Month: January 2011


I have identified my weakest of weaknesses when it comes to this triathlon lark; the swimming. The last two sessions I’ve taken my Ironman watch so I could use the lap timer to keep track of how many lengths I’ve done.

For the half Ironman distance triathlon the swim is ‘only’ 1.2 miles, but being such a piffling distance they knock twenty minutes off what would be half the time of the full one. So it’s 2.4 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes for full distance, 1.2 miles in 1 hour for the half. Bastards.

The last two or three times I’ve timed it and I’ve been about three or four minutes outside the time. And it is really knackering. I don’t seem to have the strength to go faster or longer.

I suppose I should look at the positives, it’s not long since I was struggling to do 40 metres, and I think I’ve got the breathing sorted now. It used to be the whole of the battle was just trying to avoid drowning every time I took a breath, now I’ve got the the stage where I would say I am actually comfortable with it. Now I am busy trying to get my stroke right, stay flat on top of the water and not twist my body with each stroke. Not really thinking about breathing any more. So things are improving, if not as quickly as I’d like. I just have to practise until I develop muscles and a good technique.

The running is coming along well. It is only eleven weeks until my first full marathon race so I am following a training plan for that. I have been doing my running on the treadmill at the gym. It is a brilliant bit of kit! When you are doing distance running you are a bit cautious. It doesn’t do to run nine miles at a good speed, then be too knackered to continue, nine miles from home. Also, you get into a comfortable (it’s a relative term) rhythm and it’s hard to get faster. On the treadmill you can see what speed you are doing, can commit to it (if you can’t finish you can always step off) and can easily monitor your progress. The good/ bad thing is you overheat really quickly. The sweat pisses off me. This is good training for summer though (when most of my races take place).

In this months ‘Triathletes World’ they had a few top tips on running; putting the treadmill at 1% mimics real road running and running up tight to the front of the machine forces you to take faster, shorter strides putting your foot under your centre of gravity thus making your gait more efficient.

I have had a few notable successes. I said before that after a 56 mile bike ride I still managed to knock a minute off my time for a half marathon. My last big run, an 18 miler, I was feeling good so I set a good early pace. I started to flag at about 9 miles but I kept it up. I finished the half (13.1 miles) in 1:37.47 ! 5 minutes 1 second faster than my Warrington half time! That, let me tell you, is quite an impressive improvement. WIN!

Then I had to grind out another 4.9 miles! EPIC FAIL! That was rough. I did it, but my heart rate monitor kept slipping into the red, so I had to keep knocking tenths of miles per hour off my speed (or risk a heart attack!). I did it in 2 hours 17 minutes in the end. Then I got home, was too ill to eat my tea and ended up throwing up. Overdid the early stages a bit I think.

I am push biking to work a lot, just to try to build muscles drip by drip. It’s only about 5½ miles each way, but it has to be better than nothing. Some muscle build, and at the very least it has hardened my arse so I am not saddle sore anymore.

The next weekend I’m off I think I’ll try to nip the Lake District and back, get in some serious miles.

Anywho, swim, swim, swim. It’s my weakest discipline and if you fail on the swim (first event in the race) that’s it, your race is over.

Before I go, that heart rate monitor is another top bit of kit. I was worried I wasn’t pushing hard enough. Now I know my biking is on the borderline between the middle exercise state (aerobic?) and the last one (performance zone) and my running is all in the performance zone, except for when it strays into the zone labelled ‘ CRASH CART! STAT! ’

So, it’s all good. Except for the bits where I’m crap.



Mighty Micra!

I took the Megane in for an MOT last week, expecting to fail on a bald tyre and tracking. Given that when our Lisa gave it to me it came via the coppers, who in turn had it inspected by an official Renault garage, and they couldn’t find anything majorly wrong with it. That was only a few months ago, so I was quite optimistic.

I booked it in to the garage for the morning of my day off, then work decided I was to go in in the morning, even though it was my 2-10 week, to go out with a driver. Ball ache, but with the push bike in the boot I managed to drop it off and get to work.

I rang them later and they said that I needed a wheel bearing replaced, and a few bulbs (which, in retrospect, I know I don’t need. Hmmm.) £49. I said ‘get on it’. And the ABS fault light is on.

This surprised me as, never having had ABS, I assumed it was lighting up to show me it was working! (Derrr!)

Rang back later and the update was, having run a diagnostic on the ABS the problem was a worn disc on the drive shaft. But they couldn’t replace the disc, had to get a whole new drive shaft with one on! £230! Ker-ching!

Bollocks to that!

The car, when I insured it was only valued at £400-£500. With the new tyre, tracking, drive shaft/ ABS disc, wheel bearing, bulbs (?) and £205 road tax it would cost more to run than it would to replace.


Desperate times demand desperate measures.

I eyed the Micra speculatively. I’d snapped off two bits in the engine. If they got into the moving parts it was game over. But incentivised by £500+ of expenditure I thought I’d give it a go.

A lad at work had said the snapped off bits would fall straight into the oil sump, where they would rest harmlessly. He happens to be a bullshitting blowhard, so it wasn’t that much of a reassurance.

