Category Archives: gym

Swim, turbo, run x3 (1000km for 2022), gym, ride (plus pigeons, sloths and someone else’s wheels falling off)

It’s the first week of the taper to the ultra on 9 July – just 30km this week. After last Saturday’s bad run, my quads were still sore on Monday so I gave running a miss and booked a massage.

The swim doctor session on Monday evening was very good – 950m in a mixture of strokes and drills. It felt like the sea swimming in Corfu had helped a bit although it was, as ever, hard work.

Tuesday was my wife’s birthday but I managed to fit the massage in between a very good lunch in the garden of a riverside pub and chauffeuring her to and from a friend’s for drinks in the early evening.

The massage (my second ever) went well. ‘Kimmo’ is a very pleasant and interesting chap, originally from Finland but he spend 40 years in Canada. His diagnosis confirmed my guess that my quads were very tight/knotted and it was that which caused the hip and knee pain, by virtue of interaction with the iliotibial bands.

It’s exactly what I had 24 years ago when training for the 1998 London Marathon (my first). I suppose that if I go another 24 years before the problem arises again, I’ll have done well (but at 90, how will I know?).

I was trying to work out what might have caused the problem now, having done 17 weeks of training without any big hitches. His guess was that the muscles were getting tight and while the three treadmill runs in Corfu weren’t likely to have actually caused the problem, they probably did finish the job off.

Kimmo suggested not running on Wednesday but to give it a go on Thursday. With luck I still might be able to fit in this week’s 30km – but it won’t matter if I don’t. There isn’t too much running to be done over the next three weeks leading up to the ultra so I suppose I’ll only know for sure if it’s worked when I try the real thing.

As long as the issue can be sorted, I’ll be relieved that it happened now and not on the day of the ultra – I would have been a dnf if the race had been on last Saturday.

I fixed the puncture on the turbo trainer and had a (sweltering) spin on Wednesday (30 minutes @ 29.4kph – 18.3mph). I went for a run on Thursday. I was apprehensive but took it gently and the 13.5km (8.4 miles) took me through 1,000km for the year.

Everything had improved hugely since Saturday’s horror show but the left knee isn’t 100% right so it will need one more massage session – which I’ve arranged for next Tuesday. From despair on Saturday after the run, to optimism on Tuesday after the massage, to doubt now – this is getting very wearing.

My second run of the week was a hot 5km on Friday in the gym – left knee still protesting but if last week was 6/10 for pain, this was down to 4/10. There are five treadmills and only after I finished did I realise that I’d chosen one of the two not in the path of the breeze from the air conditioning unit. I did some weights (and stretching) before the usual stint in the bike shop.

On Saturday I took a turn leading the blue group for the cycle club. We have friends who have taken in two Ukrainian families and Lyn appeared with three 12 year old Ukrainian lads so I rode with them – 34.2km (21.2m). With stops for one puncture (good job I was there to fix it), a phantom puncture, two dropped chains, water, snacks, regrouping, undone shoe laces and rain, it didn’t exactly flow but it was still the most worthwhile ride I’ve done for years.

Final run of the week on Sunday – 13km (8 miles) to complete the week’s 30km. Right thigh, hip and knee all fine, left knee became unhappy after 6 km but down to 3/10 on the pain front. Once started, it didn’t get any worse so fingers crossed for Tuesday’s second massage.

Well, that was better than last week, with success for treatment for the right leg but the need to try again with the left. Until that’s sorted, I’m not really going to be able to relax about the ultra. I am, of course, a reformed character and will diligently stretch as if it’s going out of fashion (as long as I remember to do it).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Only a wise person can solve a difficult problem

2. BBC News website: Pigeon fanciers say red tape having a devastating effect

Before Brexit, enthusiasts could release their birds in France to race back to the UK, but now Britain is outside the EU birds must now have an export health certificate before they can take part in trans-Channel races.

The certificate has to be signed by an approved vet after completing various tests like an examination of the birds and a check on transportation conditions.

Coo

3. BBC News website: Life in the slow lane

Sloths sleep for about 15 hours a day and move so slowly that algae grows on their fur, acting as a natural camouflage to hide them from potential predators. They move as little as 40m (130ft) a day and can spend up to a month digesting a meal.

