Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Xmas Holidays and Getting Out There

Hi everyone, hope you're all well and looking forward to the annual Xmas holiday. If you're like me and have young children you're probably in the middle of intense preparations for the big day and looking forward to seeing through a magical few days of family time (well most of the time).

This time of year, for me, also is significant in that the holiday period opens up opportunities to get in a few days of serious walking and running and maybe even a bike ride (if I can find my thermal base layer). With the current arctic conditions, there has never been a better time to get wrapped up and enjoy the wintery landscape. Down here in the South West and I’m sure like most other parts of the UK, it’s very rare for us to be on the receiving end of a good dumping of snow – high moorland excluded. And so I’m already working out the ridges and peaks in my head that we as a family and/or a couple of mates can hit before the big thaw comes and we’re back to the standard UK winter of wind, rain and mud – sorry for reminding you.

So I guess this is all about seizing the moment and making the most of situation and turning it around to your advantage. With current conditions that have not been seen in certain parts of the country for a generation this is surely a rare chance to do just that. If you need more convincing and a little more motivating then have a look at these amazing photos taken while on winter walks by some of he team here at Adventure Cafe on the Adventure Cafe flickr pages.

Have a terrific Xmas break and don’t forget over this period of celebration to raise a glass to the great outdoors -Cheers!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Saturday Afternoon Challenges...

  So, I guess we all have special memories of our epic challenges. And I'd say also that the vast majority of people in the UK would consign you to the loony bin, if you actually say you enjoy being out in howling gales, lashing rain, searing heat, or freezing cold. But here at Adventure Cafe (http://www.adventure-cafe.com/) , we know very well that you are out there... in droves, the lucky ones who have seen the light, and who know that something very special comes from pushing your limits. You see, living on the line of the average is kind of boring. Never too hot, never too cold, never hungry, never too full, never really exausted, but never really bursting with energy. BUT, if you embrace the world of the challenge, you may just find a world richer in experience, and you may be able to savour lifes simple pleasures, and appreciate them as luxuries!

  I pushed out on my bike last Saturday, and set out on a ride. As usual, it has to be squeezed in amongst a myrid of other commitments, so there was certainly not time to plan where I would go, so I took first left, first left, through the village and out across the Somerset levels. Easing myself in, I was able to pick up the speed gently, before getting whacked by any gradients. During the first few miles I cemented the plan. I would head for Taunton via the backroads, and take in the beautiful spine road up on top of the Blackdowns. The day was cold, but at least not freezing, or wet, so I was happy.
  And so it was that after the gentle rolling road to Ilminster and Horton, I was confronted by a tough climb up on to the Blackdowns, steep and unrelenting, but certainly a good workout. Working hard, the top of the climb duly arrived, and I was thn able to enjoy the sublime pedalling through the forestry commission of Staple Fitzpaine, and on towards Holmen Clavel.
  I digress... as you probably don't particularly want to hear about my unremarkable riding around rural Somerset. The point was, that the ride evolved, and I found myself with a tough, and long ride home from the Racecourse at Taunton, some 20 miles to get home. As usual, I had no lights, and night was coming on fast. So I had no choice. Put the pedals down, and crack on towards home, as fast as my legs could propel me. Chasing the end of the day's light I realised that I was running near the end of my energy reserves, and started to feel somewhat light headed, and ravenously hungry. Still, faster, faster, home home, I must make it home!
  Through Langport now, and the light is really fading, and my tummy is starting to consume itself... but I can't help but push myself on, with one of those - 'I'll just get to there' , and then 'Just another two miles' battles raging inside my head. Finally I gave in, and stopped to pull out my jellybeans and flapjack, on the street corner in Long Sutton. And do you know what? Those sweaty snacks from my back pocket, were the best bits of food I've tasted for weeks... the sugar lift was verging on hallucinogenic, and the texture of the Elevenses Bar, was immense... I rode the last 3 miles gently, feeling more together, in warm down mode, and my stomach saying a quiet thankyou. Finally after an outing of not even 3 hours, I pulled in on the drive, cold, hungry, and mud spattered, but elated, buzzing with endorphines and at one with the world, in the way that only this kind of simple personal challenge can manage. Through the door, and warm tea, and a bath were the most luxurious and splendid end to a great afternoon.

My point, I suppose, is how the personal privations we experience on our physical challenges, give us a moment to recalibrate, and reassess what we enjoy, what we need, and what is a luxury. For me, long live the hot bath and the cup of tea. I'l be out on the road seeking the very same luxury this weekend - if my family let me :-)

Adventure Cafe wil be more than happy to get you out on a Cycling Challenge... from London to Paris, to Coast to Coast in England... check out the website - http://www.adventure-cafe.com/