Google+ Badge

Monday, 5 December 2016

December Dayz

A gig down in Exeter provided the perfect opportunity to throw the bike on the back of the car... put on my cycling kit (layers people layers) and head down to Haldon forest and their mountain bike trails. With 2 blue trails and 1 red it provided an excuse to try out a new bit of kit... but more about that later.
A slight delay whilst I waited for my pet snake Dusty to finish engulfing the rat I fed her meant that kit packing was done in a hurry so that I could get to the forest with enough time for a couple of hours hard work. As soon as I stuck my head out the door I added a few layers because my car was solidly iced up and the mercury was barely registering 2 degrees C... EEK! 
My new toy ... an Ion air pro lite cam with wifi was charged up and ready to go having undergone preliminary testing the day before out on the Ridgeway. The videos which I had downloaded to my computer were of good quality... capturing sound and motion with something akin to professional quality... hence my eagerness to get it filming out on the trails to demonstrate my mountain bike prowess... i.e not falling off (yup thats as far as it goes)
I reached the forest.. unloaded bike and kit and headed for the first of the blue trails. Slightly harder than the other .. the kiddens trail ... from what I remembered gave good rewards for the uphill efforts and so it proved as I headed down the first section... skidding ... sliding... crossing obstacles with ease... all captured for posterity... or so I thought!!
I noticed the light alternating from green to red and the realisation dawned on me that I had left my micro SD card attached to my computer at home... duuhhhh!

Bugger... no posterity today then. Nonetheless I enjoyed the fast flowing trail which I negotiated with little difficulty and then came the up!! Mitigated somewhat by the sight of the wild ponies grazing in the forest at the top... it nonetheless killed my legs. The ponies seemed to like my bike when I stopped to put my heart and lungs back together again... with one even taste testing my handlebars. Apparently the combination of sweat and rubber didnt tingle his tastebuds and he wandered off with a snort of disgust.

Hurting though my legs were at this sudden explosion of exercise I couldnt leave it there so headed for the Spicers trail... a somewhat easier trail.. though still rich in smooth sweeping turns.
Despite my camera fcuk up.. it had turned out to be a good day.. preparation for tomorrows longer outing.. hopefully with an SD card.

On the way to my hotel I brought my body weight in food.. not worried about the calories unsurprisingly.. but Tescos had sold out of SD cards... thwarted again!! Tomorrow was another day so I headed off to my hotel for a quick shower and change before the final Damned gig of the tour!

The gig was fantastic with loads of people signed up and a chat with The Captain afterwards left me with a huge grin on my face. Needless to say it was not an early night and had just gone 1am when I crawled into my hotel room.

Today I blearily opened my eyes... got ready..  had breakfast (it was included in the room price and therefore rude not to) and headed to the forest once again .. this time via Argos where an SD card was purchased ready for the days downhill fun 😁

It was a balmy 5 degrees and given that I had found myself shedding layers quickly yesterday on a far colder day.. reason would suggest that I go out with one layer less... however reason didnt dictate and within 10 minutes I was heartily regretting the winter jersey.

At this point I would like to make a note that I always carry spares... tubes.. chain links.. chain tool... zip ties. Everything I might need should my bike break (within reason). This note is especially for David J who found himself with a broken chain and the wrong chain links!! But more of that later.

My first effort today was directed towards the as yet untried red route... the Ridge trail. Red routes are typically more technical in nature than blue and generally require a higher level of technical skill. This one had ìts odd technical bits but on the whole was on par with the blue Kiddens trail... apart from several sections that were narrow with a nice drop to one side. I was slightly more careful than usual... at least this time round .. and this trail was a beauty. Downhill for the first half with many sections that almost literally took my breath away as I skidded round corners ... narrowly avoiding hugging any trees. The uphill when it came was steep but gradual with no sharp hikes in gradient and therefore I pottered up it with the valley below revealling itself with every twist and turn.
Then it was back to the Kiddens trail... only this time faster...
I love it when you know a trail and you get faster and faster until you have reached the point where you are holding onto control of your bike by your fingertips... one wrong move and its likely to be painful. Which means the concentration is absolute. Nothing else penetrates the brain space other than the next inch of trail! The real world fades into obscurity and all that is left is you... your bike..  and the trail.

I was on the easier section of the kiddens trail which has a few rises which cause the bike to leave the ground for a short period of time... a few of these and when I started peddling again... my chain siezed.
Cursing my luck but also thankful that unlike David.. I carried the means to fix it.. I turned my bike upside down to find that my chain had somehow almost tied itself in knots. Despite this I managed to untangle the chain and set it back on the cogs with a minimum of fuss. And now risking sounding like a girl... I mean sounding like David J... I did break a nail doing it! 😁😁

That however for once was my only injury and I didnt fall off once which is somewhat surprising given my usual trail bruises. Kiddens completed again I headed out for the Spicer trail and then the Ridge trail. The mist was settling around the hills giving the forest an eerie look but deadning all sound leaving peace all around save from the sound of my tyres crunching the gravel. I saw few other crazy people... most had probably looked out of the window and thought better of it .. but that was their loss. I had the trails to myself.. the silence and peace was mine alone and I revelled in the feeling that my body was responding to what my mind was asking of it. Rarely do body and mind combine in perfect harmony... usually one if not both are moaning at me.. but today they worked in sync and life was perfect for those moments out there.

The day was topped off by a visit from a Robin... no doubt checking that all was well with me... either that or laughing at me 😁

Stay tuned to One Challenge At a Time by liking my facebook page.. pics up already.. video to come soon and 2017 challenge launch at the end of the month!

LHS
X

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Lakeside Jaunt

Ok so Im lying... it wasn't a jaunt.

Training just got tough... bloody hard in fact... and the funniest thing of all is that it was all totally self inflicted.

I cant quite remember exactly how the whole thing started but as usual (whatever David J might say) this plan had its roots firmly in the sensible camp.

As you probably know by now, next year my aim is to ride from Banff in Canada to Antelope Wells, a small border post between Mexico and the U.S.A. Not only that but the ride is off-road... crosses the continental divide 30+ times ... is 2700 miles long and just to make it that little bit more challenging... is a race.

Crazy right? Yup!
The thing is I had no idea what exactly was possible in terms of milage for me off road in a day... so it was time to find out... see exactly how much tougher than a day on tarmac it would be.

Somehow... and not sure exactly how.. Id managed to con .. I mean ... pique the interest ... of two slightly barmy friends of mine into joining me. We looked first at entering the Strathpuffer .. a 24 hour winter race in Scotland... but had underestimated how many other people there are with a screw or two loose... and places had disappeared by the time we had geared up to enter... quite possibly to Nic's relief! So we were left with plan b... organise our own version. In order to illicit a handshake agreement I dialled down the Crazy slightly (though its still right up there) and we opted for 12 hours of off roading on the physically demanding but not overly technical Lakeside route in Kielder Forest Park oop north.

Chosen by Nic and Dave after their recent excursion there I have to say it was the perfect track for our needs. Nic and Dave are planning an LHS challenge next year and they also needed to find out the limits for the mountain biking option.
My main request for the weekend riding was that some of the biking was in the dark to give me an opportunity to test out lights in a place where the only other light available would be that from the moon. Not to mention the fact that I need to start conquering the fear element of riding in the dark .. off road... in the middle of nowhere. A fear ... which if im honest with myself (and everyone else) .. is pretty high but one that has to be conquered for the Tour Divide next year.

So with these things in mind we found ourselves lined up at the trailhead early on the saturday morning...
I was eager to get going with the kind of nervous anticipation that hits me when i set out to do something without the knowledge that im actually capable of completing the task.

Nic and Dave had brought their new motorhome and it meant that supplies of hot chocolate and cooked food would be available at the end of each arduous lap.
What a bonus... but one that wont be available in the middle of Montana next year... but you gotta walk before you run... so I was utterly grateful πŸ˜ƒ

My bike ... a Trek Xtrail 29er was kitted out with my Apidura seat pack stuffed with energy bars... gels and spare clothes in order to get used to carrying a bit of kit.
The 29 inch wheels are perfectly suited to rolling over anything that the trail can throw at you and after months of getting used to this new way of riding... I love it! The dynamo hub was an addition with the Divide in mind as it charges my mobile..  lights ... basically anything with a usb.. as I ride... providing I go over 5mph. This was an opportunity to test out its effectiveness at keeping me juiced up in connectivity terms on a long ride where there was nowhere else to charge stuff (unless I cheated and used the motorhome power supply)

We were fortunate to have arrived at the lake to find that it wasnt that cold and wasnt raining... but it did mean that I was probably slightly overdressed.  I had two... count em... 2 baselayers on in anticipation of mind numbing cold.. as well as a winter cycling jersey/jacket. Fine when standing around shooting the breeze but totally dehydrating the moment the pedals start to turn over 45 RPM.

Nonetheless we set off clockwise round the lake. The gentle undulations at the beginning of this hellish day lulled me into a false sense of security. The track was wide and obstacle free (apart from a seemingly endless supply of gates which had the effect of killing off any momentum on the trail for the first couple of miles). This meant that we cycled 2 and even 3 abreast chatting away in between the lung busting steep climbs.
Because im used to generally cycling by myself... having someone around to reply to my utterances was nice. For this first loop we stopped to take photos... eased into the day... the knowledge that we would be still cycling (hopefully) in 12 hours time at the back of my mind. 'Its not a race... its an endurance test'! Despite that... we kept up a good pace and my phone was merrily charging away.

After the first few miles... the track undulated more... meaning flat road was a rarity... it was either sweating uphill in lower gears... or speeding down the other side skidding round the corners.
The Lakeside trail is around 26 miles and not being familiar (yet) with it... it did seem to last forever. Not being quite as fit as I was earlier in the year... it was hurting a bit. I had worries about keeping up with the other 2 as they have managed to get out training on a far more frequent basis but for the first loop at least we all felt ok and I wasnt lagging as Id feared.
There were distractions along the way... with a huge sculpured head... big chairs and various other features of interest along the way. Given that it was only the first loop I was feeling good and the beautiful autum reds and oranges in the early morning misty sunshine took my breath away at times. The relections on the glassy smooth lake surface provided some of the best picture postcard photo moments which were taken advantage of on a regular basis.... until we reached approximately halfway round where as if with some invisible line.. the cycling gods had said.. ' right... this is where the fun stops and the hard work begins'. The undulations got steeper and longer with some climbs winding up the hillside in a very short space of track... meaning the gradient on the bends reduced me to a crawl at times. Once..  totally misjudging the gradient.. I turned a corner.. and came to an absolute abrupt halt... causing a traffic pile up behind me.
This is where I was glad that I have opted for flat pedals and not my usual clipless because I would have toppled over.
All this said... I was still smiling and my headspace was in a good space.


So where was I.... oh yeah... in a good place. The trail was pretty much deserted and we barely saw anyone on this first loop. The 26 miles were completed in just under three hours... not racin... but not dawdling either. Apart from the legs... mountain biking demands a huge amount from the whole body. Arms... wrists... hands (in particular mine hurt)... all were taking a battering from the rough trail and the constant whole body adjustments that are made with every turn of the handlebars and pedals. Ok... I was already knackered. Add to that was the sinking feeling that I hadnt either eaten or drunk very much on this loop and from experience knew this would come back to bite me in the arse later on. (And for those that are interested... my arse was feeling fine at this point)

So we gathered ourselves... enjoyed a quick bacon roll and hot choc (thanks guys) and then debated the merits of cycling round anti clockwise for the 2nd loop. (Totally David's idea so everything that follows is his fault!)
Anti clockwise won because the thought of having a different perspective of the trail won us over. Unfortunately this meant a kick arse slope out of the car park... typical!

To say that the hills were worse from this side was an understatement...
Ok so it may havd been that we already had 26 difficult miles in the legs... but they went on and on. Up and Up with a short downhill as a reward (totally out of proportion) and granny gears were truly the order of the day for me. Grinding up..  the headspace started playing games with me. And judging by the almost total silence with which we cycled the 2nd loop... I wasnt the only one suffering. David... clearly fitter than I currently am..  was seemingly taking the hills with ease... and this is where cycling with others can be both a blessing and a curse. At points on this ride (sorry mate) I hated David for the apparent ease with which he surmounted every gradient whilst my legs were swiftly turning to jelly. My headspace was contemplating whether he was just better at hiding the pain... wondering what Id done in setting out for myself a clearly impossible task next summer... telling myself that if 40 miles was doing this to me... how the hell was I even thinking of lining up for the Tour Divide when clearly I would fail miserably and make a fool of myself (not that I have ever really worried about that!) None of these thoughts took hold in my head (and I dont actually hate ya David) but this is just a glimpse of the psychological warfare that one must wage with oneself... not allowing it to take hold... not allowing yourself to listen to the screaming muscle fibres as they twitch and spasm. 
This is where cycling with friends can be the bonus... it just takes a sarcastic comment... a smile ... some words of shared pain to make it all ok. And that is part of the challenge that I enjoy in solo cycling... getting yourself out of your bad headspace by yourself. Can be tortuous. But all it can take sometimes when by yourself is a beautiful view or a spectacular sunset or just a bit of food and suddenly the world is a good place again. I honestly could write a thesis on the subjuct (dont worry I wont)... but in short it makes you appreciate the small things.

To say that by the end of the second loop I was done in would be an understatement but more hot food awaited and loop 3 loomed large. Given our state of weariness... we debated cheating and going out for the easier half of the clockwise route round and then coming back... cutting out the tortuous steep long hills of the second half.  Thoughts turned to lights... given that half way round it would be dark. Two front lights... one rechargagable and one battery reliant coupled with a ridiculously bright headtorch was my answer to the oncoming blackness and we set off. I was feeling buoyed by the excitement of tacking the trail in the dark which made me forget my destroyed quadruceps ... at least until the first climb when I crunched down the gears into granny gear 1! Hey ho... the pedals were still miraculously turning.
The first easier half (and by easier... I mean pretty tough but there is the grand scheme to compare it too) dragged along as the daylight faded but I took comfort in the fact that the legs still worked (just) and my headspace was much improved from the last loop. By the time we got to roughly halfway... our lights were casting our shadows on the edge of the surrounding forest and aside from the crunching of the gravel under our tyres .. the evening was still and quiet. The drizzling rain was lit up by our lights but it remained reasonably warm. 
It got really dark.. really quickly... like someone had turned off the light... but it was really cool and had raised the spirits. Cheating was no longer an option it seemed and as we reached the halfway mark... the quiet determination in all three of us stood up and waited to be recognised. There was no way we were going to take the easy way back... complete the loop was the only option and so we pressed on... each of us seemingly lost in our own little worlds. My right knee was starting to complain and the gradients but I ignored the nagging pain and just turned the pedals... made easier with the knowledge that there was not much to go given what we had already completed.
I dont think I was the only one with aches and pains... as mentioned previously off road riding uses all muscle groups.. all over the body and we had been battered... bruised...but not finished off. As the lights of the car park eventually came into view ... the relief was palpable but also the sense of achievement. Yes.. Ive ridden a hundred miles day after day on road.. which hurts like hell but this was something else! I reckon that for every mile off road we did on this day... it compares in terms of effort/energy expended and effect on the body ... it equals 3-5 miles of tarmac riding.. dependent on quality of tarmac and gradient. 
And we had just done 78 miles off road! 

Having said that I was exhausted... almost broken... totally done in by the end of lap three would not be a lie. But the comforting thing for me was that... despite this being totally true... if you had told me that I could have food and a drink and a short rest but then had to go out again... I could have done and then possibly even again. Yup I would have been slower... the hills would have hurt EVEN more and I may have had to hike a bike up some of them... but I could have done it. The question remains whether I can then have 3-4 hours kip and start again the next day... time will tell and I may be found wanting next year out in the wild backroads of the USA... but the point is...
Im not afraid to try.

The next day found us all able to walk (a bonus) with a minimum of aches and pains (remarkable) and I already found myself planning in my head the next testing training ride. And here it seems I have found willing partners in crime with Nicola and David suggesting (without any prompts) that we organise more training rides. Perhaps because we have all suddenly become painfully aware of the extent of the challenges we are setting ourselves and just how much fitter we need to beπŸ˜ƒ

Massive thanks to Nic and Dave for Going With The CraZy ad infinitum

And there ends this ride report...
To continue to follow the Crazy ... please go to www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime and like my page for updates on training ... kit... and planning to take on the Worlds Toughest Bike Race at the end of June 2017.

Be Free.... Stay Alive
LHS

Friday, 27 May 2016

Ride the trail... be free!

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur... no time to think... and no time to blog. So thought Id catch everyone up in the goings on in One Challenge At A Time World.

