Epic cycle ride undertaken by unfit, overweight, not middled aged lady

I visited Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in 2002. One of the things that really struck me about the countries was the indefatigable people, the welcome extended to visitors and the simple joy taken in small pleasures. But, having visited the Museum of the American War in Ho Chi Minh City, seen the 'Danger UXB' signs in Laos and read the good news headline in a paper in Cambodia: ' Deaths from UXBs down to 3 this month. Only 40 maimed.' I was acutely aware of the toll still being taken on the population.

Over the years I have pondered the munitions still there and this year I have finally decided to get off my bottom and do something. So I have, somewhat impetuously and with little regard for my physical fitness, cycling ability or dodgy left knee decided to join the MAG cycle ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Ankor Wat. I will be doing this the first week or so in Feb 2011 and it does involve a couple of days of over 100km in 30 degree heat. Having signed up I have been told that neither a rickshaw nor an electric bikes are options and that doing the distance on my own pedals is expected.

Donation link is further down on the right - I have paid for my own flights and contributed enough to cover living expenses so all money raised from sponsorship will go to MAG.

This is my blog of my progress to get on the road and when I am there - assuming I will be capable of rational thought after a day of unaccustomed exercise.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Serious Training but have you seen the Weather?

The last two weeks have been a bit of a write off training wise as going out, drinking and eating seemed to have taken over my training time. Although I have not been a complete sybarite and managed to get in several sessions on the exercise bike; but had a horrible moment on Christmas Eve where I discovered it was only a month and a few days before I was actually expected to do the challenge....so, this week I have decided that I must do at least 20 miles per day for the week off to build up the endurance levels on my muscles.

Started the regime the day after Boxing Day, but, after falling asleep on the way back from Southend to the dulcet strains of Metallica ( stepson likes them) blasting from the stereo I realised I might be a tad tired and let myself off with only 14 miles. Yesterday did the 20 and fully intend to do the same today. Still being a bit wimpy about the weather (the snow may have finally mostly melted on the pavements and roads but the fields are still covered) and keeping to the exercise bike until tomorrow. This has good and bad points:
  1. Riding the exercise bike is more concentrated than the real bike because I don't get to free wheel and other stuff plus the gearing is better. Hopefully this means I am building up muscle and stamina more quickly and I know I can go further on the real bike with less pain.
  2. The exercise bike entails me being at home and the padding on my cycling trous has bunched up a bit which is putting a bit of a strain on my marriage (how could any woman resist wandering around the house saying 'LOOK! I have a bigger lunchbox than Linford Christie'?)
  3. There is better scenery when I am on the real bike as I tend to have the telly on while pounding away on the exercise bike. Choice is a bit limited when you are spending a few hours peddling and think that I have now reached the nadir of televisual selection as I ended up watching the Beatrix Potter film last night and enjoying it.
  4. There is far less chance of me falling over and breaking my coccyx though with my high clumsiness quotient this should still be considered a factor even within the house.

All should not be doom and gloom as I am feeling reasonably confident that I am getting there. I know that I could do a 40 mile day and I might just about manage the same the following day.... it would be the day after that I think I would need to spend in an oxygen tent with nice young men peeling my grapes for me. So, while I am not following the regime that they recommend (I should be going further but less frequently) I think that I am doing the right thing for me as it will be the repeat exercise day after day that is going to be my problem (I am tacitly ignoring the heat and humidity). There is also the day of nearly 70 miles that is going to be a real challenge but the project manager in me is setting my milestone target at a regular 40 and will then focus on the end goal of the 70 miler :-)

Busy organising the party for the 15th Jan which will hopefully raise funds for the ride plus celebrate me being halfway towards four score years and ten (a score added on for better meds and diet than a couple of thousand years ago). Other than that I think Jan will be lacking in sociability since I must concentrate on pedals and pedaling.


Thursday, 9 December 2010

A week of gains and losses!

Hertford Castle in a rare moment of sun

Well, had another camera malfunction today as I hadn't realised that it was going to be a day where I could go out on the bike so the battery is still flat... but it is now plugged in so new piccies will be on the next one (even if it is just me on the exercise bike :-) But, I have got out today and done Hoddesdon and back via Hertford - not sure how far I have been as speedo No 2 committed hari kari as I was going over a pot hole in Ware and there was a horrible crunching noise as the car up my bottom delivered the coup de grace. Irritatingly I am having to bike through Ware, an old town, with a narrow main street, lots of traffic and rather inconsiderate parking; because the powers that be have closed the tow path at Ware for the next six months. Given that this has resulted in the death of speedo I feel a strongly worded letter of complaint coming on; not quite up to the rioting students but I believe that my point will be made.

Moor Hens before the snow
Apart from today, most of the training this week has been on the exercise bike; including 21 miles on Sunday which is a 1/3 of the distance so woo hoo. Thankfully for my nether regions the Parcelforce postie delivered the gel cover for the exercise bike yesterday. Although apparently with a smirk since he 'had read all about me in the paper and I am going to need more than a gel cover' - the cheek of it!

