Long distance is where it's at - fact!

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Re: Long distance is where it's at - fact!

Postby ninearms » Fri May 23, 2014 9:33 pm

Big ride! Sense of time and distance duly recalibrated.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.”
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Re: Long distance is where it's at - fact!

Postby silver » Fri May 23, 2014 10:45 pm

[quote="ninearms"]Big ride! Sense of time and distance duly recalibrated.


From you? Coming off the back of TV?

I'm in awe at the pair of you TBH!
It's not what you do occasionally that makes a difference, it's that which you do everyday that brings progress.

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Re: Long distance is where it's at - fact!

Postby downhillingdemon » Sat May 24, 2014 7:50 pm

Yeah, definitely a big ride, although no where near as hard as I was expecting back in March. When I did the Dean at the end of March I had no idea how I'd manage a 400 or a 600....but I did. Which is good as I seem to have entered this http://www.millecymru.com/ This is mentalism, in a ride, no other way to describe it. I am nowhere near ready, but then, I wasn't for the BCM 6 weeks before it and I managed that. This though, this is another league altogether. 1000 km, 16 000 meters of climbing, a real brute. I may, or may not, finish, but I will at least try. It scares me every time I think about it. Apparently way harder than LEL. It will be 75 hours of pain and suffering like I have never known.

So the training has started again already which is hard as I was planning a few months of dossing around after achieving the SR which had been the goal for 2014. It is just 6 weeks. 6 weeks - a recovery week this week, 3 solid weeks of hills hills hills and a two week taper. That's all I have and it has to be perfection in planning.

This week I had two solid days off and I was really suffering. I literally swelled up like a balloon with my legs doubling in size. I had terrible ulcer pains in my stomach which I haven't had for 4 years since giving up spicy food. Everything ached. My legs felt WAY worse than after the 400, to the point of feeling damaged. My knee was sore, my back was agony, I was struggling to breathe. I had to be up at 4 am for a site day in Folkstone on the Wednesday and threw the HT in, not really to 'ride' but just to get some soul-food and it was actually a great idea. A gentle play about on the sea front, riding steps etc made me feel so much better.

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Thursday was ladies ride and only one lady came out. This was great for me though, she was keen to try a little techy stuff and we did a little more climbing than normal (705 m in 19 km). I was feeling on the mend and grateful we dodged the showers.

Friday I rested again, and today, after a lay start, I rode a 100 km DIY audax. This is a route I designed myself starting close to home and taking in a fair few of the big climbs. 1500 m in 100 km. It will be my staple weekday training ride over the next few weeks but oh boy, did I suffer today. It was tough! The sunny summer weather has made me soft and I froze. I couldn't feel my feet. Flood water was over the bottom bracket in several places. As I am still recovering from last weekend I couldn't just work flat out to keep warm and had to keep a steady pace. However, there was a huge sense of achievement in completing it, even though it's only a short ride. It's my route. And I am most pleased indeed. A good mix of lanes, A roads, stiff climbs, nice views (or at least there will be on a clear day).

I am definitely still not recovered and am a bit torn about the weekend's other riding plans as I obviously wont be riding the MC at all if I overtrain. I shall see what sleep brings, and at least it's holiday Monday so I can rest tomorrow and ride Monday if feeling good :D
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Re: Long distance is where it's at - fact!

Postby downhillingdemon » Thu Jun 05, 2014 7:57 am

Ok, bit of catching up to do.

Bank holiday Monday I rode the 100 km DIY again. Much easier the second time round. Legs felt better and the weather was good. Much easier to keep speed. The route is stunning with great views on the top. Must get it pencilled in again!

Did a techy muddy and very wet Wednesday club MTB ride. Out of my comfort zone for pretty much all of it.....baptism of fire after having so little time on the MTB lately. Good practice though and it was nice to have the legs to easily keep up with the group on the climbs. Lots of climbs - 640 m in 15 km

Thursday was an extended ladies ride - the MBS ladies came to join us. We had some views to show them....unfortunately only for 30 minutes until the clouds came in and the rain came down. We all got thoroughly soaked to the skin, but everyone seemed to enjoy the ride none-the-less.

