Monday, 22 June 2015

Nottingham Cycle Live

21/06/2015 - One week after the Blenheim Triathlon and I'm booked to do a 50 mile ride at the Nottingham Cycle Live event. I'd persuaded a good friend, James, to come along and keep me company. He's only recently got into cycling so I guessed 50 miles might be a bit daunting for him but knowing James I was also confident that he could do it without issue. So I softened him up a bit by letting him know that I'd be round his house to pick him up at 06:00 am. I was half expecting "what! you're bloody joking!" but disappointingly he was absolutely fine about the early start.

As it turned out due to a rather busy weekend involving a lot of driving and a works party it was me that would struggle with the early start. Anyway four thirty in the morning my alarm went off and like a insomniac dogger I sneaked out of the bedroom trying not to wake up my wife, slip into my Lycra and head out to the car. The bike already stowed away in the car and, as I'd had it serviced that week, I was hoping it would do me better than it did at Blenheim. I'd dropped it off, slightly embarrassed to be handing in my little old Carrera in sight of all the lovely carbon beauties in the shop. My mate asked what was involved in the "basic" service I was having done, "Urinate on it I suspect" was my initial response, followed by "I paid for something to be done, what that something was, whether it needed doing or was actually done I don't know. Same thing I've had to do for everything I've ever got serviced in my entire life". So in other words I was just having to trust it was going to be sorted. Service completed I picked it up and tried the "that's not my bike!" line. They asked what my one was and I panicked, could not remember an expensive name, so blurted "one of those expensive carbon ones". They reckon I might have got away with it had I been better prepared.

Where were we, oh yes, driving to pick up my mate. Well that went fine, but when I got there it was clear he was a tad under the weather. He'd not been feeling well and had been debating whether or not to even do the ride as recently as the night before. Still he was keen to go but worried that he might have to bail out or even not start but was determined at the very least to be there. So we put his bike into the car next to mine a set of for Nottingham.


When got there without issue, got parked, hit the toilets, twice, went back to the car, got out the bikes and got ourselves ready for the 09:00 am start.

Preparing for the start.
It's always surprising to me that no matter how early you get to these things the start comes around so quickly. It seemed like we'd only been there a matter of minutes before we were waiting to start. Still there was time enough for James to marvel at just how well prepared I was and how professionally I treated the whole thing, from the snickers bars in my pockets to my grossly under inflated tyres. Apparently a tiny portable emergency tyre pump does not count as a "proper" tyre pump, "That cost me a tenner!" I cried indignantly. James showed his amateur status by turning up on a much nicer bike than mine, smart Cannondale cycle gear, tyres pumped to the max and gels and bananas filling his pockets - sad really.

You should play your favorite love song at this point.
Called to the start line we trundled over and excitedly got ready to set off. As this was a cycle event rather than a race with possible distances of 25, 50 and 100 miles available there was a real mix of bikes and obvious abilities. From the iron calved, carbon investing fitties to the steel buying, basket fitting chubsters - I fitted somewhere in the middle, though rather closer to chubster than I'd have liked.

Behind us
Me and James
In front of us.

The countdown began, 5 4 3 2 1 and we're off, then we're not, then we are again, then we're not, the we are. Finally we're actually riding. The weather was just about perfect. The sun was out but it was reasonably cool and apart from a bit of wind towards the end it remained glorious. After a short ride though Nottingham cities roads we were into the countryside. I was pleasantly surprise not only by just how pretty it was but how light the traffic was. There was still the odd idiot that seemed to feel they owned the road and would decide to fly past the cyclists horn blaring to scream their outrage for being slightly inconvenienced on their not doubt deeply important journey. They were normally met with a seemingly choreographed raising of the middle fingers of the numerous cyclist. In general though the traffic was light and well behaved.

Worried about James and conscious of how ill he'd been feeling I didn't want to push it out on the bike.We had had a talk about it and agreed to just take it easy and enjoy the ride, that I was very happy to just cruise along and that we would ride at whatever pace James felt comfortable with. Chatting away, me nagging his ears off as is my want, we progressed happily along. Just before 25 miles James asked if I minded if we stopped for a break so that he could stretch his legs. So at the 25 mile marker we pulled over. I felt we'd been plodding along at about 12 or 13 miles an hour, but when James checked our average pace was a surprising 16 mph. After about 5 minutes, stretched and refueled we set off again. Over the next 25 miles, mile by mile, James started to tire. I'd check he was OK, by this time I think I was the only one talking to any extent, he'd say yes and I'd wonder if we were getting close to having to stop when he'd come flying past, chasing down someone who'd gone past us.

