With thanks to my late aunt, Jean Abdee, whose legacy has helped make this possible.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Struggling to stand up in the wind!

Day 19: Thurso to John O'Groats

Finished. 23.65 miles, total distance 1224.1, max speed 27.5, av speed 10.3, time 2:16:27, total time 3 hours.
Left the hostel at 8:30 and found the road out of Thurso. Lots of the roads round here are dead straight and very long - often a mile or more.

Castletown was interesting. It was once a centre for making flagstones and there are a lot of ruined buildings to look at, as well as a fantastic beach ( the surf today was incredible; the sea was nearly all white).

The wind was still very gusty and about half way I saw a rainbow. I was beginning to dislike seeing rainbows, as it means that if it isn't raining yet it soon will be - and so it proved.
Fortunately I'd decided to follow the official bike route instead of my planned coastal route, which I think helped to keep me out of the worst of the wind. My planned visit to Dunnet Head was off - it was far too cold and far too windy to even consider it. All I wanted was the nice snug cafe at JOG!
Had a bit of bad news which put a damper on celebrations - Andy drove up yesterday but today the car broke down in Inverness. So what with waiting for the AA and a hire car, he wasn't able to be here to see me finish, and that's why you have yet another picture of the bike. As soon as he arrives, I'll get the official pictures and post one of me at the signpost.
Funny how I was so worried that I couldn't do it ( no aches or pains to speak of) that the bike would break down ( nothing other than a few loose nuts and bolts and not a single puncture) and in the end it was the car that failed...
Thank you for reading, for your prayers, comments and general encouragement. I hope to edit and improve the blog and add lots more pictures, but otherwise - that's all folks!
Love - Ruth.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Day 18: Tongue - Thurso

Stats: 48.38 miles, odo, 1200.4, max speed 36 mph, av speed: 9 mph. Time: 5:19:24, total travel time approx 7.5 hours.

There didn't seem a lot of point in rushing out this morning, with only 40 miles to go, so had a leisurely breakfast and visited the beach and causeway at Tongue before getting on the coast road towards Bettyhill and Thurso. Decided to give the gps the day off - after all, the only thing to bear in mind today was to keep the sea on the left!

The first order of the day was to take a minute to turn all my brake-blocks upside down, a little trick Dad taught me when I had my first Dawes bike for going to school... I know it's not ideal, as these are curved, so when upside down may scrub the tyres, but the back tyre has had it anyway, and at least I can be assured I will be able to stop!

Met Lisa, my roommate from Tongue Hostel at Bettyhill and we had an early lunch at the cafe there and visited the Farr Stone, another carved stone monument on the 'Pictish Way' dating from the 8th/9th century.

The weather overall was an improvement on yesterday; there was a really hard shower in the morning which was cold and soaking, and I had wet feet for most of the day. The thing about waterproof socks is that if the water gets on the inside (and it did) it stays there. It was still very windy, but the wind died down somewhat in the afternoon, and with the sun out, it could even be said to be pleasant. The scenery was absolutely marvellous, with the steep cliffs, sandy beaches and fantastic surf. I really wanted to go swimming - but I think it would require a very good wetsuit!

The roads were a little more challenging than of late, with a particularly long climb up to Bettyhill and some ups and downs thereafter, but the downhill into Thurso was great. With such scenery to look at though, it was no hardship to get off and walk occasionally.

Went up the road at Strathy to take a look at the lighthouse, but contented myself with looking at it from afar, at the end of the public road - the wind at that point was terrific and it added about 6 miles just doing that bit. Strathy is so isolated and the houses so spaced out it's hard to imagine living there. It's a village created from the Highland clearances, where the refugees from the crofts went when their landlords got rid of them to make way for sheep.

Lisa stayed at Durness the other night, and said that the ferry to Cape Wrath wasn't running; partly due to the rough weather, and partly due to a MOD exercise (which apparently included bombing - the hostel at Durness was shaking!). So it seems that I couldn't have made it to Cape Wrath this time even had I wanted to, which makes me feel a lot better about not making it!

Thuso is a lot bigger than I imagined; it must be the biggest town on the coast. Stayed at the backpacker's hostel, which is above a fast-food shop (I didn't succumb - there's enough food in my panniers still). The traffic from Douneray (nuclear power plant) was quite heavy coming into Thurso too, which was unexepcted.

So here now and all ready for finishing, which is sad on one level, but a relief on another. Hopefully the weather will be nice to give me a good photograph at the signpost!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Day 17: Tain to Tongue

Stats: 74.0 miles, odo 1152.0, max speed 34.4, av speed 10.0. Time 7:24:33, actual time 10.5 hours.
Left at seven and just managed to get the tent packed away before the first lot of rain. Hopefully the next two nights will be in hostels and then I'll be done, so it's good to have a dry tent.
It was a very cold morning and didn't improve much through the day. Kept the leg warmers on, as if I get to a hostel they can be dried. Also waterproofs and gloves, though they got so soaked they weren't very warm!
Had a morning of sunshine and showers. The showers were intense, freezing and accompanied by gusts of wind, and then it all stopped, the sun came out and I'd start to dry out and warm up before the next batch of rain. I've never seen so many rainbows in one day.
Towards the end of the Dornoch Firth the bike route went to a railway viaduct bridge and I was faced with two flights of metal stairs. I couldn't quite believe it and had to re check, but it is right. Off came all the luggage, I trotted up and down with panniers, tent bag and bike, walked over the bridge and had a further flight down at the end. Saw two cyclists after me carrying their bikes on their shoulders - good if you have a lightweight bike and no gear...
Visited the Falls of Shin which were in spate ( all this rain has to be good for something) then went to the visitor's centre for coffee and cake. This turned out to be very well timed as I managed to miss a particularly heavy downpour.
Lairg was a pleasant place and the last town before the long road north. Although classed as bike route 1, there is no separate bike lane though it is a quiet road. It's single track with passing places and I have to admit to getting annoyed with drivers who didn't give any indication of thanks when I pulled in to let them pass. A raised hand - what does it take?
It was extremely blustery, often wet and very cold so I was glad to see that Altnaharra had a hotel, and stopped there for a cooked lunch and coffee ( thus neatly avoiding another heavy downpour). The staff were polite but they were there for the high spending fishermen who had flown up for their sport, so I was not made particularly welcome.

Maybe it's because this is coming to an end or maybe I've had enough, but the feeling of discouraged alienation was hard to shake. The mountains have a bleak and austere beauty, but I prefer the wildness of Cumbria and don't feel any great urge to want to return here. It's almost a shame I can't get Cape Wrath in this trip and get it over with!

Despite the often harsh weather, progress was surprisingly good, given that when the wind was really gusting I had to get off and walk. I'll be doing that a fair bit now, not just because of the wind but my brake blocks are so worn down!
Got to Tongue with enough time to get a transit stamp at the Post Office and some ' Dark Island' Orkney beer to go with dinner ( very nice) before finding the Youth Hostel, which is on the Durness road near the causeway. Given that it's rained since I got here and the wind is still high, I'm very glad that I and the bike are under cover.
Should be a very easy and slow day tomorrow, heading for Thurso. At a stretch, I could finish tomorrow, but I need to wait for my welcoming committee to arrive.
Picture is of the Falls of Shin.


