Categories
Miscellaneous

Deja vu?

A few weeks ago I had to get an early Sunday morning flight from Heathrow. Since it was early Sunday morning, the trains weren’t running at that time so I had to get a taxi to the airport.

The taxi driver pulled up at 6am as requested and one of the first things he said was “my card machine is broken, are you able to pay cash?” That wasn’t a problem, it was a fixed price journey (so I knew he wasn’t trying to rip me off) and I had the money. I had put my credit card number into the website when I had booked but the website is terrible, so I didn’t really think too much about this request to have to pay. (That’s not where this story is going, but it comes back later.)

One of the next things the taxi driver said was “didn’t I take you to Heathrow last month?” Now this was my first flight in almost two years and probably my first taxi in an even longer time period. So I told the driver that it wasn’t me, but he was insistent that he had been to my address recently.

He went on to say, multiple times in fact, that he remembered all of his customers and people were often surprised when he said that he had driven them before. Now I definitely have had the same driver twice before (it was only about a month apart so much easier to remember), but I couldn’t remember having this driver before.

Maybe he realised that he hadn’t had me that recently, but he then said he had driven me to Heathrow a few years ago (and again a comment that he remembered all his passengers). He specifically remembered that I had been flying out of Heathrow but back into Gatwick. I generally fly to/from Gatwick as that’s slightly easier to get to than Heathrow (at the moment due to reduced flights I had to go from Heathrow). I couldn’t remember ever having got a taxi to Heathrow (I would normally get the tube if the times were sensible). I do vaguely remember one time going from Heathrow and back into Gatwick [Addendum: Checking my emails shows this was in March 2019] but it’s still not proof I had this driver before.

As we pulled into Heathrow terminal 2, I had a vague recollection of the drop-off area so it’s possible I have got a taxi there before. I paid the driver with cash and then headed off to find the check-in desk. As I walked across the concourse, my phone rang. It was the taxi driver telling me that I had actually already paid by credit card when I had made the booking so I could come back and get the cash from him.

When I got to the driver he said “don’t you remember this happened last time? I’ve definitely driven you before.” And I kind of do vaguely remember getting a phone call as I’ve walked into the terminal and having to go back to the drop-off area. But I don’t remember anything for definite. And I can’t remember having that driver before, but it seems like he may remember me.

And I’ve now written it down so if it does happen again I have something to refer to.

Categories
Life event

London Marathon = Done!

I’ve posted quite a lot recently about running, but last Sunday was the London Marathon, so this will (probably) be my last post on this topic for a while.

I had three goals in mind when taking part:

  • Complete the marathon ✔

I’ve walked an approximate marathon distance before a couple of times (even ignoring my 75 mile epic challenge walk), but I’ve never run a marathon before. And this would be an official event with a timer and crowds, rather than just me on my own. So I knew I’d be able to cover the distance even if I had to walk it. It wasn’t in too much doubt, but I made it over the 26.2 mile distance on Sunday. Goal completed.

  • Complete the marathon without walking ✔

I know there’s nothing wrong with walking in a long race, and some people even recommend a walk/run method (and say it’s faster than just running). But I know myself and I knew that if I started to walk, I would never start running again. It was tough, but I knew that I had to keep trying to run. And I did. Goal completed.

  • Complete the marathon in less than 4 hours ✖

I finished in 4 hours 2 minutes and 58 seconds, so just outside my target. But three minutes over four hours/26 miles of running isn’t too bad. And it’s only my first marathon so I had nothing to compare it to. I’m still very pleased with what I achieved. And I now have a target to beat for my next marathon…

Categories
Miscellaneous

So much improvement

This is the fourth and final post in my “so much” miniseries. See also So much running, So many steps and So little time. You don’t have to have read those posts first, but you may want to.

The last few posts have all been slightly negative, talking about how much running I’ve been doing and how much time it has taken up. Today though, with just four days left before the marathon, I thought I’d talk about some of the improvements I’ve seen.

And I have seen a lot of improvements. In the last 8 weeks, I have set new personal bests at 5k, 10k and half marathon distances. These have mostly been achieved without trying to set any new records, which shows how much improvement there has been.

New PBPrevious PB
5k21:3822:41
10k47:3149:49
Half marathon1:45:341:49:12

Whether it’s because I’ve just been doing more running generally, or whether it’s psychological that shorter distances are no longer such a big deal (or a mix of both), marathon training has definitely helped me to get faster. Who would have thought that a few weeks of training would have such a big difference? I’ve not run a full marathon before, so I’m guaranteed to get a PB on Sunday (assuming I finish).

I’ve also run much further than I have before. My longest run in the last few weeks was 21 miles, whereas my previous longest run before starting this training plan was “only” 14 miles. And last weekend I did a “casual” half marathon. Who would have thought that running 13 miles wouldn’t be a big thing? I’ve not run 26.1 miles before, so I’m guaranteed to run further than I ever have before on Sunday (assuming I finish).

Only four days to go now…

Categories
Miscellaneous

So little time

This post is really a follow-up to the post from a couple of weeks ago. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to do that first.

At the peak of my marathon training, I was running around 44 miles per week. The majority of this running is classified as “easy” which for me is a pace of about 10mins/mile. Whilst some runs will be faster than this, this means that I will be spending approximately 440 minutes per week running (or just under 7.5 hours).

There are 168 hours in a week. Here’s how that is broken down:

I like to get 8 hours sleep a night, or at least that’s the amount of time I like to allocate to sleep. That works out at 56 hours per week.

I’m contracted to work for 37 hours per week, but at the moment I’m often doing an extra 8 hours on a Saturday, making 45 hours per week.

My commute to work takes just over an hour each way. Some of that commuting may be replaced by running, but some days it may add extra time (travelling to the running track after work and travelling home afterwards, for example). However, assuming a standard commute of one hour twice a day for six days adds up to 12 hours per week.

And then as calculated earlier, 7.5 hours per week for running.

Adding all of that up leaves 47 hours per week which should be free, which is a lot more than I was expecting. Although I’ve not included everyday things such as eating, maintaining hygiene or household chores. This will all take a significant chunk of time too. And this leftover time is not a continuous time period, but dispersed throughout the rest of the day so it’s not all usable.

All of that is essentially to say that running currently feels like it takes up a significant portion of time. Looking at the numbers it doesn’t seem like as much time as I thought it would be, but it does all add up, particularly when taking into account the extra things like route planning beforehand and showering afterwards. But the marathon is now only 11 days away so it’ll all be over soon…

Categories
Miscellaneous

So many steps

This post is really a follow-up to last weeks. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to do that first.

One of the consequences of doing a lot of running is that my step count is massive. The recommended daily step target is generally around 10,000 steps. However, my Garmin watch works slightly differently and if the step count is hit one day, the target step count is increased the next day for a greater challenge. And the greater the step count is beaten by, the larger the increase (up to a limit). Conversely, if the step count isn’t beaten, the target drops. (There’s a good explanation of how it’s calculated here.)

My normal commute to and from work normally results in about 6000 steps, and I can easily get it to 8000 with a leg stretch at lunchtime. That obviously leaves me a bit short, but I often go for a run or can deliberately do some more walking to get to the target.

However, recently I’ve been doing so much running that my target is now at some of the highest target levels that I’ve seen. For example, my watch gave me a target of 14,870 steps for today. Which sounds like it may be a problem to reach, except that I went for a 6 mile run earlier which has taken me up to 17,951 steps for today.

The graph above shows my step count over the last few weeks (blue line) and my ever increasing step goal (orange line). It’s easy to see the days that I’ve not been out for a run (or been on a long walk). These are normally Mondays and Fridays as those are the rest days in my marathon training plan, but it does sometimes vary.

