Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Recovery

well done me


I write this as I rest from the week long ride to Cornwall and back. 

I gained a lot from it: 

Proof of my recovery.

A good indication of where my physical limits may be.

And possibly most important to me; that I have more control over myself and how I react to life.

I am stronger mentally than I had thought.

The week before this adventure I had a telephone mental health counseling session. Beforehand I filled in a survey that would form the basis of the conversation.

It was questions I had used before previous therapies. This time I found myself surprised by my answers. I seemed to be choosing more positive responses. I wanted to be honest so ticked boxes with my first reactions.

When the therapists called it was the first thing about which she remarked. I had gone from a score indicating a very depressed person to one who had little indication of a problem.

We talked about what had happened to possibly cause such a change. I suspected it was my broken hip; let me explain. 

Looking back at the immediate aftermath I hadn't really broken down and regressed mentally as I might have expected. I was disappointed with the result of the x-rays and scans. With a bit of a big dip when told by the consultant that there could be lasting implications. 

But those feelings didn't last. I think this was partly because the day after the surgery I had a visit from a physio. He said I could get out of bed if I wanted, and using a frame move around the ward. I had some exercises to reduce the swelling and stiffness. I could do as much as I wanted. So I did; spending all of my time whilst in bed flexing my leg. The rest "walking" around the ward. I saw small improvements each day.

The next two weeks were a rollercoaster for sure; with some very dark times. I was very frustrated at the limits imposed on me. But I never gave into thoughts that I wouldn't fully recover, I just needed to work hard enough, it was down to me.

I said to my therapist that the experience had maybe taught me that I was a better, stronger person than I believed. This was helped by feedback I was getting from family, friends and my cycling club. Everyone was congratulating me on my progress, encouraging me to push on. The difference this time was my reaction to the words. In the past I would have told myself they were just platitudes; not true of me.

As I reached a new milestone those words took on my resonance, and without me realising were reinforcing my positive inner conversation.

I reduced the priority given to my negative monologue.

The discussion was so positive that we agreed that I could put future meetings on hold for now. I had the tools to recognise the start of a downward trajectory, and turn it around.

I'm not saying I am cured, but that I am better than I've been for a very long time. It's like a switch had been flicked to a new position.

We concluded that whilst crashing a bike was maybe not a recognised treatment for depression. It had had a positive outcome for me.

I keep saying this. Talking has been the deciding factor in my turnaround. 

If I hadn't done so, the outcome of my crash, and life's pressures in general could have produced a very different result.

It's why I rode to raise money for Mind. They promote talking, crucially providing resources for those who don't have the support network I am lucky to have.

Thank you to everyone involved over the last few years since I started my recovery.







Monday, 27 June 2022

Riding for Mind

made it to cornwall


My charity ride for Mind is complete; sponsorship link. The original plan was 250 miles straight to Cornwall. And then a three day ride back. 

The change in circumstances - a broken hip in February - meant that wasn't going to be possible. I had to make it a two day ride.

This was my third and longest multi-day ride. The first was four days to Paris and the second a two day ride along the South Downs Way (SDW). Both were with Matthew and Richard. Next year I hope to roundup some companions for a six day ride.

I packed heavy for both trips, including a full size camera. This time I carried the minimum and relied on my phone for pictures. They were both weather affected. The Paris trip by rain for most of the first day. The SDW by rain leading up to the trip. Which meant the first day especially was almost all very thick mud. 

Just having the simple tasks of finding food and staying on route was brilliant. And being with my mates of course.

Back to the Solstice epic.

I'll start with packing, it took me a few goes to be sure I had it right. I did the first round on Saturday. And decided the bag was too heavy. Some stuff was removed and that was supposed to be it. On Sunday I needed to check I had the essentials, so an unpack was necessary. Then that was it. Until Monday when I wanted to remove some more weight and again check that I had what I needed. I was sure I'd forgotten something as I left the house.

The first day started at 4 a.m. and ended 165 miles later in Stawell. It should have been around 150. More on that later.

leaving at 4 am


It was a little chilly as I left the house, getting really cold within a few miles, my hands were freezing. I had to put on my full length gloves. 

view near farnham
Farnham

I was making good time, passing near Farnham, through Alton and Bighton around 08:30.

stop for food at bighton
Bighton

Avington country park
Avington Country Park

I reached Winchester before 10. The roads were quiet and the weather was great.

country views passed Winchester

country views passed Winchester


I was too early at the Mill Arms, Mottisfont for a coffee, but there was a comfy chair if I had had time to wait.

Mill Arms, comfy seat

The next village with a shop was Lockerley. Unfortunately having very little food for a vegan diet. Crisps have plenty of carbs and the energy drink was welcome. 

