Category Archives: challenges

Run (x4), swim (x2), gym, plus the price of a grandchild and another great sporting injury

Back to the open water

I started the week with hill reps again – 8 reps for 8.35km and 277m of ascent (5.2 miles and 910 feet). It’s good to get them out of the way early in the week – then the evening swim doctor session.

The swim session was as hard as ever – for me, 500m of drills as a warm-up rather suggests that it’s not going to be easy. That made for a tough start to the week but my friend and training partner and I agreed that we’d go to the lake for an open-water swim on Tuesday, my first of the year.

The water was about 18°C (64.4℉) and felt fine in the wetsuit. The water was slightly choppy but we swam a kilometre – my friend swam well and I swam badly with much of the technique I’ve tried to learn in the pool deserting me completely. I hope that was down to it being my first taste (literally and metaphorically) of open water for 7+ months – fingers crossed it improves next week.

At least I delivered in full when it came to my total inability to swim in a straight line.

The ultra training plan ramps up to 55km this week, spread over 5 runs, with a longest of 25km. It’s not that I was putting off a longer run but I decided on a shorter one with my wife on Wednesday – 7.2km (4.5 miles). The excuse reason was that we were out in the evening to see the tribute band ‘Rumours of Fleetwood Mac’.

On the basis that they were introduced by way of a video by Mick Fleetwood, it seemed likely that they were going to be really good – and they were. I know that I’m strange in this but, although I like a lot of types of music, the music I really prefer to see live is opera – but it was a very good evening nevertheless.

With the gym and two swims, I didn’t think the 5 runs in the training plan was a great idea so (probably a worse idea) I decided to try to do the distance in 4 runs. I set off on a long slow run on a warm Thursday to try to break the back of the remaining 40km.

It was a foolish attempt as I’d not eaten well on Wednesday, had a late night and didn’t prepare on the Thursday morning. Despite that, I ran two large loops which did at least mean I got a drink and a gel after 19km – and I pushed on to just over 32km (20 miles). I lost 2.5kg (5.5 pounds) during the course of the run – insufficient fluids, and I need to be more sensible.

Friday was, as ever, the gym and then my stint in the charity bike shop. I was very grateful that my current emphasis in the gym is with arms, shoulders and core – the legs would not have been keen to play. Oh yes, inevitably, later some mowing.

Laps of the old hill fort at Badbury Clump on Saturday morning, plus a couple of reps of the usual hill. A run of just over 12.5km (7.8 miles) to make it a little more than 60km for the week. Later (you guessed it) more mowing.

I felt pretty good on Sunday but I knew a rest day would do me more good that any training. I drove up to London (because we had been contacted by some other flat owners in the building about possible drain issues) and even managed to resist the temptation of going for a run along the Thames Path, one of my favourite routes.

Happily, the drains seem to be sorted but in any event we were completely unaffected by any problems there might have been. An evening out with friends to look forward to now, a great way to round off a week.

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

The ultra marathon training plan has a cut-back week next week – that’s handy as my first triathlon of 2022 is next Sunday. I’ll do the 25km of running in three outings (including the triathlon itself), swim twice and reintroduce myself to the bike.

Week Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
13 (of 20) 55 60
Cumulative total 449 559

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand

2. BBC News website: Bottle of scotch to sell for well over £1 million at auction

The 32-year-old Macallan is the biggest bottle of scotch in the world, and expected to become the most expensive. It holds more than three times as much liquid as an average bath, around 100 litres or 444 standard bottles. 

3. BBC News website: Couple sue son and his wife for not giving them a grandchild

Sanjeev and Sadhana Prasad used their savings raising their son, paying for his pilot’s training, a lavish wedding and his honeymoon. Now, they say, either they are given a grandchild or are repaid $650,000 (£525,000).

“In India, marriages are between families and not just a couple,” explained an Indian social anthropologist.

4. BBC News website: Big moment for Nasa’s Perseverance rover

The rover made its spectacular landing in the middle of Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021. Since then it’s been testing its tools and instruments, flying a mini-helicopter, and gathering a general impression of its surroundings.

Tuesday saw the six-wheeled robot begin the climb up an ancient delta feature in the crater where it landed. It will stop to examine rocks and, on its way back down, will collect some of the rocks, placing the samples at the base of the delta to be retrieved by later missions in the 2030s, for detailed inspection.

Hard to believe it’s been there over a year. Our local authority is considering levying parking charges on Mars.

