April Challenge #1 - Ride Box Hill

OK so Box Hill is not a climb of the caliber of Alpe d'Huez or even the Beallach na Ba.

It wasn't even on the tick-list I drew up at the start of the year.

But it is famous.  Especially after the 2012 Olympic Road Race went up it.

And I'm down in Richmond dog-sitting for my brother-in-law - why not?

We come down a couple of times a year, but in the past my triathlon training has been focused on keeping a constant heart rate, so it was easier to stay within the relatively controlled confines of Richmond Park.

I also felt safer.  Traffic here is much busier than where I live in Scotland and I certainly wouldn't tackle it on a Tri-bike.

Now though I'm not training for anything, I'm just enjoying my cycling.  So I've been using the GPS routes provided by Dirty Weekend cycling to explore a little further.  Today that took me on a 60miler that included Box Hill.  The Relive video below gives a good idea of what it was like.

Relive 'Box Hill from Richmond Park'

Duncan Winning RIP

Sadly I couldn't attend the funeral of Duncan Winning OBE yesterday as I'm not in Scotland.

Those attending were asked to take a photograph and write a few words about what it meant to them.

I'm pleased to say Gordon Brown of Skyak Adventures took my contribution which consisted of the photo alongside, a USB stick with video and podcasts of Duncan, and a copy of my book to which he wrote the foreword.

I'd been told family members had been listening to his podcasts so I felt adding the video would be of interest.  I also wrote a few words which I'll reproduce here:

The photograph shows Duncan doing what, in my experience, he enjoyed second best to kayaking - talking about kayaking.

I found him a kind and generous man in both spirit and deed.  He drove boxes (lots of boxes) of our first Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD to the SCA show in Perth on the day of the launch.  The DVD manufacturer, based outside Glasgow, had only just finished making them the day before the show so without Duncan we wouldn't have had any to sell.

He was also kind and generous with his knowledge.  Duncan and I recorded two podcasts in 2007 for my website SeaKayakPodcasts.com and did a television and radio interview for The Adventure Show about The Canoe Boys, a story that interested me greatly.  You'll find the TV feature from 2009 on the enclosed memory stick along with a second feature I edited from 'leftovers' and subsequently used in presentations.


He wrote the foreword to my book about The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail.  When I was contacted by Paul Murton to speak about kayaking for a Grand Tour of Scotland television programme, I politely declined and volunteered Duncan.  "I'm just the monkey", I told Paul, "Duncan's the organ grinder".

Years later we persuaded the BBC to make a full one-hour television programme about The Canoe Boys.  I then had to persuade the Scottish Maritime Museum to allow its apprentices to construct two replicas of an old 'Lochaber' design canoe which we'd pay for.  

It did not surprise me to learn the original canoe had found its way to the museum via Duncan.  

However, I was pleased to discover the team at the museum knew all about me well in advance and that I could be trusted.  

They had checked me out by calling Duncan. I'm delighted to say he vouched for me.  At least, I think he did...

Duncan has a huge legacy.  Most of us leave only fond memories among friends and loved ones.  By contrast Duncan's skill is in the hull and deck shape of almost every modern kayak.  

Decades from now teenagers will 'discover' sea kayaking.  They'll pick a crystal clear day and under a perfect blue sky will paddle out to an island off Scotland's west coast to camp.  There the conversation will turn to the generations who came before.  

One of them will ask, "Did you know we have some Scottish bloke to thank for these kayaks?  What was he called again... oh yeah.  He was called Duncan Winning".  

How To Check What Data Facebook Holds On You

There's an easy way to see what information Facebook has collected.  I'll explain it here, then suggest a couple of strategies to minimise your data down.

I'm not a tech expert, so if I have anything wrong, or you can add to this, please do so in the comments.

Log into Facebook on a computer, and click the wee downward arrow on the right of the blue bar, then select settings.

Under the General Settings page, selected on the left side of the page, there's a link to Download a copy of your Facebook Data.  You'll receive an acknowledgement email then, a while later, an email with a time-limited link to download the data.

Andalucian Cycle Training Camps

When northern Europe is still in the grip winter weather, the lure of warm weather cycling can be irresistible.

It seems like a chance to ride in shorts and get some long days in the saddle early in the season.

Previously we've headed to Lanzarote for open water swimming camps that gave plenty of free time to ride.  Warm weather couldn't be guaranteed in the Canary Islands early February but it was better than most of the northern hemisphere, and certainly better than home.

This year I waited a month and in March went on a cycle training camp in Andalucia, Spain. I wrote about why I went here, but briefly I wanted to see the city of Seville, ride somewhere different to normal, and didn't want to go to Majorca.

March Challenge #1 - Explore Andalucia

I've been visiting Spain for forty years.  During that time I've seen a lot of the country.

I've mountain-biked in Extremadura, climbed hiked and cycled the Pyrenees, ridden the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago, and spent many, many weeks living between Valencia and Alicante where my parents lived and died.

Andalusia had escaped my attention so I decided this was the month to rectify this oversight.

I would combine a cycle training camp with a visit to some of the great Andalusian cities of Granada, Ronda and Seville.

I decided I would not take the training camp too seriously - after all I'm not training for anything - so I could mix the riding with city exploring.  I looked at a few companies offering camps, and decided to go with Andalucian Cycling Experience.  They had great reviews, promptly replied to emails, the dates worked but in truth, the main reason was their location.  From their Montecorto base I could easily reach Ronda and Seville.

Feb Challenge #4 - Heal Quicker!

Now this really is a challenge - my deltoid muscle must heal and impingement end before I can swim again.

Getting older sucks.  After age 50 it has been quite a battle to stay fit.  The main reason being the time injuries take to heal.

At least I have time.  Two friends locally have tumours.  One has weeks to live.  One doesn't.  Now that really sucks.  My niggles are insignificant compared to theirs.

The problem for older 'athletes' is not getting these little injuries, everything gets those.  It's that they don't heal as fast and consequently, they compound.

Then a couple of weeks ago I fell of my mountain bike, as reported here.  I thought I'd banged up my arm.  It was feeling better, so I swam.

Thirty minutes later it felt like someone was sticking hot knives into my shoulder, my right shoulder this time.  Our GP reckons it's 'just' my deltoid, which is relatively good as muscles have a better blood supply than tendons or ligaments.  Subsequently, our local physiotherapist thinks it tendon impingement due to inflammation from the original impact.  Significantly, both agree it's not my rotator cuff, which might require surgery.

My challenge, to cure my sink swim legs, has been pushed back because I can't swim right now.  I just need patience and time.  Which fortunately, I have.  I think.

Feb Challenge #3 - Ride the Strathpuffer Mountain Bike Course

Working for The Adventure Show I've filmed and edited the Strathpuffer 24hr MTB race quite a few times.

Yet I had never ridden it.  Now that has changed.  However, my lap of the 'Puffer course proved a little more eventful than I anticipated.

Watching all the pictures from every camera we've had on the course I felt as if I knew my way around.

Also I imagined such a famous course would be way marked.  So it was almost an afterthought I downloaded the .GPX file and put it on my Garmin watch.  Turned out, that file was absolutely essential - the only way I could work out where to go.