WHILE the south of England has seen temperatures approaching 20C here in Badenoch winter still retains a wet and windy hand.
It’s not been a bad winter in terms of snowfall and cold. The temperature has rarely dropped below zero and although there has been record levels of snow on the hills the climbers and skiers have had some difficulty in enjoying it because of the winds and avalanche threat.
I had a superb day on Cruach Ardrain, near Crianlarich, last month, filming for an Adventure Show walk, and it’s a long time since I experienced as much snow on these hills. But since then the wind and the rain and unseasonably high temperatures have stripped away much of that snow and although there is still a huge amount of snow on the tops it is considerably less than it was a month ago.
But it’s as a cyclist that I’ve affected more recently. For much of the winter I’ve managed to get the miles in, although on some days I’ve been wrapped up like a Michelin Man, but generally it’s been OK. Indeed, a couple of weeks ago I had a few runs wearing shorts, although I’ve had to dig the bib-tights out again in recent days. But it’s the wind that has been the big factor once again.
After a few days of purgatory, trying to make any kind of progress into the breeze, I had a couple of good sessions on the mountain bike through Glenmore and Rothiemurchus forests where I was largely protected from the wind by the trees.
But this week the wind and rain have made road biking, and even mountain biking, a pretty miserablye experience, so bad that I’ve hauled the dreaded turbo-trainer from it’s little hole in the garage where I try and hide it from sight.
I really don’t enjoy working out on a turbo-trainer, but sometimes needs must. I very rarely last more than an hour on it and more usually pack in a session of about 45-50 minutes. That includes various interval sessions like 10x 10secs flat out with 10 sec recovery. I do two or tree of these with 5 mins between each set, or more usually 8×30 secs flat out with 30 sec recovery. The rest of the time I do a kind of ‘fartlek’ routine, speed and rhythm dependent on the music track that I play, and this is crucial.
I’ve found that music helps a lot in keeping my brain from simply clouding over, not into any useful “zone” type way but in sheer and utter boredom. The beat and pace of the music helps a lot too and I have two or three albums that I’ve been playing a lot of recently, albums that really seem to help.
Now my choice of music won’t appeal to everyone. Essentially I’m a folkie, and there is a lot of good, driving instrumental sets that would be ideal for turbo-training but I’ve stuck with two Oysterband albums. The wonderful Ragged Kingdom album which features the singing of June Tabor and the recently released Diamonds on the Water album. Both these albums are brilliant – a good driving bass and drum and brilliant vocals and lyrics to keep my mind working.
Yesterday I had a turbo session to the music of Mike Oldfield and his superb new album Man on the Rocks which features the voice of a young man called Luke Spiller, a tremendously gifted vocalist who sounds remarkably like a young version of the late and great Freddie Mercury.
So these are the three albums that are keeping me sane this fag-end of the winter, and I really hope we are approaching the end of miserable March. I have a real longing for the balmy days of summer, with the hum of tyres on a dry road surface, wearing shorts and cycling jersey and the feel of the sun on the back of my head.
But will I get that in Ireland when Hamish and I cycle between Mizen Head and Malin Head in May? Probably not – Ireland is better known for its prodigious amounts of rain but at least we’ll have the Guinness and the craik to look forward to in the evenings, the daily rewards for whatever we have to put up with during the day. But on the other hand, the Celtic weather gods might just smile kindly on us…