Mara (with big quiz)

OK, this is a biggie: 2 general knowledge “deliberate mistakes”, one (non humorous) logical error, and can you explain the title? Usual rules: PM me if you want to play; keep quiet if you don’t.

It is a very long time since the Coker has been out for a run. Today I’ve had that sort of day when nothing else but a Coker ride would do to clear my brain so…

With some vague idea of covering a big distance non-stop, I drive to the car park of the Water Sports Centre. It takes a little while for the GPS to lock into the satellites, and I take longer than usual to check my helmet, wristguards, and Camelbak. I have done hundreds of miles on the Coker, but it is months since I’ve ridden it, and I’m slightly nervous about that first freemount.

It’s a bit wobbly, and there is rather more flailing of the arms than is consistent with elegant deportment, but I mount first time. As I set off, I hear a small boy behind me shout, “Look! he’s on one wheel!” How nice, simple and non judgemental: no lame attempt at humour, no rudeness, no effort to attract my attention. This boy should write a teach-yourself book on excited but acceptable responses to unicycles. He could then sell a copy to a small boy with a kayak who will appear later.

After only 50 metres of tarmac, I make a couple of tight turns onto an area of ballast which crunches and pops under my tyre, then I climb a small hill, reach the crest, and I’m back on tarmac. The rowing lake is spread out before me in all its glory. A strong wind is blowing and the surface is ruffled. Flags are flapping briskly on the building across the lake.

The short descent to the lakeside takes more care than I remember. I’ve been used to the light and controllable 700c, or the plodding KH24. Keeping the big beast of the stock steel Coker rim under control is more of a challenge.

Moments later, I am on the flat 3 metre wide strip of tarmac that loops around the lake. The lake is to my right, low green hills to my left, and the wind in my back. I am pedalling briskly. I glance down at the GPS: 10 - 11 mph (about 16 - 17 kph) and it feels fast. I accelerate a bit and see 11.9 mph.

Hmmm. Relying on a cycle computer and stopwatch for measurement, I used to average 12.5 mph for an hour at a time, night after night. Now 12.5 mph sounds like a distant dream. I need more Coker miles to dial those reflexes back in. Knee pads too, because I’m in shorts, and the tarmac looks a long way down, and more blurred than I remember it.

I soon reach the end of the lake, and turn right, so that I am across the wind. Moments later, I am heading back along the lake, but into the wind, and it’s hard work, and slightly chilly - after all, it is nearly midsummer. The tarmac is cluttered with Canada geese, and I clack my wrist guards together to warn them of my approach, then pick my way through as the geese scatter with charming unpredictability.

Further down the lake, there are more Canada geese, and greylags too, with their orange bills (has the man from Del Monte paid his orange bill?); there are great crested grebes, colourful mallard drakes and their drab brown mates, and the occasional coot. A few gulls wheel overhead, and I spot a telemark tern amongst them. Swallows swoop low over the lake, feeding on the wing. It’s a nice place to be - apart from the wind, which is slowing me down to about 8 or 9 mph.

Eventually, I make the end of the lake, where the boathouses are. I slow down a little to avoid colliding with the melee of rowing and kayaking enthusiasts who are milling about outside the boathouse door. Several small boys are zig zagging unsteadily around the shallowest part of the lake in plastic kayaks. One shouts to his friends, “Look! A clown!” Hmmm. Look - a plastic eskimo.

Back onto the long side of the lake, with the wind behind me, and I realise I am now sweating, and travelling in a bubble of smelly air as the wind follows me. I know that by the time I make it to the end of the lake again I will be really damp, and that the ride back into the wind will be chilly.

For some reason, I have always lapped this lake clockwise, whereas most cyclists seem to do so anticlockwise. The track seems to be a popular training ground for road cyclists, and an easy loop for people simply going out for a ride on their ill-fitting but over-specified mountain bikes. I start to recognise riders who passed me on the first lap. There is the pretty young girl who smiles uncertainly; the ugly bloke in top gear on his mountainbike, standing on the pedals and fighting the wind as his jacket flaps around him; his chubby young son, riding glumly 20 metres behind him; there are serious young men on proper time trials machines with those funny handlebars with elbow rests. Some smile, some glower, some ignore me altogether.

I notice three cyclists heading towards me in line abreast. Two of them see me and move to their left. The third keeps coming. There is something strange about his face. It is very hairy… very hairy indeed… and it has no eyes… or nose, or mouth… Er… He is in his own little world, head right down down, facing the floor and not looking where he is going at all. His companions attract his attention, he looks at them, looks up, sees me and his eyes widen in shock and he swerves to avoid me.

I’m feeling more confident on the big wheel now. Indeed, I’m just getting to that stage where I’m starting to think, “Is this all it does?” Coker: the high speed bar stool. I decide to try for a bit more speed, and see figures over 13 mph (21 kph) but I still need more riding time to get anywhere near the speeds I used to hit a few years ago.

Back on the upwind side of the lake, I pass the same bicyclists. The young girl smiles and nods slightly; the serious young men nod curtly - acknowledging grudgingly that I must be some sort of fellow rider. I recognise some elderly joggers from my previous rides around this lake, and they seem to recognise me, which is surprising as I’m wearing a different helmet from last time they saw me.

The weather is deteriorating, and there is rain mixed in with the wind. The things I do for fun!

There are a few rowers out on the lake, but no sailors - perhaps it is too windy. As I approach the boathouses again, I see three K1 racing boats - that’s narrow wobbly open canadian canoes with the single bladed paddles. As always, I wonder how the canoeists would react if I shouted, “Where’s your other paddle, mate?”

As I pass the boat houses, the boys are still out in their plastic kayaks, and one shouts, “Look! it’s that clown again!” I hope the little so and so gets eaten by a plastic polar bear.

Back down the lake with the wind behind me, and I glance at the GPS. Miraculously, after just over 6 miles, I am averaging 11 mph. That’s not much compared to the high 12s I used to average, but with the strong wind, and my lack of recent experience, it’s respectable. That’s respectable until I’m overtaken by a portly man on a mountainbike, who, being of a rebellious disposition, is going against convention by riding clockwise.

Ahead of me I see a big black 4x4 crawling along as the driver shouts instructions to some rowers. What an excellent sport: sitting in an air conditioned vehicle, shouting instructions to some other poor sod stuck in the middle of a windy lake in a boat the width of a curtain pole. I could do that. I look across and see about four boats. Others are approaching down the lake. I wouldn’t like to be rowing into this wind. I overtake the vehicle cautiously. I hear one of the rowers shout a comment to him about me.

Round the head of the lake, and now my Viscount seat is making itself known. I take some weight off my backside by leaning the heel of my hand on the front of the seat. My feet are starting to tingle too - a sort of pins and needles feeling I get from prolonged pedal pressure. I scrunch my toes to restore circulation, and adjust my foot position a little. This is starting to feel like hard work.

Back into the wind, and as I pass through the scattering geese yet again, I pass the pretty young cyclist who smiles as if we might be old friends but she can’t quite remember my name. The serious young men nod with slightly more effort to conceal their contempt. The ugly bloke makes a genial comment about me being too fast. His stout child, now 50 metres behind, just grimaces miserably. On the lake, some of the rowing boats are turning for the dash back, and there is friendly banter between the crews of the two nearest coxed threes. Suggestions are made that they should race me.

Ahead of me is the portly man on the mountainbike. Now heading into the wind, he has lost some of his insouciance - well, all of it, really - and is struggling in top gear. These people: 21 gears and disk brakes, and they only use the “fastest” gear and go so slowly they could stop by trailing abrick on a piece of string. But at least it enables him to feel superior to that fool on a one wheeler, until the said fool reels him in and overtakes him. Pride makes the portly mountain biker stand on the pedals and feebly accelerate for a good ten seconds before he realises all is lost.

A child approaches from the opposite direction on a bicycle, head down, zig zagging absent mindedly. I clack my wrist guards together and shout to attract her attention. She looks up, aghast and slightly indignant, half panics and swerves out of my way.

Nearly done 10 miles now, and I’m really starting to feel the pain. I need variety. I don’t get it from the Kayak Kid, who shouts, “Look, it’s that clown!” As I reach the downwind side of the lake, I swerve off the track onto the grassy slope, and ride up to the ballast track above. I gain only 4 or 5 metres of elevation, but it is a different sort of riding, a new challenge, and it’s good for morale as I look down at the lake and scoot along the track.

From here, I follow my traditional “cross country” route, riding along the skyline of the low hills that separate the rowing lake from the canoe lake and the wildlife lakes. I swoop down towards the canoe slalom course, then work my way up the tricky track to the top of the next hill, then take the steady but steep descent back to the lakeside. Then I rush the next hill, reach the top and look down to see the pretty young cyclist, who this time goes so far as to take her hand off the bars and wave.

Down the hill, and onto the rough-topped bank, where a particularly unpleasant looking man is walking his dog. Without being asked, he grumpily gets out of my way, then, as I thank him, he gives me a dirty “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing, can’t you see I’m walking my dog?” look. He is corpulent of form, shaven-headed, heavy-jowled and looks like he reads The Sun but affects to understand the Daily Express. (Note for US readers: these are UK publications; for the same effect, imagine a man who looks like he regards George W Bush as a subversive pinko.)

Down the track at the side of the river, then cut through to the beautiful greensward track with trees almost meeting overhead. Rabbits scatter before my approach. I swerve and shimmy through the short cut-through between the trees and stand on the pedals to cross the rough ground back to the lakeside. Over the little bridge then the other little bridge, and I aim towards the long hill that leads up to the back of the waterski lake. All together now: the hill where I injured my wrist in a low speed fall a few years ago.

The track up this hill is surprisingly overgrown, and there are a few moments when I nearly come a cropper. I’m riding on feel and determination, because I can hardly see the ground for long grass. I finally make it to the top of the hill, and repress an urge to give a Tarzan yell of triumph. I make a steady descent down the very steep hill to the waterski lodge, pick my way between the skiers, drawing rare but favourable comments from one of the instructors.

Next: the railway sleeper bridge. A single railway sleeper spanning a narrow but deep ditch. I’ve fallen here before, and it can be nasty. I nearly chicken out, but I go for it and sail across with no problems.

From here, it’s more familiar routes, trying to follow the skyline as far as possible. There is a determination-draining slog across a rough field with crudely cropped grass, and fossilized wheel ruts. I nearly give up here, but like a batsman in the 90s, I’m determined not to give my wicket away and I stay on top.

Back near the boathouses the Kayak Kid makes his fatal mistake: instead of simply pointing me out, he tries to attract my attention: “Oi! Clooooown!” I turn and ride towards him. He has made another mistake: being back on dry land, standing there looking bedraggled in his spraydeck skirt, with his friends watching. As I approach, his eyes widen with uncertainty. I ride up real close and calmly say, “Don’t you think it’s rude to shout things at strangers? I do.” He looks suitably chastened and I turn and ride away, feeling slightly petty-minded.

A few more hills to rush, and the big one: I make it to the top of “scoreboard hill” - the biggest hill of all, just in front of the scoreboard for events on the mainlake. I ride down this and then towards the canoe course. I do a lap of this, mainly on the skyline. I hear one of the canoeists shout to his friends, “Hey, look - an off road unicycle!” Full marks to this guy say I! He goes on to explain how a chap at his place of work has one, and another chap there has a BMX, even though he’s thirty-something. (The cheek of it! Thirty-something and still having fun!)

Back to the car, soaked from the rain, but no longer cold, and I belatedly notice that once I stopped slogging round the lake on the flat, the seat pain went away. I have done the whole ride “in one”, with only one mount, and no dismounts.

From the GPS:
13.5 miles
(21.72 km)
Max speed: 14.4 mph 23.1 kph
Average speed 9.8 mph (15.76 kph)
Total riding time (with no dismounts or UPDs) 1:22.

Mikefule wrote:

Perfect put-down. I shall have to remember that one.
Great write-up, as per usual.

Mikefule wrote:

Perfect put-down. I shall have to remember that one.
Great write-up, as per usual.

Fab write up. I wish I had such exciting rides (although I was chased by a dog twice - same dog - yesterday. I got so fed up of this dog as he chased me down the path that I had just about made up my mind to do my first bit of one foot riding and kick the dog with the other, when he ran off).


I agree, excellent write-up, I have read all of them that I have ever seen you do, they all sound great, and I get a pretty good visual while reading them. =p

Cathy, I had to use the one-foot-riding-while-kicking-method once, there was a dog, about medium sized and young, cause I saw when the owners first got it, but I was riding by, and saw it laying outside of the fence, and though it was chained, so I rode by, next thing I know I hear a bark then look behind to see it bite my but, it didnt hurt, felt like a nibble really, then it ran up to my side and was gonna jump to bite at my leg, but I was able to kick, well, it was more of a push, cause I dont like kick animals, or any living that for that matter, and yelled at him to go home, and that worked, but now that dog has gotten bigger, and can almost jump his fence, and is very aggressive, next time he chases me, I may actually have to give it a good kick or two…

pertinent remark. It happened to me this very week: someone told me he met and spoke to a unicyclist in the woods without realising it was me!
I thought that my big white mustache and the fact he knew I was a unicyclist could have provided a clue: not at all!

I think I know abut the title, is it the done thing to post here or to PM Mikefule? Never entered one of these quizes before.


Indeed you are correct, my thirst for the story meant I skipped over the first few lines.


No one has got all four. Everyone is miles off with the title question.

A third “deliberate” mistake has been identified by two people. A genuine extra mistake :o and worth a bonus point:) .

No one has seriously attempted the “logical problem”. It is perhaps a little obscure, but should be spottable. It is nothing to do with directions up and down the lake, tops and bottoms of the lake, or the wind direction.

The trickle of attempts to answer has slowed right down. Last chance to make a name for yourself. No one has yet answered all four (plus the extra one:o ).

I will post the answers at about 16:15 BST today.

Wow! That was a difficult one. Thanks to everyone who entered, and especially to those of you who selflessly took the time off from productive paid work or study to make several attempts.:slight_smile:

No one got all four, although some got the bonus mark for the genuinely accidental mistake.

Only Nickjb got the title question with no additional clues. Those who made a credible if misguided attempt received a standard additional clue in my reply, and of them, only Rob Northcott converted the clue into a correct answer.

So, here was the problem:

  • <<OK, this is a biggie: 2 general knowledge "deliberate mistakes", one (non humorous) logical error, and can you explain the title? >>

Here are the clues to the title question. The first three appeared in the story:

  • <<It is a very long time since the Coker has been out for a run. >>
  • <<With some vague idea of covering a big distance non-stop>>
and, most of all:
  • <<13.5 miles>>

The next clue appeared in one of my replies on the thread:

  • <<Everyone is miles off with the title question.>>

So here’s the answer:

  • Just over 13 miles. That's half a [B]MARA[/B]thon distance.

A bit obscure, so well done, Nickjb.:slight_smile:

Full marks for trying to those who made creative allusions to Celtic folk music, Doctor Who, the Marianas Trench and various eastern religions.

Now the first deliberate mistake:

  • <<A few gulls wheel overhead, and I spot a telemark tern amongst them.>>

A tern is a sort of seabird. Yes we do get terns in Nottingham. However, not telemark terns. there is no such thing. However, a telemark turn is a type of turn in skiing. The expression is also used in kayaking and (I think) in ballroom dancing. Quite a few people got this one.:slight_smile:

Now the next deliberate mistake:

  • <<there is friendly banter between the crews of the two nearest coxed threes. >>

Coxed rowing boats (as opposed to sculls) are powered by rowers who have one oar each. A coxed three would have two oars on one side and one on the other, and would go round in circles. All racing rowing boats have 2, 4 or 8 oarsmen. Sculls have 1 or 2. Lots of people got this one.:slight_smile:

Now the accidental bonus mark::o

  • <<I see three K1 racing boats - that's narrow wobbly open canadian canoes with the single bladed paddles. >>
This is too technical for me to have set deliberately. However, a few people spotted that a K1 (single-seater kayak) is powered with a double bladed paddle. A C1 is a single-seated Canadian Canoe, powered with a single-bladed paddle. My clumsy mistake - and as someone who used to be a keen canoeist/kayakist, embarrassing.:o

And now the logic question. No one go this one, so perhaps it was too obscure. Lots of people looked too deeply into whether I was going up or down the lake, which way the wind was blowing, and so on. Her’es the real answer:

  • <<I make it to the top of "scoreboard hill" - the biggest hill of all, just in front of the scoreboard for events on the mainlake. >>

The biggest hill of all, just in front of the scoreboard? It is of course just behind it, so that it doesn’t obstruct the spectators’ view of the scoreboard.

Thanks to everyone who tried, and for all the kind comments about the write up generally.:slight_smile:

Boo! I thought you meant the scoreboard was on top of the hill (so it could be seen from the lake) and you were on top of the hill, in front of the scoreboard :frowning: grrrr…


Me too, I pictured it as Mike riding up the hill towards the scoreboard.

The title clue was very sneaky, a bit like a crossword clue, and I’m rubbish at crosswords. Hence I was nowhere near to figuring that one out!

Hmmmm. I can just sbout see the potential for ambiguity, but I think the punctuation was sufficiently clear to get my meaning across.

The problem with these puzzles is they put me on the spot to write everything else exactly correctly.

Oh well, 'sonly a game.:slight_smile:

My thinking went along much the same lines. The impression all through the ride was that the hills were more pimples than boils, and it seemed logical to site the scoreboard on top of the largest pimple. I was there, but then convinced myself that I was wrong. But never mind.
I wasn’t even close to getting the marathon puzzle, I was way too imaginative. Pronouncing it as “Mahra” rather than “marra” also didn’t help me much. Good puzzle, and congrats to those who saw it.

And as promised: my apologies Mike, for the “lust”.

(If I had more time I was going to go for the Star Wars Mara, who was apparently something of a perfectionist, but luckily I didn’t, so only got it wrong once! :slight_smile: )


Oh, and perhaps it was not the greatest of ideas to use GoogleEarth to tell me how high the hills were. A moment ago I ran the pointer down the rowing course, and GE reveals that water levels in the lake vary between 48 and 81 feet above sea level.
GE needs a higher resolution for Notts Water Sports Complex!!! The other nearby lakes are consistent at around 74 feet above sea level.


I must say, very clever on the title quiz. I would never have gotten it. I was almost ready to go with the name of the girl who kept smiling at you, thinking you might have gotten her name and number after your ride;) .


I thought the logical inconsistency was the bit about coming a cropper - you can’t come a cropper on a unicycle, which has no crop (or equivalent) to go over.

I got the coxed threes, but this time that’s the only one I managed to pick up on :frowning: