Wednesday, 20 May 2020

CGS Junior Church craft ~ Ascension Sunday (24 May 2020)

Church of the Good Shepherd

 Junior Church Ascension Sunday craft (24th May)

I had a moment of inspiration this week for a craft for the children on Ascension Sunday. Here are the instructions to make it. I hope you like it.

The finished craft looks like this! :-)

For parents at CGS who are prepping ahead of this Sunday I'd suggest for lower school age children that you complete Steps 1 to 5 below. I'm sure older children can manage all the steps during Junior Church.

Step 1 - Materials
You will need 2 pieces of A4 white paper, glue or sellotape, pencils/colouring pens, and scissors.

Step 2
Draw 2 lines the width of a ruler down the middle of the paper

Step 3 - Fold and Cut
Fold the paper horizontally and cut along both lines so you create a double slit.

Step 3a - Admire your creation so far! :-)

Step 4 - Cut some more
Cut a long tab of paper and wrap it around the front and back of the slit so that it freely moves up and down. Use glue or sellotape to stick it at the back

Step 4a - It should easily slide up and down the page

Step 5 - The verse 
Cut a second square bit of paper and stick on the right of the page in the middle so it can flap up and down. We will be writing a verse on each side of the flap.

Step 6 - The Cloud
Cut out a big cloud and stick it at the top of the paper so that it raises up ever so slightly. This should be stuck over the slit you created earlier which will allow Jesus to disappear behind the cloud :-)

Step 7 - Jesus
Draw Jesus on a separate piece of paper and cut him out. Make sure he is a nice size to disappear behind the cloud. You can use the template of Jesus below if you wish or you can draw him yourself as you imagine him to look :-)

Step 7a - Jesus template you can use

Step 8 - Stick Jesus to the slider
Ensure he can move freely up and down :-)

Step 9 - Acts 1: v9 scripture 

Write the following heading and part of Acts 1 v9 on the top side of your lifty uppy thingy :-)

Acts 1 v9
He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Step 10 - Acts 1: v10 scripture 

Write the following heading and part of Acts 1 v10 on the under side of your lifty uppy thingy :-)

Acts 1 v10
This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.

Step 11 - Get colouring!!
Decorate your Ascension scene however you would like to using lots of nice colours.

Step 11a - Sheep and fields
As we are the Church of the Good Shepherd I included a few sheep in their fields staring up at Jesus as he rose into Heaven, just as the Disciples did in the scripture. Jesus is described in the bible as the "Lamb of God" and the "Good Shepherd"

You can stick a 'PULL ME' tab onto the back of the slider to make it easier to raise Jesus through the clouds and into heaven :-)



Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The loneliness of the open road (Pan Celtic Race Report)

PCR swag!!!

Until now as I sit here on a train listening to my daily bible study app with teachings about the lies of loneliness I haven't been able to write my race report for the Pan Celtic Race. I didn't know where to start. I didn't even know whether I had the courage to relive the experience or convey what happened out there on the long empty but extremely beautiful roads of Scotland. I've been searching for answers for over a week now. Actually from Day 1 of the race. I still don't know if I have them all. In fact I know I don't but I need to find some closure on what happened and move on. So this won't be a typical race report. It won't be full of stats of miles ridden or an attempt to impress anyone with what I achieved (or probably in this case didn't achieve). I won't describe in much detail about the route which was stunning! The photos I hope will do a better job anyway and convey just how beautiful Scotland is. Friends say that I'm my own worst critic and the expectations I set for myself on these long distance rides are high. And that indeed is probably true. I like to challenge myself. There is no point in going back and doing something that you know is within your comfort zone. 

