Thank You

Thank You

Firstly, may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2016.  Despite the best laid plans, this year has been a little bit crazy and I haven’t had time to write up a single event and have mainly relied on my Facebook page.  So you’ll be thrilled to hear I have decided to give a run-down of 2015 in a single blog!  I am sure this will be too long and self-serving!  However, just before you stop reading, I really really need to offer my most sincere thanks to all of you who have supported or helped, either with donations to Blind Veterans UK or by bullying me to get up hills or complete challenges where I have been close to failure! Thank You!

At the end of 2014, I decided I had pestered folk too much and so was going to scale back my fundraising.  In fact when I failed to get a place in the ballot for Ride London but succumbed to peer pressure to enter (as the poster boy of Blind Veterans UK)

Poster Boy

I took a charity slot but paid the fundraising target myself.  As I took on more events, I did send out the Justgiving link and you were just fab!

So, despite my best intent of not pestering you all, this year we have raised to over £2,400 this year for Blind Veterans UK  

Just giving 2015

which brings the total raised to £13,585! 

Just giving

 

A staggering amount for an old fat bloke on a bike!  I couldn’t have done it without you! 

Thank you! 

 

So that is the key message!  However, if you want to read what I have been up to, in order to provoke such a response and some specific mentions then read on!

However,  this is seriously long – you may want to get yourself a brew  . . .

January

Was a relatively light month with a key highlight being a trip off to Cirque du Soleil.  Nothing to do with cycling but what a fantastic show – if you haven’t been, I wholly recommend it!  At the end of the month I then did my first ‘Tour of Sufferlandria‘. 

Sufferfest is a company that provides high intensity low volume cycle training videos.  These are designed to stretch you to build power on an indoor trainer.  The ToS is a virtual stage race consisting of 1 – 2 hrs high intensity training each night with 12 heavy sessions in 8 days.  This was really tough but nothing compared to what was to come . . .

To add to the fun, the last day also coincided with my first sponsored run in a number of years, supporting Jonathon Scott in his fight against Mouth Cancer . . . Now there, is an inspiring man!  More later!

February

Saw me taking the bike outside in anger for the Wiggle No Excuses ride around Huntingdon.  The day was wet an blustery with a number of mates from Team Branocs and the Royal Engineers Old Boys Cycling Group (REOBCG)  riding together.  Unfortunately, I had foolishly commented about my lack of punctures the day before and after going through 4 tubes and one tyre ended up at the back, escorting a couple of Tail End Charlies.  On the plus side, they likely wouldn’t have finished with my coercion! I did, however, miss the pies!

March

The first half of March was spent in the cycling mecca of Alpe D’Huez skiing with Ben and an old mate Chris Green!  I do tend to collect inspiring friends and Chris is up there with the best, we first met at university and have crossed paths numerous times across at least three continents since.  His mid-life crisis involved signing up for 9 months in Afghanistan, giving up work to become a ski god and writing a book!  Spin Zhira should be published to Kindle in the New Year – It’s a pretty inspiring read.  Anyways, Chris took us under his wing and developed Ben’s skiing exponentially, whilst exposing me as an old fat bloke with knackered knees!  It was, however, a fantastic trip and gave Ben a great role model for his potential career in the forces!

Whilst I was off skiing, I was having my bike serviced at Cycles UK  . . .  It appears Specialized have a pretty thorough exchange service, so when Stu got concerned about some cracks in the paint, it was farewell to ‘Ruby’ and hello to TP (Theseus’ Paradox)

 

 

The end of March was spent doing the ‘Spring Classics Tour’ at Indoor RevolutionIndoor Revolution is a WattBike studio in Braintree run by Dean and Luke.  They do a great job at keeping us fit and motivated in the off season and the Spring Classics was their version of the Tour of Sufferlandria . . . only harder!

April

Seems to have been a reasonably barren month for events with the high spot being the excellent St Georges Day Dinner on the 25th which saw a dozen knights descend on Castle Hedingham resplendent in fake (and in one case real) armour and swords to eat and drink way too much!  Kudos to Andrew Temperton for keeping this fine tradition going!  On the cycling side it was mostly training for the challenges on June

 

May

Was a sad, sombre and somewhat humbling month due to the loss of a couple of great men.

