Monday, 27 August 2012

Running update with gravel for breakfast

Just realised I've not blogged or rambled much about running lately, so here's a little update but first of all, here's my super healthy breakfast to impress you with:

I must admit I've taken running a little easier than normal since the Milton Keynes 2012 marathon having kept myself ticking over with a 7.5 mile run at the weekend and one or two shorter runs on weekdays if I get the chance.  Now that the summer is starting to fade I've got my eye on a couple of races in the autumn and will need to start stepping up the mileage for these.  So two days ago I did my 7.5 mile run, then 4 miles yesterday and both involved huffing and puffing up a couple of steep hills (this is a brilliant thing to do) but today I turned back early.  This is something I seldom ever do.

Why? After a mile or two I could feel my knees complaining a little and the last thing I wanted to do is cause an injury.  I know from past experience I normally need a days' rest between runs to recover.  This is me rationalising it.  Building mileages up slowly is the key here and it applies to new as well as more experienced runners.  But don't worry, I've been clocking up a good few miles on the bike including some commutes to the office - 42 miles round trip.

Okay, it's breakfast time.  Just in case you're wondering what's in store for me.... "a bowl of gravel" as Rachel puts it so lovingly.  It really is mega healthy although fellow blogger Natasha and her The Nourishing Road is often urging us to eat more fat.  My gravel, today, contains muesli, wheat germ, ground flaxseed, a few sunflower and pumpkin seeds, a nectarine and some natural yogurt.  No milk, just mixed with tap water to soften the gravel a little.  My smoothie today is pineapple, apple, banana and coconut millk.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Upgrading brake cables

Becky learning about handlebar moustaches
The main bug-bear with Becky's bike, her Birthday Bike Project in the form of a vintage Argos 531c bike, is the brakes being too stiff and awkward.  Our first step was to replace the levers with some well designed Sram levers which are of considerable ergonomic advantage for petite hands.  These new levers were certainly and improvement on the original Shimano 600 levers but still the brakes weren't easy for Becky to handle.

We talked this over in the LBS who suggested some better cables and this made sense.  We got some KBLE inner cables (they're French) and some new outers which are lined.  The cables are actually stainless steel and feel considerably smoother than the normal cables.  The plastic lined outer cable made the new KBLEs very smooth, especially with a little dribble of Dry Lube. Click here for this cable on Wiggle.

Carrying out this little upgrade was pretty straight forward and you might remember from previous posts that Becky is expected to learn about bikes as we gradually upgrade the bike.  Our first step was unravelling the handlebar tape in order to access the old cables.  It was at this point Becky acquired her new (handlebar?) moustache and at that point I realised we weren't going to have a serious bike lesson - but who cares?  Cycling needs to be full of enjoyment for a 14 year old girl who is gaining confidence in her own abilities on the bike; why get her bogged down in the technicalities and end up putting her off cycling?

This upgrade cost less than £10 and has made a real difference to the ease and smoothness of the brakes.  The previous cables , although new, were cheap, rough and unlined which then contributed to the brakes being hard to pull.  I think getting the length of the outer cable is important so the curves in the outer as it bends itself from the handlebars need to be a gradual curve, not too tight.

While this upgrade appears to have been an improvement, it's still not perfect as the springs in the callipers (Shimano 600) are very strong but I think this is about as good as it gets.  I'd really recommend this as a fairly cheap way of upgrading your brakes.  In any event, the older and drier a cable is, the higher the chance that the nipple will eventually break away so an upgrade like this is almost routine serving.
Peeling off the handlebar tape
threading the new cables through the levers

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Is it safe to run alone?

I never feel worried or unsafe about running on my own.  Sure, I've had a few falls and trips but nothing too serious.  This business of tripping up is, for me, probably the biggest threat but in reality I know it's not likely to be a serious risk in terms of likelihood or consequence.  Other risks to safety can also be from "natural" hazards like being chased by cattle, slipping on ice, being struck by lightening or some kind of attack or abuse from other people, animals etc.  This morning on my favourite 7.5 mile hilly run I managed to startle a large dog who was being taken for a walk by a small petite woman.  The dog leapt up at me and I pushed it away; the woman was very apologetic and I too apologised for making the dog jump.  No harm done.

I have made the concession of taking a mobile phone when I go running, it fits neatly into the small zipped pocket on my shorts.

