Category Archives: injury

Sportive – lessons learnt (and forgotten lessons re-learnt)

Looks like it’s back to the bike after July’s ultra

After Sunday’s sportive, I postponed the usual Monday morning gym session. I was interested to see how the knee would be when I got up and was pleasantly surprised to find no ill effects.

The sportive was a fascinating example of doing almost everything wrong, but getting away with it. Especially interesting, as its a rather hilly and normally testing sportive but with the wind and cold this year it became – to use the most common, repeatable, description used by folks I saw finish – ‘brutal’.

I’ve ridden outside for just 140km (under 90 miles) this year and not done much on the turbo either. That left me very underprepared for the 112km (70 miles) sportive. To look on the bright side, it would have been so disappointing to have arrived at the start in great shape, intending to go a fast time – and then be entirely thwarted by the weather.

Although it was very hard, the main consequence of riding only 100km (62 miles) on my ‘proper’ bike beforehand was that my backside was not properly hardened for the strip of carbon fibre I call a saddle.

We got away late in the window allowed for starting, which meant we saw very few chains of cyclists that we might have been able to join to share the work into the wind. Although three of us set off together one shot off ahead and the other did the longer route so I cycled with him for 30km (about 19 miles) and then 51 miles (82km) alone.

I took 750ml of water and several oat bars and gels with me. I drank about 250ml and ate nothing. Before starting I’d had two oat bars and half a cup of coffee. It was so cold I wasn’t exactly sweating – but that doesn’t quite seem to be enough food or fluid.

It looks like just about everyone suffered in terms of time – mine was good enough for 1st in the over 60s category (and 4th overall) but was only 30 minutes inside my best for the longer distance which is an extra 20 miles (32km).

I like to get good advice but am stubborn enough to want to go with my own view until I end up proving that I was wrong and so validate the advice. My recent experiences have demonstrated that I am no sort of athlete but am almost within reach of ‘barely adequate’ (for an old bloke) at running and cycling.

However, to get better at the running I need to run more – and the knee may not be up to that. On the other hand, cycling doesn’t seem to come with as many inevitable injury prospects (in the absence of falling off).

To demonstrate my pig-headedness I do plan to do July’s ultra marathon (on a reduced training schedule) as some friends want to do some sponsorship for a charity we support and it’s a proper challenge. After that I’ll be limiting the running and going back to cycling as the main hobby and fitness regime. Thanks Jim and the Unironedman.

As this is a post outside the normal weekly routine, just one bit of Interesting stuff (early) this week

African wise words: You must attend to your business with the vendor in the market, and not to the noise of the market

Gym (x2), ride (a small one), ride (a much bigger and very hard one)

A Monday morning gym session is part of my regime in the brave new world of Covid-lockdown relaxation. I was the only person there for the hour it took me to lift some weights.

A big advantage of the gym is that, at the end of a session I always do some stretches – something I almost never remember to do properly at home. I’m working on the basis that the strengthening and stretching must be helping mend my knee.

Back to Bournemouth on Tuesday for more gardening and house maintenance and hedge planting at home on Wednesday. After I defrosted from an hour in the gym on Thursday morning (it was ‘see your breath’ cold in there) I drove to our son’s house just outside London to leave him a car to drive down to Bournemouth for a few days.

The original intention was that I’d run the 8 miles from his place to our flat and then on a train back home. The knee put paid to that so I stowed a bike in the back of the car and cycled from him to our place, leaving the bike there to be collected next time we go up (remembering not to use my wife’s Mini for that trip).

The only times I’ve cycled in London have been for the Ride London sportive – very early to get to the start or on closed roads for the sportive itself. As it turned out, there were bike lanes and wide pavements shared between pedestrians and cyclists for most of the way so it was very enjoyable even though my route ran along a major road.

I took my wife’s hybrid bike and that was a good move as I never felt any need or inclination to go particularly fast. In the end, 12.4km (a bit under 8 miles) in a leisurely 37 minutes. Then a trip across London and a train back.

Cycle shop on Friday morning and friends over for drinks in the evening. I had a restful Saturday because Sunday saw the White Horse Challenge sportive.

With little cycling (four previous rides this year and the dodgy knee), riding the White Horse Challenge sportive was a bit of a no-brainer (as in ‘you must have no brain to come to that decision’). However, the sensible thing I did was to opt for the 70 mile route with over 4900 feet of climbing, rather than the 90 miler with over 5500 feet of climbing.

(That’s 112km with 1500m of climbing rather than 144km with 1700m).

