Thursday, 30 May 2013

One, but not the same

Jennifer has written a great blog about the Tour of Wessex (you can access it via her Cycling Mayor website link to the right).

Suffering, there's a word. I felt a bit grotty some of the time, totally shit a lot of the time, and really great for lots of the rest. Sometimes all at the same time, in different ways.

You couldn't be that man I adore.

Not really important, nor even my self-diagnosis, via the new best doctor in the world, Dr. Internet of course. Hyponatremia. Not severe, but my ankles are still puffy three days later.

We even made it into Devon for a bit on Monday. I had my jersey on, the new one. And a couple of extra passengers driving me on across the moor.

Be someone, be someone.

And Corfe Castle, where would I be without it? I always loved that place, such excitement getting the ferry over from Sandbanks, past the beach. Then scrambling up the hill to the castle itself. I had to stop to take this, couldn't not.

Mansions of glory.

Tomorrow I'm gonna ride again, and this time, I'm going to wear my red sunglasses. What a difference that will make.

I'm gonna show you what I'm made of.

And if you are wondering whether to do it or not, I say, make your own decision. Just prepare like I did last year, not this.

Thank you for riding with me, couldn't have done it without you, and neither will I ever be persuaded to do it again.

You just keep me hanging on.

Carry each other

Friday, 24 May 2013

Tour of Wessex 2013 : In advance

Here's a new trend. I fully expect to be kyboshed by the close of play on Monday, and given a hectic week follows, and then another weekend away, there will be little inclination or energy for blogging.

And anyway, although I have no way of knowing what is going to happen, I do know it will be:

1. Very hard, especially as I have fewer miles in the legs than any year since 2009.

2. Beautiful scenery

3. Subject to major injury, mechanical, extreme tiredness or other similar event, I can do this. I've done it twice before, and know what to do.

4. Great fun, and great company. Sure there will be idiots overtaking me dangerously, and other such behaviour, but Jennifer and I are going to have a jolly good time, aided and abetted by sundry friends and colleagues.

If you want something a bit more descriptive you can read it here. Or my account of the first time I did it in 2010.

So is it a challenge? Well in some senses yes, because it's hard riding that distance over three days, and there is a fair bit of climbing. But you know what the real challenge is? That would be to enjoy it. Of course, each to his own, if you want to go off all wheels blazing impressing yourself and your friends, chapeau to you. I've been there, I understand.

But I've moved on. If I want a physical challenge, and I do sometimes, and I think the Devil's Pitchfork qualifies. I found a lot of the riding on last Sunday's Somerset 100 a bit dull. The good bits, as described in Jennifer's post, were the camaraderie, the togetherness, and laughs. Oh, and Mulcheney Abbey. But the flatlands out to Curry Rivel at 20 mph, very dull.

Here are a few pictures:

Commuting to work by bike gets dull, so by nature becomes a challenge. Of course it's not difficult in a technical sense, but I have learned that it requires a certain mental fortitude, particularly in the Winter. If you don't believe me, try it. In sub zero temperatures and the total pitch dark of December. Sometimes I do get to see balloons however, and then it's all worthwhile.

And as long as I live I will never forget Stuart exclaiming "We are riding the Aubisque", on a misty September morning three years ago. The history, the scenery and the friendship. In his last days my Dad talked a lot about all the relationships he had, and how much they meant to him. Believe me, when your day comes, not much else will matter to you. It's not something that comes naturally to me, but I'm doing my best to work at it. Just like Jules. (swearing warning).

So advance warning for you. A long ACG ride is scheduled for either 29 or 30 June, depending on Mrs MR's comittments, the brownie point balance at the time and what everyone else wants to do. Come and join us, I have a fancy to go to Lyme Regis for the day, paddle in the sea, eat ice cream, and shoot the (hopefully very small) breeze. We will not be cycling like EPO-crazed amateurs.

There's a challenge for you.

Friday, 17 May 2013

I'm still here

It's six thirty in the morning. I've been awake since about three. I've tried the eating, I've watched a film on TV, done Twitter & Facebook. So now I'm trying this.

I rode to work for the last couple of days (worryingly well as it happens), and tomorrow I'm doing the biggest ride of the year to date,  the Somerset 100. Today it's quality time with the family, I think we are going to see an appropriately titled film called "Oblivion".

But I feel very wide awake. It's odd, time passes, activities get back to normal, but as Jules so rightly said, I can't go back to sleep. (warning has a lot of swearing!)

Apart from all of that, if that wasn't enough, I have two main things on my mind. First, the imminent arrival of my bumble bees, next Wednesday in fact. Expect to hear a lot, lot more about them.

And all the people who have been so kind and thoughtful to me, and still continue to be so. In your own individual way, and I'm not going to go all gushy on you, but thank you. And if you can stand Alanis Morissette, I can't think of a better way of saying what I feel towards you. Yes you, this is for you.

Monday, 6 May 2013

In the camp of wire and dust

Well that was a very strange few days for sure. Junior and Mrs Mendip Rouleur took themselves off to Ireland to see relatives last Thursday, leaving me footloose and fancy-free. This may take the form of a special report on the state of my lungs!

Actually, I had a pretty hectic schedule planned, as I was riding to work on the Friday, off to West Ham on Saturday, and riding the Somerset Hills Gran Fondo on the Sunday. This was the same event that I had to abandon last year after only 26 miles because of a neck injury. So I was really looking forward to doing it with an ACG collective.

I have been struggling with my asthma a lot this year, as well as coming down with a few colds and manflu on an almost perpetual basis. So on Thursday I took to the doctors to see if I have a chest infection or something that won't go away. After much play with the stethoscope, breathing in and breathing out, etc. etc. the Doc concluded I have an allergy to some tree pollen. I wasn't convinced, although it does correlate with when my breathing is at its worst: the day after I ride my bike.

My commute into work on Friday morning was lovely, all misty sunrise and quiet lanes. But by the time I cam to ride home a nice block south-westerly headwind had developed, I was tired and it was a real struggle to battle home.

Through the night into Saturday it was like I had the cold from hell. And this just got worse through the day, not made any better by the trip to London to watch one of the dullest games of football I have seen in a long time.

This was the most exciting part, just before kick off.

When I got home on Saturday night it was all I could do to shuffle up the stairs and go to bed. I could barely eat, and I knew I was in no fit state to ride a bike. I wasn't any better on Sunday morning so reluctantly told Martyn I was bailing, yet again the SHGF curse strikes the Mendip Rouleur!

Fortunately I have an emergency supply of steroids (it's amazing what a medical exemption certificate can do for you!), and anti-histamines galore, so I took some of each, as well as paracetamol, salbutamol, steroid inhaler and lots of water, and dozed all day until I had to get up to pick up the family from the airport.

This morning (Bank Holiday Monday) dawned with the definite promise of a lovely day in store, and miracle of miracles, I could breathe relatively easily. My lungs were saying, "this is a really bad idea" but my heart was saying "FFS it's SUNNY!!!!!!! What are you doing in here!"

I was almost tempted to do the SHGF route a day late, but partly because it was so long to do by yourself on a warm day, and partly because I had cycled some of it with the ACG a month or so back, I fancied something different.

I had heard of the two tunnels shared path a couple of months ago just before it opened. When it comes to cycling architecture, after a bridge, there is nothing I like more than a tunnel. This path, in Bath, is quite hard to find, but it's well worth it as it has the longest cycle tunnel in the country. So I concocted a route out through the Chew Valley to Keynsham and Saltford, along the river path to Bath and the path, then back via Chewton Mendip and the Gorge.

I got out early too, meaning most of the roads were pretty quiet, and was so relaxed that I forgot to switch Laurens on until I got to Churchill. I quickly shed my gilet and the sun started to beat, yes beat, down, and it was shorts and arm warmers all the way. In Pensford I came across this "ancient monument":

I had absolutely no idea what it is, but Wikipedia came up trumps, describing it as some kind of 18th century prison.

On to the tunnel itself, hard to photograph a dark tunnel, so you will have to make do with the entrances, and the platform by the side of the path just outside it.

From there it was down on a shared dusty path, before back lanes and a main road descent to Radstock. Then on familiar ground. Including the familiar SMIDSY idiots in Cheddar Gorge. Will I ever learn? That place is not a safe place to go downhill on a bike on a Bank Holiday.

Despite all the health issues, I had managed 100km on a warm Spring day. And not too bad for speed (average 15.9 mph) or climbing (about 5500 feet) either. Of course, I'll have to wait until tomorrow to see what damage the the dusty fields and tree pollen will have done. But then, there's always steroids if you have a medex form!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Stronger and deeper than time

A statistical average. That is my definition of normal. So in that spirit it follows that just about the whole of the world's population can be counted as both normal and not normal, in some way or other.

So too this post. I had promised a return to normality after the Somerset Hills Gran Fondo next Monday, and I plan to proffer a post after that. But time has been charging through the station at too fast a pace to let it go with just a face pressed up against the glass. A few observations are called for. By me.

First, a very big and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has done something for me since my Dad died three weeks ago. We had the cremation on Monday and internment yesterday, and thank you to everyone that came then (although I doubt many if any read this) and thank you for your texts, cards, thoughts, glances, everything.

Thanks to everyone for sponsoring me too. I know you all get the automatic reminder but I like to follow it up with a personalised message, usually. Just at the moment I haven't been able to face doing it, but thank you all the same. Particularly to Martyn, Jennifer and Jon (my American cousin) who made particularly special efforts.

Some things get repeated so often they become cliches. Doesn't matter anymore. It really is about people. It's all about people. You may know this, really know this, or pay lip service to this. But one day you will feel it as viscerally as I do at the moment. So we are all going to treasure every moment, and treasure every person in our lives. And anyone who comes into it. Well I'm going to do my best.

Just as the day of my Mum's funeral seemed to be the last sunny day of last Summer, so my Dad's was the first warm day of this Spring. What a long, horrible Winter. But it's over now.

Here are a few pictures from Sunday's ACG ride, great having new folk along, the first of many I hope, as well as a couple of returning lost sheep. We hope to keep doing lots of different types of ride, with the emphasis on G for Group, getting more people involved, by the way young maxiMe is growing he will soon be kicking ass of his elders every time.

Just about everyone I know persuaded me to take Tuesday off work, and I'll give it to them, they were right. But I couldn't just sit about, so decided to go for a hard ride on my own.  The sun was shining, and despite the cold northerly wind, I decided it was time for shorts. Well, there was to be over 4000 feet of climbing. And suncream, sunny remember?

Time for A pair of trousers. You will need to look at the link to work out why it's called that, but thanks to Figgy we now have our very own ACG challenge on our doorstep. I have no doubt that someone, everyone, can ride it quicker than this, but I was the first! It's been a while since I went up past the glider club on a bike, and I'd forgotten how hard and steep it is. The consolation being it makes Deerleap seem an awful lot easier by comparison.

Not forgetting I had to ride up there in the first place, I will frown on anyone that drives up there to do it, it's only about 19 miles after all. And ride back of course, although that was fun.

And some photographic evidence I think is always called for.

So I'm back on the commuting run tomorrow, and all kitted out with some Summer high viz kit, can't wait. Then into two months of mental sportive participation, five long hard hilly days for May, and four in June, then it's off to France for the Tour, although I am taking a rain check on the Devil's Pitchfork after my Doctor's appointment today.

See you on the road.