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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sessioning a trail 18th May

Dan, Gary and I rode through the winter (as did Jonnie on his road bike). We rode through mud, ice, snow, torrential rain, gales and the biting cold. Days like today must be considered our reward. Because we've maintained our fitness, we now have the legs to fully benefit from warm temperatures, bright sunshine and dry trails.

Gary and Dan were stripped down to one layer but I still ride with two. I'd rather be too warm than too cold even though I soon realised that the two layers were totally unnecessary today.

We made our way up to the new trail that Nick de Pinna showed us the week before. [Shall we name it Minnaar's Mate? What do you think guys?] The idea was to ride down it a few times, getting used to it, finding out where we could increase the speed, seeing which corners were manageable without braking etc. I'd never done anything like this before and was not sure how much fun it would be...

It was a lot of fun! I rode the trail 7 times in total, and I timed myself for six of them. Each time I went down I tried a different gear, tried to brake a little later and went into the jumps a little faster. It got easier each time because I knew what to expect. It was a fairly friendly trail with some smooth corners, berms and only two jumps. However, when I found myself in the air, I wasn't coming down very well and my landings were shocking: I was coming down on the nose every time. Something to work on in the future.
Anyhoo, the results are as follows:

2nd run:     1 minute 26 seconds
3rd run:    1:22
4th run:    1:18
5th run:     1:16
6th run:     1:12
last run:    1:09

Riding a trail over and over like this is certainly something I'd like to do more of, especially with the 'local' trails in the Lickey Hills.

Cycling back from the Lickey Hills. Photo by Deadly Dan
After a tea break, on the way back to base, Gary took us over some cross country trails, none of which I'd ridden before. We had to hike-a-bike over stiles every now and then, but the glorious views were worth it.

I'll gladly ride all winter just for a handful of days like today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Riding with an ex-pro!

Dan, Gary and I went riding with Nick De Pinna, an ex-pro rider from South Africa.

Firstly, Nick is a very nice friendly guy. Secondly, he is awesome on a mountain bike! He's the only rider I've ever shared a trail with that has actually jumped over obstacles whilst climbing up the slippery muddy hills of the Lickeys.

L-R Nick, Gary and Dan
I witnessed him ride a trail called 'The Root Jump' (later christened 'The Root Avoid') on only his back wheel. We took videos of him performing jumps and dropping in on a ridiculously steep descent.

And whereas I was red-faced and panting trying [and failing] to keep up with him, I don't think I ever saw him breathing heavily!

This ride was an eye-opening glimpse into just how good you have to be to be a true sponsored rider.

A fuller report on the ride:  A-PIC-A-RIDE.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Malvern Spring Festival

Today, a lot of the Supported Learning department visited the Malvern Spring Festival. The rain didn't dampen our spirits and the students enjoyed themselves almost as much as the staff.

We saw plants, flowers, wonderful gardens, food, drink, ornaments, cars... Well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Free Comics Day!

 It was Marc and his son Kieran who told us about Free Comic Book Day at Forbidden Planet in Birmingham. After making some hasty arrangements the night before, I threw Maisie, Martha, Vicky, Matthew and Harry the Dwarf into the car and met Marc and Kieran in Birmingham City Centre. It was a fresh and sunny day, the kind of morning when you're glad to be spending time with your friends doing something new. The kids laughed and joked in the short queue until Forbidden Planet opened its doors and starting dishing out bags of free comics!

The free comics in my bag
The comic books were all promotional items, so not really free comics, more free comic book adverts. These were gratefully received just the same, with the Future's End book being very interesting and well drawn.

The shop was busy but not crowded. As usual, comic book fans were polite and respectful to each other, just as they were at Comic Con. The girls had birthday/Christmas money burning holes in their pockets so we eventually left the shop with three Doctor Who DVDs, a Doctor Who box set, a Flash graphic novel and at least 4 manga books!

After this, Kieran led us next door to Games Workshop where he purchased a Imperial tank for his Warhammer 40,000 gaming. It's a game I really miss playing and have fond memories of (I lost every single game against my brother, but it was still a great time!)

Next, Harry led a charge for sugar and we all ended up at Poundland for more sweets and pop than was good for us!

The gang (minus Kieran) in Waterstones.
The last port of call was Waterstones where I tried to interest Matthew in The Belgariad by David Eddings. Matthew remained unimpressed, however, due to the fact that he considered the storyline borrowed too heavily from the work of Chistopher Paolini. Even when Marc and I explained that the first book of the Belgariad was in print before Paolini was born, Matthew remained unconvinced! He ended up buying a large trade paperback of Avengers vs X-Men stories. It did look pretty good!
After this, Marc and Kieran headed home and the rest of the gang ended up enjoying the sunshine while playing in the stream at the bottom of Harry's garden.

What a good day to be a kid.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Martha the Red Belt

Tuesday night was a good night for Martha. She came along to the dojo with me ready to do her Shotokan Karate  red belt grading. What she didn't expect was that she'd be grading next to the club's black belts!

We were asked to line up with the senior grades - black and brown belts - before the grading began. Then we were immediately asked to perform two kata with the senior grades, making it a very high-pressure situation indeed!

After this came some simple one step sparring along with some basic blocks and kicks (mawashi geri, yoko geri and mae geri).

Martha was very brave at all times and she didn't make any mistakes. Her karate is strong.

After the lesson, we had our licenses updated and were presented with our new certificates.

I'm very proud of Martha in her second grading. I predict that she'll be a black belt before she's 19 years old!