Thursday, 23 December 2010

2011 Plan

The plan for 2011 is to do PBP in August. In order to qualify for that you need to do a Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600). And of course I'll fit in as many FNRttCs as I can.

A few things stand out:
  • introducing friends to FNRttC to Southend,

  • maybe a FNRttC from Manchester extended into a ride to York

  • or maybe the Valley of the Rocks 200 in Devon

  • BCM is always a highlight

  • a new 600 in the Invicta or Wessex

  • FNRttC to Whitstable, but I might not be able to do it

  • FNRttC to Newhaven and home, will it be as good as last year?

  • PBP

08 Jan: The Poor Student 200 - DONE
22 Jan: The Willy Warmer 200 - DONE
26 Feb: The Kennet Valley Run 200 - DONE
18 Mar: FNRttC Southend with Mandy and Rob - DONE without Mandy and Rob
26 Mar: The Dean 300 - DONE
15 Apr: FNRttC Manchester OR The Valley of the Rocks 200 - NOT DONE (Work reasons)
22 Apr: FNRttC Bognor - NOT DONE, Easter Arrow instead
22 Apr: Easter Arrow to York - DONE
30 Apr: The Severn Across 400 - DONE
14 May: The Bryan Chapman 600 - DONE
11 Jun: The Invicta 600 OR The Wessex 600 - NOT DONE, London to Brighton 300 DIY instead
17 Jun: FNRttC Whitstable - DONE
25 June: Yorkshire Dales 200 PERM - DONE 
15 Jul: FNRttC Brighton - DONE
21 Jul: FNRttC Newhaven - 300 to Rumbeke - DONE
06 Aug: The West Bay and Back 200 with Jamie - DONE
13 Aug: a 100 or DIY 200 - NOT DONE (can't remember why)
21 Aug: Le Paris Brest Paris 1200 - Frame number 5741 - DONE!!!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Upper Thames 200

I had wondered if this ride was going to be about 'blood, sweat and tears' or 'banter, scenery and tea'. It was the latter and especially 'scenery'. Scenery normally comes with climbing, but if there is such a thing as a scenery/climbing ratio, then the Upper Thames 200 would have a very favourable score. Have a look at the photos, the link is at the end or here: Clicky.

I'm very envious of 'iddu' who captured an image of a Victorian Water Tank (1895) at Bix. He is right, I rode straight by.

I did however, make a point of stopping off at the Maharajah's Well (1865) in Stoke Row.

This had caught my eye, because the well and its cover was funded by the Maharajah of Benares, 'possibly in response to poverty and drought'. This is such an extraordinary reverse direction of development aid (if I can call it that), that you have to think something personal, political or symbolic is going on. Nevertheless, I'm sure the beneficiaries didn't complain. Stoke Row and Bix are only 6km apart. Water sources must indeed have been scarce.

Benares, or Varanasi, is a special place. It is a special place in its own right, but it is a special place for me personally also. Although the good things in religion interest me, I am not religious. However, I can get a little spiritual. The Ganges and Kumb Mela, I find absolutely fascinating. Can you imagine, in the last Maha Kumbh Mela, held in 2001, around 60 million people attended. To be able to bathe in your goddess, the Ganges, at that time must be ..... I can't find the word. As for me, I had been wishing for something for a long time, a wish I thought was never going to come true. I don't believe in wishes either, but when all is beyond your control what else can you do but wish. So the magical Ganges at Varanasi was going to be the place where I made my wish one last time (which says enough about the outcome!!).

Varanasi 2006

From the Ganges back to the Upper Thames ... There were quite a few familiar faces. I was pleased to link up with LiamFitz, and it was nice of pipsuds to introduce himself. I'm sorry I had to ask pipsuds about three times to repeat his name. The pip was ok, but the suds just wasn't going in. If only he had mentioned his YACF picture is Tintin!! In Belgium, Tintin is called Kuifje, which translates as Quiff. Tintin rides a fixed track bike, that is important to know!

Thank you to the organiser and helpers. With over 90 entrants, the event has some logistics to take care of.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here:Clicky.

Photo taken by RichForrest

Sunday, 31 October 2010

2010 Review

Today is the last day of the 2010 Audax season. Tomorrow is the start of PBP year! Happy New Year to all Audaxers and followers!!

Its been a fantastic year with a few new achievements for me.

First Randonneur Round the Year: ie a 200km ride every month.
First Audax abroad: Brussels Paris Brussels 600.
First DIY abroad: Dieppe to Beitem 200.

Here is the year's summary which makes it all look too easy!

