Just before Christmas last year, I found out that I was going to have a month’s leave prior to this Easter. With Christmas over, I began to consider what to do with myself during this time off. My children would still be studying and my wife was unlikely to leave them alone for the whole time; perhaps this would be a chance for me to do ‘something significant’ – something that only I would want to do – but what? On a trip to Perth, Australia, between Christmas and New Year, the answer came to me. I’d hired a bicycle for the day and cycled from the city:
to the beach at Fremantle and back again.
It was ‘only’ 40 miles, or so, it took me most of the day and I ached afterwards. However, I’d enjoyed myself so much that I determined on the ride that my ‘something significant’ for my month’s leave would be to cycle from one end of Great Britain to the other – commonly known as ‘Lands End to John O’Groats’, ‘LEJOG’, or ‘The End to End’ . My ‘End to End’ would only require me to cycle approximately double my Perth day’s cycling distance and maintain that for 16 days continuously. OK, it would be during the months of ‘Windy March’ and ‘Showery April’ in UK (not the glorious sunshine of this Western Australian day) but, with 3 months to train and prepare for it, how difficult could that possibly be?……………………..…what a great idea……………………………………………!!!!
I’d spied this particular spot and the oncoming ship earlier in my ride and so, with my camera set up on a pedestrian overpass and a wireless remote trigger in my hand, I was ready to capture this picture. But, with nowhere within half a mile on this dual carriageway to turn my bike around before the road curved out of sight, I was in too much of a rush to get back to my camera before it was potentially pinched and therefore didn’t manage to position the boat exactly where I wanted it in the frame.
This opportunity lost – but there’ll be others.
I reckon that if Chris Froome had to ride one of these, I might stand a chance of beating him in a bike race – mind you, the way he rode the Tour de France this year, I don’t think I’d back myself with my own hard-earned cash!
Two years ago to the day, having entered ‘L’Etape du Tour’, a cycling event that was to replicate a stage of The Tour de France and which was to take place on the fabled French alpine climbs of The Col du Telegraph, Col du Galibier and L’Alpe d’Huez in a month’s time, I was nearing the peak of training for the event. Much of my training took place at night on this and other similarly steep hills in Hong Kong. On that particular night 2 years ago, my final climb up this hill took me 23 mins 44 secs at an average heart rate of 150. Notably, that was achieved at the end of a 5+ hour ride in which I’d come off the bike at 25mph on a steep and wet downhill bend some 90 mins earlier. A clean handkerchief and a public toilet were the only resources I had to clean up the resulting nasty road rash. Compare that to my performance on exactly the same stretch of hill today – 32 mins and 11 secs at exactly the same average heart rate and only after a 2 1/2 hour ride and you get a sense of the amount of fitness that has been lost. The impact of 2 more advancing years is probably not negligible either!
The title of today’s blog represents my frustration at all this, without resorting to expletives!
Having landed after photo 1 in today’s series of images and caught up on a bit of sleep, I went out on an exploratory run of the city. I find running or cycling around cities a great way to get a feel for the place and today was no exception. The run/cycle doesn’t have to be continuous – in fact it’s better if it isn’t – stopping to take in these sort of views is just about obligatory and it helps to catch your breath and enable you to be out and about for much longer. This photo is taken from the Botanical Gardens and is a of view looking in almost exactly the opposite direction from photo 1 of earlier today. The theme of ‘framing’ is maintained by the overhanging branches of one of the many spectacular trees growing here.
The Monsoon Wind is blowing in Hong Kong at the moment and it was just 11 degrees celsius first thing this morning – making it feel very chilly. However, as I had a day off and it was a Sunday (almost the only ‘practical’ and ‘survivable’ cycling day of the week out here), I decided to make the most of the emptier roads. Now, if you were to ask ‘what type of wind is a Hong Kong Monsoon Wind?’ – I am now in a position to be able to tell you, with 100% certainty, that it is a HEADWIND! This does not help when the fitness levels have taken such a huge hit recently, but when the mind still remembers what you were able to do just a few months ago. ‘Winded’ is a doubly apt title for this post! My legs are going to be reminding me of my error in this regard over the next few days, I’m sure. Anyway, the ride was a successful, exploratory one during which I found my way onto ‘Route Twisk’ – Hong Kong’s longest, steepest, highest and twistiest road. There’s a bit more training to do before I tackle the full length of it in earnest, but it looks good.
The photo is a 4-image panorama, taken from the promenade in Tsuen Wan – the town at the foot of the climb – looking west across the bay towards the Ting Kau Bridge in the background.