Thats Much Better!

I’ve always been a fairly active type, but since my Whipples procedure ( four years ago, that’s some time that has flown by), I have been even more driven. Driven to keep myself fit and active, Driven to prove to myself that I can take on challenges and Driven to maintain my weight. That last one is because I was cautioned that with only half of my pancreas left, longer term I will be more susceptible to developing diabetes.I’m certainly not an expert (not by a long shot) on nutrition but I think my eating habits have improved (a bit – not counting yesterdays doughnut fiasco and the occasional lapse). I always used to enjoy my food and I do still now, but in a slightly different way. I guess having to take enzyme supplements whenever you eat forces you to think a bit more about what and how you eat. I’ve also developed a bit more of a fondness for doing my own cooking and a bit less for eating out and takeaways.

So my one months enforced layoff has been hard for me to cope with on many levels and I’ve really missed my fix of exercise. However, as you saw yesterday I got the Amber (if not fully Green) light yesterday to get back to some light exercise and so today kick started the regime with a short stationary bike session (35 leisurely minutes) and a ten minute swim. The bike ride was quite hard even though I took it very steady and I don’t know if it was in my mind (although it definitely felt more like it was in my groin), but I did develop a bit of a dull ache after a while so really need to keep that one light.

However I’m back generating endorphins and it feels great!

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A new Sports Car

IMG_1534Welcome to the fleet to “Skippy” our new sports car. Now the SLK is great for times when the sun is shining and you can get the roof down, oh and when there are no more than two of you, but the sports car in this picture is Skippy the Skoda. (I’m sure you all remember the old joke “What do you call a convertible Skoda? – A Skip”). Skippy, or more properly Skippy 2 (unimaginatively named as this is our second Skoda), is a replacement for our much-loved, inherited Fabia, which has moved on to do service for someones elderly mum in Milton Keynes.

Skippy (1 for the avoidance of doubt) was in the family from new, Caroline’s  dad (or more likely her mum) being swayed by that clever cake advert where they built a bright tangerine car out of sponge cake (yes it really was that colour but without the white roof) and had only done 3 thousand miles when we inherited her at two years old, by the time we said goodbye that had grown to 106 thousand hard miles pressed into service as variously a dog carrier/kennel, a car for running to the station, a car to be taken places where you weren’t too sure about leaving something parked. She didn’t care where she went or where she stayed overnight but she was a great gal and never once missed a beat in 7 years. I really hope that someone’s elderly mum in Milton Keynes enjoys her.

Nevertheless at 106k it was time to thing about a replacement and so Skippy the Yeti has joined us. Now, Sports car isn’t really part of the job description for a 1.2 automatic (technically an estate) car from the Czech  republic but this is a car ideally suited to lugging around sports kit, dogs and bicycles and that really is what I call a sports car.

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Double Whammy

Well its been about a month since I went in to have my “man lump” of a hernia sorted out. That is a month of no hoovering, no Ironing, no carrying heavy bags no heavy lifting etc (none of which I managed very well to be honest (apart from the hoovering & ironing bit)). It’s also been a month of no strenuous exercise, which I have been pretty fastidious about. So for the last month I’ve gone from an exercise regime of about 5 days a week, down to a short 1km walk daily to take some energy away from the new puppy (frankly it’s not enough). I’ve really been missing my regular exercise fix and more to the point the 11th September and London to Brighton under human power is looming in the not too distant future. So I’m itching to get back into the saddle and make sure that I have the legs to do the 54 miles that this years main event entails.

So today was out-patient follow-up day and in anticipation of the green flag  I was really excited. I haven’t had any problems and very little pain so I was (once again  blessed in the over optimistic department) fully expecting a quick in and out and “on yer bike”. So how was it? I have to say that consultation was probably the most discomfort I’ve felt throughout the whole process. The consultant rammed his fingers into my groin on both sides and had a good old rummage, and that hurt! The upshot was all appears to be healing well, some swelling (as is apparently only to be expected) and its time to start getting back into some “light” exercise. Well there goes the planned 30 mile session on Saturday then. I guess on the upside “a gentle return to activities” still rules out the ironing, hoovering and other general heavy stuff. It looks like my London to Brighton is going to be a lot more “Easy Rider” than it is going be “Eddy Merckx”.

