Well, I don't know how we're going to get on with this training stuff....Seems to me it involves hauling ourselves out of bed when it's dark (I'm an artist for God's sake!) and breaking into a sweat; I can think of little worse. So when next Sunday morning comes and you're tucking in to you're first hot croissant or slice of toast, give us a thought, and put the kettle on just in case.....
Here are some of the children we hope to help; aren't they great! They came to Ripon for the day calling at my gallery then going on to the toy shop, the cathedral and finaly the Old Deanery Hotel (many, many thanks to all at the Deanery) where they had Christmas lunch and met Father Christmas (thanks too to Father Christmas, Frantz and Bernard for the presents). We all had a lovely day.
It is important to set goals in training so we will be increasing the distance we ride particularly at weekends (dark nights have a limiting factor). Our first goal is to ride to Hawes and back - a distance of 70 mls. Hard riding, but no time limit.
Week 1 Tues 27th Nov 2007. David and Alex. Timing route. V. Slow 12.6mph ave' 16.4 mls
Fri 30th Nov, 2007 David 60 mins easy ride on turbo trainer
Sunday 2nd Dec 2007. David And Alex. 30 mls 9.30am start, pouring rain and cold. Through North Stainley, West Tanfield and Well, to Bedale. Back through Exelby, Burniston, Carthorpe and Wath Slow average of about 13.5 mph.
Mon 3rd Dec. David 35 mins medium ride on turbo trainer
Tues 4th Dec. David & Alex. 16.75 mls Bypass route 13.8 ave
Fri 7th Dec David 1hr turbo
Sunday 9th December 41.79 mls - 3hrs 11mins. Fine day and we passed the forty miles mark on a route that took us to Easingwold. There a fight between two locals ensues after I asked for directions and they can't agree.
leaving them scrabbling in the dust we head back via Carlton Husthwaite. Approaching Hutton Sessay we crest a hill and are confronted by a scene from an Alfred Munnings painting. On a wide verge stands a hooped and brightly painted gypsy caravan, a couple of piebald ponies and, very still, Old Father Time himself wondering what the hell is going on.
Added to this charming picture is a huge Alsation dog who is muscling his way through a thick hedge with the clear intention of wrestling a cow to the ground for his lunch. He found himself rudely interrupted first by me zipping past and then by a slightly more sedate Alex.
The malevolent gaze with which he had fixed me immediately changed and, regarding Al in much the same way as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall might regard a freshly snouted truffle, he set off with the obvious intention of adding Al to the old Alsation Family cow pie recipe.
There was a plaintive squeak of fear from Alex and then it was touch and go who would reach terminal velocity first, Al or the dog - the dog won. With a loud and terrifying WOOF he pulled back the drooling lips, unzipped the gleaming canines an inch from Al's quivering backside, only to discover to his great surprise and my monumental relief (Al had already relieved himself monumentally) that he was chained to a steel post.
Suddenly we left old Munnings to his paint box and Port and found ourselves instead in a Tom and Jerry cartoon only of course, Tom was a snarling, slavering hound from hell and Jerry the panting and wet panted Alex.
The chain stretched a good metre or so, the steel post groaned and creaked under the enormous strain and our hideous, hairy companion hurtled Flews over Croup and landed with a yelp and an earth shaking WHUMP on his back.
"I think I could have outpaced him" panted Al
"I'm damn well sure I would have" I said.
Week 3 Tues 11th Dec. David - 16.44 mls. Ave 17.4. Tm 56.45
Tuesday 11th December Alex 7.2 miles 30mins 58 secs.
Wednesday 12th December Alex 7.8 Miles 30mins 2secs, bitterly cold, v. slippy
Above is the video of Fri 14th Turbo training. 1 hr. It's about all I can stand - 10 minutes seems like a week!
Sunday 16th Dec. 42.71 mls. Ave 14.7
Another bitterly cold morning and we're heading off to Bedale via West Tanfield and Well. After Bedale we head up to Northallerton where it is, if anything, even colder than before and my fingers become useless blocks of ice.
