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.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Rollin', rollin', rollin' ....

My bikes have seen no tarmac at all this week! Indeed, my bikes haven't even left the house. However, I have managed to cycle a few 'indoor' miles.
The missing Tacx band finally arrived in the post. Rollers set up, and the indoor cycling has begun. Have still been quite leisurely on the cycling front, but at least a few miles have been ridden. I find the rollers quite knackering really and am absolutely dripping with sweat within a few minutes. My usual session is about 30 mins. Balancing is not the easiest either - I can balance but cannot cycle non-handed yet. Just grabbing a towel to wipe my sweat is mission enough.

Have a whole bunch of cycling related nonsense to report. This included my plan to cycle with Ron and Ian Cross this week, but for one reason or another this didn't happen. Organiser Mike Vybiral thanked me (via post) for my participation in the 'Welland Wonders' audax and kindly sent me a 50k medal (pretty pink in colour). Mike informed me that I was 1 of 89 entries and the event I entered helped raise £400 for a range of charities including the British Heart Foundation. Is awesome knowing how one has helped charity by just entering a simple event. Mark Rigby from the Black Sheep Cycling Club also emailed and thanked me for supporting the 'Mr Pickwick goes to Hay in a day' audax. Mark informed that Ron and I were 2 of 26 entrants, but more importantly paid 'big respect' to us two for having the [seriously hot] curry at Bromyard! The CMaD emailed to congratulate me for raising £380.59, - I raised this money so long ago I am struggling to remember exactly which event it was (possibly London to Geneva cycle?!). Also sold 2 bikes this week - not to worry, they weren't mine.
Non-cycling nonsense I see fit to share this week is great. I spotted a real fat man sporting a T-shirt which read 'I have beaten anorexia'. My dog Cody, ran around the garden randomly biting at weeds and continuing to eat them. Oh, and the other funny happening has slipped my mind again. Where is my mind?
Weekly totals: Cycled a total of 40 miles.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Tasty Cheddar

This week proved a little more active than last. Only cycled on 2 occasions, but both days were good days out. Both Cayo and Scotty tasted tarmac.

My first outing was with Ron aka 'Aldi Kid'. Ron has this new nic name because he has recently purchased a whole outfit of cycling gear from, you got it, Aldi. The Aldi range is pretty good to be fair and they release new stuff each winter and summer time. Ron and I took our mountain bikes along the familiar 'Deer Route'. I think we were both quite whacked this week and found it a little struggle. We didn't race at all and by-passed a few hills we usually tackle. It was nice to be back on Scotty - felt like I have neglected her of late. Pretty awesome to use our super ay-up lights now that the days are shorter and the nights darker and longer. The council have kindly resurfaced the road around Coughton Ford too which was nice.
The second outing involved the use of Cayo, my road bike. This trip was pretty awesome, as it was a kind of re-union with the LEJOG 2010 boys (plus Hannah). The full team were not present - Ben B and Nathan (the Fuji boys) were missing. However, Guy, Chris, Ben A, Steve, Ian, Dave and myself all met up in Bristol to tackle the 'Tasty Cheddar', a 101k audax event. This was my 8th audax event.

The day started off in the usual style - mishap! I had only cycled 1/2 a mile before Ben phoned to ask if I had a track pump. I returned to the start so that Guy (not Ben) could inflate his tyres with said track pump of mine. Guy was doing this audax on his mountain bike, as his road bike had a wonkey wheel. If my memory serves me right, Guy had a wonkey wheel at the end of the LEJOG 2010 experience. Story has it that Guy purchased new spokes to replace his broken one's but they were the wrong size?! Anyways, after this false start we were off.

Guy had the right idea to bring his mountain bike! The start of this ride was on a muddy cycle path, well suited for a cyclo-cross event. I don't think Cayo has gotten this muddy before. Cyclists, runners, dogs and walkers were all using this path. Not far into the ride, I spotted a random guy bopping along with a bike wheel attached to his back and another guy hacking down a tree. This first part of the cycle passed under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and went alongside Clevedon (where I remember swimming as a child, and remember Cody taking a dip on a visit with my friend Jet) and finally finished at the first control - a cafe facing the sea front. Very pretty indeed.
The second leg proved menace for poor Ian. He got a wasp stuck in his helmet which stung him on the side of his head. This trek took us through Axbridge and passed through a lengthy tunnel. This tunnel was dark and the ground uneven. Lights were required to ensure safe passage - I still had the knog light that Chris gave me during the LEJOG 2010 venture. Once through the tunnel, I swear I saw a woman walking 2 grizzly bears (Chris and Ian ensured me they were really just big dogs). This section finished at an ice-cream parlour with signposts pointing to Cheddar. I didn't taste any ice-cream delight, or cheese, but I did eat a pink dougnut. Mmm!
The third leg was extremely pretty. Cheddar Gorge was climbed and the views were breath-taking. The hill wasn't half as difficult as I had imagined. The hill into Hinton Blewett was a real tough one though and not to be under estimated. After this hill was climbed the control was within easy reach.

I was very hungry as I cycled the last section. Had decided not to eat much at all during the day, as we had planned to have a meal together at the end. 2 things kept me distracted from my hunger, these were the smell of chicken poo and a rather odd looking Mr Man type house. This last section took us through Dundry and Long Ashton before finishing at the control, very near the start. Yay, job done!
This Tasty Cheddar audax took us much longer than expected. Sadly Guy and Chris had to leave to attend a wedding. Meanwhile the rest of us (plus additional Cross family members) gorged out on a delicious carvery - a nice finish to the day.

Cycled a distance of 61.67 miles at an average speed of 11.9 mph and a max speed of 40 mph.

In addition to the above events, photo's from the Hay in a day audax were published. Below is a pic of Ron and I cycling said event. Wiggle remain in my bad books as they have still not replaced my broken band for those Tacx rollers. Such menace.
Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 78 miles.

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...