To keep my troubles distant

I am three rides behind.  Nothing new there then.  What can I say?  I’ve been busy!  However, many things come in threes, as has been said before, and it is time I caught up a little.  So…

I have ridden with friends from far, from near, and with no-one at all.

velotonUK many of the ACG cherry blossom
With few, with many (16 of the ACG!), with none at all.

I have ridden a ride with three stops, and one with three inner tubes.

horse and groom White Horse double puncture

I have ridden happily within myself, pushed myself, and gone beyond myself.

There have been flats and ups and downs.

And there has been coffee and lager and cider…a girl has to rehydrate after all… ;)

artisan coffee lager cider

And you know what?  It’s all good.  I bl**dy love riding my bike :D.

Cycling time: 3:15
Distance: 51.4 miles
Avg: 15.8 mph
ODO: 4331.2 miles
Cycling time: 1:39
Distance: 27.4 miles
Avg: 16.4 mph
ODO: 4358.7 miles
Cycling time: 2:35
Distance: 37.8 miles
Avg: 14.6 mph
ODO: 4396.5 miles

White Horse Challenge 2014

I woke up on Sunday morning, actually excited about doing a sportive.  And it’s been a while since that was the case.  I don’t know why, I think it’s because I’ve had hints of form lately, my weekday rides had gone fairly well, and had kicked my PMA off a bit.  With a lovely weather forecast, no kids at home, it really didn’t matter how long it took, I was going to get to spend a day around lovely scenery, riding my bike in the sun.  That’s never a bad thing :)

So, the alarm went off, and ok, I won’t pretend I bounced out of bed, but I was up and at ‘em fairly easily, with the sun rising, blue skies overhead, and that general feeling of optimism about the day.  The White Horse Challenge starts from Shrivenham, which is only an hour or so away, and this year was to be my third.  2008, 2013, and 2014.  Numbers to conjure with, like 501 (very Levi’s), being my rider number, noted from the website beforehand, as instructed, so as to make registration easier.  We would see…

As I arrived at HQ, I saw some of the ACG there already, walking towards the hall.  Later than them, I was still early enough to be marshalled into a parking space just around the corner in the little tarmac car park there.  Hard standing is always nice, easy walking distance from HQ is even better.   I decided to go and register before gaffing for a change, what with it being so close.  Registration numbers were organised in batches, and since I was in the 501+ group, finding me couldn’t have been easier, and with the usual spiel, “map and cable ties over there, help yourself to coffee”, my timing chip was stuck on the left hand side of my helmet, and I was done.

I spotted the ACG peloton lounging around the stage and joined them briefly, but I wasn’t up to their level conversationally today, let alone on the road, so I excused myself after a bit, and headed back to the car, via a slightly smug walk past the queueing gents to the Ladies – sometimes being a minority is great :)  There were portable toilets outside, but if you don’t have to, why would you?

Back at the car I faffed.  A little, not a lot.  Sunny it may have been, but it was still pretty nippy.  However since I was riding for Cyclosport, and I have Cyclosport kit, deciding what to wear had become a whole heap easier than it might otherwise have been.  So, lightweight longs, short sleeve Cyclosport jersey, long sleeve heavier Cyclosport jersey, Cyclosport gilet, mitts, windproof overshoes, and a couple of buffs – neck and head.  Which reminds me I still haven’t relocated one of them, I must have a better look at some point!

riders registering coffee facilities

No sign of anyone ACG ish in the carpark, or at HQ where I loitered near the start with intent.  At  some point Guy walked past me and then back, at which point we did have a brief chat.  The lads were up for trying for a sub 5 hour time, which was/is totally beyond me.  Nice though it was of him to ask if I wanted to join them, what would be the point?  I’d just get dropped, or let them down, so I excused myself once more.  OK, yes, sure, I was a little sad about it, but hey, let’s be realistic.  A little while later I spotted them all standing all ready and joined them for a bit to wait instead – that I could do.

waiting for the off flowers

At some point the relevant time came, and riders were allowed over the start line with very little fanfare.  Well, none actually.  I set off ahead of the others somehow, but it didn’t take long for them to pass me and head off into the sunrise.  Probably somewhere around the first draggy hill which isn’t really a hill I guess but feels like it, as it’s only a mile or so in, and I was a long way from warmed up, unless feeling like death warmed up as I crawled up it counts!

wootton bassett

After that things got a little easier.  Things got warmer, including me, though the wind and air were still pretty nippy rushing past me.  The first 25 miles or so are pretty flat, allowing you to get into your stride, so to speak, admire the scenery, and just enjoy being out there.

broad town first real climb

This is all familiar territory for me.  My in-laws live just up the road.  Well, soon to be ex-laws I supposed.  Out-laws?  To be honest, if I’d remembered that, this sportive might not have been on my list, but somehow I’d sort of forgotten, possibly because I’ve done so many sportives now that they do tend to blur into one a bit, and also because I did remember how beautiful this route is.  Still, as I pootled my way through Purton and Wootton Bassett, sorry Royal Wooton Bassett, and the like, I did have to do a bit of mindfulness, and focus on the now not the then and the what was.  However there was plenty to look at.  Cricklade had its Town Crier yelling as we went past.  The lady Mayor was out in Wooton Bassett, waving us by.  Pretty villages, flowers, thatched cottages, and beautiful countryside, what’s not to love?

The first big climb of the day was upon us – at Broad Town.  I know there’s a white horse on it, but with the sun rising behind the hill and casting it all into shadow, today I couldn’t see it.  I’ve done this climb several times, and it’s one I like.  I like it even more when it isn’t covered in snow, as it was last March!  It wiggles up through trees, isn’t massively steep, and goes on long enough for my crawler gear to engage – all the boxes ticked for me really.  Some others weren’t enjoying it so much, so some of the other hills later on were going to prove a real challenge for them, something I didn’t tell them, obviously!

pretty out there me in the sun

Once up the hill we turned right, to ride across the top, with views, and fields of stunning yellow oil seed rape, and it was just a joy.  The descent the other side wasn’t so much fun – it’s technical, shaded, with a lousy road surface, but came complete with warning signs and marshals.  Once it settles down a bit though, I got a bit of what I do best, all the way from there to the first food stop, flying along, fast, flat, fun…  Note to others sitting on my wheel – your shadows betrayed you…and it’s kinda unfair to take a ride for a few miles and then overtake me and head off!  Oi – no fair!

