Beginning a new relationship

It’s difficult isn’t it?  As one relationship cools off another one inevitably begins.

Everyone has experienced those sombre feelings when what you once had becomes something less to talk about and more something to endure.  Then you start looking around and you wonder how and why other people have got the relationships that seem to be so much better than yours.

Well, it’s happened to me too.  For  a while now, I’ve lusted elsewhere.  Often, my head has been turned whilst out and about but this weekend it finally happened.  Our partnership that was once so strong was finally severed.  I didn’t intend it to happen but we were out with some friends and they were all talking about how happy they were with their (mostly new) partners and it galvanised me to act.

Temptation is everywhere and as soon as I’d decided to do something about my nagging dissatisfaction, things were moving fast.  Faster than I thought.

We met on Saturday night for the first time and I knew pretty much instantly that I had found what I was looking for.  My mind was doing overtime.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a beauty so stunning.

On Monday I made my move and unbelievably by Tuesday we were heading back to my place.  We didn’t do much that first night.  Just played a bit and got to know each other.  Exploring everything for the first time was so exciting that I couldn’t settle down at the end of the night and sat dreaming about what the next day would bring.

So yesterday on a warm, sunny evening I proudly introduced my new partner to some friends.  They seemed quietly impressed and kept checking in to see how we were getting on together.  I told them that everything seemed comfortable and was going smoothly, of course there were some differences to what I was used to but on the whole that first evening out with friends was exhilarating. It really feels like I am on to a good thing.

So I have no regrets from moving on so quickly and decisively.  We had some good times together and our trip to Paris will always be special to me, but times change.

Let’s face it, I’d had my old bike for 4 years and it didn’t owe me anything so splashing out on a lovely BMC Granfondo GF01 with full Ultegra gears and a frame lighter than an XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger seems perfectly reasonable to me!

So it’s au revoir  to the Boardman and bonjour ma cherie to the BMC.  Let the good times roll!!

Keep your eyes off.  She's mine!

Keep your eyes off. She’s mine!

Just a cool place: Rapha Cycle Club, London

I had a couple of spare hours in London today between meetings so went on the search for a cafe with WIFI to grab a coffee and get some work done.

The only place to head for in these situations is the Rapha Cycle Club on Brewer Street.  It has to be the coolest cafe in the country!

The cafe itself has been refurbished since I went last year.  They’ve preserved the wooden floor and basic furniture but created a little more space without compromising the boutique area devoted to selling the excellent (but pricey) Rapha kit.  As you walk in you know this is the real thing from the customers bikes hanging on the vertical racks by the door and the enthusiastic nature of conversations between customers and staff.

My window seat and some light reading

My window seat and some light reading

Recommended the filter coffee (which was good) I grabbed a window seat to log on to the laptop.  Even the WIFI code is cool – named after Il Pirata himself!  Being surrounded by like minded cyclists taking in the atmosphere was a really conducive work environment and I flew through a few days backlog of emails. If I hadn’t been so busy there would have been plenty to occupy me.  The hum of the espresso machine and general cycling chatter were accompanied by the live TV commentary of todays Volta a Catalunya. My window seat was furnished with a number of cycling related books and other tables were littered with the latest copies of Rouleur and other cycling magazines.

If you’re an avid cyclist like me, the entire ambience of the place is an ideal space to spend an hour next time you’re passing through.  I recommend the filter coffee (even the coffee cups are cool)….

Not the sort of bonk you want …

Check out how smug I was in my last post where I was bragging about how I’d done so well losing weight since the turn of the year!  Well, I learnt a good lesson about dieting and training on Saturday morning.

I was delighted to get out on the bikes with my mate Stu who I cycled to France with.  He’s had a number of injuries over the last 12 months but seems to be on the mend so I hope he’ll be out with us more often this year.  We had a good chat and some banter around the first 27 miles of our route, then Stuey sensed the end was in sight and picked the pace up a little.

In normal circumstances I find the last 8 mile run-in on this route a good blast. It’s largely downhill from a beautiful village called Bitteswell, along quiet country lanes in the Leicestershire countryside.  Anyway, on Saturday I wasn’t so keen.

As soon as I had to start working harder, I found there was nothing in the tank. My quads felt heavy and ached to the point of exhaustion as I tailed behind Stu who was holding a 19-20 mph pace.  As soon as we hit the solitary incline on the run home I dropped way back despite pushing as much as I could.  The rest of the way home was just a case of keeping the wheels spinning and reserving some strength for Sundays 12 mile run.

Now, I do suffer from bad days from time to time and I am conscious that form and fitness only come along with hard work and dedication.  But this felt like something different and it didn’t take much analysis to work out what was going on.

I think I bonked.

Bonking is a “technical” cycling term relating to the point when you’ve got no energy left to draw on in your body.  Chris Froome was in danger of doing it in last years Tour de France and suffered a 20 second penalty when he got a late energy gel from the ever-loyal Richie Porte.  I’m not saying that the situation coming in to Sapcote was anything like the one Team Sky endured on l’Alpe d’Huez, but I do think I bonked!

A picture from the BBC showing Froome and Porte

Looking at what I ate on Friday helps explain.  With a total intake of around 1500 calories I hadn’t fuelled up for the ride which burnt 1200 calories in itself.  The tank was well and truly empty!

On rides of that distance I don’t bother with snacks but could’ve murdered a banana just to get some strength back.  As soon as I got home I started steadily carb loading with some macaroni cheese for lunch and a pasta dish for dinner.  I think I just about got enough in to cope with the 12 mile run on Sunday, but won’t be risking the same situation happening again.

So, lesson learned: In place of my daily tuna salad I’ll be having a pasta salad on Fridays from now on, with a proper carb balanced dinner in the evening. That’s about the best I think I can do to prevent any unwanted bonking in the future but I’m open to other suggestions?…

A Little Wet One

The logic is this:  Run in the winter because cycling when the weather is bad can be rubbish.

Now that marathon training us well underway I am running twice each weekend (unless Saturday is good in which case I’ll take the chance for a ride).  So I’ve applied new logic too: If it looks like bad weather on both Saturday and Sunday, embrace it and go trail running on the Saturday.

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Sounds good in theory, but lessons I learned this week include:

  • Running across fields and slipping all over the place doesn’t really replicate a road run
  • Slipping can be dangerous
  • Pay attention to the telly when it says there is flooding everywhere
  • Wading through 15 inches of flood water is not great training
  • Have the kettle ready to go … it’s pretty grim out there!

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It was a character building run on Saturday but I twisted my knee a little while running through a swamp!  Subsequently, Sundays 10 mile run was a little disappointing.  I suppose there’ll be plenty of good and bad training runs before April. Let’s hope this running lark gets a bit more fruitful in the next few weeks!

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New Year, New Regime

Aarghh!!

Has anybody else got that perennial feeling of dismay after stepping on the scales or going for a ride and realising they’re back to the same stage they were this time last year?  After training with focus and determination during October and November the festive month of December has completely scuppered me!

The pinnacle of my autumnal training came at the start of December with a 14 mile run.  It was the most substantial distance of my early marathon training and a real confidence booster for the strains and stresses that lie ahead.  But that was it.  During the following week I contracted the man-flu that is doing the rounds (I was lucky but I know lots of other people using antibiotics to fight off the virus) and lost 10 days of training before heading out for my pre-Christmas half marathon (which was a big disappointment anyway)

I threw myself 100% in to New Years Eve

I threw myself 100% in to New Years Eve

Even on the run-up to the event I was fully in to Christmas party mode:  For two weeks I had drinks on Tuesdays, recovery Wednesdays, party on Thursdays, recovery on Friday, out on Saturday night…. you get the picture.  When the festivities were finally upon us, I was already feeling the bulge growing around my belly and my belt appeared to have shrunk again!  During this time the exercise all but dried up.  Even the Boxing Day bike ride that I arranged (from our local pub) didn’t help because my hangover started after about 10 miles!  Other than that, one short bike ride on a Saturday morning and plenty of postponed runs are not enough to maintain fitness whilst loading the body up with lager, wine, gin and mince pies!

So here I am again at the start of January, having enjoyed a brilliant months of partying, nursing the tail-end of my New Years Eve hangover and rueing the loss of that fitness I had just a month ago.

Yet I still feel hopeful of what the sporting year ahead may bring.  I’ll be repeating last years alcohol free January which helped me shed about half a stone and my marathon training schedule will

Todays Net Diary

Todays Net Diary

kick back in properly next week (with plans for a couple of runs/rides in the next few days).  As of today, I’ll resume using the app that helped me get on top of my food intake 18 months ago (that I’d highly recommend) and start avoiding the “3 C’s” of crisps, chocolate and cheese.  The tuna salad is already in my lunchbox along with some Greek yoghurt and fruit and I’ll be actively ignoring the treats lying in wait within the kids’ Christmas selection boxes!

So I think I’m in a good position – well informed and motivated for the marathon – and should be OK to drop the first few kilos that will get the ball rolling and enable me to see the rewards of my dietary discipline!

Is anyone else in the same boat as me and if so, what’s the plan?

Reaching Peak Fitness in Derbyshire

Soz, that’s a complete pun.

Since the 10k race a couple of weeks ago I’ve barely trained.  My Achilles has been aching since the race and work & studying has been mental.  So I’m nowhere near peak fitness. But I’ve had a cracking few days in the Peak District where I’ve managed to get training again.

A view of the Manifold Trail

A view of the Manifold Trail

Staying in a cottage at Hulme End on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border has provided a stunning location for getting out on the roads and trails.  Every first morning needs a scouting mission.  So heading out on my old commuter hybrid bike (now with the bike seat bracket attached) I set off down the Manifold Trail.

The trail runs down the side of the Manifold river so it’s fast and flat but surrounded with stunning scenery. After a mile in the open, the river drops down whilst the trail stays high and the hillside provides shelter from the outside world. The leaf covered path winds parallel to the river, passes under an old railway tunnel and over the occasional tributary whilst constantly flanked by sheep grazing on steep hills.

After 4 brisk miles my scouting destination arrives in to view. Thors Cave looms directly in front of the path, 75 metres up in the rocky hillside on the opposite bank of the river.  It’s an impressive sight, by no means the only cave overlooking the trail, but the only one with some kind of path to aid the ascent.  Pretty quickly I was able to tell that this was going to be a great destination for the kids and a good target for my eldest to ride to on her own.

Me and Thor's Cave

Me and Thor’s Cave

The return journey is moderately more challenging than the outward leg with a slight incline most of the way.  Passing just a few other casual cyclists and the odd dog walker, the ride takes no time at all.

That is a different story when we do the ride with the girls the next day. The round trip takes us two hours.  But this time the adventure included a walk up to Thors Cave, a celebratory photo shoot to mark the achievement of a 2 & 6 year old both scaling the rocky path unassisted, and a game of eye-spy all the way back!!

Losing a bit of my masculinity

I had a dreadful moment of realisation today when we cycled the kids to school. I’ve allowed something small to change and with it, given up a bit of my manliness.

It’s nothing to do with doing the school run because I think of that as a real treat if I am ever able to do it.  I love getting to the school and watching how the girls behave in an environment which is far more familiar to them than it is me.  Sometimes I feel really out of place, but others it is just like being in my local pub on a Sunday afternoon 10 years ago.  We’ve all moved on.

No, the school run is a great thing, especially when it is a school cycle.  But it’s the cycling that is part of the problem.

A few weeks ago, Mrs G decided she wanted to cycle alongside me with the girls whilst I went for a run.  To do this, I had to move the child seat from my bike and on to hers.  ON TO HERS!!  This had never happened before.  Towing the kids has always been my job.  DAD’s job!

I’ve always been the one with stronger legs from running and cycling.  The one with a bit more balance and confidence for these things.  But now all that masculine superiority has been dashed…. she can do it too!!

Even worse – for weeks I have been trying to find a spare bracket so that we can easily switch the seat between the bikes.  But the bike seat is so old that I can’t find one that fits properly.  So without refitting bits and pieces with allen keys and spanners every time I choose to reassert my manliness, I have got a dad-bike that is missing a bit of dad-ness!

Not quite an Indian Summer but not bad

How often do you get days like this in September?

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I sense that today will be the last time a few things happen for the year.  Probably the last day that the thermometer hits over 20 degrees, the last BBQ of the summer ….. and maybe the last time cycling in shorts!

So I’m off for a steady 50 miler whilst the kids head off to the Harvest Festival at Sunday school.

I’ll get you next time!

On Saturday I decided it was time to join up with a local cycling club.

This is my third year of cycling “properly” so have been thinking about a club for a little while.  My regular cycling mates are suffering from knee, shoulder and collar bone injuries, so I’m faced with the prospect of long hours in the saddle on my own and while I love cycling, the social element is a big selling factor to me.

I’ve toyed with setting up a club for the village I live in but can’t really imagine where I’d find the time to coordinate it.  Even a brief foray in to a little cycling group on Facebook was uncomfortable earlier in the year when lots of people joined but I didn’t want to take responsibility for leading a group out and making sure everyone was OK …. I just want to ride my bike in the few hours I get each weekend.  So joining a club seems sensible.  I’d like to build out the social elements of riding and incorporate the kids in to activities if possible too.

I’ve been looking in to this over the last week or so and Leicester Forest Cycling Club seem to be as local as any to me.  They market themselves with the strap line of being the friendliest cycling club around and, as a cycling club virgin, that is exactly what I’m looking for.

A check on their website and I was able to see that they set off at 8.30 on a Saturday, which couldn’t be more perfect for me so I wrapped up against the elements and set off to a village called Desford to meet them.  As usual, I didn’t leave myself enough time so it was hard work to get the the village (town?) centre when cycling in to a decent head wind, but by 8.30 I had cut my way through the damp and grey morning to get to the crossroads.  I’d noted that the groups were setting off from a pub and recalled one that fitted the description (well, it had a car park) but when I arrived at the pub on the crossroads alarm bells began to ring… I as at The Blue Bell, but looking for the Bulls Head.

Feeling hopeful that I might still catch the “moderate” group (the fast group had discussed on Facebook about their plans to cover 140k at a 20mph average which is well out of my league) I set off around the village to find this other pub.  After several u-turns and confused moments, the time came when I had to chuck in the towel because it was 8.45, I couldn’t find the groups starting point and didn’t know their route.  No cycling club for me!

Heading back home (my enthusiasm was well and truly drained) I cruised up to some traffic lights as the penny finally dropped.  Desford crossroads is a crossing on the A47 (or A447) and not actually in Desford.  When the lights turned green, I could see a pub on the right hand side of the road and new instantly that it was the place where the cyclists would have met up.  Of course Leicester Forest Cycling Club was long gone so it was with heavy legs that I miserably pottered home realising that I’d have been around in plenty of time if I’d have just looked at the map on the clubs website!

Maybe next week.

A great day on the bike

If any day can epitomise my interests and motivation behind this blog, it was Friday.
After a nightmare of a week at work, I had a day of working at home instead of going in to the office. I’d barely seen the kids all week so it was a pleasure to do the school run… especially after turning it in to the school ride.
For the first time ever, I shared the simple pleasure of cycling to school with my kids. The big one on her own bike and the youngest on the back of mine. They loved it and so did I. The freedom that my daughter feels on her bike is visible and seeing such a big grin on her face going to school makes our summer of cycling all the more special (especially when a lot of her friends are still on stabilisers).

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After dropping them off and clearing a mountainous backlog of emails it was time for a lunchtime ride. Time was tight so it was a short and fast ride, scooping up two K.O.M.s on the way!
For any Strava virgins a K.O.M. (King of the Mountains) accolade is what you earn when riding one of the segments of your ride quicker than anyone in the world…ever. A brilliant way of spicing up shorter rides and adding a bit of local (and virtual) rivalry with other cyclists. Holding a K.O.M. in our village is similar, and as close as we’re going to get to, holding a rainbow or yellow jersey.
Anyway, back to my great day on the bike.  after picking up the girls from the school, we cycled back, I wrapped up work for the day and we had a cross country ride to Stanton Lakes to enjoy a pint of Peroni and a basket of scampi and chips looking out of the lakes while the sun went down. Does family cycling get any better than that?