Sunday 27 December 2009

It's on - Lands End to John O'Groats

Or, LEJOG for short.

We've finally agreed the dates - 6th May til 16th May. 8 Days riding. 950ish miles (depending on the route). Four confirmed riders (myself, Darren, Phill, Jon), three support crew (Tim, Lynne, Becky).

I have some slightly strange feelings about it.
  • It doesn't seem that difficult. Only 120 miles a day for eight days. How hard can it be?
  • It doesn't seem that impressive. Loads of people do it.
  • I'm not that inspired, yet. I'm sure that'll come. I was more inspired by the thought of the Dragon Ride last year, and that was only one lot of 119 miles.
I think what's happened is that a bit of complacency has set in. It's just like doing the Dragon Ride eight days in a row.


From what I've read, recovery is the key. That's OK, because I'm rubbish at sleeping, especially after a big bike ride. Lets look at what the pros do:
  • Get off bike, get recovery drink shoved into them. I can do this, I can drink recovery drink
  • Get driven to their hotel. Ah, we'll be camping.
  • Massage. Anyone want to come along to massage me? (Note, must be female)
  • Team doctors, who have been known to help with "special" treatments. Um, I'll pack some ibuprofen
  • Recovery tights. That's OK, it involves buying stuff. I've already got a pair of these
  • A nutritionally balanced diet. We'll have pasta, Torq bars and beer.
So, pretty close then. We'll probably end up doing it quicker I reckon.

One final question - is this worth getting sponsored for? You see, I'm doing it anyway, for fun. In my view something sponsored should not be fun. Opinions?

Saturday 19 December 2009

Biking in a winter wonderland!

We don't get much snow round here, so you have to take your opportunities when you can. -3C, frozen ground, clear blue skies. Pretty much perfect.

Friday 11 December 2009

Random Perfectness

Sometimes, a fairly random series of events combine to provide the perfect evening. Firstly, getting in from work I managed to drag myself out for a solo night ride. We've had the first couple of proper winter days - cold, dry and crisp, and I took out the Scandal for the first time in ages.

Now, I've mainly been riding the singlespeed 853 Inbred recently, for my off road action. 130mm forks, slightly chunky - it's my "big bike" (though for most it would be a small bike). Anyway, leaping on the Scandal (100mm forks, super light, race geometry) after this was a little, um, frightening. Skittish, snappy, aggressive - perfect for racing, not so good for bimbling around muddy/icy woods, in the dark, by yourself. Still, I survived a couple of hours without falling off and got home chilly but unscathed.

As you can see, I also wore my "Skellington" jacket to keep the creatures of the night away.

Next - food. After a quick recovery snack of toasted malf loaf I started on my "Elaine won't eat this so I cook it when she's out" kedgeree. I'd even remembered to buy all the various ingredients I've tried in it in the past - green pepper, mushrooms, lemon, chilli, corriander. It's a recipe that's evolved, and the one tonight was pretty much perfect.

Now, a perfect meal needs a perfect drink... I give you Hook Norton 12 Days... as dark as a night time bike ride.

Does it get any better than this?

Sunday 6 December 2009

Cause and Effect

Cause: Very wet and muddy singlespeed ride resulting in filthy legs and bike.

Effect: Warm Normandy Apple Tart (from the Farmers' Market) and Chocolate Ice Cream

Nom, and indeed nom.

Friday 4 December 2009

Week One

It's Friday, coming to the end of training week one. It's been mixed.

Plan - Gym session, strength training
Actual - Went to London for meeting, drank beer afterwards

Plan - 1:30 Zone 2
Actual - 1:00 Zone 2, on the Turbo, watching BBC Breakfast. Joe Bonamassa gig, Subway footlong for tea.

Plan - 1oK run
Actual - 11K run. Ow. Hurty. Was stumbling around the house afterwards, and had to wear my Skins recovery leg things.

Plan - 1:30 Zone 2
Actual - 1:00 Zone 2 on the Turbo, cider and black, snakebite and black, Corona x 3, Bud x 1, tequila x 1. Work Christmas party that was.

Plan - Gym strength session, 1:30 singlespeed ride
Actual - Hangover, coffee, diet coke, spicy sausage pasta, 1:15 very muddy singlespeed ride/trudge.

I think that the actuals are more fun than the plan.

I need a better plan.

Friday 27 November 2009


It worked! Eventually. Using email to Blogger service.

I've got a new phone...

And unfortunately, it's not a SonyEricsson with built in access to Blogger. So I'm currently having fun trying to set it up. If a picture a a laptop appears in the near future, I've succeeded.

Anyway, the new training plan starts on Monday, so I've been downloading some films to entertain me through hours in the garage - the weather isn't particularly condusive to long road rides at the moment. I need to move to California.

Friday 20 November 2009

It's been a while

I've not really posted anything for a while. The main reason behind this is that I've not really done anything interesting, especially on the exercise front. See, the thing is, I came to the start of November with a training plan, and two days into it I quit. Deleted it.

"Two days! That's pathetic!" I hear you cry (quietly, from a long way away). On the surface yes, but I had a damn good reason. I just wasn't excited by it.

In the Chris Hoy book (or maybe the Bradley Wiggins one), Chris(Bradley) said that training plans had to be exciting. If they weren't exciting you might trudge through them, but you would be looking for excuses. My plan for next year looked very similar to what I did for this year, and I needed a change, or a break.

So, onto Training Peaks I went and removed all the workouts that I'd carefully constructed. Sigh of relief. No getting up at 0615 to ride 42km to work, then ride 42km back. No 4 hour zone 2 rides on a Saturday. No tempo rides on a Sunday.

Instead I've been following the Bart Simpson inspired "Do What You Feel" plan. I've been doing some strength work in the gym. Going for runs, just because I feel like it. Night-trail-running with a torch, avoiding the werewolves. Watching Buffy from the comfort of the turbo trainer. "Core and More" classes. Hell, tonight I even went for a bike ride. Radical.

I think I'm starting to get some inspiration back. I hope so. New training plan starts in December...

Sunday 1 November 2009

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Last night

Last night was the realisation of a dream held, ooo, about a week. Jon and I had vaguely discussed trying to do a road century (as all the roadies call 100 mile rides) a month through the winter. This was shortly after we'd completed the Wessex 100, in early September, when the days were long and the sun shone.

Come late October, when the days were much less long (but the sun still shone), we hadn't taken the idea much further. Cue a comparison of diaries and a realisation that the only was we could fit one in would be to do it one evening after work. So, we set the date and prayed for dry weather.

Dry weather came - no excuses.

All Tuesday there was a sense of anticipation - an "are we really going to do this" thought hung in the air. And again, nothing got in the way.


17:23 we set off. It was dark.

Imagine a pool of light on a country road, extending 15 metres ahead, with a softer glow outside of that. Imagine a sky mottled with cloud, a gibbous moon (not quite sure what that is, to be honest). You can't see your bike computer, you have little perception of time, speed or distance. Sometimes, the pool of light has another bike in it, with a flashing red light.

Imagine this for three hours. Please continue reading when you have done this.

OK, three hours later. You are a bit tired, a bit cold, and a bit full of sugar. You stop, piss, pick up more sugar.

Start imagining for three hours again, but three minutes in, imagine just missing a badger that dashes across the road.

Back again?

That is the best description of a six hour 100 mile night time road ride that I can come up with.

It's sensory deprivation: you exist in a bubble of light moving at 17 mph. You eat, drink, dodge badgers. Time passes, but you are not really aware of it. Then you stop.

Then you drink milkshake, then you eat hotdogs, then you drink beer.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Friday 16 October 2009

Why do I fear things that are generally good?

Organised a work Friday ride this week, for the first time in a few weeks. I only had a couple of people come along - one regular and one newbie. For some reason I spent most of the day slightly worried about it, concerned that I wouldn't enjoy it.

Anyway - you can guess the rest. We had a great ride, newbie enjoyed himself, very good pint of West Berks Brewery Good Old Boy, crisps, nuts and a spin back home.

It always seems to turn out like this. MUST REMEMBER FOR NEXT TIME!

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Frickin' Cold

That's what it was this morning, for the first long commute of the new training plan. 2.7C is not a temperature I really needed to inspire me out at 6:30am. Going in I wore (in order of putting on):
  • Udderly Smooth chamois cream
  • Shorts
  • Woolie Boolie socks
  • Overtights (is that the proper name?)
  • Garmin HRM strap
  • Merino base layer
  • Gore Phantom soft shell (one of the best bike things I own)
  • MP3 player (does this count?)
  • Shoes
  • Overshoes
  • Strange hat thing that goes under the helmet and keeps your ears warm
  • Hemlet
  • Clear glasses
  • Merino glove liners
  • Windproof outer gloves
Getting dressed took a while. Then I had to remember the Exposure Joystick front light, rear light, Garmin Edge, water bottle, keys, Torq bar and rucksack (containing work clothes, recovery drink powder, bagel, muffin, apple, spare Torq bar, Torq gel, phone, wallet, ID card, pump, inner tube, multi tool, watch).

Why can't I live somewhere hot, and have a job where I can work in sweaty bike clothes?

