Friday 29 March 2013

Solent-Hungerford 200k permanent audax

Despite freezing conditions, I managed to get out and cycle a number of times this week. I wasn't going to let a little snow, ice and such menace ruin my Easter holiday. In all I cycled on 4 different occasions and even managed to start and complete a 200k audax!

My first adventure was a route stolen from another Strava user. I (re)named this route the 'AM SR 1' route. A great ride (only modified a little) and local too. Despite cycling a number of years now, this stolen local route covered roads I don't think I had ridden before. Of course the route covered roads that I have cycled many times before too. Best thing about this ride was the fact that it was virtually all on country lanes. A map of said route is presented below:
The second adventure I cycled was also stolen from the same Strava user. This Strava user, I presumed, had ridden this route with members of Redditch Road and Path Cycling Club (RRPCC) as he had entitled the route 'RRPCC Ride to Bredon'. I made this route my own and changed the beginning section and renamed it 'Doo's Ride to Bredon (DR2BREDON)'. My route is presented below:
This was a nice route and once again ridden on lanesy roads. At times I could see The Malvern Hills which were covered in snow. These snow covered peaks reminded me of New Zealand (or Middle Earth). Much of this route I had never ridden before but am sure will cycle again. Numerous cyclists were passed on route. Amongst my memories of this cycle was the fact that I saw a place that had reindeer for hire - how bizarre. As I cycled past Beckford Silk it reminded me of 'The Silk Run', an awesome 100k audax. Also, at least 2 pretty bridges were crossed. The one bridge was called 'Jubilee' bridge and I could not remember the name of the other. I really will have to cycle this 90k jaunt again!

The audax I cycled was the 'Solent-Hungerford 200' and was a permanent event organised by Alan Rayner. As the name suggests, it was a 200k affair. I guess I should have renamed this permanent as the 'Hungerford-Solent 200' as I cycled it this way around. Chris Hodge joined me on this adventure. Aid was hoping to join us both (and is credited for 'finding' this event) on this adventure but he had a case of man-flu (or possibly cyrophobia). Our route is presented below:
We started the audax from Hungerford Train Station, using the parking ticket for our first proof of passage (POP), the ticket cost £2.40 for all day parking. It was a cold start but much improved over recent days - the average temperature was 2C throughout the day. The cold was kept away by my layering which included a new merino wool jersey and my 'Blue Peter' insoles. These insoles were made out of cereal box, covered in foil and laminated - result, near toasty feet. The first stage took us to Ludgershall over some very fine country lanes. These roads reminded me of France, they were long, lovely and traffic free. Chris stopped to perform a weird kind of Ali G type dance at one landmark. We both used the Post Office stamp for our POP.
The second stage took us to Romsey. As we both cycled along it was easy to think about our adventure to the Isle of Wight, especially as we were cycling some of the same roads. At about 50k into the ride I suddenly spotted the place where we ate the best buffalo burger in the world - the Broughton buffalo burger! This place was a pub just outside Broughton. (So great was this burger that Chris and I both ate on the way to said Isle that we attempted to find the same pub on our return. We never did find the pub because we were looking in Broughton for it.) No Broughton buffalo burger was eaten on this adventure (was too early and the pub not yet open), however, location of pub noted! During this stage we passed my names sake.
The next stage took us to the Solent. Much of this stage was nice but parts were quite nasty too where the route passed through busier roads. As we neared the control (in Stubbington) the roads became much nicer and became coastal. We passed a coastal area called 'Chilling' which was most apt as it started to get quite chilly by the Solent. The Solent (which is a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England) was quite picturesque, even with Chris standing there.
We stopped to eat at a cafe called Donny's. This was a welcome break and our only real sit down and eat stop. We both tucked into a Lancashire hot pot. I don't think I looked to whacked at the half way point.
A short pedal of about 20k took us to the next control in Denmead. We used the Post Office here for our POP. I don't think I've made such use of the Post Office this many times on an audax event before.

The most difficult section of the ride was between Denmead and Sutton Scotney. The ride itself was not so difficult, it was just that this section was certainly the most undulating and hence had more inclines. Most inclines were followed with a swift descent. After much 'bobbing' we reached the control. We used a local garage as our control and had a stand up and eat stop. I ate a nasty pasty thing and washed it down with a nicer cup of hot chocolate.