PCR personalised brevet card
The Pan Celtic Race (PCR) is just shy of 1,500 miles around Scotland, Ireland and Wales and was indeed totally outside of my comfort zone. However it wasn't so much the distance that made it so (although such figures can always be overwhelming when you are battling headwinds on Day 1 and struggling to even ride 1 mile!). In hindsight and after much refection, thought and soul searching it was the unsupported element of this ride that sets it totally apart from other long distance rides that I have successfully completed on my ElliptiGO. Audax rides like Mille Cymru 1000K in 2014, Paris Brest Paris 1200K in 2015 and Wild Atlantic Way 2100K in 2017. They were supported rides with managed controls at the end of each long day. With volunteers to welcome you into a warm village hall or similar, where you could sit and relax, eat, drink tea, chat and reconnect with other human beings, recover and get your head down for a few hours before setting off again and feeling energised for the next stage ahead. The Pan Celtic Race is a very different type of ride (race) and this was made very clear in the promotional blurb on the website. I knew what I was signing up to when I registered for this race and I was relishing a different type of challenge. It was the 'getting out in the wilds' and raw nature of the terrain we would be traversing that was it's core appeal. Okay so I didn't give it a whole lot of thought before I registered but that's just me. I don't dwell on decisions for very long. I go with my gut and prepare as best I can for what is to come.

PCR route

The amount of effort and organisation that went into getting the PCR together by Race Director Matt Ryan, his wife Rebecca, Pete and Toby was on another level! No one reading this should think for a second that 'unsupported' means that they didn't have to do much. That couldn't be further from the truth. This race wasn't the same as an Audax x-rated event where you are just given a GPS route and off you go collecting receipts along the way. Because the PCR was an official race the team led by Matt had to do a huge amount of work to make it happen. One example of this was the need to do a physical risk assessment of EVERY road junction on the route! Just imagine that.... 1,500 miles of roads and junctions and they had to look at and assess every junction. 100s of hours just to complete this one task to satisfy the police and local authorities. That's the level of commitment that they have shown and it's been 18 months in the making. What they have created here is something very special and it's been pretty hard for me to come to terms with my underpar performance on this ride.

So I knew I was signing up to an unsupported ride / race with just 2 controls on the whole 1,500 mile route (one in Scotland at 210 miles and one in Ireland at 900 miles). I loved the idea of being out of the open road. This appealed to me. Me and my ElliptiGO traversing across the best that Scotland, Ireland and Wales has to offer. We were promised breathtaking views, as well as breathtaking ascents (quite literally!). Scotland is somewhere I've really wanted to ride for ages now and this provided just that opportunity.

At the start in Inverness

James on his Brompton and Amy on Bike Friday!! 

But how I imagined that freedom of the open road to feel and the harsh reality were quite different. And this ride exposed a part of me and my complex emotional makeup that I probably didn't fully recognise until now, or more likely something that I just dealt with very badly. Even writing these words now as I sit on a busy commuter train heading to London is stirring up the same emotions I felt on the ride. I'm an emotional guy. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I long for human support and affirmatiion from others and that shared experience. The unsupported nature of this ride put me so far outside my comfort zone that I struggled to manage my emotions and even the basics of what I had to achieve each day. My emotions clouded everything and what I set out to achieve and affected my judgement and  enjoyment from Day 1 onwards. 

And that brings me back to the scripture at the start of my blog. The lies of loneliness is that you are never alone, but on this ride despite my strong Christian faith and my family and friends dot watching my every move online, I still felt totally alone and exposed. I thought I was a person that was perfectly at ease in my own company and I still think I am in most situations, but on this ride the combination of being alone, the enormity of the challenge and the sheer difficulty of the actual terrain and distances to cover from Day 1 onwards caught me out and asked questions of me that I couldn't find an answer for.

Let's go back and show you my prep for this event. Below are photos of what I packed and my final set-up on the ElliptiGO. It looks like a lot of stuff I know but this was me travelling light and I was very pleased with how I was able to pack it all onto the ElliptiGO using a smaller front stem bag than I was originally going to use.

Below is my schedule for the whole ride. To break down the enormity of the challenge I tried to treat it like another Audax ride so I produced my own plan with specific places to stop identified all along the route from start to finish with specific timings for each section based on my predicted average speed and stopping time for eating and sleeping. My schedule was extremely detailed as you can see! It was suppose to instill confidence in me that it was eminently feasible to complete the full distance within my self-imposed time limit of 8.5 days of riding. 

