Category Archives: family

>…a3crg ’10’

>After recovering from last week’s lurgy and then going down with a bad case of I can’t be arsed to train-itis I finally got back on the bike on Thursday after a six day lay off. Self delusion being what it is, I rather imagined that I would be rested and ready to rip the other riders’ legs off. After twenty minutes my group dropped me. Hubris I think it’s called.

On Saturday afternoon I rode the …a3crg 10m TT on the A3 South of Liphook (the P881r). It’s a fast course and it was a nice day. I did a 24:30 which looks like a decent time for me, but I finished 76th out of 96. Not good.

Race stats: Time: 24:30 (24.49mph). First 5 miles: 12:35, second 5 miles: 11:55. Top speed: 32.2mph. Slowest mile (4): 2:45 (21.82mph), fastest mile (10): 2:04 (29.03mph). Average HR: 164bpm, maximum HR: 168bpm. 76th of 96 finishers. Ave. cadence: 74rpm. Winner: Stephen Whitewick (UTAG 19:45

On Saturday evening we were scheduled to see Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 at The Globe. I arrived late and so viewed the first half from the side. Those bloody pillars can’t be right. For the second half I was re-united with Pat and our friends and managed to see the show from the front – much better. Roger Allam has been highly and deservedly praised for his performance as Falstaff.

Sunday was a long drive to Ross-on-Wye and back for my mum’s 80th birthday lunch – nice to meet family and old friends again.

>DNS and Walter Stokes

>I was meant to ride the Finsbury Park CC ’25’ on the fast F1/25 today but did not start. The saddle soreness, which finally seemed to abate last weekend, came back with a vengeance after a hard training session on Thursday. At 5am this morning I decided that it would cause more damage to ride than to sit it out. Actually, sitting is not that easy.

Naturally I feel guilty. But I hope it was a proper judgment call rather than taking the easy option. There are still a couple of months of the season to go.


Years ago I did a bit of family research. It turns out that I am not of royal descent nor the heir to a great fortune. The Woodmans were agricultural labourers from the 1700s to the mid-to-late 20th century. They’re never in the same place from one document to another – always moving on.

My paternal grandmother’s family is, I believe, similar. The Stokes were originally basket weavers from the Upton-on-Severn area. My great grandfather, Walter Ernest Stokes, was a postman. He lived in Powick just outside Worcester.

But Walter was an amateur athlete as well. He ran for Birchfield Harriers (how did he make that contact?). In 1899 he won the AAA Championship 2 mile Steeplechase title at Molyneux in Wolverhampton. In 1908 he represented England in the International Cross-country Race at St. Cloud in France (coming 9th and part of the winning team). I  am trying to find out more about his athletics career.

I remember a family photograph of him and his trainer posing before an array of trophies and prizes. It would be good to find a copy of that picture. There’s some great video of the 1901 AAA Championships here – I wonder if he appears anywhere?

>*does a little dance*


At last!

This week I finally came off the medication that I hoped was suppressing my TT performances. The stuff is supposed to take a fortnight to clear the system, so I wasn’t expecting immediate results.

The picture was taken in The Netherlands last week by Henny Postema – many thanks, Henny

Saturday was a fun day out. Willesden CC had hired Welwyn Velodrome for the day and 20-25 club members gathered for a couple of hours of swooping up and down the banking in the sun. Unusually for Welwyn there was hardly any wind which, combined with the unseasonal warmth, made for a great day. I was riding poorly, but it didn’t matter. I sprinted enthusiastically and ineffectively, lost wheels, bridged gaps, tried to bully Ray Kelly… all sorts of things. I (and several others) finished the day tired but uplifted. The star of the show was WCC’s multiple champion Jayne Paine. She was supposed to be taking it easy because she was racing at Herne Hill the next day, but show her a finish line and… She won the scratch race at the end by a country mile.

Sunday was an early start and a long drive to Tempsford for the Bedfordshire RCC 25m TT on the F1B/25 course. The ‘B’ version of the course is hillier than its F1/25 brother, but a decent ride nonetheless. The start was chilly. Despite it being a ‘slowest 90 riders’ event I was seeded in the second slowest group (on a ‘4’). Accordingly I expected to be caught early doors and to see no other riders ahead of me. I think the seeding was awry: I caught my minute person after about 10 miles and my three minute man after the turn. No one came past me.

Most of the climbing is on the way out, but there’s a little climb to the water tower on the way back. What wind there was was against on the return. That headwind really told in the last couple of miles.

I blew up a little with seven miles to go, but hung on and hung on to record 1:02:04. That’s an improvement of over 7 minutes on the previous best this year. I’s 83 seconds faster than I have ever gone in April before (and I won the event with my previous fastest). I am chuffed and relieved. And today I am as sore as hell.

The stats show a suppressed heart rate, probably because of the sprint efforts on the track the previous day.

Race stats: Time: 1:02:04 (24.17mph). First 12.5 miles: 30:56, last 12.5 miles: 31:07. Top speed: 36.0mph. Slowest mile (12): 3:04 (19.57mph), fastest mile (17): 2:03 (29.27mph). Average HR: 153bpm, maximum HR: 163bpm. Average cadence: 78rpm. 23 of 72 finishers. Winner: Tim Davies (Icknield RC) 55:56.

What changed? The course was good. The weather was good. I used my best wheels for the first time in the UK this year. All of these are factors, but I hope that the meds were also a factor in slowing me down. If so, things are looking brighter for May. Unfortunately, I only have a club event next weekend.

After lunch Pat and I planted a fig tree in the garden. We’ve planted very little because the garden is already well-established. But we had a fig tree at the last house which fruited heavily. If the new tree fruits it’ll make this place feel more like home.

In the evening we went to the Renoir cinema to see The Father of My Children. We’d never heard of it, but it’s a wonderful, strange film. With my teaching work I have to read a lot of books on how to write for film. None of them could explain how this film does what it does. Which makes me like it all the more.

That was a weekend, that was.

>Easter Monday 25m TT

>Pat and I travelled to Herefordshire on Sunday for a couple of days of seeing family and to take in the Hereford and District Wheelers Easter Monday ’25’.

The trip was a success in that it was great to see the family. I also had a fun 10 mile spin on the Sunday that reminded me why so many Herefordians are decent cyclists – they have a decent supply of hills of all lengths and gradients. My ride from How Caple to Ross was like a roller coaster ride. Herefordshire, with it’s varied geography and sparse traffic, would be a great place to have a training camp.

On Monday morning we drove to the beautiful village of Weobley (‘Britain’s best village 1999′) for the start of the Wheelers event. A 100 years ago this was my first ever ’25’. I did a 1:26:36 and was last by a long way. That course has changed from a ‘V’ shape with two dead turns to a near circuit to make it safer. Safer it might be, but it’s also harder with Tin Hill being the feature ascent (though the final stretch to Yazor might be harder).

You can see a profile of the course (and my heart rate) above. Click on it to see it larger.

It was nice to meet a few people before the start who remembered my dad, but all thoughts of the past flew away with the first five miles into a headwind.

There’s very little past tense in racing – nothing beyond ‘I remember the road used to go up round the next bend’ and ‘the last time I went this hard I was sick’. There’s not much future tense either – it’s difficult to imagine a time beyond the next two minutes. The here and now dominates – keep it moving, try harder and don’t blow up. If you let your mind wander, most of the time your legs will take the opportunity to ease up.

The up and down nature of the course and the blustery wind made this a road man’s course (or a power rider’s course). It’s not best-suited to riders like me. I became discouraged. I became hungry (I’d put my pre-race gel in the wrong jersey and was running on empty). The three riders behind me caught me in the first seven miles. But I kept going.

Tin Hill went okay. I’d remembered it as being steeper and longer and so hit the little chain ring and got over it reassuringly quickly. The climb from Hereford to Yazor was less good: the lack of energy was beginning to tell and I faded badly. The final descent to the finish was a relief, but I should have gone faster.

All in all the race was a trial, but I’m glad I did it. It uncovered some weaknesses that I need to deal with. It pushed my heart rate up (and I’m struggling when I get above 160bpm because I haven’t been working out that part of my cardio system). And it’s a great event on an interesting course. And 1:12:52 is only about a minute slower than I’d have put money on at the start.

And I met some old friends from the Hereford Whs and my old club, Ross-on-Wye and Dist CC, at the finish. I hope to meet up with them again before too long.

Race stats: Time: 1:12:52 (20.59mph). First 12.5 miles: 36:30, last 12.5 miles: 36:22. Top speed: 35.6mph. Slowest mile (8): 3:36 (16.67mph), fastest mile (10): 2:22 (25.35mph). Average HR: 154bpm, maximum HR: 168bpm. 51 of 70 finishers. Winner: Dean Robson (Somerset RC) 57:57.


>The time trialling season begins for me tomorrow with a 10 mile event. I will report (eventually).

Next weekend I have a weekend off the bike to go and see my artworcs friends. I am also attending the 20:20 conference in Birmingham where my short play A Page Turner is receiving its first performances alongside 19 other short plays by writers who attended the MA / MPhil(B) in Playwriting Studies at Birmingham University.

