The Cycling Mayor is neither one nor the other currently.
These days, having lost my fiancé Matt last August, I can, for the time being, be found at thisbegrief.co.uk.
All things are subject to change. I may be back. I may not.
It’s safe to say that the Tour of Pembrokeshire and I have history. Years of it. I’ve done the Prologue ride a few times. I’ve done the actual Tour quite a few times, and done every route from the short to the long. Not the very long route they had one year, even I’m not that daft – I’d still be out there!
But that’s when I was riding a bike. These days well…thanks to my health (mostly) and life…it’s coming up for a year since I actually rode out on the road, and it’s been a fair few months since I even sat on the spin bike at home. Such is life, etc.
So I had no intention of being anywhere near this year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire. Why would I? I’m not much of a one for being a spectator in life, if I’m not taking part, then what’s the point? I’d rather spend a few hours doing something than watching others doing it. A little bit of me was a bit sad about it. I know all the guys who run the Tour. We may not quite be what one would call friends, but we’ve all hung out quite a bit, in friendly and amicable style. And it’s a shame when traditions fall by the wayside.
Now whether or not they felt the same way, or whether they were just short of volunteers to help on the day, we may never know…but a couple of months prior the event, and a couple of phone calls from Peter, the organiser, and somehow we’d agreed that we (being Matt and I) would be there, and that we’d spend the day interviewing riders at one of the food stops to help with the post-ride promotional video that they were planning on making. Now I know a lot of you think I’m a extrovert, and that that kind of thing is probably very me. Believe me, I’m not, and it’s not. But given the chance to spend another weekend in Pembrokeshire, and to catch up with some folk, with the addition of a little curiosity as to whether or not I could push myself out of my comfort zone thrown in and…there you go.
And so, once more, late on a Friday evening, we spent another few hours retracing our now very familiar steps back to Crug Glas, HQ for the Tour for the last few years. By the time we’d made it down there, the pre-ride evening do was drawing to a close. We were just in time to grab some of the fish & chips laid on for dinner though, which went down a treat. Peter was as busy as ever, unsurprisingly, though we did manage to grab the odd five minutes with him so as to pick up the camera & kit, before getting our briefing from Griff as to what kind of thing he was after on the day. Slowly all was cleared down, the remaining riders retired to wherever they were planning on getting a good night’s sleep before doing the Tour, rather than just talking about doing it.
We all followed suit, with Peter playing support vehicle to make sure we got to Preseli Venture (who are one of the Tour’s Adventure partners), where we were staying without getting lost, which was good as we could easily have missed it on the dark narrow country lanes! So then, time for couple of beers in the bar, and a couple of games of pool, methinks. The bar closed pretty early, around 9ish, but she was happy to leave us to our own devices in the club room, so we chilled out for a bit, and then had a relatively comfortable night’s sleep on a couple of mattresses pushed together on the floor, as neither the two single beds nor the bunk beds in our room appealed…
The sun rose, seemingly actually shining, and at some point so did we. Not at the usual hideous o’clock that is associated with actually riding the event however, which I can’t be said to have missed. These days the only sport I could compete at is sleeping, and I’m very good at it once there! We were due to spend the day at the Bluestone Brewery food stop, where even the first racing snakes through wouldn’t be there until a fairly reasonable time, and being such, the chances were they’d not be wanting to stop and talk to us either! Post breakfast, well for him anyway, we headed off in the sunshine, both suitably attired in a range of Tour kit, past and present. And jeans in my case. No-one wears cycling shorts unless they have to, right? 😉 I wanted to make sure that we looked at least vaguely official – rather than just a pair of numpties walking around pointing a camera/mic at random people!
Which worked, albeit in a slightly counter-productive sense. As we parked up outside the brewery, and emerged blinking into the slightly breezy sunshine, (yes, it was sunny, yes this is not entirely unprecedented for the Tour, but it is rare, and I am going to keep mentioning it), we were accosted by a couple of riders, one of whom had recently had an unfortunate incident with a support vehicle, on his brand new, very swish, and no doubt expensive bike. Although the back deep carbon rim wheel was probably worth a little less than it had been, what with it being slightly buckled… 🙁 We did out best to help, until Griff appeared from nowhere, and we passed them on to him, in true pass the buck style!
Time to get to work. It’s harder than it looks videoing people. For starters, it was getting busier. There was loud music being played. Lots of chatter. And a fair few rookie errors. Like, did you know it helps to turn the microphone on before talking to people? And that the mic is fairly directional even when it is working? And that I get fairly flustered doing such things, although I did get better as I got the hang of it. It’s just hard approaching people, interrupting what they’re up to, be it eating, chatting, or just trying to avoid you! We did our best…and both thanks and apologies go to our victims! Basically everyone was having a good time, the weather was great, they loved the route, the organisers were friendly and helpful, and the food stops were amazing. Imagine many variations of that theme over, and over, and over… The atmosphere was lovely, the sun was still shining, though it could get a tad chilly on the few occasions where it hid its face or the breeze blew a little stronger. I had thought I might feel nostalgic, or a bit sad, left out, whatever. But no. I know the Tour. I know that whichever route you do, it’s bl**dy hard work, and I didn’t find myself missing it at all! The best part of the ride for me has always been the stunning scenery, and I was still getting to experience that, without slogging my guts out or ending up sat on the roadside in tears again. I’ve done it. Nothing to prove here, it’s on my palmares. Job done 🙂
Back to doing this “job” then. Which we did. Then the battery ran out. We had a spare. What I wanted to do was put the spare in, and put the old one on charge. However as it turns out, the only way to charge the battery is to plug the camera (complete with said battery) into the wall. I really didn’t want to risk ending up with no battery at all, especially considering that the first charge didn’t seem to have lasted all that long.
