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.

Etape 2009: Friday and Saturday

The trip started in Keston in South East London at my sister-in-laws house. I met up with Clive and Ed at Elizabeth's as she had kindly offered to put us up. It is close to the Eurotunnel and we were borrowing her car so it was helpful to get everything ready on the Friday before getting up early on the Saturday morning. We were given a lovely chilly and went to bed to try and get some sleep. It wasn't easy.

We were up at 4am on Saturday to get our 6am train. Everything was going well until we were about 30 minutes from the Tunnel. Without any warning, the rear car window shattered. Nothing hit it and the bikes were secure so were had no idea what happened.

We got in contact with Autoglass and their Ashford branch had a Volvo rear window but didn't open until 8am - over a two hour wait. It was very tense with us discussing our options.

Autoglass opened up at 8am and the man their was right on the ball. He had it changed in 30 minutes and we were away at 9:25 after it was set (but £550 poorer - fingers crossed on the insurance).

We had obviously missed the train we had booked but they put us on one at 11:50 for no extra cost. We had some coffee and breakfast and then we were off - again.
Once in France I put my foot down and we made good progress. We were all holding our breath, waiting for the window to go again. If it went a second time that would be the end of the trip and with every bump we went over, we all jumped. We were not relaxed.

The journey was very easy with no traffic and we made it down to Avignon at midnight with a bad window intact. We had a small issue with the rooms as one of us was sharing and the reps had neglected to tell the other person already in the room who was now asleep. Thankfully, he was very good humoured when they woke him up.

We were in bed before 1am and I think we all got a reasonable nights sleep.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Job done

I'm currently in the car somewhere north of Dijon with a big grin on
my face. Yesterday was an amazing day. I'll write a full report
tomorrow but I'll just say it was a fun 93 miles and then an epic 14
miles in the heat on Ventoux. I've never experienced anything like it
before. So proud of myself. Who'd have thought I could do that.

Simon Lewis

Monday, 20 July 2009

Race day

Well, today's the day. Managed to get 6 hours sleep. Struggled with
breakfast but finished my cereal and bread. On the coach to the start.
Its a mixed atmosphere, some very quiet, others talking nervously. I
can see the light on the top of Ventoux which isn't helping. My mate
Simon drove up it yesterday and sent me a text. All it said was "its

Simon Lewis

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Finally here

What a day. Up at 4, off in time and down to euro tunnel. Then rear
window shattered. We had to drive to Ashford and wait until 8 at
autoglass. Then another 2 hours for it to be fix. We had missed the
train so didn't get no one until 12, six hours behind schedule. It got
better after that. A clear run 650 miles through France. Got there at
11.30. Hotel is good and we all had an ok nights sleep. Off to get our
race chip now with lots of other worried looking riders. #END

Simon Lewis

Friday, 17 July 2009

Off we go

All packed and ready to go. Bike clean, serviced and looking good. Body in good(ish) shape and feeling fine.

I'm off to my sister-in-law's tonight as she lives in north Kent which is great for Ashford the the Eurotunnel. She is also lending us her car which is very very kind.

I can't believe is all happening now. Its been 14 months since we came up with this crazy idea and its flown past.

A huge thanks to everyone who as read my blog, left comments, sponsored me, given me great advice and listened to me drone on about cycling. Special thanks to my wife Cath who has put up with all my training, weekends away and extra costs over the past year. She has been very understanding.

I'll try and post whilst in France and I'll be taking lots of pictures and video.

Good luck to anyone taking part and I hope you have a great ride.

All the best,

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Video nasty

I wanted to do a video of the 11 events I had completed in the build-up to the Etape. In my head, it was to be a montage of dramatic pictures with stirring music. What I've made looks to me like a stinky slice to cheese. I feel like Michael Bay. Great ideas, terrible execution.

Anyway, watch and laugh.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

All roads lead to the Giant of Provence

With less than a week to go, I have been reading far too many reports on Mont Ventoux and scaring myself silly. These are a few quotes.

"The forest. Jesus, the forest. Nothing can prepare you for that relentless ten kilometres through the forest. There is simply nothing else like it. Double chevrons crawl like spiders on the map all the way along the D974. Looking straight up the road gives me vertigo, makes me queasy."
Giles P Croft from the Rapha site.

"The climb seemed endless. Just when you think you are near the top, the sign '11km to the summit' appears. At that point riders were starting to get off and push in increasing numbers."
Report from the Etape 2000 which went up Ventoux.

"If the legs are hurting it's a mental challenge too as each time you'll see bend in the road ahead and hope for respite but it never seems to come. Instead it is just up and up, a real ordeal. There's are points where the gradient slackens but it's relative, 7% instead of 9%."
Route report on the Kingston Wheelers site.

"With no sign posts from there to Chalet Reynard and no hairpins, the ascent is unforgiving. In the forest it is hot and humid, quiet. There is still no sign of the top and it’s infuriatingly steep."
'The Elusive Prize' on the Rapha site.

Cyclingnews asked Lance how it went on Ventoux and as usual, the Texan didn't skate around the facts, telling us, "Well, it was tough! Tough as usual (on Ventoux) and a tough day in general, because it was very, very windy. The climb is relentless; very steep at the bottom and just difficult at the top.
Lance Armstrong, Cycling News.

Ventoux Stats
Start Altitude: Bedoin 280m
Finish Altitude: 1912m
Climb distance: 21.6km (13 miles)
Average gradient: 7.8%

Monday, 13 July 2009

100% for DeafBlind

This week I received my 25th donation to DeafBlind and achieved my target of £500. Actual, I'm now on to 101% which is excellent.

A huge thanks to Volker, Andrew L, Gurm, Erwan, Pete Swann, Gary, Andrew V, David, Mum and Peter, Grant, David Carr, Phil, Ben, Mal, Sally, Gary & Sandra, Rosemary and Peter, Rob Bagley, Jason, Paul Nolan, Mark Cousins, Ben Abel, Kerry & Richard and Andrew Watson.

Your donations will be used by an excellent charity to really help some disadvantaged people. Thank you.

Just because I have achieved my target, I'd still love anyone to donate if they would like to. You can easily give money here:

Thanks so much,

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Time in the gym

Saturday was meant to by a longish ride with Ed. Nothing too intense but a good workout. On Friday, we had friends round for dinner and I had a couple of drinks. I decided not to worry about it and just have a nice evening which I did. I wasn't in bed until 1am so when my alarm went off at 7:30am and it was wet outside, I called Ed and cancelled. I think its the first weekend ride I have bailed on and one that's not all the important.

However, by lunchtime I was annoyed with myself and felt lazy. I went to the gym and did two hard hours on the bike, rowing machine and lots of stretching. I felt good afterwards and the stretching was really useful.