I could see the last five miles were tough for James especially as it seemed the steepest and longest hills had all been placed in that five miles. Eventually we were back into Nottingham city, pass the football ground and across the finish line. We found a free patch of grass and relaxed, 52.4 miles completed. James lay down while I went for a beer. We sat a chatted for a while before grabbing a bite to eat and getting the car home. I'd had a brilliant day, the ride was fantastic, the weather just about right and the company great. Looking at James it knew he'd had a good day too and I was so impressed that he'd completed the whole thing feeling nowhere near 100 percent. In fact looking how fresh he still looked I reckon fully fit the 100 miler would not have been beyond him.

James - Just leave me here for a while.
Beer o'clock
As we were putting the bikes back into the car James noticed that I'd not tightened up the front break when I'd put the wheel on that morning, oops. I did wonder why the front break had felt a bit spongy and the back was sooo much better. That aside the good new was the service I'd had done proved to be well worth it, none of the gear issues I'd had at Blenheim. The gears clicked into place without a fault during the entire 52.4 miles and the bike felt if anything better than when I'd first bought it. Thank you Kinetic Cycles of Hitchin -

So great day and I'd do it or something like it again like a shot. In fact next year I'm going to do a few. Thanks to James for being amazing, making me laugh and keeping me company (no easy feat to do without getting all stabby).

My medal

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Blenheim Triathlon 

14/06/15 - Been a little lazy since the Manchester marathon so the Blenheim triathlon was a good way to kick me back into training. My wife offered to come along to support so what was a trip there on race day became a weekend in a lovely 5* spa hotel, not that I'm complaining. So after work on the Friday we set off to the Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel in Minster Lovell in the Cotswolds where we were watched as we parked the car by Parker the cat. He watched us park then came over for stroke and to do his job of welcoming new guests to the hotel.

Parker the cat

Having a sleep after a busy day
We got settled into our room that had a lovely conservatory at the front and a small garden at the rear then went for a meal.
Morning coffee.
Next day we went for a walk, I got us a little lost, we got very wet but managed to find a really nice pub for a beer..... or two.

Having got back to the hotel soaked we dried out, had a massage and cracked open a bottle of Processco. Which was nice. So suitably refreshed I was up early for the race on Sunday. Nice full breakfast, car loaded and we were off. To be honest I was not looking forward so much to this race. I'd done very little swimming since last year and not as much cycling as I'd have liked. Also I'd decided that this was my last triathlon as I was not doing the swim training and was a bit fed up with the faffing about on race day. Still I was there and I'd paid for it. I got set-up in transition chatted a short while with a mate whose wife, Sam, was competing and also in my race wave before I walked round to the swim start. In the water and before I know it we're off. The swim was OK, I placed myself outside the group so that I could have a clear swim and I pretty much did. It seemed a lot further that last year and the swim from the last buoy to the exit definitely felt a lot further than last year. Reading some posts on Facebook it seems many people were saying the same thing and people with GPS were recording distances of 840 to 860 meters. This would explain why I was 2 minutes slower (that and my lack of training).

Swim stage complete, off to T1, Sam chasing my tail.
Came out of the swim was powering (stumbling) up the hill when I hear "Stuart!" and look behind to see Sam just behind me. I wave and storm (stumble) on. I hit transition determined to do better than the woeful 6 minutes 48 seconds it took me to complete T1 last year. 6 minutes and 48 seconds later I exit T1 and mount my bike. 

Very very fast ..... honest.
I set off and immediately have issues with the gears. The derailleur must have been misaligned or something, like I have a clue, as the chain would slip, gear would jump etc. Bloody annoying but hey ho I was quick on the downhills (small and heavy wins downhill).

Struggling with the gears.
Finished my 3 laps feeling OK and I was out on the track for the last 5.8k run. I decided just to enjoy this last bit and not to push too hard. The weather was lovely and the views stunning so it was easy to enjoy the run.
Up the hill
 Two laps done and a sprint to the finish, a drink, a bite to eat and the chance to buy some merchandise.

Winner - probably.
Had a great day, it's a great event and though I'll not do it again for a while it as good fun.

My medal
Just the Spitfire Scramble to train for in August, and I really have to step up the training and a 1/2 marathon back at Blenheim Palace in October and that's it for the year. I need to start planning next years events :)