Just seeking to capture some emotion.

I’m lying on a double bed, with all the pillows gathered from around the room propping me up, tippety tappetying on my Macbook. My snowboard bag is unzipped at the foot of the bed with the essentials for tomorrows exertions laid out in it.

My thermals are arranged ready for a rapid deploy in the morning as I stumble bleary eyed from the shower (I’ve checked how to work it so I’m not late)

My hairdryer and straighteners are lined up on the dresser and I’m using the bible to stop the mac burning my legs.

In the morning at 7am I’ll make the 12.7 mile dash around the M60 to get to Trafford Park and the Chill Factore 180m indoor snow dome where I’m entered into the British Champs Boarder Cross competition.

I’m not a competitive rider, in fact I’ve only been down a BX course 4 times in my life. Once in a resort and three times at Hemel; so it’s all going to be new.

I’m pretty excited about finding out how the racing scene looks, how it’s run and whether I can get down a comp course without falling over though.

By some degree of magic, apparently live scoring happens here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ziekfhikyml2dmd/JudgesTemplateLiveScores.xlsx

…but I don’t really see how that’s going to do any live updating.

Just barely in time…

I’ve got 35 hours signed off on my BASI level one shadowing sheet.
That means I’ve got all the documentation in hand to send to various agencies to get my teaching licence in my hands.

It’s good news because I’m doing my first aid course tomorrow and Sunday and then I’m excited to say that I’m starting my new job. I’m going to be pouring my energies into that whilst I settle in, find my feet and make some progress for the team I’m joining.

I’m totally stoked to have got it all done in the time I set aside to do it. I was a bit worried that I’d watched a bit too much Battlestar Galactica (I’m into series 3 :/ ) and not done enough hours, but yeh, 35 hours done and signed off, and just 31 left in the second 35 hour block I need before I start my BASI 2.

Not a very interesting post, I know; but I use this as much as a personal diary as a way to let you guys know what I’m up to.

Charidee

I’m a selfish sod most of the time; I like to do things that make me happy.
I’ve been a slightly sad person at times and life’s a lot nicer when I’m happy so I like to do happy things to be happy.

I’ve also kicked around hospitals a bit, and had a couple of life threatening experiences which utterly sucked. They make you sad. Being sad sucks. Doing things to feel happier are epically good.

So, I snowboard. You may have noticed that. I’m going out to Andorra in January for a ten week blowout session to get my riding somewhere close to BASI L2 standard, ending in an attempt to sit the two week Level 2 assessment to get my mountain qualification.

Having long hair pretty much down to your arse when you’re a 6 footer is fun, I love having long hair. It’s all swooshy and people say things like “gosh, you have long hair”. But, as it goes, my long hair happens to be in a plastic bag on top of one of my hifi speakers since I’ve taken the plunge to become a short hair to make my styling time that much shorter when I’m up a mountain for ages.

My good friend Robin suggested that I get enough hair cut off to donate to wig makers for cancer patients when I asked her what she thought I could get away with when doing short hairstyles, so that’s what’s happening to my ponytail. I’m kind of rocking a long bob thing like I’m a surfer or something and that other bit of me is off in the post to *hopefully* make someone *else’s* life just a little bit less shit than it must be seeming to them.

Should add, this is what went:
Untitled

Rest days…

After gruelling physical and psychologically demanding sessions it’s understood to be wise to take some rest and recuperate.

I expected to spend my Saturday having a reasonable lie in. After all, I’d spent the preceding 5 days training full on from 9:30 in the morning (sometimes earlier for warm-up riding) till 6pm or later (when practising teaching) with just an hour for lunch.

However, I woke this morning at 6 am fairly bright eyed, having slept the stress free sleep of the entirely worn out, yet happily successful winner of the 5 days of testing. I tidied the flat some, and did some laundry, but then felt a little edgy…

I decided that maybe I’d pop up to the snowy hill to put what I’ve learned through its stress free paces, with no-one watching who is actively assessing me. After all, I’d already paid up for a month’s riding so any slope time was just getting more for my money. So up to Hemel I went, figuring a couple of hours would be fun.

I booked in for 4.

On the slope I had brief snippets of conversation with the wonderful staff there who’ve got bored of seeing my face in recent weeks, but they laughed at me for a) even being there and b) whilst doing so suggested that I could do some of my 35 hours of shadowing.

