Monday, 30 July 2007

Dunwich Dynamo, 200km in the dark!

First photo, the start. Second photo, the middle. Last photo, the end!

Well we survived the ride, it was touch and go at times but we made it. I've tried to block the ride into sections for this post but it's not proving too easy as I can't remember at what stage various things happened. Lack of sleep does strange things to your mind, or as someone pointed out to me at work today, it can actually kill you....

Pre ride.
I travelled down to London for about 2.00pm, managed to park ok and unloaded my stuff into Kats flat. Shortly afterwards we rode off, on our penny farthings, to meet some of her friends for a picnic. This made for a nice relaxing start to the weekend, and helped to take my mind off what I was about to attempt.

The ride.........

0 to 10 miles.

The ride got off to a good start, with no offical start time we made our way down to the meeting place nice and early to ensure that I could get a return bus transfer. Kat had already booked hers but I was less organised! The atmosphere at the start was great, looking around there were all sorts of people and all types of bikes. My bike was probably a typical example, standard road bike, half decent lights and small mudgaurds. Others were less standard, from recumbants to track bikes, complete with a total lack of brakes! We decided to start at about 8.30pm so that we could get out of the city in day light and hopefully without too much drama. As it turned out our biggest problem for the first 10 miles was the stop start rain. Waterproof on, waterproof off etc, but by about 9.30pm it was raining quite hard so on they stayed, as it turned out, for the next 10 hours...
The only other thing that sticks in my mind from the first few miles is watching a rider chase after and catch up with a bus which he then held onto for a free ride! I'm not sure if this is normal in London or not but it certainly didn't seem normal to me!

10 miles to 25miles

It was pretty much dark after the first 10miles but at this stage we still seemed to be in a big group of riders and as we were not yet tired visability seemed ok. nothing much happened really, the route seemed easy enough to follow and it was nice to be pretty much clear of London. Then at about 25 miles we had our first problem...

25 miles to 40 miles

We had not looked at our maps for about 15 miles and we were now just trusting the lead rider to go the right way. Decending a slight slope a car slowly aproached our group, the road was very wet, quite narrow and the enevitable happened, a crash. I was towards the front of the group and missed the action, Kat, however, wasn't so lucky. It all happened so quickly we are still not sure what exactly did happen, but it happened anyway. Kat and her bike hit the tarmac along with two or three other riders. The first I knew of it was the noise, Metal against tarmac is quite a disinctive and unwellcome sound. As I was still upright I slowly came to a halt to see if everyone was ok. When I turned round I could see Kat picking herself up out of the hedge and the first thing that came to mind was that I have no idea where we are. As it turned out noboby was too badly hurt, Kat had a few scrapes and bruises but luckly nothing too serious. Her bike came out of it about the same with bent leavers and ripped bar tape but nothing broken. we went quite sowly for the next few miles, hoping that none of Kats injuries stiffened up and after a quick stop for some jelly babies and a check on Kats war wounds our confidence slowly returned.

40miles to 64 miles

The only good thing you could say about the rain was that it was probably helping to reduce the swelling on Kats injured hand. All I can remember about this section of the ride is the rain. I was now wearing all the clothing I had and it was all wet. My waterproof was ok for about 35 miles then either the rain came through or I was sweating and getting wet from that. Either way, not a plesent experience at any time let alone at 1.00am with over half the ride still to do. Up untill about 55 miles and 1.00am I felt ok. Then, all of a sudden, I felt really bad. The novelty of taking part in the event had now worn off, I was cold, wet and really wanted to go to bed. We stopped at about 60miles, I felt really hungry but when I tried to eat a cereal bar I couldn't make myself swalow. Things were not looking good and I was starting to go a bit dizzy. I managed a few jelly babies and we carried on to the food stop at about 64miles. We went inside, the room was nice and warm and we found a seat. Kat, injured or not, was now looking far more likley to finish the ride than I was, The last time I felt this bad was at about mile 22 of a Marathon. I was really concerned, it was 2.00am and we had over 50 miles to ride, the time had arrived, DRUGS were my only option. While everyone else in the room looked to be doing fine I felt like death. I couldn't belive my poor performance so out came my secret weapon, PRO PLUS. With a turn around almost as dramatic as Vinos in the tour after a blood transfusion I got back on my bike and, although freezing cold, almost imedately I felt fine.

