Lands End Tomorrow…

I am in the final stages of packing, unpacking, and packing again. It is nuts. It shouldn’t be too hard really, but ultimately I just don’t know what to take. If this was summer it would so much easier, but I really don’t know if I am going to be hot or cold, wet or dry. My bag is however packed, and so it is going as is. I have about 200,000 energy bars and gel sachets, remembering vividly as I do that on Kilimanjaro I was woefully short on everything in that department.

I have also got my bike as ready as it is going to be. I cleaned it for starters, and I hate cleaning pretty much anything, so that was an effort I can tell you. I also have inner tubes, spare contact lenses, a pump, two bottle cages, gloves, a multi tool and various other things attached to it one way or another, and also it was serviced just last week, so hopefully it won’t let me down. What am I saying? My bike won’t let me down at all – there is only one part of ‘man and machine’ that is likely to fail, and it is not the mechanical one I assure you.

I have also just been reacquainting myself with the route – and so here is how my first day looks:

Leaving at 7.40 am, and call through or nearby:

Lands End / Penzance / Redruth / St Austell / Liskeard / Callington / Tavistock

Pit stops at –

27 miles:
St Aubyns Arms, Praze-an-Beeble, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 0JR.

57 miles (Lunch):
Falmouth Arms, Ladock, Truro, Cornwall, TR2 4PG.

78 miles:
The Crown Inn, Lanlivery, near Bodmin, Cornwall, PL30 5BT.

Total distance is apparently 96 miles. Coupled with the forecast easterly wind, and some of those hills shown above (click on the map links to make them bigger by the way), it cannot possibly be anything other than horrible. And guess what the most horrible thing is? Yes, you did notice didn’t you? Every stop is a bloody pub!

And it gets worse (yes, every stop at every point on the way for the following three days is a pub as well). And also, just look, if you will at the profile of the first stage on day two, after we wake up with nasty horrible painful legs and sore heads:

Doesn’t it look just not very funny in the slightest? 1,500 feet I ask you!

But I cannot wait – I just want it all to start. Thank you to everyone for helping me with either good wishes, donations, or just in putting up me being a very much distracted basket case, for this past few weeks/months.

So tomorrow I will get up at 6am and be on my way to Lands End. My first time there, and hoping for an outstanding experience, which I am sure it will be one way or another.

I intend, and very much hope, as so may people have said to me, to ‘be safe’……..and I hope also to be able to update my blog briefly with progress on a daily basis too.

So, to Cornwall……and beyond!

Cakeholed??

So here I am with just two days to go. It is very much the calm before the storm, and I wish that it was here already. It is hard to get the balance right – I can’t (or daren’t) drink, I am trying to shove carbs down my neck at a rate of knots, and can’t go out on a long bike ride as I am supposed to be resting. It is therefore very frustrating.

I have been in the meantime trying to get packed. My attempt at getting all of my stuff into ( my daughter’s) 70 litre rucksack have proved impossible, and so I am experimenting with various other bags. I can only take one under the regulations, and it has to weigh less than 15kg. That is a tall order, at best. My bike stuff alone takes up the whole of the bag and all 15kg worth.

I also had an email from the GBBR folks today. Everything looks to be well in order, and all is set for the off. I did get confused however by one instruction. We have been asked to bring 20 £1 coins as apparently there are various fines for who knows what, and then also we were told that if we didn’t pay them on the spot, we would be “cakeholed by Cake Hole Kate”. What? I mean, what on earth is that about? I have googled the term ‘cakeholed’ to no avail whatsoever, and so if anyone has the slightest clue, then ‘answers on a postcard’ as they say.

So tomorrow is my final day before I go to Lands End. I may when I eventually get there find out what cakehole means (other than the thing that I have been merrily shoving pasta into and no wine or beer into). I may even be tempted not to pay my fine so I can get cakeholed myself. Who knows what awaits!

Final post tomorrow before my ride, and lots of final thoughts and trepidations no doubt. The nerves are jangling………..

Four Days to Go!

This is getting ridiculous – four days is very very scary indeed.

I have also had a rather poor week on the preparation front. For a start the weather has been atrocious, secondly I have had too may distractions, third I have absolutely no will power whatsoever. Take yesterday for example – I was originally going to not drink at all this week so as to cleanse the system ready for next week. But Wednesday night I got asked out for a curry, and well, one beer led to another, so that was pretty bad. I woke up slightly hanging, and then trotted off to Lords where I was being ‘entertained’ at the England Pakistan test match. As I got there the heavens opened, and my hosts asked if I wanted to ‘go for a coffee’, which sounded like a good idea. When we got to the erm, coffee area, it looked remarkably like a Veuve Cliquot champagne area to me, and so when they asked me “coffee or champagne sir?” that was a bit like asking me if I wanted to be punched in the face or given a lifetime pass to the Oktoberfest, and so my answer was very easy.

