Category Archives: Training

Tour of Pembrokeshire Prologue 2018

You would be forgiven for thinking that I don’t ride a bike anymore. Let’s face it, I practically don’t. As my health has gotten worse, I have been less and less able to ride a bike… I’ve barely even been even to use the spin bike.  That wasn’t going to stop Matt and I doing this year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire Prologue ride however.  What, miss a good excuse for a weekend in Pembrokeshire, with bikes, and beaches, and all?  Not likely!  

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Which is sort of the point I’d like to make in this blog, and part of the reason the Tour of Pembrokeshire – i.e. the actual event in May – is such a great event.  Unlike most sportives it takes place on a Saturday which means you have the change to spend a whole weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the country I know, without that mad rush for home to be ready for work on Monday..  Even if you don’t want to ride the sportive, and your other half/friends/family do. it’s not like there’s not plenty of other things to do in that neck of the woods – more of which later.  

But let’s re-wind a little, to the morning of Friday 26th January, when we were due to be at Crug Glas, the official event HQ, first thing.  When you’re aiming for bacon butties at 8:30am, and it’s a 3+ hr journey, sleeping through your alarm clock and not realising how many times you’re hit snooze until around 5:15 is NOT a good start!  You’d be amazed how quickly you can get your act together, kit/clothes on, and bikes into an already mostly packed car when you have to!  

OK, so getting there in time for the bacon was never going to happen…and as we got closer, and I dozed while Matt drove, and rain intermittently kept us company, it was looking like getting there in time to ride at 9:00 was also not only unlikely, but unattractive!  I pinged Peter (organiser extraordinaire) to warn him, in a fingers crossed tone, that I might not make it but I was on my way.  A quick check of the schedule for the day informed me that we were actually due to head out at 9:30am, and for all that the weather was looking unappealing, I did actually kinda want to ride the bike, just to prove I still could. Back to crossing those fingers…

By the time we arrived, the weather had brightened up considerably.  I left Matt parking the car outside the hotel proper and sorting bikes, since we were staying the night and the Cowshed car park was full, and nipped in to let Peter know we’d made it and would be riding, and to please not leave without us. Just as I walked in to the back of the briefing, where he was reading out who would be riding in which group, he read out my name – spotted me, and pointed me out to everyone.  Comedy timing..thanks Peter!. ūüėČ  Having had issues in previous years with losing riders en route, and with the Prologue getting more and more popular every year, we were all organised into groups of roughly 5 riders to 1 official Tour rider, roughly by ability, and by route (25 or 40 miles) with the emphasis being very much on keeping those groups together.  Not that those groups couldn’t end up riding together – but G is for group, and you should never leave your wing man, right?

 

Our group was to consist of Tour stalwart Griff, Matt and I, and three others (names escape me right now, I’m rubbish with names!), all very happy with 25 miles being the wise choice to make around here – what with it being early and the year, and it being more than a tad lumpy here!  Having checked in, and had a quick chat with Peter, there was just enough time in hand for me to rejoin Matt, for us to put every layer of kit on we owned, and to take the bikes over to rejoin our group.  Did I mention that it may well have been brighter, and it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t warm?!  And it was a tad breezy on top of that…isn’t it always?  S/s base layer, l/s winter jersey, bib winter tights, winter jacket, gilet, long finger gloves and, Matt’s leg warmers over the top of my tights.  More kind of as a precaution than anything – I tend to get cold and then stay cold – and they’d be easy to take off if necessary.  Matt, clearly being of questionable sanity, wore baggy shorts as usual…! You can take the boy off the MTB but you can’t take the MTB out of the boy… ūüėČ

 

So there we were, all ready to go and, after Matt played Good Samaritan and helped some lad who was borrowing a bike put pedals on it, we headed off into the wilderness.  Last year, on leaving Crug Glas and heading towards the coast, you’d never have even know there was a coast to head towards…  Today, in chilly winter sunshine, under brightening skies, there was the deep blue sea stretching away towards the horizon…which was enough to put a smile on even my slightly nervous face.  It felt a bit weird being on my bike after so long…but it also felt good.  I have been missing it, and I’m looking forward to the days when one day I’m able to get back into, and onto, it properly.  

