Sunday 12 December 2010

Kings, Castles, Priests & Churches

'The one thing I just can't abide,
is spending a whole day inside,
the one thing I like,
is riding my bike,
so please let me outside to ride'.

The whole of last week was spent inside and I did not ride. This week proved different I'm glad to say. I spent most of my time indoors but was still able to ride and finished my week with another audax.
Completed 2 indoor training sessions this week on my rollers. My new shoes had arrived and setting up the cleats gave me new enthusiasm. I didn't use these new shoes indoors though - saved them for the audax event. Sorted cleats out on an almost redundant pair of old shoes, my dhb's, and am now using them as my indoor training shoes. I cycled these indoor rides in different heart rate zones, the first in zone 3 and the second at a lower intensity in zone 2. Am not sure how to train really, but I am able to cycle in both these zones, so it seemed like a good thing to do.

'Cycling is fine on a bike like mine'.

Am using the above quote as a kind of mantra. My cycling buddy Ron has just gotten himself a new S-works Specialized cycle with Dura Ace throughout. Hmmm, slight envy maybe.
Despite being equipped with a new super ace bike, Ron wasn't able to join me on my 11th audax. This audax was named 'Kings, Castles, Priests & Churches' and was my 2nd audax this season. The audax calender is weird, the 2010 season finished in October 2010 and the 2011 season began in November 2010. I blame the French. Mind you, 2011 bicycles are available to buy now too. Anyways, I'm a stubborn English man, so this was my 11th audax this year!

According to the organiser, Mark Rigby, the ride's name is derived from places and landmarks it passes through. The 'Kings' refers to Kington, which in turn is derived from the town's old name of  'Kingstown'. The priests in a similar way refers to Presteigne - or Prieststown as it was once known. We stopped right outside a castle in Ludlow, and there was countless churches passed during the day. Possibly the most striking being at Hoarwithy, an amazing site. Another church being the Abbey at Tewkesbury, which is an amazing building. It survived the ravages of King Henry the eighth's reformations - in 1539 the town's folk of Tewkesbury paid the king £453 to retain their "Parish Church". The £453 was the value of the lead on the roof and the bells in the tower. The abbey features the largest Norman tower in the land.
The route (as with most BlackSheep CC events) followed minor roads, lanes, B-roads and a few unavoidable A-road sections. And generally in that order of preference.

The ride headed west then north from Tewkesbury through Ledbury and on to Bromyard for breakfast. Starting so early meant that we had to set off with lights as it was very dark.  During this first stage, one poor cyclist slipped and fell from his bike - the lanes were very icy in places. The first control was the very same where Ron and I had a super hot curry on a previous audax. Being breakfast time, I opted for beans on toast.
After breakfast I chased this guy I named Mr Parrot (he was wearing a bright yellow jersey) to Ludlow via Tenbury Wells. Mr Parrot was the leading cyclist in this audax and I'm pleased to say that I managed to catch him and then cycled with him throughout. We took turns at navigating and I found a great place for my route sheet - I wore it on my arm, held in place by rubber bands acquired from the first control. At the control in Ludlow I ate some tasy shortbread cake and we took quite a break here before heading off with Fall guy (the guy who fell) and LEJOG dude (another cyclist who completed LEJOG this year). 

Presteigne was the next town passed through before stopping at Kington. This section was very hilly indeed. I think this was where the 1.75 AAA points must have been awarded. I overtook Mr Parrot and Fall guy and beat them to the top of the toughest climb (I had a double ring, whereas they had a triple) and LEJOG dude was dropped. We stopped in Kington and ate at a cafe I had been to earlier in the year with a friend. I had chips, sausage and egg - mmm, delicious.
From Kington we set off as a 3, that is myself, Mr Parrot and Fall guy. During this section I nearly ran over a OAP and a dog who both jumped out in front of me (on 2 seperate occasions). The afternoon stop was at the Londis shop at Wormelow Tump, where I treated myself to a sausage roll.

The final leg was a west - east bee line back to Tewkesbury crossing both the Wye Valley and then the Severn vale back to Tewkesbury. We were cycling in our group of three and were the leading cyclists in this audax. It was real dark again now and lighting had to be used. There was ice in patches and I slid at one time (though did not fall off). I struggled on this last section but kept with Mr Parrot and Fall guy all the way to the Arrivee. This was the first time I had ever completed an audax in the leading group, which felt pretty awesome, especially considering this was a '200k with attitude' (or 'altitude' if you prefer). Mark Rigby sang my praises and said I was really becoming a strong cyclist (which isn't true, I just identified a strong cyclist and followed his wheel).
Cycled 124.72 miles on this audax, at an average speed of 13.9 mph and a max speed of 38.7 mph. 1.75 AAA points were awarded too.

Weekly totals: Cycled 165 miles.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Big Freeze

This week I became a fair weather cyclist. The weather was not fair. I did not cycle.

In place of my weekly mountain bike ride with Ron, we went over the snowy fields of Studley with Cody. A nice walk in the freezing cold. I thought we'd be silly to take our bikes out in this.

