That was 2011 Part Two

posted on December 30th, 2011 by Anthony

The only existing photo I can find of me at Sleepless in the Saddle

So far 2011 had been fun, and plenty eventful. Now I just had a 24 mountain bike race to take part in. Among other things.

July

After our water cylinder had a minor explosion we had no water in the flat at all. So we spent a large proportion of July living at the in-laws house. Which was cosy.

It did make it easier for me to get on my bike and do a few 11 mile rides some of the way into work. At this point the race is next month. Training was still (and stayed) minimal.

On this here blog I finally got something out of my head that had been nagging away in there for years. A post about football shirts and their design. Or, as it turned out, five posts and 10454 words. I probably wrote less for university dissertation. But my God I enjoyed whittering on about them.

To my shock I’ve actually had quite a few positive comments about it so I might repeat it. I have already begun collecting African Nations Cup and Euro 2012 shirts …

We also spent a lot of July looking for a tent. Not to live in (though it crossed our minds), but for that looming mountain bike race. We eventually bought a quality Outwell Nevada M. Hopefully it’s something we can pull out a couple of times next year.

August

Race month.

Arrrrrgh.

If you’re not interested in the tale of this 24 hour mountain bike race feel free to skip to September!

The GSD attitude had landed me in this. Now I had to ride. The fact that I never got around to blogging about it probably says a lot about my physical and mental state :)

So me, Claire, my 2 and a half year old daughter, my two brothers-in-law and one of their riding buddies made the trip to Catton Park in Derbyshire for Sleepless in the Saddle (SITS). We got there a day early and pitched the tent. There’s a total family atmosphere at SITS, with kids all over the place.

As well as lots of lycra.

I haven’t ridden much in the past decade, and I’ve never done Lycra. I felt a little out of my depth, it has to be said. I’ve got a mediocre bike, and non-existant kit. Fortunately, as I got used to the environment, I did see that I wasn’t the only completely unprepared amateur. As race events go it’s very relaxed. But there’s still a lot of very skinny people in lycra. I was nervous.

After the stress of getting the tent up and filled we went for a spin around the 8 mile course. In my naeivety I was hoping that (seeing as people we’re riding thing solo for 24hours) the course would be a more forgiving, gently undulating jaunt. Alas there were several climbs that had my legs screaming at me. I’ve never done climbs, and 10 years of not climbing at all showed up. Still it was an enjoyable enough course, with nice technical narrow darts through trees, some good downhill bits and lots of other bits of interest to break up the climbs. (You can see the course here as mapped out by a riders GPS track.)

Then the problems started. Sleep was hard to come by that night, due to a mix of inconsiderate neighbours, sleeping in a tent for the first time in years, and overall nervousness. Then in the morning, for various reasons, I didn’t eat breakfast. For various other reasons (the acrid smell of burnt milk that even now the thought of now makes me baulk) I fault nauseous. Plus nerves, and a crushing realisation about what I’d let myself in for.

Not ideal preparation.

By the time the race had started we had become 5 man team, with the late inclusion of a friend named Dan. Despite having roughly 6 hours notice Dan stepped up to the plate. He’s a fit lad is Dan. Triathlon fit. I was ecstatic to have some burden lifted off my unprepared shoulders (and arms, legs, arse, feet, knees … etc etc).

Race time came. I was 4th to go, by the time my time came at about 5pm I had still eaten very little. I started off fine, I even went past people. On a climb. It took about 20 minutes before body blew up. Everything turned to lead. I wasn’t even enjoying the downhill bits. That is unheard of.

The only existing photo I can find of me at Sleepless in the Saddle

I trundled around for about 6 miles.

**** I’m using that photo again because it is the only photograph I can find of me doing the race and it was taken quite near the start of that lap (that hill might not look much, but it was steeeeep). I stumbled upon it at mtbmonkey.com, and for that I am very grateful. If any of the guys there ever find this and have the full res original I would love to have it. Even if it does make look every bit as unfit and inept as I was. You had to have chosen that hill?! Though I like that my classic Roma Away shirt is shown proudly. It’s the closest I own to lycra. ****

Anyway.

The atmosphere around the course was great though, there were people lining the sides, jingling those cow bells and shouting encouragement. It really does help. The other riders were great too, and generally very happy to say thanks as I let them through.

I got back to the finish, handed off to Dan and went back to the tent to feel sorry for myself!

I did manage to finally eat something, but the damage was done. My body was wrecked. After one bloody lap. I was totally gutted. I was due out again at around midnight, I wasn’t sure if I could hack it.

Then a few minutes into the teams sixth lap all hell broke loose – in the form of *torrential* rain. The track was transformed from dusty, fast hardpacked track to a sticky, slippy claypit in a matter of minutes. Lap times grew massively and my departure time fell back a bit. I knew I could manage one more lap, especially I was being given the early morning lap off – it was good to have Claire there to help in that matter!

My next lap was going to be a night lap. I had never ridden in the dark off road before, but always fancied it. The appropriate lights are massively expensive. Fortunately we had plenty in the team to share around. I can’t remember exactly what time I set out, but it was well after midnight.

By this time the rain had eased to an uncertain drizzle. I borrowed a coat and set off tentatively – determined to take things steadily and to try and enjoy the lap. The first few minutes was taken up by getting used to having to aim the light on my helmet. You have to look much closer to your front wheel than I’m used to, it totally changes the dynamic of riding.

The rain and the dark had caused the atmosphere to be even better around the course. In the parts of the course where tents backed on people were still outside giving massive encouragement, the cosy glow from their tents being very welcome in the dark. In the forest there was psychedelic angel. Unless that was just me.

It was great.

My mood was massively up. Alas my body was still wrecked. I decided before setting off that I was going to push up all the steep sharp climbs. A great plan until, when dismounting for the first of these, I forgot about the slippy mud and had my only fall of the event into the boggy mess. I didn’t care. I trundled up the next long hill, enjoying it more and more as the crowd disappeared and I was left to my own devices. I stopped at the top of that hill, took off my coat, breathed deeply and thought – “OK this is what I signed up for”.

I loved that lap. I spent most of it on my own, with the occasional passing words of encouragement from other riders. I loved the lights, I loved the way it made riding more reactionary. I loved the slippy conditions. I loved the beam of light the that went up into night sky if I looked at the stars. I loved seeing other riders lights up above and down below on other parts of the lap. I loved the little mouse that ran in front of me.

I bloody loved it.

I was so glad I managed that lap.

This photo by official race ‘tog Rob Crayton sums it up nicely.

Sleepless in the Saddle 2011 by Rob Crayton

I took everyone by surprise and got back to the finish line before any of the team arrived for the change over. I wasn’t quick, but I was quicker than my physical state should have allowed. I got a lovely warm cup of tea and a flapjack, then wandered back to the tent and crawled into my sleeping bag.

I napped, at best, on and off.

Through the night there were tales of mechanical woe for the rest of the team. Especially poor Dan who twice spent half an hour on the side of the track fixing things. It rained a bit more, but everyone else plugged away.

Upon getting out of bed in the morning my body was slightly better. I was still wrecked, but better. I had one lap left in me to help the team out. It turned out to be my quickest of the lot. Everyone else was broken too, but still enjoying it.

We finished the 24 hours having done 23 laps between us. Not a bad first effort, and certainly testament to the skill and fitness of the other four!

I was a little disappointed to only manage three competitive laps. But looking back, if you include the test lap the night before, I had ridden something like 33.5 miles over the weekend. This actually doubled the amount of proper off road miles I have done in the last 10 years. So that’s not so bad.

The rest of the team are looking to be doing two or three endurance events next year. I haven’t ruled out SITS 2012 … though I have to admit to not actually been on my bike since …

September

I spent most of the rest of August and Spetember recovering. My knees, especially, weren’t particularly happy with me, such is old age!

The new fixtures for the 2011/12 football season came out in August, so I repeated my fixtures experiment from earlier in the year. It’s a nice little challenge to come up with something different, and use some new technology to push myself a bit. This time I threw some nostalgia, some funky transitions and a big dollop of media queries into the equation. I haven’t got around to finishing or polishing it (which is why I haven’t posted it yet) but you can see it in action and have a play.

I can’t remember anything else in particular that happened in September apart from carrying on my football shirt odyssey.

October

The month of my birth. 32 years young. I finally rounded off the football shirt posts. Sort of. I could actually right a final chapter, but that will be next year now. Maybe.

I was still going to SWIG pretty much every month by this point. I thought it was time to throw my hat in ring to actually do a talk on something.

I chose to talk about ‘Responsive Design’. Eeek.

November

Another thing to tick off on my list of GSD was to take part in Movember. So on the 1st I dutifully defuzzed my face and donated my upper lip to charity.

Grrr manly.

I also attended the rather nice little TEDxLiverpool event. Curated by Dave ‘Apposing’ Brown (@daveapposing), and Herb ‘Lots of cool events like DIBI’ Kim (@herbkim) it was interesting to hear some thought about the ‘Future of Mobile’. Although I didn’t agree with everything said, it certainly gave some food for though. FACT was a great venue, and the donuts very welcome.

It also gave me some ideas with what I wanted to do with my forthcoming SWIG talk.

So that talk.

Please won't somebody think of the internet connected fridge

I really enjoyed the process. I loved the sketching out of ideas, the thinking of where to take the story, the designing the slides – even working with PowerPoint. To my surprise I even strangely enjoyed the talking part. SWIG is a fairly intimate gig, and a great platform to dip my toes into this sort of thing. It was a very positive experience.

The slides are available at Speakerdeck … but it also has the makings of a really good blog post that I’ll try and get sorted in January. Or maybe something more. It’s a work in progress. Possibly.

December

I finally got some prints made up of my Smicer idea back from the start of the year. The idea has morphed into Pixelegends, and it’s something I can hopefully grow a bit more. I’ve got ideas. I wrote a post about the Pixelegends genesis to give you more of idea.

Oh, BUY A PRINT!

Christmas has been great. Mainly. Elodie got the whole Father Christmas thing this year, which is very cute and helps remind you what it’s really all about.

Elodie was a bit excitable on Christmas day.

I say I mainly enjoyed it because on the day before Christmas Eve one of my front teeth decided to go all abscessy on me. Emergency treatment on Christmas Eve, temporary relief, back in agony Christmas Day, emergency dentist and antibiotics on Boxing Day, bursting on Monday night (relief!), proper dentist on Tuesday.

The proper dentist was great. But I will leave this sore topic with the word scalpel.

So, yeah, apart from the moments when I wasn’t lost in my own world of pain, Christmas was great! That’s the second time I’ve been bombed out at Christmas in three years, I’m hoping my body will let me off for a while now.

I’m finishing this round up with something I hadn’t planned on, at all, and that was sending a proposal to Gavin Elliot (@gavinelliot) to speak at his interesting sounding The Industry Conference (@industryconf). I’ve seen him post little bits about it for months and never once thought about submitting a proposal.

Last night I thought “Sod it, I’m going to give it a go”.

So I did.

2012, Goals: I HAZ THEM

I’m not going to say I’m going to do X or Y. Things don’t work like that. What I want to do is more of the same. I want to try and get more stuff out of my head and into products, stuff, actions … anything.

I want to Get Even More Shit Done.