Category Archives: sportive

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 (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

Minimal exercise, maximum driving, France (plus fake arms and sleeping sportsmen)

View from the rear balcony in France. Almost interestingly, the mountains in the backdrop are the other side of the Autoroute Blanche, in the valley over 500 metres below

It snowed on Sunday night – only a thin covering here but still well below freezing on Monday morning. I was feeling suitably smug at having put the winter wheels and tyres on just last week.

I went out just after 9am to pick up some stuff from the nearest town a couple of miles away but turned back as I saw how a tiny amount of snow and drivers without winter tyres can very easily cause gridlock in rural Oxfordshire. Two hours later the traffic had disappeared like melting snow – unlike the snow itself which was still very much there.

Later we got our Covid booster jabs – all OK so far as neither of us had any reaction beyond a slightly sore arm where the jab was done.

Very early Tuesday morning we did a potentially very stupid thing – we set off for France. We had booked a few days previously – before the newest variant of the virus was identified in Southern Africa and so we had gone through the agonies of the damned as to whether we would be able to travel out (or back). New UK rules announced on Saturday introduced new isolation and testing requirements for our return (isolation being required until a negative PCR test is performed).

To be honest, it would have been easier to abandon the trip but we’ve not been to the apartment since we skied in January 2020 so a visit was long overdue. Les Carroz is a special place for us. We stumbled across it by accident but loved it and put the process of buying an apartment underway after two visits – and that’s over 20 years ago.

At least a trip down in the car and a stay in our own place was likely to be as safe as it would get and we wouldn’t be going out as the rules for getting a ‘pass sanitaire’ (necessary for going to bars and restaurants) changed at the last minute.

I’ve done the drive many (40+?) times with the skiing and, more recently, an annual cycle trip – but it’s not getting any shorter. Despite the best efforts of the M25 (London’s orbital motorway and sometimes orbital car park) we made good time to the Channel Tunnel and got put on a train an hour earlier than booked. We completed the whole 710 miles in about 13 elapsed hours with just over 11 hours of driving and just 2 stops in addition to the tunnel.

We had a really good time there, even though there were the usual clean, repair, enhance requirements to be satisfied. We rearranged the beds in the two mezzanines. With everything going on in the world, that did give me echoes of ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’ but in turbulent times, perhaps it’s carrying on with the ordinary things that keeps us sane?

I had taken running kit but it was below freezing and either raining or snowing most of the time – and the pavements were snow-covered and unsafe for running. I was sad about the running but decided to enjoy both the unexpected break from relentless exercise and even more smugness for fitting the winter tyres.

Perhaps I secretly suspected this was going to happen as I took books with me, including Haruki Marakami’s ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ and ‘A runner’s high’ by Dean Karnazes. I rarely re-read books but I made two exceptions here. They are very different books by very different authors but I love both for the simple reason that their love of running shines through.

I also took a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov which was delightful – perhaps more vignettes than stories because he clearly didn’t feel that they needed to finish with a conclusion or resolution.

On Saturday I drove the 710 miles back with just one stop in addition to the tunnel. A tough journey with the first 200 miles in heavy rain – but we made it back to Oxfordshire by mid-evening and entered isolation. In one respect we were lucky – within half an hour of getting back into England we got the news that if we had been returning two days later we’d also be required to have a clear Covid test in order to re-enter the UK.

In all, just shy of 1,500 miles of driving and away for 5 days. I’m in favour of new technologies and would like an electric car – but with range and recharging issues, I wonder how any other than those with the very longest ranges would cope with this sort of journey?

On Sunday, feeling well, we completed our PCR tests and took them to the drop-box (allowed within the rules of our isolation). We have now started the wait for the results.

A very different post from the usual tedious summary of the week’s running, cycling, gym (and possibly swimming). This time a tedious recounting of a trip to France.

To reach for some sense of normality, I nearly got on the turbo later in the afternoon – but I decided that, no matter what the personal cost might be, I would complete the week without ‘proper’ exercise – the nearest I got was signing up for next April’s White Horse Challenge sportive.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No medicine exists that can cure hatred

2. BBC News website: Former world snooker champion falls asleep during match

Mark Williams, lost in the second round of the UK championship. He said, “It was 3-2 and I was out. My head went down and I woke up and I didn’t have a clue where I was for about five seconds. It was a bit embarrassing but I was just shattered after contracting Covid-19 in October. I need to be playing in the mornings really, or afternoons. The more the day goes on the more tired I get.”

Personally, I like snooker but I expect many think that Williams was just joining most of the the audience

3. BBC News website: A long way for a postponed game

A couple from Dallas made a 34-hour journey just to see Tottenham Hotspur (their favourite football club) play – only to have the match postponed because of snow.

They were hoping to see Spurs’ next two home games but they could now be guests of honour as Spurs’ striker (and England captain) Harry Kane has invited them to be his guests at one of those matches.

4. BBC News website: Italian man tries to dodge Covid jab using fake arm

An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed.

The nurse told local media that when she had rolled up his sleeve, she found the skin “rubbery and cold” and the pigment “too light”. After being discovered, the man tried to persuade the nurse to turn a blind eye but instead she reported him to the police for fraud.

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, turbo, swim (lake), swim (sea), run

Happily, it was a calmer sea in Bournemouth for Thursday’s swim

The week started like the previous one finished – hot. I know that I complain about the cold but at least it is possible to put on more clothes.

The results are available from the sportive. It seems that 100 riders did the 50 mile route that I did and I was fifth fastest – on only my second ride since April. Our sportive is relatively low-tech with the focus on great routes and terrific home-cooked food, so no age group results are published.

Yet more mowing during Monday and then a very hot turbo session in the late afternoon – 15.3km (9.5 miles) in 30 minutes – and back on the turbo for another unpleasant 30 minutes on an even hotter Tuesday – 14.8km (9.2 miles).

The friend I am doing the triathlon with suggested that we should join the swimming club at the lake where we’ve had our two lessons, and go for non-coached sessions to get more practice.

We signed up and booked for Wednesday – then I read the sad headline ‘Seven drown trying to cool off’ documenting deaths in lakes and rivers in England over the weekend.

Fine, I will be wearing a wetsuit, attached to a tow buoy and the lake is professionally managed with proper safety measures, but nothing has changed my view that it is scary open water (henceforward referred to as SOW). Despite that, the swim itself was very good. I have no accurate idea as to how far we swam but guess it was about 1km.

I tried some different methods of sighting. Although I (sort of) managed the instructor’s way of doing it, I prefer the simpler way suggested by the general oracle that is ‘unironedman’ (on wordpress and at unironedman.com). Sighting is a welcome skill to have a nodding acquaintance with (I will not say I have ‘mastered’ it by any means) as I appear to be totally unable to swim in a straight line in the SOW.

I seem to have improved a little at getting out of the wetsuit – one key thing is not to let it dry (on the outside) before removal.

On Thursday we drove to Bournemouth to join our older son and his girlfriend who have spent some time at the house, working and then holidaying. We had a great walk around Hengistbury Head (7.5km – 4.7 miles) and a swim in the sea in the afternoon. The water was about 16℃ (60℉) and without a wetsuit felt pretty cold. Potentially ESOW (even scarier open water) it was very enjoyable staying fairly close to shore – but I’ll stick to the lake for the time being.

Another hour of walking in the evening going to a tapas restaurant made a really good day – but tiring. Our son’s phone app registered over 23,000 steps. The tapas was very good indeed in parts – but any dish that takes three times as long to explain than it takes to eat, and involves 15 ingredients and 12 processes but produces so little, has to be questioned.

Back to Oxfordshire on Friday and croquet in the evening to finish a great couple of days. The weather broke early on Saturday and it was forecast to rain pretty much all day but I ran our usual 7.2km (4.5 mile) loop in the morning with our younger son, between showers. Later we went to the wedding of a friend that we have known for nearly 40 years.

Happily, the forecast proved over-pessimistic and the wedding was excellent – and dry at all the right times (photos, walk to the reception and pre-meal outside drinks). On Sunday the bride and groom hosted a BBQ and the poorer weather never arrived – it was a fine way to round off a very good week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you offend, ask for a pardon; if offended forgive 

2. BBC News Website: Swimmers sent home from Olympics after selection mistake

Poland have sent six swimmers home from the Tokyo Olympics initially 23 athletes were picked only 17 were allowed under the world governing body qualifying rules.

Polish Swimming Federation president has apologised and said he understood the anger of those who have returned home. The majority of the Poland swimming team have signed an open letter calling for the board to resign over the incident.

3. BBC News Website: Beach Handball Championships: Norway hit with bikini fine

Norway have been fined 1,500 euros (£1,295) for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the European Beach Handball Championships.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) said it had imposed the fine because of a case of “improper clothing”. The issue has been debated in beach sports circles for several years as some players find the bikini both degrading and impractical.

If beach handball deserves its place in the sporting calendar, it’s has to be as a sport not some sort of titillation show.

Oh, the irony of this appearing the day after reports that UK world champion para-athlete Olivia Breen was told to wear “more appropriate” shorts after an official at the English Championships said her the briefs were “too short and revealing”. Would the shorts have been OK if she’d have been playing beach handball?

4. BBC News website: Covid-positive man boards flight disguised as his wife

A Covid-positive Indonesian man who disguised himself as his wife to board a domestic flight was caught mid-air. He wore a full-face veil and was carrying his wife’s passport and her negative Covid test result.

He may never have been caught but he changed into his regular clothes midway through the flight, causing a stewardess to raise the alarm.

Police say they will move to prosecute him as soon as his quarantine ends.

5. The Guardian (UK newspaper) headline: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Carapaz wins men’s road race, boxing, swimming and more – live!

Now, that must have been quite a day for Carapaz

Ultra aftermath, turbo, gym, swim (in the scary open water), sportive, run

Back to ‘proper’ cycling for the club’s sportive on Saturday. Proper cycling means the proper bike

A quick stock-take on Monday morning revealed no injuries from Sunday’s ultra. My muscles felt ‘well exercised’ but the only discomfort was in the quads, high in the thigh on both legs.

