Hindsight

Hindsight is the most wonderful thing. It’s the wee sibling of experience, if you’re old enough to have come across that old sage. I’ll come to the work perspective in a bit, but first let me reflect on a sea change that cannot fail to have a significant impact on what’s left of LCFN.

A variety of things try my patience. The wind is one, but I’ve learned through our good friend experience that even when it’s blowing a hoolie, from pretty much any direction, you can use hedgerows to get the job done: stay low, keep a firm grip of those bars and watch out for farm gates (where a crosswind can quite literally knock you sideways).

Second up is rain. No surprise there I guess: hell, we get enough of it in the West of Scotland. Getting a good soaking is par for the course but combined with the wind and low temperatures, it can be a real hardship.

Then there are punctures. I stopped counting at about fifteen so I’m guessing when I say I’ve had about twenty five since day one, that’s twenty five episodes of cursing and wishing that on that particular day, at that particular time, I’d taken a different route. There’s nothing worse, in winter, in the dark, when it’s windy, cold, and raining, than a puncture. I used to stop and fix them at the roadside and even though I always have spare inner tubes on the bike, I stopped fixing punctures out on the road when I got the gold bike. The reason: the Rohloff Speedhub. Fixing a rear wheel puncture on a Rohloff hub is no five minute task so I’ve become accustomed to riding a flat back wheel home within about a fifteen mile radius then fixing it in the comfort of the kitchen with the bike on a proper stand.

So I suspect it was fate, realising that I was on top of both Beasts from the East, that dealt me three punctures in two weeks, two of them in three days. I tried to fix one of them out on the road but I couldn’t feel my fingers after about five minutes and that made it extremely precarious trying to put the tyre back on safely. I decided that enough was enough.

I nearly bit this bullet when I got the gold bike back in November but Neil talked me out of it. This time I wasn’t going to be swayed…

I’ve ditched the tubed tyres in favour of solid tyres.

You’ve done what”?

I’m running solid tyres. The switch was made on Wednesday and I’ve had three days to live with the difference. The first impressions were positive. I took them out on a 40+ mile run and got home with an average speed not dissimilar from what I’m used to. But it was the day after, ie yesterday, that my knees felt it. Let’s roll this back to basics: the Rohloff Speedhub is a heavy piece of kit so it’s sitting on a wheel with a 20mm rim which is quite wide by road bike standards. The tubed Marathon Plus bombproof tyres I was running were 700x28mm at 100psi. At that pressure, rolling resistance is minimal, even though the surface area is significant and the tyre is heavy. The Tannus tyres that I’ve swapped over to, only comes in a 700x32mm at 75psi on a 20mm rim. That’s significantly more rubber on the road, except these aren’t rubber: they’re some form of hybrid plastic: and they take a more effort to keep going in that configuration.

After a hundred and something miles, I reckon I’m down on speed by about one mile per hour. “That’s really nothing” I hear you whisper under your breath. Well no, it’s not, but to keep the difference at only one mile per hour day on day is going to take a toll on my knees. I can feel it already. It’s the pushing and pulling required to overcome the increased rolling resistance. When I had the left knee operated on back in 2006, Ms McMillan, who performed the procedure, said to me afterwards “I think you and I are going to be seeing more of each other in the coming years”. I know she meant that in the professional sense but she also said that I shouldn’t overstress that knee by riding a bike out of the saddle: that was forty something thousand miles ago. I haven’t seen her since and it’s time to take stock of those words.

The easy answer is to cut back on the speed, and that means just using a lower gear. Yeah, I can do that, but if you know me, and I mean really know me, then that’s not quite so straightforward. But I’m willing to try. Doing less miles isn’t really a meaningful solution unless it’s coupled with option one and that’s definitely not going to happen anytime soon. Option three is to abandon ship and put the Marathon Plus tyres back on: that’s not happening either, not after I just shelled out over a hundred quid to avoid punctures.

So I’m gonna stick with the Tannus tyres, but with the backstop of having 100psi solids put on my previous LCFN bike: that has much narrower wheels and will take a thin tyre: it will decide the future. In any case, the Tannus tyres are reckoned to be good for 5000 miles so with both bikes configured, I can get to 50K miles between the two of them and maybe that’s the answer: to mix and match and spread the pain.

