Category Archives: running

Run (x2), swim (x3), turbo, La Manga, parkrun, a tasty snack and vicious windows

View from the balcony, La Manga

Last Sunday we drove our younger son back to London after the weekend at home and the local 10km race. We dropped him off at his flat and went on to ours for the night.

We were up at 4.30 the following morning to head off to Gatwick airport to fly out to Spain. Friends had decided to rent an apartment in La Manga for a month and invite some others to join them for a few days. Luckily, flying from Gatwick was not affected by the Queen’s funeral – some flights were cancelled from Heathrow to keep the sky quiet for the funeral, as a mark of respect.

La Manga is on a several kilometre spit off the south east coast of Spain and forms the Mar Menor, a very large salt water lagoon. Our friends had driven out there, complete with dog, and very kindly provided us with a personal transfer service to and from Mercia airport.

The apartment was beautifully located overlooking a marina and we had a great time relaxing in the sun – upper 20s℃ (upper 70s℉) – and eating and drinking. I managed to run once (with Graham, our host, who was a good runner but hasn’t run for ages, so I think my presence had some beneficial effect) and swam three times. Against all odds, I did manage to lose some weight before the run last weekend – but those pounds have returned and brought some friends with them.

We also had a few long dog walks along parts of undeveloped coastline. Like so much of Spain, the area has a lot of high rise developments and then some large desolate tracts of land where they lost interest (or started to reap the consequences of over-development and saturation of the housing market). There are even a few building ‘skeletons’ (just the concrete framework, long since abandoned) in La Manga, a legacy of the collapse in the market in about 2008.

Back home late on Thursday so I gave the gym a miss on Friday morning. I did the usual stint in the bike shop, which turned out to be 4 hours instead of 2 when a lady brought in a completely disassembled mountain bike that she had crashed in the European seniors duathlon cross championships in the week. A nice carbon framed Orbea which seems to have escaped with little damage (unlike the rider who cracked a couple of ribs).

On Saturday I did my first ever Parkrun (and my first ever ‘timed’ 5k), prompted by my friend and training partner. It was in Grove, about 12 miles away. It’s a shame that we don’t have anything closer but the course was good and pretty flat, mostly grass but with some confusing loops. There were 122 people and the whole event was very friendly and positive.

I’m always ridiculously nervous before these things (as if anyone cares, or even notices, what I’m doing) but at least there were fewer club running vests than there had been at the 10km last Sunday.

Against low expectations, it went pretty well. I probably set off a bit too fast and I gave my friend a target to aim for. He reeled me in at the end and we finished together, which was great, both clocking an official 25 minutes 06 seconds for the 5km. My Garmin measured it 2 seconds faster and 5.12km making an average pace of 4.54/km – goodness knows which is right.

We were 28th and 29th out of the 122 runners but the ‘age grading’ they give (to make times comparable, taking account of age) put me in 6th place. My grading was just over 68% which says I’m almost ‘regional class level’ (whatever that means).

I’m now going to have to do it again to find those pesky 7 (official) seconds to get under 25 minutes.

Just a turbo session on Sunday afternoon, a hard 30 minutes @ 31.5kph (19.57mph). Quite a week in many ways – I’m looking forward to an evening doing nothing.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Do not treat your loved one like a swinging door: you are fond of it but you push it back and forth

2. BBC News website: Bodies in suitcases story (mentioned a couple of weeks ago)

South Korean police have arrested a woman accused of murdering her two children who were found in abandoned suitcases bought in a sale in New Zealand last month.

The bodies were believed to have been stored for a few years. Korean police said the victims were aged 7 and 10. The woman is a 42-year-old New Zealand national of Korean descent and had fled to South Korea in 2018 after the children’s deaths.

3. BBC News website: Working from home or shirking from home?

A major new survey of more than 20,000 staff across 11 countries shows that bosses and workers fundamentally disagree about productivity when working from home.

While 87% of workers felt they worked as, or more, efficiently from home, 80% of managers disagreed.

It is untrue that 70% of workers could not be contacted because they were out

4. BBC News website: Latest Tesla recall

Tesla is recalling nearly 1.1 million cars in the US because the windows might not react correctly after detecting an obstruction and so close too fast and pinch people’s fingers.

The world’s largest electric-vehicle manufacturer has had repeated run-ins with federal safety regulators, who chief executive Elon Musk calls “the fun police”. He criticised the ‘recall’ terminology as the matter will be fixed by an over-the-air software update. Previous recalls have been due to: rear-view cameras; bonnet latches; seat-belt reminders; and sound-system software.

5. BBC News website: Who nose about veganism?

The chief operating officer of a vegan food giant has been arrested for reportedly biting a man’s nose during a row in the US.

It is alleged that the incident occurred on Saturday night as he left a parking garage in Arkansas after a football game and became involved in a dispute with another driver. He faces charges of “terroristic threatening” and third-degree battery.

No laughing matter, but he just had to be COO of a vegan food company, didn’t he?

Gym (x2), run (x3), turbo, (plus festivals, donkey parts, power outages and a 10k race)

Particular thanks to the marshal at the Longworth 10k who was manfully trying to stop a
small heard of cattle crossing the run route as I passed by

My back had improved further by Monday morning so I went to the gym, but kept to the machines. I gave the Swim Doctor session a miss for once. to go to a meeting at the village hall.

The meeting was about a project to look at a ground-source heating system for the whole village. I’m all in favour if it’s greener (and cheaper) but although the village has a real mix of houses, there are others like ours that is large, very old and built without cavity walls or any thought of energy efficiency. How these schemes work with a lot of energy-inefficient properties is not very clear.

For us, there is the added difficulty that we are ‘listed’ which means we are limited in what we can do to the property because of its age/architectural interest. It all looks quite problematic but what is obvious is that we should all be doing what we can sensibly to insulate and reduce our demand for power.

Hill reps on Tuesday – I managed the usual 8 reps and they were (a little) better and faster than the last two sessions. This time it measured 8.3km and 266 metres of ascent (5.1 miles and 873 feet). Exactly the same run was a kilometre longer last week!

I don’t obsess about my weight but I’m certainly over my cycling-up-mountains weight of under 67kg. I decided that a bit lighter would be a bit better for the 10km race on Sunday so I resigned myself to restraint for a day or two. I got on the turbo in the evening – 45 minutes for just over 22km @ 29.4kph (14 miles @ !8.3mph). It was a bit easier than last time, once I put some more air in the rear tyre.

Down to Bournemouth on Thursday to mow and check the troublesome electrics that had misbehaved last time we were there. All was well. Our older son had asked if he and his girlfriend could come back for the weekend, having just endured a stressful few days over some works to their house (happily resolved, but stressful nonetheless) and they arrived on Thursday evening.

That’s any chance of weight-loss gone, as my wife slips into cooking-overdrive.

On Friday morning I ran to, and back from, the gym with my training partner and did a weights session in between. Autumn is coming and there was a distinct nip in the air first thing. Only about 5.6km (3.5 miles) in total but quicker than usual. The normal stint in the bike shop after that.

No exercise on Saturday, just a lot of ferrying our younger son about from the station and to and from the wedding and evening reception. I could have done with the last taxi trip being before midnight – but at least it saved me from an evening with a bottle of red wine.

Sunday’s 10k race

Sunday morning (at a civilised 11am) saw the local 10km race I entered with my training partner and his wife – also joined by both our sons and our older son’s girlfriend. It’s a small village event but sees about 150 entrants, and I’m sure 80% of runners were wearing club vests. Last year, the winner – an under 18 – clocked 33.22 and it would have required 52 minutes to get in the top half of finishers. It’s not even a fast course!

The village sits a bit above the Thames so the race starts with a decent drop (on a rough stony track) to a section through fields and along the river itself, before turning back towards the village (with a sizeable hill) and a a narrow bridleway before the finish. It’s all off road and although it was dry, a lot of the paths were cracked and a fair bit of care was needed.

For me, it was going to be less of a ‘race’ and more of a ‘run’, I had no real target in mind but 56 minutes was the dream. I found it difficult not to push fairly hard in the ‘race’ environment so it didn’t end up as a gentle jog.

Although my Garmin registered a bit under the 10k, my son’s device showed it at just about the right distance and my personal timing gave me a time of 52 minutes 58 seconds, which was well beyond my highest hopes on what is billed as ‘not a course for personal bests’.

Our older son broke 50 minutes and younger son was just behind me. Great times all round including our friends and older son’s girlfriend.

An excellent event, well organised, friendly and with a lovely route (despite the treacherous ground underfoot in places). My only gripe is that the age categories for the results were too wide – veterans were in one group which included everyone over 44 years of age!

A fine weekend with all the family around, a run with our sons and a decent time, I loved it.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who refuses to obey cannot command

2. BBC News website: Music festival goes ahead but orgies are banned

Revellers have begun to arrive at Itanda Falls on the banks of the River Nile for the Nyege Nyege music festival. Uganda’s parliament had issued a directive that it should be cancelled over alleged immorality.

However, the festival will bring in much-needed revenue following the Covid-19 lockdown and promotes the country’s profile as a tourism hub so festival organisers have been issued with a number of guidelines to follow, including that minors are barred from the venue, sex orgies and nudity are prohibited as well as vulgar language, songs, expressions and gestures.

I’m not a festival goer, but does that undermine the whole idea of festivals?

3. BBC News website: BBC News website: The cost of traditional Chinese medicine?

Nigeria’s customs service has intercepted 7,000 donkey penises at an airport, that were headed to Hong Kong. The animal parts were packed in 16 sacks found in the animal export section.

The consignment is estimated to be worth 200 million Naira ($478,000; £416,000). Donkey parts are sought after in China where they are used to make traditional medicine but Nigerian law forbids such exports.

4. BBC News website: First instalment of invasion reparations paid

In a rare case of accountability for violations of international law, Uganda has handed over $65m (£55m) as the first instalment of a fine it was ordered to pay the Democratic Republic of Congo for invading the east of the country two decades ago.

In February, the International Court of Justice ( ICJ) ordered Uganda to pay $325m as reparations, made up as: $225m for damages to persons; $40m for damages to property; and $60m for the looted resources.

5. BBC News website: Sale of iPhones banned if a power adapter is not included

Brazilian consumer agency Senacon said Apple’s decision not to include power adapters with new iPhones discriminates against consumers by selling an “incomplete product” and Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security said it has fined Apple 12.275 million reais (£2.04m).

Apple stopped including power adapters and headphones in iPhone boxes with the launch of iPhone 12 in 2020 saying that the move would help reduce Apple’s carbon footprint, by making packaging smaller.

Apple said it will appeal against the ban.

and there I was thinking that no adapter or headphones was just cost saving

Gym (x2), swim, turbo, run (x2) – a very sad loss and some of the usual trivial nonsense

I went for the ‘rustic aesthetic’ rather than the craftsman look. for the olive tree container.
The tree itself is due some judicious pruning in the Spring (and the beech hedge soon)

Monday was exciting. I had a session in the gym in the morning – for the second week there was nobody to interrupt me so it was pretty hard … but the real excitement was … (drum roll) …

… getting tickets for Bob Dylan’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ tour.

I’ve had a lot of experience of sitting at the laptop for ages trying to get tickets for major concerts (for my wife) – and failing miserably. To be honest, I’m a bit reluctant to get tickets for most of the acts I’ve loved over the years on the basis that I’d prefer to remember them as they were, not as they are now. Although I appreciate that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m prepared to make an exception for Bob Dylan.

I got tickets for the early November show at our local theatre in Oxford. With fewer than 1800 seats it’s one of the smaller venues he’s playing and I did not even (quite) need a mortgage. Now I just have the agonising wait to see if the event happens or is thwarted by Covid, bronchitis, accident, injury etc etc (and hoping that he isn’t too self-indulgent but plays a lot of the old, great stuff) … but, hey, it’s Bob Dylan!

The swim doctor session in the evening was good but a bit of an anti-climax. I can’t say it’s All I Really Want To Do – I’m less Forever Young, and more Going, Going, Gone. A decent 900m despite that.

Tuesday was wet so I worked on making a wooden ‘box’ that the olive tree can sit in (in its pot). I opted for the turbo in the early evening – 45 minutes @ 26.8kph (16.7mph), with sprint efforts.

I guess the turbo ride on Tuesday didn’t help with Wednesday’s hill reps session. I just about managed the usual 8 reps but they were as hard as I ever remember them being. This time it measured 9.14km and 263m ascent (5.7 miles and 863 feet).

I took Thursday off exercise and finished the planter for the olive tree. Not a piece demonstrating any great skill – what my father-in-law used to call ‘bush carpentry’. Putting it in the right place required a lot of lifting heavy things several times, including a staddle stone but, ultimately, I think it looks pretty reasonable.

On Thursday came the sad news of concerns about the Queen’s health. I can’t pretend to be a big royalist but I really do admire her and her many years of dedicated service. It’s strange that, even despite my advancing years, I’ve only lived under one monarch.

Sadly, Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 96, having reigned for over 70 years, the longest serving monarch in British history. We now have King Charles III, which does not fill me with great enthusiasm. Interestingly, with the next two in line being male, there won’t be another Queen of England in my lifetime.

Gym on Friday morning, suffering from the lifting done the day before with a sore back from poor lifting technique. Worse, I had to drop a weight on the shoulder and arm presses to complete the sets. Then the bike shop where my two hour stint turned into four, happily recabling brakes and gears, fixing punctures and doing a quick fix for a very pleasant young chap who suffered a snapped derailleur nearby, by turning his bike into a single speed to get him home.

My back hurt for the rest of the day, not too badly if I kept moving but it was very unhappy getting up from any significant period sitting. It improved a bit overnight but I abandoned thoughts of running and did chores around the house and garden.

Back still a bit sore on Sunday but I got out for a run. The weather was cool and misty so it was long tights and a warmer running top – both of which proved to be a mistake as the sun quickly burnt off the mist and the temperature climbed. None of the intended sprint intervals out of deference to my back, but 12km (7.5 miles) at under 6 minutes per km.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No-one needs help to see the location of the sun

During university holidays I worked for the local council. While fixing street lighting on a night shift, the chap with me shone his torch up on the street light to see if it had come on

2. BBC News website: Last living Monkey sues FBI

The Monkees, the 1960s made-for-TV pop group, were the subject of an FBI file linked to the Vietnam War and the last remaining band member, Micky Dolenz, 77, is suing the agency to find out more.

Portions of a heavily redacted FBI file, released in 2011, include reports of anti-US messages on the war in Vietnam. An FBI source said “subliminal messages” were depicted on screen at a 1967 concert “which constituted left wing innovations of a political nature”.

Happily, not a species extinction story, I guess the title should be ‘last remaining Monkee …’

3. BBC News website: Goalkeeper sent off for urinating in a hedge during match

The incident occurred in the 76th minute of Saturday’s FA Cup first qualifying round. The ball went out for a goal kick and the goalkeeper for Blackfield & Langley FC (who play in the ninth-tier Wessex League) needed to relieve himself – so he went up against a hedge. The referee sent him off.

Is that a good decision or was the referee taking the p…

4. BBC News website: More football madness

Chelsea football club have sacked manager Thomas Tuchel after less than 20 months in charge and despite winning three trophies (arguably the three biggest trophies available to a European club) in that time, and just after allowing him to spend £255.3m (over $293m) in the transfer window that just closed.

They have given the job to Graham Potter (currently Brighton’s manager) and it is said they are likely to have to pay £21m (over $24m) in compensation to Brighton, in addition to the compensation payable to Tuchel himself.

Monopoly money – one thing I really dislike about the Premier League

5. BBC News website: Interesting fact (in the unlikely event you like cricket)

With Queen Elizabeth’s long reign and the increasing frequency of matches, 86% of all the test matches ever played were played while she was on the throne.

Run (x3), swim, gym – plus cock(pit) fighting, tomatoes, pumpkins, axe throwing and pole dancing

Back to the croquet – this picture hurts as it reminds me
that the lawn used to look a bit like a lawn

We had a great Monday (a Bank Holiday) to round off an excellent weekend with the boys. A walk and a couple of games of croquet before taking them to the station to return to London.

No swim doctor session on Monday because of the Bank Holiday so I took the day off exercise after 7 sessions last week. There is no Strava activity category for croquet so I suppose that doesn’t count.

On Tuesday I headed for the hill that I use for hill reps. With holidays, tapering for the ultra and the post-ultra lull, I don’t think I’ve done a hill rep session for about 3 months and my Strava ‘local legend’ status on the segment is just about to expire.

The hill is just under 300m with about 28m of ascent and I usually run 8 reps. This time I was ready to call it quits at 6 but, having made the effort to get out there, I pushed on for the other 2. They were neither fast nor pretty (to be honest, nor were the first 6) but at least I did them. In all, 9.6km with 286m of ascent (6 miles and 940 feet).

I ran with my wife on Wednesday, a gentle but warm and muggy 5.7km (3.5 miles).

My friend and training partner had suggested a trip to the lake on Thursday – which was good as I wouldn’t have gone without that impetus. I’m not sure I was really looking forward to it but it turned out to be very enjoyable – about 2km.

Friday was, as usual, the gym – a very hard 55 minutes as I wasn’t lucky enough to have anyone there to interrupt me – followed by the stint in the bike shop.

I was going to run on Saturday morning but slept in. I’m happy to go with how I feel and I was very tired on Friday, even though the week hadn’t been particularly stressful and I hadn’t done too much exercise. Later, we drove the 2.5 hours to Brighton (it took 3) for a friend’s 60th birthday celebrations. We were planning to stop off overnight in London but, although that would have saved time on Saturday, it would have added to the journey overall so we decided to head home. A lot of driving but a good day.

The 10km race approaches. With only a couple of weeks to go, I’m not going to be able to make much difference but it seems that intervals are a good idea so I decided to do some of those (next week).

I decided that, for a 10km, running slightly over-distance is also probably a good idea so I ran on Sunday morning – 12km at 5.45 per km (7.5 miles at 9.17 per mile) … I’m not going to be setting the 10km race alight!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The fool speaks, the wise man listens

… or is the modern version of that, ‘the fool blogs, the wise man (or woman) reads’?

2. BBC News website: Cock fight in the cockpit

Two Air-France pilots have been suspended after the pilot and co-pilot exchanged blows as they flew an Airbus A320 from Geneva to Paris in June. Members of the cabin crew intervened after hearing the noise. One crew member stayed in the cockpit until the flight landed safely.

Impressive speed of falling out – the flight only takes 75 minutes

3. BBC News website: More than 150,000 tomatoes spilt across motorway

The splattered tomatoes caused seven cars to crash and closed much of the Interstate 80 highway in California, on Monday.

An initial collision caused the tomato truck to swerve into the central divide of the motorway, spilling fist-sized tomatoes across a 200ft section of the motorway, leaving a sea of red sauce about “two feet deep”. Three people had minor injuries and a fourth is in hospital with a broken leg.

This is fact – it’s not pulp fiction

4. BBC News website: Man paddles 38 miles in giant pumpkin

Duane Hansen set a new Guinness World Record for paddling 38 miles (61km) down the Missouri River in a giant pumpkin. He grew the 846lb (384kg) pumpkin in his garden with the aim of beating the previous record of 25.5 miles, set in 2018.

5. BBC News website: Pole dancing axe thrower

An Irish woman has been crowned the world champion after winning the Double Bit Axe Throwing competition in Canada. The 31-year-old was introduced to axe throwing by a friend while at university and said she hoped her win would inspire more women to get involved in the sport.

Pole dancing is another sport that she has done for a number of years. She said that it helped in axe throwing and that ‘The pole-dancing community is actually very similar to the axe-throwing community where you’ve got that love, camaraderie and support’.

6. BBC News website: ‘Man of the Hole’: Last of his tribe dies in Brazil

The man, whose name was not known, was the last remaining member of an indigenous group in Brazil and had lived in total isolation for the past 26 years. He was the last of an indigenous group whose other remaining six members were killed in 1995. The majority of his tribe were thought to have been killed as early as the 1970s by ranchers wanting to expand their land.

He was known as “Man of the Hole” because he dug deep holes, some of which he used to trap animals while others appear to be hiding spaces. His body was found on 23 August in a hammock outside his straw hut. There were no signs of violence.

Gym (x3), swim, run (x2), ride (plus super-yachts, avocados and another tennis rumpus)

Back to the bike!

No stretching after Sunday’s run so I woke feeling a bit stiff on Monday. An hour in the gym made it no better. The swim doctor session in the evening was a hard 800m, after a day of domestic chores.

In 2019 a friend and I drove back from the cycling week in the alps and he left his passport in my car, necessitating a hasty dash to get it back to him as he realised the mistake as he was about to fly on holiday. This year we were careful to part with a passport each. Luckily, I checked ‘my’ passport a few days ago – only to discover that I had his and he had mine.

He and his wife drove down from the midlands on Tuesday and we took a trip up to the Uffington White Horse, had a walk along the Ridgeway and a pub lunch … and we even remembered to exchange passports.

I ran with my wife on Wednesday – a bit over 5.6km (3.3 miles) and, with my friend and training partner, ran to and from the gym on Thursday morning with a weights session sandwiched in between. I guess that makes a very good blend of exercise types but it did seem to make the weights harder – unless that was just the legacy of Monday’s visit.

Back to the gym on Friday morning – a rarity to go three times in a week but I enjoyed the session with nobody else there. Later came the usual session in the bike shop and a trip up to London later in the day.

The four of us went for a terrific trip to Hampton Court on Saturday as part of my wife’s birthday celebration and our sons came back with us for the weekend to celebrate mine and our older son’s (the ultra rather got in the way of my birthday – I started the run aged 66 and finished aged 67 – and our older son was at a wedding for his).

Back to Oxfordshire Saturday afternoon and I rode with our older son on Sunday. I lent him a bike (adequate but nothing fancy) a couple of years ago – he was never really a keen cyclist but he uses it to get in to work a couple of days a week – about 23km each way.

This time he was on my old Giant TCR2 composite (a lovely bike at about 8kg – but now 16 years old) and although I took the lead all the way, I couldn’t have shifted him from my rear wheel if I’d tried. A lovely ride on a great morning for a bit over 50km (30 miles) with over 200m (660 feet) of ascent at an average of 28.6kph (17.8mph).

Although I’ve run quite a bit in recent years, the only running races I’ve done in more than 10 years have been this year’s 100km, last year’s 50km and the Rotterdam Marathon in 2019 – and the word ‘race’ doesn’t really describe those as far as I was concerned.

