Video - Cycle Training and Science in Sport Winter Academy

I mentioned I am one of nine folk in the SiS Winter Academy to improve my off season training nutrition. I've decided to share all the information I receive with readers of this blog. So it makes sense for you to know the types and extent of winter training I'm doing.

By coincidence, I needed to test a new tiny waterproof camera, the Sony GW55VE .  So I've shot this video (almost) entirely on that camera using the on-board mic. There are a couple of GoPro shots in there but very few. Otherwise it was me, the Sony, a GorillaPod , and lots of running around. The video is also on YouTube.

The academy gets going for real later this week with a nutritional assessment - I'll let you know how that goes. Otherwise things will be quiet here from me this week because I'll be away shooting some of DVD3.

Make Your Bike Trot Like A Horse. Eh?

This self-assembly contraption, when teamed with coconut shells (not supplied) and fitted to the front wheen of your bike, makes the sound of a trotting horse. Brilliant. Costs £25 from Trotify and they're trying to sell 1000. Sadly it won't fit my Specialize frame or I'd have one like a shot.  Maybe...

Science in Sport Winter Academy - I'm In!

Nine people in the UK have been picked by the sports nutrition company Science In Sport to receive help with their winter training.  

Amazingly I am one of the nine.

They wanted amateur 'athletes' covering a range of abilities, sports and ages. Liz sniggered at the word 'athlete' being applied to me. 

I imagined the selection meeting: "Right we've picked eight athletes, now we need someone middle-aged and keen but not particularly good.  A mister average to give hope to the also-rans". I was probably in that pile.

According to the SiS Facebook page, the nine people selected are: Alex Oates (cycling), Sarah Davies (cycling), Simon Willis (cycling), David Fort (running), Daniel Thorne (running), Kerry Willacy (running), Dan Hustwayte (triathlon), Matt Fisher (triathlon) and Carol Cashell (open water swimming). Bios here.

What's involved?  Well, I'm not yet sure. 

We receive some SiS products each month until February, which is good as I use SiS energy drink, gels and bars on longer rides.  But that's not the big appeal for me.

What I will value most is the promised access to their 'experts'.  Again, I'm not sure how this will work or from whom we'll receive input.

And I'm already a few steps down the road. I learnt a lot about nutrition from Kelli Jennings' excellent eBook.  I've been tested by Sportstest so my winter base training is concentrated in a precise heart rate zone.  

But I still need to know more.

* I want to know how to tweak my training schedule for weeks when winter weather dictates when I can ride. Can the Academy help, or do I need a trainer?
* How do I incorporate weights and core exercises specific to cycling. Again, perhaps that's one for a trainer.
* How do I fuel all this correctly without overeating.  
* Most of all, I need strategies to stop me snacking after 8pm!

Part of the deal with the SiS Winter Academy is that we write regular blog posts and tell them how things are going.  They may or may not use this in their promotions.  Fair enough.

Occasionally I'll write about it here but it won't dominate this blog. This will remain a rather eclectic corner devoted to cycling, sea kayaking a life in the Scottish highlands. As it says on the tin.

Video - New White Water Kayak Safety DVD

I confess to a minor involvement in the planning stage of this new white wayer safety DVD. The way things worked out, it was shot by a colleague better known for his superb climbing films. 

One of the producers, and the guy doing the voiceover, is Bruce Jollife.  You may remember Bruce undertook the West Coast Kayak Challenge a couple of years ago.  The DVD looks absolutely fantastic, and after my attempt to film white water kayaking for the Adventure Show last Sunday, I know how long this must have taken.  Great stuff.  Buy it here.

Sea Kayak Podcasts on Stitcher

Although our statistics show most people listen to on iTunes, we appreciate that not everyone is a fan of this delivery platform.  I'm delighted that our podcasts are now also available free on Stitcher Smart Radio.  It gives a whole series of ways of listening to the podcasts, from free Apps to streaming service.  The latest podcast is below.

300km Audax Cycling Event on iPlayer

TV Presenters often "give it a go"... but not like this.

Dougie Vipond, presenter of The Adventure Show tackles a +300km ride with 5,000m of ascent.

It's called The Snow Roads Audax as it tackles the high passes which are often snowbound in winter.

