And everything is finite


Followed by energy/health, enthusiasm/motivation, and, of course, the weather.

The first is essential.  And obviously also fleeting.  The following three are factors with varying degrees of importance, possibly descending in such in that order.  Debatably.

If I get all four things together, then I’ll go riding.  Possibly with just two of the lesser factors on offer even.  But if, as is all too often the case, I can’t get it together, the chances are I also don’t have it together enough to be writing.  It’s sort of a binary thing.  Since riding is, surprise surprise, my priority, when I do get it together, I get out there, and when I come back in, I’ve probably run out of at least one of those things and so writing doesn’t happen then either.  So there has, of late, been a paucity of paragraphs, a shortage of sentences, and my words have been found wanting…


However today I went for a coffee run to Glastonbury with Alan, although my Garmin is denying all knowledge of that fact, which is verging on the irritating.  I had the time – it’s my day off.  The weather was, and is, fairly nice – sunny, bright, although a bit chilly & rather windy.  I was relatively enthusiastic – Alan has been off piste for a little while – and I’ve been missing the motivation that going to be riding in company gives me to get out there.  Plus I needed to get some miles in, company is good, and the coffee at Heaphy’s is my favourite locally.  However, as for the energy/health thing?  Well it turns out I didn’t have as much of that as I thought I did.  I struggled…*sigh*

Some days the tank is full, sometimes it’s half empty, and sometimes you’re into the reserve tank.  I wish I knew which it was going to be beforehand!  But then maybe last week’s unexpected zone ride wouldn’t have been so good.  And then maybe I wouldn’t have gone out today, and that would have been bad.  So I went out.  And ok, so it wasn’t great, but I’m still glad I went :)

In the meantime, though I still have time, I am all out of energy, I could use some painkillers, and my enthusiasm for doing anything at all is waning, even if I could do anything!  So I think I’ll make the most of the weather…if you want me, I’ll be curled up on the sofa, enjoying the sunshine, in the conservatory.   With my kindle, possibly a cat if it suits one of them to keep me company, and, who knows, maybe later on, something cold and medicinal.  Laters y’all :)

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

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.


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 😉

Et voilà…

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.
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 😉

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

Bristol Belter 2015

I saw the sign

So that was “summer”.  Hm.  It would appear to be September already.  The mob are back at school.  So, typically, the weather last week was pretty good, if not that warm.  I rode up hills with Alan, and went for coffee with George.  But I didn’t have much to do last weekend, other than doing my civic duty opening the Somerset Showcase on Saturday.  An weekend devoid of riding, people, things to do, with a reasonable weather forecast.  Sad face, etc…

Cycling time: 4:12
Distance: 61.1 miles
ODO: 10919.0 miles

Hello Thursday night.  A meeting and a few drinks later.  A sofa and a laptop.  Tipsy internet shopping?  No.  Well, ok, yes, actually I did do that.  A girl can never have enough frocks, right?  But I also pinged off an email and got me a press place to do the Bristol Belter on Sunday *grin*.  With nothing better to do I might as well be riding the bike, or maybe riding the bike is better than doing nothing.

So, civic duties done on Saturday, I cooked myself scallops and trout for tea, thanks to the Farmers’ Market part of the day, and got an early night.  I even managed to sleep better than usual, which made the early alarm call somewhat less objectionable than usual.  Though it’s still not exactly pleasant to wake up in the dark…daylight, daylight, wherefore wert thou?  But when it did make an appearance it was clear, and bright, and full of promise.  It was also blinding as I drove into the sunrise all the way to HQ at The Fry Club in Keynsham, which made driving interesting!


The car park wasn’t large, and it was still fairly empty.  Not a lot of riders expected?  It was probably more due to the way the event is/was structured.  The Belter has three routes.  Short – c.44 miles.  Medium – c.63 miles.  Long – c.100 miles.  Both the Short and Medium routes head south to the Mendips.  But the Long route starts with a 37 mile loop around the Cotswolds back to HQ before doing the Medium’s 63 miles.  So only the long route riders were the ones daft enough to get there for the 7:00am start, what with that first hour’s start slot being reserved for Long Belters.  The other routes got a lie-in – lucky s*ds 😉

start line rider briefing

So HQ was sparsely populated.  Having faffed in the freezing sunshine and put on all the layers I had with me, there were no queues for anything – neither registration, the toilets, or to leave.  Riders were leaving as and when they were ready, so I was one of just three when my ‘group’ was briefed and let go at around 7:30am.  Bye bye HQ, and very shortly bye bye fingers, bye bye feet!  Yes it was sunny, yes there wasn’t much wind.  But me oh my, it was cold!

Castle Combe pub Castle Combe church

It was odd out there.  It was very early.  The sun was, though rising, still very low, and casting exceedingly long shadows.  It was either very bright or very dark.  Chiaroscuro.  After a stretch of cycle path, the roads were deathly quiet.  As was the world really.   It all felt a bit unreal, or maybe even surreal.  Like I was just aimlessly cycling around waiting for the day to actually begin and it hadn’t yet.  It was also a bit worrying.  What with the sun being so low and in front of me it would be blinding any motorists coming up behind me…so it’s a good thing the residents of the Cotswolds hadn’t really woken up yet.  Furthermore, what with the signs for the long route being black arrows on a red background, they really didn’t stand out, and spotting them in the shadows was a bit tricky, so I was worried I’d miss one and get lost…

me and my shadow first food stop

It was very pretty out there though.  And, as I’ve mentioned, very very cold.  I was almost grateful for the fact that, in dribs and drabs and then one biggish hill, we were going up in the world, as it at least generated some internal heat!  Up on the top there, there were views over to the Severn Bridges and beyond, fields of gold with straw bales dotted around, blue skies, green hedges, and even a hot air balloon in the distance.  All very idyllic.  As was the cutesy chocolate box village of Castle Combe which the route then went down to, and which marked the turning point of this loop.  What could have been a nice descent wasn’t as, being in a wood, it was just too dark to see the dodgy road surface.  Still like I said, the village was pretty, and the climbing back out again wasn’t too bad.  Time to head back to HQ, with the sun behind me and no longer in my eyes, making it even easier to enjoy the scenery.

