Tag Archives: Training

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.

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One!!

I’m an idiot, so I now have some lovely red chafe marks on my legs, even before I start the ride – after the photoshoot yesterday morning I visited Tate Modern with Charlotte then went back to work.

Foolishly, in the interests of getting back to work quickly I put on trousers over my cycling shorts, which were fine at first. They became less comfortable throughout the day – by the time I realised that they were properly painful, it was time to ride home. Oops.

They are still a bit red this morning but not too bad, it just shows how dumb I can be though.

I’m finally all packed (as of two minutes ago). I think. I did rationalise a bit this morning and worked out that I didn’t really need to take five different books with me, when did I think I was going to get the time to read them?

I set off for Watford Junction shortly (with Bryony), where I will meet up with the team for the long drive to Land’s End.

Wish me luck.

PS, I watched the final episode of the final series of Battlestar Galactica last night, the series was fantastic, but the end was very, very bad. I won’t add spoilers but I can’t believe how monumentally lame it was.

Two!

In two days I set off from Land’s End as part of The Race Against Time (TRAT) riding a fast, six day cycle ride to John o’ Groats.

I saw my picture (in armour with bicycle) in the local paper this morning, which was fun. Then Bryony and I made the trip to Trafalgar Square to meet up with most of the team and support crew for a publicity photograph with news presenter Jon Snow. Sadly Mr Snow couldn’t make it but we all got to meet up, many of us for the first time.

Some overzealous rentacops did turn up while we were being photographed and tried to stop us for ‘security reasons’ (what is it with fat blokes and polyester?) which was on the high side of pointless. We were standing in front of one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square, with Nelson’s Column in the background which must be up there as one of the most photographed views in London. What sort of terrorist group dresses up in lycra and rides around on bicycles in a big group – “Britain is the Great Satan and we shall defeat the accursed dogs with our 1337 paceline riding Skillz, see if we don’t!” We should have explained that we were a situationist terrorist group and derided them as the Lackeys of Dada-ism, whatever that means.

What with images of Trafalgar Square already being freely available on Streetview, Google Earth, Flickr and anywhere else you care to name, I can’t see what on earth they thought was the problem (and the reasons changed as we went along I understand – first because it was “for security” (which means fuck all), then because we “didn’t have permission”, which when we moved to take pictures in front of South Africa House (who we *did* have permission from) transformed into “you’re breaking a byelaw”.

I’m quite tired now but looking forward to tomorrow – just got to pack up the last few things tonight and I’m ready. All is well with the bike, the fundraising is still going well (nearly £1,500 now, continued thanks for all your generosity) and there’s not much left to do other than ride the bike.

With all the work in training and fundraising it’s going to be a relief to get out there and just have to cycle – it’s going to be harder for Bryony I reckon, she has done the bulk of the fundraising work and doesn’t get the big payoff of getting out and doing the ride – while the ride is going to be a lot of work, it’s going to feel like the end of the process (apart from the party on 1st August of course!)

Almost on our way. Two days to go…

2008 JoGLE: Part Three

Day Seven: “L’Enfer du Nord”

Day seven was one of those days that should have been relatively easy – leaving Lancaster in the late morning, I was hoping for an easyish run to Altrincham (where I would be staying with Bryony’s sister Beth and her partner Andy).

It was already raining and a little windy – although the rain let up from time to time, it was never long enough to get truly dry before getting soaked again.

I had already expected parts of this ride to not be my favourite, going as it did through some quite built up areas. This was true of Preston and Wigan although there were more clear green bits than I was predicting. Also, any day where you go through a crossroads and the signpost to left and right points to ‘Goosnargh’ and ‘Woodplumpton’ respectively, can’t be all bad.

I stopped between Preston and Wigan on the A49 at a place called Euxton and had a pint – I sat outside (as it was dry at this point) and was chatting to an old boy – he was reminiscing about cycling back when he was in the RAF and was talking about old brands of bike, none of which I can remember. He did talk nostalgically about 531 tubing and I was able to tell him that it’s still popular among some fraternities of cycling. He pottered off after checking the pressure in my front tyre and nodding approvingly. Before he went I asked him if he thought it would be safe to leave my fully laden and unlocked bike outside while I nipped back into the pub to the toilet.