Friday 9 October 2009

Inspire me

Cos I need it.

Since coming back from holiday I've had a cold, not eaten much, dragged myself down the gym a couple of times, sat on the turbo once (for a double-Buffy season 3 finale) and not been out on a bike ride at all.

After work today should have been an easy one - but my brain was making excuses - it was slightly chilly, slightly rainy, I might not be 100% recovered from the cold, I've got something to watch I recorded... all fairly pathetic excuses. My brain doesn't seem to have that "get out and ride" switch turned to the on position.

Inspire me.

Saturday 3 October 2009

The final verdict

We've been back from the cruise a couple of days, so some final thoughts.

  • There are still people out there who yearn for 1970s style comedians, preferably with sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and jokes that are at least 15 years old
  • I'm glad I don't mix with the general public too often
  • The reason why people are huge is that they eat four fry-ups for breakfast
  • Cruises for people who don't do cruises are still full of old people

Having said that - we had a great time and we all could have done at least another week. It had a balance between doing stuff and not doing stuff, loads of options for things to do and was a very effective way of visiting lots of places to decide whether to visit for longer. I could certainly go back to Rome (for the third time), Florence and Barcelona. And Marakesh (in preference to Tunis).

"Time for cocktails!"

Saturday 26 September 2009

The swing of things

We're now well into the second week, and I think we've adjusted now. We've had no more incidents of nausea, although one day the Captain did warn everyone it was going to get bad - but either we'd adapted to the movement or nothing happened. The past few days we have

- Won three quizes, two of them the big evening showpiece ones. Free meals (in the restaurants, as the buffet is free anyway) and cocktails all round. I think we are going to retire from these, it's getting embarrassing.
- Held our own at blackjack, retreating a bit from where we were, but we are still reasonably well up.
- Visited Carthage (cool) and Sidi Bou Said (touristy).
- Guided ourselves around Rome, much better than a tour.
- Played bingo about 435 times, or so it seems. We've got our own dabbers, it seems a shame not to use them.
- I've read four books now, three of them in three days.
- Used the gym a couple of times.
- Eaten waaaaaay too much.
- Discovered the cocktail bar.

Today Elaine and I are doing a "Taste of Italy" cookery day. I think October will be characterised by

- Not eating much
- Exercising like a bastard

Bring it on.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Days 4-7

Naples - not as bad as I thought it would be. Danger of death seemed fairly low.
Pompei - much bigger than I remembered, very interesting.
Florence - fantastic place, brilliant ice cream.

OK, now some general thoughts.

Stuff that is good:
- Food on the ship. It's tasty, interesting, varied and available 24 hours a day. Obviously the menus change throughout the day and at 2am the choice is limited, but it's always there.
- Casino. Very quiet, and we keep winning.
- Visiting different places without any effort.
- The gym. Again, very quiet, good equipment. Helps battle the food.
- The cinema. It's like a proper one, with big red seats and room for about 300 people.

Stuff that is not so good:
-Feeling like a total tourist on the guided trips. I much prefer wandering round alone rather than being shepherded round in a big group with a radio headset on listening to dull facts.
- The swaying of the ship on occasions. Last night was particularly bad, and Elaine is still feeling rubbish this morning. I didn't feel particularly great either. I think that having to motor at top speed because we'd broken down for a bit just outside Corsica probably didn't help.
- The huge fat whale people who inhabit the sun deck. Please, put all that flesh away. Especially the breasts. I don't want to see those.
- The whistle-stop nature of some of the ports. Five hours in Corsica? Is there any real point?

Week two beckons...

Friday 18 September 2009

Day 3 - Tunis

Tunis - snake charmers, acrobats, street markets... none of those were present. After visiting Marakesh a couple of years ago it all seemed a bit tame. Nice enough, and the tour we did couldn't really have been any better given the source material, but it didn't really have the buzz that I was expecting.

The weird thing on this trip is the whole concept of waking up in a completely different place, without any real perception of travel. It's like I've stayed in the same place and the world has moved around me. Normally, travelling involves some kind of effort - even if it's enduring a five hour car ride from the back seat. A cruise takes all this away and you magically find yourself in another country after a night's sleep.

After Tunis we had a busy day - pub quiz, gym, bingo (I know, I know..), movie quiz, blackjack tournament, real blackjack, late night food then bed.

Blackjack tournament? Yup, you get £1000 to play with, seven hands to end up with as much as you can, and the top seven people from qualifying get to the final. Both Elaine and I made the final - I was second on the leaderboard, Elaine about 6th. It wasn't really difficult to get there. I think that there were only about ten people who tried. The final was great fun - play aggressively, look at what the others are doing, think a little about strategy. It got to the final hand with three or four people on similar numbers of chips - I had to bet first (there is an order to this in tournament play), so I went all in, full expecting at least one other to put in a bet of the smae size. But they didn't - and it led to a situation whereby if the dealer busted (therefore everyone winning their bets) I would be the overall winner. The dealer's up card was a two, so there was an OK chance that she would... but she didn't.

I ended up with nothing, Elaine came third (and won a hat!), and then we played properly for a couple of hours for and made £100 or so.

Maybe next week.

Day 2

Last night we ate at the slightly better buffet place - the food is surprisingly good, mid-range Vegas casino level. By this time we had set off, so there was definitiely a rolling of the boat that made you feel like you'd drunk eight pints, before you'd drunk anything. After eating we went to a quiz, where one team managed to win with 520 points out of a possible 490. I don't think the team marking their paper would have done well at arithmetic. We'd missed the Opening Night Spectacular Extravaganza, so we went up to the casino.

One worry with casinos is the subject of minimum bets. We're careful with our better so we'll often trawl casinos looking for the lowest minimums, in order to minimise our potential losses. On the boat this wasn't an issue - £2 minimums felt low, even to us. We played for about two ours, and managed to erode our pooled stake money from £100 down to £4. Still, we were having a good time, chatting to some pleasant people (some of whom were under 40!). Then gradually we started to bring the money back in. At 12:25am I suggested to Chris that we stopped at 1am (unless we lost everything sooner) then with a spectacular run of luck we found ourselves almost back even at 12:30am. Chris was getting tired by this point and the luck probably wouldn't continue, so we quit with an overall loss for the night of £8.50!

This morning consisted of a heathly breakfast, followed by the gym, followed by food, followed by lazing in the sun/shade and reading. I could get used to this.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Cruising - A Beginners Guide

It's the little things that are different - the ledges round the edge of tabletops. The vacumn toilets. The oval window. Oh yes, being on a cruise ship is similar in a lot of ways to a feature-rich hotel, but you know that you're just one stormy night and an iceberg away from bobbing around wearing a fetching orange floatation vest.

Of course, this being the Med, the is little chance of 'bergs (as we seasoned cruisers call them). We have had torrential rain, thunder and lightning though - on the first afternoon. We've also explored the ship, toured the ladies changing rooms, hit the buffet and found the only decent coffee place.

The gym is strange. The cardio machines are arranged looking out of a panoramic window, towards the direction of travel. The area for floor work doubles as the nightclub dancefloor in the evenings, and the whole area is surrounded by comfy seating - so all the pervs and oldies can watch people getting sweaty.

Chris is down there now, entertaining the old ladies.

More later - boat sinking drill due in 15 minutes. I hope that they can refloat it afterwards.

Monday 14 September 2009

If the Wessex 100 had been a race...

...then I reckon our team would have won.

The Wessex 100 is a 100 mile sportive starting in Bath, looping out to Salisbury then back to Bath via Devizes. A sportive is a non-competitive road event, generally fairly long but often with shorter options.

Three of us rode it (along with a whole bunch of people we didn't know) - Jon, Phill and me. As we'd opted for the full 100 mile version, it meant a 7am start, which meant getting up at 4:50am. Shudder. This was after a day of eating carbs and less pleasantly, feeling headachey and nauseous. Hmm. Not good preparation.

Still, when I woke at 4:47am, beating the alarm, I felt really good - wide awake and raring to go. I got to the start point at about 6:30am to meet Jon and Phill. After the usual pre-ride preparation - load up with food and drink, check the bike, get stabbed by safety pins putting on the race number, stab Jon back in revenge - we were ready to roll.

The hooter hooted, and we were off. A group of people disappeared into the distance as we warmed into the first few miles, but the pace of our group quickened as we started to suck people up. After about 5 miles Jon announced he needed a piss. On about 20 miles, Phill hit the front and despite wearing a parachute style jacket managed to pull our group of twenty or so along at a nice 20mph+ average. He only dropped off to remove his parachute, but was soon on the front again. On 25 miles, Jon announced he really needed a piss. We suggested that he should try and get away at the next climb (he's a good climber, weighing about 25kgs - including his bike), have his piss, then we'd catch him up. Of course, when we hit the climb there was no way we were going to let him get away. By 40 miles he was about to explode, but with the halfway stop coming soon there was no point him having one now...

Ah yes, the halfway stop. This ride included a compulsory 30 minute stop. You had a time card that was marked when you got to the refreshments area, and when you left - and there had to be 30 mins between the two. At the halfway point we were the second group in, with about 15 people ahead of us. By being slightly sneaky we left at about the same time as the lead group, only having waited 25 minutes. What a crime.