Ah well, not the first time, won’t be the last.  I didn’t really feel the need to stop but figured that it’s hard to review a ride properly without experiencing all of it, and I’m glad I did.  Having grabbed a few photos and half a banana, someone called my name.  It took a while to register since, if I’m doing a sportive on my own, I tend to presume I’m going to stay that way and tend to be off in my own little world.  It turned out to be Alex, one of my twitter friends, who I’ve met before, albeit only briefly at last year’s aborted Endura Lionheart.  It was nice to see a familiar face, and even nicer to be invited to join him and his mates to ride for a while.

first food stop view eating at the first food stop

Well, good plans and all that…  We hung out for a while.  Alex very chivalrously leant me his wheel to sit behind for a while.  His mates mostly disappeared, and I predictably dropped like a stone as we crawled up the A4 past the next white horse at Cherhill, once again a place that holds a lot of no-longer pleasant memories for me.  We weren’t massively popular with the traffic.   All of us heading east, with a time trial going on going west, meant the cars were sort of picking their way through us, and I was glad it was still early in the day and not too busy.  Once again it was a beautiful place to be on a day like this, there were some great jerseys to admire, and once the climbing is done, the flying stretch along the A4 towards Avebury is a blast, which is when I passed Alex and rather than picking him up as I’d meant, kind of accidentally dropped him.  But I was having so much fun, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles, etc.

cherhill marlowe jerseys

Avebury always seems to go too fast for somewhere that is so big.  A couple of minutes, quick glimpses of standing stones, and you’re through and heading along the next lovely rolling section.  It would be easy to overdo it here, but I knew the next white horse would be along shortly, so I kept it sensible and spent some time sitting behind an Ireland jersey and conserving my energy.  Oddly for ages I couldn’t quite keep up with him, and then suddenly I’d gone past him and he fell away too.  Well, maybe he’d been pushing it, maybe he didn’t want to sit on a girl’s wheel, unlike some ;)

avebury hackpen hill 

You can see the whole of the climb ahead of you from a long way off.  Alex was back with me now, and thanks to his reminder I remembered that one of my favourite downhills comes afterwards, which made the climb far more enjoyable.  It’s steeper than Broad Town though, at least initially, and bendier, but it’s more open so there’s plenty to enjoy visually on the way up, to distract you from how you’re feeling.  There were a few walkers by now, to be negotiated carefully, as there were some cars going both ways, and a fair few other leisure riders hurtling down and grinning at us as we went up.

hackpen views hackpen climbing riders

There were a few spectators at the top, complete with cowbells, and a red Ferrari.  I commented on how nice a car it was, he said it was a nice hill, which seemed a little, well, random.  Never mind, time to head for Marlborough.  Man, that’s some fun riding.  Fast, straight, clear…grins from ear to ear :D.  By the time we reached Marlborough I’d somehow managed to lose Alex again, and nearly lost myself.  There were no signs and the marshal who was supposed to be pointing us all to turn left on the high street was deep in conversation with a local, and nearly missed me as I nearly missed him!  Luckily I saw him, just as he got with it enough to wave in the right direction, besides, I was pretty sure I knew roughly where I was going.

tree lined agriculture

Out of Marlborough, left past the marshals with wine gums and cheery chat, to negotiate the country lanes along the valley that we did on my 40th birthday ride last year.  Last year I was in agony, this year I wasn’t, and it was definitely better this way!  There were some lumpy bits and one really steep one that somehow I’d managed to completely forget, no idea how, and it was quite a challenge – proper steep too, or at least it seemed that way to me.  But I’m ok with hills now, I know I can get up them, and this one was no exception.  Hard work, but doable.

second food stop national speed limit

Time for the second food stop.  I took photos, stashed my gilet, and grabbed corn chips, a savoury snack that went down really well.  There was one portable toilet, and one growing queue.  Alex arrived behind me, didn’t really stop, just exchanged a few words before heading straight off.  It took me longer to catch him than I thought.  Not queueing was not a wise move, as my bladder decided I should have stopped, and got fairly insistent about it.  The roads just seemed to be dragging now, with wind, and nowhere to stop, and a body totally distracted and not riding well.  Finally, and a little ironically maybe, I came across an industrial warehouse place, called WHS Logistics or some such, and a quiet corner down the side where I disturbed some very cute bunny rabbits before sorting out my logistics.  I took the opportunity to eat and take a gel before setting off again.  And found Alex.

This was the hardest stretch.  Which we did together for a while.  Slow grind, more of the same old countryside, average speed dropping, head drooping, brain zoning out in the patterns on the road…that gel hadn’t come soon enough, but at least I had taken it.  At some point we parted company – again – I think I’d zoned out too far.  I just had to do the pace my legs were doing, not faster or slower, and it just kinda worked out that way.  After a while I started to feel better, helped by the fact that nonetheless the miles were being eaten up, and the end was getting nearer.  I may have felt better but I knew that the last big hill of the day was still ahead of me, the timed KOTH, gratuitous detour, that is Uffington.  Another one where you know the white horse is there but never see it!

uffington ahead me  uffington bends

And, surreally enough, I enjoyed it.  Done it before, know I can do it, and this time I seemed to be suffering or struggling less.  I just sat back and got on with it.  Took photos for the first time, chatted to the odd bystander and the inevitable photographer, grinned to myself, and yes, enjoyed it.  Mad :).

I must have been worrying about it more than I thought I was though, because even though there was a bit more up and down afterwards, I was feeling infinitely better, and was on the finishing straight, mentally and physically.  I chatted to another rider, who was local, for a bit, and at the 5km to go sign, we pushed off and headed for home.  I sat on his wheel, apologetically but he didn’t mind, the entire way in, at proper speed, and loved every minute of the sprint for home.

And just to round things off perfectly, I arrived back at HQ to roll over the timing mat, the much faster, beat me by about an hour, ACG posse were waiting there and cheered me over the line, absolutely and totally making my day :)  Having set off, knowing my recent history and form, and last year’s time, I’d been thinking maybe 7 hrs.  However my official time was seconds over 6 hours.  My ride time was 5:49:09, one second different, and slower, than last year.  I did the hills a little faster, faffed at stops less, and was on my own this year so must have been a little slower where group riding would have helped, and I was just over the moon with it.  Big grin.  And so nice to have friendly faces around me for the après ride, even if I probably did come across as a bit mental *grin*.  I was just so pleased; my longest ride of the year so far and it was so much better than I’d expected.  Yep, I was feeling good :).

green tshirts apres ride in the sun

There wasn’t much to hang around for now, the ACG having been there forever already were off, and I didn’t fancy sitting on the grass and chilling out by myself – not when I could be heading for home and a pint of lager somewhere.  We all headed our separate ways, and me and my happy face and silly sunburn marked hands headed back to the car park.  White Horse Challenge – done.  Again! :)

Cycling time: 5:45 – SILVER
Distance: 89.6 miles
Avg: 15.6 mph
ODO: 4279.9 miles

PS – sorry Alex! 

timing medal

What’s new pussycat?

When the weather is this nice, it’s hard to find the time to write about it, I’d rather be doing it!  And then when there is time, the ride was a while ago, and the next ride looms, and…well, let’s just say that last Saturday’s ACG ride is going to be a pictorial record! ;)  For that record, three of us went to Glastonbury for coffee, 5 of us did a longer Somerton loop.  I was not one of those, with the White Horse Challenge due the next day, I was supposed to be taking it easy :)

signs of change gathering ACG

riders ahead riders behind    Tor tour


And no, I have no idea what it’s doing there… :)

Cycling time: 1:51
Distance: 28.5 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 4190.3 miles


I’m away with the fairies now

a sign

As I sat waiting to turn left onto the A38, an older gentleman was sat opposite me waiting to turn right.  I was on my Cinelli, he was in his yellow convertible Ferrari.  And I thought to myself that as Italian stallions go, at that precise moment, mad though it may seem, I would rather be on mine, than in his.  This may seem strange.  It may in fact be strange.  But the truth is stranger than fiction, and this is no word of a lie.

wide open and wet

There were two very happy jackdaws in Mark.  Have I ever mentioned that I quite like jackdaws?  All dapper and silvery in the sunshine, they were busy being exceedingly pleased that enough remains in the county coffers to cut the verges.  What looks like mere grass cuttings to you and me clearly looked a lot like eiderdown to them, and was being carted away in chunks to line their nests.  Had their brave hearts already won fair maidens?  Or was this part of creating a boudoir to attract the lucky birds upon whom they had grand designs?  I’d ask, but quoth the raven, “Nevermore.

sheep and the Tor

Near Shapwick I overtook a bumblebee.  We were both flying along in the same direction, possibly equally inelegantly, and I went past with it at precisely eye level.  For some reason this made me giggle.  I wonder at what level it could see me?  Compound eye level presumably.  And if it would have made it giggle if bumblebees could giggle?  Can they giggle?  Or are bumblebees as a whole so fed up of being told how aerodynamically impossible their flight is that as a species they have had a sense of humour failure and that buzzing you hear is just them trying to drown it all out, while mentally repeating “urban myth” over and over in self-soothing mantra stylee.  By the way, I’ve written the word giggle too often; apparently I am semantically satiated.

dark tree one

The times they are a-changing.  Oh, and how!  And the bugs they are a-hatching.  I’d really like to know how to avoid inhaling/eating/carrying home in my bra* them.  One presumes the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.  But if there had been much of that then there would have been less of them, so that’s not helping solve the problem.  I brought some home with me.  A few of them even survived the journey, to go forth and multiply somewhere they were most definitely neither expecting nor supposed to be.  Thus the gene pool of small black flying irritating things locally is enhanced, and I have probably served to make the problem worse rather than better, though I feel that their extinction was unlikely anytime soon and therefore find my conscience remarkably untroubled on that matter.  Maybe it makes up for the ones I ate.   (*delete as appropriate).

A weed is just a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered, or but an unloved flower.  A plant that grows somewhere it was neither intended nor wanted to be.  But weeds can be beautiful too.  As with so many things, it’s all just a matter of perspective.  Take the dandelion.  It doesn’t sound like much.  But its name derives from the French ‘dent de lion‘, meaning ‘lion’s tooth’, which refers to its deeply toothed, deep green leaves, and which is positively poetic.  In your lawn, in the cracks on your patio, it’s a weed.  But someone has left it here, it’s not doing anyone any harm, and looked at with the right eye, it’s practically a chrysanthemum.  A word that once won me a prize when I spelt it out loud correctly.

approaching Mudgeley

The sands of time in the dandelion clock have run dry, I think it’s time to take my leaf…  It’s a lady’s excuse me, not a gentleman’s though.  Maybe you don’t think I’m a lady but, as I think we’ve now established, it’s all a matter of perspective.  Nonetheless I’m tired of dancing, and beggars can’t be choosers.  Shall I show myself out?

Cycling time: 1:51
Distance: 31.4 miles
Avg: 16.9 mph
ODO: 4161.8 miles


blue sky thinking

Can’t hold the clouds at bay

bad temperd me

I spent most of yesterday being cross that I hadn’t managed to ride.  Cross with life, cross with myself.  As I sat on my exercise bike squeezing a workout into the remaining time available to me,  my only real consolation was the thought that at least today was due to be a clearer day, from both a timetable and weather perspective, so the odds of a ride were more in my favour.

And ride I did.  Me and my filthy summer bike went out and enjoyed some sunshine.  I even ran an errand whilst doing so, which I’m always oddly pleased about.  I may love riding my bike, but I’m rubbish at using it as a form of sustainable transport.  I don’t use it to get from A to B, I just use it as a gym replacement, and I sometimes feel a little bit like a traitor to some unspecified green cause.  So when I do actually manage to do something constructive using the bike, usually in a two birds one stone way, rather than deliberately it has to be said, I’m still just a little bit proud of myself.  This time my my errand involved a quick stop in Winscombe which set me off in that direction, and left me to make the rest of the route up as I went along.