In hindsight the above plan was far too detailed but at the time I felt it necessary to take this approach as the logistics of the ride are quite complex with two ferry crossings between Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Ireland to Wales. I made a fair few mistakes on this ride when it came to decision making but the biggest mistake was the 8.5 day target. It was unrealistic but I only know that now in hindsight based on my experience and knowing how long it took other riders on ordinary cycles to complete. The last finisher to cross the finish line on his Brompton (no ordinary cycle!) was James Houston in 13.5 days. I had the genuine pleasure to ride with James for some short sections as our paths inevitably crossed from day to day in the first week. They were in fact my highlights of the whole trip with that human connection and shared experience on the road. I have nothing but admiration for James and how he tackled this ride. He showed exactly how it can be done right if you approach such a ride in the right spirit with an attitude that what will be will be, and that there are plenty of uncontrollables out there that you just have to let happen as they happen and deal with each one at a time.

I don't know it's worth me going through every day as I experienced it as there will be far more interesting race reports written on PCR that I'm sure are on the net that describe every beautiful road, every valley, every loch, every peak and every descent. The route was incredible and it should be experienced on a bike to fully take in its splendor. It seems totally illogical that in the same moments throughout my time on the road I could both enjoy it and want it all to end at the same time. But that is how I felt. Every day was a struggle. Every mile in fact. As a result I was so pleased and grateful to be able to get through each day and complete just a century ride. 100 miles might sound a long way but to keep to my schedule it required me to ride over 150 miles per day. I was averaging 10 mph in the 6 days that I rode so including stopping time during the day the century was taking around 12 hours to complete. Those extra 50 miles I needed each day required me to ride for an extra 5 hours per day. But as day turned to dusk I had no appetite to ride on through the night. 

There were two very practical reasons for this which was a complete lack of food and drink. There was nothing. Nothing open. No where to buy food. No petrol stations, or late night shops. Nothing. On Day 1 I stopped for a very nice lunch in a road side shop (toasted cheese sandwich and coffee!). That was the only stop the whole day. By 10pm when I rolled into Durness I was done. I could have quit the whole ride right there and then. But of course I was in the middle of nowhere so that's never a feasible option (thankfully!). Of course it was just my energy starved brain and body saying enough already. The second practical reason for stopping early was my outside set-up (one summer bivvy bag). It just wasn't sufficient to sleep outside in Scotland. I didn't adequately prepare or consider what I required to comfortably sleep outside. And I didn't test it. And because I didn't feel it offered adequate protection from the elements I didn't have the courage to try it. Instead it seemed sensible to seek shelter inside each night. I don't think I really had another choice if I was to try and enjoy myself.

When I arrived in Durness at 10pm on the North coast of Scotland it didn't look at all hopeful that I would find anything open. Having started in Inverness some 13 hours earlier and battling a head wind all day I needed food and some restbite badly. I followed sign to a pub that served food. It was closed. Then I went up a road with a B+B sign. I stopped outside the house and there was an elderly couple sitting watching TV in the glass sided sun room at the front. I stopped and stood and looked somewhat awkwardly at them because of the late hour. I hadn't noticed the other bike propped up outside. The gentlemen came to the door and I explained my situation and asked if they had a room free for the night. This was my only option otherwise it was to ride through the night which I had zero desire to do. They did!! It was the happiest I'd felt all day. That feeling of total relief, security and back to civilisation.

They were so good to me. The gentleman's wife made me a supper of eggs, beans and mushroom on toast plus coffee! I felt human again. She was so nice and really wanted to help us both in any way that she could. I say 'both' because Heneric from Spain had turned up 1/2 hour before me and was also on PCR (the owner of that other bike). We had supper together and he was in a similar state to me, both surprised by just how tough Day 1 was and ready to sleep. I was somewhat comforted that it wasn't only me that struggled and covered just 120 miles on Day 1.

