I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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Trying something new

Following some Go-Anywhere-Biking with some randoms on Saturday, Sunday morning at 8am saw JB and I driving away from home, south, to catch a bus to take us north.

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As the bus passed our houses on it’s way north we commented what a lovely day it was, and that instead of sitting on a bus going to Welsh Wales, we should really be riding out here for some general twattery in the late autumn sunshine.

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We were on a coach with a gang; wait, no, it wasn’t a gang – there was definitely one of every kind; of cyclists from Mid Devon Cycling Club and we were going to The Velodrome (y’know, the one where That Geraint Thomas lives).

After a 3 hour coach trip that takes half that time in the car, we arrived. So did my nerves.

I’d been making jokes all week about needing to work from A&E on Monday due to Broken Bones, now it didn’t seem quite so funny. MDCC had laid on the whole experience for £20, to include 4 hours coaching, the track to ourselves and bike hire. While they sorted the logistics we went track side to gawp. “Fuck me sideways, that’s fucking steep burd”, I told JB. She looked at me like: well duuuh, yeah, but… I continued “It’s so Fucking Steep burd”. And it was. 42 degrees steep as Coach Brian later informed us.

We stripped to our cycling kit, got divided into groups – Been Before Group and Not Been Before group – and went and got our hire bikes. There weren’t enough to have one each so we hadta buddy with someone in another group. I got buddied with a lady slightly taller than me who insisted we wanted a 56″ frame. Not on your nelly said I, we need a 53″. “Not on my nelly”, said the bike hire man and we compromised on a 54″. He was right.

Everyone was trying out their bikes in the central area. Not me. No fuckin way. That thing’s got no brakes or gears and you can’t free wheel! I’m not getting on that, not on your life! I sat and watched as one by one people got brave and had a little go. There were no disasters. I went and stood by our bike. There. That was enough brave for now. ;-)

Eventually I decided that there was nothing for it. So I adjusted the saddle. And went and sat back down :-0:-0 Phew. Still nothing bad.

The Been Before Group were all on track now receiving instruction from their Comedy Coach. This was JB’s group – she’s been before and knew what she was doing. I watched her do a few laps, thinking shit, that looks exciting. Before I knew it she was way up towards the top of that bloody thing and zooming round like she was born for it!. Well, double shit. I want a go at that, but I can’t unless I get on the Fixed Wheel Motherfucker.

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Sure no one was looking, I dragged the FWM to the railing and blundered my way on board. Going nowhere near the shoe cages I managed a tentative few laps of the central area and, more crucially, managed to stop again on the railing.

When it was our group’s go Coach Brian had us lined up along the inside of the outside of the track, clinging to the railing for dear life. He ruthlessly tightened our toe-clips so we were One with our Fixies of Doom.

He explained the nuances of the track, “this area here is the Cote D’Azure” – that’s reassuring, I’ve been there, it’s quite nice – “this is the bank – just think of it as a hill” hahahahahahahaha – yeah, ok. Coach explained that the bank angle is the same at the bottom as it is at the top: 42 degrees, so basically if you can ride on the bit at the bottom you can ride the bit at the top. With that, we were sent on our way!

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We tottered around the flat bit first for a couple of laps. (Bollox – I forgot to start my Garmin, and I can’t count laps – I can’t even count lengths when I swim – and that only ever goes up to 8). The Coach made us stop – you do this by riding at the railing as slowly as you dare and sliding you hand along until you come to a gradual stop. Get me – I’m an expert now ;-)

Off we went again this time onto the very gently banked Cote D’Azure. A couple more laps then stop. What the actual – this is FUN!

Coach said he’d have us riding up past the blue line in 20 minutes. 5 minutes to go Coach…

He sent us off again, onto the banking this time. His only advice was push a bit harder into the banking as if you’re riding up a hill; so I did. Over the black line and up to the red… Over the red line and up to the blue one! Then over the blue line and up to the top… Fuck sake Megster, don’t look down. Won’t do that again!

It felt amazing – you can only hear the boards creaking, your heart racing, and the noise of the bike and the wind rushing past! Round and round! Anyone who thinks this is boring has never tried it! What a buzz.

Get baulked a couple of times by a slower club rider – now, that’s a quick learning curve! Out on the road you’d just free wheel to scrub speed but no such luxury on the fixie – Coach yelled “go higher to loose speed” and past I went!

All too soon the first session was finished, cruised into the railing and wrestled free of the cages. Walking to hand over my Gallant Fixie to Slightly Taller Lady my legs were like jelly! It’s full bore racing, my eyes were dry from not blinking and my mouth was dry from panting!

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We had two more sessions, one focused on riding in a line and then pulling off the front of the group to allow them to pass beneath you – that’s a weird sensation, and another where you have to pull away from the group and race around to catch the back of the pack. That’s hard. You’re in the red for lap after lap! JB said she was spanked after that session, I totally know what she meant!

It was a long day and the next time we go (and there will be a next time) we’ll drive ourselves, but it was so worth it. We’ve worked out that we must only have ridden around 12/13 miles but my quads are well aware of it today and my general tired level is right up there!

But I’m not typing this from A&E, and on another tab in Google, I don’t have the Planet X Website open on the Track Bike Page ;-)

Well… N+1 innit…

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LEBlog

*Health warning – Long blog ahead.

About 18 months ago JB and I decided to LEJOG. Neither of us will take responsibility for the idea but I can blame JB for roping in Twinkletoes and The Prof. I think in turn, The Real Jim can blame TToes 😳.

We went through all the options from self-supported to husbands-in-vans to a Proper Tour, eventually settling on Peak Tours to make it happen; turns out this was one of our better decisions!

JB and I live near each other and so trained together. We built up our miles from April and rode at least 50 miles each Saturday and Sunday with three or four week day rides of 20 or 30 miles. Our plan was called 1BHER, or One Big Hill Every Ride.

Fast forward to August and the hottest weekend of the year. My husband deposited us with our bikes, our kit, our anxieties and a pasty to keep us going till tea, at the YHA in St Just, deepest darkest Cornwall for Day 0. The YHA didn’t open till 5 so we logged some final panic training to the sea-side before meeting Peak Tours Matt who showed us to our room – a perk of being early was that we’d blagged the bottom bunks!6bb283c7-b0aa-4575-86e7-8eb33f965352
We stabled our bikes and then walked to St Just to meet the group, have dinner and most importantly- get our Peak Tours LEJOG jerseys.  Over dinner we got a feel for the group, and more importantly for me, the volume of the group. We were singled out early on by The Hurricane as ‘The Quiet Corner’, a status we only managed to confirm by legging it as soon as pudding was eaten, back to the YHA and our books and a nicecuppacocoa. There are a hundred spin-off blogs to be written about the characters in the group, suffice to say, my opinion on group ‘holidays’ hasn’t changed and at times JB had to take my punching stick and put it in a safe place 😉

Day 1: Lands End > Fowey

Each day started with morning briefing and The All Important Numbers.  These were: miles, brew stops and lunch stop! So: the numbers for day 1: 65 miles, 4500′ of climbing.

Following the expected twatting around at Lands End getting that photo…
f54f1016-0d2a-45e2-a0a4-c7692dcc4a24we set off as a group of 24 to our first Brew Stop which was 12 miles away in Marazion.  I see now that Peak Tours were breaking us in gently… The Brew Stops deserve capital letters. They were nothing short of perfect. Sweets, dried fruit, actual fruit (watermelon, pineapple, melon, apples, banananananas), biscuits, caramel wafers, crisps, tea, coffee, squash… Except – oh. They don’t have coke. I asked Peak Tours Matt if I could get some coke and put it in the Brew Van and was told not to be daft, they’d get us some. “Hmmm, bet they forget” I said to JB.

