Monthly Archives: June 2015

‘S Wonderful

I appear to be behind.  Shock, horror, etcetera, etcetera.  Mind you, isn’t behind where I usually am? 😉

In fact I’m three rides behind again.  It does seem to go in threes like that.  Don’t they say good things come in threes though?  And also to those who wait?  Patience, grasshopper, I’m getting there 😉  So…with no further ado about nothing…here goes.

First off, a recovery coffee run with no coffee, as Alan and I both forgot that Sweets is closed on a Tuesday.  And a Monday, as it happens.  Oops…  Consider yourself forewarned and forearmed, so as not to make the same mistake in your turn 😉

Porlock Weir more gluten free cake

This was followed by a trip to Exmoor to see Gary which miraculously involved very few hills, actual sunshine, compensatory coffee AND cake.  Very nice gluten-free lemon curd cake, in case you’re interested, and ever happen to be passing by Kitnors Tea Room in Bossington, which you shouldn’t, because you should go in – it’s really nice there 🙂

Both rides were very lovely on the company and weather front, but not so on the PMA or form front.  In fact, here’s me 😉  Actually, given the escapee escapades of Gary’s tortoise that day, he was probably faster than me!  Post Dartmoor Classic and a lot of riding of late and…well…who knows whatever else…I guess I was just tired and somewhat under-motivated…?  For whatever reasons, it just wasn’t quite working last week.  The sun was shining, and there wasn’t much wind, so the spirit was more willing than it might have been, but the flesh just seemed to be running on empty 🙁

not a slow tortoise

A while back I reached the conclusion that I really needed a break.  So this weekend I went away.  For a weekend away which did not involve a sportive.  Or in fact the bike in any way.  I had a mini-holiday in Bude, Cornwall, with myself.  My bike and I were on a break 😉  And it was totally awesome 😀  Life’s always better at the beach, right?  In addition to whole heaps of wave watching, sunbathing, paddling, reading, relaxing and whatever, it did however involve a fair bit of coastal walking, which my legs are now protesting vigourously.  Well just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean no exercise – that way madness lies!  Besides, I really enjoyed it 🙂  However, though I may not be able to walk properly right now, it would appear that I can still pedal.  Different muscles I guess.  Which brings us to today’s ride, a Fairyland coffee run with Alan to watch the festival stragglers drifting home, all of whom were looking remarkably clean as it happens.

And I was feeling better out there.  Again with the sunshine, and no wind helping 😉  Maybe the break helped too?  If so, maybe I’ll have to take more of them *grin*.  Sure, I may not have been breaking any records, but it did go better than I’d expected and I actually enjoyed riding the bike, which has to be good for the PMA, right?  Let’s see how the next few rides go…who knows?

Cycling time: 5:18
Distance: 79.1 miles
ODO: 10031.3 miles

(Blimey – the “new” bike has now done over 10,000 miles!!)





Dartmoor Classic 2015

One of the many lovely things about the Dartmoor Classic is that that the organisers, the Mid Devon Cycling Club, put up all their guests and sponsors etc. the night before the event, and feed them too.  Which meant that rather than getting up at hideous o’clock to get down in time to register and ride on the day, I could go down to Newton Abbot at my leisure on the Saturday.  So I did.  Being earlier than hotel check-in time I went straight to registration at the racecourse, where there was plenty of parking, and plenty going on.  The event village was up and running, live music was happening outside on the Grandstand, and people were milling around here there and everywhere in the sun.  This did not mean however that there were massive queues, quite the opposite in fact.  I walked straight in, up to the Grande route tables, proved my identity with my passport, and was given my envelope.  Job done.

Registration Event Village

It was all so efficient and took so little time that I didn’t really know what to do with myself next really.  The event village didn’t have anything I could be convinced I needed, so having forgotten to get cash on the way down, and fearing the “minimum spend” card criteria that was probably in place at the catering places on site, I took myself off to the Beefeater next door instead for a pint and some lunch, having also forgotten that eating would be a good idea today.  Guy turned up a while later and, after registering himself, we had a chat for a while before going our separate ways – him to the Premier Inn next door, and me back to the Passage House Hotel a little further away.  Since I still had plenty of time to kill before dinner, after checking in and checking out the envelope and faffing a little, I spent a couple of hours overlooking the River Teign, in the sun, hydrating 😉

river view

After a very pleasant meal with everyone at the Passage Hotel Inn next door, it was time for a relatively early night.  Well…it would have been earlier had my IBS not decided that something in the usually entirely safe (and particularly nice actually) ham egg and chips I’d had was not to be tolerated, and it would be passing Go without imparting any nutritional benefit on the way through.  (TMI? Tough!)  Gee, thanks for that.  Just what I needed.  So finally I was off to bed around 11pm ish, with an alarm set for 5:30am, not off to the greatest start…

Which was not helped by, for whatever reason, me waking up at 3:30am and completely failing to find much further comfort in the arms of Morpheus.  The bed was a little hard, the room was a little warm, the open window meant it was also a little noisy, with the road outside and with other guests coming and going through the very loud fire doors…it just wasn’t happening.  Ho hum.  Who needs sleep anyway, right?

