Sunday, 19 February 2012

North West Passage Audax

Back in February 2009 I rode my first Audax, the mini North West Passage which starts in Rochdale. After completing it I said I would be back to ride the full event, a 200k Audax. Since then there has always be a reason not to do it but I was free on the date this year, I then forgot to enter but fortunately you can enter on the day. I was organised enough to print out an entry form but that is where the organisation stopped. I was late leaving in the morning due to having to sort out mudguards on Ruby (I was going to use the cross bike and then realised how much movement there was in the bottom bracket) and I only had a handful of cereal bars with me.

The ride to the start was nice and I foolishly though the weatherman had got the forecast wrong. I had time to sign up, put waterproofs on (since it started raining) and adjust my light and then we were off. Sticking with a group to Todmorden my average speed was pleasing but soon the hills got bigger and I got slower and colder. The rain by this point was really coming down (not what I would call drizzle BBC weather), visibility was poor and it actually hurt when it hit your face. I realised I hadn't eaten enough earlier and stopped put my showerproof on over my waterproof and ate a couple of cereal bars.

The first control was in settle and it felt like it was a long way! Getting there I quickly ordered a bacon roll and two cakes, just to make sure, as well as a hot chocolate. Leaving Settle and the sun was out and I was feeling better, the earlier thoughts of heading home were gone and I could feel my feet again. Turns out I was a little too optimistic and the rain started again. It also seemed to be nice and hilly. Still it was only 20miles to the next control.

I got there and the sun was out, a nice little mobile van cafe provided me with another hot chocolate and I set off just in front of two lads I had arrived just after. They caught me within a couple of miles and I grabbed the wheel, it was very windy and riding into the wind on my own was taking a lot of effort. One of them was very strong and I took the front once or twice but after a quick recovery he was back on the front pulling us along. Through Lancaster and I was glad of my Garmin to lead me through, apart from traffic lights we made good progress not having to read a route sheet. Then onto the cafe at Scorton. Here it was chocolate cake time!

My Gloves had dried out by now and I even took my waterproofs off. A nice section of flat along the A6 was quite enjoyable and I hooked up with another Audaxer who wasn't sure where he was going and was using me as a personal sat-nav. Turning off the A6 and towards Blackburn the temperature started dropping and the next thing we know the hail comes. Waterproofs straight back on we gathered a small group of Audaxes sheltering  by a barn waiting for it to be possible to see again. Onwards and upwards, or so it felt, my front shifter decided to die while stuck in the big ring. I decided I would prefer to be stuck in the little ring so undid the cable, the right decision with some hills still to come.

After Blackburn it started to get dark but I knew the roads well and was actually enjoying some of the climbing, still rubbish at it but not a suprise as most of my riding is flat at the moment. I clattered through a pothole on the down to Rochdale but fortunately got away with it. In Rocahdale I picked up another couple of lost Audaxes who had managed to get to there via Bacup. They even bought me a pint to say thanks for guiding them the last couple of miles. Back to the pub at the start to be fed pie and chips before riding home. It seemed to take ages getting home, and looking at my average speed for that part of the journey it did, as the wind was even stronger and a head wind.

Total Stats for the day:

2830m climbing
Average Speed 13.6mph

January Roundup

Well it's a little late due to our holiday and then a hectic week at work has given me my first chance to catch up with the blog.

I rode loads of miles in January and had lots of fun along the way. The whole first week back at work was spent riding in off-road with Colin and I went running a few times with Ali on Monday evenings. No uber long rides though with the longest ride being just over 80miles.

So the numbers:

Off Road: 252.42miles (46.28 singlespeed)
Mixed: 58.63miles
Road: 686.59miles (482.55miles fixed)

Total Cycling: 997.64miles
Running: 7.8miles - slowly building up

Onto February and the first week is on holiday so no biking or running, some snowboarding and skiing though. A couple of Audaxes entered to get me some long rides and hopefully get some more mountain bike rides in.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Burfod (beep) Bumble

