Dark angels follow me

Mark Rothko Black Red and Black

Since last Wednesday I have been fighting a losing battle against the slowly returning pain.  Which leaves me feeling somewhat like the above picture.  After a screamingly painful Sunday, with all the weapons at my command in action, I finally got things down to a manageable background level.  Well tolerable anyway.  And it’s slowly receding.  However it doesn’t particularly like core work, which I felt the need to test out with two workouts, as you do.  And historically it doesn’t like cycling either.  So I needed to test that out too, right?

Well, it is Wednesday…and though it may be the last one for a while, once again that meant Alan and hills.  Fourth hump day, so four hills.  Though oddly, our route turns out to have had exactly the same mileage as last week’s three hill route, yet with slightly less climbing.  Not sure how that works!

So, which ups were on the menu today?  Shipham, Burrington, the A39 climb up to the aerial, and then Old Bristol Hill.  Relentless hard hills, but in weird variable weather.  I was so hot, and thus over-heating, by the time we got to the top of Burrington Combe I had to stop and take off a layer and squeeze it into the saddle bag.  It was practically Spring-like up there.  But by the third time we climbed up the Mendips we were climbing into what felt like damp freezing fog!  At least I didn’t have to do Old Bristol Hill in the snow again…  It did mean I had to be a bit more careful down Cheddar Gorge than usual…boo hiss ;)

Burrington Combe grid rest of Burrington Combe

Having opted not to take the magic pills this morning, so as to be as with it as possible, I was occasionally painfully reminded that maybe I should have done.  Going up decent hills sets it off, and that’s what we were doing.  It certainly didn’t make going uphill any easier.  But then I’m not sure what would ;)  Apparently the only way to get better at going up hills is to keep going up hills.  So we kept going up hills *grin*.

All in all, at the end of the day, <insert annoying phrase of your choice here>, etc., I’m really pleased with how it went.  Alan enjoyed discovering yet another hill, and once he’s done West Harptree and the Glider Club hill I think we’ll pretty much have covered the Mendip climbs.  Oh, and the last one of those two he can do by himself – I still know my limits ;)  But I performed ok overall, I got up everything, and I got up Old Bristol Hill a couple of minutes faster than I did three weeks ago, so that can’t be bad.  And best of all, I’m not feeling worn out now.  Mind you, it is time I took some of those pills…  Ho hum :)

Cycling time: 2:45
Distance: 36.3 miles
Avg: 13.1 mph
ODO: 7984.7 miles

resting up

If forever never comes

After a long, late, very enjoyable Friday night at my folks’ place, which involved a serious degree of self-medication as the pain level was rocketing, Saturday morning didn’t really happen.  I pretty much slept through it!  Which since I had a whole empty weekend to fill, neatly took care of a good few of those hours ;)  And besides which, sleep is good right?  It was clearly what my body needed, which is often how it reacts to dealing with the pain anyway.  So, no harm done.

However I didn’t want to waste the day entirely, and I was feeling somewhat better (mornings tend to be better than later in the day) so I took myself off walking again once my caffeine levels were topped up.  I walked all around Burrington Combe, which I pretty much had to myself, and made it snow.  Which was novel *grin*.  It was hilly and muddy and cold and damp but none of those things all the time.  And I sat on top of the rocks at the highest point and admired the views, rocking the windswept look, and loved it.  All of it :)

mossy stream muddy path stream

stark trees it snowed views beyond

jagged edge outcrop perspective

Walking time: 1:19
Distance: 3.5 miles

combe selfie

Ain’t in no hurry

steeds parked

Just a short quick one today.  Well, not that quick, but faster than expected ;)  That’ll be because it was flat of course, which seemed somewhat easier than usual.  But then usual has been hills of late so it was bound to, by comparison.  And the way out to Fairyland was somewhat wind assisted.  But then of course the way back wasn’t, so I guess it balanced out.  We weren’t in any hurry anyway.  It was about shooting that breeze and drinking very good coffee :)

coffee & orange

Cycling time: 1:46
Distance: 29.2 miles
Avg: 16.5 mph
ODO: 7948.4 miles

Baby I’m amazed

Yesterday the weather was bloomin’ gorgeous.  But I had other things to be doing, even if I was mentally thinking a whole heap of “if only“s while doing them.  Foremost amongst those was “if only it would be this nice tomorrow when I’m actually going to be riding the bike“.  Which seemed unlikely, given my weather track record.  However, when I woke up this morning and cautiously drew back the curtains, it looked like just for once my luck was in.  Result :)

Well, in some respects anyway.  I appear to be in the middle of an IBS flare up and, just to add a little icing on the cake of discomfort, I was also in intermittent pain, which had come out of nowhere as it does.  But hey, when did that ever stop me?  Since Alan was suffering from toothache and he wasn’t bailing, neither would I be.  Besides, to not ride on a day like today?  Gift horses, mouth, etc.  I got up, got kitted up, and as soon as circumstances allowed me to be free, I was off on my newly-serviced bike to meet Alan in the Square.

my serviced steeds

Yep, it’s hump day again.  So, for the third such in a row, Alan and I went and rode up hills.  It was all pretty gratuitous really.  We rode up the Mendips, then rode down them, just to go back up again.  Several times.  Three challenging ups, but only one really good down though, which is always a bit of a shame.  Boo hiss!  And should you be interested, that’s Cheddar Gorge, East Harptree, Blagdon and then Shipham, in that order.

All good hills.  If you like hills.  Which Alan does.  All enjoyed in not quite as chilly as expected sunshine, with a fairly brisk Southerly wind.  Pretty pleasant :)  The only fly in the ointment was that we took a wrong turn towards the top of the Blagdon climb, which is a tad annoying merely because I would like to have seen how I would have coped with the full climb.  The dog leg we accidentally ended up doing meant we did the same amount of climbing, but just more gradually and, as I’d been plodding up things fairly satisfactorily today, I think the steeper option would have gone ok.  Ah well, maybe next time ;)

More hills.  More miles.  The steepest bits did set things off a bit, and I did have the odd grasp at left side moment, as well as those odd hard to describe moments where something twinges in there and the rest of your body suddenly sort of loses focus to think about that.  But ignoring that, and ignoring Strava, which is usually wise, I’m pretty pleased with how it went overall.  I still felt ok out there.  Alan reckons that, having watched me ride my way back after Christmas, I’m riding much stronger now.  And I don’t think he was just being nice ;)  It does seem to be getting better.  Which is encouraging.  It’s just over two weeks until my Wheels in Wheels training camp, and I reckon I’m nearly as ready as I’m ever going to be :)

Cycling time: 2:38
Distance: 36.3 miles
Avg: 13.7 mph
ODO: 7919.2 miles


BTW, should you want/need your bike(s) servicing, repairing, building, whatever – give Andy at Sprocket & Spanners a call.  My two were collected for their special offer 2-for-one Premium Service on Monday morning and came back that evening serviced, repaired, and clean, complete with advisories for the future, just like an MOT.  Awesome :)

Let’s get outside

gorge view

As ever, the way to clear the head, is to be outside. And these days that often involves Shanks Pony, not the usual steed.   Only this time I had company, reluctant or otherwise.  Apparently youngest likes going uphill even less than I do ;)  Having done the Gorge walk on Boxing Day, I knew that it wasn’t actually too strenuous or too long, so I didn’t feel too bad about dragging her along in my wake, whilst eldest led the way in his usual slouchy teenager fashion, complete with hoodie ;)

reluctant up hillers me again

Youngest doesn’t see the point in walking apparently.  You should be walking to get somewhere.  It is a means to an end, not an activity in itself.  To be fair, I used to agree with her, but now I don’t.  But then is there a point to cycling?  Probably not ;)  Walking is just another form of exercise, another way to be out there and not in here.  With views, and weather, and all that lovely perspective-inducing stuff.  And once we’d stopped going uphill, fuelled by sherbet lemons, and Nuun, she begrudgingly almost enjoyed herself.  Maybe.  You gotta love teenagers ;)

mushrooms the thinker

Eldest was doing his impression of The Thinker midway.  Appearances can be deceptive *grin*.  Because if he was really that way inclined, he wouldn’t have decided to run up the next set of steps.  This was especially amusing, as not only did he wipe out halfway up, but he didn’t know there are two sets of them and I do *grin*.  Aw, bless ;)  It was busier out there this time around, so we passed quite a few people en route.  As we passed a couple going down, on those steps up, youngest caused much hilarity by announcing that she’d developed an extreme dislike of stairs *grin*.  Yep, still not loving uphill then ;)