As I said, I feel safe from any kind of attack or assault when I run and here's why:

  • I normally run in the early morning.  Few dodgy people are around.
  • Most muggers operate in urban areas, not in rural areas
  • I don't have a tempting iPhone strapped to my arm
  • Many muggers (and the like) are most likely to be fast asleep at that time
  • I run with confidence and not afraid to look people 'in the eye'
For me it's about showing an air of confidence and behaving in a purposeful way that has served me well in many different situations.  The same applies to running and here's a few further thoughts:

  • Knowing the area or neighbourhood is important.  From that you can apply some common sense about what you're likely to expect. 
  • Try to avoid looking lost, even if you are.
  • Dodgy people don't have horns growing out of their heads.  First impressions and your "gut feel" are important in judging people but bear in mind it is difficult to tell if someone is a threat just from their appearance. If you see another runner, don't automatically assume they're not a threat
  • Make sure you let someone know roughly where you're going and when to expect you back
  • If you do run in neighbourhoods that concern you, consider taking a personal alarm.  If you can take a dog for a run so much the better.  This is assuming you don't have a tiny lap dog called Cuddles.
  • If you listen to music as you run, you're not going to be as aware of things going on around you (including someone running up behind you) and it could be a reason to steal from you
  • Maybe think about what you're wearing and whether it might attract the wrong kind of attention but in any event you have the right to wear exactly what you want regardless of what anyone else thinks
  • Carry some form of identification
Keep things in perspective.  The odds of anything untoward happening must be tiny but it does depend on the neighbourhood you live in or the terrain you run over.  You'll know what it's like and can plan accordingly.  For me, I'd say it's important to keep things in perspective but don't completely ignore thinking about your own personal safety.  

Dealing with squeaks, rattles and other irritating noises

Although I know how a bike works and appreciate a nice smooth running bike, I'm not always quick to react when something might be wrong.  I should know better and yet I don't want to become a bike nerd and get preoccupied with the mechanics too much.

Nevertheless a new noise started on my bike and gradually became louder over the last 100 miles.  At first I thought (and hoped) it was nothing more than my keys rattling in the saddle bag.  I eliminated that along with making sure nothing else was rattling in the bag.  The rattling, ticking noise continued and seemed to get louder.  I knew it was nothing to do with the pedals, bottom bracket or the chain as it was there all the time.  It didn't seem to be affected by the road surface (i.e. smooth Hertfordshire or rough Buckinghamshire) and I was starting to think it might be connected to the rear hub, as that it where the noise seemed to be coming from.  I ignored it for a little, wishfully hoping it might fade away but I knew that was stupid of me to be in denial.  Get a grip Doug.

I took the back wheel out having checked there was no obvious side-to-side play.  I turned the axle and to my delight it was as smooth as it could possibly be (BTW these hubs are Miche RG2 as recommended by the LBS and they're brilliant).  I checked a few other things and was still puzzled.

Then I remembered an old trick I learnt back into the 1980s about this.  IN fact it is what any cyclist should do before going for a bike ride:

  1. Lift the bike up off the ground, by about 10cm.
  2. Let go and drop the bike onto the floor and listen.
  3. Does it sound right?  Does it clatter and rattle?
  4. If it does, repeat dropping the bike but perhaps one wheel at a time until you find the problem
  5. Feel the tyres to make sure they are as hard as they should be and be confident you haven't got a puncture.
  6. Go for your cycle ride
Had I gone through these steps myself, I would have realised instantly a mudguard stay was rubbing against the rear pannier rack.  Fixing it took five seconds, that's all.  If only I'd done that first, instead of cycling for 100 miles and almost talking myself into buying new bearings etc for the rear hub.

Isn't life a bit like this sometimes?  We can go through life with little niggles and we can hope they'll go away. They rarely do on their own and procrastinating often leads to the issue becoming worse still over a period of time.  All too easily we can be our own worst enemies and yet it doesn't have to be like that at all.  Once again I hear myself say "Get a grip Doug".

Hey, what about you?  Do you stay on top of those niggling rattles on your bike (and maybe in life) or deal with them promptly.  I'd love to hear a few views on this..... please leave a comment below for me.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Review - Raleigh Outback SPD type pedal

My daughter has treated herself to a pair of these pedals for her Birthday Bike Project.  She went into our LBS and selected a pair of shoes, having tried on every conceivable pair (at least twice), walked around in them, looked in the mirror and negotiated the price.  According to Rachel (Mrs Ramblings) it took ages.  Much quicker was the selection of the pedals with the friendly LBS man saying "you can have the lot for £75".  We'll do a review on the shoes soon but in the meantime, we're not too sure about these pedals.

To put them in context, the ticket price is £29.99 and are distributed by Raleigh  and manufactured in Taiwan.  I don't think SPD compatible pedals come very much cheaper than that very often.  They are double sided, with adjustable spring tension and come complete with a pair of cleats.  The box says they have "smooth running ball bearings" which we may dispute a little.  One side is perfect, the other is a little on the rough side but I'm sure that'll wear in quickly.  The price is curious in a way.  By the time you take off 20% VAT, bear in mind the LBS will probably make around £8 to £10 profit, Raleigh themselves will take a slice, someone will pay for the cost of shipping them half way around the world.  Then there's the packaging and the ex-factory price.  No one is getting rich out of these pedals.  The actual cost of making these must be very little.

Becky seems to have adapted very well to using them and fully recognises the benefits of this type of clipless pedals.  All good stuff.

Then, out of curiosity, I thought I would try these myself, while wearing my own SPD compatible Specialized Sonoma shoes.  They snapped in with the familar click alright but it was less easy to get out.  Twisting my heal outwards was simple enough but then I realised the technique required pulling my foot slightly backwards.  This is a little unnerving and on closer examination of the pedals the metal guide that guards the cleats in is more pronounced.

Would we buy these again?  Probably not but they do work in a satisfactory manner but  without setting the world on fire

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Pumping up bike tyres

Every cyclist needs one of these - a track pump - but not necessarily a Specialized one.

Problems from an over-inflated tyre

Tyres can be blown off the rim if the pressure is too high and this can occur in a few different ways.

Don't ever use one of those air lines at a petrol station for inflating tyres.  They pump air in too quickly for bicycle tyres.  Half a second too much and you could add 20psi too much.  Besides, the roller style gauges are renowned for being totally inaccurate.

Don't do as I did recently.  I fitted a new tyre onto my daughter's bike.  Pumped it up to the recommended 105psi and left it in the sun.  Ten minutes later there was a loud BANG just like someone firing a gun.  The tube burst and threw the tyre off the rim.  Could have been caused by the tyre not being seated properly, although I did check it while I was inflating the tyre.  I'll never know.

Lastly, imagine your tyre is pumped up to the recommended pressure.  It's a summers' day and you are freewheeling down a long steep hill.  Naturally you apply the brakes gently to keep a steady speed.  The friction of the pads on the rim can heat a rim and inner tube very quickly and thereby increasing the air pressure drastically.  I once knew someone who experienced this frightening accident.  What made it worse was it was the front tyre that exploded off the rim; which inevitably caused the tyre to instantly get jammed in the brake and launch the cyclist in flight over the handlebars.  Not recommended.

Problems from under inflated tyres

  • Getting punctures - under inflated tyres have more tyre in contact with the road and all the debris that's there and consequently increasing the chance of getting a puncture.  Hard tyres often seem to flick bits of gravel to the side.
  • Dents to the rim, rim going "out of true" - caused by a very soft tyre bottoming out on a kerb, stone or maybe a pothole
  • Losing control - if you have a soft tyre on the front wheel and hit a bit of rough road surface, it can easily lead to losing control if you're going fast
  • Increased tyre wear - as simple as that
  • More effort needed - you'll use more energy 
  • Taking the trouble to ensure your tyres are at the correct pressure will probably cause you to notice other things on the tyre.  This could include bits of glass working their way into the tyre, sidewall damage etc.

Track pumps

Having a track pump makes it so easy to bring your tyres up to the correct pressure.  With 700c tyres typically running at 100psi or more it's hard work to achieve this with an ordinary hand pump (like the kind you could carry on your bike).  With a track pump it's simple and needs hardly any effort.

Probably worth me commenting on this particular track pump and why it's important to buy one with care.  This is a few years old now, probably no longer sold and therefore no need for me to review it properly.  The main down side is that it feels a bit flimsy.  When you have your feet holding it firmly to the floor and you're pumping hard, make sure you pump straight down and not slightly sideways.  This is because it feels a bit flimsy, especially where the barrel joins the base.  It's not all bad.  The gauge is fairly accurate, it pumps efficiently  Specialized have given it an ergonomically well designed handle and the tube is generously long.  It works with Schrader (car type) and Presta valves.

Other track pumps worth "tracking" down

SKS Airkompressor 12.0:  not bad but still a little flimsy.
One23 Pressure+: works okay but cheap and cheaply made
Pedros Prestige: more expensive at £40 but durable.  Performance is adequate
Topeak Joe Blow Max HP: another short hose but effiicient
Leyyne Sport FD:  worth getting for good all-round performance and a quaint wooden handle.  Easiest to switch between value types.
Blackburn Air Tower 1: not bad at all for one at the cheaper end (£24.99) and a good brand

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

"Hills hurt, couches kill"

"Hills hurt, couches kill" is a quote that caught my eye from the amazing 39 stone cyclist, Gary Brennan.  If you're overweight, obese or even morbidly obese please do not give up.  Follow the link below which will take you to his blog and read his story.  Better still, follow his progress, be inspired and maybe even support him in his quest to help other people.

In his 30s he weighed in at over 39 stone which is roughly three times what he ought to have weighed.  Just imagine, weighing three times the weight you are now: unbelievable!  As you can imagine he was having some health issues and, according to his website, discussed with his Doctor the possibility of a gastric band operation.  In the end the surgeon said his situation was far too dire for such an operation like that.  Cutting a longer story short he didn't have the operation but instead bought a bike and started cycling.

You might say the rest is history, which it is but actually I think it's more that just that.  It is a story of a man whose now on a mission.  He's outspoken, loud, to-the-point and effective with it.  He's totally dedicated to losing weight, keeping it off and yet there's a side to him which is far from his normal brash in-your-face style In his blog he refers to people's demons, the fear of over eating and ending up where he started from.

In his blog and he's got a style all of his own, you can read about his progress, take in all his comments about his bikes, components as well as the ins and outs of cycling in busy urban environments.  Take a look, especially if you're on the edge of wanting to do something positive like lose weight and ride a bike.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Routine brake pad check

This is about the importance of taking a closer look at your bicycle.  As an example of why this is important, this morning I checked over my bike, I discovered there was an issue with the rear brakes on my Thorn Audax.

On one side there was a tiny bit of metal embedded into the brake pad.  This was enough to cause a horrible grinding noise which is why I took them off for a closer look
Note the vertical grooves: these are wear indicators
The brake pad on the other side shows how the pad was a little too big for the wheel rim.  As it gradually wore down, you can see how it was just starting to wear into the tyre.
Running horizontally is the wear line of the rim (not very worn at all)

These brake pads are manufactured by Shimano and are original equipment on my bike.  Their performance has been adequate but not outstanding at all.  It is, of course, worth bearing in mind other factors do make a difference: levers, cables, cable outers and of course the brake callipers themselves.

For a moment I felt rash and decided to buy some new pads even though they weren't completely worn out.  After all, in nearly 3,000 miles I have replaced one inner tube and now some brake pads; whatever next?  Heck, does this mean my bike is nearing the scrapheap?

For quickness I have bought another pair of Shimano pads (£10.99 from Evans) but will research alternatives that might be a bit better.

Cycling with children

Cycling with our two daughters is sometimes , shall we say, "interesting".  It's almost like their characters and outlook in life are being expressed through the way they cycle.  This can be seen from all kinds of different angles and perspectives and almost a reflection on life.  Might be worth exploring a little here, so let's see how this turns out....

Here's Hannah who's 12, our youngest daughter.  Not a keen cyclist by nature but wiling to have a go.  Determined to cycle at her own pace no matter what everyone else is doing - anyone who doesn't accept this may have to grapple with Hannah discarding her bike there and then and walking, possibly in the opposite direction.  It's fair to say you know where you are with Hannah!  Even when she was learning to ride her bike there was that solid independence - "you can show me what I need to do and then I'll work it out myself" with Hannah refusing any help in mastering the art of balancing.

Then there's the cute side of her - the smiley sticker on her helmet, the little animal stickers on her bike.  Who cares if she's covering up the upmarket manufacturer's logo.  There's a determined side as well, perhaps one of not wanting to be outdone by her elder sister in going up hills.  Hannah's technique is to plod along, allowing her sister to wear herself out by blasting up a hill in top gear.  Meanwhile Hannah ambles her way up the hill, slowly and in bottom gear.  They both arrive at the top at the same time and thoughts of the Hare and the Tortoise spring to mind.

Becky on the other hand is different.  She appears more at-one with a bike and has been a natural.  Now she has stepped into the world of road bikes I have difficulty in keeping up with her.  We wonder if she will become a future Victoria Pendleton.  Seeing her on a bike is seeing her full of ambition and youthfulness which needs capturing, nurturing and coaching to see where it may take her.

