Tag Archives: adventure

It’s been a while

Sorry for the long period of silence it has taken me some time to put my thoughts into sentence form!

Since competing the Trans Alp at the end of July life has been somewhat bizzare… I came back full of memories of the highs and lows and buzzing from achieving my dream to complete my first stage race.

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Top of Umbrail Passe

The Trans Alp was a magical time where life was completely consumed by racing. The year leading up had also been consumed by training, after a week of re-telling the story and the excitement that we had achieved it, I hit the ‘what happens next’ wall. I found it difficult to describe how I was feeling, but down pretty much covers it, after such a high it was a massive low and for a good few weeks I couldn’t get on my bike for the shear fact that I didn’t know why.

I decided to take the pressure off trying to find the next thing and spend some time enjoying cycling with friends and family which was fun.

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Portsmouth ride with Lauren

Getting out and having some chilled time on my bike was great and gave me time to clear my head and think about what was next.

After a coffee ride with my Mum one day she said why don’t we do a challenge together! after lots of discussion we have now decided to do London to Paris next year which I am super excited about!

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Mum and I riding along to South Cove, Lowestoft

Alongside this my plan is to tackle another stage race. I would love to try the Trans Pyrenees or Swiss epic, so whats next?

I am going back to the gym to build my all over body strength for a few months before putting in the miles starts again.

Thanks to all my friends and family and sponsors for your support over the years.

 

 

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Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Day six started with some nerves, I was worried about how my back would be after yesterday and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance; it was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going.

After the feed station the fun stuff began, with an enduro challenge section through the forest on steep woodland single-track it was challenging yet fun, you had to keep an eye on your line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves.

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I enjoyed this section a lot and felt good by the end of it. Our path then stayed mainly off road and wiggled through valleys with short sharp climbs and descents, one of the highlights was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever! A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the last final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face with our bikes it was super steep!

My body is handling the long days well so far as long as I stick to a steady pace and refuelling regularly before I came away i asked Sally Bigham for advice which has been absolutely brillaint as I have been eating little and often fuelling with between 70 and 90g carbohydrate an hour to keep my energy levels high.

So far my bike had been amazing I changed my brake pads yesterday but apart from that no mechanical issues bar a few jumpy gears. Thanks Specialized.

The climbing has been a lot tougher than I expected but having never bike more than 4 days in a row before and the fact I live in such a flat country its been hard to train for such monster climbs, I am really pleased to make it to day 6! Bring on the final stage I can almost taste Lake Garda and Prossecco!

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Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)

Day 5 – 3,000m of climbing

Today was tough! I didn’t get the best start as my chain jammed 800m from the start once I had fixed it took ages for me to get going again because of the sheer number of bikers squeezing down this small Italian road.

This bad luck continued throughout the day, my back which has been fine for the last four days, really hurt sending pains down my leg and into my foot, not ideal on a day when you have 3,000m to climb!

I kept it steady and tried to break the day down into sections. I would not think further than the next water point or saddle summit this helped a little but it was one of those days when both mentally and physically I felt pushed to the extreme and had to dig deep to just keep going in the right direction.

By the top of Passo Gavia at 2,600m I was really struggling and there still seemed so much left in front of me. I got off and stretched out my back while Michelle kindly waited this seemed to ease the pain in my leg and foot.

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Michelle and I then descended down the road to the Enduro challenge which was a mixture of dusty steep trail and rock gardens. I have been really enjoying the singletrack its been such good fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Today I got over confident at one point and ended scrapping my ankle down the rock which was not pleasant and reminded me that I needed to go careful with two days left to complete the race.

After the enduro challenge the route climbed steeply once more. By the feed station at 45km I was again in a lot of pain and felt overwhelmed by the fact there was still over 40km to go until the finish, I just didn’t see how I could keep going. It is in these moments we all find out the strength of our character, it was a lonely climb to the top of the pass and I battled a lot of negative feelings in those 5km!

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I was relieved to see Michelle at the top who then helped me with my bike up a few steep climbs as she could tell I was in trouble.

The path was undulating and continued to climb further we passed a emergency helicopter and then were rather shocked when we turned the next corner to see a cyclist ready to be air lifted out, it put into perspective how even though my body was hurting I was still able to ride.

We pushed on once more every kilometre seemed to go by so slowly I was relieved to see the finish!

