Thursday, 30 July 2009

End of the blog

I have decided to end this blog. Given its aim was to track my progress towards the Etape and then write about its completion, it has come to a natural end. I have really enjoyed writing the blog, much more than I thought I would. I never thought anyone would be interested with what I had to say and the comments I have received have been really encouraging. It has also lead me to many other blogs and many interesting people.

As I have enjoyed writing the blog so much, I am going to start a new one. I'd love anyone who has enjoyed follows me to continue to read about my exploits here:


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What now?

So life has returned to normal. No Le Tour on the telly, no planning for a trip to France and no worrying how I'm going to get a century ride in at the weekend.

Its been great fun telling everyone about the Etape. I think people have been genuinely interested. When I ran marathons, people were interested but not that impressed. Most people know someone who has run a marathon but the Etape is something a bit different. It does feel like I've done something very unique which is really pleasing.

I now need to refocus and plan for something else. I don't know what I want to do next. I did think the Etape would be a one off event but I enjoyed it so much that I want to do it again. Also, because the route is always different, it is always a new challenge.

So I will wait until October and see what the route will be. If its Alpe D'Huez, I will struggle to resist. It is so iconic and I did it when I was in my late teens on a family holiday and I have fond memories. Also, if I qualify as a teacher in 2010 and get a job, the Etape is right at the end of summer term so there is a good chance I will not be able to do it after next year.

I don't think I will be free to do the Marmotte so the other option is an organised cycling holiday. I'd like to do more than one days cycling if I'm going all the way to the South of France. I'd also like to try and see some of the Tour next year.

In the shorter term, I'll be running again. I aim to stick to short stuff over the next few months and then build to a spring marathon. I don't have one in mind. I'd actually love to run the London Marathon but I didn't enter so I might choose one of the Endurance Life coastal runs or the new Brighton marathon. I'm trying to get my brother to do it with me.

This year's goals
Start running again over the summer
Have a go at some of my PBs
Take part in the Moose on the Loose 10 miler in the US
Complete the Autumn Epic cycle quicker than last year

2010 goals
Do a spring marathon
Find a big cycling challenge for the summer (Marmotte, Etape etc.)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Etape 2009: Video

Etape 2009: Post Race

Time to base of Ventoux - 5:25:04
Average speed - 17.2 mph
Time up Mont Ventoux - 2:23:40
Average speed - 5.9 mph
Total Time - 7:48:44
Average speed - 13.7 mph
Place - 2506 out of 7397 finishers


Ed - 7:35:20
Clive - 9:34:36
Bob - 7:07:10
SimonO - 8:17:28

Boardman - 8:45:47
Cracknell - 6:27:58

What I knew would happen, has happened. I'm low. The post event anticlimax is upon me. I expected to feel like this just like I did with my marathons and its nothing to worry about. I had been building up to this event for over a year so now that its over, I have a lack of focus.

There is also the small matter of my teaching course that I start in September. The Etape was taking all my efforts but now its over, I get to start worrying about becoming a teacher. I am looking forward to it but I'm also very nervous.

As for my thoughts on the event, they are nothing but positive. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I can't wait to get back and do some more. I am truly hooked. I was watching the tour yesterday and all I could think of was 'I want to ride that hill'.

I have the Autumn Epic to train for over the Summer. I will look to go faster than last year. I will get back into running and do some sort stuff like 5k or 10k events.

I'll also try and find an event for next summer to give myself a long term goal. Maybe the Etape, maybe the Marmotte or maybe a trip with a cycling holiday company.

In the very short term, I plan to eat pizza and drink beer at Ed's on Saturday watching the Ventoux stage.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Etape 2009: Monday - The main event

After leaving Montellimar, it wasn't long before we were on the climb of Cote de Citelle. It was basically Box Hill for over 5k. I felt very comfortable on it and really enjoyed spinning up it. I was passing more people than passed me and I was keeping up with Ed. Towards the top I got stuck in a slow group and Ed made 30 meters on me but I reeled him back in.

It was then through Nyons and up the Col d'Ey. This was another great climb. I had lost Ed again by this point and wasn't trying to get back to him. I stopped for a comfort break and took this picture.

It was so pretty on the climb. I was loving it. I was shocked when I realised I had gone over 40 miles. Then came a longish downhill and on to the Col de Fontaube followed by the Col des Abeilles. This was a little harder than the others so far as it was longer and steeper. It was also getting hot as it was around midday. It was the first time I saw people walking.

The decent off the Col des Abeilles was very wide and fast. I sat at 40mph for a long time with no effort and pushed it over 50mph for a kilometer or so. That was exhilarating and scary. At the bottom we crossed the valley to the bottom of Ventoux. This was the sight from the road.

As I got to the bottom of Mont Ventoux and the last feed stop, I saw Ed. He was just leaving and looked very fresh. I took water and a bite of a cheese sandwich and headed for the mountain with loads of confidence.

After a couple of miles I was still feeling good but that quickly disappeared as I entered the forest. I'd heard others mention it but nothing I'd read did it justice. What little wind there was had gone and the heat was stifling. Looking at the road it didn't seem like it should be that hard but each pedal stroke was an effort. Many, many people where sitting on the barrier or resting under a tree. Everyone seemed to be moving at the same snails pace and with nothing to look at other than road ahead, you seemed to be stuck in an endless loop.

I stopped a couple of times to cool down as my heart rate was getting too high. I counted down the kilometer signs from 18 down to 6 and eventually Chalet Raynard appeared. It was a welcome sight. I got more water and like everyone else, poured a lot of it on my head and back.

From Chalet Raynard you could see the top again which was good and bad. After the long forest, it still seemed such a long way away but at least you now had a target. I set off again leaving behind many riders who looked on their last legs. I know knew I would make it and started to enjoy it. I waved at all the people outside their camper vans and got some cold water on my head for my efforts. That was lovely.

Each kilometer slowly ticked by and a sub 8 time was very realistic. Once I saw the '1km to go banner' I pushed and was under the white tower. One last effort round the last hairpin bend and crossed the finish line. I collapsed on the bike only to hear Ed and Bob calling my name. Amazing.

Etape 2009: Monday - Race Start

My eyes opened at 3:30 with thoughts of mountains and pain. I stayed in bed and went back to sleep only to be woken a short time later by the alarm. I could have slept a lot longer.

I got up to have breakfast. Clive joined me but Ed had his own food so stayed in bed a bit longer. I tried to eat but it was difficult. I managed the muesli I brought with me and some bread, an apple and coffee.

I had packed most of my gear the night before and my bike was already in the mini-bus to be taken to the start. We were all on the coaches on time (4:30) but it took forever to get to Montellimar and we were late. We also had to abandon the coach early due to traffic so it was 6:30 when we got our bikes.

I used the track pump to make sure the tyres were at full pressure but it was a disaster. The valve broke and all I heard was a hiss. Panic stations! I have never changed an inner tube so quickly and so well in my life. Under 5 minutes. Thanks to the very kind rider who gave me another spare inner. Very kind.

We got to our pen at 6:45 but we were all the way at the back of it. This wasn't a problem because we had such good numbers to start with.

The announcer counted down the start and we shuffled along for a few minutes towards the start line. We crossed at around 7:12 and we were off.

Etape 2009: Sunday

Sunday was all about getting our race numbers. Breakfast was at 8:00 and we had a coach to get at 9:30 to take us to Montellimar and the Etape village.

It was a lovely day and Montellimar looked like a nice town. We got in the queue and received a race number for the bike, one to pin to our jersey and a chip for our ankle. We also go a T-shirt.

We then met up with our friends Bob and Simon and grabbed a coffee. In wasn't a surprise that all we talked about was the next days ride and Mont Ventoux. We exchanged race predictions, most of us erring on the side of caution.

The Etape village had loads of different stands and we spent a while looking round them. We saw Cancellera's Specialized time trial bike he used in this years tour in the Prologue. It was ugly and stunning at the same time.

When we got back, we went for a 5 mile ride to check the bikes were ok. They were. We then sat in the hotel and watched a great finish to the 15th stage of the Tour with Contador storming up a big hill. Inspiration indeed.

Dinner was ok and we managed to get into bed by around 9pm. I think I was asleep by 10pm.