Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Rambling Games - Day 4 - in the park and horse riding?

There's no picture of the Rambling outdoor activities today, but antics in a park near Highgate definitely took place. Frustrated by the lack of evidence, and spurred on by the riding events today, Hannah decided that horse riding was a possibility as long as Daddy would co-operate ...

Monday, 30 July 2012

Rambling Games - Day Three - Synchronised Swinging

The backyard stadium proves to be an ideal venue for a number of events this evening. Inspired by the sheer effort and determination of the synchronised swimmers doing their diving this afternoon Hannah decided that this was the event for us. We don't have a pool in our back garden and so the sport of Synchronised Swinging has been born. A short swing on the climbing frame and long swing suspended from the trees make for an interesting mix and Poppy was somewhat wary of the event. She introduced a side game of sprinting for the rope toy before running off with the prize before any of us could catch her. Rambling Beach Volleyball proved a hit - a piece of string looped across the garden and two players against one did nothing to even the score. Fortunately one member of the team got distracted by weeding the garden which led to abandonment of the game for the evening when a new sport of Bumball was invented by the remaining players using a suitable target on the errant weeder. More events tomorrow.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Meridian Peanut Butter

I have long memories of enjoying peanut butter, right from getting home from school feeling as if I'd not eaten for a week, absolutely starving and making myself a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich. Yes, mayonnaise with peanut butter: more about that later.   In those days it was always Sunpat as there didn't seem to be any choice back in the 1970s.  Having bought a jar on my recent visit to Fairhaven Whole Foods we were keen to try it out alongside the Sunpat we STILL buy.

First impressions

Open the jar and you're greeted by the (natural) oil that has separated out and it doesn't "look" like peanut butter at all.

"Ugh" says Becky as she starts to stir it around with her knife "it's like a mud pie."  Nose turns up

"No Becky, don't worry, that's because there's no E471 Stabilisers in there, just the natural ingredients".  I was gobsmacked at Rachel's support on this.  Sometimes my "eccentric" foods do not always enjoy the support they should here in the Rambling household.

Once the stirring had taken place, the taste testing began.  We all remarked how it tasted of, well, nuts.  Promising start, eh?

Taste testing

Somehow I missed the saltiness of Sunpat but it was good eating a proper peanut butter without additives.  The consistency seemed okay in that it could be spread fairly easily onto bread.  It wasn't too much of a dry taste but quite a earthy, wholesome one.  

I quite liked the texture, which I hadn't anticipated.  Although it is a smooth peanut butter, there are tiny little bits of nut in there.  For people with fragile teeth and who would ordinarily avoid crunchy versions, there's no need to worry.  
I liked it a lot and it made a nice change to the regular Sunpat.


This is simple, it is 100% peanuts.  


Is peanut butter good for you?  Does peanut butter make you fat?  You will not have any problems with the answers to these simple questions, providing you don't have it in excess.  It contains protein and the B vitamin folate which helps with cell health.  Yes, there is quite a lot of fat (oil) in peanut butter naturally.  this is monounsaturated fat and this is good for us, we do need it but in sensible quantities.

Comparing the nutritional values with Sunpat, there are close similarities.  This is unsurprising as even the Sunpat contains 95% peanuts.  The Meridian is slightly better with a higher fibre content, lower calories, less salt and less saturated fat.  To be honest, if you have a teaspoon of peanut butter each day, it's not going to affect you much one way or the other.  

Whereas Meridian is just peanuts, the Sunpat version contains E471 stabilizer, cane sugar, peanut oil and some sea salt.  Not too bad but if you want a reminder of what the E471 is..... mono-and diglycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate) an emulsifier.  


Yes, try some with your peanuts butter.  It brings some moisture to an otherwise dry sandwich filling.  A little bit like putting pickle on your cheese - it just works.


