Today was that special day when I get home from work and I’m able to go for a walk in the woods before it gets dark for the first time this year. I managed to get home just in time to make the most of that unique period just as the sun is setting and the moon is rising.
With a massive relaunch sale at work the last two weeks have been long hours, very little time off and demanding days so this evening was very much needed to clear my head and leave me feeling rejuvenated.
It was brilliant to hear so many birds singing vocally as soon as I got out of the van. It put a real pep in my step and I could have sat for hours and listened to them.
The last 10min or so were in under the taller trees which brought an earlier darkness but I had enough moonlight to boost my night vision just enough to still be comfortable. I really do love the woods at dusk.
It’s always nice to get stuff in the post and especially nice today as fellow Irish blogger Declan, aka Unironedman, kindly sent me a runner’s buff, one of the ones he had produced for the recent Down To Town Marathon. I’m no marathon runner by any stretch of the imagination but who doesn’t like free stuff? I took advantage of a break in the weather and a spare hour to take it for a very enjoyable walk in Monellan Woods. If you don’t already follow Declan’s blog then I’d highly recommend it.
On Sunday last week I finally made it back on to the bike after almost two months to the day. I had a lot of digestive issues in September, had two bouts of illness heading into October and totally lost motivation for cycling or much of anything else fitness wise to be honest. Any focus I did have went into training for the sponsored run for Pieta.
Sunday though was such a perfect cycling day that I couldn’t let it go to waste. It was mild, bright and dry with very little wind. I decided on an easy paced cycle down to Clady and back to Killygordon using a mix of back and main road. The treat at the end was a short off-road section along the river in Killygordon and a final spin around the forest trails of Monellan.
Mid morning on a Sunday the roads were pretty quiet which was a nice, relaxing re-introduction to the road. Just over the border in Clady I made some new friends.
The trail along the river was really nice with the trees all colourful with changing leaves and lots of water in the river after all the heavy rain of the last few weeks. In Monellan the trails were better than expected and definitely drier than I’d hoped for, really enjoyable.
autumnal bike porn!
After Monellan I was still feeling good so decided to tackle the pretty tough climb up Gleneely Hill before heading home via the long, easy downhill. This is never easy on any bike, never mind on a mountain bike and definitely not after such a long break but I surprised myself and made it to the top without passing out! I was more than ready for an easy glide home though 😊
I also decided to try and film for the first time while cycling. In July I got a budget action camera (Akaso Brave 6 Plus) and set of accessories for my birthday. My plan was to use a mixture of handheld and chest mounted filming but it didn’t go very much according to plan. The handheld bits were fine but I totally miscalculated the placement of the camera on the chest harness. I ended up with a lot of footage but most of it of my handlebars 🙈
I was also using the camera in the protective case which kills the sound quality so the two pieces to camera that I filmed needed an external voice recorder. This worked well for the introductory piece but having just finished the climb up Gleneely I totally forgot about the external mic for the concluding piece which left it totally unusable. I’m still using my mobile for editing (VN Video Editor). This worked pretty well but synchronising the voice over and the video was tricky.
In the end I managed to salvage just over 6min of reasonable quality footage and I’ve decided to go ahead and post it up as a learning experience. I’ve posted a link below if you are interested in giving it a view.
Sunday’s run went very well. Everyone had a great time, we raised a lot of money and I managed to run my 5K with no issues. In fact I ran my fastest 1K (5:41) and 1mile (9:08). It was too fast though and I had very sore spasms in my shins that afternoon and I haven’t run all week. I decided to rest them and start back at it next week again.
Sunday evening we all met up in Buncrana again for a night out. It was great fun and the entire staff was there (bar one guy away at a birthday party) plus a good few partners. My initial plan was a couple of drinks early on, 0/0 for the rest of the night and sober to drive home by midnight. That plan soon went down the pan and especially when Catriona agreed to come over and join us to drive me home. That turned into my first drunken night out for probably 3 years.
Monday was a Bank Holiday and I spent most of the day recovering from a bad hangover. In the evening we went back to Buncrana to collect my car, took the opportunity for a lovely walk on the beach just as it got dark and a fast food dinner.
That night I couldn’t seem to switch my brain off and was awake until well after 5am. Catriona was up for work before 7 which woke me again so I figure I had less than 2 hours sleep wiping out most of my Tuesday. Thankfully I’d booked the day off work as an extended long weekend. I did manageto summon enough energy in the afternoon to tidy and clean up the garage though which was long overdue.
I had a few errands to do on Wednesday morning and early afternoon but decided I needed to do something constructive with my days off before returning to work on Thursday. I decided to head for Monellan Woods for a walk with Rosie. I also took my new Trangia alcohol stove and made a hot chocolate drink. I sat and enjoyed that as the last of the daylight faded before heading back to the car in the dark and off home again. It was the perfect mindfulness way to finish my few days off.
