Hand-cycling for the Prince’s Trust

A week ago today at this time, I was congratulating myself and others on having completed the Palace to Palace charity ride in aid of the Prince’s Trust.  This is an annual event. The ride is 45 or 90 miles, depending on which route you choose from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle. Around 4000 riders take part.

I am making this post to encourage hand-cyclists to consider taking part in this event. It is definitely do-able, especially if the weather is kind, which it was to us, despite forecasts of heavy rain and high winds – which fortunately didn’t materialise. You can find further information on the Prince’s Trust website.

The ride was a wonderful experience. We joined a small group of hand-cyclists – four in total – for the 45 mile route. The Prince’s Trust went out of their way to accommodate us. Many cyclists meet and park in Windsor (easier than London) and are ferried on buses to the start line on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, with their bikes being loaded onto lorries. We did this and the Prince’s Trust arranged for a special mobility van to transport us and the hand-cycle. They couldn’t have been more helpful.

We arrived at Buckingham Palace early in the morning.

The organisation of the event was impressive. For the 45 mile route there were 3 water stops at, 10, 20 and 30 miles, with not only free water provided, but also free bananas. Toilets were also available. The route went through wonderful countryside and for someone who lives in the South Lakes, appeared almost flat for most of the route. There were a few hills but our village is surrounded by hills, so the Palace to Palace ride was not difficult. It was also entirely on hard surfaces, so ideal for hand-cyclists. There were Marshals at every junction and the route was very clearly signposted.

This is the description of the route copied from the Prince’s trust website:

  • The ride starts out along the Mall with the stunning view of Buckingham Palace ahead and continues through southwest London, over Putney Bridge, towards the first water stop at (mile 10) amongst the deer in Richmond Park. 
     
  • You’ll then head out through Kingston (mile 13) and Hampton towards your second refreshment stop at (mile 20).
     
  • At Walton on Thames, the Ultra cyclists split off and head South through the beautiful Surrey Hills, heading towards Dorking to battle the highest ascent of 200m on Ranmore Common.
     
  • Those taking the shorter Classic route will continue along a fairly flat ride, pass through Chertsey and Chobham.
     
  • During this time, the Ultra riders will have passed through Dorking town centre (mile 36), before heading west passing the nearby towns – Newlands Corner (mile 45), near Guildford, Deepcut (mile 70), near Farnborough and up to Bagshot.
     
  • The Ultra cyclists will then rejoin the Classic route around Virginia Water, with the final water stop at Kitsmead Lane, Longcross (mile 30/80).
     
  • FINISH! The Ultra and the Classic will then continue through Virginia Water and Old Windsor before finally come to a much needed rest at Windsor Racecourse to enjoy the festival village. 

Gradients
Classic
Ultra

The icing on the cake for the hand-cyclists was having their photos taken at the end of the ride with Chris Froome and David Weir! These are photos to keep for posterity!

With Chris Froome

With David Weir

Many thanks to the Prince’s Trust for making this ride possible for four hand-cyclists.

For a few more photos see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennymackness/albums/72157687173126231 

Queen of the Mountain

This is the essence of how bizarre apps and social media have become. Here is the story.

At the beginning of May I took part in a charity bike ride in Bali. In the last 15 kilometres I came off my bike and broke my collar bone. It has taken me 4 months to get back on my bike, which I did a week ago. I would like to do a 45 mile charity bike ride at the beginning of October, if I can get my fitness back in time.

The intention today was to do about 15 miles and see how my shoulder stood up, but after about 4 miles my partner’s bike failed (he is a hand-cyclist with complicated kit), and I had to cycle home to collect the car to go back and collect him.

According to Strava, the app I use on my phone to let me know how far and how fast I have cycled, this was a nine mile round trip, which in itself is hard to believe. We had scarcely left home! And again according to Strava, this evidently makes me Queen of the Mountain. This is despite the fact that I did not sprint once, and the fact that nine miles is neither here nor there in the cycling scheme of things and that the bike ride was completely unsuccessful given our aims. I will continue to use Strava, but I could do without receiving these nonsensical emails.

An email referring to me as Queen of the Mountain seems even more bizarre given the mountains climbed by the cyclists competing in the Vuelta a Espana.

May 2015 – metaphor, meaning and motion

I have committed to writing a monthly blog post this year, rather like those who commit to posting a photo a day. I have resisted the photo a day – I hate routine. Even making a monthly blog post feels too prescriptive, but given that I seem to be lacking any motivation to blog recently, this commitment to a monthly post will hopefully keep me going until my motivation comes back.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing. I have been writing a lot – just not in public!

