Pink! It’s my favourite colour

Me in a fetching pink vest

Fetching, non?

Hey, remember me? I’m that guy who writes stuff round these parts, although there’s not been much of that going on lately.

And it’s not like there haven’t been plenty of things to write about. Quite the opposite in fact, there’s been loads: the end of one school year for one, the start of a new one for another (including Megan’s first day at nursery)and that’s before considering summer holidays in France, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire or the Commonwealth Games right here in Glasgow.

All of those things deserve posts, and maybe I’ll actually get round to writing them at some point, but there’s something else that’s taken up a fair chunk of my time recently that absolutely needs mentioning first.

12 days ago, I competed in my first duathlon – that’s a triathlon where the swimming part is replaced by an extra run. As if one run isn’t enough! I managed to complete the two 5km runs, with a 20km cycle in between, in a fairly respectable (I think) time of 1:35:17. And this Sunday I’ll be running my first half marathon in 20 years at the Great Scottish Run. Exciting times!

Duathlon finish line

The end is in sight :)

Either of these events would be a test on their own. Taking on both is even more of a challenge, and one I did think long and hard about – especially 15 days apart. So why am I doing this to myself?

Back in July we learned that a good friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which was quite a shock, not least because she’s younger than me. Fortunately, things are looking good for our friend, and it looks like things have been caught early enough. But many other women (and men) aren’t so lucky, and with 1 in 8 women expected to be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives, finding new cures and improving survival rates is imperative.

Which is why I’m taking part in these events – to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign, a UK based charity funding world-class breast cancer research projects. I’ve set myself a fundraising target of £600, and at the time of writing have raised a total of £440. And that’s where you come in – I’d love to smash my target and you could be the person who helps me to do that.

You can donate via JustGiving by clicking on the following link – https://www.justgiving.com/Richard-Black3/ – and any donation, no matter how small, will be very much appreciated. Not least because it will make the blisters, the sore legs and the early starts for training runs/bike rides all the more worthwhile.

And who knows, smashing that target might even encourage me to write more on this here blog! Actually, maybe that’s not an incentive to sponsor me. Yeah, ignore that bit. As you were…

But thanks for reading. And if you decide you can spare a few pounds, thanks for that too. I really appreciate it, and I guess the folks whose lives it saves in future will too.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

When the glory fades

Kelvingrove Park

Kelvingrove Park, part of Glasgow 2014’s cycling road race

Today marks one year since my first bike ride to work. Since then I’ve covered over 3,700 miles, wearing out an entire drive-train in the process, and “enjoyed” pretty much every kind of weather Glasgow had to throw at me. I’m also a good bit fitter than I was 12 months ago, evidenced by the fact that today’s journey took almost 10 minutes less than that first one a year ago, despite being longer thanks to a few diversions.

And yet, instead of celebrating what I’ve been able to do over the past year, my journey today had a very melancholy feeling about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud to have come so far (no pun intended… well, maybe a little bit) but my journey across the city passes by – and through – several of the Commonwealth Games venues, and it’s just not the same as it was last week.

Take Glasgow Green for example. The pathways I normally use are still closed (hence the diversions) so instead of hugging the river I had to take the long way round, which took me past the entrance to what was the Live Zone, now sadly closed. The Ferris wheel, which we never rode on in the end, is still there, but it’s stationary, waiting to be dismantled and moved on to the next big event. I even caught a glimpse of the road events’ finish line, deserted and nothing like it was at the weekend.

It was the same story along the Clydeside – what was bustling just a week ago was now virtually empty, returned back to normal just like the rest of the city. Even the buzz of riding the same Kelvingrove paths that the likes of Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, David Millar and Scott Thwaites did on Sunday was fleeting.

I don’t think I’m alone in having the post-Games blues. I’m pretty sure loads of folk across the city are feeling the same way. There’s even a petition to have the official mascot, Clyde, adopted by the city, and made a permanent mascot, which I’ve signed. I almost shed a tear last night when I showed his farewell video to the kids. They absolutely loved him, and hearing Heather ask “where’s he going?” and “he’ll be back next year though, won’t he?” tugged on the old heartstrings even more than the video itself.

More positively, I think Glasgow has put on a great show for the world, and showed itself off as the fantastic city it is, and I’m sure the benefits of that will reaped for years to come – decades even.

I’ve no idea what the next big event will be, but I’m confident that there will be one. And I, for one, can’t wait to do it all over again.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Last minute Father’s Day gifts

With the girls still being a bit young to buy their own gifts when it comes to birthdays, Christmas etc, it’s still up to Gem and I to do the honours. When it comes to Mother’s Day, I seem to have attracted a reputation for being a bit rubbish at it, which is entirely unjustified. I’m pretty sure this comes from Gem’s first couple of Mother’s Days, which were spent travelling back from Dubai and Lincolnshire respectively.

Not exactly the luxury pampering experience you might want, but it’s not my fault our travel plans coincided with such an important day, or that my wonderful idea of picking up gifts in Dubai duty free backfired a little because we didn’t have as much time to kill in the airport as I’d thought. Still, though, I’ve not forgotten one yet, so that’s good, right?

There have, however, been one or two last minute purchases over the years – the sort of “oh, that date is this Sunday? Really???” last minute purchase we’ve all done on occasion.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Father’s Day is this Sunday coming, and I’m sure Gem has things well in hand. The girls have certainly let slip enough information to let me know that there are plans afoot, although I have no idea what. I thought I’d jot a few ideas down here anyway, though, just in case they’re required. You never know…

Beer/Whisky

WhiskyI was into craft beer before it was fashionable, but it’s good of everyone else to catch up because it means more choice for me. My only complaint is that all the good shops in Glasgow have been on the other side of the city, but that’s now changed with the opening of Drygate in the East End. I’ve yet to visit, but the range of beers behind the bar and in the shop looks impressive, as does the food. In fact, I wonder if we have any lunch plans on Sunday…

Whisky is something my father-in-law got me into, and I’m very glad he did. Like him, I tend to go for the Islay whiskies like Laphroaig and Lagavulin, but more recently I’ve developed a fondness for the Highland region too, with Macallan Gold and Ardmore being two of my most recent discoveries. Whisky stocks are quite low at the moment, but to be honest a nice bottle never goes amiss!

Cycling gear

Trek hybrid bike

If I’ve learned one thing in the last year, it’s that cycling requires lots of stuff. Most of mine has been picked up on the cheap, and with summer now on its way, I’m realising I could do with some extra tops/shorts to throw into the rotation – the current crop are starting to smell a bit, no matter how many times they’ve been washed. Sports Direct have a decent range of cycling tops and shorts, and I’ve been happy with previous purchases from their Muddy Fox range, so would have no qualms acquiring more.

Failing that, some running socks wouldn’t go amiss either!

Music

Gemma’s one failing when it comes to Father’s Day came in 2010, when part of my present was an IOU for Slash’s first album, which four years later I’m still waiting on. These days I’m more likely to stream something on Spotify, or download it from iTunes though, so some kind of voucher is probably the way to go

So there you have it – some last minute gift ideas that would make me (and I’m sure many other dads) happy. Although to be honest, I’ll be delighted just getting a lie-in followed by a day with my three favourite girls. :)

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Looks like we made it

me, cycling

My first bike ride in 15+ years. Seems a lot longer than a month ago!

Regular readers (and I believe there are some these days!) might remember something I wrote a while back, about potentially ditching the car and cycling to work. I’m very pleased to announce that just shy of two months later I’ve turned that idea into reality, having this morning covered the 15.5 miles to work using nothing more than pedal power.

And it feels fantastic!

Obviously there’s been a lot of planning and work to get to this point, but not as much as I’d anticipated, which has surprised me a lot to be honest.

Buying a bike was the first step. Having not even ridden a bike for at least 15 years, and never having bought one myself, it was a pretty steep learning curve deciding what I wanted and trying to find it within the budget I’d set myself. A budget which, it should be pointed out, grew several times as I learned more. I decided to go for a hybrid bike (a cross between a road and mountain bike) because I wasn’t sure I was ready for a pure road bike, but knew I didn’t need the strength (and added weight!) of a mountain bike. After poring over specs, weighing up various pros and cons, I plumped for a Trek 7.2 FX, financed by selling our about-to-be-surplus-to-requirement second car.

Trek 7.2 FX Disc

My new wheels. Just ignore the weeds…

After that, it was a simple case of building up to being able to cover the 31 mile round trip. My original plan was to build up gradually, parking at railway stations and advancing a station every few days. However, once I started riding I realised that with a few practice rides I should be able to jump in with both feet and cover the full distance.

And that’s what I’ve done. Today’s morning commute tipped me over 100 total miles in the month since I got my bike, with my longest ride being Saturday’s 25.6 mile ride, scouting most of the route to/from work in a single journey. Managing that in one go was a real boost, and made me sure that I’d manage both legs today without any problems.

There’s been a lot of effort off the bike too, planning a route that was safe – keeping me away from the busiest traffic – without becoming a long, meandering loop that added time and miles. The route I’ve settled on goes through three parks and follows the courses of the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin. And the bits where I’m on the roads almost entirely involve cycle lanes, which is ideal.

Next achievement is cycling both ways, five days a week. I’m not expecting that to be this week, and possibly not even next. But it won’t be long. And then? Who knows. A year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d have bought a bike, let alone planning to ride 150 miles on it every week, so I’m not going to make any bold predictions, and I’m certainly not taking on any crazy challenges quite yet.

Actually, thinking about it, my next challenge is the 15.5 miles back home. With the added incentive of an amazing welcoming committee when I get home. Better than I arrived to here this morning, that’s for sure!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!