Category Archives: beach

Corfu: swim, run, gym, turbo, repeat (plus the TT races and taxing animal methane)

Looking east over the hotel grounds towards its private beach and the Ionian Sea
(with mainland Greece in the distance)

We stayed in London on Sunday night and drove to Stansted Airport on Monday to fly to Corfu – our first real holiday since skiing in January 2020 (and after the aborted trip to Madrid that Spring).

Air travel from the UK had been a complete disaster all week in the prefect storm of the schools’ half term holidays meeting the airport and tour companies’ failures to recruit quickly enough to make up for the redundancies during the lockdowns.

Being cautious types we decided to get to the airport early but that proved unnecessary as everything held together pretty well – more dead time hanging around waiting, but was probably worth it as insurance. Of course, we got off the ground late but the flight was fine and the hotel had provided something to eat even though we arrived around 11pm Greek time (a short transfer from the airport to the resort was a blessing).

The drive in from airports is often a bit depressing – lots of sad looking car rental and other tourist-based businesses, usually with signs in English. I appreciate that tourist money is vital for many economies but, in visiting, I hope we don’t trample their national identities. Fortunately, I believe that Greece has a bit of history of its own (!!!) and will survive our trampling.

First day we tried both pools which were good – the larger of the two was very long and in all I swam about 400m (among people gently bobbing about, cooling off) but the area surrounding the pool was rather small which made the sun loungers squeezed together (and there were still too few).

On the second day we went down to the hotel’s small private beach which was lovely. I swam about 800m in the Mediterranean (more accurately, I guess, part of the Ionian Sea) which was like a mill pond. Fewer people, plenty of loungers and a good snack and drinks bar so we stuck with it for the remainder of the holiday.

I’m not really one for the heat (just as I’m not really one for the cold) but am happy to sit in the shade and read (this holiday it was F Scott Fitzgerald’s Babylon Revisited, a memoir of the Falklands war by a friend and neighbour, Richard Osman’s The Thursday Night Murder Club and an anthology of short stories by Anton Chekov – which, I think, counts as a properly eclectic mix). I enjoyed them all. The Chekov was very good – as long as you don’t want your short stories neatly tied up in a satisfying conclusion – and if you don’t want them to be happy and uplifting.

We’d booked an ‘all inclusive’ package, more for simplicity than gluttony but within a couple of days it dawned on me that I was eating twice what I would normally – for no better reason than it was readily available. I put that right on a cloudy and breezy Thursday and felt better immediately. Encouraged, I tried the very small and very hot fitness room (barely 5m x 3m) – I did 5km on the treadmill in 27:10, and some weights.

Friday treated us to a fine thunderstorm early on but it improved by midday before the rain returned later. I swam (500m in the sea), ran (5km in on the treadmill, 27:35) and did some weights again.

Back to glorious weather on Saturday so back to the beach, swimming (800m) and later treadmill running (another 5km in 26:50) and an excellent meal in the pool restaurant in the evening. I managed to stub my toe while sea-swimming on a glorious Sunday – I swam about 1km but the badly bruised toe meant no treadmill later (what a shame) so I settled for the static bike (30 minutes @35.12kph) and some weights.

As always the final day of a package holiday is less fun as there are hours to kill after vacating the room and living out of a packed suitcase – but it passed happily with reading and (yet more) relaxing before the stresses and strains of the journey back (what a way to spend our 35th wedding anniversary). Surprise, surprise, the flight was late and the communication non-existent. However, we made it back to the flat in the early hours of Tuesday and I drove back later that (this) morning while my wife is staying to watch the tennis at Queens.

A great holiday with the hotel and the location making up for a poor tour company performance. The 15km of running, 3.5km of swimming, a session on a bike and some weights would be a good week’s exercise for a holiday – shame it coincided with a training plan requiring 65km of running. Oh well.

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
16 65 15
Cumulative total 594 660

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which it falls

2. BBC News website: First sub8 and sub7 ironman distance triathlons

Britain’s Katrina Matthews became the first woman to finish the full Ironman triathlon in under eight hours with victory in the Sub8 in Germany. She finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and marathon run in seven hours 31 minutes and 54 seconds, beating the previous best by 46 minutes.

In the men’s Sub7, winner Kristian Blummenfelt (from Norway) finished in six hours 44 minutes and 25 seconds.

There were two athletes attempting each of the records and all four competitors finished inside their respective time barriers.

