Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Last week needs a mention

Last week was the week I suddenly decided I should do something different with my life.  I needed to get out of the habit of working too late again and start training for Alpe d'Huez before I ran out of time.  Unfortunately someone invited me for an interview on Wednesday so I had to prepare for it, look like I was still doing my job and actually do it.  It meant I didn't get in my second swim of the week and I still didn't get to do a mid week long ride.

On the other hand, I did manage a 13km lunchtime run including new explorations into Rotherham and I added in a second short run just to stay on my toes the day after along with two morning yoga sessions.  One of those made me miss a planned meeting but I was only going to save face anyway.

So I had to make up for it at the weekend, except I was going to my nephew's 18th Birthday party and had to drive to Guildford.  We weren't organised on Friday and it took most of the evening to wait out bad traffic, do some shopping and oh have dinner whilst post-apocalyptic M1 accident traffic cleared. We drove down on Saturday and I frustratedly sat on the M25 for over 2 hours.  I took my wetsuit just in case but didn't manage to swim.

We arrived at my mum in laws at 12:30 and I dropped all protocol and floated the idea of a ride early.  Having explained that I needed to get a 65 mile ride in for training, I was asked to be home by 7pm for dinner.  Excellent, a target.  Not one I thought I would make but I decided to try my best.

After coffee, TSK turned from home, still suffering the after-effects of our illness.  I continued, feeling sprightly.  I did this ride before but the wrong way around so I expected to hit the hills early.  In fact, I hit them just before half way so no real gain.  Still, it was 28 degrees and I still felt good, although slightly worried about my hands as I'd come away without gloves and every time I moved my grip on the bars, the tape tore at my skin in a way that was going to lead to blisters.  Still, I knew there was a friendly bike shop at Liphook where I could buy some - especially since I didn't have my lock and I knew they love people to just walk in off the street with their bikes.  These guys saved my bacon last time I was here by selling me food when I really needed it and went out riding without a lock.

Sure as anything they were open and not only had gloves but good Giro ones in my size.  I enthusiastically bought a red pair to match my STC and GB kit and carried on with my last 35 miles, leaving a queue of people out the door.

I pretty much raced the last 35 miles, calculating that if I kept pace I'd rock in around 6:30 and expecting to slow down but I didn't.  If anything I sped up and, although I managed to stave off eating a gel or a bar, rolled a little bonked into my inlaws at 6:40 pm with enough time to have a shower, even after I had laid on my back inhaling water for 10 minutes, fighting off the urge to accept the proffered beer until I had rehydrated on something healthier.

I even slept well through a hot night in a tent until awoken by neighbouring partiers at 3am whereby we retreated into the dining room with all the doors open and I continued to sleep fitfully with a big ginger cat on my lap.

Sunday dawned just as sunny so we swiftly inhaled a small breakfast then set off for our run.  After only 18 minutes I was instructed to turn back for start of the birthday party.  Nooo! I was just getting going!  Oh well, I made up for it by running fast (I finally found my legs somewhere in the deep grass) all the way back to the house.  More lying around, stretching, waiting for TSK to shower then a cold shower to me whilst attempting to pour my pink body attractively into civilian clothes for the short ride over to my sister in law's.

Our boy looked suitably pleased with his NorthFace flexible windproof that we brought him for scouting purposes - even if it wasn't suitable for the current climate - and I'm sure it will serve him well as a winter coat when he goes to uni in Brighton (as he is bright and I am sure he will get the grades he wants).

It was finally time to calm down and we spent the day in the sunshine and shade, eating and talking and building lego.  After 6pm I headed home to mummy and daddy's and ate a menial dinner since we were so stuffed from earlier antics.

A good rest day of driving home after a meeting in Guildford on Monday put me in excellent form for a second attempt at my long run on Monday evening so 16kms were dispensed with.  Not easily for it was still hot and 10 miles is a long way without a drink - although there was paddling.  It hurt at the time but the next day I was recovered enough for more yoga and my distance swim last night.

It took me 55 minutes but after the week I have had I can hardly complain that it was slow.  I enjoyed it all - clear water, warm enough to not worry and no need for showering straight away.  I hardly needed to use the changing rooms but for a cloudy overcast sky and a slight breeze.

I feel back on track.  I feel like I can make this now.  I feel like priorities have aligned and then the solstice came and I sat awake until 3am, buzzing with the joys of summertime - literally, my heart has not dropped below 61 all night.  I took the opportunity to line up ducks and checked that my bike bag would be allowed on my Air Canada flight and invested in the light weight tent I have been promising myself for oh so long.  I simply home the excitement about getting it does not last as long as the 2 weeks it may take to arrive.  I can't cope with this much lack of sleep.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chester Triathlon 2017

Prologue: if you're looking for Chester Race Report, scroll forwards to... "Anyway, I digress"

I really hate it when a good race gets spoiled by sickness afterwards.

I didn't have much to say about the Chester Tri.  It was exactly what I wanted after I crashed in it in 2015... it was uneventful.

I swum.  I got my clothes off in the right order this time.
I biked - without crashing.
I ran as fast as I could which turned out to be 2 minutes faster than 2015's best on this course.

My post-race analysis is cathartic.  Sometimes a way to put down the excitement of the day.  In this one, it's not so much inwardly gazing as analytical.  I thought I'd plateau'd in performance and training enthusiasm but my post-race analysis this time is helping me draw out learning experiences and identify the sources of my disappointment and is fuelling my lust for improvement.  It's going to be a challenge to execute a change before my next big race at the end of July and even greater a challenge to remember them for next season but I'm going to set myself the target to do that.

Unfortunately all the excitement came on Tuesday.  Having drunk a protein shake that had been a few days in the fridge, I threw up the entire week's food.

I took Wednesday off work and then, feeling better on Thursday, cycled to work and back, via the polling station.  I should have known something was wrong when I made it a third of the way through the car park before realising I was on my bike, not in the car and retraced my steps to the bike shed.

It was a struggle to get myself up the hill coming home so on Friday I drove to work and slouched in my chair all day, pretending I didn't exist before leaving at 4pm to go back to bed.  That's when the rest of the illness caught up with me and I drained everything else I had eaten in the rest of the week down the loo.

I have spent the remainder of the weekend recuperating, eating cream crackers and drinking herbal tea and mostly stewing in the fact that I should be out there preparing for the most expensive triathlon I have ever done yet.

The two iron man events I chose have been relatively cheap.  Lisbon Standard was the most expensive so far with a Euro's entry fee and last-minute flights and a cheap hotel in the business district.

Never mind the race fee for Alpe d'Huez (which I managed to buy when the pound was at it's weakest - I think that was a knee jerk reaction to Brexit), the ferry for Alpe d'Huez has cost me the equivalent of an Ironman race fee - and all so I can sleep through the 5-or so hours it would take me to drive to Dover-Calais Ferry (and back again).  Instead I sail from 'Ull to Zeebrugge and then drive to the Alp in almost the time it would take me to do the Dover run... and I get a pleasant overnight stop on the way in a bijoux french Ferme or luxury Restop campground (only fate can tell).

Penticton Duathlon World Champs may be more expensive - but that's a month later so it doesn't count.

Chester on the other hand, was an average price and accommodation was sourced via the Caravan and Camping Club website.  After last time's disappointing pitch at the Delamere forest site (not at all forested) alongside a straight B-road filled with midnight boy-racers screaming up and down the road, we found this little gem.

Anyway, I digress


In my following of Kelly D O'Mara on the interwebs I have learned that I really shouldn't have taken my goggles and hat off before trying to get my wetsuit off... as clearly demonstrated by this photo.

but look at the crowds of people spectating in the background

34 minutes for the swim.  My PB on this course is 28:29 in a year when I was trying especially hard to improve my swim.  It's a shame it has taken me 2 years to vindicate this approach to swimming so maybe, yes, I will spend a bit more time in a wetsuit.

Otherwise my transition was OK although I did bother to put on a jersey which I was glad of on the windier parts of the bike.  I laughed in the face of fate by not bothering with gloves again.  I jumped on to my bike across the mount line, just as someone else plopped to the floor in a writhing mess (he ran out of momentum with both feet clipped in).  I left a cheering TSK to help pick the other bloke up.


I failed to crash on cobble corner and then just settled in to my ride, with nothing more on my mind than where the hell were my sunglasses?  Oh well... squinting will have to do.

I was really glad I'd gone out the day before as I felt well settled in to my riding position.  I spent most of the ride balancing on the edge of, "Go faster / Can I keep this up till the end and still do a 10km run?".  I probably erred on the side of the latter.

With 10km to go it turned to, "Can I beat my pb of 1:19?" (in 2010).  I admit I only had a plan for that time, I didn't work out a pacing strategy to meet it and that is probably the source of the failure to do so.  It's hard to tell for sure as all the "climbs" are at the beginning of the course and the tail wind was at the end of the course but my time for the first 10 miles was 35 minutes; 29.5 minutes for the second 10 miles and just under 15 minutes for the last 4.5 miles.  It felt like a negative split and not just because of the inclines.

Last year I only did 1:26 because of the crash.  It was a good job I had that target to chase because I came in at 1:19:50 and if I hadn't have pushed it then I would have been really fed up with myself.  As it is, I'm still just mildly disappointed.

My bike's supposed to be the strong bit and I have abandoned it a bit.  I admit it.  There's nothing else to say but this race was a good arse kicking.  It was the B minus again.

I passed a few into transition in my race to hit that 1:19 and jumped off the bike as I hit the line then disgruntled someone having a nice walk with his bike as I called politely to pass on the right.  You can't please all of the people all of the time.

Remembered to take the helmet off (yes!).  Next bit of learning: after struggling to run without  socks at Bala, I opted for socks here but the tiny ones with no ankle.  Massive improvement! No blisters and without the time spent trying to feed my slightly damp, senseless toes down a long tube of tech fabric, still a fast transition.  Didn't bother doing the shoes up (didn't seem to matter, see above reference to numb feet).

I grabbed a few gels... Eugh! That one wasn't mine and it was open... and now all over my hand.  Dilligently under the eyes of the BT official, I returned it to its rightful place and resumed running.


Felt good joining the run.  I'm getting the hang of hitting high speeds coming out of transition.  It also helped that after 100m, you're joining faster racers who are already on their later laps so not only are they faster, they're also into their stride.

After a short period of exuberance I checked my speed and was hitting 7.8mph.

Well, that's not right hey, so I backed it off and took a drink of crisp fresh water.  I didn't want to be wasting bottles so I didn't take any more after the first one that I ditched 7/8ths full.  Time to check my competition.

My aim was set on beating a woman wearing a GB suit whose name was Priscilla (this would have been her surname).  In retrospect she may not have been competing for an Age Group place so she may not have been important.

She may not have been on my lap or in my age group (at the moment I am about to move up so it's difficult for me to race and remember what age group I'm in).

However, it also appears from the results that she didn't even exist and she was merely a figment of my imagination.  I don't mind her though because she made me run faster. At first I was satisfied that I was gaining on her (I clearly saw her twice), then I was satisfied I had left her behind - I didn't see her going the other way on the out and back.  Then I ran faster to put more time between us.  She truly was a great imaginary friend.

Bits of me hurt that shouldn't - hips that I've been having problems with for a while.  I loosened my muscles off and moved around more whilst I ran.  I think I've been holding too much tension whilst running and this seemed to work so more lessons learned.

Otherwise, there's nothing I could have done better on the run.  I went as fast as I could for as long as it took and as I ran to the line, I was going flat out.  Someone passed me - Gemma Collings - and there was absolutely nothing I could do to answer her but that's OK because she was 15 minutes ahead of me in a different start wave and a different age category.  She was a good test for me though.  Nope, nothing left.  I was glad it was done.

Swim: 34:23, 41/47, 212/257, 767/933  [104 men in cat.  676 men in total]
T1: 2:13 34/47, 184/257, 628/933
Bike: 1:19:58, 33/47, 157/257, 677/933
T2: 1:51, 38/47, 214/257, 760/933
Run: 49:31, 31/47, 129/257, 579/933

Overall: 2:47:57 35/47, 160/257, 659/933 (qualifier result - H-125%. I-122% - unconfirmed)

Target times to aim at - 2:41 (9 minutes) or 2:34 (14 minutes)

Swim - down by 3 to 5 minutes (29 to 30 minutes)
Bike - 3.5 to 5 minutes (1:15 to 1:16:30)
Run - 1.5 to 4 minutes (45:30 to 48 minutes)
Total - 2:33:30 to 2:38:30  

With the same transitions, this would put me Females: 85th to 116th instead of 160th.  Short of the obvious positives of a gorgeous day, not crashing, feeling comfortable on my bike for the first time in ages and it not raining, I did this on minimal training.  I have slacked off so hard recently.  I'm focused on Alpe d'Huez now for the next 6.5 weeks but with tight targets above to work to as well I have no choice but to get off my ass and stay out there until such time as it all comes around again.

(c) all photos thanks to the organiser that recognises a good set of free photies is more rewarding than a teeshirt bike cleaning rag.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Peak Practise

Every year there's a day or a weekend that comes along to remind you it's still spring, it's not summer yet, in fact, it's almost still winter. It will be different for other people who have managed to train through the darkest days that April can throw at you but for me it came today and I felt shite as the rain lashed sideways in to everything that matters to me. Here are the positives I take from my experience of this late May Bank holiday weekend.

It is entitled "Peak Practise" because this was part of a ride named, "The Peak 200" which I aim to complete at some point - potentially this year.  In the meantime (as this weekend demonstrated) I will need to practise a lot and I will do so on short sections of the ride until it all starts to make sense to the rest of my body.

Had a lie in and got the knitting out.

Went in the garden to do my Legsercises. Had to come inside when it started to pour down on me.

Went back outside and tried to continue yoga in between trying to catch either a cat or a frog to cease the annoying squeaking noises.

Walked over to Gertie's with TSK for lunch. V. Nice.

Loading our gear and bags on to bikes took the entire afternoon during which we lost and found TSK's gear harness and found my sunglasses that have been missing since March.

