Sunday, 15 January 2017

Not The Tempest

This week started with a 8k run up the Slough and back. Am liking my new Aftershokz Bluez 2 headphones but really need to work on the playlist settings on my TomTom watch. I was repeating tracks on this run and on my last run was having to suffer nursery rhymes. Am sure I'll get it sorted real soon.

Midweek saw me complete 2 activities in the same day - woo hoo, that was a first for this year! My first activity was a run. I completed the same run as Monday, only this time had my playlist sorted, was running in daylight and boy was it windy!
My second activity was cycling. I had set up my turbo trainer at last in my 'bike room' and got aboard Slinky (road bike) for the first time this year. Man, this session was tough. Could not believe how unfit I was - I had plans to power along at a high heart rate but just pedalling was tough enough. 35 minutes later and I was whacked! My kids were watching and asked SJ 'where's Daddy going?' Trust me, I didn't get anywhere very fast!
Friday came and I awoke to a layer of snow covering the roads. This snow excited my girls but put a stop to my plans of cycling the Wiggle Tempest. The snow didn't prevent me from going out full stop though, I cycled an on/off-road route to HMP Long Lartin and back. Boy, it was cold and windy!
Once home, I cycled a little more. Cycling indoors of course. Just a quick 30 minutes on the turbo trainer in an easy manner. Was tempted to run, but lazyitis got the better of me.

Sunday saw me complete my training for the week. Just a quick 30 min cycle on the turbo trainer keeping a cadence of 100+ rpm. No reason for cycling at this cadence, just saw a dude do the same on Strava so thought I'd copy since I have no plans of my own.

My friends are all planning adventure's and goals this year and some are considering LEL. I am not planning anything but would like to train towards something. I looked back on my LEL, PBP, TNR and IronMan adventures and feel like I should be doing something. Am feeling fat and unfit at present time and my total training time this week was only just over 5 hours. Argh man, I miss my commute.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year! I do hope you have a great one.  A fat, far out, fantastic, fun filled time is what I'm hoping is in store! And, who knows, maybe more?!
My new year started well. Sarah Jane reminded me I'm not an IronMan any more (aren't IronMen for life?!) but brought me a lovely reminder for the year I was an IronMan! Didn't bother with resolutions and the like for this year. After letting the new year in with my family, I went out with Chris and our bikes! Indeed, we cycled our rendition of the White Roads classic - a 100k (slightly over) on/off road route around Oxfordshire. What a great adventure.
Our White Roads adventure began in a car park in Goring. It was a very cold day, about 0 - -3C throughout the day. I had taken precautions and wore 2 merino base layers, buff, hat, neck collar, gloves etc and sandals. Yep, sandals. Sandals with 2 pairs of woolly socks and waterproof overshoes. My (Lin's) Garmin was equipped with maps now, so I felt proper ready to go. So, go we did! Almost from the off, we cycled with beautiful scenery all around and this continued all the way to the finish.
Our adventure took us to here, who would have thought!
It wasn't long after we set off that we had to stop so Chris could put extra gloves on to keep his pinkies warm! It really was a cold day. We stopped again a bit further ahead when we spotted signs for 'Ginge'. This made us chuckle, and reminded us of our dear red-headed friends, Chris's bike and Fanta pants.
This really was a great ride, filled with awesome scenery and our usual banter. We stopped at frequent times, not to eat as is the norm, but more often than not for comfort break purposes. Each time we stopped, it was great to just look around and think 'wow, this is ace'.
We cycled through the 'Valley of the Racehorse', a place so named because it has over 1,500 horses stabled in and around this area (Lambourn) with lots of gallops. Also, Lambourn has 2 fully licensed equine swimming pools and an equine hospital. Our steel (well mine was aluminium) horses felt at home in this valley. I have cycled in this valley before and each time I do, the Mudhoney song 'Beneath the Valley of the Underdog' rings inside my head.

