Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Tick, tick, tick, boom!

Friday was not a good day. Friday, my back was still painful. I went for a swim and swam 1,000m (40 lengths) just like the previous day, however, I did not feel great for so doing. My back continued to hurt and I thought my chances of cycling the TAW were slim.

Woke up Saturday feeling much better with less pain in my back. Once I was up, the pain had returned but not to the same extent as previous days. Felt much more optimistic and believed that I may get to the start line after all. Such excitement caused me to ponder my kit list(s) again and have now decided to drop the pants and silk ls layer to save just a bit of extra weight. Had no idea what it might feel like to be on my bike but figured I'd wait a while yet. Hoping!

Sunday morning was awful. I woke up in a lot of pain. Seriously doubted that I would be cycling the TAW and felt like I had already let down myself and Jamie. All the money I had wasted spent, all the hours training, all the effort to take time off work, arghh, my head-space was all mashed up. Reflected on how this past week was pants. I had waned to buzz and be filled with excitement the week before this event. I had wanted to look at everyone's bikes and FaceBook posts. Instead, I was full of doom, gloom and anxiety. In the afternoon, I asked SJ to take me to work just so I could collect my (commute) bike and cycle home. A 'test' is what I thought was required. I would not listen to the advice from others and cycle a short distance near home, no, I wanted to see if I could ride my bike and pedal with a certain amount of pain. So, I cycled from work all the way home. Sure, I was in a little pain and my back felt tight but I could cycle. 25k later and I had reached home. Better yet, I had reached the decision that I would cycle TAW even if it killed me (let's hope it doesn't). I figured pain relief would be the way to go and Lin said she'd get me some tiger balm as she felt that'll do wonders. Took a quick trip to my parents (who will be away until my return) to say farewell (and inform I planned to cycle), borrowed some cash and printed copies of route profiles. I had started to buzz a little.
Monday morning saw me re-visit the GP. Thankfully, she felt my back issues were muscular in nature. GP advised I 'listen to my back', I swear I heard my back say 'to Ireland you must go'. Kind GP gave me some exercises to perform to manage back pain and some codeine to take at night. Sweet. I was advised to continue with Naproxen during the day. I felt swimming helped a little last week, so I swam a little today too. Just to make sure riding my bike really was a good idea, I cycled about 20k today for test purposes. Ouch, back still hurt.

Tuesday came. Mixed emotions. Race to get packed. So pleased I was able to go. Am I really a crazy goon? Miss my wife and kids and family. Back soon. Boom!

Check my progress/regress here: TAW Race 2018

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Tapering to the TAW. (Torn and twisted)

Had such a great feeling at the start of this week. I think this was because it was a 'no-work' Monday (Bank Holiday) and I knew that only about 150k training miles were between now and the start of my TAW cycle race. I cycled an easy 25k to start the week and got extra excited when I received the latest TAW email which included a link to the 'tracker thing'. This 'tracker thing' means that anyone can follow (watch) Jamie and I (and all the other cyclists) race across Ireland as tiny dots on a big map of Ireland. The link is here: http://trackleaders.com/transatlantic18f.php, so please follow us! Would be awesome to know some folk are following us and wishing us well.

Tuesday was a rest day. I had Governance meetings away from my usual work base so no commute was possible. I didn't feel the need to push myself and run. In fact, I was feeling happily lazy.

Mid-week and menace struck. I cycled to work with no initial issues and managed to miss a major downpour. I showered and then when I was getting changed my back gave way. Wasn't sure what had happened but I was experiencing some acute pain. This pain continued so I contacted my GP and secured an appointment. My wife and daughter came and picked me up from work (my bike and gear still remains there) and took me to the GP practice. Following my examination, I wasn't given the news I wanted to hear. The Dr felt I had a prolapsed disc and suggested I take pain killers, consider an MRI, stay away from work (sick not written for 1 week) and complete a referral for physiology. Grr! I explained I was planning on racing the TAW next week and I got the expected 'pep talk' about how health is more important than any event and preventing more serious injury etc. The Dr has agreed to see me again next Monday. I do hope and pray all will be well. Contacted Adrian (TAW organiser) and Jamie to keep them updated. Both suggest I wait until Monday, see how I feel and await 'Drs orders'. That initial great feeling I had at start of week is not feeling so great right now.

