Sunday, 25 March 2012

Where I can wipe away the madness from your face

So here it is, my Sunday recovery ride. I had intended on a rest day today, having had some form of fairly vigorous exercise for the last three days, the missing one from these pages is exercising a dog to exhaustion (another long and dull tale). But logistics have got in the way of my planned schedule for the week ahead, so no commuting on the horizon. And with this weather, well, gift horses, mouths, you know the drill.

As usual in the Mendip Rouleur world, there is a lot going on, work, family, stuff, so I needed what the modern manager calls, "headspace". Personally I prefer the word solitude.

So it got to 3PM and I decided to spin around the levels in a lazy way and do the recovery thing. I was really tired after yesterday, and slept pretty deeply too. Only, at every decision point, hills or flat, I seemed to choose the hill, or I did until I realised I would be out all night if I carried on, so contented myself with just the Gorge and Old Bristol Hill, and a couple of minor bumps.

There were fewer cyclists out today, but still a fair number, I played chase the rabbit a bit, then he caught up with me and sat on my wheel. I really wanted my own company so i let him go and then turned another way, coming down into Wells the straight way, but at least I was on my own. Anti-social maybe, sometimes I just need that.

There are lots of lambs in the fields, another Spring sign, I hope this weather lasts, it just feels so good to be out in shorts and short-sleeves at the moment. Just me and my shadow that is, and my bike of course.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Just how far I have to go

I woke a bit early today, looked out of the window and took this beautiful picture of the sunrise:

The clocks go forward tonight, how good is that? It means I will be cycling home from work in daylight, as well as perhaps the odd hour here and there out on the bike when I get home. Perhaps the extra daylight may mean I don't have to go round our house switching so many lights off all the time. I know I sound like my Dad, circa 1975, perhaps I even sound like Dads everywhere, but what is it that happens in the brain that remembers to switch the light on but can't possibly contemplate switching it off when you leave the darkened room?

As you can see I'm in moaning mood, so just one final whinge before I get going. Mini Mendip rouleur was away on school camp this week, and much as I missed him, it was a novel experience to find rooms strangely free of mess, and the floors free of clothes.

Still, just like a spark lights up the dark, today's weather illuminated the highways and byways of Somerset with cyclists. Big cyclists, lycra-clad cyclists, short cyclists, roadies, free riders, families, couples, old boys and newbies. March? It was so warm today, that the shorts were joined on my body by a short-sleeved top and gilet. And even that had to come off by the cafe stop, and by lunchtime I was feeling distinctly over-dressed.

It was an ACG day, five, (Doc, Boots, Skip, me and the one who shall now be called the Mendip Mackem, or MM for short) of us for Act 1, just the two of us, me and MM, made it into Act 2. For starters Skip had a schedule, her birthday celebrations, which like those of this Icelandic football team seem brilliantly elaborate, and meant she had to be back in Axbridge for noon. Do check those celebrations out by the way, they must have taken a fair amount of thought to devise, choreograph and perform. Which can't have been easy for a bunch of footballers. Just joking!

So we tanked it over towards Glastonbury, where we have discovered and partaken of refreshments and yet another new cafe, which impressively also has yurts that you can rent out for the night. The possibilities are endless. We enjoyed the sunshine, the cake (me mainly, although abstemious on the jam and cream), but missed the hippies that a full-blown visit to Glastonbury would normally bring.

Just before the cafe, I invented a new warning, which I have been waiting years to shout at the front of a group. Let's just say it is one of Bunny's favourite jokes too, and involves a male bird in the road.

We skirted all the usual places as Skip forced the pace to get back, unfortunately Boots sustained a puncture just before Wedmore. He generously suggested we carry on, to Skip's relief, and because he had no intention of doing Act 2, and neither did Doc who waited with him.

After the usual blast down the Clewer road, MM and I said goodbye to Skip, and together, headed up the gorge and across the top of the Mendips. From there it was tailwind-assisted descent of Burrington, a short up through Butcombe and down to Wrington and Winscombe. MM decided 100km wasn't enough for him, so he sauntered off towards the Webbington, whilst I climbed my very own Winscombe Hill back home.

A lovely, hot day was rounded off nicely by a good sleep and a clean bike. I didn't switch Charlie on until I got to Axbridge, so it's 2 miles short, and a bit further than I planned to go today, it was just so nice it would be a shame to waste the weather. But I also want to avoid last year's mistake of burning myself out before the middle of the year.  The route is largely complete, and does show some pretty good climbing and descending by the two of us in Act 2. As for MM, the rest of us better watch out. Not only is he as hard as nails, he's clearly training on the qt, taking EPO and going to the gym on a regular basis. When he can master the brakes and changing gear with his dodgy hand we better prepare for a serious kicking.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Stay safe tonight

I haven't posted for a while, a mixture of too tired after long rides, not enough time, all that.

I had a lovely ride to and from work today, over 50 miles, plenty of hills and plenty of fast descents. 47 mph coming down Dundry Hill and a night drop through the gorge. And a Harptree, the East one. Wrington Hill, Providence Lane and a few other bits and bobs.

