Monthly Archives: February 2020

metric challenge: february

A few years ago I read a tempocyclist post about his old club in England and the metric challenge they ran. The goal is to ride a 100km cycle at least once a month for a calendar year. Since then it’s something I’ve been attracted to especially as Strava also use the same distance for their monthly Gran Fondo.

Audax Ireland have a similar challenge, but taken to another level, to complete a 200km “Brevet” every month for 12 consecutive months. This challenge is called “Randonneur Round the Year” (RRTY). Having completed the “Four Provinces Challenge” in 2017 I’ve always had a goal of completing the RRTY. I started twice but for various reasons was unable to keep the run going. I cycled so little in 2019 and lost so much fitness that it seems like a fading dream but I’m hoping that a metric challenge this year will help me get there. At the very least it will be motivation to keep cycling.

My first 2020 metric challenge ride was near the beginning of January and with the Club. February has been such a terrible weather month with a number of bad storms and very wintry weather I’ve been cycling very little and thought I was going to run out of time. I managed to squeeze in a 50km spin on Sunday with the plan to cycle a solo 100km today.

I had a number of errands for today and at least one that had to be done early this morning which pushed the spin back later than normally suits me. That kind of worked out today though as it was very cold overnight and the delayed start meant the roads were properly thawed out. Snow caps on the hill tops convinced me of my plan to stick to the easier low ground and the same route as Sunday but doubled up.

Weather today was similar to Sunday with long bright spells. Thankfully less windy but definitely much colder. Dry all the way except for a heavy shower for the last 8km that turned into a snow shower for the last 4!

It’s a relatively easy route when there are lower windspeeds but lack of fitness made it difficult enough today, especially the second return from Strabane and into the headwind. Lack of time in the saddle also led to aches and pains that wouldn’t normally bother me from shoulders to ass and even in my feet as tiredness set in.

Two rookie mistakes didn’t make it any easier. A much needed tea break in Lifford at 63km was taken outside which led to me getting quite cold. It took a good 20mins to get back to a comfortable temperature and sapped energy I should have been conserving.

tea break at daley’s

I also badly underestimated food intake, leaving the house with just two small bars and was feeling the effects all the way from Castlefinn on my second loop. By the time I got to The Crossroads at 83km I needed to stop or I was in danger of bonking“. Another cup of tea and a chicken and bacon wrap and I was good to go again.

Coming out of Ballybofey I realised that I wasn’t in the shape to make it up the 1.6km climb to the house. It’s tough enough at the end of any ride but I felt today that it would be a step too far. I decided to arrange for Catriona to pick me up in Castlefinn and get a lift home, avoiding the hill climb and maximising the benefit of the tailwind to finish. Turned out to be a great idea when the rain/snow arrived for the final section!

click the image to view on strava

All in all a tough day on the bike but I’m very pleased to get it done and hopefully March will see better fitness and an easier time.

gear review: velotoze overshoes

first spin out

I’m one of those people that’s constantly on the search for the perfect overshoes and gloves and have gone through a good few versions of both over the last few years. Velotoze are the latest trial.

I’ve seen ads for them but only decided to make the jump having seen them on special offer on a local bike shop’s Facebook page for €12 and figured that was a price worth trying them out. That was last year sometime and I only got around to trying them out yesterday!

colour range

As you can see they come in a wide variety of colours from boring black all the way to vibrant pink. I opted for fluro yellow as I figured I’d most likely be wearing them on duller days and spinning yellow blobs are more eye catching for drivers than dark ones….and pink really isn’t my colour!

They are made from a thin latex/rubber material that is best described as Marigold washing up gloves! The idea is that they form a very tight fitting, non-bulky, aero and most importantly, waterproof barrier over your shoes and socks and keep your feet perfectly dry.

They come in three styles: long, short and toe cover only. I can see the benefit of the toe covers for splash protection but the short version seem like a waste of time. I went for the long version as I figured they would be of most use to me.

As the covers are made in a single piece with no zips getting them on and off can be a bit of a faff. So much so that they have instructions on the packet and also have an instructional video.

This was one of the issues I had with them. I wouldn’t want to be in a hurry to leave the house and I definitely wouldn’t want to put them on at the side of the road. Getting them off again was similarly awkward.

I fitted the cuffs of mine under my tights and on the skin. This is the recommended way as they seal pretty effectively with the skin to prevent water running down the leg into your socks and shoes. I’m not a shaver so I did notice them for a lot of the ride as they were pulling on my leg hairs a number of times. Probably best for shaved legs.

I would have a concern about durability over the long term. They required a lot of stretching to go over my shoes. The material is reasonably robust but I would be worried if I had ratchet or bolo type fasteners on my shoes and that they would tear through.

