Sunday, 31 July 2011

Part the second...

...as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself...

Saturday and today have been spent in the south Shropshire hills, particularly the Long Mynd, the Jack Mytton trail and the Shropshire Way.  We parked the car in Church Stretton yesterday lunchtime, and over the following 26 hours, covered 35 miles doing a big anti-clockwise loop through the various hills and footpaths just mentioned.  Six of those miles, admittedly, were spent hunting down food last night, but hey, we did them regardless of the reason.

The loop took us to Craven Arms at its most southerly point, and we camped a couple of miles to the west of there, very near Aston on Clun.  The weather was fine (a bit too fine in fact as my burnt head testifies), the walking was good, our packs were heavy (tent, sleeping bags, water, change of clothes, towel, food [never knowingly under-catered]), and there were many, many hills.  I won't claim it was as good training as being on a bike, but there's been very little damage done through not doing any formal training for 3 days.

The point of the weekend though was not to train - it was to get in some good walking, father and son style.  I certainly enjoyed it loads, hope Seb did too.  Every time we spend time together I think he'll surely have got beyond his "Dad, what do you think would win in a fight, a bear with a machine gun, or a hyena on acid?" phase, but he never does (and he's only 3 months away from being 18!).  The choices were a bit more prosaic today, and each time I expressed an opinion it would be verified or disproved by reference to YouTube.

It was fun camping again - hadn't done it for a while, and I really like that feeling of self-sufficiency.  Times move on and people change though - you're thinking I'm going to make a really profound observation about the nature of the father-son relationship aren't you - nothing like that I'm afraid.  We allowed ourselves to start fantasising mid-morning about what we'd like to eat when we got back to Church Stretton - after all, you're allowed anything you damn well like after 35 miles of pack-laden yomping.  After some procrastination I confessed that last night's fish 'n' chips, and the sausage and egg sandwich for breakfast (at the same bikers' caff in Craven Arms Mendip Rouleur and I refuelled at on one of our LEJoG days) had sated my need for crap food, and I really wanted a salad.  Amazingly, Seb said the same, so it was Co-op salads all round.  Didn't stop us having an almond custard Danish though, and that was ruddy lovely.

We saw many things that were interesting to us when we were out from a nature point of view that are too boring to bear description here.  What was Quite Interesting, however, was being directly underneath gliders as they were being winched into the air at the Long Mynd Gliding Club - I'd never seen that particular operation before, and very impressive it was too.

So, to finish, a mention of all my kids - I've spent quite a bit of time with them all individually in the last week or so.  Without getting too gushy, I've enjoyed it all; they're very lovely in totally different ways, and I'm an incredibly lucky father.  That is all.

Hills, hills and more flipping hills

This week I've spent more time pointing upwards than I think I will in a long weekend in the Pyrenees.  It's not all been cycling though - the week breaks down into 1 turbo trainer session, 2 hilly rides on the bike, and 2 days walking in the south Shropshire hills with t'son.

So, in predictable and chronological order a brief account.  The trainer session was on Monday thank God, as the week could only get better from there.  One of my favourite, no that's a lie, one of the most effective preparations for cycling uphill for protracted periods is to raise the front wheel of the trainer, bang on a high resistance, and sit there holding a medium-high power output until you're so tired it feels like you've not slept for a couple of weeks.  The key things you're developing are muscular endurance (which can be very challenged at surprisingly low levels of power), and lower back strength.  In fact, going back to the muscular endurance point, a) this is entirely different to stamina, and b) contrary to what many cyclists think, lack of muscular endurance is the main reason they get cramp on hilly rides - not dehydration, not lack of electrolytes, but simply not enough practising making your muscles work really hard for an extended period (30 mins or more), and repeatedly.  The other things will certainly exacerbate the effects, and in maybe 20% of cases cause the cramp, but in the other 80%, they're probably blameless.  Anyway, that was Monday - an hour of discomfort.