Despite a major lack of cycling, a few cycling projects were in progress. My new road shoes had arrived - just need to sort out the cleats before cycling can commence. I have some spd pedals for my mountain bike - fairer weather required before I switch over from my flat pedals. And my latest project - a new blog. I have created a new new blog (with some major help from my friend Marianne) to replace this one, beginning in the new year. A new blog has been created so that anyone can post comments and the likes on the site (as this current blog requires a google account). The new blog does not officially start until the new year, but if you would like a sneak preview, please visit here:

My latest completed challenge was not related to cycling. It had a lot to do with the big freeze though. On friday night until saturday morning I slept rough in a dodgey car park in Handsworth with 5 of my work chums. My work chums were Martin, Pam, Roxy, Zalika and Kerry. We had all decided to sleep rough as a fund raising project, raising monies for a homeless charity, namely St Basil's. At time of writing this entry we had collectively raised just short of £1,000 and monies are still coming in. As I continue to thaw out, I will leave some photo's for you to peruse.

Weekly totals: Cycled 0 miles.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

'Forgive your enemies ... it messes with their head'.
Great start to the cycling week. Got the rollers out and cycled 20 miles - my furthest distance on rollers yet. And, to top that, cycled with a AHR of 140 - all in Zone 3!
Trouble with great starts is that they are hard to keep up. My second cycling venture was with Ron. We cycled familiar routes around Great Alne, Coughton and the likes all at a leisurely pace (< HRZ 1). It was a cold night, near freezing but we were layered up well. I punctured which was menace. A dirty little thorn had gotten stuck in my tyre. After goofing about for a while, said problem was fixed (changed the tube, removed thorn) and we continued home. At home, I found that I had put the tyre on the wrong way around, and this new tube had punctured too! Grr!
Midweek, I got good news. Wiggle emailed me to say that they had gotten my shoes I had returned and they were sorry they were faulty, were happy to replace them, and have credited me the money it cost to send my shoes back to them. These Lake carbon shoes had been faulty for ages. The carbon sole had cracked on one of the shoes. These shoes originally cost me £77, the very same shoes are now selling at £97! I would not have sent these shoes back if Wiggle had replaced my bike frame. Happy feet!

'After years of struggle, I no longer have to fight with my inner demons. I'm on their side now.'

No sooner than receiving good news from Wiggle, they email me with bad news. Wiggle informed me that they were unable to supply my new shoes as their supplier had ran out without telling them. To be fair, Wiggle were quite good - they re-imbursed my monies (I paid £77 for shoes, they put £87 back into my account) and gave me a voucher for £7.80. I have already used the voucher and ordered a buff. I have a pending shopping trip now for new shoes. My feet remain quite happy - they walked 5.88 miles yesterday with Eddy and Adrian from work. A few folk from work have started walking on a regular basis and this is the 2nd occasion that I have tagged along. We walked five laps around Handswoth Park. Following this walk, I over indulged on much curry, naan bread and the likes (well it was Dr Nina's and Dr Bal's leaving do).
Had vague plans to go out cycling on the weekend. However, we had much snow. The snow meant 'no'! I think the snow prevented a number of folk from going out and cycling. The picture above was stolen from Clive's site and shows just how severely snow can dampen one's cycling. I could have used rollers I hear you mutter, but, remember I have no cycling shoes for my road bike. On that note, I used today as a shopping day and have ordered new shoes, as shown in the pic below.
Also got my hand on some new gloves, but my hands have not been 'in' new gloves as yet. The gloves were Specialized BG deflect gloves and supposedly 'BG padding distributes pressure and minimizes hand numbness'. Once I've tried them out, I'll post what I think on this blog.

This weeks blog ends with a funny tale. My mate Ron has just purchased a new crank set. When he removed his old crankset he realized that for the past 10 years or so he has been cycling with crank arms of 2 different lengths!

Weekly totals: Cycled 38 miles.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Mr Pickwick's Cyrch Cyrmu

A good week on the cycling front. Had no work to get in the way of fun. Plenty of cycling using both my bikes.
Took Scotty out on my now familiar run into Webheath Woods, by-passing Morton Stanley Park, Arrow Vale and using parts of the no.5 cycle path. I should give this route a name, hmmm, 'the Webheath Wonder'. Had started to play around with my heart rate monitor (at least record heart rate - HR). Was quite disappointed to find that during this trek my AHR (average heart rate) was only in zone 2 (zone 3 is my ideal training zone).

On Scotty's second trip, I followed 'Ron's 1 hour loop', but added a slight variation. On the road leading to Coughton Ford, I took the first off road track up hill and then came down the off road cycle path just before the ford. Continued the usual route but took the bridleway in Middletown and cycled through Studley village. This proved to be an awesome route and very muddy. Was pleased with this training effort. Before setting off, I attached my HR monitor to the handlebars. This was a good trick, whenever I saw my HR drop below 132 bpm, I would exert more effort. My AHR for this trip was 144, ie zone 3!
This week also saw the return of Cayo. She didn't have a new frame as I had hoped. Wiggle stated 'our Focus technician has been able to repair the loose derailleur hanger successfully by rebonding and riveting of the hanger'. I guess this gives me the excuse to purchase a new frame sometime in the future?!