The climb to Uffington White Horse
Horses became a theme during this adventure. I could see signs pointing to Uffington White Horse and then set about telling Chris all about it. Little did I know our route was going to take us right by the horse itself. Whoa - how excited was I?! We started climbing (?Uffington) hill and we could see folk looking down onto the horse itself. This road was real slippy as it was frozen in parts. The climb was nice though, we saw gliders doing loop the loop (and had seen a plane doing the same earlier in the day) and again the scenery breath taking. The gliders turned out to be toy gliders, which was only apparent one we reached the summit. At the summit, I asked a couple of walker if left took us to the horse itself (off road), they replied 'yes, but you'll never get there on a bike'. Pah, of course we got there by bike!
(Not the best pic) Uffington White Horse
Wow, Uffington White Horse lay beneath our feet. Amazing. The horse is a highly stylised prehistoric hill figure some 360' long, formed from deep trenches filled with chalk. It is believed to date back to the Iron Age or late Bronze age. Some say it's not a horse at all but a dragon, the one that St George slew.
See, we really did get there by bike!
A pair of goons
From above the Uffington White horse, we could see Dragon Hill. This hill was a small hillock, a natural chalk hill with an artificial flat top. Legend has it that St George slew the dragon here. The bare patch of chalk upon which no grass grows is purported to be where the dragon's blood spilled.
Dragon Hill
After the delights of Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill, we cycled more off-road tracks. Was hard to make out if these were chalk roads because everywhere was so wet and muddy. As we ventured, we saw signs to Waylands Smithy. Super excited again, I ensured we detoured to visit this wonderful site.
Wayland's Smithy is a Neolithic long barrow and chambered tomb. I re-told the folklore accounts to Chris. The 'real' version is as follows (thanks to Wikipedia): In 1738, Francis Wise recorded a belief held about the site in local folklore.[9] Like several other early commentators, Wise referred to the site not as "Wayland's Smithy", but only as "Wayland Smith".[10] Wise related that: All the account which the country people are able to give of it is 'At this place lived formerly an invisible Smith, and if a traveller's Horse had lost a Shoe upon the road, he had no more to do than to bring the Horse to this place with a piece of money, and leaving both there for some little time, he might come again and find the money gone, but the Horse new shod.[11]The deposition of coins at the site has taken place since at least the 1960s, with visitors lodging the coins into cracks in the site's stones.[12] As of 2015, the local wardens from The National Trust are tasked with removing said deposits, and circa2010 English Heritage removed information about the coin deposition custom from the site's information panel.[12] The coins removed by the wardens are then donated to local charities.[13] As the folklorist Ceri Houlbrook noted, all of this deposited material "contributes to the ritual narrative of a site", being "integral to the contextualisation of a site".[14]

I informed Chris that if we bivvy'd here one night, we might wake up to find our bikes shod with golden tyres. We just might do this one time and find out. Good plan, eh?!
Such a beautiful place. Despite being here before, I don't remember the holes in the stones being filled with coins. They certainly were on this occasion.
So much fun and barely half way through the ride. We found a pub a little further on but it was closed so no chance to warm our cockles. We cycled a little further and decided to stop for lunch. Lunch consisted of a jam sarnie, pack of crisps and a chocolate biscuit. Man, I was prepared this time around!
Lunch spot
After lunch, our ride continued in the same fashion of cycling a mix of road and off road sections. Pretty undulating throughout. We found another pub and this one was open. This pub was great as it allowed us to warm our feet, dry our socks and sip much tea. Pork scratchings made a nice treat.

After pub, we cycled into the darkening night. My Garmin played up for a couple of mins (no back light) but started working again. We saw the blue sky turn black. We saw Jack Frost spread across the roads and paths travelled. We saw much deer. We ate some Moroccan sweets. We felt our feet go from cold to frozen. We had a fantastic time.

As the end neared, the hills appeared to get hillier. Chris (cheeky) asked if he had got fitter or if I had got fatter (who needs a 6 pack when you got a full barrel?). I think both questions were correct. The final off road down hill section was fun and I got air as I hit a few of those bumps.

Our adventure was definitely the way to start a new year in style. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Now to wash the bike and soothe those aching legs...

Tuesday saw me complete my first run of the year. I ran a 5k jaunt around my village. Nothing special, just pleased I ran.

