Normal running resumed (almost)

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Nice couple of lips on the go! I’m spending a lot of time thinking about modelling/sculptural ideas and execution. I’m particularly exercised by problems concerning improving the bases and ensuring a high standard of finish. Subsequent to these two examples I’m preparing some old reclaimed wood I bought at an exorbitant price from a reclaimation yard with a view to cleaning, sealing and waxing rather than painting.

Running has been a bit neglected over the last 6-7 weeks. My hamstring is still twinging occasionally and I haven’t been doing any runs over 50 minutes to test it. But I have been running reasonably consistently, albeit shorter distance. Parkrun is okay despite not doing the times I managed a year ago. It’s only about 60-90 seconds slower per 5k parkrun so not truly shocking. I have had a nice cup of coffee with running mates after, though. Plan: to slowly up the weekly mileage. I’ve got a half marathon coming up in October so I need to know I’m properly fit for that.

Too much egregious world news to comment on just before I go to sleep. Suffice to say that Boris Johnson, ex British Foreign Secretary ridiculing traditional Muslim female dress in the right wing press is vicious, divisive and cruel. It’s a typical extreme right wing Fascist technique. In this case hidden behind the mask of a clown.

As for the Catholic Church and the Benedictine Order and the damning report into decades of sexual abuse at two “leading” Catholic schools, Ampleforth and Downside, it’s a searing indictment of the corrosive and self serving nature of religion.

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Normal running resumed. Hamstring behaving itself.

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Here’s me, running alongside my chum Bob, in Cambridge parkrun. I look fresh and alert, mainly because we’ve just set off. The boy on the left beat us both. Shouldn’t he be be glued to his PlayStation on a Saturday morning rather than showing up senior citizens? Anyway, I’m steadily upping the running. Since the last blog I’ve done a couple of 10k races and a few hour training runs plus a 90 minute session, all without any problems.

Today’s Cambridge parkrun went well. We charged around the narrow country park trail paths like stampeding wildebeests (without anyone being trampled, to my knowledge). 579 ran, ran/walked or walked and it took 35 volunteers to put it on. I did my best time this year but it’s not about speed, is it? It’s not even officially regarded as a race despite the results statistics which record time, placement in time order and personal bests. Nevermind the built in contradictions, it’s a marvellous modern institution and growing healthily.

Mmmmm……. a pair of lips, the first of two. I haven’t given much time to model making recently because other things have got in the way.The ideas keep pinging into my head and they’ll get executed eventually.

Gosport War Memorial Hospital, Hampshire. The independent report found that 456 patients’ lives were shortened because they were given opioid drugs without clinical justification. A further 200 patients are implicated but records are missing. There was a “disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients.” A single GP who worked as a clinical assistant at the hospital, routinely overprescribed drugs for her patients. Nursing staff raised concerns about her prescribing practice as far back as 1988. A staff meeting held in 1991 for nurses to address these issues “had the effect of silencing the nurses’ concerns”. Consultants were aware of the prescribing practice but did not intervene. Nurses did not exercise their responsibility to challenge the overprescribing and continued to administer the drugs Relatives’ complaints and questioning about the safety and appropriateness of care were not heeded by those in authority. And so on.

This is a huge tragedy and a terrible indictment of the moral judgement, apathy, unwillingness to act responsibly, willingness to uphold reputation at any cost and capacity to look away, of a very large number of people. This hospital, in part, was a killing machine. The investigation and inquiries should not be held out of the public gaze nor degenerate into a “truth commission”.

 

 

 

I am a fallen runnning god

Here I am, an erstwhile running god (minor), reduced to taking a selfie to remind myself that the sun can still back light my long hair. Unfortunately just after this shot, I was restrained, transported to a local barber not known for his sympathy towards “elderly gentlemen with long locks” and shorn forthwith. His parting shot to Lorna was “Unfortunately we get a lot like your husband. They don’t want to grow up, see?”

Fact or fiction? Reader, you decide. What isn’t up for conjecture is the imposition of further injuries. Nine days ago, following rest, physio, a relaxed 48 minute run, further rest and no problems identified, I did parkrun and put effort into it. Result? My hamstring pain returned with a vengeance and has lasted. I didn’t do parkrun this Saturday nor a 10k Hoohaah race the following day. To add insult to injury I have developed a neck ache and caught a cold. To a highly tuned running machine like myself, this is not good news. What will I do? I’ll discuss it with my physio and rest until next weekend when I’ll do parkrun again. I’m due to do another 4 mile run directly after parkrun in anothe village. I might do them both and take it easy. I might do one. If the injury returns, I think I’ll stop running for three or four weeks.

The Windrush scandal! The evil Tories have imposed an immigration policy, since around 2010, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, which has the clearly stated intention of creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. In their haste to ingratiate themselves with the gutter press, the credulous electorate and the substantial numbers of unthinking xenophobics, they targeted numbers of the Windrush generation. These are the thousands of Caribbean people who were encouraged to come to Great Britain in the 1950’s and 60’s to work in transport, hospitals, nursing homes and the Post Office. Now, their children having lived their life in this country and not having the required paperwork to prove their legal residency (because the government has lost or shredded it), are under threat of deportation, cannot access services or treatment on the NHS or benefits, cannnot work, are detained and lose their housing rights, despite working in Great Britain for decades.

