Ely New Year’s Eve 10k – fast, flat, wet

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Actually this race takes place three miles or so outside of Ely, at Little Downham, but only a pedant would split hairs. It’s a lovely race to finish the year and I enjoyed it.

For the last month, I’ve managed to run six days out of seven. The aim was to run a minimum distance of two miles every day but other stuff got in the way and I think a day off a week is sensible. I’m not putting everything into it and I always feel better for having run.

Yesterday, Cambridge parkrun was soft going underfoot but not the mudbath as in the previous couple of weeks. Temperature was 0c or -1c which is very chilly for me but I wore the appropriate kit which proves that I am a sensible chap. I need to up my mileage because it’s exactly eight weeks to go before the Camridge half marathon. It’s come around so quickly. I think they can accommodate 9000 this year. It’s a flat course and fast if you are fast and near the front of the first wave but otherwise it can get very congested in town. Nevertheless it feels special running throught the strreets of Cambridge and it’s well supported by spectators. This is the race where, some years ago, I didn’t drink after finishing and became dehydrated. I needed medical assistance but recovered quite quickly. Unsurprisingly, treatment was very cheap – water! I used some of it to wipe the egg off my face.

This is a Flying Spoon transporting the Egg of Destiny (whatever you are thinking about this will be right).

This is big handed Norbert. Set him on your desk or work space and he will help you to retain your sanity and sense of humour.

This is Man of Rust, a good friend of Norbert.

www.beyondstrange.co.uk

Instagram @beyondstrange

The latest damaging revelations in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House should hardly come as a great surprise. As of yesterday, the headlines in the UK media (the book has not gone on sale here yet) focussed on Trump’s child like personality, his need for immediate gratification, capacity for distraction and doubts about his mental stability and fitness to be President. Trump has characteristically retorted vehemently via a number of tweets which included the self assessment  that he is”genius… and a very stable genius at that.”

Given Trump’s general manner and demeanor, his extreme pronouncements, his absolute condemnations of individual and groups, his bullying and arrogance, his cultivation of the bigoted, simple minded and credulous electorate, these observations from an insider make a lot of sense. The unsettling aspect (among many) for me is that not only did so many people voted for him but that he still has so much support. This is a feature of past fascist, extreme right wing, plain speaking demagogues who, despite vicious scapegoating and targeted cruelty towards particular groups, continue to enjoy much public approval. God save America. Time to live your religious principles rather than pay lip service to them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Running more, running backwards.

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St.Neots half marathon a couple of weeks ago. Slowish and steady but comfortable. A flat road race in the main (with a few little hills), and rural. Fourth half this year. What have I learnt? I need to do the run training in preparation for a half rather than leave it until two weeks before the race “because I’m fit already.” I also learnt that a gym work out is not a substitute for running and that if I feel tired and lethargic a good run will make me feel much more energised and alert. I knew all this before, of course, but it’s always good to re-invent the wheel.

Currently, I’m trying to run each day (and managed it on the last six out of seven days). I’m not putting great effort into it, apart from parkrun, and distance is between two miles and eight K. This seems to be very manageable. Interestingly, I feel more tired on the days I’m not running. Sleep pattern has improved as well. I’m not going to run myself into the ground, just staying more consistently active on a daily basis.

Trump and his evil tweets! Good to see Theresa May using the strongest possible language to condemn the racist, divisive hate talk from America’s premier white supremicist. She said “Its wrong!”

I’ve started running backwards on the treadmill in the gym. Its a self propelled machine which means it requires foot fall on a slight incline to move the concave belt. As a result, it feels as if I’m running up hill backwards. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’m developing a significant skill which I can employ with great success when this style catches on. It’s only a matter of time.

Book recommendation: Why We Sleep: the New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. Very readable. A comprehensive, fascinating account underlining how sleep works, it’s importance for health and why we need the best quality.

 

The Orchard Tea garden, Grantchester, mid October.

 

We arrived at the Orchard early on a chilly, sunny morning. All the deckchairs and tables were out but it was virtually deserted. In the sun, it was warm enough to sit out to eat or drink tea or coffee, and it soon began to fill up. We had walked from Newnham along Granchester Meadows and on the way there, walking by the Cam, we  spied this chap swimming towards Cambridge. On the way back, this group of cows blocked our path and despite negotiation, mediation, persuasion and a few more concepts ending in -ion, they stubbornly refused to move. Guess what? We went around them.

Last Sunday, I ran the Histon Bonfire Burn 10k. This went pretty well, by and large. The weather was cold and bright, all my running chums beat me and I met old running chum, Dominic, whom I hadn’t seen for a year or two. He also beat me!

Three years ago, I ran this race in the worst weather I have ever run in. Scouring wind, low temperature and driving rain.It gets worse every time I describe it. This was the only race I ever considered stopping prematurely apart from when I was injured. Subsequently I have always preferred over dressing for a race rather than wearing too little. I can run when I’m hot.

Today, Cambridge  parkrun was another mud bath as it was last week. As usual we were exhorted to run through the myriad puddles rather than dodge them and run into someone else’s path. This did happen last week when a runner was tripped, fell and broke his ankle. These kind of accidents are relatively rare, surprisingly since sometimes over 500 people are charging around narrow trail paths.

One last half marathon, for the year, next weekend, at St.Neots.

Poor America! Poor world! Donald Trump continues to make jaws drop with his wild disregard for truth, compassion and basic decency. The evidence for corrupt practises is slowly stacking up but how long will it take?

Good news on treatment for schizophrenia research. Trials are starting which explore the possibility that for some people, schizophrenia could be a disease of the immune system. Oliver Howes, a professor of molecular biology at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and a consultant pschiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in South London, and his team, have uncovered evidence, with other teams worlwide, that abnormalities in immune activity in the brain may be responsible for the illness.. Good Guardian article on this November 4th.

 

 

Hoohaah Wimpole Estate half marathon. I survive it much better than expected!

 

In September I ran a half near Bournemouth and just managed to stagger across the finish line. The last couple of miles were really difficult but a month later I ran the Hoohaah Wimpole half and felt much better. Why was this? Was it due to the encouragement and support of two dragonflies accompanying me for the last three miles and constantly whispering in my ears or the applause from the water nymphs by the glistening lake? Or had I simply run more consistently and put in the training miles in the interim? Mmmm….I think I’ll go with the dragonflies!

My parkrun times are gradually improving again although I still have the impression I’m running faster than my watch shows. This is a bit disconcerting. On top of this, my running pals are all doing well and I can’t keep up with them. This is criminal! I’ll have to come up with a cunning plan.

Just over a week ago I did Cambridge Town and Gown, 10k race around the town centre. This went reasonably well but I ran it wearing a thick hoody. The weather was good for running but Midsummer Common, where we started, was swept with a bitter wind and I couldn’t stand waiting around in the cold. Of course everyone else ran in short sleeves or vests and I must have looked a little odd. No matter. I’m more able to run and feel hot rather than freeze before I start. I let my son Dan come in 13 minutes before me. Well, you have to encourage the young!

I’m having difficulty stopping constructing models at the moment. Perhaps I’ve got modelitis.

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“Keep on running, grandad!”

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My daughter, Sophie, running in Cambridgw parkrun today (loving the camera, obviously). On this occasion she just beat me. Another daughter, Isobelle, ran Dulwich parkrun and son Dan did Valentines Park parkrun, coming in third but unfortuntely forgetting his barcode (so recorded as unknown).Doh!

I’m trying to get into better form for another couple of half marathons and the first one is next weekend at Wimpole Estate. I think I’m having  a little trouble with this distance at the moment because I’m not running the training mileage. I did, however, do a long run into Cambridge along the river Cam yesterday and found several hundred school kids walking towards me on the narrow towpath. I don’t believe they came out en masse to obstruct me but they certainly did not know a top class runner was at work. Several girls gave positive encouragement but just imagine my chagrin when one boy called out “Keep on running, grandad.” What! Surely I look like the young Clint Eastwood circa the Dollar films. Obviously the lad had perceptual difficulties. Anyway, I avoided crashing into the people looking down at their mobiles or falling into the river and ran 13 miles. I needed a rest after this but after a good night’s sleep parkrun was fine, albeit a bit slower.

Apart from the St Neots half in November, I’m doing a couple of 10k races in October including the Cambridge Town and Gown (around central Cambridge).

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Three unfinished models. So many more in the pipeline.

Boris Johnson! With a bit of luck, he’ll be the next Tory leader and bring the evil Tories into complete disrepute. A mildly successful comedian but a dangerous politician. A number of rungs down the ladder from Trump’s malignant narcissist. God save America and us all!

