Archive for July, 2008

No. 14 – Muswell Hills – 210 Km

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

After the 300 ride this one was supposed to be a walk in the park. Instead, it turned out to be the hardest ride I ever did. Seriously.

The route was not too bad, a bit hilly but not excessively so (1740 m of ascend).

The starting point was within cycling distance from home, so I didn’t have to do any driving, bike loading and the other early morning preparations. It started quite nicely with a cool breeze and a few friendly participants – maybe 30 overall. Unlike previous rides, I found myself in total isolation at the very far back within minutes from the start. I also managed to lose my way after just few Km, so I was certainly and truly on my own. Following my trusted GPS I recovered the correct route, but I have not seen any of the other riders again.

The day started to heat up, and I was drinking and drinking large amounts of water. However much I drank – it didn’t seem to be enough. As hours passed by, I became very hot, very tired and very sore. My knee started to play up again – not very badly – but painful it was. I managed to fall off my bike about three times – none of them of any long lasting effects, as I was nearly stationary at the time (which is just more humiliating than hurting).

At the first control, which was a river side cafe that was so hard to find I had to ask around where the hack it is (again – first time it happened to me), I was expecting some people to greet me and stamp my brevet card. There was no one. I checked and searched – nothing. So I just bout a diet coke and asked for the receipt. I was sure that the control people just did not want to hang about and wait for me – although the time was not yet over the limit. Only at the other control I learned that actually nobody was supposed to be there anyway. Again – another first …

When I entered the last control (a BP station) I knew that I don’t need o expect anyone – and that a receipt is all I need. But by then I was so apprehensive about the potential for lack of fluid that I bought:
1.5 liter bottle of water (to pour immediately into my standard water bottles)
0.5 liters bottle of water (to keep cold for later)
0.5 liter of milkshake – drink immediately
2 bottles of diet coke – 0.5 liter each

Clearly an overkill when all I had left by then were a mere 40 Km ride – but I wasn’t acting very rationally.

I think by the end of the ride I finished the milkshake, one diet coke, the 0.5 liter bottle and maybe another liter from my usual drinking bottles. I was thirsty – no two ways about that.

I got to the last control (ARIVEE) with maybe 20 minutes to spare. My worst performance ever. I then made my way home and probably took about 20 minutes to cover the 4 km or so – quite pathetic. Wife understandably worried and me very – very tired.

I did not ride to work for two days. I had no problem riding to work after any of the previous long rides. I am going on Thursday fort a complete bike fitting exercise, which will take 2 hours and for which I am taking half a day off. I am putting a lot of faith in this exercise as I clearly will not be able to ride longer distances suffering as I do. The shop uses the Specialized Body Geometry system and I read good reviews about it. We’ll see what it will do for me.

The certificate:

No. 13 – Fairies flattest possible – 300 Km

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

That was indeed an ‘epic’ journey. Staring at 2 am and finishing at 8 pm on the same day, that’s 18 hours of riding! As my daughter remarked ‘that’s hard core cycling!’.

As I knew I will have very little to sleep, I decided to arrive at the destination few hours earlier and just try to sleep in the car. Luckily – I can fall asleep nearly anywhere so I managed to get about three hours of sleep before waking up at 1 am to get ready for the ride. I had a well rehearsed list of things to do and to take – and I didn’t miss a bit!

There were not many riders crazy enough to join me – perhaps 20 – certainly no more than 30. Few women, as always, usually with their cycling partner.

The first 100 Km, which would bring us back to the starting point, were on some main roads, but as it was the middle of the night they were mostly deserted. I averaged about 23 km/h for the first 50 km, which was really good speed. The ride was well organised, and there was tea and coffee waiting for us at several controls on the way. Navigation was not too tricky, and the indispensable GPS proved a life saver many times. The sunrise at about 04:30 was just great, and the weather was just a tiny bit on the chilly side, being night and all, but very middle of the summer kind of ‘chill’ – just perfect for riding. In fact, the same can be said about the day itself, with frequent clouds and even a drop of rain once or twice it was just perfect. Of course it was windy too )you can’t have everything, right), and I did struggle to battle it on occasions, but such is life on the cycling circus.

I made sure I drink enough water, eat some carbo bars etc. so energy and hydrating will not be a problem. And it wasn’t. What was starting to hurt, quite badly after 200 km was my KNEE. GRRR. I tried every position I could think of – but however I sat – it was not good – sometimes just bad and sometimes worse.

I found momentary relief by getting up and pedaling while standing. This is not a position that I can hold for a long time – as it is much more tiring, so I had to sit back – and suffer. Well, than the most amazing thing happen. About 30 km be3fore the end it occurred to me that perhaps the reason I am preferring the standing up position is that I am not stretching my legs. I decided to stop and lower the saddle a bit. As soon as I did that – the pain was GONE! Completely! I just couldn’t believe it! I knew that saddle height is important, but the difference few millimeters have done was just staggering. After about 10 Km I decided to lower it a bit more (there was still some residual pain) and that helped again!

Well – I finished the course and was very pleased with myself for that, but quite annoyed at myself for not having the wisdom to try the saddle height change earlier – as I did suffer quite a lot 🙁

Here is the route – difficult to follow on the map…

Anyway – I am now going to get a complete test done to me and my bike by a specialist to get it fitted to me ‘perfectly’. It is not cheap, but if I want to ride such distances and if I want to stop hurting myself (YES PLEASE) – it will be worth it.

Next weekend is ‘just’ 200 km from East Finchley – so things should go back to normal now :).

Still, thinking that the target I have is to do such a ride 5 days in a row is pretty frightening…


Testing Testing 1 2 3 – 105 Km Bikeathon London

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

So I needed one more test before deciding that I am ready for the ‘big one’, and I did the London Bikeathon. That’s the only charity ride I joined this year so far, and I don’t think I’ll join any other… To make it more interesting than the ‘meager’ 52 miles, so called the challenging route (my my how times change) I also rode from home and back – another 16 miles. Altogether a respectable 105 Km.
It WAS good fun, and some of the routes – especially via richmond park – were spectacular. It’s also nice NOT to look at a cue sheet and NOT to worry about ‘controls’ – and being given bananas and other goodies as much as you wish.
I decided that I AM ready – and notified anyone with ears and a willingness to listen to me that I am going to do the 300Km.

The knee was not too hurting and I felt that given few days of no cycling I’ll be OK.

As a last item of preparation I acquired a really cool (and somewhat alien) looking head light, like miners used to use, as I certainly needed something to be able to light my map, cue sheet or GPS… That would be my first ever serious ride in total darkness and that kind of light was the missing piece. It cost few pounds from ebay (all the way from Hong Kong and proved immensely valuable during the ride.

No. 12 – Reservoir Auks – 155 Km

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Having done the 110 last week without obvious damage, I decided to go for a more ambitious 150. It went really well, completing it all in about 8 hours. I still came last, though, although not by much and there were only 5 more people doing that distance.

As it was just yesterday, I remember it well. This was really not a difficult ride, with very few ascends of material significance. The weather though was most peculiar, ranging from very cold drizzly spray, through big drops not so cold heavy rain to blistering sunshine that was hot enough to burn the skin on my legs – though not too severely. Although the knee was fine for most of the time, I suffered badly from really bad pain in my right foot. It was getting numb as the hours went by and it was increasingly difficult to ‘restore’ it to life by riding upright. Also, my new shoes (more about it below), seemed like too tight (or maybe they WERE too tight) and by the end the pain was quite bad. I drove home barefoot and it has taken the foot more than an hour to feel ‘normal’ again. I need to get to the bottom of it quickly!

It was quite a challenge to drive to the starting point (had to get up at 05:40) and then back home after the end, as I was quite tired and felt that I may fall asleep. Opening the windows and driving on the motorway ensured that I will not, but it was still a struggle.

Oh yes – my new shoes. Well, for one reason or another I did not have cycling shoes until recently. I would use ‘normal’ pedals and standard sport shoes for cycling. I knew that there are better ways, but I was apprehensive. Moreover, I tried to change my pedals to those that have ‘clips’ (I happened to have a pair that is SPD – a Shimano Pedaling something) but I just couldn’t replace the existing ones with them. So I went to a bike shop and they did it for me (and didn’t even charge me – bless them!). Then I went to buy me a pair of shoes and I bough a nice pair (also Shimano…) Riding with the new shoes was SOOOO nice – I just couldn’t believe how great it felt, being able to PULL on the way up and not just push down.

I did not escape the ‘unavoidable’ falls. Having your shoes tied to the pedals is great while you CYCLE, but a complete disaster when you STOP. You must remember to free yourself (at least one side) before you come to a complete halt or you just ,,, topple over. I knew it, but it’s one thing when your brain knows and quite another what your body knows. It has to become a reflex – and that takes time, and some painful lessons – to develop. So I fell. Several times. None of them were ‘really bad’ falls, but all of them were avoidable (duh) and also quite embarrassing. Picture that: A big guy pedals nicely on a large bike approaches a traffic light. It turns red and the guy stops. And falls… ‘Yes, yes, I AM OK – no no nothing serious, really – I am OK, thank you very much…’ said in the nicest possible way to the people that gather to give me hand. Grrrr…

I think the instinct is developing – I fall less, and I hope the trend reaches zero before anything serious DOES happen to me 🙂

So next week is a charity ride – the London Bikeathon. I am doing the 52 miles (the challenging course) but I am also adding about 16 miles riding to and from the event on my bike. I really liked it last year and I am looking forward to it. I am curious how long it will take me.

Then comes the BIG weekend, with 300 Km. It is a new one for me, and I have no idea what to do and what to expect. It starts at 2 am, so how do I get to sleep on that night is not clear – at all! I do need to fix my right leg problem, make some gear adjustments and solve the sleep issue. We’ll see…

The certificate:

No. 10 – Windmill ride – 110 Km

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

It has been 3 weeks since my last AUDAX ride, as I decided to take it easy and let me knee have a rest. It really felt odd NOT to have a 200 Km ride – fancy that! But the first weekend I was in Dublin (wonderful time there) and the other weekend wasn’t anything suitable, so I just had to wait… This ride was a good one, just (yes – JUST) 110 Km and I think I did it in record time (for me), so I felt quite good about it.

I didn’t blog immediately after it has finished, so I don’t really recall much from it.

The certificate: