Sunday 26 January 2014

Team Lumox and early Arrow planning

N. AMER.informal
  1. 1.
    a clumsy, stupid person.
    "watch it, you great lummox!"

Didn’t spend a great deal of time cycling this week. However, spent much time preparing for an epic event in Easter. This event being the Easter Arrow to York, a 400k team event. The rules for this event are quite bizarre, as presented below (stolen from the YACF website):

1.   TEAMS of 3 to 5 riders [Tandems counting as one unit].
2. DISTANCES/ TIMES Minimum of 360 kms in 24 hours, though you are strongly advised to plan a higher mileage. At the finish, distances of 15% above or 20% below the one stated before you set off, cannot be validated .
3.ROUTES must be the shortest distance between control points, calculated in kms, from OS AUTOROUTE or similar maps. The itinerary cannot use the same stretch or road twice. In the event of a diversion {roadworks or the like} , a stamp must be obtained at the furthest point. Routes can be circular and in any direction but eventually heading for YORK.
4. DISQUALIFICATION will result for the failure to have night time good lighting or the acceptance of help from anyone outside the team or from an undeclared support car. Teams who need this support must declare the number of the vehicle and the location(s) of contact.
5. PROCEDURE FOR ENTRY : forward to the organiser the proposed route. The captain will receive back a copy of the itinerary with possibly suggested modifications . Riders to complete the standard AUK entry forms.
6. DEPARTURE: each rider is to write on the card places and times agreed with the organiser. Team may leave any time between Thursday PM and Saturday noon.
7.CONTROLS : A stamp, receipt or ATM print-out with time of passage must be obtained and the start time and place adhered to.
8. ON THE ROAD: no deviation from the chosen route except in an emergency. Riders must carry their own card. Passing time at the controls must be written besides the stamps obtained .
9.   22ND HOUR: of the ride; the team must obtain  a stamp etc and write on the card the nearest point reached, wherever it may be.
10.   A MINIMUM DISTANCE :  of 25 kms MUST separate the place traversed between the hours of 22 & 24.
11.   ARRIVAL. A stamp is to be obtained at the nearest place reached at or after the 24th hour.     This does not have to be YORK. Add the place , time & distance covered.
12.   VALIDATION;  will be awarded to a team of 3 riders [minimum} who complete an identical distance. Lone riders who comply with the regs may claim AUK but not ACP validation
13.    ENTRY FEE  of £10 per team is to be sent to the organiser [cheques payable to him please.

Well, I have a full complement of team members. These are myself, Chris, Jamie, Andy and Ron. The team is temporarily named ‘The Long Distance Lumax’s’. My wife felt that 'Team Klutz' was more appropriate. Chris suggested 'un-cool and the Gang' - who was he calling 'un-cool'?! Chris might have to forfeit his place… Have devised a route stretching for 422k. I planned the controls and Chris converted this into a nice GPX (TCX) file. The route is clearly presented below:
Provisional Easter Arrow Route, 422k
Look how wonderfully flat the hilliness profile is:

Tough middle section, ha!
The route starts from my home village Studley and picks up part of the LEL route that I cycled last year (along with Jamie and Andy - this was used as bait to get them to join my team). From Pocklington it’s just a relatively short stretch to reach York, the arrivee.

Oh, and the entry fee was £12.

Managed to get out and spin my legs twice in the week. The first occasion was on my single-speed where I cycled the first 26k of our York Arrow route before heading home in an almost random style. Only 26k in and am very pleased with the route thus far. I might cycle the first 100k and return back as a DIY 200. My last cycle was a single-speed MTB jaunt following a mostly urban route. Nice.

So what are the scores, George Dawes?! Cycled less than 100k this week. My yearly total now stands at 586k.

