Loch Ness

We made it to Inverness! Wendy was having a bit of terror when I suddenly questioned whether the insurance worked the same on her courtesy car. If they had only insured her to drive, without me as named driver, she would have had to drive the six and half hours here. No, it’s all the same, I’m good to drive.

It’s a nice car they’ve given us, a ’20 plate Skoda. Wendy hates it. Since passing her test she’s only driven her Mini, so going from a diesel 1.6 to a litre petrol, with a different bite on the clutch and a slightly different feel, and having to do the adjustment on fast, very bendy, wet, unfamiliar roads is a bit much for her. I reckon if she’d have just been trundling back and to to work, cutting her usual groove, she’s have been fine and really quite liked the Skoda.

I drove us here, we went into Inverness to pick up my race pack for the marathon then we drove to our holiday chalet. It’s really nice. Comfy, quiet, and has heating, which is an imperative as we’ve gone from long, long, warm summer into a cold, wet Scottish autumn. It’s weird though. They’ve got underfoor heating. So it takes hours to warm the pipes up and for the heat to get the room toasty, then suddenly you are lathered, you turn the heat off and it takes many hours for the pipes to cool and stop roasting you alive. Not an ideal system, really.

Anyway, we got here, race pack collected, and settled in. The owners had left us a welcome pack, a loaf of bread butter, cereal, milk, eggs, shortbread and a bottle of wine! Eek! Thanks but can you take that with you?

Then Wendy had to stress again. In the morning my race was a bit weird. You are not allowed to go to the start under your own steam, so Wendy had to run me to the main road (6 miles) where they had a collection point for the coaches. They don’t provide a return service, so I needed Wendy to come and pick me up from Inverness, 20 miles away. Poor sausage was a nervous wreck.

I had moment on Saturday night when I realised I hadn’t packed any gels (basically sugar sludge in individual packets, to give you energy). They were giving some out on the race, but not enough, and not at the required intervals.

Another stupid mistake: they said it was going to be cold at the start, wear a disposable layer. I looked through my kit, I had a long sleeve running shirt that I never use, wear and discard that. Stupid, stupid me. It’s meant to be a breathable, light top you can wear while running. We got to the race start, where Wendy had wisely suggested I try and buy some gels, and someone on twitter said if not, get some sweets. It was a wind blown, desolate hill top in the middle of nowhere. Oh dear. The temperature was about 6 degrees, but it was blowing a gale. We got dropped off 45 minutes before the race start. I was shaking with cold and my teeth were chattering.

I was looking around at some other runners in bathrobes and such when I remembered some advice from ages back, buy a cheap warm layer from a charity shop. Idiot! I’ve never needed a discardable layer before, so the advice never registered. I won’t forget in future!

We got going finally and after a few miles I started to warm up. The all I had to worry about was running out of energy and the hills. I’ve done basically zero hill training and this was solid up and down. The first 7 miles I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish. I just didn’t think, with insufficient training (and no hill training), I was going to be able to keep going. They had the first gel station at 6 miles and I managed to grab 2 gels. OK, if I can do that, I’m good for race fuel. Just the actual running 26.2 hills to worry about. It was brutal but I surprised myself by staying pretty consistent.

I’d said on twitter that I was going to take it easy to save my legs for Manchester next Sunday. Just a fun run, as long as I’m under 4 hours. Ha! It smashed my legs, and I had to dig deep, but I scraped in under 4. Chip time of 3.58. And a decent T shirt for a change.

Wendy came and got me and did one more drive after that, but she woke up aching more than me (from tension and anxiety) so I think I’m driving until she gets her Mini back. It was good of her to run me and pick me up if she was that anxious. I’d have been stuck without the lifts.

Yesterday we did some touristy stuff. We drove around for a bit and finally ended up going around Urqhart castle.

And got some pictures of the Loch.

We’ve had some good news about the car. The garage rang up, they’ve inspected it and are going to replace the bonnet, the front wing, the door, and the back wing. Basically the whole side of the car. Because the dent passed over the frame of the car I was worried that it might have bent it, then they’d have scrapped it. So, good outcome. Wendy’s made up. She can’t wait to get her familiar car back.