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Cornwall was hot but stunning. Our route was programmed into our Garmins and was easy to follow. Taking us inland a bit until the lunch stop at Perranwell, following which we dropped down and caught the King Harry Ferry across the River Fal and UP the other side. We were then taken an uppydowny route to St Austell and our second Brew Stop. And whaddayaknow. There was coke. And it was poured into a Peak Tours mug and waiting for me. That’s a service. 😃

Final push and a nasty little climb before the last decent into Fowey where we followed the simple instructions to our hotel for the night where we were delighted to find our room had a sea view!

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Our evening routine began – charge everything, wash kit, hang kit to dry in windows and on chairs and on hangers and on anything else you can find, go eat tea, upload photos, eat biscuits, sleep. We didn’t even have the energy to fight over who got the big bed.

Day 2: Fowey > Mortonhampstead.

The numbers: 63 miles and 5800′ climbing

This was billed as one of the tough days, so you can imagine how happy we were that it was really hot by 8:30 when we had briefing. 🙄

The route started with a ferry crossing across the River Fowey and another on the Cremyll Ferry following our lunch stop at a pub next to the Cremyll Ferry stop.

Day 2 FerrysOur Brew Stops were in [the other] Seaton and on the top of Dartmoor.  Following another uppydowny morning and a frantic ride through Plymouth, masterfully navigated by The Prof, we were spat out onto the Plym Valley Trail which we followed until we were spat out onto the Moor proper. We learnt a valuable lesson that day, which was to Pay Attention to briefing and The Numbers 🤔. Nearing the top of the climb onto the moor we couldn’t remember when Brew Stop was; and needed it to be soon! As we passed Aussie Jim walking his bike up the hill, I decided we must have ridden past the Brew Van and spotting a shady spot with my name on we stopped. Raiding the emergency bar bag for a bar, a sit down in the shade and some more photos we felt ready for the final push to Mortonhampstead.

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Then…

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We hadn’t missed the van after all – another mile and there it was! Refuelled (again) we rolled into Mortonhampstead and completed our evening routine; despite our quirky B&B’s best attempts to break us 😳.

Day 3: Mortonhampstead > Street

The numbers: 70 miles and 3800′ of climbing.

A day that promised a flat finish if you could only get over the Blackdown Hills.  Well, JB & I knew we could get over the Blackdown Hills cos we’ve done it in training. The fly in the ointment was that I will only go up there if there’s a promise of a stop at the Aviator Cafe for a bacon bap.  There was no such promise today.

It was good and bad to be on familiar turf – the ride down off the moor was exactly as you’d expect – hot and uppydowny – but it was good to know our way across Exeter and to be confident about where the cycle lanes and paths were. First Brew was at Broadclyst and then out towards lunch at Broadhembury before the climb up onto the Blackdowns.  A surprising number of the group were anxious about the climb, after all, it wasn’t the worst we’d faced or would face. I hate it up on those hills, the roads just seem to go onandonandonandonandon and they mess with my head and make me feel more tired than I actually am, so I was glad when we eventually dropped down near Staple Fitzpaine and headed along the final stretch towards Street. Luckily for us, The Prof had punctured earlier and we were at the last Brew Stop together with him and TToes. Without waiting for an invitation, we slotted like little ducklings in behind Prof and TToes and wheelsucked shamelessly for the last 15 miles or so!

That evening we were so tired, we didn’t make it out of the hotel that evening, except for a trip to the fish and chip shop…img_6932

Day 4: Street > Monmouth

The numbers: 66 miles and 3700′ of climbing

Finally turning North, we were taken via Wells and right past the Cathedral.

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I think it was this day that we dropped a really subtle [ahem] hint that a mint tea would be nice at Brew Stop and whaddayaknow – those boys are legends 😍.

I wasn’t looking forward to riding through Bristol, but the Peak Tours route master played a blinder, taking us through the Ashton Court Estate (where the Balloon Festival is held), over the Severn and carefully and quietly around the outskirts where the traffic was hardly noticeable.  What was noticeable though, was that we were approaching Wales. This was noticeable because we were Wet. A mizzle that turned into rain was in for the day.

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Crossing that Severn Bridge into Wales felt like a milestone; I said to The Hurricane and JB “we’ve only gone and ridden our bikes to Wales”.  But disappointingly, there was no “Welcome to Wales’ Sign’.

Day 4 bridge 2The final section to Monmouth was a slog passing Chepstow and stopping in Tintern Abbey for afternoon Brew; long boring roads with nothing to really make it feel like we were in a different country: the sun had even come back out.

We were all staying in the Weatherspoons in Monmouth and finding our room in the maze of a building caused us more navigational issues than the entire ride had so far! Happily though, we found our way to the restaurant and I had a scampi and chips to celebrate.

Day 5: Monmouth > Clun.

The numbers: 58 miles and 3600′ of climbing

Billed as one of the easier days, I can remember virtually nothing of this day’s riding.  Except the slight of hand when from nowhere, at the Brew Stop, The Hurricane produced a selfie stick and probably the funniest day of my life.Selfie

What I can remember is Clun.  And having to beat Bendy and Wendy (our roomies on YHA days) to Clun so that we didn’t have to have the top bunks. Clun is beautiful and would be a great place to pass through. The YHA… I’m ok with basic, I really am. JB picked up a little friend who bit her on the leg, the beds… well, they were on the floor… It’s run by nutters generous and well meaning volunteers and I was happy to leave. We did manage to get our kit washed but even now, I can still smell the Clun Smell a bit… The Hurricane had to contend Clun and Presta, his roomie, who had the grace of an elephant, ate like every meal was his last and wasn’t keen on soap.

Rescued at dinner from a spider with tattoos and boots by Peak Tours Simon – there really was no end to the service they provided – the rest of our stay passed without incident or comfort.

Day 6: Clun > Northwich

The numbers: 83 miles and 4800′ of climbing

This was our longest day so far and I really remember very little of it! The Hurricane had taken to riding with us and provided some very welcome hilarity, much of it from his complete ineptitude with his selfie stick.

The Hurricane had formed some opinions of our little breakaway and decided that we were safe. No, wait: he decided that we were gossips and was happy to discuss all the little nuances and quirks that he had noticed within the group. We decided that we could be in an Agatha Christie book and placed bets on who was going to murder Fanny Poser (the smart money was on her long suffering husband, The Doctor).

The only things I can remember about Northwich was our room which had a round window and it was really tricky to get our kit hung up to dry; but best of all it had biscuits from Roof and a message from home. On a day when we had ridden through the Other Tiverton, this was a most welcome and lovely surprise.

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We got soaked on day 6 and panicked a bit lot about the lack of wet weather kit we had.

Day 7: Northwich > Condor Green

The numbers: 75 miles and 3500′ of climbing

Also known as the day of the Shopping.

I can’t remember much of this ride either.  What I can remember is that in a state of mild panic about being poorly equipped for any conditions except summer, we sought out Peak Tours Matt. In true Peak Tours stylee he gently put us back in our boxes and promised to go to a Halfords and see if he could and find shoe covers and gloves with fingers. It all seemed a bit tentative to us, and on spying a Sports Direct we detoured in search of base layers and long bottoms. We left The Hurricane obediently outside holding the bags bikes. Purchases made, we deposited our wares at the next Brew Stop where Peak Tours Matt presented us with shoe covers and long fingered gloves. He nearly, nearly got a hug.

