Sunday 27 March 2011

The Dean (307k audax)

Started this week with full on anxiety. I knew that I had plans to cycle a 300k audax on the weekend. This would be the second time I had ever attempted to cycle such a distance. 'Why' is a question one might ask. I am not sure I know the answer.

Training began on the Monday. First off was an indoor cycle on the rollers followed immediately by a run. SJ and I ran the Studley Traingle (door to door) and were only 5 seconds off our fastest time (not that we race). My legs really ached following this activity, I wondered how on earth I would fare Saturday. SJ distracted my thoughts and gave me a belated birthday present which was awesome - it was a T-shirt with a print of DMR pedals on the front. Nice!
Tuesday was spent cycling with Ron. We took our mountain bikes out and cycled an extended version of the 'Deer Route'. This was a pleasant evening and we had a good time creature spotting. Strangely no deer were to be seen, but we did see a rabbit, frogs, ducks, a badger, sheep and cats.

I repeated the route above again on Wednesday, but this time as a solo effort and during the day. No interesting creatures were spotted this time around and worse still a splatted frog lay where the frogs were seen the night before. Is not often that I cycle before an on-call shift but the sun was shining so bright that I felt really motivated to go out.

The weekend saw me complete 'The Dean', a 307k audax in Oxford. My buddy Ron joined me for this event. I wrote the comments below following the event where my mind and body are not in their usual state. This event should be re-titled as 'The mean Dean'.

Ron picked me up at a most horrid hour - 4 a.m! Luckily I had gotten my bike and kit ready the night before. With bikes loaded in car we reached Oxford in time for me to collect my brevet card and started the event on time at 6 a.m. We were 2 of about 100 riders (Ron had entered un-offically). The start was cold and misty but we were suitably clothed - I was wearing 4 layers. It didn't take long to warm up further as this start was super zoomy for an audax event. Ron and I stayed with the group of cyclists leading the pack but tucked in behind a few others to benefit from a 'tow'. This first section was mostly quiet lanes but there was a few hills and a relatively mean one before control. We had until 9 a.m to reach the first control in Stow, but we were so speedy we had reached it by 7.40 a.m (it had opened only 10 mins earlier). Our stop here was short. I just purchased a bottle of water (for sake of receipt) and ate some malt loaf I had prepared earlier.

Leaving Stow we cycled along familiar paths in Bishops Cleeve, Winchcombe and Tewkesbury. There was lots of hills during this stage and I am suprised the event organiser did not award us with AAA points (I felt he should). Some fast descents put a smile on my face and it was breakfast once we reached Newent! We both had a beans on toast with egg and a big mug of tea for me and coffee for Ron. We both looked quite pooped after cycling only a 100k, a third of the way through our epic advneture.
From Newent to Chepstow we encountered more hills. Hilly menace! To make things worse I had gotten something in my eye. Ron plucked the offending object from my eye - still not sure what it was but looked very much like worm poo. Maybe the gunk was evidence of infection - my poor eye had been watering and itchy for miles.  Ron said I should put salt in my eye, stating I should trust him as he is 'a first aider' - now where have I heard that before?! Passing through the Forest of Dean was lovely and we saw a wild pig. This wild pig (boar according to Ron) was dead and appeared to be the victim of road kill - Ron said the locals had killed it and would put it between some slabs of bread if we were not passing by. Reached the control and ate junk for our efforts. This junk was chicken pieces, a pasty slice and more of my malt loaf. (Frequently throughout trip we would munch on biscuits or gels etc).

From leaving control we were faced with another hill almost straight away. This hill was worth climbing as it led to the Severn Bridge which was just awesome. Have now crossed this bridge 3 times on a bike. Again another big hill (at Hawkesbury Upton) had to be climbed  before we reached the control in Malmesbury. This control was great as we stopped and ate in style. We both had soup, bread, roll, tea and a slice of chocolate cake. I swear Ron winked at the waitress and was given an extra large slice of cake for so doing.

From Malmesbury we cycled over the Marlborough Downs and 'over' was the fact of it. We had to climb big fat hills. 2 particularly big fat hills. These hills were hard work but the sighs were rewarding. We spotted 2 of Wiltshire's white horses. The second horse was half way up the final ascent and I could hear the horse saying 'reach me and I'll gallop you to the top' or was that Ron? Or even the voices in my head? Whatever it was I reached the top and then was rewarded with a super descent passing sighs to Avebury. It was dark by the time we reached the control in Membury. Both Ron and I were using our Ay-Up lights which are just awesome and in addition I was using cheap lights brought in end of year sales with which I am happy with too. All my kit was carried in my carradice zipped roll bag which I found great too but would maybe benefit with a slightly larger bag. We ate lots here at the control (being the last control before finish) and included was pasty, chocolate and more beverage.

The final slog took us from Membury back to Oxford. It was, of course, pitch black now but we sped along relatively flat lanes and B roads. So awesome to reach the finish. This was the first 300k event Ron had completed and I wonder if he will cycle this distance again? For me, this event has enabled me to reach Randonneur 1,000 status and I could use this event as a qualifier for PBP (ha!). In terms of PBP, I am halfway through the qualifying events, just a matter of a 400k and 600k event to go... Hmm, the mind is willing but the backside says no!

During audax cycled a distance of 190.42 miles at an average speed of 14.5 mph and a max speed of 45.3 mph.

Weekly totals: Cycled 249 miles; Ran for 33 mins.

Monday 21 March 2011

Primal Level headed Wonder

This week started off well. SJ, Cody and I ran across the fields of Studley in a cross country style. Cody and I have ran this before, but this was a first for SJ. I like this route as it is quite varied but pretty all the way. The run starts by passing through 'secret' fields leading to a kind of pond with a 'secret' swing and then continues down hill past the sewage works. The sewage works stunk a lot on this particular occasion and SJ said we should name this route ''the stinky route'', so here we have 'Studley stinky route'. After the sewage works we had to jump a ditch and then put Cody on her lead as we trekked across some tarmac and over a bridge. We took a left turn after bridge, passed a cattle grid and then running continued. The run led past a farm house and a semi-vicious collie that Cody likes to fight. After the dog fight, a couple of horses had to be navigated through and then running continued over fields. At about the half way point there was a stream where we stopped to catch breath and watered Cody. The next stage goes up-hill a little and leads past Studley Castle and a Church. Another bridge was crossed and the run finished with an up-hill dart to the finish.

The following day, I repeated the Studley stinky route again, but this time just had Cody for company. As usual, Cody picked a dog fight but didn't fare too well this time. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?! Before the run, I took Scotty out and cycled the Yard route for the first time on said mountain bike. This was a great on-road route for an off-road mountain bike. I experimented using my Carradice zipped roll bag with bagman support. This bag and support worked well and saved me from having to carry my Camelback as all my tools and food etc were in bag. It was great having no weight to carry on my person. Chris Hodge and I are planning (maybe) to cycle coast to coast (C2C) on our mountain bikes in an un-supported manner. I think Carradice bags with support bracket may prove the way ahead. I might invest in a Carradice Barley, as it will offer about 5 more litres of space over my current bag which should be way enough for addition of clothes, food and a few other essentials.
This particular days training finished in style - the day finished with a mosh at a 'Primal Scream' gig. Primal Scream played their 'Screamadelica' album and it was an awesome night. A Scottish band called 'Kassidy' were the support act and they were awesome too.
Mid-week was a rest day. The following day (St Patrick's Day) was another day full on with exercise. Training started with the Studley Stinky route run (in reverse) with Cody. Cody was a bit sluggish today and the collie she usually scraps with was not there today. This run is a little easier going the reverse way around. Following the run, much motivation was required to spend a time cycling indoors on my rollers. Again this days training finished with style as SJ and I went to a 'Levellers' gig which was excellent and had a fantastic support from the 'Wonderstuff'.
No more exercise took place for the rest of the week. Well, it was my birthday! Plenty of time was spent having fun and eating and drinking. Which leads to my concluding remarks. My ever-so-competitive sister Jane likes to walk (pah) and blogs about this activity and believes she is some sort of sports star personality. Her blog is all about her and her walks and she really does believe that her walking is superior to my cycling. She stated that my blog is more like a menu as I tend to write down all the desserts that I consume and take my fancy. Well, (this is for Jane) assuming heart rate is kept in the cardio range (aprox 120-150): Walking = around 400 Cal per hour. Cycling = around 500-700 Cal per hour! Cycling burns more calories and 'allows' one to eat more! Yes, I can have my birthday cake and eat it!

Weekly totals: Cycled 53 miles; Ran for 1 hour and 30 mins.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Milton Keynes Malarkey

This weeks 'big' planned event was an off road affair in Milton Keynes, organiswd by Evans Cycles, with my buddy Chris 'Orange' Hodge. Last time we cycled such an event, we got lost and only cycled a medium length route, as opposed to the epic hard core route we convinced ourselves we were able to conquer. Before the Milton Keynes event was completed however, a little training took place first.

The first training session took place at 'Doo Little', my little abode. As most would have probably figured, this was an indoor session using my rollers. My legs were tired after last weeks 200k audax but spin they did.

SJ and Cody accompanied me on my next session. We ran around Oversley Woods. Am beginning to think this run is too short. Although this course is quite undulating, we finish in around 20 mins and I would prefer to run for at least 30 mins - maybe we should run around twice?!

My last training session was a double-whamy! I started by cycling on the rollers. This roller session was short and I only cycled half the distance of my usual sessions (ie I cycled 10 miles). This was long enough to warm up ready for when SJ rocked up though. When SJ eventually did rock up, we ran the Studley triangle. SJ doesn't know that this was the fastest we have ran the triangle as a couple. We ran it in 33 mins and 8 secs. We actually ran further than the triangle too, as we ran from and to my front door from the start/finish on the A435. Go us! :)

All the traing outlined above was my prepearation for the Evans Ride It! event in Milton Keynes I completed on the weekend. This was a great event. A collection of memories will be re-told.
I met Chris at the start, of what was to be a really warm sunny day. Chris had gotten new fox forks and I had gotten a new Fizik Gobi saddle which we proudly showed to each other. We both had relatively clean and shiny bikes.
After we had been fitted with timing chips we set off. We opted for the epic route -  a supposedly 34 mile off road trek (the short route was 15 miles and the medium 25). Last time we did an Evans event we got lost and ended up doing a medium route. We were going to make sure today we were hard core! Almost as soon as we started, I hit trouble. The track was incredibly muddy and gloopy. This certain gloopy puddle threw me over the handlebars on my bike. If that wasn't bad enough, I bashed both knee's and worse still, I lost a shoe! This shoe took a while to find as I had to fish it out of gloopy puddle. Nice...
Back on track and we cycled a variety of terrain and conditions. Lots of mud, gloop, hard pack, sand, field and a bit of tarmac. Up hills, down hills, across fields, over bridges, over railway lines, past a quarry and through a golf course. Chris was on good form today and powered up the hills and flew down the descents. That is, until he punctured...
We both punctured in fact. Well kind of anyway. Chris had gotten a rather large thorn stuck in his front tyre which we decided not to pull out (and it made it to the end with adequate pressure). Chris's back tyre did not fare so well and required many stops to pump up deflating tube. My rear tyre also deflated. I stopped and removed the tube. A thorn was found in tyre and quickly removed. The tube pumped up ok and so was put back on, rather than replaced. This tube required stops to pump it up too as it was deflating, but slowly. I think the valve was at fault and no 'real' puncture present.
The stops were the usual standard and provided diluted drink and mega tasty cakes. Well, the first official stop had no cake, so I made up for it during second stop and ate 2!  We were also equipped with a bar and had some gels too.
We cycled way over 34 miles. Chris said this was to ''make up for the miles we didn't do last time''. The truth was, we got lost again. Am not sure why, but we decided to follow white arrows instead of the yellow ones we were told to follow. Oh well, we made it to the finish and completed the epic route. Hard core we are!

During the Evans event, I cycled 40.46 miles, at an average speed of 8.4 mph and a max sped of 30.5 mph. (4 hours, 46 mins and 27 seconds were spent on my new saddle! No major back ache or bum ache. Am rating this saddle).

Finished the week by cycling another mini session indoors on the rollers.

Weekly totals: Cycled 80 miles; Ran for 53 mins.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Mr Pickwick's March Madness (209k audax)

Training went well this week. Spent a few hours indoors on the rollers, spent time outside on the mountain bike and even went for a run. This training was the preperation for my 15th audax.

Felt good to be back on the rollers again. Had not used them for a while and finding the motivation to use them is at times difficult. Rollers require not only motivation but concentration as it is easy to fall off. Somehow, I found both the motivation and concentration necessary and used the rollers 2 days running. I thought about my sister Jane doing her gym work as I was rolling to the sound of Muse.

Mid-week I took Scotty out on a solo trip (both Ron and John being busy this week). I cycled the route Ron and I did last week (on our road bikes), namely the 'shortened' 1 hour loop. Like last week, I made up my miles by cycling through Studley village. Was generally a nice trek but was very cold and I have ideas of investing in a new saddle. My current saddle is a Selle Itaia SLR and it's not the comfiest by any means. I might research fizik saddles, especially as I have a number of off road events planned.

Went running with SJ and Cody. SJ provided the motivation as I could have easily have found an excuse not to go - it was cold, I was tired, lazy, etc ... Felt better once we got started. We ran around Oversley Woods in the dark. After the run, SJ put me to shame as she completed a great number more sit up's than I could ever imagine doing. Show off!

Had my Brevet card returned from the Willy Warmer audax I completed in January, which was nice. However, the card was returned with a letter from the event organiser which made sad reading. I quote ''one big downer on the day was the loss of a bike... some opportunistic scrote made away on a very nice blue Ribble bike... The lightest cheapest cable lock will deter rideaway thieves''. With the advice of this organiser, I might invest in a lock!
During the weekend I cycled my 15th audax, namely the 'Mr Pickwick's March Madness' event. This was a 209k audax starting and finishing in Tewkesbury. The event was quite a hilly affair and earned me 1.75 AAA points.

The event startd early, at 7 a.m, on a cold and misty morning. I was pleased to try out my new front and rear lights which I had just gotten on the cheap in an end of year sale - they worked fine. The first stage was a 46k affair that took me to Bromyard. The road surface was generally fine, but patches of frozen water were encountered here and there. I was suitably kitted out wearing 3 pairs of gloves, which might sound extreme, but it kept my digits warm! My feet were toasty too - I wore wooly socks and my overshoes. My overshoes are rubbish to be fair, they rub against my heel (painfull after a while) and squeak as they rub against the pedal arm. This squeak makes folk think I have a mouse in my pocket, or rubbing brake blokes. I figured I'd put up with the squeak rather than cold feet. Hills in this stage kept me warm too. A big fat hill that hair-pinned it's way up to Malvern base camp made sure of that! Awarded myself with beans on toast once I reached the first control.

Left the control and started cycling a 56k trek to Soudley. It wasn't long to 'Bananaman' caught me up (a cyclist wearing bright yellow). Bananaman and I stuck together all the way to the control. We chatted quite a lot about random stuff and when we weren't chatting I was following his wheel. This stage was quite undulating in nature and was mostly an uphill gradient. The control was within the Forest of Dean, being at the Dean Heritage Centre. At this control I ate more beans, along with sausage and egg.

Stage 3 was a long slog, a 75k affair to Saul. This sort of slog was like the stages I remeber from my 300k event last year. The trek started off within the confines of the Forest and a couple of deer ran out ahead of me which was pretty neat. I was riding mostly solo until I caught a chap up in Wales (he had taken a wrong turn). I recognised this chap from a previous audax (not sure which one). We cycled as a pair and crossed the Severn bridge which was truly awesome. This chap made the mistake of allowing me to continue navigating. Sure enough we got a little lost, but some kind horse riding girls set us back on track. In the distance ahead we could see a group of cyclists - I pulled myself and the chap along till we joined said group (it was real tiring on my behlaf but the chap thanked me for my efforts). The group we were now cycling in contained 7 cyclists in all and I was pleased to stay at the back all the way to the control. The control was situated next to the canal which was real pretty and although I had been pulled along for the last so many miles I felt whacked and was glad of a stop. I devoured a peanut butter slice and a twix here. When the group were about to leave, they and asked if I wanted to follow - I declined, preferring to drink a cup of tea before I set off for the last section.
The last stage was only 30k. Only 30k that is, if I hadn't gotten lost. Maybe I should have skipped the tea and went with the group?! The trek started off well, following a canal tow path (good surface here) for some miles until reaching docks in Gloucester. It was at these docks I got lost. Didn't matter too much, I had found Gloucester and that was real pretty. Funny thing was I asked folk where College Street was and I was standing right on it. Being back on track I cycled along the A38 back into Tewkesbury and to the Arrivee marked on my route sheet. There was no one at the Arrivee?! I went to the car park and met some others who had finished - they informed I had an old route sheet and pointed me to the 'proper' Arrivee. I reached the Arrivee at last. The event took me 10 and 3/4 hours to complete and I was pleased with that time and I cycled a distance of 131.42 miles. The event on the whole was great - good to cycle roads, tow path and across a bridge and nice knowing I had gotten to Wales and back. The sun didn't shine so much, but it didn't rain and I returned with a relatively clean bike. The last 12 miles were cycled on real tired legs, but I had completed another 200k audax, gotten 1.75 AAA points and could use this 200k as a qualifying event for PBP (ha!).

Weekly totals: Cycled 187 miles; Ran for 23 mins.

Happy New Year 2022

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