Care is needed to get them fitted around the heel and cleat to make sure they won’t be walked on or catch in the pedal while clipping in. I ended up with an ugly loose piece at the tip of my toe as I didn’t want then close to the front of my cleats. More practice putting them on may get rid of that. My other concern would be clipping out on gravelly or rough surfaces and puncturing the underside of the covers. Having used them only once I have a rub on one heal that could become a tear but more use will be needed to see how that develops.

The main reason for buying these was to keep my feet dry on wet days. They worked very well yesterday at keeping spray from penetrating my shoes. After heavy rain there were quite a few unavoidable puddles and sections of water running across the road but they shed the water quickly and effectively while stopping ingress completely.

However, after only two hours on the bike and in temperatures of 5-7°C my feet were very damp from sweat. They’re waterproof from both directions and don’t allow any breathing at all. I’d only really use them now if it was going to be a very wet and cold day where soaked feet were otherwise guaranteed. Warm and damp is always preferable to cold and wet.

Overall, they were fine but I don’t think I’ll use them much, won’t rush to replace them when they wear out and would hesitate to recommend to a friend if asked.

Value: 6/10 as I don’t think they will last as long as regular overshoes.

Durability: 4/10 although I’ve only worn them once so it’s perceived durability.

Effectiveness: 7/10 due to the great waterproofing but lack of breathability leading to sweaty feet.

Overall: 5/10 when the difficulty of fitting and removing is also taken into account.

Manufacturer’s Website:

a tale of two winds

And two rings!* Last night the weather forecast was predicting a temporary lull in hostilities between two bouts of stormy weather which has become the norm for the most of February and kept the majority of local cyclists badly curtailed and restricted mainly to Zwift. As I’m not a fan of Zwift this has meant I’ve been less active than hoped and any activity I have managed has been pretty much just walking. Determined to make the most of the chance, I got my bike ready yesterday evening and laid out all my gear to reduce the morning objections.

After a longer than planned lie in the absence of a wind howling around the house, a lack of hail or rain bouncing off the roof and the actual sun shining in the velux windows I decided I’d only regret it if I lay around the house all morning and got my ass in the saddle at 10:30am.

It was a cool but sunny morning and although there were some blustery side gusts heading down the hill from home I ignored the threat for later as I turned East to head down the Finn Valley towards Castlefinn and Strabane with the wind at my back and the sun shining.

making the most of the tailwind

Cutting across before the Asda roundabout and heading out the Bypass in Strabane I got a warning of what was in store for the middle of the spin with flags whipping and a strong, blustery sidewind making the bridge crossing interesting. Turning up the Urney Road into the teeth of the headwind I knew it was going to be tough all the way to Ballybofey.

The shelter of the high hedges was welcome all the way to Clady and protected me from the worst of the wind but once across the border there was nowhere to hide and it was a slog all the way up the Main Road to Castlefinn, Liscooley and finally Killygordon.

Having had quiet roads and considerate drivers all morning it seemed that all the idiots decided to come at once on this section of the road with a number of close passes and one very dangerous pass from an idiot in a small box van that I still don’t know how he didn’t clip me. Definitely one of the top 3 worst near misses I’ve experienced so far. It was that bad the guy coming behind in the small white van gave me a toot and a wave and went right over to the other lane to pass me. This, however, may have been influenced by my swearing and shouting at the box van!

Finally reaching Killygordon I got a brief respite as I crossed the Finn to take the back road to Ballybofey where the real slog began. This portion of road is undulating and pretty rough and as the wind picked up even more it was a struggle to keep above 20km/hr for most of it and a fight to maintain 15km/h at times. I honestly didn’t think I had the legs to reach Ballybofey and was delighted to finally turn across Dreenan Bridge with the wind half pushing me into the turn!

2min later it was like a different world. I went from fighting for 20km/h to cruising along at almost 40km/h eating and drinking and hardly breaking a sweat! All the hard slog was soon forgotten and I even had the opportunity to take some photos inspired by reading tempocyclist’s blog this morning**

just myself and shadow this morning
effortless 30km/h and warm enough to ditch the gloves 🧤
first time wearing my velotoze shoe covers

I finished with just over 50km and feeling like I’d done a lot more but in the spirit of the Audax Ireland motto I finished with a smile.

click the image to view on strava

* 15km easy in the big ring, followed by 25km struggling in the small ring, begging for a Granny ring and finishing with 10km back cruising in the big ring.

** although I’m far from pro level I also enjoy a good selfie. I have a sneaking suspicion though that I’m beginning to qualify as the “beardy-old-man” as I have the beard, wouldn’t go anywhere without my saddle bag and had legs like an old man this afternoon!


From IMDb:

In Gotham City, mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: the Joker.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is most definitely not a Batman film! It’s a very, very dark depiction of a wild slide into a destructive breakdown in mental health in a world that doesn’t care. It’s frightening to see the destruction and Arthur’s inability to either recognise or prevent it until it’s too late and then to prefer the broken person he has become versus the one be was. This is a disturbing film and one that left me with a profound sense of sadness at the end.

I think this is only the second time I’ve seen Joaquin Phoenix in a starring role. The first was Johnny Cash in Walk The Line and I couldn’t help but see the similarities between the two characters. It makes me wonder what he’s burying inside himself that lets him play these roles so well.


Deadlocked (Lou Mason #4) by Joel Goodman.

From Goodreads:

Ryan Kowalczyk denied slaughtering a young couple even after his best friend turned against him, sending him to death row. When Lou Mason is hired to prove Ryan’s innocence, a killer does whatever it takes to stop Mason. The deeper Mason probes, the greater the danger – until the past and present collide in an explosion of deceit, corruption and murder.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This starts off as a seemingly run of the mill legal/murder story in very much the same vein as the first three in the series and many other similar books. The story seems to struggle to get a focus and Lou’s life and case seems even more chaotic than normal.

Then, about halfway through the book BOOM! everything changes. The whole story is turned on its head with a sudden change of direction and really develops pace. Then just towards the end it takes one last twist that comes out of nowhere.

A very enjoyable book and one that I read the last half in about half the time of the first.

it: chapter two

From IMDb:

Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The sequel and conclusion to IT which is itself a reboot of the original TV miniseries both based on Stephen King’s novel. This novel is one of King’s best and it’s good to see it adapted so well into film.

The films are split along the time lines of the original story with Part 1 dealing with the main characters and their battle with Pennywise as kids and Part 2 dealing with them as adults and set 27 years after the first.

It’s a long time since I read the book but the films seem to stick pretty much to the book although the films are set approx 30 years ahead. This doesn’t interfere with the story at all and the only odd result is Bill’s childhood bike which doesn’t seem to come from the 80s.

IT: Chapter 1 is a brilliant film and one of the first to properly scare me in a long time. Chapter 2 is very good but doesn’t meet the tension and horror of the first. This is mainly due to how the story has changed and the fact that it’s adults now rather than kids which added an extra element to Chapter 1.

The special effects are really good, especially Pennywise, his many different forms and his transformation from one to the other. Pennywise is a fantastic character and the producers have managed to recreate him amazingly accurately to the book. The special effects really enhance the fright factor but hats off to Bill Skarsgård who brings him to such frightening life.

Overall a very good film and a satisfying close to an excellent adaptation of a fantastic Stephen King story.

the flame bearer

The Flame Bearer (The Last Kingdom #10) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

Britain is at an uneasy peace. After their bloody defeat of Danish-held East Anglia, the West Saxons stand victorious while the Mercians have taken back their land on the border of Northumbria, the last kingdom of Britain still ruled by the pagan northmen. A precarious truce exists between Æthelflæd’s Mercia and Northumbria, now ruled by Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s son-in-law, Sigtryggr.

Under the cover of this fragile calm, Uhtred must begin his campaign that will end with the assault on Bebbanburg, the great fortress that is rightly his and was stolen from him in childhood. But his plans are shattered when the Scots surge down and lay claim to the north of England, as the West Saxons, under Uhtred’s old enemy, Æthelhelm, invade Northumbria from the south. If Uhtred is to succeed in recapturing Bebbanburg he must both defeat Æthelhelm’s forces and drive the Scots away before he can attack the formidable fortress by the sea. He has a small army and many enemies, but Uhtred is not the supreme warlord of Britain for nothing…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Finally after so many books and so many years Uhtred gets the chance to break free from the Saxons and make his claim for Bebbanburg in blood and violence.

Unlike so many of the other books in this series this one focuses solely on Uhtred and his ambitions. There is of course, some dealings with his Norse and Saxon allies as well as his Scots enemies but it’s all in the context of the assault on Bebbanburg.

(spoilers follow)

I was really pleased that the Bebbanburg storyline was brought to a conclusion. I was beginning to wonder how long it could be kept going before it became ridiculous and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Uhtred’s story continues now as he ages and finally as Uhtred, Lord of Bebbanburg.

star trek: nemesis

From IMDb:

After a joyous wedding between William Riker and Deanna Troi, Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew stumble upon a positronic signature which results in a prototype version of the android Data. Then the Enterprise is invited to Romulus to negotiate a peace treaty with the Romulans by their new leader, Praetor Shinzon. However, Shinzon is revealed to be a clone of Picard who was raised on Remus, a slave planet to the Romulans. Later on, Picard discovers that this peace treaty was nothing more than a set-up on account of the fact that Shinzon needs Picard in order to survive. But little do the Enterprise crew know that Shinzon also plans to do away with the Federation by unleashing a weapon that could destroy a whole planet.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I had been putting off watching this after the disappointment of Insurrection but this is so much better. The bulk of the story focuses on mainly Picard but also Data. I really enjoyed the parallels between Picard/Shinzon and Data/B4 especially the differences in how each pair felt about the other, how Data called B4 his brother while the human pairing of Picard and Shinzon were on a destructive path.

It’s very obvious that there has been a change of direction and production from Insurrection and this is so much for the better. Nemesis feels like a movie. The scenes flow together well, the story is engaging, battle scenes are dramatic and well designed with good graphics.

Tom Hardy makes a great anti hero and his acting is great as always. Having Hardy, Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner dominate the majority of the storyline results in a standard of acting not usually seen from Star Trek and totally overcomes the failings of Insurrection.

As with all Star Trek adventures the ending is predictably positive but not to the normal extent and I loved the very final scene of Picard and B4 that leaves us with a sense of hope for the future.

The story and the ending however, do depend on two scenes that are quite clumsily inserted into the flow. The first is the ability of the Remun Viceroy to connect with Deana Troi and the second is the mini transponder in Data’s arm. Both scenes make no sense in their current storylines and are only there to help with later scenes. This clumsiness is the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars.

This is the last installment in the Next Generation series of films and a fitting end. Looking forward to seeing the story continue now with the new TV series “Picard”.

lunchtime constitutional

Since my surgery the week before last I had become very sedentary. Most of the fitness I’d managed to gain during January was steadily fading away, I was sleeping badly and generally feeling crap. My mood was definitely not good and I probably wasn’t great company.

I figured part of the problem was that I wasn’t getting outside enough and using the excuse of the surgery to justify my laziness. I also figured that fresh air (lack of) was both the cause and the cure. The only time I was spending outside was the trip from the house to the car, the car into work and the reverse in the evening.

The easiest and most effective solution was a lunchtime walk. Buncrana is a seaside town and I’m just a 5min walk from the shore front so with sandwiches and a bottle of water in my pocket I hit the paths on Thursday lunchtime.

It was tremendously windy with a storm coming in but it was bright and sunny and definitely blew away the cobwebs. I headed along the shore front path skirting the edge of the park before retracing my steps and heading across to the Heritage Trail start and then back to work. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I slept soundly that night.

Friday I decided to explore the Heritage Trail more and this took me along the opposite direction skirting a small beach and out to the Life Boat station at Ned’s Point. I wandered a little here before turning back which left me very tight for time getting back to work.

Saturday morning was wet and windy but I was delighted to see it clear up by lunch and the sun come out in full force. The Ned’s Point walk was the perfect blend of distance and enjoyment so I repeated Friday’s walk. At times it was quite warm when sheltered from the wind. On my way back I met a very friendly guy from Tipperary who had relocated to Raphoe and was meeting a friend in Buncrana. We walked back to the Main Street together swapping stories and having a great old yarn.

One of the guys at work thinks I’m bonkers. He doesn’t seem to be able to understand the attraction or how I’m able to walk and eat at the same time.

3 days last week and I hope to repeat that this week. Let’s just hope that the rain stays away as it’s not feasible to spend the afternoon drying off and squelching around the shop!


Birdman (Jack Caffrey #1) by Mo Hayder.

From Goodreads:

Greenwich, south-east London. The Met’s crack murder squad, AMIP, is called out by nervous CID detectives to a grim discovery. Five bodies, all young women, all ritualistically murdered and dumped on wasteland near the Dome. As each post-mortem reveals a singular, horrific signature linking the victims, officers realize that they are on the trail of that most dangerous offender: a sexual serial killer.

Detective Inspector Jack Caffery – young, driven, unshockable – finds himself facing both hostility within the force and echoes of his past in this, his first case with AMIP. Haunted by the memory of a death long ago, he employs every weapon forensic science can offer for he knows it is only a matter of time before this chaotic, sadistic killer strikes again.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was a recent recommendation from Lucilla based on similar books I’ve read and a new author for me. Very much enjoyed it. The character, settings and storyline are quite similar to Peter James‘s series on Roy Grace but with a fresh approach that is very welcome as the Roy Grace character has been running out of material for a while now.

The London setting was enjoyable for me as we visited London last year and many of the street names and locations are familiar from that trip or from general knowledge of London.

The storyline is based around the abduction, mutilation and murder of prostitutes by a serial killer and the main protagonist police officer has a mixed up past that he’s hiding from his colleagues. None of this is new or original but the author builds the characters and stories really well and ties it all together very satisfactorily.

It’s the debut novel for the author and while the plot loses momentum in small sections it’s a great start. The conclusion of the story is very good but I have a feeling the author had it much more detailed and gruesome in the first draft as it feels like someone shied away from it to a certain extent, possibly the editor? However, a great book, enjoyable throughout and looking forward to reading more.