It’s only six weeks now until I go to Scotland with Kermit. That isn’t a long time to get fit and sort out the things I need to do prior to leaving. I must say that this year, I feel more positive and healthier than I did last spring. This fluctuates, but as long as I stick with my routines and rituals and recognise when I need to be quiet I feel I can maintain my health quite well.
Since booking my flight (super-cheap at Kayak.com) I have been feeling anxious about flying. I don’t worry about flying, I am terrified. I think that the many nightmares where I’m out of control in an aeroplane don’t help. Whenever I have a dream about that issue, it is always represented by aircraft that seem to have a mind of their own. Nothing I do makes any difference and I always wake feeling terrified by my mind. It is the same every time, but as I said in my last blog, I need to book it and then deal with the anxiety. Booking it at the last minute would almost certainly lead to a panic attack at the airport, so this seems to be the safest approach for me.
I always struggle with packing. This is about age, nothing else. Long gone are the days when I could throw a few things in a rucksack and head-out into the hills to climb. As long as I had my harness, rope, rock gear, chalk bag and boots I was happy. We used to sleep on Karrimats and comfort wasn’t an issue.
I’m now approaching sixty and I need far more equipment to be able to be outdoors comfortably. As your ability to carry more declines, your need to carry more increases. Another example of sod’s law at work. There are many super-light products available, so long as you have the large sums of money required to purchase them, but ultralight is, in my opinion, often not very durable when you use equipment every day. They are great for a week here and there, but not so much for extended usage.
The adage of buying the best you can afford still applies, but with a little nod to durability before you commit to a product. An example of this is the Hilleberg Akto tent. It weighs in at around 1.5kg. There are competitors that are considerably lighter than that, but my Akto has survived 80mph winds and torrential rain. Looking at it, you can see where it has been beefed up to allow it to do what it does without failing in the process.
Enough about gear, how about cycling? As each week passes I see more and more cyclists appearing again. Out from hibernation, some looking lean and mean, others like me looking a little more padded after a winter without a turbo-trainer in the house. Most wave and grin, more than happy to be pedalling outside again. To get out and feel the sun on your face again is so good after the icy winds of recent times. I gain a sense of freedom that wanes in the winter. I could go anywhere. I cannot only dream, but I can make it happen. It’s my choice again.
I become aware that most of my recent rides have been of the routine and ritual type: going to the doctor or the shops. When spring returns I begin to feel the real pleasure of being outside, as well as the natural, physical and mental benefit that I get I get all year around from cycling. It is always like a new dawn, a sudden and significant change that I recognise and crave through the winter. My mind sighs a quiet ‘at last’ as it knows things will improve from now on. I plan new and longer rides to absorb as much of the world as I can from the seat of my trike.
Towing Trevor around full of shopping is having a positive effect on my fitness, as is the fartlek style riding I do when I’m not load hauling. There is no short cut to being fit and strong. You have to put in the hours and suffer the pain of the effort, especially when it’s endurance that you are trying to improve. Results often take time, unlike when you first start and have little cycling specific fitness. Then, you seem to improve with every ride. Be patient and work on all aspects of your cycling: hills, flats, pedalling efficiency, cadence, food intake, hydration, stretching and recovery. There is so much guidance on the internet now that finding a plan to follow is relatively easy, if that’s what you want to do.
Back in Hatherleigh, the roads are now clear again for the second time. The only signs of bad weather last time I rode were a few large meringues of snow wedged in the hedges and Devon banks. They sat there like small icebergs, waiting to drift away and bump into a bicycle or car given half a chance. Michele and I spent last weekend hunkered down with a warm fire and some good food, always a great choice if you are unable to ride. The snow outside was fabulous to look at and kick about in. Local children and many adults enjoyed sledging at Manning’s Pit, making the most of the short-lived change of colour to the hills. By Monday it was on the way out again and green replaced white as the colour of choice for the scenery.
I’ve taken to going for a walk on those days I don’t ride. It gets me out and I enjoy it. For a long time, this was limited by various injuries like planter fasciitis, that painful condition where the sole of your foot inflames, making walking very painful. Treatment was successful and I can now walk without pain, a major bonus. I stroll around the lanes for an hour or so, enjoying breathing in the fresh air. I never tire of the views from Hatherleigh Moor or the effort of walking up the hill to get there. Dartmoor has been striped, like a zebra, for a week or so now. Snow clings in the gulleys and shaded valleys and the whole place looks far more intimidating than in its summer bloom.
The last few weeks I have been tying out new strategies with my asthma inhalers, under the guidance of a specialist nurse. I have suffered tight chest symptoms and wheezing as well recently. Aside from yesterday, when I felt like I was towing several tonnes of logs on my ride out, I have found exercise always benefits my symptoms. The result of all this is a new inhaler. It will take time to know whether it is beneficial or not, but that’s fine. I now must give it a trial period to see if it works. Fingers crossed please as I need this to be sorted prior to leaving for Scotland.
I cannot believe it is only one week to Easter. Five minutes ago, it was Christmas, wasn’t it? With April lurking around the corner and weather presenters talking about a third return to winter, I’m trying to get out as much as I am able.
This weekend sees the start of the North Devon Sustrans Volunteer ride-outs. These are cycle rides where we check that the signage and paths of the National Cycle Network are in good condition for the arrival of all the tourists who pour into Devon once we pass Easter. They are also a good excuse for us to try out all the local cafés and to have a good chinwag about everything cycling and life based. If you have any interest in volunteering for Sustrans, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the person you need to talk to.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the National Cycle Network right now is the damage caused to our roads by lack of funding and neglect. Potholes, many deep enough to break or damage wheels, cover the route from my house to Okehampton and part of NCN3 near Sheepwash. Subsidence is also prevalent, mostly where huge tractors have pushed the edges of he road downwards forming deep craters in which the tarmac then proceeds to break up. It is now getting so bad that I am considering the need for suspension on my trike, something that wasn’t necessary until now. The councils in my area always used to be out filling holes, but now they are notable by their absence, even though the National Cycle Network is supposedly a priority.
For the time being, I’m fitting fatter tyres in the hope that they will help a bit. Trikes are not cheap to buy and the thought of trying to find another is not something that I, or my bank account, want to consider at the moment. For the rest of today I’m working in the workshop, my kitchen, doing some jobs on Kermit that I’ve been putting off. I’ll be fitting those tyres I mentioned and servicing the brakes, as well as putting the 3 x 9 Sturmey Archer hub wheel back in all ready for touring.
That should keep me quiet for a while. Until next time…………………..