Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Devil makes work for idle legs

This is the last post on here for a bit, for which there are a couple of reasons. First, I completed the last of this year's aims yesterday, of which more in a moment. Second, this blog (like others I suspect) sometimes achieves the opposite of the 'social' bit in the phrase 'social media' - because other people know what I'm doing they don't initiate contact with me. So time to stop broadcasting, at least for a couple of months.

Before I say au revoir though...some realisations from this year....

- I like doing athletic things with and competing against other people (it's hard to train on your own most of the time)
- events which are long for the sake of it are appealing in theory, but not loads of fun in practice. Anything longer than 10 hours or so? No thanks
- cycling in a warm place with loads of nice quiet roads make sense, running doesn't; cycling in a cold place with potholed, busy roads doesn't make sense, running does

So, my aim for the first quarter of next year is to run a sub 3 hour marathon. It'll be tough getting to that point, but not totally unrealistic. That's what the next few months will be about. Other than the usual life stuff of course.

And finally.....yesterday. The Devil's Pitchfork is not an 'official' ride in any sense; it's just one put together by Pyractif, the lovely business and people we stay with in the Pyrenees. It's basically a ride down to a town (Bagneres-de-Luchon), five 'out-and-back' climbs up sodding great mountains, and then the ride back to base from Luchon again. 112 miles in total, 14,200 feet of ascent and descent. For those that know the area or care about these things, the five climbs are Col de Portillon, Hospice de France, Superbagneres, Col de Peyresourde, and Port de Bales respectively. All different, all hard. To do it all in a day, and unsupported, as we were, is a decent effort - it was certainly a day to rival anything most Tours de France create. (Only they race 20 days out of 22; I wouldn't fancy anything competitive today).

Well, we did it, me and Mendip Rouleur. We weren't fast overall, but we had our moments on the descents. A few 55mph, straightening out the curves and hoping there wasn't anything coming in the opposite direction moments actually. There were no dramas; we ground our way up the five hills, and we hung on for dear life coming down them.

I feel curiously neutral about it today. No sense of achievement really. I planned it, I trained for it, I did it. End. Perhaps because I've had a month in France, even the beauty of the Pyrenees didn't have the impact it usually does. Maybe I need some work, some discomfort, some contrast. Don't misunderstand - I'm delighted I came down and did the ride, and trained for it in the last few weeks. It's just that I'm already looking ahead to the next challenge. And when I return here in due course, it'll be the progress towards that challenge I'll be on about. In the meantime, as they say round here, a bientot et bon journee (with apologies for the absence of appropriate accents).

Friday, 12 September 2014

A Postcard From Home

I’ve been in France for 23 days now, my longest uninterrupted time outside the UK since I was a student, and the house we’ve owned for 4 years finally feels like home-home, rather than a holiday home. Which is nice – I’ve just ‘been’, rather than felt any pressure to ‘do’.
That said, plenty has happened to make worthwhile those long days in airless offices dealing with petty trivialities. In no particular order:

-        T’youngest was here for the first six days, the first time I’d spent any real time with her for many a long month

-        Friends, previously from Macc, now wandering minstrels currently bouncing between the UK and Australia, were here for another five days. I think I may even have created another road cycling enthusiast – he certainly took to thin wheels and clipless pedals as quickly as anyone I’ve ever known

-        The weather has been near perfect. We’ve had 2 days of rain, but the rest of the time it’s been uninterrupted niceness with temperatures unusually higher than even the unseasonably good ones the UK has been enjoying. I finally have a clearly defined, if not yet sufficiently developed for my liking, cyclists’/farmers’ (delete to suit) tan

-        Local life has been embraced. Half the hamlet were round for aperos (aperitifs) at 6.30 last night, which turned into ‘Breton aperos’ – i.e. they stumbled out at 11.30 after too much drink and too little food. And this weekend sees the infamous “Fete des Pommes de Terre” (Festival of the Potatoes), when the population swells by a factor of three, and delegations from Poland, Roumania and Guadeloup arrive to compliment the local Breton growers on the volume, robustness and variety of their harvest of their apples of the earth. There is much drinking, dancing and eating, nearly all of it potato-related. One of the attractions on offer is a helicopter flight over the local potato fields, an opportunity of which Mrs M and I will be availing ourselves; the money is paid, the Sunday slot is booked, our wills are in the filing cabinet

-        I’ve ridden my bicycle. Quite a lot, for me. Three longish rides and 7-8 shorter ones. Whether that’s enough to prepare me for the Pyrenean challenge I’ll face next week is debateable. It’s probably even debateable whether it’s been enough to offset the red wine and puddings that have wormed their way to the table with increasing regularity

-        I did the Icebucket Challenge, despite vowing not to. Results on F/b. I couldn’t ignore the second nomination. It’ll be Medicin Sans Frontiers who get my donation however rather than whatever American charity it was for whom the bandwagon started rolling. Nothing against them, just MSF do great work, as I’ve mentioned before. And there were no nominations for anyone else from me – give, don’t give, it’s up to you, but FFS don’t need a stunt to do it

-        There have been more animals than you can shake a shitty stick at. Aside from the regularly imported family moggy and resident dog that comes 50 yards on his summer holidays to our house, we’ve experienced mice (dead ones; live ones banished back outside to take their chances in harvest fields), sheep (keeping next doors fed and watered in their owner’s absence), donkeys (there was a Festival of them last weekend; yup, there is almost nothing the rural French won’t have a festival to celebrate), and a pair of unidentified furry beasts – lots of internet research has been inconclusive, but I think it was a type of mink we saw frolicking down by the river at dusk

-        And finally……I’ve renovated my French shed. On the outside it was washed, repainted (two coats), stripped of its old roof covering, and re-covered with membrane and sexy red asphalt. On the inside it was stripped, washed, racking added and things replaced with careful consideration. Oh the joy of a personality disorder thoroughly indulged

Right, the day is young, and I have nothing much more to do and all day to do it, blissfully. That said, I’m kind of glad there’s only another couple of weeks of planned inactivity; whether here or the UK, I’d have to start ‘doing’ rather than ‘being’ after that.  
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