You won’t believe what this 80’s teen heard this month! (My six weeks with bionic ears)

A couple of months ago I discovered that I needed hearing aids – all well documented here, in previous posts

Anyway I was recently asked about digital hearing aids and my experiences after six weeks of sporting them. I can’t say that I’m an expert, but here’s what I know.

I realised that my hearing was poor a long time ago, well over 10 years ago, but I never really did anything about it. Last year I went to Specsavers to get my hearing checked. What made me go? Friends encouraged me to go, something that in retrospect was a lovely thing to do, and I very much appreciate it. Without that encouragement, I’d probably still be pottering around at 60 complaining about everyone muttering.

When I first had my hearing tested, the audiologist identified a hearing loss in the middle range and at the high frequencies. You can see the results in the graphs below.

My hearing test results from specsavers
My hearing test results from specsavers

I was advised that some hearing aids could cost between £500 and £2000 depending on the technology. The advice was that the hearing aids are basically the same size and shape, you don’t pay extra for smaller aids; instead you’re paying for the technology.

If you look at the above graphs against the graph below that I nicked from this webpage, you’ll see that the hearing loss is mild to moderate, with high frequencies hurtling towards the severe.


I would have paid for the hearing aids, probably making a judgement that around £1500 is a reasonable price to pay, but I went with my picture to my GP and asked if I could see someone in the NHS. Partly I was still expecting someone to say that there was a lot of ear wax and that they just needed washing out.

I saw the GP who took one look at the graph and referred me to the consultant at Ormskirk hospital. There wasn’t much discussion, only his observation that Specsavers were getting the contract for the NHS hearing tests.

At the end of November I went to see the hearing consultant. I had another set of tests that came out with the same results and then had a good talk to the consultant. The most fun being a tuning fork placed on my forehead (Weber’s test)- I could sense the note over on one side of the head which confirmed some nerve damage. Fascinating… and the biggest tuning fork I’ve ever seen.

He said that NHS hearing aids are decided on a case by case basis and that I should have some, in both ears. Eek! This echoed the advice from Specsavers, so I’m guessing that it was probably the right diagnosis.

About six weeks later, I had an audiology appointment and was issued with some Siemens hearing aids. The NHS covered the cost. In fact I expected to at least have to sign a receipt or something, but no – I had them fitted and was told to be on my way. It felt like quite a surreal experience.

The aids work as small graphic equalisers, programmed to amplify those frequencies that can’t be heard well. The audiologist uses software that takes the results of the hearing test and programs the aids via a short cable. The model that I was issued with was the Siemens Impact Pro L (the link is to the user manual, I couldn’t find a decent single page for them). They’re fine, small and light.

The other thing with these aids is that they can be paired up with something called a “minitek” controller. These can be then be paired up with multiple bluetooth devices and can also be used for volume control. This is something I will get soon. The aids need to be programmed to work with the device, but the hospital will be able to do it.

1796595_10153908946165164_122306862_nMy experience to start with was common with other users – every small sound felt amplifed beyond comfort. When Jude and the children would get home from work and school, I would feel like the whole world was a cacophony of noise. This passed after a couple of weeks. Things are still loud, but that’s fine – that’s what they’re supposed to be, I think.

Mine are programmed with three modes which can be changed by pressing the button on the back of them. The first is a general “all-round” amplification and will just balance out all the surrounding noise. It turns out that there is a lot of surrounding noise, but you get used to it. The second mode is to amplify people directly in front of you, which seems to work brilliantly in restaurants, meetings, etc. The third is for induction loop systems. It’s weird. I’ve only used it once, when I went to church last week at Scouts parade. It sounds like the person with the microphone is stood right next to you (the priest in this case) and the sensation is unreal. My only disappointment was that he didn’t mutter, swear or pass comment on the congregation under his breath. That would have been awesome fun.

It’s taken a while to get used to them in the ears. They sit very deep in the ear channel. Early on they would irritate the skin. It felt like they were scratching and sore. I tried rubbing a little vaseline in the ear which seemed to relieve things. The other thing that I notice occasionally is the pressure of the plug in the ear canal. Most of the time, however, I don’t notice them any more.