On Sunday I got up early and went to the gym again. Another two hours and it felt really good. The stretching really loosened me up and I'm so glad I did it.

The rest of the taper will look like this:

Monday - Gym session (1 hour cycle, 30 minutes row, 30 minutes stretch)
Tuesday - Gym session (1 hour cycle, 30 minutes row, 30 minutes stretch)
Tuesday - Sports massage
Wednesday - 30 mile ride with some sprints
Thursday - 20 mile ride
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Travel to France
Sunday - Small ride to check bike and loosen legs
Monday - Long ride with large mountain at end

Saturday, 11 July 2009

How much...

On Thursday, I took my bike into Cycles Dauphin to get my final Etape service. It had been over 3 months and 2100 miles since the last service so even though I am good at cleaning the chain and cassette, I guessed that they would tell me to change them. They mechanic didn't pressure me and said they could last a while longer but the wear was borderline. Had it been any other event, I might have risked it but as I've been training for this for a year, I can't take the chance.

They couldn't fix the break lever that I bent in the crash so that had to be replaced. Then, whilst cleaning the bike, they noticed a crack in part of the rear break. Again, they said it would probably be ok but that it could fail at any time. If I'm hurtling down a French hill at 50mph, I don't want to risk being without a rear break so it was another £65 added to the bill.

When to total came in, I did nearly cry. £430 just to make the bike work properly. That sort of money would have got me a nice little hybrid to replace my rubbish run-around bike I currently use. Or a nice pair of sun glasses and helmet to replace the bottom-of-the-range ones I use now. Or a nice weekend away somewhere.

Anyway, I guess I had no choice. The crash could have broken my frame or worse, broken me so I know I'm lucky. Its just I've spent nearly every penny I have on this hobby for the past year and I would like to use some of it for other things.

Things nearly went from bad to worse on the way home. I was immediately aware of a terrible speak coming from the bottom bracket. I got so annoyed, thinking of all the terrible abuse I would shout at the mechanic then I took it back in. How could I spend all that money and not have the bike running perfectly? I got more and more cross trying to work out what it was. It took me 20 miles to realise my left shoe was creaking. If I arched my foot the noise stopped. How embarrassing. So apologies to the mechanic at Dauphin. I did say nasty things in my head and I'm sorry.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Last Long Ride

Got up at 6:30 and was out of the door by 7:15 for my last long ride before the Etape. I wasn't sure how far or where I was going but I headed towards Kingston. Ed had decided that I was going too early (and I don't blame him) so I was on my own.

I followed my usual route to the Surrey hills and was going along at a decent speed, listening to podcasts and enjoying myself. I got to Ranmore Common but instead of heading for Box Hill, I went down to Dorking and then back down the A25 towards Guildford. Then it was up the hill on Coombe Lane and back to the top of Staple Hill.

Then on to Box Hill (see above), stop for water and cake and then home. I extended the route by going to Epsom Racecourse (an extra hill) and then doing a bit more in Richmond Park before getting home with 87.3 miles on the clock.

My body held up pretty well. My knee and elbow were a little sore still but nothing too bad. I have hurt my chest. I think I've strained a muscle between my ribs on the right hand side. It started hurting the day after Dartmoor so I imagine its crash related. It hurts when I cough or take a really deep breath in when I get out of the saddle. Fingers crossed its healed in 2 weeks time.

During the ride, my cycle computer went dim a few times. As soon as I got home, it went completely. Thankfully, I had a spare battery so its back up and running again but I will get another spare for France. You never know. My bike is also creaking again. Very annoying.

Time: 5:10:01
Distance: 87.3 miles
Average: 16.9 mph
Ascent: 6,800
Nutrition: High5 Extreme (1 bottle), ZipVit (1 bottle), Water (1 bottle), Clif Bar (1), Bread Pudding (1 yum yum). I got to Box Hill having eaten only one bar so instead of eating more I bought a cake. Its all sugar!!!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Tougher than a Ninja

As the temperatures have been going up, I've found that my sweaty head is giving me grief. I found in Dartmoor I was having to take my glasses off to use my gloves to wipe the sweat from my eyes. My eyes often stung as sweat dripped into them.

So I looked for a solution. I found this headband but it wasn't available in the UK and expensive from the States. I read on forums that a lot of people use Buffs so I got myself a Coolmax Buff Headband. It seems odd to wear something else to keep cool but people say it works. The main thing is that it draws the sweat away so it won't go in my eyes. I've also heard that if you soak it in water it can keep you cool for ages.

Its a shame I look like a dick.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The final leg

So that's it. All my events done. That's eleven this year with the ultimate goal still to do. In 20 days I shall be on my bike somewhere along the route. Its all suddenly got very real.

The aims of the next three weeks are:
  • Stay healthy
  • Rest
  • Keep the legs turning over but not too many miles
  • Sleep lots
  • Keep weight stable or even lose weight
  • Finalise trip details

I have three weeks to keep active and stay focused without doing anything too much. Most studies say that you can't really improve your fitness in the last two or three weeks. Resting or reducing the level of exercise will actually allow your body to adapt to all the work its been put through. Keep the intensity, reduce the distance is the mantra.

After reading Karen's excellent blog, I'm glad its not just me who is starting to go a little nuts. The combination of excitement, nerves, nothing to focus on other than the main event and less than 20 days to go is starting to get to me. I never enjoyed tapering when doing marathons and I think this is going to be worse.

Still, I do have work to do to keep me on track and a lot of details to sort out for the journey down there. I'll be sad when its all over.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Chute, Auger, Beef-it or Biff

auger - to involuntarily take samples of the local geology, usually with one's face, during a crash.
beef it - to fall or crash.
biff - a crash "I biffed and then wiped away the blood."
chute - French for fall
wipeout - finish riding early

Yes, after 13 months on the bike, I finally lost my battle with gravity and came off at the Dartmoor Classic.

Back to Saturday and I left London around 9, picked up Ed and drove the 220 miles to Moretonehampstead in Devon where my Dad lives. I wanted to watch the rugby with him so it was straight off to the pub. Not a great result but it was nice watching it with my Dad. It was then off to register which didn't take long.

Early to bed and then up at 5:30 for breakfast and a drive to the start in Kingsteignton. Ed and I had discussed the possibility of getting a gold. It was sub 6:35 for the 104 miles to get a gold and we thought we could average the 15.9 mph even with the 3,300 meters of ascent. We started well averaging over 20 mph for the first 7 miles. We were in a largish group what were fast but very aggressive. Coming down a hill it was clear they were risk takers as they came on the outside of us on the wrong side of the road approaching a bend as they wanted to go faster.

