Tuesday, 8 October 2013
The water stop was outside a pub that was closed, so there were no toilets. I didn't want to hang around for too long as my legs were beginning to stiffen again. Gavin arrived and I could see the news was not good by the look on his face. He had literally pedaled the last five miles on one leg as his knee had finally given up the ghost. He packed his bike into the van and joined Lynn. Igor had managed to get a lift to the water stop with Ross who went out in the support car to find him. I set off with Jason once again, despite it only being a short stop, my legs were stiff again and I had resigned myself to the fact that this would continue through the day. The miles seemed to roll by quite easily, we criss-crossed the M4 a few times and saw some fantastic country-side a few hills got in the way, but nothing substantial, until the final hill before the lunch stop. The air was beginning to cool and I knew it would not be long before the rain came, the hill was a challenge, but I managed to get all the way to the top, which felt like an achievement after the drama the day before and the pub was literally a couple of hundred yards after the summit. We had arrived at the pub in very good time and lunch was far from ready, but at least we had somewhere to shelter as the rain started to lash down outside.
After lunch, the rain had cleared somewhat and the next water stop was after a town called Marlborough. We had a hill to climb onto the 'Marlborough flats', where a white horse had been etched into the hill. The wind was up and it appeared to be coming straight off the hill and from the bottom it looked very steep indeed. As soon as I hit the hill, it turned to the left and was fairly sheltered from the wind right to the top, I had my legs back quite quickly and found myself passing quite a few other cyclists. As I reached the summit there was a long descent down the other side, but the wind had whipped up again. I held off going all out on the descent as a sudden gust would have had me off my bike quite easily, but others were less apprehensive, and quite a few who I had passed on the hill zipped past me. I think they were either very lucky, or just better at descents than me.
It did not seem like long before we entered Marlborough, I realised that I had visited Marlborough previously with my sister-in-law and her family who lived close by in Chippenham. Just after Marlborough there was a hill, not steep, but very long. I was chasing Igor and Owen (our Wales HASSRA representative) and the traffic was busy. A van and a car were behind them and I found myself drafting behind the car. As the car accelerated I managed to keep pace for a hundred yards or so as I passed both Igor and Owen at a pace. As the car accelerated away, I was inspired, my legs felt good and and I was spinning very fast in a high gear with no sign of tiring, so I decided to carry on attacking the hill. It really did feel good and I'm still surprised now where it came from. With every ascent comes a descent, and this one was special too, after the hill I really wanted to enjoy the descent too, so got myself into the drops for the first time that day and just went for it like a man possessed, partly because I could, but also partly for the satisfaction after holding back on the previous hill. It was not long before I was at the 2nd water stop. This was a nice, warm and friendly country pub, that served lovely coffee, which was very welcome considering it was now quite damp outside. We stayed in the pub for a while as we were now riding to strict timings to get to Stonehenge at 6.00pm, which was good for the banter. We had really some together as a group. Dean finally arrived with Zoe. She had broken him too. So I decided to ride with Zoe for the rest of way.
Zoe was concerned that she might break me. I ankle was aching a little by now, but that was my only complaint from the 3 days remarkably, so we just pootled along. We had a 3rd Water stop at an army base, but I couldn't remember how far away, but it seemed to last an age as we went down country lanes and the occassional A-road. The rides consisted of a number of small hills, which were a challenge for Zoe, but I kept telling her to attack the hill and drop her heels to find a different position and more power in her stroke. I don't know if it helped her much, but I'd like to think it might have passed the time for her a little better listen to me harping on.
By the time we reached the 3rd Water stop the rain and wind was howling. The traffic appeared to be getting busier and we were glad to reach the comfort of the pub at last. Another coffee was just what the doctor ordered. the banter continued and at 5:15 we set off on the final push towards Stonehenge. It felt like ages, and I'm certain it was more than the 2 miles that Ross had announced, but I had gotten used to not believing him by now. Zoe and I set off, we were spurred on by the company of Gavin and Dean for the last bit and we tried to stick together as a bunch. I had lost my bearing again and we appeared to go all the points of the compass, but eventually we reached a descent where we could see Stonehenge in the distance. I'd like to say that I felt ecstatic as I crossed the finish line, but to be honest I was glad it was over. I was wet and cold and the slow ride as a bunch had not allowed me to get the blood flowing again. There were a few people cheering us across the finish line and we were beckoned towards a small event shelter were we were provided with a t-shirt and some drinks and snacks. The HASSRA group had a team photo and we were then beckoned towards the entrance in order to enter the Stonehenge site.
After some waiting we were allowed into the site, where we were pictured riding across a finish line just by the side of the stones. We were also surprised wen they asked us to place our bikes on the grass and wander around the stones freely. This, to me, was an absolute privilege. We saw some visitors who were walking around an outer path, so be on the inner path and then able to wander freely was unbelievable. We had a couple of minutes of wandering a taking pictures of ourselves, when I found myself in the center of the stones, and someone beckoning us to the edge for a group photo. I had my phone set up for a panoramic photo and everybody just disappeared to the edge of the stones, I was there alone for a few seconds and took the opportunity for a 360 degree panoramic photo. I felt like the cat that had got the cream. Fantastic. I have published the photo in a separate blog entry. After the group photo we were allowed to wander for a while longer. A lady called Carolyn from the wider group was an archaeologist and new quite a few things about the site, so listening to her whilst she provided some interesting bits of knowledge was a pleasure.