I find that if they are irritating, I’ll move them around a little which scratches the itch. However, I might also get some ear wax in the tiny hole. When that happens the sound will suddenly drop out. Blowing or sucking the end of the hearing aid will usually clear the wax, but it turns out that most people find this gross. So it’s best to use the tiny cleaning wire that came with them. Best, but not convenient.

Now when they’re out or turned off it feels like I’ve just come out of the swimming pool. The pressure in the ears feels all wrong and the whole world sounds dulled. If the plugs aren’t in properly, then there is feedback and whistling, but only very quiet and (I think) only I can hear it. Daft things like giving someone a hug make them whistle.

One of them stopped working, just stopped one day. I went to the hospital the following day and they just programmed a new one and I was sent on my way. There’s something quite amazing about how the NHS works, even with something as straightforward as hearing aids; and I confess that I’m touched that my little hearing problem wasn’t too small or too insignificant for the vast resources of the NHS to help with.

PS. No running update today – long story, but basically things didn’t really work out for a run.

A weekend in Bambrough and a 17km run

We’ve just got back from a weekend away staying in Bambrough, Northumberland. It’s MILES AWAY! Well, not if you live in Newcastle, I suppose, but for us, it seemed like an age away.

My parents had kindly been looking after the children for a couple of days at the end of last week and then for the weekend we all made our way to the North East. My parents and the children on Friday afternoon; I drove up on Friday evening and Jude caught the train and pottered over in style from Knutsford.

View from cottage to the castle
View from cottage to the castle
We stayed at this place – Number 8, Bamburgh, a recently refurbished cottage with a view straight down to the castle, a short walk from the beach and next door to the pub! Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to enjoy their hospitality. Next time, perhaps.

By the time Jude and I got there, the children had decided that this was the best place in the world to stay. Mainly because of the playground down by the castle and the tube slide that Joel would launch himself into. Watching him wasn’t for the faint hearted.

My main plan was to try and get a 10-11 mile run in on Saturday. The morning was absolutely glorious, so we went for a walk down to the beach to let breakfast settle and by about 11 I was thinking about going out. Just at that point, the wind picked up and the clouds were starting to roll in from the north.

Lily and Joel on the swings in the park - Saturday morning. Check out the blue sky!
Lily and Joel on the swings in the park – Saturday morning. Check out the blue sky!

The route was taken from walkjogrun. It looked straightforward enough – so out I headed. First up, was a run through a golf course. I’d looked at the map and had wondered if there was a path around the side of the course or at least something that would give me an idea where to go. It turns out there wasn’t. Instead I had to plod through between fairways and greens trying to stick to what looked like flattened grass and trying not to annoy the golfers (who watched me with some amusement, it seemed). This also turned out to be quite a bit hillier than I’d expected. Not like some insane fell run, but a good bit of up and downhill, on grass, dodging golf balls. It turns out this was the easy bit.

Next up was a stretch of inland running from the course over to Seahouses, about 4 miles down a tiny country lane, which weaved around and presented me with lots of small but steep hills. I confess that by the time I came to my sixth or seventh (I lost count) I had to walk the last bit. It was about this time when it started to rain and my desire to actually complete the run was seeping away fast. “No one will mind if I stop” I thought. “Everyone will understand, it was hilly and windy and raining and shit. Maybe I’ll call Jude”. Somehow some force pushed me through this and I kept going – I think I was at my lowest just as the road turned into a long gentle downhill stretch. Oh the relief!

I’d been listening to the Malcolm Gladwell book “David and Goliath” which had been interesting (but not great). While I was running, the author turned his attentions to the way crime was being tackled in California – specifically the “three strikes and you’re out” law. This involved quite a bit of discussion around a father who’s daughter had been shot. The book ends on a particularly poignant note and I hit it at around 15km in, about 1km into my run along the coast road back towards the castle.

Tired and facing yet another uphill stretch, I could have happily sat and wept rather than carry on; but I dug out some Arcade Fire for a bit of push to the end. Just before finishing I passed a herd of cows. All I could think of was steak. By that point I think I was on auto-pilot.
Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 22.54.30
It felt like it had been gruelling, but the pace was the fastest of the four long runs from the past four weeks, and that was despite the terrain and the hills. So I was really very pleased about it. Didn’t hurt too much afterwards and was able to spend the rest of the day hard at work playing various card games and enjoying a beer.

At Lindisfarne Priory
At Lindisfarne Priory
Today has been all about Lindisfarne. We visited the Priory and the castle, sat on the corner of Holy Island and about as bleak as you could imagine. I’ve wanted to go for a long time, but never really had a good idea of what it would be like. The weather was cold and windy again today – at least it didn’t rain – but it made the island feel empty and isolated, despite the small village by the priory.

If I’m really honest, it wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. I suppose that I was expecting something like the Giant’s Causeway visitors centre that we had visited last August. But I suppose the relatively small number of people getting to Holy Island means that the investment isn’t forthcoming. Plus, let’s face it, it’s another ruined priory – and they’re all over the place.

The castle is a bit different. Perched on top of a rocky outcrop, it had been turned into a holiday home in the early 1900’s before being handed over to the National Trust.

Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle

A fascinating place and worth the visit. The view from the top is spectacular, taking in the coastline with Banbrough in the distance.

There’s obviously a lot to explore up there, but we didn’t really have the time to do it justice. Only enough time to get home, relax for a short time before dinner and heading home. Maybe if I’d put my mind to it, I could have got another run in, but I was put off by yesterday’s effort.

I think we’ll go again, and I think that we would go to this cottage again. And hopefully, by that time, I’ll be a bit better at the long runs.

Training update – fast run, ten mile run, four mile run and some resistance training

Goodness, it seems like ages since I wrote something. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been distracted with the House of Cards and the joys of the world of Netflix.

Since last writing I’ve done two of the hypertrophy training sessions from the new rules of lifting. Last Thursday I was feeling my way with the weights on the new exercises, today I gave it more of a go. This is the first of the workouts, there are two that I should do in the week, but I missed the second one last week (eek!) The first workout is mostly upper body and consists of:

  • Dumbbell include bench press
  • Cable seated row
  • Dumbbell shoulder press
  • Wide grip lat pulldown
  • Barbell close grip bench press
  • High pull
  • Swiss ball crunch

A couple of these are approximations with the resistance bands and I don’t have a bench, so I gave it a go by lying across the bed with my head by the corner, which gave my arms some movement over the sides of the bed. I’ve got a feeling I might need some more kit!

Anyway, these seemed to go ok. I did a few more swiss ball crunches than suggested – mainly because it didn’t feel like anything was being done. Also finished each workout with trying to do the plank for a short time. Last week I could hold it for 2 minutes 43 and then 1 min 10, this week 3 min 11 and 1 min 15. I was concerned last week that I wasn’t doing it right, but after some considerable research I’m happy that I’m doing it correctly. That said, I’m not sure if I should just be holding it for 30 seconds a couple of times – as per my old gym programme.

Other than the strength training, there have been a couple of runs. Each different, each equally satisfying in different ways.

The first was a treadmill run for three miles last Friday. For the first time since I started a year ago, I came in at under 10 minutes per mile on a 3 mile run. I didn’t quite make 5k in under 30 minutes, but I’m not quibbling. There are about a billion caveats on the time (29:50) – the main one being that I had started out reasonably fast by my own standards and about a mile in felt that I needed my ventolin, so I paused took it and then carried on. I know that I would have done the same time, or maybe better, but it doesn’t feel quite like the single good run that I had hoped. Also, it’s not 5k in under 30 minutes and that’s one of the short term goals. Very nearly, but not quite. That’s for another day.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 19.46.17Then on Sunday I went out for a 10 mile run with Lorna. Two weeks ago it was eight miles in Llandudno, last week it was nine miles in Solihull and this week it was ten miles around the delights of Ormskirk and the surrounds. At least this week the weather seemed perfect for what was a very pleasant run. We kept the pace slow and steady, through the Edge Hill Uni campus, down St Helens Road towards the M58, across to Skelmersdale and then back to Ormskirk via Westhead. The road rises between Ormskirk and Westhead reasonably sharply, relatively speaking. It was on my mind all the way around, but when we got to it, we just kept going at basically the same pace. As we headed downhill back to the house we picked up pace and had our fastest split at about 9 miles. It felt good and we did a reasonably good time – we came in at 10 miles just under two hours.

