Cycle Challenge Day 2

Ah, the plans of mice and men. Unfortunately, today’s ride had to be curtailed after just short of 50 km. I won’t go into detail here, but some things are too important to take second place behind messing about in the gym.

England won the 2nd Ashes Test of 2009 at Lord’s as I cycled on Day 2 of the cycle challenge. At the time, I must have been so engrossed in the cricket but I could remember little about the circumstances, scores and performances apart from that England did win. My memory was jogged at times but the series was not so classic as either 2005 or 2010/11, both of which have lived far longer for me. The cycling itself was fairly steady and non-eventful, just as I want it to be, and no real sign yet of physical difficulty. There were good reasons for falling behind my own planned progress, but there is still time to make that up.

Day 2 Distance: 49.4 km (30.7 miles)

Total Distance: 128.4 km (79.8 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Drayton, Northamptonshire, a small hamlet just north west of Banbury, and with a rather small village green (called a ‘village green’ despite being a hamlet). The BBC CiN riders are on my tail, in Banbury, but I am flaunting the yellow jersey, with a 2.8 mile lead. I have some work to do over the rest of the weekend to keep that lead over those pesky kids.

Drayton school and green 22nd Jan 2008 (2).JPG

Tough days ahead, I expect. But the challenge is only mirroring that of the BBC Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge. I’m not collecting anything myself but please feel free and encouraged to donate to their challenge. Details here:

Day 3 tomorrow……


Cycle Challenge Day 1

So this is the first day of 9 on the bike, and 500 miles (804.7 km) to cycle. Quite daunting.

Following my 3 days and 310 km weekend, I felt drained on the Monday, going to bed just before 9pm, and know that I need to look after myself. Speed is not of the essence and if I need to have a more gentle pace, so be it. Days 3 and 4 may well see me have two or three shorter sessions rather than one long trawl. I have received very valuable advice on various aspects from more than one friend – on nutrition, hydration and ‘saddle-soreness’ – and on the hydration side, supply of tablets to help with replacement of essential salts during the ride. I am expecting to fit in a bit more pasta than I normally would and be sensible with rest and sleep.

Yesterday morning, I weighed myself and found I was 8 pounds lighter than three weeks ago. These next few days may be the exercise version of Slim Fast, even though I should be eating more. It can feel hard to eat that much too soon after intense exercise, so it will be about eating the right food and drinking sufficiently between sessions.

Day 1: I had a full day at work today and was unable to leave quite as early as I had planned and it was only just before 6pm when I was able to make a start. The 2009 Ashes series will form the backdrop DVD for the early days of this challenge and I was comfortable enough, certainly more comfortable than England were in gaining a miraculous draw at Cardiff from not just the jaws of defeat but the upper oesophagus (a word which, incidentally, I managed to spell correctly on a first attempt). The time passed reasonably well. The Children in Need riders have only a short ride today – around 14 miles, so I am the current holder of the yellow jersey.

Day 1 Distance: 79 km (49.1 miles)

Total Distance: 79 km (49.1 miles)

Where am I on the London to Glasgow route: Quainton, just west of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Nice windmill, which towers over the village of population around 1,200. The BBC CiN riders are still in North London. I have a 35 mile lead.Quainton_UK_1

Tomorrow, a shortish day at work and I will be looking for three figures, in kilometres that is. But let’s see how it goes.


Tour de France? Really?

Well, I guess have had some absolutely unworkable ideas for challenges before. Walking around Iceland, on the main road route, was just possible except for the massive expense in a very expensive country; but walking across Australia, for someone who hates camping, was not at all even remotely possible. This latest challenge, matching the mileage of the BBC Children In Need Rickshaw Challenge cycle over the same period, is a really tough one, though I think it is doable. However, in discussion last week a friend suggested that (paraphrasing) “after this one you could do the same for the Tour de France”. I looked at them and realised that they were serious. I was at pains to point out that I am attempting to match the efforts of half a dozen disadvantaged young adults / children, albeit not all cycling the whole distance, but it is 500 miles or 804.7 km over a period of 9 days. The Tour de France, though not the same distance every year, is around 3,500 km over 23 days. Either I have pushed the barriers so far that people think that I can do anything, or they didn’t know just how far the Tour is. After all, these are professional cyclists at the peak of fitness, quite possibly the fittest sportsmen on the planet, at least for a short period. No wonder a few of them need to take performance enhancing drugs.

500 miles in 9 days is going to be tough enough. Like the best challenges, I am not absolutely sure I will be able to achieve it. This is the final weekend before it starts in earnest – next Thursday – and to be quite frank, I could do with another couple of weeks to build up cycle fitness more gradually as opposed to the mad rush in the past month. So, what is the story this week:

Friday: 100 km (62 miles) in 184 minutes. After six hours at work without a proper lunch break, eating ‘al desko’, I came home, had some cereal, toast and a snack bar. This was the toughest session so far but slightly quicker than the same distance last weekend. I did need to have a couple of breaks for salty snacks as I felt short of energy after about 50 or 60 km.

