Can we have our nice weather back? Please?

View from Cown Edge
View from Cown Edge

In true British style, it was the weather that formed the main talking point this week. For many weeks we’ve had pretty decent and warm weather for long stretches. Which, in the locked-down world was something of a blessing as it made getting outside possible, even if that was only a portion of the otherwise structureless days. But now, as if someone had noticed, now lockdown is easing, it’s back to being a very soggy time.

Oooh Work

It’s been the first week I’ve had any holiday-cover work since early March. And it’s noticeable now that holidays are becoming ‘a thing’ again. EasyJet are engaging in borderline harassment at the moment, with email after email telling me about all the places they’re flying to (although I’ve no idea whether any of these places will actually allow you to leave the airport or your hotel room once you’re there!). The knock on effect of course is that my pet sitting services are now back in demand. Definitely not to the level they would have been at this time of year had none of this happened. But I’m getting enquiries regarding the next few months. So that’s a good thing.

Social stuff

And other aspects of life are showing signs of stirring as well. A discussion with my local church to confirm how they were moving forward as, from 5 July, services are allowed to happen again, assuming all relevant social distancing rules can be followed. Which is fine when you’re a huge church with lots of space, but less so when you’re a small local parish church. My connection in this is from a bell ringing stand-point, an activity that ceased when lock-down commenced in March. We’re a significant distance away from getting that back up and running again however I did manage to visit the tower during the week to check that the bells were still there (they were) and not filled with water or birds (they weren’t). Again quite how we can implement the Central Council’s guidance for implementing social distancing is another matter entirely. Whilst I can’t reach opposing walls of the ringing chamber by stretching my arms out, it’s not that large a space and maintaining a 2m gap between people will be difficult unless there’s fewer than not many people in there! So it’s progress, but to be honest, only just moving forwards.

Day 98

As with much of this week it was a matter of trying to get out and do something in spite of bad weather.

Having had a reasonable running week last week I elected to start this one off with a bike ride. Yesterday’s run had been at maximum effort and I’ve not done much of that lately so it takes a bit more to get over it.

It was also still rather breezy, and I wanted an easy ride. Looking at the GPS it looks like I was having a moment or six.

A route with no plan

A route with no plan

In fact, I decided that I’d go and have a look at some of the side roads I’d frequently passed and wondered ‘where does that lead?’

This is what I found (that I didn’t know about before):

  • A caravan site
  • a ‘military’ looking base where I had thought there was a gym
  • several industrial estates
  • a section of Heald Green that was seemingly in Cheshire, not Stockport. It may, of course, not have been Heald Green
  • that my eyesight is so questionable that I misread ‘Heald Green’ as ‘Hazel Grove’ and thus get very confused about the space-time vortex I must have travelled through to get home so quickly
  • it’s still windy on the bypass

Actually I knew the last point as it’s always windy on the bypass.

Day 99

The day started with a conversation with the vicar at my local church. It was a conversation that I needed to have but with nothing happening due to the lockdown, there wasn’t a lot of point before now. However with the usual misreporting of facts in newspapers about lockdown easements, it was time to find out to what extent Norbury would be ‘reopening’. As anticipated the answer was broadly ‘it isn’t, yet’ but it was good to catch up on such matters and plan a way forward with regards to checking over the bells.

A visit to a work job followed and then I jumped on the bike for what could only be described as a random ride around Stockport.

A random about Stockport

A random about Stockport

In the back of my mind I had thought about checking if the Nissan garage was open as i had plans on popping in. But instead I cycled straight past it and ended up in Reddish Vale Country Park. Which is a place good for walking, running and mountain biking. But less good for a road bike, something I already knew having done this before when I did my full tour many weeks ago.

I came home and made some noise on the piano. Music isn’t happening very much at the moment, but my playing isn’t too grim. I mean it’s far from great but I’ve played much worse!

And that was the end of June. Let’s have some stats:

June

  • Running: Distance 143 miles including 12,764 ft of elevation
  • Cycling: Distance 218 miles including 8,997 ft of elevation

Lockdown to date (23 March – now)

  • Running: Distance 532 miles including 44,252 ft of elevation
  • Cycling: Distance 611 miles including 29,894 ft of elevation

Day 100

Crack open on the fireworks. Oh wait. No, can’t do that. 100 days of being locked down, unless you’re some part of the political brigade to whom this apparently never applied….. And people wonder why I avoid these stimuli.

Wednesday was going to be a good day. Aside from the fact it was going to be a very wet day. Which it was. However, we had a nice afternoon run planned with the Tortoises up and along Cown Edge:

Cown Edge

Cown Edge

As always, great to meet up with friendly faces and go and run somewhere out of the way of the rest of the population. And somehow, despite tipping it down with rain all day and evening, we managed a dry couple of hours and find some new trails as well as catching up with a couple of people I’ve not seen since the lockdown started.

