Author Archives: bryonye

Iain trains for Marmotte – during TRAT!

Well, I knew Iain was insane to be doing this, but he rang me before breakfast from the top of Shap Fell to tell me he’d done a Floyd Landis-style breakaway and raced to to the top, arriving a good five minutes before the rest of the team! He knows the road fairly well from having ridden it in training a few times in the last 2-3 years, and of course on the Jogle last year, so he knew when to go, powering down the dips and heading uphill in the biggest gear he could manage. He was going so fast they didn’t even have the camera set up to capture the riders arriving yet, so there is no photographic evidence – shame! So he’s definitely earned his ‘second breakfast’ which was waiting for the riders at the top.

Marmotte, here he comes!

Btw, they had no reception at the nunnery last night so there was no blog update or tweets from Iain. Hopefully tonight.

Day 3 update

Iain’s piece in the local paper is getting lots of attention on the Surrey Comet and Kingston Guardian websites; I love the comment some wag has put about the picture!

Really annoyed that Just Giving have chosen this very week to revamp their website with massive amounts of teething problems. It means that Iain’s page keeps expiring and links don’t work which is fiendishly annoying. If anyone is trying to donate and can’t follow a link you’ve been sent, or get there from this blog, try searching for ‘Iain Houston’ on www.JustGiving.com – his page is called Iain_Houston and has a picture of him riding in the Alps. Alternatively you can search for the Bishop Simeon Trust, then scroll down for their list of fundraisers until you find him.

Today was the shortest day in terms of mileage and was again mostly sunny, until a massive rainstorm hit the riders at Preston. Hopefully Iain will check in here later with a quick update, but do read Charlotte’s blog for more of his wit and wisdom from lunchtime today. There are lots of pictures and videos too.

Thanks for all your support; it really is keeping Iain going, knowing that so many of you have him in your thoughts and have made donations because he’s doing this.

Cheers

Bryony

TRAT – no backing out now

by The One Left Behind

After a fiendishly late night on Friday finishing the last of the essential emailing, blogging and packing – and watching the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica, the less said about which the better – Iain and I slept badly and got up early. Not as early as he’ll be getting up to ride all week but early enough.

An 8.06 train from Norbiton on Saturday morning took us to Clapham Junction for the train to Watford Junction. Iain carbloaded with last night’s cold Chinese and spent the journey trying to work out what essential item he’d forgotten. However, he had his bike, a cycling top, shorts and shoes, and we figured that those were the only real essentials for the week.

Arriving at Watford, we joined the rest of the support crew and the team members travelling down by van (some were getting the sleeper train to Penzance) for a final team photo. Then it was time to load all the bikes, spare wheels and kit into the van and hit the road. No backing out now Iain! Nothing can save you now…

Keep an eye on Charlotte’s blog from the road – TRAT 2009 blog on the right hand side of this page. She’ll be updating it with pictures, details of where they are on the route, videos and the site also features the Twitter feeds from all the TRAT team who are tweeting.

Hopefully Iain will post this evening after the first day is over. They set off on time (pic on Charlotte’s blog) and are making good progress on the road. Expected in Launceston at lunchtime, and Taunton tonight.

By tandem to Box Hill

(From Bryony)

This weekend Iain’s friend Rupert was staying over – he’d cycled over from Reigate to accompany Iain on a couple of training rides. On Saturday we went out to Richmond Park for a very wet early morning ride and spent the rest of the day drying out our cycling gear by draping it all round the house.

On Sunday, Rupert was due to ride back to Reigate and Iain was due to train, although definite plans had not been made. Sunday morning’s insane thunderstorm made a decision for them about anything early morning, so when it cleared, Iain decided to cycle over to Reigate with Rupert as a training run. He suggested I come too on the tandem and we head up Box Hill on the way there. This sounded like a good idea and we got ready. There was just time for a spot of arc welding (and botching bits off the old tandem to see if they’d fit on the new one) and we headed off.

