Unveiling my new friend

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View from the saddle: got to love those stripes

Map reference: Lucy’s kitchen, she’s rebuilding her whole house with our turbo sessions in mind, it seems. Sweet.

Carbs and caffeine: Had to dash from session, but took a bucket of coffee to the bath

Another turbo session with Beastly Beasley http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/. It’s the fear that gets us, I think. We were doing three minute repeats – with 90 seconds active recovery – in an ever increasing gear, but slower cadence. So starting with three or four repeats at 105, we were unable to talk and that’s when the fear kicks in. Gradually we upped the gear and lowered the cadence, through 100 down to 75 in the end. We then had a fairly long comfortable spin at the end to relieve some very heavy legs. It’s definitely true that as the cadence came down, the breathing eased; and even as the legs felt worse, the panicky feeling went away. I could see that on the others’ faces too. Rachel’s had a bit of a layoff with sick children and I think she was suffering the most. She has got some major challenges inked in for this year, from marathon to half iron man, so she got straight off the turbo, threw on layers and pedalled off to swim. Kudos to her, I say…

Note to self: need to read the ‘taming the chimp’ stuff again. Head stuff is going to be important

Who needs a small cog?

Map reference: triple Box Hill loop, all in the large cog

Carbs and caffeine: The Grey Dove, Walton-on-the-Hill http://www.thegreydovecafe.com/

I got ahead on beastly Beasley’s programme by doing my Monday session yesterday, leaving me free to cycle with Neil today. I haven’t mentioned Neil recently because he put himself out of action for six weeks by having a tumble cycling home one evening. Apparently very little alcohol was involved and yet a speed bump leapt out and tipped him off his bike. Very bad luck indeed.

Anyway, he is back on form now, but with his long layoff, I am back in the driving seat … just. Last time we cycled he was definitely faster than me. It’s going to be interesting as our training progresses.

Today we parked at Epsom racecourse, made our way through Headley to Box Hill, down the zigzag and round the back, up the Headley hills and back to the top of Box Hill, racing the last section where the road is extra smooth. Neil always beats me there, but he is only 31… and a personal trainer to boot.

After some debate we went down the zigzag and straight back up, standing all the way. For the first half I was holding my own, but as we got to the middle flatter section Neil pulled away. He then whooped encouraging cries all the rest of the way, while clearly making sure he stayed ahead of me. I just couldn’t get back on his wheel. I had my revenge on our final loop of Box Hill, up the Headley hills again, grinding my big cog as best I could. It felt good.

A quick pitstop in the ever pretty Walton-On-the-Hill and it was home for the usual family duty. No time to change or even go home and drop the bike, but I think the school mums are getting used to my mud-speckled appearances.

Note to self: next time bring Jen. Two on one, we’ll thrash him

Dijon bike takes the mustard

On tour: Team FDJ.fr have been riding Lapierre bikes, which are built in Dijon, for 13 years

Map reference: home, -3 out, no amount of layers will counteract that and it’s a turbo day on my programme anyway. 32.5k in 62 minutes

Carbs and caffeine: caffeine fix before hopping on bike. Sneaky buttery ginger biscuit once off

If my 62 minute turbo session seems strange, this is because Barclaycard called to check an odd payment to Wiggle.co.uk. Yes, Husband, after weeks of research has chosen a bike for me. It’s a 2014 Lapierre Xelius EFI 100 Compact. I am, of course, beside myself with excitement and have been researching its history.

Wikipedia tells me that Team FDJ.fr’s Thibaut Pinaut rode his Lapierre Aircode to third place and best young rider on the Tour de France last year. The Aircode is the new bike the team started riding last year. Before that they were riding the Xelius EFI, hang on, that’s my bike. Chapeau, indeed.

I am practising my French, to welcome my new partner. I do hope we get on

Note to self: It’s not about the bike?… Bah, today it is

Parallel universe

Map reference: Wimbledon to Ashtead and back, 60k

Carbs and Caffeine: Cafe Bean http://www.bikebeans.co.uk/, carrot cake

It was cold today, but dry. Having gone back into the house once to get my Garmin,  I couldn’t bear to go back in for my hat – not my helmet, I had that and would never ride without – and had to risk brain freeze. Luckily I was wearing a muffler, albeit thin, and was able to get the ears covered. They’re the bits that will actually fall off if frozen, after all.

As it was, I was warm enough, with just a bit of toe-lossage. Even my hands were relatively ok, so I think it was slightly warmer than the 4 degrees we had been warned of. And there was no wind. That was the major difference with last week’s ride. There was even some thin sunshine at some points. All in all it was a very encouraging day. I think we all felt strong. It was like one of those wonderful skiing days, when the sky is blue and the snow is perfect and you feel finally feel at one with your oh-so-parallel skiis.

