29 · non-binary (they/them) · neurodiverse · spoonie · queer femme · NSO & trainee zebra · polyamorous · burned-out activist · geek.

♥ coffee ♥ roller derby ♥ photography ♥ knitting ♥ exploring ♥ creating ♥

Feb. 18th, 2016 10:34 am


tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Last night, I changed the time on my alarm clock but forgot to set it - largely because I fell asleep whilst still doing stuff on my phone (which also meant that my phone didn't get charged).

Thankfully, I have a recurring alarm for 07:30, which is when I usually wake up when I'm already at work - and the very nifty Android Doze meant that I only lost 2% battery overnight, so that alarm went off.

But. Guess what time train I had planned on catching this morning? Yeah: 07:30.

(Very glad last night's glance at the weather forecast informed me that I'd likely not make it to work in one piece if I attempted cycling in due to ice. No way I'd have been up and out of the door in 25 minutes if I had to get a bike ready too.)

Still got to work 15 minutes before my shift started though. Boom :)
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Find the nearest book to you, turn to page 45, and read the first sentence: this describes your sex life in 2016.

"Too funny," she said, and shut the door."

I don't like this meme.

So far, so inaccurate. *ahem*
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Has 2015 been a good year for you?
No, not especially. Well, the first month was great, the next nine were horrendous, and it's been slowly getting better since then.

What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Landed on the wrong end of a lot of bureaucracy.
Went to a massive national awards dinner as a shortlisted finalist.
Went to a kitty café.
Edinburgh Pride
Cycled 115km in one day.
Then 130km in one day the next month.
And 150km in one day the month after that.
Entered a bouldering competition.
Entered an Audax (long distance cycling event) on a solo bike.
Related to previous, fell off my bike at high speed requiring a hospital visit..
Went to a trampoline park.
Watched roller derby in person.
Went to Toronto.
Went to Niagara Falls.
Visited the Statue of Liberty.
Went pole dancing.

What goals do you have for 2016?
To stay sane for the final year of my degree, and more trivially, something I haven't come up with a good name for, that'll be a cross between the #365selfies thing I've seen a few people do this year, and the #100happydays thing I did after my birthday in 2014 (because making an effort to find one thing every day that made me happy was a surprisingly happy experience, would you believe?!)

 Read more... )
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Over the last year, I've come to think of myself properly as A Cyclist, and whilst it always used to grind my gears (pun not entirely intended) when the old "cyclists don't pay tax or insurance!" line was thrust in my face, it has come to annoy me even more as I hear it more and more often, whether yelled at me by motorists who are angry with me for obeying the Highway Code or read in the latest cycling news.

There are a few problems with this.
  1. Road tax doesn't exist; it hasn't for a long time (in that name), and looking back to when something by that name was introduced, Winston Churchill objected to it on the basis that it would make motorists feel that they had more right to use the roads than people who didn't (have to) pay it. And he was right.
  2. The thing that most people claim is "road tax" is actually Vehicle Excise Duty, and it is based on the emissions produced by a vehicle. Zero-emission vehicles, such as electric cars, don't pay any VED. Therefore, I do in fact pay the appropriate amount of "tax" for my vehicle.
    Side note: neither do emergency services vehicles, or, more frustratingly, really old vehicles that aren't environmentally friendly.
  3. Cyclists who also own a vehicle that is not exempt from emissions duty do pay VED. I am not one of them, but there are many people to whom that does apply.
  4. Road repairs are currently paid for through local council tax. I don't pay that, because I am a full-time student. But if anyone wants to seriously suggest that full-time students should be banned from cycling, let me know so I can get my popcorn.

And on the insurance thing — I am a member of British Cycling at the Ride level. Note the very first 'perk' of membership listed on that page:
"Liability insurance cover of up to £10m for incidents where you are wholly or partly at fault."

Incidentally, in order to be a racing cyclist in the UK, most organisations insist that riders hold a racing licence, for which you have to be a member of British Cycling — and all membership levels from Ride and above include insurance. (The level below Ride is for "cycling fans" who want to support the work that BC does, but don't need the benefits of insurance, etc.)

CTC membership also offers a similar deal, albeit without the option for race licensing, and there's a good number of other insurance companies that do just-insurance without the campaigning side of things. Ergo, many cyclists already have insurance.

"But not all cyclists are members of these organisations!" I hear you cry — and yes, that's true — but enough are that enforcing an annual fee similar to VED in order to ride a bike, ostensibly to insure oneself, would be simply unfair to those who have taken out insurance from other places, whether as part of their memberships or independently — especially as the latest figure I've seen quoted as part of this suggestion is actually 50% more than what I pay for my BC membership.

And yes, organisations like BC and CTC could restructure their memberships to not include insurance, but that doesn't take away the fact that the £50 figure suggested by the founder of the Motorists Association this week costs more than a CTC or BC membership (which come with other benefits as well as just insurance). Either he's not doing his research into what's already available for cyclists, or he has and has come up with a higher figure because he realises what a costly nightmare it would be for the Government to monitor and administrate cyclist registration and insurance.

And the difficulty of administrating mandatory cyclist insurance is just one argument for not bringing it in: we could also potentially draw likeness to the effects of mandatory helmet use in Australia.

As you can see, the numbers of children cycling dropped significantly, and adults were also put off, albeit to a lesser degree. Whilst this data is old, and about helmets rather than insurance and tax, it does suggest that enforcing something upon cyclists which makes it less easy to just get on a bike and ride (once you know how, obviously) may discourage people from doing so.

So it seems to me that enforcing insurance and tax on cyclists might be somewhat counterproductive to our Government's aims, given that the Conservative Party manifesto, pre-2015 election, said this about cycling:
"We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle and will invest over £200m to make cycling safer so we reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year."

Of course, the Tories have since announced a plan to change VED and road tax, removing the responsibility from local councils for road repairs and repurposing the money they take from motorists to fund it on a national level, so the argument "you don't pay road tax!" might actually be valid from 2017 (point #3 above notwithstanding).

Which is implausible, since they plan to take much less than they'll actually need for road improvements and maintenance, but refactoring "road tax" is a different problem to propositions to tax cyclists.

What I worry about is the continuing effect on attitudes and behaviour towards cyclists, should "road tax" be reintroduced and ideas like cyclist registration and insurance continue to be lobbied for by motorists who, I suspect, really just want to see fewer bikes on the road, and so are doing their best to come up with ways to make that happen.

I'm a confident cyclist; my grandparents met through a local cycling club in the 1940s, took my mum and her brother on cycling holidays when they were children, and the passion has been passed down to me and (to a lesser extent) my own brother. I got my first road bike aged 12, and as a teenager, I rode regularly at the Manchester Velodrome, until a crash brought me off the track, whereupon I got out of the habit and almost stopped cycling altogether.<

Aged 14, with my pride and joy. The bike was sold after my crash, and I'm told it's still in use on the same track, but I have yet to see it again.

I was bought a new bike for my 18th birthday, but between going off to university where I couldn't afford the add-on to my contents insurance for it, and then several years of laziness, I rode barely 500 miles on it until earlier this year.

However, in February 2015, I began cycle-commuting, on that bike from ten years ago, and via a colleague, I discovered Strava Challenges, and my passions for leisure riding and the Velodrome were reborn. In the intervening ten months, I've ridden just over 1800 miles, or 3000km. I ride nearly every day, with a large chunk of my commute along busy A-roads, and for me, the abuse hurled out of open windows and horns blaring behind me for daring to choose not to bounce over the potholes in the gutters — it all just glides over my helmet.

But I know other cyclists are not so brave. Other cyclists may be scared off by the increased number of motorists who feel they have more of a right to use the road because of the "road tax" they pay, that they assume cyclists don't. Other cyclists may be put off if they currently choose to use a bike because it's a cost-effective alternative to cars and public transport, only for a mandatory charge (which, again, could be higher than membership of a cycling organisation) to come along and make it unaffordable. It would almost certainly put off privacy-minded individuals who enjoy the freedom of one thing they do not have to register with the Government.

In short, cyclist insurance does exist, and many make use of it — but in my opinion, we shouldn't enforce it — and registering and taxing cyclists would probably be an administrative nightmare that would be counterproductive to the Government aim to reduce congestion on the roads, reduce pollution, and get more people cycling.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
A bit delayed, mostly because I forgot, but also because I've been ridiculously busy: last weekend, I joined in with the Friday Night Ride to the Coast clan again, this time for Manchester to Morecambe, largely on account of it being somewhat more convenient than any of them there London ones, but also because a YACFer passed away last year having had a heart attack on the Manchester-Morecambe last August, and I wanted to go along to pay my respects, as whilst I only vaguely knew him, I did remember him being extremely kind to my family and I years back following my dad's death.

Ahead of the ride I offered to do a 'ride-in' from Stockport to the city centre; one person took me up on it, and we met halfway from my house to the pre-meet meeting point of the pub on Piccadilly station - conveniently, he even suggested a spot very close to where I was planning to remove myself from the main road, so as to avoid cycling through Longsight on a Friday evening (which, for those who are fortunate enough not to know, is a free-for-all: motorists will stop suddenly and open their doors without looking in the mirrors, not even at the side of the road; pedestrians emerge from behind parked cars wearing clothes not terribly suitable for lighting conditions, also without looking where they're going. Drivers will pull U-turns, without using their mirrors, and absolutely nobody except bus drivers treat traffic lights as anything more than an advisory. It is generally best avoided.)

