Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Training for the Ride London 100: pasty-powered cycling

The weather has been gorgeous recently. By 'gorgeous', I mean 'not actually raining'. We've come to have fairly low expectations after this wettest, most miserable winter. On the first Saturday without rain I saw three shoppers in shorts. It was February and their legs were blue but they had a point. That day could have been the summer they nearly missed. 

So in these tropical temperatures it was time to step-up the training for the Ride London 100. 

Last week I notched-up 82 miles. This was helped by a return to bicycle commuting. I never did pluck up the courage to try cycling in the dark again, after being sick the first time. The lighter evenings have come as a welcome cue to dust-off the Arkel rack bag and start digging-out the crease-proof work clothes that can survive a trip in the bag.  (Read my review of the excellent Arkel bag here).

I cycled to work on three days last week and counting the accidental mileage that happened when I got a third of the way home before remembering I'd failed to press 'Send' on an email containing deadline-sensitive copy, that put 40 relatively painless miles in my legs. I record my trips on the Cyclemeter app and my rides to work last week included both my slowest and fastest ever recorded time. 

On Saturday it was time for a longer trip. I was aiming for about 30 miles. It turned out that both my cycling buddy and I had hidden agendas. Angie was planning 40 miles. Very sensibly she knew that if she mentioned this at the outset, I would protest that it was too far. I was planning a detour to the brilliant local pasty shop. Equally sensibly I knew that if I mentioned this at the outset, Angie would mention diets and Lent. 

My agenda was first to be fulfilled, at the 25-mile mark. I started mentioning sausage rolls (know your market. She can't resist) at about 15 miles. By the time we pulled-up outside the shop Angie was ravenous and I was so ready for the vegetarian wholemeal pasty which I  knew the store had been saving for me that I could have started chewing on the fingers of the nice man as he handed over my pie. That really would have been biting the hand that feeds me...

My husband says I am the only woman he has ever met who has a loyalty card for a pie shop. 

I'm not the only fan of the local shop. Check out these reviews

If you are ever cycling in Shropshire, call in - they have even started opening on Sundays especially for cyclists. 

But I digress. A pasty will do that to a person.

It was towards the end of our lunch that Angie's agenda became clear.

Angie: "How many calories have we used?"

Me: "1100. Isn't that great?"

Angie: "Yes, and we'll probably do at least half as much again on the way home."

Me: "Nah, we'll be home in 20 mins."

Reader, she befuddled me with a map. I've always been confused by contours. I can't work out whether the straight lines are Roman roads or canals. My Geography teacher said I was too highly-strung to take his subject at O-level. Too highly-strung for Geography FFS? How laid-back do you have to be to learn about oxbow lakes?

The upshot was that we covered 41.35 miles by the time we made it home. 1,700 calories and an average speed of 11.51 mph. That's still not fast enough for the Ride London. I need to be reaching 11.7 mph on that ride to escape the possibility of being taken off the route by the sweepers. Even more worryingly, I need to be able to do the whole 100 miles without a pasty. 

It is going to take a lot more training.

If you have faith in my potential to transform from pasty-muncher to svelte cyclist, please feel free to sponsor me here: www.gofundme.com/riding4rhinos  I am trying to raise £250 to go directly to the members of the Rhino Protection Unit in Pilanesberg, South Africa. They are doing an amazing job safeguarding the rhino in the area, at considerable risk to themselves. To the best of my knowledge, they do not even have access to a decent pie shop. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Cycling with dogs and why pride comes before a fall

Flu has had me in its grasp this week and the dogs have been going stir crazy. So finally I pile my Brompton and two excited spaniels into the back of the car. We head for the disused railway line a couple of miles away.

Once our journey proper begins, Meg never moves more than three feet away from my pedals, watching me all the time. She trots a few paces ahead then turns her head, scanning my eyes.

Flossie is hurtling through undergrowth and woods. Occasionally her head pops through a hedge, checking we are still there.

Meg and I slow to pass a couple of smartly-dressed walkers. New boots, pressed cord trousers, practical fleeces, hers as pink and clean as her cheeks.
They look admiringly at Meg and we come, politely, to a halt. Meg sits motionless alongside my front wheel, watching my face, waiting for a signal we're on the move. "Isn't she good? Gosh, remarkably well trained. You must have worked so hard, she's a real credit to you." I smile, knowing the truth to be that it was Meg who worked hard teaching me to obey her every whim.

Over his shoulder I can see a dot. It is small, fast-moving and heading our way. My heart sinks.

They smell Flossie before they see her.
All too evidently, she has been running through slurry. She skids past us, comes to a halt some distance away and lollops back, wild-eyed.

She is green-brown to stomach height and her face is partially obscured by the very large rabbit she is holding triumphantly in her mouth.

At that moment, Meg sees the rabbit. She lunges forward to grab the prize. The pair of bunny-spoilers engage in a gruesome tug of war with Peter Rabbit.

The walkers say nothing. They simply turn and trudge sadly, slowly, away from the flying fur.

Flossie (left) and Meg