Bike Beans did us proud as usual. Bealsey http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ has managed to persuade the owner to have his holiday promo video going round on a loop on one of the televisions. Good work, Bealsey, I’m impressed.

Note to self: Why are your shins hurting? That’s a running injury. Peddling wrong again?

My Waterloo…

IWM

Map reference: Turbo session at home, 23.5k, 45 minutes

Carbs and Caffeine: managed to get first caffeine hit at Waterloo, on way to Tate Britain. No cake, none whatsoever

I’ll admit the picture above is fairly random, bear with me. My mission today was to get through one of Bealsey’s turbo sessions and then get to Waterloo by 11. I just about made it. It meant jumping on the bike straight after the school run, and then jumping in the bath – briefly – and running out of the house to get to the station. In fact I ran most of way to the station.

It was worth it though. My friend Helen and I went to see Conflict Time Photography at Tate Britain. Here the picture of the Army Cyclist Corps comes in, just about. In the exhibition there was a picture of the cycle corp of HMS Hermes. Unfortunately I was too chicken to take a snap, so the picture above is of the Army Cyclist corp in 1917 (from the Imperial War Museum collection, I hope they forgive me for borrowing the image). The pictures are similar. The bikes heavily loaded and uniformed men chatting idly. It looks like the sort of convivial meeting you see at Roehampton Cafe in Richmond Park, until you remember these men were in the middle of a bloody war.

Sort of puts my worries about ‘battling’ the Alps into perspective.

Note to self: Out tomorrow, fresh air. Cold, fresh air. Layers, layers, layers …

If you’re going through hell, keep going (Churchill)

Map reference: Home, spinning, 1 hour 5 mins, 32.5k

Carbs and Caffeine: brunch at book club, including Sophie’s banana cake and berries

Beastly Beasley http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ has set me a four-week programme to improve my endurance, ie stop the wheezing. In it, I top and tail the week with a turbo session which consists of increasing hill sections interspersed with active recovery. The hill sessions start at 5 mins, then 10 mins, then 15 mins, and then, phew, back down again.

My spin bike doesn’t have gears as such, just a knob you twist, so there was guess work there, but at least I get a rpm, which is what I really need. If I’m struggling to keep up the required 90 rpm, I guess I’m in a stiff enough gear.

I felt a bit wheezy when I got off the bike, but not too bad. I love going out on the bike, but spinning does at least give me time to squeeze in other things, like my book club. I’m reading Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor at the moment. Even here, Boris the biker comes through. He mentions his cycling several times and points out that cycling in London is considered very dangerous and yet there is approximately one death in every 14 million journeys. When Churchill was flying his beloved planes in 1912, there was one fatality in every 5,000 flights. No wonder his wife went potty and Winston was forced to lie about where he was going when he went out. At least he didn’t have to sneak out of the house in Lycra. Oh dear, Churchill in Lycra, let’s not go there…

Note to self: four weeks takes us up to half term. Perfect timing. Just do it

Out, at last…

Map reference: Wimbledon to Bookham, retreat to Leatherhead and home, 60k

Carbs and caffeine: Homemade walnut and coffee cake, Bocketts farm, Leatherhead http://www.bockettsfarm.co.uk/

The weather finally went our way and Jen and I met up with Bealsey http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ for our regular Really Helpful Club http://www.reallyhelpfulclub.com/ ladies ride. There were a few faces missing, including one whose husband had booked her into a skiing lesson with him (without asking). Post-Christmas admin took the rest, I think.

We did one of Bealsey’s wiggles through south-west London. Met the same angry couple and dodgy dog in the same underpass as before. Had the same row. Do they live there like trolls, ready to attacks any passing cyclists? (See my post Underpass Impasse, 12/07/2014).

We popped up in Fetcham. Unfortunately torrential rain popped up at the same time and we battled our way to Bookham before stopping at a bus shelter to add rain layers and give up on the glasses. A quick look at the sky told us that if we kept heading in the same direction we were just heading into more watery stuff, so we double backed on ourselves and made our way to Bocketts children’s farm. Thankfully there were no children, and the coffee and cakes were good. The cake is packed in little plastic boxes, which is a shame, it just seems so wasteful. Give me a slice off the whole cake anytime, but perhaps they are mobbed sometimes by greedy little monsters. Then I can see the efficiency in pre-cutting.

We stayed quite a long time, drying off and discussing Jen’s nutribullet http://www.nutribullet.com. Bealsey, like most cyclists, has lots of opinions on food and nutrition. Jen impressed us with the fact that she is hiding kale in her son’s smoothy. The nutribullet may go on my wishlist, as I have a fussy eater at home too.

We made our way home through Leatherhead, towards Epsom and the Hook Road Arena, and the sun joined us. Jen regained feeling in her hands somewhere around Ewell.

More tips from Bealsey today about my riding. All this winter spinning has taken it’s toll and I am riding at far too high a cadence and getting out of breath. Following Jen up the long hill near the Yehudi Menuhin school, I could feel myself dropping off. It’s obviously a combination of heart-lung capacity and leg power… and a bit of how you feel on the day.

Note to self: Don’t be disheartened, early days…

Who are you calling old?

Map reference: triple circuit of Box Hill from Epsom Downs. 50k and close to 1k climbing.

Carbs and caffeine: The Grey Dove, Walton-on-the-Hill http://www.thegreydovecafe.com/

Out with my old personal trainer, Neil, today. Well, he’s not old, I’m obviously the old one, and he’s the secret weapon in my training plan. I was slower than him today (I’m blaming the heavy winter wheels) but close enough in speed to force a competitive pace. And I have the advantage of knowing my way round the Surrey hills a bit, especially the cafes. I also have a car so we can drive out, do circuits and then not have to commute home. It’s early days, we don’t need to slog home. This will work as long as I can keep up. If I could only shed a decade or two (and add testosterone).

Note to self: No stretching, come on you know better. No wonder your legs ache

Underpass impasse

Map reference: Wimbledon, nearly to Box Hill, via Esher, Fetcham, Leatherhead and a cafe I’ve been meaning to visit in Lycra for a long time. Around 60k

Caffeine and carbs: Cafe Bean, Ashtead … at last

There were three women including myself for the regular Bealsey (bespoke-velo.co.uk) Thursday ride. It was wet and misty, with not much promise of anything different, so I was not surprised that a couple of faces were missing. It’s also a busy time of year, let’s face it. Bealsey was undeterred as ever, but sensing the mood, suggested a fairly flat run out to the Surrey Hills and back. New commuter routes are always useful, and in fact a reminder of some of the sections we have done before is also good. As ever, I mostly didn’t know where we were, except for the occasional crossing of major roads. Aha, I think, as if coming up for air, I know where we are, and then we plunge back into a labyrinth of unknown roads again.

We crossed swords in an underpass with a very unsavoury couple, complete with the inevitable ‘dangerous’ dog. They were very upset that we were ‘on’ our bikes, although we were uncleated and merely wheeling down at snail’s pace as the underpass has hairpin bends. Frankly I don’t have the skill to go at anything above walking speed in the space, but this couple were hardwired to loathe us. And, to be honest, following the stream of expletives I received, the feeling was mutual. I wished them a Merry Christmas and moved on. I learned this tactic from Bealsey who gives a cheery wave to all rude drivers (knowing it will infuriate them further).

We did a bit of hill practice on the way up to Headley. I was instructed to stand the whole way in a big slow gear. Jen clung on behind me, and by the end our airpipes were rattling. From there, it was freewheeling all the way down to Cafe Bean, Ashtead. I’ve been many times before to this cafe, and talked bikes and biking with Jamie, the owner, as it’s near one of my kid’s schools. Finally an entrance in Lycra, red in face and glasses steamed up. Mind you, our damp arrival was somewhat trumped by a large party of grey-haired mountain bikers. They looked very hale and hearty. It’s a small cafe, but there’s always a real buzz and hum about the place.

Note to self: For heaven’s sake, must get some clear glasses. Dark glasses, in rain, leave you practically blind.

Get shorty

Map reference: The Ripley tea run, an old favourite, 70k, flat

Caffeine and carbs: The Nest, Ripley

Jacqui and I had big plans, today, to use part of last week’s Windsor route and create a loop from home, incorporating Elm Nursery in Sutton Green. It would be a new pitstop for Jacqui and give us another winter ride for our collection. But I spent so long last night trying to work out how to hook up the ride that I had a hurty head by the time I went to bed. And every time I closed my eyes, I found myself following the route – left, quick right and straight on – so it was not a good night. I was quite glad when it became clear in the morning that Jacqui wasn’t feeling like a long mystery tour and we decided to treat ourselves to an old favourite instead. Rob, Jacqui’s husband, came too. Obviously the lure of Nest cake works for him too.

It was the right decision as the weather was distinctly dodgy, with gusty winds knocking us about and tree litter strewn all over the roads. Outside the Black Swan near Cobham, there was a branch across the road that could have been laid out by a sabateur if I had a suspicious mind.

At least I was warm enough, in part due to my new gilet, bought second hand for a bargain £5. Unfortunately, this evening Husband tried it on and he says it fits him perfectly and being white will be good for his commute. So I can say goodbye to that. I shall have to go back to my source…

Note to self: Do not leave nice kit lying about where it can be seen…