We were remarking that a year ago we had run 8km in London, before going to see the Example. That time it had been a real struggle (for me – Lorna was bouncing around like a gazelle). This year running twice as far, it felt comfortable, we were chatting and we were able to pick up the pace in the last couple of miles. It’s great to see that kind of improvement.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 19.45.47The third run was yesterday. I went on what could only be described as a “sperm run” (check out the map). Along the A59 towards Aughton, up Holburn Hill, across to Prescot Road and back down again towards home. It was supposed to be a 4 mile run, but I misread my watch and stopped at 3.88 miles. Ho hum. That said, when I ran it three weeks ago I managed 11:48 per mile, this time I ran 11:10 per mile. I could have carried on a bit at that pace – not sure how far – but I’ll get a chance to try soon, I’m sure.

So that brings us back to today’s strength training back at the top of this post.

1926744_10153881307520164_1617206603_nIt’s been a reasonable week. I’ve missed a couple of days, but on the whole it’s felt like progress. Also, I got a new pair of running shoes at the weekend – a present from my parents, which was a wonderfully thoughtful gift which came out of the blue! I didn’t use them for the 10 miler but did for the 4 mile yesterday. They’re really very comfortable.

Plus I bought tickets to see the Flaming Lips and it feels like the holiday in Portugal is hurtling towards us. This is all good.

Well… it’s almost all good. When Lorna was up at the weekend we had three games of cribbage. I lost 2-1. This time it didn’t go with the dealer. I lost the third game. For some reason I thought we had been 2-2 before, but checking my notes and the sidebar here, it was 2-1 from Denbigh – so this leaves us at a frustratingly even 3-3.

Netflix, software demos, wind, rain and a three mile run

I was supposed to go to the gym last night, but got distracted by trying to set up the various devices here to use US Netflix. There are services “out there” that do the trick, they work through a combination of overriding the netflix related DNS and then proxying some of the requests so that they appear to come from the US.

In the end I “rolled my own” server using a combination of squid for the proxying a bit of iptables to make it transparent and running a bind server. It’s a neat little setup and works on the apple tv, laptops, phones and tablets. I’m quite happy with it and have been enjoying Parks and Recreations and Mad Men (and some “Shut up and play the hits”).


Getting the service working on the laptop took no time at all. It was the ipad/apple TV side of things that took a good couple of hours to work out. Consequently the hours slipped by and before I knew it, it was too late to get to the gym and too late for some fun with the resistance bands.

Today I’ve been better. We were due to demonstrate some software that we’d been writing and have been waiting for some styling from web designers since the start of the week. It’s essentially just a tweak, but it feels like it has been left to the last minute. I had holding emails from them on Monday and Tuesday. Spurious questions that sounded technical but were, in fact, bullshit. Trust me, I can see these things from a mile away. My guess is that they only started looking at it today and realised that it was a bigger job than they first thought.

They sent me an email about an hour before the presentation finally saying that I wouldn’t have anything. Bugger. So I frantically pulled together bits of code, downloaded some bits of HTML stuck it all together and wrapped our software in something that would pass as what we should have had from the designers. With about 20 minutes to go, I was at least able to grab a coffee and get the rest of the stuff ready. I was not happy.

Still, the presentation went well and I think that we’re hurtling towards finishing the project. We will sit in a pub for three days solid when it’s done. I’m sure.

Jude’s not been able to get home this evening. The Thelwall viaduct was closed because of the weather. She was stuck on one side of the Manchester Ship Canal and the rest of us on the other. It seemed best that she stay over at her Dad’s in Lymm, while we struggled by, pushing beans around a plate and waiting for the lights to go out. Well, not quite, but we really did think the power would cut out on a couple of occasions.

After the children went to bed it was time to try and get some running in. It would have been fun to go outside for a run. Well, I was thinking that I could have gone in one direction and kept going for three miles. If I’d gone the right way I might have achieved a four minute mile, simply because of the wind behind me, but it would have taken about four hours to come back the other way. As it was I stuck to the treadmill (which I loathe), struggled through three miles of plodding and then was knackered at the end. Probably not ideal to be running at 9pm, but there was little choice today and given that I missed the gym yesterday, I had to do something.