The mental process involved sort of went like this…

…I am riding.  Riding is good.  Man, riding is good.  But I need to get better at it, what with the whole being left in the dust by everyone thing.  So I need to go up a hill.  Which hills do I like?  And yes, there are hills I like.  Cue mental shuffling through a short list…  Where would climbing those hills leave me?  Is that somewhere I would like to be?  Where would I go from there?  Does that work with a two hour window?  Which finds me wriggling my way through to Wrington, and brought me to the lovely climb that is Burrington Combe, and then to the top of the Mendips, which is a very beautiful place to be on a sunny Spring day.

approaching Burrington Combe hello Combe not rocks views through

Right, so I’m at the top.  On top of my world.  The Rock of Ages has once more failed to break me, and actually, it’s gone surprisingly well.  Where shall I go now?  At some point I have to go home right?  But not yet.  Time to kill, time to enjoy the Mendips having made the effort to get up there.  Why not check out some of the bits I don’t do so often?  Like that odd almost North York Moors-like bit in the middle on the top that’s sort of neither here nor there, just before going down the Old Bristol road to Wells.  I like it there.  It also has ladybirds :)

open moor bike out and about

lady bird one lady bird two lady bird three

Right.  Time to go home.  But how?  Wells, Burcott, Fenney Castle, Wedmore…?  Yes, but that’s way too boring, do it all the time, snooze and you lose…  Tell you what, let’s go through Wookey.  I don’t go that way very often.  And then I can cut across and join the Nyland loop and get home that way.  Ooh, but then again, you know what…?  Well, one hill isn’t really enough, I should probably do two, right?  And if I did that, then I could just go straight along the top, down the Gorge, and be home in no time.  Right then, oh go on then, how hard can it be, why not?  Deer Leap it is :)

up deer leap top of the leap vista selfie in blue

Yes, apparently I can still get up there.  There were a couple of twitchy front wheel moments; the Cinelli is a tad prone to them.  There were also a couple of stupid motorist moments.  Now is apparently the season for taking groups of yoof and cramming as many of them as possible into a small low insurance group car, to be driven by the one inexperienced eejot with a Mummy and Daddy who thought it was a good idea to buy him that car, with mates who can’t decide whether to egg him on to drive past you at all costs or to yell insults out of the window when they finally do pass you, or presumably both.  Somewhere there is an analogy to be made between them and sardines in a tin, but I can’t be bothered to work it up and it would be wasted on them anyway.  Besides which, there’s something delightfully old skool about “slag” as an insult, and I’ve heard way worse! ;)

Somewhere along the way to the top of the Gorge, my mind was finally a million miles away, wherever it is that it goes when the body is working well, the eyes distracted by the road vanishing past in a chiaroscuro of tree shadows and broken sunlight; lost in that nowhere in particular place where all the mental clouds have been chased away.  Pretty much as zen as I get.  Very…something.  And flying back down the Gorge sure didn’t make me feel any worse :D

Cycling time: 2:17
Distance: 33.6 miles
Avg: 14.6 mph
ODO: 4130.4 miles

It was a good ride, far better than I was expecting it to be, and so maybe, just maybe, I can make it round the White Horse Challenge on Sunday ok? *fingers crossed* :).

Won’t get fooled again

or there and back again“.

I was away from home this weekend.  A trip away so as not to be home alone for my birthday weekend and Mothers’ Day really.  A weekend which included sunshine, seaside, and of course, riding the bike.  Which in this case turned out to be from Corfe Castle to Lulworth Cove and back again.  Thanks to various events, it’s a chunk of road I’m pretty familiar with, but only in one direction – west to east.  It’s also oddly one of my favourite bits of road anywhere, for lots of reasons.  It was part of my first ever sportive, Day Two of the Tour of Wessex, done in a day of torrential relentless rain and misery, and is thus forever etched in my memory.  I like it because it’s a challenge, because the views are stunning, and because I’ve slowly (slowly being the operative word for me and hills of course) gotten better at it.  From the first time when I had to walk a bit, to the next time where I just took a breather, and to now when I know I can do it and that I just have to steadily plod up at my own pace, and I get up in one go every time.  That’s getting a bit ahead of myself though…

leaving Corfe behind view to Lulworth Cove

We started off from the National Trust car park at Corfe Castle, in fairly mild but breezy sunshine.  Mild enough for shorts and short sleeves for hardy northerners like Chris, but not for me!  I didn’t know the route this way, so the outward leg felt much longer than it was.  Wiggly country roads, climbing a bit every now and then, ending in a big climb up to the ridge along and above the Bovington Camp tank ranges, where the wind was stronger and the views of where we were going were stunning.  You never see Lulworth Cove from above going the other way, there isn’t time to nip into the car park and have a proper look, like we did!   You also never see Lulworth Castle, which when you see the size of it you wonder how you have ever missed it, but once again, it’s behind you and hidden by trees going the other way, whereas this way, on the big descent off the ridge, it’s right in front of you and pretty much unmissable, if you’re not too busy flying down the hill as fast as possible of course.  Which would be why I saw it and Chris didn’t ;)

Once down at tank level again, there’s a bit more gradual climbing, and then you’re flying down the lovely descent to Lulworth Cove, and picking your way through the grockles, and families with toddlers in wellies, and groups of henrys hooraying around their obligatory ice-creams, down to the beach to see the sea.  To see what you can see see see.  Not a place to hang around too long, what with the cove seeming to be funnelling the chilly wind right at me, but beautiful nonetheless.  I even bought a souvenir, it seemed the right thing to do :)

boat and cove looking all pro

We re-traced our steps back up a bit, takeaway coffees stashed in bottle holders, which was a first for me, to where all the cafés and shops are.  Thanks to my usual degree of forethought I’d not really eaten since lunchtime the day before, which meant that finding something safe to consume was probably wise, not to mention essential, since I’d already felt the odd wobbly warning on the way there.  Luckily one of the cafés had a gluten free bar thing which, for a change, wasn’t a chocolate brownie and which also tasted nice – bonus!  Thus refreshed with food and caffeine, it was time to head back the way we came.  However the weather was getting windier and chillier and even though I knew big hills were coming, I am starting to be more aware of how I am with cold, so I decided to put on my lovely Rapha waterproof on first.  Rather get too hot and remove it than t’other way round, I decided.  Besides, I rarely wear it, and I like it :)

Chris heading for the hills familiar climb ahead

Sadly climbing up the hill back out of Lulworth, it became clear that although I might have been thinking that I was better these days, and that the pain had gone away, I was wrong.  In a fairly big way.  That’ll teach me.  When will I learn?  Whilst this may have provided me with the perfect excuse, sorry reason, for how slowly I was about to go up my favourite climb, I was actually pretty disappointed, not to mention upset.  B*gger.  *sigh*.  These days I do actually quite like hills you know (not that anyone believes me after years of hating them) and I’d actually been looking forward to seeing how I’d do this time around.  Proper annoying.  I know, I’m wingeing again, maybe I should be shot and put out of everyone else’s misery? ;)

warning sign

Left to my own devices, my only option was to take it easy and do the best I could do, so I did.  At least with the waterproof on, I wasn’t cold, and I also wasn’t doing that boil-in-the-bag thing, so the extra layer turned out to have been a good call.  I concentrated on trying to retrieve some PMA from the depths, on not wallowing too much, took some photos, counted the targets, looked for trashed tanks, and admired the views; anything to distract myself from the pain, and while it may have not been the most pleasant or enjoyable ascent ever, I still made it all the way up again.  Which made for a pretty happy and proud me at the top :)

smiling through it

The rest of the ride back went faster, being far more familiar, and also finite, since now I knew where we were going which on the way out I did not.  Fun and flat long the ridge with the wind more tail than head now, and with more of it.  The lovely descent back down the other side, far more enjoyable in the dry, though wiggly enough to necessitate quite a degree of caution in case of traffic coming the other way.  Country lane ups and downs.  I pushed along on the flats, which I enjoyed almost as much as normal.  Which I would then pay for for a bit as my insides kicked off, and then when they settled a bit I could get back to it.  I even managed a lovely swoop down and then get out of the saddle to kick up to the top of the next climb bit.  Not done that for a while, and it was nice to feel that my legs can still be pretty powerful.  They really are you know.  Though, man, that was some ouch afterwards…so I didn’t bother doing that again!  But no pain, no gain, right? ;)

church back at the Castle

In no time at all, I was trying to take photos going downhill back to the castle, in enough time to still be able to brake enough before the left hand bend, which could have gone horribly wrong but didn’t *grin*.  As you can see, the weather was not half as nice by now, but whatever the weather, it’s a pretty awesome castle.  And if you’re lucky, like we were, you get to see steam trains going forwards and backwards as you get changed in the car park too, which was pretty  much the icing on the birthday cake :)

Cycling time: 1:37
Distance: 20.6 miles
Avg: 12.7 mph
ODO: 4096.8 miles

In 8 weeks time I’ll be back here again, as I face the Tour of Wessex challenge again, now knowing that however I’m feeling, I can still get up this.  Now that makes for some useful PMA :D

souvenir shell

Where’s the girl I knew a year ago?

Oh look, another year has passed.  Talk about a roller coaster ride…!  So, in order to demonstrate my greater wisdom and maturity I went out got my hair dyed multi-coloured stylee…  I look tired, wrinkly, yet weirdly about 15…maybe I should dress my age too?!

new hair 12 years old

How else should a girl mark her big day?  By riding the bike of course.  George and I went over to the by now infamous Heaphy’s, where the coffee was as good as ever, and the staff seem to have gotten the hang of customer service as a concept again, after the recent changes.  I took photos, as I do, and scared some poor gentleman who seemed to think I was immortalising him and was presumably therefore concerned that I was attempting to steal his soul.  Well, it is Fairyland ;).  Besides, as weird goes, considering that, he wasn’t anywhere near far enough along the spectrum to make such theft worth while!

The pair of us talked so much, all the way there, and all the way back, it’s a miracle there was enough oxygen intake for us to be able to ride simultaneously.  Sorry George!  It’s also impressive that I got back home in time to shower, frock up, and get to work, but I did :).

george orders food coffee stop

We parted company on the way back, having different homes to get to, and I played with the traffic.  I stopped, being nice, to let them past from time to time too, karma, right?  And if you look behind me, what do you see…?  Parfait :).

sign of the times

Karma won out too.  The universe gave me one of the best, most unexpected, cycling related birthday presents ever.  I turned off the Wedmore road onto Upper New Road in front of an approaching tractor + trailer, who I was fully expecting to grump at me as a result.  But no…  Yes, he went past me.  A little close maybe.  But then he pulled in front of me, took up position, and quite deliberately maintained the perfect speed so as to draft me all the way up the road.  It was SO much fun :)  I slipped back a bit as we got to the petrol station, where the gradient increases a bit, and he pulled away around the corner…only to wait for me around the bend and then tow me all along the bypass too.  I don’t think I’ve grinned so much in ages – I think it’s what the word exuberance was meant for?  I had the biggest smile ever as I turned off and headed for home, and waved madly in his direction as I went.  I hope he saw me and realises how much I enjoyed that.  As birthday rides go, this one rocked, and it rounded off with fireworks! :D.

Cycling time: 1:50
Distance: 28.6 miles
Avg: 15.5 mph
ODO: 4076.2 miles

Right, time to get on with birthdays which, as you all probably know by now, I love :).  I got to put on a party frock, eat gluten free clementine cake made very successfully by me, and buy myself presents – what’s not to love?

woman in the mirror cake and candles

bike earrings

Time for a birthday weekend now.  With more friends, more cake and more riding.  Sounds damn near perfect to me.  As for the next year…well, who knows?  I’m hoping for great things…but just better would be good ;).


