Cyclejen's Blog

Cycle Video
May 16, 2010, 10:49 am
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , ,

Yes, I’ve been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Let’s just say that when you need to find a new place to live, quick smart, other things tend to take a back burner. A curious side effect of training is that when looking for new places to live you are no longer just looking for a new home for you and your loved one, but also a place for your two wheeled friend. Sure, the bathroom has a jacuzzi, the bedroom has a walk in wardrobe, the kitchen comes complete with personal chef, gratis, – BUT WHERE DO I KEEP MY BIKE?! Lucky for me, and lucky for you, (because I’m egotistical that way) I have found somewhere to live and the training and blogging now continues – huzzah!

The first blog that I bring to you is truly a multimedia treat – two in fact! The good people at Donside Pictures have very generously donated their time and effort to helping me to bring two videos for your viewing pleasure. A special mention must be made to Michael Cox for filming and editing these films – without him you would have just got an over exposed shaky cam image of me falling off my bike. Off camera.

The first film, ‘Cycle Jen’, offers everything a good training montage should: bikes, bandanas and slow-mo, and comes with a guidance rating of U, although there is some sand related mild peril involved.

The second, ‘Cycle Craig’, offers an insight into those unsung heroes of CF – the partners. I have been going out with my boyfriend Craig for nine years now, and I think filming this video has been quite cathartic for him – especially since we filmed it after a long winter where I really did spend most nights keeping us both up coughing. Thankfully that’s sorted now and we now both look forward to a long, restful night’s sleep. Now, if only we could stop Craig’s snoring… I rate this one for this one 12A for the swearing and excessive salt abuse in food cookery. Do not try this at home!


25 miles
April 28, 2010, 11:06 am
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25 miles. Yeah you read that right! 25 miles. That makes me over a quarter of the way to Optimum Biking Peak Capacity Efficiency. Things learnt so far. My bike seat’s too low, cycling is hard and, try as I might, I don’t have an inbuilt GPS receiver in my head. These are important things to learn, to be sure, and I can’t help but wonder what other golden nuggets of information I will have learnt by the time August comes to pass. Enough knowledge gained through cycling and I could retire to a mountain and people could queue to hear my wisdom. In return for food I could offer them such gems as ‘do not wrap your bike lock around the handlebar post, for, surely as the sun rises in the west, your knees shall knock against the lock’ or ‘cycling up a hill requires effort. When effort cannot be found, change the destination and freewheel to paradise.’ I would wear my cycling helmet and a high visibility jacket at all times and hand out fluorescent wheel spoke rattlers as souvenirs.

Enough delusions of grandeur. As has become painfully apparent, I probably wouldn’t be able to find my way to the mountain in the first place. In the absence of a super dooper mega computer phone (what gives, Orange?), my route planning currently consists of staring intently at Google Maps, learning the route’s rough shape and desperately trying to remember the names of the roads I should be going down. This frees up my mind from pesky thoughts like bike coordination and the Highway Code to concentrate entirely on ‘ok, looking for Springfield Road, Springfield Road, Springhill Road, Binghill Road, oh crap… there it goes. Ok, looking for Bunghill Crescent…’ I’ve recently said that my ultimate ambition is to become the voice of Sat Nav. Perhaps, in the pursuit of this ambition and to better navigate around easily forgotten street names, I should just program myself to repeat ad nauseum ‘at the end of the road, turn right.’ I might get some funny looks from passing motorists but at least then I’d give off the impression that I know where I’m going, which in that case would be an endless loop around the block.

