Monthly Archives: June 2020

symbiotic training

I’m getting to the stage where cycling and running at the same time is really starting to improve both.

I first noticed this last week when I ran my first 5K on Tuesday. That day and the next my legs, especially my quads were really stiff and achy. I went for an easy ride on Wednesday to spin out the stiffness and was able to get out running again on Thursday with a lot more comfort than I expected.

wednesday’s ride. click the image to view on strava

Since then I’ve had four runs, including another 5K on Sunday, but haven’t had another chance to get on the bike until this afternoon. Despite feeling tired and needing to really push myself out the door and into the heat I had a great spin averaging 29.2km/h over 40km and 292m of climbing. I’ve noticed my speed gradually increasing over the last few weeks but I don’t think I’ve ever averaged that fast on my own!

click the image to view on strava

Having written myself off as a runner for many years I’m really pleased that I can now run consistently but even more pleased that it’s making me a better cyclist.

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

now i’m a runner!

Back in October I started the None2Run program. This is a program for complete beginners, very similar to Couch25K (C25K) but slowed down and extended from 9 to 12 weeks. C25K has a distance aim of 5km at the end whereas N2R is based solely on time. It goes from Week 1 running intervals of 30sec and walking 2min to running 25min in Week 12.

I pushed the program too hard, adding extra time to intervals and running some of them back to back quite early on. This led to pulling a muscle in my left calf that knocked me off running for 2-3 weeks. The injury happened in the middle of December so I wasn’t recovered until Xmas and then laziness set in. Cycling took over a bit in January and it wasn’t until lockdown at the beginning of April that I decided to try again.

I restarted the program on Week 3 as I had been doing quite a bit of walking and figured I had a decent amount of strength in my legs. Apart from a 2 week gap at the beginning of May I’ve been consistently moving through the weeks.

Last week was my first time to run non-stop for 20 min in Week 10. This was a big deal for me as I’ve always said I’m not a runner. Today was the first of my Week 11 runs and I ran a full 5km without walking! Not only that but I ran sub 30min at 29:38. I never thought I’d achieve either of those targets and pleased would be a massive understatement!

the n2r selfie for the facebook group

The mantra on the N2R Facebook group is that if you are running, even for only 30sec, then you are a runner. Last week was a big step but it’s today that I really feel like a runner 🏃

click the image to view on strava

Header image by Zain Ali from Pexels

getting back to normal

On Friday last week the government announced that we were moving forward into Phase 2 of the “Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business” on Monday as expected. What wasn’t expected was that the roadmap would be adjusted from 5 to 4 phases and with some accelerated restriction relaxation giving us the snappily named “Phase 2 Plus“.

What was expected was that retail stores were finally allowed to re-open meaning I was fully back to work on Monday morning.

It was very weird going back to work. Everyone was quite anxious about what it would be like, how busy it would be, how we would all cope with the new requirements and changes and how safe everyone would be. This was compounded by the physical changes in the store as a lot of the store had been refitted and painted during lockdown and lots of the displays had been rearranged. It was great to see everyone again and catch up with them but it was amazing how much I’d forgotten about products and the computer system. To me it felt like we had all started a new job on the same day.

In general we’ve been very busy. Nothing unmanageable and so far we haven’t needed to close the doors or enforce a queue outside. It’s been fairly steady and most people know pretty much what they want before coming in. Wednesday was one of the biggest sales days for many years and Saturday was the same. The other days have been like a series of very busy Saturdays and even busier than a peak period like January Sale. I had my own biggest ever personal sales day yesterday so I’ve bounced back pretty quickly and haven’t lost it completely during lockdown.

The downside of all this work business is that it is now interfering with my fitness training 😆 The level of business is tiring as is just being back to work, my step count is way up and I could really feel it at the end of each day in terms of lack of energy as well as tired and sore feet and legs. Work also means less free time and mix that with bad weather on my day off on Wednesday and today is the first time I’ve been able to get out on my bike for over a week.

It has been much easier to keep running and I’ve now finished WK10 of None2Run meaning this week I’ve been running a full non-stop 20min after my warmup walk which I’m really pleased with. I went out twice this week at 6am and the plan is to do that 3 times each week. I much prefer the mornings rather than trying to muster the energy and motivation in the evenings after work.

