Category Archives: challenges

Run, run, gym, loft boarding, gym, Snow Patrol and a General Election

Snow Patrol (again)

Saturday morning’s run was the regular 10 (and a bit) km – about 6.3 miles. A tiny bit slower than the last couple of times but the speed is probably the least important thing about it at this stage.

Both calf muscles were sore after the run, so Sunday’s cold and windy run with my wife was on heavy and slightly painful legs – but that made it about 16.5km (a bit over 10 miles) for the two days.

No such leg problems in Barbados – but those runs were shorter, slower and on more forgiving sand so perhaps that made a difference. It’s a bit of a worry but for now it looks like it’s back to the (deservedly) much-maligned long white compression socks during and after runs – and more attention to warming up before, and stretching afterwards.

Monday morning it was back to the gym and on Tuesday I drove to Bournemouth to prepare for the phone line fitting on Wednesday (including boarding out a part of the loft so the engineer could route the new line through it). Loft boarded and internet now working.

In recent months I’ve been quite good at doing planks daily (the routine is for 5 minutes of plank variants) but I’ve now added press-ups, sit-ups and crunches. In theory it’s to help the core for cycling and running, but I’m sure there’s more than a bit of vanity in it as I try to pursue a flatter stomach. I doubt that a six-pack is within reach – and I think it would be a bit weird on an old bloke in his 60. In the unlikely event that I ever achieve one, I’ll keep it very much to myself.

Gym again on Thursday morning and then up to Kingston-upon-Thames on the edge of London for a Snow Patrol concert – my wife is very keen on them. Another performance in a small night club venue like the one we went to a year ago (and standing in the very front row again).

They were excellent, but that’s four times I’ve been to see them and not one of them has ever bothered to come to watch me run, cycle or work out at the gym. Where is the give and take in that?

To London after the concert, only to be woken up at 2am by another alarm-alarm triggered by a power outage, like the one in October. When we got back it was the mains trip switch again – blasted thing.

No party politics here, but we had another General Election on Thursday. As the years go by I find it more difficult to find one party that offers a total package that I like. The party I tend to think of as being likely to run the economy better is not necessarily one I’d prefer to see spending the money.

The Conservative Party had a significant win which probably highlights two things: first, the all-consuming importance of Brexit; and, secondly, a negative perception of the leader the Labour party and the direction he was taking it. Even the eternally important mantra ‘(it’s) the economy, stupid’ looks to have taken a bit more of a backseat than usual.

The more I see of politics and politicians, the more I wonder if anybody should ever vote for someone who puts themselves forward for high office (although I appreciate that would make elections difficult).

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’.

Back to health, back to the gym … and back to the future

‘Hello fitness my old friend, I’ve come to train for you again’

Nasty bug repelled (or so I hope). No adverse reaction to the piece of bread on Wednesday evening so it was followed by oatcakes and fruit …. living life in the fast lane here in Oxfordshire.

A gentle Thursday was followed by the gym on Friday morning – my first proper exercise since Saturday’s run. It was predictably hard but, to my surprise, I managed the usual routine with the normal weights. Perhaps the benefit of the rest counteracted the downsides of the bug and the inactivity?

Desperate to look on the bright side, having lost a couple of kilos and weighing in at a paltry 65kg (143 lbs) I’ve probably (slightly) improved my power to weight ratio.

I suppose if there is any good thing about illness (even a very trivial illness like mine) it’s that once you get through it you appreciate good health all the more. I feel motivated and keen to get back to the training (although I wonder how long this will last).

One thing that I did notice while I was ill was how much my horizons shrank. Quite apart from not getting out of the house much, I found myself not even thinking too far beyond the next cup of coffee. I’m particularly happy to have got through that as it makes it feel like a much smaller world.

So, back to thinking about the running and cycling next year. I found a blog with a nice, neat and simple ‘quad’ ambition – running races of 50km, 50 miles, 100km and then 100miles. I like the sound of that but I wonder if I might have left it a bit late to try it myself – it sounds like a two or three year project.

I’ll attempt the 50km Race to the Stones next July first, and then think about anything beyond that in the light of how that goes (or doesn’t go!). One step at a time.

This hasn’t gone well

Another meal passes by

I’m lucky enough to be very rarely ill. Unfortunately, Monday decided to be an exception. I woke with a head and stomach ache, shivers and the need not to be far from a bathroom.

I’d have said it was the dodgy lunch on Sunday but our son had the same and didn’t suffer – a younger, tougher constitution perhaps. Anyway, that put paid to the normal gym session in the morning as I couldn’t get out of bed until well after 10 – and the intended turbo session that evening went by the wayside too as I could do pretty well nothing but sit quietly and feel sorry for myself.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever gone an entire day eating absolutely nothing before but it works as a crash diet as I woke feeling washed out, but otherwise slightly better, on Tuesday, well over a kilo (about 2.5 lbs) lighter.

Eventually I did eat a slice of bread more than 48 hours after my last food. That was OK so I tried a small meal Tuesday evening – just the 53 hours after the previous one. My taste buds might have been ready for it, but my stomach wasn’t, so that didn’t go well.

