Friday, 30 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 27

I haven't had much time to get involved in that other ongoing cycling project I'm part of, the London Women's Cycle Racing League. In case you didn't know, it ran during the 2011 road season, and with the same level of interest as last year. The main difference was that the publicity side of things was scaled back. We had a few commercial organisations provide prizes, which was good. We also had a few hiccups with commercial organisations. I guess they are just lessons one learns when you get involved in this sort of voluntary organisation-commercial partnership. Also, after two years of running this with a couple of other amazing women I am stepping aside from the league and leaving it to others to run. I am quite looking forward to taking a back seat. It's not that I didn't enjoy it. On the contrary. I am just glad to have one less thing to think about. Being a co-ordinator is quite time consuming when juggling it with the writing projects that I am doing more and more. On top of that there's also the day-to-day business of keeping the wolf from the door, which in these economic times is becoming more and more tricky. Anyway, I have enjoyed running the league, it's been fun, and I've met lots of great people. It's not over just yet though - we've got our prizegiving social on October 20th. I look forward to it!

One Day One Photo - 26

If you want to win the bike bling competition between you and your cycling buddies forget about your stylish carbon fibre Colnago or Pinarello, ditch your pretentious steel Independent Fabrication and go for one of these. This relaxing Swarovski-studded low-rider designed by Ben Wilson comes complete with approximately 110,000 crystals encrusted into the bike. It's on display at the Power of Making exhibition that I went to at the V&A museum in London. If you really want it you'll have to wait a few months. The exhibiton runs until January 2nd 2012. I guess that gives you a bit of time to save up!
For a less expensive alternative you may want to consider other interesting offerings on show, including a Sanomagic Mahogany bicycle and a Nylon Airbike. Whichever two-wheeler you go for, you'll be the envy of everyone around - well at least the guys on your weekend club run!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 25

What can I say. This has definitely been Cav's year. Points jersey and victory on the Champs Elysees at the Tour de France, victories in London at the Olympic test event and the Tour of Britain - and now World Champion. It's thoroughly deserved. I was really pleased that he won the World Champs because that was as much down to the efforts of the other Team GB guys as to Mark Cavendish's sprinting efforts. Cav's HTC-Columbia team boasts the best lead-out squad in the world, and they have mastered to a T the art of delivering Mark Cavendish to the best possible sprinting position 200m from the finish line. The lads at Team GB did not have the same reputation as the power houses of Team HTC. So grand chapeau too to the likes of Ian Stannard, Jeremy Hunt, Geraint Thomas and David Millar. Particular mention has to go to Bradley Wiggins who practically turned himself inside out during the penultimate lap. He towed round the whole peloton just to bridge the gap to the leading riders and set up a favourable position for Cav to deliver his trademark explosive sprint to the line. It was definitely one of those moments when it felt really cool to be British!

I must also mention Fabian Cancellara, who may not be feeling too pleased with his performance at the Worlds, after having failed to defend his title in the time trial. However, it's always amazing how he manages to be in the mix during the dash for the chequered flag in a road race, considering he's anything but a sprinter! That shows what a great all-round cycle racer he is, and I admire him for that. In the grand scheme of things he shouldn't feel too disappointed with his performance.

One Day One Photo - 24

I like to keep fit. Of course I like cycling and running, but I like just bog standard fitness activities like what I used to do as a member of a gym many moons ago. I'm not keen on what gyms have become nowadays. I don't understand why I should get locked into a practically unretractable contract to pay at least £60/month to join other mice running round wheels and trying to do aerobics in a crowded cage. These days I enjoy doing simpler stuff. I like the activities we did as kids, which back then we did without any effort. As an adult, I find doing those activities quite physically demanding and they actually keep me in shape, cakes permitting! I have a hula hoop, which I bought in a toy store - great for the waist, hips and bum. I also have a skipping rope - great for the arms and legs. Ten minutes of jumping with a rope in the park at the end of my road gets me as out of breath as a half-hour run, or riding up the hills in my neighbourhood. Once you get over the initial self consciousness of jumping up and down in a public park, it's no big deal. People have a sort of curious admiration that you are doing something that many can't/wouldn't dare do. So thanks to £15 spent on a length of rope and a plastic hoop I have managed to stay basically in shape. I just hope the park doesn't get full with everyone trying to do these activities now - could get a little crowded. I may just then take up hopscotch instead!

