I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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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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The Land’s End 100

I wanted to do this ride as soon as I spotted it, cos of family holidays spent in the area as a young’un.  JB perked up when we realised there was a *special* t-shirt and medal on offer to those who had completed the 3 Counties Challenge – Somerset: the Taunton Flyer √, Devon: the Moor2Sea √, with the LE100 making up the Cornish part of the challenge.

JB and I argued for around 6 months about which route to do.  With a choice of 100m; 100k; or 48 miles we soon ruled out the 100m.  We would be riding it only 2 weeks after the Ness and had no idea what state our little leggies would be in.  When the time arrived to enter, we decided to enter the 48 mile, having looked at the routes we didn’t stand to lose much of the pretty bit and so eventually I agreed that the 48 was a no-brainer. JB said she was happy that I hadn’t taken *that* much persuading.

The route started and finished in Marazion, Cornwall, opposite St Michael’s Mount, then crossed to the north coast and then followed the coast road around the West Penwith Peninsula, taking in the famous bits: Lands End, Mousehole and Newlyn. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We set off straight from work on Friday to save an early start this morning, having booked a Premier Inn (I totes love a Prem. Inn). Driving west the sky was frankly feckin’ awesome on the way. We kept saying “red sky at night”, we all know what that means now, don’t we.

We’re not completely wet behind the ears and had foresight enough to check the forecast before we left. We’d packed all The Wet Weather Clothes, but I began to believe those feckin’ shepherds and hope that we might get their delight in the morning.

Earlyish night followed chishnfips.  We were sat at our All You Can Eat Premier Inn Brekkie by 7am, having hammered on the door to be let in… Then 20 minutes in the car to Marazion and the start. ‘cept it could have been anywhere, we could barely see St Michael’s Mount for fog and mizzle and the wind was gusting with enthusiasm!

At this point, I hadta sort out The Thing I Forgot, and go and re-register, cos The Thing I Forgot was my number and timing chip. Knob. New number and chip acquired we joined the start pack and inched towards the inflated orange start arch. Which was being hurriedly tied to vans to stop it disappearing out to sea.  I had half an eye open for those shepherds cos I wanted a word 😲.

We watched the man giving the race briefing, we couldn’t hear the briefing cos of the wind. JB said ‘I think he said don’t fuck with traffic and be nice to others’ and with that we were off.

This isn’t going to be a mile-by-mile report, don’t worry.

I’d been told by Fitchfromwork that the hill out of St Ives wasn’t the one to worry about, it was the one with the hairpin after Treen.  Well, I know that hill from Days Gone By. As a family, from a young age we had camped at Treen and fought our way up that hill in a range of cars from a 2CV called Pam to my lil old Fiesta Flossie – I knew how steep it was and didn’t hesitate to share the info with JB. She said we had permission to walk if we wanted, after all, we’d decided that the medal standards were out of reach.

We were across the peninsula to Hayle in what felt like next to no time and seemingly both in good spirits.  Sure, we were being whizzed past by the normal amount of whizzers, but with pressure off to hit medal standards and our heads prepared and aware of what was to come, there was no sign of the Dark Place, yet.  We were wearing our gilets cos of Weather, so our flag jerseys weren’t on show.  We were wearing our *special* socks though, everyone seemed to like them and lots of the whizzers commented “nice socks ladies”.  There’s been a few on these 3 Counties rides who have mistaken us for ladies…

At the St Ives turn off was the first feed stop.  Now, Just Events do the best feed stops ever, so we had to dig deep to ride by, but we were only at around 10 miles and it felt too early.  The climb out of St Ives, the first of the cat.4 climbs was almost 3 miles and climbed nearly 500′, but wait. What the fuck is this? We’re at the top. And the Dark Place isn’t here. I dare to wonder if our training is working – we have a new programme you see, it’s called 1BHER. It’s short for 1 Big Hill Every Ride.

The weather was still shocking, at one point it changed from mizzle to actual rain but I only noticed because it made my eyeballs sting. The wind wasn’t strong enough to knock you off your bike, just change it’s course… And of course travelling west towards the most southerly point of England, we wouldn’t have expected NOT to have a headwind…

The next stretch took us along the coast from St Ives to Land’s End. I know this bit of road, it’s uppy-downy but nothing too serious and the views are spectacular, with the Atlantic on our right the whole way. “Lookit the moon” JB said. You what now? Looking out to sea that’s exactly what it looked like, and, we laughed it was cold as the fuckin’ moon too.

Into Land’s End having passed through Zennor, Sennen and stopping at one point for the heavy traffic…

Well, we weren’t chasing the medal standards were we, so it didn’t matter

Feed, wee and photie at Land’s End and outta there ASAP, it’s a shit hole, sadly, and we couldn’t get to the actual end anyway.

Past Porthcurno (where Poldark was recently spotted, and ‘is ‘orse) and the Minack Theatre, past the Treen turn-off and down we plunged. This was the other hill that had been playing on my mind since the summer! It’s 170’ of climbing over .3 of a mile with a hairpin at halfway. Quite steep, but quite short. Well. Shit me. 1BHER at work again? We’re up it, I’m panting but able to keep going! And still, no Dark Place. To be clear, I never climb a hill and say “that wasn’t so bad” but I did today!

And then, bar a few more uppy-downy bits, a big descent into Mousehole… Never been more grateful for the disc brakes and wider tyres that my crosser has, there were some blokes sailing past saying how ‘hairy’ the decent was and I’m sure it was their rim brakes I could smell!

Quick photo in Mousehole then a flat run along the coast to Newlyn and into Penzance bus station car park and the the finish. As we entered the car park I looked at my Garmin – “fuckmebird” I said to JB – we’re only 2 minutes outside bronze medal standard – less twatting around and less traffic and we’d have a medal! We were fairly relaxed about it, after all we weren’t chasing the bronze, so we hadn’t missed out really.

Then, just a couple of miles along the seafront cycle path to the car, the crossers really coming into their own along the sandy path  For once, we were on the right bikes!

We went straight to the tent to get our goodie bags and check-in. JB’s time registered and, cos she’s a leetlebit older, she gets an easier time – cos she needs more toilet stops, so she got a bronze!! Get-in! When the timing lady put my number in, the computer crashed, so they gave me a bronze too! (I did fess-up and say I was a different age-category) but the standard time was 3:52, and JB clocked 3:52 and a few seconds so that was good enough for them – and certainly good enough for me – if it wasn’t for the traffic…

On a day when everything was stacked against us we had one of the most enjoyable rides we’ve had for ages. We tried (again) to rationalise it on the way home as we disposed of a packet of Tuc biscuits, but couldn’t. I can’t help but wonder if there’s something in JB’s theory that, as we touched on at the Twentyfour12: we seem to do ok when the conditions are against us, the worse they are the better we seem to do. Except Coast2coast, and we don’t speak of that.

Plus, look at the bling

Credit: JB’s photies


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Twentyfour12 – a tale of Two Fat Two Furious

“You’ll be on the team won’t you? Good, that’s that settled then” said JB, and apparently it was. We decided on our team name, the entry was placed and we began our ultimately fruitless search for a 5th member for team Two Fat Two Furious for the 2017 Twentyfour12 – a 24hr ‘he who rides the most laps wins’ race. Our team consisted of me, JB, CH and XP.  Quite a line-up I’m sure you’ll agree (and no, really – there is no need to spot the weakest link… ;-)) MrMegster set to work on the t-shirt design and how exciting it all was. If only we’d known…

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Fast forward to Last Friday, when we loaded the car with all the camping stuff and bikes and set sail for Newnham Park, the setting for Twentyfour12 and our home for the weekend.

We pitched up next to CH and MrCH who had blagged a family motor home and filled it with All The Good Stuff. Spirits were high as JB, CH and I set off on a practice lap. CH set the pace, or at least I think she did- we’d lost sight of her by the end of the first climb as she refused to be overtaken by our rivals, who had just ridden past JB and I.  We knew 3 teams had entered the Female 24hr category and JB and I readjusted our expectations to “2nd place would be really good” at that moment.

The lap itself was confidence giving, nothing too technical, a couple of walks for me, and a couple of parts that would remain unrideable for the whole weekend, but more on that later… JB rode Twentyfour12 last year and although the course was different (and longer) there were familiar bits… “look out for the old man that lurks there in the dark” she told me as we went down the Cottage return – you what now?? “It’s ok, he’s not really there…” “Oh! Well that’s ok then” :-O

As we neared the end of the reccie the rain came. And stayed. The course was already muddy, it wasn’t going to improve – at this point though it didn’t dampen our spirits, even when the motor home awning fell down, nearly taking me out with it. “Well” we laughed, “if that’s the worst that’s going to happen…”

We had decided on our running order, and just before 12pm on Saturday JB positioned herself mid start pack, a brave move, and then the off. 700+ riders swooshed around the grassy start, through the campsite and out on to the course proper. Nothing to do now but wait. So we meandered back to camp, MrJB and MrCH got busy making teas and coffees. MrMegster turned up with all the stuff we forgot, including DryRobes, sandwiches and MrJB’s special chair (don’t ask)… We killed some time and wandered across to see JB go by, estimating about 20 minutes ’till she made it back to transition. She had a blinding lap, handed over to me and I was off!

