Tag Archives: covid-19

february 2021 review

  • a full month of lockdown v3.0
  • lots of walking especially in the first half of the month: 201.5km in 31 activities with at least one walk every day
  • my longest walk was 21.72km, just over the half marathon distance
  • lots of cycling especially towards the end of the month: 568km in 11 activities
  • cycled 5 days in a row to end the month including my longest ride of 101.6km on the last day
  • restarted intermittent fasting and dropped approximately 2kg
  • a mixed up month of multiple storms and long cold, dry spells including signs of an early spring
  • homeschooling continued for two seriously fed up teenagers
  • got the call from work with a restarting date
  • almost a fortnight of amazing sunsets

february in photos

metric challenge 2021: march

The good weather has stayed around for another week. Not as warm and sunny as last week but despite the grey skies and chilly winds it has stayed dry which is the most important. As my fitness is at a pretty good level and I’m going back to work tomorrow I thought it would be a good idea to get my 100K done nice and early this month, especially as the weather may not last.

I was tempted to go a longer route this month, especially having seen one of the guys in the club doing a great 110K route last week. However, I’m still not comfortable going far from home and having to use garages and shops for comfort breaks and food stops. I decided to stick with a similar route to the last two to be on the safe side and be able to have my break at home again.

I modified it slightly again though. This time I did three overlapping loops. Clady to Ballybofey (37km), Strabane to Killygordon (37km) and Clady to Killygordon (26km). I had my break at 74km which was perfect again. This route worked really well as there was a gusty, cold SE breeze. This was a real hassle on the first loop but the second one used the wind better by going down the sheltered back road and back the main road with a bit of a tailwind. The third loop was OK too but short enough not to matter.

At 52km the sun came out briefly and I stopped to eat a bar and admire the huge 5.5m tall metal sculpture at the border in Strabane. It’s officially called “Let the Dance Begin” but in typical irreverent Irish humour it’s known locally as “The Tinnies” as Tinney is a local surname. The artist is Maurice Harron who is a very far out family relation. The site of the sculpture is highly significant too as it’s the former location of the “Camel’s Hump” British Army border checkpoint from The Troubles and dismantled in 1999 after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement (1998).

click the image to view on strava

The tone of the recent government announcements about lockdown restrictions suggest that we might see some relaxations from early April. I hope to go somewhere more interesting and further away for next month’s challenge🤞

Header image © Strava. 100KM Gran Fondo March.

january 2021 review

  • started the month and year on the summit of Errigal at dawn
  • walked 128km over 26 activities
  • cycled 205km over 4 activities
  • longest walk 9.1km
  • longest cycle 105km
  • contracted and recovered from Covid19
  • laid off as part of Lockdown Ireland v3.0
  • 4 days of snow towards the end of the month
  • finished the month with a family walk and a visit to Mackle’s at long last
january in photos

Header image by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

back at it

Thursday was the last day of isolation and I’ve been trying to get some kind of fitness back again. Starting with a simple 2km on Friday I’ve walked every day gradually working back up to 6km. Today was my first day back on the bike.

Initially I’d planned a simple 26km loop down as far as Clady and back up to Killygordon. However, coming back into Killygordon I felt pretty good and decided to push on to Stranorlar. It was a really nice day, not much breeze, just the right side of cold and some nice sunny spells.

first 2021 selfie 📸

the roads are filthy!

In the end I finished with just under 40km and feeling way better than I expected. In fact I felt so good I also went for a 4.5km walk later in the afternoon.

click to view on strava

testing, testing….

Over the last 6-8 months there has been a lot of criticism of how the government has been handling the Covid19 outbreak in Ireland and I have been critical myself of the lack of direction and apparent lack of a clear path. A lot of media criticism has been around the failure of the government to ramp up testing and contact tracing services as well as the ability of the health service to cope with a second and third wave. In the last couple of days I have nothing but praise for the service.

My initial contact was with my local GP service in Lifford. Our service are particularly good and I don’t know how much of my initial speed was their systems or the HSE systems as a whole.

I spoke to the health centre shortly after 9am and received a call back from a GP at 9:30am. She went through my symptoms, asked about the rest of the household and recommended we all get tested. She booked the tests electronically and the appointments came through as SMS within minutes for appointments at 11:30am.

