Reflection on a year to treasure

Wow, it’s almost a month since I last posted.

Today is my birthday! ūüôā

So I thought that I would briefly reflect on an interesting year. In fact one of the best years.

Since my last birthday I have:

  • been accepted to ride in a sportive I didn’t even enter
  • started this blog, to discuss the sportive which I didn’t even enter
  • projectile vomited, thanks to a bike ride
  • met the perfect man
  • inducted this same man into the cycling world
  • met some amazing cycling ladies (Dame Cycling)
  • competed in a time trial thanks to those ladies
  • joined a cycling club
  • ridden on an airfield, during the night
  • …and experienced being engulfed by a peloton
  • ridden in the sportive which I didn’t even enter (with the support of a couple of Dames!)
  • …in a hurricane, I will have you know
  • completed a century (but not the sportive that I didn’t even enter!)
  • raised ¬£1,100 for Dressability
  • passed multiple Masters modules
  • competed in a team triathlon (something I would never previously of considered doing)
  • bought a tandem
  • started a new job
  • ridden 3,361.90 solo miles
  • ridden 67.7 tandem miles
  • completed 242 hours on my solo bike
  • completed 4 hours in the Rear Admiral’s saddle

All topped off with a cycling birthday treasure hunt of 31 miles, which resulted in me finding my presents right back at the start!

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Finding the second clue at the top of the White Horse hill.

Treasure! Right back where I started!

Treasure! Right back where I started!

I think Ollie wants more cakes... amazing present :)

I think Ollie wants more cakes… amazing present ūüôā

A fairly quick post, but thank you for your support and to everyone who has made this year so special.Thanks for the boost to the Carbon Bike Fund, the winter gear to keep me warm on these cold days and the games to play when I just can’t be bothered to get out on the road. Here’s to the next one, to all of us getting into the sportive that I did sign myself up for, and to some party planning for the big 3-0.

Laura x

Advertisements

I’m half crazy…

I finished my last post with the assumption that our adventures would be limited over the winter months, and in comparison to recent months I suppose they will be, however Ollie and I have a new exciting arrival which will see us chomping at the bit to get out in the winter sunshine.

IMG_5301

An exciting last minute E-Bay bid early last week, resulted in us owning this lovely tandem! It also meant a five hour round trip to Poole (which really is not that far away) to collect it after University on Wednesday. Once lectures were over I excitedly rushed off to prepare a picnic of bacon butties for Ollie and quiche for me, fairy cakes and snacks. Whilst we expecting a fairly long road trip, we weren’t expecting the mammoth queues which added an hour or so extra onto the trip. It was lucky for Ollie, the driver, that he had me to keep him awake and alert; my top volume, out of tune ‘singing’ to 80’s and 90’s hits was just the thing! (Who knew that ‘Mickey’ was one of the 50 greatest ever hits?!?) Arriving home at 2200, we had to plonk the tandem in the garage and get on with normal evening chores… okay well I did have one sneaky honk on its absolutely amazing horn! Sorry neighbours.

With the exception of colleagues, we decided to keep it a secret until we had used it. During a University coach trip on Tuesday I just happened to mention that we had bought it to some of my university ‘friends’; after their initial speechlessness, they then were highly amused and decided to tease me for the rest of the week. There was mention of them trying to get the word ‘Tandem’ into their Friday presentation as many times as they could – but with eight presentations to listen to they all blurred into one and I couldn’t tell you whether they bothered to or not!

With University, work and the weather it wasn’t until Saturday that we had our first trip out. The original plan for Saturday involved me studying all day while Ollie went to the gym, washed the bikes and did various other chores; but it didn’t work out quite like that. Ollie went to the gym, but I got fed up of studying, or more to the point I was too excited to study – so late on in the afternoon we decided to surprise my family. It was quite an ambitious route really for a first go, 42 miles in total, however we seemed to do okay and didn’t have any massive problems – it all went a little too well! That is not to say that we are ready to put clip-less pedals on just yet (though we have purchased them for when we do feel ready)!

I knocked on my parents door in giggles, and my Mum firstly noticed me and then Ollie – it was some moments before she realised that…

Your bikes are stuck together!

We weren’t able to stay for long as the light was drawing in, but my brother’s face was an interesting mix of amusement and complete disdain! A common theme through the ride, actually; Ollie commented that it was making a lot of people smile, and then on reflection said that he wasn’t sure whether we were making people smile or they were actually laughing at us. One lad appreciated us though; as we pulled away from my parents house and cycled along the road we honked a goodbye, which caused a group of lads to cheer and one of them ran alongside to give us a high-five. This tandem lark is fun! Mark my words, the tandem is the next big thing! Anyway…

Onwards Captain!

Next stop – Grandhouse! The¬†Grandbeings met us – they had been warned of an arrival, and were waiting outside, they had no idea what they were waiting for though! Ollie honked like mad and I waved with two hands (you don’t even have to hold on, on the back!) until they saw us. They had a tandem, or several, before Granddog was around, so they were very excited, and my Gran had a ride along the road in the Rear Admiral’s seat, which must have gone down well as we received our first rental request!

Again, it was just a quick stop and we were back on the road. On the way back we spotted a chap on a road bike some way ahead and decided to try and catch him, which we managed, and eventually we overtook him – a mistake! On the flat we were faster than him, however on average over inclines etc… he and we were going around the same speed, which was 1. awkward and 2. meant that we felt we had to keep the speed up, having gone to the effort to pass him. ¬†On the second ascent though he got fed up of drafting us and sped off up ahead. We were glad to see the back on him; totally knackered, post gym, Ollie experienced his first episode of bonking. Obviously, I did what any good girlfriend would in this situation and fed him jelly babies whilst swinging my legs out to the sides and telling him to pedal harder.

For all the teasing, we’ve had quite a few rental requests! So it can’t be THAT funny!

It was not the turn of the century.

The long awaited 10th August 2014 was not the day that I had planned for, trained for and certainly not the day that I have been imagining for the last 6 months. I suppose it was a cyclist’s nightmare, but a blogger’s dream. Where to start?

I think to start I need to mention the fantastic support I have had over the last week in particular: to my parents for travelling to London on the train for a mere glance of me crossing the finish line and for the pleasure of buying me an ice cream to help my recovery; to my brother for organising them (!) and for cleaning my bike; to Ollie for spending an entire week cooking for me and looking after me, for putting up with my nerves, for driving me, for getting up super early and for travelling around London alone to catch photographs of me; to Sammy and Jean for putting up with me and keeping me going; to the Public of London and Surrey, who were frankly amazing and to London Ride 100 for making the right decision. There are many others but it’s beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech.

Setting off

Setting off

Shortly after I posted, first thing Sunday morning, the organisers of London 100 made the decision to cut out Box and Leith Hill making the route just 86 miles long. Initially I was extremely disappointed, having spent 6 months training and preparing for the century and avoiding completing 100 miles so that London could be the one, however having completed the 86 miles I am convinced that the organisers made the correct decision. There were several accidents along the way most probably caused by the poor conditions, Leith Hill descent would have been Leith-al!

The main cause of the day not going as planned, and resulting in me naming my ride on Strava as ‘Hellish’, was named Bertha; ex-hurricane Bertha. The¬†Met Office¬†describe the horrendous rainfall and wind speeds within their blog, but of particular note was their comment about the amount of rainfall:

The highest hourly total was 18.4 mm at Wisley in Surrey between 9 and 10 am this morning

As a small, novice cyclist I am yet to develop the strength or discover the skill to cycling in wind, even the most unassuming of breezes upsets my cycling and slows me down, so although I knew that the rain wasn’t going to be fun, it was the wind which was really concerning me. I couldn’t really have imagined the amount of rain which came down though, or the subsequent conditions which we would have to endure. I remember wondering, while cycling through Richmond Park with a disorientating stream of mud running diagonally across the road, whether this was a course better designed for Mountain Bikers. It was shortly afterwards, in Kingston, that we were asked to dismount in order to walk through or around the largest flood that we had faced to this point.

Flooded under the Kingston Bridge.

Flooded under the Kingston Bridge.

Having carried our bikes around the flood and remounted, we were captured on camera by Ollie:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I heard the course being described as Toughmudder for cyclists by two girls on the TV, while Chris Boardman described the rain as being

Torrential and then Biblical and then back to Torrential again. 