In the Highlands, some of the street signs are in Gaelic as well as English, and it was interesting to see that 'church' reads ( approximately, as far as I can see) as 'heglise' which is as close to the French as you could wish and brings to mind the Welsh word 'eglws'. It would be so interesting to know how and when the word entered the language; from Latin- speaking missionaries in the Dark Ages, or the French speaking Normans in later ages.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Fwd: Day 16: Slochd to Tain

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ruth Fitch <ruthfitch@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 9:44 PM
Subject: Day 16: Slochd to Tain
To: ruth.fitchthesportyforties.com@googlemail.com, ruthsbikeride@blogspot.com

Stats: 68.01 miles, odo 1077.9, max speed 30.5, av speed 10.3. Time 6:35:34, total time 9.5 hours.
When I get back and have more time I hope to do a full review of Slochd hostel, because it was really lovely and I can't recommend it highly enough. Left at 7:30 and went past the first distillery of the day at Tomatin ( the 'a' is long as in tomato ( unless you're American of course)). The weather was holding out; it was grey and blustery, but dry. Had a really great start; one of those days where it goes really well and you don't want to stop. Did screech to a halt to see the Clava Neolithic tombs but still managed 12 miles in the first hour and ten more in the second, which is a record. Ill apologise now for the fixation on facts, but sometimes there isn't a lot else to think about!
Came through Culloden (a modern looking little village) into Inverness and thanks again to the excellent bike route markers, made it in and out of the city with little hassle, only stopping for second breakfast on the way. Croissant with jam, a bacon roll and coffee in a cup so large I think you could cheerfully have washed in it.
Also found a shop that did Mountain House trail rations, which should mean - with any luck - that I never have to have another Pasta 'n' Sauce again.
Took the Kessock Bridge out and met another cyclist coming the other way, and was truly amazed when he called me by name - it's the first time I've met a blog follower! So hello Gavin, it was good to see you, and I hope you have a very good journey to Land's End!
After that, the grey weather became a bit more solid and this greatly turned into a not- quite rain, but still quite wet. A mizzle, perhaps.
Bike route 7 had now given way to bike route 1 - the last one for me as it goes to ' The North' as you keep seeing on signposts. To be beyond the Cairngorms and yet to still see that on signposts makes you think they should expand a bit ' The Utter North' perhaps?
Stopped at Dingwall for a bit of shopping and pressed onto Allness, where you can see oil rigs in the Firth, and then to Tain, past the second distillery of the day, Glenmorangie.
Met quite a lot of cyclists going the other way, in particular two Dutch ladies, on heavily laden mountain bikes. We stopped to talk ( remarkable because cyclists don't like to stop and lose momentum) and the reason for all their gear became clear - they are doing the North Sea Route which is apparently 6,000 kms. They wanted a hostel so I gave them a number for one at Evanton, and wished them luck.
As for me, I think I'm nearly there. After discussing the finish date with Andy I've agreed to leave off going for Cape Wrath this time ( fruit for another challenge, possibly) and to finish on Thursday. I'm going to aim for Tongue tomorrow and Thursoe the day after, but it depends on terrain. The going has been a lot gentler recently - or I'm just getting used to it.
Picture was taken from the campsite across Dornoch in a rare moment of sunshine.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Day 15: Pitlochry to Slochd

Left at 7am as I knew it would be a long and probably steep ride today but in the event it went very well and quickly. Stats: 74 miles, odo 1009.8. Max speed 26.5, av 9.3. Time 7:57:35, total time 10.5 hours.
Had Sunday morning all to myself as I went through Blair Atholl and saw Highland cattle by the entrance to the campsite.
Soon got onto the bike route that runs alongside the A9, with all the warnings that this is a high road and to expect sudden bad weather and to be prepared. I thought I was as prepared as possible so went on. The cycle path was quite far from the road to start with, with nice views of the river and waterfall to the left and the mist- covered mountains ahead. It was very cold; I had two shirts as well as my jacket, rainlegs and gloves. It was a very long, very gradual uphill, hardly noticeable except that with the slight headwind it was enough to keep my speed down to single figures. Saw a couple of cyclists and even a runner with a large pack going the other way. Eventually got to the summit of Drumochter at 1516 feet and was also welcomed to the Highlands and the Cairngorms. Had a gentle downhill and had done 30 miles by the time I arrived at Dalwhinnie, so decided it was time for lunch and had a bacon roll, coffee and cake at an excellent cafe ( also a bunkhouse).
The sun came out then but it was still cold, but the going was good to Newtonmore and Kingussie. I rang the bunkhouse I wanted to stay at to check there was room and was again picked up on pronunciation - it's Kin goosey, apparently!
Took the B road instead of the bike route to Aviemore, which was nice and fast and again traffic free as there as an A road directly alongside it! Took the Speyside Way to Boat of Garten, which was hard work. Was making very good time and set for an early finish, so dithered in Carr Bridge before taking the off road route ( don't - it's very hard work) through a forestry estate to the bunkhouse, which is very luxurious and wonderful, especially since I have the entire place to myself. Might as well make the most of it, as the forecast for tomorrow is back to normal - heavy rain predicted all day.

From cycle route 7 near Calvine, Glen Garry.

And a bit more

Some bits that got missed out before - on the miserable day I met quite a lot of cyclists going the other way, and assumed they were  End to Enders, though it was not possible to do more than pass with a nod of the head. But yesterday I saw a chap going South and we cheered at each other like long lost friends. He had more luggage than I do, and I thought I had loads.
Also had my Andy Schleck moment, or my 'And Can it Be' moment depending on your preference when I changed gear to go uphill and it fell off. Though I didn't see Andy Schleck get out a packet of wet wipes prior to replacing a mucky chain on a filthy ring (I believe I've covered the issues re mud). I'm so looking forward to taking my bike apart and giving it a really good clean!
Last of all, a little cafe on the Birnam road ( lots of woodland by the way) does really lovely cake.
Till tonight!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Day 14: Inverkeithing to Pitlochry

Stats: 70.14m, odo 935.8, max 29.5, av 8.9, time 7:49:22, actual time 10 hours.
True to form it rained again this morning. No, really! I tried to wait it out but couldn't sulk like Achilles all day so levered myself out into the weather. I must say, the rainlegs are working out well. The main road was completely flooded at one point. Luckily I didn't need to go that way so could just watch the cars all queue to make their way through it. You'd think the people that do roads would have noted that it rains a bit here. Well a lot.
Fortunately for me it ceased after an hour or so - mostly - and there was even some sunshine. So it wasn't as miserable a day as yesterday, plus there was more to look at.
I have to say this; the bike routes in Scotland are really very good; thoughtfully done and very well marked.  Some signs not only tell you the next town or two but also the distance.
Soon after coming out of Inverkeithing I was off- road for a good stretch and then lanes to Bridge of Earn and Perth.
Perth was a bit much of a city for me; had a good lunch and left along the river path. Followed the Tay, which wasn't silvery as much as peat coloured with lots of fishermen up to their hips in it going after the salmon. Dunkeld was very pleasant and the bile route went through some very grand estate gates and parkland to the river before running alongside the main road to Pitlochry.
There was some kind of festival going on - heard music and there were lots of chaps in kilts, some carrying musical instruments, some carrying bagpipes ( sorry!). I tried the Youth Hostel - fully booked - didn't fancy the look of the backpacker's hostel, so had a quick dinner and came out of town to a campsite; commercial and noisy, but a site. Hope to get past planned stop tomorrow to a bunkhouse called Schloch - great name!  But there are a few little hills to get round or over first - the Cairngorms - so will have to see.

