Strava Local Legends Challenge

The Strava Local Legends feature has been around for a couple of months, which is plenty of time for the excitement to have settled down and for people to have ‘found’ a few segments that they can or are Local Legends. (I first blogged about Local Legends here.) Currently I’m Local Legend on 12 cycling segments and 3 running segments, but that could all change each and every day.

To try and spice up the Local Legend I have come up with a trio of segment based challenges.

1000 Athletes.

Quite simply the challenge is to become the Local Legend on a segment that has been completed by at least 1,000 different athletes in the past 90 days. A couple of the segments where I am Local Legend have over 900 athletes, but they have been over 1,000 a few weeks ago. They probably will again if we have a week or two of nice weather.

100 Efforts

Sometimes it’s not enough to be just the Local Legend, you want to destroy everyone else. Therefore, the second challenge is to complete over 100 efforts of a segment in 90 days. One segment which I cycle along most days and I though that I might be close to the top, has been completed over 80 times by the leader. Breaking it down, you need to complete a segment every day for 80 days, and then twice a day on the other 10 days. Quite a challenge.

An Iconic Segment

Some segments are definitely more iconic than others. For me, this would be any hill segment from Simon Warren’s Toughest Hills books. We’re very lucky here in that climb 76, Jubilee Tower is only a couple of miles away. I’ve climbed it 52 times in the last 8 years. The Local Legend leader has climbed it 49 times in the last 90 days. It also looks like there is a bit of a rivalry, as the second place athlete is on 48. It’s a tough climb and I can’t imagine cycling it that many times, so this is probably the hardest of my three challenges.

Will you be able to manage any of them?

Book Review: The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Dystopia is the new utopia!


Mooching around our local Waterstones at the weekend I spotted this particular book. After reading the cover I was sold. Obviously dystopian books are my new favourite genre. I started reading it Saturday afternoon and finished the last few pages on Monday morning, and with over 450 pages it isn’t a short book.

The book is all about a fictitious company simply called Cloud, which has almost taken over the whole world. There are a number of similarities between Cloud and Amazon, and I’m sure that Jeff Bezos would probably read the book and remark that it doesn’t sound too bad.

Set in the future and the planet has been ravaged by climate change, unemployment and disease, with Cloud being one of the few places still employing people. The giant distribution warehouses have expanded and now include on-site housing for the workers, health facilities, bars, restaurants and other free time activities, known as a MotherCloud. The housing comes out of your pay, which is less than minimum wage, and is in the form of Cloud Credit, which is subject to a small charge if you want to exchange it into real money, although there isn’t anywhere on-site to spend real money, and the whole facility is a hundred miles from the nearest large town. Living on-site also means that you’re not stuck with a 40 hours working week, everyone can work far more hours (hurrah!). However, if you decline to work extra, or visit the health facilities, your ‘Star’ rating will fall, and you might be axed on ‘Cut Day’.

The book is seen through the eyes of three protagonists; Gibson, Paxton and Zinnia. Gibson is Gibson Wells, the founder of Cloud and worth over $300 Billion. His character is written in the first person, and right from the beginning we find out that he is dying. What is scary is how the author manages to make some of the extreme views from Gibson seem reasonable. He obviously feels that he has started to create a utopian environment. Utopian for the 1% and dystopian for everyone else. Who will take over Cloud once he dies?

Paxton used to work as a prison guard in a low security private jail, where most of the inmates were doing time for crimes that haven’t been crimes for a hundred years (in the UK at least), for example, defaulting on your student loan. I know that student loans didn’t exist a hundred years ago, but debtors prisons were not abolished until 1869, and it was estimated that half of the prison population at the time was in for debt. Paxton set up his own company making a perfect egg cooking device, available through Cloud, who wanted greater and greater discounts until he went out of business. The only place left for him to work was at the company that destroyed his livelihood. Does he have an axe to grind?

Zinnia is more of a mystery. She has been paid to infiltrate Cloud and find out it’s secrets. She hoped to be employed as a Tech but ends up as a picker on the warehouse floor, one of the hardest and most infamous jobs today at Amazon (read my review of Hired by James Bloodworth here). What is she up to and who is paying her?