When we left Sutton Scotney it was getting dark so lights were turned on and reflective jackets worn. It was a completely different ride now - we could see very little. This section was spent chatting about everything and nothing and the miles seemed to lap up quickly. One final climb and a couple of cattle grids crossed and we were back at the start in Hungerford Train Station. Wow, what a great ride! Just before I reached my car to pack up, I heard someone shout 'Miggy'. This threw me for a while as it sounded like my brother (Dave) but it was in actual fact Aid. We ended up all having a drink together and discussed plans of a 100k ride entitled 'To the Broughton Buffalo Burger and back'! Ha!

My final Easter cycle was a lap around the 'AM SR 1' route. I raced around this route and completed it in a very respectful time. Snow could still be seen on the roadside and on the tops of the hills. Before I finished the route I spotted a Mad March Hare - how apt I thought, an Easter bunny in mad snowy conditions. I also spotted a jack/monk deer which I hadn't seen in a while. Nice.

Very pleased I was able to cycle a total of 376k this week. My LEL target for the week was 150k. My total distance this year now stands at 2,253k.

Sunday 24 March 2013

The Dean that didn't happen

Grr, I didn't cycle the Dean,
Despite being very keen,
The weather turned mean,
And that made me green,
And I wanted to scream!
So I changed the scene,
And started to dream....
...If only I had this machine: 
Felt a little peeved that I was not able to cycle 'The Dean', that was the 4th DNS this year! Still wanting to turn the pedals, I decided to go out on a couple of my local routes instead. The first adventure was the 'Deer Route'. I cycled a clean version earlier in the week, but this time around I cycled the dirty version. The dirty version went off-road. Below is a map demonstrating the route.
This adventure was fun but it sure was cold, below freezing. Snow covered much of the road and in some instances completely covered the trail. Check out the photo's below.
The rivers were not frozen over but proved to be menace all the same. One poor person had gotten their car stuck in Coughton Ford. Strangely enough, the wheel on the car was clamped. I wonder if the car is still there?! I was more sensible and cycled over the bridge!
My second and final adventure of the week was a lap of the 'CS SR 1' route. This was a lot slower than when I cycled it last time - I was on a single speed mountain bike this time around due to the weather conditions.
What made the route so nice this time around was a certain castle and a certain Mr Fox. The castle I cycled past was Studley Castle, where my wife and I spent our first night as a married couple exactly one year ago. I love you SJ, happy anniversary! Fantastic Mr Fox was running alongside my bike (in the woods) for a little stretch. How cool to see a fox running but not for it's life!

Despite not completing 'The Dean', I was happy with my cycling this week. I managed to cycle a fair amount of times in the week. My LEL training target was 100k and my 'ideal' weekly target was 161k (100 miles). The total distance I covered was 184k which brings my yearly total up to 1,877k.

Friday 22 March 2013

A letter to Will

A chap called 'Will' is looking to follow a selection of LEL riders over the course of the event which will include interviews before, after and during the ride itself. Some riders he will follow closely over the five days whereas others he will just catch up with as and when is convenient. His aim is to capture the epic experience of participating in this unique event, so will be there to document the highs, the lows and everything in between. He'll no doubt have the opportunity to film all the beautiful panoramas and vistas he needs, but it's the personal and psychological journey he hopes to capture from participants participation. 

I let Will know that I was interested in his official LEL documentary. At his request, I sent him a letter (email) with a few paragraphs about myself and my riding experience. Hopefully, he'll be arranging a day to meet with interested participants (like myself) before the event, and will be in touch once a date is set. For those unable to make it to London to meet with him, he'll try and arrange a meeting over skype. My letter is presented below:

Hi Will,

My name is Tim and I’m a 30 plus year old cyclist who isn’t a big fan of hills or head winds but is keen to take on many a cycling challenge. I have completed numerous challenges in my time including LEJOG and PBP. This year I am hoping to complete LEL.

I first cycled an audax in 2010 and became hooked. Without really realising what a huge challenge PBP was going to be, I decided that was my goal. Training was fun but hard. My qualifying events were great – I completed the necessary SR series (a series of rides consisting of a 200, 300, 400 and 600k rides). My SR was tough as I also ensured all these individual rides had AAA (Audax Altitude Award) points, essentially ‘hilly’ points to go with them. Further to that, I made sure all these rides were Black Sheep events too – just because the organiser (Mark Rigby) was a nice chap and his routes were awesome.