So that’s that, my rest day consisted of being on snow for 7 hours, and taking part in teaching for 4.5 of those.

I think I may be an addict.

Teaching is *awesome* fun.

Adventures in falling over on film

I bought a go-pro hero3 HD black edition, or whatever other combination of additional names should be added to the tiny camera to make it sound more slinky.

It comes with some of the toys like a wireless iPhone app that can preview video from it and change its settings which is a bit easier than pratting about with morse code on the poor thing’s three buttons. It also has a wifi keyfob for starting and stopping filming which I managed to stuff up so it’s not talking anymore. Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. The camera isn’t *trivial* to get going, but it does make nice pictures.

They ship on a little plate guy like this:

gopro

The accuracy nutters amongst my readership will note that that’s a Hero2 but I couldn’t find a decent picture of a 3 so you’ll have to deal. I ruined my base plate before I took a photo of it.

I wanted to play with low and mean shots from my snowboard looking backwards, hoping to catch rooster tails of snow on turns. I’d read that suction mounts are useless on flex boards and that the sticky feet tended to suffer a little in the extreme cold and could pop off, again because of the flex in the boards. The helmet mounts are sold because the lid doesn’t bend all the time.

So, after some thought about options, I remembered that this thing shipped on a nice wide panel… It survived shipping so it can’t have been too flimsy in there. So… 5 mins with the duct tape that all drummers should have within reach at all times and you have this:

Ghetto gopro mount system

I snuck out onto the snow at the dome, a bit nervous that I’d get told off for an experimental mounting system or for running a camera in a private space; bolted up the lift, banged record and went off the top. This is my first run of the evening, so it’s not fast, it’s not wild, it’s not airborn and actually it looks *crap*, but it proves the concept. the board was out in the dome for 20 mins before the camera came off, and it was damned hard work to peel it up. I guess it bonds good!

gopro board mount test from armyofcaitlin on Vimeo.

Hurrah. I think I might trust that on a mountain for a day. I’ll leash the camera to my binding so that if it *does* come unstuck it’ll at least bounce along with me.

bonus rare video of my face sneaking into shot there too.

Sports fitness…

…what the hell is it?

Now, I’m a pretty standard unfit person. I drive a desk 8 hours a day, walk to and from the train when I use it, I run upstairs and stuff but Y’know, I get out of breath doing it.

When I started snowboarding, I was rubbish. I went really slowly and sat down a lot. In fact the first improvement I noticed in my body from snowboarding was that I grew triceps! You do a lot of pushups when you’re learning to snowboard 😛

I kind of have been incredibly fit in the past, I used to do up to 3 paper routes a day, kicking off at the illegally early for an under-16 5am, and covering up to 15 miles of loops around the village I grew up in which spread itself in the area around a dam system. Consequently you had to start at the top of one side of the gully the dam was in and then ride up the other side. If you were lucky you could swoosh down one side and swoosh back up the other, unless you had to deliver to that *FUCKING* house at the bottom of the dip. Anyway, long story short, all that biking meant that I didn’t really notice anything other than the inconvenience of sports, or the time it took to get to a friends house.

Sadly I’d cracked on with anorexia at 12 or so, before I’d even got near a decent biking routine; so I survived it, getting out with aerobic fitness but the absolute minimum muscle to get the job done.

At school I was a signed up nerd, with only my awesome drumming to keep me out of the gutter of the terminally uncool. Consequenty sports passed me by entirely, I never once took part in sports day and believed that physical stuff for fun just wasn’t allowed for me.

Since I left school, I’ve done a bit of skiing, I did trampolining up to an almost competitive level which is how I got my broken spine and I’ve finally got into snowboarding which is the first time I’ve felt like I had a sport I could call *mine*, that I connected with and wanted to do just for me, just for the feeling.

Over the last two years I’ve got fairly decent, in fact I’m just waiting for the next available course to have a go at qualifying at being an instructor. But the *fitness* to really improve entirely eludes me.

As I got better, I found I could wear less and still feel warmer, riding aggressively keeps you toasty, but now I’ve reached the level of freestyle and longer riding hours I’ve hit a wall. And it’s a solid one. I don’t have the first idea how to keep the fitness I need to ride and extend it. If I take a week off riding, it takes three weeks to get back into it and it’s soul crushing.

Balls.

Thing to do whilst waiting for pedals to turn up…

… It’s been months since I’ve snowboarded. Last time I did I got concussion falling off a stupid box and split my helmet. I’ve been a bit skint since and so boarding took a dive.