For Becky there's more of a sociable side to cycle: much less likely to ride alone for the joy of it but loves riding with others.  Like her sister, she has no concern about the mechanical side to a bike.  Just so long as it's a personable possession and does the job.  Thankfully no regard to the latest groupset or aerodynamic spoke design.

I put the idea to her a while ago about cycling competitively.  Having mulled it over there's now a little interest and I think there's a little potential there to be harnessed and see where it leads.  It's wonderful seeing that zest for life, that joy of rolling along through the countryside taking in all that is around, enjoying the experience.

Becky and Hannah are full of contrasts when compared to each other.  Both have their own characters and determination to do things their way and, to a certain extent, on their own terms.  Isn't life a bit like that - having to make yourself heard, sometimes to push yourself forward and yet to recognise times when you need to allow others to go first, to consider the "greater good" and what's best for the family or the team as a whole.  What parts do we as individuals have to play in a team, a family, a class, an office, a church group or simply our place in the world.

For me trying to pull all this together while we're on the road is like trying to herd a pair of playful kittens along.  I'll never get it right but trying is a wonderful thing each and every time.Every time we've been off together cycling, there are such precious memories and a life lesson on two wheels.

A London Skyride one or two years ago

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Malware warning!

If the word "cycling" on my strap line (above in the photograph, just under the title) is in red and underlined, please do not click on it.  It is some spurious survey and nothing to do with my blog.

Likewise, for the time being please be cautious of clicking the Fiona Outdoors link from "other blogs I like" as there appears to be a malware problem.

The joys of blogging!  Please don't be inhibited from reading anything else on my blog and visiting again.  Don't let some Scallywag spoil an interesting read.

If you can genuinely help me with a solution, please leave me with a comment.  Many thanks for reading and supporting me with my blog, especially if you are a regaular reader.  If you're new, you are very welcome and I'm pleased you've come to visit and hoping you too can become a regular on my blog

Kindest regards to all


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Rising above self doubt

There are times when I really doubt myself, in all kinds of ways.

I doubt my abilities as a husband, a father and a friend.  I doubt myself as a manager within one of the Ministry of Justice's arms and the criminal justice system as a whole.

I occasionally question what contribution I am making to the world we live in.  I also sometimes wonder if "today" is my last day, will I have done something worthwhile and be able to face my ultimate judgement with my head up or slumped down.  The answer was, yet again, very clear this morning.  The answer must be a clear YES.

When I go for a run I am faced with a number of cross roads where I could go either left or right.  The way I go dictates the nature and length of the run.  At the end of our driveway is the first of those cross roads.  I had a choice of going for a short 3 or 4 mile run.  This seemed tempting as, with the business of family life, I have only run 3 miles in the last week.  Could I seriously run much further this morning?  Surely I must have put on some weight?  All that scrummy unhealthy picnic food we had yesterday.  Maybe a shorter run is sensible.

No.  No way.  I set off for my favourite 7.5 mile hilly run.  It was, after all, the perfect morning.  It was early and quiet outside and soft sun drying off the overnight dew.  It was, I admit, hard going for the first mile and I even felt my left knee protest a bit.  I've never had any problems with my left knee so I decided to ignore that potential excuse to return home.  After a mile I get to the first hill which, for a few yards, is 1:5 but gradually levels off.  I ran up with ease and felt good.

Then as the miles rolled away I found myself enjoying my surroundings, something I have blogged about many times before.  Once I had reached the half way stage I come out on to an escarpment which has a fantastic view stretching for miles and miles.  I felt really good, although I wasn't going too quickly, more marathon pace (probably 9 or 10 minute/mile).  Coming back through the houses I started to feel the benefits, reassured that I could do this, not an Olympic performance but a straight forward run that I have done so many times before.

The question I ought to have is not whether I can do anything in particular.  Instead a question of what more can I do?  Not so much whether I'm good enough to be a this or that.  I am already those things but how good can I be at those things?   There is so much to do and yes, these can be accomplished.

So there I am.  This morning's run has helped me rise above those feelings of self doubt which can all-too-easily creep in.  We can all be assured it is within our grasp to push ourselves further towards our potential, no matter what that is.