I set off in the rain, with JB’s advice of “ride it as you see it” rattling round in my head. Stuff was slippery but all very rideable (well except the bits that I was never going to ride). The Cliff Climb came and went and I rode past some riders pushing their bikes – in fact as conditions worsened I began to look forward to the climb for its lack of mud and slippy. Onwards and into the Bluebell Woods, issuing instructions to my bike and self, “look up…” “FFS look up!” (to me), and “roll…” “c’mon, roll you little fucker…” “atta boy” (to my bike) – no foot down, straight through. I’m not scared of roots anymore, although there’s plenty that’s taken their place! :-O The lap was, by later standards, uneventful – I even bagged myself a couple of Stravia PRs for my efforts and I handed over to XP feeling pretty chipper, although it has to be said, soaked to the skin and covered in feckin mud.

Down time was spent washing my bike, drinking coffee and eating everything, with bouts of cheering in XP and, when it was her turn, CH.

The rain was relentless but my little antique tent kept everything dry including the tshirts for at least 6 laps (haha) that I’d packed. Dry socks and wellies made the waiting bearable, and we bantered and joked about the conditions, if we hadn’t I think we’d (I) have cried. Even the walk to the porta-loos was getting tricky!

Soon enough I headed to the soggy transition for my second lap. My dry t-shirt soaked before I’d even racked my bike. JB came in and handed over – something had gone wrong, I could tell, but there was no time to find out what.

This lap was no worse than the first for me, the rain had washed some of the stickier mud away and bits that I’d slipped and slid on were easier riding, although other bits, like the campsite loops on the grass were, well – frankly fucking awful. Every pedal stroke made your back wheel spin or try to overtake you. The only rideable line was along the tape, and it just slid you down into the mire. Still, I finished only a couple of minutes down on my first lap and so was quite happy with that.

On my return to camp, a plan had been hatched. We would ride into the night until the end of JB’s next lap then all get some kip, and I would resume at 3am. A good compromise, giving us all some sleep and each a dark lap. After not much longer, around 10pm I went to bed optimistic for a few hours sleep. Decided against ear-plugs cos I didn’t want to miss the alarm. All cozy and dozy in my tent till something went twang and someone tripped over my guy-rope and gave me a proper fright.  I *may* have shouted something rude…  I later found out that it was XP’s parents arriving to support us, hmm not at all awkward…. 😉

So I slept not a wink, too much noise, adrenaline, caffeine, anticipation about the night lap, and of course, needing a wee. Twice.

At about 2:50am I gave up, popped in my contact lenses, pulled on dry gear and went out into the night. Transition was deserted, bar some light from the solo riders slowly going around. Garmin on and I set off. Got to the first bank, easily rideable on previous laps, now ankle deep in sticky mud – some of which went straight in my eye. I gave it a cursory rub and my contact lens fucked off. Shit. Now the sensible thing would have been to go back for another, but my sleep deprived brain didn’t offer me that option and I carried on, alternating between blurry (2 eyes open) and focused (one eye open ;-)). It was SO muddy now and with impaired vision I couldn’t even ride the easiest of paths, nervous and twitchy, confidence shot to tatters, I even started to do the maths for how long it would take to walk back pushing the bike :-O Blundering over the roots, seeing things that weren’t there and not seeing stuff I needed to, it was the stuff of nightmares! I had Dory from Finding Nemo in my head the whole way “just keep riding, just keep riding”… “get out of my fucking head, fish” I shouted! “You alright love” some bloke asked… “why yes of course, why ever wouldn’t I be?”…

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Made it down the Cottage return thanks to my one good eye and then my feckin chain came off. I unclipped my emergency light – I really needed a light to see to unclip my light, it was that sort of dark… put the chain back on and arrived at the river path. Tight bend into a puddle, wait, that’s no longer a puddle. I’m up to my axles in mud. Slid off into it and heaved my bike out and began to shove it along. Then the mud took my shoe. Have you ever tried to find a fuckin’ shoe, with one seeing eye and no light? Unclipped my emergency light, again, shut the ‘bad’ eye and began scouring for it, eventually spotting it, about 3″ down in the mud. It was such a relief – I didn’t want to get muddy feet on top of everything else ;-)

I eventually finished my lap, having had another chain off moment in the campsite, this time, thankfully, stoping next to a tent who’s owners were made of angels and had a water squirter and a light. The lap had taken me an hour and 50, 40 minutes more than my previous effort. Felt like crying but manned up enough to hand over to CH who was taking XP’s lap as she was struggling with a really painful back. Into my tent to try and get warm and some sleep, unsuccessful again, for now the campsite was coming to life. I was so cold and pissed off I think I was probably mean to everyone. MrJB made me a coffee which thawed me a bit. Then I remembered the Pro-plus and Dextrose. Half an hour later I felt tip-top (relatively, you understand) and although my vocabulary was reduced to “fucking cold” and “fucksake” I was ready to face the world and a bacon sarnie.

When JB went for what was to be her last lap we were met with the news that we’d moved into the lead overnight! WTAF?? The team in 2nd didn’t want to ride again because of the conditions, but stood to loose 2nd if the team in 3rd went again! Suddenly it looked like it could all be over! And we were the winners! Yeah – cos our luck goes that way doesn’t it..?! JB and I agreed we would both ride again if we had to, plus, I really wanted the chance to put my nightlap right.  When 3rd went again, so did 2nd and so, so did we.

