Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bridging the Gap

For the past three years I have called myself a cyclist, but in essence I have always felt a bit phony.
Each year I have trained and completed long distance rides from January until September.
I then put my bike away for the rest of the year whilst I bask in my achievements. This is often accompanied by out of season gorging, as I stuff myself like a turkey primed for Christmas.

Some people cycle all year long in rain, snow and shine as part of their daily lives, commuting to work, some have no choice. (that's the real achievement).
They then cycle for fun at weekends.
I read their blogs with huge admiration. Red bike being one of my hero's check out his blog.

For me living only a mile from where I work is hardly commuting, Its not even worth getting my tyres wet.

Last week things changed - I was offered a new role at work which means travelling about 12 miles away.

In deciding if I were to take the job I had to consider a number of factors, but the thing that appealed to me most of all was the opportunity to become a real cyclist.

To bridge the Gap between being a leisure Cyclist and environmental commuter, a proper cyclist.

It was a no brainer, I took the job.
I'm relishing the disciple in getting up early to set off to work and arriving at my desk within minutes of getting out of a shower.

Although it is only 12 miles I don't have to go the most direct route and on the return journey I can make it 20 or 30 miles or whatever I feel like, whilst pedaling off the stress of work before I get home.

I don't start for a couple of weeks which means the weather may improve and certainly there will more daylight time to play with.

This Saturday I had a test run, the most direct route is 'urban cycling' something I usually avoid. It presented a whole new set of challenges, including treating all car drivers as being blind as well as stupid.
Being a car driver myself I have nothing against car drivers, but for most of them the only pedals they touch are the accelerator or the brake.
Having such a strong views is aginst my nature but good for self preservation.

My new offices are quite close to the Humber Bridge, so after getting to the office in about 45 mins I took a detour on the way home, including stopping at the Humber Bridge Park for a nice warming Latte.
From there I cycled to North Ferriby, Raywell, Little Weighton and over to Newbald before returning to Beverley making it 37 miles in total.

As if in total approval of my new travel arrangements the sun came out the wind disappeared and even by feet remained at a temperature that was bearable.
As well as training for my future events in the USA, It seems I am now destined to become a real cyclist...............
I'm looking forward to cursing drivers, gliding past the lines of stationary traffic in the morning and feeling the sense of liberation as each rotation of my pedals moves me to and from my place of work
Energy does not always have to be generated by fuel.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Freezing Thursday

Although the weather has hardly improved, the show must go on. In freezing fog and drizzle Simon and I cycled from Driffield to Scarborough. Not as the crow flies, more of the sort of route that that an intoxicated parrot might take.
We went directly over the Wolds taking in Kilham,Thwing,Wold Newton and Foden, basically the steepest bits. Then rather than follow the relatively flat course of the Vale of York to Scarborough we decided on a more challenging excursion.
Heading North West to East Ayton and up the Forge Valley to Hackness ready to take on the 'Kirkgate Killer' up to Silpho. Fortunately Simon had two punctures just prior to Hackness so I had time to relax a bit and mentally prepare my self for the ascent.
Not many people have ever written about this seldom used route from Hackness mainly because of just that 'Its lack of use'. With its sump wrecking hair pin bends and 25% gradient why would anyone want to use it, even hardened walkers give it a miss, unless they are coming down it. Cycling it, on an icy road requires a 'cardio-cracking cadence' to reach the top.
As I climbed I was panting like an over heated spaniel, and was slightly disconcerted with the taste of blood in my throat as my lungs felt like they were busting open. The higher we got the less I could see as we climbed into a low cloud base. This was a blessing inside as I could then deal this the climb with one revolution at a time.
There would have been a nutural sense of Euphoria to climb such a beast so early in the season. Frankly I was to F***ed to feel good about anything.
After my heart bead came out of the 180's I did feel releaved to be heading to our destination.
As we entered Scarborough we arrived at the North Bay via the Whitby Scarborough Road.
I took some pictures there which showed the low cloud base and provided proof that it was not really seasonal weather for paddling.......Oh joy.
I cant wait till Texas

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What a difference a day makes

This weekend was totally exasperating!!!!!!!
My good friend Simon and I had decided some time ago that we would take our bikes up onto the North Yorkshire Moors.
Our plan was to park in 'Thornton le Dale' then cycle up through Dalby Forest onto the Moors to Goathland (The setting for the TV Series Heartbeat) and somewhere I used to live.
We would then have some lunch and maybe a pint of the local ale before boarding the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Train to Pickering, only three miles from where our car was parked.

It is a journey I have done once before, the scenery is quite breathtaking, with a view from the top of the moors whilst cycling, and from the deep gorged valleys on the return journey by Train.
So last weekend It was finally decided that this Saturday would be the day.

