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.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Shock shock horror horror pink pink

Rain, rain, rain is how this week started. The foul weather pixies stopped me playing out on my bicycle and prevented me from cycling the Tour of the Black Country. Was really looking forward to cycling them cobbled roads and I still plan to do so - just have to wait for the nice weather pixies to come out. In view of the fact I hadn't done any exercise for 2 weeks I pushed myself out the door and ran a 5k route following the Studley Triangle. My back continued to ache from the pulled muscle and my right leg was giving me trouble too. Maybe I'm just getting old? Perhaps it was best I avoided them cobbles?
Started a new job on Tuesday - working as a nurse in a crisis intervention / home treatment team. Same day, got offered a job working in a maximum security prison. What to do? - I think I know. Cycled the reed route in the evening with Ron and he helped me consider my options.

Wednesday was a relatively naff day. Only been at my new job for 2 days but not enjoying it thus far. Today the weather was pants and flooded parts of Birmingham which resulted in my journey home (car) taking 2 and a half hours. I'd like to cycle to work but have not been able to find either a locker or a place to get changed. Once home, could see that a big box had arrived for me - inside was my new frame (and it really is a shocking pink)!

Thursday and Friday were days where nothing much happened.

Saturday and Sunday fared better! On both of these days I ran around my village (Studley). Not long or far, but over 5k on each occasion.
Less work and more of this would be nice.

Sunday, 20 November 2016


My trusty coaster lasted me nearly a whole year at BTP. Sorry I had to leave you behind...
Don't feel like I should really be posting to this blog this week, as I have done no exercise at all. Nothing. Nowt. Diddly squat.

So what have I done? Well, I have ceased to work as a nurse manager with the suicide prevention team supporting the fuzz. I had an interview for a job within a maximum security prison which went really well. And, I ate a lot! Oh, I sold Kay-O, my Iron Man bike too.
Leaving work bought a few surprises. I got some great gifts from Dashi and Richard. These gifts included an Iron Man cup, a voucher to spend on cycle gear and a spork (plus cards too). Maybe, am pretty sure, these gifts will inspire me to continue my adventures in the great outdoors. I will miss these folk. I will, however, not miss the fuzz and old lego head...
So long, farewell...

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Falls, aches, pains, sickness, pants...

Monday was a cold, cold day. No major worries, I had taken precautions ready for my work cycle commute. My feet were kitted out in thick woolly socks and I was wearing my neoprene winter gloves for the first time. Some say '13 is an un-lucky number', well, I'm not superstitious but after 13k I hit a patch of ice and crash, bang, wallop - I came of my bike. Obviously didn't take precautions enough! My usual mantra is 'clocks change, change tyres'. I hadn't changed my bike tyres over despite it being on my list of things to do. My winter tyres would have prevented this for sure. No real damage was suffered, just some more scuffing to my bar tape. I cycled slower from here on and my toes were a little chilly. Maybe my shoes needed some covers?! Oh, the neoprene gloves kept my hands warm enough but they were sweaty once I had taken them off. Neoprene gloves may be a menace on an audax type ride where they are put on and off a number of times.

As menace as Monday was, that was the last of my training for the week. No running, no cycling and no much looked forward to wild camping. My daughter Lunar got sick (was sick) and then passed the bugs to me and the rest of my family. Add to this cold and flu symptoms (despite having flu jab) and then a pulled back muscle and you get a rather pathetic week.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Twenty 1

Hippy Halloween
Terrifying start to the day! It was Halloween and Lunar greeted me dressed up as a werewolf with a big spider on her head. She reminded me of Max from 'Where the wild things are'. Wow, she looked just great!
Lunar the werewolf
With all the spookiness around, it was easier to run with bouts of increased speed. Monday was certainly the day to run interval style on my work commute! The towpath and train car park were bothy fully open so a good 10k run it was. I warmed up and cooled down either side of my intervals which consisted of 4 x 3 min run with 3 min rest. Spooky!
Melody the scary princess?!
Tuesday was a kinda duathlon day. I started with a run commute into work following the no.5 route. My day ended with a bike (with hike-a-bike sections) adventure with Ron. We went looking for my Garmin but it was nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday was a day of gluttony. SJ and I converted Tesco points into Prezzo meal vouchers. We, plus our kids, ate in style. I ate too much and have become muchus porkus.