It was really tough – cold at the start (3℃, 37℉) and there was a relentless 20+mph wind, which I rode into, solo, for about 30 miles. I managed 4hrs 34 min, not very quick but it was certainly not a day to post personal bests. To my surprise, that was gold standard and I was 4th overall of those on the 70mile route and 1st out of the over 60s.

With apologies for being a knee bore (but hoping not to become a knee jerk), it is still improving, but slowly. Having now ‘invested’ over two weeks in not running I’m uncertain as to when to restart. I risked the cycling (and seem to have got away with it) but would be a shame to spoil the recuperation by running again too soon. Still a while away from running yet I think.

I’ve abandoned the original training plan for the ultra – even if the knee healed tomorrow I’m more likely to follow the plan on the event website from here on.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 6: Miles (Km) 20 (32)
‘Running’ Totals 87.5 (140) 120 (193)
Week 6, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A fish has nothing to do with a raincoat

2. BBC News website: Ambulance Service dropped woman, 89, at wrong house

Elizabeth Mahoney had been in hospital for 10 weeks but when she was discharged, instead of being taken home, she was put to bed in a stranger’s house. The man who lived there had been expecting the arrival of his sister, who had dementia, but had not immediately realised Mrs Mahoney was not his sister.

Mrs Mahoney had tried telling the crew she was not the patient they thought she was, and that she was being left at the wrong house – but was then frightened because she thought she was being put in a home.

3. BBC News website: Product placements may soon be added to classic films

in 2019 the total global product placement industry, across films, TV shows and music videos, was said to be worth $20.6bn (£15bn). Now technology can insert computer-generated images so that the human eye does not realise has been done post-production.

Soon there could be new labels on the champagne bottles in Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, and different background neon advertising signs to Ocean’s 11. Then a few weeks, months or years later the added products could be switched to different brands.

I must be in a minority – product placements put me off because I feel they are trying to play me for an impressionable fool

4. BBC News website: Hospital employee accused of skipping work for 15 years

A hospital employee in Italy is alleged to have stopped turning up to work at the Ciaccio hospital in the southern city of Catanzaro in 2005.

The police have also accused him of threatening his manager to stop her from filing a disciplinary report against him. That manager later retired and his ongoing absence was never noticed by her successor or human resources. Six managers at the hospital are also being investigated in connection with the alleged absenteeism.

Gym (x2), turbo (x2), mechanic, ride (what, no running?)

Re-opened on Monday 12th April, with the machines moved further apart taking up the leisure centre foyer and one of the squash courts

Monday was important in the UK’s lockdown easing. Non-essential shops, services, outdoor attractions and gyms reopened, pubs and cafes could serve outside. It snowed. That, Alanis, is ironic.

I decided that if the gym was taking the trouble to open the least I could do was to turn up, so I was there just after 8am (slightly late as a result of clearing snow off the cars). There was only one other person in there during my 50 minutes and it felt very safe (and, happily, not as cold as it was before Christmas but I had hat, gloves and jacket, just in case).

It was good to be back after nearly 4 months but I reduced most of the weights I lift, just to be cautious. With all the running I’ve been doing, I was surprised by how hard some of it was. It just goes to show (I guess) how important variety is in an exercise regime.

We went down to Bournemouth on Tuesday, something else we can now do for the first time for months. We went to check on the house, mow the lawns and make sure it’s OK for our older son and his girlfriend to go down in a couple of weeks. Sadly, much as I love running along the promenade, I didn’t run while we were there. Partly, that was due to being tight for time and partly out of respect for my knee.

I am not a vain person*/I am inclined to be scruffy* (*delete as applicable) so I was not bothered that I’d not had a haircut for 4 months. However, my hair is a very personal shade of blond (some who don’t know any better call it grey) and somewhat unruly. A higher authority decided that it needed cutting so I went on Wednesday. On my return I got “Oh no, you’ve lost your curls”.

To my knowledge, hairdressers tend to cut the ends off the hairs rather than wind the excess back into the scalp – how could I get it cut without losing the curls? Sometimes you just can’t win.

I did 30 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday evening – 14km @28kph (17.4mph) and was back on it again on Thursday – 21km in 45 minutes @28kph (17.4mph). Hard.

Gym again on Friday morning, using slightly increased weights compared to last week, but with more reps and extra care on anything involving the left knee. After that, the regular Friday session in charge of the cycle club’s charity bike shop with my son – we sold the shop’s 50th bike since its reopening 4 weeks ago (and the 51st and 52nd).