During the middle of last week, heavy snow was forecast for Saturday, with Sunday due to be fine and Sunny.
Undeterred we simply changed our plans to Sunday.
On Friday night the forecast had changed with both days due to be fine.
After consulting Simon we decided to stick with our new arrangements.

Needing to get my mileage in I decided to go out on Saturday as well. I had my most enjoyable ride this year, and was able to maintain a shadow on the road throughout, riding in brilliant sunshine, although it was still bitterly cold.
I only did 37 miles wanting to preserve my energy for the next day, It did however include lots of climbing (2500ft). As I took in the various vistas I thought how great it would be on the Moors and relished the prospect of cycling on Sunday.

When its sunny the Moors look beautiful in any season, when its not they look very bleak especially in winter.

On Sunday Simon was picking me up at 7am, and as I turned on the early morning news I saw a new weather warning.
Heavy snow.........arriving within the next two hours.
It was the only weather forecast that delivered !!!!!!!!

So another Sunday lost to the weather.

We have been told that this has been the worst winter since 1963. I therefore decided to look for archived material for that year. Curiously I found a video of a film called 'snow'.

It featured, moorland, snow and old steam trains, the only thing that It was missing was two over weight middle aged cyclists. It seemed quite apt to mention it in this blog.

Snow was filmed by Geoffrey Jones a documentry film maker. It was filmed for British Transport Films (BTF) but it owes its existence to a happy twist of fate. In September 1962 Jones began his research for a film about design for the British Railways Board. Armed with a 16mm camera, he travelled throughout the country, shooting film 'notes' of anything he found particularly interesting.

Viewing the footage, Jones was struck by several images of black steam trains churning down the tracks against a glaring white backdrop, and hit upon the idea of making a new, separate film contrasting the comfort of the passengers with the often Herculean efforts of the workmen to keep the trains going in hazardous conditions. On January 31st, 1963 Jones met with BTF head Edgar Anstey. Realising that the film would have to be made quickly or delayed until the following winter, Anstey agreed straightaway and shooting commenced the very next day. Jones and his barebones crew proceeded to chase winter conditions across the country.

Unable to afford his first choice of music, 'Teen Beat' by American Jazz musician Sandy Nelson, Jones had British musician Johnny Hawksworth re-record the tune, expanding it to twice its original length by reducing it to half its original speed at the start and steadily accelerating the tempo over a period of eight minutes to a speed approximately twice as fast as the original. Daphne Oram of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop added various filters.

Viewing Snow can be a hypnotic experience. Jones begins the film with a slow military throb, with the railway station and tracks all but buried beneath a mountain of snow and ice. The pace increases with the workmen's clearing of the tracks, and while the trains barrel through the snow-covered countryside, the music accelerates. The percussive editing between trains and environment reaches a joyous crescendo with a rapid succession of pounding snow, churning pistons, fields of livestock and the ever-present tracks, ending in a wild flourish of percussion.

Snow received at least 14 major awards upon its release, as well an Oscar nomination in 1965. It has been screened around the world and remains a favourite of fans of Geoffrey Jones' work and British Transport Films. Most importantly, this film marked the first full realisation of Jones' signature style, which he would expand upon and refine in subsequent films like Rail (1966), Trinidad and Tobago (1964) and Locomotion (1975). Report from James White

Here is a link to the film.............Its 7 mins of
very clever cinematography.
Next week Simon and I will give it another go and make our own film called 'No Snow'

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursdays Thrifty Fifty

With further heavy snow forecast for this Saturday, I was concerned that my ambitions to maintain and increase my weekly mileage might be severely compromised.

So instead of sulking I took the day off work and headed for the seaside.
Despite being bitterly cold it was a nice fast run and I broke through the 50 miles mark for for the first time this year.

Two years ago I would have been overjoyed at such an achievement but 50 miles became a routine training ride last summer. Never mind it is progress and if the snow holds off I may get over 100 miles in for the week. I am planning to venture onto the North Yorkshire Moors on Sunday weather permitting. Should be able to get some great photos as I am joined by my old training buddy Simon who might be coerced into being a Cameraman
I'm really looking forward to those 25% gradients.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Potty Training

This winter has been one of the harshest that Great Britain has experienced for many years and at a time of recession has caused huge financial problems on councils tasked with keeping the highways and by ways clear for traffic. As the snow and ice clears from our roads, a new problem has surfaced.

The constant freeze and thaw has dismantled the surface of many roads causing them to break up and form a plague of potholes. No road has seemingly escaped from the elements from motorways to local single carriage byways.

With budgets already broken in purchases of grit there is little financial resources left in the pockets of local authorities to remedy the problem.

Having cycled most of the roads in my cycling exploits last years,I gained some local knowledge. The few local potholes were on my radar and were programmed into my journey.
The anticipation was formulated. Now I don't have a clue.
Deep holes that could at the least cause a puncture and at the worst wreak a bike are everywhere.

One oxford man has decided to take matters more personally

And he's using flowers to prove it. Forget stuffing them down the barrels of guns, Pete Dungey has been tirelessly ridding Oxford of its potholes by filling them up with primroses. "It began as part of a project called 'subvert the familiar'," says the graphic design student. "I wanted to do something that would grab attention but also raise awareness of an issue, and so the project was born. I have been planting the gardens for about a fortnight now and see it as an ongoing thing."
"Potholes are a big problem that could be eradicated quite simply. Hopefully it's something that grabs attention and raises awareness although I wouldn't call myself a renegade cyclist."
Pete currently works alone but he's hoping other people will follow his example. If you do, he's asking you to take a snap and email it to him via his website.

I think that this is a great idea and will be heading to the garden centre very soon !!!!!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Its not all about pedling

This week has been good for me, my mileage has increased, I have started climbing proper hills and I am finally starting to get some real rhythm on my bike.
But getting bike fit is not all about cycling, Core strength is just as important, as is being lighter and leaner.

What has given me the most satisfaction this week has not even involved the turn of a pedal.

Through healthier eating I have lost 4 lbs and I have started going to Body Pump Classes.

Rather than do isolated gym work with no real plan or objective I decided that this year I would change that. So I signed up for 2 BODYPUMP classes a week, as well as my two spinning classes, to compliment my outdoor cycling.

I started this week.

I have always been put off by doing weights, as having a broad frame, I end up looking like Popeye, however these classes are more aerobic with lighter weights and multiple reps focusing on all of the main muscle groups. All of this is done to funky music.


1. Warmup
The opening track is designed to warm up all the major muscles and prepare the body for the workout ahead. First we adopt the BODYPUMP™ set position of standing upright with great posture, heels under hips with the toes turned out slightly. The tummy is held in tight, the chest is proud with the shoulders down and back and knees are soft… Then we do shortened versions of each of the main exercises to follow, warming up all the major muscle groups and preparing the body for the workout ahead.
2. Legs/squats
The first real working track targets the biggest muscle groups of quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings with squats performed at different speeds – slow for strengthening and toning, fast for burning calories. Participants will use their heaviest weight selection for this track.
3. Chest
The focus changes from legs to the upper body and lighter weights are used as participants lie back on their bench to work the barbell up and down at chest level. This track targets the major muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps with moves of varying range and intensity.
4. Back
Participants return to the standing set position for the most athletic track of the class. A selection of lifts and deadrows trains the postural muscles of the upper-mid and lower back and the cardio-vascular system soars with clean and presses, where the barbell is lifted high above the head. This engages all the muscles of the upper-mid and lower back, as well as working the gluteals and hamstrings.
5. Triceps
Time to lie back on the bench again and sculpt and tone the triceps using lighter weights. The barbell is held at chest level and lowered toward the forehead or chest by bending the arms at the elbow. Other moves may include tricep kickbacks using a single plate, tricep push-ups and tricep dips.
6. Biceps
Similar of slightly lighter weights are used to isolate and train the biceps with a succession of lifts and curls.
7. Lunges
Weights are optional in the lunge track, which revisits and trains multiple leg muscles by extending one leg forward (on or off the bench) and dropping the back knee towards the floor.
8. Shoulders Barbells and single, hand-held plates are used in this track to work all areas of the deltoids in a range of different ways. Exercises can include lateral raises with plates, upright rows, rotator and overhead presses – and the ever-faithful push-ups.
9. Abdominals
The last working track is focused on all areas of the body’s core, relying heavily on the use of sit-ups and leg raises, with bodyweight ‘hovers’ and ‘planks’ also frequently incorporated. Single plates may be placed on the chest or lifted overhead to increase the work-load.
10. Cooldown
Soothing music is usually used to accompany a final sequence of stretches to complete the workout and help reduce any risk of muscle soreness or injury.

I highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Out of the shadows

This week I got an E mail from my brother Paddy in Houston about my trip to the States in April.
The Natchez Trace is now nailed on. We are doing it from Natchez (Mississippi) to Nashville (Tennessee) along the Natchez Trace Parkway. This also takes in a bit of Alabama.
It is 444 miles and gives me quite a tough Itinerary:

12th of April arrive Houston

17th/18th of April Houston to Austin 180 miles MS 150
18th April travel back to Houston
19th of April Travel to Natchez
20th to 24th April Natchez Trace 444 Miles
20th April Natchez to Ridgeland(Jackson)
21st April Ridgeland to just south of Tupelo
22nd April Tupelo to Florence
23rd April Florence to Columbia
24th April Columbia to Nashville
24th of April Eve sample delights of Nashville
25th of April travel back to Houston
26thy of April Fly back to England, too tired to watch any movies.

