Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The sound of silence

Ooh, ooh, ooh. The giddy excitement of a bright warm morning, a cycling commute in a T-shirt and a bike in one piece again! Obviously it'll piss down later and I'll get wet but that's a UK summer for you!

The utterly tremendous news is this... my bike is silent. This may not be a revelation as being single speed, it's pretty much always been that way unless I'm freewheeling. Well since Cycle Surgery fixed my wheel (and serviced the freewheel of their own accord), it's silent. Utterly silent! Well apart from the tyres on the road and the wheezing from the man in the saddle that is. It's brilliant with one tiny exception. I used to use the freewheel clickerty-clackerty as kind of a warning to pedestrians on cycle paths, cats, birds etc. This morning, silence and very nearly, a squidged cat! I now have to make a noise myself which means I'll now look like 'that weird cycling man that yells at animals'. Seriously, that's what the kids will call me!

On the marathon training front, yesterday's intervals were not the easiest of things. It took a while to get things warmed up and I really had to do some stretches before hand. This was pointed out to me in no uncertain terms when I tried to cross my legs on the train home and had to use my hands to move my leg. Winner! I had to do my 1200m at 4:29 pace. All were between 4:34 and 4:41 which although too slow, I felt like I was pushing so not too worried and on the back of my longest ever run only 2 days before, I'll take it! Mind you, I'm sure my runs were uphill and my rests downhill! Or maybe that's just how it felt!

I have a new route planned for Saturdays 24/25km so should make things a little more interesting although the elevation chart looks like a right arse. Going to have to blank that out I reckon as it's like a sodding rollercoaster!

I can't wait for the end of the work day as I can get back on the bike and see just how much my legs have seized up but the way I'm feeling, I'm just going to attack those hills again.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Show me the light

I don't want to tempt fate, especially as I have 8km on the schedule for tonight but I may finally be relaxing into this marathon training a little.

After a pleasant 17km on Saturday, I think partly due to the company of my Mum on a bike for half of it and partly due to be running on roads I've rarely been on therefore being less mundane, I then had a very successful interval session where I hit 9 out of the 10 times I needed to and the one I missed was only missed by 1.5 seconds! Mind you, this has massive potential for me to fall flat on my face on Saturday morning as I will be running the longest distance I have ever done. 23km. A shade over 14 miles. 21km has been my limit so far and I've only got there sometimes due to the big sign that says finish and the knowledge that I can stop.

In fact, for the next 3 Saturdays in a row, I'll be running longer each time than I've ever done before! This is where the worry kicks in a little. Fear of the unknown for me. Can I cope with just me for company while pounding the pavement?? I'm really not that interesting so wondering if it's time to change my 'no ipod' policy that I self imposed after the dreadful Lisbon Half Marathon in 2010. It's a thought....

On another note, I was recently asked if I would like to review a product from the www.upandrunning.co.uk. The choice of product was mine so on I went, looking through the vast selection of products available in order to find something that a)would be useful and b)that I needed. This caused a little bit of a problem due to the fact that marathon training is pretty much dominating my thoughts right now and from a clothing/equipment point of view, I have everything I need to get me to Berlin. So therefore I had to look at other options. Then it hit me, as Dunwich Dynamo was just round the corner and wanting a little extra light for the trip, how about a new head torch being as mine is old and not very bright. I started hunting through and found a couple. One in particular caught my eye but mainly due to the price. £45 for a head torch seemed a bit steep. This had to be a special head torch.

The PETZL PG TIKKA XP 2 was chosen despite having a name that sounds like the bastard child of a snack and a computer program. So what does this torch have? Firstly and surprisingly, there's a whistle to attract attention built into the clasp and head strap. Genius! I would never have though of it but when running and cycling in the dark, you never know when you're going to need to attract attention. The torch has a number of modes. Very bright, bright and strobe. Then on each of these, you have the option of a long distance bright spot or a dispersed light that avoids a hot spot. Then... if you push and hold the button, it switches to a little but bright red LED that could come in really useful for other road users to see when running or if needing an emergency bike light. For a headtorch, it really is full of features!

