Monday, 23 September 2013

My second triathlon - Highworth

Again, my triathlon preparation has not been perfect and I keep getting a recurring calf strain whenever I run very far in training.  But regardless of this I have turned out again for my second event - the 2013 Highworth triathlon.

It was a slightly damp and chilly morning as we all assembled around 730 onwards.  I was number 24 and set off at 8:30.  I am one of the few wearing regular swimming trunks - I really should buy myself a tri-suit.  My transition to the bike is so much slower than everyone else's.

I rather enjoyed the bike ride - a 22 km circuit of some local villages.  I passed half a dozen riders and was passed by 2.  I was slightly concerned throughout that putting in too much effort might affect my calf and stop me completing the run.  I could have gone quite a lot faster.

The run is round part of a local golf course and featured a really difficult uphill slog at the end of each of the three laps.  This was really difficult first time round but then got easier the next two times.  And my calf, though slightly sore, does not give out.

My time was 1 hour 35,20 - about 9 minutes inside my time for last time, though the bike ride was a little longer.  My next target will be to get a time around 1 hr 25 mins.  I beat about 25 others and probably came about 110th overall. 

A very enjoyable way to spend a Sunday morning!

Another project in France?

The initial thoughts on the farmhouse I saw in France have been positive.  If we bought it now, we would settle the transaction around January-February, spend the summer planning the refurbishment, then we would aim to spend a year in France from the autumn of 2014, having rented out our UK property for that period of absence.  This is an extremely radical idea about our future but working through this plan in detail seems to show that it is a very robust plan, and it appears to have a number of features that are considerably better than the original plan, which was to try to buy something else next autumn.

But this new plan also relies on the fact that this particular property was quite a lot cheaper than the other renovation projects that we have looked at.  We could be cash buyers for this property, which would considerably improve our chances of doing the deal as well.

Looking at the property in detail, the initial job would be to refurbish the farmhouse itself ready or the rental season in 2015.  The main structural work would be to knock through the wall between the landing and the large grenier and so create two new large bedrooms.  The downstairs bathroom would have to be stripped out and re-done completely and probably one of the rooms upstairs would become a second bathroom.  The two narrow bedrooms downstairs would have their dividing wall removed to make one larger room.  This would leave the farmhouse as a four-bedroom, two bathroom property. Then the entire house would have to be redecorated - in fact there would be barely a single feature that would remain untouched (though the wood floors and beamed ceiling are fine as they are.

Structurally, this is less work than our current property, though the decoration work is far higher.  It looks like a ideal project if the two of us are going to be there.

The barn conversions are much more complex.  I really need to see some more examples of finished gite complexes so I can get a better understanding of what work had to be done in these cases.  We do have some other resources for this though, for instance, a very-detailed book on complex renovations which has loads of checklists to work through.  Loads of thought needs to be put into this part of the project prior to us going ahead with it I think.

But I am going to try and see it again in a week or so's time when I am doing a wood flooring and furniture delivery to our current property.  Hopefully I will have a proper working plan for that visit and can accumulate a load more info.  Then Wife and I will try and see it again two weeks after that and make our decision then.

Barns in the distance, 30 vines in the foreground - a major challenge!

Addendum - some day's later

Bogged down in other discussions, I suspect that the initial momentum behind this project is slowly seeping away.  Though it appear to fit the bill, it might require too much thought now.  I may still go and see it again, if only to work through the detailed questions I have so far thought of - maybe for next time.

A few days in France

A quick trip down to France for a short visit - down on the overnight ferry on Sunday night, back on the ferry Friday night.  Daughter has come with me as she fancies a few quiet days away. 

It is quite autumnal now with rain expected for most of the week.  Arriving at the house for the first time since md-July, I was surprised by the tall, daisy-like flowers that currently dominate the front garden.  Grant and a workmate were there when we arrived, so we could have a quick catch up on the most recent work being done, and what might be done by the time of Wife and my visit for two weeks at the end of October.

Late afternoon, I had a quick walk up the road to see Oscar the donkey (who I forgot to buy carrots for at the supermarket earlier) and to see how the vines were doing, as it is close to harvest time now.

Work on Petits Chats has continued at a good pace.  The partitioning walls are now up and are being plastered, the electrical work is continuing well, etc.  The hope is that two of the rooms upstairs will be ready for decorating in October.

I have brought down some samples of the wood flooring we intend to use.  They look pretty good against the stone walls (see above).  And the corridor has been put into the end bedroom (which is now smaller)

The largest of the new rooms has an alcove at the end which could be perfect for the large armoire we have (unless it is too tall).  I have another trip down in two weeks time when I am bringing furniture, so we'll see then.

The rooms do look good, with the stone and the wood beams highlighted

The view below is from just in front of the bathroom upstairs and looks back towards the "Asian" room in the far distance, showing the two main bedrooms with their new walls


My own work over these few days is focused on the main bedroom in Cadran, where I have removed most of the wallpaper and done some test paints.  This will be one of our main jobs in October.

Later in the week, I went to visit a Gite complex for sale near St Jean.  This consisted of a three bedroom house and three gites that had been converted out of barns.  Our proposed next purchase could be a renovation project that would ultimately be like this.  The place I saw had been finished to an exceptional standard and I was most impressed.

The next day, I went to visit a really dilapidated farmhouse and barns about 5 miles form our existing house.  This is extremely cheap and could be exactly what our second project could consist of.  But the thought needed to really think through a decision like this is very high and I don't know if it is worth thinking about now.  Still it is what I thought about as we drove home on the Friday.

So an interesting trip with lots of food for thought.  Daughter seemed to have a nice time - she did some work for her fast-approaching return to University, did lots of exercise, ate and slept well . . . So not a bad trip at all.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My next triathlon!

I have signed up for my second triathlon, taking place just three weeks after my first.  This one is in Highworth, where we cycled to in my first one.  I am intending that my training be much better this time  I am going to the swimming pool each morning at 6:30 and doing an hour or so.  Much of this is still based around learning to swim front crawl.  Indeed I am now doing alternate lengths of breast stroke then front crawl, so progress continues.

Then at some point in the morning, I am doing a second event.  Yesterday I rode 40km in about 80 minutes.  Today is was a 5 km run.  The run is still a bit of a problem as I still have some muscle pain in my left calf which comes on at about the 3 km point.  I had been resting the calf for the last few days, but the pain occurred again today.

I am off to France for a few days on Sunday and will be swimming and running there, with a view of finishing training on Thursday before the event on the following Sunday.  The website for the event has posted the cycle and run routes plus loads of other information.  My target time is 1 hour 40 this time, but it depends on how hilly the cycle ride is and whether my calf holds out on the run 

Then I shall be moving into just winter training until maybe my first event of 2014 around March.

I am even thinking of getting a new bike next spring (I could take my current one to France maybe, as it would be great to ride there)

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Learning to swim front crawl properly

My fitness goal for the next 12 months is to do an Olympic-length triathlon with an outdoor swim , where I do the entire swim using front crawl.  But one obstacle to this is that I can't actually swim front crawl.  I learnt to swim at a swimming club when I was about seven, but just as I was about to move onto learning front crawl, the swimming club's evening switched and it clashed with cubs.  The choice was clear - cubs it was!

(In fact I rather enjoyed cubs and scouts.  I played football for my troop, went camping every year where I once got hit on the head with a horseshoe, performed in 3 Gang shows including several solo and duet pieces, once hit the troop flag on a clock in a church . . . . )

For the moment I have been trying to teach myself crawl by watching videos on Youtube and practicing what I've seen as part of my morning swim at Faringdon.  I swim part of a length in my usual breast stroke and then finish the length in front crawl.  Progress has been slow but there has definitely been progress.  My main issue has been that I'm taking on water into my mouth at some point in my stroke and that this is throwing out my breathing.  I am also very unbalanced in the water

One big leap forward was when I tried to really slow the stroke down.  This produced an immediate improvement in my balance.  Next, I realised that I wasn't rotating properly to my left side and this was both affecting my left arm movement and was slowing down my rotation towards taking a breath to my right.  Maybe I should breath every three strokes (i.e. alternate side).  Some people in the pool's fast lane do that.  But for the moment, I am sticking to right-sided breath every two strokes. 

