If you have experienced a pretty crappy year and one that impacted you personally, whether because of COVID or any other reason, I’m sorry to hear that. Whilst I have come out of the year so far unscathed compared to others, I have preferred to focus on the positives of the year as there were many and these are what I wanted to share with you.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this milestone so I made a pledge at the beginning of the year to ensure I left it fitter, healthier and with a fuller photo album. The plan was to visit Barbados, Morocco and other exotic places that we were fortunate to look forward to and as a cycling group we had a fantastic trip to the Alps planned to. None of these transpired.
My present was a GoPro camera and it is a fantastic piece of equipment. With an early pre-COVID birthday, it meant I could celebrate the day with my family and it was a rare opportunity for me to sit around a pub table with all my sisters and my in-laws and of course I am so glad we did.
The intention for the camera was to record far away places with beaches, mountains and sunshine. Instead, it was now left to me to capture the hidden wonders of the local countryside and that proved to be just as good – if not better in places.
Another milestone was seeing Charlie hit 21. Forever a young man and in many ways little boy in our eyes and mind, he was slowly turning into an adult that was looking forward to bigger and better things beyond the home that had sheltered him for so long.
We celebrated by treating him a new present in London and then off to a meal at Charlie’s restaurant – where else of course? It was a lovely occasion for the three of us and we all deserved some credit for the quality of the young man that now sat before us, none more so than his mother who has forever had him in her thoughts. As a family, we were very lucky indeed and I know my Dad would have been hugely proud to have spent the day with him too.
It was a year in which Mum stressed out over COVID, had a stroke, bought a new car, moved house and then discovered a new lease of life in her new home. I honestly couldn’t have been more proud of her and she really has shown some steely determination in a year that has so ruthlessly targeted her age group with a deathly virus. She is brave, positive and ambitious with her time and a fine example to us all.
Ruby The Cavachon
After months, if not years, of Nicola more frequently mentioning her desire to own a dog I eventually conceded that it would be a good thing to do for her and for our home. So in early November, we picked up Ruby, an apricot coloured Cavachon puppy that was just eight weeks old and I don’t mind admitting our home has never been the same since. She has turned it upside down, almost literally, and taken us from moments of frustration to love in what feels like a blink of an eye. As she has grown and learned, we have to and she is now a firm and favourite family member who we are now looking forward to spending a lot of time with.
My First 300km
I had talked about it off and on over the year, with the main reason that I felt my fitness was good and that I believed that my cycling buddies would eventually join me if I nagged them long enough. In fact, it took Archie about 1 second to agree to join and then very quickly Graham and Douglas followed. I now had to make sure that we actually did it before we, and I include myself, changed my mind.
So off we set from Graham’s at 6.00am in the morning and we arrived back to Marshfield at around ten minutes to 10.00pm. In between was 192 miles and a story to long to summarise in just a few paragraphs. Lunch was at Stratford upon Avon, 100 miles north of Marshfield, and that gave some scale to the task that we had taken on. In reality, as we reflected upon it sat in the Catherine wheel with the usual beer and crisps, it wasn’t as bad as we thought and in fact we had averaged a higher speed than we used to do on shorter summer rides not so many years ago. It was a great achievement and one that I know will get better in time and it highlighted, as these things always do, that you have to keep on pushing yourself and we must now focus on something bigger and harder.
See detailed blog on the 300km+ ride
Record 5km & 10km
With the lock down firmly in place and the weather delivering unprecedented number of fine sunny days, it was the perfect opportunity to use the extra hours in the day usually reserved for sitting in a car for doing something more productive. Running became my new almost daily hobby and started out with a supportive jog to aid Nicola in her desire to run 5km.
She very quickly realised that she could achieve this quite comfortably and then wanted to push on and do one every day. Typical! So as the running miles crept up, the average speed came down and before I knew it I was getting in my first 10km run since about 2013. Not only that, but I managed to do it in a personal best time too.
My longest run of the summer was 12km and probably if I am honest I over did it. My lungs were fine but my legs struggled and the resulting tightness stopped me for a few days and took some of the momentum away. I’ve learned to be more patient and to ensure I introduce more stretching as a result.
This aided my chances of then going for my first sub 25 minute 5km and this was eventually achieved after about 2 or 3 efforts. I really started to love the buzz of running and found the challenge of balancing out the cycling activities and the running to be a consideration for the first time in my life. I was pleased to have that conundrum.
I plan in 2021 to undertake more winter miles and to do my best to stay injury free long enough to perhaps again take on a half marathon. Let’s see.
The Tuesday & Thursday Sneaky Cycling Gang
With group sizes limited to six I was pleased that my desire to stay fit and healthy on the bike was matched almost without fail by Graham, Douglas and Archie. Very quickly we established a routine that I looked forward to fondly and that was known as the Tuesday & Thursday evening ride, followed by an array of nibbles and drinks in someones garden.
As the rides got fast, at one point averaging over 18.5mph, they also got longer and on occasion we would finish our working from home and then smash out 50 miles on the bike. As the rides got longer, the nibbles got more considered and we turned from bowls of crisps to tables that resembled a wedding buffet. I was never sure if we burned more calories than we consumed afterwards, but I was also never bothered as both the ride and the post ride activity were something I really looked forward to and treasured.
Backpacking Isle of Wight
Who knew I would enjoy a trip to the Isle of Wight as much as I did? When Graham and I boarded the ferry at Lymington with our bikes weighed down by everything we will need for the next three days, neither of us had any idea what the experience of bike packing would bring. It was magic! The whole experience is best shared through the video I put together afterwards as the words would be too many for a summary blog such as this. Needless to say, it had everything that we had hoped for and beyond and without a shadow of doubt it is an event that we will definitely want to repeat at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully this time a few others will also join us.
See detailed blog on the Isle of Wight trip here.
IOW With the Lynn’s
Having already visited the island earlier in the year with Graham, it was fresh in my mind as this time Nicola and I ventured over with the car to meet the Lynn’s at a house boat. What followed was a magical long weekend of fine food, sunny (but cold) skies, and plenty of coastal walks to burn off the calories. The boat was amazing and better than a hotel experience and one I would love to repeat. It was capped off by a stunning meal at a beach side restaurant and a promise made to all that we will back to do it all again another day. Who needs Barbados!
Every year when I set out my weight goals for the year I had two aims: one was to get to eleven and a half stone and the other was to get my body fat percentage under 20%. Neither had been achieved in recent history and in fact I honestly couldn’t remember when I was last at these levels. If I were to hazard a guess it would be in my late teens or early twenties.
So when the scales showed I was just under 11 stone and that my body fat percentage was now 17% I couldn’t have been more pleased. Not a single day of calorie counting had got me that far, but without doubt it was only possible in the first instance because of the running and because of the control over what I ate coming from a more disciplined habit of eating every meal at home.
It made a huge difference to my cycling, especially when hitting the hills and it really made me appreciate, once again, that what I thought my not be possible, is totally possible if I simply make the right decisions. Now I have the desire to ensure that I don’t put that weight back on and I like the way it makes me feel and look too.
It seems odd to say this after living in the same small town for over 20 years, but the lock down gave me a chance to fully explore and get to know the area again. Whilst I knew all the roads and the places at the end of them, when you are walking them frequently and with different seasons to match your new thoughts you find something new every time. It might be a flower, a footpath or simply the tranquility that inspires, but it made it a desirable part of the day and one that was another reminder of how these things should not be taken for granted.
To describe myself as a cook would be a criminal offence to some so let’s put this next paragraph into context. I’m lazy in the kitchen and my curiosity to learn more has never lasted longer than a January diet plan. So with more time at home, Nicola decided to try out Mindful Chef and I very quickly found myself involved in either the preparation or cooking of an evening meal. I loved it. With the recipes came tasty and healthy meals and with tasty meals came a further desire to try new ones. The process was hugely educational for me as I was able to understand the importance of different ingredients; when to use them, how to use them and even the importance of getting the right heat and pan. Whilst basic to many people, it gave me confidence to try different things and without doubt the process was satisfying and mentally fulfilling. Since then, I have endeavoured to cook more and will definitely plan to add new recipes to my repertoire in 2021.
Being 50 wasn’t so bad, in fact it’s good. The sense of impatience to do more grows as you recognise that not everyone will get the opportunity to do the things I am capable of doing and secondly, that one day I too won’t be able to drag my body up a mountain or perhaps even a hill. With the knowledge therefore that living in the NOW is more important than ever, my new sense of urgency and ambition has opened up the world a little more than it was before and time itself is a currency with a significantly greater value. I intend to spend mine as wisely as I can and I hope you do too.