Since then I’ve been enjoying the delights of the netflix. An episode of Mad Men down and I’m writing this with the “story of creation records” on in the background. It’s been a reasonable day, it would have been better if the web designers had done what they had promised, but that’s just one of those things, I think.

There must be a Ride video out there somewhere that I can embed here….

Catching up, Frank Turner, a nine mile and a four mile run

Gosh, I leave writing for a couple of days and all sorts of things happen. We go to Nottingham to see Frank Turner, go to Solihull and put in our long run (9 miles) get back to work and then do a four mile run today.

So much for trying to keep the blog up to date. Like my attempts to do daily training, the writing slipped a bit – but all in a good cause… I was busy doing fun things instead.

Tape_Deck_Heart_Album_CoverFriday I went straight from work in Wigan to Knutsford to swap cars at Jude’s swanky place of work. A place called Booths Park, built in the grounds of a farm and what looks like a stately home. It looks like a great place to work, looking partly like somewhere you’d go on holiday and partly like a very modern university campus.

Then there had been an incident on the M6 near Stoke. Hopefully it was nothing bad, but it meant that I had a very pleasant drive to Nottingham via Buxton and through the Peak District National Park. All very beautiful and made all the more so for having some Frank Turner blasting away in the car.

We were off to see the very same Frank Turner on the second night of his UK arena tour. We saw him in Wolverhampton a couple of years ago and he put on an amazing show – but looking down on the stalls it looked like mayhem. This time we were standing, but there was plenty of space for a jump around and some old-man dancing (from me). The whole evening was very pleasant – enhanced by one of the tastiest curries I’ve had in a long time.

The only problem had been that I wasn’t able to get any training in on Friday. I’d taken my resistance bands with me, but some terrible traffic in Wigan and then a slightly longer than expected drive over the Peak District meant that I arrived at the same time as Lorna. Beer trumped exercise. As is only right and proper.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 21.21.59So on Saturday we grabbed some tasty breakfast at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, somewhere I hadn’t ever been before. Seems like a lovely place. We were heading back to Solihull where we were planning on doing our nine mile long run. As time marched on the skies got darker and the wind seemed to be picking up. By the time that we were heading out at 2:30ish it was very very cold and overcast. By the time we were four miles in, the heavens had opened and the wind was lashing over the fields and battering us. It was difficult. We were heading back into Solihull about 7-8 miles in and I just wanted to stop. Every pub we passed was like a dagger through the heart.

Still, we got through to the end – hitting nine miles as we were half way through crossing a road. At which point we stopped and walked back to Valerie’s. It was really very hard, but it felt great that we actually got through it.

One tasty steak later, and I was aquaplaning back up the M6 to get home before 10.

Sunday was spent mostly working and I didn’t get a chance to do the weight training that I’d hoped to do. I spent some time reading up on the next steps with the New Rules of Lifting, but a bug fix that I’d expected to take 45 minutes ended up taking five hours. No fun, especially since I’d promised it would be complete by Monday. So the training had to take a back seat, sadly.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 21.22.25Today’s been better. A day spent at the youth zone, sorting out the fingerprint scanners (long story) and the online booking. Things are hopefully coming close to completion there. If one day there is a post that reads “In the pub. Celebrating.” That’s probably me and Robert celebrating the software being signed off. Next week. Dear God, please let it be next week. (Actually, given the circumstances, it may be the week after!)

Oh and I did my four mile run. It felt like hard work, but looking at the times I was 1 second per mile slower than my fastest outside run, which was only three miles. So it feels like an improvement.

There was a good chunk of time when I felt like I was properly running. I know that I’m still quite slow, but it felt like I was pushing rather than pottering. It felt good.

Frank Turner, Wessex Boy, from Nottingham last Friday:

Four mile run, late code and no cat. Oh well…

CalendarImageOnly two days in and I’ve slipped from the planned schedule. The plan was – strength training tonight and a 4M easy run tomorrow (on grass). Tomorrow I’m supposed to be in Wigan through the day and then travelling over to Nottingham in the late afternoon to go to a Frank Turner gig. That 4 mile run wasn’t looking like it was going to happen.