I took Saturday off but watched the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. Our younger son went up to Kensington Palace a few years ago to collect his Gold Award under the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme. The Duke spoke to a small group of award winners and asked if anyone had a job. Our son was on his gap year at the time and piped up that he was working as a barman. “A barman! No doubt your parents were glad to get you off their hands.” was the Duke’s response. Nicely non-PC, to my mind.

Sunday was lovely and after a bit of gardening I had a quick fettle on the bike to sort out some slightly unhappy gears. To give it a test, and to see how the knee would go on a bike in the real world I decide to go for a quick solo ride – only my third outside this year. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive but it was really good and (for me) surprisingly fast – 42km @29.5kph (26 miles @18.3mph).

Figuratively, my knee has been all over the place this week (although, literally, it has had the decency to remain between the bones of my upper and lower leg). It has felt much better at times and has then started hurting for no apparent reason – and at times the pains have seemed to be coming from at least three different points.

However, after 10 days without running, on the plus side, the Achilles is cured (I hope) and the knee is improving. On the negative side, my guess is that I’ve sprained the Medial Collateral Ligament, just as I did back in December 2019. I’m assuming that it’s a grade 1 sprain and it should heal within a few weeks.

I’ll keep a careful watch on its progress and run when it seems sensible. I am still going to do the ultra marathon in July – it just remains to be seen how much training (beforehand) and therefore running (during) will be possible.

At least I’m still way beyond the demands of the event website training plan (plan 1).

 Target Plan 1 My Actual Target Plan 2
Week 5: Miles (Km) 19 (30) 39 (63)
‘Running’ Totals 67.5 (108) 120 (193) 172 (277)
Week 5, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who runs faster, tires faster

Omil’s less wise words: He who runs further messes up his knee

2. BBC News website: Korean cosmetics brand apologises for beauty product that is less environmentally friendly than its packaging suggests.

Last year a green-tea beauty product was launched in what was labelled a “paper bottle” as part of the brand’s initiative to reduce the use of plastic packaging.

A customer questioned the product’s eco-friendly credentials and shared photos of the product showing that it was actually packaged in a plastic bottle wrapped in paper.

3. BBC News website: Facebook mistakenly removes French town’s page

The social network’s algorithm confused the name of the town Ville de Bitche, with the English insult. Bitche’s mayor said the Facebook page of the town (population 5,000) was removed on 19 March for violating site rules. “The name of our town seemed to suffer from a bad interpretation,” he added.

Facebook said it had reinstated the page on Tuesday after spotting the error.

Residents of the Oxfordshire village of ‘Great Coxwell’ are nervous

4. BBC News website: Chinese man kidnapped and killed in body swap scheme

in Guangdong province all dead bodies must to be cremated. A family hired someone to provide them with a substitute body, which was cremated in place of a deceased family member who was then secretly buried in a traditional burial.

But, while the family assumed the man they hired would look for another dead body, he murdered someone in order to fulfil the deal.

5. BBC News website: Egypt seizes ship that blocked Suez Canal

Egypt will impound the giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal last month until its Japanese owner pays $900m (£652m) in compensation.

One of the Ever Given’s insurers described the claim, which includes $300m for a salvage bonus and $300m for loss of reputation, as “extraordinarily large” and “largely unsupported”.

6. Another ‘almost’ joke: Name five footballers with names associated with meat

Bary Venison, Tony Currie, Frank LeBoeuf, Patric Berger and Paulo Wanchope

Like last week, my apologies to those who do not follow football (soccer)

Run, run, limp, hobble, mechanic, turbo, (if the wheels haven’t actually come off, they’re very loose)

I am very confused. The first three weeks of the training plan I’m following had 163km of running (longest 23km). The event website’s equivalent plan had 63km over those three weeks (longest 10km).

I understand that different plans will be … er … ‘different’ … but these are, literally, miles apart. The fourth week of the event’s plan is 15km whereas the plan I’ve been following has 51km. I’ve checked that it isn’t merely number dyslexia, so how can the plans be that different?

I’m now not sure what to do. I feel fairly sure that doing more training leads to a better race result. That might mean easier or faster – I’m not too worried about faster but I’ll sign up for easier. After 100+ miles in the first three weeks I don’t want the next 13 weeks of the current plan to spoil my enjoyment of running, or damage my suspect knee which has been a bit of an issue for many weeks. (I wrote this on Monday and turned out to be a prophet).

I think I’m going to ‘suck it and see’ by looking at both plans (I’ve added the plan from the event website to my table at the end of the post as ‘Plan 1’) and do what feels possible and ‘right’ for me. I’m also bearing in mind that the gym will reopen soon and 5 days of running plus the gym, sounds like too much – especially as I need to start swimming in view of September’s triathlon.

Monday was a rest day, thank goodness, but I ran with my wife on a cold breezy Tuesday – 9km (5.6 miles). Later on Tuesday it snowed and there was a little snow on the ground early on Wednesday.

That softened the blow of missing out on my first training plan run as I spent the morning rigging up a canopy and wind break for my wife who had invited some friends for lunch. Our lockdown rules are gradually relaxing and allow such gatherings but only if they are outside. They were out in the garden in 4℃ (40℉) with coats, rugs, gloves and hats – but they seemed to have a great time over their first shared lunch for months.

We all ran on Thursday – 9km (5.6 miles) but by the end of it I had a knee that was more painful than the usual niggle. We had friends over for an excellent early supper making more good use of the canopy arrangement – but this outdoor dining lark is mightily cold in the current poor weather.

My knee continued to get worse through the evening and it took until about 4am for me to find a way to make it comfortable in bed and get off to sleep. If I had any idea of running on Friday to make up for missing Wednesday, the knee put paid to that – but my son and I managed a session looking after the charity cycle shop in the morning. We sold a couple of bikes, took in two donations, fixed a few of repair issues and received another bike for repair.

The knee improved during Friday and I slept better that night but is it cartilage or ligament, or something else? Do I cut down the running or stop it completely – and for how long?

The question was easy to answer on Saturday as, although still improving, the knee was certainly not up to a run so I gave it another rest day. My heart wasn’t broken as it was cold and very wet.

The decision not to run on Sunday was easy as well – made for me by the knee. The question now is whether it needs just a few days rest or a few weeks rest to recover. Either way, it seems more sensible to give it the rest it needs now, rather than nearer the time of the ultra marathon.

I tried the turbo trainer late Sunday afternoon on the basis that might be OK in the absence of any impact or twisting on the knee. It was OK – 15km in 30 hard minutes.

 Target Plan 1 My Actual Target Plan 2
Week 4: Miles (Km) 9 (15) 11.2 (18) 32 (51.5)
‘Running’ Totals 48.5 (78) 120 (193) 133 (214)
Week 4, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

The gyms re-open tomorrow – I’ve booked in for a morning session.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Advice is a stranger; if he is welcome he stays for the night; if not, he leaves the same day

2. BBC News website: Italian navy captain accused of spying for Russia

The 54 year old was arrested in a car park on Tuesday, accused of exchanging secrets for thousands of euros.

He has refused to answer questions, but his wife said “He was just desperate”, being unable to cope with the financial strains of living on a monthly salary of €3,000 (£2,500; $3,500). She insisted he would do nothing to harm Italy. “He gave the minimum he could to the Russians” she said.

Odd. I’d have thought that ‘nothing’ is the minimum he could have given to the Russians

3. BBC News website: ‘Mrs World’ arrested over Sri Lanka pageant bust-up

Police in Sri Lanka have arrested the reigning ‘Mrs World’, after she allegedly injured a fellow beauty queen in an on-stage bust-up.

She was meant to crown the winner of the “Mrs Sri Lanka” title but, instead, pulled the crown off the winner’s head, claiming she could not hold the title as she was divorced. The winner later said she is separated from her husband, not divorced.

I do not believe that she is being considered for the lead role in ‘Miss Congeniality 2’

4. BBC News website: Fugitive Dutch cheese-seller jailed over false slavery claim

Branco van Wissen was a cheese seller working on a market in Cumbria. A rival trader selling flowers was, according to Wissen, “intimidating, menacing” and subjecting him to a “campaign of abuse and terror”.

Wissen contacted the police to accuse the rival of holding two people captive in slavery. He then fled to his native Netherlands, but was extradited and has been jailed for 18 months after admitting to an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

‘Fugitive Dutch cheese-seller’ is another thing I wasn’t expecting ever to write

5. Almost a joke: Name 5 F1 racing drivers with names linked to places in Scotland

Louis Hamilton, Eddie Irvine, Sterling Moss, Johnny Dunfries and Ayr Town-Centre

Apologies to non F1 fans to whom this probably makes no sense at all

6. RIP: The Duke of Edinburgh

I’m not much of a royalist but I do think that the Queen is magnificent and the Duke, who died on Friday at the age of 99, was possibly the last of his kind, having fought in WW2 and dedicated his life to the support of his wife and service of his adopted country. Quite a man.

Goodbye old friends ….. confessions of a supinator

Left shoe with the tread worn away from the black pads to the outside of the heel and the ball of the foot and hardly touched everywhere else

Getting in from my run on Thursday I realised it was time to face up to facts. Time to take a tough decision. Time to say goodbye to old friends. Time to retire my favourite pair of running shoes.

There were three things that brought me to this conclusion.

Distance

First, they have clocked through 800 km (500 miles) and conventional wisdom says that running shoes generally have an expected lifespan of between 300 and 500 miles (500 and 800km). As I mostly run on roads and, at 146 pounds (66kg), am not a heavyweight, it’s probably right that I get a good mileage out of them – but they can”t go on forever.

Running form

Secondly, although they appear to be in pretty good shape, I looked at the soles and they tell a pretty clear tale of wear. The wear is almost entirely along the outside edge of each shoe, confirming what I have thought for some time – I am a supinator.

My foot lands with most of my weight on the outside edge but instead of rolling inwards (‘pronating’) or rolling too far inwards (‘over-pronating’), it stays on the outside edge (‘under-pronating’ or ‘supinating’).

All runners know the risks they take on whenever they leave the house. From the lower back to the tips of our toes, even the most technically perfect of runners is putting every joint, bone, muscle, ligament and tendon in between at grave risk of injury (or so it would seem from so much of the internet).

For us over-pronators or under-pronators, the risks are magnified – it appears that for me the risks include devil worship, eternal damnation and the end of civilisation as we know it.

OK, that last bit might have been exaggerated a little – but it is a bit of a surprise that I can still walk given the risks I seem to be taking every time I run.

What’s worse is that the wear on the soles of the shoes show that I run heavier on my left foot than my right. While I may have a mental picture of me running like a gazelle, it appears that I probably look more like a three legged wildebeest.

The fact that I am in a 5% minority of runners who supinate comes as little compensation.

Replacement

These were the oldest of two pairs of these particular shoes – the ‘Puma Ignite 500 Speed’. I ran the Rotterdam Marathon in them in April 2019 and the second pair are only a bit behind in mileage. I like them because they are comfortable, fairly lightweight, low at the back of the heel (good for my dodgy Achilles tendons) and reasonably priced.

I’ve been looking for new ones for months but with no luck – I guess they have been discontinued as all I could find were the occasional random pair in extreme sizes. However, I recently stumbled on a seller who must have some old stock and have bought two more pairs of identical shoes (unadventurous, me?).

It seems that we supinators need more cushioning in our running shoes to make up for the loss of natural cushioning from the usual pronation of the foot. We might also need arch supports to help spread the impact from the foot landing across more of the foot.

How that ties in with the fact that I can run in my minimalist shoes, which have no cushioning or arch support, is beyond me, but at least moving on to one of the new pairs of shoes should restore some extra cushioning. I’ll carry on with the minimalist shoes on a regular basis in the hope that they help to train and strengthen my feet which must be a good thing.

It will be interesting to see if I can tell the difference between new and old shoes. If there is no discernible difference, the old shoes might be reprieved and live on for muddier or wetter runs.

Interesting stuff this week (just wise words as it’s midweek)

African wise words: A man who believes that he can do everything, let him dig a grave and bury himself.

Run, run, gym (first since March), run, run and an accidental trendy diet

Although the bluebells are long gone for this year, I can still picture them when I run round the old hill fort

After a week off running and cycling I ran on Monday. It’s a good thing I wasn’t daft enough to think that I’d run easily, smoothly and strongly as a result of the break – because I didn’t.

I ran in my minimalist shoes for the first time since I hurt my feet running in them on the stoney farm track three weeks ago. I really enjoyed them – except that, to be honest, the ball of my right foot hadn’t quite recovered and hurt a bit.

It felt like very hard work but I did over 10km (6.3 miles) in 58 minutes – 4 hour marathon pace – which was a pleasant surprise.

We walked a 3.5 mile round trip for supper with friends on Monday evening. I wore my Asics running shoes – good shoes but they have a high and snug heel that aggravates my Achilles if I run in them. I now find that they aggravate my Achilles if I walk in them.

The three of us went for a more gentle run on Tuesday morning – about 7km (4.4 miles), ignoring the sore Achilles and the sore soles of the feet, followed by building a brick pier at the end of one of the new walls.

Wednesday was spent on a trip up to London to do some work on our sons’ flat and to pick up post and meter readings from ours – and no time for a run.

On Thursday I went to the gym for the first time since they were allowed to reopen last week – and my first time since early March. It wasn’t busy, the equipment had been well spaced out (taking over a foyer area and a squash court) and was being cleaned very regularly by the staff.

It felt pretty safe (given the circumstances) and I was pleasantly surprised that I could lift the same weights as in March – although I eased off by 5kg here and there to give myself a slightly gentler reintroduction. A very enjoyable hour.

