Lockdown Weight

I’ve put on a bit of weight during lockdown. Mentally I have struggle with not being able to go on adventures with my lovely wife Helen and our silly pooch. Last summer when the lockdown eased we went on loads of mini-adventures and even had a brilliant week staying at Helen’s brother’s caravan in the south Lakes.

Since Christmas I’ve got myself into a bit of a habit of buying biscuits and chocolate. Helen doesn’t start work until 1pm and then works late, so I would walk with her on her way to work and buy myself some diet coke or pepsi, and sometimes a small bar of chocolate. This soon became biscuits as well. This didn’t help me mentally and I started to spiral downwards, feeling worse and then eating even more rubbish. However, getting my first vaccine jab seems to have helped. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lockdown restrictions are due to ease in a few weeks with swimming pools opening again, and hopefully we’ll be able to go for run/walks in different counties as well.

Anyway I weighed myself for the first time in a couple of years and I was 83kg (13 stone 3 lbs). I would like to drop down to 75kg. I have eased off the biscuits and chocolate, and I plan to alternate Fridays with a long run or a long bike ride. The long run being at least 2 hours and the bike ride at least 100km, with the aim of completing a couple of 100 milers later this summer. I also want to do another ultra run, although exactly where and when is yet to be decided, possibly Panther takes the hindmost in October again.

We do have some adventures planned, with Helen and her friends having another go at the Bay Limestone Round, with each of them taking a different leg. We’ll have to recce the route a few times which I’m looking forward to. We also have the Castle to Coast Triathlon in July to look forward to, and I have a 5 mile swim in Coniston in September as well. That’s all though. Like most people we’ve not entered anything as we’re waiting to see what the summer brings, but with over 40% of the UK population already having one jab the future is looking brighter.

Astra Zeneca Vaccine

Yesterday afternoon I had my first vaccine jab, and it was the Astra Zeneca variety. I arrived at the vaccine centre, had my name ticked off and followed the signs down to the basement, using hand sanitiser a couple of times. I answered a few routine questions and had my jab, all very quick and painless. I was also given a leaflet detailing possible side effects. My brother in law had his first jab earlier in the week and he felt sick all night. I was warned that I might feel tired, which I definitely did when I took Nelly for a walk around the park, although that could have been because of the 100km bike ride I’d done that morning.

Anyway, that evening I started to feel very tired and as suggested I took a couple of Paracetamols. In bed in the wee small hours I started to have the chills and couldn’t get warm, even though I was burning up. In the morning my temperature was 37.8 and I had a banging headache.

It is now 11am the morning after and my temperature has dropped and I’m starting to feel a little more human, but I am not planning on doing anything strenuous today. In fact a day on the sofa reading is my plan.

Edit: Update a couple of days later and it took almost 48 hours for me to feel human again, but I was back out running again on the Monday morning so the side effects are very short term, which is good. Mentally I feel much better. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that me and Helen (not forgetting Nelly) will be able to go on mini-adventures once again, up to the Lakes or even further afield. This last lockdown has been tough, especially seeing so many people ignoring it and just heading off for long walks or runs in different counties. On a brighter note, swimming pools will be open in a few weeks and then in early June parkrun will hopefully be back again.

Have you had your vaccine jab yet and did you experience any side effects? Apparently one in ten people will suffer from some kind of side effects.

Advent Avenues and Alcohol Free Beer

Advent Avenue

One of the few good things to come out of Covid was greater interactions with neighbours and trying to ensure that everyone is OK. The Whatsapp group for our street decided to have a go at an Advent Avenue (I have my lovely wife to thank for the phrase Advent Avenue). Each house that takes part is allocated a number from 1 to 24, and then on the date reveal a window display featuring their number, much like an advent calendar. This has proved to be incredibly popular and I have to say that our next door neighbours out did themselves with 15.

Hopefully the postman hasn’t become too confused with house number 24 displaying a large 2 in the window. Today when I went for a little walk to drop off some books at the Free Little Library I noticed that the two nearest streets to us are also doing their own advent avenues. I absolutely love it and it brings some much needed cheer to brighten up what will be a very tough Christmas.

Alcohol Free Beer

When the first lock down began it was very easy to slide into drinking a little too much. Me and Helen were guilty of this as it became rare for us not to have a drink most evenings. One solution to cutting back was to try some alcohol free beers. Helen tried a couple of alcohol free wines and vowed never again. There is however, some very large discrepancies between brewery’s and their beers.

The good stuff includes Brew Dogs two options, Punk AF and Nanny State. Both of these taste like real beers. Top of the picks is Flat Tyre from Pistonhead (available in Asda). I like all of the regular beers from Pistonhead but was pleasantly surprised by just how good their alcohol free variety was.

