Category Archives: Somerset Cycling

Somerset 100 2013

somerset Sweets car

There are lots of different reasons for doing sportives.  Sometimes it’s about the mileage, sometimes, the scenery, sometimes it’s even about the hills.  Sunday’s Somerset 100 was about friends, and charity, and atmosphere.  To be fair, as the website says, “this is NOT a sportive, it’s a charity ride”, the charity in question being Above & Beyond.  It’s organised by Somerset Cycling and Sweets Tea Rooms, and this year the ride has affiliated with British Cycling, which meant the entry process was smooth and simple and probably made life easier for Coxy and Co too!  It was open to up to 200 riders, and on the day I think there were around 150.  It costs £22.50 to enter in advance, £25 on the day, and at least £20 of every donation goes to charity.  One of the nice things about the ride is being able to choose your own number…Coxy originally put me down for 40, as a tribute to my new age…but I soon put him right – 40 is a good number, but 42 is way cooler! 😉

the answer rocket fuel

I may be a little ahead of myself though…  Shall we start back in the Square at 7:15, where Guy was persuing property prices when I arrived?  Yes, riding to the start added a few miles to the day, but it would probably have actually taken more time and been more grief to load up the car, drive there, unpack there, and faff!  Besides, it’s a very good way to figure out what the weather actually feels like which, in this case, was a tad chilly, but dry and not too windy, with the promise of sunshine later.  We took the direct route to HQ at Sweets, which meant the fun of descending Mudgeley Hill, a great way to get a little PMA going. The roads were lovely and quiet, making the thought of getting up early to ride around here more often appeal…though I don’t suppose I’ll actually do that!  In no time at all, we were carefully turning into the gravel drive at Sweets.

Cycling time: 00:30 hrs.
Distance: 8.86 miles.
Avs: 17.2 mph.
ODO: 1722.34 miles.

It’s a local ride, supported by a lot of local people.  Which means a lot of the faces on the riders milling around in colourful lycra were familiar.  We were amongst friends :). I won’t name them all (sorry guys) because I’d be here all day!  We milled around, drank rocket fuel, used the toilets (they’d laid on extra this year), all the usual stuff, and gradually coalesced into a group that included myself and Guy, Ade, Mark, Gary, Clayton, Martyn, and a lad called Ollie.  Ollie and Clayton were new to me, but came via the Martyn tri-athlete conduit again.   I think he has a factory somewhere – presumably turning out tri–athletes by the dozen ;).  Registration was a simple as signing your name and collecting a map, complete with bag to keep it pristine in, ties, and a number.  Yes, that number of course :).  There was a bit of a queue, but it was a good natured one, helped by the sunshine.

registration  waiting riders

At some point around 8:30am, Coxy welcomed us, Cosmic gave a safety briefing, and we were all away, heading out on very familiar roads in nice weather – which is less familiar these days!  It was so pretty out there.  Greens, yellows, and all the varied coloured riders up against the blue skies. Just lovely :). What was also lovely was the relative flatness of this sportive, especially for the first 60 miles or so.  There are actually two route options, making this ride accessible to more people – one at 35 miles and one at 102 miles – with the split taking the short route riders back up Pedwell Hill to get home, which is not an easy option for anyone, so I can’t say as I envied them that, or felt tempted to join them! ;).

Thanks to the levelness of the Levels, there was a lot of fast peloton riding going on from the very start, and after a while we lost some riders as a result – Gary and Clayton hurtled away never to be seen again, Ade fell behind, and we were left as a group of five. We were working pretty well together, and somehow managed to average over 18mph for the first couple of hours which, for a sportive, is pretty good going for me!  And that’s even taking into account the somewhat unpleasant stretch of cycle path and track that we were made to use around Cossington to avoid the main road.

heading off early days

pretty out there Levels

The only thing that really stopped us in our tracks was a herd of relocating cows.  Clearly Martyn was in his element! ;).  It took a while for the recalcitrant bovines to move from one field to the other, as is often the way, and the peloton backed up behind us grew and grew.  It was all quite amusing really – there’s no rushing cows – and hey, it’s rural around here ;).

rural life waiting for the cows

Back underway again, and off around some less familiar roads. North Curry…where are the other Currys?  Fivehead…where are the other four heads?  I love weird place names.  There was also the odd drag to break things up a bit, and to start bringing the average speed down to something more usual.  Ollie, who turns out be young enough to be my son, and also young enough to make me feel exceedingly old, was suffering from backache, something to do with the fact, I imagine, that he hasn’t had his bike set up checked since he got it two years ago!  He may not have changed the brake pads since then either…it’s a good thing there were only a couple dodgy descents to negotiate!  In my role as “Mum” and also mobile pharmacy, we dosed him up with paracetamol and carried on, past Muchelney Abbey, and on towards Somerton. It turned out that more pills were required, of the ibuprofen variety which I don’t stock, so we were in search of some.  Somerton was a pleasant surprise – with little groups of happy cheerful supporters out clapping – something that happened quite a lot through the route actually – who were able to point us in the direction of the car park and store where ibuprofen could be purchased – always good to mix and match your painkillers…if you know what you’re doing that is. Let’s face it, by now I know more than I’d like and paracetamol…that’s for girly wusses, I was on the good stuff! ;).

black and white pack muchelney abbey

As a charity ride, there’s only one official foodstop as such, at 70 miles in, so it’s pretty much a case of fending for yourself for facilities etc along the route, not that there’s a shortage of villages, shops and the like.  The broom wagon/support mpv went past at some point when we weren’t paying attention, and was discovered pulled up on the road side, having gotten ahead of the majority of the pack, ready and waiting to top us all up with water.  Having done that, and remained suitably hydrated, when the car park in Somerton also turned out to have well maintained and well stocked toilets, multiples thereof – it was a result!