Crossing the bridge

Friday, 10 September 2010

Day 13: Hawick to Inverkeithing

Stats: 80.18m, odo 865.5, max speed 37, av speed 8.9. Time 8:55:20, actual time 10 ¾ hours.
Morning: damp, dull, drawn- out, dreary, dreich and depressing. If anyone else has suitable synonyms for a long road with very little different along it on a wet day in the Scottish Borders, feel free to add.
After the foggy misty and downright very rainy and wet weather ( did I mention the mud?) the sun finally came out as I approached Edinburgh. Went along quite a lot of cycle paths, then a long stretch by the canal then ten more miles out of town to the Forth Bridge. Then saw sign that the cycle path on my side was closed and would I take the stairs to the other one. ( Stairs?!!)  So carefully got bike down two flights of stairs, but up the other side was another matter. All the panniers had to come off and be carted up then the bike, then the whole kit resembled. Did I mention the mud?
Nice ride along the bridge and it now feels that phase two - mainland / England is done, but on a day like today I can safely say it's a struggle.

Day 12: Dufton to Hawick

Stats: 79.54 m, odo 785.3, max speed 33 av speed 9.8. Time 8:05:16, total time 10 hours.
Earliest start yet and rewarded by seeing a red squirrel, the first time I've seen one in this country. A cool and cloudy morning and perfect for a really good pace over rolling hills to Brampton. That was the 30 mile point so shopped, had a cafe break and got my last English transit stamp at the Post Office. Also turned in my novel and bought another at a charity shop - and then saw two others! Just like buses...
The sun came out as I left and it was really good cycling all the way through the rest of Cumbria. This is very different county to that of the Lake District, and far quieter - probably my most traffic- free day so far. It seemed easy to get the miles in too ( I'm sure the rest yesterday helped) and I'd done over 40 by lunchtime.
The hills got steeper and suddenly I came through forest to the signpost announcing the Scottish Borders.
Made it through Newcastletown and then saw the sign for Hawick - 18 miles, the same distance as the hard push to Hawes. This too seemed to go on for ever, not helped by my running out of energy and also a shower of rather persistent rain. But made it here though could not face another 12 miles to Melrose tonight, much as I would have liked to get there. So potentially another hard push tomorrow to - hopefully - get over the Forth Bridge... But that's for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Day 11: Hardraw to Dufton

Stats: 34.93m, odo 705.7, max speed 38.5, av speed 7.3. Time 4:47:57, actual time 8 ¼ hours.
Slept for ten hours straight last night and woke at my normal setting off time. Got breakfast and the normal breaking camp routine done, but everything was taking ages, and when I started trying to cycle it was confirmed - I was exhausted. That 18 mile push had taken it out of me. So everywhere I went today I went very slowly, and as you can see it took nearly all day to do what would normally be half a day's cycling.
Having said that, it was really lovely with some fantastic views over the fells, and because there was almost no- one else about (a little traffic and a handful of walkers) it really felt as if I had these hills all to myself. I'm so glad I came from the south up, as the scenery just gets better all the time. Came into Cumbria and had the best downhill section ever, sweeping into Nateby and Kirkby Stephen, where I had lunch.
Apart from some low cloud to start with it's been a really hot sunny day, and I could appreciate the stunning scenery.  Decided to call it a day at Dufton and will hopefully get a pub meal ( my second this trip) at The Stag. For now it's good to just stop and recoup. Picture attached is of the Wainwrath Falls just up from Keld.

Day 10 - Hebden Bridge to Hardraw

Stats: 75.07m, odo 670.5, max speed 40, av 7.9. Time 9:27:32, total time 13 hours.
Still had trouble getting out of Hebden this morning but finally got the right road to Slack. Some good moorland cycling past The Packhorse Inn and Wippup Reservoirs. Got to Cowling ( proposed stop for last night) at lunchtime. Lovely day with quite strong sunshine and the lovely Yorkshire and Lancs countryside. Had an afternoon stop at Gargrave and pushed on to Settle. There the weather broke with a clap of thunder and torrential rain. Waited out the worst of it under a tree but had to carry on. Got to Horton at about 5:30 and was so wet, decided to carry on to Hawes - another 18 miles. It was a really hard push but the rain stopped, the sun came out and there was a rainbow over Pen Y Ghent. Had a fish supper in Hawes as couldn't face yet another Pasta 'n' Sauce, then found a good little campsite at Hardraw, just up the road.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Day 9 - Crowden to Hebden Bridge

Stats: Distance - 59.96 miles, odo 595.2 miles, max speed 35 mph, average speed 7.1 mph (remember this doesn't count time spent walking very slowly as moving and therefore doesn't affect the average speed as it should).  Time: 8:25:20, total time 11 3/4 hours.

Left Crowden good and early and it was another clear day, but still very breezy.  The main road was busy with traffic so tried the Northern Horse Route - but this was too boggy to take a bike over.  So walked along the footpath by the side of the road until the A6024, which if you look on a map, wiggles its way between Crowden and Holmfirth.  It's a long road - about 6 miles - with a very long uphill (and corresponding downhill!), very winding and almost completely devoid of traffic, which is amazing given how direct it is.  But given the snow poles all along both sides of it, I'm guessing it's probably impassable in a hard winter. 

The top is the summit of Holme Moss, 1719 feet or 524 metres above sea level, and also the border between Derbyshire and West Yorkshire.  So no sooner had I got to Derbyshire than I was out of it. 

Progress was, however, extremely slow.  On any other day I'd expect to do nearly 10 miles in the first hour (and slow down after that due to rest stops etc) but today I'd done less than 3m by 8am and struggled to make 30m by lunchtime (and it was a late lunch).  It has not been an enjoyable day.  The roads are incredibly steep - up and down (but mostly, it seems, up) and added in there were very high winds and gusts from all directions, making walking a necessity along a lot of stretches.  So each mile was hard fought for - and then things really went wrong.

It was all my fault, much as I would like to blame the signage (or lack of!) of Route 68, the Pennine Cycleway ... I saw a sign, followed it and ended up on a wonderful stretch of moorland, heading into Lancashire, which was as expected.  But the road wasn't the right one, I'd gone spectacularly wrong this time and ended up back at Ripponden ... where I'd had lunch... with effectively an afternoon's hard cycling wasted. 

To cut a miserable story short, I navigated to Hebden Bridge (which I know of old is steep; you practically need a parachute to get into it and a ladder to get out of it).  By now it was clouding over considerably and dark even for 6:30 pm.  A helpful chap saw me checking the gps and asked if he could help - we discussed routes and campsites and then he said 'Or you could stay at the hostel right here!' (I hadn't even seen it!)  So I did. (And he wasn't anything to do with the hostel either).

It's a very nice hostel, £17 got me a room (four beds) to myself, with use of the kitchen and computer and a lovely hot shower, and to cap it all, it's now raining quite heavily outside and I'm not in it.  My bike has its cover on and I'm hoping it will clear by morning.  Still as I'd like to get to Keld tomorrow and am now behind on my route, I've got some serious catching up to. 

Tried a Lucozade 'Alert' thing today - a pricy little container of high-caffeine but low sugar energy drink.  It certainly helped with the energy levels.  It's difficult to tell, but I think I've lost weight, which is incredible given the amount of high-fat/calorie/protein food I'm eating.  As for Lucozade itself, I should have shares in it, I must get through at least a bottle a day and still fade out after 60 miles.  I'm even more impressed with the Tour de France riders than ever - that's probably a couple of hours' work for them.

Oh well just because I have a real computer for once, there's no need to rabbit on - I'm going to head off to a proper bed with a quilt and pillow and everything - funny how the ordinary becomes luxurious!

Day 8 - Hixon to Crowden

Stats 75.63m, odo 535, max 35.5, av 8.2. Time 9:07, total time 12 hours.

Early start. The B-road to Ashbourne was very busy with Alton Towers traffic, but nice and quiet after the turnoff. Picked up the Tissington Trail and had 17 miles of off road flat cycling and time for early lunch at the Estate tea room. Got the High Peak trail after that, some of which is * not* fit to cycle on. It was in a poor state even for a footpath and I wasn't wearing walking boots. It was so rutted and potholed it was hard going even to push the bike up the track. Great to be in Derbyshire again though. Made very good time and pushed on to Crowden Reservoir. Very windy night - and worried about falling branches all night.

Picture of the reservoir this morning.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Tea at Tissington

Following theTissington Trail and called at the tea shop for elevenses. Very civilised.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Day 7: Lem Hill to Hixon

Stats: 66.21 miles, odo 459.3, max speed 31.5 ( no av speed today). Time 7:21:38, total time 10 hours 45 mins.
Got a good early start and at Bridgnorth by 9am. Had second breakfast there, did a bit of shopping and got some cash, which is lasting very well. This probably my favourite town so far in that I didn't get lost in it or coming out of it. Ironbridge very pretty but a long hard haul uphill out of it. Very pleased to stay on the bike and not walk it ( though always said that ' walk' is not a four letter swear word). Average speed uphill was about 3mph. It was that steep.
Changed route slightly to try and avoid Telford, which managed with reasonable success.( You'll note I changed route to avoid Monmouth - shame - but no need to go that far west). Did go through a lot of industrial estates.
Lunch at Albrighton, then tried to get to Breward (pron Brood) which seemed as elusive and difficult to get to as Narnia. The GPS was determined to take a long route on major roads when I could clearly see a minor road linking them. Hashed up and down the same lane so often I was worried the Rural Watch would call the police before making it to somewhere with a signpost to Breward on the left. GPS still insisted on going right - back to Albrighton! I took the turn and after a while it accepted my route with a little beep that seemed to say ' oh THAT Breward. . .' and then we were fine.
Scenery much the same as at home (Northants) which made for rather a dull afternoon. Cloudy and cooler too.

Made it to Hixon at sixish, very saddle sore and very tired. Campsite at Green Man pub which took some finding. Site dingy and basic but pub food excellent.

Day 6: Berry Hill to Lem Hill

Starts: 66.72m, odo 392.9, max speed 41 mph, av speed 9.4. Time 7:04:11, total time 9 hours.
Another hot day but cloudy start and it was lovely to see the most in the valleys. Berry Hill must be the highest point around here ( clue in the name?) so the day started with a long downhill stretch to Lydford.
Ross- on- Wye was nicer than I remembered it but then I went through it three times to find the road out. Still went wrong somewhere and ended up doing the two long edges of a triangle, as it were. Agriculture has changed to apple and pear orchards, vineyards and hops - some of the best ales are made here. There was an obstruction on one road involving a Fosters tanker - perhaps it was being politely escorted out of the county!
Had lunch at a garden centre having done 40 miles by 1pm. Very rolling countryside though with lots of downs and ups - more walking when even the granny gears weren't enough.
Found a pitch at Lem Hill where they doing normally take tents. Pic attached.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Day 5: Priddy to Berry Hill

Stars - 62.73m, odo 326.1, max 33.5,  av 8.3. Time 7.5 hours, total time 9hrs 50.
Yet another hot sunny day. I don't know where the sun was in August but it's making up for it now. Got in an early start and for the first time the tent was dry which was much better. Good going to Chew Stoke and amazing how quickly the miles clocked up. Did 12 miles before 9 am!  Of course Bristol slowed things down and proved tricky to get out of. Ended up following my route as best I could and actually walked a great deal to keep an eye on the gps. There are some very nice villages outside Bristol and the roads very quiet. Managed to find the bike route to the Severn Bridge and had the most glorious crossing. Felt as if the first phase of the ride is now complete. Bike route through Chepstow ( lovely town, really liked it especially the random bits of poetry in the pavements), over the bridge back into England and then up, up, up pulling away from sea level into the hills. I'm starting to hurt so walked a deal of this too! The heat doesn't help, but I'm not complaining. Found a campsite in Berry Hill, Forest of Dean.

Day 4: Greenham to Priddy

Distance 66.52 m, odo 263.3, max 26.5. Time 7:27:30 av speed 8.9 total time 10 hours 15. Much easier day, for which I give thanks. Lots of lovely canal paths again. Another glorious day for sunshine but misty and chilly in the morning. Silage making in full swing everywhere. Taunton has some good cycle paths through the centre. Picked up canal path again almost to Bridgewater, then minor roads to Glastonbury ( would like to have stopped and looked round, but this is not a sightseeing holiday). The Tor is far higher than I imagined. Bypassed Wells to campsite at Priddy just north of Wookey Hole. Very steep climb to end the day but nice view of the sea, and hopefully crossing into Wales tomorrow.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Day 3 - Bridestowe to Greenham

Starts: distance 60.07 m, osi 196.7m, max speed 33.5. Travel time 7:38:42, actual time 11 hours (I think the discrepancy is because when I'm walking it's so slow the bike computer doesn't register it as movement!). A day of two bike paths, 27 and 3. Left campsite at 8 am and took the bike route to Okehampton ( very nice place). Lovely route and flat but still slow going. Then B roads to Zeal - fine - and very minor white lanes on which I both walked (v steep) and got lost, and rather discouraged. Also ran out of energy ( cyclists refer to this as "bonking" but I don't want to give my friends the wrong impression of what I'm doing here!) Got some Lucozade which helped no end. Was glad to see Tiverton and even more so to find route 3 out of it, along by the canal and blessedly FLAT. This comes to just beyond Burlescombe ( pronounced BurraLESScombe apparently - lovely!). Got a camping pitch at Greenham nr Wellington. I'm in Somerset now - 3 counties in 3 days.

Bike route 27

As traffic free as it gets ( but I wouldn't like to be on a racing bike down here.)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Day 2: Indian Queens to Bridestowe

Indian Queens to Bridestowe. 65.03 miles, max speed 32.5 av 8.1 moving time 8 hours, total time about 11 hours. First 10 miles fine even with some steep climbs and descents. The lanes were lovely with sunlight filtering through as if through stained glass. Then got to Bodmin and struggled to get out. Same at St Breward. Took 1.5 hours to travel just five miles. Eventually made some progress but everything you hear about these lanes us true. Descents so steep I lost my nerve and crept down with brakes on. Ascents so steep I had to walk up - not sure I didn't walk more than cycle today! Got into Devon at 4:30 and the campsite at seven. Weather very good and set to hold.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Stats for day 1

Mileage - 71.28, max speed 38 mph, cycling time 7:35:18, actual time about 9.5 hours, av speed 9.3 mph.