Ran again on Wednesday. Another 5k jaunt. This time I ran the lovely Studley Triangle and ran past 3 people I knew (Gayle, Hannah and Jennie), well, I live in a village y'know.
Aftershokz. Mashable but not mash up!
Thursday saw the return of my pink frame. Took said frame and associated bits back to Gozzard bikes. Waited there whilst the bike builder tested to see if the BB fitted. It did! Yay, hopefully Pinky (my new steed) will be built up prior to the Willy Warmer cycling event later this month.
A further run on Friday. Another Studley Triangle run. This time I was wearing a set of Aftershokz Bluez 2 headphones. Absolutely fantastic! Have been trying to get a decent set of headphones for donkeys. These are super cool because they are comfortable, lightweight and don't fit into or onto your ears at all - so you can still hear what's going on around. These pass music through your cheek bones via some bone conduction magic. Weird yes but awesome!
Wow, I got air! (Dude in the 'cow T')
Saturday was a Parkrun day. Ran the Arrow Valley event. This was my 12th Parkrun to date. Had a great time without having a great time if you know what I mean?! Ha! (Was 10 seconds slower than last week).

Not a bad start to the year eh?!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Goodbye 2016

Did very little in this last week of the year. In previous years I had completed the Rapha Festive 500 which was my main event for the December month - not this year though. No indeed, no cycling took place at all in this final week. On a brighter note, I got news from Planet X regarding Pinky, they emailed stating 'the BB threads have been slightly cross threaded, however, this was not bad and no damage done... now tapped the threads on the BB and confirmed it's ready.' So, 2017 should see a new bike - yay!

Managed to squeeze in a couple of runs. I wanted to do more but lazyitis got the better of me. My first run was a dash (plod) around the Studley Triangle and my second a Parkrun at Arrow Valley. On my Parkrun I bumped into Phil, John, Russel et al from tri-club which was nice but I found it difficult chatting whilst on the run (and was going to blame them for distracting me and slowing me down). This run felt hard and I didn't think I had ran well at all. Surprisingly, I had taken 10 seconds off last weeks run. Wow, who would have thought. Bumped into Phil (different Phil) at the end and was nice to catch up.

So how was 2016 overall, (I hear you ask)? Well, pretty great really. 2016 was the year that I swam the furthest in my life and ran the furthest too. I did not cycle as far as I had during previous years (and my buddy Chris H is super chuffed he beat my cycling score). However, I completed an IronMan event which I am so very pleased about and have the medal, T shirt, etc.
It was also awesome running in the MK Marathon with the Grumptoids.
And taking part in the first Turin-Nice rally with my best buddy Chris was super ace too.
My running and cycling distances are presented below for all the years including 2016 since my recording began:

2009 - 5,086 (3,160)
2010 - 8,509 (5,287)
2011 - 8,378 (5,207)   km (miles)
2012 - 6,935 (4,309)
2013 - 12,498 (7,766)
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)

So, this relatively boring posts ends 2016. Let's hope 2017 is a great year all round and lets hope the first post is better than this last. Peace out my friends!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas (nearly)

More menace this Monday as Gozzard bikes were unable to fix the issues with my frame and it's bottom bracket threads. Bike has to be returned to Planet X via courier. Am not returning the forks though because they have a race face (?) 'thing' attached to them now. Oh, I do hope these problems get fixed soon. On a brighter note, I went cycling with Roger today. We just did a short route on his tandem, we cycled to Wedges bakery and back. Lovely egg and sausage sarnie! Am sure we will have more tandem adventures in the new year.
If Roger was my wife...
The only other day I ventured out was on Saturday (Xmas Eve) where I completed my 10th Parkrun to date. This was a nice run at Arrow Valley. Despite the 400ish runners, I only recognised 2 - a guy from tri-club and nurse Matchett which was nice. Where were all the other folk I know? Not a super fast time (sub 24 mins) but pleased all the same. I wonder if I will ever beat sub 20?
Best Parkrun in a while...
Merry Chrimbo all! 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Twisted Shakespeare Menace

Monday morning menace! Gozzard bikes contacted me informing me that my new frame was damaged - apparently the bottom bracket threads were threadless! Planet X were swiftly contacted who stated that the threads were there, it was just that 'paint overspill' was covering up the threads. Apparently nothing a threading tool cannot put right. Call back to Gozzard bikes who are happy to use said tool but want to charge me an additional £20 for the privilege. Pah! Pink stinks!

