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

 

 

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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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Reflection on a year to treasure

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

Today is my birthday! 🙂

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 🙂

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

Easy like a Sunday Morning

I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to my Triathlon experience, but it was great! I really enjoyed it.

I imagined that I would turn up at 0730, hang around until 1000, struggle through a slow 26 miles and then wait hours for the runner to finish. I was wrong. There was very little hanging around, well for me anyway! Ollie kindly supported me, and was described by Fiona as a very good bag carrier; in fact he was like a pro team support car – handing up bananas, a towel and water as required, whilst also undertaking photographer duties. Fiona, Zoe and him had much more time hanging around, due to the cycling length taking much longer to complete than either of the other disciplines.

Zoe, I met for the first time and Fiona I used to work with. With ten minutes to go, Zoe wet-suited up and got into the water for the mandatory acclimatisation period, until the klaxon sounded and a sea of orange caps set off around the 1500m course. Once they’d reached half way (it was impossible to tell who was who) I went and waited in the transition area. Zoe did a fantastic time; less than 30 minutes! Absolutely crazy though – there’s noway you’d get me in that weed filled lake! She passed me the timing chip, which I strapped to my leg and then ran through the aisle of bikes to where mine was racked, collected it and continued running to the cyclist start line.

The first few miles were a little awkward, a man had crossed the start line at around about the same time as me and we were going around the same speed. I didn’t want to pass him as I knew that he was likely to be faster than me once he got going however I also didn’t want him to think that I was drafting him and therefore cheating. Eventually, knowing I had the energy I went past him, though don’t remember whether I stayed ahead or not… they all looked similar!

I think adrenaline got me round the first half of the course, whilst banana and Jelly Babies sorted me out for the second lap. The wind picked up slightly during the second lap, and we cycled into a head wind along the final straight. As we approached the line I overtook someone…wooohoooo. With legs like jelly I leapt off the bike and ran my bike back to the rack, then cheered on by Zoe sprinted the length of the racking to a waiting Fiona, who took the timing chip from my leg as I collapsed on the floor. I had done my 26 miles in 1:27.31, which was better than the 90-100 minutes which I had predicted, though I have to admit, I had done my trial run of the course the wrong way around!!!

I quickly recovered to watch Fiona do an amazingly fast run. All in all it was great fun and, although as the only all girls team we didn’t have much chance of a prize, we produced a good overall time between us; 02:39:14:85 which put us 112th out of 235 finishers.

I think we will be teaming up again next Season for a few events!

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Race day stats

The results from yesterday are up. Here are some figures: 

Chris, who started a little later than us, rode the 100 miles in 8 hours, 7 minutes and 57 seconds – thanks to him for sticking with us slowees. I came in at 8 hours, 25 minutes and 52 seconds, and Ollie 1 second behind me because he’s a gent!

That put us in positions 177, 190 and 191 out of 247. 

The fastest male on the day rode the course in 3 hours 18 minutes, which is crazy! The fastest female 3 hours 51 minutes – same sentiment there really. We were one hour longer than the average time, however the average female time was 8 hours 3 minutes and 45 seconds so we were only a tiny bit slower than average, even with the mechanical issues. 🙂

 

 

 

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

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:

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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 – I was soaked and wearing a waterproof for all but about 90 minutes of the 8 hour ride.