In other news: 

My sister, Marie, won two Silver medals at New Zealand’s National Masters Championships. She was second in the 500 metre TT and the Individual Pursuit. Well done (again), Marie.

We took last weekend off to celebrate Pat’s birthday. Two films at the BFI: Letter for an Unknown Woman on the Saturday and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on Sunday. The former harks back to the well-made play of the late nineteenth century (the heroine – a good woman who does a bad thing – handily gets a disease that kills her as a kind of moral retribution. The sort of plot that only survives in opera nowadays). The latter has a tight cause and effect, three act structure that felt much more modern. I didn’t cry watching Spencer Tracy‘s last performance… I didn’t. I don’t cry. It was a good weekend.

Today I was at Hillingdon cycle circuit helping Ray and the rest of the club run a British Cycling Go Ride event for school children new to the sport. It was great fun with some really committed performances by the kids. It was very cold though.

>A brief update

>I did not get into the first half of the field in the last Winter Series event – 26th out of 39 finishers. Work to do on the sprint. Alex Murray’s write up is here and Martin Porter makes a great case for riding the series here.

My sister Marie (left) has added a Southland region Bronze Medal in the Women Masters Individual Pursuit to her NZ Masters Games medals. She has now been selected for the Southland team for the National Championships on March 3rd. Good luck, Masha.

I’ve had a pretty duff week for motivation. I didn’t touch the bike on the best day (Wednesday). Though I’ve had downs this Winter this is the first time I’ve had problems with training.

Hopefully this weekend’s Calshot session and the Willesden CC reliability on Sunday will re-engage me.

>Congratulations, Marie


My sister Marie has won three Gold medals and a Silver at the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin. She won the 500m TT, the 2km individual pursuit and the 4km scratch race. The Silver medal came in the 500m sprint where she says “my legs died at the end”. Apparently it was a roasting hot day in Dunedin.

She says:

My speed wasn’t great […] but I actuallyfelt good racing! The scratch race was a combined event with the men (cos therewasn’t enough competitors for a full field in either category). We dropped theother women in the first lap (when the men took off), but I hung on for grimdeath until the final (16th) lap when the men lost me in their sprint.

She has qualifying for the National 2000m individual pursuit coming up on 16th February – Good luck, Marie.

>Track medals! And West London Combine 10m TT

>Big congratulation to my niece Jen who last week won a Silver and two Bronze medals at the New Zealand National Track Championships at the Invercargill Velodrome. She was riding for the Southland team in the Under 15 Girls category. Well done, Jen!

Her mum and my sister, Marie, also rode a demonstration 2k pursuit with very little notice. Bursting out of the start gate at the national championships is probably not the best time to ride aero bars for the first time! Well done, Masha.

Meanwhile, back in the land of wind and inconsiderate traffic, the West London Combine gunned into 2009 action with a well supported 10 mile time trial on the Maidenhead Thicket course. There were 82 finishers and I ended up 30th with a time of 26 minutes and 37 seconds. I’d been planning to go faster (short 26 / long 25) but reality and a headwind to the turn intervened. The numbers were in the right area so I just need to get fitter.

Race stats: 10 miles in 26:37 (22.54mph). 30th out of 82 finishers. Slowest mile (1): 3:01 (19.89mph). Fastest mile (10): 2:01 (29.75mph). First 5 miles: 14:38, last 5 miles: 11:59. Max heart rate: 172bpm, average HR: 160bpm. Winner Peter Weir (Maidenhead & Dist CC) 22:47.

Looking at last year’s result, riders went back, on average, 20-25 seconds and I improved by 85 seconds, so progress of a sort.

>Cat in the wheely bin

P couldn’t sleep last night: she was being kept awake by the sound of two cats fighting outside the window. Every now and again the fighting would stop and they would throw themselves into the wheely bin with a clatter. Eventually, mystified and annoyed by the repetitive nature of the cats’ shenanigans, she decided to get up and look out of the window. It was then she realised that the noise was my snoring. Should I seek medical help?

>Are parrots sick?

>I have been a little under the weather for the past couple of days. I did do a training ride last night, but it has made me sicker. I hope it’s not the old hypochondria. Or displacement-itis. Is self-pity a symptom?

J leaves for another year in China today. Even with a couple of hours to go he’s prevaricating over which job to take. The boy is a star. He might work in Xian – home of the famous Terry Cottle’s army.

We, on the other hand, are beginning to get stressed about a week in Normandy. We do have a list – so everything should be all right. Being away means that we will be off line for seven days which, I have a sneaking suspicion, may help the writing.