Some more hills

Day 11: Bayon to Masevaux

Today we got the first taste of hill climbing and what the alps has to come. After a long discussion we came to the conclusion that Jen would have to jump in the car for the Ballon d’Alsace, a 7% incline over 8km, to save her knee. Fortunately the rest of the day was set to be gently undulating so we could make good time through the first 70 miles.

We had a little issue with the Garmin GPS when we set off. In the Basecamp app we had the whole day planned out. On the GPS it looked fine until we set off when it instantly started re-routing. Fortunately the end result was roughly the same mileage and elevation gain, even if it did take us a completely different way. This came just after a huge issue last night, when we thought for about an hour that we’d lost the OpenStreetMap maps of Europe from the GPS. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but at one point I had the Macbook Pro booted into recovery mode fixing disk permissions. What fun!

The Ballon d’Alsace is a great little climb. Apparantly (and I’ve not got access to Google to back any of this up) it’s a famous ascent and has been used as part of the Tour de France. It’s a pretty steady 7% all the way, and there are kilometer markers for motivation. Megan was getting quite worried in the lead-up because she felt a little low on energy and had built up the climb in her mind. Once we hit the hill though everything went smoothly. Megan settled into a steady pace and made it to the top quickly. Jen, who had intended to get picked up at the bottom, made it all the way with a little encouragement. It was a great effort from both of them and very encouraging for the alps. To celebrate, there was ice cream at the top! The descent was great with mostly good road surface, but 1/3 of the way down the GoPro mount sheared and it bounced down the road a little. It’s fine (good engineering GoPro!) but the mount is shocking considering it’s specifically designed for handlebars (poor engineering GoPro).

Jen’s knee is still giving her problems, but the terrain over the past few days has been very forgiving. If we had to ride through Shropshire for 2 weeks it would have been game over for Jen, but the eastern route through France is perfect for cycling and doesn’t throw too many steep hills at you.

I would love to add a load of detail about the rest of the day, but a minor navigational error at the top of the Ballon resulted in us shooting off the wrong side and ending up with an additional 10 miles to ride to the camp. Making the day 90 miles in total wasn’t so bad, but it’s the last thing you want to do when you expect to coast for 10 miles into the campsite. As a result we’re a little late getting sorted out and it’s already past bedtime!

The next three days are deliberately shorter so we can get a bit of energy for the big alpine days. With no more than 60 miles per day we should be feeling fit and energetic for the fourth when we have to tackle the Grimsel pass and Furka pass setting off from Interlaken. We’re meeting family in Andermatt that evening so there’s an added incentive to arrive early.

Here’s a couple of photos from today (camping wifi isn’t video friendly unfortunately):

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Megan ... on the way up !

Megan … on the way up !

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On the way up !

On the way up !

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Very promising!

Very promising!

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Day 10 : Verdun – Bayon 82 miles. Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A relativley short and sweet post from Megan for now. We finished the day on a snappy 82 miles in roughly 7 hours. Today has been really quite fun in comparison to the previous hard, long days. We had some incredibly fun long sweeping descents on some really smooth roads. Long flat straights and fast downhill runs meant that we had a very good average pace this morning of about 13mph. There were a couple of hills thrown in for good measure, and Jen’s knee has behaved itself today, so all in all a very well deserved good day with positive results. The fast day meant that we got to meet our wonderful support team , Dad and Uncle Chris, at a rough 3/4 point for some quick snacks and suncream replenishment, and then we set off to finish the last 30 miles of the day. We finished the day at roughly 4pm so we’ve had a lovely long afternoon and evening to rest, relax and recuperate in preparation for a VERY big day tomorrow.

So foods prepared, stretching sessions have been carried out and everything is ready for our start tomorrow morning . Hoping to set out at 8am for a 83 mile day that consists of 60 miles of undulating hills over the French countryside, and we will be finishing the day on a very challenging note, by climbing the Route De Ballons / Ballons de Voges. This particular route is 1,000 metres of ascent over a distance of 10km .

Ryan, obviously could eat this for breakfast, Jen is nursing her bad knee but is ever optimistic  and I, Megan, am quite apprehensive, but excited all the same.

