Archive for March, 2020

Covidman

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Sport

Fed up of your 2020 races being cancelled and lacking motivation? Let me introduce you to the Covidman triathlon.

Triathlon training is hard. It requires a lot of dedication. Ideally, it requires a goal. That is why so many of us pick some big A races each year and work towards them. But the 2020 season is not giving us any of that. Early races, as far as World Triathlon Leeds in June, have already been cancelled. Many more cancellations are likely to follow.

So, how do we stay motivated when there is nothing to train for?

I’m proposing Covidman. It is an unsupported one-person race you do by yourself. Pick your distance and swim, bike and run as appropriate.

This is a tricky proposition in itself. Namely, where does one swim? If the pools remain closed, it is unlikely there will be organised swim sessions. Let’s hope the North Sea is nice and warm this year, if so. And certainly worth investing in a tow float.

The bike course should be less of a problem as there are very few cars on the road. On long format, toilet breaks might need to be rather natural, and some homemade aid stations might become necessary. Short format could be done on a turbo, although I find anything more than an hour of indoor cycling to be deeply uncomfortable on my bottom.

Finally, the run. Even in short format, most people appreciate an aid station by this point, so perhaps laps around our houses might be the best option.

It should be clear by this point that I don’t really have a plan. Just a rough outline and an ironic name. But I am no longer training aimlessly: I’m training for Covidman.

Some COVID-19 stats

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Health & Wellbeing

I’ve been running some numbers based on the situation reports provided by the World Health Organisation. It is not a fun read. But the situation should improve once the first shipment of thoughts and prayers arrive in Europe.

I’m happy to take feedback on these. I’m not a statistician (although there is a lot of stats in psychology), and if you are one and think my graphs are terrible and misleading, I’m open to being corrected.

Deaths per day

Graph of deaths per day in major countries

China has the most deaths because they have been dealing with this for a long time. People have been dying for 7 weeks now. But not many people and their levels have been going down. The deaths per day in Italy and Spain is far out-racing anything than China saw.

To clarify, this is not cumulative. Even a flat line represents a lot of people dying. A line going up suggests the problem is getting a lot worse.

China still has a problem

Graph of deaths per day in China

This shows the number of deaths per day in China over the past two weeks.

The media are reporting that life in China is going back to normal and that any remaining cases are from people arriving in China. It is true that life is starting to return to normal and people are going outside again. Emergency hospitals have closed and travel restrictions have gone.

However, people are also still dying and the World Health Organisation still reports local transmission.

How far in are we?

Total deaths since 10th death per country

This shows the cumulative number of deaths since the 10th death. I followed the Financial Times’s lead on adjusting it this way as, for example, France had one death very early on and then none for a long time. Once you reach the tenth death, you get a far more accurate picture to compare against. Unlike the FT graph, it is not logarithmic. Their graph is just better, to be honest.

At this stage, it is pretty difficult to predict what the UK curve is going to do. We’re only on day 9, compared to day 26 for Italy, day 14 for Spain and day 60 for China.

Coronavirus: A review so far

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 | Life

Let’s review where we are so far. 2020 is a write-off, so I am going to attempt to summarise what has gone wrong.

First, a bunch of people are dead. Sure, so far, many more people are dying of regular flu, cancer, heart disease, the effects of global warming, and capitalism. But those are everyday deaths that we’re used to. This is something new.

Also, a lot of people are ill and having a bad time. Many of the rest of us are torturing ourselves with anxiety because we are unable to switch off the news.

There is no toilet paper or paracetamol. In fact, many supermarket shelves are empty. There is no rice, pasta, bread, tinned food or a wide range of other items. God help you if you don’t have a stockpile of hand wash, and even if you have some ibuprofen, nobody knows if it is safe to take it anymore.

The government says get your groceries delivered, but here is the availability when I checked:

  • Sainsbury’s: no delivery slots at all
  • Morrisons: no delivery slots for 3 weeks
  • Ocado: no delivery slots for 3 weeks
  • Waitrose: no delivery slots for 2 weeks

We’re not allowed to see our friends. Social gatherings are discouraged. Social activities and hobbies are cancelled. We’re deprived of human contact. We all have to work from home, and every company is finding out their VPN can’t handle the load after all.

Nobody is buying anything and so businesses are going bankrupt. That means people are losing jobs. Other companies are terminating people before it comes to bankruptcy.

All the schools and nurseries are closing, meaning that most people cannot go to work and are either having to take unpaid leave (possibly for up to six months!) or losing their job. Nurseries cannot afford to lose fees, so they’re charging parents for childcare they’re not providing.

All holidays are cancelled as borders close. Some people are stuck elsewhere.

All participatory sport is cancelled. Pools and gyms are closing. Running club, triathlon club, cycling club have all suspended activities indefinitely. All of our races are getting cancelled as far as June. Almost nobody is talking about a refund. Which is a big deal when Ironman are charging £400 per head.

All professional sport is cancelled. The Giro is “postponed”, but where else are you going to fit a three-week cycling race? Football is cancelled, even though Leeds are at the top of the league. F1, triathlon, marathons, ice hockey, everything is cancelled or postponed. Everything we look forward to relaxing with is gone.

Even the misery of being stuck at home is being made more miserable by the EU demanding Netflix reduce streaming quality to “help the internet cope”. And no Eurovision!

On the bright side

So far, it’s been pretty rubbish. But there are good things, too.

People are following social distancing advice and going out less. The roads are quiet. Fit, young people who have little to lose personally are still mostly staying at home to protect vulnerable people.

People have been getting together on video chats for pub nights and virtual group rides on Zwift.

Supermarkets are creating thousands of jobs as they try to keep up with demand.

It turns out we can work from home and that those meetings were not necessary. It’s too late to put the genie back in the box.

The Conservative government have turned out to be raving socialists.

There has been a significant reduction in pollution as planes stop flying and cars stop driving. Dolphins have returned to the canals of Venice.

Corona beer is available for large discounts.

Summary so far

Not the 2020 we all wanted. But we can get through this together. I mean, together as long as we maintain at least two-metres distance. And it may change society for the better.

Of course, in the UK, we’re really just at the start of things. I may be writing another blog post in eight weeks saying “why did I try to put a brave face on things; everything is burning!” Or, I may write nothing, because I am dead.

But until then, stay strong and see you soon.

Content Inc.

Saturday, March 21st, 2020 | Books

Content Inc. is a book by Joe Pulizzi. In it, Pulizzi makes the case that you can build a business using a content model in which you begin by providing your audience with lots of useful content, and once the audience grows you figure out what to sell them.

It is a long-term gain. Pulizzi suggests you need to do producing regular content for 12-months before you will have a sufficient audience and understanding of the marketplace to bring in the dough. But once achieve this, it should rain down.

There is a tonne of useful information here for building a content-based business and it gels with a lot of what the internet marketing industry is talking about. Definitely worth a read if you want to make money from online publishing.

Irongran

Friday, March 20th, 2020 | Books

Irongran: How Keeping Fit Taught Me that Growing Older Needn’t Mean Slowing Down is a book by Eddie Brocklesby. She started running in her 50s, took up triathlon in her 60s, and holds the record of the oldest British woman to finish an Ironman, aged 74.

In her biography, she shares her story of how she got involved in endurance sports, went on to found the charity Silverfit, an organisation dedicated to getting older people active, and the many Ironmans she has done. I lost count but I am pretty sure she has finished at least five: Lanzarote twice, Kona, Vichy and Cozumel.

It’s not a rags-to-riches story. She starts by talking about her grandmother who was Winston Churchill’s private cook. But throughout the book, she shows a high level of self-awareness about her opportunities and ability to afford what all of us in triathlon must surely admit is an expensive sport.

Some of the story seems like a sharp contrast. For example, she says she is not well organised. And yet managed to maintain a career, running Silverfit and Ironman training: all things which sound like they need a lot of organisation. Similarly, it’s not like she never got off the couch before 50 as she did play netball competitively, although it is true that she never tried endurance sport until later in life.

Overall, it is a fun and inspiring read.

Web Design Accessibility Certificate

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 | News

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new course on Web Design Accessibility.

If you want to make the web a better place for disabled people, help improve your conversion rates, and add a valuable skill lt your CV, this is the course for you. We will look at a range of accessibility issues and conditions, the tools we can use to help us and the principles of inclusive design.

The course is usually $99.99 but if you use this coupon link you can register for free as an early bird student. Offer expires Friday!

Michelle’s comedy gig

Monday, March 16th, 2020 | Friends

Ultra Comedy is an organisation that takes volunteers, spends eight weeks training them up, and then puts on a stand-up comedy gig in which they all perform. The whole process is a fundraiser for Cancer Research UK.

The quality was high. You might not expect that from people who had never done stand-up eight weeks ago, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable event. Some of the jokes did go a little too far, though. And, to be honest, that is not a sentence I ever really thought I would write.

Michelle did brilliantly and got laughs all the way through.

HPH spin

Thursday, March 12th, 2020 | Sport

January means spin class for Hyde Park Harriers. Back before everyone was posting #FullKitWanker photos on Strava, I was showing up in my shiny new HPH cycling jersey. Completely inappropriate for a sweaty spin room, but what’s the point in buying it if you can’t show up to club events in the kit?

Pilates

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 | Sport

Yesterday, I did my first pilates session. It was led by Alison at Yoga Hero.

It is sort of similar to yoga, but sort of different. There is strength work and there is a connection to the breath. But pilates is more straight-up strength. It’s yoga without all of the ethereal magic sprinkled in. Some of the stuff was really hard and I think I’ll be borrowing the ideas for my home strength and conditioning routine.

First impressions are that I enjoyed it, but not as much as yoga. I like the magic, just a little. But most of all I think I like savasana. But I will definitely be back to pilates; it will be a nice supplement to working out at home.

Mike Reilly Finding My Voice

Monday, March 9th, 2020 | Books

Mike Reilly is a famous race announcer. It is not a field you would usually find celebrities. However, Reilly’s consistent appearances at the Ironman World Championship since 1989, and his having coined the phrase “you are an Ironman” as athletes cross the finish line, mean that many triathletes dream of having Reilly call them across the line. In this book, he tells tales from year decades of race announcing.

It’s a fun book. Sort of. I mean that in an “it’s a good collection of stories” way, as opposed to a book you are going to learn anything about triathlon from. Which is fine, because it doesn’t promise to be anything else.

That said, it is not as fun as it could be. Naturally, Reilly tells inspirational stories about amputees who have completed Kona, horrific accidents people have come back from, and the adversity so many people overcome to complete the greeted one-day sporting challenge there is.

But, to be honest, there is only so many tales of horrible things happening to people, like accidents, cancer, and myriad unlucky turns that, at times, the book becomes depressing.

Reilly’s passion for announcing shines through, though. He is a fellow Toastmaster, and while other people wonder how he can stay passionate for 17 hours of racing, I had no problem understanding how he becomes more energised and more excited the longer the night goes on.

The audiobook version is read by Reilly himself.