So, half done - in about 2 hours 30 minutes. We were again in a group of about 20, Phill mostly on the front, me sitting second or third, Jon within a couple of places of that. There were a couple of little breaks (by Phill) but between Jon and I we pulled him back. Then on about 70 miles, a very strong looking rider in full Astana team kit got on the front... and just pulled away. Wow. Clearly Phill was a little tired from leading the race for about 50 miles, so I went to the front and absolutely buried myself trying to bring him back. Another guy in a "Cycle2Work" kit swapped turns with me a couple of times, and we were just getting close to him when we hit Devizes and the traffic. This both helped and hindered - hindered us first as we had to wait at a roundabout for a moment, then helped as Lance-a-like was held up by a caravan (which very rarely happens on the tour).

There was a descent out of the town and we just managed to catch him, at which point I looked back to discover our group of twenty was now a group of six. Me, Phill, Jon, Astanaman, Cycle2WorkMan and another guy who we lost fairly soon later. Talking to Jon later, when we upped the pace to catch Astanaman the group split, and Jon just managed to hang on to us. He'd been feeling bobbins from the halfway point - the piss must have sapped his strength.

So, down to the last 5. I was starting to feel stronger by this point (clearly I take four hours to get going, and being towed along by Phill makes things much easier) and with the help of a Torq caffeine gel I went to the front and led from about mile 90. The odd traffic light, roundabout and gentle climb led us back into Bath, towards the final mile.

The final mile was a hill with an average gradient of about 13% and sections of 20%. Steep. Brassknocker Hill, for locals. Still, we had a couple of minutes to steel ourselves for it, as once again traffic lights held us up. As we were waiting Phill came up behind us - we'd lost him at some lights a few miles back - and he continued through the red light, shouting that if he stopped he'd never start again.

All of this was set up perfectly for Jon.

- He'd had a good tow round by his team mates
- He weighs 25kgs, including his bike
- He no longer needed a piss

Lights turn green, we hit the hill, and up he floats - slowing distancing us all. I passed Astanaman and Cycle2Workman (and Phill) to get to the top second, and from there it was just a few hundred yards on the flat to the finish.

Perfect teamwork. Phill wears everyone out, I hang in there for the last few miles, we deliver Jon to the bottom of the climb and he breaks away to a glorious victory.

If, it had been a race. It wasn't. But it's probably the closest we're ever going to get.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Riding, Cleaning, Planning

Riding - A return of the traditional Friday Ride, after work with whoever turns up. There was me, Caroline, Dave Martin and Robin (who I've not seen for months). Navigation was by hive-mind, I learnt some new trails in my locals woods, and we had a great time. Oh, possible new favourite post-ride pub - good local beer, Mini Cheddars for the Mini Cheddar eater.

Cleaning - The Orca, ahead of sportive next Sunday. First time I've washed it, and I washed it very carefully. Super shiny now.

Planning - Two things I suppose: booked on a trip for next year (dependent on numbers - quite likely it won't happen), and I've subscribed to the premium edition of Training Peaks. So far, so good - some good features and I've not found anything I want to do with it that it doesn't do.

That is all.

Monday 31 August 2009

Job Done

At the start of 2008 I decided that I wanted to do a 12 hour mountain bike race, solo (i.e. ride for 12 hours without stopping). I tried twice and lasted 9.5 hours the first time, 8.5 hours the second. My third attempt just didn't happen as I missed the race, which led up to yesterday.

Yesterday was the Torq 12:12, a fairly small, quite local 12 hour event. I did it last year (the 8.5 hour attempt) so I thought I'd have another try. The conditions this year were much better, as it all got a bit gloopy last time, but my fitness was a unknown quantity. Training up to mid-June went well, but very little since then - in essence, I trained hard for a fortnight, then took a week to rest and eat.

The course was dry and dusty, mixed with constant drizzle. I have no idea how that could be the case, but it was. Imagine a cloud of black, peaty dust for 8 miles, and a damp sweaty body. Repeat for each lap. Now imagine an 18th century chimney sweep, wearing a bike helmet. The two images should be the same. Now imagine the hilarity of finding the showers weren't working.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Chronology is important, it stops everything happening at once.

So, race starts. As usual, I go off slightly too fast. The cramp fairy starts to tickle my right hamstring after about two and a half hours. I slow down. I drink Torq juice, eat Torq bars. I feel sleepy. I have a Torq caffeine gel.


Now, the ingredients mention guarana (a natural source of caffeine), but they must have left off all the other substances that must have been in there, in order to turn me from a cramping riding zombie into Bruce Lee on a bike. I swooped. I saw things before they happened. I was at one with the forest.

Off course, it wore off after a couple of hours. But what a couple of hours.

I rode, I rode more, I didn't fall off. I got dark. I had another gel. Then... after ten and a half hours... pssssssttttt. PPPPSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTT!

Flat. Tyre. Flat tubeless tyre with sealant in. Sealant not working. Try can of sealing foam. Pump up tyre. Pssssssttttt. Big cut in the tyre.


People kept coming past me, asking if I needed any help. Sadly, none of them were willing to give me their back wheel. You see, the thing with tubeless (or at least the version I have) is that it's a bit of a faff to fit a tube as you have to take the tubeless valve out. In the dark. With failed sealant foam everywhere. I started to run with the bike as it was only a mile to the finish of the lap and our pit area.

So, it's 10:30pm, I've been riding for 10:30, and I reckon I've only got one lap left in my legs. The plan was to have 15 minutes rest then go out for the final lap at about 11pm, finishing just on midnight. I didn't factor a run/walk into the plan, and quite frankly, when I get back to the pit it's going to take something special to get me out again.

At this point, I should mention Darren. His main reason for attending (as well as racing pairs) was to make sure I didn't quit. Still, when I rock up with a broken bike, what's he gonna do?

At that point, he rides up behind me. And points out that he has a spare wheel that he can set up and I can use for another lap. And then he rides off.


I arrive at our pit to find him finishing the transfer of a disc rotor that fits my bike onto his wheel.


I really, really have to go our again now, don't I?

So I go, and I ride very carefully and very slowly for the last lap, walking a couple of potential death traps. And at 12:05, after probably 11 hours 50 minutes of total ride time, I finish my first 12 hour solo.

And that is why you should always have a Darren in your pits.

Going to sleep some more now....

Post ride

7 hours after the 12 hours, and i'm starting to feel hungry. BLT and coffee. Nom nom nom. I'll explain the 12 hours later!

Saturday 29 August 2009

My first tomato!

Home grown, that is. I've eaten tomatoes before.

Monday 24 August 2009

Cheese Fest 2009

As I'm on a rest week I thought I'd review the "80's Rewind Festival". In theory, a celebration of 80's music, but from where I was sitting, a celebration of badly dressed drunken slappers wearing day-glo t-shirts that might have been baggy in 1985 ago but now barely cover twenty five years worth of accumulated chicken nugget grease.

Firstly, the stage.

Note the clearish sky, bright sunshine. Remember the tendency for British people to strip to the minimum and toast themselves to a crisp at the slightest hint of UVA? Recall the growing obesity crisis driven by lack of nutritional and culinary education, easy access to cheap calories and a national obsession for slumping in front of the TV instead of moving around a bit?

I'm sure you can put two and two together and get a king size chunkyburger meal with extra mayo wrapped in not very much at all. With cheese.

Anyway, enough of the visuals. The music.

First, Chas and Dave, cockney superstars. Without Dave. A good ol' knees up (or should that be knee up?).

The Blockheads with Phil Jupitus, who showed the crowd how to behave by keeping his clothing on, along with a jaunty hat. Well done that man, a fine example. They had more songs than I thought they did that I knew, if you get my drift. Three songs.

Then, um, The Christians. Not the religionists, the stage wasn't that big. In fact, I think there may have been some confusion as to the number of people that the stage could take, as once again there was only one Christian. He did bring along a couple of friends, and they could sing and play and were jolly in a kind of "I can't believe we're being paid for this!" way.

Was Nik Kershaw next? I must confess to having a bit of a soft spot for Nik, not just because I had a couple of his records (round black flat things, for the youth) but because of his excellent work with Chesney Hawkes, a vastly underated monohitist. Nik even treated us to his version of Chesney's song.

Midge Ure (pronounced Ma-jure) did a mix of his minor hits, Visage's Fade to Grey (which he claimed to have written) and Vienna. Ah, Vienna. It lost a bit in the transition from record to stage so was more of a Vienetta.

Howards Jones can be summarised in three words. Good but pompous. Mate, you were moderately successful a couple of decades ago, you are not Prince. You don't need an 11 piece band to play five songs.

(At this point I went to get food, so thankfully missed Carol "I used to be in T'Pau you know" Decker proving that even the the 80's they could fix poor singing in production)

Paul Young. Poor Paul Young. Can someone put him out of our misery? I felt sorry for him, used to have a good voice, must have destroyed it through overuse. I'm being kind.

