Category Archives: House

>Another DNS

>I was meant to ride the Hillingdon CC ’25’ on the ‘new’ Amersham Road course (H25/4) on Sunday, but didn’t even travel this time. The house move is becoming all consuming. I’m lucky to get out on the bike for a couple of hours a week now.

I’ve started teaching again. It’s great to have a job to go to, even if it is only an evening a week.

Next weekend is supposed to be a Calshot session followed by a 2-up ’10’ and hill climb on the Sunday. If things work out well I might manage Calshot. I’m not sure about Sunday though.

>VTTA 25m TT

>I was a DNS (did not start) on Sunday. I went to the event at Marlow (the H25/2), but the rain and poor visibility helped me decide to wimp out. By my start time conditions had improved, but my lack of fitness and focus helped me stick to my decision. I was not the only one – a great many riders DNS’ed. My thanks go out to the marshals who spent two hours or more stood around on roundabouts waiting for the brave souls who did ride. Adam Topham (High Wycombe CC) won the event in a 50:45 – in the cold wind and rain in October! Hat.

I got back home in time for a meeting with someone interested in buying the house. And they’re going to buy it (subject to survey, contract, act of bod etc.). This is great news. It also means we have to find a place to move to ASAP. I’ve spent time looking at the outside of houses, now we have to arrange proper viewings.


>My mind has gone elsewhere. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on riding the bike hard (at all). This is not surprising – we’ve started the process of trying to sell the house and I might be starting a new job in the next few days. All of this, together with a bit of drizzle, some cold mornings and the cumulative effects of a long season, have pushed cycling down the agenda. Which is fine.

So anyway, I thought “why not use this physical down time – with its inevitable decline in performance – to address some technical issues that need looking at”. That’s what I thought.

Photo by Derek Reynolds

The above picture is from last week’s ’25’. It shows me straining away at the bike, head down and helmet tail up. What you can’t see is me climbing all over the machine trying to wrench the gear round. This is inefficient (if quite effective) and, more worryingly, tends to move the bike from side to side. I am becoming a danger to myself and other road users.

So for today’s event – a Westerley CC club ’25’ on the HCC114 ‘junkyard’ course from Great Missenden – I thought that I would experiment. I would try to ride smooth and straight, upper body locked in position, and, if possible, keep the revs higher.

It was a cold and breezy morning. The first time since the Spring that I’ve worn long-fingered gloves. My resolve was tested in the first three miles (slightly uphill and into the wind). But I kept solid in the saddle and kept a straight line (apart from dodging a few of the worst potholes). I went very slowly though – it felt as if my hips had nothing to push against. The style seemed to work better with a tailwind, but I reached 10 miles (where I packed) in 26:32 where I would normally do a short to medium 25:** on this course. My cadence was low as well – it wasn’t easy to pedal fast.

I need to work on core strength this Winter. I also think I need to tweak my position.

Race stats (for the first 10 miles): Time: 26:32 (22.61mph). First 5 miles: 14:15, second 5 miles: 12:17. Top speed: 30.0mph. Slowest mile (2): 3:04 (19.57mph), fastest mile (9): 2:09 (27.91mph). Average HR: 157bpm, maximum HR: 162bpm. DNF. Ave. cadence: 72rpm. 

>Now do it again, but better

>At last! After 29 years and 342 days I managed to ride a 25 mile TT under the hour again. I came close last year with a 1:00:00, but on Sunday I did a 59:50 – a very important few seconds there. I’m very happy with the ride. I just wish I could work out how I did it.

One difference was that I chose to ride a ’10’ the day before – I’ve been avoiding two race weekends for a while now. On Saturday I rode the Charlotteville CC ’10’ on the H10/8 (Bentley) course. It was a warm but breezy day with a significant headwind on the way to the turn. Given the condition I decided that a short-to-middling 24 would be okay. I ended up with a 24:36 which felt like a good ride and left me gasping and with hurting legs.

