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Quiet As A Docile Cat.

I started to write this yesterday, but it turned into a long and boring (to everyone who’s not me) post about triathlon.

The main reason I set to writing was to take my new keyboard for a test ride. The old one, after years of faithful service, decided it couldn’t endure one more blog post so took the easy way out. I was looking at what possible differences there were between an £18 keyboard and a £40 one. Coloured back lighting and such. Huh. That’s exactly what I look for in a keyboard, disco lighting. Then I saw this for one of the cheaper ones:

Come on, what’s not to love? So I got it. To be honest, the docile cat in question was probably playing with a stiff Rubik’s cube when they made the comparison. It’s a bit clicky. But it really suits my typing for some reason, so all good.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. Partly because of trying to get comfy with an awkward shoulder, I expect, but also I just can’t get my temperature right. With the window open on a -5C night, the very lightest tog summer duvet I could find (about 2.5 tog, I think) still bakes me. And if I use blankets instead they leave my knees cold. I think it’s the man-opause. Yesterday I had less than 4 hours sleep, then I was up until midnight, up again today at 05.40. I was sick with tiredness. I stayed up until Wendy went to work then managed to get 3 hours on the couch, so I’m feeling good now. I hope when I get back to work, and can lay on my side, this will quickly sort itself out.

My shoulder is progressing apace. I’m still pretty confident I’ll get signed fit for work on the 10th. After Wendy saying to make a claim I’m now getting ESA (Employment Support Allowance, I think) so that’s £74 per week. It’s been so long since I was out of work I’d forgotten you can claim.

I’ve been burning through a whole bunch of books. That’s one good thing about the enforced downtime, getting lost in a good read. That will stop when I get back to work, sadly. I won’t have the hours to dedicate to it once I’m working and training.

Which brings me to my musings of last night. I’ll sum it up. I’ve had time to research some stuff. I found some lists of individual discipline times for a (benchmark) sub 10 hour triathlon.

Swim 1.05 (mine is about 1.42), bike 5.15 (I’m 6.45) run 3.30 (I’m 4.18).

I know I’ve said I wanted to go sub 10 before, but then I thought if I kept training it would just happen. Now I know that’s not the case, you have to make it happen. And Trainer Road have shown me how. Specifically the bike. For years I was commuting 22 miles a day. Always trying to push a little bit every ride. And every race I was getting roughly the same times. It’s obvious, in retrospect. You put the same effort in, you get the same results out. Trainer Road haven’t been doing that. They tested me, set the training to my feeble abilities, then pushed me. First to build a base, then to raise my power and stamina. Today, after about 10 weeks they’ve finally decided I’m ready to improve my VO2 max. Volume of Oxygen you can use. Which is the limit to how hard you can possibly work without running out of oxygen. Their algorithm is a work of evil genius. It was 3 minute blocks of 120% of my max power. Anyone can do that for 3 minutes, right? By the second or third go I was having to fight panic for 40 seconds after each block as my body was sure I couldn’t breathe. I had run out of oxygen and no matter how hard or fast I breathed I couldn’t get enough. Horrible feeling. I’m guessing that must be what asthma and waterboarding feels like. My point is, they know *exactly* how much you can manage in 3 minutes and they demand every single bit of it. This is how you improve.

Anyway, I said I was trying to keep this brief and I’ve digressed into detail. My point was: if I can apply the same principle to running and swimming (get a plan, be disciplined and consistent, accept it’s going to be hard) I reckon I can do this. I’ve only got to raise my bike speed from an average of 17mph to an 22mph for a 5 hours 15 race. OK, that’s a third, but I’ve already improved by 12% in 6 weeks. I’ve got 18 months. So if I can smash the bike leg in relative comfort, that will leave my legs fresh for my strength which is the marathon.

As ever, it’s the swim that seems insurmountable. But apply the method. Go long. Short sprints. Get my form right. I’ll still have over a year when my shoulder is healed and the pools re-open. With consistency it’s possible.

Obviously when I’m working it will make it more of a challenge.

That was where I was up to last night. Buzzing about the possibilities and committed to the challenge. Then I got up at 0540 and I was feeling sick and I’d lost all my mojo. Even after the nap I was thinking about skipping my training for today. I got a grip and did that beasting I said about above. Wow. Then, while I was warmed up and the snow and ice has cleared I went out for a test run. I’ve got a new sling. It fastens your arm in the sling and around your waist to stop any movement. The great news is I managed it without hurting my shoulder or injuring my recovery foot. I’m really hoping I can gently ease back into running now.

My sister wasn’t understanding.

The Twitter runners understood.

I feel great. It was a horrible day, my mojo was gone, I was feeling tired and sad and defeated. Then I turned it around and it’s the best day in ages.