Minutes later we went from a down hill to a small uphill. Everyone out the saddle to make it over the hill without loosing speed. Suddenly I saw a very slow rider right in front of me. I quickly looked to my right to move out but I was boxed in. I shouted but no one moved. The next thing I know I clip the slow rider and I'm down followed by another rider on top of me. It all happened so quickly. We all get up and check ourselves. I have a hole in my knee and elbow but nothing seems broken. The slow bloke on the bike is fine and the guy who fell on me is also fine. His front wheel is bent but usable and my left break lever is really bent. I count my chickens knowing it could have been worse.

I was very wobbly and slow for a while. My descending was also slow and nervy and once the adrenaline wore off, my knee and elbow really hurt. Ed was a star and stayed with me. We took it slow for a while but then I got a bit quicker. Gold was gone so silver would be great and bronze ok. No medal would be very annoying.

We were going ok until Ed had his event mechanical and punctured. It didn't take long and we were back doing 20 on the flat. I had a real low after about 60 miles as it was raining again (forecast was for sun, we had no sun all day) and I was sore. Also, last week's 150 miler was definitely in my legs and the climb out of Tavistick to Prince Town felt long.

A short stop in the feed stop and then I knew it wasn't too hilly before passing my Dad's house. As we were late, he'd been waiting outside his house for hours. I was very pleased to see him and enjoyed his flapjack. He had been very worried after seeing an air ambulance fly over.

Spirits lifted, it was up the final climb before a 3 mile down hill and a 10 mile blast on the flat. Ed was storming along at 27 on the flat and I was hanging onto his wheel for dear life. It was real fun flashing past people but the finish line was very welcome.

A huge thanks to the St. Johns ambulance who washed out my knee. I was there first business of the day. Thanks to the mechanics who tweaked the front changer as the lever was bent and not changing well. Thanks also to the organisers for a great ride, superb marshals and a lovely piece of granite as a memento. Oh and we got bronze. No crash would have meant silver. Gold was just too much after the Dave Lloyd. Next Year.

Distance: 105 miles (169 kms)
Ride Time: 6:38
Total Time: 7:29
Award: Bronze
Max Speed: 46.6 mph
Ascent: 10,158 feet (3,100 meters)
Average Cadence: 78
Nutrition: High5 4:1 (4 bottles), Torq (1 bottle), Nuun tablets (2), Gels (2), Ride Shots (2 packs), Viper Bar (1) and Flapjack (1).
Calories Used: 5,454 (MapMyRide estimate)

Monday, 22 June 2009

More Dave Lloyd thoughts

Thanks for all the nice comments on the DLMC. Its nice to know so many read my blog and are interested in my rides.

Bwlch y Groes
Thanks for the info Data. 11 chevrons in 2.2 kms. That is impressive. Good knowledge.

The most pleasing thing about the day was my new ride position. My knee and thigh pain was greatly reduce. So much so that I forgot about it for long periods. Also, my worries about the shoes were unfounded. They were very comfy.

Feed stops
I was surprised just how long I had been stopped. There were four feeds stops and I must have been at each for over 10 minutes as I stationary for 52 minutes in total. That is a little annoying as I had intended to be quicker than that.

Finish Position
I'm dead chuffed with 71st place. That's top 37% out of the 188 finishers and top 19% out of the 359 entrants.

Yep, I did get a silver standard. Very pleased with that.

I'm trying not to be over confident but as a couple of comments said, I think this ride was sort of harder than the Etape. We got to 92 miles on Sunday in around 6 hours 15 minutes which is the equivalent of the base of Ventoux. It was hillier than the Etape's first 92 miles and we were well inside the Etape cut-off. So I guess I'm now thinking more about how well I can do in France rather than if I can beat the broom wagon.

Having said all that, a mechanical or a couple of punctures and its all in the balance. There is also the possibility of 40 degree heat which I didn't have in Wales. That could change everything.

No, I don't think he's forgive me yet :-)

Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge

Ed arrived at my house on Saturday at 12 and something was different. He had a new Pinarello Price, MOst carbon integrated bars and Di2 electronic Dura Ace groupset. To say I went a dark shade of green would be putting it mildly. I don't care about the group set but the Pinarello fame is beautiful. It took me a couple of hours to stop being so jealous.

We set off to Wales at lunchtime and apart from a 2 hour traffic jam on the M40 (what fun), it was an ok journey. We found the Travelodge, checked in, dumped our bags and bikes and went to find SimonO in a local pub. We had lots of cycle chat, some ok food and compared notes on leg shaving techniques (yes, I have done mine).

We were up on Sunday morning at 4:30 and feeling rough. As it was so early and a Travelodge, we had to settle of cold food and no porridge. I had oat cakes, jam, malt loaf and weak coffee and Ed had malt loaf and cold rice pudding (see picture). It wasn't ideal. We got to the start at 5:30, registered and after Ed faffed around for a while, we met SimonO and set off at 6:30.

The first 20 miles were hell. I couldn't get in my stride and was continually fighting to stay with Ed and Simon. They always seemed to be 200 yards ahead. I told Ed to go on without me but he said no, it was fine. But I knew if I didn't get any better, it would be a very long day.

The road was up and down from the word go. Unlike the Fred, there weren't obvious hills like Newlands or Kirkstone but it was certainly going up. There was a great downhill at around 25km with a big horse-shoe decent around a valley where we must have been above 40mph for a long time. This did lift my spirits a bit. Then, a while later we ended up in a group of about 20 riders and formed a really quick train. I get such a buzz out of this and I did start to have a bit of fun.

The large group of riders came to a town and it appeared that a lot of them had done the ride last year. This made them question a turning in the town and they decided to follow last years route and ignore the sign. We blindly followed them but I had my doubts as we crossed a roundabout with no signs. A few of us decided to turn back and I thought Ed and Simon were with me. Ed was behind me but after a mile we realised Simon wasn't. We presumed he had gone on with the main group but it turned out later he had followed but couldn't bridge the gap to rejoin us. He was pissed that we didn't wait and rightly so but we just didn't think he was behind us. We did most of the 150 miles alone and is still not a happy bunny. Sorry Simon.

Miles 50 to 80 did pass quite quickly. I switched my computer display away from distance so I wouldn't obsess about it which helped. I didn't find the scenery all that great but maybe that was the drizzle. In spite of all the forecasts of a dry day, it rained on and off with some heavy spells and soaked everyone. The highlight of this section was Ed and I being joined by two other riders. We did bit-and-bit for about 10 miles at a cracking pace. He did do it backwards with the most guilty person sprinting to the front to take their turn. I really loved being on the front doing 28 mph on the flat. Superb.

Miles 80 to 100 were uneventful and we were surprised we had climbed over 8,000 feet as we got to feed station 3. We were warned of a big hill around the corner so had a couple of sandwiches and some soup to warm us up.