JB did another cracking lap under extreme conditions – well the sun had come out you see, and made the mud even stickier and revealed all the things in the puddles that you’d have never ridden over if you’d seen them!

She handed over to me, I had 2 and a half hours to get round, and we would still have time for CH to go again if we needed her to.

My chain came off AGAIN before I even left the campsite.

And again on the Cliff Climb. And again at the top of the Cliff Climb. And again and again and again. Still at least I could see this time, fresh pair of lenses and sunnies! I used all my drink spraying the chain and chain ring to clean it, only for it to be clogged seconds later. I lost count how many times it came off. I opened a hole in my finger and my pedals twatted the back of my legs from all the pushing! When I got to the river I waded in and dunked the bike, hoping that I could wash away my sorrow… I mean the mud…

I eventually got back, with 20 minutes to spare, JB was waiting at the finish: “we’ve done it!” We’d won. I got off my bike and abandoned it. Just relief, no elation or happiness just pure relief.

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We waited until the end, packed our tents and hosed off the bikes. MrJB, with not much effort, was easily able to diagnose what was with my chain, the mud and grit had eaten my front chain ring. It’s razor sharp in places and the pointy bits have all gone. I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg too, and there’s going to be a maintenance bill when I am brave enough to get the bike outta the shed… I’ll need a hearty breakfast before that though.

Never ever again.

So, next year, there’s talk of entering as pairs, although someone’s just asked if she can be our 5th team member…


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When it all comes together

MrMegster announced mid-week that he and TheBoy were going away for the weekend to help SiL move into her new place, however, JB and I were paid up for the Scott MTB marathon on Sunday and so I couldn’t go.

So, suddenly I found myself with a ‘free’ Saturday and in need of an accomplice. Luckily JB and MrJB seemed willing and we settled on a local(ish) MTB route called The Herepath. JB and MrJB have ridden it before 3 or 4 times before but it was to be my maiden voyage and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. MrJB had also invited a couple of chums along, making me the most inexperienced (you could say entry-level :-O) MTBer going and slightly apprehensive about holding the lot of them up…

Anyhoo, MrJB and JB picked me up and we met the chums at the arranged spot and off we went.  Straight down a gravel track, wide and swoopy, this was fine – nothing technical and I have new brake pads so all was well! The boys swooshed past but I’d have expected nowt less, and I prefer to ride with no one behind me.

The trail is 13 miles of a mix of wide fire tracks, fields, and woodland single tracks with a small amount of roads joining it all together. For the first 7 or so miles the bits that weren’t flat, were downhill. Nothing tricky, couple of rooty bits, a rocky step or two but all rollable and the only time we had a foot down was to open the gates (and take photies of our lovely bikes leaning on them)!

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The second half, well, it pretty much mirrored the first: what goes down and all that :-O. From mile 8 to 13 we climbed 1000 feet, with bits of it, according to Stravia clocking 17% (I think she’s lying – bits of that climb felt more like 27%!). The steepest bits seemed to come at the end and on tired legs there were some pretty bad words… but no walking 😇

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The boys did some bike swapping and with an e-bike in the mix one of MrJBs chums won the lucky dip as the rest of us did the hard miles! There’s a lot to be said for them there e-bikes… Still, I had a rucksack full of sweeties which hit the spot, and we refueled at the end with standard after MTB fare of cheese topped and filled rolls and mint tea ;-) A great ride round a well signposted and maintained route, sunshine the whole way, in the best of company. NOT however, ideal preparation for Sunday’s Mountain Bike Marathon! Ho-hum.

Sunday’s excitement began with an early start – JB picked me up at 7am and we headed to Minehead for a MTB event organised by Scott MTBs – they deserve a name check here because it was a fantastic event from start to finish. The entry fee was pretty steep at £28 but JB and I are suckers for the promise of a t-shirt and goodie bag!

Unusually *cough for us, we were early. We registered and got our personalised (totally love them) numbers and them it was time for a cuppa. I declined a coffee having experienced the porta-loos, I didn’t want to take the risk of having to go again… “I put lots of sugar in your coffee” said JB – “I hope that’s ok? Me: “but… but…” After we re-aligned out sarcasm filters and drank our tea and coffee and went to the *holds nose, loos again it was time for the off.

