Saturday 28 September 2019

September PAM

Why on earth did I challenge myself to complete a ParkRun-A-Month (PAM)? I dunno. Well, whatever, I completed my 9th consecutive monthly run on 28.09.2019.
Hiding in the masses
This run was hard. I had too much of a goodnight a few hours prior. My time was 25:21 which surprisingly was faster than my last (handicap) run. Strange considering I put little effort into today but a lot in my last run. To be fair, I think the was the fist time I had ever ran a ParkRun without pushing myself hard (despite still feeling this was a hard run). I was just happy to complete this one. I finished 124/430. 3 runs to go and my 2019 challenge is complete.

Saturday 7 September 2019

September BAM

This weekend saw me complete the September month of my Bivvy-A-Month (BAM) challenge. Only 3 months to go until this challenge is complete. Hmm, just the winter months remaining.

A whole bunch of us camped on this occasion. The wild campers were Doo (myself), Rob dog, Robin and Ben. Aid and Tom also joined us for what was to be their debut wild camping experience.
This adventure started at the Lark. Rob, myself, Aid and Tom figured we'd get a drink whilst we waited for Rob dog and Ben to rock up. Rob and Ben took ages, so we had many rounds of drinks which wasn't good or clever. At some dark hour of the night we ventured on towards our camp spot.
Our camp spot was decided my the majority and was going to be the same spot we camped at last month. Ben and I would have preferred a different 'new' location, but, whatever. We cycled as a group but not all of us had lights - not good and not clever. The 'rozzers' rolled past and told me I had no rear light, I replied that I did (but the battery had failed). They also informed that I had no hi-vis (however, I did have spokely dokely spoke reflectors) and instructed that I cycle in front of Rob (who had a rear light). They were kinda cool really and I was pleased that they didn't breathalyse me.
Once at the camp spot, we set up camp. Rob cooked some delicious sausages - Lincolnshire and Cumberland. The jury is out to which was nicest. We all had a 'night cap' and slowly settled down over the preceding hours. Ron was a bit of a monkey this night - I'll say little more for fear of embarrassing him.
Morning came and how bright and lovely it was. Just as I started to climb out my bivvy, it started to rain. The rain didn't last long and it wasn't long before Rob was cooking breakfast (sausage and egg baps) and Tom and I were making tea. When Ron surfaced he wasn't too well. Ron was not good and Ron was not clever. Ron took home bacon and beans that he was too unwell to cook for us all.

All in all, a great camp. Next time I'm sure Aid will remember a sleep mat (if indeed he comes again). The rest of us should try to be good and clever. Oh man, what an endeavour.

Running the AV handicap ParkRun, handicapped / Down with Rapha!

The Arrow Valley (AV) handicap ParkRun. Never heard of such a thing until recently. It's basically a free, mostly handicap event running the same 5k course as the regular AV ParkRun. It's held on the first Wednesday of every ('summer') month. This September was the last run of 2019 and I decided to take part. Runners have staggered starts (handicaps) depending on their past 10 average ParkRun times (I think). The chart below shows all the participating runners, their average time and their handicapped start time.
I had a 'true' handicap. Only a few days ago I came off my bike and injured my elbow, backside, knee and foot. It was a bit silly for me to run this event but I just wanted to complete a run at least once.
The run didn't take into account my very real handicap. I ran but almost immediately felt like this was a bad idea. I was hurting from start to finish. I caught no runners, however, the 2 that started after me soon passed me on the course. The results - I came last. A disappointing result but at least I finished. Am confident I will beat my AV handicap ParkRun BP next time and hope not to finish last. Only problem is, I'll have to wait until 2020 to have another crack at this.
Final results
The above injury occurred when I fell of my bike. 'Take advantage of the Rapha repair service' they told me. Well, I contacted Rapha and sent them pictures too and this was their response - 'Thank you for submitting a repair request and sorry to hear of your crash. After assessing your repair request and the images you've uploaded, we've determined that we are unable to accept your request on this occasion due to insufficient proof of purchase'. Grr, down with Rapha!

