Monday, 28 March 2011

The Dean 300

I was admiring the legs of a Rapha rider in front of me. 'Like iceskater's legs', I thought. I must have had ice on my mind. Maybe from last week's FNRttC, where there was a bit of sheet ice to be negotiated. Or maybe from my new Icebreaker cycling jersey which has replaced my Rapha top as favourite. I now know why long distance cyclists have a tendency to wear 'the same old clothes'. You are going to be cycling for a long time, you want to be at your most comfortable, so the instinct is to wear your tried and tested kit. For this 300, I made the break. Don't fret, Raphaelites! I also have a new Rapha top which has knocked the old Mountain Equipment layer off the prestigious top long-sleeved spot.

Then again, was that a 'Rapha rider'? You never really know do you? You never know who they are or where they are. What about their .cc web extension? Have you ever heard of the Cocos Islands ...

Anyway, I was pleased I had all those lovely layers, as it was on the chilly side at times. Chilly enough to want to have a hanky at the ready, but a glove will do! LycraMan also said that it wouldn't rain. Good, so I took my waterproof off. How wonderful! I felt light and free.

I remembered the Upper Swell area from last year, lovely. We took the left turn to Farmcote and all of a sudden we were in thick fog. I say we, but I was on my own at that stage. Then out of nowhere three riders floated by me. The Rapha riders! I had nobody to ask for a reality check. Is this a ghost? But no, like Banksy, you know it when you see the real thing. It would have been a perfect Rapha-esque shot, black and white in the fog, soundless.

I'm pleased I have my 'I have to be focussed, go for time' ride out of the way. It is not nice. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the ride. I had a fast first half, far too big a lunch, and a slower second half, resulting in 30 minutes quicker than last year. I thought I was taking the PBP preparations a bit too casually, so told myself to get out of my comfort zone. From now I am going back to my 6 hours for 100km rule, with time for stopping and photos. I saw Honor at the start, she said she was going to 'do an Els' and had brought her camera phone. In an instant, I regretted my 'focussed and photo free' plan.

I couldn't help but take a few:

Coming out of the fog

Broad Hinton - Broad Town?

Ray and I did the section in the dark together again. Our stars get aligned once its dark! We did meet at the start and during the day. But only once it's dark do our speed and rhythm sync up. I was pleased for the company, because I did have thoughts of: 'If I'm going to ride in the dark, why don't I stick with FNRttC!' The last leg back to Oxford did seem to go on for ages.

It was nice to re-unite with Lee and Chillmoister a few times, usually, as they were leaving and I was arriving at a control point. I took a long break at Chepstow, where I went into the recommended Aslan's cafe. The waitress said that all the cyclists had chosen the Ultimate breakfast, what was I to do?

It was a good day, and the day after I could walk and wasn't holding my head at an angle. You soon forget the pain, and I'm already looking forward to the next qualifier, the Severn Across 400. But first! The Easter Arrow.

My thanks to Dave Bew as always for taking care of organising the event.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

FNRttC - Southend

At the end of a cycling blog post, I normally thank the organiser of the event. I'm not going to do that this time. No, this time, I can't help but make it the very first paragraph. Because, what Simon has done is absolutely extraordinary. He could have thrown in the towel, you see. He could have said: "Fine, end of an era. This FNRttC malarkey was fun while it lasted, but it's grown into something that needs a framework that sounds like a club with insurance, membership and whatnots." He didn't do that. He investigated how he can minimise bureaucracy while still maintaining the magic of FNRttC. All winter he plotted how to make it work. And with the first of the season's ride to Southend, pulled off something I'm so happy to have been part of. If FNRttC was art, I would call it a 'movement'. FNRttC and the Fridays are special. Simon himself, wouldn't like to dwell on this, so suffices to say: Simon, thank you!

The Southend FNRttC used to be my least favourite. With audaxing and other commitments, it wasn't a 'must keep date free' event anymore. Except, my friend, the lovely Mandy, the Cycling Gardener, was keen to experience a FNRttC. Doubtful of her stamina, we worked out a plan to get her 'up to speed' and do the short and flat, Southend ride. Only, in January, she came off her bike on the ice and broke her leg. While her leg was healing pretty quickly, I knew not to bring up the subject and crossed FNRttC Southend off my year plan. So, what do I do at the 11th hour? I tell Simon that I can not bear not to do this ride and ask to be put on the list.

Talking of broken bones. Andy, I thought, was just practising how to bind a gun to his 'bent', aspiring to emulate the picture I once took in a cycling museum.

Clearly, I must spend more time on Cyclechat, so that I am in the know when a buddy has had a non-favourable road-traffic exchange. Of course, this is Andy, he does LEL on a 'mended' back, why would he not do a FNRttC on one leg?

So, to spice up the 'ordinary' Southend ride, I go into town the Waterloo, as opposed to the Paddington, way. I bump into ChrisB. He is an acquaintance from when I was doing 100km Audaxes.

We make our way to Hyde Park Corner together. I took note of St Stephen's Restaurant/Tavern. I'd quite like to stop there for a drink next time (Beer In The Evening).

I was at the back of the large and lively gathering at Hyde Park Corner, so didn't hear Simon's health and safety talk very well. It must have been entertaining as always, because there was quite a bit of laughter. Soon we were off and soon we stopped again ... at the Minories. Everytime, I learn something new about London: The Minories on Wiki

It was here that the chill started to take. There were waves of cold, very cold and painfully cold. At the 24 hour Tesco stop, people bought extra layers, which I thought was brilliantly resourceful. Later on, I saw a rider with socks as gloves.

We rode on to the magnificent Stock Stop at the village hall. Rolls, yummy cake, tea, cheerful people ... just the ticket. Thanks to Geoff, Ann, Freddie, Grace Maisie and Alfie Tully. Hope their fundraising goes well.

And then came the 'Whitstable-esque' bit. As we left the Stock Stop, dawn was ready for the early bird. How wonderful it was. I set out to do the 'ordinary' Southend, and went to work today, Monday, unable to explain to my colleagues why last Friday was extra-ordinary.

Anyway, we had a great time at the Rose Restaurant, Titus, Stu and I. Making fun of Marc who had sped along to get breakfast in before anyone else. These newcomers, he? But what about the guy who got changed into jeans? You can do the ride in jeans, but you can't get changed into jeans at the end. And as for the guys who got picked up by vehicle. Please have the decency to do this around the corner, out of view. Its just not cool. Not cool for us, and not cool for you. The exception would be if you offered a shuttle service to the train station in a 1960's Citroen van.

The crowd got lively again, with poppers going off to celebrate Claud's birthday. We loved the generous piece of cake.

Before I went off to do my little bit of sightseeing, Aperitif gave me a parcel. 'Nothing much', he said, 'just a little something'. The wrapping was already doing it for me: home made wrapping paper with Kipling's Bee-Boy's song printed over a honeybee covered frame.

Inside was: 'The Countryman' Vol XXXIV No 1 1946. A quick scan of the index revealed the reason for the most attentive gift: "How to Get More Honey". Written by C.G. Butler Ph.D. That must be Butler as in 'the Butler's cage', a very useful little object to keep queens in. How absolutely wonderful, thanks Aperitif! Its a little treasure to me.

With high spirits I went off as planned, to Two Tree Island.

View of Two Tree Island from Leigh on Sea

Some notes on Two Tree Island:
  • Dark-bellied Brent geese on the shore, from Siberia for the winter
  • Enjoyed watching the bike park riders doing their tricks
  • Can see Hadley Castle from the island. Hadley Farm will be venue for mountain biking during 2012 Olympics.
  • Skylarks
To close off the 'day', I tried cockles from one of the famous cockle sheds, sitting outside in the sun ... bliss.

So again, thank you Simon, tecs, tea crew and all the riders who made this another memorable FNRttC. Well done to all riders for whom it might have been their longest distance ever, their coldest ride ever, or their first night ride, or all three.

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

Photo by Yacf's Zipperhead