Our Local (Big) Pool

Pool swimming isn't easy living here.  It's an hour's drive to the Fort William swimming pool which has to be timed to catch the Corran Ferry.  The pool is used by the schools, so times are a little restricted.

So when we fancy a quick swim, we turn to Loch Sunart and go in at the Strontian slipway.  Two rivers enter the loch near here and after heavy rain the much colder fresh water sits on top of the sea water.  Recently it has even frozen.  However, all was good on Saturday.

Challenge 1 - Can 1st Ride of the Year Be A 100miler?

Half-way into this ride, I still had no idea whether I could complete it.

I had genuinely been more confident about finishing my Ironman than I was about this challenge.  I'd trained for nine months before the Ironman and done countless practice rides.

This was my first of the year.

I've previously explained why I like taking on challenges where the outcome is uncertain.  This one clearly demonstrates they don't need months of planning complex logistics.

In private, most keen cyclists suspect they could tackle 100 miles at any time of the year, relying on their residual fitness.  I decided to test this supposition.  It would be one of my first challenges in this my 60th year, hence the #yr60 on the photo.  Yes, we all need a hashtag these days.

I've done three Zwift session on the turbo, but nothing longer than an hour and a half, and since they're indoors, they don't count as true rides.  Obviously.

I knew I'd be slower than on previous century rides.  My Ironman time for the 112ml ride is 6hr 53min, but that was in aero position and I was 5kg lighter.  On my winter bike, at my winter weight, I would be slow.  I estimated it would take around 7-8 hours including food stops.  With limited daylight, that necessitated starting just before dawn and ending in the dark, so good lights were essential.

(Sorry about the video - it grabbed random photos!)

Relive 'Morning Ride'

The frozen night was forecast to develop into a sunny day, and I had chosen to ride a flat-ish route around two lochs, then turn around and come back.  As soon as I looked down onto the first loch I understood my problem; the water was warmer than the air and a thick mist rolled across its surface.

For much of the day I was riding inside a cloud of freezing fog.

Riding inside a cloud of freezing fog
I'd expected to start cold, then shed layers as the sun warmed the road.  Instead, I wore every stitch of clothing all day, including my rain jacket, with my snood pulled over my mouth.  That said, it was quite marvellous when the ice crystals in the air reflected the sun.

About 70miles in, the sun finally broke through and the views were as gorgeous as usual.

Ben Nevis
I completed the ride in a little over seven hours of riding time, and decided it had been a good way to launch my #yr60 set of challenges.  But in truth, it wasn't the first.  I had already begun another #yr60 challenge.  More about that next time.

One Challenge Each Month of 2018

I turn sixty in 2018 and I'm planning how to mark the event.  

It feels self-indulgent because two of my friends are seriously ill.  For one of them, this is almost certainly the last Christmas.

Their experience prompted me to make the most of every year, especially a milestone one.

What did you do for a big birthday year?  

Initial thoughts veered towards a classic 'Big Trip' to Bhutan or similar, but that felt too much like putting all my celebratory eggs into one expensive basket.

Instead, it's this:

I shall tackle at least one special challenge each month of the year.  

My definition of 'challenge' is deliberately loose (my game, my rules).  It's more a micro-adventure and most will not involve flying.  It need not be some gruelling endurance event.  For example, our recent winter swim under the arch of Durdle Door was only 300m long but it felt exceptional and so would qualify, had it happened in 2018.  However, swimming it a second time would not count as a challenge.  You get the idea...

Swimming under Durdle Door, Dorset
I am in the process of drawing up a list.  Some months already have several entries while some are deliberately blank because challenges are sure to crop up.  The best always seem to find me, not the other way around.  Current possibilities include; swimming the Gulf of Corryvreckan and the Sound of Harris; road biking through Morocco and... no, I'm already writing too much.

Let this be like a year-long advent calendar.  A new challenge every month. 

Two final points.  Unless you know me well you probably don't know my birthday.  I always give a fake date of birth on things like Facebook and Strava because it's a key identifier.  Secondly, I can barely believe I am entering my sixtieth year - how the f**k did that happen!

Yet when I think such thoughts, I remember my two sick friends.  I give thanks that I can make plans for 2018.  I recommend you do the same.  It's later than you think.

Video, Swimming the Door - Durdle Door, Dorset

It's not a huge challenging swim, but it's one we wanted to do this winter while we visited Dorset.  It would be great to combine it with the next bay or even Lulworth Cove.  Perhaps in the summer...

A Campervan for Cycling and Wild Swimming

The series of articles I've written for Jerba Campervans continues.

They're about using the van for different adventure sports.  The latest two articles cover Cycling and our latest pastime, Wild Swimming.

Eventually I'll post them all here, once they've sat on the Jerba site for a while.

Just to be clear, I've not been paid for writing these.  I've simply found the family-owned business great to deal with over the years and this is my way of saying "thank you."

A Campervan For Sea Kayaking

Over the years I've written quite a lot on this blog about our campervan called Nellie.

It's a 2008 model and for the first few years it was our main vehicle when we went sea kayaking.

It has taken us all over Scotland, from Aran to Shetland.

It was our base when shooting the Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown series of films.

And I wrote much of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail sitting at her table.

Just published is the second of my series of articles for our van converters Jerba Campervans.  I tell a few of the sea kayaking stories and look ahead to the next few articles which feature cycling, triathlon and wild swimming.