Tag Archives: winter

metric challenge 2021: january

The way January has developed I was starting to think I’d never get this ride done and that one of my main goals for 2021 was going to fall flat in the first month! I lost a lot of time due to Covid, 10 days isolation plus recovery afterwards ate up about half the month. Then we got snow and I lost at least another week for cycling. I was able to keep walking though so did build and retain some fitness.

For the last few days I’ve been watching the weather forecast pretty closely. The prediction was for it to get a lot milder Wednesday before another band of heavy rain moved in Thursday. I was hoping for a quick thaw to open up the roads again and let me out on the road bike. In the end up the thaw started Tuesday afternoon with most of the snow gone by evening and completely gone by Wednesday morning.

Then the weather gods played the joker! Fog! Clear, mild conditions combined with an almost total lack of wind and high humidity meant that the Finn Valley was shrouded in thick fog all morning and into early afternoon. By the time it cleared I’d lost interest and had become engrossed in my current book. Plus I was going to run out of daylight and I didn’t fancy finishing in the dark.

The forecast held out further hope with a window this morning into the late afternoon between the two bands of heavy rain. It was to be a bit breezier (18-24km/h) so fog was unlikely. All set to go ๐Ÿ‘

rain radar 6pm ยฉ met eireann

I’d already planned to do my “easy” route. It’s the 50km loop of the Finn Valley between Strabane and Ballybofey using both sides of the river. I also planned to stop at home at the halfway point, have something proper to eat and adapt my clothing if needed.

The weather turned out very mild. I had on thermal leggings over my shorts but could have gotten away with leg warmers instead. The skull cap went at 25km, I changed to a lighter base layer at lunch and also ditched the liner gloves.

The first half was OK but I really paid for my lack of cycling over the last two months and this month in particular. At 40km everything was hurting, shoulders, neck, lower back and ass. Some of it was lack of flexibility, some due to the effects of walking with a weighted backpack this week but to be honest most of it was due to a lack of saddle time. Up until today I only had 278km across 6 rides for the whole of December and January. My ride today pretty much doubled my January total. I was glad to see home at the halfway point and get some anti inflammatories into me as well as a bowl of soup and wheaten bread.

not bad for halfway

I was expecting the second half to be slower but it turned out slightly faster. Coming back from Castlefinn to Killygordon I felt great. There were impressive figures (for me!) showing on the Garmin and I was starting to think there was something in the soup! At the very least the wind had dropped. Turning in Ballybofey to come home on the final 10km I realised that the wind had changed direction slightly, I’d had a bit of a tailwind for the last 20km and I was now finishing into a headwind. The last 10km was tough. Mentally I’d had enough and I was physically tired. The big effort from Castlefinn was now biting back. For the first time ever I thought I wasn’t going to make it up the final hill to home!

done โœ…

The roads have been very dirty since October but they were really bad today and I was glad I made the last minute decision to stick on the rear mudguard. The surface has also deteriorated a lot over the winter and especially with the recent ice and snow. There were random patches of grit on the hillier bits as households had dealt with the snow and lots of gravel washed off side roads in the heavy overnight rain. It didn’t make things any easier.

a front mudguard might have helped too ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Header image ยฉย Strava. 100KM Gran Fondo January 2021.

snow makes everything better

Turns out yesterday’s snow was just an indication of what was to come with heavy snow showers overnight resulting in a beautiful covering of snow for a bright and sunny morning.

I’d planned to walk the usual 4.5km before breakfast but was enjoying it so much I kept going for the longer 6km walk.

Lots of photos below but I could have taken hundreds. After yesterday’s mishaps I was particularly scundered* last night but this beautiful fresh landscape had changed everything this morning โ˜ƒโ˜€

hungry neighbours ๐Ÿฎ
flying dog
really fancy an iced donut now ๐Ÿฉ

*scundered (scunnered in Scotland): one of the best emotion descriptive words I know, just one of the things we do particularly well in Ireland.

not the day i had planned…

The weather overnight was down to freezing and below and with the forecast giving 2/3ยฐC plus sleet/snow showers it definitely wasn’t going to be a day for the road bike. Using Strava’s suggested route function last night I had a decent couple of hours on the MTB planned for late morning/early afternoon.

click the image to view on strava

I haven’t ridden this route before but I know all the sections having ridden them all on previous MTB or road spins. It’s uphill from the get go on minor roads from the house, into the forest for a few km before a mixture of forest and minor roads back home.

Heading into the first section of forest trails the gate was open and it was soon obvious why. The trail was a mess of half frozen mud churned to bits by digger works clearing the drains. At the top junction I was relieved to branch off onto an older trail that brought me back out on to a short section of road. The exit gate was closed but I was able to squeeze out the side where walkers had worn a rough path over a few rocks. Being lazy I tried to do this without completely dismounting, hit a big rock too slowly and managed a slow motion fall to the side on to the rough track. Thankfully not a bad fall and I managed to keep my head off the floor but I’m going to have a lovely bruised thigh tomorrow!

The day had started off bright and very sunny but shortly after going into the next section of forest it dulled down and the sleet showers started. This soon turned to snow which was strangely invigorating to ride in. There’s something exhilarating about doing something that most people wouldn’t even consider and riding a bike in a snow shower is definitely one of them.

Shortly after stopping for these photos I was back on to the roads. The snow was getting steadily heavier and less comfortable all the time. In the space of approximately 1km I went from this:

to this:

At this stage I decided the fun was rapidly going out of the day and with a lot more climbing and high ground to cover I decided to turn for home at just over 12km.

Just over 2km later and the day turned to shit completely. I started to notice that telltale bounce in my rear tyre and no matter how much you wish it away, it’s obvious there’s a puncture. It felt like a slow puncture and with two CO2 cannisters in my bag I figured I had an opportunity to get most of the way home at least without having to change the tube. I didn’t figure in a faulty CO2 pump ๐Ÿ™ˆ

Neither of the two cannisters would open and it appears that the pin that pierces the seal is broken or missing. Without a manual pump I was snookered and Hike a Bike was my only option.

Just over 1km later I had worked out that I had a minimum of 8km to walk home and as I was already getting cold this was a non-starter. I was just about able to get mobile network and got through to my Dad who was at home and able to come get me. Fifteen cold and miserable minutes later he picked me up along the side of the road having walked almost 3km in total. MTB shoes are no fun for walking in and my gloves turned out to be a bad choice for today so I was delighted to get out of the weather and into his warm car for the short drive home. Shower plus warm food and all was well again.

Next bike purchase looks like a new CO2 pump and a new tyre. That’s a series of punctures in the same tyre now and I can’t work out why.

click image to view on strava

walking with a camera

It’s very cold, frosty and icy here today. I couldn’t get enough motivation to go out on the bike. The road bike was a non starter and the MTB seemed too much like hard work!

The weather was bright and sunny though so I decided to head for the Five Crossroads forest with Rosie for a walk and to mess around with the “good” camera. I wanted to see if I could take better photos compared to using my phone camera.

We bought the camera approximately 6 years ago. It’s a Fujifilm Finepix S4800 and you can read a full review here. Essentially it’s a mid range camera with auto and manual features and a decent 30x zoom capability.

My phone is a Samsung A50 running Android v10 and it’s about 1 year old. Like the camera it’s also a mid range model with a decent camera and a full review can be found here.

Virtually all my photos are taken using the phone. The camera is bulky and delicate and requires planning and effort to have it with me and to get access to the photos afterwards. The phone is always on hand, photos are instantly accessible, backed up and easy to share. I decided to find out today if the extra effort is worth it.

These photos are samples of those taken using the camera.

The two below were taken using the phone.

A lot of the photos taken on the camera were blurry or over exposed due to the direct sunlight. Many of the long view shots were disappointing compared to what I could see. I was impressed by the close up shots and the zoomed ones though. The phone is obviously much better for the all important selfie shot and the software seemed better able to cope with the sun. The software also seems to add an extra warmth to the photos making them more appealing. I didn’t test the camera in low light but both the linked review above and my own experience confirm that the phone is poor in low light conditions.

My conclusion is that the phone will still be my go to option but the camera is worth the extra effort for family occasions, shots requiring zoom or close ups. If I was trained to use the camera properly I would probably get more use from it.

It was also a nice walk and close to the end I met my sister and husband out for a walk with their kids and dog. It was nice to see them as we’ve seen very little of each other due to various lockdowns and good to catch up.

Header image source: Wikimedia Commons.

the roof of donegal

Mt Errigal is the highest point of Co. Donegal. I’ve climbed it a number of times over the years. Last time was April 2019 with Jim, his grandson Veli and Conor.

summit photo

Before that we climbed it as a family on Easter Sunday 2018. This day also marked the 20th Anniversary of the day Catriona and I met for the first time.

a little cooler looking

This morning I started 2021 by climbing Errigal once again to witness the dawn of the new year.

2021

The idea for this started as a joke on Xmas Day when I told the boys we were going to camp out on Errigal to witness the dawn. I’d no intention of camping but the idea of a dawn hike was rattling around in my brain ever since. I kept an eye on the weather all week and it looked like it was going to work out.

The alarm woke me at 4:10am and after just one snooze and my first attempt to talk myself out of the idea I was dressed, fed and out the door shortly after 4:45am having tried to talk myself out of it for the second time!

Driving over to Letterkenny I suddenly remembered that the new lockdown restrictions that came into effect yesterday included a resumption of the 5km travel limit. At this stage I was committed and drove on hoping not to meet a checkpoint on the road.

Approaching Glenveagh Muckish was suddenly on the skyline, reasonably visible due to the almost clear sky and the bright moon, just one day from full. Along the road the remaining “Seven Sisters appeared with Errigal finally looming large with some clinging cloud and a topping of snow.

Arriving at the car park there was a car, a van and a motor home already parked up. A second and third car appeared within 5 minutes. As I was getting dressed a hiker appeared over the ridge and into the car park. He had some route advice and showed us a video of conditions at the top. He had started out at 3:30am and didn’t want to wait for dawn as it was so cold.

The other cars and the original van turned out to be a small group of online friends meeting for the hike. They were pretty fit looking so once they were ready, after everyone sheltered from a fairly heavy shower, I let them get a 5min head start to keep us apart on the hill. This was my third and final attempt to talk myself out of it!

The initial section of the hike is across wet bog and along the bank of a stream. It’s pretty difficult terrain at the best of times, particularly wet this morning and very tiring in the dark. Keeping an eye on the lights in front I was able to plot my route pretty successfully and reach the start of the scree without falling in a bog hole. Despite the compacted snow and patches of ice the firmer ground made for much easier walking and surprisingly I soon passed the first group.

Following the footsteps in the snow and the path faintly visible in the light of my head torch I made steady progress and soon reached the rest point just below the summit. This is a ring of stones approximately 4m wide and built up to a height of about 1m. Just enough to provide shelter from the wind. Just as I arrived another heavy shower of snow and fine hail blew in but once I had my hood up and sitting on my seat pad, leaning against my rucksack it was reasonably comfortable. Less than 10 minutes later and the group joined me. We were way too early for the dawn and with zero shelter at the peak we waited in the shelter until 7:45am and then headed for the top all together. Along the way the clouds lifted and there was a tantalising vague view of the mountainside falling away and the nearby landscape and mountains highlighted with drifts of snow.

Very quickly we were on the first summit and crossed over the narrow ridge to the second. The cloud was fairly thick again but the brisk wind was keeping it moving with the full moon appearing every now and again as the clouds blew over.

The other group moved back to the first summit to check the view for photos and fire up a drone. I stayed where I was as I was keen to experience the dawn peacefully on my own.

The temperature was close to freezing and the windchill sub zero which made it difficult. As usual toes and fingers suffered the most, especially my right hand as I had to remove my glove to take photos.