3. BBC News website: Isle of Man TT

I struggle with the TT races – a great spectacle and no doubt something that competitors love and for which they accept the risks – but a cause of way too much loss of life to my mind. After the TT races had a 2 year absence because of Covid, this year, a rider died in practice, another died on Monday and one of a French sidecar team died on Saturday.

If it could be made worse, race organisers have now confirmed that they named the wrong French sidecar competitor to have died. In a statement, they said rider Cesar Chanal had now been confirmed as having died in the crash during lap one of the first sidecar race of 2022 on the Mountain Course. Last Saturday, they wrongly said passenger Olivier Lavorel had died (but he remains in a critical condition in hospital).

On this Saturday, a father and son sidecar team both died in another crash, making five deaths in this year’s event.

Way beyond sad, my thoughts are with Oliver Lavorel and the family and friends of all affected by the terrible accidents.

4. BBC News website: Taxing cow and sheep burps

New Zealand has unveiled a plan to tax sheep and cattle burps from 2025, in a bid to tackle one of the country’s biggest sources of greenhouse gases. It would make it the first nation to charge farmers for the methane emissions from the animals they keep.

New Zealand is home to just over five million people, along with around 10 million cattle and 26 million sheep. Almost half the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, mainly methane.

5. BBC News website: Woman in for payout after having sex in a car

The US woman said she caught the human papillomavirus (HPV) from having sex with her then-partner in his car. She claimed her former partner knew he had virus but did not disclose his condition, leaving her with “past and future medical expenses” and “mental and physical pain and suffering”.

She and her former partner entered arbitration. The arbitrator determined “there was sexual activity in [insured’s] automobile” that “directly caused, or directly contributed to cause” the woman to be infected with HPV. In May 2021, the arbitrator awarded her $5.2m in damages, to be paid by her former partner’s motor insurers who appealed the judgement. A three-judge panel has confirmed the lower court’s ruling and said the insurance company failed to defend its own interests by entering a defence on behalf of the insured man.

6. Last and, by every means, least: They told me I’d never get over my fixation with Phil Collins – but take a look at me now

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

Turbo, swim, Bournemouth, ride, walk, swim, ride, walk, ride

Bournemouth seafront with Hengistbury Head to to the left and the Isle of Wight in the distance

Working in the garden on Monday, repairing a wall and making a gate for a path that goes nowhere – apparently, it’s all about ‘the look’. 30 minutes of turbo reality later @30.9kph (19.2mph).

More domestic bliss on Tuesday, finishing both the wall and the gate and then off to the pool in the evening. I still don’t love the swimming but it needs to be done if the triathlon next month is going to begin without a complete disaster.

One good thing about the swimming is that it seems to be putting a little muscle on my puny runner/cyclist chest, arms and shoulders. I swam 1250m and then started sneezing before I reached the car park.

Still slow – but I did notice the benefit of the ‘drafting’ effect of swimming behind someone (before he swam away into the distance). With the buoyancy of the wetsuit, if I could latch on and follow a slow swimmer, it might just work.

On Wednesday we got ready to go down to Bournemouth for a long weekend with two couples who are very good friends. We drove down on Thursday morning fora bit more mowing and housework in preparation, and they all joined us later in the day.

Even though we have managed to have frequent evenings together, Covid has meant that we hadn’t done our usual group weekends in Bournemouth or the lake district for a couple of years, so it was great to resume a very fine social tradition.

On Friday all 6 of us cycled to Brockenhurst in the New Forest and had a really good 5 mile (8km) walk around the town and its surrounding area – lots of New Forest ponies on the loose and we found a very good site for a picnic. A round trip of just over 31 miles (50km) on the bikes.

I’m always nervous setting routes to places I don’t know because I feel responsible for everyone’s enjoyment of the ride. As it was, although I’d used the ‘avoid highways’ option the route finder, eventually, it had us on a slightly busier road than we’d want on the way there. We found a quieter alternative and came back by one of the national cycle routes which used a lot of defunct railway line paths – why would the route finder not know about those?

On Saturday we cycled across to the other side of Bournemouth to Compton Acres – 10 acres of really lovely gardens set in a valley heading down towards Poole Harbour. It was a bit of a punt on my part as I’d not been before but it was very good indeed, even though we had to cycle back along the roads rather than the promenade as that bans cycles between 10am and 6pm in July and August. Nearly 28km (17 miles).

Getting back reasonably early, we all went down to the beach for a (non-wetsuit) swim afterwards. It was cold with some moderate waves so not exactly triathlon training but good fun nevertheless and more acclimatisation to the SOW (scary open water). It reinforced my view that an open water triathlon swim in a lake is certainly plenty enough for me at the moment.

Sunday was one of our friend’s birthdays so we walked out along Hengistbury Head and had a picnic on the beach. When we got back, virtuously, David prepared a route and I rode it with him (about 25km – about 15.5 miles). Much more virtuously, Ian (who is the friend with whom I will be doing the triathlon) went back to the beach and swam, putting me to shame.

Everyone went off on Monday morning and we followed fairly close behind. Not a big week for training but a really excellent weekend with lovely, intelligent and interesting friends who are a delight to have as house guests.

The Fantasy Football competition started again on Friday, with the resumption of the Premier League. It’s very difficult in the first few weeks as teams settle down after so many players have been involved in international tournaments during the summer. Oh, the pressure.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Being happy is better than being king

2. BBC News website: Postcard from Chile arrives in UK after 30 years

A postcard sent from South America has been delivered to its intended recipient 30 years after being posted.

Neil Crocker sent the card from Chile in 1991 when he was serving with the Royal Navy, returning from the Falkland Islands, on board HMS Cumberland. He said he “vaguely” remembered writing and sending the card which commented that the “weather and beaches are lovely”.

Cutting edge news like that is worth waiting for

3. BBC News website: Germany fears thousands got saline, not vaccine from nurse

Authorities in north Germany have asked more than 8,000 people to get repeat Covid vaccinations because a nurse is suspected of having injected saline instead of vaccine in many cases.

In April the nurse had admitted giving saline to six people to cover up the fact that she had dropped a vaccine vial on the floor but as the police investigation has suggested that many more people had been given saline instead of the vaccine.

4. BBC News website: Tusk reveals woolly mammoth’s massive lifetime mileage

Mammoth tusks were a bit like tree rings, insomuch that they recorded information about the animal’s life history and some chemical elements incorporated into the tusks while the animal was alive can serve as pins on a map, broadly showing where the animal went.

By combining these two things, researchers worked out that a male mammoth that lived 17,000 years ago in Alaska had covered 70,000km of Alaskan landscape during its 28 years on the planet. For comparison, the circumference of the Earth is 40,000km.

Turbo, sick as a dog, turbo

A couple of days in Bournemouth and I didn’t even make it to the promenade

My run last Saturday was uneventful but by the afternoon my back hurt. Standing around at Saturday’s wedding and Sunday’s BBQ didn’t help so I gave it a day’s rest on Monday.

My back had improved by Tuesday but it wasn’t quite right so, out of an excess of caution, I shelved the planned run. Much of the rest of the day was spent at a funeral (and driving to and from it).

It was the funeral of my sister-in-law’s father – a very wealthy man, perhaps not always everyone’s cup of tea, but someone I got on well with. He did great things as a benefactor in sport and education to the tune of several 10s of millions of pounds.

An excellent ‘do’ which easily passed the test I usually apply to funerals: “would he have enjoyed that?”. I’m not sure that my back entirely enjoyed the 4 hours+ driving.

I’ve been noticeably slack in exercising since the ultra and sportive (the usual post-challenge motivation slump, I assume) so just the 30 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday, but a bit faster at 31kph (19.26mph).

On Thursday, our younger son and I drove back down to Bournemouth to do some work in the house and garden. We left later than planned as I was as sick as a dog Wednesday night. Classic food poisoning by the feel of it, no need to go into details but 6 times to the bathroom between 2 and 6.30am – a big personal best.

By midday I felt I could drive but after a journey of less than 2 hours and unloading the car, I was completely wiped out and needed to sleep. The pattern continued, I could make minimal efforts at anything but then needed to rest or sleep. No solid food throughout the day – just one cup of tea and some water.

My son mowed, but by Friday I had just about rejoined the land of the living. I had taken running kit but the chances of me managing more than 100 metres were about as good as me flying to the moon, so that was abandoned and replaced by fixing a shower cubicle, putting up coat hooks, bracing a slightly flimsy wall to the front garden and mending a gate.

