Sunday 31 December 2017

Rock-a-bye, bye 2017

Happy end of year! Hope you had an awesome 2017 and I hope a better 2018 awaits. Life can be great mate, life can be fun chum and positive thinking is how it is done...
2018 was an okay year for me. No major challenge was completed (no major challenge was attempted). I did all the things I like best - spending time with my family and friends and cycling and running. My new bike 'Eleven', a 'Ridley' was rather cool. My cycling (and running) scores for the year (2017) are presented below with my historic list of all the years I have kept data for (km first, then miles):

2009 - 5,086 (3,160) LEJOG 2009
2010 - 8,509 (5,287) Paris to Geneva Cycle 2010/LEJOG 2010
2011 - 8,378 (5,207)   PBP 2011
2012 - 6,935 (4,309)
2013 - 12,498 (7,766) LEL 2013
2014 - 9,253 (5,750)
2015 - 5,531 (3,436) and Run 1,170 (727)

2016 - 6,515 (4,048) and Run 1,204 (748) Iron Man (Bolton) 2016/TNR 2016

2017 - 8,940 (5,555) and Run 514 (319)

Considering no major challenge was attempted (and hence no major training planned), I am quite pleased with my cycling tally. Ran less than half the distance from the previous year but like stated, no IronMan or similar challenge was attempted. Most my runs were about 5k in length and even the thought of running a marathon made me ache.

So, what about next year (2018)?! Well, that's an easy one. My goal for 2018 is quite simply to complete the TransAtlantic Way (TAW) race. To finish and not get scratched would be awesome.

'The TransAtlanticWay is a 2500 km one stage self-supported road bike race between Dublin and Cork via The Wild Atlantic Way. With the pounding swell of the Atlantic as your constant companion, you follow the blue zig-zag signposts through seven of Ireland’s westernmost counties and be treated to many of Ireland’s scenic showstoppers, welcoming towns and villages, heritage sites and plenty of unexpected thrills.
The race begins in Dublin on 7th June 2018 at 10am, Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park. From here you must navigate your own route to Derry, the first checkpoint in the North. Then you pick up The Wild Atlantic Way, which takes you on a designated route along the West coast to Kinsale in the South, and the second checkpoint. From here it’s back to your own navigation to the finish line outside Blarney Castle in Cork.'
I've just finished the year 2017 with a 8k run. I'm out of shape (for me), fat (for me) and in need of stricter training. Indeed, I leave 2017 weighing 89.6kg with a BMI of 25.3. Will be interesting to see what changes may be made before crossing the start line for TAW and seeing what I may weigh at end of next year. I'm sure cycling is in my blood, blood.

Tuesday 26 December 2017

A rather pathetic Christmas blog

Forced myself to cycle a 200k audax this week (the week before Christmas). This had to be done - my training for the last couple of weeks had been pants. The weather, paralysis of will and life in general was to blame for my poor training. However, if I was to keep my RRTY award ('audax' language) going and if I have any hope of completing TAW without being scratched then train I must!

The audax event I chose was my very own 'Bad (Bum) Badger' perm. I completed this same ride a couple of weeks back with Jamie. This time around, it was a solo effort. Earlier start too ;)
Cycled in total darkness to the first control in Broadway. Figured I'd find the ATM (Lloyds Bank) this time around because I just couldn't locate it last time. Lloyds bank was not found - they had packed up years ago. However, I did find an ATM and better yet, a Budgens store too. This Budgens store was selling products at reasonable prices and not increased prices just for being located in Broadway.

