Monday, 19 October 2020

“Tiers” before bedtime...

 

River Thames from Rainham Marshes.

Approaching 7 months from the start of the National Covid-19 Lockdown, and after a few months where it began to look like the country might have things under control, it now begins to feel as though we’re heading back to the way things were back in March. Wales has today announced a 2 week total lockdown beginning on Friday, and parts of the rest of the U.K. are now under “Tier 3” Very a high risk restrictions. Here in Essex we’ve just been moved into Tier 2 (High risk) by Essex County Council - something which is mystifying the residents of this part of the county as our number of cases per 100,000 is lower than a good many other areas of the U.K. where the restrictions are still at Tier 1 - Medium risk - level. Ironically enough excluded from the Essex-wide T2 restrictions is Thurrock - as a unitary authority they were able to “opt out” in spite of the fact that they have the highest figures of anywhere in the county.  It’s no wonder people are finding things confusing! 

Other areas of the country that have moved into a tier 2 have been reassured that if their numbers drop, a return to tier 1 will follow - for us in Essex though things are not so clear-cut as our numbers are already well below the level that was originally suggested as the one likely to trigger the increased of risk designation. As things stand, we’re not allowed to visit friends or family indoors, whether in a private home or meeting up in a pub or restaurant, although the guidelines are at pains to reassure us that we CAN meet with you to 6 people from outside of our own household in a beer garden, or park - very helpful at this time of year! Essex CC have given no clue about how long they expect this state of affairs to last - meaning that we are facing the very real prospect of Christmas being effectively cancelled for the majority of people - for many the last straw after a really tough year. 

Here, things continue much as they have been. I am still furloughed, and still with little idea how things will pan out when that ends at the end of this month. MrEH continues to work from home, with occasional trips into London to his office - when he travels out of rush hour times where possible, the Underground is quiet during the day, but approaching as busy as ever in the evening rush, at least. I made a trip to Lincolnshire a couple of weeks ago to see pals and watch the Reds final couple of practises of the season - and also squeezed in two trips to the rather wonderful Dambusters Inn - goodness knows when I will next get there! I’m maintaining the routine of running three times a week plus lots of stretching, and also trying to add in some strength training also - a habit I desperately need to get back to. I managed just one airshow in the end this year - Aerolegends ran a successful a COVID-secure show at Headcorn Aerodrome at the end of September, perhaps a blueprint for how things may need to be done more generally next year, we will see... 


Robyn




Thursday, 1 October 2020

Running update

 


4 weeks of my return to running plan complete and so far, all going well. A commitment to running three times a week was the key thing, (with 2 the first week as otherwise it would have meant running three days on the trot - not a good idea!) and sure enough I hit that target. I had no real mileage plans for running this month - just consistency, aiming for at least 2 miles per run, building up the time and distance slowly.

As well as the physical side of running,  I’ve been focusing on the mental side as well - I’ve always found that reading about running makes me more enthusiastic about it too, so discovering Runners World magazine on the library website has been excellent. Also good for enthusiasm is new kit - and I’m loving my new Capri-length leggings from Lucy Locket Loves. Friends have been singing their praises for a long while, so when I saw some good deals come up I leapt at the opportunity and bought a couple of pairs, and they are indeed every bit as good as I was told, I’ll be buying more! Also finding new routes to run - like the gorgeous patch of woodland above - is always a great incentive. Views like the one in the photo just stop me in my tracks every time! 

As anyone who runs knows, one of the big temptations is to try to do too much, too soon - increasing your training load too much can easily lead to injury, but when the enthusiasm is running high it’s REALLY easy to be drawn into overdoing it! Being an impatient sort, I struggle with this as much as anyone, but have tried to rein it back as much as possible - 4.5 miles in week one, 8.6 in week two, 10 miles last week and 13 this week. It’s amazing how quickly the body remembers how the increased mileage feels too - 4.5 mile runs this week felt no harder in terms of effort than those 2 miles back in week one! 

One more thing I have done to bolster the enthusiasm is to upgrade my Strava subscription to the premium level. For the equivalent of £4 a month it gives me far more stats than the free version did - and I’m endlessly fascinated and motivated by the facts and figures around my running, so that is guaranteed to act as encouragement. My current favourite thing is that I can compare my efforts on particular stretches of runs (known as segments on Strava) to effectively compete against myself which definitely appeals! 