As the light gradually appeared the sky started to ripple with the pink of dawn and as the clouds blew past I soon forgot about the cold. Ever so slowly the landscape below began to materialise as the light increased and eventually the sun’s glow was visible through the clouds.

The whole experience was amazing. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve ever done and I found it quite uplifting and emotional. A morning I don’t think I’ll ever forget โ™ฅ

The descent was pretty straightforward now that daylight had arrived. It needed care though as the path was compacted and slippy with a mix of snow and ice. Lots of people were making an early ascent of the mountain and it was really nice to get a chorus line of Happy New Year all the way back to the end of the scree. The bog was running wet for the rest of the descent and very muddy for the last few hundred metres but much easier descending and daylight made pathfinding much easier.

I met at least 40 people on my way back down and the car park was full to overflowing with more cars parked along the road. Seems like I’m not the only one who forgot about the 5km limit today!

Two of group I met on the hill are very talented photographers and are active on Instagram. These are the photos they chose from this morning. They have a lot more talent than I do and are worth following.

Header image by Aodh Mairtin O Fearraigh and published by “Donegal Has It All“.

metric challenge: december

The day started with an unexpected trip to Donegal Town. The weather was snowy and icy and Catriona was worried about driving to work and what the conditions would be like afterwards. I agreed to drive her instead. On the way back I stopped to admire the fantastic view of Barnes Gap from the shores of Lough Mourne.

Getting home around 1130am it was clear that a 100km cycle was going to have to involve the implementation of Plan C. I’d decided the night before to abandon Plan A which was a repeat of the Club Lap The Finn route from earlier in the year. The western section around Fintown is too mountainous and pretty much guaranteed to be snowy and/or icy based on the weather forecast that included a Yellow Warning for ice and snow.

Plan B was a repeat of my February spin doing two repeats of the Ballybofey to Strabane loop taking in both sides of the river. However, the back road was still icy and slippery at 1130am and the shady areas were likely to stay that way all day.

Plan C was to avoid the back road entirely, drive down to Killygordon and just do two repeats of the main road between Stranorlar and Lifford. Stranorlar to Lifford and back is 40km so riding from Killygordon to Stranorlar first and back to the car at the end gave me 50km. Not the most exciting or inspiring of routes but mostly flat at least.

Using the car as my base camp also gave me a warm dry location for lunch. A packed lunch and flask of tea got over the problem of the restaurants and coffee shops closed under the latest Covid19 restrictions.

To relieve the boredom of the route I put on my Bluetooth earphones and listened to the radio. I’m one of the few that don’t have an issue with earphones on the bike. At any speed the wind means I usually can’t hear approaching traffic anyway and I don’t think not wearing them would save me from a rear end crash. I don’t wear them in town as they’re too much of a distraction when full concentration is needed. Yesterday it was left ear only as with both earphones in I could hardly hear anything at all under my skull cap! It did make it difficult to distinguish between traffic approaching from the front or rear though.

Apart from the ice and snow it was a perfect day for cycling. Bright and sunny, hardly a breath of wind and almost completely rain free. The downside is that in December that equals bitterly cold. It took a long time to warm up at the start and just after lunch with hands and feet getting the worst of it. Starting later than planned meant darkness was falling close to the end. The last 30min were close to 0ยฐC with windchill well below that and the last 10min were far too close to darkness to feel comfortable or safe without good lights and hi viz. Thankfully quieter roads and blinkies saw me finish safely.

click to view on strava

So 2020 Metric Challenge complete. Roll on 2021 with a repeat but this year they’ll all be done within the correct month๐Ÿคž

January – Club Spin

February – Rookie Mistakes

March – Lockdown Loops

May – New Mojo

May – Making Up For April

June – 31 Days ๐Ÿคซ

July – KISS

August – Dodging Storm Ellen

September – Dark Hedges Audax

October – Donegal 200

November – Level 5 Lockdown

December – Job Done โœ…