Revelations, disappointments and lessons learned

I promised that I would come back to Blueberry soup and Cinnamon buns. In the information about the event both Blueberry soup and Cinnamon buns were mentioned; I thought the latter sounded great – the Blueberry soup, not so much, since I don’t like blueberries and soups are generally savoury. Reality, however is that Blueberry soup is a complete revelation! It’s lovely!! 

The cinnamon buns on the other hand, were a complete disappointment, partly due to my own stupidity. Each stop had bananas, bread rolls and gherkins laid out. And most had blueberry soup as an option with the drinks. Ollie had many a gherkin sandwich, but I mainly had my own food, supplemented with a blueberry soup every now and then. However at every single stop, I looked for cinnamon buns, and never found any. It wasn’t until the penultimate, or possibly even the last stop that I realised the bread rolls were the cinnamon buns, and that they were quite nice dipped in the blueberry soup!!! Even so, they were very subtly cinnamony and still a disappointment. 

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Blueberry soup

 

I learnt several lessons from the Vatternrundan experience… 

  1. Jelly babies are evil.
  2. Ollie is allergic to Sweden (I don’t think he’d appreciate me sharing the photo of his swollen face).
  3. The Swedish are amazing at languages and I am quite ignorant.
  4. If rain is forecast, it will probably rain, and thus waterproof shorts are a must.
  5. I’m more determined and competitive than I thought!
  6. Don’t let two hungry cyclists loose on a supermarket

 

 

An epic Swedish adventure

Sadly WiFi was lacking after my last post, so I’ve had to wait until getting home to post. Though, I was able to update Facebook from my phone, so I am sure all of my Facebook friends are sick of hearing about it!

After finishing a massive Swedish breakfast in our lovely B and B in Hästveda, Ollie and I lazed around and got our kit in order until absolute last minute check-out time (11am), and then got back on the road to Motala.

We arrived in Motala around 1500, to a party atmosphere, and found a place to park the car at a sport centre on the outskirts. We then caught the free bus into the centre to go and register. Just as the bus was coming up to the bus stop we had to wait in a queue and two cyclists (a father and his little girl) came up the side of the bus as we were stationary. When the queue moved forward the father rode off on his bike and the little girl (who was directly under the wing mirror of the bus) tried to get her footing on the pedals – just as the bus pulled away and clipped the side of her head! Luckily, she was wearing a helmet and it seemed that she suffered only from shock. Ollie and I were right at the front so heard the clip and realised what was happening, but after that there was much shouting in Swedish and little we could do. The bus driver briefly got off, had an argument with the father and then got back on and drove us to the bus stop. A dramatic start, and a bit of a worry as our introduction to the event! Embarrassing for the driver though I suspect, since he hit a cyclist whilst carting a bus load of us around!

With the knowledge that we weren’t having any sleep, we wanted to save energy so we took a fairly direct route to the registration tent, registered and then returned to the car. We drove the car to our Saturday night accommodation and found a place to park nearby (in the outer carpark of a school, which was by then closed for the weekend). Once parked up we moved everything from the back of the car into the front and locked the bikes to the front alloy of the car and then set up camp in the boot to try and have a little afternoon nap!

 

 

It wasn’t all that successful; though I reckon I could sleep pretty well in a boot if required in future.

We gave up after an hour or so and started to get our kit on and pack our pockets and saddle bags. The locals must have wondered what was going on; us getting dressed in the school carpark!

Eventually we left the car and set off on a 6 mile ride into town to get some food before our designated start times of 2156 and 2206. We finally found some pasta in a local kebab type shop (everyone was doing pasta!) and took it away to eat on a bench in the centre. We applied our reflectors to our frames (a Swedish requirement) and our numbers to our bikes and jerseys and then headed down to the lake side to relax. We managed to bag ourselves a bench which we could have a lie down on, and we found a group of Brits who we had a chat with.

And then, all of a sudden, it was time! – They nearly went without me!

