Archive for July, 2008

Ummm….

Close your eyes, now open them and look again - STILL THE SAME!

Close your eyes, now open them and look again - STILL THE SAME!

I realise I’ve not been very interesting but you know – the sun has been out all week. I’ve actually been able to stay warm during daylight hours without wearing a coat and so I’ve been staying outside as much as I can to soak it all up before August 31st rolls around and the sun switch gets turned to the ‘OFF’ position for the next 11 months.

I am also Cameronless at the moment as he is spending 6 weeks visiting his dad in the states and this means I need to make the most of the freedom I have for the next month and half.

On Monday I went round a friends house. She always comes to my house because she knows its a bit of a hassle for me to visit with Cam, I have to leave in time to get home, make his lunch for school and for him to get to bed at a decent time. It’s also not very interesting for him to be dragged around my mates therefore she constantly puts in the effort. So naturally when I’m kidless then I visit her. On Monday I rode the couple of miles to her house on my scooter. Unfortunately just as I went to leave at 22:30 it began to rain. This is where I also discovered that I’d forgotten to switch my tinted visor for the clear one and considering I can’t see bugger all through the tinted one at night I had no choice but to ride with it open. In the rain. Which at 45mph felt like little needles hitting my eyes.

I got soaked through for the first mile and then it stopped and the warm air began to dry me off again. It was at this point something got caught in my right eye. In the pitch blackness of the lonely country road between fields I was not about to stop and try to fish whatever it was out of my eye so when I got home I dumped everything on the floor and ran straight to the mirror. That is where I dug a small moth out of my eye.

On Tuesday I spent an hour at the running club. I really didn’t feel like going but I managed to talk myself round by telling myself that I only needed to put in as much effort as I felt like when I got there and that there will be days where I really REALLY would not feel like going, so save the guilt for those days.

When I turned up we were told we were going to be timed on the track for one mile. Marvellous.. that’s thrown down the gauntlet and all those encouraging words I’d fed myself earlier about taking it easy drifted away as I pounded around the track feeling like an elephant with weighted boots on. It didn’t help that the humidity was mega high and the air was completely teaming with thunderflies which stuck to the sweat all over my arms, neck and face. It was worth it though because I completed the mile in 8:08 which is 2 minutes faster than my usual minute mile.

On Wednesday I cleaned the house up and did all the hoovering. Its the first time I’ve properly cleared up since Cam’s been gone and something was very strange. I straightend up the living room, puffed the cushions and pulled the chair and footstalls into their usual positions, then I walked into the kitchen. When I returned to the living room IT STILL LOOKED EXACTLY THE SAME as it did when I left it. No Wii controllers trailing across the floor, tv cabinet doors were not left open with all the games spilling out, no pens and paper left in the middle of the sofa, no clothes left strewn across the footstall. I nearly opened the front door and shouted for one of the kids on the green to come and mess it all up for me so I could have the normality of clearing it up 3 times rather than just the once. Would you believe it’s now Thursday evening and the room still looks the same.

This evening I met up with the running club again and did a four mile run around a local village. The route comprised of a small section of road followed by hard packed dirt trails through a wheat field, crunchy gravel and grass trails through more fields and through a couple of farms and finishing with the last two miles on a gravel path that followed the river from one village to the next. It was fantastic and although there were times along that run where I felt like I wanted to stop I ended the run having carried a steady pace and feeling like I could do more. If only the same applied to my pushups – which by the way are pants. I’m stuck on a plateau which I can’t seem to progress from. More on that another time.

Tomorrow Wil and I have a day off work and it will be spent collecting a new tent to take bikepacking on a short camping trip this weekend. We are planning to bike out 20-30 miles towards the coast, camp for the night and then bike back the next day. I’m really looking forward to it. Unfortunately it is this trip which has now replaced what would have been our trip to the South Downs. We decided to postpone that for various reasons.

Hope you’re all enjoying the weather… if I hear another person say ‘cor, its a bit close innit’ I’m going to catch the nearest moth and shove it in their eye.

