Haven’t had a change of theme here for a long time now, and thought this provided a nice clean look.
When I think “monochrome”, I think of Ansel Adams, so here’s a quick example:
Hope you like it
I stopped to look at the map and survey my immediate surroundings. The total time displayed on my GPS continued to tick. Beside it, the figure showing my moving time had stopped. I was in Cornwall for Round 6 of the Endurance Life Coastal Trailquest series. Usual format, visit as many checkpoints as you can in five hours. Oh, and don’t be late.
It occurred to me, as the difference between my total time and my moving time increased, that I’ll never make those few minutes back, and as a result I will be arrive later at my final destination than I would otherwise have done. Such is the nature of trailquests – a balance of planning and execution.
The same is true for life, of course. It’s too full of distractions, diverting us from doing those things that matter more or preventing us from keeping the important things in focus. When you stop and look up from the path you’re on and survey your surroundings, sometimes you see a different one. Time spent getting to that point wasn’t wasted, it was a necessary part of the journey and along the way lessons where learnt. What has kept us busy for the last three and half months isn’t really important, it’s where we go from here that’s important. [Matthew 16:24-25]
Water defines Scotland. The clouds are enriched with it as they shroud the mountain tops, or linger majestically in the valleys. Water fills the bogs and charges the burns. It descends down the mountain with gathering pace, cutting through rock and carving the character of the landscape as it goes. With great force it plunges over rocks and falls before reaching the broader rivers. Here, it slows to a meander through alder and birch woodland with an impossible stillness. The rivers flow seemlessly into the vast expanses of the lochs: great valleys cut by huge glaciers of a previous era, are now filled with an eerie tranquillity.
Our first family holiday was to the Trossachs. As you can probably guess, we had a bit of rain, but overall it was a good break. Henry saw lots of new things, places and sights and we tried to relax in these peaceful surroundings to unburden ourselves from the cummulative effects of our busy lives at home. The passing moods of the clouds, the rush of the mountain burn, the stillness of the river, the raw power of the waterfalls and the morning mists rising from the loch are a reminder of how water defines our environment and enriches our lives.
The water brings with it the character of the country. The mountain waters, tinted brown from the peat, flavours the beer and the whisky. The whisky especially. We toured the Glengoyne whisky distillery, sampling many of the excellent single malts with the unique taste of their unpeated malted barley. A bottle of Glengoyne 21 year old single malt rests in the cupboard, a nice compliment to the peaty tones of the bottle of Ardbeg next to it.
Sandwiched between Brecon town and the vast wasteland that is Sennybridge Training Area lies a surprisingly expansive piece of countryside that is covered comprehensively by bridleways. In the shadow of the Brecon Beacons this area looks less attractive compared to the better known trails within the Park. But don’t be fooled – there’s good riding to be had here, as I found out on Saturday. One in particular is the bridleway that runs south from Battle to Aberyscir that looks nothing on the map. It turned out to be a gem of a trail.
My tyres slithered over the greasy stones as we made the first few turns of the trail. I tried to preserve the delicate balance of keeping the bike both upright and moving forwards as the trail dived down through the trees and into little narrow gullies where exposed roots and loose rocks tested your skill in the wet conditions. We emerged at the bottom, grinning. The joy of riding new trails was almost enough of a distraction not to notice the weather. Yes, it rained for more or less the whole of the three and half hours we were out, but with the right gear on we were never in a situation of discomfort. It’s funny how some of the best rides I’ve ever done have been in foul weather.
Back in Brecon, the upbeat tones of jazz instruments played out from the pubs around town – the 25th Anniversary Brecon Jazz Festival was here. With the worst of the rain past, we ventured into town to soak up some of the atmosphere, drink beer and eat too many Welsh cakes.
Though there were fewer than previous years, some of the buskers were pretty good – like this guy. The notes that poured out of the end of his saxaphone were amazing. A nice end to a day of two halves.
Well, me actually. And Beth’s a Mummy too.
The miraculous birth of Henry in May marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for us. For once (maybe twice, if you count our wedding) bikes haven’t taken preference in this household for a good few weeks. It’s difficult to sum up in words the joy, elation, excitement, happiness, tiredness and even worry, to name only a few of the emotional feelings we’ve experienced over the last few weeks. When we’ve had spare moments we’ve taken quite a few photos. In fact, it’s easier for us to portray our lives, moods and experiences through pictures rather than words.
We’ve started a photo blog, called Un Mil Geiriau (a thousand words, in Welsh), which hopefully is nice and easy to update. We seem to have accumulated a huge collection of photos over the years, some of which wouldn’t see the light of day if I didn’t make the effort to share them with others. The theme that surrounds the blog also changes to reflect the tone of the picture to give each page a totally unique feel.
