African adventures 4 – Drakensberg canopy tour

1238172_10152174295663084_174664059_nDuring our last week in South Africa Holly had had the disappointment of one of her holiday activities being closed so we were looking for something a bit different that we could all do but would be “hers”
We found a leaflet at Didima Camp for a canopy tour that looked a little like go-ape so we booked for our last day in the Drakensberg, on the way back to Johannesburg.
There was the normal briefing before we were bundled onto a lorry and rattled up a rough track for a few km to the head of a gorge.
1230037_10152174295603084_197644371_nA canopy tour consists of a series of interconnected zipwires and platforms and were originally installed in South America to give a base and means  for botanists to explore the canopy so high above the forest floor. Someone realised they were also great fun and so now they have become tourist adrenaline rush adventures.

1240168_10152174295493084_1129222237_nMy head for heights is not as good as it used to be. It certainly wasn’t prepared for a a zip wire the length of a football stadium and 70 metres above a gorge. The zips zigged and zagged there way down the gorge, sometimes to platforms half way up a cliff, sometimes to the top of huge trees.

Included too was lots of commentary from our guides about the flora we were flying through but all too soon after over 20 slides it was time to finish.

The canopy tour was something that without Holly we never would have considered…  But is was amazing
http://www.drakensbergcanopytour.co.za/

 

Isobel Trail, Stafford

Last Saturday I was looking for something a bit different to take Holly out for a ride on. I wanted to do a long ride without too much climb and not bumpy for my back. I did think about going up into the Peak District to do one of the long paths which are based on old quarry railway lines but I wanted to find something closer to home. A quick google around and a check of the Sustrans website found me the Isobel trail. This follows the old railway line out of Stafford towards Gnosall and beyond. To start with we had about 600 metres of road from home to get down to the canal side but from there it is cycle paths of varying surface quality all the way from Milford into Stafford!

Some of the signing isn’t great if you don’t know where you are going  but Id definitely do it again, though the canal path could be a little muddy in winter in places.

We had a quick ice cream stop in the park before heading out onto the Isobel trail itself which starts a little secretly behind Stafford station. It is very straight and very flat but you do get good rural views from the path, particularly when it comes up onto embankments.

With a tiring Holly we decided to call it a day in Gnosall and turned off into the village to find some food. We found a fantastic little café called Gastronomy and had really good lunch before heading for home. I had a little trouble getting Holly going again but after moving the Garmin from my handlebar to hers and getting her to concentrate on keeping the speed over 12 kph we soon found ourselves back in Stafford after retracing our wheels for another break before the final stretch back to Milford and an up hill finish

The Isobel trail is not up there with those in the Peak District but for a local one for kids with little or no climbing its great (with an excellent café!)

Total ride time was about 4 hours – 39 km  – nice one Holly!

http://www.cycle-route.com/routes/Old_Railway_Line_Stafford_-_Gnosall-Cycle-Route-3479.html

http://thegastronomyshop.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Injury Update – July 2013

The more astute of my readers will have noticed a little activity in my Attackpoint training diary after so long with nothing showing. After several months of conversations and form filling with my GP and local trust I eventually got funding approval to go and see Dr Leon Creaney, a consultant in sports medicine at Birmingham QE hospital.

http://westernsportsmedicine.webplus.net/sportsmedicine.html

I had a fantastic hour or so with him and his Registrar, where after a full history and some poking and prodding, he sent me off for some X-Rays to use with the existing MRi for a full review of my back problems.

Cutting to the chase if I was a ‘normal’ inactive person there wouldn’t be much of a problem. As I have been told before, the risks involved in doing anything invasive outweigh and discomfort that I might get from time to time if I was an office based worker and couch potato. The trouble is I am not, as most of the people you know me would probably agree, – ‘Normal’

So where am I? – I have two damaged discs (not one) L4/5 and L3/4. L4/5 is much worse and is the one that caused me the major problems last summer. The only permanent solution and route back to any form of long term high level MTB or running competition is either a disc fusion or perhaps some modern alternative surgical techniques that sound a bit sci-fi involving lasers!.

