Sunday, 20 July 2008


It has been a good week.

Mr Why? Senior has taken his first steps with his latest hip, with all the signs filtering down to the Big Smoke being extremely encouraging so far. I'm hoping to head north in the not-too-distant future to see his new-found mobility for myself.

Speaking of mobility, the programme I've been working on for the last year or so has been officially mobilised/launched/rebranded/reorganised/re-christened/baptised/etc. This required an away day at a conference centre playing buzzword bingo during listening to the morning's presentations before stepping in as a late replacement facilitator for the afternoon workshop sessions. I hate facilitating these things - it's always awkward to find oneself trying to limit the input of important people who like to talk a lot and encourage people a few rungs further down the organisational ladder to share their thoughts. Fortunately, the group I had was rather good in this respect, with it's most senior member doing a surprisingly good job of facilitating the session himself, leaving me the relatively politically safe task of writing neatly on the flipcharts. Another relief...

What else? Oh yes, I remember - training appears to be paying off. This is a relief otherwise I'd be taking a leaf out of other people's books and jacking in the notion that training improves performance. I reset my maximum weights midweek and managed to crank another 10% onto most of the weights. The next weights session will leave me in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) agony for about 72 hours, if previous experience is anything to go by (but it's several weeks until we race again, so that's OK). This time, however, I will ensure that I move anything frequently used downstairs so that I don't find myself in the tricky situation of having to weigh the pros and cons of the pain involved in descending the stairs to get myself to the loo against the slow torture of an increasingly full bladder. (Life is full of such difficult choices...)

The last source of relief for the week is that I have now been out in a pair twice and not died/required the services of the lovely people at the RNLI. A couple of us had been toying for a while with the possibility of taking out a pair. We regularly find ourselves in the gym in the evenings when the water is beautifully calm and the skies clear and sunny, and figured learning to pair successfully would enable us to get off the ergs and onto the water a bit more often. When a suitably robust pair returned from repair, we seized the opportunity to take it out.

Somehow, I've managed to acquire the job of steering.

I now have renewed sympathy for the various coxless boats which have managed to crash into us or cause a near miss over the last few months. Steering ain't easy. It's a bit like having to learn to drive again, but without the luxury of having an instructor with dual controls. There aren't any quiet side roads, either, and instead you're forced straight onto, say, the A6. Also, boats don't have L-plates (though they perhaps should, particularly the way I've managed to steer these last couple of days...). Oh, and the other tricky things about this steering malarkey are that you're travelling backwards, and at the mercy of your crewmates to row at an even pressure. Handily, the river is fairly quiet at the moment, as my steering is not yet perfect. Far from it, in fact.

Nevertheless, hope springs eternal and after two reasonably uneventful outings in a pair, we've decided that it's a realistic ambition to win at whatever status we end up racing at the Pairs Head (a 4km time trial in October). We've therefore got just under three months for me to learn to steer (it's always handy to be able to steer when racing on the Tideway). This might prove a little ambitious, but it's great fun and also rather exciting to have a new project to work on, and something to keep me busy over the remainder of summer.


Rob Clack said...

Wonderful! Go for it! Just one question; how do you know where to steer, when you're watching where you've just come from? Do you have one of those little head-mounted mirrors you sometimes see cyclists using?

Kahless said...


Cant wait to hear what happens when the river isnt calm hehehe!

But Why? said...

Every few strokes you turn your head around to take a look at what's coming up, and point the boat away from any banks/buoys/other vessels that might otherwise get in your way!

Rest assured if I have another RNLI moment, I'll let you know. I'm rather hoping our coach might want to keep an eye on us when we take out what he described before our first outing as "The Suicide Pair", and try to ensure we don't drown. Otherwise, he might find he's a couple of rowers short of an eight...

DJ Kirkby said...

Oh good luck! Yes do keep busy, heaven forbid you should be bored! xo

But Why? said...

Thanks. Following Monday evening, I've also decided I'll race in the single when head racing kicks off again in earnest. So, with the pair and the single, I should have plenty chances to get out on the water after the regatta season finishes. There's very little chance that I shall be getting bored (or out of shape) over summer (though I may use it as an excuse to drink coffee and alcohol and eat chips and ice-cream and chocolate, and maybe see my friends!

trousers said...

I thought of you earlier (in part thanks to your recent comment on my blog) since, given that the weather has been extraordinarily humid (and rather warm) today, and also given that the weather forecast was for thunderstorms, I decided to go out on the bike for one of my 25 mile routes.

It was kind of funny looking into the distance to my right, and seeing very heavy, threatening, bullet-grey clouds looming ominously (have I used too many descriptors here), since they were looming right over where I was due to be cycling.

I went for it.

As I headed onward, the atmosphere got heavier - positively sludgy - and the more I cycled, the more I knew that at any given moment the storm was going to break.

It did, with panache - after a few minutes of occasional, heavy raindrops (which were pretty refreshing in fact) - the suddenly the weather thought, "I'm having this!" and the clouds opened. It took mere seconds for me to be soaked through to the skin.

I pedalled on, laughing slightly hysterically as the onslaught continued relentlessly. There weren't exactly many other cyclists out and about, though I passed one by and shouted "turned out nice again" - as a huge clap of thunder made me instinctively swerve momentarily.

The vistas of the local countryside were rendered wonderfully dramatic, there was a real sense of them being alive to the elements. I kept having to lower my shades to the end of my nose so that I could actually see anything, mind you.

For a stretch, as the thunder rolled on, the rain eased from torrential to merely quite heavy, and it was great to see the steam rising up from the road surface - it was slightly eerie. In fact when I had been cycling through some pretty isolated country lanes for a good while, I started to think about English horror films from the 60s and 70s, and how much of it relies on countryside: the silence, being at the mercy of the elements, getting lost...and suddenly had a sense that if anything went wrong with the bike then I was pretty stranded.

On I went and, as long as I kept moving, I felt comfortable. Except for my shoes which squelched a lot as I applied pressure to the pedals. It was only as I got home, and stopped, that I realised how heavy my clothing was, since of course it was soaked through.

One warm shower and a round of cheese on toast later, and I'm now watching the storm continue - it's actually got even more torrential now, whereas I've got a wonderfully warm glow.

Cathartic, exhilarating, and perhaps a little silly.

Hope all's well with you, it looks to be, and sorry that I haven't made reference at all to the post in question!

But Why? said...


The break must be doing you good - that's a post in itself :)

I wonder what it was about your day that made you think of me...?

I love storms.

Your ride sounds fantastic. Enjoy the warm glow xx

trousers said...

I got to the end of my comment knowing that, with a bit of post-production (so to speak), it could well have been a post in its own right. The fact that it isn't, is telling - sometimes it's easier to speak from the sidelines (now that sounds absurdly dramatic, but there is a point in there somewhere :) )

As a post-script, as the storm intensified and seemed to happen in waves (almost literally, given the poor drainage round these parts) I decided it was the perfect evening to go to my lovely local pub.

I donned my waterproof jacket and braved the torrential rain for the sake of a couple of pints, expecting to be able to count other souls in the pub on the fingers of one hand.

Oddly enough, it was positively buzzing in there - I wasn't sure whether I should be disappointed (ie, if there were only 5 people in there then I would definitely count among the hardcore) or pleased (ie, such are the delights of my local that the twin demons of a Monday night and severe weather wouldn't put all that many punters off).

Either way, I felt/feel even more mellow now, this side of a couple of pints of Abbot.

But Why? said...

I can relate to that mellow feeling on the correct side of a decent pint or two - I pulled a PB in the gym today and celebrated with a very welcome pint of Honeydew in a local riverside pub with just a few endorphins kicking around my bloodstream, a couple of crewmates and (it seemed) the rest of the population of Hammersmith and Fulham for company. It seems that the twin demons of a riverside pub and a sunny evening couldn't put off enough punters for there to be any seating available for us, but with my pint and endorphins for company (not forgetting my crewmates), I was rather content.

Abbot's a nice ale. I don't see much of it down here (though that may be because I rarely find myself in a pub...)

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