Do checkout the Meridian website click here

Rambling Games - Day Two - Tennis

Sunday may be a day of rest but after Church today the Ramblings family had signed up for Rambing Tennis. Underred by lack of tennis court or space to play we headed for Grandma's garden and the swingball game. I arrived late but got to play the winners of the previous rounds. Hannah umpired ("play properly Mummy") as I realised that left handed backhand and swingball were a difficult mix. Mr R was available for technical support and Becky clearly won the round. Having dodged the thunder showers we celebrated with a spot of gardening before the cycling keenies grabbed their bikes and headed home leaving Hannah and I to race ahead and prepare a hot meal for their return. Day three Mr Ramblings goes back to work so what can Team Rambling do next?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

65.9mph and time to review - Cateye Strada wireless

Don't be fooled by the maximum speed
A while ago I thought I'd do a review of my wireless Cateye Strada.   I generally like to review things over a longer term rather than base a review on mere first impressions.   This has coincided with a new maximum speed and I'll say something about that further on.

The Strada is fairly modest in the Cateye range, though not the most basic.  It is an entry level wireless cycle computer and gives useful information about a ride in order to be an interesting gadget.  The set up is conventional with a spoke fitting magnet which passes a small sensor unit attached to the front fork.  The unit itself is designed to fit onto the handlebars or, as I have done, onto the handlebar stem.  This has the advantage of keeping the handlebars available for one or two LED lights or maybe a Satnav.

The unit itself is fairly small and unobtrusive, especially in black.  It is commonly available in black, white and, if you're lucky, one or two other designs.  Cost is around £40.


Allow about 30 minutes from out of the box to functioning on the bars.  It's pretty straight forward, instructions are okay and you don't need to be a bicycle mechanic to do this; just don't rush it.  Very helpfully, Cateye publish their instruction manuals online (click here) as it is all too easy to lose the instructions.  Believe me, I could not have managed without the online help when I changed the batteries.

It is also worthwhile to measure the exact circumference of your front wheel in order to programme the unit.  You can, of course, use Cateye's guide settings and you can have confidence in these.  However, tyres of exactly the "same" size do vary from one manufacturer to another and if you want a really accurate read-out, why not use the most accurate settings?

What does it do?

The large digit is the current speed and can be set for either mph or kph.
The secondary read out toggle between:
  • clock time
  • cycling time*
  • trip distance*
  • distance 2 (an odometer which can be reset)
  • average speed*
  • maximum speed*
  • odometer
*these can be re-set simply by pressing down on the bottom edge for a few seconds.  This is quite good to do for each journey.

The distance 2 feature is quite a thoughtful touch.  It could be used as a slightly longer term trip distance.  So, for example you could use it to record how far you cycled during a cycle tour or perhaps during a year.

What is it like to use?

Overall, it's good.  Would I buy one again?  Probably not but only because I find the secondary numbers are too small without my glasses.  In most other respects it is great, especially for the price.

One of the nice things about Cateye is the availability of spares.  You could also purchase a second fitting kit if you have a second bike and it can be switched across easily.  You can see in the above display the is a letter A.  This could denote bike A and then switch it across to Bike B if required.  Other spares are available.

Once the initial setting up is complete, it's a complete doddle.  There is just one "button" i.e. the bottom edge which operates everything.  Other buttons are tucked away underneath and are only used during installation.

I did notice on one occasion it wasn't picking up a signal.  It was only because the sensor had been knocked out of place.  

It is in obtrusive and arguably less likely to attract a thief - useful if you leave your bike in a vulnerable area.

Once I'd had it for 18 months the display began to fade so I replaced the batteries and it's been fine since.  How Long the batteries last depends on their use and how long the unit was sitting in a shop waiting to be solved.  I replaced the sensor unit's battery at the same time, although there was no sign of it fading.

It's good fun and brings an interest to my cycling.  It does do cadence (pedal turns per minute) or pick up your heart rate.  Both of these features are catered for by Cateye but in the form of more upmarket models.


Yes, I too was surprised at this. Alas no, I was not doing 65.9mph or anywhere near it and I'm sure I would remember that.  So maybe some kind of article could have been written about this but for now it's a mystery and I have no explanation.  It's only happened once, never before..

Let the Rambling Games commence! - Cycling

After a late night watching the opening ceremony it must have been lack of sleep that caused me to suggest we hold our own Rambling Olympics. Taking our inspiration from the sports of the day we could join in. Mr Ramblings doesn't miss a trick and before we knew it we had all signed up to being active. Ideas for events flowed thick and fast with the first being to support our cycling teams by heading
for the forest and the course around Marston Mortain. "I'm no cyclist" I announced to the bike hire staff, "but if I'm going to keep up with my family I need a bike". They happily obliged with a fine selection and I'd just picked my favourite when the girls arrived clutching Poppy. "get one with a basket, Mum". Poppy was not impressed and, after a spin round the block, we acknowledged she was an accident waiting to happen. Undeterred, the bike staff offered their dog trailer (we need more customers like you they grinned) and so I ended up with the only bike that would fit the trailer. Waving a sad farewell to my dream bike with the armchair saddle we were off with Poppy in tow. Let the Rambling Games commence!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Birthday Bike project continues

Flipflops and Crocs: the new cycling accessory?  Hope not!

 Just a quick update on Becky's birthday bike project.... we've had a tyre changing lesson having splashed out on a pair of Continental 4 Season 700x25 tyres and new tubes.  The old ones, while just about rideable, were cracking having been sitting unused since the last century.  We've also replaced the original Shimano 600 brake levers (which will be on eBay soon) as they were a bit awkward and too big.  They have been replaced by some nice Sram levers which are far superior in terms of their ergonomic design.

The bike is really nice an light.  The frame is made with Reynolds 531C throughout with reasonably light wheels (Campag / Mavic).  Next we'll replace the bottom bracket and get the gears sorted.

I should say that I'm pleased we invested in some puncture resistant tyres.  Fitting them was a real challenge and I had to resort to using a tyre lever to get the last bit of the bead over the rim.  I knew I ran the risk of pinching the tube but thankfully it was okay.  At least Becky knows the procedure, if not totally "hands on" for her.  It was one of those tender daughter / father times which I cherish so much.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A birthday "project"....

New cycling top co-ordinating well with her PJs
Many 14 year old girls get make-up, iPhones and clothes for their birthday.

Here's our eldest daughter Becky with a birthday "project".  It is an Argos frame (as in the Bristol bespoke frame builder) and is older than her by several years.  I bought it from our friends Wallie and Angela who I think were happy to let us have it knowing it was going to a new home.  It'll certainly get plenty of use.

While it is rideable, it does need some TLC.  Just had the bearings regreased at the LBS.  As the usual mechanic is on his holiday, we have been dealt with by someone else in the shop who charged me £10 for ball bearings, in addition to the labour.  When I queried this he explained "well I did use caged bearings" which to my mind just makes it even worse!  The bottom bracket is shot; it goes from being tight to loose in 90 degrees.  The Campag hubs will, of course, last forever.

So soon we'll have a bike repair workshop on the go and further blog posts to follow....

Monday, 23 July 2012

Benefits of local honey

Everyone knows that honey is good for you.  Almost everyone likes it.  Just some people know local honey is particularly good for you.  Why?  Read on....

Many people suffer from allergies these days.  Often these are perfectly natural, like hay fever which is an allergic reaction to pollen in the air.  These allergies can be a pain-in-the-neck but for most people it is no more than a small irritation.  Other allergies can be caused by dust, mould spores and other microscopic particles floating around in the atmosphere.  

By eating small but regular amounts of honey which is produced locally, it is very straight forward to build up an immunity to local hay fevers and other allergic reactions.

Raw honey has been used for thousands of years as a sweetener in food and drink; a good natural sweet taste.  Other qualities include having an anti inflammatory action, soothing respiratory problems

As pollens are relatively local, raw honey can help to treat respiratory problems because it has anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, qualities.  It is also said to have various anti cancer qualities which can inhibit the growth of some tumours.

Aside from the health benefits, supporting your local suppliers helps keeps them and their army of bees going - which I think is pretty important and collectively we should be supporting folks like C. Gorski.

Arguably the best benefit overall it that is it has a wonderful taste!

Inspiration from Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins
Source: Getty Images

No cycling blog could ordinarily be complete without mention of yesterday's exciting conclusion of the 2012 Tour de France with UK's Bradley Wiggins winning.

Wouldn't  it be a wonderful thing if the spectacular achievement by Wiggins inspires some younger children to follow in his tyre tracks.  If not by the Tour de France itself then perhaps by the forthcoming Olympic Games, here in the UK in just a few days time.

This victory is historic for the UK and congratulations must go to Wiggins and all of the Sky Team.  I'm not a TV sports fan but I can tell you I saw the highlights on TV with much enthusiasm, there on the very edge of my seat!  Wiggins comes across as an ordinary bloke without any sense of self importance or elitism; that must be another quality to admire him and his achievement for.

There is absolutely no doubt, as a nation we must become more active in the light of such compelling evidence from the health problems we are storing up for ourselves in this country.  Just take a look at the rise of obesity levels alone:
obesity UK
It appears to be almost relentless and a huge public health issue.  As if the general upward trend was bad enough, just consider the more troubling rise of obesity in children, as if anyone should be surprised by that.  If the number one priority of any parent is to care for and nurture their children, this must be a wake-up call.

The horrendous spectre of UK obesity
Active parents = active kids

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Lost in the Cotswolds, again

Wallie and his odd socks somewhere in the Cotswolds
Maybe it's the effect of Wallie wearing odd socks.  Perhaps it was the unusual sight of the sun going to our heads or Wallie's complete aversion to riding along any kind of A road, especially the A40 as it runs through the Cotswolds.  We took a few wrong turns which, considering the Cotswolds are a fairly compact area and where we have cycled many times before, is a bit of a mystery.  We nevertheless found ourselves looking at the map quite a few times.

Normally I like to cycle and run on my own.  I do this for all kinds of reasons but the most important is having some space and time to myself and being able to think a few things through, to work through problems and other things bugging me.  However, going for a bike ride with an old friend like Wallie is different.  We've known each other since the early 1980s and enjoyed many things in common: cycling being the one that has stood the test of time most of all.

There's something nice about meeting up with a friend and ambling around country lanes, not racing each other or trying to out-do each other.  No, just enjoying each other's company.  Naturally we do our Victor Meldrew impressions but of course we're far too young to be grumpy old men.

This is something we do once or twice a year.  Each of us taking a day from our respective work and driving from opposite directions to meet in Burford.  Burford, by the way, is an absolutely ideal base for a day's ride around.

Those miles just drifted by as we talked, chatted or just listened to the sound of our bikes whirring away as we ambled our way along.  Not that we were alone as the only cyclists about.  Each time we do this we seem to spot more and more which, for me, is a real encouragement.  This is such a great way of getting some exercise because it doesn't feel like it at all: there must always be a place for a gentle amble in any training or exercise regime, surely.

A new tradition is also developing as we do this.  Once we've finished our ride we treat ourselves to afternoon tea in a Burford cafe.  All very nice but to be honest, a bit of a rip off.  Next time we'll do something different but still frightfully nice, what o?

Mid summer night ride
Another great day in the Cotswolds
Cycling at night
Autumn cycle ride in the Cotswolds

Saturday, 14 July 2012

LBS -v- Wiggle, Evans, Chain Reaction.....

I think it is quite a tricky thing sometimes trying to decide between supporting a handful of Local Bike Shops  (LBSs) or enjoying the likes of Wiggle, Chain Reaction, Evans and so on.

The nice thing about the mail order gang is the convenience of being able to browse through a gigantic store which is full of everything (almost) you could ever need for cycling (Wiggle also do running gear, amongst other sports) and then place your order.    Then, as we all know, it turns up a few days later: couldn't be easier.

Right now the balance is tipping away from its normal neutral position and swinging towards one of my LBSs.  Here's why.  I popped in this afternoon for a couple of stainless steel bolts.  The only ones they had were too long.

"No problem" Ian said, I'll cut them down for you.  And so he did, plus finishing them off on his grinding wheel to keep the thread in tact.  All free of charge.  He knows that while he's giving away something, he also knows I'll be back to spend money there in the future.  He's pretty knowledgeable about all kinds of things in the cycling world and we shouldn't forget the skills in being able to undertake repairs and servicing pretty quickly.

I am fortunate in having a well positioned couple of LBSs nearby plus others not for from my office and I know that's not the case for all my readers.  Could be that for many in the UK all they can access is a Halfords which might struggle to be described as a LBS.