I got a new bike... it wasnt cheap and had a few 'accessories' added with The Tour Divide Race in mind (more about those later). For those of you that missed previous updates... the Tour Divide is an underground race from (shhh say it quietly) Banff in Canada to the mexican border in New Mexico. 2700 relentless off road miles... with possibilities of (included but not limited to) snow covered passes... hike a bike sections... grizzly bear encounters... mud... rain... searing heat and freezing cold. Add to that altidude (11000 ft passes) and 39 crossings of the continental divide mountain ranges and no wonder its billed as one for the crazies! πŸ˜€

Having the wonderful opportunity to follow Mr Mike Peters on tour round the country for a week or so whilst swabbing people for the bone marrow donor list... it was the ideal to get some miles into my new set of wheels and more importantly.. my legs. Wherever there was a gig... I found a forest or mountain bike trail centre nearby and the baptism by fire began! Starting tentatively on the blue (easy to moderate) runs ... I soon got a bit bored of wide gravel trails and flat (ish) sections. However a red run in Scotland almost changed my mind.. first encountered after hearing an 'oh fcuk' from one of the crazies in training (im being nice.. they are almost as mad as me).. david j had rounded a bend at speed to find a drop off well over 6ft high. Needless to say... the bikes were carried down.

A few solo runs ... and the bike was holding up and handling nicely... Chester... Exeter... Preston... and then came Newcastle and Hamsterly Forest. I had done the blue run the day before and one huge climb later with a bit of nice singletrack.. I singularly decided that it was too easy for me.. nicola and david j. So the next day we set out for red.

David had it easy for a few miles... his chain broke... and not being equipped(for the last time) with a chain tool and quick links) he got a push 4 miles back to the trail centre and bike shop. It was a good workout. My arm muscles were screaming by the end and david professed that his legs hurt from maintaining an aero position... hmmmmm
Back to the red run...

It had its climbs (or at least the one climb that went on forever) but I reiterated that the point of climbing on a mountain bike is to reap the downhill reward and WOWZA! Rolling like a rollercoaster and at similar angles.. the start of the downhill had hearts in mouths. Skidding round the corners at breakneck pace.. we were brought to a screeching halt at the top of some rock steps by someone who had come unstuck and crashed a little. Once he had extricated himself from the tree I followed... bumping down the steps then flowing swiftly through the end of that section. I turned round .. expecting David to be right behind me... and I waited... and waited. Turned out he had bumped slowly down the steps.. only for the bike to come to a sudden halt... and him to keep going! (Dont worry David... last laff is for you). Fortunately... no bones were broken.

And so.. that pretty much leads me up to today.

In between then and now... an annoying click in my pedals (cheap crappy ones) turned out to be a broken bottom bracket and I got that replaced (under warrantee) at the same time as purchasing some swanky flat (i.e non clip in) pedals. AW Cycles in Reading deserve a huge shout out at this point (once again) as I have taken a nice mountain bike and have begun transforming it into a Tour Divide Machine. I could hear the screaming in their heads as I asked for bar ends to be put on along with bar tape and they looked over the additions to my bike... a small bar above the handlebars to fix my Garmin GPS and front light.

This morning was post gig in Liverpool.. following an overnight drive to near Sheffield ready for the last (sob) gig of the tour. The advantage is that was near Sherwood Pines trail centre which possessed some nice trails.
Despite the 3am check in... I was up and ready to roll in the forest at ten am.

The next bit is about kit... so you may want to skip...

Bar ends... I love them!! Uphill made easier and flattish gravel roads = cruising hand position. Very lightweight carbon and small profile so dont get in the way. They will be staying!!

My SON 28 dynamo hub and ewerks usb charger... so far... so excellent. They have pretty much kept the charge up on my phone despite constant picture taking and other usage and even a low speeds! Excellent and well worth the extra money.

My wellgo pedals... light and kept my feet pinned to them except over the occasional drop off landing. Didnt collect a build up of mud.

Ok... new kit review out of the way.... so to today (hoping ive kept everyone reading until now)

It started badly... stumbling round in my cycle shorts in a sleep addled state... i decided to apply arse cream (essential)... only picked the wrong tube... turns out the deep heat like cream burns!! And I mean burns!!

So after ten minutes of hopping around swearing... I was finally dressed for the day... bike was on the car and ready to go.

30 mins later... in sunshine no less... I was breathing in fresh pine scented air and gazing at the dappled sunlight coming through the trees. The birds were singing (cliche I know) and I felt alive.

Given that this week I could easily be accused of being very lazy... a slight cold keeping me inside and on the sofa for two days straight... it was really good to feel like I had a bit of energy back again. And the surroundings I was in infused me with more.
I set off on a warm up lap of the blue run... with its short sections of singletrack but nothing adrenaline filled. Still it served its purpose cos I was huffing and puffin like a steam train at the top of one climb.
It was so lovely and quiet... too early for the masses to be around and I had the forest to myself. Squirrels running up trees (no suicidal ones today) and birds coming to say hello whenever I stopped. I didnt even have my ipod on. (Decided I may need to spend some time without music whilst waiting for the ipod to charge out on the Tour Divide). Not that I was bereft of music... Time... all we have is time... one of Mike's new (and unbelievably brilliant) songs... was echoing in my head space. Much of his music and his example provides a reference on how to aim to LIVE life ... and these thoughts resonate within me.


Before long the blue route was completed so I found the start of the red and set off with purpose.

It had singletrack from the start... root and rock strewn ... with an appropriate helping of mud to slide about in. Where there wasnt mud .. there was gravel filled bermed corners to take at speed and lean into. Yup I was having fun! In places the trees closed in with the trail tunnelling through .. leading to the sunlight.

It is a beautiful... serene piece of the world... that is until the hoards of cyclists began to appear.  Now reasonably proficient and with a modicum of fitness regained... I even occasionally overtake. Of course then I have to speed up so it doesnt look like a fluke. Bloody knackering this racing lark πŸ˜€

I caught up with one poor chap who had been convinced by his mate that it would be easy to go from being a 'roadie' to doing the red run.. lol

His mate was kind enough to warn me about the two drop offs on the next section after the rock garden ascent. Good oh! He cautioned his friend to go go left to avoid the obstacle and then set off at a rate of knots.
Ok so both me and the poor chap came slightly unstuck in the rock garden... momentum lost and bang went that one. Still it was only short and I managed to get going again... spinning my way to the top .. to find a sweeping downhill bermed trail. ... Then came the drop offs... not too steep... i did bounce a bit on landing and almost came off.. just managing to avoid a head first dive or a bruised coxxix (going for that spelling!).

The calories had been totally drained by the point I swerved through the last .. Very bumpy section... fortunately bacon and brie was on offer.

Then back out again and was determined to get a few miles in and to make them tough... so back out to the red run...

I knew the trail now and confidence (make that overconfidence) was flowing through me. Charging down the trail ... swerving round the corners... leaning hard into them ...
And then... my world went sideways... possibly even slightly upside down... my head (fortunately helmeted) crashed against the hard packed ground.. (where is the mud when you bloody need it?) I might have seen stars shortly before my shoulder crashed into the ground followed by the pain of my bike landing somewhat on top of me. Damn that hurt...
I lay on the ground... slightly dazed.... wondering if the pain in my shin area meant I had broken something. That pain dulled... overtaken by the pain of my hip... which must have hit shortly after my head and my shoulder.

Two cyclists pulled up and helped me get my bike off me and waited to check i was ok... the blokes helpful comment was 'you musta taken the wrong line'... no shit sherlock.. the right line wouldnt have ended up with me smeared across the trail... at least general assumption would suggestπŸ˜€

I pulled myself to my feet... noting that I could weight bear... and that a lump had already formed on my shin... either that or I had dented my leg either side of it. Either way... I had escaped with nothing but bumps... bruises and a bit of missing skin. Worst thing was... I didnt have my head cam on... it would have been fun to share!!

Funnily enough I took the next few bends or twelve slightly easier... partly cos my leg hurt with every bump I encountered but also slightly dented confidence. It soon returned however and the corners got faster again.

For all my nursing friends out there...
I never lost consciousness
My pupils are equal and reactive
I dont have blurred vision
I dont have a headache
Bright light doesnt bother me...

Neuro obs will be done hourly for 4 hours!