As disc fusion is obviously a big step so I asked about perhaps trying another 6 months of more intensive conservative treatment, particularly as I am about to enter #BIMTransferseason and move jobs and see what sporting functionality I can get back.

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Dr Creaney has got me back on my full sus mountain bike (on the road) but advised I radically change the stem position to get more of a sit up and beg riding position and not pt too much power down (concentrate on using the gears and spinning). He has also got me to start going to Pilates and look at restarting of the core stability program I was doing last year. These things will not make my discs better, just give my back the strength it needs to help protect and prevent further damage and pain episodes.
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I’ve now done 4 Pilates sessions which are great and a few road rides. I get a little discomfort in my hip but the lower back pain has disappeared again which is good. I have tightened up on my diet too and the weight is very gently starting to come off again.

This Sunday I have a one to one Pilates assessment with a local instructor, who is going to put together a structured program for me to do at home between classes at the local leisure centre that to be honest vary in their quality week to week.

At the moment thoughts of MTBOs and ‘proper Mountain Biking are still way, way off but I at least I am now enjoying being able to go out in the evening sunshine on my bike and enjoy a ride or two with Holly.

 

Arran

For those that don’t know Arran is imagethe closest Scottish West Coast island to England, being south of even Glasgow. Over the years we have been to most of the inner Hebredian islands, Mull, Jura, Isla, Sky and even Colonsay but this time were looking for a holiday without quite the normal epic drive North.

The ferry from Ardrossan over to Arran is less that an hour and the moment you disembark life seems to go a bit slow mo, nobody rushing, the stress seeming to flow out of you.

Arran has everything, big mountains, forests, sandy beaches, cliffs, wildlife, whiskey, and great food, and is now our new favorite Scottish Island.

Riding a bike on the roads on Arran is generally a great experience with quiet roads and good surfaces. There is a fair bit of climb if you intend to circum-navigate though, however currently it isn’t possible due to some major roadworks half way round. There are Tea shops and cafés at far too regular intervals though and we unfortunately gained a 2 cakes a day + lunch habit, just driving round that we now need counselling to wean our selves off of!

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We only had a day and a half on the bike as we had other things to do. We rode on some great sweeping singletracks up from Lamlash over the saddle and down into Brodick before exploring the trails above Brodick castle in the forests. There are trails everywhere but unfortunately they are not waymarked and the OS map is non too up to date but you can pick your way around and I am sure those with GPS’s wouldn’t have any trouble at all. Fantastic views of the coastal bays, mountains, moorland and pretty villages jump out at you constantly changing, taking your breath away and of course being a mountainous island after the long climbs come very long grin inducing descents.

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There is even a Mountain Bike Orienteering map available from the offices of Arran Adventure, but a word of caution on the map as it is now fairly out of date.

The other rides we did were along the coastal paths, one from Lamlash out to the point and one from Sannox out towards Lochranza. On both rides unfortunately because of my back we had to turn back when the track became rough but the views and wildlife along the coast are amazing.

I look forward to a re-visit to Arran when my back is fixed to enjoy the many miles of mountain bike trails with their spectacular vistas.

 

Injury Update

Ive been waiting for an NHS referral to go and see a consultant in Sports Medicine in Birmingham but today have had a letter to say my local NHS Trust – Stafford will not fund me. Humphhhhh!

Things continue to get a little better month by month but at present I have just been left to rehab myself, no physio, no guidance, nothing…… To say I am not happy is an understatement this morning.

Rant over

 

Injury Update

So another month another injury update 🙁

I saw the consultant last week and he has signed me off with nothing more he can do. I am not better and I have him of call off from the GP if I get another bad attack. The message at the moment is keep trying to do more little by little and it will get better…… eventually……

I’ve had a week or so of ups and downs and have ended up in some lower back pain again – nothing down my leg so not too bad… At the JK spectating and coat holding I’ve had a chat with a few people and now have the names of some re-hab people – plus I am possibly gong to start doing some Yoga to keep me supple. I Don’t think I am going to be orienteering mountain biking or running any time soon but the current aim is to start doing more road riding on the full sus, lose some weight and get some cardio fitness back for the summer.

 

Twitter – Building Design Magazine Top 10 BIM Tweeters!

twitter-logoI started tweeting a little when I was trying to win a Dorset Cereals little blog award a few years ago campaigning for votes. I then realised other than Ada Timmis I didn’t know anyone on Twitter, wasn’t interested in what celebs said, didn’t have much to say other tha tweeting my blog posts and left it for a while. Then I realised that twitter was THE place to network and find out the latest in one of my fields of work – Building Information Modelling – BIM. This Buzz word in the construction industry at the moment is scaring lots of people silly because the government has mandated it use from 2016 on all public projects and take up is generally poor in the industry.

When something is new and perhaps controversial and you already know lots about it you can do 2 things: Knuckle down, keep your knowledge to yourself, mine its commercial advantage and just ‘take’ new information that you find or stick your head above the parapet, shout about it, roll your sleeves up and jump in to the scrum…

That’s what I have done with BIM and for me it has paid off. Mainly using Linked-In and Twitter together with more traditional cereal based beverage networking I have become well known in UK BIM circles, have learnt loads more and am hopefully giving back too. I was rewarded and really chuffed this week to be included in the Building Design Magazine Twitter top 100 tweeters and in the top 10 for BIM related tweeters…. ( you need to register for free to read it) http://www.bdonline.co.uk/business/advice/social-media/bdtwitter100-2013-top-10-bim-tweeters/5050778.article

When twitter first became popular I was sceptical and am on record in some company marketing meeting notes dismissing it as being a glorified RSS news feed and a tool for journalists and followers of celebs. However as its grown and spread if your ‘tribe’ is active on twitter it’s a fantastic place to get the latest gossip, news hot off the press and then just bizarre stuff you would never normally fall across from the other tribes your follow’s tweet or re-tweet . Things to make you angry, things to make you explore new stuff and perhaps just things that make you smile or laugh out loud.

Biking twitter is still in steady growth to some extent, many of the pro cyclists have perhaps been steered away somewhat I think by their teams and perhaps much of the rest is news tweets and general chat from established internet magazine sites, clubs and associations.

There is though lots of other cool stuff out there: it’s useful for finding out the moment entries for massively popular cycle sportives or mtb enduro events go live, some might find it good to get the latest on their favourite tour riders out of season, some to get hints on the latest secret trails, some just to find out the latest on a certain twitter using Texan athlete’s latest exploits but if you’ve not tried twitter give it a go, you might be surprised at what you find ..… what tribes do you belong to?

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Injury Update…

So having said I won’t just blog about the injury situation here is an update. I had another lumbar spinal cortisone injection in early January, the idea being that an injection into a fairly pain free back will give it the kick start it needs to heal properly and enable me to function a little more normally. Well to be honest to start with it got worse, particularly on the day of the injection when my right leg went numb. The recovery room was like a scene from a comedy sketch with nurses asking if we could stand up yet. Of course all of said yes…. Fine…. Only to then collapse back in our highback chairs again…  Got two packs of shortbread biccys this time though and yes I nearly fainted again… I don’t do needles very well.

So has it improved things…? I don t know…! I think so but I have been so so busy at work its hard to tell. If I look at things I can do now that I couldn’t do this time last year that’s a good test. I can now stand pain free for 30 mins, especially if I fidget a bit…. I can get away with the odd bike ride if I am not stupid…. I can bend and stretch OK and my SI joint isn’t jumping out as much as a few weeks ago… My back still gets sore and even up to a couple of weeks ago my hip would hurt in the mornings.

Crossed fingers then, I see the consultant in late March.