Sunday, 23 November 2008

Riding Keeps Me Sane

A friend of mine mentioned the other day how bored he gets doing the same routes over and over again and because of this he was losing the enthusiasm to ride. At the time, I agreed with him. It can be rather dull doing the same routes, especially road riding by yourself. I often try to vary the routes that I do or take a map out with me and try a new lane or track, just to see where it goes and to keep things interesting.

But sometimes, doing the same old route can be very therapeutic; you can just drift off into your own little world without having to think about which way you're going. It's a good time to think about things without any distractions and for me, it's a good opportunity to get rid of some of the pent up stress I'm feeling at the moment.

This week I only did one ride, but I certainly needed it. It's been a rubbish week and I've been going crazy. There's a lot of moaning, stress and in-fighting going on at work and it's not a very nice place to be. Starting the ride I was angry, annoyed and fed up - why are some people just so damn right nasty?! I kept running through various confrontations in my head with an 'I'll show them!' attitude; planning my revenge.

At some point though, it all disappeared. I was riding my regular 25 mile road loop and noticed there was a filming location down one of the lanes. Then I started to look for that trail head I'd found in the Summer, that was a fun little track. Next came the oh so perfect little coppice which would be brilliant for either kids racing or a really fast night cyclo-cross race! A track on the right with the dodgy root that can catch you out if you're not careful. On down the hill past Ivinghoe Beacon and my legs were still spinning without effort, the cold wind blowing through the vents in my helmet. Up the steep hill, legs feeling good, heart pounding, breathing heavier than usual (unfit, I'm not surprised but it's good to expend some extra energy and effort).

By now I was more interested in the scenery and spotting new trails in the woodland. I slowed down to fully appreciate the crisp morning as I passed a herd of deer grazing by the college and watched the squirrels darting around in the leaves. I smiled. Angst? Stress? Moi?! Who gives a damn about some of those fools I work with, what are they in the grand scheme of things? Nothing. As long as I can get out on my bike and do the thing that I enjoy the most, I can cope with the rest. No matter how infrequent or short a ride, just getting to ride now and again and everything else just drifts away.

I went to work without a care in the world and a spring in my step and let all of the problems pass me by. Maybe if everybody rode bikes, the world would be a better, happier place?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Peak Riding

I finally managed to get away for the weekend and spent a great couple of days around Ladybower Reservoir in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire. It was to celebrate the occasion of an old university friend turning 30 and as such he'd gathered a group of his cycling friends together as well as a couple of old faithfuls Mike (aka Miggy due to the confusion of two Mikes being best friends) and Tom who I also met at university.

Laura and Lisa on the dirt track to Mike's parents.

Sadly Tom couldn't make it as he's off making his fortune. And sadly, Miggy almost didn't make it either with a rather lucky escape involving the dark, winding lanes around the reservoir, a missed turn, some slippery roads and some poor judgement. But we've promised never to speak of that again. It's not the kind of story a wife wants to hear in detail. So moving on swiftly...

The weather wasn't great on Saturday and I haven't ridden for a while so decided to go on the easy ride with the ladies, rather than the testosterone fuelled gnarl-fest I sensed was going to occur with the boys. I don't often get to ride with a group of women, actually I don't often get to ride with a group of anyone, but hey ho. So a gentle trundle around the reservoir sounded like a good way to spend a dreary Saturday afternoon in November.

I couldn't believe how many groups of riders of all ages and abilities we bumped into. In some cases, literally. (Ahem, Laura!) Whilst me, Kirsty, and Lisa played 'child dodgems', Laura was still using the old novice excuse and playing 'child bumper cars'. The three of us all managed to negotiate our way through hoards of weaving, unsteady children, then there's a "ooh, ah" doof! I turn around to see Laura standing in the middle of a group of stationary, confused and annoyed looking children. 75 beer points to Laura! (Bloody beginners luck if you ask me... ;-)

Kirsty above the reservoir close to the house.

Lunch stop at Mike's parents overlooking the reservoir was all very civilized and then it was back to the fantastic Ladybower Inn to scrub up into my Sunday Best for the birthday dinner and less civilized consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.

Much laughter, fun and mickey taking was had with friends old and new. Even though Mike, Miggy and I only get together once every couple of years, (and I have to point out how much we were all missing Tom!) I've known them for 10 years now and we soon slip back into the old student ways. I should see them more often and we should really get together more often; busy lifestyles, different interests and separate groups of friends seem to prevent it though. But we all understand this and make the most of it when we are together (Tom! Where the hell were you?! Why weren't you there?!)

Still, great friends, great riding, great digs, great food and great beer. Great weekend all round.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Plumbers Squashed!

Plumbers under bath

This was the scene in my bathroom the other night. It wasn't pretty. All I can say is, it's a bloody good job they'd decided the bath needed to be raised or I might have an accidental permanent resident by now! (Sorry Mark ;-)

To be fair, everybody put in a fantastic few days work - electricians, plumbers and poor old Paul, who used to be the plasterer but has now turned into a builder, chippy, painter and tea boy. It's funny to think that if I wasn't a mountain biker, none of this would be happening; I'd never have met Paul at Mountain Mayhem and would never have taken on such a renovation project without his help, advice and contacts.

So after some longs days, a lot of hard work and a fair amount of head scratching, things are moving along nicely. With any luck it should be finished within a few weeks and then I can sit back and relax for a bit. Well, actually, when I say 'sit back and relax' what I actually mean is instead of spending every spare minute doing DIY, I should actually be able to find time to ride my bike, socialise, have some adventures, tidy up the website and get on with the little project I'm doing next year - in between ridiculously long working days.

Actually, I might stretch the DIY out a bit longer - it sounds much easier than doing the other stuff!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Not very exciting...

This week, I will mostly be working. In fact, I'll be working so much, that the working time directive has told me I have to take a lunch break every day. So I'm listening to these words of wisdom and have decided to put the enforced break time to good use - I went for a run. It was only a short run because I haven't been for a run for about 2 years. But it's a start. And in the absence of any riding possibilities, it's better than nothing.

Working time directives suck. Enforced break time is painful. I'd much rather sit in my chair watching afternoon television drinking cups of tea. But I'm not allowed. So tomorrow I shall don my running gear once again, and head a little further down Old River Thames (that's assuming that I can walk obviously). It's no real hardship though as I'm having to shower at work anyway (see the post below ;-)

Running time today: 25 mins

Sunday, 2 November 2008

This week, I 'ave mostly...

... been demolishing my bathroom:

To this:

No, I'm not making an en-suite, but I am making it bigger. Fortunately Paul Davis was here to help - though why he wouldn't let me loose on the wall with a huge hammer I don't know! (Secretly I think he was really enjoying it, I mean how often do you just get to totally demolish something and take out all your aggression using a really big hammer without any consequences?)

Also rather fortunately, Paul is an excellent plasterer. After the initial hiccup of cutting off a large cast-iron pipe in the middle of the new bathroom, to find that the tap had stopped working many years ago and I had a lovely trickling water feature in the middle of the room (with nothing but my beautiful, brand new kitchen ceiling and halogen spotlights stopping the water dripping right through to the new kitchen), the walls were knocked out, new walls built and Paul set about plastering the whole room.

I still don't have a bathroom, that's being done next week. But I do have a larger, newly plastered room. I now have to go out and buy all of the things that constitute a bathroom, and that is a very, very, long list. Somehow I have to do this whilst working double shifts every day next week. I feel some serious internet shopping coming on... to be continued...