“Oh the kids don’t steal bikes round here” he assured me. He paused for a while in thought then added “They wouldn’t fucking know what to do with them”.

After Wigan I got a bit confused, I was trying to cross the M62 via the B5212 which avoids the alternative busy junctions and was anyway my most logical route – finding it proved less than easy. The 1:125,000 scale maps I had were great for countryside navigation and route planning, less good for negotiating cities. My route plotted on GPS would probably have looked like an ever decreasing circle.

I eventually found my route and crossed the Manchester Ship Canal via the toll bridge on the way to Warburton (bikes go fee, hurrah!). I would have photographed the bridge but it was pouring with rain and I was too tired to stop.

From then on it was a final slog through rain and wind to reach Altrincham. Beth and Andy had done a “Welcome Iain” sign which helped me find their front door in my fuddled state.

They were very kind to a cold and wet cyclist; yet another great dinner followed, then much drinking. Beth was running for the Wilmslow half-marathon that weekend and I hope all the drinking didn’t do in her chances.

I’m Bacchus me. Everywhere I go, people drink more…

Day Eight: “Keeping on, Keeping on”

After a memorable night of music, conversation, food and drink, I awoke to see the welcome sight of blue skies out of the bedroom window.

Sadly they didn’t last. After a late breakfast I started getting the bike ready and noticed that all was not well with the back wheel.

A few days before I had noticed a strange noise (a sort of “pink, pink, pink” sound). I eventually narrowed this down to the rear brake or mudguard stay slightly rubbing against the tyre, the back wheel having picked up a slight buckle somewhere along the way.

A bit of adjustment and all was well. I did thoroughly inspect the tyre at the time and found no problem except some slight wear. I continued on my way and thought nothing of it until the morning of day eight a few days later.

The tyre wear was now becoming a split, with the tyre starting to overhang the wheel, presaging an eventual and dramatic puncture. Not wanting to wait until this happened randomly, I went to a local bike shop and bought a new tyre (Beth was kind enough to drive me there). I replaced the faulty one and re-oiled the chain for the second time this trip – in fact by the time we got back from the bike shop, Andy had the bike up on his bike stand and had the rear wheel off ready for me to replace the tyre.

This was another example of three things about the ride –

1.People were amazingly generous with their time and hospitality along the way.
2.With all the help I had, I certainly can’t declare the ride was unsupported.
3.I really did need the spare tyre I left behind in London all those days ago.

After this problem, I started very late into day eight. By now the weather had changed and had reverted to the rain and wind of the previous day – the wind was stronger and almost directly from the south. This made slow going for most of the day, a shame as I had been looking forward to blasting along on the flat roads through Cheshire.

I rode through Mobberly, aware that I was riding through countryside from Alan Garner stories (sad that I had neither the time, energy or foresight to divert through Alderly Edge), the roads I took overall weren’t bad and I think this would have been a great and restful ride were it not for the challenging headwind and constant rain.

Thinking back,this is the day I remember least, it just being a steady fight against the weather (not really bad enough to term a constant battle but persistent enough to be an overriding feature of the day). At this point I was glad that Bryony had not joined me for this ride as originally planned – this would have been a downright miserable day for her – was hoping we would have an enjoyable ride to share.

I remember some bits, I remember getting lost in Crewe and how pretty either Market Drayton or Newport looked but much of the rest of the day is a wet and windy blur.

My time estimate for completion kept shifting backwards, from originally hoping to be in Shifnal and my parent’s house for 5pm, I eventually reached there for just before 7.30pm.

Not the best day but was good to complete the day (this was almost bang on 666 miles completed. Oddly appropriate).

Was good to see Bryony at the end of the ride (especially after more than a week (the last time I saw her was being waved off in London eight days and more than 600 miles ago) and enjoy a good meal with my parents – had just missed my sister Kathryn sadly by the time I got there.