So, what to do? Take refuge inside the brewery of course! Where they were conveniently selling their very nice, and cold, beer. Weight off feet, time to cool down, and recharge the batteries. (Do you see what I did there? 😉 ) The barman was a cheerful chatty chappie, quite amused by the fact he didn’t think he’d ever had so many people around the place while selling quite so little beer…! Not surprising really, but we weren’t the only ones indulging – chapeaux to those who thought that they could cycle the rest of whichever route they were on after a beer or two – I know I couldn’t! On the other hand, as well earnt pints go…
Break over, and we got back to work, as the flow of riders lessened to a trickle, and we decided to head back to the Start/Finish and see if we could chat to people there instead. One last chat to a lovely lady from China (possibly) who was doing the long route, who was possibly the last en route, and even though it was her first event, and neither her bike, helmet or kit marked her out as a “cyclist”, was totally unphased when we had to tell her (she asked!) that she had a good three hours or so ahead of her. On our way out, we followed the road through the still beautiful Gwyn Valley, and passed her walking up an incline. We checked she was ok, and left her behind us, still with a massive smile on her face, determination writ large.
Back at HQ the place was full of lycra clad bodies sprawled all over the place, debriefing with friends, cold beverages, and the free food on offer for riders. Live music, massages, hustle, bustle, on one of the best days weather-wise that the Tour of Pembrokeshire has ever had, if not THE best. We collared a few more, slightly more willing, victims for post ride comments, to be told again what a great event it was (it is!), how much they’d enjoyed it, and that they would both recommend it and ride it again. Well, apart from the poor lady who had snapped her gear hanger (or something equally technical and hard to fix at the roadside) and had had to be rescued by the broom wagon. Better luck next year!
Having finally had enough of getting up enough nerve to talk to complete strangers, we decided that, in the spirit of being supportive and sportive, we would take our food, and a glass of something appropriate, and wait by the finish line for our cheery girl. I’ve been on my own and amongst the last in at sportives a fair few times, and it can be an rather lonely experience, which is sad when it comes on top of such an achievement. So wait we did. And quite some time later, about 3 1/2 hours after we’d last seen her, there she was, with a couple of other stragglers, all of whom summoned the energy for a brief sprint finish together, to be cheered over the line by us, a few marshals, and a family with many offspring still waiting for Daddy to get in. Our girl was still as smiley as ever, and I gave a big hug and congratulations, without hopefully being too patronising. She was inspirational! And last seen buying every piece of memorabilia and kit to remember the day by – who can blame her?
Right then. Time to make our way “home” again. Sadly the bar had closed by the time we got back, and neither of us had any change for the pool table any more. A slightly anticlimatic and unsociable end to the day, but luckily we had some provisions with us, so we hung out in the club room, and used the wifi to watch TV on the laptop for a while before bed beckoned again.
Good day sunshine! One of the best things, to my mind, about the Tour of Pembrokeshire, is that it takes place on the Saturday. Which leaves you the Sunday to go out and enjoy the area in a more leisurely fashion, should you so wish. Thanks to having helped out on the day, we (and a few similar) were in for a treat. Peter had organised a schedule of boat trips with Falcon Boats, the Tour’s other Adventure partner, around Ramsay Island to see the wildlife. It was fab. We were the first group, of around 12 or so, to head out. The sea was as flat as we’ve ever seen it, the sun was shining, the boat was fun, and came with a very lovely skipper who spent the ride doing her best to tell us all about everything we were seeing. Unless a seal popped its head up of course, in which case she got completely upstaged! The sea was beautiful, the range of birds on the island was amazing, the rocks and cliffs and caves were stunning, and the seals were just fabulous. Sadly the little resident pod of Riley’s Porpoises was nowhere to be seen, but hey, no complaints here. Well unless you’re Matt. He would have liked the sea to be much more bumpy and the boat to have hurtled and bumped around a lot more. The lady sat behind me would not have done however – it was quite bumpy enough for her as it was! *grin*. Sadly all good things come to an end, and it was back to shore where, after a brief wait for the bus, we were deposited back in St Davids to go our separate ways. Which in our case involved a pub lunch sat outside the pub, with views of the Cathedral, watching jackdaws thieve leftover packets of biscuits from the table next to us. They’d take them up to the roof next door, open the packet, drop the plastic bit, and fly off with their bounty. Someone is going to be mystified next time they clear out their gutters….! A very pleasant end to a very lovely weekend 🙂
Tour of Pembrokeshire 2019 done! Well, sort of 😉
Sometime between 2:00am on Tuesday morning and 8:30am – unless it was the large noise I heard during the evening and presumed was Cassie the cat causing chaos as customary – someone broke into our locked garage, and stole two bikes. My Cinelli. My “new” bike (in that it’s newer than t’other one, I’d still had it for a few years), my “summer” bike (old one got relegated to winter, new one saved, mostly, for summer), my bestest bike which I loved to bits. They also stole my partner Matt’s new Mekk bike which he’d had all of two weeks and ridden once and which lived here, which I feel really bad about and oddly responsible for 🙁