My knowledge of the testing centre was quite limited. I’d seen photos of the original setup in O’Donnell GAA pitch in the local media. I’d also heard that it was moved to a new facility in the car park at the hospital but I’d no idea of the scale of this new centre. Below are photos of the original and upgraded facilities taken from Donegal Daily articles.

original facility
new facility

All our checking in and testing was done without us leaving the car. We were initially directed to a reception block where our appointments were confirmed and our details checked. We were given envelopes containing the testing kits, tissues, masks and information leaflets. Conor’s and Catriona’s required additional work so we were directed to a waiting area until they were ready. It was like a less enjoyable version of the McDonald’s Drive Thru!

After a few minutes we were called forward to one of the large drive in sheds where two staff, fully kitted in PPE explained the whole process and completed the tests. They were very friendly and professional and made the whole process a lot easier.

The test for kids is different to adults so Conor was done first with the swab up both nostrils for a short twist. For the rest of us it was a swab of the back of the throat and then the back of the nose via a nostril. The test itself is hateful and uncomfortable but not sore and definitely manageable, over quite quickly. I’d say the four of us were done in less than 10 minutes including explanations.

I’ve seen some criticism this year that the Irish Army hasn’t been used properly to support the fight against Covid19 so it was interesting to see two of the testers yesterday were wearing Army uniforms under their PPE. It seems they are being used but under the radar and that they will be utilised further as the vaccination program begins.

We were told that the results could take 24-48hrs but woke the next morning to SMS confirmations that we were all positive with guideline links on what to do next and what to expect. At 9:50am I received a call from the GP to confirm the result in case we hadn’t received the message and again explaining what to do (isolate for 10 days), what to expect, what to look out for and how to treat the symptoms. She also completed the electronic declarations for social welfare to cover both Catriona and myself while off work.

Later that morning we both completed the online social welfare application. Again a very streamlined process made simple and easy to complete.

That afternoon we also received a call from the contact tracing service. It was mainly Catriona they spoke to but took details for both of us and the boys. Catriona’s work has had a number of cases already so they’re hyper aware and we have really good systems in place at my work. The boys have been off school since before Xmas so it was a relief to have very few possible contacts. While they are no longer testing close contacts without symptoms it’s reassuring to see that they are still following through to ask them to isolate.

I really do hope that the HSE has learned from how they have managed and handled the Covid19 pandemic and that once it is over they can take these new experiences and learnings and use them to correct many of the failings of the current system. I would like to think we will see an end to the endless bureaucracy, waiting times and endless queues in congested clinics. They’ve shown this year that dramatic change is possible when the will is there.

confined to quarters

Catriona had a rotten cold all weekend and the boys picked it up at the end of the weekend. Not to be outdone I started getting a sore throat and the sniffles on Monday too. I was determined not to let this one beat me like the last one derailed my December streak plans. Monday afternoon I had a bit of a cough that became a bit more persistent as the day went on. Tuesday I still had the cough but felt OK so off to work as normal. As the day went on the cough got a bit worse and by evening I was also feeling a bit breathless. At this stage I was starting to get a bad feeling.

At bedtime and I was feeling an ache in my thighs that was very strange and worrying. At this point I’d already decided to call the doctor in the morning and arrange a Covid consultation. I woke at 130am with pains across my shoulders and in my lower back. These, as well as the ache in my legs came and went all night preventing any sleep, even a doze. By morning I was also slightly feverish but only a little with a temperature of 37.8°C and a dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen soon sorted all symptoms shortly after getting up.

A call to the doctor and all four of us were sent for Covid tests in Letterkenny for 1130am with results expected in 24-48hrs.

As the day went on I was feeling a bit better, the fever was gone and the cough easing. The pains were a lot less and although I was tired I put it down to the lack of sleep. All of us felt OK and we were starting to feel a bit foolish and even talking about the fact that we had wasted resources with the only result being a talking point experience of the test process. I was feeling especially foolish about causing worry at work having informed my boss of my symptoms and test that morning.

After a solid night of caught up sleep I woke to see this on my phone:

All four of us tested positive but thankfully all of us are still only experiencing mild symptoms. The boys are pretty much OK to the extent that Owen thought this morning that we were pranking him about the result! Catriona has a chesty cough and both of us are more fatigued than usual but that’s it so far.

The advice from the doctor is to treat the symptoms as a normal cold or flu but not to ignore any changes for the worse. I’ve been reading Dr Google and apparently symptoms can worsen after a mild start and can go from mild to severe quite quickly. Increased breathlessness is the key one to watch for.