It was a big hill. Bwlch y Groes is the highest pass in Wales at nearly 2,000 ft and it is a monster. Its about 12km long but I think that hard but is no more than half that. Its main problem is that you can see it all in front of you. It just seems to go on and on. Its mostly over 15% with a flatter section in the middle and then it ramps up to over 20% for a long time at the end. Ed went off as usual and I thought I saw him go over the top which was depressing as I was only half way up. However, as I got a bit further, there he was, having a rest. I couldn't help feeling a bit pleased that he is human after all. I stopped as well for a couple of minutes and then went again. I tried to get all the way up without stopping but it was so brutal. I stopped once more before making it over the top. Out of the 40 riders around us, only 2 made it all the way up in one go and they were supremely fit. I know SimonO doesn't agree but I think its harder than Hardknott because its so long.

One more big hill and then another feed stop at 130 miles. There was still 20 miles to go and I knew we had the Stingers still to do. These were lots of small climbs that really broke up your pace and were demoralising when you are so tired. I eventually saw the 5 miles to go sign and it was mostly down hill to Ruthin. I was so happy to be able to stop cycling and chuffed at 150 miles on the clock.

Distance: 150 miles (241 kms)
Ride Time: 9:45:02
Total Time: 10:37:17
Max Speed: 50.1 mph
Ascent: 16,594 feet (5,057 meters)
Average Cadence: 76
Average Heart Rate: 148
Max Heart Rate: 178
My placing: 71st
Signed up for race: 359
Finishers: 188
First place: 8:52:53
Last finisher: 14:27:19
Nutrition: High5 4:1 (5 bottles), Torq (1 bottle), Nuun tablets (2), Gels (2), Ride Shots (2 packs), Clif Blocks (1 pack), Clif Bar (1), Viper Bar (1), Ham Sandwich (1) and Tuna Sandwich (1).
Calories Used: 7,500 (MapMyRide estimate)

Friday, 19 June 2009

Pre Race Report

Later today, I shall be driving the 220 miles from my house to Ruthin in Wales for the Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge. It is 150 miles with over 5,000 metres of climbing around the beautiful hills of North Wales.

We are staying on Saturday night in a Travel Lodge and then its up early for the 6am start and 150 grueling miles. Then its back in the car for the long journey home. Red Bull and espressos needed.

I'm not looking forward to it that much. I'm not feeling great at the moment. The training has been going ok but the diet is again terrible. I just can't do it. And 150 miles seems such a long way.

I better get packing. The weather report is good at the moment but I better plan for all eventualities.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Cycles Dauphin

Today I went to Box Hill to visit Cycles Dauphin for my bike fitting appointment. I had previously had to cancel it because my daughter Yvette got chicken pox. They were very good about it and just arranged another date for me.

I'd didn't really know what to expect from the session. For £70 I would get a couple of hours with Stuart and receive the sum of his cycling wisdom. I could have paid more and gone to CycleFit or another company for a more HiTech version but I wanted more of a personal touch (and it was cheaper). The main thing I wanted was to get rid of my knee and quad pain. I have been stretching, using the foam roller and having sports massage for a couple of months now and the pain wasn't going away much so I needed to rule out the bike as a cause.

Firstly, I talked myself into a new pair of shoes. I didn't really need them but my dhb shoes were a year old and looking like they were older. I started with a budget of £100 which moved to £150 and then to a pair of white 2009 Sidi road shoes. They were lovely. Then I was shown a pair of last years Ergo 2s. They were basically the same as this years Ergo 2 which are the top of the range at £250 but these were cheaper. Gulp. I have no will power and said yes but they do look good.

Next it was the fitting. My bike was put on the turbo trainer and we spent the next 90 minutes looking at my position, measuring, changing things and seeing how it felt. My seat was about the right height but it was too far forward. It was put back and more power was then being sent down through the pedals. I got to use my natural advantage - big thighs.

Then the cleat position was sorted. Stuart noted that my heels do come up when I pedal but its a common problem. I'll try to concentrate on keeping them down. He then said that my reach to the bars was too far, especially given my inflexible back, my seat being further back and my long dipping bars. We exchange the bars for flatter, shorter ones which really helped. He did suggest a shorter stem but said that it shouldn't be changed yet. Given the 150 miles I have to ride on Sunday, too much change might result in a painful 11 hours as I get used to the new position.

So with new tape added to the new bars, I was all set. After paying (so much for my savings) I cycled the 20 miles home and the new position felt odd but good. Its hard to say as my knee pain comes and goes but it felt really good. Sunday will be the true test. My shoes felt good but the right one was pinching. I'm prepared to put it down to them being new or that I had them too tight.

Apart from a flat on the way home, it was a good day. I have to say what a superb shop Cycles Dauphin is. Stuart could not have been nicer and would have spent all day sorting my bike out had he needed too. He also seemed to really know his stuff without being pompous. He never once made me feel like I was an idiot for riding on my current setup for 12 months. The shop is also well stocked with some beautiful bikes and all the gear you could need. If you live anywhere near the shop, please use it. You won't find a more helpful bunch anywhere.

Monday, 15 June 2009


OK, so I'm finally on-board with Twitter. I resisted for a while as I didn't want more things to read and write but I gave it a go last night and now I have caught up with the modern world.

I am: RideandRunSimon

If you do follow, don't expect much. I don't really know what to do with it and what its for but I'll try it for a few weeks.

Centre Parks

I had a really great time at Centre Parks in Longleat this weekend. It was helped by great weather and going with our good friends. We ate well, cycled, swam, played badminton and crown green bowling, had a BBQ, climbed trees, played on the beach and fed the ducks.

I was sceptical about the place before I went but came away with nothing but good things to say about it. It was full yet you never felt surrounded by people. In the chalets it was quite and peaceful. We were lucky that we got a last minute deal so it wasn't too expensive as I hear it is normally quite dear.

As for exercise, we cycled everywhere around the complex. I pulled Yvette in a "pod" trailer which is great fun but hard work. I got to the gym on Saturday to do 20 miles on the bike, loads of stretching, some upper body weights and a go on the rowing machine.

On Sunday I was destroyed by my mate Alex during a game of badminton. 21-11, 21-10 and 21-8 but it was still really enjoyable. I got in some more stretching and also went on a 90 minute ride on my own around the complex. Not the most fun route but it was great weather and I had some podcasts to catch up on.

Now its a tricky week leading up to the 150 miles of the Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge on Sunday. Lots of rest, early nights and stretching.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


This weekend I'm off to Centre Parks with the family and some friends and their children so no long rides on Saturday and Sunday. I am hiring a mountain bike and intend to get a ride in on my own both mornings as well as a ride with the family but I had to get some other miles in.

On Thursday I did a 9 mile warm up to Richmond Park, then 7 laps of the 6.7 mile circuit before a slow 6 miles home. Most of my laps were around 17.5 mph which I was pleased with. Going anti-clockwise it was one longish hill and one short one. Nothing too bad but enough to reduce your average. I did try one fast lap where I went for it and got round with a 18.9mph average.