Celebrating Cayo's return, I took her for an indoor spin on my rollers. I wrote the HR limits for zone 2 on my hand (by mistake, I thought I had written zone 3 limits) and cycled away. I cycled for about 40 mins and then realized my error. Am not sure if I could cycle in zone 3 on my rollers, as I find it quite an effort just cycling in zone 2. Hmm, time will tell.

Was pleased to have Cayo back this week. If Cayo had not retuned I would not have been able to participate in the Cyrch Cyrmu audax. This was to be my 10th audax!
This Cyrch Cyrmu audax was a brand new event for the 2010/11 audax calendar, and was fully booked (40 participants)! Mark Rigby (the organiser) was asked "What does the ride's title mean or suggest?" His answer, is as follows - The route is a simple route designed to make the best use of late autumn/early winter conditions, and is an out-and-back trip or "raid" into Wales. I was advised that the term "raid" in Welsh is "Cyrch", and this maybe the case - however, the term can also be used as :- crych 1. wrinkle, ripple, ruffled water, eddy, rippling adj. In this sense, The title is probably just as applicable, as you will spend a considerable amount of the ride along side (amongst others), The Rivers:- Gwy (Wye), Wysg (Usk), & amp; Trophy.

The route started on a cold, dark, foggy morning and (as with most Black Sheep CC events) followed minor roads, lanes, B-roads and a few unavoidable A-road sections. And generally in that order of preference. After about 20 miles we passed a pub called the Penny Farthing, I thought this would have made a great first control . We had left Tewkesbury way behind and were heading West through the Severn Vale towards Ross-on-Wye. We then followed the Wye Valley to Monmouth. There was a section of river-side track - this was probably better suited for cyclo-cross bikes. This track was so bumpy that my route holder became loose and broke. Not too far after this bumpy track, the first control was reached. The first control was at Millbrook Garden Centre in their cafe. I had beans on toast and a cup of tea, which after 36.4 miles was well deserved. Was pleased I was able to use their radiator to dry my gloves and buff too. Eager to set off again after breakfast, I accidentally left one of my water bottles behind.
The darkness had gone as I cycled stage 2, but the mist and rain had not. Water was creeping into everything and my hands were cold and numb. My feet were be kept warm by the over-shoes I was wearing (Ron's old hand me downs). The route was a virtual bee-line west following the old A40 to Abergavenny. The route then followed the Usk valley (along the south side of the River Usk) all the way to Talybont-on-Usk. Many a bridge was crossed, but no trolls were to be seen (and hence no troll charges). Perhaps the mist kept me hidden from said trolls, or perhaps they were evading the rain by staying under?! I think the second control was called the White Hart and was a nice pub with an open fire. I used the fire to help dry my clothes again, whilst I swiftly devoured scampi and chips.

The return route retraced back to Crickhowell, then used the A40 to Abergavenny. For the most part I cycled this section with 2 random guys - it was easier to follow someone than to navigate myself, in view of the broken route holder. After a while, I left these 2 and cycled with a guy (who I named 'PBP man') who I had met earlier. PBP man, had done the PBP 3 times and proved to be interesting to chat to. PBP man punctured twice, but like a good samaritan I stayed with him while he fixed the punctures (and even donated a tube). The route passed back over the off-road section by the river (had mountain biked there in times past) and led to the Saracens Head, our next control. This control was excellent and served me up a most delicious pork and leek sausage baguette. It also had a nice fire, which I used to warm my fingerless gloves and buff. My fingers were suffering more than anything else on this ride, they got wet and remained cold until I lost feeling in them. I removed the full fingered pair (was wearing fingerless gloves on top) and surprisingly this benefited a little. Note to self - full finger winter gloves are recommended for winter riding!

Stage 4, the last leg back to the arrivee, was fast paced. I was part of a trio, that consisted of myself, PBP man and this other guy with a goatie beard (Goatie guy). Goatie Guy was an interesting character - he was a smoker. I would see this guy at the controls puffing on a cigarette. Smoking may have affected his performance - I did see him pushing his bike up some inclines. However, for this last section, we were all going at a fast pace, taking turns to pull the group. This stage took us from Symonds Yat East back into Tewkesbury. This was a kind of a new experience for me - we were road cycling in the dark. I had worn my mountain bike helmet (deliberately) as it had those awesome Ay-Up lights attached. Folk would comment on how awesome my lights were. As cold as my hands were, I enjoyed this audax and felt great once I reached the arrivee.

Mr Pickwick's Cyrch Cyrmu audax was 130.97 miles long and I cycled it at an average speed of 14.6 mph and a max speed of 35.9 mph.

