I have kept a Gratitude Journal since the start of 2016. Over that year it made a MASSIVE difference to my mental attitude; I now more naturally see the positive in things. My blog is a place to share thoughts and opinions. But more than that, it’s a place I record life so I can look back in the future and remember how things were. Whilst I will always have my private journals, I also decided to take a leaf out the books of other bloggers and create a monthly gratitude feature. Here’s what I am grateful for this month:
Last weekend we went on a long weekend break with the in-laws to the Woburn Forest Center Parcs near Bedford. Living in Hertfordshire, it was a wonderfully convenient 40 minute journey. So we loaded up the car after H had her nap and lunch so that we arrived shortly after the 3pm lodge arrival time. (Although if you can go from 10am to use the pool and other facilities.)
Opinion has always, and probably always will be, split when it comes to the effectiveness of wearing a cycle helmet. In the UK they are more common these days and in professional and amateur races / sportives they are typically now mandated. However there are still a hard-core group who don’t think they are worth bothering with. Indeed, foster the right environment for cycling and perhaps they aren’t as necessary; The Netherlands is a good example of this. I learnt from the Tour de France highlights this week that only 1% of the Dutch wear bicycling helmets yet they have the lowest level of cycling related head injuries in the world. That’s an impressive statistic.
There aren’t many big events that take place in Welwyn Garden City. In the six and a half years we have lived here, the only things that come to mind before this weekend are: the Olympic Torch route and being one of two main filming locations from The World’s End. This weekend we got to add event number three to the list: the fourth stage of the first ever Women’s Tour ended on Parkway in the centre of WGC!
Sam and I are both cycling fans and, having watched most of Le Tour last year, it would have been rude not to go down and support the ladies. We had it in the diary from early March and invited the Watling Parents to come with. Despite some interesting weather, a lot of other local people had the same idea and Welwyn was positively buzzing (for Welwyn GC!)
The race wasn’t due to finish until close to 2pm so, getting in to town by about 11am, we had some time to kill. We took a look round the numerous stalls and events and got some tea and cake. About 1pm though, crowds were starting to build so we decided to bagsy a space. We got a good spot near the finish line, although on the second row back.
The first riders arrived through just after 2pm. Before they appeared, the compere said to keep watching because “blink and you’ll miss it”. He wasn’t lying. They came by at such a tremendous speed that we didn’t see the front riders. Sam managed to get a snap of the riders just behind them who placed about 5th / 6th +.
We were in a great spot for the presentations though and got to see British Rider Lizzie Armistead (who won Silver in the 2010 Olympic Road Race) pick-up the Best British Rider Jersey.
We also got to see current World Champion and 2012 Olympic Gold medallist Marianne Vos pick-up the Stage Win, the Points Jersey and the Yellow Jersey!
You can see the full set of pictures Sam took on his website.
Whenever I watch elite sport, I always feel an urge to go and train harder again. Of course, the reality is that training for even the level I was in amateur rowing is time consuming and both mentally and physically difficult. None-the-less, Sam went out cycling this morning because he was signed-up for an Evans Sportive; Cycling there and back, he clocked-up almost 45 miles! I did a hard, but by comparison meagre, 30 mins on the cycle trainer. Better than nothing though I guess..!
A couple of months ago, Lou and Graham convinced Sam and I (I needed more convincing) to sign-up for the 38 mile leg of the Wiggle Spring Saddle sportive in Newmarket. Even after Sam had registered us and paid the (not cheap) entry fee, I still wasn’t looking forward to it. However, Lou and I spent every Saturday morning at the club on the spinning bikes. I then usually did 30 mins on the bike trainer one night during the week. After a small freak out at the start of March, I even went out for a whopping 10 miler one Sunday. You would think I would have learnt this was insufficient training after 2012 and 2013 experiences. But no!
