Sunday, 29 April 2018

Saving sheep

Another relatively easy week on the training front this one. Not only did I not have the motivation to complete longer events, I had little time and something always seems to get in the way. There's something in the way...

That said, I did manage a training activity every day this week! It was nice to get a few runs in once again. Always great to cycle with my buddies.

My first day of training was with Roger and his tandem. I usually cycle to and from from Roger's domicile, however, was not able this week as Moo was sick and needed a visit to the Dr's. Once on the tandem we cycled to a great tea room in Whitlenge and back. As is our custom, we had a full English breakfast at the tea room. Roger has a few new pilots now, who are all around 6 feet tall which is great - saves me having to heighten the seat post!

The following 2 days were regular to work and back cycle commutes. I could have cycled another commute but the rain but play to that. I guess there's going to be a lot of rain in Ireland during the pending TAW. Oh why am I sure a fair weather cyclist? (That's not true - have cycled lots in the rain this year).

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were all run days. My first run was a cross country affair across the fields of Studley. The second was a road run up the Slough and back via the hospital. Final run was with the Mrs! This was SJ's first run in ages - I do hope she runs more now and hope her feet cease to be painful.
Final activity for the week was a pedal with my buddy Ron. We took our road bikes out for a (just under) 40k spin. Was great to cycle my 'Roubaix' with Ron after so long. We cycled some roads I had cycled earlier in the week with Roger and we finished by cycling an alternative hill to Ron's usual finisher on his TROAD route. Mid-way we were stopped by a bull dog looking sheep who had gone AWOL from a nearby farm. Ron consulted with some nearby folk who agreed to contact the farmer. How many rides to date have involved saving sheep?!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

always sit and chant delirious monkey fluff

Relatively easy week on the training front. Started with a rest following a certain Arcade Fire gig. All good.

Training consisted of 4 to work and back cycle commutes and a run to end the week. The cycling was just regular. The run was a cross country affair (only 5k) and not the London Marathon.
Little is planned in terms of training for next week. Sadly, I have to go to work. I do, however, plan to spend some time on the tandem with my buddy Roger. TAW is getting closer and I just hope I will have trained hard and long enough.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Be Tough

Horrors, my TAW experience is only like 2 months away! Notes to self - Be Tough; Stop Being Soft. Ha!

My training this week was relatively simple. It consisted of 3 to work and back cycle commutes and a Cotswold caper. Didn't cycle as long and far as I would have liked but 388k was relatively ok. (Hard juggling time off work to have fun).

My Cotswold Caper was basically a DIY Perm audax event that covered 231k in total. It started from my abode and headed via Stratford to the first control in Moreton in Marsh. The first leg was wet, muddy and generally miserable. Towpath was cycled and the tent that I have often seen on the Stratford towpath was still there - that went dweller has been camped out a long time! The Stratford Grenway was full of puddles and proved quite boring to be honest. Once back on the road, things improved a little. My disc rotors squealed for ages being full of mud and my chain creaked the whole distance until back home (oh for a little oil). Quick stop at control (super store) and cracked on.
Brinkworth was the next control. This is the longest village in England. I stopped at a car workshop and picked up a business card as my POP.

Shortly after Brinkworth came Royal Wootton Bassett, the next control. This was a super short section. Less than 10k between the controls.

On the next leg, before I reached the Burford control, I was stopped by a random woman. She asked if my frame bag was 'Alpkit', which indeed it was. She then asked if I was an audax cyclist and it turned out she was too. We chatted for a short while during which time she told me she completed TAW last year. She didn't have a lot of positive things to say about it. In fact, she questioned why I was doing it and told me not too. She said the weather is rubbish, Ireland is very exposed, there are long gravel and bog sections, she went long periods feeling hungry and isolated. She asked if I planned to bivvy, replied 'yes' and she scorned 'don't do it', stating I would need places to dry my clothes. She also said Continental tyres were rubbish and would shred (have not long purchased same). Hmm. Then I remembered 'Be Tough. Don't Be Soft'. Hmm. She also said that the Cotswolds made a good training ground and that was just as well as I was training on this ride and cycling in the Cotswolds. In fact some of my route crossed paths with the Cotswold Corker - another cracking audax route.
Was great reaching Burford. Had cycled through a lot of the Cotswolds and passed places that cycle adventures had taken me before. Now I was stopped near the pub where Lunar wee'd over the seats whilst on a weekend with the Mrs. Ha - cycle adventures are often filled with memories and knew memories are often created too.

Final stretch proved a little hilly. What comes up must come down and indeed, I was treated to some nice zoomy descent. My route actually finished with my regular commute back home. And so ended my training for the week.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Yr Elenydd 2018

Last week was pretty awesome. It began with a Bank Holiday. Holiday time to spend running through the woods with my wife and kids. Aces! The week ended with a trip in Welsh Wales.
The training went rather well this week. Started the week with 2 runs and 2 cycle to work and back commutes. The real training event was kept for the weekend.
Yes indeed, Saturday saw Jamie and I complete a fantastic 307k audax event, namely 'Yr Elenydd'. This was the 32nd edition (year) of the AUK classic 'There (and back) again' from the Shire across 'blue remembered hills' to the wilder land of the Elenydd, the desolation of the Tregaron mountain road and the Ystwyth and Elan valleys.

