Category Archives: fitness

Run, run, stone-walling (dry or not), run (not dry), minimalist running?

Very much ‘work in progress’

After a hectic week and a long Sunday seeing our older son up in London, Monday was taken fairly easily but Tuesday saw the start of a new project – building a series of stone walls in the garden.

The aim is to tackle two issues at once – we have a pathway between a hedge and a row of trees which needs more ‘definition’, and we have loads of excess stone lying around that needs to be used. There are several separate sections needing walls, separated by the trees.

Helped by our younger son, I set to it, not knowing what I was doing (nothing new there, then). After a day I knew only one thing for sure – if I ever need to become a dry stone waller for a living, I will starve.

The work was very hard both technically and physically so the run I’d planned didn’t happen. I think I read that a good stone-waller handles each piece of stone just once, instinctively knowing where it will fit. I do not aspire to getting anywhere near that.

Sensibly, we ran early on Wednesday before starting day two of the task, but still aching from the effort on Tuesday. Just over 5.5km (3.4miles) but the Garmin lost the satellite connection at one point and we were credited with a 400m which was 20 seconds faster than the current world record (of course, in truth, we were just a handful of seconds outside the record).

It was a good run but afterwards I made a grave mistake by agreeing to run on Thursday evening with a young chap who sometimes rides with the cycle club. He is a proper runner – I checked on Strava and he recently did nearly 8km at better than 4:30 per km. He has promised not to kill me.

More walling on Thursday – taken fairly steadily to conserve energy, then the run at 6.30. I’m sure that when I was a boy, hot days were hottest just after midday and then cooled as the afternoon went on. It feels like hot days now just carry on getting hotter into the late afternoon. That’s how it was on Thursday – possibly the hottest day of the year and still roasting for the run.

I must admit to having been a bit nervous at the thought I might spoil his run – but we did a very enjoyable 7km (4.3miles) on the shadiest route we could find. True, he was jogging as I worked hard to keep up, but despite a few hills and quite a bit of off-road he pulled me through it as fast as I’ve run for some months.

Bournemouth off limits for now

I’d planned to go down to Bournemouth on Friday for some garden maintenance but it’s been in the news headlines for a couple of days as the good weather has brought thousands to the english beaches (especially Bournemouth which has been overwhelmed with people and traffic). It’s been madness with gridlocked roads, rubbish everywhere, and full beaches that meant social distancing was next to impossible. What is it about the sun that makes people act so recklessly?

I’ll wait for the weather to cool before I try to get down there. Sadly, that meant more walling on Friday – making progress but if I want them to stand up for more than a few days I’m going to have to abandon the ‘dry’ bit and add some mortar to glue the stones together.

All three of us ran on Saturday morning – and I then added a bit, in the rain, to take it beyond 11.5km (just over 7 miles).

A social life (but not as we knew it)

Saturday evening we hosted our usual social group of six for an excellent al fresco supper – we dodged the rain but were wearing coats by 9pm. Even as the lockdown eases, we will not be able to have an indoor supper party involving three households for a while yet.

Going barefoot/minimalist

As an aside, my wife needed new running shoes. When I ordered them I also ordered for myself (encouraged by others, thank you Adam) a pair of ‘minimalist/barefoot’ shoes (Merrell Vapor Glove 4 Trail Running Shoes to be precise).

Incredible service – ordered online Friday morning and arrived Saturday morning. They are very light – most of my running shoes weigh about 300g each (10.58oz) – these are 342g (12oz) for the pair! I was thinking of trying them on Sunday but I ached a bit so am looking forward to playing with them by way of experiment next week – and I’ve got to get back on the bike.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb: If the owner of a calabash calls it a worthless calabash, others will join him to use it to pack rubbish.

Yes. I had to look it up – it’s a hollowed-out gourd

2. Palm Beach County commissioners proposed mandatory wearing of masks in public. They were harangued by residents who accused them of obeying the devil, imposing a communist dictatorship and dishonouring the American flag.

One resident was quoted as saying ‘they want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out of the door’.

I must have misunderstood – I thought masks supplemented the lungs rather than replaced them.