So - where from here? Well initially it’s just continuing with the three runs a week, and keep chipping away at my annual mileage target too - I signed up for the 500km challenge again way back in January and thanks to a fair few months during the summer with almost no running at all I entered September a fair way behind on that. Having said this, the same thing occurred last year, and I made the target with a few days to spare, so I’m confident that all being well I can do the same again. I’ve set myself a goal for 50 miles this month., as well as joining in with a few virtual challenges too. I want to try to do at least one run a week where I note my 5k time to feed through for “Notparkrun”. And finally I want to start working on increasing my distance again, so one run per week will get slightly longer, traded off against another getting slightly shorter. 

Above all - and by far the most important thing - is to keep enjoying it, that is, after all, the best incentive of all! 


Robyn

Monday, 28 September 2020

Challenge complete!


 The challenge: 80km per week averaged over 4 weeks = 320km total. This was total movement - walking, running and any swimming - everything recorded in either my FitBit or my Garmin counted. The challenge was for the anniversary of the Battle of a Britain, 80 years ago this year, hence wanting to include the 80 in there. 80 miles per week was a step too far, and 80km running over the month was dismissed as being too much to throw myself into off the back of several weeks of barely any running at all. The 80km total movement in a week though while relatively demanding (a little under 11.5km per day) was achievable even allowing that I knew I had several days in the month with guaranteed lower mileage (2 days travelling home from holiday, 2 days travelling to/from a camping trip with friends and a day at an airshow) - I could add extra distance in other days to take account of that easily enough. I also liked the idea of being able to mix up walking and running, and even possibly a swim - variation is key to keeping things interesting!

I enjoy a challenge of this sort - and particularly at a time like this when I’m both trying to keep activity levels high generally, and aiming to rekindle some consistency in running. Knowing I have a target to aim for encourages me to stay motivated when perhaps otherwise I might give in to not quite feeling like lacing up and heading out -and a monthly goal is easier to focus on than a more long term annual one. The promise of a medal to come if I achieve my target is all the more encouragement too! 

I ended the 4 weeks on 339km, so well over what I needed. More than that though I committed to - and achieved a return to regular running when we got back from the Hebrides - 2 runs that first week back, and three runs each of the next two weeks. I should end this month on 30 miles total running distance - which is my second highest monthly total this year, and a great place to build from going into the end of the year.

I’m keen to find another challenge to crack on with for October. I’m going to be using Strava for running goals - I’ve set a 12.5 mile target for this week to start with - and we will be keeping up with our regular daily walks too - on days when I am not running I’ll be looking to cover at least 4 miles on these. I’d like to swim a couple of times but this will depend on finding a local pool which is open as the open air one is now closed for the winter. I want to incorporate more strength training, and continue with plenty of stretching and mobility work too as those are all things which will help with the running too. I’m not going to set any overall distances to aim for outside of the running - October will be more about variation and consistency. Bring it on! 


Robyn

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Ticking along...




Everyday life ticks on. I'm still furloughed - trying to make the most of the additional time but getting back to a degree of normality in terms of everyday routine now feels well overdue. MrEH has been working from home and in the light of the Government's updated advice today that those who are able to should do so again, we can't see that changing any time soon, either.

 Meanwhile the attempt at some home grown produce is coming along nicely - I'm routinely picking enough tomatoes daily to eat with my lunch, and Sunday's runner beans were entirely home grown which was delicious! We also have kale which I'm picking as needed ready to steam or saute and throw into...well, pretty much whatever I cook, to be honest. That is definitely a good side effect of this year's oddness - that we have had time to grow bits and pieces like this and supplement the food that we buy. 

We have done a spot of foraging too - the Giant Puffball from last week, of course, but also sloes ready for Vodka (MrEH is not a gin fan, hence we tend to do flavoured vodka instead) and also some Rowanberries to try infusing into vodka as well - I'll try to remember to report back on that one - and some rosehips for syrup. We may yet go out after crab apples and to see what else is out there too, but either way we will have done quite well out of free food this year, the plum jam we made a few months ago is entirely gorgeous and I may struggle to stop himself eating ALL of it before I get a look-in! 

My September mileage challenge for the Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary is coming along nicely too and providing a good incentive to run more regularly, although possibly the bigger incentive there is realising that yet again I have let my mileage drop off through the summer to the extent that my annual distance challenge is looking doubtful. Will I ever learn? I think I have made the connection a little earlier this year than last though, so hopefully as long as I can maintain the current routine of three runs per week, and start to build the distance a little too, I *should* be ok for it - we'll see. It feels good to be running regularly again and using our morning walk as a "springboard" to run from is working well. 

I've also had three great examples of customer service lately which deserve shouting about. First up was an issue with a piece of cheese which Highland Fine Cheeses sorted out very swiftly indeed (cheese - Mmmm!). Then an order for one pair of full length and one pair of capri length running leggings from Lucy Locket Loves sale stock arrived as both pairs being capri length - again resolved promptly and efficiently. Finally today I got around to reporting the step-counting discrepancy on my Fitbit Charge 3 - a 15 minute phone call saw them run through all the issues and arrange for a replacement to be sent to me so hurrah for that, too. We're all quick enough to complain when things go wrong, so it's only right that when companies demonstrate this level of really excellent customer service we shout about that, as well. 

Other than that, I am crossing my fingers that the weekend's planned Headcorn Air show does actually go ahead - I'm really looking forward to seeing some aviation in an airshow setting after all this time, it's been a very strange year without it! At the moment the weather forecast is looking reasonable, although not exceptional - it would be irony itself if the show goes ahead in spite of Covid, but the weather then steps in to cause cancellation of the flying! 

Robyn

Friday, 18 September 2020

A new happy place...

 



I’ve mentioned before here how much I love swimming - it’s very much like running in that I procrastinate like crazy about doing it, don’t always enjoy it *that* much while I’m doing it, but pretty much always feel AMAZING afterwards. And on a good day that feeling of gliding through the water, self-propelled and weightless, is just world-beating. In the current COVID-19 climate though, I can’t say that the thought of visiting a swimming pool has appealed to me much. It’s not the pool itself - it’s the changing rooms, always with a tendency to be hot and humid, it just feels like the sort of place that a virus would be right at home, and so I’ve decided against going, but as a result I have really missed swimming. 

I mentioned that we swam on holiday - that sea swim was utterly blissful in spite of the cold and the jellyfish (bastard jellyfish) and it made me realise fully how much I had missed it...so I had a thought, and googled “outdoor swimming pools near...” to see if anything at all came up. And there it was - top of the list - Ware Priory Lido, just SEVEN DAMNED MILES from home. How did I never know about this before? Had I known about it but forgotten? Who knows, but having found out, it seemed rude not to do something with the information. Obviously I procrastinated for a week first, but this morning it suddenly occurred to me that the website had said it would be closing for the season at the end of next week, and so if I wanted to go, it would be sensible to do it soon. So I jumped online and booked - for this afternoon. (Yes, swinging from procrastination to impulsiveness is one of my defining characteristics!)

Well what a glorious place! For a start, they’re managing things beautifully in respect of COVID. Alternating the changing rooms in use to allow for extra cleaning, insisting that you arrive ready to swim and simply strip down to costume or trunks on the grassy poolside, and taking temperatures on the way in just to be certain. You have to book too, and they are only selling a limited number of tickets. Apparently the 10-12 people who were in there when I was is about standard numbers at the moment. The ticket gives you an hour and a half time slot - a hour for swimming and half an hour for showering, which works well. 

 In common with swimming pools generally, everyone was incredibly friendly too - I got chatting with a number of people including one lady who was very, VERY pregnant. Already overdue, she was apparently delighted when told that if the baby hadn’t arrived by the 28th they would induce her, as the 28th is the day AFTER the pool closes for the season, meaning she won’t have to miss any swims! Most of those I spoke to were committed outdoor swimmers - some would usually use pools at Stevenage or Letchworth I gather but those haven’t opened this year. 

Having been once I’ll definitely go back - I just wish I had known about it sooner! It took me no longer to get there than my usual pool, and although it is a little more expensive it’s not enough of a difference to feel significant, and it’s so much nicer - in warm weather, at least! Having grown up visiting an outdoor pool very regularly in the summer holidays (Larkswood in Chingford for any fellow East Londoners reading) it just felt so familiar to me - and without the limited time slot it would be an amazing place to go on a hot day and alternate swimming with sitting on a towel reading...maybe next year! 

