Thursday, 31 December 2009

chilly christmas

Cold, cold Christmas


Living the jetset lifestyle which I do means that I am once again, writing this whilst crammed into a seat designed for an anorexic dwarf and failing to get to sleep. For those of you who hadn’t guessed, I’m on a plane on my way back to California after a great fortnight at home.
Obviously the biggest difference between being at home and being in SD is the weather, about 40 degrees colder! I left LA in a t shirt and returned home to find the roads covered in ice. I have been training but nothing like the hours that I put in whilst in the sunshine, it would be silly to try, I’d only make myself sick. I’m still big on goals and my goal while at home was to ride enough, catch up with buddies, keep my blood glucose under control, eat lots of my mum’s/granny’s delicious cooking and generally spend the festive period appreciating my fantastic family and friends. You need a solid social base to compete in any sport and investing time in your happiness and that of those surrounding you is just as important as developing a smoother pedal stroke or a higher w/kilo at lactate threshold.
My weapon of choice for riding in the winter and the rain is my Ellsworth roots cx bike. The increased clearances, mudguard mounts, little front chainrings higher BB make it great for riding on the roads around my house which might be best described as “sticky” or less euphemistically termed as “shite”. The nice thing about the ‘cross bike is that, on the days when it was icy, and I had a ride planned I could just pop on the knobbly tyred ‘cross wheels and the mtb pedals and go out and hit the trails. Frozen trails are hard, but grippy. Frozen roads are hard, and slippy. I found this out to my cost on the 23rd when I was out balsting around on the trails, I hit a paved section of maybe 20 meters in between 2 trails. It looked like it was clear. Safe to say it wasn’t and I affected some dancing on ice which would probably have seen me voted off the aforementioned reality TV show quicker than you can say “road rash”. After using my skin as a brake once, I decided to stick entirely to the trails until the ice cleared up. It might mean less training, it certainly means less specific training but you have to make the best of what you’ve got. I had a wicked time riding the singletrack which I used to ride when I first started out xc moutainbiking as a kid and the cool thing about the ‘cross bike is that it’s easy to nip out onto the road (if it’s not doing double duty as a skid pan) and move to another set of trails. Also the shorter wheelbase makes jumps slightly easier, but I didn’t tell you that.
I thought I might throw out some other tips on riding in the cold while I’m at it. Every year I see people riding training rides/races which they could have prepared for so much better, most of the time, they just end up packing it in early and drinking hot chocolate in a café instead of sipping champagne on a podium but there is always a chance someone could get sick, or hurt just through lack of knowledge/preparation so, in charachteristically random order here are my cold weather tips.
• Don’t ride your race bike, or wheels, or tyres. You need fat rubber (23mm or 25mm), a decent number of spokes, decent hub seals, 2 bottle cages and a good pump (I like framefit pumps for that old skool cool look)
• Bring spares: I like to cut the top off a bidon and put it in one bottle cage, in it I put a tube, a multi tool, tyre levers (changing a flat with frozen thumbs is bloody terrible) a tyre boot and a puncture repair kit
• Food – bring lots, eat lots you burn a LOT of calories staying warm. Test your stuff out as well, powerbars freeze solid (I have cut my mouth open quite badly in years past). Trek bars stay pretty chewable, so do sandwiches, sweets are good, cocoa orange nakd bars remain, bloody excellent.
• Drink-nobody said you have to put cold water in your bottles, I do green tea and honey. Try wrapping it in a sock and pouring boiling water on said sock before you go out, it stops the water freezing in the bottle, then even if the nozxzle freezes it’ll thaw out when you suck on it.
• Carry extra food and a phone – incase it all goes pete tong
• Clothing: dress like an onion; lots of layers, tough outer layers (hopefully nobody will cr as these layers get peeled off)
o I always start with a good base layer, sockguy makes a nice one with a free Tibet logo, make sure you get something breathable, tight and long sleeved.
o Mid layer – this can be more than one garment; if it’s cold I wear a tight microfleece jersey (like the demarchi contour plus) and a long sleeved thermal jersey (i.e. not a super thin long sleeve) but you can mix this up, some people wear 2 long sleeves, others wear a short sleeved jersey and a micro fleece. Generally if wearing a fleece place it directly on top of the base layer to aid wicking
o Then I go for an outer layer, occasionally this will be a gilet but most of the time I go with a thin jacket (like a rapha softshell) or, if it’s really cold I wear a proper coat, generally I prefer layers to wearing one thick coat and a baser layer though. Nalini makes a nice warm thermal coat for really cold days. Try to keep your outer layer as something with pockets, fumbling about with thick gloves on is a bit pants. You want it to be water resistant at least, even if it doesn’t rain, you get spay from the road.
o Gloves and socks – it’s all about the silk, seriously. Silk undergloves, silk socks, then I wear a pair of old specialized bg pro thermal socks and a good thick pair of neoprene overshoes to keep the spray off. On the hands its silk, then a pair of gloves, or, if it’s really cold my infamous “lobsterman” mitts. Diabetic folks need ot be careful, it’s all too common to have poor circulation when you’re diabetic and believe you me, cold hands with no blood supply can get really nasty really quickly.
o
Right, that’s far too much information to digest at one time, so stay warm, dry and happy. Have a great new year and make 2010 the year you commit to making a difference. None of this resolution crap mind, just look after yourself and other people.
Peace
james

Ps- im currently flying across America, it seems awfully large, I’m not so sure about this whole RAAM malarkey

Monday, 21 December 2009

Lego training pt 1 building your base

I have been training pretty hard the past few weeks and I'm building up to a solid block of sitting on my arse eating. I thought I would use this post to throw out some of the basics I use for nutrition and training in the base training phase. Bike training is a lot like lego, you get blocks, put them together and make something big and shiny which you're proud of, and, just when you think it's all going well, a bigger boy generally comes and kicks it all down.

For those of you who don't ride bikes or who aren't familiar with periodisation, base training is the part of my season where I ride a lot, not too fast (I use a powermeter to moderate my efforts) to increase the body's fatburning ability and capillary density. Whilst I'm not necessarily going slow I am generally going slower and try to limit heart rate to 80% of max or power to zone 2. I work on leg speed, strength, pedaling circularity and of course my trademarks: riding backwards, picking flowers and bunnyhopping. I'm pretty convinced I will find a use for my flower picking antics one day, I just need to find the right soigneur to hand them off to.

When it's silly cold, like it is in the UK now, I break out the 'cross bike and mess about in the fields, or ride my mountainbike, it helps your handling no end and stops you going stale. Also it's good to get muddy and fall off once in a while; it reminds you not to take yourself too seriously. I went cx riding today, it was cool, I even climbed a tree to see what I could see; now that's cross training. Then I fell off into some sticky burrs – don't ever do that, they might look soft on your way down but they hurt for the rest of your ride, especially INSIDE your jacket.

If I'm riding easy, the need for super technical sports beverages with the exact calculated number of calories per hour is, in my opinion, not as great. I tend to try to stick to one bottle of "food" (I like nuun, motortabs or prolong depending on how many calories I want) and the rest of my calories from real foods. The mainstays of this years winter training have been sandwiches, which always gets me laughed at on the local fast group rides, until someone eating their power(putty)bar realizes what they are missing out on. Favorites include peanut butter and jam, or pb and banana (with honey and cinnamon) peanut butter and nutella (or similar, I make my own with hazelnuts, cocoa and honey or agave) or even peanut butter, plantain chips and cinnamon-honey cream cheese. It's nice to feel like you've eaten something and most of the above are fully vegan, which is nice to the planet too. I mix these up with trek bars (nice and filling on cold rides) raisins (better in the heat, and a nice break in texture) and little honey packets which I steal from cafes! You can make great energy gels out of cocoa and agave syrup as well.

The base building phase is a great time of year to clock some miles with beginners, old men (or women), fat people, mountain bikers and generally he sort of folks that "proper" bike racers wouldn't be seen dead with. It's also a good time to avoid group rides where significant amounts of penis measuring goes down. Try to keep it in your trousers until at least the first of the new year. Whilst I generally use watts and heart rate to keep my efforts moderate I'm pretty cool with zen riding at this time of year (I'm pretty cool with zen riding full stop) and I'm more than happy to throw the monitors back in the shed and ride until I get tired, then stop and drink coffee, eat cake and come home. I know I'm going to hard if the constant stream of verbal diarrhea which spews from my mouth is hindered by a lack of air. IN all seriousness, close your mouth, if you're riding too hard for nose breathing, it's too hard for base. So slow down.


 

Thursday, 17 December 2009

New year, new deal

I'm writing this at LAX, if you get the chance to fly from LAX, Don't bother. For such a busy airport there really is very little to do, not even a good place to get coffee or steal wifi, give me Heathrow terminal 5 any time. Anyway, on the plus side I got to eat a good burger for lunch before I arrived and BA took my bike box with no problems. Looking around you at an airport is always fun, who's here, why? Where are they going? I love guessing peoples' back stories right now I am looking at a guy who is clearly making a pilgrimage to Liverpool to pay homage to the fab four, there is no other explanation for that haircut.

