Friday, 30 August 2013

How arm warmers & gilets are the best cycling kit ever, and ten other random thoughts

I'm doing this sportive on Sunday. No idea what the connection between Lewis Carroll and Malvern is, and I haven't got time or inclination to google it. Let me know if you find out.

I have been doing a lot of riding and not a lot of blogging or much social media in general. But that may change, or not. Tomorrow I'm off to the Academy of Football to see the Irons take on Stoke, much like I did for my first ever match nearly 42 years ago.

Anyway, here are my random thoughts, the intro was the deep and meaningful bit.

1. Anniversaries and Birthdays.

2. Bike lights and clear sunglasses

3. Spiders' webs

4. Is 2013 the windiest year in the history of the world?

5. How quickly it all changes

6. No I don't need a rest, I need to ride my bike even more, like now when I'm riding 8 days out of 11

7. From Monday I have got, or maybe get to, take seven days off riding.

8. Some people can't resist changing documents or giving you their opinion. It's wearing. But I always win wars of attrition so look out.

9. Non-sticky glue never is.

10. Some people change their name when they get married and others don't. And some do and don't at the same time.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

We just walk on by

So now I understand what all the fuss is about!

For the first time ever I have entered the mysterious world of Audax. Actually it's not that mysterious at all really, just a bit different to what I have been used to with organised rides. In a number of respects. Friendlier for sure. And more relaxed and informal. But don't tell people it's not as serious, for there is a whole other world of competitiveness and rules and leagues going on, the like of which I have yet to fathom.

The audax in question was the Three Towers Audax, starting from North Petherton village hall. So as James, Trevor, Martyn and I were all riding, it made sense to meet up at Martyn's work to be sure of some parking and facilities.

Despite some very heavy overnight rain, and a nagging blustery wind from the north-west, it was a pleasant enough morning, and the four of us duly went in and paid our £8. Yes, that's not a typo. For that you get everything you want/need with the possible exception of mechanical support. You get a route card, but you also get a whole heap of friendly people to help you out if you are not sure, and we picked up Paul from Wedmore who did a sterling job on that front.

But really, do you need a signed route? Mechanical support is nice to have I guess, but I know of few people that have ever needed it. Timing? As Martyn says, I have a Garmin and a bike computer, and anyway, with a mass start at 9AM, they time you anyway. With a watch. And a pen.

The route itself was named after the three towers it passes: Burrowbridge, King Alfred's and Glastonbury. It was fairly flat and with the odd lump and bump, and of course the vicious little kick up past King Alfred's Tower. I was probably the slowest in the group today, Trevor is so strong and I can't believe how good Ed has become this year, powering up the climbs and cruising effortlessly on the flat.

A few knowing souls had this device on their bars so they could follow the route card.

For the tech-savvy generation who may not have seen one before, it's called a clipboard.

A nice reception of tea and cakes awaiting us in Ditcheat village hall (one of the controls) and this was replicated at the finish, as well as baked beans on toast, which is possibly the best recovery food ever!

The route also includes our ride to and from Martyn's factory, and you can see that for the second week in a row, I wasn't hanging about. Hanging on, yes, I'll grant you, to Trevor's slipstream mainly, but I did do the odd turn on the front, and pleasingly was asked to slow down at one point. You have to take you achievements where you can, these things don't happen that often in that company.

Elsewhere this week, Junior and I have been Gromit-hunting, a sport that is sweeping through large swathes of the Bristol population this Summer. Yesterday we knocked off 36 to take out total to date to 42, which means we have 38 to go. We started pretty early on Saturday morning and by 10AM there was a huge queue to get into Harvey Nicholls to see their sculpture. It was almost as vicious as the bloke at the top of the Peyresourde.

By lunchtime there were hordes of families swarming all over the Gromits so Junior and I retired for the day to re-group in a week or so. But here is my favourite to date:

This is for someone who needs to hold onto her dreams. She knows who she is, play it loud and annoy everyone!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Shining above you

I admit it, I was sceptical about Ride London. First of all it is run by the organisation that runs (deliberate btw) the London Marathon, so what could they possibly know about bike rides? Second, Boris Johnson is involved. I'm not a fan, he is, as one of my former colleagues was once described by one of his school teachers, rather struck by the cleverness of his own answers.

And of course the so-called "ballot" to enter, was nothing of the sort. It was a rigged operation in political correctness and an attempt to rob the MAMIL of his natural habit - the closed-road sportive. And of course there would be so many newbies about that there will be crashes and bad riding galore.

But I'll admit that I was wrong, on so, so many levels. Not that it wasn't a logistical challenge to get there, although that was solved by my own genius of sleeping at the the Academy of football, an honour and a privilege. And by being very fortunate in having a friend, aka The Cycling Mayor who was kind enough to do all the registration legwork when I fouled up my dates and ended up coming back on that day from Scorchio.

Jennifer will give a great write up as usual on her blog, I have a few observations about my day. I was at the front of my starting pen so was able to get away reasonably sharpish, out of the Olympic Park and down the deserted and empty A12. Dual carriageway. In the middle of London!

Pretty soon I was through the Limehouse tunnel, into the City and whizzing past the Tower of London. With groups forming, fast ones on the right, slower coaches on the left, there was always a wheel to follow. And with no junctions, no traffic, no signals to obey, and barely a rise in the road, it was a blast through the City and West End and out across Chiswick Bridge and into Richmond Park. I think I covered the first 20 miles in the first hour.

Despite the crowded road the standard of riding was actually better than on many a sportive I have been on recently. And there were crowds of people cheering us on by the side of the road. Particularly in some of the town centres, Richmond, Kingston, Pyrford, and special mention to Dorking!

A couple of small hills, Leith and Box, slowed progress a bit out in Surrey. But once over those I seemed to collect a few groups behind me too and if anything, the pace intensified. It certainly did after I topped up on full-fat coke a gel and an energy bar, although this didn't do much for my stomach's sense of well-being! The food stops were OK, but a bit chaotic, so I preferred to stay self-sufficient.

Laurens didn't record the full distance as the satellite reception is not too good in the tunnels, but an average moving speed of 18.2 mph and total official time of 5 hours 45 minutes is none too shabby for the 100 miles! Leave it on the road just about sums up my route although it was actually the West Ham car park which we returned to through open roads later on. Oh the shame!

If you have followed these pages before, you will know that I was sponsored to do the ride for Macmillan cancer care, and you will also know why. It is exactly a year since my Mum was diagnosed, the last normal weekend had been our family trip to the Olympics, so there is a sense of coming full circle. I even cycled past a house we used to live in when we were kids. I am very grateful for all the sponsorship that I have received, and it was also great to get specific "come on Macmillan" cheers from the roadside, over and over again.

I had my teary moments, of course I did. You know what, I'm actually human! But I also feel that it was a very cathartic opportunity to move on. I'm still sad, but I think my Mum in particular would be telling me to get a grip and pull myself together. Can you see where I get it from?

So this is for them, and Ride London was the best way I could remember them. On my bike, in the fresh air, going fast,
And this may be the cheesiest video ever but I still love them.