Wednesday, April 29, 2020

At the risk of whingeing

I'm not sleeping.  It's 1:20am and I have a 9am meeting tomorrow but it doesn't really matter as the commute isn't that far. 

It's a shame I have a 9am meeting as I really wanted to get back to riding before work but I know I won't make it because I'm awake at 1 in the morning... but I need to do something because my brain is a mess.  Without that decompression at the end of the day I walk straight out of the office into dinner and then bide my time till bedtime. 

Oh sure, I went for a ride on Sunday but it really wasn't that far, 47km, or high, 1139m so I have no rest day excuses - except for a crank that fell off, rendering my most accessible bike temporarily out of action and oh! I just couldn't be bothered to get the other one out from underneath.

Today I was just mardy about how difficult it is to get anything done right now and didn't want to talk to anyone about anything.  I retained enough enthusiasm to keep my new starter entertained and that was it.

IT could be worse, of course.  I'm not flat out gone lazy, I'm going through boom and bust when it comes to riding bikes.  It's the dangerous bi-polar disorder of cycling - peaking between mania and depression, clear skies and grey.  Today was definitely grey in all sense of the meaning.

Of course, now I'm a grown up I know this will pass - but the cliche will not send me to sleep.  Probably only staring at the insides of my eyelids will eventually, imperceptibly send me to sleep but until then I felt the urge to write it down, remind myself it will pass and try and find the crumbs of encouragement that sustained me last time I had a sleepless night or a lack of enthusiasm. 

Last time I ended up in my valley riding 130km and it was the hardest thing I've done in a while and the happiest thing I've done in a while. With a May bivi on the cards soon I can only hope that lockdown will lift and I can sleep out because that is the kind of thing dreams are made of.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Lockdown Week Whatever - Be More Al

After a few weeks of making the most of the lockdown situation I have run out of steam.

This weekend I should have been in the Keilder Forest - cancelled.  Nothing to train for
In 6 weeks I should have been in Scotland - cancelled.  Nothing to train for
In July a race I have been meaning to register for - for years... I could go on... (not cancelled yet but good luck with that).
The 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross - who knows?

It's not that I only ride my bike to train though.  I just haven't felt like riding my bike this week (since Monday).  It's like I needed a massive rest.

I read a Twitter thread last night on the interpretation of the Government guidance which states, "If you *need* to go out for exercise".  I have happily concluded that, this week, I did not "need" to go out for exercise.  In fact I felt relief that the article gave me an excuse to have been a lazy bastard all week. (not lazy, I've done a ton of work).

I have not been sleeping terribly.  I admit, I have not been sleeping well.  About the only thing I miss about exercise is the desperate *need* to go to bed, the, "I'm gonna be asleep by the time my head hits the pillow" kind of tired.  Instead, I lie in bed looking at the insides if my eyelids and turn over at least 3 times before actually going to sleep - whilst TSK (still riding his bike) is dead to the world next to me.

I tried, on Tuesday night, to get motivated - remembering the list of events to come (tentative or not).  It worked briefly and then was forgotten about.  The sun has remained out all week and my bike is running perfectly.  Even my knee pain is gone but still, motivation remains illusive.  The only thing that motivates me is a nice long ride.

I have plotted long routes out to the Welsh coast and back and thought a lot about adventures to come but I can't execute them.  Right now I could murder an Audax or a weekend in the Lakes... even a weekend riding to the Lakes.

Today it is the weekend and I have no excuses left.  I am tempted to go further afield to finally sate my desire to pop over the hill but "over the hill" lies a tourist hotspot and so I remain tempted not to become part of the problem.  The other temptation is to do laps of my own valley to get my long ride in.  It sits well within my personal rules but I'm not sure I can take it.  What irks me more is I'm not sure I even want to.

My strength exercises have taken on a renewed level of fresh as I've had to adapt them to my sore knee, reverting more to yoga and less reliance on weights.  I can do them in my loft or in the back garden and man alive(!) I can  feel the difference.  I have often thought I'd do quite well in solitary confinement.  This is my time.  That said, I've had no motivation to do those either - finally making it out the door on Thursday evening for one quick session in the garden. 

On Monday when I went out for my last ride, I passed an old Triathlete friend - now rocking the 75s category in the worlds.  He was running well (for a 75 year old).  He wouldn't appreciate that as he has the brain of a 24 year old.  All his races have been cancelled this year.  As a newcomer to his age category he'd finally qualified again after a few years coming last in the 70's category.  His aim is, "to come out of this stronger".

Last time I ran I caused my knee problems... but then I took on too much.

So maybe I'll move my focus this week.  Stop being work-driven and start being more Al.  If I can't be more Mike, I might as well be more Al.

I'll go and get my bike out.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Aprili Bivi

Easter's gonna be gorgeous they said.  It's gonna rain on Sunday they said.

I panicked.

I packed my bike up on Thursday evening after work... a work day that meant to finish early but lasted out till 5pm.

I had some dinner and went outside to sing with my neighbours, I mean the clapping's a bit lame but you've got me on a sing song... before going back in to finish packing.

I left the house at 10pm, fretted the dynamo wasn't running the light then realised I'd brought the wrong wheel out - so running on battery then.  I've got tired of battering myself on the tough stuff near home and developed a knee injury that niggles so I set off up the easy trails to Holyrod farm where the friendly sheepdog came out to give me a woof as I passed in darkness.  It was perfectly tranquil.

