Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Where Did That Come From?

Sometimes, life brings you a pleasant surprise.

A long, cold and somewhat depressing winter should have left me seriously undertrained. In terms of hours on the bike - approximately nil from late November to mid February - I was.

But just a few rides in the last four or five weeks and I feel much the same, fitness and strength-wise, as I did last autumn. Another 24-25 miler at the weekend was just as encouraging as my ride the week before.

I haven't done any big mileages yet, but I have done two hardish rides back-to-back and was better on day two than day one. Really, I'm quite optimistic for this spring and summer and for September's awfully big adventure.

The Yorkshire Dales trip next month might put me in my place, mind you - 154 planned miles in hillier country than I've ridden since last September will be a test, that's for sure. But I'm up for it!


UPDATE: I rode again on Thursday, but only twenty miles this time. Feeling a bit jaded and with the hint of a sore throat, I took things a little easier on the outward leg - into the wind again. Once I turned for home though, and properly warmed up now, I again made good time, averaging around 17 mph for the ten miles back to my front door.

I wasn't actually that slow on the outward leg, although I didn't keep an accurate time, but it was probably around 14 mph or thereabouts. So I'm quite happy with a 15-16 mph average speed.

I do need a longer ride soon. Writing this on Sunday, and with a slight hangover, that will probably be tomorrow!


Now, all I need is a farsighted sponsor or two to cash in on my impending fame and glory for their own selfish ends!

In case you're unclear I NEED A BIKE to do the expedition itself that will carry me and all my kit roughly a thousand miles across France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland and into Italy, via the Alps.

Le Havre to Venice is a long way on the wrong bike - even for two great causes like MS Society and Make a Wish Foundation.

It's easily far enough for a sponsored ride. Nine months' publicity before, during and after (including the Christmas season) is plenty of time to promote the hell out of any business that wants it and isn't either illegal or immoral.

I'll do it. Who's going to help?


PS Links to the two Just Giving pages are just over there >>

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Look - Knees!

When a winter drags on as long as it did this year, it's easy to forget that the air can ever be warm again.

But yesterday was a delightful reminder that we do have balmier days when we can wear fewer layers. So, although I still had three layers on my top half, I was actually in shorts for the first time in 2010 when I headed out for a much-needed twenty-miler.

Twenty miles gets me to the top of my hill at Hartest and it's long enough to get a fair assessment of my current strength and fitness. In that sense, also, yesterday's ride was a pleasant surprise. I was a bit anxious at first and felt the first couple of hills out of town but that's partly because I was riding faster than I realised.

Once I was some way into the route I realised I was riding strongly and taking the gradients well. The 'Hartest test' was taken one gear higher than usual and it was great to feel some power in my legs rather than just aches and pains!

I did the ten miles in about 43 minutes. After a short break I headed for home, knowing I had just enough time before sunset, if I didn't hang around.

So I didn't, and the slightly more gentle climbs on the return trip were all much more enjoyable than a week ago, while I kept up a good speed on the flat sections too, arriving home in 38 minutes.

This meant my total time for the twenty miles was close to my personal best for this bike - my heavy mountain bike. After a winter of inactivity, that was pretty pleasing!

I'll never be Lance Armstrong but I will make it across the Alps this September, starting in Le Havre, through Paris and across France, Germany, Austria and maybe Switzerland, and down to Venice.
Of course, I'm keen to collect sponsorship - including a suitable bike if possible - and you can donate to my two favourite charities via the Just Giving widgets on this page.


Monday, 8 March 2010

Stronger Today

Hello again

Just a very quick post today to record the weekend's training rides. Despite the sunshine, the weekend was raw and cold, but at least the roads are largely dry again.

On Saturday I headed south as usual, to 'my' hill at Hartest, then carried on to Long Melford. At this point I was feeling quite good, although I reminded myself (this time) that I'd enjoyed a slight tailwind.

Turning east towards Lavenham meant running into the northeasterly wind more, and the slight climb over the next few miles was tougher than I would have liked. Still, I knew that hard work today would make me stronger tomorrow - even though I was planning to rest on Sunday. At Lavenham church, which dominates the small town below it, I refuelled myself and decided, belatedly, to pump some more air into the tyres. About 150 squirts later, the tyres were somewhere near their correct pressures...

