Thursday, 21 May 2009

Together we raised £786

Every so often, something happens that takes my breath away. The fantastic generosity of those who sponsored me for the Essex Countryside Bike Ride is one of those things. Together we raised a fantastic total of £630 to which the tax man gave a further £156 through gift aid bringing the total to a staggering £786 for Little Havens Children’s Hospice.

As for the ride itself, I was up with the sparrows at six in the morning as the ride was due to start at 7.30. A quick shower and it was time to eat my way through a large bowl of yummy porridge. I checked the weather forecast for the 100th time to see what I might be in for – possible light showers at 10 a.m. and strong winds from the south with gusts at 30 mph. Ok so it look like I’ll get a bit wet but I should dry out ok. Not happy about the wind though – boy did that ever turn out to be an understatement!

As is often the way, I messed about with my bike and ending up leaving the house later than intended, realised I had forgotten something, returned home and ended up 30 minutes late for the start. Still I wasn’t the only one as quite a few people were still there and others were still arriving - the start time was between 7.30 and 9.00. And at least this meant there was no queue to register.

And so I was off.

It was a bright and sunny start, if a little cold – arm warmers were the right decision. As usual I allowed the first 10 minutes for warming up as I got into my stride. There was quite a nasty hill before I was fully warmed-up but I coped with it ok and was happily passing other cyclists (I thought I had better make the most of it while I could). Once the route had turned off from the main roads and headed into what the name of the ride promised, the Essex Countryside, this really looked like it was going to be a great ride.

The Route

I caught up with a pack of about 10 others who seemed to be travelling at roughly the same speed and joined up with them. Not just pack instinct - it is actually much easier riding in a bunch like that and has the added advantage of giving me someone to talk too. Mind you, there was a moment when I was totally unsure of the correct etiquette, when I noticed the seam in the back of the lycra shorts of a woman I was riding behind was starting to spilt. Should I say anything or not? Deciding silence was the better part of valour I said nothing. Later Tatia confirmed this had been a good call. “Was there anything she could do about?” “No.” “Then there is no way you should say anything. It would have embarrassed the hell out of her and she had 40 more miles to ride”.

Finally the pack and I went our separate ways when I decided that I really shouldn’t pull out in from of a car just to keep with them. Still that was only about 5 miles short of a refreshment stop at the Jolly Sailor pub in Malden where I saw some of them again so I would have split up with them there – did I mention that once into a ride I have this insane drive to keep going and not have a break?

Up to that point I had been making really good time. A third of the way through the ride and my speed was an average 16 mph which I was very pleased with to say the least.

And then the fun started.

For the next 3 miles it was one long up-hill slog. It may not look much on the elevation profile, and a 2% gradient doesn’t sound like much at all (and probably isn’t to be honest) but I find a long steady climb like that is draining beyond belief – especially as I hate hills with a vengeance. Coming to the top of a hill, or rounding a bend, only to see yet another climb waiting is just so demoralising. But then, wheeeeeee, what goes up must come down, and 30 mph on a bike has to be experienced to be believed (I might have been able to increase that but was too knackered by this point and took advantage of having a rest)

And then the fun really started. Going around the outskirts of Chelmsford was something of a joke. The route went off road, across a footbridge so narrow that I had to dismount and push my biker, and then went across unsurfaced car parks and round the back of shopping centres and multi-storey car parks.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse, the rain started. And it wasn’t the light shower as forecast. It was a torrential downpour that lasted at least an hour. So at the end of 35 miles, I was cold, wet, tired and started to feeling demoralised. Oh and wishing now that I had brought my water-proof with me. But if wishes were fishes...

And then finally, just when I thought I had enough, the route turned south and into those promised 30 mph winds (although I noticed afterwards tha they had only been recorded at 18.4 mph). Riding into a head-wind and rain when already cold and wet and I was soon ready to give up. I think if there was someway I could have given up I would have. But there wasn’t, so I didn’t.

The rest, as they say is history, as from that point on it was head down and grind. I remember one point, about 5 miles from the finish, I had to stop at traffic lights and, not feeling up to doing a track stand, I put my foot to the floor, only to feel that my leg had turned to jelly and could hardly support me!

