Up with the sun, 80 miler, drinks, tapas, sun down. Perfect!
Metamorphosis – a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism…
Okay, so it’s a slightly over dramatic turn of phrase but to be honest it’s probably the most apt way to describe the way this year’s shaping up.
Way back when, in what feels like a different lifetime now, work life was of a distinctly more sales/marketing/management ilk, but when we sold the business I fell into something completely different. Kitchen installation was only ever meant to be a stop gap until I worked out what I really wanted to do, and a mere 10 years later (!) I’ve finally got my act together and made the break. Those 10 years proved a great experience but I was always 50/50 on the work, some parts I loved, some I hated, the only thing keeping me at it so long was working with my best mate. Work was merely a distraction as we spent most of our time planning the next big cycling/climbing/travelling/etc. adventure. While nothing changed on this front the work itself had certainly become less enjoyable due to a number of factors I won’t bore you all with. So as I hinted at before a change was coming.
They say timing is everything and for once I seem to have lucked out on this front. Over the years I’ve accrued experience in a fairly diverse range of job roles and skills, all of which on paper bare very little relevance to one another unless you can stumble across that job in a million to which it can be applied. Somehow that’s exactly what happened. A chance encounter, a casual chat, a perfect storm brewing and hey presto I’m the new (excuse this as I don’t really like throwing job titles around) Production Manager for Earlyrider Bikes!
For anyone not familiar Earlyrider manufacture some very classy little balance and pedal bikes for kids. Although it’s only ‘bikes for kids’ I hear you say, the branding, image, and ethos of the company is absolutely bang on and right up my street. I am absolutely smitten already. And somehow I’m getting the opportunity to get involved in just about everything I love; Bike mechanics, sales, marketing, photography (check out the image above I helped shoot for the next brochure), travel etc, etc. To top it off I even get to go to Eurobike and the NEC Cycleshow which for me is a kid in a sweetshop experience. A further indication as to what a radical change it’s been as to my feelings on the whole love/hate work ethic is that I’m currently on holiday and for the first time in years enjoying thinking about and staying in touch with work while away!
I am sorry that this post just reeks of gloating, and to be honest I’ve got very little defence on that. I promise to reign it in after this. All I can say is that after 10 years of being fairly career disenchanted (read suicidal at points) I am now deliriously happy. Sure, it’s not always going to be all roses and the honeymoon period will become jaded at some point, but when you rock up to work and the first thing you see are bikes then you can be pretty sure a bad day here is still a good one in my book.
So it’s been a while since my last post, life seems to have been flying by at warp speed with seemingly not enough hours in the day, my concentration pulled in so many directions sometimes it feels my head may implode. Even time on the bike has taken a bit of a knock, but only being relegated as paving the way for a better future has taken priority. So hopefully all for the greater good.
So what’s been happening? Well for a start the ‘Uber Workshop” end of Project Club House is finally taking shape. This has been a very satisfying little side project, which does also hint at the flavour of the other changes that are afoot. Towards the end of last year and beginning of this it had become clear that some big changes needed to be made career wise if I wanted to hold onto any shred of sanity and happiness. Work takes up such a large percentage of our time on this planet that I believe you should be happy in what you do and quite frankly that has not been the case. Change was overdue. So the wheels are in motion, and hopefully rolling towards a future and lifestyle more aligned with a happy heart. Somewhere back in the mists of time I forgot what was important: Have passion and happiness in your work, the money will (hopefully) take care of itself.
Only time will tell how this will play out, so whether I end up in a happier situation or find myself staring into the bottom of a can of Special Brew outside the job centre at least I will know I got off my arse and tried to make life a little less ordinary. I’ll keep you posted.
To infinity and beyond…
“Snowboarding in Japan, really? Do they have much snow?” Nine times out of ten this is the response when you inform people you’re heading off to quite possibly one of the best but least known snowboarding destinations in the world. And the answer to the question is yes, they most certainly do, over 15m on average per year! Virtually of of it falling as some of the lightest powder you can dream of. At this point in the conversation they assume one of two expressions. The true powder hounds wide eyed and salivating already daydreaming of waist deep pow, while everyone else glazes over consigning you to a character file labelled Lonely Planet touting snow obsessed ski bum weirdo. Their loss.