And I'm off

Day 1 - Land's End to Indian Queens. Lovely sunny morning and as soon as I started cycling, the nerves settled down. Through St Buryan to Mousehole ( lovely in the sun) and cycle path to Marazion. Had some hills after that, especially near St Erth. Stopped for lunch at a ruined tin mine at Cambourne - 34 miles by that point.

A bit of navigating trouble added some miles in the afternoon around Redruth and St Day. Truro was very quiet for which I was grateful, but not so grateful for the decorative cobbles in the town centre. It was getting much cooler as I got to the Gnome World campsite at Indian Queens just after six and got some shopping in at the Spar by the Esso garage nearby. One day down!

The start

The start

This is my third try at sending this - hopefully third time lucky! We had a very good journey down to Cornwall in glorious sunshine. Stopped at Jamaica Inn for lunch and arrived at Land's End by early afternoon. Got the signpost picture down and the first transit stamp ( the easy one). All set for starting - including a bad attack of nerves!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Can't rain all the time ... ?

In the film 'The Crow' (a kind of gothi post-apocolyptic film mostly in black and white with rubbish and violence filled streets where it's constantly raining) the main character, Eric Draven says to a little girl:

"Can't rain all the time."

This has been rather in my mind of late, since the weather (in this region at least) seems determined to prove that actually, yes it can rain all the time, and if it feels like it, then it will.... I recall looking out of the window yesterday afternoon when the rain started and I don't believe it has stopped yet, well over 32 hours later. I can only hope that my waterproofs will be up to it, but since I'm not absolutely sure that *I* will be, it's a moot point.

Seriously, I have never known such a wet August, and only hope that September will have nothing left to offer by way of wet weather and will be nice. Or if not nice, at least dry and a bit less like November (in August).

Meanwhile, the worst Radio 4 pun ever: a program where a builder chooses the tool that's been most useful to him during the last seven days. That's Pick of the Week... sorry....

Nearly there

A late night last night but the mapping is nearly complete. I am daunted by the sheer scale of this project! Also heard on the weather forecast this morning that Altnaharra - one of my last stopping places - had a degree of frost last night...
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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Better late than never

A bit late, with only four days to go, but we are just getting to grips with the intricacies of Garmin gpc routing. That is, Andy is. . .
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Monday, 16 August 2010

My Training Partner

This is really by way of a test post to see how easy it is to blog from the phone. But also I do feel that Alfie (pictured) should get a mention as my training partner - he's been dragged on most of my runs, even the long ones, and been taken along as support on all my races. Thanks Alfie!
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Friday, 6 August 2010

Initial Route - 1,200 miles!

The initial route planning has taken ages (I've joked that it's taken as long to plan it as it will to cycle it) but finally the first draft is complete as set out below: -

Route: From - To and Estimated Daily Mileage
Land's End - Indian Queens - 55.03
Indian Queens - Lydford - 57.52
Lydford - nr Tiverton - 55.39
Tiverton - Wookey Hole - 56.54
Wookey Hole - Monmouth - 62.53
Monmouth - nr Bridgnorth - 66.45
Bridgnorth - Hixon - 56.17
Hixon - Hayfield (High Peak) - 58.03
Hayfield - Cowling (Yorks) - 62.60
Cowling - Keld - 52.96
Keld - Brampton (Cumbria) - 61.96
Brampton - Melrose - 59.63
Melrose - Inverkeithing (Forth Bridge) - 64.89
Inverkeithing - Pitlochry - 68.48
Pitlochry - Boat of Garten (Nr Aviemore) - 66.67
Boat of Garten - Evanton - 58.54
Evanton - Altnaharra - 64.76
Altnaharra - Cape Wrath - 59.20
Cape Wrath - Bettyhill - 56.08
Bettyhill - John O'Groats via Dunnet Head - 57.42

I strongly suspect that anyone that has done it will be scratching their head and saying 'Why that way?' ... to save time; I'm avoiding 'A' roads wherever possible, using cycle routes wherever possible and 'B' roads where not and also visting places of interest, such as Keld which I've passed through on both the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast path (so it seems appropriate to visit it again on the longest tour I've ever attempted. Plus it looks as if there's a nice bunkhouse there now, which wasn't there last time).

I do want to go to Cape Wrath but if it doesn't work out, then I won't - that will save a lot of mileage. Same for visiting Dunnet Head - by that stage I might well have had quite enough!

All that remains are the unanswerable questions of fitness, whether my tricky knee will hold up, what the weather will do, whether I have enough / too much / right / wrong gear and the question Can I really do this? will not be answered until about 20 September, or thereabouts...

Well, that's the first draft and it could all change. If I could just get rid of 60 miles of that, it would give me a day in hand for emergencies, sightseeing, or simply having a rest. Tomorrow then, back to the drawing board.

Friday, 30 July 2010

One month to go!

The summer has gone so fast and yesterday - 29 July - meant that there's just one month to go until I start cycling away from Land's End on 29 August. Despite being fitter than I've ever been, I don't feel ready. I wonder if one ever does?

The packing has been done and now the tweaking and sorting of gear has begun. The panniers weigh about 6 kgs each, the tent 2.5 kgs in its waterproof bag and the front bag another 2 kgs. 17-odd kgs plus the weight of the bike plus two water bottles... it's a lot. I've gone through my washbag, first aid kit and clothes bag and taken out luxuries like soap and spares. I cannot carry heavy food and will have to buy it on route - or eat out. Even things like the sunglasses case, the case for my headtorch and the stuffsack for my sleeping bag have been left out.

The route planning is still a work in progress; I've made it as far as Derbyshire so far. The tricky bit is aiming for 60 miles and finding a campsite nearby at the end of the day, leading to some days which are a lot shorter and some a lot longer. One day's ride is a proposed 72 miles ... I'll have to see about that! The training is in full swing and I'm doing well over 100 miles per week with full gear as well as the run and swim plus the usual daily life stuff that is necessary. At least if I cycle to work it only takes an hour longer than normal (there and back) so doesn't significantly add to my day. But I am getting rather bored of the same roads.

I think all the technical gear is in place - this includes a new Cateye bike computer, as my current one, which I will admit was very cheap, has a distressing habit of resetting itself on long journeys, which is a bit bad if you want to add up the week's mileage. Thirty days to go now, so much still to do... but come 29 August, ready or not, I need to start cycling!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Half-Marathon Update

The half-marathon challenge is complete! I've had a week to savour that phrase. It went surprisingly well and I finished in a time of 2 hours 10 mins 4 seconds. I was extremely pleased with that as it meant I'd kept up my usual pace of a 10-minutes mile (like clockwork!) Out of the 197 starters in my age category I was 109th and 909th overall out of 1,295 finishers. So not bad for my first one, and I would do it again. I don't like Milton Keynes as a place but this run went through all the nice bits (possibly the only nice bits) including running alongside the Grand Union Canal and through wood and parkland.

Two challenges are now complete and cycling has started in earnest now, in preparation for the third with the confidence of having completed the first two to keep me going and make me think that I might actually be able to do this.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


It's the half-marathon tomorrow. How quickly these challenges are coming up. I've done two half-marathon length runs, neither comfortably, but at least I can cover the distances in reasonably good time so should be OK tomorrow. I'm glad the weather has cooled down since my practice runs as running in heat is not something I enjoy.

