Time out on the water

It’s 7 weeks since my last post, where I talked about joining St Denys Boat Club and I’ve spent quite a few hours since then out on the water.

Having been signed off on kayaks, paddle boards and dinghies in one afternoon, this meant I’ve been able to use quite a few of St Denys Boat Club’s wide range of water-going craft with my favourite being the Laser dinghy.

Daniel and I have also sailed two of the club’s other dinghies; Harry’s Girl and Kingfisher, as well as kayaks and paddle boards. Connor has even joined us for both kayaking and paddle boarding on a couple of occasions. The most recent of these being to support the Lions-organised annual Duck Race where we helped along some of the less enthusiastic plastic ducks before collecting the 1000s that clearly never had a hope of crossing the finishing line.

Yesterday (1st September) was a great day to be out on the water and fortunately I’d arranged to explore ‘under the bridges’ with another club member, Geoff. Many thanks for ‘showing me the ropes’!

The area by the boat club at Cobden Bridge is a little small and the wind is often quite shifty. That’s mostly due to the buildings that surround the area and the bridge itself. With the narrow width of the river, the water depth affected by the tide and the wind, it’s recommended that you sail out towards Northam Bridge but that requires some extra challenges as getting under Cobden Bridge (and St Denys railway bridge) is not possible as the bridges are too low to sail under with the mast up. If only they’d made the arches a little higher when built in 1926.

Instead, you have to take a boat with an outboard (we took a petrol outboard which was more likely to get us there and back than an electric outboard) and tow the dinghy (or dinghies) out to a buoy and then raise the mast and rig the boat on the water before setting sail. A bit of a faff but well worth it in reality. Getting ready and motoring to the sailing area probably added 40 minutes of which 20 would have been spent sailing there had we been able to.

The journey to the sail area was very pleasant. The weather was lovely and it was quite surprising to see so many houseboats along that stretch of the Itchen River.

Having lifted the mast successfully (without a dip in the water) and set sail the sailing area is much bigger and more interesting than to the north of Cobden Bridge. There are other moored boats to avoid as well as several shipwrecks which are exposed during low tide but lurk beneath the surface at high tide.

With 7-15mph winds, the conditions were great for sailing. It really was a beautiful day to be on the water. As I’d cycled 50 miles the day before in the Garmin Ride Out, I was a little concerned that my quads wouldn’t respond well to the demands of hiking out, but my fears were unfounded. I managed to sail without getting wet.

The sail area didn’t suffer from the fluky wind-shifts of Cobden Bridge and there was plenty of space to explore. I was sailing the Laser whilst Geoff was helming the Laser Pico. After 90 minutes or so, we swapped boats and I got my first chance to sail the Pico. A very different experience to the Laser. Much bigger, with a large deck, and more forgiving but not as much fun or as responsive. No complaints though. I wasn’t too sure about the toe straps but fortunately didn’t need them.

With 30 years since I’ve last sailed, I’m pleased do report that I’d not forgotten how to sail. The dinghies, in particular the Laser, seem smaller than I remember them (!) but other than that the skills I learned as a teenager have soon flooded back. In fact, I’m gradually teaching Daniel the basics of dinghy sailing and am remembering instructing as a teenager and the theory and practical aspects of the RYA courses which are largely unchanged in the intervening years.

After 2 hours of sailing, we headed back to the buoy where we’d moored the motor-boat, de-rigged and motored back to the club which was teaming with activity with club members getting afloat in kayaks and dinghies. I’ve not seen the club so busy. Fortunately, one family was keen to take the Pico off our hands so we only had to get the motor-boat and the Laser out of the water and give the outboard its post use maintenance.

Overall, a great afternoon of sailing.

Today I hoping to get Daniel helming the Pico with the aims of getting him confident sailing before the end of the Autumn.

St Denys Boat Club is quite simply brilliant. There’s plenty of choice of boats, all well looked after and ready to go afloat on/in. The club members and committee are friendly and helpful. We’ve certainly made the most of our membership so far with 9 visits (1 or 2 visits per week). Hopefully the weather will remain good for several weeks to come and I’ll get more time afloat with the family and occasionally solo too. Can’t wait!

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Reigniting a passion

As a teen, my family lived in Germany in a village called Bruggen close to the border with Holland.

There are two versions of how I got into dinghy sailing and I don’t remember which was the real one…

Version 1:

Although my memory is getting a little hazy, I have a vague recollection of my dad suggesting I try out dinghy sailing.

I think that one of his work colleagues, Steve Bailes, was involved in running a RYA dinghy sailing course at the nearby inland lakes at Roermond which was across the border between Germany and Holland.

This was the mid-late 80s and the UK military (RAF and Army) has a big presence in the area as the Cold War with Russia was in full flow.

The lakes were big. More than ample to sail in a dinghy, windsurfer or yacht.

I took to sailing quickly and enjoyed the course. As well as Steve, the head of 6 form at my school was also involved in the course. Des Lacklison was his name and I remember he was a brilliant bloke. In fact Steve and Des both were. (I believe that Des is still living in a house just outside the school. I’m not sure about Steve though. Would very much like to find out.)

Version 2 – I have an even vaguer recollection that my introduction to sailing may have come about from a school residential trip run by Des and his sidekick, Ian Barron, where I, as a very shy teenager, came out of my shell and stood out for some reason. Des suggested that I may enjoy dinghy sailing and as an active member of the sailing club at Roermond spoke to my parents to get their permission for me to get involved.

Having written both versions of history, I suspect version 2 is correct.

Anyway, having completed the 5 day course which was held in term time (thanks to Des’ involvement, that didn’t appear to be a problem), I would regularly cycle to the lakes to sail. Although we’d learned in the Bosun class dinghy, I loved to sail the single-hander Laser dinghy. This was, and still is, an Olympic class racing machine. I dreamed about owning one one day… but never did.

Sailing was a passion. I bought books about it (years before you could order online from Amazon or read instantly on your kindle or google for information), had posters of Lasers on my bedroom wall and couldn’t wait for my next opportunity to get on the water. I can remember ordering a made to measure wetsuit at a time when buying one off the shelf at your local ALDI wasn’t an option.

As well as dinghy sailing, I got interested in windsurfing and did that quite a lot. With little upper body strength it was a challenge but I was ok at it. (My last windsurfing adventure also ended in disaster. I was on a group holiday in my mid/late 20s somewhere like Faliraki and hired a windsurfer, knackered myself out and got blown out to sea before being rescued! What an adventure!)

As well as racing dinghies, I also helped out at training courses held at the lakes and loved the sport with a passion.

I don’t remember how old I was but I sailed for my school in a Topper dinghy on a river and got a medal which I still have.

When i returned to the UK to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering in South Wales, I had every intention of continuing to sail and at the Polytechnic’s (that’s what some universities were called when it was fashionable to have further education that was more vocational than academic) freshers fair, I sought out the sailing club and signed up. My first sail with the club, the most unfriendly bunch of individuals you can imagine, put me off sailing for years and I didn’t sail again until I left higher education several years later.

At some point in my 20s or early 30s, I went on some kind of racing or advanced dinghy sailing course at Port Solent. We were sailing Toppers or Lasers I believe and I loved it. However, the cost of joining a club and needing my own dinghy was prohibitive and I didn’t pursue the sport of Dinghy Sailing again.

However, that didn’t keep me off the water. For a few years, I regularly crewed on a work colleague’s yacht and competed in both Cowes Week and the Round The Island Race on a handful of occasions. The latter was a long, long day and a true test of endurance. That work colleague, Andy H, is now my boss and a really decent bloke.

Earlier this week, my eldest son Daniel got the opportunity to go dinghy sailing as part of the scout group he attends. We headed down to Royal Victoria Country Park and met up with the rest of the group. I was more than a little jealous that he was getting to go out on the water and hoped that he’d enjoy sailing with two of his friends in the Wayfarer. It just so happens that he did and he wanted to go again.

Fortunately, locally there’s a club called the St Denys Boat Club, http://www.stdenysboats.co.uk, that’s been established on the river close to Bitterne Triangle since 1890 or thereabouts. After paying £110 for the membership and having your skills assessed you can be signed off to take out one of their ‘boats’ 365 days a year. The boats include kayaks, stand up paddle boards and a range of dinghies including a Laser. I booked a tour of the club and Daniel and I went down to take a look. The club’s chairman, James, was very friendly and we couldn’t believe how brilliant the club was.

Having spoken to Denise I filled out the membership form and am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get signed off and back out on the water. Although I’m a couple of stones heavier than the last time I sailed and 20-30 years older, I feel fit enough to give it a go and the practical and theoretical skills are still fairly fresh in my mind.

To be continued…

An update for 2018

So, it’s been several months since my last post and a few things to report.

