Training & planning diary – 6 weeks to go.

Now we are on the final run up to the big day I thought I would start blogging my weekly training and preparation.  This is to show how difficult it can be to fit training in with life and to highlight ways it can be done, and ways it can fail spectacularly.

Monday 20th May
Back at work after the weekend and today I’m feeling particularly tired (nothing to do with having a big Eurovision party on Saturday night, honest!).  I leave work and turn left, away from my house, and cycle a loop which take me up a few long steep hills and back home 11 miles later.

Cycle to & from work: 14.88 Miles 

Tuesday 21st May
Tonight I have to drive up to Wales, in preparation for an interview in Manchester on Wednesday.  I intended to get up early to try and get something done but in reality, after getting my needed 7 hours sleep, I don’t have enough time to do anything other than breakfast and shower and pack for the next few days.  I managed to fit in some stretching in the morning as I’m trying to spend some time week working on my flexibility.  I also do some arm weight exercises (it’s hard work holding onto those handle bars!)

Cycle to & from work: 6.24 Miles
Stretching & weight exercises

Wednesday 22nd May
I had great plans to go on a run in Wales before setting off for my interview, or when I got back to Oxford, but in reality I was too nervous beforehand to do anything useful, and too tired after the drive home.  Let’s call this a complete rest day.

Thursday 23rd May
Today I work slightly later then usual, so I spend an hour in the morning doing stretching and weight exercises.  I should have done some cycling after work but I always find myself too hungry after getting home at 7 on a Thursday – must do better next week!

Cycle to & from work: 6.68 Miles
Stretching & weight exercises

Friday 24th May
I leave for work 5 minutes later then usual and make it to the end of the drive before I notice I have a flat tyre.  I’m not yet quick enough changing an inner tube in less than 5 minutes so I quickly grab my other bike and set off.

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Trustworthy Emma never lets me down…despite weighing more than a Audi

As this bike is made of lead (not true) and there was a horrendous gale force wind all day (also not true, but about 15 mph winds) I cycle to and from work standing up most of the way as it’s the only way to get any momentum, this feels like a real strenuous workout and I’m more than a little sweaty after powering up the hill back home.
Stretching & weight exercises
Cycle to & from work: 6.46 Miles

Saturday 25th May
I needed to make the most of my one day off this week so I planned a 70 miles route around South Oxfordshire and had set off by 8.30 Saturday morning.  Instead of doing a looped route I decided to come back the same route I went, which I don’t normally like doing but I’ve now realised does have some great advantages – those stretches of road I thought I was just being spectacularly slow on, turns out they were actually hills.  I went slightly off course as I missed a turning off a cycle path that wasn’t signposted and I realised almost immediately that I’d gone too far.  Instead of turning back on myself I thought it would be better to test my navigation by continuing on and still trying to find my way to where I was going.  It meant I got to stop for lunch in interesting places:

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The most epic park bench….for all your keeping dry needs

I did manage to find my way and I wasn’t too far off my original course.  After cycling a trouble free 35 miles down some lovely lanes and cycle paths and up one very steep hill, I turned around and started heading back.  Only 10 miles left to go I was already starting to think how I could maybe extend my day and add on a few extra miles, I knew Ryan and Megan were planning on 80 miles as well so maybe I could equal them.

Unfortunately my rear tyre had other ideas.  I think I probably hadn’t pumped it up hard enough on Friday night, and that combined with a very nasty pot hole meant I had another flat tyre.

Not a problem though, I could do this easily in less then 20 minutes.  I hoped off the bike, removed the tyre and reached for the spare inner tube I had grabbed from the cupboard that morning.  Disaster one, the inner tube was actually for my other bike, a totally different size!  Thankfully I had remembered at the last moment to put in the patches that Ryan had given me.  I managed to find the two holes and patched them up.  Pumping the tyre back up was another story, and another reason why I need to do more weight exercises.  I finally got it as hard as I could and set off….

For 1/2 a mile, until it was flat again.  This is when I realised a few things, such as how I don’t really know anyone in Oxfordshire with a car who could come and rescue me, and how I was in a village that seemed to have no cash machine or shops (and all I had with me was my usual debit card).  I’ve now realised the importance of having some emergency cash and the number of a taxi company!

Taking the tyre off again I could find no other holes, but the patches I’d put on before looked a little loose around the edges, I think they must have been quite old and they were letting air through,  I had one patch left so I stuck it down as best I could over the edges and once again pumped up the tyre.