Condor Green was flat and smelled like the seaside. We had a room above a pub, and so deciding where to go for tea was easy. Except JB wasn’t feeling well. She went to sleep at 6 and woke up the next day much better.

hotelIt’s fair to say we hadn’t had the best sleeps, and aches and pains were becoming harder to manage. I couldn’t remember when my lower back started hurting, but it showed no signs of stopping, my hands had no feeling where they joined onto my wrists rendering my thumbs next to useless, and the next thing to go on the shopping list was anti-friction cream for reasons I shan’t detail.

Day 8: Condor Green to Penrith

The numbers: 61 miles and 4000′ of climbing

While JB slept the previous evening, I’d been let loose on Facebook and made contact with V’rap and eL Bee! who live nearby where we were. Wherever that was.

They’d been following our progress and were coming to meet us at first brew. They were there as promised, and it was so good to see them! It gave us a lift – familiar smiling faces were exactly what the trip had needed.

P1040431Tentative arrangements were made for eL Bee! to come and ride with us to Gretna the next day. He was looking forward to riding his ‘half-bike’ for a change, his normal steed being a custom tandem which he and V’rap ride at a hellovapace.

Lunch was at Tebay (no, not that Tebay, but in a pub in the village nearby). The Hurricane had become an almost permanent fixture in our little group. He’s great company and very naughty.

After lunch there was a sign of things to come with the first meaty climb we’d had since leaving the South West. It wasn’t so bad.

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That evening my husband, son and inlaws met us in the worst rain shower we’d seen. They took us out and fed us, brought us biscuits and fleeces, and put up with our mono-sylabic answers as we fell asleep in our dinners!

Day 9: Penrith > Moffat

The numbers: 72 miles and 2500′ of climbing

We met eL Bee! as promised at first Brew Stop at around 20 miles and he escorted us (read: gave us a wheel to sit behind) for the next 20 and our lunch stop at Gretna Green. He was a great sport and very patient with all our inane questions “where are we again?” “where are we now?” “what about now, where are we now?”

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He departed after lunch and rounded up his trip to 100 miles, just because.

We, on the on the other hand, went to Scotland.

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What I remember about Moffat is not being able to get to sleep because of laughing. At The Hurricane. And these photos (which I’m aware is not actually funny at all, unless you *know*).

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(And, I am still laughing at it, tell you the truth).

Day 10: Moffat > Kinross

The numbers: 82 miles and 4000′ of climbing.

The first half of the day was fairly uneventful, except we had our first (Irn) Bru Stop!

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I was really looking forward to riding over the Forth, I love those bridges! Before we got to do that though, we hadta get through Edinburgh. Before that though, and in the outskirts of Edinburgh, we hadta fix JB’s puncture. Which we couldn’t because of our hands and thumbs which no longer worked. Luckily for us, Peak Tours Simon happened along as the day’s sweeper, and with his working thumbs he helped us get the tyre back on and sent us on our way. Half a mile later we repeated the process.

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We stuck with Peak Tours Simon through Edinburgh, and on reflection the punctures were the best thing to have happened as we ended up with our own personal escort through the city. With barely a wrong turn we caught a big chunk of the group on the Forth bridge, hanging around taking photies. Naturally we rode straight past to take our own.

bridgeQuick brew stop on the other side and off to what we were now calling f%@Kinross; memorable only for The Hurricane trying to share Presta’s food with us, without Presta’s agreement; and for the Corby Trouser Press in our room being used to dry our wet kit! They need to review the 30 minute timers on those things, it’s really not long enough.

Day 11: Kinross > Ballater

The numbers: 82 miles and 4400′ of climbing

It felt like we were finally, properly in Scotland. The lowlands gave way to the Cairngorms and huge views that you struggled to take in.

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With this came climbing but nothing unmanageable. We knew day 11 & 12 were the tough ones, it said so on our route notes, so were prepared with equal amounts of dread and fear.

Reviewing Strava in our pristine hostel later, we realised that we’d climbed number 65: The Cairnwell, of the Official 100 Climbs. And actually, it was ok! Maybe tomorrow we’d survive The Lecht too? The decent was amazing, not like Devon where you get thrown to the bottom of the hill before you know it – the roads were long and open so visibility was brilliant with no hedges for cars to hide behind and not so steep you hadta get on your brakes – I managed a respectable 47 mph.

cairngorms.jpgBallater Hostel is geared up for cyclists and is a great hostel.  We didn’t even need to beat Bendy and Wendy (although we did) as there were actual beds for us all, no need to fight for the bottom bunks! We had a curry for tea, and it was amazing to have actual vegetables and not pub grub for a change.

Day 12: Ballater > Inverness

The numbers: 74 miles and 5100′ of climbing

Via The Lecht Pass – the Guardian puts it in the top 10 of climbs (it’s number 66 in the Official 100). I’ve driven this – I knew what was coming and had been careful not to say; but early on I gave myself permission to walk/crawl/cry. I know my limits.

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At the top JB was waiting with the camera – Shani was waving and yelling that we hadta cross the cattle grid to finish the segment. I couldn’t have cared less about the segment – I’d ridden the thing! It’d been on my mind ever since we’d received the route notes weeks before. The relief was massive. After photos JB and I pottered over the grid and finished the segment before I went at the Brew Stop goodies like I’d not eaten for days!

lecht.jpgWe weren’t out of the woods but the scenery made up for the undulations. I love Scotland (well, being Scottish, I should, right?) because of places like the Cairngorms and the Highlands to come.

We picked up the cycle path that ran close to the A9 and some of the old A9 which was virtually deserted. Then it hailed. Which of course was the perfect time for JB to get a puncture. Fanny Poser and The Doctor were just behind us and Fanny was able, with a worrying amount of strength, to wrestle JB’s reluctant tyre back on it’s rim.

With the promise of The Best Porridge in Scotland for brekkie (it was good, but the best? Nah, me mum makes the best porridge, everyone knows that), I went mad and had a pizza for tea! It was amazing, as were the cheese dreams that followed.

Day 13: Inverness to Crask [Altnaharra]

The numbers: 77 miles and 3300′ of climbing

Peak Tours Dave said “you’ll know you’re at Crask because there’s something there”. He also said “we’re putting you Devon lot in Altnaharra to keep you together”. I’m pretty sure I know what he meant by that

This was my favourite day. Once we were out of Inverness and into the Highland’s proper it was just as I’d hoped. Single track roads, a tail wind and just too much scenery to see with one pair of eyes.  So much so that I demanded a stop, just to sit and take it all in for a moment. In fact – here’s photos, they’re much better than words.

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views23jpg.jpgIt was really good to be with just JB, TToes, Prof and TheRealJim. We had a right laugh and basically a house to ourselves as the landlady only came in to give us our venison for tea! I think we’d won favour with Peak Tours as we had Tunnocks Tea Cakes on our pillows and a much more pleasant evening than those who stayed at The Crask. The Hurricane was struggling to be positive the next morning…

Day 14: Altnaharra > JOG

The numbers: 74 miles and 3600′ of climbing

The final day. I let myself think that we might actually finish this bike ride! The wind was really strong and in our favour – 40mph tailwinds were reported. I couldn’t wait to see the sea.

We pottered slowly towards the first brew, we had a 9 mile head start on everyone else a they’d stayed at The Crask, so we soaked it up taking photos and enjoying the easy riding and views.

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Then I saw the sea.