To get to our hotel, we have to cross a field, or add a couple of miles by going back up the road were had just come down. The field was a no-brainer, but it was a walk for the road bikers (who ended up with a ton of mud in their cleats) or a rid for the mountain bikers and the one who had a cyclocross (guess who that was). Ambling across the field with Igor and Dean ahead of everyone else was fulfilling, but also very nervous. I could feel the rest of the group watching as they walked and I'm sure one or two were hoping that I would fall off, but in a comedy way. Anyway, I didn't fall off and the gamble payed off. Despite my wheel being caked with mud I was able the clip back into my pedals... something that not everyone was able to do, which made pedaling the rest of the way twice as difficult. We followed a dual carriage way for a short while to the hotel. As we came over a fly-over at the junction to the hotel, we were met by the most glorious sunset I have seen in a very long time. I could have stopped to take a photo, but I just couldn't be bothered at that point, so that will have to stay in my memory.
Once at the hotel, we loaded the bikes into the back of the van for the return trip to South Wales and checked into the hotel. After a shower and a freshen up we went down to the bar for a couple of well earned beers and a meal. The night was a fantastic finale to a fantastic weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, including the hardship and feel really honored to have taken part. I volunteered for this challenge because I wanted to push new boundaries. I have pushed these boundaries much further than I expected. As I move on, I am committed to riding more endurance type events and will look at doing self supported expeditions. I would like to thank everybody who has supported me in raising money for the Stonehenge cycle challenge, at the time of writing this last blog, I had raised £210.
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
It turned out he preferred to ride at a pace that was similar to mine, so we stuck together until the first Water stop. The roads were fantastic we went on a dual carriageway for about half a mile out of town and then peeled off onto a country lane. We seemed to ride through a valley and I was expecting at any time to peel off the road and hit a serious climb, but it never came. It was probably just as well, as my legs were still stiff from the day before, but after about 30 minutes they loosened up and I started to stretch my pace out a bit.
The water stop was in a picturesque village by a river outside a small coffee shop. I parked up and ate a few nibbles (banana, tracker bar), to keep me topped up and we took a photo by the side of the river once everybody had caught up. I did not really want to hang around afterwards, as I could feel my legs beginning to stiffen again and I didn't want to break my legs in again after every stop. To start with there were about half a dozen people in front of me, and I was happy to keep this place for the time being. A couple of miles in, a hill soon loomed upon us, not a particularly steep one, but required us to lean into it a bit and put in a bit more energy. I soon found myself up the front again, with a guy called Paul. There were two other guys up front, but it turned out they had decided to take an excursion to a steep hill close by.
We were told there was plenty of time to the next stop and that lunch would not be ready until 12:30, but the roads were too good to ride slowly so we pushed ahead. It was me and Paul for what seemed like about 15 miles. We had the re-assurance of the road signs from the organisers so were alright. We were looking for a swing bridge, which was close to the Lunch stop, as the swing bridge loomed, about ten riders descended upon us, they had been chasing us since the Water stop and had just caught up with us as we reached the Lunch stop. It was 11:30 and the lunch stop was a Golf club that served some lovely soup and sandwiches followed by a pasta salad, which after the mornings efforts went down really well. The two guys who took a detour got a rapturous welcome when they arrived late to the Lunch stop. A few were OK, with it, but a few were pissed off. Certainly, the organisers feared the worst and couldn't rest until they knew they were safe.
At 1:30 when we came out of the golf club, the legs were stiff again. I was joined by Brendan, John and Mark from HASSRA and we cycled out together. We were told that the 2nd water stop was just after a big hill, after a while, just as the legs loosened up again, we reached the hill and started to attack it. Brendan was off in front, followed by me, Mark and then John. The hill really was a challenge and had a few twists and turns. Brendan was gaining distance on us all at his own pace and I concentrated on staying on the bike and using him as motivation to get up the hill. He disappeared around a corner and just as I was reaching the corner and he was coming back in site, Mark was beginning to overtake me. Just at the same moment we noticed that Brendan had got off his bike and was pushing it up the hill. I was determined not to stop and kept with Mark, but then Mark suddenly stopped, shouted I'm going as he was still clipped in and just toppled over onto his right. It was a bizarre situation, I really did not want to get off my bike and I was looking back at Mark as I peddled I could see the pain in his face, he really was hurting, and it was clear to me, me had broken his collar bone in the fall. I had no choice but to stop and go and assist. I helped Mark to unclip, moved his bike to the side of the road and then encouraged him away from the centre of the road to the edge where it was much safer from passing cars. I was then clear that he had not broken his collar bone after all, but probably got a shock through his arm as he went down on it. I was relieved that I didn't have a medical emergency on my hands and pushed Mark's bike up the remainder of the hill as he walked by the side. At the top of the hill, he had recovered enough to get back on the bike and we rode together to the second water stop, which was a good few miles further than what we were expecting from our lunch time brief. I was disappointed that I did not conquer the hill, but equally I was not prepared to cycle back to the bottom and have another attempt, so I will let that one go.
We were compensated for the extended ride by what I consider to be the most fantastic view of the trip. We were on top of a hill which overlooked the Severn estuary, it was quite a view point with the sea in the distance along with Lundy island and we could just make out the Servern bridge, which was mostly obscured by the houses we were stood between. For me, it was the first time in over 2 days that I had managed to get my bearings. After the water stop, was also the best descent of the trip. We were descending through country lanes again, reaching speeds in excess of 30 mph. It felt really exhilarating and appeared to go on for miles. We had a short climb before we re-grouped to cross the Servern. I wasn't sure what to expect from the crossing, we were told we would be climbing for about a mile before we reached the centre of the bridge and started heading down hill, I was expecting some fierce cross wind or being close to the traffic, but the reality was neither, instead I got another fantastic view and a sense of perspective about just how wide the servern estuary is as we cycled over the foot and cycle path.