The ride home was nervewracking and quite exhausting as I was looking carefully at the path in front of me in case any debris caused me further problems.  I could almost see my house and knew I only had two miles to go, I was so happy I was going to be able to complete the full 70 miles….and then my tyre was flat again!

Having no patches left I walked dejectedly for a few moments before I thought…ah ha!  Maybe it’s just got a slow puncture!  If I pump it up maybe I’ll make it the final 2 miles!  I pumped the tyre back up to capacity (those arm muscles again!) and I set off…for about a minute until the tyre was once again flat.  I walked the rest of the way home, depressed at not having made the full 70 miles.

Miles Cycled: 68.13
Miles walked: 2.57
Preparation: Saturday evening I purchased a multipack of inner tubes and a pack of self-adhesive patches.  Also, the last few days have been great practice for puncture repair training!

Sunday 26th May
Because I wasn’t able to cool down and stretch properly after my ride, having to spend 45 minutes walking instead, I woke up on Sunday morning with a lot more aches and pains then I was expecting.  Also, from all the stooping over to fix punctures and pump up tyres, my back and arms were in a lot of pain.  I had planned to do another long cycle on the morning but my lack of inner tube thwarted me.  Instead I did an hour of stretching and gentle back and arm exercises, which certainly made me feel a lot better…then it was off to work for the Sunday shift.

Cycle to & from work: 6.73 Miles
1 hour of Stretching exercises

Thoughts on last week:

It’s difficult trying to fit in really long rides, especially when you have to work 6 days out of 7, so I’m happy I had good weather for Saturday’s ride.  I wish I’d managed the full 70 miles but my pace was pretty good so I know I could have managed more in a reasonable time.

For the next week of training and preparation my goals are:  covering more miles after work; at least one indoor “hill climbing” session; looking into purchasing a new helmet; more stretching and strengthening exercises for my back and arms.

At the end of the next training week I may be doing my furthest distances ever as the whole team gets together for the weekend, so I also need a rest day or two this week…oh, and plenty of pasta eating!

Today’s Route!

Today's Route!

I drove to North Wales last night after a long week at work, to spend the weekend cycling with Ryan. Now for a great weekend ahead with 2 days of long distance routes and some good up-hill climbs around Snowdonia.

Today we’re doing a route that is roughly 40 miles each way to Abersoch and back, roughly 80 miles in total.

Nearly 5 weeks to go until the Switzerland trip!

77 miles to Nottingham – An iPhone battery life of 6 hours = 54 Miles to Kiveston Bridge train station and a very lost and disappointed Megan

Yesterday was my first ever solo long ride. The plan was to cycle the 78 miles from Dewsbury to Nottingham city centre via Barnsley, Rotherham, Chesterfield and a few more towns along the way. After setting off at 7.30am I was in high spirits, feeling really optimistic about the route ahead despite the persistent rain and grey sky. Image

 

I’d mapped my route using Google maps and had deliberately tried to stay on cycle routes  for the majority of the ride, with the logic that I’d build up more speed when there was no road traffic involved. Oh, how wrong I could be. The Trans Pennine Trail that ran down the side of Barnsley, The Dearne Valley, was far better suited to mountain biking. The majority of the trail followed the disused Barnsley canal, and the trail can’t have been more than a metre wide, and in some areas it was flanked by barbed wire on one side and a wooden fence on the other. This made my average speed drop drastically. After being so desperate to stick to cycle routes whilst planning my route, I was shocked when I wanted to join back onto the A roads again. 

Navigation wise, there were quite a few hiccups. I found it a lot easier on the roads, when I could remember street names and would recognise buildings and landmarks I’d seen on Google street view. However, my biggest mistake was the realisation that although I may be on the right road, granted, those roads go in 2 directions, and I may well be taking the wrong one. I learnt this on Rotherham road. Turns out I was cycling 2 miles in the wrong direction before I stopped and realised . Heading North instead of South it was a nice little 4 mile detour, I fancied the scenic route. 

Considering that the previous time I’d been out, with Ryan, I’d still found roundabouts a little daunting and cars entering made me quite on edge…this journey was quite positive. I found that my confidence on the roads was building and I felt very sure of myself when signalling and making sure I was safe. I just kept Ryan’s very good advice in my head the entire time : “Act like a car”. This worked on junctions and at traffic lights, and by keeping a more dominant position amongst the traffic I didn’t feel bullied into the curb. There were, however, a few morons overtaking me at high speed on blind corners on country lanes, but you know morons will be morons. 

The first “drama” of the day came in the form of a loose bottle on my first fast downhill descent. I hit 30mph and all of a sudden heard a loud crack. My first thought was that the back wheel had fallen off…but then I was still rolling on down so assumption number 2 was confirmed when I looked down and saw that I was one water bottle down. I pulled over and wandered back up the hill to find my new SIS water bottle laying empty on the side of the road.

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I still had 70 odd miles to do with about 100ml of water to guzzle. Only a small dilema obviously, as I would see many shops along the way, but it made me laugh all the same as ryan had told me a similar story that happened to him a while back. 

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The main drama of the day , which ultimately made me have to cut my route very short, was the draining of my iPhone battery. Mum had persuaded me to leave Google latitude on , so that she could track my progress throughout the day and not have kittens when I didn’t text to update her. This, unfortunately rinsed my battery, even though I turned it off after a couple of hours , realising that was the cause, it was already too late. I couldn’t navigate without the use of my google map app and felt really unsafe riding through woods and secluded roads without the use of phone in an emergency, so I started to worry about what to do . 

I was on the trans Pennine trail through Rother Valley national park when my phone died, and although feeling quite uncomfortable  I knew i’d find someone to ask for directions to a shop or cafe or something .

I came across the Rother Valley Activity centre, and after speaking to some very helpful people I ended up at the centre’s cafe asking for help. The Lovely staff in the office offered to charge my phone for a short while before they closed, which was a huge relief! So in true Jen style I got myself a cup of tea and some biscuits whilst I waited, and the sun began to shine..so It was a huge shame I wasn’t on my bike to enjoy it.Image

Rocking up in a high vis vest covered in mud I received a lot of interested questions asking where I’d come from , what my route was, questions about my road bike. One guy asked if I’d been doing bunny hops in swamps….I certainly looked as though I had been. 

Half an hour later my phone had 30% battery, enough to ring mum and whinge about my situation and ask what I should do. I really wanted to press on and reach Nottingham but time had gotten away from me and it was getting later and later, and my phone battery was never going to last, especially as the remainder of the route was going to be even more challenging and complex navigation wise.

This is the remainder of my route that I couldn’t do:

 

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So as disappointed and gutted as I was, I decided the wise thing to do was to cycle to a train station and get to Notts by train. 

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Cycling 54 miles in total, It’s the furthest I’ve gone alone and had to navigate by myself. I found navigating very challenging but at the same time I felt like I was getting the hang of navigating roads as the day progressed. Overall, I’m happy with how it went even though there were ups and downs , but I’m making the most of it and there’s definitelylessons to be learnt. 

One thing to note aswell, my stamina and “all day pace” as Ryan calls it were on top form, although I do need to learn when to eat and regain energy as I did flag a couple of times. Concentrating on navigating and reaching the next towns distracted me, so lesson to learn. 

Til next weekend and a long ride in Wales with Ryan!

7 weeks to go until the big trip  🙂

 

 

 

Rochdale and back : attempt number 2 SUCCESS

On Sunday Ryan and I woke up at 7am to set off to cycle to Rochdale and back , and get back home in time for our family roast dinner at 4pm . This was more than enough time for Ryan obviously , but factoring in my navigational skills, a few wrong turns and some initial screaming and nervous yelps on roundabouts it ended up taking us roughly 6 hours .

The route was pretty decent for the first 20 miles , heading along the cycle way, however once into Calderdale the standards of the cycle routes quickly deteriorate . Lots of potholes and cobbled pathways under bridges about a meter wide … Twice Ryan was convinced I was falling into the canal .
To which he said :
‘ I don’t know whether I’d rush you help you out or actually take a photo first ‘
I know what he would do .

Along the way we were met by lots of wonderfully considerate pedestrians , other cyclists, as it was a popular cycle route, and also some crazy dogs that threatened to dart across your path at any moment . A loose boxer dog at the edge of the canal is really quite intimidating .
What’s even more intimidating is cycling past a new mother goose and her ducklings … We had some very over protective, angry geese hissing at us as we went past .

