Blue Passports

Wendy casually asked if I’d still like to retire to Cornwall the other day. Being who I am that promoted the prospect from under the radar to most important thing ever that need to be resolved immediately. I started thrashing the internet, but it was instantly apparent that wasn’t happening. Even that houses that have got weird stuff in the walls and mining subsidence warnings so were ineligible for a mortgage were starting at £100K. And that would be cash.

I shifted my attention abroad. Relatives in Spain and Bulgaria seem to be doing fine. We could get a flat in Spain, or a mansion in Bulgaria. Yay! I was getting all excited, planning our best options. Then I thought I’d better see if Bozo had managed to finalise anything about Brexit. He has. Put the plebs right back in their place. The people who have already settled abroad can carry on as normal, us who would like to do the same can forget it. Now you have to apply for a long term visa, prove you’ve got €34K in savings, and pay for your own private healthcare. As a pensioner. Ha! This news following on the heels of someone trying to stop Bozo from scrapping holiday pay as he takes a blowtorch to worker’s rights and regulations. Super. Thanks Gammon Brexiteers.

I know a lot of younger people were misguided by the empty “Take Back Control” slogan and the “£350 million a week to the NHS” lies, but statistically it was pensioners who were most rabidly Brexit. I read that between the vote and the implementation so many of them had died that it wouldn’t have passed if it had been called then. I also know that all the people I know personally of that generation were Remain. (As far as I know.) The sad thing was there was little to get excited about the Remain campaign, but a vague, jingoistic, racist dog whistle of hope in Leave. There was a cartoon, a fat cat rich person with 19 cookies, pointing at the starving underclass person with one cookie and saying to the working class person “Look out, that immigrant is stealing your cookie”. Statistically though, it’s hard not to feel a tad bitter that another door has been slammed behind the Boomer generation. Affordable/ council housing, free education, student grants, a benefits system that worked, worker’s rights, the NHS, and now the right to work and retire abroad. Ho hum. I just wish there was some way to opt back in.

So that’s not happening. We are one month into Brexit and it’s already a disaster. The government have been advising companies to set up businesses in the EU to get around the restrictions that they have overseen. I say overseen, you can’t call saying “ner, ner, Johnny Foreigner, we’re not listening” negotiating.

But. Blue Passports.

Swings and roundabouts, innit?

In better news, several good things have happened. I got an email this morning saying the wide fit triathlon shoes I was after in December are finally back in stock. They only have one pair of each size ( I don’t suppose that many men with small, wide, feet who do triathlon) so I’ve bought two sizes. Whichever is wrong I’ll send back. I’m happy about that because this is the only stockist in the country. That’s why I’ve been waiting since December. When they arrive I can see about a proper bike fit, get the bike set up to my exact body size. Then I can get my body used to it, confident it’s the right position. If the pro bike fit place is open in lockdown. As soon as it is, then.

The other news, which is splendid beyond belief, is my swimming. I’ve really tried with this in the past and got nowhere. I was looking for coaching that wasn’t stupid expensive, no. I joined an improver class at the leisure centre and it was rubbish and no help. I joined a tri club and a swimming club but both just left me to figure it out for myself. Last night, in boredom, I started looking on youtube and stumbled across *another* video on “Five Common Mistakes” in your swimming. I’ve watched loads of these and they just don’t work (for me). This one is different. It’s like it was made for me. (Apart from the 5th mistake which I don’t think I do.)

And the brilliant thing is, it explains how to fix them. Properly! I was nodding along, and agreeing with every “if your doing it wrong this will happen”, and I understood and can do the fixes. For instance, high elbow. I’ve heard it before, but I thought that was just for the recovery arm, the one out of the water sweeping forwards. He shows you a simple drill that makes doing it wrong impossible. And losing power on a wasted stroke every time you breath. I’ve said about that before. One in four strokes are completely wasted, just flap about with no pull. Here’s the fix. Then not lifting your head to breathe, here are some great drills.

