Wednesday 23 May 2012

A bloggers break

After a whole week of not cycling, I took Florence out on Monday for a lap of the TTT 20 route. It was nice to stretch the old legs again despite not having a very fast pace. I went out in the morning, when it was cold. By mid afternoon it was warm and sunny.
Tuesday was hot. Very hot! About 25-28 C, which in the UK is awesome. This is like real summer weather. In weather like this, many folk waltz around scantily dressed and drink too much beer. Not me, oh no! I took the opportunity to cycle the TTT 20 route again. This lap was awesome. Not only was the weather much improved, but I completed this lap in my quickest time yet - 1 hour and 7 minutes! Woo hoo! SJ meanwhile attended some pilates class.
This will be my last blog for a few weeks now as SJ and I are having a break. That's not to say I've given up on the exercise front, just sharing a different kind of adventure with the wife for a while. Still have many plans for this year ahead, including a half marathon, a 300 and 600k audax, a bike packing adventure, maybe a duathlon and maybe a mud run. Lots to blog about - watch this space. :)

Weekly totals: Cycled 40 miles.

Sunday 20 May 2012


Think my body was some-what tired from recent activities (Brevet Cyrmu and Cheltenham The Vale audax's). This coupled with some running activities this week with SJ led to some seriously wonky headspace. Why do I become delusional when exhausted? And why do dinosaurs keep following me?
First activity this week saw me return to running. SJ and I ran the extended Studley triangle. Running really is not my thing and boy I was whacked at the end of it. I needed the following day to recover whilst SJ went to some pilates class.

Midweek was such a lovely day and both SJ and I were off work. Bonus! We took advantage of this weather and went for another run. Cody came with us this time too and we ran the Handlebar Route. Our first road run was hard (having not run in ages) and this off-road run was ridiculously hard too. In the short time I had stopped running, the grass had decided to grow. We all had to really pick our feet up to run over this over grown grass, never mind dodging the sheep poo (Cody trying to eat it just to clear a path for us)! Nice bath when we returned home.
The rest of the week just got worse. Didn't run any more and didn't sit on a bike saddle at all! No cycling took place at all this week. Finished the week with a game of badminton with the wife. The voices in my head told me to let her win and so I did. Final score Doo 2 - SJ 4. Grr!

Weekly totals: Ran 7.1 miles.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Cheltenham The Vale 100 (Permanent audax)

On Friday I completed another permanent audax. This was 'Cheltenham The Vale 100' audax and was a 100k (108k to be precise) ride, as the name suggests. Although this audax scored no AUK points and no AAA points, it was still a great ride that felt a longer distance than it was and sure enough contained a few  climbs. I completed this audax using Florence - my single speed bike. This was the first time I had ever cycled Florence on a route over 20 miles and the first audax completed without using a geared bike.

I did not start the route in Cheltenham, as suggested. Instead I started from the Alcester control. This control was chosen as it was only 4 miles from my house and prevented me having to leave any carbon foot print as I cycled to the start. It felt strange doing such a planned distance on a bike without a speedometer, gears and saddle bag. The 4 miles to the start were no real bother except it was raining just a little. I used a garage in Alcester as my first control and brought a fudge (using receipt) as proof of start.

The route followed beautiful country lanes almost from the start and skirted through Haselor where I often venture. Once out of Haselor I encountered the first hill, Croft Lane, heading towards Temple Grafton. This climb was only short but it was real steep, especially when using a single geared bike. I gritted my teeth and made the climb! Could feel my heart beating and pounding in my chest cavity. Lovely country lanes continued to take me down some super descents and eventually I hit Bidford, the second control. This was an information control (where I had to answer a question as proof of my passage). For those interested, the Bulls Head is the name of the pub next to the Post Office.  I was not tempted with a beer, so on I rolled. I went past the 'pikey caravan' that SJ, Cody and I found last week, so my thoughts were with them for a while. A nice long road took me through Honeybourne and into Broadway. I passed Saintbury and Fish Hill and managed to resist the temptation of climbing both these hills! I did not want to stop in Broadway and used the (optional) information control instead. Am sure the Horse & Hound pub on the High Street offer a very nice beer, but on I pushed.

