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’…



An uphill battle

Going home sick on a Thursday and still ill on Monday was all part of Henry’s warm up to last Wednesday’s ride. Chris, meanwhile, being in Ireland as it is the school holidays.

Having spent the night on the boat and indulged in a far more gentle warm up than before the previous ride, Henry was still hawking like a Dickensian child of the Jago – not the poncey hipster shop on Great Eastern St, but the slum that was there before it and that you can still get the meanest whiff of in the ‘rag trade’ street market behind this, on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Shoreditch High Street.

Regardless of health, he was up for the ride and, leaving the East End behind we scaled Fitzroy Farm to the dizzy heights of Highgate.

Explosions of prolapsing lungs spat over my neck, but down we went and back up Swains. Feeling Henry spinning out, but just clinging on, we swung round the back of Kenwood and up to Whitestone’s Pond, London’s highest point.

Recovered somewhat and egged on by the prospect of lunch, every pedal punctuated by gut heaving coughs and showers of phlegm from the stoker, we dropped to Golders Green – and back up. Down to the Finchley Road – and back up. Up Mount Vernon. Down to Chalk Farm and up to Pond Street, down and up again to Whitestone’s – a killer. A sweep back around Kenwood and a climb to a welcome rest in the Flask.

24 miles of steep climbing while sick deserves being rewarded with one of London’s best kept pints of Pride. The second, equally acceptable.

The three course meal and two bottles of red to follow may have been a little excessive, but nicely set us up for the ride back to Limehouse and the boat!

Heading South

Well, Team Tuffcall returned to cycling with a few laps of Regents Park and then, having had a day or two to find our lungs, followed up with a couple of attempts up Highgate High and environs…

This was perfectly timed to be a training taster as we freewheeled straight into the Christmas party season. The thighs resting and the kidneys aching.

This will be the fourth annual Ouka Monster in aid of Education for All and Chris and I, as veterans of the previous three, really thought we might have got to four months out in some format of fitness as planned. Instead, it is the usual starting from scratch, panting and wheezing while regretting all the cigarettes and alcohol.

Meanwhile, the company – R/GA – won agency of the year for the second year in the row – a great accolade involving much corporate back-slapping and additional party planning on top of the already scheduled December excess!

Thankfully, I had banked some holiday and managed to escape the worst of the annual binge with most of my health intact as I whisked the family off to India – In fairness to Ros, she did all the organisation, so, I was really the one been whisked.

Delhi was not as frantic as my distant memory thereof. It is a lot more Westernised – to the extent that Peta, just six, blue eyed and blonde, is now mobbed by people wanting to take her picture on their iPhones and Samsungs. Previously, this would have been much bruising cheek pinching, hair stroking and tears. Now it is a crash course in what it is like to be famous.

The roads are far less frantic now they are dominated by smog-fuelling motor vehicles. Having said that the soundtrack of the city, and India, is still beeping horns, belching exhaust and the staccato sewing machine stutter of the auto-ricks straining against their above capacity loads.

Amongst this, it is fair to say, that not a vast amount has been done to improve the cycling infrastructure. I decide to leave any trans-continental training until I had headed to the more chill south.

The chill south.

Lyulf moans of stomach ache as we fly from Delhi to Bangalore and on the bus from there to Mysore. An introduction to proper ‘squatters’ at Mysore Palace and the inability to eat lunch, despite the wonderfully dilapidated ballroom setting indicates that something actually is wrong.

Once ensconced in the wonderful green hotel this graduates to a full blown dose of the Leon’s (Trotsky), associated vomiting and high fever. The trained first-aider leaps into action and fires up the Red Cross (Crescent and any other shape of your choice) App mid panic attack to find no reference to raging temperatures. Cunningly, I realise, while inhaling a brown paper bag, they have hidden this topic in a separate app for children – relating to children, even (something I have always struggled with).

Turns out, that while his white cotton trousers were very Kipling, they may not have been the best choice in the circumstances. Equally, we seem to be doing all possible to help the boy, bar paying through the nose for a third party to do it on our behalf.

And, while administering to this sweating nine year old and remembering the combination of fear and unfairness that being ill at that age involved, a little part of me was guiltily thankful that he was providing me with a valid reason not to be on the local equivalent of a Boris Bike, bunny hopping cows and dealing with the local traffic, bovine or otherwise.

The chill south – my(sore) arse!

I have to admit to myself that, for 2015, my cycling is done. The year started fighting my way back to fitness on the new folder, the Pacific Reach. The triumph of the third Ouka, less than a year after fracturing my pelvis in three places, was exhilarating. Hot on the tail of this came the complacently that led to my fitness being hotly pursued by my waistline in a southerly direction.

All in all, the year stacked up as follows. Between full time job and childcare, the Tuffs half of the team managed:

  • 3,446 miles
  • Climbing over 88k feet
  • In 545 rides
  • Over 305 hours (and five minutes!)

The 2015 summary – a lot of pretty slow, short rides.

2016 beckons. Naturally I aim to be a healthier, fitter, slimmer variant of the current me. So, the targets?

  • Get to and stay below 15 stone, with 14 being ideal.
  • Up the mileage to 4k
  • Speed up!

We shall see.

More importantly is to stop typing and look after Lyulf. `the poor kid still hasn’t forgiven me for dragging him to India before Star Wars is released and where we will not be doing Christmas before he gets sick.