So, being less skint and looking to the future again I’m working on a plan to pass my snowboarding exams to become a teacher. I’ve booked onto the first little step, which is an assessment of my riding to give me a programme to work on to get my riding to a standard that could be considered for the exam. Woo.

I figured I should find my feet a little before I go do that because no-one wants to look like a stunned duckling if they’re trying to pretend they’re anywhere near a teaching calibre. Anyway, nothing beats slope hours for getting your shit together. Also something about fitness, I’m so so so unfit.

Long story short, I did a backwards day. I rode as little as possible regular and everything I could switch. I went on the fast lift switch which involves catching the Poma from behind your back. I got my speed high enough switch to make my eyes water, and spent a good while screaming “back straight”, “get low”, “flex and extend”, “hands in line”, “look where you’re going, not at your feet”, “blah blah blah” inside my head.

I should get to go on a Snow Holiday soon as well. Which would be nice.

Motocross.

I’ve wanted to ride dirt bikes since I was a sproglette. A couple of my favourite (godawful) films were ones featuring bikes with a front wheel bigger than the back, and great big front mudguards. I nearly scored a broken offroader in my teens which I *still* think I could have got working which my ever-concerned-for-my-safety father made me return before I’d even taken delivery. Anyway, I finally got round to catching up with another one of these things that I wanted to do as a child and now as an adult no-one can stop me from doing.

So what’s been going on?

I recently watched “Supercross” (Imdb 3.2!) which is a stupid “boy meet girl near a motorbike race” film, “Too Muddy, Too Sexually Frustrated” or something. Anyway “vroom”.

A guy on a usenet group I read had posted a couple of times about an offroad place he’s been to a couple of times and clearly enjoyed himself:

Washbrook Farm MX

Up in Cambridgeshire it’s a well appointed farm conveniently next to a Hospital, I forgot to ask how useful that was. It’s a family run enterprise on some of their farmland with a pit area, two and a half tracks and really nice toilets.

I was introduced to the facilities, signed my life away with a disclaimer form, paid and got my silver wristband (signifying that I wasn’t to be trusted) and went to be kitted out with body armour: knee and elbow pads and chest, back and shoulder protectors; MASSIVE BOOTS, gloves, goggles and a comfortable crash hat. Also some charming yellow MX kit of trousers and shirt.

We picked out a small bike which whilst comedic for me to ride got me gently into the process. We went out to the oval that they keep tucked out of the back and did a quick rundown of the controls and safety. Checked I could start and stop competently and then started lapping the oval to get a feel for the gears and traction.
BABY BIKE!

Perhaps 15 minutes later a rain shower came over so we took the opportunity to take a quick breather and switch up to a more appropriate bike.

I always seem to learn on Suzuki stuff.

Exactly like that one, since that’s the one I was riding.
We threw that around the oval some more since the gearing and power band is much more “severe” than the baby bike.

We moved over to the kids track before lunch, it’s got a notice up saying “MAX 85cc” so it felt all the worse being on a 125, surrounded by talented dwarves looking like pros on their kitted out 85cc monsters. I’d had a bit of a problem fully understanding getting braking done before entering the corner, and this track has various radius turns which don’t only go left like the oval did, but was obviously much more engaging. Sadly it rained a little more and the track became slimy. I started to struggle because at low speed you don’t eject mud from the tyre blocks, so you’re trying to corner with mud tyres on mud… fail. We broke for lunch and the weather cleared, the day just got hotter from there.

When I got back out to the track it was much dryer, with just one shaded corner to remind me what “slippy” was like, but my lap times and aggression kept rising.

I got graciously allowed to have a run in the afternoon novice group on the main circuit just before 3pm. My instructor got me at the back of the group and let me out when everyone else was gone and the leaders were only around half way around the track. This shrewdly allowed me about 3/4s of a lap of empty track so I could feel my way around. The main track is significantly different to the kids track in that it’s faster, wider and has WAY more height variation. A spine, a table top, berms and several other high points you can jump off. Although I got lapped into the floor by kids on lower powered bikes, I didn’t do too badly and did get one overtake done! Also, when I came off the track I got some congratulation for getting both wheels off the ground. I thought maybe I did, but with that much suspension travel you could be forgiven for being mistaken.

Completely shattering, I’m still feeling quite stiff and abused 24 hours later but thoroughly worth the expense and energy. A great day out.

