Posts by jamiewheels

With The Etape under my belt, I need to find new challenges. This first being getting my fitness back after several weeks off the bike while we moved house. As ever, it will be a balancing act. With a new house to organise and a new school for one of my children, I have a lot on my plate as usual.

Cheese leaves us all toasted…

Map reference: 81k, 1,000m climbing, Cobham, Cranleigh, Rudgwick, Newdigate

Carbs and Caffeine: The Milk Churn, Rudgwick, bookhams.com

First ride after Spain for me, and the whole Spain (chain) gang were there plus Caroline and Lou (who had been on her own trip to South Africa). I knew Caroline was feeling a little flakey so told her that I would be driving to her house and leaving from there. This did the trick. She was forced out of bed and was ready by the time I got there, although she was clearly feeling a bit under par. A good effort from both of us.

It was odd to be back in the winter clothes, and funny to note that nearly everyone was wearing Castelli Gabba cycling jackets. Luckily they come in various colours. Mine is red and I love it so much that the first thing I do when I get home is zip it up and put it through a 15 minute wash. So far it looks as good as new. It really does seem to be the best jacket for British weather, water resistant and warm, and they keep the wind out too.

With all our winter kit on, and riding in a wind that picked up as time went on, our 80k felt long. Caroline was pushing through the pain, hindered by her saddle which kept lowering itself. No moaning from her – impressive. It’s never nice when your kit lets you down (literally in this case).

It was noted that Rach B was back in knickers. We had talked her out of her pants on holiday (no sniggering at the back there, it’s a serious issue for cyclists), but her favourite merinos were back in place. Maybe it was for warmth… she wouldn’t say.

Meanwhile Rach H was climbing ‘like a mountain goat’, according to Bealesy. This is the first praise ever uttered by him, in the four or five years I have ridden with him. The Spanish sun must have got to him. Not to take away from the fact that Rach was climbing really strongly. I’ll have to find out what she had for breakfast.

We were all ready for the caffeine stop at the Milk Churn. I’ve been there a few times now. It does the best cheese on toast ever. I really do mean that. Even Bealesy was digging into Jen’s double portion, and he normally just nibbles on a biscuit. But every time I push off afterwards, I remember that cheese is not cycling food, or at least not in any quantity. The wind had picked up and I was very glad that I didn’t have to cycle all the way back into London. I felt a mixture of guilt and relief as Caroline and I turned off, leaving the others with another 45 minutes to push through. Mind you they’ve banked 110k, which can be no bad thing as summer rides approach. I’ll have to get in some secret training to keep up.

Note to self: Dragon Ride will be hell unless you get some more rides in

Knees up to the cake stop

Map reference: Calpe, Spain… yes, really

Carbs and caffeine: tapas, of course, and hotel breakfasts, my absolute favourite thing in all the world.

I am just back from my first holiday in 15 years. Ok, this is a little unfair as we have had many enjoyable holidays as a family; bucket and spade, skiing, even cycling, some in hotels and some self-catering, but none ‘on my own’.

Obviously, if I had actually gone on holiday on my own that would be a bit sad. To be clear, on my own means ‘Without Husband and Children’. For four whole days my name was not Mum. No one asked me where their trousers were. No one asked me what was for lunch. I did not have to nip to the shops for more milk (we might as well get our own cow on current consumption rates), and I saw no popcorn, either in a bowl or stuck behind the sofa cushions.

Just me… and my bike. There were no lists rolling around in my head. I only had to remember how to put the bike together out of the bike box, and hope that my Lycra would stretch. To be clear, that’s not to picture a giant me squeezing into too small Lycra, but I realised too late I could really have done with another pair of bib shorts. I would just have to wash overnight. It’s not normally an issue as I don’t usually ride two consecutive days, and even if I do, you seldom get two days of similar weather on consecutive days in England, let’s face it.

The trip was a Bealesy special (bespoke-velo.co.uk). It been a while since I’ve blogged, so to remind you I’ve been riding with Chris Beales as a guide for a few years now. We ‘girls’ go out on a Thursday with him (with the odd guest husband) during his off-season months and I trained with him in Italy before my Etape two years ago. He’s great to ride with because he does all the thinking. We just think about the next coffee stop, and pick up tips on ‘roiding’ safely.