I am actually looking forward to the pools opening (and my shoulder being signed off as fit). If I can master the basics then I’ll be gliding along on the surface, my legs won’t sink with every breath, slowing me down, I’ll be on top of my breathing so can just keep going, and using my back muscles not just me feeble arms in a correct stroke. Less work, more speed.

With the realisation that sticking to a demanding training plan works (thanks Trainer Road) and a video that actually addresses all my swimming problems and fixes them, I could really be on for my sub 10 for next year!

Someone posted a twee but true thing the other day. “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” That’s where I was in the past. I thought if I just stuck at it somehow I’d get better. But same training in, same results out.

Trainer Road finally beat on Saturday. It was the same workout I just scraped through last week. 10 minutes at, or slightly under FTP, 1 minutes break, then another ten minutes. Times three. So an hour and a half workout, with an hour of it at FTP. Tough. This week though they added 4 spikes of 30 seconds at 110% FTP per 10 minute block. It doesn’t sound much but it floods your legs with lactic acid and overloads your breathing, then you have to try and continue at a smidge under your max. I made it to the final 10 minute section but I just couldn’t go on.

It’s the first one that’s beaten me. And proof they are not under training me.

They say that you should ride the bike leg of your triathlon (for me, with my goals) at 77% of FTP. That means keeping that power up for 5 hours 15 minutes. Yesterday Trainer Road set my long (2 hour) ride at 90% FTP for 3x 30 minutes! Small breaks in the 30 minutes mainly for psychological reasons, but still, 1½ hours at 90%. The second set looked easier, instead of one break after 15 minutes, they had 2 breaks after 10. Yay! Got to the break, 30 seconds. Thanks a lot. Fully refreshed now. It’s my rest day today, then a week of really easy, boring rides to refresh my legs for next week which is the start of the new training cycle FTP test. I should be able to raise the bar again on that. I checked it out and the last two cycles have been base fitness, next week I start a build phase. That sounds equally promising and terrifying. It doesn’t look that much different. I’ll have to see.

Lisa’s still not right. She thought she was well enough for work, but just hoovering and shopping put her back again. Her appointment with the specialist is only a few days away, hopefully they can fix her.

My shoulder is pretty good. Still a big lump, but I’m hoping it’s good enough. Assuming it’s OK, I have a few questions for the doctor. Is the join as strong as before? Will it snap if I lift weights, or just if I smack it again? Can I swim? As soon as I find those out I can crack on with a bunch of jobs.

Right, that’s it. Rant over. I was just miffed about Brexit and excited about fixing my swimming at last.



“Death sucks”

“Again, you’re not dead.” The disincorporated voice said.

“Explain this, he gestured randomly, and you. While I was alive I never heard voices.While I was awake. And not stoned off my face” he qualified.

QDo you know the Matrix film?

Off course, classic. Wait, are you saying I’ve been uploaded into a virtual reality matrix? Or that I’ve just awoken, my whole life a lie perpetrated by nefarious machine intelligences, merely to power their virtual utopia, and the reason all I can see is a blur and I can hear you but not see you because I’ve never used my eyes before and I don;t know how to focus yet?

He drew a shuddering breath, although, possibly he didn’t.

No. I was just making conversation. I love that film.

He sighed, changed his mind and slammed his fist down. Onto nothing.

Then explain the mist, the utter absence of solid matter apart from myself, and your voice without a source.

Have you ever been to Wales?

Rain. Not mist. And solid ground. I checked. And nobody speaks English when English people are around, so I’m not in Wales.

Worth a shot. OK, I guess you’re dead. Which bums me out considerably as that seem to imply I am as well.


All I’ve got is mist and your voice as well.

Well. He paused. That’s awkward, seeing as I’m an atheist. Are you religious? I’m open to suggestions here.

I’m a Pastarfarian. I was a Pastafarian. Doesn’t seem quite so funny now.

The first sign of noodly appendages and I’m kicking your incorporeal arse.

Says you! Atheists don’t have a hereafter. This is definitely not nothing.

Well it’s not something, so I was half right.

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.