Sunday 31 July 2011

South Downs Way (100 mile off-road randonnee)

Hi. Firstly thanks to all my sponsors. I have raised £65 for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) through generous donations and a further £342 and $420 (Canadian) for the 'Tim's Well'  project. Please visit this link for more information on my current project and/or should you wish to sponsor me:

Training for the PBP has gone well this week. Argh, only 3 weeks till the PBP kicks off! Such training has included running and cycling of course. No road bike cycling was completed (though I used my road bike on the rollers). However, the South Downs Way (SDW) randonnee was tackled. The SDW is known to many as the toughest off-road bike ride in the UK, and the BHF say 'the seriously challenging South Downs Way RandonnĂ©e is not to be missed in 2011!'

The first half of the week saw me run and cycle each day from Monday up until Wednesday. This meant I had ran for 5 consecutive days. The great weather helps with motivation and enhances the 'feel good factor'.

The first cycle of the week was awesome. I went out with SJ and her new bike. We took our bikes from Studley to the crematorium in Redditch via cycle lanes and Arrow Vale lake. SJ was very brave for a newbie and took her bike down a steep off-road descent (by the arboretum) and some off-road dips. At the half-way point, the crematorium, we visited the graves of my nan and my friend Louise who passed away only 8 months ago. The return leg was just as much fun and I was pleased to be out on a bike with 'my girl'. We still felt quite energetic following our cycle, so we took Cody out for a run. We ran a shortened version of the Stinky route. I forgot we called it the Stinky route, but after SJ reminded me, plus the noxious smells of the sewage works, I could remember why!

My next run was an extended version of the stinky route with Cody. Following this run, I cycled an indoor session on the rollers. My new wheel set appears fine, but I have yet to test them outside. Ron and I are planning to complete the Montgomery Madness 200k audax next week - that'll test my wheels for sure!

Talking of Ron, my next cycle was with him and Sarah M. I chose the route and took us through naughty woods to Alcester. At Alcester we passed through the Dovecote, past Karen's house, down hill to Coughton Ford and back to Studley via the bridleway in Middletown. Ron punctured once again during this trip. Once home I still felt I had energy, so I took Cody for a run. We ran the same distance as Monday but avoided the smelly sewage works and just stuck to fields in Studley.

Thursday and Friday were rest days.

The South Downs Way (SDW) 100 mile off-road randonnee started Friday night for me. Logistically, the SDW is a real pain in the butt. I drove from Studley to meet Chris in Windsor on the Friday night. Once at Chris's we readied our bikes and filled our camel-back's with much food. Such food included cereal bars, malt loaf, chocolate bars, flap jacks (made by Chris), tuna sarnies (thanks Em, Chris's wife) and lots of gels (if you were Chris), not to mention energy powders and such like .... From Chris's abode we packed our bikes into his car and drove to Tom's (a work mate of Chris's) parents domicile in Winchester. A big shout out to Tom and his folks for putting us up and thanks again to Tom for taking Chris and I out for drinks.

We awoke early Saturday morning (4.30 a.m) and cycled our bikes to the start of the SDW challenge, which was about 1.4 miles away from Tom's. It was dark and a wee bit chilly at this time in the morning. However, at 5.30 a.m - our start time, it was light and we were off! Chris and I were in a group of about 20 and were the first to pedal away.
It felt great to finally set off on this SDW challenge as we had been waiting for an age for this event to happen. The start was fine and there was plenty of off-road terrain to keep us occupied throughout the day. Before we reached the first checkpoint at Queen Elizabeth Country Park we had climbed at least 2 steep hills. As with most steep hills, this was followed by super zoomy descents. The whole route was like this - hills followed by descents. The terrain was great and included single track, open field, mud, chalk and clay. Scenery was awesome too, we could see for miles at at time were very high up and exposed. Rich (another work mate of Chris's) set off about 30 minutes after Chris and I but had caught us up prior to reaching the first checkpoint. As the 3 of us chatted, Si (a mate of Rich's) flew past on his 29er (a single speed mtb with rather large wheels and no suspension) without noticing any of us. We all got to the checkpoint together and all was well.
SDW route was tricky at times as some of the sign posts were missing or hard to spot. With that said however, we managed to reach the Cocking and Bury checkpoints with no problem. At often times along the route were unofficial stop points - these were water taps where we would stop and fill our bottles.
From Bury to the Steyning checkpoint was where I encountered my first problem. I punctured! This was no major menace really as it was easily fixed. I think this was my second problem in actual fact - the first was when I was pedaling up a steep hill and my glasses fell off, grr! Chris waited while I fixed said puncture but Rich and Si carried on.

