Archive for May, 2008

No. 8 – Ring of Herts – 205 Km

Monday, May 26th, 2008

After the heroic finish of the 212 Km I feel bullish, and I am now planning to do my next 200 Km at Hertfordshire. Here is the course map – isn’t it just great what tools are available for free online???
The almost ritual post ride analysis took me a while to get to. Actually -not that long (it’s only Tuesday and the ride finished on Sunday evening) but I already have this ‘distance’ feeling about the event.

So how did I do? Not too bad, as they say, but I really wanted to do better. I had a VERY ambitious goal and just an ambitious goal. The first was to keep an average riding speed of 22 Km/h and to do just one hour of break time. The second was 20 Km/h and also one hour of breaks. I failed both. I did about 19.2 riding speed and took more than 1.5 hours of breaks. Overall – 12 hours and 15 minutes. In fact – I came in LAST – and that’s for the second time. As one of the people commented at the finishing line ‘if you do it again next time you’ll have a hat trick’ – I now know what that means but I was mystified by that expression for many years…

My edge 705 did was both invaluable and infuriating. Well, actually, it was NOT infuriating but I was (again) upset with myself about it. What has happened is that I have downloaded the whole course to its memory and I was eagerly expecting a ride where the cue sheet will be for emergency reference only – the little wonder toy will simply ‘show me the way…’ (cue orchestra). To my utter amazement when I turned it on few minutes before the event started the course DISAPPEARED. Yes – it was simply, like, GONE – vanished. I have NO IDEA how such a thing can happen, as I am absolutely positive that it was THERE for good few days. Granted, I did let Tomer to play with it for few minutes but surely he … well…, wouldn’t – would he??? I can also raise a very pointy finger at the ‘training center’ software from Garmin that started to behave somewhat strangely. I don’t know for sure WHY – but I certainly know that the course was nowhere to be found. So I resorted to the good old proven method of ‘blind navigation’ using the cue sheet. It was surprisingly easy and accurate, as they are for 99% of the time. It is that 1% that drives you crazy when you are in the middle of nowhere with 100km to go and you slowly realise that you have no idea WHERE you are and even less sure of how to get where you want to be.

So that was one problem. The other was my right knee, that started to feel somewhat painful in the last 30-40 Km – not good! I need to check the saddle height and read a very timely published article about knee problems and cycling.

Also there was ‘the climb’. I truly did not expect it – but there was a very long one to take us all the way to the ‘top of the chistern’ or something like that. At least I can now boast to have climbed 2050 meters during this ride.

The weather was absolutely amazing. It was cool, with very few spells of light drizzle and virtually no sunshine. Temperature of about 15C – just perfect. The controls were good, and we got some food and water on the way. The scenery was, as is normally the case here – just beautiful. Sadly, I didn’t have anyone to join during this ride, although I did try… Having said that – it’s quite tricky to find someone who is as weak and slow as I am, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

My next one is this coming Sunday. I am approaching it with more than tad apprehensiveness. Not because of the distance – that I KNOW I can handle, but I really should be careful with the knee – or all goes up in smoke.

Perhaps I should tone it down a bit for a while. We’ll see.

The certificate:

No. 7 – Grand Tour de Stour – 212 Km

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

My very first above 200 Km ride – and I am really apprehensive. It would require at least 11 hours – if I can do it at all..

On top of it, I have to get to the starting point (Long melford in Suffolk) at about 08:00, which means getting up at 05:45! It’s going to be interesting to say the least. The ride is described as ‘surprisingly challenging’ – I am absolutely sure that I would be happy NOT being surprised – just let me get through it in one piece.

So here is the first leg and the second leg. They are not really two legs, but just the two ‘circles’ of an ‘eight’ figure.

It’s Monday now (bless the Bank Holidays) and I had a chance to recover from the long ride. So here is what went fine:

1. I finished
2. I wasn’t DOA (Dead On Arrival)
3. I had company for most of the time (more on that latter)
4. I only missed my target arrival by 45 minutes.

Here is what went wrong (sort of…)
1. My new shiny GPS did not work as expected (more on that later)
2. It was VERY windy. Unfortunately, it felt as if most of the time it was against us – which is unlikely but that’s how it felt!
3. Climbing was hard – real hard!
4. My backside was not happy at all at the end.
5. I got sunburned on my legs and arms – but not too badly.

It was a lengthy affair. It took me 12 hours and 15 minutes to finish. As I said – 45 minutes more than I wished, but with the strong winds and my really poor climbing ability I hereby forgive myself. Although we did arrive last, we had another two hours or so before the OFFICIAL closing time, so that’s not too bad.

Climbing was a real pain. We climbed over 1000 meters overall, so I had enough places to observe my performance. Perhaps it was also due to the fact that John, my riding partner, was slim as a fiddle and had no trouble climbing faster than me. I was overtaking him on the straight and the downhill, but as soon as we hit a small incline I was pacing myself at the lowest gear while he zoomed upwards. Clearly – I must lose weight. There is no way I can go really long distances while carrying at least 12 Kg more than I should! The good new is that it SEEMS I managed to lose at least 0.5 Kg of FAT while riding this mammoth run. So – if I continue like that, I need about 20 such rides and I’ll be OK. 20?? My god – that’s another 4000 Km! Oh well, maybe I’ll do also some dieting and it will not take that long.

Oh yes – my new GPS. Right. I decided that I am now ready for a brand new gadget and went for the Edge 705. Beautiful machine that really has MOST of what may want in a cycling computer. I have tried it for few days on my commuter runs and felt pretty confident with it. Imagine my utter dismay when we are all ready to go at 08:30 and I turn it on … and the display shows me that it is still thinking that I am commuting – and in London. Gee – I need to RESET it. But how?? I am pressing all the buttons – not a chance. Start, Stop, Lap, Menu, Zoom – nothing! People are starting to leave and I don’t want to START last – it’s just embarrassing. So I just say to myself sod it – I have a backup: My simple (3£) wired speedometer and odometer to the rescue. It took me all the way to the first control (some 40 Km) to work out how to reset the damn thing. (Err… it was actually WRITTEN on it in red letters next to the ‘lap’ button – and of course I tried it at home several times – I still forgot). Never mind – I managed to reset it when we got to 50 Km, so that my distance calculations from that moment forward will be relatively easy (just add 50).

And I met John. He is 62 and lives in a small English Village (about 600 inhabitants). for 27 years he was a pig farmer – raising pigs for some relatively rich farmers. He would cycle to work every day 15 miles each way, would work 12 hours or so from 6 am (no overtime was paid) and also weekend (again – no overtime). Then, totally unexpectedly, he was laid off. Strangely, he felt relieved. The work was really getting to him mentally, and he found it harder and harder to cope. Really nice man – we may bump into each other again I guess.

So I did my first 200 Km ride. It looked so DAUNTING but now that it’s over it was like – ‘that wasn’t too bad now, was it’? Looking forward, I am now planning my first 300 Km to happen in July, and then we’ll see.

The certificate:

No. 6 – Riverside to riverside – 118 Km

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

4/5/08 and I am into the 6th Audax ride. I believe I am already entitled to the very first Audax title – but will have to wait some more until the results are all in.

It could be that I can claim either or both awards: (From the audax handbook…)

Randonneur 500. By riding Populaire events of 50, 100 and 150km then going on to a 200km at Randonneur speed (ie, 200km or 125 miles in a maximum time of around 13½ hours), all in one season, you can become a Randonneur 500.
Brevet 500. Ride 5 x 100km rides in one AUK season to gain your Brevet 500. 150s can be counted as well – but not 200s.

[added 10/6/08] and so I have the certificate!

I am getting a medal for every ride that I do – and I intend to get the awards that I have earned – without exceptions!

So here is the plan for this Sunday:

Riverside Gardens to Benson
Benson to riverside gardens

Post ride analysis…

It was a good ride. I averaged 19.6 Km/h while riding and completed the course in 6 hours and 15 minutes. I set myself the target of 6 hours, which I wasn’t that far away from managing – but couldn’t push myself harder 🙂

The weather was warmish, with very occasional few drops of rain – nothing major. Luckily, the sun never showed its face otherwise I would have been really boiling with my long sleeve cotton T shirt!

The ride itself was as far as scenery is concerned, quite spectacular. It went via very narrow and very remote routes, which I obviously would have never reached otherwise. The fields were bright yellow with some oil producing plants (no idea how its called) and the forests I went through were just amazingly beautiful. There were some climbs, not VERY steep but some quite lengthy, and some good descends, one of which was so steep I had to apply the brakes quite often to avoid being thrown out. There were very few riders, in comparison, about 30-40 I would guess, and most of the time I was by myself, with no one in sight (not just riders – NO ONE at all!)

The direction sheet was not very well made, and I felt compelled to check and recheck my position, as I absolutely HATE getting lost! In this one I never did, but I did stop once to get my bearings using the GPS (and several times rechecked a junction that I just passed to ensure that I didn’t miss a turn. I now know quite well how a good cue sheet should look like – shame it’s not mandatory. The only upside I see for the ‘diversity’ is that I learn to find my way even when the cues are no so well written – so I guess there is a blessing in it. The downside is that I do not ride as fast as I could for fear of missing a turn.

One thing that keeps bothering me lately is a light numbness in the two fingers of my right hand. It started three rides ago, and while improving quite a lot – doesn’t go away. I am comforted by the fact that it does not get worse with lengthy rides – I would have been in real trouble if it were!

The next two weekends I am supposed to go to a seminar so riding is out of the question. There is still some hope for the second weekend, where Sunday is really just half a day – so I may ask to complete it some other time.

The certificate: