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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A rest day after 36 miles to Interlaken

Enthusiastic after a wet start

Enthusiastic after a wet start

Today we cycled from Bern to Interlaken. We woke at 6:30 to cups of tea and the sound of rain. A quick check of the weather forecast revealed a mixed bag. One forecast said it would be light rain today and then thunderstorms for the next two days. yr.no said it would be thunderstorms today, improving for the next couple of days. This left us with a bit of a gamble: do we risk poor weather and do a half day to Interlaken, or push on and attempt the bigggest day of the trip? In the end we opted for a shorter day because Jen’s knees started to play up again.

The ride out of Bern was fairly pleasant. By the time we’d got kitted up and set off it had stopped raining, and pottering around at 12mph wasn’t fast enough to kick up all the standing water. Although we didn’t see the sun for the entire ride, it was a nice change to be cycling in 21 degrees rather than 30. Limiting the ride to just over 30 miles also meant we only needed to stop once for food.

Entering the Bernese Oberland

Entering the Bernese Oberland, our first proper glimpse of the alps

We were supposed to do 32 miles, but a minor detour in Thun took us to a crossing… a rowing boat crossing. Turn around, back into Thun and cross to the right side of the river before pressing on.

The northern side of Thunersee lake is great terrain to ride. There were one or two too many lorries, but gently climbing and descending meant the views were constantly changing.

Around the northern side of Thunersee

Around the northern side of Thunersee, 8 miles from Interlaken

We arrived at Manor Farm campsite before 12:00, the earliest finish of the trip. This campsite has by far the most convoluted pricing system I’ve ever seen, and every pitch has a different price. After setting up we went for a quick swim in the lake before settling in for some last minute photos of the passes to come to get Megan and Jen excited!

The local weather forecast is now that the storms are likely to come in the evenings, so we need an early start tomorrow. This has the added advantage of getting as far as possible in the cool of the morning if the sun does come out.

Descending down to Interlaken, looking forward to a swim in the lake

Descending down to Interlaken, looking forward to a swim in the lake

Catching a local

Catching a local

Looking out over Around the northern side of Thunersee, towards Interlaken

Looking out over Around the northern side of Thunersee, towards Interlaken

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!

The Best Laid Plans…

The Team headed to the Isle of Wight this weekend on a plan to cycle around the island in a day, at just over 60 miles this seemed more than achievable and we were all looking forward to the fun day out cycling in the sunshine…..

Meeting Megan on the island on Saturday morning, Ryan and myself were half an hour late arriving due to a delayed ferry – there’s not a lot you can do when you reply on public transport! ¬†Setting off on the ride at 11.30am shouldn’t have been too much of a problem, we were still determined to make it most of, if not all, the way around.

Disaster #1 is otherwise known as Jen’s navigation skills. ¬†The Isle of Wight has a ’round the island’ route which is handily marked out with road signs. ¬†I say ‘handily’, but actually I lie. ¬†There are two routes, one clockwise and one anticlockwise, that both have very similar signs to direct you.

Which way?

Which way?

As you can see from this picture, the signs are not at all confusing (“was it white on a blue background or blue on a white background we’re supposed to be following?”). Not so easy to navigate when you’re in an unfamiliar place and you’re swimming around the cycle route (more on that later).

The navigation woes started as soon as we set off and I immediately headed in the wrong¬†direction¬† ¬†Ryan realised this but wanted me to learn to be more confident in my navigating…by not¬†telling¬†me I was navigating for the first 20 minutes. ¬†Team Pedal then meandered around the Isle of Wight for a good 30 minutes, getting lost and heading around the same roundabouts several times before finding our way….mostly.

Disaster #2 was the snapping of Ryan’s chain. ¬†Just after I’d got us lost for the fourth time we set off to cycle over a¬†particularly¬†busy roundabout only to have Ryan’s chain snap just as he was moving out into traffic. ¬†I found it a lot scarier then he did, and we grabbed the bike and broken bits and huddled down in an underpass to fix it. ¬†Whilst Ryan nipped off to a nearby shop to use their facilities Megan and I started on the chain fixing – a real team effort!

Disaster #3 has to be the weather. ¬†After seeing the weekend weather forecast we were under no illusions that the day would be a wet cycle. ¬†For Megan this was the first time she had cycled in the rain. ¬†I’m used to cycling in the rain now, doing it quite frequently on my commute to work. ¬†However, I don’t think any of us were strong enough to cycle past the warm dry cake selling cafe after cycling for 16 miles in torrential rain.

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Home comforts at 16 miles

We have to thank The Dairy Deli for welcoming three very drenched cyclists and comforting us with tea, coffee, hot chocolate and home made cakes.  It was a very welcome break from the downpour and we were all a little reluctant to get back on the bikes.

At this point we had spent a lot of the day lost in navigation hell, fixing broken chains, and being drenched by cars deliberately driving through deep puddles to soak us…we faced the reality that we would not have the time to make it around the whole island. ¬†Instead, we decided to start heading back to base and cut it short to 30 miles, with an option of an extended loop should we be up for it once we’d continued a bit further.

Back out in the rain we jumped on the bikes…and Megan instantly fell off again. ¬†I was concerned briefly that she may have hurt herself until I realised she was lying on the floor laughing.

Back on the road we made it up to 27 miles before I pulled over to the side of the road to make sure we were definitely heading in the right¬†direction¬†again. ¬†Ryan spotted a bus shelter where we could huddle away from the rain to check the map and I attempted to push my bike over the centimetre high kerb to go towards the shelter. ¬†I say attempted, because I¬†promptly¬†fell sideways landed heavily on my knee. (Disaster number…what are we up to now?)

Hobblingly along I decided I didn’t really want to do that extra loop and was quite happy with 30 miles thank you very much.

Setting off again Ryan and Megan soon sailed in to the distance as I made another emergency stop to deal with my chain jammed for the third time that day (Disaster number 4824732462). ¬†I caught them up for the last few miles and we returned to base looking rather like we’d spent the day underwater cycling, which is frankly what it felt like.

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The Wet Look

 

Overall it was a weekend of mixed fortunes. ¬†We all got some good experience in cycling in torrential rain. ¬†Megan got some great experience in on road cycling in the rain. ¬†Megan and I got some great experience in falling off (again). ¬†Most importantly we got to do a lot of route planning, eating good food, spending time with wonderful family and planning ways to make cycling to Switzerland more enjoyable for everyone….

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Team Pedal and Support