The reason I'm at LAX is that I'm off back to the UK for the Christmas holidays. It's a great chance to catch up with family, eat mince pies, monitor the developments in the beer industry and get some practice in hardening up to ride in the cold. IN this vein, Ellsworth bikes have kindly sponsored my efforts to race cyclocross by providing me with a very cool roots cx bike. It weighs about as much as a gnat's pube and first impressions are very good. I'm loving being off the road on a rig more suited to it than my road bike (on which I snapped the fork, that's why you don't ride your road bike off road kids) and mastering the remounts/ dismounts with limited impact on my "boys bits". Thus far I have entered 2 cx races, you can expect pictures of me covered in mud and manure by the new year.

Anyway, the main thrust of this post is that I'm switching teams for 2010. I had a good time with the Swamis' DET last year but my goals and theirs weren't mutually compatible in the long run. In the coming season I will be riding for team type 1, a squad based on showing diabetic people that anything is possible and diabetes isn't an excuse (now obviously there are limits to this, I can't fly but gravity is my excuse, not diabetes). It's a pretty cool set up and I'm looking forward to doing some big races, travelling around the USA and meeting lots of cool people and having loads of fun riding my bike. I feel this team is a pretty perfect fit for me, there's no pressure to go and race around a car park every weekend and then crash into everyone 100 yards before the whole petrifying experience is about to end (yeah, I hate crits). Furthermore being diabetic is a huge part of my life, but I'm not one to let it stop me doing anything, by being on a team which promotes exercise to the diabetic community I'm hoping to spread a bit of the "can do" attitude which finds me covered in my own sweat and dribble in various advanced stages of hypoglycemia in exotic locations around the world.

Base training this winter has been fantastic; I have been going well and feeling strong, having great fun riding my bike(s). Rolling out on a friend's training camp this week with some of the Garmin team and a few ex world/Olympic/national champions and lots of great friends. I realized how lucky I was to be able to ride my bike for 6 hours in the sunshine in the middle of the week. I love my job and I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm working on a sweet research project on the 1936 popular Olympics (Wikipedia it), teaching a freshers' writing class and riding around in the sunshine. Even when the UC system celebrates Christmas with a 4% paycut, things are still looking good for the future. I don't mean to sound conceited when I say all of this but it's all too easy to look for negatives. So instead of looking back at last year and seeing bad things, look forward to next year and think about how fu**in awesome you can make it!

Next time I write this, it'll be about 30 degrees (proper euro degrees none of this Fahrenheit crap) colder and I will hopefully be more comfortable and a little further away from the worrying rivers of perspiration flowing down this gentleman's forearms. Until then stay, safe, eat well, eat lots and ride lots more.

Peace

James

Ps-if you live in California, oppose the raise in UC fees, education should be free and this is a step in the wrong direction!

Pps If you were wondering yes, ia m still handing out trek bars to the homeless population of southern California

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Giving thanks

In America this week is Thanksgiving week. For most people here, this seems to be an excuse to lament the fact that they are going to eat a lot of food, then stuff themselves anyway, then moan about it. I'm not quite sure how that fits with being thankful, or indeed healthy, or for that matter with anything to do with gluttony and gloating in the face of the rest of the world but maybe that's cos im not from around here.

Anyway I had a supremely enjoyable thanksgiving, I'm chilling at a friend's house by the beach looking after Tigger the boston terrier and Marley the (scardey) cat. I spent thanksgiving with another friend, it was a great time, we ate (plenty) drank (good beer) made beer and ice cream floats (seriously: pumpkin ice cream, stone smoked porter, just do it). We sat around the fire, sung some songs and played some geetar. It was really nice to be in a big family (4 kids, mum, dad, aunt, uncle and everybody's friends). Everyone was happy and comfortable. Nobody moaned, everybody enjoyed themselves and nobody felt left out. It felt great to be part of such a welcoming family when my folks are so far away.

It made me realize that we do have a lot to be thankful for. Not really so much our ability to make lots of food, or consume lots of food but our ability to share it with friends. To make each other happy by giving something which we need to survive but are often too busy to enjoy. With that in mind I have been thinking of people who can't eat well, or at all.

I was out riding with Jesse the other day and we saw a homeless guy who had a sign saying he was hungry, nobody had cash but Jesse passed the guy a nakd bar – this struck me as a bloody brilliant idea. So i'm trying to start something: on your rides, especially at weekends, carry an extra ba, or a gel, or a tube and make an effort to help someone out. Don't do it for the adulation, just give your gift and ride away, you'll be blown away by the karma you can generate. So often cyclists don't get on with each other, or with passers by or with triathletes (I know, it's hard). If we keep spreading the good vibes, riding above the hate and road rage and passing on gifts instead of folding in mirrors (which I am as guilty of as anyone else) let's see if we can't make the road a safer place to be. Or at least help out somebody who needs 250 calories way more than most of us do. So go out there and the plastic coated 4 inch long love and give someone a trek bar ;)


 

Im looking out of the window – the Christmas lights here don't depict santa, or reindeer there's a fu*&ing 30 foot, neon Mc Donalds burger and fries outside my window. Don't ever say I didn't warn you….

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

sand, saddles and sunshine



Now I'm sure you've all heard this before but apparently it really can be more fun In a new position. Recently I went down to b and l bikes in Solana beach http://www.blbikes.com/ (my socal bike shop of choice, honestly if it had an espresso machine I think it would be my outright bike shop of choice – take note lads). To get my position looked at. As the base training season has begun in earnest my back started to have some nagging pains. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was rotating my back in order to take pressure of somewhere a little more sensitive! After quoting some pretty frightening blood flow statistics Danno (bike fitter extraordinaire and all around legend) showed me a new saddle which – combined with a change in cleat position and adjustment of seat height allowed me to get my back flatter and my saddle to bar drop greater. So not only am I more comfy I'm more aero, sweet.

I put in about 30 hours last week on my new position – I haven't had so much fun riding my bike in ages. I have been doing a lot of riding offroad on the road bike, I know all that "specificity" stuff has a place but it really is bloody good fun. Especially in the sand, it's like driving on a skid pan, you're not really in control, but somehow you make it out of the other side alright. Or you fall off. I may have returned home more than once in the past week looking rather sheepish and harboring sand in places where gentlemen shouldn't. it's something you should try (not the sand mind, that's pretty unpleasant, especially when you have to ride home), on a recent team ride the 2 people ahead of me and behind me crashed, I didn't. I'm not saying that I'm a bike handling maestro just yet (more like an Allegro), but it has helped. I have also been going to the gym, it's not fun and I don't suggest you try it. If you really must go – can I suggest you use the counting method I employ on the dumbbells (I'm pretty sure most of the guys there have adopted it now) – you only count prime numbers 1,2,3,5,7,9 etc – it makes you sound waaay hardcore. Also pick up from one set where you left off at the last. And you can add a grunt whenever you can't work out the next prime.

I'm dogsitting for a buddy for the next two weeks, I can't wait to have a dog around again, I love dogs! I need to get him some exercise each day – im considering trying to train him to pull me husky style but I think PETA might have something to say. Mind you I think the alternative (me taking him on runs) would offend people more, seriously I don't make nice faces when I run (see above, yeah that's me and, unbelievably im not actually being chased by a really scary animal [although if someone could photoshop in "the blob" that would be quite fun] im just trying to do a triathlon).

In other news, im riding for a new team next year, and it's very exciting. New soon. Also if you eat 2 pints of ice cream because there is no food at home and you just rode for 7 hours, don't expect to get by on your usual dose of insulin – In fact you might end up looking like a bloody pincushion. Oh and i'm base training in a jersey and shorts - 'cos it isn't cold here - i'm not missing the rain.


 

Stay safe, ride lots, keep smiling, and if you live in the states don't take any of this republican private healthcare crap (that's perhaps a rant best saved for another time….)

Furious fathers, felonies & fatalities

The angry bit -Wow that many Fs and I managed not to swear – fuck yeah! Oops. Anyway, I'm angry so im going to do some swearing. San diego seems to be taken up by a spate of really pointless anti- cyclist sentiment right now. First of all, 2 Saturdays ago some psychopath tried to kill me and my friends out on a ride. Now I know I tend to chuck out hyperbole but this time I'm not exaggerating. He got out of his car and started trying to hit people after running us off the road. The one of his buddies pulled up and joined in. we got photos & plates and called the cops – for once the iphone served a socially beneficial purpose!

A couple of words of advice for any potential road ragers out there :

One – you might got to jail http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/road-rage-doctor-guilty-of-assaulting-cyclists

Two - best not to use the car with the personalized plates

Three- don't do it with your little kid in the car, what on earth are you going to tell him when the fuzz pull you over "that's how daddy deals with people he disagrees with"?

Secondly – someone got killed riding their bike about 2 miles from my door- it's not clear what happened yet so iw on't say any more but be careful kids. In a car bike crash – cyclists tend to come off second.

Thirdly – the bacon pulled me over for having a technically illegal bike light, I had a light but it's body was translucent, and apparently that's not cool. I'm sorry but really, in a country where they still deny people basic healthcare does the state need to employ (and arm) a man to police pink bike lights?

Right okay rant over.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Mighty muesli

It has taken me a while but I think my moment of enlightenment has come. After years in the wilderness and many breakfasts spent idly chewing through not quite perfect but very worthy cereal combinations I have found what I consider to be the ultimate muesli: now,a s I know you're already salivating like a dog in a pie shop I won't hang about any longer. I'm going to impart some bad ass breakfast knowledge, an' you're going to love it.

