06 May 2012
21 November 2010
I came to cycling late having decided four or five years ago that my aging body was beginning to rebel against the running I'd rediscovered after several years as a couch potato. I've tasted several bike-based activities since then. Sportives, big charity events, commuting, club rides, long solo weekend rides. I even did the CTC Tri-Vet this year (Yes, I am that old, unfortunately). But nothing compares to the satisfaction and feel-good factor you get from a FNRttC.
My inaugural FNRttC was Southend in the spring. It was slow, wet and incident filled. Far from putting me off, the bug had bitten. And with three other newbies (including DeckertTim), I also completed the SMRbtH. In fact, of the four of us on that ride, only one has not returned. [I should also add here that I have a 100% record when it comes to the SMRbtH]
The Graveney Marshes dash; the mist rolling over the hedgerows on Lonesome Lane; a flint path; and those moments when I find myself alone with the silence and my inner-most thoughts (steady!) are all lifelong memories. But it’s the people. The selflessness. The camaraderie. The encouragement. The organisation. The humour. The determination. That’s what makes these rides truly memorable. They are indeed a “romance and an adventure”.
So, to Simon and all of you I’ve met, thank you. Have a great break and see you in 2011, if not before.
If you fancy coming along in 2011, you can find details on the FNRttC blog.
09 November 2010
Fish and chips on the seafront was followed by the cycle home with five other hardy riders, and I arrived home tired, happy and with 120 miles on the clock.
A great day.
You can see highlights on YouTube
(Thanks to Andy for the video link)
02 October 2010
I also need to shift about 15 pounds of excess weight otherwise my knees will complain. So no more cakes.
It's about 5 years since I stopped running seriously and focused on cycling, so, even though I still do the occasional run, I haven't run any events for over 2 years (last one was the Great Capital Run in 2008). And I haven't run further than about 12k for quite a while. Half hour on the treadmill will be enough for today, then I can see how stiff my legs are tomorrow and get a training plan together....
Wish me luck!
21 September 2010
We assembled in Sloane Square in plenty of time to register and say hello to a few familiar faces from the normal monthly overnight rides before listening to the safety talk. And then an orgy of Hi-Viz and twinkling lights began its journey south.
We set off at the stroke of midnight. The skies were clear, the weather cool, but not cold, and there was a sense of anticipation hanging over the peloton. For the first few miles down to Mitcham we had a police escort - blue flashing lights leading the ride, and enthusiastic outriders racing ahead to stop the traffic allowing us to proceed pretty much without stopping. After Mitcham however we were on our own and after a couple hills, particularly the one around Coulsden, the group began to spread out. As we sped along the country lanes, the weather became colder and the gentle night time mist began to spill over the hedgerows making for an eerie backdrop. However, the skies remained clear and the view of the stars was breathtaking. A small group of us kept together and despite a few navigational 'challenges' we made good time to the refreshment stop at Copthorne. After chatting for 15 minutes or so, I headed off again, this time in a much smaller group. Passing Crawley Down and over the sharp incline at Turners Hill, we headed into deepest Sussex and suddenly I found myself cycling alone for quite a long stretch. I'd left the ambient light of civilisation (and Gatwick airport) behind and on one occasion I was so taken with the serenity of the dark, that I stopped, turned off my lights and just looked and listened. Stars and nature. Wonderful!
On I went, and despite missing the turn for Ditchling Beacon due to chatting with another cyclist I'd caught up with, I made good progress. (I'm very grateful to the marshal who roared up behind us in his car like a cop from Starsky & Hutch to tell us we'd missed the turn - meaning we only added a few hundred yards extra to the ride).
And there it was. Looming dark and menacing in front. Ditchling Beacon. It's not so much that the beacon is steep - it's not the steepest hill I've climbed by any stretch. Nor that it's at the end of a 55 mile 'lumpy' ride. It's more that it teases the rider into thinking you're almost done, only to continue up another bend. But in the dark it was different. It was just another hill to grind up, which somehow made it easier. I kept a good pace on the ascent, passing several and keeping pace with the faster climbers and when I reached the top I stopped for a few moments to share the triumph with the others who had made it and offer encouragement to the few who had to walk. Then it was the fast downhill race to the seafront and the Madeira Cafe.
It was early. About 4.30am, and there were only a few riders at the finish. But the griddle was in full swing and it wasn't long before I had a 'full English' in front of me - the traditional reward for completing an overnight ride to the coast. Cyclists shared their triumphs and tales from the journey, then we collected our medals from the Martletts organisers (who had been caught a little unprepared by our very early arrival) before the party began to break up. Some headed to their nearby beds, others to the station to catch the early train home. Me? I turned the bike round and started my cycle back to London and home - the SMRbtH. I couldn't find anyone else intending to ride home, so I headed off on my own. This time at a much gentler pace. I hit the country lanes again, just as the dawn arrived, revealing the misty fields turning the beautiful Sussex country into a cotton candy dreamscape. And the wildlife was emerging too. Foxes, of course, looking much healthier and happier than their urban cousins, pheasant, and even deer kept me company as I headed northwards over lots of short but tiring hills. Riding alone at that time of day is a glorious experience. It is inspiring and leaves me with a real sense of wonder at the world around me and is one of the reasons I like the overnight rides so much. My tired legs got me over the worst of the hills and I was soon approaching home. Tired. Happy. Very alive. And eagerly awaiting the adventure that would be the next FNRttC.
All in all I arrived home at about 10am, almost exactly 12 hours after leaving, having completed 132 miles with 6,500 feet of climbing. My average riding speed was a fraction under 14 mph, not bad given the gentle ride into London and the slow start to the event itself.
A final thought. This ride was in aid of the Martletts Sussex Hospice. I don't know what the total raised was, but from what I've read and heard, they do a fantastic job in a very difficult field and I hope that an event such as this, that will leave 400 people with memories that will stay with them for a very long time, has in some way helped make their daily struggle to find the funding to keep going a little easier.