Back to Oxfordshire late afternoon and then to a social do with the cycle club to thank all the volunteers for their efforts over recent months. We didn’t stay too long but I ventured to eat a little food – my first for over 48 hours. Still feeling rough, at least I did not see it again.

It was our older son’s birthday on Saturday so we drove up to see him and his girlfriend. Still a very low key day for me but I really enjoyed seeing them both.

Back home for a quiet Sunday, still improving and I ventured a turbo session in the evening while watching the Olympic 3 day event. Not something I’d normally watch but one of our team (in gold medal position with the show jumping to go) was in the year between our sons at school. A reasonably gentle 30 minutes @29kph – 18mph.

A week without a swim, a ride or a visit to the gym – unheard of. I finish the week older, no wiser, no fitter but, thanks to the food poisoning, 3kg (about 6.5lbs) lighter.

Interesting stuff this week

1 African wise words: Ugliness with a good character is better than beauty

2. BBC News website: Gold toilet found in Russian police bribery probe

A gilded toilet and other luxuries were found in a mansion raided by Russian investigators, who say they busted a gang of corrupt traffic police who, allegedly, took bribes for issuing fake permits to businesses.

Rather nicely, talking about the garish residence one Russian newspaper said “It’s sad that in 30 years we’ve learned how to steal, but not how to spend the money.”

3. BBC News website: Nigeria kidnappers abduct man delivering ransom

Kidnappers in Nigeria have seized a man who was sent to deliver a ransom payment to secure the release of dozens of abducted school children.

Six people were sent by the children’s parents after they managed to raise $73,000 (£53,000) by selling land and other possessions, to meet the kidnappers near the forest where the children were being held. The gunmen demanded that one of the group, an elderly man, follow them into the forest to count the cash but they later called to say the money was not sufficient.

4. BBC News website: Pensioner’s WW2 tank in basement

Lawyers in Germany are wrangling over how to deal with a pensioner who stored a World War Two tank, anti-aircraft gun and torpedo in his basement. The items were removed from a house in 2015 with the help of the army.

Possible penalties are now being negotiated, including a suspended sentence and a fine of up to €500,000 (£427,000).

Turbo, turbo, swim (lake), swim (sea), run

Happily, it was a calmer sea in Bournemouth for Thursday’s swim

The week started like the previous one finished – hot. I know that I complain about the cold but at least it is possible to put on more clothes.

The results are available from the sportive. It seems that 100 riders did the 50 mile route that I did and I was fifth fastest – on only my second ride since April. Our sportive is relatively low-tech with the focus on great routes and terrific home-cooked food, so no age group results are published.

Yet more mowing during Monday and then a very hot turbo session in the late afternoon – 15.3km (9.5 miles) in 30 minutes – and back on the turbo for another unpleasant 30 minutes on an even hotter Tuesday – 14.8km (9.2 miles).

The friend I am doing the triathlon with suggested that we should join the swimming club at the lake where we’ve had our two lessons, and go for non-coached sessions to get more practice.

We signed up and booked for Wednesday – then I read the sad headline ‘Seven drown trying to cool off’ documenting deaths in lakes and rivers in England over the weekend.

Fine, I will be wearing a wetsuit, attached to a tow buoy and the lake is professionally managed with proper safety measures, but nothing has changed my view that it is scary open water (henceforward referred to as SOW). Despite that, the swim itself was very good. I have no accurate idea as to how far we swam but guess it was about 1km.

I tried some different methods of sighting. Although I (sort of) managed the instructor’s way of doing it, I prefer the simpler way suggested by the general oracle that is ‘unironedman’ (on wordpress and at unironedman.com). Sighting is a welcome skill to have a nodding acquaintance with (I will not say I have ‘mastered’ it by any means) as I appear to be totally unable to swim in a straight line in the SOW.

I seem to have improved a little at getting out of the wetsuit – one key thing is not to let it dry (on the outside) before removal.

On Thursday we drove to Bournemouth to join our older son and his girlfriend who have spent some time at the house, working and then holidaying. We had a great walk around Hengistbury Head (7.5km – 4.7 miles) and a swim in the sea in the afternoon. The water was about 16℃ (60℉) and without a wetsuit felt pretty cold. Potentially ESOW (even scarier open water) it was very enjoyable staying fairly close to shore – but I’ll stick to the lake for the time being.

Another hour of walking in the evening going to a tapas restaurant made a really good day – but tiring. Our son’s phone app registered over 23,000 steps. The tapas was very good indeed in parts – but any dish that takes three times as long to explain than it takes to eat, and involves 15 ingredients and 12 processes but produces so little, has to be questioned.

Back to Oxfordshire on Friday and croquet in the evening to finish a great couple of days. The weather broke early on Saturday and it was forecast to rain pretty much all day but I ran our usual 7.2km (4.5 mile) loop in the morning with our younger son, between showers. Later we went to the wedding of a friend that we have known for nearly 40 years.

Happily, the forecast proved over-pessimistic and the wedding was excellent – and dry at all the right times (photos, walk to the reception and pre-meal outside drinks). On Sunday the bride and groom hosted a BBQ and the poorer weather never arrived – it was a fine way to round off a very good week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you offend, ask for a pardon; if offended forgive 

2. BBC News Website: Swimmers sent home from Olympics after selection mistake

Poland have sent six swimmers home from the Tokyo Olympics initially 23 athletes were picked only 17 were allowed under the world governing body qualifying rules.

Polish Swimming Federation president has apologised and said he understood the anger of those who have returned home. The majority of the Poland swimming team have signed an open letter calling for the board to resign over the incident.

3. BBC News Website: Beach Handball Championships: Norway hit with bikini fine

Norway have been fined 1,500 euros (£1,295) for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the European Beach Handball Championships.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) said it had imposed the fine because of a case of “improper clothing”. The issue has been debated in beach sports circles for several years as some players find the bikini both degrading and impractical.

If beach handball deserves its place in the sporting calendar, it’s has to be as a sport not some sort of titillation show.

Oh, the irony of this appearing the day after reports that UK world champion para-athlete Olivia Breen was told to wear “more appropriate” shorts after an official at the English Championships said her the briefs were “too short and revealing”. Would the shorts have been OK if she’d have been playing beach handball?

4. BBC News website: Covid-positive man boards flight disguised as his wife

A Covid-positive Indonesian man who disguised himself as his wife to board a domestic flight was caught mid-air. He wore a full-face veil and was carrying his wife’s passport and her negative Covid test result.

He may never have been caught but he changed into his regular clothes midway through the flight, causing a stewardess to raise the alarm.

Police say they will move to prosecute him as soon as his quarantine ends.

5. The Guardian (UK newspaper) headline: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Carapaz wins men’s road race, boxing, swimming and more – live!

Now, that must have been quite a day for Carapaz

Run, Bournemouth, mechanic, London, run, run

Ships that don’t pass in the night – cruise liners moored in Bournemouth bay

A morning run in the rain around Badbury Clump on Tuesday. Rarely do I find I’m not enjoying a run – this one came close to start with but turned out to be really good by the end. Nearly 7km – 4.3miles.

The inevitable work in the garden in the afternoon.

On Wednesday we went down to Bournemouth. While we have had our younger son with us for some weeks, our older son and his girlfriend have been spending a good deal of time at our place down there as an alternative to both working from the flat they share in London. It’s a great feeling to be able to help both sons in different, but appropriate, ways over the last few months.

It was really good to get down there – even with the mowing and various diy bits that needed doing. We walked along the seafront and were taken by surprise by the four large cruise ships moored in the bay, mothballed until the cruise market recovers (I suppose it will – but to the previous levels?).

Back home, younger son and I did a stint in the charitable pop-up cycle shop on Thursday morning and went down to the reopened snooker club in the nearest town to chase some balls around the baize in the afternoon. Our next house move (if there is one) should be a down-size but I wonder if that would permit a room set aside for a full-sized snooker table.

We drove our younger son back to London on Friday. Long and difficult journeys through torrential rains that threatened to submerge Oxford, and busy ‘Friday-before-bank-holiday’ traffic. We are pleased that he is getting back to normality (and work on Tuesday) but sorry to lose him after so many weeks of lockdown with us.

I ran on Saturday morning. Bravely I tried a new route thanks to one of the walks we did last weekend as part of ‘Bournemouth at home’. It is almost entirely on private farm roads (which are also footpaths) and I passed three cars and perhaps 4 walkers throughout.

I had no real idea of where I’d run to – or how far it might be – so it turned out to be one of those runs when you think ‘I’ll run to the next corner/farm building/oak tree’ … but end up carrying on just because it’s good to be out.

