Category Archives: injury

Ultra marathon – very hard, but I survived

One thing I learned from running over the years was that a marathon is ‘a very long way’. On Sunday, I learned a second useful thing – ultra marathons are, forgive the technicality, ‘even further’.

For someone who thinks that 8am is unreasonably early, the alarm at 4.35am came as a horrible shock. We were out of the house just after 5am (my wife, very nobly, drove me to the start) and after registering and being zapped to test my temperature, I got away a little before 6am.

The plan was to travel light and the decent weather held good with about 13℃ (55℉) at the start. Just a thin gilet (not used), arm warmers (used throughout), phone, small medical kit (unused), Garmin, water bottle, reading glasses, sanitiser (unused), mask (unused), card/cash (card used for a beer at the finish) and suncream (unused).

I thought there were 4 food stops en route coming every 10k – but I did some checking and discovered there were 3 and the gaps were 10, 13 and 15k (and then 12k to the finish).

I wouldn’t normally think of taking water with me for a run of 15km but with the cumulative distance it looked like it was unwise to drink only at the food stops. Everything I had read said they were very well stocked so no need to take anything by way of nourishment but I started well hydrated and with two oat bars for breakfast.

I felt good at the the first food stop so had just a couple of mouthfuls of water and two peanut bars. It hadn’t been too hilly and I’d got into a comfortable, steady, stride – about 1h10 for the first 10k.

I held that pace to the second food stop where I discovered the delights of flat coke. I had some there (together with an oat bar and a small bag of dried fruit) and took a little with me. The next 10k was a little slower (30k in about 3h 35m) but then I slowed further with a big hill (130m in under 5k) just before the last food stop (two bags of Skittles and a little more Coke, drunk there and taken with me).

I had run for the whole of the first half of the race but since then I’d adopted the ‘walk the bigger and steeper hills’ philosophy which helped me get to the finish but slowed me down (1h 16m for the last 10k).

In all, the run clocked in at just over 51k with a chip time of 6h 39m and, I think, a moving time of about 25 minutes less.

I managed my normal aims of completing the run safely and enjoying it, and if I had a time target, it was for the chip time to start with 6 hours – so I’m very happy, especially given my much compromised training. Being free of the burden of time was a real blessing – I didn’t look at the time once during the whole run.

It was hard – at one point or another just about everything hurt, particularly both thighs, left hip, both knees, my right foot and both arms (maintaining them in running position, I assume). I also had the usual ‘cramp warning’ signs in my foot and both calf muscles but happily they all came to nothing.

The weather stayed cool, no more than 15℃ (about 59℉). At one time I thought I was going to get cold and wet but that came to nothing too.

What probably hit me hardest was the number of hills (657m of climbing in 51k) and the conditions underfoot. I learned that as you run in a deep rut or along a narrow track the width of a car tyre, the neighbouring rut or track always looks better.

At 66, I guess that might be my first and last ultra. If I were to do another, I’d want to do it better and faster – but I’m not sure my knees will be up to a proper training schedule. I don’t know if all the results are in but currently I sit 57th out of more than 140 and first in my age group (of only 4!) – with just one older person ahead of me.

On balance, very happy with the run and very happy to have completed an ultra marathon. Just at the moment, my legs are a little less happy with it.

Swim, swim, run, gym, turbo, birthday and eager anticipation

Hampton Court (either they built it on a slant or I’m a poor photographer)

For some time I’ve posted on Sundays prattling on about life, challenges and the week’s running, swimming, cycling and gym. Here is a deviation from that due to tomorrow’s ultra marathon.

I’m not sure if the change is because I may be incapable of posting tomorrow, or because there should be something to say about the ultra. Perhaps its just because it’s my 66th birthday today (10th July) and if I want to post on my birthday, I can.

Winding back to the start of the week, I swam on Monday evening. I’m still struggling with swimming for very good reasons – I don’t love it, I’m not good at it, I’m not improving very quickly, who wants to leave home at 20.40 to go and swim and it really aggravates my sinuses.