(BPB in June not listed)

The PBP early registration rides lead to another super randonneur award.

Tomorrow it will be PBP year!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

FNRttC - Whitstable

I used to call it 'the wonderful bit between Faversham and Whitstable'. When Simon Legg referred to it in one of his communications by its proper name 'Graveney Marshes' I got a little curious. Why is it there, how large is the area, why is it so compelling ... So I did some googling and rather than answer my questions, I got completely distracted by a war story.

A German bomber had crash landed on the marshes. September 1940 it was. The men of the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles captured them and took them back for a pint in the pub they were staying at. Oh so British! This battle's 70th anniversary was recently commemorated. Do read the story. The link is at the end or here: Clicky

The pub was The Sportsman. So I had to look that one up of course and found it still in existence, now a Michelin starred establishment. We would have cycled past the building on every Whitstable ride, but I had never taken notice. The pull of breakfast at the Waterfront Cafe is usually too strong at that stage!

This view is the entry page to The Sportsman

Everything about 'The Sportsman' appealed to me, the history, the location, the food .... I had to go and visit. I rang them up a week before the FNRttC and found that unfortunately for me, they are so popular that they are booked up 6-8 weeks in advance. My heart sank, but I pleaded with them: "Its just me, me on my own, I'll sit anywhere, in a corner, at the bar, anywhere ... "

So this is how I came to have oysters again in Whitstable (ok, Seasalter), followed by pork belly and a chocolate mousse sorbet. The wine was good and the Pedro Ximenez Garvey a real treat!

When they found out that I had cycled from London I was treated as 'the special guest' of the day and got truly spoilt. It was wonderful! I had brought a light change of clothes to get me out of lycra, but they said there was no need, anything goes. I met the chef and admired the kitchen garden at the back. I'm certainly going back there, even if its only to sample the Shepherd Neame Late Red.

The journey back to London was dream like. Had a good snooze on the train. I got out of Victoria Station and with fresh energy decided to cycle home. It was like I was doing a 'Lucas Brunelle', speeding along, people could see my 'I'm coming and you're in my way' stare through the eyes in the back of their heads and parted as I got closer. I got home so quickly, my other half hadn't put the coffee on yet!

What about the FNRttC ride itself? Its not always about the ride is it. If I had done that ride on my own, I wouldn't have enjoyed it much. It rained, not too bad, but I did wonder how I ever survived LEL. And I was very tired, taking cat naps every time there was a regroup, and I wondered again how I ever survived LEL. I found it particularly tough this time. I admired the group and especially the newcomers for sticking with it in such good humour. The banter at Andy's and the Waterfront Cafe was fantastic. I got to know a few people a bit better and made some plans for next year which I'm very excited about.

A few more thoughts:
  • Cycling by The Monument
  • Stuart telling me about the Battle of Bannockburn
  • CharlieB's individually wrapped carrot and marmalade cake was gorgeous
  • Having a 'hot' bacon baguette at Andy's
  • A gift from Aperitif which has added to my bottle top collection:

  • Enjoying the post ride Cycle Chat banter, I had no idea so much had happened on that ride!
  • Thanks a million to Simon and his helpers, and the riders, and the cafes
So that is it for this season. I can't make the last Brighton run and the audax season is finished also. What a great year it has been and what a grand finale I experienced last weekend! It moves me what cycling can do for you. But then I do believe that I am 'the Queen of the Tuesday Blues'!

The photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky
Rich P's photos are here: Clicky

Last battle of Britain at Graveney: Clicky

Monday, 20 September 2010

The William the Conkerer 200

The way I got into work today was a better indicator on how this ride went than my finishing time:
  • All the people I come across on my commute to work, were all a little further on their way than usual
  • Had to stop myself from pinging my bell too much as it was getting me into a trance
  • When I got to work, I went straight for breakfast rather than shower first
There were a few familiar faces participating, which is always nice. Anton is a regular now. And Mel eased off to have a chat also: "Don't know if I'll last 8 hours on these handlebars", he said. Can you imagine the banter that followed: "Is that because you're taking it easy today Mel?" Truth is that he wasn't used to the type of handlebars on his newly acquired bike. The 8 hours reference was neither here nor there for him (but it was to us!).

I had given myself 14 hours (pretty much the time limit), but there was a push to finish before dark, so 12 hours wasn't bad in the end for a hilly 200. I only stopped to eat and take a couple of iPhone pictures.

M25 cutting through country side

The other picture was taken at Rotherfield - couldn't help myself.