Dry mix make a (ton of this and store it)

1 cup oats (fat ones, old fashioned style is best I think)

Half a cup of oatbran

Half a cup of rye or wheat flakes

Tsp cinnamon

3tbsp raisins

A few chopped dates and apricots (both dried)


 

Then, the night before I want to eat it I add a mix of strawberry kefir, almond milk and coconut milk (you could use one, or all depends how you roll, i like to mix it up) Pineapple juice also works pretty well here

A tsp or so of honey

And some frozen mixed berries (also I sometimes add mango)

Then I leave it in the fridge all night (you want to have the liquid about 2 inches above the dry stuff so it can soak it up)

In the morning I add a finely diced apple, some toasted almonds and a bit of granola, maybe some yogurt or kefir and maybe some honey.

As you can see it's a template, not a formula – I feel Muesli should embrace the individuality of it's creator and be an expression of your inner thoughts and feelings (ok that last part was superfluous BS). Anyway, I hope you enjoy my breakfast of choice, I'm pretty sure tony the tiger is crapping himself right now, he knows I'm coming.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

too ace for base?


well,since I last wrote, base training seems to have begun in earnest. That means i'm back to riding my bike like a crazy loon, my insulin needs have gone down and my ice cream consumption has gone way up. I also have already managed to get a silly little red line on my nose from going out in the sun too long, i think you'll find it pretty attractive.

I was going to write something boring about the benefits of base training but i thought you could find that on the interweb already so i'm going to go with something a bit different but still of benefit to those of you who are begging your journey to international cycling superstardom (or u23national 12hour heroics, i feel both are equally credible, don't you?).

You see cycling, much like Crufts is all about fitting into a preconcieved set of norms. Even if those norms aren't practical. Take my bar tape- it's white. Now in practical term's that's bloody stupid,i put my hands on it and it gets filthy. BUT much like the dog with the ridiculous cheeks which prevent him from breathing, everyone knows that i'm doing it right.

Facebook's rules of the euro cyclist group provides a useful guide. But it's only useful for wannabe euro yanks who don't really get it but like to throw money around and pretend they do. We don't have rules, approved parts lists or dress guides.it's all about style, comportment and attitude. That style is commercialised and commodified in the US, yeah, white bar tape is cool but shunning someone because tey don't have it? I think you're compensating for something.

im writing this because i have come across a young chap with a beautiful bike. He took it upon himself to impart some great training advice to me, apparenlty base training is massively overrated. And this guy should know, he has extensive knowledge of both football and basketball at the high school level. I was humbled. Only for about tens econds though, after that he started wobbling like bloody blancmange at the sight of a pine cone in the bike lane.

I have come across a few of these "experts" in my time in the states.One told me how important shoulder contact was in the many crit races he's done and them proceeded to pavement pancake it when his inability to ride in a straight line caused him to brush my elbow and fly into a blind panic. Just today a young lad on our ride set off to "teach everyone a lesson" up a big hill, he nearly learned a lesson about the finer points of skull fractures.

i have been doing loads of beginners rides and getting the UCSD freshers out on the grass doing bumper bikes with our new team coach Jesse.We have been riding down the coast each Sunday, going slowly, riding on the flat and letting people in tennis shoes join the group. It's rewarding, they're listening to advice and all getting better. We just sold 16 orbea bikes (at a great deal price, thanks to Orbea USA) to new riders. We're well on the ay to being my mini superteam, and we're using the real Euro methods. bike bumping, skills sessions, friendly advice and gentle correction when things go wrong.

Meanwhile the category 5 superheroes burn past us up the coast, shouting out for each pothole like it's a landmine and bleating like lost sheep every time they're approached by an oncoming vehicle. One of the UCSD kids asked why i wasn't riding with the "racers" the other day. I told him that i wasn't in a race. (Oh and another point, when i am in a race, i pin on my number properly, none of this horizontal American crap- see the photo above for proper number placement)

Have a good November, enjoy your base training, try and keep the penis measuring to a minimum for now and enjoy riding your bike. You're more than welcome to join us, even if your bar tape is black. So long as you're no too good.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Resting, hardly!

Well it's been a while eh? how are you? i like your new shoes, and what you've done with your hair, very cool.


 

In all seriousness sorry for the delay in posts. Despite not riding my bike stuff has been insane but i thought people (mostly those who are related to me) might be wondering how i was getting on. My activity in the last four weeks falls into three basic categories; team stuff, fun stuff and work stuff.


 


I won't bore you with the work stuff other than to say that i may have wangled it so i can do my next diss (yep I'm slangin' the word dissertation) chapter on chocolate. I told someone this today, and they laughed in my face. Apparently I can't throw down with the bio engineering possee just yet. I'm still working on seeming cool AND credible with the geeks, maybe if I got some of those buddy holly spectacles? or a cardagin?


The team stuff however is more exciting. I went to interbike to meet sponsors and to have fun in Vegas (which im going to gloss over for the benefit of anyone who doesn't want to be permanently traumatised).Luckily, the sponsors bit went somewhat better than the partying bit and i managed to get some coooooool hookup for UCSD. Fast forward a month and we have more people on the team than ever - 14 beginners bikes sold last night (that's 14 people getting into cycling who might not have done so if the good people at Orbea had not stepped in with their support). My car is packed full of people every Tuesday to come and watch me race (im going to persist in using the word race, even when there are more appropriate ones, like self flagellate) at the ghettodrome (San Diego's answer to the world's velodrome problem). And our Sunday rides are great, full of beginners, all eager tolearn (and possibly to have me buy them a muffin). The only issue the team is facing is a cash defecit, our main sponsor pulled out late in the day leaving us high and dry but we're going to sort something out. There's too much momentum to stop now.

Now for the fun stuff, it seems to be a weekly occurrence that I find myself in the sea, in my underwear, rapidly sobering up. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's pretty fun, but it gets pretty damn chilly riding a beach cruiser home afterwards! A word of advice would be to avoid the white boxers, honestly, nobody wants to see that. Aside from the midnight dips I have become highly proficient in the art of beach cruiser Madison (it's pretty hard with those big bars) and been running a bit (it's only fun when you find stuff to jump over, or animals to run away from). I have also purchased a car, I still don't like driving it on my own and I'm still trying to work out how to convert it to biofuel. So far my only drives have been to get the car registered, put fuel in the car, get a buddy to help me work out how to turn the wipers off on the car and to go to a bike race


 


Anyway – I need to start pretending to work again, I have to find a justification for this chocolate malarkey in a big dusty book, then everyone will think I'm clever again, little do they know……

Thursday, 1 October 2009

oaf season

right now i'm in the middle of my off season, i have been dabbling in the velodrome scene (more on that later) and visiting interbike (the less said about that the better) and perfecting my peanut butter apple bread (it's not perfect yet). It's really important for anyone who exercises a stupid amount to take a complete rest sometimes, it helps your head get back into normal person headspace and helps your body recover ( stress hormones get too high with overtraining). As a rule of thumb i say you should take your rest as seriously as you take your training, if you're a casual rider, then you dont need to worry. If you're killing it 11 months of the year, take a rest before it kills you!

as for the velodrome well, it's safe to say i have only been distinguishing myself by wearing ridiculous outfits. Frankly though when you cross the line and the commentator refers to you as "the dude dressed like a neon ronald mc Donald" and then someone in the crowd shouts "he looks like dr seuss threw up on him", in my mind you may as well have won.

i just bought a new track bike, purple frame pink anodised bars and a pink hub, im putting my old cosmic carbone on the fornt but i need a rear rim - i was htinking pink/purple plaid but it's hard to find. any suggestions for stems, cranks and chainrings are greatfully accepted.

I have been dabbling in cross training, i went for an mtb ride int he pitch black in my flip flops with only a knog light just now - i was bored. Lucky thing i didn't like my shins anyway. Aside form blatant massochism i have been searching for somehting fun to do that's not riding. i don't swim very fast and don't like running. I am 110% burnt out with rowing after school and Oxford. today i did parcours, like running but more fun there's lots of balancing and jumping and stuff. I can see this being prett cool, until i stack it. Ia lso threw in a few forward rolls, i don't think they're conventional parcours but i like to push it to the ragged edge - 'cos i'm gnarly!

Oh yeah - work's hotting up as well so anyone with any desire to know about practices of flagellation and body oiling in olympia - i'm your man.

also - if you haven't tried the new cocoa orange nakd bar yet - get one, right now - it's better than a Terry's 'cos youdon't have a;; that ta[[ing and unwrapping malarkey (oh and it's good for you). My dad ate half of mine, i have to say i was happy that he wasn't eating chocolate but sad that he raided mys tash of nakd goodies.

ciao for now
peace
js

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Time off

    

phew!

This season has been pretty tough. I have beenr acing from February until September with very little down time, the down time I did have was when I was forcibly pinned down to my bed by a combination of IV drips and opiates when my appendix stopped playing by the rules of the game.

I raced my last race about a week ago, it was a TTT which unfortunately got cancelled due to a pretty brutal crash. Sadly the officials decided to let the race go on while the ambulance was dealing with the wounded warrior, this meant we did 3 laps of the 6 mile circuit where we were diverted onto the beach for about 500m. riding a disk in sand is quite entertaining, I think my experience riding in rubbish weather helped me there but sadly we shall never find out as the race didn't finish. It's an idea though eh? Storm the beach time trial, like d day but with bikes, clock starts when the front of the boa comes down and you ride up the beach then knock out a 25, I can see it taking off.