Running to save my career
Wow - I feel great
What is the runner's high?
Reasons to run

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Project Birthday Bike - next stage

Becky is still delighted with her new bike - the c1980s Argos fast tourer.  She had it on 25th July in the full knowledge that it needed some updating and a little TLC.  So far we've replaced the tyres and tubes, having some really nice folding Continental 4 Season tyres which promise an excellent all-round performance with real puncture resistance.

The brakes have been a bit of a problem.  The original Shimano 600 callipers and levers were good in their day but for a 14 year old girl the levers were too big for her to easily grab and too stiff to pull.  The brakes themselves were not too effective as a result.  Of course, knowing the brake blocks were equally as old, it is possible they have become hardened.

While I know there is a case for keeping things authentic and faithful to the original specification, we have to be pragmatic here.  This is a bike for a 14 year old girl to enjoy riding (safely) and not be ruled by the eccentricities of a vintage bike in which she has no understanding or interest in the heritage.  It's simlpy a good light frame that needs riding with enthusiasm.  And so she does; and because of this I believe it is worth doing well for her.

So the brakes.  I suspect the bike is going to need some new callipers but in the mean time we have invested in some really nice Sram levers.  We tried out a couple of different ones for size and these seemed good.  You can't see them too easily in the photo but believe me they are good.  She can ride with her hands stitting on the hoods and looking comfortable and pull the levers fairly well.  We still have the problem of the brakes not being too effective and I suspect that some new Sram callipers will do the trick in hopefully being well balanced for the levers through being designed with each other in mind.  This means a pull of the lever being translated into the right amount of cable being pulled and closing the brake pads onto the rim in the right way.  So that continues to be a work in progress.

Another little challenge has been dealing with the LBS. I know I have been waxing lyrical (click here) about the merits of dealing with a LBS but I have felt a little let down.  I asked them to regrease the bottom bracket and hub bearings which they happily did although the usual mechanic was going to be on holiday.  I had a faint warning bell ringing in my mind about this.

Campag Record hubs are good no matter how old
On looking at the hubs at home I'm not convinced there's any fresh grease in there at all.  Turn the axle and it was stiff, graunchy and rough.  As a matter of principle I took it back in for it to be readjusted, knowing the full time mechanic was back.  Then it was done properly.  Those Campagnolo Record hubs were about as good as you could get in the 1980s and were known for their good quality.  Now they should last.

The bottom bracket is worn and in all fairness to the KBS it is difficult to adjust so we'll have that replaced in due course.

Not too worn but not the right make

The freewheel is puzzling me a little and I must query this with Wallie and Angela sometime.  It is a French Maillard type running with Shimano early indexed gears.  Unsurprisingly the spacing between the sprockets isn't quite right and therefore the gear lever's clicks don't quite match up.  Becky doesn't seem too bothered and manages to ride well with the minimum of gear changes, which is probably not a bad thing.

We've had a few rides with each other and Becky seems really at home on the bike.  The size and dimensions seem exactly right for her and seeing her ride she appears very much at home on that bike.  I did remark that it was Victoria Pendleton (Team GB Olympic cyclist) who said her father recognised she had some potential when she was at the same age.  Who knows?  God certainly does!

I'm sure I'll blog about this further another time but Rachel and I have noticed how Becky enjoys the sense of freedom and independence from being able to cycle around, either on her own or with me.  She's even started a voluntary holiday job in the public library and it was a lovely sight seeing her pedal off for that on her first day.  A very special moment.

Taking off the original odd size tyres

Friday, 3 August 2012

Rambling Games - Day 7 - Hot Chocolate!

Otherwise known as Grandmother's Footsteps, this game is a favourite with our youngest.

 There's various ways of playing - running up the garden and freezing as a statue when the leader turns round, or hiding so you can't be seen before tagging the leader. Hannah likes to fill the garden with obstacles to hide behind and tonight Poppy dog joined in too.

Now then, what should the prize be for the winner?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

New runner asks "why does getting fit take so long?"

A really interesting question is about why it takes such a long time to get fit.  On hearing this question, it got me thinking.  It all follows - and you may have noticed this as well - with the Olympic Games taking place rightnow and hot on the heels of the Tour de France - there are many more people out running and cycling nowadays.  That cheers and encourages me.

And so to the question in hand.  Why does it take such a long time?  For the answer, in lay terms, it must be considered how a start from zero will see a number of changes taking place.  It is important to think of the body as dealing with these situations and it simply takes time and in any event, it is age related to a point.  I'm answering the question from the perspective of being a cyclist and a runner.

