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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