Tuesday and Thursday saw early evening hilly rides.  The weather is undoubtedly helping, but (dudes), I'm really feeling the road vibe at the moment.  The great thing about this week's rides were that they both local and short (33 and 34 miles respectively), but I managed to find new, interesting roads to go down too.  Thursday was the highlight - to my shame and chagrin I'd never gone up Pym's Chair the difficult way (via Jenkin Chapel), it being the highest point in Cheshire, higher than Cat & Fiddle (of last week's blog fame) by a handful of metres.  The climb out of Kettleshume up to Pym's Chair is tough, but the one from Jenkin Chapel is a mile of real, genuine difficulty.  It reduced me to the granny gear for the first time in ages, and even with that I was verging on hyperventilation.  Tough but fun.  The descent from there takes you through Goyt Valley, which is another scarcely known wonder of the Peaks, up through Derbyshire Bridge, and back to the currently omnipresent Cat & Fiddle.  There were more hills, including the Brickworks through Pott Shrigley, which is another cracker, but those were the most notable.  Do you know what?  I suddenly realise how damn lucky I am to have all this fantastic cycling country on my doorstep.

I can't really remember Tuesday to be honest.  I remember the bit that was new - turning right at the bottom of the Gun Hill climb (when done the "wrong" way round - ie ascending from the Wincle side) in Meerbrook, and emerging in the middle of Leek a few miles later.  I then tackled the climb up to Biddulph Moor, which is surprisingly hard, and the bit that hurt the most, though the pain was entirely self-inflicted - I attempted to go up Bosley Cloud in the big ring.  I managed it, but I must have been down to 45 rpm on the pedals - lactic acid-a-go-go.

Something that has been pleasantly lacking just recently - possibly because I've been sticking to the back lanes, not that that makes loads of difference on occasion - is Bad Behaviour from drivers.  This weekend though I've chalked up a new experience - road rage from a driver when I've been walking on the road.  Astonishing.  Not once, but twice, from the same one, when he was travelling in different directions.  "Get off the f***ing road" he yelled at me and Seb when we were strolling, rucksack-laden, into Craven Arms this morning.  I had to look down to make sure there wasn't a bicycle between my legs, as that's the normal cause of such an intemperate attitude.  But no, we were definitely on Shank's Pony.  I let it go the first time, but on his way back, to Seb's amusement/embarrassment/surprise/admiration (delete as appropriate), I let rip with a brief advice involving travel and procreation of my own.  I almost hoped he'd turn his car round and ask that I repeat myself, as my dander was up by now, but he was on his own on the return journey, and his bravery levels were accordingly lower.  Scumbag.  As is my tradition in these situations, I shall wish no more evil on him than a nasty groinal irritation for a period of some days.

Right, I'm about to be fed, and I don't know how to save these posts for later, so the account of our yomping and camping is gonna have to wait....

Monday, 25 July 2011

Hey diddle diddle...

...the cat and the fiddle.  Or to be more precise, the Cat and Fiddle, the pub on the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton that is both the highest point on the pass over the Pennines between those two towns, and that gives its name to the climb from Macclesfield.  Apart from the pub allegedly being the second highest in England (the Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale taking the accolade as the highest), the Cat and Fiddle climb is famous, or perhaps just notable, for the following:

- until recently it was statistically (deaths and serious injuries per mile) the most dangerous road in Britain.  However, strip out the figures for motorcyclists and its stats make it no more dangerous than plenty of other stretches of A road.  That's because it become a motorcyclists mecca at the weekends, with its climbing, its curves, both tight and sweeping, and the attractive countryside and fine views.

- rather hilariously (IMHO), Cheshire East council spent £500,000 last year installing an average speed camera detection system in a bid to cut the number of accidents on the road, and do you know the number of people detected breaking the speed limit so far?  None, zero, nobody.  And the reason?  Well, there's two in my book.  First, and most significantly, there are at least two roads on the way up to the top that leave and re-join the A537, and can therefore be claimed to be shortcuts.  However, even if the out-of-town biker weren't aware of those, he can avoid detection as there's no camera at the top of the climb, meaning he or she can roar up to the top at goodness knows what speeds, have a little rest in the pub car park, and carry on their merry way as an apparently law-abiding driver.  Well done council planners.

- the climb used to feature prominently and regularly on the "Milk Race", as what is now the Tour of Britain was known in the 1970s.

- it partly featured because it's one of the few decent length climbs in Britain, and whilst there are a couple of dips amongst the slopes, my 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs (of Britain) book tells me that it's 11.27km long, which is about as good as it gets in the UK when it comes to preparing for long Pyrenean climbs (or Alpine ones for that matter, but it's the Pyrenean ones I'm going to see again soon).  So, it was for that reason that I decided to have a ride up it on Sunday morning, and it was the for motorcycling mecca reason that I was on it by 8 am - the motorcyclists seem to only get out after about 9, after which it becomes a bit unpleasant.