5. BBC News website: History made on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia

On stage 10 of the Giro, Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay, making his Grand Tour debut at the race, made history as he became the first black African winner of a Grand Tour stage. The 22-year-old beat Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel in a sprint for the line.

Chapeau!

Post scriptSadly, he had to go to hospital after popping a prosecco cork into his left eye while celebrating on the podium. He returned to enjoy the victory with his team-mates, but was unable to make the start the following morning.

Run (x4), swim, turbo, gym, plus birthday urinals and sexist worms

The Albert Monument, Kensington Gardens

I missed out on hill reps last week so I put that right on a warm Monday morning – 8 reps for 8.35km and 277m of ascent (5.2 miles and 910 feet), then the swim doctor session in the evening.

It was a hard swim session, thanks to a large number of drills requiring lengths on front, back and side, with leg kicks only. I think I am improving (slowly) but I’m still struggling to bring everything together at the same time. There are too many things to think about – which is at the heart of my problems as I am still needing to think about them, rather than doing them naturally.

After three consecutive days of running, my trip on Tuesday to our older son’s place in Kingston-upon-Thames came as a welcome break. There were three broken fence posts, each with its own challenge, but they’re now vertical with fence panels in place, and long may they be so.

I worked through lunch and as I stepped through the door at home in the evening we received an incredibly kind invitation for impromptu drinks for a friend’s birthday. Having eaten nothing I had some very nice nibbles with the drink and it’s helped me get my weight down to my cycling-up-mountains level of 66.4kg (146lbs, 10 stone 6). Sadly, my dream that the weights and swimming have put muscle on me is just a dream.

By the time it stopped raining on Wednesday I was past wanting to run so I opted for the turbo in the early evening – 45 minutes @28.7kph (17.8mph). After last week’s disaster, I found that it’s a lot easier with air in the rear tyre.

Originally there were plans to head for the lake and do the first open water swim of 2022 on Thursday afternoon but the rain and the cool weather had taken the water temperature back below 18℃ so I ducked out of that and ran in the morning with my wife – 7.5km (4.6 miles).

I still went to the lake in the afternoon while my friend swam. He assured me that the water was a very decent temperature so when I got home I checked with Strava and my blog entries for previous lake visits. I discovered that while I had 18℃ in mind as the acceptable cut-off temperature, our first lake session last year had actually been at 16.4℃ and had felt OK. Doh!

With slightly low mileage in the week, on Friday I got on the treadmill at the gym for 5km in 27 minutes, before dong some weights. That was followed by the bike shop session and yet more mowing in the afternoon.

On Saturday I drove my wife to Windsor where she was spending the day – and then on to the flat to make sure it was OK and take meter readings. Then I did the week’s long run for a bit of different scenery. I ran through Kensington Palace Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’ Park and along the Thames Path.

It was hot and crowded in places (walking pace around Buckingham Palace as various bits were shut off with temporary stands erected for the Jubilee celebrations). I should have taken some food and drink with me – but didn’t. In all, nearly 28 (very hard) kms (over 17 miles).

Happily, that run took me beyond the plan’s week’s target of 45km. I could have run on Sunday but have decided that a rest day is probably of more value, so will spend it doing domestic chores.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Truth should be in love and love in truth

2. BBC Newswebsite: Parasitic worms sucked into the gender bias row

A team of scientists scoured studies in eight journals published between 2000 and 2020. Around 2,900 species were discovered during that period but of the 596 species named after eminent scientists, only 111, or 19%, recognised women, according to the experts from New Zealand’s University of Otago.

I was wondering what to get my wife for her birthday

3. BBC News website: Ryan Reynolds gives Rob McElhenney commemorative urinal

The pair took over Wrexham Football Club (in Wales) in February 2021, investing £2m.

Reynolds cut a small red ribbon revealing a gold plaque with McElhenney’s face on it and popped a bottle of champagne to mark his gift on McElhenney’s birthday. A plaque was inscribed with his name and birthdate and has been placed above a urinal in a toilet block at the club’s ground.

This is real, I’m not taking the …

4. BBC News website: Religious work of art removed from an Italian basilica

The painting was given to the cathedral of Canosa in southern Italy, but caused controversy upon further inspection when a local priest and the businessman who commissioned the painting were found among the holy images.

5. BBC News website: This Friday was the 13th of May

Friday 13th is viewed as unlucky by many. The word for fear of the date is Paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Each calendar year will have a minimum of one Friday the 13th and a maximum of three. The date, of course, occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday.

