Archive for June, 2012

Tour de UK.

The training has started. My first week commuting to work. I’ve found a bit of a short cut to avoid the big, busy island approaching town. It’s still about 10½ miles each way. That’s my first 100+ miles in the bag, then.

I  realized after my last post that the day-sack (small rucksack) just wouldn’t hold all my stuff so I bought a proper rucksack. I started the week with that backpack. Seriously not good.

Tour de UK 005

All good and well, it fits all my stuff in, but then it’s huge and painful to ride with (in a crouched over triathlon style).

Tour de UK 004

When used in anger the bag is bulging, in that shot it was half empty. By halfway to work all that weight on your spine gets really painful. I sat upright in my cab after one ride in and my spine cracked like my neck does. So less than ideal.

 

I mentioned that I ordered a proper modern version of a saddle bag. It looked an ideal product, but as always you pay for what your get. All the websites stocking it wanted £70, including direct from the manufacturer. I found one site (Wiggle) that were advertising it for £56, but not in stock until (expected) early July. Being a tight arse (and the big ride not being until next year) I chanced an arm and ordered it. With free delivery, not the £4 upgrade (see above). Then I got a automated email saying ” ‘cos you’ve not chosen the £4 delivery option everyone else gets first dibs, screw you.” Or words to that effect. Did I want the upgrade? No! See above, you robbing bastards.

I’d fallen out with them a bit, then a week or so early I got an email saying your kit’s in we’re shipping it. Huzzah!

I win!

It’s cool.

Tour de UK 001

It attaches, and quick releases, cunningly.

Tour de UK 006

And even though it is 16 litre capacity and the rucksack is 65L I can get most everything in it. The rest fits in the ‘Head’ day-sack in the picture above. I separate them by weight so I’m carrying bugger all. I rode in on Friday and knocked 6 minutes off my time for the rest of the week. I thought it might be wind assisted as it was blowing up a bit, but I managed the same time on the way home. Go me! (That was a pitiful 45 minutes and 39 minutes respectively btw.)

Also, riding flat out 21 miles a day, whilst on this diet, has dropped 3 pounds off me in four days. Hehehe. Which is a stone I’ve lost. FTW!  (For The Win!)

(Wow that looks odd written out. My mam and dad read this –not by choice, I send it to them- and I don’t think they know the abbreviations.)

 

Today I have cleaned all the accumulated WD40 and road grit off my bike, let it dry, degreased it again, dried again, then applied GT80 (a fancy-pants, clear, oil spray) allowed it to seep in, then cleaned it off. Who knew that was how you maintained a bike? I used to soak it and WD and walk away, job done. Six months later when the oil had accumulated a pound of grit just spray on some more WD. Not so. Amazing the things you learn through You Tube tutorials.

Also, how to mend a puncture. It has always been; take one side of the tyre off the rim, drag the inner tube out, pump it up until you find the leak, mend, replace tube then tyre.  Wrong!

They have massive valves the tubes these days and tiny tyres. Hence me ripping a valve off a tube trying to get it out. Apparently you drop the wheel out (which is why they have a tension release switch on the brakes and quick release wheels. Ah, obvious in hindsight!) take the whole tyre off, then you can remove the massive valve on the tube with ease, throw away the tube, put a new one in and replace tyre without levers. Bollocks you can! I’m not a shrinking violet but there is no way I can get the last bit of tyre over the rim unaided. Anyway, it cuts your puncture time down from 25 minutes or so to about 10. ( I managed to get two this week, so have had a go at front and back tubes) I will be practising some more before the Ironman, I should be able to get it down to under 5 minutes. 

 

Also I’ve done another 10 mile run today. Valuable lesson learned; never, I mean NEVER go for a run on a sunny day without water after a bacon-fest breakfast! I’ve not been that desperate for water since the desert. It was horrible. The bright side being; although it was still beastly hard and I was dying for a drink I managed to do it without stopping (apart from to splash puddles on myself) and knocked 5 minutes off my (admittedly shite) time from last week.