After an hour or so in the pub eating chips and watching people arrive from various bits of the country, we negotiated the traffic of the city centre and headed to Albert Square, the start point of the ride, getting there at about 23:40. There was a short safety briefing about riding in groups and along unlit country lanes in the middle of the night, and then not long after midnight, we all saddled up and headed off into the night…

Apparently the road up to Bury - our first stop, for a moment of silence for Alan and laying flowers in his memory - was "a long uphill slog", though I can't say I really noticed. Which was a really nice thing, given I usually profess how much I abhor hills :)

We took a rest there and were warned about the long hill to follow; this was more noticeable, though not as difficult as I was expecting. Up to that point, I'd been in the very front group of riders; I did slip behind a little here, but was far from the last to the top. Almost as if all the cycling this year has actually helped me get fitter, or something ;)

At the top of the hill, there was a regrouping, and the phrase "Quick health and safety announcement. We have a steep descent now, with a 90 degree bend at the bottom… good luck." was uttered, to most people's amusement. This was one of the things that got texted to various friends and my mum who had asked for or who usually get/send me texts during their silly bike ride adventures; one of whom was [personal profile] damerell, who texted me back to whit: "The great Jobst Brandt said to me once "you descend like a maniac" means "I could not match you". So it is praise when I say it, you descend like a maniac." My reply, to him and the others, was a simple: "Nailed it."

Of course, what wasn't mentioned (or perhaps it was and I was too busy texting to hear - more likely, if I'm honest) was how after the 90 degree bend, the road went directly uphill again, in the fashion that you can't use any speed you built up descending as momentum for climbing, so it's a tough job getting up there. I also nailed that, however :)

At the top of this third climb - and we're talking somewhere between 2-3am here, there was a pub in the middle of nowhere, with people outside it chattering away, one of them trying to control a large dog which I had initially thought was gunning for us cyclists - only to be informed later by one of the other riders that actually, it had its eyes on a wild roaming sheep who was being very daring and standing stock still on the other side of the road as if to say "I dare you!" to the hound. It definitely added something to the final push up the climb…

That one was more difficult. In fact, just as the person I was riding next to was saying "[personal profile] kimble is fearsome on the downhills, but we all catch her up on the… oh." - she calmly and silently powered past us… on a recumbent.

By the top of the moors, we stopped for a longer rest and to admire the views, and then hammered down the main road to the middle-of-the-night stop in shape of a McDonalds, where I confused the staff by asking for hot apple pie rather than something… less vegetarian. I'm guessing they're not used to serving apple pies at 3am.

The ride was… bumpy, after that. Up but then down, up again, down again… all on pitch dark country lanes, often in silence, just enjoying the ride and quiet company. In Longridge, we regrouped, caught our breaths, did some casual astronomy, and made friends with a black cat who was quite curious about happening upon 23 cyclists at 5am.

We hammered on, pausing again to regroup in Inglewhite, where I picked up another answer for the British Cycle Quest - incredibly, the planned route took us right past the location and when I emailed the ride leader ahead of time to say "soooo can we have a rest there so I can write down the answer?" his response was "actually, we usually pause there anyway…" (and all that despite not knowing of the BCQ!)

The next pause point was a short discussion over sticking to the route or following a coastal cycle path, which I ducked out of to hide behind a conveniently placed wall for a comfort break. Cue, as we saddled up again, my regular complaint following such breaks about how wonderful bib shorts are for comfort and warmth, and yet awful when it comes to a need to relieve oneself mid-ride, and more importantly my cycling wardrobe's awful lack of halter-neck shorts, a newish invention by dhb that make me go "why didn't I think of that?!" and "why are dhb so damn expensive?!" - and they aren't too bad, compared to, say, Rapha, but still rather out of my price range, on the whole.

The group had decided that the coastal path was likely to be dry and not muddy, and thankfully were right, as that's the route we took from that point most of the way to Morecambe itself. The views across the bay to the fells in the Lakes as the sun rose above them were utterly stunning, and frankly, I would cycle all the way back to Morecambe again just for that view.

From there, we rode along the cyclepath to Morecambe, and the final kilometre of the ride along the promenade to the infamous Eric Morecambe statue, which I was informed I had to pose not just next to, but climbing on, for the "forumites on a statue" thread:

(Thankfully, it was not a con!)

