27 September 2009

Capernaum capers

One Saturday, Christiane & Margit (two of the overseas nurses) and I headed to Lake Tiberias, to Dalmanutha, close to Capernaum. Very peaceful, just by the lake. There was a church there, at Tabgha, supposedly built on the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Some beautiful ancient mosaics inside.

We spent some time sitting by the shore and watching the lizards scuttle back and forward across the path – some of them were quite large, much larger than the geckos which seemed very common.

Well, we had a great day, and I abandoned the girls to do some exploring of my own. Eventually I had to get back to Nazareth. Basically I just started walking in the hope that I could hitch a ride along the way. Because of the heat, I figured that a pair of hiking sandals would do the trick, but the pair that I had picked up in the Nazareth Suq soon started creating serious problems. Not one of my better purchases. At a reasonable pace, however, I set out vaguely in the direction of Nazareth.

Before too long, a van containing a bunch of Israeli students stopped and let me climb into the back. They were heading from the coast after some swimming, so I bounced around in the back among their gear. They dropped me off at a crossroads – Nazareth was on the left, and they were heading to Afulah. Unfortunately, Nazareth was still several miles away, and quite a walk in the hot sun. After walking for a couple of miles, and hitching with the standard thumb sign, I wondered why no-one stopped, even though they were driving by with otherwise empty cars. I found out later that the hitch-hiker's thumb gesture is considered rather rude in the vicinity.

Eventually, as my water supplies were dwindling (and I can't have been much more than a couple of miles from Nazareth), a sherrut taxi with containing three middle-aged female Arab passengers stopped, and I gratefully hopped aboard. For a mere couple of Shekels, the driver dropped me back at the hospital. The sandals were binned.

21 September 2009

There I was in a force 6...

Good grief - I thought this was going to get *easier* when I built up the muscles a bit. A little 20 mile run out to Carnfunnock Country Park in the wind and rain - no problem. Until I decide to do the 20 miles home again. This time the wind has changed, and it's blowing directly against me. In gusts - so every time you work up a bit of speed, it saps it completely. The last 5 miles via Carrickfergus was positively painful. On the plus side, it's unlikely that we'll have anything like that in Jordan.

I thought I was Ready.

I may have thought wrong.

15 September 2009

GPS bore again...

Here's the profile from that little run.

So I'm stopped at the lights at ~0.6km, turning up Victoria Road at ~4.7km, Prince Andrew Way until 7km; up the North Road to the Upper Road by 8km, and starting to pick up the speed again along there until Upper Greenisland at 14k. Quick down Station Road, and then home.

Need to work on that average speed though.

So how's the training going?

Answer - not half bad. It's difficult getting out these evenings, as the darker nights are drawing in pretty seriously now, and I don't exactly want to end up dead in a ditch. Nice little gentle 10 miles from Greenisland to Carrick, up the Victoria Road to the Upper Road, and back to base. 50 minutes on the MTB, which is certainly not Lance Armstrong territory, but creditable enough for my nobbly tyres and the hills, I suppose. I'd like to knock at least 10min off that circuit before heading to Jordan...

10 September 2009

A little East of Jordan

[One of my very kind sponsors posted a couple of lines from this on my sponsorship page: http://justgiving.com/shanemckee - it's full of apt irony!]

A little East of Jordan,
Evangelists record,
A Gymnast and an Angel
Did wrestle long and hard --

Till morning touching mountain --
And Jacob, waxing strong,
The Angel begged permission
To Breakfast -- to return --

Not so, said cunning Jacob!
"I will not let thee go
Except thou bless me" -- Stranger!
The which acceded to --

Light swung the silver fleeces
"Peniel" Hills beyond,
And the bewildered Gymnast
Found he had worsted God!

- Emily Dickinson, 1955


Thanks, kind sponsor! :-)

08 September 2009

Death threat! Oh noes!

It's official - my beautiful wife and I have reached that point in our relationship where she has threatened to beat me to death with a roll of sticky-backed plastic. The thing is, I'll be hitting the big four-oh this year, and she's thinking that this Nazareth bike ride is my mid-life crisis. She may be right.

Anyway, the great news is that we are closing in on the target of £2500, and hope to exceed that. Thanks to everyone who has donated!

Remember what you are donating for - we're covering all the costs of this 250-mile cycle challenge from Amman to Nazareth, so your cash (plus Gift Aid - well worth it) is all going to help the development of the Nazareth Hospital, and the people of the Lower Galilee region.

In case you're feeling really flush, here are the pages of a few other folks who will be doing the Nazareth ride:

So, AFTER you have supported me, please tell your friends about the other punters, and throw a few coppers their way too :-)

07 September 2009

Heliopolitan's Nazareth Bike Ride

I have made a couple of comments on a few blogs over the past wee while, under the moniker Heliopolitan trying to stir up a bit of engagement in difficult issues, and trying to get folks (including me of course) to think outside their normal paradigms. In return, I hope that anyone who has been mortally offended by my little offerings will feel sufficiently disposed to sponsor my cycle challenge. Go on - it'll do you good!

In particular, a big Hi! to anyone visiting from:

06 September 2009

Building bridges

I was reading in last week's British Medical Journal about the Daniel Turnberg Trust Fund. Daniel was a very promising young doctor and medical researcher, with a long time interest in the affairs of the Middle East, who tragically died in a plane crash while on holiday in Malawi. His parents set up a trust fund in his memory to help researchers in the UK, Israel, Palestine and the rest of the Middle East to travel for short-term projects, in order to further their individual careers and promote bonds of friendship and collaboration.

This is the sort of thing that I regard as one of the primary goals of my bike ride challenge - this is what it's all about, and what the Nazareth Hospital is all about. I'm an Atheistic Christian, riding from a predominantly Muslim country to a predominantly Jewish country, in aid of a Christian (ostensibly theistic of course!) hospital. I'm hoping to meet people and do a little to build some bridges, and perhaps continue a bit of the work that Nazareth has actually been doing on *me* since I went there in 1993. We all have our paths to tread, I suppose, and as we move along, we come into contact with many different people. Contingency (you can call it "fate" if you want, but you'll lose some meaning) plays a major role in how events work out.

You plant a seed, and hope something will grow. I listened to a really good lecture at Warwick from one of the researchers supported by a Daniel Turnberg grant, and I hope this trust fund will continue to help scientists move between our countries and share their work. Maybe it has been overlooked, but scientific co-operation is one thing that can unite all races and creeds.

Viva la Scientia!

05 September 2009

Learning all the time

So the night before last it's dark by the time the kiddies are in bed, the traffic is busy, and I haven't trained in nearly a week. So I decide to go for a run, and do a little 3 mile jaunt. With a head-cold starting.

Not a good move.

Two days later, cold is in full swing, and legs are killing me. I have come to two important conclusions:
1. Train when you're well, not when you have incipient Man Flu.
2. Running fit is not the same as cycling fit.

On the other hand, I'm starting to feel more ready for this, and I'll be putting up a few more retro-blog posts over the next few days. Remember the sponsorship site: http://justgiving.com/shanemckee - thanks!

01 September 2009

Training takes a dive...

In Warwick for the Birtish Human Genetics Conference - the old legs are getting a bit of a rest, but are itching to get back on the bike, after a good recovery. The conference is very good this year - some excellent material,a nd I'm already getting inspired. Plus there is the possibility of getting some of the commercial sponsors to support the bike ride. Come ON, Illumina - you know it makes sense :-)