I timed my return home badly. I got back from the gym just as my wife and our younger son were heading out for a run – so I joined them. It was only 5.5km (about 3.4m) and taken gently, but coming straight after the gym it felt as hard as anything I’ve done recently.

A rest day on Friday featuring a long lunch with friends in very hot weather. I planned to run late afternoon on Saturday after a day in the garden, but we were invited out for drinks. Strangely, I opted for the drinks rather than the run, but we all ran on Sunday morning – nearly 9km (5.5miles) with laps around Badbury Clump, minus the bluebells.

Talking to a friend, I’ve realised that – without any conscious decision – I’ve slipped into a regime of 16:8 dieting. I’ve got to this position simply by failing to follow the old ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ adage and rarely eating anything before lunch (and often not eating lunch either).

That gives me at least 16 hours of fasting most days and it seems that the fasting period is said to help in several ways, both for weight and health. Best of all, I appear to be lucky in that it just happens to be the way I tend to eat, rather than being an artificial diet approach. Accordingly, it isn’t very hard to do and nor do I feel very tied to it – if it doesn’t suit me at any time I abandon it without even the merest twinge of guilt. Of course, the ‘no breakfast’ approach completely disappears any time I stay in a hotel.

I’m wondering how long it will be before the wheel turns full circle and breakfast again becomes the most important meal of the day.

Interesting stuff in the news

1. A Canadian brewery has apologised for unwittingly naming one of its beers after a Maori word that is commonly used to mean pubic hair.

2. African proverb: A man who plants grapes by the roadside, and he who marries a pretty woman share the same problem.

My apologies that African proverbs are not always appropriately PC.

Minimalist/barefoot running, thoughts so far: really good, but …

After using the Merrell minimalist shoes for several runs over the course of a few weeks, and reading and thinking about ‘barefoot’ running, I’ve reached some tentative conclusions.

Of course, they are only really relevant for me because running shoes are a very individual thing, but I thought I’d record them anyway.

I run mainly because I enjoy it and it helps keep me fit. Beyond that, it’s motivational to run fast (by my own low standards of ‘fast’), I enjoy running with others and it’s another source of challenges – and I’m a bit addicted to challenges

The minimalist shoes certainly fit with my reasons to run – other than them not the best way of running faster. Their lightness is a bonus but I doubt they are the fastest shoes out there by a long way.

Of course, there is a huge range of ‘normal’ running shoes and my barefoot ones are probably better than many of the bad ‘normal’ ones – but they are certainly not likely to be as ‘good’ (ie fast) as the top-end shoes which have technology for ‘energy return’ from the layers of foam making up the sole (or the carbon in the sole). I must ask Mr Kipchoge what he thinks.

I think the minimalist shoes do bring really useful things to the party in terms of improving running form, strengthening the feet and lower legs and helping to avoid heel-striking.

Originally, my concerns were more about wear and tear on my ageing body – I guess the lack of cushioning must put more stresses on my hips, calves, Achilles’, knees, feet etc. Presumably, there’s a delicate balance between strengthening all those and putting too much stress on them. Starting the minimalist experiment at nearly 65 might not have been the best timing in the world in terms of my body’s ability to adapt to something so different – but I’m pleased I did.

I expect those concerns are probably valid to some degree – but the biggest drawback I’ve found with the shoes is that they are not at all good on stoney tracks. My one run with them down the farm track beyond Puddleduck Lane was very painful indeed and the soles of my feet were (literally) and I was (metaphorically) bruised by the experience. I suppose there will be minimalist shoes with thicker or more rigid soles – but that would seem to miss at least part of the whole reason for running in shoes like this.

I’m sure there are many people who run on minimalist shoes all the time and I applaud them – but at the same time I don’t think I will be one of them.

I think the minimalist shoes will become part of my regular running programme with ‘the minimalist shoe run’ taking its regular place alongside the hills session, the long slow run and the intervals. That should keep keep reinforcing the learning from them in order to constantly take it back to running in more ‘normal’ shoes.

I’ve been trying to work out how to think of the minimalist shoes – I keep coming back to a skiing analogy.

My ‘proper’ skis are Black Crows Vertis 170.3cm – but I have a pair of Salomon 90cm snow blades. The blades are tremendous fun – quick to turn but not as fast or as stable as ‘proper’ skis and mainly suitable for a day’s pure entertainment on the slopes – partly as a break from ‘real’ skiing.

Beyond the entertainment factor, there is certainly some benefit from the blades in that they do remind you to keep your weight forward, which is also a key aspect to skiing on full length skis.

For me, the minimalist or barefoot shoes come into the same category. They are really good fun to run in (I don’t know why but perhaps it’s the sense of foot-liberation) and I believe that they will help in tuning my running posture, avoiding heel striking, and in strengthening my foot and lower leg – all of which will be useful for when running in normal shoes.

However, just as I don’t use my snow blades all the time, I don’t think I’ll be using the minimal shoes for every run – and certainly not the runs on the sharp, rough stuff.

African proverb: A monkey walking behind another laughs at the other’s tail.

A week of no running or cycling – and lessons learned

Croquet – enjoyable, but not possibly not a replacement for running or cycling in terms of making the pulse race

I started Monday feeling distinctly jaded from the weekend’s runs, niggles to my left knee and thigh, sore feet and the cumulation of weeks of hard gardening and stone wall building.

With the longest and most difficult section of wall still to be done I took the (for me) momentous decision not to do any exercise sessions in the week.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t run, cycle, or go to the gym at least three times in a week but I think it was a good call to have a go at making more progress on the wall and having time to help get ready for our older son and his girlfriend coming up on Thursday to visit for a long weekend to mark his 30th birthday on Friday.

Fortunately I managed to speak to someone sensible on the internet provider’s customer support line and she sent a new power lead for the router. It arrived on Tuesday and, after a mere 5 days, service was resumed. The four previous calls had produced nothing more than ‘I’ll pass the details to our technical department’.

Happily, the wall progressed well and we were ready for a terrific weekend which featured a walk up to the Uffington White Horse, plenty of croquet, a great birthday barbecue on Friday evening (after a scorchingly hot day), too much food and a lot of champagne. Saturday lunch was at a local pub by the river with (more) very good food and another long walk in the afternoon.

Our older son and girlfriend left after lunch on Sunday. What a great weekend.

I contemplated a run later in the day but decided to stick to my ‘no running or cycling for the week’ policy – no matter how hard that might be.

I was wondering what, if anything, I learnt from the week of no formal exercise – recognising that it was just one week and not an entirely standard one because of the birthday celebrations.

First – and a bit worrying and surprising – is that although I really enjoy the running and cycling (and gym, when possible) I fear I could fairly easily lapse and not do them much – or at all.

Second – and this is a bit of a shock – although the knee improved, there is a possibility that the reason I feel older and crankier in the mornings is not because of too much exercise but because of increasing age.

Third – not exercising does save on the clothes washing.

Fourth – I neither can, nor want to, eat as much as I used to.

Run, cycle, rooks, bang, run, run

Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire countryside – not a bad area for a ride

Finally, I’m a fully-fledged volunteer responder! After over 800 hours ‘on duty’ I got a call to pick up and deliver a prescription for an elderly lady. I’m not expecting a knighthood but good to have helped in some small way.

A day off exercise on Monday, replaced by yet another trip to the local dump as the clear-out continues. Later it was back to pointing the new walls in the garden and more preparation for the building of the next bit.

Back to the running on Tuesday – still with normal running shoes and tender feet. We all ran up the village together before my wife did her hill reps and our son and I ran laps around the old hill fort at Badbury Clump – just over 9km (5.6miles) on a glorious morning.

Mowing later and the realisation (say it quietly) that I may have overcome the rooks. For a long time, when I went to feed the chickens, I’d scare a few rooks from the chicken run. That hasn’t happened since I made the cut-out of the hawk and stuck it on a pole in the run. On Tuesday I did scare a rook away as I went to feed the chickens – and lo and behold, I saw that my hawk cut-out had fallen over. Coincidence? I think not.

The old tree stump was removed in the afternoon and we had friends over for supper which was really enjoyable.

Wednesday was more of the same on new garden walls. Realising that we have neither the regular shaped stone or the necessary skill to build dry stone walls, we are going to adopt a new strategy and build it with mortar from the outset – more like an ordinary brick wall.

On Thursday I cycled with three friends – all of us over 60 and all retired (at least in part). A little over 64km (40 miles) around Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire lanes at a reasonably gentlemanly pace with a coffee stop – a social ride and none the worse for that.

In the evening there was an explosion (well quite a loud bang) in the sitting room and the power in the whole house tripped. Everything came back on except for the internet router – which has nasty looking black marks where the cable goes into the mins plug. I assume the plug is also a transformer and it’s that has gone in a very terminal way.

We all ran on Saturday (nearly 8km – 5 miles) and I ran with my son on Sunday (13km – 8 miles), with more garden walling in between.