In the night I could hear rain and wind and hoped it would clear for the ride next day to Hereford that I was to share with Bryony.

Day Nine

The weather had cleared mostly and we set off for Bridgnorth. We were mostly on main roads as far as there then starting heading south-west on minor roads (that rolled a bit but reasonably gently as I recall).

We stopped for an early lunch at a good pub, sitting outside at first but changeable weather drove us indoors. The weather that day was still mostly clear but had sudden intermittent bad spells including a memorable hailstorm, nature’s exfoliant.

I can’t remember what time we left Shifnal but the day seemed to fly past – so by the time we reached Ludlow the castle was closed.

We set off again for Hereford (via back roads south of Mortimer’s Cross via Yarpole (“Yarp!”). At this point we acquired a dog that decided to run along with us for some distance.

After that it was a slog on the A road south (although our back roads route had helped us avoid Hope Under Dinmore and brought us towards Hereford by a better road for our purposes. It was a road I knew reasonably welland we passed places I had ridden through first decades before – passing fruit farms where I had earned cash in school holidays here and there.

The evening was drawing in, as evidenced by sightings of two different barn owls ghosting across our path until finally we re topped the last rise, just before the Roman Road to the north of Hereford (by a suburb with the ridiculous name of Bobblestock). Looking at Hereford from the outside, the cathedral and two main medieval churches are still the tallest buildings in the town and so are still the main landmarks.

We crossed the town and were at my brother’s house, got cleaned up then headed off for more curry (no wonder I didn’t lose weight riding this). I now had a rest day to enjoy before setting off on the final part of my journey. I’m not sure but I think at this point, the ride this day was thelongest Bryony had ever ridden in one go.

Three…

Last night I was quite jittery so had to watch something to take my mind off it all (Clerks II – when you need to take your mind away from grim reality, Kevin Smith is your friend). The enormity of the task ahead was getting to me a bit and it was hard to relax, so the film helped. Tomorrow morning is my last opportunity to deal with any last minute stuff so I need to do all the work tonight to find out if there are indeed any last minute bits and bobs to sort out.

Everything I can get done tonight will help make Friday as relaxed as possible. I’ve got washing to do, new tyres to put on the bike and to swap the spd pedals over for (hopefully) less creaky ones. I’ve got one bit of kit left to find (armwarmers) but other than that I know where everything is I think.

There’s a team photoshoot tomorrow in Trafalgar Square with the news presenter Jon Snow (also president of the Cyclist’s Touring Club (CTC)), my second media tartness of the week. Hopefully the photographer at this one won’t run away so quickly, it will probably help that I won’t be dressed up in armour this time.

Only three days to go now…

Four…

Gah! The creaking noise from the bike was back when climbing Broomfield Hill on the way home, so I think it’s the pedals, I’ll swap over a newer set from another bike and try them out tonight – I don’t want that noise for nearly 900 miles driving me nuts. Everything else was good though, so I’m happy overall.

I managed to fit the castors to the bike box last night so it’s now as easy to move as a wobbly shopping trolley, one less task for my return. Why the makers didn’t think we would want them in the first place I don’t know – It’s a Polaris bike-pod and it’s excellent for taking your bike on aircraft or trains as it provides a lot of protection in transit (and you can pad out the bike with all your other bike kit and cut down on other luggage).

All well and good, only it’s not really designed for the car-less. It’s unwieldy when you try and travel with it on foot – it does have a set of wheels at the back (which don’t work very well, forcing you to carry the box at an odd angle) but it doesn’t have a carrying handle or strap, all of which leads me to conclude it’s designed for you to drive to airports. This is all very much from the “There’s a hole in my bucket” school of project planning, as if I drove in the first place, I would probably drive to my fecking destination, with the bike and therefore need neither aircraft or bikebox. Mumble.

Anyways, a bit of castor fettling, a small quantity of blood and copious swearing later, the bike box was now be-castored and ready to take with me to the Marmotte once TRAT is over.