A few days before, when collecting my clipless pedals from Martin, he told me a story about a friend of his who, shortly after fitting clipless pedals to his bike had been pulling up at some traffic lights somewhere in Italy when he found himself next to a beautiful, bronzed young girl in a very short skirt on the back of a motor scooter. Forgetting the pedals he went to put his foot down, found them still clipped in and a second later found himself sprawling across a particularly disagreable lump of Italian tarmac. At this the lights turned to green and the beautiful girl sped off never to be seen again but leaving the tinkling sound of her laughter floating in the air. So naturally, I had been very carefull to ensure that nothing of the same nature happened to me!
We come back through South Otterington then turn left for Thirsk. Stopping on a bridge to watch the 10.28 to Aberdeen hurrying north I fail to disengage my clipless pedal and crash to the ground like a sack of 'taties - not even the memory of a bronzed thigh to soften the blow.
I now have the first knee scab I've had since the age of about 13 which I greatly look forward to picking! We stopped for a Mars bar in Thirsk but didn't linger 'cause of the cold. I was so very glad to get in a hot bath after a hard ride, a hard lesson and the memory of some very hard gravel.
David has a sore knee!
Wed 19th Dec. David And Alex 14 mls bypass route
Friday 21st Dec. David - 1 hr hard turbo trainer
Sunday 23rd Dec. David - 1 hr medium turbo trainer
Mon - Christmas Eve - David - 16.41 mls. Ave 17.3 Timing route Mild with stiff S.W. breeze
Tues - Christmas Day - David - 17.2 mls. Ave 16.4. Mickley - Tanfield - Wath.
Thurs - 29th Dec - 1 hour turbo
Week 6 - Scotland
Tues 1st January 2008
Despite the inevitable hangovers David, Becky, Phil, Jenny, Lydia and the twins head up to Scotland for a few days. We have been loaned a cottage by Becky's uncle who uses it as a base for fishing and shooting. Attached to the back of the car with all the apparent security of a cranefly in a gale is my new bike rack and attached to that is - would you believe it, my bike so I spend the first 150 miles constantly checking the mirror to reassure myself they are both still there.
We are accompanied all the way by the metronome swish of the wiper blades but as we board the ferry from Port Glasgow to Dunoon the skies begin to clear, I still own a bicycle and all's well with the world.
Next morning I wake to find that someone has inexplicably crept into my room and stuffed a large damp pillow up each nostril and a bear is attempting to fight its way out of my head. It's the beggining of one of the worst colds I've had for years and is to last for over a week. On top of my poor showing on the bike I also manage to record the videos of the trip the wrong way round and now I can't seem to find a way of rotating them........Bugger!
Wed 2nd Jan 2008 14.7 mls with a stinking cold into the wind.......AGONY!
Thurs 3rd Jan 2008.........Ditto
Saturday 12th Jan 42 mls to Middleham via Masham - back through Bedale, Burniston etc.
Sunday 13th Jan - 1hr Turbo
Mon 14th Jan - 1hr Turbo
Tues 15th Jan - After torrential rain I finaly managed to grab a weather window and get outside on the bike this afternoon. Time was short so I did the timing route through Bishop Monkton to Boroughbridge and Skelton and was pleased to find that despite several very slow areas due to the road being flooded I managed a reasonable ave' of 17.4mph and that after recovering from Man Flu. Get on!
Wed 16th - Turbo
Thurs 17th - Turbo
Fri 18th - Well, have a guess....Yes the weather is foul so going out on the bike is not an option...Turbo again!
Sat & Sun REST!
Mon 21st Floods everywhere so yes.....Turbo.
All this exercise may make me a better person, though more likely not. It might make the ride to Vienna that little bit easier, though possibly not; but how is my decreasingly upholstered bum going to cope with my - hardly upholstered at all - saddle for the 1,400 miles from Darlington to Vienna? I say saddle when what I really mean is stick.
Saddles are those wide, cushioned, triangular affairs with two large springs at the back and enough stuffing to fill a fairly sizeable barn-full of Oven Ready's. Mine, on the other hand, appears to have been designed either as an instrument of torture or as a means of gaining entry in order to affect an internal examination. Spend too long on a cobbled street and I could find myself struggling to reach the handlebars.
Such considerations are less apparent when out cycling in the countryside but since the weather has been so very poor over the last week or two I’ve been compelled to spend my evenings on the Turbo trainer. On the plus side this means I can concentrate on what I laughingly call technique but on the down side every creak from the bike becomes a major irritation, every grinding gear change infuriating or worrying and every slight knee twinge or bum discomfort becomes a project terminating disaster. STOP BLOODY RAINING!
