Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The TOC - Tour of Cambridgeshire 2017 

04/06/2017 - Booked myself into the Gran Fondo Sportive at the TOC 2017 as I'd never completed a closed road sportive before. There's a whole weekend of cycling events/races and it bills itself as "UK's only UCI Gran Fondo World Series ". The Gran Fondo Sportive was going to be 80 miles of closed road joy.

As is my way I got there stupidly early, if you're wondering how early well the race started at 12:30 and I was parked up in the car park at 0600 am. Still it gave me time to register, have some breakfast and a little kip. By 12:00 (the official start) I've been waiting at the start line for about 15 minutes and hoping that it was not going to rain. 12:30 and we're finally off. I'd been hearing horror stories from last year about it being so crowded that loads of people were crashing. One chap said out of 12 of his group last year 4 of them crashed because of being bumped at the start. So it was with some trepidation that I started to wind up the speed. I need not of worried as the organisers had obviously taken note and by staggering the competitors into starting pens, based of expected average speed, and allowing time between gate releases I found my way quite happily through.

It felt very weird at first having both sides of the road to ride and going round a roundabout the "wrong" way was very odd. It was fantastic though and I had to stop myself from pushing too hard as I did not want to burn out. At first it was the usual thing of passing slower riders and being over taken by faster ones (some people I constantly met along the way where I'd over take them, then them me and so on).

After about 20 miles I was over taken by a pony tailed chap and I found that he was going at a pace slightly faster than I was so I kept on his rear and enjoyed the pull along. After a while I pushed in front to take my go at the lead to give him a rest but he seemed not to get this and just immediately overtook and took the lead again. Tried to lead a few times more then gave up as he clearly just wanted to be in front. About half way there though he bonked, dropped back, and I never saw him again.

I had decided not to use the food stops and sailed past the first one, then sailed past the second one but by the third one I was starving. So I pulled in and wolfed down a sausage roll and a chocolate bar. After 10 minutes I set off again. On leaving the food stop I had a laugh as I was held up a little by a lady who'd somehow managed to get through the road blocks etc to get onto the road. The motorbike police were not happy and were doing their bit to get her off the road - all quite amusing if somewhat dangerous. Still fueled up I set off with renewed vigor.

The last 20 miles were tough as I didn't want to lose time as I wanted to see how fast I could cycle such a large distance without road traffic to hinder me. When I get tired my mind starts to wander and as a runner at these times I'm not adverse to spotting a nice derriere to follow to keep me focused. On the bike I found myself admiring nicely turned calf muscles. Sad really.

So it's 15 miles to go, I'm tiring and the wind has picked up and Cambridgeshire is open and flat. I getting chatting to a lady and we push each other on. Suddenly I get a surge of energy and push on and pretty soon I'm on my own again .... relatively (there's thousands out cycling).

The finish seemed to take forever to appear but when it did the elation was incredible. I flew to the finish like I was winning the TDF and celebrated accordingly. The two ladies I passed on the finish line, my arms aloft, were clearly impressed (well that's how I;m choosing to read their expressions).

So what an amazing day. I finished in 4 hours 28 minutes - so taking off the 10 minutes for the food stop that approximately 4 hours 18 minutes so 19 mph on average for the day. Not bad for me, a long way off the good cyclists but I'm happy. What I did learn was that I'm nothing special on the flats, nothing special up the hills, rather fast coming down (no one overtook me and I overtook loads) and particularly fast on the corners (probably a lifetime of motorcycling perhaps?).  So an excellent day and I'd do it again though it would be nice to find someone to rode with me.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The long run from Cambridge 

18/03/2017 - There's a great charity that provides volunteers that visit people in their homes who are suffering with Cancer or life limiting illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons and Motor neuron disease. They offer friendship, support, and advice to them and their families, They also give their carers much needed respite. They are Respite at Home Volunteers and my wife is one such volunteer. She was only able to do this because of the training she received through the charity but this costs money and with funding being ever harder to find without support they are finding it increasingly hard to fund the training these volunteers require.So I decided to take a train to Cambridge and run home from there. I'd calculated the mileage to be around 26 miles but with my track record for getting lost who knew?