I also took my camera and made another YouTube video. I was pushed for time as the light was fading quickly and my phone camera doesn’t cope well with low light (very rushed so didn’t think about a light) but I enjoyed making and editing it. The second half is very poor light quality but I recently watched a YouTube video that contained the advice not to strive for perfection, just make and create and if you enjoy the process then that is good enough. If you want to have a watch the link below will take you there.
So today I did something very different. I’ve made and uploaded my very first YouTube video!
The idea behind it came from a video I watched by Mark from the Twin Peaks Wild Camping channel. The concept is to go out into the woods, make yourself a tea or coffee (a brew), film the process and upload it to YouTube. The purpose is to speak about mental health and especially mental health in men who are particularly poor at talking about mental health issues.
I feel that this is a very important topic and needs as much publicity as possible. This blog won’t get that out to a very big audience but I am tagging two other channels that I follow. They are Paul Messner and Simon A Bloke in The Woods. Between them they have just over 200K subscribers and if they accept the challenge then that is big publicity.
I don’t go into anything too personal in the video but I think it’s important to highlight that everyone struggles with their mental health at times. Sometimes people who seem the happiest on the outside are unhappy on the inside. Sometimes this is just a day here and there and sometimes it’s many, many days at a time. Keep an eye on those around you, especially your friends. Don’t be afraid to check if they are OK. If you are struggling with your mental health please know that you are not alone no matter how much you may feel you are.
Here in Ireland there are two main organisations for anyone looking for help or just someone to talk to.
This is also why I was out on the MTB yesterday. I wanted to do a bit of exploring to find a good spot, somewhere pleasant to sit and film and where I wouldn’t be disturbed. I found a cracking spot along the river in my local Monellan woods. This is also why I made the alcohol stove and billy can earlier in the week. You can watch the video below to see how I got on.
My last spin on the MTB was in May when I managed to break my derailleur hanger! I did eventually get a replacement once lockdown was over but fitting it was fiddly and I couldn’t get the gearing dialled in. The bike needed a good service and cable change so I decided to leave it until I could get it to Halfords in Letterkenny. The 31 Days of Biking challenge took over and then the purchase of my new bike and the poor MTB remained hanging up in the garage in semi retirement.
I eventually got myself organised and left it in for a service a couple of weeks ago and got everything sorted and in good working order again ready for the inevitable change in weather that would put me off the road bike.
Today the weather wasn’t too bad but for some reason I couldn’t get motivated to ride the road bike. The weather was mild but grey and drizzly and the thought of 2-3 hours was dispiriting. Having decided to just go for an hour I decided to use the MTB instead to get a decent workout in the legs and make sure everything was good after the service.
As always leaving the house is the most challenging bit and while I was dropping down the hill from the house I quickly decided to extend the route to make my 25km spin into 30km. The novelty of the MTB though soon had me smiling and enjoying the ride so 30 quickly became 40 and then 45, eventually finishing up just over 46km.
Most of the spin was on roads, a mixture of back roads like above and slightly busier main roads but with it being a lockdown Sunday afternoon traffic was pretty light and no lorries which is the biggest bonus.
On the way out of Killygordon I decided to do a bit of exploring and dropped down off the road, under the bridge and along the weir access lane along the riverbank.
I’ve only ever been down this lane once or twice and not for a very long time. The river was full and fast after the recent spell of heavy rain and the weir was in full flow.
The lane ends at the weir but there were rough tracks going a bit further, likely created by local fishermen walking upriver and perfect for the MTB.
It’s the ability to randomly change route and head off track that I love about the MTB. Exploring off road brings out my inner 8 year old and reminds me of the fun I had as a kid with a bike growing up in a small village.
My mini riverside adventure gave me an interest in more. Going into Ballybofey I thought about Drumboe but figured it would be pretty busy on a mild Sunday afternoon so went on down the main road with a plan to visit Monellan instead.
Monellan was busy enough too but nothing too annoying for either me or the families out walking. I buzzed around the forest tracks and two of the rougher little paths. I decided to skip the section where I broke my hanger in May but did get to ride the path we discovered earlier this year for the first time.
Leaving Monellan I made my final route change and headed up the steep road climb to Gleneely School and round my normal walking/running route and back home. Having talked myself out of a 2-3hr road spin for an hour I ended up being out for 2hrs 15min and really enjoyed myself.
I’m not the handiest person when it comes to bicycle repair and maintenance and my main cycling fear during lockdown is that I would break something beyond my basic repair skills. That happened yesterday!
My cycling mileage has steadily decreased over the 8 weeks of restrictions but the MTB has been neglected the most. Apart from a short and uninspiring spin around the local roads my MTB hasn’t seen much use since since the end of March.
On Tuesday our exercise restriction was relaxed to allow us to go up to 5km from home for exercise. This covers two and most of a third forestry area that are perfect for a 60-90min blast on the MTB. On our last couple of visits to Monellan for walking we also discovered 2 new trails off the main tracks and perfect for a bit of “natural” MTBing.
On Friday I managed to shake off my resurgent cycling ennui and decided to dust off the MTB. Down the road, across a rough farm track, back on the road for 2km and into the woods. The first bit of trail runs down the side of the river and along the original estate wall before meeting up with another trail. Along the wall the trail passes through a number of narrow gaps between trees and on some of these someone has added piles of small branches to create small jumps for ponies. These also make perfect small jumps for a MTB. The third jump has been made too big to take with a bike so I detoured to the left to avoid it. As I passed I didn’t see the end of one of the branches sticking out that managed to catch my rear wheel and drivetrain. By the time I realised what had happened the damage was done!
Thankfully the hanger did its job and broke before the derailleur itself was damaged. A bit of online research and it looks like an easy repair but getting the part will be the tricky bit. There are a multitude of hangers available to buy and you need to buy the exact one to match your frame.
Normally a quick call to Halfords and I would have one within a couple of days. Unfortunately all the Halfords stores are currently closed in RoI and services in NI are highly limited plus my nearest NI stores are approx 45min away.
An online chat with the UK website resulted in a recommendation to contact a store and discuss with store staff as the online rep was working from home with limited access to information. I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow to try and make sure I get a more experienced member of staff on shift.
At least getting home was easier. Catriona and Conor were walking in Monellan so a short wait for them to appear on the trail and I was able to head to the car park, load the bike into the back of the car and wait for them to finish. A 4km walk home pushing a broken bike wouldn’t have been much fun!
After the excitement of R1 tonight was more of a reality check. R1 was a well rested Sunday morning while today was in the dark after 2 busy days at work averaging 10k steps each day and a row/cross trainer session in the gym yesterday evening.
I felt slow and awkward on the running intervals but in hindsight the trails in Monellan are too rough for comfort in the dark and wearing trainers. They’re great in hiking boots and walking the dog, even in the dark, but not for running. As my runs will be mostly in the evening and therefore in the dark I need to pick another location but I have one in mind.
I also felt very flat footed and heavy this evening which is why I previously gave up on C25K after the first couple of runs. I’m not sure if I’m being hyper sensitive to my gait, if it was the trail and the dark that was throwing me off or if my gait is that bad? Sitting on the sofa now there’s some tenderness in my shins but no pain. Running was the same.
After all that negativity I did enjoy it, especially the better sections of the trail and I did do three 40/45 second intervals. I was tempted to do an extra one or two but I managed to keep control of the enthusiasm to avoid injury and stuck with the plan.
Walked about 1km extra back to the start in about 10min but have decided to only record the actual N2R workouts so I can monitor progress properly.
I’ve been cycling for almost 7 years now and I’ve always enjoyed hiking and walking but I’ve never been a runner! Up to now this image has described me perfectly:
I’ve tried running a few times but it was always a case of too much, too soon due to lack of understanding how to start running. I’ve tried Couch25K a couple of times but gave up after a couple of runs due to lack of motivation. I also have a really bad running style that combined with a poor training strategy has resulted in a tendency towards shin splints.
I was researching C25K again last week and came across NoneToRun (N2R) which is for pure beginners. C25K is distance based with the ultimate aim of running 5km at the end of 9 weeks. N2R is time based with the aim of running 25min non-stop at the end of 12 weeks. It’s also walk/run based but incorporates some basic strength training to build endurance and avoid injury. It also has a very active and very supportive Facebook Group.
I had planned to cycle this morning but was suffering from a complete lack of motivation to get on the bike. Eventually I was that pissed off I decided to give N2R Week 1 a go 😱
To make things that bit easier I decided to go to Monellan Woods so I could run on the trails. I know Monellan well from walking the dog and MTBing and figured it would be less public and easier on the joints as well as a more enjoyable environment.
The first couple of run/walk intervals felt quite easy but I could feel the effects increasing towards the end. I did feel pretty comfortable throughout and could see the temptation to do more but stuck to the plan.
I ended up at 35min as my 25min finished and I was still 10min from the car but left the watch recording to the end.
I did have a few niggles with my shins but nothing bad so hopefully that doesn’t get any worse and with time my legs will get stronger and my gait and form will improve so that I avoid injury.
I had Rosie with me for company. She loves Monellan but her reaction to my running sections was so funny. Totally confused and over excited the first couple of times. Only issue was having to stop twice to put her on the lead when we met other walkers. If I go early or later in the evening then I won’t have that issue.
This week I’m feeling a renewed motivation to ride my bike again. I’m not sure what it is but I think it’s a combination of changing jobs, the warm glow of our week away, an increased feeling of fitness from walking so much each day we were away and an increased optimism for the future.