There is a great deal bad stuff out there. Own brand alcohol free wheat beer from Aldi (possibly Lidl) was undrinkable. Sharp’s have recently released an alcohol free version of their popular Doom Bar. Again one sip and the rest of the bottle was poured down the sink. The only way to describe either of these beers is sweet gravy. A brewery like Sharp’s surely has someone in charge of quality control. At some point someone must have raised the point that their new beer was undrinkable.

Zombie High Street

My lovely wife has started an online writing course, and assignment 1 has already been sent off. Helen had to write a 500 word descriptive piece, and I have to say it was better than anything I have ever written or probably ever will. Part of assignment 2 is to write a ‘filler’.

Magazines and newspapers are always hungry for ‘fillers’, which generally run between 300 and 500 words. These short pieces are used to plug the spaces left in the overall design of a newspaper or magazine after positioning the main pieces on the page. Apparently they can be a good source in extra income for writers and journalists.

What does any of this have to do with the Zombie High Street. I had an idea for a short blog entry, which could, in theory, be used as a filler, if it’s any good, although I wouldn’t have a clue how or where to submit it.

Zombie High Street

For many people, after the hustle and bustle of a busy working week, Saturdays can become an easy going and pleasant routine. Lie in, walk the dog, have a coffee and then wander into town for some retail therapy, a skinny latte and a large slice of carrot cake.

Lockdown 2.0 has hit the UK, just as the shops would be gearing up for the festive bonaza. Only essential shops are open. In our medium sized market town this would be Marks & Spencers, Boots and Wilkinsons. Cafes, pubs, bookstores, charity shops, Lush, WH Smiths, etc, etc, all closed, their staff once again on furlough, worrying if they’ll have a job to go back to.

This Saturday, town was busy, and busy for no reason. Nothing was open, there was nowhere to go. The ‘essential’ shops weren’t unduly busy either, so why were there so many people?

The 1978 classic George Romero zombie film was set in a shopping mall. The place is full of zombies milling around. The undead were drawn to a place that had meant so much to them when they were alive. Have we become living zombies, drawn to town centres because they used to be alive? Is Covid-19 the beginning of the apocalypse?

Many High Streets had almost become ghost towns before the global pandemic hit. I for one hope that the High Street endures, thrives, becomes better with a greater array of diverse smaller shops. Use Amazon if you must (other online retail giants are not available), but the shopping local mantra should guarantee the survival of our towns and prevent us becoming living zombies, searching for what was there, but has gone.

Garmin 920 Route Fix

Me and my lovely wife own Garmin 920 watches, both second hand, and we agree that they are a brilliant piece of kit, especially if you’re a triathlete. However, the one fault we have is the difficulty in uploading routes to follow. The 920 doesn’t have map capability so any route will be a ‘breadcrumb’ trail, which is generally all that we require. With my Garmin 500 bike computer all I need to do is create a route, (Strava routes, Bike and Hike, etc) save it as a .tcx file and upload it. This doesn’t work with a 920. It would appear that the only way to upload routes is to connect with Garmin connect and Garmin Express, neither of which I particularly like. For me, Garmin hardware is amazing, and Garmin software is a bit rubbish.

So, how to upload a route to a Garmin 920 without using Garmin software. Create your route using your preferred website, save it as a .tcx file, upload this file to your bike computer (it works with a Garmin 500 and 800), open the route, giving the computer chance to convert it to a file type that Garmin likes, and then transfer the converted route onto your 920. It is a little bit of a faff, but it works and at the weekend me and my wife went for a couple of runs in places that we didn’t know without a worry.

Random Wednesday

More random ‘things’ from the past week.

Pebble Painting

My amazing wife, Helen, has started painting pebbles. We cycled out to Morecambe last Sunday to pick up a few likely pebbles, which apparently is illegal, although if you’re only taking a handful I doubt anyone will say anything, but if you were to remove them by the truck load it might be different. So far Helen has finished two brilliantly artistic cacti pebbles, with more to follow.

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COBR

COBR, not to be confused with the below average Stallone film, Cobra, is the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms, set up to deal with regional or national emergencies. Gordon Brown, when he was Prime Minister, didn’t miss a single meeting. Boris Johnson missed the first five meetings set up to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Maybe if Boris had been a little more focused from the start he wouldn’t have ended up in intensive care and maybe we wouldn’t be looking at well over 40,000 deaths. That’s not to be too critical, the furlough scheme is a life saver for thousands of people. Here in Lancaster, one of the worst hit cities in the UK, the lock down feels well and truly over. There are people everywhere. Lancaster, Barrow and Kendal are the three worst hit places in the UK, and what they have in common is the Hospital Trust. This particular trust has been far more active in testing than any where else in the UK, even London. The results would probably be similar across the rest of the country if the same level of testing had been performed.

Disney+

A month ago I mentioned that we have subscribed to the Disney+ channel.  Many of the classic films haven’t aged too well and many of the newer films don’t really appeal to us. We have therefore cancelled it, at least until we have grandchildren to enjoy it with. Disney will more than likely manage to survive without our £5.99 a month.

Cheese

Apparently 4% of the global cheese market is stolen. Cheese is the most shoplifted item from supermarkets and it’s even liberated from wholesalers. Maybe because meat and alcohol have security tags, making these item harder to pilfer. Beware if a dodgy looking person sidles up to you, they might be selling cheese instead of drugs.

Random Wednesday

It’s that time again. Another set of random Wednesday thoughts and deeds.

Brooks Run Happy at Home

I’ve been running in Brooks shoes for many years, although not exclusively a my trail shoes and racing flats are both made by Saucony. Brooks have been using the hashtag Run Happy (#runhappy) for a few years now, and with this virus around at the moment, they have altered it slightly to #runhappyathome. Each week there is a different medal, available for a whole range of distances from 1km up to a full marathon. All you need to do is upload a screenshot of your activity, add in your details, along with the nearest Brooks retailer. Here’s the good bit for the small independent running shops, the medal doesn’t get sent to your home, it goes to the shop, so once the lock down is over if you want your medal(s) you have to go and visit your friendly Brooks dealer. A real win win scenario. Anyway, I’ve just uploaded my 5km run from this morning, and here is this weeks medal.

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Last weeks medal was in the shape of a pair of oven gloves. You’ll have to be quick though, as this is the last week.

Air pollution

One of the best things about the lock down is the huge reduction in road traffic, and subsequently an improvement in air quality. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the Himalayas, generally never seen from India, but now viewed in all their glory, or downtown Los Angeles, usually one of the smoggiest city in the world. Here in Lancaster, on a good day we can see the hills of the southern Lake District, but at the moment we can make out individual houses in the town of Grange-over-Sands. Not everything during the lock down period is bad news.

Coffee and Tea

The company I work for generally treat their staff fairly well, including providing tea and coffee. Don’t laugh, when I worked for a local authority everyone had their own jar of coffee or box of tea bags on their desk. However, working from home has significantly increased the volume of coffee consumption. It hasn’t actually, all that’s happened is that the volume of coffee consumed that we buy has increased.

Icelandic Horses

Me and my amazing wife had a few days in Iceland earlier in the year, and one day we stopped to see some Icelandic horses.

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They are a hardy old breed, smaller and hairier than your usual horse. They are also in danger of regular horse viruses, so there is a strict no importing horses policy in the country. Game of Thrones was filmed in Iceland, and whenever there was a horse in the scene they had to use clever camera angles to make the horses look bigger.

Here concludes another random Wednesday.

Random Wednesday

Another week and another random Wednesday, although last weekend didn’t start off too well.

Windowbox

I went out for a two hour bike ride, and when I came home I noticed that our front window box had been stolen, probably over night and I hadn’t noticed when I set off. It was old and cheap, and the plants needed to be replaced, but even so, why would anyone steal a window box. Sad little muppets.

Everesting

Many years ago I read about the concept of ‘Everesting’, where you find a hill, cycle (or run) up and down continuously until you have climbed the equivalent of Everest (8848m). Back in August 2014 I managed my own ‘Everest’ (Strava here and  Blog here). The Everesting website has recently introduced a half Everest, or Base Camp, which this morning I submitted my two failed Everesting attempts (Strava here and here, and Blog here). There is also a Virtual Everesting challenge for those of you who Zwift, which looks even less fun than doing it out on the road.

What I’m Missing

With this lock down there are a few things that I’m missing. In the short term it is swimming and parkrun. My last swim was on the 16th March. At the time I thought missing two or three weeks wouldn’t be so bad, but now it’s looking like two to three months. My last parkrun was on the 14th March, and who knows when we’ll all be parkrunning again. We’re also missing not being able to jump in the car and go for a run or ride somewhere completely different. The Howgills are calling us!

In the long term, my wife had entered the great big Bala swim, which was going to be awesome as Helen would have to ride a train to get to the start. My amazing wife had also bought tickets for us to go and see the Back to the Future musical in Manchester. The Bala swim has been postponed, so ultimately we won’t miss out, but the musical hasn’t yet been re-scheduled.

Kindle

Like many people, I’m reading a whole lot more during these strange times. Currently I have got into the habit of reading three different books simultaneously, reading a chapter of one and then swapping to the next book. At the moment I am reading a very dark thriller by Will Carver, an ultra running European adventure by David Byrne and a modern day urban fantasy romp by Amelia Hutchins, featuring Witches, Vampires and evil Fairies. Diverse to say the least.

What have you been up to?

Random Wednesday

Continuing with my random blog post random Wednesday, what has been going through my mind since my last ‘Random Wednesday’.

Flour

My wife is an amazing baker, especially cakes and scones, but with the lock down Helen decided to have a go at sourdough, which involves making a sourdough starter. We managed to get some bread flour from the local vegetarian and organic food shop, enough to ‘feed’ the starter. Unfortunately, once the starter was ready to use to make some lovely bread, we didn’t have enough bread flour. I went to Asda, my wife went to Booths, we even tried friends and neighbours, all to no avail. So my wife’s poor old sourdough starter is stuck in the fridge, waiting. Good news though, we might be able to grab some from a small artisan bakery in Lancaster. I can’t wait to try some freshly baked homemade bread.

Stobart Spotting

My regular drive to work down the M6 and M61 usually takes about 45 minutes, and to keep myself amused I like to note down the names of any Stobart lorries that I pass on the way. In the last month I’ve only seen one lorry, randomly parked next to Tesco in the centre of Lancaster, as I’ve not been driving. I must admit that I quite like not having to drive to work, and I’m probably not the only one.

English Pointers

The English Pointer is a funny old breed of dog. Loyal, good natured, tough and fit, but above all, slightly bonkers with a small brain. They are an endangered breed with so few registered each year, and unless you are very active they don’t make great pets. They need to ‘work’, or at least run around a lot off the lead. They are also prone to misjudging barb wired fences. Nelly, our pointer, has numerous scars on her legs from mishaps. Below is from 6 years ago, off her face on drugs with another dozen stitches.

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The worst accident was when she was running full pelt in the park and managed to impail herself on a branch which went right through her. She recovered, but that was the accident that got her black listed from pet insurance firms.

City Strides

With all the gyms and pools closed, there are a lot more runners about, and I’m guessing that some of them have found the website City Strides. Not being able to go for rides far from home, I’ve been trying to tick off a few more streets that I’ve not run down near to where we live. Me and Nelly get the odd strange looks as we run down a dead-ends and then run back out again, but we have now run 525 street in the larger Lancaster area, or 22.99% of them.

What random stuff have you been getting up to?

Random Wednesday

So what has been happening the last two weeks?

Disney+

I’m sure you will have noticed that the streaming channel Disney+ is now available in the UK. We signed up for a free 7 day trial. We’ve only watched two films so far, but both of them have left us in tears. I would definitely recommend Togo and Secretariat.

Togo is about the 1925 serum run in Alaska, where a diphtheria epidemic had hit the town of None, and the only way to get the serum there was by dog sled. Togo was the lead dog on the sled which covered the furthest distance including crossing the very dangerous Norton Sound, twice.

Secretariat is about one of the greatest horses ever. In 1973 he became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years with a record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes, which he won by 31 lengths. The film also covers the struggles his owner, a housewife, had to overcome to keep the horse. John Malkovich stars as the horses unusual trainer.

Both films are highly recommended, especially if you like horse or dog films.

Lockdown

In Lancaster it does appear that most people are observing the lockdown, with very quiet roads. I was out cycling on Sunday and below is the M6.

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I went for a run on Monday with Nelly and there were half a dozen cars parked up where people had driven to exercise their dogs. There was an article in the Guardian stating that police are able to disperse and fine groups of two or more people who do not live together, but it is a grey area as to whether they can fine people for driving somewhere to exercise. Additionally, Michael Gove mentioned that people should only exercise once a day and for no more than an hour. This isn’t enforceable. If a government minister recommends something in a press conference that is aspirational, until this passes into law, the police cannot legally enforce it. This is a dangerous road to becoming a police state. 1984 was a work of fiction not a how to manual. However, don’t be silly out there.

Virtual Races

Every race has been cancelled for the next month, and probably will  to be called off through May and June. Because of this there are a load more virtual races with medals available. I have been a fan of Strava Challenges for many years (read about it here), and I have also completed quite a few virtual challenges from  Run for the World (you can find them here). I enjoy virtual challenges as they keep me ‘challenged’, especially when there are no races to enjoy.

Ukulele

My lovely wife has been making the most of being cooped up by learning to play the ukulele, and even after only a couple of days she can play ‘You are my sunshine’ with precision and style. I created a mnemonic so that she could remember the order of the strings – Garden Caterpillar Eats Apples. I might surprise her by buying myself one so that we can jam.

Have you read those books you’ve been meaning to for years? Learning a new skill? Eating crisps and watching Netflix all day?