There were points within the course, while cycling in the centre of the road, that I was unable to see the curbs at each side of the road, let alone what was in front of me. Although I was wearing my cycling glasses water was still pouring into my eyes; so it is from this experience that I learnt that my left eye lid is pretty inefficient… I constantly had to wipe/rub the water from my left eye or cycle with my left eye closed.¬†

As with most organised rides, once I am out on them I rarely know where I am so I can’t identify the locations of the two other significant floods which we went through, one of which I thought had killed my Garmin Cadence sensor as I had 0 cadence for the following 10 miles. ¬†¬£¬£¬£¬£¬£ flashing before my eyes. Nor can I expose the location of the crazy , cyclist hating woman who nearly had me off. I think at this point it is important to stress how absolutely fantastic the public were; people of all ages, individuals, couples, families, pub parties all out cheering us on, high-fiving us and generally making us smile, in torrential rain as well as sunshine. But this one lady ignored, even fought with, the stewards and walked out into the road directly in front of me, with a look of rage in her eyes and shouted¬†STOP!¬†There would have been no chance for me to stop but I managed to swerve and avoid her. Her action was simply to make a point though – the road behind me was clear – she only had to wait a matter of seconds to cross safely.

The secondary cause of the day not going to plan, could also be blamed partly on the weather, in that within 7 miles of the start I had two consecutive punctures. It took around 30 minutes to replace the tube, twice, and to do an inordinate amount of pumping (Sammy kindly banned me from pumping due to my sore wrists). During this 30 minute stop we couldn’t believe that we didn’t receive a single offer of help, while on the Savernake Sizzler you’d be offered support by a fellow rider at the merest sign of a sneeze but on Sunday as three ladies struggled, competently, at the side of the road flanked by men standing around looking on we weren’t offered assistance, not even once. That’s London for you. Once we had set off again we flagged a Mavic support vehicle for their track pump. On the road once more, in torrential rain, barely able to see what was in front of us, we were flagged down by two lads who were on their fourth and fifth punctures (double puncture); they had run out of tubes and their pump had broken. We stuck around to help them and thus ended up at Hampton Court over 60-90 minutes later than anticipated. The day was barely recoverable – if we got to the end without being captured by the broom wagon we would be lucky.

 

Double puncture in torrential rain.

Double puncture in torrential rain.

Boys struggling

Boys struggling

Girls helping

Girls helping

And this leads to the third cause of the day being more difficult than it should have been; weather and maintenance distractions meant that I didn’t keep to my fuelling and drinking plan. Furthermore, my poor foresight and thus preparation meant that I hadn’t given my Fig rolls and electrolyte tablets adequate protection – at Hampton Court hub I found a pink mush, a combination of the tablets and the rolls. In case anyone was wondering, pink Fig rolls taste as bad as they look. At Newlands I bonked but there was a handy cafe selling chips which we each bought a portion of and ate like the possessed.

I’ve taken two days to reflect on a ride, which became my priority for 6 months and after so much anticipation it’s difficult to get over the disappointment of; not completing 100 miles, not enjoying the ride and the fact that the ride was punctuated with difficulties. However, I think it will become a fond memory – the crowds, the piano man singing ‘The bare necessities’, sprinting along the Mall (as instructed by my brother – in Cavendish style), the privilege of cycling on closed roads and I suppose even the weather added an element of adventure to it.¬†

My brother's comparison on me and the Pro's

My brother’s comparison of me and the Pro’s

And late yesterday my brother sent me this…

2 seconds slower than Vos

2 seconds slower than Vos

…so maybe I didn’t do as badly as I first thought.

The wait for the turn of the century continues and I remain defiantly novice.

For those of you who have already sponsored me – I will complete 100 miles this summer, and for those of you who haven’t – why on earth not?! I cycled through a hurricane – it’s got to be worth a fiver surely?

Laura

Dressability Logo

Sponsor me here

The official photographs can be seen here but they are not representative of the day РI was soaked and wearing a waterproof for all but about 90 minutes of the 8 hour ride.

 

 

Nearly there

Done

The last big challenge before London is complete, and I am now confident that I can finish well within the allotted time. Our official time for today’s 94.8 miles is likely to be just over 8hrs 30 mins however, it was incredibly hilly, hot and we had many stops – our ride time was 7 hrs 6 mins.

 

Thanks

This blog post must start with thanks, again, to my Mum, Dad, Gran, Grandad and brother for their roadside support throughout the day, and to Ollie for giving up his Sunday to cycle the entire event with me. He must be crazy.

 

Today, I yet again, took on some advice which I had been given during the week Рinadvertently I think Рby my Uncle, who said he used to use his water bottle to squirt down his back for cooling. Today, I used this strategy Рnot to the detriment of my hydration I must add! Рto keep cool and try to keep my headache at bay; though not necessarily down my back, over my head was a favourite. 

And finally, thanks to Kelli at Dame cycling for bringing us together as a big group.