The evil Tories are now squirming and Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, has resigned only because this scandal has now blown up, thanks to the Guardian, despite going on for a considerable period of time. I take it as read that the Tories, as a whole, do not have a moral compass and will run roughshod over the most vulnerable groups without compunction. What is different about the Windrush situation are the blatent lies uttered by Rudd as she scrambed to put the blame on over zealous officials and civil servants. They were hers and May’s policies which advocated the “hostile environment” and keenness to wrack up the numbers of enforced deportations.Nevertheless, she professed no knowledge of the egregious consequences until leaked documents showed she was lying. The Tories simply don’t care, along with large swathes of Tory voters and Mail readers. The bar for veracity and compassion is now so low for Tory politicians that most people will see Rudd’s demise as just a bit of political fallout. She should be banned from politics and acknowledged to be a public disgrace.

 

Cambridge half marathon, a toilet roll and a gastrocnemius injury

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How versatile is a toilet roll? Very versatile. For example, as illustrated, it goes along way in preventing poking one’s eye out if one is building a tall rigid metal armature in one’s living room. How lucky I am to create a mess in this family environment! On the other hand, my family gets to see a living, working artist at close quarters. Quid pro quo, I think.

At the time of writing, I’m fairly certain I’ve got a calf injury (gastrocnemius). Four days before Saturday parkrun, I was 35 minutes into a 50 minute run when I had to pull up and walk. My left calf had started to twinge on impact and slowly got worse. It felt okay by parkrun time (up to a point) so I went ahead and re-injured myself. It was going well until just before 4k and then I slowed right down to a jog but still managed to complete the 5k. I rested it subsequently but Sunday morning it was swollen.

Plan : longer period of rest (only an idiot would wait until pain had subsided and immediately run on it). I won’t run again until next Saturday. That gives my calf seven days to recover which is surely more than enough time.

I don’t usually get calf problems. A fortnight ago, I did Cambridge half marathon and have done various runs since. I’ve got a new pair of running shoes which are an updated version of what I’ve been wearing for several years and I doubt that’s the culprit. I read that calf problems are more common in older runners and take longer to resolve. One way to at least mitigate this issue would be to re-register at parkrun as Steven Youngman in the 40-44 age category. Mind over matter frequently does the trick!

The Cambridge half went reasonably well. With immaculate timing, the Beast from the East (a late snap of very cold weather and snow affecting the entire country) came to a sudden end shortly before the race. The snow and ice melted overnight, the wind dropped and the temperature was just right for running. Unfortunately a lot of runners couldn’t make it because of transport difficulties and uncertainty the race would go ahead. About 7000 took part out of a theoretical 9000. It gets very congested in parts of the city despite re-routing it to Granchester rather than the previous two city laps. I think this is a consequence of the increase in the size of the race whichI presume will continue to grow.

Lorna and two daughters spectated and my eldest son just beat me by a few minutes (a mere 24). I finished in just under two hours. What did I learn? I need to do more timely training before running 13 miles. And take a longer period to recover. Will I heed this insight? I’m more likely to this time.

We visited the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern last weekend. Very good if you like non realist, abstract depictions of the human form. Tough if you don’t.

Much consternation among the sculptures when it snowed. They were relieved and  reassured when I confirmed they were for indoor display  only. Possibly I spend too much time talking to them!

 

 

 

 

 

Cambridge half looms and Spring’s nearly here (almost)

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Here’s proof winter’s nearly over. Now it gets complicated. What is the plural of crocus? Actually it’s crocuses or croci. I’ll opt for the correct Latin plural. Anyway, the aconites, snowdrops and hellebores are out and so are some daffodils. Other stuff is poking through and I’ve already cut the grass. Another week and we’ll be planting potatoes.

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It took a lot of effort to fence around the Green Minds gardening project but here’s proof the defences are working. Those wiley little rabbits have been making a concerted effort to break in by tunneling under the wire. Unfortunately for them they meet wire I have laid horizontally under the grass and can’t progress. Having limited brain power they simply move along the line rather than start digging again a little further out (or using ropes and grappling hooks).

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We found these chickens in our garden. I had a little chat with them  and they explained they were admiring the late winter flowers. However they simply admitted defeat when I asked them which came first, the chicken or the egg.

We bought some of their produce (not directly from the chickens but from their middleman/woman, the farmer). Here’s an action picture of  alien royalty choosing an egg for breakfast.

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Anyway, time to be sensible (always a struggle). The running is going okay. I gave up running every day five weeks ago because I felt too tired. In terms of mileage it wasn’t huge, often a couple of miles at a gentle pace. However, I think I needed rest days to recover. So, for me, I can do individual long runs of 6-10 miles but a rest is vital. I recently did a couple of hour runs and then followed this up with a two hour training run of 13 miles. This did make me tired although I would regard it as a good tiredness rather than one caused by stress or demands. I certainly felt much better for it.

Cambridge half marathon is a fortnight away. Today, I ran around 12 miles. The actual mileage wasn’t a problem but I struggled to get out. The light level was poor, it was cold and I possessed a minimum of motivation. I ran steadily, not swiftly and took just over two hours. I was glad to get back home.

Today is Wednesday. I’ll do parkrun on Saturday and go to the gym in the afternoon. I may do an hour’s run on Sunday and perhaps 45 minutes on Wednesday. Then parkrun and the following day is the half marathon. Or something like that. If the sun’s shining this programme won’t be problematic, if it’s a Stygian gloom I may jump into the river Cam.

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Sculptures possibly taking over.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.