Down close to 65kg (about 144 lbs) on Wednesday morning.

I assumed that, in general, people feel hungry simply because they haven’t eaten. Here I am 72 hours after lunch on Saturday – and having eaten just a small meal and a slice of bread since then – and I’m not feeling hungry. I understand (and have experienced!) how a nasty bug like this one can disrupt digestion – but It would make more sense if I felt some need to eat, even if I couldn’t digest sensibly.

The bug must have some way of disrupting the normal ‘I’m hungry’ message to the brain. Makes you think that, if they could isolate that mechanism, it could be really useful.

Other than a walk with my son on Tuesday, that’s four days without any exercise – I can’t remember when that last happened. I’ve felt reasonably OK since Monday but decided not to try my luck with the gym, turbo or a run. I rather expect that this, at least, will have done me no harm whatsoever.

I might as well embrace the opportunity to rest (even if it’s not exactly an opportunity I could have refused).

75 hours in and I’m a little peckish …. to hell with the risk, I’m going for another slice of bread.

Gym, gym, run – a light week of not much activity

Sadly, the tight calf muscles after running probably mean a return to this fashion statement

On Sunday’s run my legs felt heavier (after two days rest) than on Thursday’s run, 90 minutes after the gym. Odd. The one thing I’m sure of with running is that I’m not sure of anything.

Admittedly, I did a bit over 10 km (6.3 miles) at just better than 4 hour marathon pace, which is a little faster than recent runs – but it’s not exactly fast.

Back to the gym on Monday morning – still struggling a bit. I’ve decided to stop cheating on the leg press machine and have put the seat further forward to give more of a bend at the knees and therefore a longer travel. It has cost me 30kg in terms of what I can press from that position. My ego will have to come to terms with that.

The aching glutes suggest that it has helped to make the exercise tougher – but the aching lower back suggests that care is needed.

I creaked all day Tuesday so canned the intended turbo session. If I’d been in some sort of training programme I’d have done it, but there are some benefits of not being in a programme!

Wednesday everything felt pretty much back to normal but I had to drive to Cardiff to collect a new car (new to me, at least). With my wife happily driving the Mini it is my turn to have the load lugger so it’s an estate car for me.

I was back in the gym on Thursday – the aches and pains had gone and, to my relief, have not reappeared even though I did the same routine as when I hurt things on Monday.

Just to be on the safe side (and to be lazy and eat pizza) I took Friday off. Despite the pizza, I weighed just under 10 and a half stone (147 lbs, 66.5kg) on Saturday morning before a pretty decent 10.3km run at 5m 34s per km (just outside 9 minute miles – better than 4 hour marathon pace).

That’s a bit faster than I’ve done that distance for many months. Although it’s a bit pointless at the moment, to keep interested, I’ll try to see if I can do this run (which is becoming my ‘stock’ 10km) at under 5.30/km before Christmas. The only downside was slightly painful calf muscles for the rest of the weekend.

Finishing the week by driving up to Wigan on Sunday to see my father – splendid to see him still doing well at nearly 96. Great to see him, even though it’s a 6 and a half hour round trip. We were joined by our older son who hadn’t been able to come up in September. Our son came back with us for a few days after the visit, using up some holiday due to him. Great to see him too.

Foot management. Pairs of shoes: 1 black, 1 deck, 3 cycling, multiple running (and not a Vaporfly in sight)

Just a few trainers

I suffered with my Achilles tendons throughout training for April’s marathon. They didn’t stop me running but I cut out hill and speed work to protect them – and they still hurt every morning.

Early in the training I got some Asics Gel Nimbus running shoes that I thought would be well cushioned and good for high mileage but they came up a bit high at the heel and irritated the tendons – thus disproving my claim when I got them that “If I can’t run in these, I can’t run in anything”.

Then I stumbled across some Puma 500 Ignites (because they were cheap and bright red/orange) and they worked a treat – I trained and ran the marathon itself in them. I bought 2 pairs and have got to the end of the useable life of one pair, but when I went to buy another, it seems that they are now not made in men’s sizes (if made at all).

I’m all for progress – and it may be that whatever has replaced them is better – but it’s a pain to have to try something new when the old was perfectly good and, as an under-pronator with dodgy ATs, suited me well.

I resisted the momentary temptation to consider the Nike Vaporfly series. They seem to have worked reasonably well (!) for Eliud Kipchoge but the one time I suffered with Plantar Fasciitis was when I got some running shoes with stiff soles. I don’t know how my feet would react to carbon fibre in the sole – or how I would react if I’d spent £240 ($310) and not been able to use them.

I have nothing but admiration for people who commit fully to their running and go for broke on the best shoes but I think I’ll just deduct 4% from my times and know that’s what I would have done if I wasn’t so mean …… and I doubt they are very good for trail running anyway!

I’ve just got 2 pairs of what might be the Puma replacement for my old shoe – they are a bit odd as they have a sort of netting leading up to an elasticated cuff around the ankle. So far so good but goodness knows if they will work for me in the longer term.

And yes, now I’m retired I have just one pair of ‘proper’ black shoes, pretty much worn only at weddings, christenings and funerals (may it be mainly the first and second of those).