The day wasn't too eventful, apart from ... not causing a car accident ... but if I hadn't been there, the prang probably wouldn't have happened. I was descending down a hill at a bit of a speed, I braked, slowed down, as I saw an oncoming car wanting to turn right. The car stopped ... bang, somebody drove into him. Ouch. I wonder if anybody saw the aftermath? In Crowborough, I think it was.

Then there was the unknown object thrower. We went through quite a few lanes. I like cycling on these lanes, but there isn't much space for cars to pass. A big people carrier came along and a pesky little child threw something at me through the open window. It was close range, but still quite a good shot I thought, hitting me in my most padded area. I was contemplating what to say, should I meet the car at the T junction. It was going to be 'Good shot', 'You rascal', or both. When taking a break at the next info control quite a few miles further, I noticed half a piece of a digestive biscuit sitting on top of my saddle bag. Very good shot!!

The fuel stop at Yalding was very welcome. We, that is Stephen and I, who by then had formed a groupette of two, both enjoyed the break. Its amazing what energy you can draw, not just from eating, but from the presence of somebody who understands what you are doing. The organiser, William Weir, was there to stamp our cards and provide food and drink.

The route covers some wonderful scenery and picturesque villages. Goudhurst in particular caught my eye, very near Sissinghurst. It is a small village and has an unusual feel to it because of the way the church is elevated above the surrounding, beautiful buildings.

I really enjoyed this ride (3000 m climbing has its rewards) and since Redhill is quite easy to get to for me, I might look out for more of William's rides.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

FNRttC - Whitstable

Every time. Every time, it lives up to expectations. What is it about this ride? On Saturday morning, I was asking myself why I don't do this every Friday night. Lots of reasons of course, but one thing is for sure. My other half, who normally has heard enough about rides, this time, was all ears and ... asked if she could meet me in Whitstable next time around. Yes, yes!

However ... next year, the full moon will not be during the August Bank Holiday (I think the Bank Holiday weekend made the harbour atmosphere that little bit more special).

The ride starts with a good dose of night time London, all lit up in different ways: Hyde Park Corner, Buckingham Palace, Westminster with Big Ben, the London Eye, OXO Tower and Tower Bridge. Sights people come from all over the world to see. Then onto the south side of the river, where we go through Bermondsey and onto Greenwich, Dartford and beyond.

I like the spot which marks the boundary between London and 'nearly in Whitstable'. It has a good feel of old London with new generation taking place - the area is called 'More London', as etched into the Water Benches fountains.

These 'Water Benches' are just next to another water feature, which is called the Rill. Its a cut through the paving with water running down. I find it absolutely extraordinary, I like it, but its such a trip hazard!

The Rill
Photo by Tim Hall (see link below)

Next thing you know, you are at Andy's Cafe. At least we all call it Andy's Cafe. While I was queueing I was trying to make sense of its real name:

Maybe the owner used to be Andy Snacks, and the cafe was called 'The Andy Snacks Cafe' (still doesn't sound right, does it). Then the new owner wisely thought to keep the original name, but never proofread the new shop fascia design. There again, it could be rhyming slang that has gone right over my head ...

We went at quite a pace I thought. Granted we stopped a lot for regrouping, but when we were going we were flying. Dawn, sunrise, early morning at the Milton Regis stop (people were out buying papers by then), the thought of breakfast by the sea ...

The location for breakfast can't be better, on that balcony overlooking the sea. The cricket came on on the screen, the bar opened, ... then some people with time schedules started to leave to catch the train back to London, some people without time schedules were settling in, some people with time schedules kept planning to get the next train.

And I went off to the harbour to have oysters and champagne. You can't go to Whitstable three years in a row and not have oysters. It had to be done.

La vie est belle

After half a bottle of champagne, everybody was my best friend of course. The oyster seller explained why I can't take oysters to London, which I thought was marvellous. I couldn't thank him enough for being so honest. £4 for six oysters - fantastic!

I took my time, people watching, visiting the fish market, strolling back to the station eventually ... but would you believe it, it appears from a post on the cycling forum that 'the settlers' would have taken a train after me!

Photos are on the slideshow till the next post or here: Clicky

And there are some fantastic shots taken by Tim here: Clicky

Sunday, 18 July 2010

FNRttC - Newhaven - Dieppe

This Friday night ride to the coast was always going to be something special. It ran on a Thursday, and not only was it going to the Coast, but to the Continent. With the opportunity for me to extend the ride to Belgium, the proposition couldn't be better.