I write this sitting in the car, parked where I can get a signal for the free wifi we are entitled to because of the broadband package we have for the house in Bournemouth. Not ideal, and no useful browsing to find interesting stuff to include this week.

As you might have guessed, no contact at all from the broadband provider to the house here …. quite bereft without it!

Run, run, cycle training, run, run and ‘Would sir like the soles of his feet beaten with a lump hammer?’

How could anything called Puddleduck Lane lead to such pain and suffering?

Another week, another run – Monday morning’s with my son and was almost 7km (4.3m). Not pushing too hard but just enjoying running for the sake of running.

We had friends over for lunch – the first time we’ve had people in the house since the start of the lockdown in March. It felt odd having people around the dining table but not sharing serving spoons and giving ‘air kisses’ at a 2 metre distance, but it’s good to restore some sense of heading (albeit slowly) towards a bit of normality.

On Tuesday it was back to the pointing of the new walls we have been building. I am still incapable of not using my hands in addition to the trowel but at least I am now taping up various fingers before I start so I have reduced the cement-induced pain considerably.

On the plus side, nothing has yet fallen down but, equally, I don’t think there is any danger of anyone asking for the name of the person who did the walls because they are so impressed by the high standard of workmanship.

I ran with my wife on Wednesday – 6.4km (4 miles). I ran in my minimalist shoes and they were great – to a point. We ran along Puddleduck Lane which was fine, but the residential village road turns into a farm track of compacted stone – with loose stone on top (more loose stone on top than I’d realised).

When I first got the shoes I’d wondered how it would feel when landing on a stone on such a thin and unpadded sole and now I know – it really hurts. The soles of my feet feel like they have been beaten, repeatedly, with a lump hammer. The ‘trail’ shoes are great for roads and trails that are grassy paths or bare trodden earth – but they are no good at all for stoney trails.

Thursday was spent hobbling around the garden with bruises to the soles of my feet, preparing for the removal of a large tree stump. It’s a fir tree that came down in high winds a few years ago – it remained anchored in the ground and ended up suspended over the conservatory, supported by the branches that were against the ground. It was big enough that when it came down the roots broke up the concrete base of a path.

Now, with four sections of wall reasonably well advanced, a chap in the village will bring a JCB next week to pull the stump out so we can start on section 5, an ‘L’ shaped wall by a rear garden gate. We’ve exposed some hefty roots that I’ve cut with the chainsaw and have been sorting out the best stone to use (the pressure is on as this is the bit of wall most open to view).

My feet were still sore on Friday as a result of the stones on Wednesday’s run. If there is a ray of good news I suppose it is that it’s the balls of the feet that are most bruised so I guess I’m not heel striking to any great extent.

I took a (socially distanced) training session at the cycle park later in the morning and then back to excavating around the tree stump looking to unearth and cut roots that might cause damage when the stump is removed next week.

I ventured a run with my son on Saturday morning with ‘normal’ running shoes with good padding to protect my damaged, but improving, feet – nearly 8km (just under 5 miles).

We went out for lunch to a village pub a few miles away – I suppose we do feel that we should be helping local businesses back on their feet but it is a nice place with very good food so it was hardly a great sacrifice on our part. My wife and I visited some friends in the village in the evening for drinks which was great – we are bordering on having a social life again.

The three of us ran on Sunday morning, another 7km (4.35miles). Although the soles of my feet are still a bit tender if I walk around barefoot, they are OK running in normal running shoes.

Over the last couple of months we’ve taken over 30 seconds off my wife’s average km time so the personal trainer in me feels pretty happy. My own running isn’t really going anywhere – a bit under 18 miles for the week is just ticking over in the absence of any events. Nothing I do now will be of much help for the ultra marathon that’s been postponed to next July so I’ll carry on running with my wife and son for the simple pleasure of running.

Heading out for a socially-distanced garden supper with friends on Sunday evening will finish a very reasonable week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb: No matter how low a cotton tree falls, it is still taller than grass.

2. BBC website: Bolivian sex workers using raincoats to keep ‘safe’

Many sex workers in Bolivia say they’ll return to work using gloves, bleach and see-through raincoats.

My guess is that flights to Bolivia are not fully booked

3. BBC website: Repentant Nigerian bandits offered cows for AK-47s

2 cows per AK-47 is the going rate in this imaginative initiative which attempts to encourage bandits to give up crime and return to a more normal life. I can’t help but think if the chap with the AK-47 really wanted 3 cows for it, he could be quite persuasive.

4. Andean condor birds ‘flap wings just 1% of the time’

Apparently, flight recorders found one bird flew for five hours, without flapping, covering about 172km (107 miles) just using air currents.