One clean up later followed by a feed and it was yoga time. Although for once I wasn’t really feeling it tonight. These things happen.

Day 101

Thursday was not a good day. I had an anxiety episode and spent most of the day battling that. These episodes are full fight-or-flight situations that have no obvious start or ending point, which makes them very tiring and unpleasant. An over-active mind that spends the whole time throwing hypothetical confrontations at itself and losing each battle. And I’m not sure why it does this.

The best way I’ve ever found to deal with these periods is through exercise. Although it tends to be a little counter-productive because most of the time what I want is a slow easy gentle run. And what happens is more akin to being chased by wolves.

Chased by wolves. Metaphorically speaking

Chased by wolves. Metaphorically speaking

On the plus side I was back on my local trails and, presumably due to the rain, saw only a couple of people in that time. Which, being fair, was two people more than I could have coped with, but this is daytime in suburbia. So the likelihood of complete avoidance was slim. It’s also the first run in a while I’ve ended up with wet feet, but that was more to do with the rain and nothing to do with people!

The day needed to be well structured as, not only was there work to be done and running to be run, I also had arranged a meeting with another of the local bell ringers to pop into the tower to confirm everything was OK. Which it was. I didn’t expect anything different but there’s always that outlying concern, especially as this is the longest period of silence from the bells since during WW2.

Day 102

I woke up trying to remember what number the exercise-streak was up to. Despite having been active for most of the lockdown period, I didn’t immediately start off trying to do some exercise every day. The reason was simply fear that if I tried to commit to something like that I’d almost certainly break myself. Something which was even more concerning given the physio wasn’t available for most of this time and that I was entirely reliant on getting out and doing something on a regular basis to try to keep my mental health on the straight and narrow. Which is a challenge at the best of times. And these definitely aren’t the best of times.

Anyway the answer to my question was that this was day 96 of the run/ride exercise streak. Whilst there are no ‘rules’ to this I work on the assumption that my Apple Watch is happy when I’ve done a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise, expended 620C of active energy and stood up at some point during each of 12 hours. So that’s what I have been aiming to do as a minimum. As it’s split between two sports none of my apps seem to document this (Smashrun will do run-streaks only) so it’s entirely made up for my own amusement. Although I’m not sure at what stage it gets knocked on the head. 100 days looks like a nice target though…….

My first plan was to sort out a morning appointment first before dropping in to Nissan. And whilst the latter point might ordinarily be out of my way, with trying to avoid bad traffic on a Friday, it actually wasn’t as silly an idea as it might have been. And they were open which¬† meant I could get things sorted there whilst doing far more work admin than I realised I had to do.

I was feeling a little more back to normal as well which was a positive thing and certainly discussing work arrangements was something relatively normal; the summer period is usually my busy season and I was wondering to what extent any work would happen this summer due to the virus. As mentioned at the top, things are a fraction of where I’d have expected them to be, however any sign of movement in the right direction is a positive one.

I thought about whether I should run to the afternoon job, but the weather was looking pretty trashy and whilst I’m not averse to getting rained on whilst running, turning up to work like a drowned rat is never a good look. Aside from that my heart really wasn’t up for it and I thought about getting a 5km in and calling it quits.

But as with the tale of many runs, once out there things felt a bit different. 5km wasn’t a distance I generally ran unless it was a parkrun or a race. 5 miles is far more satisfactory for me. I decided to go for an anticlockwise loop around the village.

Grove A/C loop

Grove A/C loop

To be honest, having done 5 clockwise loops when I did the virtual Comrades marathon a few weeks ago, I still can’t face doing the clockwise loop! Both are predominantly flat but with a slight increase in elevation in the last mile so there isn’t really an ‘easy’ version of the loop. Just one that I’d done five times in a morning and one that I hadn’t! Indeed I’ve not done either of my regular 5 mile runs for some time.

Either way the plan was a steady run, no speed goals, just get around in about 40ish minutes. So I was a bit surprised when I looked at the run on Strava and saw a list of ‘PR’ results on all the segments I’d covered in the run. I had felt a bit tired during the back section of the loop but hadn’t attributed that to the fact I was pushing the pace. I just assumed it was a mixed of fatigue from the anxiety yesterday and not feeling 100%.

I guess it’s a nice surprise to have. I’ve done plenty of runs that have felt quick but the data says NO. Haha.

Day 103

When you’re doing a run streak (or similar) generally the longer it goes on for, the easier it is to kick the negative thoughts into touch and get out to keep it going. Today however was the biggest struggle I had in getting out at all.