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I could have stopped there. It felt like that should be the end. Instead we had an uppydowny ride along the top of Scotland, with alternating stunning coastal views and some inland bleak towns.

Peak Tours regrouped us after the final brew stop at a hotel so that we would all ride the final 10 miles to JOG together. Yeah, right. With MDCC there that wasn’t going to happen. 10 miles? That’s a TT right?

Prof, TheRealJim, The Other Annie Foot and Peak Tours Matt streaked off into the distance with Bendy trailing just off the back.

TToes, JB and I started slightly more sedately, but I noticed the pace gradually increasing until we were flat out. Well I was flat out, JB had a bit more and TToes was spinning gently and smiling serenely. In the distance Bendy had dropped off the back of the first group and that was all it took. The pace increased and we held 28mph for a bit, swooped past Bendy, offering her to get on the back (she couldn’t) and when we crested the final rise we saw Prof who had dropped back to scoop us up – he got on the back and we barely dropped the pace. About 9 miles along I was blown! TToes and JB were relentless but Prof got in front of me and towed me the last mile. It was brilliant – we couldn’t help grinning – JB said “fancy still having that in our legs after riding 1010 miles!”

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The final roll into JOG was a bit of an anti-climax. Much like LE it was swarming with people needing a photo by The Sign.

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I’m a bit of a wuss and was expecting to be a bit emotional on arriving in JOG, however it was the highlands that got me. Somewhere like that can make you feel very small and insignificant and to be there on my bike with my mate made the rest of the world seem a long long way away. In a good way.

Peak Tours were outstanding. They were around every corner with the Brew Van loaded with cake, sweets, biscuits, drinks, kind words, encouragement and technical help. Their support was without exception patient and subtle. They didn’t stop until the last ‘man’ was in and having dinner.

Now my bike’s clean again, my shorts and jerseys are washing machine clean (and Clun free) and I’ve been for a recovery ride I’ve had a bit of a chance to reflect on the ride. I’m finding it hard to see it as the achievement everyone says it is; at the moment it just feels like I’ve been out a bit further than usual on my bike – a bike boot camp if you like… I’m sure eventually it’ll sink in, probably around about the time I give Peak Tours my next deposit…

Final word goes to my bike. I’m entry level all the way and my GT Grade was totally up to the job – I wouldn’t have wanted to be on anything else.

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Day 1: LE > Fowey 
Day 2: Fowey > Mortonhampstead
Day 3: Mortonhampstead > Street
Day 4: Street > Monmouth
Day 5: Monmouth > Clun
Day 6: Clun > Northwich
Day 7: Northwich > Condor Green
Day 8: Condor Green to Penrith
Day 9: Penrith > Moffat
Day 10: Moffat > Kinross
Day 11: Kinross > Ballater
Day 12: Ballater > Inverness
Day 13: Inverness > Altnaharra
Day14: Altnaharra > JOG


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Fatty wins the day: Pivot Twentyfour12

We had such a good time at Twentyfour12 last year that as soon as entries opened in December we signed up again.

JB and I agreed to put in an entry for 24 hour female pair and if a team presented itself nearer the time we’d jump on board. Her version of the whole malarkey is here

As the weekend approached we (or at least I) got more and more anxious about the Twentyfour12. Plus, we’ve got That Thing In The Summer (leTITS) which is actually (OH FUCK) next week. As we have actually trained for leTITS we agreed a plan for Twentyfour12 which was to look after ourselves, make sensible decisions and come away from it in one piece.

Cut to Saturday morning when JB knocked on the door, MrJB was faithful pitcrew again along with MrH. Once again a round the clock service was on offer and I happen to know that vast amounts of bacon had been bought.

We arrived, pitched the tent, parked the van, unloaded and signed on. It was windy, and cloudy with the odd scattered shower, but generally conditions were good and the ground was bone dry.
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Anyway. We signed on and I noted that we were the only ones in our category, we weren’t sure if it would stay that way, but without giving it much more thought, we collected our souvenir glasses and beer mats and sauntered back to camp.

Then we just waited.

The start was dead on 12pm and JB had called for the first lap, which was fine with me. We found a spot and cheered her on when she went by, then back to prepare for my go.

JB and I had decided that the fat bikes were the bikes of choice for the weekend. Mainly because we have no other bikes; my hard tail needs some work, as does JB’s Strumpet, both of whom performed ok last year, it has to be said, and it was us that let them down!

We didn’t know how long the laps were this year, the course was different to last, and so after about 40 minutes I saddled up and headed to transition to wait for JB and my go. I didn’t have long to wait – JB said “there’s nothing unrideable, the climb’s a ball-ache, you’ll be fine”. She’s never said that before and it been true, so I was sceptical as I pocketed the rider’s token and set off.

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I set off from transition slightly anxious but really just wanting to get on with it. Twisted through the campsite fields and out on to the course proper. A tight right hander, there was a line there but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Fortunately it didn’t matter a shit because my Fat bike, Fatty, saw the line and all I hadta do was pedal. Phew. “You might be useful today” I told him.

On a bit, and what the fuck is this?

A rocky 90* corner straight into a rooty drop off and onto a narrow bridge. “OOOoooooooooh fuuuuuuuuuucCKKK I said to Fatty as we popped out nicely on the other side of the bridge. “well done Fatty” – I’m not stupid or naive enough to think that was anything to do with my input… 🤔

We pottered on, and the course wove back on itself a couple of times, through the trees and alongside the river. I recognised one bit where I’d spent some time last year looking for my shoe when it came off in the knee deep mud. No such bother this time, a bit rooty and rocky but nothing too tricky and we were spat out at the foot of the climb.

While all this was going on fast lads and the odd fast lass went swooping by, mostly safely. And then holyhell what the fuck is this

A near vertical ramp coated in loose gravel. I said some choice words to JB in my head at this point: “the climb’s a ball-ache in-fuckin-deed” People were all off their bikes pushing, heads on saddles, wills to live long gone. I clattered Fatty into Granny gear and told him “We’ll just try and get to that tree” at about half way. We passed a couple of pushers, then another, and blow me, we made the almost top. Of course it kicked up again, what ever else would it do? We plodded on, past the motivation station blaring out the All The Choons, my timing was such that Doo Bop by Hanson was playing as I passed so that made me get a move on 😝

We were still climbing, but the gradient had eased a bit, replaced by some rooty, tree-stumpy bits. The next two miles were up, but a good mix of woods with roots, some good swoopy singletrack to mince along, fire trails and The Bomb Holes which were my favourite part this year, unlike last year when I was frightened about going into one and never being seen again.

The fat was just awesome: like a surefooted (fat) Dartmoor pony, he never put a tyre wrong. He forgave me all my shit lines, gripped the gravel on the climb when the carbon full sussers couldn’t, rolled over roots the size of my legs, absorbed all the holes, rocks and mistakes; I wouldn’t want to have been riding anything else. Folk were all keen to say how mad I was riding it, and how they wouldn’t want to be me (hahaha – No. They. Wouldn’t 😝) and had the novelty worn off yet – er, this isn’t my novelty bike, he’s just My Bike… I genuinely couldn’t understand it. Also, they called me buddy, and mate. I hadta check at one point that my pigtails hadn’t fallen off! 😳

Time then to start the descent back to transition and the handover to JB. I was knackered – the lap was only 6 miles but they were tough ones and there was no point where there was nothing to concentrate on, and I even struggled to find a gap for a drink! I was pleased we seemed to have decided on only doing one lap at a time.

