Saturday 24 October 2020

It’s all gone wrong!


We seem to have had one of those periods of time here where lots of things have needed replacing. I’ve never quite worked out why it is that so often, when one thing goes wrong, quite often another couple of things decide to come out in sympathy and grind to a halt too, but it’s definitely annoying! The first thing here was my FitBit - the new Charge 3 I bought in June had been skipping steps when I was out walking, regularly losing a couple of thousand steps on a 3-4 mile walk when checked against either the step counting app on my phone or my Garmin running watch. I’d tried to get a resolution to the problem on Fitbit’s online forums, but with no success so eventually rang their customer service line. A few questions - during which we established that there was another problem with the device as well, and inside 15 minutes from dialling the number and it had been arranged that a new one would be sent out to me. 

The next thing to keel over was the pump that boosts the water pressure to our bathroom and the hot tap in the kitchen. Our mains water to the kitchen cold tap comes through at excellent pressure, but the other taps in the flat, plus the toilet cistern are fed via a water tank. Obviously being in a flat, there’s not much headroom for that tank, so this means that the water pressure from there, without the pump, is dreadful! We got up one morning with the pump working as normal, went out for our usual morning walk, and when we washed our hands on getting back indoors, no pump. It’s a sealed unit, so taking it apart to try to work out what the problem is wasn’t an option, and initially we assumed we’d need to get a plumber to sort it out for us. MrEH decided to have a good look though, and established pretty quickly that as long as we could source a replacement pump of the same model, he would, with luck, be able to fit it. A quick google and the pump was ordered for a little under £100, and successfully fitted a few days later - phew! 

More significant was the “Hard disk failure warning” message that started appearing on the laptop - it had for some time been at the stage where it could only be used plugged into the mains as it’s battery pretty much gave up the ghost several years ago. A Windows 7 machine dating back to 2012 though, we felt unable to justify spending out on a new battery when we had a sneaking feeling that it must be nearing the end of its life anyway. It’s seen a LOT of use, and done a fair amount of travelling round the country too in between various airshows, and trips to the Hebrides! When that is all taken into account, it was hard to feel too aggrieved at its imminent demise at this stage, so we decided on our requirements and started the search for a replacement. A few days later I ordered the machine we’d settled on, and it’s now set up, photo processing software installed and positively revolutionising my speed of workflow, so £600 well spent! Thankfully we have money set aside for unexpected household bills, and had been expecting the cost of the laptop for some time, however we still saw no reason to see the money leaving our bank account before it absolutely has to, so with that in mind a 0% interest balance transfer credit card has been acquired and we’ll be making small payments to that for the next 10 months, paying off the balance just ahead of the 0% period ending. While savings are earning precious little interest at the moment it will cost us nothing to do things this way, and we may as well have the small amount that will be earned over that time. 

Apart from a planned upcoming replacement of my phone we’re hoping that we might have run the course of failing technology for a while to come now - while we do budget for things like this, we’d obviously rather too have to spend those budgeted funds if it can be avoided! When we can make things last as long as that laptop did though it does at least feel as though we do a decent job of getting our money’s worth! 


Wednesday 21 October 2020

Bling & things...


My medal arrived for my September challenge - and it’s a beauty! A bit of “bling” always helps as a motivation booster, and as a result at least in part of this one arriving I have now signed up for two further challenges - the first is the “Virtual Vitality London 10k” Which I will need to run at some stage next week, and the second is a little further off and will be a run & walk challenge again as it’s to cover 214 miles in 7 weeks at the start of next year! In an ideal world I would love to head into London for the 10k - and indeed I’m still considering a drive in to park in the area close to my office, need to think of a suitable 10k route mind you. It would feel more “right” to run it within a London postcode, at least, though. 

Other than that, the consistency of 3 runs a week continues. I have just done run 2 of this week - in the pouring rain, no less - as I write (several hours ahead of hitting publish!) I’m curled up on the sofa in a huge cosy hoody and snuggly socks, slowly drying/thawing out. and feeling notably disinclined to venture outside again probably for the remainder of the day! While I joke about it, actually knuckling down to run in the rain is a big thing for me - I REALLY dislike it. Aside from the general unpleasantness of it, I run in glasses, and have to cross at least some roads on pretty much any route I choose, simply because of the environment I have to run in, and rain splattered glasses + traffic = serious risk of getting run over. Add in this time of year, and I have the added issue of them steaming up when it’s wet too - meaning even less vision - not great! I also loathe the fact that running in the rain means that my thick naturally curly hair instantly launches itself into the kind of tangles that take ages and a lot of ouches to remove. Ugh! Today there was the added barrier of having had a really tough, low-energy run on Monday, and knowing that today was going to be more of the same - which makes it seriously tough to motivate yourself to go and do it, but it is of course going and “doing it anyway” that means that next week, when my current state of low energy passes on, I will hopefully reap the benefit of some far more enjoyable runs! 

I’ve also invested in a “balance cushion” recently - basically a flat round pvc cushion that you inflate to around 50% full of air which makes it devilishly tough to balance on. Great for improving core stability though, so I’m trying to work in a couple of 15 minute sessions per week using that, as well as a couple of weights sessions as well for more general strength work. The full Strava subscription is helping too with the motivation to do stuff like this now as I can input workouts of this type manually and they all feed back into my profile to show me how I’m doing building fitness over time - a surprising help at points like this where otherwise I could feel well and truly disheartened. Being able to see the progress in the form of graphs and charts makes a big difference. 

All being well I should hit my October monthly running distance target, a modest 50 miles, early next week, and that will also hopefully see me caught up on my annual mileage challenge too - leaving that very achievable indeed, barring disasters. This feels like a real turnaround from 6 weeks ago when I committed to getting the consistency back, and really does go to show that you can make quite a substantial distance in a relatively short period of time. Onwards! 


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... 


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!