Last weekend me and wife, along with most of her family, spent a great weekend on the Llyn Peninsula near Abersoch. We stayed in two lovely farmhouses next to Hell’s Mouth (here). My beautiful wife had been there many times, but it was the first time that I’d been anywhere near the area since I was about five, and had a holiday in Pwllheli.

It took less than four hours to get there, and we did stop for a reasonably priced and surprisingly pleasant coffee from a McDonalds. We also swapped driving. As soon as we got there we took Nelly to the beach. Have you ever seen a happier dog.


Back at the cottage and soon Helen’s family arrived and did what families do, eating, drinking and talking loudly.

The next morning three of us (myself, Helen, and her brother Phil) set off to explore the peninsula. I had plotted a route that would take us around the coast before heading inland and back to Abersoch. Unfortunately I’m not very good at noticing hills on a map, so after five miles we found ourselves at the bottom of a wall.


It kind of went on and on, but the views from the top were amazing.



Once back at the cottages eating and drinking commenced.

The next morning me and Phil went out for a gentle 20 miler out to Aberdaron, and over the same hill as the day before, but up the easier side, which wasn’t much easier.


In the afternoon Phil lent his bike to Helen’s eldest, so myself Dan (Helen’s youngest) and Tom went out for a gentle six miles, without any hills. I think Tom was hooked, so he should be joining us on rides in the future.

More eating and drinking followed.

The final morning, Dan was keen for a quick spin, so we returned to the big hill, which was a bit of a shock to Dan as he lives on the flat lands of the Fylde coast. We then found a different route back with a great gentle descent. Back at the cottages it was time to pack up and head home. The weather had been fantastic as had the cycling, and I would definitely recommend it.

Strava routes from the weekend are here, here, here and here.

March 2017

Another month, and another six Strava challenges completed, taking my total up to 286. Hopefully I’ll manage something spectacular for my 300th challenge. The map below (from Veloviewer) shows where I’ve been this month.


The usual rides around Lancaster, my commute between Wigan and Leigh, and then a weekend away in north Wales, around the Llyn Peninsula, blog post here. The new area to explore has taken my explorer tiles up over 6,000, with the number of segments now over 11,000. No movement in my Eddington scores, but my 2017 scores are up to 28 miles and 33 km.

At the end of last year I mentioned that I was going to aim to ride 10,000 miles, run 1,000 miles and swim 100 miles. Three months in and I’m 300 miles behind my target for cycling, and 60 miles behind with my running, although I have been injured. Swimming though I am less than 100 lengths behind, so I can easily make that up.

Finally, my blog had over 600 views in March, and has had over 1,200 views in total, which is nice.

Book Review 2017 Part II

In my first book review of the year (can be found here) I reviewed four books. This time it’s just the one book, mostly because it’s a long read.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama


I’d never heard of the author, but the blurb on the cover made it look interesting, so I gave it a punt. The book can take a while to get your head around, as there is lots of Japanese police procedure. The main character, Mikami, was a seasoned detective who has been transferred to press relations, against his will. His daughter has also run off from home and has been missing for a few months, feared dead. Behind all this is an unsolved 14 year old kidnapping case, with the code name six-four. This case is a blot on the local police force as the kidnapper was never caught, the ransom money was never recovered and the kidnapped schoolgirl was murdered. On top of all this intrigue, the police commissioner from Tokyo is planning a visit, for nefarious reasons.

The book is quite long and although sometimes feels as if not much is happening, I was hooked from very early on. The final few chapters are brilliantly described as you feel like you are ‘there’, and I won’t reveal where ‘there’ is. There are also more than a couple of threads unresolved, so I am really hoping that the author is currently writing the sequel.

If you’re local to Lancaster, you can borrow my copy, you won’t be disappointed.

Product Review

In my first product review here I looked at Gloves, Overshoes and Tyres. In this review I will be looking at Wiggle nutrition.

Last year I was mostly using Etixx nutrition. COLT had managed to obtain a years supply for free, and I like free. All good things come to an end, so I’m back on the cheap stuff.