Today has been a day of moving one step forward and two steps back as far as work goes and it meant that I still had a lot to do as the clock was ticking past 8pm (I still have a lot to do now, but that’s looking unlikely). So I ran on the treadmill.

The plan was to go at 5 or 5.5mph and just potter through the four miles. However after two and a bit miles of running at 5mph, I did a series of 7mph intervals. 1 minute on and 1-2 minutes back at 4 or 5 mph to recover. I ended the run with a bit of a flourish to try and finish quickly. The time wasn’t magnificent (47 minutes) but I felt better for it. If the times don’t seem to add up, it’s because I slowed right down for some of the recoveries.

My intention had been to have two set of code completed by the end of today – these were for the Wigan Youth Zone project. One set has been completed but is untested and the other set only came in from the developers at the end of the day and my testing has shown it to be less than perfect. I’m supposed to take it in tomorrow. This is Not Good and I’m knackered now. My feeling is that I should perhaps just go to bed and look at it first thing in the morning.

We’ll just have to see how it goes. There is a third set of code and so I can be setting that up tomorrow during the day.

We still haven’t heard anything from the cat. My gut feeling is that she’s wandered off, never to return. Despite my constant complaints about the cat and how she would try to kill me (by leaping under my feet at every opportunity), I would be sad if she’s properly gone, and conversely I would be delighted if she pottered home one day. But I suspect that the days will start to accumulate and we’ll have to accept at some point that she’s not around any more.

Going back to the training plan… I’ll either take the resistance bands with me to the hotel tomorrow or will do something before heading out to Wigan in the morning. Either way, I think it’ll remain an approximation of the NROL break in workouts until I’ve decided on what to do next – which really should be something to consider over the weekend. Unlikely to be an update tomorrow as there will be lots of travelling, working and then having fun, but I’ll try and get something in on Saturday after the scheduled 9 mile run. Yay!

Where’s the cat?

It’s been a long day – the usual: children to school; Facetime and Skype calls before 9; chasing stuff; moving data; running; lunch; snooze; more data; pick up children; battle with kids about tai kwon do; take them to tai kwon do; help make dinner; scoff; bed time; watch end of The Bridge; write this.

Throughout the work today I’ve hadn’t really noticed Bruiser anywhere. Very often she’s asleep through most of the day and so I didn’t think much of it.

When Jude came home shortly after I got back from the tai kwon do, she asked if Bruiser had come in from being outside. Ah… and there I was thinking that she was in the house somewhere, just being quiet.

6862718951_256f591b23_oA bit of background. She’s had the occasional bout of not eating her food recently. Normally resolved by changing the nosh that we give her. I understand from Jude that she hadn’t eaten over the weekend. I cleaned out her bowl and gave her fresh food yesterday when I returned from Wales and again this morning, but haven’t seen her since.

So it seems that the cat is outside somewhere still, having gone out with Jude this morning, apparently. I’m kicking myself very slightly because I was so wrapped up in what I was doing, I didn’t stop to think where was the thing that usually meows at 100Db and tries to break by neck at every opportunity by jumping under my feet.

I’ll take a look for her tomorrow and will remain generally optimistic that the old girl is alright. But it does worry me a bit that all might not be well.

Before I started worrying about the cat, I did some running before lunch. The programme said to do some intervals. In fact it said 5 minutes at a good pace before a rest and another 5 minutes at pace before cooling down. I tried this. I did about 3/4 of a mile slowly then upped the treadmill to 7mph. After a little over a minute I gave up, feeling tired. Slowed to 5mph until the clock turned over to the next minute and then I upped the pace again to 7mph. I did this about five times over a period of 10 minutes, and then slowed down and stopped.

Not the greatest overall pace for a 2 mile run, but pushing 7mph for a good chunk and taking just a minute to recover and start again feels quite good. I don’t know much about this intervals malarky, and so I’m basically making it up as I go along. Reading the instructions and then failing dismally, but at least giving it a go!

