Lockdown Weight

I’ve put on a bit of weight during lockdown. Mentally I have struggle with not being able to go on adventures with my lovely wife Helen and our silly pooch. Last summer when the lockdown eased we went on loads of mini-adventures and even had a brilliant week staying at Helen’s brother’s caravan in the south Lakes.

Since Christmas I’ve got myself into a bit of a habit of buying biscuits and chocolate. Helen doesn’t start work until 1pm and then works late, so I would walk with her on her way to work and buy myself some diet coke or pepsi, and sometimes a small bar of chocolate. This soon became biscuits as well. This didn’t help me mentally and I started to spiral downwards, feeling worse and then eating even more rubbish. However, getting my first vaccine jab seems to have helped. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lockdown restrictions are due to ease in a few weeks with swimming pools opening again, and hopefully we’ll be able to go for run/walks in different counties as well.

Anyway I weighed myself for the first time in a couple of years and I was 83kg (13 stone 3 lbs). I would like to drop down to 75kg. I have eased off the biscuits and chocolate, and I plan to alternate Fridays with a long run or a long bike ride. The long run being at least 2 hours and the bike ride at least 100km, with the aim of completing a couple of 100 milers later this summer. I also want to do another ultra run, although exactly where and when is yet to be decided, possibly Panther takes the hindmost in October again.

We do have some adventures planned, with Helen and her friends having another go at the Bay Limestone Round, with each of them taking a different leg. We’ll have to recce the route a few times which I’m looking forward to. We also have the Castle to Coast Triathlon in July to look forward to, and I have a 5 mile swim in Coniston in September as well. That’s all though. Like most people we’ve not entered anything as we’re waiting to see what the summer brings, but with over 40% of the UK population already having one jab the future is looking brighter.

Flagged Strava Activity

We’ve all lost a KOM and had a quick look at who the culprit was. I expect that sometimes it is an error. They’ve left their Garmin on while driving home, or logged a ride as a run. I’ve done it a couple of times, and I’ve also had to flag a couple of erroneous activities from friends. Unfortunately, it appears that Strava no longer sends notification if an activity of yours has been flagged. Fortunately, Veloviewer lists any flagged activities you might have. I only upload my Strava activities to Veloviewer once or twice a month, and I’ve had a flagged activity listed for a few years. A two mile walk where the GPS was a bit funky at the start. I couldn’t be bothered to crop the activity so I left it flagged.

However, when I uploaded Veloviewer this week there was a second flagged activity. A hilly 200km ride back in July 2013. At the time I was doing a lot of big rides, and often fairly quick. This ride my average speed was just under 18mph. I have plenty of friends who can average faster over longer distances. There wasn’t anything untoward about my ride, especially as I was wearing a heart rate monitor, so I have absolutely no idea why someone would feel the need to flag it, and I’ve had no reasoning from Strava.

Anyway, I unflagged it and hopefully it will stay that way. Here is a link to that particular ride. Can you see anything wrong with it?

https://www.strava.com/activities/70158098

Longsleddale

I have my old friend The Prof to thank for encouraging me to head down dead ends. Longsleddale is one of the best dead ends around, with over four miles of undulating quiet road until you reach an old farm and a dirt track which continues up into the fells.

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I’m getting ahead of myself. I have a habit of wanting to find new roads to cycle on and new footpaths to run on, with the aim of ‘getting’ new Veloviewer tiles (read about it here), which my lovely wife tells me is endearing. Last weekends camping trip snagged another half a dozen tiles (read about it here and here), but the lock down has meant that we haven’t travelled as far a field as we would have liked. Yesterday I decided to cycle up to Kendal and up Longsleddale to nab a few more tiles.

I headed north from Kendal up the A6, which is fairly quiet up here, before turning off just after Garth Row. The road drops down suddenly before passing the road on the left to Burnside. From here, as I mentioned earlier, the road undulates as it makes it’s way up the Longsleddale Valley, passing holiday cottages and farms. There are fells either side, first off Whiteside Pike, then White How, before looming in the distance is Shipman Knots and Grey Crag.

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After four miles of some of the best cycling ever, the road ends at a small bridge and a farm, although a dirt track continues up and over before dropping down to Haweswater Reservoir. Alternatively you could run up and around the famous Kentmere Pike. There were a number of cars parked along the dirt track so it is obviously a popular spot for runners and mountain bikers, although if you wanted to run Kentmere Pike, Staveley is probably a better place to start and finish from. As I cycled back toward Burnside I was passed by more than a few cars, all of whom looked to be full of sporty types. Hopefully when the whole Covid thing calms down a bit, me and my lovely wife will feel able to head out into the fells of the Lake District or even make a long weekend of it.

Anyway, if you’re in the area, Longsleddale is a great little valley to visit, and don’t be afraid to cycle down the odd dead end, you never know what you might find.

 

Book Review: In Search of Robert Millar by Richard Moore

I remember as a teenager when TV in the UK first starting showing the Tour de France. It was incredibly exciting, although there wasn’t much home talent to cheer on. The came the mercurial Scottish rider Robert Millar, climbing through the alps to win that year’s Polka Dot Jersey. ‘Fame’ followed by appearing on the boxes of Kellog’s ‘Start’ cereal. It was also very obvious that Robert didn’t in the least enjoy the fame side of professional cycling. Some interviews with him were hard to watch as he gave single word answers, while other he could be very informative. This book is written by a former team mate of Robert’s. Initially he wanted to write an official biography with direct input from Robert, but as he became a recluse at the end of his professional career, the book became slightly detective in nature.

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The author travels around Europe interviewing friends, colleagues and team mate of Robert’s, from his days growing up in Glasgow to his brief time as a team manager. Robert was definitely ahead of his time as he was far more focused on his diet, whereas all other professional cyclists were having steak most nights.

Over the course of the book we find out so much about Robert, and despite his reputation for being difficult, hardly anyone has a bad word to say about him. There are also many anecdotes throughout the book, including one where he is mentoring a group of young UK professionals and he tells them not to ask about the Tour de France as none of them will ever be going there to race. Harsh, but true. He didn’t mince his words. Also interesting is how he was ‘robbed’ of winning the Tour of Spain as the Spanish teams worked together for a Spanish win. Undoubtedly Robert should have been the first English speaking Grand Tour winner.

The book also touches on the controversy surrounding his hermit like status in the years after he retired, including being hounded by the tabloid press. The book was written in 2008, ten years before Millar re-emerged as Philippa York. The Wikipedia entry is far more interesting than anything the tabloids might say, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s none of my business. Robert/Philippa remains one of the greatest British cyclists of all time, and paved the way for many other talented riders from these shores to follow his/her footsteps. An amazing cyclist and an amazing person.

8 Year Strava Anniversary Ride

The first ride I ever uploaded to Strava was on 26th May 2012. Today I decided to cycle the exact same route. Well, almost the exact same route as I’ve moved house since then. It was a nice little route, 73km, 1000m of climbing and sunny weather. Flat roads to Garstang and up Butt Hill Lane towards Chipping. Great views of hills either side, before the flatter road towards Whitewell, keeping left to avoid Hall Hill, one of the toughest climbs in the area, and into Dunsop Bridge, only leaving the tough side of the Trough and the easy side of Jubilee Tower before rolling home. 8 years ago was the first time that I had cycled up the steep side of the Trough and it is still my second fastest time, even though today was my 28th occasion up that hill.

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8 years ago I managed the route in 2 hours and 37 minutes, however I was on my best bike, which unfortunately is waiting for a new bottom bracket. Today I was 15 minutes slower, but I wasn’t pushing it as the weather was so nice.

To give you an idea of how Strava has changed in those 8 years, I managed two top ten places. Today and I’m not in the top 300 in either of those leader boards. It was also approximately the 10 millionth Strava uploaded activity. Today’s ride was over 3 and a half billion.

Strava has definitely changed the world of training and racing, mostly for the better.

The Classic Forest of Bowland Loop

The Forest of Bowland is a legendary area to cycle; quite possibly one of the best areas in the UK. Bradley Wiggins used this area to train, and his one charity sportive (Ride with Brad) also used these roads, as have numerous other sportives, including the legendary and toughest of them all, The Bowland Badass (160+ miles with 18,000 ft of climbing). Many cycling magazines have also had features based on this classic loop. My lovely wife doesn’t particularly like hills, but even she loves this loop (85km and 1,200m of climbing).

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The classic loop starts and ends in Lancaster, heads out to Wray, up over the fells down to Slaidburn, round to Dunsop Bridge, up the Trough and the back of Jubilee Tower and returning into Lancaster. There are hills, many hills. Going clockwise you’ll climb #75 and #143 from Simon Warren’s excellent Greatest Cycling Climbs books. Anti-clockwise and you’ll hit #76 and #79, depending on your exact route. Adding in a couple of extra miles you can also attempt Newton Fell, #176. Generally we go clockwise so that we can stop at the excellent Puddleducks cafe in Dunsop Bridge. We also usually descend Cross of Greet, but yesterday we opted to climb Bowland Knotts as Helen had never done that route.

Earlier in the year we did this route, but there were traffic lights on the main road towards Wray, and there wasn’t enough time to get through on a bike before they changed, where upon we were shouted at by car drivers coming in the other direction. Very unpleasant. Yesterday that particular road was a joy to cycle on, although there were definitely more people about, going for a drive, on motorbikes, or cyclists in pairs who didn’t look like they lived together.

Out of Wray there is a nasty little climb before the road dips and dives it’s way along, running parallel to the main road, with stunning views of Gragareth, Whernside and Ingleborough, made all the more stunning by the lack of air pollution. We stopped for a photo when we reached our start of Bowland Knotts. Technically, the bottom of the climb is almost a km down the hill, but from where we started it is still 6km to the top. Never too steep, but it does go on.

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As we climbed there was a coconut smell in the air emanating from the in bloom Gorse bushes. There was also a home made sign with ‘Go Home, Stay Home’ written on it. Maybe a little over the top, especially as the Forest of Bowland covers an area of just over 800 square kms. Theoretically, if you were to stand in a 2m by 2m box (social distancing) you could fit 200 million people in the Forest of Bowland.

At the top, the views were even more amazing.

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We had a little walk about at the top, waving at another cyclist as he came over, before we set off over the cattle grid…

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and down across Stocks Reservoir.

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We both looked at the water thinking how great it would be to swim in. Unfortunately reservoirs are one of the most dangerous places to swim, with a cold water temperature all year round, unseen dangers and no lifeguard.

We continued along the very worn road, which needed to have new tarmac laid years ago and still hasn’t, past the Gisburn Forest mountain bike centre and down into Slaidburn. Out of Slaidburn is my wife’s favourite hill ever. Short but very steep and a couple of years ago cycling this loop with her youngest son she nearly took him off here. I kept my distance as we rolled in Dunsop Bridge. No cafe stop but we did have a break for snacks and water, before the climb over the Trough, not the easiest of climbs when you’re on your heavy touring bikes, although at least we have plenty of low gears.

We opted not to go over Jubilee Tower, instead taking the slightly easier but longer route past Bradley Wiggins’ house and for some reason a life ring on a tree.

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Both feeling a little tired we took the A6 from Galgate back in Lancaster, a road that we would never use, but wasn’t too bad. There are some good points about the lock down.

Back home and Nelly was very pleased to see us, and after feeding her we took her out for an hours walk before hitting the beers and an early night.

If you’re from the area, you’ll know this loop very well, and if you’re not you should make an effort one day to take a ride around the Forest of Bowland.

 

Double Training Days

There’s something special about training twice on the same day. I’m not talking about brick sessions, or going for a swim in the morning with a run in the evening. I mean training twice with the same discipline. Recently I have been increasing my running in preparation for the Oldham Way Ultra (now cancelled, obviously), and a few times I’ve been for a run on my own in the morning, and then been for a run with my amazing wife later the same day. Running twice on the same day is hard on the legs, but it also feels great.

In the summer we like to go open water swimming, but a few times I’ve been for a swim in the pool before work, and then been for an open water swim that evening. The shoulders and arms always feel a bit tired, and afterwards I want to eat the whole contents of the fridge.

Commuting by bicycle is one way of training twice in one day, but why don’t you smash it up on your best bike in the morning, and then amble around later the same day on a slower bike (if you own more than one bike).

I would recommend taking it a bit easier than normal, but every once in a while, twice a day training will give you a definite buzz.

However, you might have to wait a couple of months as current government guidance states that you should only go out for one form of exercise per day.

Chicken Corner

I don’t take enough photos when I’m out cycling. Yesterday I saw a cat with a squirrel in it’s mouth. I cycled past when I should have stopped to catalogue this cat’s achievement. Today, for the first time, I spotted chickens at chicken corner.

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My lovely wife used to live in a small village a few miles south of Lancaster called Cockerham. A few miles down the road is the village of Pilling, but just before you reach it there is the Lands End Amenity Area (closed at the moment due to Corona). Helen has been telling me for years how old chickens have been left there and have formed their own chicken commune. I’ve cycled past there dozens of times and we’ve walked Nelly there a couple of times, but I’ve never seen or heard any chickens. I came to the conclusion that my dearest Helen was gently winding me up.