First thing this morning I had a photoshoot from a freelancer on behalf of the local paper (Kingston Guardian). Only I don’t think anyone had warned her I woud be in armour when I answered the door. The paper had very much liked the swordfighting angle and was interested in the the medieval show that my friend Andy and I do (called Medieval Fight Club) – I’ve been trying to offer this as a corporate team building event/summer party in order to try and raise funds (no takers so far, boo! Get in touch if you’re interested).

So it seemed logical to the paper to ask me to be ready, in armour to be photographed on my bike when the photographer got to my house. Only they forgot to tell her.

It was a very fast photoshoot and she couldn’t get out of the house quick enough. I asked her what was the oddest things she had been asked to photograph, “Dead people” she answered as she practically ran towards her car.

The last minute TRAT preparations continue and I’ve got Friday morning off work to deal with any unexpected problems that might crop up.

2008 JoGLE: Part Two

Day Four

Day Four wasn’t great. I was a zombie in the morning and while I had planned a late start, I hadn’t planned on starting quite as late as I did (but I did get to briefly say hi to my nephew Tom who was up to visit his mum).

Leaving Cambusbarron and then Stirling some time after 1pm, I was on the back foot a bit all day regarding time, something I found myself doing a few times more often than I planned for throughout the ride. I was riding to the Forth Bridge via Alloa and Dunfermeline, then intending to ride back to Hamilton via a diversion to the Falkirk wheel.

In theory this was meant to be an easy day of sightseeing followed up by staying with my cousin Jamie and his family, starting too late made the day hard work for no good reason.

While the weather was good (even sunny here and there), the roads were as dry and dusty as badly written history – every time a lorry went past I was riding through a dustcloud and there seemed to be a constant headwind whichever way I turned that day – nothing all that powerful (in fact possibly nonexistent and purely imaginary) but it seemed very hard to get anywhere that day.

I didn’t enjoy the road to Alloa much, busy A road with lots of roundabouts – after Alloa, the roundabouts continued but I rode several miles with the distance to Dunfermeline remaining at 11 miles on three successive roadside signs (that I’m sure were about three miles apart).

Later on the road became quieter but climbed here and there annoyingly. It took me a long time to reach Dunfermeline. I had originally had hopes of reaching the bridge by three but this proved incredibly unrealistic an expectation (it would in fact be well after four by the time I got there). I got a bit confused in Dunfermeline, this was compounded by someone giving me the wrong directions – I was just wanting to confirm I was on the Forth Bridge road but the (quite odd looking) bloke I asked, sent me in the opposite direction (I didn’t go too far the wrong way as the compass on my handlebars was clearly showing I was going north but it added to the general frustration of the day). I hope the guy was just mistaken but I have a nasty suspicion that it was malicious.

Getting onto the bridge itself is scary, it’s effectively a motorway in all but name and was definitely not my best bit of riding of the trip – after two miles of this I was on the bridge itself (there was a bus lane for the last bit) and then onto the cycle track. The views of the Forth Bridge (the rail one) were great but to be honest, not worth the rubbish ride it took me to get there.

It is an impressive thing though – it is actually ridiculously over engineered, deliberately so. It was constructed in the aftermath of the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879 (in which 75 people died, inspiring possibly the worst poem in the English Language by William McGonogall). The new contract for the Forth Bridge required it to be capable of taking massive loads – I’ve read estimates that the bridge is something like 400% stronger than it theoretically needs to be.

It is a good thing and did get me thinking as to what the seven man made wonders of the UK are?

After getting over the bridge, I spied a service road going underneath, which I rode down and then found a path to get down to the road below. From here I started making my way to Hamilton and my cousin Jamie’s house – by then I had decided that I was way too late to consider going to the Falkirk Wheel, which proved the case – my distance estimate for the day was rubbish – I had it down as 61 miles including Falkirk, In fact I rode about 68 miles despite taking a ‘shorter’ route to Hamilton.

The rest of the day was just a slog on A & B roads, the only point that really interested me in my tired state was the old industrial landscape at one point (big red mounds of spoil of some sort but without the site to give it context). I also went past the Kirk at Kirk o’ Shotts. I didn’t realise that the Kirk was just about all that was there.

I had stopped (at Newton I think) to eat something, and had a cheese and ham roll and a can of Irn Bru (there was a choice of rolls – I could have had ham and cheese instead).

Keeping going and keeping going, I slowly got nearer the end – today was the first day I really needed to look at a map – the previous three days I had ridden each day without referring to a map at all. Eventually I reached Motherwell, riding past bits I vaguely remembered from childhood visits – I would like to have stopped by the house where my cousins used to live but it was dark and I was already very late. I eventually found my cousin’s house and was made very welcome – I was given two drawings and a cadbury’s creme egg by Jamie and Fiona’s three children.

Another great dinner followed, I was treated so well by family and friends along the way and it really did help me keep going.

Day Five “The adventures of the solitary cyclist”

Day five was the ride out of the central belt of Scotland and into the border country.

Riding out of the central belt wasn’t much fun but I already knew that would be the case – something like 4/5ths of the population of Scotland live in this relatively small swathe of the country, so it doesn’t always make for great cycling.

I rode out of Hamilton and through Larkhall and was then riding on what was the old main road south (before they built the motorway). It’s not a great road and although very quiet has a shockingly bad surface which slows progress and saps energy, there was a headwind and constant drizzle too, which made for a very tiring ride combined with the poor surface.

The lonely stretch towards Abington is probably the grimmest. It also contains one of the most pointless cycle lanes I have ever seen. It’s been built on the old (empty) dual carriageway and serves no purpose I can see – in that numbers of motorists and cyclists are so small that I don’t understand the need for it.

The views on either side, when not of the adjacent motorway are of stark moorland. There was one lonely hotel left adrift by the change in priority of the road, looked to be mostly a truck stop now.

So that was the bad bit – the good bit that followed was the road from Elvanfoot to Carronbridge which carries through the Lowther Hills via the Dalveen pass – this was a route we were taken as children virtually every holiday, so had personal significance for me. It’s also mostly downhill in the direction I was going, which was a very good thing.

Riding along I looked at the (by now) mature pine woods off to my left, I can remember these being planted, so it’s odd to see them as a permanent feature (well permanent until they get logged).

The ride down the pass was great (although I was slowed a bit by the still present headwind). Weather was very wet, so the descent was quite chilly but enjoyable – it didn’t seem long until I was through Durisdeer, under the rail viaduct and into Carronbridge. Two short miles to Thornhill later I was at my aunt and uncle’s house (a house built next to what used to be my grandparent’s home).

I had a few pints in the Buccleugh Arms with my uncle, then another great dinner.

A very happy border collie licked the pie tray clean afterwards.

It was good talking to my aunt and uncle but I had an early night, partly due to tiredness, and partly in preparation for the long day ahead. The total distance was only 53 miles on this day but weather and the road surface made it hard going.

This was the only day so far on which I didn’t see a single other cyclist. It would later prove to be the only day I wouldn’t see another rider – to put it in perspective, taking all of the days I rode in total on the JoGLE, I would see less cyclists than I would expect to see on a single commute in London on a normal weekday.

Day Six

Day six loomed big and scarily on my personal horizon – in theory this would have been the longest day at 124 miles.

I got up reasonably early with the intention of setting off before 9am and was given a great breakfast by my aunt (and a cheese and bacon piece to take with me). Before breakfast I noticed one sign that I was going mad – I was walking to the shops to get some milk and I realised that as I walked, I was carefully avoiding gravel and broken glass to avoid puncturing my feet.

With a good send off I was on my way south. The road to Dumfries wasn’t bad- twisted and turned a lot but in the JoGLE direction is mostly downhill. I made good time on this road and had covered seven miles before 9am. I continued at this rate for some time, clocking up the miles at a high average speed. After Dumfries I took the old road to Gretna Green, encountering along the way more bafflingly unnecessary cycling facilities on the National Cycling Network (courtesy of Sustrans). This was another road where I made good time and I was approaching Gretna and the border quite quickly.

Gretna wasn’t the shabby dump I remembered, I always used to wonder how depresssed eloping couples must have been when they got there. I did fancy a pint in the pub on the border (that advertises itself as the first and last house in Scotland) but it was closed for renovation, or closed permanently like many pubs I had seen enroute. While I was briefly stopped there I saw some more end-to-enders. Three blokes on mountain bikes were having their picture taken at the welcome to Scotland sign They also seemed to have a support van, a luxury I’ll have the benefit of next week. They had set off on Good Friday and had not enjoyed the weather. Sometimes it’s good to be contrary, as my against the convention direction choice worked out reasonably well for me.

After Gretna, I took the road to Carlisle via Longtown (as much advised) to avoid the scary dual carriageway (a motorway in all but name and number). Carlisle came and went and I made my first deviation here from my originally planned route – I had planned to head southwest to the lakes from here by back roads – the navigation looked a little awkward so I decided to take the A6 south instead, intending to possibly cut across later.

I also decided that I would stop for a pint somewhere, something (incredibly) I hadn’t done the entire trip. This actually proved more difficult than I imagined it would – firstly because there were virtually no pubs, secondly because one of the two pubs between Carlisle and Penrith still actually in business didn’t open until after 6pm.

Before reaching an open pub I had already decided that I wasn’t going to divert to the lakes, was tired enough without the hard miles through the Lakeland hills. I checked with Bryony what the remaining distance would be via the A6, it still being long enough, I just kept on the A6. I then found an open pub and had two very quick pints, possibly a mistake as my legs felt leaden afterwards, I don’t know if this was the beer or just the longer than usual stop.

Outside the pub I had half my cheese and bacon piece and a bit of caramel shortbread (courtesy of my sister Mairi – thank you family) and continued on my way.

Somewhere between Carlisle and there I had encountered a heavily laden group of cyclists and wondered if they were also end-to-enders. They looked bloody miserable and I wondered if I looked as unhappy to them (I didn’t feel it but maybe I looked it).

After Penrith the miles became more of a slog (although the A6 rolls up and down all the way from Carlisle). Despite wimping out of the Lakeland climbing, there was still Shap Fell to ride over; this is another long climb at a steady gradient that I got into a good rhythm on – until I started descending, then found out that it climbs again – seeing the road stepping up again ahead, I tried to get as much speed on as possible, a later check of the bike computer showed that I got up to 39.7mph, fastest speed on my trip so far.

The ride off Shap Fell into Kendall was ok, mostly downhill but after Kendall it became an endurance slog for the rest of the way, just through sheer distance and the tiredness from the previous days – slowing, I stopped to eat the rest of my piece, some more shortbread and even a bit of hoarded Low Morale fudge.

I was getting even slower, it was getting later and I didn’t have the will to make the short diversion Bryony suggested at Yelland Conyers (it was starting to get dark by then). I was getting nearer to Lancaster but very slowly, a few glimpses of Morecambe Bay here and there before it got dark were good though.

Eventually I reached Lancaster and made my way up the steep hill to Ann’s house, a close friend of Bryony’s family.

After a quick shower and change we nipped out to the pub for beer and chips before seeing a film at the local rep cinema – this was a shortish film called ‘Once’ which I enjoyed – in my blank mental state I liked the lack of contrivance or convolution, liked the songs in it too (I would later buy the soundtrack on CD but not the film because it’s still very expensive for some reason).

I slept very well after that long day. The route was shortened by just over five miles by not going via the lakes but was still nearly 119 miles.

Ann had given me her room to sleep in, which was incredibly generous – that makes one French Lecturer, two children and a border collie that had been displaced from their rooms so far on my behalf – people were incredibly supportive and generous along the way, which made it all a lot easier – so although I didn’t have a support van, I had the great benefit of a lot of help like this.

This ride had taken me all the way from the Scottish border country and well in to England – after six days, I was just over half way to Land’s End. I think back then, had you told me that over a year later I would take on the challenge of riding the entire thing in six days, I wouldn’t have believed you.