Tues, Wed, Thurs Turbo
Sat 26th Jan Turbo
Mon 28th Jan 40 mls ave 17.4
There's something oddly pleasing about toll bridges and Aldwark bridge particularly so. Its loose boards rumble as you cross and the white painted toll booth harks back to a time long past. In fact the whole area has a feeling of time having frozen about the same time nearby RAF Linton-on-Ouse was sending bomber crews over Bremen and Cologne. It's easy to imagine young aircrew thundering across the bridge late at night in overloaded sports cars on their way back from a night out in the hotspots of Boroughbridge, Ripon or Harrogate. Did I say hotspots? Perhaps tepid would be a more accurate discription.I stopped needlessly at the bridge (bikes go free) but I'm glad I did. The jovial, bearded toll keeper ambled over.
"Ah Marin. Fine bike". He said. "I've one of my own".
He introduced himself as Colin and after I'd filled him in on why I was out training he told me about the many trips he'd undertaken on his bike and the coming 2000 miler to Seattle in May. By this time I was feeling a little miffed that not only was he going to be riding further than me, on a bike that was inferior to my own as it was clearly bordering on a mountain bike (It had front fork suspension for god's sake) but he was also considerably older than me......You can go off people!
Our conversation ambled pleasantly along punctuated by the arrival and departure of vehicles to pay the toll thus further slowing the pace of the encounter. Colin offered tea and cake which sadly, due to time constraints, I had to decline. So waving a comradely goodbye I set off again in the direction of Easingwold.
Tues 29th Turbo
Wed 30th Turbo
Fri 1st Feb Turbo
Sat 2nd Turbo
Tues 5th Turbo
Wed 6th Turbo
Thurs 7th Feb. Walk Blencathra
Sat 9th Feb. 28 miles 17.4 mph
Wed 13th Feb - 40.51 mls Ave 18.0 mph
Tues 19th Feb:
The temperature plummeted to minus nine degrees last night which you and I might consider nippy, but having just read Sir Ranulph Fiennes autobiography ‘Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know’ I find that he considers minus thirty degrees positively balmy, but then he is positively barmy. Sir Ranulph seems to feel that the loss of a digit or two is an acceptable sacrifice for the joy of uphill skiing through treacherous crevasse fields while being pursued by peckish polar bears. My fear is that Geordie might be of the same opinion since this is the morning we are pencilled in to ride together and he hasn’t phoned to cancel. The other thing is that Geordie has just returned from an army skiing trip up Mount Shisha Pangma in Tibet, which at 8,012 metres is one of the world’s highest mountains; and there’s me thinking skis are for slithering downhill.
Last night’s forecast prophesied that ‘the freezing fog will be reluctant to leave us’ and reluctant it is: so much so that it is at this moment attempting to limbo under the front door and hold us in its own special embrace.
It’s not that I dislike the cold per se; as a means of improving the early evening G&T or a bowl of Gazpacho I’m all for it, but as a galvanism for a morning’s cycling it falls a country mile short of the ideal.
We set off on a route that, (and I don’t know how he did this) though circular, was uphill all the way. Now of course, I’m not for one moment trying to suggest that he did it deliberately but it was clear from the outset that Geordie’s ‘out of the saddle’ technique was far superior to my own. This becomes even more obvious as we climb out of the village of Mickley only to be confronted by the North Face of the Eiger, which I had previously been pretty sure was in the Swiss Alps.
The road reared up in front of us in a dark, forbidding and near vertical wall. I shout to Geordie asking him if he wants me to stay at the base and belay him but it’s too late – he’s already started to climb, so I have to follow. Soon my thighs begin to burn, my knees turn to blancmange and my lungs become two massively over-inflated Zeppelins straining to break free of my ribcage. All I can hear is the life giving oxygen rushing in and out of my gaping mouth and the involuntary squeaks I am emitting at every turn of the cranks. I am now moving so slowly that I’ve unwittingly past the point of no return:- if I attempt to stop – before I can disengage from the pedals – the bike and I would start to career backwards at ever increasing velocity towards a certain and inevitably messy destruction. I think of my family, my sponsors, the corked bottle of Chilean Sauvignon I have yet to return, and I press on. Faintly, I fancy, I hear the Lord calling me home, but it turns out to be Geordie:
“Evens out just above me”. He says; and I think I catch just the hint of a smile on his face.
