Monthly Archives: April 2014

Time goes by… so slowly

When I was at school I was a keen sportsman.  I used to participate in pretty much every sport I had the opportunity to.  I enjoyed participating for fun, but I really enjoyed competition.

Out of school activities changed a lot during my time at school, as teachers reduced the amount of extra-curricular activities they supported.  However, I was lucky enough to have a few years in which we had a full fixture list of Rugby, Football and Cricket matches against similar schools in the surrounding area.

During the shortest days of winter, some matches were held on Saturday mornings, but generally they took place after school.  The afternoons building up to a match were the longest ever.  Time passed slowly.  Double geography passed at a glacial pace.  Chemistry dragged like the half-life of uranium.  I didn’t do patience well.  I would spend the afternoon looking out of the window, excited about what was to come.

I’m not sure where you’d put my day dreams on this scale!

Over the years I haven’t got much better at patience.  The bigger the occasion, the worse I tend to be.

This week has been slow!

It’s not that life is dull, but in a week’s time we should be preparing to board the ferry to take us to the continent, the first day of cycling under our belts, on our way to Amsterdam.  I’m just excited!

I know it’ll be over in the blink of an eye, but it’s taking forever to arrive.  Easter seems to have switched April into slow-motion and the recent cold spell has introduced a dose of suspended animation.  I suspect early May will be no better.

I need to dig deep and find five days of patience… wish me luck!

Please wake me up on Tuesday morning!

Please wake me up on Tuesday morning!

The unknowns

I am well aware that perfect preparation doesn’t necessarily result in perfect execution.  There are always the unknowns to deal with, the surprises, and the factors that are just out of our hands.

In my opinion, worrying about the unknowns is a waste of energy irrespective of whether they’re known or unknown!

As far as physical training for the Euro City Cycle is concerned I think I’ve done just about everything that could have been expected of me.  I’ve slowly built up my mileage and, while I haven’t done four days of 70+ miles in a row, I have done multiple consecutive days of cycling and tried to keep the intensity up by including some decent hills.

Even so, it’ll be interesting to see how my body physically reacts to the four days of activity.  What is clear to me is that I need to do what I can to ensure the unknowns don’t add to the physical stress of the event.  Simple things like sleeping in different places every night, “foreign” food, sharing a room and, possibly, a change in climate all have the potential to have an impact.

To be honest, a change in climate would be very welcome right now.  The past couple of days have felt like winter’s returned to the North East of Scotland.  On this morning’s ride I was concerned that the numbness in my feet was due to the cold… what temperature does it need to be to run the risk of frostbite?

During the event it’s going to be really important for me to remember why I’m doing it.  I need to give myself every chance of successfully completing it by looking after myself.

In the past I would have been comfortable getting by on adrenalin, I would have burned the candle at both ends without any concerns.  Those days finally caught up with me and I’ve had my wings clipped somewhat.

So, I’ll leave any shenanigans to other members of the party.  I’m going to look after myself and try to minimise the unknowns.  I know they’re going to be a factor, I just want to make sure they’re not self-inflicted!

***

As an early example of potential curveballs, a rumour has started that on the first evening of the ride, before boarding the ferry we will have access to a room to “shower and freshen up” for a total of 8 minutes each.  While this has the potential to be an issue for some, I’m going to practice my bathroom drill over the next week or so to make sure I’m fully prepared! 😉

 

Time for a service

With under two weeks to go until I start the Euro City Cycle, it seemed like a sensible time to get a pre-ride check-up for myself and the bike.

I was due a check in with my GP anyway.  It’s been almost 3 months since my last visit.  In fact, I hadn’t seen him since I went to the Cardiologist, so it was an opportunity to get some more feedback on that.  One of the potential side effects of my medication is diabetes so we had fasting blood test results to look at too.

You may feel a little prick!

You may feel a little prick!

It’s funny but, after everything I’ve been through, one of the things I look forward to least is giving blood.  I know it doesn’t really hurt, but I don’t enjoy the anticipation of the “prick”.  What a wimp!  The only good news is that my veins are a bit more prominent now so the whole process is a bit less traumatic than it used to be.

My check up was unremarkable.  My Blood Pressure was “perfect”.  My Cholesterol levels are under control (Total = 3.2 mmol/L, LDL = 1.8 mmol/L, HDL = 1.1 mmol/L) and there are no indications of diabetes.  In summary, it’s all good!

