The #COTW for week two, I have to be honest, was a little bit of an easy one.
The challenge was to cycle 6 miles from my home in Banbury to the canoe club in Cropredy, take part (and comlete) a saturday morning session, then cycle the 6 miles back home.
Admittedly, to anyone who knows me, this is less of a challenge and more of a standard Saturday. However, as you may expect, I do have my reasons (excuses) for selecting a slightly less difficult challenge. Some of them were genuinely thought of prior to choosing a challenge, and a couple I have added in hindsight.
Firstly, last week (for me) was all about securing part time work. I managed to do this, and now have a part time job working in a warehouse where we pack food parcels. Not exactly a high flying career – however it should pay the bills AND it leaves the majority of my week free to create mischief. With an induction on Friday and my first shift on Sunday, this left only Saturday open for adventure. Additionally, I also had a trial shift in a local (ish) boozer on Saturday evening, which ruled out anything which involved straying too far from my front door. The final reason for, dare I say it, ‘playing it safe’, was simply due to my prganisation skills being on par with a headless chicken. The weekend had rolled around far too quickly and I had very little time to be creative.
On Friday, I realised that I had not yet made it to a club session since returning home, and that this was the perfect opportunity for me to disguise a perfectly ordinary activity (for me) as something a little more adventurous and exciting. And in doing the challenge I began to realise that for most people this would actually be something very out of the ordinary, it is just that ordinary is not something which features heavily in my every day life.
So simple as that, the decision was made.
So we start the story on Saturday morning at around 9am. I was in the kitchen, frying an egg (or three) and keeping an eye on the time. I knew I didn’t have to leave the house until 9.20, however I am also all too familiar with the way time speeds up as you approach a planned time to leave. I was dressed ready to go (I had been doing the paper round that morning so had cunningly done so wearing my cycling/canoeing kit) and it was simply a matter of wolfing down a suitable breakfast and then hopping on the bike.
What constitutes a suitable breakfast, I hear you ask. Well, I’m not one to brag but I am pretty sure I have this one nailed. On a day where I fancy a larger breakfast or I know I will need to go a few hours without snacking (every day) there is one go to breakfast I can recommend. That is fried/poached egg, on avacado, on toast. If you have some tomatoes and cheese, these can only add to the greatness of this breakfast. It is the breakfast of champions, and I like to remind myself that I am a champion of breakfast as I consume it. Daily. Sometimes twice daily. I have no shame.
Anyway back to Saturday. Breakfast eaten, coffee drank, shoes on and out the door I went. As you can imagine, by now I am a relative expert in the art of cycling, and found the journey to Cropredy passing easily, with only two near death experiences. The first of these definitely not my fault (but some crazed lorry driver who was not looking properly on a big roundabout), and the second most definitely my fault as I tried to answer my phone whilst cycling through Cropredy. My tips in response to both of these incidents – never presume that other vehicles will see you when cycling, and secondly, never answer your phone (unless you have some kind of fancy hands free gizmo), regardless of how mad you know your mother will be that you weren’t able to respond to her in that split second.
Either way, I arrived at Cropredy at 10am, bang on time. I popped the bike safely behind some racking and went inside to prepare for the session. The first task was to get George (my pride and joy/boat) down from the racking and out of his boat bag (effectively just a glorified name for a cover), noting as I did so that all too familiar smell of death that lurks within him, originating (I think) from years of hard work – a.k.a. a pull bar that has grown its own scent through years of absorbing sweat from my feet. Next job was to locate my paddles – simple enough as they live in a bright yellow bag with the word ROONEY scrawled down the side. And then it was a waiting game – standing around chating and smiling as we all waited for Graham to come and explain our fate.
I should mention here that I am extremely lucky to be part of a canoe club that is extremely welcoming and caters to all different sorts of people. There are the tiny youngsters who have just started paddling, the parents of these children who couldn’t resist the lure of having a go, begginers, tourers, white water paddlers and of course the seasoned racers from the age of 11 up to goodness knows how old Graham is. And of course everyone in between.