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My Daily Grind

Top of the Hill

Top of the Hill

Tagged by Nutty

My usual weekday routine is not so much a grind as it is a series of thoroughly silly forgetfulness and disorganisation that falls into place something like this.

The alarm kicks off at 0715, that’s about 30 minutes before I get up. The reason? So I KNOW I’m getting a lay in during that time between 0715 and 0745 although more often than not I’ve woken up already between 5 and 6am and only fallen back into the dimension between awake and asleep so I kind of know what’s going on around me anyway.

Once I’m ready to go I Velcro up my biking SPD shoes, pull my ruck-sac onto my back, clip my helmet up, slip my gloves and sunglasses on and waddle out of the door looking like a proper storm trooper.

Outside is always completely still. No cars – just birds. No sirens – just the trickle of water in my pond. No people – just a light mist as the early morning air clears from underneath the trees. Heaven. If I could bottle that part of the morning and the 3 hours prior to keep it like that all day I would.

I can be at work any time and any day as long as I complete my contracted 100 hours per month. However, I do 5 hours per day and usually do them between 0900 and 1500. If I turn up earlier they think my bed was on fire, leave later and they ask if I’ve forgotten how to get home.

In the hideaway dead end of my Cul-de-Sac I locate my bike in the pile of bikes cluttering the garage walls. I roll it out and rest it against the house before breaking the silence with the crashing closure of the garage door.

‘SHIT’ The tyres need pumping up.

I fish my keys out of the net pocket on the side of my bag, unlock the door handle and unlock and remove the padlock from the sliding bolt in order to roll the door up again. Locate the pump, sort tyres.

Close door, secure locks, return keys to pocket in bag.

‘SHIT’ I’ve left my helmet in the garage.

Yank keys back out of bag pocket, unlock door handle, unlock sliding bolt, open door, grab helmet, shut door, lock door handle, return sliding bolt and padlock and turn to face bike.

Only to find I’ve grabbed the bike that has flat pedals and not SPD’s. Do I change the pedals or swap the bike and change shoes? I run to the back door only to find I didn’t pick up the back door key, so I run back around to the front door and realise I’ve left my keys in the garage door.

Once inside the house I kick off my cycling shoes and slip my feet into a pair of trainers more suited to flat pedals. Wil appears and provides helpful remarks such as

‘christ, you’ll never hang yourself’

I grimace and make sure I smear plenty of lip gloss across his top lip when I kiss him goodbye before scuttling out of the door for the second time and down the road on my bike.

And that’s when I realise I’ve left my keys in the house.

My street is short and ‘L’ shaped with a steep hill at the bottom. I freewheel out of the road following the edge of the village green and onto a small stretch of road leading to the church and another small green where I have to glance back over my shoulder before riding across to the other side. I follow a mile or so of hedgerow, cowslips and stinging nettles only broken by the river crossing from one side of the road to the other.

As I approach the first hill I have to stop pedalling in order to hear any cars coming around the blind bend to my left at the Give Way sign. The air near the pub is always tinted with the smell of stale beer and the shingle from their driveway ‘pucks’ and ‘tings’ underneath my wheels and amongst my spokes.

For the next mile the road is dotted on one side with detached houses, barns and cottages and on the other large fields sown with barley, rapeseed and wheat. A small forest borders the back of the last field and leads into a little track which meets the road I’m riding in the next village.

Over the bridge I pass ‘Fresh Eggs for Sale’ which are now kept in a little wooden hutch next to the road since the antique green and red horse-cart they used to be sold from got stolen in the night.

The road bends sharply towards the village taking me past a field of three horses who can usually be found congregated in the roadside corner next to the fence with their long hair covering their eyes making them all look thoroughly miserable. We refer to them as ‘the suicidal horses’.

