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.

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