Energy

I started running after work this week and it actually does feel a lot better! I’m running faster and further with what feels like the same effort. And I don’t know if it’s because of not running in the morning or because I’ve been taking iron for about 3 weeks now, but I’ve been feeling a lot less tired this week, particularly in the afternoons. I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for work then I’d have been having frequent post lunch naps for a few months now.

So I’m pleased about this and I’m hoping that my Parkrun times start moving in the right direction… It was a bit underwhelming today, but it was quite hot this morning and I really, really wasn’t feeling it when I started my warm up before hand.

I’ve also been reading up more on iron. The problem with iron isn’t eating it, it’s absorbing it. I already knew that things like tea, coffee, dairy, etc lower absorption. I was also vaguely aware that running is bad for iron levels because the physical impact destroys red blood cells. But what I didn’t know was that workouts cause the release of something called hepcidin, which lowers iron absorption. The hepcidin levels are highest around 3-6 hours after a workout. So on top of dietary iron blockers, you also have to time iron intake around this.

Anyway I have my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday so hopefully I’ll get a blood test to see exactly what my iron levels are.

Progress

Despite my lacklustre half marathon performance on Sunday and my suspicion that I might need to take some time off for my hip, I ran down to the doctors yesterday to enquire about my blood test. It turns out that blood test forms expire after 3 months, so the one I had from last August was definitely out. So I have booked a GP appointment (again!) in a couple of weeks and I’ll see about getting another one, and actually having it done this time. Of course by the time it happens I’ll have been on iron tablets for four weeks, but I’ll just have to tell them that when they interpret the results.

So overall, going into the surgery worked a lot better than trying to phone them up. A few years ago I booked a lot of appointments over a period of about 12 months, and usually I would just do it at work by disappearing into the corridor for a couple of minutes. Or I could use the online booking… which is now disabled “because of COVID” (?????). Whereas now it’s at least 30 minutes on hold. I could understand if they had a GP shortage and couldn’t provide enough appointments, because a GP shortage is a hard problem to solve. But I am pretty sure that a shortage of people to answer the phones is not a hard problem to solve. This has been going on for a couple of years now, and every so often the local newspaper picks up on it and prints a scathing article… and nothing changes.

Anyway the running was OK. I was achy but that’s hardly surprising. Then today I went out again and did a 10km tempo, which was neither terrible nor great. My pace was a bit faster than the HM on Sunday, and it was really hot and I’m probably not recovered from Sunday yet, so overall it wasn’t bad, but my energy levels dipped quite a lot around the 8km mark.

I’ve been off work this week so I’ve been entertaining Monty. I took him to the town centre on Tuesday and sat in the square with a drink while he watched everyone walk past. Today we went into a dog friendly cafe and had a drink. He was quite stressed, or maybe just really excited. He was whimpering a bit to start with so I had him sat in my lap and I could feel him panting heavily almost the whole time. It’s funny how he’s so confident and boisterous in his comfort zone, but as soon as you put him in a new situation he’s quite timid. Before we got him, I had no idea dogs could be so expressive with the sounds they make.

HM

It turned out that 1:40 wasn’t realistic, and I came in with 1:47. There were some tough hills and my hip started tightening up on the first one, so it wasn’t ideal. But I mostly enjoyed it and I’m not too bothered about the time.

…but the time is a bit of a wake up call that I’m a lot slower than I was a few years ago. 3 years ago I ran a very similar course in 1:32 on roughly the same weekly mileage in training. Plus I did 1:53 on an even harder course last year with virtually no training (which was horrible, but that’s beside the point). So what’s going on here?

I’ve been thinking about it and there is a big difference in now versus then. I used to run most of my miles straight after getting home from work, whereas now I do it first thing in the morning before breakfast. I find running first thing tough and I struggle to hit paces on workout runs that I can hold easily a few hours later in the day. I think this is why my muscles today feel wrecked. Even though I’m putting in the physical effort, my muscles just aren’t being made to work that fast in training runs and they’re not used to going through as wide a range of motion. So I’m going to go back to running later. Something tells me I won’t miss dragging myself round the park at 7AM.

There’s also the issue of iron levels but unfortunately my local GP practice is no longer set up to let people access healthcare 😕 I have a blood test form from last August but I don’t know if 1) it’s still valid, 2) I can still get it done walk-in at the hospital like I used to (I don’t think I still can because of COVID), and if not it means I need an appointment at my GP, which means spending 40+ minutes waiting in a queue on the phone… which I need to do anyway to ask. Actually I’ll probably spend that 40 minutes walking there and back to ask in person. At least that’s more enjoyable than sitting on hold.