So I am constantly critiquing my efforts, trying little changes, and gradually I have been improving.  First I could do just 4 or 6 strokes before I come spluttering to the surface, then 8 to 10.  Gradually getting things better each day.

Finally, today there was an important milestone passed as I managed to swim one complete length of the pool (25m) without any breathing issues or balance issues, or taking on water.  True I did struggle to do a second length, but nonetheless, this is definitely progress. 

I can now swim 1/32nd of the required distance using front crawl.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Katie Jane Garside

Some years ago I had the pleasure of seeing Queen Adreena play a show - I think it was at the Zodiac in Oxford.  I have been a great fan of Katie Jane Garside's work since the far-off days of Daisy Chainsaw.  Recent listening has included the truly-great DC Peel session (1988?) and the Queen Adreena live at the ICA album. 

Most recently, I have been listening to her work in Ruby Throat.  She really is the most singular talent!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Procrastination - reading old press cuttings

This week is supposed to be about completing a long to-do list of things, but having written down the detailed list, I am struggling to tick them off.  One or two things get done each day, then I rather stop. 

In these large gaps, I have been reading some old press cuttings.  At the end of my desk, there is a pile of everything that I have cut out of papers in the last year or two.  My current reading is a batch of articles linked to the Swedish-Danish series, The Bridge.  Lots of articles about women with Asperger's.

I am also listening to Gideon Coe's Shedcast radio show.  Just after the half way point in the show, he has played Artery's Into the garden, a song I remember well from years ago on John Peel, where he described it as one of the most erotic songs he had ever heard, though he didn't know what he meant by that.

We are considering watching the US version of The Bridge - I am in two minds.  I would prefer to see the original again instead.

Monday, 2 September 2013

My first triathlon

Back from Italy just in time to compete in my first ever triathlon!

I found out about the Faringdon triathlon this time last year when it was using the pool on a day I had intended to swim.  This time last year I was still recovering from the knee problem I'd had all summer, so to compete in the 2013 event became my fitness goal.  I also felt it would be a good challenge on passing 50 years old earlier this year.

So off out of the house before 7:00 for registration.  I had little or no idea what was going on when I arrive and didn't have a clue what I was supposed to do with the transponder they gave me when I registered but things gradually began to come together, especially once I got talking to the guy next to me in the transition area who was doing his third event and was 7 years older than me.

And I have to say, it was actually really exciting getting ready with everyone.  There were clearly some very serious triathletes there, with some very expensive bikes and excellent other kit.  But then again, there were some very overweight people who planned to ride mountain bikes.  I was struck by how friendly it all was.  Probably 90% of the people there were there just to finish or were racing their own best times. 

So I was in the second block of 16 swimmers, setting off about 20 minutes after the first group.  I had thought this part would be very easy but I felt slightly intimidated by the speed of the people who set off with me and I went too fast at the start.  But once in a decent rhythm it was ok. 

The bike ride turned out to be much tougher than I had expected with a really hilly route down to Highworth that had three decent sized hills on it.  Coming back, the third hill was absolute murder, with some riders pushing their bikes up it.  I did pass quite a few people though during the ride (and was passed by one)  But once over this, I actually felt quite good as I finished the ride.

The first bit of the run was very poor, as the familiar "jelly legged" post cycling feeling occurred.  But things gradually improved as the run continued, until the last kilometre or so when I started to get cramp in my left calf.  I slowed down quite a lot in the last bit, though I did raise my pace as I came to the finish line.  I don't thnk I've ever been cheered by a crowd at a finish line before.

My time?  1 hour 44 minutes exactly.  11 mins for the swim, 50 mins for the bike ride, 40 mins for the run and 3 mins in transition.  Probably the run was the most disappointing as I had hoped to be sub-35 mins for that. 

So from here I am keen to do another one over the winter somewhere and then try and do the next distance up next year.

A really excellent event - really well organised by the gym