Friday, November 30, 2018

Thrills and Spills

Today was "Swifty's" first proper run out after V and I had picked her new bike up earlier in the week. It was a beautiful Dubai morning with bright sunshine and still enough scent from the trees around where we live ( I have tried to find our what they are called to no avail - it has white buds and a shape rather like a fuchsia bud but with a strong honeysuckle smell). We did a couple of loops around the Mosque run and the up to the new Spinneys for a Mango juice(V) ans tea with croissant (me) before heading back. Just before we got back home V got her tyre caught in the gulley between the grass and path at the entrance to our courtyard and well and truly christened Swifty with a tumble. Apart from some scratches, bumps and bruises both child and machine seem to be OK but not a great way to start the weekend.

In other news the 7s rugby weekend started in some style with NC and chums and so Dad and I are looking forward to the rest of the entertainment tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Quizzical look

As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my (and my Father's) great pleasures - and (usually) deepest disappointments is taking part in the D&A quiz at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This visit by Dad has proved to be no different with our first effort in his first week here ending up with us ignominiously finishing in last place having scored zero on the picture round and barely failing to trouble the scorers even on our "strongest" round of General Knowlege. 17 marks was very poor end even if we had not wiped out (we mixed up our Yellowstone and Jellystone National Parks when deciding where Yogi Bear lived) we would still have come last so we embarked on this weeks quiz with no little trepidation. In truth I do not think we were much better although perhaps the other teams were worse as we were in third place at the halfway stage ( that was as good as it got). Nevertheless it was a lovely evening and we got to sample the new menu(the chicken tikka masala is highly recommended) and we also got to see the JBH in all its revamped glory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A day of driving

For various reasons I found myself on the road a lot today. Fortunately everything had more or less dried out after Monday/Tuesday's soaking so there was no more than the usual hair-raising driving techniques on display on the roads. These range from the sudden swerving across several lanes of traffic to avoid missing a nearly forgotten turnoff, overtaking in the outside lane using the small patch of hard-shoulder between the road and the crash barrier and manoeuvring without the use of indicators. This last trait seems to be almost compulsory on Dubai roads (as is beeping the horn at the slightest provocation and undertaking at speed so the combination of no signals and roaring up the inside of unsuspecting drivers is a particularly potent weapon in the armoury of the hard driving speed enthusiasts who seem to populate the roads). Inevitably some of these habits can rub off on hitherto blameless drivers so the general standard of driving never really seems to change no matter how long one lives in Dubai although you do definitely get used to it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

An Unexpected Swim

A further update on the my earlier posts regarding the havoc wreaked by Tuesday morning’s storm. I mentioned that a couple of chairs ended up in the pool. We managed to retrieve one of them on Tuesday morning but the other was down the deep end and not easily reachable without a long pole/broom handle. I was dissuaded from seeking to retrieve it last night when I got in from my bike ride given that it was pitch black so after I finished this morning’s ride E. and I started retrieval operations. I could not find a stick long enough to poke the chair closer to the side of the pool so I could try to reach down and grab it so E. and I took two ends of the garden hose and tried to use it to snag the legs on the chair to drag it up to the shallow end (which was markedly unsuccessful) and then to drag it closer to the ladder in to the pool. Although this was more successful (in that it was now close to the side) it was to deep for me to grab the legs and the steps/ladder did not go down far enough to allow me to get closer. There was nothing for it but for me to descend into the pool (I was wearing my cycling gear which had to be washed anyway so I figured I had nothing to lose (other than my dignity)). By this stage G. and E. and the gardener were interested spectators as I braved the icy waters (actually after an initial shock the water was actually quite pleasant!) and after a bit of groping around to get a good grip I eventually brought the chair to the surface and then squelched back into the house to dry off (unfortunately causing puddles of water around the house much to E’s chagrin). So a cycle ride and a (very short) swim to start the day - fortunately Dad had gone for his morning walk so at least I avoided having to explain the deficiencies in my chair rescue techniques to him!

Monday, November 26, 2018

More stormy weather

The title of yesterday’s post was stormy weather and that is precisely what we got overnight culminating in a full on thunder and lightning display earlier this morning. The crashes of thunder sounded very much like we were in the epicentre of the storm waking me up. When I got downstairs I noticed a couple of dark shapes in the pool. On further investigation it turned out that the strong winds had blown two of our outdoor chairs into the water - one of which was in the deep end some 30 feet from its usual resting place so those winds must have been pretty strong, particularly given the fact that these were fairly substantial chairs. Fotunatley, other han a couple of overturned plant pots the rest of the garden was relatively unscathed although the journey into work this morning was somewhat hair-raising as the Dubai drivers took their usual uncompromising attitude to poor driving conditions (the absence of drainage due to the very low rainfall here turning the roads into swimming pools). Fortunately everything had dried out sufficiently by mid-afternoon to allow our second post work ride around the Cycle path at Meydan. To be honest I was still trying to recover from Fridays exertions but we managed 4 circuits (around 40km including the ride to and from the changing facility) so it was definitely worthwhile.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Stormy weather

