Sunday, 30 May 2010

Pimping my ride!

Can't remember if I blogged about the last time I rode my Mountain Bike - it was about a month ago and was just a ride along the bike path to meet Mikey in Penzance.  I'm not sure why I decided to ride him (Gary) rather than Ted - there was a reason at the time, but can't remember why now. Anyway it was an awful ride. Gary felt heavy and sluggish, plus I felt very uncomfortable; the position felt wrong, despite lots of en-route adjustments.  It kinda felt like I was on a sit-up-and-beg bike.   For the first time in ages I didn't enjoy the ride.  As I struggled into a strong headwind towards Penzance, it even crossed my mind that I possibly preferred road riding now. It made me feel sick just thinking that, as I have always enjoyed riding off-road and loved mountain biking.

Thankfully watching the MTBers at the 24hr race and then my Scottish cycling experiences (where i'd cried out for suspension and knobbly tires) rekindled my love for mountain bikes and I was desperate to get home and dust Gary off and ride the local single track. 

So on our return to Cornwall a plan was hatched.  First of all I needed to adjust my riding position, so I borrowed a flatter and longer stem off Mikey. But just as importantly I needed to make Gary lighter - so off came his bell and bottle cage.  Predictably, this didn't make much difference and he was still a tad heavy - after all, despite the years of having him, he was still practically how he looked when he came out of the factory with lots of entry level heavy parts.

Coincidentally, after seeing Deb's bike (during our very brief pitstop in Mcr) "Cindy" (which is the same Kona frame as Gazza but with lots of shiny parts), Mikey also had a plan. One of his bikes was currently out of action - something to do with leaky brakes, so I could borrow the forks and wheels off it.  Mmm... now that lightened the load considerably. 

After shedding possibly 6lbs, Mikey also offered to lend me his carbon bars. This was super! By the end of the morning Gary was a whole new bike. He even got some new pedals as I changed them to SPDs. He looked awesome and was such a dream to ride.

And ride we did.  We stayed local for the first ride.  There were clouds of dust from back wheels as we zipped across the bone dry trails. Loose rocks and ruts posed no problem to the new suspension and Gary and I floated over stuff like never before. Tracks that I have often struggled on were effortless and I had no time to over-think obstacles, we just breezed over them. Mikey seemed genuinely impressed with my achievements and pointed out that it was my first "proper" off-road ride with SPDs and that I hadn't batted an eyelid.   I was having a blast, it was super!

Still hyped up the following morning, we decided that as were going to the LBS in Portreath (to get me some new baggies), we may as well do the Coast to Coast ride again, so we packed the car. Just before setting off we got a call from my Mum, who we invited to join us.  After helping her get her hybrid into the car, we set off.  The weather was slightly duller than the previous day but the track was still dry and dusty. Another super ride was had and 19more miles added to my weekly total.

(I can't mention my Mum and this ride without mentioning her spectacular fall - Sorry Mum, it has to be said - It was pure comedy gold as she attempted to ride over a 15ft high and steep mound that the kids use for "sessioning".  She was practically at the top when she started to fall. Crumpling into a heap with the bike on top of her she landed on the floor. After confirming she was OK, hysterical laughter ensued as she stood up covered from head to toe in a thick layer of dust!)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Newcastleton - Post Exposure

After leaving the 24hrs of Exposure Camp last Sunday afternoon, we took the mile and a half drive to the bed and breakfast that we had booked into for the next 2 nights. We had purposefully booked a room, which had an en-suite; as the last thing I would want to do after the squalor of camping facilities (which I hasten to add were even worse than I expected) is share a bathroom with any other guests.  The other advantage of booking the en-suite room is that it had a king size bed - which sounded great after 2 nights of uncomfortable camping.  It seemed perfect, as it would provide some of lifes little luxuries that we often take for granted; like a comfy bed and a private bath.

On arrival at the Sorbietrees B&B we were surprised at what awaited us.  Externally it was gorgeous, a large stone farmhouse set in a stunning countryside.  The only noises were an array of bird calls and the odd whinney of a horse, the baa of a sheep or a cow moo'ing.  It was glorious!

