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I never really knew either of my grandfathers, as they both died when I was very young. I’ve heard stories of course, but it wasn’t until this week that I realised the scope of some of them!

My maternal grandfather, Les Turner, was an engineer and I knew he was very talented. He built a number of guitars (two of which I own, that was the primary reason I learned to play) but among other things I had heard stories that back in the 1960s he had built and raced a dragster. I always assumed it was just a little hobby, but after speaking with my older sister and doing a little research I discovered that it was more than that – he took his racing very seriously, and was very successful – winning a number of events and setting new records. It seems he was a skilled engineer in his workshop, and a fearless and competitive racer on the track so I guess being an action geek runs in the family!

This is a photograph of him from 1966, next to his 1500cc Ford Slingshot which set the following records at Elvington:

International standing-start records at Elvington in 1967 in Class F:

1/4 mile in 11.06 sec. // 500m in 12.53 sec. // Kilo in 20.2 sec. // Mile in 29.62 sec.

He raced and tweaked it over several years, constantly trying to squeeze every last drop of power from it, and apparently getting a lot of respect from other builders and racers with one report stating it was “one of the best turned out cars of that era with green frame and alloy panels”.

The workmanship and build quality was so good in fact that though the car was broken up in the 1970s, the engine block was reused in another car which raced until the mid 1980s and the chassis was reused and raced well into the 1990s (and apparently is now in a collection in Denmark)

The following is an except I found on a site about classic british drag racing:

Jon Sewell purchased the car in the late 1970’s and was so impressed by Turner’s superb block work with its billet steel crank and rods, flywheel and sintered clutch in a Lotus alloy bellhousing, and an Lotus alloy diff. — that Jon realized this could be a terrific National Hot Rod motor, and it went into his #222 hot rod which he took the the Spedeworth wars racing against the likes of George Polley.

The Turner rail had been one of two dragsters being stored for a friend as a favour in Jon’s “garage”, until 1979 when Jon moved out. At this point his friend took away the blower [above] and cylinder head. The chassis, temporarily stored in Addlestone, Surrey, was bought by some enthusiasts who had a car but no trailer — so they pushed it by hand all five miles Woking

Jon says the dragster “was a work of art, even the bellhousing and diff were polished”. As for the engine, he bored it out to 1600cc and fitted the necessary cross-flow head and flat top pistons. “It was so oversquare it would rev as high as you wanted but had no torque.”

Here’s a shot of it in action:

Finally, here’s a photo of him riding his 750cc Triumph drag bike in 1969:

So nice to know that being an action geek is in my blood ;)

 

24

Sep

2010

Big Ride, Old Men

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

If you’re a regular reader you may know from an earlier post that my father in law has been riding from John O’Groats to Land’s End for charity.  Since he is blind, he’s riding a tandem with his brother in law riding up front.  Well, after 11 days of rather bad British weather they finally completed the 930 mile trip and crossed the finish line at Land’s End.

For those readers not in the UK, John O’Groats is the very North-East tip of Britain, right up past the Scottish Highlands, while Land’s End is the very South-West tip down here in Cornwall, making it the longest route you can take across the country.  I did the trip solo myself back in 2003, and Steve and Pete took a fairly similar route to me and did it in just about the same time (11 days) despite having 2 “engines” on their tandem – but hey, they are a little older than me ;)

Pete’s son, Paul, joined them in Exeter for the last couple of days, and I joined them yesterday as they passed, to cycle the last 36 miles with them to Land’s End.  All my training recently has been running, swimming, weights and yoga and so I’m definitely not bike-fit at the moment.  Add to that the fact that I was on a mountain bike, trying to keep up with a tandem and Paul on his racer, and it turned out to be quite a challenge to try and keep up!

Luckily for me the route is pretty hilly, and while I couldn’t keep up on the flats or downhills, I was able to make up time and pass the tandem on the climbs!  The weather stayed bright, if rather windy, which made for a very pleasant ride (and made up for quite a bit of rain they had earlier on the trip!)