Of course, as hard and as challenging as tomorrow may be , it will be peanuts compared to the three alpine passes that are coming our way in the next few days . All in good fun !!! This is what all the high resitance and hill training has been about ! come at me !!

Wish us luck !!! XXX

 

Megan xx

 

PS Here are just a few snaps for you to enjoy !! ūüėÄ Sorry theyre not captioned and categorised , ¬†but im a very tired monkey and need to sleep !

 

BONNE NUIT

 

 

 

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Half way across France

Post by Jen, photo legwork and interblogopipage by Ryan:

We have now made it to Verdun and are at our third French campsite and 256 miles in to France. In total we have now cycled 641 miles, with a total elevation ascent of 9906 m. If we were cycling 24 hours a day, we’d have so far cycled for three and a half days straight. Thankfully we’re not cycling all day, we give ourselves a few hours sleep a night.

Day 7 of cycling saw us set off from St Omer and cover 93.6 miles. The skies were completely clear and temperatures reached 30 degrees. With very little shade we were all soon melting. We cycled well for the first 30 miles but after a particularly busy section, through a major intersection and a few hills, my knee completely gave up and we had to stop until I regained some movement. The rest of the team were great supporting me, especally Ryan, who also has to navigate us as well as look out for me.

We arrived at the campsite in Frasnoy to find ourselves surrounded by very enthusiastic kids, one of whom asked Ryan if we were part of the Tour de France. I don’t know much French, but I think he said we weren’t!

One great thing about cycling through France at the moment is that lots of people are enthusistically cheering us on as we pass…and occasionlly just yelling “Tour de France!!” at us in a very relaxed French manner. It creates a great atmosphere.

Day 8 was our second big day of cycling in a row, with 84 miles planned from the campsite in Frasnoy to Attigny. The morning was the best yet of the trip, as it was overcast and quite cold – such a relief after these hot temperatures. For the first time since day one we needed to wear jackets for the morning. Around lunchtime the sun came out with a vengence, but we also had a good tailwind for a portion of the journey, which really upped our overall speed.

We also had our first experience of cycling on cobbles, a somewhat unpleasant experience that I’m in no hurry to repeat!

About 10 miles away from the campsite I stopped to stretch my knee out a bit, which was lucky because we noticed a text from the support team saying the campsite had been changed as it was no good, we now had to head in a slightly different direction. Lucky we stopped really, or we would have turned up to find a field without any camping and our beds no where to be found.

The last 10 miles were excruciating for me. My knee seems to flucuate between mildly uncomfortable and incredibly painful, which is fine as long as it goes back down to the less painful side again… unfortunately sometimes it just refuses! I have never been more happy to arrive at a campsite than I was yesterday, it was a relief to be able to sit down with an ice block on my knee. I think we’ve accepted that my knee is unlikely to get better on this trip as it probably needs a good month of rest. I intend to keep going until I absolutely have to stop, but for the moment I’m being helped along by all this wonderful team, and my friends Ibuprofen, Codeine, Ibuprofen gel, Deep Freeze, ice, compression knee support and lots and lots of chocolate chip brioche.

Day 9 was a half rest day for us, with only 55 miles to do in the morning, before we could take the whole afternoon off. We made it to Verdun around 2pm after quite a nice morning. My knee didn’t really hurt that much, with only a few twinges towards the end of the cycle, so we could make some good speed. We were able to get some rest this afternoon whilst preparing our lunch, drinks, and the route for tomorrow.

The plan for tomorrow is 77.5 miles, though we still need to work out if the campsite we’re headed towards actually exists. Hopefully we will be able to update more tomorrow, if we have an internet connection.

Here’s a few pictures from the past few days:

Wednesday's lunge photo

Wednesday’s lunge photo

Almost there?

Almost there?

Megan sprinting

Megan sprinting

More hill climbing

More hill climbing

Megan at the top of a hill, somewhere.

Megan at the top of a hill, somewhere.

Jen pushing through

Jen pushing through

Thursday's Lunge photo (it's not falling... honest)

Thursday’s Lunge photo (it’s not falling… honest)

Support team Ahoy!

Support team Ahoy!