I hadn’t had chance to look at the route really, but we’d established that there were two or three big climbs to be done – one out of Solva, and two at Newgale – one on the way out and one of the way back.  Which was bound to mean more than three – Pembrokeshire tends to either up or down, there’s precious little flat stuff around here!  We headed out towards St David’s, where we skirted the main town centre to head out along the coast road east.  It was a shame not to see the Cathedral…but I also know going to see the Cathedral involves a country lane detour and one of two possible killer and not short enough climbs to climb up past it, so I really wasn’t complaining!

Being on the bike very quickly got painful.  Which was bad, unsurprisingly.  But good, in that it reminded me why I’ve not been able to ride a bike for months, and helped me feel a little less guilty/cross with myself about that.  Silver linings I guess.  Which are hard to cling on to as, as the ride progressed, it got worse and worse….

Anyway, enough of my pity party, back to the road and the ride.  The coast road is rolling, with some steeper drags, and as it happens, not a lot of traffic and what there was was very courteous and respectful.  Being able to look right and right out to sea helped distract from some of the drag, and also from the fact that the first climb of the day, out of the very pretty village of Solva was coming up.  Our group stretched a little from time to time, as the climbs spread us out, with me not quite last, and the descents did the same, with me not quite, but sometimes, first ūüėČ  

 

The descent into Solva is a bit wiggly, and I wasn’t best positioned to get the most of it. Neither was I really in any rush to get to the unavoidable climb ahead.  Back in the day the route didn’t come this way, but my drive down did, and every time I drove up or down it I used to muse that I was really glad I didn’t have to ride up it.  Well these days it does, and having done it before on last year’s Tour I did at least know it was doable.  I also knew how hard it is if you’re me.  And as we left the very  picturesque and colourful village and started the climb upwards, the gradient cut in pretty much straight away, the group spread out, and it was time to sit back, engage crawler gear, and just concentrate on plodding my way up.  Matt decided out of the saddle was the way to go and disappeared into the distance.  Some considerable time, and pain, later, I finally met up with him and the rest of the group, bar one, at the next suitable regrouping point.  I was ever so glad for the bar one, as it meant we didn’t head off straight away, and I got to get my breath and composure back again!

With the group back together again, in more ways than one, we set off again.  A few more miles of draggy saw us to Newgale, for yet another lovely descent to be followed by a climb!  As you arrive and start descending the whole coastline opens up in front of you and the beach stretches out ahead of you, beckoning.  Don’t get too distracted by it though, there’s a really really nasty hairpin wiggle on the way down, which would be bad even if the road surface was good, and it isn’t, so it’s even worse!  Think of slowing down as an excuse to look at the view? ūüėČ  Once at the bottom the road heads along the beach, divided from the sea by piles of grey stone,  which block out the view until you start to leave the beach towards the other end.  Rather than carrying on up the main road climb, which was on last year’s Tour, we turned right to continue further along the beach, and climb away from the coast that way instead.  No rush though, we slowed down somewhat to enjoy the view, listen to the waves, and have my camera tell me it was full and refuse to take photos of those stunning views! (not amused…turns out later that the memory card had popped out a little – it wasn’t full at all *grrr*).

It turned out to be a nicer climb than t’other one in some ways.  Longer, but more gradual, sort of stepped, with occasional steeper bits.  Matt kept me company this time, which made things feel a little easier.  Had he been with me up Solva I’d have been tempted to ask him for a helping hand, something I virtually never do or permit…now that he was with me, I found it easier not to need one. Perverse I know…  And..then…climb done…or so I thought.  Turns out there as another similar one shortly afterwards, after the left turn inland, which no-one seemed to have thought to mention…told you there were bound to be more than three climbs!   Ouch!

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Somewhere around here, where the 25 mile route was to split from the 40, the other female member of our party was struck down by the puncture fairy.  We all pulled over in a convenient gateway, where a Tour marshal and his extremely cute small child happened to waiting, and various manly MAMILs helped get the job done, using a surprising number of different bike pumps.  Meanwhile I enjoyed the chance for a break, out of the wind, to enjoy the sunshine and be glad we only had 10 miles or so left to go.  Having said that, Peter’s routes have often proven to be somewhat longer than expected, so I was mentally aiming at it being more like 27 miles than 25, so as to not be annoyed if that happened! Praemonitus, praemunitus…or something like that anyway.

