The men who stood beside me in the war

This song by Scottish musician Michael Cassidy has seeped into my head over the last couple of months and seems destined to be the one which is to lead on our sponsorship soundtrack.

In researching the project we read about this particular song and indeed songwriter on the MBT website. I can barely imagine the level of emotion that would have been accompanied the rendition in Contalmaison.

Craig Herbertson singing Hearts of Glory

 

 

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Keilder Cross Cycle Challenge

First chance to put some of the proposed logistics into action with a weekend riding cyclocross in the Keilder water and forest park, Northumberland.

The Kielder Cross is an off road cycling challenge based in the remote expanse of Kielder Forest Park. Held over two days, this sportive style event consists of a 40km night ride around the full circuit of the Lakeside Way on the Saturday evening. This is then followed by a more challenging 60km circuit on the Sunday incorporating a wider variety of terrain.

Keilder Cycle Challenge

Like the sponsored ride in June/July we will travel in a hired Mazda Bongo.

Adventure Campers-Dairsie Autopoint

What if the event, well….it was hard, very hard. Such a relatively small distance was complicated by the harsh winds which came into play midway through the ride. It’s not often that I really give in to fear on a bike but the section of travel across the dam at Keilder was awful.

A first night time event for me and this is something I have no desire to repeat. I made use of a 2 torch approach with a Leyzene macro drive due on a helmet mount and an Exposure Diablo on the bars. I let myself down by depending on a run time for the front light which wasn’t realistic and as such the last 15 KM was done relying solely on the helmet torch and my reserve Exposure flash which I had as a spare.

Factor in some schoolboy clothing choices which saw me complete the whole ride with a Gabba gilet, buff, waterproof cap, lobsters shell gloves and a race cape tucked down the front and back of my bibs while I sweated it out in an Aplpha jacket and on unfamiliar territory the time was respectable:

41       David Hancock     VT 40       Coaltown of Balgonie      02:35:38

A finish in the middle of the start list from the 90 riders who took to the forest on the night. The post ride facilities were excellent with hot and cold drinks and food well received.

I was shocked by the damage the short ride had inflicted on my cohort of finishers as time was taken to replenish energy levels.

I had a short ride back to base and a night in the camper to negotiate and as the rain fell and wind blew what I really didn’t need was a snapped rear mech hangar. What that did was take me out of the Sunday ride which was something I could cope with.

The main reason for the trip was to test the logistics for the Contalmaison ride and we learned a lot. Mainly the Bingo is too small and a far slicker operation needs to kick in with regards: what kit is taken, how the support vehicle is packed and despite being a fun ride we require a vehicle with a more modern engine capacity.

Raith TV

rtvI have been very lucky to volunteer with a collection of lads who have developed a service which Raith Rovers are rightly very proud of.

I joined the interview pool at a time when paper and pen were the most used formats, this evolved to audio recorders, mini discs, phones and now into the world where volunteers can capture great quality video and audio.

Interview duties were inherited from Tom Phillips who had set in motion a relationship with Adam Smith College which saw students film for the website.

As the students progressed towards employment the new blood wained and it was Lylle Kilbane and Steven Ward who emerged as the guys who had the most stick ability. Steven has subsequently taken Raith TV to a new level. Between us we have interviewed a fair few people, here is a list of some;

 