Following the cancellation of next month’s triathlon, I (together with our younger son who will be here for a wedding on the previous day) have entered a local 10km race. I’ll admit to some nerves about it as it’s multi-terrain, has a big hill, a relatively small entry and seems to mostly attract club runners. Coupled with the fact that I haven’t tried to run fast for a long time (and in any event my ‘fast’ isn’t fast by normal standards), there is a distinct possibility that this may not go well.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: One who plants grapes by the roadside, and one who marries a pretty woman, share the same problem

2. BBC News website: $75m Russian super-yacht to be auctioned

The yacht was seized in Gibraltar in March after US bank JP Morgan claimed its owner had not paid a £17m ($20m) loan. The 72.5m vessel is being auctioned and, because it is listed for one day only, it is expected to go for less than its estimated value.

The boat can sleep 12 people in six cabins and boasts a swimming pool, jacuzzi, spa, 3D cinema, jet skis and scuba diving equipment. It has space for 20 crew.

I’m not sure I’d be perfectly happy owning a yacht repossessed from a Russian oligarch (but the issue won’t arise as my bid of £2.50 isn’t likely to win).

3. BBC News website: Spectator sues Nick Kyrgios for alleged Wimbledon final slur

During the match Kyrgios complained to the umpire: “She is distracting me when I am serving in a Wimbledon final… she is drunk out of her mind in the first row speaking to me in the middle of the game, so kick her out … I know which one she is, it’s the one who looks like she has had about 700 drinks … she is talking to me in the middle of the point every time I get the ball.”

The spectator, Anna Palus has now instructed solicitors to bring defamation proceedings against Kyrgios.

4. BBC News website: Hot and dry weather sees more exotic plants in the UK

Exotic plants including figs and avocados are now growing in the UK as part of a trend of Mediterranean and sub-tropical plants thriving here in recent years.

Some varieties previously thought of as houseplants are now growing successfully outside, while traditional British garden varieties struggle – and scientists are warning that a lack of water in the future could be a threat.

A sad lack of green fingers is a bigger threat to my garden

Gym, run, (plus sheep in space, encouraging drinking and something strange in the kitchen)

Back running along one of the usual routes

Back to Oxfordshire on Tuesday after a great long weekend in Bournemouth, then sorting ourselves out and doing washing. The drought has now broken – amazing how quickly grass recovers.

Ramsey’s The Omil’s kitchen nightmares

I drove back to Bournemouth on Wednesday night for an early Thursday meeting with the electrician I had contacted about the kitchen sockets’ circuit that went wrong and kept tripping over the weekend. I waited beyond the agreed time and then phoned.

He said he’d been ringing on the doorbell and had got no reply. Eventually we worked it out – in my original call I’d told him that my next door neighbour, Nathan, had given me his name, and I gave the address. He had registered the name but had completely ignored the address – and then went next door to an entirely different person he knew called Nathan. No electrician was coming

On the off chance, I tried resetting the trip switch for the kitchen sockets’ circuit. It stayed and the sockets in the kitchen all work. It tripped perhaps 10 times while we were investigating the problem initially – how can that happen?

I have a list of other electricians but I guess there’s no point in getting one to come to the house just to see everything working properly.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time – I saw our older son and his girlfriend who are having a break at the house – one of the benefits of ‘working from home’ is that, for this purpose, ‘home’ can be anywhere.

I also picked up some keys that I’d forgotten to take back after the weekend, did some gardening, cleared the conservatory gutters and fixed one of the slipped conservatory roof panels.

Back to Oxfordshire (again) in the afternoon and some semblance of normality returned in the shape of a good gym session on Friday morning, followed by the bike shop.

A lady came in seeking help in setting up a turbo trainer for her husband – so I went on Saturday and did that for them. It made me think of getting on mine in the early evening – but I didn’t. A bit of demotivation after the cancellation of the triathlon, I expect.

I got out for a run on Sunday – my first for two weeks. No great pace but I pushed on for 12km (7.5 miles) and enjoyed it. There were people setting up dinks stations for an organised race with 5km and 10km distances – I’d not heard about it which is a shame as it would have been fun to enter.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A person with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace

2. BBC News website: Human remains in suitcases purchased from auction

The family had gone to an auction and purchased a trailer-load of goods – which included the suitcases – that were being sold as part of an attempt to clear abandoned goods out of a locker.

Bidders at similar auctions typically do not get to inspect the abandoned items closely before purchasing them with many bids placed in the hope of a surprise valuable haul but on unpacking the items they discovered the remains of two young children. The bodies had probably been in storage for several years and the victims are thought to have been aged between five and 10 when they died.

Sad and horrible

3. BBC News website: Japan’s young adults – too sober

Japan’s younger generation drinks less alcohol than their than their parents – a move that has hit taxes from beverages like sake (rice wine).

The national tax agency has stepped in with a national competition to come up with ideas to reverse the trend. The “Sake Viva!” campaign hopes to come up with a plan to make drinking more attractive – and boost the industry.

Reaction has been mixed, with some criticism about the bid to promote an unhealthy habit but others have posted quirky ideas online – such as famous actresses “performing” as virtual-reality hostesses in digital clubs.

4. BBC News website: Shaun the Sheep heading on a mission to the Moon

Animators Aardman (creators of ‘Wallace and Gromit’) has announced that the famous stop-motion TV character will be aboard the unmanned Artemis I mission. The mission will carry a range of mementos with cultural significance and will see the toy Shaun fly almost 311,000 miles (500,000 km) from Earth.

The European Space Agency said “We’re very happy he’s been selected for the mission and we understand, although it might be a small step for a human, it’s a giant leap for lambkind.”

Amy Pieters – update

Dutch cyclist Amy Pieters has been moved to an intensive neuro-rehabilitation facility in the Netherlands as she continues her recovery from severe brain damage suffered in a training crash in December 2021.

In April, an update said Pieters could recognise people, understand what was being said and that she was also able to “carry out more and more assignments.” However, doctors were unable to confirm what the three-time Madison world champion’s long term outlook would be.

I wish her all the strength in the world

Gym, swims (x3), turbo, walks (x3), rides (x3) and triathlon training – but in vain

Bournemouth at its best

For some time now, Mondays have seen a run in the morning and the swim doctor session in the early evening. This week it was gym and swim doctor – that’s me living life on the ragged edge.

No fitting in a lake swim this week which is a shame as it’s getting warmer here in the UK as we head towards another hot spell later in the week. That made Tuesday’s decision to get on the turbo trainer even more ridiculous – but I keep saying I must get back on the bike ahead of the triathlon (in less than 6 weeks) and I keep failing to do it.

I dripped my way through 30 minutes @29.3kph (18.2mph). Although the heat made it hard, my legs felt pretty good.

Afterwards, I took a look at the details of the triathlon. It’s an Olympic (or ‘Standard’) distance race which should be 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. It seems that this one is 45.5km on the bike and 10.2km run – I’m not sure whether to be cross that it’s over-length or pleased at the greater value for money (oh, the irony of writing that).

The big things are to continue with long open water swims, to get out on the bike (and ride the triathlon course) and to keep doing 10k runs. Do I put the tri-bars on the bike and do I stick with the toe clips rather than clip-in pedals to save a shoe change into cycling shoes with cleats? I don’t think the bars or cleats were missed at all in the sprint triathlons but that might change for a longer race?

On Wednesday we drove down to Bournemouth ahead of our annual trip with friends. Thursday was spent doing some gardening and chores about the house. The bad news was that an email arrived from the organiser of September’s triathlon announcing its cancellation and the putting of the organising company into administration. Damn.

Everyone arrived in the evening in time for food and drink.

On Friday we rode to Holmsley in the New Forest and walked the Holmsley Inclosure. It was very hot so we adapted the walk to keep more to the trees than the open heathland. We crossed what should have been a stream but was little more than a muddy puddle – the drought continues to bite. Very hot but a fine day out with a pub lunch – and a swim around a buoy out in the bay in the afternoon (nearly 400m of swimming). A walk to a very good Moroccan/Lebanese restaurant in Southbourne for supper in the evening.

On Saturday we were brave and cycled to ‘The Magic of Thailand’ in King’s Park. It was a risk and could have been anything – but it was surprisingly good. Stalls with clothing, souvenirs, lots of street food and traditional dancing, a cookery demonstration, thai massage (which the other 5 all tried), thai singing, thai boxing and a ladyboy show (slightly less sure about that, personally).

Still very hot but an enjoyable day and another swim around the buoy in the afternoon in a slightly rougher sea. I enjoyed it but being a distance from the shore in noticeable (but not exactly huge) waves was testing enough for me. I don’t swim in very straight lines at the best of times but I found it even harder in the sea once the waves and current got going.

Overnight, the only downer on the weekend was that the electrics tripped in the house. The problem is with the circuit powering the sockets in the kitchen. The cooker did work (as it’s on a separate circuit) and the same for the boiler, we powered the fridge from an extension lead from the sitting room and the kettle and toaster were moved to the conservatory. The microwave could have been moved to any convenient plug out of the kitchen. The remaining issue is the dishwasher which couldn’t be moved (it’s fitted in the space).

Sunday we cycled to the Russell-Coates museum towards the centre of Bournemouth. Set in the family’s house, it was fascinating. Russell-Coates was a great philanthropist who made his money through ownership of the Royal Bath Hotel in the town and spent a lifetime travelling and collecting art and artefacts from around the world.

On Monday, we cycled a few miles to the old Throop water mill and set out on a walk around part of the River Stour Way. I’d downloaded a route which turned out to require us to walk across the river. Being unable to manage that, we ended up scrambling through some brambles, across a small ditch and up a steep bank to get over a fence and to a bridge – that turned a walk of 8km into one of 12km.

On Tuesday morning everyone departed to the accompaniment of rain – the first we have had for a few weeks – very welcome and, for us, good timing. It was a terrific break – great friends, excellent company, fantastic weather and some very entertaining trips.

In all, about 65km of cycling, over 20km of walking and about 800m of swimming for me – a triathlon spread over four days. It was a fine long weekend on all fronts.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If love is a sickness, patience is the remedy

2. BBC News website: Cash is King (again)?

People are going back to cash to keep tighter control on their spending as living costs soar, according to new research by the Post Office. Post offices handled £801m in personal cash withdrawals in July, up more than 20% from a year earlier and the most since records began five years ago.

The chair of the Cash Action Group said it showed people are “literally counting the pennies” as they grapple with rising prices. “People will be taking out cash and physically putting it into pots, saying ‘this is what I have for bills, this is what I have for food, and this is what’s left’.”

Sadly, some might find that, after the pots for bills and food, there is nothing left

3. BBC News website: Global warming and changing weather patterns affect the water supply for the Panama Canal

Completed in 1914, the waterway links the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and nearly halved the travel time between the US West Coast and Europe. Ships pass through a series of locks along its 50-mile (80km) length and are lifted up to 85ft (26m) above sea level before being lowered again. Every time a ship goes through the locks, 55m gallons (250m litres) of fresh water is used, then released into the sea. On average, 37 ships go through the locks every day, using more than 2bn gallons (9bn litres) of fresh water.

In the exceptionally dry year of 2019, the canal authorities had to reduce the amount of water they used to operate the locks, which meant that ships could not carry such heavy cargo because there was less water between the keel of the ship and the bottom of the canal. The canal authorities are looking at ways to store more water in rainy years to ensure a sufficient supply in drier times and deepening existing artificial lakes to capture more rainwater.

None of the options are easy.

4. BBC News website: They have pizza in Italy???

Domino’s Pizza’s last stores in Italy have been closed after the firm that operated its outlets in the country filed for bankruptcy. Domino’s had struggled to win over customers in the birthplace of pizza since launching there in 2015 and the franchise holder, ePizza SpA, was hit by the pandemic.