Got real chilly whilst cycling towards Winchcombe. Thankfully had packed a second pair of gloves which helped warm my digits when worn over the first pair. Cleeve Hill ensured I warmed up more.
Lilley Brook Hill was the next major climb. Mr Bones was passed as usual, however, this time around he was wearing his winter attire. Heading towards Cricklade was where I first experienced menace. I tried to avoid any off-roading (due to it being wet and soggy) and looked for an alternative to the control. After going around in what felt like circles, I flagged down a MTBer and asked which way to Cricklade - he pointed me in the right direction but warned the road was closed. Closed he said, closed it was! Big barriers prevented any crossing. An off-road course had to be cycled and sure enough the bike got covered in filthy wet sticky mud. Once out of the filth, Cricklade was entered and  Stacey's Cafe spotted. All was well after eating a greasy breakfast!
Cycling to Witney was pleasant enough and the sun was shining. Snow piles and ice on the road was here and there but no major concern. Stopped at Greggs for further fuelling. Sat on a table with some old folks who were quite chatty and interested in my cycling pursuits.
Leaving Cricklade and heading for Banbury the light started to fade. It wasn't dark so much, but a strange glowing pink. Looked kinda pretty but kinda strange too. Seemed a bit of a drag to Banbury (I think my head-space thought it was only 20k away but it was double that). Reached Banbury and pigged out at Master Kebab eating a mega lamb kebab.

Ride from Banbury home was difficult. Pretty much the whole trek home was now in pea soup which got progressively thicker. A quick stop in Stratford before I pushed on through the thickest fog ever and reached home. Wahoo! December's 200 ticked off.

Woke up Tuesday feeling pretty whacked but voices in my head were whispering 'back to back'. Didn't feel like cycling but figured I'd at least go for a run. Donned my running gear and took Lunar to school. No chance of running back home though, the roads and path's were covered in ice. Such a busy day was not able to fit a cycle in. High-light of the day was seeing Lunars 'play' as she participated in her first Nativity. Accompanied SJ to her physiology appointment too - looks like her foot is on the mend at last!
A run was had the following day. This run proved to be my last exercise session before Christmas. Christmas was over almost as soon as it began. One moment I was home training my tortoise, then Christmas happened, then I was back again training my tortoise. How bizarre.

My family and I spent a gluttonous time at Lin's which was fun. We caught up with my buddy Chris too which was nice. We had a merry time. No exercise took place at all - I guess you could call it recovery...
Not sure any exercise will happen before the new year now. I know I need to train but I feel quite dis-conditioned. A little more excess and merriment may be in order before a training focused new beginning in January. I'll aim to post once more at years end/beginning. Until then, peace out!

Saturday 16 December 2017

More Tortoise than Training

Santa Claws 
This week saw me adopt a tortoise. Ever since I was a small child, I had wanted to own a tortoise. My dad had promised he'd get me one when I was little, however, many decades later and no such promise fulfilled. SJ got me a fake plastic (but very real looking and convincing) tortoise for Christmas last year (including box and bedding). This year, I think I had the last laugh when I turned up at home with a real tortoise complete with table. Welcome Mr Timmy Wide-Eye(s)!
Mr Wide-Eye
Timmy Wide-Eye (named by my daughter Lunar) is a Horsfield (aka 'Russian') tortoise. Interestingly, this was the first animal to ever leave the Earth's orbit. The Soviet Zond 5 mission (September 1968) took 2 of these tortoises around the Moon and returned them safely to Earth. How fitting 'Lunar' now has a 'Russian' tortoise.

Sadly, my training wasn't quite as interesting as my new tortoise. Just like the tortoise though, all my training was indoors. No commutes and no long distance cycled. I did attempt a commute but cycled like 20m before turning back - the road was like a frozen river and just too dangerous. I guess using my indoor trainer was better than nothing but am a little concerned that my training has greatly reduced.

Have eaten well this week (what's new huh?)! It was my work do on Friday and a traditional Christmas lunch was consumed. Timmy Wide-Eye didn't eat so great. Initially, I though that perhaps Mr Wide-Eye was anorexic - he didn't eat anything for the first few nights at his new domicile. My anxieties reduced when he finally did eat (cucumber and cucumber flavoured pellets) and when I read that he was a cold-blooded creature and essentially didn't require heaps of energy. Apparently, 5 feeds a week is good enough for a Horsfield tortoise and each food should consist of what they are able to devour in 20-30 minutes. It appears they eat less in winter and more in summer too.

