Friday, 22 November 2013

Throwing myself down a hill as fast as I can repeatedly: 2 Wheel Version*

This week I went off to the Valleys in Wales to take my bike on a tour of the brand new Bike Park Wales, located just outside of Merthyr Tydfil.

Not going to lie here, Merthyr as a location isn't quite a glamorous a base as say Whistler in Canada, or Arequipa in Peru which were the locations of my last two proper Mountain Biking excursions (Arequipas was down a Volcano not a hill). Nor does it have the quaint tranquility of rural Somerset my other usual biking location. What it does have however is big hills and a dedicated mountain bike trail centre with (and the kicker) an uplift facility.

I was in Whistler & Peru during Summer/Spring so to compare the weather would be a little unfair. This is the end of all comparisons to those aforementioned locations. Read about them here and here.

I arrived in Merthyr around 5pm and elected to make myself at home and watch tv for an hour before heading out for dinner and a movie. I opted for 'Pulled Pork Potato Skins' and Spicy Meatball Calzone from the 'world famous' Frankies and Bennys. To call the PPPS disappointing would be an understatement, it had the tiniest amount of pork and came lukewarm (an thats being generous) Correct me if I'm wrong but to make 'Potato Skins' you remove everything but the skin from it and ie don't leave any potato...?. The Calzone faired a bit better despite an out of the jar sauce and lots of grease, plenty of meat this time though. I know I shouldn't have expected much but this was  pretty poor. I then saw THOR2 which was enjoyable and went home to bed to prepare... no I didn't, I watched homeland instead.
Huge room 
I awoke to see snow on the nearby hills and confirmed this was the case, I happily donned my four layers of biking gear and lamented not having brought my neck scarf. After a quick bagel I headed off to the park where although cold it was rather sunny. I signed the 'dangerous sport activity' waiver and hopped on the minibus to the top of the hill where I found snow awaiting me.

The trails are graded much like Ski Slopes are in to colours (Green/Blue/Red/Black). I started on the easiest (besides the 'family' green trail) at the top to get me warmed up for the harder more technical trails. This one was named 'Sixtapod', I navigated the slippy services and zipped down the hill in to the woods before leaving these in to an exposed side of the hill. This trail then becomes known amusing changing name to 'Willy Waver' for more rocky mini jumps as it circled back towards the uplift finally getting a bit more muddy with puddles as you got closer to the bottom. Having achieved one successful run I opted for a red run this time, 'Wibbly Wobbly' which was much more rockier and found a large drop off right after a corner which if not properly prepared for could throw you. The track continued like this entering the woods as before where the trail became slippier and more rooty. Wibbly Wobbly crosses a path and turns into 'Rim Dinger' - a very rocky bumpy trail that again turns a bit muddy as you get to the bottom of the hill.

After a quick stop off to stash my phone in the car next up was 'Vicious Valley' which sounded scary but wasn't too bad, similar to Wibbly Wobbly but with more roots and tight turns in between trees with a small uphill. This then turns in to a blue named 'BlueBelle' which takes you round the side of the hill before heading back gifting you with 'stunning 'views of Merthyr and flowing hilly trail allowing you to get plenty of speed before heading under a bridge and being offered a choice of Red/Black and Blue runs to take you back to the Trail Centre, which I did for lunch down one named 'Bush Wacker'. Lunch consisted of a Pulled Pork Sandwich from Tesco (to restore my faith in pulled pork after the previous nights debarkle).

First snow of the year

Oh grow up!

Muddy already after two runs

Right after lunch I wen't back down 'Vicious Valley' for more rooty mayhem, just as I began to join the uphill section to head in to 'Blue Belle' I heard a snapping noise of metal and looked down to see my chain in pieces lying on the floor. Powerless I drifted down the rest of the trails back to the Trail Centre. Luckily they have an onsight workshop with spare parts and new if required. The cause was identified as a bent rear mech which the technician happily bent back in to place, fixed the chain and told me I'd need a new one 'within a few months' he also gave me some helpful tips to avoid such an occurrence again.

Bike repaired (for the time being) I decided to be adventurous and try one of the more serious trails, a 'Black', named 'Enter the Dragon' this starts with some huge table tops and big drop offs, I navigated these successfully (without injury to me or my bike) before getting bogged down in a rather muddy patch of the trail. This led me back to the road path where I rejoined 'Willy Waver' before jumping on the bus again. With light fading and coldness setting in I made one last whizz down 'Vicious Valley/Blue Belle' before going back to the Hotel for a needed hot shower and a welsh biscuit.

Blue Skies over Wales
This time my evening plans were vastly different... not, this time I went to Nandos and feasted on Chicken before heading to the Cinema again to watch Gravity in 3D. This was surprisingly actually very good visually and I enjoyed 3D for about the first time ever. The temperature had dropped to around -1'c while I had been in the Cinema and so I promptly headed home for the warmth and to prep for the same again the next day.