And so to tomorrow…

I got a bit annoyed with myself today because I couldn’t remember what we did to commemorate 30,000 miles. 10K was with Vanessa at Celtic Park in November 2014. 20K was with Eileidh, Mouldy and Laura at the Floral Garden in Inverness in November 2016. 30K was at the end of April last year, and I had to check back in the blog to find out what I did to ‘celebrate’ it… nothing. That’s why I didn’t remember it, but more importantly, I didn’t remember that I didn’t do anything. That’s a bit worrying.

40K will happen tomorrow morning: I need just 23 miles and I plan on doing 30+, and there’s a reason for that. I lost Sunday January 21st to snow and a bit of me regrets it. Every day since, including both Beasts from the East, has been a 30 miler: 61 of them. The most days in a row that I’ve ever cycled in my life is 62. Every day in 2018 apart from that snow day has been a 30 miler: 81/82. It’s now descended into a battle of the Beasts: the weather people are talking about BFTE3 next week but I’m ready for it. Winter, show me what you’ve got left: I will outlast you. And afterwards, LCFN and as many supporters as I’ve been able to rustle up are heading into Glasgow for an afternoon of beer and blether. It’s still not too late to plan to get yersel’ into the Admiral on Waterloo St between two and six o’clock.

And talking of outlasting things, I’ve got a wee sniff of something brewing. I’ve always held in high regard the 36 two hundred mile weeks in a row that ran from May 2015. But that run was commuting weeks to Glasgow. It included two weeks when I did nothing at all: our summer holiday, and Christmas week. It’s true that there were no weeks that I cycled that were less than 200 weeks, but the longest consecutive run of double hundreds within that was 24 between August and December. Tomorrow will bring up 14, and there are definitely enough weeks between now and when we fly to Australia to top that, assuming I don’t have to go away with my work. That would be a bit of a bummer.

Right, back to the top of the show and the hindsight thing: I’ve been a bit lax since I passed my SNOMED-CT exam back in November so this week I decided to pursue my SNOMED-CT developer’s licence: you need one of those to develop software for distribution in the community. Today I got confirmation that NHS Digital have approved my access to the data files and I’ll be downloading the latest release of SNOMED-CT in the next couple of weeks.

This initiative is timely because this week has revealed the abuse of 50 million Facebook accounts by a third party company. Data is big business and I know that just as well as the next man. The tools that I’m developing use wholly made up people: did you know that you can go online and get a website to make you up as many fake people as you require: name, address, date of birth, NI number: it’ll generate the lot, just like a random number generator. That’s how I populated my virtual GP Practice, then I whittled it down so that I have precisely the right number of male and female patients to match the gender and age profile of the United Kingdom. Software’s good at stuff like that and all the stats are out there in the public domain if you care to look.

But this virtual practice that I’m building is complex, very complex. The clinician’s user interface is actually quite simple to use but the stuff behind the scenes is challenging. So this week I found myself grappling, not for the first time, with a really difficult clinical coding problem. Because I’m a software bloke and not a medic, it’s only when you get to the good bit, the useful bit, where you screen for disease, that you realise that something doesn’t quite fit: it’s like doing a jigsaw when you come to realise that the pieces that you have left don’t fit the holes. Basically I’ve missed something. That was yesterday: and as has become the norm, I chewed over the issue while I was out on the bike and thought of a different approach in populating the database, a way that would potentially address the issues. I tried it out late last night on a wee sample of data and it worked (as in it was no longer wrong): so this morning I extended the fix then left it to run on the whole database while I went out chasing miles. When I got back it was cooked. And it still works….

I just wish hindsight was a default option when you start anything new.

Author: Von Schiehallion

I'm an old endurance athlete who's pulled a few tricks in his time. I ran my first marathon at 19 round a grass athletics track, ran/hobbled 100 miles in a day at 30, cycled from Manchester to Glasgow in a day at 40, kickstarted the Highland March at 50 and now, at 60, I'm doing LifeCycle. Life's too short to sit still for long. I like doing stuff that just seems impossible...

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