For me it begins.

I am a NHS worker, a nurse, soon to return to clinical practice after a long time away from being regularly involved in it. Apart from teaching future and current clinicians the skills needed to work effectively, with people at the centre of everything they do. This may range from the technical skills of procedures in the clinical skills room to communication with each other, in teams and with patients with simulation based learning.  It’s a great job that involves variety, autonomy and flexibility.  It is also convenient for family life as I can easily fit in my cycling habit around my hours with a little fore-thought to ride more than 100km a week, more in the summer.

The pace of work over the past 2 weeks has been unprecedented, at times chaotic and changeable, often from hour to hour. Evolving training priorities and little capacity of other teams to manage this has meant that I have been more than useful in bridging a few gaps.  I have been pulled from pillar to post to meet an increasing need to prepare for what is coming.  Needless to say, I left work exhausted yesterday and in a low mood at the end of an increasingly scary week.

I took a reflective writing class a couple of weeks back in preparation for the second module of my course which now looks as though it will be pushed back to September at the very best. Riding home, reflecting on the metaphorical hard road ahead, I thought that a positive way in which to get through the next few months could be to chronicle events as they unfold. Understanding my feelings and recognising my tipping point before I fail to cope has never been a particular strength of mine. I was brought up not to “moan”, just get on with things and “soldier” on, get the job done. Consequently I tend to bottle things up which isn’t helped by my preference of my own company. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in a team and contributing. One of my strengths is to be a leader within rather than being THE leader in a team environment but I never have been that good at expressing my feelings constructively.

Paradoxically, this can damage relationships both within the team and my personal life. I hope that reflecting and writing will help. A $H¡T storm of the like that me and my colleagues have never experienced is here and going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. I’m not a negative person by nature. Nor am I overly positive. I’m open to, and often embrace new ideas and concepts but I am a realist to know when or why things won’t work. Sometimes others confuse this with cynicism and negativity. Sometimes I am, most times not.  But I do try workarounds and be resourceful (you have to be in the NHS or any health delivery system). I just like to look at all angles before I wade in to express my opinion. The current plague is a case in point. 

  • Contrary to what the public are told by our politicians, we DO NOT have enough of the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  We needed what we have now 4 weeks ago but it was not there and we WILL need more for at least 8 weeks as a result.  I know this because it was not available when I wanted it for learning and had to beg borrow and even steal it to make it happen. But Covid 19 isn’t going to wait for a time-out while we get our $H¡T together so we have to do the best that we can with what we have.  So I feel scared for myself, my colleagues and my family.  But I can only influence what I can in my small part of action and not waste energy on what I cannot change.  
  • In typical British prose, while the Government are telling the truth of sorts, they are not being explicit.  If you are patient facing in healthcare, you will know that they are sanitising the truth.  I presume that this is to avoid widespread panic but this makes me so angry.  I think people need to know and deserve the truth, even the ones who think that buying 48 rolls of bog roll will help the situation. We can mitigate peoples behaviour by policing it and enforcing lock down rules anyway.
  • What was initially encouraging today was the daily statement from Number 10 that it is thought that we will do “very well” to limit deaths to < 20,000 people in the UK. This truth is more the kind of thing that people need to know I thought. We have only reached 1000 today which should tell us something about the annihilation in the weeks to come.  At best, this figure is worst case best scenario conducted from some scientific model.  But did they liken this to an historical precedent like the 1st day of the Battle of the Somme (19,240 British & Commonwealth soldiers killed)? Or international cricket ground capacity like Lords (30, 000), the Oval (26, 000) or Edgbaston (25,000)? Nope, they expect people to read between the lines in typical British fashion.  I do a lot of work that focuses on good team communication that includes the pitfalls of assumptions leading to human error.  I think that the Downing Street comms team need to come to one of my classes.
  • As a result, my fear is that there could will be more as some people still seem to think that we are on some kind of holiday.  Because the dangers were not made explicit in personal terms for people to truly understand before it was too late.  And because social distancing was not enforced early enough with consequences if they were not followed.  And don’t get me started on that unaccountable, un-elected toad Dominic Cummings who is now quite happy to hide after his gross error in advising policy based on modelling that lacks any sort of rigour.
  • This is an invisible siege but a siege nonetheless.  Like 1940 Britain is an Island with limited resource for a number of reasons and facing catastrophe.  But I do understand that we can see more of the best in people than the worst in times of crisis.  I hope that the best of me is enough for my colleagues and my family.

Good luck everyone and stay safe.  Treat everyone outside of your house as if they have this virus.  It’s the only way for now.

Posted in Covid 19, cycling, Plague | Tagged | 4 Comments

My February face

“…what’s the matter
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness…”

William Shakespeare.

Cold temperatures, lots of cloud and a storm at the end of last week saw many factors to contribute to my February face.

Working in health-care, I have been receiving regular e-mail updates about the latest Corona virus outbreak. On Friday, after agitating all week for the failing boiler that heats my building to be fixed or even replaced, a bombshell was left in my in-box. I have edited out the identifiable stuff-they don’t like their staff publicly shaming them.

So that’s why there was no water or lighting in the shower/changing room on Thursday when I arrived at work. They were getting it ready without telling their “people”. We aren’t called staff anymore. Even HR have renamed themselves “Our People Directorate”. To end the staff comm, they dropped this little line…

Yeah, right! If they had the space and the money they would have already done this. It’s worth noting that this comm was sent after the lockers were moved with no one’s knowledge…to the corridor outside my office! Yep, looks like all people are equal except that some are more equal than others.

Not one to take things lying down, I drafted the response below.

We’ll see what eventuates but I can see showering in the OR becoming a daily routine. Or attending meetings in my smelly cycling kit. The apologetic response from the emergency and resilience manager to his credit was honest. In his assessment, he does not know whether there will be an area specified but will lobby for one but I don’t expect anything. After all, I ride a bike to work in traffic- I’m used to being ignored…

But the Estates manager, already (probably) fed up to his back teeth of me agitating for a warm building to work in is not going to hear the end of it until I get what is reasonable.

To round things off but the least problematic for me was a recent storm, the worst of which in my part of the UK was yesterday, Sunday. Others weren’t so lucky with power cuts, property damage from fallen trees and flooding.

I’m now sitting in the van outside school waiting for the boys soaked by rain after my ride into 40mph gusts. It was good and gnarly in a “there, I did it!” kind of way-was dreading going into it being pushed over into traffic so I kept a quiet a route as possible. The winds are slightly more predictable than the drivers in these parts. I even took a mini detour to stay out with Ciara for a bit longer. She had a real sting in her tail this arvo…

This post was brought to you by the essay avoidance (in)action group

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On the school run this morning, master15 asked me a question. “What’s the fastest 5km that you can do on the bike Dad?”

Me: “Dunno… its all about distance for me. If I go too fast, I find that I don’t see or feel things on my ride that I like to experience. Like nature and the weather and stuff you can’t appreciate when you’re in a car”.

Master15: “I did 5km in 11minutes yesterday in the gym. That’s my best so far”.

Me: “Well done, that’s a pretty good time! I guess on an average ride and I’m not busting my gut you understand but averaging 21km/hr with the up and down, the wind and slowing down in the town at lights in traffic etc that is a shade under 15minutes for 5km”.

Master15: ” oh, you can adjust the resistance to simulate climbing…”

Me: (thinking I could ask you to work out a formula to simulate the wind and the rhythm of riding the up and downs, and in the traffic but I won’t, you have too much testosterone and I don’t want an angry teenager this morning. Besides, he probably would come up with one-he’s clever like that…”you know what, I’ll see if I can go faster today on my way to work and get back to you. It probably won’t be as quick because of the traffic and lights thing…”

So I parked up at my usual supermarket park and ride venue and steeled myself for the pain of a quick one. Strava told me that I covered about 15.4km in a shade under 39 minutes. I didn’t exactly put the hammer down fully but I wasn’t hanging around enjoying the countryside either. My first 10km was 24 min 20 sec, the fastest 5km split (6.8-11.8km) was 11min 20 sec. All of it was into a 10mph headwind. On the 29er on roads in traffic. Not bad and it felt great not to plod it slowly into work for a change.

Not as fast as some but fast for me. AND in shorts-it was mild

I know who is faster and I sense a bit of healthy competition. Another way-marker in the slow decline of my alpha status I guess, but it did make me think about my speeds. I’ve been lazy for a while now, just content about getting from A-B. It was an opportunistic kick up the butt to reinvigorate my riding routine. I must remember to thank Master15 when I get home this evening…

It won’t be easy and it won’t be pretty and nor will it be every ride. But it will now be a regular goal to get faster. As one of the people that I follow on here says,”if you want to get fast, you have to go faster“.

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Still riding

I’m taking a break from Bloom, the Dreyfus brothers, lifelong learning and curriculum design to treat myself to a post.

I’ve travelled to Uni on 2 Tuesdays now which has substantially reduced my options for mileage for the rest of the week. I drive 20km to the Park and Ride and ride the remaining 5km to the campus in Chelmsford. I would ride it but it’s too cold, nowhere to shower and change and if I drop the boys off at school early enough, I can make it in time to get a coffee before lectures.

The first 3 km is on a busy A road with fast cars keeping me company. Apparently, Chelmsford is the birthplace of radio. Fans of Nikola Tesla don’t agree. When it’s warmer I will take a longer, quieter route but until then, I am stuck with the scary Chelmer Valley road, a major arterial into the city. I have found a cycle lane off the chaos that takes me the final 2km to campus off the road and there are plenty of places to lock and store the bike when I get there. It’s not a long ride so I ride in my “normal” clothes. Yesterday I made use of a 50min lunch break to ride a mile into the city along cycle paths to explore for a bit and get some screen wash for the van. The sun was out and I was happy cruising the vehicle free paths. I think that I like being a student again…

This morning for the ride to work I was in tights. It’s been real mild until Friday evening here to the extent that I have ridden in shorts just as much as tights this year. < 5°C is my threshold for tights. I did regret that on Friday when I got a flat 4km from home on a dark country lane on a cold night. The legs were OK but changing a tube with gloves on in the very dark and night time is not my idea of starting the weekend. Especially when they got damp and the fingers ended up frozen on my return to HQ.

Back to this morning, I was cloaked in fog with 20 metres visibility. Oncoming drivers, confused about my slow approaching single light, slowed out of caution wondering about the solitary orb travelling towards them in the gloom. I wish that they were always like that. The same can’t be said for the driver of the Megane that decided to close pass me from behind. She could only pass me on the single lane by splattering mud on the side of her car; as she edged past me, she had to mount the edge of a slushy ditch to get past. I passed her at the cross roads further up waiting to turn and I’d like to think that she wondered whether it was worth it if she saw me pass by.

This evening on my return, I rode a normal morning route in reverse just to mix things up. I’m trying everything to keep me engaged with riding in the cold and dark. Only another 9 weeks to go until the days are appreciably longer and warmer.

Now, back to draft a poster presentation about an educational thinker…

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Checking in

Its been a while posting. I didn’t ride any more work commutes last year than my last post (101). The 29er needed work. He got a new single crank, a rear cassette that looks like a pie plate (12 speeds), a new chain, a new headset (that isn’t stiff, doesn’t grind or squeak) and a hub service (front and back). I could’ve ridden but we had a lot of rain and physically I wasn’t up to it. When it was ready to roll, we still had rain, a lot of rain and a lot of puddles.

The depth of this puddle is half the height of a Range Rover. I know this because the brainless clown driving one got stuck mid way. Bypassing this bad boy added 5km to my commute.

Ever since the dirty santa ride, my lower back was stiff and sore. I stretched the hammies and all sorts of possible ways, fiddled with the saddle height and sliding it forward or back with no improvement. Because it was so sore after riding, I took a break for a few days, popped some Naproxen left over from my shoulder problem in the summer and rested it. Then I gingerly started again. It’s still stiff but no worse provided I stretch regularly.

Although January has continued to be moist, it has been pretty mild. 2 out of my 3 commutes have been in shorts. If only winter was always felt like 5°C at 6 a.m. I won’t be writing as regularly this year as I start a PG cert in Medical education and simulation in healthcare. That’s another reason that I have been absent-lots of “recommended” reading and pre course module reading has left me with little time.

And there’s been the usual winter Dad jobs too. I condense them into winter as summer is busy with cricket. Last winter was painting and decorating, this winter is shelves. An extra one in the linen cupboard and some in the spare room as a part of a wider improvement project. Also, an unintended job was making good the heated towel rail that pulled out the fixing brackets from the wall in the bathroom. The dolt that originally did the job 10 years ago did not know how to do it so did it very badly. That took a day out of my life that I’ll never get back…

All these life things have meant a hiatus in writing and the reading and writing for the PGCE on top of the day job means a brave new world for biking2work. It won’t be frequent but I will still write on these pages. However, I will continue to read, comment and like posts on my feed when I am fed up curriculum v syllabus, Andragogy v Pedagogy and all those other crazy new things in my life.

Go well and ride like the wind, a tailwind!

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The Dirty Santa

A week ago, I was talked into going on an organised MTB in the Surrey hills. It’s an increasingly popular event where riders are encouraged to wear Santa Claus outfits and put some Christmas bling on helmets and bikes.

As the day came nearer, my plan to replace my worn chain ring, chain and rear cassette through the cycle to work scheme had been blown out of the water. They refused the application because they were under the impression that I was rebuilding, not replacing worn parts. After 6 weeks of nagging, harassing and presenting a coherent argument, I was informed that yes, the scheme had been altered to include the purchase of components provided that I could prove that they were for the use of safely getting myself to work on the commute. This was my argument in the 1st place-duh! How one proves this is a little more difficult but I have 4 years of data on Strava that they can wade through if they have the time…

So, as the front gear was not working, I had 9 gears in the big chain ring at my disposal. I figured that I had a good base level of fitness to tackle 46km of sloppy muddy trails, fresh from a day of heavy rain 2 days beforehand. So what could go wrong on the 890 metres (~3000 feet) of climbing?

Not much as it happens. I didn’t fix my front wheel on securely at the start and ended a wobbly first steep descent in sandy soil unable to brake. Once this was sorted out, there were many steep rocky sections that my gearing could not manage. But I did out climb many who were better at descending who had passed me on the downhills.

I walked up a couple of very steep parts once I came to a stop, resentfully letting others past in their granny gears. I did make it up a section that was really a waterfall as water poured down the trail up to the chain ring in parts. I was pleased with that as many gave up and walked through it.

My friend John gave me the nickname of “Big ring Boris-pride of the Santa fleet” as I ascended the last rocky hill. I should state here that I christened my bike long before the Brexit referendum but am considering a name change. Horace seems most likely as it rhymes with Doris, the name of my crosser.

Big ring Boris on the right during a snack break. The name of the wood was not lost on me

Near the end, a few e-bikes whizzed past me creating more resentment. I don’t have particular feelings for these contraptions but felt cheated to be bested in terms of time after my day of hard slog. I like the idea of owning one to get me around when I am much older and they do have potential to reduce road congestion allowing commutes without the bother of showering and changing at the end. Hopefully they will be a helluva lot cheaper in 20 years.

While I was cleaning my bike later, I noticed that I couldn’t change up to the 2 largest rear cogs. I may only have had 7 gears to work with. I used them the following day after dropping the boys off at school and returning later in the day to collect them on a sort of recovery/errands rides. But I haven’t ridden much since due to lower back pain. I need to get back to stretching after my rides again.

Tomorrow I have the choice of taking Boris to the bike shop (after a week of unsuccessful attempts to get it there) or risk aggravating more pain by riding. This should get me past the yearly distance goal and it will be dry for a change. But cold.

I think that I’ll stretch my hammies instead…

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Thursday was a bonus. Mrs B2W had the day off so graciously offered to relieve me of the torture of the school run. I had a choice-accept and ride or let her have a lie in and do it anyway. I chose the latter but she declined my counter offer as she needed motivation to get out early to do the grocery shopping. I chose the usual school run park and ride anyway in anticipation of a later than late finish. But I did go in earlier so that I could take my time without the usual time-poor hassle of getting to work and showered for another day.

It was cold and foggy (again) and the roads were wet. An educated guess at the state of the trails found me taking them instead of subjecting myself to the idiot time of rush hour on the roads. Crunching through iced over puddles, crackling on frosted muddy tracks was a novelty. But the soil, hard and unforgiving forced a slow stagger through the rutted trails. I didn’t want to fall off so the 2nd half was spent on wet, gritty country roads spraying all sorts of muck on the legs. When will I stop forgetting that cold + wet = coldest? Even the merino socks over the fleece lined tights cold not stop my shins from cursing my poor short term memory as the cause of their pain. Socks covered with a film of thick wet grit, I arrived euphoric halfway through a B2W world record ride-101 bike commutes.

I declined the usual post ride conference following such an achievement. Even if I wanted to, it was too busy to answer the inevitable questions from the cycling press:

“How does it feel to be so close to achieving a goal that you have worked so hard for this year?”

I don’t know. I’m just the same person I guess. I haven’t done anything yet

“Have you got any plans to celebrate afterwards?”

Yep, maybe a long shower before making my breakfast and packing my lunch for the next day when I get home.

“How do you stay focused when times are tough and you just can’t be bothered?”

Not paying the man for petrol, getting to eat what I want and being heathy enough. Even when I can’t be bothered, I know that I would regret it if I didn’t do it.

“So what does the future hold for you now?”

Ride some more cos it’s fun right?

I was glad that I didn’t choose the full home to work ride when I rolled back at 21.40. But at least it was a balmy 5°C and dry. Looking at the weather app, the “moderate” wind looked like it was going to be friendly. It turned out to be the tailwindiest wind EVAH! I don’t believe the final average speed of 31kph. If I was on my crosser, I would struggle to reach those heights even with a 20mph push. I think that the GPS was playing silly buggers but as it happened on Strava, it happened. What can I say?

I could have celebrated with these bad boys delivered that day but they would wait until the weekend

So now every bike commute in 2019 will be a new B2W record. Rest? Meh…

Posted in commuting, cycling | Tagged | 4 Comments