Monthly Archives: December 2020

metric challenge: december

The day started with an unexpected trip to Donegal Town. The weather was snowy and icy and Catriona was worried about driving to work and what the conditions would be like afterwards. I agreed to drive her instead. On the way back I stopped to admire the fantastic view of Barnes Gap from the shores of Lough Mourne.

Getting home around 1130am it was clear that a 100km cycle was going to have to involve the implementation of Plan C. I’d decided the night before to abandon Plan A which was a repeat of the Club Lap The Finn route from earlier in the year. The western section around Fintown is too mountainous and pretty much guaranteed to be snowy and/or icy based on the weather forecast that included a Yellow Warning for ice and snow.

Plan B was a repeat of my February spin doing two repeats of the Ballybofey to Strabane loop taking in both sides of the river. However, the back road was still icy and slippery at 1130am and the shady areas were likely to stay that way all day.

Plan C was to avoid the back road entirely, drive down to Killygordon and just do two repeats of the main road between Stranorlar and Lifford. Stranorlar to Lifford and back is 40km so riding from Killygordon to Stranorlar first and back to the car at the end gave me 50km. Not the most exciting or inspiring of routes but mostly flat at least.

Using the car as my base camp also gave me a warm dry location for lunch. A packed lunch and flask of tea got over the problem of the restaurants and coffee shops closed under the latest Covid19 restrictions.

To relieve the boredom of the route I put on my Bluetooth earphones and listened to the radio. I’m one of the few that don’t have an issue with earphones on the bike. At any speed the wind means I usually can’t hear approaching traffic anyway and I don’t think not wearing them would save me from a rear end crash. I don’t wear them in town as they’re too much of a distraction when full concentration is needed. Yesterday it was left ear only as with both earphones in I could hardly hear anything at all under my skull cap! It did make it difficult to distinguish between traffic approaching from the front or rear though.

Apart from the ice and snow it was a perfect day for cycling. Bright and sunny, hardly a breath of wind and almost completely rain free. The downside is that in December that equals bitterly cold. It took a long time to warm up at the start and just after lunch with hands and feet getting the worst of it. Starting later than planned meant darkness was falling close to the end. The last 30min were close to 0°C with windchill well below that and the last 10min were far too close to darkness to feel comfortable or safe without good lights and hi viz. Thankfully quieter roads and blinkies saw me finish safely.

click to view on strava

So 2020 Metric Challenge complete. Roll on 2021 with a repeat but this year they’ll all be done within the correct month🤞

January – Club Spin

February – Rookie Mistakes

March – Lockdown Loops

May – New Mojo

May – Making Up For April

June – 31 Days 🤫

July – KISS

August – Dodging Storm Ellen

September – Dark Hedges Audax

October – Donegal 200

November – Level 5 Lockdown

December – Job Done

the core

The Core (Demon Cycle #5) by Peter V. Brett

From Goodreads:

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A truly epic end to this series. It is a jam-packed story that took a long time to read. There’s an amazing amount of detail that takes focus and concentration to keep a track of. It’s definitely not one for a skim read.

For a change from many season finales this is actually an end. There are additional novellas that run around this main series and there is a new cycle in development but this book brings all the main storylines to a very satisfying close.

In line with the first four books there are a lot of influences visible in this story. The climactic battle between Arlen, Jardir, Renna and the Demon Queen is like a cross between “Alien” and Stephen King’s “It” while Hasik’s Eunuch Tribe and imprisonment of Abban feels like something from “Apocalypse Now”.

The multitude of characters and storylines are what makes this book so long and, at times, difficult to follow. Brett seems determined to bring back virtually every character and tie off their story. It does give a satisfying feeling of conclusion though.

The only storyline I had an issue with was the capture and imprisonment of Alagai Ka. I found this whole interaction very drawn out and forced. His involvement in the story felt forced and unnecessary. I can’t help but feeling that it would have been better to kill him off and absorb his memories and knowledge the way it was hinted with Renna and then surprisingly abandoned.

Overall this was a great series of books. I give it four stars across all five books and would definitely recommend it. I’ll definitely be taking a look at the other books written around the main series and look forward to reading the new cycle when it’s released.

Header image by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels

the year ahead

I’m not really into retrospectives but Gerry from The Vicious Cycle posted a really good one earlier this week and I have been reading a few others too. I don’t usually find a lot of personal value in looking back. Facebook memories, Strava’s end of year review and Veloviewer’s infographic are as close as I normally get.

© strava
© veloviewer

I’m much more interested in setting goals for the future. Some of these are short term like the mini challenges I wrote about last time but at the start of a new year I also like to set longer term goals for the full year.

cycling goals

Unsurprisingly, most of my goals are cycling related.

annual goal: since I started using Strava in 2014 my biggest year was 2016 when I rode 8,046km. This past year was fairly average for me at 4,541km. I’d like to beat that in 2020 riding an average of 500km per month for a total goal of 6,000km. 8,000km would be a good stretch target as I’ve only hit it the once and it’s also the equivalent of 5,000miles.

© schreiberusa

streak goal: I should have my 12th metric century completed by the end of this week completing the set for the year. I’m planning the same challenge for next year but this time I’m going to do it within each calendar month and go for the full set of Strava Gran Fondo trophies for 2021. It doesn’t sit 100% right with me that I missed a month or two this year.

I also want to restart the Audax Ireland RRTY challenge this year. I plan to start it in May or June so that I can start and finish in Summer as well as having some momentum going into the tougher Winter months. I’m also hoping that lockdowns will be a thing of the past by then giving me a chance to take part in calendar events and introduce some variety.

distance goal: my biggest ride so far is 210km back in 2017. I’ve completed quite a few 200km Audax rides now and would like to complete one next level 300km ride this year.

running goals

For the first year I now consider myself a runner as well as a cyclist and I want to set goals to improve my running this year and make it a permanent part of my training.

streak goal: I’ve managed to get back to a level that I can run a 5K without stopping. This year I want to run a full 5K each month and like my cycling goal above complete each of the Strava monthly 5K challenges.

time goal: my fastest 5K time so far is 27:23. My goal this year is 25min.

other activity goals

365 challenge: inspired by ADudeABikes and following my November streak I’m setting a target of a minimum of one recorded activity per day walking, cycling or running.

bikepacking: I’ve been watching a lot of Bikepacking videos and read a lot of articles this year and want to complete one short trip and camp out for one night. I haven’t spent a night in a tent for about 10 years!

strength and conditioning: during lockdown I discovered Tom Merrick’s YouTube channel. He has a nice and simple 6 day follow along program for strength and flexibility. I’m not setting a specific goal but want to incorporate this into my regular activities this year. I have strong legs but my upper body strength and my general flexibility is poor and needs to improve before I end up with injuries.

weight loss: in the early part of 2020 I was at 88kg. During the latter stages of the first lockdown I managed to get that down to 80kg through 16:8 intermittent fasting and increased activity. I wasn’t able to sustain the fasting for long once I went back to work and bad habits gradually crept back in. I’ve been able to keep it between 81-82kg and during this year I’d like to get it down to 76kg and keep it there consistently.

There’s a lot in there and too many goals could mean that I’m setting myself up for failure. However, most of them are continuations of goals I’m already working on or are stretches that are definitely achievable. The key one is the 365 challenge. If I can get that rolling then most of the rest should fall into place.

Header image by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

mini challenges

For anyone that follows me on Strava it’ll come as no surprise that I like to use challenges to motivate me and keep me active.

Strava are without a doubt the king of challenges and the whole concept is part of their DNA. Users can create and compete on segments to earn the KOM (King of the Mountain) or QOM (Queen of the Mountain) crown for the fastest time. Strava also give you trophies for your top 3 times on segments and give you table positions based on age and weight and in comparison to members of any Strava clubs you belong to. They’ve also recently released a new concept called Local Legend on some segments for riding a segment multiple times.

one of my local segments

Each month Strava also host regular challenges. For both cycling and running they have cumulative distance and elevation challenges as well as one-off distance challenges such as the monthly 100km Gran Fondo for cycling and 5K, 10K and Half Marathon for running. Most months they will also have partner challenges that more activities count for.

Although the regular challenges are mostly based around running or cycling they seem to be making their walking challenge a regular one.

Outside of Strava there are other challenges, mostly based on streaks of some sort. The 30 Days of Biking is one of the well known ones for cycling but there is also the Marcothon running challenge, multiple 12 Days of Xmas challenges and the less serious Coffeeeneuring and Errandonee challenges

This year I’ve been working on a Metric Century challenge to ride a minimum of one 100km spin each month for 12 months. This was originally inspired by a post of Tempo Cyclist but prompted this year by Paul of 36×25 who coined the term Resolution Ride. I’ve missed at least one month this year due to Covid lockdowns but have made it up with an extra ride the following month. So far I only have one ride left to give me 12 for the year.

Part of what attracted me to Audax was the challenges they also run. As if long distance cycling wasn’t challenge enough they have a number of streak and cumulative challenges. In 2018 I completed the Four Provinces Challenge. I’ve also started the RRTY challenge a few times including this year. I’ve decided to put my current attempt on hold as the multiple lockdowns are playing havoc with Audax Ireland having to pause and resume a number of times during 2020. I’d rather wait and make sure I can get a clean run at 12 in a row, ideally starting and finishing in late Spring or early Summer.

The ultimate Audax challenge is the Super Randonneur, completing a 200, 300, 400 and 600km event during the Audax calendar year. I don’t know if I’ll ever be capable of that but it is one I aspire to.

As far as mini adventures go though this looks like the ultimate one….

sundays have become run days

In the last couple of weeks Conor’s gaelic training has changed from Saturday afternoon to Sunday. It has put a real spanner in my cycling. His training starts at 1130am and finishes at 1245pm. It doesn’t give me enough time before unless I get up really early and afterwards I only have a couple of hours before darkness. I’ve found it difficult to get motivated to go out in the cold and wet afternoons. However, both of the last two Sundays I’ve made it out for a run.

Today my legs were feeling tired and heavy but the bright winter sunshine was nice to be out in. I did underestimate how cold the strong breeze was though and was glad to finish the warm up walk and start running.

There is a local 5K running event scheduled for Boxing Day. I’m still in two minds whether to enter or not. I’m not sure I can run the 5K without walking and I don’t see the point of doing it otherwise. I plan to run Tuesday and Thursday and then decide.

sometimes the best days….

…are the days you don’t expect. Tuesday was one of those. I had the bike and my gear prepped from the night before and a route in mind. I had a morning window to get out but it was cloudy, windier and way colder than expected. I was severely unmotivated to go out in 5°C with wind chill taking that down by at least 4°.

Eventually just after 10am the sun came out and it was a case of “fuck it, this is too good to waste!”. Clothes on, a change of route and off I went.

Clothing was crucial, skull cap, buff, double layered gloves, mesh base, long sleeve thermal base layer*, Perfetto, Club gillet, bib shorts, thermal bib tights, thick looped socks, winter shoes, Endura overshoes. It takes a lot of time to get all this on but on this run it was worth it and I never felt the cold at all.

I headed down the Finn Valley to Clady making hard work of the SE headwind to climb up over Gleneely, dropping down to Victoria Bridge. Turning for Strabane I now had a tailwind and some kind of assistance all the way home.

Views from the top of Gleneely were great, looking down over Sion Mills with Knockavoe looming above. Further West were clear views of the Sperrins.

view over sion mills

Dropping into Victoria Bridge I couldn’t resist stopping to enjoy one of the nicest bridges in the local area and probably the best river views.

Coming close to home I was feeling great. Plenty of energy in the legs and perfectly dressed for the weather. Time was against me though as we had family plans for the afternoon and I needed food and a shower before heading out. Back home only 10min and there was a prolonged and heavy, wintry shower that would have ruined the whole ride. Settling for just under 47km now brought a smile to my face 😊

click the image to view on strava

*the thermal base layer is a long sleeved ski base layer from Lidl of all places. I hope to review this properly in the next couple of weeks.

water, water, everywhere…

After a long morning and early afternoon of consistent heavy rain it was nice to get out and take advantage of a short break in the weather for a rare afternoon run.

All my runs for the last couple of months have been early morning before work so it felt very unusual to be running in daylight.

Header image by Oleg Magni from Pexels

bad patient

Ironically mainly because I have no patience being unwell. I just want it over with. I can’t abide it when a sickness creeps up and then hangs around like a particularly smelly fart.

My personal challenge for November was an activity every day: a walk, run or cycle. I was finishing up the month with a cycle on Sunday and a final walk on Monday morning with possibly a short walk either evening to get me to 100km walked for the month.

click the image to view on strava

It was a decent distance, there was a reasonable amount of climbing, with one pretty big climb about 3/4 of the way through and I deserved to be tired after. I was more than just tired though, I was beat for the rest of the afternoon and even managed to fall asleep on the sofa for almost an hour which isn’t like me.

The next morning I rose early as planned and somehow managed to drag myself around the shorter 4.5km walk loop with legs like concrete. I went to work as normal but felt like shit the whole day with no energy, total lack of enthusiasm and a progressively worsening sore throat. It was time for my annual fight with the more familiar but less media savvy rhinovirus.

not as pretty as its chinese cousin

Monday night I was awake off and on the whole night and come morning I was in no shape for work and had to call in sick. Great timing with it being the first day of the end of Lockdown v2.0 but I wasn’t even fit to drive to work never mind be there.

A day of fluids, paracetamol, decongestant, bed and sofa with regular injections of TV and comfort food followed by an OK night’s sleep and I’m a lot better today. I was scheduled to be off today anyway and I’m ready to face the public again tomorrow.

As sickness goes it’s definitely been one of the shorter and nothing in the realms of proper man flu. It has, however messed with my plans of continuing my daily challenge into December and possibly even making it a full year 365 day challenge. I do plan to get back out tomorrow evening for a walk after work and maybe I can make it a 2021 challenge instead.

thankfully i didn’t progress to this level

Header image by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels