Category Archives: sportive

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.

Run x5, and which is further, a lap run clockwise or anticlockwise?

The training plan had Monday as a rest day. After the weekend’s 6 and 12 mile runs I embraced that warmly, devoting the day to bike mechanics and planting a bank in the garden with wild flowers.

The week’s training programme (in miles) requires 6, 5, 6 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) and 6 and 14 (Saturday and Sunday) for 37 miles in total. In Km that’s about 10, 8, 10, 10 and 22.5), total 60km.

On Tuesday I ran up the village with my wife and then did 10 laps of the old hill fort at Badbury Clump. It was glorious weather – my first run for months with no base layer or gloves. In keeping with my running shoe rotation policy, I ran in my minimalist shoes (shoes No6) and the whole thing was lovely. In all, it was 10.8km (6.7 miles).

For months I’ve whinged about how the lap of the old hill fort seems to be under-recorded on my Garmin – I may not run fast but I know that I’m running laps faster than the 7min/km which is sometimes what it’s been recording. This time, suddenly, I was running over a minute a km faster. As a creature of habit, I run the circuit clockwise. For some reason on Tuesday I ran it anticlockwise. What on earth is going on?

We all ran on Wednesday morning and I added a bit to make it 9.1km (5.65 miles). That made it something like 220km (136 miles) for the month and 577km (358 miles) running for the first three months of the year – nearly half of my total for the whole of 2020.

On a colder Thursday I went back to Badbury Clump and ran 9 circuits – 3 clockwise and 6 anticlockwise. I’ve checked again and the Strava segment for the circuit run clockwise is 0.59km but the segment for running it anticlockwise is 0.65km. Perhaps whoever set up the segments had better satellite reception for one than the other so that one segment is a bit approximate? Whichever way it was measured, I ran a total of 10.7km (6.6 miles) and will now carry on running anticlockwise.

Now I want all those miles back that I’ve been cheated out of over the years ….

End of ‘cluckdown

Since mid-December an outbreak of avian flu led to the lockdown of poultry in the country. That has now been lifted so the chickens are released from their much reduced wild-bird-secure run. They are very pleased – but to be honest they were never very grateful for my efforts on behalf of their safety.

Friday was a rest day – we took advantage of the removal of the ‘stay at home’ requirement and drove to see our older son for only the second time since November (we helped him and his girlfriend move in February but that was hard work). We were outside and socially distanced but seeing him was a real treat, with the added bonus of a walk in the lovely (and huge – 2500 acres) Richmond Park.

The plan required runs on Saturday and Sunday – 6 and 14 miles respectively (10 and 22.5km). Since I am incapable of anything but blind adherence to the plan, that’s what I did. Saturday’s run was less enjoyable than usual with tired legs and a cold north-easterly breeze but we managed 10.14km (6.3 miles).

Sunday was brighter but still fairly cold, although the wind had turned to come from the west. The bonfire we lit on Thursday was still producing wisps of smoke but nothing to be a problem for the rest of the village. I ran the required 23km (14.4 miles) along farm some roads but found it very hard indeed at just under 6:30/km. Rarely has an Easter egg been more earned.

 Target Actual
Week 3: Miles (Km) 37 (60) 40 (64)
‘Running’ Totals 101 (163) 109 (175)
Week 3, Ultra Marathon training (with rounding)

White Horse Challenge

The White Horse Challenge sportive has been confirmed for 25 April. I can’t now get into any sort of cycling shape, especially with the demands of the ultra training, but I’ll ride it anyway, just for the pleasure of a long ride (it’s 90 miles – 144km). I’m not quite sure what to do about that week’s runs but I’ll think about it nearer the time.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When you befriend a chief remember that he sits on a rope

2. BBC News website: Endangered bird ‘has forgotten its song’

The ‘regent honeyeater’, is listed as critically endangered; just 300 individuals remain in the world. The Austrian songbird has become so threatened that it has started to lose its song, as “They don’t get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they’re supposed to sound like.” Scientists are now using recordings of wild birds to teach captive honeyeaters their own song.

3. BBC News website: France seeks Unesco heritage status for the baguette

The UN intangible cultural heritage register aims to protect traditions, knowledge and skills, so they are not lost over time. Altogether it contains more than 350 traditions and crafts, ranging from better known practices such as Spanish flamenco dancing and Indonesian batik fabric making to (even) more obscure items such as a Turkish oil wrestling festival and a Mongolian camel coaxing ritual.

France has now nominated its staple bread stick for inclusion. Some 10 billion baguettes are consumed in France each year, but about 20,000 bakeries have closed since 1970. French bakers say listing would safeguard an art that has been passed down through generations and protect the baguette from global plagiarists.