Getting a little worried about my lack of natural sporting ability and failure to be up to the levels of fitness that the training pack suggests. After a bit of a heart to heart with my archery cycling bud she queried why I was doing this in the first place given my tendency to sloth, lack of enthusiasm for exercise in general and apathy about cycling as a sport (I have only ever seen it as a way of getting around that doesn't stretch my limited parallel  parking skills to the max). One thing that cycling around does give you (besides body parts that could probably crack a walnut - if we break both sets of nutcrackers this Christmas  - but on second thoughts we will get another pair as that would be unsanitary) is time to think. So, after a bit of a muse today I decided to try and put my motivation down on paper,  well cyberspace anyhow. I'm not great with explaining this sort of thing so hopefully it doesn't sound too trite.

The last year has been a difficult one for me personally: my mother has a particularly horrible illness, both me and hubs have had to take serious pay cuts and, well, let's just say I have 'a bit of a personality clash' with someone at work which resulted in me taking time off for stress. I was wallowing a bit about all these maladies and then I thought about the traveling that I have done, the absolute poverty, malnutrition and obstacles to life that I have seen and having to pull in the belts a bit, not giving expensive Christmas pressies and being a bit more careful about how long we have the heating on and such just seemed such a small set of problems to have. In this slightly evangelical mood I did a bit of an internet search, found the MAG cycle ride and pretty much signed up for it there and then. While I may have a bit of a leap then look personality one thing I am generally pretty good at is following anything through no matter how insane I subsequently realise I must have been at the time - so - I will be cycling the distance or will die in the attempt.

I suspect that I will not do anything like this again, particularly since I have recurring fantasies about taking the trusty steed and the exercise bike to scrap merchants and putting them both in the crusher, but I am glad that I am doing this and the amount of support that I have received from so many people has really put a smile on my face and helped put the minor problems into a bit more perspective.

Today I realised that I might not be the only woman with this type of personality; I watched a lady not assisted by her dog, breaking her wooden barge out of the thick ice round her mooring and trying to pilot it through to the lock. After about 10 minutes I had to start pedaling or lose my feet to frostbite but her efforts during this time had moved her about 2 foot closer to the lock but no further from the bank since she couldn't get on the angle because the ice between her and the far bank wasn't cracking. As I left I took one look at her face and I am pretty sure that she is now either moored far closer to London or her barge is sitting on the bottom of the canal.  Either way I suspect that the ax tied to the roof of the barge would have been involved.


Thursday, 2 December 2010

Gaggling Geese and goggling glamas

Polar bears spotted .... ok lamas but they are white :-)
Ok - all been a bit fraught... what with the fact that England suddenly migrated to the North Pole tail end of last week. Went out for a 17kms ride last Thurs and came back meaning to do a blog but due to frostbite I was unable to type..... I did manage to do 7 miles (after the ride!) on the exercise bike once I had chipped my legs out of the ice though.

Having been unable to fathom how to either take the central heating on the bike or keep several hot water bottles attached to various bits of my anatomy while cycling I have confined myself to the exercise bike. Unfortunately I have discovered that it has a far more uncomfortable saddle than my bike, even with the benefit of the nappy leggings. So, I am now debating the merits of adding a gel cover to my Santa/Amazon wish list but also wondering if there is a bogof offer and whether double gel is better than single gel? hmm - I believe that there will need to be some empirical research done and whether there is a manufacturer out there willing to sponsor it...if so I am willing to go the extra mile to find out the answer :-)

Winter sun near the Barge Hertford
Even with the resulting - ahem - hurty bottom difficulties I am doing a regular 10 to 17 miles on the exercise bike which I reckon is about 14 - 25kms so 25% of the way there... not brill but an improvement. There has been a theory, proffered by a number of people, that suddenly it will all click and I will double my distance overnight. I must admit to being a bit cynical about this and am just trying to get myself into the sort of shape where teeth gritted, British stiff upper lip, alcohol (possibly) fueled determination will just have to carry me over to the finish line. I realise that this might not be the approved training method but it is all I currently have as an option :-)
A gaggle of geese giggling... ok maybe not :-)

I have been advised that I need to get one of these hydrating camel gizmos... I like the idea but bit put off by the fact you have to wear it as a backpack.  As I am sure everyone knows ladies do not perspire but glow; having said that in 30 degs I think I will be glowing like a good 'un and don't fancy having a plastic bag on my back preventing said 'glow' evaporating.

Piccies this blog were mostly taken before last weekend... as the lack of icebergs following the geese demonstrates. Vicky signing off, not even contemplating going out for a walk and will definitely not be going to be some time. 