Rolling down the Bit Before The Cottage Return my blood ran cold. It was this bit again, that I couldn’t ride and could barely walk last year. Fatty drifted right… and before I knew it he’d rolled right down the drop off’s AND kept enough speed to get out the bomb hole the other side! I almost went weeeeheeeee! Then the cottage return, I enjoyed this one last year and this year in the dry it was even better: just enough to keep you on your toes but nothing scary then spat out onto the field and round and about to transition. There was no one there!

I found JB at the tent, almost ready. She announced that she was going to do a double lap and disappeared into the drizzle and wind.

Oh yeah: the weather. There was some by now, a bit of drizzle and the wind was warm but strong.

I settled into the campervan and MrJB threw sausage rolls, pork pies and crisps at me, along with a piece of flapjack which was the best flapjack I have ever had. As I drank about 20 litres of water he gently persuaded me that a double lap was the best approach, although it was hard, it meant that we had double the sitting down time, and a 3 lap stint would be counterproductive as it was too hard.

Soon enough I glimpsed JB go by for her 2nd (3rd) lap and I knew I had about 40 minutes before I needed to go to transition. I started to think that MrJB was right, I was starting to feel human and ready to go again.

I shan’t bore you with lap by lap detail, we did doubles twice, they were tough and I deliberately backed off as much as I could, leTITS always in the back of my mind. JB reported the same, 2 laps was a big ask. When we handed over for what I had already decided were to be my last laps before I got some sleep, JB said she was done with the doubles and we’d revert to singles as and when we could. Fine with me.

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I had my light for the last of my doubles. Setting out at around 7:30pm I was pretty sure I was going to need them and I was right. The first lap was ok, but in the woods and whatnot it was definitely dimming and I had the light on for the majority of the second. I’d forgotten that I love riding in the dark, and actually, had the much promised yellow warning weather not arrived I’d have been very tempted out again. As it was, when I rolled into transition JB was waiting and said she wasn’t going out again. Protected out in the woods I hadn’t realised how heavy it was raining and how strong the wind had become. I was so relived. Now we could get a decent night’s sleep and regroup in the morning. Plus, with no one else in our category, the prize was in the bag.

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A bite to eat and we turned in. MrJB decided that he was going to bed down in his van, leaving JB and I on our camping mats in the tent. We put the Fats to bed, jammies on and earplugs in and went to…. Wait. No. There was no sleep. It was like lying in a crisp packet on a washing line. The wind was so strong you couldn’t hear the lashing of the rain. Luckily we knew it was there because the side of the tent slapped each of us soggily around the head with every strong gust.

We lay there and maybe lightly dozed until it was time for MrH and MrJB make us coffee. I switched on my phone and realised that I must have had some sleep as I’d missed a message from MrJB telling us how warm and cozy and comfy he was in his van. *sigh.

When we emerged from the tent the field was at least half as full as it was when we went to bed! WTF? CH (also there, riding a mixed pair combo with IC) said that she hadn’t seen a rider go around in the longest time. A bit of arsebooking and some head scratching and it emerged that because of Conditions the organisers had felt they had no option but to stop the race at around 7am. Trees were falling down in the Bluebell woods and they had to consider the safety of the marshalls and riders. The easy rolling, tinder dry rock hard campsite field looked like this:

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I had to try really hard not to cheer; even although we’d already decided that we weren’t going to ride again, because leTITS, at least this way, it was out of our hands.

We lined up for the podium presentation, went and collected our winners bag of shit, I mean prizes. Here’s JB reverting to type and trying to leggit with the loot:

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We said last year ‘never again’ but this year I think I mean it. The riding is really good, and it’s a great event, but the camping? Not so much. In an event like that you need to maximise your down time, and in those conditions a tent is not the place to comfortably do that. If I were to do it again though, I’d take Fatty. He was the real star of the show.


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Exeter to Lands End, for chariddy

“I’ve done this before” JB said; “with Mr & Mrs A – it’s tough, but survivable, and it’ll be good training for The Thing in the Summer”.  Not really giving it much more than cursory consideration, I agreed.

The Exeter to Lands End Challenge is organised by OfficerM the Rozzer to raise money for a selected charity – this year it was to raise money for bowel cancer (shamless plug – see link at the bottom of this), and comprises 132 miles of main roads and lanes, beginning in Exeter and ending in Lands End. There are 4 stops along the way at Rozzer shops in Okehampton, Launceston, Wadebridge and Camborne.

JB and I have been doing some pretty solid training, by our standards, with 600+ mile months and regular 100+ weekends and so were fairly confident that we would survive the E>LE, and even more confident that it was likely to be ugly.

With an end to end, as we discovered on our Coast to Coast the other week, getting from one end and back again has it’s own logistical problems to be overcome. Getting to Exeter was solved quickly with MrJB volunteering his services, understandably, neither he or MrMegster were keen on getting us back from LE, especially in Bank Holiday weekend traffic. So to Plan B… more on that later.

Over the approaching months we had gathered a small team together, riding 130 miles in a group of two didn’t appeal as much as the option to share the load with Others. MrL was first to sign up, then MrsB soon followed. MrsL however had other plans for the BH weekend and MrL stepped out. Then MrsB, for Reasons, made the decision not to ride, leaving us with a team of 2. OfficerM wasn’t sure that we should ride as a pair and gently suggested that we throw our lot in with a group of 8 social riders, who welcomed us with open arms. We were also gently encouraged to leave at 6am, rather than 7am like The Proper Riders ;-). We readily agreed to this too, quieter roads, cooler conditions… etc.

JB had a confidence giving conversation with Mr Ripley, our group leader, on the Saturday before we left, he was firm that they were social riders at social pace, no more than 10 mph, plenty of chocolate stops and no pressure to lead from the front. JB and I were both delighted that we were going to get the opportunity to shelter in a group and would be more than happy to take a turn on the front.

Anyhoo. Yesterday, at 6ofuckenclock we found ourselves, bleary eyed at Exeter Police Station being introduced to our group and sent on our way. Led out by Mr Rilpey, Garmins on with the route pre-loaded (this event isn’t signed, you hafta self navigate with a map or GPX) we headed across Exeter and out and up towards Tedburn St Mary and beyond to Okehampton where the first stop was.

JB and I interveened early on to make sure we didn’t get lost in Exeter and found ourselves in the front of the group as it split going up Dunsford Hill and out of Exeter. Happy to be keeping up and not disgracing ourselves, we rode on and it started to drizzle. Then it started to rain. Which wasn’t forecast. No matter, we had coats and gilets which we quickly put on. The Others in the group stopped to turn on lights and sort coats too. We were only about 10 or 15 miles in by now and already I was starting to have doubts that we were in the right group. JB and I rode on steadily, and the next time we looked back they were nowhere in sight.

“We’ll regroup at Okehampton” we agreed. A while later, we decided that we wouldn’t regroup, and that we needed to keep moving if we wanted to get to Lands End in the same day. We made it to Okehampton in around about 2 and a half hours, almost exactly as we expected. The Rozzer was nice there and he gave us a cereal bar and showed us where the loo was :-). We finished our bars and bananananananas just as our group pulled into the stop. MrRipley was looking a leetle bit frustrated and we knew then that we were making the right decision to bail and strike out on our own. We weren’t benefiting the group any more than they were us, so it was really a no brainer. MrRipley was understanding and I suspect a little jealous… :-O

The next section, to Launceston was lovely. Quiet roads, the rain stopped, although there was a decent mist, and there were a couple of meaty ascents but nothing we couldn’t handle, they were more than paid back with long sweeping descents and in what seemed like no time we were in Launceston. We were using our Garmins to navigate and so weren’t watching the miles. I had a sneaky peek on the way to Launceston and asked JB if she wanted to know the numbers:

“YES” she said.