Race stats: Time: 24:36 (24.39mph). First 5 miles: 13:48, second 5 miles: 10:48. Top speed: 36.8mph. Slowest mile (2): 3:07 (19.25mph), fastest miles (9 and 10): 1:51 (32.43mph). Average HR: 167bpm, maximum HR: 171bpm. 44th of 92 finishers. Ave. cadence: 76rpm. Winner: Stephen Whitewick (Utag 20:25

Sunday morning and it was a late-ish start time for the West London CA ’25’ on the H25/2 (Marlow) ski-slop course. Even with high gears I struggle to take advantage of the 1.5 mile downhill start. Post race analysis shows that after 5 miles my time was only 20 seconds inside 25mph. The next five miles is probably the hardest on the course and the legs – sore from yesterday – struggled as I dropped 52 seconds to the 25mph mark (so 32 seconds down in total). I made up a bit on the downhill to the turn and reached half way in 30:28. I’ve never gone faster that a 1:01:21 on this course, so that looked about right.

The drag from the turn back through Knowl Hill is slight, but I couldn’t really cane it. I hit five miles to go about 33 seconds outside a 25mph average and promptly put in a 2:40 mile on the slope away from the Maidenhead Thicket roundabout. Four miles to go and 49 seconds outside ‘hour’ schedule.

Luckily for me the last four are predominately downhill and what slight breeze there was was behind. I crossed the line and checked my wristwatch. It suggested I might be ‘under’, but I hadn’t checked it was calibrated with the start timekeeper’s watch.

A couple of miles warming down and then back to the HQ. My time was already up. I was delighted (I’m still delighted). It’s smaller beer nowadays, but I remember when beating the hour was a key achievement and not many did it.

Race stats: Time: 59:50 (25.07mph). First 12.5 miles: 30:28, last 12.5 miles: 29:22. Top speed: 38.6mph. Slowest mile (9): 3:00 (20.00mph), fastest mile (2): 1:48 (33.33mph). Average HR: 159bpm, maximum HR: 166bpm. Average cadence: 75rpm. 38th of 82 finishers. Winner: Adam Topham (High Wycombe CC) 51:26

I don’t understand how I was almost 2 minutes faster than last week. It was a more relaxed ride perhaps. Maybe the ’10’ the day before helped. I think the climb to the start guarantees a better warm up than I usually get. Apart from that, I’m mystified.

Monday was spent looking at houses for sale in Bexhill and Eastbourne. A couple of hours of gently walking round the streets trashed my legs more effectively than two hard races in two days!

>I can see my dinner (and 2 poor race performances)

>The new dining room lights are installed. Not big news, I admit, but I’ve been worrying about this job for months (years, even). That’s the way I DIY: a long period of worry followed by a short period of actual work. I’m a poor craftsman, so the worry is frequently justified. This job went okay though.

The lights are surprisingly bright. Bright enough to perform minor surgery under I reckon. On checking, however, it turns out that you need some sort of “professional qualification” to set up as a surgeon nowadays, so that career change is out (political correctness gone mad).

My search for a new job since redundancy has been fruitless so far. I entered “playwright” and “cycle racer (4th cat.)” into all of the job search engines, but nothing yet. I might have to go back to my old career, but Zeppelin building isn’t what it used to be.

In racing news, I rode the Thames Velo circuit race at Hillingdon on Saturday and was tailed off on the last lap. I did move up the bunch early on, but gravitated to tail end Charlie after a few laps.

Race stats: Race distance: 26.79 miles, time: 1:5:57 (24.4mph average speed). 31st from 31 finishers. Top speed: 29.2mph. Fastest mile: 2:18 (26.1mph – mile 14), slowest mile: 2:36 (23.1mph – mile 24). Average HR: 160bpm, maximum HR: 170bpm. Winner: Mark Smith (Welwyn Wheelers)

On Sunday I rode the West London Combine / Bath Road Club 2 up and solo 25m time trial on the Great Missenden course (HCC114). I rode with Willesden CC team mate Peter Dixon. Early season I was beating Peter by minutes. Since then he has moved from 4th to 3rd category and become a lot fitter. To my shame I was dropped three times in the first mile and never made it back to Peter’s wheel the third time. He rode on to finish in an unnoficial 1:3:05 (a 9 minute improvement on his solo PB) while I trundled round for a massively disappointing 1:8:46.

I’m not sure why I was so slow – slower than the solo time I did on this course at the start of the season. I’ve only got two or three more TTs to go this season, so I need to get my arris back into gear.