I am definitely getting a towing car for our next holiday. The Loch has been choppy and windy and perfect for sailing. Grrrr.

Right, Wendy’s up. Some twitter and I’m cracking on.



End In Sight.

I’ve not updated my blog because I was waiting for a conclusion to the boat debacle. It’s not quite there, but I can hopefully finish it off tomorrow.

I went back, all full of good plans, to get the boat, throw it on the roof rack and be sailing the same day, last Sunday afternoon. I fitted the roof bars in the morning. They attach by an arm on each side hooking under the roof gutter and a screw to tension them up to the feet actually on the roof. OK. The roof gutter didn’t look that sturdy so rather than ruin Wendy’s car I just fastened them to the minimum, using the small arm of the allen key so I didn’t exert too much pressure. Epic fail, right there.

I got to the guy’s house and it took both of us to carry the boat out to the car. He said, contrary to everything I’ve read, to put the boat on transom to the front of the car, because the trailer would sit on top of it, and the handle would obscure you view if it was over the windscreen. The thing is, the boat is shaped so that water, and air, flow from prow to stern. I’m fairly sure that was a pretty big fail as well.

We finally got it on the roof, with the trailer on top, and the mast sections all lashed down. I set off and the satnav took me down the motorway for a mile or two before taking me off, across a linking A road, to go onto a different motorway. Within 2 miles the ratchet strap tails were banging on the window. Then the metal hook of the ratchet strap. The tails were just the loose bit flapping about, but the hook meant it had come undone. I quickly pulled over, luckily on the A road. I went to fasten the ratchet strap then realised all four of the screws holding the roof bars on had come loose! The only thing holding the boat on the roof was it’s own weight.

So not good.

I hadn’t packed any tools, I didn’t have my credit card to buy tools, and I was in Wendy’s car so she couldn’t have come and brought me tools. I took off some of the thick string/ thin rope and fastened the transom to underneath the bonnet. I was still about 17 miles from home. I set of gently, staying off the motorways. The string snapped. I had to pull over and redo it. About 3 times. I was a nervous wreck the whole time. In the end I improvised a strap from the end of a ratchet strap and the string looped around 4 times for strength. That held.

It was still only held on by it’s own weight, and the strap was just stopping it from just flipping off the roof. The A roads route led me through Thelwall and into Latchford. It was only another 3 miles to our house, but I just couldn’t risk it. I went round to Lisa’s for tools. By the time I got there the feet of the roof bars, which were supposed to be on the roof, were hanging off the side of the roof gutter on one side. By this time I was so stressed it wasn’t true.

Lisa kindly said she and Patrick would help me get it off the roof and I could stash the boat at her’s, because there was no way I was going to get everything sorted and get the boat to the club in the hour or two the berthing guy was there.

We had to sling it in her lean-to, taking up tons of room and being really awkward. Since then I’ve been waiting on a reply from the berthing guy as to when he’d next be at the club. I sent a follow up email today and he rather snottily replied “as per my email of…” Apparently I can put it up the top of the club grounds, and when we sort the boats out I can have a berth. That’s a bit meh, but the good thing is I don’t have to wait for him to be there. So I’ve refitted the roof bars tonight and arranged with Lisa to pick up the boat in the morning. I was not having that happen again so I used the long arm of the allen key until it got stiff. Then I tightened some more. And some more. And lots more. It feels stiff but it just keeps tightening. No wonder it shook off in 2 miles! It finally tightened to the point where you could feel it locking solid. I’m taking my allen key, and I’ll stop every few miles and check, but I’m hoping when I update this tomorrow this whole sorry debacle will be behind me.

It was worse because I’ve had to leave it at Lisa’s for a week, in her way, and if I don’t get it sorted tomorrow we are away for a week to Scotland from next Saturday so it would be in her way for at least 3 weeks.