‘Global baguette plagiarists’?

4. BBC News website: Earth “safe” from asteroid for the next 100 years at least.

Apophis (named for the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and darkness) is Earth’s most threatening asteroid. Close calls in 2029 and 2036 were predicted and later ruled out. A slight threat still remained for 2068 but now, based on new analysis, Nasa has dismissed that threat.

We can now sleep at night

5. BBC News website: Spongy Roads – Slough’s new claim to fame

Slough (just to the west of London) is one of those places that has a bad, slightly comic, reputation. It was the setting for Ricky Gervais’ The Office and poet John Betjeman famously wrote ‘ Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough it isn’t fit for humans now’.

It now looks set to gain a new claim to fame as it will get the Chinese “sponge city” treatment. The flood defence system will see selected roads transformed with permeable surfaces that soak up surface water.

“Run, turbo, run, turbo, run, run, run” (run) a homage to Flanagan and Allen

Still pounding the mean streets of rural Oxfordshire

I appreciate that this might mean nothing to anyone else but it makes me smile. For the record, Flanagan and Allen were a musical comedy act in the 1930s and 40’s. One of their most famous songs went:

Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Bang, bang, bang, bang goes the farmer’s gun
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run, run
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie
So run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run

More innocent days – I don’t expect Eminem or Stormzy to do cover versions.

Anyway ….

Monday was a little warmer but last week was quite tough so I should have taken a rest day. Instead I ran through the village with my wife and then on to do 10 laps of Badbury Clump (10.1km – 6.3 miles).

That made four days in a row running at least 10km. I suppose that was useful in showing I could do it but, at the same time, it felt like more than enough. I wasn’t too disappointed that it was raining on Tuesday so nobody felt like getting out for a run.

In the absence of the gym for variety, I got on the turbo trainer later in the day. With the sportive just over 3 months away I should be doing more cycling – but it’s cold and wet and the ‘stay local’ message for exercise needs to be taken into account. Just a quick blast – 30 minutes @ 29.2kph (18.1 mph).

Wednesday was wet (again) so it was out for just 7km (4.35 miles) between showers and, foolishly, a thrash on the turbo in the early evening – 30 minutes @30.9kph (19.2mph). That was tough as pretty well everything was tired – so, of course, I stupidly ran on Thursday morning as well. Soggy and slippery laps around the old Badbury hill fort for a difficult 7.4km (4.6 miles). It made me realise how important it will be to pray for dry weather for July’s ultra.

Friday dawned cold but dry and we ran for 7.5kms (4.7 miles) @sub 5:40/km. That took me through a very surprising 100km of running in the first 15 days of January.

I was feeling jaded on Saturday but my wife and son wanted to run again so I went with them to complete the ‘run rabbit’ sequence (and in the right order). The forecast sleet didn’t materialise and we did a very pleasant 7km (4.35 miles). Sunday was lovely and bright so we all ran for a bit and then our son and I added another loop for a total of 12.5km (7.8 miles).

That made 11 activities in 10 days (and 18 in 18 days). Too much really but I seem to have survived. Feet up for the rest of the day

In other news: the new raised vegetable beds look good freshly weeded; 6 litres (10.5 pints) of sloe gin has been decanted and is looking (and tasting) good; and the chickens are still very upset that the avian flu outbreak means that their run has been reduced and covered (they have not yet built a plane but I tell you, those chickens are organised).

It’s a long time since any of us left the house for anything other than necessary shopping or exercise. We remain very lucky, with no jobs or young children to accommodate, plenty of room in both the house and the garden and a village environment that feels pretty safe.

At the same time, lockdown 3 is proving to be a bit tougher than the previous two – horizons get more contracted as holidays (or even getting up to London or down to Bournemouth) still seem a long way off. I hope our national resolve to follow the rules holds firm.

A shop I was in about 10 days ago was shut the following day for a deep clean after discovery of a Covid case. I was there for just a few socially-distanced and face-masked minutes, but was still a minor worry and a good reminder to be careful.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When the hyena falls into a deep pit, he does not shout for help

Those deep pits are no laughing matter

2. BBC News website: Covid-19 – Pokemon player fined for lockdown breach

A man has been fined £200 for breaking lockdown rules after travelling 14 miles to play Pokemon Go.

Pokemon (do not pass) Go (do not collect £200)

3. BBC News website: Man held after armed raid in search of cat

In Australia, a man called the Lost Dogs’ Home shelter to claim his lost cat but was told he would have to wait until the following morning. He then allegedly stormed the shelter in full camouflage gear and pointed an assault rifle at a female worker demanding to know where the cats were kept.