So 5:30am found me already up and drinking bad coffee.  I ate a banana and cereal bar, went through the usual pre-sportive routine, and then got the bike out and set up before riding over to reception to check out. Outside it was definitely not as nice as the day before.  Sadly.  Windier, chillier, cloudier…and the 5 minute ride to HQ made me very glad of my gilet and arm warmers!

There was a small group of us due to be starting off together (me, Guy, Steve, Rob, and two Alans I think?), if not riding so, and we all gathered slowly near Guy’s car under the Premier Inn.  I took advantage of this to nip to the toilets, and got spotted and told off by some small officious female marshal for having my iPod earphone in one ear.  Apparently I was to take it off, or else.  Or else if I was spotted with it on the route, I would be disqualified and not get a time.  Like I care…!  Oh, and having checked back through the pdf with the regs?  No mention of them not being allowed either, as I thought.  She picked on me later in queue for departure too to make sure it was gone.  Well it wasn’t.  It just wasn’t visible.  And neither was it visible anywhere where I was likely to get caught on the day either 😉  But if you think I’m slogging up hills all day on my own without some background comfort, you have another think coming.  I’m not a slave to daft rules…  It’s always on quietly in my left ear, and has yet to stop me hearing anything important!  She made me cross.  Mostly at the tone she used actually, I don’t recall still being a child…

OK, eventually, after Steve and Alan had turned up and registered, and with several pens of Grande riders already en route, we all squeezed into the next pen ahead of the Medio riders as apparently all Grande riders HAD to be in this pen.  So there we duly were.  We do what we’re told right?  Not that we were going anywhere anytime soon.  I know a rider briefing is a good thing, but this one was interminable…and I’m not sure anyone was paying attention after the first couple of minutes.  Maybe he was just killing time to allow the previous pen to be escorted and set on their way before the lead out car came and did the same for us but hey, play some music or something first and then brief?

queue in front queue behind

I was feeling a bit nervous standing there, as well as post-telling off grumpy, oddly.  Not that I could figure out why, and I did try, but I just was.  Pre-ride banter was up to standard, and it was really nice to catch up with the guys though.  Finally it was our turn to go, with a neutralised start following that car, to keep us all well-behaved through the streets of Newton Abbot, before we were let off the leash a way out of town, past the timing gadgets, ready to get on with it.

My time with the guys lasted longer than the 5 minutes I’d half feared, but the elastic between myself and them snapped after about 20 minutes.  Which came as no surprise, and I’d already said I was ok with that, which I really was and am.  Although in retrospect it probably doesn’t help to start off a very long tough ride already feeling left behind if that makes sense?  Maybe I’d have been better off starting on my own?  We’ll never know…

Right then.  Me again.  This was my fourth time doing the Dartmoor Classic, and I was up for the 107 mile Grande route I was down for. Again. But I started having doubts early on, even though I did have words with myself about mentally shutting up until I’d at least warmed up properly.  Which today wasn’t easy.  It was, as I believe I’ve mentioned, grey, chilly, and rather windy.  Better things were forecast though so…?

40mph as if climbing is hard

5 miles of relatively flat warm up, and we were going through Bovey Tracey and then up onto the Moor with the first climbing of the day.  It’s really one long climb up to Haytor, but comes in sections, which today included a closed road Strava segment timed ascent of Beckaford Hill.  I plodded up the whole thing in my usual fashion, though with rather more rider traffic around me than was sometimes comfortable.  I looked at the views – stunning as to be expected – as crawler gear engaged (I’m always worried it won’t!) and it was all going ok.  Still, my average speed was barely in double figures, the wind up there was killer, and I was still chilly.

haytor Moor rocks

After some time on top of the world fighting that wind, and a lovely descent, it was time for more up (when wasn’t it?).  Several more ups as I recall.  One of which, around Holne Chase I think, is steep and narrow and was once again too busy.  After the left turn at the top, going steeply up past walking riders, with many more doing likewise ahead, one of those decided to try and get back on…failed to do so…and crashed to the floor right in front of me.  OK, so I stopped just in time, and warned the riders climbing behind me, but guess who wasn’t going to be able to get back on either now?  I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to walk on a hill and I was NOT amused!  A short grumpy walk later I was back on my bike and back to slogging up hills into the wind…

intrepid rider blue rider and view

This is going to sound weird.  But I just got bored.  I know all these hills.  I knew
I could and would get up them.  I wasn’t suffering any more than usual.  But I just couldn’t really engage my head with the whole thing.  Or figure out why I was doing it.  With the speed I was averaging, in the wind and the cold, it was starting to look like I’d be out there all day.  And after the walking incident?  I was actually bored riding my bike and I certainly wasn’t enjoying myself, so I decided that on that basis I’d possibly be better off cutting my losses…

