Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Dean 300

I was at the start on time (ref 2012) and Andy was at the start on time (ref 2014).  All was looking good.  But where were the organisers? Did they not get to the start on time?  News of them having set up camp at the back of the Peartee car park travelled like messages in an ants colony.   A trail of riders eventually made their way to the back, picking up brevet cards just in time for the 6AM off.

False start
I had entered the Dean not being sure if I would be fit enough for a hilly 300.  But the more I talked myself out of it, the more I saw it as a challenge.  By Tuesday I was completely up for it and even the forecasted low temperatures didn't put me off anymore. 

The Dean 300
'I had to try'.  This is what Michael said also.  Although he had booked a Travelodge room for the Friday night, he went back home to pick up a crucial electronic gear shifting battery.  We saw him the next day.  Despite having had only 1.5 hours sleep he said 'he had to try'.   Michael, Pete and I ended up in a triplette.  It's always good to have company after dark.   I knew Michael was digging deep when he asked whether there was a cat sitting in the middle of the road.  That rubbish bag looked nothing like a cat!

The ride went very well.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The high gearing on my new bike didn't trouble me too much although I did walk up the 14% climb to Somerset Monument and also up Hackpen Hill.  At least Hackpen Hill has a name, I thought.  From Chepstow onwards I had planned to count the hills from 1 to 10.  The first climb towards Thornbury, after the Severn Bridge, didn't seem so bad, so I didn't count that one.  I certainly couldn't count the ones I walked.  By the time we got to Lambourn it was time to give up on the counting idea.

Sometimes I can't tell if we have headwind or tailwind.  Early on I put my buff over my ears and pretended there was no wind at all.  When Pete and I crossed the Severn Bridge, the angle of Pete's bike told me for sure which direction the wind came from! Our triplette did well to take it in turns to battle against the wind.  Pete seemed to revive, having not felt very well in he first half, and took the lead a big proportion of the time.  Thank you Pete!

Camp Hackney
I didn't feel broken like I normally do after a long ride.  I could still talk and even complete my brevet card!  It was great to finish back at camp Hackney where there was a tent, outdoor heater, soup, tea, beer, laughter, company and Andy.   Andy came out of his van to say hello, give a blanket, hold my torch whilst I did my brevet card, have a chat.  How wonderful!  This has been the best finish to the Dean ever.

In previous rides, I would be totally shattered, struggle my bike in the car, struggle myself into a sleeping bag, sleep till I get too cold, then drive off to the next service station.  This time, there was the welcoming finish party, and then I made my way to the Travelodge hotel.  Wheeled my bike into the room.  Had a shower and ate rice pudding.  Then! Then, I still had the energy and inclination to get my brand new chain link pliers out.  Took the chain off the bike and put it in a pot of degreaser.   Amazing! The next day I completed the chain cleaning and compared the job to professional oven cleaning: 'comes out shining like jewellery'.

I didn't take many photos.  It was a rather grey day and I was in minimalist mode.  I did take a photo of the farm though.

My minimalist mode was in full action in the Malmesbury Waitrose.  I had started eating my chosen cakes before I could pay.  And when the man at the till asked if I had a Waitrose card, he looked up at at me and answered his own question by saying 'it would slow you down wouldn't it'? Perfect!

Many thanks to Justin and Chris for organising.  Much appreciated.

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • Lots of wildlife, dead and alive: badgers, deer, various birds of prey including the red kites.
  • Familiar faces like Frank and Steven
  • Chatting with fboab
  • The kilometers clicking away quickly, till I got to 279 which seemed to last for hours.
  • The women at the Newent Co-op asking if I'm doing 'that 300'
  • Getting a hotel room before and after the event makes so much sense!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Kennet Valley Run

We got all the seasons' weathers: frost, rain, sleet, hail, snow, sunshine, wind, gusts and if a rainbow was a weather type, I'd add that in also.  Apt that I was using Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres.

Myself, I was dressed for one season only: winter.  I was ready for the predicted RealFeel™-1.

There was a big turnout as you can tell from the amount of brevet cards that were laid out on the table at the start.

Brevet cards
It looks like others are dressed for one season also
There were familiar faces, like Titus.  He's more familiar from the FNRttC than from Audax.  But there is a trans-discipline movement in full swing.  There are several Fridays having a go at Audax.  Friday Miranda did the 100km version of this ride.  Her blog post reminds me of my early audax ride reports: treasuring the brevet card, absorbing all the advice given but needing to find your own way, the landscape and wildlife, teething problems with GPS and navigation, finishing with a great sense of achievement and wanting more.

Finishing this ride earnt me my first two audax points since July 2014.  I felt like a newbie myself, and especially with a new bike I am adjusting to.  It was when I got a puncture that I realised how out of audax routine I am.  I had to think!  When passing riders asked if I was ok, I replied with a hesitant yes.  And the riders hesitantly continued on, probably thinking 'she doesn't sound too sure'.   I was ok of course, just getting used to the feel of the bike and learning its quirks.   These quirks are things like how the bike balances with the front wheel off, and how things fall out of the new saddle bag compared with the old.

Had my own puncture soon after I took this picture
I had been prepared for the hills around Bratton.  A good break and meal at the Pickleberry Coffee and Gift Shop set me up nicely and I didn't struggle too much compared with previous years.  

The Kennet Valley Run is a great ride and I always enjoy seeing the white horse.

I also enjoyed the long sunset, meaning I didn't need to cycle in the dark too long.

I made it back by 7.30PM, at the Village Hall where there was plenty of tea, soup and cake to be enjoyed.  I chatted with a few people and then drove back home.  What a great day that was, and I'm ready for more.

Many thanks to the organiser Mick Simmons and team.

The rest of the photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • Plenty of kites
  • Seeing two people artistically painting the inside of a bus stop, can't remember where
  • Nice to visit the Tutti Pole again, but didn't hang around too long
  • Happy, very happy, with my new bike.  Will change back mudguard to my old SKS race blade ones. Need a little more clearance.