Saturday, 26 December 2009

A festive mince pie on the Beach.

While most people were basting turkeys and looking for batteries for their new must-have gadgets, we decided to get out and ride. We have been toying with the idea of a mince pie and a brew on the beach, for a while now, but never really thought it would happen as Christmas is notoriously a chaotic and stressed day where family and friends have other plans.
Anyway, as most of you already know from my constant gloating, we have an idyllic beach less than a mile away from our door. So, after opening our presents and devouring a scrummy cooked breakfast we prepared a flask of tea and packed the homemade mince pies into a Tupperware and set off, collecting my Mum en route.

We set off enjoying the unusually quiet roads but then, as I was taking the lead, I made a snap decision to take a detour and veered off onto a sweeping muddy bridleway which took us downhill to our first beach of the day. The sun was out and when we hit the rocky beach we had a brief stop to admire the views and take some photo's.

Mullerton's bike, some rocks & the Mount!

It was then back up the hill to head to beach number two – our local and favourite beach. By this time there were a number of people walking along the coast path and the novelty of cheerily calling out “Happy Christmas” to all as we rode past soon became tiresome. Baa humbug! ;-)

We broke out the mince pies and tea when we reached our destination. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to check tide times so we were unable to ride across the sand but it was still enjoyable.

Mikey's bike, a flask of tea & a mince pie.

We then packed up and took the long way home, which included a blinkin’ hard off road climb, some more up-hills and then, as if my legs weren’t already tired enough, we decided on an extra detour to take in a mile of very muddy singletrack. I kid you not the mud was deep. If you were unlucky enough to have to put a foot down, you were at risk of loosing a shoe. Was great fun though – and even funnier when Mikey, managed to fall off into the mud.

Mullerton's hairy leg (not mine)

It was then time for a quick wash (bikes & humans) and then to the local pub(s) just in time for last orders. Then back to my Mum’s for Christmas dinner.

Ahhh, what a nice way to spend Christmas – if only every year it could be that simple and relaxed. ;-)

Anyway, hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and got everything you asked Father Christmas for.

Monday, 21 December 2009

No snow in Cornwall - but still very miserable riding conditions

SNOW seems to be this weeks hot bloggin’ topic but at this end of the UK we have had only the smallest amount. It seldom snows here and even when it does it never sticks for long (I guess it is all the salty ocean air!) The air temperature has also probably been a little more bearable than elsewhere in Britain – never really dropping below zero for too long! It’s not all sunshine and ice-creams though, as it has been beyond a little chilly. And again it’s all to do with that pesky ocean breeze. Brrrrr! The wind chill factor has made temperatures unbearable, and particularly uncomfortable to ride in.

After my first really unpleasant and soul-destroying ride last week in this weather (see previous post) I was despondent. The bitter wind had destroyed my lungs and psychologically drained me. So much so, that I couldn’t bring myself to get back outside again until I had another chance to ride with Mikey. There was no way I would be able to muster up the willpower to go out and ride in these conditions alone. So, instead, I forced myself to complete another session on the Turbo Trainer mid week, to ensure I would still be on track to meet my weekly target. Predictably it was dull and I struggled - the dent the last ride had made in my confidence was playing on my mind. I needed to get back out there and beat my demons! So on Sunday, as the South West Cross Season is over, I was able to convince Mikey that he wanted to take a spin around the local lanes with me.

I wrapped up well. In fact, the neighbours probably thought I had changed religion as by the time I had covered my ears and mouth with a combination of buffs, there was little left of my face on display! I didn’t care how I looked - I had to beat this stupid weather. I was determined; I couldn’t let the suffering of the last ride keep me from riding again.
The motivation didn’t last long after I struggled to make it to the top of the first hill – a short hill that hasn’t defeated me since the start of my bicycle rediscovery. Despite a fleece "snood" over my mouth, the air that was hitting my lungs was still bitter and almost instantaneously they shrank. Saying it was "painful" wouldn’t really be close to describing how I felt. For the first 6 miles I was in agony; every extremity, despite the thick clothing, was numb from a combination of the cold and the lack of Oxygen. For those first 6 miles I was close to tears and defeat. Somehow, I dug deep and found it in me to battle on – I think it was sheer stubbornness rather than determination. Oddly by 7 miles in, the pain had slightly subsided and my lungs were working vaguely more efficiently and I nearly enjoyed the next few miles. I say “nearly” enjoyed them – it’s all comparative. I hated the first 5 or so miles and was more than ready to throw my bike in the nearest ditch, so anything that was remotely more agreeable could be classed as “enjoyable”. I got back semi-satisfied. I had done my best! I had struggled on through the pain and the dire weather. I had added 10.5 road miles to my log.