Looking at the profile from my Garmin, it does show how accurate it is. Each lap is spot on.

Distance: 62.29 miles
Time: 3:37:21
Average: 17.2 mph
Ascent: 3100 feet
Max Speed: 38.7 mph
Nutrition: 2 bottles of water and 1 Clif Bar.

Friday was a quick ride out. 29 miles in a couple of hours. A slow start through Chelsea and Parsons Green and then on to Prolouge bike shop. I went in for some new cleats and came out with new gloves and no cleats. The padding in my old gloves had worn down and I was getting a bit of Ulna pain on longer rides. The new Pearl Izumi red gloves have loads of padding.

Then into Richmond Park for more laps and 6 reps of Bloomfield Hill. I sat down on all the reps and tried to go at a high cadence in a gear 3 or 4 from the top. Short sharp hard work.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Stroppy cyclist

Normally while cycling around London its car drivers, bus drivers and motorcyclists that I have cause to complain about but today, it was a cyclist. As I cycled across Battersea Bridge on the way to Chelsea hospital (nothing serious, just getting my varicose veins looked at) I came to a bus that was just to close to the kerb to pass. I made the judgement that it was to narrow to squeeze through so I waited.

If I had been in a hurry I might have tried to overtake the bus but I had plenty of time to spare so I just waited. Then, I hear a girl shouting at me. I turn around and see a women aged round 30 on a bike behind me and she tells me to get a move on. I say the gap is too small but she tells me to get out of the way so she can go through.

Given her abrasive nature, I decided I wasn't going anywhere so told her to wait nicely in the queue. She muttered under her breathe at me and went around me and the bus. I shouted after her to be careful and not get herself killed.

I don't know what was making her so moody. I was past the bus safely in another minute and she had only got slightly ahead of me. This shows that a lot of cyclists are very impatient and feel that waiting is somehow not what they do. Cars should wait, buses should wait but cyclists can do what they want in order to keep moving.

I also remember reading that a very high proportion of cycling accidents are caused by riders going on the inside of large vehicles like buses and then getting squashed against railings or as the vehicle turns left. So I now only undertake if there is plenty of room or the vehicle is completely static.
So lets all be careful out there.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Wet , long and hilly

In spite of my nerves, I completed a good long ride today. It didn't go exactly to plan as the first half of the ride took longer than expected and I realised I couldn't safely complete the full route and get home for 5pm. So I had to say goodbye to Ed at just over half way as he manfully did the full course and got the train home where as I went off and did a different route and rode home. I did 107 instead of 130 miles and about 11,000 feet ascent instead of the 14,000 or 15,000 for the full course and I made it home for 4:30pm.

I was annoyed I didn't finish the full route but its still a good ride and all good training. I'll find a way to do that extra 23 miles and 3,000 feet this week.

Another century completed. My fifth century of the year
Over 11,000 feet of climb
Rode well up the hills
Felt good until about 70 miles
Had two GO gels and thought they were ok
Got to cycle with Clive for the first time
Rain jacket is waterproof

Didn't finish the 130 mile route
Missed out on 4 or 5 big hills
Knee hurt more as the ride went on
Was very tired as I rode the last few miles
It was miserable and wet for most of the ride

Friday, 5 June 2009

Pre Match Nerves

I have a 130 mile ride scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) and I'm really nervous. I'm not sure why. You would have thought the Fred Whitton success would have given me the confidence to conquer anything but I feel like I've lost my bottle. It feels like such a mammoth challenge.

I suppose I better get all the sleep I can. Up at 6:30, train from Clapham Junction to Clandon and then straight up the first of many many hills. At least the weather looks like it has improved. It was meant to rain.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Monthly Stats - May 2009

Another month gone and less that 50 days until the Etape. I can't quite believe it. A good month. I made my main target which was the 600 miles.

Its the 6th month in a row where I've done more miles than the previous one. Its a pleasing trend and I hope it continues next month.

My running is a distraction at the moment. It seems to aggravate my quad pain but I'm loathed to discard it completely but its the right thing to do.

May Goals (5 pass, 3 fail)
Do over 600 miles cycling - PASS (602 miles)
Do over 30 miles running - FAIL (24.2 miles)
Complete 85% of my planned training sessions - PASS (95%)
Complete the Fred Whitton in under 9:00 - PASS (8:53)
Complete the Fred Whitton without walking - PASS
Complete the 20km de Bruxelles in under 1:40 - FAIL (1:54 - No where near)
Break 5K PB in under 22 minutes - FAIL (Did not attempt)
Average 19 mph for 1 hour - PASS (19.1 during the 73 miler on the 24th)

June Goals
Do over 700 miles cycling
Complete 85% of my planned training sessions
Complete Ed's mad 130 mile route in the Surrey Hills
Complete the Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge (150) in under 11 hours
Complete the Dartmoor Classic (104) in under 7.5 hours

I have no running goals this month. If I do any running its a bonus. Its my final month before the Etape so must be all about the cycling.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

20km de Bruxelles - Bad run, great weekend

Thursday and Friday was spent in Devon visiting my Mum and Grandma with my daughters. I took my bike and got a short but hilly ride in on Friday morning (33 miles with 4000 feet of climbing). We had a good time but it was a long drive from London and the journey home on Friday afternoon took nearly 6 hours.

As a result, we were all very tired as be got up at 5:40 am to make our way across London to get the Eurostar from St. Pancras to Brussels. My wife used to work in Belgium and still has many friends living there. The plan was to spend some time with them as well as letting me run the Brussels 20k, the biggest race on the Belgium running calendar.

Saturday was spent enjoying the nice weather and catching up followed by a trip to the pub to watch the cup final. It was then on to our friends house to have a BBQ. I had decided to have a couple of drinks over lunch and then a couple more at the pub so I was well oiled by the time the BBQ was lit. At this point, all thoughts of taking the race seriously had gone and I was having a great time with everyone. Bed was after 12 after more drink and lots of excellent food.

Next morning I didn't feel as bad as I feared so I was positive about the day. Johnathan kindly drove into town to pick up my race number and then it was back for lunch before returning into town for the race start. There was a slight hick-up as when I had booked the train, I had presumed, like with any normal race, that it would start in the morning but not in Brussels. It was a 3pm start and the train was a 5:58. That gave me about 30 minutes to get from the finish line to the Gare De Midi or miss the train and buy an expensive replacement.

The race itself started well with the first 5K in under 25 minutes, perfect for my predicted sub-1:40. I only realised I was slowing when I saw the 1:40 pacers moving away from me. By 11km I was feeling really rough and saw the 1:50 pacers drift past me. It was a hot day on a difficult course and the previous nights frivolity was making me hurt. I had to stop for a stretch for a few minutes (sore knee) and then again to get for tape for my sore nips (I forgot Vaseline).