In an ideal world I’d have warmed up by now and, being back at HQ which was also serving as a food stop, I could have stashed my superfluous layers in the car.  Sadly I still couldn’t feel my feet so that wasn’t going to happen!  I did nip to the toilet and grab a bit of flapjack before heading off for the Mendips loop though; this time following white arrows on red which stood out a bit more.

waiting waiting waiting aquaduct

There turned out to be rather more climbing today than I’d expected.  And it wasn’t obvious either, various and numerous climbs lurked amongst the country lanes and under trees.  Deceptive.  And slow.  Scenic though, I even got to ride under a viaduct!  I gave in to the inevitable and accepted that today’s ride was going to take me a long time, and that I should stop fretting about it.  Well, I really didn’t have anything better to be doing, and I was riding my bike in the sunshine so…time to sit back, enjoy, chill out, etc.  Actually, less of the chilling, things were finally starting to get warmer.  At 11:17am precisely I realised I could feel my feet again, which cheered me up no end! :)

second food stop resting pair

I was heading for the very familiar but in the meantime all the back country lanes had me feeling a bit in the middle of nowhere, and a bit lost, and at one point actually lost.  Somewhere before Chew Magna I climbed up a gritty muddy hill to a t-junction and…nowt.  No sign.  Hm.  So I went back down the hill to find a few other riders riding up it.  So I went back up with them.  More climbing is good, right?  Still no sign at the top though.  Cue much consulting of maps and gadgets, before resorting to some semi-educated guessing!  We went left and hoped for the best.  Which worked.  Judging by how the next sign we saw was displayed we should have been approaching it from a different direction, but hey, at least we were back on the route.

bike break top of Westbury

From here on in I was going to be on home territory for a while so although I’d lost confidence in the signage somewhat, I knew I couldn’t actually get lost, which was nice.  After a steepish climb up to Hinton Blewitt, and some more wiggling, I popped out on the road to Litton and prepared myself for the long climb from Chewton Mendip to the top of the Mendips.  Which, at the top of the nicer way up there, up the delightfully named Torhole Bottom, is where the next food stop was.  Not that there was much food left.  It was staffed by army cadets of some sort.  Rather more of them than you’d have thought necessary, who were larking about rather more than necessary.  One of them topped up my water bottle though, whilst another counted the remaining bananas.  All 18 of them.  Make that 17 after I’d grabbed one and eaten half, having decided to take a seat for a few minutes in the sun and take a little time out, in keeping with the enjoying it spirit.

time for the Gorge with Guy riders behind on the Gorge

Right then.  Time to head for Priddy, and the descent to Westbury.  Which I do like.  Especially on my own.  Here however signage once again let me down.  Apparently I missed a sign to turn left on the way down.  Didn’t even see it.  Possibly because I was trying to avoid a u-turning MX5 at the time, or because at the speed I go down there at I need to be concentrating on the road surface ahead..  Either way, I missed it.  So having had much fun flying downhill, I ended up at the bottom, at the junction with the Wells road, with no signs to be seen.  Well more climbing may be good, but I certainly wasn’t going to climb all the way back up that particular hill just to see where I’d gone wrong – it’s a killer hill!  But I wasn’t lost per se, as I knew exactly where I was, I just wasn’t where I was supposed to be.  Having seen some of the route signs the day before when out and about, I knew where I could pick it up again, so rather than try and figure out where the route had actually gone, I cut across to Cocklake instead.  Ok, so I missed out a few miles looping through Easton and Theale and Wedmore, but I didn’t miss any hills out, and I cycle through there at least once a week, so I figured I wasn’t missing out on anything much.

overtaken on the Gorge rocky Gorge

Back on route, en route to Cheddar Gorge then.  Having made my short cut I had managed to get ahead a bit and actually found myself with quite a few other riders for a bit.  Two of whom turned out to be Jon and Guy.  Jon was actually on the ride, Guy was just along for some of the ride.  I only realised it was him when I recognised his as the voice of the rider apologising to the driver of the car that he’d just rear-ended…*grin*.  No harm done though.  Guy was actually supposed to be on a recovery ride and keeping his heart rate down to whatever b.p.m.  This didn’t stop either him or Jon from leaving me for dust up the Gorge as usual though!  Ah well :)  I did actually overtake some riders in my turn, wiggling my way up beneath the cliffs and through the shadows.  The Gorge was a tad busy, plenty of cars, riders, grockles and sheep that look like goats, but we all seemed to be getting on amicably enough, even around Horseshoe Bend which I always go up in the middle of the road.  The cars behind me didn’t seem to mind today, and I waved them thankfully by once I was done.  And soon Cheddar Gorge was done too, and I was back up on the top of the Mendips again, basking in the sunshine, and chatting to Guy and Jon who were at the third food stop here.

top of the world third food stop

It’s good to talk, right?  Especially as a lot of today’s riding was just me.  Normally it’s not until later on a sportive that I end up on my own, after the shorter routes have headed for home and left me out there.  This one works the other way around.  There’s always fewer riders doing whatever long route it is, and having been set off the way we were, us few were pretty well spread out.  And then later in the day on the other loop, all those shorter route riders were so far ahead that I never saw much of them either!  This also means the food stops later in the ride have been pretty thoroughly ravaged.  I think it might work out better the other way around – Mendips then Cotswolds?