From Broadway I set off off for Stanton and Stanway. These were 2 places I had not visited before. Very posh area, full of huge sand stone mansions, large grounds and the likes. These villages were quite nicely hidden away (off the main road to Winchcombe) and were stunning. A short steep climb was raced up to reach a war memorial where I hoped to answer the information control question. Unfortunately, the inscriptions on the memorial were too faded to read and I could not name the 3 countries. However, the information control gave a choice of questions to answer! I had to re-trace back down the hill (grr!) to the Church and take a look at the memorial seat. The memorial seat was remembering Frank Hughes, the Hon. Secretary, Stanway Flower Show! Amazing what one can learn on an audax trip. Re-climbed short steep hill and headed for Didbrook. A farmer stopped me here and said I shouldn't carry on as the road was blocked by a big flood about 2 feet deep and I would certainly get wet feet. I continued and found the farmer was right (see pic below). The farmer kindly told me an alternative way to rejoin the B4632 so I could continue my journey into Winchcombe, which was the next information control. The George pub opposite North Street was not yet open for food.
Left Winchcombe and headed for Cheltenham. This audax was advertised as 'fairly flat'. There was nothing fairly flat about Cleeve Hill at all. I think I have climbed this hill using all my other bikes and stopped to take a photo against the Winchcombe sign. Although not necessary, I took a photo of Florence against said sign too. This sign was towards the base of the hill. Gritting my teeth I started this climb and continued gritting until I made it to the top! Woo hoo, I conquered Cleeve Hill on a single speed bike! Okay, so I climbed the easier slope up Cleeve Hill (alternate anti-clockwise achieves the steeper approach) but so what?! I was then treated to a ring twitching descent all the way into Cheltenham, the next control. I purchased a bottle of water from a newsagents for my control proof. SJ and I visited the area I was now in just before PBP and purchased my Carradice bag.
Left Cheltenham and followed roads to Bredon. Before reaching Bredon my phone died (hence was no longer able to track my route by GPS) but not before I was able to send SJ a text. I passed an MOD building and could see loads of military vehicles cramming ware house like premises through open cracks in the doors. For a moment I questioned my security. Reached Pershore and purchased some peanut M&M's as control proof. I remembered how these M&M's had been a saving grace for Paul D on the Brevet Cymru audax last week!

Got lost leaving Pershore. I blame the event organiser (sorry Steve Poulton), as the route sheet stated 'leave Pershore SP Worcester'. It should have read 'leave Pershore SP Evesham'! I think I added an additional 10k making this error and the whole time I was in opposing direction had this feeling of 'this ain't right'. A fruit and vegetable store confirmed the error and put me back on track. Cycled new paths to Inkberrow passing through Pinvin, Naunton Beauchamp and Abberton. Stinkberrow (as I like to call it, because I'm silly) was the last information control. The Inkberrow sign clearly stated that it was twinned with Bray Sur Somme. Now back on familiar roads, I raced to Alcester - the arrivee. I used the same garage as control point and brought a chocolate bar for my proof receipt. I felt pleased to have completed this audax but was feeling a little whacked as I made my way home cycling a further 4 miles.

Once home, SJ noticed that I had sunburnt my legs. Oh the fun and dangers of audax cycling...

Official distance of audax was 107.4k but with my additional start and finish point (plus getting lost), I cycled more like 130k (80 miles).

Monday 7 May 2012

Half marathon madness / Brevet Cymru 2012

My dear wife SJ is still buzzing after completing her London 2012 marathon. So much so, that she wants to run more. In a moment of madness I found her a hilly, off-road half marathon to run in July. Crazier still, I have decided to join her! I'm not sure I'm up for a full marathon, but surely 2 of us running a half equals a whole?! We will both have to train hard (at least I will) if we hope to complete our half marathon madness. Please help encourage us both both sponsoring us £1. We are raising money for a worth while charity that we gathered information about following a meeting we attended. To sponsor us please visit our page: or simply text TTSJ55 £1 to 70070 from your mobile phone. Now what could be simpler than that?!

Took Scotty out for a spin on Tuesday in incredibly wet weather. It was raining hard for most of the day and had been raining hard for days. I went up to Astwood Bank and followed part of the TROAD route (in reverse) till I reached some off-road trail which was essentially a track full of big puddles. Following this, I made my way to Astwood Bank again by cycling up Dog Butt Lane and then across naughty fields. These fields were where Ron and I cycled last week and 'played' around this big bomb crater type dip in the side of a hill. I had the fear a little last week and wanted to play here some more. The bad weather prevented this though as wind had brought down big chunks of tree filling much of the crater. I continued off-road all the way to Alcester passing a single wild deer on route. This deer was awesome and I saw it jump a barb wired fence in style! Continued to cycle until I reached the start/end of that path that leads to/from Coughton Ford and headed to Mutton Lodge instead taking on more off road tracks. These tracks turned into rivers (due to the heavy rain) which made cycling difficult but fun. Came out not far from the Alcester Road and cycled home a wet dripping psycholist!