Friday I rested, again. Legs feeling properly on the mend thank goodness

Saturday - Air ambulance charity ride - social local event. Was planning a pootle as had big plans for Sunday so me n Steve set off slowly at the back of the bunch. Wasn't long until we were frustrated with the random braking and riding so went onwards with me leading for a bit until we settled into a great pace with Steve up front doing the grunt work and me literally saving my legs for Sunday in his slipstream. Because I trust him, I could get so close to his back wheel and tuck right in, at times doing effortless 30+ kph. It was hilarious and awesome! And blatently cheating :P I can see how couples do so well at audaxing. Bit of a stiff climb on the 50 mile route, but the legs made it up no problem. All good and nice weather too.

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Sunday - Cambrian 2A permanent Audax - 203 km 3000+ meters of elevation
Woke up at 4:45 randomly,and figured it would be good practice for the P&K to get out of bed. Was at Monmouth for 5:45 am and most surprised to find the public toilets open at this time on a Sunday. Otherwise, of course, everything was closed so it was a cash-point control to start at 6 am.

The leg over to Hay was fabulous. The lanes are mostly traffic free (although I guess it was a Sunday) and the scenery is stunning. Of particular note is the lane from Craswell to Hay. It's been patched and is fully open again. Definitely worth every stiff climb up.

Although, if I am honest, I found the climbing on the 2A easily manageable throughout. It's notably less challenging than the 1A in terms of hills.

I was most surprised to find I had easily covered 50 km by the time I reached Hay. It was the biggest stretch of the day and it was good to do it first I think. Hay to Llandrindod was again, utterly stunning. Just love the moors (Begwns?). Tiny little lanes across massive open vistas. Random sheep everywhere. In fact, all day I had sheep running in front and alongside the bike. I had to stop completely as a whole flock was being herded up the main road somewhere on the B4520. Sat by the lake in Llandrindod after getting very lost trying to follow JamesBradnors GPS, until I realised I had probably reached his parking area as he would have started from there and not Monmouth. Later in the ride I realised that my laziness in checking the GPS was a very bad thing....as I found myself contraflow on every one way system in the towns and nearly missed the A40 junction. :facepalm:

Llandrindod to Llanwrtyd meant a change in direction and straight into the oncoming S'westerly. It was a challenging stretch in this direction, the road is proper 'big rollercoaster' but the ups are very steep (15%+) in places and the headwind was reducing a lot of the run in speed from the downs. Not a particularly attractive road either, and, like many of the B-roads, takes a lot of traffic. It was, however, only a short section and Llanwrtyd is a lovely town.....now with a vegan friendly cafe that stocks vegan biscotti and does amaing soya lattes. I stopped and had a proper meal of beans on toast here.

Llanwrtyd over to Brecon was by far my favourite section. The climb out of the town and up over the MoD land to 465 meters was a challenge, but a pleasant one, especially in the sunshine. Properly epic. There is no other way to describe it up there. It is like being on top of the world. Treeless moors with open views for miles to the West. Red flags warning of military activity, kites, good surface. Everything!

From the very top, the gradient was lost incredibly slowly. I was so glad I did the ride in this direction. It felt like I was very subtly descending all the way through Brecon where I bounced the control with a fly-by-cash-point) to Abergavenny (another cash point). It almost felt like cheating.

I was glad when the climbing started again as I knew I would have some climbing karma to pay back and the spiky road over to Rockfield was a challenge, mostly due to the nasty road surface which was so weathered it seemed almost unpaved in places. The bike was being kicked about and all the speed on the descents lost before the steepies. It was a hard, but rewarding, section of 'gain 40 m, loose 40 m, repeat) and the final descent into Monmouth was very much appreciated.

Overall though, I was surprised at how easy I found the ride, I didn't struggle at any point with the climbs (mostly thanks to taking it steady and making a lot of use of that lovely 34*32, and the weather) and definitely had more in my legs on returning to Monmouth.

My arrivee was the Coffee #1 on the High Street where I sat cooling off and, like most of the day, getting approached by random people asking about the ride.