My thoughts and memoirs from the Elenydd are recounted below:

Jamie and I drove to the start on Friday evening. We pitched our tents, readied our bikes and crashed out. I thought my disc brakes were rubbing to start with, however, it was a simple mudguard causing menace. I took my old 'festival tent' for fear of rain and mud. It was a nice thought that we had ready pitched tents for our return.
Sat in my tent, thinking about Yr Elenydd
At something like 5 a.m. we woke up, got up, had breakfast. There were about 100 cyclists gathered in a village hall, fuelling up ready for the start. At 6 a.m. we were off, leaving Upton Magna for a 300k jolly.
It was a hilly affair. Covered something like 4,500m of ascent. In audax language that's 4.5 AAA points. The total route was 307k. At some point we climbed the 'Devil's Staircase', a tough climb of 25%. Jamie asked if I knew I had a 'spare' gear - I had no idea. Was good for the old mentality knowing I had a lower gear that was redundant for this beast of a climb.
The 2 adventures ready for the off
The weather was very wet mostly. Much rain. Flooded roads. Thankfully, no wind. We had periods of dryness but these were few and far between.

First control was Shobdon Airfield. We had cycled some 65k to get here and were dripping wet. Some poor guy here was suffering big time as he had grit in his eye. We found this and subsequent controls great for drying (well warming) our gear as well as fuelling up. We had the usual audax staple diet of a fry up.

The next control at Builth Wells hurt the eyes too, there was a big, big woman behind the counter! A back room had a roaring fire which was a nice touch (or was this the first control, I dunno). Is hard to recount an adventure with full accuracy when one is so drained, pooped and wrecked.
Doo, cycling Yr Elenydd
We saw lots and lots of Tregaron mountain toads. Most folk thought they were frogs. We knew better. The control at Tregaron proved to be a cosy stop. Good food. Another great place to help dry wet clothes.

'Tea for 2'
'Drying out'

A rather strange cyclist 'Lee Botwood' cycled alongside us at times and was over interested in road kill. We saw him pick up a hare and lick his lips. When he saw we were on to him he fringed poor hare away.
Jamie entering Rhayader
Rhayader was very picturesque. We had cycled 202k to get to this point. The bike shop that helped with repairs on the Bear Bones 200 was passed which made me think of our buddies Chris and Ron. Coming down a descent at 72.7kph was awesome (but I forgot to look out for the damns).

The Bear Bones bike shop
The route was truly awesome with some very spectacular views. We saw one couple cycling on a tandem, which made me think of my buddy Roger as he had cycled this on a tandem too. I struggle to imagine a tandem getting up the Devils Staircase. 2 folk were on trikes. Oh man, so many delights - including lots of flying kites (birds). Toll - you don't know what you missed mate.
Not entirely sure where this was, but hey, even the toilet breaks were stunning

Our last control was in a place called Little Brampton. It was dark by now but it was easy to feel the 2 big 'bumps' (ascents) we had to climb to reach there. After we had eaten at the control, we had just one further ascent to climb then weeee, a 20k descent finally led to the arrivee! Woo hoo - an event that was both started and completed at last!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter Trail (to York or not to York)

'Eleven' on the Easter Trail 
A cross country run started the training this week. A single cycle commute to work and back was the filling. The week ended with an adventure that I hoped to shout about.

Good Friday didn’t turn out to be quite as good as the name suggested. Good Friday started really quite bad in fact. I left my dwelling at early doors with the plan of cycling over to Jamie’s to collect him and Toll for the awesome ‘Easter Trail’ event to York. This event was supposed to be a long distance cycle to York following some slightly unusual audax rules. Anyways, moments after leaving, I had to turn back. For starters I had forgotten my helmet and worse still, I could not get my gears to shift. There was nowt wrong with my gears, however, the dry bag attached to my front harness had prevented the shifters from shifting. Returned home.

Once back at home, I emptied some contents from my front bar bag (spare shorts and buff) and rolled it up tighter. The whole harness is a menace to initially set right with all the buckles and straps. Further menace was the fact that I had to tighten and untighten mudguard bolts too. After about an hour later than planned, I was all reset to start my adventure with a working bike and suitably packed bags. SJ made me a pancake when I returned home too so felt great for the re-start.

