Monday, 15 September 2008

A Fine Day Out

The weather forecast was good. My new bike has only had a couple of outings (well I have only had it just over a week). Summer, or what there was of it, is drawing to a close so, I thought, what a good time to get out there for a nice long ride. I had been wanting to cycle to a place I had visited several times by car which goes by the illustrious name of Burnham-on-Crouch. Not that there is a great deal there apart from yacht and hostelries, but it was target to aim for and something of an ambition of mine to cycle there.

So a meticulous planning exercise was put underway on Saturday working out the best route to get there. To cycle there and back would have been about 70 miles. I decided I wasn't feeling that energetic so thought I would get the ferry back and cut out half of the return journey. But, as it turned out, the planning could have been a bit more meticulous.

Sunday morning arrives, and it's nice to get ready without having to rush around to meet a start time, although it does take me a good 30 minutes to find everything, including the mini tool kit which does a magnificent job of alluding me. Finally, I am all ready to go and set off with glad heart.

The wind is fresh (cold) and I am beginning to regret not wearing a long sleeve jersey or arm warmers. Shall I turn back? Nah, just carry on as I am bound to get warm. Big mistake as I never really did. Then it dawns on me. The wind is blowing from the east rather than the usual westerly. So what's the big deal? It means that I will be cycling into a headwind for a lot of the way. But if I change my plan and catch the ferry to the other side of the River Crouch first, then I can cycle back with a tailwind for most of the way. Bit of a no-brainer really. I had even checked the ferry website, and there were sailings on the hour every hour. A quick bit of mental arithmetic and with luck I should be at the ferry jetty about 10.30 which would mean a 30 minute wait. But better than a headwind.

And that was where the planning could have been a bit more meticulous. I arrive at the ferry point at 10.30 as predicted and with a good five miles added to my journey only to find that there isn't an 11 o'clock ferry. I read the departure times again and again but no, there is no 11 o'clock sailing.

Where's the ferry?

So, decision made, I am not going to wait 90 minutes so it's into the wind with a few miles added to my planned journey.

And off I go again! The first part of the journey was immensely enjoyable. Nice tailwind blowing me along, the hills are a lot easier on the new bike (or maybe also thanks to the wind) and in no time at all I reach my first check point, Battlesbridge – I break my rides down into check points to give me something to aim for. I am very tempted to stop for tea and cake but no, must press on as this is probably about half way there.

There is quite a steep hill out of the village but again, my Felt makes light work of it. Now comes the next interesting bit, I have left my map at home. I had worked out a route which went along various country lanes running roughly parallel to the main road. I think I can remember what it said. Nope, wrong on two occasions, going wrong the first time and thinking I had gone wrong the second but hadn't – you can just about see the two lines going nowhere on the top left-hand side of the map. Still it's all good practice.

And also, here began the fun, cycling into the wind and climbing several steep hills. These start at the 29 mile point, where the hill rises from about 28 feet to 180 feet over about a mile. I am afraid there isn't enough detail to accurately calculate the gradient, but the elevation profile shows pretty well how steep the end part of the ride was.

By the time I had got to the end of the second hill, my legs were aching like they have never ached before. But at least when I reached the summit of the hill, I could see below, the yachts on the River Crouch and new that this stage of my journey was drawing to an end. And I have to say, I was looking forward to the run down into the town centre and a rest in the sun by the River. There might even be a snack bar open so that I could have that tea and cake I forsook at Battlesbridge.

Unfortunately, there were several pubs with really nice looking food but I only had about 30 minutes before the ferry arrived which would not have been enough time. So lunch comprised the remains of the energy bar and packet of dried apricots, washed down with Gatorade – yum yum! Still, Burnham is nice little town and there was yacht racing to watch while waiting for the ferry so it wasn't all bad.

Yes, this was the ferry

The ferry journey back to Wallasea Island made a pleasant interruption to my journey and there were only two other people on board so taking my bike didn't cause any problems. I had to buy a return ticket though but was told I could use it any time. So maybe one for the first long ride of the Spring? Or maybe even this route the other way round in October? Who knows, I will just have to wait and see.

The final leg of the journey home was one I had made on many occasion. I passed an elderly couple also cycling and had a bit of a chat before riding off and heading for home. All was going well although my thighs were starting to ache pretty badly by this point. I don't know if it was breaking the journey with the 30 minute wait to the ferry or whether they had just had enough, but I reached appoint about five miles from home when I had to stop my bike and almost fell off. It was becoming impossible to pedal as my thighs had become two masses of pain with next to no strength in them. I can remember thinking at the time that if there was anyway I could have got a lift home I would have. The funny thing was that I didn't feel exhausted at all; it was just that my legs would not get through the pain barrier. I had a five minute rest and took off again. Somehow, through sheer willpower alone I made it home. All ideas of doing a 13 mile training lap to finish with completely and utterly gone. Even my planned cool down five minute ride at the end was impossible. It simply a matter of trying to get off my bike without falling off and then stumbling in through the front door to recover. Surprisingly, this didn't take as long as I though it would. One recovery drink and a shower later and I felt right as rain. Not that I was contemplating doing that final 13 mile training lap mind you!

All in a great ride in during which I covered 58.9 miles in 5 hours and 3 minutes, an average speed of 11.9 mph. It also turned out that I climbed a total of 2,085 feet which probably accounts for the unresponsive legs at the end.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Southend Bikeathon 2008

The least said about this year's bikeathon the better. Rain, cold, late for the start and my Garmin stopped working two-thirds of the way round so I have no idea how my times compared with previous years. But on the plus side, it was the first major outing on my new bike and, according to Tatia, I was the first one back. I can't vouch for that as it wasn't a race, but I did reach a point on the first lap (there are two laps to the full 26 miles) where I stopped passing anyone so it is possible I guess.