According to my elementary maths, and with the assistance of my fingers and toes that's 624 miles in 8 days.
Last summer when I was at peak fitness I would have felt a bit anxious, right now I feel quite sick at the prospect of lugging my excess weight around the southern states of America.
However I like challenges, and having the confirmation of the trip has really focused my mind.
I still have about 2 months till I set off .
I must use everyday.

Last night I went to spinning and afterwards did a new exercise class called 'Body Pump'. For those of you who have never heard of this its basically a series of exercises using weights, with low weights and many repetitions exercising all of your bodies muscle groups.
I thought it would be great to help with my core strength.
My initial weight selection was a bit ambitious and I soon found myself struggling, but I thought the class was great and intend to do this twice a week.
Today there was no snow falling from the sky. Only sunbeams.
I decided that I would take the afternoon off and get some more miles in.
Although in the shadows the roads were still covered with patches of snow and black ice, the rest of the road contained long stretches of dry tarmac.
I did not care about my running nose, frostbitten feet, and multiple layers of clothing, this was cycling.
Snow drops were evident on the kerb side dancing in the sunlight and keeping me amused and buoyant at the possibilities of Spring.
In the coming weeks leading up to my Departure to USA I will use my mid week blog to highlight the Natchez Trace.
If anyone is interested in joining us even for part of it we would welcome all.

Found this great Video as a Natchez Taster - first 2 mins not so good but persevere

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I would not really call myself a softie, however there have been moments in my life where tears have spilled from my eyes. The birth of my children, watching various mushy films and peeling /chopping onions.
The last one I accept is not really crying, there is no pain or deep emotion, its just a chemical reaction that takes place between the onion vapours and your eyes.

I have actually found a cure for this - wearing diving goggles, really, it works!!!!!!!!!
However if your Kitchen can be viewed my neighbouring houses you may wish to avoid this one and just weep instead.
After my ride today I have added another crying episode to my list. It is one which captures both pain and some essence of emotional trauma.
It is 'frozen feet'. Something I don't seem to be able to cure. Certainly wearing diving goggles does not prevent the tears on this one, although staying with the same theme, a full wet suit might just hit the mark.
I could even combine both wetsuit and goggles and cycle with bunches of onions around my neck like some aquatic Frenchman.

At the start of the day things seemed promising. The temperature had risen from negative digits to a mild 1 degree!!!!!!! The novelty had frankly made me feel quite giddy, although I was not quite ready to splash out the sun block.
Opening the front door supported this decision making process, as I was introduced to some new elements.
Fine, freezing and persistent drizzle.
You know the sort of stuff that finds gaps, especially through your overshoes.

No matter what I wear, when its cold my feet freeze, and when its cold and wet,it increases the potential for tears.
After 42 miles I could not feel my feet.
This is not some usual literary exaggeration, I mean I really could not feel my feet.
I kept on having to look down towards my pedals to make sure that they were still there.
At one point I flirted with a pothole and heard a loud clunk.
I nervously looked down and counted both feet as being present.
It was such a relief.
I truly believed that the sudden impact may have caused them to snap off and wondered what I might do if I was forced to stop suddenly.

It was so bad that each time I stopped at a junction I felt as if I were placing two stumps on the ground. On setting off, I had to visually place my shoes back into into the cleats to make sure that they didn't drag along the road.

Although my feet were completely numb my toes were not.
They felt as if they had been dipped into a deep fat fryer.
I must add at this point that I have never placed my feet in a deep fat fryer, I also suggest that any experimentation in physical empathy would be fool hardy, but I do imagine the pain from such would be similar to how I felt.
The wincing pain really brought tears to my eyes...........
If anyone has any solutions for cold feet, I would love to know, otherwise its on with the wetsuit
People might call be Jaques Cousteau

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


When I came home from work today it was like groundhog day. Groundhog day with a difference.
At least Bill Murray gets to have fun with Andie McDowell, learn the piano and develop a taste for French poetry. I am just stuck with the bad bits.
Freezing Cold, Ice, darkness and no Sunny and Cher to cheer me.

I was looking forward to my spinning class, as much as I might look forward to eating burnt custard.

The sofa seemed really inviting and with a couple of hours to spare I curdled up with a blanket like a contented tom cat that had eaten that extra mouse.
I turned the television on.
Not to watch it but to aid the possibility of dozing off.
If I ever need to sleep I just turn the TV on, its better than any sleeping pills.
It often takes me about three weeks to watch a feature film, I do it in 2 minute segments.

Anyway before I fully nodded off, I just happen to catch a trailer for a new film called 'Chasing Legends' (see Below)

Bill Murray may have been upset, but he still got up each morning and still persevered.
He tried to make the best of what he was presented with.
I was ten minutes early for spinning and as I set my wheels spinning I found myself reciting the work of Emile de Saint-Amand Deschamps.