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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Really enjoyable, yet slightly stressful weekend.

This weekend as I write has been a mixture of great up's and what is now a prolonged down. The up's being able to hang with one of my newer friends Al and go out on a great ride with him on Saturday, showing him my local area. Then today, Sunday having a very enjoyable roadie adventure (only  slightly marred by the bane of my life Strava and it not mapping my data or ride)  The down and what's stressing me out is that Mr Hink's is still not himself and has worsened and I'm really concerned. I've been holding off going to the vets as last time he picked up and the swelling around his neck went down. But come tomorrow I have asked Ern to get an appointment asap as our little lad, (well he's not so little due to the steroids he's on, Mr Hink's is getting increasingly fatter) just isn't very well. His neck is very swollen and it appears like fluid around his glands, he is also so lethargic. The only thing that hasn't changed is that he is still greedy and can hear the rustle of a crisp packet at 20 paces, it just takes him longer to get to you to scrounge a crisp.

Anyhoo I try to make my blog as positive as possible but thought I'd share my worries as although it's not the same as chatting to a friend, when I write stuff down it does seem to help as I feel everyone that reads my little tales does it because in some way they want to support me and in doing so also care about poor Mr Hink's.

Whilst out with Al I thought I'd lump my big camera around and practice with it some more. I really should be grabbing more shots I don't take half as many as I used to. Generally I see something I want to shoot, but it disappears in the blink of an eye and I don't have time to capture it. I'm not a great photographer, but I do have a keen eye, well at least for what I like.

The Farmer's Trail
You can call me Al
 Although Al and my local loop was relatively short at 18 miles or so we were out for a good few hours. I often think it's not the actual miles you get in but where your riding. Just like Lee a few days earlier Al was very impressed with some of the trails I took him upon. And of course I had to take him on the Farmers Trail, one of the main ways out of the Shire as it were. We mainly rode around the Beamish and Hedley Hall area, taking in a bit of the Tanfield Railway and showing Al the oldest remaining single span railway bridge in the world, the Causey Arch. This was built in 1725-26 at the cost of £12,000, a vast amount of money in those days.

Al in Beamish Woods
Say Nutella Al
No Back Pack for me today, just my trust Bike Bag Dude Frame Bag
Arctic ONE
 As Al and I rode up one particular stretch of road up a steep little hill I was in front and I pulled into a drive way of this house, just to wait for Al to catch up. I had been there a few days earlier on this same route with Lee and we had seen this goose, it never really bothered us. Well I saw this goose again today and as I waited for Al I kind of spoke to it in a nice friendly manner "aww hello there", all of a sudden this goose turns to look at me and it was like a scene from the Robert De Niro film with Travis Bickle  "You talkin' to me?  You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking to? You talkin' to me? Well. I'm the only one here." and then it decided to have a hiss and go into full on attack mode. As I was on the hill I couldn't set away quickly so had to kind of push my bike like a scooter, figuring if I turn around at least it can only have a go at ripping off my false leg lol. Just then a few people came out from the nearby back door of the Tea Rooms, which are in the Causey picnic area. One of the ladies who works there and this man saying that the goose is a nuisance and the man saying it's the worst tempered goose he has ever known. Both also said it would be better in a pot. Awww I disagree I think he was great, he was just doing his job and guarding his patch where he lives. No harm done.

Travis Bickle Goose  "You talkin' to me?
 Al and I then decided to head into the Tea Rooms for a very refreshing cup of tea and a slice of pie. Luckily Al had just enough for a couple of tea's and we shared a piece of corned beef pie. I had forgot I had brought my other bag so no stash of cash, my little pouch being left at home.

Throughout yesterdays ride we met nothing but nice friendly people, stopping to chat and pass the time of day it was very refreshing.

It was also canny breezy yesterday as we ended up at the end of Tanfield Railway near to the Industrial estate I asked Al "do you feel like riding a little further", "Yeah why not" he said. So we headed through the factories at Tanfield and boy was the wind really strong here. At one point we were both riding sideways, full tilt lol. As we approached Tanfield we cut around the back of the play area and through the council estate. I then took Al the back route on a trail up through Tantobie. This proved to be a canny hard little click and by half way we were both puffing and blowing. A short rest and we continued on to the top of White Le Head and the bowls green. 

Anyone for Bowls?
Playing around with my shot

My cones are slack again, got a wonky wheel
 A few pictures and then back on to the road for a short while before we cut down the back lane to Harperley. Al really enjoyed this downhill stretch. As we came to the bottom and the crossroads we turned right and I took Al along to meet my Uncle Dave over at Anfield Plain. We stayed a few minutes, then set off getting on to the C2C and our ride back into Mordor. We take a small detour and end up coming out at the Ox at the top end of Harperley this has enable Al to pick some wild heather which he says "is very lucky". 