Took Scotty out again on Wednesday with Ron. Ron took me to some new paths (route of absolute horror) which were composed of hard to climb muddy hills and stinger menace but also nice lengthy cross country tracks. These tracks came out close to where I cycled the day before, so we repeated some of yesterdays route only in reverse. Still very wet and muddy and fun!

Saturday saw me complete my second 400k audax event - the Brevet Cymru. I completed the same event last year as a qualifying event for the PBP. I got lost last year and wanted to cycle this event correctly, believing that it passed through that place in Wales with the longest place name.

Alarm was set for 3.30 a.m. When the clock struck this silly hour, I hastily got ready, kissed my wife goodbye and drove down to Chepstow to meet up with another 40 odd cyclists ready to start this challenge. With only 15 minutes to 'kick off', I did well to set my bike up and get ready to go.

The first stage went from Chepstow to Hay-on-Wye. Was a relatively nice stage really, the weather was ok and a lot better than previous days where it had rained so heavy. For a while I was at the rear end of group of cyclists just happy to draft along. Not sure if folk had started off too strong/fast but even drafting was an effort. It took me about 40k to find my legs and start cycling more comfortably. My thoughts went to thinking about my buddy 'Clive the Doc' as I whizzed down a lovely descent past Tintern Abbey. The first time I ever sped down this ring twitching descent was with Clive during LEJOG 2009. Clive had hooked up with some 2012 LEJOG folk and cycled this same descent yesterday if my facts are right. Nice one Clive and good luck LEJOG folk! Clive missed out on a better descent a bit further along on the audax I was cycling. Felt fine by the time I reached the control. The control didn't feel like a real control, as Mark Rigby (event organiser) would stamp our brevet cards outside in a car park. (I am more used to eating beans on toast inside a cafe and using the receipt as proof of passage). Last year, being a 400k virgin, I remember copying the tactics of others and essentially 'bounced' this control, that is 'did not stop' here, but pressed on (instead of finding a cafe, having a rest and a bite to eat). This year I did the same (well, I did sit on a wall for a couple of minutes and tucked into some malt loaf and ate an apple from my back pocket). Funny thing was, the guy whose tactics I copied last year, rocked up at this control just seconds after me. I said 'Hi, I remember you from last year' (or words to that effect) and later in this adventure found out that this guy was called Paul.

Stage 2 led all the way to Llandovery. Post audax and my head space always goes a bit wonky, so errors and omissions are likely to occur in this, my story. Anyways, during this stage I was chased for a while by a guy called 'Veloman'. Velo was a nice guy and he informed me that this was his second 400k and that he had completed the PBP last year too. We spoke a whole bunch of cycle related stuff and this helped the miles pass without me noticing aches and pains. For stretches Velo would pull and I would draft then we would swap over. If truth be known, I struggled a little with my turns to pull but felt it only fair. So great it is when someone is blocking a head wind for you. Lost Velo not far from the control, he had stopped to buy some energy drink (maybe he felt his pulling stretches hard too?!). The control was nice and it was here that I ate my proper audax food - beans on toast! I added an egg for good measure and washed this down with a cup of tea.