The village is a little more awake with mums walking back from the school and old ladies queuing at the bus stop to go to town. There are usually a few dog walkers entering the recreation field and always at least two old men chatting over a garden fence. The road continues straight through the village only interuppted by a sharp bend narrowed by two thatched cottages. Two cars can not pass each other in different directions here so there are frequently black skid marks on the road. I couldn’t live in either of these houses for fear of a car implanted into my living room wall one evening.

At the other side of the village the garage is always busy. They have a yard full of cars to mend and the white haired man who attends the petrol pump always waves as I ride past. I stop there for petrol when I’m on my scooter which he’s nicknamed ‘The Generator’.

This is where the new, fast, smooth tarmac starts and it’s a speedy effortless roll between two large fields down the next mile leading up to the hill. If there are going to be dead rabbits on the road, they always seem to be here. At the top of the hill the trees and hedgerows break away to leave a wide open expanse and massive sky. My journey continues up hill for another mile until I reach the singletrack lane which winds through a tunnel of trees before dumping me out on the main road. I’ve been jumped out on by rabbits, stoats, weasels, foxes, cats and badgers down here, all of which have leapt into the road, seen me coming and leapt back into the trees.

My office is about 5 minutes from this point near the junction of the dual carriageway. I don’t like riding on this stretch of road because it has a 50mph limit which everyone reads as 65mph. When cars pass me at this speed it makes me wince so I pull over on to what was once the second lane of dual lane road but has now been white lined out. I can ride down here and be several feet away from passing traffic but I have to watch carefully for glass and tyre killing debris. Before the lane ends and encounters a dodgy junction where lorries and cars are pulling in, I mount a narrow width of footpath divded from the road by a low crash barrier, the kind you see in the central reservation on a main road. The crash barrier has long grass growing beneath it and on the opposite side of the footway there is a massive slope full of rabbit warrens. Lots of the little bunnies hide in the long grass under the barrier and when they hear me coming they dart from the right side of the path to their burrows on the left which makes this part of my ride like being in the computer game ‘Frogger’. I’m the frog they are the objects I have to avoid hitting.

Once I arrive at work I retrieve my clothes from my desk drawer and get changed in the ladies loo. Then I make my breakfast (3 pieces of toast and jam) in the kitchen before slumping into my chair and reading my emails.

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Skipping….An Underrated Passtime

It’s what happens when you pack your kid off on holiday for several weeks – you end up browsing the isles at the local Tesco store at 10pm. Just because you can. You even take time to wander down the isles that you never usually venture down and that’s where you learn that Tesco sells Heart Rate Monitors for £20 and Ultralite Sleeping Bags for under £10 and Skipping Ropes, yes, Skipping Ropes. And of course, we had to have one because like all the other gimmicks we fall for here in Foxsden Towers THIS will be the one that transforms us from the pair of lazy lard arses we are into ripped powerhouses. Of course it will – if only coordinating those two feet to leave the ground as those two hands swing the rope down past your knees wasn’t so damn hard to time.

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Busy Day

Boarding...

Boarding...

It’s been a non-stop day starting out with an early rise in order to get Cameron to the airport for his midday flight to the states to stay with his dad for the summer holiday. This trip is nothing new for the boy since he’s been flying back and fourth to the states all his life but what did make today different was the fact he took the flight by himself for the first time.

Ever since we lived here and his dad lived there his dad either made the trip here to pick Cam up or I took him over but now that he’s 10 and the prices of flights has nearly doubled since last year the choice was for him to do the trip alone (on British Airways unaccompanied minor program) or potentially not go at all. Cam decided without hesitation that he’d have no problem going alone. Since he’s quite mature and confident I didn’t think he’d have any problems either so that’s what he did leaving Wil and I and his dad fretting at either end whilst he was up in the air for 9 hours. I can’t tell you what a horrid feeling it is to check your child in at the airport and then watch as someone just walks off with them!

He got there ok anyway. I’ve just had a phone call from a very wide awake, chatty and excited kid who I’ve no doubt will now fall asleep within minutes of getting in the car and then wake his dad up at 03:30. Ha! Have some of that pops!