PS: if the title is bothering you, so will the outfits in the video of the song it came from ;)

Endura Lionheart 2014

A great many of my mates are being put off doing sportives by the cost.  Well, why pay £36 for a sportive when an audax is a fraction of the price, or when you can sort your own route out on a Garmin, ride both/either with mates, and spend the extra money on lighter bits for the bike?  It’s a good question…  Well I mainly do this one because it’s local.  Which, since this weekend I had the kids, was more important than usual.  The Endura Lionheart starts from Longleat, which is only an hour’s drive away, and also means a not too anti-social start – 5:30am alarm, 6:15am on the road.  This year was my 4th such, and as I drove there over the hills, it wasn’t snowing, so I was already off to a better start than last year!

down the drive waiting

I must have been ahead of previous years though, as the queue to get in was minimal, but the views down the long drive were as stunning as ever.  I ended up in a different car park to usual which initially annoyed me as it was a little bit further away from the start village.  But it was on tarmac…which I learned to appreciate as I later picked my way through the mud to the toilets!  There was a long queue for them, which was about to irritate me, when I realised that 5 or so of them were women only, and not being queued for.  Result!  There were a couple of male riders, clearly very confident in their own sexuality, who were happy to use them too ;).

One of the best things about this event is the pre-registration pack that you get a few weeks before the event, so there’s on need to register on the day.  Just stick a tag on your helmet, number on your bike, map in your  pocket, job done!  So, with that all done in advance, I really didn’t faff much on site.  The forecast had said variable and rather cold, so I was pretty much wearing everything I could be.  The only concession I’d made to possible warmth later on was to stash my mitts in a pocket.  Incidentally, whilst mentally writing bits of this while riding along, it took me half an hour to dig the word concession out of my cerebral cortex – and it had to be left to bubble up of its own accord!  So you’d better believe I’m going to use it after all that hard work *grin*.

I had no idea what time it was, having not yet prodded the Garmin into life, but I headed for the start, and was far nearer the front than usual.  Standing outside Longleat House, the Bath stone glowing in the rising sun, relatively sheltered, I did wonder about my layer choices…but it wasn’t warm, there was definitely wind, and I was going with the weather forecast.  It’s usually worse than I expect, not better, after all!  I stood there on my own, wondering if the Marquess was sneaking a peak at us all, listening to the bravado from the riders around me, watching the flag blow in the wind, as the organisers got everything ready.  Big foreign cycling events get helicopters, we got a radio-controlled quadcopter, which I’m presuming was filming us, but maybe someone was just playing with their toy ;).

rider briefing start line

As it turns out, I was in the second of the groups to be let away.  Our time came, the normal briefing happened; the standup comedian in charge told us it wasn’t a race, and apologised for the lack of snow this year…see, told you he was funny.  Sometime a bit after 8:00am I was on my way under the arch, and off around the estate.

There’s a long loop around the estate, past the very long queue of waiting riders, to be done before you even get out into the wider world.  I may have had what eldest would call “smug face” briefly as we went past them, but I figure I’ve done my time in that queue in years passed, I deserved to be first out for a change.  Besides, the way I look at it, that also meant there were about 1200 other riders behind me, and it would take a while for them all to get their revenge by going past me, so I wasn’t going to be lonely for a while!  I think 1387 had signed up, and by the looks of it, the turnout was pretty good, though I reckon they were going to be hard pushed to get them all away by their 9:00am deadline.

It’s actually a surprisingly lumpy loop, especially when you’ve not warmed up, around various back of the estate bits, over many cattle grids, and then past the lake on the right, where the seals should be swimming, and the sleeping lions on the left, before going out up the long long drive down which we all drove earlier.  It’s a long drag, that always leaves some walking already, but it’s much easier without a blizzard!  In fact you’ve done about 4 miles before you leave the estate…but at least this year I did.  Leave the estate that is, not walk! ;).

The route changes every year.  I don’t really remember the previous routes, but some of it rang bells, in that I recognised I was going out over roads I came in on once previously.  Anti-clockwise it was then.  This was good, because I hadn’t enjoyed that bit back then, so it felt like a positive change to know that wasn’t going to happen again.  It was however really nippy out there, and there was really quite a lot of climbing early on, or at least it felt like it to me.  I wasn’t sure how today was going to go, and really hadn’t made my mind up what I was doing – 100km or 100miles – and I was just happy to go with it.  I knew the first food stop was 25 miles in, and that’s all I was aiming for initially, breaking it down into mentally manageable chunks as ever.  I remember lots of country lanes, sunshine, and riders going past as predicted.  Mr Tour of Wessex, Nick, and his posse went past me around 9 miles in, not that they noticed, being too busy telling each other what to do, and that there was a junction ahead.  I think the high-vis clad marshals might have given that away..  Anyway they disappeared into the distance…and I pottered on.

A lot of the main junctions were marshalled, and there were also motorcycle outriders helping the deflated and otherwise stricken – I saw a couple of accidents.  There were also some interesting junctions where marshals would have been a good idea – especially since you end up in the mindset where you think that if there’s not marshalling then it’s not necessary, and possibly don’t pay the due care and attention to the route ahead as you might do otherwise?  Still, all the route signage was good, with the addition of my favourites – little orange repeater ribbons to stop you feeling lost – ‘rah! :).

The weather became increasingly changeable.  I was in the process of dreading the King Alfred’s Tower climb that was due later that day, when we went up what seemed to be to be a bigger narrower and busier climb, that I wasn’t even expecting!  Still, having made it up that, which was good for the PMA, as we were heading for the food stop at Evercreech, the skies darkened, the wind came up, and then the hail came down!  Yes, hail!  With rain mixed in with it, of course…

crowded first food stop first food stop food

The foodstop might have been perfectly timed for hiding from the downpour for a bit, but the village hall itself was heaving, so sheltering was easier said than done.  It was a nightmare finding anywhere to put the bike, and one of the nice ladies handing out Nuun tablets held onto mine so that I could fill my bottle up from the water tanks lined up outside.  That was a big point in the event’s favour by the way – they’re my hydration of choice and having been advertised as present beforehand, it meant I didn’t have to carry any around with me :).  I finally managed to find a space to park up the bike next to a wall as someone left, and went inside to fight my way through corralled damp and ravenous riders stuffing their faces with handfuls of food as fast as the friendly ladies could unwrap it.  Not an attractive spectacle.  They were clearly trying to keep riders and cleats off the shiny wooden floor, but there was no way to the Ladies other than across it, though as there weren’t many of us, maybe we weren’t considered as much of an issue.  Toilet break duly taken, I ate a bit of flapjack, and grabbed half a banana for later – it was time to see if the hail had stopped.

Luckily it had, but I had to hang around a bit for riders to come and go so as to be able to dig my bike out from under what was now several layers of carbon!  Not that I was in any rush, knowing that that Tower thing was ahead.  In fact I took it nice and easy on the way there – no rush!  I also wanted the traffic to spread out – the worst thing about climbs like that is other riders getting in the way.  And on what was now to be a wet, muddy, slippery, steep climb…?  *gulp*.  I needn’t have worried.  They’d put a sign up asking those walking to stick to the left, and those riding to the right, which helped.  It also wasn’t too busy when I got there, and I have  done it before – something I kept telling myself as I literally dribbled my way up.  There were three of those oops the front wheel is lifting moments, but I kept it down low and kept going and…yep, did it again.  Rah!  It also didn’t take me as long to recover as sometimes either which cheered me up quite a bit.  As did flying along the fairly flat miles that came afterwards, when I finally felt a bit of mojo :D.  Shame about the muddy Stourhead estate that came next though.  The road surfaces weren’t great, the weather had made bits of it really wobbly under wheel, and the much-vaunted views were absent because I was too busy paying attention to the road ahead so as to stay on the bike!

I was feeling fairly good, but getting colder as the day went on, for no particular reason.  As I’ve said before, I seem to get cold more than usual at the moment.  Various squalls passed over.  Then the skies around got even darker and darker and then they weren’t so dark and I realised that’s because I was under them and my eyes had adapted and that meant things were likely to be about to go pear-shaped again.  Yep, about 3 miles out from the next food stop, the hail came down again.  Down, and down hard!  3 miles or so of flat fast, then main, road with it being blown in your face.  A lot like going into hyperspace (generational specific simile there).  (Or at least I think it’s a simile, not a metaphor, but I’m getting tired now…*yawn*…this writing stuff is hard work!).  I pulled my winter collar up and over my face, it hurt that much – talk about extreme exfoliation.  I also developed a mini peloton of people hiding behind me as I kicked arse through it….ouch!

Yapps yard classic car

And then, it passed, and the sun came out, and we were at the route split, which was also the food stop, pulling into the yard of Yapps Wine Merchants, all looking slightly shell shocked!  A thankyou might have been nice…unless I’d dropped them by then of course ;).  The food stop was just as busy before, but it was mostly all outside this time.  Somewhat randomly there was food on tables, rescue greyhounds, portable toilets, classic cars, coffee to buy, and wine to sample.  I wish…but I’d never have gotten going again if I’d indulged in that!  I took some photos and milled around a bit, where I bumped into Rob who I’ve not seen in ages, and enjoyed a brief chat.  Which was about the only conversation I got all day…*sniff*.

second food stop food wistfully looking at wine

So, 100 miles, or 100 km?  I had been told and told and told not to overdo it by my friends and family beforehand.  I was feeling ok, but probably nowt more than that.  Better than the Mad March Hare, considerably, but that may not be saying much.  However I was cold, and now wet, and the weather was unlikely to get better, and you know what?  Given the choice between 50 more miles, and maybe 20 more, meaning a couple more hours at home with the kids?  It was a no-brainer.  Time to go kilo-metric.  Yes, I do sometimes do what I’m told.  Oh, and I like my kids :).

decision time

The short route headed North and fairly directly for Lord Bath‘s home.  Which turned out to be straight into the wind, and straight up a bl**dy great hill.  In fact possibly the biggest climb of the day, while I was at my coldest.  Well gee, that was fun.  As was the long section across the ridge afterwards where the wind blew from the side, straight across your face, turning your skin to ice and stealing the air from your lungs as you tried to inhale, all the time trying to stay upright and not crab sideways.  It might have been easier to do the longer route and dodge it more, especially as it seems that the majority of the climbing was in the first section of the ride!  It was a very sapping final slog.  Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run to.  Head down and just keep going.

Those last few miles were really hard work, and there wasn’t much me left.  As usual, and on reflection, I don’t think I’d eaten enough.  I’d been guessing at around 70 miles, a sort of deliberate mental pacing trick, and it turned out to be more like 60, which came as a bit of a shock and also quite a relief, and suddenly we were retracing our steps briefly to turn right back on to the estate.  There was enough just left in my legs to enjoy sprinting down the straight Longleat Drive, flying towards the main house and then under the occasionally deflating finish arch though! :D.  I’ve always got a sprint finish in me – bit like having a dessert stomach *grin*.

the end Claud the Butler

There - Lionheart 2014 done.  Medal collected, I confessed my shorter distance to an understanding timing man, who pressed buttons, and stopped my official record lying.  It turns out I did ok, for an old bird, looking at the results which are now online.  I got a Silver, and I was 20 out of 100 or so women, but that’s not as well as I know I can do it.  I do know I made the right decision, but I am still a bit cross about it, in a totally illogical fashion.  I think if I’d had company to ride with, I could probably have made it around the 100 miles, but this way I lived to ride another day, right?  Right?!

Cycling time: 4:37
Official time: 4:59:53 – Silver
Distance: 59.9 miles
Avg 12.9 mph
ODO:  4047.6 miles

One of the main downsides to riding events on your own is the lack of après ride.  I stuck my head into the food tent to collect my goodie bag, and ignored the free hotpot as usual, because I knew Claud the Butler was there, and what I really needed was good coffee and a friendly familiar face :).  I had a lovely black americano, chatted to a nice gentleman there (the father of one of the guys serving – hi there!), and made my way back to my little car.  Since home was not far away, I turned the engine and heating on, did the bare minimum, without baring much, replaced wet and muddy with dry, stashed the bike, and was on my way asap :)

goodie bag things


Angels watching over me

Sometimes I am, apparently, a wise old bird.  Sometimes, as I think is more than obvious, I am not.  This however, actually is.  I’ve been meaning to show it to you for a while, but I’m only allowed to photograph things that I ride past, deliberate photography detours are against the rules, and I haven’t quite gone past it so I couldn’t.  And yes, there are rules ;)  Wednesday’s ride, with the man from Minehead, aka @gazwagon, took us right past it, so carpe diem, call me Mr DeMille, here’s a very good way to mark the passing of a once mighty tree.  Funeral rites for an Ent?

Here’s a quote that isn’t from a Wol, but is from Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh: “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think“.  I’m having a tough week; could these should be words to live by?  Actually there are lot of Winnie the Pooh quotes I like.  And I am frequently a Bear of Very Little Brain, though long words do not Bother Me, I love them :).  Maybe I should put each quote on a pretty picture of a sunset or the like and then post them regularly on Facebook, where reading them will solve everything for everyone…but it’s probably already been done ;).

owl left owl centreowl right

It was a nice ride, mostly.  Well, apart from the headwind all the way to the seaside!  Rides in good company are always good.  It’s a sort of unwritten rule.  A head start, a positive handicap, a favourable weighting.  Even bad rides are better with friends.  And this one wasn’t even bad, it was just quite hard work, for me anyway.  I don’t have all those hills on my doorstep to practice on, he does, and it shows!  Another MAMIL on form! *sigh*.  Mind you, if that was my only option, I’d probably never leave the house, so I’ll keep my Levels thank you very much ;).

You may be interested to hear that The New Castle in Kewstoke is open again – under new ownership.  Open all day, new tables and chairs, good coffee, reasonable prices, and a gluten free bar that isn’t a brownie(!), which all adds up to it being a very pleasant place to break up the loop and give me a break without having to resort to the debatable joys of Weston super Mare.  We sat inside, to hide from the really rather chilly wind, really rather unsuccessfully since for all that it was nice in there, it wasn’t warm, and I seem to be getting cold rather easily at the moment.  Coffee, cake, and time to be on our way again.  At least that wind was due to be, and then actually was, behind us on the way home :).

gaz drink stop sand bay view

Once again, I was left for dust all the way ’round, but you know, I’m kind of getting used to it, and there’s no point letting it get me down, as that would be counter productive.  I don’t appear to be improving, or I don’t feel like I am, which is depressing.  Though a couple of my Strava segments, like the climb up that Bleadon Hill, show that against myself, I’m not at my worst, and may actually be showing slight signs of improvement on earlier this year.  It’s probably all a question of perception.  Gaz thinks he’s slow, and he’s wrong too! ;).  I went up a few hills, and that’s the main thing.  And I still enjoyed the downs :).

gaz bleadon hill gaz webbington hill

For a change, I wasn’t in pain much, which was good.  Well, not the usual pain.  With that cleared away for a little while, and riding on three different types of bike of late – winter, summer, exercise – the old pain in my left knee has reared its ugly head again.  Well, if knees can have heads.  They can have ears right though, grasshopper?  I think I’ll strap it up on Sunday, and take the pills with me, just in case.  And since I wasn’t in pain then but I am now, I’ll probably be dosed up anyway :).  I’m fairly nervous about the day but, with the week I’ve had, the thought of spending all day on the bike just riding kind of appeals, so even if I’m on my own and it takes all day, that might be ok :).

Cycling time: 1:51
Distance: 28.1 miles
Avg 15.2 mph
ODO:  3987.7 miles

Flying high on something beautiful and aimless

hazy views

There are lots of reasons for riding a bike.  Sometimes the only reason is just because.  This time it was because it would have been rude not to.  Good weather, good company, nowhere else to be, nothing else to be doing.  Perfect :).

up into the hills nonchalance

It was one of those sunny Spring days where your layering strategy will never be right and zips go up and down and layers come on and off but at least there are layers to do that with, and the novelty of not being wrapped up like the Michelin man stops it from being annoying.  Thanks to the nasty cold fairly annoying wind going up hill may have been rather warm, but the rest was anything from quite nice to verging on chilly and then as the sun got a little lower later on, actually cold.  None of that stopped it being absolutely blooming’ gorgeous out there though – just look at it? :D.

lumpy hill ahead

It be nice around Somerset, and this wasn’t my turf, so I got to see whole chunks of it that I hadn’t seen before, which made a really nice change.  Being unfamiliar, our route seemed longer and further than it actually was, but that was ok.  There were more hills than any route made by me would probably have involved, and that was ok too.  Because it was just so nice being out there, on it, in it.   I really, really enjoyed it which, as my Dad pointed out to me the other night, is supposed to be the point!  There was definitely a lot of smiling going on :).  Having persuaded Chris to check it over and make sure it was in working order, I was on my summer bike for the first time this year, and I fell in love with it all over again.  It’s SO beautiful.  Not just to look at, which it is, eye of the beholder ‘n all that, but also to ride.  Oh yes.  For the first time in however long, there were entire minutes of zone.  That urge to kick off and sprint a bit, I’d forgotten how much it almost begs to do that.  Also to swoop downhill at mad speeds.  It’s no wonder we get on so well together ;).  Even plodding my way up the hills felt good – slow but smooth and steady.  Me and my bike were feeling pretty good…

 summer Cinelli

So I rode again.  I seem to have gotten away with it – no painful consequences.  Definitely another step along the road back.  I do love riding my bike.  It was part of a really good weekend, and I’ve been trying to carry that happy feeling with me through today – it’s definitely made Monday more bearable :).

Cycling time: 2:12
Distance: 30.1 miles
Avg 13.7 mph
ODO:  3959.6 miles

 sign that shouldn't be there little sign

On Sunday I have the Endura Lionheart, and I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.  I think I’m riding on my own, which could be interesting.  I could do 100km or 100miles, and I guess I’ll see how I’m feeling, and how the weather is, and play it by ear on the day.  Be nice to do the whole thing though…*fingers crossed*.