Figured this might be useful!
Day two began as had the first with one major difference, the weather had turned from snowy with blue skies to miserable grey and wet. I donned an extra layer in an attempt to allay the wet which did not work as on my first run I went straight through a puddle soaking my feet which mean't they never fully regained warmth all day.

The trails however were not too muddy (to the extent of impeding you) just a bit of extra slippiness and more puddles to splash through. I did all the same trails as yesterday, deciding that 'Sixtapod' was actually my favourite for sheer levels of fun. Everything was going well until my second to last run when I heard a loud 'crunching' sound and my gears stopped working. Looking for a piece of metal on the floor the problem was discovered, a snapped rear gear cable. No doubt also caused by the bent rear mech. Not taking this as a sign to go home, one can still cycle with one working gear ( as any hipster fixie type will tell you, they'll also tell you you don't need breaks, the nutters) I hurtled down one last time.

I had a cold shower at the trail centre which sort of made me wish I hadn't bothered even trying and drove home safely to Bristol.

Muddeh, and that's just the front!
My bike is now out of action essentially until I get repairs sorted, Xmas gifts I think and some of this weekend will be spent giving her a good wash! Until the next time, Sayonara x

Getting Clean!

*As opposed to the Ski/Boarding option - which it appears I did not blog.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bristol Half Marathon - A Sort of Journey

This is a story about how I ran a Half Marathon, an actually enjoyed it.

Back in March I received an email from a friend of mine Dominic who I used to play hockey with at Westbury (until he left for London like everyone else). The premise was simple - 'Free entry to Bristol Half Marathon' as long as you run for his charity - Helping Hearts.

Deciding it was now or never, and since getting back I have been trying to get fitter this seemed like a great idea at the time. So I signed up for my first half and promptly forgot about it for a few weeks.

Around June I began to get serious, the usual couple of 4 mile runs and hockey would not suffice so I tracked down a 10 week training guide to hit my target of sub 2 hours. This guide assumed one had already run at least one half and ran a few times a week already.... 1/2 I thought was good enough.

10 Weeks before the event came round pretty quickly and with the week commencing Monday 8th July I switched from running for fun to running with a cause. However the true secret of my success must come from a combination of a Running, Spinning, Hockey and Determination.

My week essentially would follow this routine for must of the ten weeks - Run, Hockey, Spin, Run, Run., BIG Run or not as we shall see. With the help of Runkeeper, my tracker, I was easily able to map my distances, times and improvements.

Weeks 1-3 

These early weeks began fairly easy, the same routines as before 3/4 mile runs about 4 times a week. Supplemented with the odd Hockey game/Spinning I was feeling good and despite a weekend off due to Crowcombe beer festival spirits were definitely high. I even managed to get in a 6 Mile run successfully. 

Total Miles Covered:
 47 Miles
Furthest Distance: 6 Miles (52.5 Minutes, Pace 8:31)

Week 4 and 5

Week 4 was a bad week, I slacked off and didn't get nearly as much running as I should have done. This was slightly redeemed by a full day Kayaking on the Wye which was a definite upper body workout but not so good for legs. Week 5 culminated in the first big challenge a whopping 8 miles in one go. I did this after a jaunt around Ashton Court on the bike the day before and a night out with Liam, Natalie and Nela. Surpisingly I opted for the 4 Mile Road loop which contains big hills rather than the softer and easier route that is the Downs laps.

Total Miles Covered: 22 Miles ( 69 Miles in Total)
Furthest Distance: 8 Miles (1hr 10 minutes, Pace 8:51) (ET Marathon run in 1 Hour 55 Minutes)

Weeks 6 - 9 
This is where I definitely began to see improvements in my own pace/endurance. When my social life was not interfering my runs were going well. However I missed the bigger warm up chances, one time when I was in no fit state to attempt 12 miles an although I felt fairly good (no pain in legs) I had no energy and needed water I called it at 4 miles. My mile times were dropping to around 8 minutes and in some cases around 7:50 where I felt I had really pushed myself.

Despite missing the big warm up runs, which may have led me to being unprepared I still felt strong and when asked if ready I would say yes, meaning I knew I would finish, but I was hesitant on maintaining the pace the whole way.

Total Miles Covered: 50 Miles (119 Miles in Total)
Furthest Distance: 10 Miles (Around 1 Hour 23)

Week 10: Build Up & Race

Tapering began and I settled in for a laid back week. Easy/slow 4 miles on the Monday which I actually ran in around 32 minutes or averaging a pace of 7:56 (which would have put my time around 1hr 44 for the full half*). I felt nervous most of Tuesday until Spin which went so well I changed my mind and just wanted to run at that point. Rest of the week was just Hockey Training, I also played a game of Hockey the day before, which was a bit risky but luckily I didn't come out of this with any real injuries.