Monday 20 January 2014

The Willy Warmer 2014

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.”
― Desmond Tutu (or so a YACF member would have me believe)

This week was centred along single-speedin’. Not exactly sure why but my buddy Chris suggested we ride an audax event using single-speed machines. Chris had already decided what the event would be, it would be the first audax he ever entered, ‘The Willy Warmer’ – a 200k event that started and finished in Chalfont St Peter. I rode this event with Chris, on a geared bike, back in 2011 for purposes on PBP qualification. Sadly, we got lost and ran out of time so said event could not be used as a qualifying ride. Hmmm. Neither Chris or I have ever ridden a calendar event using a single-speed machine and neither of us have cycled 200k on such a machine either. Hmmm. The saddle on my single-speed bike is rather uncomfortable too. Hmmm. On the plus side, last year we cycled the ‘St Crispin’s Day Night Ride’, a 100 mile affair with me on a single-speed and Chris using just one gear. So, we have 1 gear and this challenge was Chris’s idea! Find out later in this blog post how well we fared (or otherwise).

My first couple of rides this week were both local routes using my single-speed MTB. I would have rather used the single-speed road bike but was not able as Lin had taken said bike to London. (Lin had delivered tree’s, new furniture, BBQ etc early in the week and had room to take my bike back with her, ready for pending event mentioned above. Big thank’s to Lin for hard work, charity and such like). Both trips were solo affairs and on both rides a little off-roading was involved which resulted in me having a mud splattered face. If the weather had not have been so naff I might have used my geared road bike. At time of writing am a little miffed that the majority of my mates have put in way more miles than me this year.

The next ride cycled was the ‘Willy Warmer event’! It started in the kinda expected, usual disastrous style - Chris had a blow out and we were (nearly) the last to leave. I was initially riding around at the start waiting for Chris and folk commented that my bike looked like a disco. My bike was disco looking because it was fitted with a flashing blue wire wrapped around the frame (which Chris had gotten me for Christmas) and a Chinese wheel writer (that Lin had gotten me) on the rear wheel which flashed many colours. Cheers guys. Once Chris had done with his faffing we realised we weren't the only ones in a spot of bother - was saw another cyclist pushing his bike back to the start with mashed up wheel rim.
Chris faffing at the start
Our GPX route tracks were difficult to follow from the off because they were plotted by 'points' rather than real roads, so our Garmin's were following straight lines and had no 'left' or 'right' cues. Chris commented that it was 'my job' to navigate, I replied stating that 'the rules had changed' because we were riding 'single-speed' which was his idea! My single-speed machine had no map holder on the bars either. To be fair, Chris did a mighty fine job of navigating. (Last time we cycled this event, with no GPX, we got seriously lost and spent 14 hours plus attempting to navigate the event). The actual route we cycled is presented below.
The Willy Warmer, 216k
It was dark, but brightening when we left Chalfont St Peter and we only had to contend with a light drizzle weather-wise. We had 2 little climbs to beat within the first 40k but these weren't really difficult and we both felt kinda elite riding our single-speed machines. We had an info control at the 35k mark which asked the colour of the local School's logo, which was a badger. I would have answered black and white but oh no, the answer was 'burgundy' as that was the background colour. Have you ever seen a burgundy badger?! The next control was a proper sit-down-and-eat control in Pangbourne. We had the usual audax staple diet - yup, you got it - beans and toast (and egg) with a cup of tea.

Leaving Pangbourne we headed for Hungerford. This was great cycling as we passed through the 'Valley of the Race Horse' and had some great scenic views. This also meant we had a big climb (the biggest on this event) around the Lambourne area. We climbed with relative ease and felt somewhat heroic being on single-speed machines and all. A profile of the hilliness is presented below.
Hilliness profile of The Willy Warmer
I didn't take any photo's of the beautiful scenery despite having lots of opportunity all the way to Hungerford. Once in Hungerford, I recalled an occasion when I cycled an audax event and a 'random' photographer asked to photograph me for his '365' random faces project. It only seems right I add a photo here that was taken somewhere on route. This 'deer old friend' was also encountered on the first occasion we rode this event.
Our deer old friend
We stopped and ate well at the Hungerford control. Soup, roll and carrot cake to be exact. Oh, and lots of tea. Just before leaving the control, we got chatting to a number of cyclists but there were 2 particular cyclists who we kept crossing from here on right until the finish. We didn't recall their names but just because we're both silly, we named them. The one chap we called 'Mr Arbuckle' and the other 'Mr Orangephile'. 

It must have been somewhere near the last control (possibly nearer the Pangbourne control) that we had to negotiate some rapids. This wasn't actually as bad as it sounds - a bridge for pedestrians had been erected to cross the river. There was some flooding on route though.
Chris ensuring safe passage across the rapids
Not long after leaving Hungerford, we were passed by Mr's A and O, who called 'see you later'. Can't post why we were not happy at being over-taken but suffice to say, we were not. Please note, audax cycling is a non-competitive sport. We chased and within a few minutes we had placed ourselves ahead of Mr's A and O again. We were pleased with this, especially considering they were both on geared bikes. For the most part, from here until the control at Winnersh we were mostly ahead but it was very much like cat and mouse. Have no idea whether they were chasing us when we were ahead but that matters not. We tended to find that these guys would overtake us on the long descents but we would power past them on the climbs. It had gotten dark again during this stage, so once again my bike was lit up like a disco. Our friends, Mr's A and O, provided us with the answers to the info controls.

The control at Winnersh was closing up as we had gotten there but were still pleased to serve us tea's and coffee. We had a nice stop here, sat outside catching up with Mr's A and O and generally talking cycling related nonsense. A big shout out to the cafe girl who donated me a camelbak lid for a topless bottle back at home. She said a number of folk had left bottles behind. We also snacked on Chris's home-made sarnies before the final push.

Mr A and Mr O were ahead of us on leaving this penultimate control. We didn't spot them for so many K but once we reached these services that then followed a fast descent, we spotted them. Chris momentarily stopped 'educating' me (about all his folk and family who lived here and there on route) and we chased this pair. We cycled fast and hard until our legs could spin the cranks around no faster. Chase, chase, chase and woo hoo, we caught and overtook them! Our hearts were beating fast, our lungs had worked hard and oh no, would you believe it - a big hill now faced us. We gritted our teeth and climbed. Chris said he felt sick, this was probably because he was zigzagging his way to the top! We both reached the top feeling great for our efforts and now knew there was going to be no way Mr A or O would pass us again. We felt mighty, like super-hero's with an ego boost. The last few K to the finish flew by quickly. Before we knew it, we reached the arrivee! Yay, job done! A 200k affair cycled on a single-speed machine in about 12 hours. We really did feel good and it was nice to not come in last (there were about 14 people behind us). The start of this ride was really unfinished business and now we had settled that score!

Cycled 276k this week. My yearly distance now stands at 513k.

Friday 10 January 2014

Bright light

This week I cycled very little and felt a trifle miffed that most of my mates had fared much better. Was not all doom and gloom though. Strava sent me a post about a recent completed event that put a smile on my chops!

Better yet, I found the time to buy some batteries and fit some awesome Meon lights to my single-speed MTB. My buddy Chris got me these 'Bike Fx' lights for Christmas. Don't they look just splendid (despite the photo's being amateurish).
On the one occasion I did cycle, I cycled my TTT 20 route. My single-speed road cycle was my steed of choice. Still plan to complete the Snowdrop Express audax on this bike in February. Have recently entered the Willy Warmer 200k audax in Chalfont St Peter - will this be my first calendar 200 on a single-speed bike?! Time will tell ….

Sunday 5 January 2014

Happy New Year 2014; A January Sale

Happy New Year to my family, friends and readers of this blog. Hope you had a great 2013 and hope 2014 blows your socks off! Let's kick off this New Year with my latest blog post.

I'd like to start this blog with a picture of my feet. Some might think that's strange but I am hoping these feet will take me lots of places on numerous adventures. Without further-ado the picture is presented below:
A selfie
As one can see, these poor feet are carrying a 92.7kg load. That's just ridiculous. I know I am a strapping bloke who stands tall at 6' 2'' but honestly - 92.7kg! That equates to a BMI of 26.2 which means that I am officially overweight. A pork chop. I hope to look after my feet a little better this year and will try and reduce their weight bearing load.