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The rainy , muddy cycle ways were also a hindrance on our average speed and timings . Along the canal at one point we were getting off the bikes every 3 minutes to carry them over running water . ( Ryan has photos in sure he’ll blog them).
This , ofcourse, made me very muddy … As my wheels were kicking up a load of mud and water up my back and legs.

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Overall , it was a successful ride , considering the 55 miles ended with a steep uphill climb for 2.5 miles . Ryan said that I climbed it at a consistently faster pace compared to last time and I now feel my confidence building back up after last weeks badger of a ride.

In preparation for Wednesday’s 77 miles ride down to Nottingham I have purchased a Topeak handlebar IPhone dry bag . So this is the view my iPhone has on long journeys :

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Hopefully this’ll make navigation easier and time effective .

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Bike vs train

Last weekend was less of a Team Training event then a Team Fail, after I was too ill to cycle and Megan realised in an all too painful way that for some motorists we cyclists are wearing invisibility cloaks.  I would say that the weekend started off well, with a stress free and optimistic train journey north with my bike, but I’d be lying.

I feel I should clarify this post by highlighting that not all train companies hate cyclists, and that at least they’re trying…but I’d rather just moan about how horrible the whole experience was.

Online booking? What is this, the 21st century?
To reserve a space for your bike on a train (essential as they only have space for three bikes on every train and only two are bookable) it would be nice to simply click a button whilst booking online which said “Bike reservation required”.  But perhaps this is too much like hard work for the train companies to manage.  Luckily both trains I needed to catch to get from Oxford to Leeds were run by the same company, so I only had to phone up once to book a space.

Can I just put you on hold for a moment?

I don’t know why this particular train company doesn’t allow online reservation for bike space (though none of them do as far as I know) and then insist you phone up to a line that only works Monday-Friday 9-5.  So I found myself using my break time to stand outside the office and speak to a customer service adviser for 30 minutes to book my tickets and bike reservation.  I was put on hold twice, for 5 minutes each time, while she went off to first check that there was availability for my bike, and then to book it for me.  I wasn’t happy about reading out my card details over the phone, in the middle of the street but she refused to let me reserve a bike space without booking my ticket as well.

At the station

Never having travelled alone on the trains with just a bike for company, I noticed a few things I would not have noticed before.  Mainly, there is no where to lock up your bike inside or near the station.  As I had some time to wait for the train it might have been nice to go to the toilet, or queue up for the ticket machine without having to man handle my heavily laden bike into the small queue and not knock anyone over.  Also, if there was more than two of us with bikes there would be no way we could all get into the lifts together to get over to the correct platform.  As it was, I waited 10 minutes whilst others who also needed the lifts (wheelchair users, people with pushchairs and heavy luggage) used them first.  It’s a good job I wasn’t in a hurry to catch my train at this station!

Announcements is also somewhere that the station could help cyclists.  They announce how many carriages, which letter carriage is at the front and which end of the train is first class…but no announcement of which carriage the bike storage was in.  I asked a mildly helpful employee who told me it would be “somewhere in the middle” of the train.  The train arrived and I ran down the platform with my bike as the cycle storage was at the far end of the train.

Why sit in your reserve seat, when you can stand, squished up to someone’s armpit

I think most of us are familiar with squashing onto trains that are standing room only, but this is quite hard when you have a bike.  Generally people with large suitcases stand in the doorways and you have to squeeze past to stand in the aisles…not so easy when you’re getting on with a bike, and the bike storage area is in the doorway….and they’re standing in the bike storage area with their suitcases.  Also not easy when you can’t just wheel your bike into a space, but you have to stand it up and one-wheel it into a small space and then lift it up so that it can hang from the ceiling hook:

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The more spacious of the bike storage on this train

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Because a doorway is the best area to allow cyclists easy access onto and off the train.

I came away from this experience a bit battered and bruised, but eventually the bike was on the train and I was ready to go and find my seat….easier said then done.  The train was so packed that I found myself squished down a central aisle between lots of other people unable to find a seat.  I waited until the train was pulling in to the next station and battled my way back to the door.  On arrival I ran down the platform and jumped onto the carriage with my reserved seat.

So far away

In an ideal world it would be nice if every carriage had bike storage, or even if there was bike storage and the front and back of the train.  Unfortunately Crosscountry Trains don’t live in an ideal world, so as we approached Birmingham New Street station, where I needed to change trains, I had to battle my way back through the standing people from my seat at the front of the train, to my bike at the back.

Which way?