Run (x4) turbo, gym (plus dirty habits in the bedroom and tractor porn)

The bluebells are out at Badbury Clump

Even with caterers, the celebrations for our younger son’s 30th were exhausting (but enormously enjoyable) – with no swim doctor session, I took the Bank Holiday Monday off too.

I was still tired on a cool Tuesday but ran before I got too comfortable with the habit of not-running. After a 3 day break it felt like I’d gone 3 months backwards – heavy legs, short of breath and no rhythm but I pushed on for an unremarkable 16km (10 miles).

I planned to run on Wednesday morning but my wife was out so I waited for a parcel delivery. To earn some brownie points I did the ironing. I almost flirted with adequacy on the pillow cases, duvet covers and innumerable cotton napkins from the weekend but was utterly defeated by the impossibility of ironing a fitted bottom sheet.

After the parcel arrived I had to decide whether to do the run. I can’t remember the last time I felt less like running but the attraction of breaking the back of the week’s target distance proved too strong. I managed to get just beyond the half marathon (21.2km – 13.2 miles) but it wasn’t a great run – it feels like I’m getting worse (and I wasn’t very good in the first place).

I was expecting to be a bit shattered on Thursday morning – and was. Things improved during the day and I considered doing the week’s hill reps in the afternoon but decided on a more gentle spin on the turbo instead, after an orgy of paperwork and gardening. The turbo was a good decision as my legs had very little to offer. I knocked the bike down a gear or two and had a fairly gentle spin for 40 minutes (16.35km, 10.1 miles).

Gym and my regular stint in the bike shop on Friday, followed by yet more mowing. Saturday was bright and warm so I headed out for a run which turned out a bit better than the last two (admittedly, that wasn’t hard). Just over 11km (7 miles), finishing in a pool of sweat – classy.

I completed and filled the third raised vegetable bed in the afternoon – only about 2 cubic yards of soil and compost to be shovelled and wheel-barrowed but it felt like much more. We now have lettuce, beetroot, leeks, cabbage, rhubarb and tomatoes, with more to come.

I ran with my wife on a warm Sunday morning – nearly 8km (5.9 miles) and, thankfully, it felt better than the runs early in the week.

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

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
11 45 56
Cumulative total 349 506

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it

2. BBC News website: How often should you wash and change your bed sheets?

According to a survey of 2,250 UK adults, single women changed most often, 62% cleaning their bedding every two weeks, with couples claiming to do theirs every three weeks.

Almost half of single men said they don’t wash their bed sheets for up to four months at a time, with 12% admitting they wash them when they remember – which could be even longer.

3. Daily Telegraph: Climate change adds to risk of viruses caught from animals

A study suggests that there are at least 10,000 viruses with the capacity to cross to humans ‘circulating silently’ among wild animals.

As rising temperatures force mammals to abandon habitats, they will meet other species for the first time, creating at least 15,000 new instances of viruses jumping between animals by 2070, and increasing the risk of new viruses infecting humans.

That’s OK then

4. BBC News website: Unexploded artillery shell presented at airport security

A US family caused a bomb scare at Israel’s main international airport after presenting an unexploded artillery shell at a security check. They had picked up the ordnance on a visit to the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, site of wars between Israel and Syria, according to authorities.

The family was allowed to board their flight after being interrogated by security.

Some people are just not content with a fridge magnet

5. BBC News website: Cancer survivor beats record for consecutive marathons

Jacky Hunt-Broersma, 46, took up running after she lost her left leg to cancer and has run 26.2-miles every day since mid-January, normally taking around five hours.

On 30 April, she completed her 104th consecutive marathon in as many days – an achievement she expects to be certified by Guinness World Records.

Chapeau

6. BBC News website: MP caught watching porn in the House of Commons

An MP resigned after being caught watching porn on his mobile phone, in the House of Commons. He said the first time was an accident as he was trying to look at a tractor website – but he admitted that the second occasion was deliberate.

… but did he watch the whole thing, or just the trailer?

Run (x4), swim, gym (plus ants, -267 degrees C and daydreaming)

Another day, another car into the garage for a service on Monday so I ran back home, adding on a bit to make it a little over 5.5km at just under 6m/km – so neither long nor fast.

The Swim Doctor session in the evening was good – some drills but more general swimming – 1100m in all. It’s going well but I seem to be more out of breath more often than I remember being the case in the past.