Checking for Adders lol
Over here Al, there's a nice piece
Al says the heather is lucky, sure hope so :)
Al attached a piece of lucky heather to my bike, well I didn't crash on my way home bonus, though I did get a puncture Boo!
After this Al took his life in his own hands and drew out some money at one of our local ATM's (braver man than me Al). As we rode towards the subway to get onto Wear Road I informed Al to keep up a bit of a pace otherwise he may get his wheels nicked. Just joking I love the area I live in. It just needs much needed funding and some regeneration.The people on a whole from Stanley are all very friendly and pleasant.

As we come down Wear Road we called in to to see our mate John and his wife Kristina, cups of tea all round. I have some sandwiches left so get stuck in. I think I may have been a bit eager as I almost choked on the fruit loaf. Ewwww it's horrible when you choke then cough and something goes up your nose. In this case as I sniffed I discovered it was a raisin, it tasted ok after I got it back down...


On the Top Road
Bike Swanky's De Rosa Idol
 As Strava failed to log my ride I have a bit of a pet lip on. I can't be arsed to describe where I went as I'm buggered. I wouldn't exactly say I got lost, however I didn't really know the route, as well it was one of those adventures where you sort of see where it takes you, before thinking "I can't remember this many hills or having so few gears and wow I'm knackered now and I'm not sure how far home it is". Anyhoo I have awarded myself King of the Hill so screw you guys lol.

I would like to mention a lovely gentleman I met as I had rode through Satley. I caught up to him as he rode his bike and we shared a very nice conversation al the way up to the junction of the A68, where he turned Left to head towards Tow Law and I headed right in the direction of Corbridge. He asked all about me and in return I discovered that he was a retired lecturer from Durham University. John used to lecture in Civil engineering and was telling me all about his cycling adventures in France, he was a lovely fella. A big "hello" John if you do ever get to read my blog.

Ok the rest is pretty boring, well apart from the bit where I saw this geet big bull up on this hill and thought "Ooh that might make a nice picture". I'm not mountain biking so what can go wrong huh? No nettles...Wrong as I discovered when I fell over in the grass verge "aggghhh F...F.. F...Flipping heck that stings". I jumped up real quick and as I was on a relatively busy road did the old "look around to see if anyone had seen me". Result no one had and I didn't look like a complete muppet, well that was until I clocked the Bull staring at me from down the hill, you know with one of those "what a dick" stares as he chewed his cud. Omg what is it with me and animals this week, a rabid goose and a mocking Bull.

Just chewing the cud
"Ha Ha you fell over"
 A bit of a tour to get to Consett I then popped in to spend an hour with the Gooch, my cousin Guy at Consett. I love seeing wor Guy as he is a top fella, always upbeat and just good craic. Haven't seen either him or his wife Tracey in ages so it was good catching up.

From Guy and Tracey's it was home. No sooner in the house, swapped my leg out popped a pair of shorts n trainers on and I asked Ern "hey you fancy going for a ride around the route I've just done. "Yeah ok", anyhoo we worked it out at 28 miles, so that wasn't a bad effort especially as there were some canny hills. Screw you Strava I have a car and it has a proper odometer and everything, just means I have to go out twice and it could potentially be problematic when I'm out on my mountain bike going down a skinny off road trail D'oh.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Dorney Lake and my first Triathlon with Arctic ONE

August the 23rd has soon come around. This was to be the day where I would take part in my first ever triathlon. A challenge set by all the lovely guys at Arctic ONE and something in which I was eager to have a go at. The venue, Dorney Lake, Eton,Bucks. 

For those of you following my adventures or journey, blog call it what you will, you'll know I'm quite an active person. Since becoming ill back in 95 (notice I say ill as I still have difficulty describing myself as disabled, disabled for me is when you can't do something/anything and it is a phrase or description that I feel can be quite stigmatising, just my opinion, sure other people may see it differently) Anyhoo I have had this recurring (don't know if you would call it a dream) lets just say a thought that I wanted to run. Although as a fit and healthy person I was never an athlete I just enjoyed trotting around. I regularly ran about whilst delivering letters and packages as a postman, something to which my old work colleagues would testify to.

I've had fantastic support since becoming an amputee with my cycling, through the likes of Brian Bartlett and Leftside Inc and of course Pace Rehabilitation. So I thought as my local Disability Service Centre couldn't or wouldn't help me out running prosthesis wise I would try a different avenue as a last ditch effort in doing what I wanted to do. This is when I approached the Challenged Athletes Foundation and this whole new exciting part of my life began. You see the Challenged Athletes Foundation approved my grant for a running blade. This was just the start I needed and from there I was very fortunate to get other people come along and support me as they heard about what I was trying to do. Really this is where all of you my readers and fans, maybe fans isn't the right word, it makes me sound as if it has all gone to my head... lol, But yeah because my blog has been quite successful and people appear to find it interesting well it has helped me promote myself. It has also been very therapeutic for me of course, in allowing me to write down just how I'm feeling and giving me time to reflect on all that has gone on.

