Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Levels, Islands and Moors

Miles cycled this year: 2780.3
In 175 Hours burning 99500 Kcal climbing 120140 ft
Most miles in a week (so far) : 187
Weight: about the same

Pedal the Levels:

It’s been a while since I’ve been forced off the bike for so long. What is galling is that I was well enough to work, and felt well in myself, but trial bike rides showed my body had not recovered from the illness. It sounds traumatic and it wasn’t. I was not well, but it took a while for my body to come back to me.

Still, I hadn’t ridden any sort of distance for so long, I’d had a 40mile the ride the week before, but the 50 mile British Heart Foundation ride was to be a bit of a test to see how my body would respond.

I decided that I wasn’t up to riding out, round and back as I did last year, as that was 85m, and I wasn’t sure how it would go, I rode from home to the start in Glastonbury (pronounced Glass ton BRIE, not ‘king BERRY). It was a dry ride out. I left a donation and went back out into rain, the sort of big drop, but not many of them rain. Some riders were hiding under cover, I grinned at them manically and set of in pursuit of those who had just started.

This lasted all of 40 yards. The route turns into a narrow track with appalling surface. I negotiated, by asking nicely, pass loads of people riding very errrr, steady. Then we meet a car coming, or trying to come, in the opposite direction. We edged past and rode on. The rain became heavier, glasses off early.

Finally we were onto the wider better surfaced minor roads that criss-cross the Levels. I pushed on, passing rider after rider. I was much amused to surprise some as I rode pass on a slight incline, sorting out the zips on my jackets, both hands off the bars.

Coming into Polsham I warned a rider in front of the sharp left and gravel, and pushed on, I was aware he was there maybe 20ft behind. I pushed on, lets see. Another 5 miles and he was still there. OK, so lets work together. I sat up, he came up beside and we chatted. He was far more used to riding in London, so was enjoying this, and he had been swimming in the sea of the Isle of Mull the afternoon before. He seemed fine on it. Riders in front dropped on, the rain came and went in short showers. Around Mark a group of four formed but it was me and the first guy who made the pace.

Gravel is always a problem cycling, and wet gravel is worse. I came into a corner with a little more speed than necessary, can’t break too hard or will fall on the gravel, but too much speed ran me wide into the gravel in the verge, the front tyre slid then bit. I hauled the bars and put the wheel back under me. Those hours of riding my bike as a child racing my neighbour in the car park at our house in Wantage have taught me to react without thinking. Doesn’t always work though!

Coming into to Cossington I noted a man walking with rucksack towards us. I had met other walkers here before on one the End to End walking routes. I shouted “Are you end to ending?” “Yes” he said in some North American Accent “Good luck” I replied, his shout of thanks lost on the wind as we were now past.

Onto the first hill of any note up to Cossington and I drove on, pushing hard to see how I was and test the others. I crested the hill comfortably on my own. In fairness a hill after 30 miles of flat can upset the legs, so maybe that was it.

It was nearly time to turn home and I rode onto Chilton Polden and turned for home. Shortly I came across a damp swearing lump of lycra which was indeed two cyclists with a double puncture. They had used their spare tube and were trying to mend the other with a puncture repair kit. I gave them one of my tubes. They said they had no money, but had a chocolate bar. They looked like they would need the chocolate themselves, so I told them that they knew what to do and pass the favour on when they saw another cyclist in trouble.

Back home against the flow and another pair with a puncture. They had a spare tube but couldn’t get the tyre back on. I took it off them and wondering what people do with their childhood nowadays put it back on for them. It was a tight tyre and it was a new bike, which was now rather dirty, but I have had worse. We used my long pump to get plenty of air into it and they and I were off in different directions.

As I came up to the junction in Woolavington I watched a tandem pull slowly up the hill. I caught them and said they were nearly at the top and were they going anywhere nice. The lady stoker said John O’Groats. They enquired how far I had ridden, “63miles so far” They were impressed as they were doing a total of 40 that day. I can only assume they have plenty of time to complete the ride.

Home and I felt fine, but still an excuse to lie in front of the TV in a vain attempt to catch up on the cycling on the TV.

A discussion with Denise. Would I be strong enough for the Dartmoor Classic. Well I would go and ride the 65, as opposed to the 104 entered, and take my time over it.

The Isle of Anglesey:

Off our now nearly annual trip to take the Mother-in-law to Anglesey. Well I say Anglesey, but she likes Moelfre, or more precisely Ligwy beach. We stay in a house with a great view and a short walk to the beach and providing the weather is nice, and often when it is not, she desires to stay there and on the beach with the dogs. I find this rather claustrophobic, but normally get by with a bike and cycling which I copied onto DVD.

The DVD bit only half worked and only about half of the stages of the Tour of Italy played. Still better than nothing.

Cycling wise I have only ever stayed on the A roads, they aren’t busy but some of the driving is a bit lazy and close. So walking sat nav programmed with routes I planned to ride off into lanes of the interior and coast.

Sunday it rained, but really rained, like standing in the shower, but cold and coming from the side. Not riding in this. Two walks on the beach, the last of which I extended walking along the coast into the village and back along the road.

Monday I was off by 10 in the morning. A 50 mile circular route plotted to the north of the island, continuing counter clockwise to overlook Holy Island and back. It was lovely, tiny roads, masses of short sharp climbs and longer low grades. I got lost in Valley, looking for a Sustrans route that seemed not to exist. Well I wasn’t lost I did know where I was, but couldn’t find where I wanted to be going. Anyway back on track, no royalty to wave at so on my way back. Arrived 40 mins late, but hay ho.

54.8m 3h40m 3500ft climbing


Wednesday I was off out again, having slipped the lease. This time it was a zig zag and a zig back and forth across the island heading towards Plas Nwydd, a national trust property on the south of the island, more narrow roads, and remarkably courteous drivers. Had a bit of fun when I turned into one road and after maybe 100m met an artic coming the other way. He filled the road, touching the grass verge on both sides. We both stopped and assessing the situation I waved at him to keep coming, picked the bike up and turned round back to the junction. His beep to thank me was so loud I jumped, but it was accompanied with a friendly wave. Plas Nwydd was arrived at 20mins late, an improvement!

54.1 3h35m 3200ft climbing

Friday it rained hard and heavy. I stayed in bed.

The Moors

Triscombe Stone

The Sunday we got home I was off out again. No friends to play with, so I decided that it was hills that I needed. I rode out and onto the Quantocks. Firstly up through Enmore, where I caught a guy riding from Bristol to Lynton he went onto Exmoor and our routes would cross again later, but he would have been through about an hour or two before, back down on the east side of the hills and climbed up the dead-end of Triscombe Hill, down again and back up over to Crowcombe gate and down the 1:5 on the west side, cutting through to Stogumber, back up to Monksilver and down to Woodford. A left in Woodford and up onto Exmoor. By now my legs were tiring, but I knew that next Sunday it was the Dartmoor Classic, I couldn’t get the time, but I had to test myself in the hills.

This hill was very testing. It climbed up without fear or favour, I pushed on it turned a corner and held 15 to 20%. I could seeing it stretching ahead and steepened as it climbed the corner in the distance. I clung on, standing for 10 pedal turns and sitting for 10. Two reasons for this, to change the muscle groups as they tire, but also to give me something to distract myself, counting to ten over and over. Much shorter than it felt I crested the hill, without stopping and it was out onto the B road near Raleigh’s Cross. I checked the mileage, 32 miles and 4100ft of climbing at 12.8mph. That is quite a lot of climbing in that distance!

Turning left there is one almighty descent off Exmoor and one more climb over the Quantocks. Down the 1:10 it steepens to 1:6. The car behind gets the idea that he is not going to pass and we quickly pass 30, then 40 and touch 50mph. It’s straight and dry, there is no fear. Sitting back hard onto the saddle and breaking for the stop line at the bottom of the steep section and were off again, steady downhill, tailwind and an energy gel.

Cothelstone is a hard hill, but I climb it better than earlier in the year at the end of Dunkery Dash. Still I am pleased to reach the top, the next time I go that way may well to be to meet @chalkface2009 as he rides End to End in August.

57.8m 4hrs20m 5500ft of climbing

I was tired but happy, my back had started to tense up on the last climb which was uncomfortable, but I had a week to recover and for my muscles to figure out what had happened and to get ready if it were to happen again. Perhaps they knew?

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