LEJOG postponed…life gets in the way

Right – the reason I started this blog was to document my preparation for LEJOG and also to document the journey itself. However, I have had to put my plans on hold as Life has taken a few twists and turns since I came up with the idea.

Firstly; I will be moving house soon. Moving 310 miles up the road. Returning to Scotland. I’ve been away for 10 years and it’s been too long; I only meant to stay in England a month…

Secondly; I need a new job. A lot of people will think me slightly touched dans la tete for resigning from a ‘perfectly good’ public service job in this current situation of redundancies and cut-backs. But I have to change job – this one is just NOT ME. I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t get out of this situation.  As soon as I’m safely out of there, I will be able to expand a little on that.

Thirdly; I just don’t have the money this year to do a trip like this. Between moving house and losing two thirds of our joint income (partner forced out of job earlier) there is nothing spare.

Hence, the LEJOG journey will have to wait. I’ll do it one day. In the meantime, I hope I’ll be using this blog to document my more small-scale ventures. Next up is a short cycle trip from South Glasgow to Edinburgh, then over the Forth to the Kingdom of Fife. Next weekend, all being well! I have changed my bike’s riser handlebars for ‘butterfly’ style touring ones. I’m pretty sure they’re not meant to be installed the way I have put them on, (they look v weird!) but after much tinkering this was the comfiest position. 66 miles should tell me whether this will work long-term. I still need grips for them, but have posted before and after pics below:

THE OLD SET-UP – the way the bike has been for the past 16 years.

THE NEW SET-Up – yes it looks weird; I’ve probably put them on back to front and upside down…but it seems comfortable!


Enforced Rest (boohissboo)



...or indeed running

I haven’t run or cycled since doing the half marathon a few weeks ago. I can’t. I physically cannot run. And the chiropractor has banned me from cycling for the foreseeable. Until my wonky pelvis and feet are sorted, which may, nay inevitably will take some time…


As far as I understand it, I have a wonky pelvis and a left collapsed arch. This is causing all sorts of bother and discomfort.  So I’m seeing a chiropractor, which is just about bankrupting me – and have been advised it’s imperative I get referred to a sports podiatrist so I can have some proper orthotics made.  I will be interested to see how my GP responds to this request; my last GP obviously thought of running as some sort of luxurious commodity; the “medical” advice he gave was ‘stop running then‘. Akin to a mechanic telling you to stop driving your car, if the steering starts acting up. Or perhaps refrain from eating if all food makes you barf. If it hurts your eyes to read, stop reading. I wasn’t surprised at this approach; on asking for help previously with severe hayfever, I was advised to “buy a car, like a BMW or a Mercedes; one that has good pollen filters” and that was it. I now have a different GP.

It’s weird not physically being capable of running; I was forced into an exaggerated gait yesterday to avoid being run over (what would have previously been a quick jog across the road) and I was in pain for hours afterwards. 4 metres across the road. That was all.

So no running or cycling. I don’t think people quite understand how difficult this is; partly I have been relying on my bike to commute at least twice a week and therefore cut my weekly expenditure. Not just that, but now I turn up to work sleepy, grumpy and clumsy – albeit with tidy hair. When I cycle, I arrive alert, happy and energized; the only grump related to Bloody Stupid Motorists. And I have sweaty bike-helmet hair (but I don’t care).

Without running, I have no reason to catapult out of bed, no opportunity to listen to random playlists  on my ipod and no excuse to wear lycra. The result is I have been quite low. I stay in bed until the need to go to work and/or use the loo is too urgent.

My chiropractor suggested I powerwalk, but this is too uncomfortable and I will feel like an utter pillock. At least when running and the feral chav kids shout abuse you are out of earshot pretty quickly; there is always the option of running away.

I haven’t been blogging due to this lethargy. I knew if I was let loose on a keyboard then this is what would happen – a general moan and feel-sorry-for-myself-fest which I can’t imagine anyone is going to feel good about reading. So I will stop now. And I probably won’t be writing again until I’m fixed.




Half-Marathon; challenge completed! (for now…)


Feeling suitably anxious before the off...

On Sunday I achieved a challenge I set myself around 18 months ago – to complete a half-marathon.  I took part in the Coventry 2009 Half Marathon which was a ride of pure hell and utter exhaultation, comedy moments and aggressive self-doubt, blisters and jelly babies.

