Thursday, April 30, 2020

Too slow ..... or too fast?

I find it interesting that some countries and US states are easing pandemic restrictions while they are still experiencing more than a thousand new cases and more than a hundred new deaths each day.

Dawn today (courtesy Julie)
Even Germany, which has been an exemplar of good management within Europe, has seen its community transmission rate kick back up to 1.0 (each infected person infects one other) after being at 0.7 earlier in the month before restrictions were eased.  This may not seem to be much, but as Angela Merkel has pointed out, a rate of 1.1 will mean that the country will reach its healthcare system limit in October, 1.2 in July and 1.3 in June!

The pressure on governments to ease restrictions must be immense, particularly in countries like the US where social compliance and respect for government is less.  The demonstrations in the US show that many people think their state governments are moving too slowly to ease those restrictions.

Dawn today (courtesy Julie)
However, what is happening in Germany makes me think that those US states, along with a number of countries, really are easing their restrictions too fast and that there will be consequences -- more deaths and/or reintroduced restrictions.

I have been wondering whether my hip injury problem may be related to running too slowly.  It makes sense that our posture and the forces imposed on joints, varies with our running speed.  In my mid-20s, I had a persistent knee injury that a physiotherapist advised might be caused by running too slowly.  For a month or two, I had been introducing my then spouse to longer distance running, something that wasn't common for females at that time (she was already a competent middle distance athlete), and we were running slowly.  Sure enough, when I cut out the slow running the knee injury almost miraculously disappeared.

Dawn today (courtesy Julie)
Of course, these days I can't avoid slow running.  It always takes four to five kilometres to warm up and run at any kind of speed, and if my back is playing up, even further.  Nevertheless, on this morning's 9km run, after the warm-up kilometres, and I had loosened up, I could feel my running form improved and the hip pain diminish.  It wasn't gone, but it wasn't as obvious and I was running more freely.  So, maybe the answer to my current problem is to just suffer through the warm-up and then continue on, rather than stick to just six kilometres a day.

I'm also conscious, however, that injuries can often seem less of a problem once you have warmed up (Achilles tendon injuries being a good example), but then stiffen up after a run and are even more painful when running the next day.  Too slow, or too fast?  The answer will probably become obvious over the next week.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A First World pandemic


Surfers at Terrigal this evening
There is one thing that is starting to baffle me about the spread of the pandemic.  The impression is growing that the poorer countries of the world are experiencing lower per capita death rates than the more developed world.

To test this impression, I took a look at the Our World in Data website maps of the COVID-19 per capita death rates around the globe, and it seems largely true.  There are exceptions to the rule, for example Iran, but it is striking how much worse the death rate has been in Europe and North America, than it has been in Africa and South Asia.  This seems counter-intuitive because my, perhaps uninformed, view is that hygiene standards and social-distancing would be less stringent in these countries where many people are living hand-to-mouth and in close proximity.

Terrigal this evening
Of course, there could be a variety of reasons for the disparity.

Maybe COVID-19 deaths are not being recorded or reported as well in the poorer countries, in which case the death rates may be found to be higher in post-pandemic statistical analysis, similar to the way in which nursing home deaths have been late to be recorded in the UK and US.

Maybe COVID-19 has not yet spread widely in the poorer countries, in which case the death rates will grow in the months ahead.

Maybe many of these countries introduced effective lockdowns in the early stages of the pandemic.

Looking towards Wamberal this evening
But maybe there are other reasons yet to be determined related to climate, demographics, lifestyle, natural resistance, etc.  There's a generation of PhD's to come out of this pandemic and I look forward to understanding where there are disparities and why.

Speaking of the unexplained, my usual morning 6km run went a little better and faster this morning.  Still some hip pain and stiffness, but I was moving better.  Perhaps the few additional pre-run stretches are helping.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Every corner

I know it's a cliché, but everybody and every corner of our world is being touched by COVID-19.

Terrigal dawn this morning (courtesy Julie)
My sister holds a senior position within one of the major Christian denominations, with management and budget responsibilities.  Not only has the income from religious services and facilities been heavily impacted by COVID-19, but the income from the investments on which they rely has also been hit.  Yet, most of their expenses, including salaries (which are already relatively low), still need to be met.