The Tortoises were doing a long run over Kinder again which sounded fun, but it didn’t fit in with what I needed to do, nor how I was feeling. Putting out another hilly 20 miler really didn’t fit today’s bill even though, as it happens they were back mid morning and the weather hadn’t been too terrible.

To be honest, running anywhere didn’t seem to be getting my enthusiasm going, which really is quite unusual. In the end I cycled to a job in the morning even though the return distance was only about 10 miles.

In fact the bike wasn’t a bad shout as the roadworks in the middle of Bredbury were causing traffic chaos as their temporary lights were out. It’s a lot easier to get off a bike and push it around the edge of the chaos than it appeared to be to drive through it. And thankfully I didn’t get too soggy in the process.

I pontificated about the afternoon visit and almost talked myself into running it. After all, it’s not a big distance. The enthusiasm wasn’t there though. Even though I’d done my ’30 minutes’ for Apple Watch, I was still short on the active calories. I thought about a quick run locally, but even that was met with apathy. In the end I jumped back on the bike instead just to get things sorted whilst it was still light (barely, despite it being the afternoon). The roadworks had gone and order had been restored to Bredbury. And Apple Watch was happy for another day!

Saturday evening and all the local pubs and restaurants were able to open for the first time since the end of March. And I’m struggling to understand how anyone could not have imagined it would be any different to lots of people crammed into close proximity with each other. I guess in 2 weeks we’ll know whether or not the virus is still circulating in the wider community!

Day 104

Sunday was a deja vu from a week earlier.

At the start of the week we had the great news that we’d managed to edge past East London Runners in the virtual 5km ‘Mob Match’. The event is a very inclusive one with weightings for both fast times and large participation. Indeed ELR took the top 12 race positions but due to fielding significantly more runners Marple were able to make up enough points such that we won the match. So it’s a slightly weird event in that way, but it is great for encouraging runners of all abilities to take part because their participation will make a difference in the results.

Our next match (and the first in the knock-out stage as the first round was to separate into two parallel competitions) is a local one against Warrington. This is one that will likely go down to the wire again; they’ve got fast runners too, but also are fielding a larger team than ELR did. Plus one of our fastest runners is injured so we’ll be missing his significant contribution.

With lockdown measures easing we’ve tried to get together into pacing groups. Race conditions are generally faster because of the competition and it’s tougher to get those paces out on a solo training run.

Whilst the group will help each other, we’ll be off-road which, whilst better in training on the body, doesn’t give the ‘bounce’ that tarmac does which can make it harder to push out a fast time. I decided, given the weather was favourable this morning, to try another flying lap on the bypass. As last week I had a steady run out to Bramhall, which is about 3.5 miles away, to get warmed up and see what I had in my legs.

On reaching my ‘start line’, a few twists and drills to try to convince myself that I could make a decent effort of it, start the watch and head for home.

Bypass fly-past (again)

Bypass fly-past (again)

It felt hard work, but then I was aiming to produce the fastest 5km I could. Last week, whilst my ‘moving time’ was pleasing I wasn’t as happy with my overall elapsed time. Despite this ‘race’ being measured on moving time, I still think of a run based on the overall time; I’m sure I could post an incredible 5km if I took long enough recoveries after each kilometre!

I had a much shorter wait to cross the main road this time, which aided the overall time, albeit likely at the expense of moving time. But that was what I wanted, a real reflection of where my 5km pace was. The last kilometre stretch is a steady uphill (the route has a net positive elevation profile (166ft climb versus 106 ft descent according to mapometer) and that definitely hurt at the end! The rules, whilst they allow for a maximum net descent of 50ft, really try to direct people towards net neutral or positive elevation profiles. So I guess I made it a bit harder for myself in that respect, but the route was chosen to avoid losing time making turns (there’s only one and it’s right at the end).

Some numbers? 5km in 18:40 (moving) or 18:49 (elapsed). In my current fitness anything better than 20 minutes is my goal, so I’m very happy with that. We’ll see if I can get anything similar next week when we try the group “race”.

End of Lockdown?

We’re in a slightly strange limbo time within this equally bizarre time we find ourselves in 2020. With pubs and non-essential businesses opening up again, the whole concept of ‘lockdown’ seems to have been left behind. Yes there are guidelines about how people are supposed to operate in the post-COVID-19 world. but as I alluded to, now pubs and restaurants are opening and people can go out without restriction it’s not even questionable as to whether they will follow the guidelines. A couple of drinks in and that will all be forgotten, intentionally or otherwise. So it remains to be seen as to how things move forward here on in.

Blog-wise I’ve not decided how things will move forward. Obviously the intention is to post new material, and hopefully a bit more regularly than I was pre-lockdown. I’m 2 days off my exercise-streak 100 so that ought to be worthy of a mention. We shall see…..!

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