I ran into a stiff headwind on the way out which, of course, died down to give me little help on the return. In all 13.25km (8.2miles) at a comfortable 5:51 per km (about 9:23 a mile). Shame it was an out and back route but the circuit would have involved running across or round fields and through a wood – with the rain we’ve had in the last couple of days that didn’t feel like a good idea.

Lunch with friends later on Saturday and then Sunday morning saw another run but this time with my wife. Just over 7km (nearly 4.4 miles). it was her first run under 6:30 per km for some years so a very good way to finish the week.

A week rescued late on as far as exercise is concerned – but just the three runs and much labouring in the garden. Still 10 months until the postponed ultra marathon – in some ways I wish it were closer so I could to start some focused training.

Well done Lizzie Deignan for winning La Course, and bravo for the start of La Tour (I just hope the worsening Covid position in France doesn’t stop it getting to Paris safely).

Interesting stuff this week

1. Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian says he is facing trial for working with female singers and dancers. Rajabian says a judge told him his latest project “encouraged prostitution”.

What?

2. BBC news: ‘The penguin watching Pingu so he doesn’t get lonely’.

The penguin was found washed up on a beach in the south west of Australia. The keepers were worried he’d not get enough socialising while he gets healthy enough to return to the wild so they’re showing him the cartoon, along with live streams of other rockhoppers around the world.

3. African wise words: ‘It is pointless preaching to a hungry man’

4. BBC news: Mr Gay England: The trans man competing ‘against an idea of male beauty’.

I’m a bit of a liberal – but I find this confusing

Turbo, hospital (visiting), turbo, gym and a village on high alert

What danger might lurk down the most innocuous of lanes?

Based on a sample of one, I am all in favour of winter holidays to escape the cold weather – the only drawback is that when you get back it feels even colder than it would otherwise.

With a hotel holiday there is also the weight gain of course. Somehow, the week in Barbados only accounted for about an extra kilo – just over 2 pounds – which is more than strange considering the cooked (and continental) breakfasts each day and the 3 course evening meals. Both those issues are a price worth paying, I think.

If the house were a ‘lock up and go’ sort of place we might even be tempted to go away for longer. Potentially, that would be great for the running and cycling if we found somewhere a bit cooler than the Caribbean. Unfortunately, houses over 400 years old are rarely ‘lock up and go’ and the village is on high alert at the moment after apparently being ‘cased’ recently by some unsavoury characters known to the police.

A chap came down the village, house to house and into gardens, while lining up a brood of children in front of properties, ostensibly taking a picture of them but actually photographing the house behind them. We had a house-sitter for the trip to the Caribbean and hope that our alarm system is a good deterrent (not that we have stuff worth stealing – it’s just a requirement of the property insurers). I hope the alarm box came out clearly in the photos he took of our house.

It’s sad to think that we don’t have to make the house absolutely secure (although we do take a lot of care over that), we just have to make it look less attractive than neighbouring properties. Not exactly the community spirit I’d like.

In fact, part of me thinks that we are probably safer than normal for a few months. If I were a burglar, knowing that the casing of the village was spotted and the chap taking the pictures was captured on a few CCTV cameras, I’d expect the village to be on high alert and so I would wait wait for a while until everyone forgets about it and lets their guard down a bit. Our guard is permanently up!

Anyway, back to England, rested and relaxed, and back on the turbo on Tuesday – a very hard 30 minutes but quicker than expected, at an average 32.3kph (20.1mph).

Not quite back to the normal exercise routine yet, as my father was taken ill while we were away (a fairly innocuous cough that became a proper chest infection) so I drove up to Wigan on Wednesday to visit him in hospital. Unfortunately, on Tuesday he was moved from a ward that had pretty well open visiting times to a ward allowing just one. So, seven and a half hours in the car (4.5 hours there and 3 back – oh, the wonders of driving late at night) for an hour’s visit. Happily, he’s improving but that’s not a quick job at 95.

Turbo again on Thursday, not wimping out at 30 minutes like recent times. I pushed it to all of 45 minutes at 30.9kph (19.2mph). Gym on Friday morning – the first time for two weeks and it was suitably hard, although I just managed the normal weights.

For now, no injuries, Achilles tendons behaving and weight under control. Too good to be true – no doubt, it won’t last until next year’s cycling challenges or the ultra marathon in July.

Post-bug – back to the training or off to Barbados? Hmmm, tough call.