I finshed off my time off-work with a 200k Audax from Bedford. I had been expecting Ali to drive me home but then she ended up going to Thailand so I was going to have to drive the car home. Since I was driving I couldn't just sleep on the way home.
The night before I found out I had to be in work early on the monday to drive the van over to Liverpool (great more driving). As is usually the case I also didn't sleep well. Up early to drive to Bedfore it was obvious it had warmed up as I didn't need to scrap any ice off it. Once there I bumped into a couple we had met in a cafe at Newcastleton last July when on holiday up that way. There also seemed to be a lot of people in PBP gillets.
About 30 of us set off and I made sure I kept to my own pace and didn't just hold on to the fast boys. I'd pretty much come to the realisation that I would be riding the whole 200k on my own when a voice pipes up asking if he could stick with me. One of the guys who had been just behind me had packed due to illness so his friend had caught up with me. For the rest of the ride Julian had the dubious pleasure of my company.
We made good time to the first control where I grabbed a sandwich and a drink before we headed on. At this point the real fast lads were leaving just as we arrived. Onto the furthest point, a little chef, where on seeing how small our portions of beans on toast were we ordered desert before starting to eat. Not sure they were sure not to make of us.
The route was and out and back and mainly on A roads. This was very sensible at this time of the year and we had no ice. But I've never been beeped at so many times on an Audax. The crazy thing being is the roads were easily wide enough to overtake us and we were mainly riding single file. Obviously lots of people just wanted to say hello, some even shouted at us but it was hard to hear what they were saying.
Returning involved another stop at the petrol station and I enjoyed a hot chocolate. Then lights on and head back to Bedford. The ride finished at the organisers house where she fed us soup, only an Audax! 10.5hours on the road my moving average was just over 14mph (so much faster than the thurs and fri before). I also probably spent less than 10k of the ride on a wheel, I was mainly at the front of our duo so I was very pleased with the speed.
Then I had to drive nearly 200miles home. That was dull!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Main road miles

Leaving Helen's I headed for the A50 as I went down the sliproad to join the road it occured to me that I wasn't that far off riding along a motorway, I suspect the car following me onto the road wondered what I was doing as well. But as I'd left after 9:30 the road was nice and quiet and since the point was to be ice free the A50 served a purpose.

Through Leicester and onto the A6, another major road. Once again ice-free but slush at the very edges. Not a problem where I was riding though. I stopped at MacDonalds for a hot chocolate and to defrost my toes, my feet had so little feeling due to the cold. Leaving there I continued and ended up on the A14, missing where I meant to turn off.

I had thought the last two roads were major roads but they were nothing compared to the A14. I was thinking that this must be what it feels like to ride on the motorway as lorries thundered past till I realised that a motorway was probably more pleasant due to the hard shoulder. There were plenty of signs warning drivers of cyclists but since the speed limit was 70mph and the road was busy they didn't help me feel safe. I actually ended up riding on the shared use pavement/bike path through the slush.

As soon as I could I got off the A14 and headed to Corby to pick up my route out. From then on things improved. It was a bit laney and there was some slush and the odd bit of ice I minced through but when I trusted my tyres it was fine.

My detour to the A14 added 7 and a bit miles, still its all miles in the bank. All my stopping to try and help my feet added a lot more time.

Getting back to Cambridge Ali's mum cooked a feast, which was really appreciated. Although I was very very slow, can I blame the cross tyres? I had fun. Will see how the legs are tomorrow.
posted from Bloggeroid

Cold toes

Back in the UK and looking forward to getting on my bike I set out of my sisters. Due to the slightly cold weather I had replotted the route on main roads and left my cross tyres on the bike. I walked the first bit from Ali's mum's but once I was out of the residential roads everywhere was clear. I did one bit of cycle path as it avoides a huge road and that was covered in snow the cross tyres were useful then.

The one bit I hadn't put on main roads, the alternative being the A14, was just after Godmanchester. I was hopeful of it being gritted as it was a road between two towns/villages. I was right and it was a lovely part of the ride with blue skies.

By this point I was having regular breaks to walk up and down and get some feeling back in my feet, they were getting very cold.

It wasn't long before I was on the A6 heading towards Leicester. It wasn't that big a road at first but then became a Dual Carriageway. Lights on just as I got to Leicester and I got to negotiate the City at Rush Hour. Always fun when you are not 100% sure where you are going.

Onto the A50 and it was climb climb climb to Helen's. Some of the smaller roads near the end were getting a little slidey but overall the route had been good.

78miles, must have been at fat-burning zone as I was slow.

All calories replaced with a huge pizza.
posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Sledging Adventure

The last day found us heading up into the hills again, first stop was to drop a travelbug off to start its travels, part of Ali's birthday presents. There was a travelbug hotel up there so lots of room in the cache and it seems well looked after. Now to see where it goes travelling.

After that is was to the last stop on the metro to hire sledges. The run goes from the top down to another station, following the old bobsleigh track apparently. First run down and I got the hang of steering, stopping not to much, Ali told me to use my feet! At the bottom you get the metro back up and repeat! As the day progressed I got better at crashing, a wall, various snow drifts and a tree all proving hard to avoid. Ali obviously had enough of crashing on the cross-country skiing day and just laughed at me.

Lots more I could do here but I'm off back to Englandshire on Wednesday, Ali gets an extra day before heading off on another adventure!

Monday, 6 February 2012

A day on the slopes

Waking up to more snow we were quite excited and headed back to VinterPark where we got lift passes and snowboards. A little worried that we would have forgotten how to ride we headed to the green run, one run and all was remembered. Onto a blue and it was easier than the green, the red was a true red though. (we actually think green and blue are just the opposite way round to what we are used to). Due to one of the lifts being closed it was actually a smallish area to play on and the runs are shorter than the alps. In fact its very like a Scottish Resort, it was even windy at times but nothing like the Cairngorms on a windy day.

We had a short lunch stop as Ali was having so much fun and then even tried one of the little kickers. Ali was getting tired then so we had a hot chocolate and cake stop before heading back onto the slopes. Our liftpass ran till 5 and we stayed right till the end. By then the slopes were floodlit and getting busy as people were coming up after work, they are open till 10pm (but we would have needed another liftpass and we were getting tired and the slopes were getting busy).

So what to do tomorrow? Unfortunately that is the last full day here for me.

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Last day of watching the biathlon today with the Mass Start. Both races were so exciting, the lead changed all the time after each shoot. The sprint finish in the women's for 2nd was amazing! I have a long way to go before I can get up a hill that steep no matter sprint past someone else, guess I need to move somewhere snowy to practice. The mens was equally exciting, the top two in the world going clear after the first shoot, then having to do penalty loops after the second shoot so slipping down the order.
I was really wrapped up against the cold with both my warmest snowboard jacket on and my down jacket, as well as two base layers and two long sleeve bike jersey/jackets. After my feet getting so cold I couldn't feel them yesterday I realised my boots are not really big enough so I wore my minxgirl merino socks, they are thin but warmer than most. It worked as although my feet were cold they were nowhere near as bad as yesterday.
It also snowed all day while we were watching the biathlon, ideal for playing in tomorrow. Since Ali is still sore from cross-country so we'll probably go snowboarding, especially if there is more snow overnight. Will have to wrap up warm again as chair lifts will be very cold!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cross Country Skiing

It's something I've always fancied trying but never wanted to waste snow time. Ali also wanted to try it so we decided this was the ideal time to try it. We headed up to Oslo Vinter Park to find out about hiring equipement and a lesson. Next thing we know we're all kitted up and an instructor was putting us through our paces on a children's track. The first bit of downhill and we both crashed. Turns out it involves a bit of co-ordination and its not as simple as walking on skis. After a few laps I started to feel like I was gliding, in reality I probably still looked rubbish. The downhill still seemed too difficult, the instructor kindly blamed the skis.

All too soon our hour was up and we were left to our own devices. Lunch in the woods and some more laps on our baby track, this time going the opposite way round. This worked for me as no scary downhill (it was all of a metre long) but Ali found the uphill a little difficult, I herringboned my way up, she slid down the hill on her face. Still it was time to branch out so we went to find some real tracks. First attempt and we realised that we were off-piste, second attempt was lovely till we hit the snowpark. Third time and it started great, then it went downhill. Ali kept trying to snowplough down, crashing mainly to her left. I took the wimps option and sidestepped down. We got down to a metro (the underground although out in the hills its an overground) and Ali got on the train and I headed back up the hill. Turns out we had done a huge (we covered at least 3miles) circuit and the way back was a lot shorter, I recognised the track we had come down and headed up. Getting to the top there was no Ali so I assumed she was waiting for the bus so I got a lovely hot chocolate and waited and waited.... Eventually she bounded across the carpark with some snowboarders in tow. The bus had broken down so she had had to walk. Her easy way back was probably longer and harder than my ski up the hill.

Turns out cross-country skiing is loads of fun as long as you are not going downhill! Or I just need a lot of practice!

A Norwegian Adventure

My first flight since 2007 and I was off to Norway, the main reason being to watch the biathlon as we are here for Ali's birthday treat. We landed at a little airport 60km away from Oslo and after hitting up the duty free (we didn't want to be buying wine over here) we got on a bus which took us right into the centre. Oslo itself isn't amazingly exciting, like any major city, but there is snow everywhere. To get to our hostel we climbed up a hill covered in snow!

Monday and we were off to watch the biathlon, the sprint event. We were in the arena for the women's event and could see everything from the start, the shooting and the finish. It was very cold but I had planned for that and had lots of layers topped off with my down jacket. In the gap between races my feet got very very cold and we had to go for a walk. A really warm pair of boots is the one thing I would add to my cold weather gear. We went out on the tracks and decided to stay there for the mens race. This time we had some British interest to cheer....I think they probably heard us. People soon spotted we were from the UK, I don't think many people come over to watch the biathlon from the UK.

Afterwards we went back to Oslo and had pizza, even without our usual bottle of wine the meal was expensive compared to what we'd pay at home. But not too bad for Norway!

Today we have a day off from the biathlon so we are off out to play in the snow.