As I type these concluding remarks, it is the day after the audax. I have awoken with 2 sore knees and a 'pins and needles' feeling is still in my fingers. My fingers have never felt like this before, and I'm sure a decent pair of gloves would help. I learnt the glove lesson well. In addition I have learnt that it is best to tuck in garments (like base layer and jersey), as if they get wet, this wetness gets trapped under your waterproof layers. My core was warm but damp. Route holders need to be of good quality, mine was not and has broken beyond repair. The audax itself was a relatively easy ride - simple to navigate, no major hills and some stunning scenery (when the fog could be seen through). This ride would perhaps have been better on a dry summers day. I have now cycled over 5,000 miles this year :)

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 184 miles.

Sunday 14 November 2010

A week of being sick ...

'Nothing will work unless you do...'

Started the week with an indoor cycle. First time I had been on my bike in exactly a week. This was also to be, perhaps, my last cycle with Cayo in her present state. Poor Cayo is being returned to Wiggle because her front mech hanger is loose and is moving inside the carbon frame. Hopefully the frame will be swapped for a brand spanking new one - let's hope, we'll see.
Monday also proved to be an interesting day in that Ron and I were featured in a magazine. Would this prove to be our 15 minutes of fame?! We are pictured cycling the 'Mr Pickwick goes to Hay in a day' 200k audax, in the 'Arrivee' magazine (no.110, Autumn 2010, p37).
My friend Polly popped over at the beginning of the week too, and gave me some arnica to help with the healing of my operation. I am not overly familiar with arnica, but it reminded me of Dave and Ian Cross, 2 of the LEJOG 2010 group (I keep getting them both mixed up). One of these Cross brothers used arnica on the LEJOG 2010 trip stating that it helped with bruising. I wonder how Mr Cross is now, following his bike accident a few weeks back? Thinking about you buddy, and wondering if you are using arnica now?!

'I tried being normal once. Worst 5 minutes of my life...'

Poor Cayo was collected by a big van on Tuesday and carted away. At present time I have no idea as to what Wiggle plan to do. Am just waiting and hoping. One of my friends, Louisa Blankson, informed me that she now cycles to work ... I'd like to see a picture and post it on this blog.

Wednesday proved to be a bizarre day. I revisited the magic faraway tree (the Great Oak), that I first encountered during the Mr Pickwick goes to Hay in a day audax. This time I was without my mate Ron and without my bike (remember, I am off sick this week?!) and was with my friend Marianne. Now the weird thing was, that during a random audax with Ron, we saw a pig - the victim of road kill, which Ron swears was a wild boar. Now, here at this magic faraway tree, I spot a living wild boar munching on acorns! Marianne says wild boar don't exist in the UK, but I present the evidence below:
Thursday proved to be a day of rest. I am not really a fair weather cyclist, but the weather seriously was awfull and put pay to any plans. Friday too was a day of rest, but on this particular day I took my self and Scotty to stay with my sister Jane and her family ready for the Evans Cycle Ride it! event on saturday.

Saturday was great. After leaving Jane's house at around 7.30 a.m I made my way to the start of the Evans Ride It! off road event in Cliddesden, Hampshire. Here I met up with my cycling buddy, Chris Hodge. We were in for a fun filled day.

After setting up our bikes, attaching a chip to our ankles and genereal faffing about, Chris and I made our way to the start line. We decided we were hard core cyclists and opted to do the long route option - a 33 mile course. After a short briefing we were off.

We were just the other side of the M3 from Basingstoke and in some lovely countryside following By-ways, bridleways and other bikers. The most hilly part of the ride seemed to be here, right at the start. Maybe the start seemed a little difficult because we didn't stretch or warm up.

The course was pretty awesome. Just what I had expected. Mud and lots of it. Why did I forget to bring my glasses and why did I forget to bring my camera. No problem, Chris had both. Why didn't I fit super knobbly tyres to prevent my back end overtaking the front? I think this was to provide light entertainment for Chris. We were both able to laugh at each other to be honest - we were both absolutely plastered with mud and at times cycling through this gloop was real tough.
Our route roughly followed a figure of 8 patten. This was great because it meant that we passed the water stop twice. The water wasn't anything special, but the cake was awesome! Mmmm, delicious!
The more we cycled, the more we got covered in mud. We didn't cycle any particularly big hills, but plenty of little valleys, wooded sections and open farmland kept our interest up. We were feeling really proud of our efforts when we spotted the finish/start just ahead - but it was then that we realised we had missed a split and only completed the medium route. So much for being hard core! We shrugged of our mistake and figured that gave us more time to spend in the pub!
During this off road event, I cycled a total of 25.95 miles, at an average speed of 8.2mph and a max speed of 29.7mph. I have recently been using a heart rate monitor and my average heart rate (AHR) was 133 and my maximum heart rate (MHR) was 176. With these readings, I was pleased to find out that I had been cycling in my 'aerobic zone' which 'gives you the biggest fitness benefits in the least time'. Riding in this zone 'builds cardiovascular efficiency... The exercise high ... results in mood improvement, reduced anxiety, and improved appetite control'. Or so they say, I ate a large portion of fries and a big steak following this activity!

Sunday was no day of rest! On this last day of the week, I went horse riding! Marianne kindly let me take Neon B out for a short walk and trot. Neon B is a large white Spanish horse who has enetered various competitions in his time. Neon was quite awesome and even jumped with me sat on his back. Don't think I'm going to trade my bikes for a horse just yet though ...