© Garmin Connect

The surprise change in the government’s announcement was that instead of relaxing the 5km limit to 20km we are now permitted unrestricted movement within our own county and 20km into another county if we live close to a county border. This meant that today’s spin was a much more normal route taking in towns and roads that I haven’t ridden for a very long time – September 2019!

© Garmin Connect

After a break of 10 days and working all week I had pretty low expectations for today but managed to surprise myself. All the extra steps and running must have had a positive impact as I had an average speed of 27.6km/h over 72km with 505m of climbing. Pretty sure it was my fastest time over that route and I really enjoyed it despite getting soaked twice in very heavy thundery showers. It was a pleasure to ride a regular route without repetition and to be able to stop for a tea break 3/4 of the way around.

i’m just havin’ a break

The incoming week is forecast to be dry again so the plan is to keep up the running and get two, possibly three, spins on the bike.

click on the image to view on strava


friend [frend]

1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile:
4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.

When does someone become more than someone you know and become a friend? In today’s world do you have to know someone in real life to call them a friend?

I have a number of different groups of friends and a lot of them I haven’t met. I have a small number of very good friends that I have known for a long time and are very important in my life. I have friends that I know through work both past and present and from past times such as the cycling club and geocaching. Some of them I interact with in person and some online only now. Then I have “virtual friends“, people I only know from an online perspective and have never met. Some of these are from Facebook/WhatsApp groups that have similar interests to me and others I have interacted with through blogs.

Over the last few months I’ve been interacting with these virtual friends more than my real life friends as a result of the lockdown and restricted movement. It may sound strange to describe them as friends but through the blogs and posts I get to see inside their lives, to varying degrees, interact with some of them and share some of my own life. Some of them, like the None2Run Facebook group, provide support and motivation as I work through that program, very much like regular friends do.

my most important friends

I don’t know when someone becomes a friend but I do know that the last three months would have been much more difficult without them – all of them.

Header image by Pixabay from

book of the dead

Book of the Dead (Kay Scarpetta #15) by Patricia Cornwell

From Goodreads:

Soon after relocating to Charleston, S.C., to launch a private forensics lab, Scarpetta is asked to consult on the murder of U.S. tennis star Drew Martin, whose mutilated body was found in Rome. Contradictory evidence leaves Scarpetta, the Italian carabinieri and Scarpetta’s lover, forensic psychologist Benton Wesley, stumped.

But when she discovers unsettling connections between Martin’s murder, the body of an unidentified South Carolina boy and her old nemesis, the maniacal psychiatrist Dr. Marilyn Self, Scarpetta encounters a killer as deadly as any she’s ever faced.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I kind of downloaded this by mistake and then read it against my own better judgement. However, it ended up being better than I expected. Maybe I had low expectations though?

This book is kind of a return to the style of writing that made Cornwell’s earlier Scarpetta stories interesting but not quite to the same level. Kay is marginally better, Lucy is a lot better and more mature, Benton is unrecognisable from his early days and Marino has become a complete asshole. Dr. Self was the most interesting character as well as Rambo, the killer.

Not the best but certainly not the worst. Hardly a ringing endorsement but it’s the best I have!

lockdown tv

After a couple of false starts with any luck this will finally be my last week in lockdown. Phase 1 of the government’s roadmap appears to be going according to plan and we should be going back to work on Phase 2 starting on Monday 8th June.

It will be a full 3 months since I’ve been at work as my last day was 5th March, just before I went to Switzerland.

Looking back it’s been a pretty productive time. We did a lot about the house with a lot of work completed outside and some changes made inside. We’ve had a lot of family time and I think that we’re all the better for it. I’ve also had a lot of spare time and while I’ve filled it with a lot of cycling, running and walking I’ve also had lots of time for reading, films and TV.

I’ve already written about the books and films so now inspired by A Dude Abikes I’ve listed below the main TV shows I’ve enjoyed watching over lockdown.

Click on the show name for the IMDb link

Better Call Saul ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Created by the same people behind the very popular Breaking Bad this takes the shady and corrupt lawyer, Saul Goodman, and goes way back to 2002 to explain who he really was and how he became the character he is in Breaking Bad.