However, having said all that, I swam 1.65km – further than before – in 48 minutes and there were fleeting moments when it almost felt good (but still slow). On the other hand, I sneezed continuously from 5 to 8am on Tuesday morning. Sufficiently bad that I took an antihistamine – the first medicine of any sort that has passed my lips this year.

Tuesday saw another marvellous stage win in Le Tour for Mark Cavendish – can he get the record and/or the Green Jersey?

Back to the pool on Tuesday evening. It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to swim, but I’m trying to go twice a week and I thought that if the swim was going to cause any more sinus issues, it would be better to get them out of the way early. As it was, no sinus problems. My first time swimming on successive days and it was OK – another 1km. I’m no faster but there are moments when I think it is getting a little easier.

I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning, just the 5.5km as it’s too late to try to make up for lost training. I wore the kit I plan to use for the ultra on Sunday and took the equipment I intend to carry with me. As is traditional for any run close to an event, it felt really hard and everything hurt.

In the afternoon I watched Le Tour tackle Ventoux. I love that mountain – completing the ‘Cinglés du Mont Ventoux’ (climbing it three times) is one of the two best days I’ve ever had on a bike (my ‘Everest’ being the other). More good sport on the TV in the evening as England made it to the final of the Euro Football Championships.

I did a gentle session in the gym on Thursday morning before we drove to London to the Hampton Court Garden Festival (previously the Flower Show) – which was an enjoyable trip out but not so good for the ‘stay off your feet’ advice before long runs. I managed to blister my small toe, right foot and that’s really not good.

After Hampton Court it was supper with our older son and then up to the flat for the night. Back home on Friday in time for my bike shop session and a chance to watch glorious history being made as Mark Cavendish equalled Eddie Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stages. Magnificent.

An easy 30 minute spin on the turbo in the evening for 15.2km, dedicated to Cavendish and Merckx (but not at their speeds) just to keep the legs moving. I managed to fit in the start of an ear infection on Friday night too – how is it that I’m not ill for months and then fray at the edges at exactly the wrong time?

Which brings me back to today, my 66th birthday. A very quiet one – I managed to convince our younger son to go on the stag weekend he’d been invited to and that made it easier to dissuade our older son from coming back here. Lunch out at a local restaurant was lovely, modest on the alcohol, and early to bed.

As for the ultra tomorrow, who knows? After damaging a knee ligament 4 weeks into the training, I had a 4 week lay-off and never felt confident enough in it to resume a proper training programme. That leaves me badly undercooked but I have a very stubborn streak and no great ambitions as to the time it might take me. I live in hope.

Fantasy Football league: Still holding on to second place, with younger son now up into third. Just the final to go and it looks really tight – do I go all out for England, for Italy or do I hedge my bets? The problem is that team news is revealed only an hour before kick off and by then I may be in a befuddled state, incapable of making sensible decisions.

Interesting stuff this week

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

2. BBC News Website: Covid lockdown sees man break M&M record

The world record for the tallest stack of M&M’s has been broken by a British man who managed to balance five of the chocolate sweets on top of each other. The previous record of four was jointly held by men from Italy and Australia.

You could lose yourself in such a challenge although I guess my time would be better spent cleanin’ out my closet

3. BBC News Website: Parents of children called Alexa challenge Amazon

Parents of children called Alexa say their daughters are being bullied because of its use for Amazon’s virtual assistant. Some have even changed their child’s name because they say the barrage of Alexa jokes is “relentless”.

Amazon says it is “saddened” by these accounts, and that alternative wake words are available.

Alexa, print me off a deed poll

4. BBC News Website: Nude sunbathers fined for breaching Covid rules

The men were sunbathing on a beach south of Sydney and ran into bushland after they got spooked by a deer. They were found after they called for assistance but were fined for breaching a public health order banning those in greater Sydney from travelling outside the area.