Gardening on Tuesday morning and eventually the car was ready (delayed by an errant spare part) so I incorporated its collection into a warm run in the afternoon – 16.5km (over 10 miles) and then mowed.

I nearly ducked out of the hill reps on a chilly Wednesday morning – it was going to be my fourth consecutive day of running (which I try to avoid) and was too close on the heels of the previous afternoon’s longer run. In the end, the desire to get the hill session out of the way prevailed – the usual 8 reps for 9.1km and 290m of ascent (5.7 miles – 951 feet), unusually hard. Later I fitted a new masticator unit to the bathroom in the attics – don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t a glamorous life I live.

I wanted to do one more run in the week but with Saturday and Sunday not available, I swapped my gym session to Thursday after which I mowed and did more gardening. That left the run for Friday before the stint in the charity cycle shop.

Both the visit to the gym and the run were much better with the swapping of the days. My legs were still tired for the run but I managed just over 11km at just under 6min/km. The most impressive thing about it was that I got out before 8am.

Although 42km is a lot less than I have run recently, this was a very hard week packing 6 exercise sessions into 5 days, together with a good deal of gardening, driveway scraping and house preparation. I am sleeping really well and I always expect to wake up rested and ready for anything but I wake up creaking and ready for almost nothing – just cumulative wear and tear on an ageing body, I assume.

I am very grateful that over the weekend we were celebrating our younger son’s 30th birthday so I have at least 2 days off with our sons and their girlfriends and wider family (and perhaps 3 days off depending on who is around on Bank Holiday Monday).

Saturday (lovely weather) was more preparation for the party on Sunday (cooler and a bit wet). It was a great weekend, especially good to see everyone again and have our sons and their girlfriends here for a while.

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

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
10 40 42
Cumulative total 304 450
Half way through the training programme

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: You know who you love but you can’t know who loves you

2. BBC News website: Instrument on the James Webb Space telescope is now at its super-low operating temperature

The Mid-Infrared instrument has reached -267C, or just six degrees above “absolute zero”. This unimaginably low temperature will allow the observatory to see the distant Universe in unprecedented detail as it is not far short of the point where all atoms are supposed to stop jiggling.

Impressive, but have they run in the UK in February?

3. BBC News website: Carbon-capturing ant is coming under threat

Woodland Trust Scotland said hairy wood ants boosted carbon absorption in woodland, but they risk being overwhelmed by the gaultheria shallon, a non-native plant found across the UK, according to a conservation group.

The hairy wood ant is a key species for removing pests from trees. The ants are also a food source for other animals like capercaillie and badgers. A close relative of the wood ant has been shown to clear up to 39kg (86lb) of carbon per hectare annually.

4. BBC News website: Children spent a quarter of their time in class daydreaming

The study conducted by the School of Psychology, and published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, involved 97 children aged six to 11 years old.

Results suggest that while daydreaming is inevitable, it can affect the ability to learn.

You at the back, listen … there are questions on this later

5. BBC News website: Dutch cyclist Amy Pieters regains consciousness

Pieters, 30, suffered severe brain damage after falling during a training camp in Alicante in December. After undergoing surgery, she was put into an induced coma in January.

In a statement, her team said her condition had changed and she can “communicate slightly non-verbally. Amy recognises people, understands what is being said and is able to carry out more and more assignments. Doctors cannot yet say what residual symptoms and remaining abilities she will have as a result of the brain injury.”

Beyond sad, but where there’s life, there’s hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this effort shows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter!

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is so complicated when trying to keep everyone happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

2. BBC News website: Shrinkflation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Football World Cup draw

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

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

Run (x4), swim, gym (plus radioactive fruit and a radio monopoly)

I went for a run on Monday – 13.7km (8.5 miles). The weather has changed and it was bordering on warm, although I suppose it is too early to start complaining about the heat.

Monday evening saw me miss the swim doctor class for the first time in 7 weeks – it was the cycle club AGM and I always help out by taking minutes and trying to ensure we follow the company’s rules.

The regular 8 hill reps on Tuesday morning were, rather depressingly, even harder than usual – one of those days when you wonder if the effort is worth it and whether you’re making any progress at all. Just over 9km and 289m of ascent (5.7 miles and 948 feet). Getting them done was good – but doing them was a real slog.

I felt better than expected on Wednesday but I think I should avoid running three days in a row so I constructed a third raised vegetable bed and started to remove a sizeable mound of soil and rubble at the end of the garden.