The Easter trail followed a route that I had created and the second control was or should have been Burton upon Trent. Before getting to the control, I had obviously collected Jamie and Toll and we proceeded to cycle much towpath. The paths were great initially and stretched for miles. However, the further we cycled the poorer the towpath got. Decent path turned into quagmire and our energy was sapping. Things got worse when I punctured.
Such a faff and difficult to refit wired bead tyres. After much mud menace, we decided to divert and follow some road instead. All was better for a while, then Toll punctured, followed by Jamie.
Puncture menace! Puncture menace for all! (All for one and one for all?!)
Punctures were not the only menace. Due to re-routing, I had reset my Garmin which took us past the control to Burton upon Trent by a good 7k or so. Grr, we weren’t gonna turn around and waste more time. Thankfully the ATM here (for POP purposes) did not specify the place. Further puncture menace here slowed us a while so we opted for butties from a local cafe rather than a sit down affair.
The next section to Chesterfield didn’t fare much better. Punctures remained a frequent issue for us all. My tube kept giving clues it was gonna die because a hissing could be heard every now and then. I tried hard not to replace tube and kept pumping it up at times instead (after all it was a slime tube). At one point though, no further pumping was gonna revive my tube and a tube transplant had to take place. Oh boy, getting a wire bead over my wheel rim was near impossible. Jamie and Toll had thorns in their tubes. If the punctures weren’t grief enough then the weather was. Rain! Rain in the style of cats and dogs. Oh, and it was getting colder too. Just as things were starting to turn real sour and light was disappearing, we saw the golden arches of McDonalds! Winner winner Maccy dinner! Turns out that I really was a winner - I won a quarter pounder and a McFlurry. Only right to eat a Creme Egg McFlurry during Easter.
The road to Doncaster was a heavy one. Further puncture menace. Cold. Rain. Hills. I think they call this ‘audacious’. The wetness got wetter. The darkness got darker. The coldness got ridiculous. I was that cold that my arms started having involuntary movements - ‘the shakes’. These shakes were so bad that I thought my headset had gone wonky and bike was gonna come apart. We all figured finding somewhere to camp out would be a good idea. Finding somewhere to crash out in a wet rural area was hard. There were no barns, wooded areas or isolated empty buildings. I spotted some new constructions but fencing prevented entry. Churches in this area were closed. We found a very inviting porch but a steel gate prevented entry. Just as we nearly froze to death, Jamie spotted our camp spot - a BT exchange. The front of this building offered a roof, lighting and shelter from the wind and rain. Sure the front was covered in much rubbish but hey, nothing my man-sized tarp wouldn’t cover over.
Out initial musings and slightly negative thoughts evaporated as we pulled out our sleeping mats, bivvy’s, sleeping bags and liners! We set up camp and boy how great it felt to remove wet layers and get into dry gear. Felt even better to climb into my bag and sample the delights of Toll’s whiskey and Jamie’s slow gin. Before we closed our eyes for the night we had to have a conversation with a BT employee who just happened to pass by. He accepted our case and said no one would bother us until 8 a.m. We all settled down to broken sleep and much snoring. At some time after 5 a.m. a BT employee walked over me (to start work I guess) to enter the door I was blocking. Grr, some of my wet clothes were hanging over the door handle - these wet clothes were trampled over and nearly went to work with him. Grr!

Must have been close to 6 a.m. when we decided to get up and pack up. Brr, it was cold (was cold all night and close to freezing) and wearing already wet clothes and shoes was not much fun. We spotted a McDonalds just over the road and figured we’d have breakfast and talk battle plans.
Over breakfast we figured we had about 50k to cycle to get to York, our final destination. We had plenty of time, we had to get to York between 8 - 11 a.m. according to the rules. We also figured, however, it was bitterly cold, raining like crazy and if we cycled to York and then back home it was gonna be like 300k in these conditions. My headspace was telling me to go to York but I was happy to abort and head home with the lads. This year had already seen 2 x DNS and now I added a DNF into the mix. (YACF forum, accessed later, revealed lots of folk aborted the Easter Arrow which made us all feel better).
Easter Trail DNF
Heading home, we felt cold and quite miserable. We had only 1 spare tube (other than punctured ones) between us and tubes never seemed to stay inflated. No master plan was really in our heads and despite attempts to avoid towpath we ended up on it anyway. We stumbled across a shopping area and figured a visit to Wilko’s or similar (for tubes) would be a good idea. Tubes were purchased, along with some oil and washing up gloves to keep out water. A further stop at coffee shop was agreed and further plans were drawn up. We figured we would cycle to Sheffield and board a train.

Great plan! Wet ride to Sheffield it was. Damn blast, no trains with bike spaces available once we got there. No bother (much), we decided to cycle to Chesterfield and try our luck with the trains there.

Wet cycling along much busy A road finally took us to a train station. Chesterfield was a winning stop, we could board a train to Derby. Once at Derby, our good fortune continued, we could board another train to University. University was ‘end of the line’ for Jamie and Toll. For me, another train on the same line took me to Redditch. A short cycle from Redditch took me back home to my family. They were surprised to see me return so quick.

All in all, a great week. So, I cycled less than predicted and did not complete an audax event. However, I cycled some, experienced tough conditions and wild camped rural style. I shared an adventure with some of the UK’s finest audaxers (cheers Jamie and Toll). I had a great Easter with my family. And, to finish the weekend in Style, was able to sup on some JD Tennessee Fire (big thanks Rob) and reflect on my experience.

Happy New Year 2022

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