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Happiness.... is a padded bottom :-)

The padded cycling leggings have been a revelation - on the serious upside the padding relieves quite a bit of saddle pain in your.... well let's say nether regions and leave it at that... the downside is that when you get off and walk you adopt a stance somewhat like John Wayne in a nappy. I am also having a bit of a sizing issue: the cycling has meant that my legs have become somewhat thinner but has had little affect on my torso area and whoever designed these did not have in mind a woman with a profile of toffee apple (on a stick....).

Great ride today (Hoddesdon and back then a few turns round Hartham Common) - been just over 25kms and only came in because I was starting to get cold, so, 25% there on distance and feeling ok. Will aim for 30kms at the weekend or possibly two days of 25kms and see where I get to with it but the short bursts of frantic cycling on the exercise bike most nights seems to be the right training strategy for me. I do need to devise some different routes as getting a little bored but listening to podcasts whiles away quite a lot of the monotony. For those of you into Kermode I will be saying 'Hello to Jason Isaacs' while on my trip...

Will be working out the injections needed for Vietnam and Cambodia and booking in with the doc, so next week I will mostly be a pin cushion. Hopefully it will not be as bad as when I ran out of time before a trip and had typhoid, cholera, polio, japanese encephelitus and rabies all in one go then spent three days wrapped in a duvet about 2 inches from the gas fire because I couldn't stop shivering. To be fair the doc did express some qualms before administering but I believe I told him to stop being a wimp and get on with it which, with hindsight, might not have been the best decision.

No proper piccies but me as I now appear on the work intranet
No piccies this week due to serious camera malfunction.... battery is dead. Bit of a pity as weather good today and some fantastic scenes of the trees with the last few leaves clinging onto them but perhaps I can catch them at the weekend. Assuming I can find the charger :-)

Managed to get me, my bike and a few words on the company website and already had the promise of a donation so well impressed with that one. Although I am not sure my colleagues will look at me in the same light. Sponsorship is still going well and I am really grateful as so many people have donated. But still a bit short on the minimum level of cash plus I want to get as much in as possible given that I am unlikely to ever do anything like this again so we are also planning a party in Jan for a joint birthday/please give a fiver to MAG event. Details will be coming through shortly.

That's about it for this week


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Completely inspired....

Podged up to Manchester on Saturday for a MAG briefing and was surprised to be on the train meeting the oldest person on this years cycle ride who happened to have booked the seat next to me. Coincidence is a funny thing!

Lunch is Served
As Vito appears to have little shame she went round keeping a book on what age everyone is and there is a span from 22 to 73... I was just relieved that there was someone doing it who was older than me as I thought I would be surrounded by young, fit, cycling blokes.... In fact I was rather looking forward to it :-)

There was a number fitting that description but I was relieved to see that I am probably average age for the group. I am also not the only one whose training is not going well as there were a few who aren't getting as far as me including the chap who hasn't actually got on his bike as yet.

The  briefing did bring it home to me that it was actually going to happen and I do need to step up a gear on the training although praise be that they showed the profile of all the hills and there is nothing over 20 metres to climb...

Talking brass tacks (and sore bottoms)
Training this week has not gone badly - the Thursday ride was a little truncated due to gale force winds (I may be mad to decide to do this challenge but I am  not completely insane) so I ended up on the exercise bike doing 16 miles - the longest yet. Today has been 7 miles so far but intend to do a few more after finishing the blog as I got diverted this afternoon by more important stuff - I went shopping for clothes for the event. After several hours at the Galleria I now have various travel shirts, zippy trousers and some padded legging things - plus a cycle helmet as they have been quite clear on the fact that I cannot ride without it. Bah.

Not quite got round to actually purchasing the cycling shorts yet as am still mentally scarred from the sight of myself in spandex from the '80s but I think it will have to be done.... maybe over Christmas....I did work out that I needed to buy ladies cycling shorts as the gents are not anatomically padded to fit someone of my - ahem - stature....

That's about it


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Red Riding Hood aka Fluorescent Yellow Riding Buff ...

All feeling a bit more hopeful about my ability to stay the course. I did 20kms on Thurs along the tow path then another 20kms today along the 
Barn ... the Slaughtered Lamb is just round the corner
roads and back today, all supplemented by 5-8 miles a night on the exercise bike (except Tues and Fri as we were out). On Thursdays ride had a very nice man doff his cycle helmet to me as I pedaled past so nice to see the old manners still extant.... Although today had the interesting experience of waving frantically at a man who looked exactly like my husband in a car exactly like ours which drove past me while I was taking a breather at Hertford Heath. When I spoke to hubby he denied all knowledge of ignoring me and stated that it must have been doppleganger that also happened to be driving back from the archery field at the same time since he must have missed me by several minutes :-)

A bit of mud on Ermine St
Todays ride was a bit of an experiment as I have got a little bored with the tow path and Cole Green Way and thought I would expand my horizons. I cycled out into the countryside on the roads intending to meet up with a bridleway on the line of an old Roman Road (Ermine St). After a couple of close encounters with Range Rovers and the like where I ended up taking refuge in the ditch, multiple stops to consult the OS map plus my bike getting stuck in the quagmire on the Roman road I decided that it was not particularly successful. This was compounded by getting back and finding I had only done 12 kms so ended up circling various bits of Hartham Common overtaking one particular dog walker 5 times which may end up with me being labeled as a bit of a nutter... Despite the mud it was pretty and I did get to see some of the farmland around Hertford albeit that I did keep thinking of 'American Werewolf in London' for some reason.

Slightly pink after 12 kms (mostly uphill and muddy)
But the big news is that after the ride today I still had enough energy to do a further half an hour on the Wii Fit rather than having to limp upstairs and have a sleep in the bath... so - next weekend target is 25kms.

Going up to Manchester next Saturday for the briefing at MAG and to meet the others who will be doing the ride (around 32 this year). As I will have to share a room with someone I will be putting on the charm and not necessarily  be mentioning that I tend to talk in my sleep, especially after late night cheese. Hubby also alleges that I snore but I think that is complete tosh and he is just hearing the echo of his own. As always sharing a room with me should be considered a privilege and I am sure I can convince my new roomie of this :-) Especially since I am Now Famous...


Thursday, 4 November 2010

20kms achieved!

Trusty steed was returned on Sat after intensive surgery and it was well worth it. Riding out on Sunday was a revelation: when changing gears there was no longer a crunch, crunch then lack of any motive power for half a pedal space or so. Consequently I hit the determination button and decided to do 20kms. There was some sort of space/time continuum problem on the ride though as while I did 10kms and turned round on the way back I had only clocked 19.7 kms when I got home but a couple of turns round the block soon sorted that one and the goal of 20 was achieved. So, can now do 20% of the daily ride for once I am out there...and as I have now booked our flights (Trailfinders were fantastic) I feel I have definitely passed the point of no return.

The exercise bike has come into its own this week as I have done 5-8 miles (approx 7.5 - 12 kms in new money) every night except Tuesday. As I seem to be struggling to put on distance I thought that a few weeks of intensive, nightly training at a 5-10 mile distance might help to increase the stamina and at this point I am a bit desperate since I should be up to 30kms a ride.

Following a good talking to delivered by a lady that knows her bike stuff I have purchased some toe clip things and will be trying them out at the weekend. As a slight geek I can appreciate that they should help on the distance since you will be gaining some motive power from the upswing on the pedal as well as the down but I am not convinced they won't make me crash and burn. As a bit of a beginner with this sort of stuff I have got the ones that you are supposed to be able to slip your foot in an out of easily rather than the sort that has you nailed to the pedal but given my ability to fall over with no assistance (ie not alcohol induced) I still think that this is a dangerous idea.

My knees are a bit of a worry since they have locked up a couple of times, luckily not when I am on the bike and it is now both of them rather than just my left knee. So, I have decided that a couple of nice neoprene knee supports are in order. This has a double gain since hubby has mentioned that he would like to see me in a rubber outfit so I will be off to Boots this morning and making his dream come true later; well the knee bit of me anyhow.

Fundraising is going well with a number of generous donations over the past couple of weeks but I am fast approaching the deadline of the 19th November and have several hundred left to go. Pursuing a few ideas to boost the total and am on line to get the minimum amount although maybe not by the deadline; I feel a bit of fast talking with MAG coming on :-)

Will be out on the bike later going for over 20kms down the tow path and will let you know how I get on.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Too much happening to blog...

Autumn Colour on the Lee Navigation
The last couple of weeks have been a tad eventful. We had the second wine tasting last Sat which raised more money towards my target and also involved a hubby home brew beer tasting. Amazingly two chaps managed to guess the right commercial beer that hubs was aiming for with each of the two brews; well they got one right each. Not sure whether this indicates that we know people who drink too much beer or that hub's home brew is spot on; possibly a bit of both...

Special bonus was that I managed to judge the hummus volume better this time and we have not spent a week eating the left overs. This is especially good for me since after the last tasting I soon realised that a high fibre and garlic diet was not compatible with several hours on a bike without any public conveniences...

Autumn Berries on the Cole Green Way
I have also discovered a few other things; one of which is when you are talking to a member of the professional biking community and they ask if you use baskets or clips the correct answer is not 'I have teal panniers'. And there was me thinking I had cracked the super biking stuff by mastering the gears!

Had to finally bite the bullet so Trusty Steed was dropped off at Marshalls bikes thirty mins or so ago. Explained to the nice man the litany of problems and there was a bit of head shaking and air being sucked in through the teeth. He has put Trusty Steed in the Intensive Care Unit and will be reporting progress throughout the operation tomorrow. Not sure I am too happy with his repeated promise to call 'if he finds anything major wrong' although this might have been caused by the fact that TS was caked to the eyeballs with mud as the towpath was a bit wet today...
The Evil Headless Goose of Ware

I have also decided that the Cole Green Way is safer at the weekend rather than the Lee Navigation as there are less Canada geese in a bread fueled frenzy either blocking the path with no sense of impending doom from an approaching cyclist or trying to peck your tyres.

I blame Mothers Pride :-)
The extra distance has not quite worked out as yet although I am managing the seven miles every other night on the exercise bike. Unfortunately this is leaving me with residual leg muscle ache and I haven't got further than the 18kms on the real bike, but I did the Cole Green Way again on Sunday (post wine tasting) and managed this distance even though most of the way out is uphill so I counted that as a victory. Hoping that the regular extra distance on the exercise bike will suddenly translate into a boost of stamina in a few weeks time

Sorry this post sounds a bit distracted; hubby has been expanding the music collection and when I started there was a polka rendition of 'The Wall', which didn't seem an obvious combination to me; however this has now moved onto Paranoid,  and, say what you like about 'Sabbath, but their natural rhythm really isn't polka related...

The fame continues - I was in The Star last week as well. I am checking copy write and hope to post the articles on my blog shortly...


Monday, 18 October 2010

Now Famous Wife

No piccies this week but it has been an interesting one. Hubby is referring to me as his 'Now Famous Wife' since my appearance (with photos) in both the Hertfordshire Mercury and the Hertford and Ware scene. The Mercury even sent over a professional photographer which was great and caused a bit of a stir in Tamworth Road last Tuesday- I thought one motorist was going to end up through the hedge to the allotments he was goggling so much.

I have also discovered that I can pay for my own airfare which will mean that all of the money I raise goes to MAG so I have had a very long call with Trailfinders as the internet websites don't really cater for open jaw tickets too well. They have come up with a bearable flight (only one change) that is not too expensive so my credit card will be taking a battering shortly :-)

And - training has gone well. 'Now Not Quite So Famous Hubby fitted the bike computer on Sunday. It didn't work initially but gave it a couple of judicious thumps (as a mechanical engineer I know you have to show these electronics who is boss) and it started clocking the kms. Hence have found out that my normal ride is a little over 18.5 kms. Which on the positive side is about 20% of the distance I need to go in a day, or there abouts.

Decided to up my exercise bike regime to 7 miles at a time (I have been mostly doing 5 miles every other night) and am hoping to be at 25kms a go by the end of October since I felt relatively ok when I finished on Sunday. Just need to get over the psychological barrier of getting to Rye House and knowing that I can get back from there without a heart attack on the way back.... or I could take a detour at the end and go around Hertford a bit. Anyhow, 23 kms is the aim for the Thursday ride which gives me about a week to get another couple of clicks on there.   Slightly disappointed at the lack of recognition on Sunday since the tow path seem to be very busy due to the good weather and I was hoping that there would be a few people lining up to give me a donation....

Fame has not changed me though and I am still doing my own shopping :-)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Bike Bells

My favourite view - it means I am nearly home
Training finally seems to be going better. I am managing to do the ten mile stints three times a week (admittedly with one of those on the exercise bike) and an evening or so of five mile sprints (again on the exercise bike). As a result of this my legs are starting to ache within the first mile of each ride but I am hoping that as the muscles build up this will start to ease.

New Bell loving fitted by my own hand
Over the years our house has developed a system to address all DIY; I, as the trained engineer, am project manager while hubby provides the labour element. However, despite me adding all of the bike maintenance to hub's to do list there has been a slight lack of action. On Thursday I gave up and wielded the screwdriver myself, as a result of which I now have a bell, I worked out why one brake doesn't work (but need a piece to fix it) and my front reflector no longer has brewers droop. The new front light is now fitted but I am baffled as to where I fix the back light as the panniers get in the way and the bike stand is still wobbly since we do not appear to possess a socket wrench. I'm coming to the conclusion that I may have to bite the bullet and take it into the local shop for a full service; a little treat for the trusty steed after fifteen years in my possession with little more than a couple of squirts of WD40.

Having the bike bell has been a revelation; pedestrians seem to prefer the quick tinkle of a bell as opposed to a lady bearing down upon them shouting 'ding ding'. Previously some of the pedestrians have got a little shirty but now relations with those who amble along the tow path have improved, although not with the group of teenagers on Thursday who appeared to take exception to me shouting 'get out the way I am going downhill'. 

Planning to up the ante shortly on distance so fingers crossed that I can actually walk the next day.