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 42 miles.

Sunday 7 November 2010

As vampires feed, I bleed

For a cycling blog, this weeks record of achievement is awfull. I only cycled once and clocked less than 20 miles. As ever, the week has proved eventfull though.
Monday began with the only cycle ride of the week. Ron and I cycled a now familiar route in reverse. We trekked across Arrow Vale, followed the no.5 cycle path, cut into Webheath woods, through Morton Stanley Park and finished with a mini race up St Judes Avenue. My bike behaved well, but looks kinda silly. Let me explain. Last week, I had a squeak coming from my bike (sounded like a mouse) which was really annoying. I identified the problem as being one of the pedals. So, I changed said pedal and the problem was fixed. However, this new pedal is a bright blue, whereas the other one is black. I have a lovely red, white and black cycle with a strikingly blue new pedal. Hmmm.

Tuesday was an awful day. I had on call duties but still considered a morning spin. 2 factors prevented this. The first was my paralysis of will. The second, I initially thought was saddle sore. On closer inspection something had bitten me right on the bum!

The next major set back was on Thursday. Following my major bike accident of last year, I was at the dentist this particular day having an operation. This operation was a bone graft and the inserting of 2 implants. (Teeth implants, not breasts!) This was a really weird experience. I sat in the chair and asked dentist 'are you gonna put me to sleep now', he replied 'of course not, that's what they do to dogs'. I had this injection in my arm of some sort of aneasthetic, which took me to a very strange place, though I remained conscious and awake throughout. My mother (bless her) was the first to see me post operation and commented 'his eyes really did roll round in his sockets' and, would you believe it 'whatever they gave Tim to knock him out - I want some'. Shocking. My mother alledges that I said 'the aneasthetic was as good as a trip anyday', but what would I know?! I certainly went to sleep not long after, and upon awakening looked very much nosferatu - blood pouring down both sides of my mouth. A few days on now, and I look like a chipmunk. Pain-killers are doing their job, but trust me, co-codamol at high strength makes one a little wonkey.

Late saturday night, I got some very disturbing news. My friend Louise Salter had died only the day before. Louise had taken to mountain biking earlier in the year and would frequently post me comments about her latest cycle venture. Louise was a good friend in times past and we shared some great fun times, including our Larmer Tree festival experience amongst others. Louise was a beautiful girl and lovely memories will remain. R.I.P Louise 11.10.1968 - 4.11.2010 x

Weekly totals: Cycled 18 miles.

Sunday 31 October 2010

Freaks in the Peaks

The title 'Freaks in the Peaks' refers to myself and my cycling buddy Clive. This week saw us both complete the Verenti Tour of the Peaks sportive, which most normal people of sound mind stay well clear of. This was the second cycling adventure I had completed with Clive since our introduction during LEJOG 2009.
Prior to the sportive event, I went on one training run with Ron. We cycled familiar routes. I think Ron will need to change his tyres soon - the muddy, wet conditions were causing him to slide all over the place.

No further training took place. This was a combination of poor Cayo being in the bike shop, work menace and 'paralysis of will'. John V kindly offered to lend me his road bike, thanks John.

This week was largely a catalogue of catastrophe's. The first catastrophe being the deal with poor Cayo. The bike shop did a complete service and changed brake and gear cables, replaced the bottom bracket, replaced chain and cassette, fitted new tube, gel tape and tyre - at a cost of about £250! The real menace though, was the fact that they discovered the front mech had become loose and was moving inside the frame. This mech problem, they say, is a manufacture problem, ie a 'warranty job'. Contacted Wiggle (from where bike was purchased) who want me to send them poor Cayo in a box so that they can inspect problem themselves before reaching a solution. Hmmm.

Cayo looked pretty awesome with all her new gear as I picked her up from the bike shop. I had no time to take her for a test run. She was promptly put in the back of my car and I made my way to the Peak District ready for the impending sportive.

I stayed in a B and B overnight. This was to prove another mistake. It was noisy, cramped and finding a parking space proved difficult. I asked the staff what time breakfast was and they informed '8 o'clock at the earliest'. My sportive began at 8, so I would have to miss breakfast. The staff informed they would make me a packed lunch in this case and put it behind my door. They agreed to put my bike in a shed overnight and promised they would place it in the reception hall at 7 a.m ready for when I had to leave. I made myself a hot chocolate, burning my wrist on the kettle, and then attempted to settle down for the night.

In the morning, I got ready and looked behind my door - no packed lunch. I went downstairs and no bike. I phoned the emergency contact number - no answer. Grrr. At this point I was getting stressed. I found another number (on a board outside) and constantly kept ringing until, about 30 minutes later, the idiot staff answered and came and gave me my bike. This staff member (the very same who promised to sort my bike the night before) said, 'don't worry, I take full responsibility'. I will not comment as to what the voices in my head were saying. The idiot handed me a packed lunch and I raced off to meet Clive at the start line of the sportive.

I got to the start line just in time but was ill prepared. I had no water in my bottles and had not eaten. To make things worse, in my rush to get ready the night before, I had forgotten my road bike helmet and packed my mountain bike one. Clive kindly gave me a bottle of lucozade and I checked out the packed lunch I was given. I think it was tuna sarnies - Clive reckoned it was cat food. I didn't care what it was, I needed to eat and tucked in whilst we were queuing at the start line. There were hundreds of riders at this event and we all set off in groups of about 25 after a very short race briefing.

Hooray, we were off! It was a very chilly start but the weather looked promising. It was great to catch up with Clive and was awesome to start my first ever road sportive. What could possibly go wrong now? Pssss, yup, you got it - I punctured after just 2 miles. On closer inspection it looked like the tyre was not completely inserted inside the rim. I told Clive to carry on whilst I fixed said puncture. I had only just started and felt like quitting already. My fingers were frozen and changing a tube was exasperating. Still, changed it I did and thank goodness I carry those gas cylinders for a speedy tyre inflate. Have no idea if I put the tyre on the correct way round or what pressure I was running. With puncture fixed, I felt better and sped off again in an attempt to catch Clive up. Again, I was so ill prepared that if I punctured again I would be in trouble - I had used my only spare tube.

The route proved quite undulating from the start, more hilly than I had imagined. This was good though because it was helping me warm up and the more I cycled the sunnier it was becoming. After a short while, I spotted Clive, he was waiting for me at the bottom of the Cat and Fiddle. The Cat and Fiddle is the Macclesfield to Buxton road and more importantly our first major hill. This hill wasn't so tough to be honest, but it was long, nearly 7 miles in fact. Going up this hill was great, the views were amazing - a long chain of cyclists could be seen in the distance and we were heading into moving cloud. To top that, Clive had a 'lavod' on his bike, which is essentially an mp3 player for a bike. We were bopping up this hill listening to Indigo Girls, Dream Theatre and Pink Floyd. This lavod was certainly a good conversation starter as nearly every passing cyclist would comment. We stopped at the top to take obligatory pictures of our first conquered revered climb. I stopped to finish off those cat food sarnies too.
Our next stop was at a feed station. There was no real food here (save a slice of malt loaf) but we were given lots of free gels and a bar. We were also able to fill up our water bottles with diluted 'High5' energy drink. Clive proved a real gent again here and equipped me with a spare tube.
We continued our cycle, the whole time viewing awesome sights of the Peak District. We passed a place called Devil's Arse which provided much amusement as we headed towards Winnats Pass. Whilst looking upwards from the bottom of Winnats Pass, we could see why some folk thought this was Devil's Arse. Clive and I took pictures at the sign and then started this notoriously steep climb. Still towards the base, a professional photographer was there, and took pictures of Clive and I pushing each other up the hill. I left Clive here and struggled up this incredibly steep hill. The cyclist in front of me fell clean off his bike. As I continued up this hill, all the cyclists in front of me had dismounted and were walking with their bikes. With determination I continued to climb and all the folk pushing their cycles were shouting 'good effort, keep going, well done, nice one mate'. I know this was a tough hill, my heart rate monitor was showing a max heart rate of 189 beats per minute! I made it to the top and was awarded with such a pretty sight with it's gorge like topography. I felt great.
After a short while Clive had caught up and we set off together once again. We weren't together too long before we had to part company, at about the 40 mile mark. Clive was doing the shorter 65 mile option (perhaps he has more sense than me), which he pointed out is the more desirable route for cyclists aged 50 and over. As I turned to follow my route, I felt alone, there was no cyclists to be seen.

My solo cycling was still great fun and the views continued to be spectacular. I passed the odd cyclist who had stopped to fix punctures but it seemed like miles before I passed cycling cyclists. Indeed, the next few cyclists weren't cycling, they were pushing their bikes up yet more incredibly steep climbs. These climbs felt as tough as Winnats Pass (but heart rate was telling otherwise) and had switch backs before climbing ever higher again. The passing cyclists were again shouting 'nice one mate' and these words of encouragement did indeed help push me on. The more I climbed, the more fellow cyclists I would meet. Eventually I had caught up with a great number of cyclists and reached the final feed station before the cut off point.

This food station provided a banana and soup. After all the energy gels I had consumed and that particularly nasty energy bar I was feeling a little sickly with food stuffs. I had a few swigs of soup and just decided to head off again, eating said banana whilst cycling.

As I left this feed station I was cycling alone again but could see a cyclist in the distance ahead. I made it my mission to catch this cyclist. Mile after mile I was getting nearer, and then I saw a van stop and pick this cyclist up! I continued and after a few more miles could see a whole bunch of cyclists climbing a hill. Before long I had reached these cyclists and were climbing said hill alongside them. It was great here because we were all sharing stories about earlier events in the ride. Everyone would ask if I had to dismount going up Winnats Pass, and I felt so proud to answer 'no'.

Before long I was at the foot of Holme Moss, another must do climb. This climb has been used several times in the Tour of Britain. I was cycling up the seriously steep twisty side. Again this climb was tough, real tough, and was made harder still by the head wind beating against me. I think all cycling this hill were hardened cyclists because not a soul was walking with their bike and this hill was just as hard as the others. I really enjoyed this hill and surprised myself with the number of cyclists I passed as I climbed to the summit. Once at the top, I took photo's to prove proof of passage.
After the breathtaking climb of Holme Moss it was a super fast descent with even more spectacular views and scenery. This descent was so fast, I was starting to feel the chills and stopped at the bottom just to tuck everything back in. The final leg back to the finish was difficult. I was tired, back was aching, knee was niggling, belly was aching (hunger) and I just wanted to finish. I was expecting a nice easy run to the finish, knowing that the 3 major hills were completed, this wasn't the case... There followed 2 more big hills to the finish, in fact it was mostly an upward journey right till the end. Once the end was in sight, I instantly felt better again and had such an awesome feeling as I passed the finish line.

A number of folk were present at the finish and were all clapping and shouting nice remarks as I finished. For finishing I was awarded with a box of energy gels, a head scarf and a bike floss. I checked my race time and tucked into a proper meal of rice and chilli.

My race number was 1298 and I cycled a distance of 97.28 miles at an average speed of 12.4 mph and a max speed of 44.6 mph. My average heart rate was 135 bpm and my max was 189 bpm. My official race time was 8 hours, 53 mins and 27 secs.

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 116 miles.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The impossible dream

"And the world will be better for this.
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star."

A friend of mine posted me that above quote after reading my blog from beginning to near end. She said, maybe in part due to the injuries at the beginning of the blog, combined with raising all that money for charity, these lyrics got stuck in my head. These lyrics are from a song called 'The impossible dream'. Has been a while since I posted during the week, but following my friends comments, I wanted to share a number of impossible dreams. Please note, dreams are only impossible whilst they are still dreams.
I remember back to 2009 where I completed my first LEJOG adventure. A cycling buddy, Andrew Hartley made a video of this first impossible dream. This dream can be found here:

This got me to thinking about LEJOG 2010, where a whole bunch of folk considered this to be an impossible dream. My buddy Chris Hodge added a video to you tube recounting day 0.25 of said adventure, which can be found here: Chris plans to add further days of this adventure, and when he does I will post links on this blog site.

I have saved the best, far reaching impossible dream video till last. The children at Happy's (Mason Lincoln Special School for the disabled in South Africa) receive the wheelchairs they have been waiting for. The money and support for this home has been provided by loving members of the Christadelphian community, their friends and family worldwide.. Grab a tissue and take a look at this:

I have another impossible dream. That is to complete the Verenti Tour of the Peak on Saturday next. This is considered the season finale on the last day of British Summertime. My poor bike is still in the repair shop and wont be ready till Friday which seriously compromises my training. Luckily I still have a mountain bike and best take her on a few miles in the days that remain.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Nonchalant in Newbury

'Broken bicycles, old busted chains,
With rusted handle bars, out in the rain...
Summer is gone, but our love will remain
Like old broken bicycles out in the rain'.
My road bike 'Cayo' felt like a broken bicyce this week. Only used her on one ocassion and then she was swiftly taken to the bike shop (Speeds Cycles). Speeds Cycles aren't too speedy at all - Cayo remains there still. Hopefully, Cayo will come out a new machine - with new chain, casette, jockey wheels and possibly new cables too. In this world of cycling, everything falls apart. Even my carbon shoes have a crack in the sole.

Scotty had a relatively good week. Ron and I took our steeds to the forest in Sambourne (those dreaded woods where I have lost a pedal, lost a crank arm, slept out under the stars in -4C snowy conditions and scarred my body from falling off bike and landing on barbed wire fence). The woods selected Ron as their victim this time around and threw him from his bike. Following these woods we cycled familiar paths through Coughton and back home via the off road routes past Studley Castle. Scotty had a second trip where she again loosely followed the no.5 cycle path and went through Morton Stanley, Webheath and Arrow Vale.
The last bit of cycling completed in the week was on my sisters bike. She has a small Giant (is that an oxymoron?!). Myself, Guy and Chris from the LEJOG 2010 group met up with about 20-30 others for a cycle around a common in Newbury. Following this cycle, we all returned to Newbury Christadelphian hall where Guy presented a short slide show on our LEJOG 2010 trip. Guy informed that we had raised about £8,500 for our 'Happy's' charity. Simon Peel (not a LEJOGer) then gave a presentation about 'Happy's' and showed how some of the money had been spent and high-lighted some further projects. Simon is heading for Cambodia today and later next year will visit Happy's - all these trips involving charitable work from Simon. Good luck Simon and well wishes.

Non-cycling nonsense this week is as follows. On monday I went on a walk with folk from work, namely Max, Adrian and Cecilia. We walked laps around Ladywood (or is it Egbaston?) reservoir. I walked a total of 4.86 miles. My friend and work colleague Dr Faisal has diagnosed me as having cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is a mood disorder characterized by numerous hypomanic (and depressive) periods with symptoms like those of manic and major depressive episodes but of lesser severity. Cheers Doc! Lastly, my friend Ree popped over and was showing off her carrot art. She had artistically decorated a carrot, which Cody thought was awesome ... indeed, Cody stole said carrot and ate it!

