Category Archives: gym

Run, turbo, run (hill reps), gym, run, run plus bees, mobiles and honours gone

Longer runs mean a bit of different scenery

The big world news on Monday was that I was tired after Sunday’s hill reps. Interestingly, somewhere towards my right hip felt sore – and that’s a new injury. Sensibly, I took a rest day.

In other (minor) news, Monday saw the overturning of the Australian decision to bar Djovokic from entering the country. An excellent tennis player, but this episode isn’t likely to help in his struggle to be ‘loved’ in the same way as Federer and Nadal.

I appreciate that different societies have different accepted norms, but I’m surprised we haven’t seen more made of the way he, apparently, got the positive PCR result on 16th December, but disregarded Serbian regulations that require self-isolation for 14 days.

Catching Covid when he did was incredibly lucky. There he was with the Australian Open approaching and no way of getting into the country (I assume). Then he’s fortunate enough to catch Covid at just the right time – that’s championship form.

The other sporting news was that the Raiders made it to the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. I’ve followed them since I watched Marcus Allen run 74 yards for a TD in Super Bowl XVIII (1984). Nervy stuff I wonder how many teams with a 10-7 record post a -65 points difference over the regular season. I don’t expect them to go further.

Tuesday was dreary – grey and with a light but relentless drizzle. I went for a slightly longer, uninspired, run – 10.3km (6.4 miles) in 1h 01m. I’m not sure if the niggle around the right hip is muscular or the joint itself – one to watch.

On Wednesday, more was being made of Djokovic’s isolation breaches and whole affair seemed to be murkier all the time. What a mess – rather sad all round. Out to lunch with friends in the village, then a lacklustre 45 minutes on the turbo – @28kph (17.4 mph).

Hill reps on a brighter Thursday. I did 9 of the usual hill – 9.5km and 314m of ascent (nearly 6 miles and 1,030 feet). When will it get easier?

As normal on Friday, a stint manning the charity bike shop after a trip to the gym. I put up the weights on almost everything, reduced the reps, increased the sets and went for ‘explosive’. All very interesting but I’m less of a firecracker and more of a damp squib.

Oh yes, Djokovic had his visa revoked. By my reading of the figures, the previous three days had accounted for about 30% of all Australia’s Covid cases.

I ran on a cold Saturday – including two pairs of socks, shorts, warmer running tights, compression top, warmer running shirt, soft shell jacket, gloves, buff and hat. My wife usually does the 7km loop but joined me for the 10.4km run (6.5 miles) so bravo to her.

Sunday I woke to the confirmation of Raiders’ expected exit from the race to the Super Bowl and Djokovic’s defeat in Court that means he won’t play on court. He says he accepts the Court’s decision, which is good of him.

I ran for just over 12km (7.5 miles).

Six sessions of exercise in each of the last two weeks but last week felt tough and most sessions left me wrecked. This week was better with 42km running (26 miles) with hills, plus the gym and a turbo session … and an improvement in terms of how I felt after the sessions – some progress, perhaps.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Once you carry your own water, you’ll remember every drop

2. BBC News website: Evergrande suspends shares in Hong Kong

Chinese real estate giant Evergrande has suspended trade in its shares in Hong Kong as investors await news on its restructuring plan. Evergrande is said to have more than $300bn (£222bn) of debt and is working to raise cash by selling assets and shares to repay suppliers and creditors.

I know nothing of Evergrande or its assets, but the sheer scale of the debt is eye-watering

3. BBC News website: Police stung as beekeepers protest in Chile

Four beekeepers have been detained in Chile following a protest outside the presidential palace, calling for government support for their industry.

To highlight their cause, the beekeepers set up some 60 hives containing around 10,000 bees in front of the palace. Seven police officers were stung as they tried to remove the beehives.

4. BBC News website: People devote third of waking time to mobile apps

People are spending an average of 4.8 hours a day on their mobile phones, according to an app monitoring firm. The calculation was made across ten markets, including India, Turkey, the US, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Canada. Users in Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea surpassed five hours per day.

The research indicates that apps were downloaded 230 billion times in 2021, with $170bn (£125bn) being spent. TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide, with users spending 90% more time there compared to 2020.

One thing that I struggle to understand is 4 people sitting at a cafe or restaurant table, all going through social media on their phones

5. BBC News website: Prince Andrew loses military titles and use of HRH

Prince Andrew will stop using the title ‘His Royal Highness’ in any official capacity and loses several military titles as he faces a civil case in the US over claims (which he denies) that he sexually assaulted a woman when she was 17.

The UK military titles he loses are: Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, Honorary air commodore of RAF Lossiemouth, Colonel-in-chief of the Royal Irish Regiment, Colonel-in-chief of the Small Arms School Corps, Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm, Royal colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, Deputy colonel-in-chief of The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own), Royal colonel of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Of course, I’m sure he richly deserved them all.

I guess if you are a Prince – but not the son who will inherit ‘the big one’ (ie you are the ‘spare’ and not the ‘heir’) you might feel hard done by (no matter how privileged you are). That could make you attracted to the mega-rich with them being attracted to you for the reflected kudos of having a Prince in tow.

Says Prince Omil, Colonel-in-Chief of nothing at all, but looking for a rich patron.

Turbo (x3, one with random jeopardy), run, gym, run (hill reps) and when lawnmowers attack

Three turbo session in a week – the weather must have been bad

After having our sons back for the week over Christmas, followed by an excellent New Year dinner party with 6 good friends, the first few days of January felt a bit flat (and a little bit fat).

I decided to go with the flow and didn’t exercise, instead we did a difficult jigsaw and took down the decorations and stored them back in the attic (it’s a rock and roll lifestyle). I accompanied my wife to an informal school reunion (more negative lateral flow testing), proof-read some college work for our younger son and took the minutes for a cycling club directors’ meeting.

By Tuesday I knew I should get back to some sort of exercise (if only to address just over 2 kgs – 5 pounds – of excess ballast acquired over the holiday) but it was cold, wet and windy. Rather short of motivation, I turned to the turbo trainer – at least the extra weight was going to be less of a penalty.