It's actually been raining quite hard these past few days and since it rained on July 15th - St Swithin's Day - it could continue for some time if the old folk rhyme holds true.

St Swithin's Day, if thou be wet
for 40 days it raineth yet.

On the upside, it makes things cooler and life easier generally, and means I get to test my gear for waterproofness.

The bike has been in for a service - a proper service from a proper bike shop, and as a result the gears and brakes are a lot better. I've also got an extension for the handlebars to make them higher (why they sell a bike for people of a certain height and allow you to adjust everything but handlebar height I don't know. Grumble over.) I've also changed the pedals from the lovely elegant single-sided ones to plain pedals with toe-clips and feel much safer due to being able to release my feet instantly. I've given the cleats a good trial but I'm not happy with them. Last and most important, I've changed my saddle from the one supplied (too soft) to a harder and much more supportive saddle. As a result of all these changes I'm getting a lot less discomfort in all areas though still a bit sore around the shoulders after a long ride.

The route planning is underway and I've got it as far as Gloucestershire. I'm using the improbably-named bikeroutetoaster.com which is ideal and even gives the elevation for the day. I had a few problems with it to start with, which involved doing the route for my first day four times, but seem to have the hang of it now. I think this will be a work in progress for some time yet though.

Last but not least, it's Tour de France time and watching the truly elite cyclists struggling up the French Alps is truly inspirational. I've also learnt about power to weight ratio, which means I need to lose another 10 lbs to be the ideal weight for climbing mountains! But then I don't have to go up the French Alps.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

14 miles ... ouch

As the time for Challenge No. 2 (the Milton Keynes half-marathon) is fast approaching, I decided at the weekend to stop messing around with adding one mile at a time to my schedule and just go and do it. I'd done 8 miles fairly comfortably and thought it was 6 miles round Pitsford Reservoir, so set out on a sunny Saturday morning to do two laps and see how it went.

Pitsford is lovely first thing in the morning. There were some cyclists but not too many; some other runners but no other dog-walkers, which was a bonus as I had Alfie with me, and he's a pest with other dogs. (He's a pest with chasing bicycles / birds /random bits of rubbish too but that seemed to awaken his interest in the run so may not be a bad thing).

We took the first lap fairly easy as I didn't want to overdo it and it was going to get very warm again by the time we did the second. Pitsford has the added advantage of being flat, and although Northamptonshire is not the hilliest county in England, you soon find, if you cycle or run any distance, that there will be at least one steep incline somewhere on the route.

Andy was walking the route and my hope was that I'd overtake somewhere on the second lap and hand Alfie over for a rest. Alas, we were slower than we thought and he was faster. The reason was clear when we'd finished and measured the distance - closer to seven miles than six, and so the run was a shade under 14 miles total. Even with walking the last half-mile or so I did it in two and a half hours. Now the challenge is to do the distance comfortably, and work on being able to walk properly for the next few days afterwards. I tried ice, I tried a freezing gel (the opposite of Deep Heat) and I tried rest. My legs have never hurt so much! Alfie, however, was fine after the run. He had a drink and tried chasing some geese and looked as if nothing had happened.

So next Saturday we're going out again to see if it will be easier this time!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Challenge 1 - Olympic distance Triathlon

Yesterday I did the Olympic distance triathlon - challenge 1 is complete. I can't believe I'm actually typing that. It was so very hard; not just the distances (which I'd trained for) and not just putting all the disciplines together but also the heat (hottest day of the year so far at 30C) the high pressure and the pollen count which together resulted in a truly debilitating asthma attack.

I wasn't expecting that - I've only ever had problems in very cold weather before, but since I couldn't breathe deeply (painful and brought on coughing) all I could do was plod round, very slowly, wishing for the end.

Surprisingly the swim was my best discpline on this occasion, in that I wasn't the last of my group out of the lake. But on the bike I fell further and further behind. The Olympic distance is two loops and I finished the first loop with a group of people doing the Sprint distance (and was quite tempted to come in with them and have done with it). On the second loop I was quite alone, apart from the marshalls along the way who were, as every, extremely encouraging and supportive.

The same was true of the run; I came into a group of runners which very rapidly thinned out as people finished. It was incredibly hot by now - midday - and most of the water I poured over my head in order to cool down evaporated in minutes. Four gruesome slow plodding laps later, I crossed the finish line, very very last, but I finished. It was never about the time (though of course going faster would have been nice) and finish I actually did.

That was seriously tough. One down, two to go.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Nearly Tri Time!

Counting the days down to Northampton Triathlon on 27th now - it's come up so quickly. Went for a swim this morning and did my 1.5k in 35 minutes, and felt glum as it didn't beat my last time. It's something to feel down about - this is still a good four minutes off my previous (pre-Swim clinic) times! Hopefully it will be closer to 30 mins on the day, given that I won't have to stop and turn at each end or stop to give way to faster swimmers and I'll have a wetsuit - so added bouyancy.

Also sent the e-mail at work stating what I was up to and sat back waiting for the 'you must be mad' comments - not as many as I thought, actually. They must know aleady :-)

It's strange, but now that Andy has completed it feels as if it's now OK for me to start planning in earnest. Made some more LeJog purchases at various places including Field & Trek and Wiggle - leg warmers, so I don't have to worry about putting trousers on when it's cold and taking them off when it's hot; a bike mirror (which gives an excellent view of my right knee) and the tiniest, lightest little stove ever - a mere 50g! (It's called the Fly and made by Go Systems if you're interested). Since most of my cooking will probably involve warming things through, it'll do for my small set of two pots (Gelert - cheap and cheerful).

But the first challenge, the triathlon, is nearly here already; I'm as ready as I can be but feel that it's still not enough. I'll try and get another run and cycle in before Sunday and see how it goes. I'll also be hoping that this hot weather doesn't last - it is Wimbledon fortnight after all; shouldn't it be raining?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

John O'Groats

Home at last after a long drive to and from Scotland to collect Andy after he and Alfie successfully completed their LeJog challenge - well done both! And to John of course and all the other finishers. It was good to see the final signpost and the queues of people waiting to have their photos taken. Lots of cyclists; some alone, some in groups. One man cycled it in 9 days (but didn't have vast amounts of luggage). All along the drive I was looking for routes, cycle paths, the state of the roads (very good) and hills (not that many that were extremely steep - apparently Devon is the steepest bit). The wildlife was amazing with seals playing in the bay by the campsite, all sorts of seabirds and of course, midges ... I must remember to take lots of midge repellent when I go. It was great to get up there and I can't wait to start now!

Saturday, 12 June 2010


Last week I did my first Olympic-distance brick training session - a 25 mile bike ride followed by a six mile run, which I was very pleased with, especially as it was an extremely hot day. As the triathlon is so close now - just two weeks to go - I knew I'd better go out again today but to be honest, didn't really feel like it. I'd been over at Mum and Dad's to celebrate Mum's birthday, drove back in the morning and was trying to get motivated. As it happened, I'd left my purse behind by mistake, so that was the perfect reason to get on the bike - it's about 13 miles to Rushden from Kettering. So I plodded over and back again and still didn't feel very energetic or fit enough to go for a run afterwards and was all for talking myself out of it completely.

