Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Easter Arrow 2014

The death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez broke the ice at the breakfast table.  'One hundred years of solitude' Arabella said with a rising inflection.  No, I have not read it, but I will now!

There was more education to come from our captain when she said she had been abstemious with the salt in the porridge.  Fantastic word.

Porridge, hot cross buns, coffee and tea made for a great start to the Easter Arrow weekend.  I would like to write that it was a sign of things to come, instead I can confirm that it turned out to be one of highlights.

Home made hot cross buns
The other highlight was the finish at the Punchbowl pub in York.

Me at the finish.
Never been so happy to wear pink and show it off!
We had no punctures, no mechanicals, no rain, no snow, no storms, no arguments, no delays, no detours, an excellent route, wonderful scenery .... so what can the matter be: the matter was a strong headwind, all the way.  I hardly came out of granny gear!

I had also underestimated the temperature.  By lunchtime I was already wearing all the layers I had with me.   I go in waves of buying from 'that'll do' cycling clothes to top of the range 'only the best will do' cycling clothes and back down again.  Unfortunately I'm in a 'that'll do' wave, and my jacket turned out to be a boil in the bag piece of plastic.  Every time we stopped cycling, I started shivering through a wet jersey.  A recipe for hypothermia, I thought, if the temperature drops further during the night section.  I was very worried.

Which brings me to another highlight: the 24 hour Asda at Newark.

Watching you, watching me
Oh yes, a 24 hours Asda in the middle of Newark at a time when all the drunk people spill out on the pavement and wonder the streets.  I could see a guy on the pavement losing his balance stepping backwards into the road just as Jo was cycling past.  A few expletives followed.  The sight of scantily dressed women made me feel even colder.  The 24 hour Asda, where we would have the floor of the entrance lobby all to ourselves, was a haven.  A haven with a clothes department where we could buy extra layers.  We were looking for fleeces, but Jo came back saying there was nothing suitable there.  We went back in, Jo to the boy's section and me aiming for the men's section.  But something in the women's section caught my eye that I thought 'if this thing doesn't keep me warm, at least it will make me smile'.  The pink bunny jumper saved my arrow.

Spot the fast laydiz
Unfortunately the arrow couldn't be saved for Lindsay.  Arabella had noted something was wrong.  'How come we're ahead for the fast laydiz?', she said.  But Lindsay had stopped to take a call, bad news, her cycling buddy on another team, had collapsed.  We could hear her agree: 'Yes, making sure he doesn't die is a priority'.  Lindsay has a way with words, and left us three with one: 'Bye!'.

Easter Bunny mascots, courtesy of fboab
Lindsay passed on her mascot to Jo, who had lost her own - it probably flew off in the wind!  Jo's forum name is 'rabbit', so she was very happy to be reunited with a bunny mascot.  Jo has a background in mountain biking.  When we went through Crowland with it's magnificent Trinity Bridge, I had wondered what the history behind the monument was.  Whereas Jo's thinking was what a great mountain biking feature it would be.

The Easter Arrow is a quirky event.  At least three of you (or three machines) need to get to the finish.  Unusually in audaxing, there is a winner.  The team that covers the longest distance in 24 hours is crowned the winner.  It's never a surprise who the winner is because the teams' intentions are often known beforehand.  It does mean that everybody puts a 24 hours effort in, regardless of ability.  And instead of recovered people leaving just as I arrive shattered at the finish,  everybody looks equally shattered at the end of an arrow, and stays for breakfast.  There is another quirky rule called the 22nd hour rule, and one of the reasons why I'm so happy to have Arabella as captain.

Wonder women CrinklyLion
There were many, many familiar faces at the finish - and a good reason to do the arrow again.  I love the 'how did it go for you' chats.  Everybody has a story to tell.  However, CrinklyLion, the cake supplier extraordinaire, will be abroad for Easter 2015.  Which is an equally good reason for not doing the arrow again next year.  Arabella and I had already agreed that we might skip an edition - because this one, truthfully, was an edition where you wouldn't mind getting your bike stolen.  When Denise insisted that I should captain a women's team, I insisted that I couldn't because I would never understand the 22nd hour rule.

The good moments were the villages, the fens, the guided bus, Jo saying 'epic' 14 times,  the food, the company, the chats, the birds, the lambs, the smell of nectar, CrinklyLion and Isaac providing the cake fest, the mountain bike feature and the sun rise.  Arabella said it wouldn't heat the earth, but I happily replied that it would warm my heart.

Sunrise in Selby
Many thanks to Arabella and fboab for planning the route.  Thanks to all three laydiz for a fantastic effort.  I can feel the Tuesday blues kicking in, because I want to thank everybody: Crinkly, Isaac, the teams, the staff at Spoons and the guy calling me 'effing weirdo' as I tried to get my bike out of the beer garden.  You are all wonderful.  Best wishes to Chris, hope you get a diagnosis.

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:

  • Seems my Easter Arrow charm worked again when I asked a second time of we could use the 'shut' toilets at the 24 hours Asda.  I figured they were blocked off to discourage the drunks coming in.  The trick was to ask the guy who had given me eye contact rather than the 'shut' guy who was busy reading 'a paper'.
  • Once it got light, seeing parked cars with a layer of ice on the windows made me realise it was much colder than just freezing
  • I spared a thought for John Radford
  • Me singing (!) to pass the night time, prevent the dozies and cheer us up.  Jo must have been pleased when Arabella took over! 'Oh, what a beautiful morning ...!'
Congratulations to Jo 'rabbit' - on riding her longest distance.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Dean 300

This is how pleased was I to see Andrew!

Me, near Cutsdean (by andrewp)

I was just taking a photo of the farm I still want to buy (if I could!).


My mind was where it usually is at this stage of a ride.  Thoughts of lantern rouge, reminders not to overdo the photos, take it easy, enjoy the day ... even if you're going to be going round on your own... 

I knew Andrew was doing the ride and gathered I must not have seen him in the car park at the start, and now he's way up ahead of me. Shame, I like to have a chat with Andrew.  We reminisce over the Wessex Series rides, and the 10 minute kip we had in the middle of a cycle path.

Where's Andrew?
When he caught up with me, he explained how he had his own sneezing panda moment on discovering he'd overslept.  We chatted for a while before I encouraged him to go ahead without me.   But we chatted some more, reminisced over the Wessex Series rides, and the 10 minute kip we had in the middle of a cycle path.  

A police van pulled up along us, telling us through the open window that we 'really should be cycling in single line'.  I was going to be happy to agree with them, but Andrew said 'No we don't!', and waved them on their way.   

For the first half of the ride, we had tailwind (with a bit of south in it according to Andrew).  But by Chepstow my legs were like jelly.  Refuelling at the petrol station did the trick.   We saw a few other riders and yoyo'd with them till Stanford.  

Refuelling at Chepstow
It's at Stanford that a spoke in my back wheel broke.  I asked Francis if he had a spoke key, which he'd did.  It was only when I was back in the car that I remembered that one of my spanners does have a spoke key slot in it.  With a bit of Francis' encouragement we true'd the wheel and loosened the brakes, enough to make it rideable.  

Andrew replaced an inner tube whilst we were at Membury Service Station.  The Membury stop was cosy with a few other riders around the table.  Service is always top notch with detailed explanations on why they can't print a receipt from one till or another.   Earlier, I had already messed up their system by waiting at the coffee machine for a coffee instead of going to the till to pay first.  'Had I not read the sign?'.  And then I dared to ask for a receipt after they'd cashed up'.  'Can't I see the tills are closed?'.  I was in a dozy enough state to think it was not my problem.  I was reminded that they need to close one till at a time and that they have now already done till 2.  But Mary on till 3 was on to it, she produced the receipt.  Amazing!  I love Membury Services.

We togged up and set off for the last leg back to Oxford.  I got the dozies and requested we'd 'talk' some more.  We had already chatted about the Wessex Series rides, and the 10 minute kip we had in the middle of a cycle path.   I brought up the subject of Toastmasters and Andrew shared insights on e-cigarettes, influencing my views on them on the way.  

Our non-faff stops means we finished the ride with 15 minutes spare.  When we got receipts in Oxford we became surrounded by friendly party-goers, asking the usual 'what are you doing' questions.  The last stretch back to the Peartree car park didn't seem to drag this time.  We said our goodbyes and I snugged into a sleeping bag.  I woke up at day break and then drove off home, still stopping at each service station on the way.

Fabulous day.  My conclusion that my audaxing journey is coming to an end has been shattered again.

Many thanks to Andrew Rodgers for organising the ride. 

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • Seeing Frank at the start being able to congratulate him on his engagement.
  • Seeing zigzag, the zigzagging Transcontinental hero.
  • Seeing oh so many familiar faces like fboab and Priddy.
  • Spring signs of skylarks, lambs, daffodils, willow catkins, and sun.
  • My running hasn't done my climbing legs any good.
  • Hearing the wild pigs in the Forest of Dean.
  • Francis on fixed wheel.