So.  So what are the changes taking place?  This is what I noticed in myself:


When we exercise we put our muscles under a bit of pressure and the degree of pressure depends directly on the level of existing fitness and the demands placed on them.  Go too far and your muscles will ache, possibly for a few days and will probably have some microscopic tears.  It does take time to build strength and resilience; this applies to body building mass and strength along with muscles which move quickly and for long periods of time.  The trick with muscles, also helpfully applying to tendons and ligaments, is to take time and listen to your body for signs of injury..

Tendons and ligaments

The connecting pieces from a muscle to a bone.  Going too far or having minor mishaps can cause an injury which is painful and can last a long time.  Stretching helps but only if done the right way and in my book this applies to a muslce which is warm and "limbered" up.  Doing short, severe stretches with cold muscles is asking for trouble.

I think running over rough ground is brilliant for strengthening those tendons and ligaments around your feet and ankles.  This has a benefit of building strength in a way that will make you less susceptible to getting a sprained ankle.  My advice is to take care, avoid injuring yourself by trying to avoid future injuries. 


Running in particular puts a strain on our bones - from our lower spine downwards. Pounding on hard surfaces is placing the bones under some pressure may cause microscopic fractures which are only temporary.  Each time we rest and recover afterwards or even perhaps sleeping well, our body's are busy repairing themselves and rebuilding the bones so they are a little stronger.

Building up strength and bone density will pay real iin later life in avoiding osteoporois, especially useful for women to know.

As for how long, that's harder.  How long is a piece of string? Perhaps allow two or three months.

Aerobic capacity

Your aerobic capacity is about your ability to breath, get oxygen into your blood and get it pumped around your body to make your muscles work.  When you're working hard and getting out of breath, that in principle is a good thing to do for most people.  Indeed the Government want us all to do this a few times each week.  It is also a time when calories and fat get burnt up, although it is said you don't start burning significant amounts of fat until you've been exercising for about an hour.

Cycling and running are brilliant ways of getting a dose of aerobic exercise.

Other changes

Amongst the many other things going on, some of these might become apparent:

  • You might look different: slimmer and "brighter".  Your friends or family might say you appear younger and more dynamic.  Having said that, I don't recall anyone ever referring to me as being dynamic...
  • You might get addicted to your new sport: you might find yourself thinking about it much of the time (where, when to go for your next run or cycle, what to buy next, what event to enter, what blog to read or perhaps write, and so on).  You might experience the Runner's High
  • Your whole life style might change. You might find yourself socialising differently or with different people as you use your spare time differently.
  • Your outlook on life may change and you won't want to go back to how you were

Rambling Games - Day 6 - Tri-what? and zipping along

Shh - don't tell anyone, but we have a secret park near us.  We like to go there when no-one else is around and all play together.  We don't know what this thing is called, but three people can sit on seats and spin round.  Of course we can come up with different variations and the girls are good at standing up, waving with both hands and even hanging upside down.  I managed to cling on for my ride but drew the line at joining in with the high speed version where two people pull the spindle round faster with the seats.

Hannah got the decided this was a little tame so opted for the zip wire for a faster thrill.  I couldn't even get up onto the seat ...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Sufferfest cycling activism group

At work I get a email bulletin from G4S from time to time. If I were Mr G4S I would be keeping a low profile these days in view of the Olympic security debarcle.   It's a circular email advising recipients of potential protests or flashpoints which could cause public disorder.  I was, however amused at the
following extract:

Sufferfest online cycling activism group intends to hold a counter-Olympic event at New Street, City of London from 1700 - 2200hrs. The event is supposedly to oppose the refusal of the Olympic committee for failing to recognise the movement. Any action is expected to be small, and is likely to assume the form of a bicycle event. Possibility of minor disruption.

It will take place on 2nd August (i.e. tomorrow).

Keep it peaceful and well ordered, people, please.  You have a right to protest regardless of whether we agree with each other.  If it turns into a "bicycle event" all well and good.

Rambling Games - Day 5 - Garden volleyball

Our home is quite a long way from the beach and we've not enough sand to look like Horseguards Parade so we couldn't match the Olympic teams today.  We ditched the skimpy costumes too, but as we couldn't find a balloon for the ball a slightly squishy football sufficed and a piece of rope strung between the trees made the net.
Teams were a little uneven at times - 2 against one and a fluffy dog handicap when the ball hit the ground - but it was fun!