So 9 people set off from Hyde Park Corner, and two more joined us on the way. We got thoroughly soaked all the way to Gatwick Airport. The 'Fastest way to London' sign, which I kept reading as 'The fastest way back to London', seemed like a good option. Still, the Costa Coffee experience, I wouldn't have missed for the world.

I had started the queue, and when Simon's order was taken before mine, I should have known that things weren't alltogether go smoothly. Instead, I thought, yes, yes, quite right that Simon, our leader, should get served first, how rude of me! In a loud clear voice Simon ordered a cappucino with a raspberry and milk chocolate muffin. That muffin bit was a bit hard for the guy at the till. To help him out we pointed at the muffins which were right in front of us. Mr Quick, who had already put the muffin in a bag, was retrospectively instructed to get a muffin, which caused another bout of confused looks and repetitive instructions by the till man.

But this was only a warm up! 'Four' the till man said/shouted. 'Four?' repeated Simon. 'Four what?' I kind of mumbeld 'must be four pounds', which is a bit odd really. How often do you order two items that come to exactly four pounds? And then, with a look of revelation, the till man shouted: 3.59! Blimey, the price is going down! Go with it Simon! 3.59. It's as if he suddenly remembered that the code for a part he needs to order is not 4, but 3.59. He was not really looking at Simon, but looking through Simon, right through Simon to the other side of the big hall, where on the wall there was an Exit sign.

Anyway, it came to my order, which was a flat white and a point and point muffin. Mr Exit took the receipt he'd just entered and studied it carefully. Then I felt bad, I thought, you see, he's just had a bad start of his shift, realised he's ordered the wrong part for his lawnmower, but now he is pulling himself together, reading, double checking the receipt, making sure there are two items, the right items, all correctly charged, etc ... Then he looked at the Exit sign which I was now obscuring, handed the receipt to me, and asked "Which coffee did you order?". "Flat white". Its printed on the receipt! 3.59, he shouted! Oh really! From then on everybody's order seemed to be 3.59. I was beginning to think this was a candid camera scene. Or we were in a world where there is no expressive laughter. And the joke was on us. They were testing us to see how long it would take for somebody to give up or else get behind the till themselves. 3.59 was just their code for laughing their socks off.

In the mean time, Simon was waiting for his coffee and had said 'yes please' to chocolate on top. As I turned to join the coffee queue, the coffee man asked Simon 'Would you like a sprinkle ...' 'Yes! I said yes before!' Mr Sprinkle put the back of his right hand limply to his forehead, it had been a busy night. 3.59, I could hear from my right!

But it was when Simon, with a click of the heels, on receipt of his coffee, said to Mr Sprinkler: 'Outstanding', that I spontaneously combusted into laughter and Simon did the same.

On the Simon scale of badness from 1 to 10, this whole scenario stood out at 20! Still, we did get served and had entertainment to boot!

All of the FNRttC gang

The ride from Gatwick to Newhaven was wonderful. Titus must have been chuffed that he hadn't bailed out. It wasn't raining anymore and soon it was getting light. The roads were great to cycle on. I trust somebody took a picture of the sun rise, was that at Wivelsfield? We had a puncture stop and during that time, Des kindly let me have a go on his fixed bike. Thanks Des.

The Pitstop Cafe was ideal for our traditional breakfast. And it was great to have so much time. Normally, I watch the clock because you need to get that train back to London. More entertainment, but of a different kind, was provided by the staff. The breakfast was superb, I was pleasantly surprised. We had time to chat, the sun was out, we could sit outside, put my flip flops on. Great!

And then we said our goodbyes, I didn't like that bit, I wanted all of us to go to Dieppe, it was a great group. Not even Aperitif could be persuaded, although I think he was the closest to a 'life is short' moment. Off we went to the ferry terminal: Simon, Tim and Kathy on tandem, Stuart and I.

Hey! More entertainment! If you are going to have a clipless moment, then there is not better spot than here:

Then we were joined by more cyclists, some better prepared than others it seemed. A couple of guys had the full Ortlieb front and back panniers, tent on top. Then there was a guy wearing a casual jacket and trainers. He was cycling to Paris for charity. He was rather concerned about his bike on the ferry. 'Don't worry mate', said Simon, 'they won't nick your bike'. Simon's intonation was disguised enough, but I was in stitches again.

Stuart was a star on many occasions. First directing us straight to the most comfortable seating area on the ferry where those who didn't sleep the whole way could watch a film so bad that it became entertaining again. Then directing us, together with Simon, to the Formule 1. Because we wouldn't have got there with my directions!! Where did I get that address from??