Regardless, my bike ride on Sunday clocked up roughly 25 miles. The plan was to cycle from the Lang Stracht to Crathes and have a cup of tea with my parents at the castle. Yeah, well, best laid plans and all that – I made it to Drumoak. Could I say that I would have made it had I not got hopelessly lost? Could I say that? Could I have done it sooner had I not chosen to cycle down a track fit only for mountain bikers? The wise Jen says perhaps, perhaps. What sequence of events found me frustrated and tired in the middle of nowhere, unwilling to cycle a meter further but knowing that the distance travelled is the distance still to come? I think I was doomed when I chose to push my bike up a 35 degree rocky path rather than cycle it. As I’m pushing it up, a man dressed up to the cycling nines pedals effortlessly past me, and takes the time to actually tell me that I too could have easily cycled it. Go away cycle enthusiast psycho man! Who are you to tell me what I probably could do, you jerk? You in your Lycra and pedal clips – slightly overdoing it for a family friendly track on a Sunday afternoon, don’t you think? This is not the Tour de France! Yeah, so perhaps I was a little distracted and failed to correctly follow the signs for the Deeside track, and ended up cycling onto someone’s farm. Luckily no one was actually there, or, knowing me, rather than admit my mistake to a wary farmer, would have probably just offered a really awkward hello and turned around as if that was the plan all along.

So, GPS in the head please. Then, when I am up that mountain handing out my wisdom and someone wants to know where the souvenir shop is I can tell them: ‘at the end of the road, turn right.’

this post is brought to you by Orange

Before I begin this post proper, I must send a big thank you to Al Robertson, who very kindly pointed out that my bike was a death trap. No joke guys, the quick release lever at the front was in the open position. Enough bumps and jumps and the front wheel could have come flying off and me with it. And I know I didn’t sign up to become a stuntman, neither is this about raising money to see how many bones I can break between now and August. I have also booked my bike in for an MOT at the local bike shop, so hopefully I won’t find out there’s anything else amiss, like the back wheel is made out of jelly or someone cut the brakes. You know, minor things like that. So thank you Al, bike-man extraordinaire.

Apart from suicidal dogs, volcanic ash and menacing twigs, potholes and dips, the bike training has been going well. As an aside, how cool is the volcanic ash of DOOM? Being in no way affected by the various plane cancellations I can sit back and marvel at the unfolding events. I wonder what the benefits for the environment are of a blanket flight ban? No jet planes spewing out fuel, no contrails dimming the planet (I saw a Channel 4 documentary on this once so it must be true) – we should just have a volcano exploding all the time! My god, I don’t think we’re thinking big enough – let’s set off the super volcano at Yellowstone and rid the world of global warming once and for all!

All hail the Icelandic volcano, destroyer of planes, saviour of the world. What’s more, several geologists have also promised us some beautiful sunsets as a result. I could do with a decent sunset at the moment, because it doesn’t half make bike rides feel more significant and inspiring. Even without the sunset, cycling along the flat railway track, with views of the city gradually escaping to the austerity of the awakening spring Deeside landscape – all greens, rust and golds – has reminded me of why I used to love cycling. As golden bands of sunlight flicker through the trees in zoetrope fashion, I have marvelled at the sense of peace and beauty that cycling through the country can bring.

That and feeling like I’m stuck in a goddam Orange mobile phone advert.

The fact that the soundtrack to most of my bike rides so far has been Joanna Newsom’s new album has really compounded that recognition. Curse you mobile phone advert, with your “we’re not really a big faceless corporation, we’re your friends” schtick. Look! There’s a girl riding a bike through the country in a white summer dress! What’s this unique individual going to do next? Why, she’s cutting out paper doll chains on the grass and staying in touch with friends with her new Sony Ericsson! Isn’t that just completely charming? Isn’t that! Of course, we’re not going to do anything as crass as mention or show the mobile phone because, hey, that’s just awfully consumerist and we’re you’re friends! We just want you to say in a voice over “I like holding hands, riding my bike and talking with my friends.”

In fact, you’re not even going to know it’s an Orange ad until the Orange logo appears at the end. During the course of the advert you may have also guessed it was advertising your friendly local just-been-bailed-out-by-the-government bank or your happy local chain supermarket. Orange – as individual as you are.

Yeah Orange get on your bike and stop ruining my bike rides with a sense of overfamiliarity. Unless of course you want to give me the latest camera phone so I can take photos of the bike ride. Give me a free one and I might just paint my bike orange. I’m not a consumer statement, I’m me. Ah, but Orange is just an easy target. If O2 or Vodafone can offer a better deal, I’m listening. In return for a free phone, I’ll be a good spokesperson for you. I like listening to Joanna Newsom, riding my bike and staying in touch with my friends. Vodafone/O2 – let’s go further.

No dogs were harmed in the making of this post
April 12, 2010, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , ,

So the cycling has begun proper. The main lesson learned so far is merely a reaffirmation of a long-held belief; namely that dogs are mind bogglingly stupid. This may seem a touch mean-spirited, but after spending some time both in city centre traffic and along the old Deeside railway track, I can safely say that dogs are a danger to a cyclist’s health. Cars and buses, on the other hand, are our intelligent and benevolent masters.

When cycling along the railway track yesterday, one can only speculate on what made this dog run up to and stop in front of my wheel, forcing me to display an almost Herculean strength in my hand muscles when breaking. Perhaps it was a twig the dog’s owner had thrown. Perhaps it was a bunny it had glimpsed in the bushes off to the left. Perhaps it was the warning bell I had helpfully rung, not realising it sounds far too much like a goddam whistle to be of any kind of stop signal to a Border Collie. Who knows? It is a mystery that may never be solved.

Tell you what though, it’s not just the descendants of sheep or gun dogs that you need to be wary of. The worst incident yet was not ten minutes into my first bike ride along the railway track. There I am, cycling confidently along and keeping an eye on everything in my path – particularly a largeish brown barrel shaped dog standing on one of the old platforms looking directly at me. The dog sees me, it knows what I’m doing, and yet, with the grim determination of a Beachy Head leaper, plows straight into my front wheel with a doggie yelp. Not in front of it, not behind it – slap bang into it. I encountered several dogs along the track of a similar disposition so the problem must be widespread. Someone should set up a helpline for these poor suicidal dogs, convince them that bike-wheel death is not the only answer to the endless daily inanity of chasing after bones, sniffings cats and eating Pedigree Chum.

This dog was fine, by the way, and probably pleased about scaring another cyclist, the malicious hound. It’s probably giggling with all his other doggie mates RIGHT NOW, comparing cyclist injury records and swapping trophies – a reflector light here, a kneecap there. Yeah, I know your game, Dog. After that, I was nervous about any approaching obstacle for several miles. Uh oh. twig. Twig. twigtwigtwigtwig. TWIG. OH GOD A TWIG! GETOUTOFTHEWAY!!!!

Public footpaths are just far too dangerous. When ready, I shall take to the haven of the roads. Of course, I understand that this naive embracing of the car is possibly not an attitude to be maintained over the coming months. I’ve heard that 4x4s crumple, not cuddle, when being overly playful. If I get covered in a car’s drool, I’ll not only be grossed out but also highly flammable. Something tells me that a dog may mangle my arm but even a car as small as a Ford Ka could mangle MY LIFE OK. In the meantime I shall keep to the relative peace of the old railway tracks. And take a taser. I KNOW WHERE YOU WALK, DOG!

17 miles later…
April 9, 2010, 8:57 pm
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17 miles. Seventeen miles. SEVENTEEN MILES. That’s how far I went on Wednesday night. On a bike. On a goddam bike. You think about that. Then you think about how I need to increase that to 95 miles. I can’t even bear to put that into capitals at the moment – it’s making my legs cry. I need to find out if going on a motorbike is cheating. Perhaps I could ride on the back of a tandem. With Lance Armstrong.

April 4, 2010, 8:45 pm
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Let’s face it –  there is one reason I am doing this bike ride. It’s not for myself; I’ve been lucky enough to be fit and healthy for nearly all my life. Cystic Fibrosis has been an inconvenience at most. I am doing this for Lizzie and all the other people out there where CF is a reality and not a concept or a hazy dot on the horizon. Let me tell you about my sister. I’m not sure when I first met Lizzie, but I imagine it was some point during the first couple of weeks after conception. There I was, floating about in amniotic fluid, desperately trying to concentrate on growing arms and feet (I was a real go-getter), when there was a flash. Suddenly, I was a lot smaller and Lizzie was floating around next to me. I kicked her out 7 months later and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

We shared the same CF path for many years and both had our first chest infection together when we were nine. Back then it was quite fun, as we spent time in hospital not feeling ill and pretending we were on the set of Children’s Ward. We got new pyjamas, we made little Fimo figurines and I had a comedy cup that leaked water when you drank it. I don’t know what Lizzie had but I bet it wasn’t as side splittingly hilarious. Good times.

But then Lizzie had to go ahead and get properly ill. First, she was left with 1 foot of necrotised intestine for a souvenir when her bowels telescoped in on itself. I should mention she doesn’t actually keep it in a jar of formaldehyde – she’s not that cool. If she had any wits about her she would have woken up on the operating table and demanded it as a trophy. Good thing though, as it could have come back to life as a shit eating zombie. Next, comes a period in hospital when she had the nerve to lose all her white blood cells after a reaction to a medication. That sure was fun. Top it off with frequent periods of time spent in hospital with chest infections, plummeting lung function and weight, all while studying for and achieving a PhD, and you’ve got some kind of bowel-munching, white cell trashing superwoman. That gets sick a lot. Meanwhile, Jen feels just fine, thank you.

Yeah, call it self-absorbed and selfish, but it can be difficult being The Healthy One. There Lizzie is, lying, coughing, gasping and there’s nothing she can do about it. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You also have the added benefit of guilt – what did I do that was so different, how could things have turned out so woefully one-sided? If I could have taken just one of those bullets, then surely I would. Of course, there is also the fear that you are getting a preview of your own inevitable decline. As a result, every time you get a chest infection or a sore stomach you ask “Is this is how it starts?”

In the end, who’s more powerless?

So Lizzie, this one’s for you – and every other person out there with CF who has it worse, and every other person who has it better.

It’s Snow Good
March 31, 2010, 10:13 pm
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How do you like that title eh? Damn good title. Not even sure what I’m going to write now. If you come up with a pun worthy of a Sun headline, I think that’s the job done. I’m pretty sure that’s how they must figure it there. Perhaps they respond to breaking news by first passing the story through a punometer. If it can’t rhyme with something or you can’t just resort to turning your story into a nationalistic appeal, like ‘Pothole Britain’, then it’s obviously not a story. Perhaps this is why Cystic Fibrosis often  doesn’t make the headlines – it doesn’t rhyme with anything and ‘Cystic Fibrosis is Stealing our Jobs’ just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

So we’ve got a good title. Let’s add some filler content:

With the mercury dropping below 0c in various parts of the region last night, Aberdeen is once again frozen in the icy grip of winter. A completely precedented 8″ of snow fell, sending areas with already shaky power lines into predictable blackout. In no way typical of the everyday Aberdeen commute, traffic chaos has hit the North Anderson Drive this morning, resulting in heavy tailbacks, while a jack-knifed lorry closed the south bound carriageway at Portlethen.  Several lucky bastards from Huntly have been unable to come into work and resume the relentless drudgery of their piss-poor office job, at a cost of an estimated £3 billion dollars to the taxpayer. Bethel, an auxillary nurse from Kingswells, asks the council why they can’t do more to prevent weather: “I’m absolutely disgusted. I’ve been waiting for someone to clear my driveway for hours now. What do we pay our taxes for?” Jennifer, from the city’s west end, has been unable to ride her bike out of fear of slipping on the ice. “It’s no big deal,” says the office-worker, “I’ll just pick it up again next week.”

The snow is just one instance of horrific weather set to grip the North East in the oncoming months. Justin Reid from Aberdeen Council’s Zoology department predicts an onslaught of ‘awakening insects’  and a dramatic increase in noise pollution due to ‘birdsong’. Pollen counts will also rise dramitastically, and a lethal heatwave is forecast to last for 3 days in June, all at a cost of £200 billion thousand to the taxpayer. Pubs with outdoor gardens are preparing well in advance with bulk orders for whatever heavily marketed Irish cider bullshit will be popular this year.