Tea at the Hawkins' new kitchen. Nom nom.

Both of us were too tired to ride into the sunset so we went to our own bed to leave it for tomorrow.

Out the door before 10am, finally leaving the road and traffic at Rod Moor.

My front wheel started making disturbed knocking noises from the dynamo hub but by the time we got to Ladybower I MESSED = I had righted it. Only once we were kind of committed, did I realise that in the confusion we had missed out the 10 or more miles of my planned route around the Derwent reservoir. Still, there were 90 others to choose from.

Ladybower was quieter anyway and we dealt with the pass over to Edale pretty well, arriving at the station cafe for lunch where the proprietor had taken to glibly advising tourists, 'we sell coffee, not parking tickets'. She was harassed three times by motorists seeking parking advice ("Will I get a ticket if I park in the bus lane") whilst I delivered my order. Poor woman.

Climbing out of the Edale Valley and clearing litter off Rushup Edge.

Finding new and beautiful lanes and through-routes we didn't even know existed, right here in our own back yard.

After the pub in Elton failed us, ad-libbing the route to include dinner in Youlegreave then taking a chance on a lane that wasn't marked as a right of way. It started life as a dead end lane, plummeted down to a tiny packhorse bridge over the river in the middle then thankfully ended as a woodland path on the other side.

TSK not knowing where I was heading and consequently neither of us knew what to expect next.

Long Dale - long, beautiful, trending down hill to tricky, bouldery rough stuff but still, undeniably special, when you have a national nature reserve to yourself on a bank holiday Sunday at 7pm when all the 'normals' have gone to the pub or are sitting on the sofa watching tv.

Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and, literally, pints of lemonade. Sitting at a table in the car park so you can watch your bike and to minimise the risk of drunken questions (and other conversations) about cycling.

Riding along bridlepaths through the Chatsworth estate and mistaking it for Switzerland.

The fading light

9pm.  Sitting outside the pub in shorts. The best, most fresh mint and lemon tea from the Devonshire Arms in Baslow and exactly what I wanted and needed.

Riding towards bed time, riding the fine grey line between fatigue, progress while things are good and not getting rained on.

Putting the finishing touches to the tent pitch as it starts raining. Brewing up inside while rain lashes outside.

Waking up with the skylarks at 4am.  Getting up to pee in grim, grey skies. The next 3 hours - the best sleep of the night.

Being disappointed that it's just as grey and foggy 3 hours later.

The joy of riding along new rights of way. The horror of the top of Froggatt on what turns out are legs a lot more tired than expected. Deciding to do the wise thing and bin off the plan for the sake of our happiness and sanity (it's been raining for the 7 hours since).

Weather so bad that you can stop for a pee in the long grass and listen to the traffic passing but no one would know you were there.

Working with my husband to come up with things to laugh about regardless of the weather and our atrocious condition. Building a plan for second breakfast and executing the plan.

Enjoyed the Lama café before the staff become over-run, they are still well stocked with change in the till and most sensible children are still at home with mummy and daddy eating their breakfast.

There was nothing good about the ride home from there. It was suffered.

Climbing into the shower to wash away the shit, clam, sweat and rain and to warm up then running away screaming as Sunday's sunburn stung.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Slateman Triathlon 2017

Well, that was probably more of a B(minus) than an E.

All time targets were met and exceeded except for the swim where I forgot to apply any toe-pointing or rotation so swam somewhat like a flat fish... and not the graceful stingray kind.

I left myself too many choices to make with transition clothing so transitions were rubbish and in a rush the essential things got forgotten, like taking my helmet off so I chose to retrace my steps through transition rather than risk a disqualification for discarding equipment in an inappropriate place.

2 hours on the bike was no bother.  None of the cramps from my previous 2 races although, despite dialling down my cleats position to "the perfect position" on Saturday, I set off on the bike after the swim feeling like both feet were completely odd.

I was most concerned about the run, given my dodgy hip and lack of hill climb training.  I have however, discovered that as long as I do Marcus's exercises, I can just about manage anything at the right pace.

I set myself a target to run all the way up the mountain.  In 2015 when I last did the event there was a time trial up the mountain, a total of elevation 185m.  Although I didn't race it (except for a cursory interest in how I did) I was most distressed to be passed by a woman racing for Norwich Tri Club.  It didn't look like there was a time trial this time but I timed myself anyway.  This year completing it 90 seconds faster than last year and passing others from the flatlands instead of being passed.

The descent and associated kicker uphills on the other side of the mountain seemed like they might fly by and then I got stomach cramp as I headed down the first slope.

I was desperate for some water but had to wait until the carpark at the top of the hill before I drank a large cup full.  I resigned myself to a half marathon pace run to work the cramp off but I was feeling well again in no time so took the brakes off and hop skipped the ups.

I regained all the female places I'd lost and claimed another 2 places in the finishing straights.  Mostly the target for this race was to be able to train through it, treating it like a fun race and not killing myself.  I declare it a success as I managed to ride to work on Monday morning.

Swim 24:50 669/949 Overall, 116th / 184F , 34/66 FV40
T1 - 5:53
Bike 1:53:24 558/949 overall,55th/184F, 18/66 FV40
T2 - 2:38
Run 1:14:18 500/949 overall, 51st/184F, 17/66 FV40

Friday, May 19, 2017

Serious shit going down here.

I'm having another day off.  It's Slateman this weekend.  I'm really excited about it.  First triathlon of the season, beautiful place, another excuse to go camping.

Unfortunately I'm in my usual pre-race state - slightly injured, exhausted from a difficult week at work and lacking any motivation to do anything.  The weather isn't really helping but it doesn't matter, today is a good rest day.  Tomorrow, we travel, register and chill.

My tt bike has been giving me considerable jip this year.  I haven't done a single race without getting leg cramps after 5 miles of riding.  I've tried to change the position of my cleats and my saddle but I've been too lazy this year to try anything else in between.  I do just need to start spending more time on it.

This morning, lacking a motivation for anything other than bikey tinkering I dug out the rollers, the offending bike and shoes and my camera and there's been a lot of this...

Some of this...

And quite a lot of this...

(note how the bike is still upright, it's just me that's the problem).

Ripley has been helping

This weekend's race isn't a really important one - it's a fun one and since I've done little training directly for it after recovering from my Stockton world championships qualifying performance 4 weeks ago, I'm not having a taper for this race, I'm just cruising through it like a "B" race, without beating myself up over it.  I have little doubt that I'll enjoy myself this weekend but right now I feel like I'm going to struggle to race so I'm having a think about the great things I've done since my last race in Stockton...
  • Swum nearly 6km outdoors... tick in the box for swimming
  • Cycled over 287 miles - not that impressive
  • Run less than 10 miles - still, no
  • Done 6 yoga sessions
  • Had a massage with Marcus to try to stop my ridiculous floppy hip. 

So that didn't work, I'm going to compare 2015 (last time I did this race) to 2017.  Now that's more like it! (2015 vs 2017)
Swim - 11km vs 21.5km
Bike - 805 mile vs 1087 miles
Run - 112 mile vs 132 mile
2015 was my first tri year back after being ill but still...

