Steady as she goes …

Map reference: playing around in the Leith Hill area, 130k, 1700m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: tea and Cornish pasty at Peaslake Village Stores plus my rice cakes (see Musette munchies page)

Testing my back again, but this time I set off slowly from home. Husband was with me and he has been working his legs hard lately so he said he was glad to take the pace down a notch too.

It was blowing against us all the way out to the hills from Wimbledon and we were perhaps 10 minutes slower than usual on our leg to the Black Swan in Ockham http://www.blackswanockham.com/. It’s a waymarker for us, as well as being a good pub to visit (I believe Brad Pitt was spotted there once).

By this time I had already taken some paracetamol and some Ibuprofen but the back was holding up with the chemical support. I was attempting to follow a ten-hills route that I had done with a friend and therefore had on my Garmin. I have an Edge 500, which is about as basic as it gets, but I like it for being tiny and neat. Although I always take it off my bike when I stop, it’s not a magnet for theft. Understated is the word I am looking for, I think.

Anyway, this was my first real attempt to follow a map on it. I was pleased that I could set off from home doing my preferred route and then pick up the route and for several hills the route was clear enough. You get no map as such, just a line that wriggles in the shape of the road, with an arrow on it. So, at a left turn, you get no indication of a road junction, just the line bends left. On the twisty turny roads of Surrey it’s a little confusing, but we managed for about three hours before we lost satellite for too long and were too far off track to find our way back. It didn’t matter, as by that time we were in the vicinity of our familiar Peaslake and were able to  route a different way home.

I am now using my iphone to record for Strava and Garmin for my own records. It’s a bit of a belt and braces solution, but it should mean I won’t lose segments. I wouldn’t like to use my Garmin to map completely virgin territory, but I am increasing my knowledge of the roads of Surrey and Sussex all the time, and it’s fine for these excursions. It’s never a bad thing to keep the old grey matter going anyway, although it’s hard when you get tired.

We did manage to get back on track for Hill 9, aka Ranmore Road from Dorking. It’s quite nasty but only because it is long. I think the steepest bits are about 10%, so at a steady pace it’s perfectly doable.

Overall it was a long steady ride. We did about half the climbing I will face in the Dragon Gran Fondo and about two thirds of the distance. With six weeks to go, I’m glad we banked the distance, even at a pace of just under 24k/hr.

Note to self: rest and stretch today, Turbo tomorrow.

Out of credit…

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Good old Ebay: my new Dura-Ace Shimano brakes, not that they’d have helped today

Map reference: Kingston to Chilworth, and a reverse home, 79 long kilometres

Carbs and caffeine: Costa in Cobham, not very exciting, but just what I needed

Well it was bound to happen. I’ve been having such a great time in the past couple of weeks that I was bound to crash. At least this was only physically not literally, although I was aware that, as I was feeling less than 100 per cent, I needed to be careful on the road. The old IQ drops swiftly when you start fading.

It was supposed to be a long hilly ride with Rob today, as he trains for the Flanders sportive. But by the time we got to 40k around Leith Hill and I had been feeling rubbish the whole way, I knew it was time to bail. Unfortunately, at that stage I was 40k from home, so I turned back and trundled back to Cobham promising myself a large coffee there to get me through the last kilometres.

The smiley barista at Costa asked me how I was as she served me and was probably surprised to be told I was totally rubbish. I think the acceptable answer is an American-style ‘great’. But the bucket of coffee she served me helped me home and now I would like to say to her ‘Have a nice day…’

Note to self: it’s all part of the training. You’ve done 310k since Saturday, bailing perfectly acceptable

Beaten by 29% hill… bah

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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

Riding circles…

Crop circle: The Wells estate, just outside Ashtead village

Map reference: slightly shorter than intended ride, to Ashtead and back, 50k

Carbs and caffeine: piece of cake from the musette

Husband took the afternoon off work so that we could go for a ride and we needed a trip to Ashtead anyway so that was the plan. In the morning, I dipped into some of Bealsey’s http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/ rides on the Garmin to make sure I was clear on the best way down. I toyed with the dodgy-dog underpass route, but in the end plumped for cutting about across Worcester Park, slipping through the Hook estate (using a route dedicated to only buses and cycle route) and slipping along the railway to the Wells estate. I don’t know who designed this area, but I’m assuming it was a sci-fi fan.

