Monday, 22 June 2009

My new bike!

Rod's just built it for me. It's much lighter than my other bike and has bigger wheels, so should be a bit faster. Took it for a test ride on saturday, with Ester (on her light and fast road bike, me on my bike with panniers: we were like race horse and donkey!). Managed to cycle 30 miles in 2hrs20, which is significantly faster than all my other training rides! But we were on straight A roads for most of the time, which makes a huge difference and which I want to avoid on the big ride.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Might as well make a weekend of it...

Another great weekend cycling, after a bit of a break.
John, Anne, Kate and I checked out the first part of the first day of the sponsored ride. We found out that it might be straight, but it's by no means flat! Speaking of flats, John got one as we started climbing the Moorfoot Hills, so the rest of us kept warm by doing Mexican waves for all the cars and cyclists passing by! John sat by the side of the road, cringed and apologised for our behaviour, whilst pumping up his tyre in a way that looked very much like he was having a lot more fun than we were!
We didn't really plan a lunch stop and although we had an abundance of snacks between us, by the time we got to Heriot we were starving. Unfortunately, the nearest place to get some decent food was back in North Middleton, where we'd just come from - whoops! We found this out by asking what we thought was an unknown couple in their front garden where the nearest pub was... it turned out I knew the guy (James) from a previous job!! Small world!
They pointed out a shortcut to us, so we spent the next 30 mins traversing fields of sheep, cows and barley, admiring some enormous bullocks from behind a sturdy wall. It was a really amazing shortcut - with thunder rumbling in the distance and the blustery wind making the barley swirl in all directions. Kate and I used up way too many megabytes of photo footage on the barley!
We managed to miss the pub in North Middleton and found our way up to Borthwick Castle, where there was a wedding taking place in the church. We were stunned by the presence of the castle and the picnic tables proved too inviting, so there we sat, and consumed our movable feast of fig rolls, chilli peanuts, dried figs and apricots, muesli bars, fresh mango, fruit salad and seeds. Yum! We thought we'd better get moving before the wedding party came out to find us blotting the idyllic scene, with our panniers, waterproofs and seeds in teeth, so off we went up Gallow Hill... we managed to defy death by nipping off round the corner and taking the scenic route, into Gorebridge.
John zipped off to Auchendinny, while Anne, Kate and I steamed down the main road, getting drenched by the first proper rain of the day, which was bouncing off everything (all the other rain showers earlier on were a bit of a poor effort and were actually a relief from the mugginess). We got back home at about 5pm, with a surprising amount of energy left!
And then on Sunday, I drove Rod and Tadge ("Rod, Tadge and Becky"...!?!) two-and-a-half hours up the road to Laggan for some mountain-biking. Did one circuit of the upper red trail (took me a while to get my 'mountain-bike' head on), then met Erland, Pamela and Des and did the upper red trail again, and then the lower red... Tadge showed us up by jumping off the top of the almost vertical slab which is Ayers Rock, and landing halfway down it, whilst we watched in awe... and then whilst wending our way down the the slippy wooden boardwalk it absolutely peed down, so that was our last circuit and we stopped in the cafe to eat baked potato, cheese and beans! Mmmm! Drove home in a steamy car and felt surprisingly good.
The next day, at work, I was absolutely exhausted!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Edinburgh to Norwich, Day 2 Buccleuch to Bellingham

Monday, 1 June 2009

Enjoy the ride...

Just spent a fantastic weekend cycling with Anne in Dumfries and Galloway... the sun never stopped shining and we camped in the best site ever, thanks to Sam, Maggie and their kids! The roads were quiet, the hills were rolling and the scenery was gorgeous - and not a ginger beer in sight! It was a good practice... we managed about 20 miles on Saturday afternoon and about 40 miles on Sunday, in unrelenting heat. We didn't get burned and we didn't get heat exhaustion - result! It also reminded me why I opted to stay in hostels rather than camp on this trip... I didn't so much sleep as drift in and out of consciousness on Saturday night as I shifted from one uncomfortable position to another on the thermorest, bones creaking with every movement. Not exactly restful. If I ever have to do that again, I'm taking Rod's hammock!

Unfortunately, while biting the bullet and venturing into another council department today (at the invitation of another, I must point out) to be the unknown pariah begging for sponsorship money, I encountered a doozy who was keen to wax lyrical about their own feats of endurance, whilst making out my proposed journey to be substantially lacking in merit. I am under no illusion that we're breaking any world records with this ride, and maybe in some people's eyes it's not much of a feat, but it's a challenge for me and that's what counts. I can only assume he felt his manhood was being threatened.

He really got to me, partly because the ride's so personal. So time for a note to self: that it really doesn't matter what other people think, because I'm doing this anyway - some people will be into it, some won't.

As a project, I'm finding the whole thing quite interesting. The training has not been straightforward - I've found out that downloading a cycle training programme and just following it doesn't really happen! Does mountain-biking count? What if you feel ill? What if you want to enjoy the weekend with people who don't cycle? What if you have a job?! And with intensive exercise comes a whole new eating regime - I didn't clock on to this at first (when I was probably overdoing the exercise!) and spent a good few weeks feeling like I was going to fall over! I totally underestimated the importance of protein.

However, the training rides with Anne, Kate and other friends have been really great. We've often been out when, without the incentive, we would have looked at the cloud and postponed a trip. Often in these cases, the cloud has given way to sunshine, which has been amazing.

The journey planning has been a learning curve too - trying out all kinds of different ways to plan the route (mixing on line route suggestions with paper maps) and then putting together all my research. Oh, and having several failed attempts to plot the final route online with Kate and Anne... for some reason (nothing to do with alcohol whatsoever) this never quite worked as a joint exercise! If only we'd found Map My Ride earlier, it would have been easier!

And then there's the sponsorship - the whole point of this endeavour is to raise money for Alzheimer's Research. I decided to make it a lot more meaningful for myself, but the money is the bottom line. I hate asking for sponsorship money, and I've really had to suppress my apprehension about approaching people for this! Wherever possible, it's been passive - at the bottom of emails, in newspaper articles, texts - directing people to the Justgiving website. But some folks like to do things in a more tangible way, hence the need for sponsorship forms and collecting tins... Argh! Again, my tactic has been to recruit other people in this task so I don't actually have to do it myself! My Dad has excelled in this department. Face-to-face, asking people for money is a very humbling experience; perhaps only a fleeting relationship with a complete stranger, but one in which the power is totally in the hands of the person with the 50p!