I planned to go (even) slower than usual but for an hour. As it was, youthful exuberance took over and I went faster than intended so I gave myself 15 minutes off for good behaviour – 45 minutes @ 30.3kph (18.8mph).

I ran with my wife on a cold Wednesday – one of those days when you know you can’t get the clothing right but I was grateful – as ever – for my D2T buff/neck warmer. We ran one of our usual routes for 7.2km (4.5 miles).

Cold and wet again on Thursday but I did manage a slower session on the turbo – I’d like to say it was all self-restraint but, in truth, I’m not sure I had any more speed in me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do the full hour but discovered that the best technique is to cycle for 45 minutes and then push the pedals round for another 15.

I went to the gym, before the usual bike shop stint, on Friday morning – it was cold (not quite ‘see your breath cold’ but close) and hard. I appreciate that a ‘proper’ gym session is not supposed to be easy but I am only doing all this for pleasure – I need to manage the difficulty to make sure it doesn’t put me off going. I researched it and the advice seems to be: heavy weights; fewer reps; more sets; explosive lifting. Oh dear.

Our local side were televised live in the FA Cup (and lost 4-1) on Friday. No disgrace in a 4th tier side losing to the team well clear at the top of the Premier League. Saturday was wet so I did an hour’s turbo session watching another match – 28.5km (17.7 miles). For added jeopardy I did 100 revs sprinting per goal and 30 per corner (3 goals, 10 corners). For the last 15 minutes I watched a quiz – 15 revs sprint per right answer.

Cold but brighter on Sunday and I did not really want to run but, happily, my wife and I encouraged each other to get out and I did hill reps – 8 of the usual hill but horribly hard. This time it measured 8.9km with 282m of ascent (5.5 miles and 925 feet).

That is me (very) finished for the week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: However long the night, the dawn will break

2. BBC News website: Antarctic outpost hit by Covid-19 outbreak

Since 14 December, at least 16 of the 25 workers at the Belgian Polar Station have caught the virus. The first positive test was in a team that arrived seven days earlier.

Last year, a number of Chilean military personnel at an Antarctic research station were infected after sailors on a supply ship tested positive for the virus.

It’s official, nowhere is safe!

3. BBC News website: French car-burning returns for New Year’s Eve

A total of 874 cars were set alight during New Year’s Eve celebrations in France. The interior ministry said the number was much lower than in 2019. Car burning has effectively become an annual event in French suburbs since riots in 2005 in several cities.

The local “I live in Faringdon” Facebook page was ablaze with outrage at fireworks being set off to celebrate New Year – thank goodness the town hasn’t yet turned its attention to cars …

4. BBC News website: Thousands injured in household accidents

The 2020/21 figures for England showed that accidents fell in many categories as people spent more time indoors, however:

  • more than 5,300 people were admitted to hospital after falls from playground equipment such as swings and slides, including eight people over the age of 90
  • more than 5,600 required hospital attention after coming into contact with an electric hand tool and another 2,700 people sought medical attention after an accident with a non-powered hand tool
  • 349 were admitted to hospital with injuries inflicted by lawnmowers
  • 2,243 people needed attention after hot drink, food, fats and cooking oil injuries
  • 7,386 people were admitted to English hospitals after being bitten or struck by a dog, while 60 others sought assistance after encounters with venomous spiders
  • the number of people needing assistance after being struck by lightning rose from three cases in 2019/20 to 18 in 2020/21.

It’s a miracle that the human race survives

5. BBC News website: Taiwan buys 20,000 bottles of rum destined for China

Taiwan is sharing tips with the public on how to drink and cook with rum after the state-run media said Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp purchased the rum after learning that it could be blocked from entering China.

It comes after Lithuania established a de facto embassy in Taiwan, a potential sign of growing ties between them, after which, just days later, China downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania.

Locals were urged to buy rum at the end of January, when the shipment would be on sale and the National Development Council shared recipes for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail, and rum-infused French toast, steak and hot chocolate.

A state sponsoring drinking alcohol is not the typical way things go

6. BBC News website: Teacher locks son in car boot as he tests positive for Covid

A US teacher has been arrested after allegedly locking her Covid-positive son in a car boot (trunk) to protect herself from exposure to the virus as she drove to a testing site. She is reported to have been charged with endangering a child.

Run, run (hill reps), gym and a Happy New Year to everyone

A sign off to 2021 at the gym – and not a piece of tinsel in sight

I’m not clear if the Chinese ‘may you live in interesting times’ is a blessing or a curse. 2021 qualified as ‘interesting’ – but may your 2022 be less interesting in some respects and much better in all respects.

I ran on Monday – 7.1km (4.4miles) – enjoyable but gentle and wet. I had a sore calf muscle – while exercising it in the gym on Friday someone started speaking to me about cycling and I lost count of the left leg calf raises but just kept doing them. As I get older, the dividing line between good exercise and overdoing it is getting ever more thin.

Christmas itself was great, the boys were back with us and we used most of the house – with just the two of us here normally we shrink our occupation of it but with champagne and stocking opening (at 9.30am) in the drawing room (pretentious, moi?), presents in the breakfast room, lunch in the dining room and a film in the snug, it felt like we got the best out of it.

We walked on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and probably clocked up something like 16km (10 miles) but on Wednesday the boys went back to their homes before the older son and his girlfriend decided (not unreasonably) that the house in Bournemouth would be a good place to see in the New Year. Here the house feels rather emptier but it was a great week we had with them.

We should be thinking about packing for skiing now but that is not going to happen with terrible Covid rates both here and in France – and we Brits are effectively banned from France anyway. The only thing that softens the loss of the holiday is the realisation that we are not missing out on skiing at its best – it would be a compromised holiday because of the restrictions we’d be operating under.

It was always going to be a light week for exercise so I ran hill reps on Thursday on the basis that they probably represent the biggest bang for the buck in exercise benefit (?) – 8 reps of the usual hill for 8.5km with 286m of ascent (5.3 miles and 938 feet).

Friday morning was the gym (the bike shop is still closed for the holidays). I calculate that before I increased the weights and reduced the reps, I was lifting nearly 19,000 kg in a session at the gym – about 18.5 imperial tons and nearer to 21 US tons. I have no idea if that’s good, bad, indifferent or just irrelevant.