I went to the scrap yard yesterday and got the whole unit, of which the two snapped off bits were the furthest projection.

I fitted it last night. I tried to turn the engine over but the battery was completely flat. Wouldn’t open the doors or light the lights. So I put it on charge. I assumed that having left it to get that flat I would probably have to replace the battery, but could use the one from the Megane just to try it out.

Then I got to thinking that perhaps it wasn’t helping matters any that the part had been removed from the engine for months, letting moisture into the cylinders. So I took the plugs out and sprayed WD40 into the barrels, let that soak in overnight to ease any potential rust/ seizure.

This morning I went out and put the key in, the dash lit up, then a few hazard lights went out. Turned the key, choking and not quite catching, but turning over. Put my foot down, kept the key turned and she fired and ran, all be it lumpily!

Go the mighty Micra!

Ran it, lumpily, for a few minutes. Nothing exploded. Got out and took the battery charger out from under the bonnet and noticed I hadn’t put one of the HT leads back on the spark plug!

Months being dead, open to the elements, dead battery, give it a quick charge and she starts and runs on three cylinders!

Mighty indeed!

I’ve taken it for a quick spin. Again, nothing exploded or seized. So far, so good, so what?

Now we wait.

For my peace of mind I may drop the oil. If the snapped off parts are in it I will be a happy bunny. If not I just have to keep on touching wood.

The Micra cost about half as much in road tax, insurance and petrol as the Megane. If only I knew for sure where those snapped off bits were I’d say it was a done deal. If it will get me through one more year, cheaply, I will be happy.

As soon as I get the driving job I’m treating myself to a VW Polo, 1.4 diesel. 80 MPG, VW so bullet proof, and diesel so should run for ever. Also, being a diesel it’s not likely to be a boy racer toy so hopefully the insurance will be reasonable.And it’s free road tax! Win-win-win!

So here’s to cheap motoring! Fingers crossed.



Since my last post I’ve been out with a driver. Quite an eye-opener it was too. Some masterfully reversing! I’m nowhere near up to that standard. It’s not just the being able to do it, which I probably could, eventually, it’s being able to so it in one attempt. The stores are on main roads, the access being down little side streets with parked cars which have to be negotiated in reverse. So that was intimidating. On the bright side I got the impression off the driver that Claire, the transport manger, was serious about getting me trained up for the job. Also, I got to have an on-the-job induction to how you are supposed to do it, and how you do it when there is not an assessor about.

I got to run through all the stuff I’ll need to know (using the tacho card, tail lift, swearing at car drivers, eating a huge breakfast from a greasy spoon, etc).

The bit I wasn’t too keen on was getting in for 5.30 (half an hour earlier than a real, paid, shift) the when we’d done the first runs Claire asking if I was going out for the second run, which would have made it a 13 hour day, unpaid!

I’d already talked to the driver about it, saying if she wanted me too I had no choice but to do it. He stepped in when she asked and said that he thought I’d learned all I was going to for one day, pointless me going out again. Bless him. So just did 7 hours, unpaid, on my day off.


This was a might irksome, especially as I’m expecting this to be a protracted arrangement. However, the benefits of the plan became apparent when some arseholes tried to screw it up for me!

I told one of the lads in the freezer what was happening. Not really bitching, just saying about the cheek of ‘proving my commitment to the company’. He is mates with the union rep for the freezer. Something that hadn’t occurred to me. The union being the ineffectual management butt-monkeys they are I hadn’t even factored them into any equation.

When I went for my break the union rep was up in arms, me training, unpaid, not clocked on, not covered in case of accident (fair point that). He was saying he was going to speak to the drivers rep and see what could be done.

Just when you finally start to get your shit together some well intentioned, self important arsehole sticks their oar in.

I was not happy. I explained the the other managers had talked the talk but done nothing for me for the last 18 months, Claire had said it’s a bit of shit deal, but it’ll get you where your want to go. On Friday she said “see me Monday, we’ll sort something out”, by Wednesday I was out with a driver. That’s what you want.

He was still agitated and was set to talk to the driver’s rep, I could tell. To try to head it off at the pass I went straight to the driver’s rep. I said Rob, the freezer rep, had a bee in his bonnet about me not getting paid for driver training, just ignore him, I don’t want anything said.

He said “You’re not getting paid? That’s not right I’ll have a word with Claire.”


I told him flat not to fuck it up for me, he said “you’ll never make a driver if you don’t stand up to them.”


I was furious  but powerless. I could see how this would look to Claire, I’d accepted her deal then got the union on to her. The company doesn’t have to train me, she could have thought; if that’s your attitude, screw you!’


I went in this morning looking for him to see how badly he’d screwed me over. I couldn’t find him. One of my mates saw Claire though, and said that I was really worried, she said not to be and said for me to see her. I promptly did and explained what had happened. She was O.K. about it, said the arrangement is still on.



You don’t realise how good a shit deal is until you are in danger of having no deal.


I want  to get out on the road. You are your own boss outside the gates. The money is a big improvement, (the driver I was with said he took about £33k last year) and it’s so much less physically demanding. The latter being a consideration I have to observe as I slide into decline!


Anyway, only a week to go and I’ll take a day off ( I hope.)