Talking of which, here we are at the start:

10479750_10152552768158433_3710135483559195573_n

IMG-20140727-WA0017 The Dame team and I at the start

We started off together, but had signed up to various lengths and agreed to various speeds. Sammy, Mandy, Ollie and I signed up for the 94 Miles and agreed to take the route at a steady pace, so after around 5 miles we broke off into our group and set the pace for the day. Until…Sammy got a puncture… and then we hit this:

10569009_1452174275066611_8742454031477465288_nIMG-20140727-WA0049

IMG-20140727-WA0058 IMG-20140727-WA0053

Slowly making my way up Ramsbury Hill

Slowly making my way up Ramsbury Hill

Thanks to my brother for the encouragement, photos and also the push up the hill! 

 

Sadly, at around the 40 mile point, the heat, hills and mechanical problems forced Sammy and Mandy to change their route and they swapped onto the Medium route (around 57 miles), so Ollie and I continued alone and saw hardly any cyclists for the rest of the day! At several points later on in the afternoon I wished I had joined them, but on a positive note I really noticed the improved power and position following on from my Bike fit yesterday with Colin the Bike Magician. I can only assume that this is the reason that my performance on the hills was significantly better than normal. 

 

But the real highlights of the trip were:

  • Finally reaching the Windmill, which my brother and I have been attempting to visit, or intending to visit, for sometime.
  • Using a urinal!!! (With my Shewee obviously) – We found two solitary porta-loos in the countryside, and went in one each – it seems however that I went into the ‘Mens’ and Ollie went into the ‘Ladies’ – lucky really as it was a new experience for me, although they were pretty disgusting toilets.
  • And of course our names written on tarmac, like the pro’s.

 

IMG-20140727-WA0022

Finally reaching the windmill

IMG-20140727-WA0015

 

Passing time and conversing 

Towards the end, as the mileage began to kick in Ollie and I had a conversation about clouds; “Oh look there’s a cloud elephant” ¬†“Yeah, and there’s an¬†angry monkey” “Erm… no, can’t see that..”. Shortly after that an old guy on a very old, rickety bike raced past us..”and that’s when you know you’ve been on your bike for a very long time”.

 

Feeling prepared

The nutrition, hydration and kit all worked a treat, I wasn’t uncomfortable and I wasn’t sick… it seems that I am ready.

 

SONY DSC

The end

 

And so it is… time for tapering. Two weeks from now, it will all be over.¬†

 

 

The mathematics of hills, horses and food

This long, dragging week has been plagued with sore legs muscles and an overwhelming realisation that the sportive on Sunday, in preparation for the Big One, is actually going to be harder. It has a 17% hill and three White Horses…White Horses are generally found on hills… and those are just the ones I know about. London 100, as¬†this great blog¬†explains, is flat then ‘bumpy’ then flat; a course split into three and within the bumpy third there’s three hills, two of which I have done – one of which was simple.¬† ¬† Sunday is going to be hard! ¬† Sammy sent me some supplement advice earlier in the week which got me thinking about what I eat and drink on the bike. I think I take the right drinks out with me; one electrolyte drink and one bottle of water, however in this hot weather I need to get much better at drinking them. I also do my best to hydrate the day before… so Saturday will be all about water drinking and bike fitting.

As for food; I tend to take a banana, fig rolls, digestives and jelly babies then I will buy a packet of crisps about half way round. I haven’t had a gel for months – they are, frankly, disgusting. So, this¬†runner’s blog¬†made me very happy. It’s worth a read and advocates the use of Jelly Babies as opposed to gels; I don’t really feel I need to research the opposing arguments – what he writes is¬†clearly absolutely correct. Jelly babies are therefore, here to stay. Or at least in my jersey pocket to stay, which actually considering how sticky they get in there, I may not have any choice about!

The blog made me think more about what I should be eating and I came to the conclusion that I should have 58 grams of carbs per hour of exercising. According to Google, which is also always right, fig rolls contain 11.9 grams each, digestives 19 grams and a medium banana 30 grams. Baring in mind my 20 minute rule, I should be eating just under 20 grams of carbohydrate every 20 minutes. I love this kind of maths!!! In order to keep the maths simple, I will just eat three digestives an hour!!! 

Maybe not… they are pretty crumbly and overly sweet. Fig rolls however are great for iron, carbs and they are bite sized! Therefore, I think if I stick to my current regime, which hasn’t made me sick, but become a little more regimental with it and with water drinking then I should be okay. The twenty minute rule worked great on the track but it hasn’t been put into practice very much out on the road (too many distractions). Sammy, you and I are trying this on Sunday! A Fig Roll every 20 minutes and half a banana an hour…

Dressability Logo

 

National Bike Week

Apparently it’s National Bike Week (http://bikeweek.org.uk/) and I feel like I’ve made the most of it, with the sportive last Sunday and the Runway Rumble on Friday night.¬†

The¬†Runway Rumble¬†is a 4 hour endurance ride, from 2000 to 0000, held at Gloucester Airport in Staverton, the intention being to cycle as far as you can within 4 hours with none of the interruptions found on the roads. Our ‘race’ prep consisted of losing the bike lock key, turning the house upside down – twice- to find it, eating a late dinner and then rushing around trying to regain time. Not great prep one might think, but surprisingly it did us no harm. ¬†I entered with the Dames, and cycled the whole event with Sammy, who set the pace and then kept me going throughout. ¬†Ollie entered on Thursday as an individual and did his own thing, which worked out surprisingly well! Sammy and I attempted to guess what our final mileage would be early on; I guessed 60 miles and Sammy said she thought it would be more – we settled for 65 miles and had a celebration when we reached 65 miles at exactly midnight.

Sammy and I

Sammy and I

Ollie

Ollie

It was interesting to see the changes in the light throughout the night; as the sun was setting Sammy and I were convinced that we were being followed by a ghost rider, on reflection it was probably just elongated shadows. Later in the evening, once the runway lights were on, we were able to entertain ourselves with the massive shadows our bikes and hands were making on the runway in front of us. But it was once it became really dark, hallucinations began to kick in Рmost memorably Р jumping because I thought I was about to go down a big hole and secondly going off track and almost leading Sammy and I into the grass.

Sammy and I

Sammy and I

The night sky

The night sky

 

Thanks again to Mum and Dad, for their support through the whole event, and to Diane and Andy for coming to cheer us on. A special mention for Mum who stayed right until the end, when her bed time is 2130 normally! Massive congratulations to Ollie who managed the whole thing and did as many laps as us (despite having a puncture) – apparently training is completely unnecessary!!!

The Runway Rumble Results were released this morning and I have extracted the Female Results:

Female Results

Female Results

I’m pleased with 11th out of 26.

The End!

The End!

It’s Sunday and I am still in pain, which is good timing since I now have an enforced week off ¬†due to a busy week and a visit to Glasgow. ¬†In the meantime…for those of you who are interested Sharon, from Dressability, and I were interviewed by the radio last week. Whilst writing this post I have had confirmation that the interview will be on tomorrows show from 1500-1600 – you can listen at¬†Swindon 105.5 FM.

Laura

Dressability Logo

A wee improvement

I’ve been really nervous this week about my upcoming sportive (Sunday), but today has been an exciting day so it helped me to forget.

After only one ride on his new bike Ollie decided to do a Time Trial! I was planning to marshal but at the last minute, due to the nice weather, I decided to race too. We arrived early and got places 3 and 4. While hanging around at HQ I purchased my new Dame Cycling ¬†jersey but I was totally distracted, having received an e-mail saying that my essay results were available online¬†(remember NoSQL – the course which I was going to leave because I was clueless…). Well, I needed to load the webpage in order to see my results but ¬†HQ is in the middle of the countryside, and often I struggle to get mobile signal, let alone 3-G so Ollie and I were stood on my car, waving both our phones in the air trying to load the page. Five pages later and after much torturous waiting I found out that I had been awarded 75% and 78%. I am totally shocked. I genuinely thought that I would struggle to get 50% to pass.

Back to cycling:¬†During the¬†second lap I was reminded of my novice status when I was passed by a gentleman, three times my age, who had started two minutes after me! Realising this, I decided to try my hardest to keep up with him and maybe even pass him and regain my dignity. Despite his seniority¬†I had to try my very hardest to keep up with his casual cycling…

I improved on my last TT time, but still not sub 31 and not my best time. Ollie however, managed a 28.51 on his first time out. Impressive and a little sickening! 

 

Ollie enjoying his first time trial

Ollie enjoying his first time trial

 

For all my effort I looked like this, at the end: 

 

End of TT pain

End of TT pain

IMG_5160

Unattractive, unimpressed face.

Finally, this evening, I collected my latest cycling related purchase…¬†

New purchase

New purchase

 

Do you know what it is? (I had to ask my Mum whether it was acceptable to post about this!) I’ve not tried it yet… updates to come!¬†

 

Yet another late night post. Bed Time.

 

Laura

 

P.S…In case you were wondering… I didn’t catch him up. In fact, after about five minutes of trying to catch him up I don’t remember seeing him again. I base this on years of experience.¬†