After the bridge, we went at our own pace again before we ended up at a Holiday Inn near Alveston. I felt really good at the end of the ride, much better than I expected after 2 long rides back to back. I collected my room key and after a bath header to the bar to enjoy a well earned beer. That evening everyone spirits were high consider we had covered nearly 130 miles in two days. Quite a few of us could hardly believe this achievement, but everyone was in bed at a reasonable time as we did not want to rest on our laurels with the day ahead. THe weatherwas forecast as wet with gales, so there was a deal of trepidation amongst quite a few of us.
Saturday, 28 September 2013
The ride was absolutely fantastic and I felt truly honored to participate.
The adventure started as soon as I left the door on Thursday 12th September, with Gavin (from Newcastle) and Brendan (from Glasgow). I had driven down to Cardiff on many occasions before and felt confident I could get there in about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. We set off about 2:30 and reached Cardiff about 7:00pm, but didn't realise there was about another 80-90 miles after that. After a stop courtesy of McDonalds, we reached the starting hotel at about 9:30pm. We dropped the bikes off and set off for the pub to meet the rest of the group, arriving there about 10:30, but they had left by that time. After dropping Gavin off back at the start and getting lost with the sat nav, which took us on a 30 mile detour Brendan and I arrived in Pembroke Dock just after midnight.
We met up again at 6.00am for the trip back to the start and made good time this time, breakfast was courtesy of McDonalds again, but whilst eating breakfast, the heavens opened up and the dread came that this ride was going to be very wet,, but by the time we arrived at the start, the rain had passed.
Getting ready for the start was quite relaxing. We were told an 7:30am start, but it was more like 8:30am before we got off. I spent the time sorting the bike making sure everything was packed and that I hadn't left anything in the car. It was also a time to get to know everyone else in our little group and to start mixing a bit with the remainder of the group. From HASSRA, there were about 12, and the wider group including us contained about 35 riders. I found myself mentally checking off the other riders, to see how I might fair against them... I know it wasn't a competition, but I'm a bit insecure at times and this being the first time I had ever ridden in a group of more than 1, I didn't want to embarrass myself and get left behind or worse.
I'm not sure how it happened, but when we set off, I was at the back of the group anyway, with Gavin and Brendan, I think it was more a combination of throwing my bags into the back of the support van and taking a toilet break, but anyway, I was at the back. It was probably the best place to be though as it helped me the observe everyone else' riding discipline. simple things like how much distances to stay behind someones back wheel and whether riding side by side was generally accepted. I soon got used to it, and even though we were going up hill I found the time to have a natter with a few of the other riders around me and not struggling for breath with the pace. The atmosphere was upbeat and every one seamed excited about the ride ahead. It was 70+ miles on the first day and by this time I felt like I could conquer at least the first day easily. We stopped at a scenic point at the top of the hill for a photo stop and then got down to the serious business of clocking up the miles towards the first rest stop.
Throughout the 3 days the signs directing us along the route were excellent and if I found myself alone with the doubt creeping in that I may have took a wrong turn, another reassuring sign was never far away. Another hill soon loomed before me, we were on a country lane and the group was beginning to extend and some of the people around me were starting to slow. I knew I had a better pace in me, and felt that a slower pace may actually grind me down quicker, so I picked up the pace and gradually started moving to the front of the group. After a while, I found the lead group of 3. Two were from HASSRA (Brendan and John) and another guy called Ian. The pace at the front was challenge and I learned a lot that morning about the how a small group operates, things such as pointing out obstacles, alerting the group to other traffic, especially on the country lanes, and shouting 'clear' at junctions if there is no other traffic. I didn't take my fair share of turns up at the front of the group that morning, but I'm sure the rest of the guys understood.
After a challenging hill, and a fast descent, we finally arrived at the first Water stop. We were 26 miles into the ride and the support car had driven ahead to set up. We were in a car park attached to an old scout hut were we could use the toilet. The support car had been used to set up the first water stop. There was water, an assortment of tracker bars, bananas, oranges, nuts and re hydration sachets. We settled down and the rest of the group soon started to arrive after. It must have took about 25 minutes before the last of us rolled in, which permitted us to set off soon after. There was another challenging hill right from the start, but my stiff legs after 30minutes of rest soon loosened up and it was not long before we were through Carmarthen and well along the road towards the lunch stop. We were joined by a lad called Igor, from Russia originally, but working in the London area, he was about 26 and did not have an ounce of fat on him. I was very impressed at how he could keep pace on his mountain bike, which is not as efficient as riding a road bike. We arrived at lunch and waited for what seemed like 30 minutes as people arrived before we settled down for lunch. I felt a little guilty about leaving so soon after the last person arrived, but after an hour we needed to get on the road. Unfortunately, we had also been told than one of our group (Lynn) had an accident after the first water stop, she took a tumble whilst descend down a hill, dislocated her knee cap, needed 26 stitches, damaged her arm and split her cycle helmet. She had a scan at the hospital, but it turned out there was no head injury, so I guess the helmet did its job. Lynn joined us for the rest of the challenge, but did not get back on her bike, she stayed in the support car and acted as the morale officer.