News of the fast food giant’s exit from the country was celebrated by some social media users.

Run (x3), swim (x2), gym, (plus landfill, mountains and carparks)

I ran with my wife on Monday morning – 5.7km (3.5 miles). In the evening, as ever, I went to the swim doctor class – 1km of drills and swimming.

It’s now 3 weeks since the ultra and I think I’m closer to getting back to more exercise and training for the triathlon next month. In that spirit, my training partner and I went to the lake on Tuesday. It was a little fraught as there were more than 30 kayaks and paddle boards on the lake – some of which were piloted by people who didn’t understand the concept of keeping out of the swimming area.

I swam about 1800m – in no great style but better than usual. I think my swimming has progressed – but not as much as I’d have liked. I’m still slow and it takes a lot of strokes to get anywhere but the absence of pool ends every 25 metres is not an issue, the buoyancy of the wetsuit is still lovely and I swim in (slightly) straighter lines than before. My biggest issue is that I still don’t love it.

My wife and I ran again on Wednesday – 7.4km (4.6 miles) on another very humid day which made a gentle run a bit harder than it might have been. On Thursday we drove to Surrey for lunch with friends – an excellent day out and a sensible day off exercise, even though we did go for a post-lunch walk.

A normal Friday saw a trip to the gym (by car as I was pinched for time), the usual stint in the charity bike shop and some gardening. The dry spell has hit the lawns hard – the only things growing are the weeds so I’m trying to treat them now to give the grass the best chances when the rain returns – hard work.

I ran on Saturday – 4 weeks on from the ultra. I felt reasonably good and pushed on for just over 12km (7.6 miles) at a little better than 6 minute kms. Not fast, but the longest run I’ve done in those 4 weeks.

More gardening on Saturday and Sunday both of which which were hot. On Sunday I mowed, not to cut the grass but to remove the seed heads from approximately a billion plantains that have appeared in the back lawn. If I was trying to grow them would it be a plantation of plantains?

The Austrian, Christof Strasser (six-time winner and record holder for the fastest time in the Race Across America) won the Transcontinental Race on Wednesday. In his first unsupported race, he rode 4578.33 km in 7 days 18 hours 54 minutes of moving time (81%) with only 1 day 19 hours 24 minutes (19%) stationary. A total of 9 days and 14 hours, averaging 480km a day. Wow.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Wisdom is wealth

2. BBC News website: Strike over price hike to see Komodo dragons

Visitors will now be charged 3,750,000 rupiah (£206.40) to visit the main islands in Komodo National Park – up from 200,000 rupiah (£11) before.

The Indonesian government hopes to limit visitor numbers and protect the endangered lizards from overexposure to humans but local workers say it will scare off tourists completely, causing their income to dry up and 700 who depend on tourism are going on strike until the end of August.

3. BBC News website: Farming on the top deck of a car park

Singapore is small – it has some of the world’s most expensive property but has many car parks.

The Singapore government started leasing out the rooftop farms in 2020 as part of its plans to increase local food production. The country of 5.5m people currently imports more than 90% of its food and at least a dozen of these rooftop farms have now sprouted up across the South East Asian city state.

4. BBC News website: Treasure in the landfill?

Almost 10 years ago James Howells threw away a hard drive during a clear out – forgetting about the Bitcoin on it. Now, with the Bitcoin worth an estimated £150m ($184m), he is planning to spend millions digging up a landfill in a bid to find the lost hard drive.

If it’s found, he said he would give 10% of the proceeds to turn the city into a crypto-currency hub – but the council says excavating the site would pose an ecological risk.

5. BBC News website: ‘Climb every mountain’ (but not this one)

The mayor of Saint-Gervais, a village at the foot of Mont Blanc, says conditions on the mountain are now so dangerous that climbers should pay a €15,000 (£12,640; $15,370) deposit to cover rescue and possible funeral costs.

Mont Blanc is Europe’s highest mountain, with a summit at 4,807m (15,774ft).

I’ll stick to cycling – I’ve cycled through Saint-Gervais often and never needed rescue or burial

6. Congratulations to my favourite named British athlete (the wonderfully named Cindy Sember) on her bronze medal in the 100m hurdles at the Commonwealth Games.

Swim, run, gym, run, plus detective work, ties and football’s coming (come) home

After the weekend in Bournemouth, the swim doctor session Monday evening was a mixture of different strokes and drills for 1,100m – my leg kick is still terrible (when I remember to do it).

On Tuesday I did the weekend’s washing and ironed the easy stuff. I am almost adequate when it comes to handkerchiefs and pillowcases.

I’ve still not regained my appetite for a lot of exercise since the ultra. When it became clear on Tuesday that there wasn’t going to be any lake swim this week, I didn’t replace that with anything. It’s good that I have the weekly swim doctor session, had the cycling out in the alps, and walked and cycled during the weekend in Bournemouth or I would have done even less.

On Wednesday I drove up to London to see your younger son and helped him with a couple of jobs around his flat. Orders placed for a new transformer for the lights under the wall cupboards in the kitchen, and a new washing machine to be delivered on Sunday.

Thursday felt like it was time to get back to some more regular exercise and I ran to the gym and back with my training partner (a total of 5.8km – 3.6 miles) and did some weights while we were there. I’m not sure I love arriving at the gym already sweating but it does feel more sensible to run there than drive.

I ran with my wife on Saturday – a gentle 5.7km (3.5 miles) – as she gets back to running after twisting an ankle a few weeks ago. Three weeks since the ultra and I’m only just getting back my appetite for running. I have no intention of getting back to the amount of running I was doing earlier in the year and will try to be more balanced with the swimming and cycling ahead of the triathlon in September.

Back to London on Sunday to fit the new washing machine and kitchen light transformer for our younger son, then back to watch the English Women’s team win the 2022 Euro Championships in a tight final against an excellent German side – well played the Lionesses. I hope this provides a great boost for women’s sport in the country.