Go West. I really enjoyed them, knew how to whack out a singalong chorus, can still whack out a singalong chorus. Paul, take note. Go West bloke can still sing. You used to be able to sing. The other one from Go West went on a charity trek to South America with Martin Fry from ABC and Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet a few years ago. It's like a Viz cartoon strip - 80s Pop Star Explorers.

On the subject of Martin Fry from ABC, he was up next. And... well.... brilliant. Great songs, fantastic performance, nice bloke. You could imagine schlepping up the Amazon with him. If you get a chance, go see. Appearing round a campfire at an Inca temple near you.

At this point I wanted to leave. Yes, I know Sister Sledge and Gloria Gaynor are icons of the bland 70s disco scene, but that's not a scene I've ever felt comfortable with. Yes, they were very slick, great singing and dancing, but I just don't get them. Apparently Sister Sledge are in the middle of making a reality show at the moment - they should have a word with Martin and Tony - that would be a great episode.

So, that was it. 80's cheesefest 09. I survived.

Wednesday 19 August 2009


Firstly, the good ache - legs from four rides this week, including a fast 50km to Wantage and back, with Jon. He was on his new Wilier (with 11 speed!), I was on the Orca, and it seems that my bike advantage has now been neutralised. Either that or my six week break from any kind of intense training has had a significant impact. Still, the my next race is a long slow one, so I'm not too worried. And I can always buy some Zipp 404s.

Secondly, the bad ache. Last week we had a work BBQ at a local common, and a couple of us took mountain bikes up there for a bit of a play - wheelies, bunny hops, manuals. I did my best ever manual - I managed to get the front so high.... that I toppled off the back and landed square on my arse. Cue hilarity from workmates and some deeply bruised buttocks. They're fine unless I roll back on them at a certain angle, and then it's very much a case of STOP DOING THAT!

Actually, maybe I can blame the lack of road bike speed on deep arse bruising.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Friday 14 August 2009

This week, next year

This week has gone fairly well - managed to drag myself out of bed early three times for pre-work rides, and did long rides home twice as well. Not bad, seven hours of riding. I've got Middlesex Rugby Sevens on Saturday, then going to see plastinated dead people (which really isn't my thing) on Sunday. I might be able to sneak in an early ride Sunday, but I have a feeling it won't happen.

So, next year. I've a few options to play with.
  • Torq training camp in Spain. I've done this twice now, and it's been very good for my fitness. More "lots of riding" than a holiday though
  • Lands End to John O'Groats. Some plans are coming together with a few friends, including a support crew who are offering to drive, do food, put up tents and be rolling pit bitches. This would be probably be nine days of riding, 110 miles or so a day.
  • Bhutan. A couple of people I know are interested in the Saddle Skedaddle Bhutan trip. I kinda like the idea, especially as I've not had a proper mountain biking holiday for a couple of years now. Expensive though, and would be a couple of weeks.
  • "Rome to Home". Some people at work are thinking about a bike long charity road ride, from Rome to, er, Home. Home being Newbury. I can imagine this being great fun, but again would be a couple of weeks.

So that's about six weeks of potential trips. Then there are races, other training rides, sportives.... oh, and work. And non-biking trips. Visiting Mum a bit more.

I think I need a clone.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Back to normality (sort of)

The past six weeks have been a bit difficult really, as you may have seen from my previous posts. I'm now trying to think a bit more about getting back into my usual routine - ride bike lots, get tired, ride more, do event, that kind of thing. I'm entered in the Gorrick/Torq 12:12 on August 30th as a soloist but I don't really expect much from that. All I'm trying to do is to get some decent zone 2 rides in over the next couple of weeks, with maybe a few intervals scattered in too.

After that - possibly the Kielder 100 (unlikely in all honesty), then a couple of weeks holiday, then suddenly it'll be October - where did the summer go? I'm in planning for next year already... hopefully a couple of really special things (although the one I really wanted to do has sold out already, I've just discovered. Bah).

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Seven Days

Seven days since I got up at 0615, went out on my bike for a pre-work ride, and received that phone call.

So, today I got up at 0615 and went out on my bike for a pre-work ride. It was a little emotional - wistful is probably the best word - but I'm glad I went. Another hour and a half of solid thinking time, which I doubled by riding the reverse of the route on the way home.

Tomorrow is the big party for my Dad (I'm not thinking in terms of the "F" word, or the "W" word). We've got flowers in the shape of a helicopter and a pint of lager, Frank Sinatra, the RAF March, and £500 behind the bar. I'm sure I'll be in bits for the first part of the day (the part where everyone will be quite tearful) but the second part should be much better. We'll see.

Saturday 1 August 2009

It's not about the ride

Some times, a bike ride is far more than just a bike ride.

Three days ago, my Dad died of a heart attack. He'd had a minor one about two weeks ago, followed by a stroke, and had been in hospital for about ten days. He was discharged last Tuesday as he seemed to be doing really well. Then Wednesday morning, about 6:15am, came the heart attack that killed him - pretty much there and then. He was unconcious immediately, the paramedics arrived within minutes, but despite working on him (both at home and in A&E) for over an hour, there was nothing they could do. He was probably dead before the paramedics arrived. At least he was at home, and went quickly and painlessly.

As you can imagine, things have been difficult. On Wednesday, I had just left the house for an early ride when Elaine called my mobile - my Mum having rung the house. I was back within minutes, and we were at the hospital before the ambulance. Then... stuff happened. Nothing I'm putting down here.

Wednesday was unreal, strange, shocking, confusing. Thursday was slightly better, as was yesterday. It still hasn't really sunk in though. Yesterday the family discussed arrangements, music, catering, flowers, guests. We also ate cake, drank beer, wine and brandy, and laughed a little (OK, a lot, especially when I introduced my Mum to LOL Cats).

This morning I went out on the road bike, in the rain, hurting myself for a couple of hours. On the bike I can focus, think, clear my head of the thoughts that go round and round. I wouldn't have been able to write this yesterday.

That's one of the key things I love about bike riding. I've used it in the past when my mind has been all over the place, when I've been too stressed to think, but can still take a singlespeed bike out to the woods and exist in the moment. It strips everything away that isn't "right here/right now", and afterwards it feels like your brain has been washed, 40C, with fabric softener. Most of the bad stains will be gone - some shadows will remain but that's all they are - shadows of something that's was there before but is now much less significant.

The next few days won't be easy, but they'll be easier.

Friday 17 July 2009

Fuck it

Right, that's it. I'm sick of feeling sick. Ill, run down, whatever. This morning, fine. Lunchtime, fine. Afternoon, bike ride time? Odd, strange, woosy, tired. Not fair. Not fair at all.

Now it's evening, I've had tea, it's getting dark, but I feel great. Well, normal. And the torrential rain showers of the day have cleared to leave a stunning late evening/early night sky.

Fuck it. I'm going riding.

Down to the garage. Full-sus ready for big ride tomorrow. Bit wet out for road bikes. Scandal? Scandal, um, it's locked up. Singlespeed... mmm... singlespeed. Ah, no bottle cage. Don't fancy a Camelbak for a quick blast. Dig out a cage, fit it quicky. Find lights, I know they're charged as I did it last week. Fit front light. Remember that it kept slipping last time. Tighten it up, re-fit. Rear light on. Hmm, bit dim. Change batteries. Pump tyres. Bike now ready.

OK, helmet, gloves, shoes, emergency Torq bar. Glasses. Clear glasses. Where the fuck are they? I had them at Mountain Mayhem. Hunt. Think. Search glove box (i.e. box of gloves). Find glasses inside glove. Must have put them there for safe keeping. Right, multitool, CO2, tube.

Upstairs, get changed. Baggies, "Ghostbikers" top - nice mid weight and long sleeves, perfect for 14C and a bit wet.

Downstairs. Fill bottle. Remember that multitool is the road one, should really take the MTB one in the little case with the powerlink and tyre levers. And need heart rate monitor too - habit. Go outside, lock up. Go into garage, put on shoes, helmet, gloves, glasses, MP3 player. Change multitool. Take bike outside, lock up. Remember HRM. Unlock garage, retrieve from the bike on the turbo trainer. Back out, lock garage, fire up lights, start HRM, put key in the little case with the multitool.


Singlespeed. Not ridden this for months. Feels good. Legs feel good. Up the hill, try a wheelie. Fail. Sky looking amazing now, brilliant to be out. Purple clouds, grey/blue sky, red tinges to the west. Some moisture in the air, a breath of wind.

The road flattens out. Drops down past the pub, watch for the bloke in the huge SUV edging out. Weave about so he picks up my (very bright) front light. Fly past, up the next rise before he passes me. First proper hill. Stand up, lock out the forks. Dance up the hill. This is great. I should do this more often. Why do we never night ride in the summer?

Past the community hall. It's Friday night, 10pm, and clearly a party going on. The smokers congregate outside. One shouts out at me, friendly encouragement. "Go on son, keep it going, go on!". Cheers. I'd have collapsed at the roadside if you hadn't said that.

I've decided now. I'm going to do a bit off road. Hell, this bike has mud tyres on, seems a shame to waste them. Just a little bit, familiar territory.

