King Puddles

A Friday morning blog is as rare as a Scotland win in pink. Almost as rare, in fact, as three Scotland World Cup qualifier victories in a row. Some allege that you have to go back to 1970 to find the last time that that happened. Sadly, I don’t have to go back any further than the last few days to find the last time I got soaked three days in a row.

What happened to summer, or if I may rephrase that, what happened to our Indian summer cum autumn? These last few days, we seem to have shifted straight from summer to winter and skipped the middle bit. It’s been wet, it’s been cold, and it’s been windy. Very windy. I don’t care much for the rain but I hate the wind: detest it. I detest the wind even more than I detest the farmers at this time of year. There’s barely a route of mine that’s currently untouched by the dreaded hedge cutting machines. Tidy up after themselves? Not likely. The country roads are littered with thorns, just waiting to trip up the unwary life cyclist. To date, I’ve been lucky and fallen foul of only one, but it’s only a matter of time, and you just know that it’s gonna happen on a day when the rain is lashing down and I’m in the middle of nowhere! Grrr…

How quickly one’s mood has changed. From chasing records and bagging loadsa miles, I’ve reverted to winter type almost overnight and I’m finding the motivation a real strain once again. The weather does that to you. I was never going to keep those 300 mile weeks going, but I did at least think I’d get back into a 30 mile a day groove for the remainder of this year: nothing of the sort. Soaked and cold on Monday: did a runner at 22 miles. Soaked and cold again on Tuesday on a similar course: same runner for the same result. On Wednesday, I dusted myself down and hit the route in the opposite direction, hoping for some inspiration. I found it (sic) in the shape of a 29 inch deep puddle that must have been 40m long, under the railway bridge going down into KIlmaurs. “I ain’t going back: I’ll just get off and wade through it”. The water was over the top of my wheels. In a sense it didn’t matter because I was already wet from the rain, but there’s a difference between rain wet and wading wet: heavy, cold, wet shoes for a start. And feet like blocks of ice. 6C it was on Wednesday afternoon.

The interim result from that lot read like an England scorecard on a good day in an Ashes Test down under: 71-3. Absolutely not good enough, particularly when the innings has been delivering upwards of 300 of late. This one, sad to say, was destined for a paltry 150 and an inevitable follow-on when the heavens flooded the pitch on Wednesday.

Time for a team talk, one of the Fergie hairdryer variety. “LifeCycle Man, you haven’t come through 7,200 miles this year to chuck in the towel now. This team is better than that”. So yesterday I went out with a fragile resolve to do better. But it was so friggin’ windy! And those pesky thorns were getting blown all over the place. I encountered not one, not two, but three of those damned tractors yesterday on what I had assumed was a safe route, safe as in the official Sustrans bike route 7 out to Ardrossan. The wind was so bad that when I reached the turn out by West Kilbride, the Garmin was reporting an average speed of 11.8mph. I did that same route two Saturdays ago at 8am on a still day and recorded 15+. When the wind’s that strong, it saps your energy, both mentally and physically. Indeed, I’d clearly struggled so much heading out into it that I barely managed to claw 1mph back on the average on the return leg. But 43 miles stabilised the innings: for now. 71-3 has become 114-4 which is still pretty rubbish in the grand scheme of things. Geoffery would not be amused.

So now I have to go out and achieve something similar today. It’s bright, which is good, and the wind is much lighter, so therein lies an ample opportunity to make hay. Forty will get the innings up to and over 150-5, and an all out target in excess of 200 then seems more likely than not come Sunday: however tonight I’m out on the lash, and tomorrow I’m in Edinburgh all day so tomorrow morning at 7am, the LCFN wicket may well be taking some turn. Anything short of 25 at breakfast time tomorrow will leave the last batsman looking at substantial tail end score on Sunday to avoid an otherwise inevitable embarrassing outcome.

So what of other things?

Well assuming that one can avoid the follow-on, then Sunday will mark a quiet milestone: 35,000 miles. Should it come about, with the Japanese Grand Prix and the final round of World Cup qualifiers to look forward to, I’m sure a wee libation will be on the cards. 35K is not a total to be sniffed at. Next stop will be 40K somewhere around the time of my retirement birthday in the spring (except I’m not planning on retiring). There was a time when I thought that 40K would happen in Australia next year but a good hard working summer put paid to that notion.

The new bike is coming together, in bits…

The gold frame’s been in Neil’s capable hands for the past four or five weeks, and we’ve spent much of the time since then swithering over the revolutionary hub gear that’s going on it. To recap, I go through spare parts on the drive chain (that’s the front chain rings, the rear derallieurs and the chain itself) on a semi-regular basis, so Neil suggested going for an internal hub gear: that’s where all of the gears are nice and cosy, inside the hub itself. The fun part is getting the configuration right, because once it’s on, it’s on: there’s no going back. My current road bike has three front chain rings, just like a mountain bike, and a ten speed cassette on the back. So that’s thirty gears to play with, except you never run the chain big ring to little cassette, or little ring to big cassette. You’re always somewhere in the middle that doesn’t knacker the chain or the components.

The new bike has a single ring on the front, a bit like a fixed wheel bike, and a range of gears in the hub that will simulate most of the lower and middle gears on my current bike, with some of the bigger ones thrown in for fun. But the emphasis is very much on the lower end of the spectrum as I’m getting older (and speed is less important). The hub is in, and I’ve actually had my grubby mitts on it. It’s beautiful in a metallic red casing. The theme is going to be gold, silver and red. The frame itself and the front chain ring are both gold. Both hubs and the handlebar tape are going to be in red, with everything else in silver. I haven’t decided yet on the tyres: they’ll either be red or yellow: and solid tyres so I can ignore those pesky farmers. It will be a (custom) bike like no other. Oh, and part of the silver spec includes disc brakes in place of the traditional V brakes that you normally get on a road bike. I can get through a set of rear brake blocks in a fortnight so this is another ruse pinched from the mountain bike scene to try and cut down on the wear and tear of components.

On the work front, it’s been another SNOMED-CT study week. After sitting through 54 presentations, five web conferences, three homeworks and five exams, there are now just two presentations, two exams and a final webinar with my tutor in Denmark to go: and that’s scheduled for Halloween (!!!) with the exams to follow on soon after. SNOMED has been a long road, one that at times has been as hard, emotionally and mentally, as the bike ride. But one feeds off the other and as just long as you can keep turning those cogs in your brain, you’ll keep moving forward.

But I’ll leave you this week with the banterous, encouraging words of Gail. It was while whe were discussing the depth of the lake under the railway bridge in Kilmaurs, that she said that Eileidh would’ve been in there like a shot. “But she’d have needed a life jacket” said I. “That wouldn’t have stopped her” said Gail. “She’d have gone in, then called on you to come and get her out”…

It was at that point that Gail crowned me King Puddles.

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