Meanwhile we needed to go do something to kill time besides watching the phone for 9 hours. So, after leaving the airport once we knew the flight had taken off we came home, loaded up the bikes and headed to the reservoir for a quick lap before closing time.

It wasn’t so much a quick lap due to a few small issues, the main one being my SPD pedals. For those who are not familiar with Shimano Pedal Dynamics allow me… You wear a shoe with a metal cleat fixed into the sole. This cleat then clips into the small sprung pedal and to get your foot in – you place your foot on to the pedal and push down until you get an audible ‘CLICK’. Now you’re fixed to your bike and as well as pushing each pedal down to propell forward, you can pull on the upstroke too thus giving more efficient pedaling. However, in order to get your foot out of the pedal you must twist your heel away from the bike and the springs let go of the cleat. It works well until you either forget or lose your balance, as frequently happens when you’re biking off road. I always swore I wouldn’t use these pedals off road but I’d forgotten just how bumpy and potholed the track around the reservoir can be. I won’t forget again! Because along with my feet fixed to the pedals, slick tyres which were lethal on lose sand and gravel and my right knee kicking off with a bit of annoying pain just under the knee cap it wasn’t the best effort. I think on a good day with everything right we’ve done this track in 30 minutes or less.

http://sportstracker.nokia.com/nts/workoutdetail/index.do?id=315369

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100 Pushup Challenge Part 4. (or 3 depending on which way you look at it)

I’ve now had 2 double Gins so if this is incoherent gibberish just read every 4th word to come up with something that makes sense.

The Pushup Challenge is going ok I guess. I’m not thrilled and excited about my progress because frankly by this point I expected a bit more out of myself. However, I think, through no fault of my own I haven’t been able to achieve that imaginary goal I had because of my gammy shoulder. If you’re just now joining the topic – my left shoulder is held together with a large screw and a metal plate and a couple of tendons robbed from elsewhere in said shoulder due to a serious mountain biking injury I had a couple of years ago. Therefore I think to expect it to be able to raise and lower my entire body weight 100 times is asking a bit too much and despite many weeks of building myself up to it gradually I am unable to do a full proper pushup so I have reached the decision to just complete this challenge by doing girly pushups. I feel like a bit of a cop out doing this but it is listed as an alternative method of completing the task on the 100 pushup website – therefore I shall make my excuses and go with it.

As rubbish as I feel for copping out I guess I do have some triumph in that in the beginning I was unable to do a single girly pushup and now I’m doing sets of at least 10 so I have made progress.

Anyway – as I said – fuelled by Gin, so it’s a bit drawn out but here’s the video!

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Plans………….Have Changed!

Don't want to compete for sunbeds with the Germans? Come to the Outer Hebrides..

For people who hate people....Holiday in the Outer Hebrides.

As I mentioned before Wil and I have trips away planned for the beginning and middle of August as well as a weekend I have planned away with Little Brother. Each one of these plans will include camping (in a tent), biking and/or walking. I know, not a holiday according to some but we love this shit.

Ok, the plans with Little Bruv are still the same but thanks to that man introducing me to TRAIL magazine Wil and I have, well, er,  actually I have convinced Wil that according to trail number 11 in the August issue we should go and do the bike route in the Western Isles. That’s right the Western Isles, the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Or,to put it another way, drive as far as you can to the north western coast of Scotland, about 600 miles from here and then get on a ferry and carry on until you reach a small island out in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere so far north that in the Summer they barely get 2 hours of darkness and in the winter, the reverse.

As usual Wil isn’t sure why he’s agreed to this but I’ve assured him it’ll be great. We’re going to load up our bikes with the tents, sleeping bags and mats and a few other necessities and we’re going to go for it. And let me assure you, this decision was not fuelled by Gin – it was made during the day while no other influences existed.

The trail we intend to do on the tour of the hills above Tarbert on Harris is 23km long and while we’ll have a few hours to do the ride we’ll be around for 2-3 days before having to return home again via the ride to the ferry, the ferry to the mainland where we’ll have left our car and the drive back home via 600 miles.