I have to say it wasn't one of my favourite ascents.  It should have been - the road surface on the lower slopes has been hugely improved since the last time I went up, it was nice and quiet, and the sun was shining.  However, as with many hilly areas, the C&F seems to have a micro-climate of its own, and the higher I went, the duller, cooler and windier it became.  I was also feeling the effects of not doing my morning stretching for three days on the bounce, with the back and hamstrings moaning that they really didn't want to be doing this.  And yet, and yet.....it took me 31.5 minutes to get from the Arighi Bianchi furniture store at the base of the climb to the pub car park.  I'd never managed anything faster that 33.5 before.  The wind wasn't especially favourable, and I wasn't particularly in the mood.  I'm wishing we could go to the Pyrenees next week rather than in a month's time, for I surely can't stay this strong till then.  I'm not sure what it is really - I haven't done anything particularly different in training this year, though I have heard people say that they became stronger all round after completing a marathon.  It didn't seem to do Lance Armstrong much good - he did a few marathons after his 7 TdF victories and before he came out of retirement to complete the 2009 TdF.  Then again, you could argue that finishing 3rd in that Tour was a pretty impressive achievement for a nearly-38 year old, and would he have been able to do it without the conditioning created by running?

Which brings me to a couple of other areas before I close.  First, the Tour itself, which finished yesterday.  Like plenty of other people it has fascinated, obsessed and captivated me for the last 3 and a bit weeks.  I love it.  At some point, when I've got more time and space, I shall write a paean to its marvellousness, and why it is the best sporting competition in the world, no argument, no competitors, no exceptions.  It was interesting to see the winners of arguably the two most important jerseys (yellow and green) both being native English speakers; you wouldn't have had that 40 years ago.  Lots of congratulations have been bandied around, but for me amongst the biggest must go to Christian Prudhomme, the race director, for his selection of the route - it was magnificent in both scenery and conception, as it kept alive all the competitions until the last feasible moment.  His job = my dream job.

And finally, and more mundanely, I did do a couple of other rides last week, Weds and Saturday, both pretty hilly, Wednesday's in particular.  Neither were particularly long at either side of two hours apiece, but they were fun - I'm enjoying going up hills at the moment.  As I said earlier, I wish the Pyrenees were this week...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Man for all Seasons

I'm a seasonal creature.  I love the spring and early summer, and loathe late autumn and winter.  It's partly to do with that sense of renewal and growth in the spring, and decay and decline in the winter, but it's also to do with the more tangibles, namely heat and light - it's the lack of daylight and bone-penetrating chills I find particularly depressing in the winter.  And I think that helps explain the routine I seem to be dropping into over the course of a year - cycling in the warmer parts of the year, and running during the winter.  And so it's been this in the last few days - two road rides on Thursday night and Sunday morning, only a couple of hours both times, but I couldn't wait to get out there.  This morning, that meant getting up soon after 6 as the rain was forecast to start here soon after 9.

Thursday night's ride was a cracker - it was warm (short-sleeved jersey, no gilet), and I decided to hit the hills.  I only covered 25 miles, but it felt like they were all vertical, either up or down.  The climbs to Flash (the highest village in England rather unfeasibly, being in the Staffordshire Moorlands), and Gun Hill (which features as a Category 1 climb most years on the Tour of Britain) were particularly enjoyable, and between the two of them I set a new record for my top speed on a bike - 52 mph.  That was at the site of where the previous record was set - the A53 between Buxton and Leek - and I thought that a warm summer's night was a good opportunity to improve my record - less rolling resistance in the tyres, and so it turned out.  Still think I can squeeze a few more mph out yet though, just need to get a bit braver.  It would be exaggerating to say that the climb out of Wincle (crazy name, crazy place) felt easy, but after the other two it felt pretty straightforward, and didn't need bottom gear.  Which was nice.

This morning's ride was completely different in character - mainly flat.  After watching a lot of yesterday's stage of the TdF, with its 6 categorised climbs, I was inspired to go and do a stupidly hard session on the turbo trainer, the effects of which were still in my legs this morning.  There comes a time when one has to say goodbye to the peaks and hello to the plains, and today was that time.  I have a standard loop through Gawsworth, Marton, Twemlow, Goostrey, Siddington, Lower Withington, Bosley (not necessarily in that order), and I did it in reverse today just for novelty's sake.  It was good, though the proliferation of (live) rabbits on the road (and avoiding them) made the ride feel a Playstation game at times.  Not that I've ever played a Playstation game, but it was how I imagine them to be.  Everyone out there seemed really cheerful today - horseriders, dogwalkers, other cyclists, their greetings to a man and woman all seemed genuine.  I put it down to the feeling of exclusivity - at 7 am on a Sunday it feels like there's just a few of you in the world, rather than the seething hordes we usually share it with.

Anyway, to return to where I started, it was lovely to be out on two wheels today, and the ride took me across a canal towpath along which I did much of my marathon training.  It didn't look very appealing today, though no doubt it will again come December when it's frosty or rainy, and certainly cold, and I can't face putting my backside on a saddle.  That said, I'm going to do another duathlon at the start of October, so I'm going to have slip some running into my exercise week soon.  I think I might have said that last week, and any time soon it's really going to happen. Ironically, it's now running weather outside - pouring with rain and cool; the weather forecast was right, and I'm delighted I was up, out and back early.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Mow Cop-ped

As my love of road riding has been kindled by nearly 250 miles of riding on Breton roads this week, I decided to hit the roads of Cheshire this morning.  Having battled French winds for a good portion of those 250 miles I intended today to be a relatively short, easy ride, and consequently took only water and no food with me.  It didn't turn out hugely different to that, but I couldn't resist a bit of the steep stuff.

So, my route took me to Bosley, Gawsworth, Brereton, Scholar Green, Mow Cop, Congleton, Timbersbrook, The Cloud, Rushton and Sutton - just under 35 miles in just over 2 hours.  It was a pleasingly uneventful ride - comparatively quiet, even for a Sunday morning.  There was a fair bit of fresh roadkill - the usual suspects (mainly rabbits), plus a couple of moles, which I'm not sure I've ever seen before.  Being a dry Sunday morning, there were also plenty of fellow cyclists out there too.

The sharp-eyed and local knowledged will have spotted a couple of meaningful hills in my route, the first of which was Mow Cop.  I decided to go up the steep way, feeling pretty cocky after a few days worth of really strong riding.  I didn't exactly attack from the bottom of the Killer Mile (as it's known), but neither did I hold back.  And by the time I was about to go up the steepest part, the ramp just after the Cheshire View pub, I was right on the limit.  Deciding that I didn't need to prove anything, I took the left just before the pub, which isn't exactly flat, but not the 25-30% of the steep route.  And wouldn't you just know it?  Thinking nobody would ever know about my Cop-out (geddit?!), at that very moment a couple of dozen riders from Leek CC appeared at that moment, and I had to share my shame with each of them.  One of them even taunted me with  "not going up the steep way then?".  Erm, no, not today thanks.

I did, however, go up the rest of the climbs reasonably straightforwardly, though my legs were definitely telling me they'd had quite a tough week.  The training regime changes a bit after today - I need to prepare for the both the Pyrenees and my next duathlon simultaneously.  That means some running comes back into play, one per week only for the next month, some more lower back work, and some hills, some for real, and some simulated on the trainer.  Quite looking forward to it.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Mur de Bretagne - Cap Frehel - Dinan

This was the week I and two mates took ourselves off to our house in Brittany, with the dual aims of doing some riding and watching the Tour de France.  And a great week it was too....

We arrived at the house on Monday morning having taken the overnight Portsmouth-St Malo ferry, and after a small bout of domestic tasks we decided to take advantage of the fantastic weather (worse was forecast for later in the week) by checking out the following day's TdF stage finish town of Mur de Bretagne, only about 15 miles away.  There's a reasonable climb into the village itself, but it was clear that the finish line was actually about 2 km from the centre.  The route was still open as it was a full 24 hours before the race, so we had a go at riding up the "Breton Alpe d'Huez".  Now, I'm a complete Bretonophile, but that really is stretching things - there are no hairpins, and typically it's not 30c there.  That said, the climb is a full 2 km, it's dead straight, and pretty steep in places - the team Garmin showed 18% for several stretches.  I took the foolish approach of pretending I was racing up in the big ring, and my lungs felt like they were in my mouth by the top.  Still, it gave me a pretty good idea of what the real racers would be experiencing the day after.

We nipped back to Mur in the evening for its pre-Tour 'Fest Noz' - literally Night Festival in Breton.  These things are good fun, albeit that they are reasonably formulaic, the parts of the formula consisting of plenty of stalls selling little else than galettes saucisse, beer and cider, a Breton band (bagpipes, clarinet, violin, guitar, ukelele - no bass, no drums), and massed Breton dancing.  As we left we somehow managed to get caught up in the convoy of TV lorries arriving in town ready to set up for the next day.  To give you an idea of the excitement this race generates, they were plenty of folk lining the streets of the village at 11 pm to cheer and wave flags at the TV lorries, which were duly responding with some their very impressive airhorns.  We joined in with our rather less impressive Vauxhall Insignia horn, but we still got the cheering.

We weren't going to need to get to Mur on Tuesday till 2.30 pm, even to catch the publicity caravan that accompanies the Tour, and it was only an hours ride their, so Conrad and I decided to get a ride in on Tuesday morning.  We covered a lovely loop through Moncontour, up to Bel Air (the highest point in Brittany at 336 metres), and back through Plessala, Langast, Plougenast and Gausson, just under 30 miles.  Then the heavens opened as predicted, and when we ventured out in the afternoon it was in full waterproofs.  The rain had stopped by the time we got to Mur, but showers continued to strafe us over the next 2.5 hours as we stood at the roadside.  This was the one day we caught the full caravan, which is a sight to behold if you've never been to the TdF, complete as it is with upwards of 200 vehicles of the TdF's sponsors, some decked out in the most bizarre fashion.  There seemed to be fewer truly strange creations this year, and my personal favourite remains the stretch 2cv which carries Cochonou (dried sausage manufacturers) colours.  That said, i had my richest ever pickings of the freebies hurled out by the caravan, grabbing myself Haribo sweets, an LCL cap, a Panache bottle opener, various bits of rubbish pulicity and a Cochonou (them again) sunhat, which I proceeded to wear under a cap as the rain came down.  Clearly having 2 hats from the caravan is unfair, as an elderly Frenchman demanded my cap.  Refusal caused some offence, and he went back to his position at the barriers and gave me the evils for the next 10 minutes.

The race eventually came through, and where we were (1.2 km before the finishing line, just at the top of the steepest section) was the point where Contador was in the lead and glancing back over his shoulder to see what was going on.  What was going on was that Evans came through to take the stage, though slightly strangely we didn't find that out until we got home.  We also had a nice chat with a lady journalist from Ouest France newspaper, though when I bought it the next day I was mightily disappointed to see that she hadn't used any of my pithy quotes ("le tour est tres exciting"), or indeed mentioned us at all.  By the time we got back on our bikes to go home the sun was burning hot, and we boiled in our waterproof bags very nicely.

Wednesday was the best day of the week from a riding and TdF point of view, though I had to start the day with a visit to a DIY store for a couple of jobs round the house.  Conrad repeated the loop we did together the previous day.  After an early lunch, we arranged to meet Neil about 15 miles down the 40 mile ride to Cap Frehel, the location of that day's finish.  We had a strong south-westerly wind, the same one indeed that both blew the peloton along and caused accidents on the open coastal roads.  We absolutely flew up the route, at one point cruising along on the flat for a good couple of km's at over 30 mph, if you'll forgive the mixing of imperial and decimal measurement systems.  By a complete accident, our route actually brought us out onto the TdF route, and the road was already closed with hundreds of people lining it.  We needed to get a bit further down before picking up the next part of our route to the finish, and in the absence of anyone to stop us, we rode a good mile and a half down it, garnering cheers and "allez, allez"s as we went.  Eventually we got to a road junction where the gendarmes were out on force, and we were ushered off the route in no uncertain terms.  Whilst we weren't arrested, it did feel a bit like the moment where a streaker at a sporting event is captured by the stewards.

After a bit of poking around we eventually found ourselves only 150 metres from the finish line, but we could still see the big screen erected for the crowd - today we weren't going to have to cycle home to find out the result.  Now, this was the day I'd marked down for a Mark Cavendish win (since last October in fact), and consequently I donned my Union Jack cycling jersey in anticipation.  And the Manx Missile didn't let me down, apparently coming from nowhere to win the stage.  Magnifique!  At that point I joyously removed the gilet that had been hiding the jersey, a bit uncharacteristically let out a massive "Yeah!!!", and did a stomach bumping celebration with Neil.  The locals thought we were tremendously witty and amusing, and conveyed their deep regard through the deployment of lipcurling and even more aggressive shrugging than usual.  As it happens, the French aren't usually too partisan, but it just so happened that a local favourite (Voeckler) had a dig for the line a couple of km's out, and was swallowed up with just a few hundred metres to go.