The biggest question marks had been around the knees and the Achilles tendons but, happily, they were working well and pain-free. The toe I blistered on Thursday was fine and the ear infection that started on Saturday was not a problem either. I was horribly under-prepared but got away with it – I was very lucky.

With very restricted training, the run time was not important. I didn’t look at the time once during the whole of the run and that was very liberating. Despite that, it seems I was 57th out of 175 doing the Sunday run, and first in the 60-69 men’s age group. I was over 2 hours clear of the chap in second but there were only 4 of us in the category … ‘old enough to know better’ comes to mind.

The whole thing was very well organised, the volunteers were excellent and the community spirit among competitors was also really good. There must have been around 2500 runners in all, the majority tackling the full 100k course – all credit to them.

With my eyes off the cycling for a while I had rather forgotten about the club’s sportive on Saturday 17th July. On Monday I entered the medium distance ride (50 miles – 80k) and agreed to be part of the team putting up the route arrows on Friday.

My legs were fine by Wednesday so I got on the turbo in the evening for a gentle spin to reintroduce them to movement – 15k (9.3 miles) in 30 minutes.

A gentle 50 minutes in the gym on Thursday morning with light weights and some stretching and then back to the old gravel pits in the afternoon for a second open water swimming session with the friend I’m doing the triathlon with. As we drove over there he uttered the dreaded words ‘it might be fun to do that ultra marathon next year’ … can I resist doing it with him?

The swimming session was very good. I’m getting more confident in the water, didn’t feel cold and loved the buoyancy of the wetsuit – it did help keep my legs high and speeded me up a bit. I tried to do proper sighting but it confused me totally – I may have to buy a periscope.

On Friday I did the shop session and then spent hours putting out sportive direction arrows. That’s a long job at the best of times but I went with a friend whose Land Rover Discovery suffered a major suspension failure half way round. A second friend drove out to help me complete the route but the original companion had a several hour wait for a pick-up truck.

The sportive on Saturday was a really excellent event with a record turnout and very good weather (if you like it hot – and according to Billy Wilder, some do). It was a foolish thing to be doing after the ultra, and my only other ride since April was a short and slow one leading a children’s cycle training session.

I got away at about 9.40 – one of 90 entrants on the 50 mile route on roads I know pretty well and in some lovely countryside in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. It was already fairly hot by that time and got well over 28℃ (82℉).

I cycled most of it on my own after a tandem I was cycling with (actually more ‘behind’ than ‘with’) stopped with a chain issue early on. In the first hour I rode 28k (17.7 miles) and much the same in the second hour – but the ultra was still in my legs and that (and the hills and the heat) told in the last hour when I covered 24k (15 miles).

Altogether just over 80k (50 miles) with 660m (2,165 feet) of climbing in just under 3 hours at 26.8kph (around 16.7mph). Pleasingly, 30 Strava achievements.

I ran with my wife on a hot Sunday morning (a short run, 5.5k) – strange how easily we can condition our thinking, we got to the biggest hill on the run and I wondered for a moment whether I should have been walking up it, in proper ultra style.

In the garden for much of the rest of the day, mowing, to make up for the neglect I’ve shown it recently …. there’s always a price to pay …

I say I was gardening for ‘much’ of the day as I managed to watch the conclusion of Le Tour. Bravo Tadej Pogacar, what a rider that man is. So disappointed that Mark Cavendish didn’t win and take the record for Tour victories … let’s hope he has a chance next year.

With the ultra out of the way, attention turns to the triathlon in September (more swimming, I fear).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A cutting word is worse than a bowstring, a cut may heal, but the cut of the tongue does not

2. BBC News website: Seoul bans speedy songs in gyms to stop sweating

Gyms in Seoul and its surrounding region have been told not to play music with a tempo higher than 120 beats per minute, in order to limit the spread of Covid-19. Treadmills will be limited to a maximum of 6km/h (3.7 mph).

Health officials say the restrictions will prevent people from breathing too fast or splashing sweat on each other.

3. BBC News website: Ship that blocked the Suez Canal finally leaves the waterway

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Egypt had demanded $550m (£397m) from the owners. The ship has been impounded for three months near the canal city of Ismailia.

As it got under way, Egyptian TV showed footage of the captain and a crew member being presented with flowers and a plaque on board the ship.

Some of the most expensive flowers ever

4. Football’s gone to Rome, it’s gone to Rome …

England’s defeat at the hands of Italy (in a penalty shoot out) on Sunday evening had a horrible whiff of inevitability about it. It’s very sad – not least for those who missed their penalties as they will have to live with those misses for the rest of their careers, such is the mentality of so many English football supporters. Congratulations to Italy.

No consolation, but I nailed second place in the fantasy football league. It’s a great local charity supporting children who are carers for others, so it’s a pleasure to donate the winnings back to the charity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting stuff this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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