Just like my training, looking after Mr Wide-Eye will be an ongoing menace, ha! He is currently living on a floor of pellets (substrate). Despite him not complaining, my research suggests that they like to burrow and dig. With my research in mind, I have ordered some compressed coconut coir (Zoo Med) substrate which is apparently 'the best' and is the 'fuzz of coconuts'. I will mix this with play sand to ensure the coir is not too damp - the sand reduces the amount of moisture it holds to a level more suited for Horsfields.
Finished my training for the week with a run around my village. That was my first run for something like 6 weeks. Felt good to be out running once again.

Training plans can get confusing, however, I have a pencilled training plan in action. Hopefully, this plan will enable me to cycle and finish the TAW without getting 'scratched'. Lunar said that Mr Wide-Eye had scratched here. Looking after and caring for him gets confusing - have been given lots of contradictory information relating to how long he should be under a light and heat lamp for. Am hoping my training and tortoise knowledge will both increase over the coming months.

Monday 11 December 2017

Not the Abbey and Roads 200 / snow balls

Shorter training week than I had planned. Despite the weather being cold, wet and icy, I managed to complete 3 work and back cycle commutes. A touch of snow on the last commute too. Good job I found a suitable hat, err, cat...

Had plans to cycle the Abbey and Roads 200k Audax event on Saturday. This didn't happen as the snow and icy conditions forced Jamie and I to DNS. I had so wanted to ride this event, however, probably made a wise decision. My mate 'Babs' didn't start either citing icy conditions as the reason why. As way of compromise (pah) I set up my indoor turbo trainer and span for 30 mins or so. No audax event, so took my kids to a Sunday School party which was a lot of fun.
Woke up to a foot of snow on Sunday. How awesome! It kinda meant I couldn't cycle long or far. However, it didn't mean I couldn't cycle at all. A quick spin (in the snow) around my village put a smile on my face.
Not sure I'll get a 200k audax completed in this month of December now. Well, you never know... What I do know is, we have a lot of snow! Hey ho!

Thursday 30 November 2017

Back to Back and the Bad (Bum) Badger perm

Wowser, what a great start to this week. Training started 'early doors' on Monday morning. And what a start it was!

Jamie cycled all the way from his domicile in Brum to join me on a perm that I had created. The Bad (Bum) Badger' perm. We were late in setting off but it was still early in the morning.
The Bad Ass Badger Perm, 223k
Cycling to the first control in Broadway was pleasant enough. It was like my regular commute to work, only I was on a different bike. 'Eleven' was my machine on this adventure and she felt different kitted out in skinny (28mm) tyres. We never actually reached my work place, we cycled past it and then stopped in beautiful Broadway. Breakfast in Broadway was a challenge - beans on toast £50 (well, £5.80)! Wow, do people really stop for breakfast here?! We spotted a deli and had a snack as the prices were so high. I opted for a samosa (£1.95) and Jamie had a black pudding scotch egg. 
We left beautiful Broadway and cycled into wonderful Winchcombe. The first of our major hills came next. Cleeve Hill wasn't super challenging but it was a hill none the less. Jamie reached the very near top in his large chain ring. Super hero or showing off?! Over the top and wee, what a super descent! Our wheels took us into Cheltenham where we stopped and snacked some more. A further savoury dish for me - sausage roll. Pretty gross but food none the less.
Big hill number 2 was soon climbed. I think this was Lilly Hill. Just a tad tougher than the first big one. A strange but rather cool looking buss shelter tops the top of this climb. Shame I didn't take a pic. Long descent, long roads and a tad off off-roading (slippy muddy stuff) took us into Cricklade for our official breakfast stop. We found an awesome cafe (and once inside saw a CTC cyclists welcome sign). Jamie had a big breakfast here and I had a mega one!
I love these greasy spoon type gaffs. Lots of food, tasty and relatively cheap. I loved the way Stacey (the girl behind the counter) would squeeze our t-bags in her bare dirty fingers and lob said bag into a bin some distance away. Did I eat all my breakfast? - you bet I did!
Leaving Cricklade we cycled a short stretch of motorway. Not really, but a busy road (slip road) had to be cycled until we reached quieter roads again. On route to Witney we cycled some relatively quiet roads that were littered with traffic lights for no apparent reason. We passed many an airfield too and spotted strange drone like things that transformed into regular aeroplanes. Jamie had a puncture menace once the day light vanished (this may have been after the next control). Some random off road cycle paths were navigated too (again, this may have been after the next control). Whatever, and wherever we cycled, we reached Witney and stopped at Greggs. Hot drinks and gingerbread man helped warm our cockles before we set sail for Banbury. Talking of warm, Jamie had given me some Aldi special merino socks and they were just aces! Thermo regulated warm feet! Cheers dude.
Long stretch to Banbury. Headspace a bit all over the place but good cycling. Am sure we chatted about TAW and other cycling related non-sense. Am sure random randomness was discussed to. And the next thing you know - wow, there was a cock horse on Banbury Hill! Well, there was a horse (and frog) and a cross.
We had reached Banbury and Jamie decided to have another puncture! Puncture fixed and faces stuffed. We found a great kebab house and lamb kebab in naan was exactly what I devoured. Yummers!
The last stage took us home, well back to 'Doo Little' anyway. We cycled past Stratford which looked pretty awesome with all the Christmas lights. The main roads we cycled on this last stage were relatively quiet (due to time of day) which was a blessing. On reaching my abode my body felt broken, but my head felt groovy. Another awesome audax cycled and a great adventure with Jamie. How we're gonna cope with 12 days of tougher madness next year is a bit daunting at this stage. Jamie then left my yard and cycled back to his in Brum. Yeah, he is made of the same stuff as super hero's!