The Doc was, however, keen to remind me that I have recently experienced a cardiac episode, and I should bear this in mind when doing my various activities and challenges.  I recognise he had to say it, but I don’t think I hid my excitement about the fast approaching trip very well!  I guess he has to trust (or hope) his patients follow his instructions otherwise he’s fighting a losing battle.  He has little to worry about as far as I’m concerned!

***

I really haven’t done very much work on my bike since I got it.  Apart from a couple of puncture repairs and fitting a new saddle, I have used it, but done little to maintain it.  I know I should really learn, but I also recognise my limitations.  At this stage I think I would struggle in terms of knowledge, skills and perseverance.  The last thing I want to do is intentionally “break” the bike and not be able to ride it.

This is about the extent of my bicycle maintenance skills!

The main objectives of the service are to tune the gears and check the brakes.  The gears have become increasingly temperamental and noisy over the past couple of weeks.  It’s been helpful in telling me which gear I’m in (some are particularly noisy), but I have the distinct feeling that its an indication that all is not well!

So, the bike is booked in for a service tomorrow.  Hopefully it’ll come back feeling like a new machine, with the gears purring and the brakes secure.

If only it was as easy to tune ourselves up!

Ne’er cast a clout

“Ne’er cast a clout till May be out”  (Traditional saying)

I’ve been struggling to think of a pursuit that requires more items of clothing than cycling outside in the North East of Scotland during the Winter.

Over the past couple of months, preparing for a ride has been a bit of a rigmarole.  A typical outing has required:  cycling helmet, warm hat, snood, base layer top, short sleeved cycling jersey, long sleeved cycling jersey, wind-proof vest, jacket, underwear, cycling shorts, full length tights, winter socks, cycling shoes, shoe covers and thick winter gloves.

Yes, it was possible to get a little warm, to overheat.  There was certainly a tendency to get damp from the inside during a long ride. but I would rarely describe myself as “hot”. The elements and the nagging cold were powerful enough to fight their way through.  Fingers and toes would suffer most, a combination of restricted circulation and the persistent chill.

Saturday Ride

View from the top of the climb on Saturday’s ride

This week, has seen a bit of a change.  An increase in temperature has seen the acceleration of Spring, new leaves are emerging, there are flowers everywhere and cyclists have emerged in abundance.

Today in particular has got everyone excited.  Easter has been accompanied by a beautiful day.  There isn’t a cloud to be seen.

The nice weather has resulted in people throwing caution to the wind… people have been casting clouts left, right and centre!  I have to admit, I am also guilty.  For today’s ride I discarded no less than 5 items of clothing.

Benachie across Loch Skene

Benachie across Loch Skene this morning

The ride itself was lovely.  The sun was out, the birds were singing, lambs frolicking.  I think this is what cycling was invented for.  The lack of protection also made me feel somehow more connected to my surroundings, more free.

I appreciate the advice, but I say forget May, live a little, cast a clout!

Snow on the Hills

Be warned! There is still snow in them there hills!

Just outside Amsterdam

I woke up yesterday morning in a hotel room just outside Amsterdam. (It was fortunate really as that’s where I went to bed the previous night!). In 3 weeks time I hope to do the same thing, but under very different circumstances…

3 weeks today I should be half way through the Euro City Cycle. Having left the roads of Blighty behind us, and survived a night on a ferry, we should have made our way to “Amsterdam” at the end of the second leg of our journey.

I say “Amsterdam” as we’re actually going to be staying in Hoofddorp, an area on the outskirts of Schipol Airport. Ironically I’ve spent a lot of time in Hoofddorp over the past few years with work.  Even the hotel we’ll be staying in is very familiar to me, it was a regular haunt, located about 10 minutes walk from the office.

Amsterdam 1

Amsterdam… sunny and flat. That’ll do for me!

It made me smile when I saw the detailed itinerary. Rather like the fact the “London” leg of the trip starts in Brentwood, Hoofddorp isn’t quite Amsterdam. It’s pleasant enough. I’ve had some fun times there. It’s just not Amsterdam.

I guess circumstances are everything!

It will be a novel and, I’m sure, exciting experience rolling in to Hoofddorp under my own steam. I suspect we’ll be a little jaded, with 2 days cycling and a night on a boat under our belts. It’ll feel very different to the drudgery of working away from home, of endless Club Sandwiches, “healthy” chips (the fat ones) and too many Club Room beers.

The Hoofddorp I know and love! 🙂

Hopefully by that stage of the trip we’ll all feel part of a team; like we’re collectively achieving something.

It certainly feels like the collective excitement is building. Rooms mates have been selected / appointed and we’re starting to get to know each other; social media is good for some things!

