Tuesday 31 May 2011

Hello SA

On Monday 29 May 2011 we (myself, SJ, and sisters Jane and Kim) finally made it to Africa! It took 3 plane journeys, many sleeps and a great number of hours to get there. We played pink girl poke and red boy slap at the airports to keep us amused. We also saw lots of celebs (dopples!) including Yankee Doodle. When we reached our destination our luggage was missing, still stuck in Madrid. I shared digs with 2 others (Si and Glen) at a project in Westville. The girls were next door. So tired we were, we crashed out before too late and awoke at 5.45 a.m ready for further adventure.

The girls and I were crammed into a jeep with Jude, Maggie, Char, Katie, Ethan, Simon and Glen early on Monday morning - that's 11 people in a small wagon! SJ and I were lucky to be inside, as opposed to unfortunate others in the back of the pick up who were exposed to the elements. Before long we had reached a safari ranch. This was totally awesome, we saw hippo, giraffe, wart hog, impala, rhino, ostrich, birds and kudu amongst others. Fantastic! We really were in Africa! As if things couldn't get better, we went to a lion park afterwards. We were that close to a pride of lions that we could see their tonsils! Elephants were supposed to be nearby but they were most evasive.

Later on we went to 'Happy's School' aka Maison Lincoln Special School. This school was full of children (and some adults too) who mostly had severe disability. The school was housed in what looked like lots of out buildings. The kids were amazing and were full of smiles and eager to hug, play and very excited to interact with us. All the children appeared to have a huge interest in my watch, it was like they had never seen one before. Is hard to describe how this school made each of us feel on an emotional level. We played football, helped with homework and observed the happenings of a very busy school. Jane was showing off her favourite lion pictures on her camera, until a pupil grabbed camera and erased said pictures!

Monday evening was spent doing a few sit-ups along with SJ, Jane and Si. Jane was impressively naff, haha, and Si was king. I maxed out on 30. We rewarded our efforts with an Italian meal with Kim and Glen joining us. This was a goodbye supper for Glen really, as he returns home to Australia tomorrow. The group went mini golfing after, except SJ and I had alternative plans. On our return to Westville we were reunited with our lost luggage - hooray! (Think I had spent 36 hours in my boxer shorts, which is longer than I've worn lycra cycling shorts!).

Tuesday morning was spent at a poly-clinic. We were making and distributing tea and coffee to AIDS, HIV, TB and dental sufferers. The clinic was certainly quite full and appeared very old fashioned. Most folk were really quite grateful. Due to high levels of poverty we had to make sure none of our cups were stolen. Following this we went to a Township creche and were greeted by lots of lovely little kids. The idea of this trip was to spend time with the 'gogo's's (granny's), but the kids got all my attention. Only 3 grannies were present and other volunteers spent time with them. Our evening was spent at Happy's. Happy's is a great place and it is humbling spending time with seriously disabled children who are so happy, active and friendly. A lot of these children have major problems even walking and fall often. When they fall, they often bleed. I have not seen a single child cry, rather just pick themselves up and get on. The kids are so great and support each other better than a family member would. These children are teaching me how to live!

[This blog is a work in progress and whilst in SA, I plan to update every 3rd day].

Friday 27 May 2011

Goodbye GB, hello SA

I would like to start this blog entry with a copy and paste from my sister Jane's blog: ''Once home, I thought I ought to see if I could maintain my sit -ups number from Saturday (112)....and failed miserably!! In fact, I tried to see if I could do more yesterday (Sunday) and my stomach muscles said NO!! -I only managed 60....today was a mere 50.....it's agony if I cough or sneeze, but at least I know they are doing something to the muscles!! The funny thing is....I was talking to SarahJane last night, and their Personal Trainer - Chris PT - is making them do proper sit-ups where they have to sit all the way up, that's why my brother Tim is struggling to do more than 10 at a time - heehee - but, I'm doing what the website says, and if they say 'abdo crunch or curl to 38 degrees, no more', then I'm sticking with it...I just don't think I'll tell Tim just yet........''. Need I comment?! Pah!

