90 days, recovery and return of the tortoises

One group of Tortoises
One group of Tortoises

90 days since lockdown

Today is the 90th since lockdown was imposed in the UK on 23 March 2020. As of this weekend it appears that the Government have reduced the risk level in the country to one reflecting that the COVID-19 virus is endemic in the population but that its spread is contained i.e. non exponential. Many businesses have returned to working in this ‘new world’ and many more are set to do so in the next couple of weeks.

And whilst holidays aren’t yet possible, that’s not stopping EasyJet emailing me at least daily begging me to book a holiday to somewhere I can’t currently go at an uncertain day in the future. I realise they, along with other airlines and travel companies are struggling with their income and profits slashed at the moment whilst their fixed costs continue. Indeed, a couple of weeks ago they cancelled my flight to Geneva for next week. Which wasn’t a surprise given they’d previously announced that they wouldn’t resume flying from Manchester until July at the earliest!

How to upset a Garmin

Much of this week was really focussed upon recovery from last Sunday’s Race the Comrades Legends ultra-marathon. It’s a strange position to be in whereby you’re aiming to get a daily workout in, whilst trying to recover.

Garmin’s ‘training level’ feature wasn’t coping either. From being generally happy with itself up until last Sunday, the ultra sent it into a spiral of complaining about over-training and needing recovery, to de-training within 24 hours. I’m really not sure what to make of the AI in this. I understand that it uses an algorithm that takes in information about pace and heart rate from work outs to generate an ‘opinion’ about the state of one’s training. Yet it does this without knowing what your training goals are, which is bizarre. I would have though by labelling the ultra as a ‘race’ within Garmin’s portal it would have taken the hint and prescribed easy running/cycling and recovery. Instead it just tied itself in a sorry knot. 4 days later and it was as if none of this episode had happened!

Moral of the story I think is to take all computer-generated numbers with a pinch of salt. And listen to your body as that has a far great clue about where you are with your training cycle!

Day 84

It was safe to say I slept well after my long race yesterday in the early hours of the morning:

Auto Sleep

Auto Sleep: data for Sunday night

The data I get from sleep trackers gets the same treatment from me as the data from my Garmin. All very interesting, but I’m generally sceptical about it. Often what Auto Sleep tells me about my night doesn’t really tally with the experience. I can feel rested and fine in the morning yet the data suggests I should be one-step removed from being in a zombie-apocalypse movie. Anyway, on this occasion it all tied together as it ought to.

Knowing that I was going to be coaching with Marple Runners in the evening I originally thought that I’d make that my daily chunk of exercise. I thought I’d probably cycle over there and then not do too much activity myself so my body wouldn’t hate me quite so much.

Then I saw thunderstorms galore forecast all day, and dashed out on the bike for 40 minutes whilst I could do so without being drowned or electrocuted:

Day 84: bike before storm

Day 84: bike before storm

It was neither meant to be fast or anything about minimum effort. It was entirely about checking that all limbs were still attached and operating within normal tolerances!

During the evening I had a small group in Brabyns Park (Marple) doing interval training. As it happens I had to move more than expected due to the tiny whistle I had available being a little too puny to be heard any distance away. As I waited for the other group to finish I watched one of my ex-colleagues try to drive onto the park and beach themselves on the rocks placed there to prevent vehicles doing just that. Apparently they were search for the reports of an ongoing rave in the park. Although given we’d been done there all evening, if it was happening it really must have been the quietest and most well behaved rave ever!

Day 85

The forecast was for another stormy afternoon. So I jumped on the bike and went for a cycle in the morning.

Except the forecast was wrong as I was engulfed in so much rain I had to stop and take shelter because I couldn’t see where I was going!

The one where it rained a lot

The one where it rained a lot

The plan for the journey was initially to get over to the bank as I’d received a cheque from Royal Mail in respect of a parcel they lost (actually the parcel got through, it was just the contents were ‘liberated’ from the packaging whilst in their hands). Having had an impromptu break sheltering at the local theatre I got going again and reached the bank without further incident. I then decided to go for a ride around Woodford as I was trying to work out some new running routes based on paths that I could see on the map. The only problem was there was a disused runway in the way. The area is being redeveloped with housing so I anticipate that once that has all happened that some of these potential paths may actually link up better than they don’t at the moment.