Now to rest my foot and make sure it’s all good before I venture out again.

A bit of Twitter and I’m out of here.

Laurence Fox was being a reactionary troll. Again. So I photoshopped his picture. This only works if you’re familiar with The Princess Bride film, but it’s an internet staple, so many people got it.

A clever idea from a French bookshop:

People got involved. Some more convincing than others.

The North West had weather.

Warrington as taken by Wendy’s cousin.

Flooded engine down the road from us.

Chorley. Look at the building on the right.

Possibly Wigan.

America said goodbye to the orange Hitler.

And Bernie Sanders turned up to the inauguration of Biden in some sensible mittens he’d been given, sparking an internet meme.

Someone actually crotched this.

The new lad didn’t waste any time. Day one:

Of course we still have Boris the Butcher. Over a thousand people a day dying from Covid in the UK now. The worst in the world.

And then there’s random twitter.




I Have A Cunning Plan, Sir.

I started this year, and indeed my current training regime, with no clear goals. Do an Ironman, and go sub three on a marathon. While I’ve been stuck at home and bored I’ve been reading up some aspects of that. Advice on how to go sub 10 hour on the triathlon. What goals you need to set for each discipline.

The swim needs to be an hour. That will be my biggest challenge. I’m consistently about 1 hour 40. The thing is though, following this bike training plan has made me realise what I’ve been doing wrong. If you put the same effort in, time after time, you train your body to do that effort. You get fitter, and it becomes a bit easier, so you can go a little bit faster, but on race day you just grind it out exactly the same. Same effort in, same results out.

Since I’ve been doing this bike training plan on Trainer Road I’m being driven forward. I started by building a base of fitness and putting in some harder efforts in the first 6 week cycle. Then at the start of the second 6 week week cycle I got my fitness tested again (FTP), got a better score, so they made the workouts harder. And now they are paying me the compliment of assuming I’ve built enough stamina and fitness for them to really start to beast me. Last Saturday was a 1½ hour ride, with 6 blocks of 10 minutes, 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes more at 98% of FTP (very hard), 2 minutes 102% of FTP, then down again.

It doesn’t sound too bad, but the whole point of FTP is that is the point beyond which your legs can’t clear the lactic acid. So you accumulate burn even at 102%, then have to hang in there, legs on fire, as you slowly reduce power and clear the burn. The first few sets I was clearing the burn by the last minute of drop down. Then you have a minute to get your breath and do it again. By the last block of 2 x 10 minute I didn’t think I could hold on until the minute rest. I lost my pace, I was standing up and sitting down, heart rate a few beats off maximum, gasping for air. I somehow managed to force myself to keep going until the rest, then I had minute until I had to do it again. I am quite amazed I made it. Half of the battle is mental, knowing how desperately close to quitting you are at the end of one block and knowing you’re going to be in a worse state for the next one.

The point I am eventually making, is: I did 1½ hours of training, and over an hour of it (with the warm up) was close to or over my new PB FTP. The FTP is test is 20 minutes long (which near kills me as you’re going flat out). After 10 weeks on Trainer Road I just did an hour of FTP! (There, or there abouts.)

This is the training I need to apply to the other disciplines. Follow a plan. Designed by people who actually know what they are talking about. Accept the pain. Be consistent. I will get better.

Assuming the doctor says I’m fine to swim (when they finally open the pools again) I need to apply all of this to swimming. Maybe 4 times a week if I can manage it. I’ll look for a plan, but I want slow days to acquire technique and stamina, and sprint days where I just do 100 meter sprints, rest and repeat.

I want to do exactly the same thing for my running. That’s the easiest discipline for me, but I’ve still not been making the sort of gains I should have. Applying the 80/20 philosophy (80% long, easy paced runs -for stamina and base fitness without injury- / 20% flat out sprints -to build your speed and oxygen processing ability-) I am really hopeful that I’ll blast sub 3 hours for my marathon.

With this in mind I’ve moved the goalposts again. Before I do the brand name Ironman, I want another crack at the Outlaw. It’s a flat course. I won’t be doing it this year, but next year I want to go sub 10 hours.

I’m just looking. They say 1 hour 5 minutes for the swim, 5 hours 15 bike, and a 3.30 marathon. (Which leaves you a very iffy 10 minutes to transition from your wetsuit to your bike, and from your bike to the run.)

That equates to a solid 1 minute 38 seconds per 100 meters swim, (it says my pitiful 1 hour 42 pace is equivalent to 2.25 for 100m!) my bike best was 6 hours 43 which is roughly 17.2 mph. I need to be averaging 22mph. Actually I think that sounds do-able. I’m already far, far better than when I started out. I’ve already run a 3.30 marathon, but that was my best time, and that’s on it’s own. I think my best time off the bike was 4.18.

This is shaping up. If I can lick the swim in to shape, I reckon the bike will be fine by then, and if I can do the bike without blowing up, the knock-on effect will be fresher legs for the run. I’ve said it before that I think I could do this, but then I thought if I just kept training it would happen, but it doesn’t. You have to make it happen. And now I think I know how.

Exciting times!



We Rise Again.

I’m fairly confident I made the right call with my shoulder. I’m just over two weeks in and I can take my sling off for periods and quite easily put my hand on my head now. I put the sling back on as soon as I have to move about, or I forget and, for instance, grab the handrail going down the stairs. That is definitely not a good thing to do. The way it’s going I’m fairly sure the doctor will sign me fit for work on the 10th. My shoulder droop is no longer so pronounced. I’ve still got a lump and my poorly shoulder is a bit lower than the other one, but now it isn’t so sore I can come to attention and the difference isn’t massive.

In other good news my sister’s sciatica seems to be on the mend. She’s got a hospital appointment with a specialist in Liverpool on the 10th of February as well. Hopefully they’ll be able to numb her up while she fully mends. She wants to get back to work. She’s been stuck at home since November, until recently too done in to get out. I’d have gone mad. She says her back isn’t bothering her anymore and the electric shocks up her leg are really improving. She said her leg is 50% now. That’s good. I’ve told her I’ll go running with her to build up her back muscles. She wasn’t enthusiastic.

I’ve been keeping up with my bike training. It’s not fun, like The Sufferfest. They were shouting at you, encouraging you and making in-jokes. Trainer Road is just a bunch of boring blocks.

The blocks are the power, or more accurately, the resistance. The horizontal line is my maximum sustainable power (FTP). The yellow line is the power I’m putting out, the red line is my heart rate. So you ride along for 2 minutes at, say, 120 watts, then it goes up a step and the trainer moves the resistance up to 140W etc. The big blocks are 95- 98% of my FTP, the spikes which are only 5 seconds on this particular workout, are 150%. I looked at this one and thought “That looks do-able. 5 seconds!Ha!” Another one that nearly killed me. The 5 seconds burns your legs then you have to carry on at more or less your maximum for 2 minutes then do it again. By the final block I was hanging on by a thread.

But this is how you improve. And how I stay sane while I’m housebound and can’t do anything with my arm.

We’ve been getting weird symptoms again. We went for a Covid test, but it was negative. It could be Long Covid, or some weird other bug. It keeps on giving us sore throats and bits of weakness, with the insatiable hunger. Though the last could just be my bored gluttony. On the bright side, it’s nothing like the wipe-you-out bouts we were getting. It’s just weird and unpleasant.

I’ve read more books in the last two weeks than in the 2 years prior. It seems it’s not the internet shortening our attention spans, it’s badly written books not engaging them. The one book that was really good I got at dinner time and had finished the next day. The other was meh. And the one I’m 450 pages into is OK, but it’s aged badly. It was only written in 1982, but they say nothing ages faster than the future. The tech is obviously sub par, but it’s the attitudes that really date it. I thought it was a ’50s book. Women are there to cook and mend, for the men to protect, and to be a romantic interest. It’s a bit creepy. Before these books I reread The Lord of the Rings. It feels wrong to say it about such a great story, but all that forelock tugging, knee bending, king worshiping, and purity of blood stuff was hard for me to bear this time around.

This is a generally strange time. I can’t do anything, but as soon as I’m well I have a bunch of time sensitive jobs that all need doing at once. Which makes the waiting around, doing nothing, even worse. Ho hum. That’s tomorrow’s problem.

The plus side of being bored witless is I’ve not missed a thing on Twitter.

The Trump / neo nazi coup attempt rumbled on.

Back home the Tories got tough on Covid.

But sadly too little too late.

But the home schooling parents took it well.

Another Tory scandal was the free school meals for the most desperate of kids who would otherwise have to do without. The Tories stopped giving out vouchers and gave one of their mates a contract to supply the kids with food. The company promptly stole 80% of the taxpayer’s money and left the kids to starve.

Twitter went into meltdown when the pictures started circulating.

Even Sir Keir tried jumping on the bandwagon. Unsuccessfully.

Captain U Turn took about 3 days to be shamed into reinstating the vouchers. Finally Twitter being a force for good.

But it wasn’t all horrible.

Random Twitter was fun.

I like that. The gal’s got a terrible memory, to which I can relate, and I like the wistful melancholic air.

“I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that sings in me no more.”

Right, out of here.