It started well with the frivolities of the Army Navy game, which we attended in REOBCG colours and gathered a few new members

but took a tumble on 15 May when Jonathon Scott finally succumbed to the Cancer he had been fighting all year.  Scotty was an ex Marine, who I met in hospital the prior October when he had had his tongue, throat and Larynx removed due to mouth cancer.  Despite this, he and his fantastic family refused to give in and continued to fight and motivate folk to raise money and awareness.  Team Jonathan had already done one sponsored run in Feb and two days after his death we met up again in Regent’s park for the ‘Superhero run’.

Kate, Ellie, Cameron and William all turned up to cheer us on, together with half a dozen of his ‘Royal’ mates from the Falklands.  It was a great event and humbling to see the family being so strong.  There was even a message from Jonathon urging us to run and have fun!

Special Kudos here to Sarah Smailes (yet another inspiring woman!).  Sarah is Jon’s Physio, and the driving force behind Team Jonathon.  Despite the hideous impact of his cancer, she has never seen a problem, just a solution waiting to happen.  Sarah has continued to celebrate his life and fight to raise funds for and increase awareness of Mouth Cancer and to encourage us to continue running (and you know how I feel about running!!)

A week later we had another kick when we learned that a good friend from Singapore, Nick Tsinonis, had tragically died from a heart attack whilst training in the gym.  This was a huge shock but I was fortunate enough to be able to join Annie (Anne-Lize), ‘Theo’ (Dionysios) and Dino (Constandino) at Nick’s funeral in Singapore the following week.  The sheer number of attendees and depth of feeling showed what a huge impact he had on those around him and was quite humbling. Despite the crap circumstances, it was a privilege to be a part of this and great to witness Dino lift the cup at his rugby final a couple of days later.

 

As a result of the short notice trip to Singapore, I did have to miss the Tour de Sapper (North) but huge thanks to Chris Pattinson for the loan of the bike and Almeric Ong for the guided rides around the heat of Singapore!  What a country to cycle in!

 

June

At the start of June we had Scotty’s funeral.  This was a ‘Royal’ funeral with Honour Guard, Bugler and Colours. This was equal parts laughter and tears, just like all military funerals with tales of mischief and misbehaviour alongside huge respect and love.  Ellie, Jon’s eldest, stole the show with an amazing humbling and brave eulogy, which left the crowd of hardened marines laughing with tears of REspect rolling down their faces!

It never ceases to amaze me how some of the most crap situations can be the most inspiring!  Seeing the impact these great guys have had on those around them and the strength of their families is something else!  Never a sign of giving in, just knuckling down and making the most of a crap hand!

Ride London

Back on the Bike

Two days later I headed to Cardiff for the inaugural ‘Velothon Wales‘  This 120km ride featured a flat and very fast first half, led out by Phil C and his son followed by two significant and eye watering climbs (The Tumble 10 km @10% and Caerphilly Mountain peaking at 26%). This was a great ride and a fitting tribute to Nick and Scotty and made all the better by meeting up with ‘Team Pie’ from the Unite and Bike ride to Paris as well as many members of the REOBCG (Royal Engineers Old Boys cycling group – a virtual cycle group for ex sappers with members across the globe!  I couldn’t wish for a better and more supportive group of mates! – If you’re a Sapper and you cycle ping me for an introduction!) 

 

The next week,I was lucky enough to catch up with the gorgeous Gracie Elvin from OGE and Laura Trott from Team Matrix when stage 2 of The Women’s Tour started in Braintree

The next day, we headed down to the Isle of Sheppey for Chase the Sun. 

