Category Archives: Cycling

Two Wheels Good

You may have noticed that my gaming posts have recently become less frequent and less detailed than back in the days of yore. We can lay the blame firmly at the feet of cycling.

As I mentioned back in November, I’ve signed up to the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge on 18 June. That means 106 miles of Northumbrian hills – by a fair way the longest ride I’ll have been on – and that in turn means a solid training programme. I’ve been ramping up the duration and intensity of my rides over the last few months, which has left me with less time and less energy to spend on blogging. I did 114 miles last week, over the course of five rides and nine hours in the saddle… which was obviously nine hours I couldn’t spend on anything else. Like blogging.

Actually, some of those 114 miles were virtual. I’ve been using an indoor trainer hooked up to Zwift, which is essentially a MMORPG… except the only role you can play is that of a cyclist and the only way you can get around the virtual world is by pedalling an actual bike in the real world. At the moment, I’m a level-10 halfling bard… sorry, a level-10 halfling cyclist. (Yes, genuinely, there are levels and XP.)

Virtual me on my virtual bike

Virtual me on my virtual bike riding round a virtual Richmond, Virginia on a virtual replica of the UCI (real-)World Championship road race course

It’s a fun way to relieve the monotony of indoor sessions (and avoid the horrendous winds and rain we’ve had over the last few months). My favourite rides are the ones when there’s a pro cyclist online; there’s always a massive crowd of fawning fans following them around the circuit, asking questions about heart rate and FTP on the in-game chat.

Anyway, all that aside, I wouldn’t expect too much gaming blog from me over the next couple of months, but something approaching normal service may resume in the summer. Until then, feel free to sponsor me for the Cyclone – I’m riding to raise money for ME Research UK. Click here to visit my JustGiving page.

(If you’re lucky, I’ll make it along to the all-day session at Newcastle Gamers on 28 May and write up some 18xx afterwards…)

December – Rubbish Month, Good Gaming

December was riddled with calamity and annoyance, including my first Rapid Unscheduled Dismount while cycling as an adult, my first puncture while cycling as an adult and major flood-related phone-line cutouts plus botched repairs. And, of course, no phone line means no broadband, so I’m typing this using my mobile phone as a wifi hotspot. And, of course, living up a hill in the middle of nowhere means the best I can manage in my thick-walled stone house is two bars of patchy 3G reception if I stand on one foot in a corner of the coldest room in the house while reciting the arcane rituals of EE.

Amongst all that, the only Newcastle Gamers session of the month fell on the day it snowed enough to make the hill on which I live truly dangerous. We’ve lived here for four years and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve considered the hill too dangerous to drive on. sigh

John and I did fit in a couple of Corbridge sessions though, the first of which was a “quick” play of Carl Chudyk’s latest, Mottainai, followed by HaggisMottainai was interesting, although very difficult to get our heads round on a first play. There’s an awful lot going on, and figuring out exactly how to get cards to the places you want them is pretty tough. I won almost entirely by accident, with a wince-inducing final score of 35–14. Very Chudyk. Haggis was… well, Haggis. It’s a very traditional-feeling climbing/trick-taking game and I suffered from a couple of bad deals and a general lack of competence. John got his own back for the Mottainai drubbing by winning 310–169.

A week later, we reconvened for Nippon, by Madeira/Panamax designers Paulo Soledade and Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro. I really enjoyed this – it managed to boil down a fair chunk of the thinkiness and planning of their previous designs into a smoother, easier-to-digest gaming meal – although I do have a niggling concern about how samey it might feel after just a handful of plays. Never mind, though: I’ve only played it this once so far. A nice tight game, with a victory for me, 200–193.

Because every collection needs at least one game about competing zaibatsu in the Meiji period

Because every collection needs at least one game about competing zaibatsu in the Meiji period

The rest of the month (and the ensuing school holiday) was peppered with family gaming: a Ticket to Ride here, a Castle Panic there, a Ticket to Ride again, followed by K2, with another Ticket to Ride to round things off… Yes, there’s a definite hit in this house. And, of course, M and I continued our marital Pandemic Legacy campaign. To date, we’ve played six games and only lost the most recent (early June) so the board looks relatively unscathed, but there have been some… ahem… developments that mean things certainly aren’t getting any easier any time soon and we’re enjoying the extra challenge.

More to come soon – sooner if the phone line gets mended…

A Cyclone on the Horizon

Long-time readers and people who actually know me will be aware that I’ve been going through a relapse into – and recovery from – chronic fatigue syndrome. Obviously this has affected many things, although this blog hasn’t really been one of them. At my physiotherapist’s behest, and as part of my own ramshackle attempts at pacing and graded exercise therapy, I started cycling back in May. I got myself a road bike and gradually built up the distance and time I was riding for, taking care never to push myself too far, but always notching it up to the next level if it was comfortable.

Well, now I’m at the point where I’m riding over 100 km per week, happily climbing hills (seriously, it’s my favourite bit – it helps being short and relatively light) and genuinely feeling like I don’t have CFS any more. Well, only when I’m cycling. Weird, I know, but walking still feels like the slog it has been for the last two years; standing still is oddly exhausting; even just thinking is a struggle at times… but when I’m spinning along at 90 rpm, everything’s just fine and dandy.

Because the cycling’s been going so swimmingly, I thought I’d enter a sportive – if you haven’t come across the term, it’s like a fun run for cycling (i.e. not a race), but still officially timed and with mechanical support and feed stations along the route. It’s a little something to aim towards. Given where I live, the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge seemed like a good option, but with route options of 34, 64, 90 and 106 miles, which should a recovering CFS-sufferer go for? Hmmm. Yes, the 106-mile one. Definitely. That’d be sensible.

So I’ve signed up. Yes, it looks like lunacy at first glance, but given that I’ve gone from 0 to 65 miles per week in six months, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that I could get to well over 100 miles per week over the next seven months, which should set me up for the Cyclone. Of course, that means the slog of winter training, but I’ve got the British Cycling training plans on my side. As long as my body can keep up, I’ll be out on the road.

See you there.