Thursday was a day for adventure. This day was spent with Roger on his tandem. 'The Beast' had been equipped with a new chain following a recent service (£250!) and looked all sparkly and new. We cycled a trip to Whitlenge Tea Rooms and back. I loved this café and we had our usual breakfasts here - most delicious. Despite this day being very cold (was frosty at start of day), a whole bunch of cyclists had cycled to this café (not as many as at the Snowdrop/Sunrise audax though) too. What's more, a number of these cyclists knew or were acquainted with Roger. He really is a legend you know! I might have been feeling the cold a little today as I was still cycling in my sandals! Our route back from the café was a little hillier and helped to keep us warm.

Friday was another 'do nothing but work' day. Everyday, it seems, I like my current job less and less. Hey Ho, I'm leaving - no stress!

I would have liked to have ran a Parkrun on Saturday but no such fun because I was at work again. No real bother, I ran 5k or so before work. My feet took me around Canon Hill Park ... and then my car took me to Maccy D's for breakfast.
Would you wild camp here?
On Sunday, Ron and I went for a short walk. This walk was really a recce to check out our potential camping spot for next week. We made our way to the Lost World but it wasn't a viable camping spot. The ground was most uneven and it was the kingdom of the badgers. The area contained much bramble and nettles too. The donkey effigy was sign enough that this was not the place to be. Not to worry, another camping spot is in my mind.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

When three became two

When four became three, I was not filled with glee. When three became two, I knew what I had to do.    

This week saw me complete 3 run commutes into work. Each run was along the towpath. The first run was ran interval style and the other 2 were simple jogs. My pace got progressively slower with each run. My commutes to and from work are what I will miss most when I leave my current job.
After much menace (flat battery, power cuts and flat tyre) my buddy Chris rocked up for a Friday night adventure. For a while I had been excited about going on a wild camp and this was the night that we turned these jolly thoughts into action. Thankfully, Chris is as mad as I and was happy to drive all the way from Windsor so we could crash out in some local woods. We both loaded single-speed cyclo-cross bikes and cycled into the dark, looking for the 'Woods of Doom'. After some undulating tarmac we turned off-road, crossed some field, gently climbed some single-track and found a perfect place to set up our camp under a canopy of trees.
For an autumnal night, the temperature was great - it was really warm. So perfect was the weather, I was still able to cycle and walk around our camp in my SPD sandals. I had recently gotten a tarp (20 quids from Decathlon) but the weather was so great that it wasn't needed. Made use of the tarp though by using it as a ground sheet. We placed our bivy bags on top of the tarp and were able to dump all our stuff. After a quick snack we blew up our air beds and shoved them, alongside sleeping bag into our bivy's. We chatted and drank into the late hours of the night and wrestled with some spiders and other bugs. Rum was my drink of choice, Chris had this stuff that tasted like marzipan.

After a while we climbed into our bags, chatted more and looked up at the night sky. No stars were to be seen as it was cloudy and we were really looking at the tops of trees. The canopy of trees looked panoramic, it was as if I was in a 360 degree sphere like thing. Looking at the trees with the light back ground really felt like we were in a scene from E.T. We chatted until we fell asleep.

When I awoke, I needed to pee. I climbed out of my bag and struggled to walk about 10 paces ahead. I must have drunk a little too much rum. After my comfort break, I couldn't re-trace my steps and was disorientated and lost. After much faffing, I heard Chris call out 'Tim, I hope that's you'. Goodness only knows how I got to this side of the tarp without walking over it to get there. I was able to navigate my way back into my bag but strangely I had lost my sandals. Not the first time I have lost footwear on an adventure with Chris.