We turned into true cycling groupies after the finish, positioning ourselves between the podium and the team buses, and over the next half hour stood by TV interviews with most of the Belgians in the race (apart from Gilbert unfotunately), and congratulated in person Cadel Evans, Jojas (green jersey at that point), and most of the Sky team.  Cav was obviously still doing interviews when the time came to leave, as we wanted to be back to watch the last few minutes of the ITV4 highlights.  Though we almost didn't make it - a combination of getting caught in the post-finish traffic (though not the plebby spectators you understand - oh no, we drafted the team buses for the first few kms [this felt very cool, and was well worth the horn blasts from them we got for our efforts, much as a cow might swat away an irritating fly]), and the wind that was still blowing, but not hideously in our faces.  We battled that 30kmh headwind for the whole route home, the 38 miles taking a full hour longer than on the way out.  No matter, we got home - just - in time to see the business-end of the stage.  (I've a horrible feeling I've nicked that phrase from the ITV4 team covering the Tour, so apologies to them for plagiarism and to you for the cliche).

We were truly sh***ed by our efforts on the bike that day, and a combination of tiredness, a late finish and prospect of an early start, and an iffy forecast meant that we didn't make firm plans for Thursday morning.  In the event we all woke feeling fresher than anticipated, and decided to ride to Dinan to see the stage depart.  We were a bit later away than ideal, but soon picked up the pace, met Neil in the delightfully-named Broons, and rode on.  The route was fantastic, full of views, villages and vistas, but the TdF element of the day was slightly disappointing.  We arrived too late to see most of the riders in the depart village (though we did follow and acknowledge Westra as he warmed up on the back streets), and the crowds were heaving.  We did get to see most of the riders roll out of town followed by the team cars and buses, but it was slightly anti-climactic after the previous day.  No matter, we rolled back to Broons where we climbed off our own TdF experience to drive the rest of the way home, as by this time the storm clouds were rolling in.  We caught the finish live on TV, and it was good to see Sky in the form of Boassen Hagen get a stage victory.

We did manage to catch one more day of the Tour as a threesome, watching yesterday's stage on the MV Bretagne as we cruised back across the Channel to Portsmouth.  It was French TV we were watching and so not completely easy to follow what was happening, but there was no misunderstanding what happened to the two highest-profile British riders - Wiggins crashed out with a broken collarbone, whilst Cav took win no. 2 of this Tour.  Talk about mixed feelings.  Watching Wiggins be interviewed both as he left hospital last night and then today at home was quite sobering too - he was unfeasibly philosophical about it all, just saying "that's bike racing".  I'm not sure I could have contained my frustration in the same way.

Reflections on the week: well, it went in a flash first of all.  I seemed to get home no sooner than I went.  I guess that's what happens when it's full-on action from dusk till dawn.  Second, it was a great week of riding and watching, made so principally by having two good mates there.  It just wouldn't have been the same without them.  And finally, boringly, repetitively, what a marvellous country France is - the countryside, the tradition, the culture, the roads, and the TdF itself - all fantastique.  It's going to be hard to get back to the realities of day-to-day life.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

I'm blogging, and I hope you like blogging too..

There's no riding to speak of since Monday, but I can't bear the thought of going two weeks at this time of year without a post, so here goes.

Well, barring any last minute accidents 3 of us are off tomorrow to watch 3 stages of the Tour de France.  However, I'm not going to say anything more about that now - there should be plenty to report next weekend.  So this is a bit of a random observations post:

- today is the middle day of the year
- when Beyonce sings the word "halo" in the song of the same name, it sounds like "payload".  If I were an ad agency representing a van manufacturer I'd persuade them to fork out for the rights to the song - it'd make a great campaign
- the average professional bike rider gets through between 700 and 800 water bottles (bidons) a year.  (Because they chuck them away and into hedgerows mainly)
- sticking on cycling, it's reckoned that a Tour de France winner has to be able to hold a power/weight ratio of 6.7 watts per kilogram "at threshold" as it's known, ie over the course of an hour.  I can manage 4.2, to give you an idea of the gulf in ability between a half-reasonable amateur and a pro
- why do women tennis players grunt so much when, for the most part, the men don't?
- today we had our first raspberries and strawberries from the garden, we've already had courgettes, and there's tomatoes, broad beans, squashes, cauliflowers and sprouts on the way.  Lovely.

That's about it for today.  Long post next week!
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