Let’s go out into the rain again

Today’s water was not frozen, it was falling from the sky.  Marvellous.  But it was forecast to clear away…not that it was doing that as fast as either Alan or I would have liked.  In fact, due to mechanical issues meaning that he would be riding his posh steed for a change, we postponed for a little while to see what happened, and then he decided to go out much later, leaving me back in deliberation mode once again.  As it turns out, he actually bailed completely.  Lightweight ;)


I won’t deny I was tempted to follow suit.  But I have got a mad busy week this week.  I don’t have the option to say “sod it” and work out in the evening instead, and I was running out of time to fit a workout in before work today too.  And no exercise is not good for me, or for those around me who have to put up with me either!  After a night when my brain wouldn’t turn off, I was also seriously in need of some head space.  I didn’t really have any option, did I?  Which is sometimes the best way.  Since I was already suited and booted, I decided that I’d go out and see how I got on, on the basis that if it was that horrible I could then bail and at least I’d have given it a go.

Just for once, the forecast was right.  Yes, I set out in the rain, and there was the odd light shower whilst out, but it mostly cleared away, and somewhere over Shapwick the sun even shone.  It was pretty nippy though!  Still my short ride turned into a longer one, and actually a slightly too long one when I realised I was going to be late back, having made up the route on the fly and not quite realised how long it would take.  Oops.  However that motivated me to push it a bit on the way back, which kept me just warm enough to retain communication with my extremities.  Just.

It was a day for things with wings and the like.  The flock of starlings startled up from the field next to me by my passing.  The large heron crossing the road in front of me.  Slowly.  The narcissistic swans reflected perfectly.  Multiple buzzards.  And an Apache demonstrating its aerial superiority up above them all.  My favourite helicopter.  And yes, I have a favourite helicopter :)

AH-64D Apache Longbow.jpgAH-64D Apache Longbow” by “Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army” – by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway – www.army.mil (via internet archive). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s how it went.  Ride.  Suffer.  Hang in there because you haven’t warmed up yet.  Hope it’ll get better.  Head still too busy.  Body starts to feel better.  Out there is good.  Remember to look and to breathe and remind yourself why you’re out there.  Fret.  Ride.  Breathe.  Get distracted by out there, by planning the route, by the time, by starting to feel tired.  Forget to fret.  Let it go.  And finally you’re just riding and you’re on your way home, tired in a good way, the body exercised, the head cleared.  Now that’s why I ride the bike.  Lesson learnt once again.  Think of it as revision ;)

Cycling time: 2:17
Distance: 34.7 miles
Avg: 15.1 mph
ODO: 7333.2 miles

I wanna see the sunshine after the rain

If there’s one thing I hate more than wind, it’s ice.  I have good reason to.  Well, ok, there are probably lots of things I hate more than wind, but we’re talking cycling here, right? ;)  So when I woke up yesterday morning, to a world outside my window where earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone, I really wasn’t sure the 9:00am ACG ride was a good idea.  But I was up, and I didn’t want to not ride, and left to my own devices, would I actually go out later?  So, I um-ed, and ah-ed, and deliberated, and while I was vacillating, Alan posted on the group’s FB page that he was also going to leave it and ride later instead…and voilà, I had a solution, and my mind was made up for me :)

In a brief aside, and mentioned in dispatches, it would appear that two of those brave souls that did go out – Mike and Chris – both went out and went down.  Nothing too serious I gather, and I hope, but I do feel better about my decision now!  That could have been me, and having been told the night before not to fall off…well, I do what I’m told, right? ;)

So later on that day, in another part of the forest, Alan and I did a coffee loop to Sweets.  On went multiple layers, out came the heavy duty overshoes and winter gloves, and yes, it was cold out there, but I wasn’t.  I may be getting the hang of this layering lark ;)  It was just gorgeous.  A beautiful day to be out and not in.  Clear and crisp.  Views galore.  OK, the roads were a little busier than we’d have liked, but they were at least mostly dry and, more importantly, they were ice-free.  Result :)

bike at sweets

It being somewhat later in the day than usual, Sweets was fairly quiet, though we did briefly overlap with a Somerset Cycling/Tor 2000 contingent.  Nice to see you guys :)  Quiet was good because that meant my vat of black coffee came faster than usual, and that the door to the outside world stayed closed and kept the heat in.  Better still, by the time we left there was a little more wind but thanks to the still shining sun, a little more warmth around too.  Pretty perfect riding weather :)

