not found it easy to expand into the Italian food and drinks market; it currently has around 20 stores in the country. Italy’s coffee scene is famous for its independent and often family-run cafes.

Yes, they have olive oil in Italy (but I don’t think they put it in their coffee)

5. BBC News website: The after-shocks continue

More than 600 people are now being investigated in Turkey over buildings that collapsed in the deadly earthquake on 6 February. On Saturday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 184 suspects – including construction contractors and property owners – had already been arrested.

For years, experts warned that endemic corruption and government policies meant many new buildings were unsafe. The confirmed death toll in Turkey and Syria has now exceeded 50,000.

Swim, run (x2), walk, gym, plus floating drugs, Argentinian tourism and surfing mushrooms

After a day of decorating on Sunday, on Monday I ached worse than I have for months. It’s not just hard exercise that gets you – simply different exercise can be just as bad.

It improved through the day and I went to the swim doctor session in the evening. A smaller attendance than usual so my friend and I shared a wide lane and each had enough space to swim without getting in each other’s way. Mostly front crawl but with some drills too – 1km in all. I don’t know if they have upped the chlorine level but I was back to half an hour of sneezing later in the evening.

I was (reliably) informed that Valentine’s Day (even after 32 years of marriage) is not a day for disappearing for a run or to the gym so we went for a walk and I prepared the evening meal of Lobster Thermidor – preceded by beetroot falafels and followed by trifle.

We ran on Wednesday, chilly to start with but the sun appeared and we finished up feeling quite warm. Nearly 6km (3.7 miles) but taken gently – we both wimped out of the idea of doing hill reps.

We had a great walk (and an excellent pub lunch) with friends on Thursday – about 7.7km (4.8 miles). Part of it was along the Ridgeway where I did the 100km ultra last year. It was good to revisit that and bring back happy memories (I think that, as time passes, my recollection is more of the joy of the experience than the inconvenient details like the cramp that started at 27km).

An hour in the gym on Friday – very slow progress on my chin-up challenge but I can manage perhaps half a dozen with elbows at (only slightly) more than 90°. Still a long way to go. The stint in the bike shop was somewhat easier on my body.

I had planned to run on Saturday but by the time the chap finished working on the house it was mid afternoon and I had lost the enthusiasm. I found (just) enough of that to run on a slightly Spring-like Sunday – 12.7km (almost 8 miles) and it felt hard despite being a bit outside 6 min/km.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom

2. BBC News website: Holy coke, Batman

New Zealand’s navy has intercepted a floating haul of cocaine in the Pacific Ocean in what the country says is its largest drug bust ever. The stash – weighing total 3.2 tonnes (3,200kg) and worth £263m ($316m) – was found drifting hundreds of kilometres northwest of New Zealand.

Police believed it was destined for Australia, where it would have been enough to serve that market for a year. The packages were strung up with buoys and some labelled with a Batman symbol while other packets were labelled with a black four-leaf clover.

3. BBC News website: Don’t cry for me, I’m Argentinian

More than 5,000 pregnant Russian women have entered Argentina in recent months, including 33 on a single flight on Thursday, officials say.

The latest arrivals were all in the final weeks of pregnancy. According to the national migration agency, they had initially claimed they were visiting Argentina as tourists but it is believed the women want to make sure their babies are born in Argentina to obtain Argentine citizenship because it gives more freedom than a Russian passport.

4. BBC News website: OK as long as fish don’t eat mushrooms

Mushrooms could be the green, plastic-free future of surfing according to the view of 23-year-old board designer Wales.

Using an innovative material made from the root-like structures of mushrooms, he is developing his own plastic-free surfboard as a way to get away from polystyrene, polyurethane and resin boards that can sit in landfill and not decompose for hundreds to thousands of years.

Swim, gym (x2), hard manual labour (plus smoke, pigeons and staying close to home)

After a day of builders and burglar alarm engineers, it was the Swim Doctor session on a cold Monday evening. I’m still looking for (and not finding) the silver bullet of an idea that will transform me into a swimmer.

There were quite a few people at the session so I ended up in a lane with the three fastest swimmers again – where I feel rather out of my depth (figuratively speaking) – but at least that pushed me to clock up over 1km.

I spent a hard hour in the gym on Tuesday as my puny cyclist/runner arms continue to be exposed to exercises designed for the chin-up challenge. Success still looks to be some way off at the moment but that’s OK, if it was easy it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

With work being done on the house on Wednesday I was in when a knock on the door introduced a couple of chaps doing block paved drive washing. We decided to go with them (it had been quite a task for us to do in the last couple of years) and they did a good job for a very decent price (I rather think they might have underestimated the area involved). Cycle club company’s AGM on Wednesday evening.

The drive cleaning meant that Thursday’s run got postponed in favour of sweeping 175kg of kiln-dried sand into the block paving cracks across a driveway of about 100㎡. That supplied my back, arms and shoulders with a more than rigorous workout so I gave myself an exemption from any more exercise for the day.

The hours of sweeping didn’t exactly make the gym session on Friday any easier, but I got through it – and then the bike shop. In the afternoon I did more driveway sweeping – with much more to come, no doubt, as rain and the movement of cars will get the sand into the cracks more effectively than my broom and I ever could.

Domestic stuff on Saturday, but with push-ups and bicep curls, of course. Originally, I was using dumb-bells with a puny 10kg on each. I have increased that to an unimpressive 12kg on each of them, but that might be too much too soon.

In the late afternoon we drove up to London and took our younger son and his girlfriend out for supper which was great. We stayed at the flat and drove to our older son’s house on Sunday (not even time for a run beforehand) where we met his girlfriend’s parents and had a day of decorating, cleaning, gutter clearing and gardening.

