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.


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
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…


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…


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.


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!


Running out

I feel like I’ve run out of things to say here.

Not because I’ve run out of ideas, but because I’ve run out of content to post. The problem is that I have several ideas for things to write about, but they all take quite a long time to research and write up (and then correct all the errors). Alternatively, I post something short, like last week’s, which is quick and easy, but feels slightly unsatisfying.

I could probably get some of these longer articles posted if I didn’t leave it until last thing on the Wednesday evening to start writing. But the rest of my time is spent doing other stuff, and it’s currently too hot to spend too long sat in front of the computer writing something (especially when I’ve been sat here all day too).

I could probably just not post something weekly, but that seems like admitting defeat. I was tempted not to post something today, but I’m sure someone would have complained (not that I have a huge readership). I’m sure I’ve said this before, but people who blog regularly (with actually interesting content) are impressive people.

I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m also not throwing in the towel yet.


Basil Faulty

Sorry, that was the best pun-based title I could come up with, let me know in the comments if you can think of a better one.

Anyway, this is my basil plant…

The last leaves fell off this week, and whilst the top still looks slightly green, I’m pretty sure it’s dead now (or at least not going to recover from its current predicament).

I think I’ve had this basil plant for around 5-6 years, although it’s not produced any leaves worthy of being used in any recipes for the last couple of years. I bought it from a supermarket, and when it grew too big for its original pot, I replanted it into a bigger one. When it grew too big for that, I split it into two different pots. (Technically I guess it was several plants, but it all came in one original pot, so I’m calling it one plant.) The other pot died about a year ago, just leaving this one. I’ve trimmed the bits off as they’ve died, leaving the last remaining ridiculously long stalk. It’s often been appearing to die out before new branches spring up, but this time I think it’s actually the end (it’s never lost all it’s leaves before).

My cooking book advises that basil has a lifespan of “a few months”, so it’s done surprisingly well, although as I said, it’s not been useable for cooking for a while. It also says that it should be watered “in the morning”, but I don’t think I’ve ever specifically done that. I never know how often to water it, so I think it fluctuated between over-watered and under-watered, but maybe that balance helped it out. (The book also says that if it flowers, the plant is about to die, but mine has flowered multiple times.)

Sadly that’s the end of this basil plant. It’s survived far longer than expected (including the great fungus gnat infestation of 2017), but it’s literally outlived it’s usefulness now. At some point I’ll buy a replacement, but until then, I’ll just have to look back on the great memories we shared…


Another challenge

This post is the second part to last week’s post, but you don’t have to have read that one first (or at all if you really don’t want to). It was just too long for one post.

But as a reminder from last week: “When lockdown came back in January, I started to think of ways that I could challenge myself and make things more interesting. I came across two physical challenges on the internet. I haven’t done either of them, but because this is the internet I’m still going to talk about them.”

What’s the challenge?

The challenge is the 4x4x48, or to run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. Essentially it works out as 12 runs, covering a total of 48 miles over two days with very little sleep in between each. It seems to be popular with (some) ultra-marathon runners.

What did I do?

I’ve never run 48 miles before, in fact my longest run is about 14 miles. And I’ve never run overnight before either. My brother and I agreed to do a practice 24 hour session together (virtually). We debated how far we should run each time and eventually settled on a 3x4x24 (3 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours, for a total of 18 miles).

What did I learn?

The first thing I learnt was not to do this two days after having walked 25 miles. The first couple of runs were a bit sore but it got better after that – I’m not sure whether this was because I stretched more or because other factors outweighed it. Four hours felt like quite a long wait between runs when awake and waiting for the next run, but a very short length of time when trying to get some sleep. Finding the right time to eat was also a challenge – running on a full stomach isn’t great, but neither is being too hungry. I also got hungrier as the challenge went on, and I think I ended with one (smaller) meal between every run.

Starting in the evening was also the right choice, this meant that the overnight runs were done early and out of the way. It did however mean that I was already slightly tired at the start of the first run (as opposed to starting fresh first thing in the morning), but on balance that wasn’t a problem. Waking up at 2am to go for a run felt a bit novel, but the 6am run felt more like what I might have done anyway.

I chose to do a 1.5 mile loop, which meant running that loop twelve times throughout the whole challenge. It was quite interesting to see how the same stretch of road could vary between being completely dark and empty at 2am, sunny but quiet at 6am, and then getting busy at 10am and even busier at 2pm. The double lap was annoying though and I had to keep remembering whether I was on the first lap or the second which surprisingly gets quite hard to remember at 2am.

Could I do the full challenge?

I felt like I experienced some of the trials of the full challenge. The repetitiveness of having to keep going back out to run was hard and even though I only ran 3 miles instead of 4, I don’t think the extra mileage would have made much difference (not for each run, but it might do cumulatively).

I did experience some of the surrealism of running in the middle of the night and some of the tiredness, but I don’t feel like I felt the full sleep deprivation that I’ve read from other people’s experiences. I also think that 24 hours isn’t enough time to need to worry about a proper eating schedule, and the full 48 hours would definitely make it just that bit harder.

But I think the hardest struggle would be running the exact same route 12 times (or 24 times if done as double laps). Would a more varied route make it more interesting? Maybe something away from home? Be sure to come back in the future to find out how I’ve done.


100 posts!

Welcome to my 100th blog post!

They’ve not always been the most interesting reads, but this is a quantity milestone, not a quality milestone (not sure how that one would be measured anyway).

Although since this blog has been going for almost 11 years, maybe it’s surprising I’ve not got to this point sooner. This blog started strongly in March 2010 before dying away and being restarted in July 2014 (I did originally archive off the old blog and start again from scratch, but early last year I brought them all back into one place). And then early on in lockdown last year I started blogging every week which leads us to where we are today (with almost half of my posts having been in the last year).

My stats only go back to 2014 and won’t include people who only access via RSS, but unsurprisingly visitors are mostly from the UK and the USA. But I’ve also had visitors (I know there’s VPNs and so on, but this is what the stats tracker says) from Brazil, Canada, Italy, China, Germany, France, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, India, Australia, Argentina, Sweden, Ecuador, Greece, Netherlands, Colombia, Romania, Chile, Philippines, Peru, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, Norway, Malaysia, Nigeria, European Union, Thailand, Bermuda, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Algeria, Indonesia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Trinidad & Tobago, Austria, Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan, Uruguay, Denmark, Estonia, Honduras, Georgia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Turkey, Kenya, El Salvador, Jamaica, Uganda, Ukraine, Angola, Cyprus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Japan, Hungary, Pakistan, Iceland, Bangladesh, New Caledonia, Cape Verde, Morocco, Guyana, Macedonia, Moldova, Cambodia, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Mauritius, Qatar, Albania, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, Gibraltar, Jordan, Luxembourg, Panama, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

Visits from the Top 15 countries (since 2014)

I don’t know anyone from most of those countries so have no idea whether it’s a reporting error or whether people have deliberately (or just accidently) come across my blog. But you’re all very welcome. Please do say hello if you are reading.

I can’t promise the next 100 posts will be interesting, but for the moment I will keep trying to think of something new to write each week. Here’s to 200 posts!


Abandoned blog posts

I was struggling to come up with some new content so I decided to look back at blog posts I had previously started, but never finished. Most of these were started during my various blog hiatuses, but never got published for various reasons. Here’s a few of the more interesting ones. Maybe one day I’ll finish them.

Beards (Last modified: Unknown)

This post was a follow up to “Mebbies Aye, Mebbies Naw”. I was going to incorporate it into the Revisited post, but it didn’t make the final cut and so never got expanded beyond a series of bullet points. I could share the list here, but then I can’t post it in the future.

Personalities (Revisited) (Last modified: 4 July 2014)

Arguably this one shouldn’t appear here, because it did eventually get published, although 6 years later than originally planned. It may have been interesting to have another data point to compare against though.

Quants and Quals (Last modified: 4 July 2014)

This was a post that never got written beyond the title. I can’t even remember exactly what a “Quant” or a “Qual” is, but I think it was something to do with personality types who focus on either quantity or quality (but of what I can’t remember). And I can’t remember which I would have been…

Car Troubles, Part 4 (Last modified: 12 December 2014)

This post would have been a follow-up to Car Troubles, Part 1 and Part 2, and also a Part 3 which I also never posted (or actually even started). I appear to have written half of a post about the time that my car’s fuel gauge needle got stuck on full. I can’t remember this event at all so it’s interesting to read it back (or at least the first half of the story). This would have been a different car to parts 1 and 2, but I have no idea what event part 3 would have referred to. I’m sure I could add a couple more parts to a “Car Troubles” series if I wanted to now.

Hey, I hope you loved it! (Last modified: 9 January 2015)

In January 2015, I wrote a post about the things I had got up to over the previous Christmas. I ended with the phrase “the adventures continue elsewhere…”. Well, this post would have been where that happened. This post would have been about my trip to Philadelphia to visit my brother and his family. The title of this post comes from a Pentatonix music video and was a regular catchphrase used by my niblings during that week. This post never got past the title so I can’t remember what would have been included.

I like warm hugs (Last modified: 9 January 2015)

The second follow-up post about my trip to the USA. The title is obviously taken from Frozen (and was also a popular catchphrase at that time), but again, I didn’t get any further than a title.

Gonna Fly Now (Last modified: 15 February 2015)

Of the three posts about that trip, this got the furthest with a whole three and a bit paragraphs (although I did note that “This article was a lot longer, but I’ve cut it down a lot.”). This post was about the logistics of travelling to the USA but it never got finished, mainly because the other two parts would have been more interesting and they weren’t going anywhere. It probably didn’t help that I started with “I was almost not going to post this, but I decided I had to. Mainly just so that I could use the title. [Bonus points for the first person to figure it out].” The bonus points are still available…