Following day, Tuesday, I cycled to work and back. Ouch, groan and moan! Who said back to back cycling was a good idea?! Felt so whacked. Once home again, I put my eldest daughter to bed. She asked I cuddle her for a moment to help warm her bed. Next thing you know - my wife searched and discovered me. She was wondering where I had gone until my snoring gave me away. I had fallen asleep in Lunar's bed!

Wednesday was another cycle commute. Thankfully, I felt better than the day before. Strangely, still felt hungry though (having eaten and eaten last couple of days). Still felt sleepy too. This recovery thing is difficult!

I thought about running on Thursday. The thought ran away without me. Cold and frozen, decided I'd had enough exercise for one week!

''...Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest'. '' (Psalm 55:6)

Sunday 26 November 2017

A series of quotes / Back 2 Back

Oh my, excitement for the pending TAW (TransAtlantic Way race) continues. With 28 weeks remaining, I decided to read a few blogs from this years race. Not so sure if that was a great idea. Below is a series of quotes taken from what I read:

If I take the first four days of my two Transcontinental (TCR) attempts and compare it with this TAW attempt, I can conclude that in my opinion, the Ireland race is tougher! Predominantly because of the weather… we are not talking a freak week of weather, oh no, it’s just the general West Coast of Ireland summer weather! We were only a few hours into day one when the torrential rain started, raining so hard it was causing flash flooding. The rain bounced so hard off the road it made seeing anything in front of you incredibly tough, so we all just peddled on with our heads down into the unknown, waiting for a break in the intensity of the rain. Soaked to the skin, wearing everything I had, I couldn’t keep my hands and feet warm, so it was into a shop to buy a pair of Marigold washing up gloves for my hands and some bin bags for the feet. (Katie Jane)

Well what an event that was! I consider it a great personal success even though I ended up scratching/abandoning the race close to the finish due to a condition known as Shermer’s neck. (Where one’s neck muscles become so fatigued that they can’t adequately hold your head up and makes riding unacceptably dangerous). (WhizzyFlyWheel) 

The 2017 TransAtlantic Way riders experienced no lack of surprises this year, including some late night collisions with sheep and deer...

I asked Jamie to read the above and asked if his glass was had full or half empty. He replied, 'optimism shines through'. Perhaps he'd been drinking badgers again?! My buddy Chris messaged this week and said 'still don't get why you want to do that ride', to which I retorted 'still wish you were cycling it'. Who wouldn't want to cycle this?!