The house is a bit of a project and they have been living in a building site for months, so the aim is that they will return from their 4 month sabbatical to a house that is decorated and immediately liveable. Good progress made – but only the first working day of several that will be needed to get the place straight.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: It’s better to fall from a tree and break your back than to fall in love and break your heart

2. BBC News website: No smoke without fire

Households in England face fines of up to £300 if they flout new log burner rules as a tightening of emissions regulations has reduced the amount of smoke new stoves can emit. This applies to homes in “smoke control areas” which cover most of England’s towns and cities.

Even in controlled areas there is no ban on barbeques, fire pits or bonfires, as doing so would be “disproportionate”, the government said.

They’re all heart

3. BBC News website: Coo – that’s a mistake

A pigeon-fancying drug dealer who was caught after he shared information about his loft in encrypted messages has been jailed. The 37-year-old was arrested after his pigeon racing references on the encrypted communication service EncroChat led officers to him.

He was said to have included references to his love of pigeon racing in messages and images which allowed officers to identify his pigeon loft and home address.

4. BBC News website: Cross country, not across the world

16 years old athlete Innes FitzGerald has turned down the chance to compete in the World Cross Country Championships.

Her reason is that the contest is in Australia, thousands of miles from her home in Devon. Innes says she cannot justify flying in a climate crisis.

5. BBC News website: Get on your bike (but not in NI in 2023)

All motorcycle road racing, short circuit racing and trials in Northern Ireland have been cancelled for 2023.

The Motorcycle Union of Ireland, the organising club, deemed it impossible to run events because of soaring insurance charges. Quoted costs for public liability insurance for 2023 have tripled, amounting to more than £400,000.



















Run (x3), swim, turbo, gym, (plus forgive me Delilah, for not running quickly enough, while crossing the road)

I started the week running hill reps. I’ve not done them for a while and the hill seems to have got steeper in my absence. Six reps for nearly 7.5km (4.6 miles) with 214m (700 feet) of ascent.

The swim doctor session in the early evening was good – 900m of swimming, including various drills to make it (even) harder – as if the morning’s run hadn’t made it hard enough. I took Tuesday off but I ran with my wife on Wednesday, 5.7km (3.5 miles), and carried on with the bicep curls and push-ups.

On Thursday I drove to Newbury to drop off the sofa we are getting re-covered for our older son (who is having a great time in Brazil at the moment). I got on the turbo trainer in the early evening – the first time for a month. Just 30 minutes @28kph (17.4mph) felt very hard.

To the gym for an hour on Friday morning, including more exercises that are designed to get me to my chin-up challenge. Some small signs of progress after two weeks as I can do perhaps three chin-ups from slightly-less-bent arms. Bike shop volunteer session after the gym.

More bicep curls during the rest of Friday and throughout Saturday before I set off for London to see our younger son for supper, which was lovely. A run with my wife (and later more bicep curls) on Sunday to finish off the week – just the 5.7km (3.5 miles).

Goodbye (again, and this time finally?) to Tom Brady. I’m not one for sporting ‘GOAT’ labels because times change, games change, competition changes, etc etc … but I might make an exception in his case.

Passport renewal

As of today (Sunday) the Passport Office website is still saying that my passport had been printed (it was printed 8 days ago) and will be transferred to their delivery supplier in the next few days, after which Iwill be contacted with a tracking reference.

The inactivity would have been a bit worrying – were it not for the fact that the new passport had already arrived, unannounced, last Tuesday.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges, and the foolish build dams

2. BBC News website: Slow run, no runs

Dane van Niekerk has been left out of South Africa’s squad for February’s Women’s T20 World Cup after failing to meet the minimum criteria for fitness, having failed to achieve the required time of 9 minutes 30 seconds for a two-kilometre run. For male players, the standard is 8m 30s.

Captain in all formats since 2016, Van Niekerk, who has been recovering from a broken ankle, last played international cricket in September 2021.

I don’t know if the run is track, road or treadmill but perhaps cricket isn’t the poor relation in terms of fitness that it once was.

3. BBC News website: Something to make a song and dance about

An Iranian couple in their 20s have, reportedly, been given jail sentences totalling 10 years after posting a video of themselves dancing in the street.

The couple’s arrest came after they posted the video to their Instagram accounts, which have a combined following of nearly two million. They are said to have been convicted of “promoting corruption and prostitution, colluding against national security, and propaganda against the establishment”.

4. BBC News website: Why, why, why (not), Delilah

Choirs performing at international rugby matches at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, have been banned from singing the 1968 Tom Jones classic, Delilah.

The stadium said it would no longer be performed by choirs after removing it from half-time playlists in 2015. The song has caused controversy, with lyrics depicting the murder of a woman by her jealous partner.

Clearly, domestic violence is unacceptable, but this is a song which is over 50 years old. It doesn’t (to my mind) glorify or condone the violence, but the perpetrator is full of remorse for his actions and is about to be arrested to answer for them

There is also a move to ban the song Cwm Rhondda (Guide Me O’ Thou Great Redeemer) because the repeated line ‘Bread of Heaven’ might upset those with a gluten intolerance

(or I might have just made that up)

5. BBC News website: Good sense or nanny state?

Zambia has passed a law that prohibits pedestrians from crossing the road while wearing headsets or talking on a mobile phone. A person who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 1,000 kwacha ($16; £12).

A pedestrian must also wait for the traffic lights to turn red for motor vehicles to stop, before crossing a road at a junction that is controlled by traffic lights.