Sunday, 3 October 2010


Not been a bad week training wise. Managed a couple of evening sessions on the exercise bike of 5 miles plus a trundle up the Cole Green Way on the real bike (without any incident this time) and 8 miles today on the exercise bike. Really need to get up to a 14 mile minimum now though so not quite going to plan but intend to do another 2 miles today to round it off to at least double figures. There is a bit of benefit analysis involved as I do need to be able to walk the next morning for work and I have a nasty feeling that if I push into too high a double figure I will be requiring motorised assistance to go anywhere.
Strange Sheep for Hertfordshire

Came to a horrible realisation on the Cole Green Way; I was biking along, happily listening to Gardeners Question Time and it occurred to me that I might be middle aged. As you can imagine this was a bit of a shock so quickly switched to some obnoxious rock music. Sadly, given that said music dated from the '90s, then concluded that it just condemned me even more. Then cheered myself up as I decided that proper middle aged ladies don't cycle along with their Ipod stuffed in their bra (lack of appropriate pockets) and so I didn't fit the expected decorum levels and therefore I could not be middle aged.

Reached the quarry (somewhere near Welwyn) and overtook the JCB that was driving along the edge which was a new overtaking experience and one I celebrated by stopping to get my breath back once I had rounded a corner and was no longer in view.

The exercise bike is proving to be a real godsend as I can get in a few miles most evenings and I figure that anything is better than nothing. But, we have been invited to a get together of MAG cyclists in early November so it is dawning on me that I might actually be expected to cycle the distance. Methinks a review of the suggested training plan from MAG and a bit of pulling out of fingers may be in order over the next few weeks, whether it leaves me unable to perambulate or not.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Me in the buff

Trusty Steed on the Cole Green Way
Last nights fundraising did not start propitiously. At around midday had a call from Caroline to report that she had strep throat and was not well enough to come, then a text from 'Vets and Steve to report a family emergency needing them to cry off. Managed to scale down some of the dishes to suit the reduced numbers but think that Paulie and I will be eating our way through the hummous and felafel mountain for a few days.

So, apart from having a few less you'd have thought it would all go well from there on. Nope. Turned on the oven and it hadn't got up to temp after 1/2 an hour; realised that there was something seriously wrong so devised plan B:  used the little oven (lucky we were only cooking for 5 and not 8 as not sure that both joints of lamb would have fitted in it). At this point I decided that we were probably doomed.

Chris, Sarah and Neil all arrived safely and a jolly evening of ribald comments and wine tasting ensued; until we got to the piece de la resistance; the dessert wine; which turned out to be corked.  Definitely doomed. 

Well maybe not: due to huge generousity on the part of our guests we now have a sizeable contribution to add to the fund and a good time was had by all so despite a few teething problems job's a goodun. Just the Oct one to do now where I think we may have 12-16 people coming.

So as promised - me in the buff :-)
Now, to date I have been a little hesistant about wearing the full pukka buff gear as I think anyone seeing me in it would then assume I might know what I was doing. I have been sporting the buff and gloves as I realised both of them are marvelous: The buff soaks up the sweat/rain etc and stops it dripping in my eyes plus it has the added benefit of holding my sticky out ears down so stopping my glasses falling down my nose; The gloves are a joy; I think I mentioned that I kept getting aches in my shoulders and hands when riding but I have found that the  padded gloves have stopped this. But, haven't ventured into the t shirt wearing since I am still panting like a steam train once I get peddling and not sure this is a good ad :-)

But, decided today was the day. So, despite having woken up feeling a little groggy and out of sorts (obviously down to overwork), I donned the full buff and cycled off down the Cole Green Way (for a bit of a change); where my gears jammed and I ended up coming off the bike. After some minor cursing gave Trusty Steed a bit of a talking to and then got back on the horse but think a visit to the bike hospital may be overdue. Tshirt did perform admirably and appears to make me more aerodynamic although not sure how that works.

So an eventful couple of days but do need to get the sponsorship up to secure my place on the ride so a few nagging emails to write today. 

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Quest for Tahini...

Well, we have the first of the wine tastings tomorrow evening so was sorting out bottles from the wine cellar* and planning the menu this morning. Then hit a bit of a major snag; decided I would serve up a mezze (including baba ghanoug and felafel) but when compiling the shopping list realised that the tahini vat was empty.  From bitter experience we know that the Hertford Tesco does not carry it and I have a regular trek to West London to stock up on this and other essentials (like pomegranate syrup) but I must have brought less than I thought last time and the cupboard was bare. 

After a desperate facebook plea this morning there was a posse of archers (not sure if that is the right collective term - a flight?) scouring the Hertford countryside for this essential Middle Eastern ingredient. The troops (aka Rosemary and Sarah) reported back at about 2pm indicating that there was no tahini to be had in either Hatfield or Ware. Panic set in and I debated about selecting an alternative cuisine but then I saw a strange light and a voice said 'seek your desire at Waitrose' **. Obviously I now had a mission so I hopped on the bike and there was a moment of joy in the sauce aisle, I thanked my lucky stars and cleared them out of their  stock so we now have a couple of jars in the kitchen. 