Saturday: 110 km (68.5 miles) in 201 minutes. Much better prepared and I still felt as if I had plenty more miles left when I finished, though I was getting tired. Lots of milk before and after, and it was simply more relaxing than Friday. I didn’t commit to cycling on the Sunday, only to see how I was in the morning.

Sunday: 100 km (62 miles) in 191 minutes. Brilliant. I was not bothered in the slightest that I was 7 minutes slower than on Friday. The distance was everything today. Getting quite saddle sore near the end.

So 310 km (192.5 miles) over 3 days. Not Tour de France but certainly very happy with that and a frisson more confidence. The strategy next week will be to build up a lot of distance early on, especially Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Without setting specific distances for each day, I would hope very much to be over halfway in the first four days, with the need to have lighter sessions on Monday and Tuesday, with greater work commitments on those days. It might be a heavy last day or two and it will be a relief to finish, that’s for sure. I can already feel it in my thighs and calves.

Why am I doing this? Well, I love a challenge. It doesn’t need to be for charity or monetary gain to be worth it. This is good for me, my fitness, mental health and feeling good about myself, and will be a decent achievement. Ask any serious athlete and their response will be similar. I remember at college when I attempted the Times crossword most days, one friend couldn’t understand why because the prize was only a big dictionary, thesaurus or similar. It was the challenge and as an indirect help in other aspects of my life, building up vocabulary, or whatever, I can’t think of the words to express it. However, this particular challenge is mirroring the Rickshaw Challenge and if and when you think of me doing this, or read this blog, simply consider donating a little spare cash to the real heroes here:

I will keep you updated on my own progress. I expect I will be ahead of the BBC CIN cyclists since their opening day is much shorter than the rest, but they can revel in my slipstream for a while……


One ton short of a hat-trick


So two out of three ain’t bad, no hat-trick of hundreds, and I feel really satisfied with my efforts this weekend in preparation for whatever this cycling challenge is called. I had originally planned to match the mileage of the Children In Need Rickshaw Challenge day for day, but I do have two days in particular where, mainly due to work commitments, it is simply not practical to do so. But I will match the distance over the 9 days (9-17 November) and so ride 500 miles (800 km) in 9 days. It is easier for me to think in kilometres since my bike does, and it will allow me to get ahead of the Rickshaw Challenge cyclists in the first two or three days – the really tough part will be in the second half as tiredness will kick in.

Training is going very well indeed and what has helped immensely is having the TV/DVD player in the gym now. I spoke last week of the boredom as I pedalled for much of two afternoons with football commentary on the radio and I made the effort to move all the necessary gear and wires to the gym on Friday afternoon, before saddling up for a good ride. I have enjoyed a lot of the DVD box set of The Ashes 2010/11, and I find it hard to believe that that all happened seven years ago, when Alistair Cook knocked 766 runs in the series, while I drifted in and out of sleep with the radio on in our bedroom during the nights (I did have an earphone so Pammy wasn’t kept awake!).

So, here are the scores on the doors:

Friday: 104 km (65 miles) in 196 minutes

Saturday: 100 km (62.5 miles) in 186 minutes.

Nothing today, Sunday, since I feel a bit stiff and achy and the last two days are enough to be going on with for the moment. It seemed like time to look after myself and do a few stretches, go for a short walk, refuel, rehydrate and basically chill out for the day. I’m about halfway through the 3rd day of the 4th Test (Melbourne) so the rest of that one and then the Sydney Test plus those DVD extras should account for at least one ride next weekend. One of my tasks over this week is to find about 1,000 km worth of DVD material for another couple of days plus the main event. I found cricket – and perhaps sport in general – takes my mind off the cycling and I can look down occasionally to see another few kilometres on the clock. In a couple of weeks I’ll be counting down from 800….

Thighs the limit


The 9th November is drawing near and I’ve been on my bike this weekend. In the gym, anyway, and cycling away to my heart’s discontent. But it is so boring, even with the radio blaring out football commentaries the whole afternoon. I need to get the television in there though I am not sure that it would be that much easier. I would so so so much prefer to be out in the fresh air walking. But this is it, it is a challenge and I will keep going. Perhaps when I start the challenge proper, it might be different.

There is good news abounding, however. My feet are really looking up – of course, not literally. Long gone are the days of headstands and handstands and cartwheels, and what I mean is that they are recovering very well now and I could be out there in the great outdoors if I really wanted, plodding 15-20 miles without much trouble, I’m sure. But to the cycling and the results are in:

Saturday. 68 km (42.5 miles) in 126 minutes,

Sunday. 74 km (46.3 miles) in 136 minutes.

After Saturday I felt absolutely knackered. My thighs ached like the very definition of aching and even on Sunday morning they were pretty stiff. I felt as if I needed just a short bike ride if only to loosen up, but once I got going, I felt considerably better. The pleasing thing on the 2nd ride was not so much that it was a longer distance, and at a marginally greater speed, it was that I was able to do it the very next day. As with some of my walks, the ability to recover and ‘go again’, as is the common football parlance, provides so much confidence.

When it comes down to it, speed is not important here, it is the distance. And I am remembering that on every day after the first day, the distance I need to cover is 50+ miles. This is going to take some doing, but progress is good, and as long as I can just up my fitness just a bit more, I will be all right. More news to come next week.

It’s all kicked off

There are less than four weeks for me to get fit for this 9 day cycle challenge. I am not going to post every time I have a session, but I have kicked it all off and done 50 km or 31 miles this afternoon. It took me 99 minutes without getting particularly out of breath, but my legs are aching just a little, so that is a good indication of how much work I have to do before 9 November. Slightly sobering that on several of the days I have to cycle over double that distance.

I had the radio and football commentary for company but I ought to get the TV and DVD player in the gym. Several films and things worth watching over the next month or so.

The next challenge


It’s a hard ask to walk too far at the moment, but I fitted in a nice 13 miles this afternoon. While repeating myself from the last couple of blog posts, and apologies for boring you, my feet were severely damaged five weeks ago and that distance today was about the limit without delaying recovery further. I have lost a fair amount of skin off the soles and it is gradually replenishing itself but it takes time for the feet to develop any renewed resilience. So, all in all, without any great pain involved, I was more than satisfied with 13.

It has been like having a first child in that, now a few weeks have passed, the odd person or two has been asking me about my next one, though in my case they have referred to any plans for the next walk rather than the next child. Of course, when I said – in the aftermath of the Thames Path Challenge – that that would be my last ultra (100 km) challenge, it is said at the point when I am most in pain. There is every chance that something like the 2018 Jurassic Coast Challenge from Poole to Bridport or the ‘Race to the Stones’ could just be on the cards. But in the short term I fancy something different.

Perhaps the next one won’t be a walking challenge, after all. As I was watching The One Show earlier in the week, I heard the annual announcement of the Rickshaw Challenge for BBC Children In Need, where a small team of riders, all of whom have been supported by BBC Children In Need funded projects, cycle a long distance over a number of days. This year, six riders will ride 500 miles from London to Glasgow between 9-17 November. I am hoping to try and match that distance over the same number of days.

My Life of Cycling would be a short book, if not a mere leaflet. I never had a bicycle as a child and barely rode a bike at all, not because of poverty but out of choice. I preferred to walk everywhere, even then. It was only when I was 23, studying at Southampton University and in a rented house around three miles away, that my landlord and one of my housemates suggested that I could cycle in. I had to take the landlord’s bike into the car park of a local pub to ride round and gain confidence that I could actually do it, prior to venturing onto the road. Within a week of cycling in to study, I was feeling too vulnerable to some aggressive car and lorry drivers in tight roads and I jacked it in. I have not ridden a bike on the road since, and have never owned a bike.

So a cycling challenge could not reasonably be on the road. But we do have a small gym at home, from when we converted our garage about eight years ago. Use of these facilities comes and goes, and now Matt uses it far more than me, despite him not even living here any more. However, this seems like an opportunity. It doesn’t seem implausible to match the distances on the corresponding days. After all, if six disadvantaged youngsters can do it, surely I can at least have a go:

Day 1: BBC Broadcasting House London to North London. 14 miles (22.5 km)

Day 2: to Banbury. 63 miles (101.4 km)

Day 3: to Cannock. 65 miles (104.6 km)

Day 4: to Salford. 69 miles (111.0 km)

Day 5: to Morecambe. 57 miles (91.7 km)

Day 6: to Penrith. 59 miles (94.9 km)

Day 7: to Hawick. 66 miles (106.2 km)

Day 8: to Edinburgh. 53 miles (85.3 km)

Day 9: to Glasgow. 54 miles (86.9 km).

I insert the distance in kilometres since the bike in our gym works in kilometres rather than miles. I don’t expect the first four days to trouble me since Day 1 is short, Days 2-4 are long but they would be on Friday to Sunday when I may well have more time available. The second raft of days will be compromised by work – I am not intending to take too much time off work during this week but I might finish relatively early to fit in sufficient cycling time. In a typical gym session, I could knock off about 30 km in an hour when I used to go, but what I can do now I don’t really know. It is not like cycling on the road, with hills, wind and lorry drivers beeping their horns but it will be hard. I wouldn’t be doing this on the highest tension setting, that’s for sure, but it would be at least with a bit of resistance.

I am pretty much committing to this challenge, just by writing all of this. I won’t be doing it for a specific charity and won’t be setting up another Just Giving page, but will simply be asking everyone to remember to pledge and donate to Children In Need. I will be having a session tomorrow to give myself a bit of confidence, not to say ‘cycling fitness’. Having a ride after work will become the order of the day, so to speak, to get into a completely different type of condition to that needed or developed from long distance walking. And I won’t need to punish my feet and I can let them recover. It won’t be my feet that suffer here.

So, that is it. Gauntlet. Thrown Down. By Me. At Me. Challenge Accepted.