Four Days to the Start ….

There are now four days until I start the Deloitte Ride Across Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats, a ride of 982 miles over nine days, with just under 52,000 feet of climbing (I think I’ll have to find the extra 18 miles somewhere to take it up to 1,000 miles!).  The ride will take me from the the most westerly point in Great Britain to the most northerly point (on the mainland), travelling through three countries and 23 counties.     Here is the the whole route (thank you Threshold Sports for the reproduction permission) and a link to a short promotional video (again “Thank you” to Threshold Sports) for the ride here  (turn the sound down if you are looking at the video in an office!). It’s too late to enter now but there’s always 2019, the tenth anniversary year of the ride!Whole_Route-01.jpg

The first two days are meant to be the toughest as they involve a high cumulative effort of climbing between them.  Day 1 involves over 8,200 feet of climbing which is the highest daily total of the whole nine days, closely followed by 6,850 feet on Day 2.  Only Day 7 in Scotland gets close to Day 1 with 7,333 feet of climbing going up to the Glenshee Ski Station and it isn’t even the longest day – it happens to be Day 8 with the infamous “The Lecht” climb which, based on the ride Facebook page comments, is giving lots of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain participants the collywobbles!

I’m looking forward to the days riding in Scotland, particularly if we get some dry weather and we are able to take in the scenery.  I’m slightly worried about the midges – at least they will encourage no hanging around!

I now have one more indoor training session to go on Wednesday which will bring to the end over ten months of  specific training for the ride.  In some respects I can’t wait to start the ride.  There is a mixture of excitement and trepidation at what lies ahead; have I done enough training? can I keep going over nine days? how will I cope if there is lots of heavy rain?  On the other hand, as I said in my previous post, I don’t think I could have done much more to prepare physically for the ride.  I’m pretty sure I will be OK – I will not be the quickest (it’s not a race after all) and I shouldn’t be last either!

The bike is all clean and packed up ready for its collection on Thursday morning.  I’ve got all my gear together and just need to pack a last few items after triple checking the suggested kit list against what’s gone into the bag!  Another recurring theme of the event is the weight limit on the bags.  I decided to de-stress by paying for some extra weight allowance – much better for the overall health and wellbeing !  I can also take a few energy bars that I’ve been using for training – a different brand from one of the ride sponsors.

I’m going to try and continue this blog after each day of the ride.  The length and quality of the writing may depend on the energy levels each day – there could be a very short entry after a very bad day …

On the sponsorship front I’m very close to my new target of £4,000 in support of Dementia UK and there is still time to sponsor me to increase the total further.  Do contact Dementia UK on their support line if you need advice or support for a loved one with dementia.

If you would like to sponsor me, you can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here  It is very quick and easy to donate and every donation, however large or small, is greatly appreciated.  Go on, click on the link !

Final week of training before the Ride

I am now entering the final week of training before starting the Deloitte Ride Across Britain on 8 September.  This weekend saw me do two rides of over 5 hours, although not on consecutive days as originally planned due to the appalling weather on Sunday.  I know some of my fellow Deloitte RAB participants did brave the wind and rain – good for them.  I chose the indoor option to avoid catching a head cold or even worse crashing the bike!

My ride on Saturday was meant to be “flat/rolling” and I still managed 1,931 m of climbing in about 86 miles of riding.  The ride today was “three climbs” and I did 2,134m of climbing in 88 miles of riding but in a longer time, probably due to the length of the climbs.

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Top of the Rhigos climb

The ride today can be seen on on Relive map here – lots of hairpins on the climbs and descents!  The benefits of living in South Wales.  I was lucky with the weather as there were a few spots of rain but I managed to miss all but one heavy rain shower.  The rain did make some of the early descents a bit tricky and I certainly picked up more speed later on in the ride when the road dried out.

On the Saturday ride, I revisited some of my training loops round the Vale of Glamorgan and here is the latest “season” photo from Merthyr Mawr img_0742.jpg– all the rain in the last week has raised the river levels considerably since mid July when there was just a trickle.  It is also amazing how much a little rain changes the grass from yellow to green!