 

I don’t know if it made news off Twitter but some little Jock girl (Veg) had started a blog as a school project, she themed it around school dinners with a picture and review. She invited kids from around the world to share their meals and set up a link to a charity for starving African kids. She wasn’t critical, but some people when they saw what their kids were eating started getting antsy. Then a Scottish newspaper ran with the story and she was banned by the council “for fear of dinner ladies losing their jobs.” (That’s right, don’t improve the food, just hide the products! Derr!) Anyway, there was a huge Twitter outcry and people from as far away as New Zealand were complaining to the Jock council. They reversed their decision the following day! Yay for the internet!  Here’s a link to her blog, it’s actually rather good. http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/  She was hoping to raise £40k (I think), to build a kitchen and feed a school for a year, after them banning her she’s raised over £100k! Bless her.

I can’t help thinking of young Amelia Pond every time I read it. (Doctor Who companion, you philistines!)

 

My other news is not so good; I’ve decided to give up on my allotment. I know! But I just can’t find the time. I’ve got an end-to-end, the Lakeland trials marathon and the Ironman Bolton to train for, and a job that gives me no free time during the week. I’ll move my apple tree, fruit bushes and asparagus to my garden (also untouched) in the Autumn, then surrender the allotment. Bummer, but it has to be done. If I get the other job my hours will only increase.

 

Did I mention I am eyeing the MG Midget as a possible next car? Buy a classic then just keep it. It would appear they are still manufacturing parts for it! How cool would that be?  A little British sports car. I mean the British style (not that it isn’t made here as well, but nobody says “ah, a British built 70’s car, that’s going to be a paradigm of reliability.”)

I was looking at a modern, running boards type of British sportster; a Morgan. Second hand ones were starting from £24k. OK, maybe not. You can get a pretty good Midget for around £4k. It’s going to be basic (air-con is taking the canvas roof down, it’s got four – count them, four!- gears, no airbags,no mp3 player, no hope in hell in a collision with a modern 4×4, etc) but it’s cool. And will only get cooler.

Right, time to get off and melt in my post-run heat/ mugginess.

Later,

Buck.

New goals.

You know how you set yourself a goal (my first of note was to run a half marathon) then when you’ve done it you see that far from being impossible it’s common-place? So you raise your game ( full marathon, Ironman) but that’s not good enough because it’s not the brand name Ironman, just the distance. The Rola-Cola of endurance triathlons. Drunks shun you when they realize it wasn’t a branded event. Well, as I mentioned last time I’m going to put that to rights next year. So how’s about this for training for it;  a Lands End to John O’Groats ride!

I’m going to do it the other way around (apparently we happy few call it an ‘end to end’, anyway) as Scotland’s up North so it should be all downhill to Cornwall. Genius. You can tell I’ve been studiously researching it.

I’m looking at 120 – 140 miles a day at the minute, so I can do it in a week. The chap who’s very witty book on the subject I’ve been reading did 150 m/d to do it in six days. It would appear the record is something like one day, seventeen hours! I’ll not be going for that. I’ll see how the training goes. I did 112 miles in a bit under seven hours for the Outlaw, perhaps 150 miles a day is not too much of an ask. We’ll see.

 

My thinking is that cycling is the longest discipline in the tri so if I batter the training with an end to end I’ll blitz that part of it, bringing my time right down. I am also going to take swimming lessons as soon as I get the new job (after the hols) and I have the odd evening free. My time for the 2.4 miles was one hour forty minutes, I could probably get that down to an hour (and suffer a lot less) with proper training.

 

The other reason is; because it’s there. Lands End to John O’Groats. To cycle the length of this scepter’d isle. It’s one of those things. Like swimming with dolphins or goosing the Queen. I’m thinking I’m going to die soon and my body will probably give out before then, if I’m going to do anything extraordinary then it had better be now. The trouble with that statement is; it’s not extraordinary. As soon as you decide to do something you see some arse has done it in in a day and a half.

As the chap who’s online book I’ve been reading so wittily yet accurately says:

“You’ve worked hard, endured exhaustion, battled lactic acid burn and probably have a boil or two in uncomfortable places. What’s kept you going for the last two days is getting back to your loved ones, friends and colleagues. More specifically basking a little in the awe and admiration everyone is bound to hold you in. If you’ve made your effort for charity (even if only as an excuse) all the better and the more you deserve it. You’ve earned your bragging rights. Now it’s time to cash in.