We got to the hotel in time to catch the end of the Tour de France. The belgian Van Den Broeck seems to be doing well. Can't believe Renshaw got disqualified.

After drinks and dinner in Dieppe, we had cheese and wine back on the 'hotel terrace'. 'Bon appetit' someone said genuinely. Then said goodbyes again, because the next day, it was going to be an early start for me to set off to Belgium.

The tailwind made the whole ride effortless, I was cruising in the biggest gear for much of the time. My only worry was where to get water from next, but I only needed to ask wherever I had a food stop. I was slightly annoyed at myself for getting out of the habit of carrying oil. But the mobile shop came to my rescue. The man shook his head from side to side when I asked if he had oil. He didn't have any oil for sale, but he did have oil. Off he hopped from his trailer and got a can of spray, applied it to my chain and 'Allez!' he said.

Mobile shop

The scenery was rolling country side. There weren't any hills to speak of until I reached Belgium where I climbed the Kemmelberg. Smalldean Lane is much harder!!

Rapha has an article on it: Rapha Kemmelberg . I wouldn't call Kemmel nothern Belgium though, its pretty close to the French border. But here is a bit of trivia that might explain why the writer calls it northern Belgium. West-Flanders - which is where the Kemmel is, is the only county bordering both France and the Netherlands. Hence its also flemish, and flanders is often regarded as northern Belgium.

From there I was close to home and didn't take many more photos. I arrived close to 6PM, which was my original ETA, the tailwind helped me get there.

I had an absolutely fantastic weekend, made by the night ride, the DIY 200 ride, the company and my family. Thanks to all.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Bryan Chapman Memorial 600

This was a holiday, not a randonnee....

On the first day, I thought I was on a cycling tour. The countryside and weather reminded me of my excellent Land's End to John O'Groats trip in September 2005. I really would like to do another tour like that.

I was in a relaxed mood. I had encouraged myself to take it easy on the first day. Every 'Araf' sign was a reminder to slow down, gear down, take it easy. This time last year, at Weobley (80km to go), I had approached John Spooner, saying 'I don't think I'm going to make it'. To which he replied, with that lowering of arms and palms up signal: 'Just enjoy it'. Probably the best reply he could have given, and something that has stayed with me. I was absolutely going to enjoy this BCM.

All along, while taking it easy, I was ahead on last year's times. Of course, the weather played a big part in that. But other contributors were having lost weight and having done an 8 week interval training program. World class triathlete Jenny Rose put me onto this. Its amazing how eight, 1 hour sessions can make such a difference. I finished within the 40hour time limit and felt good all way around. Hoorraahh!!

It wasn't all plain sailing though and I should correct my opening line to: "A holiday by day and a randonee by night".

Here is a quote from Flatus: "had a nice night ride in parts to reach Kings at 11.45pm". Excuse me, but arriving back at Kings before midnight is not a night ride, right?!

Here is Flatus again: "Heard the rain pissing down and felt very sorry for the poor buggers still out in it." Well, thank you, that would have been me.

As I was cycling through Beddgelert in the night, in the rain, I was recalling the fireworks we saw last year. I was really tired by then, and only had worded thoughts in my head: fireworks at Beddgelert, fireworks, Beddgelert,... I wondered how you pronounce Beddgelert in Welsh. Beddgelert, Bedd gelert, Bedd ge lert, Bedd ... BED!

A quote by Nonsteeler: "I felt really sorry for all those who didn't get a bed". There are beds in the youth hostel? Its OK though, really. Don't feel guilty. I ride my ride and I know what resources will be available to me. I don't compare, I don't think they got a bed and I didn't, or I need a bed more than they do. The first couple of paragraphs of Fidgetbuzz's YACF entry did make me laugh.

I had my powernaps as planned on the second day (no more than 5 mins at the time even though I set 10 minute alarms). The sound of a nice bike whizzing past you while having a bit of shuteye on a bench, I find absolutely wonderful. At one of the later controls, blacksheep advised me to get cracking, no one can afford any time off the bike now! Right you are sir. I was feeling tip top, still, so no problem cracking on. What a difference from last year! I feel I have finally mastered long distance cycling.

There is a lot of climbing on the BCM. I had made a note of blacksheep's remark of 'Leaving Newtown for Weobley you will find the longest single climb of the ride'. Indeed I found this the most draining climb of all.

All the climbing comes with lovely views and descents. I had quite a few old CDs (ref LEL) - love it. At one stage, we were going so fast, I thought my tyres were going to catch fire. Richforrest is now famous for having reached top speed of 92kph!