I picked up running most recently again around July this year, after having fallen off the wagon in 2008 with a back injury and succumbing to the evils of smoking once again.  I had entered the half for 2008 but pulled out after I knackered my leg tendons due to a wonky pelvis (medical term, that). This year, participation was threatened two weeks before the event by a behemoth of a blister on the sole of my foot which became infected and meant that I couldn’t walk for 5 days and subsequently I messed my legs up by hopping about like a looney. (If you would like photographic evidence of said blister, click here. It ain’t pretty).  The blister was caused by trying to run 10 miles in a pair of shop bought orthotics which I bought to correct over-pronation which was giving me considerable discomfort and pain on any distance over 2 miles.  Being as bloody-minded as I am, I ran through the nagging tingle of a baby blister forming on my sole, and kept going when this sensation had graduated to feeling like someone was holding a lighter to the sole of my left foot. Not my most genius moment and it goes to show the old adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ is a load of codswallop and bunkum invented by sadistic dunderheids.

It had been at least 12 years since I last faffed about with safety pins and a running number and the experience of pinning the number to my front brought back PTSD type flashbacks of throwing up with nerves before athletics meets in the 90’s.  On the morning of the race two things struck me as alarming : that I was awake at 6.30am on a Sunday and also that I still couldn’t walk without discomfort in my legs. I placed myself at the back of the sheep pen  in between Scooby Doo and Elvis and hoped that the combination of Scholl Sports Orthotics, Vaseline, Compeed and a tubi-grip would see me though. And I prayed to the gods of running that I wouldn’t get caught up by the demonic sounding ‘sweeper’ van who picks up all those too slow and/or lame to finish the course in time.

The most surprising thing about the race was the amount of people in their late 60’s and early 70’s, belting along at a pace I can only fantasise about. I think by the time you get to 70, there isn’t much resistant cartilage left, so it looked more like exaggerated walking than running, but fair dues; they all whooped my ass. The last 3 miles were the longest miles I have ever known. I’m not joking when I say at one point I was overtaken by somebody who was walking. I thought I was running; turns out by this point what had actually happened was that I had been transplaced into another dimension where time and motion had been stretched out twice as long. Obviously.

I did finish. My time was awful, but all things considered I think I did rather well. I have never been so exhausted as when I stumbled over the line;  I swear I had pins and needles in my teeth, my fingers had swollen up to resemble bratwurst and I was making breathing noises like an over-zealous telephone sex pest.  The first words I could get out (after “Banana!”) were, ” I am NEVER doing that again! That was horrific!” as I slumped onto a plastic chair and dribbled  down my front.

4 hours later I was searching for the next race. I think I may have an illness….

Vango Tempest 200 tent – Gear Review

Vango Tempest 200 Vango Tempest 200

Type: Tunnel tent       Price (2009) : £80 – £100

Berth: 2 man tent

Weight: 2.55kg

Pack size: 40 x 80 x 15cm

Inner dimensions : 215 + 105 x 130

Inner height : 85 cm

Colour: Vivid Blue (2008 model) or Pine Green

I did loads of research of tents before deciding on the Vango Tempest 200 as a cycle-touring tent. Budget was probably the deciding factor;  I find Vango give you a lot of mileage for your money. It is fairly  heavy at just over 2.5 kg, but I am happy to carry the extra weight for a more ‘solid’ feeling tent and also to have the extra berth. I hate being cramped into spaces so decided on a 2-man fairly early on. The flysheet is 3000mm hydrostatic head and has stood up to continual heavy rain with no leakage. Ventilation is good and I hardly had any condensation.

Although thin, the groundsheet is impressive; at one point I had a stream of rainwater form underneath it (the West Highlands of Scotland, where else?!) and it was totally dry inside.  The tent feels strong when pitched and although I have yet to sleep out in it during a gale I have no doubts it will stand it’s ground without too much ‘flapping’ noise.

With bike locked to tent pole - the usual set up.

With bike locked to tent pole - the usual messy set up.

The porch was also a deciding factor in buying this tent – it’s large enough to cook in when the weather is atrocious and the door is arranged so that a gap can be left for ventilation.  At night it’s perfectly roomy enough to stash 4 panniers, although I prefer to keep them inside the tent with me at night. Not sure why, but it feels warmer that way. I’m 5ft11″ and can just sit up straight inside (the sleeping length is perfect). I think any taller and it may feel a little awkward.

