Saturday, 16 September 2017

52 - Cycling Voices - 16: Annia Modlinsky

Annia Modlinsky is a fellow cyclist I met a few years ago when I was based up in Macclesfield and joined Manchester Wheelers cycling club. It's a big club, with a lot of female members. There were regular women's rides organised in different parts of Cheshire, including in Tatton Park, a favourite hang-out for cyclists. (It's a Northern version of London's Richmond Park!)

I was impressed with Annia's determination to get into cycling, as it was quite new to her. She's made lots of progress and is doing some pretty decent times in her time trials.

Annia Modlinksky

From: Matanzas, Cuba

Lives: Wilmslow, Cheshire

Occupation: Full time student

I started club cycling 4 years ago because I wanted to take my cycling to a more competitive level, meet other cyclists, including women and be more involved in the cycling community in the Manchester area.

I am originally from Cuba and was born in a town called Colon, Matanzas province. I have lived in Manchester since 1998 when I came over with my ex-husband, a Mancunian, who I met in Cuba.

My childhood was lovely, and my education in Cuba was great. It is not a developed country but I had the basics. Life in Cuba can be as tough or as easy as you make it, and as Cubans we are brought up to believe in themselves, smile, and be friendly.

I didn’t do any competitive cycling at all when I lived in Cuba, just cycling to get from A to B. Cycling is not such a popular sport, as people are more interested in baseball or basketball. 
At the time when I lived in Cuba, there were no cycling clubs. Perhaps some have formed in the last 15 years, but I don’t know. In any case the number of professional cyclists in Cuba is pretty low. Some people are interested in cycling but it is difficult to pursue as an elite sport due to the lack of facilities needed to develop.

In the last couple of years when I have visited Cuba I have been cycling, and it is quite a contrast to cycling in Manchester, as you would expect! I have gotten used to cycling in the cold, rain, and wind in Manchester, whereas in Cuba I have to cope with 70–80% humidity and extreme heat, especially in May and July. For that reason my rides have to start at around 5:30/6:00 am and I get in a one-and-a-half hour bike ride, if staying in the town. Otherwise, I head towards the beach where I can ride for a little longer.

The other difference is that the roads in Cuba are less congested than in Manchester. Even in Havana it is reasonably easy to get around by bike. Car drivers are more cycle friendly than in Manchester, and there is plenty of space on the road for cyclists.

Nowadays I do time trialling. I started doing them last year and enjoyed it so much I decided to focus on that, training for it over the Winter to get me ready for the Spring and Summer events. What I really enjoy about time trialling is reaching a high speed on my bike on the aero bars. It’s a great feeling!  It’s hard, but very rewarding once you finish a race.

In Summer I usually try and do a training ride at least three times a week. My rides are generally short with interval efforts, either on my own or ride with friends.  In Winter I try to keep up with the rides, weather-permitting, but I prefer to use my turbo trainer. The sessions are tough, but all worthwhile to keep me fit for Summer rides and events.

I love the scenery that Cheshire possesses. There are many narrow lanes but they are generally pretty quiet and full of friendly cyclists.  I can’t really say the same about cars, in terms of being cycling friendly but it is getting better. I have my favourite Cheshire routes and never get bored of riding them again and again. Artists Lane in Alderley Edge and The Brickworks, near Bollington have become addictive to ride! They are tough hills, but not impossible. You always get a good feeling when you reach the end of both.

As a woman riding on my own, I have to be prepared for the encounters that cycling has for you. I never leave my saddle bag behind without my essentials: inner tubes, tyre levers, money (a small change), mobile phone.  Also, a small air pump, bottles of water, and a few packets of cereal bars. 

Manchester Wheelers, where I am a member, is a great club to belong to and cycle with.  They have cycling events going on all year round to choose from. I have done a few events with them this year and last year, and they were all good fun.

Being a single mum is hard, but I try to be as well organised as possible. Taking care of my daughter and providing for her is my top priority.
I have just started studying full-time, which makes it even busier for me to find the spare time to ride my bikes. On top of that I run a small part-time business from home, so every single day for me is a challenge. 

My eight-year-old daughter, Lara had learnt to ride a bike by the time she was four. I guess she didn’t have much of choice, having both parents completely devoted to cycling! However, she’s not really into cycling unfortunately.

She has travelled with myself and my ex-husband in the past to watch many cycling events and races, including The Tour of France.  She has been a spectator in many of the events I have taken part in, and even been with me when I was marshalling at the club events.
Being a single mum means that she sometimes has to sit beside my turbo trainer reading a book whilst I do a session, and she has even mentioned that she would like to try the turbo one day. But she has shown no interest in taking part of a race yet. Football seems to be her inclination at the moment.

