The Ride of Our Lives

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Day 4 ... and we have done it

Woke up to a lovely sunny day and it just got better .... 60 miles to Paris just flew by. The only disappointing moment was discovering that they had run out of Victoria sponge at lunch time !! Vini Vidi Vici... and now Vini Vidi Vino .... well done girls!!!!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Day 1 - 3 the really really short version

Day 1 - rain but not bad thru Kent as we were mentally and physically prepared. Saw a dead squirrel and a dead duck ... must have been a hell of a fight!! Ferry from Dover to Calais = fish and chips and to hotel was 111 miles

Day 2 - Hell on Wheels .. awful awful awful in every way ... almost soul destroying - 75 miles

Day 3 - all is forgiven - weather, terrain and high on sugar and energy stuff ... Still a few hills ...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

We are ready to go .. will someone tell the weather

Tomorrow is the BIG day. Are we ready? Well ... the bikes are all serviced and Tulip has had some advice on how to reduce her pannier weight (read she was totting a mini caravan ...)  Lara is back in superb shape after her accident last weekend. Pearl E still has a few idiosyncrasies that come with cult Italian gear sets that are good to look at, lovely to listen to, but always just a little unco-operative at times ... so we are ... gulp... almost ready.

We have done as the programme said  and taken it easy training wise this week and concentrated on readiness planning aka how can we fit all we need on the bikes without taking a back pack, as we don't have access to our (minimal) luggage during the day. You need to do this over a beer of course, using one of the 1000s of iPhone apps available. So that's what Pomme Anglais and I did, while Tulip was off doing real readiness activities. I know we are making this look easy but believe me it's difficult, with or without beer!!.

Here's a quick 300 mile itinerary re-cap:
  • Tuesday 8 May - stay overnight at Crystal Palace ready for the 5am rising the next day
  • Wednesday 9 May - London to Calais via Kent & ferry from Dover - 95 miles
  • Thursday 10 May - Calais to Abbeville - 75 miles
  • Friday 11 May - Abbeville to Beauvais via the Somme - 70 miles
  • Saturday 12 May - Beauvais to Paris - 60 miles
So far the weather is not looking kind. The forecast changes every few hours this time of year so there's always hope for sunshine.  It doesn't have to be warm, just fine and dry will do nicely thank you (if anyone with any weather magic is reading this little plea).

We intend to blog en route, if we are not sound asleep at 6pm every night that is ... so here we go .. wheeee ... 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The gloves are off …. the shorts are on!

Well, to be specific, the glove (singular) supporting my broken left arm (and poorly wrist) is off for a few hours of the day now, and my padded shorts are on!


Padding is the word of the moment, I have decided.  As my bike went in for a service a few days ago, I asked them to add some padding to my handlebars to help with the vibrations of the roads – which I hope have less potholes in France than they do in the UK.  And now my handlebars looks like they need to go to Weight Watchers as they are fat and squidgy and, so far, very comfortable!

Regarding the shorts, I have decided that layers upon layers are needed to assist in avoidance of chaffing... and this will be assisted with the ever present, Sudocrem!  I invested in some very sexy women’s cycling underwear - with extra padding for those all important parts.  These arrived ready for my little training ride today.    Along with my new compression knee length socks, I decided that, for our dedicated readers, I would share this  vision of me in my newly purchased underwear.  If you want NO MORE (!!) pictures of my underwear (I can hear you all saying 'no more' en masse!) – we need a few more donations to our charity … the clock is ticking as we cycle to France in a couple of days’ time and reveal to the French this wonderful depiction of beautiful British bike fashion..!!


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Week 14 ... here we come

After her "lucky break" Pomme Anglais has continued pedalling consistently (maybe even slightly frantically) indoors in her preparations for the ride. Tulip and I decided that come rain or shine we would clock up the final 90 miler on Saturday. The weather forecast even looked promising, which is really saying something! It has rained all day every day for the last month ... and apparently we are still officially in "drought", with hose pipe bans still in force, which makes washing the Ark by hand a rather arduous task!!

Naturally at 6am on Saturday morning it was raining AGAIN ... so we geared up and off we went muttering about predictions for May saying it will be the coldest in something between 60 and 100 million years!!  It was, shall we say, unpleasant and even the little bunnies trying to make hazards of themselves criss-crossing the road in front of me didn't really do much to lift the gloom of the sky or my enthusiasm.

I could tell Lara was feeling the same way, as she just wasn't as smooth and responsive as she usually is and every gear change seemed a little hit and miss.  We preserved until, I said to Tulip "this is horrible, why don't we turn around at that place with the pub" (which yes .. ok could be anywhere in the UK I admit) and she said "I was hoping you'd say that but shall we try the tea shop just before the pub".  We worked out that would mean a 70 mile ride, and given the terrible conditions we decided that was good enough. 

Then we came across a cyclist called Clive, who was out training for the Lands End to John O'Groats 9 day ride he is doing at the end of May.  Clive had a puncture, and while he and Tulip fixed it, I finally figured out how to get my bike computer working again (tap tap tap).  Clive had one of those gas bottle things that you re inflate your tyre with ... word of warning here - when you engage it make sure you are wearing gloves as the rapid expansion of the gas makes the cylinder freeze and consequently Clive got a nasty dry ice burn on the palm of his hand ie just where you don't want one ... bon chance for quick healing and the ride Clive.

After drying out in a lovely country tea house while scoffing Victoria sponge we headed back.

 As we tackled the last hill before a 7 mile run home things went horribly wrong. As I changed down the chain went over the last cog and the rear derailleur pulley twisted into my back wheel.
I hauled on the brake (the right hand one which is the front brake, as I was frantically trying to unclip my left foot) came to an abrupt stop and almost went over the handlebars.  Got off to find the derailleur at a very funny angle and the pulley wedged on a spoke eeekkkk!!! Tulip rang home for the Volvo Estate bicycle rescue services, while I carried Lara up the hill to somewhere safe for pick up.

Lara is home now, feeling very sore and unable to move.  She goes into Condor on Tuesday for an assessment and ordering of parts so all will be there for her full overhaul next Saturday ... meantime she's off the road all of this week ... We are not happy, but we are both still in one piece, so I guess we should be grateful for small mercies ... and that if it had to happen at all it was now and not on the ride!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A lucky break .. and I am not referring to the snooker world championships!

Well, I have been a little quiet the last week or so.  Falling off a bike onto hard concrete over Easter damaged my arm more than I initially thought.  It was probably not helped by my Kiwi cycling companion insisting I get back on the bike and continue to ride - yes, and this picture is how I felt ( dialogue went something like this - Kiwi fruit "get back on that bike now", poor Pomme A "but it hurts ....").  Oh, to have the support of your fellow cyclists ....

So, after a visit to A&E (some 4 days later, as I am very tough!) and the necessary x-rays, I was informed I had fractured the radius bone right by the elbow (now I know why I could not straighten my arm and why it hurt so much) and resting the arm in a sling was the only thing to do.

Yesterday I went to the fracture clinic at the Charing X hospital for a follow-up appointment – more x-rays – and was informed that I was very lucky with where the break was ('lucky' would not be the first word I would use ..)!  It had not displaced (despite me playing in a couple of gigs over the weekend!) and I no longer needed the sling.  Physio appointment was needed and moving the arm was now the thing to do. 

When I asked if I could do the ride ..the doctor say ‘No’ …so I insisted on a 2nd opinion!  Finally his consultant (and boss) said I could ride, but I would have to keep popping the pain killers en route, try not to fall off again (as if that was on the top of my ‘to do’ list ..umm? No!) and stop if it got worse – as I could do more damage ..eeek!

So, the ride is back on for the Pomme Anglais .. yippee (I think!).  Just in major ‘catch-up’ mode as the fracture has scuppered my training plan and, unlike the Kiwi fruits, I have not cycled 90 miles so the ride on the 9th May may well be my first ‘ test’ of a loooooong distance.