PREPARATIONS

My taper week for the half marathon has become a full rest week because I could feel my hip tightening up. I was planning to run Monday, Wednesday and Saturday but after Monday I decided not to. I’ve done a half before where it seized up after 10km and finishing that was pretty miserable so I didn’t want to risk it. But it’s actually feeling pretty good now, after a few days of foam rolling my bottom. That’s something to remember for the future. I think the tightness is the IT band, but a lot of the IT band’s insertion is in the glute max.

The other thing was that in the past few weeks I’ve started feeling very tired and wanting to nap a lot in the afternoons. I probably need to get my iron levels checked (like I was supposed to two times before…). But I started taking iron tablets again and either that or the fact I’m not running at the moment has me feeling a lot better.

So between those two things I’ve gone from feeling very optimistic to very pessimistic to a little bit optimistic again. Is 1:40 still realistic? I think so….

The plan became a bit fraught. My sister is doing it as well which presents Monty problems. The idea was that my dad would look after Monty for the morning and my mum would either come in to meet us or go in with us and potter about for the morning.

But unfortunately as of a few days ago dad isn’t allowed to be left alone with Monty. Dad seems to like Monty, but dad seems to believe that because he’s 10x bigger he can just use brute force to get him to do what he wants, especially when he’s misbehaving. When we were both there, he tried grab/pick up Monty by the neck/throat and shouted at him not to “mess him around”. Sister and I were both a bit concerned to say the least. So unfortunately now mum is going to stay with Monty and she won’t be coming in to meet us, which she’s upset about and means we have to faff around with baggage.

I’m quite frustrated about my dad. I always temper my expectations where he is concerned, but I thought we could at least leave Monty with him for a few hours and he’d be present enough to supervise and stop Monty from being able to harm himself… I didn’t think we’d have to worry about dad being a source of potential harm.

I just can’t understand what made him think that was an acceptable way to behave.

Parkies 🌳

I have a half marathon in three weeks and I’m feeling…. quietly confident? Training seems to have come together as well as it could have. The last one I did was in August and it was a bit of a disaster, but this time I’ve been running 16-18ks on Sundays for the past few months, intervals or hills once a week and parkrun tempo runs on Saturdays, so I’m probably in pretty good shape. Not as good as a few years ago, but maybe 1:40? 1:35 would be amazing but probably not. 1:40 is a 4:45 per km pace which is about 45s faster than I’m doing my long (comfortably) slow runs so it sounds achievable. I can feel my left calf is a bit tight but not worryingly so and my right hip has been tight too but I think the foam roller will sort that out.

Sundays are long run day and I usually manage to time it so I’m getting through the park just before they’re starting Junior Parkrun, but today my timing was not so good and I got accosted by one of the marshals… “Hey, I saw you yesterday? You looked like you were doing well? what was your time?”, so I stopped to speak to him and he proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes telling me his entire life history, including but not limited to: he used to run 21 minute 5ks but then he gained two stone and now he does 28 minutes, when he was younger he used to be really lazy but he’d always run up stairs “it must be something autistic in me that makes me want to run up stairs” (umm, ok 🤔). His daughter used to be the fastest runner of her age in the county but then she put on weight and now she runs 30 minute 5ks (hmmm), he runs as fast as elite runners up hills because hills just don’t bother him (hmmm), he doesn’t use a watch for running but he always know exactly how fast he’s running down to within a few seconds of his mile pace (hmmm), he decided to start doing triathlons a few years ago and the swimming turned out OK because he had strong shoulders from playing rugby and was coached by the former head coach of the British Commonwealth Swimming Team something or other (hmmm)…. and so it went on. Anyway after about 10 minutes of this I was starting to feel really cold so I made my excuses and left, but I’ll probably see him again at Parkrun next week 😕

I like sleeping

Monty is being quite difficult at night now. It started last Sunday, i.e. when we changed the clocks. Probably changing the clocks upset his routine, which we didn’t really consider at the time. He was settling down in his pen in the living room at night, but now he seems very stressed at being left in the pen. So we tried letting him sleep out of the pen, and it’s a bit hit and miss. Sometimes he settles on the sofa, other times he seems restless and paces around a lot and goes behind the curtains and looks out of the window. I think he doesn’t really feel safe at night on his own, which is strange because he’s always been happy at night up til now and he’s happy to nap in there on his own during the day time.