Apologies to anyone in this picture who was supposed to be 'working from home' yesterday.....

The rest of the day sort of happened in a similar vein really. There was a little bit of cricket inbetween, but actually only 12 overs in total, lasting about 45 minutes. My view of the pitch was a great one, being just at the edge of the pavilion/MCC balcony, but the pitch looked like this for much of the day:

Nice weather for ducks....

So for the other 8 or so hours that I was in the ground, we just had to take shelter in the Corporate Hospitality areas, and very nice they were too.

Not very good preparation for a 340 mile bike ride really, but never mind.

I did also pick up my rail tickets yesterday to get me to Lands End. I was rather surprised to find that I need eight, yes EIGHT tickets to get me on a single train journey. How ridiculous is that? It just annoys me as it is such a waste of trees – you would think they could do these things electronically these days.

Anyway – I have the Bank Holiday weekend ahead of me now. Just three days of preparations to go. I need to do a couple of easy cycle rides, buy a lot of things that I don’t so far have (I like leaving things to the last minute, makes it more exciting that way:)), then pack for the big event. Meantime I have to carb-load too, and so it is a weekend of pasta, brown rice, raisins and beans for me. Oh and no booze. I just dearly hope that no-one asks me out for a curry or to any more cricket matches……

Some Cycling Do’s and Don’ts

So after my ‘wealth’ of experience gained over my 15 week road bicycling career, I have learned a huge amount, seriously. Some things you just learn (like you are going to need to carry fluids with you once you are riding for more than about an hour’s duration) out of necessity, others you learn by asking (like I had a terrible clicking noise one day, and found I could make it go away by adjusting the tension on the gear wire, or whatever it is called), and others you learn because you just have to (how to change an inner tube when you get a puncture).

You also learn a lot by reading stuff in cycling magazines or cycling forums. And cycling, like anything else, is full of its own buzzwords and jargon. I had no idea when I started what a crit was, or a granny ring, or a cassette. I didn’t for that matter know what SPD stood for, or crank, or compact, or what nipples were (and the latter might not be what you think they are:)).

Of course, like anything, cycling is so much more enjoyable when you actually know what you are doing, and also why you are doing it in a certain way. Some things are also however entirely counter-intuitive at first. An example of this is putting your saddle up so high as to be where your foot, when your leg is fully extended, just reaches the pedal. This seemed like way way too high for me at first, but when I learned that my legs got tired way quicker by not doing so, I found that literally a few millimetres (either way) can make a substantial difference over a lengthy ride.

Another example of something that is counter-intuitive is not wearing underwear. I mean, why, when you don’t know these things, would you even think of going out in your lycra shorts (some might say why wear lycra shorts at all of course:)) without underwear on? And who is supposed to tell you not to? Do you go and google “should I wear underpants when I cycle?” – would you even think to? I didn’t, of course, but I ultimately learned the answer. In fact if you do put the above into google, then one of the first answers that comes up is the following (copied from http://www.bikeforums.net):

“….Should one wear underwear under one’s bicycle shorts?

In a word: no.

In a lot more words: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

Am I making myself clear?

Bicycle shorts are designed to be worn next to the skin. Underwear under bike shorts is unhygenic, unsightly and unsafe. Wearing underwear under padded lycra shorts is like riding with your shorts full of ground glass. It is a one way ticket to chafesville. Don’t do it!

Remember the Underwear manifesto: No underwear under bike shorts for any reason ever. No Excuses.

Got it? Good……”

So that is that one cleared  up then!

As for other Do’s and Don’ts, well here are a few of them that I have picked up, in no particular order, as they say:

“Do:”

  1. Have your bike in good road order before you ride, and primarily check your tyre pressures every time you go out. The difference between 80 psi and 100 psi is massive, believe me.
  2. Take fluids with you, whether in a Camelback or bottles – you will need them. You can always stop at a shop somewhere but that doesn’t help you if you are gasping and are out in the country. In fact you should never get to being thirsty on your bike at all, always drink enough first to stop it happening.
  3. Wear a helmet. Always. Even for a five minute jaunt. It could save your life, need I say more?
  4. Wear bright coloured clothing. As a previously less considerate car driver than I am today, it is sometimes not as easy to see cyclists as it should be, particularly if they wear dark clothing. Don’t worry about looking like the sugar plum fairy, just “be safe and be seen”.
  5. Carry some basic maintenance things with you, like tyre levers, a spare inner tube or two, a pump, and a mini-tool. If you are 30 miles from home and have a problem, what are you going to do otherwise?
  6. Wear cycling shorts (without underwear:)) that are comfortable over long distances. Bib-shorts are best (in my opinion), but use chamois cream/nappy cream/Vaseline, and also watch out for where the straps come down over your nipples.
  7. Wear (sun)glasses of some description. They’ll protect you from bugs and other debris, as well as from the wind at speed.
  8. Concentrate, particularly when it is wet. Sounds obvious, but lack of concentration already cost me a fall and some blood (which should have been a lot worse). You need to have your wits about you at all times – remember that you will come off second best in any collision, and many road users are just not either used to, or happy about, bikes in general.
  9. Acknowledge other bike riders. When you ride on your own as I do, you pass a lot of other bikes too, and they are a nice friendly bunch. A simple wave or smile or nod can brighten your day a lot.
  10. Keep your mouth shut! I have so far had at least one bee in my mouth (thankfully it panicked more than I did and got out as quickly as it appeared), and particularly going downhill, a mouthful of something which is alive is at the very best going to be a horrible and awful-tasting distraction.
  11. Observe the rules of the road. It is very tempting to jump red lights etc., but the best you will do here is to piss off car drivers who can make things uncomfortable for you.
  12. Give clear hand signals. Car drivers need as much chance as possible to see you – give them every chance you can.

“Don’t:”

Pretty much the exact opposite of all of the above. I have really learned more than anything just how vulnerable I am as a cyclist on most British roads. A simple thing like a pothole (without being over dramatic about it) could kill you if you didn’t spot it and were going too fast. Other road users are generally not used to bikes, and there are seemingly so many more bikes on the roads than there used to be, and you are really really vulnerable out there. So my main “don’t”, above all, is to say “Don’t ever forget to be as safe as you can”.

Cycling is a fantastic sport/pastime/hobby. You get fit, you meet nice people, you see so much more of the countryside than you would in either a car or walking. I totally and absolutely get a huge amount of pleasure out of it, and I understand now the buzz that drives so many other people to spend a lot of their hard-earned money on it. It is an incredibly, well, ‘passionate’ thing to get involved in. Long long may that passion continue for me.

I have a new cassette!

Now one of the things that I have been worried about most in terms of the ride are the hills. Distance is one thing (and apparently the ride has gone up now to 344 miles I think), but hills are quite another. Give me 50 miles of nice flat terrain (preferably with a following wind:)) and I am pretty happy, but give me a nasty hill and I am off the bike and walking. They hurt everything for me, just don’t like them.

So when I was originally choosing my bike, I looked at the good advice on the GBBR website, which I quote from below:

“……When choosing a bike we recommend that you chose the correct gear ratios. You will need three/triple chain rings on the front and most bikes nowadays have 8/9/10 gears on the back. Due to the length and steepness of some of the climbs we suggest that you have an easy gear so that you can keep spinning your legs.

If you only have two/double rings on the front then it is vital that you have a greater range of gears on the back. You will need a 27 tooth gear to get up the climbs (in less if you are very, very fit). Even so we highly recommend that you have the option to use easy gears if/when you need them…….”

So did I get a bike with a triple chainring on the front? Nope. Did I get a bike with a 27 tooth gear on the back? Nope!

I have of course known this for a long time, but as I have had the luxury of cycling round Oxfordshire all the time, it hasn’t mattered much as of yet. Oxfordshire you see bears as much resemblance to Cornwall as Norfolk does to the Himalayas. They are very very different creatures. And yet still there are hills around Oxfordshire where I have to get off and walk. Doesn’t bode well does it? Not that there is any shame in walking (in fact I have no shame at all, as others may testify), but I do want to try to finish the ride after all.

So anyway, since I am now tapering, I thought I would get myself a new cassette fitted. I duly went to Beeline Cycles on the Cowley Road in Oxford (url below, highly recommended shop by the way) and asked them if they could fit me a new cassette. I was offered an array of different types, and in the end plumped for an 11-28, which I am hoping does the job. They advised me that I would be wise to have a new chain fitted with the new cassette to make sure that they match, and so I did just that. They also serviced my bike for me at the same time, checking all joints, cables, brakes etc etc., and finally gave it a nice clean for me. So I am good to go for those hills, now I have no excuse!

http://www.beelinebicycles.co.uk/about-us-_5/

I went out for a spin at lunchtime today, and put in about 25 miles with my new gearing. It will take a little getting used to, as not just the top configuration, but many of the other gears are different too. I could have thought of this a long time ago, but as I am such a great procrastinator then it would never have happened! No chance to try out hills, they’ll have to wait until Cornwall, I am tapering after all:)

OK, so here I am with less than seven days to go. Bloody hell!