Unfortunately we were slightly late leaving so my plans to take Husband back through Fetcham and Cobham had to be canned and we did a rather dull commuter trail back through Kingston instead, largely on main roads, albeit with cycle lanes.

We were potentially going to be so late back for school runs that we didn’t even have time to stop for a coffee. Luckily I had packed a couple of pieces of cake. I didn’t actually pack them in the cotton bag that would be called a musette in riding circles, but they were in my stem bag http://www.evanscycles.com/products/topeak/tri-bag-stem-bag-all-weather-ec033777 and that’s close enough.

Note to self: remind Husband he need more clothes when he is riding with me. He was cold again…

Outside the box…

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Bike in a box: LaPierre awaits it’s grand unveiling

Map reference: Wimbledon, Cobham, Ashtead loop, 60k

Carbs and Caffeine: Quick stop at Cafe Bean, Ashtead

What a dilemma. Stay in and wait for my bike to arrive; or head out in the sunshine with Jacqui. What unbelievable luck that I could do both. The box arrived early, I would have lost money on that. I haven’t had a chance to open it, but it is enough to know that it is there, nesting in my garage.

With a little farewell tap on the box, Jacqui and I headed out for a nice loop, a bit trafficky, but no real bottlenecks. One silly fool old fool roared up behind me having jumped some lights at a small stretch of roadwork cones near Sandown Park. I moved into the middle of the lane, as I sensed he would try to squeeze past and knock me flying. I must have held him up or about 3.67 seconds. I do hope he managed to make that up during the rest of his busy day.

Aside from that, all was calm. My son is in to his senior school and Jacqui’s on a very hopeful waiting list with more results to come in. We both feel pretty chilled compared to a few weeks ago.

All in all, I feel lightly tired in the legs and much refreshed in spirit.

Note to self: that chain needs lube… no good remembering once you are out

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…

Castle train-ing

The twins: French bulldogs at Elm Nursery

Map reference: Windsor to Wimbledon, via Ripley

Caffeine and Carbs: Elm Nursery Farm Shop, 01483 755559, http://www.elmnursery.co.uk

Much excitement today as we all piled on the 9.12 from Putney to Windsor. Especially exciting for me as I had already been (admittedly in the car) to Raynes Park station, two schools in Kingston, done half an hour of car park duty, raced home, bolted to the garage and swung my leg over the pre-prepped bike and off down the hill.

But it really did feel like a school outing. Bealsey (Bespoke-Velo) guided us onto the cycle carriage, roughly in the middle of the train. A couple of women clearly thought we were showing off in our silly Lycra outfits, and who can blame them really. No one wants their carriage invaded by four exciteable women (and one laid back Aussie) on a brief escape from their daily routine.

We alighted at Windsor. Alighting being the exact opposite of what it felt like in cleats, and rummaged in all our weird pockets for our tickets at the gate.

And we were off. Up the high street and then on into Windsor Park. Past a king-on-horse statue whose creator killed himself for forgetting the stirrups (I haven’t checked this nugget from Bealsey) and onto a loop that took in a lovely new cake stop for me, Elm Nursery. We got a very friendly welcome and the cakes were fabulous. Why do I keep forgetting to photograph the cakes? They disappear so fast, maybe. I did photograph two resident French bulldogs, one half blind. Eventually I’ll find my way through the Microsoft filing system and post them here.

Then it was on past Ripley, a flooded Cobham, Esher and on and on (90k today) until we finally popped up, miraculously in Wimbledon again. I shall study the map. I don’t know how we got there, I really don’t.

Note to self: Don’t get angry at technology, it can hear you