700 riders filtered through the funnel, all doing one of the 3 distances on offer. We’d opted for the short one – we were looking for a confidence boosting enjoyable ride and this looked the best option. We joined the steam of MTBers lining the seafront at Minehead, briefly pondered switching to plan B and having a day at Butlins… ha, yeah right…

The road ran out and 700 MTBers filed onto a single track climb: the bottleneck was exactly as you are picturing it. The climb went up the side of a mountain, no really, it did. Mile 1 & 2 were lovely pan flat seafront cruising, mile 3 was a single track zig-zagging up the *mountain* to the top of Exmoor. We gained around 500 feet in mile 3 and the same again in mile 4.  JB said when we got out of the trees and atop the moor we’d stop for photies, and so we did. Seems like lots of folk were keen for a breather – we were inundated with offers from kind people keen to take our photo, and I’m not surprised – looking out to sea we spotted a helicopter and remarked that it’s not often you ride your bike higher than helicopters!!

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We followed the coast path for a while then dropped down into the valley. The descents were as steep as the ascents in places and we proceeded slightly cautiously aware that an error would be painful if we were lucky… Another climb, slightly less severe than we’d had previously experienced and we were into the food station – lovely cake, peanuts, drink re-fills and jelly bears :-) We duly abandoned the bikes and tucked in.

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As we paused (briefly) for breath between mouthfuls we became aware of a very battered and bruised looking lass. JB came right out with it “what happened to you then maid?” She had ridden the ladies only ride yesterday and had come unstuck descending – she was black and blue and scraped from head to toe. Her confidence had taken a huge knock and, as we rode away we agreed that there are times when caution is better than brave.

A grind of a climb followed by a short descent and we were onto the last significant climb for our route – it pretty much mirrored the first one, slightly less steep but we regained the 600 feet or so that we’d lost in about 2 miles, thankful we’d made the most of the food station!

At the top JB was waiting for me, again, and a lass on an e-bike cruised past. We had a little “that’s the way to do it” moment with a chap and his son who had stopped to get their breath back, when JB issued a battle cry “after her!” The man chuckled. I knew better and after her we went. And we caught her. And we overtook her. And she stayed overtook!

Then it was time to go back to sea level, descending from 1000 feet in 3.5 miles. Some of this was really steep, JB recognised some of it from Days Gone By, and issued a warning about what happens when brave doesn’t listen to caution. I gave her some space. Then I let two chaps go by – I *really* don’t like folk behind me – and down I went. It was steep, dark, and with sunlight flashing through the trees it was difficult to spot holes and rocks. Then I came upon JB parked up and had a little “oh fuck, what’s happened?” moment :-O, but it just turned out that her Will To Live had won the battle over her Hold Your Nerve at a particularly jaggy rocky bit. We both agreed that caution was the order of the day and rambled the little section, before remounting, smiling for the camera and finishing the hill.

Then a short burst along the road and we were back at race village choosing our t-shirts :-)

All in all a cracking weekend. We tried to rationalise why we enjoyed the weekend – for me the sunshine helped. The routes on both days were challenging and tough but do-able; we decided that it was just one of *those* weekends when it comes together in the right way :-)

Except, when the training log was consulted later, turns out we were short in miles this week and we *really* should round that up.  Crossers out, off we went, in our new t-shirts, determinedly not getting sweaty, but rounding up to the ‘just over’ 100 for the week.

Aaaaaaand relax.


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The Nello – The Great Descenders

The stats first, get that outta the way. 100 miles (well near enough at 98.4), 5121 ft of climbing and 7:35 moving time. You can already see that this is going to be a different version of events from Velociraptor and eL Bee!’s from the running club.

JB and I entered this as a Plan B. Plan A sadly never materialised and this was a point that was rued on a couple of occasions throughout the day.

The Nello is (from memory) some bloke who died a while ago’s favourite route. Well – he needed to get out more. Organised by Force Charity the route takes you on a loop of Devon, starting in the estuary town of Tophsam. There were some 1,500 entrants and via the magic medium of bloggage we were fairly certain that among them would be another pair of Fetchies.

Anyhoo. It all started fairly normally. Loaded the car with (lovely new) bike, went and got JB and bike and managed, with no more than usual moaning about how bloody early it was to be up on a Sunday, to get us to Topsham with no incidents. We signed in with plenty of time before the start at 8am. Back to car, bikes, helmets and flapjacks and we were ready. So we joined the start pack and waited. Then we waited some more. And more. Then JB said “there, in Cumbria jerseys, there” and lo it was Velociraptor and eL Bee! whizzing by towards the start. We were totally jammed in and couldn’t move left or right We commented that we couldn’t shout “Velociraptor” or we’d have a stampede on our hands much like *that* scene in Jurassic Park. V’rap blogged that they were away by 8:18am but it took us until 8:34am to cross the line and get underway. We knew we’d never catch the tandem pair now.

It’s fair to say that our natural exuberance and puppy dog excitement had worn off a bit by then, and as we set off across Exeter and out towards Tiverton (and home, FFS, who pays to go on a ride right past their house?) we weren’t feeling the love.