They have raised around £2000 so far for ABLe and Bowel Cancer UK, and that number should increase a fair bit over the next week or two as the final donations come in.  If you want to read up more about the trip, the charities, or to make a small donation head over to Big Ride Old Men.

The old men at the finish line in Land's End, with Pete's son Paul (left) and myself (right)

 

19

Sep

2010

Yoga Confusion – Cobra vs Upward Facing Dog

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 3 Comments »

I’ve been doing more and more yoga recently and really noticing some real improvements. My balance in both handstand and forearm stand/scorpion is really getting better, my standing postures and forward bends are getting much deeper, and overall my confidence and knowledge are growing all the time. Having said that, there are still lots of things which I’m unsure of and one of those has been the difference between cobra and upward facing dog.

Superficially both asanas appear to be very similar, and I’ve spoken to a number of people who actually think they are the same thing, with the only difference being whether the thighs/knees are lifted off the floor.

Iyengar’s book Light On Yoga shows the difference quite clearly and I understood that the position of the hands was important, but it was while watching a video on YouTube this morning that I finally had a “eureaka moment” and finally understood the difference. If you practice yoga and are uncertain about the difference between up-dog and cobra, take a look at this…

 

17

Sep

2010

The World’s Most Dangerous Sports

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

A headline like “The Most Dangerous Sports In The World” always catches my attention, so when I saw that in my RSS reader yesterday I clicked though to find yet another generic list of a dozen or so “extreme sports” with little or no real information about them.

Base jumping – check!

Cave diving – check!

Heli-Skiing – check!

Cheerleeding… wait, WTF?

Yes, according to ithing.com, cheerleading should be in anyone’s top ten list of danger sports, since “there are over 20,000 reported cheerleading injuries a year”.

Can you really compare a twisted ankle, or a broken wrist from cheerleading with a BASE accident?  I think not.

Anyway, a little later in the day and I see virtually the same headline over at totalsportspro.com and decided to check it out as a comparison.  This time the focus was very much on danger, as in liklihood of death or very serious injury, and needless to say that cheerleading didn’t make the list!

Anyway, for anyone interested there’s an infographic from the site below. Interesting to note that it’s obviously an American site, since the map of “Dangerous sports all over the place” shows only North America, even though the headline is “The World’s Most Dangerous Sports” but hey, they also have the World Series of Baseball and AFAIK only USA and Canada compete in that ;)

Most Dangerous Sports
Via: Term Life Insurance

 

What do you get if you mix an extreme 50km foot race and the biggest annual experiment in community, self expression and self reliance?  The new Burning Man Ultramarathon of course!

Going to Burning Man has been on my list for many years now, and I’ve always wanted to run an ultramarathon too so could this be a match made in heaven?  Well you decide – it’s a 50km race which looks set to be one of the toughest and most unique ultramarathons (comparable to the Badwater).  It’s probably the only ultramarathon in the world where there’s a high liklihood of several runners attempting the event naked – though I think some parts are likely to chaff over such a distance!!!

The official FAQ states that each competitor must bring at least 1 gallon of water, sunglasses, a dust mask, goggles and a headlamp!

Their suggestions is to “run slow, eat potato chips, and have  blast!”

It looks like 12 people have signed up to the event so far.  Unfortunately there’s no way I can get to Nevada this yea, but if this becomes a regular event I think I’ll have to add it to my must do list!

Here’s a link to the official Burning Man Ultramarathon web site.

Image courtesy of Aleksander Soender

 

2

Aug

2010

Swimming is improving…

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

Half way though my swimming coaching and I’m seeing big improvements already. While I’ve still got a LONG way to go I already feel much more comfortable in the water. We’ve worked on a number of drills to help improve my head position, timing of my breathing, and syncing my arm and leg movements better.