Began the week by attempting to do more sit-ups than Jane thought possible. SJ likes to do her sit-ups with me - I think this is because she always has a higher max out number than me in our exhaustion tests. The exhaustion test is the highest number of sit-ups we can perform after doing so many sets before hand. Allow me to explain further. During this workout we performed 21 sit-ups (set 1), 27 sit-ups (set 2), 21 sit-ups (sets 3 and 4) with a 60 second gap between sets. On set 5 we have to max out, but complete at least 30. I maxed out on 31 and SJ on 40. We were following a workout which can be found at www.twohundredsitups.com. I think I am going to adapt the workout from now on though as it is seriously killing me...

Tuesday was a great day. I finally got my teeth sorted! After so many years, I finally have implanted teeth (final version). Yup, I have a shiny smooth porcelain smile. These teeth are so amazing, it's hard to tell them apart from the rest of my thunder choppers. For those that don't remember, I lost my 3 front teeth following a mtb accident some years back. Check out the before and after pics! I have a lot to smile about now! Following this major surgery, SJ was pushing me to go for a run. I had paralysis of will, but SJ got her way. We took Cody to Tardebigge canal and off we ran. It was my turn to push SJ now! We were running into a headwind and it was really hot. Was a great run though, we ran past lots of ducklings and I nearly fell in as I tried to prevent Cody from having a sniff. Cody almost did a kamikaze jump off the lock too. Both these girls are so much trouble ...
Wednesday was spent indoor on the rollers. I have not been using these rollers for a while and forgot how tiring (and boring) they are. Tried to lose myself in the music from my mp3 player and I think the Chemical Brothers helped with that.

Thursday was supposed to be spent with Chris PT but luckily the weather put pay to that! It was such a wet and windy day that we had to reschedule. So horrid was the weather, that when my buddy Chris O turned up, he looked like a drowned rat! Chris is off cycling (motor style) in the Isle of Man. Despite it being the eve of Chris's birthday, he brought me a present - a particularly awesome cycling sign as shown in the pic at the start of this blog entry. Thanks Chris and happy birthday mate!

Friday was the last day spent doing any type of exercise for the week. SJ pushed me to do more sit-ups. I could only manage a max out of 30. SJ, on the other hand, beat me by just a few, well ok, by 70 more than me! Unbelievable!

The weekend will see me travel to Africa with SJ and my sisters Kim and Jane. We will be spending time at a disabled orphanage, as volunteers, in Durban. This is the 'Happy's' project. Some might remember sponsoring me last year to raise funds for this project during my second LEJOG trip. Over £8,000 was raised and purchased a whole bunch of wheelchairs. I will try and blog a little during my visit and hope to exercise just a little while I'm out there. On my return training for the PBP will start.

Weekly totals: Cycled 20 miles; Ran for 30 mins.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Wham, bam, need to make a new plan

This week turned out to be a 'rest' week. A lazy week indeed. Little was done it terms of exercise, but I guess a good recovery from last weeks 600k cycle event was warranted.
The bike saw no tarmac at all. The rollers are getting dusty. My mountain bike had been redundant too. I had plans of cycling the Cotswold Challenge, a 158k audax event starting from Meriden, but decided to spend my time with SJ instead. This event scored no AUK or AAA points anyway. It is important to rest and they suggest a days rest for each 100k cycled in an event. I guess concerns regarding keeping my form are what are bothering me. I have a place in the Paris - Brest - Paris (PBP) 1200k cycle event in August and am aware much training is required. I have trained a lot in just cycling the qualifying events (a 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k audax event all completed this season) but am aware training must continue. The PBP is only about 12 weeks away and from next Saturday I take a break from training for about 3 weeks as I will be going to Africa to offer my services as a volunteer at a disabled orphanage project (will blog more about this later). I guess I'll worry about PBP more on my return. I will be riding for Great Britain (of course) and my number is GB -3727.