Sadly it doesn’t work that way. Once you’ve completed your end to end it seems everyone has done it, or at least know someone’s granny who did it faster than you on a 1920’s fixed wheel, 25 kg bike with 30 kgs of equipment and a baby in the handle bar basket whilst wearing a floor length heavy black velvet dress.

Almost inevitably, just after you finish, your local paper will run a story about an amputee (who tragically lost their leg whilst rescuing a tiny baby in a combine harvester/picnic based disaster) who has just completed an unsupported hop around the world, barefoot, to raise money for orphaned kittens. If your bragging has become intolerable do not be surprised to find that a colleague has accidentally left this open on your desk. Don’t let this deter you.”

It’s always thus.

 

The chap’s website is http://www.landsend-to-johnogroats.co.uk/home and it’s funny read even if you aren’t doing the ride.

 

 

With my new goal in mind I’ve spent today trying to wedge all my work stuff (that I usually get into a large hold-all) into a small backpack. Plus a change of clothes and my works boots. It’s not been pretty. I think I’ve pared it down enough. Had to roll up my big hi-vis coat in a plastic bag, bungee it up and hang it off my saddle. Tomorrow I’m going to buy a very small pac-a-mac type waterproof jacket and some lights I can attach to something other than the bike. I have tri bars on the handlebars leaving no room for a mounting and a bloody big coat bundled on to my saddle obscuring any light put on the seat post. One solution leads to two problems. 

I’ve ordered a proper bag for the end to end. It attaches to the seat post. Modern road bikes don’t have holes in the frame to mount the normal pannier rack.

If I ride to work every day that’s 120 miles a week, do a big ride every weekend, two big rides as I get nearer the time…, easy! Apart from the logistics of the operation. Trains to  the top and back from bottom of the country, booking B&B’s, sending them food parcels so you don’t have to carry more than that day’s food, programming your route into google maps, etc etc.

 

I know I keep saying it, but I really do have to get back into my running. Another ten miler today and it nearly killed me. The (minute/mile) time dropped from moderate to atrocious. It was blowing a gale but that wasn’t it. I used to have to battle with the voice telling me to drop the pace as I was going to burn out before the distance, this time it was just shouting STOP! It was a massive effort of will to keep going beyond even four miles. I had to resort to mental tricks just to shuffle on. ‘See how I feel at the next mile marker, maybe walk then. The pain isn’t getting any worse. Zen; concentrate on your breathing there is no distance to run, there is only now.’  The last one is for when you know you’ve got four miles left to run and you are thinking how far and painful that will be and that you can’t make it. That’s how much being laid up for all those months has buggered my fitness.

 

In happier news, I broke the 11 stone barrier this week! Twice! I put the bloody pound back on the day after I first lost it. Probably well blown it today though. I decided to have a carbs fest. I did that Jamie Oliver veggie Thai curry. We had it late afternoon. Then I had it again for a tea/supper. I regret nothing. It was delicious.

That, I’m hoping, may have been part of the problem on the run, no carbs stored to convert to energy. The last two weeks I’ve been dieting and too weak.

 

Anyway, soon be the hols. Hopefully I’ll be able to grease myself into my wetsuit by then. Channel swim? How many people have done an Ironman, an end to end and a cross channel swim? It’s something to think about, though I think that costs a few grand (you have to hire a ‘pilot’ – a salty seadog who knows all the currents and that- and his boat). And I’m shit at sea swimming. Shit-er at sea swimming, shit at swimming.

One challenge at a time.

 

Later,

Buck.

Tight.

You know how I’ve said before that the parking space for trailers at work used to fit eleven trailers and now they’ve decided we have to squeeze fourteen in the same space? I moaned that it was a tight fit, but because of the time I was getting back it was always too dark dark to take a decent picture on my ‘phone. Now I have the snaps. It would have been bad enough if it had been a straight reverse, but there was a car parked in the way that I had to swing around and then try and straighten it up. Anywho, here’s the view from the cab.

Drivers side: (Look at the gap in the mirror! You’ll note it’s that tight the unit next to me had to have it’s mirror tucked in)

Tight 3

Look (in the mirror) at the view I have of the amount of space on the blind side:

Tight 2

That sliver between red and blue is the totality of the gap. Try doing that at night when your job depends on it.

And finally the view from outside the cab, not quite as tight, but look between those trailers. I couldn’t squeeze between them, and like I said the wing mirror had to be tucked in or I’d have hit it. To put it in perspective, I couldn’t open the drivers door, I had to climb out of the passenger side.

Tight.

Anyway, that is what I have to look forward to on a nightly basis. I took these photo’s because I’d got back early and it was broad daylight. Almost too easy when you can actually see where you’re going. Feels like cheating.

 

I have totally mastered the blind side reverse now. Not just on that one specific bay, but I’ve had to apply the same technique in other situations and it works as well. Sorted.

 

Which leads me to my next announcement; as soon as we get back from our week at Craggy Island I’m re-applying for that Igloo-Hermes job. I can do the driving well enough, I’ve learned the value of slowing down for junctions due to the crap stacking of my loads and now know to turn the cab to the left on blind junctions so I can see both sets of traffic. Also I’ve had quite a few shifts driving units with manual gearboxes. The only other things he picked me up was being nervous (I was a wreck! I’m fairly confident now. I’d still be a bit nervous on an assessment, but only normal nerves.) and not knowing where anywhere is. That hasn’t changed, unfortunately. I have maps, a satnav, and navigation and googlemaps on my ‘phone. I can get there.

They have been advertising for drivers but I don’t want to apply until after our week away. Partly because I’m a big girl’s blouse and am scared, but also because it seems daft just before holidays. And they said they’d start me at three days a week and get me up to full time within a week or two. I need as much money as I can get before the jollies.

 

I’ve managed to squeeze in half an hour’s practice on the soprano whilst waiting to be loaded a few times this week. The top three or four notes are only audible to dogs I reckon. I’ve had to put a really stiff reed on just to get them. It was just squawking on the easier to blow reed. The downside being it’s like trying to whistle through an oak beam. The inverse effect of sucking a slurry drink through a straw. Cheeks bulging like a bull-frog. The embouchure control needed is extraordinary. It’s taking me a few goes just to get some of the notes. Hopefully my muscles will tone and the reed will blow in.

The other thing with work is my wages; I was well ripped last week, paid for forty hours instead of forty six and a half. When I emailed them they said it was because they had only paid me for forty hours. They hadn’t done a proper wage thing because they were swanning off for Queeny’s Bank Holiday. Alright for some. They made it up this week. Fine and dandy, but you’d think it would be common courtesy to inform a chap first.

 

This week saw the end of another era; I’ve finally got someone to come and take the mighty Micra to the Nissan Nirvana in the sky. £80. Mustn’t grumble.

There was an advert in the Warrington Guardian “We scrap any vehicle. Min £170.”  I rang them and they  asked what I wanted for it, I referred to the advert he said “Ooh, small car. You’ll not get that for it” What part of ‘minimum’ is confusing you, tit?  Then to add insult to injury, they didn’t even ring me back. Twice!

I rang someone else in Warrington and he offered me £40. I said I’d been offered £100. He said he’d got loads of cars at the moment, normally he’d offer me £150!

So £80 is fair to middling. The thing is, I’ve just received the road tax reminder so it had to go.

 

I’m still on the diet. I think I was being a bit too literal with the eat-as-much-as-you-like premise of the diet. I’m trying it as an eat-enough diet now. Not hungry but not trying to eat a whole cow in one go. The good news being that I continue to lose weight, the bad being that it has slowed right down. We’ll see how this new approach to it goes. 

I was weakening on Friday, but as I was plotting a chippy tea (Chips and Chinese gravy with bread and butter. *drools*) a driver waddled past. You could always tell the drivers when I was at DHL, the warehouse lads were skinny to chubby, the drivers were skinny to American. It was the case that not all the drivers were massively fat, but all the massively fat people were drivers.

 

Also, when I get back of holiday and have my new job (early starts, possibility of early finishes, ie time to train in the evening) I’m going to buy my place in next year’s Ironman Bolton. That’ll scare the bejeezus out of me enough to train hard again! Also, if I do the brand name event I won’t have to say “well, it was an Ironman distance triathlon, not the real thing” and have people scorn me in the street. I don’t fancy training too hard at the minute. No sugar or words ending in  ‘-ose’  (glucose, fructose, lactose, etc) means no energy gels means an hour and a half maximum. Then it’s flop on the floor. Well, you feel like flopping, anyway. Really foul feeling. You have absolutely nothing left to give, you feel too weak to even stand. Nasty.

Anyway, that’s life at the moment.

 

Better days ahead.

Later,

Buck.

Achilles and the tortoise.

That has been our situation with debt. Achilles is a faster runner than the tortoise, but, if time is divisible, by the time he gets to where the tortoise was it will have moved. He moves forward, the tortoise moves forward. Achilles can never catch the slow but indefatigable tortoise. 

Unlike philosophers we put a rock on the tortoise and watch it flail helplessly in the sun. Hmm, tortoise soup.

Where was I? Obviously still dieting, if a philosophical paradox/ debt metaphor can be turned into a soup reverie.

Anyway, the debt thing. We are finally getting on top! Huzzah!

Wendy used to save, then she met me and we drank our way into constant debt. It’s only since we gave up that it started to come down. I mean, I put £5K on a credit card to do all my truck licenses. The thing is, like that over-used tortoise metaphor, as soon as we raced toward it the wily bugger would move away. Before xmas we’d got it down from about £10K to a grand or so, then there was the clarinet (fail) and the piano. (There was a solid reason for buying them, not just ‘cos we could. Mostly not just ‘cos we could.) We started to pay that back then I had no work for two months. I get work again and the car dies. Had to get a different car. Then the cooker kiffed it.

You know how it is. Also there’s my laissez faire attitude to cash. That doesn’t help. (My soprano sax was a steal at the price. It more or less paid for itself. Somehow. Don’t look at me like that!)

As I was saying, before all the accusations, we are getting there. Last month, seeing as we won’t be lending Luke his bond money on flat any time soon, we stuck £666 (I just liked the number) on the card. This means we have finally broken the grand barrier!

Were it not for the fact we have a week’s holiday booked at sunny Craggy Island next month we could conceivably have been debt free this month. Oh wily tortoise, you tease us with your slow sprint.

Of course, this is never the case. I have a year’s worth of tax to pay yet. I don’t get a bill for that until next March or April, but it’s still out there, undefined but ominous.

 

In diet news: a pox on the house of Oliver! Yes, you, Jamie, you mockney scamp. That veggie curry I made, and the equally delicious veggie chilli the day after, put a pound on me that didn’t move for three days. Gutted. DAMN YOU OLIVER! *shakes fist*

 

Luke and I (OK, mainly Luke) have spent the weekend ‘rooting’ my ‘phone. Which is to say, breaking into the locked base code for the ‘phone to gain control. Once you have control you can install a fancy-pants new software package and delete all the crap. Done. Yeah, I’m so cool it hurts. When you think we didn’t even have house ‘phone a few years back, now I’ve got a ‘phone that can do video chat, surf the web, and watch live telly. “Huh, 2012, no flying cars, scientists?” Look at what you’ve got in a ‘phone. Amazing. We didn’t even have videos when I was a kid, now I can watch telly on demand, through my ‘phone! Oh,and talk to people.

 

The other epic news is: I HAVE MASTERED THE BLIND-SIDE REVERSE! Hell, yes!

It took a small accident (an accident!) to make it happen but now I possess the secret. TO LIFE. ITSELF!

Turns out it was simple all along. I was trying to reverse with the trailer already bent away from the cab. If at the end of the setting-up manoeuvre you turn your cab the opposite way you are straight with the trailer and can back it straight in. It’s that simple. You still have to turn it in, but when it’s straight you can see the turning point. What a fool I’ve been!

 

So things are pretty peachy. Apart from the agency underpaying me. Again.I’ve sent them an email. When we come back off our jolly hols I’m applying for that igloo job. Twice as much money. The man who can blind-side fears no assessment!

To my pit, busy day tomorrow.

Later,

Buck.

PS look at this for sublime:

11.06.12: Martin Rowson on George Osborne's comments about the UK economy and the eurozone crisis

 

That’s George Osborne and Judas Clegg. Double-dip-Dave must be sobbing at that.

Diet!

That is my main news for the week. Bloody diet.

It’s a two phase thing. The first five days you flush out all the old crap from your body, then start on phase two. The good thing is you can eat as much as you like of the allowed items, so you are never really hungry. The bad bit is you are really restricted on carbs the first week. No spuds, pasta, small amounts of parsnip and carrot, no milk (apparently a surprising amount of carbs in milk, who new?) 50g of brown rice a day, or porridge but no bread. And no sugar, or prepared food. Worst of all no caffeine! Cue the three day splitting headache and milder ones since.

You can have eggs and bacon by the bucketful for breakfast, cooked in butter and still lose weight. But no bread, or beans.

It’s called the Harcombe diet. It diets with the body rather than fighting it. So instead of starving yourself so your body tries to turn every calorie it gets hold off into fat for the famine it thinks it’s in, it just makes your body use your stored fat whilst not storing any.

Anyway, six days, not hungry (eating like a pig most of the time) and I’ve lost seven pounds. Mustn’t grumble. I can eat stuff now. I just can’t mix carbs (root veg, bread, pasta) with fat’s (“if it’s got a face, or comes from something that’s got a face it’s a fat”). Protein is in everything so you can forget about that category. 

So today I made me and Wendy a lush vegetarian curry (Jamie Oliver’s recipe here: http://www.jamieshomecookingskills.com/recipe.php?title=thai-green-vegetable-curry ) for dinner and Wendy made us roast chicken for tea (I had broccoli and mange tout with mine). You’ve got to say, apart from the headaches, it’s an awesome diet.

By the way, I really do recommend that curry. I’ve gone right off them the last couple of years. The Pattaks paste curry you can make is just wrong. And this one has coconut milk in. I hate coconut milk curries, all creamy and sickly. Not a bit of it. It really was a surprise how nice it was. Not mad hot, or sickly, or dry and paste-y, just really tasty and light.

Kudos to the Jamester.

 

You can tell I’m on a diet, babbling on, extolling the virtues of food.

 

In other news I’ve been a bit concerned about my soprano sax. I was having real trouble with a few of the notes and I was getting nervous the bastards had sold me a dud. Turns out our wonderful Chinese comrades-in-arms had done a sterling job on a tight budget and it was just the bad workman blaming his tools.

I found this out after I heard an old 80’s power ballad on the radio the other day. I quite liked it in it’s pop/rock way; Hazel O’Connor, ‘Will You’ (http://youtu.be/NJSqcvAQ8l8) what blew me away was the sax in it. I never noticed before. Beautiful. I think it’s an alto. So I went online and downloaded the sheet music for free off the geezer who played it, Wesley Magoogan. (The link for the download is at the bottom of this page : http://www.hazeloconnor.net/wesleymagoogan/wesleymagoogan.html Flo Brant, take note.)

Anyway, armed with some new music and a burning desire to have a go I brought out the big guns. The tenor  sounded too bass-y though so I cracked open the soprano. Joy! After playing the tenor I seemed to be able to find the right embouchure for the soprano and it worked! Didn’t sound an awful lot like the song, but at least I was hitting constant notes. Which is to say the sax works, it’s just me that’s crap. That’s a relief.

 

Work is the same as ever. Which is good. Routine is what I crave still. Unfortunately I’m working this Monday and Tuesday, so no long jubilee weekend for poor me. Still, if I don’t work I don’t get paid so I’m not too upset.

 

That rip-off with Luke to which I alluded in my last blog is a bugger. They wanted £130 off him on some nebulous, if not spurious pretence. Something about checking his background. Then another £50 to do a credit check (they are free, and what was the background check, then?)  They didn’t like his credit history so they wanted a guarantor. We said we’d do it. Has to be a mortgage owner. Gail (Wendy’s sister) said she’d do it. Have to get proof that their is equity in the house (it’s not in negative equity). Got that. Still nothing. £180 for messing him, and everyone he knows, about for a few weeks. What a racket. No pad, £180 down the swanny, and stressed out for a couple of weeks. Bastards.

 

By the way, just watched Evil Dead II. What was I on? I remembered that as being a witty comedy/ horror. Sobriety does strange things to a chap. Like make him sit there gawping at just how bad a film he’s watching. The special effects were out of the ark. The acting is terrible. The plot is dreadful. OK, it was still fun and had a few really cool moments, but bloody hell it was hard viewing. A fond memory dragged into the harsh light of sobriety and beaten mercilessly with the cudgel of a contemporary critique.

 

And once again the clock tells me it’s time to stop wittering before Wendy brings to bear a non-metaphorical cudgel.

Later,

Buck.