After a strong start, our team split in two and the John, Dan and Dave raced off to finish in just over 15 hrs (I just didn’t have the legs to keep up).  Meanwhile, I pootled around and lost some time helping out some folk until I met up with Darren, Matt and Russ, three mates from the Corps (I hadn’t seen Russ and Matt since Bosnia in 1995!)  This created all kinds of problems for our fantastic support team (Mark I, Dave S and Vicki S) as they tried to support two groups up to 100km apart!  However, they did an amazing job and motivated me to push on when things got tough!  Thank you guys!!

Darren and I left Russ and Matt and attempted to make up time which made for a somewhat emotional and knackering ride.  There were three of us in my group but Rob never seemed to take a pull!  It was only at the end, we discovered his longest ride before had been 80 or so km!  Huge kudos for him keeping going!   We ended up riding 350 km and climbing 3000 m but missed the cut off by a country mile! 

High spots include the descent of the Cheddar Gorge in the pitch dark!  Thank gawd the goats weren’t out!  Huge kudos and thanks to Darren for dragging me around and Mark and Dave for their awesome support!  Really wouldn’t have made it without them!  The strava file is here

It was a really hard ride this year and so it took me at least 15 mins before I signed up to do it again in 2016!

July

One of the great things about the forces is the camaraderie and sense of humour!  Darren realised I was crap at hills and so the only option was to book me on as many hilly rides as he could!  The next being just a couple of weeks later as we took on the Wiggle Mendips 100. This featured three significant climbs with Deerleap and Burrington Combe making the Cheddar Gorge seem simple!  I really am crap at hills!  but do kinda like them – Once again – Thank you Darren:)

Strava is here

August

Is generally when you start to ease off after Summer.  However, this year it proved to be a pretty crazy month with four decent events!

I kicked off with the London cycle and Ride London,  These closed road rides take you around the capital and the Surrey Hills.  Once again the REOBCG were out in force and it was amazing how many folk I bumped into that I knew.  It also gave me a chance to join David S on his first official Century!  We did lose a couple of hours due to an unfortunate incident on Leith Hill (RiP buddy) but it was great to ride down the Mall with Dave and meet his family at the end!

I then headed off to North Wales for my first ride with Ed at Cav’s Rise Above sportive.  This was another great ride with a couple of decent lumps including the Horseshoe Pass.  Ed is also a mountain goat but was kind enough to wait at the top of the hills and take picture as I dragged my fat sweaty carcass over the top!  As a result, we were able to get some great pictures of the countryside . . . not to mention some great action shots as I summited the Pass alongside Cav!  (He really is tiny!)

Team Branocs then got back together for  The Only Way sportive in Colchester.  This was a lovely hill free route and Henry’s first Century (and likely last)

23 Aug was Sufferlandria National Day   – and what better way to celebrate a fictional day for a fictional country than 3 hrs on a Watt bike! – Oh and I also had a quick trip to the Oval to watch England win the Ashes

September

After the excesses of August, It seemed to make sense to have an easier month in September. However, that wasn’t how things panned out.  

At the start of September, I got a mail off Team Sky inviting me to join them for a training ride in North Wales before the Tour of Britain!  Apparently I had won this after posting about the Rise Above ride??  Despite having the ABF ride booked for the Sunday I drove up to visit my folks and onto Wales to join them.  The weather was fantastic and they looked after us really well!  We got a load of gizzits (Rapha tops don’t fit me) and spent time with the mechanics and staff before meeting Sir Dave and the team.  After a team brief, where I was announced as the new GC lead, we set out for a ride out with the team, escorted from and back by Sky Jags!   You should have seen Sir Dave’s face when he saw the size of his new GC lead! Needless to say, I didn’t beat Pete Kennaugh on the climb!

That night I drove nearly 300 miles to join Jacqui for the ABF sportive in Bedfordshire!  This was my second catch up with Martin and Rob from Team Pie and a great ride until Rob, channelling his inner Yorkshireman, decided to save his brakes and used mine!  Unfortunately, I am twice his size and he hit the ground hard!  We then spent 2 hrs with the ambulance whilst they sorted him out (you have no idea how painful it is seeing a mate have all his cycling gear cut off!!)  By this time I was firmly the Lanterne Rouge, so swept up the stragglers again and got them back to Five Bells in one piece (Rob was ok, just badly bruised and concussed!)

The next week, my habit of winning stuff continued when I ‘won’ a few places to ride stage 8 of the Tour of Britain.  It was a great ride with Dan and Dave and we also caught up with Team Sky who kindly gave me a pretty cool signed top

My final ride for Sept was the inaugural Tour de Sapper (South) In Weymouth.  Twenty or so of us descended on Weymouth for a couple of evenings swinging the lantern, justified by a ride around Dorset.  Paul had planned a great route with some nice lumps, a circuit to the Bill and racked up the nostalgia with the start and finish at the Bridging Hard!  He even managed to arrange for some stunning weather!  All in all a great weekend, made better still by the singalong at the Black Dog . . . I’m not sure the band knew what had hit them!

I cannot write about Sept without mentioning another of my inspirational mates.  Vicki Bailey has done a number of performances featuring sport and particularly running as a medium.  Last year she performed at the Fringe doing 26 Marathons in 26 days.  This year she topped that with a performance called Running beyond language.  This was a 26.2 HOUR run, in Kuopio in Finland in complete silence!  She really is mad as a fish but a huge inspiration, whenever, things seem a bit tough!

October

I finally finished my (real) cycling exploits in October, with the Tour Ride Worcester.  This 100 mile ride only featured just over 2km of climbing, however, this was concentrated in three or four particularly steep hills.  Once again I over-cooked the start and the packed last few months finally caught up with me so I was running on empty!  Huge thanks again to Darren for dragging me around as it was tough (but then again it wasn’t running, it didn’t last 26.2 hrs and it wasn’t in silence!  so who am I to complain :)

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of special memorial events in Oct and early Nov.  Firstly, I joined Blind Veterans UK at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and then parade with the Queens Gurkha Engineers at the Cenotaph in London.  Both were very humbling affairs and provided some fond memories.

November

I said I wound up my ‘real’ cycling events in Oct but the best laid plans failed once more and I had one final challenge to undertake.  I have been doing a lot of training at Indoor Revolution and spend a fair bit of time doing Sufferfest cycling vids.  As mentioned before, these are high intensity, low volume training sessions, aimed at building power.  At the end of Nov, I joined 14 friends and we undertook a quest to become Knights and Dames of Sufferlandria.  This required us to ride 10 of these sessions back to back with just 10 mins to change and feed between each one.  This was pretty tough!  It’s hard enough to ride a bike for that length of time but there is no let up on a Wattbike.  The whole team absolutely nailed it and around 11 hrs later, we all finished and have been anointed as Knights / Dames of Sufferlandria!  

You may call me Capt (Retd) Sir Ian Slack RE BSc(Hons) MInstrRE KOS :)  A mythical knight of a mythical country but a pretty pleased one at that!

Knighthoodcertificate.pages

I do have to mention my family and thank them for their patience!  All these events have taken me away from home a lot and when I have been back, I have spent a lot of time training.  I have tried to spend time with them and have managed a few trips with them from time to time but I am sure I have been a grumpy git and a pain to live with so Thank You; Sally, Tom, Ben & George!  (By the way . . . we need to talk about next year :))

Ben, Sally, George & Tom

Ben, Sally, George & Tom

Having said that, Ben & George have also been pretty busy and have learnt to Kayak in the last 2 months and have just qualified to paddle the Olympic Course!

If you have managed to survive to the end, I am amazed and impressed as this is a pretty major and I’m sure tedious tome!  Once again Thank You for all your support and immense generosity!  Sometimes failing on the best laid plans isn’t all bad and for a non fundraising year, we have raised a huge amount so Thank you!

2,017 km, and 64 hrs more than last year - with over 2,300 km on the Wattbike / Turbo!

2,017 km, and 64 hrs more than last year – with over 2,300 km on the Wattbike / Turbo!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year!

Thank you!!

 

Slacky / Ian / Shirley / Shrek . . .

xmas_1

The Dunwich Dynamo

A week ago, I was settling down for a weekend of admin, collecting Ben from CCF camp and perhaps quick spin out on Sunday and then I saw the post from Viv. . . ‘A few of us are doing an 200km all-night ride from London to Dunwich on Saturday night on the Dunwich Dynamo.’

Since completing Chase the Sun, I have pulled back on cycling for a couple of weeks to spend some time with the family but am conscious I do need to get some miles back in my legs in preparation for the ride to Paris.  I had been planning to give the Dun Run a go but had completely missed the date.

The Dunwich Dynamo (Dun Run) is a 200 km ride from London Fields to the Suffolk coast through the night of the July full moon. The ride (once again it isn’t a race) originated in 1993 and has evolved over the years,  It is an ‘un-supported’ and ‘un-organised’ ride (though Southwark Cycles do arrange coaches and trucks for the return trip) and apparently was part of the inspiration for Chase the Sun.  I had a quick google and realised I could just turn up and ride, so the seed was sewn.

Cider and snags - the food of ChampionsOn the morning of the 12th I realised we had arranged to go to birthday party for one of my mates, which put paid to the plan to head to London.  However, the BBQ was about 30 meters off the route as it passed through Sible Hedingham so all was not lost.  During the course of the day I heard from a couple of friends who were also planning to ride, so made some loose plans.  The party was great, with lovely weather, kids on bouncy castles, fantastic food and the odd cider or six. Unfortunately, as the evening progressed, the sun was replaced by rain and a fierce thunderstorm.  Around 11 despite, some significant questions about my sanity, I donned my lycra and headed off into the storm.

As I left the house, I could see a steady progression of lights, illuminating the road out to Weathersfield, I rode against the flow for a while but as the roads narrowed, I was causing some confusion, so headed back to the Hedingham food stop.  I had read the blogs and articles but it really does need to the be seen to be believed.  There were hundreds of cyclists on all manner of cycles, many adorned with fairy lights and all in excellent humour (apparently there were in the region of 2000 folk start the ride).

By some crazy twist of luck I bumped into Russ, a particularly mad friend, be-decked in blue lights, as were the rest of his club and we had a quick chat, I then got a call off another friend who had missed the stop and instead was having a pint in The Wheatsheaf in Castle Hedingham so I headed over to meet them. There were blinking red lights everywhere, and several locals outside their houses cheering us on.  It was an amazing atmosphere and as I rode to the pub we were met by a (slightly intoxicated) lady dishing out high fives.

My companions for the rest of the night were Ashley Bond, a mate from work and his friends Rich Plochi and Dan Bagshaw and we spent the next few miles getting to know each other.  The roads were awash with cyclists and generally folk were pretty good at calling out obstructions although it is just as well that there was limited other traffic as the roads were full.  We were making pretty good pace as we climbed out of Castle Hedingham and then swept along to Sudbury.  As we left Sudbury, we were drawn by the crowds outside the White Horse, which despite the hour was doing a cracking lycra clad trade, so had a quick pint.  This was to set the scene for the rest of the night.  The ride may have been unsupported but it certainly wasn’t without support!  In most villages, there were folk out in their PJs cheering us on and several pop up restaurants in gardens and greens, and many pubs stayed open til the early hours

I was having a ball, the atmosphere was great and whilst the route was pretty flat, the lack of light did cause some challenges, especially on the descents but  there was a constant trail of lights to show the route.  We did get burnt just outside Monks Eleigh where we ignored my Garmin and followed the lights as the guys were on a bit of a sprint.  As a result we added a 10 km detour to the ride but werent alone

As the ride progress, we passed a number of groups stopped by the roadside and there was a constant stream of banter, there also seemed to be a huge number of punctures but we were incident free.  As the sky lightened we passed the picturesque Needham Market Lake but decided not to stop until tempted by the Scout Troop stop in Peasenhall (I think) where we had bacon butties and mugs of tea before the final push to the finish. The beach at Dunwich was a sight for sore eyes, there were bikes everywhere and folk of all shapes and sizes stripping off lycra for a dip in the sea.

We also witnessed some of the remarkable folk who had completed the ride, there were folk on tandems, BMXs, a chap on the tall bike and two guys who had completed the ride on their Boris bikes (one complete with fairy lights and popcorn nutrition).  However, we we had passed the most remarkable as we neared Yoxford, 9 year old Oscar, who was doing the Dun Run for his third year (albeit, just from Sudbury) – huge REspect Oscar! (I am sure I have him on video but I haven’t edited them yet)

The queue for the breakfast was huge, so we decided to have a swift half whilst waiting for our lift home.  On balance, we should have had a breakfast and perhaps a massage in the teepees on the green as it was a long wait!  The bravado of a morning pint took its toll on Rich and Dan who had a snoozette in the sun.

I am pleased I decided to join the ride at the last minute as I am now really looking forwards to next year.  It seems the two sun chasing events will both be repeated in 2015!  The Dun Run  was great fun and showed the best of the British spirit.  It wasn’t fast or especially hard (see strava) but boy was it fun! I couldn’t believe the numbers involved or the folk coming out to cheer us on and did earn some useful lessons for next year:

  • I am too old to miss a night’s sleep, should probably not go to a party first:)
  • Wear layers or removable sleeves, it got quite hot, quite early! (yeah that’s too serious)
  • There are loads of stops and it is all about the experience, next year, I won’t carry loads gels but will stop and make the most of the experience – there are plenty of chances to race – this one really is, a ride!
  • Take more pictures, the support was amazing, and bizarre!
  • The journey home is a bit of a zoo – next year – cycle back

Finally I couldn’t resist posting the link to this gif. It’s a Strava visualisation showing all the activity over the weekend of the 12th.  I don’t need to point out the Dun Run.  However, was also amused by the lone track heading south from Chester around midnight! (the pic is a link to the gif ;))

dunwich-8

Credit for this goes to The Human Cyclist.  Check out his blog – It’s much better than mine!

Many thanks to Viv for the heads up.  Unfortunately I didn’t see him but a great steer thanks!  Thanks also to Pugsly, Rich and Dan for putting up with an old man on their first Dun Run and Kudos to all who did the full ride.

Here’s looking forwards to next year’s Dun Run – The next ride is on 4th July 2015 – See you in London Fields for the start

 

A Tale of Two Rides

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness‘  Charles Dickens 1859 – A tale of two cities 

Other wise known as ‘Heaven and Hell’ (Black Sabbath 1980) or Audax v Sportives

It’s getting pretty close to Chase the Sun and training has generally been going well. However, after an aggressive start to the year, the last few weeks have been a challenge, with injury and work interfering with saddle time.

We have a pretty extensive training plan to build up our endurance and fitness with several rides a week and some long rides at weekends (well We thought they were long – but more about that later.)  We have planned most of the rides ourselves but have also looked further afield for a bit of variety but a sportive will set you back around 40 quid, so we were keen to look for more economic options

Johno, a childhood friend of mine has spent the last year ‘encouraging’ me to check out Audax.  To be honest, I hadn’t really bothered but after further recommendations from some Sapper mates, I decided to give it a go

Audax United Kingdom (AUK) is the internationally recognised long-distance cycling association in the UK.  Since 1976 AUK has overseen long distance cycling events in the UK and using a system of timed checkpoints, validates and records every successful ride.  They have a huge calendar of events across the UK covering vast distances and the recommended ride (it’s not a race), the 120 km Wormingford Wyrm on 29th March looked to be an ideal introduction to the world of Audax, not to mention my longest ride to-date

Heaven

Strava link

As the date drew closer, there were a couple of nerves about the unknown world of Audax . . . was there a secret handshake, would we fit in?  However, the night before I got a bit of Facebook encouragement . . . ‘’You’ll love it Ian, They have cake!’

WormingfordWyrm100_6We arrived to find around 80 folk from a variety of clubs in the area unloading a variety of bikes from steel fixies, old school and modern carbon machines.  There was even one tandem.  We went in to register and collect our brevet (validation card) and route card.