Somehow the music isn't right. I need to hear the real world, the sound of my tyres, gravel, sucking-mud, brambles grasping at my sleeves, the wolves and monsters that always pursue a solo night rider. Flick the earphones out, let them dangle. Brake brake brake - start of the trail. Nearly missed it. I always nearly miss it.

Onto the mud. Through the bracken, dodge the bramble, drift through the puddle, jump the branch. Sweet. Unlock forks. Sweeter. I know this trail so well, it drops just enough that a singlespeed spins out but a geared rider can pedal. Hell, I'm happy to freewheel, pumping through the dips and easing the bike round the bends.

Trail comes out - more mud or back on the tarmac? Tarmac - I'm out alone, no-one at home, haven't even Twittered that I'm going out. Take the safer route. Up, standing on the pedals again. Every time I ride this bike it feels alive. Bit too alive, actually. Lock out forks. Better. Earphones back in. Garbage, Killers, White Lies. Come to the junction - back towards home or a bit more? Bit more. Extra section will add 10 minutes or so. Practice jumping on and off kerbs.

Home stretch now. Another rider ahead! I can see his rear light blinking away - whoever invented the flashing LED rear light needs a big hug. Hey, I'm catching him. Pedal a bit more, whip past. I think my light is a bit more powerful than his. I'd be taking it easy too without 500 lumens of LED.

Home. Into the garage. Reverse earlier paragraphs. Beer into fridge for after the shower. Bag of crisps. Blog.


Tuesday 14 July 2009

It's been a while

Three weeks? Something like that, since my last post. In that time I've
  • Been to Atlantic City, New York and my sister's place (New Jersey)
  • Won $160 at blackjack
  • Walked for an hour and a half to find a bike shop in NY that had a decent "souvenir" bike jersey
  • Been ill - while on holiday
  • Watched a lot of Tour de France
  • Bought more bike tops - a CCCP one, and the Giro points jersey (a fetching pinky-purple)
  • Done very little riding

I have done a bit of riding - a great MTB ride on the full-sus, only marred by the chain getting stuck between the cassette and the spokes. It was shifting kind of strangely, and couldn't get to the top gear at the back and was overshifting on the bottom gear. The wheel axle looked a bit odd too. Putting it on the workstand at home I realised that the rear wheel wasn't properly in the drop-outs, but somehow I'd aligned the rear brake with it in this position; so I've no idea how long it's been like that. Sorted now, and the bike works as well as it's going to. This is a good thing as I've got 12 hours solo in Plymouth to look forward to, in about 10 days time.

The plan for this week is a couple of rides, just easing back into things, and a big MTB ride on Saturday to remind my back what it's like to wear a Camelbak for several hours. Hopefully, it'll be fun, but could well be hell. Ah well, must be done. Fingers crossed for some sunshine.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

It all comes together

Firstly Mayhem: Mleh. Quieter than last year, course was a bit dull too. Still, good company, pleasant BBQ, some drinking, some piss taking, and enough riding to counter the drinking and BBQ.

Secondly, a fitness test. The Monday after Mayhem, Caroline, Elliot and I went to visit Matt and Anth at Torq Fitness to have ourselves assessed. Somehow, we managed to spend ten hours there - blood lactate testing, threshold test (basically riding up a big hill at the point of vomiting) results discussion and lots of time to be reminded of training theory and ask lots and lots of questions. I really enjoyed the day and I can recommend it to anyone who is vaguely serious about training properly. I'd also improved my watts/kg by 30% since the last test, which I was quite pleased about.

Anyway, the real purpose of this post. This evening I went on a normal mountain bike ride on dry, dusty, local trails. I even found a section of flowy wooded singletrack that I just had to ride twice. Rides like this remind me why I've always thought mountain biking better than road biking. It's not better though, just different. I think road biking is more consistent, but mountain biking has more extremes - nailing some swoopy singletrack is a brilliant feeling, but trudging through the mud because your bike is clogged and you're cold and wet is worse than a road ride can ever be.

I've decided that July is mountain bike month, and August will be fun month. I've got a 12 hour solo at the end of each of them, but the August one will have less specific training ahead of it, and more specific enjoyment.

Roll on Summer.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Friday 19 June 2009

Mmm, atmosphere.

Old school lighting for the mountain mayhem campsite.

Thursday 18 June 2009

New phone

I've got a new phone, so sending a picture of my newly acquired pez collection to associate it to the blog.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Slaying the Dragon

(Title nicked from Phill!)

All done. All 117 miles. There's a bit of debate over the amount of climbing, but it was quite a lot - somewhere between 2600 and 3000m. No damage, to me or the bike.

So, that's the headlines. Now the story.

I was very relaxed about this ride, much more so than I usually am before an event. I think it was down to the amount of preparation, particularly all the hilly stuff we did in the Cotswolds. Doing 100 mile rides every weekend meant that 117 miles was just a normal training distance, with a little bit more added on. I can ride a little bit more, so how hard could it be? It was another long ride, this time in Wales. I've been to Wales before, so I'd got over my fear of that one too.

We travelled down on the Saturday afternoon, after topping up with flapjack and TdF DVDs at Jon's. We'd booked into a Travelodge at Cardiff services, about 10 miles form the start. The Travelodge was... um... like a secure unit? Not quite as bad as a prison, but not exactly pleasant. We entertained ourselves with the service station facilities - shop, terrible food outlet, Costa Coffee (closed). That burnt ten minutes. Then it was back to the room, grasping our exciting new possessions - Soleros and water - for a couple of hours reading porn. Bike porn, obviously. Dinner came and went (the less said the better), then it was only a case of waiting for latercomer Darren, who'd been doing the Microsoft Challenger Adventure Race all week. Then sleepy time, ready for an early start.

0630 is normal for me now. Breakfast of dry bagels and instant coffee is a poor parody of my usual fare. Still, it was that or grease in a bun.

We got prepared, cleared the room, loaded the cars and set off towards the start. Once we'd negotiated the mile long queue to get to the event car park it was a short ride to the start. Thankfully the weather was forecast to be fine, so it was full Euro-roadie gear - super tight logoed up white jersey, bib shorts, white helmet and not much else. Six Torq bars, two Torq gels, two bottles of Torq drink and two spare lots of powder. Stick with what you know.

So, we set off just after nine. I started quickly, wanting to get into my riding pace early on. For some reason we seemed to be overtaking lots of people. Hmm... good sign. There were cyclists everywhere, marshalls, police, motorbikes, ambulances (unfortunately several with wailing sirens and flashing lights) and even spectators shouting encouragement (or it could have been abuse, my Welsh is poor). And... and...

The Mavic support vehicles.

These were my very favourite things of the whole event.

Forget the challenging climbs, the sweeping descents, the strings of riders blasting across the moors, the awesome, breathtaking scenery.

I liked the yellow Mavic van, the yellow Mavic Skoda Octavia with complicated roof rack, and especially the yellow motorbike with SPARE WHEELS ON IT! The SPARE WHEEL MOTORBIKE! I'd seen this many many times watching the Tour, the Giro, the classics. The yellow motorbike. And not a rubbish British one - it had French plates!

Every time I saw these I grinned. It all felt real - here I was, on a posh road bike, in full Euro-cyclist roadie gear, riding with 100s of others, being supported by the Mavic neutral support vehicles. Wow. If I'd thought about this before, it would be a lifetime ambition achieved.


So, the ride. Fabulous course, although the hills didn't seem steep compared to the Cotswolds. 14%? That was never 14%. They were obviously much much longer - proper alpine style climbs and descents, with draggy, hairpiny climbs over the mountains (probably mountains). Fabulous weather - not too hot, never really cold, and pretty much sunny all the way. Great descents, 50mph clocked on occasions.

Other stuff I remember: Jon leading a train of about 30 riders (with Darren and I just behind him) for about 20 minutes. The aftermath of a nasty crash on one of the big descents (hope the guy was OK). Drinking 4 litres of liquid and producing treacle-like piss. The final, long climb that went on and on and on. My squealing brakes. The final 5 km that got faster and faster until it hit the last 1 km, and there were only two riders and me left from our group, contesting a balls-out sprint for the line. Coming second in the sprint. Seeing Jon at the finish after he'd dropped Darren and I on the last climb.

We averaged 17mph, ride time was about 6 hours 50mins, total time 7:08.

Happy with that.

Friday 12 June 2009

Big Sunday

So it's Friday now, two days before the event I've been training for, for five months. The Dragon Ride (I think it deserves capitalisation).

I first posted about it in October 2008, and oddly also mentioned the Orbea Orca in the same post. Well, I've bought the Orca, I just need to complete the event.

I entered in December, and I guess that was when I started to put together (and follow) my training plan. Thinking back there were a lot of early mornings, overshoes, merino, softshell, lights and MP3s involved. I did miles and miles on the Scandal, on the road. As the weather got better and the roads less scary, I did miles and miles on the Allez, on the road.

Six hour solo road rides became "normal".

I'm going to type that again.

Six hour solo road rides became normal.

Next came the hills, and the weekly trips to the Cotswolds to ride with Jon. I was there so often that I'm almost "Unkie Bryan" to his 1-year old, Thomas. When I started going, he was crawling. Now he's running. There's also been a lot of Jem's flapjack consumed (thanks Jem!). Oh, and chocolate biscuit fridge cake. Brilliant cakes.

Looking at my training diary, in the past 6 months I've done:

_________________Total____Week avg.
Training sessions______160________6.2
Duration___________251:14______09:39 hh:mm
Calories___________147888______5688 kcal
Distance____________4912______188.9 km

Holy crap. That's a lot of hours, calories and kilometres. That's more than I drive. Hang on a sec...

There are 9kcals in a gram of fat. That makes... over 16kg of fat burnt.

Wow. Without all the riding I'd be a bloater.

So, roll on Sunday. Fingers crossed. It's just another long road ride, this time in Wales. Should be fun.

Sunday 7 June 2009


Tapering feels weird. After weeks and weeks of training, cutting back as a race approaches doesn't seem right. My legs are saying "do more, do more". My brain is saying "don't you dare!".

As far as I can figure, I'm in pretty good shape for the ride next Sunday. A restful week (with just a couple of sessions) should have me bouncing with energy. I've even picked out what to wear and bought a super-light waterproof in case the day is plagued with showers.

All that remains is the waiting...

And the eating.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Itchy, itchy (with picture)

Went over to Snelsmore Common for an impromptu birthday party/BBQ/picnic on Tuesday evening. It's been a great English summer week - hot in the day, warm in the evenings and light til about 930pm. Now I usually blast over Snelsmore on a mountain bike, so it was good to hang out, eat burnt things and play volleyball/frisbee/rugby/whatever.

Now, from about 8pm something was eating me. Not in a "mental itch" kind of way, more of a "there are things chewing on me" kind of way. However, they were tiny, tiny things. Not visible to the eye in the half-light, just felt as they chowed down on me. Still, they were tiny, tiny things. How bad could it be?

My left leg has about 35 bites on it. Below the knee. About 10 more above the knee. My right leg has joined in. My arms only have about 8 bites each. My head, just 3 or 4.

I'm on a pint of Anthisan rubbed in every hour. Zirtec, taken daily. And I'm wearing boxing gloves to prevent too much scratching.

Monday 1 June 2009

That mental thing

People sometimes ask me how I can go and do long rides without my brain melting and dribbling onto my favourite cycling top. Especially during the winter, when it just isn't pleasant. Winter means either uncomfortable outside or staring at a laptop playing DVDs in the garage.

There are a bunch of reasons
  • High boredom threshold. Sort of. When on a bike. Off a bike, my boredom threshold is microbial. My catchphrase as a kid was "I'm bored"
  • Mental chunking. Probably the only reason that has scientific proof. I don't go for 6 hour rides, I ride to the next village. When I'm there, I ride to the next one. Then the next one...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She helps a lot.
  • Music. Special "bike ride" playlist, at a very low volume.
  • Other people. Whilst they can be distracting (by being faster than me) they can also be motivating (by being slower than me).

Now on Saturday I went out for a solo ride, 4-5 hours or so. About 10 minutes in I realised I'd completely forgotten the MP3 player - all those rides with Jon meant that it wasn't top of my pre-ride checklist any more. I was under a bit of time pressure so I carried on without it. Then I found another thing that helps me deal with long rides. Summer. Sun, warmth, green countryside, general chirpiness in the air. Somehow the novelty of it proved a perfect distraction.

So, to prevent boredom: Summer, or Buffy Summers. You choose.

Friday 29 May 2009

Did it!

Proper, normal mountain bike ride completed. Found some quite technical stuff on Bucklebury Common where 4x4s had torn it all up and the council had put down a load of logs to stop them. Fun. In the sun.

Thursday 28 May 2009

Back on the dirt

Seems like summer is trying to continue for more than a week - it's not rained for two whole days and the forecast for the next three is sun, sun, sun. In honour of that I might get back off-road tomorrow after work, maybe back with the MTB club.

So... which bike. As ever, the law of too many bicycles means that the more bikes one owns, the fewer actually work. The full-sus is missing a shock (warranty return - really must chase that up), the hardtail has a very dodgy bolt holding on a crank arm, and the singlespeed has brakes in need of a bleed. It comes down to either:
  • The risk of a crank bolt snapping and leaving me defenceless in the middle of nowhere, with semi-strangers
  • The risk of my brakes exploding and showering me with corrosive super-heated fluid. And then leaving me defenceless in the middle of nowhere, with semi-strangers, being slowly disolved by DOT5.1

Hardtail it is then.

Monday 25 May 2009

Start of the tan

It's there if I look really, really carefully. A slight line, a division between under-the-jersey and under-the-sun. Cycling jerseys are great for tan lines as they grip the upper arm. There's none of this namby-pamby gradual fade, just palid cave dweller to Californian beach lobster.

The ride was one of the better ones - 102 miles or so, 6 hours ride time, 2190m of climbing. Jon dropped me on one (or three) of the climbs but my daredevil descending reeled him back. It just happened to coincide with him slowing down.

I'm not really sure what to do now, long ride wise. Next Saturday I've only got time for four hours or so, so maybe a whole bunch of big long hill repeats? Then two more weeks and it's the Dragon Ride itself. I've done very well on the eating and drinking this weekend so I should have plenty to burn.

Friday 22 May 2009

Could it be sunshine?

There is a vague chance that the ride tomorrow might kick off my roadie tan, as there might be enough sun to allow me to ride with short sleeves. The silly tan lines are of course the main benefit of riding a road bike, closely followed by getting to see dead animals.

Tomorrow is also the 100 miles of nowhere (, something I really wanted to do but wanted others to join in as well. So, I'm not "competing", but I'll be doing a 100 miles of somewhere instead. I might sends pics.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Sometimes the fox, sometimes the roadkill

It was back to the Cotswolds yesterday, this time with Darren instead of Phill, a reversed route and much worse weather.

Firstly the weather. When you're riding on the road in driving rain, rain that is coming down at 45 degrees due to the wind, rain that stings your face and prevents you from looking where you are going - is it normal to think "I'm loving this!"? I can't explain, but the sections of the ride that had the terrible weather were the ones that I enjoyed the most. It's either that I enjoy the suffering, or enjoy the suffering of others around me.

Secondly, I'd not ridden for a couple of days and I spent those day mostly eating. I therefore started the ride feeling much stronger than last week. Darren however, had been feeling rubbish all week and started the ride semi-broken. I'm not sure if the fact that Darren was a bit off form meant that I felt much better but it's a whole lot easier watching Jon leap up the climbs like a ProTour salmon when there is someone suffering more than you behind.

Thirdly, is my climbing actually improving? I thought this on one of the many routes out of Stroud, a road I'd previously hated. Again, Jon was ahead, Darren behind, but I was thinking "I'm not dying here, I'm not dying here...."

Fourthly, very few dead badgers on the route this week. We did see a fox eating a roadkill deer, which was a first for me. I've seen foxes before and seen dead deer before, but never one being the lunch of the other.

This led me to conclude that last week I was the roadkill, this week the fox.

OK, not the fox. More the crow that was waiting for the fox to finish before moving in. I know my place.

Wednesday 13 May 2009


I was broken by Jon on Saturday - we did a 133km route in the Cotswolds that included lots of climbs - every time we went round a corner Jon seemed to remember another one. The brokeness was entirely my fault though, as it came down to me running out of energy.

It was all a bit odd - I could ride at a certain power, but anything more and my legs just didn't want to respond. Nothing there. Nada. Niet. Non. It was like my rev limiter had been turned down from 164 to 140. What was probably happening was that I'd burnt my stored glycogen, was processing just about enough for me to burn fat, and hence I could only ride at a pace which didn't need more than my fat burning power. Or something.

Anyway, I think I'd become a bit dismissive of 6 hour road rides, and I'd had a hard week of intervals without really eating enough. The Friday I'd been up early for some hard 2 min on, 2 min off intervals, then I'd done a couple of hours in the evening. I also didn't eat until 10.30 at night, so I wouldn't have been able to process and store the food in time for the morning.

Moral of this story. Eat and drink more, don't underestimate 6 hour road rides.

Sunday 3 May 2009

New bike

There was no other title I could use for this post really - I have a new bike. A new road bike. A new 16.4lb carbon road bike. A new 16.4lb Orbea Orca. I feel like I've just become a father!

Actually, no, not true. I haven't once had to get up in the night to feed/change/comfort my bundle of joy. I may have sneakly snuck out of the bedroom to look at the bundle of joy, but that was entirely a voluntary matter. Thinking a little, compared to a baby it's:

  • Cheaper (certainly long term although the initial investment was fairly scary)

  • Quiter (whirr of the chain versus screams, crying)

  • Cleaner (it's not going to be going out in the winter!)

  • Less smelly (it's not going to be ridden through any pig farms)

  • Prettier (well, in my opinion, and in the opinion of anyone who's seen it)

  • Easier to care for (bit of lube, lives in the study)

So, the first of the baby pictures...

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Enduro6 - bluebell loveliness

Wow. It all went rather well. It didn't rain, the sun shone, the course was dry, the bluebell woods in full bloom. I didn't crash (unless you count shoulder charging a tree in the very tight singletrack). I didn't puncture, which a lot of people did. I didn't run out of food, or drink. I didn't win.

I wasn't there to win though - not if you consider coming first in the race winning (which admittedly most people do). I was competing against myself, seeing if I could beat the fatigue, the cramp and the mental challenge. So in my own personal category, of people with my name and age I came a blinding first. Although in the real category (Solo Men) I was a blinding 31st (from 135).

I completed eleven laps, with good, even times. I was on the edge of cramp from about halfway without going over that edge. My bike stayed more or less in one piece. My mind definitely stayed in one piece.

So, why did it all go so well?
  • The weather really helped. Dry and dusty is much better than not dry and dusty.
  • Bike prep was good, I'm very glad I was running tubeless with latex, seeing all the other people with punctures.
  • The course length was short enough so that I didn't ever think that "one more lap" would be a challenge. Also, ten minutes into a lap I was able to think in terms of "only 20 mins to go"
  • There were lots of other people slower than me. Overtaking makes me happy.
  • My taper, carbo loading and feeding went to plan. Only slight issue was the 4.5 litres of drink consumed in six hours didn't keep me as hydrated as I would have liked (treacle piss afterwards!), but for six hours it wasn't an issue. Probably need to be doing a litre an hour for longer races.

So, I'm happy. Not as happy as Darren, who came third, bastard. He only won a £10 voucher though - how tight is that? The entry fee was £35!

Thinking it through, I'm kind of glad I didn't come third.

Friday 24 April 2009

Enduro6 on Sunday

First big race of the year, something that's actually relevant to the training I've been doing. Six hours seems like a funny length though - not long enough to ride around slowly, but not short enough to be too intense.

Pacing will be the key, I imagine. I don't want a repeat of last year when Darren rode (as I was broken) and ended up vomiting all around the last lap. That couldn't have been pleasant for the people behind him, although as he had slowed dramatically at that point they weren't behind him for long.

In other news, I'm going to see a road bike on Tuesday... I've already paid a deposit...

Friday 17 April 2009

Memory lapse

I'm sure there was something I was going to post here, but I seem to have forgotten....


OK, remembered now. The 144EOBTVSTP has been a bit disrupted by a load of riding bike outside, in the real world. Well, the move to more intense training has given me the chance to continue with it, due to the turbo being very good for doing intervals on. Oh, and there has been a bit of rain too.

Anyway, today I finished series two - so thats 34 episodes completed. The final episode of series two is the one where Spike mentions liking dog racing and Manchester United, in an ever-so-slightly-dodgy English accent. Still, his is better than my American accent.

Back outside tomorrow, long road ride. Maybe I need some kind of TV screen built into my sunglasses that can link up to an MPEG4 player, so 144EOBTVSTP can continue in the open air.

Anyone from Oakley reading?

Monday 13 April 2009

The hard stuff

There are nine weeks to go before my first "important" event, the Dragon Ride. This is a 117 mile road event in South Wales, so there are a few hills in it too. 3000 metres of climbing, I think that's a lot.

Anyway, this is where my training has to step up a bit and build in a bit more intensity. Up until now it's been mainly riding slowly for a long time, which I'm quite good at. I don't really mind the affects of this as it's just fatigue rather than pain ("No-one ever died of tired legs"). Now I have to do things like riding like a crazy man for a minute, resting for a minute, riding like a crazy man for a minute, resting for a minute.... you get the idea.

This causes pain. Burning leg, one-more-of-those-and-I'll-vomit, please-make-it-stop pain. Also, the most effective place for doing these is on an indoor trainer, so I'm going to be back in the garage again.


Week one of this training begins today. On my plan, Monday is a rest day. Today is Monday.

Always begin a hard training block with a rest day.

Right, off for a gentle spin in the sunshine.

Friday 10 April 2009

Being Normal

I frequent various web forums, sites, read magazines, chat to other riders. The vast majority of them seem to treat riding bikes as some kind of "leisure" activity, involving a social aspect, some chat, some kind of refreshment and some kind of pausing during a ride. I thought I'd give this curious behaviour a go today, purely for experimental purposes.

Today, I:

- Discussed what wild garlic looked like, and examined the verges for some
instead of
- Staring blankly into the middle distance

- Rode some bits easy, some bits harder
instead of
- Keeping my heart rate between 125 and 133 BPM

- Paused at the bottom of a climb to discuss lines and the chance of making it
instead of
- Riding a flatish route to allow more consistent power output

- Had company to think of types of farm that don't have cows (Wind, arable, server, The)
instead of
- Using an MP3 player to pass 6 hours of solitude

- Ate two slices of chocolate fridge cake and drank some tea
instead of
- Two Torq bars and some recovery drink

And you know, I sort of see the attraction, but it's not for me. Four hour zone 2 road ride tomorrow - woo-hoo!

Monday 6 April 2009

British XC Championship Ride Report

You know when you were little, and you paddled into the sea, and as you got further out the waves got higher and higher until one came along and lifted you off your feet and you had that slight moment of panic because you were a tad out of your depth?

As I waited for my race to start on Sunday, and was told that the Masters category was full of Pro/Elite riders who couldn't be bothered to contest Pro/Elite any more, I realised that I'd fallen out of a transatlantic flight into a spot some 500 miles west of the Azores.

On the start line I looked around. Everyone else was in sponsored kit. Everyone else's bikes seemed to be £3000 carbon full-sussers, with their names stickered onto them. I was the only one with a Camelbak. And a packed lunch.

As the race started I kept up for, ooo, ten or fifteen seconds. Then people started coming past me. All I heard for the first lap was "on your left" or "on your right" or "are you lost?". Things settled down a little, and then the Veterans came past me. And then the Grand Veterans. And then the people who normally drove mobility scooters. I was slightly cheered when one of the people who overtook me crashed on the gravel, the pain of others is a wonderful thing. I was more cheered when I decided to treat the whole thing as a training ride and allowed thoughts of stopping after two laps (out of five) to creep in.

And then, I finished my two laps. And carried on. The track was clearer, the singletrack swoopy, and I almost started to enjoy the ride. I'll stop after three laps, I thought. But oddly, I completed the third lap and carried on again, starting to think about completing the race.

Then I heard "leader coming through" and "on your right" and "on your left" and "can you move your picnic rug and flask off the trail please" and I realised I was being lapped. That wasn't the worst bit however. The worst bit was concentrating so hard on keeping breathing that I forgot to watch where I was going and ended up in a dead end. Those riders who saw me ride sheepishly down the fireroad and rejoin the course must have been confused, assuming that they had time to, what with all the going bastard fast and overtaking people they had to do.

So I stopped after four laps. I didn't feel bad - at least I wasn't so broken that I couldn't drive home. And I hadn't crashed (which I normally do each race, several times), or broken my bike, and the sandwiches had been very tasty.

Checking the results, the really crazy thing was I wasn't last. I'd beated the one-legged blind man on the unicycle, and nine others who must have had really really bad days.

So, my national XC career can currently be summarised in two words.

Not. Last.

Thursday 2 April 2009

I want a sperm helmet

First new thing - Time Trialling. Did my first yesterday and I didn't die. For those not in the know, people set off at 1 minute intervals to ride a course with a set distance. Winner does it quickest. The courses tend to be flatish, and there are a number of common distances - 10 miles, 25 miles etc. I did a 10 mile one with the local road club.

Now, time triallists make normal road cyclists (in their lycra shorts, tight tops, funny shoes and hats) look like your average catwalk model. Time triallists wear helmets shaped like sperm, skinsuits like fully body condoms and ride bikes so streamlined that they become invisible when viewed from the front. All this so they can shave 0.23s of their best times.

I quite enjoyed it. I want a sperm helmet. I want a £4000 bike that people walk into because they haven't noticed it. I want to dress like a gimp.

Second new thing (hopefully) - National XC Mountain Biking race. Coming this weekend. Gulp.

I think that's it for the immediate new things. Next week I will be learning tiger grooming and eating a pear.

I'm licenced!

I had to agree to drug tests too. I hope they don't ask, I wouldn't know EPO from ELO. Bound to fail.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Super fat burning machine

Did my 2 x 48 mile route again yesterday. I probably could have done the extra 4 miles this time to make it to 100, but my GPS batteries ran out so I'd not really know for sure anyway. That's my excuse.

I didn't feel super-hungry afterwards either - I read something last week that said that if your fat burning was more efficient then you wouldn't deplete your glycogen stores and wouldn't crave food as much after exercise. I'm not sure if this is true, but I'll willing to claim it - I am now a super fat-burning machine.

Not a super-fat burning machine. That's a different thing entirely. That's an obese pyromaniac.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Post camp analysis

I've been back from the Torq training camp for a couple of days now, so I thought I'd better jot some stuff down before I forgot it.