Why ‘roiding’? Well, he’s Australian. Many things come out a little oddly, and then the rush of wind in your ears can confuse things further. We turn ‘roit’, right? This still confuses Jen as she doesn’t know her left from her right, but she’s never let it slow her down.

Added to our normal list of aural confusion, this holiday we had ‘free cake at the top of the hill’, which sadly translated as ‘3K to the top of the hill’. And Jen, Rach and I were left looking at each other in confusion, when we had completely a lovely descent in good order we thought, but were told to ‘knees up’. Since we’d been working on having a straight outer leg on the turns this seemed to contradict our instructions. No, turns out it was ‘ease up’. Or in other words, wait for the others. Of course, it was ‘knees up’ thereafter, and ever shall be.

Much of our enjoyment falls into the ‘you had to be there’ category. There was much silliness and joy. The hotel was fabulous, right on the beach. I don’t know if everyone has the same sensation, but when I look at a beach and sea, blue sky and sunshine, I actually get a rushing ‘zing’ in my head. It’s quite overwhelming. Our evenings quickly fell into a pattern, of shower, meet in the bar for a fishbowl sized G&T, followed by buffet dinner. I know some people get funny about buffet dinners, but I love them, especially when you have been exercising. It’s not because I want to eat, ‘all you can eat’ style, but if I want a bit more cheese, or some fruit, some more Iberico ham just carved off the joint, I can. Freedom to browse, rather than pressure to chose the right thing off the menu.

You might assume we would be drinking into the evening, but no. We drank water at dinner (one bottle of wine between six on the last evening) and yet I’m sure we appeared utterly toasted as we giggled our way into the lifts at about 9.30pm to get to our rooms. Yes, what busy mothers/serious cyclists want at the end of the evening is… a room of their own, and how we enjoyed ours.

Note to Husband: thank you so much for facilitating my brief escape. I really appreciate it. x

 

 

 

Distracted, but roughly on target

Map reference: lots of Surrey rides, principally around Leith Hill with Jacqui, Jen and new cycling bud, Caroline

Caffeine and Carbs: Peaslake village stores peaslakevillagestores.com, and the Dabbling Duck, Shere, thedabblingduck.uk.com

Yes, I’ve still been out pedalling three times a week and on the turbo most other days, but I am struggling to find time to write these rides up. This year I’ve cycled 2,355km with an elevation gain of nearly 30,000m, according to Strava, and that doesn’t count the gym sessions.

In these weeks running up to the Dragon ride, my rides have been falling into a bit of a pattern. On Thursdays I ride a ‘Ten-Hills’ route with Jen. I don’t have school pickup until 4.30pm so we usually add an extra flip round Box Hill and maybe some other local hills to try to get an elevation of around 2,100m, in around 115k. The Dragon ride is 2,900m elevation and 230k, so this puts us comfortably in range with the climbing. Jen keeps muttering about the distance but neither of us has 10 hours spare to ride the full distance. A couple of weeks ago I was fighting a virus and the route felt terribly hard. I gave myself the weekend completely off – tried to laze about as much as possible. Last Thursday I felt better but we just did the basic hills ride and I went out with Caroline the next day to complete a full 2,900m climbing across the two days. That’s good enough. I’ve been very worried about a friend with a sick baby and that has also knocked my focus off – it’s hard to excited about training for a silly sportive when good friends are holding their tiny baby in a hospital unit.

Jacqui is building up her rides too, and I generally see her on Tuesdays. We have a favourite loop around Peaslake which allows us to stop at The Dabbling Duck for a bit on our way back. It’s a lovely place for lunch, although we just tend to have soup or a toasted teacake. One day I will drive there to actually eat some proper food.

Caroline is an old school friend who I have hooked up with after a 30-year gap. She’s very fit, being a pilates instructor, but has been off her bike with house renovation busy-ness until recently. We have been on two rides. I have been pushing her a bit, because I know she will just suck it up, so she found herself doing 1,200m climbing over 75k with me last week. She’s on a pretty ordinary bike, so I wasn’t surprised to learn she had to have a little lie down when she got home.

In the gym, after turbo sessions I have been doing lunges. They seem to be making my legs stronger, and I try to follow up with the stretchy-core stuff that we all know we should be doing.

All in all, apart from the fact that I would like to be about 5lb lighter, I feel reasonable prepared. Jen is much faster than me up hill being a featherweight, but as long as I don’t compare myself with her, I think I am good to go. With three weeks to go, I’d better be.

Note to Baby Lucas: get well soon gorgeous boy, we are all thinking of you.

 

 

 

Two stops and race to the finish

Map reference: 110k, brushing Gatwick, Horsham and Billingshurst

Carbs and caffeine: Chalk Hills Bakery, 75 Bell Street, Reigate, RH2 7AN, chalkhillsbakery.com, Reigate, and Milk Churn, Kiln House, Lynwick Street, Rudgwick, milkchurn.co.uk

My friend Keith has volunteered to pick up the mantle of getting me fit while helping me map my local rides. Bealesy started the job but he is now off running his holidays in Spain and Italy and I’m still struggling to piece together the roads of Surrey, Kent and Sussex. They are beautiful counties and under-appreciated by people haring through on the main roads. Luckily this leaves some beautiful peaceful routes for the cyclists, sharing with runners, riders and walkers… and just the odd white van trying to make time on an unlikely shortcut.

The weather was not quite as billed so were both in our rain tops, and my back got filthy as I still haven’t fitted my mudguards. We had a quick coffee stop at Chalk Hills Bakery. Another time I’d love to try their pastries which looked delicious. The breads are all homemade… one to revisit in the car, I think, so I can stock up.

We pedalled on through indifferent weather but the afore-mentioned pretty roads and vistas. It was just beginning to feel like a long ride when we came to the Milk Churn for our lunch stop. I chose donker bread for my cheese on toast. To the uninitiated (I had to ask, so include me in that set) it is an especially dark wholemeal bread. It was perfect. Not enormous, just the right size as ride food, with the delicious local Charmer cheese oozing over the sides. I will be finding an excuse to go back there soon. There is a brewery and a car showroom on site, so this could easily be a family outing.

By now, with our two stops, we were pushing my time window a little and we had to charge home as quickly as possible. I chewed a few jelly babies (regular reader will know these are my emergency fuel) as we charged down the side of the A24. Keith was taking the brunt of the wind and I tucked in behind as best I could. The kilometres clicked by and the clock ticked faster, but I got home just in time. I had to drive rather than walk to pick up my daughter, but frankly my legs were jelly and I was quite relieved to have the excuse.

Keith peeled off at a garage for fuel – riding fuel to get himself home that is. I’m betting it was a milkshake. See, the funny little things you get to know about a person when you ride with them for a while.

Note to self: Mudguards… come on, make time to fit them

 

Elementary rules of mapping

Map reference: 200k over two days, loop towards Gatwick and more south-westerly route past Dunsfold looping back through Cranleigh

Carbs and caffeine: Maison du Velo, Lesbourne Road, Reigate, RH2 7JS, maisonduvelo.cc and The Dorking Deli, 37 West St, Dorking RH4 1BU, thedorkingdeli.co.uk

And she’s off. Yes, finally I’m getting into my stride again after the Christmas and house move hiatus. I’m making the most of Bealesy (bespoke-vel0.co.uk) before he heads off to Spain and Italy to lead his trips. I know at least three parties who are going with him so he’s a busy chap. But not too busy to plan rides so that I am left with a variety of Garmin maps to explore on my own. I appreciate your efforts Bealesy.

As I’ve been pedalling around following his wheel, I have been thinking about a naming convention on my new Garmin, librarian style. In the end I have plumped for distance/compass direction, then a place name. So these two rides are 100 SE Gatwick and 100 SW Dunsfold. I know it’s totally OTT… it’s the sub-editor in me. Or maybe I’m a frustrated librarian after all. There’s a lot of time to think about these things over a 100k ride.

Monday’s ride was a little slow with a new cyclist along. After three hours I discovered she had eaten nothing which I think explained why she was totally exhausted. I was horrified… part of the joy of cycling is stuffing your face as you go. Surely she must have seen us: Bealesy, fig biscuits; Jen and me, fruit cake; Rach, Naked bars, we all have our own stuffing style.  I passed some jelly babies to her as we rode on and finally at 80k after a steep climb (I’m beginning to enjoy the hills again) we came to Maison Du Velo. It’s a bike shop with great cake and coffee, and a very warm welcome. Bike parking was inside, which is always reassuring and they showed me some BBB Slimguard Mudguards which I may well purchase as a favour to my cycling friends when I’ve done my product research. It really is rude to spray water all over the person on your wheel.

Tuesday’s ride was much pacier. Alison, who we rode with last week was there and Jane, who I hadn’t met before. Jane, who was clearly a good rider, was feeling a bit below par. It’s funny, you can tell the difference between an unfit rider and one who is just a bit out of sorts. There’s a kind of mystified look on a rider’s face when they just aren’t up to their normal standard. I wear that face quite a lot myself at the moment.

The Dorking Deli is a small place, but very pleasant. I was worried it didn’t have a loo… the others had alfresco-ed on the way but I had baulked at the exposure. Luckily there are facilities as long as you don’t mind going out of the cafe, around the back and boldly walking through a gate marked 37A. It all felt very Sherlock Holmes with his Flat 221B, and even Mrs Hudson would have been impressed with the pristine state of what is effectively an outdoor lavvy. Another impressive Dorking cafe, it’s like the town is the cafe society hub of Surrey.

Note to self: maybe don’t go shopping straight after a ride… those BBQ ribs aren’t normally so tempting

 

 

My first real live reader…

 

 

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Birthday present: premier outing for my new Garmin 810. It’s really easy to use which is relief after all my ‘network’ problems at home. YouTube will tell me how to get the most out of it

Map reference: Bealesy (Bespoke-Velo.co.uk) kindly diverted his Tuesday group my way as I missed a ride yesterday due to child sickness. He picked me up in Epsom and managed to craft an unhilly route round the local Surrey Hills. Clever stuff. 66k, 660m elevation

Carbs and caffeine: Burgandy & Black, St Martin Walk, Dorking, burgandyandblack.net. We only had coffee, but the cake looked good and I shall be going back for homemade soup and bread at £3.50. Bargain

We’ve moved. I’ve still got to get the printer working, transfer our music between computers and get Sonos synced, but we are in and I am back on the bike. I have been out a couple of times with Bealesy, and managed some other little circuits with pals Jacqui and Jen, but unpacking duty has stopped me recording these.

Our intention today was to go for a long endurance ride but, with a delayed start in the freeze, and a slightly slower pace, we restricted ourselves to a leisurely jaunt through the hills of Surrey, remarkably seeing very few actual hills. Of the five of us, there were two riders I didn’t know. I soon discovered one, Alison, was the wife of a clever cartoonist I used to work with at the Evening Standard (Patrickblower.com). I met him recently on the last outing to our favourite pub near our old home. Alison had sent him out for spuds, but he bumped into my family and me and we led him astray. I’m not sure if I apologised, Alison. Sorry. Anyway, he said then I should meet his wife who had caught the cycling bug badly, and I’m really glad I finally have. You would’t think cycling was such a social sport.

More remarkably, Jen mentioned this blog over coffee and the other rider, Trudy, said she had heard of it. Surely some mistake, I thought. But no, she really had. She had been sitting next to a spinning instructor at our mutual sports club and the coach had complained that I had made her sound like a heavy drinking night owl. I had mentioned that she was mainlining Red Bull during a class and had drawn my own conclusions about why that was, perhaps unfairly. Actually, I had thought she was rather fabulous and other-worldly… Anyway, the instructor (I daren’t mention her name as she apparently regularly searches for herself online and that was how she found my comment) showed Trudy my blog. Trudy told me she really enjoyed it and carried on reading.

Most of my readers are people who know me, and I have a fair few around the world who have just ‘found’ me. This was the first time where the two have crossed over. I don’t know who was more chuffed. She, that she had found a real live blogger, or me, that I had found a real live reader. Correction. I was definitely the most chuffed… and very flattered by her comments.

By another strange coincidence, Trudy’s  husband has signed her up for the Etape Du Tour this year… sound familiar, any of my regular readers out there? She asked me for any tips but I was dumbstruck in the face of my doppelganger… I shall have to give it some thought.

Note To Trudy: stay in touch, you have my number

My pal Jen’s Epping epic

Map reference: London Etape, 185k, 1,400m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: Torq gels, cheese and jam bagel, possibly the worst ever givaway gel… and extraordinary ‘performance coffee’

Those of you in the sportive loop will know that this ride was three weeks ago… I’m slipping; houswifery, back-to-school-dom and house-moving-itus are slowing me down. But it’s a ride worth mentioning. It started at the Olympic velodrome and headed in a large loop into Cambridgeshire through Epping Forest. It was always going to be a flattish ride so Jen (yes, I signed her up while she was out of the country) and I had no idea how long it would take.

I estimated 7 1/2 hours, but, I had never seen Jen in competition mode. It took us 6 hours 21 mins of moving time… and I was basically hanging on to Jen’s wheel the whole way. Or, I had fallen off and I was pedalling at maximum effort to get back on. Sounds hilarious but it was actually really hard work. From the off, through the East End, Jen flitted through the crowds of cyclist. She has never really ridden in a group so was pedalling past perfectly fast pelotons and isolating us as the groups stretched out. I was cursing and grumbling and desperately trying to hold on, thinking it was going to be a very long ride in this degree of pain; or, clearly a much shorter race than I had anticipated, but a lot less comfortable.

After a puncture at 10k, we settled down a bit, and by the time we were out into proper countryside, Jen had got the hang of picking a pack to hang on to, and at her size (5ft2) she was able to just tuck in and roll along. I, unfortunately, had a habit of dropping off the back on the longer rises (no hills as such) and then having to battle back onto the back in order to rest up for the next drive. Our average moving speed was 29k/h and we were very held up later as we headed back into London, so we were really clicking along. I spent an uncomfortably large percentage of the six hours at panic stations; heart racing, sweat pouring into my eyes, legs throbbing. We didn’t stop at the first or second feedstation, carrying enough carbs with us to get us by (thank heavens for jelly babies…Bassetts, bless you).

The 20k to the third feedstation was hard, the field had thinned out and I was mostly just hanging on to Jen’s back wheel, and with her being so small draughting was less effective than if she had been bigger. She was tiring too. We swung into the feedstation to be stopped by a ‘glamourous’ woman on a stall offering ‘performance coffee’. She astounded us by greeting us warmly along the lines of ‘Ahh, now you’ll want this, because as women, you won’t be wanting to eat fattening, sugary stuff’. We sniggered, drank the coffee (tasted like regular instant coffee to me) and headed for the real snacks. There was no time (or energy) to take offence to her ridiculous implication that we should diet. There were very few women for her to bond with on the ride, and with her fake nails I don’t suppose she ever did any real exercise.

At this stop we were also given some gels (I’ll look up what they were, when I can) which were absolutely awful. They were too large and squirted all over the bike and my hand, making both so sticky I was struggling to change gear. And they tasted foul too. They are to be avoided at all costs. Jen’s squirted everywhere too, so it wasn’t just me. Honestly, guys, do test these things on the road before giving them out.

Quick as we could, we hopped back on the bikes and charged back towards Epping. with 20k to go I thought Jen had finally managed to drop me for good. For mile after mile I could see her but couldn’t get back up to her.  I willed her to just understand that it was fine to go on without me, but luckily two large blokes came by and I hopped onto their tail in a last ditch attempt to catch up. They delivered me to Jen’s back wheel just as she turned round to see if I was there. I still don’t know if she know how long I was missing. She rides in her own zone, legs just pedalling and pedalling.

As we headed into London we were really slowed down by the early afternoon traffic. Jen’s knee began to play up but she powered on through the final spin of the Velodrome and then we hobbled off to the car. By the time we got home an hour later, neither of us could walk properly, we were staggering about, giggling like drunk octagenarians. Still, no harm done, by the morning we were fine. That’s the joy of cycling, if it had been a marathon, I’d probably still be limping.

Note to Jen: Get that Dragon ride booked.