The best way to cope with this, I've found, is not to think about it but to just do it. I came home, changed my shoes and as it happened, turned in the best run time I've done in a long time. Perhaps it was the copious amounts of Lucozade I'd been drinking on the bike; perhaps I'm getting fitter at last. I picked my feet up and it felt good and fast - and it was; just over 55 mins for six miles. So that was encouraging.

I also had some encouragement when I last went swimming. I've been going as often as possible to work on my new (hopefully correct) front crawl and to be honest, I'm getting so puffed out I can barely do two lengths. I came away from the pool on Wednesday wondering what on earth I was thinking entering a race where I had to swim 1,500 metres when I could barely swim at all, but on Thursday it seemed to come together a bit more and a fellow-swimmer was kind enough to say she thought I looked a lot less splashy than usual, and smoother. Again, it's a case of keeping the pace up. The Swim Smooth website reckons on about six sessions to learn something new, so I'll be packing in as much swimming as possible over the next fortnight!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Swim Clinic

Yesterday I attended a Swim Clinic. A what? Well I knew my stroke was (still is) pretty awful and despite trying to teach myself to improve it's very difficult on your own. I'd like to join a club but KSC being what it is, that's out of the question. But that's a whinge for another time. So, I battled up the M6 to Birmingham for 8:30 and we were videoed swimming in the water. My issues were immediately apparent; a breast-stroke kick with a crawl action doesn't look elegant but worse, creates drag. No wonder I was going so slowly and struggling. My arms also weren't quite right and my breathing could be improved (these chaps are big into bilateral breathing, which is taking a breath on either side, every third stroke or so).

There were three swim and three classroom sessions, and I got to take away a swim plan, the dreaded footage of my original swim on DVD and loads of advice on what to do to improve. The best session was the last where we worked with a 'wetronome' a little bleeper that sits under your swim cap and sets your stroke. By increasing my stroke rate from my standard 45/min to about 54-56/min (and using a floatie to stop my legs trying to kick) I can improve my arm action and breathing and then (hopefully) the kick will follow. Working with fins also helped but of course you can't use them in the pool.

So gadgets do help. As I feared, it's almost like learning to swim from scratch again, probably worse with bad habits to undo, and that's going to take time. But I'm so fed up with struggling along that there is certainly the impetus to improve, and hopefully this will also be reflected in my times! (but wish me luck).

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Furthest distance yet run

Yesterday I managed an 8 mile run, which in a few month's time will probably be laughably easy (well I can hope) but for now is a real milestone; the furthest distance I've run yet. It was a gorgeous morning but even at 6:30 am very hot. I suppose it's no bad thing practising running in the heat, given that a race event is likely to be later in the day anyway (especially thinking the MK half marathon).

The time was good given that I wasn't aiming for speed, but I wasn't far off my ten minute mile pace at one hour 20 mins 48 seconds. The main problem with long-distance running is, I think, going to be boredom - it takes such a long time. And I could scoot round so much more quickly on a bike!

I was interviewed by the Chronicle & Echo the other day and was asked the 'why do it' question which I have to say, rather stumped me. How to explain in a few words? Having had time to think I guess the best answer is to see how far I can push myself. What am I capable of, really? It's so easy to watch the London Marathon and say 'I could never do that' (which I have) - but perhaps a half? And then what? Plus the side effects of vast amounts of exercise are great, not least that I can (within reason) eat what I like, and what I like is often not the low-fat/calorie choice.

Having said that, I don't feel fit, which might sound odd. Compared to some people I am but I know that in any given race I'll be bringing up the rear and just be glad to get round. It's all comparative.

Well I'm having a rest day today. The sun is shining and I may just go into the garden with a good book. Back to the training regime next week; there's not long to go now until the Northampton Tri at Grendon!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Grendon Tri - Results!

The results are out. I had an overall time of 1:53:35 broken down as follows:

Swim - 21:45 (not a bad time, considering - I'd expect this kind of time in the pool)
T1 - 3:28 (I was faffing for what felt like ages and this is reflected in the poor time here)
Cycle - 58:29 (could be better)
T2 - 1:30 (how long does it take to change a pair of shoes???)
Run - 28:20 (very pleased)

Which all confirms what I already knew - I need to work on *everything* including and perhaps especially transition times. But I am pleased with it; open water isn't easy and what's more, I still managed to enjoy it. So it's all good.

The sobering thought is that if one has to train to Olympic distance to be good at sprint, does this mean that I need to be training (in effect) for a 70.3 (half-Ironman)to be any good at Olympic?


Sunday, 9 May 2010

Grendon Tri

Just got back from completing the Grendon Triathlon (open water sprint distance) and feel it went quite well. It was a bitterly cold morning and the water temperature (at 13.6 degrees) was said to be warmer than the air temperature. It didn't feel it. Even with a wetsuit, I was freezing and very soon lost feeling in my feet. However, 20 mins or so later I was out, the worst bit over and soon on the bike. It was a nice bike ride and the sun came out which made it so much more pleasant.

I have to admit to feeling hopelessly outclassed by all the other bikes in transition though - a real wish-list of gorgeous road and tri bikes; Cannondale, Specialised, C Boardman, Trek, Planet X, Cervelo and so on. And there was mine; a very used and still rather oily (from the bracket change and chain clean) old-fashioned racer with no name to recommend it, but the point is that it goes, and I, being the standard I'm at, would not find my time greatly enhanced by carbon-fibre, or even titanium (though it would be nice to try :-)). And given that some of these bikes cost as much as a small car, I'm not sure I'd ever want to venture out on one!

When I came in to start the run, the sun was getting nice and warm and I was pleasantly surprised to find I had enough energy left to put in a really good time - by my watch at least - of about 28 mins. So I was pleased with that.

So that is the preparation for the Olympic tri in June. Two thoughts; one that I need to do a lot more training (and really should have made more effort to get an open-water session in before now) and the second is that I absolutely have to replace my wetsuit, which is so tight it's difficult to swim properly. It was snug before and although I've lost weight, I must have put on some muscle which doesn't help. It's all a big learning banana, as my sister would say.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Countdown to Grendon

So the bank holiday soon passed quickly (visited Andy on his LeJog walk and realised just how hilly most of the UK outside Northamptonshire is!) Now it's only days until my first triathlon of the year - Grendon, with the swim in Grendon lake. It's been very cold these past few days so wetsuit notwithstanding, I rather hope it warms up a bit next weekend. We shall see.

The bike maintenance is going well with the bottom bracket on the racer removed and time to get it all back together (fingers crossed!) If not, I'll be doing the triathlon on the touring bike - I might take the panniers off first :-)

Other than that, some necessary housekeeping on the blog, including improving the links and adding a Just Giving page - that could be by way of a hint, if you choose! I guess now the blog is now truly ready to meet the world.

Monday, 19 April 2010


A record of possibly my first injury (though not serious and probably not the last). I pushed my last run (on Friday) rather fast and tried to extend my pace length uphill - with hindsight, not a good idea. I was hopping about for a minute or two at the time but carried on and still got the best time for 6 miles yet, but the sharp stabbing pain in my knee continued throughout the day, and so I have decided to rest it this week. In the meantime, I've googled what it might have been (the best guess is 'jumper's knee' a non-serious impact injury that will resolve itself with rest. I have also been advised to use ice, although you may be assured that an Eddie Izzard-style ice bath is not on the cards any time soon) and found a set of knee strengthening exercises. What the site says - and this seems to make sense - is that there are several muscle groups centred around the knee and if one becomes stronger there can be an imbalance in the others which can lead to injury. So I'm learning about adductors and abductors and glutes and hamstrings and how to look after them and keep them in good nick. The stabbing pain has subsided over the weekend to a mere twinge, so I'm hoping to be back out running very soon. Of course strengthening knee muscles can only be a Good Thing, not only for running but for cycling too. It's an ill wind!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Falling in love again...

I came into work on the touring bike today - the actual LeJog bike! And I have to say that it felt pretty wonderful. The big comfortable saddle, the big tyres, the smooth ride ... it really is like falling in love agin, which is great given the inital reservations I had about the bike. OK so I still aim for the downtube to change gears with a lever instead of the little switch thing on the brakes, but that's something you soon get used to. And the ride is so much more comfortable than on skinny racing wheels. The state of the roads around here is awful. Potholes are filled in and then instantly re-form. There are loose stones all over the roads; some roads don't actually seem to have a surface anymore. Other have been dug up so often they're just not flat and going along them is like riding down a country lane.

Another upside is that I do have more gears than I thought; a close inspection revealed that I'm not able to access the bottom three rings, which will be a huge advantage when they are set up properly. A Park Tools bike workstand is on order and then I'm looking forward to adjusting the gears and getting them to behave properly.

Changing bikes is an odd feeling; I felt very low to start with so the first job was to find my Allen keys and raise the saddle. It's amazingly heavy to lift (I've got the panniers and some gear on board) yet doesn't feel it when going along. Well it's good to get the thing out of the shed; it's all very well wanting to keep it nice and clean under a dust sheet and out of the weather, but that's not what bikes are for.

As for the racing bike, the reason for its temporary retirement is that the bearings are starting to feel extremely graunchy. Come the new workstand (I also ordered a crank puller and assembly grease) I'll have a go at cleaning everything and replacing the bearings (I have done it once, on a Cytech training course so at least know it is technically possible). Hopefully this won't result in me going to my nearest bike shop with a box full of bits and a sheepish grin!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Andy's off...

It's been a thoroughly hectic couple of weeks what with Andy doing his final preparations, his 40th birthday celebrations (including a surprise party!) and the celebration of Easter. Well I finally waved Andy off yesterday and he's now started his LeJog walk, in the most lovely weather you could ask for. So with more time on my hands I can spend more time in training (well it gets me out of the house!) Did a 30 mile bike ride yesterday and 2 km swim this morning, which is quite exhausting actually. It's the first time I've done that distance (80 lengths) - distance building in all three disciplines has begun.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Sufficent unto the day is the toothpaste thereof

It may seem rather sad (or obsessive) to look at saving weight on such a small item as toothpaste, but look after the grams and hopefully the kilos will be fewer. I bought a 30ml tube of Crest and kept a record of usage, finding that it lasted for 24applications, so two tubes would do the whole trip. Next on the list will be little bottles of shampoo and conditioner. On one level, it's useful preparation and ensuring I don't over-pack. On another, it's a way of preparing my mind for a challenge so big I'm hardly able to actually believe it.

Sport Relief weekend

I have to confess that for whatever reason - lack of being in touch with the media, or being too focused on my own thing plus general busyness - Sport Relief hadn't really registered on my radar, as I discovered when I popped into Sainsbury's the other day. I was on the way home from work and thus in bike/running gear. One of the assistants asked if I was participating in Sport Relief and looked quite disappointed in me when I said I wasn't. If I'd been less engrossed by the choice of vegetables I might have been quick enough to point out that I was going to do my bit, just not this weekend ... but too late.

And then last night, the TV documentary of the fundraising bike ride from John O'Groats to Land's End in freezing temperatures and through both day and night. Not perhaps the best way to promote cycling, especially showing so many falls, but what we could see of the scenery was spectacular. I think I'm looking forward to Scotland the most, espcially the far north. But there's still a lot of training to do first and more checking of gear. Today was wet, so a good chance to try the new dhb jacket (which performed well) but I need a real downpour to test it properly. Fingers crossed for a wet weekend!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Back on the bike

It seems strange to head a message with this when I cycle nearly every day but a decent distance training run is so different from the daily commute - it really does feel like 'proper' cycling. Did 25.4 miles in under 2 hours on the racer, taking in some decent hills around Cranford and Gt Addington. At some stage, I'm going to have to load up the tourer and do a really long ride, but at the moment I'm just focusing on the triathlon. Although I know I can do each individual element, my main worries are (a) whether I can actually do them all together (so more training) and (b) coming in last, miles behind everyone else, or even worse, being pulled out because I'm so slow and everyone else wants to go home! Even if I can do the whole thing at the speeds I've been doing in training, it's still going to take over three and a half hours to complete. The top people do it in about 2 hours (or less!) and everyone else seems to be done in between 2.5 - 3 hours.

So, LOTS more running and cycling to come! At least the weather is getting warmer. It was still a bit frosty out there this morning, but good to get out.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Half-marathon entered

The only one of the challenges not yet sorted out - the half marathon - has now been arranged; I'm booked in for the Milton Keynes half-marathon on Sunday 18 July, which gives one challenge per month; the triathlon in June, the run in July and I start the bike ride at the end of August. Better get training... since the furthest I've ever run is 6 miles, and that was over ten years ago.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Surprised by rest

So many plans for today, whether to do a run or a bike ride or both - and in the end, did nothing but rest. But rest is an important part of training - especially when there it's raining cats and dogs with gusty wind outside! I don't mind rain, but hate cycling in the wind. And it was good to have a whole day off from any form of exercise.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Running rule

I've just been reading through the rule book from British Triathlon and came to 28 - Running Conduct:

28.1 No form of locomotion other than running or walking is permitted. Crawling is not allowed.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

More fun than it ought to be

Tuesday and another bike ride from work through sleet and snow; the worst thing is not being able to see properly because of snow in the eyes. But I was reminded of a similar ride through town the other day in equally bad weather and a chap pushing his bike in the opposite direction called out; 'It's a lot more fun than it ought to be, isn't it?' And it is! Non-cyclists / walkers / runners might not understand it, but cycling through snow and rain can be really huge fun - especially when there is somewhere warm and dry at the end of it.

Monday, 22 February 2010


I can't remember the exact date of the big idea. I do remember reading the CTC (Cycle Touring Club) pages and getting onto the discussion board about cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats. I quickly realised that this was possible, and that even I could do it. After all it's said to be possible with any bike (it's been done on a penny-farthing) if one is reasonably fit and willing to take up the challenge. So I started planning. Most of the gear I had from doing long-distance walks would suit the cycle ride, but I needed a new tent and decided to get a good touring bike and trailer to take the weight. There was a great deal of thinking and planning over several months, and then came my 40th birthday. My mum and sister made the most amazing cake - three cakes representing the three sports of triathlon. So I began to think about three challenges... why not? I'd always had in mind to try for an Olympic distance triathlon but thought it beyond my capabilities - well I could train, couldn't I? And why not top off the challenge with a half-marathon? That should do it. So a year of swim, bike and run. But mostly bike.