Returning to fitness and close encounters with bats

 

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Eighteen days ago I had to pull up at Cambridge parkrun with shooting pains in my hip (obviously I completed the 5k walking) and the next few days I was limping and having difficulty climbing stairs. After I saw my GP who is sympathetic to running injuries, my mind was set at rest. She diagnosed bursitis which is inflammation of the bursa, a small sac of fluid between bone and tendon or muscle. I’ve never had any problems with my hips in the past and as usual when I’ve acquired injuries running, the cause has its origin in activities like heavy lifting and sometimes heavy lifting and walking awkwardly at the same time. This time it was barrowing concrete slabs and a ton of sand over 150 metres of grass and gravel.

I didn’t run at all for eleven days then I ran 10 minutes on a treadmill and did Cambridge parkrun two weeks after I pulled up. I trotted around and did it about eight minutes slower than usual without incident. I really enjoyed  running in a more relaxed manner rather than putting in maximum effort. I was also very pleased to be running again, full stop. I don’t like not being able to run even if it’s for only a couple of weeks. My body is acclimatised to running. Not to run is like losing vitality. Note to self: engage your brain when lifting and carrying.

And so to bats. We knew we had a small bat problem when we found four bats in the house, in fact on three separate occasions we had a bat flying around our living room.  I know they’re not the size of pigeons but we’re not the Addams family either. Turning sleuth, I discovered two possible holes in our clunch wall in our living room (it’s an old 17th century cottage with plenty of holes, gaps, cracks and crevices) and duly filled them with lime mortar. Viewing the wall from the outside, I could immediately see a likely gap between the stone and wooden board. The droppings sticking to the wall below the gap confirmed it.

Bat habitats are protected in the UK but I wondered if they could cause damage if they are living cheek by jowl with youin your own home. What to do? Of course, I raced to the phone and rang Bat Help Line and resisted blurting out “I’m a bat, help me”. Instead I had a nice little conversation with a very helpful and informative woman which reassured me. They don’t do damage and they will vacate later in the season. There’s no reason not to live with them much as we did  with a colony of bees a few centimetres behind plaster board in our bedroom. The bees subsequently left of their own volition. The only downside was their habit of making odd hooting noises during the night. I’m slightly deaf and couldn’t hear it. Lorna found it tolerable but odd! It’s the countryside, innit!

Back to running again. I’m due to do a half marathon in just over three weeks. Not sure if I’m up to it. Firstly, my hip is not entirely back to normal and, secondly, I haven’t done much running lately. Plan: go for a couple of longer runs next week and see how it feels.

Our first born courgette!

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I feel the wheel barrow adds a certain dramatic licence to the harvesting of our first courgette. And do they grow quickly! I could hardly believe it. In complete contrast with purple sprouting broccoli which took almost eleven months before picking (in fact I had to issue a series of warnings about their behaviour and was about to grub them up when they condescended to perform. If vegetables could be said to be lazy and moody, look no further than sprouting broccoli).

G reen Minds therapeutic garden is looking good at the moment. I’m extending the area to make new crop beds and I’ve got some money to buy a 3m x 3m shed which will free up the polytunnel of clutter and provide more growing space. I’ve also bought a small green house.

And so to running. A week ago, when it was hot, I went for a run of just under 10 miles. I’m still not running very frequently but I’m still going to the gym and maintaining a reasonable level of fitness. I needed to go for a longer distance than 5k or my standard 5 miler. What did I learn from running nearly 10 miles in the heat?

1. You get hotter, sweat more profusely and become thirstier compared to cooler weather.

2. The heat doesn’t seem to put many people off running.

3. It felt very manageable while I was running but I sweated buckets when I got home.

4.I felt lethargic for a coupe of hours afterwards.

5. I took my blood pressure and pulse as soon as I got home and again 4-5 minutes and 15 minutes later. This ranged from 113 over 69 with pulse 110 to 95 over 66 with pulse 94 at 4-5 minutes. At 10pm the best of three readings were 113 over 62 with pulse 54. I was happy with this. I know my blood pressure is much more under control compared to the past and prior to my heart attack eight years ago but it’s still nice to know running is helpful.

6. You need to drink over several hours to get properly hydrated.

7. I felt sheer delight when a couple of butterflies accompanied me along the riverbank for around 70 metres. They kept pace with me and danced around each other. Wonderful.

I may have learnt other things, currently lost to recall. If they present themselves, I’ll big them up in my next blog.