A character building day

Looking out the Window this Morning to see water-logged roads and constant heavy Rain I knew right away that this would be another challenging day in the Saddle. No beautiful Sunrise to look forward to today, no epic scenic views, just puddles galore.

I decided right away to stick to flat, local roads and just get the miles chalked off and with staying local it gave me the bail-out option of going home early if the weather got to me and the head cracked. If there is one thing that will send me home early from a Bike ride it is cold, wet, feet.

I set off in to Belfast around dark, deserted roads, the few vehicles I met along the way must have thought I was in need of a padded cell for my own good.

Half an hour in and my head and thighs were already soaking wet.

An hour in and I could feel the Water seeping in to my Shoes… soon my socks would be saturated with cold water. Looking ahead the weather forecast is for much colder weather coming in with hard overnight frosts this could make cycling dangerous due to lack of grip so I stuck it out this morning and chalked off the minimum daily distance required to keep me on track to successfully complete the festive 500.

Returning home I squeezed the water out of my socks and jumped in to a hot shower. A special mention to my Castelli Rain jacket, my upper body stayed completely dry the whole time, not a drop of Rain got it, simply amazing product.

Only 354 Kilometres still to go… no one said this would be easy!

Relive ‘Rapha #festive500 day two’

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This too shall pass

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… and yet there I was cooking Breakfast and fitting Lights to the Winter steed getting geared up to tackle the 2017 festive 500.

The Rapha festive 500 is a Cycling challenge to clock up 500 Kilometres on a Bicycle, either solo or with friends, during the period between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Only a small percentage of those who take on the annual challenge actually complete it.

This Year I have decided to give it a go, fully expecting to fail but hoping to prevail. When you do the Math 500KM is around 311 miles, divided by the eight days means you need to clock up around 40 miles per day, every day to succeed. 40 miles per day is achieveable, but it is Winter, the Weather is unpredictable, there are family Christmas gatherings to attend and numerous other things fighting for a slice of your time. It is no wonder then that not many succeeed in completing the festive 500 each year. To put that total distance in to perspective it took me the whole of last month to achieve the mileage that the festive 500 challenges you to achieve in just 8 days.

The Weather forecast was for a dry Morning with Rain coming in mid-morning but the bigger challenge to face today was a Cyclists nemesis, the strong Wind. A strong wind at your back is a beautiful thing… free speed, the miles come easier but riding head on in to the Wind is a struggle, it grinds you down sapping your energy reserves. I stepped out in to the Morning darkness to face day one of the festive 500 with aspirations of clocking up 60 – 80 miles to have me ahead of target on day one to allow for less favourable weather or less available time later in the week.

It was great to get out on to almost traffic free, dry roads, the hum of my Bicycle tyres for company, a nice mild morning so no need for as many layers as of late. I set off through Dundonald and due to the quieter roads gave the Greenway a miss and stayed on the main road. Approaching Comber I could see an amazing sunrise starting to develop immediately my plan for a longer spin went out the Window, I simple had to go somewhere to capture a Photograph of it. But where to go and could I get there before it got too light? I pushed on at pace to Island Hill and just made it in time to enjoy Mother Natures light spectacle 🙂 and three Fig rolls to top up the sugars.

Leaving Island Hill it was now daylight as I Cycled back out to the dual carriageway where I got my first taste of the strength of the wind, progress was slow all I could do was grind it out, keep turning the pedals… this too shall pass. At the roundabout in Comber I opted to head back towards Dundonald for a bit before then setting course for Ballgowan. The whole road to Ballygowan was full on in to the wind, it was demoralising having to work so hard for so little speed.

A left turn in Ballygowan took me out the Carrickmannon road then a right turn in to Vestry road and three more fig rolls to try and undo the energy loss from fighting that wind. Vestry road was soon despatched and a right turn took me back towards Ballygowan, I now had the strong wind at my back and pushed on at pace back to Comber averaging 11 miles per hour faster speed for the same effort than what I had earlier when going in the opposite direction.

From Comber sticking to the main road all the way to Dundonald then on to the Greenway to the Beersbridge road through the streets of Belfast across to the SSE arena then along the Sydenham road and out the Airport road to Holywood throwing in a couple of small extra loops to accrue a few more miles before going home to put the feet up and start the recovery ready for tomorrow morning.

49 miles today was less than I wanted but with lighter winds forecasted for tomorrow it made sense not to empty the energy reserves today, holding something back for day two of the festive 500 which will have to be another early one before sitting down to the Turkey dinner feast.

49 miles down, 262 miles to go…

Relive ‘Rapha #festive500 day one ?’

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2017 Cycling Year in numbers

As 2017 draws to its finale, here is a short little video summarising my Cycling year in numbers.

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Nocturnal Holywood loop

Tonight was a rare mild and dry evening after a prolonged bitterly cold and wet spell. So not long after getting home from Work I got myself and the Winter Bike sorted out, lit up [not quite like a festive Christmas tree] and out in to the darkness for a short loop over to Holywood and back in the Airport road.

As per usual there was a strong headwind on the Airport road, despite it not being a particularly windy night. The Airport road always delivers a headwind, it must have its own micro-climate! Next was Sydenham road, down past the Waterfront, up by Central station and along the Beersbridge road and on to the Comber Greenway for the final couple of miles home and a hot shower.

Analysing my ride metrics after returning home I was pleasantly surprised to see a big improvement, recording my best power data since way back in May.

Happy with the numbers tonight, best since May… #goldencheetah #cycling

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Spinning the Hamster Wheel

Reports of Icey roads on the social media channels from local Cyclists were numerous and the news channels were even reporting that a gritter lorry had crashed in to a field aswell as multiple other vehicle road traffic accidents due to the slippery roads.

So, once again, again I was housebound and had to resort to riding the Bicycle on the Hamster Wheel.

At least I am getting good value out of my monthly subscription to Zwift the online, multiplayer, Cycle training platform. It is no substitute for getting outside on the Bicycle but it sure beats staring at a Wall whilst pedalling.

Ascending towards the Sun 🥇🏆 #zwift

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Shoulder to shoulder #zwift

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One last push to the KOM banner #zwift

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Almost two hours and a lot of sweat later it was time to get a shower and analyse the data.

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Mission aborted

The plan was to just get out on the Bike and ride to Lisburn and back on the Lagan towpath, a nice flat, easy route just to get some miles in the legs something that has been missing for quite a while now due to the rubbish weather that blights this little Country.

I set off briefly along the Greenway then through Orangefield Park and in to Greenville Park stopping to grab a quick snapshot of the snow on the Belfast Hills.

Out on to the Beersbridge road then through Ormeau Park, along the Annadale embankment where I encountered the first large expanse of Ice but I safely negotiated that passing Cutters Wharf and on to the Lagan Towpath in nice Sunshine.

The Lagan towpath was very Icey with numerous five to ten metre long stretches of Ice covering the whole footpath forcing me to ride the soft, muddy, grass verges to bypass them. A little further along and there was a much, much larger stretch of Ice and I deemed it a risk not worth taking so turned around and headed for home.

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Graceful Swan #swan #lagan #laganmeadows

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And away they paddle #swan #lagan #laganmeadows

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Leaving the towpath and riding along the Lagan in to Belfast to the SSE Arena, along the Sydenham road and the Airport road crossing the Sam Thompson Bridge in to Victoria Park.

Swan in Victoria park #swan #victoriapark #belfast #discoverni

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Victoria Park in Winter Sun #victoriapark #belfast #discoverni

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Victoria Park #victoriapark #belfast #discoverni

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Two laps of the Park then riding alongside the Connswater River to C.S. Lewis Square at Holywood Arches.

Strange Santa in Belfast #belfast #discoverni #cslewissquare

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Leaving the big smoke behind I added some extra miles in Cycling the length of the Comber Greenway up to Comber before turning around and cycling back home. Only 25 miles clocked up, much less than I was hoping for but with all the Ice around it was good to get some miles in.

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Snowy Stormont

A couple of inches of the White stuff on the ground accompanied by plenty of Ice and freezing temperatures ruled out any Cycling outdoors for me, just not worth the injury risk! So instead I grabbed the trusty Nikon, pulled on the walking Boots and went for a Walk around Stormont Estate.

X-Boxes and Playstations did not get much attention this Morning as all the local kids were enjoying the Snow on the steep slopes of Stomont’s grounds. Lots of Dogs too were having a Ball.

There was also the appearance of a few of these strange creatures.

Strange looking people around today ❄ #snowman #snow #discoverni #belfast

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Nice Walk round a Snowy Stormont today #discoverni #snow #belfast #winter

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Straight home afterwards and on to the Hamster Wheel for some indoor Cycling torture in the pain cave dreaming of warm, balmy Summer Evenings. The Hamster Wheel has seen a bit of duty lately, hopefully milder weather will put in an appearance over the Christmas holidays to allow me the opportunity to get out and clock up a few miles.

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Solo Saturday

A bit milder than of late, the Mercury settling at around 7 degrees Celsius but alas the Roads were not only soaking wet but also filthy. Nothing else for it but to gear up and get out on the Bicycle and get a good long Bike ride in.

With the low Winter Sun reflecting off of wet roads visibility was challenging at times so I was thankful to have a good bright rear light and some fluoro on my hands and feet to increase my road presence.

My route took me up the traffic free Comber Greenway then I went Coastal around the Strangford Lough shoreline passing Castle Espie and Sketrick Island resisting the lure of a Caramel Square at Daft Eddies. Onwards to Whiterock and the steep climb up out of it towards Killinchy before swinging left in to more traffic free country lanes with more Coastal bays occasionally the Sun finding a gap in the Clouds to paint the County Down landscape.

These narrow Country lanes do not see much traffic and as a result the centre of the road is a little green in places, another slippery hazard at this time of year.

Leaving the Ringdufferin road and emerging on to the main Killyleagh road all was good, the legs were good, the Bike was running sweet and I now had some flatter terrain and a bit of a tailwind. I was in Killyleagh in no time. A right turn took me up past Killyleagh Castle and out through Shrigley onwards to Raffrey and Saintfield and a brisk spin down to Ballygowan then out the Moss road to Balloo. From Balloo I took the main road to Lisbane before descending down to the Coastal roads again passing Castle Espie a second time, through Comber and back along the Greenway which I did a few laps of to add on some additional miles.

I gave the Bike a good wash and lube leaving it ready to go again the next time.

Then it was time to refuel myself, home made Chicken Curry with lots of Vegetables and Rice, warming spices and very satisfying after a long spin.

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Night ride

An absolutely freezing Night for a spin on the Bicycle, really cold air deep down in to the lungs to add to the pain. Two pairs of Gloves on each hand to keep the digits warm, four layers up top but even so I kept it short rather than risk getting a chest infection from the cold night air.

A short spin down the Greenway to Holywood Arches then along the Connswater river to Victoria Park out on to the Airport road picking up the pace round by Kinnegar and in to Holywood. A short intense effort on My Ladys road saw me achieve a personal best time for that road and then back home to Dundonald for a welcome hot shower and a warm meal. At least it stayed dry for once.

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Cyclocross in the Park

With heavy Legs from yesterdays Cycling I Saddled up for the short spin across town to Ormeau Park to watch and Photograph the penultimate round of the 2017 Ulster Cyclocross championship.

A rucksack on my back I kept it simple with Camera equipment, partly to reduce the weight of equipment to carry on my back, just one DSLR a prime 35mm lens and a longer lens for a bit more reach. It was a cold and dry day with not much light to work with. Below is a small selection of the Cyclocross Photographs I captured on the day.

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