One Day Three Photos - 23

Every few weeks I have a bad hair day. Well it's not so much a bad hair day as the regular grind of having to undo my plaits, comb out my hair and then have the plaits put back in again. I might only have cornrow plaits but the process still takes more than half a day. My bedroom becomes a hotbed of hair as I meticulously unpick the plaits and comb out the knotted mesh. It's all very tedious. Thank God for trashy soap operas, X-factor and the Dave Channel! Once the plaits are out I have to run the gauntlet of travelling down the street to the hairdressers with scary hair until the good ladies have styled something that makes me feel like me again. Not long ago a boy was banned from school for having his hair in cornrow. The school feared his hair was synonymous with gang culture. If his hair's anything like mine then I'd say more fool the school! People in gangs have their hair in many styles, including short back and sides! Cornrow is neat and keeps my hair nicely in place. It would be nice to keep a nice massive mane like Angie Stone but in reality my 'fro is high maintenance, and it's scary - well it scares me! Thank God for cornrow.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 22

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson invited the local people to come along and "talk London" so I went over to Sutton to see what it was about. It was the first time that I was seeing Boris Johnson in the flesh addressing an audience. We talked about various local issues like crime, the recent riots, schools, traffic calming measures, supporting the voluntary sector etc. I took the opportunity to ask Boris a question about making the streets safer for cycling (it would have been rude not to). It was very interesting attending the meeting and seeing the Mayor of London answering questions from the man (and woman) in the street. But it's always the same in these types of functions. You get the electioneering answer rather than the real answers. It didn't really matter how much detail BoJo gave to his plans - it seemed to be more about the way he presented himself, and the amount of "entertainment" he gave the packed auditorium (which he did in spades). Ultimately, it'll be simply the fact that he's turned up at these meetings around London, met the people, and given them a good show that will get him the votes for next year's mayoral election. Maybe I'm being cynical - but then again, does he actually have much competition??

One Day One Photo - 21

Sometimes after a bike race or a cyclosportive I hear my cycling buddies say something like - "my cycling is so bad I should just give up and take up needlepoint or knitting". Well, I have a confession to make. I have taken up crochet. And I haven't given up cycling. Mind you, my cycling hasn't actually been too good this year, so maybe I should have given up! I fell into crochet when I was between jobs for a short while. It was one of those periods where I was a little under pressure and the stress manifested itself by me picking my nails during idle moments. So I just hit on the idea of doing something productive with my hands during these times. I could have done needlepoint, but it seemed quite involved. I could have gone for knitting, but having two needles to look after was too much of a responsibility! The good thing about crochet is that the small hook makes it easily portable and you can even do it on public transport if you are working on a small project like a mug mat. I have now begun to notice lots of knitting and craft shops around London and they seem quite trendy. You can even turn up at some shops,cafes, pubs and meet other crocheters and knitters. It's like a whole new social network that runs(or even stitches) rings around facebook! So there you have it. Out of alot of nervous energy has come a few hats, many mugmats, a shawl, a kid's blanket and a little frog! My family don't need too many guesses to know what they'll be getting for Christmas either! I won't be giving up the bike just yet though.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

One Day Two Photos - 20

Gee, this all looks Greek to me - it's frightening! Apparently in a matter of months I am meant to understand what all this squiggling is about! I've always wanted to be able to write shorthand. There have been a number of occasions when it would have been so useful to have that skill. Some journalists say it's debatable show necessary shorthand is nowadays since the technology is there to record interviews etc. Personally, I think it's a good skill to have even if you are not pursuing a journalistic career. So at the moment I am going around visualising squiggles in my mind in an attempt to memorise the countless symbols and characters. At the same time I am getting back on the Italian job. It's that time of year when I sign up for an evening class of some shape or form. This time around I have plumped for Italian. I realise that A Level plus three weeks during the Giro d'Italia is not enough to keep a useful level in the language. My first class revealed just how rusty my Italian is. I am therefore in crash course cramming mode in a hope that that the teacher in the advanced level class I am in doesn't discover I am a fraud and relegate me. So over the next few months my evenings will be a mish-mash of T-line and Italian - I'm already getting excited! Andiamo!