  1. Great bunch of people. A really good mix, so it was easy to ride and chat, or sit and chat with someone.
  2. Superb weather. After last year I had packed thermal base layers, waterproofs, winter boots, merino socks. I just didn't need them. A couple of mornings were chilly enough to need the gillet, arm and leg warmers, but soon it was down to minimum lycra.
  3. I'm either fitter than last year or everyone else is slower. I was back of the pack last time, upper-mid-table obscurity this time.
  4. It's hard to consume 17,308 kcals of Torq products in a week.
  5. "German Night" consists of grilled meat, sausages, cabbage and 80s heavy metal.
  6. I still can't get up that short steep technical climb, but I'm much faster up the long rocky one. I reckon I could do it in middle ring next time.
  7. Funniest event of the week - little dog savaging Anth's shoe, then tearing around the garden pursued by the slightly bigger dog.
  8. Matt still doesn't know the way back from Ojen, off-road.
  9. I'm allergic to those caterpillars.

So, in summary, a great week. If only I could stay out there... or at least be paid to be a full-time athlete.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Friday 6 March 2009

Training camp day 1

4 hours done, coffee time. And we might try and sneak a beer in.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

That's a lot of calories

I'm off to Spain tomorrow with Darren for the Torq training camp. This will involve riding 6-7 hours a day, slowly, with other people who are much fitter than I am. Hopefully, it'll be warm and sunny but given that the past two times I've been there rain has featured heavily (and attempted hypothermia the second time) I'm not too expectant.

Everything is now packed - it's generally a three day operation for me to get everything ready for a bike trip. This year all the energy products have been sent out beforehand rather than being flown in by Matt and the Torq crew.

I therefore have:

24 energy bars, 222 kcals each = 5228 kcals
20 energy gels, 180 kcals each = 3600 kcals
1 kg of recovery drink = 3500 kcals
1.5kg of energy drink = 5475 kcals

Making a grand total of 17803 kcals. That's just over 7 days worth of normal food intake. Now, I'm only going for 7 days, plus there will be all the normal food thrown in too. Brilliant! And beer. And wine. But I must remember to lay off the cheese, for cheese is evil according to Matt.

Darren also has the same amount. If the plane crashes in a "Lost" style manner, we'll be fine for a couple of weeks. Somewhat buzzy from all the sugar, but fine.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

The Dark

There it looms, black in all its blackness, slightly damp and glistening in the cold hard electric light.

It waits for me, waits, waits for me to separate its elements, to wrap it in bubbles of air and tubes of foam.

It waits for the cable ties, the torx key, the spanner, the tape.

It waits for the plastic caps, the plastic braces, the plastic spacers.

The cordura cases, the padded bags, the lock, the tag.

I really really must start packing my bike.

Saturday 28 February 2009

97.25 miles

OK, I thought I'd done 99. But checking tracklogs shows my loop (that I rode twice) was only 77km, not the 79km I thought. So, 154km, which is pretty good, but not quite as exciting as 158km. Maybe next time.

My legs hurt.


17mph average!

Well, I was happy with it.

Killers in quite good shock

It's true - much better than I expected. What I found odd was that I've never thought the singer bloke had a particularly strong or rich voice - but live, it was way better than on the records. Is this a case of making him sound worse on the recording because the unwashed masses couldn't cope with someone who can carry a tune?

The show was hit after hit after hit - they haven't really learnt subtle yet. Good pyro at the end, you could really feel the heat from it. Oh, and Dave is funny bouncing up and down.

Friday 27 February 2009

Can you guess what it is?

That's the support band for the killers. They're not very good. At all.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Achey legs

Did a couple of 1.5 hour rides yesterday, one before work and one after. For some reason I've got achely legs today - I made it to the gym but missed out the leg presses, and missed my scheduled ride. Instead I did a bit of bike mechanics, shortening a brake hose and then bleeding it - my first time! Seems OK, went fairly smoothly, we'll see when I actually use it.

I've also joined Twitter. I don't know why really, slightly work related I guess. Who would want to read the random thoughts of strangers? Oh, hang on...

Saturday 21 February 2009

Roadkill Saturday

One of the aspects of cycling around here is the amount of roadkill that you see. I tend to ride on quiet country roads that seem to attract wildlife, and that wildlife is sometimes a little unlucky. The odd thing that I've noticed is that there tends to be trends in the dead things. One week lots of bunnies, the next lots of deer. This week was badger week. I spotted five of the poor unfortunates on my ride (130km - did I mention that? That's 82 miles, give or take). Given that I've only ever seen two live badgers there can't be that many around so there must be some explanation. Is this the week they all come out after the winter? Are they particularly depressed because of a lack of valentine cards?

It has been almost spring-like this week - sunshine, blue skies, no rain. This did lead me to assume that sunshine meant warmth and I nearly froze my arms off by riding home sleeveless on Friday. Durrr.....

Big week

Lots of training this week, three rides to and from work, a couple of gym sessions and an interval session on the turbo. I hope to do a couple more rides this weekend... just eating in preparation for the Saturday one.

I did spot a field of llamas on the way in on Monday morning. There aren't many llamas around here.

Friday 13 February 2009

Recovery eating?

This week has been a "recovery" week, the theory being that by spending a few weeks training hard and then doing much less for a week, the much less week will be spent getting fitter. Got that? I'm no sports scientist, but I know one and I've bought a book, so it must be true.

Now, as it's been a week recovering from all the exercise, I guess it also needs to be a week recovering from all the heathy eating. I'm not talking a total pie-fest here, getting twatted every night and breakfasting on jelly, but more of a relaxation of the monk-like diet I usually follow (assuming that the monk eats lots of fresh stuff, enjoys a nice bit o' pasta and doesn't hit the mead or buckfast too often).

Saturday involved a lot of cooking, star of which was another batch of muffins (the best ones yet) and a Chocolate Raspberry and Apple Betty. Now, this may sound like some kind of obscure East German sex fetish, but in reality it's merely something that's a bit like a crumble but with a different topping that has 85% chocolate in it. The good thing about a Betty is that there are at least six portions in it (8 for normal people) and it goes great with ice cream.

Ah, the ice cream. Bit of a defect there. It looks like Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie, it's cold like B&JsCFB, it sort of even tastes like B&JsCFB, but it isn't ice cream. It's frozen yoghurt ("I call it froghurt"). There's nothing intrinsically wrong with froghurt, but it just doesn't seem right. I think it's because I didn't choose to buy it, it was a genuine mistake. It may be lower fat and better for me, but hell, this is a recovery week!

So, be warned. There are things out there that are not as they seem, masquerading as something familiar. I give you froghurt, the ladyboy of the dessert world.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Video test

Bit of a test of uploading video from my phone. That's my hand, that is.

Saturday 7 February 2009


Well, that's what I watched, along with an episode of BTVS and Futurama "Beast with a Billion Backs". Fours hours. Four lonely hours, staring at a laptop screen (although Darren did call to try and persuade me to join him on a ride tomorrow). Three bottles of water, three Torq bars, one Torq gel.

Since coming off the trainer I've eaten (in three hours)

- One bottle of Torq Recovery
- One hotdog
- One tin of Spongebob Squarepants pasta shapes on toast
- One hot cross bun
- Two slices of malt loaf, toasted and buttered

It's now 5pm. Snack time.

Friday 6 February 2009

Be careful what you wish for

More snow. That's what I said. And that's what we've had. The thing is... it's not great for training rides, at least not with our kind of snowy/slushy/icy/never-know-when-the-wheels-are-going-to-let-go conditions.

In the mornings it has been great. Mud-X tyres grip great on fresh snow, and they leave pretty tracks too - I followed another set of Mud-X tracks into work this morning (is that slightly geeky, knowing a tyre by the track?), knowing exactly who they belonged to and what bike they were on. There aren't too many people who ride real mountain bikes with real mountain bike tyres into work, so it had to be Dave on his GF Rig. Yup, followed it right to the bike racks.

In the the day and evenings... less good. No problems yet, but I wouldn't want to go and ride 4-5 hours on the road. So, it's back on the turbo, lots of BTVS. Tomorrow I hope to get in at least three hours, maybe more. Not a physical challenge, a mental one. My brain needs to MTFU.

Wednesday 4 February 2009


We don't get much snow here, so it makes sense to try and make the best of it when it arrives. So Jon and I went out last night, although the worst of it had melted. The roads were just about clear of ice and there was a tang of salt in the air, from all the gritting that has been going on. Once we got into the woods the fun began, as there was no way of telling what lay underneath the white stuff - firm ground, frozen ruts, sloppy mud, hub-deep icy puddles. It made for a challenging ride - and all with the hushed and bright atmosphere that snow brings. Feet were often unclipped, boots submerged in water and slop, but we didn't go down. A rapid dab is not a fall!

With the underlying ground obscured by the snow it was a ride of poor line choices and sinking bikes. We can ride mountain bikes, honest. We've done this before - these conditions, this route. We stopped for photos, phone calls, food. It was not, most certainly not, a training ride. It was fun.

We were out just under two hours. Jon nearly lost it on the newly formed ice coming into my road (flashbacks to another icy road, dislocation, hospital) but held the slide - I just heard the verbal exclaimation of surprise as his back wheel stepped out. We made it though, unbruised, unbattered, uncut.

Here's to more snow.