I hope the lady doesn’t take any medicine as, by her reasoning, medicines throw out God’s wonderful bodily health system …

3. Brothels reopen in Austria on 1 July. The Greeks were a little ahead of them – rules brought in by the Greek government include card-only payments, a time limit of 15 minutes per customer, compulsory face masks and workers taking a list of clients’ contact details in case they need to be traced.

Presumably, no social distancing rule?

4. Headline: United Nations chief ‘shocked and disturbed’ by video of car sex act in Israel

There is footage of an apparent sex act on the back seat of an official and marked UN car in Israel. Presumably the UN is going to adopt the slogan ‘Make love, not war’

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (x1.13)

23/05 – 2020 (x1.06)

30/05 – 2065 (x1.02)

6/06 – 2093 (x1.01)

13/06 – 2109 (x1.01)

20/06 – 2123 (x1.01)

27/06 – 2128 (x1.00)

Run, run, run, something in the woodshed

Sunday’s run wasn’t as good as Saturday’s – but I could feel both in my legs on Monday, especially the calf muscles. Why don’t I remember to stretch before I have the problems?

I suppose the good thing is that it was the muscles and not the Achilles tendons – throughout the training for the Rotterdam Marathon in April last year, they never needed any excuse to protest loudly.

I’m wondering if I’ve been running a bit flat footed for a while in order to protect the Achilles’. Subconsciously, I must have got a bit more confident in them and am striking a bit closer to the ball of the foot (thus putting more strain on the Achilles/calf chain – oh dear).

I did a short leg loosener Monday (5.5km, about 3.4miles) in some pretty muggy heat around midday. In the afternoon I started on another bit of garden – more nettles and brambles but thistles replacing ivy, for a change. It was more ripping stuff out than digging stuff up – by the evening my hands were like claws, incapable of gripping more than a cup of coffee.

I ran with my wife on Tuesday (6.7km, 4.2m) but, after 4 consecutive days of running (for only about 30km – over 18 miles) my back ached on Wednesday so I took it as a rest day from exercise.

I bought a chainsaw to start cutting up the wood taken out of the beech trees last year. I still have a full complement of limbs and digits so it went well – but it’s going to be a three session job to get it all cut and stored for the wood burner this winter.

Session 2 log cutting on Thursday (in the rain, so no running) and the same again on Friday (in yet more rain) which finished the job and leaves us with a fully stacked woodshed (plus overflow into another shed).

As the lockdown eases, we are allowed to create a ‘support bubble’ so our younger son, furloughed from his job and having been alone in his flat in London since the start of the virus lockdown, is now at home with us. It’s great to have him here in any event – but I ran the Rotterdam Marathon with him last year so I now have another running partner and another pair of hands with the labours around the house and garden … and he plays a mean game of croquet too.

He and I had a very good run on Saturday – a bit over 10km (6.35miles) in an hour. On Sunday the three of us drove up to London for a socially distanced picnic with our other son and his girlfriend – we’ve not seen them since skiing in late January. It was great.

Rook update – the hawk cut-out appears to be having some effect (for now, at least). I’ve not seen any in the chicken run and the chicken food seems to be lasting longer – so it looks like fewer rooks (unless the chickens have put themselves on a diet).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb of the week: ‘Better to meet me with a warm heart than offer me dinner.’

2. BBC News website: ‘Coronavirus and how to beat it on the sausage frontline’

When the battle lines are drawn, it tends to all come down to the sausages

3. BBC News website: ‘Australia shark encounter: Teenage siblings film ‘really scary’ escape’

As opposed to a ‘really enjoyable’ escape from a shark

4. Foolish joke of the week: I had a ticket for a gig by an emo band but it was called off. I was really sad – which is, I suppose, what they would have wanted.

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (x1.13)

23/05 – 2020 (x1.06)

30/05 – 2065 (x1.02)

6/06 – 2093 (x1.01)

13/06 – 2109 (x1.01)

20/06 – 2126 (x1.01)

Run, stream, bonfires, run, run, rook-scarer-in-chief (failed)

Back to pounding the local roads

On Tuesday I ran with my wife and did an extra bit to make it 11.6km (7.2miles). The mental trick of setting out to run further, rather than ‘I might do an extra bit after she finishes’ does work.