So setting time targets is tricky... given it's not important...

Swim - 20 minutes I'll be overjoyed
Bike - Sub 2 hours would be great.
Run - 1:15 (5.76 mph avg).  Sub 1 hour would be dreamland 

I went on to repair the puncture in my mountain bike and finish tidying the general chaos I had caused in the house.  I guess there's a tiny part of me that wants to start packing now.

This race feels like mock exams.  After it, I have Chester Tri and then it's Alpe d'Huez in July.  I have to start doing more miles of everything before then or else I will be in trouble.  So if Slateman is a mock exam then triathlon is definitely Chemistry.  I'm going to get an "E" this weekend but hopefully it's fine, I'll bottle down, do the work, learn the muscle memory and hopefully pass the Alpe with flying colours... just so long as my hip doesn't explode (that never happened in A'levels).

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Reclaiming the Loft

Nope, it’s gone.  I have nothing to give this weekend.  I’m slumping around the house like a glum thing.  

Yesterday was exercisely a write off and today I am pitched out in the loft.  Why?  Because Mr Rodgers doesn’t come up here and so whilst I’m away, it’s a good place to hide the Nutella.  The only thing stopping me from jabbing my finger into the jar (all the hobnobs are gone) is the moisturiser I just lathered onto my fingers to relieve myself from the untrained 150 miles of Braunton and all the associated shifting that came with it.  It’s taken 3 weeks for the skin to start peeling off my thumbs.

During those three weeks I have done a lot.  The Stockton Duathlon and the Norton Wheelers cycling weekend away which is always hard for me since I rarely ride my bike *that* much for triathlon training.  I held my own, though this time and had a good weekend, topped off on Monday with a walk with my husband and a paddle in the river Tyne.

I’ve also ridden my mountain bike this week.  In a week that should have been an opportunity to recover, I had to drive to Guildford and back (after just returning from Northumberland) and I did so through to midnight on the way down.  This combination gave me a rather unsightly unsettled tummy on Thursday night (or possibly, the chef at the Holiday Inn in Guildford doesn’t know how to incinerate black pudding correctly – I have my suspicions).

SO my resting heart rate is 20 above what it should be and, although I can now pass solid objects, I’m still feeling flaky, in some hollow between depression and exhaustion.  I made myself feel better with a shower and a plan to reclaim my yoga studio in the loft as it has become choked with bits removed from the kitchen.  By the time I’d gotten into the shower, I was already trembling for more sugar and then the loft was missing hobnobs and so Nutella from a camping spoon will need to do.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stockton Duathlon 2017

2:37:17 PB

Run 1 - 52:04 (220,34,4)
T1 - 1:00
Bike - 1:13:15 (206, 27, 2nd)
T2 - 1:17
Run 2 - 25:03 (216,32,3rd)

196th Overall / 263
3/11 FV40
28th Female / 62

Thanks to the wonderful team at Trihard who offer their pics free of charge, this race can be shared in photos.

Enjoying being with a group on the first run
Coming over the Millenium bridge on the second lap of the first run. I hate riding without gloves so decided to save transition time by wearing them all the way through.

So many of my older trihard photos are of me being chased.  Instead, here's me being lapped by someone!

There's always one photo of me eating.
Frustrating.  I was trying so hard to run past the photographer with good form.  Also I think I am now one of the undead as I seem to have lost my shadow...  or am I blending in with the railings?  Perhaps I was just running so fast?
There's no finish like a successful sprint finish.  Unfortunately for this guy, the sun was behind us and - as he still has a shadow - I saw him make his move when he was quite a way behind.  If I have anything left in me, there's not much that can pass me when I put my long stride on #lankybeatch

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Braunton 150 2017

The history of this ride started on Thursday when we reached the M42 and I realised I had not brought my wallet or phone along with me.  Easily fixed, we picked up £100 in cash and popped into Taunton Tesco's to pick up a £12.99 phone and £10 top up - £14 with the discount.

This led me to wonder where I'd left the good Garmin - y'know, the one with the route on it.  On the window sill of course, waiting to receive satellite info, which presented the additional challenge of using a spare phone to download the ride data off an email I couldn't remember a password for then transferring to the other Garmin.

Three hours later we were pitched at Little Roadway campsite whilst I pulled together my stuff and TSK stormed data to get me navigated.  There was one thing left on my mind - no spare inner tube.  I could fix a puncture with patches but if I tore a tube it would be a game-over for the minor cost of an inner-tube.  The box of spare kit in the back of the car fixed that.  Sorted.  Everything else could eff off.  I was no longer going to look like a complete beginner! I went to load my saddlebag onto my bike.  Nothing.  It's no ordinary saddle bag.  It's 20 litres of strappy structural genius with massive velcros straps around the seat post and clips to hold it to the saddle in an easily removeable quick way and plastic stiffeners which help keep its shape over all terrains and it was missing.  It was all of those things, but it was not in my car.

I slowly recalled the inner debate about which of the two bags in the loft was mine and clearly I set both aside.

Somehow I refused to be beaten and from the genius box of spare things, soon rigged a 15 litre dry bag, my flip flops as structural support and three straps as a temporary kit carrier.  Everything essential went in it.  The rest either went on my bars, in my rucsac or got left behind.  I added a bungee cord to my rucsac.

Final packing list included: water, waterproof coat and bottoms, inflatable pillow, sleep mat and sleeping bag, down coat and booties (yes even in spring), wool baselayer, spare socks, gloves, hat, compass, chargin cables & battery, notebook, spare spokes, lighter, bogroll, leggings and jumper, tent, 1st aid kit, headtorch, red light (+spare), stove, pot, coffee strainer and coffee and a sachet of freeze dried food.

When we arrived on Friday morning I just had to find the hat I had just been wearing (took a good 10 minutes), load up my bags and I was good to go.

TSK was chatting with other riders and I watched a steady stream of very fit men arriving at the departure cafe carrying very little kit.  I wracked my brains as to what I could leave behind but I couldn't bring myself to unpack a thing.  I casually laid my hefty bike amongst the whippets and went in search of flapjack.

After a chat with Ian Fitz I was soon joined by Javier, somewhat immortalised by TSK at Ian and Lee Craigee's presentation on the HT500 in Sheffield.  TSK played Javier without his Spanish accent, partly out of respect and partly through fear that it would, "come out Scottish".  I could instantly see how Lee and Ian were drawn to this pocket rocket Spaniard who immediately thrust his hand out to me to introduce himself.

The flapjack went down nervously then Ben, the organiser said some words, and then there he was, picking his bike up next to me.  As the only female competitor I didn't need to introduce myself but he introduced himself and we set up up the hill.  I soon shot off sideways to let the masses pass by.

We were soon walking Yes, my lungs do work.  Thanks.

Javier pulled alongside and wanted to know my goals, "To finish and stay healthy?"

"Yes", I said, "and to come first woman".