So the “thieves” (there are so many other words I’d like to use here) broke into our locked garage. It’s still not clear how they managed to break in – maybe they used the hockey stick they brought and left behind, maybe they didn’t – but how they did it is academic now. Clearly they got in. And being in my garage is like being in my house, since there’s an interconnecting door between the two which wasn’t locked. Luckily they didn’t come through…but it’s just scarey, and creepy, knowing that they could have done. While Tash and I were asleep upstairs. *shudder*. They just came into the garage, and they just took our two carbon bikes. They didn’t take anything else. Nothing. None of the other bikes. None of my power tools. Nothing. Just our beautiful steeds. Which makes one tend towards the conclusion that my house was deliberately targeted, which is enough to make your skin scrawl…
Setting out on the school run, discovering the garage door open, and then the bikes missing, was not nice. Quite a shock. Literally. The whole stunned, shaky, crying, thing. It took a little longer to hit Tash, but it still did. Not nice all round… 🙁 Once we’d calmed down sufficiently I made the inevitable round of phone calls. The police came, and were friendly and compassionate and helpful, and did their best but… No witnesses. No forensics on the abandoned hockey stick that “they” left behind. (On the upside the CSI guy was lovely, and when she expressed an interest, took Tash’s fingerprints for her, and she now has the world’s coolest bookmark). There’s nothing the police can do really, other than keep a look out for it if they recover any bikes. Then the insurance company’s garage people came out and made the house secure again, and after a survey tomorrow, a new lock is probably in the works. Being boring and sensible as I tend to be, it looks like the bikes and garage door were probably all variously insured. There will be the usual hoops to jump through, there are a great many forms to fill in, we probably won’t get what feels like enough money, and I won’t believe that that part of it is sorted until there is actually money in the bank. But if you look at it like that, no-one was hurt, and with any luck there will be replacement bikes, and hey, never mind, sh*t happens, ho hum.
But it doesn’t feel very ho hum. It feels weird. Matt came down on a flying visit last night to be with us, and look after me, and one of the bikes was his after all. He’s sad too. And angry. And all those things. It’s a really good thing he did, because I was pretty shaky when I didn’t have work to distract me, and because reactions are a funny thing. For example I had to resort to drinking too much white wine last night to make me go to sleep. I didn’t expect that, but I guess your brain works in weird ways. Emotional vs intellectual. I felt this serious need to stay awake all night. I think it’s because this house is my place that I fought hard to keep. It’s mine. It’s home to me and mine. My Englishwoman’s castle. It’s my safe place that now doesn’t feel safe. In an odd way it felt like I needed to stay awake because while I was awake we were still safe, and going to sleep might mean bad things happening again, and what might happen next? Intellectually I knew/know the house is secure, so it’s ridiculous. But then I thought it was secure before so…is it?
So there’s that. Which ain’t great as things go. And then there’s the sadness. They stole my beautiful bike. I loved that bike. I don’t really want another bike. I never have. Sure, it was getting older, and needed things replaced, and was usually covered in mud, but it was still all the bike I ever wanted. I’ve never wanted to replace it. It was built to fit me, light and agile, cornered like a dream, and we’ve done a great many mostly happy miles together, in some amazing places. Yes, it’s just a bike. But it was my bike, and I was/am pretty attached to it. I’m really really upset about it, when I’m stupid enough to let myself think about it. Totally gutted. It may be daft to cry about a bike…but hey, we all know I’m daft.
But it’s done now. I’ve put our sad stolen bike story everywhere. It’s on my Facebook – thanks for all kind comments and the shares everyone. It’s on my Twitter – thanks for all the retweets, especially to Matt Stephens and Cyclosport – the news is spreading and I’ve now been retweeted 48 times! And now, predictably, it’s on here. I really don’t expect to ever see either of our bikes again but if there’s even a slim chance…the more people that know about it the better. So if you happen to be offered a cheap bike for sale in the pub, see a bike lurking in a rhyn somewhere, visit a local car boot sale…and come across one of ours, please do let me know. This weekend, though the horses may have bolted, we’re going to be locking the stable door (and overusing an idiom) – by putting every security precaution, reinforcement, lock and alarm on my house and garage that we can. I’m not having this happen again. In the meantime, I need a glass of white wine, and a decent night’s sleep (fat chance!). My poor bike 🙁
For all that I’m not well, I tend not to think of myself as ill. As an invalid. It is what it is, and you just get on with playing the hand that life has dealt you. It’s only pain, right? So I get on with it. We all have sh*t to deal with. But then again, if I don’t take it into account, if I ignore it too much, then ignoring it bites me on the ass, and ignoring it ceases to be an option. Since I’m currently sitting here with a patch on my arm, the latest dose of tramadol taken two hours ago and not doing the trick, and having resorted to my first ever dose of oramorph which is now working its way into my system to deal with what is blandly referred to as breakthrough pain…I guess I should probably own up to not being 100% healthy though?
Before you get more bored than usual, and wonder what this has to do with anything, you’ll be pleased to hear that this does actually relate to cycling. After deciding to let the Christmas period happen without stressing too much about lack of riding or workouts, it is/was time to try and get back to it. You don’t get around the Maratona without some training, right? And yes, I’m doing that again, with Steve and Mike. Furthermore Mike and I would like to try and throw in the Stelvio while we’re out there. It’s just possible that not only is my health is questionable, but that my sanity is too! *grin*.
So Christmas has now passed. And I’d been having a pretty good patch, by my standards. I’d had a week or thereabouts of being pretty just on the patches. Which for me is unusual. So I’d done a couple of home spin bike workouts. And, although I’d had the odd twinge and was starting to think that maybe…on Sunday Alan and I went for what was for me the first ride of 2017.
It worked out ok as it happens. He was doing some 60+ mile route, including me in the middle, and also hopefully coffee if I was up for stopping. Our 30ish mile mid section ended up being a little longer, which is what happens when you leave your wingman behind and don’t make proper arrangements as to how to meet up again…but that’s by the by. We decided not to have a coffee stop as my time was tight, and I was feeling ok out there and stopping also means getting cold and then having to start again. However I started to flag a bit around an hour and a half in, and as I didn’t want to push it on my first ride back, and what with that thing I said about ignoring stuff earlier and trying to listen to my body more these days, I decided it was wiser to call it quits and to come back via a somewhat more direct route on my own. So I left Alan, conveniently just before Sweets, to carry on his way, able to do his own speed and also to have the coffee that he’d really wanted all along. Meanwhile I rode home at my own speed, riding within myself, glad there weren’t any hills between me and home, and generally just getting the miles necessary to get there done. It all kind of worked out for everyone I think 🙂
But yes, as those pre-ride twinges suggested, my good patch was due to wear off. It’s a cyclical thing, so I was pretty much expecting it. So the fact that this bad patch proper kicked off after cycling is possibly purely coincidental. However there are a couple of things that are guaranteed to make it worse, and sadly cycling is one of them. So maybe Gibbs is right and there’s no such thing as coincidence.
Anyway… Lots of people are talking about their cycling goals for next year. Mileage to be done, metres to climb, epic events, targets to reach, etc, etc… And yes, I guess I so have one, in that quite clearly I’m doing the Maratona again. I’d like to do the full route, again. Faster than last time would be nice, but really…let’s be realistic here… Generally I’d like to do “better” this year than last year. Bail a little less, ride a lot more. And I am going to have to do a fair bit of training somehow or none of that is going to be happening. But as goals go…? I think the best I can really do is to resolve to ride the bike when I can, hopefully with friends, accept that I can’t when I can’t, and admit that maybe I am a teensy bit of an invalid… Woman, know your limits! Maybe if I take it easy, listen to myself, train carefully, and with the support of Matt and my very lovely friends, I can learn to fly again 🙂
So, sometime last Autumn a msg popped up in Facebook, telling me I’d won a 5 day cycling training camp. Yeah right, I thought… But after a few exchanged messages, it turns out that was not an attempt to get my bank details, or a friend winding me up…it was in fact true. Cor blimey. 5 days for two in Spain, half board, including bike hire & guided rides. All I’d have to cover was flights and insurance. Well, even if I hadn’t enjoyed last year’s training camp so much, it’s not like I was going to turn it down, now was it? Even better, I had until April 2016 to take it, whatever dates I wanted!
And to cut a long story a little shorter, that’s Chris and I were in Bristol Airport on February 17th, heading off to what would hopefully be sunny and warm, unencumbered by bike boxes. How cool is that? Well, as it would turn out, slightly cooler, albeit slightly cooler than hoped for literally, but pretty cool nonetheless 😉
This fab price came courtesy of Ciclo Costa Blanca, which is run by Terrence Kerr from HQ at Meta Bike Cafe in Albir Playa which is just down the coast/road from Benidorm. They run cycling training camps, cycling breaks, help with bike hire, cycling holidays, in fact…cycling anything if you want to be over there, either with them, or independently. The accommodation part of our prize came courtesy of the Marconfort Essence in Benidorm, who are working on being a cycling friendly hotel. We were collected from the airport and taken there to check in and get settled, and Terry arrived later that afternoon in the support car, complete with the two shiny bikes that would be ours for a few days – 2 Ridley Fenixs. Nice. After a little while spent fitting our own saddles and pedals to them, plans were made for the next day, and Terry headed off. we took them downstairs to the secure bike storage room, which came complete with lockers, as well as bike stands, tools and the like. Ours weren’t the only bikes in there, which, from the clientele we’d already seen, came as a bit of a shock. Of which more later…
Right then. We had been thinking of going for a test ride, but it was getting late, it wouldn’t serve much purpose, and there were other things to do. Like having a beer, checking out the hotel, and checking out the beach that could be tantalising seen from the balcony between tower blocks… Since we were on a half-board basis and hadn’t taken advantage of that yet, we didn’t need to find food, just beer, because the best way to annoy your mates back home in a chilly wet miserable UK is to post photos of beer and tapas 😉 After a walk along the breezy bright beach, and around the older town bit to get our bearings, we found a little local corner place and ticked that box *grin*
Back at the hotel for dinner then. Which was all very nice; a large buffet of a whole variety of everything. The food was perfectly presentable but the whole thing was just slightly canteen, probably due to the pristine white slightly clinical decor. However nice it was, it didn’t really make me want to do it every day…although having free wine and beer on tap didn’t suck as a concept… 😉
Onwards to the more important stuff. After a pretty good night’s sleep, it was time to be up and faffing and fretting. Breakfast was better, it being a meal that just works better as a self-help buffet, and as we had places to be we were amongst the first down there. There was a whole heap of things on offer – fried stuff, cake, continental, you name it. I was just pleased to discover muesli and soya milk (not ideal but lactose free), so even with my bizarre requirements it was reassuring to know that I was going to be able to fuel every morning. As for the faffing, it being our first day, it was really hard to decide what to wear. It was sunny, but chilly, and a bit windy. Although we’d been advised that all we’d need for the trip was summer kit plus arm warmers and a gilet, at the last minute, I’d thrown my lightweight tights and a base layer into the bag, and I decided I’d rather be too warm than too cold. So, tights, base layer, s/s jersey, arm warmers, mitts, and gilet. The muset bag for the support car got my waterproof, over gloves, gels and the like. Have faffed with all that, there was then a degree of shenanigans with regards to getting the room key to open the garage door which meant that we were a little behind schedule by the time we finally hit the road.
Benidorm is a shortish flat ride from Meta Bike Cafe, which ended up being longer than planned as we didn’t know where we were going and were relying on a combo of instructions, phone maps, and road signs. Unfamiliar routes always seem to take forever…but as it turns out we got where we were supposed to be, were only marginally late, and we weren’t the last to arrive. Training camp season meant that today’s guided ride would see us joining the U23 RP Vision Racing Team (!!!). Just the girls today, like that’s supposed to suggest that it would be an easy ride! 😉 They were all staying at the ‘official’ hotel just down the road so once all the guides and support car were ready & loaded up (with our bag in), we headed off down there to mill around in the sunshine. Organising a group of U23 riders takes even longer than organising me 😉 Out of the wind outside the hotel, and having been riding, I was actually feeling a bit warm, and I was tempted to sneak off and get rid of my base layer, but I was persuaded that I could always do this later if necessary, so I didn’t.
Time to ride. And I don’t remember all the details, but thanks to Strava, I know it went something like this. Luckily the girls had various goals to achieve – warm up, practice lead outs, practice sprints, etc. Which also involved various stops for briefing, layer changes, and the like, thus meaning it wasn’t a constant slog trying to keep up. It took most of the ride to get the hang of the bike. It fitted me just fine, was nice and light, and handled well, but with the brakes the wrong war around I was a bit cautious, and worried what would happen if I got it wrong in extremes… We stuck together (mostly!) on the flats, when they weren’t doing drills, and climbing up the hills (of which there was quite a lot) were an every girl for themselves thing, which meant I could plod up them my way, enjoy the stunning views, and wish we had climbs like this back home.
On the upside, even among this lot, as I got used to the bike, I was still amongst the very fastest down hill – which assuaged the slightly depressed ego somewhat 😉 I was glad to have kept my kit as it was as it remained distinctly chilly, even in the sun, thanks to the wind. And the top of things was even cooler than the bottom. On the way back there was a sheltered coffee stop where I could indulge my fizzy orange habit, and the very small, very skinny, girls could descend on large slices of chocolate cake like a venue of very happy vultures! Still, they’d more than earnt it, especially being many days into their week, and it was amusing to watch cake dematerialise before your eyes…
Back to the hotel, a little too late for lunch. Luckily both of us had carried various food stuff with us, not that I felt like eating mine. I don’t really do eating. We did find time for a quick pint in the hotel bar, with snack food, still in kit, watching the residents take advantage of the all-inclusive bar, playing cards, knitting, and so on. Those that weren’t permanently installed by the pool and outside bar that is. Which definitely engendered an interior slightly smug superior vibe …we’d been out and seen the world and exercised and been fit and healthy and everything. Go us! After a shower, more faffing and a nap, it was time to head out in search of a more appetising dinner, which didn’t go all that well. Places that were empty, places that were not appealing, places that turned out not to do food at all. It’s just possible we were too fussy…. Nice though it was wandering the streets of an out of season Benidorm, food really was a priority. Getting a little desperate, we headed back towards the hotel and found a tapas place not far from there that seemed to have locals eating in it, which is always a good sign.
Oddly for somewhere that is flooded by tourists every year, the local places don’t speak much English at all, and I found myself using, and remembering, more of my Spanish than I thought I would/could. I guess it’s probably because your typical British tourist a) never leaves their all-inclusive hotel and b) if/when they do, they end up at one of the more British places; pubs, bars, cafes…egg ‘n chips anyone? Our little tapas bar was currently feeding lots of Spanish folk, off a menu that I had to guess at. It was a bit hit and miss. Various ham, cheese, and bread things worked out well, as did the marinaded anchovies (I love those), but the local speciality octopus dish was less successful. All reasonable cycling fodder if you can load up on bread to go with it, less so otherwise…but since I wasn’t hungry (I rarely am), I was yet to be aware that wasn’t ideal. Food had been required, food had been found, job done.
New Year. New start. Well, New Year anyway 😉
Today was my second ride of 2016, the first having been yesterday. There have actually been a fair few rides since my last blog, and I’ve been meaning to write…but you know, priorities, things to do, holidays, etc… Besides, average rides, crap weather, ill health…plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, and you’ve heard it all before 🙂
So in a brief 2015 conclusion way…before we roll with the punches that 2016 has in store…here goes.
How was 2015? I’m not fool enough to set myself much by way of annual goals. They seem like a fairly sure way to tempt fate, and to set myself up to fail. Miles on the road, hours in the saddle…? They don’t do it for me, especially these days when things tend to be a bit out of my hands. Any goals I do set tend to be of the relatively reasonable and achievable variety. I think all I really wanted for last year was to avoid surgery and to do better than the year before. Define better…? Anyway, I didn’t go under the knife, and I did cycle 4,573 miles which turns out to be 746 miles more than 2014. As it also turns out, it was also my best year mileage-wise since 2012 so…you know, girl done relatively good. Better as I see it. Better by my standards, and they are mine and mine alone, and as such the only ones that matter 😉
Which I was thinking about the other day when I joined a BKVelo ride on New Year’s Eve. More fool me. I should know better! It was really nice to have company and to see them all again but, as ever, they are just too fast for me, which left me getting dropped further and further behind, while they intermittently waited at junctions, having a rest and chat, only for us all to leave again as soon as I arrived, so I got neither. I didn’t feel bad about it actually. It was good to be out, and it was nice out there, but my PMA needed to not be trying to keep up all the time, and waiting for me wasn’t fair on them, so I bailed and came home my own way in my own time and consequently had a really nice ride. That’s the important thing, no?