One Day One Photo - 19

The Tour of Britain has definitely grown in popularity over recent years. People have been commenting on how much thick the crowds are along the streets - not just in London, but at stages in parts of the country. I guess it's all in keeping with the ever growing popularity of cycling in the UK. I didn't really have time to hang around at the Tour of Britain as I was abit damp from my damp Chilterns ride. I did manage to do a quick detour round Westminster on my connecting cycle commute between Paddington station and Victoria station. I just managed a quick snap as the peloton was doing a loop round the Houses of Parliament. Shame I couldn't stay, but I was still pleased to hear that Mark Cavendish got the win again. Winning in London is getting to be a habit for him now. I hope he can keep it up through 2012.

One Day One Photo - 18

This photo is from the CTC website and advertises women-only challenge rides. It's quite a nice photo, showing lovely green rolling countryside. I did the CTC women-only challenge ride in Reading. The ride went up through the Chiltern Hills, and I'm sure the landscape looked just as scenic as this. Sadly, I didn't get to see much of it as the rain poured down part way through the ride and never really stopped. It was just grim and grey. It was a shame as it was a friendly well organised event. I would have liked to stop and chat but by the time I finished I was too cold and drenched. As I was car-less I just wanted to head back into Reading and get on a train to London. Thanks to Patrick Trainor for the invite to the ride though, and Graham "Wheels in Wheels" Temple for organising it, and of course to CTC. This was a good initiative and I hope it grows.

Friday, 23 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 17

I realise that bicycles aren't just for looking at so I decided to go out and ride it. The Boardman Team Carbon Fi is a really smooth ride. For me, going from my heavier aluminium bike to the carbon was like having a large weight taken off the bike. Going up the hill at Farthing Down suddenly got easier, without me even needing to lose weight!(Thanks to Aodan for the photo.)

One Day One Photo - 16

I took delivery of a brand spanking new Boardman women-specifi carbon fibre bike - aka as the Boardman Team Carbon Fi. It looks a lovely piece of kit, and nicely finished. I must say, I like the fact it's not pink all over, which is what some bike manufacturers seem to think that's what all women want. Anyway, as ever, whenever I get anything new there's always that exciting moment when the item is first in your home and you look at it shiny and bright. It looks so perfectly formed that I almost don't want to taint it by using it. I am quite happy to just look at it and admire its form.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 15

Haeeyyy, It's Fonzie! Happy Days was my favourite programme - when I was 9 years old! The Fonz was so cool in his jeans and leather jacket, hanging out with the guys and charming all the girls. The thing was, he was always well behaved. He was always polite to Mr and Mrs Cunningham and he never swore. He was my hero! Anyway, I was quite surprised and pleased to hear he'd been awarded an OBE - especially as these awards go primarily to British citizens. Apparently it's in recognition for his services to dyslexia and how he raised the profile of this condition and gave confidence to alot of kids who suffer from it. I never even knew Henry Winkler was dyslexic and he managed to achieve all that he did at a time when life would have been pretty difficult. That makes me have even more respect for him. What a cool guy!