We assumed it would be relatively flat, given the location. We were quite wrong about that. The wind was also awful – about 16mph+ according to the weather forecasts. We had barely left Newmarket racecourse before we got hit by a wall of wind. There were also quite a lot of gradual hills which slowly killed my legs. I got separated from Lou just over halfway through and due to a fault with my bike computer earlier, I had no idea how far there was left. At what I think was about 10 miles to the finish, I also had to stop half-way up a hill with agonising cramp in my hamstring, although I managed to stop from getting much worse by stretching at the side of the road. Fortunately, after conquering a couple of rather tough hills in the last few miles, I made it to Newmarket race course. Subsequent analysis by Sam has show (see above) that the 38-miler was actually almost a 40-miler and the true profile was much hillier towards the finish than that advertised!!
So, I have my ‘medal’ and after a bath and a decent dinner, I am still shattered. I don’t intend to move from the sofa tonight!
(Sam did really well though and his moving time was fast enough to be in the silver medal category. Unfortunately he took a 5 min break at the rest stop so we think he’ll just miss out based on the times recorded by our chips. But at least we know he did it!)
I was cycling to the station this morning and it was much colder than it has been any morning this year. I could see numerous drivers de-misting their cars whilst also being overtaken by some who had dubious visibility. As I was approaching the mini-roundabout where I come off the main road, I could hear a car coming fast behind me. The main road I cycle down had lots of traffic islands in the road so I always listen out to the speed of cars because they have a bad habit of cutting me up at the aforementioned islands.
Anyhow, I was only metres from the island and the car didn’t sound to be slowing down. But I held my line about 1.5m from the kerb because sometimes cars go through on the other side of the road. However…I glanced to my right about 5m from the island to see a Ford Ka which was over-taking at speed but not on the opposite carriage. As I was mentally preparing to leap from my bike, the driver smashed their right front bumper in to the traffic island cone thingy. Debris flew everywhere and the light cover ‘thingy’ flew on to the opposite carriage way!
I negotiated the debris whilst breathing a sigh of relief I had escaped unscathed. The driver had just continued on only to pull off at my turning on the mini roundabout. As I cycled past (staring of course!) a young girl had got out of the car as said under her breath “Oh f**k”. Damn right! Judge me if you will but I had a little chuckle at this point whilst also thanking my lucky stars it wasn’t me she clobbered. On the cycle home I checked out the dent in the ‘thingy’ and it was pretty bashed-up. I think I would have looked worse.
It got me thinking through the day – people really don’t pay attention. That road is busy, full of islands and used regularly by cyclists. It was not dark and it was not raining or windy. There really was no excuse for what happened and it could have been much worse. Quite frankly, the girl was lucky no-one was hurt. It was a clear reminder to me that when driving, you are not only responsible for the safety of yourself and your passengers, but every other driver on the road. Sadly, I think fewer and fewer people give this even a second thought. Of course we shouldn’t all live in fear of terrible things happening but it only takes a second to cause a lot of damage.
Anyway, I don’t want to preach but I shall be even more wary when cycling in the morning now. I also hope that the female driver from this morning takes something from what happened apart from just the cost of fixing her car. The realist in me doubts it.
The last few weeks, Sam and I have been enjoying the Tour de France (TDF) highlights on ITV1 every night at 7pm. Sam was the person to record it and initially my interest was low. But after a few nights, I was as interested as him. Quite quickly we started to recognise the riders, their approaches and tact-ticks. We cheered to see Froome doing well and boo-ed Contador’s often reckless cycling.
In past years, we would see the TDF on TV and groan. It always seemed so dull and uninteresting. One could indeed say that about every sport but 5 hours of cycling – how exciting can that be? Admittedly, as I watch the live coverage of the final stage right now, the ‘padding’ they put is rather mundane, but when they put the cycling shots on it’s all interesting again.
What I find myself wondering is whether events such as the TDF are more interesting because of the Olympics last year. I wrote a post last year about the influence the Olympics had on me and I feel that my interest in the TDF is a result of that. Last summer I watched a broader array of sports than I had in my entire life. Since then, there has been a lot more sport on TV and we have watched a lot more of it. Sam has generally been more ‘in to’ his cycling this year too. But there is probably a slight Olympic influence in that too.