I was thinking that I should increase the length of my longest run each week but Thursday marked the ’13 months until the postponed ultra marathon’ day. What would be the purpose of doing longer runs now, unless I was likely to do a long race later in the year? Of course, there might not be any – and I don’t see myself doing one, even if there are.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent clearing the stream at the end of the garden – what a surprise, more brambles, nettles and ivy.

We live at the end of the village but the prevailing wind would share our bonfire smoke with everyone else. On Friday, the stars aligned (or, more accurately, the wind direction changed) so I lit the two huge bonfires that bore testament to all the recent days spent ripping ivy off walls and removing nettles and brambles.

It was hard physical work keeping both tended, while adding some scorch marks to the bramble damage to my forearms. I decided that gave me an exemption from the run I had intended.

My wife’s parents used to live next door to us and my father-in-law was a great one for bonfires. I could pretty much guarantee that, within 10 minutes of me lighting one, he’d be coming out to join me – cigarette in one hand and garden fork in the other.

He’s been dead for 10 years now but I still expect to see him walking over as the smoke starts to rise.

Saturday was our 33rd Wedding Anniversary – where in earth did all those years go?

I had an anniversary run to celebrate – a little over 10km (6.35miles) in just under the hour. It felt really good, despite the return of the heat, and I could (for once) have gone faster. I fear that this might find out if the Achilles are really ‘cured’ or if their tendency to get injured is waiting to make a comeback.

On Sunday I could feel the run in my legs (to say nothing of feeling the previous evening’s ‘Ottolenghi’ slow cooked lamb shoulder in my stomach) but such is the duty of the unpaid personal trainer that I ran with my wife – just over 7km, a little over 4.5 miles.

With lockdown, my hair is now into my eyes so I run in my ‘Galibier’ headband. I’ve had it for years but at least I feel entitled to wear it now after doing the Telegraph/Galibier climb last year.

For a while now I’ve been convinced that I’m feeding most of the rooks in the area. They have found our chickens’ run and are eating the pellets at a rate the chickens could only dream of. Sadly, the chickens are either cowards or rook lovers as they show no sign of making any effort to repel the raiders.

I decided to act so I rigged up some strings with silver foil tied to them so that the movement of the shiny bits would scare them away. As far as I could tell the rooks were not at all impressed and took no notice.

Next I set up a rudimentary scarecrow (scare-rook). Another failure – in fact, I suspect that the rooks put the word out that all the birds for a 10 mile radius should come over to laugh at the old bloke’s pitiful attempts at bird scaring.

My third attempt has been to cut out the silhouette of a hawk (as viewed from above) from a sheet of plywood and put that on a pole so that approaching rooks would see the potential predator and make themselves scarce. The jury is out on this attempt.

With only two remaining, elderly, chickens I’m not inclined to go much further but I think I do have some netting which I might be able to rig up as a roof to the run – if I reduced the size of the run. I’ll give it some thought.

Interesting stuff this week

1. BBC News website: The days of queuing for fish and chips are gone

The fabric of UK society collapses

2. My African proverb of the week: If you cry for rain don’t complain about the mud.

3. BBC News website: Coronavirus: Three firms still positive despite the virus crisis

Three … a whole three!

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (x1.13)

23/05 – 2020 (x1.06)

30/05 – 2065 (x1.02)

6/06 – 2093 (x1.01)

13/06 – 2109 (x1.007)

Run, run, run, RIDE (plus toad venom and a rare trip out)

Shame it just has me to push the pedals round

After Sunday’s gardening, Monday started with a sore back, and forearms lacerated by brambles and still tingling from the nettles. The pains went well with the knee I skinned tripping over a tree root on Sunday’s run.

Yes, I could (should) have worn long sleeves for the nettles and brambles but it was very hot and I was very careful (… to begin with).

I did more rough gardening on Monday wearing shorts, successfully adding ripped legs to the forearms. I won’t claim that as a personal best for stupidity – but it’s right up there. I look like I went three rounds with a roll of barbed wire, and lost badly.

Oh the joys of a fit and active life.

Bournemouth on Tuesday. With the lockdown we haven’t been there for a couple of months and, although some neighbours have been kind enough to keep an eye on the house, they haven’t, of course, done any gardening. The grass was knee high with specimen thistles at waist height in the lawns. After a few hard hours in yet more gloriously hot weather, they looked rather more like meadows rather than lawns – but at least reasonably tended meadows.

The weather broke a bit on Wednesday, cooler and a few showers but I had a short leg-loosener run (5.5km – 3.5miles). Much the same again on Thursday, but a bit further – 10.2km (6.3 miles). Two really enjoyable runs, not fast but steady, consistent and they felt fairly easy.

The (slightly) relaxed lockdown in England now allows for up to 6 people to meet, socially-distanced and outdoors. On Friday evening we had our first social event for about 10 weeks as we and another couple from the village walked in to Faringdon for an al fresco supper in the garden of some mutual friends. It was a great evening – but a slightly sad reminder of what we’ve been missing.

I’d driven a car over earlier so we all had our own crockery and cutlery and warm clothing and I ran a roundabout way there to pick it up on Saturday morning – 6.5km (4miles).

When I started this blog it was mostly about the pleasures of cycling – including my ‘everest’ in 2017 and the solo ride out to the alps in 2018.

The Rotterdam Marathon in 2019 rather got in the way of the cycling – and it re-kindled my liking for running that has continued since. While my body permits, I’ll keep running (the ultra marathon has only been postponed to 2021) … but it feels about time to get back to my roots and pick up the road cycling again – especially as the pandemic has messed up my annual trip to the alps this summer.

The new carbon fibre wheels have arrived (50mm deep and only weighing 1400 grams) and the necessary carbon-rim-specific brake blocks are now in place. Out of interest, before I set off for a ride on Sunday, I weighed the bike – as in the photo with pedals and bottle and Garmin mounts it came out at 7.2kg. It deserves more than just me riding it.

I did a 36km spin over a route I’d done about three weeks ago. Then I averaged 26.9kph (16.7mph) – this time I averaged 30.4kph (18.9mph).

The bike felt so much faster, even without the tri-bars (I’ll put them on once I’ve got used to the wheels’ characteristics). Not exactly a laboratory-controlled experiment, but encouraging.

I’m not sure if the difference is due to aerodynamics or witchcraft but I don’t think I care too much.

Interesting things this week

1. African proverb of the week: The offspring of a hawk is bound to steal chicken.

2. Porn star Nacho Vidal held in Spain after man dies in toad-venom ritual.

I’m reluctant to include this (from BBC News website) on the basis that, subsequently, everything else will look pretty ordinary.

3. Foolish joke of the week: A farmer asked me to help him round up 19 sheep. I said of course, that’s 20 sheep.

4. ‘Prince William reveals he is secret helpline volunteer’

Thus demonstrating that he’s not quite grasped the concept of ‘secret’.

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (x1.13)

23/05 – 2020 (x1.06)

30/05 – 2065 (x1.02)

6/06 – 2093 (x1.01)

Turbo, ride, run (my unholy trinity)

After running on Tuesday and Thursday, it was back to the turbo on Friday. I was pinched for time so just 30 minutes but ridden quite hard; sadly, the speed was registered at 29.9kph by Strava.

After a day in the garden I went out on the bike late on Saturday – it wasn’t a difficult decision as it was that or the turbo trainer. I rode for just over 36km (22.5 miles) in 80 minutes and managed to take it reasonably sensibly … apart from the two times I found myself behind other road cyclists who, I could tell, really wanted to be chased and overtaken.

A bit pathetic for an old man? Guilty as charged.

The big problem, of course, is that once you overtake, you then have to push on hard for the next couple of miles to avoid looking like an idiot as they, effortlessly, cruise back past you.

One of them was down on his tri-bars which made the chase harder but also made me realise that I should refit mine. I am currently cycling alone and in relatively light traffic so it would be pretty safe and why turn down the couple of free kph that they tend to offer?

On matters ‘aero’, I’m still grappling with whether I should get a pair of deep rim carbon wheels. Although I don’t cycle at an average of 20mph (32kph, the speed at which they are said to come into their own) I do spend a reasonable amount of time at that speed – so they might be a genuine benefit (to everything but my bank balance).

I know a gentleman in Michigan and another in Tasmania who would consider that decision to be a total no-brainer.

On Sunday morning I ran with my wife – she wanted to do the local Strava hill segment again (competitive juices flowing strongly). We did that and then I ran on to do some laps around Badbury Clump for a total run of 8.3km (just over 5 miles).

The car park there has been shut during the lockdown so, although the whole area itself has been open, it’s been fairly deserted and a joy to run in. The car park has now reopened and was full – but at least the people were well spread out and social distancing was not an issue.

For some reason Strava hasn’t recorded the segment we ran but I can work out a time from the maps and the route tracker – she blitzed her previous time by between 10 and 15 seconds. What a performance.

Some years ago we ran the “Town and Gown” 10km race in Oxford three years in succession. It’s a great course through the city centre and the aim was for my wife to break the hour barrier. We managed 58 minutes odd on our last attempt – I’m working on getting her to enter next year but it’s an uphill battle.

The rest of Sunday will be spent mowing and playing croquet. It’s what Sundays were made for.

Stocktake after 8 weeks of lockdown

  • weight – 68 kg (decent)
  • resting pulse – 48 bpm (fair)
  • hair – long, grey and unkempt (but at least I don’t have to worry about the roots being a different colour)
  • mental health – entirely unchanged (not sure if that is good or bad, but I tend to put it down to a sad lack of imagination on my part)
  • running – OK, I’m enjoying it a lot, but I’m not doing any great distances (perhaps it’s a good thing the ultra marathon is postponed to 2021)
  • cycling – moderate at best (how on earth did I ever get fit enough to ride out to to the alps, let alone do the ‘Everest’?)
  • Achilles tendons, fine; calf muscles, fine; left knee, not fine
  • garden – better than ever.

Interesting things this week

1. African proverb: A frog’s happiness comes with the rains.

… and who doesn’t like a happy frog?

2. The Dutch government has issued new guidance to single people seeking intimacy during the pandemic, advising them to find a ‘sex buddy’.

The National Institute for Health and the Environment said that ‘Sex with yourself or with others at a distance is possible’.

I see the Dutch in an entirely new (red) light.

3. Steve Linick: Trump fires state department inspector general

I’m starting to feel left out because the President hasn’t bothered to fire me (yet).

4. With the division’s season coming to an early end, our local football club (Swindon Town) is set to be promoted and crowned Champions. Not how anyone would have wanted it to end – but we’ll take it.

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (1.13)

Run, run, run (a great end to the week … or am I being sarcastic?)

Les Lacets de Montvernier that I cycled last year. This year’s alpine cycling trip is looking doomed

A hard day’s manual labouring in the garden on Thursday. After eight straight days with a run or session on the turbo trainer, that turned it into a ‘rest day’ of sorts as I couldn’t face either a run or the bike.

Running with my wife on Friday reminded me of another valuable lesson – the benefit of rest days. We don’t run that fast (although she is now routinely running sub 7 minute kms – bravo to her), but it felt a really good 4 miles with a fair bit of spring in my step.

Of course, it didn’t feel quite as good on Saturday when I really needed it – but almost 14km (over 8.5miles) at just under 6 minute kms. Embarrassingly, I made the rookie error of dressing appropriately for the slightly cool start to the run with no thought to the fact that I was going to be boiling by the time of the rather warm weather finish.

Warm again on Sunday when I ran 6.75km (4.2miles) with my wife.

At the moment we are in another 3 weeks of lockdown – accompanied by a lot of talk about how, and when, to come out of it. With much discussion of how to finish the football season and re-start other sports, we also have the opposite message with the 27th September Berlin Marathon being cancelled (poignant as today would have been the London Marathon).

To be honest, I don’t blame the politicians and medical experts for not knowing the answers – we are in uncharted waters.

That’s it for another action-packed week. Five runs (over 40km in all) and a turbo session. (Say it quietly, but I’ve also stepped up to the croquet challenge in a big way.)

Interesting things in the news this week

1. BBC website: “Tennis pro Clarke benefits from live-in coach“. Britain’s No5 rated male tennis player (currently world No 166, no less) is lucky that he lives with his brother, who is his coach.

A fine example of the desperation of the sports writer when there is no sport to write about.

2. I thought I had a good sense of sarcasm. However, now Pres. Trump has explained that his comments on injecting disinfectant were sarcasm I realise that I have no grasp whatsoever of what sarcasm sounds like.

