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.