By the 17th kilometer, I just wanted to finish and my time was irrelevant. I saw the arch at the finish but it was a long straight road and there was still 10 minutes of running left. It was agony. I eventually came in around the 1:55 mark which isn't the worst time in the world but well below my best. For example, I did the TW half marathon in 1:48 which is 0.6 miles longer than this run.

It was then a mad dash to the station which I made in time. I did consider getting on the train and texting my wife to tell her I'd missed it but I didn't have the nerve. She would have killed me :-)

Race Number: 13237
Time: 01:54:48
Pace: 9:12 minute miles
Finishing Position: 10,848 th out of 23,000

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


No more cake.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Getting the miles in


I only had the morning for any exercises on Sunday as we had a family picnic at 1pm with Cath's sister's family. I needed to get some more distance in so I got up at 6:00 am and was out the door by 6:30. I was so tired I could hardly say my name but it had to be done.

The aim - a quick blast to Box Hill and back taking in just the three hills but aiming to keep the speed higher than normal. I had a great time and enjoyed myself under the blue sky. I kept my speed up and I'm delighted with the above 17 average. As a treat I made myself a tea fruit cake. It is really yummy.

Distance: 72.56
Time: 4:10:08
Average Speed: 17.41 mph
Average Cadence: 87
Ascent: 4,198
Nutrition: Trek Bar (1), High5 drink (1 bottles), Water (1 bottles)


This was my last day to get any significant miles in for May so it was up very early again (5:45) and out on the bike. I had an appointment with my 4 year old at the cinema to see Night at the Museum 2 (yey) so I had no choice but to get up that early.

I was going to go and do Sunday's route in reverse but I decided to go to Richmond Park instead. I thought laps of that would be a change from two days in the Surrey Hills. It was a mistake as each lap I did, I thought about leaving for home. If I'd gone to Box Hill I would have had no alternative but to finish the 70 mile lap.

I managed the 9 miles there plus four laps before my sore bottom, aching legs and large rain clouds convinced me to head home. I'd only done 35 miles at this stage but guilt took over and I kept finding longer and more convoluted routes home until I reach 60 miles. I'm a bit disappointed not to get to the 70 mile mark but I have done 240 miles in three days which looks great in the spreadsheet and means I should reach May's targets. Now where's that cake.

I did have one big downer over the two days. I have a clicking noise that's coming from somewhere around the bottom bracket. It started at the end of Saturday and got worse on Sunday and was very annoying today. Its a double click as the right crank goes over the top and its very loud. Nothing seems loose and there is no play in the cranks. Looks like a trip to the bike shop. Please please please not an expensive fix.

Distance: 60.69 miles
Time: 3:42:49
Average Speed: 16.34 mph
Average Cadence: 81
Ascent: 3,053
Nutrition: Go Bar (1), High5 drink (1 bottles), Water (1 bottles)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Flying caterpillars and other insects

Saturday was a lovely day and we had nothing much planned so I went out at 9:30 for a long ride. I had no real plan other than to do at least a century and try and make it hilly.

I did my 10 mile route to Richmond Park, one lap and then out through Kingston towards the Surrey Hills. I arrived at the first real hill with about 30 miles on the clock and needed to start working hard. So, each hill I came to or went near to I did. Up the first hill and then down a hill in the wrong direction just so I could go up it again. Then down and up the next and so on. I was doing well and feeling ok as I went down another hill only to pass Ed who was coming the other way. He was in his own world and only just realised it was me. He tried to persuade me to come on his insanely hilly course which a reluctantly agreed to.

He pointed us in the directions of all the nasty hills in the area and it was hard going. For some reason, I was not enjoying it. It didn't seem that fun and I found in quite monotonous. Maybe still an anticlimax after the Fred. What didn't help were the bugs. There were hundreds of flies which stuck to sweaty arms and legs as well as flying in to open mouths. I prefer my protein via different sources. There were also the caterpillars. I did not know they could hang all the way down from trees to road level and then get caught on passing cyclists. Its quite unnerving to be riding at 35mph down a hill to suddenly find a caterpillar crawling in your glasses.

Anyway, purely by accident, Ed went left as I went straight-on (he has the Garmin) so I texted him to say I'd try and meet up with him later but if not, I'd do my own thing. So I did another hill where I thought he might pass but nothing so I headed for Dorking. There is a great long hill here that I did twice before going to Box Hill. I had done over 84 miles and over 8,000 feet ascent so I went home. I put some fast tunes on the iPod and actually enjoyed the blast through Epsom to Surbiton. I averaged over 22 mph and was really going for it, feeling the good burn in my legs. Maybe I am just sick of hills :-(

Distance: 106.15
Time: 6:55:10
Average Speed: 15.34 mph
Max Speed: 41.9 mph
Ascent: 9,053 feet
Average Cadence: 80
Average Heart Rate: 142 bpm (77%)
Nutrition: Clif Bar (1), Power Bar with Caffeine (1), Flapjack (1), High5 drink (2 bottles), Water (2 bottles), Lucazade Hydro (1 bottle).

Friday, 22 May 2009

Core work up a ladder

This weeks workouts were put on hold due to some DIY. My wife went on business to India so I decided to surprise her by decorating the living room. She went on Sunday night so I had five days to finish it all. We had new wiring put in the walls for the TV and lights, a new fire place and the walls skimmed with plaster so I had everything to paint.

What seemed like a straight forward job turned out to be a pain as I had to 'mist' the new plaster with watered down paint for a few coats before doing two of the main colour - Palladian (or as I call it, beige). Also the ceilings, skirting boards, windows etc needed painting which took ages. I didn't get to bed before 2am any night.

I then had one wall to wallpaper, something which I've never done before. A seriously stressful job trying to line up a complex pattern. It looks ok now its done and I'm surprised at my handy-work. Cath really was surprised and liked it when she got back so it was worth all the trouble.

I did manage to get to the gym on Thursday morning and run 11km which felt good. I did do lots of stretching as my legs were a bit stiff from all the kneeling and climbing up ladders. Painting must be good core work with all the stretching and reaching.

Its half term next week followed by my running race in Brussels so I now have three days to do as many miles on the bike as I can fit in. At least I have loads of brownie points in the bag.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Quiet Week

After the Fred I wanted to give my legs a rest so I haven't done anything too serious this week. I did a couple of short rides and my first run since the 14 miles that ended with injury. I am out of practice and my legs weren't moving smoothly but I got 5 miles done without major discomfort. I've got two weeks until the Brussels 20K run so I have to get some running in.