I think I did the red one further time though its all a bit hazy (not because of the crash) and then did a warm down lap of the green 'family friendly' track. Whilst this track was easy... on good gravel paths... with the pot holes filled in... this was a chance to see how the bike would go on a surface akin to much of the Tour Divide track surfaces (from what I have read) Gravel and dirt fireroads make up a good percentage of the Tour Divide route and this was similar... (without the altitude.. climbing.. bears etc) Turns out the bike runs nicely on these trails too and I whizzed round (legs aching slightly... rest of me hurting like hell lol)

That was my warm down... and as I hauled/eased myself into the car... having cleaned my bike of course... I reflected that it had been a good training day. My body will no doubt disagree early in the morning when I prise myself out of bed... into my cycle shorts for (a slightly shorter) day 2. Then the last gig of the UK Mike Peters tour...

Today I was beaten up and knocked to the ground... but as always I stay free

LHS







Saturday, 30 April 2016

New chapter

Its been a while since I have blogged... admittedly cos a) I havent felt like it and b) Id just be boring you.

I dived back into work trying to make up for skiving off for a month and nights followed by more nights with the odd day shift shoved in there ensured that the last month or so has been a blur. Add into that.. The Stranglers/The Alarm tour and finding time to breathe was a challenge. Busy was good though and has been a welcome distraction.

Recovery from the ride itself was pretty swift with just the odd, very painful hand cramp as a lasting reminder of the sufferring!

So I thought Id bring everyone up to date with my new crazy plan. You may have read that I intended to enter the Tour Divide next year... a very long... very uphill off road race from Banff in Canada to the Mexican border. The film Ride the Divide (trailer on my facebook page... www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime) fired my imagination and got me dreaming of miles of gravel road... endless vistas and the odd grizzly bear chasing me (a possibility on the Tour Divide).

So as you know ... dream... plan .. do only works if you get off your arse and start gearing up. So I did. Research into the type of bike I needed led me again to AW Cycles in Reading,  who, as ever, were more than helpful. One shiny new bike ordered and it was time to find a training plan.

Learn to ride a mountain bike again was top of the list and in this I enlisted the willing help of David and Nicola J... who are usually willing/conned into going along with my crazy schemes. So it was up to Scotland for a first mtb (mountain bike) outing for many years. We hired bikes and set off on the blue trail... medium difficulty...
It had some tough climbs... some fast downhill and some lovely flowing singletrack. At least it was flowing once we had gained a bit of confidence on the bikes and their brakes. All in all it was great fun. Then we ventured out onto the red run. More technical than blue... it was going well... until a nice little downhill singletrack segment. David was ahead and I had left space between him and myself in case of sudden stops. At one point whilst flying down the trail... my back wheel hit mud... skidded one way then the other. Somehow (and I have no idea how and couldnt replicate it if I tried) I managed to maintain control and stayed upright... only to hear... 'oh fcuk' from David... just out of sight round the corner. With A squealing of brakes .. I rounded the bend to find David... leant over his handlebars... stopped... with his front wheel jutting over the edge of a precipice. You may think Im exaggerating... and well.. maybe slightly... but it was a hell of a drop!! As Nic screeched to a halt behind us... a silent agreement was made and one by one we shouldered the bikes and carried them... slipping and sliding over the rocks to the bottom. And so endeth our attempt at the red run!

Back to blue and the enjoyment returned. Just enough technical parts to keep us interested but not so difficult we were walking. A good day and a good start to my new training outings.

Once back in Reading... a week or so later I headed to Swinley Forest in Bracknell and went straight for the blue trail. The idea being to go around it as many times as I could in the four hours that I had hired a bike for.
The trail was excellent... enough climbs to leave me outta breath... but rewarded with some brilliant downhill... complete with banked corners. Just stopping after each lap for food and water I completed over 20 miles worth and was pretty worn out.
I may be used to biking and my legs felt fine but the rest of me... particularly my arms... shoulders and hands... ached like hell. Different muscle groups utilised in this sort of biking.

More work and very crap weather meant I didnt get out for a while .. then the Mike Peter's tour started and I found myself in a forest near Exeter on the day of the first gig of the tour. A different type of trail... I went round the two blue trails with relative ease. Once again.. lots of climbing but with some reward. The weather was lovely and sunny and the world and life were free and easy for a few hours when all I could think about and concentrate of was the few feet of dirt sand and stone in front of my wheel.

Fortunately there was a changing cubicle as I was covered in mud and I think I would have got some odd looks if I had pitched up to the gig in my biking outfit... even from those who know me!

So fast forward another week and a half of night and day shifts and I find myself finally in the posession of my brand new bike. It was unfortunately too big to fit in my car so with bated breath and fingers and toes crossed that my bike falling off my car cant happen to me twice in one year... I set off towards Wales. Landing in a forest near Wrexham with bike still on car.. for the first time in a while I felt a bit out of my depth I guess. This place was huge and obviously a favourite with mountain bikers ...almost certainly more experienced and better that little me. Add that to the fact that I was pretty much the only woman I saw on a bike and suddenly I felt a bit insecure. Taking my bike off the car I scanned the crowds in the car park. Most people were wearing the same kinda kit... cycle leggins with shorts over the top... so although you lot may think I was dressed wierdly.. I fit in ok here. My bike was of similar ilk to all the others... although mine looked new.... so actually it was probably going to be ok! I set off... and the climb out of the car park killed me! It did get me warmer however and gave me a chance to familiarise myself with granny gears and the shifters.. which are slightly different than my road bike.
The trail was incredibly stony and my tyres were probably over inflated for this kind of terrain. The sun was out though and the trail weaved up into the forest where sunlight shafted through the gaps in the trees. Yes I was in Wales and yes it was sunny... at least for now!

The best bit about my new bike is that I paid a lotta money to get a dynamo hub and usb converter fitted. This means that I can charge my electronics whilst I ride. As long as Im going more than 5mph .. charging should occur. I was a bit concerned about the usb plug being open to the elements so tucked it into one of my top tube bags and attached it to my spare phone battery to test it out. This meant that I was unable to see if it was charging though... but I will be tweaking these little things as my training continues.

So on I went and when the blue and green trails split I followed the easy for a warm up. Wide gravel and rocky paths with small gradients up and down... it wound its way round the resevoir and meandered through the forest. Nice but spectacularly unchallenging... blue it is then. Climbing and climbing through the trees out onto windswept healthland... bereft of trees from logging activities. And still the road went up. Then the hail came... thundering down on me and my bike. Then it turned to snow and the temperature was cold enough for it to settle in places. Despite this and a few picture stops all the climbing meant I was very warm. But what goes up... at some point.. must go down... and my bike shot downhill... freezing my extremities and bringing tears to my eyes. The path was gravel and swept round the corners nicely. Then it was back in the trees... just as the hail started again. Interesting weather we're having!  By now I was splattered from head to toe with mud... as was my previously shiny new bike. A few more twists and turns through the forest and suddenly I found myself back at the visitor centre with just enough time for a hot chocolate and a bacon sarnie.

So thats how my next year and a bit is going to go. The training may not be in the same vein as the road of the Tour Divide but it will hopefully build up my strength... stamina and bike handling skills and allow me to learn how to set up my bike in the best way possible for the Tour Divide. Add in a few longer trails such as the ridgeway and the south down's way and I should have it cracked.
Just to remind David that he has promised to do the Strathpuffer 24 hour race with me ... which will be a good training experience and hopefully a bit of a laff. Set in scotland .. in january it should be a tough enough experience to harden me up a bit.

So thats the training so far. Pics can be found on my aforementioned fb page. Hope you enjoyed the update...

LHS

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Day 27- There's still so much more to be said...

Day 27

... all the lines are in my head.....

But organising them and getting them onto 'paper' is difficult... yet I cannot give up the blogging just yet... I am not yet right back where I started from...
Perhaps this is the beginning of yet another chapter in the book of my life but Im not quite ready to turn the page from the last and desperately cling to parts of it... my arms tightly around  as long as possible.

I received message from a very good friend this morning which not only tipped me over the edge into tears again ... blaming lack of sleep this time... but part of what he said I wish to share with you (I hope he doesnt mind) as it struck me...

He said that they were on the outside looking into my journey and that they only got to see and feel a small part of the journey... like watching the film version of a book where you dont really get the story the author wrote.

And part of me wished I could explain bits better or hadnt been so tired at the end of the day... or had such a crap memory that I forgot some of it (like the kiwi sense of humour that called two tumbling waterfalls at the side of the road... 'trickle 1' and 'trickle 2'!)

But then part of me thought that if it left some interpretation they could attach their own meaning to my vague ramblings and maybe gain more out of it.. than just my vague ramblings - like modern art?? Lol

And so I find myself sitting in Brisbane Airport (I bought a fridge magnet cos this counts as having been to Australia!) with so much more to be said and all the lines in my head but maybe not converting into a full set of lyrics.

This morning was very strange... I had only really got to sleep at 0300 and woke pretty much every hour until I gave up about half six and started organising stuff into packing piles.. stuff to go in with bike... stuff for my seat bag... and stuff for my rucksack... Andy (from Auden guitars ) and Julie had been kind enough to let me crash overnight and were taking me to the Airport in the afternoon.. to begin my long journey home.

It was strange not to have anywhere to get to... strange not to have to worry about headwinds... hills... and a sore arse. In fact I already felt a loss... of freedom... and air to breathe... and beautiful scenery. The pain and effort already half forgotten. Im not sure I can describe adequately how free and alive it can make you feel... to push yourself and challenge yourself... to the point of breaking... standing on the edge and inching that little bit further..

I also cant thank Andy and Julie enough for having me to stay and sharing the end of the journey with me... There are many others I wish could have been there too. But with Lorraine.. Andy and Julie .. I was amongst friends.

We had breakfast...(must get out of that habit again) and then went for a little walk before dropping another friend of theirs off at the airport (his flight a few hours before mine). The walk was to the top of a hill where the views stretched out for an almost 360 degree panorama. It was sunny and cloudless and a perfect way to end my trip.
It felt like New Zealand was saying goodbye and come back sometime!

We dropped Chris off at the airport... which I will describe in a bit... and then went for a quick stroll round this beautiful lake... busy with at least 50 people there... I was being reintroduced to a non solo cycling lifestyle bit by bit. After that we went had lunch at a pub sooo busy (think Reading pub on a monday lunchtime) that we were asked to get our orders in as quick as possible!

We then went to check me and my bike in!

I like being early so it was with some consternation that Andy and Julie suggested we go back to their house for coffee after checking the bike in and watching it be carted away. (In addition Julie had written the words on it.. ' This bike has taken Lydia from North to South New Zealand for Love Hope Strength... ' it almost made me cry... again... once again on a knife edge of surging emotions.

The coffee turned out to be a great idea as I got to pick up a table tennis bat ... having had a gauntlet thrown down at my feet by their son. It was with some satisfaction that I managed to draw one game all... no time for a third game... and my ego intact! Thanks bud.. it was fun!

Then back to the airport ... where cows bordered the runway ... there was one gate for international flights and parking was actually at the airport... not miles away. A far cry from Heathrow and therefore very nice and peaceful... no scrum at security either.
Before that I had to say goodbye to Andy and Julie and given that we had really only just met... it seemed that I was saying cheerio to lifelong friends (probably just me... they most likely opened a good bottle of wine to celebrate!) Julie bought me a bracelet of hematite stones... a silvery/grey/black colour and very pretty.. thank you very much.
And then I was once again a solo traveller...

The flight to Brisbane was short... at least by my standards over the next day.. 4 hours. Probably long enough for the nice gentleman sat next to me in my unwashed off bike clothes to regret it..

And so I sit freezing in the airport... still contemplating. It took all of the four hour flight to come up with a title for the blog today and the important thing to impart from this journey... the main line still in my head...

Life is short... sieze every moment... love .. live.. laugh...dream aloud... see life in colour... and do all of those things with your whole heart and soul beacause if you do not throw all of yourself in.... you risk nothing and gain little. Make Love Hope and Strength part of your daily life ... impart it to others and gain it in return... Fight the fear.. Embrace the Randomness and Go With The Crazy!

Mike Peters and Love Hope Strength Foundation give people a chance to fight back against cancer by swabbing people for the bone marrow donor list and raising money and awareness across the globe.  Mike inspires many of us to follow his example and we have embraced LHS as part of us and along the way found many lifelong friends.

We are always looking for volunteers to help us... people to join us at our Rocks Events and to help us spread the word of LHS. To find out more about the charity please go to www.lovehopestrength.co.uk or www.lovehopestrength.org for the USA site.

If you have enjoyed my ramblings over the past weeks and feel able to donate... www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy.

One Challenge At A Time.will continue to Dream Aloud and plans are already being hatched ... This is the game I choose to play!






Saturday, 27 February 2016

Day 26 - Time to believe

Day 26 ... Part 1

There comes a point in any journey like this that you have to believe you will make it to the end....

I hadnt reached that point yet when I woke up this morning. Determined to leave early in case anything should befall me or my bike in the last 40 miles... I went for breakfast at 06:45 only to find that it was too early... so instead I got my last bits and pieces together and head out the door....
20 miles to Invercargill then 20 to Bluff

Keep all fingers and toes crossed..

The words of Mike Peters running round my head as they have every day and through every emotion of this ride...

A tailwind to Invercargill saw me there in just over an hour!! Texted Lorraine... 'Get your arse out of bed... Im at Invercargill'.

Invercargill... quite a nice little town... First traffic lights in a while... must remember to stop... Reading cinemas (my town!) ... disjointed thoughts...

Must take everything in... last day on a bike... some tears... some smiles .. all in rememberance of the days I had felt ...

Last Chai coffee of the trip.... back on the road again... winding road with signs to Bluff! And there in the distance... the end of the road....
See a road going up a huge hill... BEG the cycling gods not to send me up it....

A car driving towards me... the word 'PHOENIX' emblazoned across its bonnet ... I couldnt make it up if I tried...

Headwind!! Just to make sure I truly earnt it!

Round the bay... a sign 'BLUFF' ... can it be that I am here??

The song on my Ipod ... The Life you seek does not exist.... what do I seek???

A climb... of course... on smooooooth town tarmac... and up round the corner and over the top and there were the signposts and standing nearby... waving at me ....Lorraine....

Stop... legs stopped... no more pedal turns to take.... I kept on Cycling To The End!!

Just some of the thoughts that rattled through my head... written like they occured to me. Seeing Lorraine there to meet me was like having someone Id known for years to welcome me in and just so happy to see her... Thank you Lorraine

Then the inevitable pictures and minutes to take it in... to store up for later when my brain could process it all better..

Lorraine then said 'Right lets see if the bike fits in the car!!' So funny!! It did fit and I was soon ensconsed in a nice warm comfy car... rattling along at speeds I could only generate downhill ... peddling for all I was worth and with a rocket booster on the back!

After a while my arse hurt!! I couldnt easily perform the two cheek shuffle either... a blanket was dug out to provide some padding... which greatly helped the issue.
We chatted for the three or so hours it took to drive to Andy and Julie's House. Andy and Auden guitars organised the gig tonight but more about that later... for the story now... they had kindly allowed basically a stranger to pitch up at their house... shower... change
.. drink coffee and then bugger off to the gig!

Greeted initially by Andy's mum and then Julie when she got back... I was made to feel at home and welcome. I felt a bit at 6's and 7's... not quite sure what to do with myself. Having showered and changed into the gig clothes I had sent to Andy's house... I felt wierd without my LHS cycle jersey ... so decided to wear that (the clean one) and my gloves to the gig..

Then myself and Lorraine went for a quick tourist stop..... the Steepest Street in the world... average 35% gradient with a section of 38% ... I would like to claim that it was a shame I didnt have my bike!!!!

Then onto Coronation Hall and the gig....

Part 2

Before I blog about the gig.. there is a huge long list of people I need to thank... so please bear with me.... In no particular order....

Mum,Dad, Paul (bro), Jax, Danny boy, Nath, Banna girl and Nathan.... better family I could not choose. X

My work mothers (Denise and Jilly)  and Solder... I am so lucky to have you guys propping me up.. X

Dave Spragg... My inspiration. X

Mike and Jules Peters... for the music and LHS! You have both inspired me to really live life. Mike your music and words have weaved through this journey and once again given me strength. Just so lucky to be a part of it all. Thankyou X

Mickey .. for the bug higs x

David and Nicola... for support... messages and always going with the crazy... Its alright... Its ok! X

Sue O.. for support and encouragement. X

Mark and Sue Hobbs.. for picking me up... welcoming me into this country and becoming instant friends and going above and beyond to help me. X

Roger... for being a kind New Zealander and checking I was ok on the road! X

Mary and Alec... for coming across country to meet a crazy stranger and being that piece of home. X

To everyone who has.. donated... liked... shared... talked about and given words of encouragement... This journey is also yours as I couldnt have done it without you. X

Doug from Auden... for making it possible. X

Lorraine... for being the person to welcome me at the end... for the stories and laughter we shared x

Andy and Julie... for the gig.. but more importantly for the friendship offered and the comfort given when it all became too much... that meant so very much to me. X

Part 3

So its 2am and I sit here blogging... trying to put my thoughts down on paper but words may fail me...

It was somewhat a daze... dreamworld... adrenaline high...a mixture of all the above that I landed in Coronation Hall to be greeted by a lovely gentleman wearing one of my promo t shirts! Andy from Auden Guitars had been sorting out this evening from the very early days of ride planning  and I greatly appreciate his efforts.

3 bands had kindly donated their time this evening... Valley Bluegrass... Melissa Partridge and The Eastern with maybe a surprise thrown in the mix... if I had the balls!

Valley Bluegrass kicked the evening off and the lively tunes got the feet tapping...
Melissa was up next... What a beautiful voice... and some lovely songs of country rock type stuff. Thank you for supporting LHS X

I was a bundle of nerves... determined to sing and attempt to play (with shaking.. slightly numb fingers (thats my excuse anyway) a song that I wrote. The hands were shaking so badly... it all went wrong from a playing point of view at times... okay most the song.. but encouraged by an understanding audience ... I hope I did my Phoenix proud. The video has been posted unreviewed/unedited on my facebook page... www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime

It came from the heart and is what it is.

Then the Eastern... what energy!

And then a song and some words that prompted the tears to flow...

And it all suddenly overwhelmed me and I sat there... head in hands... sutrounded by a room full of strangers but at the same time amongst friends. I cant describe the emotions but they were whirling through head..  heart ... soul. All that I am... all I will ever be ... are words that come to mind. And two friends flanking me... silent comfort... thankyou

And then a song and words that prompted a smile....

And I was sitting there with the thought of how the world can have great beauty in such simple things...
A shared cause... a shared love of music...
This ride and the people I have met along the way and the support from back home have once again renewed... rebuilt... my faith in humanity and the good that can be created.

If just one person from the gig takes on board the message of Love Hope and Strength and shares it around... or one person signs up to GET ON THE LIST...or ... or... then who knows what it may lead to...

LOVE HOPE STRENGTH

three words... put together... Save Lives .. and provide an inspiration and foundation. Check it out... www.lovehopestrength.co.uk

Its now 02:40 and im still awake and buzzin!

Tomorrow I will add thoughts once things have settled.

For now...

Fight the fear... Embrace the Randomness and above all Go With The Crazy!










Friday, 26 February 2016

Day 25 - Spiritual Regeneration Every single time we breathe...

Day 25

The second longest day in terms of mileage and coming after 2 long climbing days... this was not an 'easy day'. Im not sure this country has any of those in it.  97 miles but only 2700 ish feet of climbing... this was a wind dependent day... a lot hung on the wind direction and strength.

I admit... I pushed my bike up the hill from the hotel... and if you'd seen it... you would understand why... 20% gradient is a good way to break yourself for the rest if the day... as it was,  pushing the bike up that hill hurt!!


I then coasted down and rejoined SH6... having shunned breakfast in the very expensive hotel.. I knew that there was a cafe to be found 25 miles down the road at Kingston... First though I had to go along Lake Wakatipu..
With a bit of road called Devil's Staircase.. this could be bad.

A tailwind pummled me along to the lake... I hesitated to even think about it... because I knew if it changed... I could be in for a ridiculously hard day. But couldnt complain at the moment... 20mph down a straightish flattish road... with a tailwind for the most part.. perhaps a sidewind at worst.
And then I got to the lake proper and if I have used up all my superlatives previously... please forgive me for repeating myself. The Remarkables mountain range to my left were ... simply... remarkable. The Lake was a beautiful blue.. only with thousands of white topped waves whipped up by the strong wind.. fortunately in my favour... On the right across the lake were more peaks... some with flecks of white on them. The sky was for the most part brilliant blue and I just trotted along gazing at the scene. Then I screeched to a halt... a rainbow... picture time... and I could see where the pot of gold would lie as the rainbow ended in a blur of colours and water spray where the water was blown up by the wind... a little further on was another rainbow ... and as I looked back.. I could see two more. This is the Place where all Rainbows End and it was a silly notion but one that resonated with me and stuck in my head as a really lovely idea.





The road that wound round the Lake was NEVER going to be flat... so it climbed up... wound round and descended again... the wind still at my back... every time I stopped... usually at the top of a rise for a picture.. it hit me hard... as if urging me onward.


 One time I stopped for a photo and at least 20 cyclist... unladen... with a support van flashing its hazards.. swept by me. I greeted them as they did me and then started to give chase... the support driver dropped back a little and I managed to find out that they were doing some kind of Christchurch to Christchurch charity ride... at least thats what I think he said. I managed to throw one of my cards into his vehicle and then he sped off. Once again... I tried to chase them down. I wasnt doing too badly but then I thought... ' this scenery is beautiful... this is your last full day cycling...you are never going to keep up with cyclists who have no kit and havent done 1400ish miles previously.' So I slowed down and then stopped for a photo and enjoyed the spectacular view!

And I kept stopping... because pretty much round every bend was a new view .. even greater than the last. I think .. and maybe im biased because of the tailwind.. this was the most beautiful spectacular part of the country that I have seen. There may have been more spectacular bits along the way... just covered in cloud and rain as I went past!!

I drank in the view and it was like regeneration of the soul with every breath... nature coursing through my veins... repairing the broken body from the previous 24 days...

Then the road made a more dramatic climb up... I assume this bit was the Devils Staircase... but actually it wasnt that bad. Whenever I stopped... the wind blew at my back... and the idea got into my head that the strength of the wind helping me up these final hills.. was the strength from everyone back home willing me along. Once again it was perhaps a silly notion but it seems to be the day for those.!

The downward blast was done with a gusting sidewind.. which at the speed I was going caused more than one scary wobble and may me slow down and be slightly more cautious... would be a right bugger to crash now!!

So I tiptoed down... not even worried about the loss of my downhill reward as my reward today was the scenery and the tailwind.
Then I saw two poor buggers.... kitchen sinkers... going the opposite way to me. I shot over and offered sweets etc to mitigate for the fact that they wete heading into that wind and probably would be all day. On chatting to them I found out that they were originally from Canada but now lived up Nelson way and were touring the South Island

They had only just set out for the day... so me bouncing over with a grin on my face.. confirming their fears about a headwind all the way down.. probably didnt help!

Kevin and Laureen... nice to meet you briefly.. I sincerely hope the wind dropped or changed direction!!


The cafe at Kingston arrived just in time and I sat down to my usual pancake breakfast and chai. Going to miss that for sure. My thoughts did turn today to the things I will miss about this ride..

The routine of packing up in the morning
The solitude out on the road
Nothing to think of except food miles and sleep
The serene beauty of the road
Blogging every day... putting my thoughts down to clarify them
The rythm of my legs turning the pedals round
Being exposed to nature...
Breathing the air... watching the sun rise and fall


Then it was back on the road... tailwind still in place and saying goodbye to the Place where Rainbows End ... head forward... metal on the pedals and going for it. I still had a good 70 miles to go. And it was 10:30.

From Kingston the road still wound through the hills... lumpy  but with the tailwind unbelievably mainly behind me. As the road twisted and turned it became a sidewind for a bit... Then the valley became wider.. the road now flanked by fields of gold and the hills jutting out beyond them.. some picture postcard moments for sure. Especially now the clouds were beginning to gather .. just to add to the drama. In the far distance I saw lightening but heard no thunder but the sky above was darkening and I felt like I was trying to outrun the storm.  It did pour down... but only for 5 minutes and Where was I Hiding??  I was hiding in a cafe in Athol having the most sublime sorbet ice lolly (If anyone finds a source in the UK.. please let me know!!)




After Athol came a succession of small towns until Lumsden at around 14:00 and with 30 miles to go... I felt pretty confident that id get there at a reasonable time

Lumsden spoke to me... (yup I have gone road crazy!!) Firstly there was Lydia Street!!!
Then a Route 6 Cafe... complete with American car inside. The sign is following me! Needless to say... I had to eat at the cafe... lunch ... another burger and fries. Im going to have to curb my eating again for sure!!