Day 86

Today the forecast changed more rapidly than a rapidly changing thing. My parents were also visiting in the afternoon and it was the first time I’d seen them since Christmas, so it was going to be a good day.

I got out on the bike in the morning so I’d got my daily exercise out of the way before I filled myself with too much food.

And yes, you’ll recognise the route………

Day 86: the usual route

Day 86: the usual route

Yes it’s that bike route I do weekly. However this time there was a reason. I was ready to get out on the bike but realised my shoes were still soaked through from my ride yesterday. After a bit of faffing I grabbed the bike shoes with cleats and promised myself I wouldn’t fall off; I really didn’t want the folks to have to visit A&E to see me. And with that in mind I went for a dedicated bike lane route.

The fall has definitely knocked my confidence as I immediately felt a lot less stable on the bike, despite having ridden many times since hitting the tarmac over a month ago. Still, it was mostly uneventful and I spiced it up slightly by doing the the turning-around section near the airport in the opposite direction to normal. Oh the excitement.

It was a lovely afternoon. Great to catch up with family, the weather was great so we could sit outside and do the social distancing correctly. Much talk of music and a lot of piano action was seen. And we even had fresh berries from the garden incorporated in the pudding (albeit well cooked as I was still intending to avoid A&E).

They set to leave and then discovered they had a flat tyre, so the race was on to get the wheel changed on their car whilst the sky became increasingly menacing. We succeeded without a dowsing and they were on the way.

It was virtual yoga in the evening which was made slightly livelier with a big electrical storm crashing and flashing across everyone’s Zoom screens at slightly different times depending on where each person was, relative to the storm.

Day 87

Thursday was a wet day. By which I mean it was tipping it down from before I woke up all the way through to just before teatime in the evening. I had no need to go out during this, so I didn’t!

The cat got up, had his breakfast, went to the back door and then went back to bed for the rest of the day.

Of course I knew I wanted to get out at some point to save going completely mad in the house. I’d done some piano practice including a bit of sight reading of some new music. That’s really the only way I’m going to improve my music reading speed again, to actually keep working at it. The pieces, by Yiruma, I’d heard following a discussion with another musician on the synth group I’m involved with. And it was a complete surprise when my mother brought the music book over with her as we’d never discussed the composer! The pieces, whilst not particularly complicated, do seem to have large stretches in the hand, which is fine when you have fingers that have previously tackled Schumann’s piano pieces; I remember my Grade 8 piece which worked with chords that were mostly 10ths throughout except for a few 12ths and a 13th – of the 4 of us doing the exam in that sitting, I was the only one with fingers long enough to play this piece, the others all did a Brahms piece instead. Yiruma also seems to like playing at the very top of the piano with both hands in the treble clef and a boatload of ledger lines and this is relatively unusual to the classical training I had in my youth. Which means that there’s no muscle memory for these notes and I’ve really got to work them out from their surroundings! Still, it’s making the brain work a bit!

I had an afternoon trip to the physio, my first since well before lockdown. I have a lot of trouble with muscular pain in my neck and this had been plaguing me for a few weeks. So it was nice to get that fixed and to get the all clear on the rest of my body following the weekend’s ultra.

Finally the rain stopped and I went for a run:

First run since the ultra

First run since the ultra

Things started out pretty slow and I was feeling quite drained. The plan had been to run the 5km loop that I would have done at the end of the ultra had I used the 5 mile loops instead. I intentionally went the opposite way along the A6 as I think I was still a little scarred from the experience at the weekend. What became apparent though was that once I was moving well, things got easier and easier and I was putting down some fast strides. To the point that I realised that I needed some extra distance so that I’d be out long enough to meet my Apple Watch exercise goal! Nailing 5.30min/mile along the bypass was as much a surprise to me as anyone, although I did need a moment to recover after it!

Day 88

Friday was set to be another day of new experiences. As I knew I’d be busy in the evening, I managed to grab 40 minutes in the morning when it wasn’t raining to get my run in.

All hail for Norbury Hollow

All hail for Norbury Hollow

It’s been a few weeks since I did the Norbury Hollow loop (clockwise) and getting started my body, like yesterday, really didn’t have a lot to give. By this time, Garmin was in full sulk about my exploits the previous weekend and I was beginning to wonder if it had a point! This route starts with a long (but mostly shallow) uphill before a steady undulating downhill then flat section. As I was approaching the top of the climb I was flagged down for directions by a lost golfer. After this I seemed to have a second wind, although the downhill section definitely helped. I was moving well most of the way back although a section of roadworks in Poynton followed by a long section of pavement closed for tree trimming¬† resulted in having to wait for a gap in the traffic to pass safely, I wasn’t in any rush but it was interesting that by the end of that loop my Garmin was back on speaking terms again and saying how well my training was going……!

Throughout the pandemic, one of the aspects of my world that had to stop was bell ringing at my local church. It’s something I’ve been doing since 1999 and I’ve been at Norbury since 2002 and this is the longest break I’ve had from ringing in all that time. A chance conversation with a ringer from neighbouring Poynton alerted me to an online portal for ringing. Which whilst doesn’t have any of the physical aspect of the exercise, it does allow one to meet up with other ringers and practice the methods that we ring. At least that’s the theory.

I’d spoken with Poynton’s Tower Captain who’d filled me in on the details and invited me to their online practice on the Friday night. The idea being that I could see how it worked and then could try to implement something similar at Norbury. We ended up working with a device casting a Zoom meeting alongside another with the RingingRoom.com website running. You definitely need the Zoom aspect to have any chance of knowing what is going on with each person; the website itself only has a written chat message box and that’s hidden by default, which makes the whole thing very difficult on its own. As it was there were plenty of technical issues and it didn’t work particularly smoothly. I shall see what appetite my own band has for tackling this and if enough want to give it a go, we will do, but it’s far from a substitute for the real thing!

Day 89

I woke up early on Saturday morning to go for a trail run with the Stockport Tortoises. It was going to be a great run because we were heading over to Kinder, and I’ve not been there for over 3 months now:

A trip to Kinder

A trip to Kinder

Kinder is only 7 miles from Marple Bridge making it a reasonable distance for a Saturday morning outing (the total trip worked out at 15 miles). The weather was good and we had a few in the groups who hadn’t run up there before, so it was nice to share their enjoyment of discovering the trails up there for the first time. We actually dropped off Kinder down a route I’ve never used before, although I think the path we joined might have been part of the old Chicken Run Fell Race route, albeit in reverse.

I always feel good after being up on the mountain trails, it’s a great feeling. We also stopped by one of the (many) plane wrecks up there; this is the one just off the path on Burnt Hill:

The rest of the day was spent eating, rehydrating and playing the piano.

No new synth tracks this week unfortunately. I’ve got a jam built in AUM at the moment, but lacking direction over how it’s going to be built into a full-on track. I’ve had a few goes but not there yet!

Day 90

Day 90 feels like it ought to come with a bit of a fanfare. Sadly due to social distancing the band can’t meet……….!

Anyway, the day started with a forecast check which seemed to think it would be OK in the morning and horrific in the afternoon. I needed to get out anyway, so decided to do that on foot and thereby tick the exercise box at the same time:

Quick trip to Poynton

Quick trip to Poynton

It felt like something of an anticlimax compared to the adventure yesterday, however needs must. And I got there and back in the dry which is always fun. Strava flagged up a number of segments that I’d run faster than I’d done before. However looking at them, most I’d not done in 5 years and were usually at the end of a very long run, so were never going to be stellar performances. It did highlight that all the best times on those segments had been either done in a vehicle or had corrupted GPS data!

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