The evening before the Race I ate a massive bowl of Pasta out of a mixing bowl with two kinds of pasta (Wildchild I know) before getting an early nights sleep. I woke up and had breakfast of a Bagel with Peanut Butter and walked down to the start. Not having quite figured out my time to beat based on the predictions I figured I would finish around the 1hr50 mark, assuming I kept the same pace the whole way round. After last minute toilet breaks the race was underway and I soon found myself running at a good pace mostly faster than everyone else in the second wave, but not by a long way. I passed Jess(a fellow ex Cothamer) and said Hello  also passing by my parents, embarrassing as always, before carrying on at my comfortable pace weaving and trying to find a clear path. The Portway as mentioned to me by others, went on and on eventually passing mile 4, I did a quick calculation and realised I was definitely on target, perhaps even faster than normal. Another long slog back down the Portway and it was the 8 mile point. This is where I had anticipated my first problems would kick in but everything was still going well as we began to wind back in through the city. We passed on the landmarks I had expected but my mind was really on keeping doing what I was doing which was keeping a good pace.

I felt a bit tired around miles 10/11 but a water point quickly helped with this. I also around this point realised that I could problably beat 1hr40 and so this became my new target, so no time to relax and slow up. I saw my parents again and they shouted something about "a good time, doing well". I was concentrating on putting nearly everything I had left in to a good strong pace, so much so that I missed the marker for Mile 12 or the last mile and had to double check with the runner next to me. One last check of the watch and I carried on, ignoring any growing pain and focusing on what I knew was the finish not so far on. The last 500 metres seemed to go past pretty quick and I sped up for the last few hundred metres, not that those seconds would make too much difference.

Official Time: 1:38:43s
Average Pace: 7:32

Crossing the line, was, in so many words exhilarating, a relief and triumphant. Knowing I had not just beaten my goal but absolutely smashed it. Then came the cramps and the stiffness :/ I collected my medal and t-shirt and set off to have a nice well earned Cider, Cake and Meat Feast.

Total Miles Week 10: 17.1 Miles
Total Miles Overall: 136.1 Miles

Lessons & Training Secrets

I think I learn't (once again) if you train hard and properly, you can achieve what you set out to and better it. That other peoples advice should be listened to and lastly, that event running is way more fun than regular running.

Training consisted, of lots of runs at least 3 times a week, Spinning once a week (good muscle building with none of the impact damage) and hockey.

So that was Bristol Half, I am still quite sore/achey and have no immediate plans to run another half, although a part of me wants to now beat the 1hr30 mark and then call that time on my marathon running but we shall see.
Office time 1:38:43
Sponsorship can still be done here:

* I should note, that because I start my tracking before I start running the first lap is often slower, thereby bringing both my average pace up and the total time run. For instance on this last run before the half the first mile was 9:32 and the subsequent mile 7:42, then 7:39 and lastly 6:48. So I was in fact a) getting faster as I ran and b) closer to the pace I ran at the half. This can be explained two fold, firstly as mentioned me starting the tracker before I started running and secondly the first and second miles were usually either all up hill or partially up hill. Mile 3 is mostly flat and mile 4 completely downhill. If we took an average mileage on the flat of 7:40 for the first mile to compensate for the differences mentioned then my predicted time for the half would have been 1hr 37 minutes (and a half) which is not far off what I ran...
Estimation based of a flat course and a maintained pace.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Pens Guide to Surviving Abroad (Travel Tips & Tricks)

I travel, fairly often. Since returning from my massive year long trip I've been abroad four times already... So I think I know a few things about surviving abroad... so I shall impart my wisdom on to you. Be these bizarre or just random, I hope they help.
Lesson 1: Approach large sleeping beasts slowly, from behind.
Essential Tools On the Road
I always have a cheap unlocked phone (when I'm not losing it) which will take any sim card. This enables you to plug in a sim card from that country an save money on calls. This is beneficial in a number of ways:
-You can call hostels/tours and check availability
-You can give your number to fellow travellers to easily arrange meetups when on the road(FB not always avail)
-Its cheap and therefore easy to replace/not a target to steal unlike your flashy iPhones you hipster travellers, stop uploading everything to instragram anyway.

A machete. You never know when you will need to cut down some jungle. I have opted for a traditional bamboo model from Thailand. Failing a machete an all purpose swiss army knife will suffice and can open bottles, cans and almost anything else you might come across on the road.

