Thursday 31 May 2018

Tapering to the TAW. (Torn and twisted)

Had such a great feeling at the start of this week. I think this was because it was a 'no-work' Monday (Bank Holiday) and I knew that only about 150k training miles were between now and the start of my TAW cycle race. I cycled an easy 25k to start the week and got extra excited when I received the latest TAW email which included a link to the 'tracker thing'. This 'tracker thing' means that anyone can follow (watch) Jamie and I (and all the other cyclists) race across Ireland as tiny dots on a big map of Ireland. The link is here:, so please follow us! Would be awesome to know some folk are following us and wishing us well.

Tuesday was a rest day. I had Governance meetings away from my usual work base so no commute was possible. I didn't feel the need to push myself and run. In fact, I was feeling happily lazy.

Mid-week and menace struck. I cycled to work with no initial issues and managed to miss a major downpour. I showered and then when I was getting changed my back gave way. Wasn't sure what had happened but I was experiencing some acute pain. This pain continued so I contacted my GP and secured an appointment. My wife and daughter came and picked me up from work (my bike and gear still remains there) and took me to the GP practice. Following my examination, I wasn't given the news I wanted to hear. The Dr felt I had a prolapsed disc and suggested I take pain killers, consider an MRI, stay away from work (sick not written for 1 week) and complete a referral for physiology. Grr! I explained I was planning on racing the TAW next week and I got the expected 'pep talk' about how health is more important than any event and preventing more serious injury etc. The Dr has agreed to see me again next Monday. I do hope and pray all will be well. Contacted Adrian (TAW organiser) and Jamie to keep them updated. Both suggest I wait until Monday, see how I feel and await 'Drs orders'. That initial great feeling I had at start of week is not feeling so great right now.

Woke up Thursday to a considerable amount of pain. Had slept well though - the valium I took the night before had worked well. Struggled to get into my car (feel most pain sat in car seat) and took myself to local swimming pool. Felt nice to swim (probably first swim this year) and I swam 40 lengths (1,000m) which felt mostly fine. Kinda hurt when I had gotten out the pool again. Later in the day walked a short distance around local park which felt quite uncomfortable. I told my ma that I couldn't possibly ride my bike right now (let alone up a hill), she replied 'well, you don't have to  yet'. My mother is right of course. My mother, wife and Jamie are all well wishing and appear optimistic that I will start the race. I so hope they are right.

Monday 28 May 2018

The last big ride before the big, big ride

What a great start to the week, my last but one training week before the 2018 TransAtlantic Way (TAW) cycle race, wahay! This week started with a 200k audax cycle. The route was one of my own DIY numbers and namely the 'Wot No Cross' which I have cycled several times before.
Wot No Cross (213k)
The weather for this cycle was awesome, near perfect. Bright, sunny and yet a cooling breeze. I left my house at early doors and headed for the first control in Broadway. The first part of this adventure meant I cycled very close to where I work - how great it felt once I had passed the turn off for work and onward on my adventure. Always feels funny cycling part of my regular commute but using a different bike - it felt especially weird today because I was cycling a fully loaded bike and attempting to simulate TAW conditions. (How great it would be if the weather was similar, hmmm). Reached Broadway with no issues and only stopped to collect a receipt for POP purposes.