John McGlyn, Grant Murray, Ray Mckinnon, Frank Connor, Jimmy Nichol, Turnbull Hutton, Allan Young, Eric Drysedale, Laurie Ellis, Marvin Andrews, Gregory Tade, Ian Davidson, Kyle Bennidictus, Lewis Vaughan, Lewis Toshney, James Craigan, Craig Barr, Rory McKeown, David McGurn, David Bates, Ross Callachan, Ross Mathews, Grant Anderson, John Daley, Ryan McCord, Jason Thomson, Paul Watson, Dougie Hill, Liam Fox, Kevin moon, Mark Stewart, John Baird, Callum Elliot, Ross Laidlaw, Christian Nade, Scott Law, Jamie Mackie, Joe Cardle, Greg Spence, Reece Donaldson, Lee Robinson, Joe Hammil, Simon Mensing, Allan Walker, Pat Clark, Brian Graham, David Smith, Greig Spence, Willie Dyer, Colin Wilson, Scott McBride, Danny Thompson, Jamie Walker, Iain Williamson, Damian Caselenovou, Chris Fahey, Andy McNeil, Steve Simmons, Mark Campbell, Mark Ferry, Robert Sloan, Kevin Smith, Gary Wales, Johnny Russell, David Goodwillie, Gareth Wardlaw, Graham Weir, Andy Cook,  Robert Sloan, Scott Mcbride, Stevie Hislop, David Sinclair, Colin Cameron, Gordon Dalziel, Craig Brewster, Ronnie Coyle, Ernie Till, Gordon Wallace, Gordon Arthur, Julian Broddle, Scott Thompson, Shaun Dennis, Stevie Crawford, Jason Dair, Ally Graham, Bobby Geddes, Peter Heatherston, Claude Anelka, Alex Taylor, Jason Rowbotham, Pat Bonnar, Tommy Coyne, Paul Byrne, Paul McStay, Jackie Macnamara, Dennis Irwin, Gary Palister, Jonathon Johansonn, Mark McNally, Tom Boyd, Allan Moore, Jocky Scott, Staurt McCall, Terry Butcher, Ally Mccoist, Walter Smith, Mark McGee, Jim McIntyre, Gary Bollan, Brian Reid, Derek Adams, John Brown, Gus McPherson, Allan Maitland, Gary Naismith, Kenny Black, Derek Ferguson, David Weir, Jimmy Sandison, David Baikie, John Hughes, Jim Duffy, Neil Cooper, Ian McCall, Gordon Chisolm, Davie Irons, Barry Smith, Steven Presley, Gordon Brown, Paul Heaton, Val Mcdermid, Ian Rankin, Arthur Montford, Allan Rough.

Mcglynn RRTVgrant micray

Interviews tend to be of the moment so don’t translate well to a blog some years later. However i have inserted Rory McKeown from a recent match as it shows how we try to work with the players and staff to give fans a bit extra after the match.

If anyone has a burning desire to access something particular we are happy to have a look. meantime I will do some homework to see if we can get some of the end of season reviews and mini docs uploaded.

My upmost gratitude to 99.9% of the interviewees who have been great with us and a particular mark of respect to John McGlynn, Grant Murray and now Ray McKinnon who meet with us so regularly. As the longest serving manager in our time it would be no exaggeration to suggest that over his time at the club John must have met with us in excess of 250 times. Let’s hope Ray can beat that total.

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Training November/December

So November was the first month of putting some real structure in place, the reality quickly dawned on me that I talk a lot about exercising and riding yet I procrastinate to an unhealthy level.  I know starting at a given time will mean I have a host of free time to wind down or commit to other things but I am a last minute last call kind of person.  This is where trainerroad has started to become my master and my nemesis.  I hate feeling guilty when I know I have missed a session, I can’t write it off and as a result I have put more time in that I would have done otherwise.

The inserted pic shows that I completed the following sessions;

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TraineRroad-5 sessions

Jefit-4 sessions

Cyclocross-6 rides

Road-1 ride

December was a month where my focus was on building the sense of routine.  It was a month where I decided that diet was being sacrificed and as such Christmas bingeing was on the agenda though commitment to exercise remained a counter balance.

The inserted pic shows that I completed the following sessions:

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TraineRroad-10 sessions

Jefit-6sessions

Cyclocross-2 rides

Road-1 ride

A solid enough effort with time in my side, early onset of darkness and weekend commitments to work and football have made my road bikes strangers. Throw in some horrific weather  and only a Netflix subscription has kept my sanity in place as the turbo has been the only way to confidently ride a bike.

The Treatment Table and Burntisland Discs

“Never mind Desert Island Discs what about Burntisland Discs” it was on the basis of that one comment that I got involved in one of my favourite off shoot projects from my time volunteering with Raith Rovers.

The comment came on the back of a discussion with VRN volunteer John Murray as he told me of a feature he ran some years earlier. A blether between the 5 main participants on a Raith Rovers radio show we had run for a couple of years through Victoria Radio Network and we had a commitment o take the idea on again.

That show “The treatment table” took a mix of Rovers audio interviews and magazine style pieces mixed with our collective take on what was happening at Raith Rovers and at times the wider footballing landscape.

I have attached a couple of shows at the bottom of the page to give a sense of how; myself, Tom, Phil, John and Neil pulled together a weekly slot about an hour long.

 

We had prior to the show never been in a radio studio and while it did at times show, we were proud of what we put out.

We even hit the dizzy heights of gaining an award through Creative Fife.image

The offshoot was a take on the notion that the club had a set of volunteers, ex players, managers and employees who had a story to tell. Through the format of taking on board their musical choices we tried to link in their love of the club and where possible capture what the Rovers meant to them.