64 miles to 80 miles

After the drugs stop I felt like a real cyclist again, sure I was suffering but in an enjoyable way and I almost wanted the rain to get worse so that I would have a better story to tell. Once the peak of the pro plus had gone I came back down to earth and started praying not to have a mechanical or get a puncture. We saw quite a few riders fixing flats in the dark and in the rain. Every time we rode past somebody we asked, somewhat tentitivly, if they were ok. Luckly for us nobody asked for our help. We later learned of people not only having flats but running out of spare tubes and having to use repair kits in the rain. Not nice when you would rather be tucked up in bed asleep. At one stage around this distance we got talking to another rider who had cycled 40 miles to get to the start. He also claimed that when he reached the finish he was going to turn round and cycle back! I can only assume that this guy was on something stronger than proplus... It was also somewhere around this distance that we started to get a bit lost. We tried our best to read our wet and now almost unreadable maps but ended up going the wrong way. Fortunatly a car driver stopped and gave us some directions, he looked like a decent enough guy so we trusted him and turned round. As it happened he was right and we were soon back on track.

80 miles to 94 miles.
Somewhere around this distance it stopped being dark and became light. Dawn was a welcome sight, the increased light made the visability better and downhills safer. I also started to feel less tired in the daylight Unfortunatly it was still raining and overcast so we didn't get to see the sunrise but it was good all the same.
Why 94 miles? Well up untill now 94 was the furthest I had riden a bike in one go. It was durring My lands end to John O'Groats trip with Mickey in 2003 and up untill now I had not been further. Nothing magical happened as we rode our 95th mile, at this stage we both just wanted to get to the finish, have a cup of coffee and a sleep.

95 miles to Dunwich.

Durring the ride I had been motivating myself by setting mile targets were I could stop and eat a jelly baby or two. This worked untill 100 miles when I ran out of sweets. Then it was just a slow grind to Dunwich. For the last few miles we found our selves riding with a couple of others whos map had somehow survived the rain. It was reasuring to know we were going the right way and before we knew it we were at the finish. The cafe on the beach was open and we were glad to get into the warm, where we started to dry off, drink tea, coffee and eat cakes.


We sat in the cafe for a while, chatting to other riders and generaly marveling at the durability of the human body. Now it was daylight and I had stoped riding I felt fine, my legs didn't hurt and I was even feeling that tired. We then went out to sit on the beach and watched some of the riders swim in the none to tempting sea. Some people just have to go one step further! The sun gradually started to shine now so at least we could dry off before the bus transfer back to London.

Bus ride.

The bikes got loaded into one set of trucks and the people into buses, where I had hoped to try to sleep. Unfortunatly the space available on the coach would have had the RSPCA involved if had we been talking about transporting animals and not people. I did manage a bit of sleep but nothing to speak of. By the time we got to London I was really hungry and ready for bed. We unloaded the bikes and headed back to Kats flat for some food. When Kats bike came off the truck it had a flat front tyre, as we couldn't be bothered to fix it we pushed the bikes home. Once there James cooked us some food, and in doing so probably saved my life! After eating and yet more coffee I decided now was a good as time as any time to head home.

The drive home.

I didn't start to feel tired untill about Oxford but when I did there was only one thing for it, PRO PLUS. Unfortunatly it didn't seem to have that great an effect this time so I got off the motorway and carefully made my way home on less borring roads. To say I was pleased to get back is an understatement similar to saying that Nelson Mandella was quite happy when he was set free. It's great to go away, but there is no place like home.....

Thanks to...

Continental bike tyres. The thought of getting a flat in those conditions still makes me shudder.

Pro plus. Drugs and cycling, the two go together like nothing else.

Jelly babies. So easy to eat.

James. For the food, the best soup I've ever tasted, and as for the chocolate brownies....

Kat. For the idea to take part, not everyones ideal weekend away, but now it's over I'm really pleased we did it. Don't get any ideas about doing it next year on the penny farthings though Kat!