Grrr! I wanted to be chuffed, but the pain of the first few miles was playing on my mind, I was deflated. One of the main reasons that I have started riding again was to try and improve the condition of my lungs. Since having pneumonia last year, my asthma had started to affect my general health. However in the last few months, as a result of my bicycle rediscovery, there were noticeable improvements and I think it was these that had lulled me into a false sense of achievement and made me have unrealistic expectations. I guess I still have a long way to go before I can be free from inhalers and steroids for good. But for now, I will just have to keep reminding myself of the initial improvements…. I shudder to think how ghastly my lungs would be without all these recent miles under my belt.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Triumph turns to despair within just a few hours.

Last week I exceeded all my expectations when I managed to blast through my weekly target and add 11 extra miles (not a great mileage for all your seasoned athletes but remember I've only been riding again for a few months). I was also really chuffed when I realised that all my hard work was actually paying off when I discovered that now on average I was riding faster and covering longer distances with much more ease. Also, those hills that used to defeat me were now becoming easier to conquer.

Things were great. I was on a high! I planned to increase my overall monthly target. I was starting to feel like a real cyclist - not just someone who rides bikes occassionally. My dreams of entering a cyclo-cross race were starting to look achievable. Nothing could stop me now. As my previous post stated I even had plans to treat myself to a nice new bike.

That was until yesterday afternoon. It was Mikey's day off. A rare chance to ride with him. I was excited; due to the darker evenings we don’t get many chances to ride bikes together. We set off on our adventure - a road ride around the local lanes. The sun was shining and the garden thermometer read a pleasant 8degrees but despite this I had wrapped myslef up, head to toe. (My recent lurgy has left my arms and legs covered in unsightly and embarrassing scabs.) Within a few minutes on the bike I was thankful for the longer layers though, as the wind was bitter! Unfortunately, the freezing winds quickly left my lungs in a miserable state (they had shrunk to nothing with the cold) and I soon became breathless. Consequently the lack of Oxygen left my legs weak and turning the pedals was difficult.

Argh! Enough was enough. I stopped and quickly removed my buff - which was currently keeping my ears toasty. I'd just have to have cold ears - breathing was more of a priority right now. Hopefully, with the buff as a face mask it would take the "nip" out of the air before it entered my lungs. It did give me and my lungs some sort of relief but sadly it was too late; I was pretty much physically and mentally broken. My legs were empty and I was frustrated. I didn't want to give up as we had only done just over a mile. After last weeks personal bests, I had set my standards higher. I couldn't give up! Plus, it’s so rare that I can now cycle with Mikey, so I knew I should try and make the most of it.

I struggled on, doing my best to achieve a respectable mileage, but it really hurt and we were slow. We got home 45 mins after setting off, with 7.5miles on the clock. A few months ago I would have been happy with that mileage, but now it wasn’t enough - I wanted to do more.

I am now really despondent and fed up, so my plans for a new bike are on hold. If the weather continues like this, I can’t see me physically able to keep my momentum going over the winter. Yesterdays ride has had a devastating affect on my motivation. Don't worry, I wont give up without a fight, I just need to regain some drive and determination. (I guess I shouldn't have gotten carried away with the excitement and set new goals. I should have stuck with what I know - and avoided disappointment)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas - a time for giving, a time for sharing.

As some of you are aware I have set myself a challenge to compete in next season’s cyclo-cross league. Obviously, as it's likely I am going to be rubbish, I feel I at least need to do it in style so I have hatched a plan. I need a Yeti! Trouble is, I can't find any second-hand ones in my size.

So you just may be able to help me. I can afford a spangly new frame, but don't think my minimum wage wages will be able to stretch to afford the components too. Do any of you lovely people have any unwanted bits that need a loving new home. As this will be a community project, part ownership of completed bike may be granted, obviously in accordance to size of donation. Look at this as a community project, charity** or even sponsorship, I don't mind... just please give a girl a break...

Oh and remember Sir Cliff's immortal words whilst you rummage in your garage/shed/workshop, "Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, a time for giving, a time for sharing..."

** My Mum taught me never to beg for anything so this isn't a begging letter... I am just looking for a little assistance. :-)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Bike shop blues & comedy gold!

I love bike shops with all the shiny trinkets and gizmos but I’ve never really been a fan of buying myself things from bike shops. Why? Well, because I find them quite intimidating as they're usually staffed by males and are generally male-orientated places. I find this can be quite disconcerting – even though I often know more about the stuff than the sales assistant. It’s particularly perturbing when buying clothes as I am far from an athletic build and feel quite embarrased ordering clothes in a large or extra large. (But don’t get me started on that – I believe there is a definite flaw in the UK bike market. Grrrr… since when is a size 14 woman large?!)

Sorry, back to the tale at hand. Having a boyfriend in the bike business is great as it generally means that I don’t have to go through the faff of going into a shop to try things on, etc. The invention of internet shopping also means that buying cycling bits and bobs is much less daunting. Unfortunately there are just some things that can’t be avoided as I desperately needed some cycling shoes. I didn’t like the ones that Mikeys shop stocked and as I really wasn’t sure of what size I would need it didn’t seem appropriate to buy online… so I had to grit my teeth into a smile and venture into a bike shop.

EEK! I was a little uneasy when I realised that the only place to sit down in the shop (to try the shoes on) was a “Specialized Ass O’meter”. Argh! I knew that when I stood up the shop assistant would be able to see the size of my bottom! Dammit! Ah well… I would just make light of it… so when I sat down I jokingly uttered to the shop owner “Now, no laughing at the size of my ass when I stand up.” ;-)

His reply was unexpected but I couldn’t help but laugh at his embarrassment as he realised what he had said… “I won’t laugh, but I will check it out!” Oh how I laughed as the entire colour drained from his face. Ah well it broke the ice and his awkwardness made me no longer feel like a girly out of my depth in a male orientated world….

Monday, 7 December 2009

A rubbish week...

Last week was a rubbish week and I only managed to get outside on my bike once, earlier on in the week. This ride was an interesting trip round the local lanes with Mikey. I always enjoy the local rides as it involves seeing a lot of wildlife and the local farm animals, but this route also encompasses a field of Donkeys. I adore Donkeys! You can never be glum when you see a donkey! Unfortunately, the donkeys weren’t out - I guess they aren’t fans of bad weather! It really was dire; the wind was brutal, (we seemed to have a headwind whichever way we turned!) but at least we managed to avoid most of the rain storms.

Irritatingly, it wasn’t just the miserable weather that kept me off my bike last week. I spent Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday imprisoned at home waiting for a delivery (which incidentally didn’t arrive despite countless promises by the company involved.) Then Saturday afternoon, was written off as I had to seek medical opinion on a rash on my arms and legs. As you can imagine, as it was a weekend and as I am in Cornwall, help and advice wasn’t that easy to find. I spent a good few hours finding and then waiting to be seen by an out-of-hours GP at a “cottage hospital”. Grrr…. one of the hazards of nursing elderly and vulnerable people is that it leaves you susceptible to catching nasty bugs. Out of all the minor illnesses and infections out there, trust me to pick up a frustratingly itchy one! So once again, I was captive within the confines of my own home. Not only because of the risk of spreading my lurgy, but because a ride in the torrential rain and freezing winds was pretty much out of the question - as it would make my already raw skin, even angrier by adding a dose of wind-burn.

Consequently, as I only managed to get outside to ride once all week, I found myself a few miles short of my weekly target. So, I had to take even more steps towards the dark side and use the turbo trainer. I really do despise it! It really is mind-numbingly boring and doesn’t even slightly compare to an invigorating ride outside. The only thing that keeps me doing it, is the fact that I really don’t want to see the fitness level that I have achieved plummet back to the abysmal level I was at 4 months ago. So, I just have to grit my teeth and try and make the most of a bad situation.

I have to admit though, that during the recent ‘real’ ride, I was quite chuffed as I found that my sessions on the rollers had not only maintained my fitness level but had helped to improve my overall stamina. I was delighted when I conquered a steep and long hill. Yeah OK I did have to stop once for a moment halfway to catch my breath but the last time I attempted this hill, I had to stop 3 times, so there’s a definite improvement. I guess I will have to keep this in mind next time I have to suffer more monotonous miles on the trainer!

Argh! ... but the weatherman is forecasting more of the same. I really don’t know how much more of the "trainer tedium" I can endure. I guess living so close to the sea does have it’s downside after all - those evil coastal winds! Ah well, winters in this neck of the woods aren't as long as those we are used to up North so spring will be here soon! ;-)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Another milestone in my cycling re-discovery.

Just a quick update to share my news. As most of you know, my monthly target is to ride 100 miles (or more). Yeah ok, that, probably doesn’t seem that much to all you seasoned cyclists out there, but as I have gone from doing nothing for many years, I think it’s a pretty realistic goal.

Anyway, I’m waffling and I’d planned to make this brief… But first I think I need a drumroll please … as November marked another milestone in my cycling rediscovery.

Not only did I achieve my monthly target for November, but more significantly the few miles extra I rode in both November and October have bought my grand total up to 400 miles in the last 4 months. I am chuffed to bits - as I was really disappointed back in September when a nasty saddle sore stopped me from riding for two weeks, so making up those missing miles is great and has given me a boost.

YAY!!! Whouda funked it? Four months ago, I would never have thought I could have achieved so much and if i'm honest, I had half expected to loose my momentum by now. Amazingly, I am really enjoying it and each time I meet one of these small milestones it drives me on. I keep setting myself targets. Some easier, some more difficult; but when I reach them my confidence grows. And of course, when I achieve some of the bigger goals, I treat myself (or get Mikey to treat me) to something new - bike related of course!

[BTW I still plan on raising the bar and increasing my monthly target at some point but for now, with the miserable & unpredictable weather I will leave the goal as it is - as I’m guessing that there will be days/weeks where I wont be able to venture outside… and I can’t face many more than a few monotonous sessions on the turbo-trainer each week.]