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!

 

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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.

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.

bidon.jpeg

Epic

Well, a week to go and between needing to update the ‘hall of fame’ and thank everyone for the support to date, from Linda to Imogen, Heather to Jai and all between, we have been making the effort all the more ‘epic’ by not training. Chris has been busy burying people while I have moved from pitch-frenzy to being ill and on antibiotics that keep making me throw up.

While this is far from ideal preparation, Henry and I have had our photo taken with the Circe Helios Duo from an ‘epic’ low angle.

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Ride and Glide!

The tandem riding had an air of order after our first training run. We had call signs that, we belatedly realised, when combined, sounded like a type of lubricant rather than a coordinated sporting unit. That aside, however, we were quietly confident.

Ride two was designed to get some miles in the legs – somewhere over the 100 mark to prove that we could manage the distance.

Knowing Chris was out with clients meant that Henry and I, always believers that an odd drink never hurt, liberally carb-loaded on the night before the ride. It only seemed fair, so as not to have an advantage over Chris.

At some point during this preparation our judgement erred and the hour of our departure rapidly began to merge with bedtime.

As a result of this experiment I can categorically say that drinking all night is not ideal preparation for a 100 mile bike ride.

Regardless, Chris arrived looking like he had already done the distance and the three of us set off. It was cold and it hurt. A lot of endurance riding is mental and a no-sleep hangover is not the best mental state to achieve the required miles.

We flogged on, up the Lea valley, through Epping, Chipping Ongar and some of Essex’s finest. We mixed a puncture in for variety and eventually stopped for lunch at a pub where they assumed we were part of the over 60’s cycling club they had booked in – that’s how good we looked.

Lunch it transpires is the great healer. Food and beer revitalised us enough for the return journey and we made the distance, but did it hurt.

Below decks

Sadly I missed my stoker’s 51st birthday lunch this Sunday. Ros had to work and a combination of factors, including my own backlog of work, meant that getting two children to Woodbridge from London, via a rail replacement bus service, in time for lunch was not going to pan out – particularly as, if I was going to complete my work, I needed to stay sober.

As it turned out lunch continued until 9.30.

9.30am that is!

Not having Monday off meant that my absence was a good thing. It also meant that I was noticeably fitter when Henry came up smiling on Tuesday, to loosely quote, ‘Withnail and I’.

I did shred my Schwalbe Durano tyres on the way to the office. Conveniently, this was outside the school my partner is principle of, which meant I had company as I swapped tubes on the side of the road.

The reason I mention the tyre manufacturer is that Strava shows that these Schwalbe Durano’s have carried my 16 stone for over 3,900 miles before letting me down – just astounding!

Back to Henry, and we meet at the boat after work for our weekly tandem training. Motivation has been higher as evidenced by Ros’ delay meaning we happily abandon our ride and proceed to our post ride HIIT routine (as Chris covers in his post) of alternating 12 x 30 second sprints on the Kona that is set up on a turbo trainer under the deck. Doing this at least justifies a beer to groan over in the saloon while promising to knock the drinking and smoking on the head.

It is harder than it sounds as the end of this clip would demonstrate – if I could upload it here. Facebook it is then…