Turning Left

Turning Right

Wakeboarding.

Although I did this probably over a year ago, it came up, and so I explained my experience to a few friends.
I’ll leave this here for the luls.

[18:23:06] SO much terror
[18:23:24] they use like a rope tow round a lake… like a ski lift going 50mph in a circle
[18:23:38] they start you off on kneely boards. not standing ones
[18:24:04] so you get launched off the decking at the side of the lake, and instantly for no reason you hit the water at 50mph with your shoulders hurting
[18:24:10] then have to swim back to the shore
[18:24:30] then you have another go and get 13 meters from shore, then inexplicably hit the water really hard, get winded
[18:24:36] and then have to swim all that way back to shore
[18:24:50] then the third time it goes “right” and you swoosh off round the lake
[18:24:56] bouncing up and down on the fucking waves
[18:25:00] crying a little
[18:25:14] then just by the time you’ve almost got the hang of going in a straight line, there’s a fucking corner
[18:25:30] and you’re thinking “god, i’m MILES from the start bit, I can’t fall it’s a LOOOOONG way to swim back”
[18:25:49] so you go round the corner with tears streaming and start to go down the back straight
[18:25:54] that’s fine, right… it’s a straight bit
[18:26:01] but no… this bit isn’t in shelter and it’s windy
[18:26:05] so the waves are BIG
[18:26:11] SLAP SLAP SLAP
[18:26:13] BANG BANG
[18:26:24] the tears aren’t sure if they’re coming out or going in…
[18:26:38] and then when you get to the end of that straight bit… you have to do another CORNER
[18:26:48] that’s probably doable right? you’ve done one corner
[18:26:56] but then you see out of your right eye… fucking SWANS
[18:27:00] there are SWANS
[18:27:07] WHY ARE THERE SWANS ON THIS LAKE?!
[18:27:20] so you figure you’re nearly back at the start… so fuck this… let go of the string
[18:27:34] instantly the front of your board sinks and you go over the front into the water HARD
[18:27:53] come up gasping for air… and hear the screams of the guy behind you who’s about to run you over
[18:28:05] the only way to get out of the way is to swim towards the FUCKING SWANS!
[18:28:27] so eventually you get back to the edge, crawl out… realise you’re fucking bleeding from your foot… then go and get a shower
[18:28:32] “wakeboarding done”

I recon if I stuck at it, it’d be really really fun, but with “not loving water much” I recon it’s a sport I don’t really need. On to the MX.

Maverix Jibber Freestyle Practise Aid.

So, since I got like epically amazing at snowboarding the dome got a bit boring. There’s still loads for me to work on, technique, confidence, speed, switch etc; but without having expert guidance I’m not going to spend too long trying to tweak that stuff on my own. I’ll get to that when I start my BASI training (just waiting for enough pennies to show up to get booked on that).

So, to fill the time and excitement quota I started doing a bit of freestyle. It’s hard to get down to the Thursday sessions too often with the way my work hours stack up, and it’s not common that there are features out on the weekend for me to play with. But there have been the last couple of weekends which has been epic fun! The kicker and boxes are fine, but every time I’ve gone near a rail I’ve fallen over it and looked a bit daft.

So, how does one get better at freestyle without going near snow?

There are a load of core strength and balance type exercises that you can do to prep and get stronger, but they’re not tuning you in perfectly for what actions you need to perform when you’re actually riding. The best thing to do is strap on a board and get to feel what the tricks feel like. How do you do that without countless drop ins and lift passes at the slope 40 miles away?

Enter the Maverix jibber which you can use in your lounge!

Maverix Jibber

It’s the curved plastic guy you can see tucked next to my binding. It’s really robust plastic, and it sits neatly on your carpet with its legs down. By positioning your board next to it in various orientations, you can approximate different approaches to a pipe, pop up and try and hold a shape for just a second or so, then pop back off onto the carpet. It’s the same basic motions as if you were sliding down the length of it and after a few shaky starts (it can quickly let you know if you’re landing wrongly, by popping out from under your board) I’m getting pretty good at landing, balancing and getting back off. I’ll feel a lot more happy about looking at a rail next time I’m at the dome.

I could just use some aircon now, because it’s a bit clammy bouncing around indoors and I’m wearing shorts 😛

Maverix Jibber training aid: about £10 delivered in the UK
Great for getting your board buzz with the telly on without spending a fortune.