It had been 6 years since our last trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and memories of epic powder were as vivid as ever, so using my fortieth as a weak justification for a lads trip (hey, sometimes it just has to be done!) we once again set off with expectations running high. As before we were not disappointed. Our destination was once again Niseko the largest and most well known (relatively) resort, located on the northern island of Hokkaido. By European standards the resort is low and tiny and if you picked it up and dropped it in the alps, with alpine snowfall, it would probably only rate as a ‘day trip’ resort. But this isn’t Europe it’s Japan, and it gets blasted by cold dry air from Siberia that picks up moisture as it crosses the Japan Sea dumping epic amounts of light dry powder. Heaven! If your idea of hitting a resort is charging groomers from top to bottom then this isn’t the place for you. If however the idea of fresh lines in waist deep pow, and playing in the trees has you dribbling then I would suggest you make the effort and get yourself over there.
And it’s not just the powder. There is undoubtedly something very special about the whole Japanese snowboarding experience. The Japanese people are incredibly friendly and polite. Lift operators bowing and sweeping the snow off the chairs for you. Massive apologies and free hot drinks when you got stuck on a lift for twenty minutes? Ever had that in Europe? No, thought not. And everything is just so alien and amazing in equal measure: Snowcapped volcanoes. Snowboarding off a peak while being able to see the sea. Leafy green bamboo squashed flat under metres of snow. Supermarket isles where you don’t recognise a single thing. Heated toilet seats. Heated train seats!
It’s all just so different, the beauty in the difference of the detail. Are there any bad points? Well there’s a lot of Aussies there, I’ll let you make your own judgement on that. But if I heard one more conversation on the bus or in the Gondola that started with “Jeez we were soooo wasted last night” ……..Bluebird days can also be a bit of a rarity because, if you haven’t already gathered, it snows rather a lot! And of course it is a little more expensive to get there. That being said once there the food, beer, and most importantly coffee, etc is cheaper and in my opinion of a better quality than the overpriced rubbish in the Alps.
We hiked the peak several times opening up unlimited untracked lines. Did a day out with guides doing snowmobile accessed backcountry. Rode floodlit powder until 9pm at night. Drank Sapporo. And basically lived the dream. And so after a week in powder heaven we had to regrettably say sayonara and head home. But once again we have come away with memories to last a lifetime. Snowboarding in Japan is a very privileged, unique, and special experience that I would thoroughly recommend.
My big resolution for 2014 is to put a bit more effort into my photography as recently I’ve become a bit of an iphone happy snapper. So for my first project Rob Griffiths a good friend of mine kindly stepped in as my model for the day.
I should point out, to anyone not familiar, that to term Rob just another ‘biking’ mate would probably being doing him a little injustice. Rob’s a world class Iron Man competitor. He’s competed at the Kona World Championships twice as well as a whole host of other events, with some pretty formidable results:
42nd overall (5th in age group) at Kona
1st (was “just there for training”!) at Tenby Long Course Weekend Ironman
28th overall (6th in age group) Ironman Switzerland
20th overall Greater Manchester Marathon (horrific weather – 2hr 48mins !!)
Etc, etc, etc. But if you were to meet Rob in the street you would never know, as he personifies the unassuming, modest (I had to look at his blog for some of his results) guy next door stereotype. The mild mannered Clark Kent if you will. And sure enough, kit him out in lycra and he too becomes an altogether different person, leaving mere mortals feeling just a bit Jimmy Olsen like.
I’ve actually only ridden with Rob a couple of times, and I use the term ‘with’ lightly as staring at him disappearing up the road while pondering the question ‘is this what a heart attack feels like?’ is probably a better description. On one such ride I watched him chatting away with a fellow ‘elite’ at the front of the bunch, with the casual ease of someone shooting the breeze in Starbucks, while I was sweating blood trying to hold on for dear life at the back. The final insult was when someone pointed out Rob was riding his cyclocross bike with knobbly’s on! I was tempted to throw the bike in the ditch and give up this cycling lark there and then.
When Rob’s not ripping the legs off club cyclists or posting Strava times that can reduce grown men to tears he runs Athlete Service, a business he set up specifically aimed at providing athletes a one stop shop for bike set up, servicing, physiological testing, physiotherapy, coaching, and just about anything else (strictly only legal of course, you wont find Edgar here) athletes need to train and compete successfully.
So to recap, world class athlete, nice guy, works doing what he loves, and runs a business helping others achieve success. Don’t you just hate some people (only joking Rob, please don’t rip my legs off, Sir).
8 x Days, 7 x energy gels, 1 x energy bar, 2 x mini pork pies, 3 x mini sausage rolls, 1x Snickers, 1 x puncture, 2 x through the washing machine for the waterproofs, and 500km later it’s all done.
I have to admit it’s been harder than I thought it would be, mainly due to the weather and the festive period just generally always being busier than you imagine it will be. It has been a nice little personal adventure though and I have a few great memories to take away from it:
Commuting for Christmas dinner. Realising the hard way Christmas dinner isn’t sports nutrition. Almost meeting the Man with The Hammer on a misty and atmospheric evening. Riding through the countryside that inspired the Watership Down novel on a beautiful day. Washing my hands in a bucket of freezing cold windscreen cleaning water on a garage forecourt at 6.30am in epic weather after having to fix a puncture all the while wondering if it was all a bit insane. Almost being blown off a bridge onto the A34. Getting spooked by a huge Deer bounding out of the hedgerow. Watching in awe as the pre dawn glow from the sun began to magically light up the sky on a cold and frosty morning.
And I guess that’s what these challenges and experiences are all about, the memories we take away with us. Sometimes people of a less adventurous nature will ask what the point is in going out and doing crazy things when you could take the safe and easy path and put your feet up in front of the T.V? And I think the answer is because we can and therefore should. Because one day we will all be old and laid on our death beds and unable to do these things, and when that moment comes the only things that you will have are hopefully your loved ones at your side and the memories of a life lived to the fullest. And as you draw your last breath I can guarantee you that memories of sitting in front of the T.V. will not be the ones that bring a smile to your lips and joy to your heart.
Happy New Year, and may 2014 be full of more adventures and great memories for you all.
As I lower my head and brace myself as the umpteenth juggernaut thunders by, water droplets cascade from the peak of my cap. I have a micro second to marvel as they are carried away at a gravity defying angle by the 25mph cross wind, before I am enveloped by the vortex of backwash from the passing truck. For a few seconds all I can do is place my trust in the cycle gods to guide me a safe path past any potholes, as in layman’s terms ‘I can’t see shit’. Welcome to the joys of the A4.
In 1956, the legend you’ve probably never heard of, Ray Booty set a new benchmark record on this very stretch of road for the 100 mile time trial of 3hrs 58mins 28s. The first man to average 25mph over this distance, the cycling equivalent of Roger Bannisters sub 4 minute mile. That was on an old steel frame, with a single fixed gear. No aerodynamic aids, scientific training, sports nutrition, support cars, or ‘marginal gains’. Oh yes, and the day before he cycled 100 miles from Nottingham to get to the event. Damn they bred them tough back then. 25 miles per hour average! Today in these conditions and with the cycling pedigree of a 9 year old girl I’m struggling to hit 25 kilometres per hour!
Inside my wringing wet gloves my hands are black with road filth, the result of a fairly soul destroying puncture only 10km into today’s outing. Yes, today is not my best day ever on the bike. But on the bike it is and that can only be a good thing, so as I plough on in some of the most epic weather conditions I can remember riding in I try to silence the constant inner dialogue of negative self depreciating crap, place my mind in a happier place, and contemplate in wonderment the feats of the super-hard ‘wheelmen’ of the past.
I didn’t break any records today but once back in the warmth and comfort of home, and with a coffee in hand, I was fairly pleased that after over 4 hours out in these conditions I had managed to knock 100km off the festive total leaving just 39km remaining to finish out the challenge tomorrow. Happy days.