Moor up scenic behind

The first food stop, and also the route split, was after the very very long slow windy slog up to Princetown, 33 miles in.  Which on a route like this is not two hours in, it’s three hours in, and was possibly a little late for me on that basis.  Dave, of MDCC and training camp fame, was marshalling at the entry so I had a friendly face to say hi to on the way in.  It was busy but not too crowded, the queues for the toilets were short, and the infamous savoury Homity pie was still plentiful.  Having grabbed some and refilled my bottle, I took myself off to a patch of grass, broadcasting thousand mile stare so that everyone would leave me alone, and ate it whilst checking with myself that I really wanted to do what I thought I was going to.

water food stop

I did.  I really did.  I texted Guy so as he’d know, and after another cheery wave to Dave, I was taking the left turn and taking the Medio Route, with 34 miles to go to get home instead of 74.  So sue me! 😉  This didn’t mean the climbing was all done of course, but it did mean I’d broken the back of it.  Typically by now the sun was coming out, and finally my gilet and arm warmers came off, one by two.  After some Moor draggy ups, the long descent into Moretonhampstead meant that only one big climb was left – downs always mean ups – and this up doesn’t half go on.  But I know it, knew it would pass, and knew that the last 15 miles or so would be a down followed by a long flying finish along the valley, and hey, who knew,  I might even get my average speed up a bit? 😉

heading into the wind long road ahead

After a happy hour or so doing what I do best, I was back at the racecourse and rolling past all the spectators to go under the Finish arch.  I can’t say I was bothering to smile for the photographers, something I failed to do all day, but then I rarely buy the photos anyway 😉  It was just sort of good to have it over and done with.  Smiling on the inside?

Finish line after the ride

I headed inside to get my time, the relevant medal for a slow Medio route, and my goody bag.  It turns out my official time of 5:18:44 narrowly missed the under 5:17 standard for Silver which, in retrospect, is a bit annoying, but I doubt I’d have been able to do anything differently anyway.  Well, ok, I could have not eaten pie.  But it was good pie 🙂  And talking of good, the goody bag didn’t suck either – a DC kit bag, DC tube scarf, a Yellow Jersey Insurance Ass Saver, and an inner tube.   Nice 🙂

For all that I didn’t feel the love, it’s still a great event.  Pretty much every key junction is marshalled by friendly folk with fluorescent jackets and red flags.  The signage is good if practically superfluous as a result.  The foodstop is lovely. The scenery is lovely.  The whole thing is well organised, and friendly and helpful.  And it is a real challenge, although possibly less so fourth time around, and that’s my motivational problem not theirs.  However they did have, I think, around 1000 more riders than last year though, and I think that was reflected on the narrow roads and the hills, which wasn’t great, as I’ve said.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, definitely.  Would I do it again?  Hm…ask me again next year.

Cycling time: 5:14 (official time 5:18)
Distance: 67.6 miles
Avg: 12.9 mph
ODO: 9952.3 miles

And PS: where has rider etiquette gone?!


Weapon of choice

Man, I am SO behind…but I have no time for more writing now either really, with many things to do, and the Dartmoor Classic looming large ahead of me on Sunday.  Writing up Velothon Wales took it out of me, unlike riding it 😉

But for the record, this week I have ridden three times.  I’ve been slaying my demons with my weapon of choice 😉  All three rides were with Alan:  Tuesday for Fairyland coffee, Wednesday for hills (which pointed out that Thursday really needed to be a rest day!), and a very easy coffee spin today to see how the legs were feeling after that.  Apparently they were working, but I didn’t push it on any level….I’m going to need whatever is left in them on Sunday!  Wish me luck? 🙂

Cycling time: 5:23
Distance: 79.9 miles
ODO: 9884.7 miles

sometimes I eat cake too...well, gluten free carrot cake anyway ;)

sometimes I eat cake too…well, gluten-free carrot cake anyway 😉

Velothon Wales 2015 – Part 2

I bolted awake, convinced I’d missed my alarm clock only to discover that since it was 6:30am, not 7:30am, I hadn’t.  And I wasn’t going to get much out of pretending to doze through that last hour either, though I still gave it a go…

You see Velothon Wales has 2 routes.  A 50km, and a 140km.  With 15,000 riders to organise, everyone is put into waves, with allotted pens of 500 riders or so, and start times with, somewhat unusually and probably having something to do with road closures and the pro-race later, the short route guys being set off first, and then us long route folk.  I hadn’t paid attention to which Wave I was in, I just knew that I was in Pen E2, with a start time of 9:00am, and that I should be there after 8:25 and before 8:55.  Hence the relatively late start.  I prefer to start early – sooner started, sooner finished – but hey, I also do what I’m told.