He returned to the shelter the next day to reclaim the animal and was later arrested.

4. BBC News website: Tennis stars’ arrival angers stranded Australians

Organisers of the Australian Open put on chartered flights to fly in players and other members of staff – and that has frustrated roughly 37,000 Australians unable to return home due to Australia currently having a cap on the number of international arrivals.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians overseas were his “first priority in terms of people coming back into the country”.

Obviously, 37,000 Australians do not return as well as Nadal and Djokovic

With a bit of irony, 47 of the players who have arrived on the first two planes are now in 14 days’ quarantine after positive Covid tests on those incoming flights

Happy New Year

What should the picture should be – something reminiscent of 2020 (do I want to be reminded) or something looking forward? Here’s a bit of both – skiing in January 2020. If we don’t ski in 2021 it’ll be my first season missed in over 35 years

It’s ironic that ’20:20 vision’ usually means either perfect or normal eyesight. With 20:20 hindsight, 2020 will be judged as anything but perfect or normal … but, like all years, it comes to an end.

Whatever 2021 holds, I hope it is happy, healthy, safe and successful for you and yours.

To use my mother-in-law’s favourite toast ‘I wish you all you would wish yourself’.

I’m not sure 2020 deserves a big end of year review (indeed, it would consist of a lot of ‘we stayed at home’, ‘we didn’t do much’ and ‘I worked in the garden’). At least one thing we were generally allowed (and encouraged) to do was exercise.

For me, just under 1200km of running for the year in 137 outings – and comfortably over 250 sessions of running, cycling or weights in the gym in 2020.

I’m not one for New Year resolutions but, beyond the obvious ‘complete the White Horse challenge sportive in April and the ultra marathon in July’, I’ll set a few targets for 2021. In no particular order, I’m aiming for at least:

  • a birthday ride of my age in miles (sadly, 66 of them) on something other than the ‘best bike’ (this year’s was on my 1955, 3 speed Elswick)
  • 10 metric century rides
  • 1000km of running by the end of June
  • 10 runs of half marathon distance
  • twice a week at the gym (when I’m here and it’s open!)

All Covid, health and fitness dependent, of course.

Roll on the vaccinations.

Take care.

One bit of ‘interesting stuff’ by way of uplifting African wise words:

A hen that scratches too deep into the ground will meet its mother’s bones

Run (x4), turbo (x3), gym (x0) and bike mechanic: a week of lockdown

The bluebells have long gone but running round Badbury clump is still a pleasure, even when it is soggy underfoot

On a normal Monday I’d be in the gym before 8am – but with the lockdown-lockout at the gym and two runs over the weekend it felt more like a turbo trainer day, after some gardening.

I pushed the turbo session out to 1 hour and managed 29.9km (18.6 miles). I guess the turbo will be getting more use now to replace one or both of the weekly gym sessions. That won’t be an entirely bad thing as the first challenge of 2021 is (scheduled to be) the sportive in April – and I’ve neglected the cycling for too long.

Soggy circuits round the old hill fort on Tuesday – 8.44km (5.2 miles). I’ve noticed that running in the morning is a bit harder after a tough early evening turbo session the previous day – who’d have thought it?

One thing that occurs to me is that when I use the turbo it is relentlessly tough. Either I get over the 30kph average for 45 minutes or very close to it if I go for longer. I don’t want to associate the turbo (exclusively) with extremely hard exercise performed in pools of sweat or I’m going to be looking for reasons to avoid it – so I got on for a gentle spin on Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately, my legs didn’t get the ‘take it easier’ message. I did limit it to 30 minutes but at 32.14kph (19.97mph) – and still finished in a pool of sweat.

I managed to fix both of the bikes that I’d been allocated for the pop-up shop on Wednesday – mainly a question of brake adjustment and getting the gears working properly. Happily, one went from 4 to 21 and the other from 10 to 21.

Last week’s run across London got me thinking that perhaps one run each week should be a bit longer than I’ve been doing recently, so I did 13.4km (8.3 miles) on Thursday. Good running weather and at better than 6 minute kms. We then made a bad choice of route for Friday’s run – sodden, slippery and slow which made for a hard 6.5km (4miles).

Saturday was cool, grey, wet and windy. My right Achilles had been niggling for a few days but seemed to have improved overnight, so it was an easy decision to give it a bit more rest and not run. Instead, I did an afternoon turbo session watching the first half of the women’s rugby (England v France). The way women’s rugby has progressed is great to see, with high levels of skills and fitness.

I took a bravery pill and decided to incorporate some sprints into the session on an entirely random basis – 15 seconds for each point scored. They were fairly kind to me in the first half (10-10). At half time I listened to Italy v Scotland and sprinted for Italy’s 3 points.

I pushed on for the hour watching the women’s second half but immediately after I finished, England scored a converted try (7 points) and I felt duty bound to sprint for that too. The same happened again – just after I finished, England scored another converted try so I did the sprint for that as well. In all, 1 hour 4 minutes for 31.77km (19.74 miles).

It was raining heavily on Sunday and looked like it was set in for the day. However, as I sat down with a coffee and the puzzles from the newspaper, the rain stopped. I took advantage of clear blue skies (although it was still cool and breezy) and ran for a little over 10km (6.3 miles) at 5:37/km.

Seven sets of exercise in the week – one day doubled up and one rest day – in all, 6h 30m. In effect, I replaced the usual two gym sessions with two on the turbo and a run. All that and I’m still too far away from any of next year’s challenges to actually be training for anything. It’s a bit frustrating.

Lockdown continues much as before – we have had to cancel some drinks, suppers and lunches but we can still exercise and shop for essentials, so we are still among the luckiest ones. The most disappointing thing is not seeing our sons.

Take care out there.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: It is not from my mouth that people will learn that the king’s mother is a witch.

2. BBC News website: Popular app T&Cs ‘longer than Harry Potter’

The combined terms and conditions of 13 top apps including TikTok, WhatsApp and Zoom would take 17 hours and five minutes to read.

The documents contain a joint total of 128,415 words – longer than any one of the first three Harry Potter novels. The longest was Microsoft Teams at 18,282 words – or two-and-a-half hours of reading time for many people.

They must all know that when we tick the box to confirm that we have read and agree to the Ts & Cs, we are not entirely telling the truth. On that basis, I wonder how enforceable they really are?

3. BBC News website: Roblox gamers must pay to die with an ‘oof’

The “oof” sound that famously (not to me it isn’t) accompanies the death of characters in the hugely popular Roblox game will temporarily be removed, following a copyright dispute.

When it is reinstated, gamers will have to buy it, paying around around $1 (£0.76) or 100 in-game currency Robux. The developer who originally created the sound for a game released 20 years ago, will get compensation.

Suddenly, my lack of knowledge about any of this makes me feel very old.

4. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his 7th F1 world championship. Record holder for pole positions, race wins and now equal best with Michael Schumacher for titles.

Turbo, gym, run, flu jab, run (hill reps!), gym, run

It still works!

My penance for sleeping in on Monday was to get on the turbo in the early evening. Strava says I last used it in May – it’s been replaced by the gym, a lot of running and a (very) few rides outside.

The aim was for a reasonably gentle half hour reintroduction – but it was going quite well so I pushed on to 45 minutes @29.9kph (18.6mph).

As we head towards winter I guess this is a glimpse into my future as my wimpish tendencies will mean that I’ll ride outside even more rarely. Although turbo trainers are of limited entertainment value (especially non-smart ones like mine) it’s probably a good thing to get back in the saddle as my next event is the White Horse Challenge sportive in April (Covid willing).

An hour in the gym Tuesday and then a run with my wife on Wednesday morning – one of our usual runs for 7km (4.3m). It was chilly and I’m grateful that what I’ve been wearing as a sweatband for some months, can now serve as a headband to keep my ears warm until a hat is necessary. I did say I had wimpish tendencies when it comes to cold weather.

Wednesday afternoon I received the greatest (perhaps only) reward coming my way for reaching the age of 65 – a flu jab.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have taken up the offer of the jab if it weren’t for the current pandemic. Touch wood, I rarely get flu (or any other illness in general) and am probably fit enough to fight it off if I did – but this year of all years I don’t want to be proved wrong and become an unnecessary burden on the National Health Service.

Sadly, my dream of being refused entry to the hall on the basis that I could not possibly be as old as 65 remained just that – a dream.

We ran again on Thursday – my wife decided to do hill reps and as my alternative runs were likely to be sodden, I went to keep her company. I haven’t done hill reps for about two years – I had Achilles problems before I even began my training for the Rotterdam Marathon (in April 2019). They hurt every day for months so I avoided hills at all costs.

They’ve been behaving for some time now and I’ve been doing single leg calf rises and heel drops in the gym, so it seemed worth a try. The hill is steep – about 25m of climb in 0.2km (82 feet in an eighth of a mile). I make that an average of 12.5% so a good, sensible, reintroduction of hills to the running.

I did 7 reps for a total (with the run through the village there and back) of 213m of ascent in nearly 6km (700 feet in 3.7 miles). Funny – it doesn’t sound like much but I guess I’m more used to climbing numbers for cycling than running. It felt properly hard.

Out for supper with friends in the evening and back to the gym on Friday morning – with perfectly happy Achilles tendons, so that’s a result and – if it stays like that – adds an important option to my future running training. The only problem is that I tend to blame the absence of hill training for failing to break 4 hours for the Rotterdam Marathon – what am I going to blame for future failures?

We had more friends over for drinks on Friday evening and most of Saturday was spent painting (the whole week has been spent slapping wood preservative on various sheds and paint on the woodwork on the garage block).

After several hours of painting, I gave myself the treat of doing nothing in the evening but we did a relatively short run (5.5km – 3.4miles) on Sunday morning (no hat but, yes, I was wearing gloves) before going up to London for the evening. Sadly, not staying over so no run along the Thames to look forward to on Monday.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb: That which disturbs your sleep is of your own making

2. BBC News website: ‘Drive-in wedding’ bypasses Covid restrictions

A couple married as about 250 guests watched the ceremony from their cars on big screens in the grounds of the venue. The newlyweds then had a golf buggy tour of the grounds. Guests were given hampers of snacks and hand gel, and could use a website to order food, delivered by waiters.

Necessity being the mother of invention

3. BBC News website: Acquitted Kenya Westgate attack suspect abducted

A suspect in Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall terror attack case, who was freed by the court over lack of evidence, was was in a taxi on his way home with his sisters when unknown gunmen stopped them and abducted him.

Out of the frying pan …

4. BBC News website (update): US man avoids jail in Thailand over bad resort review

A US man in Thailand who was arrested for writing a negative hotel review will avoid legal action and jail time after he and the resort managed to reach an agreement, which included an apology to the hotel and to Thailand’s tourism authority.

2021 challenges (hoping it isn’t too optimistic to look that far ahead…)

Back to the White Horses in 2021 – view from the Uffington White Horse. Cycle up on the sportive and run close by on the ultra marathon

As we head into October, it’s time to think about next year’s challenges. Strangely, at the moment they look exactly like the ones I was planning for 2020 – how could that have happened?

Health, fitness and Covid willing, so far it looks like it’s the White Horse Challenge in April and in July it’s the Race To The Stones.

The Race to the Stones is a 50km ultra marathon (I’ll be doing the second day of the two day 100km event) along the Ridgeway from Wantage In Oxfordshire to the World Heritage site of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments at Avebury in WIltshire. Something of an unknown but a proper challenge. I plan a 16 week training programme and think – at this stage – that completion of the run is the real target (although finishing with a six in the hours column would be target 2).

The WHC sportive is billed as 90 miles and 1400m of climbing (not frightened to mix their imperials and metrics, those folks). I agree with the distance (145km) but I’ve recorded it at over 1700m (5600 feet) of ascent.

Next year will be my 9th attempt in the 10 editions since I first did it in 2011. That first year I was just outside 6 hours – my best (2017) was 5h 05m (with one DNF in 2019 as my legs hadn’t recovered from the Rotterdam Marathon).

The 5 hour target is a bit of a monkey on my back – next year feels like it might be my final attempt at it, how do I go under 5 hours?

Of course, if the weather is foul, I won’t manage the target anyway, but assuming a reasonable day for the event, I need to start thinking about a plan to manage the necessary 18mph (29kph) average.

I can ride at the required average for shorter distances – it would be great if I could ride the whole route solo at the necessary speed (I’m sure I can’t) but I don’t need to if I can join, and stay with, a group going at the right speed. That means getting underway reasonably close to the opening of the starting gates (departure is any time within an hour’s window) so I have a chance of latching on to a faster group as it passes me.

The bike is good for the job and the new deep section carbon wheels have certainly made it faster through improved aerodynamics, without making it any heavier for the hills but the uncomfortable truth is that the main lever left for me to pull is to improve the engine.

I’ve rather neglected the cycling for nearly 2 years – when I everested (on the bike – glorious madness if you like to point the front wheel uphill) in 2017 and rode to the alps in 2018 (550 miles in 84 hours – I loved it) I was nearly a cyclist but now it’s time to pick it back up again and work on both speed and endurance.

Sadly, the bulk will have to be done through the winter (and, as I am a wimp with the cold weather, most likely it will be on the turbo) but I’d better have a plan for the early spring.

March and April look like fun as I try to train for both events – and what do I do after July?