I hope a lot of other people have been influenced like we have. There is so much skill out there which provides both entertainment and inspiration. Whilst there are many other ways human beings can achieve, seeing people push themselves to their physical limits only serves to motivate, whatever one’s ambitions. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt for the nation to continue to become more active. On that note, I made a deal with myself I would erg…!
A year ago today, I had my bike accident. For some reason, I thought of this a few days ago and contemplated walking to the station today. But, I didn’t want it to become one of those annual superstitions. Plus, Sod’s Law said I would have tripped over my own shoe if I’d done that and head-butted a lamp post; Or something equally as embarrassing and painful.
Last year really shocked me. It shocked me in a few ways. Firstly, it made me realise how blase I had been about my bike maintenance; It is likely the accident would have happened anyway, but when a bike failure was at the heart, you can’t help but wonder if a bit more care could have avoided it.
Secondly, it made me realise how fragile the human body is, but also how resilient. I was physically and mentally drained for quite some time after the accident. My arm felt limp for several days, just as a result of the shock from the trauma. But, within a week I was able to try using it again and, with some care and attention, it was well on the road to recovery within weeks.
Finally, it made me realise that there is some pleasure to be had from not rowing and training every night and every weekend. I enjoyed having a couple of mornings where I could do stuff at home. Weekends suddenly felt very long. Sure, I was keen to get back to it as soon as I could because it proved I was recovered. But, as the winter wore on and my feelings towards rowing changed, it was that time after my bike accident that made me realise my life wouldn’t fall apart if I stepped back a bit. Which I did and which I am enjoying.
So, a year on, my arm still aches a bit when it’s cold (joining my ankle after a severe break when I was 8). I’m still cycling (albeit a bit more nervy of fast downward runs) but more diligent at looking after my bike (or at least getting Sam to check it over!). But on that note, it’s time to go jump on the cycle trainer!
So I have been making use of the Bank Holiday Monday. We started the day with a 13 mile bike ride. I then got on with muchos cleaning (including windows and frames!) and dusting. I also touched-up some paintwork and applied a second coat of stain to the most recent conservatory sanding. I updated my finance spreadsheet and did the ironing. I then make a Angela-style Melanzane Parmagiana (I added in slow roasted peppers and courgettes along with the aubergine) for dinner. The house is now wonderfully clean and tidy (Well, except for the bathroom and the kitchen floor… I’ll do those in the week.); Sam and I are both well fed!
I’m now officially zonked. I would kick back and enjoy a nice Bank Holiday film on the telly, but as I have previously mentioned, that doesn’t happen anymore. So, I’m going to just hope Sam picks something fun whilst I make a suppa and locate a tasty cake!
Sam and I have had a very busy weekend. The Watling Parents came round on Friday to help tidy-up the garden. I got home to a wonderfully clean and tidy front garden and a half complete back garden. They stayed over and we continued on in to Saturday (with me disappearing for a Saturday row, of course). Sam and his Dad also finally got round to boxing in a pipe in the kitchen. It was a very busy day, so one might expect we’d have a slightly more relaxed Sunday. No…
This morning we did an Evan’s Cycles ‘Ride-It’ Sportive event. It started near Brookman’s Park (about 15 – 20 mins drive from us) so we were up promptly at 7am to get there by 8:15am. They offered 4 ride lengths: Fun (15 miles), Short (30 miles), Medium (60 miles) and Long (90 miles). We considered giving the ‘Long’ a go, but settled for the ‘Medium’. Haha, I jest – we went for the ‘Short’; After the limited amount of cycling I have done this year, even that was a worry. The longest I have cycled this year is 17 miles and that was a struggle.
Sam had his Strava running as usual, so the map and cycling details are here. My moving time was probably a smidge longer than Sam’s – I had to dismount on a couple of hills and was slower on some others. But we finished together – I finished. Hurrah! I’m totally grateful I am not attempting London to Brighton this year. It was good to have a challenge though and I am feeling suitably weary now. Just to top it off, I spent 2 hours at home sanding and staining another panel of the conservatory. I started it last year but had to stop because of the winter. Now 5/7ths complete!
Right, now I need a(nother) cup of tea!