“It’s difficult to legislate against idiots,” the NSW Police Commissioner said at a press conference on Monday when speaking about the incident.

Australian police telling it like it is

5. BBC News website: Euro 2020: £36,000 raised for crying fan to go to charity

A Englishman who raised £36,000 for a young German football fan who was filmed crying as England knocked Germany out of Euro 2020, says the money will go to charity.

The girl’s family said they wanted the money to be donated to Unicef, saying “In the interests of our daughter and our family we would like to remain private, however we wish to thank everyone for your amazing support. Our daughter would like to request your generous donations go to Unicef, knowing that your kindness will do good.”

Ahhh

Run, gym, swim, cycle training, run, mechanic, run, run

After a social and food-filled Sunday, we had little enthusiasm for exercise on Monday but my wife and I got out for a short run – down a drying Puddleduck Lane – 5.5km (3.4 miles) at 6.33 min/km.

We also managed the first croquet of 2021, on the best day of the year so far – strange, Bank Holidays are usually cold and wet.

One reason for getting out on Monday was that Tuesday was the day for the interment of my father’s ashes – just the 17 months after his death. That meant a drive north to meet up with my sister, brother-in-law and their daughters, it was just a close family affair at the crematorium where my mother’s ashes are buried.

The funeral service was a very good celebration of his life but the interment of the ashes felt like little more than a footnote to it all. At the same time, it was good to see family and to see my parents ‘reunited’ – they were married for nearly 64 years. A good day, but about 6 hours of driving.

Gym on Wednesday for an hour and then some time up at the Cycle Park where publicity activities were taking place about the club winning the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2021. We got a good deal of coverage by local press and radio and TV cameras were up there filming for the evening news, so we needed to ensure a decent turn-out in club shirts.

Back to the pool in the evening where I decided to follow the advice of the open water instructor and make the ‘already hard’ into ‘even harder’.

For me, the three big extra challenges presented by open water swimming are temperature, navigation and, especially, the absence of pool ends to cling onto and gasp for breath. The instructor’s advice was to swim in a ‘U’ just before reaching the end of the pool so there is no gliding into the end, no holding on and no push off from the end.

I found the ‘U turn’ pretty impossible in a fairly narrow lane so I ended up stopping and treading water while I turned and then starting from stationary, with no push off. It does indeed make pool swimming much harder (as if it wasn’t hard enough already). I managed the new approach for only 10 lengths but I guess that was even harder than swimming a straight 250m, because of the stopping and starting. In total, 1km.

On Thursday morning I was in charge of a session of cycle training giving road safety experience to children who are more confident at riding. We went for a ride of about 10km round the town and through the Town Centre, reporting back with a full complement of (quite tired) children but no falls or injuries.

I managed to squeeze in a short run with my wife on Friday morning (5.5km – 3.4 miles) before the usual session manning the charity bike shop.

Saturday was pleasantly warm – my first run in lycra shorts and a short sleeved running shirt for at least 8 months. One of our usual runs for 7km (4.3 miles). Croquet in the afternoon and evening

Sunday was cooler but in the morning I got out and ran further than I have run since hurting my knee. It was a very enjoyable (but hard and hot) 17km (10.6 miles). The first time beyond 10km since hurting my knee – hardly ultra marathon training distances but I’m still playing it safe. A cycle club social gathering

Sunday was cooler but in the morning I got out and ran further than I have run since hurting my knee. It was a very enjoyable (but hard and hot) 17km (10.6 miles). The first time beyond 10km since hurting my knee – hardly ultra marathon training distances but I’m still playing it safe. A cycle club social gathering to look forward to in the afternoon to finish a pretty good – but hard – week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The young bird does not crow until it hears the old ones

2. BBC News website: Claimant awarded £2,000 damages – and ordered to pay £500,000 interim costs

The claimant sought £3.7m in damages. The defendant had made two good offers to settle the claim (both way in excess of the £2000 ultimately awarded) but both were declined. That put the claimant at risk of having to pay costs from the date of the offer if he failed to beat it in court.

