Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sunday; a day of rest

Sunday, today, a day of rest for me.

My normal routine is NO work and to reflect on God, what we can learn today, reflect on blessings and take part in things at church.  A nice opportunity to catch up with folk.

Resting for me often involves cycling or running early in the morning, when almost everyone else is still fast asleep.  This is a wonderful way of relaxing, unwinding and seeing things in a different light.  That's fine, for me.

Today, however, has been different.  Having cycled or run every day this last week, I decided to give my body a rest in spite of the opportunity to get out in this fantastic weather and do something.

Very unusually it looks like I have every day in my office this coming week so I plan to cycle each day.  I hope I can still have a couple of runs; this will need to be at dusk one day I think.  Actually I can't remember the last time I had everyday in my office without having to go somewhere for something.  Plus the weather looks good, so I'm going to enjoy it.

Review Saucony ProGrid Omni 10

At £85 these Saucony's were the most expensive running shoes I've had so far

These are my current running shoes, Saucony ProGrid Omni 10, and here's what I think of them:

Firstly, what kind of running shoe are they?
They're "stability" running shoes which are designed to correct a certain amount of pronation - correcting where the foot rolls forward on the outer edge.  All kinds of information about that out there, so I'll skip it here.

Technical stuff

Why did I buy these?
I am still not confident about buying running shoes and knowing what I want.  So each time I need some more, I take the old ones and say "I'd like some to replace these, please".  As models change and get up-dated all the time, it always seems to be a different version I buy. 
With these I think there might have been a little bit of up-selling going on as they're not the basic stability shoe and in fact the shop had to order them in for me.  As they cost £85, which was just a little higher than what I was used to I queried it.  I was given a run-down on why these were an improvement on my previous Sauconys.  

I had a quick run on the treadmill in them, for about a minute or so and they seemed fine and so the deal was done.

What are they like to run in?
First impressions were they were big and soft.  Now I've done a few hundred miles I have adapted to them and these characteristics seem the norm.  The softer run is felt in the forward part of the shoe around the ball of my foot and toes.  It seems to make a difference going up hill but not necessarily from the comfort point of view but more the sure footedness on soft muddy ground.

The increased softness I think helps with longer distances, i.e. 10 miles and over.  I have found before I am prone to blisters over long distances and these are due to being tired, taking smaller steps and my feet land differently.  Whilst these do not solve that problem, it does lessen that little niggle (and I feel a separate blog post coming on here).

As normal I partly re-thread the laces to pull them more snugly at the top and this means they're never quite long enough but Asics are the worst for this.

Now I have got used to them and this did take a while, I like them for their comfort.  Sometimes it's nice to wear things that feel invisible - so you're just not aware you've got  shoes / socks / shorts / jersey / gloves etc.  Do they meet that test?  No, not at all, but that isn't really part of the criteria.

Would I buy them again?

Maybe.  They're not bad at all.  It's just a question of whether they're worth the extra over the basic shoe and on that, I'm not sure.  So far I've done maybe 400 miles so I'm probably over half way through their life and I've not had any injuries at all in them.

A word on ethics

A while ago I consulted the Ethical Consumer magazine about running shoes.  From memory, not one of the mainstream manufacturers were brilliant but Saucony's were probably the best of the bunch.  To be honest in this day and age, getting running shoes that are totally "ethical" is almost impossible.  Having read through the Saucony's website material on this subject they're saying the right things about workforce and labour conditions, so that's good

Does this help or not?
Please feel free to leave a comment, one way or the other....


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ideal running route

Snowdon offers a challenging running environment

I have been out running for the last 3 mornings and two of those have been over the same route of about 7 miles (takes about 50-55 minutes).  You might think that's boring, especially for someone who likes to try out new trails and footpaths.  Well, I've run this route so many times and I'm still not bored because it's so mixed.  Here's how:

Warming up
My initial warm-up is a little under a mile, through the streets to the edge of town.  This is a reminder to keep the pace down and avoid going too fast.  In reality I often feel stiff and think "I'm never gonna make it round feeling like this".  Loosening and getting the blood circulating well is essential in my view.