climbing for a bit bridge

Things got a little hillier from the 60 mile mark onwards, around the back of Bruton and the like. There was a killer short steep one somewhere with the most amazing scent of wild garlic which, considering I’m not allowed garlic anymore, was a real treat! 😉  After a couple more big climbs, we reached the second food stop where it was nice to take a break, hide behind a hedge for the relevant, top up the bottles again, and chillax.  There was food, but since I didn’t need any, I forgot to investigate and see what was available! As you can see, we weren’t the only ones happy to relax for a bit…  To be honest, the hills, though reasonably hard work, weren’t bothering me too much. I can make it up most things these days, albeit at my own pace, and that’s oddly relaxing. Sit into it, and get on with it…

food stop kicking back in style

The next dose of pills had been due at 11:00am; I’d managed to put off taking them for a couple of hours , and I’d been riding better as a result…but it’s a trade off thing, pain vs side effects.  Like it or not however, the time had come to take the second dose, since riding with the former is much harder than with the latter – zombies can still ride bikes it would appear ;).  Duly dosed up and refreshed, and warned about the nasty descent to come and the top dressing to follow, we were off again. They weren’t wrong either – it’s a really steep down…and I hate top dressing!

The next stretch of the ride is not, and was not, my favourite. With the exception of Nunney Castle, which is very pretty, there’s a lot of long straight wide rolling green roads heading West, where the traffic goes past you at considerable speed. By now it was chillier, grey, and it was just a bit…well…boring.   I did chat to a nice guy in a vintage Volante while we waiting to cross the A37 – nice car too! ;).

Ollie had been flagging for a while, since hills aren’t really his thing, and his longest ride prior to this was 84 miles ish, which wasn’t long ago either.  We decided G was for Group, that we should make sure we all got around together.  After all, we’ve all been there, and your first 100 miler should be as enjoyable as possible, which is not the case if you’re left to slog the last 40 miles out on your own, now is it?   Besides which, he’s been very well brought up. Or he’s blind. Why? Well he claimed to be a little gobsmacked to learn how old my son is, and informed me that I looked like I was in my mid twenties and didn’t look my age at all.  He’s a keeper ;).

nunney castle green

Payback for all those long boring draggy bits came in the form of the long Horrington descent down to Wells, which is not technical, goes on for ages, is a joy indeed, and down which I was waiting for no-one – that’s what the final junction at the bottom is for – regrouping.  Man that was fun!  I do love down :D. By now we were 12 miles from home, and nearly there. Was it worth taking another gel?  Nah…surely not…

Hm, when will I ever learn?  As easy as the rest of the ride was, a few miles from the end I got that feeling, that falling asleep on my bike urge, and kinda dropped to the back and didn’t keep up – effectively nursing myself along.  Lack of food combined with pills I reckon.  It wasn’t really an issue, but I’m glad I didn’t have any further to go. Mind you, if I had, I’d have taken a gel!  It’s not like we were going very fast anyway – thanks to the unpleasantness of the last minute road re-surfacing around Fenny Castle. Considering how little traffic goes down there, packing down that top dressing is going to take months – be warned!  After all that, it was nice to roll back into Sweets, to the sound of faster riders clapping, and park the bike up in the returning sunshine.  Mark bought me a coffee and we all kicked back for a while and I tried to get myself back together again.  Apparently I looked peaky. I was also pretty cold, another side effect that seems to come along with me wiping out…it’s all a learning experience right?

nearly home family fun day at Sweets

Cycling time: 6:13 hrs.
Distance: 102.34 miles.
Avs: 16.5 mph.
ODO: 1824.68 miles.

The day is not just about the riding. There’s a whole Fun Day thing that goes along with it, with bouncy castle, face painting, vintage cars, food and more, which means family and kids get to be involved for a change, and which raises even more money for the charity – £1001.92 to be precise I gather. It also means there’s a great atmosphere surrounding the finish, which is lovely. The ride itself raised nearly £4000.  Not bad hey?  OK, so it doesn’t have timing…but we pretty much all have gadgets, and it’s not a race!  And, as I pointed out at the time, the signs, though plentiful, were a bit small and not all that visible – too much text and not enough arrow.  However I loved the red and white repeater ribbons though – not enough events have those!  But I’ve done worse sportives, and it’s not a sportive…it’s a very friendly local charity ride.  You should come and do it next year – it’s a laugh, and that’s not something I say very often!


Having travelled there to ride, it was time to travel back again before we all seized up.  We split up, and Guy and I rode home in a slightly more meandering and leisurely fashion to avoid going straight over Mudgeley Hill!  It was actually a fairly pleasant return trip – a Sunday afternoon ride in the sun. What’s not to love?. 122 miles in the saddle all told…and it didn’t really feel like it. Not a bad day’s work ;).

Cycling time: 0:46 hrs.
Distance: 11.42 miles.
Avs: 14.7 mph.
ODO: 1836.10 miles.

glove tattoo

Makes me work a little bit harder

I spent several hours at my second home yesterday.  Also known as Andrew’s workshop.  Hours during which I got a new saddle, new cassette, new gear cable and bits, and a new big chain ring.  A big chain ring that didn’t understand the meaning of the word compatible because it should have been and it wasn’t.  Bye bye new chain ring, welcome back old chain ring.  Voilà  – a bike that works considerably better than it did before.  And that shouldn’t creak going uphill any more.  The creak was the saddle, in case you were wondering.  It had done a lot of miles, and had just had it really.  I replaced it with one exactly the same.  Stick with what you know, especially when what you know is going to be stuck under your posterior for hours on end!  Oddly enough the bike looked instantly newer with it on, helped by the fact that I’ve touched up some of the damaged paintwork with black enamel paint.  My poor baby needed some TLC to go with all its new bits :).