Lots more indoor riding and moaning – at least for the rest of this week – is on the agenda for me .. and – (a request for you, dear readers) .. please keep your fingers crossed for me to keep on mending so I make it to Paris sometime in May.. Thank you!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

90 miles is a long way you know

... and if you are from the New World, in real money, it's actually 145 kms ... With Pomme Anglais still all broken and arm in a sling and thus restricted to indoor pedalling, accompanied by indoor moaning of course, it was left to Tulip and I to attempt the "on road" version of a 90 mile ride. Tulip suggested that I stay "at hers" (very Anglais lingo there)on Friday night so we could set out early on Saturday morning. 

I headed off with Lara to the station at around 6pm.When I got to the station I was then told by a man in an ill fitting national rail uniform that I couldn't take "that bike" on any train until after 7pm.  Naturally, I duly ignored him and got on a train.  I got one stop up the line where I had to change and another man in an equally ill fitting national rail uniform told me the same thing and then proceeded to take me hostage by standing next to me for 40 minutes to ensure that I didn't board any train before the magical hour.

The last 2 weeks of such typical spring weather (read monsoon downpour from a clear blue sky) accompanied by an at least 7 degrees celsius drop in temperature, has meant the Pomme Anglais on her indoor machine has ridden much more often and further than Tulip or I have managed .. so it was nervous times.  I will not subject you to a blow by blow of our ride to Cambridge (almost) and back, suffice to say it was a journey of reassurance and we will make it through the first day and we will make the ferry.

We were very lucky with the weather really only getting rained on twice. The biggest hazards were the baby bunnies running in our path on the most gorgeous of country lanes (ohhh noooice..) larks singing, other little birds dipping into our path and flying with us, grouse running alongside us, and field after field of serious hay fever sneezing and eye watering bright yellow canola plants in flower  ... and then there were the bugs!!  I have a honeycomb helmet to stop my gigantic brain from over heating and now I have realised that this means that going into the country means my helmet will become at least a 3 bugs per mile catcher (thank goodness I grew up on a farm!!!).

Oh yeah then there was the 3 mile stretch on a dual carriage way - for New Zealander's read major highway with like 7 lanes, and just as many drivers who couldn't wait a nano second for a cyclist to pass before pulling out!!.

Anyway ... T has a hill scale ... it's called the "B*@$ .." hill scale and it goes from 1 to 5.  Newgate Hill is the first one out and the last one back and it's a triple B ... and we made it!!!  So there .....

... and Mt Everest is a 15 B apparently!!!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

an Olympian effort ...

Well...  no ... not really ... but last Sunday David and I did ride several circuits of the Box Hill loop.  Pomme Anglais was on pain killers and still trying to get Pearl E on the indoor wind machine, while making muttering noises about having the NHS sue me on her behalf. Tulip had already done 76 miles the day before and had to go back to the real world of washing clothes - you cannot believe how much washing cycling creates and therefore why the on the ride "rinse and hang over night" makes me nervous.

Anyway I digress ... the Box Hill loop is part of the Olympic Cycling Road race route. The Olympic cyclists will ride around it nine times (yes nine!!) after they have ridden out from London via Wales and once they've done Box Hill they will ride ride back to London, via Scotland. A round trip of 84 miles.

Here's a link to a rather long You Tube video showing you the zig zag (aka loop) course, taken from a bicycle naturally, complete with cyclists sound effects. Box Hill Loop 

I watch it from time to time just to see how far I can get through it before I feel well and truly motion sick. It has made me realise that any plans I had of making a video of the actual ride from my bike are totally foolish and would only make my friends want to throw up.

On the first time up I passed a guy on a hybrid bike puffing away and I found enough breath (to look cool) and said "I don't know why I am doing this" and he said "me either".  About 20 seconds later he shouted out to me "I remember now why I am doing this now ... it's for a cup of tea and lots of cake"...

