Tuesday, 25 September 2012

...Chasing Rainbows....

I did have serious thoughts about bailing out on a ride today. The nice ladies on the breakfast news weather were predicting something biblical and it was raining. I took the hound out to count squirrels and check out the weather conditions which to be honest weren't too bad, a bit breezy but the sun was out. There was even a rainbow over where I was going to go so it had to be ok, there might a crock of gold or a Trek Domane :)

Somewhere over the rainbow.......
So after taking to twitter for a bit more motivation I decided to get ready and layer up, time to try out my legwarmers which I've not worn yet. I stuffed my waterproof in the back pocket for good measure just in case the rain turned up. I didn't want to venture too far as 'er indoors was a bit worried about me out in the elements so I decided to head for the Toll road. The usual drag along the straight didn't feel such a drag today and I quickly caught up a fully laden cycling tourist who gave me a cheery bonjour, I think he could of been French. Bumpy ride through Porlock as the road is being resurfaced, old stuff taken off but no new new stuff yet.

I really enjoy riding the toll road, it's only a twenty minute ride away and gives you a good work out with the added bonus of it being quiet traffic wise and scenic to boot. I also need to get some practice in as the ACG are threatening to visit and they are a bit quicker than me. It was particularly beautiful this morning with the sun breaking through the trees burning away the moisture which was rising into the air. I tried taking some pics with the phone but I don't think it does the moment justice.

Once out of the tree line the wind smacked me right in the face but I was feeling good and kept spinning. It was very windy and very dark at the top of the toll and I hadn't really brought provisions to cycle much further so put on the waterproof and headed straight back down. I passed the possible french tourist again as I headed down who will no doubt regale stories to his daughter about climbing the route a peage Porlock on his fully laden touring bike.

Straight back down....
Back to town and a quick lap around the town and the seafront which was very busy with Grockles so caution was needed as they seem to have left their common sense at home. It was getting gloomy as I got home and just as I got in the rain came, not bad timing at all.

Here's the Strava bit http://app.strava.com/activities/23096171#

Quickest time up the toll road, I did feel good on the bike today and was so glad I went out.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Part of where you're going, is knowing where you're coming from...

It's been a year since my first sportive and nearly a year since I embarked on my blogging journey. What have I learnt ? It hurts when you fall off and rest is over rated when you are not cycling. I can now ride places without having to stop for a breather every half an hour and it's easier riding in groups. Layers are good and decent kit is worth buying. It's not about the bike but riding the thing that counts. Riding on the flat is just as hard as riding up hills. I look at stats too much and spend too much of my time looking at my speed when riding. I know the difference between its and it's. I should be pleased with what I've achieved and look at the positives and friends are always right.

Top pic September 2011, bottom pic September 2012, any difference ?

I've been reminded lately that I'm also very lucky to get to ride where I do.

How am I doing ? 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

.......will we always say we tried?.........

6.00 am, it's dark and I'm wearing lycra, must be a day to do a sportive, the Cheddar Cyclosportive in fact. A year ago I set off on the same journey but that time into the unknown this year I knew what I was letting myself in for, but I still went. The route had been tweaked this year so it wasn't exactly the same but still sixty odd miles. The car park was already busy when I arrived but it didn't take long to register, outside this year as it wasn't lashing down it was even bordering on the mild. Back to the car to affix number and faff whilst I waited to start and waited for some cycling friends to arrive. Unlike last year when I was Billy no mates this year I actually knew people that I can hopefully call friends. I met the Mayor and the Rouleur and other assorted members of the Axbridge Cycling Group in the shape of Martyn, Steve and Jenny's Dad aka the Captain. It was suggested I rode with Steve and the Captain as I might keep up with them, they obviously didn't realise my lack of blistering pace....or anything related to cycling quickly.

We were soon off onto the flat roads towards Wedmore and I was soon enveloped by bigger groups and soon lost contact with the ACG. It's really great when three people overtake then slowdown and sit abreast chatting in front of you, gripe over. Through Wedmore and up a short sharp hill and back onto the flat towards Glastonbury. I caught up with the Captain again and I hope I did some work as we headed through Glastonbury, we briefly found Steve who was kindly waiting. First route change and we headed around the town and up some hills towards Somerton. I'd done something like seventeen miles in the first hour which is a bit quick for me and the first dark thoughts of bad mamil were entering my head. Even going at what was a decent pace for me I still felt like I was going backwards as everybody else riding seemed to be passing me. I lost contact with the others again as I started feeling sorry for myself but found the Captain again as I reached Somerton. He was kindly waiting for me..... or fixing his chain which had come off , anyway I had someone to ride with again. Onto that bloody hill up to High Ham, I walked up most of it last year and this year I got off. My legs hadn't stopped pedalling for thirty miles and are not really used to it and they decided they didn't fancy that hill. I walked a couple of yards, took a breath, looked back at everyone else riding up and got back on. I need to revisit this hill and get my own back ! First feed stop at High Ham, well stocked with goodies, thirty miles done in about two hours, I should be pleased with that really.

Down the sweepy hill, smiled for my picture :) and then onto Pedwell Hill which we had to ride all of this year. Myself and the Captain tagged onto a little Gruppetto headed by a chunky bloke in Team Saxo kit who insisted on doing all the work, suited me. I was feeling better now helped by the stop and getting pulled along at a nice pace through the villages as we headed towards Highbridge. I think all the quick types had passed now so we didn't get passed that much, I took a turn at the front as we headed over the motorway, get me, cycling like a proper cyclist :) Another route change this year as we headed along a cycle path to Burnham to stop us playing with the Traffic towards Brent Knoll. Not bad really, everyone seemed quite pleased to see mamils out in force and everyone was pleasant and courteous, cyclists and pedestrians. Through Burnham and along to the second welcome feed stop at Brent, again well stocked, fifty miles done. Lots of shiny expensive looking bikes to look at but it did cross my mind, do any of these riders go out when it's wet and dirty ?

The last leg back to Cheddar was new to and wound its lumpy way to Banwell, and castle ;) and through Winscombe. I thought we'd missed a sign as we made our way along the lanes until I saw someone walking up the hill behind the castle, I rode up it though ! A quick blast along the main roads and back to Cheddar and the finish, a free cuppa and chance to get changed.

After getting a bit puffed out in the first thirty miles I really enjoyed the rest of the ride. It was nice to have company to as that kept me going and nullified any thoughts of stopping too much, I hope I didn't suck wheel too much.

Here's the strava bit http://app.strava.com/rides/22185404#

Last year I did this event in 5.21 over a different route in much worse conditions. This year I did it in 4.32 two minutes off a silver time! I blame traffic lights. That's fifty minutes off in sixty four miles which I should be really pleased with. After seeing my photos though I've still got a long way to go and really need to shift some weight.

Friday, 14 September 2012

.....but how many corners do I have to turn?.......

I could sound big and clever and say today's ride was a taper ride before the Cheddar Cyclosportive on Sunday. To be honest though I really don't know what it means, I thought it was about woodwork and someone else said something about candles so I got all confused which doesn't take much. No guests to accompany me today which was good in one way because I can keep up with myself ;).

I decided to do a hilly lap up to Wheddon Cross, up and over Dunkery around the houses and back home. Saw lots of old model T type Fords driving down the hill as I slogged up it. Not having the taking photos whilst cycling skills of some I missed the photo opportunity and was riding at quite a good rhythm and didn't want to stop. Felt really good today, I think a combination of two weeks off shifts, regular meals and regular sleep. Even the strong wind didn't bother me today but today could have been the last ride for a while in shorts, a bit nippy up on the moors.

My artistic brother tells me off for taking pictures of just landscapes and that I should include something of me in them but they are nice, I'm very lucky to have this as the back yard.

Here's today's Strava bit... http://app.strava.com/activities/21917196#

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

...always take the weather with you............

I actually had someone new to ride with today as the Cycling Mayor made the trip to West Somerset to sample some hills. I've got to know Jennifer through following her blog and briefly met her earlier this year. There's a running joke between us that wherever she goes the weather follows and right on queue it did today as we set off it started to rain, uncanny. Starting with the usual slog for me along Bratton straight and then onto Porlock for a ride up the Toll Road. It rained on and off as we made our way up the toll road and the Mayor slowly pulled away from me, taking pictures as she went just to rub it in ! I was puffing a bit but I knew it was a decent time for me at least as we got from home to the top in less than hour which is a mental marker for me. Down and back up the sticky hill from Whitstone Post which was made even more annoying today with the addition of a head wind. Along the top road towards Exford but instead of dropping down and more uphill we took the turn to Cloutsham which meant downhill, which is better, even the sun came out, well for a bit. Discretion is the better part of valour and all that but the consensus of opinion was to walk through the ford at the bottom. We were already soaked through so wet feet just added to the general dampness. A bit chilly after the downhill and surprise it was raining again as we made our way down Crook Horn hill were it was decided it was best to head for home. Not surprisingly the sun came out in all its glory as we headed back to town, but I chose this way so the Mayor could have a sprint back down the straight, I even tried to be lead out man. Apart from the rain an excellent ride with a friend.

Here's the strava bit, seven pb's today :) http://app.strava.com/rides/2171976

Friday, 7 September 2012

.....One Tree Hill......

I set off on a bit of a challenge today, probably comparable to climbing Everest or the north face of the Eiger, I was going to attempt the hard way up Dunkery Beacon. Why I hear you ask, why not, if you don't try you'll never know will you, that and the Mendip Rouleur told me to, sort of. First of all I had to negotiate Crook Horn Hill which in itself is quite a challenge for me but which I've ridden before. My lungs were screaming after dragging myself up that little beauty but that was just the start. After attempting to catch my breath I set off up the road to Dunkery, its very steep, I think I read somewhere its 17% most of the way. I didn't get very far, lungs, gears, me, name the excuse, it was just too steep.

Nice day for a walk....
I tried doing it in sections until I got nearer the top were my lungs and legs waved their little white flag and I walked about 20 yards until the gradient lessened. It was a beautiful day for a walk though, warm and sunny and lots of other people were out walking but none of them pushing bikes.

What was I thinking of.......
Well that's that one not done but at least I know how far I can get before I fall off. Perhaps I should try it again next week if I can find someone daft enough to join me. It was a nice change to be riding down the way I normally ride up offering different views down the hill and up to the beacon. I stopped to take a pic of the tree which stands alone at the top of the road. Its a bit of reference point for me, top of the road, turn right and there's a cracking offroad downhill. You can also tell the which way the winds generally blows around here to.

I decided to ride to Winsford which meant another climb from Luckwell Bridge but this one was a bit steadier. I always enjoy the ride to Winsford, you can get the big gears going as you head down the valley. It got a bit rough towards the village as the road had been dressed with gravel and all I could think about was punctures but thankfully the puncture fairy stayed away. I stopped for a change in Winsford, no bus shelter but a nice bench in the sun next to the war memorial.

The Ford at Winsford......
Back up the hill to Wheddon Cross, time to stop for something fizzy and decide which way to go. Ten mile downhill back to home or back over Dunkery. It was sunny, Dunkery again, why not, at least I know I can ride it this way. Lots of people about this time, some kind of walking, team building type thing going on. Lots seemed to be wearing laurel wreaths on their heads but I don't think any of them were Romans or ancient Greeks ? Back down what I'd attempted to ride up earlier, far more pleasant, back to the main road and the last hilly bit before the straight and back home.

Todays Strava bit http://app.strava.com/rides/21164031#

I feel like I'm getting slower but have I plateaued ? Will put it to the test next weekend when I ride the Cheddar Cyclosportive which was my first road event last year.

Monday, 3 September 2012

.......I mean this, I'm okay! (Trust Me)............

I had to get out today, I feel like I haven't done much lately and what rides I have done have been curtailed for various reasons. My legs were still sore, obviously I'm still not supple enough and need to stretch more. For some strange reason I decided to do a hilly loop just to prove to myself I could still do it more than anything, that and you can't really avoid hills in this part of the world. I spun in the easy gears most of the way as the legs were aching all the way around, but I did it and feel better for it.

Half way up the toll road
View from Porlock Hill
....and another
Dunkery in bloom
Down Dunkery..
On the last pic the little dayglo figure was a young lad of about eleven or twelve giving everything riding up the hard side of Dunkery. I complimented him on his effort, I think I passed his dad pushing up halfway down the hill.

Today's Strava bit http://www.strava.com/runs/20688920#

Sunday, 2 September 2012

.....I'm just a teenage dirtbag baby like you......

Well...the plan today was to go out with the club again and drag No1 son along for the ride, but best laid plans and all that. I approached the lair of the teenage son about eight ish but was greeted with growls, mumbles, gnashing of teeth and somewhere in all that was uttered the words "later I'm tired". I'll let him off though as he's a working boy now, paying his way and everything. I was a teenager once (honest) all hairspray, checked shirts, big overcoat and the coolest pair of doc marten loafers, I thought I looked dark and moody anyway :)

After battling with No1's bike yesterday changing his cassette, which didn't want to come off and fitting a new chain and assembling home fitness equipment, I felt a bit stiff anyway. We eventually set off and headed up to Wheddon Cross so he could check the gearing out on a steady climb. We had some initial grumbles from both the bike and the boy but with some expert(!) twiddling I finally seemed to sort things out.

Worlds most expensive clothes airer
I did my usual domestique duties along the flatter bits and the first bit of the hill and No1 finally popped out from behind me and took off up the hill. A breather at the bus stop but he didn't fancy Dunkery so we headed back down the hill. I was quite surprised to find him still sat behind me when we got to the bottom as he usually gets caught up in the wind.

I was also quite surprised to see I'd done a decent time for me as I felt terrible after slightly slacking in my cycling duties lately. A slight conflict in data though with No1's phone with an I and my Garmin. His said we'd hit 50mph riding down but mine only peaked at 34mph, he's having the 50, no arguments :)

Today's strava, not far, but out and about. http://app.strava.com/rides/20568103

Hopefully I will get to do a loop around another part of Somerset tomorrow but it all depends on the mood of the younger household teen. :)