Category Archives: general

resetting expectations

Almost two weeks ago I wrote about how my motivation had slumped and how I was feeling lethargic and unwilling to get out and about. Having written that I had a bit of a lift. I think it was cathartic recognising and expressing how I was feeling. Later that week the weather also started to improve again getting warmer and a bit more settled. I decided to give the 30 Days of Biking Challenge a go as a way to change things up and maybe give me a cycling boost. I started well with 4 days done but then hit a mental wall again. This wasn’t helped by plummeting weather conditions and a return to very wintery weather. After a taste of Spring it feels like we’ve been catapulted back to the end of January!

On Easter Monday the forecast was for a wet and windy week with snow and hail showers also expected and I lost all interest in the 30 Days Challenge. In fact I pretty much lost interest in cycling for the whole week!

❄ 3″ of snow on my car tuesday morning! ❄

Since then I’ve spent some time taking stock. For the last two weeks I’d been getting progressively tired and fed up. I’d also started to develop pains in my knees and legs. Something was going wrong and needed to change. A number of the supportive comments on that last post mentioned Covid and/or overdoing it. Dpedece’s comment in particular stood out for me:

However, it seems to me that needing to take the lazy option means that something inside–mind? spirit?–needs healing. The lazy option allows the opportunity for that to heal.

I’ve been back at work now for 5 weeks and it’s been a big change. I’m in work from 9:30am to 6pm with a 45min lunch break. Apart from lunch I’m mostly stood in the one spot as, with lockdown, most sales and queries are coming via the phone. It’s pretty full on with the phone almost constantly ringing and possibly juggling 3/4 queries at once. It requires constant focus and concentration to ensure nothing gets missed or messed up while still maximising sales. That’s tiring both mentally and physically.

During my time off at the start of lockdown I steadily built up my activity and consequently my fitness. I was determined not to lose this by returning to work. I was also following Intermittent Fasting to try and get to my ideal weight. The table below shows my weekly activity plan going back to work.

Retrospectively now it’s a bit much and combined with work it was way too much! Additionally my sleeping pattern has been bad. To get an activity in before work I was getting up at 6:30am (away to work at 8:30am, home at 7pm) but most nights not settling down until at least 11:30pm or even midnight. No wonder I was feeling burnt out, I was and as dpedece said my spirit needed healing.

I’ve really dialled it back since Monday. The weather has stopped me cycling so I’ve just been walking and only once a day. Most days I’ve been able to have a lie in and I’ve been making a better effort to get to sleep by 11pm. I’ve completely given up on fasting by eating a small breakfast. At work I’m making an effort to reduce stress by not feeling that I have to answer every single call and dealing properly with queries before moving on to the next.

All of this has helped a lot. I’m feeling a good bit better and the pains are going from my legs. Mentally I feel a lot less wrung out and depending on the weather tomorrow I may even get out for a spin on the bike. Some of our restrictions are being eased and we are permitted to travel anywhere within our county boundary. It will be refreshing to be able to ride different routes and areas I haven’t ridden since October/November. Hopefully the customers I meet through work will also be in better form and more positive and thereby easier to deal with. There’s a rumour that winter may be retreating again later this week which will give everyone an extra boost 🤞

Header image by Castorly Stock from Pexels

a week of meh!

I finished last week on a pretty positive note with a really enjoyable 80km spin. Monday I started the week according to plan with a short walk and kettlebell session but wasn’t in the mood for a walk after work. Instead I took a lazy night sitting chatting with Catriona. Tuesday I was up and out for my short pre work 25km spin as usual and felt good. That evening after dinner I did go out for a walk and pushed myself to complete the 6km route to make up for Monday evening.

It all went down hill from then. I had an important household maintenance job to complete Wednesday morning but the plan was to cycle late morning/early afternoon depending on the weather conditions. Whatever happened overnight though I just couldn’t be arsed. No matter how I tried I just couldn’t get motivated for any kind of decent activity. In the afternoon I eventually talked myself into going to Monellan for a wander off the trails and through the trees. I did really enjoy that, bushwacking along the length of the river and exploring the wooded areas for possible camp spots. I also found a massive den, possibly badger but more likely fox that I intend to go back to.

The rest of the week was worse. The weather turned quite wet and windy on Wednesday afternoon and stayed that way for the rest of the week, even turning very wintry on Friday with snow and hail. This gave me all the reasons in the world to take the foot off the pedal and just drift through the end of the week.

I was able to get through the working day having found a system of dealing with the volume of phonecalls and messages without getting stressed but outside of that I had zero interest. I managed to push myself enough to keep my daily walking streak going but it was the bare minium of 2-3km just once each day with no cycling since Tuesday and no further kettlebell sessions. Somehow I clocked up a reasonable 24km walking for the week which surprised me!

© garmin connect

I also decided during the week that Intermittent Fasting wasn’t working for me, that I was too active for my calorific intake and that I wasn’t at my most productive during the morning at work. All this is correct but it gave me the excuse to eat very poorly for most of the week. I’ve been tired and out of sorts since Wednesday, feeling a bit rundown and at least some of that is probably due to diet and a bad sleeping pattern. It’s been another great excuse for taking the lazy option.

From Tuesday the weather is set to improve again and I’m hoping that the time shift to Summer Time last night and the resulting longer evenings will help me break out of this funk and get back on track. The plan is to restart the week tomorrow morning with the usual kettlebells and see how it goes.

february 2021 review

  • a full month of lockdown v3.0
  • lots of walking especially in the first half of the month: 201.5km in 31 activities with at least one walk every day
  • my longest walk was 21.72km, just over the half marathon distance
  • lots of cycling especially towards the end of the month: 568km in 11 activities
  • cycled 5 days in a row to end the month including my longest ride of 101.6km on the last day
  • restarted intermittent fasting and dropped approximately 2kg
  • a mixed up month of multiple storms and long cold, dry spells including signs of an early spring
  • homeschooling continued for two seriously fed up teenagers
  • got the call from work with a restarting date
  • almost a fortnight of amazing sunsets

february in photos

new vocabulary

Two phrases that have probably been around for years but I’ve only heard them for the first time in the last week or so.

graupel

Heard this on “Dermot and Dave” on TodayFM during an interview with Carlow Weather. We had it a few times during the very cold days during the first part of last week.

small particles of snow with a fragile crust of ice; soft hail.

Irish Central

type II fun

I came across this in a Bikepacking.com article. Although it’s a new phrase for me it’s definitely one I’ve experienced before!

Type 2 fun is miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect. It usually begins with the best intentions, and then things get carried away. Riding your bicycle across the country. Doing an ultramarathon. Working out till you puke, and, usually, ice and alpine climbing. Also surely familiar to mothers, at least during childbirth and the dreaded teenage years.

REI.com

Header image by Snapwire from Pexels

memories

On yesterday’s bike ride I went through the small village of Ardstraw, Co. Tyrone. I was last here in 1995 when I bought my one and only motorbike from George Millar Motorcycles. Sadly the man himself died just over 2 years ago and the business is now closed up.

The motorbike was a small 100cc Kawasaki trail style road legal bike similar to this one:

That bike allowed me to start my first proper job after leaving college. It was with the Forest Service of Northern Ireland, based in Ballymena taking data measurements and foliage samples from research plots. The plots were spread out through a number of forest sites so I had to have my own transport. I’d already failed my driving test once but I could drive a motorbike on an L plate.

I have a number of great memories from that bike.

  • Trying to teach myself how to drive it with zero experience, doing an accidental wheelie up the side of Mum and Dad’s and throwing myself off by flipping the bike! My first road rash.
  • Driving it to Ballymena for the first time, going over Glenshane Pass flat out at 30mph in February and damn near freezing myself to death.
  • Driving it in the mountains of Antrim in the snow and sliding it all over the roads like a dirt star.
  • Travelling home to Donegal from Ballymena in the middle of the Garvaghy Road protests when lots of Protestant villages were barricaded and closed off across Northern Ireland. I picked my way using the Nationalist and Unionist flags to work out where it was safe to take my Donegal reg bike.
  • Spending my lunch breaks tearing round the forest tracks like a madman and thinking I was cool as fuck.

I spent the rest of the ride reminiscing what it was like to be 22 again and feeling indestructible. Nice memories.

Header image: logo for “Sons of Anarchy” from FX.

lockdown ireland v2.0

Since the middle of October Donegal has been on partial Level 4 lockdown but for just over a week now the entire country has been on the highest Level 5 which is a virtual nationwide lockdown.