My breathing was definitely my biggest problem with my crawl. It turns out that my head position was slightly wrong, I wasn’t rolling enough, and I was trying to breath slightly too late in the stroke. By starting to turn my head slightly earlier, and rolling more, I’m finding the breathing much easier which makes me more relaxed and less much more confident.

I have another lesson this evening, and then I’ll try and get to the pool two or three times during the week before my final lesson on Saturday. Hopefully after that I’ll have been given enough pointers to really get stuck into my training myself and progress over the next few months to a level where I can start my Ironman training in January confident that I’ll be capable of doing the swim!

 

26

Jul

2010

Swim coaching begins

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 1 Comment »

It seems like an age ago that I booked my swim coaching, but the wait was finally over today when I had my first session.  I was only 30 minutes but even in that short time I have made real progress, and it’s given me a real confidence boost…

I have 3 more sessions booked over the next couple of weeks, and I’m pretty sure that if I can get in several practice sessions in between, then in a couple of weeks time I’ll have my basic front crawl stroke nailed, and be well on the way to developing my swimming to a level where I can train for the Ironman with confidence!

We started off briefly discussing my goals, and then my coach Jan, an ex competitive swimmer who trialed for the 1988 Olympics, and a triathlete herself, watched a few lengths of my normal stroke to see where I was starting from.  I was quite surprised when she said that my stroke wasn’t too bad, and that with a few small changes I could make big improvements.

The rest of the session was spent doing some basic drills, getting my breathing timing correct, and working on both my kick and arm stroke, and body/head position.  I was really impressed with how fast I seemed to progress – it makes SUCH a difference having an expert tell you exactly where to position your head, body and limbs and how to co-ordinate the stroke.

The biggest changes seemed to be my head position, the amount of roll on each stroke, and the timing of my breathing.  Just small changes to each of these has already made a big difference to my comfort, speed and confidence in the water, and I can’t wait to get to the pool in the morning and put what I’ve learned into practice!

 

19

Jul

2010

Amazing Places To Swim

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 2 Comments »

With my swim coaching booked to start next week, I’ve been thinking about different places where it would be amazing to swim. I’ve been lucky enough to swim in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans already, the Mediterranean, Aegean and Carribean seas, but what about more obscure or adventerous swimming destinations?

A few years ago I cycled along the length of Loch Ness, and aside from the cold that would definitely be a cool plce to swim, but I think you have to look further afield to get really interesting swimming spot…

Bioluminescent Bay is a bay in Puerto Rico which contains massive numbers of bioluminescent micro-organisms which glow when the water is disturbed. Swimming at night creates a blue glowing “halo” effect around the swimmer’s body, so that sounds like an awesome place that should be added to my “places to see” list!

Jellyfish Lake” also ticks all the boxes for being interesting and adventurous. The late is on one of the limestone islands of Palau, and since the lake is sealed off from the ocean with virtually no predators, the jellies there have evolved to be stingless.

The third amazing spot is known as “Devil’s Swimming Pool“, or “Devil’s Armchair” at the top of Victoria falls in Zambia – 420 feet above the river below! You can relax in the water right up to the edge (in the dry season) and look over the sheer drop – now THAT looks like an amazing place to swim!

Got any other ideas for AMAZING places to swim?  Leave a comment below…

 

12

Jul

2010

Training Schedule For Half Marathon

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

Well, after being told by my doctor to rest for several weeks I’m now feeling very gittery and itching to get back to training.  Due to being laid up for so long I’ve missed my chance at entering the Perranporth Triathlon, so my training will now me base building towards starting Ironman training in January, and aiming for a reasonable time in the Eden Project Half marathon in 13 weeks time.

The schedule below is based on the Sub 1:50 training schedule on the Runner’s World website.  I’m easing into the running gradually over the next few weeks, and will need to listen to my body and adjust accordingly.  I’ll most likely cycle on most of my rest days, and will probably switch the Thursday runs (or at least some of them) to cycling too.