We now have to stay home until next week. I was the last to show symptoms but we’re all going to isolate from the same day (Monday) to be on the safe side. That means we’re at home and not allowed to leave the house until Thursday the 14th. Frustratingly that includes even going for a walk in case we meet someone. Assuming we don’t experience any escalation of symptoms that will be the biggest challenge!

mini challenges

For anyone that follows me on Strava it’ll come as no surprise that I like to use challenges to motivate me and keep me active.

Strava are without a doubt the king of challenges and the whole concept is part of their DNA. Users can create and compete on segments to earn the KOM (King of the Mountain) or QOM (Queen of the Mountain) crown for the fastest time. Strava also give you trophies for your top 3 times on segments and give you table positions based on age and weight and in comparison to members of any Strava clubs you belong to. They’ve also recently released a new concept called Local Legend on some segments for riding a segment multiple times.

one of my local segments

Each month Strava also host regular challenges. For both cycling and running they have cumulative distance and elevation challenges as well as one-off distance challenges such as the monthly 100km Gran Fondo for cycling and 5K, 10K and Half Marathon for running. Most months they will also have partner challenges that more activities count for.

Although the regular challenges are mostly based around running or cycling they seem to be making their walking challenge a regular one.

Outside of Strava there are other challenges, mostly based on streaks of some sort. The 30 Days of Biking is one of the well known ones for cycling but there is also the Marcothon running challenge, multiple 12 Days of Xmas challenges and the less serious Coffeeeneuring and Errandonee challenges

This year I’ve been working on a Metric Century challenge to ride a minimum of one 100km spin each month for 12 months. This was originally inspired by a post of Tempo Cyclist but prompted this year by Paul of 36×25 who coined the term Resolution Ride. I’ve missed at least one month this year due to Covid lockdowns but have made it up with an extra ride the following month. So far I only have one ride left to give me 12 for the year.

Part of what attracted me to Audax was the challenges they also run. As if long distance cycling wasn’t challenge enough they have a number of streak and cumulative challenges. In 2018 I completed the Four Provinces Challenge. I’ve also started the RRTY challenge a few times including this year. I’ve decided to put my current attempt on hold as the multiple lockdowns are playing havoc with Audax Ireland having to pause and resume a number of times during 2020. I’d rather wait and make sure I can get a clean run at 12 in a row, ideally starting and finishing in late Spring or early Summer.

The ultimate Audax challenge is the Super Randonneur, completing a 200, 300, 400 and 600km event during the Audax calendar year. I don’t know if I’ll ever be capable of that but it is one I aspire to.

As far as mini adventures go though this looks like the ultimate one….

metric challenge: november

The theme of yesterday’s spin was checkpoints and road works. Officially the country is in the last week of Level 5 lockdown and we’re supposed to stay within 5km of home unless it’s an essential journey. This also applies to exercise. For cycling this is totally nonsensical, as well as impractical. Compared to Lockdown v1 virtually nobody on my Strava feed is paying any heed to this restriction including some of the most compliant people I know. I’m still cycling solo but seeing as I meet so many people through work I don’t see the point of cycling close to home. Part of the non-compliance is the lack of enforcement. I passed through 3 “Operation Fanacht checkpoints and barely got a glance from the Gardai at any of them. The multiple stops for roadworks created more of a restriction and annoyance, especially the last one which I only realised was a hedge cutter at work at the very last minute. Glad now I’m riding tubeless tyres.

The aim of yesterday’s spin was to reverse my November ennui and keep my 2020 Metric Challenge streak alive. I’d been watching the forecast all week and despite some fluctuations Wednesday looked about as good as could be expected for the end of November.

© met eireann

I finally made the break and removed the Brooks C17, going back to the factory fitted Selle Royal Seta RS. Before leaving I took the time to get it perfectly levelled and exactly back to the same position as the fit done at the shop when I bought it. It meant I was an hour later leaving than planned but definitely time well spent despite spending more time in the rain at the end of the ride.

When I did get away shortly after 1030am it was bright and cold but I was kitted out in wooly socks, Winter shoes, overshoes and Winter tights over my normal bibshorts. Three layers up top, base layer, Perfetto jacket and Club gillet. Extremities protected with a skull cap and Buff and a double layer of gloves meant I was well insulated.