Hydro tabs (1)

First off, the hydro tabs. At £3 for a tube of 20, you can’t go wrong. I’m sure a qualified nutritionist could tell you the difference between these and other brands, although the ingredients on the back appears similar for all makes. They taste OK and provide the salts that I need when I sweat, which I do, copiously. I prefer the blackcurrant, although they are available in a variety of flavours. My only gripe, why is the top one always broken, and sometimes the second and third ones as well.

Hydro tabs (2)

The gels, once again are very reasonably priced from £7 for a box of 20. As with the hydro tabs they are available in a multitude of flavours. My favourites are lemon meringue or blackcurrant.


If you’ve ever read an article covering nutrition products, it will mainly focus on how they taste. It is very difficult to quantify how well they actually work, especially as this varies from person to person.

I once had a Powergel during a race and suffered really bad stomach cramps. Clif gels are too solid for me to use when running, although they are the best tasting gels I’ve ever tried. Etixx, OTE and Wiggle gels are all liquid enough that I can use them when out for a long run.

Again I could do with a nutritionist to explain the difference between gels; chemicals or the wrong type of sugar. I’m guessing that the cheaper gels contain more sugar, hence why when I gave one to my wife towards the end of a long ride, a few minutes later she shot off leaving me in her dust.

I’m not doing IMUK this year (read why here) or any long races, so nutrition isn’t a top priority at the moment. I can get by on cafe stops, cake and sausage butties. If I was doing a long distance race I would try out a few different brands, at a fast pace, to see what works best for me.

Finally, don’t try out new stuff during a race.

Air Quality in Galgate – Part III

In this blog post I continue my look at the appalling air quality in the small village of Galgate, located a few miles south of Lancaster. In the first part here, I carried out some simple air quality modelling and assessed how bad the situation could/will become if developments are continued to built at the current rate. In the second part here, I looked at an air quality assessment that was submitted with a proposal to build 50 new dwellings. In that report, DEFRA’s Technical Guidance was followed, which is far too optimistic on future vehicle emissions, and hence suggested that there would be no problems with air quality by 2017. Quite obviously the current guidance isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

In this post I will be looking at another new housing development, this time off Stoney Lane. In the image below, the badly drawn black line is the border of this new development. The Galgate Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) can also be seen, along with the Ancient Woodlands of Cockshades and Little Cockshades.


This development is almost finished, and the houses don’t look too bad, if slightly generic.


As with my previous analysis, an air quality assessment was required, but this time the local authority insisted that 2013 vehicle emission factors should be applied to the 2019 opening year. This assumes that there will not be any improvement in vehicle pollution, although there probably will be some. The real world vehicle emissions of diesels has not improved as much as expected, despite new EU Legislation. Volkswagon scandal anyone? The air quality assessment was once again written by GEM Air Quality LTD. The assessment also takes into account any committed developments that have already been given the go ahead, which is industry standard.

First off, the development is expected to generate 395 vehicle movements per day along Stoney Lane. When this development and the committed developments are included, there is expected to be an increase of 1500-1700 vehicles per day through the A6 crossroad in Galgate. This is through the AQMA. The transport data was supplied by i-Transport LLP, a firm that I’ve never worked with, although these figures do sound fairly realistic.

So what does the air quality assessment say about the air quality in Galgate in 2019. The report was written in January 2015, and a couple of months later the Institute of Air Quality Management (IAQM) issued new guidance with respect to planning and housing. Previous guidance allowed for a certain amount of interpretation, while the new guidance is quantitative, with no wiggle room. The relevant section can be seen below.


The results from the Stoney Lane development, using the new guidance, place the impacts as ‘Slight’ to ‘Moderate’. When the other committed developments are included, the impacts are ‘Moderate’ to ‘Substantial’. It doesn’t get any worse than ‘Substantial’, and my opinion is that ‘Substantial’ should be replaced with ‘Holy Sh*t’.

The air quality assessment written by GEM includes some mitigation measures for the vehicle impacts. In full, these are to plant a few trees, and the developer may want to supply some electric vehicle charging points. Completely useless.

What is interesting is that the Environmental Health Officer with Lancaster Council recommended refusal based on the air quality assessment. In my opinion this was the correct decision. Somewhere along the line, decisions were made that the health of local residents in Galgate is not as important as new housing developments. If I lived along the A6 in Galgate I wouldn’t be happy with this.

In Part IV of my series of blogs I will look at methods that could improve the air quality in Galgate.

My Ironman Journey – 2017

I’m not really a fan of M-Dot races. In my opinion the brand has become too commercial, too expensive and it’s all about the profit. Saying that, I’ve tried to stay away, but each year when the circus comes to Bolton, you can find me cheering people on. The atmosphere on COLT Alley is to be believed and every year I feel the urge to enter, to experience it for myself.

Due to work I wasn’t able to support in 2016, but after some encouragement from my wife I decided to enter, and pay my £400+ fee for 2017’s race. HOW MUCH? My triple ironman cost less than that. £6 per hour of racing as opposed to almost £40 per hour. Big difference.

Being a bit of a wag, I told friends that I was doing a sprint distance Tri this year. In the last couple of years I’ve had a go at ultra-triathlons. Read about my double ironman here.

Finishing a single ironman therefore shouldn’t be a problem, although I won’t be as quick as the last time I did an ironman distance race in the UK. That’s me below finishing Longest Day in 1998.

Longest Day 1998

My biggest problem will be nutrition, gels instead of pork pies, bananas instead of Hula Hoops. I won’t be able to spend 30 minutes in T1 having lunch. Also, swimming with 2000 others isn’t something I’m looking forward to. I like small races.

It has been interesting receiving emails from Ironman with advice and hints on my first M-Dot race. My first Ironman distance race was back in 1997, and my one and only official Ironman race was Lanzarote in 1999. It was a bad race and I’ve never been back.

Obviously this is the first time that I’ve registered with the brand, as t’internet wasn’t really around back then.

I will admit that I’m struggling to get excited about Bolton, and would probably prefer to be doing smaller local races instead. I appear to have lost my mojo. This isn’t helped by not being able to run. I have Plantar Fasciitis. Anyone who has had this will attest that it can take ages to heal. I’ve had it twice in the past, and both times it took over a year before I could run again.

Therefore, I have made the difficult decision to withdraw. With just over four months to go I can get half of my entry fee refunded, but if I left it another week then I’d only get 25% back. I will definitely be on COLT Alley cheering you all on, and maybe 2018 will see my return to Ironman.

Wigan Air Quality

I’ve blogged about the unusual Greater Manchester Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) before, (https://beardsandtriathlons.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/commuting-and-air-quality/) and I’ve shown part of it once again, focusing on Wigan town centre. The green splodges are sections of the AQMA. I get to cycle through this twice a day.


The AQMA suggests that the air quality in Wigan is poor, but are there any monitored results? I’m glad you asked me that, because according to the Greater Manchester Air Quality website there are quite a few diffusion tubes in the area. I know this because I have read the 2016 Annual Status Report. This report states that because there are 260 diffusion tubes in Greater Manchester, the results are not in the report, but in an attached file and in the appendix. The attached file isn’t attached, obviously, and the appendix isn’t available online. I have emailed a couple of times, but I haven’t had a reply yet.

Without monitored results, let us assume that the air quality in Wigan is poor, hence the AQMA. So, why is the air quality in Wigan poor? Many of the buses are old and have high pollutant emissions. When London, Guildford and other more affluent areas down south invest in new buses, where do you think the old ones go? They gradually migrate north, to Wigan, Sheffield, Barnsley and eventually onto Inverness.

Buses though, only account for some of the pollution. A much larger proportion comes from cars. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to drive into Wigan, you would be able to testify to the fact that cars are everywhere. Most of them are moving slower than I do on a bicycle, with congestion and tailbacks the norm.


The above image is again Wigan town centre. In this small area there are 12 car parks, as well as on street parking on almost every road. An easy and quick win would be to close a few of them. If there is nowhere for people to park they might walk, cycle or use public transport. Alternatively, they might go somewhere else, and Wigan can’t really afford to lose jobs, shoppers or tourists. Studies have shown that non car drivers actually spend far more in local shops, so making Wigan less car centric would actually benefit the city, but just try telling that to local Councillors.

The car parks could be phased out over a number of years, in conjunction with improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, adding bus lanes and generally making the place nicer. The solution is there, right in front of our eyes.

If you design a city for cars and traffic, you’ll get a city full of cars and traffic. Why don’t we build a city for people and places?

Fleet Moss Audax

Can’t believe this was almost three years ago.

Beards and Triathlons

Last Sunday I cycled out past Garstang for the Fleet Moss Audax. Not too far but with the 214 km of the Audax this would end up with me cycling 264 km for the day. My last long ride before my big race. For those of you not familiar with an Audax, imagine a sportive but one where you have to navigate yourself. You’re given a route card and a Brevet, which you will have to either get stamped at various check points or answer a question. This is to ensure that you do the full distance, although you can chose your own route in between each check point if you wish. Audax’s are much cheaper to enter than a sportive, only £5.50 for members of Audax UK. They are also not races, so you set your own pace. Indeed some Audax rides will have a maximum speed of 30…

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Train Refunds

Did you know that if your train is delayed you can claim a refund? I had been taking a train almost every day for a few months before I found out about this. How much refund depends on how late the train is, with a full refund only available if the train is over two hours late. I probably missed out on £20-30 of refunds in three months.

Some train companies give refunds if the train is 15 minutes late, including some Virgin services, but not the one I use.

The first time that I applied for a refund was at the end of January. I Googled Virgin Train refunds, found the correct website, filled in my details and uploaded a photo of my tickets. A day later I received an email telling me that I’d not provided the correct information, and that I needed to supply proof. Seeing as I had given them a photo of my ticket, along with details of my booking number from Trainline, I asked what I had missed. No reply was forthcoming, but a week later I received a cheque for £8.25. The second time, I supplied the same information as before, and received a cheque for £4.13 a week later.

The cynic in me would suggest that the first time that you apply for a refund, Virgin automatically send an email saying that you’ve not supplied the correct details, hoping that most people will be put off.

Although, it’s cliched to be cynical about Virgin Trains.

Who do you ride with?

I was out cycling yesterday with Garstang Cycling Club for the first time in over two years, and it was great to be back, as I was made to feel right at home. It was a lumpy 85 mile ride with a posh cafe stop. https://www.strava.com/activities/887431400 Thanks to Boz for the photo.


I’m digressing slightly. During the ride Sue mentioned that I didn’t appear to have been out cycling with my wife much so far this year. If only there was some way to find out. Fortuitously, there is. Strava allow their software developers the time to work on side projects, which can be found here http://labs.strava.com/. The projects include the very popular ‘flyby’ along with ‘Project Kudos’.

The project that I’m interested in here, is The Roster. This project shows you, of the many athletes you follow, who you have ridden and run with the most. Apparently I’m a lone wolf, with 79% of my activities being solo.


In the four and a half years that I’ve been on Strava, I’ve ridden or run with 321 athletes that I currently follow, with Chief Bunny (my beautiful wife) at the top with over 8 days, followed by The Prof (3 days) and Ian (1.4 days).

What about 2017? The Roster allows you to pick a year on it’s own. So here is the top six people I’ve been riding with so far this year:

  1. Chief Bunny – 11.3 hours
  2. Professor Badass – 9.3 hours
  3. Chris Clarke – 5.3 hours
  4. Jenny Evans – 5.2 hours
  5. Danny Rogerson – 5.1 hours
  6. Sue Taylor – 4.7 hours

My wife is still in top spot, but we both agree that for various reasons, weather and illness mainly, we haven’t been out together as much as we would like so far this year. Therefore, next Sunday we will be riding out to Dunslop Bridge, one of our favourite rides.