Having decided that I couldn’t face the hotel breakfast, mainly because the chances of them having anything much I wanted to eat were slim, I stayed put and drank bad instant coffee, ate a banana and just half a cereal bar, because I really wasn’t in the mood for eating full-stop.  I faffed a bit, packed everything away, killed time doing very little, and then headed for the car.  Not because I was going to use it, but because that’s where the bike and assorted paraphernalia were!  I reassembled the bike, loaded it with all the usual, dumped my bags in the car, checked out, and headed off in unexpected sunshine.

riders to the front riders to the back of me

My pen was, as the pre-ride pdf had indicated, just along from registration so finding it wasn’t hard.  With all the cyclists all heading in the same direction, I couldn’t have gotten lost if I’d tried!  A short ride through the now fairly empty city centre and I was there.  Being on the early side of my slot, I was fairly near the front of the pen, with half an hour to kill.  Still, the guy on my right was the chatty sort, so time passed amicably enough.  I could have used a toilet but there were none to be seen near us, and besides being penned in would have made getting out and back in kinda problematical.  Riders to the front of me, riders to the back, here I was, stuck in the middle with me 😉  Ah well, it could wait.  It was pretty warm standing in the sun going nowhere, so I stashed my gilet, and debated doing the same with the arm warmers, but decided against.  Our allotted 9:00am came…and not long afterwards we were all gingerly moving slowly forward, through the pedestrianised high street, trying not to slip on the shiny tiles, or bump into other riders or the railings!  Some tannoy girl was chatting away and telling us how great we all were, and exhorting us all to have a good time, but without any actual constructive info in there, I think she was being pretty much ignored, which means her continued level of enthusiasm was fairly impressive!

off from the start closed roads

Right then.  Under the Start line arch, and off we all go.  Once moving things were distinctly chillier, and I was half tempted to stop and put the gilet back on, but I didn’t fancy stopping so soon, and figured I’d warm up soon enough.  Especially as I knew the first 40km or so were really flat, so the chances are they’d be fast too.  Which they were.  The first hour of roundabouts and suburbs and industrial outskirts and beyond flew by at an average of nearly 20mph!  It took a while to get used to the novelty of ignoring traffic lights and junctions, of going round whatever side of a roundabout or traffic island you fancied, and there being no cars about.  There were plenty of other riders to avoid though, or be avoided by!  Sometimes we were on main roads and even dual carriageways, with lovely road surfaces, and as we got into the countryside, we were on narrower lanes with surfaces that were less so, but were still better than I get around here mostly, which is good because avoiding potholes in traffic ain’t easy!

bridge attack of the tacks

Yes that many riders means a lot of traffic, especially on the narrower country lanes, which could be a bit tricky.  Somewhere around the 30 mile mark, on one such, we were all suddenly grinding to a halt and backing up, with riders picking up bikes and walking.  This would appear to be where the (how unoriginal) infamous tacks were, or had been, though I never saw one.  I just walked along with everyone else, rueing the effect on my average speed, until we all finally got going again!

While I’m walking my way through this, I should mention that there were quite a few accidents out there that I saw (well I saw the aftermath anyway), which presumably means there were even more I didn’t.  And marshals standing in the middle road of the road shouting incoherently and angrily at masses of fast approaching riders nearly caused even more.  I’m thinking they should have had big red flags to use in such situations, as other events do, because it would have been far clearer what they were trying to achieve.  There were signs warning of hazards but small white text on the odd orange sign is not all that legible, and if they’re warning of a sharp turn at the bottom of a hill (as was often the case), it’s no wonder a lot of riders missed them.  Kinda ruins a good descent too!  And shouting angrily at everyone to slow down for such things doesn’t really work either, as quite a lot of those slowdowns were also unnecessary for more experienced riders who know how to descend and how to handle a bike.  I do hate unnecessary loss of momentum…!

foodstop queues foodstop bike parking

Right, where were we?  Ah yes.  After a couple of little lumps, we reached the first food station, at around the 37 mile mark.  Which was, not to put too fine a point on it, complete chaos.  There was a long queue of riders all bunched up to get in.  Riders queuing to get out – through the same entrance.  I nearly gave it a miss, but I really did need a toilet by now!  I managed to park the bike against a fence rather than queuing to get it and me in, and then to also have to find somewhere to put it.  Once in, gingerly negotiating chunky gravel in cleats, there were queues for the food and queues for the toilet.  Not that you could tell which was which or where which began.  I think I probably jumped the queue I needed first, but no-one called me on it 😉  I couldn’t face the food queue at all, and as there was someone pouring out water from bottles near the entrance, I just topped my bottles up, grabbed the bike from outside thus avoiding the queue to get out, and legged it!  Chaos, like I said.

heading for Welsh hills climbers behind me

Things then started to get more scenic, which was good.  The Welsh hills loomed ahead in the sunshine, and I knew all the climbing would be starting soon enough, though I wasn’t in any rush to get there!  There were two big climbs today – the Tumble and Caerphilly Mountain.  I’d avoided researching them too much – it’s not like knowing what they were like was going to stop me having to go up them – but rumour had it they were both pretty difficult.  But by whose standards?

hairpin behind hairpin

Which brings us to The Tumble.  Which turned out to be long, fairly steep, and it even had a hairpin.  It’s 6km at an average of 10% apparently.  But it was oh so totally doable.  My crawler gear was well and truly installed today, as others steam-trained past me, huffing and puffing, or walked by the wayside, I just slowly ground my way up serenely.  How cool is that?  There was scenery, and sheep, and sunshine, and although it didn’t half go on, well, it just went well.  It’s lovely when it works 🙂

near the top of the Tumble tumble climb behind me rider and view nearly there

The second food stop was at the top and just as chaotic.  Again with the same entrance/exit.  It was more of a drink/gel stop than food stop though – the food had pretty much run out.  And yes, there were queues all over, all over again.  Once more unto the toilet, my friends.  Once more to get water.  And once more to leg it asap.  Oh, and the state of the place!  Rubbish everywhere, even with large bins all over the place!  Better than dropping it on the roads I suppose, though a fair bit of that was happening too sadly, but still…  Not good 🙁

The Tumble sign Tumble foodsop messy

Still the descent afterwards was fun; in fact the next five miles or so were essentially downhill, which is alway good 🙂  The next section seemed to involve a lot of urban and main roads and dual carriageways (empty of course!), and long slow climbs up those, which didn’t really feel like hills somehow but I guess they probably were.  I guess main roads only really do up in the same way railway lines do – gradually!  I wasn’t really feeling them though – by which I mean they were just ups not hills, to be followed by downs, as today I was on form and it was all going well (yes, it happens!).

tumble top view dual carriageway

There was one down, on the wrong side of a dual carriageway, on to a large roundabout, where the road surface at the bottom was just atrocious and my camera managed to bounce out of my top tube bag and onto the ground.  B*gger.  That would be why I use a camera for photos not my phone!  I pulled up by some spectators on the side of the roundabout, asked if they wouldn’t mind watching the bike while I tried to retrieve it, and headed back to whence it lay.  Luckily a marshal had seen my predicament, and he got it, and the memory card and battery, for me…and nearly got run (ridden!) over for his troubles.  Luckily he didn’t, and since he had a fluorescent jacket on and I didn’t – I probably wouldn’t have been so lucky!  Many thanks to him 🙂  And guess what, the camera, though a little battered and bruised, when reassembled, was still working – result!  The spectators were most amused by the extra show, and loving their location.  Thanks to their choice spot they’d managed to collect a small hoard of riders’ bottles which had likewise bounced free!

Caerphilly Caerphilly and riders

Off to Caerphilly we go.  It has a castle and everything you know.  Not just a mountain 😉  As with so many places en-route, there were plenty of spectators out cheering us on too.  It’s hard to suffer too much on the bike when you’re having to smile and wave so much – it just cheers you up! 🙂  Which didn’t stop it being time to go up that mountain though.  Shorter than the Tumble but steeper and a bit narrower and by now, it being later in the ride so I guess they were tireder, lots and lots and lots more riders were walking.  Shame they couldn’t stick to the left hand side, or when they were, walk in smaller groups.  With less than half the road free to ride up, with riders going down when it all got too much and un-cleating didn’t happen, or just stopping willy nilly, and with other faster climbers trying to push through, my heart was in my mouth frequently.  I was back in my serene crawler gear and quite enjoying it, and really really really didn’t want anyone to make me stop!  I was very relieved to make it to the top in one piece.  Oh, and a little bit chuffed too 🙂

walking up the mountain Finish line

There was another feedstop up here, but this time I didn’t even bother, not after the state of the last two.  Plus I was only 8 downhill miles from the end so there didn’t seem much point anyway.  Yo home to Bel-Air 😉  The last few miles flew by, and I flew by a fair few riders too, as I had been doing all day, which is always good for the ego.  And as I rolled under the Finish arch and joined the walking procession for medals etc, listening to those talking about how hard it had been and how tired they were I definitely had smug face on because to me it wasn’t, and I wasn’t. By my standards I nailed it 🙂

However, the after-ride aftermath was a bit of an anti-climax.  We all shuffled forwards, got our medals, were offered a bottle of water and/or an inch of banana, then shuffled back down the other side…and that was it.  The event village was still there, with some street food/coffee places, but as ever all I wanted was fizzy orange, far too down market for them 😉  There wasn’t much space for sitting around, even milling around was tricky with all the people with bikes, accompanying supporters, family, etc…none of which I had.  So, Velothon Wales done, I just took myself straight back to the hotel.  Where, once my car and I were all sorted and ready to go home, I had that fizzy orange 🙂

medal and orange

I guess this is sort of a mixed review.  Let’s start with the negatives.  You can’t blame the organisers for the idiot who put tacks down (although he probably thinks you can).  And since all the pre-ride info had included a section on how to ride in groups and be a polite rider, you can’t blame them for the nearly complete lack of rider etiquette.  Precious few riders were pointing out obstacles, or issuing a polite “coming through”, “on your right” and the like, which often made things a bit tricky.

But there’s a lot to improve/tweak for the organisers here.  Better signage for starters.  When you don’t have to have signs for the route, riders aren’t really looking for signs at all so those that you do have need to be large, and clear.  And to encourage walking riders to stick to the left!  The marshals were friendly enough and clearly helpful when they had to be, but a lot of big events use marshals with red flags on sharp corners etc – shouting really isn’t the way to go.  I think maybe some of the marshals/outriders needed to better trained to cope with emergencies too (I do hope everyone who was one is ok).  Most importantly of all, the food stops need a one-way system, an entry and exit, more food, and more toilets!  Toilets along the route would be good too  – and designated rubbish areas might help too.  Which pretty much covers constructive criticism I think…

On the upside I LOVED the closed roads, I enjoyed the scenic hilly section, and all the local support was great.  With the exception of the two massive hills I found the route pretty easy and with so much to pay attention too – other riders, marshals, supporters – I never got bored, or stuck on my own.  The time just flew by, as I did…kinda 😉

Cycling time: 5:23 (official time 5:51)
Distance: 85.7 miles
Avg: 15.9 mph
ODO: 9804.8 miles

There were supposed to be 15,000 riders all together, but from the results it looks like there was only a total of 9815, which is a pretty high attrition rate!  Still, 997 (around 11%) of those on the long route were women, which is more than most events manage (and it was 50% on the short route!).  My stats for the long route?  I was 5543rd out of 8777, 419th woman, and 78th out of the 174 ladies in my age group.  Yes, I know, doesn’t really convey nailed it does it?  But I feel like I did, and that’ll do me 🙂

Velothon Wales 2015 – Part 1

Woohoo – a new event!  And not just new to me – new full stop.  And it was a big’un too – Velothon Wales!  In the absence of a closed road foreign road event on my calendar this year (*sob*), 15,000 riders on Welsh closed roads sounded like a pretty good Plan B to me, so I signed up sometime in the far and distant past, booked my hotel, and pretty much forgot about it…

Until this weekend of course.  Which saw me, and a great many other cyclists, all heading down the M4 to Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, those that weren’t going to be doing the same on Sunday of course.  I reckon around 20% of the many cars patiently queuing at the Severn Crossing toll booth had bikes either on or in them!  Of course adding all of us to Cardiff’s usual Saturday afternoon traffic made for slow progress from thereon in…

OK, so I’d booked my hotel, the Big Sleep in Cardiff, through Velothon’s partner of choice.  I knew they had limited parking.  I was hoping that by getting there early I would stand a chance of getting a space.  As I sat there in stop/start interminable traffic, eventually able to see my hotel but still not getting there, I felt my chances slipping away…surrounding by car parks with big red “Full” notices, and no alternative booked…  So you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally pulled up the (very steep) ramp to the car park and found spaces if not galore, certainly sufficient for my needs! *phew*.  Although my paperwork had said check in was at 2pm, and I was marginally early for that, it turned out that is oft the case, the paperwork sent by those I had booked through was wrong, and it was actually at 3pm.  Probably explains why not everyone else was there yet and why there were spaces…but whatever the reason I certainly wasn’t complaining.  I was where I needed to be, when I needed to be, and my little red car was happily parked up.

Registration Enervit

The weather wasn’t great, mild but damp.  So given an hour or so to kill, I sorted some stuff out with the car and bag and such, grabbed my waterproof jacket, and headed back to the hotel to use the toilets and ask for directions to Cardiff Castle, which is roughly where I knew registration was.  As it turns out another gentleman, aka a cyclist (not always the same thing!), was doing the same, so I acquired company by the name of Charlie.  We headed off in the drizzle, me with the map of course, apparently it’s a girl thing 😉  We jay-walked our way there in grockle fashion, and eventually reached the event village by City Hall. To be fair, a couple of signs wouldn’t have gone amiss!  The signs once there weren’t all that helpful either, but we figured the large white tent not noticeably selling anything and with a few people queuing out of it was probably registration which indeed it was.  Having been open since Thursday, and with anyone else checking in to the City probably aiming for 3pm, the various number-related queues were pretty short, and mine was non-existent.  For a change having been asked to bring photo ID with me, (I only have my passport and I really don’t like having to take it to sportives and then leave it in the car), I was actually asked to produce it.  Which I did, of course.  I was clearly me, so I was allowed to have my essential envelope and a goody bag which I gather in some cases contained hair conditioner which is useless to your average MAMIL and which might have actually come in handy for me.  I just got some fliers and a pack of Craisins!  And a voucher for a free Enervit bottle which, once Charlie was likewise sorted, we both went and collected.  He also got one of their complete race nutrition – before, during, after – packs, which he’d reserved.  I passed.  Surprise, surprise 😉

We wandered around the village a bit.  He needed a new bottle cage and gas canisters – which he found.  I was handed the bag containing all these as he paid, as ever, a girl would only be there as someone’s wife, right?  *sigh*  My new marital status was the cause of quite some amusement 😉  Muc-Off were also there and I remembered I’d run out of their Chain Cleaner, so I picked some of that up too (saves paying p&p right?).  But there wasn’t much else to do, or pay attention to, especially in the damp, so we headed back to the hotel to respectively check in at last, having duly killed the necessary hour to make our presence permissible.  It turns out that the hotel is co-owned by John Malkovich, which is a tad surreal, as was sharing my room with a photograph of him staring out at me.  Still, my room seemed, if basic, perfectly pleasant, though the fluffy curtains were a tad weird.  So, what to do now?  Charlie had work to do…due a presentation of exciting accountancy stuff on Monday morning apparently, whereas I had no such ties on my time.  Since he had suggested I might like to join him and his club – iCycle from Bedford- for the meal they were all having that evening, although I wasn’t sure I would, it being a tad outside my comfort zone, I figured I should get some cash just in case, and hey, a girl needs to hydrate, no? 😉

John Malkovich

On my way into town I walked past the kind of pub I always want to go in, all historic and tiled and stunning…but you can’t see inside so it’s a tad scary and, giving in to fear, I walked on by.  Having found cash, the centre of Cardiff on a Saturday afternoon was a whole heap more scary though!  And I don’t just mean the sheer quantity of hen/stag parties.  They have an excuse (kinda!).  I’m talking the other denizens prowling the streets!  Oh, so classy…and I’d better add a big NOT there!  All the central pubs, including a Wetherspoons which can sometimes be a good option, were heaving and loud and just not where I wanted to hang out in a quiet corner, mostly because there wasn’t such a thing anywhere to be found.  So I was brave.  I went back to the other pub.  It was empty.  And as I wandered around a bit downstairs, as stunning as I’d hoped.  I went back to the main bar which was purple, with pink crystal chandeliers over the bar, and Perroni on tap.  On ordering my pint from the softly spoken barman, it occurred to me that I wasn’t in Kansas in anymore, but I was probably somewhere where Dorothy would have a lot of friends.  So once I was sat down I googled it.  Yep 😉  Hey, it made no odds to me – the beer was cold and wet and wanted, my seat was purple and comfy, it was quiet, and a lot lighter and airier than I’d expected, so I curled up to read my Kindle happily for an hour or so 🙂

Golden Cross Perroni

That done, I figured I’d head back to the hotel if I was going to have another one, and chill in my room sorting stuff for a while instead, as I was getting a bit chilly rattling around the place on my own.  So I did just that.  Whilst doing such upstairs, pinning numbers on jerseys and the like, and then resting up on my comfy bed, Charlie texted me to say I was indeed welcome to join them all for dinner and he was getting a taxi at 18:45pm if I wanted to.  Just for once, maybe inspired by having been brave with the pub, I decided that I would.  Unaccustomed as I am to being sociable, I thought I’d give it a go 🙂

rider pack

I was nearly late, having got stuck filling in a Human Race survey that took far longer than it should have done.  But I made it down in time, and we headed off to Demiro’s which turned out to be in Cardiff Bay, just down the road, where I’ve been before, and I like it there.  Good start 🙂  By the time we’d all arrived there were about 25 of us, and I was somewhere in the middle of the table, which was nice, and made it easier to meet people.  The menu was a tricolore of Welsh, Italian, and Spanish – an interesting mix!  – but it had a whole heap of carb-loading options for those that needed them.  Since gluten-free didn’t seem to be an option and I didn’t want to ask, I went with squid rings and then crab cakes.  Not safe, but safer 😉  Oh, and also pretty good!  As was the company, as it turns out.  Lots of the usual cycling conversations, and quite a lot of good-natured banter 🙂  I’m not sure any of us were expecting cabaret…but they had singing waiters!  One younger, one more Tony Bennett.  Both quite good, especially so according to the lady of a certain age, and part of a large party in a middle of the room, who really got into the swing of things…extra entertainment!  Bet her head hurt the next morning 😉  Having eaten well, drunk well but less than her, and done the usual splitting the bill shenanigans, Charlie and I eventually found another taxi and headed back to the hotel for a quiet drink putting the world to rights, before heading off to our rooms for a relatively early night.  Bikes to ride an’ all that.  No Dangerous Liaisons for me, y’hear? 😉  I was dead proud of myself for being brave twice in one day, both of which had gone well, and amused to have been both married off and adopted in one day too.  Funny old world 😉  So far, so good…

Cardiff Bay

I wanna get outside

Trafalgar Square

About bl**dy time too.  After a country mice weekend away and a day afterwards when work and meetings meant time was too squeezed for exercise of any sort, today I finally got back out on the bike again.  This, in case you were wondering, is a good thing.  Well, unless you’re Alan that is.  Initially he was with me, though a bit tired after a long ride on Sunday.  But it swiftly became clear that he was having a very bad day at the office, and he wasn’t with me, he was well behind me, and not looking at all good either.  I don’t think tired covered it to be honest…he really didn’t look well, and it looked more like he was ill than tired – let’s face it, he usually kicks my ar*e on both the flat and up hills, even when tired.  Not today though 🙁

So when we reached Winscombe the time had come for a parting of the ways.  His way; to be straight back down the A38 and home as fast as his legs would carry him, which probably wasn’t likely to be at anything like his normal speed or anywhere near as quickly as he’d have liked.  My way; to carry on with my planned route because I was out, I needed to be out, I needed the miles, and besides I’d made a plan, and plans are made to be stuck to.  Oh and the sun was shining, that always helps 😉

extra points if you can name this up...

extra points if you can name this up…

Off I went.  Uphill, as it happens.  Up to where the wind blows even stronger, even on a good day which, wind-wise, it already wasn’t.  Really, will the wind around here ever stop?  It seems to have become a constant.  It’s driving me mad.  Or madder! 😉  It just feels so unfair.  I was going pretty well up the hills, really well actually, but fighting the wind everywhere else?  Ick.  Double ick.  It just beats you down mentally and physically, whilst simultaneously deafening you.  It’s a bleeding miracle I managed anything approaching a respectable average speed, all things considered.  But on the upside I did my loop as planned.  I did the ups, still getting better, and I nailed Burrington Combe.  At some point down there I hit 51.7mph.  Very, very, very cool.  So, as ever, out was better than in, and now I feel better in for having been out 🙂

Cycling time: 2:02
Distance: 29.9 miles
Avg: 14.6 mph
ODO: 9692.1 miles

I have plans to ride more this week, although my company plans have clearly changed – get well soon Alan!  And for the next two weekends I have sportives.  My two big guns for this year I guess – Velothon Wales and the Dartmoor Classic.  Which makes this photo pretty appropriate 😉  I’m feeling like I might, just might, be on form.  Well, as on form as I get.  So I’m kinda interested to see how things go…  Bring it on, and wish me luck! 😀

bringing out the big guns


Bring me to life

Fairyland sunshine

Today, as is often the case on a Friday, Alan and I went to Fairyland for coffee.  However if variety is the spice of life, this would be a spicy ride.  Because, as is usually not the case, the sun was shining.  AND George came out to play!  Same route, different entirely 🙂

It was supposed to be a bimble.  I was in a very “bleurgh” mood and I have sore quads, presumably due to Wednesday’s hills, which is a little weird since I very rarely suffer from such things; my legs being used to such treatment!  Alan was also complaining of being tired as a result of the same, so had brought his race steed out to make his life easier.  And George wasn’t up for racing either.  So could somebody please explain how we ended up averaging 18mph?!  Funny how life goes, no?  I may not have felt like I was going well, but I guess we were.  It all perked my mood up no end.  Good times 😀

Alan and more cake George

Cycling time: 1:35
Distance: 28.7 miles
Avg: 18.0 mph
ODO: 9662.2 miles

While I’m here, because I like it so much, I’m going to show you my lovely new jersey from Cycology that I treated myself to a little while back.  Well, it matches the bike, so how could I not?  Rhapsody in blue? 😉

jersey front jersey back

Pulling muscles from a shell ;)

sunny Levels

I went riding last Friday, but unless you want me to moan about the wind (amongst other things) again, it was fairly unremarkable.  Apart from the size of the slice of treacle tart that Alan ate at Sweets – that warrants a mention.  And a doggy bag probably, since even he couldn’t eat it all!  So I didn’t blog the ride, but I might as well slip it in while I’m here, for consistency’s sake.

treacle tart

Cycling time: 1:27
Distance: 22.1 miles
Avg: 15.2 mph
ODO: 9596.7 miles

Which brings us to today.  Which is of course hump day.  Again.  For some reason I came up with this particular route whilst attempting to drift off to sleep on Sunday night, with a vague idea that I might do it on Monday.  However the weather wasn’t in my favour, and life got a bit busy, and besides, hilly routes are perfect for riding with Alan, because at least I can just about keep up on those 😉

Two Trees out of saddle top of Two Trees views again

Of course it had to be a four hill route, since Alan had mentioned that we could easily have sneaked another hill into last week’s three hill route.  Gauntlet thrown down…  Be careful what you wish for, isn’t that what they say? 😉  And do you want to know which hills?  Of course you do.  And it doesn’t really matter whether you do or not because I’m going to tell you anyway.  That’s kinda how this blogging thing works.  So, in order, Shipham Hill, Two Trees, the A39 from Chewton Mendip to the aerial (which fails to have a catchy name), and Deer Leap.  How do you like them lumpy apples? 🙂

I wasn’t expecting it to go well, being back on the shiny pills and all.  But it did.  I just got on with it in a quietly feeling competent kind of way.  The sun helped, the wind didn’t.  Yes, the hills were hard work but, on balance, if pushed (which I wasn’t! 😉 ), I’d say they felt easier than the last times I variously went up them.  Which, according to Strava, is because I went up them faster.  Not PRs necessarily (though some of ’em were), but my best time up all of them in a year, or in some cases, in years!  How cool is that? 🙂  Apparently our efforts were worth a cream tea, if you’re Alan that is.  I’ll be having my reward a little later when Tescos have delivered – something cold and white methinks 😀

Cycling time: 2:36
Distance: 36.8 miles
Avg: 14.1 mph
ODO: 9633.5 miles

Ebbor Gorge smile cream tea

PS: yes the blog title today is truly terrible *grin*