.... and yes I practised wiping the dog poo off my shoe ...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

It's week 13 ... and supposedly that's lucky for some...

It's a public holiday ... so naturally it's bleeding raining innit!!!  We didn't care, we had to carry on and give back to back rides our best shot to try and sort of emulate the ride - well getting on a bike every day and riding, if not the actual distances (and we sincerely hope not the weather conditions). 

It's Easter and the Easter bunnies are all around all over the world apparently. These two look like they could really do with knowing my secret of chocolate and how to eat it and stay slim eh!!

We got off to a good start.  Did the mental thing of committing to stay in our cleats and do the "push pull" to increase pedalling effectiveness, and not unclip in advance of any perceived danger, cos after all we are getting good at this now .. right!!.  The push pull (aka smooth out the peanut cycling rotation footprint), for you peasants (like me) who didn't know, is the act of pulling your foot smoothly through the stroke, thus invoking participation from your hamstrings into the equation - the second most powerful muscle group in your body after your quads (do I sound like I know what I am talking about?).  My friend David succinctly describes it "wiping the dog shit off your foot" - got the gist now??.

All was going well and then we hit a cycle path next to a pedestrian path.  Pomme Anglais (PA) was in the front and there were four pedestrians hogging the cycle path.  She did what she always does and politely, and very audibly, asked them to move off the path, which they preceded to do.  All four moved to the right and then one of them for some reason decided to very quickly go to the left, smack bang into the middle of the line that PA was biking.  All I can say is that you needed to be there to appreciate what happened next. If you had been I am sure you would agree that it would be a top contender for the best You Tube video that was never captured.  The tourist (who turned out to be Spanish with no anglais other than "sorry") quickly became shall we say "a human bike stand" and when he toppled he took Pearl E and PA with him.  After all threats of a diplomatic incident had passed (ie a battered and bruised PA was back on her feet and had checked that their was no damage to Pearl E) we set off again.

Despite many complaints of pain etc and continual flashing of (rather impressive in various shades of blue to almost psychedelic yellow green colours) hand and elbow bruises we kept kept to the training regime.  I encouraged PA and kept her spirits up with little diatribes like "huh call yourself British", "where's the keep calm and carry on then eh" and "wimp, moaning Pom", "the only reason you guys ever conquered anything was because you had ships and we couldn't swim", "the French will be happy to know you are afraid to bike through France" etc ... it worked and she kept on keeping on with the programme. As did Tulip who trained and trained in the weekend, putting in 120 miles!!!

So.. what's the epilogue to this tale of dedication and endurance... naturally, its that PA's elbow didn't seem to get any better so she went to A&E and had X-Rays and yeah, ok ... it's ah BROKEN!!  Well fractured actually (yes alright technically that is the same thing but it's a matter of degrees don't yah know).  A "radial head" fracture in fact!! 

So what to do ...well in a fit on "keep calm and carry on, I am British after all" PA has decided to give it her best shot to make the ride. Aided and abetted by a sling, visits to the fracture clinic, spin classes, Pearl E on the indoor wind machine, and homoeopathic provisions from Tulip ... and a little wine from me.  Go PA !!

Naturally we are all looking forward to week 14 of the programme!!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The itinerary for the ride ...

It's week 11 of the 16 week training programme and are we panicking ... are we what!!! Never ...just convincing ourselves that a chocolate break would be just the right thing this weekend, especially since a woman from Ghana told me just this very day the secret of how to eat chocolate and not only stay slim but to use it to help you stay slim.  I'm planning on it being my secret weapon in my quest to be popular ....

Anyway, I digress ... it's time now to share the itinerary - fresh off the Skyline events website .... I've added a little commentary of my own ...

