Playing catch up 4

Chris in Ireland and Tim busy. Henry and I spend the night on the Cabby before going for a Dun Run. Get the miles in the legs 120 miler and similar gung-ho chat.

The tandem is not an option for me to bring back on the train so I am on the Brompton and we fix up Justine’s beautiful, orange, hardtail Kona Lavadome – an original one that has previously done both the Dun Run and the North Himalaya plateau.

We lift it down to the pontoon and, of course, the tyre goes flat. Again, I can not find the right tube. Inner tubes are proven fans of Douglas Adams and, like biro’s they hide when you need them. The wheels are smaller than the Kona Sutra I discover. I also find the missing tubes for the Helios Circe that were nowhere to be seen a couple of weeks back. Even more obscure, tubes for the beautiful and expensive Pacific Reach IF – sadly crushed between my neighbours barge and the shore when he was borrowing it. While interesting to see it folded in a completely different way than intended, it was 1.6k down the drain as you smile and say, ‘don’t worry about it, accidents happen’ or something similar. Still gutted as it was a designers wet dream. I digress.

Tube patched. Henry exclaiming about what a real bike feels like and we are off. It is even still early – 6.30ish, no less! Up the Limehouse Cut, out through Epping. Tracking the route on Strava makes checking directions easy without anything annoying as Sat Nav talking to you.

I have the advantage of the Brighton ride in my legs, much as I hated it at the time, and feel as though I can ride for ever. Henry is strong for the first 40 miles and then the pass slows. Fair enough, we have covered a whole county and over 60 miles by the time we reach Sudbury. Lunch and a train home to collect the children in time – again! – seem to be a far better idea.

Although, I had to collect the children from a play date at a charming house on Elsworthy Road –  a strange road that runs alongside Primrose Hill (NW3), but is neither that or quite St Johns Wood (NW8), which I like. The children are still eating and I have to remove my shoes while waiting. Not good after a ride and I am painfully self-conscious, to the extent of wishing I had faced the wrath of being late…

 

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Playing catch up 3

Tim can’t get the day off, but is likely to let the team up by being the only fit member, so this is not really an issue. Henry is also busy, so I set off on the Brompton from Sailing Barge Cabby almost on time having cleared the decks (no pun intended) of the work I needed to do.

Grey weather, threatening rain, and a headwind making the most of the non-aero-dynamic front bag that Brompton’s sport. I am knackered by the time I get to Streatham with Brixton Hill sapping any strength I may have had. Chris arrives and he too is without a map. 66 miles to Brighton and the two people with the worst sense of direction I know are having to work from memory – I mean, the Marrakech Atlas Etape is a single road up and down and we struggle not to get lost on that – what could go wrong.

I struggled. Rose Hill, that dreadful slog past Sutton, Mitcham or somewhere. Main roads eventually stop as we turn onto the Dorking road, cross the M25 and pass the Pfeiffer factory. Christ this is hard (pun intended). Chris feeds me a bar of some sticky muck and the liquid foulness of a gell – as he describes below, I am in dire need of food.

Beyond Box Hill, the staff at the small post office, general store combo we stopped at looked shocked as I purchase Lucazades, greasy bacon and cheese number, 4 snickers and a couple of packets of jelly babies, however, it hit the spot and around 30 miles in I had warmed up.

The Brompton, while making me look like a bear on  clown bike, felt twitchily responsive. The handlebars of the P-type, while looking like an exercise bike, providing the variety of positions required for distance, climbs and the like. This is the bike I want to ride this year. I want to get a Brompton up the Ouka Monster for the third time – how to break it to Henry that I do not want to ride the tandem again?

Devils Dyke, Beach, beer, burgers and home in time to collect the children – that alone is a record!

 

Playing catch up 2 – featuring Kate Moss

And so, after many false starts – briefly riding with Mike in the Cévennes before returning to London and getting swallowed by the day job, trying again in November and surviving the embarrassment of crashing and being picked up off the roundabout by the Brunswick Centre by a French tourist only to then fracture something unpronounceable in my foot while walking around Kew Gardens to name but two (with complete disregard to punctuation) – training eventually started.

‘Started’ may be a bit of an overstatement. Henry and I, the tandem-tastic team from 2016

(Yes, that’s us), had a bit of a night of it. Despite this, we were up early – not sleeping helps to facilitate this – and fixing up the tandem which had been sitting untouched, below decks in Cabby’s workshop since last year’s Marrakech Atlas Etape. Things were oiled – hands, clothing and the like, pedals added and tyres pumped. Water bottles were filled and made pretty with the addition of purple isotonic things – whatever they do – and Box Hill beckoned.