Monday 2 September 2019

The Goat's Goof aka The Giant's Tooth

The Giants Tooth
Everyone knows the legend surrounding the 'Giant's Tooth', right? What, no? Ok, below is the legend in full, as cited on some site on the Internet:

The Legend
Bica was a Giant who lived in a cave in Llangrannog with his slave who's name was Lochtyn. The Villagers were having a fete and Bica wanted to look smart for the occasion so he ordered Lochtyn to clean his shoes the night before and prepare his breakfast for the morning. Lochtyn did so and once he had achieved a good shine, left the shoes in the opening of the cave for Bica to put on the following morning along with the fish he had caught for his breakfast.
Dawn broke and seagulls appeared on the shore and around the entrance of Bica's cave. News spread fast amongst the gulls of a free meal of fish at the caves entrance and squabbles broke out with feathers flying and talons ripping. This kafuffle woke Bica and at the same time the gulls flew off. Bica got dressed ready for breakfast and his day out amongst the villagers, so he went out to put on his shoes but saw that they were covered in scratches and his breakfast was gone. He summoned Lochtyn thinking that he had not done his job and was so angry that he ordered Lochtyn to live a life of solitary on an island North of the cave. (that island now bares the name of Ynys Lochtyn, translated into English means Lochtyn's Island) Bica was not going to let this happening spoil his day so he headed up the hill to the village fete.
By now he was feeling very hungry and on a nearby hill he spotted berries growing, so he bent over to take a bite but as he did so he bit into the hard rock that they were growing from. With this he let out a loud yell of pain and rushed back to the beach to rinse his mouth in the rivers water. As he stumbled around in pain suddenly out dropped his tooth onto the beach. (Carreg Bica is known today as The Giants Tooth) Bica never did make it to the fete that day and never saw Lochtyn again.

Some crazy Audax Event Organiser, named Will, decided to base this legend around a cycling event he named, wait for it ... The Giant's Tooth. This event was 500k+ and had around 8,000m of climbing. Will is well known for 'Will's Hills'. Hmm.

What follows is my re-telling of the legend. Basically, my story of cycling Will's event. I've named this story 'The Goats Goof'.

The event started at Felix Road Adventure Playground where around 40 cyclists all met up. I didn't know any of the cyclists at the start of this event. It was easy to spot Will though - he was ensuring we were all fed and watered. Will's curried rice was delicious. After being suitably fuelled up, we all left together at 9 o'clock, heading into the dark night.

Groups formed almost straight away and cycled faster than I was really comfortable with, however, was pleased with the tow when I could tag on the end. The group I was part of consisted of 6 cyclists in all but myself and another girl kept dropping off the back and then catching up. This catch up, get dropped scenario repeated itself over and over. When me or the 'other girl' were dropped, we didn't cycle together as we were dropped at different times - it was like we were playing cat and mouse with the group. When in the group, cycling was fast and it allowed me to chat with all the group members. I was asking people where they were from and most in this group were from London. It was interesting knowing if people had made plans or had strategies for this event. The 'other girl' commented that she could go without sleep for 36 hours and I kinda stole that fact and used it as a mantra for myself. I had taken a bivvy with me because I feared I might not finish the event and thought perhaps it was a bit ambitious for me. This stage took us over the Severn Bridge and past Llanath Court (psychiatric Hospital) that I had visited before on occasions with work related business. After 62k we had reached the first control, a McDonalds in Llanfoist.

I spent little time at the control wishing to push on at my slower pace and wait for others to chase or tag along with should they cycle pass. This was a good plan as the group I was cycling with earlier caught me up and I cycled with them once again at their crazy pace. The 'other girl' was in this group again too and just like earlier we kept getting dropped and then catching up again. The cat and mouse phenomena repeated itself. We encountered a little rain during this 100k+ stage but nothing too major. My knees were starting to niggle a little too but surprisingly no saddle sore. The next control was in Pensarn and was another McDonalds.