However, the court heard that the defendant had received a ‘completely factually inaccurate’ answer to a request for information and that the claim from this point on was advanced through a ‘plainly untruthful case’ on a major point in the litigation. That opened the claimant up to the award of full costs against him.

I wonder if the claimant can spell ‘pyrrhic victory’

3. BBC News website: Tanzanian MPs demand apology for ‘tight’ trousers incident

Female MPs in Tanzania have called for an apology to an MP who was ordered to leave parliament because of her trousers.

A male MP said the way some women dressed invited ridicule to parliament. “Mr Speaker, an example there is my sister seated on my right with a yellow shirt. Look at the trousers she has worn, Mr Speaker!” Hussein Amar said in parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Amar did not elaborate on what he found wrong with Ms Sichwale’s outfit, but quoted the parliamentary rules which allow women to wear trousers but stipulate that clothes should not be tight-fitting.

4. BBC News website: Chilean own goal over drone spying fear

Chile and Argentina have a fierce football rivalry and when Chile’s national team saw a drone hovering above a training session, it suspected its rival of spying ahead of their World Cup qualifier.

The team sent up its own drone which swiftly brought down the “spy-cam” but rather than being a devious Argentine device, the drone turned out to be from a Chilean energy company.

5. BBC News website: Magawa the hero rat retires from job detecting landmines

In a five-year career, the rodent sniffed out 71 landmines and dozens more unexploded items in Cambodia.

While he is far larger than many other rat species, he is still small and light enough that he does not trigger mines if he walks over them. The rats are trained to detect a chemical compound within the explosives, meaning they ignore scrap metal and can search for mines more quickly. Once they find an explosive, they scratch the top to alert their human co-workers.

Co-workers hadn’t really come into the dictionary before I retired. Rarely do I fail to read it at first glance as cow orkers

Swim (sort of), swim (ish), swim (nearly), run (x2), gym, cycle trainer, turbo

On Monday I went to the local swimming pool. I was nervous getting back to running after my lay-off, but nothing compared to the thought of swimming for the first time in a few years.

I learnt to swim at school but they were more ‘not drowning’ lessons than actual ‘swimming’ lessons as there was no real attention to technique – just short term survival in the water.

In theory I can swim very well – I’ve studied the websites and YouTube videos – it’s just when it comes to doing it in real life that it all falls apart. I can make some forward progress in the water, but it is nothing like a fair return for all the effort, gasping and splashing that goes into it. On Monday I swam for about 30 minutes, front crawl(ish) but with no idea of how many lengths I managed.

The triathlon in September has an open water swim so I have an open water training session arranged in less than two weeks (hence getting into the water now) but so much more practice is going to be needed to get anything useful out of that session.

My biggest problem is that I have been told that with open water swimming there are no pool ends every 25 metres where you can pretend to be turning while desperately clinging on and sucking in air. What are they thinking of?

I was in rather the more comfortable surroundings of a run of just over 7km (4.4 miles) on Tuesday morning – dry land is much underrated in my opinion.

However, I must try to improve my swimming fairly quickly, and, sadly, the best way of doing that seems to be to do more swimming. Therefore it was back to the pool in the evening for 30 minutes, but remembering to count the lengths swum – 40 (1km).

After a day off on Wednesday it was back to the gym for an hour on Thursday morning and back in the pool in the evening. Another 1km but just a little faster at 28 minutes.

I don’t know if it’s a sign that I’m doing it right or doing it wrong but I can feel some muscles (the latissimus dorsi – the ‘lats’?) being worked by the swimming that haven’t been worked in the same way by the running, cycling or gym. Up to now, I’ve not had too much use for arms or shoulders either so they are also getting a better workout in the pool.

Bike shop volunteering session on Friday morning – a nice variety, working on a child’s bike, an adult’s mountain bike and an old Dawes Galaxy tourer, complete with bar end shifters. Quite a bike in its day and a generous donation by someone.

