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

 

 

 

Loopy, me?

Map reference: out to the Surrey Hills but staying as flat as I could, 135k, 1,300m elevation, oops.

Carbs and caffeine: tuna sandwich at good old Bike Beans http://www.bikebeans.co.uk/

Finally, the kids are back at school and I can get out. Jen, who said she hadn’t ridden her bike for five weeks (but let it slip that she has been spinning away during her globe-trotting tour), was up for trying to get in some distance to prepare for L’Etape London. She is surprisingly jittery about the sportive, considering she beats me up every hill and easily keeps up the pace up on the flat.

I decided we should go out Peaslake way as, soon enough, the hills around there will be too cruddy with the winter weather. I tried to avoid too much of the up-down-up again route that we usually do, but it is hard to be on the flat around there.

We rode 70k without stopping to try to get used to just keeping the legs turning, stopping only to mainline a few jelly babies and gels.

At times I felt quite out of sorts trying to keep up (that will be the depression of watching tiny Jen getting smaller and smaller as she pulled away from me up the hills) and I developed a bit of a headache despite drinking plenty of water.

We had a proper stop at Bike Beans and that helped. We then took a deliberately long circuit home back across to Cobham in order to keep the mileage up, and Jen and I parted company at 105k in Richmond Park.

With some discipline, I decided to carry on pedalling rather than going home for a shower (I must say sorry to the school gate mums, again), and challenged myself to get up to 125k. To do this I headed out of Ham gate, to do a circuit around Ham, I then did another circuit to be sure, and set off to Richmond Park. Cutting across the park I realised I was past 126k and my new target had to be 130k. I doubled back on myself to make sure I hit my new number. That achieved, I made my way back to the car. Unfortunately, as I neared, I realised that my Garmin now read 132k. So, of course I then had to circuit the Coombe Estate to get a nice round 135k. As I passed the car, the reading was still 134k, I carried on for a couple of hundred metres and quickly turned around as it ticked over to 135k. Thank heavens it stayed on the magic number or I might still be out there looping the area.

Note to self: watch those OCD tendencies when you are tired 

All hail to the train

Map reference: About 7 hills, Wimbledon to Dorking

Carbs and caffeine: Peaslake Village Stores, sandwich, tea and cake. Picked up delicious smoked cheese for later

This week I have a busy cycling schedule, with three weeks to go to the Dragon Ride. It started yesterday with a plan to do my 10 hills Surrey ride with Jacqui and Jen. I knew it would be a steady pace, so already had it in mind to chop a bit off the end if necessary. All was fine to Peaslake – six hills climbed, no drama. We then stopped to refuel and as we slurped the last of our tea the thunder started. There wasn’t much option to do anything but commit the shorter route to memory (I’m still carrying the map and notes I made last week) and get going. By the time we reached the top of Radnor Road, a very pretty climb straight out of Peaslake, we were soaked and rivers of sandy water were running down the road.

We pedalled on, it was freezing rain and, unbelievably for late May, as we started a long descent, the rain turned to large brutal shots of hail. I was in short bibs and it was really, really painful. I was hunched over my thighs trying to protect them, my vision was obscured by my dark glasses and frankly I yelped all the way down.

We were still in the wilderness and now all three of us shivering, soaked to the skin, with shoes full of water. The weather eased with a tantalising few glances of sunshine, and then, as we hit another descent, another freak hail storm attacked. It was ridiculously painful, and by now my legs were covered in red dots from the icy attack. We ploughed on through Coldharbour and down into Dorking.

Thankfully Jacqui was searching her mind for a solution as we looked at Box Hill in the distance, shrouded in grey. I was thinking for ways of routing around the hills, not to avoid climbing, but because it was noticeably colder up top. But with an hour and a half’s riding in front of us, Jacqui had a more fundamental idea… the train.

So we hopped on at Dorking and shivered our way to Raynes Park. Together we laughed about our predicament and the state we were in, but the child in our heads grizzled. I have seldom been more uncomfortable.

But Jen’s last words, as we parted, were to hope we were going to do the ride again on Thursday, which is the plan. She’s a ray of sunshine, and I do hope she brings more of it with her when we try again tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

Note to self: phone brother and get him in line for tomorrow’s ride. Cake, jelly babies etc etc

Dawn call to ride out…

Map reference: Ten Surrey Hills, 124k with 1,756m climbing

Carbs and Caffeine: Peaslake Village Stores http://www.peaslakevillagestores.com/

Up at 5pm on Monday, I decided to get on the Turbo to work off my frustration at the way my back problems have impacted on my training. The back held out so I texted Jen and promised her hills if she would come out with me the next day. She was surprised to be contacted so early but, being the trooper she is, agreed to come. I’ve mentioned Jen before, she’s super fit, rides a heavy, clickety bike… and talks a lot. She has never tested her endurance riding before – although I believe she has some marathons under her belt – so it would be an adventure for her. And even more of an adventure if I didn’t get the route right.

This was my second attempt to follow my basic Garmin on a route I have ridden with a friend. I’ve mentioned my belt and braces attitude before, well this time it was belt and braces with extra safety pins. I poured over the map on Monday, printing out a section in the middle which was very unfamiliar and marking it with google mapped waymarkers. Then I wrote out the whole left-right-left instructions. Finally, I got two large sticky labels and wrote out the route in a point-to-point fashion to be stuck to the back and front of my phone case. Then I nearly forgot to take all of the above, but thankfully remembered at the last minute or I might now be writing this from the safety of a bed at the Priory Mental Hospital.

Anyway, it worked. Jen was patient as I had to stop a couple of times and get out my soggy bits of paper, but I felt a great sense of achievement at having completed the route ‘properly’. There are plenty of hills out there, so it wouldn’t really matter, but Strava told me I was fourth fastest female this year up Barhatch… particularly pleasing as this hill beat me earlier this year.

As for the pedalling bit? Jen was awesome. I could tell she was a little bit tired at one point as she actually stopped talking, but she just pushed on and on, even as her gears sounded like they were giving up. We munched through nearly a whole pack of jelly babies supplemented by fruit cake and biscuits. Sensibly, we had a proper sandwich at Peaslake with our cuppa. I felt hungry for much of the time and our pace was steady rather than lightning but it was good to bank the miles and the climbing. I feel disappointed that I felt so tired an hour from home, but perhaps it’s not surprising with the hiccup I’ve had with my back.

Talking of the back, my physio friend Jacqui worked her magic on Monday, sticking her elbow deep into my muscles until I could have wept. I was very sore that evening, but the freedom of movement the next day was amazing. That’s what you need, friends who’ll answer your dawn texts to go out for a ride, or stick their elbow into your gluteus maximus until you beg for mercy.

Note to Jen: get ready for another go; more fruit cake, hydration tabs… and jelly beans

The whiff of success…

Displaying photo.JPG Early start: a two-bottle run to the Surrey hills, doesn’t she look beautiful in the sunlight?

Map reference: 130k, ’10 hill’ loop to Leith Hill area

Carbs and caffeine: Peaslake Stores http://www.peaslakevillagestores.com/, just a mug of tea, but lots on offer. Remember coinage to donate to cleaner of new loo

I had a fantastic run on Sunday with Husband, doing a 90k Box Hill loop from home, but time caught up with me and I had no time to blog it. Suffice to say the bike and I are now the very bestest of friends. We averaged 24k, so finally Husband and I can cycle together without him getting a crick in the neck from turning around to look for me. I’ll never be his training partner, but at least we can ride together. It’s a big step forward.

With all this happiness in mind, I prepared to battle Barhatch again, having failed last week. This time Rob and I set off earlier so I wouldn’t have to bail after 5 and a half hills to get home for the school run. And I switched to my new bike. I can’t, if I’m honest, tell the difference between the two bikes on a flip around Richmond Park, but give it an hour or so and the difference really becomes apparent. So the lesson, well known to amateur cyclists, is … if at first your don’t succeed, bring a better bike.

Some credit should go to those winter months of training. A friend’s husband has been scoffing that I have been so focused since before Christmas but, with no testosterone to fall back on, it’s the only way I know how. Under Bealsey’s http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/ guidance I’ve been working on pushing a harder gear and that has certainly paid dividends. Hills Seven and Eight passed by in my big cog (they were more like a series of rises to be honest) and I found this left me in a better position to maximise speed on the false flats in between. Husband has been saying this for years, but I don’t think I was fit enough to pull it off then.

Apart from the hills, which tend to grab the attention, I think my descending has improved a little. Some weeks ago, Bealsey told me that my feet should be horizontal when descending on a straight, with my strong foot forward. I had found this position awkward and tend to ride with my left foot down, which feels more restful. But suddenly his advice seems to be making sense. I think it may be the angle of my feet, I am working on having my heels lower in my pedal stroke, and that seems to give me more balance. Anyway, even on the pretty bumpy descents of the Surrey Hills I am feeling more confident.

So all in all, the stars were aligned and it was a great day. I know they won’t all be like this, some days just aren’t so good, but I feel very, very positive.

And why the headline ‘The whiff of success’? Well, Peaslake Stores is an excellent deli, and they were giving out tastes of their cheeses. I fell on love with a Chillies Farm wild mushroom infused camembert, and rode the second half with it ripening in my back pocket.

Note to self: last week to collar Bealsey for more training tips, before he heads off for his summer holiday guiding tour

New bike’s baptism of fire


Worth a trip: Tanhouse, buzzing with cyclists and the odd toddler

 (picture:TripAdvisor)

Map reference: Cafe Bean, Ashtead, to Newdigate and back… via Pebble Hill

Carbs and caffeine: Tanhouse Farm shop http://www.tanhousefarm.co.uk, and not a moment too soon

Today my new bike and I set off on our first excursion together, with a completely new group too. I had been put in touch with a very keen cyclist called Jo through a school contact and I turned up today for a Cafe Bean ride with really no idea what to expect. I thought it was a ‘ladies’ ride, but oh no, it was mostly men, and quite pacey. We started off as 17 but lost two riders within 15 minutes.

I was a little concerned at the casual way they were dropped and desperately pedalled to keep up with the peloton. We were averaging 24k/h, hitting a max of 52k/h, and I didn’t know that the two dropees had been prepped to just peel away if they found it too fast. So with fear driving me on – I did not know where we were most of the time – I pedalled like fury and got my second wind. And after about an hour (and a couple of painkillers for my niggling back) I began to relax and grab the odd word with the rest of the crew on the flats. Nice bunch, cyclists generally are…

I have to say I was ready for the cafe stop at about the 40k mark. I finally caught up with Jo there, who kindly bought the caffeine required to ensure my continuing pace for the return leg. It’s a fantastic, friendly spot. We sat outside, briefly, discussing saddles and watching a toddler war in the play area. My money was on the boy in the stripey green shirt, but I lost when the boy in the blue jacket thumped him. We shouldn’t have laughed, but toddlers are so ridiculously transparent.

The return journey was shorter, but Hanno, the group leader had a little trick up his sleeve, driving us into Pebble Hill. I sensed the unease in the pack as we got nearer, although I was blissfully unaware of the challenge ahead, and Jo began to talk herself into a complete funk. She’s really strong on the flat but doesn’t fancy hills. Nonetheless, except for one chap who peeled off to go round the hill instead, we all made it up. I think it was about 20% at worst.

Perhaps this is the moment to apologise for saying that Barhatch Road was 29% on Tuesday. Apparently it’s only 22% (I think the blood pumping on my head must have effected my hearing, I’m sure that’s what Rob said) but I have to say today’s climb seemed more than 2% easier. Jo made it easily and clearly felt good about it. And so did I… getting off on a hill as I did two days ago leaves you with serious doubts about yourself.

With such negative thoughts banished, I shot into Velosport on my return, for Nick to confirm that Husband had set my saddle perfectly. Sorry Nick, both I and the bike could have done with a bath first.

Note to self: time to invest in a foam roller, Nick’s right, IT band still too tight. Ouch, rollers hurt

Beaten by 29% hill… bah

Displaying photo.JPG

Amusant? I’m not sure my LaPierre is going to take to this Italian bling

Map reference: out to the Surrey hills from Worcester Park, 100k, 1,200m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: cuppa at Peaslake Village Stores http://www.peaslakevillagestores.com/, new loo a blessing

Jacqui is away at the moment, so she kindly lent me her husband for our regular Tuesday slot. Rob is training for the Flanders (250k, 1,800m climbing) and so proposed ten Surrey hills and 140k. Unfortunately we set off a bit late with one thing and another and I had to cut this short to 100k and about 5 1/2 hills.

Along the way I got snowed on (yes, really) and beaten by a 29% hill (Rob tells me it is 29%, my Garmin had given up and gone back to zero). I am annoyed by this as I hopped off about 4m from the end of a longish climb. I had had to take pain killers for my back at one and a half hours, which is a setback in itself. I think my spine is still suffering from the short French bed on holiday and disastrous ride on ill-fitting saddle  last week. And then about three hours in to the ride we were on a perfectly normal hill – ranging from 10-20 percent with some false flats – and suddenly there was a ramp in front of me, with the top tantalisingly in view. It truly was a ramp, such as you see in a multi-storey car park. I’ve looked on the map, and as far as I can work out it was on Barhatch Road. Avoid it at your peril… or bring crampons.

So I am resting today; stretching and planning for tomorrow, when I intend to take LaPierre out for a joyride with a new group. One of the prep things was to use my credit at Pearsons http://www.pearsoncycles.co.uk/ to buy water bottle holders. They assure me that the titanium ones pictured above, made by Ciussi, are my best bet. They are light and strong, if strangely blingy. My bike is turning into a patchwork of European style. As long as I don’t have to get into Greek style debt to get the new brakes I desperately need, I should be fine.

Note to self: don’t forget to switch your saddle and stem bags too… going out without tubes and gas is not smart