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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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.

I come to grief at Cambridge parkrun

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Photo courtesy of John Wilderspin

Here’s me, three weeks ago, bowling along in the heat, clearly upholding my reputation as an ageing running god (Roman era).

It was a different story today. My left hip had gven me aches, and occasional pain, for about four days but I had decided that running on it wouldn’t be problematic. I was wrong! There was a small amount of discomfort up to half way but I was still going full tilt. Then the discomfort increased and I began to get sharp pains which I couldn’t ignore. I still completed parkrun by walking and occasionally trotting but I think I’m properly injured.

A couple of days earlier when comparing my left and right hips, I expected to see some bruising where I bashed into something or collided with a worktop. There was no bruising in evidence and instead I noticed my left hip appeared a little swollen compared with the right. This suggested osteoarthritis although I wasn’t aware of it previously. Looking up the symptoms for osteoarthritis of the hip it didn’t quite fit with me and I wonder if the quads injury I had a couple of years ago might be implicated. Anyway, I hope to arrange an X-ray and take it from there. I did decide to take Ibuprrofen after speaking to the pharmacist but will further discuss this with my GP. Ibuprofen is not commonly taken by people with heart disease because it can adversely interact with cardiac medication.

So, I’m faced with an enforced rest from running for the time being. Boo hoo!

I read that Trump believes he has “complete power” to pardon people and is considering presidential pardons for family members, aides and even himself in the context of investigations into possibble collusion between rhe Trump team and Russian intelligence agencies. This sounds like a marvellous way to bring the Trump administration into total disrepute. I can understand that there are classes of American society who feel neglected, ignored and hard done by, by succesive administrations but the nature of the support that Trump has generated reflects a high level of credulousness, a punishing disregard for human rights, a moronic taste for jingoistic nationalism, a naked self interest at the expense of others and a penchant for cruelty, piggishness and vicious charm. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and Trump hasn’t wasted much time demonstrating it. The self righteousness and arrogance of his supporters and their willingness to condemn and  do down the most vulnerable people in society is frightening. God help America!

The difference between 5k and 15k

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Wings for Life, Cambridge. A couple of  thousand people took part. You stop running when David Coulthard, the F1 racing driver catches you up in a car driving at a set speed. I managed 18.3k so at the point this less than flattering photo was taken, I still had another 3k to run.

Actually the camera does lie. I didn’t feel too bad although not as fresh as the woman behind me. The interesting thing is that since I joined a gym before last Chrismas I’ve felt fitter but I’m running slower. Even more interesting I feel I’m running faster despite what my stopwatch says. Mind over matter. That’s good news, really. It suggests that I might be highly suscepible to placebo medication which is gaining increasing respect and credibility. Do I need to take bisoprolol, a beta blocker, for my heart disease? A recent report in the Guardian highlighted a study that purported to show that for the vast majority of people on bisoprolol, there is no benefit (with the exception of those diagnosed with heart failure). I think I’ll have a chat with my GP. Looking forward tomtaking placebos.

God help us on General Election day! Please let fairness and consideration for others win over self interest and rapacity as practised by the evil Tories. American friends, please impeach your out of control President. Please shut down his twitter account immediately.

Still running but other stuff happens……

I seem to have a small modelling habit, at the moment, which potentially could get out of hand. These are uncompleted works in progress and will be painted. Commisions will be accepted and individual pieces can acquired for either £9.99, £19.99, £199.99 or£1999.99. Pricing is also a work in progress but I’m inspired by the example of designer perfumes which garner more sales because of the cachet of a hefty price tag.

I’ve been neglecting running a bit recently although parkrun remains a weekly staple. What I’m not doing is regular long runs apart from occasional 10k races. Well, this has got to stop. I’ve given myself a stern talking to and yesterday I did 10 miles along the river Cam. It was freezing. Wind chill, blanket cloud, lousy light. I should have headed north where it was blanket sunshine. Anyway, the run went well.

This weekend I’m doing Cambridge parkrun at 9am then driving to a local village to do a 7k run. The following day, Sunday, I’ll be in the centre of Cambridge for the Wings For Life run. This is a 2000+ race without a fixed distance. The idea is to run as far as possible until you are caught by David Coulthard, the F1 driver, who overtakes you in a (relatively) slow moving car. Last year I managed about 13k until Dave overtook me. Impressively, all roads will be closed to traffic. When you complete your run, a fleet of buses return you to the centre of Cambridge. All this went very well and it was efficiently organised. Like parkrun, it appeals to all types of runners and the atmosphere is great.