After another week and a half of cranking, grindingly slow uphill progress, the incline does indeed become a degree or so less severe. I get a momentary glimpse of ice blue sky before it is cruelly whipped away by the crow black wall ahead.
“Got a bit of a sting in the tail that one mate”. Says Geordie as we finally reach the summit.
“You can……puff, wheeze”.
"you can say th’……puff, wheeze, puff”.
4 March 2008
I'm feeling a bit guilty because I haven't filled in the training blog for a couple of weeks now, even though I have been out training........OH YES I HAVE! Anyway; despite the fact that I've been to the Deanery for lunch today AND had an early doors pint I'm off to do a gentle hour on the turbo.
I’ve just come back from my second ‘Follow Geordie’s Arse Around the Yorkshire Countryside Humiliation Ride’ and you know what? Overall, it went quite well really: We head out on one of my favourite short routes and once again I’m struck by how good it is to ride with someone so strong and focussed; and of course, he’s full of encouragement................Until he says:
‘What you ganna dey when things go wrong; have you thought?’
‘Wrong?’ I say.
‘Aye. You know: about day six, when yer legs won’t work, yer arse has turned to minced liver and yer head’s come up with five hundred and sixty two reasons why you should stop and only three in favour of continuing and two of those are crap.’
Day six? Minced liver? What’s he talking about?
I’m in a cold sweat now but I lower my voice a semitone and add a note of self-deluding conviction.
‘Dig deep’ I say and lapse into what I hope appears to be a manly silence.
We continue for half an hour or so at a good old lick; Geordie giving me some useful tips on cadence, energy conservation, nutrition etc..........But it’s been gnawing away at me:
‘What do mean, “An arse like minced liver”?’
‘worst case scenario mate’ says Geordie. ‘You’ll be fine’.
‘Oh! And don’t forget to take plenty of Vaseline with you’.
Tues 11th March
The weather has been terrible for the last few days so I've been training on the turbo trainer. From somewhere down by the cranks a loud clicking noise has been driving me mad so today I took the bike for Martin to have a look at. "What sort of a clicking noise is it" says Martin. "Is it a kind of pinging click?" "No it's more of a clicking click" I say, showing the recent immense strides in my technical understanding and proving that man and machine are one. martin removes the crankset and sets to work cleaning and re-facing the bottom bracket which is still covered in its original paint. The job doesn't take long and soon the bike is back together and the 'clicking click' is but a memory.
59 days 'till I climb on my bike and point the front wheel towards Vienna and the awareness of what I've commited to comes home to me with increasing frequency. I'm hoping to have a few friends riding the first leg from Darlington to Ripon with me as I have to admit: the thought of leaving everyone behind and just heading out alone into the Darlington traffic gives me the willies. I realise now that the challenge is just as much, or possibly more of a mental one as physical. In the past I have parachuted from aircraft, found myself crawling through flooded caves or clinging to rock faces, I've even rowed the tideway against our national crew; all in the name of fun - to fill what our American friends call 'leisure time' so it's not that I'm unused to mental or physical challenge. But all these things can be shoehorned somehow into my routine. To cycle 80 miles everyday for 21 days is a routine, but it's not my routine so how I'm going to take to it I don't yet know. But one thing's for certain - I'm going to find out!
I always think of road trips as peculiarly American and involving a Dodge Charger or a vast Winnebago but I guess this is a road trip of a kind; albeit a slightly less comfortable one. There is much to look forward to as I'll be visiting countries that are new to me. Even the journey through England takes me to counties I've only visited once or twice so this will be a true odyssey. There are places that call for a visit simply because of their names: Whaplode St. Catherine, Clenchwarton, Anton's Gowt. And others that draw because of association: The Suffolk/Essex border and its connections to Constable and Munnings. I'm interested too in the ancient connections between the flat, wet lands of Lincolnshire and Norfolk and the north of Holland.
