Saturday 25 February 2012

The SJ half marathon killer...

Parked the bike next to a tree and had a whole week off from cycling. Didn't even use the rollers. Trust my bike will be okay...
I managed to go out for a run with SJ. Only 1 run, but boy what a run it was! After a period of at least 2 weeks (probably more) I joined SJ for one of her training runs. She's gotten speedy and was raring to go before I had even tied my laces. In fact, she would have quite happily seen me run in my slippers. One out Doo Little door we zig-zagged along the roads of Studley, heading in the Alcester direction. It was a lovely day, sun shining bright for a change. Once the zig-zagging was complete, we headed for Alcester passing Coughton on route. My niggles started after about 3 miles (and perhaps I should have stopped running here) but we didn't stop until we had reached Alcester Town. SJ managed to get a shop keeper to provide us with cold water which was nice. After a stretch, we were off again. We ran past Alcester to Haselor then cut through a field that lead us up to the Dovecote and back into Alcester. I was really feeling whacked at this point. The route home from Alcester was painful and I had to complete this section with periods of walking. As for SJ, she was fine and kept asking if I could go any faster! We ran 13.1 miles in all - 1/2 marathon distance! I think my gps unit had gone a little wonky (according to the map it had) and we probably ran more like 12 miles, but it felt harder than a half marathon and I'm sticking with those figures!

Think next week might be a week on the bike and a week away from running....

Weekly totals: Ran 13.1 miles.

Sunday 19 February 2012


Would like to start this weeks blog with an update on SJ's (my fiancee's) marathon training. She ran a route stretching over 15 miles last week (and got her first blister) and has covered distances of 30 plus miles in a week. Is fair to say SJ has been training hard for her run in her first ever marathon -The London Marathon 2012. Good going SJ! Fundraising has gone well for SJ too, she has currently raised £1,112 for her chosen charity, the BackCare charity. Thanks so much to all those that have sponsored her and supported her in any way. If you would like to check her website out, please visit this link:

My training started out well this week. I took my road bike outside for the first time this year and cycled a familiar route with the usual goons. I felt like I was on a new bike, not because my bike felt new, but because my bike just felt different. The seat post is still stuck tight inside the frame and despite my increased weight and cycling with a loose seat post clamp, the post will not budge. We cycled a nice loop of 20 miles following Ron's 1 hour loop but extended the end to pass through Alcester and climb 'that undulating road' before passing through Sambourne to reach home.

My second cycle was a repeat of the route from the night before. This time however, it was day light and I was cycling by myself. Am real pleased I fitted a mudguard but my poor bike would have been happier with a clean too.

Refrained from doing any further exercise until the weekend. When the weekend finally came, I hooked up with Chris Hodge, Sarah M, Ron, Dave Meakin, Clive, Simon and Andy for the Snowdrop Express Audax. This audax event was the one that I completed as my first back in 2010 (along with Ron, Clive, Andy and Simon) and is now an annual affair for us all. I missed out on last years event due to sickness, and I started this one feeling not so great.
Was awesome hooking up with folk, some of whom I had not seen since 2010, at the start in Hartlebury. 8 of us started out together and largely stuck together for the most part of the first stage. This first stage wasn't so bad, the rain had not started and no major hills were encountered. Clive decided he would split from the group here and meet us at the second control taking his usual short cut. Then there were 7.
The Upton control was a welcome stop. I ate a tasty muffin and Kit Kat here, nicely washed down with a cup of tea. The group suffered more losses here, as Andy and Simon sped off to avoid getting the chills. Then there were 5.

5 soon became 6. Jimmy no mates joined our group. Jimmy was a cyclist who had (I guess) been dropped from an earlier cycling group for his bad jokes (''there's a low bridge coming up, you better duck''). Anyways, we cycled as a group of 6 all the way to the next control in Evesham. The weather took a turn here and started to rain. I was feeling happy though, especially because I had thoughts of SJ and passed the place where I proposed to her! Once at the control, we had a good feast again! I devoured an egg and beans toasted sandwich, plus a big chunk of chocolate cake and of course, a mug of tea.

When we left the control, the heavens had opened and it was cold (about 4 degrees Celsius). Passed the 'proposal spot' again and cycled on. Slowly lost feeling in my wet feet but no real bother. This last stage felt a little more undulating than the previous two, but no major hills. The steepest incline came with about 3k to go. We all made it safely to the top, and then pssst, I had punctured. The group, except Chris, raced on to the finish. Then there were 2.

Chris and I messed around for a while trying to sort this puncture problem out. The new tube I was going to use just would not inflate and my rim tape was all wonky. We fixed puncture after a few minutes and cycled off, believing the end was just around the corner. The end may have been just around the corner, but I was navigating and in my usual badger style, took the wrong corner. I safely led Chris and I (plus a group of say 6 more) safely to the Arrivee, but added a further few miles. At the Arrivee I left Chris to get my brevet card stamped. There there was 1!

Weekly totals: Cycled 120 miles.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Muppet theme

Was so great being 1 of 4 muppets to go out in -8 degrees Celsius last week and battle some big hills. With that thought in mind I used The Muppets to inspire my training this week. Indeed, I purchased the first 24 episodes on DVD and span on my rollers watching the same. By the end of Monday's spin, I had seen 4 episodes.
Tuesday was run night. SJ and I ran a great run of just over 10 miles. We ran a similar run to what we completed about 2 weeks ago but in reverse with a few additional twists. From Doo Little (my abode), we ran to Arrow Vale Lake and considering it was about 6pm we couldn't believe how light it was. There was a full moon out tonight and it was illuminating our icy, slushy path. Yup, the track we were following was still largely covered in crunchy icy snow. We felt fine by the time we reached the lake, so on we ran all the way to Redditch Town Centre up a big lengthy hill past the college and then had a brief respite as the track descended to the buss station. From here we still felt relatively ok and ran what seemed like a never-ending hill that finally reached to the top of the Slough. We were starting to feel a little chilly now but felt ok, especially as we knew these last 2 miles were downhill and led back to Doo Little. Reached home and wow, the only pain or problems we experienced were swollen feet. A big fat kebab and a hot bath later and we both felt fine.

Cycled on Wednesday. Had always wanted to cycle the Breadcrumb Trail in the snow and this was my chance. Most of the snow had gone but what was left was crunchy icy snow, covering about half of the trail. Reached the trail by cycling across naughty fields first, much effort required as the snow proved to offer resistance. The main road in Alcester leading to the Breadcrumb Trail was still closed to motorised traffic. Once I had completed my circuit around the trail, I spotted another cyclist just entering the woods (I think he was taking the regular route and avoiding the awesome trail). Went home via the Dovecote and Coughton Ford. The downhill track leading to the Ford was great, my bike smashing through lots of iced puddles making explosion like sounds. Once past the Ford, I spotted the same cyclist I saw in the woods - he was cycling on the main road - not a good idea in rush hour traffic. I continued my journey home through the country lanes. It was sub zero by the time I reached home and hence decided not to go out cycling again that night, as was previously planned.
Ron joined Audax UK (AUK) this season and we were both glad to see we were awarded with AAA points for last weeks Cotswold Corker. Ron had just received his first Arrivee magazine and AUK handbook. Bigging myself up here a little, but am pleased to blog about my fame in said publications. 
The AUK Hanbook 2012 records 7 awards that I received. I was 1 of 438 AUK members to be awarded a 2011 Super Randonneur award (for completing a series of 200, 300, 400 and 600k events in the same season) and 1 of 322 to finish the PBP. The Randonneur 5,000 award was gained because of the 50 points I gathered for riding events totalling 5,000 km in a season (awarded to 110 members). I was 1 of 396 members to receive the Brevet 1,000 award for cycling 5 x 200k events in one season. I was 1 of 141 members to be awarded the Brevet 2,000 award for cycling 20 x 100k events. My name was included as 1 of 45 members in the AAA Roll of Honour for obtaining 20 AAA points (currently have 34 AAA points). Name also included in the AAA Super Randonneur list, as 1 of 14, for completing a SR Series composed of AAA events in 2011. My final acknowledgement was where I appeared as 1 of 306 members on the Randonneur Round the Year (RRtY) Roll of Honour for completing a validated BR or BRM event in 12 consecutive months. 2011 was a fantastic season and will most probably be my best season ever.
Arrivee magazine (Number 115 Winter 2012) welcomed me as 1 of 120 New Super Randonneurs. Perhaps my most pleasing entry in the magazine was for being 1 of 250 riders who earned 12 AAA points or over in 2011. I earned 27 AAA points for climbing 27,150 metres and was at position 51 in this list. This achievement amazed me as my hill climbing is far from great.

Had my eyes tested this week and am glad to report they are fine. Have not suffered with any headache this week (as yet) either which is great. And, I have not vomited - bonus!

Took to the rollers again on Friday. Span my usual distance whilst watching more episodes of The Muppet Show. Have now watched up to episode 6. Last week had concerns that my rollers were packing up because they were as noisy as an Aston Villa vs Queen Park Rangers football match. They are still real noisy...

Had planned to run on Saturday but my new shift pattern left me feeling tired and sorry for myself. SJ ran about 6 miles in my absence (and Cody 3 miles). Made my self better by listening to 'the girls' stories over a bottle of wine and DVD.

Sunday was back to work. Ugh, I feel like I live there at the moment. At least I'm able to think about stuff when I'm working ... and I have been thinking about completing another Super Randonneur (SR) series this year. This is only thinking at present, the thought of having to complete a 200, 300, 400 and 600k audax this year is quite mind boggling. However, my thoughts are as follows: Complete the 200k Sam Weller's April Foolery - this is a Black Sheep event that I have not rode before (maybe new this season). Of all the rides I have ridden, the Black Sheep events are highly rated. My 300k event would be the Rough Diamond - Mark Rigby, the organiser of Black Sheep events said that this was his favourite 300k event. The 400k audax would be Brevet Cyrmu, another Black Sheep event. I rode the Brevet Cyrmu event last year and got seriously lost adding about 30k to my ride. I'd like to ride it again, ensuring I navigate better and get a photo of the longest place name in Wales which I managed to bypass last time around. Sadly, my thoughts are not thinking of completing a Black Sheep SR series (like last year). All the Black Sheep 600k events are seriously hilly affairs. This time around I am thinking of completing the 3 Coasts 600. The 3 coasts 600 has <2 AAA points (as opposed to the 8.25 AAA points of the Black Sheep Brian Chapman) and sounds awesome, as it's name suggests passes 3 coasts. The 3 Coasts 600 also includes cycling England's longest continual downhill road back to the headquarters. Thinking is dangerous, huh?!

Would like to end this blog with a photo SJ has given to me. She reckons I see far too many 'birds on bikes' and wants this one added to my blog. Maybe I'll get my bird back on her bike soon ....
Weekly totals: Cycled 58.5 miles; Ran 10.4 miles.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Conquering the Cotswold Corker (nearly) !

I did not cycle last week but heard stories from Ron and Dave Meakin about their recent exploits. Ron has been putting a lot of miles in, and as usual, is training for his week (hmm) away in Spain. Despite Ron's falls, cuts and grazes (including a head over heels accident by Ginger Tom Farm last week) he is never fazed and continues on like a soldier. Caught up with Dave last week when SJ and I were invited over for lunch. We had the best gluten free sticky toffee pudding ever, and the cook - Rachel, Dave's wife, is making our wedding cake! Dave is cycling lots too and has been doing trips around the hilly Malvern area. Ron, Dave and I (plus Mark Weaver) hope to meet up towards then end of this week and all have a crack at the Cotswold Corker together. This'll be fun I'm sure, what with Mr Weavers XTR gear, Ron and Dave's hard training schedules and my over indulgence of cake!

After hearing such stories I felt motivated (or fearful) at the start of the week. So much so, that I got the old rollers out and went for my first spin this year. This was also the first time I had been on my road bike this year. I forgot how hard spinning was. Spinned for my usual 20 miles but at a lesser intensity (and hence a little longer) and this time I was watching a Regina Spektor DVD (live in London) rather than listening to my iPod. Is better having something to visually focus on. Felt better for getting on my road bike at last, but the same night I was sick. Very sick! I threw up at work and then threw up some more once home. I doubt the two are related, but I like to report it all the same because 'I'm sick man'!
Tuesday was spent in bed.

A trip to the Dr's on Wednesday confirmed what most folk already thought - the Dr was treating me for migraine. I was prescribed some Sumatriptan tablets and told to take them alongside Paracetamol and Ibuprofen next time my head goes wonky. Dr also said I should get my eyes re-tested. Vision Express offer 1/2 price appointments for NHS staff but Tesco's offer free appointments for all! Have not been able to find a slot with any optician yet though....

Took to my rollers again mid-week. This time I spun to a Radiohead DVD (the best of) which was nice. Slightly higher intensity compared to Mondays effort.
Later that evening, Cody and I hooked up with SJ. We ran our now quite familiar run in Worcester - the 678 Route. It was bitterly cold, sub zero. Cody was kitted out in her fur coat, SJ and I just made sure we were wearing gloves and buff's. We all felt fine once we started running and had warmed up. During the first quarter of the route, Cody had a fright and jumped about 2 feet to the right. A random guy was zipping up his coat and the noise spooked Cody. If she were just a foot nearer the side she would have landed right in the river. It was a dark and spooky night. Started to feel the chills on the return leg and SJ was feeling a pain in her spine. SJ commented that if I reported her pains, I should also report that I am fat and slow!

On Friday, I hooked up with Ron, Dave Meakin and Mark Weaver at Winchcombe Library car park. We had all planned to conquer the Cotswold Corker Audax together. What a day we had chosen - it was -8 degrees Celsius!
We all layered up pretty well, I was wearing 3 pairs of gloves, 3 pairs of socks, 2 buffs and my Merino wool jersey. Warmed up pretty well and pretty soon as we started to climb Cleeve Hill, our first hill. Got to the top with minimal effort really and descended a 25% gradient to take us to Bishops Cleeve, our first control.
From Bishops Cleeve we made our way to the foot of that dreaded Bushcombe Lane Hill. I had never previously conquered this 25% gradient hill. I had tried to beat this hill twice on a road bike with little success and only last month on my mountain bike (where my chain slipped off and I had punctured). My gearing was still out on this occasion and my chain kept slipping off largest cog and into the spokes. However, Mark kindly fixed my gearing issues and I felt ready to tackle the hill. We all tackled the hill and were climbing really well with no major issues until a few yards from the summit where we had to stop because a broken down car was blocking our path! Grr! We helped sort out said car, remounted our steeds and made it to the top. I consider this a victory, as I swear I would have made it to the top if the car incident had not occurred and I did not push my cycle any distance. Not sure how Ron and Dave felt as they were toying with the idea of cycling to the bottom and starting over. Maybe the real proof will be there when I repeat this audax again, maybe next month?! Awarded with a nice descent back into Winchcombe for our second control.
After Winchcombe we hit the second biggest hill (some argue this hill was tougher than Bushcombe) that took us to an info control in Guiting Power. We had to name a pub and found the Hollow Bottom and the Farmers Arms but decided not to stop for a swift pint. We stopped at the next control, a beautiful Market Place, in Northleach

Pleasant cycling took us from Northleach control to the info control at Daglingworth. The sun came out at 11 o'clock as I had predicted (still bitterly cold though). Once past the info control I could feel my energy levels sapping and a strong desire to reach control ready for my lunch. If I remember correctly, I think it was at about this point that Ron's chain snapped. Ron's chain snapped 3 times in all (as I predicted) and each time was fixed with relative ease using Marks tools and know how. Mr Weaver should be invited more often! Finally reached the Bisley control, where I got a stamp from the Post Office for my proof of passage. Then we went to a pub for a well deserved lunch. I had beef curry with rice, naan bread and chips and washed this down with a mug of tea.

Much menace from Bisley to Andoversford control. Menace in the form of a chain snap and repair for Ron. Theory is, Ron's waxy chain lube would freeze and hence snap chain. More menace in that my navigational skills had gone 'badger like' again and I had gotten us lost. This poor navigating only cost us an additional 7 k or so but it was a hilly addition. The other bit of menace was the hills. With place names like Upper Hillcot ('up a hill clot') and a route sheet saying climb to 288m what could we expect?! My energy levels felt low during this section (despite a good lunch) and I would lag behind my companions at times. Smile on my face as we reached control!
From Andoversford I suddenly felt fine again and my energy levels had returned. This last section was super, it was mostly downhill and led to the finish. I think it was during this section that Ron's chain snapped again. I think Ron took this section a bit more leisurely than he would have done due to chain issues and Mark stuck with him. I raced after Dave, my 'second wind' enabling me to chase him to the end. The end was in Winchcombe and just at the end the road was frozen over. Woo hoo, we all completed this corker and I celebrated by eating a pickled egg, the receipt of which was used as proof of my last control!

Cycled 108.88k (67.5 miles) during this audax in around 9 hours.

Had plans to run some more in the week with SJ. However, it snowed bad. Real bad. So much so, that the snow prevented any further training taking place...
Weekly totals: Ran 6.4 miles; Cycled 107.5 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&#...