I made the big mistake of saying 'the weather is being really kind to us today' whilst at lunch, so inevitably it started to rain shortly after lunch, in fact in did not stop for the rest of the day. There was another major climb straight after lunch, this started to feel like a recurring theme, but the climb felt like it was never going to stop. Some other riders were in front of me, so I started passing them and having a chat with them along the way. I passed a lady called Carolyn, whilst we were on a particularly steep stretch, I drew up by the side of her and just manage to gasp a 'hello', she went t say hello back, swerved and ended up tipping over into a hedge. It was nothing serious as she was going so slow and she only tipped a couple of degrees into the hedge, so it acted more like a cushion. Well at least that is how I justified it myself, I apologised, especially for being completely shameless and not stopping and helping the poor lady, but we had a good laugh about it later. After a quick descent and another climb, I found myself crossing the Brecons by myself, the scenery was magnificent and the rain did not spoil it a bit. I descended down into Trecastle and eventually found my way to the second water stop in a nice little coffee shop. I had coffee and a piece of cake, it was delicious. Again we were waiting a while before the others arrived. We were told that there was only another 12 miles before we reached Brecon for the evening.
When I got out of the coffee shop, the rain had not abated, I was still wet and I felt really cold. I started off in a low gear so that I could spin my legs a lot quicker which helped to get my core temperature back up. Shortly after Trecastle, we were directed off the main road onto some country lanes. It is at this point when it became clear that every farmer in the local area had decided that today was a good day to chop the hedges by the side of the road. I was lucky, I only received one puncture, but by the time we limped into Brecon there was a total of 32 punctures (from a group of 35). Those last few miles, although hard and cold, were probably the best ten miles that brought us all together as a group across the whole trip. Every time we saw someone with a puncture, we would slow down and offer some assistance, sometime they were OK, other times they needed some help. Stopped for a lady called Liz (from Canada, but living in Scotland), who was struggling to get her rear tyre pumped back up, so we stopped to help, whilst we were putting the back wheel back on, we spotted another thorn in the front tyre, as soon as we pulled it out we could here it hissing, so Liz had a double puncture and no spare tube. Brendan loaned her a tube and we carried on. Brendan had 3 punctures himself and was glad I was with him with my needle nose pliers to pull out the offending thorns. Just after lunch, someone asked if I was one of the HASSRA mafioso, to which I reluctantly replied 'Yes', but it was a term I never heard after that point. I really think the adversity of those last ten miles really brought us all together as a single group. We eventually arrived at the hotel, I think last because of the support and mopping up we were offering, and at the first opportunity I took a nice long hot bath. I was sharing with Gavin, the room was comfortable and there was plenty of time to relax before I went down for tea. The food was lovely, I kept a strict 2 pint regime as I didn't want to suffer unduly the next day, but I was in bed for 11.00pm. Sleeping in a strange bed that night was not a problem.
Thursday, 19 September 2013
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Nice warm coffee in the golden swan in wilcot. Fantastic climb out of Marlborough and then an incredible descent down the other side before the stop. The wind on marlborough tops was pretty treacherous but we soon got past that bit. Last twenty miles now we think.
Saturday, 14 September 2013
Friday, 13 September 2013
Got very wet and had 1 puncture, but also stopped to help loads of others who had punctures. Didn't help that all the local farmers had decided to cut the hedges along a substantial part of our route. Rain when stopped made it very cold. Going to get a hot bath now.
Check out my 127.6 km Ride on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/82177456
Just came over a moor, not sure of it was the brecons or not, bit lokes like the pictuews I'd seen previously. Sat in the twa rooms at trecastle, got a hot chocolate coz its peed it down and im soaked (wales hey!!). There is a bog queue in the shop, first come... first served.
Stopped at the cennen arms for lunch. The food and rhe craic was good.
I have really surprised myself so far. I have managed to keep up with the lead group. We made a small peleton of 6. The last hill was really tough, seemed to go on forever.
One of our group has had a bad fall going down a hill. She's hurt her leg and having it checked out at hospital, but lynn should be back with us this evening.
Just a bit conscious of being sat around for too long to prevent the muscles from stiffening up.
Will provide a link to my route later, but I'm now 48 miles into the 78 mile route.
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
The bike performed well, and was as quiet as a mouse on the road. It really does make a difference. Really glad that nothing dropped off.
I decided that my last commute to work before the Stonehenge Cycle challenge would be Monday. I needed to be in London on Tuesday, so that was not practical to ride, so a full three days rest before should put me in good stead.
Monday was also my first time parking the bike and getting changed in the new office. The facilities seem reasonable, and should be even better when they get the new showers installed. We also got the route for the cycle challenge on Monday. It came through by email an straight away, the rest of the community went into panic mode. I have some links below, but for each of the three days i'll be riding 75, 56 and 69 miles respectively. I have deliberately not got involved in the resulting emails from everyone this week, some of them. I'm not saying they were negative, but that sort of banter creates doubts about the ride. I'm feeling confident and I don't want anything to undermine this.
Anyway, I've packed my bags tonight, said my goodbyes to the kids and promised to ring them each night. Just need to do a few hours at work in the morning and I'm off to Sunny Wales... Well, at least I hope it will be sunny.
Day 1: http://goo.gl/maps/Nz9CU
Day 2: http://goo.gl/maps/cZQBP
Day 3: http://goo.gl/maps/QeOuy
I'll keep you all posted of my journey over the next few days and will try and upload loads of pics.
Friday, 6 September 2013
Pretty boring this past week. Had to pick the kids up on Saturday from the airport after they had spent a week in Spain. No ride.
I spent some quality time with the kids on sunday including shopping fir school shoes. No ride again.
Monday thro Thursday was pretty boring with one exception with a TDE truck trying to squeeze through an 8ft gap created by a traffic island at the same time as me. I think he realised the error of his ways, but the process of jumping on his brakes as his momentum carried him level with me before he stopped scared the shit out of me. Luckily the kerb was lowered for pedestrians which allowed me to swerve onto the path and shout a few obscenities at him. I think he was apologetic, but I cant be sure.
Today, Friday, it is raining. I was glad in a way because it is more likely to be wet in wales next week so I could do with the practice. Got into the office, drenched, but satisfied, only to be told the office will not be opening until 8am from next week and to add insult to injury, they have turned the hot water off too.
This office closes in a few weeks and I will have to find somewhere else to park my bike. It seems those in charge would prefer me to find somewhere else sooner.
Anyway was feeling really refreshed and ready for work this morning (courtesy of the showers) only to find my bloody laptop is bust.
Shrugs shoulders and rolls eyes in disbelief! :-(
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
I know my limits, and I've done pretty well considering that I did not do any riding up until the 12th August after my leave, so I'm going to let this one pass.
I'm fairly comfortable with this, but I have to aim for something big next month to compensate. Therefore, I'm going to try and complete my biggest month to date. My current record is 705 miles for April. With the planned Stonehenge cycle challenge on the 13-15 September I should get a boost, so 800 miles sounds like a nice figure to aim for.
Said it now... Gotta be done.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Went out the door with sun glasses, trying to look cool... as usual... NOT!!
Climbed the hill that overlooks Greasborough and descended into a layer of Scotch mist.
Options were to turn back and get the lights fitted, but I didn't fancy riding back up the hill I'd descended... Well not this morning anyway. OR take my sun glasses off and soldier on.
The sun glasses, being highly inappropriate for the weather I had encountered, made a world of difference, especially since they were beginning to steam up. I could now see around, but the question was could everyone see me?
As it happens, by the time I had ascended up the other side of the valley and got on the main road into Sheffield the fog was gone, but that was about 2 1/2 miles of nervous riding, which I would not like to repeat.
It turns out that if I had turned back, it would have been futile anyway. The USB re-chargeable lights, have been unplugged for about a month now and even when they are switched off, they must lose their charge as they were completely dead when I checked them tonight.
I don't know why I stopped having the lights on. I used to be a stickler for that and had them on every day no-matter what the weather. I think with the really nice weather of late, I have just got myself out of the habit...
Anyway... that's going to change from today.
Sunday, 25 August 2013
I think I have been spoiled of late, with the nice weather. I have tanned face, arms and legs; and these last few weeks it has felt distinctly Mediterranean whilst out cycling. What a difference 36 hours of rain makes!!
I was out of my pit at 5:45 this morning. I looked outside and the weather was spot on with what the forecast had predicted the night before. A grey start, but brightening up soon after. I wasn't sure when the brightening up bit would come exactly, but I dressed for it anyway.
I sat there eating my porridge looking out the window, hoping that the porridge would never end, it seemed to get greyer by the minute. But this wasn't going to put me off and I donned the rest of my gear (cycle helmet, snacks and shoes and headed out.
It was very fresh when I got out, and the wind was up too. My route would take me North towards Pontefract, but turning off just before for a little loop before I headed back home along the same route. It is my 50 mile baseline route, so I stepped on the pedals hoping that a little more effort would help to warm me up.
I didn't get much warmer, since despite it not raining the whole route, the rads were still wet from last nights rain which kicked up a lot of spray around me and kept me damp. The weather did not brighten up either and I thought quite a few times about bailing and heading home to a nice warm bed. But I stuck at it and completed my 50 miles.
Sometimes riding is such a pleasure, other times it is a real slog and tests you in more ways than one. Either way, by the time you get home there is a certain satisfaction that you completed the course and beat those inner demns that wanted you to turn back sooner.
I'm glad I had my ride this morning, it made the cooked breakfast when I got home seem really worth the effort.
Saturday, 24 August 2013
Today, Saturday, is the first day of the start of Le Vuelta. I am participating in a challenge on the 'my fitness pal' website which runs throughout the time of the competition. There are three teams of nine that are competing. Whilst we are competing against each other, there is also an objective to match the number of miles of each of the stages each day also. I'm not sue how many miles my team have contributed until the results are posted, but my contribution was 41.7km (26 miles), given that the first stage is only 27.4km, I think this one is in the bag. Tomorrow's stage is 177.4km, which might be a bit more tricky.
More riding planned for tomorrow. I want to complete a 100km ride. Just going to go back through my ride logs on Strava to see what will be a good route. Will post a further update tomorrow.
Friday, 16 August 2013
Thursday, 15 August 2013
Tuesday, 50 miles... been planning this route for a while as a baseline ride to measure progress over time. Did it in 3 1/2 hours. Felt good during first part of the ride, but energy soon went as I had forgot to take a snack with me to re-fuel. Recovering after that ride felt like I'd gone right back to my first ride at the beginning of last year. I truly felt crap.
Wednesday, 30 miles... I remembered snacks this time. Some mini (bite sized) stroop-waffles from Lidl (don't tell TBY). Ride felt much better after focusing upon recovery the night before. I left the ride while late in the afternoon also to aid recovery also. I could have bailed on Wednesday, but since Sam is working Thursday, getting out on the bike was going to be difficult. Main aim for the ride was to find some hills and earn the right to bomb down them.
Thursday, stripped the drive chain off the bike, gave it a thorough wash/de-grease and re-assembled.
I'm planning a big one for tomorrow. Probably 100k. Sam wants me back for 12noon, so I need to be out of the house before 8.00am to achieve that. Can't decide whether to head for the hills in the peak district again, or whether to go out into the flat areas around Doncaster and North Yorkshire. The hills have the edge at the moment as I want to conquer Mam Tor from the Eastern approach, but I'll see how it goes in the morning.
Final note is that I have now raised the sponsorship money necessary for my ride from the Preseli Mountains to Stonehenge in September. I would like to pay a big thank you to everyone who has sponsored me.
Sunday, 11 August 2013
Anyway, those who follow me on MFP and Strava will notice a lack of activity on the cycling front this last week. I did get out on the bike, on the first day to test ride it after putting the pedals back on, but with the bike exposed to the elements, especially the rain on the first night meant the chain rusted up quick pronto.
I have to say though, that the week was not a complete wash-out fitness-wise. I spent every day on the beach and have been involved in activities such as body boarding, surfing, paddle boarding and finally sea kayaking, all of which were extremely enjoyable and demanding, despite me being the surfing equivalent of the embarrassing dancing Dad at a wedding.
My measure for getting exercise is that gradually throughout the week I have woken up to a fresh ache somewhere from the previous day's activity, the worst being my head from having having the kayak unceremoniously dumped upon my head after being thrown off by a wave (several times); and the initial climb out of bed has become more and more difficult each morning.
I am back from my holiday now. Feel really invigorated from the break and now have clear line of sight through to my cycling challenge in September.
Monday, 5 August 2013
Finished work on Friday and after packing the car and giving the wife a kiss goodbye headed down to the sister in laws house with the kids. Adele's house is about half way to where we are now staying in Croyde, North Devon. We arrived just after 11.00am and the weather was glorious fot putting the tent up and then we spent time on the beach later. I got burnt from the sun and had my first bash at body boarding. Have to admit I'm not very good at it. Might be technique or perhaps my weight, but very likely to be a combination of both. I'm not complaining though, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and it was t-shirt weather right through to bedtime. I didn't go to town on the booze limiting it to just a couple beers. The kids have spent more time on the bikes this afternoon than in the entire previous year!!
Going easy on the bers hws paid off for the first day. As here I am laying in my tent on the start of day 2 and it is pissing it down outside.
Sunday, 28 July 2013
Friday - went to a wedding and got very drunk
Saturday - recover from Friday and repeat the drinking process on Saturday night
Sunday - sat here feeling sorry for myself.
Friday - drank copious amounts of Cider, and grabbed some food from the table every time I passed for a fresh drink, which was often. My favourite at the table was a roasted ham joint, which combined with the sun and alcohol added to my thirst. When I got home, my stomach was fit to burst, I went to bed and opened all the windows to keep cool. I wasn't that drunk that I couldn't drink a pint of water, but the damage had already been done. My stomach was still expanding at 2.00am and my pulse was racing, when it clicked that it was the ham joint and beer combined with obesity that set me off on the road to being fitter and healthier after Christmas 18 months ago.
I've come to the realisation this weekend, that the obesity may be gone, but the underlying vulnerability to abusing my body is still very close.
Saturday - I was surprisingly fresh when I awoke next morning, perhaps the 2 hours I sat up drinking water and watching an old war movie '633 Squadron' from 2.00am did the trick. Sam (my wife), went to Uni to plan for a conference she is presenting at next week and I took the kids to football. I fixed the kids bikes for the Cornwall holiday, after prizing myself off the settee, before I realised it was 7.00pm. An hour later I was back at the pub, with my Brother-in-law. Four pints was all I could manage and the rain walking home was quite refreshing. The chinese takeaway waiting for me when I got in was just the tonic, but hardly complimentary to my salt intolerance.
Sunday - slight headache upon waking. Nice breakfast. Sam has gone to her Mum's for an hour. I know it is a waste but my body needs a break at the moment, so I'm going to concentrate on getting myself in a good position for a ride on Monday.
Friday, 26 July 2013
Wednesday, 24 July 2013
So, OK, last Thursday, I wanted to ride to work and back and achieve a sub-40 minute time for each ride. On the ride into work I absolutely smashed it 36min 45 sec, to be precise. On the return trip it was 39min 27sec. I honestly could not believe it. I don't want to keep setting myself objectives based upon the same ride, but might aim to move myself up the ranking on a few segments throughout the ride, with a view to hitting sub 40 minute times more frequently without exhausting myself.
I also went out on Saturday for about 30miles, which I achieved just under 2 hours. Very pleased again. I wanted to go out Sunday, but my bezzy mate 'Mick' mentioned the word 'Pub'... you can guess the result!...
Well... I earned it.
Thursday, 18 July 2013
I started off with the cheapest saddle of the lot. It came off a mountain bike my Dad lent me about ten years ago now. I was not into cycling that much back then and did not know as much about maintaining it. The bike came as a pair from JJB sports where you get 2 for £200. I guess you get what you pay for, but that, my fat ass; and the fact that the sand from from the cycle paths along the canal into Sheffield worked like an 'Angle Grinder' on the gears, meant the bike was knackered after three months.
I was also curious about whether this seat was more or less comfortable as it was much narrower than the others I have. Anyway, Tuesday felt surprisingly good. Wednesday was a double 'school run' day (drop off and pick up), so more convenient to commute in the car, and today was less surprising, but comfortable.
I have been avoiding one of the main roads into Sheffield as it suffered in the poor weather earlier this year and was very dangerous with pot holes and loose gravel at the edges scope from the pot holes also. The road was re-surfaced last week and is now super smooth, so I have a fresh route into work. It is also the shortest route into work, so this week I have recorded the two shortest times commuting the 10 miles home. On Tuesday it was 40min 1sec and today it was 40min 35sec. So here is the new target...
to commute to work and home in under 40 minutes. This is not as straight forward as it may first appear. The traffic lights, the traffic and the wind needs to be on your side to make it happen, but I will be disappointed if I do not achieve this before I break up for leave on the 2nd August.
Sunday, 14 July 2013
My hybrid did not get fixed until March. Until today I had my biggest ride on this was 88.5 miles in early April out into Lincolnshire.
Anyway, I set off about 5:30 this morning, I had decided on doing at least 100k (of which I have done a few now), but did not have any preference as to where I went or anything. The road took me out on my habitual route round Mexborough, along Manvers and then out toward Grimesthorpe, Brierley and eventually Pontefract.
I developed some aches and pains early on in the ride in my feet and arse. I was ready for this and prepared to stop a few times in order to get in right. I moved the cleats on my road shoes further towards the centre of my foot away from the big toe where I was experiencing the pain and decided to lift the nose of the saddle up slightly so that I sat more on the widest part towards the near.
The ride felt much better afterwards, so I decided to plod on. I reached Eggborough power station at about 8:30am which I did not consider too bad after the stop. It was at this point on the road towards Snaith that I had to make the decision to turn South for Thorne and then Doncaster or push on for Goole. The Goole roads are unfamiliar to me but the route down towards Thorne and Bawtry looked striaght forward to allow me to pick up the final miles of the ride on familiar roads.
I reached Goole without incident, but it was at this stage that the sun was starting to get stronger and the saddle felt like a chesse grater. I resisted any further adjustments and headed for Crowle, and then onto Hatfield near Thorne, which would then take me towards Bawtry. Reaching Crowle seemed like forever, the roads were pan flat and I could see for miles, which started playing tricks on my motivation. I was very tired by the time I reached Crowle and I found myself stopping for rest at a park bench at just about every major village I passed through.
Upon reaching Bawtry, I was back on familiar roads, I was still dog tired, but now I could easily gauge my progress and adjust my route to hit the 100 mile target. I ran out of water in Tickhill. I had a few climbs before I reached home, so stopped off at Tesco in Maltby for more water, and an energy drink. I was stopping every 5 miles or so now, mainly to hydrate, but also to keep tabs on my mileage. I completed 100.66 miles, and have to admit that this was one of the most tiring experiences of my life, but I am glad I did it. I think the saddle made the ride much more onerous, so I am considering swapping saddles over the next week or so with my stock in the garage, to see if I can manage a better ride.
Saturday, 13 July 2013
I did do the big ride on Saturday, but my cousin got married that day and I spent the evening at the party. Sunday was very busy with kids football and I have not had the time since last weekend to sit down and write a blog.
So here we go...
The ride on Saturday totalled 94.5km. I started the route off as described in my previous blog at got all way up the road past Penistone to the outskirts of Huddersfield. I took a left up the hill heading towards a personal target of Emley Moor.
For those of you not local to me, Emley Moor has a TV transmitter located at the top of it. On a clear day, you can see it from miles away, there is not a high spot in the entire Yorkshire region where you cannot see this point. Most of my rides get views of the Emley Moor transmitter from the South and East of it, so it was a personal achievement to ride right up it. Next target is loop around it and possibly go North of the M62 towards Bradford and Leeds before swinging back South for home.
My route took me then towards the M1 via the Yorkshire sculpture park, up towards Barnsley and back home via the quiet back roads.
I could have gone further, but my backside was really starting to suffer after Emley Moor. I had the new seat on the bike, and I am starting to wonder whether it really is for me.
I treated Sunday as a rest day, well from the bike anyway. I managed to commute to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday and Friday was spent on the Hybrid as I wanted to bring and take my laptop from/to work as I had a visit to London on Thursday and needed the pannier to carry the extra weight. The old seat on the Hybrid was a welcome break from the regular bike. I'm going to head out today for another biggy and will make a decision regarding the new saddle afterwards.
Promise not to leave it so long before my next blog.
Friday, 5 July 2013
Commute home tonight was good. I could have done more, but am saving myself for a big ride tomorrow, but I did take a small detour to ride up my favourite hill. I discovered this hill which is not far off my usual route last year when my son started his winter football training at the Concord leisure center's astro-turf pitch. It was later announced that the hill would be one of the last obstacles before the finish line at the end of stage 2 of the Tour De France.
Anyway, I got a personal record on this hill, which is a real boost, you can find a link to the hill on this link http://app.strava.com/activities/64912366#1234616275
Tomorrow, I'm thinking of heading into Rotherham, through Chapeltown and pick up the main road toward Huddersfield. Depending upon my performance I will turn off towards either Barnsley or Wakefield before swinging back South for home. Not sure on the mileage and don't really care, just want to clock up as many miles as possible.
Thursday, 4 July 2013
So it was on the bike after the school run and I waited to turn right out of a junction, and a guy turned left (without indicating) which would have permitted me to go. On the road down to Murderhell (a big shopping center near Sheffield) and the bus lane going towards the Wicker arches, two drivers decided they weren't making the progress they desired and cut into my lane (the left) again without indicating.
I had to congratulate myself when I got into work for being very calm and collected about it... I didn't loose my rag once, but it was blustery this morning with a mild head wind, so cycling in a straight predictable line was probably taking up a lot of my concentration.
I understand there is going to be wall to wall sunshine for the next couple of weeks, dare I even say a heat wave, so here's looking forward to getting some of the tan lines sharpened up ahead of my cycle challenge in September.
Wednesday, 3 July 2013
Hoping it will arrive in time for my big ride on Saturday, when I will be putting the new saddle through a more thorough test.
They measured my sit bones, which involves sitting for a minute or two on a small board with a memory foam pad that has a gauge behind the pad to measure the gap between the dimples that are left. Whilst sat, you have to 'assume the riding position' by bending forward and bringing your heels up so you are on the balls of your feet. I felt I should ask for a copy of the Sunday Sport, but resisted the urge. I'm not sure this process has any scientific basis, but it is probably a good laugh for the guys in the shop. Anyway, I settled for a Specialized Body Geometry Phenom saddle at £60.
I took it on its first outing on Monday as I dragged my aching corpse from the weekend riding into work. The saddle felt odd, which you would expect with it being new, but it did not affect my performance as I grabbed my first 'King of the mountain' award on the Strava app that I use to log my miles using my smartphone. Because of the early time I had to set off, the traffic was light on one of the first hills that I descend down into Rotherham. If the traffic lights are on your side, you can get down to the bottom pretty quickly. Of the 59 people that have logged rides going down that segment, none of them have done it quicker than me. I'm not particularly proud of this achievement, bombing down a hill at just under 40 miles an hour is a bit daft as coming off at that speed is guaranteed a visit to the hospital, but I find it hard to explain the feeling of exhilaration this gives me. It's like instant stress relief.
Probably said too much now.
Sunday, 30 June 2013
What I wasn't prepared for was the decent into Castleton on the other side. The road signs do not point to Castleton and I ended up doing another min climb back from the Blue-john cavern after realising I took the wrong track. Once I got onto the right track I had the 10% drop into Castleton which seems to descent forever. This was really scary. The ground was wet, and lots of pressure was applied to the brakes to stop the bike from running away. I haven't checked the stats, but I reckon I averaged 5mph all the way down. Lots of things were going through my head on that descent and non of them were good. My mind was playing tricks on me and I was imaging smoke coming out of the rear disc brake. The front brake was screaming like a banshee, which drew attention of every hiker in the valley to me. Once I was safely down, I made a bee-line back for Sheffield and home. 66.8miles in the bag.
On Saturday, I was back in the saddle again at 7.00am. Isaac my eldest had a two hour football practice session which finished by 12.00. We had lots planned for the day, so I set my alarm on my mobile for 2hours 30minutes. I was a case of see how for you can get along the usual route before I turned back. I was sore, but the legs soon eased of as I began spinning the pedals, but the arse was a bit uncomfortable. Despite that I achieved a lot in the ride. From home I rounded Mexborough and went the full length of Manvers, before heading out toward Pontefract via Barnsley. I stopped in a place called Brierley for a quick time check and a bite to eat. I had clocked 1hr20mins, so thought Pontefract would be about my limit in the time given. How wrong was I? Pontefract, came and went, as did Knottingley and as I approached Eggborough I was beginning to think that the phone had packed in. I stopped off at another regular point for refueling and was delighted to see that I had another 10 minutes spare. I had gone far enough by that point, and decided to head back. Oddly, this ride also clocked up 66.8miles... bizarre!!
The objective of this weekend, was to achieve 3 rides back to back totalling nearly 200miles. I will not achieve this as I fear that another 60-70miles will cause an injury in the nether region. I have learned a lot about myself this weekend, I performed 2 fixes on the fly (rear derailleur and crank arm coming loose), I know I have enough energy in my body to go the distance, the only sticking point is saddle comfort so I'm off to the bike shop to see if I can get a better saddle.
Thursday, 27 June 2013
I get on at the kids for playing on the xbox and playstation too much and for constantly tapping me for money to buy virtual Downloadable Content (or DLC for short). This usually comes in the form of a map that Isaac (my eldest) needs so that he can battle it out with his mates on Call of Duty, or a new random custome that Jacob (my youngest) needs for his Sack Boy avatar on Little Big Planet.
Anyway, on the Diet and Fitness website that I participate on, I signed up for a Tour De France challenge, where teams of nine try and clock as many miles as possible during the event. As part of the challenge I have been awarded a virtual dossard to sport on my profile pic, and here it is...
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Ok. Strava says my ytd mileage is 2,748. The commute home and tomorrow's commute should add 30miles to that total. So if I am to hit the big 3,000 by month end I need to put in 222 miles. I set myself a target at the beginning of the year of doing 100 miles in a single ride. Guess this weekend is the right time for that along with 2 100km ride to get me over the line. Just a case now of deciding what order to do them in. Will sit on that for a while and update later. ;-)
I have literally created this blog in five minutes before I go to work, which I will work on when I get home tonight. Thank you for visiting and please don't forget to call back regularly. A special thanks if you have donated to my Virgin Just giving account which can be found at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CarlBirch