Tuesday, 29 July 2014

House sitting and tax form with time for a cycle and run!

Tuesday 29th July

This morning  was spent sorting out my tax self assessment, I couldn’t find the form I had carefully put somewhere safe! So ended up doing it on line, scary as I do like to go back over it several times with a time gap in  between, however I did check several times and the money I owe the tax man seems to fit with what I thought it would be. the rest of the day just seemed wasted, pottering around without achieving anything.

The previous week.

Last week [Thursday, Friday and Saturday] we had 3 very pleasant days house sitting with 2 cats for my son and his family in Gloucester. In the time away we managed to get a day in Bath, with its splendid architecture, always an amazing site. The weather was stunning once more, and the city was full of tourists, which was nice to see. Lunch by Pultney Bridge was a treat. We were able to take advantage of our ‘bus pass’ on all 3 days, but we did invest the money saved in morning coffee.
A day in Cheltenham, a reduced version of Bath with its architecture, a lovely day out again, with Burger and chips in Yates!  The final day was back in Gloucester with lots of time spent in the Docks, a remarkable area tastefully resurrected from derelict warehouses. We also managed to fit in a nice walk round the canal and river in Tewkesbury, you can see why it floods so badly in the winter, but it was beautiful in the summer sunshine, ice creams went down well by the river.

I managed to fit in a cycle ride when we got back Sunday a good 50 miles round Martock, Muchelney, Athelney and back over Staple Fitzpaine. Weather continues to be very hot and dry, lovely!!!
A phone call from Tim made me panic about running, he informed me he ran 34 km from Middlesborough to the coast including the Cleveland Way – he’s not done much lately so that was a good distance, he said he did it on water and fig rolls!! Anyway I have the ‘Beast’ 13 miles at the end of August and I have done no running since getting back from France a month ago – must get my trainers on asap.

Which I did on Monday[28th]  afternoon, Neroche, not been up there for a long time but set out to do my usual 7 mile run. It was a very hot run with the car temp saying it was 24 degrees. I felt good most of the time until, that is I was about 2 miles from the car and a large hill in front, sweat pouring off me, soaking shirt and ‘glugging’ water as though its going out of fashion. I decided to cut the run short, telling myself it was my first run and there would be time for more when the weather is not quite so hot, so it was 6 miles instead of 7 miles completed. I felt the run went well and the pace seemed good keeping under 10 minute miles for most of the way with occasional bursts of 7 minute miles!! Not bad for a month not running.

28th of July  was also my wedding anniversary, 1973, 41 years ago!!! 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A good cycling week- CTC and Audax rides

Thursday 17th July

The Blackmore Vale CTC Dunkeswell ride.

My cycling week continues building on the 90+ miles already since Sunday, I met the Blackmore Vale CTC group for their ‘further faster’ ride from Yeovil over to Dunkeswell and return, 65 miles.
The day had been forecast as being the hottest of the year, so it was nice not to think about waterproofs and long sleeves etc.
I met the group of 7 at Perrys Cider at Dowlish Wake, where they were tucking into coffee and cake after their 15 miles from Yeovil. I had only ridden 6 miles!

The ride took us up the long 5 km climb up Stickle Path, past Crock Street, Barley Hill ensuring a hot and sweaty summit. Great views down towards the coast. Breath was gathered before a steep descent to Beetham, the road being very broken and potholed in places making the descent more treacherous. A steep climb out again before the A303 crossing. The long descent into Bishopswood before another long 2 km climb up to the B3170 , never steep but sustained, traffic was light and the road surface was good, the group was stretched out now with the stronger riders pushing at the front, needless to say I was somewhere near the back! But not last.

Yet another ridge crossed before the start of the next one with dropping down to Royston Water and up to Churchingford, at least that was the last of the climbs for the morning as we turned left at Redlane and along the ridge to Smeatharpe passing the disused wartime aerodrome onto Luppit Common, the group now in team trial mode in a line, I sat in the middle, very comfortable at a steady 25 mph. This all changed as we turned right down ‘Rough Grey Bottom’ and a very steep windy 16% descent, on damp potholed roads, this was followed immediately by a 16% climb again on damp, potholed roads, calfs burned!!! There was another sharp steep climb up to the village of Dunkeswell with an awkward turn onto the main road through the village and more climbing to the lunchtime venue café at the Aero drome.

A very pleasant lunch in the sunshine, outside with entertainment from parachutes, helicopters etc. Time for the off, at least it was on the ridge with a nice long 5 km fast descent down to Hemyock. We continued through the village along the Culm Valley, tight back lanes, overgrown, very rural, beautiful countryside. Being in the valley meant we had to climb out at sometime, the 16% Bramley Hill was that exit up to Churchstanton, my last real climb of the day, the Yeovil group do have a few more before they get home, but no where near what we have done already.

Past the old Trickey Warren listening station, now a business park, along to turn right at the Holman Gavel continuing along the ridge, Staple Hill, the highest point on the Blackdowns before the fast downhill, speeds of 35 mph + as the road was clear and well surfaced. A short climb up to Neroche castle [a reminder my car was broken into earlier this year]. Then the 5km 16%+ downhill to Broadway. By now the day had become very hot and humid and the ride through to Barrington was very hot, but at least most of the climbs of earlier in the day finished. A quick stop at Barrington with several opting for more tea and cake at the NT. I decided to say cheerio to the group and went on my own, back through Dowlish and on to the cycle track. The heat of the day building even more and now I was feeling tired and hot, and somewhat thirsty.it said 29 degrees on my Garmin, it certainly felt like it!
A great ride with several 16% climbs and other long but not steep climbs, great views all around, my new bike went well and I covered 58 miles with over 4500 ft of climbing using 3706 calories. A nice build up to my weekend Audax ride of 140 km [87 miles].