The views on this ride are fantastic. I had a wonderful moment, looking across Barmouth Sands with Snowdonia in view. Another rider had stopped to take pictures. We were both looking for unnecessary confirmation that the view was extraordinary. You can only answer by repeating 'isn't this simply stunning?'!

When I got home, I was disappointed that my other half didn't show any interest in what I'd been up to. 'Nice to have you back', is all she said. 'What, is that all, are you not going to ask any questions?' Then came her wakening reply: 'Why on earth would I ask questions about the self-inflicted torture you put on yourself!'. 'But it was like a holiday', I said. And that set her off: 'did you get rain' - yes, 'did you get very tired' - yes, 'did you get little sleep' - yes, 'did you kip on a bench' - yes, 'did you get punctures' - NO! 'No, that's because I pumped up your tyres at 97psi, no more no less'.

I was able to relive the first day, because on the Monday, I drove back to Menai and Beaumaris to re-acquaint with a family friend. 'Simply stunning' came back into my mind. The family friend is somebody with an interesting story: Karel Lek. Then on the Tuesday I drove back the 'fast' way to London. What a long journey, I needed all my long distance tricks to get through that one. I stopped at every other service station for food and a kip. I was exhausted. And I had a craving for music. Weird. I really wanted Beethoven's 7th symphony. I was going to sing with it, I was going to air conduct, I was going to cry and let my Tuesday Blues loose. It didn't happen. The radio got close by playing the 6th, however Schubert's string quintet did a good job instead.

Many thanks to organisers 'the blacksheep family' and the riders. The smallest comments, banter, signals, gestures, ... can make an incredible difference to the experience. It was fantastic.

Have a look at the photos on the slideshow, or here until the next ride.

Some better materials:

So, I finally feel I have mastered long distance cycling. This probably signals the end of my cycling blogging also. There are just a few more events I want to capture:
  • Brussels - Paris - Brussels 600km, next month June
  • FNRttC - Newhaven - Dieppe, extended to Rumbeke, in July
  • And of course the grand finale PBP 2011

A few more thoughts
  • Seeing the Faccombe 3/4 more en route than ever before, still in a hare and tortoise way though
  • Meeting simonp
  • Not linking up with Mal Volio and Deano
  • Me telling the Faccombe 3/4 that I found this BCM more of an achievement than LEL.
  • Me getting angry at a borrowed camera. I would press the on button through my gloves. Nothing happens. Press it again, it opens and closes again. Good Hamlet sigar advert moments (Hamlet).

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Severn Across 400

During the first few miles, I noted how common it is to see a few riders stopping to make some adjustments. I've done it. You set off, all is well. After the first bump, something begins to rattle. Stop and have a look, because you don't want to put up with that rattle full stop, let alone for the next 399km.

But as I was approaching one of these riders I realised it wasn't a rider, but a car bonnet sticking out of a drive. What! Hallucinations, already? That is not possible, that was just a mistake, right? Only a few miles later, I saw a white horse, which wasn't a white horse. Then I did see a white horse, which was white horse. I saw loads of white horses on this ride. I saw more white horse, or horses that are predominantly white than any other horses. Then I saw a white pet rabbit by the road. I did! I'm hoping other riders might have seen it, to prove it was real. Just can't remember where that was, somewhere residential. I quite enjoyed that 'Alice in Wonderland moment' which wasn't an 'Alice in Wonderland moment'.

So I hope you can now understand my slightly obscure tweet "Promises to be quite a hallu-fest tonight". If I was already seeing things in the morning, what was the night section going to be like?

In fact, it was quite the opposite. Had no hallucinations whatsoever during the night. And as I had been dreading the night section, the best hour or so of the whole ride was during the night. Not only that, but that best hour was when it was raining!! Can you believe that?! After the Bryan Chapman and LEL 2009, the only thing we wish for, is a ride without rain. Then it rains, and I begin to enjoy myself. Do you think I've lost the plot?

I was tired. I was tired the whole way round. I finally gave in, and had a sleep on the bench by Somerset Monument: Clicky. And that was just wonderful! I had togged up (think it was about 8PM), so wasn't cooling down. The atmosphere was still that of a late sunny afternoon with lovely wildlife noises going on. Bliss! Occasionally, I could hear riders coming up from the steep hill.

