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.