Distance: 86.32 km
Metres of climbing: 3,073 m
Saddles: Passo Gavia (2,621 m), Alta Via Camuna (2,393 m)

Day 4 – The long climb to the summit

Today started slowly as we left Livigno the sheer number of cyclists trying to fit through the streets made the M25 at rush hour look deserted!

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After 4km the road climb turned to gravel track and soon we all spread out grinding our way to the top. The first climb was steeper than I was expecting and I was feeling pretty knackered by the top, 30km into the 73km stage.

My fuelling has been going really well and I tucked away dates on the downhill and flat section through the valley ready for the next climb.

The main event of today came after the first feed station when our route turned back up and my gosh did it go up! We climbed the Umbrail pass. The Umbrail Pass (el. 2,501 metres (8,205 ft)) is a high mountain pass on the SwissItalian border connecting Santa Maria in Val Müstair with Bormio in the Adda valley. On the Italian side, it connects to the Stelvio Pass road. It is currently the highest paved road in Switzerland.

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The road twisted up through the valley getting higher and higher until we ran out of tarmac, at this point we were sent off up on a steep dirt track to our highest point of the Trans Alp at 2,800m the view was too amazing for words and being upi near the snow line felt a little surreal!

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The descent down was pretty sketchy in places with big loose rocks and super steep sections, I enjoyed the challenge and rode it all feeling pretty confident by the end. I will never be able to wimp out on an A line ever again!

After this awesome descent, as always the Trans Alp through in a sneaky uphill to finish off before the enduro challenge to the finish line.

Today was a great day I felt pretty fresh my legs handled the climbing although it was tough the heat didn’t bother me as much and my fuelling strategy of eating little and often seems to be working!

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face ready to face day 5 tomorrow. Now its time to find that pasta party!

 

 

 

The journey so far… Trans Alp

We arrived in Imst, Austria for the start of the Bike Trans Alp on Thursday evening very late after a 17 hour journey from the from home. Dad was amazing and drove all the way do So I would have ample time to get used to the climate and altitude.

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We spent Friday and Saturday playing around on the trails which was great fun and Dad got to use his new cameras which he was super happy about!

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Day one – the long one

The start was exciting and full of people buzzing around, Michelle and I were gridded right at the back as we had never raced any stage races before, but that was fine with me I was just happy to have made it this far!

Just after 9 we rolled over the start line for a day of highs lows, ups and downs.

The race started with a tar mac climb through the village it was great with people cheering and ringing bells it reminded me of the start of Ride London.

The day started cloudy but soon the sun shone brightly down making the hill climbing hot and dusty work!

The climbing was rewarded with the most amazing scenery through the mountain passes. At points after climbing we would sweep back down into the valley and through picturesque little towns full of people cheering which really lifted my spirits and kept me going.

It was in one of these little towns I turned the corner and bumped into Dad it was great to see him and also good timing as I had run out of water!

Tom and Dad supported Michelle and I with bottles along the route which was fantastic thanks guys!

The vertical challenge was a timed stage, it was an unrelenting climb which went on forever! The climb went on and on after this vertical stage until we reached the top of the mountain pass. The reward was a sensational downhill through woods and out into open pastures through the valley.

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We were making good time and the hours were flying passed, the final 20km was tough. We had worked hard on a road section to stay with a bunch and I paid for this on the hill climb later, luckily just before the climb was a water point where I indulged in cucumber dipped in salt and water melon my new favourite snack!

The last 9km was almost all up hill and seemed to go on forever! The finish line in Nauders was even up hill!

It feels good to have completed the first day I learnt a lot and we had good fun as a team once we settled into a rhythm.

We finished the first stage in 6 hours 16 a great first day and 89km ticked off!

Day 2 – Three countries, lots of climbing

Today was exciting we made our way from rank D to B! feeling very impressed with ourselves we made our way up out of the start with maybe a little too much speed!

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The first 10km was up. The up was on gravel track most of the way which was loose making the climbing arduous. We climbed under lift stations and im pretty sure when there is snow this is probably a blue run!

We made it to the water point at the top, passing groups of cows who I think thought we must be mad! The water point was a light bit of relief, it was good to stop stretch out and have some much needed water melon!

The next descent was loose with great sweeping bends but was over too quickly and we were climbing yet again!

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My favourite stage today was the Maxxis endure challenge although I found it difficult and walked in places, it was great fun and being in wooded single-track reminded me so much of Wales and after a tough climb it was nice to remind myself of why I was here!

You can probably already guess but after this came yet more climbing! Today has been really hot and the heat has got to me slightly so I had to pace myself on this second long climb, the view from the top was incredible and well worth the sweat to get there.

Today we have ridden in three countries, climbed to the dizzy heights of 2270m, ate a shed load of water melon, and enjoyed stunning views and blistering heat!

All in all a good, but tough day in the saddle. The end was tough for me today, the heat sapped my energy and I was glad to finish. 5 hours 01 minutes, 56km and day two completed!

Tomorrow we ride from Scoul to Livigno. Stick around for more on our Alpine adventure.

Thank you to my amazing Dad for supporting this trip and to everyone at home cheering us on!

Thank you also to Specialized for my super Era which has been a dream to ride so far, thanks to Bike Fixers, Dog Tag and Grip Grab for all your support.

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Scott MTB Marathon – Rhayader, Wales

On Sunday I took on my first Scott marathon of the season. Michelle and I travelled together to Rhayader in mid-Wales on Saturday in the pouring rain hoping that the sun would shine on the race day!

The morning brought dry cloudy weather, as we lined up in the mass start the sun was trying to come out but dark clouds loomed above us so I decided to take my waterproof, just in case.

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I always find mass starts challenging and yet again as we pulled off Michelle easily seemed to slip through gaps between riders whilst I struggled to find my own gaps! I had to push harder than I would usually push at the start of a long race to get back to Michelle and then set into a steady rhythm up the last road climb before the fun stuff!

After the descent the course turned onto fire road, as I turned to my side, I expected to see Michelle but she wasn’t there, looking back I couldn’t see her and thought she must have got caught up so I gradually made my way up the hill expecting her to catch up.

The course was very wet and muddy with huge puddles and a lot of slip sliding around on the grassy descents. I enjoyed the challenge this presented as the steeper decents were made more technical and pushed my skill level where if they had been dry they would have not been an issue. The course was packed with good climbs but the most challenging and best climb was a steep rocky climb that seemed to have a lot of people walking on it, I started the climb behind a guy but once he wheel spun and moved out of the way I was free to pick my own line through the walkers, this was a rather nice feeling to be slowly edging past lots of people, by the time I got to the top my heart rate was sky high but I felt a massive sense of achievement for beating the hill climb.

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I was going well fuelling wise I started with dates at 45 mins then another 45 mins later had salted peanuts then when I reached the first feed station I had a banana, handful of nuts and got my water topped up. It was at this time that a crack of thunder rumbled through the skies and the heavens opened, not just drizzle a torrential downpour started for what seemed like ages, I was glad to have packed my waterproof! It was tough going in the wet and cold every time I went up hill I got too hot followed by freezing on the downs. I tried to keep drinking small sips but my water bottles were so caked with mud I ended up with more than just a drink.

After the course split and the half marathon went one way there was another long road climb, it was on this climb where I heard the sound of my name being called! Looking round Michelle had caught up. It was great to ride with other people again after being on my own for around 43km.

This next part of the course was the worst after a fire road climb the single-track became almost un-rideable due to massive puddles and so much thick mud that my tyres wouldn’t go round. We ended up walking lots of this section slowing down meant getting cold so I ate some more dates to try and get some extra energy. It was a short while after we left the single-track back on a wider path that Michelle fell off and sliced her knee on something, we still don’t know exactly what!

This meant a walk back to the marshal point and a long 45 min wait for the paramedic, after they washed out her wound they decided she shouldn’t ride on it so I finished the course on my own.

Michelle was okay luckily but had to have three stitches.

Although I didn’t complete the full 75km I am super happy with this result I kept a consistent pace fuelled well and felt in a good place, I didn’t feel tired at the end which I feel is a good indication I had more in the tank. I will be back to finish this race next year! For now onwards and upwards towards the Alps…

 

Mud Sweat and Gears, Henham Park, Round Three

Sunday was my first XCO(Cross-Country Olympic setyle) race this season and I was really excited about racing the Mud Sweat and Gears series as the races are always really well organised and there is always lots of people to cheer you on!

My Mum Had also decided to try her first ever cross country race which added to the excitement.

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We arrived at Henham Park at 7.50, collected our number boards and headed out on the practise lap. Mum had never been on ‘singletrack’ so I had to coach her down a few parts, but I was very proud of the way she handled some of the steeper descents and also obstacles such as logs which she roll over with ease. Well done Mum!

The course was a mixture of fire roads and twisty singletrack through the trees. It was fun and not technical but had one ‘A’ ‘B’ line, where I actually think the off camber ‘B’ line was, in ways harder than the straight down ‘A’ line.

After course practise we had  a short amount of time so I went off to warm up, during this time I accidentally managed to ride into a tape barrier which was lying on the floor, which pulled me off my bike quite harshly leaving my left side felt rather battered and bruised. Not the best start!

We gridded just before 10. As I stood on the start line my mind was full of thoughts about the race and the training I had put in over the winter, had it been enough? We stood on the start for a good 10 mins whilst everyone was gridded and my muscles became cold.

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As I sprinted off the line I got a pretty good start and was happy with my place going into the first bend. Power endurance has never been my strong point and I soon felt like I had to slow down to recover.

Getting cold had really affected me as my first lap felt like my warm up and it wasn’t until my second and third laps when I felt I was starting to gain on the leading group.

On my second lap I passed Mum just after the only ‘A’ ‘B’ line in the course and she said she had a tumble, but seemed in high spirits so I carried on but felt a bit concerned if she had hurt herself badly.

My the last lap I was feeling really good and crossed the line feeling like I could of done another lap even though I had been working at the top end of what I’m capable of, I felt like I had more to give. I wad relived to see Mum had finished and was smiling!

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I finished fourth which I am pleased with and after analysing my results from last year can see that my fitness and pace have improved.

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My next race is the Nationals in Plymouth which is going to be my first ever Nationals at elite level.  I know this is going to be a tough challenge and feel very excited about the opportunity to race alongside some of the best riders in the country!

Thanks to Bike Fixers for keeping my bike in tip top condition, to Dog Tag for supporting my Pedal 2 Pedal racing team, to Grip Grab for the best gloves and over shoes and Silverback for my awesome bike!

Riding around the Isle Of Wight

At the weekend we set off in a mini adventure, to cycle around the Isle of Wight.

Route Map

Armed with our road bikes, energy drinks and Bounce Balls we set off from Shanklin and headed towards Ryde heading North East along the coastal path. This part of the Island is the most built up, travelling through Sandown, Bembridge and into St Helen the scenery changed from holiday resort to quaint English sea side village with twisty streets and white painted buildings. Sea View is the next village along the coast, which offers plenty of cute coffee shops, ice cream stalls and fish and chips, a perfect place to stop and take in the view of Portsmouth, however today we were on a mission. A mission to train for Ride London, we have two weeks until the event and so today wanted to keep stopping minimal!

Chain Ferry

The sun by this point was blazing down on us and when we reached East Cowes we had a banana stop and refilled our water bottles whilst waiting for the chain ferry. Just over a quarter of the way round we were making good time and were happy with our progress. West Cowes is a bustling sea side village which on a bike will test your slalom skills as your navigate through tourists, shoppers and buggies!

BounceMunching on Jelly babies and Bounce Balls at intervals we were feeling strong having covered a good proportion of our ride.

From here the landscape changed from coastal road to country roads with plenty of twists and turns and a great deal of hills! We made a stop in Freshwater a beautiful little bay on the west coast which today was packed with tourists soaking up the sun.

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We rode up to the Dandelion café where we got a take away sandwich and sat on the cliff to eat.

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As welcoming as this rest bite was, getting going again we were hit with a long hill climb this was the start of the coastal road which weaved its way up and down the edge of the Island.

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With not much wind this was a sweltering part of the journey in the mid day sun and we took on a lot of water. The open road was often the only thing we could see for miles as we kept spinning towards our destination.

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Blackgang with only £1 left of our money I made our last water run to a shop in Niton luckily a 1 litre bottle was 65p which kept us going on the hilliest part of our journey so far. water stopA road closed in Ventnor meant a gruelling diversion before the last climb up through the old village into Shanklin.

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With tired legs and out of jelly babies Martyn and I were glad to be back and in need of a well earned cup of tea!

63.23 miles, 4 hours 47 minutes, 1,352 calories burnt.

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Back on the ferry to the mainland, ready for our next adventure.