And then came PBP. My girlfriend, now wife (Sarah Jane), best buddy (Chris Hodge) and his son (Ben) all came to France with me. Sarah Jane was there to support me throughout PBP and Chris and Ben were there to see me off. 77 hours and 14 mins after starting the PBP and I had finished it! What an awesome event this was but how hard it was too.  I vowed I (probably) wouldn’t complete such a strenuous event again but ‘talked the talk’ about completing LEL in 2013.

After PBP, I took on challenges of a different sort. Firstly, I became a married man and not long after became a father (to my beautiful daughter Lunar). Ideas of LEL were quickly dismissed. Then, my best buddy Chris informed me that he had joined audax UK with a view of cycling the LEL with me. Chris so wanted to ride a (ultra) long distance event, especially as he waved me off for the start of PBP but did not participate in the event. My wife granted me permission to enter and as chance would have it, Chris and I both got a place!


Tim T (aka Doo)

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Stroud 5 Valleys 50 (permanent audax, March 2013) and other short stories

What an awesome week on the cycling front. Managed to complete 3 rides before the weekend. The first route was a trip around 'The Deer Route' with Ron. Since being equipped with my Garmin 800 it has made it possible for me to add maps to this blog, so a map of said route is presented below. This was a 'clean' version of the route as we did not stray off road at all. During our ride we saw a deer (how appropriate), a badger and possibly a bat. Sweet.
My second trip was a route I named the 'CS Stolen Route 1'. This route was so named because I stole it from a Strava user whose initials were CS, and 1 because it was the 1st route I stole. (My plan is to steal several routes from Strava users that are close to my area as I have few of my own and don't mind being un-original). This was a short route, just under 30k and had an elevation of 450 metres. Gordon (my virtual partner) became a 'dopple' (in fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger is a paranormal double of a living person) of CS and raced against me. Luckily, Gordon cycled at the same speed CS did when they rode the route - on a mountain bike. As I cycled using 'Florence', my single speed road bike, I was able to leave Gordon left for dead!
My third cycle was the 'Stroud 5 Valleys' 50k audax. This was a permanent audax event, that I had cycled 4 times already this season. This event was a relatively short affair (53k) but had plenty of hills - an elevation of 1,183 metres (and scored 1 AAA point). The map presented towards the end of this blog clearly shows the hills encountered. On one occasion that I cycled this event I was stopped by cows in the roadside. No cows stopped me this time around, however, wild horses blocked one summit (hence the long face).
The horses were peering over the wall, gazing at other horses. How sweet?! The weather was fine too and way better than last time I cycled (where it was snowing) and I think this is why I had my quickest completion time of 3 hours and 21 minutes.
Cycled 126k thus far this week. Hope to further this total and cycle 'The Dean', a 300k event over the weekend. The weather folk are forecasting snow, so I'll guess I'll just have to let you know if I go or no....

Saturday 16 March 2013

Garmin, Gordon and I

At last I got my Garmin 800 GPS thing. Have played around with it and customised it a little and it has already changed my cycling experience. The Garmin even comes complete with a 'virtual partner' stored within it. My virtual partner is called 'Gordon' (the moron) and I raced against him on my first use of said machine. What better course to follow than my TTT 20 Route?!
Sadly, Gordon beat me on my first test run, reaching home about 45 seconds ahead of me. Grr! Am not sure how to download routes (particularly audax routes) yet but am hoping with a few days of playing it all will become familiar. By adding this sneaky route into my training schedule, I have brought my yearly total distance up to 1,052 miles thus far.

Friday 15 March 2013

The Poor Student 200k permanent audax (March 2013)

This week saw me complete 'The Poor Student' 200k permanent audax. I had cycled this event at least once before (as a permanent) and possibly as a calendar event too. Despite cycling this event before, it was not how I remembered.

My memory told me that this ride had a nasty section of hills around the middle of the route.  For this reason (plus added convenience of beaing nearer home) I chose to start and finish this audax from the Chipping Camden control – ie cycle section 3 first. At silly o’clock in the morning I set sail from Chipping Camden wanting to take full advantage of daylight. It was a cold and bitter start, about -5C. I expected hills, but none appeared save a little climb after passing through Draycott Village. None of this stage looked familiar until I reached the control at Peartree Services in Oxford. Experienced a few navigation issues before I reached the control because I didn’t study my route sheet beforehand. Where it stated ‘2x mini-rbt, sp Oxford’, I took it to mean ‘cycle over 2 mini roundabouts sign-posted Oxford’ rather than ‘take second exit sign-posted Oxford’. There does not appear to be a universally accepted way to write a route sheet and all organisers use a slightly different language. Am hoping my ordered Garmin 800 will help with said issues. When the control came into sight I had to battle with busy traffic at the Peartree roundabout (despite following cycletrack) to actually reach the control. When I finally reached the control it was about 9 a.m. Sadly there was no Mc Donalds or Burger King for breakfast purposes - instead I settled for a KFC. Chicken and chips didn’t seem quite right at this early hour but fuel and proof of passage (POP) was required. The KFC was washed down with a ‘medium’ cup of tea from Starbucks, this ‘medium’ tea was pint sized!

Leaving the control at Oxford was nice – the sun was shining bright now and this part of the route looked familiar. The route took me right through Oxford Town Centre (I think) and passed through Queen Street – a pedestrian only area. Again, I didn’t study the route sheet beforehand and cycled right through Queen Street until this bloke (dressed like a mayor) shouted ‘don’t be an idiot, get off your bike, this is a pedestrian only area’. Last time I cycled through here I had no such problem – I later found out (was written on bottom of route sheet) that this area is only a pedestrian area from 10 a.m. Following the Queen Street menace I cycled up Cumnor Hill which wasn’t such a hill really. After the hill, I headed for Appleton and the route didn’t look familiar at all until I reached the control in Malmesbury. For whatever reason I didn’t find my bike behaving as well as she usually does (and especially during this section) – I had a creak coming from ‘goodness knows where’, my saddle dropped and the tyres were rubbing against the mud-guards. On a brighter note, my front mech was working fine! Navigating became an issue again too – I got my left and right mixed up at least once, made similar roundabout errors like earlier and could not find a sign post pointing to Garsden. I ended up going off course about 10k and passed through a place called Brinkworth. For once I didn’t mind going off route, as Brinkworth was ‘The Longest Village in England’ and made a good photo stop. 

Whilst taking said photo an apache helicopter flew overhead too. Awesome! Found my way to Malmesbury and stopped at the Summer CafĂ© for POP purposes. I had tomato soup at this control but it was nasty! The soup wasn’t really soup at all, it was (I believe) pulverised chopped tomatoes. Malmesbury itself was pretty and deserving of a photograph.
Again, the final section didn’t look familiar. I cycled along long country lanes that seemed to stretch for miles. Many horses, cows, sheep and birds could be seen along the way. At one point I saw a Mad March Hare running along a deserted field with its big ears standing upright in the air. Once I reached signs for C. Abdale and Salperton the route became tough. It was here that big hills had to be climbed (no AAA points though) and fast descents navigated. In my perceived wisdom, I saved the hardest section till last. Ouch, these hills hurt. I dread to think what the hills in ‘The Dean’ are going to be like in a few days time. I think the pain made me lose concentration as I didn’t pass through Salperton Park because I didn’t find it! I really needed that Garmin! Not sure where I went off route but I was soon back on track. The final few kilometres were great – all the menace ascents had been and gone and a fast descent took me back down to Chipping Camden, the arrivee! This was a great ride despite me feeling more tired than usual. I cycled a total of 214k (12k off route) in 11 hours and 1 minute. Yay, a successfully completed 200k at last!

Completed my desired kilometres for the week (200k). My yearly total now stands at 1,032 miles (just 68 miles under target). Next week I hope to cycle 'The Dean', which should bring my yearly mileage above target!

Sunday 10 March 2013

Frogger / DNS X 3

After too long a break from cycling I started to get withdrawal symptoms! I figured the best thing to do was to plan another adventure and get back on my bike. The adventure was easy - ride Alan Raynor's 'Solent - Hungerford' 200k permanent audax with a few good friends. That was my big event for the week and was saved for the weekend.