Woke up Thursday to a considerable amount of pain. Had slept well though - the valium I took the night before had worked well. Struggled to get into my car (feel most pain sat in car seat) and took myself to local swimming pool. Felt nice to swim (probably first swim this year) and I swam 40 lengths (1,000m) which felt mostly fine. Kinda hurt when I had gotten out the pool again. Later in the day walked a short distance around local park which felt quite uncomfortable. I told my ma that I couldn't possibly ride my bike right now (let alone up a hill), she replied 'well, you don't have to  yet'. My mother is right of course. My mother, wife and Jamie are all well wishing and appear optimistic that I will start the race. I so hope they are right.

Monday, 28 May 2018

The last big ride before the big, big ride

What a great start to the week, my last but one training week before the 2018 TransAtlantic Way (TAW) cycle race, wahay! This week started with a 200k audax cycle. The route was one of my own DIY numbers and namely the 'Wot No Cross' which I have cycled several times before.
Wot No Cross (213k)
The weather for this cycle was awesome, near perfect. Bright, sunny and yet a cooling breeze. I left my house at early doors and headed for the first control in Broadway. The first part of this adventure meant I cycled very close to where I work - how great it felt once I had passed the turn off for work and onward on my adventure. Always feels funny cycling part of my regular commute but using a different bike - it felt especially weird today because I was cycling a fully loaded bike and attempting to simulate TAW conditions. (How great it would be if the weather was similar, hmmm). Reached Broadway with no issues and only stopped to collect a receipt for POP purposes.

Next stretch was where the hills started. Avoided the real big menace of Saintbury and Fish Hill, passing them by to tackle an easier Cleeve Hill. No fast descent the other side as traffic was busy and parked up. Took a cycle route through parks to reach the centre of Cheltenham where I stopped for another receipt.
My leg to Cirencester was part off-road. I deliberately cycled a stretch of off-road but missed a turn which caused me to cycle more off-road than I had planned. Stretches of this track were ridiculous and big trenches, tree roots and gravel had to be tackled. A short section was bike-a-hike. Lovely to reach Cricklade where I stopped for a quick bacon bap and mug of tea.
Mmmm, breakfast
Next section wasn't too far out and took me to Cricklade. I passed this house which looked like a castle and stopped to take a picture. Have passed this abode a number of times and often wished that it was my domicile. Purchased some rice pudding in Cricklade and was so pleased I had packed a spork. I really need to invest in a survival/army can opener though because there would have been little to no way I could have opened a can. My pudding was in a smaller plastic pot. Guess I might be living off rice pudding during TAW.
Who lives in a house like this?!
My bike felt right which was great. Am sure there was a few items I hadn't packed that'll be needed for TAW but it was pretty much how it will be. Still deciding on shoes vs sandals and should I take shoe covers (they are so bulky). Such thoughts and thinky things were in my head all the way to the next control in Witney. Further rice pudding at this stop. Yup, it's a winner.
Spork and rice pudding, yummers!
Last section home was quite lengthy (about 70k) but followed a lot of lanesy quiet roads that were quite beautiful. Return route took me close to work again - how great it had been to not work today. No rain all day either. Was home about 11 hours after I had left and completed my May 200k for RRtY purposes. Aces!

Two days in the week were my regular to work and back cycle commutes. The latter was awful as the rain had returned with a vengeance. Probably more realistic Irish weather.

Ran on 1 occasion in the week. Nothing special. Just a nice Studley Triangle 5k run.

Spent the weekend thinking some more about TAW and getting bags packed in preparation. The pictures below reveal exactly what I'm taking in my bags. Am sure there will be some slight modifications. Any suggestions etc, please let me know.
Ok, in my 5l Alpkit dry bag, which is attached to my handlebars using a Wildcat harness, I have the following: Calf guards (to help with sore muscles, keeping my legs warm and to prevent midges from biting), down jacket (to keep warm), running tights (to sleep in and cover me up when in a hostel), silk ls base layer (to keep me warm if required), merino ls base layer (warm dry layer for sleeping), cycling shorts (always need a spare), pair of pants (to add decency should I be staying in a hostel) and 2 pairs of socks (1 pair must be kept dry for sleeping). I deliberately chose such a small dry bag (5l) to prevent me taking any more stuff.
In my 13l Aplkit tapered dry bag, which is attached to my seat post with a Wildcat harness, I have the following: Down sleeping bag (toyed with synthetic but this turned out best lightweight/cheap option), sleeping bag liner, Alpkit 'Cloud Base' sleeping mat, Alpkit Bivvy bag, plastic bag (to keep dry stuff dry if bivvy gets wet) and a (currently missing) inflatable pillow (nice one Jamie).