Race stats: 25 miles in 1:08:46 (21.81mph). ? out of ? finishers. Slowest mile (7): 3:17 (18.27mph). Fastest mile (12): 2:17 (26.28mph). Top speed: 32.9mph. First 12.5 miles: 33:48 next 12.5 miles: 34:58. Max heart rate: 158bpm, average HR: 151bpm (that’s a depressed HR!). Winners: C Starling and P Lawrence (High Wycombe CC) 59:25. Fastest solo: R Griffiths (Twickenham CC) 56:08

>The wall comes down

>Just when I need to be focusing on hard typing, real life intervenes again. Our ‘conservatory’ (lean to / utility space / shanty room) has started falling down. The builder has been to have a look and spread the gloom. The wall needs to be taken down (if it hasn’t fallen down by the time his diary clears), rebuilt and a new roof installed. This time we’re going for concrete foundations rather than sand and a prayer. How come your surveyor never picks this stuff up?

The job is going to cost about 1.5 radio plays or half a theatre play. It seems quite reasonable for the work involved, but we didn’t need this. We’d hoped to replace the whole lot with something decent in a few years time (2.5 theatre plays / 7.5 radio plays worth). No chance of that now.

It’s a pity this is distracting me from the work I need to do to pay for the bloody thing.

And it’s started raining, just as I’m about to set out to do some cycle coaching. I could spit.

In other (better) news… Natasha Trimpney of Interval Drinks has joined The Guardian‘s critics and bloggers debate.


Thursday is my Hillingdon day. There’s a closed-circuit for cycling there, and people turn up on Thursday evenings for group training. Through the year these sessions have helped me improve both fitness, technique and confidence on the bike. I do train on the road as well, but I’m uneasy with traffic. The only other alternative is the static trainer – good for measuring progress, but deadly dull and hard on the bits.

The challenge now is to keep a base-level of training going through the Autumn and Winter (I know it’s August, but outside my window it looks like October). For the last three years I’ve got fitter and lost weight every Summer and then piled the lard back on by Spring. The advantage of Hillingdon is that there are other people – cycling has stopped being a solitary activity. I’m also training as a coach – working with a group on Fridays. I hope that these incentives carry me through to the better weather next year (hah!).

On the writing front … [tumbleweed blows across the stage]

Anyway, Hillingdon followed by the series-enders of House. A good day.

>Spring has sprung …

>This is the first time we’ve seen our new garden in the Spring. We are surprised to find that we have an outrageously pink tree. It’s good because a) it looks pretty and b) its ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ness makes me laugh – we have a shameless tree.

Tuesday to Birmingham. I had encouraged some of my students to see Attempts On Her Life. After reading some of the reviews, I was worried that they might not like it, but of course they lapped it up. It’s a big deal for them – a trip to London – so I’m glad it went well.

I have delivered a first full draft of Rolling News to Birmingham Rep and a second draft of the radio play to the BBC. Such a relief – and the post-draft hangover hasn’t kicked in yet. Perhaps this is the time it doesn’t happen?

I’ve managed to pick up some work on a schools project down here as well, which helps the confidence. Some other irons in the fire as well.

>Monday morning

>The work is done. We’ve had a weekend of long hours without water, we’ve had leaks, we’ve made phone calls to a plumber at a football match, we’ve had all sorts of fun. At last now we seem to be almost watertight with only a broken shower as a legacy. I’m a natural-born panicker and this weekend has been … tense.

It’s been nice to have the children young adults here for the weekend. We took them to see The Glass Menagerie featuring Jessica Lange – that Tennessee Williams could write.

UPDATE: The West End Whingers have been to The Glass Menagerie and liked it. They’re absolutely right about scene between the Gentleman Caller and Laura.

>A bit emotional

>I know I’d stopped going on about the house being repaired, but today has been a big day. The plumbers turned up as promised, replaced the main and stripped out most of the lead. We now have drinkable cold water after only 7 months. They’re supposed to be coming back tomorrow to connect up the hot water system – it’s amazing – it’ll be just like a proper house.

And… P’s daughter, my stepdaughter, and her boyfriend are coming to stay for a couple of days (they’re due any minute). It’ll be the first time either of the children have seen the house. We’re probably going to take them to dance Swan Lake in Trafalgar Square. Like you do.

Not the best time to be without hot water, but what the heck.