We were then shown to our room.  We were both slightly taken aback by it. It was HUGE and very luxurious! I kid you not, we could fit the whole of our downstairs into it!  The bed was beyond KingSize... it was SuperKingSize and there was a comfy sofa too.  As for the en-suite.... well what can I say.... wow! Again it was huge and luxurious. It had a double-ended deep bath as well as a separate huge shower cubicle.  You could get lost in that bathroom.

After a quick freshen up, we went for a quick spin around the local area.  Our B&B landlady is a horse rider and very knowledgeable about bridleways in the area and advised us of a lovely 10mile route, following an old railway line.  It was a great ride which took us directly through fields of sheep. I was in my element chattering to the bemused looking sheep and lambs!   That night we went into the village of Newcastleton to "The Grapes" public house for our tea, which was nice.  There were quite a few stragglers from the race whom we chatted to, before we headed back for an early night in the luxurious B&B to catch up on some sleep (Camping was great fun, but sleep deprivation was starting to kick in).

Breakfast was at 9 and when we walked into the dining room we were shocked by what we saw. A huge dining table laden with breakfast goodies. All kinds of cereal, a huge bowl of fresh fruit salad, yogurts, a selection of fruit juices, all kinds of jams and marmalade's and a never-ending pot of tea. It was amazing! We were the only guests, so this was all for us.  After some cereal and fruit salad, it was time for a (veggie) cooked breakfast and toast.    This breakfast was fit for royalty - we definitely wouldn't be needing much, if any, lunch!

Monday saw my marathon adventure in Keilder (see previous post) and after a hard days ride I enjoyed a long soak in the tub before we went back into town for another evening meal.  This time we went to the "Liddesdale".  The food was simple yet super. Mmm! Again, it was time for another early night. I was exhausted and that bed was just too comfy to ignore.

After another heavenly sleep and huge scrumptious breakfast it was time to pack, but we knew we couldn't leave Newcastleton without sampling some of the fantastic mountain bike trails through the forest.  After all, we hadn't even done a lap of the 24hr race track, so we really must do some of it.  The trouble was my shoulders were still in excruciating pain, so we decided on a short leisurely route that took along 8km of forest road, which was apparently suitable for all levels of cyclists and hybrid bikes. 

We took the first climb up and things seemed OK, the terrain was very loose and sketchy but i'm sure it wasn't anything I couldn't manage. Hmmm! I spoke too soon. I guess in normal conditions it would have been OK, but I was broken from the previous ride.  As we started to descend, every feather of the brakes resulted in a sharp pain in my shoulders. It was so painful that I was unable to pull my brakes enough to stop my bike - so I had to use grassy knolls to slow me down.

It was torture but we had only just done a mile. Mikey suggested we walk back and just forget about riding today. But as the stubborn fool I am, I knew I couldn't - I would hate myself if I didn't finish such a short route. After all, it was a really simple route, that is, IF you had knobbly wide tires, suspension and more responsive brakes. Ouch! I gritted my teeth and continued. Every movement bought pain into my shoulders and hands.

As you've probably guessed, I didn't enjoy any of that ride,  Yes, the scenery was stunning and in ordinary circumstances it would have been fun, but today I was in too much pain!  The only satisfaction I had was that I completed it and didn't let it completely beat me. The only highlight of the ride was passing over the Scotland-England border. 

And one good thing that came of it, was that during those few days in Scotland I rode 50miles - which is what I usually average a week.

Ah well, next year I will hopefully be fitter and if we go, I will know to take my MTB, not my CX bike!

My Marathon ride at Kielder.

Wooop Woop!! One of my two goals has been achieved. Back in January I set myself two goals; one to enter a cyclo-cross race and the other to do a marathon ride of 26 miles.  Amazingly, last week in Scotland I achieved one of these; my Marathon ride at Kielder.

BIG thanks go to Amy and Ali who suggested we do the Lakeside Way ride at Kielder Lake.  They have both ridden and enjoyed the ride before and although they had both rode it on Mountain Bikes they assured me that it was completely do-able on a CX bike - as it wasn't a technical trail and it followed a purpose built path.

It seemed a shame not to do it, considering we were staying only about 18 miles away. So, on the Monday after a lovely relaxing sleep in a King sized bed and a breakfast fit for the Queen, it was time to hit the trails.

The drive over to Keilder was pretty and we soon hit our destination - Keilder Castle car park!  We made a quick pitstop at a bikeshop to buy someone who had left his cycling shorts in Cornwall a new pair of shorts! Annoyingly the first shop was shut (despite a huge OPEN sign on its door).  Thankfully, we had seen a bike hire shop en-route so we hopped on our bikes and go see if they sold any shorts.  The shop was tiny but the staff very friendly.  After a chat with the manager we were glad that the other shop hadn't been open as they had pushed this smaller business out of their premises, forcing them to relocate. 

Anyway, with a nice new pair of shorts for Mikey we went to set off.  The manager started to look a little concerned that we weren't on MTB's and said that we may struggle on some parts of the path as it was very rocky. The way he gesticulated the size of the rocks, I started to expect rocks as big as boulders. 

I became a tad un-nerved , now expecting lots of tricky terrain. Ah well, we were here now, whats the worst that could happen?

We headed off around the lake, heading along the North shore. The first 10 miles were super!  Admittedly, as the shop manager had suggested the first section was a tad more rocky, but nothing my fresh legs couldn't handle.  I was having too much fun to worry anyway!  We whizzed along enjoying the scenery - it was so pretty!  We were quite surprised at just how undulating the path was considering that we were following a level lake, but all the ups and downs were fun. 

There was lots to see en route; fantastic landscapes and breathtaking views.  It sounds silly but we really do miss seeing huge old trees. Here in Cornwall all the mining has meant many trees didn't survive as their root systems were disturbed, so the tall forest trees were spectacular.   At one point we saw a Roe deer, bounding over the shrubs.  It was an awesome sight as I've never seen them living in the wild anywhere - other than Tatton park, which doesn't really compare!
We soon reached the half way point, Kielder Dam, and shortly after found a quiet spot to stop for a breather and a spot of lunch - 2 scotch pancakes each and a banana.  Mmm... with energy supplies replenished it was time for the off again. This south shore wasn't half as pretty - in some places it looked quite baron. I'm not sure if it was because of the less inspirational scenery or because since my cycling rediscovery I have never ridden more than 19miles in one go, but at the 20 mile mark, I started to get weary - mentally and physically. Oddly my legs were OK but my shoulders were in agony and my feet burning.  At this point I would have killed for suspension forks and more responsive brakes. The ride got slower and slower as I had to keep stopping and shake my arms and stretch my shoulders. Any downhill was torturous as I tried to pull my brake levers. Severe cramps in my shoulders kept kicking in and I was close to tears.

The pain was unbearable but I was still determined to ride the full 26mile route - walking wasn't an option!  So, despite making slow progress we continued.  A few bunnies and low flying fighter planes kept my mind entertained and off my pain.  I could do this!

Somehow, we made it back to the car. Yay! I had done my 26mile ride. Hang on, I looked at my mileometer - it said 29! Somewhere along the line we had picked up a few extra miles. (I guess the faffing around looking for a bike shop had added more than we had thought)

Friday, 28 May 2010

Exposure Exposé

For those of you who live under a rock, last weekend saw the 1st ever Solo 24hr MTB National Championships over the border in Scotland. Representing team VeloCake were cakers Steve , Grant and and honorary member (she'll be fully fledged when the new team kit finally arrives) Amy
- doing it for the girls.

In a moment of madness me and Mikey decided to drive the 500mile trip up North to offer Team Support.  So, 10 hours after we set off, we finally reached our destination - an already full campsite.  On arrival we found Steve, who had set up next to a couple who I didn't know; despite a lack of introductions I soon discovered them to be Chris and Jac.

No sooner as we started to unpack the tent Grant and his bud James rolled up. A game of musical cars and musical tents ensued before their huge tent - "MoonBase Doig" was unleashed!

An hour or so later and a small Mini headed onto the field. We recognised this as being Trio's and despite only knowing her via the Internet, we waved her over.  Again we seemed to forget any kind of formal introductions, but this time it wasn't quite as bad, as after reading her blog regularly I already felt like I knew both her and Ali. The team was complete and we sat and chatted as the sun went down.

As all the racers were riding "solo", the usual pre-race camp shenanigans were subdued and tents were zipped and lights were turned out by dark. Team VeloCake soon realised we were the only ones making any noise within the camp so we decided we should also retire for the night - after all half of us had a big day tomorrow.

By morning everyone was up bright and early and nerves were starting to show.  The start of the race was dragged out by a long-winded rider briefing, followed by a ride into the village for a formal "signing on" in front of the good folks of Newcastleton.  The riders were then gallantly led back out of the village and back up to the course by some suited up village chieftains.

After getting some quick shots of the riders heading out we made our way back up to the camp. Which was quite tricky on a cross bike. The boys on MTB's made it look easy but skinny tyres and a twitchy CX bike made the ridiculously steep climb on very loose gravel quite tricky.

Back at camp we set up an awning and decorated it and with a lovely VeloCake flag flying proudly from one corner.  We then awaited the arrival of the riders as they completed their first lap, prepped with the trusty VC cow-bell. G-dunk, G-dunk! Damn! Chris walked over with a bigger and shiny cow bell. I was beyond envious, not only did it look better but it sounded better!

Trio, Grant and Steve have all blogged their race reports already, so if you haven't already, you really should check them out!

All that's left for me to say was that great fun was had and a lot of new friendships were made. It would have been a perfect trip if it hadn't been for those revolting portaloo's that were even grimmer by Saturday morning.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Predicting failure!

After a wonderful April things have taken a turn for the worse and I am currently sitting in my sick bed; nursing a pesky infection. :-(

It all started to go downhill last week, when we decided to decorate the bedroom.  Unfortunately, the prep took longer than expected so despite the bank holiday weekend we didn't finish it. Consequently, it's meant doing a few hours each night after work - and then sleeping in a room filled with paint/gloss fumes.  How dramatic, I hear you all cry; but one of the downsides of living in a small miners cottage is the tiny windows and the limited airflow.  By Thursday my head was ready to explode and spun with every slight movement.

On Saturday, I still had a niggly headache, but it was more tolerable.  Unfortunately,  I now had a sore throat too.  At first it  felt like something was stuck in my throat, maybe something from all the sanding and decorating, but it wouldn't shift and progressively got worse.

Until yesterday I had continued to cycle, presuming that my ailments could be cured by fresh air, but yesterday evening I was empty and couldn't muster up the energy to do my Monday evening ride to Penzance to meet Mikey from work.  Every single muscle in my body ached!

After a really bad night (a raging temperature and agonising pain in my chest) I made an emergency appointment at the Doctors.  After listening to my symptoms and a thorough check up he announced that he didn't think I had pneumonia.  I was a little taken back by this statement as I hadn't even considered pneumonia. Non the less I was glad - I wouldn't ever want to have to go through that again. For now, he thinks I have a chest infection and he hopes we have caught it in time to prevent pneumonia.

Interestingly, despite the chest pain, I haven't been wheezy *Touchwood*.  Normally, as soon as I get any sort of infection it triggers my asthma. Maybe *Touchwood*, this getting fit and cycling malarkey is working after all. :-)

The worst thing is though, that it means I will have to take a few days off the bike, which wouldn't be so bad if I could make up for any missed mileage on my recovery, but that isn't likely as then Mullertons family are arriving for a visit, which will interupt my ride time and then we go to Scotchland, without bikes!

Grr... This month is gonna be a bad month for mileage!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

April stats

April was a good month. Loads of good rides. Lots of new sights along the way - a donkey, three little pigs, some baby geese and a new born foal. It was definitely a good month for saying "Aawwww"!

It was also an extraordinary month for mileage. Somehow I managed to do 224.5 miles. Quite impressive considering my original target at the start of the month was to do 100. I was a happy bunny!

I'm feeling really proud of my achievements at the moment as I am continuing to average about 50miles a week. Also I am finally starting to feel stronger and more confident in my abilities.  All is good!

Unfortunately, I don't know if I will manage to keep this mileage up, throughout May, what with the impending arrival of the in-laws and a 1000+ mile drive (round trip) to the land of the Scots. Guess, we'll just have to wait and see.

By the way, the end of April, also bought about the highly anticipated VeloCake Bun Run! Which was good fun! :-D I'd intended to do a separate post about it, but so far it just hasn't happened.