Apparently adolescent dogs can go through something called a fear period where they just seem to suddenly get scared by things they never used to, so maybe that’s it. Some people say you should just put them in a crate/pen and let them cry it out, but it seems so mean and counter-productive. We tried that for about an hour and when we went down he was genuinely very stressed and took a few hours to calm down. It’s not that he’s being naughty, it’s that the little guy has his own needs and for whatever reason he’s actually upset! So over the past week we’ve had three nights between us of sleeping on the sofa with him. Which isn’t ideal.

So anyway… I think he’s going to be sleeping in my room soon. I just hope he can behave and not start chewing my bed sheets 🙄

This is the expression of a dog who can’t understand why you interrupted his tasty grass meal to try to get him to pose for a photo
Apparently sleeping in this position, on his back with his stomach exposed (kind of), means he’s happy and feels secure

Life and stuff

I don’t seem to have done very well with running lately. Actually that’s not entirely true. Two weeks ago I set a post-lockdown Parkrun PB, which I was pleased with (but still over a minute off my pre-lockdown PB!). But in general I feel slow and achy. My hip/groin has been bothering me for a while and last week I somehow strained both hamstrings a few days apart such that they really tightened up and made the back of my knees feel stiff. The groin issue has been getting quite painful at the weekends, with doing a fast Parkrun Saturday mornings and then about 18km on Sundays. The Sunday runs are generally a bit awful, my legs feel like they don’t want to move properly and I get achy in the front of my hips and groin by the end.

Last week I possibly made a breakthrough when I realised that the groin pain is actually groin pain rather than abdominal pain and it hurts when I stretch my adductors. My left adductor was in a real state and I could barely move my leg towards the right across the front of my body. So I keep stretching it and I keep doing cossack squats when I’m at my standing desk, and slowly but surely it hurts a little bit less to stretch. Will that translate to less running pain? We shall see, but I feel optimistic. Will it translate to becoming faster and being in better shape? Doubtful, but maybe.


My sister went to a Ukraine protest at the weekend. It seems kind of pointless to protest against Russia in the UK, but anyway, she did, because she was accompanying her Ukranian friend. The friend was born in and grew up in Kyiv and is very upset about it. I don’t really know what the right thing to do about it all is. People say that direct military intervention would trigger nuclear apocalypse but I think that’s a little bit hysterical. I imagine that a lot of western governments are very pleased that we are weakening the supposed superpower Russia and all we have to do is keep pushing weapons into Ukraine and they’ll sort it out for us, but is that ethical? It’s the Ukranian civilians who are really paying for it and they’d be in a much better position if there were western troops in there.

Every few days a news article pops up about how you can phone Russia or send them emails or text messages and explain to an average Russian citizen what’s going on, but I think that’s pointless at best. Imagine if you got phoned up by someone with a thick accent speaking broken English trying to convince you that he had special insight into your domestic politics. You’d say “errr” and hang up. I used to work with a Russian lady around the time that Russia invaded Ukraine the first time around in 2014 and despite living in the UK she was completely hyped up on Russian nationalism and propaganda. I’m not sure that average Russians are going to be as sympathetic to western messaging as you think…

The whole thing is desperately sad and horrifying.

Boba Fett and events

I have started watching The Book Of Boba Fett…

I’ve seen the first two episodes, and… I like it! I’m not very critical of Star Wars media in general. Most Star Wars is entertaining without being very deep or complicated, because it’s aimed at children. Which is fine. I thought the sequels were nonsense (particularly the third one) but otherwise I like Star Wars. Boba Fett is kind of the same. It’s entertaining and not complicated. I like seeing how the Sand People live. It makes the universe feel a little bit more interesting.

The music is really good. I want to say it’s unique, but actually the main melody keeps making me think it’s going to break out into Pirates Of The Caribbean (He’s a Pirate), so I don’t think it’s quite as unique as maybe it should be. But the whole approach is very unique. The rhythm has a bit of a folky feel and the vocal harmonies are amazing. It’s a very original way to approach film/TV music.

In other news I think the whole Ukraine situation is really sad. I think it’s sad there hasn’t been a stronger response to this. I could write a lot about my perception of Russia because I used to work for a company that employed a lot of Russians in Russia, but maybe another time.

However I do remember that the proposal to remove Russia from the SWIFT banking system was floated back in 2014 when they invaded Ukraine (Crimea) the first time (I remember it, because my employer at the time was concerned that it would stop us paying our Russian employees!). Russia would have expected it to happen this time around and apparently deemed it an acceptable risk. And yet… despite Russia launching a full scale invasion of a European country, we haven’t even managed to hit them with the level of sanctions they anticipated. I think that’s pathetic, and should Russia find success in Ukraine they will feel emboldened to continue west by a toothless response from the Western European nations.

The Castle

I finished Man In The High Castle!

It’s quite a strange experience, because it was a bit unsatisfactory but also probably more believable than the alternatives. There were a lot of storylines at the start of S1 but by the end they were focused mainly on two characters who were both bad people, but they were very well written and humanised. They weren’t really bad people exactly, but they did bad things. For complex reasons, some of which were very understandable. I’m not sure it would have been satisfying to give them a redemption arc, because they did do some pretty terrible things.

I suppose it’s a window into the concept of the Banality Of Evil, which roughly says that evil in real life is generally committed by relatively normal people doing relatively normal things. I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not a vegan because the amount of animal products I consume means I am indirectly responsible for a lot of animal suffering, and I have no doubt that some of the details I’ve avoided knowing are horrific. Yet I’m just a normal person, as are the people who run the industrial processes required to support it all. But that’s a different post.

The whole program was a bit strange really. I really loved the alternate history setting and the politics, but the character drama especially in S1 was a bit low quality and out of place. Things improved a lot when they started fleshing out the Smith family.

I think I would recommend it with the caveat that the first episode (or was it the first two?) is very grim.

COVID and stuff

I don’t really get the apparent push that COVID is alright now and we just need to go back to normal and it’ll be fine. My boss’s dad died of COVID this week. It’s strange to see the contrast between people saying that it’s harmless and someone one degree removed from me dying from it. It looks like the push to open up again is coming from Boris Johnson trying to placate backbenchers to distract away from the ongoing disaster that is himself.

And on the topic of Boris, then there’s the National Insurance increase. I’m kind of annoyed about this if I’m honest. I don’t feel that the quality of services we get in the UK for our level of tax burden is a good deal. The NHS in particular worries me a lot since COVID. When I last needed a GP appointment, I had to wait about 30-45 minutes on the phone to speak to a receptionist and then the best they could give me was a telephone appointment a month later. It’s not so much a big thing for me personally, but my parents are getting older and it worries me that they will be deterred from seeking medical services should they need it. But overall it’s just a horrible policy that takes money from people who don’t vote Conservative (i.e. working aged people) while shielding those who do (i.e. pensioners).

Anyway… It prompted me to do some sums. I pay into a personal pension and a workplace pension. The workplace pension is salary sacrifice, but the personal pension is a better fund with lower fees. Obviously I get income tax relief on both, but the workplace pension is salary sacrifice so I also pay less NI as my taxable income is lower. It turns out that if I took all the money I put each month into my personal pension and instead paid it through my workplace pension, I would pay quite a bit less NI after the increase than I do now. And I can transfer it every so often into the private pension where the fees are lower. I hadn’t ever thought about doing this before. So… thanks, Boris?

In other news, it’s been a strange few weeks as Monty hasn’t been very well. Not last week but the week before, he woke up from his nap Tuesday morning and threw up. He looked unwell for a couple of hours and then perked up and seemed fine, until Thursday evening when he started vomiting again and had diarrhoea. I always knew that having a dog would involve it sometimes, but ideally you want this kind of thing in the morning so you don’t end up wandering around the garden multiple times during the night while your dog empties himself at both ends. We took him to the vet Friday morning but by the afternoon he seemed quite happy again… until Monday evening when we pretty much had a repeat of Thursday night. But he’s been OK since then and seems back to his lively self, so hopefully he’s got rid of it! According to my mum there was a post on the local Facebook group about such a bug going around and a few people noted the on and off nature of it, so I think he just picked something up. He’s only six months old so I guess you have to expect this kind of thing until his immune system is a bit more experienced. Plus, this is a dog who enjoys splashing in his water bowl with his muddy paws before deciding he’s thirsty and starts to drink the now brown water. He’s not really big on hygiene.

Hopefully we’ll be OK from now on… I have been quite worried about him at times. We’ve only had him four months but it seems like an eternity now. It feels like you very quickly develop an unconditional love for him. Maybe it helps that he’s so cute 🤫