Wamberal this morning (courtesy Julie)
Before COVID-19, the mainstream religious denominations were already facing challenges.  Congregations are ageing and dwindling, fewer people are seeking to join the clergy, and they are finding it hard to dispose of unused and little-used property for a variety of reasons.  It's not hard to imagine that radical solutions and restructuring will now be needed to survive.

Terrigal Lagoon this morning (courtesy Julie)
Fortunately, late last week, the Australian government extended the Jobkeeper program, which provides $750 per week per employee to organisations to keep their employees on the payroll, to religious practitioners along with some other organisations who had missed out under the previous eligibility definitions.  Ultimately, this may only prove to be a band-aid for religious denominations, but at least it will ease some of the short-term pressures while they work out a plan for the medium- to long-term.

Yesterday, I Googled some stretches and exercises designed to deal with hip issues and experimented with a few.  One, which involved squatting, left me with a sore knee for the rest of the day (but fortunately it had recovered by this morning).  Others were less aggressive and I added them to my pre-run routine this morning.  Unless they cause me new problems and I have to stop, I'm sure it will take a few weeks to determine whether they make any difference.  For this morning's 6km run, I took it very easy, and although there was some pain and discomfort, it was tolerable.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The App

A few weeks ago I wrote about the App the Australian government was planning to release which will assist in tracking down the contacts of an App-user who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Overcast and drizzly for this morning's walk
The COVIDSafe App was released late yesterday, and I downloaded it this morning to become one of the one million plus users who have downloaded it in the first 24 hours, a much faster take-up rate than the government anticipated.  I believe I have a good understanding of how the App works - Bluetooth connection to nearby enabled smartphones, local storage of contact information, upload with user permission of contact details if diagnosed with COVID-19, prompted App deletion at pandemic end - and it all seems fine to me.  I had no reservations about downloading it and can understand that it will be a valuable aid in tracing potential COVID-19 carriers, and as such limit the chances of the virus spreading and increase the chances of social-distancing restrictions being eased earlier.

Looking south along the coast this morning
I have been saddened by the number of people declaring they will not download the App on private security grounds.  Many do not seem to understand how it works, or don't realise that much more personal information is stored by tech companies on an hourly basis via their smartphones already.  Others worry that it will be a tool for government and the police to track them, even though legislative curbs are in place.

Looking across The Haven to Terrigal this morning
I'm not so naive as to believe that the government and police will not sometimes exploit personal information, potentially illegally, to pursue their agendas, and I'm thankful there are privacy advocates keeping an eye on their behaviour.  However, when I think about how this App operates, and the benefits to society it might yield, I believe the scales are heavily weighted in favour of installing the App.  I also take comfort from the support for the App coming from technical security experts.  Finally, I have always felt that I have nothing to hide with respect to my movements, expenditures, etc., so in the unlikely event the App was misused I have nothing to fear.  I want things to return to normal as quickly as possible and this seems to support that agenda.

Returning to normal seems even further away so far as my running is concerned.  Although I only walked 5km this morning, my hip/groin was sore and uncomfortable.  I have since been researching Doctor Google and see that some of the symptoms match Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome, which gives me some hope that it can be repaired.  Apart from anti-inflammatories, which I am reluctant to take, treatment involves rest and stretching/strengthening of associated muscles.  I don't really want to stop running, having reached a certain level of fitness (3 out of 10, I reckon), so will just limit myself to short runs each day until it either improves, or gets worse to the point where I can't run.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Discipline vs Stupidity

Afternoon walk along Stroms Track in Bouddi National Park
When running locally, I always walk the 200 metres down to the Terrigal foreshore as a kind of warm-up before starting my run from near the Surf Club.  The walk often provides early warning of any niggles/injuries that might be an issue during my run.

Maitland Bay from Bullimah Spur this afternoon
This morning, I could feel stiffness and minor pain in my right hip as I walked down and I was dreading how it was going to feel once I started running.  Common sense would say, that if you can feel an injury walking to the start of a run, you should not run.  But I know, from experience, that this is not always the right course.  In fact, these days, I would never go for a run if I waited until I felt injury-free.  Instead, I try to find that balance between being disciplined and being stupid.

Killcare and Box Head from Bullimah Spur this afternoon
In the event, this morning's 6km plod didn't turn out to be quite as miserable as anticipated.  The pain, stiffness and restricted movement were all still there, but I was faster than yesterday.  Of course, speed is relative, and averaging over 6 minutes per kilometre is still terribly slow, but I did raise a sweat and it was a beautiful morning.  I always planned to have a rest day tomorrow (though will still walk) and am hoping I will be much improved by Tuesday.  Glass half full!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

ANZAC Day

Pilot Officer Harold Byrnes
It's ANZAC Day in Australia, a day on which we remember those who have served, and sometimes died for, their country.  Usually it's a day of parades and ceremonies, but was much more low-key today because of the pandemic.  It's always a day that conjures up a range of emotions in me.  On one hand, I think about the dreadful human cost of tribalism and sectarianism, but I also think fondly about loved ones who served and my own brush with the military.

I think of my father, as a very young man, learning to fly bombers in Canada, a career with a very short life expectancy (but the war ended and he never saw action), and my much-loved maternal grandfather who served years on the Western Front in World War I and would never speak of it.

Officer Training Unit friends celebrating the end of our final 10-day
exercise in the mountains north-west of Sydney
I think about my own time in the Army as a National Service conscript in the early 1970s, training to fight in Vietnam, but ending up much more mundanely in command of a transport training platoon in Victoria.  My graduating class at OTU Scheyville was disappointed the Vietnam War was waning and we never got to use our newly-acquired skills, but that was just the testosterone talking and a desire to test ourselves.

Graduating from the Officer Training Unit
Like all serviceman, I made some good friends, none of whom I kept in touch with, and each ANZAC Day has me wondering where they are now.  It was also a period when I learnt a lot about myself -- strengths and weaknesses -- and life that later proved valuable to me.  I was exposed to a much broader cross-section of society than during my middle-class upbringing, and it was a total eye-opener for a 20-year-old.

I went into the Army the fittest I had been in my life and soon found that nearly everybody had great respect for distance runners.  It got me noticed which, in turn, opened doors and gave me opportunities I might otherwise have missed.  That has remained true throughout my life and is still a driver to train and race.  It's in my DNA now, and I can't stop.  That makes it even harder when I'm injured.  This morning I was back to a 6km plod/limp, wondering whether it's worth persevering, but I know I can't help myself.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Going for less than one

Another glorious dawn at Terrigal beach
There were some interesting charts used by Australia's Chief Medical Officer today during the Prime Minister's press conference.  By state, they showed the COVID-19 community transmission reproduction rate (the number of people infected by each carrier) trending around one.  It needs to be below one for the government (and me) to be happy that the pandemic is under control in Australia.  Zero would be nice, but that seems unlikely for some time.

For non-Australian blog readers, we have had 6,661 total cases (5,045 recovered) and 75 deaths.  Our testing rate is one of the highest in the world, similar to Canada, about 40% higher than the US, and six times higher than the UK.  Our positive test rate is at the low end: 1.5% compared to 6.5% in Canada, 18.5% in the US and 31% in the UK. Australia is the place to be.

Bumped into clubmates, Graham and Kev, while on my run
With the reproduction rate sustainably below one, the government will be encouraged to gradually loosen restrictions.  Schools will be back by 1 June, and they are already talking about restarting community sport, which is of particular interest.  I gather there will be new guidelines released on 11 May, assuming the reproduction rate stays below one.  I doubt they will permit outdoor gatherings of over 100 people, as is needed for my running club to restart operations, but maybe that will happen before the end of the year if all goes well.

Social-distancing in Terrigal this morning
On the other hand, there are also official warnings from our state leaders that the winter will bring a resurgence in cases, and I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.

I didn't exactly have a resurgence of fitness on my 6km run this morning, but at least it was less painful and a little faster than yesterday, giving me some hope that my current injury is nerve-related.  I'll stick to just 6km runs for the time being and see how the next few days go.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ups and downs

Photo from Julie's morning run
Well, I was feeling very positive about life around 9:00am last Saturday morning.