Much of Thursday and Friday was taken up preparing for a dinner party for New Year’s Eve. I’m no big fan of New Year (to me it feels like the passage of just one more day rather than another year) but I do like a good dinner party and we had some excellent friends coming. We tested ourselves for Covid (thankfully, both negative) as did all our guests. We had a terrific evening – in a ventilated room – may that be a sign of good things to come in 2022.

2021 exercise round-up:

Runs: 130 Distance: 1,236km (768miles) – with nearly 14,000m of ascent it felt further

Rides: 68 Distance: 1,620km (1,006miles) – pretty poor, most on the turbo trainer

Swims: 30 Distance: 29km (18miles) – a mixture of open water and pool

Gym: 37 times – it was shut for some months

I didn’t set any targets for exercise in 2021 but that’s well over 240 hours in the year, my first ultra marathon completed and a triathlon done with a swim in the (previously) scary open water.

For next year it’s a 100km ultra, some sportives and two triathlons, one of which is over the Olympic distance. Exciting and daunting in equal measure. Dare I think about a return of the annual cycling holiday in the alps?

Interesting things this week

1. African wise words: Even the lion protects himself against flies

2. BBC News website: “Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea”*

Sri Lanka plans to send $5m (£3.8m) worth of tea to Iran each month to clear the $251m debt for past oil imports. Sri Lanka is experiencing a severe debt and foreign exchange crisis, which has been made worse by the loss of tourist income during the coronavirus pandemic.

*Lyrics, The Beverley Hillbillies theme tune (1962-71)

3. BBC News website: Ecuador to make Covid vaccination mandatory

The health ministry said there were enough doses to “immunise the entire population”. The under 5s and those with a medical justification will be exempt.

The ministry said vaccines were a “shield of protection” against the virus, helping to prevent serious illness, hospitalisations and deaths and the decision was based in the country’s constitution, in which the right to health must be guaranteed by the state.

Did you know that Ecuador is the original home of the Panama hat?

4. BBC News website: Netlicks? ‘The TV screen you can taste’

A prototype “lickable” TV screen which can mimic food flavours has been developed by a Japanese professor. Ten canisters spray flavour onto a “hygienic film” which is rolled over the screen for the viewer to lick.

It is suggested that it could be used to train cooks or sommeliers remotely. If made commercially, the TV would cost an estimated $875 (£735).

5. BBC News website: Alexa challenge

Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug.

The dangerous activity, known as “the penny challenge”, began circulating on TikTok and other social media websites about a year ago.

‘Alexa, self-destruct in 10 seconds’

6. BBC News website: Woman self-isolates in plane toilet mid-flight

A US schoolteacher spent five hours in voluntary self-isolation in a plane’s toilet after testing positive for Covid-19 mid-flight.

Her throat started to hurt while travelling from Chicago to Reykjavik and she performed a rapid test with a kit she had brought with her. She remained in the toilet for the rest of the trip with a flight attendant providing her with food and drinks.

If you’ve not been, think about putting Iceland on the list of places to visit (conventional travel advised)

Turbo, run (hill reps), run, gym and Happy Christmas

An earlier post this week – exercise finished, family all back home and I now expect to devote myself to eating my body weight in chocolate. I wish everyone a very happy Christmas.

Back home on Sunday night after the Covid-tested get-together with my wife’s brothers and (some of their) families. It was a cold Monday but I managed 45 minutes on the turbo for 22.35km @30kph.

Very high volumes of new UK Covid cases continue – for now no tighter restrictions are being put in place, but nor have they been ruled out. I wasn’t exactly feeling the joy of running on a cold Tuesday morning but managed to haul myself out for 8 reps of the usual hill – this time Strava made it 8.5km with 286m of ascent (5.3 miles and 938 feet).

Later I got in the car and drove to London to pick up our younger son. He’s been very careful and fortunate (and long may he stay so) and has stayed clear of the virus, despite being in a shared London flat where one flatmate recently had it, and working on placement in a London school for the last few months.

Wednesday was cold and frosty so our younger son and I canned the intended run but in the evening I drove to pick up our older son who had come out of Covid quarantine having tested negative for a few days. He was not able to join us last year because of last minute Covid restrictions so it’s great to all be here this year.

I drove to Bournemouth on Thursday to check on the house and an internet provider change – all is well. It was supposed to be mild and dry but it rained all the way down there. Happily, it cleared long enough for me to get a run down the seafront to Boscombe Pier and back – just over 8.5km (5.3 miles) and a negative split thanks to the headwind on the way out.

Gym on Friday morning for an hour, sticking with the increased weights.

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

I hate to tempt fate but (at a fairly low level of intensity) so far so good. The knee and Achilles tendons that have been problems for a couple of years are behaving reasonably well (right hip slightly less so) and the hill reps that they stopped me doing for all that time seem to be working well. I can do three or four runs a week for 30+km (20+ miles) but the true test will be when it all ramps up as proper training starts in a couple of months.

The frustrating thing is that I’d give a lot to be in this sort of shape in the early Spring rather than in December. I think the sensible approach is to keep doing as much as I feel able to without (I hope) risking injury. Easy, eh? With the triathlon in May, what I should be doing is improving my swimming – but it’s dark and cold so that will have to wait.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The axe forgets but the tree remembers

2. BBC News website: ‘Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie’*

An ambitious plan to eradicate mice from an island in the South Atlantic appears to have failed as a camera trap on Gough Island (roughly halfway between Africa and South America and home to one of the world’s largest seabird colonies) showed that at least one mouse had survived. The presumption is that where there is one mouse there are likely to be more.

Mice are thought to have been introduced to the island by sailors in the 19th century and have been feeding on the chicks and eggs of seabirds. The entire project costed more than £9million (about $12m) and the aim was that it would be a “one off”, to turn the clock back and eliminate the mice once and for all.

*’To a mouse’ by Robert Burns

3. BBC News website: South Korean dairy giant, Seoul Milk, apologises for advert

The clip starts with a man with a camera wandering through the countryside who then, hidden in bushes, films a group of women drinking from a stream and doing yoga. When he steps on a twig it startles the women who suddenly turn into cows.

The advert has sparked a national debate over sexism and gender sensitivity issues but some also voiced concerns about the man surreptitiously filming the group of women, with spy cam crimes in South Korea having risen over the past few years.

OK marketing department, who thought that could possibly be a good idea?

4. BBC News website: Brazil wildfires killed an estimated 17 million animals

Wildfires burned in the Brazilian Pantanal wetlands between January and November 2020. Scientists attempted to count the animals killed by huge wildfires and estimate that as many as 17 million vertebrates – including reptiles, birds and primates – died.

22,000 separate fires recorded during the year destroyed about 30% of the world’s largest tropical wetland.

So sad. It’s hard to comprehend the scale of the destruction

5. BBC News website: Money manager disappears with $313m

A company that was once one of China’s biggest property developers says it has “lost contact” with a British Virgin Islands-registered wealth manager, that has $313m (£235m) of its money.

Fortune Land said it had expected the investment through China Create Capital to generate annual interest of 7% to 10% until the agreement was due to expire at the end of 2022 but it is now unable to contact the money manager.

I assume China Create Capital thinks it’s managed that money rather well

6. BBC News website: Chip shortage in Japan

For once it’s not a lack of semiconductors that is causing the problem but McDonald’s is suffering a potato shortage in Japan due to the global supply chain crisis. As a result it will only sell small portions of its French fries in Japan from Friday until 30 December.

McDonald’s said it usually imports the potatoes it uses from a port near Vancouver in Canada but ships have faced delays due to flood damage and the impact of the pandemic on the global supply chain. It will now turn to alternative measures, including flying supplies to Japan.

Forget Covid – this is the end of civilisation as we know it

Run, turbo, run (hill reps), turbo, gym, run, (plus squashed eyeballs and essential frowns)

Hammersmith Bridge, still shut to cars and lorries but part of a great running route

I was in London overnight on Sunday which meant the pleasure of a Monday morning run over Hammersmith Bridge, down to Putney Bridge and back up the Thames Path – 10.4km (6.5miles) @5:35/km.

The trip to London on Sunday had been rather less pleasurable. I drove to a main line station just before all trains got cancelled because of a problem on the line. Eventually a train took us one stop in the other direction to use the line to another London terminus. Then came the news that the next train to London would be going via the original (newly cleared) line. An hour and a half after I first arrived at it, I passed through the original station on a slow train to London.

Back to Oxfordshire later on Monday (without any travel dramas) and back onto the turbo on Tuesday – 45 minutes @30kph (18.6mph).

All of that was completely overshadowed by the news that our older son had been diagnosed with Covid, having felt a bit rough on Monday. He’s double jabbed so we’d guess it’s the highly transmissible Omicron variant which has little respect for the first two jabs – it looks like the next wave of infections will be something of a tsunami. We hope that the other part of its reputation is true and it is less severe in its effects. We have our fingers firmly crossed that a family Christmas is going to happen.

We ran hill reps on Wednesday morning. A bit short of time so I did 8 of the usual hill – 8.6km and 263m of ascent (5.3 miles and 863 feet) and just managed to make the last rep the fastest (or, more accurately, least slow).

On Thursday morning I got a ‘ping’ from the Corona virus app to tell me that, on Monday, I’d been in close proximity to someone who had since tested positive. That was probably either travelling in, or back from, London. I felt fine so was not too worried – but I did a lateral flow test which was negative.

Less happily, France tightened its rules on UK visitors (they are also experiencing very high infection rates, but fewer Omicron cases) so that’s our skiing holiday in January out of the window. It’s feeling a little bleak – successive daily infections records, news that a niece also just tested positive and a drinks party for Friday has been cancelled (a good call by the hosts; we were a bit nervous but planned to go and stay out in the garden).

Getting on the turbo on Thursday felt as pointless as ever – that didn’t stop me doing it but did stop me doing it very well – 45 minutes @29kph (18mph).

Gym on Friday. Recently I’ve increased to 4 sets of 10 reps on each machine but now I’ve upped the weights and cut to 3 sets of 10. I have no idea whether that’s a good idea or not. Then the usual stint in the bike shop.

Although the week’s 5 exercise sessions accounted for just under 4h 30m, I took Saturday off and had the pleasure of doing tax returns. Later we drove to London to make the trip to Sunday lunch with one of my brothers-in-law easier. That meant a run on Sunday morning – in a neat symmetry, I did the same run as Monday morning, 10.4km (6.5miles) but a whole 18 seconds faster! I may not be good, but I’m consistent.

Although we should have been 12 and turned out to be only 8 (all Covid tested specially for the occasion), we had an excellent lunch. In all, a really good week – and our older son is feeling good after a couple of slightly rough days. Roll on us all being able to get together for Christmas.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The earth is a beehive, we all enter by the same door

2. BBC News website: Sleeping bag to solve astronauts’ squashed eyeball disorder

Scientists have developed a hi-tech sleeping bag that could prevent the vision problems that some astronauts experience because, over time, in zero-gravity fluids float into the head and squash the eyeball. It’s regarded as one of the riskiest medical problems affecting astronauts, and could compromise missions to Mars.

Scientists have now developed a hi-tech sleeping bag that could prevent the problem. It sucks fluid out of the head and towards the feet, countering the pressure build-up.

Odd, I wouldn’t have guessed that squashed eyeballs was one of the big risks of space travel

3. BBC News website: Peloton’s ability to resurrect the dead

Fitness equipment maker Peloton was, no doubt, delighted to feature in the new Sex and the City series but the firm’s shares slumped after a key character died while using one of the company’s exercise bikes.

The company approved the show’s use of its bikes but said it was not told that the character Mr Big would die after the workout. Peloton has now released an advert that brings the character back to life.

4. BBC News website: UK Sports Personality 2021

The shortlist of six has been announced for this award, which is the subject of a public vote. Yet again, I failed to make the final 6 (indeed, I doubt I made the long list of 25 million).

They are diver Tom Daley, boxer Tyson Fury, swimmer Adam Peaty, tennis player Emma Raducanu, footballer Raheem Sterling and Paralympic cyclist Dame Sarah Storey.

All very worthy, no doubt, but if you like sporting facts that are almost beyond belief, in the 100m breaststroke, Adam Peaty has recorded all of the 16 fastest times in history.

5. The Daily Telegraph: No laughing matter in N Korea

North Koreans have been banned from showing joy for 11 days to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il. It is reported that the police are looking out for those who do not look upset and so harm the mood of collective mourning.

Turbo (x2), run (x3 – inc. hill reps), plus good negatives and beautiful camels

Back to the running means back to the usual routes

After returning from France on Saturday night we went into self-isolation pending negative Covid PCR tests. It was a slick process, most importantly with the right result as we both tested negative.

We’d arrived back in the UK at 6pm on Saturday. Our PCR kits had already arrived and we did the tests on Sunday morning, dropping them off for a 15.30 collection. By 21.30 we got emails confirming that the samples were at the laboratory in Northern Ireland. My result arrived at 5:04 on Monday morning (no, I didn’t wait up for it) and my wife’s just before 9:30 (a slightly anxious wait for that one). Pretty slick.

Of course, the best way to celebrate the end of the self-isolation is by going out for a run … but it was cold and wet so I got on the turbo in the late afternoon – 45 minutes @30.3kph (18.8mph).

It was cold again on Tuesday morning but I ran with my wife – a few minor niggles came and went of their own accord during a gentle 7.2km (4.5miles).

It was back to the turbo later on Wednesday. I might be able to come up with several reasons why that was a good training idea, but really it was a reluctance to go out and run in the cold and wind. The conservatory is unheated which gives the strange sensation of sweating profusely while still having cold feet – but I pushed on for an hour @29kph (18mph).

Another hill reps run on a rather brighter but still cold Thursday. 10 reps again – just over 10km (6.2 miles) and over 330m of ascent (1,100 feet). It was hard – so it must be doing me good, and must be making next July’s ultra and the sportives and triathlons easier (or simply possible) right?

I missed out on the gym on Friday morning by oversleeping and a lack of commitment but I did the charity bike shop and then lunch with old workmates. I’m not used to eating much at lunch so that blew out the notion of any exercise later in the day but I ran with my wife on Saturday – 5.6km (3.5miles).

Sunday was earmarked as a day for household chores – which was a shame as it was the best day of the week by a long way, bright and mild. However, a deal is a deal so I’m sticking to the domestic stuff to round off a week of getting back into things after the trip to France.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who digs a grave for his enemy might as well be digging one for himself

2. BBC News website: Camel beauty pageant cracks down on cosmetic enhancements

More than 40 camels have been disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s beauty pageant for receiving Botox injections and other cosmetic enhancements. The contest is a highlight of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, where $66m (£45m) in prize money is at stake for camels with key attributes including long, droopy lips, a big nose and a shapely hump.

Judges used “advanced” technology to uncover tampering with camels on a scale not seen before, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

3. BBC News website: Fine of €1,200 ($1,357; £1,028) for causing TDF crash

The peloton was 45km (28 miles) from the end of the first stage, when the French woman’s cardboard sign clipped German rider Tony Martin. He fell to the ground and dozens of other riders to followed suit, in one of the tournament’s worst ever crashes.

The identity of the woman, who was a spectator at the race, was withheld after she was targeted by a torrent of online abuse.

4. BBC News website: ‘There’s gold in them thar hills’

In 2013, a climber stumbled upon a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires that had been buried on France’s Mont Blanc.

It is believed that the box belonged to someone on board an Indian plane that crashed in 1966, but now he has been rewarded with half of the trove of hundreds of precious stones, with the local authority in Chamonix taking the other half, after an unsuccessful attempt to locate the family of the owner.

5. BBC News website: Medics attending Christmas party test positive for Covid

68 medics among about 170 who attended a Christmas party in Spain have since tested positive for Covid-19. Most of the infected are doctors and nurses working in the intensive care unit at Málaga’s regional hospital.

All guests returned negative antigen tests before the event but more than half are now isolating. The infected staff were all fully vaccinated and are showing no symptoms, health authorities said.

Physician, heal thyself

Minimal exercise, maximum driving, France (plus fake arms and sleeping sportsmen)

View from the rear balcony in France. Almost interestingly, the mountains in the backdrop are the other side of the Autoroute Blanche, in the valley over 500 metres below

It snowed on Sunday night – only a thin covering here but still well below freezing on Monday morning. I was feeling suitably smug at having put the winter wheels and tyres on just last week.

I went out just after 9am to pick up some stuff from the nearest town a couple of miles away but turned back as I saw how a tiny amount of snow and drivers without winter tyres can very easily cause gridlock in rural Oxfordshire. Two hours later the traffic had disappeared like melting snow – unlike the snow itself which was still very much there.

Later we got our Covid booster jabs – all OK so far as neither of us had any reaction beyond a slightly sore arm where the jab was done.

Very early Tuesday morning we did a potentially very stupid thing – we set off for France. We had booked a few days previously – before the newest variant of the virus was identified in Southern Africa and so we had gone through the agonies of the damned as to whether we would be able to travel out (or back). New UK rules announced on Saturday introduced new isolation and testing requirements for our return (isolation being required until a negative PCR test is performed).

To be honest, it would have been easier to abandon the trip but we’ve not been to the apartment since we skied in January 2020 so a visit was long overdue. Les Carroz is a special place for us. We stumbled across it by accident but loved it and put the process of buying an apartment underway after two visits – and that’s over 20 years ago.

At least a trip down in the car and a stay in our own place was likely to be as safe as it would get and we wouldn’t be going out as the rules for getting a ‘pass sanitaire’ (necessary for going to bars and restaurants) changed at the last minute.

I’ve done the drive many (40+?) times with the skiing and, more recently, an annual cycle trip – but it’s not getting any shorter. Despite the best efforts of the M25 (London’s orbital motorway and sometimes orbital car park) we made good time to the Channel Tunnel and got put on a train an hour earlier than booked. We completed the whole 710 miles in about 13 elapsed hours with just over 11 hours of driving and just 2 stops in addition to the tunnel.

