Thanks, a last minute appeal, and GoPro testing

On Thursday we set off for our 1000 mile cycle to Switzerland. We’ve made good progress with sponsorship but we still need a bit more to reach our targets so spread the word and gently coerce everyone into helping out!

We’ve been helped along the way by too many people to list, and we haven’t even set off yet, so if you’ve provided technical assistance, gadgetry, donations, moral support or even just friendly banter: cheers! Your reward is getting to see me looking silly for a couple of minutes… enjoy:

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Training & planning diary – 3 weeks to go

The past week was an interesting one, in which I didn’t do as much outdoor cycling as I was expecting due to the pesky British weather.  I did however watch a lot of episodes of The West Wing (obviously whilst cycling indoors, though occasionally with a cup of tea and not on a bike) and I made myself a little more broke purchasing some much-needed kit for the trip.  Here’s a little round-up of what I got up to last week:

Monday 10th June
Today I didn’t get home from work until 7pm, due to covering a late shift.  So instead of going on a planned outing I attached the bike to the turbo trainer and attempted to do as many sprints up hill as I could manage.  I did an hour before I ran out of energy, pushing myself as hard as I could certainly builds up an appetite.

Miles cycled: 6.83 miles to work & back
Time on turbo trainer: 1 hour

Tuesday 11th June
With all the bother I’ve had recently with my eyes (bugs, dust and wind are not kind to eye health) I finally took the plunge and booked an appointment with the optician.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get contact lenses to fit my bizarrely shaped eyes so I can wear wraparound sunglasses and stop a lot of these problems occurring.  I’m also going to need to speak to them about how my eye is still hurting after getting something in it last Saturday, the appointment is on Friday after work.

As much fun as it is cycling in torrential rain I decided against it today and went home after work and did another stint on the turbo trainer.  This time I didn’t do any sprints, just continual uphill for an hour

Miles cycled: 6.49 miles to work & back
Time on turbo trainer: 1 hour

Wednesday 12th June
Today I’m working late again and I arrive in the office to find my new frame has been delivered a lot earlier then we expected:

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And now I just have to get it home some how!

After work, despite the threat of rain from the ominous looking clouds, I think I might be able to squeeze in a few extra miles so I go for a little detour, I think I made it about 20 seconds down the road before the torrential rain started, so I hastily retreated and dragged my drenched self home.  Once I’d dried myself off I did a bit of indoor cycling and watched the rain pour down from the warm safety of the front room.

Miles cycled: 7.87 miles to work and back with a mini detour in the rain
Time on turbo trainer: 1.5 hours

Thursday 13th June
Thursday was almost a rest day, as I was working in a different part of Oxford which I decided might be quicker to drive to.  In hindsight it would have been easier to cycle as I sat in a lot of traffic jams watching cyclists sail past me.  Once home I hopped on the bike and watched a few more West Wing episodes whilst climbing up some big hills.

Time on turbo trainer: 2 hours

Friday 14th June
Friday was my first rest day of the week and I really needed it!  After work I went to the opticians where I had my eyes tested and poked for two hours.  Thankfully there was nothing still in my eye from the weekend, but I do have some very dry patches for which I was prescribed some fake tears to use for a week.  Naturally they didn’t have my contact lenses in stock as I have weird shaped eyes, but they’ve ordered me some to try next week.  I wont be allowed them unless the dryness has cleared up, which apparently can be caused by cycling and wearing glasses (because the wind gets forced around and in to your eyes).  Hopefully I wont have any problems getting them next week!

When I finally got home I went straight out in the car and drove back to work so I could go and pick the new bike frame, later that evening Ryan and I had a Skype chat so we could look at any differences between my old frame and new one to predict any problems we might have swapping them over.  All looked okay so next week the new frame gets fitted.