Training wise I have been on the exercise bike this week plus will be on again this evening; hopefully doing a little more than the five miles on Monday night. Anyhow I plan to do a proper ride on Sunday providing that I am not feeling too delicate from all the spicy food the night before.  Obviously the quantity of wine to be consumed will have nothing whatsoever to do with my relative health. So I am managing the three rides a week I should be doing at this stage although I may not be quite managing the distances that I should.

Buff have sent me a few bits and pieces for my bike so I am hoping that Paulie will 'pimp my ride' over the weekend and I should be posting some photos of me fully buffed :-)

* I 'fess up; the wine cellar also doubles as the under stairs cupboard.

** Oh ok, there wasn't a light but thought this was more interesting than stating 'Rosemary posted a suggestion on my wall'.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Cow Crossing, Overtaking and the Tasting of Wine

This week I was struck down by the lurgy... specifically a sore throat and chesty cough so today has been my first training session of the week. Boy was it a good one.  While I haven't got any further than my normal ride (about 9 miles) I am doing it much faster as I have finally managed to get up to third gear. This heroic feat enabled me to overtake two people who didn't have gray hair! Woo - hoo! I did think about getting off, doing a victory dance then overtaking them again once they had passed me but thought that this might be a tad undignified. Sadly this Herculean achievement wasn't captured on the new speedo (fitted yesterday) as at some point it came off it's mount not to be seen again.

Moos heading for the bridge
And they are sneaking up behind me...
Slightly dodgy moment traversing the meads: I have a mistrust of cows ever since my Mum told me that the farmers put bulls in the field with them so if anything without udders showed undue interest I should run like the blazes; the meads are full of bullocks (which definitely qualify on the without udders thing) and they chose to traverse the bridge just as I got there; I seized all my courage and, spurred on by the fact that they were also sneaking up behind me, managed to get across (in third gear and at speed as I figured I could probably out peddle them given that I was on the way out rather than the way back). All passed without incident even though I was sporting my red buff but they did give me a few sidelong looks that I wasn't too happy about.
As a training aid Chris and Judith have lent me an exercise bike (big thank you) so I am intending to do a bit of cycling while watching TV of an evening in an attempt to get the muscle mass up. While exercise bikes are not as effective in training as the real thing I realised that I am not getting any further because my legs are aching and that I am also a bit of a lazy mare; so, fitting in 40 mins peddling of an evening seems a bit easier than getting on the real bike after work and a commute.

Finally, been running round the house doing a bit (ok - quite a bit) of kibble removal as we have the first wine tasting next Sat and neither hubby or I are natural minimalists. Not quite sure where the general detritus all comes from, especially since lots has gone to Freegle, but it definitely breeds once you put something down. Had a bit of a de-clutter since our small, Victorian workers cottage rooms were not designed to host huge numbers of people so removal of stuff is essential if people are to have small luxuries like seats. Just hope nobody decides to open any of the cupboard doors since we could have an avalanche fatality :-)

Friday, 17 September 2010

Good and Bad Week

Well - slightly odd week in any event. I received a large package of goodies from Buffera yesterday (buffs, shirt, gloves etc) plus I have purchased new lights and a widget that tells you how far you have traveled, speed etc.  So, looking forward to trying it all out and was planning on a ride this evening. But, best laid plans of mice etc. I started having a bit of a cough yesterday and this transformed into a full scale hack this morning after a night of little sleep. I have been mainlining benelin all day but still feeling pretty pants so decided that I ought to nurse it this evening rather than going for a long ride.

Chris and Judith have also been really fab and are lending me an exercise bike. This should arrive tomorrow evening so I will be able to do some inside training as well as the full pukka bike rides. Will be swapping it for the horse riding machine so there may have to be some furniture rearranging at the weekend.

So, I now have all the equipment but haven't actually done much riding this week. Wondering whether this phenomena is an undiscovered subset of Murphy's Law?

Am hoping that I will be mostly recovered by Sunday and can get some miles in then as I am missing the scenery although not the large bumps as I sail over tree roots in an inadequate saddle. 

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Enabling works

Decided to spend my training time today making life a little easier. So, peddled down to the local DIY store to find found there are no bike racks. Undeterred I padlocked trusty steed to the nearest post and blocked a car parking space. Guerrilla cycling in action :-)

Unfortunately they didn't have the type of lock I wanted for our back gate which will allow me to lock it from both sides - currently I have to open gate, put bike on pavement, lock gate, run through house cursing hubbie who is not assisting and out the front door. But did purchase desired tool storage widget and peddled a little unsteadily back balancing it on the handle bars with one hand and steering/braking with the other; possibly not quite in accordance with the Highway Code. 

Shed now has a clear space around the bike and I won't have to fight with the rake/spade/fork etc every time I take him out.  Lock on order from Ebay. Other half press ganged into fitting lock immediately it arrives so all is well with the world. Only moral of today is that if you don't want half of Hertford to get a view of your unmentionables don't cycle in a floaty summer skirt :-)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

First corporate sponsor and more training

Boat going through Hardmead lock
Not feeling particularly motivated this morning and had to give myself a bit of a talking to. Conversation was short but productive: 'Woman, if you cannot get your bottom on the bike when the sun is shining what an earth are you going to do when you need to be out 5 times a week in December?'. 'Good point, well made' . Off I toddled. 