And there’s the issue with the car. Another RTA. This time Wendy was blameless. Some over-privileged, arrogant berk reversed into her in Sainsbury’s car park. He was in a Range Rover with a towing hook, so the Mini took a fairly nasty hit. The insurance are taking it in to the repair garage and giving us a courtesy car. I’m fairly certain they don’t want me sticking boats on the roof of their car. Not the main issue, but it certainly adds a level of urgency and stress. The impact knocked the Mini sideways and Wendy flying, even with her seat belt on. He smacked it just over the front wheel arch. The Mini was moving at the time so it’s momentum means the tow bar took out the wing, the bonnet, the passenger door panel (possibly the door, it makes a nasty creaking sound when you open it) and the rear panel. Basically she’s getting one new side to the car. I’m just hoping there’s no structural damage or they might scrap the car and not give us a decent price.

I’ve been dieting. So that’s lovely. I’ve never gotten very far with diets because, I’ve recently realised, I have an ingrained fear of being hungry. I used to live on sugar, (jam on toast for my food at work, pudding from the canteen, chocolate, etc) This meant instant energy but it quickly burned out, then I had massive energy crashes. For years I just fed the cycle by eating more sugar. Then I read an idiots guide to eating, (wholegrain foods, slower to break down, but no crashes) and got a grip. But there was a lifetime of habit. And fear. The sugar crashes, “hitting the wall” (total energy crash in sporting events) and lately plague weakness.

But I’ve been trying to break myself of all of that. When I’m not plague weak hungry (irrational craving. You are so weak your body is screaming for food to make it better. It doesn’t actually work. That’s why it’s irrational.) I’ve been finding it quite do-able. Hungry, yes, but not weak. I can live with that.

I’m into the final bit of my running before I rest and recover. I had my first, In Real Life, race today since October ’19. The Warrington half marathon.

(Forgot to say, I’ve got varifocals now. Really good for work, I can see to drive, and glance down and do my paperwork.)

I’ve had a terrible time of it with long covid, intermittent training, hoof injury and being fat and lazy. I went for it though. Considering all of the above a 1.43:43 wasn’t too bad. It was a good effort at the very least. Then I had to jog home 2½- 3 miles afterwards.

Next Sunday it’s Loch Ness marathon, which is going to be hilly so I’m treating it as a bit of a fun run, just get around without killing myself. The Sunday after is Manchester Marathon which is flat as a pancake. I’ll try and get a not too shameful time for that one.

Then it’s time to rest my hoof and hopefully get over the plague weakness as well.

The other thing that has been affecting my training is work. They are battering me with hours. Last week my shortest shift was 11.30. I managed to get away earlier, but that was the planned time.

Right. Next day. Oh the relief!

I fitted the roof bars last night. With the roof bars rammed on so tight you could have lifted the car by them, I went to Lisa’s this morning. This time we put the boat on prow forward. Then the trolley on top, and tied it off with ratchet straps and rope.

My main concern was getting the boat out of Lisa’s way. I thought getting it off at the other end on my own would be a struggle, but gravity would do most of the work. Heave it to the side of the roof rails and then it’s just a matter of stopping it from smashing into the ground or Wendy’s car. Lisa had already thought of that though and volunteered (herself and Patrick) to follow me to the club and help me unload. To save me strapping them onto the side of the boat, Patrick drove to the lake with my mast sections stuck out through his sunroof!

Properly screwed down, prow forward, it was a doddle. In hindsight. I was scared for about 23 of the 25 minutes.

The boat is berthed. The car didn’t suffer any further damage. Lisa hasn’t got a dirty great boat in her lean-to. A good day, all round. Talking of, Lisa and Patrick helping me out, both of them suffering with painfully bad backs. That was really good of them. I just couldn’t have done it with them.

The boat is living there now until I get better and want to do sea sailing or taking it on holiday next year. For which I will be buying an estate car with built in roof bars and a towing hook. And a road trailer. I don’t intend to throw that on the roof, ever again. Now I need to wait until a Sunday, when the safety boat is out, to try it out. Soon:

In other news the UK has entered a Brexit death spiral. We are 100,000 lorry drivers short. 14,000 foreign drivers left after Brexit, 600 returned. Johnson, the posterboy for Brexit, didn’t want to admit it was his fault so he’s been refusing to grant foreign drivers a work permit. This was Asda when I popped in last Sunday. Only one section, but they don’t pay for big stores to have huge empty spaces.