Robyn 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

An unexpected find...


I'm working on distance for my September challenge at the moment. It's commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, so I wanted to centre it around the number 80, but having been running relatively little recently 80km running in the month was going to be too much to set my sights on, so instead I have looked to combine walking/running distance. I'm aiming to do an average of 80km per week across the 4 full weeks of the month - 320km total across the month. A week and a half in I'm doing OK - being in the Hebrides for the first week should have been an absolute gift, but in the event we had two days of appalling weather that week which combined with the first day of our journey home reduced our walking distance rather. Still ended up on 55 miles though. Week 2 also saw a couple of low mileage days, and I came in just below my target mileage, meaning that I "used up" the extra miles banked in week one. Week three is so far looking rather good - with 4 days of the week done I'm currently on 36 miles, or 58km, giving me a decent chance to bank some more additional distance against the risk of poor weather next week. 

 To build my mileage I've been looking for any excuse to get out and walk - so yesterday afternoon I grabbed my litter picking stick and a black sack and headed to the woods for another rubbish clearing wander - first a circuit picking straight rubbish, then a second for recycling. It's getting better with just a half bag of each this time - hard to say whether that is because people are dropping less, or just that someone else has also been litter picking, though. While scanning about for rubbish though, my eyes lit on the item at the top of the post - no less than a giant puffball mushroom! This particular one was around 8" across - plenty big enough for 2! Yes, of course we ate it! There was a second one too, but that has been left in place in the hope that it will spore, creating more of them for the future. This is the first time we've seen these so close to home so it would be nice to hope that some more appear - I think that particular area will be a feature of our walking for the next few weeks anyway! 

 Beyond mushroom hunting, I'll just continue clocking up the distance, three runs per week of 2 - 3 miles each, just to rebuild the consistency. My daily morning walks are routinely 4 - 5 miles now, I leave MrEH to head home when he needs to start work and round up the distance on my own. I'm also still doing most of our shopping on foot - double value there as it builds mileage for me, while also reducing mileage and fuel use for the car so win/win. Might have to find myself a challenge for October as well, to keep the momentum going! 

 Robyn

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Another one bites the dust...

 

BBMF Fighters

This year just keeps on kicking us in the teeth - the latest disappointment being the cancellation of Duxford’s Battle Of Britain airshow which was due to be happening this weekend. Following the introduction of the Government’s new “Rule Of Six” the organising team decided it was no longer logistically possible, and it was cancelled last Friday. The cancellation was made even more poignant as this week saw Battle Of Britain day - all the more meaningful with this year being the 80th anniversary of the Battle. There were so many grand plans for the anniversary most of which have, by necessity, been scrapped. On VE Day alone the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had over 100 flypasts planned - it would have been the busiest day ever for the flight until Covid came along and rendered all the carefully crafted plans redundant.

Sad as the Duxford cancellation is, there IS no choice. I for one was beginning to get a bit twitchy about how they planned to make it possible, and whether the majority really would take any notice of requests to social distance. No clear information had been provided giving reassurance on this, which didn’t help. Rumour was that people were going to be corralled into number-limited compounds, meaning that those who had bought tickets individually intending to meet up with friends on the day would end up standing alone - not really the way most of us plan to visit an airshow the size of Duxford. That IS just rumour though, we may never know what actually was planned. It is fair to say though that to have gone ahead with the show and been responsible for a Coronavirus outbreak which could have lead to deaths both among those attending and in the local area would have been grossly irresponsible, and as the organisers have to be applauded for taking the decision that they did. The majority are accepting of this if social media is anything to go on, with only a tiny handful of negative reactions, and those mostly from those who are blatant Covid-deniers (and probably flat-earthers, as well!) and so can be safely ignored as having nothing worthwhile to say. Most agree that it’s better to be safe. 

I now have one final shot at actually seeing an airshow this year with the planned show at Headcorn in a couple of weeks time. Smaller than most shows, they have also limited numbers, and I understand have plans in place that will hopefully enable it to go ahead although I won’t be too hopeful until I’m actually on the airfield! My fingers are crossed though - it would be great to see some more warbirds flying this year! 


Robyn