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…

 

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 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.

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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Roll with it…

Oasis playing.

1995 seems like a long time ago.

Beautiful day – one of a series that have made up a glorious week in Tignes.

The children finish early to get their ski school medals, so I will see if I can get a late afternoon skate in instead – My Dad’s Bauer’s purchased from Skate Attack 29 years ago cutting a hockey-bladed dash on the frozen lake in glorious sunshine…

Memories of early Broadgate days with Henry, Joel and the Canadian gang, ice, rain, Turbos and Chargers.

Young, fearless and fit.

The subsequent body battering, the self-induced, the brakes, the wear and tear. The lack of core strength from prolapsed disk, fractured pelvis and recent fractured foot meant I was too fragile and, more to the point, too scared to ski.

Strangely removed from the community motivation, skating was the answer and the first proper move towards regaining enough fitness to ride the Marrakech Atlas Etape this year. The experience has left me feeling healthier and determined to build up the strength to both beat the Ouka Monster and come back here to ski.

‘Some might say, ‘we will find a brighter day”

IMG_7158.JPGBring it on.

Hello 2017

Now we are four…

The fifth Marrakech Atlas Étape supports Education for All which is 10 this year! With the first students now coming through University, the charity now provides access to secondary education for nearly 200 girls who would otherwise not have had the opportunity. The current campaign raising money to support a sixth boarding house.

And for the 2017 Étape Tuffcall return as a team of four – Chris and myself for the fifth time, Henry, last year’s stoker on the tandem is back for a second time and Tim is the new member for this year. There is also a chance that we will swell in numbers to six if Paul and his sister do more than threaten to sign up – potentially giving the tandem an airing.

Our foursomes’ current collective age is over 200 with the usual collection of beer bellies and random gear. Tim, by far the fittest of the group, has a proper mountain bike; Chris will have whichever bodged together stead that is most ‘road worthy’ at the time; I am not sure if Henry has upgraded from his boneshaker yet and I am planning, having ridden the small wheel tandem with Henry last year and the Pacific folder the year before, to revert back to the trusted Brompton. If nothing else, an eclectic mix to bring up the rear of the field.

Training to date has been a stop start affair with a lot of time dedicated to the former. Staying in the Cevennes in the summer saw Mike, one of the founders of the EFA, and I taking on some serious climbs at altitude before breakfast. A healthy life stretched before me – as far as the return to London and the reality check it transpired.

There followed a long hiatus. The agency world workload got heavier and Chris and I hardly speak to each other, let alone go for a ride. Work dominates most waking moments without any concept of balance – more going for the burn-out rather than the burn.

A confidence shaking crash and a ski holiday cancelling fracture in my foot add to the delays.

Off the crutches for Christmas and walking for new year. It is February and all prevarication has to stop.

So, I purchased some weighing scales.

Little steps.

Actually, more like one almighty jolt. I am back up to 16 stone. Something has to happen. I must act.

A blog post will help, surely…?