#6, #7 & #8

This week was cold. Not polar vortex cold but feels like -5°C cold. That’s my cold limit. I made the decision not to ride this winter if it got under 0. But I also wanted to get over 100 commutes for the year and that isn’t possible without at least trying to guts it out in the winter.I’d had a couple of failed longer rides at the beginning of the week to get some km into my 100km/week goal so was going to have to get in at least one day of commuting if I was going to make a dent in it.

But I had committments after work meaning that I just couldn’t do the full commute so Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so I drove about 2/3 of the way and cycled in the rest of the way. That way I wouldn’t have to pay parking fees at work, get a couple of rides in each day AND meet my after work obligations.

I started off in the frost of Wednesday, the 29er tyres crunching over the gravelled surface of the sports association car park. Hitting the river trail, I recognised the ice as my adversary on the unpaved surface and slowed down. Safety first, speed in summer.

The sound of distant fireworks echoed in my covered ears every time I hit the fine icy gravel. I arrived glowing with cold digits. It was just as cold going back in the evening, enough to drain my phone battery from 62% to a halt. I spent the evening at the cricket club AGM trying to warm it so that I could log the ride.

Thursday was supposed to be less cold but it didn’t feel like it. Maybe it was because it was just as cold. There were no distant fireworks, just sharing the road with cars. I battled back into the biting nor’easter on the quickest route to make it back for master#1’s options evening at school.

Last night it snowed. It was cold enough to settle on untreated roads but not freeze it. Once I hit the cycle tracks, I crunched through virgin snow. It didn’t stick to the tyres to slow me down. I think that I have finally found a type of snow that I like and if I had more time, I would have ridden all the cycle tracks, everywhere. No one at work could or would believe that I rode in the snow. I tried explaining that it was the least dangerous ride in terms of avoiding a self inflicted fall all week but all I got was vacant looks & “you are mad to cycle in THIS! Promise me that you will be careful this evening…”. “I’m not Danny McAskill”, I replied (cue more vacant looks).

The way back wasn’t warmer, it was just less cold. The snow had melted and the water didn’t freeze. All those small rides have added up and I’m only 8km off 100km for the week.

35 rides in 32 days. Normal service has resumed.

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Every day in Yemen

Blue Monday. No, not the New Order song but the name given to the 3rd Monday of January which is claimed to be the most depressing of the year. Apparently the weather conditions (but only in the northern hemisphere), a long wait between pay from the week before Christmas and the end of January (in the UK) and the worn off novelty of keeping to well meant resolutions conspire to make us all at our saddest. I’ll leave it to you if you want to proscribe to this pseudo-scientific bulldust but I have some evidence below that today could have been my Blue Monday…

  • Pay day! Yay…except that Her Majesty’s Revenue Collection want £287 for not paying enough tax in 2017/18. And it’s due on Wednesday.
  • The plan for cycling home and back to school to pick the boys up had been sunk before that ship had left harbour. I woke to both feeling too unwell for school. Instead I spent the morning cajoling, incentivising and bullying them to complete the 4 pieces of homework due this week.
  • The BlackCaps lost their 3rd ODI in a stronger but still inadequate performance against India. They’re down 0-3 in the best of 5 series against a very good side who don’t even seem to have decided on their best XI yet. I can’t see us getting past the semi finals in this year’s world cup (if they make it that far that is…)
  • By lunch, I’d had enough of playing teacher so planned a ride to the supermarket to get supplies for dinner. It was gloriously cloudlessly sunny. Even with a moderate northerly blowing, the chill is always bearable when the sun is out. I cant see me plodding through -5°C in sleet later this week so planned a longer, roundabout route to bank some km towards the 100km weekly goal. With shopping in the back pack and ready for the journey home, I couldn’t unlock the U lock. I spent 45 min trying to ease the bloody thing open, went inside to search the www for tips, tried to blast any grit out of the lock with WD-40 only to eventually twist the key and bend it. I walked the 7.5km home, furious that

a) I had potentially buggered the lock

b) fretting about whether it would be vandalised (when potential thieves discovered that they couldn’t steal my muddy bike because the lock is so damned secure)

c) that I don’t have much more time outside the forecast this week to make a further dent into the remaining 91km.

  • My children were displaying remarkable powers of recovery now that the homework was done when I got home and I managed to find the spare keys in a drawer within 5 minutes. If only it had taken that long to solve the mysterious disappearance of my merino scarf earlier.
  • Dinner scoffed and I hopped in the van on bike rescue, flicked open the lock and was on my way home rueing my decisions earlier in the day and then, on the radio I heard a member of a humanitarian agency state that…
  1. At least 85,000 children have died of malnutrition in Yemen since the civil war started.
  2. 14,000,000 people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation.
  3. Parents are knowingly feeding their children contaminated water and food to avoid starvation.
  4. The brokered cease fire from last week is a nonsense with refugee camps and a wheat store being bombed.

The storm of hardship and frustration was immediately evaporated. My day was only a 1st world s#¡+ happens day.

Every day in Yemen is Blue Monday

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#5

Today’s forecast was for mist early, showers mid morning and warming up to a dry 10°C by 5pm. There was no way that I was gonna miss out on riding home in that after the recent cold that had put me off riding to work twice this week. -5°C is not my kind of weather.

I packed a pair of shorts, my autumn gloves and cotton cap for the return journey but set off in 0°C. It was drizzling, NOT misty as the forecast said and it wasn’t long before the lower part of my shins felt wet and cold. After 10km they didn’t feel of anything. Maybe they were frozen-like last week, cold + wet=colder.

On I plodded into the gloom. Feeling toasty on top with my 4 layers, I felt strong so took a detour. Then my bottle cage bolt snapped leaving it flapping and getting in the way of my strokes. My fingers were too cold to unscrew the remaining bolt and I couldn’t be bothered finding the allen key in my saddle bag so flipped it upside down and wedged it under the tool keg cage on the vertical tube which now acted as my remaining bottle holder.

And then my light switches off! I knew that I should’ve given it some more charge last night but felt certain that the thing had enough juice for at least another hour. So I kept it off in the slowly creeping light of the day and switched it on temporarily every time I saw a car approaching in the distance. I was on a quiet back country lane and encountered only 3 cars. Thereafter I kept on the pavement once I hit rush hour traffic to keep out of the way of the clowns who wouldn’t see me even if I had my light on.

The return home did not disappoint. 3 layers on top, shorts and a belly full of coffee (and digestives) I set off in fading daylight with a fully recharged light. I took a longer Friday summer route, again taking country lanes to celebrate the 9°C temperature and gentle tailwind.

Fridays in the summer; this was a perfect route for a sit down and invigorating cold lager at the Black Horse after 20ish km at the end of a long week. Tonight, I wasn’t interested and there was plenty going against the idea. It felt balmy but not that warm, I am broke until pay day and there was my sobriety to consider. Truth be told, I have quickly become used to not having a drink as a lifestyle choice. It was easy. Long may that last.

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Sermon to self

“How is your injury today?” said Mrs B2W. She was referring to the calf strain that halted my progress on the couch to 5km programme last month. I hadn’t felt it since well before Christmas. Sure, let’s do it. It was at her pace, slow but a nice pace for a first run in over a month. Maybe the melon committee thought that I was 30 years younger and pushed me too hard before Christmas. My legs revolted and sent an urgent memo to stop this nonsense immediately and be happy just running slower. The motion has now been accepted after this pilot. It was wonderful to be out in the fresh air, alone, chatting, away from rebellious boys, watching the dog dart in and out of the woods chasing squirrels…I think that my need for regular weight bearing cardio has found its happy place in preparation for the start of the cricket season in 104 days.

I am reading Being Mortal by Atul Gwande at the moment which has been revealing, even for this health professional. Expert opinion and evidence suggests that after the age of 30, our bodies slowly start to fall apart, systems slowly malfunctioning to the point of eventually breaking down. Eye lenses and arteries lose their elasticity, bones lose density, muscles become weaker…the list goes on. There is no stopping it, just acknowledgement that it is happening. We can only slow it through medical science, nutrition and regular activity. It is coincidence that I have been reading this during a period of abstinence from alcohol.

I had already made the committment upon reflecting on the turbulent excesses of November and December. I had been using it in a way to cope with problems that I didn’t want to face. Already I am noting the difference in the bank balance, mood, self control and acceptance of things that used to trouble me. It was a regular thing for me to abstain over Lent only to fall back into the cycle of binging, on food and alcohol in the summer. But I have begun to critically examine my long relationship with alcohol and am even toying with the idea on continuing abstinence altogether. It takes too much time and energy to plan to drink in moderation for me so why not take this as an opportunity to make it a lifestyle choice? After 18 days of feeling that I am missing out, I have come to the realisation that I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by continuing. It has become easier each day to say no, despite the occasional temptation, if I think like this.

We are starting to see the crisis of aging in society come into consciousness after years of being told it is coming. I want to be the person who ages with independence without vulnerability.

Or at least give me a better chance at it.

addendum:

After writing this, I took a spin up to the supermarket to get some WD40. Did you know that it makes a great silicone sealant remover?

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#4 Le grand frisson

This morning I drove to the Supermarket, parked up and headed the remaining 15km into work. It was -1°C and I rode along muddy bridleways, along windswept fields and into a cross headwind throwing light rain into my face. There were puddles everywhere and it was desolate in the gloomy light as the day awoke.

Halfway and the wind whipped up, big snowflakes scattering across my front. The only way to cope was to pedal faster. I had 4 layers on top and the core was toasty. With less than 1km to work, small, hard hail pellets drove into my back as the tailwind carried me up the rise

It was a glorious end, face and clothes splattered with mud, hail falling off me I had arrived at work. There were no exclamations of foolhardiness from colleagues nor acknowledgments of bravery and resilience in the face of the beginnings of the “beast from the east” (or winter as it happens in the rest of the world). The glory was an internal, endorphin driven buzz from a morning of adventure in the big chill.

Hometime was a grinding struggle with tired legs. It was colder (apparently) but there was no wind to speak of. Somehow I was marginally faster but it just didn’t feel epic like the morning. Strava tells me that I have ridden 19 times in the 17 days of January so far. For someone who thought that he would take a winter break, this is great! This could mean that I have ridden 112% of 2019 which could explain why I am tired.

So it’s time for a bonus rest day & cricket commentary company from somewhere warmer while I crawl to work in the van somewhere much colder.

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222 (#3)

The forecast was a mild 6°C with a real feel of about the same. Time for shorts again. I didn’t check the forecast and it was drizzling. After 1km I forgot that rain + cold=colder. But it stopped after 4km and my legs felt warmer. It was nice, not for June but definitely bearable for January.

I rode over the M11 & it was empty. I slowed down- a glance to my left revealed the ruby glow of car lights at a standstill in the distance towards Sheering. Traffic had been halted due to a crash southbound. I got to Hallingbury and cars where crawling the 5km into Bishops Stortford. It was the same between there and Harlow and I counted the vehicles as I slowly bypassed the crawl on the rough pavement. 242 in total (250 if you count the loaded car transporter) which is a B2W world record. I also counted those who passed me so the net total was 222. I think that I arrived to work a lot sooner than most this morning.

I feel less smug now knowing that the reason for the closure was a motorcycle rider dying after being dragged under a truck at high speed in a hit and run.

The ride home was dark, colder but dry. I took the shorter route. There was a nice tail breeze and my shins didn’t complain too much. It was good.

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#2

I had a later start as had a mid ride coffee break to complete some cricket business. It was cold and didn’t really fancy stopping. Wearing 4 layers on top helped as did a nice breeze at my tail. I also had a detour to collect the fuel cap that I left at the petrol station last week-I used the “pay at pump” option and as I was in a hurry to get a premium parking spot at work, left it on the pump. A kind soul handed it in.

All safe and sound next to post ride snack in a cosy office

The ride back was uneventful but a real struggle into a cold 8mph northerly. Although he realfeel® was supposed to be 2°C less cool than this mornings -1°C, it felt colder. I had also forgotten to scoff a snack before I set out and sure enough started to slow & suffer at the half way point. That last 10km was sheer bloody hypo hell and I hated every second of it and cursed cycling forever vowing to never ride in the sodding British cold again. But when I got home the situation changed. “What a great ride!” I thought to myself “if that’s the coldest that I feel this winter then I can cope with that. It could have been a worse head wind AND raining as well so my cup is actually 2/3 full so it wasn’t that bad-you just need to harden up champ”…All within seconds of stopping while I loaded the bike into the van. Endorphins, I love you more than you could ever know.

I went in and necked a pint of water, hoovered the curried tofu burger that #1 son had made for dinner and anything else that entered my vision. In short, I ate the horse, the cart and chased the driver…

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