It was a great day :D

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Monday - our club superdooper steady roadie social to spin out the legs turned into a hilarious benny-hill style sketch with faulty pumps, flat tyres and pouring rain. Another great ride :D

Wednesday - steadier MTB ride this week with Steve, bit longer, lots of spinny climbs. I have booked myself in for a 300 km this weekend so needed to save the legs from too much abuse, yet still get the climbing load in (22.5 km, 710 m). Brilliant ride in the, yet again, torrential rain. Rivers for trails, soaked to the skin, hills in the clouds, lights needed at 8 pm, madness! :mrgreen:
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Re: Long distance is where it's at - fact!

Postby downhillingdemon » Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:13 am

Here's a post about a VERY hilly (3850 meters) 200 km I did at the weekend. My last proper climbfest before the Mille Cymru. I have also been doing a fair bit of weekday climbing on the MTB, and a 300 km hilly Audax the week before. If I get chance I will write that one up too.

After initial plans to camp in Bala from Friday were kyboshed by general work hassles, I set out relatively early to arrive at the closest control from home, Knighton, to get parked up in the long stay, use the trainspotting-esq facilities (at least they were open) and finally found a cash machine willing to give out receipts. I have noticed the lack of cash point workability is actually pretty high and I regularly have to attend two, or even three, to obtain a printed receipt.

It was already a blue-skied day and I was glad to be on the road and pedalling, although slightly more nervous than normal about things maybe not going according to plan. The bike rescue service (aka the better half) was heading North to some hidden hills outside of Bala with absolutely no phone signal. Still, at least there was a bailout option if it all got too much.

I had an inkling that it would be pretty much straight up and out of Knighton and I wasn’t far wrong. After a short jaunt on the main road, the pink line started to shift left and up into the first of many tiny little lanes. These are the staple of this ride (if you ride the ‘pure’ route). It wasn’t long before I was on the high farmland with the stunning views over Shropshire, Herefordshire and Powys. I had a real treat at the top, my first sighting of a hare on an Audax. They are huge creatures up that close, and surprisingly he was in no hurry to disappear off, probably realising that I was in no hurry to be getting anywhere either. A lovely cruising section followed, with buzzards sat on posts, voles scurrying across the road, distance kites calling and the sun really starting to warm up. I was glad I had packed the softshell and shower jacket into the dry bag, along with my extensive food stash (two hummus and falafel rolls, vanilla and strawberry flap jack, two vegan chorizo style sausage things, sweets, chocolate bar, two banana bars and a real time banana), plus 2x750 ml bottles of water. It was weighing me down somewhat no doubt, but better that than to come up short in the middle of nowhere.

With the exception of a very short stretch on the A438, it was mostly tranquillity complete all the way to Llanidloes. Looking back it was my favourite section. The gravel covered pot holed lanes made for hard going at times, but the friendly waves and hellos from farmers on quads, scenery and flower lined verges were worth every near-puncture. Before I knew it I was in Llanidloes, a wonderful wee town, chatting to the guy in the Spar and buying liquid to fill up the bottles. “Have you been far today” “Oh, not really, just about 30 miles so far I guess” “30 miles? I’d die if I rode that far”. I sat on the shop windowsill drinking cold squash and eating a sandwich in the blazing sunshine thinking life was just wonderful.

There was a black cloud on the horizon though, in the form of the Bwlch-y-Gros. I knew it was dominating somewhere between me and Bala, but I wasn’t sure where. I wish I had known as I spent the next 40 km worrying about it whilst working into the unusual Northerly wind. I kept telling myself to just enjoy the scenery, and ‘it is what it is’ ‘take it as it comes’ and luckily it is difficult not to with everything being so stunningly beautiful. However, a climb doesn’t get a reputation like the Bwlch without deserving it, so every time the road veered steeply upward (and it did, very steeply, on a few occasions) I was expecting it to begin, only to flatten back out and cruise for a bit. I had mistakenly expected it to be pretty much wooded, but there was no doubting the Bwlch’s identity when it appeared, open and lay out before me as a Ferrari overtook and disappeared upwards, seemingly halfway to Heaven.

It looked tough from the bottom, but so often climbs look worse in the distance than the reality. This was not the case with the Bwlch. It was every bit as bad as it looked, and then some. It may have admittedly coincided with a difficult, erm, time of the month for me, but I did struggle up it, no denying it. There were no spare gears. Thank goodness the sky had clouded over. Halfway up the visible slope my jelly legs were only just strong enough to turn the pedals at such a slow cadence whilst sat in the 34*32. I tried to spin faster but my lungs complained. The fatigue was already setting in and I would soon tire of spinning. I tried standing but the worn summer gloves were slippy on the hoods and I struggled for grip with blistering hands (note 1: get new gloves). The poorly distributed luggage was making the back of the bike heavy (note 2: get better luggage system). My knee kept knocking on my bonk-rations top tube bag that had been so valuable earlier in the ride for instant sugar supplies. I was struggling, but I could see a corner ‘that must be the top’. I looked at the GPS screen only to find the contours tighter and the climb continuing after it. There was nothing I could do other than keep my head down and keep working as steadily as possible without allowing the bike to stall. Eventually I saw a junction. ‘Just get to that’ I told myself, that’s an acceptable place to stop. Once there, though, it was just too close to the summit to fold, no matter how fatigued. I topped out the same time as a hiker, who made the predictable, but friendly, comment of “I thought I was mad”. “Still” she said “at least you must know it’s all back downhill from here”

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Too right. After an obligatory photo at the top whilst waiting for the worked-hard-buzzing in my head to pass, it was payback time. Effortless cruising to Bala, although, even knowing I needed to be prudent with stopping, I couldn’t resist another couple of photos on the way.

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Bala is another lovely little town, albeit typically North Wales touristy rather than Mid-Welsh local. I sat outside the shop, refilling, yet again, my bottles and eating a giant bag of crisps whilst four other riders were close by on a bench. One of the ladies came and spoke and asked where I had come from. When I explained I got a slight blank expression. I’m not sure she believed me. Either that or my poor Welsh pronunciation had her dumfounded.

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I text the other half, pointlessly really, as he wouldn’t have had a signal, to say I was safely at Bala and had got through the hardest bit, was over halfway and should have a tailwind home. Incorrect on two of the three counts, it became apparent later. The wind changed direction and started to come from the East. How cruel! The hardest section (in riding terms) was definitely Bala to Newtown which was truly undulating, with small lanes and technical descents preventing good run in speeds to the next incline. There was also a long climb back up to Lake Vrnwy I hadn’t expected, but enjoyed thoroughly. Much nicer gradient than the Bwlch and I was glad to find my legs were still working just fine. I overtook a few ladies pushing hybrid bikes on this road, and felt a bit guilty when one said “I don’t know how you are doing that”. Then I thought about it, and realised it was 6 months of hard training and spending money on a decent road bike with good climbing gears. It is that simple.

It was also a very long section and I had to stop to refill those bottles, yet again, at a garage around 15 miles from Newtown. Although I had checked the GPX file over, I had missed two short ‘off-road’ sections including a forest road somewhere around Lake Vrwny, which I managed to avoid easily. After the garage stop though, the GPX sent me into a ‘no through road’ and I began to worry. The track began to deteriorate into an unsurfaced lane. Then I came to a ford, also bouldery and unsurfaced, but luckily with a little timber bridge. I scrolled out the GPX screen and my panic subsided, about a 100 meters or so and I’d rejoin the main road. It was quite fun in the end, riding up a proper bridleway on a vastly overpriced plastic bike……

Eventually Newtown came, but, for once, I didn’t need to refill the bottles, especially with just 32 km left until Knighton. I sat in the shade cooling off and finishing off the food supplies, and was most pleased with my efforts.

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I knew there was a huge climb over to Knighton, but I was ready for it and feeling tired but ok. I hadn’t checked this bit of the GPX, just glanced at it to see it was on main road and mistakenly assumed it was sending me up the A438 and Dolfor. It was a pleasure to find this was not the case and I would instead, be on the very hilly Clun road (a real challenging drag at times with the new surface dressing) before finally reaching the wonderful little lanes again, my favourite Mid Welsh lanes with the knitted wire fencing, short wooden posts and views extending for miles. The sun was back out and the blue skies lit up the still-spring fresh vistas and roadside foxgloves as I rolled back to Knighton.

The Cambrian 2E - another grand day out.
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Re: Long distance is where it's at - fact!

Postby downhillingdemon » Sun Aug 31, 2014 7:45 am

Hi Folks,

Thought I best drop by and tell you all how well my first Audax season has gone. The big achievement of the year was to indeed be the first female to complete the Mille Cymru 1000 km, 16000 meters of climbing in 3 days.

The whole MC experience was pretty intense at times, swinging wildly from ‘how the hell am I going to finish this’ through to ‘blimy, I’m still climbing well, even though the legs are destroyed’ There were extended sections of road lost in a dozy haze.

However, there are some sections of the route that were so stunning that, for a while, the worry of finishing, the tired legs and the saddle sore were instantly forgotten:

After a uneventful, sleepy morning trip to the South West on the second day we were rewarded with the fantastic Pembrokeshire coast. It was hard physically, more so than the climbing profile would suggest. The coastline had gained notoriety on the MC1K in 2010 and it was evident why – up down up down up down. This is why I love it, relentless short steep climbs are part of what makes the coastline interesting and I wouldn’t change it for the flat monotony of East Anglia on any day. The sea was a sapphire blue against the grey pebbles of Newgale. Tiny coast-side lanes, rocky dark tunnels at Amroth with surprised tourists, sand on road bends and, despite the weather predictions, hot June sunshine on our backs. It was wonderful.

We reached the sea again toward the end of a tired third day with a run up the A493 to Barmouth Bridge, a painful-saddlesore-rumble over Barmouth Bridge, finally to follow the wonderful scenery around Harlech as the evening began slowly to set in. It lifted my spirits no end after what was probably the hardest point in the ride for me (mentally) around the reservoirs and Llanidloes, trying to convince myself we would make it in time, but having no idea how, as I felt like I was slowing considerably in pace.

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Audax organisers are sadists. This was particularly nasty. A steep lane down a nestled valley to a controllers house, then only to have to ride back up knowing just how steep and nasty the climb will be. If you look closely, in the background the rider in blue is heading down to control, the rider in red is pedalling back up

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Sleep deprivation was the hardest thing for me to deal with over the weekend. Amazing where you will end up sleeping when desperate. I managed to sleep on a pub bench outside at 11 pm, a sheep-poo covered grass verge on a road junction in the Elan valley, and a controllers stack of potting compost. I struggled to sleep at the first two sleep stops as I was very cold, but got a good two hours on the last night which set me up nicely for the last big climbs.

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The last day was probably the best for me in riding terms, after 2 hours of solid sleep at Betwys and knowing there was only 140 km to go. Albeit with two mountain passes on the way. It is amazing how legs can keep working to pedal when they have to, even though they feel totally shot. So cold up top over Snowdonia. One guys thermometer read an air temp of -1 which would be about right as the mud in my cleats froze solid. Descending off the top in freezing temps in summer gloves/shoes was as much of a physical challenge as any of the climbing that weekend.

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Top of the last mountain pass

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It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, mostly because of the mental uncertainty of whether I would finish it, but the legs WERE good for it, I just needed to believe it, and now I do. Considering, at the start of the year, I was very much at the point of riding round hills rather than heading over them, I do feel very much at peace with my achievements in audax this year. There is still another month of audax season to go (it runs October to October), but even with a very late start (I didn't really commit to Audax until January) I have already achieved way more than I imagined possible including a double SR, Randonneur 5,000, various short term and longer term Brevet awards and a number of climbing awards.

You know what though? In all honesty, at the start of the year I was audaxing to achieve the badges, and I guess feel like I had 'achieved' something. Now I audax because I love it. I love the exploration, seeing new places and new views from the high roads. I love the feel of pushing my limits right to the edge, and realising those boundaries just keep getting bigger.

To finish, one more photo: the completed brevet card waiting to be handed to the organiser for final sign off at the end of the Mille Cymru
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