And shorts. This morning I had the leg and arm warmers on, but took the former off to expose my pristine legs to the good people of Bristol and North Somerset. It is Spring and so nice to feel some warmth on my face.

But, there is always a but. It's the first time I have not worn hi-viz on the commute this year. I was wearing brilliant white, with yellow flashes, and only three front and three rear lights. And I still had to shout to stop a car from pulling out and hitting me as I rode up St. Peter's Rise in Bedminster. She was on the phone, so I guess I'm being very unreasonable to expect her to see me. Actually she did pull out only to stop when I shouted. She was a foot from me. I was cross.

Is it only a matter of time before a car hits me? Or should I coat myself in hi-viz clothing all year round, paint my face orange and make like a Basque?

To lighten the mood, here is a picture of me at the start line of the Endura Trek (how many sponsors?) Lionheart sportive from last week. Clearly doing the whole Agincourt thing, because it's well-known that the English archers rode monocoque OCLV carbon-fibre to the battle field.

 Don't tell anyone but I'm beginning to like hills again. If you go to Sportive photo's web page and search the event with my number (0146) you will see pictures that belie that statement. I look like I'm entering either a gurning contest or am in extreme pain. I don't remember it like that so I'm at a loss to know why my face is so contorted. Perhaps the inability to breathe had something to do with it, or I'm just not congruent with my body.

I liked Skip's picture better, it's from a distance and shows by backside rather than my twisted face.

Mind you that climb, King Alfred's Tower was a corker, over 18% according to Chrlie, view the route here who packed up a bit and under-recorded the distance. I think it was about 101 miles, but no-one is quite sure. I'm past caring, it was long and I fell asleep on the train to London the next morning.

Skip is now blogging for cyclosport when she does a sportive, but personally I like her Cycling Mayor stuff better, it's more personal and more authentic somehow. we are doing the Joker togehter next week, and I'm really sorry I can't give her a lift at 6.30AM. Contrary to her opinion, it's a great way to slowly wake up in the morning. I just hope she doesn't test me on anything. I ramble away about a load of rubbish too, it's just that I'm incoherent and less eloquent, and less caffinated.

This weather looks set to continue for a few days, so enjoy the road, and show a bit of consideration if you see a driver on the phone, give them a very wide berth.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Your eyes blue as the ocean between us, smiling at me

My current working life revolves around the topic of feedback, and we are not talking electricity. Although my training has been described as many things over the years, the feedback workshops I'm running owe little to Messrs Volt and Ohm. And yes they were real people. But I have also had some feedback from my professional colleagues about this blog, and how it could be improved.

Of course there is always a temptation, like walking down the banned staircase (it's a long and not very exciting story), let's just say that I'm a close friend of the word contrary. But, for once, I have to concede they are right, this blog needs more pictures. Now I was wearing white today, which as you know makes everyone who wears it, except slim, lithe Italian cyclists (there is a definite pattern of h-e creeping in again), look a bit porky. So no camera-carrying for me, but fortunately Skip does the honours, as well as the good old Internet.

Who would have thought that 15 mm could make all the difference. Now before you take a flight on the wings of fantasy, have a look at my first picture up above. For the initiated it's a road bike stem. Like the one on my Red Madone, and my new one is 15mm longer than my old one. This has caused me unbridled joy, because thanks to that, and 5mm lower saddle height, no more pain and discomfort, (well not much) and said bike is a dream to ride.

So, if you ever doubted it, this is the official proof that size matters.

So today's ride, well at 8.30AM I looked out of the window and it looked a bit like this:

Obviously I was a bit shocked, because you don't expect to see a witch in your garden before you go for a bike ride, but I figured she was just reminding me of the prevailing conditions and the need to carry some lights, which I duly did. And off I toddled to join the ACG ride down in the Square. Which sounds a bit masonic but really isn't.

Unlike my commuter ride on Friday of this week, there was barely any wind, and also unlike Friday, there was a well-planned and thought-out route over to Langport, courtesy of Skip. On Friday I had the stupid idea of cycling home via Dundry, Dundry hill, albeit up a new lane I had never cycled before, then a 43 mph descent in the dark on the other side, and a truly brainless idea of going up West Harptree Hill and over the Mendips to avoid the wind!!!! I know.

I think every Somerset cyclist should do one full speed descent of Cheddar gorge in the dark before they die. You can go way faster than any car, take any line you like as you see the car lights round the bends, and hope you don't meet any goat-like sheep.

Skip took some great photos today, and this is my favourite, and yes I could see the camera:

I think she has been a bit unkind calling it "GB posing", I was merely explaining to non-Geordie boy why size matters. Maybe. You can read Skip's blog and judge for yourself, suffice to see that even 3 hours after I left home it was still looking a bit grey.