Tony. For the loan of the van, I didn't fancy a 120 mile ride to the start.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Dunwich dynamo

It's only a week on sunday untill the Castle combe duathlon and while the other competitors are probably tapering down I am about to undertake the longest single day ride of my life! When I say day I really mean night, as the ride starts from London at 9.00pm on Saturday night and ends 200km later at the seaside in Dunwich.

I'm really not sure how I will deal with the lack of sleep as sleeping is one of my favourite things, a normal night will see me snoozing for about 10 hours. On Saturday I will substitute sleep for cycling. My plan is to ride untill about 2am and then take as many pro plus caffine tablets as I can. Hopefully this will get me to the finish, then all I have to do is drive home...
While my drug of choice is to be caffine the Tour de France riders continually try to out do each other. First we had someone kicked out for good old testosterone, then Vino failed a blood test when someone elses blood was found to be in his body! And today the race leader has been kicked out for, along with other things, missing out of competition tests. Of these results I find the blood transfusion that Vino must have had to be the most disturbing. What sort of doctor has done this to him? Or is it something you can do to yourself, with the help of a "my first blood transfusion manual"? Either way Vino must be mad, and he's probably lucky to be alive. I feel sorry for the clean riders who happen to be on the same teams as the guilty ones, as they also have to leave the race. I understand if nobody watches the rest of the race but I will stick with it as I still love cycling.

Back to this weekends ride, my accomplice for the ride is going to be Kat, who also owns a penny farthing. The idea for having a go at the ride came from Kat, I think I was the only person she could think of who was daft enough to agree to it! I should point out that we are going to ride normal bikes, we might be mad but we aren't stupid! We did think about using the penny farthings, but when we did the maths and worked out that 200km = 120miles we quickly decided against it!

I'm actualy really looking forward to riding through the night, I've tried to sleep as much as possible this week and decided to rest rather than train so I haven't done any time trials or hard training for the 12 days leading upto it. I figure that I stand a better chance of enjoying the ride if I start it fresh and training in the last few days doesn't gain you too much fitness anyway.

The only other piece of news I have is that I now have a track bike. I have borrowed it of Mark, through the Worcs st Johns cycle club (cheers Mark!). So far all I have done is set the seat height, put some peddles on it and riden it down the road. As it's a fixed gear bike I think I will have to ride around on it for a while to get used to it before I take it to the track. Talking of the track, the photo at the start of this post is of Halesowen track after the recent floods, I think I'll give it a miss this week...

Saturday, 21 July 2007

My sisters wedding......

Well today My sister, Sue, was supposed to be getting married to Simon. Unfortunately the great British weather had other ideas and they have had to postpone the event. Theses pictures are of port street in Evesham 21st July 2007, the middle of summer. The first picture is of the river bridge, the white thing in the water is a boat, Latter in the day a mobile home from a camp site somewhere up stream joined it. The church is about a quarter of a mile away. The best mans house is about half a mile away and is also under water. At the time of writing his wife had still not made it home from work on Friday!

Yesterday I had to put up a work collegue, Chris, as his village was cut of. Our night was better than my mates Daves as he got stranded on his way home and spent the night in his car. This morning I dropped Chris off at work then made my way to Evesham. On my motorbike this journey should take about 25minutes, today it took the best part of 2 hours. I had to go down the m5 as Pershore was impassable. The motorway was like a scene from a sci-fi film. Cars were abandoned everywhere, all three lanes of the m5 were full of cars going about 10 mph. It looked like the whole of the midlands was heading south to avoid a nuclear holocaust. I was able to filter through the traffic on my bike but had to watch out for rocks and gravel washed onto the carriageway. The a road into Evesham was no better, in several places I passed through water that was about a foot deep but managed to get to Sues house.

At this stage the wedding was already called off, Sue and Simon seemed to be handling things really well, although they were both obviously very dissapointed. I stayed for a while, helped phone round a few people, drank coffee and then came home, again battling through abandoned cars and floods. I am now watching sky news while typing this and there are pictures of caravans floating down the river avon, people being resuced by helicopters and boats, pictures of huge holes in main roads, and talk of bridges collapsing. I can't be bothered to go and look at the river in Worcester for myself as I've had enough of it now. The rest of my night is going to be spent drinking Lager and listening to music, I'll just have to pretend I'm at the wedding reception.

