Dino's blog for mini adventures and endurance challenges

LeJog Blog

June 30th, 2015 | Posted by Dino in UK | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

LeJog route overviewIt’s almost July and preparations are being finalised for the grandest of all cycling’s Grand Tours. Bikes are being fettled, carbo is being loaded. Saturday 4 July sees Le Grand Depart, when the intrepid cyclists set off on their gruelling three-week parcours. C’est Le Tour de France, ne c’est pas?

Mai non, c’est LeJog (Land’s End to John O’Groats).

While the Tour de France riders are preparing to pootle 13.8 km around the flat streets of Utrecht, intrepid father and daughter combo Steve and Dino will be heading to Cornwall ready to take on their first stage of 62 notoriously hilly miles from Land’s End to Padstow. The professionals’ route may take in higher mountains than Shap Summit (1393 ft), but they will be doing so on bikes weighing only 6.8 kg, instead of solid British steel touring bikes with a loaded weight of 35 kg.

From Cornwall we will be taking in these famous locations:

  • Cheddar Gorge
  • Severn Bridge
  • Ferry across the Mersey
  • Shap
  • The isles of Arran, Mull and Skye
  • The Skye Bridge (not sponsored by a satellite TV company)
  • Cape Wrath (maybe, if we feel up to it on a rest day)

before finishing at John O’Groats on Sunday 26 July – the same day as the professionals will be swigging their champagne en route to the Champs Élysées.

We hope to be blogging (as well as possibly blagging) our way, and subject to the vagaries of mobile telecoms reception and tiredness you will be able to follow our progress here. You can also enter your email, so you’ll get notified of updates as soon as they are posted.

On y va!

Just going on a bike ride

May 28th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada - (1 Comments)

“I’m just going on a bike ride, eh?” I said to my Dad, trying to play down the epic-ness of my adventure, When 7,500km are stretched out ahead of you it makes sense to focus on what is achievable and fun: going on a bike ride.

Yesterday evening I gave a small whoop of glee: I’m packed. After 8 years of dreaming, 3 years of saving, 5 months of planning and a packing process that I started sometime in mid-March. Yep, I am finally packed and ready to go.

I spent the last dregs of Sunday evening flipping through an Atlas and looking through an old book of Canadian photography. I couldn’t get to sleep. My head felt inside out. My dreams were so vivid they seemed like wakefulness and I jolted myself awake several times. I woke at about 4am with my head feeling like a mashed banana.

My Dad drove me to the airport. Getting up at 4am to drive me to the airport is probably not his ideal Bank holiday birthday (yes,it’s his birthday today) but I am very grateful.

Thankfully Monty and my large, shabby looking bag of pannier bags made it okay through check in. Monty didn’t much enjoy being wheeled around the airport as some of corridors and lifts were only 2mm wider than him. Poor thing felt like a fat person in a cubicle toilet.

Thank goodness I am not flying Cattle Market. The Air Transat check in was a yoga retreat of calm compared to the noisy, crowds hordes queuing lengthily at the Easy Jet counter.

I hugged my Dad goodbye. I nearly felt tearful but my banana brain can’t quite comprehend what is about to happen.

Generous folks have called my brave. Canada is a huge country but it is not the size of my courage. I have only the Courage to Dream. Then I have the Credit Card to Pay. And once the credit card has paid (for non-refundable, non-transferable flights) then I do not need courage any more. The pieces of my trip in the last 5 months have fallen like dominoes. The click of my computer mouse was the first push that set my trip in motion. one by one the tasks were lined up and fell in turn. Flights lead to insurance, bear research, friend contacting, route planning, cycle training, back stretching, blogging, tweeting, kit testing, new kit purchasing, and finally packing.

At the moment I am trying to imagine that I’m only cycling as far as Lake Louise. Because 4,500 miles across the second large country on earth seems a tad far, eh? Whereas a 2 week jaunt through BC sounds like quite a jolly summer holiday.

So I’ll have my jolly summer jaunt in BC. Then hopefully after that I’ll fancy a 2 week break to Winnipeg. Then after all that cycling I will need a vacation so might nip on my bike through Northern Ontario for a bit. You know the rest…

Does playing dominoes require bravery? No, only the courage to push the first piece into motion. I hope now that the journey continues in the same way – one domino pushing into the next. Each pedal stroke leading into the next stroke, the next kilometre, the next day. Victoria, Mission, Hope…

After all, I’m just going on a bike ride, eh?

For the (medical) record

May 7th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

“Where are you starting from? Which direction are you cycling? What bike will you take?”

The doctor showered me with eager questions. None were, you might think, medically relevant.

I’d gone to the doctor to get some antibiotics and period-delaying tablets. Next thing I knew the doctor was prescribing Goretex socks and propounding the merits of cleated sandals in hot weather.