I had earlier finished my best run for a while, and was anticipating, as I had been encouraged to believe, that a major policy decision about how my running club operates during the pandemic would be changed at a meeting later that morning.

Photo from Julie's morning run
Alas, five days later, my mood is much less sanguine.  Something is going on in my right hip, and I limped around just 6km this morning, uncomfortable and in some pain.  I'm hoping that it is a pinched nerve, but fear it may be something more fundamental (two of my younger brothers have hip replacements, though they have an underlying genetic medical condition I escaped).

Photo from Julie's morning run
So far as the running club goes, the disliked policy remains unchanged, and I fear, along with some good friends, that if pandemic social-distancing restrictions continue through the end of the year, the club will suffer growing membership and financial problems.  It's affecting my mood to some degree (and the mood of others more seriously).  I tell myself that it is just a running club, and that I shouldn't care about it so much, but I have invested a lot of time in its well-being over the years, and it's hard to see its future risked.

Oh well, many people have far bigger problems than me in the current climate, and I know that.  Running injuries and recreational club management are definitely first-world issues, and I have good health and am financially secure, so need to keep things in perspective.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Potential


All over the world, social-distancing restrictions vary significantly between jurisdictions.  Even between Australia states there can be almost inexplicable differences, as I wrote in my Common Sense vs Simple Rules post.

One of those differences relates to golf.  In New South Wales we are allowed to play golf, so long as we play in pairs, have one person per cart (if using one), don't remove pins from holes and keep 1.5 metres apart.  In Victoria, you are not allowed to play golf.

I'm not much of a golfer, but do play nine holes occasionally with some runner friends, usually at The Springs, a beautiful course about 40 minutes drive from home.  We are pretty much as good (or as bad) as each other, so all have a chance of winning on any particular day.

We played today, and apart from the attractions of golf, it was a glorious morning, the course was green, surrounded by bush with expansive views across the Somersby plateau, and we had it largely to ourselves.  We had to play as pairs, instead of as a foursome, and I didn't win, but started and finished with a par (with a lot of rubbish in between).  Those two good holes are enough to make me think that I can do better and I'll be back. 

I believe that, just as those good holes define my golf potential, my best running days define my running potential.  I tried to remember that as I limped around a very slow 6km in the dark very early this morning.  Recent runs, yesterday and Saturday, had me thinking that I was perhaps on the way to realising that potential, but my right hip was sore today and it was hard not to be pessimistic about my running comeback.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Hammer and the Dance

Terrigal sunrise this morning (courtesy Julie)
As usual, I'm reading, watching and listening to authoritative reports about COVID-19 and our path back to normalcy.  On the US Public Newshour today, there was an interview with Donald McNeil, an opinion writer with the New York Times about the future path in the US.

He used the phrase "The Hammer and the Dance", coined by Tomas Pueyo, to describe how the US emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic will unfold.  The Hammer will be used to deal with outbreaks, as has happened in New York, and the Dance will occur as restrictions are eased and people are allowed back onto the "dance floor".

Looking north east this morning (courtesy Julie)
How many people are allowed on the "dance floor" (i.e., what restrictions are lifted) needs to be finely judged to minimise the risk of further serious community spread.  If there is another outbreak, the dance floor will be cleared and the Hammer used again.  He expects this will be what happens in the US until a vaccine or effective treatment is deployed,
or 70% of the population has been infected and recovered (it is estimated 3% of the US population has been infected thus far).

Terrigal Lagoon sunrise (courtesy Julie)
Australia is in a better place than the US.  We have a more compliant population and more centralised coordination, along with a much lower, and falling, rate of infection.  We are going to be gradually allowed back on the "dance floor" in the next few months, but our much lower number of infections, coupled with testing, tracing and isolation, make it less likely the Hammer will need to be used.  But you couldn't rule it out.

The Hammer and the Dance analogy also applies to my running recovery.  I have started to dance, managing 15km this morning at a reasonable pace, but back and hip soreness are still restricting my range of movement and I have been sore walking around post-run.  Nevertheless, I'm in a better place than I have been for a month, though I would only rate my current fitness as a "3" out of a possible "10".  I want to keep increasing the volume, but can feel that Hammer poised overhead.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Ingenuity

It's extremely unlikely, in the history of humanity, that there has ever been so much brain power directed towards solving one problem - COVID-19.  Every day reveals new efforts directed towards vaccines, treatments, containment, testing, restarting the economy, and so on.  The ingenuity and lateral thinking being deployed often surprises me.

The cliffs of North Avoca from The Skillion this morning
One such effort, that I heard about in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation news item, will be the testing of sewage in Australian cities for COVID-19 markers.  Apparently, fragments of the virus are shed in faeces and that can happen up to three days before symptoms emerge according to some preliminary research.

Sewage has been analysed for some time to detect the use of antibiotics and illegal drugs and to compile statistics by geographic areas in Australia.  The hope is that the same strategy could provide good evidence of the presence of COVID-19 in an area as an aid to more targeted testing, and for ongoing monitoring.  Brilliant!

Wamberal and Forresters beaches from The Skillion this morning
I had a day off running today, and just walked a local 5km this morning.  It was busy along the Terrigal promenade and people are gathering in larger groups.  I guess that was inevitable, despite the government exhortations to maintain social-distancing, given the very low number of new COVID-19 infections being reported.  People are interpreting this as a sign that they can relax a little and that the government has things under control.  Hope they are right.  Perhaps some kind of daily COVID-19 sewage presence indicator, by locality, needs to be published as a dose of reality.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday diversion

Terrigal Trotters, as one way of keeping members active and connected during this time of social-distancing, has been setting weekly challenges for its members.  This week's challenge was to create a piece of Strava art.  For those unfamilar with Strava, it is database to which runners, cyclists, etc., load details of their exploits as recorded on their smartphones or smartwatches.  The course travelled is shown on a map, and if you want, you can cover a course that creates an image or message.

Julie has been right into this, and composed a number of different artworks over the past few days -- snail, shoe, COVID-19 sign -- even travelling to a mall parking lot in the early hours so that she had sufficient creative space.  Meanwhile, I have only been able to summon the energy for one effort, a running stick figure, and we got up early this morning to run my planned course.

Looking from Wamberal towards Terrigal this morning
The reason for the early rising was that one part of the course passed near (or, perhaps, through) the private property of a notoriously zealous owner high on a forested ridge.  However, when we got there, we found the owner's fortifications had been improved since my last visit and, despite the early hour, it did not seem worth the risk of provoking him, or possibly, his guard dog, by climbing the formidable gate or fence.  I chickened out and so one of my running figure's arms is a little shorter than planned.

Looking north over Wamberal Lagoon this morning
It was a bit of a stop-and-start run 11km run, marred by a face-plant on a concrete footpath in the dark first kilometre, which shook me up and took a little bark off one hand and one elbow.  But no real harm done, and we completed the planned run on another beautiful cool crisp and clear morning.  Back and hips still a little stiff and sore, but I'm on the right track.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Hopeful signs

Descending into Matcham Valley this morning
Although the Australian government hasn't explicitly said so, there seems to be a good chance that COVID-19 can be virtually eliminated within Australia.  This may not be a matter of weeks, because there has to be a good chance that winter, and the usual ills it brings, will make community transmission easier.  However, by the end of winter, with good testing, tracking and isolation (to steal the government's mantra), it's feasible that any outbreaks will be quickly and effectively controlled.

In this environment, many activities, perhaps apart from mass gatherings, could resume subject to certain conditions.  Life could get back to a semblance of "normal".  There is even talk that travel between Australia and New Zealand could resume while they each prohibit travel to other international destinations.  Sure, it could be much longer (probably after an effective vaccine is deployed) before we can freely travel to and from other countries.  However, having the ability to socialise, resume many business and education activities, and travel internally again will make life much better.

Erina Valley this morning
My 14.8km run through the Matcham and Erina Valleys this morning was the first time for a long time that I felt like a runner.  Granted, it was perfect running weather -- cool and clear -- but my back was much improved and I was travelling more freely, though still limited in my range of movement.  I didn't push it, but was faster than my recent average and wasn't exhausted by the end.  One swallow does not a summer make, but it was a good sign of progress, and I was on a high during my usual cool-down walk along the beachfront.

Friday, April 17, 2020

This is the day

Avoca Beach this morning
Today is the day on which Julie and I were to begin our 5000km hike along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and also the first anniversary of the start of our 680km hike along the Australian Alps Walking Track last year.  One reason for the latter hike was to give Julie some experience of wilderness and remote hiking, and to test our compatibility under such circumstances, in preparation for the CDT this year.  It went well and we were excited for this year's adventure.

As I reminded Julie during our 9km walk along the coast south from Avoca Beach this morning, we really should have been hiking through the New Mexico desert north from the Mexican border.  It was very warm in places today, but it would have been a lot hotter in the desert, especially with 20kg packs and unpracticed legs.  Nevertheless, I know where we would much rather be, and it makes me sad to think about what might have been.

Given the gloomier predictions about when international air travel will be viable again, it may be 2022 before we can reach the CDT start line in New Mexico ...... by which time I will be 71!  Gnawing at the back of my mind is the thought that I might not be physically up to it.  If we had indeed started today, I would have been making heavy weather of it, given my current state of fitness and back/hip problems.  But, for some reason, perhaps not based in reality, I would have believed that if I just persevered, my body would have responded and the trip would have been feasible.  I hope I can muster the same self-belief in two years time.

I managed my 6.3km circumnavigation of Terrigal Lagoon this morning feeling a little easier than of late, but still struggling with the stiff back and consequent clunky running form.  I can tell that my base fitness is beginning to improve, because my mind is entertaining thoughts of longer runs again, but I need this back/hip problem to get better.  Our walk later in the morning, which involved some coastal bouldering, reminded me how much flexibility and confidence I am lacking at present, but I still believe it can come back.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Privacy

Sunrise at Terrigal this morning
The government is planning to introduce a COVID-19 smartphone app that it will encourage Australians to download.  The app will make it easier for contacts to be traced in the event that a user contracts COVID-19, and necessarily keeps data on an individual's movements.  Already, concerns are being expressed about privacy, with some people saying that they will not participate.  There will need to be widespread take-up of the app for the information to be meaningful, so I hope not too many people refuse to participate.  If that happens, then it seems logical that social-distancing restrictions will be in place longer.

Avoca Lagoon this morning
Personally, I don't have a problem with my movements being tracked, especially if it is for the greater good.  I don't actually care if people know where I go or who I interact with, and find the idea that there is someone sitting in a room somewhere tracking who I meet, what I buy, etc., somewhat ridiculous.

Having said that, I do understand that in less democratic countries, there is a real risk that the data collected could be used for more sinister purposes, although such data collection is probably already occurring through more nefarious means.  I am lucky to live in Australia.

Looking across Avoca Lagoon this morning
I rarely carry a smartphone when running, so any contacts I have with COVID-19 carriers while training will not be revealed by the government's new app.  However, given that I'm now trying to remember to carry my small hardshell camera for blog pictures while running, maybe I should bite the bullet and start carrying my smartphone.

I ran a slow 11.3km this morning incorporating two solid hills and a long stretch of beach, all of which conspired to make it even slower.  The back and hip are still very troublesome, but I can sense that I'm coping better with the slightly longer distances.  Unless the injuries regress, I'll continue to gradually increase my mileage.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Hard decisions

Avoca Lagoon
Although yesterday's three-month scans yielded good results for my son, who has endured six months of chemotherapy, his oncologist was somewhat reluctant to extend the chemo for an additional three months because of the increased risks to his health posed by COVID-19.

Ultimately, agreement was reached to continue the treatment, but he is, and we are, concerned to minimise the risks that he encounters a COVID-19 carrier during this time.  Consequently, I am facing the same dilemma as many others at this time.