One Day One Photo - 14

Sweet sixteen. My nephew celebrated his 16th birthday. I didn't get the chance to see him as he lives in the North of England, but I hope he enjoyed celebrating his first landmark birthday. I guess it's not that easy to do when you have school and homework. This takes me back to the time when I turned sixteen - so long ago I can only just remember! I lived in small village, where the most exciting thing to happen was cows blocking the road when walking to school and my raiston d'etre was the prospect of maybe meeting George Michael one day! My biggest concerns were whether I would have enough money to buy the latest Wham or Culture Club LP, and my parents thought I was a rebel because I had dressmaking as a hobby! I did watch the Tour de France in those days. It was on Channel 4 once a week and Phil Liggett was the anchorman even then! But France, still less riding a road bicycle in race seemed like another world I would never reach..... Needless to say Dan is into very different sorts of things. He can't believe that we didn't have computer gadgets and I-phones in those days, or that I would fancy George Michael! I hope he has aspirations that he can realise in the future.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 13

I just want to big up Jens Voigt. I saw him at the departure village in Creteil this summer, on the last stage of the Tour de France. Everyone was crowded round the team buses trying to get to speak to Cadel Evans, Thomas Voeckler or Jens's Leopard-Trek team mates. While Messrs Schlek and Cancellara were jiving around in their bus listening to Michael Jackson songs The Jensie was on a bench on a grass verge being interviewed by a German film crew. He wasn't exactly hiding from anyone. It's just that hardly anyone thought to look at that unassuming piece of grass verge round the side of a council estate block in the suburbs of Paris! So a handful of us were able to walk right up to old Jens and chat to him, get his autograph, pose for photos etc. I'm not a massive groupie so I'm not fussed about being photographed with a famous person - unless asked to do so, or unless they are a friend of mine. If the person autographed a programme or a card for me, I'd probably end up losing it as I'm not good at keeping those sorts of things. I was just happy to smile at him, say hello, shake hands and ask him about his tour. Perhaps I regret not having had my tape with me. That would have made for a good interview. I was quite pleased to hear he'd be in the UK for the Tour of Britain. But sadly, it wasn't to be - the British roads got the better of him. So it'll have to be another time before I am graced with his presence. Why do I like Jensie most out of the peloton? Nothing to do with his looks, his cycling ability, his spirited mentality. No, quite simply because he's touching 40 years of age and is doing a great job representing my generation. When I think I'm over the hill, and too old to be falling over or putting my body through the mill I look at Jens Voigt throwing himself down a ditch, or crossing the finishing line beaten up and bruised, and think - you're doing a great job, mate! Fingers crossed he does the Tour de France next year.

One Day One Photo - 12

This double life. It goes without saying that cycling activities take up a significant amount of my time. I get the impression of leading a double life. It's like being the programme I watched as a child, Mr Ben. He was suited and booted, did a mundane office job by day and had a fairly dry character. Then at one point he would step into a fancy dress shop and become this really interesting person having fantastic adventures. That feels like me. By day I do drugs, by night (well evening) I do cycling. (As opposed to certain dubious athletes who do sport by day and drugs by night!) Anyway, in my case the drugs bit is really not as glamorous or rock'n'roll as it sounds! I provide medical information for a pharmaceutical company and talk about drug interactions, side effects and other medicines related issues. I have always worked in pharmaceuticals in some shape or form - whether it was being a drug rep, doing the marketing communications for pharma companies or discussing medical research at the Department of Health. Perhaps it's a bit dry compared to the writing I do for the cycling magazines, the different events I attend and the variety of people I meet through cycling. But I must say I am glad to be doing pharmaceuticals, and to have knowledge of a different sector. Plus, that's what pays my bills and keeps the wolf from the door. I say very little about the cycling stuff when I am at work, and I talk even less about the pharmaceutical stuff when cycling (which is not a bad thing!). And to be honest, I am quite content to keep these two worlds apart.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 11

I didn't know what profile of woman would be riding the Cycletta event or what the pace would be. All I knew was that I needed to get at least 11 vox pops, and some words from Victoria Pendleton. I would also have to press the flesh with organisers, the Sportsister girls (who had obtained an entry for me), Halfords PR and of course the cycling magazine crew. I made alot of mental preparation in terms of how I was going to go about fitting it all in, as well as giving guidance to the photographer. Then there was the bike ride itself. Would I ride the 25 miles hard and try and get back to the HQ early to interview folks? Should I just ride slowly and mingle during the ride and obtain vox pops then? After a while you have to stop thinking and just let things flow naturally. Well, at 5am on a rainy Sunday morning I wasn't in much mood for thinking anyway! In the end it was a good day. I talked to the people I needed to, and more. I interviewed our Queen of the Cycle Track, Victoria Pendleton - who I must say was very amenable and charming. And we even had a surprise visit from the sun!

Monday, 12 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 10

Many folks who live in other parts of the country imagine London to be so choked with traffic that there must be nowhere for Londoners to cycle - at least nowhere nice. They think Londoners are reduced to cycle training on turbo trainers at home, or on a balcony if we are lucky. Well, maybe for some Londoners that is true! But for many, it's not the case at all. Living in South London it is quite easy to reach the countryside and ride through the lanes of Kent and Surrey. And as for off-road cycling it's equally easy. Just by twiddling steadily you can find yourself in woodland without much effort at all. I set off from near Croydon and managed to get to Chipstead, Banstead and Epsom Downs. Furthermore, these places are all within the M25, the motorway that encompasses the Greater London area. I then pressed on through Walton-on-the-Hill, up near Box Hill, and finally arrived at Reigate. It was all a very pleasant jaunt within the London area, and hardly a car in sight - just a few cows on Colley Hill that were pretty nonplussed to see me! But hey, I was happy to be there.

One Day One Photo - 9

Friday was spent sorting out all the paperwork and logistics for the Cycletta ride at Whipsnade Zoo which I will be covering for the cycling magazine. As a free agent like myself there's alot of thinking ahead to be done when attending events. Sometimes it makes my head hurt, especially when I'm thinking about other deadlines at the same time. My mind gets cluttered like a boy's bedroom. I'm sure it's so much slicker when you're staff on a newspaper or magazine and everything gets sorted in advance by a very efficient secretary with a tight bun in her hair, wearing a sharp suit and speaking in a crisp voice. Maybe not! A press pass for me was not really crucial as I already had an entry to ride the event, and the star of the day, Victoria Pendleton would be riding among us anyway. The main reason I was sorting out a press pass was so that the photographer could gain free access into the zoo. Also it wouldn't be a great idea to have some random bloke taking photos of women in sports kit, I guess! Anyway, thanks to the friendly guys at Participate Sport the paperwork was sorted even more efficiently than our fictional secretary with the tight bun in her hair.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 8

I get so tired these days. I can't do the things I used to do even one year ago. If I go for a training ride I need three days to recover before I get on with any other physical activity. If I don't allow enough days to pass before I do any further exercise I'm just worn out and my legs fall apart. I can't believe this is the same person who managed to ride from Dieppe to Nice last year. If that was me, it was certainly a lifetime ago. Strangely enough my aerobic capacity is fine. It hasn't gone downhill in any noticeable way. So, I have to admit it, age is catching up with my legs. And soon it will get my back, my arms and my lungs. I'll be ready for the knackers yard. Shall I resign myself to a future of sitting in a rocking chair doing crosswords and crochet or shall I try and fight this process that is surreptiously taking over me? Who knows, let me have a rest and then I'll decide!

One Day One Photo - 7

It's always good to hear about one of your local areas in the news - for the right reasons, mind you. The long awaited resurfacing of Herne Hill track was completed and the velodrome was reopened yesterday. A few prominent people like the Minister of Sport, the local MP and cycling legend Chris Boardman made the trip to the opening ceremony. That's great news that the track has been resurfaced. But hey, let's not get carried away - sadly, the rest of the facilities are still running to rack and ruin and we are along way from having a stadium that's anything like it was in the glory of the 1948 Olympics. It would be great if Herne Hill could benefit from the sports legacy that was proposed in the London 2012 Olympics bid. But that sounds far too logical! We just have to hope that the Save the Velodrome campaign is successful in its project to build a sports facility that is fit for purpose, which local cyclists deserve.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 6

It's all go during September....I just can't keep up sometimes!