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Time to head back then.  Which involved looping us back round, down the much more enjoyable decent to Newgale from the other side, and more beach loveliness.  It took a while to warm up again after the break, but retracing our steps back up that wiggly hill out of Newgale was bl**dy hard work, relentless, and seemed to go on for ever. It warmed me up though!  Every time you thought you’d reached the top, you hadn’t, and the photographer, who’d been popping up en route all morning, was predictably sat half way up after one of the worst stretches to capture the moment for posterity.  I may have smiled.  Or gurned… Once again Matt kept me company, once again it hurt like f*ck, once again we both made it to the top eventually.  

We regrouped, headed back along the main coast road for a bit, where we stretched, and regrouped as usual, and then checked the map and route ahead to make sure we weren’t going to get lost.  One right turn later and we were on to virgin territory.  Which did involve us getting a tad lost, or at least not entirely convinced we were in the right place and/or going in the right direction a couple of times.  Maps and gadgets were consulted but, with only a few miles to go, it wasn’t too stressful an affair. I was pretty sure I could see Crug Glas in the distance anyway, which helped.  Somewhere in amongst those wiggly lanes was a fair killer of a hill, which took the last of what little was left in my legs and then some.  Except it can’t have been a hill because there were only three hills today right?  Sure felt like a hill to me…  By now I was definitely in “I need to go home” mode.  Stick a fork in me and call me done.  Too much ouchy on many fronts, but hey at least we were all still together, and I was warm enough, right?  It was definitely a relief to find ourselves on the road back to Crug Glas, and a welcome surprise to discover, upon turning into the drive back up to the hotel, that the route had indeed been 25 miles or thereabouts!  Result! The work part of the Prologue was over and we’d suffered but survived. That’ll do me ūüôā

Right then.  Time to park the bikes up outside the hotel and, with a little time to spare, head inside, have a shower, and freshen up.  The faster/longer groups probably weren’t far behind us to be honest, race snakes one and all, but luckily lunch was set for a fixed time, not for when everyone was back!  Here’s the photo that a nice lady took of us, to prove that we survived.

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Being off the bike, my body and soul stopped having to hold it together, and lost it fairly monumentally.  I thought it hurt on the bike but holy crap, did it ever hurt now!  Unbelievable sort of mind-numbing amounts of pain…  Luckily I carry a fair arsenal of analgesia, but it took me quite a while to get on top of it, get it together, have a shower, and put on civvies.  Which, as I said before,  made me feel rather better about not having been on the bike for quite a while – because this is how it feels when I do, so I’ve not been being lazy, I’ve been being sensible, so there!  Still…  Ho hum, hopefully I’ll get back to it eventually. Put me back on my bike!

Wrapped up in comfortable warm clothes, we headed back over to the Cowshed for the eat, drink, meet & greet part of the event.  Catering for both this and the Tour is always good, and today was no exception.  It’s a two part buffet.  Jacket potatoes and/or wraps, filled with whatever you want – pulled pork in my case, or various other options.  To which you can then go and add salad, pasta, cheese, whatever floats your boat.  It was very tasty and very necessary. Even I ate most of my wrap!  I could have eaten it all I suppose, but then where would I have put the sticky treacle pudding & custard?  Yes yes, I know I shouldn’t, but I did. I figured I’d earnt it, and bl**dy lovely it was too! ūüôā 

We chatted to our group, who’d we’d ended up sitting with, and also to a few others, over food and the odd pint of rehydration therapy. Andrew Mathias then gave us a motivational talk about his circumnavigation of the UK coast, which was really interesting, and mad, if you consider he’d not been riding a bike for all that long.  I’d call it the folly of youth (cos I’m a grumpy old woman), but since he was doing it for a very good cause – the Paul Sartori Foundation – I won’t. Especially as he raised ¬£5,403.04 for them!  Quite surprisingly, given the ride, good food, and a warm darkened room, Matt even managed to pretty much stay awake!

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So that covers the Prologue. But as I mentioned before, the Tour of Pembrokeshire is about far more than one long very challenging sportive ūüėČ  It’s a weekend in Pembrokeshire for both riders and their families, to stay and enjoy the whole area.  After all it can be a long way to travel for just one day, so why not make the journey even more worth while?  When it comes to staying around St Davids, there are plenty of places to stay locally, up to and including Crug Glas itself (which is amazing!), and you can also book a space for a tent, caravan or motorhome on site if that’s more your thing.  And when it comes to activities, the Tour of Pembrokeshire has teamed up with Preseli Venture for coasteering and sea-kayaking or surfing and Falcon Boats for wildlife boat trips.  It’s not all about the bike you know ūüėČ

You and yours could join the guys at Preseli Venture for a full or half day of family friendly coastal adventure. Try coasteering, sea kayaking, and surfing – it’s your chance to see this beautiful coastline from a whole new perspective! You can enjoy a hot local lunch while you’re there, and even stay in their 5 star eco lodge which sleeps up to 40 people. It includes a private lodge bar with music, pool table, outside seating, cosy lounge and lovely bedrooms, with a range of different sized rooms.  Hardly slumming it! ūüôā

If that sounds a little bit too active for you, how about taking a trip with Falcon Boats for the wildlife trip of a lifetime around the Pembrokeshire islands? Discover the RSPB reserve of Ramsay Island, head out to Grassholm to see gannets, and maybe porpoises, whales & dolphins, or North Bishop to see the shearwaters and puffin colony. Seeing a whale in the wild is on my bucket list, so I may have to give it a try – how cool would that be??

Back to the Tour, which is where I’ll be on May. This year’s Tour has four routes – opening up the stunning scenery and roads of Pembrokeshire to everyone, whether you want to do 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles.  The Tour of Pembrokeshire really is one of THE best sportives you can do.  Quiet country roads, with challenging climbs, swooping descents, amazing scenery and the sea all around.  It’s why I keep coming back for more, year after year.  Sadly it’s looking like I may only be up to the 25 mile route this year but…with free parking, amazing feed stations, delicious free post-ride food, free hot tubs and showers on site, free beer (if you do the right routes!) and live music around the course and at the finish, what more could you or I ask for? I’ll be there, wearing my very fetching Tour of Pembrokeshire Castelli Women’s Team Jersey in the hope it makes me look like I know what I’m doing.   See you there?

*official photos – i.e. the good ones with ToP marks ‘n all are used by permission from the Tour of Pembrokeshire and are ¬©huwfairclough. 

Broken wings

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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*.

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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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

invalid1
ňą…™nv…ôl…™d/
noun
noun: invalid;
  1. 1
    a person made weak or disabled by illness or injury.
    “she spent the rest of her life as an invalid”
     

it's only pain

CicloCostaBlanca.com Part 2

Right then, time for Day 2. ¬†Which would be with the entire U23 RP Vision Racing team. ¬†As if the ¬†girls hadn’t been bad (good!) enough! ¬†So I was kinda apprehensive…never great for my PMA.

More breakfast, and thanks to¬†now being familiar with the route,¬†an easier ride back to the Meta Bike Cafe for coffee and faffing. ¬†It’s a nice ride really – flat, fairly fast, and once you get off the main road, nice and quiet too. ¬†And even on roads like that, the road surface is good! ¬†It’s a good way to warm up, but it wasn’t as sunny a day out there, and¬†it was chillier and still breezy than the day before. ¬†I was wearing everything I could again, with the waterproof in the bag just in case…

Meta Bike Cafe cafe culture

Back outside their hotel, it took quite a¬†while to herd young cats into order, but eventually various¬†groups of riders were being briefed like pros whilst I stood on the side feeling very much like an amateur. ¬†Something that would be rapidly enforced as we headed off on today’s ride – with the goal being the big climb¬†up to¬†Tudons. ¬†Keeping us altogether was tricky even when the road didn’t go up, as we headed out through various towns with associated traffic, junctions, roundabouts, and the like. ¬†It also became obvious that today was going to be a painful day in more than one way… ūüôĀ ¬†I got dropped on a regular basis, though one or other of the guides always kept me company, as did Chris mostly, and got me back to the group as soon as possible. ¬†There were ups, even early on; less of a warm up section today, or at least it felt that way to me. ¬†Although maybe this was their warm up speed, which didn’t bode well… ¬†We stopped a few times to regroup, or sort mechanicals etc, and I was reminded to eat a bit, something I often forget to do on “short” rides which, in my head, is always anything that isn’t a sportive! ¬†Daft, I know…

wrapped up ready to go RP team mixing

After a lumpy loop near the coast we headed inland, over hill and dale, up more climbs, and then we were on to the big long climb of the day. ¬†Which quite predictably took me a very long time. ¬†I wasn’t actually feeling that bad, even having been left at the back to get on with it, as I actually quite like long slow wiggly climbs. ¬†I’m a huge fan of hairpins. ¬†I’m usually happier plodding up such things in my own way. ¬†Sadly it just happens to be far slower than everyone else’s way, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about that there and then. ¬†I was¬†absolutely freezing though, which wasn’t getting any better as we got higher, and I was finding plodding harder work than usual . ¬†Somewhere on the way up, struggling somewhat, as my PMA faltered a bit, and the pain was kicking off, I was informed that I’d do better if I ate more than a few anchovies for dinner. ¬†Talk about a perfect storm…I have to admit to (fairly quietly) bursting into tears. ¬†Ever tried cycling up a mountain whilst trying not to cry? ¬†It doesn’t make breathing any easier for sure… ¬†Pull yourself together girl! ¬†After a while focussing on the road and the scenery and the bends and…well…anything…and the going up carried on, and I got it together, ish. ¬†Eventually we reached an unremarkable junction near the top somewhere, amongst tall trees, where guide Daniel and a couple of others¬†were waiting. ¬†We could go left to go all the way up to the top, get higher, colder, take even longer, and slow the whole group¬†down further as they’d have to wait for me, or go right and join those already down there at a caf√©. ¬†Like, duh, bit of no brainer that! ¬†I put my waterproof on, being really cold now, and going downhill not being likely to make me any warmer. ¬†At least going down hill, which I did on my own a way behind Daniel and Chris, cheered me up. ¬†I do like downs, especially long sweepy curvy not too technical downs. ¬†Especially as I’d now gotten the hang of my lovely Ridley Fenix and wasn’t being overly cautious any more *grin*. ¬†Much fun ūüôā

slogging up towards Tudons

Sadly all good things come to an end. ¬†Mind you, the idea of sitting inside a warm caf√© sounded good. ¬†And that’s were we stayed for a while, even though the sun was starting to shine outside. ¬†Quite a few of the girls had done the same as us, with the odd lad too, and the rest of the team completed the higher loop and joined us in dribs and drabs for coffee, hot chocolate (which I couldn’t figure out how to order) and food. ¬†I never did get warm though. ¬†Proper frozen to the core I was, even after two cups of strong black coffee with added sugar. ¬†And if you know me, you know that’s desperate; I don’t believe in polluting¬†my caffeine with anything! ¬†There wasn’t anything I could eat though, and I figured sugar would be better than nothing! ¬†It may have been warmer inside,¬†but it wasn’t warming me. ¬†Man I was cold! ¬†Apparently up at the top of Tudons there it had been 3C. ¬†Which explains it…none of us had been dressed for that! ¬†Having made a trip to the toilet, as you do, the mirror informed me I was even whiter than¬†my waterproof which, believe me, isn’t a good look…

I must have warmed up a bit though, because when we went outside, into what was now sunshine, it was definitely colder, and I wasn’t looking forward to getting going in that again. ¬†Still, there was a friendly cat wandering down the street to talk too, which made me think of my daughter (she’s a cat whisperer), which made me smile, and cheered me a up a little more too. ¬†I’m pleased to say that the rest of the ride was essentially downhill, and getting warmer all the way. ¬†This is not to say that I removed any layers though! ¬†I just enjoyed the views, kept up with the group, who were mostly being a group, best I could, as we retraced our steps/pedals back to Albir Playa. ¬†Somehow recognising bits of the route made it easier, it helped me know where I was with regards to where I wanted to be, and knowing there wasn’t all that far to go then helped mentally. ¬†Even the ups there were didn’t seem so bad like that. ¬†Have I mentioned that cycling is mental lately? ¬†I’m fairly sure I demonstrated that today!

beniform towering over

We were back at the hotel a little earlier today, just in time to catch the end of the lunch sitting, which meant that eating could be done, and possibly I could spare myself getting told off on a future occasion. ¬†And we weren’t going to have problems finding dinner either, as the RP Cycling Team very kindly invited us all to join them for their end of trip meal out. ¬†After a quiet afternoon washing kit, getting some sleep, getting the analgesia level up, and faffing for the following day, we all went out for pizza at a town down the road, with transport equally kindly organised for us by the Meta Bike Cafe team. ¬†Believe it or not, the¬†restaurant¬†had gluten free pizza! ¬†It could have been better…but it could most definitely have been worse ūüôā ¬†We all ate, chatted, laughed, and the team got debriefed with¬†various riders awarded for their weeks performance end the like. It was a really nice night out – thanks guys! ¬†Food done, Tudons done ūüėČ

CicloCostaBlanca.com Part 1

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 ūüėČ

getting the Fenix set up

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…

Benidorm beach view

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 ūüėČ ¬†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*

better by the beach beer and tapas

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… ūüėČ

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.

ready for the ride pre ride briefing

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! ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†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.

layer changing mid ride briefing

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.

views going up

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 ūüėČ ¬†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…

reservoir fizzy orange

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.

Reservoir Duo

The Tour of Pembrokeshire 2016 Prologue

Right then, where was I? ¬†Well, certainly not riding the bike as much as I’d like to be. ¬†It finally got cold for a bit there, so the risk of ice was rather a deterrent. And there’s been other rubbish weather, and other factors. ¬†Not the least of which being that I’d ended up with my head stuck in that place where you’re convinced you’re just crap at the whole riding thing. ¬†Again.

So I was somewhat apprehensive about dragging my arse all the way over to Newport to do this year’s Tour of Pembrokeshire Prologue on Friday 22nd January. ¬†That’s the Newport¬†in¬†Pembrokeshire 3.5 hours away, not the one just over the water by the way. ¬†Not only is it a bl**dy long drive, it’s also seriously hilly over there, my form had been rubbish, the weather had been horrible and the forecast was dubious… ¬†Let’s face it, it did not look like being a¬†whole heap of fun!

I went anyway. ¬†It’s what I do. ¬†I got up at stupid o-clock, in the pitch black and went west. ¬†A¬†longer than planned¬†drive there, through Storm Whatever, in torrential rain and scary winds, did not perk me up any. ¬†Apparently my little car can swim! ¬†Negotiating my first proper flood ever, I over-did the speed, under-estimated the bow wave, and very briefly had water over the bonnet…oops! ¬†I made it through, but after all of that, I was seriously wondering if I would be riding the bike at all. ¬†Maybe I could just turn up, partake of the sociable elements of the event, and come home again…?

However as I got much closer to my final destination the weather started to clear, finally ending up behind me, and Pembrokeshire started to look much more attractive. ¬†Day had arrived, the skies had cleared, and by the time I arrived at “restaurant with rooms”¬†Llys Meddyg, which was both HQ for the event and my home for the night, it was bright, dry, and rather surprisingly¬†considering the freezing temperatures early in the week – it was warm! ¬†Well, by comparison anyway. ¬†How does 14¬įC sound? ¬†Sounds good, right? ūüôā

Llys Meddyg

Although I was staying at the hotel, its¬†car park was chokka, there was, as you might say, no room at the inn. ¬†I blocked a whole heap of people in, unloaded the car into the lobby, and then¬†parked up across the road and got the bike sorted. ¬†My recently¬†fitted mudguards¬†had¬†survived the journey, and I managed to get the front wheel back on and all chafe free fairly easily. ¬†Leaving the bike outside the hotel I was allowed to get into my room earlier than usual check in and so could faff a bit. ¬†Having travelled down in kit there wasn’t too much to do, but considering how warm it was, I decided the base layer had to come off as I was baking already! ¬†Back downstairs riders were gathering, milling around, drinking coffee and generally getting in each other’s way going to and fro. ¬†I signed the relevant sheet of paper and picked up my emergency map, but passed on¬†the coffee. ¬†Well, there wasn’t going to be a coffee stop en route and I didn’t want to need one, if you see what I mean! ūüėČ

comparing Van Nicholas

The time came for us all to gather outside rather than in. ¬†There were around 40 of us, about to be split into three groups on two routes. ¬†The longer route – c. 54 miles – would have a faster group and a slower group. ¬†The shorter route – c. 24 miles – would be just one group. ¬†Shorter, slower, sociable. ¬†As you’ll have gathered by now, my PMA was pretty much AWOL, so it was definitely going to be the latter group for me! ¬†Even with the sun shining, and the unseasonable warmth I decided I’d be better off taking it easy and enjoying it, than risking the longer route. ¬†I know 24 miles is nothing, and sounds pathetic. ¬†I know 54 miles really isn’t that far either. ¬†However, as I mentioned earlier, Pembrokeshire is NOT¬†flat. ¬†Which is by way of being a serious¬†understatement. ¬†I’ve done the Tour proper a few times, and the Prologue a couple, and I know that 54 miles around here is easily equivalent to 100 miles somewhere flat! ¬†So…discretion, valour, limits, etc…

Joshua Fiddy's briefing

Time for a briefing from Joshua Fiddy, one of the Tour of Pembrokeshire organisers, who welcomed everyone and gave us an introduction to the ride. ¬†Each group would have two of the team with them which, in our case, would include Peter, previously chief organiser of the Tour of Pembrokeshire. ¬†There would be, and was, a support vehicle out en route with us in case of punctures, mechanicals or other problems, staffed by staff from Pembrokeshire bikes in Narbeth. ¬†All very supportive, all very sportive ūüėČ

Wet roads under dry skies up we go

We were set off in shifts. Short slow, slow long, fast long; so as to keep the groups all a bit closer together overall than would happen otherwise. ¬†Off we went into the as gorgeous as ever Pembrokeshire countryside. ¬†¬† It was just so lovely to be cycling somewhere different, and to be feeling warm! ¬†Dry overhead, if not under wheel. ¬†After the first climb I realised I was also feeling relatively on form, and not only was I not¬†getting left behind I was actually near the front of our group and feeling pretty good. ‘Rah!

contrast the beautiful coast

Being familiar with the general route, I knew roughly what I was in for for a while at least, and settled into it. ¬†In no particular order… ¬†The hairpins and the ensuing slog upwards at Moylegrove went up and on for just as long as ever, although it didn’t feel like quite as much hard work as sometimes. ¬†The wiggly descent down to the sea, with stunning¬†views, made my spirits lift and my face smile, as usual. ¬†A descent that quite a few people missed as the left turn for that particular diversion came amidst another descent and what with the groups getting spread out and somewhat muddled up, well..if you didn’t know the turning was there…you just went flying past. ¬†I’m glad I didn’t ūüôā ¬†The descent to Poppit Sands was much fun, and I still think it’s an adorable name for a place, don’t you poppet? ¬†All in all, even with all the ups, I was¬†having a good time ūüôā

Poppit Sands Lovely descent done

It has to be¬†said that, as you may have gathered, the groups did not stay together. ¬†What with missed turns, varying abilities, and the odd bit of getting lost even when with a leader, things went a bit to pot. ¬†One such error led to us going up a most impressive, and new to me, hill out of St Dogmaels, which was steep and long and, very very oddly, which I loved! ¬†I didn’t want to turn around and go back and see if we’d gone the wrong way. ¬†I just wanted to keep going on up it and see if it was doable. ¬†Hello crawler gear ūüôā ¬†And it was totally doable, and I totally did it,¬†and once t’were done, there turned out to be just three of us left when we gathered at the top! ¬†The support vehicle stopped to chat briefly, and assured us we were on track…which would only turn out¬†to prove that they were a little lost too! ¬†Still, the other lady in our three knew the area, I soon recognised some familiar tarmac, and with her help and some guess work we were back on track in no time. ¬†Bae_hawk_t1_xx245_inflight_arp

And thus it remained for the remainder of the ride. ¬†Three of us, with a vague idea of where we were, a map that turned out to be barely legible and therefore not a lot of use, and a lady who knew better, and who, come hell or high water or, in one case another massive flood that we had to ride through, would get us back to base. ¬†Which she did. ¬†And even somewhat lost, and slogging back into a head wind, it was still lovely. ¬†Warm, sunny, chatty… ¬†There were two fighter trainer planes, Hawks I think, hurtling around the sky Top Gun style, making a tremendous noise and (I reckon) having even more fun than I was. ¬†Yet another reason for me to *grin*.

Some more ups, some more downs, and then we were back on the swoopy main road to Newport, and I let rip for a little while, having been taking it easy all morning, just for the fun of it…I do like to hurtle sometimes ūüôā ¬†It was a ride that did wonders to revive my PMA and unexpectedly was just what I needed. ¬†It was so nice to be enjoyably reminded that I can ride a bike, I can go up hills, and that riding a bike is fun¬†ūüôā

climbing back inland

We three, we happy three, were the first back to Llys Meddg, unsurprisingly. ¬†With our lunch not due until mid afternoon, at 3pm, this left me with plenty of time to stash the bike away, have a lovely long shower, and chill out in lazy be-robed fashion in my room for a while. ¬†Bliss ūüôā ¬†By the time 3pm rolled around, a lot more of us were back, but by no means all, and there was a steady drip feed of returning riders as the afternoon progressed. ¬†Lunch turned out to be, in Peter’s judgement at least, the “best shepherd’s pie he’s ever eaten”. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but then I’m no shepherd’s pie connoisseur. ¬†It was pretty good though, and the sticky toffee pudding with cream afterwards was more than pretty good, it was fantastic! ¬†Presumably that’s why it’s an award-winning restaurant? ¬†I’m not sure I’d entirely earned such gratuitous calorific intake, but hey, it would have been rude not to…