The final 7.5km were ridden from Morecambe back into Lancaster, where I ate breakfast from a plate bigger than my face, and then sped off to the station to play bicycle jenga with [personal profile] kimble (who showed me that, much to my amazement, it is possible to hang a recumbent up on the daft bicycle storage space on the old Virgin Voyager trains).

The journey back home from there was fairly non-eventful, despite a slightly antagonistic fellow passenger, who looked directly at me as we got on the train in Preston, before parking himself down on the quite uncomfortable fold-down seats positioned in the bicycle space, leading to the following conversation:

"'scuse me, please could I put my bike there?"
*grumbles unintelligibly, doesn't move*
"This *is* the bike space… and this is a bike. You're not a bike. Please can I put my bike there?"
*shuffles over one seat, grumbles unintelligibly again*
I put my bike in the bike space, strap it in, and take a seat on one of the nicer, vastly more comfortable seats opposite.

(And, an hour and a half later, this conversation:)

"Why can't people just RIDE their bikes anyway? They're not ACCESSORIES."
"Mate, YOU ride 120km through the middle of the night and then resist the urge to get a train home, I DARE YOU."

After that, it was… really quite peaceful. I slept the remaining 10 minutes into Manchester, cycled across the city centre, and then hopped on another train home, just about staying awake, walked in the house at about 2pm, and went to sleep on the sofa leaving my brother to explain to his friends what I'd been up to :)
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
It's called "Guess Who Said It?"

Hint: it was either the leader of the opposition to the governing political party in the UK about the leader of the governing party, or the other way around.

"We can't let him inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love."

Was it…?

Poll #17012 Who said it…?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 13

Who said it?

View Answers

David Cameron, about Jeremy Corbyn
11 (84.6%)

Jeremy Corbyn, about David Cameron
1 (7.7%)

Who are these people? I have been living under a rock and/or not on your puny little island.
1 (7.7%)

0 (0.0%)

And the answer is… *drumroll* )
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Strava's distance challenge this month is 120km; I couldn't decide on a place to go, so at 09:15 this morning, I set off from work just outside Manchester city centre and decided to see where I felt like going.

Opted to turn right at first major junction on reasoning that I'd never turned down that road before; passed through Sale and Altrincham, then Warrington. Began to get rained on. Started thinking about maybe heading for Formby and going to that beach with statues on, but then spotted a signpost for Daresbury, the birthplace of Lewis Caroll, and remembered that one of the British Cycle Quest clues is there, along with a visitor centre which I reckoned would sell me a brew to help me warm up. In actual fact, it was attached to a church, and the brews were provided at a suggested donation of 20p, or 50p with biscuits. They got the handful of spare change from my wallet, and I had lovely stem ginger biscuits and alright (instant) coffee.

Whilst there, I examined the BCQ question book and decided to pick up a second answer in Chester. Arriving there with 65km on my GPS, I stopped for lunch, decided I was cold and wet and would be happier heading in the direction of home instead of somewhere else, so scrapped my "ride 100km, look for a train station, and get a train home" idea, and aimed for the Cheshire Cycleway to get me out of the town centre and vaguely north-east-wards again.

But of course, Chester has a lot of cycle routes, and I picked one with signs saying Connah's Quay in one direction, and Chester Town Centre in the other, thought to myself "well, I've just come from Chester so it must be the other way", and set off.

Sometime after this, I pass a sign welcoming me to Wales. I stopped to consider if I wanted to attempt to navigate Chester town centre again, decided I didn't, took a silly photo of myself at the border, and figured I may as well see how far I could get around the North Wales coast before hitting 120km.

Katie looking quizzically at Welsh border sign

116km landed me on the doorstep of a lovely cycling shop/café called Bike Hub in Rhyl Harbour, with divine blueberry cheesecake.

Cheesecake, a cup of coffee and my helmet, with Rhyl Harbour in the background

They didn't believe me the first time I said I got lost and was aiming for Manchester but took a wrong turning in Chester, only when I showed them the photo of me at the border.

120.0km exactly landed me at the entrance to Rhyl train station, with six minutes until the next Manchester train, and four minutes to a Chester one.

Of course, the Manchester one was a Virgin Trains service, which have mandatory bike reservations even when there are no other bikes on board, and a overzealous guard enforcing the (not-always-enforced) rule, so I ended up on the Chester train, and then changing again in Crewe.

122km later, I arrived home from my slightly-more-Welsh-than-usual commute, and am now in bed with my Kindle. It has been a grey and geographically-challenging but very fun day :)
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Today, I did the August Strava Gran Fondo of 150km, and also established that my upper limit for a day of cycling is probably about 145km.