So buoyed up by that news I felt the need for a sugar fix, the kind that can only be satisfied with a packet of 5 Jam Doughnuts, so a quick detour to the local supermarket for a bag of around 1000 sugar-coated Kcals worth of nutrition, and here’s the second whammy of the day. I got home to find them stale, well the first one was, and the second one, and the third one (I think I’m on a losing streak here). I may persevere but its got bad written all over it. I don’t think light exercise will compensate for those.

Never mind I’m back in the saddle.

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In the Summertime

I really love living down on the south coast. We are only about 5 miles from the beach and so its really easy at the drop of a hat, to pop down and get a bit of life perspective back. There really is nothing like being by the sea to reset your frame of mind.

Since I had my hernia fixed I’ve been avoiding any strenuous exercise, which means training for the bike ride has had to take a real back seat and I have to admit I’m really missing the exercise fix. It will be a while before I’m up to a real hard cycle so I’m hoping that I banked enough prep before I went under the knife to see me through in September

This week some former neighbours were in the area and dropped by so we went down to Boscombe for a fix of salty air, and a bite to eat.   The sea looked great and I found myself itching to get wet. It wasn’t to be and instead I had to settle for  a walk along the pier. Well Tuesday evening must have been some kind of Pokemon convention on Boscombe pier. I’m not really familiar with this current craze but I soon got to understand that a zombie invasion of people fixated on their phones has something to do with peeking at this and at Chu ( I probably have got that wrong).

As I’m writing this it is Thursday evening and in the summertime a Thursday evening on Poole quay isn’t to be missed, there is usually street entertainment followed by fireworks at 10pm. Tonight part of that street entertainment is Mungo Jerry, so I’m hoping to get down there for a bit of a listen. In the meantime for those of a certain age here’s a taster

 

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What a difference a day makes

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It’s  been a week of both highs and lows and a few surprises along the way, and what has really come home to me is the huge difference that just one day can make.

The week started really well. Both Ian and I were signed up to swim the 2016 Seahorse swim, a local swim organised by the east Dorset open water swim club. The swim is optionally a 2km or a 4km swim around the lovely studland bay, from the equally gorgeous Knoll beach (a National Trust beach) here in Dorset. Well I say a “swim around” but in fact it’s a hugely popular race. In fact so popular that it attracted a number of swimmers from Brickwell lido in London (where I occasionally get to swim). My swimming so far has always been pretty leisurely and at my own pace but this was a full blown competition which is a bit different. Initially my take was that it’s an opportunity for a nice open water swim, who cares about places or times. I’m very aware that I’m not a fast swimmer, and that doesn’t bother me as it’s not my priority but I do have a bit of a competitive element in my nature and it wasn’t long before my leisurely swim moved firstly to not wanting to come last, and then accelerating to “how well can I do”. The whole race experience was different for me, the “mustering” in the water  (of around 180 swimmers) waiting for the klaxon that signalled the start was different and then we were off. I was really pleased to complete the course in a very respectable 42 minutes (only 9 minutes after the first swimmer got back). And to find that I was 6th placed in the category that I had entered (which was admittedly only the 2km category). It also helped that it was a lovely sunny day and we got to spend time on the beach with family and a few old friends that I haven’t seen in way too long. After a nice family lunch the weekend ended on a real high.

As the week progressed I got a few more pretty uneventful miles under my saddle in preparation for this year’s main event, leading up to the next step in this year’s preparation. For several months now I’ve been growing a bulge which my GP recently confirmed as a hernia which the male body is pretty susceptible to. Fortunately the local NHS workload fitted perfectly in allowing me to get this sorted a few days after the swim and that hopefully gave me a long enough recovery period to be back in the saddle in time for the Brighton ride.

As always I approached this bit of surgery with an overly optimistic attitude it was after all just a keyhole surgery day case, in and out the same day. I fully expected to be up and about the next day.  I have to admit though to a little bit of trepidation as I went down to the theatre as a whole flood of memories of the last medical intervention I had needed came back to me. It was after all that major surgery that prompted me to undertake these physical challenges. A bilateral hernia repair is in a different league and it all went well less than 3 hours and I was ready for a post op cuppa and a sandwich. However my up and about the next day proved hopelessly over ambitious. I felt as if I’d been hit by a train. Here I am though 3 days later much better, not going to be riding a bike anytime soon but I’m still going to be on track by September.