Having said that, Lara cycles to school, and does off-road leisurely rides. She has even ridden some long distances with her dad. They did a two-day cycling trip to Southport last year, which involved doing about 30 miles a day. At that time she was seven years old, which is fantastic for her age. 

For me, the most important thing is that Lara enjoys practising a sport, no matter what. There are many ways to be competitive and I think she is too young to be pushed towards cycling. I think interest will drive competition and she will only work that out herself. She might one day realise that cycling is more fun than what she thought, and the ambition to practise it at a competitive level might start from there. 

Cycling is my passion. I have met some wonderful people on the way, and they have even taught me to dress up according to the weather, and how to keep me fit and healthy! My bikes are always at the ready to sneak in a ride at any time of the day when I get a free moment. I can’t believe my bikes have taken me to places I only previously dreamed of going to.

Friday, 15 September 2017

One day one photo - 15: Trafalgar Square

This is a central point on my commute into work, whether I cycle or take the train. On a bike I skirt around the edge of it when I get to the end of Whitehall.

After getting off the train at Charing Cross, I pass through the square, which I find as beautiful as ever, and puts me in an uplifted mood at the start of my day. First thing in the morning there aren't many people around, so it is easy to walk through and you can also appreciate the architects and the statues. Going home in the evening is a little different though. By then, the square has filled up with tourists, and what we've got even more are buskers.

You get the usual person with their guitar playing an Oasis classic, or something by Eric Clapton. Often you get people that are pretty rubbish - people who sing out of tune, others who just shout to get the crowd to gather around and do a silly dance and the tourists cheer and clap, even take photos! (It's amazing how folks people are, and how easily people lap up that stuff, just because they're on holiday!)

However, for once I saw someone who could play, and he looked pretty good - a classical violinist playing pop songs. His rendition of "Clocks" by Coldplay was particularly good, and led to spontaneous applause by tourists and commuters alike.

If only all buskers in Trafalgar Square performed to the same quality as him! I think they should audition buskers before they can perform, just like they do in the London Underground!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

One day one photo - 14: Royal Parks lunchtime bike ride

Working in Central London near the different Royal Parks means that I can usually get out a couple of times a week and do some kind of sporting activity.

I usually run, and I also get my bike out (naturally). I am not quite sure which is the best park to use for this. Years ago when I worked in Westminster I would go around St James's Park, but I stopped going there because the traffic lights and pedestrian crossings meant that you would have to suddenly decelerate after riding a short stretch, and tourists randomly crossing the road along Horse Guards Road made for a high risk situation.

I then found Hyde Park as you could get a good work-out going south to north on the Broadwalk, which is slightly uphill. The stretch along North Carriage Drive is on the road and has no traffic lights. Then the rest of loop has a cycle lane that is part of the Cycle Superhighway network so you could get up a good speed with only minimal stoppages along South Carriage Drive, and just a brief slow-down just before the Broad Walk. That seemed ideal as the stoppages were just right for me to get a quick breather during my laps.

Cycle training in Regent's Park
Unfortunately things have changed there now. In their wisdom Royal Parks have decided to put speed bumps on the Broad Walk, and put a 10mph speed limit. Furthermore, they have made the Broad Walk shared use, basically giving pedestrians carte blanche to wander into the cycle lane! Also, different events going on in Hyde Park mean that cyclists get diverted onto the pavement on North Carriage Drive, so overall you end up sauntering around Hyde Park, and not getting a beneficial work-out. And it does nothing to help my Strava segments either!

So today, I tried out Regent's Park. I know that club cyclists tend to meet up and do a chain gang around the Outer Circle. I didn't do any chain gang, but I just went there and rode fast laps. There's quite a nice atmosphere as a number of other cyclists train on that circuit too, and there are sections where you can get in some hard intervals over a long stretch. However, there are a few traffic lights in rapid succession in the area near Baker Street and Marylebone Road.

The worst thing about this circuit though, is the ride back to the office. On the straight road from Park Crescent to Piccadilly Circus, a stretch of less than a mile, there must easily be 10 sets of traffic lights, making the homeward ride seem interminable. And the traffic fumes can't be great for my lungs either!

I can't really say which Royal Park provides the best cycle circuit, but I think that for the time being I will just alternate between the three Parks. I guess, having traffic lights will be good interval training!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

One day one photo - 13: Cycle to work day

There are a few days of the year which are designated as cycle to work or bike to work day. There is a global one in May which is promoted by Strava, one that is part of Bike Week in June, and the one today is promoted by Halfords and Cycle Scheme. I am not sure which is the official one. For me, every day (or at least 3 times a week) it's bike to work day!

So here's a pic of me on my usual ride in to work, on Westminster Bridge, in one of my favourite outfits. For those interested it is the Hotness jersey and Knock-out armwarmers from Primal. I love how this ensemble makes me highly visible, and the traffic just gives way to you as the motorists probably look at the colours thinking, "What in God's name is that!?!"

It is only really while I am on the road that I feel happy to wear such zany colours, and it's great that there's a company that brings out such designs!

As for my bike-ride into work, it was a bit of a slog today as it was quite windy - not quite Hurricane Irma, but there was a strong head wind. Although there were lots of people out riding, sadly there was no big guy for me to draft off and tow me along. Everyone was just skinny - not much good to me! I may have to head further west, where there are more rugby players. Maybe one of them will be cycling to work!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

One day one photo - 12: Open water swimming gear

A couple of years I hired a Zone 3 wetsuit and really enjoyed using them, so this year I decided to invest in my own, and have had made good use of it. As there are lots of places to go open water swimming these days it is worth having one. This is quite a contrast to 15 years ago when I had a wetsuit for triathlons. Back then there weren't many official outdoor places to swim, and it was a case of going to covert places. (I remember going to Rydal water in the Lake District while on a trip up there once, following a recommendation from a guy in a sports shop in Ambleside. It was all a bit clandestine!)

Hampstead Ponds has been a popular venue for a long time, though that is the wrong end of London for me. There was also Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, but the swimming club banned wetsuits!

Nowadays there are loads of places. With my wetsuit I have been to Royal Victoria Docks, Shepperton and Serpentine Lido. There are other places I have not got round to going to yet, but would like to - Diver's Cove near Merstham, and West Reservoir at Stoke Newington.

The only thing is that at this time of year, as I found when I swam last Wednesday in the Docks, the water is that bit colder. That means that my body uses more energy to stay warm, and given that I am not a great swimmer I would rather use that energy to swim. So last Wednesday when I swam I got really tired, and even ended up wheezing for the rest of the evening and the following day.

In an effort to avoid getting the same problem at Swim Serpentine I have ordered a a neoprene vest to wear under my wetsuit, and a neoprene hat to go underneath the official event swimming hat. It's not cheap - the vest cost around £45, and the hat cost £15. But I think it will be worthwhile for the next week, and it will even be useful for doing open water swimming during the winter months - something that I might be mad enough to do!

Monday, 11 September 2017

One day one photo - 11: New phone!

I hadn't actually planned to get a new phone, even though I had been due for an upgrade for many months. Unfortunately I lost my beloved Sony Xperia Z3 Compact at Peterborough motorway service station yesterday on my way back to London.

It was the classic, getting my hands full carrying McDonald's and then putting the phone down and forgetting to pick it up. I am not sure if someone stole it, because not long after I realised it was lost I borrowed a phone to ring my number and it was going to voicemail even though the phone was fully charged. So I like to think that a do-gooder picked it up and handed it in somewhere, and switched it off in the process. Trying to know where it was handed in to brings images of a needle and a haystack!

So good old EE sorted me out with a new device, not before I almost left them. But in the end my 20-year loyalty to (what was previously known as Orange) has counted for something. So now I have a rather nice looking Samsung Galaxy S7, and a matching Samsung tablet - an S2.

I hope the phones are good. Reviews have been positive. It's ironic that I get this phone just as lots of noise is being made about the iPhone X is being released. I must say, I really can't bring myself to get an iPhone. I just don't understand what is supposed to be good about Apple products, and I really think that when so many people have an iPhone, it must surely be for the poser value rather than it's actual functionality. I am quite happy to be "untrendy"! No doubt the iPhone phones work well enough, but if someone can convince me of why I would need to spend four times the amount that I have just spent on my latest phone, and iPhone X has four times more functionality and quality than my phone then I just might give the Apple offerings a little consideration!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

One day one photo - 10: Ride with Yorkshire Lass CC

Photo: Andy Jones

Today was a whistle-stop trip up to North Yorkshire, where I met with a club to do a Ride With feature for Cycling Weekly magazine. Today I was up with the Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club. I have been in touch with the founder members of the club for about a year now, for different quotes for articles I've done, as well as to do a feature on their women-only charity cyclosportive.

It was great to finally meet Judith and Kate plus a number of the other women in the club. The club only formed in 2015, but they have a very good membership, and are a well-known club in the area.

I found their club run to be very well organised. The roads that we went on around Wetherby and the Vale of York, were pleasant and quiet. Also they weren't too challenging for me given that I was feeling a little tired after my 5am start from London!

It was good to catch up with Andy Jones, the photographer, a Yorkshireman himself - and someone who I have worked with for a few years now, on many projects. As ever, he was very efficient at getting us organised and taking candid photos that showed the riders in a good light. I am a bit embarrassed to have been on the front in this picture he took. The journalist is not meant to be so prominent. Sorry for photo-bombing, Andy! But hey, it looks good though, I must say!