Then the one petrol company said they are having to temporarily close some forecourts because they haven’t got the drivers to get the fuel out in time. The media reported it as “NO PETROL! EVER! ” And idiots, predictably, panic bought all the petrol, causing the petrol stations to run out.

In the face of this Johnson has called for 5,000 lorry drivers to be allowed visas to work until xmas eve.

Hahahaha. That’ll do it.

Everyone was keen to point and laugh.

If only somebody had warned us we should Fear this Project.

I’ve decided my hoof is bearing up so well that it’s not going to take long to heal so I’ve set my sights on a fun run type triathlon for next September.

Talking of, I’m thinking of admitting defeat with that motorbike I bought to rebuild the engine. I’ve lost my mojo and I want my shed back to set my pushbike up in for training.

Some random twitter and I’m done.



Damage Limitation

I’ve had a bit of a relapse with the obsessive shopping thing.

It’s only three weeks until we go away to Loch Ness, a huge body of water, ideal for sailing if you can avoid the monster. I want to sail! I looked all over the internet, but I can’t find anywhere that rents sailing boats. So I set to looking at buying a boat.

I know, I know. *sigh*

The thing with internet shopping is you start by saying ‘I want a cheap boat that I don’t mind crashing’, and read the reviews. And every single time they say “this is an adequate item, but what you want is *this* one, at ten times the price”.

I was looking at the Laser. It’s relatively cheap because there have been so many made, and there are a lot for sale, second hand.

It’s an adequate boat. It’s an old, basic design that it’s detractors say is painful for leaning out of the boat, and the mainsheet gets tangled on the transom. As I’ve already discovered.

But you can learn on it and, if it’s cheap enough, not worry about getting the odd scratch. It will still do the basic boaty stuff.

But what you *really* want is the RS Aero. The hull is ridiculously light (30 kilos as opposed to the 76 kilos of the Laser) it’s hull has rounded wings so you can lean out comfortably, the transom is open so if you capsize water just pours straight out, and it’s a lot faster.

But it’s a premium boat and it’s only been in production for a few years so has a limited second hand market.

The Lasers I was looking at range from £350 to £1,600. There is one, bare bones, Aero for £5,700 or £7,000 with the desirable sails, cover, and launching trolley. Then you have to think about my competence. And whether I’ll stick to it. And how gutted you’d be if you smashed a £7K boat into a rock. It would be like buying an Aston Martin to pass your test in.

Damage limitation, then. I was messaging some guy about the £350 boat, but he was in Norfolk, and the final straw was when I asked about the sail size. There are 3 sizes, more sail is more power and suitable for heavier sailors. Obviously I want the biggest sail. Possibly two of them. The Norfolk guy had the smaller sails. I looked, and you need to buy a different mast, not just a larger sail to go full size. That would double the price of the boat.

Then I found an obscure sale sight, Boats and Outboards, that had one for sale in Manchester, full sized sail, for £500.

I went and had a look today and it seems fine and dandy. I looked up the Laser site to find the faults to look for, I couldn’t find any on this boat. You never know until you launch and sink, but it looks OK.

My plan was to look at this morning and if I liked it go back in Wendy’s car and pick it up, then take it to Liverpool to try it out. I’ve never sailed in the sea, but how hard can it be? If the worst happens, I could just start a new life in Ireland when I land.

I was talking about throwing it on the car roof on my own, and the guy said it is do-able, but it’s a job on. I can lift 130lbs, but when it’s spread over 14′, it’s massively awkward. He said to grab an end and we did a two man lift. It weighs a ton. That’s a total change of plans. I’m still thinking it through, but it seems it’s would be such an ordeal to get it on the roof it’s not going to be practical for the holidays. That was the whole point. I mean, I could probably get it on and drive there. Then I’d have to take if off. Then put it back on, drive to the Loch, assemble it, sail for an hour, strip it, then try and heave it back on to the roof, then take it off again at the chalet. Until I actually try manhandling it on my own I can’t say for certain, but after that initial lift today I think it’s going to be too much.