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Pride comes before a fall

When we started this blog to chart our progress as we prepared for the Solent swim there were plenty of references to our childhood largely because we spent plenty of it in swimming pools. As the swim challenge is now done the cycle one we are tackling this year is very similar for me in that a bicycle was the other staple in many of my childhood memories and so getting back into the saddle has evoked lots of memories of times when life seemed so much simpler. Most of our summer holidays were spent cycling from home to Sandy hills where we would tear up and down mountains all day (they felt like mountains they weren’t really) only stopping to eat a few home made fish paste sandwiches and a shop bought (Mr Kiplings usually) Apple and Blackcurrant pie. If it wasn’t holiday time, our bikes were never far away for riding to and from school (we didn’t get the whole Chelsea tractor school run thing in those days), or for cycling to our paper rounds or evening shifts at the newsagents. My pride and joy was an electric blue Carlton Continental racing bike (neither of us were allowed the ubiquitous Raleigh Chopper – Too dangerous), whilst Ian wanted Christmas money so that he could build his own bike. I think it was £100 that he got and instead of building a bike with it he took all his mates (don’t think I got invited) to the Golden Egg (St Neots’ answer to the Wimpy chain) and spent pretty much the lot on egg and chips. There are memories of going over the handlebars into a patch of stinging nettles for me and for Ian he always harps on about the time that our three wheeler trike suffered a catastrophic weld failure at the bottom of the frame, folding in on him and almost putting a brake lever through his throat. That three wheeler had been great for wheelies (if the boot was filled with house bricks) before he wrecked it.

So today gave me another childhood memory thanks to those lovely cleats that I blogged about last week. Second time out on the bike using them and it was great, they clipped in easily they came out smoothly and before long all of my concerns from last week were gone, they are great. I was soon brimming with confidence leaving it later and later to unclip weaving around traffic still clipped in couldn’t see what I was worried about last week. Yes I had a couple of close ones when I got over confident and tried overtaking some stationary traffic, another when someone stopped dead in front of me at some traffic lights to let a wrong lane transgressor in but I cycled about 25km without incident. And then it happened, Parley traffic lights (almost home) I filtered to the front of the queue, unclipped waited for the lights and pulled away. Feet snapped into place and then I had to weave around a car who was jutting into the road, no problem I went behind and then suddenly there was nowhere left to go. There comes a point (at about 45 degrees i think) when if your feet aren’t out it’s clearly going to hurt. Over I went bouncing off the back bumper of a Nissan Micra. Today is the first time that I’ve cycled in just my shorts and now I’ve got another reminder of childhood in the form of a grazed knee. I can only find two songs that mention grazed knees one is by snow patrol the other is a pretty sad song but I’m including it here for the line “Skinned our hearts and skinned our Knees” (reminds me of growing up). Never knew that Nirvana did a cover of this but here is the original by Terry Jacks.

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The Cleat Pretender

As it’s a glorious Sunday morning here today I thought (in the spirit of Simon Rimmer et al on Sunday Brunch) that I’d share my latest recipe. Today its a recipe for shattered nerves. Firstly; Take one middle-aged bloke (which may be a bit ambitious unless I expect to live until I’m 110), maybe better to say one bloke in the throes of a mid-life crisis (which according to Caroline is where I’ve been since we met so it seems I’m taking middle-aged spread a bit literally).

Wrap liberally in Lycra and High Vis

Next up balance said mid-life crisis man on a bike with impossibly narrow wheels

Fourth step, secure feet firmly to pedals

Finally set off to play in the traffic.

Well that’s fun, so the background to todays scenario is that in most of the conversations I’ve had with people who know their way around a bike the topic of cleats or clips invariably comes up and they always say they are an absolute must. So time to experiment. Good old Wiggle (other cycle accessory retailers are available) very promptly despatched me some new pedals which I came to despise very quickly. To start with I made the schoolboy error of trying to clip my shoes in to the pedals before I’d put the pedals on the bike and then try as I might I couldn’t get them to separate from the pedals without taking the whole cleat mechanism apart. I now know plenty about how these mechanisms work. I also know that a Friday evening after a beer isn’t the ideal time to be fiddling with any spring based mechanism. Removing the screw that holds two taught springs in place is a cue for hide and seek of the bits that flew in different directions across the garage. Next I found that fat fingers and small intricate mechanisms (oh plus that beer) isn’t a winning combination. The situation was eventually resolved using plenty of tools and most of my vocabulary of naughty words and it only took me two hours.