For me it’s eyes down to the big event. Less than 20 sleeps. Final Wiggle order to place and assorted creams to purchase… I’m definitely looking forward to being back in the Netherlands again very soon!

Davina got me up this morning…

Having lacked energy and enthusiasm, yesterday turned into little more than a “duvet day”.  A mid-afternoon snooze set me up nicely for the evening’s golf.

Given there’s a little over three weeks until the start of the Euro City Cycle, I felt a bit guilty about not getting out on the bike.  The guilt was exacerbated somewhat by stories of epic training rides and sportives in the sunny south from other Euro City Cycle participants.  However, it was a good decision to take it easy, to save it for another day.

***

It seems as though Sports Relief has been a real inspiration this year.  As well as raising huge amounts of cash for good causes, the feature challenges have set the bar high for those of us looking to do something remarkable ourselves.  In particular, the courage and stamina that Davina McCall showed on her “Beyond Breaking Point” challenge (incidentally, when did they come up with that name?) is a real motivator as we each look to “channel our inner Davina”.

I know the feeling... but for me it usually only lasts a few hours! Photo Credit:  Alex Walker / Comic Relief / PA Wire

I know the feeling… but for me it usually only lasts a few hours!
Photo Credit: Alex Walker / Comic Relief / PA Wire

This morning was very similar to yesterday (bright and blustery), however, Davina’s inspiration was enough to get me out of bed and out on the bike.  Cycling is much easier in a group, not least because peer pressure gets you to the start line.  Today I was cycling solo.

Fortunately, the hardest thing was leaving home.  Any doubts were left behind.

I’ve slowly ramped up the miles over the past few weekends.  Today I took on my longest solo ride, at around 62 miles.  I also took on the climbs that I last attempted during my “Introduction to climbing“.  Having walked on two of them last time, I was keen to stay in the saddle this time.

The view from the top of the Suie this afternoon, the "high point" of my ride.

The view from the top of the Suie this afternoon, the “high point” of my ride.

It was tough going, not helped by strong gusts of wind, but I managed to rattle off the hills without any particular dramas.  Four and a half hours after heading out I crept up my final climb and home.  The “laziness” of yesterday behind me, satisfied, and back on track for the challenge.

***

So, a big thanks to Davina!  I’m sure she had a huge sense of satisfaction when she finished her challenge and counted the money, but she should also be proud of her legacy; whether people are raising money for charity, or simply looking to get themselves in shape, she has shown us the way.  No excuses!

In need of re-inflation

We often joke about the need for a rest to recover from a holiday, but that seems to be exactly the case for me today.  Having had a fun, active few days, we fought our way through the Friday traffic and arrived home late yesterday afternoon.

I was excited about the prospect of getting out on my bike this morning, the first time since last weekend,  While we were away I got out on the mountain bike regularly, but it was primarily for transport rather than for exercise.  I’m building towards the Euro City Cycle, but I figured a few days away from the road bike might do me good.  Instead, I got my focused exercise for the week in the gym.

It looks like I'm not the only one that's struggling with the pace!

It looks like I’m not the only one that’s struggling with the pace!

I awoke to a very blustery morning.  Unfortunately the day seemed to have a lot more energy than I did.  I felt flat, deflated, pooped.  The intention had been to do a hilly 60 mile ride, but I quickly reconsidered my plans.  Given the lack of any specific ailment I decided to get on the Turbo Trainer instead.  It didn’t take long for my decision to be vindicated… I felt weak, empty, and tired quickly.

Pre-Heart Attack, I would have just considered myself to be “knackered” and prescribed rest.  So that’s just what I’ve done.  Hopefully I’ll have more of a spring in my step tomorrow.

***

Fortunately I have “The Masters” to keep me occupied over the weekend.  It’s probably my favourite sporting event of the year.  I think it’s partly because it’s such a contrast to life here.  It’s idyllic, alien even, in comparison with winter in the North East of Scotland.  The colours are so vivid, the grass perfect, and the weather generally beautiful (in fact I feel somehow cheated when it’s less than perfect).

The exclusivity of the course also adds to the appeal.  There are few people that have picked up a golf club that haven’t dreamt of playing a round at Augusta.  Even just hitting a tee shot at the 12th hole would be a thrill.

leadImage

Of course, I also enjoy the golf.  There are always so many twists and turns to the event, so many trials and tribulations.  There’s something satisfying about professionals at the top of their games battling the course, each other, and occasionally even fighting to avoid embarrassment!

I think psychologically “The Masters” also represents the promise of better things… warmth, fresh air and sunshine.  We can but dream!  Enjoy!