UK Lockdown to day 83: burial grounds, marathons and Beethoven

Virtual Comrades
Virtual Comrades

It’s been quite a week. From having trained alone for many weeks it’s been nice to run with a group again through to running a virtual ultramarathon on the road.

Day 77

The day started with the weekly shop, followed by trying to complete another track, although I couldn’t get it to work. So I parked that and went to reacquaint myself with my piano. It was one of my first purchases after moving out, yet for whatever reason, it’s remained relatively untouched. I dug out some old music and crashed through a few pieces. The mind is willing, but a bit blind to the amount of rust that’s built up in the intervening years!

Monday’s run was something of an unusual one for me. My affiliated running club, Marple Runners, made the decision to start organising some running session with effect from the start of the week. The groups were small in order to fulfil the social distancing requirements and I was given a group to run at 10-12min/mile which is a pace very different from my own. Not that this was a problem; with a virtual race at the end of the week, taking things easy during the week was the name of the game.

I wanted to run a bit further, so decided to ‘commute’ from home to Marple, lead the 5km session and then run home.

Run 5km, then run 5km, and finish with 5km

Run 5km, then run 5km, and finish with 5km

All went well, and after the session had concluded I set off running home. The notion I had was to go for tempo or threshold pace. Another runner overtook me but then seemed to stick to a pace slightly below where I wanted to be. Which resulted in that awkward situation where you end up feeling like you’re following them! I decided to push to my threshold and cruised back home comfortably. I enjoyed the run a lot.

Day 78

Tuesday was another day where the running plans were in the late afternoon.

I started the day battling with Cubasis until ‘Classique’ was somewhere where I felt it was ready to replace the 30 year old poor recording. You can listen to it here, and yes it’s a definite step change compared to last week’s Moogy Mood!

In a slight twist, it turns out the idea that I had with the lead instrument being a trumpet was incorrect. Swapping it out for a trombone was a much better fit to the original, although whether trombones generally play in that register I’m really not sure. That’s the potential pitfall of using synths; yes you get the sounds which can be like acoustic instruments, but not necessarily the boundaries of reality!

I was looking forward a lot to the run in the afternoon as Steve had offered to lead a bit of a guided tour of some of the historical burial sites and battlefields up on Ludworth Moor.

Burial mounds guided loop

Burial mounds guided loop

Great to get out with the group again on another stunning run. Gentle in pace with lots to see. Definitely my sort of running!

Day 79

Wednesday started with piano practice and surprisingly things were going quite well. To the point that I thought I’d try to film some of my playing because I knew my mother (who taught me to play all the way through grade 8) would like to see it. There’s very little in the way of records of me playing as most of that period was well before mobile phones were a thing, let alone something that was in the hands of the vast majority of people in the UK.

Anyway, if you want to see some shaky footage of me playing the piano (whilst trying not to be stressed out by the fact it was being recorded) then here’s the link to my YouTube page. I don’t seem to have a nice player thing like the soundcloud plugin, but you get the idea anyway! You get ‘treated’ to a rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (1st movement) which may or may not deviate away from the written score in one or more places……….

I then headed out for a run as the rain had briefly stopped and I quite fancied staying dry today!

A run around Poynton Lake

A run around Poynton Lake

The day ended with the weekly yoga session over the internet. I decided that with the race booked in for Sunday that all my training runs would be early in the week so that I had a chance to recover. So it would be over to the bike from now on, which was a bugger as it was blowing a gale out there!

Day 80

It was an odd Thursday in that not a lot happened. There was some piano practice. And I ordered a new midi controller for my music production as I wasn’t fond of the keybed and action on my existing one. And I went for a random cycle out through Bollington. And home again having checked out a bridleway in Poynton that I had seen on the map but thus far hadn’t had a chance to see in person.

A random around Bollington

A random around Bollington

There was no plan other than to turn over the legs a bit. We all need days without a plan sometimes!

Day 81

Friday was one of those frustrating days. The weather was OK, even if it was still very windy. But I had to stay in awaiting my new Arturia Keylab midi controller; Fedex had confirmed they would deliver on Friday, but sadly were no more specific. It became a day of poking synthesizers and making a racket on the piano until finally, mid afternoon, my parcel arrived.