Tomorrow I am going to put down here some cycling “Do’s and Don’ts”, as I have learned so much in these last fifteen weeks. Until then…..

Tapering

So that is it. I am actually now officially tapering. For those who don’t know, and I was one of them until about 20 minutes ago, tapering is where you reduce your activities prior to a big event in order to optimise performance. The idea is that heavy activity depletes glycogen and muscle stores, and so you should refrain from it for a ‘period in time’ depending upon your event. Those nice people at the GBBR have suggested a week, and as there are nine days to go, then that sounds about good enough for me. You don’t stop altogether of course, as that would be counterproductive, and so I will be out every couple of days to do just 25 miles or so to keep the legs and muscles ticking over.

But no more endurance rides – hurrah! They are not just very hard work, but do take up so much time. Take this weekend for example. Yesterday I cycled about 75 miles, starting at 10am and finishing around 3. By the time I had prepped, recovered (slowly I might add), showered etc, the day was mostly over. There are surely better things to do on a Saturday than to pound the hills of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire than that. And what do you mean ‘there aren’t any hills in Hampshire’ – oh yes there are, I have the sore legs to prove it! Today I did 65, and I had had enough by about 6.5, and so goodness knows what it is going to be like in just nine days time when we face the hills of Cornwall.

In fact a thought came to me this morning as I was cycling along in Gloucestershire somewhere, trying to keep myself amused/awake etc., and that is the difference between how cycling is now and when I started this little adventure. That is, when I rode my bike for the very first time, some 3 months ago, I was knackered after about two miles, and wanted to turn round and go home. Today, when I went out, I was also knackered after about two miles and wanted to go home. The big difference is, that three months ago I did just that and went home. Today I carried on for another 65 miles, and whilst I would be lying if I said that I was feeling great all the way, I have certainly come a long long way. I am tired though, very very tired. Last night was a Saturday night, and I was in bed asleep by 9.40pm. Now that for me is both unheard of, and very sad. I intend to make up for it rather a bit when all this malarkey is over, I can tell you. Did I mention I was going to the Oktoberfest?:D

I have completed 172 miles this last week, and will cycle now every other day until Lands End for just 20 miles or so, and just ‘spin the legs’ as I have been advised to do. Hopefully it works, this is all unchartered territory for me. I mustn’t also lose sight of the fact that I did badly overall in my training schedule. I don’t know how well you can see this below, but here is my somewhat childlike wall chart that I have been keeping going for the last fifteen weeks or whatever it is. I think it shows, amongst other things, that I achieved my weekly target just three times out of fifteen:

A child of three did not create this I am afraid:)

Still, I have done over 1,000 miles since I started, and I cannot be too disappointed with that.

I have a feeling though that in about two weeks time a “Steve Redgrave” moment will be approaching. Not in the success stakes I hasten to add, but in a twist of his now infamous quote after he won his last Olympic medal. In my case therefore it will be something like: “If anyone sees me on a bike ever again, they have my permission to shoot me”.

So anyway, for now, let the tapering begin!

Kilimanjaro!

I haven’t mentioned Kilimanjaro on my blog for a while, but don’t for a moment think it leaves me ever, not even for a day. My blog statistics alone serve to remind me of this every time I log in, as the post “the summit….” or whatever it was called, had way more hits than any other post I did before or since, and so it sits there on the WordPress dashboard. I read the post again tonight in fact, spotted a couple of small typos and corrected them, and I actually cried with emotion at the recollection of Stella Point and Uhuru Peak, and everything in fact.

I feel so privileged to be able to say that I did it, and that feeling I am happy to say has not diminished at all. Paul and Darina, who visited me a couple of weekends ago, will be there in about three and half weeks time. I must write about that a little more sometime, but for now I wish them the very very best of luck on their trip. My thoughts will be very much with them throughout. If you happen to be reading this Darina/Paul, then if one of you would be so good to send me a text from the roof of Africa then that would make me very happy indeed. You’re going to make it both of you, I know it.

OK, so that was just a little indulgence for now. I have another important indulgence to sort out also, and that is the forthcoming Zugspitze/Oktoberfest trip – for starters I have to book some accommodation for the mountain where we will spend two nights. Did I tell you that I like mountains?:)

Right, so back to the cycling – I have today completed my long training rides, all of them, and so now I go into tapering mode. Whatever that is………