As well as detailing the life of Jimmy McGill and his conversion to Saul Goodman it also acts as a prequel to Breaking Bad. There are a lot of the same characters and their back stories are also detailed explaining some of the untold stories. If you are thinking of watching this I’d recommend Breaking Bad first. Otherwise you will miss the significance of a lot of the characters and events.

In my opinion Better Call Saul is a much superior show to Breaking Bad. The characters are better defined and more likeable (I never liked Walt!) and the story lines better written. I liked Breaking Bad but I loved Better Call Saul.

Bosch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loosely based on the excellent series of detective books by Michael Connelly the series is based around an LAPD detective called Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch played by Titus Welliver. Harry is a cop with a very clear moral code but skates very close to the edge and enjoys the grey zone.

One of the best shows I’ve watched for a long time. Takes a little while to reconcile the Harry from the books with the one from the show as Welliver looks very different and brings his own style to the character. Also the books are set in the early 90s while the show is set in present time. An example of this is that Harry is a Vietnam veteran in the books but a Gulf War/Afghanistan veteran in the show. Once you get over some of the character differences the show is equally as good as the books.

Gangs of London ⭐⭐⭐

I can’t make my mind up about this show. It’s based on an organised crime gang family that controls all the other criminal gangs in London. The head of the family is murdered and his son inherits the family and the task of finding out who killed his father while holding the empire together.

The production quality is excellent and it’s obvious that Sky have spent a lot of money on this with the filming and the very recognisable cast. However, I’m struggling with it a bit. The storyline is quite disjointed and I’m struggling to keep track of the many different gangs and characters. In fact one entire episode simply stepped away from the main story entirely and although it was still linked I struggled to work out the reason behind it. It’s also a very graphically violent show that could put many off. In fact the episode I mentioned above was particularly violent and bloody although very well filmed.

I’m still watching Season 1 so possibly may change my rating and review once I get to the end.

Homeland ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now in Season 8 and after 9 years this immensely popular and highly acclaimed show has drawn to a very appropriate finish. I’m glad about this as it has been through so many different story variations that it was beginning to look difficult how it could keep reinventing itself.

Throughout all the different storylines the central plot follows CIA operative Carrie Matthews and her struggles with both her mental health (bipolar disorder) and her inability to persuade the CIA that she sees more than they do. Her friendship with Saul, CIA Director and eventually National Security Advisor, and his role as both advocate and handler doesn’t always work in her favour but provides the backbone of the entire series.

I struggled with this show at times and almost gave up in the middle of one season as it seemed to have lost itself. However, it is definitely worth sticking with as it finishes in style.

House of Cards ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We came late to this show, only starting to watch it recently, as it started in 2013 and ran until 2018 when it was brought to a close following the sex scandal involving Kevin Spacey.

It follows the rise to ultimate power engineered by the highly ambitious and completely ruthless Frank and Claire Underwood. It’s a fascinating view of American politics and how politics in general can be manipulated for personal gain.

Despite being a completely despicable and downright nasty individual the show is filmed and produced in such a way that you begin to like Frank (especially his trademark addresses to the camera) and even want to see him succeed. Frank and Claire are perfectly suited to each other and every bit as nasty and it’s riveting to see how they scheme together.

We’re approaching the end of the penultimate Season 5 and while the show was brought to an unplanned halt I do feel that it may have been a hidden benefit. With the rise to power accomplished I feel the story was beginning to run out of steam and this was better in the long run.

Killing Eve ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now in its third season this show follows MI5 security operative Eve Pollard and her search for Villanelle the elusive Russian assassin. As they get closer the two of them develop a morbid and repelling attraction for each other that neither want but can’t let go.

This show is like nothing else I’ve seen on TV. Brilliantly written it is full of fantastic characters but all of them are overshadowed by Eve and even more so by the comically insane and completely unstable Villanelle. Her innovative and off the wall assassinations and her character in general makes this show the 5⭐ performance it is.

Marvel’s The Punisher ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m not really into superhero type films and TV shows but really enjoyed this one. It’s a spinoff from Marvel’s Daredevil where The Punisher first appears.

The Punisher is Frank Castle, a US Army veteran and vigilante. His back story isn’t covered in this show, the expectation is that you have watched Daredevil already. It left me feeling I’d missed something for quite a bit and I may have given a higher rating otherwise.

The two main characters of Frank and Micro are really well cast and played well. They work well together and suit the characters. I’ve seen Joe Bernthal (Frank) as Shane in The Walking Dead and didn’t like him in that role. This time he’s perfect.