With so many High Streets going through a tough time alongside Wiggle et al bringing lots of competition, it's a tough choice sometimes.  So, which do you prefer?  LBS or Wiggle?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

This evening's rainy bike ride

I haven't cycled much lately, what with one thing and other.  In seeking a bit of inspiration I watched the Tour de France highlights on TV this evening (first time for many, many years) and couldn't resist going for a quick blast afterwards.

It was raining.  I hesitated.

"Becky, do you think I should run, cycle or stay in?"

"Go for a bike ride Dad".

"And you Hannah, what's your view?"

Hannah replied (with her daft question look) "Bike"

"Rachel?" I gently enquired.

"You decide" was the firm reply.

And so it was.  Quickly changed and I was off.  Just a quick blast covering 8 miles in the rain and I loved it, almost following my favourite hilly running route, but not quite.

Here's a few highlights:

  1. hardly any cars on the road once outside the town
  2. at one point the road was flooded.  I couldn't go into the middle of the road because I was about to be overtaken.  As I hit the water it was so deep it felt as if I'd pulled the brakes on hard
  3. a car then overtook and showered me with a huge deluge. For half a second I was annoyed and then I felt exhilarated!
  4. clocked 39mph on a fast downhill stretch
  5. got reminded of how versatile the Thorn Audax really is
  6. felt fabulous

Some lowlights:

  1. reminded that my Montane Featherlite jacket is NOT waterproof
  2. my Specialized Sonoma shoes soak up so much water it's like wearing diving boots
  3. forgot brakes don't work very well in the wet....

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Fairhaven Wholefoods, Letchworth

We knew of this place from our friends Rachel and Steve who had mentioned it a while back.  Since we were in the area a few days ago, it was worth checking out.  I had a feeling there was a blog-posting-ramble in the pipeline, so here goes:

First impressions
Fairhaven Wholefoods is an independently owned shop in Letchworth, Hertfordshire.  It's a "one off" and not part of a chain and I do like this kind of shop!

Finding it was not too difficult even though it's in a bit of an unlikely place - on a trading estate with lots of other small businesses around them.  A great feature is plenty of free parking and we just pulled up outside and walked a few yards to the door.  None of this tricky supermarket manoeuvring around random minded trolleys, Mrs Lard with her 99 kids, tiny spaces in which you are almost guaranteed to drive away with another scratch on your car or even the dreaded car parking charge.  No, you just drive up and park outside.  Simple as that.

What's inside?
The shop is dedicated to whole foods and geared up to the vegan or vegetarian.  You can see from the above photograph, it's a fairly basic shop with few frills.  Amazingly they stock over 3000 different lines - wow!

Browsing around was really interesting in a few different ways.  Firstly there were loads of things I didn't recognise and a fair few things I had no idea they even existed in the first place.  Perhaps the most unexpected find was a range on underwear made from bamboo.  Yes, that's right, bamboo.  Amazingly soft.  No, I didn't try them on!  These have intrigued me and so you never know, they may feature some other time.  Helpfully there's a wide range of leaflets, flyers, recipes and other things from local organisations available.

There's a wide range of wholefoods on offer; right from organic fruit and vegetables through to local honey, nuts, interesting teas and a great range of Ecover which includes larger sizes and the option of saving money by returning the original container for a refill.

There are various top brand natural health remedies on sale together with gluten free, dairy free and wheat free ranges.  The range of things on offer was impressive.  Amongst the things we couldn't resist was a jar of local honey (a later blog post?), a block of beeswax, a funny kind of novelty hat which caught Hannah's eye (she now looks like a green frog) and a good selection of sprouting seeds.

You might be thinking all this organic healthy food is too expensive and you'd rather support the questionable Tesco or Asda.  Think again.  Interestingly it doesn't seem too bad, particulalry as you can buy larger quantities of some foods there - muesli, chopped dates and dried beans amongst many others.  We all know that buying in bulk normally works out cheaper and involves less packaging and less hassle.

Speaking of less hassle
It is a long time since I have been into any kind of food shop and been able to just amble my way around, looking at this and that.  The whole atmosphere is unhurried; you go at your pace and you are very unlikely to encounter any trolley rage or argey-bargey with other customers.

The staff are only too happy to help.  While I didn't have any queries, I got the impression they'd go that extra mile to help.  When we got to the check-out I accepted the kind offer of packing everything into a cardboard box rather than a plastic carrier bag (sounds very environmentally friendly to me!).  It was then I was asked "can I carry it out to your car?".  Now that's good service.

They go further: there's a delivery service operating as well but we didn't need to try that out.  You might assume it is just a small local delivery service, just within a 3 mile radius.  Not so, just check their website and I was surprised to see they cover quite a wide area.  That's cool.

Who owns Fairhaven?
While I was there, I got talking to Neil Timms, the proprietor. It is his business and bought it as a going concern a few years back.  Neil explained he's a local man and before buying the business he was a regular customer.

It was while he was having a spell as a house husband, away from the busy cut throat world of IT in London he spotted the opportunity when the business was up for sale and bought it.   Instantly my mind took me off into those very realms myself: I can tell you working for an arm of the Ministry of Justice is great but there comes a time when leaving all those hassles behind is so tempting.

So really I admire Neil.  He not only comes across as a very socialable, friendly person with a good approach to business but I really admire him for taking that step.  There must have been an element of risk but one which looks like it's proving a welcome and worthwhile step for the wholefood community around Letchworth.

This makes such a welcome down-to-earth change from supermarkets which are increasingly growing almost everywhere in the UK.  To come across a shop that is independent, operates a fairtrade ethical approach with no frills is so welcome.  Yes the shop is basic (I bet it's a bit chilly in the winter) but you're not paying for huge shareholder dividends or Limos for the boss.

Finally, this is where they are, so you can pay them a visit yourself....
Fairhaven Wholefoods Ltd
27 Jubilee Trade Centre
Letchworth Garden City
Herts. SG6 1SP

Tel 01462 675300


Monday, 9 July 2012

Care for a Brooks B17 Saddle

A Brooks B17 saddle will last for decades if looked  after .
Regular readers will know I have two bikes and each has a Brooks B17 saddle.  I think they are very comfortable, timeless, good looking (if somewhat eccentric) and long lasting.  Like a good pair of shoes, they do need some care to maintain the leather in tip top condition and ensure it remains comfortable.  This is my approach (and very similar to the official Brooks instructions):

Buy some Proofhide

This is the only leather dressing Brooks sell or recommend.  Whilst it might be possible to use alternatives, I don't know what there is to gain.  A tin costs £7.95 and lasts for years.

Apply Proofhide underneath the saddle liberally when the saddle is new.  It is easy to do this before it if fitted to the bike.  Don't polish it off, simply allow it to soak in and feed the leather.  Also apply a smear of proofhide to the top of the saddle frequently when the saddle is new.  Use a clean soft piece of cloth and allow it to dry off over night.  Remember to "buff" it before you ride it - just like polishing a pair of shoes.

Buy a tension spanner

Again, it is not impossible to find another way of completing this task, it is easier when you have the right tool for the job.  

When a saddle is new, it needs to be tensioned fairly often in the early stages.  I used the spanner and turned the tensioning nut one quarter of a turn every two or three weeks.  It might be tempting to do more but you run the risk of stretching the saddle too much and too far.  Just take it easy - if you over tension the saddle, it won't shrink back so please be conservative with it.

Once the saddle has "broken in" and moulded itself to your shape, it will be a really comfortable saddle that should be a joy to own.  This will take a few hundred miles to gradually complete this process.  Once it is broken in, I think only very occasionally should you ever need to tension the saddle.  Remember to only turn the nut by 90 degrees at a time.  

Keep it dry

It is best if the saddle can be kept dry and so you might want to consider protecting it if it's likely to be left outside for any length of time - i.e. at a campsite, on a car rack etc. If it does get wet, let it dry out naturally - NEVER use a hair dryer or anything like that.  If you do, you might as well buy a new saddle!  Also, if at all possible, try to avoid using it if it is very wet.  Once dry, that should be a prompt to give the top a smear with Proofhide.

Experiment with the position of the saddle

This takes a little while in my experience to get right.  It involves a bit of trial-and-error and well worth persevering with - getting the tilt right along with the forward / backward position.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Running socks are important

X Socks are great but there are others

If you run you probably have some running shoes, or at least you should.  But what about your socks?  Do you run in your ordinary socks, the ones you'd wear for normal use?  Maybe you use some sports socks that look good with a pair of trainers?  How about some proper running socks?