I showered and had a bed for the night. I was so tired I fell asleep before setting my alarm which I intended to set for 5am. Heneric had intended to set his alarm for 4am but either made the same mistake or just slept through his alarm. I felt so bad for our host as he told her he would be getting up at 4am so she was up at that time too preparing breakfast for him. I didn't rise until 6am and there was no sign of Heneric. I apologised on his behalf but I think he was oblivious that she had been up since 4. I left at 7am, and the cost? Just £25! I gave her £30 and would have paid more. Such lovely hosts who I'm hugely indebted to for their hospitality.

The reason for going into the above detail is that I think the decision to finish at the time I did (short of the miles in my plan) and seek refuge in the B+B hugely influenced the rest of my ride. It took me the whole of Day 2 to get to the control stop at 210 miles; a hostel in Ullapool. Matt and the team I found out had left just 10 minutes before I arrived. By comparison the first cyclist arrived at the control at midnight on Day 1! 

Arriving at 7pm on Day 2, I had a decision to make. To continue knowing there was nothing beyond Ullapool that would be open for either food, or accomodation for the whole night. Or to stop here take some rest and get up early and continue. It was an easy decision. I got the last available bed in the hostel. This made me happy.

Rain was forecast the next day all day and that's exactly what I got. Almost punishment for stopping I suppose. The climbs were relentless from the start. I left the hostel at 4am and didn't find the first open food establishment (a garden centre) until 10am after 6 hours. There is nothing eventful that happened on Day 2 and beyond that would entertain in this report so below is a short summary of the distances I covered, where I stopped for the night.

Day 1 - 128 miles. Inverness to Durness

Day 2 - 93 miles. Durness to Ullapool

Day 3 - 119 miles. Ullapool to Applecross

Day 4 - 104 miles. Applecross to Fort William

Day 5 - 103 miles. Fort William to Arrochar

Day 6 - 38 miles. Arrochar to Glasgow

Fast forwarding to the end of my Scotland adventure and Day 6 in Glasgow it was very evident that the daily distance I was covering would not get me to end of the PCR within the time I had available. I had a max 10 day window in which to complete this ride (then it was back to work). So it became clear quite early on in my ride that I could not finish as I was not covering 150 miles per day. It was a very logical and practical decision to finish in Glasgow where I rented a hire car to drive to the finish in Llundudo to collect my belongings. It wasn't made with any emotional turmoil or anguish. I'd conceded quite early in the trip that this was the most likely outcome. To ride on beyond Glasgow and cross with the ferry into Northern Ireland would have committed me to riding a further 450 miles finishing in South Wales, out of time, out of money (flat broke and in debt in fact), and no way of getting back from Fishguards to Llundudo. I didn't even think about changing either of my ferry bookings online which was a rider responsibility. In my brain fog and with my focus just on riding each day and finding suitable places to stay I'd completely forgot about the ferry. If I went to Northern Ireland I would have had to have bought a brand new ticket for the crossing adding yet more expense. I just hadn't budgeted for that.

And the was a silver lining to the cloud. I was able to rescue fellow PCR rider Ben from Norway whose ride also finished early due to a knee injury. Ben was stuck in Glasgow with no easy or cheap way to get to Llandudno. So I also had company for the drive south which was very nice. We chatted about the race and what might have been. Upon making it to Llundudo we were welcomed by Rebecca who invited us into race finish HQ. We went out for dinner with a few other riders who had finished the shorter route. Chatted some more and then I headed home south arriving back at 2am. A long long day!


Final ride stats (ignore stopping time which is not accurate as I switched off Garmin at night)

So that's it. That was my PCR. Not what I hoped for but they were all my decisions and I was fully in control. I hope this report goes someway to explaining my mindset and what happened even if it doesn't contain all the answers. I'm quite content with things now. I hope too that friends can appreciate where I was and why it panned out this way. Just sorry I couldn't deliver the first stand up bike across the finish line of the inaugural Pan Celtic Race.

Will I be back for a second attempt? We know for sure that this race is happening again. Matt has already confirmed that. I've no idea yet though and lots of time to consider things. IF I do decide to GO again though I will be taking all that I have learned this first time around which can only improve my chances!