Both Rupert and I felt our legs were in need of a warm up as we cycled south through Surbiton and Chessington, but by the time we got to Leatherhead we were all warmed up and ready to go. We followed the main road down to Ryka’s caff, noticing what looked like a cycling accident on the northbound cycle lane being attended by an ambulance and police car. Hope it wasn’t too serious. Rupert’s style of riding is to go very fast for as long as he can, then recover, so it wasn’t until we were on the southbound cycle lane of this road that we were able to ride alongside him. We quickly had to stop this though as the left-hand side was really too overgrown, and Iain wasn’t quite quick enough at warning me of overhanging brambles. I have no problem being stoker if he doesn’t duck, but if he does without warning, I get them in the face!

I’d only been up Box Hill once before, on my road bike, and it seemed to take ages, as I had no idea when the top was coming. This time, I knew what to expect. Rupert set off at a fast pace but quickly settled into a steady speed and we sailed past with Iain doing most of the pedal work (well he’s the one in need of training! I was helping!) and got into a rhythm. The sun was out by now and as we came out of the treelined first zig and onto the grassy-banked zag, the steam from the early morning rainfall was rising and it was pretty muggy. We took each corner wide to avoid being squeezed by overtaking cars, and all the club riders who overtook us were friendly and said hello (different to when I was slogging up on my own last time!)

The tandem is a hybrid one with fat tyres, and not enough gears to go really fast downhill. Iain had changed his pedals and was clipped in for this ride, so definitely had more power than me on the flat and on hills. When we were going really fast, my feet slipped off the pedals a lot, and I’ll be picking up another pair of half and halfs from Putney Cycles before our next outing. Iain will be pleased too, as I’ll be able to work harder if I’m clipped in as well.

We reached the final bend and were able to look across to Rupert coming up the other side of it, and hit the cafe in beautiful sunshine. 2 coffee and walnut cakes and a slab of fruit and nut chocolate brownie were consumed in short order, along with several beers and cups of tea. The sunshine was so lovely that we weren’t in any hurry to go anywhere else and we ended up sitting there for a couple of hours. Entertainment came from a Lancaster flying right overhead at one point, and Iain having a chat with another cyclist wearing last year’s Marmotte jersey – turned out Iain had beaten him in the 2007 Etape as well. Iain took Rupert for a go on the tandem, and they had a successful run along the top of the hill and back.

Finally all the refreshments were consumed and it was time to set off. We decided not to go on to Reigate with Rupert and set off in opposite directions. The trip down the hill was amazing! I flung both arms in the air and yelled ‘Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!’ (mainly to get us some space from the car behind, which worked). Sailing out from the treelined first bend and into the sunlight at about 30mph with that fabulous view was brilliant fun. We took it very slow on the corners going down, as there were lots of cars in front of us and coming up the hill and we weren’t taking any risks.

We came back through Mickleham and back onto the main road, where we found a parallel path the sunny side of the hedge to lead us back into Leatherhead. The Hook road was way quicker on the return trip, and we managed to set off a smiley face on one of the speed signs by passing it at 20mph. We did hit more than 30 on a couple of stretches of the Hook road though – I definitely need clippy pedals if we’re going to keep that up!

A quick trip to Sainsbury’s for dinner was fitted in, with Iain dropping me off and picking me up at the respective ‘drop off’ and ‘collection’ points in their car park. 28.5 miles done, and 2 hours of unexpected sunshine. All Sundays should be like this.

Iain adds: It was great fun, really enjoyed the day too. That Lancaster flew right overhead btw, was fantastic – I wonder if it was using Box Hill as a navigation point?

Being a cycling widow

When Iain first started training for the Etape back in 2007, he warned me that he wouldn’t be around much. He spent a lot of time on the bike trainer and out on the roads and I spent a lot of time doing stuff without him, cooking dinner to be ready when training was over for the night and encouraging him to try to get a few early nights and eat/drink a bit less. He seemed to appreciate both the support and the permission to get out there and do it without feeling like he was abandoning me.