Duct tape. If you haven't fixed the problem you haven't used enough. Will fix everything. Once a tour guide attempted to fix my broken boots with roots, the fix didn't last and I promptly threw away the boots. This wouldn't have happened had I had Duct Tape.
-Some people suggest a sewing kit... this is fruitless for two reasons: If you rucksack has broken, a few threads will not hold and it will break again shortly. 2. You have to be good at this sort of skill (I am not)

Personal items I always find useful (particuarly in Asia) your own chopsticks, beats using the annoying wooden ones that give you splinters.

Foods & Drink
Commons sense/General travel advice says don't drink the water, drink enough water etc. The best thing for this is a camelpack. This can also double up as an excellent discrete method of drinking in public (whilst in America especially useful) - This can also come under useful tools.
I would usually choose a better rum than Bacardi
When in expensive countries I found buying food and breakfast selection always to be a bit lacking, probably cause I don't like most traditional breakfast items (except Samesun Vancouver, holy shit that hostel they had the best free breakfast set up ever, bagels and everything) I had an easy way round this.... Peanut Butter! 1 jar, last for weeks easily goes on toast (which is usually provided) and doesn't really go off. The next item, is more for jazzing up everyday food or in Japan - pot noodles: One jar of Tabasco Sauce.

Learn some of the language. Do you really want to the stereotypical tard that just raises the voice and repeats themselves? Besides learning the simple phrases for 'Beer', 'Thank You' and 'I would like' is REALLY easy. Further in this series of phrases you should ALWAYS KNOW 'How much?', Numbers up to ten and tens (once you know 1-10,20,30,...100) You can figure out nearly every other number. Once you have basics the rest is easier, an even just pointing on the menu and saying "I would like this please" is less rude. Plus it'll impress the locals and fellow ignorant travellers.
If you are in need of a more complex help with language, ie a transaction that isn't just a souvenir, I would suggest either a translator (usually hostel staff who you bribe with beer or are happy to try out their English) OR when this is not available, Google Translate...
Plus you can laugh at the bad translations...

Getting Around
Pay serious attention to the Wikitravel page relating to taxi's and bus companies on the area you are in. Foreigners are notorious for being rinsed by illegal taxis and unscrupulous individuals. If it sounds to good to be true it is and you will probably be robbed. The advice where it says ask your hostel to call you is there for good reason. I remember a time in China, we arrived at the same time as some others and were going to the same hostel. The taxi they got, took them in circles and then tried to charge them a ludicrous amount, the hostel staff intervened and police were called. However there was no way of telling this was going to happen (both taxis were identical). In Arequipa you can hire a taxi car and pretend to be one, this is a well known scam in the city. Hence the numerous warnings. In other news, sometimes you meet a very nice taxi driver who knows his stuff and is friendly, probably still tries to sell you stuff but hey s'all good.

Barter! If there is no meter, either refuse the taxi or agree a price in advance. This is how it works. Never accept the first price either.

I always pay more for a nice bus company, less dodgy and 18 hours comfort for what is usually £2-3 is definitely worth it. Enough on travel as it varies from country to country.
Taxi's in Arequipa

Common Sensicles

Always be prepared. Essentially leading on from the essential tools section, this is more about knowing where stuff is, being mentally prepped and ready to roll.

Always pack your stuff the night before you are due to leave. This is doubly important if you are:
a) Leaving early
b) Going out with fellow hostel goers and
c)Both of these.

I can guarantee you will lose something if you do not do this and wake up in a rush to get stuff packed. It also means if you oversleep you've more chance of making it on time as you can just leave. This also means sometimes you should sleep in what you plan to travel in. 4am Starts have never ever been fun.

If you are arriving late night/early morning always have a hostel booked/know where you are going. Makes you feel safer, also be weary of the 'your hotel is closed' scam. Rocking in to a town at 3am and needing to find a hotel at the last minute, is rather difficult and can be quite sketchy.

I use Wikitravel or the guide book to get a basic idea, Guides are better for the maps than the actual suggestions. Last bit of this advice is to build a thick skin, keep your mind aware and expect the unexpected.
Famous words..... "Don't Panic"
Sometimes you end up on a floor!

Where to Go?
Often I follow the #askSTA twitter session on a Friday afternoon for general amusements. Often you get people asking the most pointless questions or seemingly asking for every little detail to be planned. Which is fine but it's not how I roll (or think anyone should roll)

Question example: "Where should I go..."
This is a fair enough question in a location or asking for tips in a city/country but they were asking in the whole world, If you don't know where you want to go.... why are you planning a trip?
Where to go should be Point 1 in this whole bit of advice.

If you don't have a clue its easy to narrow down some points.... if you like food say Indian/Chinese/Italian then clearly go to these places! If you want to party like a spring breaker on speed then Thailand beach parties it is. If you want a true adventure in Jungles/Trekking then find those places.
If you don't have a clue, ask me and I'll tell you.
Some people travel to learn 'Legendary Nunchaku Skills'

Happy Travelling!

Friday, 1 March 2013

UKIP Voterrrz

I was going to write a blog about something else, but then UKIP voters opened their mouths and I had to help shut them up with reason/facts.

Taken from this article, I am not quoting out of context, so blame the Guardian if so:

First up we had a lovely man called Peter, who has a job and is a train driver. Riveting. He spouts some nonsensical rubbish:

" I'm worried about the dropping of the barrier in January. I fully expect 2-4 million Bulgarians and Romanians to come over."

I'd love to know where he got these facts from to clarify, but oh he wait he plucked them from his brain. This would amount to about 15% of the entire population just upping and leaving, lets also now mention here that Romania is described as an "Upper-Middle-Income" Country (it is the larger of the two both population wise and geographically), also it is noted for having a "High Human Development" So says the UNDP anyway...

To Clarify, the last total estimation I saw was 50,000 

To really ram the ridiculousness of this statement, I will change one word, the new statement will have about the same factual basis (none):
"I'm worried about the dropping of the barrier in January. I fully expect 2-4 million Martians and Romanians to come over." (Romanians in this instance being inhabitants of the Moon Romulus)

Peter ends with this statement about the Liberal Democrats
"The Lib Dem ideals don't seem be those of the average working person."

Earlier he said he used to vote Labour, but his main grievance was that the Tories couldn't get their policies through due to the Lib Dems. Do the Tories stand for the average working person? Hell No.

UKIP Voter number two, is a nice lady called Tina, a businesswoman apparently. I've never quite understood the word Business person, I mean I go about my business, am I a businessman? Anyway on to what she says.

"It's important this country remains as good as it has always been. We can't keep letting our human and political rights filter away"
Tell tale signs here that she probably reads that newspaper. However I might be inclined to agree here, govt. snooping probably does go to far, but UKIP don't stand for that, they'd probably decrease human rights in order to faster deport those that they deem not 'British', and where do they draw the line? I read an interview with a UKIP politician who stated that people who had lived here for five years plus and were working would still have to go. Hell that guy has probably worked here longer than I have, he can stay, I will go. Sayonara, oh I forgot you don't like 'foreign'.

Third up we have Geoff, a former Marine and now a school cleaner who used to fight Communism. (His words not mine).

His first slingshot (after fighting communism) is to do this "David Cameron is not a Conservative, no way. He is a social democrat, a Lib Dem" - Do I need to tackle this? This guy ought to move to America where 'Socialism' is the same thing as 'Communism' - they are not. Besides like hell is Cameron a Lib Dem, if he seems centrist its because of the simple fact that if he went really right, he'd lose the middle centre voters who don't think all tories are massively right-wing (those that think that are almost as crazy as Ukippers).
Finally, in the UK we have social welfare and democracy (although Cameron is trying to dismantle the former) so by the very definition we are all 'Social Democrats'.

To nitpick his last sentiments - jobs. UKIP don't really mention how they will fix this anyhow, just by removing 'foreigners' apparently. Lastly he says this: "Come here on a Friday night, Saturday night, it's terrible when the pubs are turning out. Where are the boys in blue? Not to be seen."
What I would ask, is two fold a) why is he hanging outside at pub closing time and b) if UKIP are just a more extreme version of the Tories, how is a more extreme version going to increase Police presence? Besides the answer to closing time violence is no closing times, duh!

Lastly, we have Sarah, who is a shopworker (ie she works in a shop). Well first off, I know she sits in a pub and complains about immigrants rather than doing anything productive for herself. How do I know this you ask? She says so, its the first damn thing she says:
" I drink in the Wagon Works pub where the party people have been having their dinner.They have talked to me about their policies and I agree with a lot of what they have told me. There's going to be more and more foreigners coming in and taking everything from us. It's diabolical."

Literally taking stuff from us? Borderline racism there, is she implying they will steal? Or just apply for jobs and 'take' them because they were probably trying hard to get a job rather than whinge in the pub about supposed threats. This is the kind of English person I sit in the pub an complain about.

She then says "We couldn't go to their country" - um,what? Yes we could and can. I've been there you numpty, I even have friends working in Romania RIGHT NOW. I wonder if other countries bitch about all the gap Yarrrrrr students doing volunteer work or teaching English, doing stuff which actually benefits them and their country?

In her defence she ends it with a good sentiment;
" I felt like I made my mark this time and I felt there were reasons for me to do it. That's what you have to do in life, you have to do the right thing to show what you believe in"

This is exactly why I vote, because if I don't someone like these people here will vote and their candidate may even win.

To end, here is a picture of a girl wearing a Canucks Jersey, go Canucks. If y'all keep voting like these dumb people, Canada is a country I may go live in, and frankly, based on below, why not?

Go Canucks

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New Hampshire New year

Another trip abroad, this time to the familiar shores of America and the not so familiar destination within America of New Hampshire!

The trip started with a groggy 6am wake up on Boxing Day and although we left with plenty of time to spare, I made a grave mistake. I forgot to pack my trusted travel buddy Kevin the Shark. Disheartened but excited and ready for the long trip I met Welshie and his Brother (our chauffeur) in the glamorous surroundings of Leigh Delamere Services.

Boring stuff; we arrived at Heathrow, checked our bags and successfully flew to Paris and then onwards to Boston. Highlight of this actually included pretty good airplane food. Well done Air France, about the only thing the French get right.

Enough French congratulations for this entire year out of the way, we had arrived in Boston successfully and collected the rather swish (for a cheap hire car) Ford Focus and headed north to pastures new, New Hampshire to be exact. In the hire car office some American had been becoming increasingly irate because the vehicle he wanted was so big it had had to be taxied in from elsewhere and hadn't yet arrived. Half his alleged gripe was there was a storm coming and he didn't want to be trapped. We put this down to general moodiness and hyperbole. However it turns out most road signs on the way to New Hampshire did in fact warn of an impending storm to come and on the way up we had some sleety snow attempt to hinder our travels.

We always manage to get lost leaving Boston but we managed to arrive at our desired location in New Hampshire fairly quickly. To meet our host Kevin Winders (who the shark is actually named after) and his awesome pad. We realised the snow was now coming down by the bucket load, grabbed some quick pictures, beer, food and promptly crashed out after a full days worth of travelling.
Enjoying the Snow

Pimping Ride

The first actual day arrived and we awoke early, which was quite easy as we felt it was more like 11am than 6am. It being New Hampshire, it was time for another new activity I haven't actually undertaken before, as living in a country where if there is snow, you doss off whatever it is you actually have to do and go sledging. What was this new exciting activity? Shovelling snow! We had to shovel the driveway if we had any hope of getting out. I say "we" Welshie mostly spent this period doing anything but shovelling... There was a good foot or two to contend with but job done we settled for a breakfast bagel and headed for the mountain to Ski in the fresh snow. We took this drive very carefully as the roads weren't completely clear and at one point we lost traction and had to push up a hill.

We arrived nice an early in one piece and sorted our rental gear and headed straight up the mountain, aptly named "Crotched" and standing a staggering 630 metres high (Even Mt. Snowdon is bigger than this at a comfortable 1,085m) we skied all morning, my ability being the lowest of the group. We retired early afternoon to hit the bar and essentially crash exhausted.

Back in Merrimack we went out for Dinner somewhere, a rather nice Italian and we also met Winders girlfriend Amanda who promptly laughed at our 'girly' cocktails - A Manhattan (mine) and Welshies Sangria in a wine glass with Ice. After dinner it was once again time to retire as we were still fairly exhausted and Jetlagged.

Day two and the sun had eclipsed the snowstorms and the roads were a lot safer, Winders unfortunately had to work but with the roads safe we could take our own hire car and once again headed to Crotched for another full day of Skiing.
Due to Snow

Crotch Morning

Crotch Afternoon!

Snow still on the Car
Skiing completed we headed back to sort our lives out for evening activities. We were given directions to Elliots house (we'd never met) and were essentially invited to a Xmas party. It transpired that this was also a gift giving occasion and we even had presents to open ourselves, with no prior warning to this we had obviously turned up empty handed (we had already given our host a bottle of Rum and Welsh Whiskey - who knew), except for our obvious British charm and wit. Dinner was an amazing full buffet spread of Ham, Turkey, Stuffing, Potatoes and Salads, far too much to remember it all. Gifts were then shared, we received Beer a plenty and we headed off to the local town to invade it, cause havoc be merry. We got the Americans playing "Howzat" or "Long-arm", a game which usually involves covering yourself in beer. I may have forgotten the Carly Rae sing-along in the car over.... or not.

Nashua raided we returned to Elliots so I could crash on a comfy chair whilst others discussed the nuances of Terminator 2 and other such [pointless] things.

Long Arm
We awoke from slumber and agreed to head out for Breakfast, a classic American Breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, 'home fries' and English muffins. After breakfast and a return to the house for showers we were off to Boston to collect Rap, and perhaps more importantly, Bread Bowl Chowder! We met Rap at the station and went straight to Quincy Market to get some of the famous Chowder. Chowder mission successful we went for a walk around the harbourside, stopping by the Aquarium to see the seals. Which are visible from the outside for free, seeing as they are the main attraction seems like poor logic. Especially as half of the Aquarium is currently out of service due to upgrades. The seals are so famous that they have radio adverts to announce the fact that they are back on display. They also look thoroughly miserable and depressed, we promptly moved on to the next logical location with us being in Ireland Boston, we went to an Irish bar that Welshie visits everytime he comes to Boston (by that same logic) everytime I've been to Boston. With warnings of another snowstorm coming we watched Villa lose on the TV (Sucks to be Stoney) quickly finished our beers and made the hour or so journey back to New Hampshire.