Within a couple of days of me discovering I had been approved for a running blade Matt and Bex two of the trustees from Arctic ONE contacted me. Arctic One was launched in November 2011 to coincide with Matt Kirby running the Antarctic Half marathon and 'The Arctic ONE Foundation - Get Involved' became a charity in it's own right in October 2012. The Arctic ONE Foundation is however not all about raising money, No that is just part of it. Their mission is all about getting people of all abilities involved and active within their community and introducing them to new opportunities in sport. Matt and Bex both explained they were very eager to help me fund raise for the additional costs of getting the required components to build my running prosthesis. This is somewhere in the region of £8500. We chatted about what we could do for one another and basically this comes down to support. Arctic ONE do a superb job of arranging all sorts of events, such as duathlon's, triathlons and aqua events. As people donate they collect the funds and then support athletes right here in the UK. It's a bit like a smaller scaled down version of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and something we desperately need here in the UK. There are so many people with potential that just cannot afford to take part in sport and I don't mean just the elite athletes. Arctic ONE aims to help people of all abilities, able bodied or disabled. So this for me was a great opportunity to yes get much needed help in getting a very expensive running limb, something I just couldn't afford myself, however also hopefully putting that limb to good use and then going on to continue to support Arctic ONE raise more donations for similar people in their sporting endeavours.

As we spoke on the phone I informed Matt and Bex that I wanted to spread the word of Arctic ONE up in the North East, my region, as I feel we really lack input up here, there is just nothing going on. I'm hoping we can change that.

I'm very proud to be supported and working alongside Arctic ONE as their objectives are really important to me, having being diagnosed with a giant cell tumour, then losing my limb, and then of course being diagnosed with Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma a year after my amputation. This charity ticks all the boxes for me as it were and that's another reason I wanted to work alongside everyone at Arctic ONE. They promote positivity, determination, support and the fight against cancer.

Objectives include:

Establish and develop a series of events and challenges for both able bodied and disabled athletes.

Empower,motivate and inspire people through sport.

Provide adaptive equipment and financial support where possible to groups and individuals to help them achieve their sporting goals.

Establsih open "Tri-days" to reach, engage and encourage those with all abilities and disabilities to try a variety of sports and events with both training and coaching.

Support projects that contribute to the fight against cancer in terms of Research, treatment and cure.

Develop the possible link between physical exercise and active lifestyles leading to the prevention and survival from cancer related diseases.

After taking part in Arctic ONE's Hawrdidge Duathlon, as a tag team, with Scott Richardson of Pace being my wingman and doing the run section and myself doing the ride section on my Fat Bike I decided come the triathlon I'm going to have to get a skinnier bike, Oh and learn to swim. Yeah that's right I hadn't swam in like 20 years, thought's of "Omg what have I got myself into" coming into my head. Never the less I like a challenge. Funnily enough and this may sound weird to an able bodied person, but the biggest challenge for me was not so much the swimming, no it was the going from the changing room, without my leg on, hopping on elbow crutches and knowing that people were inevitably starring at the one legged bloke at the side of the pool. This is when it really did hit me "Glenn you kind of are disabled", then as an after thought, that internal dialogue, it's like "dude screw that you are here aren't you, just get in the water and try not to drown". Something I have learnt over time is that 9 times out of 10 strangers aren't really all that concerned about you, nope it's just that we humans perceive ourselves to be self important, well lets face it everyone does. Now going to the swimming pool is no big deal. Yeah I need a little bit of help, sometimes my friend John who has been absolutely fantastic, will come along to pop my leg in the first aid room for safe storage then join me for a swim. On the times he can't come, Ern (my dad) will come along just to give me a hand with my gear. Ern doesn't come in the pool as he can't swim. Next challenge getting Ern in Druridge Bay, hey maybe he can help look for my lost camera lol.

I would say I have had roughly 3 to 4 months to prepare for my triathlon. I'll be honest and tell you I haven't really done much extra in my daily fitness routine. My body is not exactly a temple, my muscles toned and powerful. I'm more like the leaning tower of Pisa, especially with only one leg on, or some might even say a derelict building in some need of some restoration. I have tried to keep up a swimming routine of once per week, even achieving completing over a mile on my fourth or fifth visit to the pool, something I was very proud of. My boss and friend at work Dan spurred me on as I told him "today I'm going to try to do 50 lengths", "why not do 64" he said "and that will be a mile". I actually did 70, yes I had a small break half way through and it wasn't fast, but I felt good. 