Then the last 30 miles. At lunch I had booked a room in Winton... partly to ensure some comfort but also partly because my brain was calculating how long it would take to get to Invercargill where Lorraine was staying. Where did you get to? Her question via facebook... well if you look outta your window.....
It would have been funny but possibly not sensible as have some things to do with real world... like checking flights home and making sure I can get home from airport... with my bike!
Incidentally... It did make me laff when Lorraine (staying in Invercargill... waiting to meet me at Bluff)... confessed to dinner of choc licorice sweets and a bunch of bananas... its not just me that has difficulty finding good road food!

Those 30 miles were mainly flat..  with a couple of longer kick ups ... good for the view at the top... and I blasted them... well until the last 5 ... when my legs gave out and all 1499 ish miles started to tell.

That said I did those thirty miles in under 2 hours 15.. including photo stops!!


I eventually arrived at The Continental Hotel and bar and chatted to the lady in charge. She couldnt give me a discount off the room but the hotel donated $20 to the ride and I got a free evening meal. Thank you!!

Before I ate I wandered along the street to go to Supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces. I shouldnt be allowed out without my bike and without supervision... I stepped in between 2 kerbs.. scraping all the skin off my left ankle. Typical!!!

So now ensconsed in the room... getting prepared for tomorrow (that includes leg shaving(sorry) charging cameras .. phones etc... getting out my spare cycling kit (Lorraine will be pleased that Im not going to sit in her car for 4 hours in my cycling top thats seen me from top to bottom of NZ!) and a myriad of other little things.

So thats the day...  for those interested... what follows is a bit about bike and kit! If you really dont care... skip to the last paragraph!


My bike... Giant Defy 1 - 11 speed... 22 gears in all. Possibly could have done with a few more at the lower end but hey... I got up the hills somehow and my knees are intact.

Bags... Apidura done me proud.. pretty waterproof and held up very well. No problems at all. Hardly felt they were there... carried a load of kit. Drew some admiring glances from strangers!!

Bivvy set up... the one time i used it.. brilliant... fast set up and warm and comfortable. Just the sand flies that killed me camping! I would list everything but dont want to really bore everyone... if you are interested in my bivvy set up details.. message me.

TEP portable wifi hotspot... bloody fantastic. Would deffo use again. Well worth the money. Only had trouble one day really.. Haast had no phone signal at all... and slight trouble one other day with sloooww connection.

RAVPOWER portable power bank... exceptional ... would definately use again as holds a huge amount of charge and charges items quickly.

POWERMONKEY  solar charger... used a lot in the sunshine on the North Island... really good for rescue charging stuff... i.e not enough charge to power fully but will rescue your phone from 'dead' to 30-40%.

Things I would recommend to take on any long cycle trip like this that I did not take and had to buy...
Bepanthen
High DEET concentration insect repellant

Things I brought but neednt have bothered with .... (some may surprise you)

Spare socks... when off the bike I went sockless...

Underwear for off the bike... like the socks.. I went commando (specifically to allow air to circulate) ... yup even in that posh resort in the North near Taupo !!

Towel... only used once as motels provided towels

Unsure about aerobars... my hands arent numb .. so maybe they made a small bit of difference... and more practice may prove beneficial.

Ok... WAKE UP!!!!

I cant believe Im 40 miles from Bluff! This place has been ingrained on my soul. The hard tough days will become the stories told... the people I met... part of the journey... but the beauty and the feel of this country and the emotions it has wrung from me..  will be solely mine... as I cannot explain them to my satisfaction.

Above all ... a lot of money has been raised so far for LHS ... but there is still time to donate
If you can... please go to www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy

So 40 miles to go....
Today Spiritual regeneration every single time I breathed... New Zealand has imprinted itself on my soul.


LHS xx

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Day 24 - Let it Raindown....

Day 24

I struggled to wake up again this morning... a fact demonstrated by the squeezing onto my toothbrush... of Bepanthen!!!
Fortunately noticing before applying it to my teeth... I cleaned it off and applied toothpaste instead. It didnt have its usual minty taste.

Not a great start... things were looking up with breakfast (thanks bev) and the news that she had contacted a friend who was a reporter for the Wanaka Times... who wanted to meet me and write an article for the paper. It was arranged for the morning on my way to first Cromwell... then through the gorge to the outskirts of Queenstown. All on SH6... this road that had been with me since Greymouth would carry me all the way to Bluff.

Bev assured me that it was pretty flat from here to Wanaka (definately the kiwi version of flat Bev!!!! ) and the plan was to get there by 08:15.. but on setting off and climbing the hills as they appeared.. my legs werent in the game this morning and Wanaka town would be a detour too far off route... so I phoned Nicky.. the reporter and she suggested we meet at Puzzletown cafe! A wierd place with lopsided buildings and a backwards clock amongst other things. The article will be out after the ride but still hopefully raise awareness...


That done... the road to Cromwell was calling... and what a beautiful road.! Yes some climbs... it is New Zealand... but all managable... mountains behind and to the sides ... visable across fields burnt golden by the sun.. which was making an appearance every now and again!! I may also have been lucky enough to have a bit of a tailwind at times but was careful not to say it out loud in case the cycling gods realised their grievous error.





There was a lot of thinking done on this stretch... careful not to think too much about arriving in Bluff (stuff can still go wrong) I looked back over the last few weeks which simultaneously have gone by in a flash and also seem like forever ago. In fact .. this morning seems like a long time ago.. never mind the moment when I put my feet in the pedals for the first time here.  There are many many highlights ... although it may seem like I moan a lot in my blog... I have already forgotten the pain of the first few days and difficulty breathing and remember instead the lovely sunshine... the rainforest... the golden sandy beaches (still remember the sand flies in Oppononi though) and the people I met along the way... many who left a lasting impression on this journey and some who went above and beyond to keep this cyclists legs turning round!!

Also whilst I remember... have had many enquiries about the state of my hands. Last time after Route 66 .. I couldnt hold a knife and fork... couldnt do up buttons and generally had claws for hands. Im pleased to report that this time hands seem better (the last 2 days notwithstanding). I did get some major hand cramps after kayaking... but they were wet and cold and had been gripping the paddle for a while. The palm of my hand is a bit numb but the fingers seem to be working still. Fingers crossed (pun only half intended) that they continue to be as good!!

So the road to Cromwell went on... I have been told that I have taken the easy way as there was a 'shortcut' from Wanaka to Queenstown but it happens to go over the Crown Range and I for one am incredibly glad I inadvertently chose to go The Long Way Round.

I reached Cromwell in good time ... by 12:00  and found a cafe to shove even more calories down. Just by the cafe... The Large Plastic Fruit!! Had to take a photo to add to my collection of Giant things lol.

The last few miles into Cromwell had been dogged by a bit of a headwind and now as I turned to go through the gorge leading to Queenstown... it became a full throttle headwind... complete wirh some spots of rain though that held off for a bit. The headwind abated a little allowing me to negotiate the rises and dips of the gorge with little trouble. Nothing major at present I did have the feeling that it was working up to a creshendo...

In the meantime I stared at the turquoise River below as it gouged its way through. This area had had mines in .. as has much of the Otago region...(a fact I learnt from reading a book about cycling the Otago rail trail)... and because I had been forewarned I stared intently at the scarred and broken hillside... and sure enough .. once the eye was in... you could pick out remainders of miners huts dotted about the hillside.





The beautiful blue river was at times calm and tranquil and at other times crashing and fierce but the road continued beside it and above it. Some steeper climbs were starting to test my legs and in particular the one I hoped would be the signal for the road to turn downhill. Granny gears to the fore... I tapped up it and once at the top saw a lady climb away from her camper van and over the barrier...

Don't Do It!!!

I did actually shout that... but with a smile on my face and the lady turned round... camera in hand and said 'no thats further up the road' ( Turns out it actually was... as the famous bungee jumping bridge is located in this gorge!)

Andrea and Ian were from West Sussex in the Uk and were driving to Cromwell to visit friends on their vineyard. Thank you for giving me a smile and lovely to meet you. I hope you have a safe journey home... who knows we may meet in Chiangi Airport!!!


Then the road started downhill a bit but the headwind had kicked up to vicious proportions and was either straight on or mixed with a sidewind. So bad... I was crawling along on the flat around 4-6mph if not less at times when gusts bought me to a standstill. Downhill bits were becoming dangerous... narrow road and a gusting head/sidewind make for difficult bike handling... then ... yup... you've guessed it... the Raindown began.  Intense enough for me not to wait the usual 5 minutes... I whipped out my rainjacket and prepared to get very wet.

