Day 15 – Interlaken to Andermatt . Grimselpass and Furkapass

Where to start? Today has been the single most challenging day of my entire life. However, reaching the top of both Grimselpass and Furkapass climbing a total of 2,777 metres on a continous incline at gradients varying from 7-10%, has to be the single most rewarding and momentous achievement of my entire life.

There were terrifying, hairy moments with sheer clif drops, big loud scary lorries and huge gusts of winds that shot my nerves to shreds, but having Ryan there with me reassuring me along the way, and constantly encouraging me to press on kept me going until I got to the top. We also had our wonderful support team leapfrogging us up the passes, stopping to take photos of us on the crazy hairpin bends and supplying us with ample water and energy-filled snacks.
There were moments when I questioned whether I could actually reach the top, my legs felt like they might explode and my fear kept creeping up and creating a lump in my throat. (which makes it extremely hard to breathe may I add). Ryan, Jen, Dad and Uncle Chris were all there to cheer me on , and I am so pleased that they half encouraged/ half bullied (Ryan) me to push on. Today, I learnt a whole new meaning of the term “tough love”.
Ryan was absolutely fantastic today, I really can’t stress that enough. Considering he could probably demolish both passes in half the time we did them in, he stuck by me the whole way, pacing me , reassuring me that I could do it and at one point even peeled a banana for me and instructed me how to eat it (As i was too tired and couldnt remember how to!)
After a very hilly start to the day, after we took the route on the opposite side of Lake Brienz. Our intended route was relativly flat, and our actual route turned out to be very hilly. Jen, despite her painful knee, was a trooper, and we had a great average pace which made for a prompt arival at the bottom of Grimselpass. She then became a member of the Team Pedal support team for the duration of the climbs, taking some awesome photos and shouting some much needed encouragment from the windows as they drove past us !
After climbing Grimselpass, we had a short decsent and then climbed Furkapass straight after. After that climb we had the exciting reward of having a welcome party at the top. Our Auntie Sue and cousin Ben, made the journey from Locarno (our final destination) to Furkapass to welcome us !!
After a short decsent to Andermatt (for which I had to sit in the car because my nerves were shot and i was absolutely terrified- the Furkapass roads have the most ridiculous “barriers” i have ever seen in my life)
We have now set up camp in Andermatt and are enjoying our last night of camp before our last day of the trip !

Just a little note – we have just had 2 wonderful strangers, from Wales, knock on our tent and commend us on our venture and offering a donation. The kindness of strangers knows no bounds ūüôā
All in all I would like to say a massive thankyou to Everyone for such wonderful words of support and encouragment.
A huge well Done to my fellow team pedalers, and tomorrow .. let’s go out in style.
St. Gotthards pass then onto Locarno . Ryan , Jen .. let’s do it ūüôā XX

Here’s a few pics ! :

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Training & planning diary ‚Äď 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!

Training & planning diary ‚Äď 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.

All By Myself

As Team Pedal all live in different parts of the country, it’s not that often that we get to cycle together. ¬†Today was one of those lonely days, when I only had myself for motivation to get up and go out on a bike ride this morning.

Packing

Most of my lone cycle rides this far have either been: less than 15 miles (so I could fit any necessary snacks in my tiny saddle bag); more than 15 miles in bad weather (more snacks needed for the duration, but needing to wear a jacket due to freezing wind/rain/snow meant I had pockets to put food in).  Today is gloriously sunny (no coat necessary) and my plan for a 50 mile route meant the dilemma I had this morning was what to do with the much needed food.  Not yet having a cycle jersey (that come with pockets on the back) and having the smallest saddle bag in the world (which needs to hold anything necessary to fix a puncture or a chain breakage) meant I had to improvise somewhat:

Jam sandwiches and bananas safely attached

Jam sandwiches and bananas safely attached

I took the bag that normally hold my inflatable camping pillow and secured it around the middle with elastic bands. ¬†I was impressed with how well this worked….until I started to eat the food, and found my bananas very squished!

Navigation

Last night I spent over two hours planning the route. ¬†As most of you¬†should¬†now be aware, my¬†navigation¬†skills leave a lot to be desired. ¬†I first used the website¬†Runkeeper¬†to plot a route. ¬†This is useful because you can place markers and map out exactly where you want to go. ¬†Once this route is saved you can then use it to your advantage when your navigation fails whilst out on the bike. ¬†Runkeeper¬†has an app you¬†can¬†use on your phone which will record the route you’re on, if you add the saved route as another layer on this map you can see both the route you’re supposed to take and the route you’re actually taking:

Oops, shouldn't have turned right there

Oops, shouldn’t have turned right there

This has in the past come in useful, today I only noticed I’d gone the wrong¬†route¬†a long time after I’d done it, as it was all heading in the right direction.

Second I use Google Street View, which I find invaluable when route planning.  You can have a look at Street View for any junctions on your route and see landmarks and roadsigns.  I find this a lot easier to remember then just to look at a map and remember what towns I need to go to.  Although I do seem to be getting better at remembering town names as a few times today I took wrong turnings following signs for villages I know I had to go to (as the map above shows).  It took me off the planned route, but I ended up in the right place after all.

Mmmm bop?

Mmmm bop?

 

After the half-way point I realised my route took me back onto the National Cycle route into Oxford, so I didn’t bother using street view or planning this much, assuming it would be easier to follow signs. ¬†I will soon write another blog post about how much I generally dislike following National Cycle Route signs, and today has really added fuel to my dislike. ¬†Today saw 20 minutes spent¬†wandering¬†around a busy town, lost and unable to find any route signs; following a path that took me through a busy park (with lots of children and dogs running around so I thought it was safer to get off the bike and walk for 10 minutes; at least an hour on paths so bumpy and unstable that I was worried I might be damaging the bike. ¬†I think this added a lot of extra time to the journey that wasn’t really necessary – though I now know some beautiful routes to go for a walk or a non-road bike cycle.

 

 

Hello Spring!

The weather today in Oxfordshire is beautiful, but setting off at 7am meant it was a bit cold and frosty at first. ¬†I stubbornly refused to go back for my gloves, despite my hands frosting to the handlebars for the first half an hour, because I knew I wouldn’t¬†need¬†them later. ¬†I’m glad I persevered because it turned into a beautiful sunny day.

Today was possibly one of the nicest cycle rides I’ve been on. ¬†I wasn’t familiar with the route so I spent a lot of time winding down the country lanes beside open fields muttering “wow….this is so beautiful”. ¬†Don’t tell Ryan, but I saw a few nice houses for sale in these villages, enough rooms for the whole family to live together, but perhaps a bit out of our price range!

For my second snack stop I found a nice bench, shaded under a tree, and sat down to eat my jam sandwiches and have a chat with a lovely lady who’d just come from the church¬†fete¬†next door…I think she thought I was crazy when I told her how far I’d cycled (40 miles by that point).

I don’t think the lovely weather and the great views helped me go any quicker, but I was home for lunch and I had a great¬†morning¬†out. ¬†Oh, and the detours meant I covered nearly 57 miles..not too bad for a saturday morning.

Happy to be outside at 7am for a bike ride...must be mad!

Happy to be outside at 7am for a bike ride…must be mad!

Trapped by the snow

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Wading through this with my bike

 

This weekend has been a difficult one for cycling but at least I managed to get out yesterday simply by going up and down all the main roads in Oxford. The snow wasn’t that much of a problem yesterday as all the main roads were fine, so as long as I stuck to these I could stay on the bike instead of resorting to walking.¬† The problem comes with how far I can go. Pretty soon I ran out of roads that weren’t either impassable country lanes (on my thin no grip tyres) or dual carriage ways.¬† I’m sorry to say that I’m not strong willed enough to just go up and down the same roads repeatedly so I only managed 14 miles.

This weekend hasn’t been a total loss though, I have learnt a few more things:

– I can’t rely on doing all my miles on a weekend, because sometimes things get in the way and I can’t do as much as I’d hoped. I’ve decided I need to add more miles during the week and I think the best way is to extend my journey home by going the long way (which in reality means going in the opposite direction for a while). ¬†This should add a few more miles every day as well as to train my mind to cycle when it really just wants to go home.

 
– I need to get contact lenses, or perhaps some windscreen wipers for my glasses.¬† On days like today, with falling snow, I only manage to cycle for a few minutes before I can’t see anything!

 
РThermal socks.  I need thermal socks.

– Drivers don’t behave how you’d expect them to when it’s been snowing. ¬†They go slow and then speed up suddenly, or stop for what seems to be no reason. ¬†They also dont seem to expect a cyclist to be out on the roads in snow and don’t seem to know how to react to that. ¬†I know now that if I’m cycling in the snow I need to be extra cautious and observant of traffic.

Cycling ill

Given I spend the majority of my time with one ailment or another if I let this get in the way of training I’d never be out on the bike.¬† With this in mind I dragged my poorly self out of bed yesterday after sleeping a good 20 hours and nursed my chest infection with some honey tea before climbing on the bike for a quick 15 mile tour around Oxford.

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I picked a route that had the least uphill and the most weeeeeeeee going downhill.¬† I think I learnt a lot dragging myself out of bed and on to the bike and here’s a summary:

– no matter how sniffly and ill I feel, it always seems better zooming down a steep hill
– it’s okay to get lost cycling around the city, all roads eventually lead somewhere
– for a city that prides itself on its cycle routes Oxford has a hell of a lot of pot holes, broken road surfaces and cycle paths that end abruptly

-cycling down flooded tow paths can be fun

 

 

I also stopped off at a cycle shop to discuss with them getting my bike adjusted so that it actually fits me better:

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I went in to Warlands and I will definitely be going back to get work done on the bike as they were the friendliest most knowledgeable bike shop I have found in Oxford.  Hopefully the adjustments we can make will mean I have a much more comfortable bike for long distance rides.

Hopefully I can go on two long rides next weekend and really get this training started!