I’d decided to ride pretty much the same route as August with a small adjustment. The first 30km was very enjoyable with a slight tailwind all the way to Nixon’s Corner before turning for Newtowncunningham. I didn’t really feel the breeze with the protection from the high hedges for most of the road. The good weather lasted until the last 5min when I was hit by a short, heavy shower just before my lunch stop at Kernan’s at the 50km mark.

level 5 =takeaway only 😔

While making my tea an older American guy was making some small talk and when he followed me outside I thought I was about to share my lunch with a bit of a PITA. I was wrong. Turns out my talkative friend was pretty interesting. Bob is originally from Washington State, close to Seattle and living in Ireland for just over 30 years. He’s retired on a disability pension after a nasty accident involving his right arm and a printing press. He showed me the gruesome result which must have been insanely painful at the time. We had a good yarn while enjoying our sandwiches in the cold November air. One of the interesting stories was the origin of the name of “Seattle’s Best Coffee” brand and their rivalry with Starbucks.

Leaving Bob I was feeling the cold and added an extra layer using my Sportful gillet. The lingering dampness of the shower, disappearance of the sun, spray from the passing traffic and an increase in the now cold breeze was multiplying the cooling effect of the food stop and the extra windproof layer was much needed.

layered up

The road from Newtowncunningham to Letterkenny is a busy main road. Its only saving grace is the wide hard shoulder almost all the way. I wasn’t looking forward to it as I figured it would be a slog into a stiff breeze but it wasn’t too bad after all. The biggest challenge was spray from passing lorries as the road was now quite wet.

Dropping down past Manorcunningham towards the start of the dual carriageway is where my route diverged from August. I’d decided to use the back road I was familiar with from the Audax route, albeit from the opposite direction and avoid the busy dual carriageway. I’d also decided to go on further and climb out of Letterkenny via the Cullion Road instead of Dromore. This is a much better surface and only my second time up this road by bike. It means crossing the main road close to the top of Lurgybrack but traffic was reasonably light and getting across wasn’t a problem.

Shortly after this, with approximately 75km done, was when the rain started in earnest and I really started to feel Winter’s bite.

brief break in the showers

The showers started coming pretty heavy and close together. The road was very wet spraying my feet and legs and spray from passing traffic killed any breaks between showers. It was at this stage I was really cursing not having stuck on the mudguards and not packing a proper rain jacket. The cold was biting and slowly but surely the wet was soaking into my feet and hands as the overshoes and gloves became overloaded. It was a long 25km back to home but at least I had a tailwind for about 12km between Stranorlar and Castlefinn before finishing with a slow 5km into the headwind and the usual climb to home.

Despite the final conditions it was a great spin. It was mostly comfortable and even with the wet and cold finish I was soon sorted with a hot shower and food. I was just glad to be able to finish having let my mileage slide over the last 6 weeks or so. Only December to go and that will be my 2020 Metric Challenge complete.

lockdown ireland v2.0

Since the middle of October Donegal has been on partial Level 4 lockdown but for just over a week now the entire country has been on the highest Level 5 which is a virtual nationwide lockdown.

There are some differences this time compared to the first lockdown earlier this year.

Schools are open. Despite misgivings the government seem to have drawn a line in the sand regarding schools and have said that they will be open no matter what. The scientific evidence from many countries seems to be that children don’t catch or spread the virus to the same extent as adults and that the risk to health is outweighed by the benefits of uninterrupted education.

We’re happy for our boys to be at school. They need their education and homeschooling doesn’t have the same impact. Regular routine and socialising with friends is also having a huge positive mental health impact on them too.

Sport is still on. At an elite level only and with detailed Covid protocols in place. Elite level is considered to be all professional sports plus GAA. The League and Championship are continuing but in a modified fashion.

Group training isn’t permitted at amateur level but is still allowed for under age in pods of 15 and on a non-contact basis. Unfortunately, both our Clubs stopped all activities in advance of lockdown due to a local outbreak and have decided not to resume again until the new season which means both boys have no activities outside of school.

Essential retail continues. The list of essential retailers is much broader and more open to interpretation than before. Many businesses have decided to stay open as normal, with slight changes or on a click and collect basis. This means that many people are still working and definitely a lot more than the first lockdown.

I’m still working. My work is one of the businesses that has decided to stay open. They figure we qualify as essential based on a number of the items on the list but mainly on this one:

Outlets selling products necessary for the essential upkeep and functioning of places of residence and businesses, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.

It’s a very grey area but so far the Gardai are happy enough for us to stay open. They’re no more certain than us but are happy to err on the positive side for now.

Work is different though. It’s quieter for one. With travel restrictions footfall is definitely well down. Sales are staying strong as most people coming in are there to buy and the phones are very busy. We’re getting a lot of panicky phone calls, people worried about receiving the products they have ordered and especially upset and demanding when there are delays. We’re getting new orders over the phone too though.

It’s November! Lockdown from March-May was made a lot easier due to the long, bright days with long periods of warm, dry weather. November is different in all ways and the last two weeks have been especially wet and stormy. Combined with the end of DST it’s creating a very different mental health challenge for anyone off work due to Covid closures.

Travel restrictions. In full lockdown we weren’t allowed to travel more than 2km from home unless it was for an essential task (food shopping, care for a relative, etc). This time it’s 5km which is the same as one of the earlier levels as we exited lockdown.

This restriction is pretty pointless to be honest. It’s completely arbitrary with no scientific basis and completely messes up any cycling plans if you intend to honour it. Last time many people ignored this restriction and my impression is that it will be broadly ignored this time also. The 20km limit from before would have been more appropriate and more widely accepted. An unenforceable and impractical restriction like this makes it more likely that the more important isolation and distancing restrictions will be ignored also.

The Audax Ireland RRTY Challenge has been suspended once again until Level 5 is lifted. Probably just as well as my activity level has declined significantly over the last few weeks, partly due to the terrible weather but also laziness!

People are pissed off. This to me is the biggest change. Earlier in the year people were frightened but mostly willing to trust the government to make the right choices and bring everyone through the crisis together. This time people are angry. The overall feeling is that lockdown didn’t work and that the time since lockdown hasn’t been used properly to prepare for the expected second wave. All the pain people went through and the financial costs have been pointless if we’re simply expected to go through it all again and possibly once again in the future. Businesses are closing and many are worried about being able to reopen. People are being laid off and are worried about ever getting back to work.

The political climate has changed. Between lockdowns we’ve had a change of government. We have a new Taoiseach and an historic coalition government. However, the new government has been beset with problems from the get go and hasn’t handled them particularly well. We have a changed opposition that seems less inclined to provide support to the government than before and more interested in political posturing without any positive moves. All of this is hampering the Covid message, making it less likely that restrictions will be followed and making more people angry with the situation.

The expectation is that we will exit Level 5 restrictions on the 1st of December and possibly before that as there is a planned review after four weeks. The government plan is that all counties will return to Level 3 in time to have a reasonably normal Christmas. Somehow I don’t see it but I really hope I’m proved wrong!

new roads

A few weeks ago I started the Audax Ireland RRTY challenge once again. About a week or so later Donegal was put into Level 3 Covid restrictions for 3 weeks minimum. Part of the restrictions means we can’t leave the county except for essential travel. I have a couple of days booked off for next week and had planned to complete my October ride on one of those days which, unfortunately, is still within the Level 3 time period.

© irish times

In 2017 when I was really getting interested in Audax I was playing around with a 200km route for a Permanent. I didn’t get it finalised or published but it gave me a good starting point for a route that would stay within the county boundary and would allow me to keep going with RRTY.

original route idea

I’ve created a new route and I’ve ridden most of it already but there is a section from Newmills, around Letterkenny to Manorcunningham and then to Raphoe that I hadn’t been on before. Wednesday last week I decided to ride this section for my mid week spin.

To get there I went via Stranorlar and Drumkeen before turning off on to the long climb to Coravaddy that is part of the back road to Letterkenny. I’ve ridden this road before but not in this direction which gave me a new perspective on it, making it feel like a new road.

The completely new section from Newmills was a breath of fresh air. Despite being on minor rural roads the surface was pretty good with a lot of it having been recently replaced. After Manorcunningham I was relying completely on my GPS track but only had a couple of minor miscalculations. On the approach to Raphoe there is a really good climb which is rated as Cat 4 according to Strava. This is an enjoyable and challenging climb and could be interesting at this stage of a 200km!

© strava

After Raphoe I was back on familiar territory but once again I hadn’t ridden these roads in this direction. They’re a cracker this way and I’m looking forward to doing them again.

Overall there was a lot of climbing on this route but I really enjoyed the climbs. The highlight though was riding roads I’ve never been on before. Having been riding for over 6 years now it’s a real novelty to find new roads and be able to get to them from my front door.

click the image to view on strava

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels.com