the stairway to heaven my girl

We make a pretty awesome triumvirate.  In fact we rock :D  OK, so they’re not entirely converted to the whole walking thing, but we used to do it, and we will be doing it again, whether they like it in principle or not.  They enjoyed it in the long run (walk?), which is the important thing.  I like walking, and I like spending time with them.  Result :)

unholy triumvirate

Walking time: 1:35
Distance: 5.3 miles

We nearly ended up at Costa to round things off.  But to be honest, I have really good coffee at home, and I’d bought cake earlier.  Besides which, at this point, on a Sunday afternoon, a coffee really wasn’t going to cut it.  So we popped into the Riverside Inn instead :)

a cold one

Where is that PMA?

Somewhat amazingly, even the Foo Fighters know about PMA.  Who knew?

So, where is it?  Well, still lurking in there somewhere I think.

I went for a ride with the BK Velo lot this morning.  Riding with them tends to scare me.  They’re fast, if not furious, and usually draw away into the distance with nary a backward glance, before waiting for me at the top of one incline or another.  That doesn’t scare me.  I’m plenty used to being left behind.  But I tend to find such rides less than enjoyable, and feeling like that on my bike kinda scares me.  My tentatively resurgent PMA doesn’t need the bashing.  Hey, I’m sure none of that makes any sense, but you fight your demons and I’ll fight mine ;)

But I still got out of bed at 7:15am this morning, so I could meet up with Guy at 8:30am to rendezvous with them in Brent Knoll at 9:00am.  Just because something scares me rarely means I won’t do it.  Mary Mary, quite contrary, remember?

There were, when it came to it, 5 of us.  Myself, Guy, Martyn, James and Paul.  After some discussion it was decided we were going to Langport for coffee and back.  So off we went.  And I think it actually went pretty well.  Generally being 2 + 2 + 1 meant I was either mid-group or at the back so could wheelsuck to my heart’s content.  Whether it was because Guy is on his way back from real flu, or in deference to my presence, or both, or indeed neither, no-one was hurtling off anywhere.  I kept up, other than uphill of course, and luckily there wasn’t too much of that.  So, all good.  Certainly better than feared.  But my mental arithmetic en-route eventually made it clear that the route meant I was going to be out for somewhat longer than I really wanted to be.

So when we got to the bottom of a seriously enjoyable descent somewhere near Moorlinch, I decided I would part company with the guys and head for home.  Even if that did mean going up Pedwell Hill.  Ok, I could have bailed earlier, but I actually wanted to go up a hill.  Well I thought I ought to anyway ;)  And just for once I wasn’t bailing because I felt crap or inferior.  I just had places I would rather be today.  Priorities.  It is increasingly not all about the bike.


Thanks to BKVelo for the company and the consideration.  It was good to catch up with them, and I enjoyed it.  I did, oddly, even quite enjoy Pedwell Hill.  I didn’t enjoy slogging the rest of the way back home into the wind so much, but hey, it’s resistance training right?  Strava says I was as snail-like as ever, but these days it’s about how I feel out there, and I felt ok.  So there :P PMA still on its way back…*fingers crossed*.

Cycling time: 2:39
Distance: 39.5 miles
Avg: 14.9 mph
ODO: 7882.9 miles

Live to fight another day

Capital W

It would appear Wednesday is a hump day in more ways that one.  It is turning into the day when Alan and I go and ride up things.  Humps.  Or lumps.  Or more precisely hills.  Which today are brought to you by the letter W and the number 3.  Westbury, Wrington, Winscombe.

Which I crawled up tortoise stylee while Alan hared off to chase rabbits ;)  Either way we both got to the top more or less eventually.  However he waited at the tops, I waited at the bottoms.  It’s an equitable life ;)


It didn’t feel quite as “good”, supposing that word ever applied to hills, as last Wednesday.  A little less in me somehow?  There is, as ever, a distinct possibility I have been a little under-fueled of late.  I keep meaning to do something about that…but procrastination is a wonderful thing ;)  Still, I went out, and I went up, and it could have been worse.  Enough with the “W”s now?  And then I came home and discovered the freezer had shuffled off its evaporator coils.  Marvellous.  Ah well, maybe if I eat the defrosting contents my next ride will be better *grin*.