It was a theme of a lot of the ride; the route I was following missed many bigger towns and even villages. It meant that food stops were less common than I would have liked. 

lockerley
Lockerley

It wasn't until nearly 2 p.m that I was able to stop to eat properly. At the Carriers Arms in Stockton. Great food and a warm welcome. I was too hungry to take a pic of the food.

Carriers Arms Stockton
Carriers Arms Stockton

The rest of the day was okay until I got to Bruton. I was tired and not paying enough attention to the directions given by the cycle comp. It took me on a big figure of eight before I realised something had gone very wrong. It was displaying a map of the Birmingham area. The turn by turn was still working, but I couldn't see how to return to the route without knowing where I was. I continued using my phone and google maps. Stopping every few miles to check my progress and note the next few junctions. 

I eventually made it to the Ivy Cottage in Stawell. Di and Steve were talkative, they had the most time to talk of all the places I stopped at. I asked about food and was told the best pub for a meal was two and half miles away, and that the kitchen closed in less than thirty minutes. So Chris gave me a lift, returning ninety minutes later to pick me up. The pub was the Ring O' Bells in Moorlinch. Clive the landlord welcomed me, it was like walking into my local; one I'd been visiting for many years. He said Trish could cook me a curry, and it was perfect. I haven't tasted better. I was introduced to the regulars, who came over for a chat after I'd eaten. It was just what I needed after a solo ride that had gotten very stressful.

Day two should have been 100 miles to Camelford. The computer had other ideas. The hills increased in frequency and steepness. The temperature climbed quickly, I'm not ashamed to say I walked up some. Without the luggage they would have been hard, with it I had to admit defeat.

Somewhere north of Taunton


Somewhere north of Taunton
Somewhere in the Quantocks

I was meandering through Somerset, mostly singletrack gravel covered lanes. The pic below was at the beginning of a very bad stretch.


singletrack gravel covered lanes

It quickly became impossible to ride up the hills, I just didn't have any traction. I'm glad I continued walking. The descents were incredibly dangerous. Very steep, twisty, potholed and completely covered in gravel and stones. I think this slow progress continued for nearly a mile. 

Finally into Devon
finally into Devon

I entered Devon at about 1 p.m. I tried to smile for the picture, but was just too tired and hot to be able to muster one. I think the stress of the cycle computer routing was also having an effect. The turn by turn was still okay, but the map had me in Wales.

At just before 2 p.m I rode into Bampton. I was cooked, buying too much food and drink to attach to my bike. I looked across the road and saw a church, hoping I'd find a sheltered corner to have a rest.


sheltering from the heat. Bampton
sheltering from the heat. Bampton

I stayed for the best part of ninety minutes. Again smiles were in short supply. The bike proved an ice breaking with people walking through the churchyard. A brief chat was most welcome. I hadn't realised riding alone was starting to take its toll.

The first place I was looking forward to came south east of Okehampton, the Granite Way. A cycle path alongside an abandoned railway line. It was mostly shaded; and flat. It crossed the Meldon Viaduct.


Meldon Viaduct
Meldon Viaduct

View from Meldon Viaduct

View from Meldon Viaduct

The views were great, the viaduct not so much. The original structure being completely built over.

In to Cornwall

The next highlight; entering Cornwall. Again slightly tempered by the computer stress and heat.

I got to Launceston late in the day, about 9 p.m. I made a wrong turn and was completely lost. My brain was fried, even using my phone I couldn't get back on route. I was just over twenty miles from my sister's house. I couldn't work out how to get there without using the A30; a motorway in all but name. Eventually I gave up and called for assistance. Sheila and Jill came to my rescue.

Launceston town hall
waiting for my sister

I was disappointed, to be so close, and not to have ridden to the surprise sign my sister had prepared for me. See the top of this post.

I had a great rest day, my sister and I chating non stop. It was brilliant to completely unwind, and relax. The trials of the past two days almost forgotten.

Then it was time to head home. A friend of Sheilas; Jill, who had helped save me on Wednesday, was driving to Salisbury and offered to give me a lift. I didn't have anywhere to stay there until Saturday, so elected to be dropped off at Exeter. It looked a straightforward trip to the b&b. I tried to use the cycle computer, but it still had me in Wales; soon totally losing the plot. I saw a sign for Seaton; knowing this was close to Colyton I continued without it.

countryside south Devon

It was so relaxing to just meander along the quiet lanes. 

Saint Winifred's Church, Branscombe
Saint Winifred's Church, Branscombe

Stopping for lunch at the Masons Arms. The landlord was right; it was a very steep hill out of the valley.