In the valley bottom I sat on one of my favourite benches and drank down a little whisky and scoffed a cereal bar that's been in my bag just a little bit too long.

For the easiest descent I rode all the way up to Lodge Moor before dropping down to the Byway and then riding the footpath down the Rivelin valley which has now been legalised to open up "safe" cycling access in the valley.  I managed not to fall in the holly bush this time, so it must be working.

When I got out of the allotments it felt really warm in town, and peaceful - so peaceful.  If I could photograph silence it would look like this.

TSK scurried off to bed when I got home at 11:45.  So I had a few minutes of bathroom light to pitch my tarp by.  I set up to avoid the Light of 100 suns and to put my back to Mark next door so I could get undressed to my heart's content and sleep in comfort.  Before I shut down the Garmin, it told me the temperature was +5 degrees so I emptied my bags out, popped inside with the bike and raided the fridge for some cheese and an apple to stave off the hunger that was occurring.

It took me a long time to pitch the big tarp - the offcut of the ugly tarp.  I had insufficient pegs with me so resorted to using a couple of spokes that were stored in my frame bag.  I changed into comfy clothing and wriggled into Stu's old bivi, concluding there's much more space for feet in this one and my mat could stay in it tonight.

My one and only feline encounter occurred as Newt passed in disgust at me camped out on the cat path again.  A view of the other side of the valley was accompanied by the sweaty feet smell of the cheese and the sweet apple.  Near perfect, except the other neighbour's outside light was on and set to stay on all night shining straight in my view.  I couldn't be arsed to re-pitch the tarp so resolved to roll over on my side and ignore it.

I returned the remaining cheese to the fridge, hid all my other food away in case of fox incursion and settled down to sleep at 1am.

At 3:45 I woke up (or was woken up) and adjusted my position slightly in my bed.  Cue the sound of barking and growling and something running away.  I can't be clear whether I was dreaming it or it really happened.  I sat bolt upright in the bed and looked right and left.  I couldn't see anything - anything at all.  My hat was pulled down firmly over my eyes and my arms trapped in my sleeping bag.

After struggling to free my arms and push my hat back, whatever wildlife had been there before was well gone but my face and all my kit seemed to be in tact so I settled back down to recover my breath and anticipate the remainder of the night lying, staring at the wall of the bivi after the adrenaline rush.

After a moment's consideration of getting up and going out for a dawn raid ride, my eyes got heavy again, the workload from the week had clearly caught up with me.

Just as I fell back to sleep I heard the neighbour softly saying, "c'mon then" into the inky lightening of the sky.  Either he was calling his cat in or feeding the foxes - I will never know.

I slept through the dawn chorus and chose not to get up to shiver at first light to go for another ride. I've got years of that to come.  Instead I snoozed till 10am, when I finally had to get up because I was too hot.
Newt made attempts to assess the bivi for comfort

I had the best cereal and coffee breakfast on the bench - none of it made from my stove but the excellent cafe at the bottom of the garden.  

Rueful I'd missed the experience for a hike bivi, I decided to see how much of my kit I could fit into my lightweight rucsac - it turns out, just my racing kit - the luxuries of stove, extra food, fuel would need to be left behind.  I was tempted by a second bivi on the moors so packed my big rucsac with all the aforementioned items.

Then TSK decided he wanted to come too so it turned into a day hike... after the laundry was done and the bread was baked and lunch had been eaten.  So I helped a bit but mostly spent a half hour taking pictures in the garden.


My rucsac was heavy but not ridiculously so.  I did marvel that I manage to fit it all on the bike.  The rucsac was bought in 2007 when we first returned from Canada and has never really been worn in anger.  Still, it brought back memories from my climbing days when I'd spend most bank holiday weekends hiking into a munro access with ropes, harness, boots and gear, to climb a stupidly long route.  The weight sat OK (thank you gym) and the pack was more comfortable than I expected.  As temperatures rose I changed my outfit several times and picked trail shoes over hiking boots before finally getting out the door.

We walked paths at the extremities of the main walking area near us so only saw a few other couples or small families out walking - the message seems to have gotten out.

Gradually the numbers of folk dwindled and we had the whole moor to ourselves for quite some time - except for the lapwings, skylarks and occasional kestrel.

Trig point achieved, we nosed back into the valley for a final hike home down a combination of new paths, yesterday's bike bits and the valley paths that I've really missed using since I gave up distance running 2 years ago.

Actually it was a great reminder of what resides on our doorstep - within walking distance - or just about...

By the time we reached the reservoirs, we were both minced.  Our feet were hot and swollen and blisters were starting to develop.  Legs were tired and shoulders aching.  I'd developed significant bruises where my rucsac dug into my pelvis - whether I had the waist strap around my waist or my hips.  I'm not used to carrying a heavy bag but still, I was pretty pleased with what we did achieve.  Whilst I could have stopped and cooked up a pasta meal to share on the meths stove, the one thing I did forget to pack was my spoon.  Whilst I'd have happily shovelled the pasta in with the lid of the stove pot, I didn't fancy taking it in turns so we continued stomping our way home.

It was 8pm by the time we reached the garden again.  Mark, standing on the back step smoking his ciggy asked where we'd been.  He may be ex-army but no longer possesses any impression of how hard it is to walk 25k over to Rod trig when you've not carried a heavy pack for 10 years - at least he doesn't let on.

We prepped dinner and fed the cats still standing up, nervous that any show of weakness like sitting down would mean we wouldn't get back up again.  My last desperate act was to have a shower and I fell into bed with wet hair and slept. HARD.