The payoff for me is that he was so obviously enjoying himself, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the exercise and devising training plans, routes and timings and spending up big on bike kit. I tried to keep his feet on the ground a little with gentle advice about not overdoing it, keeping the credit card expenses down to a dull roar (what is it about men and Wiggle?) and motivating him when the ‘I need a rest day’ card was played too many days in row.

I’m a cyclist and cycling fan anyway, so there were lots of bonuses from Iain being in the Etape du Tour – not least a free team jersey – and going to France for the event was the main one. It was amazing to see that quantity of cyclists together as well as the thousands of people who’d turned out to support them. At the breakfast stop I took my cue from another cycling widow next to me who had a large flag, and held up my sarong printed with enormous sunflowers so that Iain would see where we were standing with his food in enough time to be able to pull over to us across the steady stream of riders. She’d done it all before and we were able to exchange stories and advice, which was good for morale. There was tons of local support on the route as well and it was inspiring to stand by the side of the road in a small village where the band had turned out to play the riders through. It seemed like it was very much a carnival atmosphere for them, to be repeated on a similar scale a week later when the Tour de France itself powered through. Also inspiring to watch the riders at all stages of the race where we spectated, especially on the finish line where many of them chose to sit back, put their hands in the air and spin over the line like their were Tour de France stage winners – not Iain! I had the video camera going from the minute he came into view as I knew he’d be head down, powering for the line, crushing everyone in his wake – and he was. Nothing to do with the fact he can’t ride no-handed, I’m sure. (I taught myself to do it a couple of years ago in Battersea Park, just in case I ever win a bike race.)

Anyway, all this inspiration rubbed off on me, and by Christmas 2007 I was enthused enough about getting a road bike to ask my boss to put a tax free bike scheme in place (www.cyclescheme.co.uk) and bought a Specialized Elite. It’s not quite a case of ‘If you can’t beat him, join him’ but I rode the Etape Caledonia with Iain (well, a couple of hours behind him) in 2008 which felt like a great achievement for me. I didn’t spend hours training but worked on the basis of a nice equation Iain picked up early in his training: you should be able to ride in one long outing at the weekend the same mileage as your total weekday commuting miles. It just meant not catching the bus on rainy days and keeping the miles in my legs building up. I wasn’t going for any sort of time, just a finish without walking up any hills, and I managed that proudly.

Another opportunity for me to explore cycling through Iain’s training was in Spring 2007, when I suggested tying in a possible advance training ride for Iain in ‘proper’ mountains with an activity weekend for me in the Pyrenees. This worked very well and we flew out to Barcelona with the bike box and were driven up into the high mountains for a few nights with Activities Abroad. Simon, the activity provider and Jo, his gourmet cook partner were very welcoming and Iain was able to get out and ride a couple of Cat 1s and an HC (the steepest mountain type in the TdF: Hors Categories, literally ‘too steep to categorise’) I, on the other hand, was driven to a ski station, given a mountain bike, and taught to ride it at speed for 17km downhill. I have never had so much fun on a bike in my life! We discovered several things – firstly that I was more fearless than Iain downhill and secondly that he needed to get his brakes upgraded as soon as he got home. In 2008 I admired Iain’s ‘beautiful madness’ riding the Marmotte in the Alps last summer but had no desire to join him uphill. He did say I would love the Col du Lautaret which is 36km of downhill but I decided I would need someone to drive me up there.

Coming up to last Christmas, Iain’s enthusiasm for training was waning a bit but I heard about a new idea, a spinning studio opening in Putney (www.pedalstudio.co.uk). I decided to join and got stuck in when they opened in January. Under the tutelage of spinning instructors who are also cyclists themselves, I quickly started to feel more energised and positive on the bike, and have been getting quicker and quicker on my commute with weekly sessions (cheers Richard!). New records break every week and I am no longer scared of going uphill (well, not the ones on my commute anyway). I even matched Iain’s time up Kingston Hill the other morning (although he wasn’t there to race against. We need to measure it properly for it to count!). During the early part of this year, Iain hasn’t been as motivated as in previous years, mainly due to illness and injury. I can’t force him to go out and train, when I know he should be on the bike if he wants to reach the targets he was aiming for, and I’ve found that all I can do is be enthusiastic and set a good example in my own riding. We’ve been out for a few rides together, and he even dragged me up Box Hill one day. We’ve also bought a tandem which is immense fun and if I think he needs to train harder, I can just sit back a bit and make him do all the work. He’s had less time to ride it now his training is full on and in earnest for TRAT and the Marmotte but when it’s all over we shall be out and about on it – roll on July and August!

In June, I’ll be willing him on while ‘cut-out Iain’ moves swiftly up the UK map on the wall in our kitchen (he made it for me during his John o’ Groats to Land’s End ride last year so I could mark his progress). In July I’ll be joining him in Bourg d’Oisans to cheer him on in the Marmotte again, and I am planning to ride up Alpe d’Huez while I’m there. I will need to hire a bike but I can’t stay so close to that cycling mecca and not take the opportunity. Again, the only target I have is to reach the top without getting off and walking. The only way I won’t do it is if Iain makes me cycle up the Lauteret – I much prefer the payoff of the 35km downhill to having to come back down the 21 hairpins of the Alpe!

Three years ago it would never have crossed my mind to do anything other than watch the Tour on tv, marvelling as the riders power up Alpe d’Huez at insane speeds. Now I’m actually planning to do it myself and it would not have happened without being part of Iain’s cycling odyssey. It’s a privilege to support him, learn from him, and be inspired by him! Chapeau!

TRAT Fundraising, by the Campaign Manager

(From Bryony)

I’m Bryony, Iain’s partner, and I’ve been charged with raising the bulk of the funds for his ride. We need to raise a minimum of £2000 and I’ve been working on the campaign for a couple of months now.

I’ve been approaching companies about possible corporate donations, and offering something rather unusual in exchange: a show by Medieval Fight Club, Iain’s history show which he puts on with Andy, a fellow medieval languages and history enthusiast, which is aimed at getting people interested in the subject in a fun way and giving people a chance to try swordfighting. So far a couple of companies have expressed interest, but there are no confirmed bookings to date. If you’d like Medieval Fight Club to come to your company summer party, or to adapt an event for your customers or clients, get in touch!

Several companies have already been very generous with donations of goods and services, and we’re going to hold an auction on 1st August to get the best prices for the items we’ve been given. So far, these include restaurant vouchers from Nandos, a microscooter from Putney Cycles, books from Murdoch Books and a taxi ride from GreenTomatoCars. We’ve found a brilliant auctioneer and an appeal has just gone out for more donations. They don’t just have to be from companies – if you have something lovely or useful which you’ve been meaning to take to a charity shop, why not donate it to us instead? I’ve selling my rollerblades (size 5) complete with wrist-protecting gloves,  so please have a think if there is anything you can spare us which can be sold for this excellent cause. Keep an eye on the Auction page which will be kept up-to-date with the items donated so far, and the reserve prices.

If you are inspired to join in with helping us fundraise, please read the ‘About’ page for full details of how you can spread the word via email, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, groups or clubs you attend, workplaces and so on. All suggestions for getting the word out there, especially creative ones, are welcome.

So far we’re about a quarter of the way to the target, and the anonymous donation of £200 is both gobsmacking, extremely generous and very, very welcome. Our thanks go out to you, as well as to all the others who have donated so far and who plan to help in whatever way you can!

Iain adds: I would like to thank everyone that has donated so far too – well over a quarter of the way to our total already – I can’t thank you enough.