A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to take part in a charity event which would pit men against women behind the steering wheel. 

The thought of taking on a rally challenge, or perhaps the quickest lap of an F1 course, or even Maryport go-kart centre got me excited and I agreed.

It was a this point I found out what you have already gathered, that the challenge was actually somewhat different.

Local marketing maestro Michelle Masters had teamed up with the good folks at Stan Palmer Honda in Cockermouth (and in particular their enthusiastic sales manager Gary Redmond) to promote the fuel efficiency of their cars and raise some money for the fabulous CFM Cash For Kids appeal at the same time. The premise was simple enough – four boys would take on four women to see who could be the most fuel efficient on a journey across West Cumbria, only stopping for afternoon tea.

The questions were plenty: would the weight advantage the women have make all the difference? Would the competitive spirit mean that we would abandon the challenge for a straight out race? Would the afternoon tea reduce fuel economy for the latter half of the challenge? And how exactly do you drive efficiently?

In fact, I wondered whether my style of full acceleration combined with fierce braking for junctions, was really best suited for this particular event. Queue swotting up on just how to do it.

So did we do it? 

I am pleased to report that the boys team (christened the ‘bad boys’ by Michelle) managed the narrowest of wins, beating the ‘good girls’ by just 0.4MPG.

I don’t know that much about fuel efficiency, but I do know that is close! It’s fair to say that the second leg of the ‘race’ was a tense and nervy affair – all played out at a maximum speed of 56 miles per hour!

The boys managed a reasonable 45.1 MPG in the Honda CRV, which was matched on the way back by the girls.

However our stonking 63.7 MPG in the Honda Civic on the return journey beat their slightly less impressive 63.1 MPG.

More importantly, we have a fabulous feed at Sella Park Hotel in Calderbridge thanks to their fabulous chef Jon-Robert Fell.

Sorry, I jest. More importantly, we managed to raise a few hundred quid for the Cash for Kids appeal and all had a good day in the process.

My main reason for writing this blog was to formally thank all of those involved who volunteered their time, cars, Twitter accounts, cake making skills and much more, so here goes:

Firstly, thanks to Stan Palmer Honda and Michelle Masters for organising the event.

Thanks to Sella Park Hotel and their chef Jon-Robert Fell and his team for feeding us.

Thanks to the impressive bad boys team who succeeded on the day (Daley Rodgers, Karl Connor, Keith McMean and me).

Thanks and commiseration’s to the good girls team (Anne Sowerby, Vivienne Tregidga, Jess Burt and Suzanne Burgess)

Thanks to everyone who donated and who got involved on Twitter to make the event such good fun.

And if you fancy giving a few pence to the cause, visit the Just Giving site.

If you fancy having your own go at trying to beat our MPGs then why not call Stan Palmer to book a test drive or even purchase one of the cars involved!

Back in the saddle

In my last blog I talked about getting back in the saddle following my accident, and I hoped that it would soon follow. I’m pleased to say that since that point I’ve been back on the bike and have done a number of rides.

I won’t lie, before I set off on the first of these rides, I was a little nervous – What if I fell off? What if I no longer liked it? What if I simply couldn’t remember how to ride a bike?

Thankfully after just a couple of minutes I was well and truly back in the saddle and back in love with cycling and none of those concerns were valid. Even more thankfully, my back suffered no pain at all, and the ride was a reasonably paced meander to help keep my fitness up.

I realised two things when back out on the bike – firstly, that I really do enjoy a cycle ride – both the uphill and downhill sections (though I did those at a much slower pace than was previously the case – lesson definitely learned), and secondly that there isn’t a better way of seeing some of this area’s fantastic sights.

My first ride took in Dent before a coastal jaunt to St Bees; but since then I have cycled through the Wasdale Valley, Ennerdale Valley, Croasdale, the Solway Coast and visited many of the areas small towns and villages – including a memorable stop for a truly giant and utterly undeserved ice cream in the sun at Allonby.

I’m pleased to report that my rides are getting both longer and faster, both of which will be crucial when it comes to finishing the Rivers Ride. At the moment, I feel confident that if I continue to progress sensibly, I will have no trouble completing it.

I should point out that when I say ‘no trouble’, I mean no new trouble relating to my back. The struggle to get up the Lakeland passes will be just as real as it was last year and on every other ride where I’ve experienced them.

In future blogs I might tell you about my laughable bicycle maintenance attempts and my experience of cycling through a ford. That’s if I want to embarrass myself further, anyway.

How not to prepare for the Rivers Ride AKA Where I’ve been

On Friday 15 February, I volunteered to write a blog on my preparation for and experience of the 2013 Rivers Ride. On Sunday 17 February, I fell off my bike and broke a few bones.
I’m no expert, but that’s not how I think you should prepare!

Since then lots of people have asked me whether I plan to get back on my bike, and whether I’ll be sticking to flat routes. I must admit that in the day or two after the accident, I wasn’t sure I would get back on my bike.

However, after seven or eight weeks of recovery, I am now sure that I do want to get back on. After all they do say you should get back on the horse!

I’m not sure yet exactly when that will be, but I hope it isn’t far off – I’ve started cycling again at the gym and it has reminded me just how much I love it. 

Admittedly, it’s not quite the same when the view is the walls of Whitehaven Sports Centre rather than the Eskdale and Wasdale valleys I’d became accustomed to, but it’s certainly a start.
The other big unknown at the moment is whether I’ll be fit enough to do this year’s Rivers Ride, but I really hope so. My gut instinct is that if I follow my exercise plan and take the next few months of exercise slowly and sensibly, it might well be. But I’ll let you know how I get on.

In the meantime – to anyone who is considering taking part in the ride – I would simply say, do it! Despite the weather last year, the event was fantastic, and a great experience for everyone I spoke to. The course is challenging but achievable and takes in some of Copeland and Allerdale’s most striking scenery.

On top of this, you’re raising money to support the fantastic work that the Cumbria Community Foundation itself does to support people in the county.

When you’re struggling up Honister and Newlands – especially if it’s raining horizontally – you’ll be wise to remember that!

Managing radioactive waste safely

I don’t often blog about work. However, next week, my employer – Copeland Borough Council – will take a significant decision on a project I have been involved in since the outset.

This decision, is whether the council should continue to be involved in the government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process, and move to stage four, by taking a decision to participate.

A few colleagues, friends and other people I respect have blogged or commented on the subject, and I wanted to give a few simple thoughts of my own, and point you in the direction of some of these comments, so you can better understand the issue yourself.

The background

In 2008, the government published the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper. This white paper outlined the government process for finding a home for the country’s higher activity radioactive waste. The home would be a geological disposal facility – or an engineered underground repository for the waste.

As Copeland is home to over 70% of the country’s waste, in interim storage at the Sellafield site, the council expressed an interest in the process, and entered discussions with the government.

Cumbria County Council and Allerdale Borough Council subsequently joined the process and the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership was formed.

This partnership, which met regularly for over three years, was set up to explore the issues involved in hosting a facility, to help the councils take a decision about whether to formally take a decision to participate in the process. This is the decision point we are at now.

The Partnership developed a work programme and worked to consider a range of issues including geology, impacts, community benefits, safety, planning and the environment and much more.

The Partnership also undertook a wide reaching communications and engagement programme, and it was this element that I was particularly involved in, as a member of the public and stakeholder engagement (PSE) group.

The communications and engagement programme we delivered was one of the widest reaching, intensive and coordinated campaigns ever undertaken in Cumbria.

Activity included a series of newsletters and leaflets; advertorials in the local press; advertising on phone boxes, on buses, and on billboards; public drop-in sessions; displays at public events; question and answer sessions; a website; e-bulletins; workshops; discussion packs; two films; and ongoing work with the media.

This work was successful in raising awareness of the Partnership and its work, and we undertook a robust and statistically reliable opinion survey which provided statistical evidence to support the councils’ in taking a decision whether to move forward. The engagement programme was award winning.

The current situation

In recent weeks, as the point where the councils will take their decisions grows nearer, public interest in the process and the decisions has grown. In addition communications activity from those interested in the decision has increased. This has included the formation of pressure groups, public meetings, newsletters, proactive use of social media and much more.

Much of this communication has raised interest in the work of the Partnership, and the decision the councils will take – which has to be a positive.

However in some cases, this activity has served to obfuscate the issues or even scare people.

Find out more

The main reason I wanted to write this blog was to point people to some useful resources and information on the process, so people can make their own decisions on whether we should move forward or not.

So before you make your mind up, why don’t you read the the following information, starting with the Partnership’s work and report:

The official government position and process:

The views of two Copeland councillors, one Labour, one Conservative:

You can find a lot more views on Twitter by searching for MRWS or nuclear dump or other terms as you see fit!

Run on, ride on…

As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve not really ran for some time. So when a friend asked me to run on Wednesday evening, I felt I couldn’t say no.

Despite it being around two months since I last ran (and that run wasn’t one for the record books!), I managed a 6+ mile run.

I have to say, whilst I did find it pretty hard, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I was pleased simply to be able to run that far, after so long absent.

Some facts and observations:

1) I can run further than I think, if motivated and with friends who will run that far. I’m much less motivated and impressive on my own.

2) Run through the pain barrier. I did that, and survived. It’s probably because it was of a mental barrier than an actual physical one. Perhaps it was the laziness barrier not the pain one. Either way, do it.

3) Hills seem a lot steeper than I remember them. Even the little ones that aren’t really hills. Hopefully that will go soon!

4) I will never be a runner. It’s not natural to me, and I always struggle. That said, I’ll keep giving it a go as the achievement does make up for the uncomfortable experience at the time.

The title mentions riding on, that’s because I am thinking that if the weather stays fine, I might complete the end of the Rivers Ride this weekend.

This would mean a thirty mile route from Braithwaite, over Newlands Pass, over Honister Pass, through Keswick and back.

It’s not easy, but it’s the challenge I need to complete, and ideally before the weather turns to winter!

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Incidentally, I lost four pounds at fat club this week. Not bad, but hoping for more of the same this week.

The only man in the room.

The third and final challenge

In my last blog I talked about two of the three exercise related challenges I have set myself this year.

This blog covers the third – my most recent – which I undertook yesterday.

I write whilst the wounds are still raw!

So to summarise:

1) Keswick to Barrow walk (40 miles)
2) Coast to Coast cycle ride (140 miles)

And now to:

3) I undertook a cycling sportive – the Jennings Rivers Ride Big Day Out. This was not something I have previously thought about, it wasn’t on a bucket list, and I hadn’t really thought about it until someone mentioned it.
However, once I got interested in it, it took hold of me until I signed up and started asking for yet more charitable donations.
The Big Day Out is the longest of three rides offered to those taking part. It’s an 85 mile trek around the Lakes, starting and ending at Keswick and taking in three Lakeland ‘passes’ and many more steep hills.
The route was challenging – it was longer than I had cycled in a day before, and included hills I’d not taken on and that were steeper than I had experienced. But I like a challenge.

And that is what it was. The race took place yesterday, and the weather was worse than I could have imagined – especially after a deceptively sunny start. That lasted as long as the first pint after I completed my ride!

The rain could be described as tempest-esque, and there are few words I can use to describe the challenge that lay ahead. The headwind at times made even the flat surfaces and downhill sections a challenge and the wet conditions meant downhill sections that might have been fun because a treacherous nightmare.
I realised how little I was enjoying the experience when thirty miles in – I considered going home! At this point I was 55 miles from the finish line but only 5 from my dad’s house! Despite this I persevered with the ride. 
I would live to regret this when I got a further 30 or so miles into the ride. Having completed the first pass – Whinlatter, I was bracing myself for the second, when I was told by a marshall that they were advising that participants do not attempt the last two passes, but instead take a seven mile detour home.
It was a head vs heart moment. In my heart I wanted to complete the race, despite the challenging conditions, but my head knew that this would be a risky choice for a relative novice cyclist like myself. 
So I didn’t finish the planned route. Despite this, I did manage 63 miles. This was my longest ever ride and in awful conditions.
And I got to understand exactly what my mate meant about attempting such a challenge in awful conditions.
It does mean I’ll have to try it again next year though.
If you’d like to sponsor me, go to www.justgiving.com/iancurwen.
Sorry for such a long blog – I’ll try not to leave it so long next time.
The only man in the room


At the request of @fawcylad, here’s a new blog, and the first of a series of two.

The best thing about my blog is how I post frequent updates about my weight loss journey, which engage and inspire others.

Well, I don’t do that, but it was my plan. However, the truth of the matter is I’m simply not disciplined enough to regularly update it. I will try to do it more than once every five months though.

Six months or more ago, when I was blogging more frequently, I talked about running. I did a lot of running last year and I quite enjoyed it – most of the time. Some of the time I didn’t really, probably because I am not a natural.

This summer season (does it sound impressive when I call it that?!) I haven’t really ran, and I was a bit disappointed with myself for that, but I have done a lot of other exercise, and have achieved a few things that I might not have expected previously.

These are:

1) I completed the Keswick to Barrow walk. This is a 40 mile road walk (though some run it) from one town to the other. This feels like quite a while ago now, not least because the weather was glorious, and this summer hasn’t been quite like that since.

The walk was a challenge. It started quite well, but after 30 miles, my legs and feet weren’t interested any more. I had blisters on top of blisters and some of those even had blisters on them too! Well you get the picture anyway.

My mate completed the walk many years earlier and he hated every minute of it. He got a rainy day, which made for a long slog. I remember thinking that I’d have felt the same in those circumstances (and we shall come back to that).

2) I completed the C2C (coast to coast) cycle ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth. This is a 140 mile cycle which crosses the Northern Pennies.