Shortly after that I hooked up with Ray from Willesden Cycling Club and we rode together till the end. At Membury Services, all I wanted to do was sleep. I didn't care about anything else anymore. I asked Ray how long we would stop for. When he said "not too long", I begged him for a 10 minute kip. I hadn't caught on to Ray's sense of humour yet then, but he said "Lets push the boat out and have 20 minutes". We ended up staying for about an hour and formed a groupette with AJB and Rob. I felt refreshed, it started to rain, and my spirits lifted for the first time. Ray noticed it too, that we were all bit perkier for it, as if the rain cleaned the air. Rob had a puncture at some stage. The effect of my head torch on AJB's ankle bands was entertaining me while we waited.

Ray was excellent company. Putting me to shame with his knowledge of Belgian rides and events. We exchanged tragic stories of Monsere and Galvez (as one does!). It was interesting to hear about his involvement in British Cycling.

Other thoughts:
  • It didn't warm up until about 10:30 on Saturday morning. Hands and feet got quite cold.
  • But it didn't get as cold on the Sunday morning, thankfully.
  • The balloon rising over Great Missenden.
  • Excellent organisation by Chris Beynon.
  • Rob and I thinking we knew each other and lunched together. He worked out that he knows me from my blog/images. I haven't worked out yet where I know him from other than that he reminds me of Bill Turnbull. Sorry Rob!
  • Strangely enough, having no problems climbing Yat Rock which is 20%. How steep is Smalldean Lane?
  • Recognising familiar territory around Goodrich from LEJOG 2005.
  • Lovely Cotswolds countryside, especially around Lower Swell.
  • Headwind Tewkesbury to Chepstow.
  • Climbing up Berryhill and a guy asking 'Is this Berryhill?' This was just after two kids shouted at me: "We found a double dandelion!" Or have I really lost the plot?
  • Couldn't be bothered to get the 'No mobile phones on the forecourt' effect in Chepstow Tesco.
  • Having a kip in the hall afterwards.
  • Many tweets of encouragement: thank you to all. It makes a difference.
  • I might come back to this post and fill a few gaps. I will have plenty of time to think today as I'm off to the sleep clinic!
And finally, this morning, I was bemused to see my camera can take pictures of hallucinations.

Ceci n'est pas un cheval!
On the climb to Somerset Monument.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Dean 300

What a great ride! Absolutely beautiful. But why why do we have to attach another 100km to a beautiful 200, only to cycle in the dark? You can't explain that to anybody. I don't understand it, but still expect non-cyclists not to question it. 'Its just something I do', I say.

I finished in under 18 hours again, as I did last time. With the difference, that this is earlier in the year, I took longer breaks and took photos. I also recall needing to get off the bike and walk a couple of times last year, which I didn't this time. That must have been upto Somerset Monument and then up Hackpen Hill.

So, I'm really pleased. This is my aim, to do a consistent 100 in 6 hours, with increased capacity to take breaks and photos. I adjust my non-cycling time according to how I'm doing in my 6 hour slot. Lycra Man looked puzzled at the Good News Cafe, when after 10 mins, I was announcing that I was ready to go again. But it was 12 noon you see, have to go! I felt guilty leaving him, because we just had a good section riding together. Must be careful not to get too OCD about this 6 hour melarky!

Lycra Man noticed my LEL bottle, so we had a quick chat about it. I quoted that if it hadn't been for the nasty weather I would say that LEL is not as hard as the Bryan Chapman. To which Iddu chuckled. Iddu was with me during my last deepest darkest hour of the BCM. He would have known exactly what I was referring to.

There was a comedy moment at Chepstow services. "No mobile phones on the forecourt". Didn't quite catch what was said the first time, but it was repeated soon enough, a little bit louder. When it was repeated again even louder, you couldn't help but look around to see who/what the announcer was getting upset about. And it was Mercury! He was on the phone and of course wouldn't have his ear pitched to the tannoy, but rather to the phone. So the lovely lady at the till, perched on her stool that was setup too high would angrily say it again "No mobile phones on the forecourt!" ... the sound was now distorted. Once Mercury caught on what was happening, rather than cut the conversation short and get off the phone, he just moved 5 paces out of sight of the lovely lady and probably CCTV. How cool was that!

The picture below is taken moments before the first announcement.

It was a fantastic ride, wonderful scenery, some great descents. Hi Fabian! Well done on winning E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke!

Below are a few of the photos, the rest are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Sudeley Castle - Katherine Parr lived here after Henry VIII died.

Beautiful, beautiful Forest of Dean. The cyclist is Mercury.

"Gloucester Hole"
Only noticed the Union Jack after uploading the picture.
And is that a giant pre-historic creature crawling up into the hole?

Malmesbury Abbey with another royal connection.
King Athelstan ''King of all Britain" is buried here.