Unfortunately there was a delay in our arrival due to some pesky kids playing on the train track in front of us, not the fault of the train company at all.  As we approached I quickly checked on my phone to see what platform my next train was leaving from, thank heavens for modern technology!  On arrival in Birmingham I really began to discover what it must be like for anyone travelling with lots of heavy luggage or pushchairs, or for the millions of wheelchair users who must miss trains on such a regular basis that there’s little point in travelling by public transport. Getting off the train there were no signs that I could see telling me which way to go for the lifts.  I followed a sign which said “other platforms” but this led to.  I ran on for a bit more before I found the lifts and just managed to squeeze in my standing my bike up on one wheel and slightly terrifying a toddler in a buggy (sorry!).  Looking for the next platform I quickly realised that I could see no signs for a lift to get down there, and realising I had about one minute before the train was departing I flung my heavy pannier bag over one shoulder and grabbed my bike with the other arm and ran down the escalators   Getting on to the very long platform I was hurried by a staff member as the train was at the far end and I ran to where the bike storage was.  Unfortunately the doorway was once again packed with people who stood and looked at me like I was crazy.  I had to call for a member of staff who was incredibly annoyed that I was delaying the train, and this nice man yelled at the passengers to move out of the way so I could get on with my bike.

“We encourage the integrated use of cycles and trains – two convenient and environmentally friendly forms of transport”

I’ve taken a bike on a train before, and it’s fine when you are only going on one train, with no connections, and there is enough seats on the train that passengers don’t have to stand in doorways and block the cycle storage.  Sometimes getting into the station and on to the platform can take a while, with the amount of lifts you have to get to get from one side to the other, but it’s really not too much of an inconvenience.  However, I would dispute the statements from most train companies that they encourage people to bring their bikes onto trains.  In fact, I find this statement laughable.  It seems train companies want to encourage people to use bikes, except when the trains are busy, or when there are more then three bikes (if Team Pedal were travelling by train we couldn’t reserve spaces, as most train companies only have two reservable spaces).

Taking my bike on a train is an option, I don’t have to do it and in future I probably wont unless I can’t avoid it.  However, if instead of a bike I had to do this journey in a wheelchair, there would be no way I would have made that connection.  I don’t know of any wheelchair users who would be able to get up, pick up the chair and run down an escalator with it!

biketrain

A vision for the future?

Car collision fun

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So, a disappointing end to the May Team Pedal training weekend. I was in charge of route planning and navigation, and was really excited about the route I’d planned down towards Stocksbridge and then all around Huddersfield, overall racking up 78 miles in good time.

We set off, sans Jen as she was under the weather, in high spirits and I was optimistic that I could finally navigate a whole route successfully.

The first 7 miles were pretty easy as we followed the cycle route towards Dewsbury, and then we quickly got on our way following a few A roads, hitting a couple of hills, getting to a certain point then turning back to take the correct exit. It was an interesting morning and the route was proving to be quite enjoyable.

Me and Ryan were just heading down an A road that connected the two villages we were cycling through, and came to a roundabout. I’m pretty confident with roundabouts, I enter them at speed , I’m comfortable with my signalling and this time was no different. Ryan was about 20ft ahead of me, already at the exit, and I was just rounding the roundabout signalling to exit and a car pulled out onto the roundabout without seeing me. From what I can remember I tried to veer back to hug the centre of the roundabout to get out of the cars way, but not fast enough, the car hit me and knocked me off my bike. Luckily, I was no worse off than a throbbing right side and a sore head, no broken bones or blood (aside from a slight cut to the ankle), but my bike , however, is in the wars.

My rear wheel was pinned under the car causing it to bend, damaging the rear derailleur and the structure of the wheel. Yesterday was spent attempting to truer the wheel, but alas it has to be replaced, along with a new derailleur.

A few more minor damages include my wind jacket and clippy shoes, they were ripped and damaged on the road, and over all my helmet… which has some pretty hefty cracks and dents in the structure. Jen made a very good point on the IMPORTANCE OF HELMETS when she pointed at the crack that now runs all up the right hand side and said: “see, imagine if that was your skull”. The thwack that my head made when it hit the ground (and this was only a very minor accident) was enough to freak me out and give me some rotten headaches for the next day, so thinking about the consequences of not having a helmet on for a fall like that is pretty scary. I’ll definitely be investing in another Giro Monza helmet again, thats for sure.

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