Today there were chickens. Maybe it’s because the area is closed and they were feeling brave, but there they were. Three straggly chickens having a walk. When I posted on Strava, my old friend The Prof commented;

“I trust those 3 were from the same household and had not driven there to commence their walk?”

It is day 4 of the UK lock down, and my one form of outside exercise was a bike ride. Helen will be taking Nelly out later, after learning to play the ukulele. If you’ve been reading the news or looked at social media, you will have noticed that driving somewhere to exercise, or to walk your dog is liable to an on the spot £30 fine. I saw a couple of cars with dogs today, and the small car park over Harris End had three cars. Yesterday when Helen was out for a run with Nelly she spotted a police car at the park entrance.

We had been thinking of going for a run tomorrow on the northern Howgills. We wouldn’t have seen another person, but the rules are in place for a very good reason (7,500 deaths in Italy and counting) so we will go for a run from home along a few footpaths that we’ve never run along before.We can still have mini-adventures, and did I mention that I saw three chickens!

 

Run or Ride Somewhere New

It’s not a New Years resolution, more of a life’s motto. Run somewhere new. Ride somewhere new. Over the Christmas and New Year break, me and my lovely wife managed a trilogy of lake runs. First up was Ullswater (read about it here), then Haweswater Reservoir (read about it here) and finally Wast Water (read about it here). All three were new adventures for us.

It can be very easy to run or ride the same old routes, day in day out, and going somewhere new can often mean a car journey or a train ride, but I think it’s worth it. Of course if you’ve ever read my blog you’ll know that I like to measure these things. Fortunately there are two websites that allow this. On the micro scale you have City Strides (read about it here and here), and on the macro scale you have Veloviewer (read about it here). Below are two images from Veloviewer showing where I had run and ridden by the end of 2018, and the second by the end of 2019.

At this scale the changes are not obvious, apart from the trip around Northern Ireland (read about it here), however, by the end of 2019 I added almost 1,000 new tiles or squares. On the smaller scale I have now run over 20% of the roads in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

Neither metric is flawless. Our Ullswater run, while most of it was new, didn’t add any Veloviewer tiles, and City Strides also has a few bugs. Apparently there is a cycling equivalent to City Strides, but it has more bugs than a Trump Hotel mattress. Of course you could just run or ride in new places without having to add it to Strava!

One thing is certain, me and Helen (often with our silly pooch) will continue to ride and run new places, having small and large adventures.

Ireland Cycling Adventure – Day 7

All good things must come to an end, and so after a hearty breakfast we hopped on our trusty steeds one last time for the short ride to the ferry terminal. It had rained heavily during the night so the roads were wet, but almost all of our route (5 miles) was on traffic free cycle paths. The only non cycle path section was the last mile into the terminal. Once again there were no clear signs for cyclists, or where we should go. However, once we reached the foot-passenger area we were told where to leave our bikes until someone would escort us onto the ferry. Being a Sunday the ferry was far busier, so the plan that we might nab a cheap cabin went out of the window as they were all taken. It wasn’t too bad as we had reserved comfy chairs once again.

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Once we landed in Scotland we were allowed off the boat first, which was nice. Also, as we hadn’t gone through the terminal building we hadn’t managed to pay for our parking before we loaded up the car. I pressed the ‘help’ button at the gate and it was opened without us paying a penny. All that was left was the three and a half our drive home. Our full route can be seen below.

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It was an amazing week with almost 250 miles of cycling, as well as seeing the Giant’s Causeway and spending a night in the Republic of Ireland. It would also appear from the news this week that Brexit will make a complete mess of everything across the whole border. When taking goods across the border, you need to ensure the trade route for your goods allows for your consignment to be checked at a border inspection post (BIP) at the first EU country you enter for export. There are two BIPs in Ireland, one in Dublin and the other at Shannon Airport. If you wanted to transport goods from Strabane on the Northern Irish side to Lifford in Southern Ireland, less than 2 miles apart, you would have to drive to Belfast, take a ferry to Scotland, drive to Holyhead, another ferry to Dublin, get checked at the BIP and then drive to Lifford, without entering Northern Ireland. Completely bonkers and unworkable. People will just cross the border, which the EU will not allow, resulting in a hard border. I predict that with a hard border, Ireland will be re-unified within five years, and Scotland will also leave the UK and re-join the EU.

Despite that, we are both looking forward to visiting both Northern and Southern Ireland in the future.

If you missed any of the other blogs for this cycling adventure, links can be found below.

Day 1 here

Day 2 here

Day 3 here

Day 4 here

Day 5 here

Day 6 here