There are some hills to tackle.  Each one takes a few minutes.  I've blogged before about the benefits of running up hills (click here) as it really gets me out of breath.

Running downhill is fun.  Best of all is a down hill swoop so I can enjoy the speed.  If it's steep (and one of "my" hills really is) I'm leaning back to slow myself.  I don't really enjoy running down steep hills although I know it is strengthening some part of me!

Interval training
A road with speed bumps has a good purpose for me.  Each bump is about 100m apart and ideal for interval training.  In other words as I pass one, I start sprinting as fast as I can until I reach the next bump.  Then I slow right down to a gentle jog for the next 100m and then sprint again.

There's a minor road which takes me through some woods.  I like this as it's really feeling like I'm out in the countryside.  There is grass growing in the middle of the road as it's hardly ever used.  I love the moist damp smell from the trees after it has rained, so refreshing.

Off road
Next is an off-road trail for a mile or so.  This is a "technical" bit of running with rocks, gullies, puddles where I need to look where I'm going and concentrate.  Also the uneven nature of the path means the muscles around my ankles are having to work harder in keeping me balanced.  I appreciate the softer ground often.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the run comes next, opening out on to the top of am escarpment with stunning views in to the far distance.  Although it is then a mostly flat path, it is suitable for easing back and being inspired by the wonderful views; different every time.

Never a disciplined "cool down" for me!
Following that is a gentle decline back into a built up area and about a mile or so to home.  When I get close to our home, I often sprint as fast as I can so I burst through the door panting.  That's just to make sure I get that rush of endorphins to set me up for the day!

So why is this route important for me?
It combines so many different kinds of running for me.  These add to the variety and gives me a better training session.  If you're new to running, I can recommend doing something like this if you can.  Naturally some areas are flatter than others, or perhaps more urban or rural.  In spite of that, it is worth the effort to design a varied course for yourself - if you ever get bored with it, try running the opposite way around and work out a few variations to add on some other distances

Sunday, 24 July 2011

How often should I replace my helmet?

This brief blog post follows one from Thursday 21st July, when I got a new helmet.

I was a bit perplexed at being advised to replace it after 2-3 years, so I e-mailed Evans Cycles to query this.  Their response (after the preamble about welcoming customer feedback and all that stuff):

"With regard to the expected lifespan of a helmet, 2-3 years is a reasonably conservative estimate. Most manufacturers recommend replacement at between 3 and 5 years, but this is highly dependant on conditions of use; as you may have read, the polycarbonate shell of the helmet deteriorates over time under exposure to UV radiation, and in addition the gas used to inflate the foam interior can leak very slowly over time and these factors combine to reduce the protective capability of the helmet to an unsafe level.

In addition, any impact can invisibly damage the foam interior structure, which is why all manufacturers suggest replacing a helmet that has experienced any significant impact."

So, there y'go, 3 to 5 years.  Ish. I can live with that.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Brooks B17 review - first few months

There was never much of a question in my mind about what make of saddle I would have on my new bike, it's clear enough, it had to be a Brooks.  I did consider some of their more up market ones but I am very content with my 28 year old Brooks B17, which is on my old Dawes Galaxy.

What has surprised me is how easy it has been to break in.  I'm not sure why I was expecting it to be longer, maybe it's because of my previous experience?  Anyway, the new one was easily and seamless to break in; right from the start it was comfortable but firm.

It's been a pleasure taking care of it with an occasional wipe of Proofhide, a lovely unforgettable smell.  I did buy a new tin but I was taken a-back at the cost and for only a very small tin.  The old tin of somewhat firmer Proofhide lasted for years.  Somehow this tin of soft Proofhide will be used up far quicker - and it doesn't smell as nice!

I have followed the instructions of using the supplied spanner to tension the leather by a quarter of a turn every now and then.

A couple of other bonus points:  firstly it has saddle bag loops and secondly, it's not at all sweaty in this warmer weather.  Another aspect that I like is the appearance; it looks quirky nowadays.

The B17 is the cheapest in the range at about £65 from a LBS.  You might get it cheaper mail order.

Conclusion - I made the right choice.

The last little bit in the c1980 tin of Proofhide

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Buying a new cycle helmet in Evans Cycles

Stuart in Evans Cycles (Milton Keynes) making sure I had a good fit
I have always been a bit ambivalent about wearing a helmet while cycling but have persevered in wanting to set a good example to B&H.  My existing helmet is one that I've never been happy with, just not fitting right.  So for a while now I've had in mind the idea of getting a new one.  As the old one never seemed to be a good fit, the chances are its effectiveness would be limited in the event of a crash, not to mention being uncomfortable in the meantime.

Having been unimpressed with my LBS in selling me the old bad fitting helmet and their approach, I decided to pay Evans Cycles, Milton Keynes a visit today.

I've always quite liked the attitude in Evans by the staff.  Willing to help but they're happy to let me browse.  So when Stuart, pictured above, came over to ask if I needed any help, I asked him to help me choose a new helmet.  He asked what kind of riding I do - i.e. road or off-road.  This makes a difference in the kinds of accidents cyclists have, apparently.  I started trying on different helmets as Stuart explained the first step in getting the make and size, which is:

Stage 1.  Get the right size.  Put the helmet on with the adjuster wide open.  Make it tighter by, in this case, turning a wheel at the back to bring the plastic straps in closer.  Once you have a snug fit, lean forward, like you're a keen new solicitor bowing when entering a Court room.  The helmet should stay on.  If it doesn't, try a different make.

Stage 2.  Providing the helmet is snug, it's time to adjust the straps.  The "junction" should be just under your ear lobe and slightly forward.  Getting this right was a real fiddle.

Stage 3.  Get the chin strap right.  You should be able to just squeeze two fingers underneath the strap fairly comfortably.

Stage 4.  Is it comfortable, does it sit right?  Does it wobble around?  If yes, try a different size or make.  Otherwise it's a good fit which is worth fine tuning a little more once at home.

I tried on about 3 or 4 until I got this one which was the one I bought.  There was absolutely no pressure to go up in the price range, even though I was prepared to.  Stuart explained the more expensive helmets are just as safe as the cheaper ones.  The extra cost is for extra ventilation and different designs, perhaps a little lighter.

The deal was done, 10% CTC discount granted.

Back home I compared it to the old one.  Interestingly it's the same size and make - Specialized - and a similar looking helmet at (from memory) a similar price.  The fit was completely different.  The design of the straps etc are clearly a big improvement leading to a nice comfortable fit.

Specialized Echelon helmet, £49.99 , available in various colours
Anything else?
Yes, a couple of things.  Firstly I get really bugged when retailers have different prices between the store price and the on-line cost.  On checking the Evans Cycles website , the cost is £10 cheaper on-line compared to the in-store price.  This is irritating, please stop it!

The second point is about the life span of a helmet,  Ideally helmets need replacing every 2-3 years; partly because of wear and tear and also because of the integrity of the construction will degrade.  Perhaps a bit of sales talk with some truth mixed in?

I'm happy with it so far.  Anything on the old helmet is a bonus.  Going to ride into work with it tomorrow morning so I might report later on the comfort having had it on for a couple of hours.
(PS nice cool run early this morning)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Quick update

Distant memory already, only remember cycling to my office and back
Treat with Reception at House of Lords (cooooo...)

No sign of Murdoch's t'do
Kept head down back at office
Things went well
Started at 9.00am today at HQ, having previously arranged to go to SMT at about 10.30am
Got called into SMT at 9.45am
Asked for my views on other matters while I was still there
Most decisions went my way but not all
Police HQ for afternoon meeting, brisk Police pace
Visit to third sector organisation with Police afterwards
Went well
Back to office
Call from Manager, all okay
Sat at desk, logged on
Brewed tea, savoured every drop
Called home, will be 2 hours late
Got everything done, drove home earlier than expected
Day off
B&H on school hols
Will go to Milton Keynes
Need a new helmet
B needs birthday treat of cycling jersey and new running shoes
H requested "let's play Daddy"
Lookin' forward to it
Might go for a run first thing....

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Am I running too much?

Knees and ankles need resting after a long run

With yesterday being Saturday, it was a brilliant day to go for a run before breakfast; nothing unusual in that. At home we tend to have a leisurely start to the day at weekends and as we have reached the end of term B&H tend to stay in bed EVEN longer.  That's no problem.

Besides, I had some things on my mind following my work over the last couple of weeks.  We're embarking on some new ground within the bit of the Ministry of Justice I work for.  Plenty of business reforms to work through and connecting with other elements of the Coalition Government's agenda of driving down costs, better outcomes (rather than tedious targets), Big Society, Localism and so on.  We also have the spectre of the Competition Strategy as the latest version of Carter's term "contestability".  All that is fine, some of it very promising but I'd prefer to get my teeth into some real social reform, although I do enjoy the business side of things but that is simply a means to an end.  It's the "end" bit I'm more interested in - that's where real meaningful reform will lie.  In the meantime I have a humble middle manager job to perform which has it's challenges and I'm finding difficult to keep track of all those day to day tasks.  So, a run is the ideal way of refreshing my mind and burning off some of those surplus calories I have undoubtedly acquired over the last couple of weeks.

When I set off for my run, it was bright with just a few spots of rain in the air.  In the back of my mind I was planning to do either my 6.5 or 7.5 mile run - both start and finish using the same roads but the middle bit is different.  I decided to do neither but instead, I added on a couple more miles which rewarded me with some splendid views over the rolling hills and a common with some exquisite grasses.  You know how it is, sometimes it just comes together and the run (or indeed cycle ride) has all the right ingredients to make it special.  I ran for about 1 hour 20 minutes, maybe 8 or 9 miles.

Today, Sunday.  Again I woke early I decided to creep out quietly for another run.  My running shoes were still wet from yesterday so I grabbed an older pair. I knew I was taking a chance as I normally rest for a day or so after a run of yesterday's length and I knew those old Sauconys were just about worn out.  I could feel my knees were a bit tender and achy and my ankles too.  It seemed to make sense for me to curtail the run, even though I've still got a few things bothering me in the back of my mind.  I ran for about 30 minutes but made sure it wasn't just a plodding run.  I kept a reasonable pace going up hill, enjoyed running as softly as I could along a woodland trail and then back on the tarmac I stepped up the pace taking deliberately longer strides from time to time; a kind of on-the-move-stretching.

Now back home, had a shower, breakfast is ready for my slumbering family.  Thoughts of the liberating wonder in running are swirling around my thoughts: how could I ever manage the stress and strains without running and cycling?  I believe the running and cycling I enjoy is an answer to prayer and every now and again I need a reminder.  There was another reminder of God today.  Unexpectedly I saw a complete rainbow in the sky as I set off and yet the roads were almost dry.  It was so quiet outside, no traffic or even newspaper boys around, I wondered if I was the only person around to spot it.  Perhaps that was a reminder for me to take note of.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Enforced Fartlek training

What is Fartlek training?
Here's a quote from Wikipedia and the link if you'd like to know more:  

Fartlek, which means "speed play" in Swedish,[1] is a form of interval training which puts stress on the whole aerobic energy system due to the continuous nature of the exercise. The difference between this type of training and continuous training is that the intensity or speed of the exercise varies, meaning that aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed can be varied whenever the athlete wishes......

Do I like it?
Yes I do and I ought to do more!  This is when I am running and when I'm warmed up, so probably not before the 20 minute stage.  This is what happens: I'll spot a point ahead of me and force myself to sprint - as fast as I can - to that point.  The point could be anything - a tree, a parked blue car, a lamp post, a...whatever but normally about 100 metres away.  

So, what do I mean about "enforced" fartlek training?
A few days ago I was having a fairly gentle run and coming back over a nearby hill.  Imagine those deep ridges you sometimes find along the side of a hill, like a little valley.   I had just started to run down one of these, with a fence to my left and straight ahead was a steep climb - perhaps 1 in 4 which would last for about 1 minute.  Then I spotted some nearby cattle and, more to the point, they had spotted me.  Most weren't at all bothered as I was not heading directly towards them.  There was one, a bull that stood up, alert looking and staring intently at me.

I sprinted as fast as I could going down and the last few steps before the climb had me looking over towards the bull, hoping he wouldn't react.  It was then I realised I had my bright red running shirt on and I tried to tell myself "red rags and bulls are a myth".  Adrenalin kicked in and I made it to the top so fast I amazed myself.  I looked back to see if the bull was behind me.  I was almost fearful to do so but I knew he couldn't make it up as quickly as me, surely this is right, isn't it?  There was no sign of him.  Phew.  Perhaps a lucky escape.

My heart was beating fast but not pounding but it quickly eased back while I carried on at a jogging gentle pace while I got my breath back and it felt good. My heart rate completely settled back down and I picked up my regular pace once again and felt chuffed I had survived and had the story to tell.

I didn't plan on this extra sprint but I'm so pleased I did it.  It felt good afterwards, those endorphins causing a rush of a wonderful "runner's high" sensation.  These intense periods of activity, raising the heart rate for just a short period, are so important in training for races and endurance events.  I must do more while I run and I'm sure I will reap the benefits with cycling.  Improving performance now - in realistic amounts - will be of benefit in years to come.

There are many reasons to vary the pace at which I exercise, no matter whether it's with running or cycling.  Here's a few worth following up:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Thoughts on food

Since I have been taking better care of myself during the last few years, I've paid attention to what I eat.  That attention comes in a few different ways and here's some of my thinking:

Quality of food
I try to discipline myself into a bit of self-talk with food.  It's along the lines of asking myself if that jammy doughnut is either good or bad for me.  Gradually I'm making sure everything I eat is good for me and I'm gaining a picture of how different foods benefit me.  So with each meal or snack, I try to make sure it is of use and not just allowing me to scoff away because I feel "peckish" - that is an easy route to becoming over-weight again.

Going around supermarkets, it's now clear there's so much rubbish, nicely packaged to appear attractive and tasty.  And yet it is often highly processed food with all kinds of additives which are not helpful with a balanced diet.

So, I'm trying to ensure everything I scoff fits with a healthy, varied diet and contributes towards:

  • My 5-a-day (but in reality my 9 or 10-a-day)
  • Good varied selection of vitamins and minerals (I believe these particularly make a real difference for immunity and long term health)
  • Good fats, not saturated fats
  • Sufficient carbohydrates and proteins
  • Sufficient fibre (need to keep things moving!)
  • Sufficient fluids
Ethics and food
Perhaps the subject of another blog post but I believe GM needs avoiding wherever possible.  Not necessarily just for nutritional reasons but for wider conservation and food chain ethics.  By messing around with DNA (i.e. creation), introducing new "features" we're dabbling with things we can't reverse when unforeseen consequences happen later on.  What right do we have?

Also, how can I justify eating, say, spring onions flown in from Kenya when knowing there is an impending famine in the horn of Africa?  Talk about air miles, carbon footprint, exploiting the third world, being so lazy we're not growing enough food in our gardens!

I have become a vegetarian this year, albeit with a few lapses.  For me, in our society it seems the right thing to do although it does make meal planning more difficult for Rachel.

I am sure I'm not alone when I mention the more I eat, the hungrier I tend to feel later on.  With the UK's expanding waist line and the rise of type 2 diabetes, this is a trap to avoid.  For myself, small meals with snacks works better than bigger, less frequent meals.

Wrapping up
I am no expert in nutrition or food production but I am picking things up as I go along.  I'm not advising you to follow what I'm doing but please do give these things some thought - some of these issues are profoundly important for the 21st Century.  You might know more or have helpful views; please feel welcome to post a comment below....

Monday, 11 July 2011

Running in the summer

Running through a grassy meadow in the chalky Chilterns

Since I have been running over the last couple of years, I've come to appreciate the different seasons we have here in England even more.  I plan to do a blog post on each season but only when the season itself comes.  So, it is summer right now, here's my observations of running at this time of year.

I can't think of any reason why I shouldn't like running in the summer apart from the obvious question of heat, too much sun and the risk of dehydration.  Apparently dehydration of just 2% equals a 20% loss of performance - if you start to feel thirsty you are dehydrated.

As I tend to run early in the morning and occasionally in the evening, the risk of overheating is small.  There are, however, so many other compelling reasons to enjoy running in the summer:

  • In early July there's enough light to run for 16 hours a day, perhaps more.  That opens up lots of possibilities
  • The countryside is at it's peak - especially grasses as this shows me running through mature grasses in the Chiltern Hills - particularly lovely when they're wet with dew
  • I like the hazy pastel colours in certain conditions
  • Hedgerows are full of flowers
  • At dusk I love the sensation of running into those pockets of cold damp air and then out the other side just a few seconds later
  • I like the warmth and yet appreciate the cooling properties of modern technical materials
  • Seeing insects buzzing around flowers
  • Summer rains - especially after a long hot spell - sometimes you can almost smell the rain coming.  When it does it's so invigorating
  • It's nice to explore new paths, trails and other routes at this time of year
  • Saves money - why pay a gym membership when you can exercise and run outside?
  • Most of this applies to cycling as well!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Short run, long run

I just wanted to say something about the advantages of running for different distances.

Although I have cycled to work three times this last week, I haven't had the chance to go running.  So yesterday morning, I went for a short 3 or 4 mile run, probably more of a jog really. I felt a bit stiff and lumpy. I certainly didn't work up much of a sweat or get much of a runner's high.

This morning I went for a run before breakfast and there's nothing unusual in that.  But what did strike me was how much easier running was today compared to yesterday.  I aimed for my hilly route and it takes me about 8 or 9 minutes to get to the bottom of the first steep climb (about 1 in 5).  After another 20 minutes I was nicely loosened up and it was then I realised I was running well, with a much better running form.  So, I decided to take a different route, adding on a few miles.

By the 45 minute stage my stride was noticeably longer without having to purposely do it.  It was just coming together nicely.  The scenery was lovely with distant views into the soft haze and I just love these early morning runs!  I love having those views for myself, being the first to run through that wet grass and to break through those cobwebs.

So I ran for about 80 - 90 minutes and feel great.  Yesterday's run "prepared" me for today by reminding my body about running in loosening up those joints which had taken it easy for a week.

Tomorrow I might run again; I probably will as I'll need to use my car for work.  Perhaps Tuesday I'll take a rest as it is so important to get the balance right with pushing myself and resting.  And for now, yes there's a quiet and more subtle runner's high rewarding me.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

How many bikes?

If you're a regular reader you will already know I've got a couple of bikes.  The oldest is my 1984 Dawes Galaxy and earlier this year I added the Thorn Audax Mk3.  To be honest I have been feeling a little guilty about having two.

A while back I thought of selling the Dawes in order to save a little room in the garage and recover some money.  Then there's the thought of not hoarding and being too materialistic as it could be argued that goes against the simplicity of cycling.  The Dawes has 27" wheels which are obsolete nowadays, the gears are vague, stiff and not indexed, the chain is worn.  Both of these bikes have a fair bit in common, so surely there's duplication and what's the point in having both.

During the last week I've had the opportunity to cycle to work on 3 days, each using the Thorn Audax and covered almost 90 miles and it was on one of these rides the question of how many bikes occurred to me.  Bearing in mind it's a brilliant day ride bike with a light touring capacity, a training bike, a shopping bike.  I like it, why would I need anything else?

Then this evening, I needed to pop out for a Sainsbury's visit: this is not the weekly grocery shop but more of a "top-up" and I used the Dawes - and that's when the penny dropped.  Yes it's fine to have more than one bike, providing they get used.  These two bikes handle very differently and I like them both because of that.  As one is elderly, the Dawes lends itself for local trips only, keeping the Thorn for longer rides.

So as these bikes have a slightly different purpose, does the footwear principle apply here?  I have two pairs of work shoes so I can avoid wearing them on consecutive days, a best pair, a worn out scruffy pair for messing about outside, a pair of wellies for when we have snow, a pair of hiking boots, a pair of SPD cycling shoes, a pair of sandals and flip flops (for holiday), two pairs of running shoes and - but don't laugh - a pair of slippers.

Given that analogy, having two bikes seems very restrained!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Are raspberries good for you?

I love the summer months and even more when we have raspberries from my Mother-in-Law's garden.  Fresh, free and flavoursome!

I've always enjoyed them and had in the back of my mind that they were not just good, as all fruit is, but had that "something extra".  So a quick look around on the Internet and with reference to a really good book we have at home, yes, they really are good.

  • Vitamins B2, C and K
  • folate
  • niacin
  • magnesium
  • fibre
  • phenlic phytochemicals

    All this leads to raspberries having excellent health giving properties.  This includes antioxidants being in good measure and this is helpful in preventing cancer and adding to heart disease protection.  Raspberries are also known to have a detoxifying effect through a self cleansing effect.

    While the raspberry season is short, we do have them in abundance and freeze the surplus but there's nothing to beat that 'just picked' freshness.  This all helps develop a taste and determination to consume a wide variety of GOOD food in REASONABLE quantities.  REASONABLE means SENSIBLE / MODEST quantities.

    Here in the above photo, the raspberries are prepared for my (now) famous "A Cyclist's Breakfast" which is proving very popular.  click here to follow the link back to the blog on 29th January 2011.  This surely must be a great all-round breakfast.

    Tuesday, 5 July 2011

    Long term review - Endura Hummvee Baggy Shorts

    Many reviews tend to be based on short term impressions.  This review is based on three years use, adding up to thousands of miles, several washes and general wear and tear.  Overall, it's a pretty positive story.  Read on...

    They cost, at the time of writing, £45.99 from FW Evans Cycles who I rate quite highly, they deserve some success on the High Street.  I reckon I paid about the same in 2008, so they've not been hit too much by inflation.

    They're available in any colour you want, so long as it's black - nothing unusual here then.  They are made from 100% nylon.  That might be the case but there are clearly different types of nylon used. There's an elasticated waist band which a good number of belt loops. The fly is a normal zip with a press popper at the top.

    In terms of pockets, there are two map pockets, just the right size of an Ordnance survey map.  On each side there is a reasonably deep pocket, closed with a zip with a helpful cord, as you can just see in the top left on the photograph.  There are two further pockets, towards the lower part - one is zipped and one is Velcro.

    For warmer summer months, there are zipped ventilation sections on either side.

    Additionally there is a key clip, which could be very useful.

    Also supplied are some inner shorts - racy black Lycra with a padded seat and to complete the set a simple webbed belt.

    They're available in a wide range of sizes from Small to XX Large.  The inner printed label gives washing instructions (and it hasn't worn off yet) and declares it is made in China.  With so many horror stories concerning supply chain ethics, pollution and worker's rights, I am lately more concerned about the ethical nature of their manufacture.

    Living with the shorts
    In general I'd say these are very good but not quite perfect.

    The belt seemed unnecessary and got mislaid a long time ago.  Probably useful for tying something onto a rear pannier rack (perhaps for an unexpected impulse bargain that wouldn't fit anywhere else).

    The shorts came with Lycra inner shorts.  As I'm not too versed in these it is hard to comment.  I've worn them a couple of times and found the padded seat really comfortable.  Otherwise a bit clammy and a tight fit.  Subsequently discarded.

    The actual shorts themselves is clearly where the money has been spent.  I'd say they're very practical indeed (especially the OS size map pocket), good high waist and satisfactory overall fit.  I know it's a question of personal taste but I think they're a little too baggy but this is perhaps nit-picking.

    Tough, very hard wearing.  Practical and great for day rides with all those pockets.  Style is okay.  Considering they'll last for many more years, they must be seen as representing excellent value for money and £46 seems a fair price.

    On the positive side, they seem almost indestructible, they really are very hard wearing and definitely up to the job in my eyes.

    Friday, 1 July 2011

    Blogging update

    Here's a quick round-up of the week, sorry not to have blogged in the usual way as life has been fairly full this week.

    Firstly we've had some tremendous thunder storms this week, this image is the closest I have.  I remember sitting at my desk listening to distant thunder and there was one of those annoying pop-up messages the IT unit sometimes send out.  It said thunder storms were coming and advising everyone to save their work frequently.  I'd just finished reading it when BANG went a crack of thunder along with a flash.  The building across the road had been hit but no apparent damage.

    Kenyan friends
    Our friends Nicholas and Edward have now returned to their home and families in Kenya.  We're feeling a bit wistful and wonder when we'll see them again.  It was Edward who remarked on us (in England) having everything and life is plentiful, yet we lack so much.  He talks about faithfulness and time for each other,  See his blog link below or click here.

    Some cycling
    Following on from last Saturday's night ride, I've had a couple of rides.  A pleasant 30 miles on Sunday afternoon and then I decided to ride to HQ on Monday.  It's 26 miles each way.  Satisfying because on a bad day it has taken longer to drive there.  Coming back I managed to annoy some motorists who found the road was awkward for over-taking a cyclist like me.  A BMW M5 got passed me and accelerated away fast.  Quite impressive performance I thought, but who cares. Having a car like that seems such a meaningless thing nowadays; surely being able to cycle is far more important.

    Managed to put on 4lbs in weight and lose it inside a week.  Perhaps too many Brazil nuts (a real super food for another time).

    I was a tad concerned to get an email from the Chief.  Asked me to see her ASAP about my appraisal.  As I was at HQ on Monday, I responded in person.  I was starting to get worried as normally this only happens in the event of there being a problem, where someone is on thin ice or heading for a Performance Improvement Plan.  In the end it was a brief mention of the fact I had had an appraisal and then to talk about the emerging tensions between the Ministry of Justice and No 10.  Ken Clarke has been over ruled on sentencing reforms.

    Things are mostly okay otherwise although I don't feel I have been very productive this week.  I have quite a few mini projects on the go and none can be tied up right now.  I'm having to wait for others to do their bit in some way.

    Rachel needs a new car
    Mindful of Edward remarking how everyone seems to have a car in England, suddenly we're feeling materialistic and I for one feel uncomfortable. We've always had a car each in all the time we've been married.  The combined age of our 2 cars is 26 years.  I bought Parkers car price guide and started making a short list of possible cars.  Starting at the beginning, I got only as far as Citroen. Very hard to know what to do.  Years back choosing a new car was fun and yet now it seems less important.

    Hannah had 2 days of Bikeability training at school.  Only 6 kids in her class took up the chance.  What does that say about kids today?

    My hand
    Seems to be bearing up well with the Ibuprofen, so I'm optimistic it'll heal soon.

    Had a 4 mile run on Wednesday and then did my 7.5 mile Hilly route this morning, starting at 5.30am.  It was lovely outside then, not bad running but I felt slow and out of the habit.  A really great reminder of why I need to run.