Category Archives: Cycling

The Reluctant Cyclist

I love riding my bike, but my husband Ian does not share my passion. He has always supported my sporting endeavours without breaking into a sweat himself. He maintains and services my bikes. He even cleans them for me. He pretends to take an interest when I am wittering on about Strava segments. He takes me to events and stands around for ages supporting me and says ‘well done dear’ or ‘never mind dear’ in the appropriate places. He even comes out to rescue me in the team car when necessary. But he’s always avoided actually riding a bike. Getting out of breath, getting sweaty, and having aching legs was never going to happen.

This changed in the summer of 2016 when he decided to have a go at mountain biking. I’m still not really sure why he did this but I think there was an element of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.’ The whole idea was that it would be something we could do together.

Early outing on the new mountain bikes

It took a couple of months for him to get used to the sweaty, out of breath, aching legs element of the sport and it became a familiar sight to see him bent over the bars at the top of a hill cursing and swearing to himself.

‘You’ll enjoy it’ she said…

However, he has gradually got used to it and he has got pretty good and although I can’t say he is avid, he has come to enjoy it mostly.

A rare cycling smile

In the year since he began riding he has become much fitter and now weighs the same as he did when he was 19! Not quite the same shape though and less hair!

He was persuaded – albeit very reluctantly – to ride the Dawes Galaxy that I used for LeJog in 2013.

The £150 ebay Dawes Galaxy

He was not keen and thought road riding ‘boring.’ However, he has gradually come round to the idea that a touring holiday, on his terms, was a possibility. He is still quite reticent about this – and we start our Scottish Highlands and Islands tour very soon. All the accommodation is booked. We are going!

All smiles ready for our tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands

The Western Isles have been on my bucket list since I was a student in Edinburgh in the 1970’s. I have never been there. On my LeJog adventure I really enjoyed the West Coast of Scotland so we have devised a round trip from Oban. We ride North to Ullapool where we get the ferry to Stornoway and then we ride up to the Butt of Lewis and then all the way down to Vatersay.

Ian’s T and C’s are that there will be no rain, no midges, and no hills! T and C’s that we can control and are more realistic include daily distances and elevation that are manageable without it being too arduous. In practice this means the maximum distance is 80km in a day with less than 1000m of elevation. Total distance will be about 750km which is getting on for 500 miles in 14 cycling days with about 10,000m of elevation. There are a couple of short days which I call rest days! Accommodation is comfortable and requires minimum effort. In practice this means nice hotels with good food. There is one night in a hostel (private room with en suite) where we will have to self cater. He can cope.

Other equipment that has been deemed necessary for the tour includes:
Gortex waterproof boots.

Warm, dry feet…tick

Nice shiny new panniers.

Waterproof panniers…tick

Plenty of this…

Commercial quantities of midge repellent…tick

And a little bit of this.

Completely superfluous sunscreen…tick

It’ll be fun. I really really want him to have a nice time. Much will depend on the weather so I’m hoping it will not pour with rain and blow a gale all the time.

The Sport of Ageing

I suppose that being over 60 I can still be classified as being middle-aged, towards the end of middle age and heading towards old age. There is of course chronological age and biological age. That nice machine they have at the gym that tells me I’m only 45! A dexa scan tells me my bone density and % of body fat are average for a 20 year old.

As the body ages, muscle size and strength reduces, flexibility reduces, aerobic capacity reduces, bone structure and density changes – it’s all happening and it’s all a natural process. Ordinary people become more sedentary as they age. Older athletes reduce the rigour of their training. Metabolic function changes, my thyroid doesn’t produce any thyroxin for example and the synthetic substitute is a poor replacement. I am basically very healthy and fit. We live in a nice place and have an active outdoorsy lifestyle.

Kayaking near our home.

For better and for worse, your body never ceases to change through ageing. My approach to training and sport choices and level of activity will reflect that by evolving from year to year in appropriate ways.

The changes in my body have meant a dramatic reduction in running speed. To keep this in perspective I am still ‘good for age’ but it’s still very annoying! Also my body finds running very strenuous and complains more loudly and often than it used to when I was younger. This means I can run less as I don’t want to exacerbate injuries.

I spend more time these days on strength and conditioning than I used to. In practice this means weight training with dumbells and kinesis. It means regular Iyengar yoga classes.