Sunday 20th July – A grand day out over Salisbury Plain

The 'Hungerford Hooray' Audax

As the Audax start was at Awbridge near Romsey I was able to combine my trip with a visit to my sons near Wimborne to deliver my old bike, my Trek, we were quickly in garage putting the new cassette and chain on followed by fixing of new cleats to his new shoes. He was ready to ride then, if his injured hand would let him!
Sunday dawned bright and sunny with the promise of a dry sunny day with the possibility of a shower. To make sure I wasn’t caught out I put mudguards on my new bike and carried a waterproof jacket – needless to say this was enough to deter the rain and we ended up with a scorcher of a day.
I arrived in the village hall car park just as a smallish group of 200 km riders were leaving, all young fit looking cyclists with stripped down road bikes. No CTC touring types to be seen.
I was meeting Dave down at the start and he duly arrived, mumbling about not fixing his bike on the rack properly and it moving bending his front drop out. It seemed to lock in ok with the QR .
I had a printed copy of the points on my handlebars and also loaded on my Garmin, the bad news was my Garmin refused to do turn by turn directions, so I relied on the written instructions, this was helped by Dave having his Garmin that actually worked and gave turn by turn, so between us we made sure we didn’t make any mistakes. We signed in and received our Brevit cards, stamped by an efficient looking 3/4 year old, who was having a great time assisting dad.
Loaded up we were finally off, again a relatively small group of riders but this time more CTC touring types.
We set off and seemed to be climbing, passing through East Tytherly and West Tytherly and the lovely named Stoney Batter before crossing the busy A30 near Winterslow and turning up through Porton, the big gates at the cross roads and official MOD signs at the side of the road were ominous and somewhat thought provoking, “what ever do they do in there”!!! Having said that the countryside around Porton Down was beautiful and unspoilt with poppys in hedgerows etc. The sun was getting hot now and we were glad when we got some respite from the odd cloud scudding across.
A drop down to Winterbourne Dauntsey before climbing once again to the A345 over the ridge and a descent down to the Avon Valley a nice little place Upper Woodford. We f followed the Avon valley north east wards to get to Amesbury and our first manned check point in the aptly named Friar Tuck café, sadly it took sometime to get served 15 minutes queuing to get a mug of tea !!
We crossed the A303 and started to climb unto Bulford, through the military camp, climbing further on to Salisbury Plain past Nether Avon airfield, Salisbury Plain opened out, it was a gloriously sunny day and the Plain looked magical and remote, assisted by the sound of skylarks, up till now the roads had been very quiet and nicely surfaced.
We continued on through Everleigh and Colling Bourne Dulcis being over taken by a large group of Swindon road club riders clearly on a training ride, I had to hold my mate Dave back at this point as he found difficulty restraining himself not to chase them[Dave being an very good ex road racer in the 70/80s] We continued through Great Bedwyn, and North Standon before a nice descent down into Hungerford, lunch and checkpoint, The Tutti Pole café was very busy, but we were able to find a pasty shop up the road, cheese and onion and take away tea, very nice! I topped up my water bottle with water from the Coop, which was ice cold.
A short climb after the break took us quickly out of Hungerford [82 km] over Inkpen, good descent before the steep, hard climb over Walbury Hill, it was very hot now with the lane in the direct sun and no breeze. I had to stop at one point to take off my glasses as sweat was stinging my eyes, the climb got steeper near the top and I was pleased, allowing myself a break with a good drink of water.  After a very steep descent that included a hairpin bend it was a good steady run at a good speed down the valley, through Hurstbourne Tarrant and Hurstbourne Priors. We crossed the A303 near Wherewell before heading onto Mottisfont. This part of the ride was a very pretty area and lots of good riding following the rivers. The morning was a lot of climbing over Salisbury Plain, so a good contrast, and helpful as we had covered 120 km. The last 20 km took us through Dunbridge down the Millennium walk which was a cycle track from an old lane. The final KM were a sting in the tail with a climb back up to Awbridge, 141 km covered or 87miles old money!  5144ft climbed and 5284 calories burned [glad I had the pasty!] After card stamping, welcome cups of tea, biscuits and cake help revive before getting changed from sweaty cycling kit. Other riders slowly appeared, we all felt the heat and were glad to finish, and I assumed the 200 km riders still had more km to finish. The drive home was busy, but I made good time over the 80 miles.  A great day out in country side I don’t know very well, it was a very nice area, Salisbury Plain stunning with the Test valley villages showing the true England. Traffic on the route was relatively quiet and the road surfaces most of the time very good. My new bike ran well, and my set up seems about correct, no particular aches and pains, gearing were appropriate to the terrain. I texted my son and told him I had completed my 87 miles, he replied he had done 30 miles on my old bike, very good to say he has just had 6 weeks off! With his tendon trouble.

Monday 21st July

A big contrast, the day was another scorcher so we had a pleasant walk along Seaton seafront and picnic lunch on Beer Head. I did get my mountain bike out and prepared for next Monday and Tuesday on Exmoor. long time since I have been off road, bike seems ok, but the front forks are looking as though they need a service. Gearing works well and more important the disc brakes, I was worried the hydraulics would be leaking, but these were fine. The rear tyre needs replacing as it’s a little worn on the walls and I don’t want a blow out on the downhills.

Tuesday 22nd July

Car seat fitting training at Somerset Road Safety, because the weather is so good I decided to cycle in the 15 miles to Taunton. A pleasant if very hot ride, but! Another 30miles to add to my total. This is my last chance this week as we are off for a short break in Gloucester tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ride and entry for a run

Tuesday 15th July

Today I did a 51 mile cycle ride in nice warm sunny weather. After heading over Crock Street under the A303 and up through Broadway my route took me over to Bickenhall. many of the lanes are now getting overgrown with long grass making the road narrow, difficult if traffic comes the other way. Traffic seemed light this morning and with light winds it was nice to spin the legs round trying out different gears on my new bike, getting used to the 2 ring compact chainset, I seem to be spending more time on the larger ring. 
After Bickenhall it was a climb up to Slough Green  and West hatch, again trying out different gears to climb. a long descent down to the A358 and crossing between thundering lorries and speeding cars, thank heavens its a dual carriageway and thank heavens  I can shelter on the island in the middle, traffic lights further up making it easier to cross. The lanes took me through Ham, lots of houses for sale!!
Up through 13 bends to North Curry, a  short sharp stiff climb, traffic still light, lots of nice views around. Down through Athelney usual stop for a snack, trying fig rolls today, over looking the River Parrett watching the huge diggers dredging, big job they have. The road round to Langport was nice and flat so set up a good pace, tempted to stop for coffee and cake, but! remembering I have 80+ miles to cycle on Sunday, so this morning was a 'training' ride the word training being applied loosely. 
Another quick snack at Muchelney bridge before moving on through Drayton, a road they are talking of raising by a metre to avoid the flooding  and giving access to the residents of Muchelney, seems a very expensive solution to me for a very few people, when the roads across Somerset are in a poor condition. Muchelney has been an island since time began!!
Back through Hatch Beauchamp, starting to feel a little 'leggy' now with at least 10 miles to go and 3 long climbs. The final climb back up through Pudleigh reminded me I need to get in more miles, Pudleigh is one of those hills that is always hard, no matter how far you have ridden.
A nice hot shower and home made lentil soup and freshly baked rolls helped me recover before catching up on bikeability work . A ride with the Blackmore Vale CTC 'faster further ride' on Thursday 50+ miles should leave me nicely for my 80+ mile Audax ride over Hungerford way on Sunday.
Checking emails, one from Poole Athletic about their 'Beast' run at the end of August, 13 miles from Corfe Castle out round the coast, a tough run. Couldn't resist entering, I should have time to train over August!! I hope.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

work and more work!

I cant believe its been 2 weeks since we arrived home from our French holiday. Bikeability has been manic since the beginning of June, working 4 days a week! including 1 day of heavy rain, rest of the time the weather has been good, with lots of sunshine, I am supposed to be retired, which is 3 years ago this August - its gone very fast.

Only been running once since holiday, 3 miles around town, but I did a good time [for me!]
Focus has been trying to get miles in on the bike as I have entered the 'Hungerford Hooray' Audax which is 140 km [ 87miles], its not an area I know so hope its not too hilly.

Managed 60+ miles last week, between Bikeability  and on Sunday, a good 45 miles over the Blackdowns, the weather was good if windy, good sunny spells, we started with  the big climb of Staple Hill, over through Hemyock, and climbing again to Dunkeswell, where we were entertained with people parachuting over the aerodrome.This area has lots of remnants of preparation for the D Day landings, there were lots of Americans stationed here, the road actually uses part of the old runway, and still is in better condition than the modern roads, the return ride over Luppitt common was into a stiff headwind, until the main ridge where a fast descent down the hill we came up earlier, and a further descent down to Staple Fitzpaine had us reaching speeds of 35 mph +. Its a lovely ride on not too busy roads with good views all around, however, the road surface over Luppitt Common was poor, much repair needed!

We also managed a day out in Sidmouth, lunch in the 'White Horse cafe' lovely sunny day, surprisingly busy for a midweek day before the school holidays. Sadly I haven't managed to get into hearing the Children read at school as I have been too busy.
The van passed its MOT with flying colours!!!

We also had a visit from our Grand daughter for the weekend, exciting time with a belated 2nd birthday celebration, a trip to the seaside. Bramble the brown Lab cross provided good entertainment for Amy taking advantage of her enthusiasm by relentless ball throwing.

It was a great weekend, with the family getting together, a very tired grand daughter left 2 very tired grandparents [but very happy]. We look forward to her next visit.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Holiday in France

Tuesday July 1st

A holiday in France with the Campervan, sites were pre-booked over the internet

What a come back to earth today with a full days bikeability with a group of year 5s’ after 2 splendid weeks in France. The trip home from La Trinite Sur Mer [near Carnac] was a 230 mile drive to Cherbourg, a 4 .5 hour ferry crossing and finishing with a 60 mile drive home from Poole – so arrival time at home was 11 pm!!

June 15th
 The trip out was easy as we went and stayed near Poole at my sons, giving us a very short trip to the ferry on Sunday morning. The ferry was quiet, we loaded quickly and made for our booked seats. An uneventful crossing, arriving in Cherbourg at 1:45 French time. This gave us sufficient time to drive down to Pontorson near Mont Saint Michel for our first 2 nights in France.
The campsite was quite busy, lots of Dutch, Germans, few Brits. Most were only there to pop down to see M St M. there was a cold north wind despite the lovely sunshine.
The first day we unloaded the folding bikes to cycle along the excellent cycle way across to MstM, head wind all the way, making it hard at times, 10 kilometres, locked up the bikes and wandered up round the Mount, but no going in the Chapel itself. It was a lovely old town, especially away from the main streets, we sat down to have our picnic in a nice open park area, but! Were immediately surrounded by hords of French school children, clearly their usual picnic site, so we moved on to a quieter place, however the place is well worth a visit. Cycling saved us having to pay 12 Euros to park, then a long walk to get on a bus to travel to the monument. A good tail wind back to the campsite made the return journey much easier.

June 17th
Time to move on, the weather was warming up and less wind making the drive down to the Vendee quite hot with no AC in the van. Stopping on the way for the customary Baguette, cream cheese and cucumber, French style. The excellent motorway system and fantastic road surfaces meant a swift journey, even past Rennes and Nantes. We arrived at Saint Gilles-Croix-De-Vie  and our campsite, ‘Les Cypres’ fabulous position, but, we  were disappointed with the facilities, not supplying toilet paper!!!  The site was quiet, except for a large English Motor Home, BUT! Most other pitches were taken up by ‘seasonal pitches’ with caravans and Awnings ready to use each week end, which they seemed to do with vengeance [more later].
The pitch was only yards from a gate leading to a fabulous large open beach over the dunes, we spent most evenings with the beach to ourselves as well as providing  me with somewhere to run [more later!].

There is an excellent grid of cycle tracks around the Vendee, and there is even one around the whole region giving an 84km route. We took advantage of these tracks as it was 4 km into Saint Gilles., the weather was hot dry and sunny, a trip down to the market  with a picnic on the riverside was our introduction to St Gilles, the market was wonderful with fantastic fruit and veg stalls, al doing a brisk trade, what ever happened to our British markets!!!

Another  day out was at Les Sables D Olonne with its fabulous beaches, quite busy, but still not as busy as July and August. We were able to park in the camping Aire in the middle of Les Sables, parking in the area is difficult for ‘camping cars’ most good view points having height barriers. Coffee on the beach and a nice cheese and tomato panini for lunch, a paddle in the sea along with a bit of sunsitting!

We planned to go to a ‘Chat De Eau’ that you could go to the top for a great view of the area, but sadly it wasn’t open until July. Instead we went to Apremont and had a picnic lunch by the river and a walk up to the Chateau, a very interesting area in an extraordinary hilly area in an otherwise flat region.
I managed to get 3 runs in whilst at St Gilles, only 4.5 miles each, but included a mile and a half of beach, the rest on the cycle track, all early morning runs very peaceful and quiet.

St Jean De Mont was the destination for another cycle ride, very pleasant cycling in the sunshine, lovely to sit and watch the world go by overlooking the beach.
Much time was spent sitting in the shade, reading, I managed to read ‘Mercx –half bike, halfman. A good book that gives good insight into Mercx cycling success in the 60s’ and 70s’ the hard work he put in, and hopefully it appears drug free,but! Who knows with the Lance Armstrong  affair. I was also reading a book about a man who was riding the 1914 Giro route round Italy on a 100 year old bike, as this was a particular difficult race with only a handful of finishers. His  trials and tribulations are described, I cant imagine how he did it on a single speed bike! An interesting book, but got boring towards the end.

The weekend came and went, with the campsite gaining significant extra people with the local French seasonal pitch residents taking advantage of the hot sunny weather – strangely they all disappeared on the Sunday evening, leaving us to continue our quiet and peaceful stay.
June 23rd
Monday was time to move on and drive up to La Trinite Sur Mer, near Carnac, only 130 miles so not too onerous. ‘Camping Kervilor’ was quiet on arrival, and our pitch was luxurious in size, nice shading with trees and nice grass, different from the sandy scrub of the St Gilles site.
We had a very pleasant couple from Holland camping next to us, Robert and Olga – keen cyclists  with a very nice motor home. We spent some time chatting about parts of Britain, Robert was very well informed, and knew many areas of the country. I felt inadequate knowing absolutely nothing about Holland. Robert has promised to send me some information on the lakes area of Holland and Sweden.

Cycle routes around the area were not as obvious as the Vendee. We did cycle down to Trinite, coffee in a seafront café with a large raspberry Beignet and a lovely ride along a cycle route to Carnac, and Carnac beach where more beach sitting took place with a nicely cooked takeaway Pizza for lunch.

The stone rows or alignments as they are called locally drew our attention again, fascinating, several km of standing stones. A particular favourite area was the ‘Petite Menac’ a small area of standing stones close to the campsite. We also visited several local dolmens that were in remarkable good condition – it did give lots of food for thought.
On a day out to Quiberon we met a very nice Irish couple when we were parked for coffee, it turned out they were on their way home to catch the ferry to Cork, so ‘jettisoning’ some food, giving us a litre of milk and a large bag of muesli, how kind of them instead of throwing away. After a good chat we had a look at Fort Penthievre which appeared to be an adventure centre for the military now, but had a grim past with the Germans using it in the last war. The coast of Quiberon is beautiful and in the sunshine was stunning, sadly parking for ‘Camping cars’ was difficult once more.
The excellent weather continued right through till the Saturday before we returned home, which was a very wet day. A day in Auray at the Le Clerc Hypermarket, along with a good reading session back at camp with tea and biscuits.
June 29th 
The drive back up to Cherbourg was uneventful one of the  first on the ferry and first off again at Poole, the 4.5 hour  trip did seem a long time, but the view out of the window into the sunset helped, especially as we approached Sandbanks and Brownsea Island.
 A really nice 2 weeks in France, good roads with excellent road surfaces, we only covered approximately 1200 miles, Diesel was 1.28 Euros a litre which at the 1.23 Euro to a pound made fuel cheap. The van ran really well, and we were very comfortable despite the temperature at times being 30 + degrees. The Fiammi sunshade being a real bonus along with the ‘Ramoska’ which widened our culinary presentations as it acted as an oven.
I managed 3 more early morning runs at  Trinite upping the distance to 6 miles along to the Pointe De Kerbihan, most of the way along the coast path, esy running with little ups and downs, but very nice views across the bay, with runs in a time of  about 54minutes, I am pleased with that, a total of 27 miles over the 2 weeks in fantastic weather. Cycling, we covered  67 miles on our folding bikes. Lots of cycle trails, but opportunities at times to cycle on the French roads, remembering to cycle on the other side of the road!!

July 2nd

First ride out on my newly built Qoroz road bike – Titanium frame, stem and seat post, carbon forks, Full Shimano Ultegra 6800 group set, in grey, compact 50/34 chainset with 11 -32 cassette,  Hope hubs with Mavic rims, Ritchey wide and shallow drop bars,  Bontrager seat, Shimano 105 pedals, Bontrager stainless bottle cages – weighs in at 20 lbs with 2 spare tubes, and 500ml water. Not the lightest but felt very comfortable. Gear ratios felt good with a good range available, I hope the 32 tooth sprocket will get me out of trouble on the big hills!!
Love the wide handle bars, lots of space to have different hand positions. Still sorting the riding position before chopping off the fork head tube.

I did 46 miles round my Ham, N Curry, Athelney, Langport, Muchelney route. The ride felt good, climbing seemed smooth, and gearing felt right. Felt good when I got home – must be getting fitter with average speed of 14.9 mph or perhaps it was the new bike. The weather was really good, hot dry and sunny – its what cycling is about!