The guests who kindly took up the invite to meet were;
David Sommerville (Chairman)
John McGlynn (Manager at the time)
Ally Gourley (Former players Chairman)
Alex Condie (Fans board member)
Gregory Tade (Player)

A dig through the hard drive in the loft sourced a few of these, if you take the time to listen I hope you enjoy them.

The Treatment Table

Burntisland Discs

More post-match pondering

As I mention in my programme piece “the happy albatross” the post-match dance of discussion which takes place between manager/player and journalist/volunteer is a thing of skill or at times an exercise in total futility.

I love this cartoon sent to me by my sister as it nails the topic with such cynicism.

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There are a couple of good articles online exploring the topic which are worth a look.

Guardian-post match

Post modernist deconstruction of the post match interview

The interesting feature as a volunteer is that you have a pressure from your peers to approach the task as a fan and as such you will therefore know what to ask to get to the crux of the matter. Your emotional involvement as a fan will unearth the truth and force the interviewee to face up to the reality that; this, that or the other isn’t good enough.

Note: folk only want to hear about what isn’t working. A 4-0 defeat will see the interview ratings soar. A 4-0 victory….Nah not so much.

The reality is that if you watch any post-match interview facilitated by the most respected of journalists they will inevitably ask the same half a dozen questions dressed in a variety of different outfits. The interview is therefore by its very nature always going to flatter to deceive. Consider the standard questions you have heard uttered across every news channel, every local, National and every satellite football broadcast.

In fact the questions themselves are so woven in to our DNA as supporters that “Match of the Day” can even take the stance of cutting out the question all together in their set pieces yet we still know exactly which one of the above list what was asked by the manner and tone of the answer.

So, as the dog whisperer may ponder the only real decision that appears to be left for the interviewer is one of style: “to lead or not to lead”

So, either

A) What are your thoughts?

or

B) You must be hurt by the manner of that crushing sole destroying defeat/delighted with that gargantuan earth shatteringly significant victory?

I was initially surprised by the fact that journalists (in second tier Scottish football) have such a set format to work to and they are not striving to put managers to the sword when they are under pressure. The reason appears to be clear “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” or at least the hand that gives you some copy to enable you to return next week to repeat the same process.

There is something quite endearing about this even though it doesn’t feed any supporters frothing at the mouth for change. What it appears to show is a degree of respect for the vulnerability of managers the challenging task they have. It also reflects the challenging nature of a task itself where (if you interview both managers) someone is going to be gutted/upset/annoyed or irritated by the outcome. It’s a steady hand that holds the mic after a shock cup exit to ask “Where now for your team?”

This is a stark contrast to fans forums where judgement is passed instantly and freely under anonymous user names. The gulf between the type of post-match analysis fans share and the information delivered from traditional broadcasters and club sites is huge. No longer is the after match post mortem restricted to pub debate or the occasional boardroom protest when enough is enough. It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next decade.

Where will it go? maybe a club should experiment by calling a press conference for the Monday after a game when folk with user names culled from obsolete computer games and prog rock bands who never made it big should be made to hold that mic look the manager in the eye and put forward their “expert “points.

If that does ever take place who knows, it might be the salvation of Scottish football as it spirals into a parody of Mad Max with the ensuing armed combat between club staff and their alleged supporters on the Monday replacing Saturdays match as a spectacle. Neil Doncaster and his business team might even be able to secure a TV deal for that sort of action.

To be clear I’m not saying that’s a good thing but who wouldn’t want to be part of a far off future where Raith Rovers need to be managed by a 6 foot 9 ex MMA cage fighter with a robotic torso and telescopic reach?

McCrae’s Battalion (resources)

Primarily taken from the Battalion website please take time to look through this range of resources which demonstrates the wide reaching nature of the Battalion’s legacy.

They called them – Scotland’s ‘Sporting Battalion’ and the first of the so-called ‘Footballers’ battalions. But most folk knew them simply as ‘McCrae’s’.

McCraes Battalion Trust

book

McCrae’s Battalion – Jack Alexander

Raised in Edinburgh shortly after the start of the Great War, it was perhaps the finest unit in Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army – a brotherhood of sportsmen, bound together by their extraordinary colonel and their loyalty to a quaintly named Association Football club, the famous Gorgie ‘Hearts’. McCrae’s were blooded in the Battle of the Somme, losing three-quarters of their strength on the first day alone. The Colonel himself was invalided home. In time the battalion recovered. It came of age at Arras, endured the muddy horror of Passchendaele, and held the line unbroken in the face of furious German attacks on the Lys in 1918. For almost a century their story remained untold. It was all but lost forever. Now, after 12 years of exacting historical detective work, Jack Alexander has reclaimed the 16th Royal Scots for posterity. In this stirring book he draws upon interviews with veterans and a unique archive of letters, diaries and photographs, assembled from the families of more than 1,000 of Sir George McCrae’s men.