I managed to open the outer box to confirm the contents before deciding I really wanted to get a bike ride in before rush hour started. I had no inspiration for where I wanted to go. So the trace between home and the airport will probably seem somewhat familiar, all these weeks into lockdown!

Yup, you've seen it before!

Yup, you’ve seen it before!

Day 82

With tomorrow’s race being pencilled in to be very early in the morning I decided that I wanted to get out and do my daily ride promptly. So following the general faffage that usually happens following breakfast I headed out. I wanted something a little more interesting than yesterday’s airport brain-free trip. Although I didn’t want anything too strenuous either ahead of the big day.

So it was a trip to New Mills and a return via Marple.

New Mills, Strines and Marple ride

New Mills, Strines and Marple ride

And it was a lovely morning for it as well. I’d left the car plugged in at home to get charged up via the solar, so there was no plan to be taking that anywhere! With the business still dormant and my new smart meter for the electric delayed due to the coronavirus I’m being careful to not run up a big mileage that I can’t replenish via the panels. Sure electricity isn’t desperately expensive, but it makes more sense to keep the costs under control as best as I can.

I got home and, seeing that the car was full and the sun was still shining I had the oven on to replenish the bread stores which were running low. Oh, and baked a fruit pastry thing whilst I was at it!

I also unpacked the Arturia Keylab and had a play around with it. It’s designed to be used with windows/Mac and comes with Arturia’s vast Analog Lab synth preset pack. It’s all very nice but for whatever reason I find it’s laggy; not sure if it’s my laptop, windows, Analog Lab or some other complication, but it’s most off-putting when there is a slight delay between pressing a key and the sound being generated.

As it is though, I use iOS to produce my music and there’s no lag there at all. So I can’t see me being drawn over and away from my music tablet any time soon!

I started working on a live jam session and came up with some interesting ideas which need some developing before it becomes any other than a cacophony of chaos, which is probably the best way to describe what is currently in play!

There was some piano practice, but it wasn’t good……..

And then it was food and an early night. Having looked at the weather forecast, and based on my running plans, Sunday was going to be starting rather early.

Day 83

A few of my friends raced the Comrades Marathon in South Africa a couple of years ago. It’s a 90km road race, in June, in South Africa. Which means 56 miles of road running in a hot country in the summer. With all those points in mind it’s a race I have no intention of ever doing.

Comrades, like most other global running events, was cancelled this year due to Coronavirus. There are a number of charities in South Africa along the Comrades route which  absolutely rely on the income brought in by this century-old ultramarathon, and the implication of the cancellation cannot be underestimated. Whilst the same is true for a lot of UK charities receiving income from UK events, the poverty in South Africa had a big impact on the trio from our group who witnessed it. So when Comrades decided to do a virtual event as a charity fund raiser, it was a no-brainer for the group to get involved.

Unlike the real Comrades Marathon, there wasn’t a need to find 50+ miles of hill to run up or down (the route reverses each year so one year is the “up” marathon and the next is the “down”). Indeed they made it as inclusive as possible offering a range of distances: 5km, 10km, half-marathon, half-Comrades (45km), and full-Comrades (90km). The strict time limits of the Comrades Marathon were also not included – the 90km must be finished within 12 hours otherwise you’re timed out as a DNF. The virtual event has a 24 hour period during which you need to do your run and upload it to their site to be verified.

About half of the group decided to run the half-marathon whilst the rest of us went for the 45km. On paper, it’s nothing too scary; a marathon is 42km which means the half-Comrades is less than 2 miles longer (it’s about 27.9 miles using a strict conversion of 1:1.609)

There was a plan that we’d all finish at the same place, and most of the group did. A few of us did our own thing, but then got to the ‘finish line’ location to see the rest finish.