lake view classic Chew

Right then, time to get back to it.  Having earnt a decent descent I was disappointed to be given the narrow wiggly gravely one to Compton Martin which was not at all fun.  *sulk*.  Still, at least I was on the home stretch now, and going pretty well, even if that home stretch did turn out to contain a couple of nasty hills, one around Nempnett Thrubwell and one really steep kicker at Norton Malreward which I was actually quite proud of myself for not walking up – it hurt!  (By the way, have you noticed what cool place names we have here in Somerset?)  That last final up also meant it was pretty much downhill from there for the last five miles or so back to HQ – always the best way for a sportive to end IMNSHO 😀

thatched Keynsham church

Finally my Bristol Belter was done, albeit a slighter shorter Belter than it should have been *grin*.  I was rewarded for my efforts with a rather nice Bristol Belter mug – which is far more use than a medal and far more interesting than a water bottle.  As it turns out, it was a very nice way to spend my Sunday after all :)

Cycling time: 6:49
Distance: 93.4 miles
Avg: 13.7 mph
ODO: 11012.4 miles

Bristol Belter mug

Severn Bridge Sportive 2015

here I come Bridge

I have a bit of a thing about cycling over the old Severn Crossing.  I like it.  A lot.  And it’s a fair bet that a sportive called the “Severn Bridge Sportive” involves that, right?  Bit of a no-brainer really.  I also have a tendency to repeat sportives that I’ve enjoyed before.  This one I did in 2013.  In June.  In glorious sunshine.  This year’s edition was in August.  On the Bank Holiday weekend.  So guessing what the weather was going to be like was also a bit of a no-brainer…

Yep, I love waking up in the dark, after a truly disastrous night’s sleep, to the sound of rain on the conservatory roof, and the forecast of much more to come *sigh*.  I came this close to rolling over and going back to sleep, but since I was due to be reviewing it my sense of obligation and my conscience kicked me up and out of bed.  Man, I have to learn to get rid of those two pesky things! 😉

Which brings us, after a damp and dreary drive, to HQ at Castle Coombe Circuit.  I was on the early side and was marshalled to park up at the nearer end of the parking, passing many walking riders heading off to register in the chilly rain.  I wasn’t going to do that.  I knew better.  I knew that it’s further than you think.  And I figured the best thing was to sit in the back of my car, faff, get sorted, and kill time so that I could ride to registration, use the facilities, and then not have to loiter around in the rain for too long before start time came.  Moisture minimisation.  So there I sat, peering out, watching riders walking to and fro’ while it rained, and rained, rained heavier, rained lighter, but always rained.  Ah well, at least it was easy to decide on layers.  S*d the gilet, it was definitely an armwarmers and waterproof day. Let’s face it, with the autumnal temperatures, boil-in-bag wasn’t likely to be an issue.  Hey, on the upside, at least it wasn’t windy for a change!

car cave registration

Time passed, and finally it was time.  I clambered out the back of the car, clambered on to the bike, and rode off to register.  Luckily registration was indoors.  Riders were sheltering wherever dry was, and there may even have been an element of huddling together for warmth!  I signed in, got my number (322), ties, and helmet timing chip, and went back into the ‘orrible outdoors to fix them where they needed to be.  Whilst waiting outside I bumped into Herbie and his Mrs, and we chatted for a while, friendly faces always being a good thing, before taking our places in the start line.  I think we were in the second group away, but a bit far back in it so I couldn’t really hear the briefing – maybe a mic would have been useful – but I caught the odd salient point and saw the signs I would be following, before we were on our way.

waiting in the rain start queue

The route starts with half a lap of the race circuit which, though smooth and flat and therefore probably lovely normally, seems to have decided drainage is not necessary and that standing water is a good thing.  Water was coming down, coming up…and my ar*e was soaked even before we left the circuit.  Ick!  I’d meant to cycle with Herbie for a while but all that cold and wet going on meant I needed to get going on and warm up a bit so I left them behind and headed off.  As we exited the circuit onto a muddy country lane, one poor sod was already fixing a puncture.  I’m fairly sure that today, if that had happened to me, I’d just have walked back around the circuit, loaded the car up, and gone home!

Off we go then.  There’s a distinct lack of photos today, mostly due to the weather.  But also to the fact that we’ve all seen damp English country lanes before!  What scenery there was en-route to the bridge would probably have looked lovely on a different day but today it just all seemed a little grey and dismal and uneventful.  It’s amazing what a difference weather makes to a place, and when you’re busy looking down and watching where you’re riding, you’re not really looking at the view anyway.

So…  It was a ride of four hours.  One very wet one, one wet one, one mostly dry one, one wet one.  Or maybe it was a ride of three parts.  One ride out.  One bridge aller et retour.  One ride back.

Because today I did the short route.  I like Welsh hills.  I liked the long route when I did it before.  But today 40 miles of wet Welsh hills just didn’t appeal.  I can do them any time and, in fact, have already done that several times this year.  So I rode a fairly flat 33 miles just to ride over the bridge, grab some yummy apple pie, ride back over the bridge, and ride 33 miles back again.  Which made this a fairly easy, vaguely miserable, slightly boring ride.  I know, I’m weird, how can riding a bike be boring?  But without lots of up there isn’t lots of down.  It’s just fairly constant pushing, slowed down by puddles, potholes, and mud!  Maybe I should have done the extra forty mile hilly loop after all?!

Bikes Only empty Bridge

But, and there’s a big but, it was totally worth it.  Why?  Because thanks to coinciding with the Severn Bridge Half Marathon and presumably some hefty behind the scenes negotiating, the old Severn Bridge was closed.  Totally closed.  As in the only traffic to be crossing it between 7:00am and 13:00pm was us.  Cyclists.  How cool is that?!  Very, since you asked.  How many people can say they’ve done that?  Well, around 300 or so probably, depending how many no-shows there were, but still, bet you haven’t!  It totally made my day :D.

Riders on the bridge from one bridge to another

You can’t blame an event for the weather though.  This was not a bad event by any means, it just suffered from bad weather.  There were a lot of positives.  Good signage, all bar the odd bit when I’d been on my own for a while and was convinced I was lost and could have used a reminder.  The marshals and staff were friendly and helpful.  The food stop (used twice on the long route) was great, well supplied with hot drinks, savoury and sweet food (I mentioned the apple pie, right?), water and energy drink, and being in a community centre, it also had toilets.

food stop more crossing riders

Mind you, the short route – being essentially out there and back again – involved a little too much repeating for my liking, and the section around what I think was Yate on the way back in the rain involved far too many roundabouts, traffic, and traffic lights to slow me down when I was in push for home mode.  And I did push.  After a drier hour around the bridge, on the way back the rain came back.  I’d had enough, and I wasn’t taking any prisoners – I was over-taking them all!  Well, it was pretty flat 😉  Which would make it a great route for people who don’t like hills, who aren’t race snakes, who fancy a nice day out in the countryside, or for novices.  The 100 mile route has more to challenge and more to see, and those hills in the middle would break up the flat out and back nicely.  Maybe next year? :)

finish line pasta party

After 66 miles I was back on the soaking circuit again and sort of sprinting for the Finish arch, where I was soon collecting my goody bag, and then declining the free pasta.  That done, I had a chat to Andy Cook who runs the event and who seemed remarkably sanguine given the weather that had happened to his event and no doubt cast somewhat of a pall over the Family Cycling Day element of the day.  Still, it’s the English weather, what can you do?  There were still various undeterred small people cycling around the track with their parents and clearly having fun doing so :) Chatting done, and since I was soaked through and getting cold, it was time to head back to the car, reverse the faffing process, and go home.  Back home, down the rainy motorway, with the heating on!   Bye bye summer… :(

Cycling time: 4:11
Distance: 66.5 miles
Avg: 15.9 mph
ODO: 10857.9 miles

By the way the day did have another highlight.  On the way back, as I closed in on another rider, and passed a farm on the left hand side, there frolicking on the drive, were two very cute small kittens.  One of which ran off, while the other sat and watched, all black and white and wide-eyed as I passed.  Aw, how adorable.  It definitely made me smile.  In fact, as I informed the somewhat bemused rider I was now passing, I think all sportives should include kittens 😉 *grin*.

Me going out on the bridge Me back on the bridge

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

OK, before I start on my latest sportive blog…let’s play catch up shall we?  Actually at present it’s also my last sportive this year, but I really hope that isn’t the case so let’s skip past that…

Alan Rock Cake Cafe

So there’s the ride I did with Alan last Wednesday.  We went up a Gorge, had a coffee stop, and came back down again.  Oh, and in case you’re interested, or heading out that way, the Rock Cake Café is apparently closed as of the end of August…future as yet unknown.  Just FYI.  Anyway, another day and for the usual reasons, I’d probably have bailed but as I had an academic errand to run to Wells and it always oddly pleases me to use the bike to do something constructive rather than just as a mobile gym, I didn’t.  Maybe I should have.  To be honest, it did not go that well.  Given flat, given down, and I was a vaguely on form me.  Up however?  Ow…!  *grrr*  But Alan was both tolerant and patient, and is also probably used to my vagaries by now so hey…out, not in, and another ride in the bank :)

Cycling time: 2:08
Distance: 33.1 miles
Avg: 15.4 mph
ODO: 10760.8 miles

And then there’s the ride I did with Charlie and my adoptive cycle club (it’s a Velothon thing) on Saturday from Bedford.  With the aforementioned sportive ahead of me the following day I opted for the slower of their two groups.  Well…OK…let’s be honest, I kinda did that because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the other group but…after a happy couple of hours bimbling around Bedford, where their word “hill” has a completely different meaning to mine, and seeing the other group’s average speed I SO could have done. But hey, discretion, valour, sportive, etc. *grin*

Cycling time: 2:01
Distance: 30.5 miles
Avg: 15.0 mph
ODO: 10791.4 milesCharlie

It had a lot of upsides though.  It was sunny.  There was no wind to speak of.  And as I may have hinted, Bedford be flat!  But it sho’ is pwerty.  Very pwerty :)  It was nice to ride somewhere new, with new company, without signs, timing, or pressure.  Our slower group numbered five, and it came with a stay together help everyone vibe – as a club that seems to be how they work – inclusive and encouraging.  And, sincerely, with no insult meant to the slower riders in our group; when I ride with folk, I am pretty much always the slowest, the drop off the back, the wait for me at the top of the hill.  And it was nice not to be that for a change.  To be faster.  To be let off the leash to sprint and hurtle on my own from time to time when we could all regroup afterwards.  To feel comparatively fast, but not feel resentful about our average speed.  We all have to start somewhere, and it would have been great to have had such a supportive group like that back when, in the distant mists of time, I started out.  Oh, and I was also drug-free for a change…for how long who knew?  But I can cope with that.  You bear your cross, I’ll bear mine.  Like it or not, sometimes the ego needs a boost, and this was good for mine.  Even if I know I’m not fast really.  So I enjoyed it all ’round.  You’re supposed to enjoy being on the bike, and this was enjoyable.  Sadly I couldn’t hang around for post-ride coffee and banter for too long afterwards as I had to get home, and it’s a longish drive, so apologies and thanks for having me guys :)

The fastest way back home

One week.  Four rides.  It’s probably time I put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper right?

Square steed

So I’ve ridden with Guy & Rob, with Alan with hills, and without, and also with Steve.  At times like these it is better not to be just with my imperfect self, just in case, even if I don’t say so, so the company has been both great and much appreciated.  I am extremely lucky to have my cycling mates.  And we’ve been lucky too, as there has been sunshine on both the hills and the Levels; our timing has been immaculate.  Along the way there has been coffee, cake, a Cornish pasty and lots of fizzy orange.  Liquids for me, solids for others of course…the moon may be inconstant but some things are not.

Some of it has gone great.  Some of it hasn’t.  Sometimes it’s felt like one but Strava says it was the other.  Sometimes it’s been both, one after the other, and great has turned into it just being time to get home as quickly as possible.  But however it’s been, it’s all been good really.  Because out there is good :)

cake Alan looking pasty

Yes I should have been writing about it all.  It’s what I do after all, no?  But in addition to it being the school holidays, working, and other things that might possibly count as having a life, thanks to the current analgesia regime, I also end up spending rather more time than I would like asleep.  What the mob call my non-optional naps 😉  On the days that I make it out of bed in time for there to be enough time left in the day for there to be time to have a nap that is…   It isn’t ideal, but then the alternative doesn’t exactly appeal either…them’s the breaks.  So there hasn’t been much time left for writing…I’m sure you’ll forgive me, right?  But tonight there is some time and tonight I have written.  Job done :)

taking Alan up the Gorge

Cycling time: 7:32
Distance: 123.6 miles
ODO: 10727.7 miles

In other news, Rapha have had their annual sale on.  And I hankered a little…but there wasn’t anything I really needed or wanted, and besides my budget restrained me.  But it also inspired me, and thanks to a jammy ebay best offer buy, I have the new mitts I might have gone for if I could have gone there.  I have finally replaced the mystical perfect pair I had years ago that tore and couldn’t be replaced like-for-like because they’d gone out of stock.  Still not cheap as mitts go, and they won’t stay this colour for long, but they fit like a glove (yes, I know, terrible, but they do!), and man, they are SO comfortable!  Let’s call it retail therapy 😀

new gloves

Just be who you are

life's a Maltese beach

Oops, it’s been a while.  Partly because we went on holiday for a week.  Mind you we’ve been back for a week now so that excuse is probably wearing a little thin.   This week’s excuse is rather more predictable/boring.  I’m mid pain patch.  Again.  And yes they are getting more often and yes they are getting worse.  So I’m on the shiny pills and as of this afternoon I’m also on the shiny patches.  It’s fun being me 😉  However this state of affairs is not conducive to clarity of thought, and stringing a sentence together takes concentration, so if this blog fails to be eloquent don’t blame me.  It was either this or leave it even longer before I wrote anything!

I have managed to ride a bit during this period of radio silence though.  Once before I went, twice since I got back, and then a coffee run today with Alan.  Riding involves less mental effort than writing does 😉  I’m never sure how time off is going to affect my cycling.  Will a rest have been a good or bad thing?  Alan reckons you don’t lose form that quickly, but that you do lose form mentally.  Which is kind of another way of saying that when you’ve had a break for whatever reason, and also if you’re feeling rubbish, your PMA goes AWOL.

I’m pleased to say that although I may have no confidence in my ability to ride a bike at the moment, my performance out there seems to indicate that I still can.  Which is good to know, and if it wasn’t for Strava I wouldn’t know, I’d just presume I was performing as badly as I felt I was.  There’s a lot to be said for Strava…it’s not just about segments 😉  So I’ve done some hills, and apparently done them well by my standards.  I’ve done some fast and flat too.  OK so I bailed on doing the hills we had planned for today, on the basis that it would literally hurt too much, but at least doing the coffee run fast probably had some training benefit, right?  Even if it didn’t, at least I still rode the bike.  I can only do what I can, and be who I am, and I’m not going to beat myself up for that :)

Cycling time: 1:36
Distance: 28.8 miles
Avg: 18.0 mph
ODO: 10604.1 miles

Eye'll be watching you



Great Weston Ride 2015

I could tell you about the ride I did with Alan on Wednesday that didn’t go according to plan because rain stopped play.  I could also tell you about the solitary seaside loop I did yesterday.  But you don’t want to know about those.  You want to know about the Great Weston Ride that I did last Sunday, right?  Which is by way of being a rhetorical question, because I’m going to tell you about it regardless of your response.  Every English woman must do her duty 😉

Right then.  Welcome to the Great Weston Ride.  My sixth I believe.  And since it was also its sixth, that means I’ve done ’em all.  It is by way of being a tradition, which has several elements to it, though not all of them were present this time around.

First of all, for starters, we, whoever we are, ride from our various homes to the start.  This is usually Guy, sometimes Clayton, and always me.  Sadly Guy was unable to join us this year, having worn himself out on yet another long audax the day before.  When shall we three meet again?  Next year maybe?  So then there were two.  Clayton and I met a little before 7:00am at Shute Shelve, as ever, and headed off, minus our usual guiding light…which probably explains why, in the absence of his commuting expertise, we managed to get somewhat lost and turn an 18 mile route into a 22 mile route.  But hey, the roads were quiet, it was dry and mild, and we still got to where we had to be in time, mainly because that little before 7:00am had given us a little leeway!

alphabet queue registration

And where did we have to be?  Why Long Ashton Park & Ride of course.  For the second element, the main course, the main event, the GWR itself.  I think in previous years we’ve aimed to get there earlier, this time around it was already busy, full of riders and families and cars and bikes.  Alan was due to meet us there, but as there was as yet no sign of him, we headed off to sign in.  On my way I bumped into Andy and his mates James and Lee, who’d also done the Ride Like A Pro the day before, which was nice – always good to see a friendly face or three!  The alphabetised queues for registration were clearly marked, but for some reason mine seemed to be the longest, and queuing took quite a while.  Clayton had it much easier!  As I stood there on my own, slowly shuffling forwards, one of the guys popped over to say that if I was riding on my own I was more than welcome to join them, though I seriously doubt I’d have been able to keep up with ’em.  Luckily, thanks to the company I was already keeping, I didn’t need to find that out for sure!  It was a very nice gesture though – thanks guys :)

Finally it was my turn at the front, and I was given my number, two (rather short) cable ties, and a card with contact details, told to help myself to free 9Bars, and sent on my way.  I found my way back to Clayton, fiddled the number on to the bike, and joined the queue for the Ladies – which just goes to show that there were quite a lot of women riders for a change :)  By the time I emerged again we still hadn’t located Alan, who was failing to answer his ‘phone, but luckily I spotted him loitering with intent, and hailed him over.  Voice like a parade ground sergeant me 😉  Right then, back to being three, if not the same three as usual, right?

Let’s make a little detour here.  Although the GWR is, as we have established, a tradition, this year’s route could be different.  I say could be, not would be, because although the usual 56 mile route remained, the organisers (hi Darren!) had added three optional little detours to it to add both miles and hills.  I’d like to say I was dying to try them out, chomping at the bit, etc…but you know what?  I’m essentially lazy *grin*.  However if I wasn’t local and didn’t know all the extra bits already I probably would have done.  Or not 😉  My real excuse du jour?  Tradition is tradition, tradition is not to be messed with, and the traditional route is 56 miles :)

start line rider briefing

Right then.  Route decided upon.  Time to join the groups lining up for the start.  The two motorcycle medics were watching on as Darren gave us our rider briefing, showed us the signage, and told us to be careful going down the hill after Priddy.  After six years he can probably recite it in his sleep 😉  So, forewarned and forearmed, off we went.  I know better than to hurtle off though, you always get instantly stopped by the traffic lights at the entrance and then another set after that before you get to head off through Long Ashton – and this year was no exception :)

Wasn’t I here yesterday?  Ah yes, so I was.  Déja vù!  This time we may have been going a little slower though – it’s not a race, right?  The road through Long Ashton rolls a bit, has lots of parked cars, and a seriously dubious road surface.  However the section afterwards is lovely fast and flat, so we got to overtake a fair few, which is always fun.  Which is also something that happened on and off  all day.  This is more of a charity ride than a sportive, there’s no timing, and there’s a whole range of riders out there to enjoy the day out, not just the usual race snakes and testosterone fuelled pelotons.  Which apart from meaning I can overtake folk also means it’s got a really nice friendly atmosphere.  People chat en passant, families wait by the side of the road to cheer on their rider(s); it’s all quite refreshing :)

Where to go from here?  Through Barrow Gurney where we stopped briefly to stash layers and lost Clayton who was ahead and didn’t realise we were no longer behind him, and out t’other side.   Then up to the traffic lights and then up, literally, the A38, briefly.  Not briefly enough really as it’s a fast road, and the traffic using it desperately has to be somewhere else and has to go past you at speed to get there.  OK, so we weren’t on it for long at all, distance wise, but the drag up made it take longer than it would have done otherwise, overtaking slower riders was tricky, and it was nice to turn left off it and head east through Winford.  Admittedly this was also nice because I knew the next section, all bar a couple of little ups, was downhill and fun, and it was and it was :)

Chew Valley 1 Chew Valley 2

I appear to have forgotten to mention that despite the relative warmth and sunshine, it was still really windy out there.  When isn’t it these days?  And of course it was a headwind.  *sigh*.  This became even more apparently heading south across the valley and past Chew Valley Lake.  Pretty yes, but pretty hard work!  Somewhere around here we passed Clayton waiting by a gate, and stopped to pick him up – he’d thought he was following Alan the entire time, even though his ‘Alan’ had different kit and a different bike! 😉

first water stop

Time to head for the big climb of the day.  I’m not a fan of the stretch of the road going from Compton Martin to Blagdon.  It’s more up than down, with a couple of nasty draggy ups, and that slow sort of big grain porridgy road surface.  Having said that, I’ve definitely struggled more with it on other rides than I did today.  Although we split up from time to time, going up inevitably, we re-grouped on the downs and flats, i.e. the bits I can do! 😉  Those weren’t the ups of the day though.  Nah.  Today’s big climb was Burrington Combe, not to be tackled however until we’d stopped at the water stop at the bottom and had a bit of a regroup and refresh first.  I wasn’t in any rush to get up it, and when it came to it, I didn’t rush getting up it either – unlike Alan and Clayton who left me in their wakes so as to wait for me at the top.  I still got to overtake some though, and I quite enjoyed pottering up there again.  I might have been faster without the wind all day, and without the day before’s miles in my legs, but I was feeling ok, and that was fine by me :)

cattle grid Burrington Combe

Big climb done.  Time to play with the wind across the top of the Mendips, and have a bit of fun doing some speed.  I like it up there, even today when it got a bit cloudy and drizzled briefly :)  I also like the descent to Westbury sub Mendip.  Well, I usually do.  I like it less when surrounded by lots of other riders who don’t know it as well as I do.  It’s fairly steep, narrow in places, wiggly…and there’s often traffic of the motor vehicle variety going both up and down.  Which it’s another good reason, if one were needed, why it was good that the earlier drizzle was only brief and didn’t turn into rain – it’s proper ‘oribble in the wet!  I’ve been known to kick ass going down here on a good day, but not today.  Today I actually practiced some restraint.  Which is just as well as near the bottom on a narrow wiggly section, at speed, we had to squeak past a Land Rover coming the other way.  There’s no way we’d have been able to stop…just as well we didn’t have to!

we stop for traffic lights

After a bit more restrained fun we reached the junction at the bottom where the marshal duly assisted us all across the main road when it was safe to do so.  A bit more down brought us to Rodney Stoke where, later in the day, various fête type things were due to be happening and we’d been asked to roll through it in neutralised zone fashion.  We were there well in advance of those but we still did as we were told, before heading across the flat back country lanes to Cocklake.  We do what we’re told you know.  We even stopped for traffic lights ‘n everything 😉

cakes cup cakes

We were fairly motivated by now, because the infamous food stop is at Wedmore, just a couple of miles down the road.  And it was just as good as ever.  Free coffee/tea/squash, and with a large range of cakes on offer, as well as bacon rolls.  Not free but not expensive either, and although I don’t do eating, Alan and Clayton do.  A large slice of sticky chocolate cake and a generous bacon roll respectively, both of which were apparently lovely :)  The only fly in the ointment was the wasp that wouldn’t leave my squash alone!  So I dumped both and headed to the school toilets, which always make me giggle because they’re ickle for ickle people *grin*.

grill tent bacon roll time

We couldn’t stand around eating all day though.  Time to get going, with 18 miles or so to go and no big hills.  As we headed down the ‘mother-in-law’ road from Wedmore to Highbridge (so-called because it goes on and on…) the sun came properly back out again too.  Well the sun should always shine at the seaside right?  Which, with Highbridge, Burnham-on-Sea, and Weston-super-Mare ahead of us, is where the rest of the ride was.  Burnham wasn’t as busy as usual which was a blessing.  As we passed what passes for the pier, a large group of ladies and daughters applauded me.  Yes, just me, I was a way back from the boys at this point trying to take photos.  I think it was a female solidarity thing – and very smile inducing it was too :)  By now the wind, which had been more southerly than westerly, could have been expected to be behind us and helpful and blissful and….nah, don’t be daft…it had veered around to be properly westerly and no use to man nor beast!  T’was ever the way…*grin*.