In my final bag, which is a custom made Alpkit frame bag (not sure what volume), I have the following: Hip flask, paperwork (basic route, hostel info, insurance documents etc), pen, usb plug, 2 x battery chargers, cables (usb, phone, garmin), spare light battery, oil, rag, cleats, bolts, gas, gas head, levers, zip ties, patches, boot, multi-tool, disc pads, pump, 'dirty' gloves, 2 x tubes, sun tan lotion, sudacrem, paracetamol, ibuprofen, immodium, lip balm, bum creme, sanitiser, vitamin c tablets, (missing electrolyte), knife, spork, can opener, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, te-pe, lock, baby wipes and passport. Am sure there may be the odd item missing. Hmm, what have I not included?

I will be dressed and wearing the following (if not wearing will be in a jersey pocket): shoes or sandals, toe or shoe (or both) covers, socks, leg warmers, bib shorts, H20-proof shorts, merino base layer, arm warmers, jersey, gilet, rain jacket, cap, buff, helmet, glasses, gloves, glove liners and a helmet.

My bike will be carrying 2 bottles, a garmin, front light (powered by dynamo hub) and a rear fibre flare light.

Argh! Not long now! Argh!

Completed the week by cycling two short journeys over the weekend. Really, really not long to go now. Maybe only 150k between here and the start of the TAW!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

T minus 2 weeks (ish) to TAW!

Lunar's expressions capture how I feel with regards to the looming TAW!
Started my training this week on a high. First adventure was a trip to Roger's for some nice tandem action. Took a hilly route to get to Roger's and then swapped my road bike for his tandem. Together we cycled a 65k route on a wonderfully sunny day and stopped at a lovely cafe near Lowsonford for breakfast. I can never remember the name of this cafe but it's great and it's where we stopped on our first ever tandem adventure together. After our full English, it was a cycle back to Roger's domicile where I swapped bikes once more. Took an easier route home and was pleased with such a great start to the week.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were all regular to work and back cycle commutes. Pretty fine weather on each ride. Wouldn't to be wonderful if Ireland is this sunny when I'm away.

Ran on 2 occasions this week - Wednesday and Sunday. First run was a trek around the Studley triangle. Second run was a cross country affair over the fields of Studley. Felt good to stretch my legs.
Spent some time fretting about the TAW. Just wanted to make sure my kit list was all sorted. I think I am mostly sorted and hope to do a fully loaded 200k tomorrow for test purposes. Above is a picture of my fully loaded machine. Next blog and I'll share what's inside the bags.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

TAW - it nears!

Lost my mojo and my focus a little this last week. This resulted in a relatively poor training effort for the week. I still cycled and ran a little, so I guess all was not bad. Oh my goodness, the TAW (TransAtlantic Way cycle race) is less than a month away!

Monday was a Bank Holiday and was spent resting after the Brevet Cymru. I was really glad of the rest too. Recovery is quite an art if you ask me!

Tuesday and Wednesday were both cycle to work and back commutes. And it's about here my training went a bit pants. In fact, I didn't train again until the weekend.
My old and trusted Pearl Izumi gilet
On a brighter note, my rather wonderful Pearl Izumi gilet was fixed! Yay, it cost £7 to get a new runner on the gilet, rather than big bucks to purchase a new gilet. Oh, the art of repair. Less great was the menace of getting my wheel fixed. I contacted Cycle Studio in Redditch and they said it would 'take a month' for them to fix a broken spoke. That, in my mind, is very poor service and borders on ridiculous. I don't think they had any interest in completing a small job. I contacted Vale Cycles in Evesham, they said 'bring it in mate, we'll fix it overnight'. Vale Cycles good, Cycle Studio bad!

Looked at a lot of social media stuff relating to the TAW which was inspiring, frightening and mind boggling. Pushed myself to record a video for media purposes of the pending TAW bike race. Below is my un-edited, interview with self (answering questions I was asked to answer).
Once the weekend came, I got my mojo back. With this renewed focus, I set off on an early morning run. I ran a rendition of the Studley Triangle. I ran off my work associated anger.

Sunday came and my anger returned. My recently repaired gilet had not been repaired at all and the zip was still wonky. Grr. Modern clothing ain't the quality it used to be. I have a shirt that's over 40 years old and still remains fine..
Now and Then
Decided to run off the anger once more and felt better for so doing. This was another Studley Triangle run in the awesome sun. Completed my training for the week with a cycling jolly with Ron and his new bike. Perfect way to end a week.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Brevet Cyrmu 2018 (Extended Bonus Edition)

Only 2 training events this (last) week. A cycle commute to work and back (and passed the Mrs on my return) and a 400k audax. Oh the joys!

Work had prevented more training. Ain't this always the way?! Well, maybe I could have pushed myself a little harder...

Anyways, the 'big' event I cycled was the rather awesome Brevet Cymru. A collection of my thoughts and memoirs are presented below:

  • This was the 3rd time I had cycled this event and on each occasion this event was organised by Mark Rigby.
  • I first completed this event in 2011. This was my first ever 400k event. This was used as a qualifying event for PBP.
  • I got lost in 2011.
  • I rode the event again in 2012. That was my second 400k event. I wanted to cycle this route 'properly' and not get lost.
  • I got lost this time around and added about 50k to the total distance.
Brevet Cyrmu 2011
  • I rode solo in 2011 and 2012, this time around I cycled with Jamie and Toll.
Brevet Cyrmu 2012
  • I did not finish in time this time around, though still completed the route.
  • I rode wearing sandals.
  • First control was in Hay-on-Wye. I had previously bounced this control on previous editions. Was nice to stop for breakfast. I had honey and toast. No.5 is alive!
  • The 2nd control was Llandovery. Prior to reaching control, I experienced much menace. Bolt came loose and abandoned bike resulting in a wonky bottle cage. Jamie saved the day and had a spare bolt. Then  my cheap Chinese handlebar extender snapped in half (don't buy cheap goods). Grr. Cycled parts of this section with a guy cycling his first 400.
  • Nice potato at the West End cafe.
  • We took a wrong turn in Llandovery and cycled an additional 40-50k. Am sure Jamie blamed me.
  • I think we saw Llandovery too many times!
  • It was ironic, that at the point we got lost, was pretty much the same place where I had gotten lost before (and added 30k).
  • It was quite a race to reach Tregaron in time.
  • Timewise we made it to Tregaron.
  • We did not have enough time to eat a proper sit down and savour meal.
  • I purchased fruit and pastie and quite enjoyed that.
  • It was about here that I realised I had got quite burnt from the sun. It was mega hot.
  • We saw no Tregaron mountain toads (at least not yet).
  • We saw signs 'beware the Tregaron mountain toad'.
  • Toll started to feel sick.
  • It was very hilly.
  • We reached Newquay, just in time.
  • Toll was feeling sicker.
  • The control kindly stayed open for us 3. I think it was only me who ate - I had crumble and ice cream. (Jamie, on reflection, had a Kit-Kat).
  • It was pitch dark. On previous editions, I could see the sea.
  • We discussed plans of finding a B and B for Toll or getting a return train. nothing materialised.
  • We left the control with an uncertain feeling.
  • Big hills!
  • Whoa, Toll was sick! He puked!
  • We cycled slow for long stretches now and it felt bad that I had no awesome remedy for the sick boy.
  • We tried to find a suitable place to sleep. The churches were all closed. The bus stops didn't look to appealing.
  • We stopped at a bus stop. I think Toll (and maybe Jamie) got a little sleep. I couldn't sleep. I was too awake and too cold. I think the High5 powder I had was full of caffeine too and kept me awake and alert.
  • After so long, we pressed on a little. It was slow going. No suitable sleep spots were found.
  • Another bus stop was found after so long. We tried to sleep again. I think Toll and Jamie got 40 winks. I got the chills and decided to leave the boys.
  • Solo cycling in the dark. I hallucinated at times, though it was more like illusions really. 
  • Very misty every now and then.
  • Cycled into a hedge at one point (I was being silly and closed my eyes and counted to 39). No damage, came to my senses again.
  • Absolutely awesome starry sky. 'He even made the stars'!
  • Morning light appeared. 
  • Oh no, oh yes, signs to Llandovery.
  • Found control, out of time, was closed.
  • Continued and found open garage. Was not looking for a POP, but was so pleased to be able to eat. More pasty and milk shake for me!
  • Found a church with a big porch. Curled up for a spell and tried to sleep - no joy was still too awake and got cold when lying down.
  • Got a strange sense of deja vu!
  • Seemed a long stretch to Blwch. Passed so many cyclists cycling in the opposing direction. Weather must have made folk to want to come out.
  • Did not even consider looking at the Blwch control.
  • Passed some strange place names during last 60k.
Brevet Cyrmu 2018
  • Damn blast. Debris got caught in my wheel and bust a spoke and mashed up my mud-guard. Scratched frame too. Grr!
  • Hilly last section. I kept looking out for Tintern Abbey. Silly me, this route did not require cycling past the abbey on the return (think I was thinking of the Bryan Chapman).
  • Text Mark Rigby and informed that I and the boys would be a DNF.
  • Ah, but finish I did (and so did the boys)!
  • Another adventure. Much memory created! I'll remember the highs (and some lows perhaps).
  • Tried to sleep at the finish, no joy - maybe too buzzed up. I slept about 33 hours after my previous sleep and did not dream about cycling!
  • Tis what it is!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Saving sheep