They are most at risk on the ground, where they can take more than a minute to move two metres (6.5ft). As they need to leave the trees to go to the toilet, they have developed high-capacity bladders and rectums, which mean they can go for up to a week without having to answer the call of nature. Sloths are extremely good swimmers, their slow metabolism also means they can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes.

I may be part man, part sloth (apart from the bladder and the swimming)

4. BBC News website: 2,700 electric vehicles recalled

The recall comes less than two months after the car was launched in Japan. Toyota told the BBC that bolts on the bZ4X’s wheels “can loosen to the point where the wheel can detach from the vehicle” after “low-mileage use”.

A spokesperson added “If a wheel detaches from the vehicle while driving, it could result in a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash”.

Those spokespersons certainly know a thing or two about the importance of car wheels

5. BBC News website: Strava tracks security personnel at secret bases in Israel

A disinformation watchdog has found that by uploading fake running “Strava segments” inside secret facilities, a user could learn the identities and past routes of people active in the area, even if they had the strongest privacy settings. Information about 100 individuals who exercised at six bases was viewable.

Used by more than 95 million people, Strava has a bit of previous – in 2018, the company published a global “heatmap” that revealed the exercise routes of people at military bases around the world, including US facilities in Syria and Afghanistan.

6. My uncle always said ‘Laughter is the best medicine’. He was a great guy – but not a very successful doctor.

Wheels falling off? – Gym and a bad run (plus burkinis, and Happy the unhappy elephant)

After getting back to the UK late on Monday, I drove back to Oxfordshire on Tuesday morning and started doing the washing, while my wife took on the burden of watching the tennis at Queens.

We seem to have brought the sun back with us from Corfu – the temperature was due to rise over the next few days to a fairly rare 30℃ (86℉) on Friday. With the heat, the bruised toe, the washing, gardening (and mowing) and some work being done on the house, I decided not to run until the weekend but that needs to be a long one – the last long run before the ultra on 9th July.

Last week’s long run (which I missed because of the holiday) should have been 45km and this week’s is scheduled at 55km – but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. When I decided to sign up the 100km I thought it would be my second ultra – and now I see that, if I had followed the training plan properly, it would have actually been my 4th because of two training runs of ultra distance. Madness!

I went to the gym and did my slot at the bike shop on a very hot Friday. Saturday lived up to the forecast of a cooler day so I ran. I had inspected my tri belt and realised it’s falling apart so I bought a (cheap) running hydration vest in the week and gave it a go.

I had no real idea of how far I was going to run but decided to practice the ‘walk up the hills’ approach recommended for ultras. That’s fine but accepting that walking is OK is, to me, a slippery slope – I’ve run all the way in my three marathons but now I found myself walking a bit on a run that was only 32.5km (just over 20 miles).

A horrible run in just about every way – a real slog with three dumps of pretty cold rain and lots of hip, knee and thigh aches and pains that I’ve not had during the training. Most worrying were pains on the outside of both knees. It was a bit reminiscent of the ITB issue I had more than 20 years ago. I hate the idea of a ‘scented candle’ massage but a sports massage put that right back then so I may be in line for my 2nd ever.

Just the run I didn’t want to go badly …

On Sunday we drove up to London to be treated to lunch by our sons for Father’s Day. Lovely – but the legs are still a bit cranky.

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

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
17 70 32
Cumulative total 664 692

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Those who accomplish great things pay attention to little ones

2. BBC News website: Grenoble fights to allow “burkini” swimsuits in public pools

Grenoble’s recent decision to authorise all swimwear, including burkinis (which are full body swimsuits covering everything but the hands, feet and face largely worn by Muslim women), in its public pools has sparked a legal battle with the government.

Last month, a local court suspended the council’s policy on the grounds that it seriously undermined the principle of neutrality in public services. France’s Interior Minister called the Grenoble city council’s policy an “unacceptable provocation” that was contrary to French secular values.

No doubt someone thought themselves very clever to mix “burka” and “bikini” to come up with burkini but the burkini is rather the antithesis of the bikini

3. BBC News website: Lynch mob after messaging group rumours

A Mexican political advisor was attacked and beaten by a crowd of around 200 people in the central state of Puebla where he was visiting his grandfather’s house. Rumours began to spread on local WhatsApp group that he had been involved in the kidnapping of a child.

According to local media, the mob then cornered and attacked the man and his two companions, before dragging him to a local field. Police attempted to intervene and placed him in a patrol car, but were quickly overwhelmed by villagers, who doused him in petrol before setting him alight.

The city council said it “strongly disapproves this act and reiterates that criminal behaviour must be judged under the procedures of our rule of law”.

Wow, strong disapproval

4. BBC News website: Happy, the elephant, doesn’t pack her trunk

On Tuesday, New York’s highest court voted 5-2 to reject an animal rights group’s argument that Happy was being illegally confined at the Bronx zoo.

While elephants are “impressive”, the court said, the majority decided that they are not entitled to the same liberty rights as humans and that the legal principle of habeas corpus – which guards against illegal detention – should not be extended to emotionally complex and intelligent animals.

5. Congratulations to Geraint Thomas who won the Tour de Suisse on Sunday.

6. BBC News website: Diamond League, Paris 18 June

I apologise, I’ve mentioned this before but I love it. Competing for the UK in the 100m hurdles at this meeting (finishing 3rd) was Cindy Sember – the international athlete and the answer to the question ‘When is Christmas?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

3. BBC News website: Isle of Man TT

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

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

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

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

4. BBC News website: Taxing cow and sheep burps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run (x3), swim, turbo, walk, ride (plus big plants, French and how to avoid repeated stuffing)

The Dayton Hawk, second from the camera got an outing (but just a short one)

The ultra training plan makes no concession for Sunday’s triathlon, so back into it with a run on Monday morning – 8.7km (5.4 miles) round the old Badbury hill fort. No aches or pains but tired legs.

Swim doctor class in the evening. My training partner deserved a gold star for his triathlon swim and I merited detention for mine. I have much work to do before September’s olympic distance race – at the moment a 1500m open water swim feels rather daunting. I’m hoping that the answer is more down to me getting happier with the (still) alien environment of the lake than anything else. Wishful thinking?

There’s a vey nice chap in his 30’s who comes along to the swim doctor sessions (and swims very well). Talking to him last night, we find that he has done 11 full Ironman triathlons. Sort of puts you in your place!

I was planning a long run on Tuesday but, luckily, it rained so I postponed it and got on the turbo later – but I found that the rear tyre was completely flat. I pumped it up and rode for 30 minutes @ 28.2kph (17.5mph). It was hard from the outset but by the time I finished it was becoming very tough – not surprising as I found that the tyre was rapidly emptying itself of air. Just a 30 minute session, but with a fairly high training value.

The training plan has 55km for this week, with a long run of 35km. I’m 115km ahead of the plan over the first 14 weeks and have done a long run of over 32km (the plan’s longest run has been 25km) so although I’m keeping score against the plan, I’m not really following it.

In that spirit I went out on Wednesday morning, on completely unrested legs. With an oat bar for breakfast, two gels during the run and a bit more water than last week, I proved to myself that having a first drink at 20km is too late as the weather gets warmer and the runs longer.

I ran for 36.6km (22.7 miles). I took the first sign of impending cramp in the calf muscles as a good reason to stop but looked for some decent hills late in the run to practice the ultra marathon recommended approach of walking up the big hills and running the rest – that seemed to work well. I creaked for the rest of the day but managed to pick up our younger son from the station as he comes to spend a few days with us during his half term break from his teaching studies.

On Thursday morning everything was working pretty well which was handy as we had agreed to a dog walk with friends, followed by a pub lunch. A bit over 10km, and it was lovely but the legs were tested. I tried the Garmin again – this time 3h 15 minutes used only 18% of the battery which suggests more battery life than the last test – it’s confusing.

No bike shop on Friday because of the Bank Holiday, so I dipped out of the gym session to get an early start to drive down to Bournemouth, to try to miss the Bank Holiday traffic. I did both lawns (which were looking rather meadow-like) and then went for a run – over 10km to meet the week’s target – along the busy seafront, beyond Boscombe Pier and back. Then I mowed the front lawn again to bring it rather more under control.

Bournemouth, Bournemouth, so good I mowed it twice.

On Saturday I dusted off my 1946 Dayton Hawk and cycled in to Faringdon to take part in the cycle club’s vintage bike ride to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. When I say to take part in the bike ride, I really mean ‘turn out at the start to boost the numbers and then cycle home because of the need to get ready for the village’s Jubilee lunch (which was held at the Tithe Barn and was very well attended and very enjoyable).

Another day off exercise on Sunday as e drove to London to take our son back. Rather apprehensive about the traffic heading back into London – it’s terrible most Sundays but the four day weekend might have helped to smooth the return of people to the capital and it was fine.

A strange week with Bank Holidays on Thursday and Friday, no gym and no lake swim – although my friend and training partner smashed a swim on Friday. His ankle seems to be cured – as he gets back to running, I am looking down the barrel of a good beating in September’s triathlon.

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

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
15 55 56
Cumulative total 529 645

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he married

2. BBC News website: Turkey rebrands as Türkiye

Turkey will be known as Türkiye at the United Nations from now on, after it agreed to a formal request from Ankara.

The State broadcaster TRT was quick to make the change as soon as it was announced last year, explaining that among the reasons for the image rebrand was the association with the bird traditionally associated with Christmas, New Year or Thanksgiving. It also pointed out the Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition of one of the meanings of the word as “something that fails badly” or “a stupid or silly person”.

“Türkiye is the best representation and expression of the Turkish people’s culture, civilization, and values,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in December.

Do I now have to have Türkiye at Christmas?

3. BBC News website: The largest known plant on Earth

A seagrass of about 200 sq km (77 sq miles) – roughly three times the size of Manhattan – has been discovered off the coast of Australia.

Using genetic testing, scientists have determined a large underwater meadow in Western Australia is in fact one plant which is believed to have spread from a single seed over at least 4,500 years.

4. BBC News website: Language watchdog promotes French gaming terms

The Académie Française (created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, and the official custodian of the French language) says “jeu video de competition” should replace “e-sports”, and “streamer” should become “joueur-animateur en direct”.

France’s culture ministry told the AFP news agency that Anglicisms were “a barrier to understanding”. France regularly issues warnings of the “debasement” of its language through imported English words.

Sacré bleu

5. BBC News website: Firm unveils plans for Taser-armed drones

Arizona-based company, Axon, says that the high-tech solution is necessary amid a “fruitless” debate on gun policy in the US and that it has formally begun developing a miniature, lightweight Taser that can be deployed on a drone or robot.

According to the company, “targeting algorithms” will assist operators to aim the device safely and all use-of-force decisions will be made by an authenticated and authorised human operator “who has agreed to take on legal and moral responsibility for any action that takes place”.

Why am I not properly reassured?

Run (x2), swim (x2), turbo, gym, triathlon (plus democratic jackdaws and clever contact lenses)

Blenheim Palace – the transition area for the triathlon is this courtyard

With the ultra training plan on a cut-back week, I decided to get the bulk of the 25km target done early. Monday morning was 11.75km (7 miles).

That was followed by a good swim doctor session in the early evening. I swam 1km with a mixture of front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke and drills.

I ran again on Tuesday morning – 13.4km on tired legs, but at least that was the week’s training plan completed (and with the triathlon run still to come). We went back to the lake – my second open water swim of the year – in the afternoon.

Last week had been poor for the swimming, terrible for the navigation and a disaster for getting out of the wetsuit. This week I swam for a non-stop kilometre – I didn’t swim well but it was an improvement and I even managed something approaching straight(ish) lines. Perhaps best of all, I remembered that it is so much easier to get out of a wetsuit if it’s done soon after leaving the water, when it is still wet (on the outside).

It was a confidence booster in that the triathlon swim is only 750 metres which now feels achievable. In spite of the lessons, I don’t feel like I’m going to be any quicker than last year. I think I have improved my swimming in the pool but I appreciate now that I need more time in the lake to be sure that what technique I have in the pool transfers across to the open water. Given the fact that I compete only with myself, that’s not a really big deal – but it would be nice to improve on last year’s attempt.

I quite fancied a run on Wednesday, but I resisted and settled for a session on the turbo. Just 45 minutes at 29.7kph (18.45mph).