One Day One Photo - 5

Running is my alcohol. Well, it's my other alcohol. I like to indulge in it. When I do, I feel good. If I indulge in it too much I suffer the consequences the next day. When I was younger I indulged in it a lot more without it giving me any problems, but nowadays my body tolerates it less and less. Sometimes the morning after a running session I feel glued to the bed in pain and struggle to emerge from under the duvet. Once up and about I have to take it easy, and have a quiet day. It's debatable how good running is for me given all the wear and tear it's been progressively inflicting on my knees. But hey, I'm still going to do it. I like it. I want the endorphin hit. I like that feeling of being bright and alive - just like when drinking a good wine. So I'll keep on running, and I look forward to doing my half marathon next month. Hopefully I won't succumb to cirrhoses of the knees in the meantime! (photo by JJurkiewicz)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 4

People say it must be good having a boyfriend who is also into cycling. Yeah, we have done a number of fun cycling holidays together - something which would have been difficult if only one of us had been interested in this two wheeled activity. However, it can be a little testing when, for example on social bike rides on the road, he goes so quickly that I end up panting and sweating a mile behind him; or when he tries to "advise" me on what I should do to improve my cycling without bearing in mind my actual circumstances. Having said all this, it is very nice to go out on off-road rides together. Being away from traffic and close to nature, exploring beautiful landscape just gives both of us a real feelgood factor. Something that can only serve to enhance our relationship. We've been on a few rides in the last week - South Downs, Surrey Hills and Epsom Downs. I enjoyed all the trips, especially as we were lucky with the weather. I also want to thank my other half for patiently waiting for me as I fumbled through the trails when he could have been out with his much more skilled mates!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 3

Today's photo shoot for Cycling Active magazine was a little different, as it involved riding with the De Ver Cycles beginner group. It was a real pleasure running a story involving Maurice Burton, owner of the De Ver Cycles shop, and organiser of these rides. I have known Maurice (pictured in the centre of the photo) for many years. When I got into cyclesport I bought my first bike from him. It was a Dawes Hybrid which I used in a triathlon, and also for commuting. He built me a cheap road bike when I wanted to get into cycle racing, and I have bought other bicycles from him ever since. Even though Maurice is an ex-National cycle racing champion he has time for all customers, be they champion road racers or newbies. He doesn't patronise or brush you aside because you aren't a top road racer or because you don't know the jargon. That's what makes me enjoy going to his shop. Maurice has always been very encouraging towards new cyclists and was very happy to see lots of newbies on his ride today. I am glad to be writing about these rides for the magazine.

Friday, 2 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 2

I like Fridays. They are my "non-cyclist normal person" days. I don't do much sport, I just cycle to get from A to B, do some household chores, watch trashy tv and of course have a beer at my local. For all the sport I do I still enjoy days like these - especially in London, the town I call home, and in Crystal Palace one of the friendliest neighbourhoods to live in. I will savour my pie and my pint while listening to funky tunes, knowing that it'll be a week before I can do it again!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

One Day One Photo - 1

Every day something happens, something's on your mind, you feeling some sort of emotion - whether it's happiness, fear, anger; whether its meeting and old friend, getting out of your comfort zone, thinking about the tasks ahead, reflecting on something good, getting irritated about an event, wishing for something to happen, or just pointless daydreaming in your favourite chair.
For 30 days - effectively the month of September, I plan to represent one of these facets in a photograph. The photos may not necessarily have been taken that day, but they will capture something that is relevant to that particular day. This is no photographic exhibition so don't expect Testino type shots (at least not the ones taken by me!). Hopefully the snaps I show will still convey my message.

So here goes:
Mountain biking in the Surrey Hills, enjoying a breather at Ranmore Common. I am feeling almost as happy as I look in the photo now that I have got the write-up for it off my guilt pile! This was for a piece I am writing for SportSister website, and I had meant to send it earlier. I am glad to have finished it finally! Thanks to the lovely Aodan for the photo.