Total miles cycled: 6.58 miles to work and back
Total time spent having my eyes poked: 2 hours
Total people I annoyed saying: “ooh, look at my new bike frame, isn’t it sexy”: 2 (sorry Laura & Christine)

Saturday 15th June
I spent a lot of time this week planning possible long cycle routes for my only day off of the week, as the weather reports got worse and worse as the week went on.  The problem with covering so much distance is that you have to check the weather for several different counties.  Eventually I reluctantly decided there was just no way I was going to be able to cover 100 miles this weekend.  Instead I settled for heading out first thing on Saturday to get in as many miles as I could before the rain started, with an afternoon of indoor cycling.

I cycled 25 miles and headed back into Oxford before realising that the weather still looked okay so I should stay out a bit longer.  I cycled through town, taking a brief stop to get another damn bug out of my eye.  Heading back home I really started to wonder if this promised rain was going to arrive as the weather looked good, but I knew that if I’d headed out on a longer ride I ran the risk of being 50 miles from home and making very slow progress in the rain.  I was just cycling up to the driveway and wishing I’d done a more even number then the 36 I’d managed when a thought occurred to me….I didn’t take my house key out with me.  I gave the door a quick knock just in case but I knew no one was in.  I got back on the bike and cycled back into town where Christine was at work and got the very lovely building porter to watch my bike while I ran inside to frighten the library users with my lycra and beg for a house key.  Back home I’d managed to add another 6 miles to my total to make it a nice round 40 miles for the day.

I grabbed some lunch and had a quick chat with Ryan who was at home nursing a bad back, when the dark clouds descended and the rain started.  Happy to be indoors where I don’t need to do makeshift windscreen wipers on my glasses, I tried to spend as much of the afternoon on the turbo trainer as possible.  I honestly don’t know how Ryan manages to do so many hours indoors, I got bored after two hours but managed to push it to three before my brain started to melt and I had to give up.  Still, three indoors is worth double outdoors so I think I did okay.

Total miles cycled: 41.06
Time on turbotrainer: 3 hours
Episodes of The West Wing watched this week:  Can’t remember, but I had to change the disk three times!

Sunday 16th June
On Sunday I decided to give myself a total rest day.  I had to work so instead of cycling I drove in, in fact, I didn’t go near my bike all day!  It was a very odd experience, and one I’m not too keen to repeat.  I attempted to do some more route mapping today and managed a bit more in my break at work, but I really need to finalise it next week, it’s a lot harder than it seems as I have to check all the roads to make sure they’re cyclable as well as trying not to make it so complicated we can’t remember the way, or too long that we wont make it in the four days we have to cycle through the UK.  Today I also purchased some after-cycling recovery drink which I have had some samples of and it works really well to give you a much-needed boost at the end of the day. I also purchased some new cycling shoes, as my current ones are big and bulky and likely to make my feet too warm in the no doubt glorious weather we’re going to have for two weeks.

Thoughts on the week
Last night I noticed an old message I’d written about a cycling holiday we did to Scotland last summer.  I’d written “cycled 34 miles today, totally exhausted”.  I would now like to apologise to Ryan and Dave for being so incredibly slow and distance-averse on that holiday!  It’s amazing to see something like that because it reminds me how far I’ve come, 34 miles? I could do that before lunch and still have the energy to come back again!

Portable Interblogopipes

Our forthcoming cycling adventure to Switzerland from North Wales is almost upon us. It has fallen to me, as the geekiest of the group, to sort out anything technology-related for the trip, and this week’s task is to get an Internet connection sorted so we can blog progress updates at the end of the day.

Some campsites will have WiFi, which eases the problem. Some will only have mobile internet and some will have neither. Aside from the usual hardening of the laptop connected to the wireless network there’s not a great deal to be done for the first or last options.

There are a few sites, for example http://prepaidwithdata.wikia.com/wiki/Prepaid_SIM_with_data which lists the various options available for mobile data in your target country. The best offer at present appears to be £50 (plus a £10 set-up fee) for 3Gb of data, which is valid for 30 days. This is still quite an investment, and I’m not convinced that we will need that much data given the use of WiFi when it’s available. This offer also isn’t valid for smartphones, so you need a mobile internet dongle at extra cost.

With that in mind we’ve decided to use EE’s roaming data add-on which provides 200Mb for £30. I can then use my iPhone as an access point so we can use the Macbook Pro to author blog posts.

