Tuesday, 27 April 2010

What Doesn't Kill You...

Just a very quick post for now to say that all four of us survived the Yorkshire Dales in one piece, and we'll all be stronger for it.

Which is more than can be said for one of the bikes, as John H's rear hub gave out on him for the second time.

The good news is this was Sunday, so he'd done a fair few testing miles already over the one and a half days. Those hills are steep! Which is probably a contributing factor to the mechanical failure, but his hub had been creaking the previous day.

And fortunately, he was stranded within a hundred yards of a train station. Unfortunately, he had missed a train by five minutes and had three and a half hours to wait for the next one.

So while JR volunteered to cycle back over the mammoth hill we'd just climbed to keep him company, John C and I set off to try to beat the train! (With a three and a half hour head start, that is.)

We kind of managed it. The idea was that John would drive back from the hostel at Haworth, where we'd stayed the first night, to collect JR and John H (and bikes) from Settle. In fact, there is a steam train service from Settle to Haworth, and the two stragglers used that to get to Haworth about five minutes after we did. John just drove down the hill to collect John H and his stricken bike, while JR rode the last half mile or so up to the hostel.

Trying to hurry back while climbing those monster hills was a test, as was racing along the dual-carriageway from Ilkley to to Keighley in the pouring rain. But it was certainly a good workout at the end of a 150 plus miles weekend of fierce climbs and thrilling decents.

I'll post some more pictures soon, but here's one to be going on with:


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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Two More Rides in the Sun!

Thursday was a pleasant if rather cool day, which made it almost perfect for cycling, so I headed off in the usual southerly direction from Bury St Edmunds, via 'my hill' at Hartest, and on to Stanstead.
I didn't stop at my usual rest point in Stanstead - shown here - but turned back at the bottom of the village.

I've been testing a theory put forward by fellow cyclist and nutritional expert Graeme Street that you shouldn't eat carbs in the two hours before a ride. The idea is to smooth out the sugar highs and lows, and to reduce the amount of insulin in your bloodstream. Insulin apparently also suppresses the function of growth hormone, which you need to grow and heal hard-worked muscles.

So, for the second time, I followed his advice and I have to say I felt stronger for longer. I was actually slightly hungry when I set off but my legs were fine. So I rode for fifteen miles before I ate anything at all - a banana - and finished the ride feeling quite fresh and strong, having pushed myself pretty hard for the whole 25 miles.

Of course, I am building my fitness, so this one ride probably isn't strictly comparable with a week or two earlier.

The second ride, on an even more beautiful Saturday afternoon, was even better. There was a little stiffness in my thighs from the hardish riding of a couple of days earlier, but that soon disappeared. I planned a longer ride, so I set of at a slightly gentler pace. This time it was probably only an hour since I'd eaten. I still took very little food but added an extra bottle of water, just in case.

I rode for exactly 90 minutes before I stopped for a snack, covering about 23 miles in that time. Coincidentally, this brought me to the end of the road on the outskirts of Thorpe Morieux, where I lived for a while about seven or eight years ago, so I took a couple of pictures for posterity. With no planes flying, due to the Iceland volcano, the sky was a totally clear and silent blue.

I tend to ride too fast to hear the birds singing, but they were in full voice when I stopped.

On the way, I'd passed through Hartest and Stanstead as usual, and the popular tourist spots of Long Melford and Lavenham, both of which were quite busy, although the Suffolk lanes were as quiet and pleasant as ever.

A banana, a small piece of cheese and some of the extra water was just enough to get me home, cycling quite strongly, having covered about 35 miles in 128 minutes of cycling, plus 11 minutes R&P (rest and photography).

And I'm still riding my old mountain bike.

Next week we step up a few levels, with our 158 mile weekend in the Yorkshire Dales. It is going to hurt!


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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Paris to Venice Progress Report

A couple more training rides since I last updated this blog have both been pretty good, although I'm getting seriously worried about the lack of miles I'm putting into my legs. Our training weekend in the Yorkshire Dales is now less than two weeks away and I think it's going to come as a shock to my legs and lungs.

I had the chance to spend some time in the Lancashire Pennines last week, when business took me to Bury, north of Manchester. I stayed overnight with my son and his girlfriend and could easily have 'stolen' some cycling time - except that I didn't think to take my bike...

Meanwhile, back in Suffolk, a fairly strenuous 20-miler south from Bury St Edmunds, in dry but breezy weather last week, gave me an average speed close to 15 mph. Once again, it was slowest on the outward leg, into the breeze. I did most of Hartest hill in a higher gear than usual, standing on the pedals, just to give myself a worthwhile workout. I felt good at the end, too.

I did that entire hill in the higher gear the next time I rode, a couple of days ago. It's not a great way to treat your knees, when you're turning the pedals relatively slowly, but my knees actually feel fine at the moment - at least better than they have for quite a while. I've even considered doing a bit of running again.

Anyway, this time I added a few miles and continued on to Stanstead village (no, not near Stansted Airport - different spelling). With much lighter winds, and mainly northeasterly, I didn't have to work quite so hard on the outward leg. Still, it was a good, fastish ride on a truly fabulous afternoon.

I stopped to enjoy the scenery at Stanstead, but didn't really need a rest or even, dare I say it, the snack that I persuaded myself to eat. I probably could have drunk a little more, though.

My ride home was an enjoyable run, too. The headwind was apparent at times, but mostly didn't affect me and I felt strong. The average speed was again near 15 mph in both directions.

So I feel that I'm riding quite well, just not far enough or often enough! I'll find out soon whether my fears are well founded. Meanwhile, let's get some miles in.


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Sunday, 4 April 2010

Training for Paris to Venice

This week's training has once again been affected by weather and shortage of time, but I managed another twenty miles during the week. Conditions were good to terrible!

Starting out in slightly cool and very windy weather, on dampish roads with some run-off, mud and gravel in places, the outward ride to my turn-around point at ten miles was hard going, but I felt reasonably strong doing it. Hartest hill was a bit of a drag, but I made it to the top in a decent time, all things considered. Average speed was about 12.5 mph.

Both bike and rider were very mud-spattered by this half way point.

Turning for home, the wind was now my ally, and I was making good speed until about half way, when it started to rain. Within a minute or two the rain was torrential and the wind had picked up even more. I discovered my lightweight shower proof jacket is surprisingly good in the worst of conditions, so I was actually not too uncomfortable - and the bike was getting a wash, too.

There was no reason to slow down, so I didn't, and I got back in 35 minutes or so, just as the rain petered out, for an average speed near 17 mph for the ten miles.

Not bad going I thought, and really good fun, despite the soaking.

But I do need to get some longer rides in soon, with only three weeks now to our first major weekend in the Yorkshire Dales.


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