Monthly Archives: April 2021

metric challenge 2021: april

After my motivational crash and mental reset in the middle of the month my reduction in activity had a very detrimental impact on my cycling. After a strong February (568km) and March (558km) April has been quite poor. Up until yesterday I only had 133km across 5 rides. In addition I hadn’t sat in the saddle for 2 weeks! True to form I was also leaving my 100km to the very last possible day seeing as I’m working the last two days of the month.

Time was a precious commodity yesterday. Our normal car pool arrangement fell apart this week as the neighbours’ girl was off sick. This meant I had to collect the boys from school and of course it’s a half day finish at 1:20. My normal preferred mid morning start (10ish) was out the window meaning no lie in and no dawdling on route.

A 7:15 alarm was set with the aim of hitting the road by 8:30. I was eventually out the door at 8:45 and almost cancelled due to a bit of an upset stomach. Not sure if it was the larger than normal breakfast or anxiety. I was definitely feeling nervous, whether it was stress due to the time pressure, performance anxiety worrying if I was fit enough, anxiety about being so far from home for the first time in 8 months or a combination of all of that.

The route was Derry via Lifford and Carrigans, through the city and back home via Bridgend, Letterkenny and Ballybofey. The wind was from the Northeast which made the 45km to Derry a bit of a slog and also pretty chilly straight into the cold 18km/h breeze. However, leaving Derry I had the benefit of a tailwind most of the way back as far as Stranorlar at 95km.

Coming into Derry I had the only rain of the day. A short 15min shower just heavy enough to justify stopping to put on my waterproof gillet. As it’s also HiViz I kept it on through the city to help make me a bit more visible to both cars and pedestrians. I managed to avoid the majority of the traffic by jumping on to the cycle path that runs along the Foyle all the way to the bottom of the Buncrana Road. This is partly shared use but a lot of it is segregated for walkers and cyclists. A lot of pedestrians are clueless about this though as there is no physical separation, just a change of surface colour and signage so it’s slower and requires constant vigilance. It’s still a lot safer than playing in the traffic though.

I had chosen this route partly because I was able to stop at 52km and enjoy a welcome cup of tea and a bun at my brother’s coffee van (#curiouscoffeecompany). I was also able to top up my water bottle removing the need for 2 today.

Business was good and the clock was ticking so I wasn’t able to hang around for much more than a short chat. However, refuelled on sugar and partly rested I made great time to Letterkenny and the only real climb of the day. Good route planning meant that I also had some wind assistance most of the way to the top.

The heat of the climb, loss of windchill with a tailwind and the re-emergence of the sun meant I was able to remove the leg warmers and enjoy air on my legs for the first time this year – I decided to spare you any photos!

Shortly after this I had my worst bad pass for a while. I was on a very slight descent and nipping along at 45km/h in the hard shoulder. A Nissan Micra passed me and straight away indicated to take the left turn less than 100m ahead. We drive on the left in Ireland meaning he was about to cut across in front of me. I slammed on the brakes with no hope of stopping without crashing but he stopped dead in the left lane. I figured he either didn’t see me when passing or totally underestimated my speed and somehow had the presence of mind not to turn left allowing me to pass on the inside. I gave him a good bollocking through his open window as I went by, followed a few seconds later by a long honk on the horn responded to by the most universal of hand signals🖕

Arriving in Stranorlar at 95km I was flagging. I was tired, the sugar had worn off and I was getting hungry again. I was also turning back into the wind for the final 10km. A quick stop to eat a cereal bar helped but the next 15min were not much fun! Arriving into Killygordon there’s a short, sharp climb to the traffic lights. I decided to stand up to power up it and my left leg just said no! The muscle in the back of my leg felt like water resulting in a quick rethink and a very quick downshift to keep my momentum going.

Exiting the other side of the village I ticked over the 100km mark at 3hrs 41min which I was very pleased with considering my mileage this month. I finished up the last climb to home (no standing attempted here) with the wind fully behind me again and rolled in home with 105km in 3hrs 54min at 1:10. A quick change, a handful of nuts and I was picking the boys up just 10min later than normal. Of course in moody teenager world this was a terribly unfair amount of time to be waiting, despite a warning that morning that it could be up to half an hour 😆

click the image to view on strava

Dead pleased to get that done, I really thought I was going to miss this month! Not a bad time for me either.

Header image © Strava. 100KM Gran Fondo April.

pollan strand, ballyliffin

It’s Catriona’s birthday this week and as we’re all at work and school she wanted to celebrate today with a family day away, especially as we appear to have temporarily skipped straight from Spring to Summer.

On the way down we stopped at my brother’s coffee van (#curiouscoffee). I’ve stopped a couple of times already on my way to work but as they are only open 9 weeks now it was a first visit for Catriona and the boys.

Coincidentally Mum and my sister plus kids had a similar idea and we met them there and sat having a chat for a good while.

The main aim of the day was to go for a family walk. We had chosen Glenevin Waterfall outside Clonmany but the car park and trail were closed. According to Google it’s “temporarily closed” so it must be a victim of the lockdown restrictions.

Our next choice was always going to be a beach walk anyway so we headed for Pollan Strand less than 10 minutes away and walked pretty much the full length of the beach. It was 6km in glorious warm sunshine, as close to Summer as it gets in this part of the world.

On the way back we stopped at the Four Lanterns in Buncrana for burgers and chips topped off by 99s in Raphoe. An extravagant day of spoiling ourselves but a lovely family day out.

the way home

The Way Home by Mark Boyle, read by Gerard Doyle

From Audible:

It was 11:00 pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever.

No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio, or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. 

The Way Home is a modern-day Walden – an honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life lived in nature without modern technology. Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Man, explores the hard-won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the stream, foraging, and fishing. 

What he finds is an elemental life, one governed by the rhythms of the sun and seasons, where life and death dance in a primal landscape of blood, wood, muck, water, and fire – much the same life we have lived for most of our time on earth. Revisiting it brings a deep insight into what it means to be human at a time when the boundaries between man and machine are blurring.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I find it hard to explain why I enjoyed this so much. It’s far from exciting and the story jumps around a lot, not just within the author’s own life, but also between his development of the smallholding and the islanders of the Blaskett Isles. I think my enjoyment stems from the openness of the author. He is very aware of his faults but also proud of his achievements. He doesn’t try to glorify his struggle without modern technologies but neither does he romanticise his new life.

He also openly acknowledges his struggle to live his new life without technology but also exist in the modern world. At times he must make compromises in order to see his parents and to help his neighbours. He’s also starting from scratch so in order to become established he needs to use the proceeds or results of modern technology.

The reader in this case brings a lot to the experience. I believe I enjoyed this more as an audiobook than I would have as a regular book. Once I became used to his pronunciation and tone, his voice added to the story making it a richer and more enjoyable experience.

Header image source:

killeter forest: bannadoo trail

Yesterday morning was fabulous. Very calm and sunny and despite an early frost it was lovely. After the school run I came home and organised my bike and kit all ready for a late morning spin. First though I had to wait for the guy to come and replace one of our worn out electric showers. With two teenage boys back at school and both of us working one working shower is no longer enough in the morning!

The shower man came about 10 and left about 1130. I don’t know if it was spending the morning making small talk and listening to his stories or if it was the change of weather from sunny and calm to overcast, cool and breezy but my cycling desire had totally evaporated and the thought of dealing with traffic was totally unappealing all of a sudden.

I was rattling around the house trying to think of something to do when a flash of inspiration brought to mind Killeter Forest and the marked trails. A quick perusal of the pdf established that the 10km Bannadoo Trail was the best option.

Over the last number of weeks I’ve been drawn more and more to the woods. Something about woods and forests and being in the trees is helping me mentally, a form of forest bathing as referenced above. My go-to place for many years has been Monellan Woods. It’s local and relatively quiet until the last year or so. Over the years I’d rarely meet anyone else while walking there, occasionally another walker or runner. Since Covid and an explosion in outdoors activity word has obviously spread and now it’s a lot busier. Tuesday evening for example I met at least 6 other groups/solo walkers and runners. It’s still a beautiful spot but it’s lost a lot of it’s calm and solitude.

I didn’t have this problem in Killeter. Almost 7.5km is on forest roads with the rest on a very rural road. Apart from the surface there isn’t much difference between the road and the forest tracks as the road also runs through the same mix of mature Spruce plantation and clearfell. The only company I had for almost two and a half hours was the trees, hundreds of singing birds and insects. Not another person or car the whole time.

The walk turned out to be almost 11km including the short walk from the car park area to the start of the loop. Most of it is through mature plantation so the views are minimal but there’s a beautiful lake in the last couple of kilometres as well as the site of the former Derg Lodge. Although I missed out on a cycle it was a worthwhile change of plan.

international appalachian way
damaged during the “troubles” = blown up by the ira
appropriately named “big bridge”


Expedition by Steve Backshall

From Audible:

Shine a light into the unknown.

There are still dark corners of our planet that are yet to be explored. In this remarkable book, Steve Backshall offers an unflinching account of his adventures into these uncharted territories around the globe, in search of world firsts. Each location brings its own epic challenges – whether it’s the first climb of an arctic ice fall in Greenland, the first recorded navigation of a South American river, or the first exploration of the world’s longest cave system in Mexico. But all of them represent new tests of the limits of human endeavour. 

Accompanying a major 10-part series on BBC and Dave, Expedition is a breathtaking journey into the unknown, and a brilliantly written celebration of the pleasures of genuine discovery.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

I had high hopes for this thinking that hearing the book narrated by Steve himself would bring a sense of authenticity to the story and the experiences within it. However, his constant, breathless excitement and constant over exaggeration of even the smallest happenings soon wore out. The quality of the writing is pretty poor and the narration does nothing to help it. He must have set a personal target to use every over the top metaphor possible and exaggerate every description to the nth degree. Nothing was just large, it was gigantic and so on with over descriptive depictions of scenery and conditions on a continual loop. Rather than create excitement it became bland and uninteresting.

I made it through 8 of the 10 expeditions and barely remember anything of them. I do believe that they were true adventures but trying to explore undiscovered places on the modern Earth is surprisingly uninteresting when described in this book. The book was also a BBC TV series and it was probably better in film than print.

A constant irritation was his references to his family, how much he was missing them and how guilty he was that his son was missing him at the very beginning of his life. In one freak kayak accident he almost dies in a rapid. His lamentations about the possible effect of his death made me quite angry. Why the hell expose himself to these dangers and choose to leave home on these extended expeditions if he was worried about the effect on his family! Selfishness of the highest order and absolutely no right to then complain about it.

Header image source:

reloading spring

Wednesday morning started unseasonably cold and frosty with a fog hanging over the valley. However, the forecast predicted the sunshine to quickly burn off the frost and fog for a beautifully sunny and warm day.

On Monday our travel restrictions were eased allowing us to travel outside our 5km limit for the first time since early January. We can now travel as far as we like as long as we stay within our county boundary. If we live on the county border we can travel up to 20km from home into another county.

During this third, and hopefully last, lockdown I’ve been very lucky to live so close to the border with Northern Ireland. My 5km takes me over the border and there were no cycling restrictions there. This allowed me the opportunity to build a number of routes so long as I stayed within my RoI 5km limit. Most if not all of the local cyclists I know have paid scant attention to what was an arbitrary and nonsensical limit and I really don’t know how others managed to obey it completely. From my own point of view I was getting really sick of the same roads and I was using a much bigger area than my 5km radius.

With my new found freedom I decided to pay a visit to Raphoe and cycle familiar roads that I haven’t been on since the beginning of November, almost 5 months to the day. I waited until after lunch to maximise the benefit of the sunny day and left the house with temperatures around 11°C – it was glorious.

My halfway point was Raphoe and I decided to stop for a cup of tea and a cereal bar. I bought from a girl staffing a horse box coffee shop, one of the many roadside coffee vans that have sprung up in the last year or so. She was in or around 20 and, although very friendly, I think I was a lot more enthusiastic about the lovely sunny day than she was. I’d like to think she thought I was a happy man but she probably though I was a middle aged weirdo!

I parked my bike and grabbed a bench in the very pretty Diamond with a great view of the “Earth Mother” statue from the HEART Project. I sat here for about 10 minutes, basking in the warm sunshine but could have sat for an hour easily.

I’d once again dropped layers with the promise of warmer temperatures but couldn’t quite give in totally. I was still in my Perfetto and leg warmers but definitely should have gone for arm warmers instead of the full Perfetto sleeves and by the time I sweated my way to the top of the hill to home I was regretting not taking the risk of the first bare legged spin of the year.

I’m really hoping that we’re now through this very weird and mixed up start to Spring and that the warmer weather is here to stay. I’d love some more days like this sometime soon.

click the image to view on strava

resetting expectations

Almost two weeks ago I wrote about how my motivation had slumped and how I was feeling lethargic and unwilling to get out and about. Having written that I had a bit of a lift. I think it was cathartic recognising and expressing how I was feeling. Later that week the weather also started to improve again getting warmer and a bit more settled. I decided to give the 30 Days of Biking Challenge a go as a way to change things up and maybe give me a cycling boost. I started well with 4 days done but then hit a mental wall again. This wasn’t helped by plummeting weather conditions and a return to very wintery weather. After a taste of Spring it feels like we’ve been catapulted back to the end of January!

On Easter Monday the forecast was for a wet and windy week with snow and hail showers also expected and I lost all interest in the 30 Days Challenge. In fact I pretty much lost interest in cycling for the whole week!

❄ 3″ of snow on my car tuesday morning! ❄

Since then I’ve spent some time taking stock. For the last two weeks I’d been getting progressively tired and fed up. I’d also started to develop pains in my knees and legs. Something was going wrong and needed to change. A number of the supportive comments on that last post mentioned Covid and/or overdoing it. Dpedece’s comment in particular stood out for me:

However, it seems to me that needing to take the lazy option means that something inside–mind? spirit?–needs healing. The lazy option allows the opportunity for that to heal.

I’ve been back at work now for 5 weeks and it’s been a big change. I’m in work from 9:30am to 6pm with a 45min lunch break. Apart from lunch I’m mostly stood in the one spot as, with lockdown, most sales and queries are coming via the phone. It’s pretty full on with the phone almost constantly ringing and possibly juggling 3/4 queries at once. It requires constant focus and concentration to ensure nothing gets missed or messed up while still maximising sales. That’s tiring both mentally and physically.

During my time off at the start of lockdown I steadily built up my activity and consequently my fitness. I was determined not to lose this by returning to work. I was also following Intermittent Fasting to try and get to my ideal weight. The table below shows my weekly activity plan going back to work.

Retrospectively now it’s a bit much and combined with work it was way too much! Additionally my sleeping pattern has been bad. To get an activity in before work I was getting up at 6:30am (away to work at 8:30am, home at 7pm) but most nights not settling down until at least 11:30pm or even midnight. No wonder I was feeling burnt out, I was and as dpedece said my spirit needed healing.

I’ve really dialled it back since Monday. The weather has stopped me cycling so I’ve just been walking and only once a day. Most days I’ve been able to have a lie in and I’ve been making a better effort to get to sleep by 11pm. I’ve completely given up on fasting by eating a small breakfast. At work I’m making an effort to reduce stress by not feeling that I have to answer every single call and dealing properly with queries before moving on to the next.

All of this has helped a lot. I’m feeling a good bit better and the pains are going from my legs. Mentally I feel a lot less wrung out and depending on the weather tomorrow I may even get out for a spin on the bike. Some of our restrictions are being eased and we are permitted to travel anywhere within our county boundary. It will be refreshing to be able to ride different routes and areas I haven’t ridden since October/November. Hopefully the customers I meet through work will also be in better form and more positive and thereby easier to deal with. There’s a rumour that winter may be retreating again later this week which will give everyone an extra boost 🤞

Header image by Castorly Stock from Pexels

the shepherd’s crown

The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5, Witches #11) by Terry Pratchett

From Goodreads:

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is not the usual Terry Pratchett story. While there are a number of asides of the usual humour there are very few laugh out loud moments. The overall atmosphere is sombre and one of impending bad news. The loss of one of the key Discworld figures as well as the understanding that this is the absolutely final TP book leaves the book and the reader with an overall feeling of sadness. As a character Tiffany finally becomes her own person, taking control of her own destiny but even her success is tinged with a level of sadness.

The quality of writing is not up to the usual standard, nor is the construction of the storyline. However, the afterword makes it clear that this was an unfinished manuscript and that TP would undoubtedly have made further changes and additions. For all of that it is a worthy read and a fitting epitaph. As the afterword states:

The Shepherd’s Crown has a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the bits in between.

I’ll leave the last word to Death….


Terry Pratchett 1948-2015. Rest in Peace