Tuesday was the day that my adventures for the week really started. Ron and I cycled around our village. It was like the good old days, we were cycling in wet weather and later than of late. We saw 3 deer running alongside the road before jumping over a hedge and into a field which was super nice. I thought the deer were joggers initially until my eyes became better accustomed to the dark. We visited 'The Bramers' later which was interesting because they now live in the house my old school mate 'Spencer Braithwaite' used to live in. Wow, must have been about 30 years since I last stepped into that house.

No adventure (as such) on Wednesday or Thursday. However, on my way into work I saw the most beautiful full moon. God's creation is truly awesome.
Friday was the big adventure this week. My plan was to cycle the Shakespeare 100 but to change the start and finish points to nearer my abode. Had a false start because now sooner had I started, I had to turn back and ensure I took some money with me. Once on my way proper I soon settled into what was going to be a relatively long day.

Very foggy/misty for the first couple of hours. I could see what looked like a brilliant full white moon - how could this be?! Well, this moon was actually the sun and awesome it was too. Throughout this ride I saw it change colour and my last sighting was it being a beautiful orange. 

First major climb was Saintbury Hill (was expecting Fish Hill) which was only as tough as expected. The ride itself was pretty undulating in nature but only 2 major climbs. Once I reached the summit of climb 2, a posh old chap pulled alongside me in his car and congratulated me for climbing said hill. He then had the cheek to ask me if I had gotten off at any point. Nice chap really and he was amazed how bikes had 'moved on' since his day. A bike with 22 gears - unbelievable!

Stopped for a bacon roll at a cafe called Wyatt's (I think). The roll was just ok and the cafe a tad over-priced. Was pleased that the accompanying tea warmed me up a little.
The route eventually took me into Stratford - being a Shakespeare route, I figured it had to. I stopped at a location to take a photo, which took, and then my phone died. This photo spot has seen 2 of my bikes here now. Ha! Not long after being in Stratford, my route ended, I had reached the finish. Not my finish, just the finish as recorded on my downloaded GPX file. The problem here was that my (Lin's) Garmin did not have maps so I was unable to pick a route to the official start. No bother really, I had cycled enough and was happy to head home.

My route took a final twist before reaching home. As I was using my gravel bike, I decided to add a nice stretch of off-road just for fun. Near Alcester I hit an off-road track that took me down to Coughton Ford. Only a few miles after the ford, I was home with a dirty bike, sore bum and tired legs. Altogether, a good day out!
Saturday saw me complete my 9th Parkrun and my 2nd at Hanbury Hall. I do like this course as it's all off-road and the numbers are smaller. Some folk were talking to me about Ironman (as I was wearing my Ironman top) which was nice. Hard to believe that I actually completed that event earlier this year - wow, certainly not that fit now. My run took me about 26 minutes, which was nothing to shout about and was near my expected time. This was the last Hanbury Parkrun before xmas 2016 but there is an Arrow Valley Parkrun next week which I might try and attend. Earlier in the year, I had hopes of completing a Parkrun in a time of 20 mins something (my PB is 21 something). Don't think I'll beat my PB this year and maybe my hopes will remain just a dream. Who knows?

Sunday was a day of rest. At least at time of writing it was. Should I have pushed myself to do something, then this last paragraph would have been re-written. Ha!

Sunday, 11 December 2016


This weeks challenge was to run 4 x 5 miles. First run was on a cold frosty morning and saw me run along the towpath. I ran from Tardebigge (or 'turd-de-big' as my brothers would say) to bridge 47 and back. Sweet. Same evening, I cycled a 20k route with Ron. This was an on and off-road jaunt. Ron came off at one point as he hit some ice. How many times have I told him to invest in Top Contact winter tyres?!

Wednesday saw my second run. I ran 5 miles by weaving around the streets in my village. Found this run quite challenging, especially as I had landed myself another cold. Took my pink bike frame and 'bits' to Gozzard Bikes this day too and am awaiting a new single-speed bike to be built up - how exciting.

Over the weekend I ran 2 further 5 mile routes. The routes were essentially the same (not quite) but ran in opposing directions. My runs took me to the Slough and back, all on tarmac. Pleased I completed my set challenge.

And so ends another week. Still awaiting Pinky to be built up. Cold has gone.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Tour of the Black Country 2015 in 2016

First venture this week was on Tuesday. Had planned to go cycling with my old pal Ron but he pulled out due to the freezing conditions. It was -4c in some parts and Ron didn't want a tumble. How many times have I told him to invest in some 'Top Contact' winter tyres (Continental)?! I chose to go for a run instead. My run was a cross country affair to Coughton Court and back. Running in the dark was a trifle menace as my visibility was so poor. I had a head-lamp but it was really quite naff. Frozen in parts and foggy/misty in others made for an interesting run. Ran about 5 miles in all and am challenging myself to run a further 5 miles before week is out. (Last week I challenged myself to run 3 x 5k so might just set myself a do-able weekly challenge).

My next adventure was on Thursday. I had wanted to cycle the Tour of the Black Country for ages and this was the day that I finally cycled my rendition of this classic. The plan was to follow the 2015 course which I uploaded as a GPS link from the internet. However, I chose to start my tour from the southernmost point (nearer home) and took wrong turns here and there because my new Garmin (thanks Lin) didn't have maps and this made navigation difficult.
Anyways, my adventure started on a cold winter day with much frost about. After layering up well, I mounted my steed (Winter bike) and started cycling some lovely quiet lanes. Rumour had it, this tour was like the Paris Roubaix and involved lots of cobbled sections. Well it wasn't long before I reached the first lot of cobbles and the only real hill of significance.
This cobbled section was lovely despite it being a little difficult to climb. The rumours were false though, this was the only real cobbled section of the whole tour. Ok, there was another short stretch of cobbles elsewhere but nothing compared to the Paris Roubaix and not '20km' of cobbled sections like one review suggested.

What there was a lot of was variation. There were sections of road, off-road, cobbles, gravel, single-track, dirt roads and bridle ways. Some really beautiful sections, some quite remote and all good for cycling with a gravel type bike.
Some areas were frozen and caution had to be exercised. Am pleased to inform that the ice didn't cause any mis-haps on this occasion. Such a beautiful ride.
The half-way point was Wolverhampton Velodrome. I didn't actually cycle around the Velodrome itself, but cycled around the velodrome just for nostalgic reasons. Being half way round was a good place to stop and eat my pre-packed lunch.
After lunch, I took a wrong turn almost immediately, but this was ok, I followed an off-road route until I joined the official route a little further on. The return route was much like the route in - lots of different sections, on and off-road. I took a tumble at one point, not because of the weather but because of loose ground. Thankfully, I didn't hit the deck - I landed in a hedge instead.

The return route passed through Kinver which was nice. It reminded my of my courting days with SJ. I didn't stop for a feed or a view of the rock houses on this occasion though.
As is often the case on many of my adventures, I spotted something a little unusual. This was a roadside tree with it's own brick wall built all the way around it. Odd, I thought, but neat. I wonder what's so special about this tree?
-2C and still wearing my sandals!
At the end of my tour, I had clocked just short of 100k. It was a splendid ride despite the temperature  being as low as -2c in parts. A recommended tour.

Finished my training (though do not know what I'm training for) for the week by completing another run and attending a sword fighting class. The sword fighting session was called Ryu Magai (or something similar) and I learnt how to do a few cuts with a wooden sword. The sword made swishing sounds which is apparently quite good. I don't think I'll be a regular attender though as I found the class just 'ok'. My run was 5 miles cross country style, thus completing my training week and completing my challenge. I do think I'll run again too.

Blog posted early this week because I am going away on a fellowship weekend with my family.