I have two films in the programme, both of which I shot and edited.  Cameron McNeish explores the superb DNT hut and trail system around Voss in Norway.  Also I made my first white-water kayaking film with two instructors from Glenmore Lodge.  

Wherever you are in the UK you can see The Adventure Show on the BBC iPlayer until Sunday 25th Nov at 8pm.

Next month, the even more exhausting Celtman.  I edited the show and it makes an Ironman look like it's for wimps.

New Podcast - Round Britain the Czech Way

With just three years kayaking experience, this couple from the Czech Republic paddled around Britain.

It's the second of three interviews with people who completed this circumnavigation in 2012.  The first was Joe Leach.

I couldn't chat to everyone, so I picked three 'teams' with interesting and very different tales to tell.

Before recording this chat I hoped Natalie and Michael would bring a fresh perspective for three reasons:
1) they're married
2) they're not highly experienced paddlers
3) they're not British

As things turned out, I feel it's one of the most charming and interesting podcasts I've done in the last six years.  Very little of which is due to me. Mostly it's down to the interaction of Natalie and Michal.

The App version of the podcast includes some bonus photos and a video of the hitch-hiking seal which they talk about.  You'll need to listen to understand what I'm on about.

Third and final 'Round Britain 2012' podcast features Rowland Woollven and goes live on 1st December.  (This one was a day early because I won't be home first thing on 15th)

Highland Cyclist Numbers Cause Serious Safety Concerns - Minister Is Told

"Growing numbers of cyclists - especially during competitive weekend events - are causing traffic disruption and compromising road safety on the A82".  

According to a report by Stephen Norris in The Oban Times, this is the view shared by haulage boss Ali Ferguson and chairman of Fort William FC Derek MacGillivray with Scotland's Transport Minister Keith Brown.  

Cyclist numbers are causing 'serious problems' and  journey delays.  Apparently it takes the football club an extra hour to get to away games, and the haulage firm increased costs due to delays. Cyclist numbers are blamed.  Do they have a point?

I can't find the online version of the story, so I've put a photograph of it above, and a large version at the bottom of this post so you can read the whole thing - click and it expands.

Once past the headline, the arguments covered the article become blurred and conflate a series of points, which I'll try to unpick.  

Too many cyclists wear dark clothing and don't have lights.  

Well, not having lights at night is an offence. Frankly, if anyone rides the A82 at night without lights they have a death-wish.  Nothing would get me on that road after dark.

As for delays, the most serious recent delay which shut the A82 for ten hours, was... a lorry fire.

Lorry drivers have had "a number of near misses on the A82".  

Yet the group campaigning to upgrade the road opposes a Transport Scotland proposal to reduce the speed limit on the narrow, twisting sections from 60mph to 50mph. Incidentally, I've always found that the drivers of Ferguson's lorries are among the most considerate on that road.  

So are cyclists to blame? Or organised cycling events?

If the latter, please don't blame the former.  Because here I have a lot of sympathy. It can be tricky to leapfrog a snaking line of exhausted riders, fully engrosed in finishing challenge event.  Or large groups of end-to-end riders on LEJOG whose mini-peloton is shielded by slow moving support vehicles.  Motorists naturally find this frustrating when yours is the fifth group that day.

Perhaps the narrow sections of the A82 are simply not the place for such events?

In a lot of cases cyclists are not using local cycling routes.  Now this riled me.  I don't know many cycle routes on the A82. However, there is a prominent one between Glencoe and Ballachulish which I rode past yesterday. Past. Not on.  

The photos show why.  In places it is coated with slick, skiddy mud and filthy water. 

In others it is covered with a skiddy carpet of pine needles and leaves.  

I could find barely any of the original surface uncovered.  When I first wrote about this route in August 2010, I was pleased with it, but not now.

I've (once) ridden alongside this route with the local bike club West Highland Wheelers and when I suggested the cycleway, they stared at me like I was insane.  

There is no way anyone would consider taking a road bike onto this skiddy surface.  One tweak of the breaks or twitch of the wheel and you'd be off.  

And then there are the 'give way' signs. They are everywhere. Just when you get up a decent speed, you're breaking again.  

Look at this crossing.  Give way, move to the  road.  Give way, move to the centre.   Give way again.  Move to the next section of lane.  

Why would anyone do that when they can just ride straight past on the road?  

Want to know why cyclists aren't using local cycling routes?  

Because they're not suitable for cycling, that's why.

There are regularly big, adventurous sporting events in this area we're lucky enough to call home.  Many of them involve some element of disruption to normal life, whether it's on the Ben, in the centre of Fort William or on the surrounding roads. 

Lochaber brands itself as the Outdoor Capital of the UK.  The website proclaims 'Pedal in Paradise', boasting an 'internationally renowned reputation for superb mountain, road and hybrid biking'.  It even invites visitors to 'Conquer the towering Glencoe road climbs'.  

Where are they?  On the A82?

The Funniest Take On US Election Coverage

This made me laugh out loud.  Several times.

Beijing - Sea Kayak Central???

The detailed download statistics provided by Libsyn for make encouraging reading - more than a thousand downloads so far in November.  

But why are so many downloads are going to Beijing?  The info below shows the regions where most are being downloaded.  

Perhaps all Chinese downloads are routed through Beijing, so there's only one 'region' in the whole country?  Perhaps some Bots are downloading them, but to what purpose?  

I just don't get why the most popular place on the planet for Sea Kayak Podcasts is Beijing!  If any web-savvy folk out there can explain this to me either privately or in a comment below, I would be hugely grateful.

Cycle Shirt on eBay

I've decided I have too much cycling kit.  So I'm selling some on eBay.

First to go is this Sportful 'weekend' short sleve jersey.

The Best Cycle Training Software?

The way we track our sporting and training activities has changed beyond recognition.

Not so long ago it was a diary beside the bed.  Now it's done on the computer, online or within Apps. 

The built-in GPS in the iPhone, and other smartphones, prompted many of these logging Apps.

Your phone records how far and how fast you've travelled, then automatically syncs with the online version of the App.

With the purchase of a dongle, the iPhone can also record record ANT+ data from heart-rate monitors, cadence sensors and power metres.

Perhaps I'm unusual, but when I go for a ride my iPhone is tucked up snug in a waterproof case and wedged at the bottom of my pocket.  It's certainly not in a position to record my ride.  I need something else.

For years I have recorded my runs, rides and paddles on different generations of Garmin devices.  For cycling I currently use the Garmin Edge 500 Red .  

When I get home, I upload the data to the best software package I've found for the Mac, called Ascent.

Alongside you can see a screenshot from a ride I did last week.

Ascent is an amazingly useful piece of software, which can really drill down into heart rate and other data.

It costs £27 but is worth every penny.  There's a mobile version for iPhone at £6.99 but I haven't tried it for the reasons I explained previously.

Crucially, it can tell me the time (or % of a ride) I spend in each training zone. That's a key element of my current training, as you'll know from Monday's article.  

Each time I need to check a new metric, I find extra depth to the application.  E-mail support, from the developer Rob Boyer, can be a little slow but it does come and is helpful.  I've not used it with a PowerMeter (that's too expensive for me) and I believe GoldenCheetah is the App of choice there.

Every few months I'll upload all my data to a free Training Peaks account, partly for storage and back-up, but also in case, some time in the future, I decide to work with a coach.

The free version of this online software is deliberately limited to encourage you to upgrade to premium and cannot offer the same analysis as Ascent.

To get that level of detail costs at least $9pm ($119 for an annual subscription).

For fun, I've also started logging certain rides on the website Strava.  

I'm new to this one, having learnt about it from the Cycling360 Podcast I wrote about recently.  

The USP of this App is you can compare your time on certain climbs against other riders who've ridden the same piece of ground.

I'm currently seventh on the bill hill outside our house - but then I rode it twice.

I'd heard Strava was prompting users to virtually race each other, even in cities and even when the rides were days or even months apart.

Clearly there's a safety issue there, but one for the users, not Strava.  Like the other new Apps, it offers iPhone logging etc etc.  I'll stick with my wee Garmin.

3 Free Copies of the Best Cycling Nutrition Book

Finally, I've read a book which offers comprehensive yet comprehendable nutrition advice for cyclists.

It's practical, right down to providing a daily menu - what weight of which food you should eat.  There's even a shopping list.

I thought I'd share this with you, but please note, I get absolutely no kick-back from this, financial or otherwise.  I'm just sharing the info.

Oh, but you might win a free copy. So if you want to learn what you should be eating, please keep reading.

I heard nutritionist Kelli Jennings answering questions from listeners and the 'experts' on the Cycling360 podcast I mentioned yesterday.  I was impressed, not only because she has all the right letters after her name, but because her approach was practical and accessible.

I subscribed to her FuelRight blog and poked around her website ApexNutritionLLC.  I discovered Kelli works one-to-one with athletes (and others) who want to loose weight or improve their nutrition for different types of events.

Eventually, I got hold of her $20 eBook Fuel Right, Ride Light Sports Nutrition Plan  You can go deeper and get one-on-one advice, but for me, that will have to wait.

However, you could get a free copy of this eBook, so please keep reading.

Kelli breaks eating down into two types - Daily Nutrition and Training Nutrition.

[Kelli explains this better than me in this short pdf.  There's a little more detail in the Cycling for Optimal Weight pamphlet she co-authored for Loving the Bike.}

The book goes into detail about the science of carbs protein and fats, and why certain types of food are better than others.  If you thought carbs were carbs, and the only difference was the GI, then you will be as enlightened as I was.  Oh, and you might not eat white pasta again.  Vitamin supplements, probiotics and more are all discussed at a level which I could understand and which kept my interest.

But it's the practical stuff which is... well, very practical.

With the help of online calculators that account for age, weight, activity level and other variables, you establish your daily calorific needs.

And those online calculators are here, free to use.

However, the book gives you the access codes to the members area of the site, where you download the appropriate eating plan to deliver those calories.

Breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and evening meal: each one is set out like a menu, right down to portion size.  It's exactly what I wanted - all the background info yet practical "eat this" advice handed to me on a plate.  Literally.

OK, so measurements are in "cups" and "ozs" which is a pain in Europe, but it's simple to buy some measuring cups to get it right.

Training nutrition is easy.

Most cyclists know what they have to eat before, during and after a ride.

Daily Nutrition is the tough one to get right, and this book has helped me, a habitual snacker, with mental strategies too.

OK - so how to get a free copy.  

Kelli will give three free copies of her book to the first three people who leave their email address in the comments below.

If you're worried about getting Spam think:
1. how many times you give out your e-mail address when ordering stuff
2. you can disguise it from bots by using AT and DOT
3. quickly set up a disposable Hotmail or Gmail address

If there are three or more comments, then I'm sorry, you're too late.  But Please check out Kelli's site.

The Best Cycling Podcast?

There are loads of cycling podcasts out there.

I've listened to quite a few and while there is no way I could claim to have heard them all, the Cycling 360 Podcast is the one I return to most frequently.

Why? Because it offers practical advice delivered with good humour.

The people who're doing it sound friendly. They sound like they're having a good time.  And unlike many podcasts, they do not sound like they are trying to show off.  

Every time I climb on the static trainer I put on one of their podcasts.  While time doesn't exactly flash past, I usually learn something while cranking out the miles.  As a podcaster myself ( - cyclists coming straight to this page might not have heard about it) then I appreciate the work which goes into Cycling 360.

It's also where I heard about and downloaded the best eBook on nutrition for cyclists that I have ever read.

More about that tomorrow, with three free copies to give away.  

Junk the Junk Miles - Cycling Fitness Testing & Training Programme with Sportstest

NOT me!
If you actively train to improve your cycling, then I’m confident this will interest you.  You might even be tempted to buy this book.  

However, if you just ride your bike for fun, with no improvement goal in mind, then it might all seem a bit too serious.  Pop back tomorrow for more cycling stuff.

Since 2007, whether running or cycling, I’ve trained with a Garmin Edge heart rate monitor GPS. But I've struggled to know precisely how to train. 

I have tried many different training 'programmes', from Chris Carmichael’s Time-Crunched Cyclist (which I wrote about here) to programmes which came free in magazines.  They all require you to train in specific heart rate zones to achieve the gains you need to make. 

Great in theory.  In practice there is one huge, massive, overwhelming problem.  One size does not fit all.  Establishing your HR zones and deciding what workouts are right for you is a very personal thing, specific to your body and your goals.  

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I know my maximum heart rate, but where exactly is my anaerobic threshold?  The formulas for establishing the zones can be simple or complicated, but they’re still generic, so how can they be the correct zones for my body? Moreover, how could these standardised training programmes produce the improvement my body needed to help me achieve my personal training goals? After all, racer would spend a completely different amount of time in different zones to an endurance rider.  

These are big doubts to have swirling around your head while you're trying to bang out the miles.  I looked into personal training but considered it too expensive and too ‘serious’ for a recreation cyclist like me.

Photo: Train in Spain
So I tried to stick to the programmes, I honestly did.  But during the many hours in the saddle, those doubts would come sneaking back into my head.  And they were compounded by the visible fact that I did not loose any weight from riding.  My spare tyre refused to budge, even though I rode hundreds of miles a week. Only with dieting could I shed the pounds.

Was I wasting my training time?  Was I riding ‘junk’ miles?

Dr Garry Palmer
Last March I spent a week at a cycle training camp with Train In Spain and wrote about the experience.  

There I met Dr Garry Palmer who runs Sportstest and whose evening lectures I found both fascinating and helpful.  He's alsot he authour of Elite Performance Cycling: Successful Sportives.

We also chatted one-to-one about some of my training issues and Garry’s advice convinced me to book a session.  

He’s based is in the West Midlands, but also takes his testing equipment to sessions at cycle stores in London, Milton Keynes and Harrogate.  

Back in August we met at the Specialized Concept Store inHarrogate where I was one of four clients seen that day.  I was seriously impressed.  here's how it went.

The session lasts between two and two-and-a-half hours and starts with a conversation.  Prior to arrival, I competed a questionnaire into which I put a lot of thought, so Garry had a good idea of my present riding load and also my goals.  I have some specific endurance events in mind for next summer, but essentially it boiled down one thought - ‘I want to cut out the junk miles’. 

In Spain, Garry had taken my skin-fold measurements, as I stood almost naked in front of a room full of sniggering cyclists.  “Wow, I’ve never seen him open the callipers so wide”, was one gag I heard.  At least I think it was a joke.  By then I’d privately decided I’d take this test later in the year and, knowing I’d do a lot of riding this summer, thought it was worth the embarrassment to have a control to see whether I’d improve through the year.

So after the chat, the callipers came out and Garry to to grips with my fat.  He measured at seven sites on my body, with the results to came after the main test.

Time Trailing is called ‘the ride of truth’, whereas I’d call this session ‘the ride of uncomfortable truths’.  There is absolutely nowhere to hide as ability, or lack of it, is unflinchingly revealed through the science of sports testing. 

My own bike was fixed into a static rig, I climbed on and clipped in.  A moulded plastic mask went over my nose and mouth to measure oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output.  I stared at a computer screen, watching two inward pointing arrows and my goal was to keep them in the middle of the screen by varying my pedalling speed.  As the resistance increased, I’d have to use more power to keep the arrows in the middle.

There were two tests.  The first was the ‘Sub-Maximal’ where I was tested at 135 watts and 180 watts, these being determined by my age and general fitness.  A younger and/or more highly trained athlete would be given higher levels, but not for an old cart-horse like me.  

The  second test was the ‘Maximal’ for which I rode like a demented hamster.  

“This is an open ended test”, Garry explained as we started the second test.  

Every three seconds, the power required to keep the arrows in the middle would jump a few watts. 

“Just ride for as long as you can”.  When I finally had to stop pedalling, gasping for breath, I could hardly lift my leg over the bike.

Don’t worry, I know you’re not really interested my results.  After all, they’re specific to me, and you will be different.  That, dear reader, is the whole damn point. 

But listen to this.  I was right about the junk.  Here in the hilly Scottish highlands, where I ride and how I ride, has shaped the way my body responds.  I power up hills and coast back down, so my heart is either pumping hard or taking it easy. I rarely ride a constant tempo and my body has adapted accordingly: I don’t burn fat and my aerobic threshold is too low.

Rather than burning a mix of fat and carbohydrate when riding at lower intensity, my body knows it’ll soon be heading up a hill.  It considers there is no such thing as an ‘easy ride’ so, right from the start, it burns only carbohydrate.  This showed up in the tests as the amount of oxygen I took in compared to the CO2 I put out.

This explains why I need to use sports drinks, bars and gels just to keep going.  It also explains why I struggle to burn off fat.  (Incidentally, not eating the carbs is not an option – the body wouldn’t just burn fat, it would burn protein and damage muscles).

This is what I came for.  I now know my precise heart rate zones, unique to me, and adapted to modify my body’s preference for burning carbs.  I know how many days a week I’ll have to train in which zone and for how long.  To get my body metabolising fat, and to raise my aerobic threshold, I’m going to have to spend much more time riding at a lower heart-rate.  “Can you find flatter roads?” Garry asked, optimistically.  Actually, I think I can.  

And, after a lot of research, I’ve bought buy a static trainer for my, bike, a CycleOps Pro Series Super Magneto Trainer which is quiet and generally excellent.  

Garry gave me an initial programme for six weeks, then a more intense programme to follow which I'm now well into. Endurance training and takes me from August to next March, when I’ll move into a Threshold programme for two months, and there’s still space in the schedule for unstructured ‘fun’ rides where I can blast up hills as much as I like.

All this was not presented on a fancy, colour coded, day-by-day, Training Peaks compatible, spreadsheet (although that would be nice).  In fact, it’s jotted down in pencil underneath a whole load of earlier scribble, but to me it is worth every penny of the £200 fee.  And I paid full price.

In addition I also have:
* A target body weight; an interim goal and a longer term goal, which will hopefully be more achievable if I manage to start burning fat.
* A cadence rate goal; I pedal like a touring cyclist, too slow pushing too big a gear, which might explain the occasional knee pain.
* A set of numbers that can be tested again in six months time to assess my progress.

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It’s important not to loose your way in this blizzard of data.  For me, cycling isn’t a job or even a sport in which I compete against other people.  It’s fun, and I only compete against myself.  I might find this schedule too demanding, we’ll see.  My average speed over longer rides is slowly cllimbing and I was pleased with my performance at the Etape Pennines.

But if you do want to improve your cycling fitness, for whatever reason, then I’d urge you to at least consider Sportstest.  And definitely buy the book.  

A Kayak that Folds Flat

It's not 1st April is it?  No?  Well I guess this must be true.

A fold-flat kayak.  An origami kayak.  The Oru- kayak.

And it's invented by someone with the same name as me - Willis.

There's an article about it here and a video below.  Here's their website, with no details yet about launch date.

Oru- the Origami Kayak from Anton Willis on Vimeo.

Cycling Stuff & Freebies Next Week

It's slightly unusual to point ahead to posts which will run on a blog, but I'm going to do just that.  Next week I'll run a series of cycling related articles.

Monday - cycle fitness testing and precise zone setting.  I did a fitness assessment a few months ago and ound the whole experience very beneficial.  It has definitely improved my riding, so I've written a full article about this.

Tuesday - cycling podcasts.  As a podcaster myself, I've been keen to see what's out there for the cycling community.  There are loads, but an awful lot of them are not to my taste. 

Wednesday - Free stuff!!!  The best cycling / fitness nutrition book I have read, and the author has agreed to give three free copies. 

Thursday - My favourite software for logging and analysing runs and rides.

Friday - rest day.

Big Kayak Film Night in Liverpool

Calling kayakers in North West England.

There's a great night of films organised by Liverpool Canoe Club a week on Monday.

That's Monday 12th November 7-10pm at the main conference room in Liverpool Marina.

Having been there, I know there is seriously limited space so it's highly likely the £9 tickets will sell out.  Book them online because it's £12 on the door, and there might not be any left when you arrive.

Tickets and more info.

Cycling related posts every day next week on this blog, including an article about sports testing for improved performance and the best book on nutrition I've found.

Brand New Podcast - Round Britain Record 2012

This year has seen a record number of sea kayak circumnavigations of Britain.

I want to reflect this at Sea Kayak Podcasts but clearly can not talk to everyone.

So I've picked three stories to share with you, and today sees the release of the first.

You'll find it at and there's a streaming version below.  Read this for all the ways to get the podcasts.

Joe Leach is a 24 year old kayak instructor who set a new record for paddling around the British mainland of just 67 days.

Orginally from the Isle of Man, Joe now lives in Cornwall where he works for Sea Kayaking Cornwall.  I'll stop there and let Joe tell the rest of his adventure.

The second of the three stories will be released on 15th November, with the third and final circumnavigation tale for now appearing on 1st December.