Another relatively easy week on the training front this one. Not only did I not have the motivation to complete longer events, I had little time and something always seems to get in the way. There's something in the way...

That said, I did manage a training activity every day this week! It was nice to get a few runs in once again. Always great to cycle with my buddies.

My first day of training was with Roger and his tandem. I usually cycle to and from from Roger's domicile, however, was not able this week as Moo was sick and needed a visit to the Dr's. Once on the tandem we cycled to a great tea room in Whitlenge and back. As is our custom, we had a full English breakfast at the tea room. Roger has a few new pilots now, who are all around 6 feet tall which is great - saves me having to heighten the seat post!

The following 2 days were regular to work and back cycle commutes. I could have cycled another commute but the rain but play to that. I guess there's going to be a lot of rain in Ireland during the pending TAW. Oh why am I sure a fair weather cyclist? (That's not true - have cycled lots in the rain this year).

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were all run days. My first run was a cross country affair across the fields of Studley. The second was a road run up the Slough and back via the hospital. Final run was with the Mrs! This was SJ's first run in ages - I do hope she runs more now and hope her feet cease to be painful.
Final activity for the week was a pedal with my buddy Ron. We took our road bikes out for a (just under) 40k spin. Was great to cycle my 'Roubaix' with Ron after so long. We cycled some roads I had cycled earlier in the week with Roger and we finished by cycling an alternative hill to Ron's usual finisher on his TROAD route. Mid-way we were stopped by a bull dog looking sheep who had gone AWOL from a nearby farm. Ron consulted with some nearby folk who agreed to contact the farmer. How many rides to date have involved saving sheep?!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

always sit and chant delirious monkey fluff

Relatively easy week on the training front. Started with a rest following a certain Arcade Fire gig. All good.

Training consisted of 4 to work and back cycle commutes and a run to end the week. The cycling was just regular. The run was a cross country affair (only 5k) and not the London Marathon.
Little is planned in terms of training for next week. Sadly, I have to go to work. I do, however, plan to spend some time on the tandem with my buddy Roger. TAW is getting closer and I just hope I will have trained hard and long enough.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Be Tough

Horrors, my TAW experience is only like 2 months away! Notes to self - Be Tough; Stop Being Soft. Ha!

My training this week was relatively simple. It consisted of 3 to work and back cycle commutes and a Cotswold caper. Didn't cycle as long and far as I would have liked but 388k was relatively ok. (Hard juggling time off work to have fun).

My Cotswold Caper was basically a DIY Perm audax event that covered 231k in total. It started from my abode and headed via Stratford to the first control in Moreton in Marsh. The first leg was wet, muddy and generally miserable. Towpath was cycled and the tent that I have often seen on the Stratford towpath was still there - that went dweller has been camped out a long time! The Stratford Grenway was full of puddles and proved quite boring to be honest. Once back on the road, things improved a little. My disc rotors squealed for ages being full of mud and my chain creaked the whole distance until back home (oh for a little oil). Quick stop at control (super store) and cracked on.
Brinkworth was the next control. This is the longest village in England. I stopped at a car workshop and picked up a business card as my POP.

Shortly after Brinkworth came Royal Wootton Bassett, the next control. This was a super short section. Less than 10k between the controls.

On the next leg, before I reached the Burford control, I was stopped by a random woman. She asked if my frame bag was 'Alpkit', which indeed it was. She then asked if I was an audax cyclist and it turned out she was too. We chatted for a short while during which time she told me she completed TAW last year. She didn't have a lot of positive things to say about it. In fact, she questioned why I was doing it and told me not too. She said the weather is rubbish, Ireland is very exposed, there are long gravel and bog sections, she went long periods feeling hungry and isolated. She asked if I planned to bivvy, replied 'yes' and she scorned 'don't do it', stating I would need places to dry my clothes. She also said Continental tyres were rubbish and would shred (have not long purchased same). Hmm. Then I remembered 'Be Tough. Don't Be Soft'. Hmm. She also said that the Cotswolds made a good training ground and that was just as well as I was training on this ride and cycling in the Cotswolds. In fact some of my route crossed paths with the Cotswold Corker - another cracking audax route.
Was great reaching Burford. Had cycled through a lot of the Cotswolds and passed places that cycle adventures had taken me before. Now I was stopped near the pub where Lunar wee'd over the seats whilst on a weekend with the Mrs. Ha - cycle adventures are often filled with memories and knew memories are often created too.

Final stretch proved a little hilly. What comes up must come down and indeed, I was treated to some nice zoomy descent. My route actually finished with my regular commute back home. And so ended my training for the week.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Yr Elenydd 2018

Last week was pretty awesome. It began with a Bank Holiday. Holiday time to spend running through the woods with my wife and kids. Aces! The week ended with a trip in Welsh Wales.
The training went rather well this week. Started the week with 2 runs and 2 cycle to work and back commutes. The real training event was kept for the weekend.
Yes indeed, Saturday saw Jamie and I complete a fantastic 307k audax event, namely 'Yr Elenydd'. This was the 32nd edition (year) of the AUK classic 'There (and back) again' from the Shire across 'blue remembered hills' to the wilder land of the Elenydd, the desolation of the Tregaron mountain road and the Ystwyth and Elan valleys.

My thoughts and memoirs from the Elenydd are recounted below:

Jamie and I drove to the start on Friday evening. We pitched our tents, readied our bikes and crashed out. I thought my disc brakes were rubbing to start with, however, it was a simple mudguard causing menace. I took my old 'festival tent' for fear of rain and mud. It was a nice thought that we had ready pitched tents for our return.
Sat in my tent, thinking about Yr Elenydd
At something like 5 a.m. we woke up, got up, had breakfast. There were about 100 cyclists gathered in a village hall, fuelling up ready for the start. At 6 a.m. we were off, leaving Upton Magna for a 300k jolly.
It was a hilly affair. Covered something like 4,500m of ascent. In audax language that's 4.5 AAA points. The total route was 307k. At some point we climbed the 'Devil's Staircase', a tough climb of 25%. Jamie asked if I knew I had a 'spare' gear - I had no idea. Was good for the old mentality knowing I had a lower gear that was redundant for this beast of a climb.
The 2 adventures ready for the off
The weather was very wet mostly. Much rain. Flooded roads. Thankfully, no wind. We had periods of dryness but these were few and far between.

First control was Shobdon Airfield. We had cycled some 65k to get here and were dripping wet. Some poor guy here was suffering big time as he had grit in his eye. We found this and subsequent controls great for drying (well warming) our gear as well as fuelling up. We had the usual audax staple diet of a fry up.