So pedals on, Cleats on shoes and a gorgeous sunny morning found me itching to test them. The idea is that you clip into the pedals and then the  spring holds your foot in place until you let it know that you want to put a foot down. If that doesn’t happen you have almost all of the components for a passable impression of Del boy Trotter in that classic bar fall scene and I really didn’t want that at a junction. So off I set, it didn’t take long to shred my nerves although they did release every time it wasn’t without a bit of drama and a little bit of just in time. I’m in two minds about them, I could feel some benefit when going uphill, but they don’t mix well with stop start and traffic. I guess I’ll persevere and see if I still dislike them as much after I’ve used them a few times. In the meantime and keeping the bar/beer theme going enjoy this classic clip, featuring the late great Roger Lloyd-Pack who of course we lost to Pancreatic Cancer.

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Blazing Saddles

Well spring has sprung and May is heading for the “out”  door meaning that the longest day is now hot on its heels. Facebook very kindly reminded me that by this point last year we had dipped toes (and a whole lot more) into the water in prep for our charity swim and perhaps with a cycle challenge looming it is really time to get some butt in gear (by which I don’t mean lycra cladding posing as cycle shorts (more on that later), and start racking up some miles. So cycle training update follows. Firstly let’s get the excuses sorted. The new puppy Bella has proved that she can be a proper time waster, not least when she is making me do my best Fred Flintstone impression (the bit where he puts Baby-Puss the Sabre Toothed kitten out) by darting through any door opening wider than an envelope and refusing to be on whatever side I want her to be.

That aside I’m pretty comfortable with progress so far. Like last years challenge where we all started woefully ill prepared and ill-equipped this year has seen a very steep learning curve (and a few quite steep hills climbed) around the whole world of cycling. It’s not quite “all the gear and no idea” more like a fair smattering of previously unknown essentials that has for me seen a small increase in my understanding of the physics of self propulsion.

New arrivals have been (in no particular order) The Bike obviously, Lycra with copious amounts of padding, (linked to the razor sharpness of both the saddle, but also the tyres which can transmit the smallest of road imperfections (of which Poole seems to have an abundance)), anti chafing cream (unfortunately called Assos- Marketing trick missed there I think) and various pumps, spare inner tubes, energy gels and water bottle holders. Cant need much more can I?

And so onto the road, I’ve had a few sessions that usually start with me saying to Caroline, I’m off and then underestimating how long for. My real downfall is in forgetting that for every mile I’ve cycled away from the house there is another to cycle back, meaning that the trips have been as long as two hours on occasion. It does however mean that most weeks I’ve managed to get between 50 and 100km covered, which given that some of the team have yet to swing a leg over their bike I’m pretty pleased with. I’m actually really enjoying it now and really pleased with the ultra padded shorts. Lets hope we can keep the Saddles Blazing now until September

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The stars look very different today

Like plenty of other people I was surprised by the number of celebrity deaths that seem to have happened in the early months of 2016. Particularly with a hero of mine, David Bowie in January

 

and then a few months later with Billy Paul

(and several other greats in between) it feels like the soundtrack of my youth has been decimated.  I’ve avoided the subject as a topic for the blog for a number of reasons but mostly out of a feeling that these are very private matters. It has however played on my mind and I keep returning to thoughts of how often Cancer in general and Pancreatic Cancer specifically has played a part.

I did a little research and find that according to Cancer Research UK, You can see the info here, pancreatic cancer has a very poor outlook overall.

Of all adults with pancreatic cancer in England and Wales, around 20 in every 100 (20%) survive for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed. Almost 5 out of every 100 people diagnosed (5%) survive for 5 years or more. And only 1 out of every 100 (1%) will survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis.  Pancreatic Cancer is also the only major Cancer where those 5 year mortality rates have not changed significantly in ten years. (Breast Cancer for instance has improved 5 year survival rates up from 50% to around 80%). Of course these are only statistics and averages but they reinforce my wishes to support Planets Charity to see what can be done to improve upon these. (which after all is a big part of the reason for this blog).

On the topic of statistics I found this on the BBC website where it seems they have at least got a theory about the spate of celebrity deaths.

according to the BBC’s obituary editor Nick Serpell, who ought to know about such things.
He said that the number of significant deaths this year has been “phenomenal”.
Looking at the basic statistics, there’s a very clear upward trend. Nick prepares obituaries for BBC television, radio and online, that run once a notable person’s death is confirmed.
The number of his obituaries used across BBC outlets in recent years has leaped considerably.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 21.38.21It’s a jump from only five between January and late March 2012 to a staggering 24 in the same period this year – an almost five-fold increase, according to research by the BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme. And that’s before counting some of the notable deaths in April.

 

This all invites the question: why?

There are a few reasons, Nick Serpell says.
“People who started becoming famous in the 1960s are now entering their 70s and are starting to die,” he says.
“There are also more famous people than there used to be,” he says. “In my father or grandfather’s generation, the only famous people really were from cinema – there was no television.
“Then, if anybody wasn’t on TV, they weren’t famous.”

Many of those now dying belonged to the so-called baby-boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, that saw a huge growth in population. In the US for example, the census bureau said that 76m people in 2014 belonged to the baby boomer generation – some 23% of the population.
Here in the UK, people aged 65 or older make up almost 18% of the population – a 47% increase on forty years ago.
With more babies born into the baby-boom generation, it meant more went on to eventually become famous.
Now, those famous former babies, aged between 70 and 52, are dying.
The age-bracket 65 to 69 is the one, in England and Wales for example, where death rates really start to increase – some 14.2 per 1,000 men in that age bracket died in 2014, compared with 9.4 per 1,000 in the 60 to 64 age bracket.
Among the major deaths this year, many – including Prince (57), Alan Rickman (69), David Bowie (69) and Victoria Wood (62) – were baby-boomers.

So that seems to be the answer, it’s not really that more celebrities are dying this year it’s just that to quote David Bowie “The stars look very different today”.

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Tri anything Once – Even Wolfmother

 

Version 2Wow what a weekend, as you will see from Little brothers post below this weekend saw us try a “super sprint” (which is a reference more to the distances than to any speeds we might have achieved) Triathlon, in the rather spectacular setting of the London Olympic aquatic park.
Great venue, great opportunity to test ourselves and the start of a great weekend.  What he failed completely to mention of course was the times we achieved and the splits so to get that out of the way, despite him very sportingly jogging alongside and encouraging me in the final few hundred yards (when I was to be honest struggling to breathe let alone run) he did turn in an overall time of almost 2 minutes quicker than me across the whole discipline. To be fair I’m happy eDSC_0039nough with my performance, particularly when this year is really all about gearing up (excuse the pun) for the London to Brighton cycle ride. This was a late entry into our programme and so prep time was short (about a week) and given that I haven’t actually  run in earnest for probably a year, I’m not too disappointed.  To be honest I was initially a bit sceptical about the distances and if it really was a challenge but that all dissapeared in a bit of a haze by the time it got around to running. His other notable omission from his account of events was our apparent misunderstanding of the “get changed by the poolside” instruction that we got at check in. Suffice to say that the resulting show almost got us a lifetime ban from the venue.

Hot footing it from the venue to part two of my weekend involved a drive to Cornwall to collect our new puppy. We decided to break the journey by driving down on Saturday afternoon allowing us to enjoy some of Cornwall’s gastronomic and coastal delights before returning on Sunday with our new furry friend. The flaw in the first part of that was arriving in rural St Austell at 9pm and hoping to find some pub grub was never likely to end well, thank goodness for Indian restaurants, even if the only one we could find was a bring your own booze type. Never mind it was nice food and the travel lodge bar was still open when we checked in.

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Sunday morning we had a trip to Mevagissy to collect a few pasties, a quick trip to the beach which was lovely and then off to collect Bella, or to give her her official Kennel Club name Kentixen Make me Laugh (which I had to admit did raise a smile). Version 2

She was great all they way home took about 100 yards to settle and then slept pretty much for the whole 3 hour journey. Well that seemed great at the time but clearly we had forgotten about the trade off between sleeping during the day and at night because refreshed from a 3 hour kip she was fully recharged and ready to stay up all night. got some loud nights to come I think. But nothing like as loud as Monday evening was going to turn out.

I have to admit I had overlooked a long standing commitment for Monday. In the true spirit of try anything once I had an invite to go with some friends to see an Australian Hard Rock Band playing in Southampton. If you haven’t seen Wolfmother before you can check them out here.

 

If you haven’t heard of them before I’m surprised because they were ear splittingly loud and anyone in the UK last night surely would have been able to hear them. Not really my cup of tea but it was in fact a really good night if you avoided the Mosh Pit and the head banging. It was nice to get home at 1am to the sounds of an 8 week old pup wailing.

 

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