We took friends to Kew Gardens on Thursday – they had asked for no presents for their recent wedding (second time for them both) but were happy to accept a day-trip out. I took my Garmin – not to record the walk but to test the battery duration over a longer time. It used 43% of the battery in a little over 6 hours which suggests about 14 hours of battery life. Dare I risk it for the ultra? I think not.

Friday was the gym, the bike shop and some more mowing. We have come back from Kew with the idea of letting the paddock next to the house go a bit more wild with grasses and, perhaps if we are lucky, wild flowers. I’ve now set out a few mown paths and will start researching how to create the meadow effect for the rest (no doubt it will be harder than a simple ‘let nature get on with it’ approach).

Saturday was taken gently; the triathlon on Sunday is only a sprint distance (it should be done with in less than 1h 40m) so it doesn’t need a lot of preparation but I gave it some respect. I swapped my clip-in pedals for some with toe clips and gave the bike a very short ride to make sure everything was working as it should (and it was).

The theory with the pedals is that, with only 20km on the bike, the trivial amount of time I might lose by not clipping-in is more than made up by having one shoe change instead of two and having easier runs in and out of transition.

Sunday will be significantly cooler than recent days and we start at 9am. Like last year, the swim start will be a ‘time trail’ format with two lines of swimmers going at intervals of just a couple of seconds. I am very happy about that as I wasn’t looking forward to the famous ‘washing machine’ battle of a mass start.

Post triathlon note: Without wanting to provide too much of a spoiler, I didn’t drown, didn’t fall off the bike and didn’t break anything on the run. I’ll do a post on the experience in the week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: It is better to be loved than to be feared

2. BBC News website: Contact lenses the ultimate computer screen?

A company is about to embark on comprehensive testing of smart contact lens on humans, that will give the wearer a heads-up display that appears to float in front of their eyes. The product’s scleral lens (a larger lens that extends to the whites of the eye) corrects the user’s vision, but also incorporates a tiny microLED display, smart sensors and solid-state batteries.

3. BBC News website: Democratic Jackdaws

Researchers have found that the birds call out when they want to leave their nesting site, then when the noise reaches a critical level, it signals the roost is ready to depart, and the birds fly away.

The bird call is a vote and the collective decision to depart then rests on the noise volume and how rapidly the noise levels increase.

3. BBC News website: Pet parrot spooked by firefighter attempting ‘rescue’

The parrot escaped on Tuesday. It was spotted in a tree on Wednesday but would not come down, so the family contacted the fire service. The fire crew used an aerial ladder platform to get high enough to reach it but it appears it was spooked by the hats the fire brigade wear, because it flew off again.

I don’t like to be uncaring, but since when does a bird need to be rescued from a tree

4. BBC News website: Spending on memorabilia for the Queen’s Jubilee

Her Majesty’s 70-year reign is being marked with a four day weekend, and the UK could spend about £408m on the Platinum Jubilee, with £281.5m going on souvenirs memorabilia and gifts, according to the Centre for Retail Research.

One firm holding a royal warrant to provide goods to royal households is selling plates gilded with oils mixed with 22 carat gold for £150 ($190). The cheapest item, a mug, comes in at £29 ($37). The most expensive collectable, a music box, costs £1950 ($2460).

I feel that my £5 ticket for the village lunch is not carrying my share of the burden

5. BBC News website: Nigerian kidnapping crisis

A bill to criminalise ransom payments is the latest attempt to curb the country’s lucrative kidnapping industry. It proposes a jail sentence of up to 15 years for anyone who pays a ransom.

One businessman has paid ransoms three times: to free his two daughters last December ($24,000, £19,000), and previously to free his wife and his mother. He says that when confronted by the reality of threats to the lives of loved ones, you have to pay – but the lawmakers argue that such payments fuel the kidnapping industry, where criminal gangs randomly seize people and demand anything from $50 to $1m.

Since 2011, ransoms totalling at least $18m have been paid, more than half of that between 2016 and 2020.

I wonder if kidnap victims with a $50 price-tag put on their head feel insulted

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

Back to the open water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapeau!

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

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

The Albert Monument, Kensington Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

I was wondering what to get my wife for her birthday

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

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

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

This is real, I’m not taking the …

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bluebells are out at Badbury Clump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s OK then

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

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

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

Some people are just not content with a fridge magnet

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

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

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

Chapeau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this effort shows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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