Earlier this month Steve organised an excellent Duathlon Challenge on Mynydd Llangorse for the Multisport Club. After a week of rain, and even a bit of snow on the higher ground, it was almost miraculous that the day of the event was almost clear and sunny. Suffice to say the ground was wet, with patchy ice and snow and the right choice of tread was important for both bike and feet. A pair of gnarly NB fell running shoes kindly donated by Ryan and a pair of Bontrager Mud 1.8′s (which hadn’t seen any use since Mountain Mayhem) did the job very nicely in some very soft and slippy mountain conditions. Given that it was my first off-road duathlon, I got round in just under 1:55 for the 1.5 mile run/ 8 mile bike/ 4 mile run, about 8 minutes behind Matt who won. I was quite pleased with that and it was a good start to 2008.
Of course, 2008 actually started in the traditional fashion of a party and lots of alcohol. Our club got together for a T-Party, which means you have to come dressed as something beginning with “T”. After much thought and pondering, I put on a brown pin-stripe suit, a badly tied tie and pair of converse all-stars and armed myself with some psychic paper and a sonic screwdriver to go as a Time Lord. Other T’s included Tank Girl, Thor, a Thespian, Mr T., Tigger, Tinkerbell, with Beth going as a Tooth Fairy.
Looking back, this blog is now 1 year old (and a couple of weeks). Its was quite a year with one thing and another, the high point of which had to be TransScotland. The latter half of 2007 wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but it’s showed me the way for 2008, and there’s lots of excitement ahead. Watch this space…
It’s been a busy few weeks with one thing and another. After a lengthy period of writers block, I’ve found some time in between plastering the kitchen* and getting ready for a duathlon tomorrow.
To recap, the latter part of August and September were spent preparing for the final round of the Dragon XC mountain bike series. Having spent a good deal of time entering races, I felt quite qualified to actually try and organise one. In a sense, it helped quite a bit, but in many other respects I under estimated the amount of work involved both before hand and on the day. Four of us spent days strimming tracks, building berms and little bits of north-shore, putting arrows and marking tape out. The result was what many racers regarded as an excellent course – one of the best of the year if you read the straw poll on the xcracer.com forum. Anyway, suffice to say there’s much more to running a race than meets the eye, but seeing 60 odd happy (and tired) riders kind of made it all worth while.
In between times, I’ve continued to try and get the hang of this swimming malarky, with at least two sessions a week. Its the one thing where my base fitness from cycling doesn’t actually count for much because its some much down to your technique, or in my case, lack of. I’ve done a bit of running too with the local club, completing my first bench-mark mile the other week in 6 mins 22 seconds. I wasn’t sick when I crossed the line, which was something. I’d hope to get under 6 minutes pretty quickly now I’ve learnt a bit about pacing for that sort of distance.
I’ve been away with Beth on holiday, for the first time on what seems years. Taking time of work to train or do DIY isn’t really much of a holiday. Looking at the photo above, you’d think we’ve been somewhere really exotic, but it’s actually Pembrokeshire. A vast array of photos, trimmed down from over 400 is here.
So, that brings you more or less up to date. After a hour fettling in the garage this evening, I’ve got my tri-bars in the right position for tomorrow. It’s not a particularly serious event, between the local triathlon club and the athletics club, but it’ll be a first time I’ve done an event such as this. The route starts with a hilly 2 mile run, followed by a 9 mile bike and a 2 mile run again. The trick I suppose is not being totally wrecked when I get off the bike so I die on the final leg of the race. Full report to follow soon…
* or rather, the room where the kitchen used to be. Most of “the kitchen” is in pieces outside waiting for me to fit the new one which is taking all the space where we used to have a dining room and a lounge. Like all good DIY jobs, there’s more to it than you first thought…
I went swimming last week for the first time in what must be nearly two years. When I asked the advice of a few friends on swimming, one them said:
There are only 3 things you need to know for swimming.
They are, in no particular order, technique, technique and technique.
Having got quite used to my legs going round and round for hours at a time on a bike, the coordination required to get them to paddle backwards and forwards whilst at the same time moving my arms (rather than clasping a handlebar) required considerable levels of concentration. Suffice to say, at the moment, I’m not much of a swimmer. But there lies the challenge. Beth used to very good at swimming, and now there’s an opportunity for her to teach me how to do something.
The other discipline into which I have dabbled is running. On the face of it, I’m the right build and have a good level of fitness already so how hard can a bit of running be? Well, at the moment quite hard. My running muscles have been a bit underdeveloped in recent years, but with some steady practice I guess I’ll improve, along with the swimming.
…up at the top of the page. Early spring – Sgwd Yr Eira near Ystradfellte.
I’ll try and change the header as the seasons change, so you’ll need to tune in at least four times a year to catch them all