The first mistake I made was to get on the wheel of someone who pulled in less than 5 minutes into the ride to wait for his friends! So I trundled along and waited for a big group to come along; they were going too fast – so I waited for another, and finally I found a group of my speed and I followed them for a bit. Then I dropped off and had a chat with a Swedish chap who’d done Vatternrundan many times before.

After a very short period of time Ollie caught me up, we’d made a plan to meet a Ödeshög – the first stop (47km in) but, he’d been in a big fast group and had managed to make very good time.

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My tactic to get through was to stop at every single organised feed station, of which there were nine. Seven of them provided the basics (cinnamon bun (we’ll come to that later), blueberry soup (and that), coffee, banana, Gherkins (?) gels, toilets etc… and two of which also provided a hot meal. This worked well, and the only other stops we took were two loo stops because we just couldn’t wait (TMI?) and two photo stops (see photo above).

The first stop we got to had an Elvis tribute band across the road from it, so I had a bit of a dance across to the loo. There was a real party atmosphere all the way around, and people were at the side of the road cheering us on all the way through the night (I think they were saying nice things?! I couldn’t understand a word they were saying sadly). Jönköping, the first of the hot meal stations, was at the 104km (65 Mile) point; Meat balls (or veggie alternative) with mashed potato.

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This station was in an ice rink (which had been covered, heated etc…) and people were actually fast asleep on the floor. An odd decision we thought; they’d cool down and feel groggy once waking up. But then again, there were people at this stage and earlier that were walking up tiny bumps of hills and I wondered how they would get to the end too.

It was whilst we were at this food stop, that my Garmin decided to reset itself for the first time; an on-going problem throughout the ride which ended up with one section missing and me having to use a tool to stitch the ride together (borrowing some of Ollie’s ride to make up the missing part). And then to add insult to injury it ran out of battery just before the end and missed about 6 miles (as did Ollie’s – so we can confirm that a fully charged Garmin lasts approx. 15 hours).

It was 30 km later at Fagerhult at about 0430, that the rain which had been expected at 2200hrs arrived, and made up for lost time. It chucked it down. The ride between Fagerhult at 133km and Hjo at 171km was reminiscent of London 2014. There was so much water I couldn’t see, I’d clear one eye and then the other was full of water. I squelched in my bib shorts and I was miserable!

Hjo (106 miles into the ride), was another hot food stop – this time in a large humid tent full of warm bodies. As I walked, soaking wet, freezing cold and with my Carpal Tunnel affected fingers buzzing, out of the weather and into the tent, the warm air hit me. As I sat down with my veggie lasagne I wondered how I could possibly leave this nice warm tent and get back on my bike in my uncomfortable wet kit. Ollie said it was time to go and I burst into tears. He knew it was a possibility that I would give up here – I’d been struggling the last few miles. I didn’t want to. It was such a hard decision, but eventually I said I didn’t want to damage my body by pushing it too hard and we found the tent which dealt with quitters. They took my number and then said I had to go to the top of the road and wait there for half an hour for a bus to take me back to Motala. One of the main reasons I wanted to give up was my inability to warm up – so there was absolutely no way that I was going to stand in the cold and the wet waiting for a bus. I told Ollie that I would have to continue.

Just as we were about to set off, a Service car came around the corner; these cars have bike racks on the back and pick people up along the course and, as far as we knew, take them back to Motala. Ollie flagged it down and the lady got out – when we told her that I wanted to go back to Motala she said she could help and she almost dragged me away. I wished Ollie goodluck on the rest of the ride and we went our seperate ways.

The car woman took me back to the tent and the bus woman. The bus woman told me to wait for the bus.

So I was on my own, miserable, cold and wasn’t getting taken back.

Carrying on seemed easier than giving up at that point, at least if I was pedalling I would be warm.

I stuffed everything into my jersey pockets haphazardly, barely finished talking to the woman and got on my bike to sprint after Ollie. I used every wheel I could keep up with but then realised – he was probably doing the same, only 5-10 minutes ahead of me. So, I stopped and called him, leaving a message and hoping that he would feel his phone vibrate or stop for a break. I was convinced he would not stop at the next station as he didn’t have me holding him back and he wasn’t as in need of breaks as I was. Having left a message, I trudged on, thinking I would have to do the rest of the ride on my own.

7km outside of Karlsborg (the next stop) my phone vibrated; I pulled over and called Ol back; he had stopped at the next station. I got a bit emotional again and got a move on in order to meet up with him.

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Found him!

Despite writing much of this post in km rather than miles I have not been converted, I still don’t know what km are, but the maps were all in km so at each stop I started Googling the convertion of km to miles so that I would know just how many miles there were until the next stop;

Okay so this is just like from work to home, 18 miles. Easy peasy…

 

I only considered how many miles there were until the next stop, taking the ride in tiny chunks.

The rest of the ride went without drama; we saw people sleeping, sleeping everywhere – at the side of the road for instance – helmet off and used as a pillow, fast asleep. Then the sub-9-ers started to come through at a crazy pace and I watched in awe as I realised there were women in the groups!

We finally crossed the finish line at about 1430 on Saturday afternoon, about 16.5 hours after we had started.

We went straight back to the kebab/pizza house from the previous evening and ordered a pizza each and some fries – a massive amount of food, which it turned out we couldn’t finish. We then had a 6 mile cycle back to our accommodation, where we showered and then fell asleep until midnight. We got up for triple chocolate cookies and then fell back to sleep until 0700, which was the time we were meant to be leaving!

A 14 hour journey in the car followed, and back over the bridge, which 1. charges both ways and 2. actually costs around £48 each way rather than the £30 which we thought was extortiate before. Here’s a picture of it, please appreciate it because it cost us a fortune!

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Thanks so much to Ollie for putting up with me, encouraging me, believing in me and for stopping at that food stop!

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Today’s the day

We’ve (Ollie has) driven 790 miles, taken two ferries, eaten three pizzas (plus chocolate, fries, crisps..a healthy car diet) and driven across the famous bridge from Denmark to Sweden (which cost us in excess of £30). We’ve had our last nights sleep before the big event and we’re enjoying breakfast before getting going. We have another 3-4 hours of driving to get us to Motala.

The weather last night and this morning was perfect cycling weather; not too hot, not too cold, no wind and no rain. Tonight’s forecast is rain, and wind.

 

P.s. I mean Ollie did the driving, not that he ate three pizzas, chocolate, fries etc. He had help with that.

 

A change of branding

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should change the branding of my blog; “Laura Kate cycles London…the trials of a novice cyclist attempting 100 miles..” really isn’t relevant anymore. I’ve not really had the time to do anything about it though – but now I have a reason and it was a fairly simple change too.

We are going to Sweden!!!!!!!

We spent all weekend considering it, and decided that now is the time to do it. It’s going to be a mission, an adventure and extremely hard but hopefully somewhere in there it will be amazing and kind of fun too!

So, we will leave after work, drive to the coast, hop on a ferry – sleep on the ferry for 8 hours, drive for something insane like an entire day, sleep, drive, cycle over night, sleep, drive, ferry…home, work. Work for about 2 weeks and then go to the Alps for some light relief.

At least cycling overnight means that you need one less bed and breakfast!

Better hope these supplements I’m taking help me to recover!

Laura

Vatternrundan

Vatternrundan Registration

Vatternrundan Registration

On Wednesday evening, we set the computers up side by side – copied our registration codes, ready to be pasted and watched the screen refresh over and over again – until 1900 Sweden time (1800 here) when the registration link appeared for Vatternrundan!

We quickly pasted in the codes and pressed send.

Done.

A bit of an anti-climax to be honest – we expected to have to do more. BUT we didn’t have to wait long until we received e-mails notifying us that we had been successful and that our start times were 2156 and 2206 (me first) on 17 June 2016.

EXCITING! – We are going to Sweden!!!!