Masons Arms. Branscombe
Masons Arms. Branscombe

I arrived in Seaton mid afternoon a relaxed man.

Seaton seafront
Seaton seafront

I didn't expect the trams. But it made a nice reason to wander around for bit.


electric tram

And take some pictures.

electric tram

As I rode into Seaton there were signs for Colyton, happy days. 

On the edge of the village was a nice spot to sit and call everyone who was waiting for an update.

The White Cottage b&b was friendly and comfy. Another great find, they recommended that I book a table at the Kingfisher beforehand. They were right; as I walked in it was a busy night. Seeing my name on a table was very welcome. Tasty food too.

The river Colly

The river Colly


As I left Colyton a long hill needed to be climbed, not great so early in the day. I had decided that if the cycling computer was still playing up Salisbury should be easy to get to just by following signs. And then I could catch a train home.

Devon views
Devon views

Dorset views
Dorset views

Somerset views
Somerset views

As I entered Dorset and then Somerset the roads became flatter and my pace increased. The computer was working perfectly, hopefully this was going to be a good day. This and the shorter distance improved my mood greatly. I arrived at Milborne Port and stopped at a pub with an interesting name.

The theme with my pub meal photography; I eat the food too quickly to want to pause for a picture.

The Tippling Philosopher
The Tippling Philosopher

Did you know the cow could be the most dangerous mammal in the UK if you discount pets? I climbed a stile to take a comfort break out of site of the road. A herd of cows were some way off, so I didn't give them much attention.

killer cows
killer cows

As I left the field I heard a noise behind me, the cows had gathered around where I had been. They were pushing at the gate. I'm not saying they would have attacked, but I would certainly have been jostled by them. Apparently at least twelve people were killed in such circumstances between 2008 and 2014.

winding road
the long and winding road

I made good time, the weather was much cooler. Arriving in Salisbury around four. The only blight was a painful knee and developing saddlesore. Again the option of the train for the next day was considered.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

Before checking into my b&b - the Qudos. I took a moment to sit by the river. And update everyone.

away from the crowds Salisbury river avon
The River Avon


The Qudos is centrally located, with a self service buffet breakfast. I always ate as much as I could every morning at all of the stops. It would be my choice if I were to be visiting the area again. Before leaving I lowered the saddle a little to see if it would relieve the pressure. It worked; my knee was a little stiff, but eased up quickly and the rest of the day was almost pain free.

My route quickly had me on a cycle path that brought me to Mottisfont.

 
cycle path

Passing the library.

Mottisfont library


More beautiful countryside.

beautiful countryside


I then started to recognise some of the places I had passed on Tuesday, my route then having gone around Salisbury.

Avington country park
Avington country park

Arriving at Alton it was lunchtime I saw a small square off Market Street that looked promising. On all sides were chain pubs and restaurants, I wanted an independent establishment. I found one in the far corner, the Dill. I sat at the window and ate my mushroom burger.

The Dill Alton
The Dill Alton


It felt good to be on roads I ridden before, until I wasn't. At one point I was directed down a bridleway so stoney and sandy I had to walk. Another quarter mile at a slower pace.

St Laurence church Seale
St Laurence church Seale


I passed through Guildford and Leatherhead then Walton-on-the-Hill, Hooley, and finally Chaldon. I was home.

Some thoughts from this adventure:

I relied totally on technology and it had partially let me down. To be fair the computer had been okay in the past.

I have often written about testing my limits, only thinking physically. Whilst I was tired at the end of each day it was the mental toll I hadn't considered. The first two days had really pushed me the most. Perhaps I now know a limit; it's how far can I go alone. The next multi-day ride will need to be as a group. 

No-one to talk to, then eating alone in the evening and at breakfast. At each stop I looked for conversation, but everyone had their own lives and schedules. I was just someone passing through. 
Except the Ring O' Bells on the 21st. It was brilliant chatting away to the locals.

I called Marcia, Sheila and Michelle in the evenings, before falling asleep. An important part of my day.

I don't know how people travel many days alone. Especially if they aren't in contact with anyone on a regular basis. What did they do before mobile phones and the internet?

I need to slow down, reduce the daily distance target. To quote Jurassic Park; just because you can, doesn't mean you should. The shorter days were much more enjoyable even taking into account the tech failures.

Here are links to the places featured in this post.













Friday, 17 June 2022

Never satisfied

setting goals
I watched a runners youtube video the other day. Seven things they don't tell you about running. Fairly standard points that are the same for cycling: it will cost more than you think, it'll hurt at times, it can become addictive etc. The last point was a new one though; you'll never be satisfied. 

He said you'll feel great when goals are achived, but then think how much further is possible.