The next control at Builth Wells hurt the eyes too, there was a big, big woman behind the counter! A back room had a roaring fire which was a nice touch (or was this the first control, I dunno). Is hard to recount an adventure with full accuracy when one is so drained, pooped and wrecked.
Doo, cycling Yr Elenydd
We saw lots and lots of Tregaron mountain toads. Most folk thought they were frogs. We knew better. The control at Tregaron proved to be a cosy stop. Good food. Another great place to help dry wet clothes.

'Tea for 2'
'Drying out'

A rather strange cyclist 'Lee Botwood' cycled alongside us at times and was over interested in road kill. We saw him pick up a hare and lick his lips. When he saw we were on to him he fringed poor hare away.
Jamie entering Rhayader
Rhayader was very picturesque. We had cycled 202k to get to this point. The bike shop that helped with repairs on the Bear Bones 200 was passed which made me think of our buddies Chris and Ron. Coming down a descent at 72.7kph was awesome (but I forgot to look out for the damns).

The Bear Bones bike shop
The route was truly awesome with some very spectacular views. We saw one couple cycling on a tandem, which made me think of my buddy Roger as he had cycled this on a tandem too. I struggle to imagine a tandem getting up the Devils Staircase. 2 folk were on trikes. Oh man, so many delights - including lots of flying kites (birds). Toll - you don't know what you missed mate.
Not entirely sure where this was, but hey, even the toilet breaks were stunning

Our last control was in a place called Little Brampton. It was dark by now but it was easy to feel the 2 big 'bumps' (ascents) we had to climb to reach there. After we had eaten at the control, we had just one further ascent to climb then weeee, a 20k descent finally led to the arrivee! Woo hoo - an event that was both started and completed at last!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter Trail (to York or not to York)

'Eleven' on the Easter Trail 
A cross country run started the training this week. A single cycle commute to work and back was the filling. The week ended with an adventure that I hoped to shout about.

Good Friday didn’t turn out to be quite as good as the name suggested. Good Friday started really quite bad in fact. I left my dwelling at early doors with the plan of cycling over to Jamie’s to collect him and Toll for the awesome ‘Easter Trail’ event to York. This event was supposed to be a long distance cycle to York following some slightly unusual audax rules. Anyways, moments after leaving, I had to turn back. For starters I had forgotten my helmet and worse still, I could not get my gears to shift. There was nowt wrong with my gears, however, the dry bag attached to my front harness had prevented the shifters from shifting. Returned home.

Once back at home, I emptied some contents from my front bar bag (spare shorts and buff) and rolled it up tighter. The whole harness is a menace to initially set right with all the buckles and straps. Further menace was the fact that I had to tighten and untighten mudguard bolts too. After about an hour later than planned, I was all reset to start my adventure with a working bike and suitably packed bags. SJ made me a pancake when I returned home too so felt great for the re-start.

