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.

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