Also, I now realise that I have no understanding of when sarcasm might be appropriate.

I quite like the advice “When you’re in a hole, stop digging”.

3. A well-meaning cleaner took the opportunity to give a locked-down UK library a thorough clean and replaced all of its books on the shelves – in size order.

An excellent idea. I’ve always found those books which are 8.5 inches tall to be best although, personally, I like to organise them by colour – books in red covers are invariably good.

4. A Syrian national based in Lebanon has been arrested for allegedly putting up a Nigerian maid for sale in Facebook advert. A passport photo of the 30-year-old domestic worker was included in the advert, saying she was for sale for $1,000 (£807).

Hard to believe this can happen in the 21st century.

5. Headline on the BBC News website: Coronavirus: ‘I had to shave off my beard so I could wear a face mask’

That’s getting to the heart of the big issues facing us today.

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

Run, turbo, run, (and a lesson re-learnt, soon to be re-forgotten, no doubt)

The bluebells putting on a great show

I learnt a lesson last week – or more accurately, re-learnt a lesson I’ve learnt and forgotten many times before, and no doubt will learn and forget again many times in the future.

Of course, warming up, cooling down and stretching are necessary to keep my ageing body working without the otherwise inevitable aches and pains. The big problem is that I remember that when I have a particular issue to address but forget it as soon as the issue goes away.

I remember them as remedial actions – and forget about them as preventative ones.

The calf I tweaked last Saturday benefitted from confinement to the turbo on Sunday but was not properly right by the time this week started (as many do) with a run with my wife on Monday. We went through the village together, with her then doing hill reps while I ran round the old hill fort – about 5 miles for me.

All the better for the bluebells being out.

Turbo for 45 minutes on Tuesday to be kinder to the calf and knees. It went reasonably well but it was my 7th day of exercise in a row and I was starting to flag so it was going to be a rest day on Wednesday – but my personal trainer duties took over and I ran with my wife, nearly 5 miles, on Wednesday.

A lovely run in glorious weather, spoilt only by being passed by a delivery van that my wife thought might have a delivery for her. Urged to go ahead to make sure we didn’t miss it by being out, I sprinted the last km, arriving at the house sweating and breathing heavily, only to find there was no delivery, the driver was just taking a break by hiding at the end of the village for a few minutes.

Things I’ve enjoyed this week

1. I struggle with the concept of oil prices going negative. If anyone in the States would like to pick up and store a few barrels for me, you can let me have them, and the cash you’ll owe me, later in the year.

2. Kenyan proverb: “An old man never knows what makes him look after cattle at his age.”

What?

3. Romania has issued 200,000 fines in under a month to people who failed to comply with restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. The relatively high fines handed out between 24 March and 19 April amount to £69m (€78m), said to equal Romania’s February 2020 corporate tax take.

Taking the economy seriously!

4. Army veteran’s 100th-birthday walk for ‘magnificent’ NHS

Captain Tom Moore’s walk had a fund raising target of £1,000 and has now raised over £28 million. Needs no comment.

Run, run, turbo. Louder, louder, And we'll run for our lives

Still sharing space with some less hardy plants … but closer to getting them back out in the garden

I rarely feel sorry for politicians – but (like him or not) I’ll make an exception for Boris Johnson. December, elected; March, having to remove basic freedoms like never before in peacetime.

Poor soul, when he came to power Brexit looked like the UK’s biggest issue but just weeks later nobody mentions Brexit as everything is overshadowed by coronavirus.

We now join so many nations in a lockdown – for an initial three weeks we are required to stay at home and only leave for shopping for “basic necessities”, medical reasons, to provide care, or to help a vulnerable person and travelling to and from work, if it is “absolutely necessary”. Gatherings of more than two people (excluding those who live together) are banned. Parks have remained open but people are able to go out to exercise no more than once a day.

The aim is to protect the National Health Service as much as possible by slowing the growth in severe cases that otherwise will threaten to overwhelm it’s capacity to look after those in need of intensive care. All very grim, but necessary – and harsher could still be in the pipeline if people don’t take the current rules sufficiently seriously.

On Tuesday I made use of the ability to exercise and ran for 10.4km (nearly 6.5miles). In other circumstances, it would have looked like the sort of early spring day that gets you thinking that all is well with the world. It was pretty quiet out but the walkers, runners and dog walkers were all friendly and all happy to keep proper social distancing.

I enjoyed it – but it does feel even more irrelevant than it used to, with so many people facing such severe issues at the moment. For those of us without skills that would be really useful currently, perhaps our obligations are simply to help neighbours where possible, follow the rules and maintain what normality we can.

Now many people are ‘working’ from home and allowed only one exercise session a day, I wonder whether we might see people valuing the opportunity to get out more than they would previously (‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’), and starting a slightly healthier lifestyle? It would be a terrible irony if the pandemic had that sort of positive spin-off (sadly, a very small positive compared to such huge, and tragic, negatives).

Wednesday I worked to submit the application for probate on my father’s estate. He’d have hated the current situation – he’d have been 96 by now and confinement to the house would have been miserable for him (he was still driving himself to Rotary club and the church every week up to his final illness in December).

Thursday it was back to some sort of exercise as I ran with my wife in the morning, had a large bonfire in the afternoon and used the turbo trainer in the evening (the run having used my ‘one outdoor exercise a day’ allowance). 6.2km running and 45 minutes on the turbo for 21.57km (appropriately watching the game show ‘Pointless’).

With April’s sportive already gone, July’s ultra shaky to say the least, our walking trip to the Lake District in April looking doomed and my annual week’s cycling in the alps under severe threat, what sporting challenge is left for 2020?

After my ‘everesting’ in 2017, the solo ride out to the alps in 2018 and the marathon last year, 2020 is looking rather sad with April’s sportive already gone, July’s ultra shaky to say the least, our trip to walk in the Lake District looking doomed and my annual week’s cycling in the alps under severe threat.

On the assumption that there will at least be a lull in the crisis (and that I will still be fit and healthy by then) I’ve started to think what I might try to do later in the year by way of challenge and celebration of being able to take one on.

On a happier note to all the gloom around at the moment, the garden is full of birds from rooks, jackdaws and the regular woodpeckers (heard but not yet seen), down to the robins, innumerable LBJs* and – best of all – the wrens are back.

*’Little Brown Jobs’ (several species of small similar looking birds that a non-ornithologist like me cannot tell apart).

Alarm-alarm, quad bikes, craft beers, tapas and Glastonbury – not just another weekend

Back to Bournemouth and Hengistbury Head, it was a great weekend

I appreciate the horrible irony that, when so many don’t have the basics, I feel that I have too many things – but as a result, our sons give me ‘experiences’ for birthday and Christmas presents.

On Friday we drove down to Bournemouth for my birthday present. We all gathered in the evening (plus the older boy’s girlfriend) in readiness for the experience on the Saturday afternoon. After a great family meal in the evening, I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep in preparation – but the phone rang just before 6.30 with a message from the alarm company to the effect that power had been lost to the alarm at home in Oxfordshire.

Although heartened by the fact that it wasn’t an intruder alert, something had to be done, and it was a bit early to contact any neighbours.

The result, of course, was that before 7am I was in the car to drive the 100 miles back home. As I got into the village I could see some lights on – but the house had no power. It was simply the trip switch that had (presumably) been activated by a power surge some time after 5am.

Resetting it took about 5 seconds, followed by the 100 mile drive back to Bournemouth. What a great way to start a day.

In the afternoon we drove to Blandford Forum for quad biking. We watched the group ahead of us and got a bit worried as they seemed to be confined to some tracks around a hillside right by the farm – perfectly good tracks, with some very good flooded sections, but for an hour in the same place?

We didn’t know whether we’d be put with others to make up a group – but we weren’t. With just the three of us (sons and me) the first instruction ‘no overtaking’ wasn’t such a disappointment, but it did occur to me that we might not have the most exciting hour ahead of us.

Happily, I was very wrong. The instructor explained that we would start on the nearby hillside but, depending how we got on, there were more tracks he could take us to a few fields away.

We were on the first hill for only about 15 minutes and we must have convinced him that we weren’t complete no-hopers and he took us to the further field where there were some more difficult tracks.

‘Gnarly’ would be the word in mountain biking circles, I think.

That seemed really good and it was enormous fun. With the three of us the no overtaking was not an issue – the track was sufficiently demanding by itself.

After a while he led us off again and I was thinking that the time had gone incredibly quickly but instead of returning to the farm, he took us to a third site. My wife had been talking to one of the other instructors who explained there was a third site that they rarely took people to because it was very difficult – apparently that’s where we were.

I thought we’d already hit lucky on the fun stakes – but the third site was even better. In and out of some trees, up some very steep hills with drops that fell away so sharply that you couldn’t see the track beneath you as you come over the top, deep ruts, adverse cambers and sharp bends in front of rather solid-looking trees. It was very hard but such a buzz.

In the early evening we went to a local micro-brewery and sampled some really excellent craft beers. After that it was off to a tapas restaurant for some terrific food (after a slightly long wait for our table – with they handled very well, with a sincere apology and a free round of drinks – all credit to them).

On the Sunday morning the older son and his girlfriend were devoted to applying for tickets for the 2020 Glastonbury music festival. To get better internet reception we went to a local cafe/bistro on the seafront where they set up a row of four laptops and two mobile phones on the wall outside (the cafe not quite being open yet).

By chance, the Bournemouth half and full marathons were taking place, passing right in front of the cafe. I suspect that many runners though they were passing either a timing checkpoint or a press centre – certainly several waved and posed for non-existent cameras. Sorry, it was just an attempt at a ticket application.

In fact, their attempts failed to get through the queues to the ticket purchase stage – but friends who were also applying did get tickets for them all so it ended well.

After a brunch and a walk around the Hengistbury Head area, everyone headed back home in the afternoon – us to Oxfordshire and the boys to London. What a great weekend – and not a run, a cycle or the gym in sight. No exercise for three days, unless I can include the quad biking (I did ache a bit on the Sunday morning), or clapping the Bournemouth runners – congratulations to all of them.

I was thinking of the Bournemouth marathon as an event for late 2020 but the route winds back on itself several times in different places (would that mess with the mind?) and although I like running along the promenade, on Sunday there was a nasty little headwind blowing west to east along the Channel. I need to think about this …

Run, cycle training, gym, gym, run, gym

Back to hitting the mean streets of Little Coxwell

The training continues – I’ve been to the gym, run or used the turbo trainer on 11 of the last 12 days – but with no challenges until next year, I wonder about its use. I think it’s just ‘enjoy it for what it is’.

It rained heavily through Saturday night but we ran on Sunday morning – 6.2km (a bit under 4 miles). The light rain at the start was very pleasant but we ended in rather heavier rain which was a bit less so.

Later we went to the cycle path to do some more training – despite the weather we had a lot of children on the balance bikes, some more of whom, I think, will be cycling properly next week.

A bit of the afternoon was spent watching the men’s road race at the world championships in Yorkshire. The weather was foul and led to a shortening of the route; they cut out the Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs that I remember so fondly from our visit to Yorkshire for the early stages of Le Tour back in 2014. It was a seriously tough day for riding a bike – with 75km still to go, more than half the field had abandoned in the pouring rain and with temperatures down around 12℃ (low 50’s℉).

On Monday morning it was back to the gym for an hour. I’ve increased some of the weights again. I tend to do 3 sets of 12 reps until that gets comfortable, then I increase the weights and reduce the reps to 3 sets of 8 (if I can) , before building them back up again. I’ve no idea whether that’s a good way to do it …

I’m now on the machines’ maximum weights for leg press (200kg), abductors and adductors (both 60kg). On the leg curl and leg extension machines I’m at 55kg … again, no idea if that’s good, bad or indifferent – but it really doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying it.

I had planned on running on Tuesday but it was raining heavily so I went to the gym again and I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning – just under 4 miles on a cool, clear and crisp morning – and faster than we have run together for a year. I know that the gym is no replacement for running or cycling but I’m looking forward to a ‘proper’ run or cycle to see how I shape up at the moment.

Gym on Thursday and a day off on Friday to rest the tired muscles – and a very good weekend in prospect.

Congratulations to Katarina Johnson-Thompson for gold in the world heptathlon. Great athletics – dismal crowds in the stadium.