I was also spurred on since my first corporate sponsorship has been offered this morning so chickening out is definitely not an option. We are still sorting out the paperwork so I can't post who as yet but once I have signed up and handed this over expect a logo and weblink to some nice people. There will also be a few photos of me (which I have to say I am never keen on) sporting some interesting gear that is going to mean that the Hertford locals no longer have to look out for a sweaty woman biking down the canal in scruffy t shirts who has to stop every 10 mins to wipe her face. BTW - just a quick tip on this - if you are wearing a black, reasonably new, denim shirt do not use this for said face wiping as you end up looking a bit grey and your hubby gets worried when you get back.

Not a long ride today as will be moving up a gear next week and trying for three rides per week following up from the two per week I have been doing. Those of you following my blog, don't panic. Blog updates will stay at about 2 per week and not after every training session :-)

The haul of crayfish
Fishing near Wear Lock



Monday, 30 August 2010

Here there be dragons...

Place at Rye House - with dragon...
Got a little over confident on yesterdays ride - decided  to    push for Rye House (about another mile on previous distances) and had to have a few stops on the way back to breathe and rest the legs. Debated about ringing hubby to pick me up as wasn't sure I would make it back but eventually got back. Collapsed into the bath  and lay around for most of the evening.

The ride did mark a milestone - having been passed by a number of fit young (and not so young) blokes on their bikes decided to have a go on the overtaking thing myself. Goal was achieved when I sailed past a chap on his sit up and beg.... victory was sweet even allowing for the fact that he was a few years, well thirtyish, older than myself.

Also had a gear revelation: When you are changing gear you need to keep peddling otherwise strange things happen...

Family taking an afternoon saunter
Trusty steed was in good form after Paulie had provided a little TLC (oil and air) on Sunday but I think that maybe a full service from the bike shop may be in order as one of the brakes isn't working plus my front reflector seems have developed a permanent case of brewers droop . Paulie asked what I did when I worked out that I had a non functional brake and didn't seem too impressed with the answer 'only used one brake to stop the bike'. As I pointed out - me driver you mechanic :-)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Nice Weather .... for swans

Swans on the Lee Navigation just past Ware
Following advice from both hubby and the work psycho - cyclist (so called as he bikes to Holborn every morning) I decided to give the 'using the gears thing' a bit of a try out. Apparently adjusting speed by peddling faster/slower is not the right way to do it. But, I learnt on a bike that had 3 gears and the habit of dropping the chain when you tried to change gears so I have never had much truck with them before. Although I did wonder if I should give them a try when I first got my 18 gear bike but then decided it was a bit too much effort.

Trusty steed needs TLC after a few puddles...
So today, on training run 3 I managed to have a play with the derailleur bits of the gear and decided that changing down is definitely good when you are trying to get up the steep bits by the locks. Got to St Margarets, despite the rain and mud, so a bit further than the last ride. Now paying for this as the one thing the boys forgot to mention was that it is harder to peddle in the higher gears.... limped into the house and now going to have a long bath since it is not only the steed that is muddy.

And the saddle is still shrinking.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

And so it begins....

Just back from an approx 6 mile ride to Amwell nature reserve. I was trying to get as far as St Margaret/Stansted Abbots but the reserve was so lovely I just had to stop, and then I realised that I might not have the where withall to actually get back - discretion won out and I managed to cycle back without resorting to walking the bike

Only disappointment is that my super comfy, gel filled saddle seems to have degraded over the years and is now much smaller than when I bought it. Well, that is the only explanation I can come up with :-)

Wine tastings (to raise funds) being organised so watch this space

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

First cycle ride after 5 years

Did manage to dig out bike and was relieved to see that the trusty steed was in reasonable nick - yippee. My first ride in a while had good and bad points: 

Good points: Admittedly the wobble factor was high but the peddle speed was medium and the incidence of falling off was low so I count that as a pass

Bad points: I am not sure that collapsing into a puddle trying to work out the universal sign language for 'get me an oxygen cylinder and a paramedic' is a good omen for the months of training ahead....

Getting onto ebay to see if anyone is getting rid of an exercise bike :-)

Methinks there will have to be more cycling on a daily basis (assuming that I can move after today).

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Training - Week 8

Welcome to my blog - which will detail my progress (or lack thereof) on training and also have a diary of my trip. So, progress on training, to date this has been a little slow - so far I have made many plans but none have yet met the implementation phase.... so I have simplified the regime:

a. Dig bike out of junk in shed
b. Get on bike
c. Pedal

Hoping to put the plan into action first thing Weds.... will update if I manage it :-)

Bye for now