I then acquired a wetsuit from Start Fitness in Newcastle, getting some great advice from one of the sales team. Nick was awesome, allowing me to take the wetsuit home and try it on. Then when I returned to the store saying "it's too small I can't get it on" helping me get it on in store and saying "if it's tight in the store it fits, if it's feels comfortable it's too big". Of course he was right. Although I hate putting the suit on, once in the water it fits fine and keeps me remarkably warm. Next step was my first Open water swim. Again Dan was there to support me here and I met both him and his family up at Druridge Bay and we had what was initially a scary start for me, but I soon became relaxed and took on board some great advice from Dan who watched my swimming style and gave me pointers. A few more trips to Druridge  stood me in good stead for my event at Dorney Lake.

As the swimming was going well I got around to thinking about a road bike. I didn't want to buy a Time Trials bike as I figured it would be a bit redundant. After all I wasn't going to be doing a triathlon every other week, where as I could just hop on a normal road bike and head off and do a few miles when or if I fancied it. So my search for a reasonably priced, good spec'd bike commenced. I'm a pain for knowing what I like and what I don't and trying to find a bike in my price range was a nightmare. Eventually I came across a company named Bike Swanky and after speaking to Paul one of the Co-owners and him being very enthusiastic about what I was doing and offering me sponsorship on a bike in return for some positive PR for Bike Swanky we struck upon a deal. It's worked out well actually as I bought a road bike and got the opportunity to get a new mountain bike in a sponsorship deal. Sweet you can never have too many bikes, though Ern would disagree as we are running out of space to store them.

As I wasn't sure what size bike I needed and Bike Swanky couldn't get the colour De Rosa Idol I wanted before September as it wasn't released, they were very kind in offering me one of their demo model De Rosa Idol's to take part in my triathlon, so a huge thank you to all the guys at Bike Swanky. Oh and also a massive thanks to Craig Stevenson at Performance Sports Consultants who did my bike fit. Bike Swanky directed me to Craig and what a first class service he provides.

Just about ready to set off
Well as you can see, or should I say read this is turning out to be an epic blog, well I wanted to give you an overall background and I was away for two days. I wasn't alone of course, no part of my or should I say our gang (which is increasing in number, must think of a cool gang name) was with me. My dad who is always at my side whilst doing stuff like this to offer his never ending support and I had invited my friends  John and Ade to come along. John was going to be my handler during the tri event. Para-athletes take part in different categories and depending on your level of disability you are allowed a certain number of people to assist you. This can be for getting in and out of the water or with equipment. Ade I had asked a few weeks earlier about the possibility of coming along and taking some shots of the day. I mentioned this to Matt and he was really excited. Very pleased Ade could make it as after all it was my first event like this and it's always nice to have something to look back on.

The drive down to the venue in Eton Berkshire, well lets just say it is long, very long, especially when you get stuck in traffic. I'm not a huge fan of travelling, it's boring and I get uncomfortable. I have to say though the journey down was ok as we were all pretty up beat and having a bit of a laugh and carry on. I was particularly chuffed to bits when I received a message from one of my good friends Al. He had posted a message and all it read was Glenn.m4a as a downloadable file. I furiously messed on with my phone trying to receive a signal so I could download this mystery file. I then got it and was over the moon as I plugged my phone into the car audio system so everyone could hear the message. What an absolutely lovely bloke John Foster is. John is one of the Radio presenters of BBC Radio Tees, who have been fantastic in their support of me.

Here is the clip  


A huge shout out to BBC Radio Tees and John Foster, thank you so much. Oh and to Al Roberts. Al actually emailed John and John went on to record the personal message especially for me. It's the little things that people do to show they care, that always have the biggest impact. I feel very lucky to have met and made such good friends over the last few years.

One of our favourite games as we drove down was criticising other peoples driving, done in a rather posh accent (Lee you will know what I'm on about..."What are you boys doing") and referring to the odd scumbag as they carried out some reckless manoeuvres. Six and a half hours it took us to get down, "omg I can't feel my leg, well of course not it's false you plonker", "Oh aye". I have to say that new rotator the DSC provided worked canny. I can turn my foot to get it out of the way on long journey's, just have to remember to put it straight when I get out of the car "do'h"

At the hotel, whopppeee, ride down was looooong!
We booked in to our reserved rooms at the Copthorne, Oh what you know the rooms given were Rooms 104 and funnily enough room 101. Ade any myself taking room 101 (I'm still contemplating what I would get rid of in room 101 lol) We all had a quick moment to chill then headed over to meet up with Matt and Bex over at Dorney Lake. Just wanting to say "Hi" and get a feel for the venue. It also gave Ade an opportunity to see where he could get some good vantage points for tomorrows shots. After spending a little time having a look around we said our fair wells until the following day and headed back, popping in at a local supermarket to grab some snacks. Again we chilled in one of the rooms together then went downstairs to have a bit chat in the bar. By this point I think everyone was a bit tired from the drive down, so it was an early night as we had agreed to get up early to catch breakfast at 7am.

Enjoying a pint in the hotel
At Dorney Lake, Eton
Mmmmm breakfast. I was gutted as I was starving, but knew I couldn't load up my plate with sausages,bacon,scrambled eggs, well you get the picture a full English. No for me it was a miniature English, Oh there was croissants and all sorts of other stuff too. I knew if I ate to much I might sink and even the small bit I had was lying heavy on my tummy. Time to grab all of our gear, including two bikes as I was returning Matt's which he had very kindly loaned to me to have a go on. I checked us out of the hotel and we headed over to Dorney Lake.

When we got there we got all the required stuff together and headed over to the registration tent. I was extremely surprised at just how many people spoke to me, as if they knew me and the warm welcome from everyone was brilliant. Ade immediately went about setting up his photography equipment and headed off taking various shots. Ern, John and I went inside the registration tent and I registered and got my event number, "Mmmmm" is this a sign I thought, firstly room 101 and now my event number "13". All  stickers, registration number and wrist bands affixed we had a short wait before both John and I went over and into the transition area. Ern wandered around with his camera and watched the other competitors as they set off.

The registration tent and table opposite with all of Arctic ONE's goodies
My friend Michelle had sent down some lush home made cakes
John gave me a hand set up my gear, both of us trying to figure out the best way for quick transitions between getting out of the water and to the bike, then from the bike to the run, or in my case the walk. (This was the only section I was dreading as without a running blade I knew it was going to take me like what seemed forever to get around the 2.5km and I would be sore by the end of it)

Pretty much as soon as I got my wetsuit on with a bit of assistance from John it was my turn to enter into my first tri. Lots of people including Matt had been asking me "do you feel nervous"  to which I replied "no not really". I think this is because in my own head the only person I was up against was myself. I knew if I gave it my all and did the best I could then that was good enough. I also know I'm a canny determined guy and there was no way I was going to let either myself or more importantly all those lovely people who had supported me down. As I entered the water assisted by 2 helpers my arms around their shoulders I thought "dear me this is a bit caad'er (colder) than Druridge Bay". My next thoughts as I swam to the start opposite the large buoy in deeper water was of all the advice I had been given from people like Bex, her friend Amy, Dan at work and of course Matt on that very morning. Matt saying don't head off sprinting, take your time and if you feel you have a bit left in you save it for the last 100 meters. All excellent advice and thanks guys for getting me this far.

Me getting ready. I hate these new goggles
Andy just finished his swim and on his way out

Andy being assisted out of the water
  The swim went well, yeah it wasn't particularly quick. I was really annoyed partly with myself and partly with my goggles. Myself because I should have just gone out and bought another new pair of goggles in the first place and with the ones I had on because they let in water again. I haven't got the best sense of direction and add this to the fact that my goggles had let in water well it was like swimming blind. Good job there was a very nice chap in front of me in a kayak leading the way and watching out for my safety. The main thing is I got around safe and sound and into the transition area where John helped me off with my wetsuit and got my Bartlett Tendon ready for me to put on. I gave my stump a bit of a quick rub then popped my silicon Ossur X5 liner on. This proved quite difficult as my hands kept slipping over the liner as they were wet. I got there in the end and I made my way to the exit of the transition, got over the line and mounted my bike. Sweet I managed to get clipped in first time and reached under my saddle for the lever to raise my seat post and I was off.

The ride section wasn't to bad as I headed down the road, managing to maintain a nice steady pace. "Funny how my mouth feels so dry after coming out of a lake" I thought as I rode along. I had a drinks bottle attached to the frame of my bike, but I didn't want to reach down for it as it was quite breezy and I am still not quite used to riding a road bike. If I take one hand off the bars I tend to wobble a bit, "nope I'll air on caution and get a drink when I stop". I was to do 10km's on the bike, this was 2 laps. On the home straight wow was it tough the head wind felt really strong as I rode alongside the lake. On more lap to do. "I definitely need to work more on road riding as it's totally different to mountain biking", funny the thoughts that go through your mind as your in the saddle. "Dig in Glenn". Around I go for my second lap, my thighs burning a bit now. The home straight is no easier and I find rather than upping a gear I'm actually dropping as I fight against the wind. As I approach the transition I get off and try to get to my changing area as quick as possible. Bartlett Tendon off, crappy everyday leg on. Time to suck it up. I've had to put an extra stump sock on in the transition area as my socket isn't the best fit.