 

We spent an enjoyable day watching the London marathon near Canary Wharf, around mile 18. We stayed until the sweeper car went past and the race officially finished. And still they came, walking and staggering. It’s always a humbling situation.

Cambridge Holi and Cambourne 10k

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Cambridge Holi Festival earlier in the month.

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The Holi is the  Hindu Festival of Colour and a celebration of the arrival of Spring. Cambridge students assemble on Queen’s backs and throw paint at each other. Great fun and enjoyable to watch. I was a bit worried about them breathing in the clouds of powder paint but this didn’t appear to be an issue. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t up to much but the rain just managed to hold off for most of the time.

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Last weekend, I did Cambridge parkrun on Saturday and Cambourne 10k on Sunday. Cambourne is a new town, 9 miles to the west of Cambridge and the race is part organised by Cambridge and Coleridge Athletics Club. And very nicely organised it was, too. The weather was perfect and the course was gently undulating (although some of the inclines did go on a bit). I was roughly 100 seconds slower than last year and I was happy with that.

It occurred to me (again) that I seem to know quite a lot of male runners with serious health problems, mainly in their 60s.Tumours, heart disease (heart attacks, heart block and arrythmias}and a spinal bleed. I’m also in this group and we’ve all got one thing in common. We are all still running! A couple of weeks ago I had a chat with a club runner from Newmarket. He’s currently waiting for a hip replacement and expecting to run again in a year’s time when he’ll be in the 85-89 age category for parkrun. Hip hip hooray!

Cambridge half marathon and Tate Britain

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This is not the Cambridge half, of course. This is Cambridge parkrun the day before. And very muddy it was, too. Photo taken by Rob Moir who is able to twist around, whilst running, and take a good quality picture without falling arse over tit, before accelerating off. Thanks Rob.

I was very lucky to run the Cambridge half. Four days before I did a bit of light lifting without an obvious problem but overnight my knee became painful. The following day it was very sore and stiff and I thought this might be the second Cambridge half in a row that injury or illness would stop me running. The next day, Saturday, I did parkrun but the knee held up and for the rest of the day. Just over three miles is one thing but thirteen miles is something else. Nevertheless, I did the half, and miraculously, with no ill effect to my knee except a little aching and stiffness. Phew!

I’m not running very consistently at the moment and not for very long either. I did run my fastest parkrun this year, yesterday, but I’m still catching up on last year’s times. Today, I ran the Swavesey 5 miler. Swavesey’s a village 10 miles from Cambridge surrounded by very flat fenland fields and when the wind blows, as it often does in the fens, there’s no protection. It was windy today but the temperature was mild. Nevertheless I ran in my jacket to avoid the wind chill. I came in 22nd out of 69 but two and a half minutes slower than last year.There was also a half marathon at the same time in which 134 ran. Another half was a temptation but physically I don’t feel 100%.

After the race, as I was leaving, I came across a gaggle of St. John’s Ambulance standing alone in the wind. They asked me how my race went. I revealed it went okay (this is not fake news!) and I said their presence was very reassuring to me because of my heart disease (they also had a couple of bikes out following the runners). Good people (does Trump use this phrase, it sounds familiar).

And so to the Tate Britain gallery, Millbank, London to see the David Hockney exhibition. Well worth visiting to see all his iconic pictures and pictures of various periods. Very enjoyable wandering  around the galleries again and absorbing the wonderful creativity.

Lorna is contemplating Jules Olitski’s Instant Loveland. There’s more going on in this picture than appears at first sight, particularly in the lower left hand corner. Thankfully there is no danger of Lorna being overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of lurid colours. Actually, I am sympathetic to this type of art but I still find it highly amusing.

This is Edward Halliday’s Christian and Hopeful Arrive Before the Celestial City, 1926. I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress and I don’t remember it as a naked journey.

I walked into Cambridge’s premier bookshop, Cambridge University Press, with confidence and purpose. I found the hardback book I had seen in the window display and optimistically scanned it for the price. £60!!!!!!!! I staggered back, weakened in body and spirit. The staff were familiar with such reactions, helping me to sit down and wafting smelling salts under my nose. They gently prised the £60 tome from my immobilised hand, glanced at the price and offered the standard treatment response. “Don’t worry, sir. This title will be issued in paperback in two months at less than a third of the cost. I’m sure you’re  feeling better already, aren’t you? I was!