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.