It’s not that I’m bad at riding the bike. I’m not. It’s just that I happen to know quite a lot of people who are better at it than I am, including most of those I ride with, and to whom I do not compare well. Which, come to think of it (I said I was thinking, remember?), probably applies to nearly everyone, though in ever decreasing ways the higher up the performance pyramid you get. Very few of us get to be the best at anything, right? And that’s as it should be, and how it is, and that’s ok 🙂
So I wasn’t, and am not, downhearted. I’m still focussing on being pleased to be riding the bike when I can be riding the bike, and am not hindered by work, weather, civic duty, or pain. It was thus good, after an off the bike patch, to be back on the bike yesterday, even if it was damp. And even if two days in a row was possibly ill-advised, today the sun shone, and I was mostly free of mostly everything, and so out again just had to be done. It being Wednesday, and with training camps to train for, Alan and I went up a couple of hills, sticking to tradition. It was a slow ride, and it turned out to be a longer ride time-wise than expected. It was lovely on the top of the Mendips though 🙂 I did ok, but I was pretty tired before the ride was over and even more so afterwards. But I had a long bath, took it easy for a bit (if you can count playing passenger whilst eldest practices driving restful!), and I feel ok now. Well, as ok as I get at the moment 🙂
Cycling time: 3:01
Distance: 39.3 miles
Avg: 13.0 mph
ODO: 17688.9 miles
So, what else to tell you? Just for once very few of my Christmas gifts were cycling related. In fact, they were mostly jewellery as it happens, cos I’m a girl, and a magpie, and so forth 🙂 I did get a belt made out of a bike tyre though, which is not only cool but very useful as I’ve shrunk out of some of mine. And I, and more importantly my winter bike, also got our first ever pair of mudguards. Fitting them took eldest and I quite a while…it’s easy when you know how and not so much so when you don’t…but there you are, and here they are 🙂 So for the last two rides my bike and my behind have remained relatively clean. How cool is that? 😀
As for 2016 goals, I need to sit down and figure out what sportives and events I’d like to do this year. I would also like to find a big event to aim at but…well…I haven’t found one yet. To be honest, I think I’m putting all that off until after I’ve (finally!) seen my consultant next week – so as to have all the facts at my fingertips. No point getting ahead of myself. Well, other than that it would be nice to be ahead of someone…*grin*. In the meantime, I’m still here, and I’m still riding. Don’t you go count me out now 😉
In the meantime, here’s picture of a not-so kitten for you. Cassie has spent a lot of time keeping me company lately so I reckon she deserves it, and so do you for reading all this 😉
So this year’s sportive season is over. And yes, I’ll write about that sportive in due course as usual, that being what I do, even if it sometimes takes me a while to get around to it.
But in the meantime…
Another season done. One amazing training camp followed by 18 sportives of varying length and varying levels of form and performance. It’s also been my 11th year of cycling, having started out in 2005, and I’ve been doing the many sportives thing for around seven years now. Right now it doesn’t feel like a many splendored thing though. I’m not sure I can face another year of doing the same thing over and over, on my own, and not being good enough. Although I’m well aware that that is…well, good enough for what? For who? In comparison to whom? Who’s judging me anyway? And besides which does it matter if anyone is? Etc. Nonetheless…
As the year has gone on, my health has been deteriorating again. This means I’m in more and more pain for more and more of the time. As a result I’m usually on fairly heavy duty drugs. Which isn’t great in and of itself, but they also have other interesting side effects. I have sod all appetite for starters. Or mains, or desserts 😉 So I’m eating even less than usual, and thanks to my IBS, eating wasn’t something I was all that keen on or bothered about anyway. On the upside there’s less of me, and hey, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, right? And talking of taste? Yeah, it screws up my taste buds too. I’ve even gone off beer. Yes people, you heard right. Off. Beer. The end of the world may indeed be nigh, get your houses in order 😉 Since I try not to be on the drugs all the time, when I do have to take them, and am not habituated, they also turn me into a bit of a zombie. And yes, you might think being permanently stoned is fun, but it isn’t…the novelty wore off quite some time ago.
None of which makes cycling any easier I reckon. I swear it sometimes takes as much energy to keep it together on the bike as it does to actually ride the darn thing. Riding sometimes also makes the pain worse, but it makes my head better, and since the state of play sometimes gets me down I need to ride…ooh, it’s all so circular 😉 Even when I have the pain under control, my body is still dealing with it even if I’m not actually aware that that is going on, so I imagine it’s working harder than I think. And thanks to the calorie deficit levels, I don’t seem to have reserves like I used to, I don’t have enough stored in the tank to ride on. So I tire easily, get cold easily, and generally don’t have what I had. Mind you, my body is an amazing thing really. Look at everything it’s going through, and what I put it through, and what it does and can do regardless. Pretty awesome 🙂
The chances are that there is more surgery in my future. I have an appointment with my consultant, this time via the NHS, in January. It being the NHS, I’m thinking I could probably get away with avoiding the knife until next Autumn at least though, what with waiting lists and all that jazz. So I can still make some cycling plans. I have my amazing prize, my 5 day Spanish cycling trip, in February. And I have a vague Maratona plan shaping up for 2017. But for 2016, I think a goal would be good. Possibly essential. Something that gives all these sportives meaning, makes them part of a training routine. And I’d prefer it to be something I do in company. In fact I’d like to cycle with more people more of the time, and not just because it’s probably better to have company in case I lose it completely and need picking up off the tarmac 😉 I’d just like cycling to be more of a social, sociable thing than it has been this year… Back to goals though. I have no idea what that should/could be. The Etape is out, the route doesn’t interest me. And it doesn’t have to be a sportive or an event. I’m open to ideas…fire away if you have any suggestions!