In terms of other bike news, I have a few things to report. Took Cayo to get her gear cable fixed, this cost a more reasonable £3.50 from Speeds. Have ordered a new rear light as my previous Blackburn one proved useless - water got into it and it stopped working. Ron is away in Spain cycling big mountains on his mountain bike, well wishes for him.

Did not run this week. Well, ran a little in a PT session if that counts. SJ and I had a session with Chris PT where he worked us real hard. Both SJ and I are still suffering a little from that last session. I cheated a little and did not sprint on any of the shuttles (shh!). We did the usual mix of a variety of exercises including weights, running, sit-ups and my favourite - boxing! Over and above that, no further exercise took place except an exhaustion test on our sit-ups. I managed to score 48 sit-ups and SJ 56. My sister Jane text me and said she can do 112 - I don't think she's doing them right and I plan to find out and print her results here!

Monday 16 May 2011

Bryan Chapman Memorial (Classic) 619k Audax

Presented below is a summary of my collective thoughts and feelings following my completion of the Bryan Chapman Memorial (Classic) 619k audax on the weekend. A lot of what I have written may be jumbled and/or incomplete as this was a particularly gruelling event that took it's toll on both my body and head space. Errors and omissions accepted!
I started this event from Chepstow at 6 a.m along with another 100 or so cyclists. Just prior to the start there was a 'bag drop' facility. This bag drop was an awesome idea, that I never expected. Basically, I was able to drop off a bag that would be taken to a control further on in the event. This meant I could empty my new saddle bag of a number of items (shorts, socks, base layer, mits and food) and hence save some weight. These items could be picked up later in the event and further items (dirty shorts etc) dropped off and taken back to the finish. This was good news and made a great start. The beginning of this ride was essentially the end of the Brevet Cyrmu audax I completed a couple of weeks back and the route took me through Usk and then continued to Abergavenny along the A40. Once off the A40 it was a bit of a drag to the first control. The first control was called the 'Honey Cafe'. I ate no honey, but glady consumed some beans on toast and a mug of tea (along with some shortbread biscuits from my pocket). There was a sign outside this control which read 'may peace prevail on earth' in a number of different languages, which was nice.
I can't quite remember when it rained and when it didn't, nor can I remember when or what exactly I ate. As a general rule however, it seemed to rain a lot during the first few stages and to make matters worse there was a head wind. On the return leg it rained less and I had a tail wind for the most part. I ate lots and lots and spent about £30 on snacks during the event. I took rolls (jam and beef), energy gels (x8), vitamins, chocolates and malt loaf with me.

Stage 2 was the longest stage and passed through Rhayader before reaching the control at Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre. For a stage that had no serious hills this was tough one - major head wind and I was wet. Remember cycling 'wacky racers' style with a couple on a tandem - they would pass me going down hill and I would pass them up hill. Very pretty control and again I ate well. I had chocolate cake and some ready salted crisps (alongside my beef roll).
Stage 3 was real hilly, lots of climbing. Not exactly sure where the route went but I definately passed through Machcynlleth before reaching control. Major menace was encountered along this stage too. First off my cycle computer died making navigation an issue and worse still, my front deraillier cable snapped which meant I could only use my lower gears for duration of the rest of the event. I cycled this section mostly as a double act with the guy whose name I never got. He was a nice guy and obviously Welsh (so for sake of this write up, shall refer to him as Mr Welsh). If I had issues, they did not compare to that of Mr Welsh - one of his spokes snapped. Mr Welsh tightened a number of his other spokes and just continued in the hope that his wheel would hold out. Remember climbing a big hill as a small group somewhere during this stage. A sharp and steep cutback finally led to the control at Kings YHA. This YHA was great and my bag was dropped here. I took off my wet clothes and hung them in the dry room, cremed my bum (with a chamois butter) and changed into new cycling gear. I ate some chicken soup (delicious) and pasta bolognese (awfull). I was missing SJ's cooking skills here as I thought back to the pasta sauce she had cooked up.

Left the King YHA with Mr Welsh and passed through Arthog. We cycled onto a train platform which led to a long wooden bridge. This really was quite weird, as this bridge went over sea and sand and led to a troll booth. The troll charged us £1.50 to cross this railway bridge. The bridge led to the A496 which took us to Barmouth and on to Harlech. This was an interesting ride, as I had been here before, but not on a bike! A major hill was climbed which led to Llanberis Pass. This hill seemed to go on forever and was a real climber. I lost Mr Welsh here and caught up a guy named Mark and cycled most of the hill with him. The top of the hill was the car park I have used before when walking Snowdon! And once at the top, weeee, a super long and fast descent! It was dark by the time I crossed Menai Bridge. Menai Bridge incidentally reminded me of my brother Dave. Dave would often say 'Itchi menai beardi' in times past. Ha ha. Was real pleased to reach the control at Canolfan Thos Telford. Again I was soaked to the skin. Soup, cheese sarnies and peaches were served here and it felt good that I was about half way through my adventure.
At often times I thought about my buddy Chris O (aka Chris Hodge). Chris was cycling a 24 hour mtb marathon. I would have joined Chris if it were not for this audax. He and a few of his mates completed the marathon event and raised some monies for CLIC. Well done Chris!
Stage 5 seemed much like stage 4 in reverse and led back to the Kings YHA. I don't recall too much but sure enought there was a tough hill past Trawsfynedd and that menace approach to the YHA. I was cycling with a small group of 4 who I cycled again with later in the event. There was Julian, Mark, Gary and Richard (providing I've remembered names correctly). They were a nice group and provided good company. Richard always tended to be towards the back of the group which didn't seem right as he had objectively the largest calf muscles. Mark was the guy I climbed Llanberis pass with. My memory goes a little blurred here but how awesome it felt to reach the YHA. I think I ate pasta sauce on potato before crashing out. I was looking forward to a bed, but none was availabe for about a further hour. I changed from my wet clothes into my clothes that I put in the dry room earlier on and crashed out on a 2 seater settee. I dozed off for a couple of hours of broken sleep before feeling too cold and quite miserable. I goofed around for about an hour and then decided to set off again (the breakfast I ordered never appeared).

Started stage 6 by myself and so glad I did so. A few km's into the stage and I needed an emergency poo! I had to pull over on the side of the road and let nature take it's course. Note to self (and others) - toilet paper is a must! Was joined later by Mark, Julian, Richard and Gary which was nice and they provided me with a little needed encouragement. Again my memory goes a little blurred but remember reaching Aberhafesp Community Centre. Ate bacon on toast and corn flakes at this control. Brushed my teeth here too!

Stage 7 was cycled with the small group again. Gary would pass the time by talking in a light hearted manner and Julian would share a wealth of information pertaining to this ride. This stage contained the longest single climb. I remeber the descent as it went super fast over a number of cattle grids. Generalised aches and pains almost everywhere. The control was at a One Stop Shop. I missed the sit down and eat controls to be honest. No matter really, I sat down outside and ate!

Stage 8 was the final stage and again I cycled with the small group. Not sure of Mr Welsh's fate and the tandem couple packed at the last control. Julian was sick during this stage, he said it was the way his body coped with stress. My body coped by aching and hurting all over. So many hills here. It really was like a roller coaster all the way to Monmouth. As a general rule, Mark and I would reach the summits first then bomb down the descents and wait for the rest of the group. After this roller coaster ride I began to suffer and Ibuprofen did little to lessen pain. I got dropped by the group just before Tintern (traffic lights sealing my doom and preventing any chance of catching them up). I was happy here as I knew the end was in sight and felt strong that I would finish. I stopped at Tintern Abbey ruins and took a picture before embarking on the final climb. This final climb was menace! I have on a few occasions flew past Tintern Abbey on cycle events and often wondered what it would be like going the other way. Now I know! It's hard and tiring but very pretty all the same. Once the summit was reached I raced to the control, the end point and reached there just before 6.30 pm. Yay, job done. It was great to get my brevet card stamped for the last time and nice to meet up with the guys from the small group. We shook hands and wished each other well and all said 'see you in Paris' ....
Am real pleased I completed this event, my first ever 600k event (was awarded with 6 AUK points and 8.25 AAA points). I am now officially a Super Randonneur (and an AAA Super Randonneur at that) and I have been awarded enough AAA points to claim by AAA medal. Over and above that I have completed all the qualifying events to enter the Paris-Brest-Paris (BPB) 1200k audax event in August and beat this, I have a place! SJ pre-registered me. I'll keep you posted!

Cycled 619k (384.6 miles) in under 36 and a half hours.

Friday 13 May 2011

The 'B' word

This week saw me panic. I had a 600k event to prepare for. This 600k event was the Bryan Chapman 619k audax which goes around North Wales and includes many a hill. Family and friends were getting annoyed with any mention of the word 'bike'.
So much was my worry that I didn't do any training on Monday. Instead I worried. I checked the weather for the weekend and worried some more - heavy rain was forecast for Wales.

Tuesday was a better day. Today I went cycling with Ron. We cycled new tracks and trails which was nice. We spent a bit of time cycling around Studley Castle. I lost my glasses coming down a steep off road descent. At one time, both Ron and I nearly rode over a kamikaze monk Jack deer that swept out in front of us. As usual we saw plenty of deer during our outing.

Wednesday was a great day. Chris O had sent me some tubes (for cycling purposes) through the post and Chris PT had contacted me. Chris PT was happy to provide SJ and I with a training session which we gladly accepted. Last time we had been with Chris PT he had worked our legs so hard that we could hardly walk for 2 days. We mentioned this to Chris and informed him of my plans for the weekend, so he concentrated on not working our legs too hard. We still ran. We ran in a box like figure which was mingled with periods of walking and periods of exercise that would include lifting weights, sit-ups, press ups, the dreaded bench etc. As one of us was performing exercises the other would run and vice versa. Following this we did more sit-ups with a medicine ball and then played net ball with this medicine ball. SJ had a forfeit of doing a sprint run for dropping ball and I had to perform extra sit-ups for pulling my tongue at SJ. On top of this we had some boxing to do. This boxing was great fun, even though tiring. SJ might get some boxing gloves for her birthday...

Thursday went back to worrying. I had ordered a Carradice saddle bag to carry extra stuff on the impending audax but it hadn't arrived. SJ, bless her, advised I look on the internet and locate a shop that sold them and go pick one up. I did just that and am now the proud owner of a Carradice barley saddlebag. Again, no exercise today but SJ prepared me a lovely pasta based meal (noodles and salmon) to start my carbo-loading.
Friday was spent organising all my kit ready for tomorrows audax. The Carradice barley bag was packed full of stuff and I mad some changes to my bike. The biggest change I made was to add 3 lights to the front of the bike. I now have 2 Cateye light sets and my awesome Ay-Ups are in place too. This will definitely make me feel safer and brighter. For this new audax I am taking loads of food with me which I don't normally do. SJ gets the giggles when I talk about bonk rations. Finished the carbo-loading with another meal cooked by SJ, this time it was bolognese sauce over ravioli. Delicious. Hopefully am all prepared. Car is packed. Just need to write off here, have a bath and go sleep.

IF! If I complete the audax event tomorrow then that will be my first completed 600k event, I will have completed an SR (Super Randonneur) series, an AAA SR series and earned enough points (20 over any period of time) for my first AAA medal. In addition to all of that, I would have completed the necessary qualifying events for the PBP (ha!).

Monday 9 May 2011

The Lumpy Scrumpy 100 (110k audax)

After the hard work of last weekend, that was the Brevet Cyrmu, Monday was spent resting. Following said event, most of Sunday was spent resting too. I should do these events more often, I say this because SJ pampered me big time following that audax. These audax events certainly play havoc with one's head space though. In my previous blog entry I reported that I went to two different controls, both called 'The West End Cafe' - it turns out it was the very same cafe both times. Hahaha. This was pointed out to me via a cycling forum.

Took Cayo (the road bike) to get a service on Tuesday. To my amazement only the chain and rear brake pads needed replacing - still cost a total of about £75 though...  Despite aching legs and sore bum, took Scotty out with Ron for an 'easy pedal'. This easy pedal was the usual Deer route with the addition of a hill (the one that leads to the cart that is no longer there?!).

Wednesday and Thursday was spent training with SJ. On the one day we continued with our sit-ups - I maxed out on 23 and I think SJ completed 60 plus or something! The other day was spent running. We did a shorter than normal run and felt more pooped than normal too. SJ was playing with her new heart rate monitor that I got for her but it was playing up a wee bit.

Friday was spent resting and Saturday saw me complete The Lumpy Scrumpy 100 audax. The start of this event was awful as the heavens had opened and it was wet big time. On the plus side I was able to test my new Gore Oxygene IV jacket. I also chose to kit myself out with my over-shoes. Despite the miserable conditions, a good number turned out to this event including 'the hag' and her husband. I shall no longer refer to Mary as 'the hag' as she is quite lovely really and I often meet her at events and she is nice to chat with. From now on I will refer to her as Mary H. As usual, Mary H was wearing sandals.

The audax event started in Parkend, Forest of Dean and was considered a 'challenging ride'. In all honesty, I expected the event to be hard and hilly (it did score 1.75 AAA points) but found it relatively easy. The first stage (of which there were only 2) only proved difficult on the narrow lanes. The hills were not too strenuous but triffids tried to take me off my bike as I cycled the said lanes. These plants were seriously over grown and sticking out the hedges. My Gore jacket was excellent and my over-shoes were not! Top half dry, feet wet (but warm). Caught up and cycled with Graham from Cirencester to the control. Graham was a nice fella that I cycled a Pickwick 200 event with earlier in the year. Ordered beans on toast at control and a mug of tea. Tea was in a jug that had to be divided between 3 folk (we were not all together) and the beans on toast was only a single piece of bread with a few beans.
The whole of stage 2 was cycled as a double act with Graham. The sun had come out for this stage and it was very hot. My feet were baking and I guess I should have removed the over-shoes. Again, not a difficult stage and this whole event was easily completed on a compact chainset. Felt cheated really, had cycled to Malvern Hills and Forest of Dean and did not experience any major tough climbs. Maybe this event just felt easy compared to last weeks 400 ?! With this event completed I have now made the AAA roll of honour for this season.

During audax I cycled a total distance of 69.23 miles at an average speed of 16.2 mph and a max speed of 35.6 mph.

Sunday saw me complete another exhaustion test for my sit-ups. I completed these sit-ups at work with Zalika. I maxed out on 45 and Zalika on 20. SJ was contacted, she only beat me by 15 and maxed out on 60.

Weekly totals: Cycled 86 miles; Ran for 24 mins.

Monday 2 May 2011

Brevet Cymru (401k audax)

In view of the fact that no running took place last week (save during the PT session), I started this week with a run. SJ and I ran the Studley Triangle. We both felt quite pooped and it was a hot day. To be fair though, our time was pretty good.

Tuesday was a little disappointing as SJ and I had geared ourselves up ready for a Killer Chris PT session which didn't happen. Chris had got our dates mixed up and we were so busy with one thing and another that we weren't able to fit in another session this week. Like good folk though, SJ and I continued with our sit-up homework. I maxed out on 29 sit-ups today and SJ on 42. We also ran today. Our run took us, plus Cody Menace around Oversley Wood for a couple of laps. This run was hard going but I guess it made up for no running last week.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent indoors on the rollers. The first session was at the usual high intensity (Z3) and the second at a lower intensity (Z2) and only half the distance. The second session was deliberately easy as I just wanted to spin and 'save my legs' for the 400k audax over the weekend.

Received good and bad news during the week. The good news was that I was awarded 4 AAA points for completing the Dean 300k audax, which I cycled with Ron earlier this year. The bad news was that Ron informed me he had a bad fall. Ron was out cycling the TROAD route with John and just past the slaughter house he nearly got slaughtered! Ron's front tyre came completely off the wheel and Ron's bib shorts, gloves and skin came off him. Poor Ron - well wishes big time.

The weekend saw me complete my first ever 400k audax. This event was the Brevet Cyrmu audax that started and finished in Chepstow. I was awarded 4 AUK points and 2.75 AAA points for this event. My AAA points (this season) so far are 11.75, just need 0.25 points to be added to this years roll of honour!

I rested well the day before the Brevet Cyrmu and SJ cooked me up a nice dish of spaghetti bolognese - the perfect carbo load. Packed my car the day before too and checked I had all the equipment I required. This was the most stuff I have ever carried on a bike and the extra weight was noticeable.

Got to the start of the audax in good time. Had left my house at about 3.30 a.m and reached the community centre in Chepstow a good half hour before start. About 100 cyclists were taking part in this event - a few were using fixed speed cycles. I had a hot cross bun (plus 2 banana's on way up) then readied myself preparing to begin. At 6 a.m we were off. It was a nice fast start and the initial chill passed quickly. I was wearing my new Pearl Izumi gilet and I completely rate it - it kept me toasty warm. Big descents were encountered early in this stage. The most memorable descents being the long stretch past Tintern Abbey (cycled before during LEJOG events) and another steeper descent not long after. This second descent was real scary - I saw a poor cyclist feather his rear brake and subsequently see his rear wheel bounce a few times before he went straight over the bars and into the side of the hedge. These big descents and subsequent climbs soon broke the pack of cyclists up. I was towards the front cycling in a group of 5. We cycled steady till we neared Hay-On-Wye and then 2 cyclists in our group of 5 raced to reach said destination first. Just a few miles later we had reached the first control. The picture below shows the complete route.
I did not stop at the first control, save to get my brevet card stamped. I had wanted to stop for something to eat but the others I was cycling with had just continued so I followed suit.The gels and shortbread biscuits in my pockets made a great snack. I was cycling this section mostly as part of a double act for a long stretch - taking turns to pull and follow until we reached a group with a few more cyclists in. My thoughts went a bit cloudy for a while after joining group and it was starting to get very hot. The guy I had been cycling with to reach the new group was suffering already and was soon dropped - I never saw him again. Reached the control in Llandovery in good time and stopped for a suitable breakfast of beans and egg on toast and a mug of tea. Met Zigzag from a cycling forum here, which was nice. This cafe was called the 'West End Cafe', and was the first of 2 controls with the self same name.

Stage 3 was menace! Near disaster! Sadly my navigational skills were badger like. After 198k I was not at the control in Tregaron. Instead, I was outside an antique shop. I popped in and asked how far away from Tregaron I was, the shop keeper informed I was about 25 miles away! Grr! I felt quite peeved at this juncture and wasn't sure what to do. Should I pack and give in was my first thought - this was a silly idea as I was half way through, ie it was about 200k back to start and also about 200k to finish. My second though was to back track and find Tregaron, but I wondered if I'd reach the control in time. A quick check of the brevet card indicated I had hours to reach control so off I cycled. The cycle here was horrid, I had big hills to climb and was cycling into a headwind. After what seemed like an age, with only my shadow for company, I picked up signs for Tregaron. With renewed hope I sped along till I reached control. I was so happy at this control because lots of cyclists were here. I had added 32k to my trip by making this wrong move and missed the sign for Llanddewibrefi.... that I so wanted to photograph. Grr! I ate the most delicious butternut squash soup ever at this control and washed it down with a pint of coke just before I set off again. As I set off from control, other cyclists were still reaching control which made me feel good and the voices in my head were bigging me up and telling me I was fitter than I thought.

Stage 4 was awesome. This stage led to the beach in Newquay which was a real pretty sight. Although I was already over half way, this felt like a 'true halfway' as this was the furthest point I was to reach before heading back. I felt a bit sick and out of sorts at this control and had a light lunch consisting of just a tuna mayo sarnie and banana milk shake.
So pleased was I that I had only a light lunch at control because as soon as leaving Newquay a major hill was encountered that just went on and on and on. I saw some folk pushing their bikes up the hill here. My dry, dark sense of humour got me up this hill as I chuckled at the thought of those cyclists eating a large fish and chips before tackling this hill. When I finally reached the control at Llandovery it was dark. The control was the second 'West End' cafe on this audax. Folk must have known the moment I reached this control, as when I did, lots and lots of fireworks were set off! Again, I felt rough at this control so I ate lots as a recovery means. I had egg on toast and washed it down with a cup of tea. Is strange what you do when you feel drained, when off your head and in pain. I ate a custard slice, which normally I do not like, but right then, I loved it! I decided to lose a bit of weight here too and went for a number 2!

Started stage 6 in complete darkness. My front light that I have previously rated was naff and it was hard to follow the road. As a result of this I cycled quite slowly and got scared when suddenly flying down a descent. To be fair the road was mostly flat and navigating was minimal. It was lucky that navigation was minimal as I could not see my route sheet and would have benefited greatly by using my head torch (which I didn't bring with me). The sky at night was awesome. So beautiful was God's creation - all the sky was splashed with glitter - the many stars looked fantastic and there was no light pollution. After so long a cyclist caught me up and I benefited big time from his powerful lights. Up until now, I had cycled slowly until a car passed, where I would suddenly speed up being able to clearly see the road and it's markings. I stuck with this 'bright' cyclist all the way to control. Call me an opportunist but these lights were too good to miss out on. At one point I took a few minutes off the saddle, just to stretch, which was nice. How great it was to reach the control at Bwlch. Not sure how you pronounce 'Bwlch', but the voices in my head pronounced it 'Belch'.

The control at Bwlch was the first sleep control that I had ever encountered. After getting brevet card stamped I was treated to soup. I could have had pie and custard too but decided to give it a miss. Then, I had the option of sleeping. Lots of sleeping bags and roll mats were placed in rows and sure enough a whole bunch of cyclists were resting/sleeping/groaning. Have no idea where all these sleeping bags came from but was happy to use one all the same. I asked the brevet card stamper dude to wake me up at 2 a.m - he woke me up after 2 hours (3a.m). I didn't want to get up now but there was demand for my bed! Left this control knowing that I was now on the last leg.

Again it was still real dark when I left control and initially I was alone. I had only cycled a few miles and then I hit real trouble again - my front light packed up completely and I had no spare batteries. I decided to do my previous trick and wait for a passing cyclist and 'pinch' from their light source. This worked ok but meant I had to cycle slower than I wanted. As other cyclists caught up I would jump ship and use their light. I followed this process until it was light enough for me to read my route sheet. This last stage seemed to go on forever. There was a hill  near (or leading to) Usk that just didn't seem to have an end. It wasn't particularly steep but it went on and on and hard it was on tired and fatigued legs. A real sting in the tail. Or a pain in the butt (quite literally). Ah, once the summit was reached though, it was a long descent pretty much all the way back to the Arrivee in Chepstow! Woo hoo!

This was the furthest audax event I had ever cycled and I clocked a distance of 437.36 k or 271.76 miles. My average speed was 14.29 mph and according to my speedo I reached a max speed of 65.8 mph (hmm?!). Great sights were seen. Nice cyclists were met and stories shared. Thanks to those who shone a light, provided a pull or helped in any other way.  An adventure shared with a few and now I share with you too!

Weekly totals: Ran for 1 hour and 14 mins; Cycled 311 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&#...