The Great Strontian Pig Chase. Volume Two - Rescues.

With the departure of their previous pair of pigs on their one-way trip to Mull, our crofter friends yesterday acquired two new pigs to rear.

As seems to be traditional, no sooner had they arrived than they escaped.

As we turned up to help, the first of the pair had already been caught. Agricultural college clearly teaches you how best to catch run-away pigs.

Regular readers might remember The Great Strontian Pig Chase in September 2010.  

Just as on that occasion, I had cleaned my car inside only days earlier. So there was no way this pesky porker was climbing inside.  

Fortunately, the van was close at hand.  But as of writing, the second pig is still at large.

Breathtaking Timelapse Film In Yosemite

To read about this epic piece of film making, check out Shawn Reeder's Vimeo page.  Below is what it says about this shoot.  

I am a destination visual artist who specializes in photography, timelapse cinematography, & filmmaking.  I love to travel, so if you have a project in some far flung location, lets talk.

Yosemite National Park, the High Sierra, and the Eastern Sierra are some of the most beautiful places on earth. Ever since I serendipitously won a trip to Yosemite when I was 18, the beautiful Range of Light has captured my heart and become my home. Nothing brings me more joy than to share this life changing beauty with others.

Ever since I became fascinated with timelapse photography almost 2 years ago, after seeing the work of Tom Lowe, I’ve wanted to do a piece on Yosemite and the Sierra. Now after almost 2 years of shooting, I'm thrilled to share. I hope you enjoy my vision of my home, the majestic Yosemite & Sierra. Best viewed Full Screen with Sound :)

If you would like to license any of my clips or hire me to shoot for you, please be in touch.
Web: shawnreeder.comEmail: shawn@shawnreeder.comFacebook:

Music licensed and used with permission by: shaunpaul.comComposition used: Sounds of Peace

Huge thanks to Kessler Crane and Lens Pro To Go. Without their help this piece would not have been nearly as good.

How Cool Are These Puffins?

I just love this photo - the puffin seems to be posing for Liz to take his picture.  Of course, after a winter in the north atlantic, we're no real challenge for these tiny, hardy birds.

We met hundreds on a leisurely three-day trip to the Treshnish Islands and Staffa this weekend as we made the most of the all too rare superb weather on Scotland's west coast.  I now have more photos of puffins than I know what to do with.  But despite bristling with cameras, my two favourites that I've posted here, we both taken on my iPhone.  We were that close...

Excellent Kayak Trip Video by Jim Krawiecki

I can't wait to see what video comes back from the Greenland trip...

Wow - That Was Some Wave!

This is the 'shelter' at Ardnamurchan Point, just below the lighthouse.  

Except it's not much of a shelter any more.  

Vandals did not venture to the most westerly point in the British mainland and do this damage.  

The extensive remodelling is courtesy of the storms we had last December.

There were two particularly ferocious series of blasts and here, on this exposed headland, the wind, sea and the debris they carried had an explosive impact on this little building.

Oh if you're wondering, the huge red cone on the roof is the old fog horn.  If you go there, take a look the the compressors which used to drive this thing.  Then cilimb the lighthouse where you'll find one of the last lighthouse keepers called Ian who gives a fascinating tour.

DVD review - This Is The Roll. Or is it?

If there’s one kayak technique we’d all like to improve, it’s our roll.  

So combine Justine Curgenven’s skills as a film maker, with the Greenland teaching skills of Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson, and you have a DVD which is going to sell very well.  

Real rolls you can use in real situations is the idea behind this DVD – so does it deliver?

Priced £19.99 and $29.99 the DVD is available from Cackle TV.

Cheri and Turner are renowned Greenland paddlers.  I’ve watched them work at a symposium on the Isle of Skye and recorded Podcasts with each where they explain their approach to rolling.  

This DVD is like having advanced, personal rolling tuition from Cheri and Turner.  It accurately captures the way they teach rolling, so it’s clear they are much more than presenters and have been involved throughout the shoot, scripting and edit. 

Whatever kayak you own, whatever paddle you use, the teaching method used by Cheri and Turner is Greenlandic.  Most pupils start in a tuliq with (eventually) a Greenland stick in their hands, so that’s what we see in the DVD.  Now, this might be an issue for some people, so I’ll come back to it later.

When I was struggling to learn to roll I went on a weekend course at Glenmore Lodge (that didn’t work for me) and watched C2C rolling DVDs (they didn’t work either).  If you’ve been down that route, then you’ll find this Greenlandic approach quite different.

Turner and Cheri emphasise what matters most is what your body is doing, not what you’re wearing or the type of paddle you have in your hand.  Get the roll Greenland style, and the technique will transfer, they say.

Of course, it’s impossible to learn a skill from just watching a DVD.  

So a good kayak coaching DVD has to give you the right amount of information, in the right format and sequence, for you to remember enough of what you've seen when you get on the water.  

When you need to progress, or review the material because something isn’t working as it should, come back and watch the DVD again.  

The producers should anticipate what you’ll need before you know you need it.

Sensibly, this production (aimed at beginners to more advanced rollers) doesn’t divert into the more esoteric of the 35 rolls in the Greenland competition, although Cheri hints we might see those in a “second DVD”.  

Instead, it concentrates on three rolls; the Standard Greenland Roll, Reverse Sweep, and Storm Roll.  (As an aside - a lot of people who’re interested in the more advanced rolls would benefit from watching this DVD because, if they can improve their body motion, then they'll find the esoteric rolls easier).

Each roll is broken down into a series of learning points that ought to be mastered before progressing.  

Turner and Cheri show each in action, talk us through the learning process step by step, then introduce students so we can see non-experts getting to grips with the process.  

After that, there’s a ‘Troubleshooting’ section where common (and less common) mistakes are identified and remedies suggested.  

It’s all filmed from every conceivable angle; shore, on the water, under the water and even in a back garden where Cheri uses a skin-less kayak so you can see how her legs are working underneath the deck.  

Freeze frames with graphics emphasise key points, and there are subtitles in French, Spanish and Italian.  So you could learn a language too.

The underwater pictures really stand out.  Justine shot some of these using scuba gear and she told me it was tricky, “not being used to it and with a strong-ish current that kept dragging me along the bottom away from where I wanted to stand ... kicking up dirt etc.” 

At other times the air tanks were abandoned for a simpler system.  

“The underwater shots of Turner in the brown tuliq with the brown boat were done with a mask and a tow belt filled with rocks in a clear, cold lake on Vancouver island. I'd take a deep breath, sink, point the camera and T would perform.”

But please - don’t try to watch the whole thing in one sitting.  

There’s just too much information and your head will explode.  

It is probably best watched in pairs, so you can study a section together then immediately practice what you’ve seen.  As well as keeping you safe, your partner will be better placed to identify what any mistakes you’re making, so you can return to the DVD to study the Troubleshooting sections.  I suspect each copy of this DVD will be watched many, many times.

The strength of this Greenland teaching technique presents a slight difficulty for the DVD viewer who only uses a Euro-blade.  

They’re required to do some mental gymnastics; they must watch people in tuliqs with Greenland sticks, then ‘translate’ the teaching they’ve seen to something that will work with the equipment they use.

Because in a DVD which runs for more than 2hours 30 minutes, barely 13 minutes are devoted to teaching with Euro-blades, and most of that is just voice-over not actual to-camera teaching.  

Some viewers won’t like this, because they don’t have a Greenland stick and can’t immediately put into practice exactly what they’ve seen on screen.  

Yet that misses the point of this Greenlandic approach which is more about your body and less about what’s in your hands.

For those who have a good basic roll but want to be able to roll in trickier sea conditions, the Storm Roll and Reverse Sweep sections make excellent viewing. 
“We are marketing the DVD as showing people rolls that they can use in real situations to prevent a swim”, says Justine. 

So just be clear - This is not just the roll - This Is The Roll as taught by two world renowned Greenland paddlers, Cheri and Turner.  It clearly says on the cover “Greenland Rolling”, and that is exactly what you get in spades.  It will surely sell well.

Amazing Video Camera At Inexpensive Price

If things look too good to be true they usually are.  I sure want to know more about this camera.

£500 of Kayak Kit For An E-mail. Possibly.

Reed Chillcheater will give away two complete sets of paddling gear worth over £500 and all you have to do enter this comppetition is send them an email.

Closing date 31st May.  Full rules and conditions are on their website.

Re-Creating Original St Kilda Crossing

Forty seven years after Anne and Hamish Gow made the first crossing to St Kilda by sea kayak, a team from the Stornoway Canoe Club plan to re-create the orginal crossing for a TV programme.

A local boat builder will build a replica double kayak, assisted by Duncan Winning, who is advising on original design plans.

The clothing has to look authentic and, at the same time, be safe. Reed Chillcheater are tackling that end of things.

It won't be a husband and wife team in the double kayak, it'll be two women.  Dolina Swanson and Christine Stewart hope they'll be the first all female double crew to cross to St Kilda.

No doubt the TV programme will use Hamish's original cine footage which also features in Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 2 and, more extenstively, in Hamish's Kayaking Films.

The original footage had been drawn to my attention by Mike Sullivan, who is coordinating this project.  Mike also features in our DVD - he's one of the Stornoway club playing on Loch Seaforth in the last coaching session (he does a pop-out in his son's kayak).

The attempted crossing will be filmed by MacTV for the BBC Alba programme 'Trusadh', in which Mike and (I think!) one of the other paddlers featured earlier this year.  Here's their Facebook page.

Best Sea Kayaking Film 2012 Winner Logo

This rather nice logo arrived yesterday.

According to the Reel Paddle Film Festival organisers, there is much higher demand this year for the 'tour' of winning films.  Which means a lot more people watching the cut-down version of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.

I'm told Janice get's a good laugh when she is volunteered to capsize (again) and Gordon's swim-ashore and swim-out to re-enter his kayak provokes lots of hooting, whooping and cheering.

The only confirmed Winner's World Tour booking in the UK that I know about is Liverpool Canoe Club later this year.

If you've booked the tour, for your club or symposium, (costs about £600) please let me know and I'll see if I can get you some sort of 'extra'.

My First Cycle Training Camp

Photo: Train in Spain
Looking back, I feel somewhat stupid.  

I booked a place on a cycle training camp with Train In Spain and, only as departure date drew close, did I realise I had little idea of what I'd do during the week.  

Other than ride my bike, of course.  However, it proved to be a superb six days. 

I learnt a lot, improved my cycling, enjoyed some fantastic countryside and spent time with like-minded people.  

(Incidentally, I paid full price and have receive no form of payment).

Before the camp, I was certain about four things.

1. I did not want was to pay someone just to organise bicycle outings in the hills above Denia, an area of Spain I know well.

I could do that for myself at lower cost.

2. I imagined the 'training' would be the cycle equivalent of the 5* sea kayak training course I did.  Something like, "today we're going to look at faster cornering".

3. I booked the Sportstest cycle training camp (Train In Spain run others) because Dr Garry Palmer's scientific approach to training appealed.  

His website shows athletes tested on fixed bikes, and precisely determined training 'zones' can be hugely valuable in future training sessions.  This would be practical information to take away.

4. I expected only a small group, twelve at most, so we'd receive personal attention and allow everyone to undergo this 1-to-1 testing.

Turns out I was completely wrong on all four!

Let me go through my misunderstandings in reverse order.  That way, my overall impression of this week-long training camp will emerge.

Group size.  Having come from a sea kayaking and mountaineering background, where groups are kept relatively small, I was astonished (and alarmed) to learn there would be 35 people on this camp.  

Yet this was a huge positive because, in such a large gathering, you can always find people of similar ability to ride with.  
Photo: Train in Spain
Day one was a 25km climb during which our performance was assessed.  On the basis of our speed up this climb we split into three groups. No-one needed telling which group they were in, it was obvious. I was later told that one of the young members of the fastest 'Group One' is being spoken of as a potential future Olympian.

Imagine if I'd turned up at a camp with fewer people, all of whom were of that ability!  I'd spend every ride feeling like the donkey at the back, while they hung around for ages at the top of each climb.  

I'm not rubbish on the bike, I'm just slower than people half my age who train twice as much.  Train In Spain makes clear, this camp is not for people who want a leisurely ride in the hills, you must be able to crank out a minimum average speed 22-23kph on hilly terrain.  Our average speed was slightly above this for most of the week, and I'll post some of the routes in coming days.

Some of our (slowest) Group Three had already taken part in exhausting events such as La Marmotte and Etape du Tour, to which I aspire, so I learned a great deal from their experiences.

Before you enter a big Sportive (especially one with a time limit) you wonder whether you're good enough to complete the course in the given time. That I could keep up with people who had completed such events proved extremely reassuring.

Few of these conversations happened in the evening because, once dinner was over, I tended to fall straight into bed.

Instead we'd chat to one another during the day on climbs, during rest stops, or when Mike was fixing his chain.  Again.  Poor bloke - he had five chain breaks in three days, whereas most of us got away without a single puncture.

Sometimes the tech-talk became a little nerdy.  Non-cyclists would have a tough time, because this was a self-selected group. Yet it was refreshing to be with a bunch of people who don't find it weird to count carbohydrate/protein/fat intake on a daily basis, or go to extraordinary lengths to incorporate their training into everyday life.

Or spend winter evenings pedalling a static bike like a giant hamster.

Sportstest.  Two days before departure, an e-mail arrived saying that, unlike previous Sportstest training camps, there would be no testing this year.  

So it what sense could this camp include the words 'Sports' and 'test', I wondered?  

Three lectures from Dr Garry Palmer on Nutrition, Weight Loss and Recovery were some compensation.  

Far more important, however, were 1-to-1 sessions with Garry in which we could discuss goals and ways to achieve them.  

I now realise that it would be very difficult to test a lot of people during a one week camp.  One test takes several hours, so Garry would manage at most three a day.  

Dr Garry Palmer
Those tested on the first day might perform poorly after the disruption of travelling (I rode badly on day 1), while those tested later in the week would find their performance deteriorating due to the miles they had clocked up.

In fact, had a test been offered to me after day three, I think I'd have turned it down.

However, I was slightly surprised at how many people seemed to know each other.  Then I realised, many of the riders were previous clients of Garry.

This training camp was slotted into their diaries as a chance to catch up and discuss progress.  

More than half the group seemed to have power meters, so evenings could be spent comparing wattage relative to heart-rate on their laptops.  Yep, these folk take it seriously.

Two misconceptions down and two to go - let me take them together.

Training.  In this context, it was all about getting miles into our legs.  Or rather, kilometres.  

Riding with a group close to your own ability, some better some worse, is a much more effective training exercise than riding solo.  

You push yourself harder to keep up with (or stay in front of) others in the group.  That applies both uphill and down.  

My climbing and descending both improved.  Not because I was taught any specific technique, but because I pushed myself harder than I do when riding alone.

The mild Spanish weather helps, but we were very lucky.  One week earlier and we'd have been deluged by torrential rain, which caused flooding along parts of the Costa Blanca.  

I know from past experience, March weather can be less than reliable.  Wind-proof tops and arm warmers were useful first thing in the morning, but for most of the day we were in shorts and shirts, some people using base layers underneath.

The excellent mountain roads were simply a delight.  

It's much harder to ride on the rough, pitted carriageways which pass as roads in the west highlands of Scotland.  

Spain put loads of its EU money into its mountain road network, so we mainly cruised on smooth tarmac with relatively few cars.  

Those vehicles which came past us were mostly patient and courteous, giving us the space we needed.

Organisation.  The most significant aspect of a training camp is the one which, when it works, you hardly notice it's there, because everything just happens.  

From the airport coach and separate rented van for bike boxes; to the daily 6:30pm briefings; to the small rented van ferrying fresh water to the tops of hills; and most of all, to the guides.  

Whatever the group dynamics, the range of 'guides' seemed to have it covered.

Let me give an example.  On our long day, groups one and two went off on a 180km very hilly route.

Group One had two young pro-riders as guides which ensured no-one would whizz off ahead.  Our Group Three tackled a shorter route, and somewhere along the way, we fractured into three sub-groups, each wanting to push on a little further.  

This had been anticipated, and there were guides to go with each group, bringing them back to the hotel independently of each other.

Base was the Ogisaka Garden Apartment Hotel, twenty minutes walk from the centre of Denia and close to the new bars and restaurants of the marina.

The rooms were apartments, with 2 hobs, microwave, kitchen sink and a washing machine so kit (especially shorts) could be kept clean.  

I'm not certain, but the rooms might have had some un-wanted extras.  A few of us reported bites on our legs during the night and there were no mosquitos in the room.

The food was buffet-style and not much above average.  I cooked a pan of pasta on day one, chopped tomatoes, courgette, hard-boiled egg and olives into it, and this was my post-ride fuel each day, sometimes negating the need to eat later.

Having initially misunderstood what a cycle training camp involved, I could have hated this week. I didn't.  I loved it.  I'm looking forward to going back another year.