Avoca Lagoon looking towards North Avoca
My son doesn't need care, as such, but I do think my weekly trips down to Sydney for a walk, movie and Mexican lunch, have been good for his mental health, and for mine.  However, given that Julie and I are exposed to a different cohort of people, even though observing government restrictions, it does seem sensible that I suspend my trips south until the chemo has finished in July.  Instead, like others, we will resort to phone and video calls to stay in touch.  Not as good, but in the scheme of things, not a big deal.

Looking towards Avoca Beach and Copacabana
I dragged myself around 9.6km this morning, running slowly and awkwardly, with the same sore back and hips.  My misery was compounded by being passed, twice, at speed by fellow Terrigal Trotter, Tony, with whom a year or two ago I would have been competitive.  Without seeking to denigrate Tony's fitness in any way, what is my world coming to?  Nevertheless, looking for the silver lining, my mileage is continuing to build, and that goes some way to offsetting the hour of daily misery.  I didn't take any photos, but have borrowed a few from those Julie took on her run this morning.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Easy to judge

Erina Valley Road on this morning's run
There has been a story in the news today about a health care worker who has worked eight shifts across two care institutions while suffering from symptoms of now-diagnosed COVID-19.  A resident of one of the institutions has now also tested positive for COVID-19.

Without knowing any of the details of this specific incident, and from a distance, it's easy to label the healthcare worker as irresponsible.  And she has been.

Portsmouth Road in Erina Valley
this morning
But it is also not difficult to consider the pressures any casual shift worker may be under in this environment.  Their symptoms may be very mild and possibly ascribed to a cold, or their employers may be short-staffed and they do not want to let them down, or they may desperately need the money to live and not be eligible for sick leave/pay.  Personally, I would like to think I would have stayed home if I was that healthcare worker, but understand that it may not have been an easy call.

Erina Valley Road
About half-way through my 12km run this morning I was wishing I had stayed home.  My lower back and hips continue to be very inflexible and somewhat painful, making it difficult to run efficiently and smoothly.  It was a grind the whole way and a slow pace.  I have always said that a key requirement for a long-distance runner (or hiker, cyclist, etc.) is a tolerance of discomfort, and I got some practice today.

Having said that, it was my longest run for a month or more and my weekly kilometres are building.  Life will be better when the pain abates, I can run further, and some of the muffin-top visible over the top of my shorts disappears.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Are runners a problem?

Terrigal Lagoon this morning
I have seen several articles online, from reputable sources, discussing the risks joggers/runners pose for spreading COVID-19.  And some Facebook posts being a little more alarmist about the same subject.

Running can be a messy business.  As I run, I am bathed in sweat, breathing hard, nose dripping and occasionally coughing and (yes, I know it's unsavoury) spitting.  One scientific analysis I saw demonstrated that it was probably unsafe to pass up to two metres behind a runner, if you want to avoid their germs, and I can believe that is true.

Terrigal Lagoon this morning
Running along suburban roads, as happens for the major part of my local runs, it is easy to stay clear of others using the same roads, but in Terrigal, where runners and walkers are plentiful and some of the paths are less than two metres across, I often feel I am exchanging germs with those around me regardless of how hard I try.  I find myself weaving through couples ambling along, trying to maximise my distance from them, but knowing I'm breaching the social-distancing guidelines.  They know it, and I know it, but it seems to me that we are all accepting the risks just by being there.

Wamberal Lagoon this evening
Given the bigger picture -- reducing the chances of community transmission -- I recognise that it is not socially responsible to be taking these risks, even if I'm willing to take my own chances with COVID-19.  It does worry me that I'm not being as good a citizen as I could be.  However, I guess there are differing levels of compliance and there are probably few people taking every precaution they could.  In self-justification, I see the rate of community spread in New South Wales falling and tell myself that if things start going south, I'll make a bigger effort to steer clear of the more congested exercising locations.

The surf off Wamberal beach with Terrigal in the background
I struggled on my regular 6km loop around Terrigal Lagoon this morning, with hips and lower back very stiff.  I'm starting to think that, for me at this time, bike riding is not compatible with running.  I'll see how quickly things improve as the week goes by and then make a judgment about whether I should continue riding once a week.  Hips and back were still stiff when Julie and I went for a very pleasant 5km evening walk up to Wamberal Lagoon and then back along the beach.