Category Archives: challenges

Riding like the wind – or, more accurately, riding in the wind.

The Great Coxwell Tithe Barn (an older picture as I don’t have the tri-bars on the bike at the moment

After the gym and some mass mowing on Tuesday, on Wednesday I had to drive up to London for an errand – I took my running kit but it didn’t stop raining and I wimped out.

As penance, I got on the turbo in the evening for half an hour @ 31.6kph. A short ride but so much faster than the two sessions at 24/25kph that I managed a couple of weeks ago. Not necessarily wise as I’d arranged a Thursday morning ride with a friend (one of those I go out to the alps with each year).

He’s been a friend for 20 years or so and is probably the person who was most instrumental in getting me into cycling in the first place. He’s cycled all his life and the two of us went out to the alps in 2003 for my first taste of Le Tour. I took a mountain bike (the only bike I owned) and was totally unable to ride it up any significant climbs – but we saw the tour on the côte d’Arâches and (at the bottom of) Alpe d’Huez, and I’ve not looked back since.

Happily, it was dry when we got away at just after 9am but it was very windy. It was all a bit unstructured as we hadn’t discussed a route – or even a distance. Perhaps that’s a good thing as we weren’t training for anything – just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip, or so I thought.

However, Philip is a strong cyclist and was soon setting a fast pace with me hanging on grimly – grateful that I had the Ride London miles in my legs. We rode for 73.5km at 27.3kph (45.6miles at 17mph). I ended up with 25 Strava achievements, including 15 PRs and a 6th overall.

So much for the ‘just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip’ – although it certainly was enjoyable, and it suggests that I’ve not ruined the fit of the bike by changing the stem earlier in the week.

I drove to the gym on Friday morning – I don’t mind cycling in a bit of rain but I don’t want to arrive wet for an hour’s workout. I stuck with the usual weights and a short run on the treadmill to finish with but it was very hard. Not too surprising perhaps as that’s two gym sessions, a turbo session and a ‘proper’ bike ride in four days.

If age means anything, it seems to mean slower recovery from an accumulation of days of exercise. At the moment the exercise doesn’t seem to have any better purpose than keeping fit. I’ve been thinking about the next challenges (probably for 2020 now as I am still in the year of my promise of ‘no stupid solo challenges’) and will see if I can firm up on those soon. It will be good to have some more focus.

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Post ‘Ride London’ – running and a lot of of bike training

Final moments at the starting gate of the Ride London 100 mile sportive – about 6.30am

After finishing Sunday’s sportive, and meeting my family I rode the 15 minutes back to the flat. A bike is the way to travel in London – I showered and changed before my wife arrived by underground.

We had an excellent late lunch at a nearby pub and then drove back to Oxfordshire. No aches or pains but pretty tired after the 3.30am start (and, perhaps, the 100 miles of cycling) and in bed not long after 9pm (what a lightweight)!

Monday was taken gently but again no aches or pains beyond a slightly sore left knee. Even the troublesome Achilles tendons are behaving themselves (relatively speaking).

The ballot for next year’s ride opened on Sunday, just as this year’s finished, and I have applied again. I’m not sure that I will enter many more sportives (other than my club’s sportive, of course, and perhaps something abroad) but the big attraction of the Ride London is the fact that it’s on closed roads – which is a real treat.

It’s not perfect by any means – it gets too crowded in places, it’s a bit expensive, I didn’t like the really early start and it’s not exactly the alps for scenic beauty – but if I’m lucky enough to get a place, I’ll ride if any friends are doing it.

I ran with my wife on Tuesday morning before spending both Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the cycle park doing some training. No – giving the training, not receiving it.

We had perhaps 40 children of different abilities on each day. Some were complete beginners on balance bikes while for more proficient cyclist it was road awareness. We have a waiting list for training and have even been approached by some adult non-cyclists and so will be running another course for them in the near future.

It’s surprisingly hard work – but really worthwhile.

Possible 2020 challenge?

I’ve signed up for info on what is called ‘The Race to the Stones’. It’s a 100km (62 mile) running race along the historic ‘Ridgeway’ (described as Britain’s oldest road) that runs for 87 miles from north west of London to Avebury – the site of a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles built somewhere between 2200 and 2850 BC.

It takes place in July and can be done in two days or in one go – but includes a lot of ascent.

Certainly sufficiently challenging (and more), certainly sufficiently mad and it would give me the opportunity to utter the immortal line ‘I can see my house from here’ as I passed the Uffington White Horse.

Transcontinental Race

My congratulations to Fiona Kolbinger who won the Transcontinental Race. Not only the first woman to lead the Transcontinental Race – but she went on to win it by quite a distance – over 10 hours ahead of second place.