Stage 3 was kinda new to me. I had gotten lost here last year and missed much of it out and added about 30k to my distance! This year I paid more attention. This section was hilly in parts and am not sure if my 2011 version was a better alternative after all! Ha! Felt like I was playing 'whacky racers' or 'cat and mouse' during this stage as a couple of cyclists would catch me and overtake. Then they would stop further ahead (to eat or pee) and I would overtake them. And then they would catch and overtake me. Repeat. I don't re-call their names (sorry chaps) but the one guy had a bike much like mine (a 2009 Cayo Focus) and the other had a pink jacket (haha, is funny what you remember). For sake of this write up I will refer to them as Mr Cayo and Mr Pink. This pair were stronger than me, but I reached the next control before them. The control was in Tregaron. Last year I was served to the best butternut squash soup in the world, this year it was leek. The leek soup was okay, but no where near as nice as the butternut. Gutted! I was hanging out for this soup. Oh, (just remembered) I thought this stage passed through that place in Wales with the longest place name but it doesn't! Why on earth did I have that belief. That was why I was so upset last year for getting lost. I still want a picture of my bike against the back drop of the longest place name in wales! I'm a psycholist you see!
Just started out on stage 4 to Newquay and realised I did a usual 'Doo trick' - I forgot my glasses! Grr! Even though I was only about 1k out I didn't want to turn back. I was chasing Mr Cayo and Mr Pink (not known to them). I don't think I caught them, they were too strong for me. I remember the gap getting ever bigger between us when we hit this one particular climb and then they were really out of sight. Is nice having 'something' to chase, until it disappears! Must have suffered a bit here as my memory goes a bit fuzzy but remember reaching control in the company of a few other cyclists. I guess I must have been caught by a bunch. The final few k to the control were awesome as the sea could be soon and it's just such a pretty sight. Have always liked the coast, and the promenade to Newquay was no exception. I remember feeling a bit sick at this point last year and out of sorts. I was feeling okay this time around and remembering the big hill immediately after the control! With big hills in mind I only ate a small portion. this portion was cheesecake and man, it was delicious! Velo rocked up at this control just before I left and he had my glasses with him! How cool was that?! Velo means love, and it was lovely to be re-united with my glasses.
Stage 5 took us back to Llandovery, but a different way back to the way I had just cycled. Not sure how, but I cycled most of this stage as a double act with Paul, the guy I referred to earlier. Paul was such a nice guy and offered great company. We spoke about all sorts of bike related stuff and he seemed to know this audax inside out (had cycled it many times). I felt I was slowing Paul down but he was happy to cycle alongside all the same. He spoke about how great the West End Cafe was (the control), and how awesome it is that they stay open just for us audax cyclists on the return leg. (Despite stopping there on 2 occasions last year, I didn't realise it was the same cafe!) The thought of food, I'm sure, kept us both happily cycling to said control. If my memory serves me right, we climbed a big hill where Paul suggested we stop at the top. We stopped at the top as Paul knew that a big long descent followed to the control and suggested we put on jackets to keep warm. Perfect advice! It was here that I witnessed a guy climb this ascent on a fixed gear bike! (He was to complete the whole event on a fixed!) This control really was great too. Not only was I able to eat (baked potato on this occasion) but I was able to change into some warmer cycling gear. It was getting dark now and frost had been forecast. I put on some silk socks with my merino wool socks on top, and shoes with shoe-covers on top of that! I also added my silk vest and had an additional buff around my neck.

Stage 6 led to Bwlch. I thought this was pronounced 'belch', but it isn't, it's pronounced 'bulk'. This section was cycled in the dark. Paul was my companion again and kept me amused for the duration. It was cold now and I was glad of my extra layers. Last year I cycled through the town, this time we cycled around the by-pass. Less drunks were encountered by cycling this way around. However, we did appear to be stalked by a random ambulance. Last year my lights failed. This year I took precautions - I took my Ay-Up mountain bike lights. These lights were great for lighting my path but would blind Paul every time he looked my way. My rear light failed and i didn't have batteries (will I ever learn). Luckily Paul was carrying a spare and urged me to borrow it - stating that seeing me squished would not make this the best audax he had ridden (paraphrased). Before long we were at Bwlch. The Bwlch control was great too. One could sleep here (and so I did last year). Free food was offered here - soup or pie and custard (or both). I opted for soup because I don't like custard. Paul opted for custard because he was convinced it contained EPO (even though he is not a fan of custard either). After fuelling up, we both left for the final 50 or so kilometres.

This final stage, obviously, led back to Chepstow. Paul initially wasn't feeling so great and we stopped a few times for a chemical fix (pro plus or caffeine energy gels). These stops did little for Paul and he would keep shaking his head to stay awake. I tried to keep talking (mostly nonsense) in attempts to keep him awake. Paul spent a good while describing suitable benches and buss shelters suitable for audax cyclists to have a quick sleep on or in during this audax (he should write a book). One such bench was located with less than 20k to go. Paul felt he must stop for 15 minutes and close his eyes so we said goodbye and I continued into the dark by myself. Wasn't long at all until chased and caught red lights ahead. These lights were going up the final hill of the event. This hill went on and on but I felt okay climbing it and would pass the odd cyclist who had stopped for a breather. Just as I had neared the summit, whoosh, Paul came and overtook me! He said the sounds of someone puking near 'his bench' had put him off staying there any longer and (more importantly) he had found his bag of peanut M&M's that gave him the fix he needed! We both reached the summit and flew over the other side speeding down a nice lengthy descent pretty much all the way to the arrivee! Woo hoo! Nailed this audax for a 2nd time!

Weekly totals: Cycled 287 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&#...