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.

 

Ah, it’s May

Several months ago, Father-Grandbeing suggested that we should start our training for Vatternrundan in May. It didn’t seem enough time, to me, but the year ran away with me – May arrived and I hadn’t really done any training. So taking his advice, I have been trying to get a few more miles in – on the two days that I went to work this week I cycled to (5 miles) and home (15 miles) from work.

 

Currently anything over 10 miles seems difficult, particularly on my Giant (Winter bike), so when at the 10 (out of 12) mile point this evening Ollie said “Well that’s one eighteenth of Vatternrundan we’ve just done – that’s okay isn’t it”. Noooo, no it isn’t okay, it’s hard and I can’t do it 17 more times in one go!!

 

 

Got to sleep – up early for a 30 miler. Looking forward to riding the Ribble on Sunday!

 

 

Progress and a special birthday

We completed on our house on Friday, and have since completely wrecked it and ourselves! Today is the first day in a few months where I have felt complete and utter -fall asleep in meetings – exhaustion. And I haven’t even done any training.

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Arriving after 9pm in a loud van, trying to reverse into a tight space…ooops sorry new neighbours!

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Finally, I packed the essentials:

 

 

BUT, who’s bitthday is it?! Well, according to Facebook, its a year since I collected my Ribble; talking of which…it’s about time it comes down from the winch.

 

 

To the drivers of Wiltshire…

My light is bright,

my kit is too,

so why don’t you look and see

what’s behind you!

Specifically for:

  • The driver who decided to pull out of a side road without looking to the right;
  • The driver who decided to reverse into a main road (and my path) and then to blare his horn at me for fun;
  • The driver who pulled in to drop someone off and then didn’t bother to check whether anything was going past before pulling out from the kerb.

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.

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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!

A complete century

The official time isn’t out yet, not that it was really about the time, but the moving time on my Garmin is 7 hrs and 6 mins over a distance of 101.70 mi and an elevation increase of 4,193ft. The official time will be around 8hrs 30 mins.

 

I am so happy to have finally completed a century! Today was obviously the day. For weeks I have been struggling with my fitness, joints and fatigue; today the weather was perfect, my fuelling plan worked and I didn’t bonk. It has become customary for me to have a half an hour lie down as soon as I get off the bike but today I felt so good at the end of the ride that this wasn’t necessary and four and a half hours later I am still vertical.  

On the way into Warminster I commented on the fact that I had got to the 20 mile point with no punctures, and that even at such an early stage this sportive was an improvement on London. On the way out of Warminster my gears suddenly stopped working, the cable hung loosely – it had snapped. I remember the disbelief that things were going wrong again, although I have learnt the basics of bike maintenance I had no idea whether this was a significant problem – to me it looked awful. It couldn’t have happened in a more convenient place though really, we had just left the rest stop so we turned around and headed back to the bike mechanic who replaced the cable free of charge. Apparently it was a strange thing to happen – goodness knows how I managed it. 

 

Much of the rest of the ride went without incident; parents, grandparents and granddog supported as usual – thank you very much 🙂 At our final stop we realised that we were likely to do the 100 miles in just over 8 hours and we increased our pace a bit to try and get as close to the 8 hours as possible. However at the 96 mile point we came across a lad on a bike, which was making an awful noise and Ollie stopped to help him. I carried on to the 97.2 mile point, from which I blogged, where I stopped thanks to my chain coming off! The boy had a puncture and hadn’t realised, so Ollie spent around 15 minutes mending it for him, (although he had a spare tube he hadn’t got any tyre levers and had no idea how to go about replacing the tube) while unbeknown to him I waited at the bottom of the hill and Chris was desperately trying to work out where we could have got to. Finally, all reunited at the bottom of the hill, we finished off the ride – it wasn’t London, but it was great to complete it with my brother who got me into it in the first place.

For Ollie – what a journey – no bike to a century within three months! Congratulations! 

 

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Posing with my brother!

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All three of us at about 40 miles

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Pulling in for some lunch.

 

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All three of us at Crofton Pumping Mill

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Ollie and I coming in to the finish. We had discussed a photo with all three of us holding hands, but no-one was too keen to be in the middle!

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Chris coming into the finish.

 

Almost a month late, but it’s complete albeit on a more difficult course than originally intended! 

Laura