There was a lot of the usual cycling banter over food, and drinks afterwards, and gradually riders peeled away one by one to head for homes. ¬†I on the other hand was staying over, so Peter and I took a trip to see the new venue for the 2016 Tour of Pembrokeshire, at Crug Glas, a little way out of St David’s. ¬†As we left, the last of the riders was just rolling in… ¬†Anyway, back to the new venue. ¬†Not only is this a (having stayed there before) very superior boutique country house hotel in scenic grounds, but it now has a new purpose built/converted barn affair, for weddings, events, and as it turns out, sportives. ¬†It’s very nice, and very swish.¬† The new venue means that everything can now be all in one place – free parking, registration, start/finish, food afterwards…the works, which has to be an improvement. ¬†There’s even a bar…

And that’s not the only change to the event. ¬†The three routes – 50, 75 & 100 miles – have been tweaked for 2016, to make them flow better apparently which, having done the Tour several times before, I’m quite excited about, because when I’m back there in April, I’ll get to try them out and discover some new roads. ¬†Not that this will make 100 miles, and over 10,000 feet of climbing, any the easier mind. ¬†But after the Prologue, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to it, even though it’s gonna hurt! ¬†I have been quoted in various places as saying that the Tour of Pembrokeshire is a “must-do event” and I really do think it is. ¬†Brilliantly well organised, stunning scenery, and a range of challenging routes. ¬†What more do you want? ¬†See you on April 23rd. ¬†Go on, sign up, you know you want to ūüôā

Cycling time: 2:00
Distance: 23.2 miles
Avs: 11.6 miles
ODO: 17830 miles

map outside map inside

There are days I might not make it

New Year. ¬†New start. ¬†Well, New Year anyway ūüėČ

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 √ßa change, plus c’est la m√™me chose, and you’ve heard it all before ūüôāTotoro

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 ūüėČ

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüôā

Cycling time: 3:01
Distance: 39.3 miles
Avg: 13.0 mph
ODO: 17688.9 miles

mudguards

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüôā ¬†So for the last two rides my bike and my behind have remained relatively clean. ¬†How cool is that? ūüėÄ

clean behind

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 ūüėČ

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 ūüėČ

Cassie

Evans Ride It Wiltshire Downs 2015

Dad's 70th birthday cake

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…!

Ashton Windmill  Alan and his tart

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…!

registration

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¬įC, 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.

the long queue to start This is NOT a race

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 ūüôā

Food stop at The King's Arms Food stop goodies

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.

White Horse on the Downs coming into Avebury

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ

riders over the finish line

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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüôā ¬†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

High5 taster pack

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 ūüôā

route map 2 route map 1

And everything is finite

time-travel2-photo-courtesy-of-junussyndicate-on-deviantART

Time.
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…

Glastonberry

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

Cycling time: 1:41
Distance: 28.2 miles
ODO: 11219.9 miles

If life gives you demons, make a deal

all blue

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.

ACG

Sure, when you’re riding with a mate, or mates, it’s easier. ¬†There’s¬†conscience,¬†company, and frequently coffee. ¬†All good.

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 ūüėČ

Et voil√†…

Job one: put on my new socks because I wanted to test them out on route.
new DeFeet socks
Job two: post a rented DVD back to Lovefilm.
postbox
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.
kit delivery
Job four: get some less familiar miles in.  Meander, wiggle, roam, take roads at a whim, and then join up the dots.
Strava route
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!
Cheddar Cyclestore cleats
Job six:¬†Go home. ¬†There was no job 6. ¬†Just job done. ¬†Out, but not down. ¬†I remain undefeated¬†ūüėČ

Cycling time: 1:56
Distance: 31.8 miles
Avg: 16.4 mph
ODO: 11100.7 miles