Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Yorkshire Dales 200 Perm - NPS2F

It is viaduct heaven in the Yorkshire Dales!  You'd think the image below is 'the viaduct', but the Dent Head viaduct is one of 22.  Dent Head is a minor, with 10 arches, as opposed to 'The Ribblehead Viaduct' which has 24 arches.  I can believe that the Settle-Carlisle railway line would be one of the most scenic in England.

Dent Head Viaduct
I didn't have a chance to research my cycling route beforehand.  Otherwise I would have come across two significant facts:
  • Dent, where I was staying, has the highest railway station in England.
  • Dent has almost four times the rainfall of London.
At least I knew from the audax entry form that 3100m climbing would be involved.  And the fact I'm doing this as an audax means rain, naturally.

Perfect PBP training then, especially after only having had three hours sleep the night before.  

And I managed to put myself under pressure again, having said to my holiday companions I would be back in Dent by 8PM.  All was fine, I was pushing it for the last hour, and even more so for the last 12 km, because I was going to make it very close to 8.  I gave it everything, as if I was in a spinning class.  After the 'last mile', I saw a signpost to Dent: 9.5 miles.  My heart and body sank.  It took me a further hour and a half to cover the last 9.5 miles.  I was soaking wet, again, of course.  My feet hurt.  I was exhausted.  

Nearly there!
That was an endless stretch of hilly road and very remote. I arrived in Dent and wondered around a little, mixing with the beer and music festival-goers. Finally, I struggled up the drive to the holiday barn, from which, fine views can be enjoyed!

My chums and I with the view in the background
I love a full day's out cycling though.  The scenery was great and varied.  There were many cyclist on the road, and off-road.  Also many walkers, cavers, climbers and 'sportsmen'.  The Yorkshire Dales are fantastic for outdoor activities.

I stopped off in a pub near Kettlewell, for a coffee.  I had seen the sign: "No muddy boots allowed".  The landlord didn't look me up and down, just down.  'Coffee please' I said, and sat down.  My overshoes might have been wet, but they were not muddy.  My feet hadn't touch the ground for the last 50 miles, there is no way they were muddy, and cycling shoes are not boots.  

Wensleydale cheese!  I had a craving for it after cycling past the 'Wensleydale Cheese visitor centre'.  Shame on me for not stopping, but cycling around with cheese in my saddlebag didn't appeal.  

Going through Burnley made me think of Fred Dibnah.  All those out of use chimneys still standing.  There are some beautiful buildings/structures around.  Here is a great fact about Burnley from the wiki site: "More Benedictine is drunk in one local working men's club, the Burnley Miners Club, than anywhere else in the world, after a local regiment stationed in Normandy during World War I brought back a taste for the drink." 

After Burnley was the lovely ride back via Clitheroe and Slaidburn, which I remembered from my LEJOG trip.  This is in Lancashire now and the Forest of Bowland - beautiful.  I stopped off at the Slaidburn Youth Hostel to fill my water bottle.

Profile of the ride - like alligator's teeth

The following day, I drove over to Settle, to the start of the CycleChat forum ride.  I made my excuses which were received with complete understanding.

CycleChat meeting point

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

Monday, 20 June 2011

FNRttC - Whitstable

When I saw a signpost to our end destination: "Whitstable 4", I was disappointed.  I didn't want it to end.  We had a tail wind all the way, and it seemed to get stronger and stronger.  Those last 4 miles were over in a jiffy.

I loved sitting, having breakfast, on the balcony of the cafe.  The waitress recognised me from the week before: "Back for more", she said.  Sure am!

It was sunny, people were happy, chatting ... Because I had limited time, I was absorbing the atmosphere in a time-lapse manner.

The weather forecast had been expressed in inches of rain all week  To be fair to our middle of the night caterers,  Simon had set the deadline for pulling out to Thursday.  This reduced the field from 130 to 65.  Right up until midnight Friday, the weather was appalling.  My motto doesn't work in Simon's system, but normally I say "Always get to the start".  Always get to the start, and then decide whether to ride or not .  From midnight onwards, we had perfect cycling conditions.  It was warm, no rain, a little drizzle perhaps, and a tailwind all the way.

So, we benefited the advantages of a reduced field. It was like the old days.  Although, a group of 65 now appears really small.  Bunching up is much quicker, you see people more than once, shorter queues for facilities, shorter queues for food, Simon with time to chat ....

A pedestrian asked what we were doing and Simon replied "We've come to see you!".  The serious answer of "We're going to Whitstable" prompted a reply of "Ah Whitstable", with an intonation of  "I have no idea who Whitstable is".

"We've come to see you"
Just after the Rochester Andy Snacks stop, I noticed this intriguing structure.  If I didn't learn anything new about London, I learnt about Sir John Hawkins, the triangular trade, and these almshouses, still used to house Navy pensioners.

Sir John Hawkins Hospital, Kings, Chatham
John Hawkins on wiki
I have also discovered why an audax in Kent is called the Invicta:

Kent motto Invicta, on house in Milton Regis
Kent Invicta on wiki
The reason I had limited time at Whitstable is that I got to do the ride on the promise I would be back home to help out at the Hanwell Carnival Allotment Stall.  Since I am the beekeeper with honey to offer, it was only right that I would be attending my own makeshift stall.

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

Other thoughts:

  • 12 puncture in the group
  • sleeping on the train back to London, to miss every single drinks trolley
  • skylarks
  • tipping helmet at the Sportsman (table booked for 10th July)
  • need to start planning for Newhaven - Dieppe (have ferry and Eurostar, need overnight stay and route)
  • perfect ride - thank you Simon, and everybody involved 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

London to Brighton 300 DIY by GPS

I made a couple of mistakes on this ride, but with hindsight, I might have done myself a favour.

The ride was London to Brighton along the east and south coast: 310km shortest distance, 350km ridden, 3100m climbing.

One of the mistakes was making this DIY hugely over distance.  I though I'd be OK.  I was going to use my racing bike, no mudguards, no saddle bag, only one bottle etc.  The route is flat-ish.  Validation was going to be by GPS, so no wasting time at control points.  Everything was in my favour, I even had some Science in Sports goodies provided by Ealing Bike Hub.

Unfortunately, these advantages were completely offset by me turning into a tourist rather than behaving like an audaxer.  I was loving the ride, by the coast, miles and miles of it.   I told myself to relax and enjoy myself.  I was on rehabilitation after the BCM.  There were plenty of sites of interest, but why did I have to take not just one photo of something, but several, at different angles, with different light settings, looking around, oh .... look over there, snap, snap.  Those minutes add up.

Best angle?
Margate Turner Gallery
The other mistake, was to overshoot a couple of landmarks in Ramsgate.   I turned back to the first, and it was a complete waste of miles and time.  The Belgian Cafe, I would not recommend as a Belgian cafe.  You can buy 'a pint of Leffe' for sure (not that Belgians would order 'pints' of Leffe).  But the decor, which was a collage of retro-posters, did not have one cycling related image.  A waitress dropped a tray.  I guess it happens.  However, the expletives used following the drop stood out in being non-Flemish / non-French .  The cakes, the typically Belgian carrot cake and lemon meringue pie (I think not!), were not presented in individual portions.  I was disappointed and not in a good mood any more (can you tell?).

The headwind started to play its part and I began to realise I no longer had a time buffer.  Inspired by my personal best on last Wednesday's 10 mile time trial and being on my racer, I was going to start pushing it a bit more.  I did long steady state stretches and I did interval type stretches.  And so, this ride might very well have become a very good PBP training ride.  All this effort against the headwind took its toll though, because when I reached Battle I was ready to pack it in (second time this year!).  Only because of encouraging tweets did I decide to carry on - thank you to my regular followers, dkhan400 and SirWobbly.  If I lost my good mood in Ramsgate,  I was now angry!  Angry for allowing the word 'packing' to enter my head, and angry for having lost even more time whilst visiting Battle train station!  I asked for directions to the train station, and the lady said 'it's a long way, it's about a mile away'.  But that wasn't enough to bring my sense of humour back.  My 30-odd miles 'pending' were a reality.

We now have the perfect PBP training ingredients: tired from the early start, tired from pushing too hard, tired from the headwind, demoralised from having done the required 300kms, but having to do the over distance kms, running out of water, getting cold, getting lost, getting very sleepy.  Now go, go and do your time trial bit, you are going to have to, if you want to finish in time!

Fortunately, I had the Science in Sports goodies, they were very handy.  Both the rehydrating powder sachets and the energy bars suited me.  Before I read their tagline, I thought to 'make them part of my ritual'.  It is the detail that makes the difference.  The energy bar wrappers tell you clearly where to 'tear down'.  And when you do tear down, the packet tears open, and all the way.  Ah! Don't laugh!  I have used sachets of drink powder before, got them in New Zealand.  Thought they would be perfect.  When I came to use them on an audax, I could not get one of them to open.  I got to know Ealing Bike Hub on one of their bike maintenance courses.  It is a perfect setup for learning about bikes whatever level you are at.

I had decided that a 600 was not necessary this weekend (had been eyeing up the Invicta 600, but only with one eye).  The cycling forums' consensus seems to be that long distance rides are no longer required at this stage of PBP preparation, but shorter rides working on speed are more beneficial.  So in conclusion, I think I did myself a favour by organising an overdistance ride, and getting myself into time limit trouble.  It meant I had to ride hard.  If  I can do 350 in 21 hours, call it 300 in 20 hours, then I can do 1200 in 80 hours (all else being equal). That is 10 full hours left for sleep!  I'm beginning to look forward to PBP again.  For a while I was looking forward to it being over.

The day after this ride was PBP registration day. You're pre-registration is completed by adding records of your qualifying rides. What a milestone!

I want to go back to Margate, Broadstairs and Deal.  And another visit to Rye is already in the calendar (scallop festival).  It is a shame I couldn't stop there, but again with hindsight, having more leisure time will be a good thing.

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

Other thoughts:
  • Learning about Cinque Ports
  • Thank you to friends in Brighton for providing sleep over
  • Last picture taken in Dover, tells a story
  • Seeing the FNRttC Whitstable route in daylight
  • Learning about GPS, tracks, routes, waypoints, tracklogs ...
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