Buy the book

Footballers United is a unique interactive online drama – a narrative with an accompanying archive of images, text and video – set in Edinburgh and revolving around two young men and two young women as they cope with their new reality.

Jack and Gib enlist and become part of the McCrae’s – so-called because of its founder, Sir George McCrae, an Aberdonian raised in the slums of Edinburgh, a bootmaker’s message boy who left school at nine but who rose to prominence in later life and became the nation’s most powerful civil servant.

Footballers United

The supreme sacrifice

BBC’s The Supreme Sacrifice: Documentary on how the Hearts team became ‘C’ Company of the 16th Battalion of The Royal Scots in WW I

The training plan

Training

So having spoken with Major Tait and Marshall Bowman in October about the sponsored ride I had to take some preparatory steps to see if I could realistically pull together a training plan that would assist me to be ready.

The backbone to the training plan relies on a few separate sources for structure:  Should you ahev any particular skill or insight into his area please feel free to contact me.

Trainerroad– Power based indoor cycling service. Computer generated software focused on use of indoor turbo trainer and Ant+ computer protocols to target your training across 3 phases: Base, build and speciality.  The first step is an FTP test (functional threshold protocol) with the result dictating the ferocity of the efforts you have to make. A future entry will outline my trainerroad experience fully but suffice to say its working and its focusing my efforts in a way that I would not have done otherwise.

Trainer Road

Jefit– An app which has a data base of workouts and single exercises which I use on non-bike days for a bit of core strengthening and general fitness routines.  Accessible and useful for those wanting to build muscle, focus on tone or build base conditioning for other sports it’s a good “one stop shop” for the stuff I am not readily drawn to.

The app is a bit glitchy and the process of saving your efforts isn’t always smooth.  I have a workaround which involves finishing a routine then when asked “Do you want to save workout?” I answer “No”.  I then highlight the share with community button and save meaning data isn’t lost into the stratosphere.

Jefit workout application

Strava– Love it or loathe it Strava is the king of cycling apps.  It generates activity based maps based on where you have ridden and aver the course of your ride you can compete against yourself or others to chase the top of the leader board (or the top of page 4) on a whole host of user defined segments.  A segment is simply a start and end point of any distance on any given road.

My relationship with Strava is a bit different to the traditional “segment chasing” as I am not fast and not motivated by competition with folk I don’t know and I don’t really care about how they might view my times between 2 arbitrary points.  If you want to race, get a license, for me Strava allows me to track my totals, and review routes both local, national and international.

Having stepped up to a Garmin 520 it may be that the segments live feature might grab my attention in which case I will come back and edit this post to avoid being correctly labelled as a two faced liar.

My Strava profile

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Netflix-Seriously, I’m preparing for a ride of over 1000 Km by watching telly.  It does come at a price, my bike seat is nowhere near as comfy as the living room lazy boy and I am pedalling away to the trainerroad tune while the show plot moves on.  I’ve taken to listing what’s been watched on my Strava feed.

Netflix UK site

Spotify-Online music library streamed to your device for a few quid a month.  I needed to accept that my musical knowledge of what’s out there hasn’t evolved for too long and as a result I was so bored with my MP3 library that I was listening to nothing.  The benefit to Spotify is I taste a few tracks and pass judgement on the whole career of an artists as to whether I will save them or a playlist to my favourites.  Kind of like a lycra clad Simon Cowell (try and get that image out of your head)

Spotify Uk

Just riding my bike– For the first few months I am guided by my pals advice that any bike ride outside is simply a bonus.  As a result the cyclocross bike has seen most of the action and it is the finest way to spend time on 2 wheels.   I’m not chasing Strava segments so what actually occurs is that I end up being a grown version of the 10 year old me simply going out to play on  my bike.

This will change as the daylight enters our world again and torrential rain gives way to more seasonal challenges but that’s in the future.  I know road miles will define how successful the ride is but for now I don’t have a canoe so its cyclocross and indoor training.

 

Perspective courtesy of Strava (2015 in numbers)

Strava is either the bee’s Knees or total garbage depending on which cyclist you ask.  The website/App has a number of functions aimed at helping cyclists keep track of their riding.

There are a number of features available which include the ability to search the database for routes and athletes.

