Friday, 30 September 2011

The Work Cycle

Why not follow this link to an interesting little website that's popped up recently.  Very stylish.

And in their own words....

A celebration of the Work Cyclist. There’s a different kind of relationship developing at work with people falling in love with riding their bikes all over again. We explore how the Work Cycle is beginning to shape the work spaces we journey to.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Another Rant about Sainsbury's

Really making a conscious effort to eat healthy food nowadays, not just the Cyclist's breakfast but in all other ways.  This includes cutting down (or avoiding altogether) mince pies at Christmas time.  The actual thought of this was miles from my mind until I spotted a stack of mince pies in Sainsbury's this evening.

I really must avoid them, though they are delicious.  Probably a zillion calories in each, that won't do me any good let alone all that fat clogging my blood vessels up.

Being mindful of the late Indian summer we're enjoying in this, the last week of September, the sight of mince pies on sale struck me as being odd.  Especially so when I saw they had a "best before" date of November 20th.  So much for Christmas shopping.

It is not all bad in Sainsbury's.  Perhaps they are making amends from being in cahoots with Innocent Smoothies on the withdrawal of the 1,000ml cartons and replacing them with rather mean-sized 750ml cartons at a price which seems almost as expensive.  Plus more packaging per litre of smoothie, not a good move.  The 750ml cartons are about half price at £1.29 so we can now enjoy a carton at breakfast without feeling rash, extravagant or just plainly guilty.  This is a brilliant way of getting a wide variety of fruit inside us.

Rant over.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cyclist's Breakfast 2

The above link is to the very popular Cyclist's breakfast post.  Since I published it 9 months ago (29th January 2011) it has had 248 page views.  A good number have come from the very good blog.

Since then I have added 2 types of seed to the mixture.  It works out as being 2 teaspoonfuls each day of:

Sunflower seeds containing vitamins E, B1, B2 and B3 plus calcium, magnesium, manganese etc  THis all adds up to regulating blood-fat levels, help healthy skin remain healthy and aiding the repair of tissue.

Pumpkin seeds which helpfully contain similar nutrients in helping the immune system and possibly benefitfitting the prostate (a man thing!).

It nicely changes the texture which is an enjoyable and filling start to the day.  The nice thing about these are that they're a very easy food to keep.  They're commonly available (I get ours from Holland & Barrett).  Additionally they are not too expensive, last a long time and keep well.  Oh, musn't forget to say, they taste nice too!

Sammy the hamster gets some as well when I'm not looking.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rusty and Misty's blog

The Kent family, bound for Australia
A brief departure from my usual ramblings to give a quick plug for a parallel blog called Rusty and Misty.

The Kent family are probably arriving in Australia about now and we're looking after Rusty and Misty for a few weeks until they make the journey themselves.

So please do see what they're up to on their very own blog!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Review Asics Gel 1150

My Asics Gel 1150 running shoes with the brilliant X Socks
I have been amazed at how many hits my blog has had with people looking for the Review Saucony ProGrid Omni 10 running shoes, I thought I'd review my Asics while I still have them.  I say that as they're thoroughly worn out as I discovered last week when I used them for a couple of runs, just to refresh myself in what they're like.

So, what are they like?

When I first got them, I didn't like them much compared to a pair of Saucony's I'd had before but I grew to like them a lot.  Indeed when I was running last week in them, I was reminded about how great they are.  I remember them being hard to get used to but I did - and very pleased I did!  Main highlights are:
  • They were a good fit for me.  Snug around the aperture but plenty of toe room, but not too much
  • Well made.  There are no weak spots showing and their construction is fine
  • They have worn well and stood up well to all kinds of rough ground, water, mud, dust, grit, abuse and thoroughly hard running at times
  • Good feel for the road; stable and sure-footed.  This is important for me.
  • Not too cushioned and now I have run far too many miles in them, they've gone a bit "flat"
  • The laces aren't quite long enough for that alternative looping pattern of using the extra holes
  • Economically priced
Ethics - I'm not too sure of the supply chain ethics applied by Asics.  If that is a concern to you as well, it's worth checking out.  I know the Ethical Consumer magazine featured Asics but I can't recall all the details (from memory, they weren't that great).