For the last few hours Wil has been walking around the house making remarks about our choice of holiday destination. Things like ‘well, we won’t be bumping into the neighbours when we’re holidaying in THE OUTER HEBRIDES” and “We won’t have to worry about pitching our tent before nightfall, because there is no nightfall in August in the OUTER HEBRIDES”… I love it, he cracks me up, especially with his last comment….

“Nothing says we hate people like going on holiday in the OUTER HEBRIDES”

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Plans

Wild Camping in Scotland

Camping in Scotland

I’ve got a big case of super itchy feet. No, I don’t mean a case of atheletes foot I’m talking about needing to get out into the open, ditch the job and housework for a bit and get away from it all.

With several successful camping/mountain biking trips to Scotland, the Peak District and Wales under our belt we’ve been scheming for some time about taking it up a notch and doing a fly/bike/camp trip to the Sierra Nevada range in Spain. Obviously without our usual accompaniment of the car we’ll have to travel lighter and smarter so we plan to give this a couple of trial runs during August.

First we’re going to buy a new lighter weight 2 man tent. Our existing tent, albeit fairly new and only used several times is very heavy with a medium sized porch on the front. Great when we drive somewhere and have the luxury of dragging it out of the back of the car but about 6kgs heavier than you need on your back while biking a sweet piece of singletrack.

We also need some sleeping mats since the mechanically self inflating airbed we usually drag along for comfort again would be akin to having Cameron piggyback us the entire journey. While searching around the net this morning I found www.alpkit.com who have an excellent site, well priced stuff and very favourable reviews around the net from users of their stuff. They have sleeping mats which will be just what we need and they offer a cheaper deal when you buy 2! What more could I ask for? Well, that they’re comfy to sleep on – so I’ll report back on that when I’ve tried and tested them.

Before Wil and I go away mid August, I’m off on a camping trip with my little brother. I think the plan is to head to the Brecon Beacons in Wales to check out a route with the potential for biking/hiking and wild camping. Although we’re driving to this area we’ll have some distance to go via bike/foot so I intend to pack as though I’d travelled there without the car. This is when I’ll be giving the new tent and sleeping mat the maiden voyage.

Mid August Wil and I are planning to bike the South Downs Way. Starting in Winchester and ending in Beachy Head where we’ll throw ourselves off the cliff. Yeah, not likely…if I make it the entire 100 miles in two days I shall be hanging around for many years to remind Cameron of that achievement when he’s a lazy teenager slobbed out on the sofa playing his 9th hour on the Xbox.. “In my day”….

If these trips go well, we’ll pick through the things we learnt and pack them in a small bag to try the Spain trip.

On the topic of camping, biking and walking and being environmentally friendly I’m pleased to report I have only used the car once in the last week when Cameron and I needed to go to the shop and had minimal time to get there and back, the rest of the time I’ve biked or scootered to where I needed to be. The new purchase of the Astravan (Arsetra) is proving to be a good trade for the 4×4 we had since at last check Wil said it’d done 500 miles to less than 3/4 of a tank of diesel. Numbers we like to hear.

If you haven’t ditched your car yet – what are you waiting for? If you work within 5 miles you really have no excuses not to try biking. Even if you only bike or walk to replace one potential car trip per week it’s making a small difference to the world and a great benefit for yourself and your ever expanding arse.

If I can’t convince you let the guys at www.alpkit.com try…

“Luckily we have a reasonably interesting trail to and from work at around 11km each way, mixing road, single track, up-hills and down-hills. With the majority of it avoiding the main roads, it was actually nice to leave the car keys at home and get the legs pumping. While it might not be as convenient and quick as the car, it certainly helps clear any cobwebs before or after work. It’s not always fun, if I’m tired, the weathers not so good, need to get home quickly or I have to carry lots of stuff, so I’ll still drive in sometimes, but the hard parts been done, breaking the self imposed reliance on the car”.

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