Relatively comfy sleep despite waking at often times throughout the night. Strange noises could be heard which was kinda spooky. We heard owls and what sounded like eagles and monkeys too. I could picture rats but these turned out to be squirrels when morning light came. At times, I thought I heard the sound of wolves but it was the barking of a roe deer. All kinda creepy, yet beautiful too. Don't think I'm ready for a solo wild camp just yet...
Needed a further comfort break as morning neared but I didn't want to walk around camp without my sandals. Took Chris and I ages to spot them some distance away. As dawn broke the tree canopy really looked like a kaleidoscope and leaves slowly changed from a grey colour into brighter yellows. Just beautiful. The now visible, sweet and active squirrels could be confirmed as the culprits making noise throughout the night and dropping tree litter from high above.  
Morning provided a great opportunity for me to try my new BRS 3000T titanium camping stove. A fantastic ultralight stove that weighs in at 26g, gets the thumbs up from Ray Mears and cost me less than a tenner (came from China, purchased on eBay). This was the first time I had used gas on a camping trip and it performed just fine. Much cleaner and quicker than my alcohol stove (which I love, just in a different way). My porridge tasted yummy and my green tea was just right. I used a Wildo original fold-a-cup (less than 3 squirrels from Pedal + Tread) which is, as the name suggests, a foldable cup (weighing in at 22g) for my porridge (instead of eating out the bag) which made stirring easier but it lost temperature quickly and left me with an additional item to clean. Cups are easier to hold than bags though and this made sure I didn't get burnt or drop my precious food and make a mess.
Despite this experience being mostly fantastic, my Garmin had gone AWOL which was a real loss. We packed up camp and spent a while searching for Garmin. We followed out tracks but my Garmin was never found. As we ventured home, rain started to gently drop. How great that wet weather stayed away whilst we camped.

Once back at Doo Little, my kind wife cooked us up some cheese on toast complete with Worcestershire sauce. Yummers. Oh, and much tea too. This fuel loading was what we required in preparation for our next adventure. Indeed, my brother Robin had rocked up with his new GT road bike and the open road lay ahead.

Contrary to the title of this blog, two had become three. Rob, Chris and I essentially cycled loops near my village clocking up about 20 miles. We cycled along country lanes in drizzly weather admiring the beautiful autumnal colours. We visited a cafe in Alcester and ate some lovely toasties before returning to Doo Little. A great end to my training week - cycling AND camping. Many thanks to Chris and Rob for making this happen.

With the help of Ron, I managed to sneak in a further ride in on the Sunday. Rob was still down, so the three of us went a-cycling. We cycled the Deer Route and had a great time. Bonus!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Will letters turn into numbers?

'Over the pain and I'm past the bleeding,
It's not the tracks, it's where they're leading.'

Attempted to start this week on a more positive note than of late. Didn't really work, think I set off on the wrong foot. Thing is, am not sure which foot I set off on. Ha! I decided I would run into work on Monday and had planned to run from Kings Norton Rail Station - this didn't happen as a truck was preventing my access to the car park. No bother, I parked up at Bournville and ran along the towpath from there. The towpath was still closed from Selly Oak, however, some 'rough neck' had removed the 'no passage signs', so off I ran only to reach a lack of suitable path near University. I was able to make my way through and around the big holes but suffice to say the towpath should have remained closed. The run itself wasn't too bad and for the first time in ages I ran interval style (6 x 1 min run, 3 min rest) with warm up and cool down either side. I ran this way just because I could. Mentally and physically I felt great but this was soon thwarted once I met with and had to deal with work related menace and nonsense.

Ran again on Tuesday, but this time avoided the menace section of towpath. Faced a different menace this day - the weather was quite vile and wet. No real worries, my Adidas top prevented any water seeping through.

Wednesday and Thursday were kinda rest days. No exercise took place. I head a real headache the one day and brain strain the next. My days of supporting the BTP are coming to an end. I would like to point out that I have never worked for the BTP but have supported them on a suicide prevention project for over two years now. Despite this 'joint working' venture, I think it's fair to say (in my humble opinion) that BTP have provided me with little in terms of support. Was it George Orwell who said "all pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others"? Yes, I think it was. Anyways, my brain became fried as I attended meetings to discuss my future role and was approached regarding a potential new project. Watch this space...
The only day I cycled this week was Friday. Nothing special. Just a commute into work and back.

Saturday came and I was rudely awoken by my daughter Lunar at 5 a.m. Early wake meant an early run. I ran a few laps of Cannon Hill Park clocking up about 6k. Is kinda weird to start running in the pitch black and continuing until it's daylight.

No rude awakening on the Sunday! However, still had an early start because I had to work this day. Early start means... yeah, you got it, an early run. Just like the previous day, I ran some k's around Cannon Hill Park.
So tired by end of week, plan to turn my k's into zzzz's....