We had a really good time there, even though there were the usual clean, repair, enhance requirements to be satisfied. We rearranged the beds in the two mezzanines. With everything going on in the world, that did give me echoes of ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’ but in turbulent times, perhaps it’s carrying on with the ordinary things that keeps us sane?

I had taken running kit but it was below freezing and either raining or snowing most of the time – and the pavements were snow-covered and unsafe for running. I was sad about the running but decided to enjoy both the unexpected break from relentless exercise and even more smugness for fitting the winter tyres.

Perhaps I secretly suspected this was going to happen as I took books with me, including Haruki Marakami’s ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ and ‘A runner’s high’ by Dean Karnazes. I rarely re-read books but I made two exceptions here. They are very different books by very different authors but I love both for the simple reason that their love of running shines through.

I also took a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov which was delightful – perhaps more vignettes than stories because he clearly didn’t feel that they needed to finish with a conclusion or resolution.

On Saturday I drove the 710 miles back with just one stop in addition to the tunnel. A tough journey with the first 200 miles in heavy rain – but we made it back to Oxfordshire by mid-evening and entered isolation. In one respect we were lucky – within half an hour of getting back into England we got the news that if we had been returning two days later we’d also be required to have a clear Covid test in order to re-enter the UK.

In all, just shy of 1,500 miles of driving and away for 5 days. I’m in favour of new technologies and would like an electric car – but with range and recharging issues, I wonder how any other than those with the very longest ranges would cope with this sort of journey?

On Sunday, feeling well, we completed our PCR tests and took them to the drop-box (allowed within the rules of our isolation). We have now started the wait for the results.

A very different post from the usual tedious summary of the week’s running, cycling, gym (and possibly swimming). This time a tedious recounting of a trip to France.

To reach for some sense of normality, I nearly got on the turbo later in the afternoon – but I decided that, no matter what the personal cost might be, I would complete the week without ‘proper’ exercise – the nearest I got was signing up for next April’s White Horse Challenge sportive.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No medicine exists that can cure hatred

2. BBC News website: Former world snooker champion falls asleep during match

Mark Williams, lost in the second round of the UK championship. He said, “It was 3-2 and I was out. My head went down and I woke up and I didn’t have a clue where I was for about five seconds. It was a bit embarrassing but I was just shattered after contracting Covid-19 in October. I need to be playing in the mornings really, or afternoons. The more the day goes on the more tired I get.”

Personally, I like snooker but I expect many think that Williams was just joining most of the the audience

3. BBC News website: A long way for a postponed game

A couple from Dallas made a 34-hour journey just to see Tottenham Hotspur (their favourite football club) play – only to have the match postponed because of snow.

They were hoping to see Spurs’ next two home games but they could now be guests of honour as Spurs’ striker (and England captain) Harry Kane has invited them to be his guests at one of those matches.

4. BBC News website: Italian man tries to dodge Covid jab using fake arm

An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed.

The nurse told local media that when she had rolled up his sleeve, she found the skin “rubbery and cold” and the pigment “too light”. After being discovered, the man tried to persuade the nurse to turn a blind eye but instead she reported him to the police for fraud.

Run (trail), run, gym, turbo (Adele and science fact)

The Ridgeway – ‘Britain’s oldest road’ (sadly, many current road surfaces are little better).

Onto the Ridgeway on Monday for the second run getting familiar with the route of next summer’s ultra. Heading east from the Uffington White Horse – 12.3km (7.65miles) with 230m of ascent.

It was noticeably harder than last week’s section (even though they are adjoining) – hillier, much more rutted and treacherous underfoot with the morning dew/thawed frost making it slippery. We ran to Sparsholt Firs above Lambourn. A lovely bright crisp day – about 2℃ but the chill breeze made it feel more like -2℃ (28℉).

My legs had felt heavy on Monday’s run because of the turbo on Sunday evening – and were even heavier on Tuesday because of Monday’s run. Despite that I ran back from taking the car into the garage for the winter wheels and tyres to be put on. About 5.5km (3.4 miles) in temperatures hovering just above freezing.

Gym on Wednesday morning – back with the leg exercises as the knee has stopped aching (for now?) as quickly and inexplicably as it started. Later we drove up to London to have supper with friends at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. Lovely old building that was the Wolseley car company regional office and car showroom in the 1920s. Very good – but painfully slow service.

I drove back on Thursday morning but rather suffered from an enthusiasm slump for much of the day. I’m not sure if the arrival of winter and pretty cold weather or just accumulated tiredness from a few months of exercising 5 or 6 days a week. Either way, it was hard to drag myself to the turbo but I managed it (just) for 45 minutes @29.7kph (18.5mph).

That was it for ‘proper’ exercise for the week as on Friday I drove to the house in Kingston-upon-Thames that our older son shares with his girlfriend, to help with the continuing building and decoration work. Back into London to the flat afterwards (stupid peak Friday traffic – 9 miles at 7mph – how do people live in cities?) and back to their house for more of the same with my wife and younger son on Saturday and with my wife on Sunday.

On Friday I removed the elasticated knee bandage that I’d worn for a week – the knee ached a bit after the work that day so it was refitted on Saturday.

100k corner (a place for occasional ultra worries and plans)

It’s often said that, where possible, training for an event should include training on the course itself. The fact that I ran the ultra on the Ridgeway in the summer without setting foot on the Ridgeway does not disprove that fact, it merely shows I was foolish – and lucky that it went well. In early preparation for next year’s run, my running partner and I have already been up there twice and the aim will be to have run all/most of it in sections before next July.

Less encouraging is the fact that the knee has been playing up a bit. There’s a lot of time to go yet but it reminds me that a delicate balance will have to be found between doing enough training to make the run possible and not so much that I don’t make it to the start. No prizes for being in good shape in June (if I’m lucky) and wrecked in July.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: All monkeys cannot hang from the same branch

2. BBC News website: Australian TV host costs network an interview with Adele

Matt Doran – from Channel 7 – flew from Sydney to London on 4 November to meet Adele for her only Australian interview about her new album, but, after admitting during it that he had not listened to it, Sony withheld the interview footage.

Australian media reported that Doran’s trip with two colleagues to London was part of a rights package that had cost the network A$1m (£500,000; $700,000).

Doran apologised and said he had missed an email with a preview copy of the songs. “It was an oversight but not a deliberate snub,” he told The Australian newspaper. “This is the most important email I have ever missed.”

3. BBC News website: Limited bathroom breaks for ATP tour next season

Players will be allowed one bathroom break of up to 3 minutes per match, which can only be taken at the end of a set. The clock will start when a player reaches the bathroom, with time violations enforced if individuals take too long.

If only it had been introduced at Flushing Meadows

4. BBC News website: Mission to smash into space rock launches

A spacecraft has launched on a mission to test technology that could one day tip a dangerous asteroid off course. The spacecraft will crash into an object called Dimorphos to see how much its speed and path can be altered.

Nasa’s $325m (£240m) Dart mission wants to see how difficult it would be to stop a sizeable space rock from hitting Earth. If a chunk of cosmic debris measuring a few hundred metres across were to collide with our planet, it could unleash continent-wide devastation.

That’s all very well, but it would have been so much cheaper to have simply watched ‘Armageddon’ or ‘Deep Impact

5. BBC News website: James Webb Space Telescope launch delayed

The telescope was to have been sent into orbit on 18 December and will now go up no earlier than the 22nd of the month. A US space agency statement said an “incident” had occurred during launch preparations that induced a sudden vibration in the observatory.

JWST is the $10bn (£7.5bn; €9bn) successor to the veteran Hubble telescope. It will look deeper into the Universe and so will look further back in time – more than 13.5 billion years ago. The aim is to see the first stars to light up the cosmos.

Looking 13.5bn years backwards is fine but if you only look backwards you won’t see the delay coming

Gym, run (trail), run (hill-reps), gym, turbo (plus poles and punctuality)

A rather curious 4.30am sneezing fit on Monday morning confirmed that Sunday’s run hadn’t really helped to hasten the end of last week’s cold. The sore knee in the morning was equally unwelcome.

There had been no issue with it on the run, or during the rest of Sunday so it was a bit of a mystery. I spent some time raking about 10 million leaves from the lawn (I lost count just after 5 million but I was barely half way through so you’ll have to trust me on this) but otherwise put my feet up.

The knee had improved by Tuesday but was still not right. I was tempted to try the usual hill reps session but I had a more important run scheduled for Wednesday and it would have been foolish to have put that at risk. For once I followed the logic and went to the gym instead. I skipped the leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines and tried the upper body ones with a bit more weight. Cycling club AGM in the evening.

The run planned for Wednesday was with the friend I did the triathlon with this year (and with whom I’ll be doing next year’s triathlons and ultra marathon). It’s his birthday at the end of the week and, as he particularly loves his running, I’d suggested a birthday run instead of the more usual birthday ride.

We drove up above the village of Bishopstone and onto the Ridgeway, the scene of the ultra marathon I did this year and the one we will both do in 2022. We had a glorious run on a lovely morning – chilly enough for me to be wearing my warmer pair of running trousers and warm enough for my friend to be in shorts. Me, cold weather wimp? … guilty as charged. Still sneezing.

The Ridgeway has a very good surface along this section and we ran to the Uffington White Horse and back – 12.38km (7.7 miles) @6:04/km. It’s sobering to think that this pace is a much faster than we will be aiming for on the ultra itself – but even at this pace we’d have over 10 hours of solid running.

We’d parked by ‘The Flying Pig’ which is the mobile food trailer owned by a well-known local farmer who was an early adopter of organic methods – but in spite of what it said on their Facebook page it had not opened by the time we got back to the car. We drove down to the village to the pub owned by the farmer. They were apologetic about the error on the Facebook page and made us excellent bacon rolls, even though they hadn’t yet opened for food. A good example of how, once things go wrong, it’s the way you address the problem that makes all the difference.

My knee was good throughout the run, ached a little after, but was OK by Thursday morning. After the previous day’s trail run, I was probably unwise to do the week’s hill-reps but managed another 10 reps – just over 10km (6.2 miles) and 335m of ascent (1,100 feet). Still sneezing.

Autopilot took me to the gym and then the bike shop on Friday morning. I adopted the ‘legs lite’ version of the gym and am making some progress with the upper body exercises although it’s hard when the smallest weight increment on offer adds another 20% to what I’ve been lifting on my ‘worst’ machine.

The plan had been to run on Saturday morning before heading up to London for a friend’s birthday lunch, but I was tired. A good thing about being so far away from the next challenge is that taking an extra day’s rest is no big deal so I ditched the run.

With a second run planned to recce the Ridgeway on Monday, I decided not to risk my knee by running on a chilly Sunday morning. I took to the turbo in the afternoon while watching the first half of English women’s rugby team playing well against the USA (29-0 at half time – final score 89-0 … sorry USA). I managed 45minutes @ 31.6kph (19.6mph) – much faster than recent efforts – strange how much easier it is with a pumped-up rear tyre … doh.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No shortcuts exist to the top of a palm tree

2. BBC News website: The importance of timekeeping on Japanese railways

A Japanese train driver was docked 85 yen (£0.55 – 75 US cents) for causing a one-minute delay to operations after he had gone to the wrong platform at Okayama station.

The rail company agreed to reduce the fine after the driver pointed out that there was no disruption to timetables or passengers, as the train was empty. The employee refused to accept the reduced fine and is suing for 56 yen in unpaid wages and 2.2 million yen (£14,347) in damages for mental anguish.

3. BBC News website: Santa is dead, long live Santa

The English town of Bury St Edmunds has launched its Christmas event under the title the “Bury Santa Experience”.

The town’s mayor said that, given the attention it had attracted, he was not sure whether it was a “faux pas or marketing genius”.

‘Visit Santa’s Grotto – bring your own shovel’

4. BBC News website: Library book returned 73 years late

The book Stately Timber by Rupert Hughes, an adventure story set in Boston, was returned to Dunfermline Library last week – it should have been returned by 6 November 1948.