Plans for an evening visit to Portland Pie and then out to bars were cut short because we had been busy neglecting to look outside at the weather. Impending Snowstorm that we had hurried back from Boston from was in full effect and even if we had managed to get a car out of the driveway the roads would have been way to risky and getting back from Nashua nigh on impossible. With ample beer in supply we settled in and like the true manly men we are, waited for Wendys to arrive from someone who was prepared for such weather and had snow tyres equipped. This happened to be Amanda, our life saver.

To save time tomorrow to get out of the drive, we also shovelled the drive again the night before, in the middle of the blizzard. Whether it was being snowed in or the beer but my first experience with Wendys was a very pleasant one. I think they called it a Baconator.
Snow Tree

Shovelling #2

Snow Begins in Boston
Chowderrrrr (Different trip, but its the same)
It was time for another day of skiing, with another batch of fresh snow we went further afield to Cannon. We had called in the 4x4s for this trip to deal with the snow. On the entrance to the freewar we slid out a bit straight in to a snow mound. We carried on after this without further incident and made it to Cannon. More mountain, almost twice as high and twice as cold. On the second run of the day we went to the top, and almost froze. My leg decided it didn't want to play ball so I took it proper easy in the morning with barely any runs. After a lunch of Chilli and fries. We all headed back out for a full afternoon of skiing, my leg seemed to be back in shape and I joined Welshie and Elliot and skied until the lifts closed. Of course no full day of skiing would be complete without a few bails, an on cue I bailed into a nice drift of powder snow on the last run of the day, this was totally fun though(This implies I only fell over once, that would be misleading, or a complete lie...).

After Skiing we went to what appeared to be the largest restaurant, hotel, brewery combo ever. We enjoyed more a snack/full meal that we planned to and drank some more tasty beers. Despite not very close to the sea I had some excellent fried calamari. Someone suggested we stop at the gas station to get some beers. The reason for this soon became apparent; this gas station stocked almost every kind of beer ever. Selecting two I hadn't heard off, one of these was infused with Chilli, the catch came at checkout when it turned out the beer was about 12 dollars a pop!

Back at base we settled in once again in front of the projector to watch some films and fall asleep. Big day tomorrow with it being New Years Eve. The often over hyped main event
We woke on time as usual and headed to Red Arrow for another proper American breakfast. This time hash browns with Chilli and eggs on the side. Welshie had Crabcake Eggs Benedict which looked and sounded amazing. Food envy right there, a good start to the day.

What we did next will probably not win approval on all sides, especially considering the current climate. But it happened and it was quite enjoyable. In a safe environment we went to the shooting range to look and experience some guns. It turns out I'm quite a good shot. Anyhow, without going into politics of it all. It was enjoyable, but no I don't want one.

After shooting we headed to Portland Pie for pizza and beer as per the failed trip a few nights before. We then returned to the sticks to prepare for a night of games, clubs and cigarros. We began this evening by playing what can only be described as a deprived game of hilariousness. Not for those with a genteel sense of humour (or decency for that matter). The Limo arrived (yes were high rollers) and we popped champagne, beer and whatever else was in the limo as we headed to the club. Arriving merry we popped out and straight in to a non moving queue. It turns out Bouncers and Club in America are just as retarded and snooty as everywhere else. To really add insult, one of our party was refused entry. Entirely ridiculous. Disheartened but not defeated we proceeded to dance and drink through the new year before ditching the club, re-finding the limo and reuniting with the refused to carry on the party back at the house.

Final day arrived, hungover as you should following NYE. We smoked some cigars on the balcony and went to breakfast at a different..... Red Arrow! I had Crabcakes Benedict, so I got it after all. We had a fairly lazy day and packed for the trip home. We then ordered dominoes, finally watched all of Looper and then some Game of Thrones.

RPG anyone? no? WW2 Rifle?

Horrible Party People
Post it notes...
1&2. on a trip to the supermarket to buy some supplies (read beer) - wait, I actually had items to pick up such a pop tarts, peanut butter flavoured m&ms and chocolate, we came across a American gossip magazine, their favourite past times are to make up stories about the royals and this time was no different...
3. Brrrrrrrrrr
4. New Hampshires Motto


It says -10'c (it dropped to -15'c)

or 'Ski Free or Die'

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Hockey Hockey Hockey

If you are looking for thoughtful insight/political comment on the Olympics then this is not the place for you, this is a simple tale of my enjoyment of Hockey in London.

It may not be travelling far but for me any trip to London is an excursion that I don't always enjoy. This is because London is far to big an a hassle to get around. Coming from a small city such as Bristol I much prefer being able to walk everywhere, however sometimes you have to take the trip to the 'Big City' for proper events and predictably this time it was for the Olympics, and not to leave/return to the country like the last few times.

It was only ever going to be for the hockey, I really don't care too much for any other sport and it is rare to get such a good opportunity to watch the sport be played at the highest level. This was the main motivation behind going to the Olympics, rather than to "be a part of a once in a lifetime event" that so many others have (and rightly so)... although saying that, Rio  now looks rather tempting.

In the days before I was getting more an more excited and finally it was time. I made my way to London on the train, navigated (the relatively simple) trip, collected Savage and arrived in Harringay to get sleep before the big day ahead.

Day One of Hockey

We started the day with a trip to Westfield shopping centre to meet our old friend Alison, who berated us for being terrible at keeping in touch, for shooting off around the world. It'd been over a year since I'd last seen her... probably longer for Savage.

After brunch we headed in to Olympic Park, which was a lot bigger than we had expected but, in hindsight... of course its huge. We headed straight to Riverbank Arena and claimed our seats and got ready for game one: Belgium vs China....

This is actually day two but its a better panorama shot
It was a fairly dull game with one goal disallowed, for the hockey lot it was because the first strike at a short was too high (as this next photo demonstrates... boom!)
Short Corner

Hitting the ball


After that it was time for the highlight of the day.... GB girls versus Korea. This was an immense 8 goal thriller with GB throwing the lead away before finishing strongly to smash home two more to secure the second win 5-3.

Bristols finest saying hello


Short Corner

Deflected short into the goal
After the thrilling encounter it was time to meet Dave and Jan at the entrance (and in Jans case) outside the park this meant a 30/45 minute walk trapsing through the huge crowds all heading in the same direction. It was a task, we decided the best plan was to send me alone and meet after.

Successfully collecting both new parties Jan demanded we go to the bar as she needed a drink, understandable after working 12hr shifts over the weekend. We ended up in the "card only queue" and learn't that the draft beer was broken, the first major foul up of the Olympics! This is an outrage was yelled, however I claimed in that case they would have to sell bottles at the same price as a pint, as it turned out I was right; take that £7 a pint cost at Olympics it only cost a measly £4.60.

Back in the Arena this time we were sat behind the goal for two more games.

A good Save

Riverbank Arena at Night

Another Cracking Save
Afrer this it was the end of a long day.... not, it took about 2 hours to get back to Davids. Once back we watched some highlights on the tv, both types of Volleyball and some Basketball.
The Olympic Stadium All Lit Up
Day Two of Hockey

In the morning I met with Jan for an early lunch and to actually spend some time wandering around the Olympic Park to really get a feel for it. It is nice, the atmosphere is random with lots off people moving about, the crowds aren't that ridiculous an we barely queued more than ten minutes to get in both days.

It did at times feel a little like 1984 with corporate madness on steroids. People walk around holding nothing but a sign that says 'Visa'. At one point they announced that there was 'entertainment' at the Band Stand and we should make our way over to it. This felt rather autocratic in the sense that "Entertainment is happening now, You will enjoy it". Otherwise there was enough choice in food that McDonalds wasn't constantly rammed down your face, no they save that for all the billboards at the tube stations. Oh and that tower thing that looks like a Helter Skelter is equally as bizarre... I mean what is it supposed to be?
Helter Skelter and Onezies

Jan in Front of the Olympic Stadium
 Once again time for some hockey after refreshments, first up New Zealand vs India. India started like a rocket, dominating and after 2 minutes won a short corner where they launched a rocket in to the top of the net. However those 2 minutes seemed to be it for the Indians as they never really shone again and New Zealand played solidly netting themselves 3 goals thanks to a flick and some tidy shorts to go on to win against the odds, the first real upset of the competition.
Penalty Stroke

Drag Flick


Once again
Again it was time for the main event, GB vs South Africa. GB played well for the most part although South Africa held them and for a large section were the dominant side. GB scored first but allowed South Africa to equalise and go ahead. A frantic and spirited last five minutes from GB netted them a contested equaliser and almost a winner but it was too little too late having to settle for a draw.

Pre Games Formalities

Ashley Jackson Short

The Ballet


Team GB
This brought to an end the hockey and for me the Olympics. It was an enjoyable few days with an immense amount of hockey in a few hours. The journey home was again quite busy.

The Olympics has come to London(Britain) and it has inspired a lot of people, many are jealous I secured tickets and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Mitt Romney is totally clueless and hopefully GB Hockey will win the Golds. I've finsihed this just in time to watch the girls play there 4th match, this time against China hopefully making it 4 wins in 4 games.

Hockey Hockey Hockey!