Burnham on Sea

We stuck together for the last flat section, took turns at the front, and dragged our average speed up a bit while enjoying the sunshine.  Past the 10 miles to go sign, the 5 miles to go…up the A38, through Uphill, and then we were on the final stretch down the main seafront to the Finish on the lawns there.  There was a lovely reception awaiting us as we crossed the line, complete with applause and cowbells, and smiley faced girls handing out medals and food tokens.  Told you it was friendly, right?  Once again the Great Weston Ride was done :)

Cycling time: 3:42
Distance: 55.9 miles
Avg: 15.1 mph
ODO: 10493.3 miles

Alan Clayton

Time for some R’n’R then.  Those food tokens entitled you to a free burger/sausage/falafel wrap from The Cowshed.  But who eats first?  Priorities…!  Clayton disappeared like a shot towards the beer tent as I had a brief chat to Darren, and I joined him just in time to be presented with a pint of cold lager – bliss :)  Alan went off in search of their food, and I made some small boy’s day by giving him my token and thus a free burger.  Positive karma has to be a good thing :)  We all sat on the lawn in the sun, played the debrief game, and drank that positively lovely lager, surrounded by lots of others doing the same.  The boys had a couple of pints or three, I stuck to just 1 and 1/2 before we headed off for the ride home, even given considerable peer pressure!…

just rewards

…which I possibly paid for.  This was the final element, dessert presumably, aka riding back home again.  Damn that tradition stuff!  OK, so it was only 10 miles back for me, and actually this probably had more to do with two days’ riding in a row and not having eaten enough, but I felt properly and increasingly weird on the way back.  I’m very glad it wasn’t any further!  I was very pleased to get home, get off the bike, and spend some serious sofa time so as to get it together enough to have a shower.  I know, girly lightweight 😉  Still, two lovely days out on the bike…there are definitely worse ways to spend a weekend :)



Ride Like A Pro 2015

Ride Like A Pro sepia support

After a quick evening spin on Thursday, and a rest day on Friday, my cycling weekend had arrived.  I did the Jaguar Ride Like A Pro last year, and I have to admit I hadn’t seriously been considering doing it again, but when they got in touch and asked if I’d like to do it again?  Well, I’m a sucker for an invitation.  To be honest, I did mentally debate it for a while, what with the Great Weston Ride the following day, but this year’s Ride Like A Pro was only due to be 48 miles, and I’ve ridden two days in a row before, and did I mention they invited me?  Yeah, done deal :)  I signed on the dotted line, aka the on-line registration form, and the die was cast.

Of course the fact that I didn’t have to be in Bristol until 10:00am was definitely in its favour.  So all I had to do this Saturday was get up at a reasonable hour, sling on summer kit because the weather was nice, throw (well, not literally) the bike in the back of the car and head North.  Result :)

Which brought me to Hartwell Bristol Jaguar, somewhat nervous, but under sunny skies, all according to plan on Saturday.  Why nervous?  Well although I did enjoy it last year, keeping up with the race snakes was hard work and, not helped by a gear cable failure, I ended up limping home with just James for company.  Would it be the same again?  As I parked up and started to sort stuff, the sheer amount of high quality gear being unloaded and paraded around didn’t make me feel any more confident.  However I had been told they were hoping to have three ability groups – fast, medium, slow – and rather than be daft enough to opt for the fast group this year, I had every intention of being slow and not pushing it, especially with Sunday in mind.  I was doing my best to keep the nerves at bay.

me want

I went inside the showroom – I mentioned it was a Jaguar ride right? – and admired the cars in passing on my way to use the facilities.  I then chatted to Jack who’d invited me, and familiar face Ride Leader Pete who led us/me last year, while signing the relevant paperwork.  Time to get properly ready then and hope it would all go according to plan.  Whilst faffing I got chatting to another rider about the route and the day and where we’d come from and the like.  A little while later, whilst waiting for the rider briefing, he popped up again and said…if I was from Axbridge, and cycling…was I in fact the Cycling Mayor?  Well…yes…as it happens…I was.  Am.  Whatever 😉  Aw shucks, someone who reads this.  How cool is that? :)

ready for briefing

Time for the ‘tick every health & safety box’ rider briefing then.  Which Jack did very well, to be fair.  My heart sank somewhat when it became apparent that the plan was for us all to be one group for the whole ride.  Oh dear… Resolved though I was to do my best I had visions of me just fading slowly into the background…and I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I’d downloaded the GPS route, even if my Garmin isn’t all that good at those.  At least I would be able to get around on my own without getting lost!

photo op

So, after some obligatory photos with the Team Sky Jag, it was time to head off.  It took us quite a while to get out of Bristol, what with traffic lights, traffic, and the like.  And being one big group, which tended to get a little bit strung out as a result, I think it’s fair to say we didn’t make some of the rather impatient motorists like us any more than they had done before!  On the upside this meant we were all pootling along at a more than tolerable speed.  I wasn’t deluded enough to think that this would last but it was nice to have some time and space to warm up in.

Which took care of the first five miles or so I think.  And took us out by the Long Ashton Park & Ride and out towards Nailsea which, on Sunday, would cause a certain amount of déja vù.  Now that we were out of the big bad city, the group speed started to go up, as expected.  I decided the best thing to do was to try and stay near the front so I had a way to drop back if necessary.  However the roads through Wraxall and beyond were more rolling than anything else and dropping on the ups didn’t seem to be a problem.  I even had chatting company for a while which was nice.  It was definitely going better than the same time last year when I definitely remember struggling more.  Actually I think this year’s group were overall a little slower…even if they’d hate to hear me say it…but you won’t hear me complaining!

It was nice out there though.  Pretty.  Sunshine, colourful lycra, Somerset countryside, what’s not to love?  Mind you, I knew it wasn’t going to stay flat and easy all the way around.  As we passed through the land of my father, through a surprisingly quiet Yatton, and on to Congresbury I knew that the first up of the day was ahead, and there was no way I’d be maintaining my place in the pack for that!

Right then, time for the up from Churchill to Shipham.  And actually I got overtaken by far fewer riders than I was expecting.  Which just goes to show that overall we were slower than last year 😉  It’s not the worst climb in the world, pretty gradual, with a steep kick out of Shipham, and then a lovely down which means you can then get quite a long way up the next kick to get to the top before the descent…

Which is where we met the Wiggle Mendips Sportive riders, who were coming down from Charterhouse to merge with us at the bottom by the Lillypool Cafe before going up to go down Shipham Hill.  Of course having far more momentum on my side than them, I shot past them many of them who, not realising I wasn’t on their ride, were a tad bemused about me cruising up the hill past them like that.  Very funny :)  After inevitably slowing down a bit for the last bit of the final up my favourite descent awaited me, complete with rabbits to chase and overtake.  And I had a blast going down – much much fun.  Especially as this year my gear cable didn’t snap on the way down! *grin*  Since we were heading for our café stop at Edelweiss at the bottom of Cheddar Gorge I didn’t even have to slow down at the junction where I normally turn right, and knowing those roads well, I had lots more fun hurtling past lots of less cognisant riders to get to where everyone was gathering.  As I neared the bottom of the Gorge, a Wiggle rider pulled up next to me to give me kudos on my descent.  Apparently he’d been pedal to the metal trying to catch me all the way down and hadn’t manage to narrow the distance between us at all.  Tee hee hee :D.

support car

Time for coffee.  Well it would have been, and was for many, but actually I fancied fizzy orange.  And I definitely couldn’t face the cakes, bacon rolls, etc that others were eating.  Not before Cheddar Gorge!  The café staff were a tad overwhelmed by us all, so service got a bit chaotic.  And £2 for a small bottle of fizzy Fanta seemed a tad much but hey, it went down at the same speed I’d just gone down 😉  There were also drinks and bars and things in the back of the support car too, as well as the opportunity to have your photo taken with it – all of which I let pass me by.  I was just wondering when would be a good time to head off before everyone else so that they could catch me up later!  After some time spent chatting to others in the sunshine I decided the time had come.  It turned out that several others had already headed off, so I told the Ride Leaders I’d be doing the same, and one of the others joined me too.

Gorge 1 Gorge 2 Gorge 3

Hello Cheddar Gorge.  Again 😉  I’d like to thank the Wiggle Mendips Sportive for all their riders who were doing the same as it meant that, unusually, I actually overtook lots of people on the way up!  Go me!  Somewhat amusingly somewhere in the wiggly bits, on the side of the road, was Phil of SportivePhoto fame…  I said hi, pointed out that I wasn’t one of his so he didn’t need to immortalise me, but he did anyway – and having seen the result on Twitter later, I think I need to buy that off him!  He did make me laugh though :)  And I even overtook some of “our” riders as we neared the top – the shallow the gradient the faster I go, and it’s not like I don’t know the climb, right?  Shame Strava doesn’t think I went up there at all…

Near the top I caught up with the rider I’d left the bottom with, and also picked up one I’d overtaken, and so as three Pro musketeers we headed off over the Mendips without waiting for the rest of the group to catch us.  I had my reservations about this, mainly because I didn’t want to get lost, but we figured that between us and our various gadgets, we could probably find our way back.  Which we did, with the odd little wiggle where we weren’t quite sure about things.  I was a bit cautious about the West Harptree descent, not wanting another puncture.  Chew Valley Lake was as pretty as ever, and the country lanes afterwards just sort of rolled by.  Having done the ride before definitely helped, as sometimes I could remember the way, and also because it was all vaguely familiar, so it didn’t feel as long or as hard as last year, even including the couple of ups after Chew Magna.  Luckily the guys waited for me to catch up after each one!  The fast group caught us up on an up towards the end, but nowhere as soon as I’d expected, and then left us in their dust to head back into Bristol, followed by one of us.  My remaining companion Andy, as he turned out to be, stuck with me however, which I was most grateful for; it is nice to ride in chatty company.  He even waited when we got separated by traffic lights on the way back into Bristol on the basis that we’d done the last 20 miles together, we should do the last 200 yards that way too!  And then there we were, back admiring posh cars, and picking up our goody bags.  I’m pretty sure we were far from the last in too :)

I think there around 40 or so other riders on the ride, but I’m pleased to announce that I was the fastest woman today.  I was also the slowest woman.  Yes, I was the token woman! 😉  Not that I really noticed.  I was Riding Like a Pro which, as I’ve said before, in my situation would make me Lance Armstrong, so I was just another bloke out there 😉  I really enjoyed the ride, even more so than last year.  To be fair, the Ride Like A Pro supported ride bit only really worked for the first half of the ride, but at least after that, however splintered we all were, there was still a support car somewhere behind us.  However the route is nice, the weather was good, there was a really friendly atmosphere all round, and I definitely feel like I held my own.  A good ride for sure.  Maybe they’ll invite me back next year? :)

Cycling time: 3:03
Distance: 48.5 miles
Avg: 15.9 mph
ODO: 10363.5 miles