I had already decided that I would run my 45km in loops from home. That would give me a base if needed. And I decided that as I live in a busy location, I’d need to get those loops done early. The alarm was set for 4.40am with a view of getting running for about 5am. An interesting prospect of digesting breakfast in 20 minutes. But I can do that……

The original plan was to rotate between two different 5-mile loops (Norbury Hollow and Hazel Grove) and then finish with a 3 mile section to take the total mileage to 28 miles as I wanted to ensure I wasn’t short of the distance! But realised late in the previous evening that I could extend my Hazel Grove loop to be 6 miles, and if I did 3 of those, I could get the distance in 5 laps, not 6. So that seemed sensible.

In the end all five loops were around Hazel Grove. The first three were the augmented 6 mile version and the final two were the ‘standard’ 5 mile version. It looks a mess on the map:

Race the Comrades Legends (Hazel Grove edition)

Race the Comrades Legends (Hazel Grove edition)

So what did we learn on this adventure?

  • Loops are really useful when your bowels decide they want to moan a lot. At the end of laps 1 (6 miles) and 2 (12 miles) I needed to take an extended comfort break, but at least when the toilet option is ‘home’, there’s no queue or hideous portable-toilet option with a smell bad enough to cause planets to fall out of their orbit.
  • iPhones have a feature/design flaw whereby if a certain button is pressed a number of times it automatically rings 112 and starts trying to send messages to your emergency contacts. My phone was in my bag and about 8 miles in I had a very awkward conversation with an emergency services call handler. The phone was subsequently switched off and left at home at the end of lap 2
  • After 3 full laps (18 miles) my body was not impressed. And whilst telling myself it was only 2 ‘short laps’ to go, that’s still 10 miles
  • Lap 4 was a cat & mouse “battle” with another runner who slowed down in front of me and I overtook. But by this point I was run/walking and looking over my shoulder to make sure I could stay ahead of him.
  • Also on Lap 4 I saw Kam, one of the Davenport & Lyme Runners, twice, who was out on her morning run in the opposite direction and was probably wondering why I was looking in so much discomfort and running as if I’d been thoroughly beaten with a cricket bat (which is what my body was feeling like by this time)
  • Lap 5 was all about counting off the miles. Running pride had, by this time, been totally discarded and replaced by just wanting to finish the distance before my body seized up completely.
  • Road running is tough on the body, especially when you’re used to not running on tarmac and actively avoid running on tarmac.

At the end of Lap 5 I wasn’t sure if I could cut short or whether I’d have to do the final incline for a 5th time. I decided that it was better to do a little more than not enough, but that last mile was absolutely death-marched in. Everything was hurting by this point and I knew my running form was practically non-existent now. In bygone years I’ve trained on road over 20+ mile distances, which helps enormously. Although I also tended to get injured a lot in the process which is why I stopped.

It also confirmed in my mind that this would definitely be my last road marathon. I’m more about the adventure of getting onto the trails and seeing places. Sure I could have done a slightly more scenic route for this, but given the protest from my bowels over the first 2 hours, I was reliant on being close to home to sort the matter out.

Anyway, one shower and a non-alcoholic beer later (it wasn’t even 10am) and I’d uploaded my run to Comrades:

And shortly after this I got my virtual certificate:

Virtual certificate

Virtual certificate

Today wasn’t about setting an amazing time, or trying to do something clever with a marathon PB or anything like that. Today was all about raising money to help support the orphanages and other charities supporting very vulnerable people living in conditions that we simply can’t imagine in the UK.

It was also really nice to get over to Marple this lunchtime to see all the others who had taken part from our ‘Tortoise’ group. Some had done as I had and come along post-finish whereas we saw the rest finish off their 45km runs. And it was rather toastie warm by that time as well!

Most of the group of finishers

Most of the group of finishers

Despite the ‘prediction’ on the running data, I have no appetite to try to run 90km in South Africa in 30+ Celcius temperatures. Indeed I have no appetite for long distance running on the road at all. Last year I did several events of a similar or longer distance than I ran today so I know I can do the distances. However as they were mostly off-road, the forces on the body are spread a lot more widely, rather than the same muscles being constantly pummelled¬† for 4 hours, and as such I don’t think I suffered in the same way as I did today.

Next week will be one of regroup and recover. Although I’m leading an intervals session tomorrow night, so that could be interesting………..!



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