Considering how I’m feeling, mentally and physically, it is definitely the end of the season. Even though, as is oddly and always surprisingly, frequently the case, it turns out that yesterday’s sportive went a lot better than I felt like it did. I was a golden girl 😉 But it felt like hard work, it hurt, and my head wasn’t really in the game. Which has been the case for the last couple of sportives really, and I think I’ve possibly had a elegant sufficiency of them for the time being. Just as well it was my last one this year then 😉 I just feel a bit like I’ve been fighting too many battles on too many fronts somehow. I’m even thinking of maybe taking a break from the bike. Or at least making a conscious effort to do it differently. With a different focus. Which will be easier since training is less of an issue for a little while at least. I think it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride, and when I can get out there, remember to be grateful that I’m riding at all. But I’m not going to let this beat me. I shall remember there have been some real high points this year, and that there will be more ahead. PMA here I come! 🙂
The high point of my year. Literally 😉
Me oh my, I am such a long way behind. But there’s been so much going on! Riding, working, Dad’s birthday, life…what can I say?
A lot of the two weeks prior to this sportive was spent trying to get my knee better. Resting more, riding less. Though probably not quite enough of one and too much of the other. But hey, I was trying…!
Since the Welsh Raider, when things went a little pear shaped, I’d done a flat easy run with Alan, a flat short loop on my own, another easy run with the ever-patient Alan, and a nice seaside loop with, unsurprisingly, Alan again. And slowly things had been getting better. Riding was not pain free but it was improving, and the time required to recover off the bike had been coming down.
Cycling time: 6:32
Distance: 99.2 miles
All of which means it was time for another sportive. The Evans Ride It Wiltshire Downs, to be precise. It’s fairly local, which means a shorter drive and more time in bed. And coming as it did, the day after the clocks went back, that means another hour in bed, and daylight to drive in. Very handy! Even better, the forecast was good, and that drive took place in autumn sunshine, something you wouldn’t have predicted considering that it spent all Saturday p*ssing it down…!
HQ was at Wiltshire College, Lacock, at the end of a long, muddy, leaf covered drive, which would turn out to be pretty typical of all the roads for the day. It may have been dry overhead, but not under wheel! I parked up in a muddy gravel carpark a little way from registration and decided that I’d get sorted and then register rather than to-ing and fro-ing. It being October, even with the sun shining, it was pretty darned cold, somewhere around 6°C, so it was just a case of putting on all the layers I’d brought with me, loading up the bike and my pockets, and heading off. There were toilets in a changing room block opposite where the gentlemen were queuing and where I didn’t have to, and as it turns out, there were also more inside by registration. I registered, and the lady stuck my timing sticker on the right hand side of my helmet which was unusual, it’s usually t’other side. No bike number, so presumably no photography either, a map, and a High5 race day pack, and I was done. Since I had no intention of returning to the car to stash anything, I plundered the pack for the useful and discarded the rest.
Back outside, and the queue for the start was stretching a long way back, which was a bit disheartening, with the thought of standing around in the cold for ages not appealing. Still, it turned out not to be too bad in the sunshine, and the other riders around were chatty and sociable and as riders were being let away in fairly big groups, it wasn’t long until we were the next group, with me right at the front of it. No pressure then! After the usual rider briefing, a demo of the black on pink arrows, again novel, and a reminder that this was all supposed to be fun, we were off on our way.
Wiltshire College doesn’t half like its speed bumps! I’m not sure when we stopped being on the estate, presumably when they finally ended! Somewhat oddly, I seemed to have left my group pretty much behind me, so it felt like it was just me heading out into the Wiltshire countryside. My camera had somehow run out of batteries, so there’s not a lot of photographic evidence of my day sadly…which is a shame because it was absolutely beautiful out there. Glorious in fact. I’ve cycled around this area before, most notably on the White Horse Challenge, but a lot of this route was completely unfamiliar to me, and I’ve never seen the Downs stretched out around me like that before. Stunning 🙂
Having got my layers spot on, after the initial chill had worn off and I’d warmed up, so about an hour then, I was pretty happy out there. There were a few ups, but nothing too terrible, and most of it seemed to be being fairly flat or rolling. So, on to mental meanderings and route decisions to mull over. There were a lot of options, and route splits came one after the other – no front loading this time. Would it be the Fun route at 15 miles? Nah, don’t be daft. Ok then, how about the Short at 34 miles, the Medium at 63 miles, or the Long at 80 miles? Hm… No rush to decide though. The first food stop came at 28 miles in, in a pub car park, where the two outdoor toilets were proving woefully inadequate for the number of people wanting to use them. I duly queued, and then after grabbing some jelly beans, and taking the odd photo with my phone, headed off again. The next route split came shortly afterwards, but even though I reckon there were at least three things wrong with me, because I’m lucky like that, I still reckoned the Short route would be too short.