Cycling time: 2:38
Distance: 34.6 miles
Avg: 13.1 mph
ODO: 7843.4 miles

I am a river

hazy over to Brent Knoll

So.  I have been outside again.  But not quite as planned.

My last ride was on Friday, with George, a chilly, icy, cautious loop out to the seaside and back.  I don’t normally go out when ice is a factor but I’d said I would and I was in a truly foul mood, and getting out seemed like an extremely good idea.  Which it was, from a mental health perspective anyway.  And neither of us fell off, so that went well too.  But it did very clearly demonstrate that I was tired.  Very tired.  Tired legs, tired body, tired me.

Cycling time: 1:57
Distance: 26.8 miles
Avg: 13.7 mph
ODO: 7808.8 miles

So I didn’t go out with the ACG on Saturday.  Even though they were doing a nice easy flat loop, I decided what I really needed was sleep.  So instead of getting up at 8:30am to join them, that’s what I did.  I slept.  A lot.  I like sleep :)  And I felt much better for it too.  The chances are I wouldn’t have had a good ride anyway, which I would then not have enjoyed so, win win, as it were.  Rest and recovery.

up to the peak horse rocks

And yesterday I went walking again.  Which was lovely.  Yes, I could have gone riding.  Lots of people had/were.  But I’m quite enjoying doing things a little differently.  Going with my flow. Hence the smiley face, presumably :)

Walking time: 1:56
Distance: 6.4 miles

me close

Life is good today

blue team

I’ve been waiting for the after-effects from Sunday’s sportive to cut in.  Monday saw the odd ache in my neck and shoulders, but that was all.  Tuesday I was expecting DOMS to cut in.  Nothing.  So I did a workout to check that out.  Still nothing.  I guess I’m still waiting.  Which meant I had no excuse to not go and cycle up hills with Alan as planned today.  B*gger ;)  Although I did tweak the proposed route so as to avoid going up Burrington Combe for the third time in a week and Old Bristol Hill for the second!  There are plenty of other hills around here after all, no?  Pretty much all of which I know, but Alan doesn’t, so there was some novelty value in introducing him to some of them.  I’m a cycling tour guide ;)

Which meant going up Shipham Hill, with Longbottom & the nasty kick up to Tynings Farm.  Up the A39 from Chewton Mendip to the Wells aerial.  And finally up Deerleap.

Which meant going down to East Harptree.  Down through the Horringtons.  And of course down Cheddar Gorge, not that my Garmin recognises that *sigh*.  (You’ll notice I have no qualms about repeating the same downhill more than once in a week though ;) )

Which included a coffee stop at the Rock Cake Café where apparently opting for a Cornish pasty instead of a cake wasn’t a wise move, not that you could spot Alan’s lack of sugar rush as he danced up Deerleap ;)

not cake

It was all done in beautiful winter sunshine.  Just as cold and windy as Sunday, but far prettier.  Some of it was hard work.  Some of it wasn’t.  But I kept on moving :)

I do do hills.  Sometimes ;)

Cycling time: 2:57
Distance: 40.2 miles
Avg: 13.5 mph
ODO: 7782 miles



Evans Ride It Bristol 2015

I don’t always look forward to sportives.  In fact I can’t remember the last time I really did.  But I was, oddly, looking forward to this one.  After the last few positive rides I wanted to see how my form really was.  Whether or not I could still do it.  If I could do 70 miles yet.  Mind you, however I thought I was feeling about it, someone had forgotten to tell my body, which did the whole dry mouth nervous thing for the entire way there…

…which luckily wasn’t far.  Unsurprisingly the Evans Ride It Bristol starts in Bristol, which is only half an hour’s drive away.  Again with the don’ts, but I don’t often do local sportives.  I know these roads too well, there’s no novelty value, no real challenge to be had.  But I signed up for this one as a hook to hang a longer ride on.  To force me to get out of my 30 odd mile route rut and do something longer, with hills.  And there’s a lot to be said for a 7:00am alarm call as opposed to a 5:00am one.  So local isn’t all bad ;)

Of course, with predictably bad timing, my pain chose Saturday night to flare up, making for an even worse than usual pre-sportive night’s sleep, and sadly it hadn’t gone away by Sunday morning.  Tramadol was out of the question as, when not habituated, it tends to zombie me, and that’s hardly conducive to bike riding.  So mainstream analgesia it was, with my fingers firmly crossed that would be enough to get by.

So, all that said and done, welcome to Hengrove Park Leisure Centre where, at around 8:30am I was marshalled onto the small free car park on site, being early enough for it not to be full.  Which was good, because the other options were further away.  I could have walked to and from registration before faffing, but being as it was freezing cold (there was still ice in the puddles), I decided I might as well get all kitted up and wrapped up and go with the one step approach.  The forecast was for fairly bright, fairly cold, and fairly breezy, all of which it was currently being.  So on went every winter layer and, bearing my still dodgy ears in mind, the winter hat was joined by a Buff underneath to make sure everything was covered up.  Fairly efficient as faffing goes.  Me and my practically clean bike headed for registration – eldest has his uses ;)

registration queuing up

It took a little while for them to find me since, thanks to my elevated VIP status, I got to be on a small special and exclusive list of free riders which was lurking at the end of the table.  Oddly enough there was another female Trotman registered though…a DNS as it happens.  The friendly bobble-hatted man behind the table stuck a timing sticker on my helmet, offered me a map and that was that.  Which I refused.  And then went back for on the basis that if I didn’t have it I might need it and just because I knew 95% of the route that wouldn’t stop me getting lost in and out of Bristol if I missed a sign.  Plus it had all the emergency contact details on it which I thought I should have so as not to need them, like insurance.

Time for the requisite toilet break, and the facilities were inside the leisure centre along with a café etc.  Cleats were banned, and getting the shoes on and off was a bit of a pain, what with all the overshoes etc, but hey ho, rules are rules.  All necessities having been taken care of, there was nowt for it but to join the queue for the start in the cold.  It didn’t take long though, and I was shortly penned in with the next batch of riders, being briefed.  I wasn’t once told it wasn’t a race, but there was a sign saying so, which was nice.  Well, tradition is important ;)

race briefing not a race

Right then.  Briefing done.  Here I go again, on my own.  Going down roads I definitely know.  Well, I would be once I got out of Bristol anyway ;)  After a couple of miles of leisurely (i.e. not going off too fast too soon) bimbling through housing estates, getting out of Bristol meant going straight up Dundry Hill.  Oh cruel world!  I definitely hadn’t warmed up, even supposing that was ever going to happen, and t’aint an easy hill for sure.  But…it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be?  Sure, it was hard work, and it went on for ages, bend after bend, but I didn’t feel like I was dying.  Well, ok, I was, we all are, it’s part of life, but I didn’t feel like it was at risk of happening imminently ;)

Unsurprisingly I was overtaken on the way up, but I also overtook a few, and those who overtook me?  Well I left ‘em for dust on the downhill afterwards *grin*.  The roads were pretty dry and, cold though it was, there didn’t seem to be ice around, so I could enjoy the downhills today my way, though I was maybe a little more cautious than usual.

Right then, bye bye Bristol, hello familiar roads.  Not flat though, not yet.  We were off plane spotting, gradually climbing through Winford and Felton up to the airport.  Which cheered me up no end because this meant we were going to go down Brockley Combe.  Fun fun ;)  Although actually it’s not steep enough to be real fun, you can’t get fast enough and there’s always a headwind.  But I did my best ;)

I was on to Dad’s turf now, though sadly he wasn’t with me having left it late too late to sign up before it sold out.  In the absence of his company, which would have been nice, I was actually happier with none, as I didn’t feel under any pressure to perform and could just take it as it came.  And what came next was a nice patch of 10-15 fairly flat miles, enjoying the scenery, playing with the traffic in Yatton which is way easier on a bike than in a car, all the while getting closer and closer to the next big climb of the day, Burrington Combe.  The first food stop was in the car park at the bottom, but I only stopped long enough to take the odd photo, it being sort of my job ‘n all.  Tempting though the hot coffee looked, I was still cold, and didn’t want to get colder hanging around before doing that going up thing.  That cold is also why there aren’t a lot of photos.  It’s hard to use the camera in winter gloves which means either removing them (bye bye hands) or stopping to use it (bye bye body).  So, more words, less pictures today.

starting Burrington Combe first food stop

Burrington Combe went pretty well, as it happens.  As slowly as ever, but I felt ok about it.  I knew the route split was coming up after and spent some happy mental time while pootling uphill, deliberating as to whether I was going to do the long route or the medium route.  Sure, I was feeling fairly good, but I’d not done any long rides for quite a while, I’ve been ill, I couldn’t feel my toes, other than in that painfully cold sense, and my pain was making life…interesting, especially uphills.  But I wanted to do the 70 mile route.  That’s what I had set out to do.  For once familiarity was a good thing.  I knew where the route was going to take me, I knew which hills remained, I knew that what was ahead was theoretically doable, it having been done before.  Who am I kidding?  I was only mentally messing with myself really, I was always going to do the long route *grin*.

time to climb the Combe

Besides, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get to go down Cheddar Gorge, now would I?  Which I did, and did well, and enjoyed just as much as ever.  I’d have had flies in my teeth, but I was breathing through my winter collar – downhill was even colder!   My buoyant mood carried me all the way out to and through Wedmore and on to the next foodstop at the infamous Sweets.  I barely even noticed Mudgeley Hill, other than to fly down it of course ;)

food stop at Sweets

Sadly there was no coffee on offer this time, just when I fancied one.  Yes, I could have gone inside and ordered one, but that would have taken time I didn’t have.  I did nip to the loo, and nab a couple of gels though, as there was one big hill to go and I was going to need ‘em!  Time to get back on my steed, to ride further East.  Sadly this also involved some North and since today’s wind was a considerable North Westerly, it was suddenly quite a hindrance.  OK, so I’d been aware it had been helping before, but the thought of the remaining 27 miles being all into that was a bit depressing, and I did briefly wonder if I’d made the right route decision.

I’m pleased to say it turned out to be less of a problem that feared.  The road out to Wells was in a more favourable direction and there were bigger fish to fry.  Old Bristol Hill.  Which I’ve never cycled up in the snow before.  Yes, as I came into Wells it started snowing.  I’d like to say the novelty value made the climb easier.  It didn’t.  But it’s just another hill right?  A very long hill mind, so I engaged crawler gear, laughed at the snow, and reminded myself that I’d climbed up far longer hills than this and they didn’t take all day and neither would this.  Which it didn’t.  Although it may have felt like it ;)

snow on Old Bristol Hill

It was pretty breezy and awful chilly on the top of the Mendips but I knew it wouldn’t be for long, the snow had stopped without having settled, it was as scenic as ever, and I was going to get to go down Harptree Hill, another favourite.  I’m very reward driven ;)  We’d been warned about the descent, which is probably quite fair if you don’t know it.  But I do, so I got to fly all the way down happily, in my (joint) best time ever :D

I was expecting to hate the slog out across the exposed valley and past Chew Valley Lake but somehow that didn’t happen.  I knew the miles were counting down, and that I didn’t really have that far to go and so I just got on with it.  Once we got to Chew Magna I was in unfamiliar territory though, and those few miles left s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d somehow, as I ceased to know where I was in relation to where I needed to be, whilst also not knowing what kind of hill was going to be necessary to get me back into Bristol.  And yes, there was one, but it was no Dundry.  Apparently it was Maesknoll, if you’re interested.  And then that was that, just a few more miles through suburbia and I was back at HQ to walk over the Finish line, or more accurately under the Finish arch, and be counted back in, still feeling pretty good.  Evans Ride It Bristol – done :)

finish line riders finishing

Cycling time: 5:19
Distance: 70.5 miles
Avg: 13.2 mph
ODO: 7741.8 miles
Fuel: 2 gels, one flapjack, 1 litre Nuun.

Before I set out I was guessing at around 5 hours ride time.  Then en route I realised how slow I was and that there were hills involved, and I decided 6 hours was more realistic.  And then as things went on, I thought maybe I might make it in at around the 5 1/2 hours mark.  So I was very pleased with 5:19, and happier still with my official 5:30 when the results went up on the website the following day.  A pretty good start to the season methinks :)

PS: I’m also pretty chuffed that the organisers gave me both the High5 sample pack that everyone was getting, and also the free High5 Pack that riders who sign up more than 8 weeks in advance get – High5 gels are my fuel of choice!

sample box High5 box High5 goodies