On that note, I took the children to Tai Kwon Do this afternoon and had to watch Joel get more and more distressed as those around him confidently got things wrong, while he tried as hard as he could to get things right. I really felt for him. In the end he was really upset. He was trying his hardest but couldn’t get it right. Claire, the tutor, was amazing. She recognised what was going on really quickly, and gave Joel some 1:1 training. He was great at the spinning-around-and-kicking action within a few minutes, but it had really knocked him sideways when he watched the others confidently doing their actions – especially when they were doing it wrong (and Claire, to be fair, called them out on it). I can’t help but relate to that lack of confidence sometimes, and I feel it’s my duty to try and make sure that he doesn’t suffer from it in the same way as I have done. By the end of it he was brilliant, and I was really proud of him, but it was hard work nonetheless.

Right, to end the evening, here’s an ORB video I came across earlier. With some luck we’ll get to go and see them later this year. That’s the plan at least.

The Orb “Little Fluffy Clouds” LIVE in London 2013 from The Orb on Vimeo.

My February training plan, up to the MK half.

What happened? One moment I was going for an after dinner snooze after battling through the day like a half-conscious zombie version of myself. The next it was 10pm, I was waking up and there was no chance of any exercise being squeezed in.

So I broke the chain. Ah well, it was a very good snooze.


It is partly due to a weekend of fun and frolics followed immediately by beers and a catch up with my Dad and brother Pete at the classiest venue in North Wales. It’s a self-styled “Urban Resort”, famous as the “home of the tribute act”. To be fair, it’s a decent hotel in amongst some offices and close to the A55. What more could you want?

They had a gym as well – a decent one, kitted out better than Edge Hill’s. So yesterday I was able to sneak in some exercises, despite an overwhelming urge to sit in the bar all afternoon.

Given that I’ve belatedly taken the day off which I had planned for last Saturday, I thought I should look at the rest of the training for the half marathon in March. My delight at running the 8 miles on Sunday has only been slightly dented by looking back at my plan and seeing that I should have run 9 miles! Putting that to one side, here’s the plan through to the race on 9th March, just 33 days away.

Wed 5th 1M jog, then 2 x 5 mins fast, with 5-min slow jog recovery
Thu 6 Strength training
Fri 7 4M easy on grass
Sat 8 9-10M slow
Run with LJW. We’re watching Frank Turner in Nottingham the night before, so will be a *slow* tour of Nottingham’s finest landmarks
Sun 9 Strength training
Mon 10 3-4M easy, off-road if possible
Tue 11 Gym
Wed 12 3M, inc a few short bursts
Thu 13 Strength training
Fri 14 3M on grass
Sat 15 Strength training
Sun 16 11M slow.
Was supposed to be a 10K race, but LJW visiting so we’re following her plan
Mon 17 4-5M easy, off-road
Tue 18 Gym
Wed 19 1M jog, then 2 x 7-8 mins fast, with 5-min jog recovery
Thu 20 Strength training
Fri 21 4M on grass, inc several short bursts
Sat 22 Upper body – resistance training
I’ll be in Northumberland, so will take the resistance bands rather than find a gym in the middle of nowhere!
Sun 23 11-12M, as slow as you like
I’ll have to work this one out… 11-12M might take some time and I’ll be away. Let’s see how this one goes
Mon 24 3-4M easy, on soft ground
Tue 25 Gym
Wed 26 1M jog, then 2 x 5 mins fast, with 5-min slow jog recovery between
Thu 27 Strength training
Fri 28 4M easy on grass
Sat 1/3 Strength training
Sun 2/3 9-10M slow
Mon 24 3M easy, off-road
Tue 4/3 Strength training
Wed 5/3 1M jog, then 1M at race speed, then 1M jog tee hee, race speed. That’s a JOG!
Thu 6/3 Strength training
Fri 7/3 2M jog
In London to see Mike Peters. Will aim to do this with LJW somewhere
Sat 8/3 DAY OFF (!!!)
Sun 9/3 Race Day!

1623917_a305f578This takes basically the same routine as I did during the Janathon training, except that I’ve moved around some days to fit in with travel, etc. Plus I’ve added some gym days after going the other week (and really enjoying it!)

