Category Archives: Race to the Stones

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

Longer runs mean a bit of different scenery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is me (very) finished for the week.

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

It’s official, nowhere is safe!

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

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

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

4. BBC News website: Thousands injured in household accidents

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

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

It’s a miracle that the human race survives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 exercise round-up:

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

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

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

Gym: 37 times – it was shut for some months

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

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

Interesting things this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. BBC News website: Alexa challenge

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

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

‘Alexa, self-destruct in 10 seconds’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

*’To a mouse’ by Robert Burns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. BBC News website: Chip shortage in Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. BBC News website: UK Sports Personality 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the running means back to the usual routes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physician, heal thyself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only it had been introduced at Flushing Meadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turbo, run (hill reps), swim, gym, turbo, run (plus political bananas and a giant potato)

Back running round the old hill fort – no bluebells until spring but looking forward to their return

It’s odd how often I get up after a rest day feeling worse than if I’d done a 10 mile run. Monday was like that but I managed to get on the turbo in the evening for 45 minutes @26.1kph (16.2mph).

On Tuesday we woke to our first frost of the autumn so it was back to hat and gloves for the morning’s hill reps run. This time I did 9 reps of the hill I’ve done for the last two weeks – in all 9km and over 300m of ascent (5.6 miles and 1,000 feet).

It was hard but I think it equates to running up a 6.8% gradient for 4.5km (and then back down) so at least I understand why it feels hard. Anything that hard has to be doing some good, surely.

The frost also means that the turbo trainer is again sharing the conservatory with dozens of plants seeking refuge from the colder weather.

My wife went up to London on Wednesday to see friends and do some shopping. After driving her to the station I did chores and got to the pool in the evening for 1km.

I have confirmed my self-diagnosis that sinking legs are one of my (many) technique issues. Of course, the more I run and cycle, the worse I make that particular problem. At least it helps to explain why 750m takes me about 22 minutes in the pool but took ‘only’ 18 minutes in the Blenheim triathlon – three cheers for wetsuit buoyancy!

I brought forward Friday’s usual gym visit to Thursday and then took the train to join my wife in London. I was tempted to go for a run on a cold but sunny Friday morning but decided to take a rest day to focus on a splendid lunch with old work friends. Lunch was at the Cinnamon Club which did not augur well for someone who can handle a mld Korma with the best of them (but nothing stronger – and definitely no chilli). However, I escaped with my taste buds intact and had an excellent time.

I went back to Oxfordshire on Saturday morning and on the turbo in the afternoon – 45 minutes @27kph (16.8mph). I ran on Sunday morning – back to the old hill fort for the first time in months – 6 laps and a couple of hills. In all, 9.2km and 135m of ascent and just fitted in before it was time to collect my wife from the station.

The challenges for 2022 are shaping up reasonably well (Covid permitting): Sprint triathlon in May, 100km ultra in July, Olympic triathlon in September. There are also the usual sportives, the White Horse Challenge (150km) in April and my club sportive in July (timings permitting) and a trip out to the Alps in July to ride up some mountains and watch some of the TdF.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Knowledge is a garden, if it isn’t cultivated, you can’t harvest it

2. BBC News website: Handball federation changes uniform rules after bikini row

As included in this section in July, the Norwegian handball federation were fined when their players wore shorts instead of the mandated bikini bottoms in the European championships.

The International Federation’s handbook has now scrapped the rule – the updated rules say female beach handball players can now wear “body fit” tank tops and “short tight pants”, as opposed to crop tops and bikini bottoms.

Some progress, I suppose

3. BBC News website: The possible cost of a banana joke

A viral video of a heated discussion between Syrians and Turks about the dire economic situation in Turkey included a young Syrian woman defending the work ethic of refugees and a frustrated Turks suggesting Syrians and Afghans were taking their jobs.

One Turkish man said: “I see Syrians in the bazaar buying kilograms of bananas, I myself cannot afford them.” This quickly turned into a viral soundbite online with Syrians filming themselves eating bananas, using banana filters, and sharing banana memes.

Last Thursday, local media said police had arrested 11 Syrians who published banana videos, accusing them of “provocation and inciting hatred”. The Turkish Migration authority said it would “deport them after the necessary paperwork is taken care of”.

4. BBC News website: New Zealand potato could be world’s biggest

The potato is not exactly pretty. being described its appearance as having more of an ugly, mutant look but it’s quite possibly the largest potato on record. An official weigh-in put it at 7.8kg, equal to a couple of sacks of regular potatoes, or a small dog. The current Guinness World Records entry for the heaviest potato is just under 5kg.

The potato has been names Doug, after the way it was unearthed, and the owner has built a small cart to tow Doug around. “We put a hat on him. We put him on Facebook, taking him for a walk, giving him some sunshine,” he said.

An amateur home-brewer, the owner is keen to turn Doug into potato vodka.

What worries me most is the way the owner refers to a potato as ‘He’.

Turbo, run (hill reps), swim, gym, run (hoverbikes and custody of the dog)

Autumn arrives – interestingly, in late October 2018 the tree had barely a leaf left on it

My legs and back were in reasonable shape on Monday after seven exercise sessions last week, but I gave everything a bit more of a rest by getting on the turbo later in the day – 45 minutes @ 27.7kph (17.2mph).