One of the main reasons I agreed to the Nello was the promise of food stops every 20 miles. Actually, that was the only reason I agreed to the Nello ;-). So as promised, we rolled into Tiv (as we affectionately call our home town) just before 10am. The bad news was that this wasn’t a food stop, they were only dishing out banana (yuck) so JB and I shared my emergency double decker and had a wee. MrMegster and TheBoy popped down with additional drinks as we’d had a bottle malfunction at the start and we were on our way.

The ride improved a bit for me here, I’m not sure it did the whole day for JB, we aren’t speaking of it… Following the valley road to Black Cat (it’s Devon, we have a Black Dog too) and into Dulverton, the route starts a decent climb to the moor. There’s about 4.5 miles of it, nothing too steep, just draggy. I lost JB for a bit here, she just grinds up the long climbs and I can’t keep up. We’d agreed to meet at the next food stop, which was only about half a mile from the top of the climb.

I should probably do a weather report about now. Well, JB and I are doing a distance ride. There’s only two types of weather that we’re gonna get. And we did. Rain and wind. We got both, just as the climb began. It wasn’t cold though and neither of us felt the need to ‘coat up’.

Exmoor looked like it usually does, misty murky and lovely. There were ponies…89563

(top right hand corner…) and the food stop had coffee, cheese and pickle rolls,:-) loos and a bike mechanic to carry out some black magic on JB’s whatsit. My mood was improving, marginally.

We set off again, across the moor and down towards South Molton. This stretch was quite uppy-downy and when I glanced back from my sheltered spot in JB’s wheel I clocked about 4 girls sat in my wheel! Bloody cheek. I tried a big hint, shouting “I’ll take my turn now” and duly did. Eventually they cruised past us in formation and up to the next group along the road, whose wheels they settled into :-O. Well that’s just not cricket. JB and I, nicely taking turns to wheel suck inched towards the group of what was now 8 and settled in behind for a couple of miles. Well, we’d done our bit, right? ;-)

Finally into Simonsbath and the last significant climb for the day (and a brief moment of regret, for not going with Plan A). The group we were following stopped before beginning the climb but we soldiered on. Gaining about 500 feet in a mile and then we’d made it. Now the fun bit! Arses in the air and whoosh, downhill pretty much all the way into South Molton.

No one passed us on this stretch, oh no. Except one old boy. He shouted something as he went by. “huh?” He shouted it again “huh?” And again… Oooh. JB said “huh?”. I told her “he just said we were great descenders”. I first thought he had said we were condescending… When we caught him again, as he had slowed to wait for his “chicken livered cycling buddies” he said again “great descending”. We took it in the spirit in which it was given, but paused to wonder why we were never told great ascending! Pah – who needs Plan A.

Finally into South Molton for more cake and sandwiches. The lady dishing out the grub said “wait there, I’ve got a special plate of treats coming”, well you don’t say things like that to me without it being an *actual special plate of treats*. Sorry lady, your mini pasties and sausage rolls with no sausage don’t cut the mustard. Then those girls rolled into the stop and we weren’t going to be beaten by their wheel sucking cheating, so, we bit off our noses and got back on the road.

The next stretch took us out towards Copplestone and Crediton. Much like the first stretch to Tiverton this was predominantly flat valley road and dead dull. It had stopped raining and the wind had dropped but basically we were all out of optimism and had a pretty big case of the I can’t be bothereds. And we should have gone with Plan A.

Anyway, we made it to Copplestone and whereeveritwas that the last food stop was. Totally over cheese and pickle now. Brief chat with some folk who JB knows (she knows everyone, and even the ones who’s names she doesn’t know, she still knows).

Cross country now and the final 20 miles to Exeter. Into Exeter itself was the very last thing either of us fancied, twatting around in traffic, traffic lights, roundabouts, bus lanes and all manner of things that we had neither the energy for or inclination to deal with. Finally spat out at Countess Wear and across the roundabout and into Topsham. Bit of a good welcome with horns and cowbells and a pretty nice medal.

We packed the car, put proper shoes on, and ate the flapjack that JB had carried the whole way round. It was bloody lovely but needed a coffee to wash it down that neither of us could be bothered to go and get.

And Plan A? Plan A was helping fine triathletes out of their wetsuits at the local Iron Man. *shakes head


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The Taunton Flyer – Dakota

Another fine mess JB got me into: 70 miles and a couple of hills she said. Think of it as a training ride, she said. If only we could remember what we’re training for…

She collected me at 7am for the Taunton Flyer today. We’d entered it a while ago and a glance at the details last night reassured me that there was nothing I couldn’t handle. We were entered to do the Dakota, just a couple of significant climbs.

We parked as instructed, nearly neatly, at Taunton Racecourse – who knew Taunton had a racecourse? Not me. Anyway, bikes unloaded, lids on and off for a wee and to lurk around the start. Coffees purchased we sat and caught up with SA & PA before they set off on the 100m Wellington, comprising of everything we were about to do, PLUS another 40 miles. Nutters.

At 8:15am we hit the road, and it was all going lovely. Nice back roads, nothing too taxing except a fairly enthusiastic headwind; until we hit the first climb, just before Hemyock. 2 miles and 600 feet later we were up whooshing down into Hemyock, having passed a man who had got it wrong and was sitting in a folding chair at the side of the road wiping blood from various scrapes. Out of Hemyock and onto Culmstock and familiar territory – the stomping ground of our SPCz rides and Saturday Social rides. Out the back way to Cullompton and I clocked that we were averaging 14:xx m/p/h despite the wind! This is unheard of for us, and JB was quick to reassure me that it wouldn’t last! Well DUH… 😳

We slogged to Broadclyst (into the headwind…) and the first food stop where we wee’d and were well fed, homitie pies and brownies and yummy stuff we were actually allowed to fill our pockets with 🙂:-) Jerseys bulging with contraband flapjacks we set off on the next leg, me, quietly dreading the next significant hill…

We had been and were being passed by a number of people who seemed everso friendly – familiar even – we were puzzled but too tired to really take too much notice. Finally the penny dropped when some chap rode by and said “hello flag ladies – we saw you last weekend at the Coast to Coast”. 88862

We started climbing at around about the 40 mile mark, gradually gaining until mile 43 when we passed a chap taking his cleats off so that he could walk the hill better. 😱 Well that bodes well, I thought to myself! Also, there were bluebells. Nuff said. Then we climbed. In a mile and a half we gained 500 feet, hitting 26% in places according to Stravia (she never lies). It was SO steep in places, our front wheels came off the ground! Still, we both rode it and were commended by plenty of walkers for doing so; “go flag ladies” they gasped!

JB said that who ever got to the top first wasn’t to stop, and just to potter on till the other caught up. I think she thought this would be me! Yeah right. For the first time, I felt sick with the effort, and I couldn’t even see JB, she powered up the climb like, well I dunno – something that powers up climbs. I was too focused on keeping balanced on my slowest moving bike in history to get too jealous!! ;-) When we got our breath back and heart rates returned to *normal*, we declared that we needed a new uniform – the flag jersey’s would hafta go in the kindling pile for next winter!

We spent a couple of miles pottering and indulged in the odd photo; and discussed our options. There is a 7 mile loop at 50 miles that you can by-pass, we decided we’d decide whether or not to by-pass it when we got there.

Did we by-pass the by-passable bit? Did we buggery. In for a penny… (we had pockets full of flapjack and ibuprofen… we’d be fine, right?) There was another fairly hefty climb, although nothing compared to the previous efforts and it put us on top of the Blackdown Hills. We circumnavigated Dunkersewell, pausing to point at some nutter in a hand-glider and had a 😇/👿 moment when we contemplated ditching the whole thing for a breakfast bap in the airport cafe (they are the best ones you can get). The 😇 won. I’m really not sure how.

Did I mention it was windy? The headwind? The bloody headwind that we rode in to all the way to the first food stop. Finally we would get the benefit of this all the way ba-… Wait. No. That’s not right, not what happened at all. Indeed, at various times we both heard muttering about the absence of “that fucking tailwind”, or variations of…

We rode along the ridge of the Blackdown Hills. My head went down, this was far harder than any of the hills. Straight flat roads, head winds 😕, boring. We took turns to lead the way and by now, wheel sucking was the only way we (I) were going to get to the end. This went on for about15 miles until, finally, we dropped down and onto the homestretch. Thinking how lucky we’d been with the weather – rain had been forecast and other than a light shower, we’d stayed dry. Mile 73… Sorry, what now? Mile 73 – that’s more than promised. And again, I’m sorry, what’s this stabbing me in the face and legs? Hail? Of course it is. Hail, whatever else would it be? And just in time for the big decent. V-brakes, steep decent, potholes and hail. We tiptoed down the hill, cold knuckles clinging onto the brakes for dear life… and as soon as it started it was over! One more mile and we were back, medals on, bikes loaded, cheese and pickle sarnies eaten and home we went. I’ve not left the sofa since!

5h:30, 74 miles, 4144 feet of climbing, AND average speed of 13.5 mph :-) S&P on the 100? They totally smashed it – 116 miles, 5,000 feet of climbing in 7.5hrs – machines. They are Actual Machines. P’raps this is what we should train for next year…

Meh… never-a-fucking-gain I said. (Of course I didn’t mean it).


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Lets go to the coast. No, not that coast, the other coast

The annual Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast ride is a 54 mile ride from Watchet in North Somerset to West Bay (popularly now known as Broadchurch) in Dorset and is something else JB talked me into (and I’m glad she did).

We entered this back in December, there was talk about dipping toes in the ocean on both coasts in one day; sunshine and ice-cream and chips. It all sounded very lovely.