On the road bike
Pulling into the transition area

  I'm of walking and doing the occasional double skip now and again, trying to go as fast as I can. I know this is going to be slow, however again my thoughts come back to why I am doing this, it's about the taking part and when I get my running blade I will be able to look back and see how far I have come. Everyone has to start somewhere right?  Within about 1/2km I know I'm blistered. I continue on and even keep at a nice steady pace, my goal is the finish line. Plenty of time to worry about a sore ass later. Before I know it it's all over and I am receiving lovely words of encouragement and support. A very kind lady hands me my finishers medal and that's it, all that hard work over in what seems an instant.

Matt keeping an eye on things
The timing guy and Matt
A Finishers Medal ...Cool
Errrr where's the Start?
Arctic ONE
Ern and Me

 Matt surprised me when I got home. I received a lovely message from him saying I now have a big fan base "down here" after attending the Arctic ONE events. This is great news, not just because it makes me feel good, but because it is helping to promote all the great work that Arctic ONE is doing. I have a real sense of pride. Though in typical Glenn fashion it also leaves me feeling "What now" and my mind is furiously thinking up new challenges and adventures.

I mean come on I have to do something to keep you all entertained right?

Don't worry more in the pipeline they just take a bit of organising. Please remember you can still donate to either 

Arctic ONE Virgin Just Giving Page

or at my own page at

Glenn's Virgin Just Giving Page

It just shows sometimes if you dream hard enough,  and reach far enough and say to people "hey this is what I would like to do, do you think you can help me" that there are people out there willing to give you that lift up and help you achieve and it's to these people I owe so much. Too many to mention and not enough words to express my appreciation. I only hope I can give back even a fraction of your generosity and support in helping other people. 

Home safe n sound wow it was an epic journey back 7 hours
 Thanks to Ern and John for the photo's. I didn't get any as I can't swim, ride and walk quickly whilst taking photo's lol

Friday, 29 August 2014

Very kindly asked to write an article for the Empower Magazine... Sweet!

A couple of weeks back my good friend Scott Richardson over at Pace Rehabilitation informed me that Empower may possibly be interested in running a little article about my latest adventures and pursuits. I'm still continuing to be supported and sponsored by both Pace Rehabilitation and Brian Bartlett which is simply amazing.

I always tell people I'm just an ordinary guy. I'm no elite athlete by any measure. My take on this though is that in some ways this helps to inspire more people just like me. People who may be struggling to come to terms with their disabilities, or wanting to get into something new. I hope they can take a look at me and just think "he's just and ordinary lad, if he can do it then maybe I can".

And so I was contacted by Chris Swindells  the Production Manager at Publishing Magazines Ltd. Chris firstly asked if I could provide him with a few images and a little background. As we chatted via email this then progressed on to writing a few lines and then eventually Chris asked you know what can you just send me around 300 words describing what's going on in your life. Well I tried my best to get it to 300, however went slightly over to around 404 or so. Chris said the piece I wrote was perfect, so I guess this is what you will get to read in the link below.


 As mentioned in the article I would just like to say a huge Thank You to:

Everyone over at Arctic ONE, all their fund-raisers and supporters, especially two of the trustees, Matt Kirby and Bex Stubbing's, who's support has been absolutely amazing.

Pace  Rehabilitation for their endless support. I am so looking forward to my next adventures and learning to run on my Pace built running prosthesis. I know the whole team is right behind me.

Brian Bartlett for, designing the BTK and being kind enough to sponsor me and being a great buddy.

Paul and Andy over at Bike Swanky for sorting me out on their demo bike so I could get some road bike practice in for my triathlon and for getting me fixed up with a road bike and sponsoring me on a new mountain bike.

And finally to Empower for featuring me in their magazine and Chris for walking me through what he required and offering words of support for my then upcoming triathlon.

Empower are always looking for new and interesting stories about people with disabilities.

Chris Swindells
Production Manager
Publishing Magazines Ltd
Direct Dial: 0191 516 61 65

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

A spot of afternoon Geo-caching with friendly folk along the way...

            In from work a quick text to Lee to let him know I'm home and will be over to his house as soon as I get changed and get all my bike bits and bobs sorted. I knew we were just going for a nice relaxed ride locally so thought I'd take my big camera today and try and see if I could get some shots. Really it's just about practising with it, truth be known I don't have the patience. If something doesn't exactly work out of the box in my opinion it's broke. I'm one of those blokes that's more hands on. I hate reading instructions and find it boring when anyone tries toy explain to me about photography, what with ISO's, F Stops, apertures....Yawn! You get the picture. Point and click is about my stamp and I have to say in the past I have done ok.

Once at Lee's and he has his stuff sorted we head off along and up the Farmers Trail, it's a lovely day for riding, the sun is out and there is a slight breeze. Lee has an idea where he wants to go, however I persuade him to follow me as I want to show him some new trails locally. Lee's a dead funny lad, he always has this idea of where he wants to go and when someone takes him off the beaten track he kind of becomes uncomfortable. Maybe it's not on his Garmin which he rely's on so much, it always makes me chuckle to myself. Anyhoo Lee follows my lead and as we ride up different trails he comments on "Oh I've been on here" or better still "Ave neva been along here it's beautiful". This is what I like to hear, it's great taking people to new areas and letting them see that we live in such a pretty area when you get just outside of the hustle and bustle of our town.

Overlooking the pond
Some pretty flowers near the waters edge

I show Lee parts of Beamish Woods he has never seen before and and of course some he has. As we pass the big pond I take the opportunity to practice with my camera. We  then work our way along to the forges. In the Woods there is one particular sweet spot of technical riding. I am very pleased with myself today as I only had to get off once for this tricky section that was on a camber, and up a incline, covered in tree roots. I managed all the technical climbs, in and out of the trees and only fell off once, not being able to put my leg down on my Bartlett Tendon side.
Lee enjoying the beautiful quiet area
Pics a little blurry, but hey just practising!
Lee coming through the techy trail

 As we approach the Forges and Ousburgh Woods I give Lee a quick history lesson about the area. Lee is very interested in local history and he appreciates my small amount of knowledge. As we ride into Ousburgh I take the path that leads through the ford and stream as Lee heads over the foot bridge.
Once in the woods fully Lee is blown away by how beautiful the area is, all the ancient trees, the stream or burn as we call it and all the flowers, butterflies and other bits and pieces you expect to see on a sunny day in the woods. Lee comments on how he will now make this one of his more regular routes. It is really pretty and serene in these woods. As we come out at the other end we get on to a small road and have to climb a rather steep bank. At the moment I'm trying to practice more and more riding up hill out of the saddle using my Bartlett Tendon, why you may ask? Well I was contacted by a guy who asked is it possible to ride out the saddle up a hill. Yes it is, however it requires quite a bit of practice and energy. You have to concentrate on getting your pedal stroke right, keep your balance and have good endurance. My aim at some point is to make a small video of me riding up a few banks or hills. But hey that's for another day.

A short ride up the road and Lee says "hey why don't we cut down here and get onto the Bowes Railway Line, it will make our ride just that bit longer". So off we go down this road to our right looking for the sign post for the Bowes Railway path. It's not too far down the road, we both have to man handle our bikes through one of those stupid gates, you know the ones to stop motorcycles, the ones that actually don't really stop them at all, they just hinder everyone else. Anyhoo Lee is off up the path, me I stop as I see an interesting sculpture and get off my bike, then position it next to the stone sculpture and proceed to get some snaps.

Sandman Hoggar Ti
  I take a few pics and then just as I'm about to get on my bike a lady with a dog comes my way. "Ooh I will wait until you get away" she says "Otherwise he may chase after you". Just as I step over my bike and get in position the lady says "Eeeeh your amazing, riding a mountain bike and you've only one leg...amazing". "Aww thanks" I say and we go on to have a very pleasant little chat. I always appreciate and respect the people who are not stand offish and have the confidence to ask or take an interest when they see someone who maybe a little different. As I set off to leave I tell the lady my name "Oh I'm Glenn by the way" to which she replies "Oh Hi I'm Julie". " We are having a charity do at the Schooner in Gateshead" I say "your welcome to come along", then I'm on my way to catch up with Lee.

He is at the top of the road, having scoffed his banana whilst waiting for me. We then head over to another place I want to show Lee for a little jaunt. This is called "Hedley Hall Woods" I tell him and we again have to manoeuvre our bikes through a daft gate. It's just a little loop, but this place is lovely and quiet. I'm not sure if you are supposed to ride bikes here. I couldn't see any DO NOT RIDE signs, so that's good enough for me. Lee takes my camera and grabs a few shots of me and then we complete the loop, dismounting at the gate. As we approach the gate there is a man coming the other way. Awww crap is he going to be a cock, we have a 50/50 chance. This bloke turns out to be class he opens the gate for us and spends a bit time having a chat. Lee finds him amusing as this bloke is swearing like a trooper. We get on about how certain people can be stuck up and whine about us riding our bikes and he backs us up saying "you should just tell them to"...well the first word starts with "F" and the second is "off", I take it we have his approval to ride on.

Riding in Hedley Hall Woods
Out the saddle on the trail
Having fun
Back on the road for a wee while I spot a combine harvester in the field and see a shot I want to take, unfortunately it takes me ages to get my camera out of my back pack so I miss it. I did manage to get one or two, but not the ones I wanted.
I got a brand new combine Harvester I do

 Continuing up the road, we come onto the Causey Arch Road and then head up towards Tanfield Railway. Lee wants to look for a geo-cache nearby and also has an idea where to stash one of his own. We spend a little time down near the train sheds, just looking around and had a small chat to some volunteers as they were leaving. Time to head off in search of this geo-cache.

Lee getting ready to blitz down the trail
Off he goes
A little way down the trail and Lee says "it should be somewhere around here
". The clue is something about used to be a tree, but now is wood or something like that. I got it in my head that the cache would be in a tree stump. We searched for quite sometime both getting nettled yet again, it's a regular occurrence with us now. I then spotted what appeared to be like an old railway sleeper and some other bits of wood right in the undergrowth, behind this small tree, or bush. "I reckon it's in there somewhere I said" and so we both headed into this tricky spot, what with nettles and prickly bushes, it was a proper nightmare. As I got near the wood and had a good look I spotted a small container fixed to a wooden post. "there it is Lee", "Lee jokingly saying his now favourite phrase when geo-caching "awww man it's never me" and we both shared a laugh.

Geo-cache logged we set off to find a spot for our own. Again Lee off in the distance me trailing behind. I stopped as I saw a lovely photo opportunity and "agggghhhh, again missed it". That's the only thing about riding and having something like a 35mm camera, it takes ages to get your back pack off and then take the shot. Anyhoo I'll just explain the scene. A beautiful golden field, that had been cut recently,blue skies and the sun at just the right angle to make the field glow. There was a group of crows I think you call it a murder. Did you know that you call a group of ravens an unkindness or a conspiracy. As I approached they were all in a huddle, then as I stopped to take of my back pack they all bloody flew away. My idea was to get a shot of my bike with the golden field in the background then clap or shout and get the crows to fly...Oh yes I'm very creative in my own mind at least lol. Never mind you just have to make do with a picture of my bike and no birds.

Dang it missed the real shot, this one will have to do
Lee was now at these local ruins. He was searching for a good spot to put our cache. I said "what about those stairs" ( there were some old stairs remaining in the derelict buildings). Well the next 15 minutes or so were spent trying to discover a path way to get to these stairs without being nettled. The bloody things were everywhere. Finally I found a path, however we had to walk all the way back around the field and come in from the other side. Even this path to the stairs was like "Nettle city" as Lee put it. We spent another 5 minutes or so deciding on a good spot and then a clue. I suggested a good spot to Lee and he got nettled yet again in the process of putting the container in position and covering it up. I then came up with what I thought was a good clue..."Stop and stair-down and West". Get it "Stair instead of Stare". I tell you I'm a genius lol.

A pretty Thistle
WoW this was scary I hate heights
At the top now time to sit down before I fall off lol
The derelict building with stairs
   Ok job done. I inform Lee "I'm starving" it's time to head home. All I have had all day is 2 Nutella and baby bread slices, oh and one of Jennifer from work's delicious buns. We set off in the general direction of home, nettled to bits but content, it's been a "canny ride" (Lee pulls the water out of me as apparently he says this is how I rate everything "canny like")  As we head down the trail towards this little country lane that will take us up the steep bank and the level crossing at Tanfield Railway we notice a man scavenging in all this rubbish. We exchange pleasantries, however I am not happy at what I see. Whilst this guy isn't doing anything wrong I am very annoyed that someone else has fly tipped in this area. There was already a pile of rubbish that had been tipped about a year ago, and now this other pile of crap. Both Lee and I got off our bikes , like I say I was proper mad. I asked the lad "do you mind if I have a quick look through the stuff" to which he replied "No of course not". I wanted to see if I could find any paper work or receipts because if I had I could hand these in to the Police or council as I think people who do this kind of stuff should be heavily fined, it's disrespectful,lazy and can cause harm to the environment and wild life. It had been quite obviously some kind of builder who had dropped off all this rubbish as there were screws,saws, old bottles of glue and other solvents, drill bits, pieces of old wood and alls sorts of other building stuff, way too much to list. I decided to call the police on 101 and they said unless I had seen the incident it was a council matter and they would try and put me through.

Anyhoo long story short, well looking at my blog, Long I have rang Gateshead Council  today and explained about the fly tipping site and they are going to arrange to have it cleared up within 7 days...Result.

I'll have a little rant now... Ok cyclist's always seem  to get a bad rap, expecially mountain bikers. We are told we can't ride here or there, based on laws about footpath's that go back to the middle ages. Yet in my opinion we actually take more care of the environment and our surroundings than the majority of other people. We face constant flak from whiney people who prefer to go around polluting the place with motor vehicles or letting their dogs poop all over trails. My biggest bug bear being those people who actually pick up their dog crap then proceed to scatter the bags all over the countryside as they can't be arsed to find a bin. Omg you have done the hard part just take it with you and dispose of it properly. Ok that's me done I feel loads better now and will continue to ride where I like in a respectful, non-threatening manner lol