If I can get out in the daytime, then the “on grass” runs might well be done down on the beach between Southport, Formby and Waterloo. There’s a walkjogrun route here – granted that’s 30 miles, but it shows that there’s scope for some different distances. Assuming the weather is relatively calm(!)

To finish, it’s about twelve months since this Suede song came out. I listened to it a lot this time last year. Lovely!

I should really credit where these pictures come from:

Post-Gathering run around Llandudno.

Yesterday was a post-Gathering recovery day and a run in the afternoon. In previous years the Sunday has generally been blitzed as a day thanks to the excessive enjoyment of the previous two evenings. Planning ahead we had thought of using an extra day to get back on track – plus it happily dovetailed with taking a long run and then for me to head to Chester to meet up with my brother, Pete, and my Dad for an evening out on Monday.


So we spent the morning doing touristy things, going up the Great Orme and then going for a long drive to Denbigh.

It was windy at the top of the Orme. Windier than I’ve ever known anywhere to be. Ever. It was just about possible to stay stood up by leaning into the wind. We didn’t stay too long. Just about long enough to get a couple of snaps and decide to head back down. You’ll see in the photo that I’d thought that it would be a good idea to wear a lovely wide brimmed hat (that I got at Glastonbury last year). This was a mistake and felt like I’d attached a kite to the top of my head. That I was able to stay standing is a miracle.

1557495_10151958416845698_361620002_nOur original plan had been to run around the Orme and head back into town around a back route. I’d put the details into walkjogrun and everything. However, it became apparent as we drove that I had completely forgotten quite how hilly it was. It’s possible that we might not have survived if we had gone that route. Sense prevailed and we decided against it.

This would have killed us.
This would have killed us.

Instead we drove over to Denbigh to visit the castle there. Normally on the Gathering long drives we’ll head in to Betws Y Coed and through Snowdonia, but this time instead of turning right, south, we turned left and headed over the moors. The scenery is as beautiful as always there. I’ve got many happy childhood memories of driving over the moors and of playing at Denbigh castle. It was a real treat to take the children there a couple of years ago.

denbighcastleThey’ve now got visitor’s centre (albeit a small one). They even had a woman telling stories and playing the harp. When I was a lad, you basically rocked up with your friends and did your own interpretation of the ruin – which was to clamber over the walls, run around the centre and generally play. Nowadays it’s fed to you on a plate by someone dressed up in a traditional Welsh costume. This is what they call progress.

That said, it was lovely. Doubly lovely to potter down to the High Street which I hadn’t seen in well over 30 years.

On our return to Llandudno we stepped out for our eight mile run. We found another route around the town which would get in at 13km/8m, but hopefully with fewer hills. We discovered that there are really no runs in Llandudno of any reasonable distance without hitting some slopes somewhere. Althought we *did* consider running up and down the promenade three times.

The view as we ran down towards the main Conwy / Llandudno road, looking out to the sea.
The view as we ran down towards the main Conwy / Llandudno road, looking out to the sea.
I think that we did pretty well. We finished the distance in 1 hour 34 minutes, with a near-sprint for the last hundred or so metres and it felt like we could have gone further. I was also pleased with how we were able to manage the hills. Not massive ones, but long long slow inclines over a couple of miles. The kind where you think that you’ve got to the top, turn a corner and see the road going up and up ahead of you. We just got into a rhythm of running and kept going. This is all good.

So after some food and cribbage we had resolved to not do a marathon later this year. This seems very sensible. Instead the plan is to do the MK half marathon and the Birmingham half marathon in October. My target of running a marathon before I’m 47 remains and so I’m on the lookout for a decent marathon for next Spring.

Oh, and we played some cribbage and I lost 2-1 – the games went with the dealer. I will put something in a sidebar somewhere so that we can keep track of the tally through the year. There’s plenty of time for me to catch up.

So today I’m at the Village Hotel Chester St Davids to see my Dad and my brother Pete this evening. Not likely to be a night of high jinx as we all have to get stuff done tomorrow, but I expect that it’ll be lovely. Plus there is a gym somewhere in this hotel, which I need to find and get a teeny tiny bit of exercise in.

This didn't kill us. So must be good for us.
This didn’t kill us. So must be good for us.