It was just a really nice ride.  Although ‘just’ sounds like I’m demeaning it in some way, which I’m definitely not.  I mean that it wasn’t a training ride, or a long ride, or a lumpy ride.  It was one of those days when it was just good to be out there riding the bike :)  And it’s much easier to get out at this time of year in company, so we’ve got a couple of rides pencilled in for this week too.  Left to my own devices I’m far more likely to bail…sad but true.  I just want to keep getting the miles in over the winter and, in the New Year, start getting some hills in too.  If you consider how things were this time last year and how they are now?  Where 2015 is concerned, I’m already ahead of the game.  *fingers crossed*.  :)

Cycling time: 2:00 ish
Distance: c.30 miles
Avg: 15.5 mph
ODO: 7298.5 miles

I play my music in the sun

I was going to ride today, and then kill two rides with one blog…but the weather and my weak will got the better of me.  I can cope with cold, and wet if I have to, but I really hate wind, and there was plenty of that around this morning and even more due.  So yes, I bailed.  So shoot me ;)  If it helps, I did a kick-ass workout instead, which is better than nowt, right?  Well I enjoyed it anyway, Cassie was less keen on being ignored for a couple of hours, and took up residence on the spin bike’s handlebars!

cassie workout

So before I get even further behind, I should mention that Alan and I went for a very lovely seaside loop on Saturday, with a coffee stop at The New Castle in Kewstoke.  The weather was better, having company was better, and besides I’d rather ride in the sun and enjoy myself than slog my guts out into the wind on my own and be miserable.  So there :P

seaside loop coffee stop view

Cycling time: 2:06
Distance: 32.1 miles
Avg: 15.2 mph
ODO: 7268.5 miles

It’s a cold wind blowing

Things kept happening today to gradually squeeze my available time…but just for once, there was enough time left in the space in-between to also squeeze in a ride.  Which is good because however many valid reasons there have been for not riding, they still feel just a little bit like excuses, and my riding PMA is suffering enough without that lurking suspicion that I’m also sabotaging myself.  However many workouts I do, and I do, and last night’s was awesome, it’s not the same as being out there.  Both my head and body need that reality check.

fields of gold

See that sky?  Those fields of gold?  That was actually today.  Appearances can be deceptive though, as it was about 20°C cooler than it looks!  However I was fairly toasty and warm in my ensemble of many layers, and I wanted to see if it was as gorgeous on top of the Mendips as it was below.  Not until I’d properly warmed up though, so I took a circuitous route around to Burrington Combe rather than heading up Shipham Hill.  As I made my way through the narrow country lanes, thanks to the low sunshine, I was frequently blinded by the light, and was more than a little concerned that any traffic coming up behind me might be likewise.  The shaded Combe was somewhat of a relief on that front, if not others.  As I braved the cattle grid, and passed by the Rock of Ages, all around me the grass was still deep and crisp and even, the first frost of the winter still lingering in the shadows.  I made my way up, somewhat slower than I thought as it turns out, but then I wasn’t pushing it (as if!), and I did get a bit mentally distracted along the way trying to figure out the rest of my route among other things, which was not conducive to focus and speed.  And besides, it felt pretty good, and what’s the rush?

The point was to be riding, and to be enjoying it, and I was, and I did.  Once I’d made it, up on top of the world it was as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be.  The skies were clear and so was my head.  I actually remembered to look around me, to enjoy the views, the flock of starlings being harassed by seagulls.  It was really lovely :)  I still hadn’t quite figured out where to go next, but there was a rather chilly wind, and as my toes were considering severing communication with the rest of my body, I decided to zoom around the top for a bit and then head down Cheddar Gorge…so that’s just what I did.  Fast.  Not quite as fast as when I have others to chase, but very nearly.  And it was just as much fun :D.  My current goal is to beat my best time down there.  It’s good to have goals, right?  And better still to have achievable goals.  Well I think I can do it anyway.  Hopefully soon :)

Cycling time: 2:06
Distance: 30.5 miles
Avg: 14.4 mph
ODO: 7236.4 miles

Oh, and since one of today’s unexpected tasks was taking the newest addition to the vets, here’s one for Rob.  He just loves kittens ;)

sleeping kitten

No hippy chick

If I do say so myself, I do a nice line in handicapping myself.  You’d think standing up was simple right?  Not always.  Welcome to my postural/orthostatic hypotension.  To be fair, I’m used to it, but for some reason it got the better of me last weekend.  It’s not helped by my dietary habits, or white wine, but in my defence, I’d had a steak dinner and not that much wine…!  But nonetheless, mid trip to the kitchen, I found myself waking up on the floor, and the glass that I’d been carrying was in even worse shape than me, and some of those shapes were in me ;)  Oops…  Cue two days of feeling pretty wobbly, and throw in a sore shoulder, some bruises, and a large cut at the base of my right thumb…just where it ought to be on the handlebars!  See, didn’t I do well?

So this Saturday’s jaunt was the first ride in a week for me.  Even though it was supposed to be an easy coffee run, I was joined by Alan and Chris G and they stuck me on the front, pretty much all the way there and back!  As ever, in theory, this should mean that I can go at my own easy pace, but actually usually means I feel like I have to go faster in case those behind me are rolling their eyes, and wondering if it would be quicker walking ;)  Rob joined us in Wedmore, but he’s no tortoise either, so it turned out to be rather faster than some of my coffee runs are!  Good training, or something, right? ;)

Xmas in Glastonbury me in my blog

Still, the sun was shining, the skies were clear and blue, the wind was not blowing, and my winter jacket was a bit too warm!  One of those days when it would be criminal not to be on the bike :)  To top it all off, Glastonbury was being all festive, with the high street closed, stalls everywhere, and a veritable cornucopia of fairy wings and the like.  Gotta love Fairyland!  We even sat outside for coffee and people watching.  At the end of November!   All very fabulous :)  And Rob got hold of my camera…apparently I’m never in my own blog.  No fairy wings for me though…I left ‘em at home *grin*

Cycling time: 1:44
Distance: 29.3 miles
Avg: 16.8 mph
ODO: 7205.9 miles

I’m still looking at my options for next year.  The Etape sort of beckons but since doing it, totting it all up, looks like it would cost around a grand, I think I’ll have to find an alternative.  That’s a hell of a lot of money for one day’s riding!  And don’t suggest the Haute Route, I know my limits.  Besides, as of yesterday, I could indeed stick to playing with kittens.  Meet Cassie, the newest member of the family.  Cute or what? :)



I myself am strange and unusual

Third time lucky…  Today was the third time George and I had scheduled to go for a ride this week but, thanks to abysmal weather, the first time we actually did.  Mind you, having had one of those weeks, I’d decided I was going out this morning whatever the weather!  However, as it turns out, the weather wasn’t precisely balmy, but it was pretty mild, mostly dry, without much wind, and for this time of year, that’s pretty awesome!

George has a penchant for hills.  However few miles she claims to have been doing, she’s always like the Duracell bunny, it never seems to make any difference, she just goes up ‘em the same way she always has, effortlessly and leaving me behind! *grin*.  Still as it was my 3rd best time up the Gorge this year, trying to keep up with her was clearly good for me.  And because we’d gone up, I got to go down Bristol Hill, which was much fun and didn’t involve the brakes once…which is just as well as until I get the rear brake cable sorted, I can’t be relying on ‘em ;)

wet Gorge coffee

It was a very sociable loop, with lots of nattering, and a very good coffee at Bar Italia in Wells.  As everyone knows, it’s the coffee that’s the important bit, right? ;)  Plus you can sit at the counter in the window and watch your bikes, and watch passers by checking out your bikes, and then realise you’ve caught them watching and then exchange grins.  Spot the cyclists in civvies! ;)

reservoir one reservoir fb

We came home the flat way, though not at what you’d call speed.  And, as you can see, to add a little scenic je ne sais quoi to it all, we came back around the very still reservoir, which was very atmospheric ‘n all.  It was definitely better to be out than in :)

I’m pretty tired now though.  It would appear, as if I didn’t know already, that my current “diet” is really not conducive to cycling and I ran out of energy on the way back.  Again.  Not sure what to do about that, to be honest.  Anyway, bearing that in mind, and with tomorrow looking chilly and probably wet, I’ve decided the ACG ride is not for me.  I struggle to keep up on a good day, and it seems unlikely to be one of those.  Besides I need to change the pedals on youngest’s bike, and I can’t do that if I don’t collect them from my folks first, supposing I can do it at all.  Excuses, excuses ;)

Cycling time: 2:04
Distance: 29.9 miles
Avg: 14.4 mph
ODO: 7176.6 miles

Bar Italia

Remember you’re a womble

The Wombles

Which makes sense if you happen to have been listening to the background music at our coffee stop this morning…  I bet they knew what G stands for too :)  And in case you’ve forgotten, it stands for Group, and there’s probably a joke to be made about mobile phone reception out here in the sticks and that today was actually a 2G ride… ;)  The two Gs in question being BK Velo and the ACG – though they’re not exclusive, it’s like a venn diagram, there’s some overlap.  They tend to be faster and have more triathletes amongst ‘em though *gulp*!

The original plan was to go to Mells, something that has been done a few times before, though not usually by me.  It being a fairly hilly route, and me being me, I reserved the right to bail if necessary, and having woken up on the grumpy side of the bed, I nearly did that before we’d even started.  Ever had one of those nights where you dream so much that you wake up tireder than when you went to bed, whilst still being mentally stuck in a slightly different reality?  Yep.  That.  Again.  But hey, I was up, and I’d said I would, so it was going to be done.

We started as 8, which turned into 6 as 2 took an easier route, and then became 7 as we picked up one more in passing in Wells.  It was a bit fast for me, which made it hard work, even if it was probably very good training for me, as I kept trying to tell myself.  It got a bit easier once I finally warmed up…though as ever that took too long!  Though I’d done my best to keep up on the ups before then, the Horrington climb was always going to leave me pootling along at the back, falling further and further behind.  But you know what?  That was ok.  I just cheerfully did things my way.  I quite enjoyed it.  And according to Strava, however dismally my performance may have compared to that of my peers today, it was one of my better ascents of that particular stretch of road, so there :P

coffee still life

It was decided to stop for coffee at the Rock Cake Café first, and then decide what to do next.  My plan, unsurprisingly, was to bail afterwards and go home as directly as possible!  However while we were all warming up in the café, outside the temperature was plummeting and, as it turns out everyone else joined me rather than going on to Mells in the cold and the wind, which was nice.  We got a bit spread out on the way back, with me nearer the front than usual, though I’m not sure how/why that happened.  But once the draggy climby bits to get back over the top of the Mendips were done, t’was time to descend Cheddar Gorge which, chasing others who were leading by example, I totally nailed!  I’d have been even faster if we hadn’t hit traffic near the bottom (not literally!), and even then, it turns out to have been my best time down there ever.  My favourite kind of QOM or, to be fair, my only kind ;)  Oh, and I should probably mention that it was quite a lot of fun too *grin*.

I’m glad I went.  It was nice to be out, and in company, though I apologise if I wasn’t as chatty as sometimes.  But it was a nice route, it blew the cobwebs away, and set me up nicely for the rest of the day.  Methinks I may have earned a pint now :)

Cycling time: 2:01
Distance: 32.2 miles
Avg: 15.8 mph
ODO: 7146.7 miles

The silhouettes you drew here

Better.  OK, there were no Snickers involved, but that was definitely better.
More fuel, less wind, more warmth, and a whole heap more sunshine :D

converging lines

Wednesday’s ride was supposed to be a couple of hours and, as it didn’t go well, it shrank.  Today’s ride was supposed to be an short easy ride just to check the bike was working ok post-tinkering and, since it was going well, it grew.  See saw, margery daw, swings and roundabouts…

still waters

But, as the bike was working well and so was I, out there is where I wanted to be, and being the Master & Commander of my own ship, though enjoying being becalmed today more than most skippers would, I went where I wanted to.  Nowhere else to be, no place I’d rather have been, and it was really rather lovely all ’round.  Odd how things work out, no?

tree tunnel swans shadow

Cycling time: 1:52
Distance: 29.3 miles
Avg: 15.7 mph
ODO: 7114.5 miles

PS: I be quite proud of myself – I changed those wheels, I sorted those brake pads and I indexed those gears…and it all works! ‘Rah! :D

You’re going to reap just what you sow

Well it started well…  I got my errands done, the predicted break in the dismal weather was here on schedule, and around 11.00am I was kitted up and ready, if not raring to go.

Mind you, I hadn’t decided where I was going.  I had some vague idea that hills might be a good idea, and was musing possibilities as I set off.  However on the climb (yes, ok, it’s not really a climb) up to the bypass my calves reminded me that they spent a couple of hours on Sunday ticking cols of a different kind and although my legs had felt ok up to now, would it be alright if I didn’t make them go uphill?

Pen Y Fan views at last

OK, so hills were out, and a flatter route beckoned.  Fair enough.  Best to listen when the body is telling you something right?  (Yes, I know, I never do that either).  Time for the usual kind of flat loop then, more of an enjoy being out rather then get any training benefit kind of thing.  But hey, the sun was shining, I wasn’t cold, and I was out…

…and 10 minutes out, the potholes on the descent of Winscombe Hill claimed another victim.  It may be a very long time since I’ve had a puncture, but there’s no mistaking it when it happens.  One very quick way to deflate both the tyre and my burgeoning good mood.  It was, of course, the rear tyre, isn’t it (nearly) always?  Time to pull over and sort it then *sigh*.  However there was a quiet off-road spot by a house in which to turn the bike upside down, a nice wall to lay stuff out on as I worked, and hey, it had to happen some time, right?  Not only is it a very long time since I’ve had a puncture, I can’t remember the last time it’s happened when I’ve been on my own, and my ineptitude usually means that those with me can’t bear to watch, or hang around forever, so they bail me out!  Still, it would appear I can still do it, and although getting the tyre back on was a bit tricky, it only took me 15 minutes or so all in, which ain’t bad for me.  Nice to know all that kit I carry around with me still works too – especially the little pump which does a nice job of getting things back up to a reasonable psi…

…but not quite high enough really, though maybe I could have tried harder, which led to a bouncier ride subsequently than I like.  Off I went, pleased to discover that the flat open roads tended to be dry and less covered in crap, thus vindicating my “no hills” decision.  But after half an hour of bouncing along into a rather tediously strong headwind, however nice it was out there, I really wasn’t feeling the love, which surprised me somewhat.  OK, so it was windy, but I was finding it harder work that it ought to have been.  And then I remembered that I’d forgotten to have breakfast, and although riding on empty has debatable training benefits, those probably apply to those who don’t have the same day-to-day fuelling issues as I do.  Oh, and to people who also do it properly, as part of a training plan ‘n all.  No wonder my energy levels weren’t up to it.  Ok, so the silver lining of the disaster that is my diet is that I appear to be losing weight, and lighter is generally good in cycling terms, but you still need some energy to push lighter around!  Oops…!

So I decided to cut my losses, cut my route short, and to just have an easy loop around and back home.   Besides which the lovely weather wasn’t due to last (though it did) and I wanted to get the bike washed and cleaned when I got back.  Why so uncharacteristically conscientious you ask?  Well, as my puncture and the state of the roads today demonstrated, as if I needed reminding, it was past time for taking my lovely summer wheels off and putting the winter wheels back on.  Which I really couldn’t do in the state the bike was in.  So clean it had to be, cleaned it was, and clean it is.  And what’s more, it now has its winter wheels on, with the brake pad positions adjusted accordingly, and the gears indexed ok (I think).  Now, considering my degree of technical expertise, this is not a little impressive.  OK, so I had to resort to a Youtube video to help me out, and I haven’t had chance to ride it yet but still, *fingers crossed*…  Go me!  I think I may have to polish it now :D.

bike work

On balance, maybe I should have stayed at home today.  But for all that it wasn’t a great ride, I still feel better for having been out, and the aftermath was constructive.  So that’s ok then :)  And yes, I do work on my bike in the front room.  Well, it’s my front room, why shouldn’t I?  Besides, it’s a darn sight warmer than in the garage! ;)

Cycling time: 1:25
Distance: 21.9 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 7085.2 miles

All I wanna do is take a ride into the blue

Brent Knoll

Work done for the day, with the sun shining, it was time to play.  Out with the winter layers, away with the skin.  Me and the (filthy) bike and the seaside loop.

After the requisite 45 minutes, all was well with the world, and at the beach the low sun reflected off sea and sand alike, blurring the lines betwixt and between, all spread out like mercury fallen beneath the sky.  One for the mind’s eye, not the camera however.

On the way back, overhead and over the hills, the clouds divided the sunlight in biblical fashion, as the winter shadows grew even longer and the afternoon temperature slowly dropped.  It all worked, me included.  All in all, it kinda rocked

Cycling time: 2:00
Distance: 32.2 miles
Avg: 16.0 mph
ODO: 7063.3 miles

happy feet haribo

…as did the bath I had to have to warm up properly afterwards, and the leftover Tangfastics that somewhat miraculously the mob had saved for me.  Recovery food, right? ;)