Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Low base

It's a year since I have been even moderately fit, and in that year I have lurched from one injury to another - right knee > right foot plantar fasciitis > left heel > left calf > right hip - punctuated with occasional false starts and probably betraying my age (69) and an unwillingness to acknowledge it athletically.

Walking the leafy streets of Naremburn
On a fitness scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being as fit as I think I could get at my age, I'm currently about a 2 and have not exceeded 5 for the last twelve months.  I still believe, that with some luck and careful management, I could get to that 10 over the next four months and be able to run a marathon in a reasonable time.  But at other times, I just despair of ever being able to run well and enjoy my running again.

Since I was driving into Sydney to visit my son, Aaron, today, I didn't bother running beforehand because I knew we would be going for a walk.  Seeing Julie come back from a hard early morning run as I prepared for my non-strenuous walk just reminded me of how far I have to go and what little progress I am making.

The most recent hip/groin injury was sustained two and a half weeks ago and I was hoping it would be showing significant signs of improvement.  Now I'm thinking it is probably ligament damage and a minimum of three more weeks of recovery may be required before I can run smoothly and without pain.  It is the Labour of Sysiphus!

Monday, March 30, 2020


Sunrise over Terrigal Lagoon
The day started with an exceptional sunrise as I finished my 6km plod around Terrigal Lagoon, still injured and still finding it very hard work.

Exceptionalism seems to be both prevalent and a risk amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  Whether it is doctors returning from South America who think quarantine regulations don't apply to them, or the people apparently partying in the street outside our house at 2:00am this morning, there are people who view themselves as somehow different to everybody else.

The same can apply to countries (usually the US), and I find it a little troubling that after a few days of better figures, the Australian authorities are already talking about the "curve flattening". 

As a country, we do seem to be doing quite well, but as we have recently tightened the restrictions on returning international travellers, it seems logical that growth of infections from that source would slow after the debacle of the Ruby Princess cruise ship which now accounts for upwards of 300 infections.

I would like to see how the curve of community-based transmissions is looking before getting too excited.  Despite the hype about how bad this is going to get, I'm beginning to sense a quiet confidence on the part of the authorities that Australia is going to handle the peak of infections as well as anywhere in the world.  I hope they are correct ...... and not just being exceptionalist.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Socially-distanced Cycling

Julie and I were planning a ride on our touring bikes as our primary exercise for today, but an invitation late yesterday to join Detta and Steven, fellow Terrigal Trotters, for a "socially distanced" road bike ride incorporating the notorious Bumble Hill was too good to resist.

Normally, Sunday is "long run" day, but my hip/groin injury prevents any thought of long runs, and Julie, since she is not training for any specific ultra-distance event, is happy to invest some time building her confidence riding in cleats.

Despite rain as we drove to our starting point at Tuggerah in the pre-dawn darkness, it had stopped by the time we set out at 6:30am, and we enjoyed a very pleasant three hours and 63 kilometres of riding rural back roads, punctuated by the 4 kilometre grind up Bumble Hill in the middle.

I'm not a great believer in bike riding as training for running since it builds muscles you don't need for running, and vice versa, but it is good for cardio-vascular fitness and I was pleased to see my heart rate was up to the mid-160s on the Bumble Hill climb.

Apparently, Victoria has just introduced a maximum of two people exercising together (in New Zealand you can only exercise on your own), so it may just be Julie and me for future rides if New South Wales follows suit.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

"Business" impacts

Like most small businesses, my running club, Terrigal Trotters, is trying to remain a viable operating entity during the COVID-19 crisis.

Terrigal Lagoon this morning
 Apart from providing a venue for physical fitness, the social side of the club and the mutual support its members provide each other, is very important.  When we cannot meet for the formal and informal runs that happen almost every day of the week, often followed by a coffee or cafe breakfast, there is a risk that both physical and mental health will suffer.  Social media helps, and there are plans for individual challenges that will keep members connected and engaged, but I suspect these will lose their impetus as the months pass.

Social Distancing?  Terrigal promenade this morning
Secondly, there are the financial implications of cancelling two major events that generate most of the club's annual net income, and of suspending our Saturday morning runs (often attended by more than 150) where most members pay their $2 per week fees.

I participate in my club's various training runs when I am able and it fits my plans, but the majority of my training, throughout my life, has been on my own.  COVID-19 social distancing requirements won't be a problem for me.  And, I can still run with my partner, Julie, if it suits, though I'm so unfit and lame at present, I could not keep up with her anyway.

Social distancing

We are all adjusting to "social distancing" and deciding what it means for each of us in terms of interacting with others and travelling away from home.

Julie and I have decided that it means avoiding close contact with anybody but immediate family and each other (although Julie is still working and thereby necessarily coming in contact with other workers).  We both have family members falling within "at risk" groups - Julie's parents, and my son who is receiving treatment for a serious illness - and want to do what we can to protect them.

The path near Flat Rock Creek, Willoughby.
Does this mean not being in close proximity with them?  It's a judgment call.  We have decided to continue seeing them but to take precautions when close.

In my son's case, I have been in the habit of making a weekly morning trip down to his apartment in Sydney's northern suburbs, where we go for a walk, watch a movie, and get lunch at the local Mexican restaurant.

I may go for a run in Terrigal before driving down if reasonably fit or, as is the case now, just do the walk with my son for training.

We walked 8km today, his longest walk for many months, on a meandering route through the leafy suburbs and parks near his home.  He was pleased to handle the distance, and I was pleased that my troublesome hip/groin wasn't so troublesome. It was followed by the movie "Enemy at the Gates" on HBO and home-delivered Mexican.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Plan C

Julie and I had big plans for 2020 ..... like many other people.

The Pacific Crest Trail, hiked in 2017
Plan A was six months and 5,000km of hiking from Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide Trail in the United States. We were supposed to leave today, but two weeks ago, we decided to cancel the trip, fearing that COVID-19 was making things too difficult for hikers in the US.  In the week that followed, it became apparent we would not have been able to go anyway.

Cycle touring in outback Australia in 2005

Plan B, hatched over the next few days, was to get touring bikes and spend six months circumnavigating Australia on backroads and trails. We even purchased the bikes then, gradually, different parts of Australia were closed to non-essential travel.  We are ready to go on a few days notice, but I fear it won't be feasible this year.
Now we are faced with six months, or more, tethered to home in Terrigal and I need a project to keep me occupied.  Of course, I have lots of photos that need to be scanned and cupboards that need to be sorted, but I find neither particularly motivating.

Blogging HQ
Plan C has now evolved.  When planning the other trips, I was vaguely conscious that I would miss the chance to run a marathon on the 50th anniversary of my first in 1970.  My new plan is to run a marathon on Saturday, 22 August 2020, to celebrate that marathon, exactly 50 years ago, and to blog about my preparation amidst these unreal and unpredictable times of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Who knows what will happen between now and then, and who knows whether anybody will be interested in reading this blog?  Regardless, it will motivate me to get fit, and writing about it in the context of Australia's attempts to manage the pandemic will give me something else to do each day.

Today, I jogged a very slow 6km around my regular "injured" course and my hip/groin injury wasn't quite so bad.  I have a long way to go to fitness.