Rich and Si had carried on to meet their support at the Steyning checkpoint. Their support became our support! Indeed, when Chris and I reached the checkpoint, Rich's wife made us both a cup of tea. Better yet, Rich's folks supplied us with bread, crisps, sausage roll and energy drinks. Bonus! After this surprise feast we encountered a hill straight away that had to be climbed on a full belly.
The next section to the Devils Dyke control was nice. We were joined by John (another mate of Chris's) for a spell. I remember lots of descents here with frequent little bumps where it was possible to take air - this was great fun. I bunny hopped Scotty that many times that I couldn't keep count. As we were nearing Brighton we could see the sea and that was so pretty. It was a little push to the control but we could see an ice cream van on the horizon which provided me with motivation. The ice cream van was a ploy, however we were treated with a banana and a bottle of water at this checkpoint.
Is funny that much devilment happened after the Devils Dyke control. Jon had to leave us and we were back down to a group of four. This group became a group of 2. Rich and Si didn't wait for Chris and I at a watering point (!). Sadly, Chris and I have the navigational skills of badgers and as usual had gotten lost. We teamed up with another 'lost soul' and after a while managed to regain the route we were supposed to be following. This mishap didn't add extra miles but it stole a significant amount of time. We soon caught up with a group and cycled to the next control with them (we had an extra stop to finish our tuna sarnies too) but Rich and Si were not seen again. This was probably the hardest slog of the day.
When we reached the Itford Farm checkpoint we were a little put out and so were the other cyclists with us. We had gotten to the checkpoint after the closing time and officials were telling us to abandon. The others we were with were defiant and were going to continue anyway. They were warned it was going to get dark soon, but they didn't care as they had lights. I so wanted to finish this ride. I asked the group if they had spare lights - they did! However, lighting was not the only issue - we had to reach the train station before last train at 9.20 p.m. Hmm. Abandoning was not an option for me. I wanted to finish, I wanted my t-shirt, I wanted my medal and I wanted to cycle a 100 miles on Scotty, my mountain bike! Then I came up with a cunning plan! I asked the officials how far it was by ride to the last control - it was 16 miles and we had done 84! All we had to do then was reach the checkpoint before closing time and job was done.

Without further questioning, Chris and I pumped our tyres to near maximum pressure and sped off like a bat out of hell. We took turns to lead and pull each other for the first so many miles and were cycling at relatively high speeds. I had lost a bottle somewhere (probably down a bumpy descent) but was remembering to drink plenty. This route had a little sting in the tail, namely a few climbs but just before the end we were rewarded with a descent. Bombing down the descent and we saw a red BHF flag, woo hoo, this was the end! My gps unit counted 99.97 miles! We reached the checkpoint in Eastbourne in time! Woo hoo! We were happy and received our medals and t-shirts (I got an extra one for SJ) and big claps. Fantastic!
We then had to race to the train station! This story had a happy ending. We completed the challenge and got our rewards. We reached the station at 9:20 p.m but the train didn't leave till 9:31 p.m (phew) and better yet, a girl gave us 2 free tickets (and saved us £60). Once off the train we had to cycle a few miles back to Chris's home. We got back tired but pleased with another epic adventure!

Weekly totals: Ran 8.1 miles; Cycled 156 miles.