Had I not been very conscious that:
a) it takes a very long time to cycle 150km
b) I had set off 2 hours late anyway
c) my mobile battery is terrible and if I'm out of the house for 12 hours without access to electricity it basically needs to stay in airplane mode all the time.

…then I probably would have tweeted sentiments approximating the following (and a few other things that I have since forgotten):

  • You know you're in deepest darkest Cheshire when the only business you've seen for miles is hydrotherapy for horses.
  • "I can do 150km easily enough in Cheshire, it's quite flat" is probably true when you don't forget that Alderley Edge is built on an actual cliff.
  • Motorists who use unlit country roads at night, see white light coming towards them and don't dim their bloody high beams are THE WORST KIND OF MOTORISTS. Off-road cycling whilst temporarily blinded and unable to see the edge of the road was not on my agenda and I'm a bit grumpy about that, er, emergency motion?
  • 1km from home, 11pm, drunkards yelled "Tour de France is over luv!" at me and - I'm quite proud of this one, because I'm not very witty very often, and never spontaneously - I replied: "I'm on the Vuelta mate, which way's Spain from here?"

Places I stopped:
  1. Sandbach Waitrose - tasty, had treacle tarts and excellent bike parking. Had been intending to go to café opposite but menu was not gluten-free friendly (for my lunch companion), nor was it budget-friendly, and I'm not sure my Lycra would have quite fit in with the rest of the clientele's attire…
  2. Co-operative Food, Audlem - had meant to go to Priest's House Café, following excellent reviews from other cyclists, but arrived 5 minutes after they closed. Had roadside picnic instead. It was alright - potato wedges, orange juice and Jaffa Cakes. Who needs nutritional value anyway.
  3. Hazel Pear, Acton Bridge - tasty and very cheap food, cold drinks, handed me water without me needing to ask when I just stared glassy-eyed at the menu unable to think. Later on, not only let me charge my phone behind the bar but also went to find a charger to do so, since I didn't have mine. Highly highly highly recommended.

That will have to suffice for a ride report because I didn't take any photos, and I'm really really tired…
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
(CN: obesity, body negativity)

Someone on a friend's repost of this journo request posted to [twitter.com profile] getinthesea claimed: "obesity is not a disability, it's a life choice".

My reply was to tell them they were wrong, followed up with:

"What about people who have to take medications known to cause obesity in order to control other health problems? Look up: chlorpromazine, clozapine, amitryptyline, aripriprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone.

What about people with diabetes? Did you know the insulin that some diabetics need to stay alive causes obesity?

What about people who are paralysed and CAN'T be active, who instead have muscle wastage that turns to fat that they can't easily get rid of? For that matter, what about people with degenerative muscle-wasting diseases?

What about people with hypothyroidism, the very definition of which is not having the hormones required to maintain a good metabolism and burn off calories well?

What about people who became obese as a result of a disability rendering them bed-ridden and unable to live their life, now unable to function "normally" because of the obesity they've ended up with through no CHOICE of their own?

What about people living on or even below the poverty line, unable to afford "good food" that keeps them healthy?

No, not all of these things cause obesity in all people - but there is peer-reviewed evidence backing up everything I've just said showing that your statement "obesity is not a disability, it's a life choice" is nothing more than bigoted rubbish. But then I should have expected as much from someone who openly admits to agreeing with Katie Hopkins and thinks women's magazines do no harm whatsoever to the mental health and self-esteem of women who see glossy magazines staring down at them instructing them to be skinny in order to be a good person.

Some people have become obese through overeating and inactivity, yes. And they may be quite happy about that, or not. The important thing is that that's their choice and unless they invite it, nobody else's business."

He also complained that said friend using sarcasm in response to the suggestion that women's magazine journalism is unimportant was patronising; I *may* have said it's no wonder some people feel the need to post such comments.

…why do I always get into arguments like this at bedtime?!

tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Here ensues at least two months of trying to remember how old I am.

It has been a hell of a year. But comparing this time last year to right now, I wouldn't change how and who I am now.

I've made and lost friends along the way, of course, and I'm more OK with what I have left than I thought I would be. My health is better in most ways, my fitness is better and I'm noticably physically stronger. My financial situation is still dire, but slowly improving and less stressful. I have new interests, and renewed love for old ones. I'm happier and calmer, busier, and happy about it.

Special thoughts tonight to people who have made space in their lives for me this year, whether for quick chats or longer escapes, distraction or talking, games and laughter or... well, more games and laughter, I think.