Activity-wise things haven’t quite gone to plan so far this year. The plan to cycle through the winter didn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped due to the weather. Having said that I’ve cycled approximately 425 miles so far this year which means I’ve cycled 50% of my commutes. Not too bad I guess. An improvement in the weather will make a big difference and I’m going to be ramping up the miles now and including some longer routes back into my daily commute.

My running had been going well with my training on schedule for the Eastleigh 10K but snow meant that the event got cancelled. With skiing in La Plagne at Easter, the desire not to break myself before it and the realisation that my right ankle isn’t as flexible as my left I took a few weeks off running which meant inadequate training for the Southampton Half and a subsequent DNS.

All of the above combined with a healthy (or unhealthy) appetite has led to a 12lb gain in weight since Christmas. This is a typical trend in my weight cycle and in April I decided enough was enough and am focused in on getting back to a ‘healthy’ weight again. MyFitness Pal is being used daily for tracking and I’m running more regularly and have signed up for a couple of events to keep my focus.

The only event I’ve taken part in this year (and in reality for over a year) has been the obstacle course race (OCR) at Southampton Sport Centre, Active Warrior. Daniel and I ran together in the Family Wave in THR 5km course and had a brilliant time.

The course was challenging in places and there was a fair amount of mud. The highlights were the skip pictured above, the water slide down the whole length of the long slope of Southampton Ski Centre and the Ninja Wall which I attempted 3 times but ultimately didn’t get over.

Due to enjoying the run and a desire to lose extra poundage, I decided to sign up for the Wyvern 10k. Although the event is probably the closest one to home I’ve only run it once in its history and with the Netley 10K (at Royal Victory Country Park) full, it seemed like a good choice.

With Dan and I both enjoying Active Warrior I’ve just signed Connor, Daniel and I up for Rainbow Rampage (for a grand total sum of £11 including one free T-shirt) in October. It’s a family friendly 3km OCR and I’m hoping there’ll be a little less mud than AW.

Tuesday evening S&C sessions continue to go well with 90 sessions behind me now. Attendance remains high with 30/40 typically taking part. There is only 1 more session at Taunton’s before we head outside for the summer. Hoping the current summery weather lasts right through until September.

That’s about all I have to report so will finish up now and hopefully have a post Wyvern 10K post to share in July.

A quick review of January 2018

Although I made no New Year Resolutions, I am trying to write at least one blog post a month. Here’s a quick review of what I’ve been up to in January as the month draws to a close.

This month saw me celebrate 2 years of working at Tonic Analytics. During that time, we, as a team and a company, have grown in size and strength and I’ve loved being part of that journey. It’s a privilege to be part of the team and to see how successful we’ve been. There are undoubtedly challenges and we’re busier than ever. However, challenges are good (and you know how much I love a challenge).

With my Saturday mornings reclaimed, I’m enjoying some lie-ins. This is particularly welcome with more pressure and longer days at work as well as an early start on Sunday mornings to take the boys to skiing lessons in Christchurch. I do miss the Saturday morning crew and, in particular, the social interaction though… more than I expected. I also really appreciate the crew for their contribution to the sessions. Thanks all.

My Tuesday evening strength and conditioning sessions are going well still. Attendance levels range from 30-50 which is amazing and I’m loving delivering these sessions. Aside from work, these are my opportunity for social interaction per week although at times this is limited. I try to chat with members of the group before the session and mid-session but it’s not always easy. I keep the sessions light-hearted and hopefully fun and enjoy banter with the group where possible.

With a skiing holiday planned and getting closer and closer I’m doing 4 or 5 S&C minute HIIT sessions per week of 18-22 minutes each at home. Denise and Connor take part too and I’m trying to keep each one different. It does mean that I’ve now got to design several S&C sessions a week but that’s something I enjoy.

With the Eastleigh 10K and Southampton Half approaching rapidly, I’m trying to squeeze 3 runs in a week. Time is tight though with longer work hours, family life etc etc so many of these runs are on the treadmill. As well as two short runs, I’m doing a long run on a Sunday evening and am working up from 40 minutes and adding on 5-10 minutes per week. This week (today) I’ll be running for 70 minutes. It gives me the opportunity to watch some Netflix whilst on the treadmill.

Although I’d hoped to cycle commute through the winter, the weather and length of my work day mean I’ve been taking the car more often than I’d like. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this will be the case for a couple of months but plan to cycle as often as I can in February and beyond. At least my runs and home S&C sessions are helping with fitness.

I’ve not slept well for years (as may be clear from the fact I’m typing this as 3am). With so much to do I often spend a couple of hours per night reading, researching and jotting down ideas. I’ll call it CPD. However, I’m trying to reclaim my sleep and have cut down on coffee (from several mugs per day to 1 or 2) and using some mindful breathing. I’ve also been reading a book ‘The 4 Pillars’ and am planning to attempt some of the suggestions from that.

I think that’s about it for this month. It’s all good.

No New Year resolutions and decluttering 2018

In previous years I’ve made New Year Resolutions and never, ever stuck to them. This year, I decided to not waste my time even giving them any thought. Instead I’ve decided to declutter my life a little for 2018.

The reasons for decluttering or a spring clean of my life are many but include:

(a) wanting to reduce stress and reducing self-inflicted pressure of doing too much or wanting to do something worthwhile or memorable

(b) wanting to reclaim time for myself and my family especially at weekends where time (and sleep) is precious.

I have historically taken on too many things and wanted to please as many people as possible and left little time for myself.

Ultimately, I feel happy when I’m doing things that:

– make me feel proud

– help others

– create some kind of memorable outcome or legacy – basically I’d like to be remembered for making a positive difference for others no matter how small.

An obvious example was my involvement as a parkrun volunteer where I’d spent hundreds of hours of my own personal time creating events and then volunteering at them. The rewards of this personally other than feeling some worth were often negligible although I knew I was creating or contributing towards something I was very proud of at the time. I stopped volunteering at parkrun in any capacity when it became something I felt was a chore and gave little pleasure for me even though my involvement had had a positive impact on the lives of 10s, 100s or maybe 1000s each week.

For almost 2 years, I’ve been delivering 1 hour coaching sessions to Lordshillers on a Saturday morning from 7:30am. I’ve really enjoyed my investment in time in both preparing for and delivering the sessions and seeing the 3-12 regular participants rewarded with PBs, less injuries etc etc. These have been my rewards but these have been at a personal cost in terms of the time involved, the self-inflicted pressure to delivery quality sessions each week that were suitably different, enticing and interesting to keep participants coming week after week.

At times, this lead to a degree of anxiety, insomnia and other negative impacts such as regularly self-questioning whether the sessions were offering any value. Was the session suitably different? Suitably challenging? Could I have done something better? Did participants feel that getting up early before a parkrun was worth it?

Although the sessions were at a time when they had a negligible actual impact on my family, the impact of a 6:30am alarm week in, week out hasn’t been so negligible especially as my alarm is set for that time from Monday to Friday too. As well as the early start, coaching is mentally tiring and, in some cases, physically challenging too.

Towards the end of last year (and having spent a week of the festive season recovering from flu, having no energy and being unable to get out of bed), I started to feel the personal rewards of delivering these free-to-attend sessions was no longer justifying the time invested or the impact of delivering them. Although it may not have felt like it at the time (largely due to the positive interaction with the group which had a positive impact on my confidence and mental health), the sessions had started to feel like a chore.

However, being a kind-hearted individual, it was a very difficult decision to make as I simply didn’t want to let the group of regulars (all of whom are friends) down by stopping the sessions. But, for my own sake, and because the sessions had started for feel like a chore instead of a pleasure, that’s the decision I had to make.

That decision was made a little easier when I came across an article, http://www.health.com/stress/how-to-stop-feeling-like-shit, and some of the habits described within it sounded a little too familiar. Although aimed more at women (as made clear in the referenced book), it’s worth a read regardless of gender.

Without my involvement in parkrun, the Lordshill committee and race directing, all of which have taken a significant amount of my own time during periods of time in the last 5 or more years, I’m left with two sustainable and thoroughly enjoyable voluntary commitments to Lordshillers both of which I’m very passionate about:

(a) the Lordshill Mile Series

(b) the Tuesday evening S&C sessions

I can’t see a time when I won’t be involved in these as they are two things I’m really rather proud of and neither feel like, or have ever felt like, a chore. Seeing so many Lordshillers enjoying both events, getting positive feedback from participants as well as the personal satisfaction of delivering these ‘events’ means that I will continue to deliver them indefinitely.

Here’s my advice about prioritising you over others:

(a) try to make life as simple as you can

(b) don’t feel as if you have to please others to be happy yourself

(c) value your own time at least as much as those around you

(d) assess whether you invest time in tasks or pursuits that feel like a chore

(e) try to make a small difference to the life of others but not at any detriment to your own goals, family, health etc

(f) don’t inflict pressure on yourself to do something if it has any form of negative impact on you

Cycle commute challenge complete

Way back in mid-June I set myself a challenge for the following 18 weeks to commute at least 1350 miles by bike. The intent of the challenge was to:

– keep fit

– loose weight

– be environmentally friendly by not taking the car

With a 10 mile round trip, to complete the challenge meant:

– cycling every day I could

– travelling 1.5 times the shortest commute distance to/from work

Yesterday I completed the final week racking up 130 miles of the 1350 miles.

Here are some related stats:

– average number of miles cycled per week: 80 miles

– longest single commute journey: 25 miles

– average daily distance: 20 miles

– number of work days of commuting: 63 / 82

– total number of days of commuting: 68

– number of punctures: 2

– number of dangerous close passes by motor vehicles: 1

– number of verbal abuse from drivers: 2

– mechanicals included punctures, broken gear shifter, wonky headset and a rattling freehub

Holidays, days off, working from home and mechanicals meant I didn’t commute by bike every day but there was only 1 work day when I drove when I needn’t have.

So far this year I’ve cycled 1800 miles with the likelihood of a total of 2200 for the year.

The challenge was certainly challenging! Getting up and leaving the house in the dark or rain wasn’t always pleasant but the cycle rides were always positive and I felt good for doing them.

The miles have helped with weight loss. In mid-April I was 14 1/2 stone. That was when I started commuting for the year. By the start of the challenge I was 13 stone 8lbs. Over the period of the 16.5 weeks of the challenge I lost 7lbs to reach my target of 13 stone and a healthy BMI.

An autumnal update including Garmin Ride Out

As usual, I’ve not posted in a while. As summer becomes a distant memory and the weather turns cold and wet(ter), I thought it was an opportunity for a quick update.

Activity-wise things are going well. I set myself an 18 week challenge of commuting 1350 miles way back in June and am now a little over 12 weeks into that and on target. Come rain or shine, I’m commuting to and from work. That’s meant a combination of both lovely journeys and not-so-lovely ones. However, they all feel brilliant in hindsight.

I’ve only competed in 2 events this year: Eastleigh 10K and the rather brilliant Garmin Ride Out – a 50 Mile ‘sportive’ with 800 cyclists around the New Forest.

While I have your attention briefly, I’ll provide a quick extended summary…

The event is organised by Garmin whose EU headquarters are based in Southampton. The event had 800 cyclists taking part and a waiting list of 200. Starting at Bashley, the 50 Mile route went through Brockenhurst, Sway, Fordingbridge, Ringwood before returning to where we started. I’d cycled some of the route before in previous events including the Wiggle Sportive back in 2013 and a more recent triathlon.

I arrived at the start early (7:15am) and soon met up with Teri, Diana and her husband Pete. We registered, collected our free Garmin cycling jersey, enjoyed the free coffee and breakfast (bacon roll) and then went to the briefing which consisted of Dermot Murnaghan chatting with cyclists from several of the pro-teams who’d be cycling in the Tour of Britain the following week.

At about 10:30am, we joined the queue to start and waited until our group were set off.

Diana, Teri and I cycled together for most of the 50 miles. That made it a more social than speedy ride which suited me perfectly. The route was undulating and pretty. The weather was mostly sunny with a bit of a cruel headwind.

It was great to see Julian Porter and members of his cycling club (including ex Lordshiller Lou Gowet) on several occasions through the day.

The route was brilliant. The roads quiet. The most challenging part was the 700m long 25% ascent of Blissford Hill just east of Fordingbridge. What a hill! I made it up through grit, determination, praying and a fair amount of swearing. The rest of the route (20 miles) seemed easy in comparison.

I lost (dropped?) Teri and Diana in the last several miles as I wanted to finish in under 3 hours and 30 minutes. My finish time was 3:28 so happy with that.

I’m definitely entering the event next year!

The cycle commuting is helping with my weight loss goal and I’m less than 1kg away from my first goal of reaching 13 stone. That’s 1 stone 10 lbs lost since my heaviest weight in October 2016. In reality, much of the loss has been due to the 100 miles of cycling (on average) each week.

My real weight goal coincides with the end of my cycling challenge when I want to be 12 stone 7lbs. That also coincides with outlet late summer sun holiday on mid October.

In other news, coaching is going well. Saturday morning session have restarted after a summer break. These sessions are for all abilities. Here’s how one of the regular attendees, Katie, recently described the sessions:

Tuesday evening’s S&C sessions are also going really well. We enjoyed a summer of winters conditions out on Southampton Common and will return to Richard Taunton College from Tuesday. I love these sessions and really enjoy putting them on… even more so now that Daniel is now regularly attending them.