My feet took me a lot of places last year as followers of this blog will know. For anyone new to this blog, or for those who'd like a re-cap, a heat-map of my cycling adventures is presented below. Pretty eh?!
A heat map of my cycling activities in 2013 (from time I purchased a Garmin). A total of 7,766 miles cycled.
Last year, I had lots of plans and ambitions for the year ahead. This year I still have a few plans and dreams but am not going to be quite so anal. That doesn't mean I'm not going to be geeky though. In a nutshell, I would like to complete further AAARtY and RRtY awards, would really like to complete an arrow event and hope to muster up at least 25 hilly (AAA) points. I understand that the last sentence just typed won't make a lot of sense to a number of people but the audax junkies will catch my drift. As ever, I hope to be a great dad and husband just like my father before me.

My first cycle ride of this year was a 200k audax entitled 'Mr Pickwick's January Sale'. I think this was my first ride of last year too. Just like last year, I cycled this event with my buddy Chris Hodge. My GPX track is presented below:
Mr Pickwick's January Sale, 204k
We chose to start this event at 8 a.m. whereas the majority of others started at 7 a.m. This was good logic as we missed the earlier rain and now it was light too. We mostly rode the first stage with 2 others - a cyclist donned in bright orange gear and an older man. Chris and I chattered our usual nonsense throughout this first stage and at times would chat with the other two also. Funny thing was, the older man I was chatting with, I already knew quite well (but obviously not well enough) but it took me (and him) 40k before we realised we knew one another. The older man in question was Steve Poulton. Ha! This first stage took us through many flooded areas (this was a pattern throughout) to Rowberry's  Farm Shop. At the Farm Shop we had a great audax breakfast of beans and eggs on toast. A handy heater partially dried out our shoes, gloves and buffs too.

Stage 2 was largely on familiar ground and I wasn't far from home. We cycled part of Ron's TROAD route in reverse. This meant we had a bit of climbing to do but then flew down Cobley Hill. If weather conditions were better we could have gotten airborne after hitting the hump back bridge at speed. Following this we had the Weatheroak Hill climb, a favourite of mine using the single-speed. Further flooded roads took us, eventually, to the next control - the M40 Warwick services.
At the services we devoured a rather large KFC meal. We didn't feel drained so much, but wanted a relatively lengthy stay to dry our shoes out and get feeling back into our feet. KFC napkins and toilet paper filled our shoes with limited effect in removing water. We bumped into Steve again here who had bounced the last control. Feeling suitably fuelled we set off again.
Within 10k of leaving the last control we hit a big fat climb. This climb was Edge Hill. A tough 14% climb were full bellies. Strangely, Chris said he enjoyed this climb. We both enjoyed watching the sun-set once over the hill. God had painted the skies with some beautiful colours this night and many sights were purely awesome. 
Once we reached the info control the sun had more than set and it was now dark. All the info controls gave us an excuse to stop and eat delights that Chris had brought with him - nuts, fruit, flap jacks or dark chocolate. We continued on into the dark and found our way to the next control, the Old Mill Cafe in Chipping Norton.
Hilliness profile of Mr Pickwick's January Sale (1.5 AAA)
We bumped into Steve again at this control. The cafe was closing up to my disappointment but the staff were friendly and offered to fill up our water bottles, let us use the loo and stamped our brevet cards. Chris and I wanted a break so we ate his home-made jam sarnies in a bus shelter opposite. After a banana and some biscuits, we were good to go.

About 10k into the last stage we passed a cyclist who had decided to abandon. Bikeability man (as he addressed himself) had a wonky crank set and said he didn't feel like climbing the reminding hills with only 1 leg. How accurate he was about the hills! The last stage was very undulating indeed. Steep climbs and fast scary descents. As we reached the summit of one climb, I said to Chris 'perhaps this is the super fast ring-twitching descent' and before I could think further - whoosh - it certainly was. Some descents were proper spooky because as we flew down them we would occasionally hit some fog and visibility disappeared. It was great to see the lights of Tewkesbury and gently roll down into them to finish. Once at the arrivee, we caught up with the organiser Mark Rigby and rewarded ourselves with super 'spoons noodles. Job done!

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&#...