200 Strava Swims

Yesterday evening I notched up my 200th Strava swim. I’ve been on Strava for five and a half years, but it wasn’t until February 2014 that I got myself a Garmin swim-watch. Before then I would only manually upload swims if they were ‘epic’. The first swim that I uploaded was in January 2013 and it was 6km. My longest swim was 11.4km and was part of a continuous triple ironman (you can read about it¬†here). Below are a couple of photos of that swim.

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This year my target has been to swim 100miles, and with three weeks to go I only need a couple more swims, which will be the furthest I’ve ever swam in one year.

My 200 Strava swims total 478km, making each swim on average 2389m. I also manage to collect on average over 20 kudos per swim. My Eddington scores (explanation here and here) are only 4 miles and 6km, although for time it is 53 minutes. It will be a long while before the distance markers increase, but I only need to swim at least 53 minutes two more occasions for my score to reach 54 minutes.

I don’t yet have any big targets for 2018, although my wife seems to think that I should have a go at the Frog Graham! Windermere one way could well be another challenge, but we’ll see what develops.

Not much more to say really, except that I love swimming and even after all these years of triathlons and open water swims, I still get incredibly nervous at the start of every open water swim.

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Book Review 2017 – Part XIII

Thirteen book reviews, that’s more than one a month and I’m catching up on the books that I’ve read. Two more books to review here and they are both long distance cycling ones.

First up is I’ll be Home by Christmas, by Matthew Blake. As the title suggests, Matthew was indeed home for Christmas, although it was four years after he set off. It’s been over a month since I finished this book, and I’ll be honest I’m struggling to remember anything about it, which is awful. Was the book just not very memorable. Is this the book where the writer was arrested crossing South Sudan? Is this the guy who set off overweight and could hardly ride a bike? I should probably write my book reviews a bit sooner after finishing them. What I will say is that I’ve never read a long distance cycling book that I’ve not enjoyed in some way. Maybe someone out there could read it and tell me a few of the highlights to nudge my memory.

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The Hungry Cyclist by Tom Kevill-Davies on the other hand I do remember. Tom likes to eat and to ride a bike, so he combined the two. He began his journey cycling from New York to Seattle, before heading down the west coast and into Mexico, crossing South America and finishing in Rio.

He meets loads of interesting people, as you generally do when riding a bike. He also adds many of the recipes he tries at the end of each chapter, including beaver tail soup! Probably one that I won’t be trying at home, although the rice dish he shared with Puerto Rican construction workers in New York did sound good. In Mexico he falls in love with seafood tacos as he cycles down the Baja Peninsula.

Obviously he couldn’t cross the Darian Gap, but he does cycle through Columbia. He then heads inland, trying guinea pig in Ecudor, before taking a boat down the Amazon, stopping in Manaus. A friend that I did my PhD with had a stop over there and dexcribed it as an absolute hole. Tom eats street food outside a brothel in the depths of the dodgiest areas of the city.

I really enjoyed this book, and as you can tell it was memorable. Tom’s route is also something that I would like to try, although without the Amazon boat section.

Book Review 2017 – Part XII

I’m still way behind with my book reviews – maybe I should write more or read less.

First up this time is Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale Pope. What an amazing story. Before her epic run, Rosie did a little bit of everything, including some freelance writing for a couple of running magazines. When her husband died she looked for something truly epic to do in his name. Running around the world fits the bill, especially taking the northern route, which involved winters in Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

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Rosie might have only managed a half marathon a day, but you try it with a heavy rucksack, which she soon ditched for a trailer. It resembled a coffin on wheels, but contained everything she needed and she could sleep in it as well. As I said earlier, an amazing story from an amazing woman.

Next up we have The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont. I’ve read all of his books and followed him avidly on Strava as he was cycling round the world in 80 days. I’ve long held ambitions to cycle the Americas, so here is another book on the same topic.

There is an added twist with this book, in that Mark not only cycles the whole continent, but he summits the highest mountains in the north and in the south, although by foot and not by bike. In Alaska this is Mount Denali, and in the Andes it is the Aconcagua. Mark has very little mountaineering experience, but he is fit, and both climbs are with organised groups.

I enjoyed this book more than his race across Africa, mainly because he was taking his time and could interact with the locals. As with all of the other books in the area, he doesn’t cycle the Darian Gap, taking a boat instead. One day I’m sure there will be a road linking Panama and Columbia. Maybe it will be built for when I cycle there.

Garmin 800

It’s not really a product review, but I’ve just got myself a Garmin 800. I bought it off a friend from the City of Lancaster Tri Club, as he is upgrading. I’ve had a Garmin 500 for almost six years, and I’m very happy with it, and apart from the odd times when the screen freezes, I’ve not had any problems with it. So why did I buy an 800? Maps, that’s why. The 800 that I’ve bought comes pre-loaded with maps for the whole of Europe, perfect for touring or for when you’ve entered Skelmersdale and can’t find your way out.

This morning was my first ride with my new toy, a regular 12 mile loop up and over Littledale. First problem I encountered was the main screen didn’t have my preferred data displayed. I like distance, total ascent, speed, time and time of ride. A quick Google search and I was all set, after a brief moment getting confused with the instructions for the 810 and 820.

Next issue was that it wouldn’t fit where my 500 fits, as I have 15mm of fork steerer above the stem (I like the bars a bit higher for longer touring). Fortunately my new Garmin came with three mounts for in front of the bars, and once I’d found the 3mm allen key I was set. For a laugh I decided to use both Garmins and compare the results, although I did look a bit like DC Rainmaker when he’s doing multiple reviews.

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The ride was a bit wet and windy, and I had to adjust the 800 as I had lap distance instead of total distance on the front screen.

How did the two compare?

Distance and time were identical, as expected, but elevation was about 7.5% higher with the 800. The map screen worked fine as well. When I returned home I uploaded the 800 to Strava (here) – no double counting for me. Battery life, the 500 was at 95% and the 800 was at 86%, although I had messed around with the screens when I was out. Even so, the 800 will have a significantly shorter battery life, something that I will have to keep an eye on.

Overall I’m very happy with my new purchase and I’m looking forward to plotting some new routes in the future.

That time I met Alex Cox

Twelve years ago I was working in a small restaurant weekends and evenings as I was studying at the local college the rest of the time. One quiet evening Alex Cox walked in, and as it was quiet I had the chance to have a quick chat with him. Who? Alex Cox used to present BBC2’s Moviedrome as well as being a writer and film director. I used to avidly watch Moviedrome each week as you never knew what the weeks film would be. Some were terrible, some were good and some were absolutely brilliant, but they were always interesting.

I told Alex that I was a fan of his work and he asked me which of his films I liked best. ‘Walker’ I replied without hesitation, which Alex agreed was his best film.

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He appeared genuinely pleased to meet a fan, although as this was back in the day before I had a decent mobile, I haven’t got a selfie with him. Never mind, but if you get the chance, have a look for some of his films, they’re all listed on IMDB.

Fireworks 500

Fancy an open water swim, in November, in an old quarry, at night, with a glow stick and hundreds of other lunatics. Definitely!

It sounds crazy, but it was the second time that me and my wife had done it. More people and more queues for the car park meant that the start was delayed, which also meant that many of the people in the first wave didn’t have working glow sticks, as they had already turned them on.

The water was cold, as expected, and it took until I had rounded the first buoy for my head to stop hurting. I lost my nose clip and glow stick, and could hardly see a thing, but it was great fun, especially get out at the end.

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As usual with Epic Events there are free photos to download, which is always a nice touch. The medal was also fantastic.

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To end the evening there was a big firework display, although we didn’t stay as our car was stuck in a muddy field and needed to be rescued by a farmer and his tractor.

We’ll definitely be back next year.

Book Review 2017 – Part XI

Not being able to cycle for a few days because of nasty cold means that I’ve managed to write one blog entry each day, with Part X Book Review here and an air quality entry here.

I first read Jericho Falls by Christopher Hyde almost 30 years ago. It was delivered by accident when I was a member of a book club and I forgot to send it back. I’m glad that I did because it’s a brilliant thriller/horror novel. I’d lost my original copy many years ago, so when I saw that it was available for a few pence form a large online retailer – I pounced.

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The story revolves around a small town sheriff from a nondescript town in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is biological warfare, government coverups, evil military and general edge of your seat stuff. It’s a little dated, no mobiles, no internet, no Facebook, etc, but overall it stands the test of time well. It is worth looking out for, especially if you’re a Dean Koontz fan.

Generally, on a Monday, I borrow my wife’s car and drive to work, usually managing a quick swim at the Howe Bridge pool on the way. Driving home I get to listen to Simon Mayo’s book club on Radio 2. Usually by the time I’ve got home I’ve forgotten whatever book it was they were talking about, but The One by John Marrs stuck with me.

The plot is that a scientist has discovered part of our genome that identifies if we are attracted to someone, or if someone is ‘The One’. I would suggest that the science behind the book is a load of rubbish, but the premise is quite good. We follow the lives of six individuals as they interact with their ‘One’, without their stories ever crossing. This helps because sometimes a character might be a bit boring, while another is interesting, and then later in the book vice versa. There are plenty of plot twists along the way, including one character’s ‘One’ being a serial killer. Definitely recommended.

Another thing to like about John Marrs is that for his first book he self published, and gradually it gathered momentum until he could become a full time author for his later books.