This overhaul meant that today’s plans to ride weren’t really optional when, once more, I needed to check that the bike was working properly before this weekend’s sportive – the Great Western Sportive.  Déjà vu all over again.  The weather forecast was, as seems to be constantly the case these days, dismal, and as I sat in bed drinking coffee this morning the rain started.  Not exactly motivational.  So I came up with a strategy to make myself go out – I decided to commit to joining the Somerset Cycling mob’s regular (ish) Friday lunchtime ride.  I figured this would make me go out, as well as making a nice change from all this cycling by myself.  The forecast also showed a remote chance of things being a little more pleasant by then, in so far as such things hold water.  I was further prevented from bailing by agreeing to meet Carlo in the Square at 11:30am to ride down to meet the other guys at Mark.  No excuses left.

I haven’t been out with the guys in ages.  Whilst I really like riding with them – I have to admit that it’s hard work.  They’re fast folk, and I have to work to hold my own, and to take a turn at the front when I can.  I really enjoy it – it’s a challenge, it’s a different kind of riding to what I usually do, and it’s probably very good training.  It’s not necessarily a good idea in close proximity to a sportive though, hence the reason I haven’t been out with them of late.  I gather it hasn’t been quite such a regular reliable thing these days either, people have other things to do, lives change etc, so I guess I was lucky that today was once of the days when it was actually happening.

Carlo had claimed he might need a wheel to get to Mark.  Remind me to remember that Carlo is much faster than me even on one of his bad days!  Even though he was a little late, Cheddar having been more time consuming to negotiate than usual, we still made really good time down the A38 and across to the church in Mark.  Oh MAN it was windy.  REALLY windy.  If I’d known it was that windy I’d quite probably have stayed at home.  Well I’d have thought about it anyway.  Slogging into a headwind is not definitely the ideal way to warm up and I did have to hide behind Carlo from time to time when it all got too much.  We had sun, we had rain, we had drizzle, we had wind…  At least 3 seasons worth of weather before we even got there!  The only thing in its favour was that it was fairly warm, and when rain made you wet, sun and/or wind made you dry again pdq.

Carlo’s mate John was already there and waiting when we arrived.  With deep rim wheels.  Rather him than me…!  I made a mental note not to be too close to him when the wind was likely to be from the side ;).  Mark and Michael joined us shortly, and we headed off on a route of Michael’s devising.  Headwind first for a tailwind later, in an ideal world.  Routes change as you go along, but here’s what we actually did.

Colourful bunch aren’t we?  Looks practically pleasant out there…  Even with the wind it was good riding.  Working hard is a positive thing sometimes right?  It feels good to be pushing it, to be holding my own and keeping up with these guys, who all make it look easy.  After a considerable time spent fighting the Force rather than feeling it, at some point near Glastonbury we turned tail and put the wind more or less behind us.  Much better :).  Shame it wasn’t always like that – wiggling around the Levels inevitably puts you back facing it again from time to time, and unlike some, I can’t sprint into that!

We had coffee at Sweets where, in traditional fashion, the camera came out.  Sorry!  It would be wrong if I didn’t get Coxy eating again, or show you John, or annoy Michael by immortalising him again, right?

The coffee stop wasn’t just welcome, it was essential, as very unusually for me, I’d left my bottle at home.  See?  Not much good there is it?

Coxy very kindly sprung for drinks, in my case a large Americano, and a bottle of flavoured water for the journey home.  Ta muchly! 🙂  There was much discussion of riding, mostly racing, time trials, and the like, something which I know nothing about, and only briefly considered earlier this year before sportives became even more important than ever.  I drank my very nice coffee, and ate my self-catered lunch – one small clingfilm wrapped flapjack.  Two forms of cycling fuel :).

I’m onto my fourth (I think, I may have lost count) attempt at flapjacks, with a recipe courtesy of my fellow Cyclosport writer Mark, and some tweaks from me.  Result!  Much moister than usual – probably because it used more golden syrup and marg than previous recipes but then, to be fair, it also used more dry ingredients.  Very tasty too.  Though probably not what you’d call a health food, even with sultanas, cranberries, and various seeds in there *grin*.

We came the direct route home, with the wind actually helping to push us up Mudgley Hill.  Novel.  There was a little confusion as to who went where then.  Having followed Carlo and John straight on, I think Michael and Mark must have gone left, since they didn’t catch up, even though we dilly dallied, and stopped and waited a few times.  Carlo and I decided to head for home, as planned, and John went off to try and catch them.  Sorry guys – thanks for a great ride though :).

Cycling time: 2:07:46 hrs
Distance: 37.52 miles
Avs: 17.6 mph.
ODO: 14349 miles

Carlo and I took turns on the way home before he dropped me on the Wedmore straight.  I was doing 25mph+ and he was still vanishing into the distance.  Talk about strong…no wonder Strava thinks I did well – I was trying to keep up!  No chance :).  He slowed down long enough to say goodbye before we parted company though.  I got home tired but happy and well worked out, as you can see from the stats.  Flat but fast!  Now if they were to ride earlier in the week sometimes I might be able to join them more often…I definitely can’t be riding like that on a regular basis AND doing all my other riding :).

Here’s another one for the chain ring tattoo album.  Front chain ring from the look of it…

Tell the world that you’re winning

Yesterday @Skipinder wanted to know what everyone was doing for their Easter weekend.  I replied “Riding, what else are holidays for?”.  Well, ok, of the four days I’m only actually planning on riding for two of them, but still…

Today was a Somerset Cycling ride which fitted in perfectly with my plans.  It also had the advantage of not setting off until 11:00am so I didn’t have to get out of bed early, even taking into account the half hour it would take me to cycle to Mark to meet everyone.  Bonus!  Actually I allowed 45 minutes and it took me about 22 minutes, as I wasn’t hanging around.  Well who hangs around on the A38? ;).  I was early, but just in time to meet the BW being unloaded from his paternally chauffeured support vehicle, so at least I didn’t have to hang around on my own.

Somerset Cycling gather...

After a while there was eight of us, so more new faces for me.  Names aren’t my strong point so I hope I’ve gotten them right, and spelled them correctly.  I’m sure you’ll shout if I haven’t.  The first part of our route was on familiar territory, on some of my favourite bits of road.  Not a bad way to start a ride – sunshine, not much wind, and, in my not so humble opinion, some of the best parts of the Levels.  With added inconvenient cows for those who like that kind of thing and I know some of you do ;).

Michael and Mark level pegging it.

I mean look at it.  What’s not to love?  It was gorgeous out there, but not even half as warm as it looks.  I’d faffed and dithered and deliberated and changed a great deal this morning…and I am so glad I changed my s/s jersey for the l/s one – worn under winter  jersey with longs, overshoes, and mitts.  With over gloves and buffs and scarves to be taken on and off as necessary.  Which turned out to be at Mark once I’d warmed up, so I stuffed those bits in my saddle bag.  Other than that nothing changed I may have been a little over warm on a couple of the big hills, but that’s what zips are for.  If you wear layers you can take them off.  If you don’t, you can’t put on what you don’t have…and I think a couple of people were wishing they had an extra layer stashed away somewhere.  My overshoes don’t look like such a silly choice now, do they? ;).

Time for hills.  Namely Shapwick Hill and High Ham Hill.  Once I stopped trying to keep up with the boys I plodded my way up feeling pretty good about both.  Apparently it’s not a testicle race.  I pointed out that this was just as well as I wouldn’t qualify.  Having been told that my lack of ability was all in my mind I had to point out that it was my lack of testicles to which I was referring, which definitely is not all in my mind! *grin*.

I was really pleased with how I climbed High Ham, it definitely felt easier than the last time.  I bet not doing it in fog contributed to that.  Then I got to enjoy the descent too, which is the only reason going up is worth doing right?  I was starting to feel the need for coffee and a break, and wanted to get there, without really knowing where there was.  However we were delayed by the BW getting a puncture in Langport.  It would be him right?  Typically, being as organised as ever, he had neither a spare inner tube, nor patches, nor pump.  Very poor form I’m afraid.  This resulted in nearly everyone else trying to fix it for him and get us underway again, since even when he did have a go at re-inflating it himself it didn’t go well.  There was also a degree of (mostly) lighthearted ribbing going on…  I say mostly because he’s been riding long enough to know better and some of us know that!

BW trying...

The rest of us stood in the sun, as there were clearly enough chefs involved, and let them get on with it.  How many cyclists does it take to change an inner tube?…

Carlo flying the flag

Warren waiting.

Michael showing some leg.

Besides which it was quite a pretty place to stand and shoot the breeze actually, with pretty flowers ‘n all.

We did finally get underway, and there seemed to be a degree of sprinting for coffee.  I concentrated on trying to keep up with the three wheels in front for me, but after a while keeping up with half-wheeling triathletes got too much to me.  Given a wheel to hang on to and the tailwind, I think I did pretty well keeping up for as long as I did, but once the average got to 25mph+ it was time to admit defeat, and chill out until the following group had caught up.  Beats me why I didn’t stay with them in the first place, but I can honestly say it didn’t occur to me, and I didn’t realise that we weren’t all together until it was too late because I was too busy looking ahead rather than behind!  I’m sure it was good for me :).

All Saints Church, Martock

By the way Martock is very pretty.  I don’t get down that far very often as it’s too far away for the average training ride, and it makes a nice change to cycle around a new area. Very picturesque.  I may check it out in greater, and slower, detail sometime.

So.  Coffee.  Or not.  Oops.  It’s Good Friday and…well…not everywhere is open.  Apparently they do really good cake if you ever do get there and they’re open though.  Bit of a b*gger though…as by then I was counting on a coffee for a bit of a lift.  It kind knocked me off balance mentally a bit though – there was this idea of what the ride was in my head, and then it wasn’t, and I didn’t know if I was ready for more of the same without a break.  Seeing that others were eating however reminded me that I could do the same and I resorted to Lucozade jellybeans, washed them down with some Nuun (in fruit punch flavour for a change, because I’m trying variety) and hoped that that would do the job.

Turned away at the gate.

Hm.  What to do.  8 cyclists.  At least 8 opinions right?  Having already cycled past Sweets we knew it was open so it became the logical choice, as well as being on the way back.  How to get there?  Well before we really reached a consensus on that, we were heading off again, and very soon 8 became 2, 3, and 3.   Michael and Warren unintentionally went a different way, Wayne and Andy disappeared off into the sunset, which just left the BW, Coxy, and me making our way back.  I was flagging a bit what with the inevitable sapping headwind and the fact that I didn’t really know where I was.  Being in the middle of nowhere, not really knowing where you’re going, somehow makes it feel harder and take longer.  We stopped briefly in Somerton, which I do at least recognise, in case anyone needed the last opportunity to grab get anything from a shop before Sweets.

Carlo the gregarious was actually collared by family who saw him outside and had to go in for a chat, which is the real reason he was in the chippy…but I do think it makes for an amusing photo *grin*.

Apparently I should have recognised the next section of the route from the Cheddar Cyclosportive but clearly last time I did that I can’t have been paying attention.  It wasn’t until we came out on the road on the other side of High Ham Hill that I finally knew where I was and got my mojo back again.  Amazing how much better I felt knowing where I was going!  I even quite enjoyed the slow climb up Pedwell Hill, and Coxy dropped back to keep me company – he makes a great broom wagon *grin*.  I was just enjoying the fact that I could climb a hill in a whole variety of gears, as if this had been last Sunday I’d have been walking!  Always good to take a moment to be grateful for what you have.

BW and Coxy going up in the world.

Once over the main road, there’s this funny house perched on the crest of the hill.  I wonder about the oddly out of place glazing every time I drive past.  Weird isn’t it?  The views back towards home are pretty good though :).

the view from Shapwick Hill.

Now my legs really could sense coffee, and it was time to get there as quickly as possible, knowing that there was no more climbing between me and there.  I did my bit at the front as best I could, though apparently I make a lousy windbreak.  Hey, it may not be a traditional compliment but I’ll take it 😉 *grin*.

Finally Sweets.  Where the other groups awaited us, sat outside in the sunshine.  Not that we stayed outside for long – it still wasn’t quite warm enough – and we took refuge inside.



Wayne clearly thinks Michael is a very funny man... 😀

Having not been eating chips, even though appearances were to the contrary, you should see Carlo’s chocolate cake!

Carlo's chocolate cake

Coxy seemed to be taking cake quite seriously too…

Fruit cake this time I think...

BW managed chocolate cake and hot chocolate and yet again I have no idea how he does it!  I stuck to coffee (like I have a choice) because I needed the caffeine fix to get me back on the bike and home again, which involved going up and over Mudgeley Hill, on which I was delighted not to be caught, and then the usual Wedmore road.   Whatever was in the chocolate cake clearly works because, after we joined up again in Wedmore, Carlo was off!  Which made my favourite straight more interesting – wheel sucking whilst still pushing to keep up!  Hard work, but good in a masochistic way :).  Time to take myself off down the bypass and home.

Cycling time: 3:38:57 hrs
Distance: 62.33 miles
AVS: 17.1 mph.
ODO: 12955 miles

That was a mighty fine way to spend a Good Friday.  Bl**dy hard work, but then sometimes that’s not a bad thing.  Keeping up with these guys ain’t easy!  So if it was a good Good Friday does that make it a Great Friday? 😉  Certainly makes it a fast one! *grin*

White Flag

Sometimes, it would appear, the Verve have a point, and the drugs don’t work.  Today would be one of those days.  I suppose I could have decided to stay in bed and not ride at all, but to be honest that didn’t even occur to me.  Yet more proof that I’m not normal, no doubt.  Since I’d already said I’d meet the Somerset Cycling lot, I was committed to riding, right?  Besides which I really don’t like going back on my word, and how can the Friday ride become a regular one if I miss one?  😉  I was also hoping that a hefty dose of cycling produced endorphins might succeed where pills were failing, and besides which, sitting around at home feeling miserable really didn’t appeal.  Better to be riding, better still to be riding in company :).

So I took myself off to Mark as planned, in the usual way.  GB had warned me by text that it was colder and windier out there than it looked, and he was 50% right.  Typically that would be the half that was the headwind of course.  Not conducive to hurtling down the A38 at any sort of speed, but quite good for warming you up, so it was not one of my faster rides but it got me to where I needed to be, early as ever of course.

the grey and not at all winding road to Mark.

As I loitered outside the pub in Mark, waiting for the others, it was pretty obvious that not only were the drugs not working, neither were the endorphins.  Ah well.  It was worth a go right?  The rest of the posse arrived in dribs and drabs…late I’ll have you know.  Officially late, since the church clock had already chimed eleven o’clock before any of them showed up.  Sarah was first, and she’ll be thrilled that I managed to get yet another photo of her ;).

Then Justin, who I seem to have caught slightly in mail order catalogue male model pose…

Followed by Coxy and Astana Man…feel free to guess which is which.

Coxy explained the route, which involved heading out Glastonbury way, then round to Somerton and so on, and I decided that I would bail at Glastonbury and head for home – as I’d half thought I might when he suggested it by text first thing this morning.  A sort of compromise between not riding and riding – riding less ;).

Coxy explaining the route, with hand gestures and everything

Michael was the last to arrive, and he’ll be very pleased to see that I have chosen not to immortalise him this week ;).  We all headed out east and had a very pleasant half an hour or so’s ride out towards Glastonbury, picking up Carlo on the way.

Sometimes the pain is, oddly, a helpful thing.  It makes you go faster.  Either in some misguided belief that you can can ride away from it, or in the hope that the effort and energy being expended will subjugate it.  This was particularly true on the long straight after the lovely descent of Mudgeley Hill, inevitably into the wind.  Oddly enjoyable.  I was aware that this was probably only going to be effective for a while though, as I was still conscious of the niggle gnawing away in the background.  However well I was doing, and I was, at some point I would be hoist by my own petard and pay the price, and what with the route getting further and further away from home, taking the left towards Godney still seemed like the best move.  Discretion is the better part of valour.  Etc.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Michael had had similar thoughts, albeit for different reasons, so not only did I get to ride some of the way home in company, rather than by myself feeling sorry for myself, I also didn’t miss out on a coffee stop, as we had a break at Sweets Tea Rooms on the way back.  I think it’s safe to say that that all worked out splendidly :).

Cycling time: 2:01:21 hrs
Distance: 34.91 miles
AVS: 17.2 mph.
ODO: 12419 miles

My average went up with every stage.  16.6mph to meet them.  16.8mph by coffee, and then with a tail wind and the urge to get home, up to 17.2mph by the time I was done.  Not bad.  Even better still, as you can see, I managed – just – not to break my self-imposed two hour rule.  Rah!  Admittedly I might have let myself off the hook today, but it’s nice that I don’t have to *grin*.  And if that was too much whingeing for you – it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to *grin*.

Now I believe somebody said red wine was medicinal (it may well have been me) so I think I may have to give that a try later.  Then I can swop miserable for maudlin 😉  I surrender…wagon can wait!

A hazy shade of winter

Maybe this Friday ride with Somerset Cycling is indeed a regular thing?  Three weeks in a row and counting…  Perfectly timed too, as I needed to check out all the changes made yesterday were working ok before the Mad March Hare on Sunday.  It was another chilly foggy morning, but I took a chance on it not being as nippy as it seemed and left the base layer at home again.  Heading down the A38, being overtaken by some uncharacteristically respectful lorries, I was a little concerned that that wasn’t a good call, but as I pushed the wheels around as fast as I could, I warmed up just fine :).

a misty Mark Church

Back down to Mark for 11:00am.  I hate being late, so I ended up being early – as usual.  Check the time out for yourself!  Well the direct route is quite fast, and it was even faster today, thanks to having my wonderful rear wheel back on.  It really is faster!  And I don’t care if that’s just placebo effect, so there :P.  I averaged over 18mph getting there, so there must be something in it, right?

It be rural out here...

After a little while killing time in the twitterverse, I was gradually joined by various other riders.  It’s a different bunch of people out every time which makes it tricky to get a grip of.  Two different faces this week, two more unknown variables to ride with…

Elliot - looks fast to me!

Michael and Astana Man

Michael had kindly put together a route that headed back out my way – Mark, Weare, Webbington, Loxton, Christon – so that I could peel off and head for home when the time came.   Not as flat as the last couple of rides but flat can get a bit boring, and I do love some of those roads.  Very scenic, nice and quiet, and there are some nice little descents amongst the ups :).

Sarah and Astana Man near Loxton

We had coffee at Banwell Garden Centre which was a first for me.  Good coffee, and massive portions cake, if cake is your thing.  They also have plastic covers for their comfy seats, which is a good thing, as it makes me feel less guilty about sitting on them!  The staff were very friendly, and if you pick up a card when you’re there – you’ll be entitled to 10% off all purchases made (including food) if you turn up on a bike.  Very environmentally friendly no?  Mind you, I can’t think of much that I could buy at a garden centre that I could get home on a bike!  Packets of seeds maybe?  Which I’d probably forget about, leave in a back pocket, wash, and leave to germinate in the kit box by accident! *grin*.

...that's another fine mess you've gotten us in to...

Michael, about to tell me where to stick my camera...

From there it was easy to fly home.  Down the lovely straight to Winscombe, out and up to the main road, down the bypass.  My feet barely touched the ground…unless you count the traffic lights at Winscombe where Sarah and I were so busy admiring Elliot’s track standing ability, and wondering if he could keep it up, that when the lights went green there was a pedal related incident and instead of him coming a cropper, she nearly did!  How she managed to stay upright I’ll never know *grin*.  Never a dull moment…

I found a headwind on the bypass which ruined my attempts to get over 30mph, but still, in no time at all I was back here.  I know, it broke my 2 hour rule, but I did promise myself I’d try and take it a little easy this week before Sunday, so I have an excuse.  Having said that I was having so much fun out there I could cheerfully have done twice as much – even though it’s probably just as well that I didn’t :).  I’ll be grateful on Sunday I’m sure, as I’m slogging around in the wind and the rain…

Cycling time: 1:33:03 hrs
Distance: 27.75 miles.
AVS: 17.8 mph.
ODO: 12269 miles

I really need to get better at group riding.  Actually it would help if I was more confident in my own abilities.  Only I have this tendency to be convinced that everyone else is better than me.  If I sit in the middle of the pack I worry that I’m not pulling my weight.  And then when I get on the front I go too fast because I think that everyone behind me is faster than me, and I think I’ll be holding them up.  I don’t check behind enough, and then what with the way everyone goes up hills differently, and the fact that I don’t seem to be able to help going as fast as I can when I can I end up going off the front, which is a very poor show, and if I keep that up they’re probably going to stop letting me ride with them at all!  Sorry guys :(.  I promise to learn and do better!

On the upside – my brakes were working just fine, and the rear wheel went ’round as it should.  And I love my new Rapha mitts.  They fit like a glove (who’d thought it? *grin*), warm to the temperature of your skin, and I’d forgotten I was wearing them in no time at all.  Oh, and they smell of leather too, which may sound obvious, but is rather nice nonetheless.  Well lycra is frequently not all that fragrant *grin*.


Something inside so strong

Another Friday, another Somerset Cycling ride.  Whether or not this becomes a regular thing remains to be seen but two weeks in a row is a good start, right?  Since we were meeting by the church in Mark at 11:00am, I set off around 10:30am and went the quickest and fastest and most direct route there – straight down the A38, and across into Mark along the Kingsway.  I’m not sure you can get a route any flatter around here!  It was quite mild, I was pushing it, and the wind was temporarily fairly absent, and by the time I got there and discovered the BW already waiting, I was convinced I was wearing one layer too many.  Since removing a layer wasn’t really an option since I hadn’t anywhere to stash one, and getting to the base layer which I really wanted to take off would have involved a degree of public indecency, I settled for taking the Buff off my head to aid ventilation instead.  Probably a good call as it turned out.  In the meantime we loitered with intent for a while, and discussed the necessity for remaining upright this time around, before we were joined like an Ark by the animals, by John, Sarah & Rob, and then Michael.

Andy, John, Rob and Michael

Michael and Sarah

There are several nice things about cycling with a new group, probably the main one of which is not having to think about or take responsibility for the route!  Michael had plans for going to Langport, so that’s what we did.  Our route went something like this – though I’ve had to guess the odd bit as we got lost on the way back and ended up in hell on earth (aka Bridgwater) – more of which later.

The route out was pretty good.  Essentially flat, apart from getting up to Edington and Shapwick.  It could have included High Ham Hill, an alliterative favourite, but luckily it didn’t :).  Michael did a good job of making sure I knew when to be where, which is really handy when you’re getting used to a new group, and I’m always happier if I feel like I’ve taken my turn on the front rather than just wheel sucking all the way round.  I like to pull my weight!  It was fairly fast.  Even faster every time the BW and John were on the front as they half-wheeled each other constantly.  Shall I make a comment about male egos or would you like to make your own? 😉  When it came to hills there was also clearly an invisible polka dot jersey up for grabs.  John attempted to put the BW in his place, occasionally successfully, and on one occasion he was so busy worrying about doing that that Sarah kicked his a*se and got Queen of the Mountains all for herself *grin*.  This is most decidedly not my thing and since I did hills on Wednesday and intend to do hills with the ACG on Sunday, I didn’t see the need to wear myself out keeping up :).  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

We had our coffee stop at the Potting Shed, up at Old Kelways.  This was our second choice as we’d meant to go to a café in the centre of Langport but the snooty lady in the office adjacent to the space where we were going to park our bikes informed us, with ill grace, that it was private property and we should go elsewhere.  As it turns out this was a good thing, as the Potting Shed had very friendly staff, equally friendly clientele, and had plenty of space both for bike parking and inside for us.  To gild the lily, they’d had a minor baking catastrophe and their recently baked fruit cake hadn’t gone quite according to plan so they were giving it away free to cyclists *grin*.  Now that can’t be bad, can it?  Well yes, actually it can, if you’re me and currently unable to eat cake, free or otherwise *sigh*.  But hey, the mug of filter coffee to wash the next dose of painkillers down was good, as was the banter, so that’s definitely one to add to the list.  I reckon free cake earns a certain degree of customer loyalty don’t you? 🙂

The Potting Shed

spot my chair...