Having missed the lesson on Monday I knew I should keep the swimming going so I went in the evening. I didn’t try swimming any faster but wanted to know if a kilometre would be any easier than it was before the lessons – and I think it was. I’m nervous about trying to do it faster – it would be depressing if I couldn’t. The nasal spray is doing a good job on my sinus’ reaction to the chlorine.

Thursday was warm and bright so I fitted in the week’s long run of 22.2km (13.8 miles). First time this year wearing lycra running shorts and no compression top under the shirt. It was sufficiently warm that I ran two different loops so I could get a slurp of water half way round from the bottle I left outside the house – but I still lost over 1kg (just under 2.5lbs) during the run and caught a bit of sun.

Gym on Friday morning, going easy on the tired legs and concentrating on arms, shoulders and core – if I’m going to swim faster, I think I need to pull harder in the water.

Friday afternoon we drove up to London and had a very good Turkish meal in the evening near the flat. On Saturday we ran across Hammersmith Bridge, down the Thames Path, over Putney Bridge and back. In all 10.3km (6.4 miles) in lovely weather with the added bonus of the Head of the River race on the Thames – the best part of 300 eights racing on the Boat Race course.

Later we went to Kew Gardens to initiate the membership my wife bought me for Christmas – it was glorious apart from the tube line we needed to use being shut for maintenance work which led to a slow and painful journey and another 8km (5 miles) walking by the time we’d been to a very good gastro pub in the evening.

Mother’s Day on Sunday so our sons entertained us at a brasserie in Putney – great to see them, as always. Then back to Oxfordshire for a rest. Another week with no turbo trainer session. Big sportive coming very soon and I still haven’t been out on the bike this year – big mistake, I fear.

Just over 55km of running this week – and (say it quietly) still feeling pretty good.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending the night with a mosquito

2. BBC News website: Crops grown in the Chernobyl exclusion zone used to produce alcohol to benefit Ukrainian refugees

Originally, the aim was to show that slightly radioactive fruit, grown in orchards in or near the contaminated exclusion zone that surrounds Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant, could be distilled into a spirit that was no more radioactive than any other. Profits were channelled into communities that live in deprived areas close to the zone.

Now, as Russian troops occupy the land where that fruit is grown and harvested, this unusual company is making a defiant marketing move by releasing two more “premium drinks” and donating profits to help Ukraine’s refugees.

3. BBC News website: Spotify paid $7bn to music industry rights holders last year, accounting for almost 25% of the industry’s total revenues

The streaming giant said 52,600 artists earned more than $10,000 (£7,500) from Spotify in 2021. Of those, 130 were paid more than $5m (£3.8m) over the last 12 months.

4. BBC News website: Hospital capacity to be assessed before racing at this year’s TT races can go ahead

Due to the creation of a dedicated Covid ward, the number of beds available for orthopaedic trauma patients has been reduced. Two wards were usually kept free for dealing with trauma patients capacity was reduced from 31 beds to just 16.

All elective orthopaedic surgery would also be cancelled during the period as was the case in previous years, he added.

The TT races are in June – really exciting to watch but so, so dangerous that even the hospital has to make special preparations

5. BBC News website: More must be done to recover unpaid taxes due to Covid

The Public Accounts Committee said the total UK tax debt was £39bn – more than double the amount at the start of 2020. It said HM Revenue and Customs must pursue businesses and individuals who were choosing not to pay their taxes while supporting those still struggling with the impact of the pandemic.

After the UK first entered lockdown, HMRC paused most debt collection activity. The move, along with the wider economic impact of the pandemic, saw the number of taxpayers in debt rise from about 3.8 million in January 2020 to 6.2 million in September 2021.

6. BBC News website: Some Mazda drivers in Washington State unable to retune from National Public Radio network

Owners of 2014-17 Mazdas, in the Puget Sound area, contacted KUOW to report their infotainment systems were permanently locked in to the network. Missing file extensions in album images sent with its digital-radio broadcast reportedly triggered the glitch.

The fix, according to Mazda, requires the replacement of the $1,500 connectivity master unit but Mazda said customers could apply for a free “goodwill” replacement.

That’s big of Mazda

Run (x4), swim, gym, (plus sports bras and quantum hair)

The Imelda Marcos of running

My wife’s car managed to acquire a screw in a tyre so some of Monday was spent faffing about getting it fixed – but a good excuse for a meandering 6km (3.7 mile) run to collect the re-shod car.

Back to the pool for my 6th swim doctor session in the early evening. It was another good and enjoyable session with a mix of swimming and drills – I swam another 1000m. We even began to practice tumble turns … I can hardly wait to try then in an open-water triathlon swim.

On Monday night I noticed two rather important things:

  • first, the event’s 20-week ultra training plan has a bit of a cut-back this week to end the first 4 week block,
  • second, using an over-ambitious 16 week plan for last year’s 50km, I ran 64km (40 miles) in week 3 and injured myself in week 4 so I couldn’t run for a month.

It felt like too much of a coincidence so I scaled back my plans for the week and ran for 10.2km (6.4 miles) on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday my friend and training partner phoned to tell me that he’d just tested positive for Covid. The chances are that he caught it at a meeting on last Wednesday or Thursday – most importantly, he is feeling fine.

I had driven us to both the gym on Friday and swimming on Monday (only 5 minutes each way) and he joined my wife and me for the (entirely outdoor) trip to the pop-up snack bar on Sunday.

I’m told that lateral flow tests don’t tend to give positive results until about 5 days after infection – but, typically, you are probably not infectious at all for the first 2 or 3 days. Indeed, a friend who has a senior position in the NHS says that the chances of passing Covid on while testing negative in the first 5 days after catching it, are small. My wife and I are feeling fine and probably haven’t caught it – I tested negative on Tuesday but I’ll keep testing.

It rained heavily on Wednesday. I would always prefer running outside to using a treadmill but I went to the gym and ran for 6.7km (4.2 miles), just to make it a bit easier for the long run to get me to 40km for the week.

A negative test on Thursday morning, so it was a trip to our older son’s house in Kingston-upon-Thames to help fix a springy floor (crumbled mortar beneath one of the bricks supporting the sill plate). It counts as a sort of rest day.

Friday, as ever, (and after another negative test) was the gym and the bike shop but it was a really nice day so I did the long run in the afternoon – just over 19km (12 miles). That’s the running done for the week as we have friends for Sunday lunch and others for Sunday evening and that means preparation on Saturday. I did manage to cut back – long run down from 25km last week and the weeks’ total down to 42km from 51km (26 miles from over 31 miles) – and no hills. My legs are thanking me for that.

Having been so smug at fitting it all in around the double entertaining on Sunday, our friends had to cancel their Sunday lunch visit after both testing positive for Covid. On that topic, I felt a bit off colour on Saturday morning … but tested negative. I lit the bonfire in the afternoon, I’m sure that smoke inhalation is a Covid deterrent.

Sunday was another very pleasant day but, very sadly, our friend continued to test positive (probably 10 days after catching it) so the evening went the same way as lunch already had. The house is very clean – the celeriac, leek, cannellini bean and artichoke heart gratin is going to take some eating but I’m just the man for the job.

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

The first 4 weeks of the event’s 20-week training plan had 91km of running. I’ve done 189km and (with much crossing of things and touching of wood) am feeling OK.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: To be tall you need not necessarily climb a hill

2. BBC News website: Changes to ‘basket’ of goods used to assess UK cost of living

Changed behaviours due to Covid probably accounts for many of the changes, including the removal of men’s suits and doughnuts and the addition of tinned beans, meat-free sausages, pet collars, sports bras and crop tops.

Anti-bacterial wipes, as well as craft and hobby kits for adults, were included in the basket of goods for the first time but items such as atlas books or encyclopaedias, as well as coal, are out.

3. BBC News website: Black hole paradox solved by “quantum hair”

The paradox was the problem of making two key theories compatible – Einstein’s general theory of relativity says information about what goes into a black hole cannot come out, but quantum mechanics says that is impossible.

Scientists now say they have shown that the constituents of the star leave an imprint in the black hole’s gravitational field. The scientists named the imprint “quantum hair” because their theory supersedes an earlier idea called the “no hair theorem” developed in the 1960s.

Ah, just as I always suspected

4. BBC News website: A 100 year old juvenile

A post-mortem examination has revealed that a rare species of shark stranded in Cornwall was a 3.96m (13ft) long juvenile that could have been more than 100 years old. The Greenland shark is believed to be the longest living vertebrate, with some living up to 500 years.

5. Bravo Italy for winning in Cardiff to end a 36 game losing streak in the Six Nations Rugby Championship.