There are a few twists and turns in the book, although nothing which isn’t too hard to guess. What makes the whole book so engrossing is how this is all too real a possibility. The wealth gap in America between the richest and the poorest is now greater than in  France at the time of the French Revolution. Things have to change.

Anyway, I gave the book 5 out of 5 on Goodreads and would definitely recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: The Runner by Markus Torgeby

the runner

As any regular reader of my blog will know, I like books about running (or cycling, swimming, triathlons, etc), and generally the stranger the better.

Markus is a troubled young man, as well as being an incredibly talented runner. His very shouty coach ignores an injury and forces Markus to run, which mentally almost destroys him. He decides to go and live in the wilderness, in a tent, for four years. It is a very simple life. He eats, sleeps, runs and makes sure that he has enough wood to keep the fire going, to cook and to stay warm. He runs twice a day, although in the winter he often skis as well. He takes part in a relay and the team that he is running with are soundly beaten by a group from Tanzania, so he asks if he can train with them for six months.

It is an incredibly book, and reminds me of the book and film ‘Into the Wild’, which I thoroughly recommend. However, unlike ‘Into the Wild’, Markus doesn’t die. He finds a very good woman, builds a house and has three happy children. He sometimes coaches, sometimes give motivational speeches, and keeps on running.

I gave the book 4 out of 5 on Goodreads, although 4 and a half would have been more accurate. Very enjoyable even if it difficult reading at times.

Book Review: Off the Map by Alastair Bonnett

or to give the book it’s full title – Off the map: Lost spaces, invisible cities, feral places and what they tell us about the world.


I do love looking at a map; looking for routes to run or cycle, new places to explore or week long touring holidays. Off the map took me a while to read, not because it wasn’t very good, but because it is split into eight different sections, each with numerous chapters. I would read a chapter most evenings, sometimes looking at the world map on our bedroom wall, and as each chapter was it’s own little island there wasn’t a ‘plot’ to lose if I didn’t pick up the book for a few days. Nearly every chapter has the latitude and longitude, making it easier to open Google Maps to find it.

There are the cities that no longer exist, for example Leningrad, there are hidden places, for example the underground city of Cappadocia, there are no man lands, dead cities, breakaway countries, floating islands and ephemeral places. Two chapters that particularly grabbed me was Camp Zeist in Holland. This was where the trials for the Lockerbie bombers were held, under Scottish law, but in a neutral place that was for the period of the trial, in effect, Scotland. I was also intrigued by the LAX carpark, where numerous people who worked in the air would live in caravans.

Overall a thoroughly entertaining book which I gave 4 out of 5 on Goodreads.

Book Review: Operation Ironman by George Mahood

A couple of weeks ago I finished Free Country by George Mahood (read my review here) and enjoyed it so much that when I noticed that he had written a triathlon related book I had to purchase it.


As the front cover says, from hospital bed to the starting line of an Ironman. For those of you who don’t know what an Ironman is, it is a continuous race (or event) consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, finished off with a full 26.2 mile marathon. There is also a time limit, generally 17 hours, but as George finds out on his journey, the particular Ironman that he has entered has a 16 hour time limit.

George isn’t unfit. He played 5-a-side, cycled to the shops, ran a bit, including a few marathons, so when his back started hurting it put a stop to all these things, as well as impacting upon looking after three young children. Eventually, his back problem is diagnosed and an operation is scheduled. Convalescing in hospital George comes upon the idea of completing an Ironman later the same year, as motivation to recovering. Ironman UK at Bolton would have been at the ideal time, but was full, so a race in France was entered.

The book is very funny, especially when George realises that he has been swimming wrong all these years, and then finds out the same with cycling and running. I often find adventure or sporty books more fun when the protagonist doesn’t really know what they are doing, making mistakes all over the place. His training is sporadic, to say the least, with very little running, not wanting to place a strain on his back. George also doesn’t have all of the expensive kit, borrowing a bike from his father. He does join Strava, and I have requested to follow him, although he hasn’t accepted my friend request yet.

What I also loved about this book was that George wasn’t looking for a respectable finishing time, he was only looking at finishing, making notes about cut-off times. There is a great deal of pressure to perform well at an Ironman, which is one of the reasons that I haven’t done one for over 20 years, but George has put the idea into my head that maybe when I turn 60 I should do another. I would follow George’s lead and simply aim to finish and try to enjoy it as much as possible.

This book isn’t just for triathletes, it is that fun to read, and I gave it 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. Added to that I will also be purchasing more of George’s books.

Run Happy at Home

Another medal (smiley face emoji).


A couple of months ago I mentioned that Brooks had a promotion where if you uploaded a run(s) to a website they would send you a medal (or two) to be picked up at your local running shop (read about it here).

From their website Brooks made it appear that there would be different medals each week, although the quality didn’t look too good. In the end there was only one medal, but it is really good quality, and it was free. Additionally, when I went into my local running shop in Lancaster ( to buy a new pair of Brooks GTS 20 I forgot to pick up my medal, so the owner dropped it off on his way home. Note, he does have to walk past our house on his way home, so he wasn’t going too far out of his way,  but even so, it was very good of him.

I also don’t mind promoting Brooks as they are my go to road running shoe, and have been for a number of years. I use Saucony shoes for trail running.

Anyway, support your local running shop.

The Frostrow Fells

My lovely wife Helen had been feeling a bit under the weather for the last couple of weeks, not Covid related I’m happy to say, so instead of a long run this weekend we opted for a shorter walk somewhere different, but not too far away.

The Frostrow Fells are a couple of miles south east of Sedbergh, and generally when in the area the mighty Howgills would be attacked. The Frostrow Fells are not nearly as high and not as strenuous. The Howgills Half Marathon that we both did last year was easily the toughest half marathon that either of us had ever done (read about it here).

From Sedbergh we walked towards the tiny village of Millthrop and followed a dead-end past Side Farm and onto a bridleway. Through a gate and we took a footpath which ran parallel to the bridleway as we meandered up the low lying Frostrow Fells. Amazing views of Combe Top on the other side of the Dent valley.


Up and over a high ladder style we enjoyed the amazing weather, before crossing the heather and dropping down into Helmside.


This wasn’t as easy as it should have been. There was a waymarked footpath sign near to the top, but nothing when we reached a couple of quad-bike gates. We picked the right hand one as it looked more promising, and as we reached the farmyard the farmer pointed us to the badly signed footpath which skirted his farm.

We then joined the main Sedbergh to Dent road, which was busier than we expected and as it was narrow not easy for cars to safely pass. Fortunately we soon reached Craggs Farm where there was a footpath to take us off the road. Nelly, our pointer, was a little fed up by this point as she hadn’t been allowed off the lead all day, and the next few fields were also full of sheep. However, once we reached Gap Wood she could have a good scamper. We stopped for some snacks and water while Nelly found plenty of sheep’s poo to roll in. From there it was a gentle stroll back to Millthrop and into Sedbergh.


We had planned to browse a couple of the second hand book shops, as Sedbergh is known as England’s book town, but with a stinky dog we walked along the main road and back to the car. A very pleasant and gentle 7 mile walk.

If you’re interested in doing this walk it was taken from the Cicerone book ‘Walking in the Lune Valley and Howgills’. We’ve done a few walks from this book, although you definitely want to have an Explorer map with you, just in case.

Back in the Pool

Yesterday was my first swim in a pool for 149 days. Me and my lovely wife have been for a few outdoor swims, but my last swim in a pool was back in March. When the pools and gyms closed, like most people, I honestly thought that it would only be for a few weeks, maybe a month at the most, not almost half a year.

Anyway, things have changed. The pool I usually swim at is in Horwich, close to where I work, when I’m not working from home. There is a strict booking system, and only half hour slots for swimming, so I booked my place in 7.30am – 8.00am slot, although you can stay in the pool until 8.15, which gives enough time to clear and clean the changing area before the next slot arrives. You also have to turn up ‘beach’ ready, i.e. wearing your swimming gear under your clothes. I arrived at the sports centre a little early to find a small queue. One woman was very beach ready as she was wearing a dry robe with her swimming cap and goggles already on her head.

Bang on 7.30 we were allowed in, swiping our membership cards and following the one-way system to the changing rooms. Lockers were all closed so you have to leave your bag poolside. Horwich pool is 6 lanes wide, and would usually have 3 lanes roped off; fast, medium and slow, with the other half of the pool open. Yesterday there were 3 double-wide lanes, again one fast, one medium and one slow. The idea being that swimmers would be further apart, especially as you were not allowed to overtake down the middle.

I jumped in the fast lane, although I don’t really think of myself as ‘fast’, and set off. Because there more people my swim became a bit of a fartlek session, swimming slow for a bit behind someone and then faster when the lane was clear. After about 30 minutes the pool slowly emptied, allowing me to swim at my pace a bit more.

Once out of the pool it was a quick change, without a shower, and then following the one way system out of the sports centre along corridors that I never knew existed. Overall the experience was good. I would like to be able to swim for longer, but 40 minutes is much better than nothing. The staff were all very friendly and helpful. The swim was also quite relaxed, as really fast swimmers or people wanting to do ‘sets’ were absent. I have already booked a slot for next week, and hopefully before the end of the month the Uni pool in Lancaster will also re-open. It’s good to be back in the pool.

Book Review: The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The other week me and my lovely wife were browsing in our local Waterstones when I spotted the cover for this particular book.

grand dark

That looks interesting, I thought to myself. I read the back cover and then later at home downloaded the Kindle version. (Sorry Waterstones, but it was half the price).

Set in the fictional city of Lower Proszawa, the book features Largo, a cycle messenger and his exotic girlfriend Remy. The city is recovering from a war which all but destroyed the more affluent sister city of Higher Proszawa, and while the city’s inhabitants wait for the next war to begin they party, drink and take drugs. The book is post-apocalyptic set in a dystopian future, with steampunk themes, as well as having Orwellian and Kafkaesque undertones to go with Terry Gillian’s Brazil. With all that going, what’s not to like?

The first third of the book sets out the characters and their lives, as well as filling in their backstories, however the second third drags. I pushed through expecting the last third of the book to be exciting as all of the different threads are pulled together. This doesn’t happen. Largo goes off to visit the wastelands of Higher Proszawa, pointlessly, on a whim, using up favours and money that he doesn’t really have. He gets robbed, beaten up, shot at and shoots back. His friends go missing or are arrested. Unfortunately, overall, nothing really happens. The end is open ended with an obvious second book soon to come. Half of The Grand Dark could have been edited out without losing anything plot-wise.

I wanted to like this book, but by the end I was bored. I didn’t even object to how Largo managed to know the route across a minefield, despite seemingly never having crossed it before in his life. I won’t be reading the sequel, whenever it is released, and I very much doubt if I’ll read anything else by Richard Kadrey. I gave it 2 out of 5 on Goodreads.

Book Review: Free Country by George Mahood


To give the book it’s full title, Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain. I first came across this book when I was reading the Oxfam collection of travel stories contained in The Kindness of Strangers (read my review here).

It often feels that if you’re going to write a travel book, especially something like Land’s End to John O’Groats, which has been written about at least a hundred times, you need a hook to pull people in. The ‘hook’ in Free Country is that George and his friend Ben intend to cycle the classic LEJOG route without spending a single penny. To add to this they start at Land’s End only wearing Union Jack boxer shorts, and without bicycles.

Their first port of call is the Land’s End hotel to see if there are any clothes left in the lost property box, and to see if the hotel would be prepared to give them any food. The pair of them have a knack of blagging stuff as it doesn’t take them too long to have acquired a couple of old bikes and an odd assortment of clothes. They also manage to find places to sleep; sometimes in an old barn, other times in some quite nice B & Bs.

The book is great fun to read and as with all travel books it’s the people you meet on the journey who make it all worthwhile. Most often the pair of them offer to work in return for food and lodgings, which one hotelier takes advantage of. They also stop for lunch in Lancaster, where we live, although they aren’t too kind about the place. It doesn’t take much for a city to give a bad impression; some dodgy traffic, a drunk wanting to fight or the local Greggs not wanting to give away any baked goods. Anyway, they make it all the way to the top of the country without knowingly paying for anything, and in just under three weeks, which is very impressive when you think about it.

I gave the book 5 out of 5 on Goodreads, and as I have said on many an occasion, the measure of an author is would you buy any of their other books. In  this instance I have, as George has written a book all about having a go at an Ironman, which I am looking forward to reading soon.

Currently I’m reading Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare and 65 Proof by J. A. Konrath.