And in the end…

Episode 331: “And in the end…

A beautifully understated, moving, 2 hour finale to my favourite series.

In episode 1, Dr Mark Greene said “Dr. Carter…are you coming?” to the young medical student as the staff had to deal with a major emergency.

And in the last episode, as a major emergency hits County General, Rachel Greene, daughter of the late Mark Greene and prospective medical student, is asked the very same question by Carter.

The wheel came full circle.

And as we left the staff of County General, we know that life will go on in the ER just like it always has…

The end of an ERa

Mark Greene, Doug Ross, Susan Lewis, John Carter, Peter Benton, Carol Hathaway, Kerry Weaver, Elizabeth Corday, Robert Romano, Luka Kovac, Abby Lockhart, Greg Pratt, Neela Rasgotra, Lucien Dubenko, Sam Taggart, Tony Gates, Archie Morris, Cate Banfield.

For 15 years i have followed the drama unfolding at County General Hospital in Chicago, Illinois and tonight it closes its doors for the last time on British television.

I admit that i have laughed and i have cried more over this programme than any other and its has been the only TV show that i keep a night free for.

I consider it the best drama programme on TV and have grown to love the characters that have been a part of the show. The lives of its cast and the compelling narrative has always been a hallmark of its high quality.

Proof, if needed of its impact on its viewers, is that it has won 22 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series in 1996, and received 123 Emmy nominations, the most of any television show in history.

So, after 331 episodes, i bid goodnight and goodbye to ER.

Thank you for moving me with your stories.

The pleasure of Penmachno

Sunday morning i woke up in my too short bed in the house at Dolgellau, pulled back the curtains and saw clear blue sky. I was very happy.

I was even happier when i got out of bed and found that a) i had no pain in my knees and b) my legs seemed to be back in working order.

Only time would tell if they would stand up to the rigours of the slightly shorter trail we would do that day; the 22km of the Penmachno Trail.

After a hearty breakfast at the Dolgellau tea rooms, we headed off to CYB, picked up my bike again and then drove 40 mins through very pretty countryside to Penmachno which is near Betws Y Coed.

The birds were singing, the lambs were gambolling in the fields, the grass seemed extra green, the air smelt summery and all was well with the world.

We came to the trail and we started off out of the car park with a short sharp climb which certainly tested my legs and got my heart pumping!

It also gave us a lovely view of the valley before we headed off into some single track in the woods to do some more climbing. Bearing in mind just how much sweat poured off us in that first climb, made us realise just how hot it would be during our ride that day!

We had all heard much about about the Penmachno trail and how good it was and it did not disappoint us.

Short sharp single track climbs were interspersed with short sharp single track descents. Throw in some trails across valley edges and minimal fire roads, and it didn’t feel like “trail centre” riding which can feel artificial at times. It felt more like “real world” natural riding that i did in Canada…and it was great.

The trail also threw in some nice boardwalk sections, wooden bridges, stream jumps and some fast rocky downhill sections and it was certainly a trail to concentrate on, lest it catch you out. But it also meant it was whole lot of fun too!

Compared to the Beast, Penmnacho was not as technical but definitely more fun and we cranked out the 22km in about 2 hours. As i hurtled down the last rocky downhill section, and came to the end of the trail, i realised that this was the end of the final fling.

I won’t have another biking weekend with Gav and Jamie in the UK and our intrepid trio will become two as the next time i have a weekend epic, i will be in Aoteoroa.

But the thing is, none of my friends out there mountain bike…

Broken by the Beast

And so Friday finally arrived, and Gav, Jamie and i high tailed it off to Snowdonia for a weekend of mountain biking!

We made a stop for some great Mexican food at the legendary Honey Cafe in Brecon to fuel us for the long trip and finally arrived at our accommodation at around 9.30pm.

We were staying at a little self catering house (which used to be the High Sheriff’s Cottage apparently) in the market town of Dolgellau, which was very pretty indeed.

After securing our gear and bikes, we popped next door for a welcome pint at the Royal Ship Inn and then retired to bed for a god night’s sleep.

Not for me however, as i found out my bed was about 6 inches shorter than me and when i slept on the right hand side of the bed, it dipped considerably!

Saturday morning we awoke to scattered clouds and sunshine and after a hearty (although not entirely flavoursome) breakfast at the cafe next door, we headed off to Coed Y Brenin to pick up the lime green Specialized Enduro SL Comp i would be riding all weekend.

And so we began to attack the Beast of Brenin trail; all 38km of it. It followed pretty much the same route as the MBR trail we did in March but then it wandered off on an entirely different route.

It had a bit of everything: single track, fire roads, technical sections, rocky sections, hairpin bends and stream crossings. Suffice to say that as the trail progressed and got more difficult, the more tiring it became, but hey, i like a challenge.

So, all was going well until about 15km in and then something happened to me that has never happened to me before. To use a runner’s expression, i “hit the wall” or to use the hilarious cycling term i got “the bonk“.

The cycling phenomenon known as the bonk is no laughing matter. Deriving from the original meaning ‘to hit’, the bonk refers to that catastrophic moment when there’s suddenly nothing left in your tank; when your legs turn to jelly, and getting to the finish becomes an altogether supreme effort of will. The simple explanation for its occurrence is that long-endurance exercise depletes your store of glycogen, which produces the energy required to maintain performance. When the glycogen depletes entirely, the body has no more fuel and instead burns fat, resulting in a surge of fatigue and a performance collapse.

And that is what happened -complete loss of strength in my legs, acute agony in my knees and even standing upright was a challenge. Having done the 15 Peaks and a Rat Race without any hassle, i couldn’t believe how i felt. Despite resting and taking on lots of fluid when it hit, i could barely even manage pedalling on the flat, downhills were OK and on the uphills…i got off and pushed!

So we continued (me in acute pain and with a grimacing face) and then about half way round the trail was a little oasis; a glorious tea shop!

I lay down on the bench and tried to stretch/not cry out in pain, while Jamie and Gav got squash, fudge and flapjacks. The food was good and everyone there was a biker including the gaggle of Kiwis who were there and who were in cheerful mood.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the large amounts of cuddly toy monkeys that were hanging from all the trees though…

I was also amazed by just how many expensive mountain bikes there were attached to the rail outside like horses. Judging by there being about 25 or so bikes there, i would say that theer was at least £50,000 worth of bike on display. Orange and Specialized were very well represented although Giant and Trek were not far behind. There was also the odd Merlin and Ellsworthy on display as well as Santa Cruz and Iron Horse.

After resting and taking on extra water, we left the cafe and then headed up an incredibly steep hill on the trail and my pain returned. And stayed with me for the rest of the trail-another 19km of it.

Despite the pain, the scenery in Snowdonia was gorgeous, the sun was shining and we got to see kestrels flying. I was taking it steady, way behind Gav and Jamie and pushing my bike on pretty much the last few miles of the trail.

Finally we finished and i was very glad it was over although sad i hadn’t enjoyed it as much as i had planned. That evening, us boys had a wild party night of chinese takeaway, crap tv and some games of pool!

As i went to bed, my only worry was, would I suffer the same fate the next day at Penmachno?

New arrival

A little package arrived form the USA this morning; Mat Kearney’s new album “City of Black and White”!!

While it hasn’t hit me in the same way as his first album “Nothing Left To Lose” did, i am enjoying it and would describe it as a slow burner…