An early morning view from the balcony to the first floor suite – spectacular (just before the breeze died down and the sun burnt away the remaining clouds – and it got genuinely hot)

It was good to throw off the bug late last week as we drove up to London on Friday, and flew to Barbados on Saturday. An over 8 hour flight would not have looked good just a few days earlier.

The first time in the Caribbean for both of us and a really terrific experience.

The flight itself was pretty good – I’m not scared of flying but I don’t particularly enjoy it and I’m not too happy about the carbon footprint consequences. However, although the flight was good, the journey was long and became very slow once we landed … my guess is that Bridgetown airport is not the slickest operation known to the aviation industry.

To prove it, on the way back, the screens were showing one gate number while tannoy announcements were saying another and staff on the ground said both. The wrong number of meals was delivered to the plane and the truck bringing fresh water supplies broke down. The assisted boarding people even managed to get a couple onto the wrong plane.

Anyway, once we arrived, we were upgraded to a suite (I’ve no idea why, we just said a very warm thank you and took possession before they changed their mind) which was an unexpected treat and the hotel was easy-going, relaxed and not too smart (I don’t really do ‘smart’ on holiday). We looked straight out onto a lovely beach where we saw some turtles no more 20 yards out to sea. The staff were lovely and the food was great (and I ate too much of it, of course).

We had a few clouds and a few showers but always around 30℃ (in the mid 80’s℉). As much as I don’t like it too cold, I don’t like it too hot so I welcomed the clouds and the rain freshened the air beautifully.

I’d hoped that there would be some decent running routes in the area but the best was along the beach, early in the morning. That was lovely, although it’s a bit weird running near to the water’s edge (to get the firmest sand) while dodging incoming waves, on a beach sloping quite steeply down to the sea,

It was extremely hard running in the heat, on the sand and with the slope. I can’t help but think that it would make for great training. Strangely, few people seemed to agree and I only saw four others running anywhere on the beach during whole week. Perhaps not that strange – most of the guests in our, and the neighbouring, hotels managed to make me look (relatively) young and slim.

I’d not taken the Garmin so, officially, the running never happened, nor did some snorkelling, a lot of swimming in the sea and the pool, nor some exercise on the slightly strange machines in the hotel garden. I can live with that.

We left on Saturday arriving home on Sunday – a 50℉ (28℃) temperature differential between Barbados and the airport carpark where I had to scrape ice off the car.

I don’t tend to recommend books, films, music etc as I do believe in ‘each to his/her own’ but on the first day I started and finished a really charming book called ‘The President’s Hat’ (by Antoine Laurain).

It took me two days to read Khalid Hosseini’s third book ‘And The Mountains Echoed’. Hard to believe he could write a third book as good as ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ but he did. He really does write wonderfully well.

Sadly, rather unimpressed by my wife’s choice of Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ but reasonably warm about Celeste Ng’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

Run, Gym, a Mini excitement, the rough end of a deal and a 20% crown reduction

Back from Lake District walking and cycling mid-week and then domestic stuff, including collecting my wife’s new (new to her!) car. From BMW Touring to Mini Cooper – fun wins over practicality at last.

It’s not exactly the same as the Mini I had back in the late 1970s (it’s put on weight) but it still has a playful feel to it – a sort of cross between a go-kart and a puppy.

On Saturday we drove down to Bournemouth in terrible traffic, picking up one of my brothers-in-law on the way. Since the death of her mother my wife and her two brothers have made a point of meeting up every year for a lunch in Sandbanks (where they always used to holiday as children). Happily, there is a Rick Stein restaurant there so it’s no hardship.

I did more domestic chores at the house in Bournemouth while they enjoyed some fine dining. The drive meant missing the second half of England’s triumph over Australia in the Rugby Union World Cup quarter final.

I don’t think I got the best end of the deal.

The bonus was a gentle run along the seafront on Sunday, only 4.5 km (2.75 miles) but delightful on a crisp and bright morning.

I’ve noted that in Oxfordshire runners and cyclists acknowledge each other with a friendly nod or ‘morning’ but that runners in London are a breed apart and tend to avoid eye contact completely. I’m pleased to report that Bournemouth runners and walkers are firmly in the ‘acknowledgement and greeting’ camp.

Gym on Monday morning – the first time for 11 days and it felt very hard as a result. Do the walking and cycling in the Lake District, and the run in Bournemouth count for nothing in exercise terms?

The afternoon turned out to be even tougher. One of the chores at the end of last week was getting tree surgeons in to do a 20% crown reduction on the 4 large beech trees at the end of the garden. The £1200 (nearly $1600) I saved by getting them to leave the cuttings for me to deal with seemed like a no-brainer, given the large logs I now have for the wood burner and given that that we are at the end of the village and I enjoy a good bonfire when the wind is in the right direction.

If the Buddhists are right, in a previous life I was probably an arsonist – though not a very good one judging by the way I usually manage to singe my hands and clothes.

As it was, Monday afternoon’s bonfire was a very tough one. Large heavy branches and a fire that didn’t want to get going or keep going once started. It was a problem child throughout – continually attention-seeking and not prepared to play nicely by itself – a very hard few hours. I had to remind myself of the saving made by getting the workmen to leave the cuttings to make the effort feel worth while. At least one more bonfire to come.

I was going to use the turbo trainer in the evening … but to heck with that.

Thinking about marathon training (it’s so much easier than actually training)

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Looking out at the garden on a bright November morning thinking about marathon running – it should have been a good day for a run

I’m not sure that my brain is ever truly in any recognisable state these days but, if anything, it is now in marathon planning mode (if only my legs were too).

I understand the words ‘long’, ‘slow’ and ‘run’ individually but it looks like thinking has changed over the last 20 years – or I simply misunderstood what they meant when put together in a training context. When I last ran marathons in 1998 and 1999 I did my longest runs (20 miles) at marathon pace. Now I see they should be more at a pace that means 20 miles takes about the whole of the intended marathon time.

The more I read, the more I realise that everything I thought I knew about running is wrong!

Next year (assuming I get to do them at all) I could do the longer runs here in the Oxfordshire countryside – but that will mean running on roads without pavements or street lighting. I’m thinking about fitting some of those in with trips to London or Bournemouth – warmer(?), safer and better lit.

The big London parks are really pleasant to run in and the Bournemouth seafront is wonderfully flat and almost completely traffic free – but it can blow a gale up the Channel. I once followed a chap riding a mountain bike who got slower and slower before he actually dismounted and walked – on the flat – such was the headwind.

Being retired I’m lucky that I can run during the day to get the best of the light and the weather. I don’t have to fit in the long runs at the weekends but I will have to fit in a couple of weeks’ skiing (oh dear) which could be a bit of a disaster for the running if the roads are iced or covered in snow.

Certainly, skiing is a bit physical but taking all those lifts rather undermines the true aerobic benefits. Last year I had a day skiing where the Garmin said I’d burnt over 8,000 calories – then I realised that it had assumed I went uphill under my own steam. Perhaps 2019 is the year to try Nordic skiing?

I’m not going to fret unduly if the training does not go to plan. I didn’t keep to a training schedule last time I ran a marathon and that worked out OK. Sure, I might be 20 years older now but just think of all that extra wisdom experience knowledge insight ….. physical deterioration. Damn.

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After Sunday’s run, the Achilles tendons were ‘mixed’ on Monday. The left one (which was hurt a couple of months ago) was not bad at all but the right (also hurt a couple of months ago but re-hurt last Monday) was not quite so good.

The new pain is lower than the original which is good news in that the old injury is healing well – but bad news in that I’ve picked up a new injury despite, I thought, being pretty careful.

So, it will have to be easy on the running this week to see if I can start my 20 week training next week. Looks like it might be a marathon training programme with a difference …. very little running. I wonder what the record is for hopping a marathon?

I had planned to try running on a treadmill in a gym but I’ve read that treadmills can cause more Achilles tendon harm – I’m not sure why, perhaps people tend to up the intensity on the treadmill. It looks like the turbo trainer is the best alternative to running when injured but it’s hard to gauge exactly how minutes on the turbo equate to minutes running.

Not the best possible approach – but perhaps the best approach possible.

In that spirit, I went on the turbo on Monday – a lacklustre 14.83km (9.2miles) in 30 minutes – and again on Tuesday for an interval session with two hard 5 minutes intervals. I suffered much more during the hard bits than I recovered during the others but, in all, 30 minutes for 15.27km (9.5miles) @ 30.5kph average.

That’s 15 days of training in the last 16 – although none have been excessive by themselves, they are adding up and I’m rather jaded and still suffering with the back end of the cold/cough from the weekend.

A day off on Wednesday, I think.