My goal is 1:45 which I’d be very happy with considering that Eden is quite a tough hilly course.  If I can achieve that, or at least get very close to it, I’ll feel confident going into my Ironman training shortly afterwards.

We have a few commitments over the summer, including 2 weddings to attend, and a multi-day stag do which I’ll have ti work around as best I can…

Week Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
1 3M Easy Rest 2M Easy Rest 3M Easy Rest 4M Easy
2 3M Rest Rest 4M Easy REST Warm up, 2M fast, warm down 5M Easy
3 4M Easy 3M Faster than Mon Rest 4M Easy REST Warm up, 4 x 400m, 3 min jog recoveries 6M Easy
4 4M Easy 4M Faster than Mon 5M with 15 mins of 30 sec fast, 60 sec jog 4M Easy , off road REST 1M jog, 5M fairly fast, 1M jog 7M Slow
5 4M Easy 6M Hilly 5M inc 16 mins of 1 min fast, 1 min jog 5M Easy REST Wedding Wedding (5M Slow)
6 4M Easy 6M Start slow, finishing faster 4M Easy Warm up, 8 x 90 secs fast, 90 secs slow Stag Do Stag Do 8M Slow
7 4M Easy 6M Fairly fast 4 x 3min fast, 2 min recoveries 5M Easy REST 2M Slow, 1M fast, 2M slow 10M Slow
8 5M Easy , off road 6M Start slow, finishing faster 3 x 5 min with 5 min recoveries 5M Easy (6 x 150m fast strides) REST Wedding Wedding (5M Slow)
9 5M Easy 5M (16 X 1 min fast, 1 min slow) Warm up, 2 x 2M timed at threshold pace 5M Easy REST 1M Easy, 4M Fairly fast, 1M Slow 10M Steady
10 5M Easy , off road Rest 8M Fairly fast 4M Easy REST 4M on grass (6 x 200m strides) 10K Race (plus warm up/down)
11 5M Easy , off road 6M Steady inc up hill bursts 3 x 5 min with 5 min recoveries 5M REST 6M (10 x 30 sec fast, 30 sec slow) 12M Steady
12 5M Easy 5M (16 X 1 min fast, 1 min slow) Warm up, 2 x 2M timed at threshold pace 6M Easy REST 1M Easy, 4M Fast, 1M Easy 10M Steady
13 5M Easy 7M Comfortable pace Warm up, 2M race pace, 2M jog 5M Easy (6 x 30 sec fast) REST 3M Eden Project Half Marathon
 

12

Jul

2010

Race For Life Truro 2010

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | No Comments »

While I’ve been resting on doctor’s orders for the past couple of weeks and unable to train, my wife has been out there pounding the streets, and yesterday entered her very first running event – the Cancer Research “Race For Life” in Truro.

She was a little nervous being that it was her first ever event, and due to being away at Glastonbury a couple of weeks ago she felt that she hadn’t trained enough, but on the day she was fine.

The weather was kind, if a little humid, and it was a really good turn out of around 1,400 runners, joggers and walkers all raising money for a great cause.  The oldest runner was an amazing 94 years young, and the youngest were several babies and toddlers in prams and pushchairs being pushed along by their mums!

It’s a really great event for anyone who is interested in getting into running but is wary of signing up for a 10k.  It’s an incredibly friendly and non-competitive event, and there really are all levels of entrant, from a reasonably speedy 22 minutes to the final entrants walking with pushchairs (and one lady pulling a trolly which her dog was curled up in!)

Best of all, Cress is now training for a half marathon with me, so it will be great to finally enter an even with her… and while the doc told me to rest for 4 weeks, I feel pretty good now so I’m going to ease back into training again this week ;)

If anyone wants info on the Race For Life and to find out where your nearest event is check out http://www.raceforlife.org/

Note – new this year there is also a series of 10k events, open to both women and men.  Check for your local event at here