I have wanted to do this for many years, so was delighted to finally get round to it, and to have achieved it.

For those of you who have undertook the ride, or who are interested in doing it, here’s the lowdown:

  • There were three of us.
  • We did it in three days.
  • We stopped at Penrith on day one.
  • We stopped at Rookhope on day two.
  • If I did it again, I would try for two days. The final day is relatively easy in comparison to the first and second days, so that feels achievable.
  • We had support in the form of our partners, which meant no need for panniers and rucksacks. 
  • We stayed in guest houses rather than camping.
I loved the whole trip. Every single part of it. Even the torrential rain as we left Whitehaven. Even some of the stupidly steep hills – the sense of achievement made up for those.
To anyone who is considering it, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
And number 3) I’ll discuss in my next blog…
The only man in the room

Analogy time

I was offered a Time Out bar before and I declined it. My colleague was impressed that I had suddenly been able to ‘flip the switch’ to being good again after, quite frankly, a few weeks of being a junk food and snacking addict!

So I started thinking about this, and to a certain extent it is true. I did decide on Monday that I needed to be healthy again and I am now taking this much more seriously. In fact, not only have I turned down a Time Out today, but I have also avoided many other snacks that could have came my way!

However, this follows a few weeks of not being good, at all. In fact, I’ve noticed that what seems to happen when I fall off the tracks is the same thing every time. I start with a little bit of cheating – perhaps a weekend off or a weekend away, and then introduce a few more snacks or meals out etc, during the week. And then before I know it, cheating is the norm and the healthy days are rare.

So this is something I am going to focus on addressing now I am being good again. I have two weddings this weekend, but know that I can go to both and drink in moderation and not sit next to the buffet and still have a good time. I just need to make sure I do it. I’ll let you know next week how I get on.

But in terms of an analogy, I don’t think ‘flicking the switch is quite right’ and the switch back to being bad is more gradual. Perhaps like a dimmer switch – or maybe not!

We’ll see how I get on.

The only man in the room.

Blogged off?

Hello everyone! It seems somewhat odd to be writing this blog again after so long having a break. But here I am.

I’d love to tell you I have some really good reasons why I’ve not blogged for a while, but the truth is that whilst I have been busy at work and at home, the main reason is because I have neglected you. And for that, I am sad. I can only apologise!

However, I am back now, and I am getting myself back onto the fitness and weight-loss path.

In terms of how I am doing, there is good and bad news:

The good news is that I am still doing a decent amount of exercise. This includes some running and lots of cycling (which I love, and will blog about in the next few days). I’ve not done as much gym, circuits or swimming. So I need to give myself a kick in those directions!

The bad news is that I’ve not been doing so brilliantly on the healthy eating! Again, I will blog on my recent cheating in more detail shortly, but in a general sense I’ve been a bit more naughty than I should, and found myself enjoying the bread once I could eat it again after Lent.

I’ve not weighed myself for a few weeks (I tend only to do it at group and I’ve not been), but I will go on Thursday and will blog it here regardless of how negative the picture!

So it’s not necessarily a positive picture, but I am a glass half-full kind of guy, so I will finish with my positive outlook:

I am feeling positive about weight loss again, and I have came back to my beloved blog to talk about my journey again.

And I did my longest ever bike-ride yesterday – 26 miles including a particularly tough (and slow!) fell section.

Will be back in touch soon… I promise.

The only man in the room.

Hitting the wall

Just a quick post today.

As I mentioned in my last health-based rambling, I was a bit naughty the weekend before last. As a result, I am working hard to try and recover from some of the “badness” before tomorrow’s weigh in!

However, in doing this, I have learned the meaning of the term “hitting the wall”.

In fact, I found it out half way through last night’s run round the streets of Workington.

This was a run that followed three days of bike rides and another run the night before, so it’s probably no surprise!

I did manage to make it to the end of last night’s stride out, but I noticed after the first few legs that I didn’t seem to have much left in my legs.  However I knuckled down and ground out the last few miles. And was pretty pleased with myself at the end.

It was only when I went to leave the car from my lift home at the end of the run that I realised I had hit the wall, as it were.

Every muscle in my body seemed to ache, and I struggled to leave the car, never mind walk to the house and then ascend the stairs.

When I woke up this morning I was in even more pain. It took me a couple of attempts even to leave the bed. But, again, I got there.

And the best thing about it all was that I felt fully justified in allowing today to be a rest day. I even allowed myself a little bit of unhealthy food as a reward and to aid my recovery. That’s my excuse, anyway.

But I’ll be back on the exercise tomorrow, and here’s hoping the weigh-in isn’t too bad and hitting the wall was of some benefit. I will let you know.

The only man in the room.