24 August 2009


Oooh, my legs hurt. Remember, I'm new to this biking thing, and I have not got my legs in shape. AND it's only just over 2 months before I'll be cycling for real - 250 miles of Jordanian & Israeli roads to contend with, to raise money for the Nazareth Hospital (SPONSOR ME PLEEEZE!).

So, off I trot up the road to Islandmagee, a much neglected, yet exceptionally picturesque little peninsula, between Carrickfergus and Larne (the tip of it is just across from Larne, and it is part of Larne borough). One lovely little spot is the beach at Portmuck, down a VERY steep incline.

25% indeed. Coming back up, I confess I hopped off the bike and pushed it on foot for a hundred yards or so. Then off to Brown's Bay, round to Ballylumford (big power station), Mill Bay, Whitehead and home. 37 miles in 4 hours (3h25 on the move). Here's the elevation plot:

Portmuck is the bit at about 27km, at the bottom of that rather sharp V.

My legs haven't forgiven me yet - I haven't told them about what's waiting for them in November.

23 August 2009

Fun with bikey GPS

Yeah, I know I'm coming to this a bit late, but a friend has lent me (with an option to keep, so he'll never see it again) a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, which has the rather nice functions of being able to download free maps from t'Interwebs AND being able to plot your ramblings on GPS, using a fantastic little piece of free software called MaemoMapper. I'm hoping to take it on my Nazareth Bike Ride in November, and will save my tracks daily, for upload to this blog for your perusal and possibly even enjoyment. Hope springs eternal.

Anyway, yesterday I had my first Big Ride planned - you need to remember that I am a complete newbie at this cycling malarkey, and 8 miles was pushing it a bit, as recently as, well, the day before yesterday. So, armed with my (it is now!) trusty N810, I set off on what was to be a 30 mile round trip from Greenisland to Dunadry. This was a mammoth undertaking for such a greenhorn, but it's darn all compared to what you Cycling Experts clock up before breakfast, and a far cry from what I'll need to be doing 5 days on the trot in November. Nevertheless, I recorded my track, then uploaded it to the marvellous GPSVISUALIZER.COM website for analysis.

So you can see the map (start and finish points removed), AND, here's an idea of my speed and elevation over the trip.

I'm a bit quicker on the downhill sections (for those of you who don't know, there's this thing called "gravity"), but I *really* need to work on the speed up the hills.

As it turned out, I was quicker than expected coming home, as my wife had managed to lock herself out of the house, and I had to make it home pronto to let her and the kids back in. Next time, when I'm up to 60 miles, we can't let a fiasco like *that* happen again.

21 August 2009

Neglecting el bloggo

Well, you know how it is. Life is busy enough without blogging every five seconds of it. However, the training is going ahead, and pretty much to plan. A very short ride tonight - only 9 miles - but enough short hill sections to stress the old legs a bit, and also to confirm that they really are getting better - I can cover far more distance in a lot less time than before, and keep the bike in much higher gear on the uphill bits. Things are looking good!

Then there is another issue - entirely unrelated. What do you do if you have wi-fi cold spots all over your house? The answer is to use that old wi-fi router that you got with your last supplier and is now gathering dust in the attic... get it out, and turn it into a second wireless access point! Here's the way to do it:

18 August 2009

Beside the seaside

Lovely little training ride tonight along Belfast Lough, from Greenisland, through Whiteabbey to Hazelbank, and along the lough to the Dargan Landfill site, which is even now being converted into Belfast's new leisure thingy, the "Giant's Park". I really have no idea why there is a Giant associated with it - perhaps they are working on a link with the legendary (or, rather, mythical) Finn Mac Cool.

The prospect of a dump being turned into a park for the frolics and entertainment of the good people of North Belfast and beyond doesn't sound much, but it's actually a pretty good site - large, open - lots of potential. And it's a nice quick cycle from home. So 20km took about an hour overall, pretty much on the flat, and not at all pushing it, and the legs are sticking up to the whole thing fairly well, despite it being very early days for the training.

The Nazareth ride is already starting to look a little less daunting (remember to sponsor me!), although there'll be a lot of uphill sections, which will test the mettle.

16 August 2009

Pull your socks up, McKee!

[I'm retroblogging my medical elective in Nazareth EMMS Hospital, Israel, in 1993. In November 2009 I am joining the Nazareth Bike Ride from Amman in Jordan to Nazareth, to raise much-needed funds for the hospital. Please sponsor me, and follow my training progress on Twitter!]