Saturday morning on the 18th March and having been dropped off I'm on the platform at Hitchin train station waiting for my train to Cambridge. I take a seat on the platform next to a young man, hunched over and seemingly asleep. I start reading the paper when movement to my right catches my eye and I turn to see the young lad flop off the bench and onto the floor. I get up and go to check on him. First hing I notice is the can of Fosters lager that's disgorging it's contents onto the platform floor.  So I right that and check on the lad. He's so drunk he's out cold. Cue check he's not in immediate danger then pop him in the recovery position and get him some help. Got the help of a couple of train station staff and as my train rolled in I left him in their capable hands.

On the train to Cambridge
On arrival at Cambridge train station I decided to start the day with a coffee and some breakfast. I went for a bacon sandwich which was a mistake, nothing wrong with the idea just the execution. A horrible plate of bread and pork inspired in-edibility which I struggle to beat into submission. So far not the start I was hoping for, but the sun had come out and it was looking like a good day for running.

Lovely - Not!
So a quick stop at the nearby Sainsburys saw me stocked up with chocolate bars, cans of coke and doughnuts - nice. With my energy needs sorted I set off in the direction I hoped was correct. For once I fluked it correctly and was heading out of Cambridge in the direction I needed to be heading.

 After a few miles I came across a sing to Trumpington, which made the 4 year old in me giggle so I took a picture.

Leaving Cambridge I got to run alongside the A10 for a while. The path was fine but it was a little noisy with the cars but not nearly as busy as I thought it might be. Still I was used to running across quiet fields so this was still too busy for my liking and I hoped that I'd be leaving the A10 sooner rather than later.

Having run through the town of Foxton I eventually I came to a turn off the A10 that took me in the direction I needed to go, away from the noise and into the countryside. I was finally where I wanted to be, running in the woods and fields on my own. But I got carried away and missed a turning if you watch the following video you'll see me run straight past a wooden bridge, that was the point where it went a little wrong and I got rather lost.

After about ten minutes of running I realised I'd taken the wring route, my phone mapping software was flapping about and next to useless. I made the brilliant decision that instead of turning back I'd use my amazing sense of direction and keep going. That was a mistake.

So I kept going, into the countryside, under a bridge, down pathway after pathway thinking I was heading in the correct direction.

I was wrong. An hour later and I arrive back at Foxton, the little town I'd left an hour before. I had managed to do a full circle and put myself the wrong side of Foxton - genius. So once again I run through Foxton and come to the turning off the A10 where I went wrong previously. Taking the turn I see the bridge I missed the first time round and crossing it finally head off in the correct direction.

Finally I make it to Bassingbourn and stop for a beer and a bacon and brie sandwich - bloody lovely it was too.

Beer - carbs are important
Having "carb'ed up" with a pint I set off again. By now the weather was getting a little less pleasant. Still enbiggened by the beer I put my head down and run on .... in the wrong direction. Thankfully I noticed this quickly and only lost about ten minutes. Once I was back on track I recognised where I was and knew the way without the map. Lovely run across the fields toward Liddlington. 

Little houses in Liddlington
Out of Liddlington and onto Ashwell. Ashwell was going to be my second refuelling stop of the day. By now it was raining and a fierce wind was blowing so I was keen to get into the warm and dry. Finally I get to Ashwell and head into the Rose and Crown. I needed to carb up so I went for a Moretti, a nice Italian larger that would carry me the last 7 miles home.

Lager drunk I set off for the last leg of the journey. I'd planned to get the the Chequers pub at 6pm and realised that I was pretty much bang on for that. Picking up the pace a little so I would not be late.

I walked in through the pub door and two minutes past - excellent. Straight to the bar and ordered a Peroni and found a table to wait for my wife to join me. My wife arrived a few minutes later and some of my friends a while after that and I had a number of recovery drink followed. In the end I'd run 29 miles so not too many off the plan - I could have got much more lost than I did, believe me. Next day I had a bit of a hangover, an athletes hangover.

No more running for me today.
Please if you can give a little to the Respite at Home Volunteers via the link below - thank you, it's greatly appreciated.

Respite at Home Volunteers