He laughed and looked at my bike, gesturing at its load.  "I get cold at night" and asked him about his targets.  He muttered something about 30 hours, then 26 hours which I just didn't understand.  He might have a 20 minute turbo-kip.  "Ah, but I have a tent and coffee" I said.

"Where are you staying? Do you have a spot?  I come and find you!".

I wasn't sharing my coffee with anyone.

Nearing the top of the climb, Ian caught me up for a chat about pacing and pissing contests and survival.  He had been faffing in town and purposefully avoiding the pissing contests.  This is what I like about Ian.

We observed a minute's silence for Mike Hall which was spent deeply immersed in meditation on the beautiful singing chirp of the skylarks who chose to ignore the minute's silence in favour of the greater natural world.  It was a fitting tribute.

Some people shed layers before setting off and then pretty soon I was off the back and then just as soon I passed a group of three fixing a puncture and I was no longer last.  I caught up Andrew S, Rob and Scott and the three of us hopscotched until Rob and I got stuck behind a horserider who moved faster than us uphill but slower on the downhill.  It says something that it took us three goes to pass the horse.

A farmers wife came out of her house to cheer us by and then there was only me a and Rob to cheer for.

After the start, the hours of the day rolled by in a brilliant blur - as they tend to do on long rides.  All of the testing climbs and long, exhilarating descents morph into one roller coaster of joy.  What tends to stick out are the snippets of joy and pain shared with other people, creatures or your own mind.  Here are mine from this ride:

Riding past Arlington Court National Trust site. 14 miles in, this was my first potential cafe stop and I didn't need it.  The horror on the parking attendants faces as I rode past with all my kit.

Catching Scott and Andrew again in time to stop for lunch.  Sitting on the tarmac to eat sausage rolls, crisps and fruit and Ben visiting to see how we were doing.

Arriving at a bridge on a bridleway with a 2 ft high board to climb over and leaving the boys to haul their bikes over whilst I headed upstream to wade across the river barefoot.  They were gentlemanly and offered to help but that would break the rules of independence so I enjoyed my paddle instead.

Riding on the moors together before different strengths pushed Andrew out the back.  We passed through some frustratingly magical places to stop and bivi but it was too early.  Having already sampled the moorland water temperature I was sorely tempted by a swim but chose to refrain.

Scott's encyclopaedic knowledge of the calorie content of almost every known race food and his enthusiasm for the Tour Divide causing him to carry immensely lightweight compact kit which I didn't get to see in action.  I was definitely carrying too much stuff. His methodology for riding in the lantern rouge space put him with us.  When we happened across two ladies sitting by a river he had a chat with them about our ride.  He disclosed his intention to get to Minehead before stopping for the night.  Meanwhile I stood alongside, my hand cupped to my face whispering, "Well he is, but I don't have a clue where I'm going tonight".

The reality is, I did have a vague plan of 2 x 10 hour days of around 60 miles plus time to eat leisurely lunch and dinner and 30 miles left to finish the last day between 9am and 5pm.  This plan was designed to be A) easy to follow and B) Flexible.  I had some idea on sleep spots between mile 45 and 70 and between 100 and 120 miles, right up to sleeping at Little Roadway campsite as I was already booked in there with TSK though this would contravene the rules and wasn't really worth it since it was only 10 miles from the finish.

Sometime after the interactions with the girls, I got dropped by Scott.  I don't remember it so there's every chance it was a downhill or I stopped to faff with the straps on by bag.  I reacquired Andrew in the midst of a faff with my bags and a quick consult with my cheat sheet cold me we were not too far from a tea shop at 3pm with the afternoon's rain shower threatening to start so we gorged on tea cakes and tea and I bought flapjack to enjoy at a later time.  We bid hello to Rob as he stopped at the shop across the road.

With more moorland valleys than you can shake a stick at behind us, dinner was next priority ahead of a rainy forecast night ahead.  The pub at Winsford offered a reasonable menu and came with a local's recommendation so we chowed down and took one last opportunity for the day's wash.  I set off back into dusk with a red flashy light and soon switched it off for more off-roading.  I still felt like I was carrying too much stuff

Before Minehead, my cheatsheet offered brackeny morrland bivis on Exmoor which would have been nice given stary skies without any breeze but on a windy, wet night, I wasn't getting onto Exmoor without some guarantee I'd be off again pretty soon.  As the rain finally started to tip down at 9:30, I entered the stillness of one of those fine Devon country lanes which completely shelters you from the wind.  Unfortunately it climbed upwards very sharply.  After slopping up it for half an hour, to my relief it flattened out and stayed out of the wind.  It was 10pm and I was fed up of being rained on so time for bed.

Although I got settled quickly and was pretty tired, I lay awake until 12:45 although I didn't waste it.  In between light snoozing I pulled everything into the tent I needed then spent hours recharging Garmins, lights, cameras off my battery pack.  I ate scraps of leftover lunch and started outside for a pee during a lull in the weather.  In amongst my hastily and haphazardly packed kit I discovered I was carrying too much stuff - to be specific: an extra pillow, food pack and spare set of ear plugs.  Dear lord, protect my extra ears!

In the morning the farmer passed on his quad bike before I had time to dream of being awake and I ate snacks and drank coffee.  I did a rubbish job of the coffee but at least it was coffee.  Once awake, the farmer passed again and wished us good morning.

Andrew had also stopped nearby so we hit Exmoor together and agreed that it would have been really shit in the dark and rain as we bounced along the track hitting boulder after boulder and I thanked my indulgent self for buying sturdy shoes which take on foot-strikes and pedal-strikes without crushing into my feet. 

I grabbed a quick pecan slice in Wootton Courteney and listened as elderly posh men mansplained that I need to be careful around Exmoor ponies.. but only after he thought I was a man so I guess we let him off.

Then it was on to Minehead for an overly relaxing veggie breakfast before I realised it had hit 12:00 and breakfast became brunch and a desperation to get out of town.  I grabbed some water, fresh fruit and nuts and headed for the seaside.  

I turned the opposite way to Butlins and left Andrew behind as I cycled up the woodland trails, my Garmin losing satellites and getting me variously lost.  I decided to stop, eat apples and calm down at which point Andrew caught up again.  He had been feeling ill but now felt better.  I explained I now had all the food with me I needed and didn't expect to stop again except to cook up some dinner.  His plan was to stop in Porlock.  We rode out the climb and the cliff tops in some kind of synchronicity and then descended to Porlock together.   

Inland from Porlock, the route climbs uphill, again, starting with a beast of a climb where I lost my tail.  I battled around 2/3 of the way up with a 30 -40kg bike riding is always easier than pushing it when you have skinny arms.  

As I walked I must've entered that meditative state again as it suddenly became obvious to me how I could solve a problem I had experienced - my front roll (tent and sleeping bag) kept mashing into my front wheel every time I went over a bump.  It had gotten worse and meant I was descending too slowly and carefully.

In a shock of inspiration I realised I could easily rotate my Jones Bars by loosening two bolts and all of my stuff would be lifted over 1 cm - giving me more clearance to enjoy my dances on the downhills.

I found a sheltered spot behind gauze and dug-out my tools. The Allen key turned easily, hinting that the whole assembly had been sliding down for some time. I  set the bars position for something I thought I could cope with and sure enough I could ride downhill much faster.  Still, Andrew caught me up again and I explained my faff. We soon separated on the next descent and then I consolidated it after  I quickly stopped to fill up my camelbak with water from the river then set off onto farm tracks onto the moor.

I had a chat with some walkers who said they had seen another guy carrying the "same sort of stuff on his bike". The man fit the description for Scott and for a second I thought I might catch him until they clarified, "but that was ages ago". Oh.

I mashed on up the hill and onto open farmland.  The wind was blowing sideways now and I had to concentrate to keep my feet turning over.  As I pushed my bike through a bumpy rut, I nearly trod on the tiny newborn lamb lying in the path of my bike.  It bleated and woke me from my reverie.

"Oh no, where's your mummy?"  I looked around and couldn't see a lonely or distressed sheep.  There were plenty about but they all had lambs with them and were contentedly feeding.  The lamb bleated again.  I had to do something.  She was shivvering and sounded so distressed.  The sheep to my left had just given birth and was busy licking her lamb.  The chances were, this was the first of her litter and she had walked away from it to birth the second.

I set my bike down, picked up the lamb - which wasn't hard as it couldn't even stand itself - and walked across the field with it.  It paddled the air, shivvered and bleated so I cradled it like a baby, hugging the warm yellow afterbirth and muddy wool to my coat.  I spoke reassuringly, at the same time thinking, "Why me?"  I looked around for Andrew or Scott but they were nowhere to be seen.

The ewe eyed me suspiciously and then ran away from her other newborn baby! No no no! don't go away!  That was the worst scenario - two dead lambs.  Thankfully, she wasn't prepared to give up on the situation and hovered, torn between keeping her distance from me and charging me with an almighty head butt to stop me stealing her baby.  I made a brief attempt to get her to come over but realised I had no chance so I cuddled the two lambs together so that they were at least warmer as one unit and walked away.  To my relief, the ewe ran back to them.  She resumed licking her own baby, no doubt wondering what the hell she was supposed to do with this yellow, dirty one that I brought her out of the ditch.

I jumped back on my bike and followed Ben's wobbly track to the fence on top of the hill where I had to cross through a gate to the next field.  As I turned to close the gate, a land rover pulled up with a trailer on tow and I offered to close the gate but they were going in a different direction.

"Hey", I called out, "I found a lamb in the ditch, I put it over there with that ewe but it's very cold".

"Cheers", he said, laughing, "Do you have some agricultural experience?".

"My parents run a farm in Cheshire" I said.

It was a white lie but seemed more authoritative than saying, "I follow the Yorkshire Shepherdess on twitter and my godmother is a veterinary nurse".

He seemed pleased so I joked about ruining my new coat with ovine after-birth.  We chatted about the ride during which he also explained that he had seen Scott hours ago.  Offered him a lift apparently which left me wondering if Scott was "looking tired".

After my moorland experience, I bounced back down to more idyllic daylight bivi spots then climbed out again and finally rode over to the campsite at West Porlock - the most tempting-looking campsite yet. People bbq'd, kids played in the river, people were leading normal lives but I knew I had to keep going.

I was only at 48 miles for day 2, leaving me over 50 miles to complete on day 3. If I slept all night by accident or design there was a high risk I would fail to finish since days 1 &2 were 10 hours long already. Day 3 had its flatter sections but I didn't know how much of it was easier as it was difficult to tell from the route profile.

I did need to eat though and for a while I considered cooking by the river but then promptly decided to attempt to ride out of he valley into the sun for some warmth. It was too late though and I started to climb out of the valley in dusk.  The wind was coming straight down the hill at me. In a last-ditch attempt to cook in shelter and day light, I opted for a field gateway which offered shelter and 7 heifers who came to offer companionship and help my reasoning when I had no-one else to ask where the bloody hell I had put my lighter at 7am that morning.

Thankfully it wasn't a busy road or I may have had a steady stream of motorists checking on my well-being.  I layered up in down coat and waterfproofs, sat in the dirt and cooked water - enough to put 300 ml into instant pasta and leftovers for coffee.  The pasta cooked as I drank the coffee and all was well with the world.  The pasta filled my belly and the coffee stoked my brain.  I packed everything away and as I picked up my bike to leave, I heard the words, "Are you shitting me?"

It was Andrew - back from the dead again.  Pushing up hill and scoffing on a Mars Bar.  "I've eaten, have you?"

No, he was heading to the pub at the bottom of the next hill, did I want to join him?  No I said, I've got enough with me now to keep me going and I rather eat it and ride lighter.  I said I wanted to keep going to make up some miles before I stop.

"Do you want to put a number on that mileage?" he said.  He already knew my 60-60-30 plan and the fact I was behind.  "No, I'm just going to ride till I drop tonight", I said.

I got to the top of the hill.  As I'd started cold, he wasn't far behind.  We took a slight wrong turn and retraced our steps, just in time to be seen by a Land Rover heading out across the byway.

"Are you lost?  Are you OK?" they called out into the darkness.

Yet more lovely Devon people.  We convinced them we were fine and they let us set out down the hillside on our own before doing whatever land rovery thing they had come out there to do.

The trail plunged us into trees again and then finally out into a river path.  I set about tightening my rear pannier straps again and reinforced my resolve not to go to the pub.  I sent Andrew on his way so as not to hold up his refuelling and I faffed enough to be sure everything was secure before streaming through town without even noticing his bike locked up anywhere.  EmVee and I were on a mission and we were partly hankering after finding Scott somewhere along the way.

At what point the cutesy seaside town of West Porlock turned into rough forest trails, mud and tracks through the darkness I do not know.  I stopped caring.  I wouldn't have noticed Hillsford Bridge had it not been for a concerned motorist who just happened to notice a girl alone on her bike and waited just long enough at the junction to make sure I was OK before making his or her turn - or if it hadn't been for the long and very much deserved road descent just after.

Mainly, I just rode and rode and rode through the darkness.  My Garmin was being slow at picking up my location due to the tree cover and possibly reduced satelite traffic at night time.  I started to use my compass to determine which way the route went from the screen then which way I was *actually* oriented from real life.  It saved me retracing my steps.  When I finally hit the top coastal paths again I realised that the lights of Bristol were glinting at me across the channel which meant I finally had a good indicator of North without getting the compass out.  Sill, there were plenty of moments where I stood still in a field going, That's North so that's South so I need to go south east, no south west and that's south so west is that way, no that's east oh bollocks...

Arriving at Lynton was another world.  It was 11:45 on a Saturday night and the streets were dead.  Clearly a beautiful shopping boutique village by day, there wasn't a soul at night and I felt pretty privileged to be there traffic free.  I sailed through unnoticed and then descended through screeching owls to the South West Coastal path again, alone.  No cars, no ice cream vans.  I let myself through the gate and started the unrelenting climb back up.  At least it was rideable though I took some rests too.  At the top I found a gate locked with a padlock and chain.  It seemed odd.  Obvious busy tourist season, national treasure of a footpath and a locked gate.  I tried all three alternative gates and all three led to dead ends - a field, a yard, a driveway.  There was nothing else for it but to hooft my fully loaded bike over the gate and climb over after it.