This should be more than enough bandwidth if we’re thoughtful about how we use it. With that in mind I’m preparing the following to make life easier while we’re there:

  1. Offline maps. We’ve downloaded the map tiles for the route from OpenFietsMap (http://www.openfietsmap.nl/) which provides bike-specific OpenStreetMap maps for download. These are loaded into Garmin Basecamp, which is a bit cumbersome but means we can do map routing and elevation profiles without using data.
  2. Image resizer. I normally use Pixelmator to resize images, but Mac OSX has a handy workflow utility which means you can automatically resize/resample photos. When you’re on WiFi uploading a 4Mb image isn’t a problem, but for our daily progress reports a 200Kb image is more appropriate. Once we’re back to WiFi we can put some higher-resolution images up.
  3. Video re-encoder. We’ll probably upload videos only when we’ve got a WiFi connection, but just in case there’s something we really want to share I’ve figured out how to use Camtasia to resize and reencode the video so it looks good but is small enough not to use the entire bandwith allowance.

One of the biggest problems when you’re concerned about going over a data allowance is that when you connect a laptop to the Internet it goes off and checks for updates, lets Apple know that iTunes is there, and so on. I have a handy tool installed on my Macbook Pro called Little Snitch, which acts as a firewall and keeps an eye on all your outgoing Internet connections. Normally we think of firewalls as protecting what comes in to the computer, but to make sure every last bit of data is saved I’ve created a special profile which doesn’t allow any outgoing connections except for mDNSResponder (otherwise DNS doesn’t work) and Chrome. When that profile’s active nothing except Chrome is connected to the network, so I’m not going to automatically start doing a backup of my entire machine in the middle of a campsite in France. Winner.

Little Snitch Chrome rules

Only allowing network traffic from Chrome in your firewall keeps your usage down.

In other news my components turned up today so the bike is back together, just in time for a good bout of rain. Fortunately I have rollers! While I was reassembling the bike I gave the forks a good test, pushing and pulling them against the frame. Although everything was flush and tight, and there was no play to be felt, I could make out the sound of grease moving ever so slightly. I’m not feeling confident! If the new stem and headset, and full strip-down doesn’t fix it I’m giving up and taking it to a local bike shop.

Cobble Crisis!

At the weekend I managed to get out for a ride on both days. On Saturday I set out at about 1pm with the aim to go to Huddersfield and back. Using the national cycle routes, I made my way down towards Mirfield and then onto Huddersfield. The weather was lovely but one downside has to be the sheer amount of greenflies in the air. Cycling on green, thick wooded routes means clouds and clouds of them….so high speeds are difficult when it is imperative that you keep your mouth closed! I dread to think how many I ate / squished / inhaled.

Despite the creepy crawlies I maintained a good average speed of about 12 and completed the 25 mile roundtrip in 2 and a half hours, stopping for a little snack here and there.

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On Sunday I did a longer ride, setting off at about 12pm I headed out towards Haworth. I have fond memories of a primary school residential to Haworth, and thought it would be a nice destination for lunch. The round trip would be 40 miles, to Haworth and back.

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The route was fantastic. I cycled through a couple of lovely parks with cycle paths in great condition, some grim A-roads in horrific condition and some extremely fast main roads with maniac drivers trying to cosy up to me.

The first leg of the ride was out towards Thornton, near Bradford and it is without a doubt the prettiest place I have ever cycled through in West Yorkshire.

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Rolling green hills and endless fields with horses in, the roads were great to cycle on and navigate through. At one point the beauty of the place was however too much, as I had to walk my bike through Thornton’s very own “secret garden”.

(The small blue patch is the path opening!)

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At one point I had to stop at take a photo of the hill I was about to climb. When I reached the top, the descent actually had a (albeit small) hairpin bend. Although it took me by surprise, I did manage to stay on my bike and keep to my side of the road.