The first impression was one of friendliness and family.  There were no cliques and everyone was wandering around chatting about the ride ahead.  Viv (the organiser) introduced us to Mike, an Audax veteran, who I was to spend most of the ride with.  And as promised, there was tea, coffee, juice, biscuits and cake on tap.

At 0900 hrs we set off in glorious sunshine on the ride.  Immediately, the difference to sportives was apparent.  There was no massive sprint from the off, folk were chatting and everyone was just out to enjoy themselves.  People settled into their own pace, we overtook a few of the more casual riders, always with a hearty hale of Good Morning . . .
We all stuck together for the first several miles but then Mark and James got attached to a road WormingfordWyrm100_1train moving at pace and off they shot.  My knees had been playing up for a week or so and I was having a fascinating chat with Mike and Tom (on his fixie), so I decided not to chase.  By coincidence, Mike’s Son, Is a childhood friend of James and also a mad keen cyclist.  Mike has been riding Audax for many years and he explained what they are about.  If he hadn’t been for his lovely supportive nature, I’d have felt pretty inadequate!  These guys are hardcore!  Their calendar list non stop rides from 200 – 600 km and they even extend up to 1600 km… Yup you read that right!  These are not races, they are non-stop rides!  Each ride is timed from departure to finish; there are no allowances for breaks, meals, rest, sleep or mechanical breakdown. So your speed needs to cater for all breaks and rests.  Another feature of Audax rides is the certification of distance covered.  There are therefore some manned checkpoints but also some information checkpoints where you have to complete questions about the route on your brevet.
The route was fantastic, lovely secluded roads, beautiful countryside and great weather.  There were a few hills, however, we all just cracked on at our own pace Wyrmand waited for stragglers at the top. The atmosphere continued at the the 65 km lunch stop. The Maglia Rossa cycle Café in Hawsted wasn’t even finished, but the owners, Matt and Barry had offered to prepare food offsite and open up their building for us.  I have seen less impressive spreads at some parties, with sandwiches, flapjacks and the most fantastic victoria sponge, not to mention oodles of tea. Matt and James were waiting there but wanted to head off with the fast group. I elected to have some cake and follow on at an easier pace!

The second half was a bit more hilly with some serious climbs as we came into Wormingford, made worse by the ford at the bottom, so had stop dead and then climb from scratch. We pulled into the final checkpoint, after 4 hrs on the move and handed in our brevets for checking. True to Audax form, there was an even more impressive spread including hot soup and even more cake.

 

All in all, our introduction to the world of Audax had been great. You couldn’t have wished for a friendlier atmosphere, which belied the fact that these guys are hardcore cyclists. This 120 k ride was a mere warm up for these guys.   James and Matt were in such good form that they decided to make the most of the weather and cycled home covering over 200km apiece.

 

IMG_3762

Unfortunately, the training had finally caught up on me. My knees are shot after a lifetime of running around in boots both on the rugby pitch and in the army.  I have little cartilage left, torn ligaments and arthritis, so I guess it was no surprise that I was due for some physio. However, this didn’t qwell my enthusiasm for Audax rides and we were well reassured that despite the 16.5 hr limit, it was well achievable.

After three weeks of Physio to repair my ITB and no cycling, I was going around the bend with frustration. In preparation for our next challenge, I had a run up to Cambridge to see the venue for the start of the third stage of the Tour De France and despite some brutal cramps, knocked out a 140km ride, my longest ride and felt fine and confident for my next Challenge

 

Hell

Strava link

‘‘We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . .’  Charles Dickens 1859 – A tale of two cities

IMG_4450The Rutland CiCLE is a 175km sportive around Rutland with over 2km of climbing. To make matters worse, I seemed to have wasted the brief introduction to spring and the weather forecast wasn’t good

Mark had to pull out at the last minute, so I drove up with James and Matt. The forecast proved to be correct and we arrived at Rutland water just as the rain broke. I should have seem the omen, when we were rewarded for our early arrival by being directed to park in the overflow car park, or muddy field as it is otherwise known (clearly to save the tarmac carpark for the late arrivals!!!)

We registered and picked up our timing chips, without a hot drink or cake in sight, and exchanged a couple of brief words with the few people who were prepared to speak. All in all, a very different atmosphere to the welcome we had from Audax. Matt did bump into Martin Johnson but didn’t mention it until he burnt us up on one of the hills.

We donned our thermals and waterproofs and set off into the rain and headwinds. There was little conversation, even within our team and after a gentle start we started to hit the hills, gentle at first and then a few short but sharp climbs. After a few km, I realised I had made the schoolboy error of getting a new chain the day before the ride and all was not well, my chain was rubbing noisily and this, combined with the headwinds resulting in me having to peddle down hill to keep up. After a couple of hours the rain eased up and we binned out waterproofs but were then faced with overheating on the climbs.

 

The first food stop at 70 km was well stocked but unfortunately my mechanical skills failed to alleviate the rubbing so we set off again for what we thought was to be the hardest section. The Sun was out by now but we still had to battle headwinds, and I became grumpier as I realised just how much fitness I had lost in my 3 weeks out of the saddle. The hills got steeper and longer with some brutal 25%+ climbs and long dragging 8 % hills. The upside was that there were a couple of long descents but the grumps had gotten to me and I couldn’t help but think that each descent meant an ascent to come. I became quite negative; the atmosphere was completely different to the Audax with limited conversation. Around 25km from the final feed station, there was a somewhat intimidating sign for the Rutland KOM (King of the Mountain), which could only mean one thing.

At the final feed station, I found a mechanic who helped alleviate some of the rubbing and a well needed Porta Loo and so set off in slightly better spirits. I did regain some mojo during the final 70 km, possibly as the Sun had come out or because others were starting to struggle with the hills (apart from Matt who had morphed into a mountain goat!). I was also able to recover on some downhill sections despite the headwinds that seemed to still be in our faces!

The final 70 km also proved to be the hilliest, with over 1200m of climbing and though (with the benefit of hindsight), I started to feel a little better I still proclaimed my loathing of hills, headwinds and rain on video about 25km from the end. I also managed to fall off my bike on one climb, which was so steep that my front wheel was lifting. Fortunately, just after I had passed the photographer (Why oh Why must they station themselves on horrid climbs)

The final ascents into Rutland were quite sapping and tough, with all of us feeling the strain and we finally arrived back at the finish after around 8 hrs in the saddle.

The drive home was quite subdued, completely different to the end of the Audax and all of us were suffering some serious doubts about our ability to complete Chase the Sun in just 7 weeks time!

Amazingly enough I felt fine the next day and started to see some positives, my knees had held out and we had learnt some lessons. The ride was not conducive to teamwork but we do need to sort that out and I clearly need to avoid schoolboy errors around bike maintenance. I still don’t feel especially proud of my performance but it was my longest and hardest ride ever. In fact, we will probably go back and do it again over Summer.

It just goes to show how much mental attitude and teamwork helps performance! We have entered a couple more rides with a 200+km Audax booked for the end of May.

‘Do you think that it will seem long to me . . .?’ Charles Dickens 1859 – A tale of two cities

Yes I bloody do! – Ian Slack 2014

 Stay Safe

Slacky x

 

Just giving donate small

 

 

Training Schedule

We were very fortunate to have a mild winter in Essex.  Don’t get me wrong, we had our fair share of rain and several rides with ankle deep puddles but we avoided too many storms and snow.  As a result we were able to clock up a fair number of Klicks.  In fact around 1500km of pre training to be precise!

We have now kicked into training proper and have built up a training plan which will have us riding over 4000k over the next 16 weeks in preparation for Chase the Sun.  We have entered into some events but are trying to keep costs down by planning rides ourselves.

CTS Training Plan

We also decided to measure our Functional Thresholds so we could set training zones to control our training and track our progress.  We did this using the sufferfest training videos, which were horrid but oh so much fun!

Turbo FT Testing

Matt and James, two of my partners in crime before it got messy :)

Just a short post for now – More to follow as we progress

Still learning this wordpress blogging lark!

Stay safe

Slacky

%d bloggers like this: