Wednesday, 31 December 2008

So that was 2008..

and it's obligatory at this point in the year to look at the things you did well, the things you did not so well, and the lessons you have learned.

Starting with the lowlights, I'm evidently not good at losing weight (I'm heavier now than I was at this point last year), and I'm not good at falling off bikes gracefully. In 2009 I intend to become better at the former, and give up doing the latter entirely (if only).

So what about the achievements? Well, at this point last year, I was struggling with an immense amount of self-doubt, mirroring the reactions of those around me when they learned what I was up to. I now know that there was no need for such doubt, and that you never know until you try.

In the year:
4,465 miles on the bike
One 10 mile Time Trial (in under 30 minutes)
One club reliability ride (in February no less)
10 Audaxes
10 UK Sportives
1 Etape du Tour (without getting off and walking)
No broom wagons!

And the lessons? Just one really. If there is something you would like to do, do it. Do it now.

It's like the proverb. "Never put of until tomorrow what you can do today". After all, if you do it today and like it, you can do it again tomorrow.

Happy New Year all.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

I'm dreaming of a Whitegate Christmas

as the title of the Audax goes.

On the whole, this was a good day. Mark, Mike and myself all arrived plenty early (even post-faffing) and the weather was definitely in the "could have been a lot worse" category.

As we left Bredbury, the first treat of the day was a nice long descent down to the river. Regrettably, this was also the return route later in the day, when such changes in altitude would be much less welcome. A headwind was gently opposing us for the first 55km to the cafe stop, whereupon we were met by the least happy staff I had come across this year. We were their only customers, but I got the impression they would much rather have been closed.

Cups of coffee rapidly downed, a strange thing happened. My legs, normally dormant for at least 10km after a cake stop, began to function immediately. Coinciding with a slight downhill, a tailwind, and french quality tarmac we were suddenly flying along. A slight incline didn't slow my progress until Mark's voice came over my shoulder "you might want to slow down a bit, Mike's at 174 bpm and is barely holding on". I was subsequently accused of ripping Mikey's legs off and throwing them into a field. Unheard of. Mike had his revenge later, as he was regularly waiting for me by the end.

The return trip to Bredbury was relatively uneventful, ridden in the daylight, and a rare December pleasure. Despite the guys having to wait for me, we were the first three back, and averaged almost exactly 25kmh (15.6mph) way outside my normal range.

I was still shattered on Monday, but despite feeling that "I'm still not going well" this was my fastest Audax Ride ever. I guess I'll settle for that.

Next up, the Hopey New Year on 3rd January (100+ km of Peak District loveliness) and then the Poor Student on 11th January (Januarys RTTY qualifier). And perhaps some turboing over Christmas.

I'm starting to enjoy cycling again......

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Tinselly Lanes

Tinsel & Lanes is my closest Audax, it starts from the pub just 500m from our house. It would be rude not to do it, although much debate was had whether to do the Audax or to go to the Lakes for the Cumbrian Xmas Cracker the following day.

Despite Brett's protestations about his need to turn out for the football team on the Saturday, Mike & I turned up on a very fresh morning and rolled out at 8 a.m. with 211km ahead of us. The first few kilometers went swiftly on rolling roads, but when Tinsel Lane itself was reached the temperature plummeted and frost appeared on the roadside. Speeds were reduced, but despite that we saw two fallers on the roads around Bosworth Battlefield. First control was reached in just a fraction over 2 hours at an average of 25kmh, unheard-of for me.

The next section, down to Upper-Stowe south-east of Daventry, is the lumpiest section and soon had me struggling, especially up the 1:4 hill to Gubley, where I discovered a new maximum heart rate of 184. My theoretical max is 174 and I had never exceeded this, so this was a surprise (as was the 207 the HRM registered at another point where I was not paying attention, so I suspect it to be a spurious reading). Further hills followed across Naseby Battlefield and beyond, but lunch at 101km was reached at 1pm, an average of 20kmh including stops.

I did this ride last year, and know how slow the roads seem to be (can't be me, surely) and the next sections dragged on a lot, but Wellesbourne near Stratford-on-Avon was reached in the light at 3:35, and the light was not needed for another half-hour of the final leg. Once on, it provided sufficient illumination for 2 riders side-by-side at 20mph on the downhills, so I profess myself very pleased with it.

Tiredness and weight told in the end, with Bentley Bank at the end of the ride being a struggle, but final arrival at 7:15 was a full 80 minutes ahead of last year so again, I'm happy although I was so tired I could not finish my attempt at the pub carvery. Those who know me will confirm how unlikely that is.

Weight 108kg (work required)
Time 11:15 elapsed/ 9:49 moving
Speed 13.4mph average/ 38.4 mph max
Heart Rate 159 average (for 10 hours!) 207? max
Total Miles 131.4
Cadence average 68/ max 108 (getting better)
Total pedal revolutions 40,000 (anorak!)
Calories burned 8,976

By the time we finished, frost was sparkling on the road, and a freezing night was taking shape with -5 the overnight low. The following morning was hard-frozen and utterly unrideable. How lucky were we with the weather?

And the Cumbrian Xmas Cracker? Cancelled, quite sensibly, due to impossible road conditions. Good decision.

Next ride will hopefully be the "I'm Dreaming of a WhiteGate Xmas" Audax on 21st December, just ahead of festivities to burn 121km-worth of calories prior to their inevitable festive replacement.

1/6 Ratty and counting, (and the bathroom is just about finished.)

Blackpool, be jealous

the Handy illuminations have come to town!

Following a lot of reading about LEL, I had realised that a more permanent lighting solution is needed, and bought a Schmidt Dynohub to provide power.

This was built up, at very reasonable rates, using a Mavic Open-Pro rim by Geoffrey Butler Cycles and delivered waiting for my new light. Unfortunately, production delays (yes really!) in Germany meant the light did not arrive in time for the Eureka! audax, but instead on the following Tuesday.

Having put the Dynohub wheel onto Mr Trek, I was surprised how little drag there was from it when not under load, spinning quite well for over 30 seconds. Under load, there is a lot more drag, but not more than a few watts total, so the speed decrease should be minimal.

So, what have I bought for illumination? Its called a Supernova E3, and throws out an awful lot of light for its very small size, as you can see. OK, it has to be very dark for the effect seen below, but I have already exceeded 30mph in an unlit lane and had full visibility.
'Just to test it' I also did the commute to work, 40 miles each way, the following Tuesday for 5.5 hours of exercise. The ride home was my slowest ever, but it was the first time I had ridden back completely in the dark, and there was a headwind, so I'm not too unhappy.

Nice new toy, you have to be careful how its mounted, because you can dazzle car drivers if its not properly adjusted.........but it does get headlights dipped a LOT earlier.

The rain in spain....

falls, as they say, mainly on the plain. In Cheshire and North Wales, it mainly falls on cyclists.

3/4 of the first time etappers had organised themselves to do the Eureka! Audax on November 9th, the morning after the bonfire party the night before. Only Mark had an attack of sanity and found something else to do.

Regular clicks on Metcheck in the preceding week all foretold doom (and gloom) with varying amounts of wet and nasty being forecast for the Sunday.

Sunday dawned with the Big Red Fun Bus already heading up the M6 towards Cheadle and a date with 210km of the finest backroads to be found in the 'sunny' North West. Having picked Mike up, we arrived in plenty of time for a good pre-ride faff, but despite that Brett was still in the gents putting his lipstick on when the ride started. 5 minutes later, we set off.........alone.

The first thing to be noticed was that Metcheck were right again. The wet and nasty had not yet arrived, but the headwind was on lookout duty for it. A brisk wind hit us square in the face for most of the first section to the Eureka! cyclists cafe, and an appointment with a sausage, bacon & egg bin-lid bun. Having been thoroughly pebbledashed with hail in the headwind on the way we were more than ready for it, especially after Mike's first encounter with the puncture fairy. This delayed progress sufficiently to demand a trip past Ellesmere Port and the potential of a Slothly cup of Tea. Next year perhaps.

During consumption, skies glowered and greyed, and by the time Chester was circumnavigated unpleasantness was falling from the sky. By the time we reached the way round Wrexham roads were beginning to disappear under water and by Bangor-on-Dee we had already gone through 3 flooded sections. Following this the rain got no worse, but it didn't let up either.

With the wind behind, at least the average speed was not disgraceful (albeit not impressive either) but progress to Beeston Lock Cafe was delayed by Mike's second encounter with the puncture fairy. If his wife ever finds out about those two.........

Lights were needed after the stop, and the combination of dark, rain and reflections proved beyond doubt that a Cateye Singleshot Plus, whilst a fine light, is no good for speedier riding in those conditions. Had Brett gone into the ditch down the winding hills, we would both have followed.

By Astbury the rain was pounding and the weather chilling down. I turned off the light to save the battery, and then it wouldn't turn back on again. 30km to go, and only a head torch for illumination!

Some 75 minutes later, glued to the rear wheel of Mikes bike, I arrived at the finish, shattered and relieved.

Weight 108kg (a stone heavier than last year)
1/12 Ratty

40 days and 40 nights

since my last update, but not all of it spent on my bike in the wilderness.

I pretty much expected an E-Port Sloth nag regarding lack of exercise by now, but can confirm that there have been 2 audaxes and a commute since my last post, so I am still managing to get on the bike.

Life is getting in the way, however, with late projects at work causing long hours, and everyone's Darling in Westminster changing the VAT rate just to pi$$ everyone off. There's an object example/lesson in how NOT to do an impact analysis. Couple that with much d-i-y ripping out a fair portion of the bathroom, and my posting capability has been much diminished.

I have, though, now got a secondary target for 2009. Audax UK run an annual award known as a RTTY ("Ratty"), awarded to those lunatics who complete a 200km (or greater) event every calendar month for a year. Here goes............