All in all a bit of an unbelievable weekend, oh and by the way I haven't ventured out into the floods on the penny! Also looks like Tuesdays time trial is off as a bridge on the course has collapsed.....

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Wenlock Olympian results

My Olympic dream has come true! After competing in various cycle events over the years I have at last won something. I came home with two golds and a silver. The racing took place on an athletics track and as well as the mile race I competed in two other events.

The first race was for all pre 1930 machines so I was up against a mixture of bikes including one other penny farthing and several safety bikes. A safety bike looks pretty much like a modern road bike, they were called this as they are a lot safer to ride than an Ordinary (penny farthing). The race was a kind of a knock out, with the last rider each lap being eliminated. After a tactical start I moved up to second to ensure I at least stayed in for a few laps. As the laps went by nobody came past and it was down to a sprint for the line. In the wet conditions I felt my only chance was to stay second round the final bend then go for it on the finishing straight. I won the sprint by about half a bike length and with it my first gold!
I hadn't got my breath back when we set off for the second event. Again open to all bikes but this time a set number of laps, I think five. Anyway I decided to try and time trial my way off the front of the bunch but after two laps I still had a rider on a safety for company. I then changed my tactics and slipped into second place to try and recover and stay in touch for the last lap. Entering the final bend I was certain that I was not going to get the win as I was losing ground on the corner. I got the bike upright as soon as possible and sprinted, giving it everything I had. If the finish line had been a metre or two earlier I wouldn't have made it but as it happened I led the race at the only point that matters, over the finish line. Gold number two....
The third and final race of the day was just for penny farthings. It was a bit of a shame that there were only two of us. For me it was also a bit of a shame that it was decided that the other rider would be given a head start of one and a half laps. I think I may have been taking the event a bit too seriously for some, but to me a race is a race and if you're not aiming to do your best then there is little point taking part. Anyway, I was unable to pull back the gap so my final prize was silver.
I should mention that most, if not all, of the other riders had chosen to do a 25mile reliability ride in the morning so they may have been a little tired. I didn't do this ride as I didn't know about it untill it was too late, I got to the event at 10.30 to find it had left at 9.00. In truth I probably wouldn't have done it anyway as the weather was truly appalling and I came to race. However, I truly believe that if I had done the 25 miles as well it wouldn't have changed that much. If I ride at a sensible pace I can ride the penny all day and I do quite a bit of cycling so 25 miles, and then a rest of over an hour,wouldn't have taken that much out of me, even so the other riders deserve a round of applause for doing the ride in the worst july weather I have ever seen.
Just before I go I would like to say congratulations to my Dad, he also became an olympian today when he completed the 7 mile road race. Also thanks to Mickey, Cassie, Mum and Charlie for braving the elements and coming to watch and offer their support.....

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Pre Olympic nerves!

Well, for an event I have entered for a laugh, I'm all of a sudden really nervous! I was going to do a bit of sprinting practice on the penny today but decided against it in case I crashed or broke the bike. I then started to get paranoid about injuring myself so I sat inside all day, on the best summers day we have had for about a month, and watched the Tour de France. The tour was great though. A little known German rider, Gerdemann, rode away from everyone on the first of the mountain stages and by the time he went over the top of the climb and down the stupidly fast descent he had gained enough time to go into the overall lead. Even if he does nothing else in his cycling career he will be able to look back on today with pride, he wont care that his whole body hurts, he has completed the dream of all cyclists the world over. He leads the greatest race in the world and tomorrow will be wearing a huge smile on his face and the yellow jersey on his back.

Anyway, after the tour I became even more nervous. I don't really get nerves before races so I can't really explain it. I really don't expect to win anything either so quite why this has happened I don't know. I've decided to go out tonight to take my mind off it, I don't know, the pressure of becoming an Olympian is just something I never thought I'd have to deal with!

Well thats about all for now. Next stop the Olympics!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Much Wenlock Olympics update

I am definitely in the Ordinary race! The race starts at 1.30pm on Sunday 15th July. I'm not sure if I will do any good as I have no idea of the standard of the other competitors. The distance is also not exactly my favourite as it is more of a sprint rather than an endurance event. The race is over 1 mile, ideally I think my best distance would be about 20 miles as I can mantain a constant effort for long periods but I don't have much of a sprint. Anyway, come Monday, win or lose, I will be an Olympian! I have just riden the penny farthing to the Worcester news offices, the staff all seemed really interested in the bike and they are going to run an artical on it and the event in the next few days. I wasn't really expecting them to take photos today but they did. So that's why I am in jeans and an old t shirt. I am going to try and video the event and, if I can work out how to, I will then post it on you tube. I am still going to time trial tonight with Worcester st Johns but I will be taking it steady on the fast down hill sections so that I don't crash and end my Olympic dream before it has started. That's all for now...

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Much Wenlock games.

I have just found out about this event which is on next weekend. Full details are on the link but the bit I am interested in is the veteran cycle racing. I am awaiting an e mail from the organisers to let me know if I can take part. I am really excited about the possibility of becoming an Olympian! I was sent the information about the event by Scotford who I know through the VC Sevale cycle club . He also does some work for the national cycle muesum . Scotford is a really nice guy and is always full of encouragement when he hears of my Ordinary (penny farthing) plans. With a bit of luck I will be able to take part in the games and even if I get soundly beaten it will be a great experience.

Talking of being soundly beaten, Fabian Cancellara handed out a beating of epic proportions to the rest of the field in the prologue of the tour de France on Saturday. Fair play to David Miller in the interviews afterwards. He didn't claim to have a bad day or make excuseses, in fact he said even if he had had the best day of his career Cancellara would still have beaten him. I kind of like Miller, even if he is a self confessed drugs cheat (at least he confessed), so come on Dave win a stage for us.

Back to penny farthing stuff, I haven't had too many opportunities to ride the penny over the weekend, but I have managed a couple of rides. In the end I didn't ride it to work on Friday but I did do a bit on Friday night. After work I went for a run of about 5 miles then took to the penny and rode about 10miles with Mickey and Cassie and ended up in the Huntsman pub (again!). We stayed untill closing and then rode home in the dark with quite a few pints on board! I'm fairly sure athletes training for the real Olympics use a different sort of energy drink after exercise but beer seems to work for me! When in the pub we were joined by other friends, Andy and Mary, Who had just come back off holiday in France (again!) so we had plenty to talk about. Anyway, we all got home ok.

That was Friday, on Saturday I had a really busy day with no opportunities to ride. I was at work all day then in the evening I was at my parents ruby wedding party. My job was DJ and barman. The bar was easy enough as I just pointed everyone in the right direction and they helped themselves, it's never been a problem getting the Precce family to drink. The DJ duties were not much more difficult as I just made a playlist of old 50s and 60s music and left it to play. By all accounts the party was a success, My uncle Jim apparently said it was the best one he had been to as he enjoyed being able to talk over the music rather than being deafened by it. However, I did make up for the quietness of the party on the way home by playing ac/dc at huge volume in my car.

Unfortunatly I was at work again on Sunday but I did manage a quick trip to the British VW festival in my VW Beetle. I had hoped to be able to find an 80's bmx to buy to relive my youth but there was nothing worth having. Anyway, after work I went out on the penny and ended up in another pub, if only beer was a performance enhancing drug, I'd be a world champion!

Well that was my weekend, this week I have a tough week of time trials on my normal bike. On Tuesday I will ride a 14mile hilly with Worcester st Johns then on Thursday I will have a go at a 25 mile with VC Sevale. I tried this combination last year and went well in the 14 but fell apart in the 25. Hopefully I will be able to have the Thursday off work this time to help my recovery...

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Donate to sands on line

The good chaps at SANDS have set up a donation page for me so that all of you generous people can donate to charity from the comfort of your own homes. the link for this is Any donation, big or small will be greatly appreciated. Also, if you are a uk taxpayer the government has to add an extra 28% to your donation which is great. For example if you donate £10.00 SANDS can claim an extra £2.80 from the government, giving them a total of £12.80, which has only cost you £10.00.

Other less important news from me this week includes a return to form for my time trialing with a better performance on Tuesday night. I could tell at the time I had done better than last week and then when I woke up at about 1.00am and my legs were having a major twitching fit I was sure that I had given 100%. I did nothing training wise on wednesday but this morning I went for a run and felt fine. I haven't had chance to ride the penny this week but all being well I think I may commute to work on it in the morning.