The tandem was lifted onto the pontoon and the tyre was flat. In fact the tube was broken at the valve. This was a problem as the old Helios Circe Duo has odd sized wheels and, while I could find tubes for the fat tyres, there were none to hand for the Marathon’s.

Change of plan and Chris cycles north via a cycle shop who had the requisite tubes in a dusty cupboard of collectors items. Broken tyre levers and some time later we set off. Box Hill is out – being 26 miles away – so we target Hampstead and Highgate. The tandem is a beast – says the unfit duo blaming their rather marvelous machine – and a mere 23 miles of hills later we stop for lunch at the Flask – training over.

While sitting there, I vaguely notice the arrival of a couple of women. The fair haired of which looks around in my direction – Henry and Chris have their backs to them. I am at the age where people do not give me a second glance anymore so thought nothing of it – and even if I did, I really need to visit an optician to focus across a beer garden (before the addition of beer). I was watched again on my way to and from the bar as well as being the subject of, from my pov, a blurred conversation and a couple of more ‘checking outs’.

As we were heading out Chris and Henry were very excited that Kate Moss was the blonde. How often do you get checked out by Kate Moss??!!??

I mean, it helps if you vaguely knew her through a friend when at school and that she then drank in your Camden pub – the Camden Brewing Company – obviously.

And, she was probably saying, ‘I am sure that guy used to run a very cool party pub and now look at him – fat, middle aged and wearing lycra’…

 

Playing catch up 1

Back in February I wrote the below,

‘Below decks.

Bent double, no headroom. Red decks disguise the blood, sweat and tears as all noise is amplified back at you.

If the planks were etched by the feet and guns which have run over them in the course of naval service, this cramped space could be the gun deck of the ‘third rate’ HMS Captain, built here in Limehouse Yard and the command Nelson made his name (and knighthood) on in the Battle of Cape St Vincent, winning the day and boarding a ‘first rate’ to boot.

But no.

Feeble tungsten light struggles to penetrate the caged glass of the shade and illuminate the stacks of tools and tins of paint, sail lockers, diesel tanks, exposed bilges and float-switched pumps. This murky world with its strange acoustic; workshop and storage space, the damply claustrophobic bowels of the good Sailing Barge Cabby has its own hero.

No Horatio, maybe, but Henry took his first exercise for 33 years here as he began to train for the 2016 Marrakech Atlas Etape. He wedged himself between saddle and deck before cycling the turbo trainer mounted Kona Sutra through the pain barrier in his first set of interval training – still one of the funniest things I have filmed and I will be killed if I posted it again.

While easy to laugh, I am staggered by my lack of fitness this year…’

Reading it back in April with less than a fortnight to go to the big day, I am equally staggered that I spent time writing such pretentious twaddle rather than doing some exercise – this year I never did get on the turbo trainer..

The ‘gym’ on Sailing Barge Cabby – a Kona Sutra mounted on a turbo trainer between the sails and diesel tank.

London to Brighton

After a somewhat hectic couple of weeks, one half of team Tuffcall, decided it was time for the annual pilgrimage to Brighton. Traditionally, this is done in either a snowstorm or a typhoon – good training for Marrakech; but this year the weather gods were on our side.  Judging by our condition caused by the night before and indeed on the morning itself, they obviously decided we needed a little help.

The usual 7:30am start tuned into the usual 09:30 start and armed with one of Chris’ usual useless set of directions we headed off into West Sussex.

Navigating by pubs, we turned left at the Three Kings, right at the Plough, until finally we left hectic London and entered the tranquil English countryside.  Yep, we were lost.  The Shovel and bucket had been tuned into a nail bar and we had missed a turning.

Tuffs was in dire need of food and fortune was indeed on our side.  A small store come off licence came into view and we duly entered.  Two MAMILs in your shop is probably enough of a shock for any shopkeeper but to hear them discussing the merits of jelly babies over wine gums was probably too much.  I’m sure they thought we were ranting in some strange language and probably plotting some foul deed which needed copious amounts of sugar based products, The police were of course summoned, but we explained out way out of the police car.

Fuelled by Rowntrees  finest and a large selection of chocolate confectionary we headed of in search of hills, well actually by now, beer was most definitely on the agenda. Energy bars, energy drinks etc.  are all very good in their own right but when you are in the zone, only jelly babies or at a push fruit pastilles will do.

The route developed a theme, climb  a hill, curse, go down the other side and proclaim that it wasn’t too bad.

Eventually, the Dyke entered the line of vision.  Only Devils Dyke stood in the way of the beach, the traditional burger on the beach and most importantly of all, Red Stripe on the beach.

For those who have ever cycled or contemplated cycling to Brighton, the mere mention of Devils Dyke can instil fear into the rider. Well, it’s not actually too bad. The bit that is really annoying, is a house called HighPoint.  You could be forgiven for thinking that you had ascended the notorious Dyke and could then roll into Brighton. Well, it’s not.  It’s not even half way! Every year I take his / her sign and throw it in the bin and every year they mount another one.  This year I am writing to Brighton and Hove Council demanding the house is renamed.

Soon afterwards, we arrived in Brighton and were created to lovely sunshine.

Thank you weather gods for not throwing at us rain, hail and the usual snow.

Being creatures of habit, we found our usual watering hole, had our usual burgers and beer and promptly   fell asleep on the train back into London.

 

 

For those who enjoy stats, I cycled 125km at an average speed of 23km/h, ate two packs of jelly babies, a mars bar, a bottle of lucozade, a rather mediocre burger and two pints of red stripe.

I believe, we climbed a max gradient of 16.5% and effectively cycled 1/4 of the Ouka.

Arrived tired, but relieved the training had finally started

 

Segment Stats

Type:
Ride
Distance:
4.2 km
Elev Gain:
124 m
Elev Change:
70 m
Avg Grade:
1.7 %
Max Grade:
16.7 %
Climb cat:
n/a
Min Elevation:
114 m
Max Elevation:
184 m

Training has commenced

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Well,

In true style, the training for this year’s Marrakech etape has started later than last year and strangely later than the year before.

Flights are booked I think and I recall booking a hotel – can’t recall which one though.

Beer consumption has resumed to  normal levels and the restorative powers of Alc O hol. have cured the cold that plagued me in January – begone foul germs.

The broken toes have set although not straight but the shoulder injury means I can’t raise my left arm above my head for any length of time.   I also dislocated my thumb kayaking but that popped back in.  So, usual high level of fitness. The good news is that my bike has been fixed

We have also expanded the team – welcome Tim and hello once again to Henry, no longer stoking  but riding solo.

I actually went on the 1st ride of the year last week and may have suffered minor frostbite.  A very slow and painful 3 hours of cycling on frosty roads with a wind chill that had only the hardiest venturing outside.

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However, I’m reminded of the 1st Etape when we experienced blizzard like conditions, so winter training is to be recommended.

Well,  That’s the excuses out of the way now its  time to raise some money.

Middle aged men cycle up a mountain to a ski resort, which is higher than Ventoux ( a famous mountain in France, much loved by cyclists) and you get to laugh at the training antics / disasters along the way.  In return, all we ask for is some sponsorship.

Why, I hear you ask.

Well the Marrakech Atlas Etape  is organised for the benefit of Education For All, a Moroccan NGO. At present, few girls from rural communities in Morocco continue their education after primary school. College is not accessible to them for several reasons. To help tackle some of the issues, EFA are running boarding houses near secondary colleges, allowing some girls from rural families to continue their education

https://www.marrakech-atlas-etape.com

All donations are welcome and it’s very easy:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Tuffcall2017

In return, we will post updates on a regular basis

Thanks

Water bottles

Grenoble airport has a certain provincial charm as one basks in the sun waiting for our (‘P2P’ Manchester) flight to be ready to go through security. This charm is offset by the loos which have graduated to porcelain but not toilet seats and have the obligatory yellow tabarded French women cleaning the urinal around you. Woman who, bar the cigarette (now part of inhaling, hunched, outdoor huddles where smokers, vampire-like, cling to gossip filled shadows) have not changed in the slightest from when the airport opened in the ‘30s.

A tented stand near the entrance contains a couple of high-end turbo trainers allowing one to try the local hills in their summer mode. Lyulf hopped on and started cruising a valley while I felt obliged to attempt a hill and, for the first time, use those gears that are built into the brake levers.

Immediately, muscles straining, my body temperature started to head towards that ‘turbo trainer’ hot. Wishing for a fan, I groaned and staggered off, the dismount ungainily highlighting that my jeans are rather restrictive at my current weight.

Regardless, this is my first hill training of the year and is celebrated by the gift of a souvenir ‘bidon’ (as cycling types refer to water bottles). The irony does not escape one as directly opposite is the entrance to security, my next destination, where, true to form when exiting countries, I am stopped and searched. My clothes nicely patted and stuck to the damp recently exercised body thereunder.

Despite it being slightly unpleasant for both parties, I will take it as a small victory and fly homewards with my Marrakech Atlas Etape training having, albeit briefly, graduated to a bike.

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