The Easter trail followed a route that I had created and the second control was or should have been Burton upon Trent. Before getting to the control, I had obviously collected Jamie and Toll and we proceeded to cycle much towpath. The paths were great initially and stretched for miles. However, the further we cycled the poorer the towpath got. Decent path turned into quagmire and our energy was sapping. Things got worse when I punctured.
Such a faff and difficult to refit wired bead tyres. After much mud menace, we decided to divert and follow some road instead. All was better for a while, then Toll punctured, followed by Jamie.
Puncture menace! Puncture menace for all! (All for one and one for all?!)
Punctures were not the only menace. Due to re-routing, I had reset my Garmin which took us past the control to Burton upon Trent by a good 7k or so. Grr, we weren’t gonna turn around and waste more time. Thankfully the ATM here (for POP purposes) did not specify the place. Further puncture menace here slowed us a while so we opted for butties from a local cafe rather than a sit down affair.
The next section to Chesterfield didn’t fare much better. Punctures remained a frequent issue for us all. My tube kept giving clues it was gonna die because a hissing could be heard every now and then. I tried hard not to replace tube and kept pumping it up at times instead (after all it was a slime tube). At one point though, no further pumping was gonna revive my tube and a tube transplant had to take place. Oh boy, getting a wire bead over my wheel rim was near impossible. Jamie and Toll had thorns in their tubes. If the punctures weren’t grief enough then the weather was. Rain! Rain in the style of cats and dogs. Oh, and it was getting colder too. Just as things were starting to turn real sour and light was disappearing, we saw the golden arches of McDonalds! Winner winner Maccy dinner! Turns out that I really was a winner - I won a quarter pounder and a McFlurry. Only right to eat a Creme Egg McFlurry during Easter.
The road to Doncaster was a heavy one. Further puncture menace. Cold. Rain. Hills. I think they call this ‘audacious’. The wetness got wetter. The darkness got darker. The coldness got ridiculous. I was that cold that my arms started having involuntary movements - ‘the shakes’. These shakes were so bad that I thought my headset had gone wonky and bike was gonna come apart. We all figured finding somewhere to camp out would be a good idea. Finding somewhere to crash out in a wet rural area was hard. There were no barns, wooded areas or isolated empty buildings. I spotted some new constructions but fencing prevented entry. Churches in this area were closed. We found a very inviting porch but a steel gate prevented entry. Just as we nearly froze to death, Jamie spotted our camp spot - a BT exchange. The front of this building offered a roof, lighting and shelter from the wind and rain. Sure the front was covered in much rubbish but hey, nothing my man-sized tarp wouldn’t cover over.
Out initial musings and slightly negative thoughts evaporated as we pulled out our sleeping mats, bivvy’s, sleeping bags and liners! We set up camp and boy how great it felt to remove wet layers and get into dry gear. Felt even better to climb into my bag and sample the delights of Toll’s whiskey and Jamie’s slow gin. Before we closed our eyes for the night we had to have a conversation with a BT employee who just happened to pass by. He accepted our case and said no one would bother us until 8 a.m. We all settled down to broken sleep and much snoring. At some time after 5 a.m. a BT employee walked over me (to start work I guess) to enter the door I was blocking. Grr, some of my wet clothes were hanging over the door handle - these wet clothes were trampled over and nearly went to work with him. Grr!

Must have been close to 6 a.m. when we decided to get up and pack up. Brr, it was cold (was cold all night and close to freezing) and wearing already wet clothes and shoes was not much fun. We spotted a McDonalds just over the road and figured we’d have breakfast and talk battle plans.
Over breakfast we figured we had about 50k to cycle to get to York, our final destination. We had plenty of time, we had to get to York between 8 - 11 a.m. according to the rules. We also figured, however, it was bitterly cold, raining like crazy and if we cycled to York and then back home it was gonna be like 300k in these conditions. My headspace was telling me to go to York but I was happy to abort and head home with the lads. This year had already seen 2 x DNS and now I added a DNF into the mix. (YACF forum, accessed later, revealed lots of folk aborted the Easter Arrow which made us all feel better).
Easter Trail DNF
Heading home, we felt cold and quite miserable. We had only 1 spare tube (other than punctured ones) between us and tubes never seemed to stay inflated. No master plan was really in our heads and despite attempts to avoid towpath we ended up on it anyway. We stumbled across a shopping area and figured a visit to Wilko’s or similar (for tubes) would be a good idea. Tubes were purchased, along with some oil and washing up gloves to keep out water. A further stop at coffee shop was agreed and further plans were drawn up. We figured we would cycle to Sheffield and board a train.

Great plan! Wet ride to Sheffield it was. Damn blast, no trains with bike spaces available once we got there. No bother (much), we decided to cycle to Chesterfield and try our luck with the trains there.

Wet cycling along much busy A road finally took us to a train station. Chesterfield was a winning stop, we could board a train to Derby. Once at Derby, our good fortune continued, we could board another train to University. University was ‘end of the line’ for Jamie and Toll. For me, another train on the same line took me to Redditch. A short cycle from Redditch took me back home to my family. They were surprised to see me return so quick.

All in all, a great week. So, I cycled less than predicted and did not complete an audax event. However, I cycled some, experienced tough conditions and wild camped rural style. I shared an adventure with some of the UK’s finest audaxers (cheers Jamie and Toll). I had a great Easter with my family. And, to finish the weekend in Style, was able to sup on some JD Tennessee Fire (big thanks Rob) and reflect on my experience.

Tick, tick, tick, boom!

Friday was not a good day. Friday, my back was still painful. I went for a swim and swam 1,000m (40 lengths) just like the previous day, h...