On a Saturday morning there are all sorts going on, and Graham has the task of explaining to each group what they will be getting up to on that particular day. He rang the bell and we all obediently gathered round to listen to his instructions. The session for group 2 (my self assigned group based on marathon divisions) was something along the lines of 3*4 minute eff0rts, 3*3 minute efforts and 3*2 minute efforts. Just as I came to terms with the fact this was going to be a pretty tough first session, it was announced that Siobhan was looking for another adult to accompany the junior group on a paddle down to third lock (coincidentally 6 miles long). Eager to help out (and to avoid racing juniors who are no doubt faster than me) I volunteered and minutes later assumed my role as coach Rooney, escorting a group of 8 juniors on a pootle down the canal.
The paddle was a beautiful reminder of all the bits I love about kayaking. The smooth flow of the boat through the water, the beautiful scenery, the connection running from the boat, through me and the paddles and back into the water, and the observation of others slowly realising the joy themselves. Kayaking is a simple sport, a difficult one to master technically, but one in which you can feel every ounce of effort being translated into your surroundings. I am a competitive person and enjoy trying to go as fast as possible in most situations, however my true love of kayaking is easier to recognise when I move slowly and relaxed through my surroundings. As a sport it offers so much to me – from a the perfect peaceful escape from every day life, to the opportunity to race, to push myself and to have a laugh with others who feel the same way. Am I selling it to you yet?
Our Saturday morning 6 miler was fairly uneventful and yet perfectly satisfying. Through taking the group of juniors, giving them pointers, encouraging their efforts and praising their success, we were also able to gain reward from doing so – knowing (or hoping at least) that we had done something to bolster their confidence and to show them how fun it can be to immerce oneself in the outdoors.
Banbury canoe club is, at the end of the day, a racing canoe club. This means they encourage people to race and to win points, but it doesn’t mean this is the be all and end all. The atmosphere is always friendly, people are encouraged to challenge themselves but not pushed into doing so, and achievements are celebrated, no matter who you are, how big the achievement was, or whether it was anythng canoeing related. It is truly like having an extended family. And what’s more is that they are always willing to welcome new people (as I am sure other clubs are too) so anyone who fancied it could literally turn up and try out an entirely new activity, which I promise is great fun.
Before I knew it I was back at the club, changing into dry cycling clothes and hovering over the radiator in an attempt to keep warm. Once dressed this was easily achieved, so long as I acccepted that my toes were numb and that wasn’t changing any time soon. They had been numb since I had left the house, and were only made worse by paddling in damp socks, so I knew there was no point in trying to warm them up before the cycle home. After a pit stop at the local shop (to buy a sausage roll – another fuel of champions) I jumped back on the bike and cycled home. With no near death incidents this time, although with a risky undertake of a police van which I am not sure was legal, but that I got away with either way.
Back home it was bath time – the ultimate way to warm up following a cold morning outdoors.
All in all the challenge was a 6 mile cycle, a 6 mile paddle, and another 6 mile cyle. 666 a.k.a. the devils challenge. It was the perfect example of something anyone (who wanted to do so) could do. None of the activities had been particularly physically demanding, and yet all three were finished with a smile on my face. Never canoed? No problem, someone at your local club will look after you I am sure – just look up their club times on the website and give it a go.
Total cost of this adventure – 1.89 – a.k.a. the cost of a sausage roll.
Really, what have you got to lose by giving this one a go?
Next week, I will be switching back to something which in my opinion is much more ambitious. I will be attmpting to cover marathon distance (26.2 miles) on my long board. This would probably be pretty easy for someone who can skate well. I do not skate well, but I think it will be funny nonetheless. I will be learning from previous mistakes and setting out earlier than midday so can already argue I have made progress.
I will try and post later in the week about the planned route so keep you eyes peeled!