Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Solstice 200k - in which Trepid Explorer Discovers Some Courage

The Winter Solstice ride is a 200km route from Bredbury near Stockport to Malpas on the Welsh border, Whitchurch and back to Bredbury.
Getting ready to go

It was icy in the station car park at 7.30am as 15 or-so carfulls of nervy cyclists unpacked their pride and joy and cycled around the corner to Mike's parents house for tea, registration and use of the facilities. Our start was slightly delayed by TSK picking up a puncture between station and house but we rode out of Bredbury and through to Wilmslow with a small group of riders, chatting of sunnier times.

Noah's Ark Lane was our first taster of conditions on un-gritted roads and thankfully a number of riders had stopped to warn oncomers of the icy slick in the road. I already had my feet unclipped and posed as out-riggers so I could gently coast to an upright halt on the black ice.

We rode in the gutter or pushed our bikes for the next mile then finally began to ride again as the hazard eased.

The hazard was not gone from my mind though and as we neared Lach Dennis I was still flinching at every sparkle on the road surface, tensing at the slightest glimmer as my muscles made every attempt to have the bike levitate instead of sliding sideways.

Despite the temptation to stop, I continued beyond the end of the road leading to Jo's house and not recognising any more directions on the route sheet, declared myself committed to finishing the ride. Not so difficult on an A-road but the true Crise-de-Confiance came as we turned onto yet another frosty back-road. It was about 11am and the sun had still not warmed away even this open patch of ice-road. There was no blood in my feet and no courage in my soul. If this was what it was like at 11am, how would it be at 6pm, in the dark?

Recently I read Catherine Hartley's book about her being one of the first British women to walk (shamefully assisted and critically laboriously) to the North and South poles. I was remembering the rules of keeping going - just taking one more step. TSK did not want to leave me on my own, terrified - as I was - so I think he was very relieved when, seemingly out of the blue, I agreed to keep going. I didn't want to hold him back from achieving this 200km ride but truth be known, the ride was hard but allowing myself to quit would have been harder. Gradually, one more pedal stroke became one more laborious, slithering, braking mile.

I didn't skid properly again until we arrived below Beeston Castle, a fortified stone building atop a rock outcrop at the top of a very big hill (which we thankfully did not need to climb up). Shortly after, without due regard for the timed check-point we stopped in the in-aptly named "Ice Cream Café".
TSK ponders the sport of fishing in Vale Royal Park
Leaving the toilet block I finally felt the warmth emanating from the sun and inside the caf, I reversed my socks to put the dry side next to my feet and put the lambswool insoles in my shoes. Fuelled with soup, cake and tea, we made it to the check point with 5 minutes to spare and the organiser was gleeful to see us. They had actually given up hope and started to take down signs. Mince pies, bananas and a chat - later we started the next 3-hour leg of our ride with renewed hope and improved stability. The ice truly was gone and we arrived at the next check-point in Market Drayton with 30 minutes to spare. I sheepishly purchased 2 chocolate bars asking to pay for each separately and get two receipts for proof of our time. The attendant was now used to this but quite incredulous that we were part of the group that still had to get back to Stockport tonight.

Leaving Market Drayton with our lights lit we began what seemed like a never-ending folly of km clocking, constantly turning in the direction of towns we never arrived at or those we'd already been to earlier. However, some companions caught us up and we chatted for a while.

About the same time I took my tumble last year in freezing fog, they had been retiring from this event, beaten by the foul conditions. I didn't think it could be any worse! The young boy we rode with was quite accomplished at Audax, holding the most points for his youth category and having some all-year-rounder award for completing a ride every month of the year. After a while our body clocks parted company and we leapfrogged each other for the rest of the evening in between food stops and considerations for the route sheet.

At Middlewich stop my only craving at the petrol station was for peanuts for the salt content - crisps can not be eaten whilst riding. Stopping to get a receipt for food I did not want or otherwise that was not in the shop was low on my list of priorities and I was very snappy with TSK. My bad. I recognised the source of my irritability and added my waterproof layer to my legs to stop heat oozing out of the only part of my body still not protected from the wind. Sadly I was later to discover the freezing temperatures combined with sweaty waterproof pants gives me terrible nappy rash and I spent the rest of the week avoiding knickers with nothing less than the finest cotton on the list of ingredients.

The uplift of the evening was arriving in Goostrey - now about 6.30 pm when most people were thinking of dinner. The roads had been warmed by the sun all day and now thick clouds started to roll in to capture the heat. We seemed to burn along, the weight of ice lifted from our muscles as the tarmac puddles shimmered in the full moon light instead of the twinkling of ice. For once TSK was surprised by some ice - protected from the sun under a big tree. I, fatigued and oblivious, steamed through without a quiver.

At 7pm we phoned home with the update that the ride was taking 1.5 hrs longer than expected. I then had to ride 15 or so miles to Bredbury instead of taking the shorter route directly home to a steaming plate of beef casserole and a glass of warming sherry. I decided Audaxes on home teritory are not the best idea.

In Alderley Edge (where Posh S and D. Becks used to live) we lamented the lack of Christmas decorations (all at the ski lodge in Klosters probably) and decided the back road would be safer than the main road - never mind gritted, they probably get it de-iced with one of those sniffer vans with a big can of de-icer on the back. All those fancy cars and good lawyers. No council could let this road get icy.

We saw our little friend and his dad stopping off for more food and happily they arrived back at Mike's dad's house about 20 minutes after us. In the end we had reached the finish with 1hr 35mins to go before time was officially up, meaning we made excellent time in the last 50 miles of the day. Despite of an abysmal time of 12h30mins we were not one of the DNFs and I figure if I can do a 200km in winter, I can sure as hell manage a 300km in summer.

There's a space to be watched.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Do you ever get days where you want to hug your life?

My ride to work includes an extra lap around the lake. This week, the seagulls were standing on the water. Herons stand quietly amongst the reeds, watching for movements at the fringe of little ice floes. Robins flit nervously as I ride by. Critters scurry out of my way in the darkness on my way home.

I get to work and remove fleece leggings, overshoes, woolly socks, waterproof, fleece, hat, scarf and stand in the hot shower, letting it soak into my pores, stinging from the cold.

Sometimes I run at lunchtime. There are only a few people that venture out around the lake with spaniels for company. The spaniels are too interested in sniffing to notice me. A couple are hugging to keep warm and giggle as I run past because they didn’t know I was there.

At the weekend I raced. I concede that I have been poorly Trep but it still disappoints me that I have made only a little progress this year. I know I never make much progress anyway.

TSK bought me some rollers for my birthday. They’re not for my hair. They’re like a treadmill for a bike but the power to spin the rollers comes from me, not a machine. My back wheel drives two rollers that are attached to the front roller by a rubber band. That drives the front wheel of my bike around so that the bike rides in a stationary location in my hall way. Having never used rollers, I had a go for the first time last night. As suggested on the instructions, my first try was in the hall way… with walls at close proximity to each side of me to prevent me from literally riding off the rails and into the cupboard door at the end of the room – or worse, a wall.

I have a friend, Jen, who uses rollers before a race to warm up. She sits on her bike like the proverbial piffy-on-a-rock-bun spinning away, chatting. Should be easy right?


For a while I held on to the door handle on Steph’s room but that kept opening. Over and over I slammed it shut, resulting in me pulling myself dangerously close to the edge of the rollers.

TSK stood by my side with his arms around my waist to give me the confidence to at least hold onto the doorframe. Sadly, that didn’t give me enough mobility to attain a balance and he retreated to the kitchen, only to come running at my occasional werrbling noises.

I had a rest then returned to the task of rediscovering my bike balance. Like learning to ride all over again, I managed 20 seconds with both hands on the handlebars and as I called out to TSK, “I’m doing it!!!” he came to look and everything went pear-shaped. I grabbed onto the wall again.

So, the upshot being, I have to work on relearning to ride a bike. You can’t forget, you know, but it’s awfully hard to learn-better.

It has become apparent to me how some people are so good at what they do, lapping me every week at races and attaining those illusive top 10 finishes in National Events that I have only ever dreamed of.

I probably still need to perfect the art of eating perfectly and work on my speed and strength but TSK has bought me fitness in a box. The next few weeks I will mostly be spending my time holding on to the hall-wall and one day I will be a super-hero. I will!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sweaty Feet

On Friday 22nd November, Burton in Kendal Travel Inn was the HQ for a team Pamplemouse attack on the Lake District. Their £26 a night advance rooms really are the business for us lessening hardy campers. Unlike some Travel Ins the BurtonIK one comes with a stocked breakfast bar at the motorway services.

Well fed on Saturday morning we visited Amblecity to buy TSK some new cross country running shoes to compensate for the slippery conditions of the weekend then rumbled the Vanu over to Langdale, unable to resist the pull of the place on a wet-weather forecast day when most tourists are in the area to see the switching of the Christmas lights. However, my ecological conscience got the better of me and we parked at Silverdale, just a short walk up the valley to Elterwater then over the tip of the dragon's tail to Grasmere on the other side of the fell. This fell-crossing gave us a brief feeling of peace and tranquility before we descended to the masses in Grasmere. Our efforts were rewarded by a rainbow and a sunbeam making us think, of the finger of god (or the national lottery "it's you" hand if you're less religiously inclined).

We sat down for our evening meal at Pizza Express, only to find the spag bol had been stolen from the menu and replaced by cheesy or creamy pasta. Not the perfect carbo-loading for the next day so I made-do with pizza and eating all the anchovies off the Caesar salad dressed with salad cream, no Caesar.

On race day it was pleasingly clear. Our revised strategy to focus on the bike ride was adjusted when we realised we've got really good at timing our bike ride and an urgent sprint back on the bike is much easier to achieve than one on foot. In compromise, we reduced the run time to 1.5 hours which matched with the high volume of points available on the bike section.

As we ran, we devised a strategy for maximising our points. This was almost hampered by TSK, choosing to cross a ford via the bridge, not the slippery stones. The bridge proved more slippy and with a whee-splat-ow he gained a hearty bruise on his knee and thigh, thankfully not slipping any further to what could have been broken ribs.

Ass on t'interweb
Me glad for a rest for my calves - tired from a day of walking without my new feet, we managed to resume running up the valley to the copper mines youth hostel where we scrambled beneath the stone bridge to check in for 25 points before emerging the other side to the amusement of a bystanding gentleman in full sow-wester gear who thought it hilarious weather for a run.

When we arrived at transition we felt ready to take on the world so attained the difficult 45-pointer first, opting to get the easy 30 and 40 on the way back. Our laziness was to become our demise as we flew past the 30-pointer on a roady downhill and then discovered we would've had time to go back for it. Nonetheless our policy of capturing check points via roads where it seemed more practical paid off as we made damn good time. Sadly, our errors led to us being bumped off our 10th series placing. Now we're really looking forward to next year: better luck (for the hell of it), better planning (starting the watch), better health (I missed the second event with flu) and better training (particularly since we're considering the endurance 12 and 24 hour events).

Talking of endurance, we drove to Aberdeen after the event, arriving at 9:30 to a warm house and the good company of Row and Oyv who bundled beer into our hands and showed us how to use the washing machine... and that was our Monday along with a walk in Aberdeen and a nice meal in the evening with much talk of travel in Norway and life in Scotland.

On Tuesday we rode through views of the coast, foxes playing in fields and a broken gear lever forcing me to limp home before it got dark pushing my biggest gear.

Wednesday's holiday was filled with little people as I accompanied Tracy on a day of feeding and changing little Andrea and playgroup-run, school-run and playing dinosaur puzzles with Thomas. My brain slept all day and relaxed with chatting and drinking tea before dancing with Andrea through mummy cooking dinner so that the crying would stop. She is just like me. Tracy marvelled at Tom for keeping on going all through the day after his rugby tackling game, dinosaur riding and puzzling. (TSK was out with his camera through all this - he's not silly)

On Thursday it was time for grown-ups to play. Chris, TSK and Dauntless accompanied me and the other MTBs in to Glen Lee to the South of the Cairngorm mountain. Alongside fields of green grass and rusty brown heather we grey-glistening crags, a week of rain making them glitter in our one-day-only special sunshine offering. Chris and I discussed our relative super-powers - his associated with the ocean, mine with the mountain. Each of us enjoying, to some extent, the other's territory.

The pleasurable ride up the Glen trail was nonetheless difficult with a roaring head wind to contend with but we were happy in the knowledge we were coming back the same way. In the sunshine we stopped to admire Queen Victoria's well before continuing to Balnamoon's Cave where Prince Charlie was rumoured to have once camped out for a wee while. Unable to find the path that crossed the raging river we pushed out bikes through bracken for a while before ditching them and continuing on foot. Scotland is one of the few (nay the only) places I would leave a pile of expensive MTBs in a heap in a field unlocked. Still, we left them in a dip in the landscape to 'hide them from the enemy'.

Eventually, we concluded a river crossing was not achievable but we stood in awe within the confines of a craggy waterfall, the river carving a narrow trench through the stone, gurgling away from us. We contemplated the life of a pooh stick. We found a crossing point but the consequences of not landing the jump would've been imaginably terminal. TSK and I declared ourselves chicken and denied Chris the option as a newly fledged father of two. We agreed BPC would not have too bad a time living here for a while.

We rejoined the bikes hiding from the enemy. I curled away from the enemy - wind - behind Chris - the only man I know that makes a better wind block than TSK whilst we devoured sandwiches, dried fruit mix, jelly beans and some of Scotland's finest scotch before deciding bonnie Price would wait till summer.

(some of my favourite men)

With the wind flinging us, exuberant, back to the Vanu, at least 2 hours before sun-down we headed off again on the trail alongside Loch Lee - a busman's holiday for me as ever in Scotland.

After admiring yet another waterfall and collecting some Water for Chris to drink with his whiskey we were again flung back to the vanu to watch the sun setting orange over that red bracken and highland coo basking in what will always be their colour.

The only altercation to our vacation was a sudden change in the vanu's oil level from moderately OK to low low low. Tragically low. I replaced the filter next day (with the right one this time - oh how girlie) and all seems to be well.

Our last meal in Scotland had to be fish supper (fish 'n' chips to the rest of the world), or Haggis supper if you're Trep and sausage supper if you're 3. Oh yes, did I get a photo.

Saturday was a day for enjoying the rest of our holiday together, fixing the broken bike with a rather expensive upgrade and feeling sorry for ourselves getting another cold, again. That put me on a field on Sunday watching, for once, TSK get covered in mud and bruised. I'm saving myself for the National Championships in January (honest) for which my training starts tomorrow (honest).

Oh OK. Just for the cuteness factor.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My flat smells of cat pee. The eternal reek of damp shoes.

I have had an amazing week. I just hope I can find time to tell you about it.

  • Last event of the Open 5 series
  • Meeting up with old friends in Aberdeen
  • Walking in the city
  • Biking in the Cairngorms
  • Tiring out a small boy so much he fell asleep eating his sausage
  • Meeting my mini-me
  • Fixing an oil leak in the Vanu
  • Getting home in one piece.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Strengths and weaknesses

Every so often in life and competitive sport, someone elses' weaknesses fall right into the lap of your own strengths. The only thing that makes that feel remotely bad is when that other person is someone you quite like and respect.

What can't take it away is for every bad day I have had, I deserved my third place today for being a brave downhiller with moderately OK bike handling skills. I overcame my initial lethargy to start riding all but one of the killer 30ft long climbs and Red and I remained (mostly) vertical through the rest of the race.

Finally it feels like the training is paying off.

Colchester rocks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Last weekend, the Eastern Ladies' A-team took a bronze medal in the Inter-Area Cyclo-cross champtionships. Shame I was the B-team but there you go. I'm happy for the others. I waited around to see them get their medals and instead they gave it to London in error, then sent everyone home because they couldn't figure out the other results at all.

This Saturday I have spent all day writhing around under the vanu getting covered in black, sticky engine oil as I embarked on my first solo oil and filter change.

Quite humorously I purchased a torque-wrench with the intention of ensuring the sump plug is tightly fastened to the correct torque so oil does not leak out later. I then used said torque wrench as a hammer to unfasten the tightened sump plug since the garage had done it up too bloody tight to unfasten whilst lying on my side in the road.

A job well done by 3, I took the vanu out for a spin to dispose of the waste oil. Getting Halfords confused with Canadian tyre, the waste oil is still in the back of the van but at least we had no catastrophes. I hope, in the rush to get to Colchester tomorrow for racing, I don't find the vanu standing in a pool of oil in the morning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On why I've been bitchy

On Saturday I went out with TSK to the new club winter 10 series. He rode, I didn't. I had been under the weather feeling crap all week. It wasn't going to change me riding on Sunday in the National Trophy but I wasn't going to race a 10 on Saturday too.

I marshalled. Tim and I stood on a corner in yellow jackets and helped riders around a road junction where we could see the approaching cars and they could not. Riders let rip. TSK did a time that he was happy with. We were happy and went into town to shop for DVDs and coffee.

On Sunday I used positive thinking to persuade myself I was feeling better whilst the fug of a coldey-head hung over me.

It rained. It was supposed to rain. I hid in the back of the vanu till I was entirely ready to go out and get wet then I did my warm-up lap of the course which was starting to look more and more traditional all the time.

I was gridded on the start line and saved my warm clothes till the last minute.

By the end of the first lap I had again been repeatedly passed by the last rider as I hauled up the hills and she rode with ease. I would catch her on the tricky bends and single-track through the woods but by the second lap, she rode away from me, leaving me to fall further and further back, only "trying" in order to satisfy the incentive to train for next week's race.

Except for the near-identical course, this compared in no way to the race last week where I lept into the slipstream of groups of lapping riders and hitched lifts beyond the reaches of my competition.

I felt crap afterwards. Not worn out but disappointed at the fact that my body had refused to, had failed to make an effort. I was resoundingly last. I know the National Trophy tends to attract the more elite riders but if I could just hold on to one of them for a few laps I'd be happy. If I could just feel like I'm getting better I'd be happy. I questioned why I bothered then Tim's words played through my head,

"I had two people email me to ask who in the club is in the National Points!"

I remembered I was there because I'm proud and I'm also proud to ride for this club who not only arranges to go to the Nov11th service but also organises space at the back of the church for bikes.

I got up yesterday to a reassuring batch of flu. I think the Eastern team might be missing its reserve this weekend.

New Toy - Meet Mercia.

Pending delivery in January.

Green is dead. Long live the king

Two weeks ago I drove to Derby on Saturday. I had measured my legs and decided I'd probably need a 22.5 inch frame. I've been riding a 21.5 inch or 22 inch most of my life. I knew I wanted to buy a Mercian ever since SleazyJet did a number on Green and having exhausted all the cheap options for a replacement frame (OK, I only tried quite hard, not really really hard), I was left with no option than to vanu overland and visit the nice people at Mercian .

I asked nicely if I could please take out a 58cm King of Mercia frame for a ride. The man measured and concluded that I should take out this one.

I went cycling around Derby on a big pink bike. A big, £1500 pink bike.

I was too excited and had to phone TSK who was busy biking 100 miles around Lincolnshire with his Saturday.

But it was too long in the reach for me. Though very nice to have a tall bike for once.

John (pictured above) was on lunch so Gav (left) and I began to decide on the equipment that my new bike needed to have. When I went in the shop I was prepared to order the fairly standard basic frame but Gav helped me to think of a few extras that I would prefer - vertical drop-outs instead of the standard, horizontal (so that the wheel doesn't slip because I'm not that worried about chain tension), the position of my rear lugs for the panier racks for touring and additional braze-ons for front racks and the position of them. Then of course, the critical choice of colour.

The ladies at work had helped me decide on Mauve Pearl and Polychromatic Blue for the detail and contrasting stripes but then Mercian threw in the trick question... What colour the transfers? The blue did not match my blue so the silver was chosen - with input from TSK over the phone. How many transfers? How big the band on the down-tube? Any more bands? A barbers' pole?

All that before Jon returned from his lunch and out came the jig. Jon concluded that I need a 23.5 inch frame. Holy COW! That's bigger than ever!

Jon adjusted the saddle, the stem length and the bar height. He checked the length of the cranks on Green and concluded that I was justified in using 254mm cranks, being that my thighs are so long. So many people think they need it but don't.

I got on the jig, I got off the jig. I got on the jig. I pedalled some more. We chatted about what I ride, how I ride and what I race. I got off and on again. I went and stared at the colour chart and came back and got on and pedalled some more.

Jon showed me the standard dimensions of the bike I had tried earlier and how much he had shortened the virtual top tube (horizontal tube on the bike) to accommodate my female (shorter) body length. He sympathised about how I have been riding over the years with a compensated position - potentially the cause of my shoulder pain.

Finally, with my frame details written down on paper and the settings for all the parts I will be doing myself noted on the back of the paper, I handed over my deposit and reluctantly left the bicycle boutique of my dreams.

Now I have 12 whole weeks to wait. All photos (except mockup of my bike) courtesy of Mercian Cycles Website.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Check out my day

Last night at 6 I realised that my old and very full spreadsheet had errors in it. A new list appeared which would've been great for Vlookups but, as all of the text in Place Names varied ever so slightly from my Place Names (give or take a hyphen or a space bar) I was faced with 150 site codes to input manually.

As I commented to my colleague that at 6:30 I really didn't need my spreadsheet to go unstable he reminded me the servers were shut-down for maintenance, resulting in a very locked spreadsheet.

I went against my worst energy consumption genius and just turned off the screen and headed home thinking that at worst I would get a recovery file and at best I would get in today to find that the offices had burned down and it was all my fault (I'm bored of this project anyway).

I was going to have the day off work today as I felt lousy but TSK reminded me that my computer was still on. At 9am, amazingly, my spreadsheet was in tact and everything went downhill from there.

An extra £102.50 appeared on my credit card, taken by Flatlands Council. The bank and the Council could not tell me from whence said funds had been removed, leaving me suspicious that someone was masquerading with my almost-out-of-date new-card-stuck-in-the-mail credit card. What did I have to loose in cancelling the card that I have and the one that's stuck in the mail - just in case?

Over my sacred lunchbreak the phone rang. I looked at the screen which told me that calling is...
Brighton Taxi.

Why the hell am I being called by a taxi company in Brighton?

The nice lady at the Flatland council was on the line to say they had indeed found my payment and were searching their records trying to find out which department had taken the money.

Apparently the numbers for the Flatland Council and the Brighton Taxi company are almost one and the same except for a minor difference in area code. Who put fuzzy logic in mobile phones?

Brighton Taxi called back. "The Theatre".

Idiot of the day award goes to Trepid Explorer who has arranged a trip to the Theatre with her girlfriends from work to see The Full Monty. I knew that value looked familiar.

After another meeting pretending to be my colleague who is off work, not with manflu but the real full-blown chicflu (not to be confused with bird flu), the phone rings again.

The man asks for Mrs Fink. No Mrs Fink here. It's the hotpoint man. Come to repair the washing machine that refuses to empty. At my house. Mrs Fink's house. Pissy, forgot all about him.

At home, the new credit card is sitting on my mat. Pissflaps.

Am I at least safe now, in my home?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I had fun at Ipswich. I was a shocking 66th but then there were 90 competitors. After trying desperately to hang on to the wheel of Susan Wood and failing miserably I set myself the task of ticking-off as many male riders as possible, frighteningly, some clustered together in groups. I’ve not had that before (usually it’s the fat and old individuals at the back).

Finally I settled into a battle with a man on a Bianchi bike. Generally reserved for road-racers and ladies (since Italians are only wee) I decided I wasn’t to be beaten by a man on a Bianchi bike.

Repeatedly, he passed me and repeatedly I passed him back until the last lap when I waited behind him (dangerously so as I was being caught by the next woman in the race) then laid on a sprint finish almost-to-be-proud-of to drag my sorry ass over the line and stand, hyperventilating the other side of it, unable to move, despite the officials' urgence.

We're back at the same venue this weekend for the second National Trophy and I do believe we might actually get muddy this time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Racing Malarkey

After a beautiful walk on Saturday afternoon and one hell of a cold night, Sunday morning in Grassington dawned beautiful, cold and sunny in the Yorkshire Dales. We didn't have any matches so had to make do with breakfast coffee from the campsite machine (how often does that happen) despite me trying to bargain to lend a bloke our cups if he leant us his matches.

At the start of the race I was wearing two layers of Merino wool. By the time I had been running in the sunshine for 10 minutes the first layer came off and I continued the run with my jumper tied round my waist.

Curly-wurly sheep

A slight navigational error sent us from feeling smug that only we had found the right path to realising everyone else was right about the check-point being on the other side of the waterfall. A precarious slide down the muddy bank got us our 20 points.

Short of being proud of 2 hours of running with only minor pain (worth the two weeks prep in the gym), the run was otherwise unexciting - no mountain passes this time.

Into transition and the very sweaty wool baselayer was exchanged for a thin and flimsy thermal and a joyous three hours of sunkissed sweeping trails and grizzly but rideable climbs laid out ahead of us. Another missed turn took us out to checkpoint number 2 (thankfully only-just-noticed) at the extreme of the course for a measly 15 points, bringing us home to the finish line only two minutes late but woefully short of the 40-point checkpoint within 2 miles of the finish. That and the hoard of other riders who had shown up to play-on-the-day on account of the 3 Peaks being cancelled this year stuck us 2/3 of the way down the field. However, Team Pamplemouse is now lying glorious 10th on the podium for the series. We shall see what November brings.

The cyclo-cross season in the Eastern Region has gone downhill since the first event. Quality of competitors has been consistent but the courses have degenerated to the level of cat-and-mouse chases around fields with no more than a few punishing, gruelling, sharp climbs to make life difficult and force the less-strong amongst us to actually get off our bikes.

When the biggige (first National Trophy event) came close I realised that, because of international race rules, I could be driving across the expanse of England to compete in an event where I am pulled out after only 30 minutes (if a slower rider is caught by a faster rider on another lap, the slower rider is asked to pull out of the race). Dismayed, I decided to wave goodbye to my entry fee and ride the local event on Saturday instead.

With the main-players saving themselves for the National trophy I stole third place again, only 27 seconds behind Susan - so I have a target. I also decided that I wouldn't let my £18 go to waste and drove to Wiltshire to stay there before completing the journey to Abergaveny on Sunday morning to do the National Trophy anyway. TSK cycled the 70 miles to meet me as I set off around my second lap.

I'm glad I went to Abergaveny. No matter how well I felt I was doing in my own area, it was humbling to pit myself against the best in my class - all 9 of them - and inspiring to be at a professionally organised event complete with petty rules, excellent comentary and proper racers with proper bikes and poncey warm-up techniques - I've never seen so many sets of rollers outside a beauty salon.

I set myself up to chase down the 9th placed lady but watched her pull further and further forward no matter how hard I tried so I grinned at TSK and laughed about how I was losing (that's me at the back on the left in the start-photos). But, in such a small field, I got myself a stack of international racing points (get me!) and £10 prize money which helped with the entry fee.

Last weekend was race-free, which is exactly what I needed after a two-race weekend. The girls came over and we biked around Rutland Water on Saturday at a leisurely pace and ate lunch in the pub then we went out and got shit faced on Saturday night and then everyone felt better except me who felt like shite. I must've finally made it to the status of athlete as I can not longer take a night out till 2 am. A walk around the park on Sunday sent everyone on their way and I started work on the last of the curtains for the Vanu through a drowsy head with much appreciation for my quiet new sewing machine.

Recovered by Tuesday, I have been to the gym twice doing some serious interval training and weights. Every day I have been to work on my bike. I am now a member of the Eastern Ladies' inter-regional team and I am determined not to be the weakest link. This is going to be a fun weekend of racing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Enough a moment - I have a mini me!

I want to introduce you all to the new mini Trepid Explorer

Actually. She's four days old and shares my real first name, Andrea, not Trepid Explorer (there can be only one).

She's so cute and I feel excited and belittled by such a small thing.

...but I'm going with the excuse that I have a conveniently interesting name beginning with A.

I can't wait to meet her.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Race number 2 - Fakenham

What a contrast! The race at Fakenham was 9 circuits of a grassy field. Obstacles included bumps, a bridge over a stream and a few gravelly corners. That was it.

But then I wasn't into gritty madness at the weekend, just shaking off the remnants of a snotty cold.

The race did a good job of shaking off those remnants. With the bumps, shaking was the prominent word in that sentance. My injuries include a blister where my gloves rubbed against the handlebars and a cut on my chin where I was pinged by a stone in the mass-start on gravel.

As far as cyclo-cross races go it was uneventful except for laughing with other riders, encouraging other ladies and helping a little 7-year old who got stuck in the under 12s race.

Still, I move ever closer to my targets (though with a new target, I only snatched 4th place this week) and it's all good practice for the biggie in two weeks time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

On why I want a Mercian...

Because all these people can't be wrong

Sew nice...

Over-edge stitch, all the way along the bottom of the vanu's new curtain.

This is a new era in my life. Never again will hemming stop me from creating masterpieces.

All that over-edging and not a single jam.

I love my new machine.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The First Cyclo-Cross of the Season

Yesterday the Peterborough Cycling Club (aka me) made its first foray into the world of cyclo-cross racing.

For me it was a return to the good old days, with a twist of added sunshine.

We arrived with an hour to spare - plenty of time to get out the bikes (so nice when they don't need to be assembled out of the back of a car) and sign-on for the event.

The only problem is, we could see the course but we couldn't find where to park or register. A 3-point turn in a tight corner and asking some friendly locals finally took us to the water-park and café which doubled up as the finishing point for a local Lukemia research bike-ride. Still, I wasn't sure about that course. From where I was sitting, it looked like a game of cat and mouse around a grassy field - bloody southerners!

I was really nervous. Lots of people looking race-ready made me think that I might have misread the instructions and missed my event. TSK calmed me by pointing out that the other ladies didn't look dirty or sweaty -enough to have raced yet.

I was pleased to see other women there. It's much more fun to race against peers. Taking-part in your own little category just isn't good enough as there's a tendency to pootle a bit too much.

I wasn't nearly prepared to find that there were actually 10 ladies already signed-on making me number 11.

TSK walked down to the course and I went for my warm-up lap. After sheepishly heading the wrong way down a few turns, I finally met the race organiser who pointed me in the right direction and said the words no-one wants to hear on their warm-up lap - "you might not get all the way round because of the Ambulance".

Ambulance duly noted heading for the road, I plunged into the woods over two concrete blocks jutting from the parched ground (I figure he fell on the corner and broke his arm on the concrete). A tricky drop into bottom gear to hop over the lip of tarmac path and back into top gear for a downhill. Note girlie cycling the other way, I completely overshoot the only line on a sharp 90 bend onto a dusty climb. I turn round to have another try at it and realise this is what the other girlie is doing. We laugh that we both completely overshot the line.

She rides it, I rides it, though there's a moment there where, on the 30 degree slope, I come to a dead-stop with both feet clipped in the pedals and only avoid falling over by pulling a wheelie to get myself moving again.

Around the corner there are six people looking into a bomb-hole. A bomb-hole is a fun obstacle. It's a circular dip in the ground. Usually 6 - 10 feet deep with 45 - 60 degree sides. So long as they're smooth they are easily ridden. Riders put the weight over the back wheel by leaning back of the saddle and use their back brake to control the speed so that they don't go over the front. They use their brakes as little as possible so that the momentum from the down hill takes them up the other side and out of the hole. I generally find that not looking at the bomb-hole is the best technique at a first pass, though I approached it slowly enough to bail-out if there were any lumps or bumps that might throw me off. I passed the onlookers and gracefully (and thankfully) popped out the other side unscathed. Behind me I heard swooshs, crash, "Argh!" as the bloke behind me dived over the bars. Red and I were starting to get along just fine.

Some more single-track, a log jump and out of the woods to another straight across the grassy field, down a storm-drain, up the other side and into the second stretch of woods where a series of tight turns on loose soil and tree roots made for a challenging combo of power, speed control and smooth gear-shifting. I popped out of the woods again, grinning and asking TSK if he felt like moving to the Fens for good. These Easteners know how to build courses.

The start of the race was very organised. The first five rows on the grid were made up of people who placed last year in the league. TSK later told me that three ladies were there, although I actually only noticed one. The rest of us made a free-for-all huddle at the back. The organiser asked if anyone hadn't ridden a race before and the lady next to me held up her hand. As the organiser went through some of the rules and etiquette of the sport, I wished her luck and suggested she has fun and then we were on our way.

I had my mark on the lady in the back row of the grid and though a few riders got between us, at the first bottle neck, I jumped off, tossed my bike on my shoulder and cut through the bushes (a legit move) to get myself back in with her group. There was another woman with me.

Gradually, grid-lady (Jen) pulled away from us but we continued to ride together for the first three laps. At that point my race lungs (the taste of blood when breathing hard) got over themselves and I got into a groove which made the most of speed, control and technical skill. I made the most of the men who, determined to pass me, did so on the long grassy stretch into a full-on head wind. I sat behind them, patiently resting until we reached the single-track then attacked and made up the distance each lap but finally, the lady in blue passed me on the fast, grassy section and disappeared into the woods ahead of me.

I continued to keep pace through the woods, always keeping one eye out for her on the twists and turns and finally, there she was, picking herself up having taken a tumble on a gritty corner. She was dusting herself off so I pushed past and, at the start of the windy straight, got myself fast-enough and low-enough to tag onto the back of a faster rider that was lapping me.

And that was it really. I was slightly dogged by a man behind me who insisted on informing me of everything that was going on with the riders coming past behind us. I'd like to think he was being helpful but in some way felt that he was doing it in the hope I'd let him pass me because he was "in the know". I was close to asking him to give up with the commentary when he fell victim to the bomb-hole and spent the rest of the race talking to every stick that dared look at him funny.

A brief sprint for the line got me 50th place out of about 70 riders.

I walked away thinking I was second lady, since I'd only seen Jen ahead of me at the start but then when TSK told me there were at least 3 ladies in the grid my hopes sank to somewhere around 4th or 5th. I'm not sure what made me happier, finding out I was 3rd, or finding out that the lady I was talking to on the start line was actually first! In her first event! So impressed. We both agreed that she had fun. Bizarely she told me she didn't recognise me as I look much smaller on my bike (that's a new one on me).

The highlight of my day was on the last lap, coming round the trickiest corner in the field which teeter-totters at the edge of a dip. As I was on the brink of going over the edge into a mess, the man behind tried to pass on my inside but, not having the line, started to push me of my line. Team effort was required and to save both our asses I grabbed his saddle and gave him a shove to get him off me, somehow, throwing my own body weight back on course and keeping us both moving. As payment I took his wheel into the wind again.

All in all I am extremely pleased with my third place. I feel great this year. I expected to do OK at this race, but never expected to do so well. I said to TSK that 50% of my success was his since he has encouraged me and helped me to develop this year, beyond my wildest expectations. I'm starting to have the life I've been hankering after for the last 5 years.

Next week's race is at Fakenham in Norfolk and after the Open5 at the end of September we go National with the National Trophy in Abergaveny. Pressure's on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I have been looking for a replacement for Green.

Mercian are doing a special edition Paul Smith touring bike for 2007.

Anyone got £3k to spare?

I want to be back on holiday

Since when is my job finding work for someone else's work experience student?

She wants to be a beautician.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ongoing Saga

ClumsyJet are still not interested in Green. I have heard nothing. So Dauntless (the MTB) is currently rocking around Peterborough in slicks.

It's so much fun!

Groups of school kids, uneasy-looking elderly ladies on bikes, dogs on long leads. They all give me the gleeful opportunity to swing wide and pass on the grassy banks of the paths that I ride to work.

The first ride on the suspension, bobbing up and down as I climbed the hill near home was weird with the weight of my paniers on the back but now I'm reassured that at least by the time the Open5 comes around again I will be comfortable on Dauntless, not slightly doddering as I was on Monday morning. I'll be like the downhillers at the world champs, honest.

I have my third appointment at the gym tomorrow. Finally one of the instructors was interested enough to refer me to Catherine and apparently Catherine has a bit of know-how on the Personal-Trainer front and might just be qualified to get my running up to speed in time for the race at Grassington.

The other instructors are only interested in me if I want to lose weight or gain it and didn't understand my need to be able to run 11km and climb 450m within 20 days. Oh! the stats.

I fear I am becoming addicted to endorphins.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Vanu Has Her Pulling-Knickers on

Goodness knows how I have managed it, through a report from the World Triathlon Champs, a programme about the Three Peaks Yacht Race and the review from the World Mountain Bike Champs in Fort William, Scotland, I have spent all weekend sanding, buffing, washing and painting the vanu.

The highlight of my weekend was three footballers walking past, one quietly commenting that, "She's doing a good job fixing that up".

The truth of it is, on Saturday morning TSK had his delayed birthday present before the autumnal weather sets in (his birthday was in May). We went Kayaking on a local lake. We learned new skills and practiced them for two hours. I took my first trip on moving water (well, it was only moving about 1 mile per hour but I had fun).

Since Saturday morning, my inner thighs no longer work. My back is tired, sure, but my knees were gripping an over-sized boat for two hours and they no longer want to stay together (no funniness, please it hurts!). I felt motivated to run this morning (after watching the yacht race) but the legs said no. So instead I've stood on a chair painting the vanu roof and polishing her black plastic bits and dreaming of our next adventure in a slightly more
spruced-up wanna-be campervan.

Ps. There's no news on Green yet, but basically she's unfixable - could be bent back in shape but not worth the risk and too expensive to send her away to have it done proper and repainted. I am hoping, since she also has been on her last legs for a while, to get plenty of money towards a nice new touring frame... once I eventually hear from Eviljet.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Boomerang Cycling

So I'm back. One little cyclo-cross after Canada last year and now I am staring down the barrel of my first full season starting on 15th September.

To get myself in the right frame of mind I started doing club Time Trials with the Peterbrough Cycling Club back in July and I might just be thinking of a (my first ever) road race on Sunday but that would be a bit scary so I might just stand on the side-lines.

Meanwhile today was my first day riding to work on Red in mourning of Green who got bent on the aeroplane on the way back from France last weekend.

I got to work and realised I had left my lock at home. After three hours of nervously checking she was still in the bike park every half hour, I finally rode home at lunchtime to get my lock. Got back to work to find I had left my key at home. Well it was a nice day so I just turned around and rode back home to get the key.

I'm proud to say I also rode back to work, and home again in the evening... even managing a Friday night trip to the pub for a pint, a pie, some chocolate pudding (not the best for racing legs) and a whisky before the ride home.

The training starts next week including a gym membership that needs justifying by getting the hill-running muscles back in shape for the next Open5 event on 30th September

Monday, September 03, 2007

Yling, ylang, ylog. Bling, Biking Blog

Three weeks in France, Monaco, Italy. Cannes, Monte Carlo baby.

Princess Stéphanie is calling and she wants her city back.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Today I made more friends

Today I made more friends. Got very hot and sweaty. Ate a chip butty the fastest ever. Sat in bed the rest of the day watching DVDs.

It was a sweet day.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I climb 36 metres to get to work.

Yesterday morning the temperature was 19C

At the end of the day it was 22C

I got home and I had climbed a total of 104metres.

I had tooken my new 'pooter off and climbed to the third floor of the building - in the lift. Doh!

It's not just the legs that's still weary from the weekend.

Time trialing tonight. Yay!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Trepid Explorer's Idea of the Perfect Night Out.

Le Depart

Hours of planning, pre-sleeping, driving and not so much training put us, finally, at Hackney Fields, North London at 7:45 on Saturday night along with about 200 other cyclists. There was more lycra and more fast bikes than you could shake a bicycle pump at, an over-riding hum of nervousness, a few pints being sipped at, a long line-up for the loo. A publican who didn't care if you were a customer or not - because your friends are. There were a few Bromptons, a few recumbents and quite a few fixed wheel single-speed bikes (one gear and no freewheeling) and, oddly, a Cannondale truck which everyone politely ignored except for a few groupies who feel the Dunwich Dynamo is something to be done at speed.

We saw Barry, Ian and Ten and had a nervous chat. Ten introduced himself as a bloke I once met at some traffic lights, riding back from the pub and then I recognised him. I already made new friends. Ten's friend had still-warm, sticky flapjack which I devoured a piece of, licking the sticky treacle off my fingers afterwards.

At 8:30 a gradual procession of cyclists started to roll out early. These are the ones who had heard about the hundred or so cyclists that didn't get any food at the feeding station last year because it was all gone. We left with them.

The contorted route they followed through Hackney had us off the route sheet already but we soon rejoined it as other cyclists passed us at the main-road crossing. Red flashy lights were switched on as the sky darkened and we began to head towards a greying cloudline.

The gentleman next to me said, "Is it me, or are we heading for that rain cloud?" I wondered if he'd actually checked the weather and reassured him he was going to get wet, just not torrentially wet, as the thickest bursts of rain were to head to the South of London Saturday night and disappear off to Kent into Sunday morning. I didn't see him again, though to be quite honest I wouldn't have recognised him in the dusk when many colours and shaddowed faces cease to mean anything.

Into the Epping Forest where the oncoming traffic included youths yelling obscenities out of the window. I assume they were obscenities but we joked how lovely it was of "those nice boys" to wish us well.

In Epping town, a man advised TSK and I - riding side by side - to watch out for other bikers, then proceeded to run a red light. I assume he was one of the strange people who derives some kind of pride from doing the Dunwich Dynamo faster than everyone else. It really isn't the point.

Between Epping and the feeding station it rained properly on and off but as we left the street-lit areas, it really wasn't apparent how much it was raining until a car came the other way and highlighted the issue. My waterproof jacket did the job of keeping my body dry, the helmet kept most of the rain away from my neck and though my legs were wet, they weren't apparently cold. Many riders passed us and we didn't really ride past anyone else but there were repeatedly groups stopped by the roadside and this pace evened everyone out. Some had punctures or other mechanical failures and were busily fixing things in the rain. I pitied them but was silently glad it wasn't me. Green could've done with new brakes but otherwise my only prep was spit 'n' polish on Friday night.

Just outside of Epping was a pub with bikes outside. Without sounding like a blanket that's been left out in the rain all night, I can't imagine how anyone with the intention of staying out all night operating a vehicle could consider making that an easier thing to do by drinking beer so I can only assume that those bikes belonged to people who realised 200km is a long way on a bike but they might as well have a pint before they head for home. Perhaps they were the bikes of people who try every year and get a little further each time. Perhaps they were the bikes of people who decided to get an evening meal along the way, before the midway food stop.

The pre-feeding station section of the ride didn't require any navigation. A constant stream of flashy lights stretched out across the Essex countryside, lighting the way ahead and gradually the stream of fast riders, slow riders and those who would have mechanical failures evened out and the numbers of big groups passing eachother subsided. At a few junctions the pack came to a screatchy halt but TSK had done this before and saw the candles set burning in jam-jars by the side of the road to indicate the way. Those candles were a blessing. No sooner did we start to worry we'd missed a turn, a candle would appear glowing yellow-orange like a tiger in the grass by the roadside.

You wouldn't think that there's much to occupy the mind whilst riding in the dark but the people themselves became an amusing occupation. There was a group of riders I called the blue team. In the glow of white LEDs (quite a blue light) they stood out. One had a blue LED on his handlebars, another a blue bike and two were wearing blue jerseys. Repeatedly they swarmed past me on their fixed speed bikes like a train and repeatedly I saw them standing by the side of the road, resting or possibly repairing. Then there are the conversations to listen in on and wondering what people are carrying with them in two paniers full of stuff. You talk to your partner, you talk to strangers and you navigate your way around drain covers and potholes coming down hill and you concentrate on your gearing and cadence going up hill. And when you think it's all died down and it's just you and your neighbours, someone will zoom past on a fixed wheel lightweight bike or a recumbent and you'll be impressed because the likelihood is at 7am they'll already have reached the beach and be setting off for the ride home.

At about 2am I started to feel a little cold. I decided to change into my long, waterproof trousers and extra (merino wool) jumper at the food stop. I checked the instructions to see where we were, about 60 miles into the ride and therefore close to the food stop at 63 miles. I checked it against my cyclomputer - about 50 miles. There was a discrepancy! I realised both miles and kms were on the route sheet. The food-stop was not at 60 kms distance, it was at 80 kms distance, or 60 miles. The next 10 miles were long, and a little cold to say the least but fuelled by Bill catching us up. This is the first time Bill has done the dynamo and at 2am must have been feeling the same as me because Bill was also still in shorts but unlike me, was just in a teeshirt on top, a hint of builders' bum showing where his teeshirt was not-quite a proper cycling jersey (scalloped at the back bottom hem to keep you warm where it matters). My sudden moment of route-sheet checking paid off as we entered the town of Sudbury (one could describe it as sleepy but then it was 2:30am) and thankfully didn't miss the turn-off to the village where dinner awaited.

Thoughts of a steaming warm seat in a massive village hall were shattered only by the line of steamy cold cyclists queueing out the door. There was no avoiding the wait - everyone was as desperate as everyone else. I joined the line and TSK parked the bikes (in a heap on the grass - it is 2am) and switched out the lights. Soon we reached the doorway where the limits of personal space disappeared and everyone huddled ever-closer to the knees of the person in front, the tantalising warm breeze of a hundred steamy bodies drawing us in. Helmets - the small respite from the rain - came off, as did soalked-wet track mits which were squeezed-out over the sodden floor.

The lady behind me had reassured her mum there would be marshalls, I didn't remind mine that I was doing the ride this weekend so as not to worry her. We discussed how much further beyond half-way we were. With 63 miles under our belt and a total of 116 to do (not 120) we were much further beyond half way.

A happy bunch of volunteers organises the food for the ride. They are from a charity organisation, someone like FoE. I should find out who and credit them. Their soup was reassuringly hot and salty. The pasta salad vinegaretted (not mayo'ed thank god) and full of fresh veg and vatted into big blue storage boxes - of which there were reassuringly many. The tea was sweet (though that's thanks to TSK) and the coffee, though bulk, was served to TSK's request, with three teaspoons of Maxwell House in the cup.

Diner a deux heures et demi le matin

We stood to eat, swooping finally into a departing person's seat which we shared until another party vacated and we were joined by a couple heading homeward, discussing the virtues of a dry top to wear now over keeping it dry until the finishline.

Getting into my dry top and waterproof leggings (for warmth more than rain-proofing) I felt better, until I realised I still had to dig my soggy ass out to go to the loo. Once outside, we found it suddenly hoarishly cold and it took us a lot of grunting and half-hearted sprinting to warm-up again, particularly to warm my fingers, though my full finger fleeced gloves seemed a little over-the-top for July.

The 2.5 hours between the food stop and the start of sunrise seemed litterally to fly-by. I had a new chore to occupy me. Allegedly there are people who stop at the food stop until 6am then ride the rest of the route to the finish - entirely valid, so long as you don't want to get the bus back to London. There are obviously those who find the food station too hard to leave and phone for their mums, boyfriends, dads, wives etc. to come and rescue them. There are also those who take up residence for much longer than the time requried to repair and replenish. So the road beyond is less well populated and to be fair, it's a bit too much to expect the people who do the candles to set them up all the way to the beach. This makes routesheet reading essential, particularly so as not to miss the first turning which is warned to you in bold, "do not miss this remote turn".

A successful two hours of negotiating turns in the dark ensued and I am very proud. Trust me, reading a route-sheet and riding at the same time is one thing. Reading a route-sheet and riding in the dark has totally new balance issues. Doing it using an extremely powerful LED torch which blinds the eyes when reflected off white paper wrapped in see-through plastic and then looking back at the road illuminated by a partly-obscured LED torch is furthermore, unbelievable.

Then I came unstuck. I missed one instruction on the route sheet which had us (and five other guys who had lost their route sheet and decided to follow us) turning left instead of right. To my credit, I realised the mistake after about a mile and we dug the ever-soggier map out and retraced our steps, satisfied that there were no other groups making the same mistake. When we reached the next village, in my fatigued state, I was sure it was the village we had just assumed we'd come from. As I stopped to again check the map, a fleet of other riders came along and swept up my five followers who continued with a gracious, "Thanks for the help". Though I tried to feel bad for getting them lost, I knew we were all tired and they were at fault for relying on anyone else and could only feel good for recognising my mistake early.

As dawn reared at about 5 (reassuringly ahead of us in the East) we found a cosy place (sheltered) to stop and fix TSK's slow puncture, thankfully the only puncture we had. Around the corner we came across a country-park where there were toilets, blissful toilets, as I'd found it mighty-difficult to take a pee in the long-grass, down side roads, with 50-odd cyclists careering about with powerful torches (and probably with the same thing on their mind). Somehow, the cyclist sleeping underneath the sinks in the toilet block didn't worry me when I had my own cubicle. I even stopped to see if the gentleman was OK before I continued on my ride.

We made one more stop in honour of a casualty, an 18-year-old that I suspect had fallen asleep at the wheel and dropped himself head-first into something, potentially a ditch but possibly his own handlebars before hitting the road. He was a little cut across the face. As TSK asked, "did we bring the first aid kit?" I suddenly realised how rediculous it was that we hadn't. I rode along to try and find out if the road we were on had a name but finally the ambulance service agreed to use their brains to determine the location based on a description that came from a route-sheet and our slightly soggy map. He was patched-up and driven to the nearest train station by the kindly ambulance crew who, beyond stopping the bleeding could do nothing more to help.

Now that I could read my route-sheet in the daylight and our flashy red lights were switched off I was on a roll. Though the last 30 miles seemed to (did) roll past slower than any other, they were the easiest to navigate and an increasing band of riders joined us (or rode ahead and then waited for us) for the blissful assistance of my handlebar map bag and reasonably accurate cyclomputer which navigated us around tricky country-lanes, at one point flying through a TL,TR (turn left turn right) junction past the five doubters who had dropped us in the dark earlier.

As the sun rose further into the sky, I found myself leading a small group of routeless riders and the ultimate boost came to my self-confidence as a big man on a bike with TT flat-profile handlebars stopped at the top of a hill letting TSK and I - the hardened long distance riders - carry on whilst he rested his saddle-weary backside, a pained look on his face. (I also think this made me glad that I brought my sofa-of-a-bike instead of the lightweight, Red)

Finally, after hours of rain, the sun not only came up but it also came out and for the first time all night I started to feel tired as my eyelids closed to filter out the unfamiliar silvery surface that was suddenly the road in front of us (my sunglasses were waiting at the beach for me in order to save weight on the over-night ride).

There aren't so-much false-summits on the way to the beach, but a series of undulating valleys which gradually reduce the elevation all the way to the final descent, meaning that there's a number of climbs but also that suddenly, we were at the ruined abbey on the descent to the beach. I knew where I was and I could see the sea. Two corners and at 7:30am we were there, a hundred bikes again fighting for space to lean against walls or get piled in the sand.

First reaction is not to throw yourself into the ocean as a frivilous finale to the journey, but rather to head straight for the café for food. The option of breakfast of any kind of greasiness was not instantly appealing to me, but watching TSK chowing down on full English as I nibbled at my brown scone, I was tempted into veggie goodness and large volumes of tea.


Next stop was the beach and stripping off to just shorts and jersey, a brisk brief swim with a bloke who'd completed the ride in a kilt and was now swimming commando and ladies with green and pink hair. Very refreshing and I believe, despite the colour of the water, I felt much cleaner than I had done 10 minutes earlier. More food and tea then crawling into the back of the Vanu, ready equipped with a matress, sleeping bags and pillows whilst others chose the more hardy option of a silver blanket on the beach.

Had it not been for a lovely noisy family pitching up in the vehicle next to us and someone playing Radio 3 at full blast (what? Radio 3 asbos?) I think I might've slept longer than 1pm but my body begged to be emptied and refilled so we watched three coach-loads of weary bikers head off from the car park back to London then set off on our own journey back to the Fenlands.

The Dunwich Dynamo was an experience, not a race. The distance is one thing (though I've done that once before) but on top is finding out if it's possible over night, sharing the experience with a (few) hundred others and the joy of riding into the sunrise and the thrill of the sea at the end.

Notes on the Dunwich Dynamo:
  • It's entirely free and you don't need to register. It's not organised by anyone and as such is unsupported. You need to be prepared to call a friend for help, get a taxi or a train or sleep under a bush until daylight when you can figure out what to do next. Except for the coaches from the finish point back to London there is no sag waggon.
  • Your best chances of getting your bike to finish the route rest on a well-maintained bike with tyres at the right pressure and knowing how to fix minor problems, including punctures
  • Your best chances of getting your body to finish the route rest on training, some long distance rides as practice and carrying high energy food to keep you going outside the food stop (remember shops are shut). Each of us consumed a bag of nuts and dried fruit added to by a cup of soup, roll and plate of pasta salad at the food stop, a banana each at 5am and I ate 5 dextrose tabs to get me over the last rolling valleys.
  • Your best chance of getting your mind to finish the route rests with... well, rest and a bit of adjustment. We kind of practiced as we were up late moving vehicles around the country on Friday night so we could leave the Vanu in Dunwich then drive to London. We slept in until 10am on Saturday morning then went for a big breakfast, had a walk and went back to bed to sleep from 1pm until 3pm. We ate some pasta and did very little until leaving the house at 7 to start the ride. People suggest steering clear of alcohol in the week leading up to the ride (which we did) and I'd recommend avoiding it during the ride to avoid falling asleep on the way.
Ever present, the credits.
  • To Jo - for putting us up when the rail services let us down.
  • To the volunteers - friendly happy people at the food station and those who help hundreds of cyclists discover and complete the route and get home again afterwards.
  • To mother nature for putting the sun out so I felt like a swim in the morning
  • To TSK for knowing I could do it (someone had to)
  • To my brane - for surprising me with your versatility
  • To my parents - for bringing me up to think it's a reasonable thing to achieve.
  • To the public - for not waking up, or if you did, for ignoring us and going back to sleep (not forgetting the naked bloke in his living room who gave us a laugh at about 1.30am)
  • To the staff at the Dunwich café - for serving with a smile, shouting loud enough to wake up customers who've ordered then fallen asleep and clearing up after very tired very sweaty people.
  • To the riders - those who finished safely and those who had a go - because it's nice to know there's so many other people out there that are prepared to break the mould.
See you next year? (because last night I didn't think I'd do it again but this morning I've changed my mind).

Le plan après la route
And if you can't read the bit at the bottom, it says,

"In England - Where there has to be a product - they ask, 'Is it for charity?'"
"In Flanders, Italy, Spain or Rural France - where lunacy is celebrated they say, "
"'What Beautiful Madness'"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The race bug has bitten

It's our second time-trial event tonight. Having written-off my old wheels pushing them around on an extremely wet course last week at the first event for 5 years, I am riding tonight on Green. Red will be standing at home looking sorry for herself until the new wheels arrive next week.

Meanwhile I have bought a holdall to avoid having to pay Easyjet lots of money for each of our individual (relatively small) panier bags when we go cycle touring in the south of France.

More importantly, I have invested in a top cyclomputer that measures altitude! giving me lots of more of exciting stats on our holiday.

In additional to our lots of shiny lights for the Dunwich Dynamo this weekend. That's a lotta shopping.

Wiggle me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Tough Days

Driving an hour to an intense meeting which lasts until lunch and largely consists of meat-based fatty products - sausage rolls et al.

Standing at a water treatment works on top of a reservoir looking across Cambridgeshire at the water tower next to Ely Cathedral under the guise of estimating the height of the water tower (allowing for the curvature of the earth) but really talking bollocks so we (customer included) can all enjoy the sunshine for once instead of sitting in an office.

Driving back to face demands that I print out everyone's timesheet for the last month and complications on how we will allocate the time for the excessive "general" meetings I am dragged into regularly (resulting in me booking more time to the "general wastage of my time" code.

Wishing people would just listen to me in the first place and accept that it makes their life easier and gets us all out of work earlier.

Doing my first 6.5 mile time trial in 20m:45s. TSK was second over-all. I was first lady. I got a cup and everything. There were only 6 participants because we drove there through a massive thunderstorm. The supporting club members were very friendly and we will be going out with them again, starting with a real 10 mile time trial with the club next Thursday.

Going home to shower then straight out to the pub for leaving drinks with a colleague. I could've done without it but I didn't want to miss it.

Getting burger and chips on the way home.

Lie-in the next day courtesy of flexitime - priceless.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Small World

I've found myself in a group at work. It's not a clique. It's not "my team". It's a bunch of people who sit close and get on. We have similar frustrations and share eachothers pain and joys throughout the dundrum of the working day.

Bobby comes and fixes the computers. Recently Bobby has decided I'm in his group. Bobby's a spammer. I nearly asked him to stop the other day because it can be distracting.

Today he sent me these.

They're good. They're not side-splitting. They're impressive, they're not totally relevant - but are they?

They're familiar.

Are they taken on Vancouver Island? The mountains are too close to the water (apologies to Tofino, they could be there).

No. They're taken at Harrison Hot Springs. One of my favourite places in the lower mainland.


Friends - those who fleet in and out of other lives. I shall email him tomorrow and say, "Bin there"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Another weekend of wedding

This time was the turn of TSK's family when Cuz Rich married Louisa.

TSK's dad kindly drove us all down to Somerset so that I could have some rest. We got there early so went for a walk along a bay known as "Blue Anchor". There was a view over to the South Wales coast and impressive crags changing from sandstone(?)-red to clay(?)-grey. I had my wedding shoes on so TSK's mum and I walked barefoot across the sand. It was an excellent start to the day.

It was a wedding without many children but guests were encouraged to bring their pets. This gave two eager pups (one of whom was fang on her day-off) the opportunity to embezzle as many canapés as possible before, woofing once or twice through the speeches, guzzling a good volume of water (or vodka, who knows?) and passing out under the table amongst shoes and handbags.

Otherwise, it was a regular kind of wedding. Med showed that when she's not being a pretty, she packs a mean punch. Her first official fight is in September.

There were handsome men.

And running bridesmaids.
And of course, a bride and groom.

Then the weirdest thing anyone ever said to me happened,

"So have you ever been to a wedding like this before then? Cos I haven't"

And as half a glass of champagne landed on my lap and I thought, "why is it always me?" I said, "yes, many".