Here’s how my step count and target vary for the 15 September over the last few years:

  • 2021 – Walked: 17951 – Target: 14870
  • 2020 – Walked: 11879 – Target: 10200
  • 2019 – Walked: 14279 – Target: 12060
  • 2018 – Walked: 17281 – Target: 10570

So whilst the number of steps taken is fairly similar each year (at least for 15 September – maybe a different date would have been better to compare), the target number of steps is significantly higher this year which shows a much longer spate of meeting (or exceeding) the step goal over the last few weeks than I have previously. And that’s all because I’ve been doing so much running.


For completeness, here’s a graph showing the steps over the first half of September for the last few years. It’s not really very clear, but 2021 does have a higher average step count each day.

Categories
Miscellaneous

So much running

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently training to run the London Marathon, which is now less than four weeks away!

Because of that I’ve been doing a lot of running. A lot of running. More running than I’ve ever really done before. It’s quite hard to stress how much running I’ve actually been doing. This is my first marathon and it’s a lot more running than I’ve ever done before.

One thing people (people who have done marathons before) have consistently said is that marathon training plans are designed to make sure you can (and do) keep running, even when tired. I’ve also heard that a marathon is really like running for 20 miles and then running a 6 mile race on top of that. Either way, the aim is to get used to running on tired legs and then running a bit more. I’ve definitely felt that over the last couple of weeks.

I’m currently in to week 13 of my training plan. I’ve just passed the longest run of 21 miles, although I still have a 20 mile long run this weekend. I thought that having passed the longest run, it would get easier now, but the blue line in the graph below shows that it actually levels out for a couple of weeks before the taper before the race.

We’re now in week 13 and I’ve felt that I’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the training plan, although looking at the chart, there are a lot of weeks where I’ve not been doing the mileage recommended.

Here’s why I think that is:

  • I don’t always run the suggested distance. I’ve been trying to get to my running club twice a week and their group running sessions haven’t always matched up with what the program suggests. However, the group sessions are normally comparable in effort/training benefit and so I just go with those.
  • I don’t always do every run. Each weekend in the training plan has a 3 mile run on the Saturday and a longer run on the Sunday. However, I don’t always have the capacity to fit in two runs on a weekend, so I prioritise the long run and sometimes miss out the 3 mile run.
  • I don’t always do the warm-up/cool-down. It’s probably quite bad, but I don’t always do them. And sometimes I do, but I don’t record it (or all of it) on my GPS watch.
  • I sometimes go walking. There’s a big drop in my running distance in weeks 4 and 11. In those weeks I walked 63 miles (in three days) and 79 miles (in five days) respectively. Whilst not running, I do feel that this sufficiently keeps the legs tired and hasn’t interfered with my training plan that much.

So, all in all, I feel like it’s actually all going really well. Although I am definitely getting tired of running and looking forward to when it’s all over! And there’s not that long to go now!

Categories
Life event Money

Halfway there!

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post on how my student loan amount had decreased in the ten years since I finished university. My plan was to not revisit the subject on this blog for another 7 years until it was paid off (assuming I’m still updating it by then). However…

AS OF THIS WEEK I’VE NOW PAID OFF HALF OF MY STUDENT LOAN!!

It’s been almost 15 years since I started university and just under 10 and a half years since I started paying it off. I don’t have the exact numbers (because the website takes a few days to update) but I think I’ve now paid off £13,684.38, leaving me with around £13,371.67 to go.

(Note: some years have interest added monthly (where known), whereas other years only have interest added annually, therefore the slight increases each April can be ignored from the trends)

The next half should take much less time to pay off because that’s how interest rates work and also my salary is higher than it was when I first started working. Assuming that things stay the same as currently (interest rate and salary), I reckon I only have another 6 years to go…

And if you missed my previous post on what else I could have spent £27,000 on, you should go read that too.

Categories
Technology

You have arrived at your destination

A couple of weeks ago I was driving from a hotel in Aldershot to a friends’ house in Leeds. I had never been to Aldershot before and I had never been to this friends’ new house before. The journey in the middle would be fairly straight forward: M3, M25, M1. But I didn’t know the roads either end of that. So, I had Google Maps on my phone to give me directions.

All was going well, until I got to the junction of the M3 and the M25. The junction layout is a complicated swirl of roads, allowing traffic to go outwards in any of the directions. Coming from the West (as I was), I could either carry on East along the M3, turn North on the M25, or turn South on the M25.

Image from OpenStreetMap

Here’s my drawing showing the options I had and where each of the lanes would take me. Essentially the left two lanes are for the M25 North, the third lane is for the M25 South or continuing on the M3, and the right hand lane is just for staying on the M3.

So how did Google maps suggest I navigate this junction? “Stay in the right hand two lanes to remain on M3.” Oh, so it probably wants me to stay on the M3 then. Maybe it’s taking me into central London to avoid the M25 for some reason.

But shortly before the junction I got the next instruction: “Use the third lane to follow M25 South”. Oh, so it’s changed it’s mind. Maybe now it wants me to go the long way round the M25 if there’s a problem on the M25 going north.

But then at the last moment before the North and South routes diverged “Use the left two lanes to take M25 North”. Oh, so it does want me to take the M25 going northwards after all.

It really is a terrible suggestion of which lane to take, giving the wrong lanes and only suggesting the correct one at the last possible moment. It’s not surprising that people end up in the wrong lanes and cutting across other cars when their Satnav tells them to do so.

Of course, I just completely ignored the instructions. I knew what I wanted to do and just stayed in the correct lane throughout.

Categories
Life event

The tale of the bathroom light

Back in May, my bathroom light stopped working. The light itself worked fine, but (almost) every time I pulled the cord to turn it off, the lighting ring main for the whole flat tripped as well. Cue a call to the landlord who sent round the electrician who replaced the pullcord and the light fitting. Everything worked fine after that, although the extractor fan would sometimes turn off straight away with the light, rather than staying on for another minute or two like it should do, but I didn’t really consider that a problem.

And then I got back from a few days away at the end of July, turned on the bathroom light and the extractor fan just started making a clicking noise. What’s worse is that the pullcord then stopped working so I couldn’t check whether the extractor fan was a one-off or whether it was actually broken. Fortunately the light was off when the pullcord stopped (I mentioned showering in the dark in my recent post). I duly called out the electrician again and he replaced the pullcord again.

The extractor fan was working when he left (I don’t know if he actually did anything or it just happened to be working when he was there), but over the next couple of weeks it was very temperamental – sometimes it would turn on fine, sometimes it would turn on fine but then randomly stop for a second or two every now and then, sometimes it would just make a clicking noise, and sometimes it wouldn’t do anything at all. I decided that I could probably live with this and it would probably all work fine again when the electrician came. Then last Saturday I noticed this happening when I turned off the light:

It’s not the best quality video (blame the autofocus), but essentially after pulling the cord, the light flickers for about 10 seconds before eventually deciding to turn off. Strange, but again, it didn’t seem quite worth the hassle of getting the electrician out. That video was filmed at about 10pm on the Saturday evening as I went to bed. Three hours later I woke up to a light coming in under my bedroom door. Going to the bathroom I found the light doing this:

If it’s not clear, the light switch was turned off and yet the light somehow has power and is flickering (quite brightly)! I turned off the lighting ring main at the trip switch and went to bed, making a mental note to contact the landlord on the Monday.

On the Sunday evening I was sat watching TV and I could hear a dripping noise. The cold water tank sometimes drips, but this was louder and more frequent so I went to check it out. And then I found water coming in through and around the light switch pullcord and the shower pullcord.

You can’t really see the water, but you can see the orange stains left where the water was (the almost brand-new cord was white to start with!)

I instantly turned off the lighting and shower ring mains (I had turned the lighting back on so that I could have lights in the other rooms of the house). I then went up to my upstairs neighbour and informed them of the leak.

Skip forward a few steps and their plumber came round on Monday morning and apparently found a problem with the waste pipe from their bath. It does seem like there must have been some underlying reason behind all these problems over the last couple of months, so hopefully that was it and it’s now hopefully sorted.

The electrician then came to my flat yesterday afternoon but found that the wiring was still too wet to safely to turn it back on. Apparently they will need to replace both pullcords (again!) and the light fitting (again!). Hopefully he will be coming back tomorrow to do the work, but until that happens I’m sat in the dark and unable to have a proper shower.

Categories
Life event

Double-jabbed

Last week I got my second pfizer jab. I booked them both as soon as I was eligible to do so, with the second around 11 and a half weeks after the first one. The only location listed when I booked was a hospital about 7 miles away. According to a friend, there were more possible locations if you clicked cancel and then reloaded, but anyway I had booked and didn’t want to change it. However, when they started to recommend second jabs at 8 weeks (rather than 12 weeks), I looked to see if I could change the location of my second jab. Which I did, with my second jab at my local council’s Civic Hall.

I thought I’d do a comparison of the two experiences:

First jab: NHS hospital COVID vaccination centreSecond jab: Council COVID vaccination centre
I arrived about 10-15 minutes before my appointment because that’s what times the trains were and I didn’t know exactly where I was going.
The signs said don’t arrive more than 5 minutes before your appointment, so I sat outside and checked my phone for a bit before wandering up to the security guard who just waved me through to the single reception desk.
I arrived about 10-15 minutes before my appointment because I walked there and I didn’t know exactly where I was going.
The signs said appointments only. There were a couple of people sat outside but I just went in anyway. I told the volunteer in the jacket that I had an appointment but they just waved me through and told me to follow the arrows.
After following several arrows and corridors to the main hall, the man on the door asked me if I had my card from my first jab. He then pointed out that it couldn’t have been five months since my first jab and that they must have written it down wrong. He then told me to go to the third reception desk (out of three).
The woman on the reception desk took my details. She gave me a load of paperwork which I wouldn’t have time to read and then told me to follow the long corridor round. There was no-one else around and despite the woman calling “next” there was no-one behind me.The woman on the reception desk took my details and then pointed out that it couldn’t have been five months since my first jab. I commented that they must have written it down wrong. She gave me a load of paperwork which I wouldn’t have time to read and then told me to go to the next set of desks.
The woman on the next desk took my details and asked a few questions about whether I had any allergies and such things. She pointed out that it couldn’t have been five months since my first jab. I commented that they must have written it down wrong. The woman corrected my card and told me to join the queue that was behind her.
I got to the end of the corridor without seeing a single other person waiting to be jabbed. I was then directed to one of the nine pods that they were using.A man directed me to join the queue of about 12 people before directing me to one of the three pods that they were using.
The man in the pod said “you must be Adrian” and then checked a few details and asked if I had any allergies and such things. I was then jabbed and he filled in my vaccination card and a piece of paper with a time on it and told me to follow the next corridor round to the waiting room.The woman in the pod checked a few details whilst the man in the pod did something on the computer. I was then jabbed by the woman, and the man filled in my vaccination card and I was told to move into the waiting area behind.
I was told to take any seat in the waiting area until the time on my piece of paper. I was then free to depart, leaving my piece of paper with the time on on the chair so they knew it had been used and needed cleaning. I left as soon as my fifteen minutes were up.I took any seat in the waiting area before being told there was a system and got moved to a specific chair. As the last person in the row, my time defined when the rest of the row could leave. I was allowed to leave as soon as my fifteen minutes were up. Everyone else in the row also had to wait until my fifteen minutes were up.
I got the train home. About 2-3 hours later, my arm started to feel a bit sore. The next morning it was very stiff, but by about 24 hours after the jab it was all back to normal. I walked home. About 2-3 hours later, my arm started to feel a bit sore. The next morning it was very stiff, but by about 24 hours after the jab it was all back to normal.

If I had to do a third jab, I’d probably go back to the hospital, even though it’s further away. Although that may just be because it wasn’t as busy. That’s a question to ponder for another day (if it ever happens).