And this is Malmesbury 'Tower House'.
The tower being built by somebody interested in astronomy.

Photos on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Kennet Valley Run 200

Last week LEE wrote on the forum: "I'm on the PBP2011 treadmill as of 07:30 on Saturday (along with the rest of the Faccombe 5)". I wasn't sure if he was referring to the Faccombe 5 being on the Kennet Valley Run on Saturday; or the Faccombe 5 being on the PBP2011 treadmill. Anyway, he would have been right on both counts. I have been given the official go ahead by all affected parties, and came out with my 'I'm doing PBP' statement for the first time.

This is great! A whole 18 months of planning, anticipation, excitement, fear, ambition, milestones, doubts and reading PBP threads.

And we're off, the Kennet Valley Run ... done. Its an excellent route with great scenery. Shame about the rain in the first leg, but I don't expect any less any more! Pompey Phil and I were laughing, it was such a strong downpour. We stopped in a bus shelter for a while, as I wanted to put my cap back on to keep the rain off my glasses. Had something to eat also because I was fading a bit.

And when the sun came out, it was brilliant. The sound of sky larks was wonderful. With that and the snowdrops and crocuses, you get the feeling spring is here. Saw a couple of kites on the way back also. Maybe this is their new extended boundary?

There were many punctures and mechanicals again. RichForrest had the worst of it when his recumbent tried to transform into a foldable: Clicky. There were many blessing is disguise for him, it could have been so much worse in timing and location.

Hummers also had a rear tyre blow out which set him back, but nothing so bad that he wouldn't catch up with me again at the Tutti Pole. I think he restrained himself when ordering from the waitress, but there was still plenty of non-verbal innuendo going on!

Last year, I had a dozy patch after the half way mark. Doing the ride for a second time, I can understand why. It's certainly hilly on the way into Bratton. The nice tailwind helped us out of the hills on the way back this time.

I took the obligatory church picture which was St Marys at Great Bedwyn. And here is obligatory follow up history: "The present church of St Mary's was started in 1092 and took about 200 years to build. Beneath the church are the massive remains of a Saxon church begun in 905. The south transept houses the 14th Century tombs of Sir Adam de Stokke and his son, Sir John. In the chancel is a memorial to Edward Seymour, father of King Henry VIII's wife Jane, and later Lord Protector to the young Edward VI. The bells are one of the heaviest "rings" in Wiltshire - the tenor bell weighs over a tonne."

Wiltshire white horse, but which one?

Other photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Willy Warmer 200

Less than 2 months since the last big ride and you feel like a novice again. But after about 130km into the ride, it begins to comes back to you what it is about.

I found the first half quite hard. Maybe because I was cycling on my own? Maybe because the first half is quite hilly for a flat ride? Maybe because my bike and I had a couple of niggles playing on our minds? My right knee was a bit sore. And the mudguard of the rear wheel was rubbing. After spending a good part of Friday evening putting on 'winter tyres' and adjusting the mudguards to perfection, I was quite annoyed to hear the 'not enough' clearance noises. At the Pangbourne control, MattC came to the rescue and lent me his pliers so I could adjust them again. Hummers helpfully pointed out, that I probably knocked the mudguards whilst putting my bike in the car. True, and if I had taken up kcass' offer of cycling to the start ...

I took a good break at the Tutti Pole in Hungerford. The young waiter had hints of a cute young Prince Harry look-a-like. Batteries were re-charged and I was settling into the rhythm. Noises were gone, knee wasn't so bad after all. I had stints of riding with people which was great. At the last Winnersh control - which I remember vividly from last year because it was sooo cold - I took another break. Hummers and Phil suggested that a threesome would be the way to spend the last dark section. "I would be in safe hands!" And off we went. Bez joined us too. We hadn't discussed reasons for doing PBP for too long (!), before a mechanical stopped us in our tracks. "You better carry on with Bez" said Hummers - so much for being in safe hands!

Some time after that my GPS stopped. I was so disappointed, because it was the first ride where everything was working as I wanted, it was brilliant. If I had stopped and played around with switching off and on, it probably would have been OK. But being with Bez and his GPS, we finished off the ride together. I tried to take a short cut through 'the car park', only I got the wrong car park way before Chalfont village. Ooops, "after you Bez"!

There were quite a few punctures, blow outs, wheel problems, other mechanicals, GPS failures, muddled routesheets and off-route instances on this ride. Not surprising in the conditions, but it seems the hiccups weren't well distributed and a couple of people got more than a fair share (Bigsybabie and damerell)

Other photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky