Wednesday 29 March 2023

Gently Bentley 200km Audax 2023

 Well, it’s been a year. To be honest, I completely forgot that this blog even existed and then it just seemed to pop into my head; I wonder if it’s still there and if anyone else reads it? Well, it is and few people still do, so…..

What to report? Not a lot, if truth be told. The last year has mainly been coffee rides, a few park runs, a little bit of zwifting, and that’s been about it. My feet and ankles continue to plague any chance of meaningful running. Some days I can barely walk. I should do more to investigate what’s going on and I have a few suspicions but at the moment I cannot face doing anything about it, save for just being careful and doing no running. I managed to squeak under 20 mins at Bushy Park run last November and that was my last run. 

The miserably cold winter has made it no fun dragging myself out into the wattage cottage do some zwifting, so I started to do a bit of riding on my commute home as I was already togged up in my cycling gear.  Despite the absolute woefully pot holed roads and terrible driving from a few drivists, it was (a bit) more enjoyable than sitting in a damp shed. I needed to train for something so I entered the KWCC Gently Bentley 200km audax ride, which happened last month and I managed to convince Suzie and Simon to join me. It was fab. Really lovely countryside, a pretty relaxed pace and lots of coffee and junk food. I finished it with a smile on my face and that was a good feeling after feeling that exercise just seemed like a lot of effort. It’s been good focussing on other areas of my life and I’m trying to achieve a bit more balance with everything and I think I’m getting there. 

So I’ve got a couple more audax rides planned in the near future. I’ll try to remember to come here and actually put something up. It’s been a while. 

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Gently Bentley 200km Audax


Chatting on the way to Lasham
The idea of the RRtY award has taken a hit with life getting in the way, but I finally managed to summon up the energy to ride my first audax this year and my first since the Buzzard-Exe back in 2018. I've been struggling with my mojo and my weight for the last few months with my bout of covid and subsequent accident really effecting me. I've been so used to going out on my Sunday 3 hour rides over the last 10 years,  but recently I have been finding it really difficult to  summon the capacity to do them, even though I know that I enjoy it when I'm out. In particular the contact of seeing friends on the bike and just chatting is such a tonic, but the last couple of months have seen a bit of a downturn. Gradually, as the Gently Bentley audax approached I started to feel more excited about doing an event. It had been a long time.

The Gently Bentley 200 is a long standing event run by the excellent Kingston Wheelers audax chapter who run a whole series of audax events including my first ever audax, the Amesbury Amble and with it starting and finishing a mere 2 miles from home it was a bit of a no brainer to get me out. It was also my first ever 200km and I assumed that this would be absolutely fine for me to do on minimal training. Hmmm, didn't quite work out that way, but no one said it would be easy.

A group of six of us would be riding together; four from the Phoenix and two friends and we were all looking for something fairly social rather than pacey. It was great to bump into Nick at the start, who I rode with on the LWL. He's since gone on to ride the TCR and other amazing things and while I was able to do my fair-share of riding on the front back then, he was going to be a good hour or so further up the road this time.

The first part of the ride was quit uneventful, taking us out towards Henley and a few other places that were familiar from my DW days and at this stage the ride was pretty flat. One of our group, Paul, was out on his first long ride since having a new hip about six months ago. He's quite a beast on the bike and he smacked it hard up every hill, leaving the rest of us to chew our stems, metres behind. We controlled in Henley and bought a lovely coffee and vegan roll, before pushing on to the next control at Lasham. I was in full kit as it was quite cold, but I had to strip off my ear warmers and buff when the sun got up, putting them back on again an hour later. It was great to feel the sun on my face, even if it was weak. It was good to be out!

A quick information control at a war memorial at 80kms and then continuing on towards Lasham, with it getting gradually lumpier; those very short and sharp lumps that required the lowest gear and lots of swaying on the pedals and this gradually took it's toll on my undertrained lungs and legs. I had said to Martin, another member of our group that this was apparently quite a flat route; yeah, right! Maybe flat by audax standards, but not by mine.

Feeling tired and still a long way to go.
Lasham was reached at 120kms where we planned to stop for lunch and take a bit of a rest. Unfortunately, the queue for food and service was really long and I just didn't fancy a really long wait before doing the last 80kms. Paul felt the same, so we grabbed some coke, water, Bakewell tarts and crisps and after scoffing a few hundred calories and putting the rest in our pockets, we got going again, leaving the other four to stop for longer. (As it turned out, they had a pretty eventful ride home. Martin somehow destroyed a chainring at Bentley. He bought a train ticket to get home, only to be told that there were no trains running and a bus replacement service was in operation. Oh, and by the way, you can't put your bike on the bus. He ended up making the call of shame and getting a lift home)

Paul did most of the heavy lifting on the way home, although towards the end he was not getting up the hills quite as quickly as before. My legs started to suffer and I was spending more time in the small chainring, trying to stop the lactic acid flooding my legs at every opportunity. I turns out that two hours of Zwift a week isn't enough to prepare you for a 200km ride. Who knew?  

A quick pit stop, still 30kms to go

I stupidly didn't validate the last three control stops, so this ride will not count towards a Super Randonneur award. It was my own fault as I downloaded the GPX from a friend and it was one complete loop instead of the individual legs that I normally break the route into. To be honest, after 150km, I was just glad to be heading home and finishing. Paul peeled off  and I was left to get back to the finish for a quick bowl of pasta and half a cider, before trundling the last two miles back home. 

A meal fit for heroes

It was a great route. I think I will aim to do it again as  a DIY audax in the summer, when hopefully, I will have a lot more fitness. Onwards.

Friday 28 January 2022

January, you’ve been sh*t

In my last post, the ‘rona had hit and I was hoping that I’d be back on my bike or running quickly. Of course, that absolutely didn’t happen. I’ve always had a weak chest (hence my name on the blog) but exercise has allowed me keep heavy coughs and cold away. After the initial flu like symptoms receded, it then went to my chest in quite a big way and I have spent the last 3 weeks coughing. I took two weeks off completely after Christmas and I started to feel better. Simon and Dale invited me out for a Sunday ride and as  I hadn’t teamed up with them since October I went out, on the proviso that we’d keep it short and not tough. We headed off down to the Milk Churn for their world famous cheese on toast but within 15 minutes I was on the deck. We hit a patch of ice on the back of Boxhill, my front wheel went from underneath me and I ended up sliding 15 metres on my back, almost overtaking Simon who somehow managed to stay upright. Dale was following behind and he managed to stay upright by crashing into the hedge. I dusted myself off and was absolutely fine, and I had barely a scratch. I was extremely lucky and we got back on to gingerly make our way to the coffee stop.

The problem came after the ride, 4 hours later. We’d climbed Leith Hill on the way back and I felt awful at the top, completely over-exerting myself with my heart rate through the roof, on top of a multiple hour ride in temperatures barely above freezing. I ended up basically feeling that bad for the next two weeks, which meant I did no exercise at all, save for my 10 minute ride to and from work each day. It was of course, completely my own fault for not just doing an easy hour on Zwift. It was simply too much too soon, again.

So this week I was feeling a lot better. My coughing had stopped and I put together a little plan to get on Zwift and start getting my power to weight ratio numbers heading in the right direction, so on Monday it was a steady effort on Stage 5 of The Tour de Zwift with a bit of an effort over the last 5 minutes.  Not great, but at least I felt I had both lungs working again and I could start doing some crash training for the 200k audax in February, after having to dns the first one. Finally, I was getting back on track. 

Riding home from work on Tuesday I was on pretty much the last corner before I turn to home. Before I knew it, the front wheel had gone from underneath me and I was down. I’ve come off a bike a fair few times in the last 30 years and usually, like the box hill ride earlier in the month,  I have dusted myself down and other than a few scrapes I’ve been ok. I was going at no more than 10mph but I don’t think I’ve ever hit the ground as hard as I did in this one. It happened so quickly that I was still holding the bars when I hit the road fully on my left hand side, completely winding me. All the air was forced out of my lungs so that for what seemed a stupidly long time but was probably only a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe.  Somehow, I managed not to break anything, I think because I hit the ground so flatly on my side, but my ribs were given a pretty extreme stress test and I’ve got a couple of very sore points on my side and back. I seized up overnight and I couldn’t get my clothes on or move without a lot of whinging and moaning.  Things are still pretty sore and I’m probably looking at another 4 or 5 days off the bike, at least.  I simply can’t breathe deeply without my ribs hurting so even moderate exercise is not going to happen.  

Yes, January has been shit. 

Friday 24 December 2021

Next year

 My year has fizzled out spectacularly. In the last three months I have barely turned a wheel other than a couple of turbo sessions a week and my 2.5 mile commute.  My Van Nic has laid dormant since October, which I think is the longest time it has gone unridden since I’ve owned it. Just a combination of work and family events, general tiredness, apathy and lack of mojo. I had the idea of doing the Rapha Festive 500, which starts today. However, I broke up from school on Wednesday last week and by Saturday morning I had a positive lateral flow test. After spending almost 2 years in a COVID swamp, to get the ‘rona literally     the day after I broke up seems particularly vexing.  I readjusted and just thought I’d do some miles on the turbo instead but I’m still feeling second hand so it just doesn’t seem worth it at the moment.

Anyway, let’s forget about 2021.  What about ‘22?

I’m planning to mainly do some audax and having a go at getting the Audax UK ‘Randonneur around the Year Award’ (RRAtY).  You have to ride a 200km audax every month for 12 consecutive months. These are the events that I’ve got planned for the first half of the year;

Jan - Willy warmer 200k
Feb - Winter Boat ride 200k
March - Gently Bentley 200k
April - LWL 400k
May - Bryan Chapman 600k or Dauntsey Dawdle 400k
June - Ditchling Devil 200k perm. 
July - London-Anglesey-London 1000k

The longer events could well be downgraded to 200km as I will need to play it by ear, and the ‘rona May have either ideas too.


Wednesday 20 October 2021

Fix you

 Again, it’s been a while. Sue and I had kept up our lockdown walks and being a teacher and on my feet all day, I was getting a bit concerned about the state of my left ankle and foot. I had got injured just after the Hampton Court half back in February 2020 and never really recovered. I had given up all hope of ever running again, let alone racing but when walking and standing was getting painful I knew I had to do something. My left ankle and the tendon that runs under it was constantly inflamed and twice the size of my other ankle but I just got used to living with it, but it was a constant, nagging ache that would sometimes flare up so I couldn’t walk at all.

So the summer holidays came around and that seemed like a good time to deal with it. I wouldn’t need to be on my feet as much and I would be able to devote a bit more time to the physio. I took myself off to Mika at Kingston Physiotherapy and he seemed to think straight away that he could get me sorted and running again. To be honest, while pleased, I didn’t really believe him but I was happy to give it a go. So for six weeks I had a weekly massage on the ankle and he gave me some daily stretches to do. Within a couple of weeks it started to settle down and went from being painful to just ‘not quite right’, which was a huge improvement. The stretches Mika gave me were nothing special; just the standard calf, achilles, quad and hamstring stretches that any age grouper knows. I was a bit sceptical that they would work, but of course, they absolutely did!

After those initial weeks, he then gave me some additional exercises using a physio band to strengthen the ankle joint. This would work the tendons hard as my joints were so weak and it felt like it was doing more harm than good.  Mika said not to worry about some discomfort and that would be normal; trust the process, and all that! By the end of my summer break I was walking completely pain free and also I just felt generally much more elastic and loose.  The real noticeable difference was when getting out of bed.  I had got so used to literally hobbling out of bed after a night’s sleep that it just felt normal to feel really old.  The difference was so marked, I almost couldn’t believe it.  

At the end of the summer I thought that I would try to start running again. I took it very steady!

It was very, very achy and didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence, but, and this is a big but, while it was uncomfortable at the time I didn’t have a major reaction the next day. No swelling or flare ups. This was good!

So I just did a couple of runs a week on a flat 5km loop, gradually building UL the strength in my foot. The major issue I had was corners and cambers  where I had to take it very gently. The runs themselves would be quite achy but I could feel more strength in my ankle every day and more and more I’d have no pain or discomfort at all. I started doing a few gentle interval sessions, always monitoring what was going on and making sure that there was no adverse reaction from each run. I wanted to start to get aerobically fitter, rather than just plodding as I had the confidence in my body to run faster, so I’ve started to do parkrun again to push myself a bit.  Two down so far and already within striking distance of sub-20.

So despite a few hard runs and interval sessions, my joints are holding up. I’m not getting the terrible DOMS that I used to get after a hard parkrun.  I’ve actually really enjoyed the process of doing the rehab and getting my body strong for running. It s been a while. 

Saturday 19 June 2021

Riding with a smile on my face

The months of May and June have traditionally when I have found some time trial speed. Warmer temperatures and lighter evenings usually helps lift me out of the doldrums and it’s no surprise therefore that I can usually more the old carcass a little faster. It’s been a bit different this year. Work has been busier than I have ever known it and I’ve had to pull some pretty long hours, but with hindsight, this has helped me out. For most of the time I’ve only had my TT bike to train on, so it’s  been bolted to the turbo where I have aimed to tick off 4 hours per week. Not a great deal and most of it has been top end of Z2, looping around Watopia for 90 minutes at a time. Despite the complete lack of structure I’ve been able to maintain my fitness and started to see some pleasing results. With a social coffee ride at the weekend, I’ve been averaging 6-7 hours per week. Not earth shattering but enough to keep my head straight and my belly at bay. 

On Wednesday we had a club 2up TT.  I paired up with Simon and towed him around for most of the event for a time of 23:04, which I think is my second fastest time over the course. There were a couple of times when I had to soft pedal to let Simon catch me and our last 2.5m was my fastest ever, so some really pleasing things to build on. Most importantly, I really enjoyed it. It was the first TT in years that I really enjoyed and had a smile on my face, rather than a serious race-face. I’m trying to get a ride on a faster course to see if I can knock some time off my 10m pb or at least get down to a low 22, which I haven’t done for 5 years. I had entered the National 12hr but last week I decided to withdraw. I really wanted to ride it but I didn’t want to put in the long weekend TT rides that I’d need to do. It’s just not on my radar and I’m trying to just enjoy riding my bike when I want to, rather than feeling that I have to ride it. 

Over the half term holiday I managed to build my Van Nic back up. It ended up being a big job but I have pretty much got a new bike. It’s a bit like Trigger’s broom with every single part of the bike bolted on the frame now being a different or new part from when I bought it ten years ago. I’m particularly pleased with the new decals that I had made up and Simon bought me a new Van Nic titanium bottle cage for my birthday, which looks super smart. I had forgotten what a lovely bike it is to ride. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Monday 3 May 2021

KWCC Sporting 14

 Back to some racing a couple of weekends ago with my traditional season opener at the Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14.  I’ve never really ridden this event well, even when I have been fit.  The long drag at the start up Hungry Hill, lulls the unwary into a false sense of urgency. It’s a steady rise that looks very tame, until you find, 60 seconds in, that your heart rate has maxed out and you’ve still got a lot of climbing to do. Knowing this, my plan was to pace the ride better, knowing that I’d have the long descent to recover. Pretty much, that’s what I did. At the end of the first lap I found myself in a extended, comfortably hard pace instead of my usual ‘hanging on and suffering with another 20 minutes still to go’ state. The last descent was fun and I’d got a bit more used to my new front end position, which definitely feels faster than my old position. Although I was on the TT bike, I wasn’t full aero, favouring my bog standard training wheels and road helmet. I’ll save all the new TT bongo kit for the first evening 10. Anyway, a low-ish 36, which is a course pb and I think there might have been a bit more to give, so a good opener. 

Saturday 10 April 2021

Humble brag

 First ever Strava KOM. #justsayin’.

Life in the old dog yet. 

Farewell, for now, faithful friend

 Last Monday, I met up with Simon and Dale for a relaxed spin. It was the first time that the three of us had been able to meet up and I was really looking forward to catching up with them both. Simon and I had met up before, but the plan was to do a couple of hours as a three up, before meeting a couple of other friends for a coffee and some hot cross buns.  It should have been the perfect social ride but it ended up being bloody horrible. 

Within ten minutes, I could tell that my Van Nic was not happy. The whole transmission felt graunchy and gritty;  the gears were not indexing properly and it felt like the bike was eating itself. I knew that my chain was on the way out but I had really let things get pretty bad. As Dale said to me, after the second time I had almost been pitched over the bars by the chain jumping when I got out the saddle to push down harder on the pedals, ‘I thought that as a DT teacher, your bikes should be really well maintained?’ This is true and while I can tackle the vast majority of bicycle maintenance issues myself, I’m quite lazy at actually doing them when I need to.  It got so bad, that for the first time in my cycling life, I had to walk up Whitedown and suffer the pitying stares from the other riders who were tackling this nasty little climb. Oh the shame of it. 

After a strip down of the chainset and sprockets, it was obvious that the whole lot needed replacing, but the seat post is also firmly stuck inside the frame, so after a vicious couple of minutes wielding Allen keys, cable cutters and spanners, the whole bike was stripped down. 

I can’t afford a new bike so I have decided to give my Euros a new lease of life. In the 11 years I have had her, she’s had more wheelsets and chainsets than I can count, and at least two sets of brakes and shifters, but everything else is pretty much as I bought her. The bars, stem and seatpost are original Van Nic branded components, but also heavy alloy ones and my forks are looking very second hand. I’m not sure that I should be riding on them at all as the bearing surface looked completely shot to bits. So my plan is to replace all of these items with new lightweight carbon components and make her a bit more racey. I’ve found a chap that can remove my seat post so I’m currently sorting out packing up the frame to be posted oop north. I’m also going to remove all of the old and torn decals on the frame and maybe purchase some new ones. Hopefully, in a week or two, I’ll have a ‘new’ lightweight road bike. For the foreseeable future, everything will be on the TT bike. 

I absolutely love my Euros. Strava has us at riding 24,000 miles together, but I actually think it’s closer to 30k. My body has become firmly welded into position on her and I will never part with her. It’s time to give the old girl a new lease of life. 

Sunday 4 April 2021

Head back in the game

So far this year,  I’ve been training fairly consistently. A mix of Zwift, TrainerRoad sessions on the turbo and some social longer rides with Simon, in the Surrey hills. The big thing I’ve been noticing is my need to spend more time recovering from sessions. There are times when I just don’t know how my legs are going to react. Take this morning, for example. I was meant to do a 5x7 minute TR interval session at 105%ftp, which at the moment would make each interval around 300 watts. A hard session, but nothing to get my knickers in a twist about. As it was, I barely made it through the warm up and bailed almost immediately in the first interval. I just didn’t have it in my legs, and even the gentle spin on Zwift that I did instead, was quite hard even though I was spinning at watts that had me barely breathing. 

These days happen, and happen more frequently than they used to, but it’s making me question whether lots of structure in my training is worth it? I’m starting to think it’s best that I just hop on my bike and see how I am, before deciding whether it is a day for a hard session or not. It can be demoralising to have a session planned and then not be able to get anywhere near accomplishing it.  

Along with this, one of the other tweaks that I have made to my training is that I am doing less intensity and more steady, easy riding. This is again to increase volume without wiping me out all the time. Quite a bit of this has been on Zwift where I have been riding steady for around 90 minutes, burning fat and trying to get my weight back to around 70kgs. I’ve made good progress so far, coming down from 74kgs to 71, so I must be doing something right.  

I’m also tinkering with my kit. I’ve bought a new Giro Aerohead helmet and some new bars to get my front end into a faster position and I’ve started the process of trying to get myself comfortable and familiar with this. In my first outing of the year on the TT  bike it felt faster but only time will tell. 

All of this is to actually do some time trialling and I’ve entered a few events. There’s a couple of Sporting TTs coming up but the biggie will be the Breckland 12 hour in August. It would be good to add on some miles to my 246 mile ride a few years ago. 

Tuesday 9 February 2021


I’d actually forgotten that I had this blog, then it popped into my head yesterday and after some scrabbling around, trying to remember my google password, I was able to get into it. It’s nice to see that my loyal 5 regular readers have remained faithful. I’m not sure I know why you bother, but thank you all the same. 

So 2021 has started as badly as 2020 ended but let’s try to remain positive, shall we? I suppose that my big decision is that I have officially retired from triathlon and running. It’s something that has evolved over the winter, with the realisation that I have not been able to run for almost a year, since the Hampton Court half, last February. Despite very few runs in that time, my feet and ankle tendons have been sore very regularly and I can just about do a 5km walk without too many side effects. I’m sad about it but it is what it is, so time to focus on other things. 

Most of this winter I’ve been on Zwift, doing a few races and other events and they’ve been fun, but there’s been no structure. I cancelled my TrainerRoad subscription for a few months, but yesterday, I reinstalled it. It’s time to get some structure and discipline back.  The goal is to beat my 25 mile TT pb (55:39, set back in 2017). I think on a fast course I should be able to get under 53 mins and I’m going to have a tinker with my position on the Argon and I might even treat myself to a new TT helmet. I might stick up some pictures next week, as I’ve got some Aerocoach bars to bolt on. 

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Autumnal musings

 It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged or even looked at this. I think that’s indicative of how I’ve felt generally about swim, bike and run. Well, bike and run. Actually, barely biking of late. It’s not that I’ve lost my mojo, it’s just that it is firmly laying dormant. It is there within me, wanting to bust out and be used to good effect in a race or event, but I just can’t seem to force it to the surface to make me really want to do something athletic. 

Part of it has been to do with work-life balance. I need to caveat the next few sentences reflecting on the fact that I still have a full-time job and that I can pay my bills, which thousands of people are currently struggling with. For them, the foreseeable future must look pretty bleak and I can only sympathise and hope that we can get things back to some sort of normal as soon as possible. Work has had to take a priority for the last couple of months. I’m usually pretty good at knowing when to park work stuff and look after myself, but I need to spend more hours working at home, which means less time to hop on the bike, even if it does just mean a 20 second walk to the end of the garden to get on the turbo. 

The other reason for my dormant mojo has been a lack of racing. To be honest, there have been some events that I could have done but I just haven’t felt in the right frame of mind to do them. I dragged myself out to the Kingston Phoenix Open 10 TT, and pushed out  24:05. It was a really well organised event by my club, but without the usual bants over tea and cake, it seemed a bit hollow, despite the quick catch-up with club mates.

The last few weeks have been more about easy coffee rides with the odd hard effort up hill or on a strava segment. And gradually some desire to work hard has started to return. I’ve begun to focus a bit more on my TrainerRoad sessions, particularly, those horribly hard 90 minute over-under sets which almost leave me honking with effort. They are so hard, but by far the most effective sessions for me to improve my ftp and get back up to 300 watts. I need something to focus on over the winter months and that’s as good a thing as any. With us being in a Covid world for the foreseeable future, it looks like a TT  based focus for next year is likely. At the moment, I think I’d like to have another really good go at my 25 mile pb. Currently, it’s 55:39, so getting g a lot closer to 50 minutes would be rather cool. 

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Some racing

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was riding my bike, a lot. Like most people, merely coping with the heat became all-consuming and trying to complete a hard turbo session in a shed that was only just shy of 40 degrees was a complete non-starter. So, I rode my bike, on the roads.

How quickly the roads filled up again. Myopic Audi drivers, white van men with no patience and even less spacial awareness, but in the heat the roads were the only place where I could get an hour on the bike. I could literally feel the ftp that I had gained over the last few months, seeping out of my skin pores as I trundled round in Zones 2 and 3. There were however, some good things.

I went out with Simon and Suzie at the end of July to ride the Wheelers' Amesbury Audax 300km route. It was a very long and hot day, with us trundling back home at around midnight. It's not a particularly hilly ride but the hills that are on it coincided with the hottest part of the day and this meant that we drastically slowed during the afternoon, having to get more liquid on board and taking more frequent rest breaks. I really enjoyed it and was  able to use my audax rides from the previous few years to keep comfortable but Suzie and Simon found it tough going, just trying to keep food and drink down. It's really not pleasant when your stomach simply doesn't want to play ball.

From long distance, to short. Last Wednesday I rode my first proper 10 mile time trial in 2 years, with full on TT bongo set-up and kit. A slightly embarrassing episode in the car park when my skin suit zip broke; thankfully I had my club top to wear over the top, which avoided any mankini moments. I had forgotten just how hard a 10 mile time trial is. I gave it everything, but I wilted in the heat quite spectaculalry, and with a lack of TrainerRoad intervals in the preceding weeks I just didn't have the ability to process the lactic acid build-up. My final time was 23:35, so by no means a disaster, but I thought that I would be a lot closer, or even break my course best of 22:47. I've got another go in 10 days' time, but I can only see me going slower. I've put on weight and dropped in power, but it was good to finally pin a number on.