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 60 miles.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Centurion Super-Grimpeur

Not a good week for my poor cycling buddy Dave Cross. Dave spent 2 days in hospital after being knocked off his bicycle cycling home from work on Wednesday. He has had scans and x-rays and, thanks be to God, the doctors report there appears to be no internal damage or broken bones, but lots of bruising and pain. Well wishes to Dave, let's hope he makes a speedy recovery!

Was a better week for my work colleague Max. I donated 'the Specialized', my 'old' mountain bike to him. Was kind of sad seeing the Specialized go - she had a pretty naff frame, but some lovely components (including Hope hubs and disc brakes, SID team forks, Mavic wheels and XT throughout). I had not ridden the Specialized for so long and she was just stuck at work with a flat front tyre. I'm sure Max will give her the loving she deserves.

Not a bad week (on the cycling front at least) for me either. The bi-monthly work newsletter 'Trust Talk' printed an article about my LEJOG 2010 adventure (thanks to Carmel for contacting publisher). The article had the heading 'Tim gets back in the saddle to raise thousands for charity'.

Took 'young' Dave Bushell's advice and purchased a floor fan to use with my rollers. I didn't go to Argos though, this fan (actually an air circulator) came from B&Q. This fan really does make a huge difference - my body drips with way less sweat, am not having to towel my face all the while and sweat in the eye is a thing of the past. Thanks for the practical advice Dave!
Training went real well this week too. I trained on 4 seperate occasions and completed my 9th audax too! 2 of my training sessions were indoors with the rollers (plus new fan). 1 training session took Ron and I on a 'new' ride. We largely followed the no.5 cycle path and incorparated visits to Morton Stanley Park, Webheath Woods (navigating through the woods proved quite difficult even with ay-up's) where we bombed down the larger downhill and succesfully climbed the other large hill, Arrow Vale and Studley. Ron and I were both in good form this week and raced up St Judes Avenue ... where my chain snapped! Ron kindly pushed me home then. Replaced chain (it had snapped twice) following day and took myself on a familiar cross country trek through 'naughty woods', Coughton and past Studley Castle before returning home.

Succesfully completed my 9th audax. This audax was the Centurion Super-Grimpeur (108k). I was initially a bit anxious about this ride as the organiser sent a letter stating 'please note this is a very hilly ride with steep (>1 in 4) hills... you may at times wish you were on a mountain bike'. I was right to be anxious, as soon as I left the start control at Daglingworth Village Hall a hill was encountered almost straight away. The hills didn't stop coming either - they were relentless and the whole ride was like a roller coaster. The hills were seriously hilly and coming down hill was just plain scarey. The down-hills were seriously steep, had switch backs and at times were blocked by passing traffic. Following the ride my wrists ached from constant braking and my backside was numb from constant butt cheek twitching. The controls were few and basic. However, the second control provided a free iced bun. The third (and final before finish) control sold meat pasta and a banana for £5 which was very welcome, as it was this or nothing! Weather was great on the whole, it just rained for the last 5 miles. By the time I had reached the finish control my energy was about spent. This control provided free cake and tea though, which was nice and gave me the necessary carbs to climb one last hill and return to my parked car! I didn't collect a 100k medal for this event (even though I could have), however I was awarded a 'Les Randonneurs Europeens Audax U.K. (gold) Grimpeur' medal for completing an 100k audax event that had 2.5 or more AAA points. This was the first event that I have riden that awarded AAA points and this particular event awarded 2.5 points (for a total climb of 2490 metres). AAA points are Audax Altitude Award points. The Aims of the AAA are to encourage participation in hilly events and offer a challenge to regular long distance riders and also to those who do not wish to ride the longest events but who enjoy hard riding. It is popular, not only because of the challenge, but also because of the scenery it has to offer. Happy daze! The pic below was taken in France by my cycling buddy Juliette, but demonstartes the same irrational excitement I had upon completing event.
During audax, I cycled 69.39 miles at an average speed of 12mph and a max speed of 38.2mph.

A chap called Finley kindly posted on my blog last week. Finley was suggesting I enter the 'Kilotogo' event, namely the 'Verenti Tour of the Peak 2010'. This sportive event is a 97 mile corker! It includes 3 of the most revered climbs in the UK, including the 'Cat and Fiddle' (tough and nearly 7 miles long), the notoriously steep 'Winnats Pass' and 'Holme Moss'. I told myself, 'if I complete the Centurion Super-Grimpeur audax, I'll enter the Kilotogo event'. On friday gone, I was kinda pleased to see that the Kilotogo event was full, haha. On saturday I was pleased to have completed said audax event. On sunday, I notice more places have been made available for the Kilotogo event. Damn! Silly me, I have now entered probably the most difficult event of my cycling career! This event is less than 2 weeks away.
* Please note, I do not know who 'Finley' is, but he's in trouble now!
The pic above was randomly found whilst surfing the internet. Let's hope it's true. With this mantra perhaps I'll be able to focus on training.

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 139 miles.

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