The end of this month has seen a focus for me on the meaning of ‘metaphor’, in particular in relation to the rhizome metaphor. Frances Bell, Mariana Funes and I have been finalizing a paper about the rhizome, how it is understood and how it applies to teaching and learning. This is a Wordle composed from the content of our submitted paper.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 19.16.11

 

We have been working on this paper for more than a year. There was a lot to learn. What has been extremely enjoyable about this has been the number of authors I have become familiar with who write about the rhizome. I have so enjoyed the poetic imagery that some of their writing conjures up.

For those completely unfamiliar with the concept of the rhizome, then a good start is Chapter 1 of Deleuze and Guattari’s book. A Thousand Plateaus (1987, Bloombury) – and we have already published one paper about this. Our research is ongoing, but for our initial thoughts and findings see our paper in Open Praxis – Rhizo14 – A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade.

‘Meaning’ has also featured prominently in May for me, i.e. meaning in relation to what I have been doing and the meaning of my life as it relates to those around me. I think it’s something to do with age. My husband reached the age of 70 this month and for some reason that feels like a significant milestone and has brought with it lots of associated thoughts related to meaning. I bought him an Anthology of Emily Dickinson’s poems to mark this event (he is a fan!) and each day, he selects another poem to read, share and discuss. This week, this is the poem that has resonated most strongly with me:

 

A Thought went up my mind today –

That I have had before –

But did not finish – some way back –

I could not fix the Year –

 

Nor where it went – not why it came

The second time to me –

Nor definitely, what it was –

Have I to say –

 

But somewhere – in my Soul – I know –

I’ve met the Thing before –

It just reminded me – ‘twas all –

And came my way no more –

(Emily Dickinson, 701. Emily didn’t give her poems titles – she simply numbered them)

Finally, motion – what is that about? Well it’s about the motion of the wheels of my bike. At the start of the month we were cycling in Holland, through the tulip fields. This far exceeded my expectations of an enjoyable holiday. Of course I know we were so lucky – no rain, only one day of high winds, a fantastic hotel, amazingly safe cycle routes and lanes with good surfaces, and the stunning tulip fields.

Holland

Needless to say I took far too many photos of tulips which I have posted on my Flickr site.

April 2015 – de-cluttering and disconnecting

I’m not sure where April went. I didn’t blog once during the entire month. Looking back I can see it was a month of de-cluttering and disconnecting.

De-cluttering has taken the shape of a massive purge on our house, which we have lived in for 30 years. The de-cluttering is almost finished – only the outhouses to do. I have been quite ruthless and hope I won’t regret it. 500 books have gone to charity and ten years worth of teaching notes have gone to the tip. It has felt quite cathartic. I would like to feel that I could walk out of here one day to the next with the minimum of hassle and with no need to look back. I would like to think that I am not defined by my possessions.

I have also felt the need to de-clutter mentally and this has entailed a degree of disconnecting, which I suppose is one reason for the lack of blogging.

I have thought a lot about the Divided Brain course  that I went on in March, where Iain McGilchrist’s seminars focused on the different world views of the left and right hemispheres, and what we are missing when the left hemisphere dominates at the expense of the right hemisphere. On the course we discussed the role of technology and machines in this, so I have thought quite a bit about how much I want to be online, how much I want to connect, with whom and what, and how much I want to disconnect, from whom and what.

I have also increasingly thought about the balance of public and private in my life. My preference is to be private, which creates a bit of tension with some aspects of openness. I find myself questioning the extent to which this blog post is public/private. I realize that despite being supportive of openness, I am selectively open.

With respect to disconnection, I have been discussing this very topic with my friend and research colleague Frances Bell, for a paper we are preparing for the Networked Learning Conference 2016. This is a ‘fun’ venture, as we are working with Catherine Cronin, Laura Gogia and Jeffrey Keefer, to get together a symposium of papers related to Networked, Connected and Open Learning. I am also working with my Austrian friend and colleague Jutta Pauschenwein to prepare a paper for the conference. Both projects are currently at the ‘messy’, ‘where are we headed?’ stage. The call for papers for the Networked Learning Conference is here.

April has also found me working on a project in Blackboard, with people I haven’t worked with for a long time, so lots of trips down memory lane and face-to-face meetings, which is a refreshing change for me. It is at least ten years since I worked on Blackboard – so in all respects a bit of a blast from the past. This must be a reconnection after a disconnection and it is interesting to work in a closed space after so many years of working in the open. It raises for me all the issues related to balancing open and closed, private and public, connected and disconnected.

Finally, April has seen my bike come out of the workshop. We had some glorious weather in the middle of the month, which resulted in quite a number of rides. A favourite is a 15 mile ride round trip which takes us to a nearby estuary town, with a wonderful ice-cream shop, and back – and enough hills on route to get the heart rate up. Our longest trip this month has been 37 miles, again along the estuary with a great little café stop for lunch. After so many dark winter months, it is liberating to be out on the road again – reconnecting with the beautiful countryside in which I live.

Cycling Spring 2015 (4)

            Cycling Spring 2015 (2)Cycling Spring 2015 (3)