“38 miles” I told her.

“Fuck off” she said.

“I know” I said.

We both though we were going to be in the high 20s or low 30s, and this just made us sure that we’d made the right decision to leave the group and make our own way. When we left Launceston Food stop, manned by a great team with egg sarnies and all sorts of other Nice Things, there was no sign at all of the group and apart from a solitary chap, we were the first to Launceston.

The next stretch to Wadebridge was fairly innocuous but one of the longer stretches at nearly 30 miles. When we made it into the stop here there were more tables laiden with sarnies and cakes and energy drinks and all the stuff you needed. Once I was escorted out of the Police station (I got lost in there when I went to the loo, honest I did Officer :-O) we were on our way…

We’d been warned about the hill out of Wadebridge and ‘cafe-legs’… It wasn’t pretty…

Now we just had to follow the Atlantic Highway all the way to Camborne. I know this road. It’s not too bad – sure it undulates a bit but there are no Big Hills like what we have in Devon.

20 minutes later and I’m ready to call it a day :-O. WTF. JB had to run point the whole way to Chiverton Cross Roundabout, me I grumbled, grouched, moaned and nearly, nearly cried.

When we left Wadebridge, we’d been in the saddle for about 6 hours and covered just over half the distance at 73 miles. I was feeling good, relatively. 5 miles along the Atlantic Highway and I was beat. I had nothing left, I couldn’t keep in JB’s wheel on the flat and she dropped me like a stone on any climb, and then patiently waited for me to catch up before dropping me again. It wasn’t just the hills, this road is quite open and there was a gusty wind, but the traffic was icing on the cake for me. Bank Holiday Sunday going past Newquay, Perranporth and beyond there was just car after car after car, and virtually none of them passed safely. It was really scary and after a few miles began to really stress me out, and poor JB was having to keep waiting for me, feeding me jellied fruits – it all felt really unsafe, particularly on legs that were refusing to help. There was no suggestion of stopping but it began to look like the last 50+ miles were going to be hellish, for us both, especially if JB was gonna hafta tow me the whole way to LE.

Finally, we made it to Chiverton Roundabout – it’s a dangerous place – we shut our eyes and gunned it to our exit and finally a sign for Cam-fucken-borne and the final stop. I bravely ;-) took a turn on the front, until there was a rise in the road and JB hadta take charge again. Redruth came and went… then Pool…

“Where the fuck is Cam-fucken-borne?” JB asked.

Some Fucker has moved it, that’s what’s happened. It’s the only answer…

Eventually we pulled in. Some of The Proper Riders were slumped in camping chairs mainlining jelly babies and energy drinks but they mustered a cheer for us! I dropped my bike where I stopped (mech side up) and lay face down on the grass. I hafta say, it was The Best Lie Down I’ve ever had.

“Be a dear” I muttered to one of The Proper Riders… “fetch me my coke from my bar-bag over there”; *waves vaguely. And to his credit he did.

Cheesey rolls, can’o’coke, jelly babies and a lie down. Quick wee, and we were on our way again. I felt a million times better, still fucked but only as much as I expected to be, not like on the last section where I had nuffink. As we rode out of the last stop it struck us that apart from the 4 lasses that were in our original group and no-where to be seen, we were the only burds riding, out of 60+ entrants.

From family holidays, I know the last bit of the route. Over to and through Hayle, across another scary roundabout, catch the A30 up and over till we see St Michael’s mount and down into Menzpants. Sorry, Penzance. I was able to take my turn on the front, and happy to do so, keen to give poor JB a break from towing me for the last 30 miles :-O. We were by no means outta the woods but I had no doubts now that we would finish. We poured into Menzpants along the A30…

the roads finally a bit quieter. Along the bottom of the town, pausing at the Jubilee pool for a swi-… hahahaha, NOT. Pausing to phone mum to mobilise Dad and to get the kettle on, for they live in Menzpants and had become Plan B. Onwards.

JB had been warning me about the last 9 miles and how hilly it was. Pah. I know this road like the back of my hand – sure it rises a bit… Hmmmm. Ok, so there’s *this* hill at Drift… wait, this isn’t Drift. Ok so there’s *another* hill at Drift, then it’s cruisey… :-O. Somehow we pulled 17mph along the last bit between Menzpants and Sennen, where Dad cruised by giving us ‘bloody cyclists’ a good’n’wide pass (bloody Volvo drivers ;-)) and we rolled in Lands End; where it almost went wrong. JB put her hand out for a high five, which I misinterpreted as a ‘turn left gesture’ and shot off the wrong way Raspberry!!

Finally got it together for the high five and rolled in to the finish. 132.5 miles in 11hrs, 49 minutes (or 10 hours 29 minutes if you take out the stops), 8140 feet of climbing and an average speed of 12.5mph. Which, I hafta say, is extrordinary – we struggle to average that on our training rides.

Dad took us home, mum had produced a welcome feast, shower, beds.

Then Part deux of Plan B. The Train – cos it went so well the last time…

Well, it did go well, just. We had to leggit down the platform to make our connection – for a moment thought we may hafta ride home from Exeter (25 miles) :-O – to the extent that we planned our ice-cream stops while we watched the minutes tick towards the time our connecting train was due to depart!

Then it was just a plod (we were way past pottering by then) home along our little towpath, stopping for an ice-cream in the usual spot.

It felt like a monstorous thing, and I always say ‘Never again’.. This time I mean it. Not because of the distance or the suffering, but because there was no medal or t-shirt! ;-)

*crosses fingers that the OfficerM doesn’t read this and add medals and t-shirts to the list for next time…

Link (roll over me to see where I go)


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Coasting #daatc2c

Along with V’rap, eL Bee! and Cath, JB and I missed the memo about 13th May maybe not being the best day for riding a bike.

This year for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast2Coast ride JB and I decided to be independent and not demand that MrJB and MrM and TheBoy (TB) drop us off and pick us up. Well, we demanded that MrM and TB dropped us off but we hatched an elaborate plan to get home called: The Train. We’d get some extra training miles after the event and ride to the station which is about 15 miles away. This is Devon, so it wasn’t gonna be that straight forward. We hafta get the train to Exeter, straight past our houses, then back the way we came to Tivvy Parkway station, which is actually 7ish miles away from Tivvy itself. More extra miles…

A phone call last week to book the bikes on the train should have been all the warning we needed: we could book them on from Exeter to Tivvy, but not from Axminster to Exeter. However, the nice man on the phone said (and I’m sure I heard him wink as he did) “Guards discretion me dear, give ‘im one of your best smiles and he might let you on”. All week we’ve been practicing our best smiles Raspberry!

So anyway. Regular readers will be expecting rain, mud, wind or snow – or indeed at least a drama. Here’s how it went, prepare for disappointment!

The sun shone all day, and there was a breeze but certainly no wind, and although the shady spots were chilly, we were both quite happy in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. Our matching jerseys seemed popular, lots of people commented ‘nice jerseys ladies’. One particular group cat and moused is the whole way, they stopped after every ‘up’ for drinks and chats and who knows what, we just kept plodding forwards and then they’d swoop past until the next hill! They bantered with us: “that’s the 5th time we’ve overtaken you ladies”… JB said “we’re being mistaken for ladies again”. Sure enough the next time the penny seemed to have dropped and we’d been relegated to “girls”! I’ll take that.