The site has aspects similar to other sites like MapMyRide or Ride With GPS. The basic service is free but an optional pay component allows access to additional statistical detail. Members include both amateur and professional athletes.

The site software provides a ranking of times on route segments, including top male and female performance. The current top male and female athletes for each section are awarded King of the Mountain (KOM) or Queen of the Mountain (QOM) respectively. There is ability to comment on, and give accolades on, performances. However, activities can be kept private and therefore kept unseen by other members.

There are additional features including periodic challenges which usually challenge a member to run or ride a certain distance in a certain number of days. If the challenge is successfully completed, the member will receive a badge that can be displayed on their profile page. 

Premium features 

Strava Premium features include “suffer scores”, powermeter data, filtered leaderboards, the ability to set goals, and see live where the athlete stands in relation to the King or Queen of the Mountain on a specific segment.

Various aspects of logged activity include:

route (plan view)
elevation (net and unidirectional)
speed (average, min/max)
timing (total and moving time)
power/energy 

The key aspect of Strava which gathers love or loathe is its core feature which allows riders to plot the distance between any 2 points (a segment) which becomes open to other riders to compete for the fastest time between the 2 points. The fastest gets awarded the “King of the Mountain (KOM)”

KOM’s are not within my reach though locally I do hold a couple which to be honest I created in the field at the back of my house.  Anyone is free to try and take them but access to the starting point in my garden is strictly limited and guarded by some quite ferocious dogs.

imageIf I am to be allowed to be self deprecating in other areas of my cycling profile then I should state I am also the owner of a handful of top places in the Oxford area. These were collected while visiting family though if honesty prevails I should report that I now hold more Queen of the mountains than I do King of the mountains.

I had actually taken my wife’s garmin out with me and subsequently I am quite the lady in the Carterton/Briars Norton area!!

I have recently taken Strava on as the main portal for keeping track of my ride statistics, this decision was made for me by the purchase of a Garmin 520 which is a neat bit of kit aimed at allowing real time feedback on highlighted segments. Not something I have really used yet but cool feature. The main draw was the improved course mapping (from my 500) and Bluetooth uploading which has been faultless so far.

Click on the link below to see a nice wee video of my on road stats from 2015, a year when too many other demands got int he way of just riding my bike. A trawl through Garmin connect showed another 520 miles accumulated on rides indoors on either Tacx Antares rollers or an elite hydro mag trainer.

My 2015 Strava Adventure

 

imageFeel free to follow me and give any feedback which might prove useful, it would be great to have you involved.

either search strava for athlete name (David Hancock)

or use this link

Strava Athlete profile

 

 

 

 

Bodymotiv8

 

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I recall a one-time football team mate proclaiming that “I can’t get fit because I keep getting injured and I keep getting injured because I am not fit..”

It’s the motto of my 20’s and into my 30’s and probably the reason I never rose to the top ranks of European football, honest.

Having been on the bike for a year or two some progress was being made but; twinges, niggles, physical glitches and the type of creaking which didn’t sound right saw me slipping back to copious amounts of time sedentary on the couch. Then it happened- a tractor carrying its own weight in freshly picked carrots smacked into me.

The driver had been trying to manoeuvre round me to pass before the oncoming vehicle made overtaking impossible. The execution was at best shoddy and my head, shoulder and pelvis took the brunt. In addition my bike was smashed in half, kit was ruined and more skin was left on a verge outside Falkland than I ever aspire to remember. By fluke the incident was witnessed by a passing Police car so the argument of it being the cyclists fault was quickly extinguished.

Cue lots of claim, counter claim and lawyers taking than I could describe. Quick tip if this happens to you check your home insurance as prior to being a British Cycling member that’s where I secured my help.

I wasn’t in a good way and 6-8 months of rehab had to start. I work in Dundee and wandered into Body Motiv8 purely on the basis that it was opposite my office. A big step when you are faced with the realisation that you are in as poor shape and as heavy as you have ever been. In context I average out as a 70kg bloke who weighed in closer to 85kg.

Lee who owns the service was happy to chat and the key to his successful intervention was twofold. He is a physiotherapist and a fitness trainer, hence sessions took into account the bio mechanical needs of my recovery as well as my indulgence in cake and times where I simply had not done enough exercise to promote change. Let’s say he is honest, harsh when needed and the kind of knowledgeable up front guy that my condition needed.

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Sure, Men’s Health are not chasing me for a cover shoot but with the help of the team at Body Motiv8 I have a core fitness which gives a strong foundation for what I want to do either on the bike or for my general health.

Body Motiv8 Dundee