The wind has been blowing today, picking up from early afternoon so that by the time I was ready to go home, a fair old sandstorm had developed. Due to an unfortunate incident with a van just outside our courtyard I am currently driving around in a Toyota Corola. A fine car but significantly smaller than many cars on Dubai's roads and not the most stable of vehicles as I was being buffeted along the D66 by the high winds, and 4x4 Landcruisers and Patrols as they high tailed it back to Al Ain. Hopefully getting my own car back by the end of the week when I also hope the good weather will have returned in time for the start of the rugby 7s.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Dubai Day

A much calmer day today albeit with some excitement around the England and Australia rugby game that Dad and I were watching on the Ipad( not a great picture but we got the gist). A. is supposed to be in mock exam purdue although there does appear to be a disconnect between his parents and him on exactly how much might be required for this. Dad and I took ourselves off to lunch at taste in DSO ( I managed to wean myself off the smashed avocado on toast going for a lamb wrap today although it was a close run thing). V and I managed a short cycle ride as the sun was setting but otherwise it was a fairly typical Dubai day with a very satisfying England rugby victory thrown in at the end.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Build up ride

So this morning my alarm ushered me from the land of nod (actually it had been a somewhat fitful visit as is sometimes these case when an early start is planned) just in time for the sounds of the early call to prayer to permeate into my bedroom. I do not normally hear the 5am call so was a little disorientated. However I was soon jumping into my cycle gear and speeding off to Al Qudra for the last of the 92km cycle challenge Build up rights (having previously done the 35km and 50km runs in September and October). It was a beautiful morning although as usual I had not left myself much time and managed to arrive at the start line just as the fast riders (projected average speed of 38kmph and above) were being readied for take-off.

In consequence I did not have time to buy myself a pump - having discovered last night that the pump I had would not fit the valve on the spare tyre. I had also forgotten to take out my protein bar so I started the ride hoping that for the next 85 km I would avoid a puncture and any requirement for an energy boost. Fortunately I avoided the former. However, by the time we hit the 50/60km mark I was definitely in need of the latter and had to make do with some slurps of water and hanging on to the back wheel of the group I had attached myself too in order to avoid labouring into the headwinds sweeping across the desert on my own. I have not done many of these rides (other than the 2 BURs mentioned above my previous experience of riding in a group in the desert was last years 92 km challenge) but this was certainly hard work and I will certainly make sure I get my energy bars at the ready (as well as a bit more training) for the main event in December.

Nevertheless it was an interesting experience and I gave three weeks to get myself prepared. The other big news today (other than Vs successful debate at JC) was that E was able to get V a racer bike at the Decathlon sale so hopefully are next trip to the Autodrome will be less hard work for her.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

V (2018)

I mentioned in my previous post (I know - two in one day to make up for my complete absence of blogging in the first three weeks of November!) that I was down at the Motor City Autodrome yesterday evening. The main reason for this is that V. has decided to try to do the 30km 12-15year olds ride as part of the Spinney’s cycle challenge. V and I have been out cycling together on the weekends over the last few months and she has recently started to use her Brother’s mountain bike as her bike did not have sufficient low gears to maintain a decent pace. She seems to enjoy our trips around the Villa and we have been gradually trying to increase the distance although we have been hovering around the 10 – 12 km mark. However, the Autodrome was a completely different experience for her as not only were there some serious cyclists (with some serious bikes which did not go unnoticed by her!) out on the track with her but there was some fairly steep slopes to contend with – a marked contrast to the relatively flat paths and roads around The Villa! However, with her usual determination V. struggled up the inclines (the Autodrome is designed as a car-racing track so there are banked turns, chicanes and some quite steep downward parts as well) and hurtled down the slopes. This is very much in keeping with her character generally – always up for a challenge and quite happy to let go of the brakes and get a bit of speed up as she demonstrated during our ski trip to Norway a few years back. Having now reached the grand old age of 12, V definitely knows her own mind (twas ever thus…) and is not afraid to speak it! She now has a circle of friends at school who she generally gets along with and when they do have their ups and downs seems to be more of a peacemaker rather than a protagonist. She is particularly enjoying her debate club and the model UN activities that she does as part of the ECAs (and is in fact going to an all-day debate at one of the other local schools tomorrow representing her school). She also continues to enjoy the creative arts – including her writing and drawing and generally seems to be doing very well at school.

We both have a few more weeks to complete our preparations for the cycle challenges so fingers crossed that we both successfully navigate our respective rides.

November post per day

I have not been doing very well (at all) on a post per day for November – mainly because I spent most of last few weeks either in Korea (starting off - via Seoul - on Geoje Island (a very pretty little Island off the South coast of Korea where the blue skies perfectly complemented the autumnal golds and dark browns of the forests covering much of the upper part of the island) and then back to Seoul for a few days where we had a dust pollution warning and much rain, and then recovering from my trip. In the course of my travels I managed to pick up a cold/cough so have spent last week feeling a bit sorry for myself whilst wrangling the kids (E. has been visiting in the UK after her Brother’s recent visit and is due back on Saturday) and travelling down to AD. That is of course no excuse as I can still type so I thought that I would say a little more about a subject I touched on at this time last year – the Dubai 92km cycle challenge. This is timely as in advance of the 85km build up ride tomorrow I have been stepping up my training with a trip to the Cycle track at Meydan with some work colleagues and then yesterday down to the Autodrome for the Wednesday evening cycle session with V. and Granddad (who has been in town for the Golf and of course the Rugby 7s in a week or so).

This time last year I was still in the horns of a dilemma as to whether to try for the 92km ride or the shorter 53km ride. I had signed up for it at the end of the Summer and my training was going reasonably well insofar as I was able to get down most mornings to the new highway near our Villa which was still under construction and was therefore able to put in some time building up stamina while dodging the bulldozers etc.! Whilst I was absolutely sure that I could complete the course I was very concerned that I would not be able to do it in the allocated time – the ride encompasses highways around Motor City, the Greens and Dubai Marina all of which would be closed to regular traffic – but only for around 3 ½ - 4 hours so there was a requirement that participants must be able to complete the course at an average speed of 26kmph. On my training rides I was averaging at best around 21/22kmph so it was a real concern that the roads would be re-opened (and I would be forced into the pick-up truck rounding up stragglers) before I was finished. I eventually decided to address this in part by getting a road bike (I was practicing on my trusty Mountain bike which has many attributes but speed is not one of them) – in part this was a bit of a spur of the moment decision when I was in the local sports store during last year’s November sales when I realised that when it said there was 30% of everything they were not kidding and so was able to pick up a B’twin Triban 540 road bike with all the bells and whistles at a very reasonable price. So know I had (nearly )all the gear but still no idea!

The road bike has not let me down although given my complete lack of mechanical knowledge our early relationship had a shaky start when I could not work out how to blow up the tyres!! I had bought a fancy pump and had (as is my wont) watched a number of Youtube videos on how to use it. However, what the training video neglected to mention (presumably on the basis that it was obvious to anybody with a degree of commonsense…) was that the Presta valves (there are two types the other being Schrader which is the type you commonly see on cars and children’s bikes) on my bike had a little screw which needed to be adjusted to open and close the valve to allow air in. I had no idea that there was such a valve and so the first time I tried to pump up the tyre I managed to explode it! This of course meant reverting back to my Mountain bike for training and another trip to the shop (with my new bike) where the disbelieving salesmen sold me a new set of inner tyres and showed me how to pump them up properly. Even then, when I was driving back home (with my Father who had accompanied me and was enjoying a good laugh) the tyre burst as the bike was lying in the back of the car – still not sure why but at that stage I thought the Gods were against me as it required yet a further return to the shop (this time by the long-suffering E. ) to get the thing fixed.

Anyway, we eventually worked out how to put air into the tyres and my preparations continued now using the road bike although I was still struggling to get close to the 25kmph average required for the 92km ride. In the event, what I had not factored in was the effect of riding with other cyclists and in particular, the increase in speed if you are in the peloton and able to attach yourself to someone’s back wheel – “drafting” – this reduces the energy you need to expend (as you are shielded from wind resistance and turbulence by the cyclist in front of you) and increases your speed as you are drawn along by the group. So having decided – literally right at the start line when I still had the option to do the shorter ride - to go for the longer distance and see how I progressed - I was able to complete the 92km in a respectable 3 hours 10 minutes – far quicker than I could possibly have imagined and certainly one of the best sporting experiences I have encountered.

The ride itself was not straightforward – particularly the 6am start at the Autodrome at Motor City where much of the opening lap was in the near dark and all I could hear was the buzz and hiss of the more experienced riders rocketing past me. However, I eventually found a group whose pace I could keep up with and apart from the last 5 km where I had lost the group (and I was battling on my own into a headwind on the road up from the Marina) and a rather embarrassing mistake as to how far I had left to ride (I was convinced there was another 40km left when I asked someone where the finish was but it turned out we were almost back at the stadium for the final laps) it was a really terrific experience and encouraged me to continue to keep up the cycling. So this year I am doing it all again (hopefully with fewer school boy errors!).