Jen in lovely (flatish) winding roads in Meuse

Jen in lovely (flatish) winding roads in Meuse

A friend with knees is a friend indeed

Team Pedal, complete and in Dover

Team Pedal, complete and in Dover

We’re in France! We weren’t lucky enough to have internet last night so here’s the progress from the past couple of days. Jen and Megan have finally made way for me to write an update, so grab yourself some hot chocolate and settle in for the long haul.

Yesterday was day 5, and the second big day in a row since Jen’s knee went. Things didn’t start particularly well when I realised the route I’d painstakingly planned in on the laptop hadn’t been transferred to the GPS, so I had to organise a new route hunched over the 3″ GPS display. After leaving Blacklands campsite (http://www.blacklandsfarm.co.uk/) (who generously donated to the team and had great facilities) we made a good pace, and our slightly-before-mid-point of Tunbridge Wells drew closer and closer. The route through Sussex and Kent has been picturesque, and it’s a shame we couldn’t spend longer touring around the back roads and checking out the many sights we had to shoot past, but we are on a mission so there’s no time to lose.

We met the support team in Tunbridge Wells and stocked up on suncream and water, as well as giving Jen’s knee a much-needed ice session. While sat at a set of traffic lights someone from a couple of cars back had dashed up to our car, thrust in ¬£20 and said “Good luck!”. There have been so many incidents like this that it’s been a really great experience travelling through the UK and we’ve all been blown away by the support we’ve seen.

Jen pushing on near Folkstone

Jen pushing on near Folkstone

Unfortunately our day took a turn for the worse, and with around 40 miles to go Jen’s knee went on the pain scale from 2 (out of 10) to 8. We were about 3/4 of the way up our second major hill climb, which apparantly gets used for the Tour de France, so limped off the side of the road and took refuge outside the Green Cross Inn (URL). We owe them a pint or two because as soon as we arrived they offered a bag of ice and a teatowel, and didn’t mind at all that we were obviously cheapskate cyclists with our own food. Dad and Chris arrived a couple of minutes later with more Voltarol gel and some giant ibuprofen. When the pain had subsided a little we pushed on, but made (literally) painfully slow progress until 3 miles out of Folkstone when Jen’s knee gave up for the day and brought us to a grinding halt. Anyone struggling to choose who to sponsor should definitely pick Jen (http://www.justgiving.com/Jen-Gallagher1) who’s not just having to do a huge distance each day but is also going through a fair amount of hardship at the same time.

Expert medical aid at the Green Cross Inn

Expert medical aid at the Green Cross Inn

Day 6 has been much easier, and we had time to meet up with Barry, a family friend and who works for Dover Community Radio (http://www.dovercommunityradio.co.uk/). We got a couple of great team photos and a quick radio interview, as well as a long overdue catch up.

We did cheat a little here, and had to jump in the car to get through customs and onto the ferry. We had intended to cycle those 500m, but thought an extra ¬£90 was a little extortionate for such a short distance. We’ll make it up by making a wrong turn somewhere!

Cycling to our current campsite near St Omer was an absolute pleasure. With less than 200m of height gain it was a welcome relief to Jen and we made the campsite in good time, ready for an afternoon off. I did find that leading the group around Calais I was constantly second guessing myself. Am I on the right side of the road? Is this guy going to give way to me? Am I going the wrong way down a one-way street? Once we hit the countryside I was much more relaxed and settled in to a gentle pace. So far French drivers have given us a good wide berth even on busy roads. Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve got English text all over our cycling lycra ‚Äď everyone just assumes we have no idea what we’re doing and steers clear!

Cycle on the right...

Cycle on the right…

So we’re now 408 miles into the trip, with roughly 680 to go. We have climbed around 1500m most days, totalling 6742m, and have cycled for approximately 55 hours (including stops). With the exception of our start in North Wales it’s been brilliant sun and clear skies, and we’ve cycled through the hottest day of 2013 so far. Fortunately noone’s burned, and we’re building up some excellent (read: ridiculous) tans. So far we’ve had 3 punctures (so far Jen is winning the “best deflation sound” award) and I’m turning them around in under 5 minutes. It was definitely worth the practice.

Pretty much every update we write needs to have a huge thanks to the support team. Chris and Dad have worked tirelessly to make and break camp, keep us fed and watered, shadow us taking pictures and being on hand for emergency calls when injuries need tending to. When they volunteered I’m sure they were under the impression that they’d have hours to kill and could go off on little adventures. Little did they realise they’d be working harder than us!

