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.