Sarah, John, Andy (BW), Michael and Rob

The route back, as mentioned before, went a little pear shaped, probably because there was too much racing and/or talking going on, so we missed a turn.  We ended up in Bridgwater.  Now I have attended some very nice civic events there.  And I’m sure it has redeeming features.  But they’re notable in their absence if you have to ride a bike through there.  The always busy traffic quite clearly hates you.  Random people shout at you, both from cars and from the pavement.  It is just horrible.  I will own up to having earned the car horn sounded in my direction at the junction where we turned right, but that’s because I thought there was a right filter and there wasn’t.  And if I’d tried stopping once I realised that, at speed,  I would have failed to unclip and ended up in an ignominious heap on the floor.  By the way, that’s a good word isn’t it? ;).  So apologies to the motorist concerned – mea culpa.  If I hadn’t been so spooked by the behaviour of the rest of your ilk I might have done better at reading the road though…

The wonders of traffic and so on started to spread the group out and there was a degree of stop starting to allow people to catch up.  Somewhere around the last climb into Woolavington I realised I was flagging a bit.  Luckily I was also ahead a bit – thanks to catching Michael after the lovely descent – and I had time to take in a packet of Lucozade jelly beans which seemed to do the trick.  But having been lost, and with time ticking on, I got to the point where I really needed to get going, so from around Watchfield I just had to take myself off and head for home.  Apologies to you all for being antisocial, and it’s nothing personal, but I needed to get home before the jelly beans and painkillers ran out!  I pretty much time-trialled myself all the way, as fast as I could, along the Mark Causeway, straight back along the Kingsway with my head down into the now quite irritating headwind, and then up the slightly more wind assisted A38.  I properly kicked ar*e!

Cycling time: 3:23:20 hrs
Distance: 59.92 miles.
AVS: 17.6 mph.
ODO: 12156 miles

If I were to say that by the coffee stop I’d averaged 17.1mph…?  Yep – kicked ar*e on the way home. *grin*.  It was good to feel like I could hold my own, to ride a different route, and to meet some more new cyclists.  Well new to me, not new to cycling, quite clearly! 🙂  I’m sure I’ll pay for my uncustomary effort in the next day or so, but it was kinda fun :).

PS: If you’re a girl, and a Rapha addict, you might like to know that they’ve got a 50% off Festa Della Donna this weekend.  I think, as my birthday is coming up, there are a couple of treats in there with my name on. 🙂

You’re unbelievable

Friday, and the mob are back at the KOW Leisure Centre being kept amused, leaving me able to ride my bike again.  Hallelujah!  *phew*.  Etc.  But what to do?  Well I’ve been meaning to join the Somerset Cycling Friday ride for ages and today seemed like as good a day as any.  To be honest I’ve been avoiding it because I’ve been worried about how fast/good they are, plus on the logistical front it’s a little late in the day for me – I usually ride first thing (ish) and they meet at midday.  But procrastination is bad, right?  Besides today I had the time, and as I’m currently happier cycling with other people than on my own, it seemed ideal.  That made today the day.  Carpe diem and all that.

A little after 11:00am I took myself off on a 13 mile cross country wiggle to Burnham on Sea to try and meet up with them, which turned out to be 48 minutes of slogging into a headwind with distinct absence of mojo.  This did not bode well, and when I was standing around getting chilly trying to meet them a little (ok quite a large) part of me was tempted to just say s*d it and head for home.  But thanks to the joy of text they were able to tell me where they were and where I should be, and I was able to find them.  Five of them, as it turns out, all kitted out and professional looking.  *gulp*.

Cycling with a new group is a tad scarey.  Different riding styles, etiquette, speed, personalities…it takes a while to figure out how it all works.  Luckily it was a pretty flat route, and for the first stretch out to Glastonbury the wind was behind us.  In those circumstances group riding is a lot of fun, because it’s fast! *grin*.  That kind of riding I can usually do, for a while at least, so I’m also less likely to get left behind.  In fact I managed to keep up pretty well until we turned into the headwind to head via Godney to Sweets when I did get dropped slightly.  I really hate wind…  However being a chivalrous bunch they slowed down for a while and I got enough second wind (pun intended) to hold my own until coffee.  Hard work but in a good way.  It’s probably very good training to push myself a bit too.  Mind you I’d have been doomed if it had been a hilly route though!  Maybe if I get good enough I can even take my turn at the front?  😉

We sat around a busy Sweets café and I got to watch cyclists eat large amounts of cake.  I’d love to be eating cake.  I’d love to eat cake and stay skinny like some of them.  Well let’s be honest, I’d love to be eating full stop but more of that later.  So would you like to meet the guys?

Astana Man


the Boy Wonder


a camera shy Michael

Following coffee it was straight back to the top of Mudgeley Hill, where we variously parted company, leaving just me and the Boy Wonder to head back towards Cheddar.  The BW came a cropper as he turned the last corner before the descent into Wedmore and hit the deck.  Luckily I was a bit behind him but even so instinctive braking made my back wheel wobble a little so I think the road must have been a bit greasy.  After having been impressed earlier that he was actually wearing long trousers, it’s a shame that he now has large holes in them :(.  He claimed to be ok – hope you are! – but he may have been a little shaken, if not stirred, as he sat on my wheel for the entire way to Cheddar, and I think he scratched his plans to go up the Gorge :(.  He went right, I went left, and there I was, home again.

