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Monday, 13 March 2017

You learn more from the difficult dayz....

Training weekend in the Lakes... Grizedale forest to be exact.... 
This was a chance to try out carrying kit and a few tweaks on the bike... 

Coming hot on the heels of 9 out of 10 days at work... including the new 14 mile cycle to work and the 14 miles back and a late night... a 4am start and a 5 hour drive to meet up with nicola and david j at Grizedale Forest .. was not the best way to prepare for what we hoped would be another epic ride or two. To say I was knackered was an understatement! But... I reasoned... with all the 'Lid Logic' I could muster... THAT is precisely how the Tour Divide will be.

I had packed an approximation of all the kit that I will be taking with me from Canada to the Mexican border and packed it into the bike packing bags as it would be for the start in June. New innovation... well for me... was the packing of my sleep system... but more of that in another post to come. The bags were packed ... the bike was ready...and as I drew up to the visitors centre to be greeted by david and nic's grinning faces .. the weather was ready for us.  Drizzling with a vengeance.. to say it was a grey day would  be doing the miserable weather a disservice. 
Not only that.. but a car rally had blocked off half the forest to our use leaving us to head out on the road to get to the forest roads. 

I had put on both the saddle and frame bag for the first run out and the first thing I noticed was exactly how heavy it all was. As I rolled out straining on the pedals in too big a gear... a crunch ... a grinding... and my chain snapped... and I hadnt even got out of the car park!! Fortunately I had learnt from a previous outing with the Johnstons when Id had to push David 4 miles back when he had had a similar issue. My chain links were put to use and a quick repair was effected. Take 2 then..

Out we went up the road... and up... and up.. and up and it was a sinking feeling as I realised my legs werent gonna play ball. Even on smooth tarmac it felt horrendous and as we turned into the forest with the rain getting heavier I was already in a mental battle with myself.  We had decided to stick to the forest roads... wide gravel paths for the most part but being Grizedale... most of it was up. Even small rises were feeling like mountain passes and with each pedal turn.. my heart sunk way further. I was not having fun. Normally I would be on my own with only my own head to fight with but I was hugely concious of the fact that nic and david didnt seem to be struggling the way I was and I was holding them up big time. Thoughts of turning round and cruising back to the car park took over my mental space yet I kept the pedals going round feeling the worst id ever felt on a bike. (Not quite true... ive had much worse days.. but thats how it felt at the time)  The loop we did was only 13 miles but by the time we had returned to the car park for lunch (bacon and hot chocolate .. thanks guys) I was soaked... knackered... and had had enough) I think Nic knew this as when we started suiting up again... she took pity on me and suggested we stop for the day ... and go and get a drink in town. Torn between feeling bad for cutting the day short and the body being totally fried.. we agreed on this plan. 
Unable to appreciate the beautiful forest surroundings I hoped that a bit of a rest and a good sleep would rejuvenate my body for the next day. Then came the first slip of the day... literally. Heading up the grass bank to go and pay for the car park... I slipped... caught myself... took another step and promptly fell flat on my face adding to the covering of mud and at least providing some laughter for the day!

Hot chocolate and cake swiftly followed by dinner. By this point I was struggling to keep my eyes open... literally falling asleep in my lasgne. Fortunately David and Nic are too nice to take pictures.
It was still hammering down when I made my way to my campsite equipped with a tarp and my sleep system. At the farm I was pointed towards a very boggy field and asked if I could set up the tarp on the gravel of the car park... asking me to wait a moment the young man dissappeared and in his place his mum who no doubt seeing my bedraggled exhausted state offered me the bunk house for a night! Hmmmm wet and cold v warm and dry.? Needless to say I passed up the opportunity for further practice for the Tour Divide and crashed in the warm and dry... literally... I was asleep by 8pm!! A massive thank you must therefore be extended to Abott Farm campsite for the rescue! 😁 When I finally got up in the morning I awoke to no rain and a beautiful view and generally felt better.
And so to Day 2...
Determined to have a better day (haha) I set out to Grizedale planning to leave behind much of the kit off my bike. 

It wasnt really raining for a change and the forest was now devoid of the noise of the rally cars. No mishaps out of the starting gate but the tracks were all churned up by the cars leaving a quagmire in many places. Boy was it hard going... like cycling through sand and the lack of bags was not making the huge difference to my progress.... my legs were still shot! 
I was able to appreciate the beauty of the forest a bit better today and despite the lack of cooperation from the legs... was managing to get up the climbs at a steady pace. 
The profile was once again mainly up..
 And the downhills... although fast... were over quickly and didnt really reward for the effort. We did get a view of the lake and there was a fun section of grassy doubletrack which came to an abrupt halt at the base of a very steep and slippery climb... the back wheels spun... the foot went down and that was that... hike a bike to the top of that section!
At some point David's bike began emitting a few squeaking sounds and as he stopped to look at the problem... i noticed he was riding a singlespeed.... essentially one cog at the front instead of my 2. I hadnt realised he was riding that and he gained a whole heap of respect from me as the climbs must be infinately harder with less gear range. I asked him why he picked that and was informed that they are easier to maintain and much more reliable as there is less to go wrong! Further down the track David's back wheel siezed and despite some on the trail attempts.. either it kept siezing or became loose. Prompted laughter when myself and nic pointed out that we had recently been told singlespeed is much more reliable!! 😁
All this meant that our cycling had come to an end... much to my relief frankly as I was done in already. His rear hub had gone and he needed a new one. This meant that I was saved from having to go really slowly and painfully any more miles.

My performance this weekend left me feeling pretty dejected initially... as you can imagine..despite Dave and Nic pointing out that we all have bad 'bike dayz'. But a couple of days later the positivity has reset itself and I realise that the best lessons to be learned are found when things go wrong so here is a run down...

The jacket I wore on the first day... whilst it kept me dry was overheating me... leaving me dehydrated and energy depleted. I need a jacket that has more breathability yet is still another warm layer and remains waterproof and packable.

The sleep system... although only unfurled indoors was quick to unpack and pack away and worked well.

The water bottle placement on the handlebars was easy to get at... secure and made drinking on the go easy.

My slightly adjusted gps position meant that it did not rattle around so much and was easier to read and utilize.

My frame bag doesnt fit my mountain bike well enough. If i get a triangle frame bag... it will hold as much stuff but enable me to access another water bottle on the frame. They arent expensive and will effect a big change.

Above all... I have realised that I need to pack WAY LESS KIT!
Less kit = lighter bike= faster and easier!!
So i will sort out the kit for my next serious training run on saturday and put these things to use.

Above all... I need to remember that this challenge facing me is as much mental as physical and whilst I may have bad dayz on the bike... my mental strength WILL prevail!

It's alright... It's ok 😁