The rest of the cast is also very good with Madani and Curtis being particularly noticeable. In fact Billy Russo was the only performance I didn’t particularly rate throughout the first season.

So far only two seasons have been released with no expectation of a third. I’ve only watched Season 1 which makes me wonder if the second is as good.

Picard ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A must for any Star Trek fan this is the first venture into the Next Generation story since Star Trek: Nemesis and is set 18 years later. Captain Jean Luc Picard is now retired and living on his family estate in France. He’s tormented by the loss of Data and the destruction of Romulus and pretty much secluded from the world.

His seclusion is interrupted by his appearance in a media interview and the arrival of a strange young woman who turns out to be a synthetic and somehow connected to Data. This begins a new chapter in the life of Picard as he is forced to confront his past to secure a future for the synthetics.

This is a great show. It’s fantastic to see the Star Trek universe brought back to the TV screen with such polish and enthusiasm. Some of the acting is a bit wooden at times and I wouldn’t have missed some of the characters but highly enjoyable overall and I look forward to seeing what a second season will bring.

Ozark ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Marty Byrde is a Chicago based financial planner that is working to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. His partner attempts to cheat the cartel of $8 million and when the scheme falls apart Marty makes a deal to save his family and relocates them to the Ozarks in Missouri.

The story then is all about how Marty and his wife Wendy try to first of all save themselves from the cartel and then make themselves indispensable.

This show is chock full of brilliant storylines and great characters. It has won numerous awards and all well deserved.

At times it can be difficult to watch and it is filmed in a distinctive low light quality that creates tension but it’s all worth it.

Sons of Anarchy ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another show that was long finished by the time I got around to watching it. It ran from 2008-2014 and follows the lives of an outlaw motorcycle gang in the fictional town of Charming, Southern California.

The show ran for a total of seven seasons and to be honest it was probably two too many. It’s definitely a show of its time with many storylines that have aged badly and some that have been badly actioned.

The main focus of the story is Jax Teller, son of the founder of SAMCRO, and his family. Jax constantly struggles with his loyalty to the Club, his desire to see them become more legitimate than outlaw and how this conflicts with his need to protect his family. Jax tries to live in both worlds and is doomed to failure as he gives in to the violence in his nature.

Seasons 1 and 2 were a real eye opener for me. I hadnt watched anything similar before and the storylines were really exciting and novel. Season 3 and 4 were very poor. The whole Irish connection was terrible, bad storylines, terrible research for authenticity, shocking accents and in general actors that looked very uncomfortable in their roles. I have a feeling that if it wasn’t for lockdown I may have given up at that stage! Season 5 picks up with a shift in storyline and by the time Season 6 comes around you have to see it through to the end and it does have a definitive end. It’s not a fairytale ending but it suits the show and fits well.

There is an ongoing spinoff series called Mayans MC that I haven’t yet watched and rumours of a reboot focusing on Jax’s sons.

The Mandalorian ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A space Western loosely based on the bounty hunter character from the original Star Wars films. Fully reviewed already in an earlier blog post: this is the way

Vikings ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An historical drama that is inspired by the sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok, an ancient Norse hero. It portrays Ragnar’s rise to power, the Norse invasion of Britain and after his death the story of his sons.

Officially it’s six seasons but with Seasons 4-6 split into 2 sets of 10 episodes it’s effectively nine and probably too many.

🔴SPOILER ALERT🔴 When it started it was something completely different and novel and really grabbed everyone’s imagination. I can’t remember if it sparked a Viking trend or came close to the beginning but it’s definitely part of it now. The massive success of the show has forced it to keep running but the storyline changed so completely with the death of Ragnar in Season 4 that I feel it lost itself at that stage. Season 5 was still good but nowhere like the previous four. Season 6 is definitely the weakest of all and I’m pretty much watching it now just to see how it ends. The core Ragnar story would definitely be 5 Star 🟢SPOILER END🟢

Everything I’ve read about Viking/Norse culture suggests that women played a vital role in the community as landowners, rulers and warriors as well as mothers. This is definitely portrayed in the show with Lagertha being the obvious character but many other strong female characters. Refreshing to see in modern TV.

Header image by Andre Moura from Pexels