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About 5 minutes away from Haworth I reached a T-junction onto the A629 and turned left, thinking “yes, turn left here and I’ll be in Haworth in no longer than 5 minutes”. 15 minutes, a 34 mph descent and two towns later I thought “I should really stop and check the map,because I should really be in Haworth by now”.  Turns out I should’ve turned Right, not left, and I was now in fact in Halifax not Haworth. Change of plan.

After checking the map and finding a route back home again, I finally ate some food. Having missed my Haworth target, I was seriously peckish and needed some energy. The next few roads were horrible in and around Halifax. Cobbled, narrow, steep roads that were difficult to navigate and impossible to cycle down.

I had a wonderful welcome to one particular cobbled hill. Upon turning into the street another cyclist was exiting as I was entering. I said a friendly “Alright there” and smiled optimistically, to which he just replied: “you won’t be at the top of that”. I soon saw what he  was referring to, the mammoth cobbled hill ahead of me. The hill was so mean, my legs actually came to a stop and I only just unclipped in time. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one to admit defeat; I had to take a cheeky snap of the cyclist further on infront of me walking his bike up the hill too.

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So a few steep climbs later I emerged on another a-road that would take me back home. Sundays route actually proved to be the most physically challenging route I have ever done by myself. The uphill climbs were really hard going and maintaining a good speed downhill helped build up my confidence. A pretty good training weekend overall.

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Kerry came over for the weekend too, so being out for rides meant I didn’t get to spend that much time with her. However, I came home from work on Monday evening to find her and dad in the driveway painting the bike trailer for the trip!!

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Impressed doesn’t even cover it. They’d stenciled on the logos of our charities and the name and website for Team Pedal. So when I got home we got the paint out and set out on finishing the trailer that evening! The finished result is pretty exciting, and the trip feels very very real now, and soon.  3 and a half weeks to go !

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Me and Dad are responsible for the Calais – Basel section of the expedition so that evening we got cracking on mapping routes through France, and the overall route is coming along nicely !

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I was planning on going to Wales this Sunday, driving down Saturday night after work, to fit in a last 100 mile ride before our trip. However, It turns out I have to work Sunday and there’s no way of covering it … so I’m pretty disappointed.  This also means that I only have one day off this week, so Thursday will have to be VERY productive.

24 days !!!!!!

‘Til next time.

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Megan xx

Training & planning diary – 4 weeks to go

After the set backs of last week I was hoping to make some good steps forward in my training and get one really long cycle ride done.  Here’s a summary of what I did this last week:

Monday 3rd June
Still in Wales this morning after the weekend so I’ve picked today as my first rest day of the week.  Ryan and I spend a lot of the morning talking about the new purchases I need to make (new bike frame mostly).  I drive back to Oxford intending to get a lot of planning done in the evening, but the bad traffic means my usual four hour journey takes six hours and I’m back just in time for bed!  But before I can go to sleep I first need to buy myself a new bike frame.  The order is placed, and it will hopefully arrive some time in the next 10 days.

Tuesday 4th June
Determined to get the week off to a good start I set out straight from work for a cycle ride.  As I stupidly left my pannier rack in Leeds over the weekend I’m having to cycle with a back pack into work.  A rather unpleasant experience that gives me a sweaty back.  Cycling after work with a backpack on meant I also had back pain after a relatively short ride, so I wont be doing that again.  Even with the uncomfortable back it was still a lovely evening, and I saw lots of clubs out racing – always wonderful to see so many cyclists about.  I also had to turn back around to get proof of this usual level of friendliness towards cyclists:

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Well done Panshill Cafe for being so friendly to cyclists!

The best thing about the evening was going down a very steep hill at 28mph and having to brake heavily to avoid going over the 20mph speed limit at the bottom of the hill….wonderful feeling!

Cycle to work: 3.22 miles
Cycle ride after work: 32.58 miles
Minutes of stretching to shake off the back pain: 45

Wednesday 5th June
Learning my lesson from yesterday I returned home after work, changed, and set off out again to do another long ride.  I tried a different route this time, and one that I don’t think I’ll try again.  Cycle paths too narrow to cycle on, others strewn with glass – it really wasn’t very pleasant at all.  I also encountered lots of cycle paths that followed the usual trend of not really understanding the point of a cycle path:

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…and this is why we cycle on the road.

Cycle to & from work: 5.45 miles
Cycle after work: 24.94 miles

Thursday 6th June
Thursday’s are traditionally my rest day as I work later then usual, but as I’m going on a long ride on Saturday I need Friday to rest.  With less time then I usually have I decide to get in from work and do some indoor cycling.  I try to mix fast peddling with steep uphill climbs and keep going for 52 minutes before it’s time for dinner.  Indoor cycling is always hard work as you can really push yourself to your limits….and not having a fan indoors makes it seem like middle of July alps temperatures, so that’s good training too.

I also spent my entire lunch break mapping the route through the UK and trying to save it to send to the rest of the team, but my browser crashed every time I tried. Very frustrating!

Cycle to and from work: 6.42 miles
Time on turbo trainer: 52 minutes
Time stretching: 25 minutes

Friday 7th June
Rest day today.  I started to plan my route for Saturday, as I want to do a bigger ride then I’ve ever done before I know it would be best to go on a familiar route so I can do it quickly.  Unfortunately I don’t know any routes that are very long, so I decide to stick to a national cycle route that will take me away form Oxford and up towards Northamptonshire.  To add a bit of extra interest I decide to divert off route to cycle past some beautiful scenery (see pictures below).  I’m aiming for 100 miles in total, and I really hope I can make it.  I make sure all my kit is ready to go first thing in the morning.

Saturday 8th June
Up at 7 am and straight downstairs for breakfast. I’m anticipating this is going to be an exhausting one….so I have 5 Weetabix.  I’m getting used to nerves before a big ride and today is no exception, I feel quite sick before I set off, but I don’t let that put me off. Just after 8am I’m ready to go and out the door.  After smothering myself in sun protection it’s a little disappointing to find that it’s actually overcast and very windy.  The first 20 miles were really hard as I made my way up through Bicester and out towards Buckingham.  There were lots of cyclists about in the morning, and everyone was very friendly today.  Despite the cloud coverage it was still very warm so I was able to put away the high-vis jacket and enjoy the warm hurricane breeze on my arms….I exaggerate, as usual.  However, there was a very strong headwind the entire journey which made the going very tough.  With lots of sensibly placed stops for snacks I eventually made it to the beautiful scenery I was hoping to see:

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The podium near the final corner on the Silverstone circuit

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Aaah what a beautiful welcoming sight

I can’t believe you can actually see the podium from the roundabout outside the circuit!!  Anyway, after wasting a bit of time meandering outside Silverstone and watching some cars racing over the fence, I continued onwards and made it to my half way point.  I realised somewhere around 40 miles that I may have taken a wrong turning but I wasn’t too concerned as the main objective was to reach 100 miles today, no matter what the route.  However, after passing two cyclists I’d passed earlier on in the day I got out my phone to discover exactly what kind of a mistake I’d done:

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Not quite what I’d intended

Instead of going left after Silverstone village I’d followed a road which took me back down towards Buckingham.  Now I was faced with knowing that where I’d stopped was actually on a road which went back down to Buckingham, so I could just go straight down there to get home – it would be quicker.  The old Jennifer would have certainly taken the quicker easier route and continued on that road, but I was determined to get to 100 miles and so I turned around and went back the way I’d come.

Today’s other brilliant sights included this gem:

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I think maybe they’ve misunderstood the point of a CYCLE route

I made it back home 9 hours and 6 minutes after I’d set off, with a total moving time of 7 hours 57 minutes (with stops for lunch and snacks).

I am very happy that I made it to the full 100 miles, and even more happy that I could still move the next day!

Total miles cycled: 100.55

Sunday 9th June
As my biggest concern with this trip is being able to cycle consecutive long days I would have loved to get out for another 70+ miles and see how I fared.  Unfortunately I had to work today, so instead I got up at 7am to set out for a 15 mile ride before work.  In my last 10 miles yesterday I got what I thought was a bug in my eye, but I’m thinking now it might have been a bit of grit.  At the time I had to stop to try and get whatever it was out, but had to cycle for the last 10 miles with my right eye streaming with water and stinging a lot.  Last night I had a very restless sleep as every time my eye moved I woke up in pain.  Today it doesn’t seem much better and was watering a lot on the ride, so I stuck to the safety of meandering around the streets of Oxford and got to 17 miles before it was time to get ready for work.

Cycle in the morning: 17.64 miles
Cycle to and from work: 6.75 miles

Thoughts on the week
I’m really happy with how much training I’ve done this week, and that I not only did a 100 mile ride myself, but also in a pretty decent time.  On Sunday I didn’t feel too bad out on the bike, my knees were a bit achy and my legs a bit stiff for the first five miles, but generally I felt like I could keep going for a lot more miles.  Next week I need to finish the route mapping for the UK leg of our trip, I tried it twice this week and had problems with browsers crashing, so I need to persevere with that.  Hopefully my new frame will arrive by the end of next week and Ryan and I can start to plan getting it fitted to my bike.

Training & planning diary – 5 weeks to go.

This week has been a difficult one for training, so here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to this past week:

Monday 27th May
After my punctures at the weekend I spent some time on Sunday night trying to repair my innertube that had been on the bike until last Thursday’s puncture, only to be totally unable to find a hole or any other reason it may be flat.  I pumped it back up and so far have had no problems, but I found myself really nervous about getting a flat tyre.  After work I was feeling very tired and really not in the mood for a longer cycle, but I forced myself to turn left outside work and cycled away from my house.

I didn’t want to cycle too far into the wilds in case anything happened to the tyre, so I stuck to the cycle paths beside the Oxford ring road.  To get any kind of distance I had to go up and down the same stretches quite a lot which got boring quite quickly so after a while I decided to meander around some roads and see where I ended up.  Unfortunately Oxford isn’t really that big so my total distance was a lot shorter then I’d intended as I found myself accidentally cycling home when I didn’t intend to!  A good way to get some mileage in after work and I managed 17 miles.

Cycling to and from work: 20.3 miles

Tuesday 28th May
The usual British problem arrived on Tuesday with the torrential rain and strong winds arriving for both my cycle to and from work. I’m not too keen on a long cycle ride in the rain, especially around city streets as it becomes slightly more dangerous when your visibility is reduced.  Instead of extending my cycle home I arrived back, changed out of my dripping wet clothes and prepared for a stint on the turbo trainer.  I started with a 10 minute warm up of increasing speeds, followed by a few minute-long sprints (how quick can you pedal before you need to throw up?), and then some 5 minute hill climbs (how long can you stand up and pedal before you need to throw up?).  As you can probably tell, these sessions are such a hard push that quite often I feel a little sick, but so far I’ve managed to keep that urge under control

Cycling to and from work: 6.55 Miles
Time on the turbo trainer: 45 minutes
Stretching exercises before bed

Wednesday 29th May
Things start to go a bit pear shaped from today.  Again there is another day of torrential rain, so after I get back from work and clear up the puddles from the hallway I did plan to get the turbo trainer out for another session…..

My bedroom unfortunately has very thin nets instead of curtains so every day this week I’ve been woken up by the sunshine at 5am.  By Wednesday evening I’m so tired I can barely keep myself awake long enough to eat dinner.  At 6.30pm I was in bed!

Cycling to and from work: 6.1 miles 

Thursday 30th May
Another night of hardly any sleep does not put me in the best from of mind for the day ahead.  I did think it would be a good idea to do lots of cycling today but as we’re planning to do a very lot of cycling at the weekend I need to have a few rest days, reluctantly I take today off as well.

Thankfully the eye-mask I ordered from ebay arrived so I may be able to sleep without being woken up by bright sunshine.

Cycling to and from work: 6.55 miles

Friday 31st May
Success!  A full nights sleep at last!

Today I cycle to and from work and then jump straight into the car to head up to Leeds where our weekend adventures start.  When I arrive (a little late thanks to the closed motorway and a next to useless diversion) I eat a massive amount of pasta and garlic bread before we set about some bike maintenance.  I wanted Ryan to have a quick look at my front brake which has becoming increasingly wobbly recently, though not causing me any problems whilst braking.

Ryan had to take the brake off the bike and started to clean it whilst also trying to work out how it had been so wobbly, when he noticed what no one else had so far noticed, including the bike shop I had taken it to previously, there was a vital spring missing from the back of the brake which it needs in order to pull back to its original position after braking so that it doesn’t stay on permanently.

After trying for a while to fashion a spring out of various things found in the garage we made the difficult decision that we weren’t going to be able to do a 100 mile cycle route as planned as it would be too dangerous.  Instead, we decided to get straight out to a cycle shop first thing on Saturday morning to buy a replacement so we could get out for a little bit in the afternoon.

Miles cycled: 6.49

Saturday 1st June
At 9am we were at a large cycle shop in Leeds ready to purchase a new front brake.  Surprisingly, given it is a major chain shop, they didn’t have a brake so we made our way back to the small independent shop near home who we called on the way to find out if he had a brake – and he did!  Everything fixed and ready to go we finally set out on our Saturday cycle at 11:30am and did a really nice 32 mile route.

We had planned to go a bit further, but as time was getting on and we had planned a much longer route for Sunday, we decided to cut it short at 32 miles.

On the route home I started to get a lot of back pain, the kind I used to get before we shortened my stem.  I don’t know why in particular it started to hurt today when it was a short number of miles, but maybe it was the terrible road surface we were on and all the bumps and pot holes that made my grip more tense which caused the pain.  Whatever it was,  Ryan and I decided it might be about time that we look into getting me a new frame.  We spent most of the rest of the evening looking into buying a new frame, or maybe even an entirely new bike for me.

Miles cycled: 32.61

 

Sunday 2nd June
We had a difficult decision on Sunday morning, with Ryan suffering hip pain from cycling the day before, Megan suffering from a bad cough and generally feeling unwell, and this being the last weekend we will all be together before the set off.  What was a more productive way to spend our time?  Megan and I decided to do a really short 7 miles but found the steepest hill we could so it was a testing 7 miles.  I think I managed 25mph going down the hill but Megan was a lot quicker then me, so her confidence going down hill has clearly really improved since January!

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Ready to get going, despite the setbacks

We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at maps of France, plotting routes in the UK, looking up campsites and discussing what was the best thing to do – book them all first or just turn up and see.  Richard seems happy to do the latter, and I’m sure the support team will do a great job finding the tired hungry cyclists somewhere to sleep.  I’m sure we wouldn’t care if it was spot in someone’s garden, we’ll just be happy to rest after a long day on the bike.

We also extended our to-do-list and discussed possible food needs.  This weekend also allowed us to test the various sports drinks we may be able to take and decide on what flavours we like best (an important decision, given one particular drinks tastes like you’re swallowing dirty feet!).  We created plans of what we will need to do each morning and evening of the trip to make sure things go throughly – such as checking the bikes over in the evening for any damage or cleaning that needs to be done, and washing our lycra.  We need to make sure everything runs smoothly so this planning day was vital for the team.

In the evening Ryan and I drove back to Wales as I have the day off work tomorrow.  We spent some time discussing my need for a new bike frame so I emailed the cycle shop in Oxford I go to to ask their advice and to see if they would be able to build it up for me if I bought a new frame – as well as giving my bike a thorough service at the same time.  Hopefully they’ll be able to help out so we can get the bike sorted quickly.

Miles cycled: 7

Thoughts on last week:
There certainly wasn’t as much cycling as I had hoped, but I think we’ve all been feeling a bit under the weather in one way or another, so it was good to take some time to rest.  The important thing about resting at this stage is to make sure we are doing something else productive for the team so it was great that we got to spend so much time planning what to do.  In the coming week I will be finalising exactly what route we’ll be taking through the UK, whilst Megan and Richard finalise the French route and Ryan does Switzerland.  Then we can send each other the route plans so we can start to memorise them to make navigation a little bit easier.  We still have a lot to do in terms of planning as well as training, so the next few weeks are going to be busy!

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!