Considering these are entry level running shoes, I'd say they are excellent.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Long run, short run

Enjoying the mist at sunrise - it dissolves away as quickly as it gets lighter
Sunday morning was special for me.  I went out for a run while it was still dark, with the intention of going a little further than usual - maybe around 10 miles.  I was also feeling a little adventurous and so I headed for the start of a bridle path I had spotted before but didn't know where it went.

Normally I have a reasonable senses of direction and wasn't too bothered about not knowing where it went, even though it was taking me further away from home.  It was a little confusing in a woodland area with lots of twists and turns causing me to gradually lose a sense of which direction I was going.  When I emerged on the other side I was faced with some fields and a hill I didn't recognise at all!  I knew sooner or later I'd pick up the sight of something to give me a clue as to where I was and sure enough, that happened a few minutes later.  It meant that I was out running for a little over two hours so I guess I must have run for 13+ miles.  A fantastic run with all the right ingredients: changing light, woodland trails, fields (with rough ground to strengthen my ankle ligaments / muscles), grassland, fast roads, a golf course to sneak across and some hills

These miles weren't especially fast miles, more of a steady long distance plod.  When I got back - and for the rest of the day - my legs felt tired and achy in a satisfying way.

Yesterday I did no running or cycling as I needed the all important rest.  This morning I went for a short run, about 20 minutes so probably three miles including a good climb to get my heart pumping nicely in a noticeable way.

That combination of long and short runs suits me, as does slow runs and shorter fast runs.  It certainly features in many of the training schedules you can get from various sources and yep, there's a solid reason behind these.  I am always happy to follow the lead of someone who is an expert and knows better and I'd really commend this approach to others.  Running to include a hill (or two) is of real benefit I find but probably not if you're starting out.

All this leads me to think I could have Luton Marathon within my grasp.  My biggest obstacle is running during the week with the daylight shortening so quickly.  Returning to the gym and treadmill running is an option but I'd prefer not to. Running through the streets is also an option, under the street lights.

So to do the Luton Marathon.... Luton in my view is a dump and running 3 laps doesn't really inspire me, especially in late November or early December.  But, but it is a valid challenge.  There is the race atmosphere to draw me along and I would have something to look back on when I'm eventually a 95 year old bloke in a nursing home rocking chair- now that would be cool doing that, just before I hit 50.  After I'm 50, well why stop there?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Yew Clothing

Hey why not take a look at the Yew Clothing website:

I was having a flick through an old copy of the Jan / Feb 2010 Ethical Consumer magazine to try and find something about running shoes (which I couldn't find) and came across a brief mention of Yew Clothing.

Yew clothing's website looks pretty cool and the stance they take on trading in an ethical way is clear enough.  They're a London company who sell a range of sports or casual clothing - all made from recycled materials.  While the range is a little limited, it does look good and have some really good credentials.  It also seems very reasonably priced at £25.00 as this this short sleeved jersey shows.  It's made using a sweat-wicking material, that's produced from recycled plastic bottles.

While the website itself is great and builds the image nicely, the blog in "community" has it's last entry 8 months ago.....  Nevertheless, the products are reasonably priced and must score well from an ethical trading point of view.
Men's Everywear Extreme Short Sleeve Blue & Grey

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Not one Good Samaritan yesterday evening

I went for a shortish tempo run yesterday evening, just after dusk.  Through the streets and up a trail to the top of a hill and across to the viewing point (wow was it windy!). On my return and back down in the town I was running fairly briskly and managed to take a tumble (again).

This time it wasn't too bad with my hands, left elbow, thigh and knee all taking some of the fall.  No single part of me took all the force which helped - but through chance rather than any quick reactions on my part.

There I was, in my running gear lying flat on my back for about a minute.  I was conscious of some cars driving past but not one single person bothered to stop and see if I was alright.  That seems really sad - are people rushing around with no time to spare?  Are people so afraid of other people and worried it is a ploy to mug or rob someone?  After a bit I got up, leaned on a lamp post and limped on my way and before long I was able to run normally.

I do think it is sad, as I said above, nobody stopped to make sure I was okay.  I will just have to make sure I never turn and look the other way.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Finding the correct saddle height

Sometimes it is quite comical seeing someone riding a bike when the seat is too low or too high.  Yet without achieving the optimum height, cycling is inefficient or even painful and likely to lead to knee problems.  Just try walking along with your knees continuously bent, as if you're lowering your overall height by 4 inches.

It is important to have a good starting point, as I have tried to show in the above photograph.  My right foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke and just a slight bend in my knee.  If my leg was straight, I might feel as if I was getting the right leverage on the pedal but I would be wobbling from side to side on the saddle, plus I'd not be able to reach the ground without stepping forward off the saddle.  In the above set-up, I can just reach the ground while sitting on the saddle.

Having a saddle which is too low (and often I see this with casual novice cyclists) is going to be hard work and probably lead to a problem somewhere in the leg, with knees being especially vulnerable.  This is a real problem with MTB / Mountain bikes with their relativey high bottom brackets.  Having played around in trying to achieve the optimum saddle height on my daughter's MTB, it became very apparent.  There's no way she can both reach the ground safely while having the saddle at a height allowing her to stretch out her legs as she should.

There are some other points to consider with getting the right saddle position:

  • Consider the angle of the saddle
  • The shoes you wear might make a difference (i.e. ordinary shoes, as above, or clip-in types like Look or Shimano SPD)
  • Brooks leather saddles take time to break in as the leather stretches and moulds itself to the cyclist's shape.  Remember to tension the saddle, as per instructions.  Failing to do this could ruin a lovely saddle and have you sitting in an awkward position
  • It is worth spending time and a trial-and-error approach to get it right.  Go for a short bike ride with an allen key in your pocket.
  • Don't be afraid to make smaller changes after a few weeks or months

Monday, 12 September 2011

Review: teach yourself running

That photograph above is my copy of this nifty little book, all about running.  As you can see, it is a well used book.....

The basics:

Teach yourself running, by Sara Kirkham
ISBN 978-0-340-96643-3
My edition was published in 2008
Used from Amazon, priced from £4.09 (as at today)

Why I like it:

This book is great for dipping in and out of; picking up a little useful information each time.  It is ideal for starting out in getting fit by running in what must be the highest calories burning popular sport. It covers the how point of running (the advantages etc and clearly written by someone who has experienced these), kit and planning for success.

Of particular use is the section on nutrition and also training for particular events.  Helpfully it covers in chapter 8 how to over come obstacles.  This is why it is useful for, as I mentioned above, dipping in and out of, according to what you need to know at any point of your running career.  You can't anticipate what issues are going to crop up and that's why it is useful as a reference book.

The book will take you from the initial consideration stage, through to running a half marathon; an impressive journey for almost anyone.

Other points:

  • It has a budget feel to it - it's a paperback without any photographs or artwork inside.
  • The whole Teach Yourself concept is really good
  • I was disappointed recently when I looked up about running a marathon - that's another book to buy.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Running alone

Running alone - two sides to consider
Yesterday I went for the nice run I'd been looking forward to so much.  This is the thing about running; it was before breakfast, familiar trails, usual distance - but each run has something different about it, either something I see, experience, think about or achieve.

So while I was running yesterday I had been thinking about the forthcoming 2011 Luton Marathon and recognised that I was 90% certain I'd go for it.  I'd been thinking of the merits of joining a running club but had decided against it.  Then as I was just coming up to my last mile I found myself running alongside someone else.  I quite enjoyed it!

I have commented before in my blog about the snootiness of some other runners and cyclists - and then someone always seems to pop up to restore my faith in human nature.  Yesterday it was a man called Simon ("hello Simon") who I found myself running alongside.  His pace was a little quicker than mine but I really enjoyed chatting to him as we ran alongside each other - he was like an impromptu pace setter for me and it did me some good!

It turned out that he was training for the Luton Marathon, quite a coincidence, so maybe we'll bump into each other again.

Once or twice in the past I have found myself running alongside other people and our pace always seems to pick up, sort of edging each other on until the pace levels out at a good threshold speed.  Having someone to train with can be mutually encouraging and of course, there must be that comradeship and company.   Here I feel I can't speak with much experience and probably the subject of another blog post some other time!

Oh, the run itself.  It was good.  I remember after the initial couple of miles when I was thinking how stiff I was along with I'll run for maybe just 5 miles and then have a longer run in a few days, it just got better and better.  After 1 hour I was going well and by the time I got home I felt as if I could carry on much further.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Gotta go for a run

Busy at work.  Not a huge workload but some tricky things to work through and somehow understand.  Owing to needing to be at other offices this week, I've not had the chance to cycle.  Much mental energy has meant I've been tired in the evenings and I've regrettably only had one short run this week.

So, tomorrow morning, I simply must go for a run before breakfast.  My running kit is easily at hand so there's one less excuse.

I can tell I need to go for a run.  I sometimes wonder how I managed before I started this keep-fit lifestyle.I'm not sure of the answer to that but I'm sure I would have completely cracked had I not started running 3 years ago.

Monday, 5 September 2011

London Skyride 2011

Rachel taking the Boris Bike challenge 
"If you think I'm EVER going for another bike ride...... and by the way, did you know I HATE riding bikes?" exclaimed Rachel, although it had to be said, she did voluntarily come along.  I have to hand it to Rachel, she is to be applauded for her efforts yesterday.

Credit is undoubtedly deserved; a life long loather of all things cycling, did say she'd come along "for the atmosphere" and to see what all the fuss was about.  This is how the day went....

We parked in Westminster, quite close to one of the many entry points, it was really easy finding a car parking place.  The solution to the question over 4 people and 3 bikes was solved, as it often is, by Hannah jumping onto the pannier rack of my bike and Rachel wobbling behind on Hannah's bike.  We made it to Parliament Square and then rode along Birdcage Walk (past the annoying, irritating running commentary coming out of a PA system) to Buckingham Palace and around onto The Mall and the rest area.  We left Rachel there to enjoy the various stands while the 3 of us went to do a complete loop.

The supplied map said it was 15km (i.e. about 10 miles) but it felt much less.  We did the loop and was a bit disappoiinted in some ways.  There were more irratating commentators along the way and, unlike previous years, no drummers by the tunnel - a big shame.

We met with Rachel as arranged and, incredible as it sounds, she was quite keen to get her hands on a Boris Bike.  It wasn't too difficult finding one but a real fiddle in try yo get one out of the docking station, even after entering the right code.  Does anyone actually read the 35 pages of terms and conditions?  We were off, just as soon as the rain was turned on!  Fair play to Rachel, she could easily  have given in but she didn't, she just plodded along in a pretty positive way.  I seem to remember she mentioned something about not liking cycling!

We made it around and time to hand back the Boris Bike.  This proved tricky as every single docking point was occupied in 3 locations!  Rachel was starting to get anxious but it was mild compared to another woman claiming conspiracy theories around the authority's cunning plan to extract more money from casual users.  Eventually we succeeded but it meant a longer walk back to the car, in the rain.

I just wanted to add to my gripes concerning the commentators.  As dreadfully irritating, obnoxious, cringing and just plain naff as they were, I couldn't help to feel real joy when an engagement had just taken place and it was announced over the PA system.

So there y'go, the London Skyride 2011.  Another brilliant day of Central London being given over to bikes.  It is such a heart-warming sight to see little kids (some with stabilizers on their bikes) riding along with others on expensive sophisticated road machines.  Come the revolution......

Rest area in St James Park, before the rain

It's not every day we get a chance to ride over Westminster Bridge.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

London 2011 Skyride - heavy rain forecast

I'm looking forward to taking the kids to the London Skyride 2011 as it has been so great over the last two years.  Having said that, the weather looks horrible with heavy rain forecast for Central London in the morning, so I'm not too sure how things will pan out.

At least the tunnel will be dry.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Running past dusk

Running at dusk can be inspirational

I know, I know, I know, running is perfect for me in the early morning but yesterday was an occasional exception  Don't get me wrong in any way, I'm not a lark turning into an owl, far from it.

I had planned to go for a run at dawn but I woke up too late!  So all through the day I was thinking of where I'd run this evening.  I even phoned home to give advance warning I didn't want too much to eat, just a snack and some time to let it go down, then I'd be ready.  We had our dinner together and then I got distracted by drafting an eBay advert for Rachel's car.  We tried to give it away to a deserving cause but it wasn't wanted, hence selling it.  How much we get depends largely on how much fuel is in the tank, perhaps.

Then I went for a run, just after the sun had gone down.  As this meant I'd be running through the streets, mostly, I took my ipod shuffle.  In the 35 minutes I was out, I listened to a few tracks at a fair pace.  My running muscles were fairly well rested and so it was easy to run at a brisker pace.  Though much shorter than my usual runs, I couldn't risk running away from roads and not see where I was going.

I did, however, run to the top of a hill where there is a viewing point of the landscape all around.  I stopped for a few minutes to admire the last dying embers of daylight in the sky, long after the sun had set. Perhaps, I thought, I'd be the last person here instead of the first in any one day?  It was still a nice thought.  I was wondering where the sun was rising right now. What would it look like?  Where could it be?

I was listening to some Tom Waits; not my usual running music, far from it, but it still added to the atmosphere.  Mentally I worked through a presentation I'm doing on Tuesday, simply to some of my colleagues.  It'll be okay, I know it will be.  The thing about running is that it helps keep things in perspective, almost to the "I don't Care" point where I rise above the opposition I sometimes have.  Sometimes I have to be pretty bloody minded, especially when I know I'm right.

I then grit my teeth and carry on regardless of my opposition.

I ran home with a half hearted sprint at one point and then another sprint not far from home, coming through the front door dripping with sweat..  It felt good, even though I wasn't out for long.  I wish I could run everyday but I need to recover.  Having said that, having a short run (4 miles) shouldn't stop me unless the previous day had been much longer

Just a very quick update

Late summer mist

So, it's the 1st September.  Already there is a whiff of Autumn in the air - soft colours, some mists, the harvest is under way and school uniforms are being checked.

We're looking forward to this year's London Skyride 2011.  Looks like a slightly different route this year.  Even Rachel is coming, albeit as a spectator and to add some atmosphere.  Hannah will be pleased to ride on the pannier rack of my 1984 Dawes Galaxy while Rachel has a wobble on her bike for just a short stretch.

Taken on the 2010 London Skyride

Cycled to work a couple of times this week, enjoyed every minute.  My roundabout technique is proving useful in catching a driver's eye and making sure they have clocked me.  A couple of days ago I found myself catching the eye of a Youth Offending Team pal, Nick.  At least I thought it was him so I emailed him.

"Was it you?" I asked.

"Why yes.  You were very focussed"

"Now that makes a change"

"I suppose it does" he said.


I need to avoid drifting, fitness-wise: I need a goal.  Thinking about the Luton Marathon 2011.  On one hand, why would I want to run around a grotty place like Luton, taking in 3 laps and for it to be in December?  Last year it was cancelled because of the snowy weather.  But then, who cares where it is, the important thing is to get out there and do it.  Could be a great way of finishing the year off.  The trick will be getting the training in without resorting to gym membership again - will need to run 4 times a week for the next 3 months.

Still mixing running with cycling and enjoying it.  Not excelling at either.  Although I've cycled all my adult life, I don't think I'm a particularly "good" cyclist having never applied myself  in a training sense when I was younger.  I wish now I had and running too.  If only I could put the clock back about 30 years!

Stress is well under control at work.  There are always a few niggles though.  Workload is fine, not too much.but there are some incomprehensible things kicking around at present.  While there are many positive things to the Coalition Government, some things are a bit fanciful in my view.