Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Elephants in Green Park

Yesterday I went to the Moof IT nerve centre in London. As always I walked from Victoria, this time through Green Park. 

In the middle were two herds of wooden elephants. Placed there to highlight the declining numbers of the real thing in the wild. There must have been over thirty, all shapes sizes and poses. 

Other parks have them too, or will soon. 

It was early so there weren't many people around. Later, on my way home it was much more crowded. I wouldn't have been able to take such clear pictures. They were very impressive, well worth the trip into town.

Line of elephants green park

Line of elephants green park

Line of elephants green park


Sunday, 13 June 2021

A light at the end of the tunnel

 

tunnel

Lately I have had more good days than bad. Maybe it's the improving weather, although May has been very wet. Maybe I'm getting better at dealing with depressive thoughts.

The good days take me by surprise, I'll notice that I'm in an upbeat mood. Stressers aren't having their normal affect, I feel less tired and am able to focus. The next day I could be feeling low again, but nothing will have changed. It's possibly the most frustrating aspect of depression for me; if I knew what triggered the swing up, I could concentrate on that.

I have been taking the power to affect me away from others, be less influenced by what they might think. 

It's very easy to be overwhelmed by negativity, the news and social media can be a loud voice pushing the dark side of life. I unfollow or unfriend if I just see posts that aren't helping me. Or when they have formed an opinion that can't be reasoned with. You don't have to agree with me, but that shouldn't stop you listening.

The picture for this post is a good illustration of the present. I'm moving forward, I may not be out of the tunnel, but it's not as dark as it was. And I'm not alone, people are willing to help me towards the exit.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

162

strava data 162 miles

I was in two minds about writing this; I'm not one to boast. Regular readers will know I have wondered how far was too far in a day. One hundred miles is still hard, but is less of the challenge it once was. A member of my cycling club asked for companions for a one hundred and forty mile ride he had planned. It worked out perfectly; I would be able to spend the whole day away from home. The start point was around a seven mile ride, so the distance rose to one hundred and fifty four. In the end I covered 162 miles.

Two contributing factors that enabled this achievement were: I was part of a four person team. Drafting saves a lot of energy, and enabled a higher average speed. The flat marches saw our average peak at over twenty mph for that seventeen miles section. The other was a good eating and drinking strategy, I've mentioned this in a previous post. We stopped at Rye and Hythe for cafe food, gels and energy bars filled in the gaps. 

Could I have gone further? Yes. Did I fancy it? No. Not because I was too tired to continue, I was let down by my clothing. More specifically the padded shorts I was wearing. Whilst not the most expensive, if it wasn't for a Strava challenge code I may not have bought them, they weren't the cheapest. The description suggested they would make extended time in the saddle comfortable. It was okay until around one hundred and twenty miles, then I began to suffer. It wasn't pain from the saddle, but moisture build up. It got so bad I spent much of the last ten miles standing up whenever possible. As I sat writing this post the discomfort was subsiding, but I was concerned about the ride to meet Matt later in the morning.

Some pictures from the ride.

Rye
Rye



Dymchurch
Dymchurch

-------------------------------------------------------UPDATE------------------------------------------------------------

It would seem I was more tired than I realised. Sunday morning whilst eating breakfast prior to riding to meet Matt; I fell asleep. Woke up after about ten minutes.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Photowalk, ebikes, and Dungeness

pluckley
 

I spent some time with my brother and sister in-laws' at the beginning of the week. The bank holiday weekend started grey, but quickly improved. 

Sunday we went out on the bikes to Pluckley - the location for the filming of Darling Buds of May - Fitz and Alli were on their e-bikes. They were a challenge to keep up with on just their lowest assist settings. Next time I'll bring my road bike. 

This mode of transport, especially for urban travel, need to be subsidised. It would give more people an alternative to driving. So many very short journeys are driven, when they could be walked or ridden. Less motor vehicles, mean less pollution, obesity, general ill health and improved road safety. Other countries are doing more than the UK, and reaping the benefits.

on the way to Pluckley

taking a break near Pluckley church

Monday we went for a walk, everyone snapping away. I heard my first cuckoo and marsh frog. Such a hot day, it took me by surprise, I got a little burnt. They have great countryside on their doorstep, so we soon left any hint of an urban environment behind.









mayfly and fish



Tuesday they had to go back to work so I set out early on my own, covered in sunscreen this time.

Dungeness was a great suggestion by Alli. Komoot took care of the route via mostly quiet lanes especially across the marshes.

quiet lane on the way to dungeness
quiet lane on the way to dungeness


lighthouse and dungeness power station
lighthouse and dungeness power station

After taking the picture above I started to retrace my journey and noticed a boardwalk leading out across the beach.



on the boardwalk
on the boardwalk

The way back was across the marshes, mile after mile of quiet lanes with beautiful countryside.

across the marsh

across the marsh
across the marsh


 

A very relaxing few days, exactly what I needed.


Sunday, 30 May 2021

Two voices

negative and positive voices
A couple of weeks ago I had a tough and great weekend.

The good bit; I saw mum, my sister and family, I even cycled over there. Really pleased that I did, not only because I haven't seen them for six months. It was also nearly as fast as driving would have been; heavy traffic most of the way. It was great riding past so many stationary cars. I didn't get soaked until the homeward journey. I think just over an hour on my mountain bike covering 15 miles each way is very satisfactory.

The bad bit; starting on Friday I didn't sleep much, I was tired, but just couldn't let go. I don't know what I was thinking or worried about that kept me awake.

I tried a hot drink, reading, just laying in bed staring at the ceiling was never going to work. Sunday was an early start, I had arranged a sportive, the subject of a previous post. I enjoyed the ride, but wasn't that feed up that it ended early. I even gave my bike a thorough clean when I got home. If only I hadn't lost my gloves. Probably left on the wall when we stopped to assess the failed brakes.

But when Monday rolled round, I was knackered and feeling very low. I survived the week, gradually feeling better each day. More in this post.

There is a voice that tells me I did well, but I ignore it. The other voice saying the opposite is much more persuasive. I have to listen to the positive one.

I need to give myself a break, not be so critical. And accept praise when it comes my way.

There are other parts to this: imposter syndrome, always being convinced I just said something that will make people avoid or dislike me, being over critical, over thinking.

I know most people experience these from time to time; they can't be allowed to dominate, that's my problem.




Thursday, 27 May 2021

Accidental vegan... almost.

tofu sunday dinner
 

I blame it partly on Netflix. I watched a documentary called Game Changer, about people who had become vegans. I found it very poor; it seemed to be a sales pitch, propaganda if you will. There is little compelling info, just selected people who evangelise about the cause. Athletes talked about becoming vegan and finding incredible performance improvements. Other people claimed their lives had greatly benefited. The arguments put forward were badly discussed, and misleading in my opinion. There is also too much anecdotal "evidence" for me to take it seriously. It certainly didn't persuade me.

But it did get me thinking more about the subject. There are far better documentaries the "...spiracy" series is one. The first one was cowspiracy, followed by seaspiracy. Whilst not without an agender, and a conclusion to confirm they are more fact based. Some comments have been reported as being taken out of context by the interviewees. 

Since watching them I have made some changes; it's been gradual, almost without me realising. I do still eat meat, maybe once a week. I don't drink cows milk, replacing it with oat milk; barista version. I'm not sure how the barista version differs but it makes better tea. I think it tastes fine, unless you drink it straight you wouldn't know it wasn't bovin derived. 

I go for the vegetarian pizza and pies, and no longer eat fish. There are plenty of plant based alternatives, some better than others. I tried making a Sunday dinner from Tofu, it wasn't a great success. It's the picture at the top of this post. I was unprepared for how wet it is, the recipe didn't say that I really needed to dry it out before frying. The result was edible but the consistency wasn't as appetising as it could have been. 

Apart from the "tofu incident" I'd say it's been okay. Maybe my meat consumption will drop further, I don't know. If I'm eating out I'll go for the vegetarian option, if it's likely to be tasty and not an afterthought addition to the menu.

I don't think I have experienced improvements to strength or stamina - it's been no game changer - and my weight hasn't changed.

This post isn't about trying to make anyone change. It's just my thoughts and experiences. I'd suggest you investigate the subject and make up your own mind. My nephew is vegan, he doesn't make a big thing of it, he'll talk about his decision without preaching.

Another change I realised whilst writing this; I don't really want alcohol anymore, I was never a heavy drinker, maybe a glass or two of wine a month. There is rum in the house, but I just don't fancy drinking it. When I eventually visit a pub or restaurant again, I very much doubt I'll buy a beer.

  

Monday, 24 May 2021

A blustery week.

otford

I missed an evening ride, my mountain bike needed new brake pads on the front, and I just couldn't face the weather. I was also very tired, read more about it in a future post. The rest of the week was in the garage on the trainer. Everyday was sunny; right up until I finished work, then it rained heavily. Although the incredibly strong winds were probably too dangerous to ride in as well.

I always work harder on the trainer, there aren't any downhills sections you can coast along. If you stop pedaling, the rollers stop.  I always notice an improvement in my fitness, stamina and strength after a week on the stationary bike. So it was no surprise that my ride to Otford was quicker than I expected. Another trip down memory lane. At school and into my twenties a mate lived near the green. I rode past it on my motorbike most weekends, around thirty years ago.

on the way to westerham
on the way to westerham

Sunday was the usual meet-up with Matt in Westerham. I hope I don't jinx it but "our" bench was free again. It's a massive and carved from stone. I don't know why but everyone seems to prefer the wooden benches or wrought iron chairs. 

The Costa has also become the favoured meeting place for a group of Hells Angels. It started with a few Harley riders; this weekend saw about a dozen of the gang arrive, have coffee and then roar off. All very civilised and no bother to anyone. 

It rained again, just after I arrived home, Matt got home dry as well. Hopefully the weather will improve, I have a week off at the beginning of June. 

Other news, Marcia and I are now fully vaccinated. Neither of us had any side effects, it's good to see life getting back to normal; except for the continued increase if traffic. My ride to my mums a couple of weeks ago won't be my last, I wnat to avoid driving as much as possible.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Sportives

These events are organised rides that are not meant to be competitive.

They are great for stress free rides, the route is planned, they have food stops and normally mechanic support.

Unfortunately some people can't help themselves. Once the timing chip is attached the red mist comes down. Which is wrong, the roads are open to all traffic and it shows cycling in a bad light. Not the case for me, I wanted to take it easy and enjoy the countryside.

The first one I rode was with a friend a few years ago. We were on mountain bikes, the rest on road machinery. The surprise was that we weren't the slowest participants.

I've since ridden other organised events, two RideLondon's and two Caterham to Canterbury.

It was a mostly an off road loop from Cranleigh.

Social distancing was still in place. Small groups setting off at one minute intervals. 

It was grim, raining nearly the whole time. And I don't know where they got gravel trail from, a lot of if was think mud. More than once we had to get off and push the bikes. They took a hammering, mine is making noises it wasn't before the start. Another member of the group had brake failure on a very steep, slippery descent. We waited for assistance, but it wasn't fixable at the roadside so they called in the rescue van. I could have continued, but to be honest I was cold and wet. So I took the easy option and also jumped in the van. We had completed 22 of the 47 miles, I was happy with that.

Here is the scary moment.




Sunday, 9 May 2021

Let the pictures do the talking

The evening are getting lighter and warmer, presenting more opportunity for photography. So here are a few pictures you may not have seen. I'm so grateful for having beautiful countryside on my doorstep.

April

cherry blossom

abandoned bench

bluebells


graffiti

top of the world

Gentle gravel

surrey hills view

May

reflections

st lawrence church

more bluebells

farm mech

Hedgecourt lake

More gentle gravel




Sunday, 2 May 2021

Need for speed

Greenwich Park London Skyline

The title should really read; the need for high average speed, but it's less catchy. This is the way I measure my improvement in fitness; can I increase the overall pace at which I ride?

Highest speed if it's just the peak attained at one point of the ride doesn't mean a lot, it could be downhill, or for a short period that leaves you completely exhausted and unable to continue.

If I were racing it may be different. Another measure could be power output, that would mean buying a power meter. It would be interesting to see how much I could produce and for how long. But they are very expensive, so that bit of info will have to remain a mystery.

Strava helps a little, I can see times for climbs and sections I ride regularly. 

I'm not sure what the ultimate aim is; compete in races, or just keep it interesting. Am I being sucked into the cycling scene a little too far? Maybe I need to forget the techy stuff and just enjoy riding.

I have noticed that when riding with the club in a faster group ride than before I can now keep up and even overtake on hills. The first time I rode with the this group it was tough, now it's not so bad. It is still a social ride, with a cafe stop, which is more important. Then meeting Matt on Sunday is purely social. 

Face to face chats are so important, even if we have to sit at opposite ends of an outdoors bench. Hopefully the weather will continue to improve to make this possible every time.

The work is paying off, I was just going to ride to where I grew up, Greenwich Park in particular. Instead of riding straight home I detoured out to Biggin Hill. Two uncles had stables in the area when I was young. I'd spent a lot of weekends there in my teens when I shared ownership of a pony with my brother. We would ride our bikes down on Saturday, sleep in the hay loft and come back Sunday in time for dinner. As I rode past the Hurricane and Spitfire they have on display I realised it had been over thirty years since I'd last seen them. Where did all that time go?


Sunday, 25 April 2021

The reward is worth the effort.

Bolney Wine Estate
 

I've got a confession to make: I sometimes struggle with motivation to ride after work. During the day I waver between looking forward to it, and thinking about not bothering.


Hot chocolate Bolney Wine Estate


This week especially was difficult, especially Monday. The office in London has been semi open for a while, only being used if computer setups etc were required. With one or two people in at a time. The easing of lockdown meant we had the option to occasionally work from the office, still only a few people. at the same time. I choose to go in and I was surprised how deserted London is. Almost empty train carriages, barely anyone in Victoria station, or along my walking route to Neal Street. I left early but still got home after I would have normally switched off my computer. I had convinced myself to take the night off. After dinner I sat looking at the clock, was it too late to go? Eventually I couldn't resist and was on the bike a short time later. It felt great, as it always does. I had been lacking energy, the feeling was gone.

weekday riding

The rest of the week I reminded myself of that change. These rides also improve my fitness. 

weekday riding

So when the weekend comes I can go further and really enjoy it

Saturday was with my club, another new eating place - Bolney Wine Estate - and 67 miles. It started chilly, but ended under a warm sun and blue skies. Still only a few in the group, but a good chance to chat.

Sunday I was in Westerham again with Matt on our bench. A strong headwind meant it was extra work and chillier than Saturday. The green was sheltered so once the clouds blew away it was a pleasant place to be. Life is good.

The strangest part is the feelgood factor when I get home. I have exerted myself, plenty of hills to climb, but I have so much more energy, so much more motivation, and an uplifted mood. I'm risking being too evangelistic again, I can't help it. 

Cycling makes me feel that way.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Another post about cycling

 

Denniker Farm

I don't really have anything to post this week. The weather is improving - don't the British love to talk about this - it's cold first thing, but quickly warms up. I've continued to ride every day after work, up and down the same hill three times. I do it to improve my fitness and strength, so that I can go further at the weekend. That's when I really enjoy myself, Saturday with my club, Sunday with Matt. 

While out with the club a Caterham 7 passed us and one of the group remarked how cool it was. I thought about it and concluded it wasn't. I have changed a lot in the last ten years or so that I have been cycling. My attitude to motor vehicles has altered the most. They are just a means to get around if walking, riding or public transport is impractical to complete a task. Why do they need to be so fast, why do they need to be so big?

I get so much more from pushing the pedals around, far more than simply pressing one. It's a shame more people don't feel the same. All of the car adverts show increasingly bigger cars driving around deserted cities; where does that happen now? Or they are crossing rivers and muddy trails; how many need that capability?

Sunday was again a chilly start, especially the last mile into Westerham. But sitting on the green in the sun soon warmed me up. Coffee and an almond croissant devoured as we sat at opposite ends of "our" bench chatting about our week. 

Surrey Hills view

Stopped near the top of the climb to Botley, what a great view. So glad to be out on the bike.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Cycling; the magic bullet

Hever Castle April 2021

At the risk of being that cycling evangelist you try to avoid, more people need to ride bikes or walk more often.

There are so many benefits, personal, social and environmental.

I've mentioned the personal benefits on this blog; the social advantages are many. More cycling and walking reduces crime, boosts the local economy - helping to keep shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs open, and builds community. It encourages more activity, we have been told for a year to protect the NHS. We can do this if we all get fitter, obesity causes or contributes to many diseases and debilitating conditions that cost billions to treat. And less motor vehicles will mean less collisions, cutting casualties and deaths - 157,630 and 1752 respectively in 2019. 

These problems won't go away with electric power, brake and tyre dust will still be a problem and is harmful, battery production is polluting. It is likely to result in people driving even shorter distances, pavements will still be blocked by parking with cables adding to the problem. In London 30% of driven journeys are of less than three miles, in 2019 there were 3.9 billion more miles driven than in 2009. Battery powered vehicles are bigger and heavier, meaning more wear on the roads and less space for other road users. They'll need charging points, government and local authorities seem enthusiastic for the taxpayer to fund them; petrol stations weren't built this way. 

The taxpayer funds a huge road building program, yet travel times continue to increase. As the saying goes - The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. 

We need less congestion, those that need to drive will be able to do so more easily. 

I had the week off and really went for it, riding over 260 miles.

coffee at westerham

I had a few rides with Oxted Cycling Club, and met Matt in Westerham. Cafes a still only take-away so if we stop, it's not for long, and we all have to stand well apart.

ashdown forest

My cycling sat nav directed me to Hever Castle on Tuesday and Ashdown Forest on Thursday. Still a little too chilly to pause for long.

I even did a 3.8 mile run on Friday. My cycling muscles did not appreciate being asked to do this. A triathlon is not on the cards.