I will definitely be going to bed with a smile on my face tonight. Bring on the next 365 days.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Yesterday I rode my first Audax sans-[personal profile] damerell, and have now officially failed to finish more Audaxes than I have successfully completed, which is not quite the achievement I was hoping for.

It was meant to be a very hilly ride - starting in Marple, up into Glossop and Hadfield, past the reservoirs and over Holme Moss (one of the categorised climbs from the Tour de France's Grand Depart in Yorkshire last summer), then down into Langsett and Midhopestones and Strines, and then back into the Peak District through Edale, Chinley, New Mills and finishing again in Marple.

Well, it was a very hilly ride, and I did make it up to the summit of Holme Moss, with a bicycle, using only the power of my legs.

At the summit of Holme Moss

I also enjoyed descending the hills, and spotting road paintings leftover from when the TdF came past last summer.

Ey Up! / Go Yates Go! Allez Allez Jens!
Shut Up Legs Vive Le Tour!

However, I did come undone a little on a hairy descent out of Midhopestones - taking a corner much wider than I should have and probably somewhat faster too - I know that I was going for 66kph on the approach to the corner; I was braking heavily so probably didn't hit the ground at that speed, but still a little too fast. Unfortunately, on a 25% reverse-incline with a tailwind, there's a lot of factors against you...

So that goes some way to explaining why my front wheel was the wrong shape when I dropped the bike off at my local bike shop this morning, and also why I've got a small-ish rugby-ball shaped lump on my elbow, and why I had the help of Northern Rail to avoid the final big climb of the day (Mam Nick) - which is why I officially didn't finish the ride.

On arrival at the ride rendezvous point, the ride organiser (an old family friend) offered to take me and my bike home and deliver me to the A&E department up the road, where I hung about for three hours or so, had a number of X-rays, and eventually got sent home with painkillers and the good news that nothing was chipped, fractured or otherwise broken.

I have acute neck/shoulder pain today, leaving me wondering if I did bang my head after all (I knew that I hadn't lost consciousness, but didn't know if I'd hit my head or not) - but I'm at work until Saturday morning so unless it gets any worse I'm just going to assume whiplash.

Incidentally, how to make a hospital receptionist really struggle not to laugh at you:
"What's the problem?"
"I came off my bike and my elbow is the wrong shape."
"Was it an RTC?"
"No, just stupidity."

Think I'll stay away from hills for a little while.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Written end of July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

The website I use to log my cycle rides, Strava, has monthly challenges one can enter, which include km-per-month (starting at 250km and increasing in increments of same up to 1250km) and also a "Gran Fondo" - usually 100km in a single ride, but during the summer months, they encourage you to get out on your bike more by progressively increasing the distance to 115km in June, 130km in July and 150km in August. In June, I hit the first one by adding the extra distance onto the end of the Great Manchester Cycle, but for July, I invented my own ride: getting myself from home, across the Pennines and to a lovely cycling café I discovered in York last year.

Fisheye photo of Katie, standing with their bike ahead of their big ride to York

I set off at about 9am, and immediately my GPS began to worry me, telling me that Strava's estimated ride time of 5.5 hours was out by an hour and that I should have left at around 8am instead in order to get there at the same time as the Yorkshire-based friends I'd planned to meet. Indeed, a quick bit of mental arithmetic as I made my way to the main road, and I began to realise the GPS was probably right; I usually ride at about 20kph, so I was looking at 5 hours just for the first century, never mind the final 33km after it.

I figured, nothing I could do for it except update the friends and say I'd just let them know when I was about an hour out of York, so they could make their respective ways to the cafe.

About an hour later, I realised things had gone slightly wrong again: as I passed a sign labelled "Woodhead", I realised that I wasn't on the right road. I mean, I was, in that my GPS was telling me that I was going in the right direction - but my grand plan for crossing the Pennines was to use the utterly beautiful Snake Pass, not the HGV-filled Woodhead Pass.

Thankfully, I struck lucky with the traffic - I guess that's the perk of riding on a Saturday morning:

Another lone cyclist, on the Woodhead Pass

In the end, I think I probably made the right call route-planning over Woodhead; it was actually remarkably not-very-steep at all, more of a windy and slow ascent, and quite pleasant on a quiet morning.

There weren't many photos for the rest of the ride; I was conscious of time creeping along, so my only records between then and the café were a video of some roadside chemistry in the form of sachets of electrolyte drink and 1500mls of water, with the recording stopped rapidly, as I realised I was shaking my bottle too hard and it was going to explode - and a celebratory snapshot of the sign welcoming me to the County of North Yorkshire.