I went for a solo run on Saturday, pushing the pace and distance a little – 10.5km (6.5 miles) at just under 4 hour marathon pace. I keep thinking that the training in the gym, running, swimming and on the bike will come together so that all of them will miraculously improve. No sign of that happening.

It was cycle training lessons for children at the cycle park on Sunday morning (pretty well non-stop jogging by the side of nervous young cyclists) and I got on the turbo trainer in the late afternoon for a lacklustre 13.4km (8.3 miles) in 30 minutes.

A tough week with 7 sessions of one sort or another. Even though the swimming doesn’t take too long, I find it very tiring – perhaps I should try doing it better?

After three session of flailing around in the pool this week, I can confirm that I can swim in the sense of making some forward progress in the water – but cannot swim in the sense of looking like I know what I’m doing.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A doctor who invoked a storm on his people cannot prevent his house from destruction

2. BBC News website: Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua fight less likely

Fury had agreed to fight Joshua in a highly-anticipated fight in August but the boxing authorities have concluded that Deontay Wilder had a contractual right to face Fury for a third time, by 15 September.

Fury said Wilder asked for $20m (£14m) to forego his right to the fight and allow Fury to fight Joshua, while Wilder’s trainer said he had no interest in step-aside money and wanted the fight.

I’d just like to say that I would be prepared not to fight Tyson Fury for much less than $20m.

3. BBC News website: Yoga can now legally be taught in Alabama public schools

The state’s department of education barred yoga in 1993, citing its connection to Hinduism.

The new law limits yoga to stretches and poses, and prohibits non-English descriptions as well as “any aspect of Eastern philosophy and religious training”. Chanting is also not allowed, including the use of the sound “om”. 

um …

4. BBC News website: Severe weather kills cross-country runners

At least 21 people have died as high winds and freezing rain hit participants in the 100km (60-mile) race in the Yellow River Stone Forest, a tourist site in Gansu province, China, state-run media reported.

The race was halted when some of the 172 runners went missing, Xinhua news agency said. The bodies were found by search-and-rescue teams on Sunday.

That is so sad and so extreme. It puts all my whinging about a bit of rain on a run into perspective

5. Did you know: The collective noun for a group of flamingos is ‘a flamboyance’

Gym (with short run), short ride, gym, mechanic, AAA screening, run, run

After Sunday’s run I took Monday as a rest day. It’s not that the run was at all far or fast but being the first for over 4 weeks there was an element of the unknown when it came to the knee’s reaction.

Fair to say the knee is not as good as new – but is much improved. Strangely, after the cycling and innumerable gym heel drops and raises, both calf muscles were a bit tight.

What now? I’m sure it would be daft to try to pick up the training plan straight away – I’ll have to ease my way into it and simply do what I can without aggravating the knee again. If I have to take another few weeks off running in order to get to the ultra start line, I’ll do that. I wonder what the record is for the least distance run in training for an ultra marathon?

Gardening (repossessing the conservatory by evicting the geraniums, dahlias, lemon and olive trees, catmint and lily of the valley) and then drinks with friends filled the rest of Monday. On Tuesday morning it was the gym for an hour, then to lunch with friends.

Since the gyms reopened I’ve cut the weights back by 10% but increased the reps by 20% – it feels OK and I fitted in another 1km on the treadmill on Tuesday. It wasn’t even too cold and the door can be shut from 17 May!

Back up to London on Wednesday: train to our flat, pick up the bike I left there when I dropped the VW Golf off to our older son a few days ago, short cycle (12.8km – 8 miles) to Kingston Upon Thames to collect the car after his week in Bournemouth, then drive it back home. I may be getting the thin end of this car lending lark.

Gym for an hour on Thursday morning and a slightly short stint at the charity bike shop on Friday as I was recently offered ‘Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening’. It is an age-related programme to detect weakening of the aorta, so I thought I might as well take part.