The end of the serious training has also enabled me to take stock of how far I have come since I started training seriously for the ride last November.  The biggest change is the weight loss, down from 94 kg (perhaps even more) to 85kg (13.5 stone in “old money”, a loss of around 1.5 stone).  I’m sure the weight loss would have been greater if I’d been more disciplined with the diet, however, I’m now the lightest I’ve been since starting work in Cardiff 15 years ago.  It has made a huge difference to the speed at which I go up the hills!

My fitness levels have also improved dramatically.  The Training Peaks fitness level has increased from 60 to 108, my Functional Threshold Power (a test used by cyclists to measure their power output) has increased from 239  to 261 watts and my resting heart rate is now in the low 40s.  I don’t think there is much more I could do to prepare physically for the challenge ahead.  I have to thank my coach, Lawrence Cronk at Enduraprep, for the training plans and pushing me on in the training.

I think the most difficult part will be the mental side of getting up shortly after 5am each day and start cycling 110 miles a day for 9 consecutive days to complete the 980 mile distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  I’m sure once I’ve got over the initial 10 miles I’ll be fine – this was the case today when there was a lot of procrastination before setting out.  The thought of everyone who has very kindly sponsored me to support the work of Dementia UK will give me all the motivation I need – I will not want to let you down!

If you would like to sponsor me and raise money for Dementia UK you can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here Please do tick the Gift Aid box if you are eligible as the tax man will increase your donation by 25%.  Please also remember that Virgin Money only charge a 2% fee compared to the 5% charged by a well know competitor!  There’s still time to donate!

Two weeks to go!

The start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain became very real this morning when I received my rider number in the post.  I am rider number 23 !  I can’t think of anything witty linked to the number 23 except it was my age when I started work as a trainee solicitor…far too long ago.

I also decided to get most of my kit together by going through the official Threshold Sports kit list.  Here is most of the kit

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All the kit – some idea !

– there are a few items missing, like flip flops, waterproof trousers, a warm jacket for use in the camp, sleeping bag, blow up pillow and sleeping mat (for the one night when I have to camp in the middle of Scotland).  It looks like I have everything and there will be no need to visit bike shops or outdoors shops for last minute additions.

It all seems a big bundle of stuff and you may wonder why I need everything?  Well, I am riding 980 miles in nine days and we have two laundry runs after three and six days.  However, the laundry is limited to six items of clothing which means three jerseys and three bib shorts.  For the benefit of the non-cyclists reading this blog, bib shorts are cycling shorts with sort of built in braces which are much more comfortable to wear than shorts with a waist-band.  I also have to be ready for whatever weather we encounter when cycling the length of Great Britain – it did rain on eight of the nine days in 2017!

If you can’t identify what is what in the photo above here are the the items broken down into different collections (I think I must have been doing far too much online shopping to come up with that phrase).

First we have the cycling jerseys, three short sleeved (hopefully sunny weather) and one long sleeved.

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The jerseys!

It was easy to pick two tops – the Dementia UK top and the Deloitte Ride Across Britain top.  The third top was more difficult – in the end I chose the Dragon Ride top as a nod to where I live and work in Wales – it is also a great design!  The long sleeved jersey was chosen because it is a bright colour and very light weight!

We also have a selection of wet weather gear including the cycling jackets, one for rain, a wind top and a gillet for early morning starts when I don’t think (or hope there will be any rain).  All the jackets are from Rapha and I’ve had them for a while so I know that they work – expensive but worth it.

I also have over-socks and over-shoes to try and keep the cycling shoes dry when it rains.  In reality, the over-socks and over-shoes merely delay the inevitable of wet feet as the water just runs down the legs and into the shoes – I don’t fancy resorting to duck tape round the top of the socks (and I’m not shaving my legs!).  Other items of clothing for keeping warm include base layers (short sleeved and long sleeved), mainly made with Merino wool which keeps me warm even when it gets wet, and arm and leg warmers from Castelli which are meant to shed light rain showers.

The final photos include my cycling helmet (compulsory), various gloves, cycling glasses,  hats and a neck warmer.

There is also a collect of what I call “Bits and Pieces” including some lights, a spare tyre, a few tools, equipment charger, Garmin cycling computer to record the ride, sun cream, midge repellent and the all important Chamois cream to ensure a reduction in friction between the bits shorts and my backside!  I’ve also included a portable ultrasound machine which could be useful if I have a strained muscle during the ride.

We now have a Bank Holiday weekend coming up and it will be my last really long rides (of about five hours) before the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  The forecast is for dry weather on Saturday and Monday – Sunday looks like a complete wash out with rain and strong winds (I will not be taking any risks going out cycling on Sunday).

There is still time to sponsor me to help support the work of Dementia UK so that families can access advice and support to care for loved ones with dementia, like my father.  Have a read of my post  Why am I supporting Dementia UK in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain ? John Evans (1934 – 2010) to see why I am putting myself through the ride to raise money for Dementia UK.  You can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here

Wye Valley Warrior report

Last Sunday saw me take part in the Wye Valley Warrior sportive organised by UK Cycling Events.

When I went to bed on the Saturday night the rain was lashing down and I seriously considered switching off the alarm and not bothering with the ride. Fortunately good sense kicked in and the alarm went off at 6 am which always makes me think of the Robin Williams line from Good Morning Vietnam “What does 0600 stand for- ‘ Oh my God it’s early’!”

Back to the weather – it was still raining. After a quick wash and breakfast (double porridge) it was in to the car for the drive to Chepstow racecourse (bike packed in the car the night before). After registering, changing into cycling shoes and wet weather gear it was off at 8 am.

The ride was over new routes for me. Raining, windy, slippery roads – basically all pretty horrible. The good news was that I had attached clip on mudguards to the bike which kept the worst of the spray off me – no wet backside – a result.

The 92 miles was tough with over 7,000 feet of climbing. Yes the rain did stop, to be replaced by mist and drizzle. The wind kept up which was energy sapping on the flat into headwinds. There was also a long climb at 80 miles and a short sharp climb at 86 miles when I was very grateful for a 34 tooth rear cassette to just keep moving! Unfortunately the conditions weren’t conducive for taking any photos of the scenery – sorry!  To make up for it here is a photo of the bike I’ll be using on the big ride taken in my mother’s garden just over a week ago.

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Trek Domane for the big ride

I was glad to finish in under 6 hours 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I got back to find a flat tyre on the car – that’s another story!  This week has a couple of light recovery rides before a few longer rides at the weekend. A massage at Agile Therapy on Monday evening certainly helped ease the muscles and is really recommended.

There is now less than four weeks to go before the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, so it’s starting to get serious with checking the kit list and buying the final bits and pieces that I don’t already have.  At some point I’ll have a practise pack to make sure I’ve got everything and it all fits in the kit bag.

I have increased my target for my Dementia UK fundraising to £4,000, having smashed my initial £3,000 target, and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve this target. You can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here if you would like to sponsor me and help the great work carried on by Dementia UK

Countdown continues…5 weeks to go!

I now have five weeks before I start the Deloitte Ride Across Britain which means one month of training left!  This has given me the added boost I needed after a slight wobble in the training mojo two weeks ago.

Last weekend we had the first really bad weather for what seemed ages with heavy rain on the Saturday and gale force winds and rain on the Sunday.  I went out on a training ride with Carl on the Saturday morning bright and early.  We had great plans to do five climbs on a 100 km loop round the south Wales valleys.  In the end we settled for two major climbs and a shortened ride due to the filthy weather plus the very slippery roads.  Carl normally drops me on the hills – see my previous post under “Gravity”.  This time out the tables were turned and Carl had a very bad day, possibly due to a heavy training week, plus my training was starting to pay off.  I decided to take Sunday off – there was absolutely no point in crashing in the wind and rain so close to the start of the big ride and missing one session wasn’t going to make too much of a difference.