On the wall in his surgery Dr Bike had pinned a map of the world. Clearly, he is a man with a similar mind set to me as we both sat gazing at the map and seeing not political boundaries or time zones but past and possible cycling adventures. Impressively Dr Bike and his wife have cycled most of the North Sea Cycle route and so plotted a line of bicycle tyre from Norway to Barcelona.

“Imagine being able to look at that map and see a line all the way across Canada,” the doctor gushed, gazing at the expanse of green above the pink triangle of America, “and knowing you’ve travelled that line with nothing more than a bicycle and your own quadriceps.”

Having discussed the ins and outs of my trip we moved on to discuss medical bit. My medical record was up on the computer. Dr Bike started typing: “Cycling from Vancouver to St John’s!!!”

Yes, with 3 exclamation marks.

A smile broke across my face as I leant over to watch him type.

A medical record ordinarily details the mundane sicknesses and wariness of our lives. A life of pain and mild embarrassment. A life of ear infections, hypertension, vaccines, stress, sores, sprains and sickness. A medical record states that we moan a lot, get old, feel old, feel ill, fall sick, and slowly or quickly pass away.

With the thanks of the friendly Dr Bike, my medical record now wonderfully states: “I lived!!!”

Yes, with 3 exclamation marks.

The 2000th kilometre

April 25th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

If instead of cycling to work I’d started cycling from Vancouver then I’d be here by now:

Congratulations! You've reached the, erm... Middle of Nowehere

Congratulations! You’ve reached the, erm… Middle of Nowehere

This is the stretch of road just inside the Manitoba border, near a town called Russell. It sits in an area known for its grain and cattle. But as you can see – there ain’t much going on.

But this spot marks 2000km from Vancouver. And today marks my 2000th kilometre since training began on January 1.

Thank you accosted dog walker for taking the snap. And not running off with my iPad.

Thank you accosted dog walker for taking the snap. And not running off with my iPad.

It was quite fitting that today I cycled my 2000th km on my way back from work. As indeed most of the distance (62% to be precise) has been gained pedalling to work.

Cycling to work doesn’t feel like ‘commuting’ in the regular (horrendous) sense of the word. Cycling to work is not a waste of time spent swearing at heavy traffic or waiting for a delayed train. I’m lucky because my cycle to work is a 18.4km off-road jaunt along the Sustrans Route 51. A route so fabulous it has it’s own guide.

My journey is a joy, a bliss, a wonder to behold. I’ve enjoyed seeing barn owls, badgers (live ones, not just road kill!) fieldfare and green woodpeckers. I’ve watched the sunrise and the sunset countless times and enjoyed watching the slowly shifting cloudscapes of the open skies.

I’ve cycled in rain, mist, fog, snow, and – very occasionally- sunshine. I’ve fought a 40mph gusting headwind and been blown home at record speed by an easterly so strong it felt like being on a conveyor belt.

My brakes froze solid in the cold and my front derellaier has refused to budge since. I’ve soiled the office shower with muck and sand, and hung up my socks and thermals to dry on the radiator. I’ve nodded good morning at the same hi vis orange woman every morning and said hello to a hi vis yellow man on the way back.

I’ve burrowed through deepest, darkest winter with a bike light that dazzles the sun. I’ve cycled through winter. And I’ve survived.

Now spring has sprung and I’m fitter than ever. Which is just as well – as I’ve only just crossed into Manitoba. And next month instead of cycling to work I’ll be starting again in Vancouver.

Buttocks of Brick

April 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

“Your piriformis is like a brick,” she says while jabbing into my buttocks. The comment is intended as an explanation for why my back is wonky but I take it as a compliment.

I’d pedalled off to the Osteopath this morning to get advice on an old back injury that has come back to bite. Before she attacks my piriformis, the Osteopath hands me a large cardboard tube.

“This will hurt,” the Osteopath warns me, “so you can hit me with this tube.”

Argh! I let out a small yelp and tightly grip the cardboard tube as her elbow digs deeper into my buttock.

But as she’s twisting and stretching me back into position, I feel oddly chuffed to have managed to cycle so many miles that my buttocks have officially been declared by a physio to be “like a brick”.

Buttocks of brick. That’s practically the same as having Legs of Steel. Which basically puts me in the same category as this chap:

These Legs of Steel belong to the German sprinter Robert Forstermann. His father was an elephant and his mother was an oak tree.

But it turns out however that having Buttocks Of Brick isn’t very useful as it causes huge amounts of pain.

The word piriformis is Latin for ‘pear-shaped’. This is unfortunately apt given my ample thighs and the shape things are going…

Here I am, about one month before I’m due to cycle, with a wonky back. I’ve spent years (about 8 in fact) dreaming of this trip and many months planning it. I am not, repeat not, going to be stopped in my tracks by my own back.

Thank goodness the osteopath that I found was brilliant. Should I, the person sometimes so crippled with pain I cannot move, have to take the train across Canada?

No: “We’ll patch you up and keep you pedalling.” She says.

For what is the point of having Buttocks of Brick if you cannot use them to cycle 7500km?