Chair headstand at our yoga class.

At a simple accessible level it is a 2 minute daily plank! Some days even that is too hard!

I no longer feel the need to push myself to do things I don’t really enjoy. I no longer swim in the sea year round for example! I still swim regularly, but only in the pool when the sea temperature is in single figures.

Sea swimming

I did not take up my ‘Good for Age’ place at the London Marathon in 2017. I loved the 2016 event and ran well ensuring an automatic entry to all the big city marathons in the world in 2017 and 2018. But, for reasons I can’t really explain I just didn’t want to do it. Maybe it’s a case of been there done that and got a drawer full of T shirts.

Finishing London Marathon 2016

I have not entered any triathlons this season- yet. I am still training. I still swim, bike, run and I enjoy it. At present – that seems to be enough. Racing is not on the agenda at present.

My Ironman trophy

I still ride Audax events.

I keep up my AAARTY.

There are many inspirational people out there riding huge distances who are much older than I am – mainly men. I continually ask myself, ‘Am I having a nice time – is this fun?’ The effects of ageing on my body have made stuff that used to be fun, much less fun because it hurts and the results are poor. So evolve – focus on what is fun. Focus on what I can do now rather than what I used to do.

My attention has been diverted from training by normal family events earlier this year. My father was very ill for a while. He is 91 and lives close by so we were able to give him the care and support he needed to get well and regain his independence. We also had the great joy of the marriage of Kathryn our daughter.

Kathryn’s wedding

This focused our attention for a number of weeks.

A big change in my life that has affected the training I do is personal. My husband Ian who has never really been interested in doing much exercise himself whist being very supportive of everything I do. Last summer a change occurred and he decided we should get mountain bikes. Now Ian is normally one of those reactive people so when he becomes proactive I tend to sit up and take notice!

Since we got those bikes last June Mountain biking has gradually become a more important part of our lives. We now ride as much as 3 or 4 times a week TOGETHER and have a lot of fun.

Mountain biking

He has become (rather annoyingly) very good and much fitter. I now ride my mountain bike more than my road bike. As a further development he gradually succumbed to riding my old Dawes Galaxy with straight bars that I did LeJOG on and doing some gentle road riding.

Dawes Galaxy ready for the Grand Tour of the Highland and Islands

We have a tour of the West coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides planned for a tour in June. A distance of about 600 miles with enough hills to make the elevation the same as the height of Mount Everest!

I can feel my strength and speed just disappearing as time passes and I am determined not to let it mar my enjoyment. I can still do loads of stuff. There is still lots of stuff to do and lots of adventures to be had!

Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

It’s All In The Planning

There are some of us who are proactive, who like to be in control and others who are reactive and are happy just to go along with whatever’s happening and be happy with that. I fall into the proactive category and I spend a lot of time dreaming up ideas for trips and adventures. I much prefer to organise, plan and book our own adventures rather than go on an organised trip. For me a lot of the fun is in the planning and I love eventually arriving at places that I have anticipated in the planning process months before.

Last year we very much enjoyed walking Coast to Coast with our dog Archie. Archie enjoyed it too.

Archie and his support staff

Archie is 10 years old now so we decided that this year we should do another long walk while he is still able to join us. None of the Long Distance Footpaths appealed very much so I decided to plan our own route. The bits of C2C which I enjoyed most were the moors and mountains: I did not enjoy the lowland parts on lanes and through endless fields. So after a lot of poring over maps I decided on a walk starting at Skipton in North Yorkshire. The route goes North through the Yorkshire Dales and Howgills as far as Newbiggin-on-Lune and then West following the C2C West as far Kidsty Pike in the Lake District. After that I have booked 6 nights’ accommodation in the Lake District and we have a circular walk planned. The route can be varied according to what the weather throws at us, but hopefully we will spend a lot of time on the tops.

Ian on the Langdale Pikes on New Year’s Day 2017

My husband Ian has become more tolerant of cycling in the last year to the point where he enjoys it mostly. In 1978 I bought some OS maps of Harris and Lewis and fully intended to get out there to explore. It never happened and I still haven’t been. I really enjoyed the touring aspect of LEJOG and the Scottish part of the route was fantastic.

Little Loch Broom in May 2013 on LEJOG

I was very sad that we didn’t make the extra effort to get out to Ardnamurchan Point which is the most Westerly point on the British Mainland on LEJOG.

To combine these elements in a tour with Ian seemed like a good plan for 2017. We are starting at Oban and have agreed on manageable distances for each day so we have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. We will be visiting Mull, Ardnamurchan and Skye en route to Ullapool, where we get the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis. From there we cycle up to the Butt of Lewis in the North before riding all the way down the islands to Vatersay in the South.

I have promised Ian there will be no midges or big hills!

Both these trips have been planned over several weeks of poring over maps and websites. All the accommodation is booked for both. We are mostly staying in Hotels and Guest Houses.
Later on in the year we are off to San Francisco to visit our daughter Jenna and her fiancé Jay. At present the plan is just a line on a small-scale map. Initially we go North to Inverness  – that’s Inverness in California not Scotland – which is where their wedding is taking place in April 2018.

After that we are going on a HOT road rip taking in Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Utah, Nevada, Death Valley and back North to Yosemite and San Francisco.

Now is the time for doing rather than planning but I look forward to getting some detail on that trip soon. Now where are my walking boots?

MTB

In June my husband, Ian, suddenly decided that he would like to try mountain biking. I think he just got a bit fed up with being left behind while I was out cycling, yet didn’t fancy doing the long miles on tarmac. I love riding my bike so I assumed that I would also love mountain biking – especially with him.

We hired bikes from our local cycle shop, Bridport Cycles, and went out on a Bridport Cycling Club mountain bike ride.

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Nice wide flat trail with a good firm surface.

Our first club ride was for beginners and although we found it quite difficult and tiring we did enjoy it.

We then went off to our nearest trail centre at Haldon. Again we hired bikes and cycled around the green trail which was very pleasant. Then we tried the light blue trail – more interesting but manageable. We then tried the dark blue trail. Too interesting. I found the steep, stony descents really frightening and couldn’t stay on the bike. There was no point in looking at the red trail, that was way beyond our skill level. We did have a play in the skills park and although I avoided all the drops and stony paved areas, I did think that I had improved.

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Haldon Skills Park

We took advice from a couple of experienced MTB riders at BCC and Ian, being an impulsive sort of guy, just found a couple of good deals online and we bought a full suspension bike each.

The shiny new bikes were both blue and we were very pleased to be out riding in the beautiful countryside in West Dorset where we live.

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First outing on the new bikes

We found routes that were not very technical but managed to find some mud even in the dry summer.

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Mud!

Riding the MTB was really good fun after the serious stuff of the Exmoor 70.3 ironman in the summer. The sole reason for riding the MTB was to have fun.

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Having fun in the sun!

We enjoyed some lovely rides in the summer. We are fortunate to live in a very scenic area close to the sea. Scenic also means there are plenty of hills, of course.

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Scenic Dorset

We returned to Haldon quite regularly and gradually improved. Ian improved more quickly and was much braver on drops and stony descents. We no longer bothered with the green and light blue and were able to ride around the dark blue more quickly.

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Starting the red run.

We ventured onto the red trail. Ian could ride about 50% of it and I couldn’t really manage much of it at all. However I kept trying and pushed my limits in the skills park. We have returned to Haldon regularly and each time there is significant improvement. We can now enjoy riding the red trails. Some intensive sessions on the regulated trails at Haldon have really helped improve our skills and confidence. The next step is to travel to a different trail centre and frighten ourselves there!

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Pushing my limits in the Haldon skills park

Back in West Dorset we became more adventurous and challenged ourselves on more technical routes. At this stage, some of the time I was not having much fun.

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More technical routes

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Making progress on more technical routes

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The Colmers Shute Strava segment! (Ian doesn’t do Strava!)

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Sometimes it was a bit too challenging for me.

We continued to go out on BCC Club rides. Club rides tend to be challenging and hilly but take in some beautiful coastal scenery.

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On Eype Down – Golden Cap the next challenge on the horizon.

We took the bikes with us on a visit to the Gower Peninsular in Wales and found some good routes and had some fun times again.

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Gower Peninsular. Getting up there was a grunt but we had the best fun on the descent.

As the weather changed and the trails became wetter and muddier we faced new challenges. In the summer I would worry about the smallest patches of mud and puddles and really hated the back wheel squirming. I soon had to get used to puddles and lots of mud as well as wearing lots of gear in the cold, wet weather. We even venture out in the dark occasionally which adds another dimension to our riding. Often hilarious.

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Darkness is falling.

I’m pleased to say that I have improved a lot over the last few months and I am enjoying the MTB riding much more. I am much more confident on steep stony descents and am able to ‘stay on my bike’ most of the time. It’s still really hard work and very strenuous –especially with all the mud and puddles, but we usually have a lot of fun on our rides and it’s great that we can enjoy cycling together.

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Muddy winter riding

We are planning some cycling trips away this year as my focus moves away from competing in triathlon back to cycling just for the sheer enjoyment of being out on my bike. I love riding my bike – but riding my bike with my best buddy alongside me is the best!

Another New Bike

Rule #12
The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

This new bike was necessary to be able to ride with my husband in his new activity of Mountain Biking. Careful observation of Rule 12 justifies another new bike in the interests of marital harmony.

I had sold my first road bike, a Specialized Roubaix Elite SL2 2011 road bike as it was superseded by my Specialized Roubaix Comp Disc SL4 2016 – the black bike. To keep the numbers up, a new bike was necessary.

The new bike – Giant Anthem 27.5 1

The new bike – Giant Anthem 27.5 1

Ian bought himself a Marin Mount Vision C-XM8. This is a full carbon, full suspension mountain bike. Admittedly – a high spec for a beginner – but he needs all the help he can get. It’s blue.

Building the Marin

Building the Marin

My new bike is also blue but it is made out of aluminium but also has full suspension. It is a Giant Anthem 27.5 1. So not quite such a high spec but I also need plenty of help in acquiring new off road riding skills.

Our pristine new bikes looking very clean and shiny

Our pristine new bikes looking very clean and shiny

We have been riding together 3 or 4 times a week (when we are at home) and having a lot of fun. We are lucky to live in West Dorset with such beautiful scenery all around us.

Great views from local trails

Great views from local trails

Chesil Beach shingle is a challenge

Chesil Beach shingle is a challenge

We have been to Haldon Forest Park three times to build up our skills in a more controlled environment. We are getting better on the blue trails – but red is still a challenge.

Haldon Farest Park Skills Area

Haldon Forest Park Skills Area

Haldon Forest Park

Haldon Forest Park

Bridport Cycles have a MTB ride every Wednesday and we have been joining in with that to get to know our local trails better and pick up top tips from the experts.

Riding our new bikes with Bridport Cycling Club

Riding our new bikes with Bridport Cycling Club

I am really enjoying this new way of riding. I am still getting out on my road bike just as much. But – something has to go – I am running much less.

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance

Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) is a registered charity to provide relief from sickness and injury to the people of Dorset and Somerset by provision of an Air Ambulance. There is no direct funding from the Government or the National Lottery and they rely totally on the generosity of the public to run the service.

The service was launched in 2000, and since then over 11,000 missions have been flown. The helicopter can be at any point in Somerset or Dorset from its airbase at Henstridge in less than 20 minutes and then at any one of the major trauma centres in the South West within a further 20 minutes.

Operational costs exceed £2 million a year with each with mission costing £2,500.
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AAARTY 36 Months

There are many challenges to be tempted by when riding Audax. However, a lot of them involve riding for a very long way and for a very long time. At present I do not find it fun to be out for more than about 12 hours, so I am limited to 200km rides or less.

I have found that one challenge I can maintain and use to keep up my cycling motivation is AAARTY. (Audax Altitude Award Round The Year). This involves riding a minimum of 50km with at least 750m of elevation every month. I have ridden a hilly ride every month since June 2013 so this was my 36th consecutive month!

Occasionally I will ride a hilly Calendar Event like the Dorset Coast 200km in April 2016 which attracted 2.75 AAA points with a total climb of 2850 metres. But usually I ride a 100km DIY with over 1500m of elevation. Living in the West of West Dorset it is not difficult to plan hilly enough rides from my back yard.

For Audax DIY planning purposes Burton Bradstock to Shillingstone is a very convenient 51km with 1015m of elevation. The return trip makes for a very neat 102km with only the one intermediary control necessary. Perfect.

The second week in May the weather warmed up nicely and I set off to meet my cycling buddy Jo ready for a hilly 100km.

Setting out from home

Setting out from home – nice jersey!

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