Cycling time: 2:34:44 hrs
Distance: 44.34 miles.
AVS: 17.1 mph.
ODO: 12056 miles

Quite fast no?  Especially as the first chunk on my own was only 15.something – and by coffee it was 17.3!  Coming home into the wind was caffeine and painkiller fuelled so didn’t noticeably drop the average.  My legs were really feeling pretty strong, which is encouraging.  There were times today when I was slogging along into the wind feeling like it was hard work, and then I’d look down and see that I was going at 19mph.  Let alone the speed I was doing keeping up with the group.  So it felt like hard work because I was working hard! *grin*.

So I’d like to take a moment here to tell you how impressed I am by my body.  And I don’t mean that in an immodest look at me kind of sense.  I mean that it’s an amazing machine.  Given all that it’s going through at the moment, the essentially liquid diet, the percentage of its calorific intake that has come from medicinal fermented grapes of late, the painkillers, and the fact that breakfast was just a banana, it’s just incredible that it can still do what it does and did.  Chapeau, mon corps :).

mobile MRI scanner

Somerset 100

Finally!  An event that went according to plan!  About bl**dy time too, I hear you say.  Thus probably proper jinxing the next event but hey, one event at a time ;).

There is something inexplicably yet smugly satisfying about cycling to an event, taking part, and cycling home.  I can’t explain it, but there it is.  So I met GB in the Square at a positively civilised 7:45am to ride over to the start of the Somerset 100 at Sweets Tea Rooms.  Unlike the forecast, which had unrealistically stated that it would be sunny and a bit windy all day, it was cloudy, quite windy, with showers to be dodged all day.  Having been a bit under the weather for the last few days, due to a reaction to antibiotics, I was feeling a tad fragile and even started out with more layers on than GB, which is virtually unheard of!  Clearly he’s more badass than me…

There was this plan that the whole ride would be cycled in pelotons, which had me a little nervous, and distinctly under-convinced about my ability to keep up.  However this did not happen – ‘rah!  We headed off at 8:30am ish, and by the time we got to Weare everyone had spread out a bit.  GB was with a group a bit ahead – he always goes off faster than me and I’m used to it by now – and I was happily on my lonesome between his group and the one behind.  We were, courtesy of his courtesy, reunited around Brent Knoll, which is also when my layers came off, and stayed together as a peloton of two for the rest of the ride.

It was kinda weird doing an event on roads that I train on all the time, so much so that it was almost hard to take it seriously.  Which probably explains the speed we spent the first half of the ride at.  By the time the roads had become less familiar and we pulled over at Castle Cary station for a break, around 60 miles in, we’d averaged 17.8mph!  Silly speeds!  Having said that up until then it had really been fairly flat, and the wind had been in our favour for quite a while.  Still…

Neither of these two things were to last.  And just as hills should not get steeper at the ends, the last chunk of a sportive should not contain the hills and the wind!  OK, so the wind is an unpredictable variable, the hills tend not to be ;).  Long slow sloggy hills at that, for the most part.  Inevitably we slowed down a bit.  I’m really pleased of how well I plodded up those hills though, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting better at descending too – and there were some corking descents.  Best of all was the last down from the top of the Mendips, through the Horringtons, to Wells.  Proper enjoyable :).

By this point both my knee, even painkiller fortified and strapped up, and my shoulder were proper hurting and concentrating on speed was, bizarrely, helping distract me from it.  The mind is a funny thing.  And mine possibly more so than most ;).  Besides which by now my legs could sense “home” and the last 10 miles or so were familiar, flat, and fast!  We even towed someone home with us – very good cycling karma *grin*.  Mind you I was only allowed to go on front if I “wasn’t stupid” by racing for home.  Spoilsport :P.  Of course now I get to look as if I was holding back.  Bonus!

We got back to Sweets in the burgeoning sunshine, and hubby and the mob were waiting for me, ready to fortify me with coffee and possibly the best cupcake ever.  Well ok, that probably depends on how much you need a cupcake, but I really needed a cupcake!  How else was I supposed to summon the energy to cycle home again? *grin*.

It was a lovely small well-run friendly event.  Friendly riders, friendly “staff”.  The broom wagon was the photographer was the food stop was the outrider, and did all jobs well.  Sweets is always nice, and the fact that they were having a family day too meant that there was a bustle and atmosphere independent of us cyclists which was lovely.  Usually when I arrive at the end, well down the ranking, there’s nothing left to enjoy!  And let’s not forget, it was all for charidee. Win win :).

9.19 miles there.  12.07 miles back.  This I know from bikeroutetoaster, because I’ve just worked it out.  However my stats and GB’s vary considerably, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not 100% happy with how my bike PC is working (new batteries will be going in asap).  The route itself was supposed to be 91.85 miles.  Since GB’s gadgets are, inevitably, more expensive and accurate than mine, then I guess the truth is more likely his, or at the very least somewhere in-between…and when you add it all together, it makes for a total of around 113 miles cycled by me today.

Mine are as follows:
Cycling time: 5:41:29 hrs
Distance: 95.69 miles
Avs: 16.8 mph

GB’s are:
Cycling time: 5:33:26 hrs
Distance: 90.89 miles
Avs: 16.4 mph

ODO is therefore: 9055

The ride home was a little slower, but we didn’t do a very good job of pootling even though we both avowed that we were going to.  We did however, thanks to my knee, bail on coming straight home over Mudgeley Hill, and instead wiggled home via Blackford.  I wasn’t allowed to race down the Wedmore road either, which is just as well, as I wasn’t planning on it.  Honest…

So now I’m home.  I cycled 113 miles on a bar, some Lucozade jelly beans, and a banana, though I did drink more than usual.  Hubby made me drink my recovery when I got in, which was a darned fine idea, especially as I was feeling more than a little bit spacey.  I even managed to eat dinner which I wasn’t sure I was up for – my appetite is always off post-event.  However I am now officially zoned and zen-ed out.  Quiet, tired, but happy 🙂