Saturday 23 July 2011

The Poor Student (not), The Poor Nurse (indeed)

Major menace with the PBP planning. Chris 'Orange' noticed that I was booked into the Camapanile St Quentin and not the Campanile in St Quentin. This basically meant that I would have been 200k from the start. Grr. Cancelling and re-booking the hotel proved difficult too - the policy stated no refund or change and despite 2 phone calls little could be done as I was not able to speak french. After much frustration and a further 2 calls, I was able to get a complete refund. Chris said he would look into accommodation and bless him, he got it sorted. Maybe I should have let SJ do the planning ... My friend Clive aka 'the Dr' has completed another London to Paris trip this week so big claps to him! He posted to me while he was away, and this is what he had to say 'Hey Doo we passed along some of the PBP route! Town called Villaines-la-Juha got all their banners up & stuff! Few juicy hills in the vicinity you're gonna love!! Out AND back again!! Good luck mate - madness is confirmed!! Doc'.
On a better note, I have claimed my AAA SR badge and my AAA medal. The AAA website stated 'Tim Taylor completed his AAA and AAASR with the Bryan Chapman on 14 May 2011, having ridden The Dean, the Brevet Cymru and the Kings, Castles, Priests & Churches earlier in the year'. Better yet, folk are still contributing to my worthy cause - 'Tim's Well'. If you haven't sponsored me yet, please do and take a look at the information provided on this link:
Training this week began on Tuesday. I was able to take Scotty out for the first time in a while. Scotty had been fitted with a new Hope headset, a new carbon Eridy bar, plus a new Ritchey stem and much love. I also switched the DMR's for spd's. My bike felt like new, the only real problem was that the bike shop had placed my lock-out the wrong side of my shifters. Scotty met up with Ron, Sarah M and Lydia. The was Lydia's (who happens to be my 2nd cousin, 'something' removed) first trip out with me and the others. Ron led us out and took us to relatively hard spots for any newbie. Such spots included Mars hill (where Ron allegedly rewards folk with mars bar if they complete climb), the climb to the pylon just past Astwood bank and, of course, the Woods of Doom. Lydia punctured and Ron did too (maybe that'll teach him).
Wednesday was the day I planned to complete my second permanent event, namely 'The Poor Student 200', in Oxford. Just a few miles into this ride and disaster struck. Two spokes on the rear wheel had come loose and another one had completely snapped and tore a hole in the rim. This really was bad news, as rims cannot be fixed. Mavic Aksium wheels are rated quite highly, but not by me any longer. This was the second time I had broken spokes on this wheel set. The wheel jammed too and would not rotate so a taxi had to take me back to my car. A trip to a bike shop confirmed what I already knew - a new wheel was required. I cheered myself up and purchased a new wheel set that is said to be 'bomb proof', I hope so, they cost a bomb. My new wheels are American Classic Hurricane's and have a great many more spokes than my previous set. (Audax riders tend to favour more spokes). I guess problems now are better than problems during PBP.
Despite my lovely new wheel set, I decided to take Scotty out instead. After putting the lock out in the correct position I went for a trek along familiar paths. My idea was to get used to my spd's so I chose a few 'tough' areas for this purpose. I cycled through the Woods of Doom, past Coughton Ford (and up and down the big mole mounds) and headed towards Studley Castle. I climbed Thistle Fall hill at last, but it did take 3 attempts. The first attempt was nearly successful - just a few yards from the top and I fell off. Take 2 was awful. Take 3 and mission completed - I found I had to use my lowest gear and stand on the pedals. My journey then took me through Thistle Fall Woods and down the steep off road descent and back home through Studley fields. Awesome.

I planned to test my new wheel set with a quick spin on the rollers, but SJ called and had other plans. Indeed, SJ invited me to join her military training. This training was proper hard core stuff. We met up with a couple of SJ's mates (namely Steph and Becky) and a whole bunch of other gluttons for punishment in a suitably named Cripplegate park. Two ex soldiers then marched us off and made us perform many exercises. These exercises were extra mean as press-ups had to be performed on a gradient, sit-ups had to be performed on a rock strewn path and so on. Two days later and my stomach, arms and pecks continued to ache.

Thursday involved little exercise, but ... we got SJ a new bike! A bright shiny Boardman. Her bike is pretty awesome and has Avid, SRAM and Ritchey components plus Rock Shox forks. We pimped the bike up a little too and added DMR pedals and a Hope seat clamp. SJ and I then cycled our first trip together (ever) by cycling a loop within Studley.
I got the running bug on Friday and ran over the fields of Studley with Cody. We hadn't ran for a while and this just felt great. Because I had recently gotten a new phone, I was able to record the distance via gps - we ran 4.5k. Should I record my running distances in miles or k's?!

So good was Friday's run, that I repeated it on Saturday. Am not sure Cody was so pleased to go running again. I finally used my new wheel set today too. I didn't take my bike outdoors, but cycled a low intensity ride on the rollers. Even though I cycled at low intensity, I kept my average speed higher than last time I rolled (26.7 mph).
Sunday turned out to be a good day. SJ and I played a few games of badminton. We were both determined to beat each other. The final score was 3:3. Following our game of badminton we still felt pumped up, so we decided to go for a run. Our run took us from SJ's front door to Worcester race track. We ran around the track but stopped at the stadium to run 5 reps up the stairs before continuing around and back to SJ's front door. Also, I managed to perform 7 real man style press-ups (SJ scored 5 - I knew I'd beat her at something!).

Weekly totals: Cycled 54 miles; Ran 9.1 miles.

Monday 18 July 2011

Two flats and a wedding

Argh, only 33 days to PBP. Argh, less days to SDW. As most are aware, these are both 2 long distance cycle events. What most don't know is, is that both SJ and my buddy Chris 'Orange' (and Ben, his son)will be joining me. How cool is that?!

Fundraising is going ok. The SDW event has raised £65 for the British Heart Foundation. The PBP event continues to raise money for 'Tim's Well'. Read about (and please sponsor) said project here:

Easy/lazy week on the exercise front. This week was officially a 'rest week', but I guess I took it more leisurely than I should have. I could throw in the excuse that my mountain bike was out of action ...

The week had a promising beginning. Ron and I took our road bikes out for a trip. We followed new paths mingled with old trails. Our paths crossed the TROAD route on occasions and also, strangely enough, some mtb trails. Ron was leading the way and suggested we took our road bikes off road and follow a mtb path. Reluctantly I agreed. Ron punctured! Puncture fixed and ride continued.

Tuesday was full of good intention. I started cycling indoors on my rollers and cycled 13 miles before my mother walked in. I turned off my ipod player and it was only then that I realised that I had been cycling with a punctured tyre. Grr, the voices in my head blamed Ron and his off road antics!

No further exercise/training took place for the rest of the week. The weekend saw the marriage of Paul (SJ's brother) and Sally. This was a nice affair and I wish them both well for the future.

Weekly totals: Cycled a distance of 37 miles.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Mr Pickwick's Tour of the Cotswolds (304k audax) - Take 2!

Ahhh, is only about 40 days to the PBP now! I have now been sent my frame number, which is 5361. Anyone who wishes to follow my machine live can do so by clicking onto the PBP website.
Fund raising for 'Tim's Well', is going great too. Deb, a Canadian friend who constructed my web page, had the great idea of putting details of my ride on her Facebook page and some kind Canadians have already donated $420. Big thanks to everybody who has sponsored me already, especially to my cycling buddy SN for such a generous donation - I hope your legs are feeling fine after your epic adventure!. To those that haven't checked out the web page that Deb constructed, please follow this link: On the fund raising side of things, a big shout out is due to my sister Jane. Jane managed to walk/run/hobble 85 miles in just less than 24 hours! I agree with her Dr and think she's an 'idiot'. Poor Jane ended up with DVT symptoms, a heparin injection and lots of cash for Happy's School. Nice one Jane, well done! Next time, ride a bike! Check out Jane's story here:

Began this week with an off road adventure with Ron and Sarah M. My mountain bike was not in action, but thankfully John V let me use his Saracen steed. Had been a while since I used a mountain bike with spd type pedals and yup, you got it, I fell off. Only fell off once mind you, it was unfortunate that I landed on a thistle bush. Have named the hill I was attempting to climb 'Thistle fall Hill'. A second take at this hill didn't result in a fall, but I was unable to conquer the hill (maybe on my own bike....?!). Gave John's bike quite a beating and got it dirty too as we took our machines over the bridge of destiny, through the woods of doom and past the fence of truth, to name but a few obstacles. Washed John's bike down and promptly returned it, many thanks John.

SJ and I were a little upset to hear that Chris PT was ill and that our PT session had been cancelled. Not to worry we told ourselves and created our own killer session. We started out by completing 5 reps of sit-ups, SJ maxing out on 80 in her final set (41 for me). This was followed by 10 press-ups (girly style). We then ran, a longer than usual run, which was the extended Studley triangle run. On our return home, dripping with sweat, we completed another 10 press-ups (girly style). After this we held a plank (55 seconds for me and 1 min 25 secs for SJ). I completed this session by digging out my skipping rope and performing a 100 skips. Following this session, the temptation of chocolate became too much and I devoured several of the chocs SJ had been brought by a thankful patient.

On Wednesday SJ and I played badminton for the first time in ages. SJ was on form big time. I hate to admit but she kicked my butt. It hurts me to publish the results, but SJ beat me 4-2. As SJ pointed out, she's beating me at everything lately and is wondering if she'd show me up on a bike too! We still haven't checked out a tandem yet... Oh, and on the subject of a bike for SJ, well, I think I've found one, as the picture below shows. This was my brothers bike, I have re-claimed it and want to do it up for SJ.
Went for my second run of the week on Thursday. This run took me around Worcester race course. At the middle section of this run, I ran up and down the stadium stairs 5 times which was a real killer. At the start and finish of this run I also performed 10 girly style press-ups. Later that day I used my rollers, feeling a little guilty that I had not used them last week. My heart rate monitor indicated that I must be getting fitter - 2 weeks ago I cycled 20 miles in heart zone 3 at an average speed of 25.3mph, this week I cycled the same distance at a higher average speed of 26.2 mph and in heart zone 2. This means that my heart was working less hard to push my legs around faster. I still felt some guilt that I cycled this session in heart rate zone 2 as I usually force myself to cycle at a higher intensity.

Friday was a rest day.

Saturday saw me complete my 23rd audax. This audax was Mr Pickwick's Tour of the Cotswolds which was a 304k cycling event starting from Tewkesbury. This was the second time that I rode this event - it was my first 300k event last year. The route crosses the Evesham Vale and then heads into Warwickshire. Following that the Cotswolds are transversed from North to South. Finally the route returns to Tewkesbury running across the Cotswolds from South Gloucestershire.
The ride started at 6 a.m, from Ashchurch railway station. It was a different start location to last year. About 30 riders started this event, a few of whom I knew from previous events. Initially I cycled along with a Londoner called Alan, until we neared PinvinInkberrow, I called Ron, who planned to meet me in Studley and pedal a few miles with me (him not being 'allowed' to do the full event). Ron aka 'the Phantom' met me just past the Green Dragon pub. It was nice to catch up with Ron and we steadily rode all the way to the first control at Warwick Services. Last year I had a Burger King meal here, and this year I had the same!
Stage 2 took us from Warwick Services to Chipping Norton. Things were going great until we reached Wormleighton then we had route sheet menace.The instruction said R/L stg X sp Fenny Compton. This was open to interpretation and we ended up doing an additional 9 miles just trying to interpret this instruction. Back on route we were happy and knew we would be fed at the next control. Just before the control was reached, the heaves opened. If we hadn't have added those additional miles we would have reached the control dry. The control was the Old Mill Cafe in Chipping Norton. A big (expensive) feast was devoured here. We had beans on toast, a mug of tea and cake. The Phantom left me here and headed home. Big thanks to the Phantom for leading me out this far.
Stage 3 was ridden as a completely solo affair (and so were all the other stages from here on). This was the shortest stage and the wettest too. The rain beat down hard and the clouds were black in colour. The control was a Tesco garage in Cirencester. At this control I ate a banana that I took with me. I did not take any gels on this audax, instead I took 8 slices of malt loaf, some fruit and miniature chocolates that SJ was given from one of her patients. This food stuff was great and I rate it over gels and the likes.

Stage 4 was a relatively fast stage. This stage passed through Brinkworth, which is apparently the longest village. This stage was hot too, the rain had stopped and the sun came out to dry me up. Reached the control at Leigh de la Mere with no major problems. This time last year, I was really hallucinating and felt spent out when I reached this far. I ate a salmon sandwich and crisps at this control. Mary H was met here too and we had quite a chat - this was her first 300k event.
The final stage proved a little more difficult. There was a big hill to conquer in Birdlip. This climb was rewarded with a super fast descent, a 1:6 hill that stretched for ages. However, because the roads were so wet I had my brakes on for pretty much the whole duration of the descent. It was lovely to see the sun set, the skies had a purple haze for a while. This was when the next problem arose. Even though I had lights, it was hard to read the route sheet in the dark. By hook or by crook, I reached the arivee and felt pretty good. The arivee was at Mark Rigby's, the event organiser's home. Mark pointed out that I had now completed a Black Sheep Super Randonneur Series (in that I have completed a 200, 300, 400 and 600k Black Sheep event in the same season). Sweet.

Cycled 199.73 miles during audax event, at an average speed of 14.7 mph and a maximum speed of 38.2 mph.

Weekly totals: Ran for 1 hour and 16 mins; Cycled 237 miles.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Two Battles (200k audax)

Training this week began with a run. SJ and I ran around Oversley Wood during a hot summer evening. We were both baked and dripping with sweat and forgot just how hard it was to run 5 miles. I guess the long break from running plus my 'Africa belly' didn't help.
On Tuesday I caught up with Ron and we went for an evening ride. This time we went on road bikes and were accompanied by the 'Mitchell mob'. The Mitchell mob are 3 family members. John was well known to me already - he used to terrorise my sister at school. John continues to have an air of menace about him. Phil is John's brother and he appeared to be the boss of the mob and would like to race at any given opportunity. Sarah was the sister of John and Phil and she was the supportive one of the three - she would shout for Phil if he was racing, or hang back for John if he was struggling. We all cycled local roads round and about Studley. Ron and Phil would race up all the hills. In retrospect, I guess I should have raced too (I raced up one) as this would have been good training. This was a nice evening and we all plan to meet up again next week but on our mountain bikes. Earlier in the evening, SJ and I re-started our sit-up routine. As before, SJ can do more than twice as many sit-ups as I can. Grr.

After a long absence, Chris PT made an appearance. SJ and I had one of those 'killer PT sessions'. This was another great session where we were worked some. We did the usual sit-ups, press-ups, running, lunges, squats and so forth but this time we had to do exercises on a trampoline too. These sessions never seem to get easier.

Thursday was a rest day of sorts. I did no exercise, save a few sit-ups with SJ. I maxed out in the 20's and SJ in the 60's.

Friday saw me complete my 22nd audax but my first 'permanent'. This was a 212k ride starting and finishing in Tamworth and known as the 'Two Battles'. Two Battles were being fought that day, the battle with the voices in my head and the battle with butt pain!

I started this permanent at 8.20 a.m (believing you can choose the start time and date of any permanent) from Amington. It was a hot sunny day and perfect for a long ride. During the first stage I passed through Bosworth Field, which was obviously the first battle. I ate my traditional beans on toast at this first control in Wistow.
Stage 2 had 2 controls. The first control was just past Naseby, the second battle. I stopped here and purchased a banana and 2 bottles of water. SJ had decided to do the 'Volvic Challenge' and was drinking 1.5 litres of water daily, I planned to follow suit. At the second control of this stage in Upper Stow, I purchased baked potato and coleslaw. My food here was washed down with a cold coke. Unable to eat inside the cafe as a wedding was taking place.
Left Upper Stow and cycled a short way with a random cyclist during the third stage. I was pleased I met this cyclist, as I pinched a tow for a few miles and chatted some which enabled me to forget about the pain in my bum! Reached the control in Wellsbourne when menace struck. It was at this self same control on a previous audax that I realised I had lost my wallet. This time, I had lost my receipts from the controls where I had stopped. Bummer!
Cycled out of Wellsbourne and headed back to Amington. This was the longest stage but I knew it reached to the finish. I finished the ride in under 11 hours. Sent my brevet card to the organiser along with photo's I took on route in hope I get awarded with AUK points (receipts missing, remember). A great days cycling on generally flat, quiet roads. My legs, face and arms tell a different story - a story of too much exposure to the sun. Indeed, I reached home looking like a Red Indian. Or like a twister sweet when I revealed my white bits. Hmm.

Cycled a total distance of 212k or 131 miles during audax. Cycled at an average speed of 14.7 mph and reached a max speed of 41.3 mph.

Scotty went for a service this week too. Her prognosis is poor. She needs a new headset, bottom bracket and brake bleed. I wonder if new carbon bars would make her feel any better?!

Finished the week by completing my third set of sit-ups with SJ. The Two Battles organiser got in touch and said he wasn't that strict but still required proof of passage. Scotty remains unwell.

Weekly totals: Ran for 50 mins; Cycled 155 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&#...