Last weekend the Transcontinental Race started – a self-supported ride from Belgium to Bulgaria (over 4000km – 2500 miles) with no prescribed route, just four compulsory checkpoints on the way. It’s possible to ‘dot watch’ by tracking live progress of every competitor.

In the first 26 hours, the early leader stopped for only 35 minutes and rode 760km (472 miles). On Friday, 4 and a half days into the race, he had been stationary for less than 13 hours. Astonishing.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Don’t be so in love that you can’t tell when it’s raining

2. BBC News website: Personal statements less than personal

An education firm which specialises in helping Chinese students to study in the UK has been advertising to pay people to write university applications for students, including their personal statements.

A spokesman for the firm said it didn’t write personal statements for clients: “We offer a personalised proofreading service to help students, whose native language is not English”. The firm has now withdrawn the job advert, saying it could be “confusing”.

Ah, would that be ‘confusing’ as in ‘perfectly clear but objectionable’?

3. BBC News website: The final wag of the tail

One of the most talked about (and tedious) celebrity disputes has now come to an end. Rebekah Vardy (wife of footballer Jamie Vardy) has lost her defamation case against Coleen Rooney (wife of former footballer Wayne Rooney) who had accused Mrs Vardy of leaking private stories about her to The Sun newspaper.

The ‘Wives and Girlfriends’ of prominent footballers are often referred to as Wags. Colleen Rooney did some smart detective work when she first suspected a close contact was leaking stories about her to the press – leading to the case being referred to as the Wagatha Christie trial.

4. BBC News website: Stop wearing ties to save energy

The Spanish Prime Minister said his government will adopt “urgent” energy-saving measures as European countries suffer record temperatures and strive to become less dependent on Russian gas in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

At a news conference, Mr Sanchez pointed out that he wasn’t wearing a tie and said he wanted ministers, public officials, and workers in the private sector to do the same. He said the move will ensure people stay cooler and therefore lower energy costs, because air conditioners will be used less often.

If only the solutions to all problems were as simple

Run (x2), swim, walk (x2), cycle (plus bulls, AI and kitchen cabinets)

Vicious things those kitchen cabinets

Monday I took a car to the garage and ran back – my first run post-ultra – just 4km (2.5 miles) but it’s a start. Swim doctor session in the evening – I dodged the drills and swam a gentle recovery 1km.

I spent the much of the day on the dismal task of mopping up dirty water. The dishwasher outlet pipe had blocked leading to a couple of days when, unseen, it spewed out water under the kitchen units. A very messy job but fingers crossed that all will be well thanks to a bottle of drain cleaner and a lot of bleach. Perhaps the best thing about the current heatwave is that everything dried well.

On Tuesday, an attempt to run the dishwasher revealed that all was not well as the pipe still failed to drain away the water it discharged. Bit by bit I had to dismantle the whole outlet pipe which was actually blocked in several places. A horrible job reaching under and to the back of the carcasses of the kitchen units, in dirty water and emulsified fat! I ended up with very sore arms and shoulders.

Also on Tuesday one of the friends I’d been cycling with in the alps posted a message on Whatsapp to say he’d just tested positive for Covid. I did a test but it came out negative (the ‘we’ve had Covid’ camp seems to be increasing rapidly but I’m very happy still not to have joined it).

Wednesday showed two things – the dishwasher was sorted and is now sharing its dirty water with the drain outside instead of the kitchen floor – but my arms had suffered in the cause. Both shoulders were sore and both biceps were raw and bruised. It the same way that I need bigger hands and feet for swimming, I need longer arms for kitchen DIY.

With rather reduced arm mobility, I cancelled the week’s planned lake swim and gym session and resigned myself to a low key week for exercise.

On Thursday, my arms were improving, but still a rather fetching black and blue and still sore. I ran in the morning – 5.8km (3.6 miles). With just a 10km run in September’s olympic distance triathlon, it’s good to be able to run because I want to, rather than because I feel that I must.

We drove down to Bournemouth on Thursday night and spent Friday getting the house ready for a weekend with friends who drove down early on Saturday. When they arrived we went for a walk across Hengistbury Head with a picnic on the beach and then walked to Southbourne for supper in the evening – total walking 15km (9.3 miles).

On Sunday we cycled to visit the lovely gardens at Compton Acres – about 24km (15 miles) with stops at Sandbanks and Bournemouth pier for ice cream. Roast chicken Sunday lunch in the evening. Back to Oxfordshire after an excellent weekend.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Don’t set sail on someone else’s star

2. BBC News website: Heatwaves and solar panels

The UK’s heatwave is helping to generate large amounts of solar power – but, ironically, it’s actually too hot for the highest levels of electricity generation.

For solar power generation, the amount of sunshine is more important than the amount of heat as heat brings down the efficiency of solar panels slightly. In the UK the record for peak half-hourly generation is always in April or May, when we get sunny but relatively cool weather.

3. BBC News website: And I thought the ultra was tough running

In 24 hours three men have died from wounds suffered during bull-running festivals in Spain’s Valencia region. They had taken part in the traditional ‘bous al carrer’, when bulls charge through towns, often with people running ahead of them (but sadly, not always far enough).

The three men who died had all been badly injured during events in the past two weeks. 20 people are said to have died in the region in the past eight years.

The mayor of Meliana said the bull was an animal and chance accidents of this type were a risk that people took.

Ah, the bull is an animal …

4. BBC News website: AI – too smart for its own good?

Google has fired one of its engineers who said the company’s artificial intelligence language technology system is sentient and should therefore have its “wants” respected. He said that the system showed self-awareness and could hold conversations about religion, emotions and fears and this led him to believe that behind its impressive verbal skills might also lie a sentient mind.

Google, plus several AI experts, denied the claims and on Friday the company confirmed he had been sacked.