26th March ‘08. Dist 50.1 mls. Ave 14.8. Tm 3.22.23 Kcal 3341
I strapped the bike to the back of the car this morning and got a lift to Darlington with Becky. Though we’d set off in fine weather, by the time we got to Leeming, light rain was turning to snow, which intensified as we got to Catterick. Fortunately it had eased when the time came for me to set off to ride back to Ripon. Heading down to Croft-on-Tees I turn right and wend my way through the country lanes via Scorton to Richmond.
Through the market square you find yourself sliding off the hill towards the river Swale and then Holly Hill rears up in front of you like a Cobra. I’m out of the saddle almost immediately and it’s a great climb, I’m really enjoying it until my bike refuses to change down to the smallest chainring; I try again and again but to no avail. I keep going but my world is turning slow motion, my legs barely able to turn the cranks and I’m pulling on the bar ends for all I’m worth. Inevitably, I grind to a halt. Damn!
I change down with a bit of manual help (kicking the chain whilst turning the cranks by hand), remount, and continue up to the Cobra’s head. From here the road climbs steadily, and sometimes not so steadily towards the tank ranges of Hipswell Moor. By the time I get there my legs are weary, the cold is biting its way inside my clothing and a headwind has sprung up. Oh joy!
I drop down through Bellerby to Leyburn and stop for a few minutes to take on board some solid fuel in the form of a Carbohydrate Bar, but it’s far too cold to linger and I’m soon on my way again. It’s just before Middleham that the gobby head gremlins start telling me I want to stop:
“Your legs are sore, you need a rest”.
“There are plenty more hills you know”.
“That head wind – it’s getting stronger”.
“What’s the matter with your left knee?”
“Is it starting to snow again?”
And it is! I drop down onto the tri’ bars and push on through sleet and snow, passing the Coverbridge Inn – best pub in Yorkshire, to Masham and West Tanfield where at last I feel I’m on the home stretch. The wind increases, the sleet becomes wetter but finaly, blessedly, I reach home and a long, hot bath.
Thanks to Chris at Green Lane Group for the above.......Don't know what the bloke behind me thinks he's doing though!
Phil and Jenny have been up for the past few days complete with their mobile home, Myfanwy, so they’ve been meeting me at the end of rides in a sort of ‘dress rehearsal’ for the ride to come. After all these weeks I finally get to cycle to Hawes: Arranging to meet somewhere in the Leyburn area I set off on one of those bright and breezy spring mornings feeling, well, bright and breezy. I get as far as West Tanfield and it clouds over, disappointing, but such is life. I pass Masham and it’s spitting with rain; never mind, it’ll pass over. A couple of miles further and the hail is stinging my face; but I’m committed.
At Wensley I dismount and hide in the bus shelter – it’s nearly dark and hammering down. I think I’ll wait for Jenny, Phil and Becky but I phone them and discover between the crackling and intermittent signal that they haven’t even left Ripon yet. Bugger! I’m freezing cold, so, leaving a bum shaped puddle of melted hail and determination on the seat, I have to move on. I can feel neither feet nor fingers and the first thoughts of frostbite enter my head; the spectre of the surgeon’s knife hovering over me like a Damoclean sword. I push aside these ludicrous thoughts and worry instead about the lorries and buses thundering past my handlebars with inches to spare. I turn on my rear light. What the hell happened to the sunny spring morning?
I’m looking forward to getting off the bike and having a hot shower in the support vehicle and I spend half my time looking over my shoulder in eager anticipation of her arrival; and it’s only a matter of weeks before she hoves into view…..but I’ve just arrived in Hawes.
We park outside Kudu Bikes and I climb aboard. I peel off my sodden clothing, allowing it to drop to the floor like cow pats and Phil gets the shower working; or rather he doesn’t. There’s no water; Myfanwy has pee-d it all over North Yorkshire! I put on warm, dry, clothing and munch Phil’s excellent homemade Flapjack as Becky massages my feet back to life. Martin does some small alterations to the bike (cutting an inch off each end of the handlebars – those trucks came much too close) and after spending far too long ogling, stroking and drooling over the bikes in the shop we load my own boneshaker onto Myfanwy’s ample haunches and set off homeward.
Now, I don’t know whether you’re familiar with the village of Worton in Wensleydale, well, I say village but it’s really just a collection of a few houses, but it has the most splendidly eccentric pub in Christendom. It’s called the Victoria Arms and we decide to call in for a beer on the way home. Entering through the tiny front door, we cross the low ceilinged room, and bump up against the bar in the semi-darkness. Then we wait. I become aware of two, silent, bearded characters sprawled in chairs behind us, and I feel like I’m in Royston Vasey trying make bold with the ‘precious things’. The old nicotined clock ticks a considerable chunk of our lives away and still, no-one comes to serve us.
“Ah dean’t know what t’lad’s doin” Mutters one of the old fellas through his thick beard.
“I think he was swilling down the yard when we came in” I say.
“He’s allus buggerin about wi’ summat,” He confides to his companion.
The invisible hands of the clock continue on their inexorable journey behind the yellow, opaque glass and then:
“I suppose I’ll have to serve you”.
He moves slowly to get up and it’s only then that I realise that he doesn’t have a beard at all……..it’s a kitten.
The kitten drops to the floor and our jovial landlord (for ‘tis he) shambles across to the bar whistling.
“Now then?” He says, interrupting his Percy Edwards impression.
“Err, pint and a half of bitter, a Coke and a ginger beer please”.
He’s ok with the bitter and the Coke – just, but denies all knowledge of a soft beverage called ginger beer. He shuffles off into an even darker and more mysterious cave behind the bar whistling all the while and we chatter nervously amongst ourselves.
“Ginger ale was it?” He shouts from the grotto.
“Ginger beer” We trill in unison.
“We’ve got ginger ale”.
“It’s a mixer”. Says Phil.
“You want a mixer?” He says, emerging from the pit.
“No, ginger beer”.
And then we spot it; tucked away behind a dusty old photo of Seth Armstrong from Emmerdale Farm and a stuffed foxes bum.
We try to guide him towards it but it’s like trying to voice guide one of those seaside grabby things with the toys and sweets inside. Has anyone ever succeeded with one of those things? If anyone could it would be Phil; his perseverance and tenacity against appalling odds are remarkable…….”right a bit…… No, right….. Next shelf up….Behind the….” Cat Beard’s hand hovers momentarily over the ginger beer and moves on. “No, you’ve gone too far…..LEFT…….Behind the….. IN THE BROWN BOTTLE.”
He gets there eventually and we all sit down to recover from the exhausting effort.
There is a coal fire in the grate but if you wanted to acclimatise for a polar expedition this would be the place to spend the weekend; and now, Son of Cat Beard appears behind the bar and fixes us with an icy, and yet unsettlingly vacant stare. After he’s practised his staring hobby for a while he lumbers over to the fire and puts two whole pieces of coal on. At this, Cat Beard launches into a tirade about Son of C.B’s profligacy and the cost per ton of fossil fuels at last purchase. I begin to wonder if we have passed through the wardrobe door into Narnia, or somehow ended up at the Mad Hatter’s tea party; and then Mrs Cat Beard puts in a cameo appearance, dressed in one of those flowery overalls that were old fashioned when King Alfred was busying himself with the Royal fire blanket.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” She bellows….. C.B. continues his rant.
“Do you want a cup or not?”
“Aye, alright”. He says and the kitten resumes its place on his upper slopes.
We finish our drinks and when we finally emerge into the outside world it comes as something of a shock to find it largely unchanged: The sky isn’t orange, the cows in the field opposite are still on all fours and Myfanwy hasn’t morphed into a giant purple legume.
The journey home is characterised by its oddly magnified normality but two fundamental questions hang in the air: if we went back would the pub still be there, and do kittens really make suitable facial decorations?
Two videos from today: Tuesday 6th May 2008. Two weeks and three days before departure!
Wednesday, 14th May. Only 9 days to go and the nerves are setting in. Martin says that I won't be able to sleep the night before I leave........At this rate I won't be able to sleep the week before I leave! All the doubts are coming to the fore: have I trained enough, what if my legs don't hold out, what if my arse turns to chopped liver (thanks Geordie!), what if, what if, what if......Perhaps it would be best if I just flew out to Vienna, had a bit of a party and flew back again. Would anyone mind? Would you mind?......... You would? Oh hell; I suppose I'd better get out and do some more training then.
Here are some photos from the children's 'Ride to Vienna' which took place at the Education Village last Friday; we had a great time and the children raised lots of money.