I gave it a proper test during Dunwich Dynamo where it was my long distance light source while the bike light concentrated on the bit just in front of my wheel. It really is extremely bright and lit up the dark country lanes with ease which made the down hills a lot easier to deal with. Now I know this is 'just a headtorch' and you can buy a reasonable headtorch that does the job a lot cheaper, it's the little extras like the whistle and red light option that really got me all geeky about it. Sad I know but hey, you're used to it by now right??

Monday, 2 July 2012

Dunwich Dynamo XX - What a ride!

I think it's fair to say that Dunwich Dynamo is awesome! Statements on twitter such as 'the most life affirming thing you can do on a bike' aren't that fair off the mark. As I decribed it to someone the other day when asked why I do things like this, the bright bit at the end once you've gone through the dark bit in the middle is one of the most fantastic feelings there is.

Dunwich Dynamo even more so than most. Everyone's there for a bike ride. Not a race, just a ride of 180+km though the middle of the night. You're with chatty, happy like minded individuals that are all there for a variety of reasons but will all experience that bright bit at the end and that brings everyone together.

For those who know nothing about this event, it's an hardly organised bike ride from Hackney in London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. There are no marshals, no exact route, no official start time (QUOTE: people start to leave when they feel like it after 8pm. A sort of momentum develops'), no van following to help if things go wrong (you rely on the good nature of the other riders) and no charge.

Only my second year for this but last years lessons had been learnt. The flask of hot sweet tea was genius, the change of top and long socks at the half way mark got rid of the chill from last year and the music in one ear from 1am onwards to help me through those dark moments from last year. In fact, because of the above, I didn't actually have a dark moment this year. In fact I didn't stop grinning from 2am - 5am!! Like a bloody Cheshire cat I was!!

Grant and I had had a long Saturday before the ride as we took a car up there to make the return journey easier (last year waiting for the bus was painful although the service they provide is second to none and such good value, but we wanted the option to leave when we were ready this year). This turned out to be a stroke of luck later though! 5 hours of driving is not the best preparation for a 10 hour bike ride!! However, the chippy supper was!

We set off Hackney at 8:15pm once we noticed there was a steady stream of cyclists heading off North so after picking up some directions (for the bargain donation of £1) we joined them. Now a horrible creaking sound is really not what you want to hear at this point but it's exactly what was there. At the regular traffic light stops though the first few KM, we established it was my rear sprocket and then just hoped the chain wasn't on it's way out! I put a lot of lube into the freewheel and by chance more than design, the creaking then stopped. It seems I'd been a bit eager with the cleaning on Friday night and it'd taken a while to get itself going again. Phew!! For a second there, I thought I might have to do it fixed wheel!! (There are people that do that but quite frankly, I'm not that cool and would have moaned a lot... I like freewheeling downhill too much).

Anyway, the bit through Epping was a lot more pleasant this year and with a lot less abuse from passing motorists too! The first quarter flew by and we stopped for refuelling at around 10:30pm. Lunch was had around 12:30 and a further snack break around 3am.


DD gives you so many memories, but everyone will tell you that one of the most ingrained and amazing is during those early hours where you pretty much just have a line of red flashing lights as far as the eye can see! It just inspires you and I really can't put how it feels into words. The spiel I've written will never do it justice!

So as you can see, it was going well. Too well some would say. Well you're all a bunch of pessimists! But unfortunately, you are correct. 5am and with only 18km to go and it happened! I slowed to check if we had to take a turn, Grant didn't notice in time and was closer than I thought and he rode straight into the back of me. I managed to stay upright and stop the bike. As I turned to see Grant, he wasn't there. Nor was his bike.... Running back up the road 10 yards, he was found lying in a 4 foot deep ditch with bike on top. A helpful participant who'd been nearby lifted his bike up and I helped an uninjured Grant out of the ditch.


Oh Shit! His front wheel had bent and popped 3 spokes. Oh double shit, I'd snapped 3 on my rear wheel and it wouldn't even turn! DD was over. We popped his rear onto my bike and I set off faster than I had for the entire ride so far in order to collect the car so I could pick him up again.

Technically, I finished as I got there but only to throw the bike in the car and head back out to where Grant was. It feels incomplete. There was no soaking up of the atmosphere and dozing on the beach in the sun. We started together and cycled together and therefore DDXX will always be incomplete to me but I can't wait for next year. There is just nothing quite like it!