There are some differences this time compared to the first lockdown earlier this year.

Schools are open. Despite misgivings the government seem to have drawn a line in the sand regarding schools and have said that they will be open no matter what. The scientific evidence from many countries seems to be that children don’t catch or spread the virus to the same extent as adults and that the risk to health is outweighed by the benefits of uninterrupted education.

We’re happy for our boys to be at school. They need their education and homeschooling doesn’t have the same impact. Regular routine and socialising with friends is also having a huge positive mental health impact on them too.

Sport is still on. At an elite level only and with detailed Covid protocols in place. Elite level is considered to be all professional sports plus GAA. The League and Championship are continuing but in a modified fashion.

Group training isn’t permitted at amateur level but is still allowed for under age in pods of 15 and on a non-contact basis. Unfortunately, both our Clubs stopped all activities in advance of lockdown due to a local outbreak and have decided not to resume again until the new season which means both boys have no activities outside of school.

Essential retail continues. The list of essential retailers is much broader and more open to interpretation than before. Many businesses have decided to stay open as normal, with slight changes or on a click and collect basis. This means that many people are still working and definitely a lot more than the first lockdown.

I’m still working. My work is one of the businesses that has decided to stay open. They figure we qualify as essential based on a number of the items on the list but mainly on this one:

Outlets selling products necessary for the essential upkeep and functioning of places of residence and businesses, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.

It’s a very grey area but so far the Gardai are happy enough for us to stay open. They’re no more certain than us but are happy to err on the positive side for now.

Work is different though. It’s quieter for one. With travel restrictions footfall is definitely well down. Sales are staying strong as most people coming in are there to buy and the phones are very busy. We’re getting a lot of panicky phone calls, people worried about receiving the products they have ordered and especially upset and demanding when there are delays. We’re getting new orders over the phone too though.

It’s November! Lockdown from March-May was made a lot easier due to the long, bright days with long periods of warm, dry weather. November is different in all ways and the last two weeks have been especially wet and stormy. Combined with the end of DST it’s creating a very different mental health challenge for anyone off work due to Covid closures.

Travel restrictions. In full lockdown we weren’t allowed to travel more than 2km from home unless it was for an essential task (food shopping, care for a relative, etc). This time it’s 5km which is the same as one of the earlier levels as we exited lockdown.

This restriction is pretty pointless to be honest. It’s completely arbitrary with no scientific basis and completely messes up any cycling plans if you intend to honour it. Last time many people ignored this restriction and my impression is that it will be broadly ignored this time also. The 20km limit from before would have been more appropriate and more widely accepted. An unenforceable and impractical restriction like this makes it more likely that the more important isolation and distancing restrictions will be ignored also.

The Audax Ireland RRTY Challenge has been suspended once again until Level 5 is lifted. Probably just as well as my activity level has declined significantly over the last few weeks, partly due to the terrible weather but also laziness!

People are pissed off. This to me is the biggest change. Earlier in the year people were frightened but mostly willing to trust the government to make the right choices and bring everyone through the crisis together. This time people are angry. The overall feeling is that lockdown didn’t work and that the time since lockdown hasn’t been used properly to prepare for the expected second wave. All the pain people went through and the financial costs have been pointless if we’re simply expected to go through it all again and possibly once again in the future. Businesses are closing and many are worried about being able to reopen. People are being laid off and are worried about ever getting back to work.

The political climate has changed. Between lockdowns we’ve had a change of government. We have a new Taoiseach and an historic coalition government. However, the new government has been beset with problems from the get go and hasn’t handled them particularly well. We have a changed opposition that seems less inclined to provide support to the government than before and more interested in political posturing without any positive moves. All of this is hampering the Covid message, making it less likely that restrictions will be followed and making more people angry with the situation.

The expectation is that we will exit Level 5 restrictions on the 1st of December and possibly before that as there is a planned review after four weeks. The government plan is that all counties will return to Level 3 in time to have a reasonably normal Christmas. Somehow I don’t see it but I really hope I’m proved wrong!

blogiversary

One year ago yesterday I created this blog and made my first post. In the year since I’ve written a total of 114 posts consisting of 41,430 words.

As that first post states I started this blog for myself. I use it as a place to empty my brain and I like the feeling of writing about what I’m doing and experiencing. However, some people also seem to like what I have to say!

I have a total of 60 followers who get updated when I post, I’ve had 834 visitors, 412 post likes and 63 comments from readers. It amazes me that anyone can be interested in what I’m writing but I have to admit it also feels pretty good.

I’ve followed a small number of blogs for a few years now. Secondrate Cyclist, The Viscous Cycle and Tempo Cyclist are the three I’ve followed for the longest but over the last year I’ve also discovered a few others that I find consistently interesting. A Dude Abikes, Biking to Work, Kieran’s Bullshit Humour, View from the Back and Today’s Perfect Moment would be my favourites.

Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to visit, read, like and comment on my posts but thank you also to all the authors of the many blogs I’ve discovered and enjoyed.

Header image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

we’re on the one road….

We’re on the one road
Sharing the one load
We’re on the road to God knows where
We’re on the one road
It may be the wrong road
But we’re together now who cares
North men, South men, comrades all
Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal
We’re on the one road swinging along
Singing a soldier’s song

We’re on the One Road

The Wolfe Tones

On Friday evening the Taoiseach made another rare/now regular statement to the country live on TV. This statement was expected as the current lockdown restrictions are due to expire tomorrow Monday 4th of May and we’ve been promised both an update regarding restrictions and a roadmap for lifting them. We got both.

Following this statement we have also been provided with the detailed government document outlining the full “Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business“. It’s a fairly hefty document that can be downloaded and read in full here (pdf). Thankfully RTE News have provided a decent summary.

Essentially lockdown will continue for approximately 2 more weeks before Phase 1 of the roadmap begins on Monday May 18th.

As people have been getting restless with the restrictions of lockdown we’ve been given two small relaxations as a combined reward and motivation to keep going. These start on Tuesday 5th of May.

  • Over 70s and those particularly vulnerable to Covid19 who have been cocooning are now permitted to leave their house for brief exercise so long as they don’t come in contact with others.
  • Instead of being limited to exercising within 2km of our home we are now permitted to go to 5km.

It’s the second point that will have the most effect on me. It doesn’t seem like a big distance but as with the original 2km limit it covers a surprisingly large area. It allows me to take in both sides of the River Finn and takes me over the border into Northern Ireland. Technically this gives me unlimited mileage as there are no distance restrictions in Northern Ireland, as they are operating under UK restrictions, but I don’t think I’ll be going too far from home. Castlederg is a possibility but no further as I’m wary of getting into difficulties and taking up important medical/emergency resources that are needed elsewhere.

image from 5kmfromhome

The other major impact on our household is my potential return to work. The televised statement suggested this would be Phase 2 (8th June) as the Taoiseach announced outdoor retail and activities only for Phase 1 (18th May). However, the detailed document and summary state the following:

My work would fall under the category of “homeware” but another section of the document outlines the return to work strategy as follows:

While the lockdown has been creating a financial strain and has been difficult to live with, returning to work on the 18th of May feels very quick. I’m concerned that an awful lot of retail businesses will be reopening for what is supposed to be Phase 1 of recovery. This will result in a lot of people back on the move for work and bringing shoppers back out. I’d expect this to be quite a rush as people are given their first taste of freedom. It makes me uncomfortable and despite the positives of a return to work I’m hoping it gets delayed until Phase 2.

So far I’ve heard nothing from work so I’d say they may be unsure also. In addition two weeks is a long time in the current climate and lots could change if the medical improvements slow down or take a turn for the worse. In the meantime I need to stop prevaricating with the remaining DIY jobs I’ve agreed to do, I no longer have unlimited time to complete them!

i’m a lumberjack and i’m okay

Day 1 Switzerland began with a lie in and eventually a chatty morning followed by some relaxing in the sun. There’s not much more strange than sitting in deck chairs, surrounded by feet deep snow and basking in warm sunshine. Nothing much more enjoyable either!

basking
back yard view
pierre making steps to enable the job of the day

Once our solar panels were sufficiently charged began the real work. Pierre had already cut some steps in the deep snow above his house to give us access to the small stand of trees over the ridge and the two fallen trees that were to provide fire wood. An hour’s work provided 4 large logs cut and transported down the hill to the house.

The afternoon was a 4.5km walk along the road into Finhaut. Surprisingly warm and sunny and very picturesque with beer at the end and the main aim of the day.