This stretch was about 15-20 miles and should have been done (including climbs and photos in 2 hours max... it took almost double that in the end... such was the strength of the wind.

Soaking wet once again... I struggled onward waiting for the point thaf the road turned... 7 miles away. Every inch of ground gained was a struggle. I did stop for more calories... sat down by the roadside when three mountainbikers came wooshing past (with a tailwind) on the Queenstown dirt trail that runs next to the road. The third guy... slowed up and asked if I was alright... nice... but it did make me smile... having come over 1400 miles ... is all i was doing was eating... though he would have got a different answer yesterday morning!!

The road turned slightly... after 7-8 very hard fought miles and with the rain still beating down... I picked up a bit of speed... no longer straining to overcome the headwind...

I did shout above the noise of the wind/rain and cars...

Let it Raindown... cos Im nearly  fcuking there!!

And boy did that feel good.

Entered Frankton.. on the road skirting Queenstown... past the full motor camp... past the no vacancy bandb and out of Frankton... plan b then. Up a steep hill to Peninsula Road and the Hilton hotel complex... my last avenue before having to cycle another 20 miles.

I rolled up to the grand entrance... literally dripping wet and went in. Only one room left
.. double apartment style $530... hmmmmm Tempting!!

I begged for a discount... explained what I was doing and how far id come... the manager went away to ask his boss and came back with an offer...$279... done deal thank you! So thats how I find myself in the very swish apartment with balcony and resplendent with sofas..

Makes me laugh though cos it makes bugger all difference to me ... long as I have a bed and electrical sockets... im good anywhere!

I also managed to Periscope this evening so if you didnt catch it live... it will still be available for a little while at www.periscope.tv/OneChallengeAtATime and you can access by clicking the link above.

I still have 2 days to go... tomorrow to Winton... 96 ish miles... reasonably flat which leaves 40 miles for my last morning to Bluff... where Lorraine will be waiting for the transfer to Dunedin for the gig (massive thanks to Doug and Andy at Auden Guitars!!!).

Im raising money for Love Hope Strength Foundation and have battered my body and mind into submission in order to be worthy of your sponsorship... if you havent already and feel that you can... please visit www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy and help me to the 'End of The World'

LHS


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Day 23 - There are no frontiers

Day 23

This was the big one... the day to end all days. If this was a Tour .. this would be the Queen's stage... the most anticipated... the hardest... the one that would see some break and others sieze the day! Just over 80 miles and 8750ft to climb. .. over 2000ft more than any other day.

I packed up and was out door... to hopefully find an open cafe... and luck was on my side. It was just as well because it was a good 50 miles before the first cafe... and that was after the Haast Pass through the mountains... so I needed food and supplies.  Both sorted... and the rain now falling heavily... I put on all waterproof layers (jacket only) and set off. Damn it was cold. Half tempted to stop and put the leg warmers on I decided not to because may be glad of them being dry later so ploughed on regardless.

The rain was hammering down and I was soon very wet... wet feet... arms... shorts... completely soaked through. The real climbing wouldnt start for 20 miles but there was no shortage of ups.... winding round the foothills with the river as a guide... often far below. There were flat sections and fortunately the tailwind on these short bits meant my legs werent completely dead just yet. .. in fact they were completing the climbs pretty well... but I was very aware that the real climbing had not yet begun.


Mount Aspiring national Park came up next. Unfortunately the cloud and the rain meant there wasnt much to see. Not that I was in an appreciative frame of mind. My feet were now numb with cold... my hands close to the same. Whenever I stopped there was nowhere to shelter so every now and again I stuffed a tracker bar down and a few sweets and a gulp of water... and set off as quickly as possible.
The worst bit being the wet shorts sticking to the legs until I got going again.

I could see how Mount Aspiring would be stunning in nice weather... the river was a glacial blue/grey in the valley below and high rock walls ran next to the road... well above the river at times... All the foothills that I could see were covered in dense green bush.. and mist and rain and cloud so that mostly just an outline was visable.


Battling the rain and the cold meant my reserves... both mentally and physically were close to zero... I had daydreams about thumbing a lift... but didnt stop near any laybys in case I gave in. I was so cold I had some concern about hypothermia... especially as the road started to wind upwards on a more permanent basis instead of the up and down.

I was concerned about time... it was already half ten and the real climbing was just beginning. Flashbacks to the Rimatuka Hill came and went... it cant be that bad ... can it??

The main problem was that I didnt know what I was really facing... it could be another Rimatuka... it could be worse... it could be better... the mind conjoured up scenarios of me still climbing the pass at 4 or 5pm... then what?? Being wet and very cold made it clearly worse and then I passed through the Gate of Haast (gate of hell more like) which signified the start of the proper climbing. 15-20% in places I reckon... with an escape hill on the opposite side of the road... (that tells you how bad it was!).. and gears that were slipping drove me to the very edge of breaking point. I was absolutely certain I wasnt going to be able to finish today... ..


You may not believe how close I was to stopping.. or how desperately I wanted to sit down and close my eyes... be warm and dry at home... or how the tears ran down my face in frustration at myself for being weak...

But something kicked in... and I honestly dont know what it was.... it just kept the pedals turning... even as the thoughts of quitting were shouting to me... the pedals kept turning. If I stopped... I started up again...

I kept going up... so slowly as it was still very steep... then downhill... then another steep climb.... and another...

I couldnt see out of my glasses further than the next foot of tarmac... but maybe that helped...

The steep climbs kept coming... with a little downhill in between... which served to freeze me solid... until I saw a sign... Haast pass... 564m. I had bloody done it. Well... got this far anyway. Shivering I stuffed down more fruit bar things and prepared for a very cold descent. My aim... the cafe.. in 20 miles...  It was mainly downhill with a bit of flat and the mountains started slowly receding into the background... the rain slowed to a trickle and some warm air found me!

Suddenly anything seemed possible.. There are no frontiers that we cant cross...

The twenty miles to the cafe were pretty pleasant... with the rain going... a tailwind at times and the scenery becoming more visable... the world seemed a better place.

I sped that 20 miles and found myself at the cafe at 13:40. Much better time than I dared to hope or thought realistic... given how id felt going up. But I had conquered the Haast pass in pretty awful weather and emerged with a quiet satisfaction that I hadnt given up even though every fibre in my body screamed for me to do so...

After lunch it was a short drop down to Lake Wanaka and the sun was out... I was quickly drying off and removed my rainjacket to allow other layers to wind dry.

Lake Wanaka... a beautiful blue... ringed with mountains (the peaks of the tallest still hidden by cloud... words cannot describe the beauty other than how it penetrated the soul to leave it bewildered.

The road wound round the lake neither rising or falling steeply... leaving me with energy to spare to gaze at it as I wound round it. Then the road started climbing sgain... i could see it in the distance make a break for the gap in the hills to jump over to Lake Hawea. It was warm now and I had found my climbing legs...

Lake Hawea appeared into view only after I had climbed The Neck... 400 and something feet and it was just as spectacular... only more so ... as it signalled that I would make it tonight. 5 miles to go and they were some of the prettiest... running alongside the Lake in all its glory... Up and down of course... and one absolute bugger of a climb... just to finish me off and twist the knife in a little. To add insult to injury... I was overtaken by a bunch of clowns... !! Literally as the circus was in town and kept passing me on the road!

Drying off as I 'sped along' (everything is relative) I wondered what the car drivers thought as they went from a to b when they saw me. Did they even notice at all??


Soon Hawea.. the town came into view. Never been quite so happy to see a little town.. so I crossed the bridge to the first... amd only hotel... fully booked. The kind lady 'phoned a friend' and sent me to see Bev...  (It was at this point that I fell asleep whilst blogging last night!)
And I was soon ensconsed in a nice room with a hell of a view of the lake... a loo with a view... my cycling clothes in a washing machine and on my way to get dinner at the cafe down the road.

The young lad serving me reminded me of my step son with his inability to finish off a sentence with anything other than 'sweet' and the burger and chips were pretty good but was too tired to finish them.

Back to Bev's and was soon crashed out.. unable to finish this blog I was so tired.

I came close to breaking point yesterday but whatever saw me through meant I am still on schedule and battling to get to the end. I cannot do it without your support.

A massive thank you to everyone who has shared the posts... messaged me and commented on the posts. And an even bigger thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far... www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy.

LHS