I realised that I had fallen into this "trap". You may have read previous blogs where I talk about wanting to test how far I could go. It is part of the reason for next weeks ride to Cornwall. Certainly the orginal intent of 250 miles in one day. The modified plan is still a big challenge; 500 miles in 5 days of riding over 6 days.

Plans for next year include another big ride over many days. Lands End to John O'Groats is on the to-do list.

I guess spare time to do longer rides will be one deciding factor for how far I go.

I have commitments and a fulltime job. Maybe some of my plans will have to wait until I retire. Age shouldn't be a barrier, I rode with I think the oldest person in Oxted CC last week. It was to celebrate his 87th birthday. We did 100 km or 60 miles.

From what I have read, exercise into old age improves and extends life, so I won't stop riding. And I hope I will still be able to push myself. Even if it's to cover the distances I am now doing.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Waller Pain - year three

waller lane hill climb

The last time I rode this hill climb was in 2019. I wish it had happened last year. I was in the best shape I'd ever been.

Here is a link to the posts.

And this year; well I'm sure you know how I started 2022. Link.

It's for a good cause and would be a test for me. I've been riding with Oxted CC and Matt for a while, as well as on the trainer. I hoped to be fitter and stronger than I was in 2019, I'm certainly lighter.

For the first time Oxted CC had a few riders, so I wasn't alone; quite a few supporters too.

I didn't know how to approach it this time. I was still getting over a cold, and I'm not as fit and strong as I was. So no standing up, I wanted to keep my heart rate in check. But still put as much as I could into the attempt.

The rider behind me made up the minute gap quickly and went passed me like I was standing still. 

I did beat my last time so that was good. I did it in 2:38:08.

waller lane hill climb smiling
smiling at the beginning

waller lane hill climb gets a bit tougher
gets a bit tougher

waller lane hill climb near the top
the end is in sight



Saturday, 11 June 2022

Film photowalk

drinking fountain

I went for a walk a few weeks ago. I wanted to test how far I could go on my recovering hip. And to use my film camera. Link to previous post

It's been a while because it had to be processed.

The area may be familiar if you have read my previous photowalk posts.

Some observations.

Even though my first cameras were film, it still felt strange not see the picture I'd just taken.

I took more pictures than I would with a digital camera. I needed to use the whole roll before taking it to be processed.

There is only one focus point; in the centre of the frame, modern digital cameras have them spread across the frame.  And focusing is not automatic.

Here are some of the results.  Can you tell the difference? Bearing in mind my camera wasn't considered top of the range when new. The D700 used for previous photowalks was pro level when first released.

I had a dilemma; to edit on not. I do tweak the fully digital files so the same should be okay now. I didn't have the choice the last time I used film. And certainly not when last using this camera; in the late 1970's. The files were supplied as jpegs so editing was limited.

Unlike my digital cameras I didn't have a view through the lens. It made composing a challenge, I wasn't sure how wide the frame was. 

When I got home the garden provided images for the last few frames. I could have posted the roll, but instead waited until I could walk to the camera shop.

Several weeks passed before I returned for the files, it took much longer than I had expected. Maybe another consequence of fewer people using film. I guess they develop or pickup from shops in batches and didn't have enough straight away.

What do I think of the pictures? They were all a little over exposed, I'm not sure if it was my fault or a problem with the light meter; maybe both. They lacked contrast. This was probably caused by the lens. A better one could have improved how punchy the pictures appeared. I missed focus with some shots; more practice using the camera may improve this.

I don't think I will be returning to film; for me the camera is a tool. I'll use the "best" option available to me to produce pictures. That might be a controversial opinion. Photography is not about how you capture light as much as it is the creative process. I use a computer to write this blog, it doesn't matter who made it. It just needs to connect to the internet and be able to convert my thoughts to words on a server. I could use an older computer running an older OS. But that could be more problematic, and likely involve compromises.

And adding images taken on a film camera to a post involves more people, complexity, and delay. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't strive to only use the latest tech, that's wasteful and rarely necessary. I choose whatever allows me to achieve my goal in the most efficient way. Taking into consideration what I have and the cost to replace it.

cricket pavilion

tree stump

bluebells

dandelions

I left cutting the lawn very late this year. I normally leave it until the dandelions have almost all gone to seed. But this year I couldn't get out to use the mower so the bees and other early insects had even more time to take advantage of the bounty.


bench

fallen tree

two trees

dandelions gone to seed

country path

I just didn't see any advantage to film. A pro level camera may have impressed me more, but I have a high quality digital version. I have another roll, I'm not sure I'll use it with this setup. I think maybe a better body/lens combo from ebay will be needed. They don't cost much, but it'll have to wait.