Last week I bought some new shoes and changed the cleats on my old shoes – cleats wear out and become less effective.  This resulted in a slight flare up in my left Achilles heel, a problem I have had in the past.  I have also splashed out on a new bike to replace my Specialized Roubaix as I was finding my Cannondale SuperSix too aggressive and uncomfortable for successive long rides.  I’ve gone and got a Trek Domane – great service from Ride Bikes Wales, a local bike shop at Talbot Green.  I’m a great fan of the cycling formula n+1 for the number of bikes you own!

As a result of getting a new bike and having problems with the cleats on my cycling shoes, I booked a bike fit with Magnus Backstedt at his fitting studio in Newport Backstedt Bike Performance.  Magnus is an ex pro racer and won the Paris Roubaix race (also know as the Hell of the North) in 2004.

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Bike fit with Magnus Backstedt

The bike fit set up involves lots of reflective spheres being stuck on all your joints and a 3D stick man being created by a computer using the feed off six cameras – all very complicated and clever.  It is also a very quick process compared with some other bike fit models and allows almost instantaneous feedback on minute changes.  For example, my saddle was moved down two millimetres in one change.  Magnus also had a look at my cleats and made a few adjustments.

The proof was in the riding!  Two rides round the Chilterns (for the hills) and the Vale of Aylesbury (for less hills) this weekend on the new bike and no problems with the Achilles – yippee!  I even managed a few new personal bests on some of the climbs.  On Sunday I repeated part of the ride I did in April in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain training day.  It showed how much easier it was riding in a group – much faster and less effort required in April despite my increased fitness now.  A great learning point for the ride itself.

Next weekend I have my last organised sportive, the Wye Valley Warrior, starting from Chepstow Racecourse.  It will be a 91 mile ride so a good final test.  At the time of writing this post, the hot weather we’re experiencing may have turned so it may be a test of wet weather riding over a long distance.  Fingers crossed for no rain but slightly reduced temperatures.

On the fundraising front for Dementia UK, I have reached my initial £3,000 target which is absolutely fantastic!  I don’t want to stop at £3,000 but push on and see how much I can raise for such a good cause.  If you would like to sponsor me, you can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here

Six weeks of training to go

I now have six weeks of training to complete before the final week leading up to the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  There is one sportive planned – the Wye Valley Warrior in the middle of August which will be a 91 mile ride starting from Chepstow Race Course.  Unlike last year, the Wye Valley Warrior will not follow part of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain route – I will have some satisfaction that I have ridden the climb out of Chepstow by the time I get to do it again on 10 September.

To be honest, the ride can’t start soon enough as the constant training is starting to take its toll, not helped by the unremitting hot weather we’ve been having recently.

I need to find some different routes to freshen up the rides and make them a little less monotonous – yes, I still have to concentrate on the traffic and cars overtaking, particularly in the lanes round the Vale of Glamorgan.  However, I now know some of the routes so well that I know where the bumps and nasty water access covers in the road are located.

From a physical point of view, I am probably fitter than I have been for about 10 years or even longer.  It is not just the feeling of being able to cycle for longer but being backed up by statistics.

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Fitness line tracker – good increase since December !

That said, my coffee ride to Cowbridge this morning was the first ride I can remember where I didn’t get any notifications on Strava of a top 3 segment time compared to my previous rides over the same roads – I think this may please my coach as the ride was meant to be a low intensity session (it doesn’t fit well with my competitive side!).

I use a website called Training Peaks to track my training and my coach can set out activities for the each month.

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Training Peaks calendar

Each completed activity goes green in the calendar, missed sessions go red (as do sessions where you exceed the allocated training time – I just go and alter the specified duration!).

The high spot for me this weekend was not on a bike but on my catamaran at Sully Sailing Club where we had a race in a good strong breeze (Force 4-5) on Sunday afternoon.  It was great to have a bit of a blast, trapeezing off the side of the catamaran both up wind and down wind.  The only downside was that the course was a little small (less than 6 minutes a lap) so I couldn’t make full use of all the sails (not enough time to deploy the spinnaker and really fly along!).  Anyway, it was great was a great way to blow away some mental cobwebs.

Next weekend I’m due to do a five hour ride taking in two or three long climbs so it’s going to be up into the south Wales valleys – I think I’ll try a new route to the Bwlch and the Rhigos climbs for a change.  The long range weather forecast for next weekend is about 22 degrees which will be a welcome reduction from this weekend’s 26-28 degrees.

On the fund raising front, my firm Geldards, is donating the proceeds of our monthly Dress Down Day in July to Dementia UK which will be a great way of boosting my running total.  It will also be a fantastic opportunity to tell all of my colleagues about the ride and why I am supporting Dementia UK.

If you would like to help Dementia UK continue and expand its support for families caring for loved ones with dementia, you can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here You can find out more about the work of Dementia UK here

Chiltern 100 – Hilliest Sportive Yet

On Sunday 15 July I took part in my hilliest sportive to date when I did the Chiltern 100, which as its name suggests, is a 100 mile bike ride round the Chiltern Hills.  For those of you who don’t know, the Chilterns is a beautiful area of woodland and fields north west of London and quite rightly designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It includes some fantastic estates including Ashridge Estate, the Getty family estate (Wormsley Estate – the starting point of the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouler this year, see my post in April here) and probably most famously of all, Chequers, the country residence of the Prime Minister which has been in the news about Brexit and the visit to the UK of President Donald Trump.

The ride itself took us passed the Ashridge Estate and was the only time in the ride I stopped to take a photo.  We did pass two entrances to Chequers, however the gates were closed and traffic cones were placed next to the road so I didn’t think it would be a very good idea to stop for a selfie !

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Ashridge House, near Gaddesden Row

As the “Hills” in the Chiltern Hills suggests the area is very hilly!  The Chiltern 100 was advertised as taking us up 10 named hills – take it from me, they could have added a few more names to the hills we did go up, including a climb to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon (part of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate)!

The route took the participants of the 100 mile route on 2,438 m of climbing or 7,998 feet.  I am sure I could have found an extra 2 feet of elevation to get to 8,000 feet.  My ride time was 6 hours 20 minutes which I am very pleased with considering that the the temperature went above 30 degrees in the full sun.  I think we were lucky that a lot of the ride took place on roads through the stunning woodland which gave some much welcomed shade, although the tree cover may have stopped some GPS units from getting a signal.

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View south from the top of Bledlow Ridge (taken on Saturday)

I went on a ride on Saturday up some of the hills (including Whiteleaf, a climb local to my mother’s home) and my GPS said I had stopped moving at some points on the climbs when I definitely hadn’t stopped to walk.  I changed the settings on Sunday to avoid the annoying beeps! You can see my Chiltern 100 ride in a fly over mode here thanks to a nifty app from Relive Just check out the elevation graphic plus when my heart rate maxes out on a climb!

To put all this into perspective, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain will involve 52,009 feet of climbing.  Fortunately only one day will have more climbing than the Chiltern 100.  The bad news is that is that it is Day 1 going through Devon and Cornwall (or should that really be Cornwall and Devon?) when we do 8,232 feet of climbing.  There is no warm up day on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

The good news is that I felt remarkably fresh this morning and think I could have managed another long ride.  In addition, I very much doubt I will be riding as quickly in September (an average speed of 25 kph or just over 15 mph on Sunday) and I hope it will not be quite as hot, although I’d still prefer no rain (or a northerly headwind).  My recovery was also aided by a great sports massage at Agile Therapy in Cardiff – well worth it to get the knots out of tired muscles.

It will be back on the bike tomorrow for an easy session as proper recovery from a big ride is very important at this stage of training.  I’d hate to pick up an injury now with seven weeks to go.

As a reminder, I’m not doing the Deloitte Ride across Britain purely for my own benefit and fun (although I am fully funding the ride).  I am trying to raise lots of money for Dementia UK, a charity that provides support to families caring for someone with dementia.  Dementia UK does not fund research (unlike other dementia charities) but focusses purely on the “here and now”.  Have a look at my post on 26 June for my personal reasons for supporting Dementia UK.  My running total is now around £2,200 which is fantastic although there is always scope for more donations – reaching my target doesn’t mean I will not accept more donations (I may increase the target a little bit)!.  You can support me via my Virgin Money Giving page here