Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anxious for spring - cycling the Tissington Trail

We kept busy this weekend, encouraged by the sun and relative warmth.  Last November, I acquired a pair of bicycles from a fellow colleague secondee who was on her way back to the US.  All things considered, they're in decent shape - she bought them used for about 25 pounds each on the UK's equivalent of Craigslist, and stored them outdoors with no protection from rain.  I've been storing them in the bungalow's garage all winter with a mind to fix them up, but never actually doing it - until this weekend.

Cruisin' along the Derbyshire hills on a sunny, clear day

I enjoy recreational cycling - maximum return for a minimum investment.  While it's common to see daily commuter cyclists here, I can't afford the gear required to ride in traffic safely and handle the various weather elements.  Oh, and my employer provides a car for me to use...  

These cycles were free to me, and included an allen wrench set and a lock.  My only expense was a small tyre pump.  The chains were in good order with little rust, but I found an air leak in one tyre which was traced to a punctured inner tube due to a gash in the brittle tyre.  That's what happens when a bike sits flat on its rims too long outside I guess.  So, I headed back to the store to pick up a new tyre and inner tube, in addition to some snacks for the trail.  A bit of extra time was spent realigning the brakes and figuring out how to fit the bikes in the hatchback Ford Focus, and we were on our way.

Job done.  I found some old tools from the previous resident, our landlord's father (I used his binoculars last week).  He's long dead, but I like to think he'd be happy his old stuff is still going to good use.
We drove about 20 miles to Ashbourne on the edge of the Peaks district, parked for free on the side of the road, walked about a 1/4-mile to the trailhead with our bikes, and hopped on the Tissington trail heading north, following the blue line along the A515.  We walked our bikes on the sidewalk instead of riding in traffic since we had no safety gear.

The trail goes further north but we turned around in Alsop.  Fun town names, eh?

The trail was an old railroad so the gradient and terrain were easy, and the sweeping views over the rolling green dales were stupendous.  The trail runs 13 miles one way, but we turned around after 7 as the sun was getting low and the wind was picking up.

Found the trailhead!  Usually the hardest part.

Bike is a bit small for me, but the sun was feeling good on my bald head, so I didn't care too much.

The sweeping views over the rolling green dales around Alsop.

Our picnic consisted of cheese, fruit, bread and butter, salami, and Scotch eggs

Even got to ride through an old train tunnel.  I've dropped the camera numerous times, so sometimes the shutter won't open all the way *sigh*.  I probably shouldn't be trying to ride and shoot. 
After our 14 mile trek we stopped in an Ashbourne pub for a refresher - cowhide chairs near the fire to warm up

The return trip was much colder.  There's a very slight gradient to the trail, hardly noticeable, but it forces you to pedal more, keeping your heart rate up and even breaking a bit of a sweat.  The return journey was nearly coasting the entire way, pedaling only occasionally, The cold really got to us here - my hands and toes were numb by the time we made it back to town. 

Sunday was equally as fun, as we finally got to attend the snatch clinic at CrossFit Nottingham.  This was the one that had been rescheduled from January due to snow and ice.  The clinic was hosted by British Weightlifting coaches Cyril Martin and Dave Sawyer, with their outstanding young athlete Chris Freebury.

Here Chris is demonstrating a 2x95kg (210 lb) snatch,  That's 40% over his bodyweight.  He doesn't go to a full finish position since he's using straps to save his grip - he was demonstrating for multiple sessions today.

Both Kerry and I got some great feedback on our technique, and learned some excellent pointers to help us improve.  Kerry is still not back to 100% with her ankle, but was able to work her form with some lightweight bars.  I worked up to 85 kg, but stopped there to focus on some technique improvements I learned.  The biggest takeaway of the day is to work on my shoulder mobility to improve my catching position.  I tend to ditch the weight forward like this because I can't keep my chest up:

My goal is to hit this weight in the next 5 months

After poking some fun at us Yanks, Dave, Chris, and Cyril were nice enough to let us get a picture with them.

One other interesting thing to note is related to currency.  Since 2012 ended, the value of the Pound Sterling is down about 6% relative to the US dollar.  It's a 3 year low because of some underperforming economic predictions and a boatload of politics.  

2013 has not been great so far for the Pound Sterling.
It's a temporary dip most likely, but since I'm paid in $ and use an American credit card with no foreign transaction fees, it means that everything is temporarily 6% cheaper here.  So we decided to go out to dinner on Saturday night, and I splurged on something that I've been missing something terrible over the last 7 months:  a grill.

My new BBQ and some lump charcoal - where's the meat?

I can't wait!  I picked up some steaks (also a splurge) and have them ready to go for tomorrow night.  Also, Kerry commented how the B&Q home store felt familiar.  This place is very similar in size and layout to a Home Depot or Lowe's back in the states.   The visit here made me miss my house - for all the trips I used to make to one for the various home improvement projects I've undertaken before we moved.

A fun weekend, all said, and the outlook is for some more great times coming soon!