The end of 16 days of cycling

Jen’s knee should be okay! That seems like the best place to start. Jen has to rest for a couple of weeks and do some physio on her knee, but all the important bits are still intact and fine. Happy days!

Almost a week ago we arrived in Locarno, and it feels like things have actually become more hectic since then.

Getting off the bike on day 16 was a mixed-bag of emotions, combining joy and satisfaction at achieving what we’ve been working towards for such a long time with a bit of sadness that it was all over.

I’ll admit that the 30 or so hours we spent at my aunt and uncle’s (thanks again Sue, Rico and Ben for being our destination) were long overdue and it was fantastic to be able to play: jumping in the pool, trying to learn to unicycle, and a load of other things which we couldn’t have justified stopping halfway through France to enjoy.

A Swiss-themed arrival party

A Swiss-themed arrival party

The journey home was a lot less pleasant than the ride. Everyone was pretty worn out and ready for home, but towing a trailer meant being limited to 60mph all the way back. We arrived in Bangor around 24 hours after we left Locarno, all ready for bed!

Shocking the body by switching from cycling 8-10 hours per day for 16 days and then doing all the above probably isn’t the most sensible idea, and by Sunday evening before we left I had pulled something in my left foot (admittedly while trying to leap into the pool through a 2′ hoop feet-first with a run up) and a mosquito bite on my right foot left me with a giant, inflated, itchy foot. It was probably the first sign that I am actually quite worn down by the adventure.

What an adventure!

What an adventure! Exciting roads down the Furka Pass to Andermatt

Around the time we finished I was feeling fit, strong and pretty confident that I could have carried on. Over the 16 day cycle I settled into a rhythm and routine which meant I wasn’t wearing my body out too much. Once we had overcome some of the routing issues and the final few days were attainable and programmed in I felt a lot less mentally strained as well. Now we’re all scattered across the UK again the realisation that I need a little rest is dawning on me. Every day by 6pm I feel shattered and ready for bed, and there’s still a lot of unpacking to do as well as all the “nice” things such as returning the Garmin GPS and GoPro to their respective donors (thanks again Blacks, Rob, and Konrad and Sarah). My plan at the moment is to rest my foot as much as possible so I can ride at the weekend, so lugging around the bags and boxes of cycling kit can wait.

Hopefully we'll get to ride together again soon

Hopefully we’ll get to ride together again soon

Having not done anything particularly physical since getting out of the pool on Saturday, I’m eager to get out and do something, and it’s a side-effect of the trip I like. Being physically active is addictive, and now I want to capitalise on my cycling fitness to make the most of Snowdonia and the rest of North Wales, as well as do a couple of bigger day trips including Bangor to Leeds (150 miles).

I'm going to miss having great views every day

I’m going to miss having great views every day

We’re very close to achieving our target, so if you haven’t already, please donate to MS Trust and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation through JustGiving:¬†http://www.justgiving.com/teams/teampedal. All donations go straight to the charities, whose amazing work hinges on the generosity of its donors.

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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

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:

Crimea Pass, Bumble bees and Pecan Pie.

I have mixed emotions towards the three elements of this blog title.

Take Bumble bees for example, I can cope with them if they bumble on past me about a meter away. They’re better than wasps, worse than flies, but I can cope. I can’t, however, cope with Bumble bees crashing into my face, about 2cm from my mouth, when I’m sailing down a long hill at 30mph. The small bug felt more like a tennis ball.

Crimea pass, I can cope with when It’s a Welsh name said in passing conversation when Ryan’s talking me through the route I’m taking that day. Crimea is also an okay word when described in a sentence as “rather pleasant”. I eventually found out that Crimea Pass is actually a pretty substantial hill climb from Betws-y-coed towards¬†Blaenau¬†Ffestiniog.

So Saturday after work, my parents and I drove over to North Wales to see my brothers and to enable me and Ryan to get an impromptu Team Pedal training day in on the sunday. When we¬†arrived¬† Ryan had some bad news that he had pulled his back and it was causing him a considerable amount of pain . In the hope that it would be better in the morning we planned a 100 mile route ¬†out on the A5 towards Bala and back towards¬†Caernarfon¬†and home again . We talked a bit about the ride, and current training and preparation for our big ride to Switzerland as it is only 2 and a¬†half¬†weeks away now! It was also a great¬†opportunity¬†to have us all in one room discussing the finer details of day to day camping life on the trip; i.e. what kind of meals we’ll be having , what time we aim to be finished cycling for the day and how many euros we’re planning on taking the fund the trip. So all in all a good excuse for a good chin wag. We headed to bed at about midnight and set alarms for 7.45 the next ¬†morning , hoping to be out by 9am for a long ride. Sadly , Ryan’s back was no better in the morning, and was in fact a lot stiffer. After he attempted a slow climb onto the bike, he concluded that he couldn’t go out on a ride, and that I would in fact have to go out ALONE.¬†Now, whilst I do enjoy cycling alone, it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as it with Ryan and Jen. Setting off on a long ride, it’s also much more daunting when I’m attempting it alone.

I set out on a roughly 80 mile route following the A5 down to Betws-y-coed and then following A roads in a biiiig loop around Snowdon back towards home again.

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The first leg of the A5 was a little disheartening as it took me a little while to fully warm up, and I had to stop twice to adjust my cleats on my shoes. After a rocky start, I set a good pace of 15-17mph and got stuck in. I have a mini-tradition (as in I’ve now done it twice.) that I stop for a photo at Llyn Ogwen. It’s too pretty not to.

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Whilst I was out on this ride, there was also a pretty major racing event taking place around Snowdonia; The Etape Eryri – The Snowdonia Sportive. Upside to this was the roads were full of cyclists and it was a really great atmosphere, at one point I was cycling down the A5 into Betws-y-coed, whilst the race was trudging uphill in the other direction which made me obnoxiously thankful ( even though I was fully aware that , to go down a hill , means at some point you WILL have to go back up). Downsides to this, I hate to say it, were that on several occasions is seemed to me that traffic assumed that ALL cyclists were travelling in that one direction, thus missing me completely and cutting me up. One traffic flow officer was actually waving a car across in front of me , and I had to shout to make her aware of my presence. By this point the car had already pulled out halfway into the road. Anyway, busy atmosphere, busy roads, all to be expected. All in¬†valuable¬†experience I guess. It’s safe to say as well that throughout the day I got pretty tired of doing the “Cyclist-nod” to every single cyclist who passed me. It would be rude not to, of course.

 

Crimea Pass

Crimea Pass

So , as I mentioned earlier, Crimea Pass…. a very, very, very, long hill from Betws-y-coed up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. To say I wasn’t expecting it would be a gross understatement. I would say “you’d have thought Ryan would’ve warned me” but really, I know better. In a way I’m glad he didn’t, I think my lack of dread, and my sudden surge of fearful energy got me partially up the pass with some optimism and vigour. I then settled into what I like to call my “all day pace” and eventually reached the top. I had to stop and take a photo part-way up , but sadly the photo doesn’t really do the pass justice.

Crimea Pas up to Bleaneu Ffestiniog

Crimea Pass up to Blaenau Ffestiniog

I wish I could remember all the finer details of my ride, as it really was an incredible route, and although after reaching the top of crimea,I sent Ryan a text simply saying :

“” ¬† “PLEASANT” were your words!. “”

..I actually really enjoyed the whole ride.

A view of Blaenau Ffestiniog

A view of Blaenau Ffestiniog

After reaching Blaenau I stopped for an essential bagel and banana as my energy was dwindling. Had to take a picture though of the WORLDS SMALLEST BANANA : (please note, I have quite small hands as it is.)

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I then went on to follow A roads into Porthmadog, Tremadog and finally Dolbenmaen before joining the national cycle route that took me to¬†Caernarfon. I had to play some music on my phone for a little while when I was on the cycle path. I found that silence ALL day ¬†just meant that I kept on either repeating or sometimes singing Welsh town names round and round in my head. “Blaenau Ffestiniog” was a popular tune of the day.

When I reached¬†Caernarfon (and the finish line of the race that was taking place that day) a couple of people clapped as I cycled past, thinking I was taking part in the big race around Snowdonia. I smiled sheepishly and thanked them, even though I hadn’t done even half the amount of hills that the racers had done. As I was cycling through I actually managed to spot the family out on their walk. My¬†initial¬†thought process was “awesome, cycling done, I’ve got a lift back”….then I realised the¬†likelihood¬†of that being kosher. After a quick hello, a chocolate orange ice cream and a quick dose of the awesome¬†atmosphere¬†of the aftermath of the race at the finish line I was back on my bike for the final 11 miles of my route. The sky was cloudy, it was attempting the rain and the green fly population was¬†rapidly¬†increasing.

I finished the day with two hills up from Tregarth towards Racub. Put every last ounce of energy into it, and ended the day pleased with what I’d done. My story¬†concludes¬†to this wonderful , wonderful ending. After cycling the 75 ish miles, it was ALL worth it because when I got home I had the promise of Luke’s speciality CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE ¬†waiting for me. YUM. Now that I can¬†definitely¬†cope with!!!

The days ride was awesome,¬†North Wales really is stunning, and I think that every time I visit it. ¬†Sunday’s ride was a huge¬†achievement¬†for me as it was the longest distance I’ve done alone without:

A) Getting lost    B) Falling off my bike    C) Ending up in the wrong city

So, overall, a good day, and great prep for the trip.

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I have Wednesday off work , so I’m planning a ride for that . Then this Saturday I’m running my 10K race for life with my friend, Lauren. Riding sunday will be interesting after the run, but it uses different muscles, so I’ll probably prefer cycling to walking anyway ! Then it’ll be the weeks rest before the Switzerland trip. It’s all coming around SO FAST!

xxx

 

Getting keen for rollers

I have my bike back! For now at least. After spending yesterday evening fitting the replacement headset, brake pads and giving the rest of the bike a bit of TLC this evening was good for a quick ride to blow out the cobwebs.

With the rain and wind tearing at my motivation I gave in and had a two hour session on the rollers instead. This evenings in-flight entertainment was Serenity, and I’m quickly working my way through unseen actiony fodder to help burn the hours away.

The rollers are great because they build up balance and core control as well as working your legs, and they take a hell of a lot more concentration.

It’s not that rollers aren’t fun (they’re not), but sitting in the same place quickly loses its edge. To keep interested I need to set little challenges along the way.

Today’s challenge was to become able to look sideways without falling off, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts trying to talk to Konrad I managed it a whole minute each way. I’m pretty impressed that Konrad didn’t fire pencils at me continuously! For five bonus points I managed a whole 30 seconds with no hands.

An unexpected rest

After an amazing ride on Thursday this weekend has been suprisingly inert, with the end result being two beautifully sunny days and zero miles covered.

Bike by Llyn Mymbyr (Plas y Brenin)

Stopping for a swim at Llyn Mymbyr (Plas y Brenin) on the way home (ish) from work

The ongoing headset saga

For the past few months I’ve been tackling a recurring problem with my headset, which connects the forks to the frame of the bike. Even after being tightened it only takes 30-40 miles before there’s play again and the forks can be rocked backwards and forwards slightly.

I have tried the “just carry on” approach, but found to my peril that even a small amount of play in the headset translates to “AAAARRRGHH I’M GOING TO DIEEEEEEEE” when braking from 40 mph downhill. Not doing that again.

Working my way through forums and flame wars it seems that the cause of recurring play in headsets can be narrowed down to:

  1. Stem too loose
  2. Headset not compressed enough prior to stem tightening
  3. No carbon assembly paste
  4. Too many spacers
  5. The stem (though I didn’t find a good reason why)
  6. Crown race not flush against the fork crown
  7. Magic voodoo, because you don’t own a ¬£3000 bike (or because you do)

Prior to this weekend I had worked my way through options 1 to 4, with no real improvement. Replacing the stem seemed a bit of a long shot, but I have been loaned a spare stem to see for sure. I also stripped down the fork and re-seated the crown race.

The crown race did look a little wonky (although I am good at finding faults in perfection) so I’m hoping that will have solved it, but I did the sensible thing and took the bearings out of the headset to check them as well (just in case).

The downside to this sensibility is that I removed the lower bearing in an “alternative manner”, i.e. I fired 100 tiny balls of steel to all four corners of the garage, never to be seen again. Having rendered my bike immobile I now have to wait for my new headset to turn up to see if the maintenance worked!

I found this setback really hard to take, having been worn down by the maintenance required before every ride just to get rid of the shaking for a few miles. It’s only a few weeks before we set off so every mile and every session counts, and to be off the bike for the best part of a week is heartbreaking. Fortunately there are a hundred other tasks I’ve been neglecting while my routine has been bike, rollers, bike, bike, rollers; so now is a good time to focus on those things, and route planning is this evening’s task.

All things being equal I should be back on the road by Thursday evening, ready for a big weekend with Megan visiting on Sunday.