Next stretch was where the hills started. Avoided the real big menace of Saintbury and Fish Hill, passing them by to tackle an easier Cleeve Hill. No fast descent the other side as traffic was busy and parked up. Took a cycle route through parks to reach the centre of Cheltenham where I stopped for another receipt.
My leg to Cirencester was part off-road. I deliberately cycled a stretch of off-road but missed a turn which caused me to cycle more off-road than I had planned. Stretches of this track were ridiculous and big trenches, tree roots and gravel had to be tackled. A short section was bike-a-hike. Lovely to reach Cricklade where I stopped for a quick bacon bap and mug of tea.
Mmmm, breakfast
Next section wasn't too far out and took me to Cricklade. I passed this house which looked like a castle and stopped to take a picture. Have passed this abode a number of times and often wished that it was my domicile. Purchased some rice pudding in Cricklade and was so pleased I had packed a spork. I really need to invest in a survival/army can opener though because there would have been little to no way I could have opened a can. My pudding was in a smaller plastic pot. Guess I might be living off rice pudding during TAW.
Who lives in a house like this?!
My bike felt right which was great. Am sure there was a few items I hadn't packed that'll be needed for TAW but it was pretty much how it will be. Still deciding on shoes vs sandals and should I take shoe covers (they are so bulky). Such thoughts and thinky things were in my head all the way to the next control in Witney. Further rice pudding at this stop. Yup, it's a winner.
Spork and rice pudding, yummers!
Last section home was quite lengthy (about 70k) but followed a lot of lanesy quiet roads that were quite beautiful. Return route took me close to work again - how great it had been to not work today. No rain all day either. Was home about 11 hours after I had left and completed my May 200k for RRtY purposes. Aces!

Two days in the week were my regular to work and back cycle commutes. The latter was awful as the rain had returned with a vengeance. Probably more realistic Irish weather.

Ran on 1 occasion in the week. Nothing special. Just a nice Studley Triangle 5k run.

Spent the weekend thinking some more about TAW and getting bags packed in preparation. The pictures below reveal exactly what I'm taking in my bags. Am sure there will be some slight modifications. Any suggestions etc, please let me know.
Ok, in my 5l Alpkit dry bag, which is attached to my handlebars using a Wildcat harness, I have the following: Calf guards (to help with sore muscles, keeping my legs warm and to prevent midges from biting), down jacket (to keep warm), running tights (to sleep in and cover me up when in a hostel), silk ls base layer (to keep me warm if required), merino ls base layer (warm dry layer for sleeping), cycling shorts (always need a spare), pair of pants (to add decency should I be staying in a hostel) and 2 pairs of socks (1 pair must be kept dry for sleeping). I deliberately chose such a small dry bag (5l) to prevent me taking any more stuff.
In my 13l Aplkit tapered dry bag, which is attached to my seat post with a Wildcat harness, I have the following: Down sleeping bag (toyed with synthetic but this turned out best lightweight/cheap option), sleeping bag liner, Alpkit 'Cloud Base' sleeping mat, Alpkit Bivvy bag, plastic bag (to keep dry stuff dry if bivvy gets wet) and a (currently missing) inflatable pillow (nice one Jamie).

In my final bag, which is a custom made Alpkit frame bag (not sure what volume), I have the following: Hip flask, paperwork (basic route, hostel info, insurance documents etc), pen, usb plug, 2 x battery chargers, cables (usb, phone, garmin), spare light battery, oil, rag, cleats, bolts, gas, gas head, levers, zip ties, patches, boot, multi-tool, disc pads, pump, 'dirty' gloves, 2 x tubes, sun tan lotion, sudacrem, paracetamol, ibuprofen, immodium, lip balm, bum creme, sanitiser, vitamin c tablets, (missing electrolyte), knife, spork, can opener, tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, te-pe, lock, baby wipes and passport. Am sure there may be the odd item missing. Hmm, what have I not included?

I will be dressed and wearing the following (if not wearing will be in a jersey pocket): shoes or sandals, toe or shoe (or both) covers, socks, leg warmers, bib shorts, H20-proof shorts, merino base layer, arm warmers, jersey, gilet, rain jacket, cap, buff, helmet, glasses, gloves, glove liners and a helmet.

My bike will be carrying 2 bottles, a garmin, front light (powered by dynamo hub) and a rear fibre flare light.

Argh! Not long now! Argh!

Completed the week by cycling two short journeys over the weekend. Really, really not long to go now. Maybe only 150k between here and the start of the TAW!

Sunday 20 May 2018

T minus 2 weeks (ish) to TAW!