 "Connecting two of the world's most chic capital cities the London to Paris bike ride is an
exciting charity cycle which any one can enjoy". ..well anyone prepared to put in 16 weeks quite hard training that is, and with the cash to invest in Sudocreme in the 10 litre bucket size 

Day 1: London to Calais
Our challenge begins bright and early from Crystal Palace heading south en route to the coast.  ...oh bright and early is like 6am after sleeping in a bunk in Crystal Palace that only a 6 stone teenager could find comfortable and if we miss the ferry then it becomes a biathlon 

Day 2: Calais to Abbeville
La belle France! Stunning picturesque countryside awaits us in northern France as we travel south. Fields and field of high pollen plants, but no animals, and zillions of tiny roads that provide limitless opportunities to get lost.  Poor old Abbeville was bombed almost completely to rubble during the second world war - but that does mean that the hotel we stay in will less than 60 years old which must be a plus surely

Day 3: Abbeville to Beauvais
Our route this morning follows the river Somme out of Abbeville. Beauvais is twinned with Maidstone in Kent, and they are around the same age, like really old innit.  Maidstone has two railway stations and Beauvais has one so Maidstone appears to be better off.  However, I imagine that trains do a) run and b) run on time to Beauvais, not sure that Maidstone is so lucky

Day 4: Beauvais to Paris
Our final day of cycling and the big push to Paris ,our final destination.  "The big push to Paris" I am scared to even ask what that is code for ... Beauvais is apparently 49 miles (79 kilometres) from Paris by motorway. Presumably not too much further by cycle way.  It is apparently tradition to lift your cycle above your head and have your picture taken with the Eiffel tower in the background ... then they make you ride your bike back out to the outskirts of Paris where the hotel is ... that bit isn't shown on the itinerary is it !!!

Day 5: Paris to London
The day is yours to soak up the Parisian way of life and explore the city. Eurostar home, arriving at St Pancras. Read lay face down in the carpet and wonder if your legs (and other bits) will ever be the same again!!!  I am guessing we will also be wondering where all the Parisians are as May is what they refer to as a Gruyere month.  This means that there are lots of public holidays that fall on either a Tuesday or a Thursday so it's a month of 4 times 4 day weekends and only one 5 day working week ... oh la la

Monday, 26 March 2012

Oh .. it was a BIG weekend

Yes .. the first of the "week 10 onwards" training programme - two days back to back and bigger and bigger mileage weekends.  So the girl from Kings Cross took one last look at the Harry Potter platform and realised the only magic at play here was doing the hard yards or miles. I organised to go for a 60 miler around Richmond park with David (remember him - a kiwifruit - he nearly froze me to death the first time around Richmond Park!!). David did the mileage in the park a few weeks earlier as a recon, so he was ready to go and guide me though it (read drive me like a merciless personal trainer!!!).

Being a little behind in the "miles in the seat stakes",  Pomme Anglais decided she would accompany us for at least half of the journey.  We had a plan, and an organised meet up spot. David and I duly hit the park at about 7:45 am and no sign of her??. We eventually saw Pomme Anglais going the other way around the circuit and I waved and said cheerily "I'll meet you in the car park in 10 minutes". She hissed back (politely cos she is English after all) .. "I have been here since 6:45 am when you said we were meeting up at Roehampton Gate and I am freezing and going home". Umm err ... oh shite ... ok ok .. I admit I completely screwed it up (yeah lap it up you won't see it in print often). I blame the clock forward thing that happened the next day.

So how was it ... in a word HARD!!  I tried to convince David when we stopped for a drink and energy bar in-take that it wouldn't matter really if I only did 40 miles.  But he wasn't having a bar of it (no pun intended) and told me that as a treat we would go the short steep hill way as the last circuit!!!.  This is as opposed to the long, never ending undulating hill way!!  We did the 60 miles in 4:10 hours in actual "on the bike" time, as opposed to elapsed time. Kiwi's - that's 100 km!!! and all with no giving way on a left turn any longer.

I thought this was pretty good going but I do realise it will not be the sustained pace I will be capable of, or that we will travel at on the actual L to P ride (multiple toilet stops, me holding 3 bikes etc ... see earlier posts). The best part of the day came later when post shower we went with Gill and David to a little known (outside of Putney locals) fab Italian enoteca for lunch and a tiny dip into the 300 bin plus wine list as part of a belated celebration of Mo's birthday.

How was it afterwards.  Funny sensation, muscles etc all fine (lots of stretching before the hot bath and after), but wildly tired and almost dyslexic when trying to speak. Rehydration and refuelling with all the right stuff being paramount to recovery. Nothing a good nights sleep can't fix and so the next day (clocks forward and all) up early for a 40 miler.  Pomme Anglais was almost speaking to me again so we organised a foolproof meeting place and time and then did a Cycle Super Highway almost all the way to Barking (she said everyone was mad out there so I decided to turn around and come back to the city, where everyone is of course totally sane). Everything worked, and the legs were fine.  Thanks to Sudocreme other bits were fine too.  Upper body and arms/hands/fingers are proving to be much more problematic than legs or what you might think would be the most at risk areas.

It was all made much easier by the weather ... wonderful, sunny, warm and just so good for improving even the grumpiest of human nature.  The Thames sparkles, aided and abetted by the reflections of all the tourists smiles as they gaze down upon her as they enjoy London, doing things like staring up in awe at Big Ben. Their "ah Londres est tres manifique" idyllic bliss only momentarily shattered by a tired sweaty cyclist coming around the corner at speed shouting at them " get out of the middle of the road you morons - do you know how far I have ridden today".

Monday, 19 March 2012

Hi Ho the merry oh .. here we go .. "undulating"

 Tulip bought herself a "get out there and cycle in the country through lovely back roads and minimum time on the big roads BOOK", and already she's done a few rides from it.  In fact, she had already done the ride we did Sunday on the day before ... in the pouring rain, I might add. Suzanne declined the invite for the ride (filing her nails, washing her hair or a major leak in her bathroom that was flooding her kitchen ... can't quite remember which one). Tulip enlisted her friend Renata to accompany us - and she came on her mountain bike!!

We set off from Harpenden, with the intention of doing a "loop".  It was so refreshing to ride the country roads. I breathed in the fresh air and smiled at every little outcrop of daffodils that I saw.  It was lovely, and best of all Tulip was in charge of the map and directions, so Renata (who I later discovered has both no sense of orientation or recognition of landmarks) and I were just like biking in unencumbered bliss ... until the rain and hills (sorry undulations) that was!!! 

We struck one killer hill, which I suspect will be similar to the "killer hill" that past London to Paris cyclists have talked about getting out of  Calais ... all I can say (now that I can finally speak again) is that Renata will manage that on her mountain bike even if we don't !!!

The weather wasn't the great so we decided to press on to just beyond halfway, as the important psychological mind thingie, and stop at Streatley to have a break/lunch.  We stopped at "The Chequers" where the publican told us he was sorry but all tables were booked (Mothering day) but we could have a drink and maybe be able to order something later .. so we bought a drink went around the corner and started eating our refuel snack food. Then he came around and went off about this being poor form us eating in his hotel,  but of course forgetting his entire previous conversation with us that we could drink what we had paid for ... very bad form Mr Chequers of Streatley ...  very bad form indeed!!!  ...and if you can't cope with Mother's Day then don't do it ... and just go ahead and join the ranks of open misogynists ... perhaps

Anyway, the rest of the ride went ok .. in the drizzle .. the monotony only broken by farm after farm of watercress.. that really impressed Renata.  Me .. I was really impressed that Tulip did it 2 days back to back despite the lack of a decent cake in Harpenden. At the end of the ride we did the necessary top up on the best of the cake and sugar we could find ...

... and then back to London and I thought "oh nice to be back in the city" .. that is until the complete (almost homicidal) white van driver nearly took me out, scuppered a motorcyclist and two cars as he ran a very very red light at high speed. If the car drivers had not had such good reactions I would have been squashed between the car and the van!! Yes .. White Mercedes Van rego LYBD KWN - you know you who are!! Why you refused to look me in the eye when I banged on your passenger window just confirmed your guilt. Pretty soon you'll have family on the street on a bike that get hurt by a stupid white van driver .. see how you feel then you p ....

... so as not to end on a down note ... London and the Olympics .. and the Boris bikes are expanding all over the east end .. what fun this will all be ... are you coming ??

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cycling in Norway

Yes cycling in Norway! That is if cycling on a stationary exercycle in the "trim room" on board a ship in Norwegian waters counts as cycling in Norway.  If it does then I can also claim to have cycled inside the Arctic Circle, on the ship of course.  So what's this all about then I hear you ask (yes you did, I heard you).  Last week I went to Norway and got on board a Hurtigruten cruise/cargo/car/passenger/mail boat that sailed up the west coast of Norway, calling at all the little towns on the way. The Hurtigruten line has been around for over 100 years and really is the link to all the towns along the coast, with the locals using it like we would use the buses or the tube in London really. I have no idea who that man is or how he got into my picture!
We were "hunting the northern lights".  The solar activity was at its highest peak so far in the year and the chances of seeing them once we were inside the arctic circle were excellent, as long as it wasn't cloudy.  Yeah well, let's just say that the hunt goes on, just like the week of cloudy nights.

I kept myself amused on the ship and sort of on track with my London to Paris training programme by cycling each day in the trim room.  The bikes were orientated (and bolted to the floor) in an east/west direction, and had the oddest shaped seats I've ever seen on an exercycle, which made them rather difficult to get comfortable on I must say.

When the ship listed to starboard I had to hang onto the handlebars for dear life to stop myself falling off the back of the bike.  When it listed to port I had to push back on the handlebars for fear of going right over the top of them.  I thought how embarrassing that would be.  First I specialise in falling off Lara at zero kms per hour and then I get bounced over the handlebars of a stationary exercycle ... that would be too much.  All in all with the rocking and rolling it was a weird sensation riding the bike ... but I stuck at it (hero). Five days after getting back on land I still have the "wobbles" and I am sure my swaying/rolling/listing cycling is a major contributing factor. 

Other things that I learnt were not a good idea on a cruise:
  • trying to sit on a swiss ball with your legs off the ground on a ship in motion
  • getting between the walking stick wielding brigade and the buffet at any time
  • leaving your cabin curtains open when you have a deck outside your window
  • spreading your huge map out on the floor while trying to calculate just when you might cross into the arctic circle, unless of course you enjoy having walking sticks helpfully but forcefully placed on points on the maps seconds after your fingers were placed there
  • deciding to try the "drink of the day" in the bar

... and then you find some things where you just don't expect to find them ...

I can't finish this post without telling you that we went on a night time Husky sled ride - again to improve our chances of seeing the Northern Lights.  We didn't see them but we did get to eat reindeer stew and discover that Huskies are prone to flatulence and sitting downwind of them is not for the faint hearted.

It was good to be back in London, where the only hazards are trucks, cars, taxis, buses, pedestrians, mothers pushing buggies, and the government.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Cyco-logical.. those hills, it’s all in the mind!

Well, today dear readers, I decided it was time for me to up the time I am spending in the saddle and the miles I am putting on the clock to get my head down and do a ‘real’  40 mile cycle ride.

I decided on Richmond Park again, and worked out that if I pedalled 4 times around the park, with the miles to and from home there, I should clock up the 40 miles I should have achieved last week, if I change a habit of a lifetime and follow a training plan (and the wet weather ride to Watford was more like 32 miles for me – whatever would we do without cycle computers)... 

So, off I set.  The morning weather was lovely – not too hot but not too cold and I ‘cyched’ myself up to the fact I could get over those lovely undulations in the Park (again, ‘undulations’ have a more positive impact on ones ‘cyche’ than that dreaded word ‘hills’).  The fact I had only cycled round the Park twice before was a little unnerving ..

However, the Park looked lovely.  Very quiet in the early mornings, apart from the mostly male cycling lycra brigade who all look over 7ft high and ultra-trim and fit as they speed past me at a rate of knots (but I keep telling myself that I will be like that soon .. OK, maybe not the 7ft bit, or the male bit or indeed the ultra-trim bit, or the speeding bit .. but I digress..).

The cycling down the hills was, as ever, ex-hill-arating..
wind at my face and the ability to click to the far extreme of my gears to keep the speed up.

But, as we all know, what goes up, must come down – or in this case – vice versa – and those hills kicked in, and again, am I pleased to have 20 gears to choose from and maybe one day I will hit the right one in time for the right hill..

But anyway readers, that is the short blog for today.  After the ride I have sore elbows and my little fingers are numb (if anyone has any constructive ideas how to resolve this for subsequent rides, please let me know!) and, although I am somewhat anxious that the Paris ride is around the corner, and, of that, Day 1 will be over double what I did today (yet alone that being followed by a further 3 days of more miles than I did today) the fact I have just peddled 40 miles have not yet got me running to the hills, more like singing from the hills ..  

(And Dame Julie says ' please sponsor us if you have not already done so ..'!  Thanks Julie, Pomme Ed.) ..

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Singing in the rain ...

... and the tune was "this is all terribly unpleasant, cycling when it's dreadfully inclement, but in the best of British tradition, we shall keep calm and carry on".  Being from the colonies myself I was thinking of an updated version of the classic. It goes like this ...

Yes dear dear reader, today was a 40 mile day and it had to be done come rain, hail or shine, and rain it did. We were undeterred  (or at least we pretended to be much more undeterred to one another than we actually were) because after all May can be a very wet month in both the UK and France, so best we had some experience of cycling in the rain.  Almost more importantly, we needed to test out our wet weather gear to see if it was all up to snuff and would actually keep us dry(ish)! On went the wet weather trousers and jackets, the all important overshoes and the gloves. Yes well I forgot my waterproof gloves and so I had on a wind-proof pair in fetching fluro.

As we got into the ride and saw who else was actually out and about on such a miserable day we also realised that the day belonged to a) the dedicated in training for whatever, b) families with small children suffering from cabin fever, and c) the shall we say the "differently wrapped", mostly out walking their dogs in the rain.

Much to her chagrin, the "differently wrapped" appeared to want to take any and all opportunities to have words with Pomme Anglais whether she was stationary or not. For some reason they didn't accost me. Could have been that my glasses were both fogged up and covered in rain, that I didn't appear stable on my bike, or that they mistook my look/grimace of "this is fun this is fun" as a signal that I should be given a wide berth!

 Pomme Anglais, being all British and terribly polite, was duly approached by several people in the course of the ride and informed (amongst other things) that "she should not look at people walking their dogs while she was talking to her fellow cyclists because the person walking the dog could think she was talking about them". Another goodie was that she should not be cycling on the cycling path when there were people with pushchairs on said cycle path, as opposed to the perfectly good footpath for pedestrians opposite.

I laughed, and was duly rewarded by a car driving at speed in a fit of really sensible and defensive driving given the conditions thru a deep pool of water, which duly saw me wear about 40 litres of it full on (you pillock whomever you were!!).  Pomme Anglais then further exacted revenged on me laughing at her by braking unexpectedly in the subway and I rear ended her and yes down I went again at zero kms an hour.  So now that's four bite the tarmac incidents since the arrival of cleats! Actually, it's five as I fell off again later at zero kms when trying to press a pedestrian cross signal - different knee skinned this time yah what a bonus!!!

So taa daahh - the results of the wet weather gear trials, noting of course that we were biking in rain that began to feel like needles because we were going so fast!  Trousers and jacket rock! Over shoes must be made by angels and windproof gloves are definitely not waterproof.  Right, I am off to Norway to see the Northern Lights, sailing up the coast on a mail boat.  Pomme Anglais and kiwifruit numero deux will be keeping you entertained in my absence.