Still felt the need to get back on a bike sooner than the weekend, so mid-week took my single speed machine 'Florence' out for a spin along my TTT 20 route. Had been a while since I last cycled this route and it felt quite hard on my legs but enjoyable all the same. I thought it was important to stretch my legs a little before the impending big event.

Even managed to squeeze in a week day ride with Ron. Early Friday morning we took our bikes for a spin around Ron's classic '1 Hour Loop' route. This was a wet day and lots of poor frogs could be seen croaked out on the roadside. A bad day for frogs but a great day for cycling.
Saturday came and all my plans went wonky. First off, my buddy Chris decided he didn't want to cycle the planned permanent with Aid and I because he had bike issues of his own stressing him out. I reckon Chris was hydrophobic myself. Aid's view was that Chris had been troubled by the 'Southern Fairies' - these fairies cause many a Southerner to lose their mojo. Aid and I were all ready to tackle the permanent and then horrors - my daughter became unwell and had to be taken home. I guess I blame the Southern Fairies for that! Sadly this was the third event this season that I did not start (DNS). Some say 'bad luck' comes in three's, let's hope this was the last DNS this season!

Short on miles, I decided to use Sunday as a training day. Just to remind all - I am training for the London-Edingburgh-London (LEL) event - a long distance event of 1,400k. I am following a basic training plan where I cycle between 0 and 600k a week up until the LEL event itself. On top of that, I like to cycle at least a 100 miles per week so that hopefully by the end of the year I would have reached my desired target of 5,200 miles. So, Sunday was a case of out the bed and on the bike! I started to cycle my TTT 20 route but turned off just before 'John's Hill' and went via Bearley to Reach Alcester (just to add a few miles). From Alcester I continued on the TTT 20 route but took a left after Gas Hill and cycled past Ragley Hall (front and back) and finally home via Sambourne. This was a good trek of about 30 miles despite the weather being crazy - it was snowing, and in March too!

Still not happy with my weekly mileage, I cycled again in the afternoon after attending 'fellowship'. This time I started to cycle my figure of 8 loop around Ragley Hall but once in Alcester I headed to Bidford following part of Steve Poultons 'The Vale (Cheltenham)' permanent. I stopped at the church in Bidford (a control in said permanent) and took a photo. The church was called 'The Parish Church of St Laurence'.
I figured no trip to Bidford would really be complete without taking a picture of the river (below). I returned home via Wixford and Sambourne and completed a further 34 miles in all. This basically meant that I had completed my desired LEL training for the week (150k) and had cycled over a 100 miles in the week. All my cycling was this week was ridden on 'Florence', my trusty single speed machine. My total distance this year now stands at exactly 900 miles (just 100 miles under my target).
Disappointed I DNS the 'Solant - Hungerford' 200k permanent but have plans of cycling this event on 28 March 2013 now and hopefully 'The Vale (Cheltenham)' 100k permanent shortly after (?1 or 2 April 2013). Next week I would like to complete the 'Poor Student' 200k permanent. Watch this space! 

Saturday 2 March 2013

The Squits

This week saw me cycle zero miles. Gutted! I had planned to cycle Mr Pickwick's March Madness 200k audax but a tummy bug put pay to that - that was the second Black Sheep event I did not start in a row. Grr!
Below is a list of rides I hope to complete in the near future and are posted here in an attempt to cheer me up.
  • 9 March - Solant-Hungerford 200k PERM (plan to cycle this reverse way around with Aid and Chris)
  • 23 March - The Dean 300k (4 AAA) (a hilly affair with Chris - his first 300!)
  • 6 April - Sam Weller's April Foolery 200k (1.75 AAA) or A Rough Diamond 300k PERM (if Ron is free, as he had to abandon plans of cycling The Dean)
  • 20 April - Heart of England 300k (with Chris, Jamie M is booked onto this one too)
  • 25 May - Llanfairpwllgwyngyll gogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch 400k (just because I want to pass this place name)
  • 29 June - To Holl and Back 600k
My cycling this year has formed a ridiculous pattern whereby I cycle for 2 weeks then have a weeks break. This has been the pattern for the past 9 weeks. This is a circle I hope to break. My yearly distance remains at 798 miles (112 miles under my desired goal).

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&#...