We’d been (not very) quietly dreading the big hill – remembering it from last year – we had each turned it into a monster of a thing in our heads, and after the stop st Ilminster we knew it wasn’t far away.

JB said “I’ll bet it’s not one of those times where you get to the top and say ‘that wasn’t so bad’”. When we ground towards the top, passing the odd person pushing their bike, and to the tight steep bend, I thought “I’m sure this bit is near the top” and “fuck me burd” we each said “who knew: that wasn’t so bad!”

A bit of mutual back slapping and laughing about being beaten up by our own brains and then “oh”. A near vertical ramp. I’d totally forgotten that one. No matter – we slogged up it too. Well, we had a train to catch;-)

I shan’t bore you with all the rest of it. We made it to West Bay – a.k.a. Broadchurch where we collected our medals and goodie bags, got the by-the-sea photo and went to get some food before the ride out to the station.

 

There. See? No drama. We necked a drink and some chippies and toasted sarnie, and I took JB on a quick tour of the Bay. “See over there? That’s where Blind-As-A-Bat-Barry fell in the harbour” I told her… true story.

Then we hadta leave, because Train.

We were following our Garmins pre-programmed route. They are brilliant except when you’re trying to get out a town. We were eventually spat out at the bottom of Bridport and headed back the way we came for a couple of miles until the turn off. Nice back lanes, the suns out, we’ve loads of time, even at the speed we travel. What could go wrong?

“Why won’t my bike work?” I asked JB. It felt like the chain had come off, but it hadn’t. “Click your gears” she said… I could tell by her face that she knew it was terminal: “Your free-hubs gone” she announced.

My what’s gone? Where’s it gone?

We knew then that we weren’t gonna make the train. And we weren’t gonna save MrJB or MrM and TB from fetching and carrying us after all. A quick phone call and MrM and TB were in their way. We coasted, actually, I coasted – JB, one hand on my back shoved me up all but the steepest of hills back to the main road where we made it to ‘Olland from School’s farm and the rendezvous point.

MrM and TB arrived about an hour later, we loaded up, did some grovelling and moaning and were on our way home, hours earlier than we should have been if we’d managed to make Plan A stick.

When I unloaded the bike at home i discovered she has a puncture as well!

It wouldn’t have felt right if the whole day had gone to plan and despite the ending, it was a great day and a lovely route through some of Dorset and Somerset’s finest countryside, and I do like the line across the counties on the Strava map :-)

I have now made sure that May 13th 2019 is designated a ‘run day’, it’s obviously no kinda date to be out on a bike!


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A little bit Heroic

Even although I am so tired I am still gonna tell y’all about the Haldon Heroic. (Truth is: I lost the ‘who’s blogging this one’ coin toss with JB)

Today was an early start for the Heroic CX-Medio. Medio people. That’s important.

Last year JB introduced me to racing at the Haldon Heroic Micro. Yes – Micro. 15 miles. Not Medio. Just sayin’. Against the clock and also people, I surprised myself by completely loving it and we vowed we’d enter again this year. There were a couple of differences last year. We were on MTBs, JB rode Strumpet and I rode my Marin hardtail – Vinnie and we pottered from stage to stage, going full bore on the racy bits and enjoying the scenery for the rest of the time.

Basically, the Heroic is a CX sportive with 4 stages against the clock, linked together by quiet roads, bridleways and un-metled roads. In theory it’s Right. Up. Our. Street.

So we entered the Medio. 35 miles. That’s ok, we regularly do 20-25 miles of this sort of riding, you could almost say we’d trained… Ha.

At ungodly past 7 we set off for Exeter Racecourse on the edge of Haldon Forest, crossers with their knobbly tyres, clothes for the wet weather that of course was forecast and chocolate, obviously.

There’s a mass start to the first timed section, which takes you a lap around the racecourse. The funny man at the start said “the going is soft”… hahahahaha! Yeah? Y’don’t say. Then a lady in a bobble hat that wasn’t me did some waving. “Oh yeah” the funny man at the start said, “if you’re a lady who thinks you’re gonna be first lady round, please make yourself known, as you’re hard to…*awkward silence… *mutters spot”.

And with that, we were off. Running hand-me-down Racing Robs on my crosser, and only having been off-road on them once before I was curious to see if they were as good as JB reckoned. And who knew? They actually were. I had grip on the grass and was able to cut through the deeper mulch and bogs. Yes, we have mulch and bogs on our racecourses down’ere. A 2 mile loop completed and we passed through the finish of the stage. I was bolloxed. I suspect JB was too, and the realisation was setting in that we had 33 more miles of that. FFS. It wasn’t even hilly. Well, not yet…

Haldon Hill is our local trail centre – we hate it there – so imagine our surprise when we rocked up to the second timed stage, still atop the hill, and it’s the little blue route! Well, we know this route pretty well although we’ve never ridden it on crossers.

We joined the queue for our turn, then skipped a bit of the queue, eager to get on with it, and JB was off. Passing a lady faffing with her toe-clips (whatever that woman says, it was a racing incident, nothing more) and off into the mist. A 20 second gap and I was sent on my way. I caught up Mrs Toe Clips and passed her almost straight away on a wide-enough-bit and set about keeping JB in sight – I could expect to do no more than that! I narrowed the gap briefly but she pulled away again at the end and I could do nothing about it. The trail was brilliant on the crosser, fast, swoopy hardpacked tracks and I set a PR around there, despite having ridden it many many times on the MTB and plenty of times given it full-beans. By the end of it though, I was still bolloxed.

We agreed that Haldon had suddenly a whole new charm. We have a whole area to re-explore on the crossers :-) Then we got to try a bit more as we joined another blue trail through to the trail centre and off onto the route proper. Which took us down hill fast and off the hill. This was a real cx course and the next 15ish miles were a decent mix of muddy bridleways, muddy un-metled roads, muddy roads, muddy heathlands, and cycle routes. Oh, and hills.

Around this time we latched on to, or rather, were latched on to (that sounds better, doesn’t it?) by a group of burlyboys. We knew they were burlyboys ‘cos of the screaming and falling off and good humoured complaining they were doing. They burned past us on certain, dare I say easy, bits and we passed them on all the muddy bits (where they screamed and fell off) and on the 20% hills, where they complained and got off! Still, they chapeau’d us at all the right spots and on one particular fucker of a climb, we were cheered and I believe there was also applause and fireworks and a whole parade… ;-)

It was all a bit tortoise and hare, we just kept grinding on, and when – finally – the garmin clicked over the 25 mile mark (I’m sure it was on 25 for about 20 miles) we perked up a bit as we arrived at the 3rd timed stage. I can’t even remember this stage except it’s where the food stop was. We opted to race (relatively) round and then eat. JB got stuck into the fig rolls *boke and I had a flapjack. Leaving the burlyboys to finish the haribo and remaining fig rolls we set about the final climb of the day. I remarked to JB that I don’t think I have a racing speed. I just have the speed I go. There’s no *next gear*.

I think we knew, deep down, that it could’t possibly be the final climb – we still had 10 miles to fit in somewhere before we got back. Soon enough, passing more folk pushing their bikes up the hill, we were back at the top and a road we recognised. P’raps they’ve measured it short I dared to hope.

No. Of course not. Look at this, a lovely swoopy descent. That can only end one way, right?

Another real steep grind up and we were at the last timed stage.