Some of the group, notably a couple from London, took a sleep at this control and I believe they both scratched. Like before, I ate relatively quickly and set off soon after finishing my food. It felt great to brush my teeth at this control (the little things really help). I cycled most of this stage alone and felt pretty good in myself as I knew I was relatively near the front so to speak. My spirits felt high and I felt comfortable. Then the rain started to fall and heavy it became. I still felt relatively great and was enjoying this experience. So pleased that I felt 'on form' despite cycling little over recent months. It was great to see the night turn into day, though I was a little disappointed that I didn't see a sunrise. The rain got heavier and heavier and I didn't much care as it was a 'warm wet'. A certain descent came and I zoomed down at great speed, maybe 50-60 kph and then crash, bang, wallop! I came off my bike at the bottom of this hill as I was trying to turn a corner. Ouch! I must have slid about 30 feet on my side - the bike went in the opposite direction. I picked myself up almost straight away and was worried the bike would be written off. Thankfully my bike was ok, just the brake levers took some damage and both left and right were bent inwards. I bent the levers back and right worked just fine, left was just a little more resistant when pressing the lever. I was not so ok and had cut my hand and blood was pouring from my elbow, hip, backside, knee and foot (all on the right side) but nothing broken. Sadly my gore-tex jacket was ripped to shreds (bye bye lobster jacket). My Rapha jersey was ripped too (thank goodness they have a free repair service) along with my arm warmer and tights. My right shoe also suffered and the ratchet system went awol (was weird cycling with one tight shoe and one loose shoe). My Carradice bag also suffered and a hole now sits on the one pocket. My helmet also got bashed and had some damage and the light (newly purchased) was broken into bits all over the road (was able to put it back together but the batteries could not be found). Wowser, what a menace fall! Reality check - I was ok, bike was ok. Picked myself and continued on my way cycling just a tad slower. Not long after this fall, the 'other girl' from earlier had caught me. It was nice to chat just for a while and take my focus off this fall. I spotted an open bakery with cycles parked outside and decided to use  this as my control in Fishguard. Had now cycled 225k and was at the furthest point out.
Not so bad after a clean up
Folk in the bakery appeared quite alarmed when I walked in. I got chatting to the couple of cyclists in there and the one fellow was keen to take my pic as he liked 'gory stuff'. Some customers in the shop helped me find the bathroom and I was able to clean up a little. Was nice to chill out here for a spell and eat a delicious full English breakfast. The 'other girl' rocked up here too and joined our small group for breakfast. Some conversation suggested I quit here and get a train back to Bristol. I figured I was half way (which I really wasn't, just felt like it because I was at the furthest point out) and expressed how awesome I would feel if I were just to complete this event. My stubbornness would not let me quit.

I left the control on my own and cycled along the coast which was just so beautiful. The sea was all kind of different coloured blues and God's creation just amazed me more and more. The roads were like a roller coaster and would constantly go up and down. After so long, a chap called Lee had caught me up and we chatted for a while. It's always nice hearing the stories of others who had cycled the same events as I, and Lee had cycled PBP and the Transatlantic Way. I lost Lee and sped onto the next (un-official) control, 'Steve's House'.

Steve was a friend of Will's and had very kindly offered to provide us cyclists with a cup of tea. The top of his drive had a park tools 'thing' with an AUK sign written on it and info leading us to his house. Steve's house was huge, it was a farm house but looked like a mansion to me. Some cyclists were leaving Steve's as I was entering and commented 'you're in for a treat here'. The cyclists were not wrong! Steve's wife (?) made me a lovely bacon bap, his kids (?) brought me a cup of tea and Steve made sure I took away some delicious cake when I left too. Steve was kind enough to remove the bottles from my bike and fill them up again for me. Nice one Steve, real generosity. Steve's bathroom was the size of my house. Lee rocked up not long after me and shortly after him, the 'other girl' rocked up too. Steve was interested in knowing who every cyclist was when they entered his house and would text Will letting him know we had arrived and were safe. When the 'other girl' entered, she introduced herself as Emily. (Light bulb moment!). I asked her surname and of course it was 'Chappell', wow, I had been following her blog for years and it only just clicked who she was (a member of the 'Adventure Syndicate', a cycle courier who 'took on the world').

Left Steve's house and had cycled about 242k at this point. The route followed the coast and I was awarded with many spectacular views. At 260k I stopped in Gwbert to answer a question at an 'information' control. Emily Chappell whizzed past me here and I never saw her again on this ride. The voices in my head were telling me how cool it was to reach the half-way point before her (not because I am competitive in the slightest) and provided me with a hope that I would finish this event.
Cycled much of the next stretch on my own again and was really enjoying this experience. I'm not really a fan of hills, yet was enjoying these climbs. I think the high-light of this event came when I was able to spot the Giants Tooth. So beautiful.
The Goats Goof
Stopped at local pub here in Llangrannog and feasted on an overly expensive fish-finger sarnie. Wow, I had cycled 280k by now and was starting to feel a little tired. I write little notes on adventures such as this to help remind me of happenings - I must have been tired, I was not able to decipher my own writing.

My head space re-calls little of the section between LLangrannog and Tregaron. I do remember big hills and was surprised to not see any signs stating beware of the Tragaron mountain toads. At the Tregaron checkpoint, I had cycled 325k. A local shop was used for the control and I ate a most lovely tuna baguette. Being so tired, I figured I would just close my eyes for 10 minutes whilst camped out on a bench. I didn't actually sleep but awoke to a female voice asking if they could park their bike next to mine as they closed their eyes for a spell on an adjacent bench.
This voice belonged to Anisa. After a short break on the benches we left the control together and like earlier sections with Emily, we kinda cycled in a cat and mouse fashion. At some point, Lee from earlier joined us both and we then cycled as 3 'mouse-keteers' all the way to the very finish. I  got to know a whole bunch about Anisa and Lee and consider them both 'cycling greats'. Anisa had cycled huge events like the Trans Continental Race (and I think was 2nd female to finish). Lee was runner-up Audax points champion last season and hopes to win this season. I could not believe I was cycling such an X rated event alongside all these cycling greats. Emily, Anisa and Lee were all great individuals and very humble too. It was great hearing their stories, sharing their wisdom and laughing and singing with them at times too. Lee, Anisa and I cycled until the day turned into night and we passed through MOD ranges before reaching a pub in Senny Bridge at the 384k mark.

As a group of three we cycled hours together and would sing songs, talk much nonsense and share stories to keep us all going. At times we would push our bikes up the seriously big hills and at other times we would speed down ring-twitching descents. We went up and over the Devil's stair case and up and over his elbow. Up and down, repeat, repeat. At 422k we found another McDonalds and Lee was keen to close his eyes for a spell and I believe he actually dropped off. I closed my eyes too, but only for a few mins. Some drunken lardy guy banged the window, hurled abuse at us and told us to leave. We didn't feel threatened but felt that was our cue to leave all the same. In fact, I'm not sure if this was the McDonalds at Pontypool at the 456k mark? Either way, we stopped at both McDonalds. I was definitely whacked mentally and physically by now regardless.

The last section was tough and I essentially tagged along, gritting my teeth at times to keep up. Anisa and Lee were great company and helped while away the hours. It was interesting seeing the dark turn into day and this time around we saw a sunrise! It felt great to cross over the Severn bridge in daylight and assured the finish was nearing. Leaving Wales and being back in England felt good - nearly home. Back into Bristol, located St Marks Road and used the ATM for our final control proof. Woo Hoo! We had completed the Giants Tooth!
Anisa, Doo and Lee
What an awesome event. I truly loved it. 516k and over 8,000m of climbing. Great company - big thanks guys. My first ever 500k event completed. Pleased as punch!
The Giants Tooth, 516k, 8.25 AAA points

Will, the organiser, lived just around the corner so we posted our brevet cards through his door. I tapped his door too and cool as boots, he answered. We were able to tell him how awesome this inaugural event was. Will's hills. Will's hills....

Anisa, Lee and I finished this event in just over 35 hours (time limit was 35:50 I think; I'm led to believe that less than half who started, finished?). A very tough event, with an interesting distance especially as it started at night and the ensuing sleep deprivation that followed. A truly x rated event, no designated sleep stops, fierce head wind and heavy downpour on the way out plus a spill. Oh, and Will's hills. Oh, and Will's hills..

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&#...