3,571km (measured in a straight line – more like 4,000km on the road) and about 40,000m of climbing (2,200 – 2,500 miles and 131,200 feet) in 10 days 2 hours and 48 minutes, with only 2 days and 4 hours and 36 minutes stationary in all that time.

Beyond impressive!

Ride London – a little bit eventful and interesting!

A sea of riders in the early morning light

Well, that was an interesting weekend. Up to London on Friday and registered for the Ride London sportive early Saturday morning …. but that didn’t go well.

I went to the correct ‘kiosk’ and gave my number, they played back to me my name and checked my id. They then put my envelope in a bag and gave it to me. OK, I could have checked it but I rather assumed they might be up to picking out an envelope to match the number I gave them. When I got back to the flat, I discovered that was a bit of an over-estimation as they had given me the adjoining envelope.

I phoned, but the recorded message said there were no staff in the office and emergencies could be notified by email. I sent the email and over 2 hours later got a reply to the effect the query had been passed to the entries team. I heard nothing from that team (and still haven’t today) so I used the wrong stickers and hoped for the best. In the end, my wife used the tracker facility later that day and discovered I had been changed to the number that I’d been given at the registration, rather than my own, original, number. I’d have relaxed more if they’d had told me!

I set off from the flat at 4am on Sunday morning (much too early for me) to cycle across London to the start at the Olympic Park. Even then it was a decent temperature but riding unfamiliar roads in the dark was a bit spooky. I wasn’t sure of the route (and couldn’t see my Garmin in the dark) but followed some other riders who seemed to know where they were going. Eventually more riders joined from all directions and by the time we got near to the start we were probably a couple of hundred strong.

Into the starting pen for yet another wait and off about 6.30am.

Once we sorted ourselves out after the start it all went pretty fast – over 20mph (32kph) through London on closed roads (fighting the instinct to stop at red lights).

The ride continued to go well – at 50km I was averaging 33.1kph (31 miles at 20.5mph).

I gave up some of that speed later but was still over 32kph after 90km (20+mph at 56 miles) despite having lost all my rear gears. Clearly my rear mech cable had snapped leaving me with just the two gears – 50×11 and 34×11. They were some testing kms (!) but then I spotted a roadside cycle mechanic – I think it was his home but he and some friends were offering assistance, water and flapjacks – what heroes!

I lost about 50 minutes while the work was done and remounted gratefully, with a full set of gears.

The run back into London was great although there were a few hold-ups as we got to places where they needed to let other traffic across the route. It got a bit more congested as we neared the end on the Mall (in front of Buckingham Palace) because the various route distances merged but I had a great run to the finish.

I wouldn’t have stopped, but for the mechanical, but the Garmin recorded 99 miles at a moving average of 18.45mph (160km at 29.7kph).With the little cycling I’ve done this year (only about 1470km or 900 miles before this ride) because of April’s marathon rather getting in the way, I’ve just got to be pleased – and I am. Clearly, the running, gym and planks are helping, along with the week cycling out in the alps and even my club’s 35 mile sportive with my wife.

It was enjoyable and good fun and our sons joined my wife to greet me at the finish – how good is that.

Getting ready for Ride London

I managed an hour on the turbo on Wednesday and Thursday. Both sessions were hot and hard and I’m a bit surprised I managed to last for the full hour both times.

With another hour at the gym on Friday, that was it for the training for the Ride London 100 miler on Sunday. There is a bit of a theme developing – I really should have got on a bike outside and gone for a long ride, but didn’t. Again, I’m not sure why I’ve failed so badly.

I think in part it’s that my heart isn’t really in the ride on Sunday, not helped by that fact that I need to be in the starting pen by 5.48am for a start at 6.28am. At least the current weather forecast is for a warm day with sunny intervals and a gentle breeze.

Assuming I survive, that will be it for the current challenges for the year. If I can’t motivate myself to get out on the bike for a 100 mile sportive, what hope do I have for getting out there with no big target to aim for? Sounds like I need a target.

Run, gym and (minor) bike mechanics

After the sportive it was London on Sunday to take our sons for lunch to celebrate the older boy’s birthday. On Monday morning I ran down the Thames Path, 7km (4.3 miles), surprisingly at sub 4 hour marathon pace.

It was a very good run in warm, but not stupidly hot, weather. The only down-sides are a slightly sore left knee and painful calf muscles. I guess that I’ve not been exercising them very much while I’ve been protecting the Achilles tendons. I’m sure it will all improve.

I am continuing my one-man attempt to bring to London the habit of saying ‘hello’ to other runners as you pass by. On this run I got a response from 5 out of the 13 runners I saw. Admittedly, a lot were wearing headphones or earpieces of one sort or another and might not have heard me, but I’ll keep at it.

Gym on Tuesday for a bit over an hour. It was very good apart from the chap who insisted on singing along (rather tunelessly) to the music on his headphones. I don’t mean to be a miserable old git but if I wanted karaoke …

As part of the gym exercises I did the planks routine and then decided to see if I could do a straight 5 minutes of plank as well. The good news is that I can, the bad news is that my lower back was sore for the rest of the day so I missed the evening’s planned turbo session. I suppose the other bit of good news is that my painful back took my mind off my painful calf muscles.

They say that people perform better if the ‘package’ feels good – decent kit, nicely maintained and presented equipment. I don’t know if it’s true but I washed and oiled the bike and put new bar tape on it on Wednesday. The old tape was the original from when I bought the bike 4 years ago and was tatty beyond words. More workman-like than expert, I replaced it like-for-like with black tape. I’m sure it will make the bike go faster (though not as fast as if it had red tape, of course).

I’m going to need all the help I can get on the Ride London sportive, surely the new tape will help?

My heartfelt congratulations to:

  • Egan Bernal for his Tour win (the first of many, all being well),
  • Geraint Thomas for his immensely graceful acceptance of second place
  • Juilan Alaphilippe for lighting up the whole race
  • the Irish cricket team for giving England plenty to worry about in the early stages of their recent test match
  • Fiona Kolbinger, the first woman ever to be in the lead of the Transcontinental Race. 4 days 7 hours in, she is in front by 35km having stopped for less than 20 hours in total.

Gym, gym and the club’s sportive. Back in the swing of cycling?

A sportive with some great countryside and lovely views

My usual gym buddy couldn’t do this week so I went alone Thursday. His plans then changed so I went with him on Friday. The afternoon was spent putting out route markers for the club sportive on Saturday.

We were looking after the 30 mile pre-loop for the 100 mile distance (it then joins the 70 mile ride) but it still took quite some time and effort. It’s surprising how much pressure you feel doing something like that which (although I expect most riders doing the long route will have their own satellite navigation) could make a big difference to someone’s enjoyment of the day.

The whole event went really well – and still features the best food I’ve ever seen at a UK sportive (admittedly the wine and stew on the Tuscany L’Eroica might run it close for the European title).

I rode the 35 mile route (turned out to be 36.6 miles – 59km) with my wife and another friend, acting as pacer. We had a very pleasant temperature with light rain on and off (the sort that is actually quite welcome and hardly seems enough to get you very wet) and the whole ride was really enjoyable. With the trip to and back from the start we rode a bit over 41 miles at a steady pace – which is pretty impressive as my wife had only done one ride of 13 miles (about 21km) since last summer.

… and all the route markers were still there, in the right places, and visible!

So, a very good few days, and I only have to do three times the sportive distance to complete the Ride London next Sunday. How hard can that be …?

Fear, manual labour, gym, turbo, run and chickens in peril

A less than secure chicken run

I think I’ve only ever ridden five imperial centuries – my everest in 2017 (176 miles – 282km), the first three days cycling out to the alps last year (160, 150 and 135 miles respectively) and the Dragon Ride back in 2014 (140 miles – 224km).

For all of those I’d trained reasonably well. The Prudential Ride London Sportive, in less than two weeks time, is also 100 miles but this year my cycle training has been poor to non-existent. Fear is a great motivator and it’s started to focus my mind – either train or have a difficult day in the saddle. At this late stage, it might be ‘train and have a slightly less difficult day in the saddle’.

After yet more manual labour at the cycle park on Monday afternoon (laying industrial strength paving slabs at 43kg each – 95lbs) I was not up for the evening’s planned turbo ride, but was back in the gym for an hour on Tuesday morning.

The gym must be doing something as I’ve just increased the weights on every exercise – but whether it’s doing the right something is another matter.

I did make it on to the turbo on a ridiculously hot Tuesday evening and dripped my way through 30 minutes at an average 26.8kph (16.65mph) watching the end of Le Tour, stage 16. It was hard from the start – I guess I can’t expect to move bigger weights in the gym (now 200kg – 441 pounds – on the leg press machine) and cycle fast later in the day?

I ran with my wife early on Wednesday morning to avoid the worst of the heat – about 3.8 miles (6.1km). The running is OK but the Achilles tendons are still problem children, hurting first thing in the mornings but easing as I start to get moving. The shoulder I hurt skiing in January is almost right now but I’m feeling a bit jaded from the increased exercise regime.

While mowing later on, I discovered that all was not well at the end of the garden. The storm the previous night had brought down a sizeable branch from one of the beech trees – about a thick as my (thickening) waist. It had destroyed part of the shed (which was already in a poor state, admittedly) and flattened part of the chicken run fencing. Luckily, no foxes had realised this.

I have tried teaching the chickens self defence against foxes but they remain of the view that homeland security is my responsibility. Accordingly, I spent a happy (?) couple of hours sawing through branches to clear them from the netting around the run and restoring the safety of the occupants.

I’m happy to say that no chickens were hurt in the making of this drama.