I did decide however that, although the longest route appealed, and let’s face it, it was a beautiful day to be out there, it would be unwise to push it. I reckoned I could manage the 60 without making things too much worse, whereas with the 80, with the bigger climbs in the extra miles, I might set my knee’s recovery back quite a way, which seemed like a daft idea. So when the next split came along shortly afterwards, I took it. Which meant that I was half done already and on the homewards stretch. A stretch that took me through more beautiful countryside but back on to more familiar turf. Not that I’m complaining, I love cycling through Avebury 🙂 The lack of novelty did make it feel slightly like harder work though somehow, less to distract the brain from the effort being put in? I guess I was also getting tireder, I’m fairly sure I hadn’t eaten enough, (nothing new there then), and being ill does have a habit of taking it out of you even if you are doing a very good job of ignoring that 😉 Still the scenery continued to keep my spirits up far enough. Multi-coloured autumn leaves, close cropped fields still golden in the sunshine, blue skies stretching for miles… Sorry, since I’m short on photos I thought I’d try poetic words instead 😉
Towards the end there was a long draggy staged up that went on for a couple of miles. Hardish work but my kind of climb, and man, the descent afterwards was way more than worth it! OK, so there were “Caution” signs and there were other riders who were gingerly braking their way down, but I could see all the way down, it wasn’t very bendy, and there wasn’t any traffic coming so….yep, I was the loon hurtling down on the right with a massive grin on my face 😉 A couple of miles after that and I was back negotiating speed bumps, and then crossing the finish line, where I was given another High5 taster pack. Job done 🙂 There were lots of happy riders milling around in the sunshine and eating the hot food on sale. I took a break on a step with a can of fizzy lemon, before making my way back to the car.
Cycling time: 4:04
Distance: 62.2 miles
Avg: 15.3 mph
ODO: 11487.7 miles
I may not have done the event justice, but I’d definitely do it again. In fact I actively want to. The route is lovely, the scenery is stunning, and it’s not too challenging – so it was perfect for this time of year. Maybe next year I’ll get to do the long route 🙂
Followed by energy/health, enthusiasm/motivation, and, of course, the weather.
The first is essential. And obviously also fleeting. The following three are factors with varying degrees of importance, possibly descending in such in that order. Debatably.
If I get all four things together, then I’ll go riding. Possibly with just two of the lesser factors on offer even. But if, as is all too often the case, I can’t get it together, the chances are I also don’t have it together enough to be writing. It’s sort of a binary thing. Since riding is, surprise surprise, my priority, when I do get it together, I get out there, and when I come back in, I’ve probably run out of at least one of those things and so writing doesn’t happen then either. So there has, of late, been a paucity of paragraphs, a shortage of sentences, and my words have been found wanting…
However today I went for a coffee run to Glastonbury with Alan, although my Garmin is denying all knowledge of that fact, which is verging on the irritating. I had the time – it’s my day off. The weather was, and is, fairly nice – sunny, bright, although a bit chilly & rather windy. I was relatively enthusiastic – Alan has been off piste for a little while – and I’ve been missing the motivation that going to be riding in company gives me to get out there. Plus I needed to get some miles in, company is good, and the coffee at Heaphy’s is my favourite locally. However, as for the energy/health thing? Well it turns out I didn’t have as much of that as I thought I did. I struggled…*sigh*
Some days the tank is full, sometimes it’s half empty, and sometimes you’re into the reserve tank. I wish I knew which it was going to be beforehand! But then maybe last week’s unexpected zone ride wouldn’t have been so good. And then maybe I wouldn’t have gone out today, and that would have been bad. So I went out. And ok, so it wasn’t great, but I’m still glad I went 🙂
In the meantime, though I still have time, I am all out of energy, I could use some painkillers, and my enthusiasm for doing anything at all is waning, even if I could do anything! So I think I’ll make the most of the weather…if you want me, I’ll be curled up on the sofa, enjoying the sunshine, in the conservatory. With my kindle, possibly a cat if it suits one of them to keep me company, and, who knows, maybe later on, something cold and medicinal. Laters y’all 🙂
Cycling time: 1:41
Distance: 28.2 miles
ODO: 11219.9 miles
Increasingly rubbish weather. Increasingly rubbish me. It’s getting harder and harder to get out on the bike. And it’s just as hard to find reasons to do so when I actually can.
But when it’s just you? Or in this case just me? Well not having been out this week, my conscience was gnawing away at me. The weather seemed like it might be tolerable. Two out of three ain’t bad, right? But I was having trouble remembering why I should be doing it. Another couple of hours cycling around familiar and thus contemptible local roads on my own? Hm…
So, since I have otherwise had a very constructive week and still had some things to do, I decided I would make my ride about getting some of those done, and make up my route around that and as I went along. An ride that would be both errant and run errands. Or ride errands 😉
Job one: put on my new socks because I wanted to test them out on route.
Job two: post a rented DVD back to Lovefilm.
Job three: ride to George’s and drop off a bag of spare kit for her. Which involved the novelty of riding with a pack on my back, and the discomfort and extra heat that went along with that. Ick. Hence that being the first stop en route.
Job four: get some less familiar miles in. Meander, wiggle, roam, take roads at a whim, and then join up the dots.
Job five: pop into Cheddar Cyclestore and buy new cleats for my winter shoes. I discovered earlier this week that I had clearly harvested those that they originally had at some point earlier this year, and forgotten about it. I don’t half get through cleats!
Job six: Go home. There was no job 6. Just job done. Out, but not down. I remain undefeated 😉
Cycling time: 1:56
Distance: 31.8 miles
Avg: 16.4 mph
ODO: 11100.7 miles