I was very shy and retiring (and lazy?) then, and tried to glean what I could from the patient notes. Although the official record-keeping of the hospital was in English, a lot of the A&E records (and much of the inter-doctor discussion) were in Hebrew or Arabic - and all the patients spoke Arabic. I had very little Arabic apart from "nafas!" ("breathe!" - I hope), which was of limited value, since most patients knew to do this anyway, and when they stopped, that was a problem that was unlikely to be resolved by simple commands, in whatever language.

Looking back on it, I'm acutely aware (and embarrassed) of how wet behind the ears I was, and I suspect I was perhaps less than effective or enthusiastic about the medical aspects of my visit. But then that could just be the lapse of time. Maybe everyone feels this about their elective.

13 August 2009

Fun in Emergency: Retroblogging Nazareth 1993

[I'm retroblogging my medical elective in Nazareth EMMS Hospital, Israel, in 1993. In November 2009 I am joining the Nazareth Bike Ride from Amman in Jordan to Nazareth, to raise much-needed funds for the hospital. Please sponsor me, and follow my training progress on Twitter!]

The purpose of my time in Nazareth (nominally at least) was to acquire medical training, prior to my final year at medical school. Is it odd, therefore, that the medical exposure is the aspect I remember *least*? I started off in the ER under the supervision of Dr Steph Nash. I don't know where he ended up, but he and the family finished their "tour of duty" about half-way through my time. Nice chap - I think the only photo I have of him was when he was getting soaked as part of his farewell party.

[Photo temporarily unavailable]

The ER could be pretty chaotic - at one stage we had a breadknife-wielding granny remonstrating loudly about something or other, as various relatives flailed around in degrees of voluble distress. Granny had stabbed someone (minor) in one of those family feuds that flare up from time to time. Fortunately the situation was resolved without further bloodshed (in the ER at least), and her relative sustained only minor injuries. Lesson – never drop your guard!

11 August 2009

That's my wee brother, that is!

The Rich Kid, Cash, from Tango & Cash, the fastest biking duo in Ireland - now the fastest biking *trio* in Ireland, following the very sensible addition of Warrior Princess. Check out the reports of their triumph in the Belfast Rat Race - a close-run thing, but it's not the taking part that matters - it is the WINNING.

Retroblogging Nazareth 1993

As part of my effort to raise some cash for the Nazareth Hospital, I am planning to retroblog my 1993 elective. I spent 6 weeks in Nazareth in 1993 and another 2 weeks looking around the rest of Israel, so I hope this plan gets you hopping over to my sponsorshop page, and also following my training (and ultimately the cycle ride itself) on Twitter.
This is the unavoidable camel shot, taken at the Jaffa Gate in Old Jerusalem, shortly before I dismounted the beast and headed in rapid pursuit through the dimly-lit warrens of the Old City in pursuit of the wee lad who took the photo and subsequently tried to make off with my camera.

Big head in front of Whitehead

Great training run tonight - short hop from Greenisland (home) along the coast via Carrick to just above Whitehead, taking in a few little side-roads on the way. Just an hour & 20, but very pleasant. Here is my noggin blocking the view.

It does actually look much prettier without that ridiculous foreground distraction. Try this instead.

Of course, you don't get the perspective from a poxy mobile phone camera - you need to visit the Antrim coast for yourself - be prepared to be blown away.

08 August 2009

Ride into Belfast

The Tall Ships are in town! Well, only a couple so far, but more are set to arrive over the next few days. I took a spin on the bike down to the Albert Quay to have a look, but they are repelling all boarders until the festival kicks off on 13-14 August. Here's the link: http://www.gotobelfast.com/tall_ships_2009.aspx

[Sorry - didn't get any photos, but the old legs got a little bit of a workout in preparation for my own challenge - pleeeeeze sponsor me!!]

Conundrum sorted. Can we move on?

Can a Scientist be a Theistic Christian?
Are Science and Theistic Christianity compatible?
There ya go. Now, on to other matters!

Latest training ride

Woodburn forest, Carrickfergus. The reserviors provide drinking water for the Carrickfergus area, and they've very accessible by bike - the Woodburn Road is a slightly steep hill, though, for rank beginners like me.

07 August 2009

Israel photos from 1993

While I'm on the topic, here is a link to my Photobox.co.uk album of my photos from my elective in Nazareth, and subsequent travels in Israel.

06 August 2009

Cycling for Nazareth

Back in 1993 (as anyone who knows me already knows - I hardly ever shut up about it) I did my medical student elective in Nazareth Hospital (that's Israel, not Pennsylvania). Each year for the last 18 years, there has been a sponsored bike ride in aid of the hospital, and this year I have decided to come along too. It should be a great experience; I'll be paying my own way, but I would like as many people as possible to sponsor me, and spread the word. The sponsorship website is: http://justgiving.com/shanemckee - I hope you'll visit and help out this really worthy cause.

More info later!