Took advice from last weeks lecture at the Gorilla cafe. My training saw me complete 2 (slightly longer) back to back cycles. These cycles weren't super long distances but about 80k on 2 successive days. A good start to the week and then only completed one further commute cycle.

Noted other quotes this week too. TAW blog posts weren't all that I was reading. Indeed, searching through the scriptures, I read  '...bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things...'. Now, there's a thought (an exhortation).

Sunday 19 November 2017

Badgers, Gorilla's and Garmin

Oh you handsome badger...
Started the week with a cycle commute. On the way to work I saw the sun rise. On the return from work I saw the sun set. Lovely.

Tuesday was a nice day too. In the evening, a pedal with Ron (the Phantom) took place. Hadn't cycled in the evening with Ron for so long. It was great to catch up. We cycled a reverse 'Deer Route'.

Wednesday was another commute cycle affair. That feeling of annoyance when you leave work, only to return, because one has forgotten their keys. Grr!
Only one further cycle took place, and that was Friday night. After work, I cycled to the Gorilla cafe in Kings Heath to meet a couple of monkeys. Jamie and Trev were already there as I rocked up. The plan was simple - listen to a cycle coach / Dr give a lecture on training whilst drinking beer. The beer was toxic - 'Badger', I believe. Nice tasting stuff, ginger aroma, 5.2%. My head didn't thank me the following day. From the lecture, I learn't that I should focus on my weaknesses (climbing, sprinting, endurance, recovery). The best advice really, was that I need to complete back to back rides if TAW is going to be my goal (which it is). I know I'd also benefit from a better core, eating healthier and weight training but I'm a Doo and Doo's don't do what they should do. The lecture ended, 3 Badgers later, and an interesting cycle home was had. It was dark and a few comfort breaks were required...
Doo, Mac, Trev
Over the weekend, I played around with plan's for TAW. Sadly, my Garmin had issues with large files and kept going wonky. The Garmin would cease to work and hard re-sets had to follow. Most annoying. RidewithGPS was proving menace too. Then I purchased a months subscription and all was fine and dandy again. I now have a daily schedule prepared for Jamie and I.
Day, distance, climb, hmmm
The Master Plan
Completed schedule with GPX files (all safely downloaded onto Garmin). Better yet, I have maps and now daily distances and hilliness profile including the climbing figures too. Also plotted and booked is accommodation (nearly alternate days) in hostels along the way (the other days will be wild camps). As can be seen by my prep notes above, we plan to cycle over 200k most days and one day has over 2,800m of ascent.

TAW, argh, only 30 weeks away. I think Jamie may have had too many badgers - he sent me a text stating 'coach said start training 6 weeks before, 24 weeks of partying!!'. Hmmm.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Spinal Tap

This past week started great after a cycling lull spanning about 2 weeks. Indeed, Monday saw me cycle 3 different trips using 2 different bikes. One of these bikes was 'Eleven', the new addition to my stable.
Eleven's first ride was a trip from mine to my buddy Rogers domicile. Eleven performed just fine on her 25k debut. Since Eleven was so shiny and new, decided to keep her that way and cycled only on road (as opposed to off-road options).

Once at Roger's, I swapped Eleven for the front seat of his tandem 'The Beast'. We cycled a familiar route to Whitlenge Tea Rooms and back. Whitlenge Tea Rooms provided the most awesome breakfast at about the half way point. This was a good route and formed a 'half-pipe' looking hilliness profile (see pic below). The heavier climbing on the outward bound route. In the cafe, Rogers nose was bleeding quite bad - gushing with bright red blood. Roger couldn't see his blood as he has been blind for as nearly as many years as I have been alive. However, Roger was not born blind and has seen colour. Better yet, Roger remembers colours quite vividly and red is his favourite colour. Red, like the blood from his nose and like the colour of 'The Beast'. Roger is a legend.
Once back at Roger's, I quickly changed bikes again. Decided to cycle Eleven home by climbing up and whizzing down the hill by the Lickey's. Eleven climbed just fine. Her brakes weren't bedded in yet and I hope they prove better than the BB5's I had on my previous Cannondale! Felt kinda different riding a biking with 37mm tyres. Hmm, now not sure whether to cycle an audax (200k) using same fat tyres or swap to something like 28mm. I wonder how much difference it would make?

In the week, I completed 3 to work and back commutes. My journeys appear to take me at least 10 minutes longer each way now that I have changed my tyres (to Winter tyres). Is dark when I leave and dark when I return. Has also been quite cold but not freezing just yet.

Caught up with both my brothers over the weekend. Never saw Big Dave in person, however, he sent me photo's of his new 'bionic back' aka 'spinal tap'. Ouch!
Saw Rob in person. He didn't have a spinal tap. Rob and I ended the week with a nice cycle around the good old 'Deer Route' which I hadn't cycled in ages, so that was nice. In fact, had a lovely weekend with SJ and the kids plus Robin, Kim and Ma and Pa. The firework display we saw was rather spectacular and it was great to wish my Pops a happy birthday.

Saturday 4 November 2017

7 - Eleven

Not an awful lot of training took place again this week. No real bother, I still ran and cycled a little. Made some major changes within the bike stable too. Indeed, poor 'Pinky' was sold. Also sold 'Winter Channel no.7' which made place for 'Eleven'.
Bye Bye Pinky :(
Bye Bye 7
Pinky was a good idea that just didn't materialise. She was a single-speed road bike that had on-going issue with the chain set / tensioner thing. I just didn't get her 'right' and she was just abandoned really. 7 served me well. She was a regular road bike which I initially purchased for use as a winter bike. However, 7 quickly became my off-road bike. Despite not being an ideal off-road bike, (could only fit a maximum size of 28mm tyres), 7 took me on many off-road adventures including the Torino-Nice Rally, Tour of the Black Country and a South Downs Expedition too. I really wanted a bike that I could use on the roads in the winter, tackle gravel in the summer and take off-road when I chose. So, pleased when Eleven arrived at the stable, as she appears to tick all boxes. We'll soon find out...
The delivery. Can you spot Eleven
Anyways, before Eleven arrived, my running and cycling activities took place. Only 2 short runs and 2 cycle to work and back commutes. Better than nowt though, I guess.
My first run was on Halloween. I ran in the day and saw no sign of gremlin, ghoul or geek. My run the following day saw no creatures of the night either, however, smashed up pumpkins were everywhere!
Hmm, next time the Mrs wants to see 'Rockabye Baby!'
Now, post Halloween and I saw a wonderful pumpkin. This pumpkin was in the sky. Aces! I see some truly wonderful stuff when out cycling on my bike.
Pumpkin in the sky
My last cycle was a real race. Well, the outward bound part of the commute anyway. I raced home as I knew Eleven was being delivered. My legs raced round and round and I got home in a real quick time, but not quick enough. The delivery folk had been and gone. Grr. All is well that ends well, and eventually Eleven was delivered to the stable on Friday.
Clean Bandit
Eleven is yet to be ridden. The weekend was spent away with the Mrs see. We went and saw Clean Bandit and rocked out to 'Rockabye Baby'. This really was a different sort of challenge... To be fair it was a lot of fun. Maybe, just maybe, the Pumpkins next time.

Saturday 28 October 2017

A rest and a rustle in the woods

This was a relatively quiet week on the training front. I guess it was a 'rest week' really. Felt kinda out of sorts, like a mighty germ was trying to possess me or something.

Few activities were completed during the week. However, 2 work and back cycle commutes were completed. A 5k run was sandwiched in too - the first run (I think) since failing my 'runeveryday' challenge.
Lunar and Kim
Doo and Melody
Doo and Lunar
Still proved to be a challenging week. Lunar was off school on half term so she had 2 'daddy days'. We spent the first of these painting outside fences. I had to endure a 'My Little Pony' movie on the second day. Then to finish the week, I had responsibility for both my beautiful little horrors. With the help of my sister Kim, we took the rug rats for a climb of what I believe was Dovers Hill.
Bare footed wood run?

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...