I texted shortly after, from Selby, giving the one hour warning to friends and my mum, who had decided when I was somewhere near Barnsley to hop on a train and see if she could beat me there - she did, although I think TransPennine Express gave her quite the unfair advantage! - and almost exactly an hour later, I pulled to a stop outside the café, and looked down at my GPS/clock just in time to hear Kieran say "And what time do you call this?!" - to which I happily replied: "5 hours and 11 minutes of moving time since I left home, so about 20 minutes earlier than expected!"

(OK, so I was also about an hour later than planned; I blame the Yorkshire hills and my faulty lungs for that. The "moving time" is the important figure to me!)

So then there was all the food, fruit juice, delicious cake, and a celebratory photo at York station before getting the train home:

Celebrations with the bike in York

Next adventure: Dark Peak Grimpeur, a 106km randonneur with many many hills - my first Audax not on the back of [personal profile] damerell's tandem. Hoping to take the camcorder out that I received last Christmas with the intent of video-blogging my time in Finland, and doing an on-the-move ride report...
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Written July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

Last month I did the Great Manchester Cycle for the second time; the 52 mile distance again, but the difference this time being that I started cycle-commuting earlier this year, and whilst I only started riding real distances... well, on the day of the GMC, it's definitely helped with my fitness levels to be on my bike almost every day for the best part of six months!

The day was plagued from the beginning, with a puncture before I even started; thankfully, Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op were on hand to give me a new tube and get me to the start line with minutes to spare...

Bicycle being fixed by a mechanic At the start line of GMC 2015

I was riding with a colleague, at least up until mile 10, where she overtook a few slower cyclists ahead of us, and I wasn't able to catch her straightaway, and since she has a faster pace than I do, she was long gone by the time I'd passed the slow bunch in front of me. We exchanged a few texts along the route, but in the end we didn't see each other again til the finish line.

About a third of the way into the second lap of the 13 mile route, I heard a familiar hissing from my back tyre and realised I had another puncture - upon inspection, there was a stone pushing its way through the rim of the tyre itself, one that looked remarkably like those on the towpath between my friend's flat and the start of the ride... I concluded that whilst my puncture from the beginning of the day had been fixed, the stone that I could see had been the cause, and having not been removed, had done double duty. Fortunately, it was a slow puncture, so I hopped back on the bike and thrashed my way along one more mile to the feed station, where other mechanics from EBC were hanging out ready to help people, and so my bike ended up in surgery again:

Bike being fixed... again!

I also took a moment to natter with the St John Ambulance volunteers (unfortunately, since it turned out that unlike in 2014, entering the feed stations didn't stop your ride timer...) and had a bit of a stretch.

The final two-and-a-half laps continued without event (or photos) - I beat my way around the course and finished, unofficially/according to Strava in ten minutes less time than in 2014. I got stuck behind a slower rider again as I went for the finish line so couldn't do a sprint finish - but there's always next year!

After the ride, I then rode up to Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op's shop to pay for the gear that I got off them, since their stands on the ride were cash-only; whilst there, I decided to buy a front tyre so that I had matching tyres (as the replacement given to me during the ride was a skinnier, slicker tyre than my previous ones, and I wanted front and back to match - plus it generally being a good idea to know how much wear your tyres have had. I then rode back to the stadium where the ride started and finished, as of course, having paid for the second tyre, there were none in the shop as they were all made available for the ride ;)

In the trip back up to the stadium, I ended up puncturing again, though thankfully the front tyre this time - and EBC, to their credit, replaced the tube for me for free when I got there - I ended up buying one tube and two tyres, and getting two free ones - the first because they caused my second puncture in not removing the stone from my tyre, and the second just because I'd already been out of my way to the shop once that day and they felt sorry for me ;)

Admittedly, part of the jaunt down to the shop was to pick up extra mileage for a Strava challenge, and so during the day I ended up riding just over 115km, or 75 miles - in about 4.5 hours. I was very impressed with myself - and very, very tired. (Also grateful to have apparently found a post-exercise protein shake that doesn't taste like death - the High5 banana/vanilla flavour, when mixed with milk, is actually quite palatable, and I had pleasingly DOMS-free legs the days afterwards, hopefully not a coincidence as I then went and bought another 12 sachets of the stuff for future rides!)

Exhausted post-ride, but happy!

Said [twitter.com profile] benjimmin of the above photo: "You are the most dignified person that exists."
Feb. 5th, 2015 07:47 pm


tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Today I feel like I have small people trying to escape from inside my skull by battering their way out via my sinus cavities. Enforced night off with comfort food and Netflix, so I feel human enough to do first aid at elbow tomorrow night, cos, y'know, elbow. However, I occasionally have weird dreams when I'm sick, and last night was no exception.