Tonight we sit here optimistic. There are hurdles ahead and we’re at the behest of Jen’s knee, but the hills for the next couple of days are likely to be fewer and gentler. We have two big days (80-100 miles each) before our next half day.

Nice flat roads in Northern France

Nice flat roads in Northern France

Day 4: Oxford to Horsham

After a half day of rest we went to bed as early as we could to make sure we were refreshed for the day ahead. A quick look at the weather forecast told us it was set to be the hottest day of the year so far, so we wanted to set off early to get a good proportion of our cycling done before the high temperatures started.

As we set off from Oxford at 7.30am I was a little apprehensive about my knee as it still hurt a bit, but we took it slowly as we warmed up.

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Heading through a quiet Sunday morning Oxford

Before too long we were zooming down to Henley, with very little knee pain, and making excellent progress.

Today has really showed us how wonderful our support team is and how much we rely on them. We are so grateful for Chris and Richard, for setting up camp, cooking us dinner, driving all over the country after us to supply top ups of suncream and flapjack. We couldn’t do this without them!

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A quick stop with the support team to rest and ice my knee for a while

Just after lunch we managed to meet up with Pat and Tony (aka Grandma and Grandad) who with Daniel and Kaylie had been driving all over the South of England to try and catch up with us. We wish we could have spent more time with them, but we had to get going to make sure we met our target for the day. Thanks so much to them for coming to see us, and for the bag of treats, the raspberry doughnuts were greatly received

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A much needed treat

There were a few unexpected moments on today’s route, not least the two off road mountain biking moments…. thanks GPS for assuming all bike routes are equally suitable!

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A brief downhill section, right before I did a spectacular crash into a rock and fell off

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Cycle Route? Path? Field? It’s hard to tell!

As the day wore on we did get a bit slower, thanks to my knee which had its occasional momenta of pain. I’m just glad it wasn’t all day pain like yesterday, at least I had some relief for the occasional 20 minutes.

We made it to Lower Beeding, near Horsham which completed our 87 miles for the day. As the campsite we’re staying in is away from the route we didn’t need to cycle all the way there, so Richard picked us up and that was us done for the day.

We’re staying in the brilliant Blacklands campsite, which not only has fantastic facilities, but the lovely owner Keith, hearing of our ridiculous adventure, has made a donation to our charities, thank you!

So now everyone is busy running around preparing everything for tomorrows trip. We’ve planned a 76 mile route which will take us to Folkestone and our UK stint will be done.

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Our spiritual home?

Day 3, to Oxford

Team Pedal Day 3 and we set off early to be driven back to yesterday’s finishing point in Ilmington to cover the remaining miles back to Oxford. ¬†There is something mildly unsettling about being driven away from somewhere you then need to cycle back towards, but that is something we have to face up to on this journey, as we may not always be able to cycle to our destination every day.

Today the plan was to continue through Oxford and head towards Guildford but my knee had other plans. ¬†After a painful day yesterday when I started getting knee pain towards the end of the day, I had hoped a good nights rest would solve it. ¬†Unfortunately not as today’s 35 miles were excruciating.

This early in the trip we need to make the most of the additional days we have set aside for rest. ¬†Whilst our bodies are adjusting to the sudden onslaught we’re putting on them, rest days during this time can be very beneficial for us all. ¬†So we made it back to Oxford after making the Team decision to rest for the afternoon.

It’s important for us to always keep the bigger picture in mind. We have to make it all the way to Switzerland, so it makes little sense to push through injury and potentially make it worse. ¬†If I pushed myself through injury and couldn’t even make it across France I¬†would¬†be very disappointed. ¬†Currently my knee is drugged up, bandaged up, raised up and iced up – all this will hopefully make it better tomorrow and ready to do the next 80 miles. ¬†We’re all optimistic that our afternoon of rest will refresh us all and allow the Team to push on further. ¬†The last two days have been very hard, but we’re all still determined and committed, spurred on by the great support we’re receiving from everyone.

And finally, a little light relief, from today’s journey…

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I just couldn’t resist a photo opportunity when we cycled past