Still, finish I did, and very proud of myself I was for doing so. It was not the fantastic time I had thought it would be at that 20 mile point in Malden. But still, I did finish in 4 hours 38 minutes and averaged 13.3 mph which was a miniscule bit faster than last year’s 13.2 mph. And it was 61.7 miles against the advertised 60.

So now it is decision time. Do I do the 40 mile or 75 mile route when I do the Orchid Cycle Essex ride on 14 June. I really can’t say at the moment, but I do know if the weather forecast is for rain or wind, it will be 40 miles without a shadow of a doubt.

Orchid Ride 2008

And will I do the Essex Countryside Ride next year? At the end of this year’s ride it would have been a firm no-way. But now? Yeah, I probably will!

The full stats

Friday, 15 May 2009

Reinventing the wheel:

I don't think I'd like to ride too many miles on this!

From The Metro:

It looks like something out of The Flintstones but this unusual bike could help you lose weight and get into shape.

The cycle, which features a pentagonal wheel at the front and a triangular one at the back, is designed to boost fitness by making it harder to ride.

'I just wanted to give people an alternative to normal, boring bikes,' said inventor Guan Baihua.

'There are too many identical mass-manufactured things. More and more, people like weird and rarely seen stuff.'

The retired army general from Qingdao in eastern China spent 18 months working on the contraption. But it could be a rocky road to success for the 50-year-old after a journalist gave his invention a trial ride.

He reported that it was 'not as bumpy as it looks' but added: 'It needs special skills, otherwise it's hard to balance.'

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Great fun video

A great fun video. Wish it had happend to me as that would be about the only I will ever win a race!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Heavy Rain and Wind, oh dear

Sunday's weather forecast is not good. Cold, wet and windy!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

New 26 mile PB

I wasn’t sure what sort of ride to do today as I have been concentrating mainly on increasing distances in the run up to the Essex Countryside ride.

So I decided to go for a new personal best over 26 miles. The weather was good, with not too much wind and the roads fairly quite which all helped me beat me best time over 26 miles quite substantially. I beat my previous personal best of 1:45:23 (average 15.5 mph) by 1 minute 22 seconds and achieved a new personal best of 1:44:01 (15.7 mph). I also beat the virtual partner on my Garmin by just over 1 and a half miles. The virtual partner is a device on Garmin which is a download of a course I have already done and can then race myself against.

Today I went on a leisurely recovery ride along the sea-front – of just over 16 miles. And it really was an enjoyable ride. It was a sunny, refreshing Sunday morning with scores of people out cycling, jogging, walking or going for breakfast in one of the sea-front cafes. A really ‘good to be alive’ feeling.

All in all, I am feeling pretty good for next Sunday’s 60 mile Essex Countryside ride. So now all that is left is for me to start obsessing about the weather which, according to the forecast looks like it is going to be just about perfect – let’s hope it stays that way.

Monday, 4 May 2009

World Naked Bike Ride London 2009

Well I am afraid that I, err, am doing something else on 13 June. But a naked bike ride in London? The way our weather can change? Surely not an advisable pastime!!!!

Date: Saturday 13 June 2009
Time: 3pm assembly, for 3.30pm departure
Location: South-east corner of Hyde Park, by the Achilles statue, near Hyde Park Corner

See for detailed info.

2009 will be the sixth year of London's participation in the World Naked Bike Ride. Numbers of riders have risen each year - from 58 riders in 2004 we had 1,000+ last year.

On Saturday 13 June 2009 the ride will return to the streets of London allowing riders to see the many sights of this remarkable city from the comfort of their own bikes/skates. The ride is easy and upbeat, and riders decorate their bodies and bikes with messages of protest against oil dependency, obsessive car culture, vulnerability for cyclists & pedestrians and to promote the understanding of body freedom. The assembly time and traditional city centre route are again planned. Other UK rides will happen on 12, 13 and 14 June.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Lance Armstrong's bike

Lance Armtrong has published a photograph of the bike he will riding in the Giro d'Italia (the race it is strong suggested he wants to win). People are saying how amazing it looks but I'm sorry, I really have to disagree. To me it looks like some crazy, overdone, biker tattoo. But then what do I know as I am sure many others will love it