Sunday, 27 June 2010

How You Can Help

I'm cycling from Paris to Venice in September and raising money for two very deserving causes that each make a massive difference to the lives of the people they support.


MS Society helps sufferers of MS and their families to cope with the desease as well as helping research into new treatments. Hopefully, they'll find a cure one day soon.

Make a Wish Foundation make dreams come true for hundreds of seriously ill children every year. Both these causes are dear to my heart. I hope they are to yours, too.

Just go to either of my JustGiving pages to donate to your preferred charity >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

PS. Quick update on training. I've covered about 85 miles over the last three days, experimenting a little with eating versus not eating before the ride. Of course, on a long ride we all need to refuel regularly, but the initial hour seems to go a lot better for not eating carbs in the hour or so beforehand. Anyway, training is going well at last, although my old bike has developed a few more creaks. This weekend we'll be tackling the Yorkshire Dales again.

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Friday, 18 June 2010

Some More Miles Added

I just did a quick twenty miles yesterday, but it was a useful workout and it felt good to get my legs moving. A little stiffness at first was gone after a mile or two and from then on I felt pretty good.

Even my heavy old bike felt lively without the panniers and I felt stronger on the hills than I have for a while - stronger than after the last Yorkshire Dales trip - so things are going in the right direction.

I had a slight tailwind on the outward leg so I didn't get carried away but I climbed Hartest hill, which is usually a reliable test because it's quite sheltered, as well as I have for a long time.

The return ride, mainly against the wind, felt quite tough but I kept my speed up anyway, to average around 15 mph for both directions. The final hill, which usually feels harder than it looks, didn't drag as it so often does.

All in all, a very satisfying 100 minutes, and very different to Sunday's 100 miles!


PS. Remember, I'm doing this for charity - for two GREAT causes. You can sponsor me for either the MS Society or Make a Wish Foundation - or both - by clicking on the widgets on the right of this page.

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Around the St Edmunds Wheel

Successfully navigated 100 miles without a map

Sunday saw the St Edmunds Wheel bike ride, and I stuck to my resolution to do the 100 mile event. I have to admit to a few nerves because I've never ridden that far on my mountain bike, and I knew I'd spend most of the ride on my own (I did the Norwich 100 two years ago on my road bike and with company).

I also fitted the panniers and carried several litres of water plus enough food for the day, my waterproof jacket and the usual few spares and tools. So I was almost fully laden.

The St Edmunds Wheel also raises funds for St Nicholas Hospice, something we're doing with our Fifty Quid Challenge website, so it tied in nicely with our plans.

Arriving at about eight am I couldn't help but notice I was the only person doing the 100 on a mountain bike and I'm sure I was the only one with two panniers. I think I saw two others on tourers and with one pannier each, but everyone else seemed to be on fast road bikes. There were lots of members of West Suffolk Wheelers, all looking very professional in their red jerseys.
So I wasn't surprised to be dropped within about three miles. A few people started late and overtook me in the next ten miles and the sweepers caught me up at the first official refreshment stop at Lavenham, around 26.5 miles.

There was one rider I kept seeing - I was stopping every hour or so while he was ploughing on - and I overtook him each time, although we shared the work for a while on the Long Melford to Clare stretch. Three more riders passed me a couple of times but I dropped them for the last time at Stoke by Clare. Everyone else was long gone...

Having lost the map somewhere around the twenty mile mark I was grateful that the route was well signed. I had a mental picture of the map but I would have got lost in the area east of Newmarket, from haverhill northwards, if I'd tried to navigate myself. The route being roughly circular was never too far from Bury but I'm not familiar with the countryside towards Newmarket. It was also hillier than I expected along this stretch, or maybe I was just getting tired after around sixty miles. However, after crossing the A14 there was a very good road almost due north towards Tuddenham and I found a good rhythm along that road partly thanks to a slight tail wind.

Seventy miles actually came up at Tuddenham, where the first bananas were on offer at the refreshment stop. I took two and was grateful for them!

The route then meandered around the area north of Bury. It was tantalising being so close to home and yet still twenty plus miles from the end, but I put it out of my mind as best I could. Another banana/water stop at 83 miles helped...

Just seventeen miles to go. Probably the hardest part of a ride is when you know you've nearly finished, and around three or four miles from home I was very weary and I was using the gears on every incline for a while.

The last two miles was mainly downhill, though, and I finished in eight hours five minutes, with around seven hours of that being actual cycling time. So my average cycling speed was about 14 mph and the overall average about twelve and a half.

I was pushing on as best I could between stops and on a longer trip you can't afford to end a day exhausted or you won't be able to repeat it the next day (unless you're a pro, that is). Ten miles an hour is a decent average for touring, so I was quite happy.

Our next training trip should be Yorkshire again in early July, and we'll probably be camping on the second night (ie, between the two days' cycling), so that will be a new experience, too. Carrying tents and getting a decent sleep betwen two long days will be challenging, I think. But if we can't cope with it for one weekend we'll be in trouble trying to do it for two weeks!


PS A very special big 'Thank You!' to the organisers of the event and all those who manned the drink stops. And especially to whoever put up all the signs!

I really would have been lost without you.

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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Some Miles at Last!

Sunday marked the end of the warm settled spell so it was naturally a perfect day to plan my longest solo ride in ages.

Actually, a cloudy day is a lot more comfortable at this time of year and I enjoyed riding out to my old territory on the Suffolk-Essex border. To make the ride more worthwhile I took both panniers, although not fully loaded. That did mean I was able to take all the food and drink I expected to need for a sixty-plus mile trip.

The extra weight was noticeable - it gave me a smoother ride for one thing - but there are no big hills in this part of the world. That said, there are a few steep ones and I included some of those on my planned route.

Heading southeastwards from Bury St Edmunds I was briefly on the main Sudbury road but pretty soon I turned off left and headed along familiar roads towards Rattlesden airfield and Bildeston, near Wattisham, the airfield where I worked for almost eight years.

From there I headed towards Hadleigh, where I lived for a while in my Wattisham days, but took a short detour via Kersey, one of the prettiest villages in Suffolk, famous for its ford and steep hill. That was a good spot to stop for a quick snack. The climb out of Kersey and back towards the Hadleigh road looked daunting but was easy enough after my rest.

There was a cricket match in progress as I entered Hadleigh, but I resisted stopping to watch and bore right at the end of the High Street on my way towards Manningtree. From a tiny street (called The Street) in Hadleigh, this road becomes a little wider, and with a good surface, but quite busy. Drivers were more patient than I expected, though. Many of them held back when they could have squeezed past. Maybe the panniers made me look wider than usual, although the bars on my bike are actually much wider.

Anyway, there were no alarms at all and I reached the outskirts of Manningtree via a short stretch of A137 and the High Street before making for the river and my lunch stop. Very pleasant it was, too. I estimated I'd covered just over thirty miles in about two and a half hours.

I took my time over lunch and savoured the coffee that I'd also brought with me. I ate as much as I could comfortably manage and set off for home. Ten miles later I was in Hadleigh again, although I was disappointed to see the cricket match had finished - I'd planned to spend a few minutes refuelling and enjoying the scene. Instead I carried on after a quick drink and a bite to eat.

After climbing towards Semer (with a large tractor and trailer following me), I turned left to take a look at another place where I used to live. By the time I reached the bungalow it was pouring with rain, the thunder was rumbling around and I was soaked. It was a good time for a toilet stop and the last of my coffee, though, and I took a couple of pictures of the bungalow which looks a lot nicer now than it did when I lived in it!

From there, I turned down a very wet and muddy 11% hill (that I used to run up and down when I lived there) past Semer church and rejoined the main road. Bildeston came up quickly and the road was almost dry by then.

One more refuelling stop on the edge of Rattlesden airfield was enough to get me and my lightened panniers home. I had almost a litre of water and squash, two energy bars and a bag of fruit and nuts to spare. I had eaten six cheese rolls, one energy bar and some fruit and nuts and drunk almost two litres of water and half a litre of coffee. All useful knowledge for bigger tests to come. A few bananas might have reduced my cheese roll consumption!

The total distance, including detours, was about 64 miles. Total cycling time was roughly five hours and fifteen minutes (six hours five minutes door to door). So a bit over 10mph average journey speed and about 13 mph on the bike. I'll be happy if I can do that between Paris and Venice. I suspect it might be tougher, though!


PS. A few days before this ride I did about half the distance on my thirty plus mile route via Long Melford and Lavenham and felt as weary at the end of that ride as I did after this trip. I'm not sure why that should be but I suspect I've been carrying a low level virus for a week or two and finally shook it off this weekend. Probably, that shorter ride helped my fitness and taking more care to refuel on the longer ride played a part too.

Next Sunday is the Bury St Edmunds Wheel, a 25, 50, 75 or 100 mile organised event. I plan to do the 100. I know I need it!

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