In the tt I felt shocking, I knew I was tired and that the end was nigh but right after the tt I called it a day and decided to rest for a while. Then I went for a ride the next day! 30 miles in 3hours, a nice café spin to call an end to the season, I ate a muffin the size of my head, drank a ton of coffee and chatted with my friends who I hadn't seen all summer while I was away. Since then I have been sat roundly on my backside. It's nice to have some time to do the stuff you put off to go cycling. I have been sorting out the house, planning stuff and even looking into getting a pet gerbil. I haven't been steering clear of the old ales either ;)

On Tuesday night I threw down an off season performance on the track, nothing special but it was fun to be back on the velodrome. I'm trying hard to recruit lots of freshers to the UCSD cycling team, im not sure if they were more impressed by the ride (not great) or the fact I chinned a beer before changing out of my skinsuit (quite hardcore).Tomorrow I'm off to vegas and interbike to try and hook up some deals for the uni club and get good kit for the beginners at a cheap price, nobody should be priced out of our sport.

Now with classes and teaching starting again and the weather in San Diego being stooped hot I need the time to adjust, all to soon I'll have weights to lift, miles to ride and intervals to do but for now I am enjoying the rare phenomenon of lying in past 8 on a Sunday morning!


 

Ps any tips on the gerbils? I have seen some amazing cages with helter skelters and all kinds of stuff. I want a gerbil 'cos they don't live too long (I will only be here for 3 more years) and don't go mental at night. Other suggestions welcome

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Travel tips

Travelling

Justa super quick update today. I'm back in the US of A after a monster session on the plane/train. Perhaps an ill advised decision was to go for a 10k run, my first run in about 10 months, the day I got on the plane. I had just finished my last race on the road (I broke a wheel, not happy, so unhappy I'm not going o write about it) and was pretty excited about the 'cross season.

I packed away my bikes for the trip and headed out with my pooch. At first she as laying the hammer down and running all over the place, after about 6k she got distinctly more mellow and by the end I really thought I was going to have to carry her! I got ome from my run and felt good, only about 3 hours later did I realize how fundamentally wasted my body was, I had been doing run ups (up steep slopes) and hurdles, this pounds the old shins and quads a fair bit and most of the 11 hour plane journey was spent in quite precocious amounts of pain/cramp.

Anyway here are a few brief tips for long haul travel:

  1. Wear compression socks – you look like a granny but at least you don't get blood clots
  2. Drink, drink drink – dehydration is not your friend
  3. Take melatonin at local bedtime for jetlag

That's all for now

james

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Disappointments, diabetes and a double flat

Well, to cut along story short this weekend was a bit of a bummer. I really wanted to win the road race on sunday, it was on the first course I ever raced on. When I entered that first race I didn't know about entry forms or licenses or any of that malarkey, I wrote on a bit of paper "hi, my name is James, can I enter your road race" then I wrote my phone number, that was all. Thankfully the bloke organizing the race was a top legend and called me, told me about how bike racing works and took me under his wing. I did the race 2 weeks later and flew out of the back like I was stuck to the road. Paul continued to help me with my riding and without his help I have no doubt I would not be where I am today without his help. He drove me to races, taught me how to ride in a bunch, how to chaingang, how to eat on the bike ( it took me a while to grasp that one, I never eat enough) and all the skills you need to be a bike racer.

Ever since that first time on that course it has been a bit cursed for me , I have raced on it twice since then, both times in the very early season, both times in snow. One thing my life has taught me is that God did not fashion James stouts for going outside in cold weather. Had it been any other race I wouldn't have started, one time I was violently sick, I hung about for 1 lap before unceremoniously vomiting all over my bike, not the finish I was dreaming of. The other time I just minced off the back shivering like a reed in the wind (which is probably what I looked like) both times my parents came to watch, this is about the only time they have ever come to watch so I was pretty gutted.

This time, my parents came to watch, the race was going well, I had been with all the jokey moves that always go on the first lap and felt fine, on the second lap my best mate and wily sidekick matt had gone up the road. We rarely ride without each other and I could see he was looking lonely in the wind so I went with the next move that was headed up the road, we had a gap and were smacking it pretty hard to get across. I was on the wheel of some bloke from the cyclingbargains team and he neglected to point out a stupid, pointy stone which had absoloutley no business being in the middle of the road. I looked up just in time to see his rear wheel swerve, being as there was less than an inch between our wheel I couldn't react, my front hit the rock, so did my rear. I heard a loud hiss and, for a while hoped I was imagining things. At 30 mph a while gets you about 100m, but with two flat tyres that same while allows you to completely loose control of your bike! I got my hanbd in the air to signal to the bunch that I was in trouble and they came past giving me a wide berth, I pulled over and treated anyone in the vicinity to a veritable thesaurus full of four letter language. Then I tried to hail down a service car, but there wasn't one. I ended up riding back ot the HQ in a farmer's truck holding my bike out of the window, must have provided an interesting sight to those who overtook us. Matt assures me the rest of the race was "wheelsucking crap" and I wouldn't have enjoyed it anyway. We rode the 20 miles back to my house and moped around quite a lot. I ate a whole tub of ice cream and watched the office, this made me feel marginally better and a lot fatter.

The next day was the last of the upavon evening races which are generally windy, bloody hard and start at 7pm. For some reason I CANNOT get my bloodsugar right for these evening crits and as a result I was hanging after about 3 laps and after 5 I was sat in the carpark looking for someone with a packet of jelly babies. Not the best of weekends then.

On the plus side I made a really good rice pudding AND discovered that rice pudding with bananas and custard is a top notch breakfast or desert. I also went on a really long walk with my dog and picked lots of blackberries.

AND this morning a massive package of goodies arrived – trek protein flapjacks, amazing raisins and Nakd bars, I was like a little kiddie at xmas (I'll upload piccies of my stash soon) I can't say thank you enough times to the people at natural balance. As a diet conscious, wannabe healthy diabetic I find their foods not only yummy but also healthy. You know you're hooked up when people come to your car before the race to try and beg borrow or barter an energy bar!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


 


 

I read this article today and was genuinely disgusted, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/6088655/Hamas-is-leading-Palestine-down-the-road-of-carnage.html to pretend to be a NEWSpaper whilst publishing such one sided and biased propaganda is, in my opinion, disgusting. I just dashed of a rapid reply so that it is in time for tomorrow's edition, it's not great but at least it sets some of the issues straight.

It won't get published, they don't like being wrong.


 

Dear Sir,

I am disgusted by the one sided and blinkered portrayal of Hamas in mr Prosor's article today. What was published left me incredulous at the omission of some basic facts; The entire piece tactfully neglects to mention that Hamas were elected by the Palestinian people, his refererence to a "a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority in June 2007" has been acknowledged by international observers as a free and fair election  Edward McMillan-Scott, the British Conservative head of the European Parliament's monitoring team described the polls as "extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence".  Hamas won elections, not because of religious extremism or anti zionism but rather because of the massive perceived corruption of the Palestinian authority and the Fatah party. The elections, far from being fixed were acknowledged as fair,  however the response to these elections from Israel has been far from fair. As Robert Fisk  sarcastically commented "God damn that democracy. What are we to do with people who don't vote the way they should?".

 
 

Why then do we continue to peddle the myth that Hamas are merely fanatical terrorists? If, as Jack Straw said  it is true that that "[Hamas has to understand that] with democracy goes renunciation of violence." Why then have we acquiesced in the election of Ariel Sharon, a war criminal by the admission of his own government's report? The Palestinian Authority  under Fatah did what Israel now demands of Hamas as a "pre-condition" for negotiation. Yet for a dozen years of an Oslo "peace process" Israel didn't slow down construction of new settlements, didn't forego destroying olive trees, didn't halt preventing pregnant women from reaching hospitals, didn't stop assembling 8 meter concrete slabs in the gigantic apartheid wall which divides people from their jobs, friends and families and didn't enter into serious negotiations. Mr Prosor cites Hamas' "disregard for the sanctity of a house of worship" when in January of this year his own government was responsible for the destruction of the Jabalya mosque. Given Israel's refusal to commit to peace and reconciliation in Palestine it is perhaps unsuprising that the People living under occupation have chosen to elect a party who have promised to take a harder line towards Israel.

 
 

Mr Prosor is right that " Extremism breeds extremism" but it is Israel, as much as Hamas which has failed to allow " moderation a chance to flourish" by kiboshing the attempts of Hamas to take power within the confines of a democratic system.

 
 

Whilst we continue to discredit the language of democracy with the techniques of hypocrisy and terrorism we will never succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle East. We are prepared to talk about elections and freedom but in reality that freedom exists only within a narrow set of constraints, the conduct of Israel and the international community towards Hamas since 2007 illustrates that foreign policy in the Middle East remains focused on outcomes rather than legitimate processes and genuine freedoms.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Le tour de dorset

Well I have just got back from a fantastic few days in Dorset racing the WXCRL tour of dorset. Despite not getting much of a result (more on that later) I had a great time. A few things really struck me about how much I love racing in the UK compared to all the other countries I have been fortunate enough to freewheel about on my carbon stallion;

  1. England can be really beautiful in the summer (Wales, not so much. It doesn't have a summer they have the rainy season and the bloody rainy season)
  2. I love the windy roads, with high hedges, you don't get those anywhere else (see the photos at grahamrobins.net)
  3. The village hall after the race, you can't beat a good bit of cake, a plastic cup of tea and some banter
  4. A race which actually has hills, and breakaways
  5. The bunch banter
  6. The amusing confusion about how many laps we actually have to go
  7. The fact that everyone isn't taking anything too seriously

This weekend was a bit of an adventure, I agreed to give a friend a lift down, saldy he didn't finish work until 9pm on Friday, so I picked him up from tesco and we headed down to glorious Axeminster to stay with the family Cox. Good friends of both myself and Tom, the Cox's had agreed to tolerate our sweaty and constantly hungry presence in their home for 3 days. Nathan had been planning to race but his coach laid down the kibosh as he had a big stage race in less than a week. We arrived at around 11.30, had a chat and inflated our airbeds. With myself, Tom and Nathan in one room a good long chat ensued resulting in Tom and I clocking about 5 hours sleep before the race.

We got up early and headed over to Wool in order to check out the tt course before the start, what I didn't do was check out if tom's tt bike fitted me, he was 10th off I was last man. He got back from his ride and I hopped into his shoes and onto his bike and straight to the start. I set off like a bat out of hell only to discover that as soon as I sat down (and I use the term sat in the loosest possible sense of the word, impaled might be a better phrase) I couldn't help but notice my elbows and knees were getting a little too close. This hampered my efforts on the flat tt bit, only when it got hilly (and by hilly I mean 42-25 grinding) did I manage to pass the minute man. I would later find out that he had properly bombed the tt and I was still fairly distant on GC. Tom did well, despite moaning about it being rubbish he got the yellow jersey. After a quick pint of fudge flavoured milkshake and a healthy portion of pasta we saddled up for stage 2.

Billed as 60 miles the race ended up being nearer 80 including neutral zone due to some lap board shenanigans which was to become a common feature of the race (basically we did 1 lap then we got the amount of laps we thought we were doing). With tom in yellow I tried to help as much as poss. A break slipped away and the bunch behaved like typical 3rd cat wheelsuckers. Much agitation saw a bit of through and off getting going and the gap reduced from 1.30 mins to 15 secs, at this point I was pretty buggered so I decided to sit on. Needless to say the gap opened again. A couple of lads got across; despite numerous forays up the road I did not. A couple of amusing incidents occurred during the race, perhaps most notable was coming around a 180 hairpin to be confronted with the sight of "dangerous" dave, lying in the middle of the road, upside down. Someone screamed "don't move" and dave lay there, with his bum in the saddle and his hands on the bars, riding his bike upside down as the whole bunch sailed by, and I mocked his bar tape selection. With 5k to go I was off the front with a few other lads, we got caught. With a kilo to go I kicked it off again and was surprised to find myself still there with 500 to go, and with 300 to go and with 250 to go, this patter continued until about 20 guys came flying past me within spitting distance of the line. I was pretty angry, and pretty tired after riding on the front and having a few digs in the last few kilometers. A nice cruise back to the HQ gave me time to calm down and by the time I had recovered car keys from the neutral service car I was ready to drink another milkshake and head back to Nathan's where his mum furnished us with a bucketload of pasta and we proceeded to stay up late playing pool on the computer- nice race prep.

Sunday saw the queen stage of the race, long hilly and windy, guaranteed to split it up they said. Well the day before was a guaranteed sprint and a break had got away so I wasn't sure. Predictably the bunch staid together with the monster headwind neutralizing the hill (which was another 39-25 knee popper). On the back lanes with 3 to go we weaved in between hedges and tractors on roads only wide enough for 3 riders. Somehow I managed to chip off the front with another rider and, to my astonishment we opened up a pretty good gap. Perhaps whomever had taken it upon themselves to shout "hup" every single time someone so much as twitched an eyebrow had taken his eye off the ball, wither that or he was too busy shouting "car down", which seems to be the rallying cry of the 3rd cat fat controller. Anyway, somehow they let two skinny guys escape off the front and we proceeded to work well together. Richard was an ex- elite rider coming back from having kids and he schooled me in the art of riding from gutter to gutter to get out of sight and avoid the wind. Soon a bloke called Stephen came across to join us and we proceeded to engage in some proper stem chewing, rivet riding breakaway action. The second time up the monster headwind hill we had about 30 secs, we got caught after that. By this point I was pretty, much breathing out of every orifice I had. Going up the hill had been a world of pain, and for the 25 or so miles that we had been away I had been to excited or in pain to eat or drink, thankfully Nathan had come to watch and he handed me up a much needed bottle. Having safely returned to the shelter of the bunch and amongst the familiar calls of "car up" "ride straight" and "hup hup hup" I received pats and congrats form many of my buddies. Along the way I had officially picked up more sprint bonus points than boonen did in the tour de France, now that is a claim to fame. On the finish (at the top of the hill, I pretty much saw the lights go out and engaged reverse. I just slinked in at the back of the bunch but only after throwing my bike for the line and then noticing the line was about ten yards ahead, smooth move.

That night tom and I constructed an amateur ice bath with a sack of ice from a sack of ice and Nathan's bath, I'm not sure if it worked but it was bloody cold and we both felt well hard. Having eaten more pasta and some pork rolls Nathan kindly yielded his bed to me and Tom slept on a mattress. Before going to bed we decided it would be quite diverting to send twitter messages to lance "pharmstrong" Armstrong, to be honest I was not impressed by the fact that he demanded such a fee to race in Ireland (allegedly) and then packed (definitely). Judging by the response on twitter, some people think that's cool. I don't, he rode like a chipper, I wonder if he shouted "hup" so he wouldn't actually ever need to do any chasing. We reflected on the nature of the tour of dorset, or as it was fast becoming know, the wheelsucker worlds – in reality about 10-15 guys were racing and 65 guys were hanging on or sucking wheel like a vacuum cleaner and using what little breath they could squeeze out to shout "hup" in order to neutralize attacks. Other prominent proclamations include "car" (this can be used at any time a motor vehicle comes into view, even if it has been parked there for the past 70 miles and we've passed in 6 times) "corner" (see above) and "hold your line" (this comes when someone in front has been so engaged in looking out for cars or attacks that they forgot to steer). Curiously you don't hear the word "hole" uttered often in the bunch, we'd rather leave people to disappear down some of the dorset mineshafts which the council have been tactically ignoring since the industrial revolution.

More on stage 3, the grand finale coming soon.

 

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Pythons, pissing and pre – race meals

I have just got back from the python rr, I finished squarely in the bunch being the dedicated wheelsucker that I am. I'm okay with that though, im still getting some form back after the appendix came out so for me the goal was to finish a 90 mile race and try to do so without feeling like anything was trying to escape out of my bowel. In that case mission accomplished. The race itself was pretty boring; long, hot and flat, a break went, I tried to get across and pretty much found the limits of my fitness. I returned to the comfort of the bunch where I could roll around in fine company, eating my jelly babies and trying to avoid potholes. Amusing incidents of note include:

one rider needing to piss 3 times in a 90 mile race (I reckon he might want to get his prostate looked at) but then again I suppose it's a pretty good way to deal with someone who won't pull their turn on the front.

The bunch getting strung out behind a horsebox

Me nearly getting killed by an ambulance around a blind corner

Multiple uses of the famed reverse tap; you reach around a rider, tapping him on the opposite side to the side you are actually on, then you laugh at him when he looks the wrong way. It's comic genius, honestly.

Seeing as this would be a rather short entry without some other content I thought I would reflect on a couple of things. People often ask me what I think about during a race, honestly you don't really want to know. It's pretty boring. My internal monologue went something like this; normally you get a rubbish song in your head and it won't go away. Today's mental jukebox was spinning You've got a friend by James taylor and Ruby by the Kaiser chiefs – nice mash up. Aside form the song random thoughts tend to flow in and out. "it's hot isn't it, I should take some clothes off" "when was the last time I ate something, I wonder how my bloodsugar is" "it's a 90 mile race, what fraction of the race have we done, hmm 11/90 oh balls still got a while to go then, I should really think about taking this gilet off now." (unzip gilet, sit up) "oh balls someone's attacking, ouch this really hurts, I think I'm going to get dropped, o h there goes a wheel jump on, hey this guy has matching shoes and tyres, nice, ooooooooouch this really hurts and I have my gilet undone, I look like a cross between superman and a smurf, is that a horse or a cow, no it's a horse, oh good we've slowed down a bit, oh crap that's a pothole, cool I hopped it, I bet everyone is impressed with my bunnyhopping skillz" (sit up roll up gilet) "hmm I need to eat, I wonder if I can combine two flavours of jelly baby to make a cocktail – oh bummer, I can only find green ones, oh look a tractor, I wish I had a tractor (I really do), I wonder what I'll make for dinner tonight, maybe I should attack" (attack) "bad idea this hurts, but I have a gap oh crap it's a big gap, this is such a bad idea, this hurts soo much, pedal smoothly, hit the apex of the corner (brief James taylor interlude here, I also dribbled a bit) oh they've caught me, good now I can relax, oh crap they're spanking it, hang on, find a wheel, sweet got one, oh look this guy has hairy kneepits, schoolboy error, I'll tell him when I can summon enough breath to, oh that guy has race number 69, sweet. That man's mowing his lawn, it's ages since I have done that, I wonder if he has a veggie patch, looks like he does, bloody hell that's a mad combover on that bloke watching, if I move up now I can slip back on the hill.

And so it goes on until the last kilometer which is a little different: "who's wheel do I want, oooh not that one he's a chopper, this one looks good, swerve the pothole, get round this bloke he's dying, have I got any gears left, yeah 2 left, was there another corner, oh crap yes, slow down, find a hole move up, WE"RE ALL GOING TO DIE, phew danger averted, jump up a wheel, oh crap the right hand side is moving way faster, I'll move across, sorry, just crossed someone's wheel AAAAARGH IM CROSSING BARS, oh good I survived, crap yellow flag, change gear, out the saddle give it beans, oh balls my jersey zip just broke, shoddy, I don't think I have got that fat recently, maybe it was all the ice cream last night, oh crap there's the line, this guy's a nutter he's sprinting like Kermit the frog, can't get past those gangly elbows, ooooh my legs hurt, now my lungs hurt, now I cant see. Phew over the line, spin slowly, find a mate, find some water, ride back to the car. Rinse and repeat.

Another thing I wanted to reflect on was pre race meals, I like to eat about 3-4 hours beforehand, I have tried a few things but I generally try to avoid dairy, I like porridge with almond milk and I had rice and raisins today with soy sauce. Some people eat eggs but I think I would revisit them, I like yogurt as well but sometimes it makes me phlegmmy. I will sometimes eat ice cream if it's a group ride, if I have time/energy I make pancakes and waffles. Coffee is a must. Sometime's if I'm in a rush I will confess to eating a trek bar and a smoothie. The night before though, it has to be pasta. ON the continent they make you eat pasta 3 hours before, it's like a bloody religion out there, everyone's doing it and you get shouted at if you don't. I'm not hardcore enough to eat pasta for breakfast yet, maybe one day.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Racing and planning

First off, a race report. I did the castle coombe crit on Thursday night. It's basically a kermesse style race but with a unique twist, or really a series of unique twists which make it its own kind of creature;

  1. It's on a flat, windy motor circuit so you find yourself spinning like a nutter in 53-11 on one straight and wheezing like a pensioner in 53-19 on the other
  2. It's a handicap race, the 4th cats get a 1 lap (2 mile) lead, then go the 3rd cats with about half a lap, then after the 4th cats do lap 1 the scratch posse heads out, this workd well as the scratch group gets some through and off working and we catch the assembled 34 bunch quite close to the end. BUT I have recently discovered that some 4th cat racers (and I admit it's not all that long since I was a 4th cat) have the memory span of a goldfish. Each lap is a new and exciting experience, necessitating much screaming and occasional frenetic bouts of heavy application of rubber to rim. Having been in the elite group for about an hour, this is quite a shock when we do merge into one glorious whole.
  3. It always bloody rains
  4. it starts at 730, so it gets dark near the end which makes it more scary
  5. they let someone with some special counting skills do the laps to go board resulting in the 15,14,13 12, 12,12 10, 9,9 7, 3,3, bell lap combination which leads to much frenzied moving up and complaining at the back. I can see the organizer is trying to eek out as much racing as he can for us, so actually I quite respect his funny counting but it does piss you off when you're in the hurt box and the lap cards start to climb
  6. you shouldn't drink loads of coffee beforehand because then you cant sleep

this Sunday I have an E12 road race, it's called the python rr, I hope this doesn't mean it is going to bite me in the arse. I have had pretty good luck with snakes. I picked up a puff adder once thinking it was a grass snake, but it seemed to like me so I survived. Didn't stop everyone I was with running away when I kissed it's little head though, they still maintain I'm nuts. I went swimming with a green mamba once, my first multi sport experience. Someone saw the snake, yelled, I swam like a madman then ran like a bullet (actually I ran like a constipated duck because that's how I always run) then I realized I had left all my clothes and shoes by the river so I minced back and rescued them.


 

Anyway onto the planning – as you can tell form the above I have spent a chunk of my short life in Africa, I love the people and the countryside. I also love bikes. I have hatched a cunning scheme to combine my 2 passions in using one to help the other. Yep- I'm going to have Africans push me up hills. No, sadly it's a little more serious than that. Lots of people struggle to get to school and even if they could get there paying for it is a massive struggle, so is doing homework without an electric light. I'm not going to pretend I can solve the world's problems with a sturmey archer 3 speed but I do have a little scheme which I think might help.

Giving families a bike would allow them to

  1. sell their produce in urban areas and make a little bit of money which they could use to pay for an education or to improve housing/farmland (it's a bit hard trying to sell stuff to your neighbor when he grows the same stuff)
  2. get kids to and from school and allow medics or teachers to travel around more freely than they could on foot.
  3. generate enough electricity through a dynamo hub to power a small light bulb for a few hours a night
  4. have a piece of kit which they can easily fix themselves (or once person in each community can fix) and which has zero input/fuel costs.

It's a plan, if anyone has the kit/ideas/contacts to help (I need bikes, dynamos, transport, cash and brains) drop me a line jamesstout100 [at] gmail.com


 

In other news my chickens just dropped a massive egg, I mean it's bloody huge, I took a photo. At least 2 yolks, maybe 3. I don't envy the poor little birdie which had to lay it though.

Friday, 7 August 2009

It’s a family affair

S


 

Something happened at the time trial on Wednesday night which I never thought I would se, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had in a time trial (Admittedly that isn't saying much).About 2 miles into my club 10 I passed the person who had started a minute in front. A 49 year old man on a cheap road bike, not much out of the ordinary there. The difference was, this was my dad!


 

Every time I go out to ride I'll always walk into the kitchen and mix my bottles and grab my trek bars from the box on the windowsill. Traditionally my mum/dad/sister will ask me what I'm doing and I'll tell them I'm going or a bike ride and ask I they want to come. They laugh, say no and off I go. My family aren't really into cycling, occasionally my mum will watch races and she supports me as much as she can. My dad was a pro rugby player and has never really been physically suited to a sport which favors those with a high power:weight ratio.

Anyway last week my dad asked what I was doing on weds night and I said iw as riding out to the club time trial and asked I he wanted to come. He had been riding or a little while on a bike I had built for him and I had suggested he do the tt. He said he was thinking about it. I called him at work and told him what to expect. I wasn't sure if he would make it so I set off to do my ride before the race. I arrived and signed on, as I was warming up I saw the amiliar shape of his estate car pulling in. Sure enough it was my dad, I helped him put on his number and made sure I was behind him. He was a little nervous but everyone was very encouraging. He didn't want to get overtaken by too many people. I started one minute behind and made sure to sit 100 yards behind rather than blowing straight past. Once I was sure he was safely riding on the biggest road o the course I came past and set into my tt rhythm. I wasn't as concerned with my race as catching a sight of my dad on the way back. After I finished I hung around at the end. About 5 minutes later my dad arrived, looking tired but exhilarated eh quickly integrated into the friendly banter in the gateway after the finish.

For someone who hasn't been riding much I was really impressed, I rode a nice tempo and logged a 24.08 for the ten on my road bike (I was pleasantly surprised given that this was my first effort since the op) my dad did a 28:36, this means an average of over 20mph, which is a very good first effort. My dad drove home in the car, I rode home (it's about 15 miles) . when we got back we had a pie and a chat and he admitted to quite enjoying it, the next day he even took 2 nakd bars to work instead of chocolate bars. A new leaf has been turned over and I'm proud to be part of it.

On Thursday night I did the elite race at castle coombe. Having been in Spain and San diego all year it's fair to say I have turned into a massive fairy boy and I was shivering about ten million times a second before the start of the race. I honestly feel that a snorkel would have been better than a helmet in conditions like that – I hung on for just over 8 of the 15 laps, people kept flying out of the back o the race and eventually I couldn't get around. I went back to the 4th cats (lower category riders) and did some solid work on the front of their bunch, I nearly managed to help them stay away from the elite (pro) field and win the handicap race. Sadly my scheme was foiled on the last lap but nonetheless my baptism of fire (or flood) was complete. It felt good to be doing a proper bike race again, one where you pin on your number properly and wear embrocation. Where everyone can ride their bike properly and the peloton goes through and off. Now I just need to get my legs back so I can ride like a proper racer!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Well, I'm back riding again which is great. Sadly the weather has decided to respond to my return to the road by unleashing the precipitation which I haven't experienced all year in California. Saturday was a wet one, as was Thursday. It's funny how quickly you loose the knack for riding in the rain. I very nearly ate asphalt on a couple of descents.

Sunday was a top notch day, nice weather and great company. I set of with the old men on the club run, it was great to go and do the club run, I remember when this was the highlight of my week, I'd take a rest the day before and eat lots of pasta. Now it's a nice easy paced ride of roughly 70 miles, we do a different route each week and take it in turns to lead. Generally the A and B runs meet at a café (see hwo I used an accent on café – take note) where we have tea and cakes. Then we head back to town, we normally have a little bit of a burn up towards the end to sprint for the 30 sign into town.

After we got to the café stop this week I headed the 40 or so miles over to Worcester to watch a local race which lots of friends were in. The only minor issue was that I wasn't entirely sure where it was. You see there are lots of little villages around here and I knew the one I wanted began with a K, problem is so do lots of them. This led to a bit of impromptu testing from one village to another and us rolling up as everyone was leaving. After a few chats I persuaded some of my mates to go change the route for their planned ride home so we could ride together. It's amazing what you can get people to do when you employ the "fat lazy slacker" line. We rolled around a few villages and then back towards our respective homes, we hadn't planned for the block headwind so it turned into a bit of a sufferfest.

A word of advice for anyone who wants to put in 120 miles on a Sunday – don't go out on the cider the night before, missing breakfast 'cos you feel hungover might result in you getting a little bit floozy! My bloodsugar wasn't in its happy place after 100 plus miles in the wind so we pulled into a garage and loaded up on vimto and boost bars which got me home. The debris from this ride was pretty amusing, I have just checked my bin and found 1 boost bar, 2 trek bars, 1 trek protein bar and a cocoa orange nakd bar (which was AWESOME). The hog roast I had on Saturday night also deserves a mention, perfect pre race fuel –no, yummy- yes.

Anyway when I got home I did my typical thing, having survived entirely on rectangular food until 4pm I raided the cupboards and gorged myself like a little piggy. Even after 22 years my mother remains amazed and somewhat disgusted at my ability to see off a whole biopot yogurt with honey nut loops, then go to town on some tuna pasta and still do some work on a Victoria sponge. So yeah, my cyclists' appetite has returned. Having looked at the bloodsugar numbers it's amazing what 3-4 days back training can do to the metabolism, maybe fat people might want to give it a try…….

Today's Monday. I have spent all day baking a courgette cake (yummy), making ratatouille (also yummy) and making a tt bike out of my old road bike (I'm not going to lie it's fugly). More on ming the merciless (which is what I'll be calling the new bike) as and when I can bring myself to go out on it.

peace

Thursday, 30 July 2009

back in the big ring


I got to ride my bike again today, it was great. i kitted up, mounted my shiny steed, took a brief moment to admire myself int he windows of the house and then struck off into the wild blue (or grey) yonder.

It was all going pretty well, until i hit the hills. at first i thought i felt surprisingly good, then odd things started happening. I felt really hot and like i needed to cough. Yes folks, i was, for the first time in a long time, unfit. I encountered the distinctly unusual feeling of being out of shape for the first time since the back arseh&le of the offseaon. Now normally when you are out of shape in november, nobody cares. You've all just come off the offseason and you resemble a bunch of cyclists from a distance but, up close you can see, everyone's a few kilos over weight, legs are hairy some particulairly unsanitary individual will be undoubtedly sporting a beard. RIght now i'm shiny, pretty lean but i'm lacking in fitness.

That said, i have the opportunity ot spend a week now just putting in long miles. I always lament that the best days ot go on long rides are the ones when you have to do proper "training" or racing. Well now i can enjoy the sunshine and head off on some expeditions to find the best teacakes within 80 miles of my house, then eat them, then ride back full of butter and raisins. LIfe's not so bad really.

Oh and i just got back from 2 days in Barcelona, i got to actually play with indurain's bike - it was about the right size as well - how cool is that? i went to cacao sampaka, it's my favourite chocolate shop ever, they do the best hot chocolate and these crazy truffles, like parmesan flavour and anchovy! I also got some great leads in the archive, and found some really intriguing grafitti. I also had a really really revealing chat with a taxi driver, see sometimes i pretend i'm doing research but all i really do is hang out in bike shops talking to old men about old riders.

Im going to write another post about this but everyone i told about my research whilst i was in Barcelona got really excited. Even the old abuela making the tomato bread in the bar by my house got all bleary eyed talking about Bahamontes and how he ode so "gracefully". now anyone who can provide me with garlic infused carbs AND wax lyrical about cyclists from the 60's that's my kind of girl. Unfortunatley spanish ladies of a certain age seem to have an irrepressible urge to feed me, it means we can't talk for long, or i'll explode.

oh i just got a shipment of trekbars form natural balance wholefoods, those protein flapjacks they are making now are pretty yummy, they go nicely with a cup of tea.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

What do normal people do on a Saturday?


Devoid of any cycling based activities I have been finding other ways to fill my days recently. Chiefly these diversions have consisted of harvesting the bounty provided by our garden and the surrounding area and trying to turn it into something which might pass for food in a civilized environment. First on the list were the messianic mushrooms, so called because of their seemingly biblical powers of regeneration, we clear the field and come back the next day to find more. I managed to find a recipe for duxelles and pate, after a long time making the kitchen smell nice I produced something approximating a rich mushroom spread – it tasted nice when I hit it with a ridiculous amount of double cream and some white wine to make a pasta sauce but frankly anything with that much cream in had better taste nice.

Next up was bakin' bread – I like baking, mainly because I like bread and I like certain types of bread which you can't always buy easily. Case in point wholemeal raisin, date and pistachio bread which is very yummy when smeared with honey and peanut butter. I used a basic wholemeal bread dough then popped in my dried fruits, some cinnamon and some pistachios. I glazed the top with honey and salt dissolved in hot water – that's the sucker punch it makes a yummy crispy crust.


Unsatisfied with my days creativity I decided to go and spend some time with Rocinante, (yep, I'm pretentious enough to name my bicycles after Horses in Cervantes' novels). I have a little bit of a thing for pimping my ride and a brief trip to the shop, a few flashes of my scars and renditions of my sob story yielded the desired response, a pair of Red Hudz and a gold KMC chain. The gold chain can wait until my peak races (I like the black and gold look, very MR T) but the hudz had to go on straight away, I gave the "candycane" bar tape a quick scrub to complete the look. Then reclined with a beer to appreciate how fu&*ing awesome I am.


 

At this point my stomach intervened amd reminded that however cool I might think I am my intestines still look like a sieve and I should go and have a lie down. I watched the tour for a bit as well, Ventoux looked mental, I was really hoping 'Bert would throw his water bottles at lance and wiggo could chip off the front and nobody would notice. Sadly that didn't happen but wiggo did a solid ride nonetheless. I have also decided I need a cycling twin so we can be like the schleks, they have to be willing to learn to speak and spell in proper English though and to wear an orange hat like me. Oh and to let me be the cool twin, they could be the quiet and slightly nerdy one, I'll be the cool and somewhat mysterious one.



 

Later one of the neighbours came around, we talked beer and hog roasts (seriously try not to laugh when you are with your mum and one of her mates and they are discussing where you can get a good spit roast) and then we had tea. It's been a while since I have had a proper tea so we had the teapot out and milk jugs – the whole shebang, we don't mess about. I'm pretty sure P diddy doesn't party like we do down in murcot. In all seriousness it was nice to have tea but the middle aged lady babble was boring so I went inside to pretend that I am actually writing a pard of PhD thesis and not just spending four years as an underpaid proseffional sunbather/coffee drinker. Dad's back now he was playing cricket for our village against another village, I'm pretty sure they got annihilated, that seems to be the pattern.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Getting better with baking


Well im back at home at last, it's been a while. After a couple of days of feeling rubbish I now feel a bit better – still rocking the bun in the oven look though. I also have really odd pains in my shoulders, apparently they have a nerve which links them to the diaphragm. Seriously how does evolution theory OR intelligent design account for all the pointless crpa in our bodies. Appendixes, random nerves, wisdom teeth WHY? Sounds like not so intelligent design to me, kind of like those penknives you can buy with loads of pointless blades which only serve to poke you when you're just trying to get out the hoofpick or the miniature compass.

I thought you all might like an update on my latest adventure; I have baked a lemon cake. I used a recipe I found online then i modified it (see the brackets)

Today is the first day I have really been able to eat so it's nice to have something yummy.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I subbed about ¼ of a cup for almond meal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil ( I used walnut oil, makes it yummy and nutty)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

    For the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used the juice of 2 lemons and added honey the reduced it)

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

    Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

    Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

    When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

    For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake. (for my glaze I juiced 2 lemons added enough honey then bubbled it down to the right consistency)


     

    When the time comes to eat it add yogurt of the greek variety, and some berries. Or cream or (and this is actually crazy good) soft goats cheese and honey

    Keep smiling

    James

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

intesteresting

Right so, things haven’t gone according to plan! Im back in the UK< I have been back for 2 days but I haven’t been home yet, but at least I have got a cup of tea . In France the old appendix really started playing silly buggers, the food where we were staying was fantastic but I couldn’t enjoy it. Every time I ate I felt rubbish, my family finds it hard to cope with my diabetes at the best of times and this was really a bummer for them. Everyone was being understanding but I was getting worse and worse. We waited it out until our flight and I decided not to eat so that I could have an op when I got back.
I checked in to casualty at home and buggered about for a bit being passed form pillar to post. It was interesting to be actually salient in Cheltenham A & E, every other time I have been here it has been for one of my trademark delayed concussions, usually following a Saturday night fracas S aturday afternoon rugby game or using my forehead to slow me down in a bike race. Eventually they told me to eat at 8 pm, I had 4 sandwiches and felt rubbishy again, even the milka chocolate from france didn’t make me feel better. At this point I realized it was going to be hardcore nasty. However, it was nice to be home (or about 20 miles from home) I enjoyed watching quality British tv and reading the papers again. I got in a solid 10 hour sleep before meeting with the consultant in the morning.
The news he gave me was not good, not good at all. They can feel a mass in my intestine and I’m going for a scan again to confirm what it. It might be an appendix mass, it might not. He was pretty unimpressed by the treatment I received in the US, saying he would have operated right away. Now I’m waiting on the scan but I have been told that this could be the real deal a mahusive operation and 4-6 weeks off the bike. That would be season over. That could be a massive let down for me. Things haven’t been going well at all this year racing wise but it’s been cool. My focus has been on july and august. To loose the ability not only to race but to ride, especially in the summertime would be a real downer.
Anyway nothing is confirmed yet and he’s pretty sure it’s not a tumor – which is always nice. Having some time off will give me some time to do other stuff and get some solid work done. The body needs a break at some point, maybe this is my body’s way of telling me that it wants one now. Hopefully I can refocus and reset some new goals, it should be an interesting diabetes challenge, my metabolism will change a lot and I’ll have to learn how to deal with that. Lots of cooking and experimenting to come!
As for now my short term goal is to drink this radioactive solution so the CAT Scan can get a good look at my insides, then hopefully I can eat something before I have to start fasting again for my operation. It’ll be my third day of fasting – at least I’m not going to get fat sat here on my arse! Gives you an appreciation for what other people have to go through, my energy levels are rubbish and I can’t imagine being in a situation where you have to undergo this kind of calorie deficit every day and still go out and provide for your family.
So in an effort to try and stay positive I’m going to try and find some volunteering to do and some people to help. I’d love to go back to Kenya or Venezuela – I have some projects there I would like to finish up but I’m not sure if I’ll be fit to fly. One project I did have in mind was helping to get materials and bikes to kids down in Kenya – the materials (pens and books etc) help them to learn to read and write, giving them a hand up out of the poverty which can often be imposed upon them. The bikes let them get around to school, into town to buy food and to have fun and a sense of freedom. So if anyone has any old materials, surplus cash or hookups in the transport/shipping industry, drop me a line (jamesstout100 @ gmail.com)
Keep smiling, don’t ever forget to be grateful for what you have and angry for what others don’t
James

trains, pains and automobiles

What a day

I left my house at 6am this morning. I needed to be at the station by 7 for a 730 train. Luckliy I had been pretty organized and had scouted the route the day before- it took 45 mins in traffic but I gave it an hour (and there was no traffic). I was feeling pretty smug at arriving about 40 mins early, time for a café solo and a pastry before embarking on the 5 hour trip to san Sebastian. I had a chat with the guard as I had time to kill, after a few nicities he kindly informed me I was at the worng station and that the train to get to the right station was leaving, now. He waived the usual baggage scan and told me to ride across and onto the train. Now when I say ride onto the train I do mean ONTO, I quite literally rolled into the carriage with both feet still clipped in, badass.

I was pretty pleased ot arrive at the right station with 10 mins to spare, I scanned my bag and went ot the platform. At this point a lady, who may or may not have been satan’s daughter) appeared. Her 3 foot frame was easily overlooked at first but her hi pitched dsquealing was not. She proceeded to tell me I couldn’t get on with a bike. I proceeded ot show her my reservation con bicicleta. She wasn’t taking any crap – the train was overbooked and I wasn’t getting on. By the time I had finished questioning her mother’s fidelity the train had left, and so had my hopes of getting to San Sebastian in the next 12 hours.

I waited in several lines and eventually ended up 2 hours later on a regional train to the French border, I got into france 5 hours later after spending a while hugging my bike in a baggage car and trying to sleep with my head on the saddle – if you’re wondering it’s not comfy but it is oily.

ON arriving in france I took another train to Narbonne, where I was kindly informed that I would need to wait another 5 hours for the next train out of Narbonne. This would have been cool if I could have gone for a ride but, with my bags, that wasn’t possible. So I engaged my default lost in France setting and went to look for a bakery. Unfortunatley it’s bastille day and after a pretty extensive cruise I can confirm that everything is closed. Judging by the inhabitants of Narbonne most of the clothing shops closed in about 1983 and they put an embargo on new hairstyles right before the mullet became tragically uncool.

An hour of suitcase dragging flip flop wearing crusiing later and I have found a bar, I have persuaded them to show the tour de france and bought a pretentiously small espresso (my 3rd today). I should get into Bordeaux at about 11.30pm if all goes to plan, and to the house about 1am – happy days.

After stocking up 15 hours on the bike in 3 days I am ready for a day off sitting in a bar but this is not how I had envisaged spending it. But every cloud has a silver lining – right now I’m panning for silver, I’ll let you know if I find any

UPDATE well I haven’t spoken French for a while so that’s quite fun and I think I can see a shop where I can buy those yummy sweets they have here – carambars I think they’re called. I might try and order a perrier without looking like a twat as well, that would be pretty cool. I’m also working on disguising the hair on the op of my head to make my long hair look like a straight up mullie, if I succeed I’ll post a picture.

Part deux

You’d think that with a five hour layover in a town the size of most people’s cars in southern Califronia the one thing you’d be guaranteed is not missing your train. Well, I beg to differ, you see I had missed out on a crucial fact about corssing borders, sometimes you cross time zones. This resulted in a frantic sprint on the bike through the narrow, cobbled streets of Narbonne with my flip flop flippin’ and floppin’ and my backpack swining, all the while pursued by a very friendly north African chap who was prepared to offer me an I-phone at a substantially reduced price.

I just made my train and got to tolouse in time for the next transfer. I went straight to the platform as we were running late and the next train should have already been there, it wasn’t. it too was running late. I wasn’t that bothered as this was the last leg of my hourney. I was, in fact, quite excited to be nearly done. So I rode my bike around the platform (I may have also done some of my more flamboyant victory salutes for the adoring masses, and I’m sure both of them appreciated it) until a guard decided to threaten me with expulsion if I continued.

I got on the TGV, it was pretty cool, with seats reserved for cyclists having special info printed on them, only in france! I set about eating the yogurt and museli I had bought in Narbonne, only to realize I didn’t have a spoon – fortunately I was able to blag a coffee stirrer and thus occupy myself for 45 minutes with only 125g of diary produce – pretty creative time management I think you’ll agree.

On arriving in Bordeaux I was pretty happy to be done – I rushed out of the station only to find my parents lost in the one way system. I then got to spend a n enlightening quarter of an hour in the red light district and met some very friendly middle aged women. who, I am reliably informed, were not women before they were middle aged – nice. Anyway after making a couple of passes my parent picked me up, great to see them again. We drove back to the house and I was relieved to finally be able ot get to bed.

The doors were all locked, just when my day had been going so well! After a brief mountaineering trip I managed to get in through a French window and crawl into bed – bring on the holiday!


ps it's worth noting that my appendix was properly kicking my arse all day - no bueno

BA, bags and Barcleona

BA, bags and Barcleona

BA managed to loose my bags, including my insulin for 3 days, special. In the end I had to get a bsu to the airport and liberate the bags myself. Big thanks to Spanish baggage handling for letting me in. I’m pretty sure that’s strictly not what they should do and I’m pretty sure that by doing so they saved me some major trauma.

The next day, just when I was feeling good about my life, with my bike rebuilt and watching the tour someone half-inched my wallet on the metro at placa de catalunya. Normally I’m a pretty big believer in Karma and I look for something bad I’s have done to deserve this. I haven’t been quite as strict with my morals as I could have been. I let myself promote products I don’t really think are that great, or that morally upright. I ate food which might not have been treated as well as it should be and I walked past a homeless man without sharing some of my money. The irony was that I had just been thinking about that and I’m pretty sure that the reason this particualir tea leaf knew where my wallet was stashed was that I had just taken it out to give money to a dude who didn’t have enough for his ticket.

Appendix adventure

Right, so this has been a lenghtly saga, all leading up to me returning back to the uk slightly sooner than planned and in less than perfect circumstances.

About a month ago I started having pains in the lower right hand side of my stomach. I assumed for a while that I had screwed up with an insulin injection and popped it into my gut or something. I went on riding for about a week and then, after a 110 mile hard ride I wasn’t even hungry. Now normally I can put away some pretty serious amounts of nosh so this wasn’t normal, especially after 5 hours of riding. I went to the docs at UCSD and they did a blood test, I called up to get the results and was told to make an appt in a month, while I was explaining to the receptionist that his wasn’t gonna cut it I got a call. Being angry I hung up on the receptionist and picked up the call, it was the doctor. I had to rush straight to casualty. Where I proceeded to lie on a trolley for 4 hours, next to someone with swine flu.

In a couple of days I was able to see a doctor, I hadn’t really eaten for about 40 plus hours by this point but they’d been dosing me up on morphine so I was beyond caring. They did a scan and confirmed that about a week ago my appendix had burst and I’d been putting up with it like a trooper. The pain was pretty bad and one of my friends recommended phenegrin; phenegrin is, without doubt the most awesome painkiller going. As the doctor injected it he asked me my name, I was good with that. Then he asked me my birthday, I knew what to say but my mouth wasn’t having any crap, I took my hands and tried to manipulate my lips into speaking – next thing I knew it was 10 hours later and I hadn’t moved.

They dosed me up on antibiotics, took the infection down and sent me packing, telling me to go to a hospital if it flared up again. Fast forward 3 weeks and I had done a couple of races (I lost a fair bit of weight and it took me a while to get the fuel reserves back). And then skipped off back to Barcelona for some research, the tour de france ,mucho long training and some time with the extended family in france.