How to start a fire with a tampon

April 18th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Did you know that the trick to lighting a campfire in wet weather lies in a lady’s handbag?

Specifically, this is a lady who a) smokes b) has chaffed lips and c) is on her period.

Key campfire ingredients: a tampon, some vaseline and a lighter.

Key campfire ingredients: a tampon, some vaseline and a lighter.

Now, I’m not exactly the type of lady who has a handbag but I did chuck these important items into my backpack when I set off on a camping trip last weekend. My aim was to test my new tent and to practice making a campfire.

In typical British fashion the weather forecast was… drizzly. So like any intrepid modern day explorer I prepared for my camping expedition by watching very macho men on YouTube demonstrate how to light a fire. Alas, I don’t have a beard, a knife, an SAS background or a Swedish fireknife. But I can show you have to light a fire with a tampon.

So, what do you do then?
1. Unwrap the tampon and then unfurl it so it’s a rectangle (yea, who knew tampons were actually rectangular?)
2. Smear some vaseline over the tampon.
3. You’ve already make your stone circle and gathered your kindling, sticks and logs right? Great.

Stones, kindling, sticks and a couple of logs for later.

Stones, kindling, sticks and a couple of logs for later.

4. Place tampon on stone circle. Cover with a bit of kindling.
5. Light the tampon string.
6. And you’re off…
Before kindle was an e-book, it was a way of starting a campfire. The irony that paperbacks will become kindling...

Before kindle was an e-book, it was a way of starting a campfire. The irony that paperbacks will become kindling…

7. Blow and add wood as necessary.
8. Get the marshmallows out.
I could blog at length on how to toast the perfect marshmallows. Another time.

I could blog at length on how to toast the perfect marshmallows. Another time.

9. Lie back, listen to the gentle hiss of the water burning out the logs.
10. Watch the stars come back. Smile.

What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare...

What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare…

Joy of joys I just spent the last 4 days cycling 400km around the Chiltern hills, lunching on generous portions, munching mini eggs, and crunching the gears up some very steep hills.

This proved to be a fabulous way of preparing for Canada. And I learnt some useful stuff on the way..

Top 10 things I have learnt:
1. D-lock is ridiculously heavy and nobody will nick my bike cuz it weighs a tonne and I’m riding it the whole time
2. Take more mini eggs.
3. Cheese, figs and ginger beer are the ultimate post-cycling snacklet (see below).
4. I need to take a bath to Canada. Hot soak is bliss.
5. iPad / viewranger navigation is a wonderful thing indeed.
6. My legs don’t ache! Even after 400km!
7. But my hands go numb after about 350km.
8. Again, why are there not more mini eggs?
9. Fill up your water bottles. So they are full.
10. There’s no greater joy in life than whizzing along a country road, with the sun in your face and the wind at your back.



The ultimate post-cycling snack.
Cheese (manchego and gorgonzola) – contains vital protein for repairing muscles etc.
Figs, grapes and quince paste – vitamins for vitality.
Oat cake – carbohydrate
Ginger beer – rehydrates and replenishes electrolytes (probably)

The Full Monty

March 28th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Before you get too excited I should explain to new readers that my bicycle is called Monty. (50% readers now surf on) Happily, Monty has just hit a milestone as he (yes, he) has just had his racks fully loaded for the first time.

To celebrate this landmark, one lucky person has won an Easter egg for guessing the weight of the Full Monty – ie the bike plus all the kit you see.

How much does he weigh?

A whooping 38.5kg! Some stuff is gonna have to get thrown out before I go to Canada.

My bicycle, Monty, fully loaded for the first time. Aka the Full Monty

My bicycle, Monty, fully loaded for the first time. Aka the Full Monty

The one and only cycling jersey

March 27th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

I’ve not been there, or done it, yet I have purchased the tshirt.

Two months to go and the pieces of my trip are slowly, finally getting together (read: kit is getting packed)

Delightfully my custom made cycling jersey arrived in the post at work today. Too excited by its contents I ripped open the package in front of my colleagues and held it up for all to see: Ta-da!! I expected the ooh and ahh reactions from colleagues usually reserved for New Year firework displays.

First colleagues comments: “only the one?” With a raise of the eyebrow.

Another colleague walks back to her desk. Ta-da!! I raise my jersey aloft like a prize. “You’ve only got one?” She asks.

Yes, that’s right. One tshirt for 7,500km – what on earth is wrong with that? I will, erm, wash it. I will also be cycling by myself so you won’t have to sniff it. At this point, a joke is cracked about me smelling so bad that the bears will leave me be. That could be a good tactic actually but I shall have to Goggle it first.

At the end of work, another colleague wanders over. She works in fulfilment and sometimes cycles to work with me so I imagine she will super impressed by my jersey. Ta-da!!

You know how she responded. Yes, only the one. For 7,500km.

Anyway, Ta-da!! Here is the tshirt. Please feel free to add your firework sound reactions into the comments box…

Jersey back