And lookit who’s here! One of JB’s buddies is doing the timing for this stage – well, surely now we’re in with a chance of a prize. I watch JB do a dodgy handshake… Oh, I shouldn’t have said that… and then she was off. Bit of a pause and so was I.

This was a great section, it was mostly flat, wide trails… Or at least on a sunny summer’s day it would have been… Today it was wet, sticky and the path reduced in places to a MTB tyres width with puddles with gawd knows what at the bottom. I set off with no other intention than surviving. JB was sporadically in sight but in truth I think she pulled away from me, I certainly wasn’t closing the gap. Then a woman I rode past as she walked up the last hill, rode past me. I thought… I shan’t say what I thought, it’s unreasonable and unsporting, and who knew I was competitive. I set out to catch her but to no avail. I re-tasted a bit of flapjack at this point and settled into survival mode. Rounding the corner on a nice flowing bit of fire road I spied her passing a chap in a nice silver jacket. So, unable to help myself, I set about catching and passing him. We were on a gradual climb at this point, and the gap was visibly closing. What’s more, I was gaining on her! One final effort and I passed the both of them and flogged through the finish.

A check of the garmin showed that we had the best part of a couple of miles to potter back to the finish, where we had coffee, jam and cream doughnuts and chocolate covered nuts.

We rode just short of 35 miles and climbed over 2700′ and it took us 3:50 something according to Strava’s moving time. My crosser was magnificent, she never put a foot wrong – the one time she chucked me off was because I tried to make her roll over a hidden log in a puddle. She made much lighter work of the deepest mud, cutting through it where the MTB or Fat would squirm about on the top (oo-er :-O).

Today was about the hardest day (so far…) I’ve had in the saddle; it wasn’t a fall about laughing kinda day, but it sure as shit was a cracker, and neither of us said that there was no need to do that one ever again, although we’ve pinky-promised never to do the Haldon Heroic CX Mega. That way lies madness…

The clean-up operation is complete, knobbly tyres have been replaced ready for tomorrow’s Social/Breeze extravaganza. It could be an all day affair according to my legs…  which are bolloxed. 😉


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Fatocks

When the message came through at 8 am on Saturday morning from JB that she was cancelling the Saturday Social ride because Conditions, I was a bit disappointed but on putting in my contact lenses it was clear she had made the right decision. The roads outside the house were sheet ice. Her counter offer was Quantocks on the FATs. I put on Normal Clothes and replied: no matter, I’ll potter up the towpath later when Conditions are better.

I didn’t want to go to the ‘Tocks cos I hate it there. We hafta go in the GFW (Great Fuckin’ Woods) and I always fall off or hafta take my bike for a long walk; but also cos The Others were going. The Others were Missy (twentyfour12 team mate), MrJB (who was on a top secret mission) and MrGotANewToy. They are SO much faster than me and I didn’t fancy a day of them always having to wait for me, and slogging my whossits off trying to keep up.

Then MrMegster said to man up, and so I changed my mind.

The new arrangements saw me collect JB and MrJB went ahead to collect Missy and MrGotANewToy. We arranged to meet them in the carpark, and JB and I decided that we would potter ahead if we got there first. They’d soon catch us up.

I shan’t bore you with the logistics, we got there, they got there, off we all went together. JB, MrJB, and I had our FATs, MrGotANewToy had his new FAT and Missy had her… I didn’t even get a chance to notice what Missy had.
Conditions, I may add were different to those at home. Conditions at home were mainly black ice on the roads. Conditions on the Quantocks consisted mainly of gusty freezing cold winds and freezing fog. Still, we had on all our clothes, nothing could go wrong.

As we set off from the carpark in to the fog, Missy appeared from nowhere alongside, murmured about ‘fuckin’ cold’ and pedalled off into the fog. This wasn’t the last time we saw her, but it nearly was.

When we got to the first ‘junction’ we pause-… Missy paused to let the rest of us catch up. There was a which way we gonnago type discussion and we all agreed. JB went for a quick whassaname behind a tree, I waited and the others went on. THAT was the last we saw of them.
When we got to the junction about half way down the hill we couldn’t decide if The Others had gone that way or not, so we decided fuckit and kept going. At the bottom, they weren’t there either.  So we climbed back up again, deciding fuckit – lets just do the ridge ride, at least this way we don’t have to go into the GFW. But we do hafta get back up this bastard hill. 450 feet in 1.2 miles with up to 12% in places, and we were back where we started.

The ridge ride is lovely. It’s about 7.5 miles from one end to the other, and then the same back again. There’s nothing technical, no roads, just undulating moorland trails, rooty tracks, some quite deep mud, and some rocky descents. I rode more of it on my FAT than I ever have my hard-tail – it’s made me an excellent rider you know ;-). Having said that, JB and I both got pitched off, almost at the same boggy bit. As I picked myself up, outta the bottom bracket deep mud I glanced up to see JB do the same. Well, that bit is obviously unrideable :-O.

With no one but ourselves to please, we stopped to take many, many pictures. The Quantocks were stunning. The freezing fog came out brilliant in the photos; no! Really, it did! There were loads of MTBers out, they all gave us a chirpy ‘hello’ and then a double take… You could see them thinkin’ ‘look at the size of them birds’ tyres’, but not being quite sure if it was ok to say it out loud!
We had our chocolate break at the far end of the ridge, took a couple more pics and u-turned for home, feeling pretty smug and actually enjoying the ‘Tocks. The hill we’d just descended looked steeper from the bottom than it had done at the top… but off we went, almost chirpily. It seemed to me that it was becoming harder than it ought to be, and JB  was beginning to scamper off into the fog…

A glance down explained it…. “bird….

Bird….

BIRD!!!!!”

When I caught her up, I explained why she’d been forced to stop in the -2°: Puncture. Well, it had all been going rather too well…

“Lets see if we can get to the next car park before we change the tube” JB suggested. We were about as far from anyone or thing as we could be at this point, and if we’d thought the fog was lifting we couldn’t have been wronger. I tiptoed on as far as I could but JB called a halt cos the tyre was close to coming off the rim. We were atop a hill and could see about 30 yards in any direction.  It was so fucking cold, but proved almost impossible to change the tube wearing gloves, let alone the two pairs I was wearing!  So we, sorry, JB set to work. She’s better at doing these things than me, cos she’s had more practice.

We found the thorn and used our special tools* to remove it.  Then we just had to pump up the new tube. The FAT runs on around 10 psi – shouldn’t take a jiffy should it, to get that pumped up? We took it in turns to pump the tyre for around 2 hours. Well, maybe 5 minutes. We had to take it in turns: a) to keep warm; 2) cos I forgot my (ahem) gas; and III) have you seen the size of a FAT inner tube? It’s pretty much an airbed.
Once on our way, the remaining ride was a doozy. We were back in half the time it took us to get out, mainly cos we were cold and there was far less twatting around (there was still some twatting around). Also coffee and cake awaited in the car…

The Others were gone by the time we got back. A later stalk on Strava showed they did 8 miles and around 850 feet of climbing. Not bad you say? We, the slow, did 15 miles and 1600 feet of climbing. I do know it’s not a competition, I do. But this still raised a fist pump on the way home. I am entirely at ease with being childish.

From a ride that nearly wasn’t, it turned into a brilliant day, again: Conditions were definitely far from ideal, and circumstances didn’t exactly all go in our favour, but it was such a good day, we’ve even said that we’ll go try the GFW next time. But on our own, when no one else is watching, and when no one can hear us scream.

*teeth

Photos are all JB’s, I take no credit for that part of the twatting around…