Charlie registered my Warm up 4 miles, which together with the Main ride meant a total distance of just over 50 miles for today. No wonder I'm smiling. It was a great route too, mainly flat, but with some nice climbs thrown in, together with some fast descents, including my fastest speed of the year so far as I came down into Weare. Predictably the sun came out just as I arrived home and my sofa-slump afternoon was a contrast to the glorious spring day outside.

But every cloud has a silver lining, as there wasn't that much traffic about this morning, put off by the fog no doubt. And I think today's ride energised me a bit, I was feeling a bit sluggish after last week's efforts on the Mad march Hare, and with the Endura Trek Lionheart next week, I need to be at my best. King Alfred's tower hill awaits, and that is steep.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mad March Hare 2012

I think the person who was most pleased at the outcome of today was the bacon sandwich man. He had probably contracted to sell 500 bacon rolls, and been paid for the same, only to find at the start of the day that only 250 turned up to register. I can imagine the conversation "but I've got all these rolls and this bacon, you've got to pay me what we agreed".

I wonder what happened to all that excess bacon, do you think he disposed of it in an environmentally-friendly way, or that it will be finding its way into Mrs Miggins' pie shop tomorrow?

Imaging his joy when about half of those 250 failed to even complete, some of them will have gone straight home. From my my point of view it was great too. No queue for a bacon roll, result.

Eight hours earlier, you know something's wrong when the morning hurts your eyes, as dawn breaks and you can't stop yawning, those two earlier rides and a hectic Saturday are not the ideal preparation for a 76 mile sportive around the lumps and bumps of Worcestershire and Warwickshire. And 4-5 degrees C, and strong headwinds, cold ones which were with us the whole day as they did indeed swing conveniently round in the second half of the ride. And rain, lots and lots of rain. And, to cap it all, snow. Not just a dusting but a proper blizzard at the top of Saintbury Hill.

I've known colder days on the bike, I've known windier, I've even known wetter. But never all three together. To begin with I felt sluggish and after 30 miles, decidedly hypothermic. But I ate something, drank a bit, pushed myself to keep up with the greyhound that Skip was, and by the time the steep climbs came I was fine, and by the end, although I couldn't feel any of my feet, and my hands were funny, oh and my face was numb, but I did manage a bit of a sprint for the last couple of miles.

I watched the Strade Bianchi last night, Spartacus looked magnificent in the Italian sunshine, bronze time-trialling superman, with a sheen of sweat and a dusting of white dust as he cruised into Sienna in the early evening warmth. That's all a bit h-e isn't it? Never mind, he's a good-looking bloke, and a wonderful cyclist. But I bet he'd have bailed today, because today was a day for rules 5, 6, 9 and 10.

Skip took the honour of the first woman home, I was just glad to be under cover. On our way home in the car we didn't stop shaking for about 30 minutes, I think she was still cold by the time I dropped her off. She will also be blogging not just on her usual site but also on Cyclosport, so check her out and spot the differences. Hope she gets the snow into it somewhere.


Charlie coped manfully with the conditions, but do not be fooled into thinking this was a flat ride, there were two chunky hills and over 4k feet of climbing. Today has also made it into my top 5 bad weather days on a bike, but more on this another time. Grim though today was, it pleases me greatly that I can still recall with a certain degree of fondness 4 worst days on two wheels. Whilst I can not say today was enjoyable, it will remain deeply satisfying, not least for the fact that we finished, where others looked out of the window at the gathering storm and choose to pull the duvet around their weak and feeble carcass.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The second chorus is so right, Princess

This time of year is just hell for clothing darling. One minute it's bitterly cold, swirling mist and dark, then 10 hours later it's warm, daylight and clear blue skies. What am I to wear?

Actually I think I got it right with a very fetching yellow and black ensemble, but it was a close run thing. It may have been a couple of days commuting, but I was given the opportunity, and who am I to not bang an open goal into the back of the net. It was also a splendid opportunity to start riding on back to back days, which I'm going to need to do more of to prepare me for my late August Challenge:

The more I look at those pages the mored scared I get.

And I'm riding the Mad March Hare on Sunday, a choice 80 or so miles or thereabouts. Had it not been for the gasman and Sainsbury's delivery tomorrow, I could have done 6 days in a row and with just three days more I'd have just about learned the entire score for the  whole shooting match.

Not much else to say, usual sort of commuting routes, 40 or so a day, hills, back roads now it's lightish, blah, blah,  but two things:

First, inexplicably I seemed to get quicker each ride, which is counterusual, especially towards the end of the week, when I'm fair to exhausted what with work and all. I even felt quite bouncy when I got home. Then I had a bath and sat down on my bed for five and woke up, two hours later, realising I still had a challenge to meet.

Second, the mist in the morning made for some beautiful sunrises and some weird apparitions. At one point a lady of indeterminate age appeared cycling towards me out of the mist. I didn't really like John Major, right form the time he stood as my local MP, I thought he was a numpty and his dalliance with the egg woman confirmed it. But he did have something right when he combined the image of women on bikes, mist, and cricket. Warm beer is wrong though.

So I hope you like the picture from up on the hill near the airport. Wherever you are going this weekend, remember England!