M, a rider from JB’s social rides, indicated that she fancied it too, so JB entered the bun-fight that is the entry system – this ride sells out in a morning and managed to secure us all a place.

Mr JB very kindly agreed to take us to Watchet on the North Somerset coast, a pretty little harbour town with a steaming steam engine and everything. Parking was tricky and MrJB slowed the car enough for us to untangle the bikes from the bike rack and leap out before he was on his way again.

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We registered and waited for M who had followed the diversion signs at a road closure; MrJB knew a *special way* through and we managed to avoid being delayed.

A quick obligatory selfie at the start and we were off. Forgetting what being at sea level means we set off all smiles in the sunshine, only for the penny to drop that when at sea level, there was only ever one way we were going to go! Up.

Off went M, looking likely to make good on her promise of *only* managing an average of 12mph. She kindly agreed to wait for us at the top of the hills ;-) The first seven miles saw us skirt Exmoor and climb 700 feet before it levelled off and then a nice whizzy descent to the edge of the Quantocks and the first pit-stop in Bishops Lydeard. There was a fairly keen headwind, which was with us the whole way and it made for a couple of “whoooo” noises from me as we whizzed down the hill and the wind attempted to alter my course. M wasn’t as brave :-O on the descents as JB and I, allowing us to even out anything she gained on the ‘ups’. It came as quite a surprise when a glance at the Garmin revealed that we were averaging at 13.xx mph. I commented to JB that this was unsustainable and I would quite likely die if we kept it up. Fortunately she readily agreed and we backed off a bit. Having backed off the pace a bit and having plenty of juice and chocolate on board so we decided to skip the first pit-stop and crack on.

The next section clipped the edge of the Quantocks at Kingston St Mary, it was gently undulating and we decided that things were going so well we could skip the second stop too, shovelling in chocolate as we went. M was starting to make noises about stopping at the next one, and I needed a wee so when we arrived in Ilminster we were all happy to abandon our bikes for cake, flapjack and a wee. In that order.

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Re-fuelled, we were off again, with the knowledge that the other significant climb was just ahead. ‘Olland, who I knew from days gone by (school) was riding with his son George. ‘Olland had ridden from West Bay to Watchet and was now riding home again, giving him 108 miles on the Stravia. Impressive, and just a teeny bit galling as he swooshed by going up the hills Raspberry!.

Anyhoo. I was now in familiar territory regaling anyone who would listen with talk of my youth – “soandso lives there”, and “I got pulled over by the police there”. Then there was the big hill. Heads down we ground on, climbing gradually at first. From 34 miles to 39 we gained 600 feet with gradients of up to 17%. There were bluebells – a warning we should have heeded :-O. Still, we plodded up, well, I plodded up, JB found a second or third wind from somewhere and hoofed off up the hill, passing M and leaving me for dead. Lowest gear selected long ago, I managed to stay on board and even passed a few riding even slower than me and a few burly men walking. Smug face on at the top, and off we went again, hoping the marshalls were telling the truth when they said “it’s all downhill from here”.

A proper fast decent was soon upon us and this was the last time we saw M. We carefully (?) whooshed down, and into Drimpton where we by-passed the final pit-stop, only to be faced with the kind of draggy climb that takes all your energy before you even realise your climbing. Soon Broadwindsor was upon us and the crowds were out and cheering!

Then it actually was [almost] all downhill to West Bay and The Other Coast, although the headwind felt stronger than ever, and was working hard to scrub off any speed the downhills tried to generate. We took it in turns to wheel suck the remaining 7 miles, each of us unable to do much more with the wind taking any energy we had left! Then into Bridport and poor JB was subjected to more tales of my youth, nights in The George, and “there… look there, THERE’s the fish and chip shop I used to work in” and “this roundabout is new…” And then, finally, we could see the sea and the finish.

Having given MrMegster & TheBoy an ETA, we put on our best smiles and sucked in our bellies for our finish line photo, but the bugger was nowhere to be seen. After we’d abandoned our bikes and had a little lay-down we rang him. On his way. “So, we’ll just take some nice pictures of the bikes by the seaside. Over there” said JB. When she said “over there” she meant “up that shingle wall”. So we did. Here’s mine.

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Then we spotted MrMegster & TheBoy the from atop our shingle bank. MrMegster just shook his head at more pretty bike photos. TheBoy said “we didn’t see you arrive because we’ve been in the arcades”. MrMegster said “shush TheBoy, you weren’t supposed to tell mummy that”.

We plonked ourselves down and waited the return of M, some 20 minutes later.

Thoughts of ice-cream and chips; and in the sea were quickly put out of our heads. We could barely stand in the wind, so a dip in the ocean was much less tempting than the idea of it last December. Thoughts of getting home to bed were far more appealing!

This was a fantastic event, one of the best I’ve done. Brilliantly marshalled, organised, sign posted and supported. There were people all along the route with cow-bells cheering us along. I will definitely do this one again next year :-)