The good news is that my aorta is behaving extremely well – it is 1.7cm wide so it is not enlarged. I need no treatment or ongoing monitoring as it seems that, having got to 65 without any problems, I’m not likely to live long enough for any issues to materialise. I’m not sure if I’m encouraged or depressed by that.

A friend who is exactly 2 months older than me (and with whom I rode the Cinglés du Mont Ventoux and L’Eroica) had his test a while ago and was also measured at 1.7cm – I think we may be twins.

More friends for drinks on Friday and I ran, between rain showers, with my younger son on Saturday. I’ll admit to some apprehension at running again as it was only the second ‘proper’ run in 6 weeks – but we did about 7.3km (4.5 miles) at 6 minute/km pace and it felt OK.

The plan was to take down the marquee as we are allowed to entertain indoors from Monday – but it rained pretty well continually and getting wet taking it down was as unattractive as putting it away wet so we watched the FA Cup final instead.

My wife ran with us on the same run on Sunday, and only a little slower than the day before. Everything is holding up well and only the calf muscles are really protesting. Obviously, I’ve not been working them very hard in the gym while I’ve not ben running but I think that’s just because of concern for the Achilles tendons (and they are OK with the running so far).

Falling behind the training plan now – but that’s expected as I get back into it gently. The best thing is that I managed two consecutive days running.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 9: Miles (Km) 25 (40) 9 (15)
‘Running’ Totals 150 (242) 133 (215)
Week 9, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you carry the egg basket do not dance

2. BBC News website: No news today

91 years ago, on 18 April 1930, the BBC’s news announcer had nothing to communicate. “There is no news,” was the script of the 20:45 news bulletin, before piano music was played for the rest of the 15-minute segment.

3. BBC News website: Hedgehog study to assess danger of robot lawn-mowers

[NB: I think ‘Hedgehog study’ in the headline is a study of and not by hedgehogs]

Every spring, reports abound that robot lawn-mowers are injuring and even killing hedgehogs as they (the hedgehogs, not the mowers, I guess) emerge from hibernation.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is sponsoring research to find out what is really going on. The aim is to work with manufacturers to give hedgehog-friendly mowers some sort of official badge so shoppers can look out for them.

With news like this, a repeat of ‘No News’ is ever more unlikely in the future

4. BBC News website: Downing Street seeks to cancel a court judgment against the Prime Minister over an unpaid bill of £535.

The order was made against Mr Johnson on 26 October. The creditor and nature of the debt is not yet known and a Downing Street spokesperson said the claim against the PM was without merit.

UK public sector net debt stood at approximately £2,130 billion (nearly $3,000 billion) in February 2021. The £535 ($750) must be causing him sleepless nights

5. Real life: On Thursday one person in the States had 14 views on this blog but did not register a single ‘like’.

I feel I should apologise to that person for making what must have been a very boring visit.

On the other hand, if it takes 14 views before you realise it’s not interesting, you deserve everything you get.

Gym (x2), short trial run, turbo, mechanic, 2nd jab, run(!)

I had thought about running on Monday but the cast of Les Miserables kept telling me “One more day” so I followed the advice and decided that, all being well, I’d try a run on the gym’s treadmill.

We entertained again on Monday evening after moving the gazebo from the garden and onto the driveway (hidden from the road) where the house would give it some shelter from the forecast 44mph (70kph) winds.

I’ll admit that it is slightly surreal, sitting in the pouring rain, eating and drinking in a gazebo on a block paved driveway just a two yards from the house – but in three weeks we will be allowed groups of up to six inside the house! Oh, be still my beating heart!

Gym on Tuesday – as with the certainties of life being death and taxes, the gym was cold and empty.

After the normal routine I decided try the treadmill. I will admit to bit of apprehension but it seemed sensible as it would offer a bit of ‘give’, promised a safe footing and would be easy to get off in the event of a problem. As it was, I did just a trial 1km which went OK but suggested that the knee might not be quite ready and has confirmed that I really do not like treadmills.

Wednesday saw no great reaction to Tuesday’s short run so I got on the turbo in the early evening – just 30 minutes at a little over 28kph (17.4mph). It was very hard so I need to keep it going to maintain the cardio fitness in the absence of running.

Gym again for an hour early on Thursday, still ‘hat and gloves cold’ but just to make me a liar there were up to 4 other people there at any one time.

Thursday was our younger son’s 29th birthday. It was a slightly muted celebration but at least we could go to a pub for lunch (outside, and rather cold) this time – last year he was by himself in his flat in London. He chose the evening meal – and like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, he chose ‘wisely’ by opting for Tartiflette.

Another cycle shop stint on Friday morning before a trip to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford for my second Covid vaccination (the UK has decided to have about 12 weeks between jabs). The process first time had been very slick and, other than a sore arm, had no side effects. This time the process was equally slick and (as of Sunday when I’m posting this) equally without side effects – and no sore arm.

Later on Friday my son and I put up (a third of) our marquee to enable the entertaining we had arranged for the weekend as the weather forecast suggested that the gazebo was not going to be man enough for the job. The whole marquee is 12m x 6m (nearly 40ft x 20ft) so I’ve found a way of cannibalising it to a more domestic size when we only have a group of 6. We hosted drinks in it on Saturday and Sunday nights – and they were very enjoyable.

On Sunday morning I ran for the first time in over 4 weeks (ignoring the 1km test on the treadmill). I just did our shortest regular run with my wife – 5.5km and took it gently. Monday will reveal the results of this particular experiment.

Most surprisingly, the high mileage I ran in the first 4 weeks of training (which I’m fairly sure caused the knee problem) means I am still (almost) exactly on track with the mileage on the training plan on the event website. That won’t last as I’m not going to try to up the mileage too quickly.

 Target Plan My Actual
Week 8: Miles (Km) 17 (27) 4 (6.5)
‘Running’ Totals 125 (202) 124 (200)
Week 8, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

Interesting stuff this week

1.African wise words: Don’t shelter under the banana plant then cut it down when the rains ends

2. BBC News website: Shopper spends six years using each spot at supermarket

A man from south-east London made his weekly supermarket shop “less mundane” by parking in every one of the 211 available spaces, a challenge he took six years to finish.

“For the last six years I’ve kept a spreadsheet listing every parking spot I’ve used at the local supermarket in a bid to park in them all,” he tweeted.

I was thinking he’s a man who needs to get out more – but perhaps it would be better to keep him inside

3. BBC News website: Japanese town builds giant squid statue with relief money

A seaside town in Japan reportedly used 25m yen ($228,500; £164,700) of funding from an emergency Covid-19 relief grant to build a giant statue of a squid.

The town received 800m yen ($7.3m; £5.3m) through the national grants, which were intended as an emergency economic boost to help regional areas affected by the pandemic, reports Yahoo Japan.

Officials have told local media it is part of a long term plan to lure tourists back after the pandemic.

4. BBC News website: Shark attack survivor to keep tooth left in surfboard

An Australian surfer lost his leg and was in a coma for 10 days after he was attacked in 2015. The shark’s tooth was embedded in his board, but State rules ban people from possessing parts of protected species (which include sharks).

Now the state has granted him an exemption, and he’s keeping the tooth as a “souvenir”. He said “The shark isn’t getting its tooth back [and] I’m not getting my leg back.”

5. BBC News website: China mystery animal box craze causes outrage

The “blind box” craze which sees people order a box containing an animal that is then sent to them through the post has caused outrage in China after 160 cats and dogs were located inside a courier company’s truck, many distressed and some dead.

According to Chinese law the transportation of live animals is prohibited, but “blind boxes”  are increasingly popular, state media reports. A range of the boxes containing animals such as tortoises, lizards and rats have been reported for sale on various websites.

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.