I was thinking about my run in London last Saturday which (although not fast) was faster than anything I’ve done recently and I have a bit of a theory.

I don’t know if this is typical but when running alone I seem to have two natural speeds. One is my ‘standard’ speed – the speed I fall into without really thinking about it (it happens to be about 6 minutes/km). The other is my ‘feeling sorry for myself’ slog which is about 30 seconds per km slower and cuts in if I’m not feeling the love for running, if I’m tired, or if I’m doing a much longer distance than normal.

There is a third speed but it’s less natural than the other two – it needs a positive decision to go for it and push harder, and that’s what I did on Saturday. It also seems that I need to try to run at the faster pace from the start – if I begin at my more normal pace my mind seems more than happy to accept that I’m running as fast as I can and resists any thought of speeding up.

It would be great to take 15 seconds/km off each speed. I don’t have any clear Idea as to how to do it but I anticipate that it will involve a good deal of discomfort.

On Tuesday I did the same hill rep session as last week – 8 reps and, in all, a run of 8.5km with a total of 263m of height gain. I don’t think that speed is an important factor with the hills but it was a little faster (1 hour compared to last week’s 1:03).

I decided to clear some gutters on Wednesday but, as is so often the case, one job led to another when I discovered a wasps’ nest under the roof tiles. I’ve dealt with that – but at the personal cost of two or three stings to my neck as a wasp got caught in my fleece. Not the most grievous of injuries but one I could have done without.

Realising that I was not keeping up with my aim of a weekly swim, I got to the pool in the evening. I always aim to swim at least 1,000m but that usually means that I only swim 1,000m. I had an entire lane to myself for the whole swim and, in spite of my puncture wounds, I remained watertight and managed to push on to 1,500m.

I sat in a long digital queue on Thursday but still failed to secure Adele tickets for my wife. That’s another hour of my life I won’t get back. I then cleared the remaining gutters – a heaped wheelbarrow full of leaves and moss. I felt pretty good and would have liked to have done some sort of exercise – but after 10 straight days with some activity I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and took a rest day.

Gym and bike shop, as ever, on Friday morning. I felt very heavy legged on Saturday so was perfectly happy that the morning run was thwarted by rain. My legs didn’t improve but the weather did, so I ran in the afternoon – 7.2km (4.5 miles).

Much of the rest of the day was spent preparing for some friends coming for supper and proof-reading our younger son’s first post-grad course essay. I don’t mind proof-reading for him – especially as my lack of knowledge of the subject removes any temptation to offer criticism on the content.

Sunday was exceptionally wet early on so running was off the agenda – but that was a good thing after an excellent supper on Saturday. The week will finish with what is certain to be a delightful evening with friends for the first Schitt’s Creek episode.

Five exercise sessions in the week was probably better judged than last week’s 7 and getting back in the pool was a plus in terms of trying to keep the swimming going over the winter. I do feel that I’m creaking a bit and wonder if that’s the effect of the hour of hill reps – it’s a hard session.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets hurt

2. BBC News website: Migrating birds spending longer in Europe

A study by Durham University found a number of trans-Saharan migratory birds are spending up to 60 days longer in Europe, possibly due to climate change. The changes could lead to longer breeding seasons for these species, as well as knock-on effects on others, both here in the UK and in the traditional winter migration destinations.

There could be increased competition for food in Europe during winter and autumn, while the loss of the birds in Africa would have “ecosystem implications” around insect consumption, seed dispersal and pollination.

3. BBC News website: Spanish court grants joint custody of dog

A judge in Spain has granted joint custody of a dog to a separated couple who went to court to determine who the pet (called Panda) should live with.

The Madrid court considered that both parties were “jointly responsible” and “co-caretakers” of Panda the dog. One of the lawyers involved said it was a “pioneering ruling” because her client was able to declare herself not as a “co-owner” of Panda but as “co-responsible” and as a “co-carer”.

4. BBC News website: Start-up launches £495,000 hoverbike in Japan

A Japanese start-up is hoping to convince motorists to swap their cars for a $680,000 (£495,000) hoverbike which is available for pre-order now.

It is claimed that the hoverbike can fly for 40 minutes at up to 100km/h (62mph) on a single charge and the company aims to have manufactured 200 single-rider 300kg (47-stone) hoverbikes by mid-2022. Each is equipped with a conventional engine and four battery-powered motors.

To me, it looks rather like a jet ski sitting on a giant drone

5. BBC News website: Facebook’s new name ridiculed by Hebrew speakers

Facebook’s announcement that it is changing its name to ‘Meta’ has caused a stir in Israel where the word sounds like the Hebrew word for “dead”.

Other translation issues have included:

  • When KFC arrived in China during the 80s, its motto “finger lickin’ good” was “eat your fingers off” in Mandarin.
  • Rolls-Royce changed the name of its Silver Mist car to Silver Shadow as mist can translate as “excrement” in German.
  • Nokia released its Lumia phone in 2011, but in Spanish dialects with heavy gypsy influence, Lumia is a synonym for a prostitute.

Turbo, run, turbo, wood stacking, gym, ride (now with added sprinkles)

Last ride this year with the carbon wheels? – just about got away with them on a slightly damp Saturday

After last Sunday’s cold swim, I discovered that the lake is host to an Olympic distance triathlon in September. If the dates fit, that can go with May’s sprint triathlon and July’s 100km ultra.

To celebrate (sort of) I got on the turbo for 45 minutes Monday evening. It felt much harder than it should have considering I managed only a 26.1kph (16.2mph) average.

I ran with my wife on Tuesday. The mornings now have a definite nip in the air so a compression top, hat and gloves made an appearance for the first time in months. Typical early Autumn running – chilly at the start but hot before half way round. It was 7.24km (4.5 miles) @6.13/km – bravo to my wife, she’s getting faster.

With the swim on Sunday and turbo on Monday, that’s another triathlon completed – who said three day eventing was only for horses?

Back to the turbo on Wednesday evening. It was even harder than Monday despite being even slower – 45 minutes at an average just under 26kph. It can’t be me, it must be the machinery ….

Thursday morning saw an unreasonably early start (for someone who prefers not to see anything before 8am) as I received a 2 cubic metre load of logs for the wood burners. Stacking that and cycling in and out from the garage, sorting out an MOT for another car, filled the day.

I started out bending over to pick up logs, carrying them to the log store and stacking them – using a terrible lifting technique. Not long after I realised that I had broken my back, I worked out that kneeling and putting them in the wheelbarrow, wheeling them to the store and stacking them from the height of the barrow was a far superior method. I have patented it but licences are available for purchase, to help fund a new back.

By some miracle, the shattered vertebrae repaired themselves overnight and I woke with little more than a very stiff back. I decided to try the usual Friday and went to the gym followed by a stint in the charity cycle shop. Using machines rather than free weights – and with some care and no sit-ups – the gym was OK on my back. I had a bit of a scare in the afternoon until I remembered that I’d been eating beetroot.

A friend is celebrating a birthday in a few days time but asked me and a few others to join him in a birthday ride on Saturday. He’s pretty much a life-long cyclist and was the first person to come with me for a cycling trip to the alps way back in 2003.

He’s a very good cyclist so I was hoping the the others might dilute the general ability pool down to my level (but – with a dry weather forecast – I put the deep section carbon wheels back on, just in case).

In the end there were five of us – and four of the six who go out to the Alps each (normal) year. We had a delightful ride of 85km (53 miles) around the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire countryside, with coffee and lunch and nearly 900m (3,000 feet) of climbing.

Back not too bad – legs not so good. There is no doubt that running is not a complete training for cycling (and not the other way round either, in my experience).

On Sunday morning we had a pair of Roe deer in the garden, eating apples – if they stick to windfalls, we might be able to co-exist happily but if they start on the plants, we’ll be looking for ways to keep them out. I abandoned the planned run as the rain set in early on, but we drove up to London for a lovely lunch with our younger son, who is a month or so into his post-graduate teaching course.

Quite a week in many ways, decent exercise, back in the saddle outdoors, and a painful reminder not to take liberties with the heavy lifting.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you want to know the end, look at the beginning

2. BBC News website: Bestselling biscuit binned over banned sprinkles row

A bakery has had to stop making one of its bestselling biscuits after being told it was topping the treats with illegal sprinkles. Trading Standards said the sprinkles contained a food colouring know as Erythrosine, which is only approved for use in the UK and EU in cocktail cherries and candied cherries.

This is what people want – a blog that is prepared to confront the really big issues and is liberally sprinkled with …… sprinkles

3. BBC News website: Privacy case won over smart doorbell and cameras

A judge has ruled that security cameras and a Ring doorbell installed in a house “unjustifiably invaded” the privacy of a neighbour. The Ring doorbell captured images of the claimant’s house and garden, while the shed camera covered almost the whole of her garden and her parking space.

The Judge found that audio data collected by cameras on a shed, in a driveway and on the Ring doorbell was processed unlawfully under data Protection legislation. “Personal data may be captured from people who are not even aware that the device is there, or that it records and processes audio and personal data,” she said in her judgement.

4. BBC News website: Eliud Kipchoge to race public in Paris 2024 event

Eliud Kipchoge will take on members of the public on 31 October in a running challenge to mark 1,000 days until the start of the Paris 2024 Games.

It will be a pursuit-style 5km race against 2,000 runners. With the field split into different groups based on ability, the challenge is to out-run Kipchoge, who will cover a longer distance and aim to catch up with the rest of the pack. Those who manage to hold off the 36-year-old will secure their entry for the mass participation marathon at Paris 2024.

It’s sobering to think that if I was running 5km I’d need him to be running over 10km to have any chance at all

5. BBC News website: Official wizard removed from payroll after 23 years service

Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, was paid NZ$16,000 (£8,200; $11,280) a year to provide “acts of wizardry” and promote the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. However the city has now ended his contract, saying it is going in a more modern and diverse direction.

If he was a good wizard, I’d be nervous about sacking him