Monthly Archives: January 2014

It’s all up from here!

So, it seems that the Euro City Cycle will not be starting in Trafalgar Square.  We will not have the privilege of rolling out of Buckingham Palace in a regal procession.  We will not even be getting clipped in to our pedals in the 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford.

No, it appears that after what I can only imagine was an intense and competitive bidding war, the honour of hosting the start of our great European adventure has been awarded to…  wait for it… the Holiday Inn, Brentwood, Essex.

It’s not only distance that separates Brentwood from Central London!

While being very practical, convenient even, for our Day 1 cycle to meet the ferry in Harwich, it doesn’t quite have the glamour of other possible departure locations.  It’s the equivalent of starting the Tour de France somewhere random like… Leeds!

Selfishly, Brentwood is also a bit of a trek from the Station that I’ll arrive at in London, so my trip will be a little more “interesting” than I had anticipated.

Still, we need to start somewhere, and I can understand why being responsible for a group of novice cyclists in Central London isn’t an attractive (or safe) proposition.

Hopefully our rather more cycle friendly cousins on the continent will make their major cities a little more accessible.  It’d be a shame to leave Amsterdam without seeing a canal, or to depart Brussels without seeing a little boy peeing!

With the challenge laid out in front of us, I’m sure the Holiday Inn Car Park will take on new significance, and be etched on our memories as the starting point for our trip of a lifetime.

I can’t wait!

Hopefully thing are only metaphorically “all up from here”!

I’m a Swimmer not a Fighter

… actually I’m not much of a swimmer either, but I’m doing my best!

This morning saw a new low in my battle against all that is frustrating about January.  When I arrived at the pool at around 7 a.m. it was busier than ever.

So it could have been worse!

The Swimming Club were using 4 lanes leaving just 2 for Public use.  Each was packed with people trying desperately to mind their own business and enjoy their morning exercise.  I hesitated before heading into the Changing Room to get ready, but decided that I’d come this far so I may as well make the most of it.

I’m still very much at the “confidence building” stage of learning to swim.  I can make it up and down the pool, but I know I’m not relaxed and recognise that is a major reason why I find each length so exhausting.  I think just spending time in the pool will help, but under the right conditions.  Having other people in close proximity does not help create the right environment.

I’m not sure whether it’s purely the fact of avoiding people that makes me uncomfortable.  I certainly don’t find it easy to time my lengths to prevent me catching up with people in front of me, or holding up people behind me.  I also find it off-putting watching out for people coming in the opposite direction.  All too often I end up snagging on the lane ropes as I try to take up as little space as possible.

Maybe this is the way forward!

I sometimes think it would be easier if I was a fighter.  I could swim over the top of, or around, other people without a care.  As it is, I spend a lot of energy avoiding the worst scenario of all… touching someone!!!

Let’s face it, human kind was not designed to be in such close proximity to so many other “strange” human beings wearing so little.

Perhaps I would benefit from seeing a sports psychologist to get help relaxing under such circumstances?  Maybe my issues are more deeply seated!  For the time being I’ll continue with the good old fashioned British approach… stiff upper lip, look ahead and pretend it’s not happening!

E-minus 100 (days) and counting…

in exactly 100 days time I will be setting off on my Euro City Cycle ride to Brussels.  I’ve been trying not to get too caught up in all the details as it’s seemed such a long way off, but I guess now it’s time to get myself organised.

By my reckoning, there are four things that I need to arrange:

Logistics:  I need to get from Aberdeen to London (and back).  My preferred travel option is by train.  Although this will take about 7 hours, it seems to be the simplest option, not least because it avoids the need to take my bike apart (and more critically re-build it at the other end!).

One of my current challenges, however, is that I don’t know where the cycle starts.  I therefore don’t know where exactly I need to be.  This issue is countered by the fact that I can’t book the train tickets until 3 months in advance, so I just need to be patient for a few days.

I will also need to stay in London overnight both before and after the cycle.  I’ll select a cheap hotel that’s close to where I need to be.  Again, a problem not knowing the cycle departure point!

So, not much I can do right now on Logistics other than try to get some more details… I guess knowing where you need to be, and when, are always key elements of good logistics!

Kit:  This should be the easiest of to address.  I can hear the advice now… “Throw a Credit Card at it!”.

Although I have a “Kit List”, the range of cycling clothes, accessories, dietary supplements, etc. to choose from is huge.  Being a relative novice to cycling and a complete novice to cycling longer distances, there is quite a high probability that I’ll select poorly (non-functional, impractical, over-priced, superfluous, etc.).

Green Flash were not cool when I was at school!

I’d like to avoid the schoolboy nightmare of turning up in the wrong gym kit (for example, wearing Green Flash when everyone else has Adidas).  Until I arrive on that first morning, there will always be that niggling concern that I’ll spend four days with people giggling at me behind my back!  Of course I’ll be grown up about it, but these are feelings that I don’t think ever completely go away, no matter how confident you are!

I’d also like to avoid the situation where everyone else turns up with the one essential, secret item that is the difference between having a safe, comfortable, enjoyable trip… and not.

As things stand, I’ll just have to rely on luck however some advice would be helpful.  Any suggestions?

My kit (and luggage) obviously has to work with the logistics.  Once I’ve worked out where I need to get to in London, I need to be able to get there safely with bike, bags, etc.  I suspect this is a situation in which less is more!

Sponsorship:  When is the right time to start fund raising?  There is an argument for “as soon as possible”, but if people are like me they will recognise they have plenty of time and do nothing.  I could wait until the last minute, but that doesn’t leave much scope for reminding people.

Having pondered this for a while, I’ve reached the conclusion that right about now is a good time to start.  100 days before the event, Christmas is out of the way, everyone’s in need of the feel good factor that giving a little money to charity will provide… the timing couldn’t be better!

Sponsorship will be a feature of the run-in to the cycle, but I’m not going to obsess about it.  I am paying for the trip myself so every penny raised will go to the British Heart Foundation.  I’ve set myself a target of raising £3,000 but that’s just a target… it’s all good!

Incidentally, my fundraising site is up and running, you can access it by clicking here.

Thanks again to everyone who’s already sponsored me!

Training:  So that just leaves training (which I also equate to Health and Fitness).  So far so good I’d say.  I’m cycling over 40 miles on a regular basis, and around 120 miles a week.  I need to ramp it up as we get close to the event, and do more outside on the open road, but I have time.  The key thing is that I look after myself.

I also have the small matter of a check-up with the Cardiologist in a couple of weeks.  It’ll be the first time I’ve seen him since I left hospital in June so it’s a reasonably significant event.  I’m not exactly sure what the check-up will entail.  Hopefully it’ll be a formality.  Fingers crossed!

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To Do List

So, that’s it.  I always feel better when I’ve made a list.  Now all I need to do is start crossing things off it!

The longest month

Is it just me, or is this January the longest month ever?  It feels like it’s been going on forever, and there’s still over a week left!  If it were possible to have a double Blue Moon, this is the month in which it would fall*.

What colour would a second Blue Moon in a month be?

Part of the reason has to be that it’s a genuinely long month, excruciatingly extended by the way the calendar has fallen…  New Year seems like a lifetime ago.  There was almost a full week before we returned to the routine.  Then there were four full working weeks.  It feels like we’ve had five Fridays already… and two still to go!

I think part of the reason is that I’ve got lots to look forward to.  Unfortunately none of it is scheduled to happen this month.  Patience isn’t my best quality.  At times I feel like a schoolboy again.  I’m excited!

Incidentally. most of the excitement is dull, grown-up stuff.  I’ll keep you informed of the interesting and / or childish activities!  Many of the things I’m looking forward to may be an anti-climax or a downright disappointment – you’ll probably hear about them too!

Perhaps the exercise and healthy living are contributing.  Maybe it’s the endorphins kicking in.  Is it possible to wind back the body clock?  Perhaps a little?

Anyway, I won’t wish my time away.  There are still 8 sleeps till February (For me that means, 5 rides, 3 swims and who knows what opportunities).  Let’s make the most of them!

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*  I am not referring to two take outs from our favourite Indian Restaurant.  Most are double Blue Moon months by that measure.  For the record,  I continue to be good though (Mixed Tandoori, Boiled Rice, Lentils and Spinach).

September; A good month to join a gym

Today I did my first early morning, pre-work swim of 2014.

I haven’t been too hard on myself up to this point.  The dark, cold mornings are difficult enough to deal at the best of times.  Having thoroughly enjoyed the long relaxing Christmas break, getting up for work has been enough of a shock to the system without trying to get to the pool.  I therefore gave myself a little time to ease back into the routine.  Given most of December was spent trying to fight off colds and sniffles, it’s been a while since an early morning swim was part of the routine.

The pool was very busy.  Some say it’s a myth that January is the busiest month at gyms, but I put the new faces down to New Year Resolutions that are yet to fall by the wayside.

If you are planning a “get fit” campaign, I would strongly recommend you do not start in January.  No wonder people find it difficult to stick with their Resolutions… everywhere is crowded, it’s really not pleasant!

Now, if you could just find yourself a space…

Apparently Gyms rely on over-subscription and a significant drop off in attendance as the month / year goes on,   If people only experience a gym or swimming pool in January, I can completely understand why they don’t enjoy it.

Wouldn’t it be great if, rather than doing New Year Membership Promotions, your gym focused on its existing members.  They could re-open admissions in February.  I know New Memberships are 50% higher in January, but it would send a good message. 

To existing members it would say:  “We care about you.  We want you to have access to the facilities you have paid for,”

To Prospective members it would say:  “We want you to take your membership seriously.  We know that if you join in January, chances are that we won’t see you again.  Wait a bit.  Think about it.  If you’re serious then we’ll welcome you with open arms…  Oh, and when you are a Member, we will look after you too!” *

Of course, (in the Northern Hemisphere, and particularly in Scotland) the issue is exacerbated by the winter weather… heading outside isn’t exactly the most appealing of propositions.  The weather is made for a onesie, a roaring fire, a box-set and a glass / mug of something to warm the insides.

Instead of January, I’d suggest you start your fitness campaign in September.  Get the Summer holiday out the way and then get yourself fit.  The gyms will be quiet, the weather temperate, the days long.  You’ll have a natural head start, you’ll feel great and you should be in the swing of things by the time January and the winter blues come around.

Anyway, I managed to fight my way through the crowds for a reasonable swim.  With a Turbo Trainer session this evening I’m feeling tired but satisfied.  Time to kick back in my onesie!

Onesie

How can a man look so cool and so cosy at the same time?!

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*  I recognise this is selfish and elitist.  It is also largely irrelevant for me and the many thousands people that use Public Facilities.  We just have to suck it up and make the most of it.

Norway Cycle Warning

I spent a few weeks working in Norway last year.  Every day on my way to work I passed this road sign.

I came across it on my phone today.  It makes me smile each time I see it… the things we cyclists have to put up with!

Apparently today is the most depressing day of the year.  If this doesn’t help get rid of the blues I’d suggest a few miles on a bike, but mind your head!

Milestones along the way

Today I visited the British Heart Foundation website about 15 minutes before registration for the London to Brighton Bike Ride opened.  To be honest, it was a complete coincidence.  I was actually going to read the latest news on Heart Research, but found myself in a “Waiting Room”, approximately 650th in the queue.  So I waited.

London to Brighton is an annual event.  I have watched it from afar but never participated – For a few years I lived just off Clapham Common where it starts.  It attracts thousands of people (27,000 last year) so the atmosphere looks amazing.  I always fancied it, my non-participation was mostly due to laziness.  Given I was already in the queue , I figured “Why not?”.

This is the 3rd event I have lined up for the Summer.  I’m really excited about them all.  Each will act as a mini-milestone, something to focus on and build up to.  Each has a slightly different motivation too…

The Euro City Cycle is really for me.  It’s over four days, and was the challenge I set myself back in August when I really didn’t have any idea what I’d be capable of.  I guess in a way it was two fingers to the Heart Attack and putting the Rehabilitation I was undergoing into some context.

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but many of the anxieties still exist, just not to the same degree.  I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when I finish the event in Brussels (other than a bit sore of course!).

eurocitycycle_imm-banner

London to Brighton will be a community event.  it’s the British Heart Foundation’s flagship fundraising event so there’ll be a big team there.  I would imagine there will also be a number of people other than myself doing both events.

I think there is something magical about large crowds.  I’ve always got a buzz from attending big sporting events, or concerts.  On a couple of occasions I’ve had the privilege of being in  the middle as a competitor.  I think London to Brighton will be a bit of both:  Spectator and Participant at the same time.

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It happens that London to Brighton takes place on the anniversary of my Heart Attack.  That will make it a little bit more special.  It will be a really nice way of closing out the year and looking forward to the future.

Finally, I have the Ride the North event in late August:  Inverness to Aberdeen over two days.  This is probably the most challenging (a bit more bumpy than Belgium and Holland!), so lucky it’s last!  I’m going to participate in with some friends, so it’ll have a different feel to the others.

Of course, the plan is to raise money for the British Heart Foundation over the course of the year too (You can help by donating here), but selfishly there’s a lot more to it for me.

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I’ve never done anything like this before.  In a way it’s strange that it took a Heart Attack to prompt me into action.  At the same time it had to be something fairly drastic to break the habits of the past.

Either way, I’m excited about the summer’s plans and passing some memorable milestones on my journey!