Lunar's expressions capture how I feel with regards to the looming TAW!
Started my training this week on a high. First adventure was a trip to Roger's for some nice tandem action. Took a hilly route to get to Roger's and then swapped my road bike for his tandem. Together we cycled a 65k route on a wonderfully sunny day and stopped at a lovely cafe near Lowsonford for breakfast. I can never remember the name of this cafe but it's great and it's where we stopped on our first ever tandem adventure together. After our full English, it was a cycle back to Roger's domicile where I swapped bikes once more. Took an easier route home and was pleased with such a great start to the week.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were all regular to work and back cycle commutes. Pretty fine weather on each ride. Wouldn't to be wonderful if Ireland is this sunny when I'm away.

Ran on 2 occasions this week - Wednesday and Sunday. First run was a trek around the Studley triangle. Second run was a cross country affair over the fields of Studley. Felt good to stretch my legs.
Spent some time fretting about the TAW. Just wanted to make sure my kit list was all sorted. I think I am mostly sorted and hope to do a fully loaded 200k tomorrow for test purposes. Above is a picture of my fully loaded machine. Next blog and I'll share what's inside the bags.

Sunday 13 May 2018

TAW - it nears!

Lost my mojo and my focus a little this last week. This resulted in a relatively poor training effort for the week. I still cycled and ran a little, so I guess all was not bad. Oh my goodness, the TAW (TransAtlantic Way cycle race) is less than a month away!

Monday was a Bank Holiday and was spent resting after the Brevet Cymru. I was really glad of the rest too. Recovery is quite an art if you ask me!

Tuesday and Wednesday were both cycle to work and back commutes. And it's about here my training went a bit pants. In fact, I didn't train again until the weekend.
My old and trusted Pearl Izumi gilet
On a brighter note, my rather wonderful Pearl Izumi gilet was fixed! Yay, it cost £7 to get a new runner on the gilet, rather than big bucks to purchase a new gilet. Oh, the art of repair. Less great was the menace of getting my wheel fixed. I contacted Cycle Studio in Redditch and they said it would 'take a month' for them to fix a broken spoke. That, in my mind, is very poor service and borders on ridiculous. I don't think they had any interest in completing a small job. I contacted Vale Cycles in Evesham, they said 'bring it in mate, we'll fix it overnight'. Vale Cycles good, Cycle Studio bad!

Looked at a lot of social media stuff relating to the TAW which was inspiring, frightening and mind boggling. Pushed myself to record a video for media purposes of the pending TAW bike race. Below is my un-edited, interview with self (answering questions I was asked to answer).
Once the weekend came, I got my mojo back. With this renewed focus, I set off on an early morning run. I ran a rendition of the Studley Triangle. I ran off my work associated anger.

Sunday came and my anger returned. My recently repaired gilet had not been repaired at all and the zip was still wonky. Grr. Modern clothing ain't the quality it used to be. I have a shirt that's over 40 years old and still remains fine..
Now and Then
Decided to run off the anger once more and felt better for so doing. This was another Studley Triangle run in the awesome sun. Completed my training for the week with a cycling jolly with Ron and his new bike. Perfect way to end a week.

Monday 7 May 2018

Brevet Cyrmu 2018 (Extended Bonus Edition)

Only 2 training events this (last) week. A cycle commute to work and back (and passed the Mrs on my return) and a 400k audax. Oh the joys!

Work had prevented more training. Ain't this always the way?! Well, maybe I could have pushed myself a little harder...

Anyways, the 'big' event I cycled was the rather awesome Brevet Cymru. A collection of my thoughts and memoirs are presented below:

  • This was the 3rd time I had cycled this event and on each occasion this event was organised by Mark Rigby.
  • I first completed this event in 2011. This was my first ever 400k event. This was used as a qualifying event for PBP.
  • I got lost in 2011.
  • I rode the event again in 2012. That was my second 400k event. I wanted to cycle this route 'properly' and not get lost.
  • I got lost this time around and added about 50k to the total distance.
Brevet Cyrmu 2011
  • I rode solo in 2011 and 2012, this time around I cycled with Jamie and Toll.
Brevet Cyrmu 2012
  • I did not finish in time this time around, though still completed the route.
  • I rode wearing sandals.
  • First control was in Hay-on-Wye. I had previously bounced this control on previous editions. Was nice to stop for breakfast. I had honey and toast. No.5 is alive!
  • The 2nd control was Llandovery. Prior to reaching control, I experienced much menace. Bolt came loose and abandoned bike resulting in a wonky bottle cage. Jamie saved the day and had a spare bolt. Then  my cheap Chinese handlebar extender snapped in half (don't buy cheap goods). Grr. Cycled parts of this section with a guy cycling his first 400.
  • Nice potato at the West End cafe.
  • We took a wrong turn in Llandovery and cycled an additional 40-50k. Am sure Jamie blamed me.
  • I think we saw Llandovery too many times!
  • It was ironic, that at the point we got lost, was pretty much the same place where I had gotten lost before (and added 30k).
  • It was quite a race to reach Tregaron in time.
  • Timewise we made it to Tregaron.
  • We did not have enough time to eat a proper sit down and savour meal.
  • I purchased fruit and pastie and quite enjoyed that.
  • It was about here that I realised I had got quite burnt from the sun. It was mega hot.
  • We saw no Tregaron mountain toads (at least not yet).
  • We saw signs 'beware the Tregaron mountain toad'.
  • Toll started to feel sick.
  • It was very hilly.
  • We reached Newquay, just in time.
  • Toll was feeling sicker.
  • The control kindly stayed open for us 3. I think it was only me who ate - I had crumble and ice cream. (Jamie, on reflection, had a Kit-Kat).
  • It was pitch dark. On previous editions, I could see the sea.
  • We discussed plans of finding a B and B for Toll or getting a return train. nothing materialised.
  • We left the control with an uncertain feeling.
  • Big hills!
  • Whoa, Toll was sick! He puked!
  • We cycled slow for long stretches now and it felt bad that I had no awesome remedy for the sick boy.
  • We tried to find a suitable place to sleep. The churches were all closed. The bus stops didn't look to appealing.
  • We stopped at a bus stop. I think Toll (and maybe Jamie) got a little sleep. I couldn't sleep. I was too awake and too cold. I think the High5 powder I had was full of caffeine too and kept me awake and alert.
  • After so long, we pressed on a little. It was slow going. No suitable sleep spots were found.
  • Another bus stop was found after so long. We tried to sleep again. I think Toll and Jamie got 40 winks. I got the chills and decided to leave the boys.
  • Solo cycling in the dark. I hallucinated at times, though it was more like illusions really. 
  • Very misty every now and then.
  • Cycled into a hedge at one point (I was being silly and closed my eyes and counted to 39). No damage, came to my senses again.
  • Absolutely awesome starry sky. 'He even made the stars'!
  • Morning light appeared. 
  • Oh no, oh yes, signs to Llandovery.
  • Found control, out of time, was closed.
  • Continued and found open garage. Was not looking for a POP, but was so pleased to be able to eat. More pasty and milk shake for me!
  • Found a church with a big porch. Curled up for a spell and tried to sleep - no joy was still too awake and got cold when lying down.
  • Got a strange sense of deja vu!
  • Seemed a long stretch to Blwch. Passed so many cyclists cycling in the opposing direction. Weather must have made folk to want to come out.
  • Did not even consider looking at the Blwch control.
  • Passed some strange place names during last 60k.
Brevet Cyrmu 2018
  • Damn blast. Debris got caught in my wheel and bust a spoke and mashed up my mud-guard. Scratched frame too. Grr!
  • Hilly last section. I kept looking out for Tintern Abbey. Silly me, this route did not require cycling past the abbey on the return (think I was thinking of the Bryan Chapman).
  • Text Mark Rigby and informed that I and the boys would be a DNF.
  • Ah, but finish I did (and so did the boys)!
  • Another adventure. Much memory created! I'll remember the highs (and some lows perhaps).
  • Tried to sleep at the finish, no joy - maybe too buzzed up. I slept about 33 hours after my previous sleep and did not dream about cycling!
  • Tis what it is!

Happy New Year 2022

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