Staff worked out that £2,847 could have been due in late fees but there has been an amnesty on fees throughout the pandemic to encourage members to return books.

Must have been a slow reader.

Quite impressive but the world record for the most overdue library book is held by one returned to Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University. It was borrowed in 1668 and returned 288 years later.

5. BBC News website: Totem pole completes 5,500 mile voyage

A specially-commissioned totem pole has completed a 5,500 mile voyage from Mexico to southern Scotland. It has travelled throughout Britain – including a visit to Glasgow during COP26 – to highlight the climate change concerns of indigenous peoples.

“Everywhere it has been, Totem Latamat has been welcomed with songs and ceremonies, movingly showing the spirit of global solidarity between our own communities and the indigenous people who stand on the front line of climate change” said a representative of the Festival that commissioned it.

Now that it has delivered its message, it will be “returned to the Earth” – and allowed to naturally decompose – in Dumfries and Galloway where “Because it is made of natural materials, its decay will enrich the planet”.

I feel enriched already

Turbo, run (hill reps), swim, run, gym, run (plus, great sporting injuries and an unexpected catch)

Monday was cold – not a day to be going out if it wasn’t necessary. I opted for the turbo trainer in the early evening – 45 minutes @27.4kph (17mph). Still some way off what I was doing in the summer.

Hill reps on a rather brighter and slightly warmer Tuesday. I pushed it up to 10 reps this time – just over 10km (6.2 miles) and 335m of ascent (1,100 feet). I managed to make the last rep the fastest – but that owes much to the others all being pretty slow.

I’m not sure that it’s a textbook hill for running reps as I’ve seen it suggested that you should sprint up for about 40 seconds and then jog back down – my best for this hill is about 1:50. It’s so steep that anyone would be excused for not knowing that I was sprinting up it – and the steepness means that it’s not an easy jog back down.

It’s also a bit sad that I’ve taken the Strava ‘Local Legend’ title from the creator of the segment (but not so sad that I’m going to stop).

I drove down to Bournemouth on Wednesday to take some stuff, to collect some wood I’d previously chopped up in the garden and – to my surprise in November – to mow the lawns. Listening to England being beaten by New Zealand in the semi-final of the cricket T20 world cup on the way back, was a downer but I had just enough spirit left to take my sinking legs to the pool in the evening.

I have researched the sinking leg syndrome and, luckily, it is a very straightforward matter. It is simply a question of poor head position, or breathing, or rotation, or leg kick, or catch or pull (or, more likely in my case, all of them). Once that small issue is sorted there’ll be no stopping me. I swam 1km in 27 minutes – a bit faster than usual.

Being a poor swimmer makes 1km in the pool hard work, so Thursday morning’s run back from taking a car into the garage was tough for just 5.5km @ 5:36/km (3.4miles).

Gym and bike shop, as usual, on Friday which went well but I had a miserable, interrupted, sleep when the cold that had been brewing for a couple of days arrived, in some style, bringing with it sneezing fits and a simultaneously blocked and running nose.

That put paid to the planned morning run on Saturday. The reserve plan was to get on the turbo in the afternoon but I canned that too after planting some hedging in the morning left me tired and a bit breathless.

I ended up just watching a succession of rugby matches while soaking a succession of handkerchiefs and generally feeling sorry for myself. Particular credit to Ireland for a fine win over the All Blacks and to England for beating Australia – but, my word, there was some bad hair on display.

I was feeling a bit better on Sunday so, with my wife out shopping, I decided to go for a run. I took it gently but ended up with over 12km (7.5 miles). I thought it might be a bit of an exercise in kill or cure but I appear to still be breathing and my nose is still running (even though the rest of me has stopped) so it looks like I have delivered on neither of the likely outcomes.

Second session of supper and Schitt’s Creek viewing tonight. It will be interesting to see how it continues to shape up – I’m not sure how many sit-coms make it across the Atlantic successfully (with, for me, the notable exception of Cheers).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A roaring lion kills no game

2. BBC News website: One of the all-time great self-inflicted sporting injuries

After getting out late in Wednesday’s cricket T20 semi final against England, New Zealander Devon Conway punched his bat in frustration as it appeared that his dismissal would seal England’s win. Despite the fact that he was still wearing his batting glove, scans have shown that he broke the fifth metacarpal in his right hand.

Against the odds, New Zealand won the match – but Conway has put himself out of the final against Pakistan on Sunday.

If you’re reading, Alanis, that’s ironic

3. BBC News website: Buyers show remorse over pandemic purchases

Covid lockdowns led to a surge of sales of some items that people could enjoy at home or in the garden, or to keep up their fitness but now, a survey says that buyers’ remorse has kicked in for some, who admitted typically spending nearly £1,400 on the items.

Gaming equipment, DIY tools, home gyms, bikes, clothing and jewellery, musical instruments, kitchen appliances such as bread makers, garden furniture, pizza ovens and hot tubs all appeared on the regret list.

The survey of 4,000 people found some had sold or given away the items they regretted buying.

Wow – ‘some’ people regret their purchases and ‘some’ people have sold or given away things they regret buying. Whatever the survey cost it’s been worth every penny.

4. BBC News website: Fishing gear seller caught in hacker’s net

The UK’s biggest fishing shop has been hacked, with its website redirecting keen anglers to an adult website.

As well as the website redirect, its Twitter account was compromised and the attacker posted a mocking tweet claiming the company had been sold to adult website Pornhub.

The ultimate phishing scam?

5. BBC News website: Regular 10pm bedtime linked to lower heart risk

There appears to be an optimal bedtime – between 10pm and 11pm – linked to better heart health, say researchers who have studied 88,000 volunteers.

They followed up what happened to the volunteers in terms of heart and circulatory health over an average of six years. Just over 3,000 of the adults developed cardiovascular disease and many of these cases occurred in people who went to bed later or earlier than the “ideal” 10pm to 11pm.

The researchers tried to control for other factors known to affect a person’s heart risk, such as their age, weight and cholesterol levels, but stress their study cannot prove cause and effect.

At last, some justification for my ‘lightweight’ tendency to make for bed by 10.30