It is very easy to think it's just hype.  Just when you've paid out £70 - £90 on your first pair of running shoes and you're asked by the shop assistant if you'd like to have some socks as well - at £10 a go it might seems expensive.  Please read on....

What's their job?

Every time you run for an hour, you take over 10,000 steps.  Each step involves the foot in a complicated movement which comes naturally to us as humans because our design is fantastic.  As we wear shoes to run, the "interface" with our feet needs to be managed so we don't become uncomfortable through being hot, sweaty, having blisters or a whole range of other potential problems.

What are they?

Running socks are made up of many parts and are amazingly complicated to make, probably why they cost about £10 a pair.  Good running socks will never be made from cotton.  The problem with cotton is that it will absorb sweat and become damp and soggy.  This can cause blisters and any rub point.  If you've had blisters, you'll know they are bad news.

The construction of a good pair of socks allows for ventilation, strong areas in key parts (heel, toe etc) and elasticated parts to keep it in place.

Ideally they should be without any seams in order to avoid any rubbing and allow them to fit well.  They need to be hard wearing - my X Socks last over 1000 miles (i.e. they will out last two pairs of running shoes).

Experiment if necessary

I reckon it sometimes takes a bit of trial-and-error to get the right shoe / sock combination.  It's worth investing in two or three different types to find which ones are best for you.  Maybe once you have found the ideal sock, buy a supply.  Besides, it helps to have a few in circulation so they can be washed after each run and to extend their lifespan.


I have tried those tiny socks that are almost invisible when you're wearing a pair of running shoes.  So far these have been a waste of time and money: they don't stay in place well enough.

Why I think they are important

We place a real strain on our feet when we run and so often we are not accustomed to this, through our mostly sedentary lifestyles.  It is easy for our feet to have problems and having a proper pair of running shoes and socks is one thing we can do to minimise problems.  Considering they will last the life of two pairs of running shoes, they are not really expensive after all.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

MK Marathon 2013

I see it has been announced next year's Milton Keynes marathon is on Monday 6th May 2013.

That is really important because it gives plenty of notice for even non-runners and enough notice to take part in this attractive course.

Another reason why it's important is because it is on a Monday (a Bank holiday) and any race being on a Monday is really unusual.   It's also fantastic news for Christians who might have understandable reservations about running on a Sunday.

Right now there is any early bird discount but I'm going to leave it until I know for sure we can do it.  Food for thought....?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Guest Blog - Natasha - The Nourishing Road

Here's a very welcome addition to my Guest Blogs.  Anyone taking part in sport knows hydration is important and that applies before, during and after your exercise.  Myself, I feel a little ignorant on these matters and I hope to enlighten myself during the summer months and so here's a helpful first instalment.  It's written by our good family friend and fellow blogger Natasha.  click here  for her excellent blog.  You'll see it's all about  nutrition....

Exercise is fun.

Yeah, I love Footie Mama!

OK, so Charlie (my son) doesn't speak yet...but we totally know he LOVES football!
hummm...that's a lot of running about! Boy am I tired.

This way Dad...I need a drink.

Even a 12 month old knows dehydration isn't fun. When Doug asked me to write him a blog post, I thought I'd do a little research into hydration drinks.

Water. Lucozade. Milk. Juice. What should we be drinking?

Recently - although it's already starting to seem like a distant memory - we had some good weather. We relaxed in the garden, went to the beach and soaked up some serious vitamin D. Sun makes for a happy time, but almost from nowhere dehydration strikes. Ever had it? Feeling sick, faint, headaches, dry skin, dizziness... Well put it this way, it's not nice and actually very unnecessary with the right tonic.

Here's what I fixed for my family (all expect Charlie, who gets the benefit of natures perfect food): 

1 glass of a liquid. Now in the ideal word this would be a naturally fermented beverage. But we just had water, raw milk or even some freshly pressed juice.
1 teaspoon honey. Only add this if using water.
1 pinch of Real Salt (I buy Celtic salt or Himalayan rock salt, which contain electrolytes and all the wonderful minerals)

To get even more technically. Here is a homeopathic drink from the website: .http://homeopathyworks.wordpress.com/

• 16 pills of Bioplasma (from your health food store)
• 16 pills of Nat sulph 6x (from your health food store)
• ¼ cup acidophilus bifidus yogurt or kefir
•1/4-1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
• Maple syrup or raw honey, to taste (not too sweet)
• 1 teaspoon Celtic salt
• ½ cup coconut milk (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a gallon container and fill to the top with ice water.  Shake well.
Mildly sour, with a hint of sweetness.  Remember to shake before each drink.

When we work hard, sunbathe or exercise we are using up sugars, electrolytes and liquids through perspiration. Therefore the drinks mentioned above, will be absorbs faster and remain in our systems much longer than plain water. Of course we might turn to Lucozade. But, made from synthetic and manufactured particles, Lucozade causes the body to work hard to restore hydration. This in turn will deplete the bodies reserves.[1]

I hope this is of some use (especially if the sun comes out to play again). Let me know if you have ever made your own sports drinks, and how you found them?

1] Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon page 585

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Church picnic 2012

It's now turning into a bit of a tradition at our church to have a picnic sometime in the summer, straight after a Sunday morning service.  Now to put things in context, you have to remember we're talking picnics in the English summer and there being no guarantee of a dry day.  We have had our fair share of soggy sandwiches and grumpy kids but this year it all came together so nicely. 

These are the ingredients:

Church service as normal
+ Reminder for everyone about picnic
+ Free lunch for anyone who has forgotten, didn't know etc
+ Promise of lift there 
+ AND back
+ Just 7 or 8 miles each way
+ Raindrops on window - sermon extended - hmmmmm
+ Fire alarm drill afterwards - gets everyone out efficiently
+ About 100+ people drive
+ About 10+ people cycle
+ Pastor spotted with knotted handkerchief on balding head
= a good time for everyone

Being together

Being together or "fellow-shipping" in church lingo is a good thing to do and particularly nice to be in beautifully relaxed surroundings.  A chance also to chat to new people, or maybe with those where there's not been much opportunity recently.

People watching

I like doing this.  After we'd all scoffed our picnic lunches, a game of rounders got organised.  Unfortunately I was too engrossed in chatting to secure a place in a team but it was good to watch nevertheless.  This was probably to everyone's relief as I know I'd be hopeless.  You know there's quite a few cool batters (is that the right word?) with one or two shots going so high and far you'd wonder whether anyone would ever find the ball.  Then there's the "trip up an elder" challenge.... elders is another church term for leader in the church.  They don't have to be elderly men but funnily enough they're grey or greying.  Still a good sport to watch!

That tandem!

The centre of attraction this year was Andrew's tandem.  Everyone wanted a go with shrieks of laughter as people wobbled away.  We were not immune from this....
Hannah, Poppy and myself having a spin on Andrew's tandem!

Why don't more people (Christians) cycle?

On the picnic last year, I cycled there myself (and the first to arrive!) and this year there were about 10 -15 of us.  That was brilliant!  So, next year.....?  We'll wait and see.

Cycling seems such a lovely way to travel to church - a simple, easy and reflective thing to do, no fuss or hassle.  Great for the whole family to do.  I know bicycles don't get a mention in the Bible but there must be some principle there to say cycling is a good thing to do - travelling under your own steam in a thrifty kind of way.  Surely....?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Sorry for not blogging lately

Hannah and myself on a friend's tandem

I am really sorry for not being able blog about my ramblings; June has been quite a hectic month.  As you may have picked up from a recent post, we did do the C2C ride which was good fun.  Family life, trying to stay on top of a prolifically growing garden and work (now including longer commuting times) have all distracted me.  But, but I have carried on with some running and a little cycling - just enough to maintain some level of fitness.

You now, one of the effects of not being quite so active is those old stress levels starting to rise a little.

I have some blog posts lined up including a Guest Blog from our friend Natasha who blogs about nourishing food.  I have some other posts whirling around in my mind.  So with a bit of determination and no planned trips away from home, I hope to resume my normal rambling now.

Besides, I got reminded of all those good reasons to keep blogging by today's post from Tejvan Pettinger's excellent Cycling Info blog (on why write a cycling blog).