I’ve emailed my sailing club, I think I’ve got a berth included in my membership, so I’ll just take it to the lake and sail it there for now. I’m a bit miffed, to be honest. I’m not beaten yet. I reckon if I put straps around it I could lift it. The whole point was for a cheap, roof-rackable, relatively light boat. To get sailing for the least possible expense. I don’t want to buy a road trailer, a car with a towing hook, and pay for insurance. I do want to get on the sea. That looks to be where the real fun is. Hmmm. I might not get to sail in Scotland this time. Maybe get some sailing time in on the lake, then take days out to Liverpool when I’m more experienced. And I’ve built up my boat lifting muscles. This is all just speculation. I only viewed the boat a few hours ago and I’m still processing it.

One of the salty sea dogs on the training course suggested an old book that covers everything you need to know for advanced sailing. The first example of stupid rookie mistakes it gave was heeling the boat right over and thinking you were going fast. If you do that the boat has less hull in the water on one side, so less resistance, so the boat naturally turns in that direction. So you have to use the rudder to counteract it. Which is drag. A flat boat is a fast boat. Not what I wanted to hear, I want to be right on the edge, full power. But as he illustrated, a flat boat doesn’t have to be a boring boat.

No lack of commitment from the crew, there.

I’ve still not heard any more from my job application, but that just means they are being slow. Lots of people have had a ‘no’.

Talking of lorry driving, the government have gone full loony. The Brexit lorry driver shortage is meaning empty shelves in the supermarkets, McDonalds running out of milkshakes, and some chicken joint closing because they’ve got no chicken.

But don’t mention Brexit.

Anyway, the government have already relaxed (ripped up) the Working Time Directive so lorry drivers can now legally work longer (our previous 15 hour days were a bit slack, to be honest) but that’s still not cutting it. So now they’ve gone full on barking and have said they are changing the driving test. You can now go straight from a car licence to an artic. (You used to have to pass the rigid test first.) And you can now pass the test without coupling the unit to a trailer, or being able to reverse.

No. Really.

A ton of new “drivers” who will be doing 15+ hour days (it’s only the dodgiest, most unscrupulous of employers who will take them on) who can’t pick up a trailer or reverse onto a loading bay, or even park up. So basically an exhausted car driver in a 44 ton truck, on cruise control, stressed out of their face and clueless. I can’t see any possible way this could end in carnage, multiple deaths, and more closed motorways.

The Japanese prime minister has just resigned for failing to control Covid, (16K deaths in 3 times the population density of the UK). Bozo is shameless in the face of 134,000 (recorded, figure fudging going on) UK deaths. I don’t suppose he’s bothered about any more deaths from lorry smashes.

The bike is still a joy. I had to nip to Manchester on it today. Awesome beast. Now it looks like I’m keeping it, and keeping biking, I was looking at that bike handling “knee down” course again for next year. There’s no rush to book it, and I’m due a tax rebate, so I’ll treat myself out of that when I finally get it.

Wendy is well on the road to full sanity. I keep forgetting, she’s so good. Still the odd blip, but it’s the exception not the rule, now. Brilliant.

My hoof seems to be holding up a lot better lately. It’s the Warrington half marathon in a fortnight (then Loch Ness marathon in 3 weeks, Manchester marathon in 4) so I thought I’d better test the water this morning. I went for a test half, as fast as I could, so I’d have an idea where I am. I started off fast but each mile got a bit slower. I ended up with a 1.42, which is not terrible. My heart rate average was 92% (of maximum), so I wasn’t coasting.

I’m thinking my poorly hoof is a lot better these days. I’m hoping after the last 3 races, when I rest it, it won’t take too long to heal fully. And hopefully the post viral fatigue/ plague weakness will be equally as quick to fix. I’ll be getting back on my indoor cycle trainer when I stop running to maintain some fitness without impacting my foot. So I’ll be cycle fit when I’m healed. You know what that means… TRIATHLON!

I’ve seen two in I fancy. One is a half Iron distance (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 miles run) the other is a bit of a fun event. 1 mile run, 38 mile ride (but it’s all evil hills, including the 2½ mile ascent of Kirkstone Pass, a road aptly named “the struggle”) then a 9 mile “run” up some steep, off road, hills (apparently even the pros use their hand to scramble up). If my hoof heals to plan I might do both.

Oh, and I’m dieting. Again. Meh.

Right, out of here before I eat the keyboard.

Some twitter and I’m done.