And then we realised – Sweden is hard to get to, its quite far away and we only have a long weekend. Oh, and Vatternrundan is over 180 miles of cycling (not to mention that one of us can barely manage 20 miles at the moment!). Unbelievably, neither of us had considered how we, and two bikes might actually GET to Sweden.

So, we have 5 days (well 3 now) in which to pay, else we lose our places – 5 days to work out whether getting to Sweden cycling for about 17 hours and then getting back is possible!

Laura

A day of two halves; Part One

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

New Union Jack Kask ready to go

After writing my last post, I left the hotel and found the start with absolutely no problems along the way. The weather was much warmer than I expected it would be at 0700 hours and I ended up taking my arm warmers off to stand in the waiting area. Within a few minutes I got chatting to two ladies, one of which was called Lauren – and I ended up cycling a bit of the first part of the course with her and then again a little later.

Mandatory start-line photo

Mandatory start-line photo

We set off on time, or possibly one minute early – and we flew past all of my 2014 puncture locations. The weather was perfect and the participants were friendly and fun.

After leaving Lauren behind I started to draft a few people, and then found someone going the right speed for me so I sat behind him for a while before feeling bad and introducing myself! His name was Rhys and he lives about 20 miles from us; his friends had left him behind. We cycled together through London, Richmond Park and through to the bottom of Newlands Corner, where I accidently dropped him. Feeling bad I did wait for him at the hub but didn’t see him come through, until I was too far away to get his attention.

Newlands Corner was the 47 mile point and it had taken me around three hours to get there – my Garmin stated that I had averaged 16.3 mph up to that point and I was super pleased with myself – I was feeling good and beginning to hope for a sub 7/6.5 hour time.

And that is where the second half of the day started…

Tour de COL round-up

On Friday we returned from a great holiday, just in time to get some sleep and then go to the wedding of the year on Saturday. Congrats to Nicky and Gary!

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Nicky and Gary 

So, before the dreaded return to work in the morning, here’s a wash-up post summing up the past two weeks.

The planned itinerary was a gruelling combination of hills and miles; some were achieved but in the main we did less than planned! In the first week we had planned to cycle 304.60 miles, with 19,099 ft of climbing. The rides would have taken in Lacets de Montvernier, Col de L’Iseran, Alpe D’Huez and two flattish rides. In reality, we all had differing mileage counts at the end of the week; I did 220.10 miles and 13,389 ft of climbing. Everything took much longer than we had planned for, and therefore we arrived in Albertville later than planned and so cut down our 70 mile Montvernier ride by driving a short part of the way (good job really, as we still had to do some riding in the dark with lights on).

  • I posted about my Col de L’Iseran experience, where I had to give up – part way up.
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Broken!

Shade!

Shade!

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  • We all made it up Alpe D’Huez, but only one of us cycled back down.
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Chris, Ollie and I

Steve, Andy and their gang

Steve, Andy and their gang

After D’Huez and the accident, the second week began in the same way; we were supposed to be having a day off anyway and then the following day we were scheduled to make the climb up Colle del Ghisallo to the Madonna del Ghisallo.

Madonna del Ghisallo

Madonna del Ghisallo

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Chris’ bike was being repaired, so we changed our plans and decided to do the ride in the evening. However, in the end we saw the museum on our day off (we drove up there) and when it came to the evening of the ride, Chris wasn’t feeling up to it, and Ollie and I went for a shorter ride.

The next day, in the Bolzano area, we rode up an unexpected Dolomite, but I think we had probably provisionally planned to do something longer and possibly hillier. The Tour de France rides were as planned, and then we ended on a high with my third century and my longest ever ride of 127 miles.

So, the holiday stats were as follows:

  • 2430 car miles at an average speed of 44 mph.
  • 54 hours and 57 minutes spent in the car travelling.
  • 441.60 miles ridden.
  • 21,298 feet climbed.
  • One 650g tub of Nutella, with two bags of biscuits devoured within a week.

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Over all, a fantastic holiday, with its ups and downs! 😉