From somewhere I found the mammoth strength to do so without having to release any of my bags.   I was still carrying too much stuff but, we were away.  Of course I felt guilty like I was trespassing and yet this was the bridlepath and the gate was fitted with all the same signs as the others, "Public bridleway, please close the gate".

In order to avoid disturbing the people whose peace must not be disturbed I continued up the road on foot so that I could turn out my lights.  There was hardly any natural light whatsoever so I had to walk, not ride, using the canopy of tree branches as a guide to the direction of the road.  Thankfully it was a clear road and there were no branches for me to trip over.

I was shocked to discover that the lockers of the gate were none other than the campsite!  I have so much to rant on this subject but it would ruin my post so I move on.

The gate at the top was wide open (obviously so that car drivers can arrive!).  So, despite the allure of the campsite, I trudged on and checked my cheat sheet.  Lots of clifftop riding (windy and dark) and then Hunters Inn.

I'd checked out Hunters Inn on Google.  It wasn't the kind of place you could score a bivi spot in the pub beer garden or the kiddies' play castle or the neighbouring field for that matter.  It was the kind of place where people book their wedding.  After the Inn, all roads led down steep downhills into woodlands with streams at the bottom and all roads were steep sided roads with strips of grass down the middle.

These streams resulted in cold-traps and the top of the hills were in the breeze so I had to stop on my way down a hill or on my way back up the other side.  Also, if I passed Hunters Inn, I'd have to keep going a long way to get away from those lanes and I'd have to stop before I got to the sprawling metropolis of Coombe Martin with all its trailer parks and holiday makers and Easter Sunday stuff.

The mileage tally, on the other hand, was reaching a much more successful 58 miles and so I would only have the 12 mile shortfall from day 1 to claim back on day 3.

As I'd been riding through Lynton earlier I had started to admire the wealth of audax hotels (bus stop shelters) starting to appear along bus routes.  What I could really do with at that point, I thought, was a shelter of some sort.  Perfect.  All I'd need to do was get my sleeping bag out and I wouldn't have to bother with setting up my tent.  Unfortunately the little lanes away from Hunters Inn weren't on a bus route and I continued to fight my way along lanes and then muddy byways for another 90 minutes before I eventually rounded a sharp corner to find none other than a three-walled stone building.  No roof but at least the forecast was clear and I was protected from the wind on three sides.

A quick check of the ground confirmed it was flat and dry and I set out my sleeping mat, my sleeping bag and finally my coat for added peace of mind if it rained.  I might get wet legs on my bag but at least my shoulders would be dry.

I lay down and pulled my coat over my face and nodded off.  I felt too exposed without cover on my face but that soon deteriorated into stuffy nightmares so I pulled back my coat and looked at the sky.  Tall skinny silver birch leaned over me like concerned doctors in theatre and beyond the stars glistened.  So many stars.  It was beautiful and I just stared at it for a while - happy in the knowledge that I was both dry and warm... but it wasn't going to lull me to sleep.

Eventually I conceded that I needed to rig some kind of cover to make my brain happy.  I dug out my tent and erected the flysheet, poles and pegged out the corners into an approximate tent shape.  I then dragged all of my loose belongings under the cover with me and felt much happier.  Finally I did the math.

Two days, 10 hours and 13 hours.  48 and 63 miles.  I still had 40 miles to go.  I knew it got easier but I was convinced it wouldn't be much easier.  If it was going to take me another 9 hours to finish and I had to finish by 5pm on Sunday then I pretty much had to be out of there by 8am.  But what if I slowed down?  I was worried about dog walkers discovering me and giving me a hard time.  I was worried about foxes stealing my shit or getting pissed on by passing pooches.  I set my alarm for 4:30 am to make sure I was up before the dog walkers Still, I fell asleep at 1:30 and woke up at 3:45am.

Close enough.

There's a theory that by taking a short sharp break, your body doesn't get into that cycle of regeneration that causes muscle soreness the day after (and the day after that).  That was how I felt.  I considered brewing up but didn't like the idea of setting the woods on fire or standing around waiting for water to boil.  I just put layers on and packed up my bike - all but one tent peg which proved impossible to find in the light of a head torch whilst staring at a woodland floor covered in silver birch twigs.  Everything looks like a silver peg!

I started walking.  At least the stars were gone, cloud cover insulated the trail and as I hiked up away from the trees I started to shed layers.

I focused on my new found role of fastest (only) woman this year.  It didn't occur to me that I might be the first woman to ever do the route.  I just thought of being the first woman this year.  I was more proud that here I was, out there, doing it. Almost competing. Not sleeping through the night.  I set my targets and I was exceeding them.  It was only when I reached the "bright lights" of Coombe Martin that I realised how tired I was.  Tireder than when I had stopped to sleep.  Tireder than when I woke up.  I thought of texting TSK to let him know where I was but I couldn't remember the name of the town I was in so still I trudged.  And boy did I trudge - up the 1 in 4 hill out of Coombe Martin then over minor lanes to Hele Bay and finally into Ilfracombe where the sun finally started to show its colourful glow over the Bristol Channel.  I felt no better for it.

It was still before 6 as I left Ilfracombe and nowhere was open so I started to leave up another effing big hill.  This time I just needed to stop.  For a moment I planted both feet on the ground either side of my bike, folded my arms across my bars and sleeping bag and put my head down.  I fell straight off to sleep, only to be woken by a man talking to his dog.  I looked up and he checked I was OK.

"Just having a little rest?"

"Yeah, are you alright?" I asked.

"I don't blame you," he said - more referring to the steepness of the hill and probably not realising at all that I'd been asleep.  He set off down the hill.

There was a bench at the end of the lane.  I locked my bike to it and lay out on the bench with the plants tickling my nose and snoozed until the plants and a passing car woke me again a few minutes later then ate some flapjack.  Damn that was good!

Some clifftop paths were coming.  They'd be relatively easy so I got myself the enthusiasm to continue and rode on to Lee.  In my new-found obsession with benches, I found a tap at the village hall in Lee and set about brewing coffee and whilst I waited for water to boil I consumed the rest of the flapjack and then snoozed solidly into my buff whilst keeping one ear out for boiling noises.

The vicar and his wife wished me a cheery good morning and then I packed up my stuff again and set off up the steep climb (footpath approved for event use) to the very weirdest of bike packing experiences.  Let's just say the organiser may have had complaints from plenty of other people but I'm going to leave it to say that at one point I ended up with EmVee's back wheel on my helmet after I jumped feet first off a drop-off.  Trail centres do not belong on bike packing events.

I didn't need the cheat sheet though to tell me that at the top of here was Lee Farm Shop.  I checked with a couple of holiday makers that there was actually a cafe and not just a shop selling cheese, milk and raw meats and I punched the air without any disguise for my joy when they said, "Of course!"

I ate a tea cake the size of my head, drank a hot chocolate to ease the muscles and slowly sipped at a raspberry juice drink to re-stock sugar supplies.  I also got a much-needed hands and face wash since I hadn't done so since Minehead and definitely not since the lamb-rescue experience.

And so I passed through the campsite where my tipi was pitched without any falling-over-and-going-to-sleep incidents.  It did however, trigger a long morning of checking with the Garmin just to see how many more frickin' inland loops there were going to be to this hellish nightmare - 2.  A run along the coast and then turning in for the final, flat time trial across the sand dunes to the finish.

Some of the diversions were pleasant.  Some of the diversions were boggy, ankle deep in mud and unfriendly.  There was a stretch of disused railway which led to a vertical wall of mud and all of the time my cranks and chain rings made a continuous grinding and grating noise which I ignored in the hope that it would last me these last 20 miles.

I forged my way through holiday makers, chatting and smiling with them at face value and at the same time cursing everything that went vaguely wrong - Garmins, my feet, the bike, the route, Ben, Andrew, Scott for making me ride so fast on day 1.  It was all my fault and I knew it but somehow chuntering and swearing made it all more bearable and the lovely people enjoying their holidays were tolerant of my squeaky bike, dirty legs and exhausted expression and many of them encouraged me up short climbs that I otherwise might have given up and walked through.  I valued this because at the end of the day, getting off the bike was almost as uncomfortable as pedalling the damn thing.

Riding around the golf course at Saunton I got particularly caught up in a coughing fit and had to retrace my pedal strokes in shame around the 9th hole.  I exited onto the Old American Road where holiday makers on their new bike to work bikes wobbled along on the clear bit of roadway and made me bounce my sore lady-bits over the rocks on the un-worn bit of the road but I still smiled and waved.

Somehow I found it in me to out-run a mini and its entourage down the single track road approaching the beach car park (speed bumps and oncoming traffic held them up in passing places) and brought myself enough speed to actually enjoy the final road miles in to the village of Broughton.

I honestly couldn't believe I had made it and punched the air in joy, much to the delight of my welcoming committee: TSK, Ian Fitz and my friend Helen Elmore who had come out to wish me congrats.  Javier showed up too to say goodbye before his commute to London and I ate a lot of pizza whilst Fitz photographed me for finishing proof.

TSK informed me I was the first female to complete ever (like, in two years) and Ian told me then that a few guys had scratched because of the bad weather on Friday night and finally, for the first time all weekend, I actually didn't feel like I had packed too much gear.  CORRECTION: I wasn't the first ever female to complete as last year Vickey completed in a much quicker 31 hours... so now I have targetz.

A roadie who had been eating in the cafe asked me if it was too early to ask me if I had enjoyed myself and my straight away answer was yes.  It was too soon.  Right then I hated it, but right then I also loved it.  The pain of getting there, the satisfaction of getting there.  The cold, the riding at 5am in shorts and a vest.  The nerve damage in my toes flaring up, the dull numbness in my brain where nothing matters but turning pedals, finding dinner and a flat piece of land.  The absolute attention to detail and the complete simplicity.  Within 2 hours I went from, "Shit that's the hardest thing I've ever done" to "How can I do this better next year".

And that is the note on which I'm ending this post.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Stanley & his Plan

Commitment What do I need for the job
ownership Essential Significant Desireable
responsibilty Brakes issue sorted Time More physio
excellence Challenges
Hurdles Barriers  Pitfalls
Need to get faster Have to train Unwell Focus on what you can do Work stress Keep handing things over
Need to slim down Have to eat sensibly Injured Focus on what you can do Work stress Cut negative conversations short
Need faster transition  Ride without gloves Work time Manage hours  Focus on your own work
Nowhere to stay Need to book the camp Ignore others chimps
We have a new training plan.  If I stick to it as best I can I will be as successful as I can be. Foundation stones
We have more rest stops and more specific intensity than before Target Goals Maintenance Goals
Before, we put too much emphasis on following a heavy workload without rest or fun weight 60kg Completions at 80-90%
We are doing more bike miles for fun, more fast running. We can enjoy shorter swimming 27/07/2017 AdH 2 weekly sessions swim bike run
We have rescheduled the plan to start from where we are now - a little behind on swimming. 23/04/2017 Stockton 52, 1:14, 25 120km bike strength every day
We have learned new strength exercises which really improve running and cycling 21/05/2017 Slateman 12 or 24, 2,1:15 18km run
We have a route plotted out that we can repeat for successful bike training. 04/06/2017 Chester 30,1:20,50 1 mile swim
We started working towards lifting weights.  Now we can put it into action. 02/07/2017 Ripon 29:30,1:15,47 21 mile run
I'm going to return to training to get faster
I'm going to eat properly to slim down.  I will go shopping for healthy fruit and veg and eat good food at work, not bad.  Daily salad box walks are in.  I will leave my waterproof trousers at work.
I will just have to put up without cake for a  while.
I'm going to learn to love fruit and tea again and I'm going to have the occasional small glass of wine. Planning for excuses
I will manage my injuries and illness and continue to do what I can while I recover work's too important devolving opportunity to others
I will start listening for my "go home from work" alarm and adjust it if I get into work late Too tired Control your hours - get to go home
I will continue to hand over work tasks to colleagues.  Opportunity sharing!. hunger/boredom Get a walk outside
I will cut negative conversations short - even my own and focus on my work priorities. resting in a sulk use the time to meditate

I will listen to others Chimps and then manage them.
It won't matter if I don't hit my target times.  I would like to feel like I've done really well, however I do.
If I put the training into AdH I will come out of it better than I did Kielder because I won't have a silly swim to contend with.
I will have the great training rides as outcomes for future reference
How do I deal with not meeting goals and targets?    I'm likely to sulk.   But nowadays I'm taking my chimp out on some silly long rides that will help it stay worn out and motivated by endeavours and adventure
I will measure progress by metres climbed as well as distances ridden but I do need to keep doing the miles.
How do I encourage those miles? I can work on a balance of long miles and heavy weights sessions.  The diversity of the two should bring results - new approach
I'm going to keep the philosophy of not saying no to things I want to do because it makes me a better athlete and a happier person and I surprise myself.
I'm going to post all of these and highlight my top motivators and post them on my desk and bedside drawer.
Want to give up? Outcomes / Weaknesses
Why do you want to give up Success Complacency - forgetting the effort
Can you change anything before you give up? Fear of being unable to repeat
Can you find a different approach? Accept post-race blues & plan the celebration
Who have you talked it through with?
What are the advantages to giving up your dream? Part-success Acknowledge and celebrate partial success but continue to encourage the chimp
What are the disadvantages to giving up your dream?
What are you going to do when you stop? Failure Get perspective
Stages of grief.
Helping to stay committed Denial
Time management Yearning to hit the reset button
Work effectively Bargaining (if only)
Prioritise and don't get distracted Anger or seeking explanation
Do one thing at a time Disorganisation - acceptance and depression
Avoid negative people Reorganisation - make plans to move on.
Listen to / seek advice
Don't be indecisive, it takes up too much energy.
If you lose motivation, say, "fine, let's not do this".  You'll soon be back at it.  Give the chimp space to shout.