I plan to work harder next week. Running or cycling on everyday from Monday to Thursday, rest on Friday and then a very long ride on Saturday. Ed is planning it and I think he has a very hilly route in mind and about 120 - 130 miles. I hope he waits for me!!!

On a separate note, I just want to express my outrage at the selfish idiots that jeopardise people's safety at the Etape de Caledonia today. If you don't know the story, the Caledonia sportive is the only ride in this country with completely closed roads. Some of the locals have taken objection to this and protested at last years event and set up a pressure group to try and get the ride cancelled. Whilst I defend their right to protest, someone has decided to take direct action and spread carpet tacks onto the road. Many riders got punctures and I believe some came off. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

A friend of mine, Stephen, did the ride and completed it. It was his first sportive and loved it in spite of the 50 minute delay due to the tacks. I hope he has the bug now.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Never Satisfied

Lost Sheep left a comment on a previous post that my report of the Fred Whitton was tinged with disappointment. While I didn't think I was writing it that way, rereading it does suggest a certain dissatisfaction with my performance.

I am proud of my achievement. It was the toughest ride I have ever done and would not have been possible 12 months ago but I do have a nagging thought in the back of my head that I could have done better. I am aware that its not logical and I should be basking in the glory of a job well done but it is there.

This is not the first time I've reacted this way. In fact, I do it all the time. I was fine after my first London marathon in 2002 as I had no idea I could even finish that distance and sub 5 hours seemed fine. It wasn't until the second attempt that I knew I could go a lot faster that I started heaping pressure on myself. Sub-4 was the goal but it took me 4 more marathons and a lot of stress until I achieved it. Even when I did it in Edinburgh last year, I knew that I could have pushed that little bit more and got sub 3:50.

Its not just marathons. I broke my 5K PB two months ago but I knew I hadn't given it absolutely everything so was annoyed. I'm not sure what state I'd have to be in to be happy. Maybe puking at the finish line and then collapsing would do it.

The up side is that I am always keen to do another race to try and go quicker or further but the negative is that I don't enjoy my achievements for long. So I'll have to go back to Hardknott at some point and get up in one go rather than with a couple of stops as well as finishing in under 8 hours. I hope that will do but I suspect not.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

More thoughts on the Fred

Distance: 112 miles
Ride Time: 7:43:25
Average Speed: 14.5
Actual Time: 8:53:12
Average Speed: 12.6
Ascent:Ascent: 14,397
Calories: 6,000

We were 664th and 665th out of 955 finishers.
Fastest Rider: 5:46 (that's an incredible 19.4mph average)
Slowest Rider: 12:58
So an hour off our time (very doable) would have put us 368th. Blimey.

Average Heart Rate: 150bpm.
I think the heart rate is wrong as it lost the signal a few times and also read that I was at 240 bmp on several occasions. Whilst I think I hit a new high on Hardknott, I don't think it was 240.

Nutrition: Gels (2), Go Bar (2), Clif Bar (1), Clif Blocks (1), Viper Bar (1), Malt Loaf Slice (2), Cheese Roll (1) and High5 4:1 Bottle (4).

Extra mileage: 4.35 miles to and 4.35 miles from the B&B to the start. Total of 120.7 miles.

Me on Saturday at the start of Hardknott Pass.

Wilf's cafe made a fantastic bean stew for the finishers. I think it was the same bean stew we had after the Autumn Epic and it tasted just perfect. The tea was also fantastic. As usual at the end of these hard events, I temporarily loose my sweet tooth and didn't fancy the free shortbread.

We had a nice meal at a pub on the Sunday night. Ed had rabbit stew and I had game pie. Ed followed it with apple pie and I had creme caramel. I did like it but I was too tired to really enjoy it. Even by breakfast the next morning, I wasn't with-it enough to appreciate my food. I had a small fried breakfast where as Ed had double everything as well as a mountain of food on the train. I'm sure I'll do my share of eating in the days to come.

Its Wednesday morning and I'm still totally exhausted but nothing really hurts. My legs are a little stiff but its nothing life after a marathon. But I'm so drained and now so hungry. I'm trying to fill up with good food like chicken and other protein rather than junk but its hard.

I'm going to try and get out a couple of times before the weekend and then do a medium ride of maybe 50 miles at the weekend. I also need to do a run or two as my next event is the Brussels 20k and whilst I don't expect to do brilliantly, I want to put a performance in as there will be loads of friends watching me. I've just got to be careful with the legs.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Monday, 11 May 2009

The toughest sportive of them all

That is what some people call the Fred Whitton. A 112 mile ride through the Lake District taking in around 20 climbs including Hardknott with its 33% section. This was my hardest test so far since taking up cycling and was a huge unknown.

Getter there

My weekend started with a train ride with my mate Ed from Euston. We cycled the 6 miles to the station and got the Virgin train to Oxenholme. I have to say, despite the £76, it was such an easy journey. I had planned to ride the 18 miles from Oxenholme to the B&B but I was talked out of it and Bob and Simon, who had driven from London, kindly gave us a lift.

The others were keen to drive over Hardknott and Wrynose so we did. I considered ignorance bliss and knew seeing it would just worry me and I was right. It looked impossible. We dropped the bikes off at the B&B, which was lovely, and went to the pub for fish and chips. Bed at 10 and sleep came at around 11.

The Start

We woke on Sunday morning at 5am to misty cloud, no rain and a reasonable temperature for that time of the morning. The owner of the B&B had kindly got up to feed us and two other riders, so we stumbled across to the main house to have our porridge, toast, juice and coffee.

After Saturday's drive over Hardknott and Wyrnose, I was feeling quite nervous and keen to get it started. We loaded our bikes and stuffed our pockets with countless energy bars, gels and sports drink powder and rode the 4 miles to Coniston and the start. We had arranged to meet Simon and Bob at around 7:20 and found them unpacking their bikes from their car. It was then a simple matter of dibbing our timer chips and we were off.

We set off in good spirits but we were very quickly on the slopes of Hawkshead and I was shocked when I reached bottom gear. I really panicked. How can I be in bottom already? I'll never make it around the course if I'm struggling on the first hill. My eyes darted from one bike to the next and saw that not only were my companions in bottom gear but so where the other 10 or so riders who had started with us. Phew. Maybe I had a chance.

A couple more little hills and a long downhill followed and then we started climbing up and up. I was going slower and slower but I didn't realise I was on a steady uphill as I never saw any top and it wasn't a constant climb. I only realised I had climbed Kirkstone and reached the highest point of the day when I saw the Kirkstone Pass Inn and a small crowd of well-wishers. I had a real boost to my morale and started the big descent with a smile.

We shot over the top and I quickly got to over 40 mph. I glanced down and saw 47 before navigating a difficult corner. This was exhilarating stuff. Then Ed, who was in front, had a big wobble, went really close to a wall and slowed in the middle of the road. He had punctured and had a front flat tyre. It was a scary moment but no harm was done. He changed his tyre and after about 10 - 15 minutes, we were off again.

Simon and Bob had long gone so I left them a message and wished them luck. All was fine for the next 15 miles as we flew along towards Matterdale. The Lake District was looking stunning and we felt fine. My quad was aching a bit but nothing too bad. We even got on the back of a large group of riders and followed the train for a few miles going at about 25 mph average on the flat and topping 29 at one point. That was fantastic fun.

We climbed Matterdale ok but then disaster, one of Ed's rear spokes snapped buckling his wheel. Ed was gutted as he thought his race was over. But after a quick chat and a check of the bike, it was decided that it could be ridden for a bit as the tyre was only just rubbing on the frame. We limped the 15 miles to Keswick and found a bike shop who very kindly did their best to straighten the wheel without the missing spoke (it was a Hed specific spoke they did not have). The result was great and stayed true for the rest of the ride.

Off we set again just hoping that there was nothing else that would go wrong. We'd already lost about 50 minutes.

The Dread

Next on the list was Honister. This was the hardest climb after Hardknott and on Saturday, Simon had said that if you struggle with Honister, you'll really suffer on Hardknott. So after I was half way up the 25% section and struggling, I started to worry. I made it up eventually whilst many others walked and Ed was waiting at the top.

We came down the difficult decent, reached the 50 mile mark and the first feed stop at Buttermere Youth Hostel. I had a cheese sandwich and a slice of malt loaf but it wasn't a happy time. I had worked very hard to get up Honister without walking and I felt very tired. We hadn't even got half way and I was wondering how I'd make the distance, never mind get up Hardknott without walking.

We were off again after about 10 minutes and I had forgot the warning that Simon had given me. Don't eat too much at Buttermere because there is a big climb straight away. Within a couple of miles we were climbing Newland and the malt loaf was repeating on me. I did enjoy this climb but the joy of getting to the top was fleeting as the dread of Hardknott was always in my mind.

The next 20 miles were ok and ticked off quite quickly. I don't remember Swarth Fell even though it looks big on the profile and before long, we had arrived at the second food stop. I had another piece of malt loaf and some drink but really didn't feel like eating anything. The mood in the air was really ominous as no one looked forward to what was 5 miles ahead.

The Pain

We turned off the main road past a large sign to Hardknott and a 30% warning triangle. It was a few miles to the bottom of the climb and we could see a massive storm passing over the top. This was our first piece of luck as the storm has missed us. We heard later that it was fierce with a lot of heavy rain and hail.

We passed the phone box which signalled the start and the road passed over the bridge, through the tress and straight up into a 25% hill. So many people gave up at this point. They got straight off their bike and resigned themselves to the long walk. I knew that there was an easier bit (only 15%) half way and was determined to at least get to that section.

I tried to sit down for as long as possible but had to get out of the saddle very quickly. I had to give it my all but got to the the middle section with my heart rate at maximum. I stopped for a few seconds to catch my breath then made my way to the bottom of the really hard bit. I stopped again to let a car come through before getting out the seat and 'sprinting' up the 33% wall. I was cheered on and felt like I was flying but I could hear my breathing was a mess and my heart was coming out my chest. There was no going back and I knew if I stopped I would have to walk so I kept going and managed to get over the top to an awaiting Ed. Incredible.

It was then down a very steep, dangerous decent, along the valley and then up Wrynose. By this time, I was all but spent with 102 miles done and about 12,000 feet climbed. It was no where near as bad as Hardknott but there was a viscous section that made my knees burn. It was in two parts with a switch-back and as I got to the turn I didn't know if I could make it all the way up so I stopped for 20 seconds before making the final push to the top. In hindsight, I probably could have made it but still, no walking again.

The Joy

For the first time in the day, we felt happy. We had done very well on our first attempt. The 8 miles to the finish was filled with smiles and lots of no-handed finger pointing in the style of Mark Cavendish. The small climbs were ignored in spite of the pain in my thighs and we rolled into Coniston in under 9 hours with applause from the spectators.

It is an amazing route. The Lakes are stunning and we were lucky with the weather. I didn't like the overbearing feeling that there was this mammoth climb at the end but now I've done it, I think I'd enjoy it more if I did it again. So it looks like I'll be coming back for more.

I did a lot of filming with my camera and will post a video soon.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Fred Whitton Challenge Preview

Its been near 11 months (330 days) since I begun cycling (again) and Sunday will see me tackle my hardest event to date. The Autumn Epic was hard but the Fred is easily another level up, if not more.

112 miles in the Lake District with what seems to be 20 or so climbs. The nine biggest climbs are Hawkshead, Kirkstone Pass, Matterdale End, Honister Pass, Newlands Hause, Whinlatter Pass, Swarth Fell and the sting in the tail. Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass. The profile looks very scary.

Kirkstone Pass, also known as The Struggle, is a really hard test but Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass are apparently the hardest on the course. Some say Hardknott is the toughest due to its length and 33% section, others say Wrynose as its the last big hill of the day and your legs have gone. Either way, many walk.

My training has mostly gone to plan. I probably missed one or two long rides but I've done some hard training with two centuries, 240 miles in Devon and lots of good rides of 70 to 80 miles. My weight is OK, maybe 2kgs away from my pre-Fred target but it will do.

Good luck to anyone who is doing it. The weather seems ok, rain showers at worst. It should be a fun day.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


In everyday life, I am an over-eater. I have trouble with portion control and knowing when enough is enough. How is it then, that on a long cycle, I habitually under-eat?

Take Monday's ride. It was quite flat but it was 70 miles and four hours of continuous exercise. Yet I had one small fruit and nut bar (not even a specific energy bar) and one bottle of High5 4:1 drink. This ride took place from 11:00 am until 15:00 pm so I had not had lunch so to all intent and purposes, I had less calories than I would on a rest day.

On the plus side, I did not feel like I was slowing in the last ten miles so it didn't do me any harm but I know I need to do better on race day. This was brought home as I watched a DVD from SiS about last years Etape. 5 guys did a recce of the route and listed what they had eaten and drank during the day. The average was:

4 bottles of SiS PSP22 energy drink
2 bottles of Go electrolyte drink
3 energy bars
7 gels

Firstly, I have never had six bottles in a day before, probably four is my max. Three bars I can do but its the seven gels that got me. I know the DVD was sponsored by SiS but even so.

As I don't like gels, I would have to eat more bars, about 3 more I think. That's six all together which I'm not sure I could cope with (too much sweet stuff even for me) and I'm not sure I could digest that quick enough.

Four days before an event is not the best time to be looking for a solution but I don't have a choice. Its either gels, more bars or something else, maybe from the feed stops on route. I'm seriously toying with the idea of bringing some sandwiches just in case.