I had a lucid dream that I'd overslept, despite my friend Josie (whose sofa I was crashing on) agreeing to wake me before she went to work; dream!Katie realised that she wouldn't do that because she's too excellent… and then I woke up anyway. At 04:30. Thanks, brain.

Then, after Josie had woken me at the more appropriate time of 6am, I dozed on the sofa whilst she ate her breakfast, and dreamed that I was trying to revive the expired parrot from Monty Python with cough syrup, and John Cleese was looking at me like I was crazy.

Ugh. Fingers crossed for feeling better before goodbye celebrations occur this weekend: 9 days to Finland!
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Find the nearest book to you, turn to page 45, and read the first sentence: this describes your sex life in 2015.
Then the billion voices ceased, instantly, as if the train had plunged in a fire storm off the earth.


tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Has 2014 been a good year for you?
The first six months were a bit terrible; the second six months were up and down and all over tthe place. I'm glad the year is over, but I'm also glad that I experienced it.

What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
I watched roller derby (on TV). I cosplayed (Delirium, from The Sandman, for a "favourite fictional character" themed party. I went Extreme Geocaching ("requires a boat", attempted without a boat - and failed, but made a plan for trying again - still without a boat!) - oh, and I climbed scaffolding.

What goals do you have for 2015?
To find a way to see the Northern Lights.

…and the rest. )
Dec. 2nd, 2014 06:30 pm


tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Last night, at about 11:30pm, I was walking down the main road for my bus home, when suddenly a large white fluffy thing appeared from under a car.

"That cat has really short legs," I thought. "No, wait…"

Just as I'm thinking it, my friend says, out loud, "That's a rabbit."

So we stop walking, and the rabbit's freaking out because OH GOD HUMANS, and starts running towards the main road, so I scooped it up in my arms and tried to pacify it, because I could see it ending up under the wheels of a bus or something. I realised it was soaking wet, cold and terrified, and my friend points out that since he lives a few doors away we should take it indoors to warm up whilst we call the RSPCA. So we did.

I wrapped him up in a towel and gave him a cuddle until he stopped panicking…

…and my friend phoned the local RSPCA, whose answering machine informed him that they don't rescue animals.

So he phoned the local council, whose answering machine informed him that they don't rescue animals, and he should call the local RSPCA.

I called the national RSPCA, and handed him the phone when I realised that I didn't know his address. He told them we found a domestic rabbit at the side of the road, and they asked him to keep it overnight and take it to a local vet the next morning.

He agreed, and went a rummage in the cellar, before re-appearing with an enormous pan to put the rabbit in.

I went home and fell asleep, figuring that would be the end of the story.

When I woke up this morning I remembered the whole thing, and texted my friend to ask if it had all been a dream. It hadn't.

The rabbit got taken to the vet, who said that they wouldn't taken in an uninjured animal. They suggested that my friend knock on all the nearby houses to find the owner. He decided not to, took the rabbit home, and watched stand-up comedy with it. The rabbit fell asleep.

I began texting my next-door neighbour, who runs an animal sanctuary, to ask if she knew anyone who would take in rabbits. She said she knew someone who could, in a pinch, but my mum said we could look after the rabbit (now named Burton, after the snowboarding equipment company) for a few days, as long as I posted on a Facebook lost/found pets group, to see if anyone would claim him.

So, after having coffee with a friend, I went round and picked the rabbit up, and took him home on the bus.

The cat is pretty perturbed.

Burton is now chilling out in an open-top run in my brother's bedroom (which has underfloor heating) happily munching carrots and some of the guinea pigs' hay.

Mum has pointed out that pets often get abandoned just before Christmas, so it's possible one of my friend or I just gained a rabbit.

What is my life.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
This week:
  • Arranged flights.
  • Wrangled the first bit of travel insurance. (Still to do: pay extra premium for having mildly faulty lungs.)
  • Applied for accommodation, got three offers, accepted one. (Chose the option that was neither eye-wateringly expensive, nor due to be demolished halfway through my trip. Think I made the right choice.)
  • Set up a GoFundMe to try and help fix the shortfall between my grant and necessary expenditure. If you like postcards and/or videos, and have some cash to spare, there are 'rewards' relevant to your interests :D
  • Started figuring out things I need to buy before I leave. (Please feel free to add suggestions in the comments.)

Plus 18 hours of lectures and homework, and 14hrs on my assignment. Word count around a third of what I was hoping it would be by now. This may be a long weekend.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Quote to sum up my most fun conversation today: "He only died once!"

(As much as I would love it if my stepdad had come back to life since 2008, it's just not scientifically possible. You'd think seeing the death certificate once would be enough though…)

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