It takes me 10 minutes to pitch and about 6 or 7 to take down; no fussing about with fiddly stuff and it always fits back in the bag.  Attention to detail is good, with a hook for a torch and a good midge-proof inner door.

You can get a lot lighter and a lot smaller pack-sized tents, but I doubt you could easily find one at the price of the Vango. Until I start Mountain Marathoning ( fat chance!) and have the reddies to buy an Akto or Vaude, this’ll do me fine.  Good quality, good value lower-budget tent for intimate couples or solo travellers who need space to stretch out.

A Change of Plan..?

I may have just completely changed my mind about something.

I set this website up mostly because I wanted to record and publish my preparations for cycling Lejog (Land’s End – John O’Groats) in spring 2010. Ever since I started trying to work out my route, I’ve found that I really have no interest in cycling anywhere south of Manchester. I had a look last night to see how much the train will cost me to get from my house to Penzance, and the minimum amount is a whopping £105!! It strikes me as a little arse-about-face to pay that amount of money to travel south, only to spend about 5 days cycling north to get to where I started from. It’s not just illogical ( although I admit I’m not a great fan of logic), but the only function it serves would be able to say “yes, I have cycled the length of mainland UK”.

What if I was to do the same mileage (1000 miles), cycling from my house around a load of places I fancy visiting on a bike? It may not sound as impressive as cycling end-to-end, but miles are miles and it would give me so much more scope for a varied route off the path well-beaten by generations of End-to-Enders. Thinking about doing a non-traditional cycle challenge is bringing up all sorts of wacky and tempting ideas, such as riding about re-enacting scenes from Monty Python’s ‘Holy Grail’ in the places they were filmed, to going on a ‘mystery tour’ where my direction of travel each day is decided by chance, or staying in haunted sites or working my way between ancient stone circles….
When route-planning is thought of in this light, it makes doing Lejog seem a little, well…unimaginative.

So on the one hand I’m excited by the prospect of having a much more flexible route, but on the other I am concerned about not having completed this classic challenge. It seems to me that there is something in the psyche that rates travelling between two farthest points on a land mass higher than riding around a little more haphazardly. It’s all in the mind though, it’s just that it’s a little harder to visualise a route that doesn’t go from A to B but from C to B via X and P.

1000 mile cycle challenge does sound quite good though… I’ll have to think about this a little more before I decide not to complete Lejog. Damn difficult call to make though.

Nathan 4490 Elite 1 Plus Hydration/Gel Waistpack

Nathan Elite Plus 1 hydration pack

Nathan Elite Plus 1 hydration pack

As soon as I started running for longer than 45 minutes I knew I needed to drink whilst on the move, so I had to get me some sorta drinks holder thangy. I don’t like having to hold anything in my hands whilst running, so those grasp bottles were right out of the question. I plumped for the Nathan Elite plus 1 waist bag (Ok, so it’s actually a bottle-holding BUM BAG!) after mistakenly having clicked on  ‘purchase’ late one night whilst internet ‘window shopping’.

The pack is well made and well thought-out and even has a clip for a house key in the zippered pocket, which is just large enough to take a mobile phone. The belt is a little too narrow to be comfortable and also too long for my waist, which means I can have excess belt flapping about when I run.

The first thing I learnt about the pack is that it has to be worn around the waist, and not on the hips because it rides up. To stop it bouncing about too much, I have to wear it fairly tight, which can be a little uncomfortable if my tummy’s feeling sensitive. Grabbing the bottle whilst running is quite awkward, but still do-able. Grabbing the gel bottle is easier. I find I have to use two hands to replace them though, just to satisfy myself that they’ve gone in snugly. Both bottles fit well.

It does the job. If you find yourself in the market for a hydration pack then I’m sure you could do a lot worse than this. I don’t use the gel bottle for gel (I’m too tight to buy it) I just put 1 part squeezy honey to two parts water and a pinch of salt. Honey is almost 100% carbohydrate and the sugars give you and instant energy hit. Does the trick.

An account of Cycling through Norway

Just had to share this cycle-touring report from Tim Moss, owner of The Next Challenge blog. It’s a well detailed and recorded account of his solo cycle down through Norway earlier this year.  Good photos, maps, charts, stats and tweets! Makes me even more certain that I will do something similar one day. Scandinavia seems perfect for my kinda cycle-touring.

Click here to read it (PDF)