So, running northwards, almost into the wind, should have felt easier than it did! Still, despite at one point feeling too weary to reach into my back pocket for my last banana, I got home after about 35 miles in a little under 3 hours. Not great speed but a hard enough work out to be going on with.

Then brother-in-law John phoned and suddenly I would be riding again next day...

But it's true what they say: 'Ride harder today and you'll be stronger tomorrow.'

Sunday's ride was in the opposite direction and a whole lot easier and faster. Heading north from Elmswell, we made reasonable speed into the still brisk (and colder) northeasterly as far as England's only (I think) Scottish wisky distillery. Over 18 miles in roughly 75 minutes.

At this point, John headed north for home and I turned back southwards, then southwestwards to Bury St Edmunds. It's roughly 22 miles home from there, via the lanes to Ixworth then the main A143 to Bury, so the day's ride gave me a round trip of about 40 miles. John probably did 5 or 10 miles more.

Again, I was home in around 2 hours 45 minutes, for an average of close to 15 mph. Which is not bad at all on my old mountain bike.

Today I have a few minor aches and pains but I'll be ready to go again in a day or two.

But it feels great to be making progress again after months of moving inexorably backwards!


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Thursday, 4 March 2010

Back to the Hill

Today's training ride felt about 30% better than a couple of days ago. Progress was certainly helped by the tailwind on the outward leg - not that I really noticed the tailwind, I just congratulated myself on being stronger than I expected!

Anyway, with a bit more time set aside, I made it back to 'my' hill at Hartest for the first time in a few weeks. It's still there, you'll be pleased to hear and still supposedly the steepest hill in Suffolk, even if my photographic skills don't reflect that:

As you can see, it was a beautifully sunny afternoon and the floods of last weekend had reverted to puddles and few run-offs. I made good time to the top of Hartest hill and almost as good time back again, despite the headwind.

It's a long way short of the Alps and not even comparable to Yorkshire's hills, but a ride in the Suffolk countryside is a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two and inch a little closer to fitness - whatever that is!


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Training for the Training

JR has just shared the route for our 'L'etape de Dales' training weekend next month (!) which is 82 miles across the Yorkshire Dales from Howarth to Kirkby Stephen and 72 miles back the next day.

Now, the dales aren't the Alps but they're not Suffolk 'hills' either, so I'll be stepping up the mileage and the pace from now on to get myself fit enough for the training - or it could all be very embarrassing when I fall off on the first real hill!

I jumped at the chance to do the Paris to Venice trip and I will be ready - but there's a lot of work to do to get there.

One thought occured to me last night. I'll be two weeks short of my 54th birthday when we arrive in Venice and, assuming it hasn't killed me, I'll be the fittest I have ever been in my life.

I've run half marathons (quite quickly on a couple of occasions), done a 5-minute mile and was even a decently fast sprinter. I've played a bit of football, but I've never been as fit or strong as I will be at the end of September this year.

That's an exciting thought!


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Monday, 1 March 2010

It Doesn't Have Quite the Same Ring to it

We've been discussing plans for the Paris to Venice trip and the concensus seems to be that the trip will be far too easy unless we make a point of making it harder.

So we might now start on the coast at Le Havre, with the Seine giving us a natural route into and out of Paris. It would add about 150 miles (240 km) and probably a whole day to the trip.

By taking the overnight ferry we could start very early on day one and get most of the way to Paris.

From there we would head east into the Vosges and then south through Germany, Austria, maybe Switzerland and finally Italy.

So the total distance will probably be close to 1600 km, or around 1000 miles. It would be nice to crack the 1000 mile barrier and turning this trip into another coast to coast will be a lot more satisfying. The other three team members did the Pyrenees coast to coast in 2007 and we all did the English coast to coast last September. We might do that again in July or August as a final prep for the big one*

I actually managed some time on the bike today - lovely day if a bit chilly, and some flooded roads - and although seventy sluggish minutes is nowhere near what I'd like to be doing I'm confident I'll be up to the trip.

We've also confirmed our 'Etape de Dales' training weekend next month. That might be a bit soon for me but I'll certainly be stronger after it!


*Talking of big ones, Simon Hood is taking cycle touring to extremes. He's cycling to every York City football match this season. As I write this he's done about 5500 miles, with 3000 to go! Read his excellent and entertaining blog at Naturally, he's raising thousands of pounds for charity, including Altzheimer's research.

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