Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Foot update...

It's sort of getting better and I should be alright for a ride this weekend. Might take one more Nurofen tonight, or possibly in the morning as I had that weary feeling when the alarm wakes you from a drug-induced sleep. I'm walking better but not properly. It's as if I've forgotten how to walk. Very strange, but I think I'm on the mend.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Injured foot means no cycling (or walking)

I'm trying to work out how I damaged my foot and whether, perhaps, it had something to do with our recent ride up Titsey Hill. I don't think so, somehow. Either way I'm completely out of action, not only cycling but generally. I'm not in any pain. Right now, as I pen this post. there's no pain at all, in fact, give or take, there never has been. I feared gout, but over the weekend, when I took a trip down to Croydoc, the GP on duty there told me that if I had gout I'd be in total agony. I knew this because a pal of mine had gout and he said the pain was unbearable. I'm glad it's not gout as I didn't fancy having to give up drinking red wine or eating a nice Indian meal. But if it's not gout, what is it?

Walk like a pirate!
The symptoms are a swollen foot, just under the big toe and running down the left side of my right foot. There is definite swelling and discolouring and I'm limping about. It hurts when I walk, but otherwise, no pain. The GP told me to take Nurofen for a couple of days and get the inflammation down, which seems to be working, but it's still bad news when I start walking. I'm not joking, but I literally limp around like some kind of old man, it's horrible. I almost drag my right leg around like some kind of old pirate. It doesn't look good.

The whole thing started just under a week ago and I'm looking at excessive walking in the wrong shoes as the cause. Although even my self-diagnosis might be wrong. The reason I think it might be walking in the wrong shoes is that I am tending to walk, on average, about an hour to an hour and a half every day. I walk for 30 minutes from the office to the station. I walk, in total, around 20 minutes to and from my house to our local station and then, during my lunch break at work, I might walk another 30 minutes. What's that add up to? That's 80 minutes. Or one hour and 20 minutes walking in a pair of Doctor Martens. Good shoes and I've never been injured by walking in the past.

Earlier on in the month, something similar, but not as severe, happened to my left foot, leaving me, late one night, hobbling over Kew Bridge in the cold, but that ailment - which I also blamed on excessive walking in the wrong shoes – came and went. This latest bout of foot trouble hasn't gone away. It started, I think, on Tuesday or maybe Wednesday last week. I was getting an ache in my foot and it kept me awake and from then to now, I've been hobbling about. I decided to do something about it on Saturday and that's why I'm on the old Nurofen. I'll give it a couple more days and then I'll visit my own GP.

I reckon I could cycle with this problem, but we'll see. To be honest, I thought I could drive with it, until I tried putting my foot on the brake! Ooops! Although I am driving. I've just got to put my foot down a little more forcefully without sending everybody through the windscreen.

Anyway, it's now 10.30pm on Monday 27th February. Time for bed. I'm hoping things will be a little more improved in the morning. Until then, sleep tight everybody.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A great weekend of cycling

Yours truly and Andy in the churchyard at Limpsfield, Sunday 19 February 2012.
A huge, pond-like puddle on the Titsey off-road track.
A fast ride on Saturday to Botley Hill and back – with no tea – meant that both Andy and I returned home earlier than usual. Then, on Sunday, we trod new ground and headed off road through the Titsey estate, reminded all the way down that there was 'no cycling' allowed. But it didn't stop us enjoying the best bit of off-roading we've experienced in a long time. When we eventually emerged on to a tarmac road near Limpsfield Village we found a churchyard to enjoy our tea and cereal bars before heading off in the direction of the dreaded Titsey Hill. It's easily the worst hill of the lot and to make it worse still, we had competition – from a runner.
My bike, Botley Hill car park, Saturday 18th February 2012.
"I'm sure you'll beat me," he said.
"I wouldn't bet on it," I replied.

Andy's bike, Botley Hill car park
I was right. While it was close, he was always yards ahead throughout most of the hill. I closed up the gap near the top, but then, realising I was changing gear he started to sprint to the finish. Mind you, he didn't have a rucksack full of tea-making paraphenalia and the odd spanner – that's my excuse!

Sunday was a brilliant day for cycling: a clear day (we could see the whole of London at one point on the B269 on our return journey). The off-road bit was amazing and we'll be doing it again, that's for sure.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Out in the snow...

Andy on the roadside on the approach to Tatsfield churchyard.
I was up at 6am this morning and when I looked out of the window it looked pretty cold. The cars were frosted up, there was still snow on the ground and it looked nasty: not the sort of weather to be cycling in, I thought, pointlessly, as I recalled sending an OK text to Andy about a Sunday morning ride. But I was prepared. The tea was made, I was dressed in many layers and when I went outside to fetch the bike I found myself thinking, 'what's all the fuss about, it's not that cold'.

Cycling up the road, however, things changed. It started to snow. Only very finely, but it was snowing and as I reached the top of Church Hill it was quite heavy snow and it was laying. By the time I reached the Green I was wondering when Andy would call with an abort text, but nothing came my way and then, having been on the Green for about four minutes, he turned up.

The snow continued to fall as we made our way past Knight's Garden Centre and the temperature had dropped too. My feet (and other extremities) were frozen and we were surprised to see a couple of other cyclists out on the road - only the hardened few get up and go out in this sort of weather. Or perhaps that should read 'only the real idiots go out in this sort of weather'. And, to be fair, we were a couple of idiots, but, in a strange sort of way, we were both very happy to be out in the snow. It doesn't matter if you're wrapped up well - and we both were.
Yours truly, carrying his bike in the Tatsfield churchyard.

My only mistake was putting on a pair of old Doctor Marten shoes, purchased in Portland, Oregon, in 2007, when I had a perfectly decent pair of walking boots in the porch. To be fair, apart from the shoes making my feet much colder than they would otherwise have been in the boots, the only real problem they presented me with was walking when we finally reached the Tatsfield Churchyard - a foolish venue choice as there's no cover and the seats would be covered in snow and ice.

Remember that Doctor Marten shoes have smooth soles - not ideal for snow or ice. It took me four times as long to walk from the churchyard gate to our benches than it took Andy, but fortunately I had the bike to keep me upright.

We munched our cereal bars and drank our tea, standing up for two reasons - one, there were no benches on which to sit; and two, to improve the circulation in our feet. Had the church been open, we'd have gone inside, but it was locked so we loitered about and then it started to snow again.

Around 9am we headed back home and, to be fair, it was very pleasant. Cold, yes, but it was an invigorating ride and we both felt better for going and not sitting around in the house feeling smug that we were warm when it was cold and unforgiving outside.

There's something very nice and evocative about snowy landscapes and Andy managed to get a few shots (as you can see). It took me back to the early days of our cycling when we went a bit mad on going our regardless of the weather. On the way back there were virtual white-out conditions, but we were kitted out in warm clothing (apart from those DMs) and that made it pleasant.

Andy took this shot of the landscape with yours truly in the foreground.
I won't say that I wasn't pleased to reach home. My bits were frozen solid and my feet needed a bit of flexing. Right now, as I write this, I've recovered.

One last point, it was the first time we went out when it was snowing before we mounted our bikes. Normally, we'd have aborted, but we went for it; every other time, we'd been caught in the poor weather.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Snow stops this week's cycling

It's very cold out there, but no more snow has fallen. There is a slow thaw in place, but it's really slow and  there's a lot of icy roads and pathways. Yesterday I went over on the way to the station. Fortunately there was nobody around to see me.
Elmfield Way, South Croydon last weekend.

Right now it's 0751hrs on Saturday. Normally at this time, Andy and I would be en route to wherever we were going: the churchyard, the bus stop, the village, even Godstone Green, but it's too cold and, let's face it, not at all pleasant. So I'm sitting in the conservatory, dressing gown on, listening to the television, which is in the other room, and writing this blog.

There's been a lot of stuff on cycling in the media this week. Last night, comedian Ross Noble was on Room 101 (a comedy panel show on BBC1) saying how much he despises cyclists - commuting cyclists. He doesn't mind mountain bikers (like himself) who cycle in the woods but those who jump red lights and  especially those on recumbent bicycles, he can't stand them. I know what he means about recumbent bikes and, to a degree, what he was saying about 'commuting' cyclists. I don't commute on my bike. It comes out at the weekends for an early morning rural ride.

There was an article in the Evening Standard a few days ago talking about how people are quite happy to watch crime take place right under their noses and do nothing about it: the paper rigged a situation where a man with bolt cutters went around stealing bikes in crowded places and noted how nobody did anything to stop him - that's typical modern Britain, but then again, if it wasn't your own bike, why would you stop him? Selfish? Yes, but I'm not going to risk my neck with a nutter if the property being stolen has nothing to do with me; besides, it's only a bike.

Then, on television, a couple days ago, there was something on Bristol, a provincial city in the South West of the country, that has spent a few bob on making the city 'cycle-friendly' – lots of cycle paths, although I bet that the cycle paths in question are nowhere near enough and that if I emerged from Templemeads station with my bike I'd still have to ride on busy and dangerous roads.

On the world stage, Syria is rapidly becoming the big problem with Russia telling the West to keep out while Assad and his regime set about bombing the city of Homs. Not good.

Scooby Doo's on the box, the kettle is purring away and a cup of tea is on the way. We've had the snow hanging around all week, thanks to that 'slow thaw' I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

The photograph accompanying this post was taken last Saturday morning in Elmfield Way. Things look roughly the same today.

Two years ago...
One year ago...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Snow - another delivery on the way

Siberian weather. Again. Yes, folks, as I write this, it's snowing out there: just fine stuff, but it's laying, like a soft, white blanket, on the roads and pathways. Will we get a ride in this weekend? It's looking unlikely. I'm sitting at home, watching the Leveson Enquiry on the ten o'clock news. It's Thursday night and now there are Tibetans on the box, setting themselves alight in protest against Chinese repression.

Up to three inches of snow is promised for tomorrow. The BBC's Ed Thomas is in York, microphone in hand, coat on. "And that is where the problems have been: on the road and in the ice...", he said.

"The problem has been rain washing away the grit...Yorkshire has been pelted with frozen rain...and that's why people are asking people to take care on the roads if they have to drive. The snow is on the move," says Thomas.

"Tonight there is snow at Heathrow...expect some disruption tomorrow."

Last weekend: 4th and 5th February 2011 - no cycling as Andy's bike went in for repair. If the snow comes and goes this coming weekend, we'll probably go out on Sunday.