Transalps 2012, ready or not, here we come…

The journey began again today in a suitably extreme fashion. An epic 5 hour jaunt around the Chilterns followed by a race against the clock to get online to make the 3pm transalps registration opening . The start line was Whiteleaf Cross car park at 9.30 am; the finish line was High Wycombe Starbucks at 4pm, attracting some odd looks as mud-plastered, lycra-clad and borderline delirious we collapsed into our big squishy chairs, job done.

This time we promise ourselves it’s going to be a different story. In a bid to avoid some of the nightmare scenarios we encountered last time, there are a few things we’re going to do differently. For starters, no ‘spawn of the devil Avid brakes’ will be involved. We will not be staying in camp – there’s enough hard man tactics involved in the transalps without having to grab snatches of sleep on the one tiny patch of floor not occupied by snoring sweaty Germans. We will eat, drink and be merry, and end up with finishers jerseys and medals rather than a hefty bill for the E111.

But most importantly we will be a whole lot fitter – physically and mentally than we were last time. For that we have to thank David and Andy (and new found whippet Adam!) for inviting us to join them on their Chiltern off-road adventures. Watching the boys charge off into the distance, Diesel Engine Anderson grits her teeth, repeating the mantra “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Today was one of those classic episodes that reminds you that 40 miles on muddy, rooty undulating (or should that be roller-coaster) trails is a whole different ball game to 40 miles spinning on the tarmac. Not even the fabulous cake at the café stop to end all café stops could fill the gaping holes in our reserves as we chugged onwards and upwards over the Ridgeway. Managing to narrowly avoid muddy slides into the canal, the convoy charged onwards with alternate highs and lows of energy levels as the cake, flapjacks, gels and toffees did their work and duly expired. Tired but happy faces all round in the car park though and I’m sure we’ll be back for more next weekend.

But that’s not all. When I’m not beasting it on the trails, I have Bryony and Colin as fellow ‘super-commuters’ to keep it fresh on the roads. Or more accurately, to drag my sorry arse along on their back wheels because once again I’ve overdone it on the weekend 😉

With such a wealth of fine training partners, we’ve no excuse but to hit those Alpine  trailsnwith renewed gusto come July. Bring it on 🙂

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An ode to winter riding

In the last 7 days I’ve ridden in some pretty classic British winter conditions – ankle-deep mud in the Brecon Beacons, frosty Oxfordshire cycle paths, a late night commute with a wind chill so vicious I feared I might be dropping fingers along the road side – and I ask myself why it is that even when the‘fair weather cycling’ season is over, I’m still out and about on my two wheeled friends. I’m not sure any of the following fully answer the question but here are some thoughts…

Some of the best friendships are forged/ cemented in those epic ‘battle against the elements’ rides

Too many examples to highlight – or should that be lowlight – but here are a choice few. Mending a pinch flat with Emily in the pitch-black sub-zero grass verge of the A4260 with only a LED balanced on a handlebar as visual aid. Getting so cold on Charlie’s Birthday ride that I turned blue to match my Dynamo kit and had to be helped with getting my own clothes off. Forging on in the driving rain with David and Sam at Afan when everyone with half a brain cell had hotfooted it back to the warm and welcoming café. Catapulting myself headfirst into a bog as Collyn, Kate, Sam and I struggled to get off the hill top as the dark clouds closed in…

Night-riding really brings out your ‘inner christmas tree’

I’m not one for accessories in ‘normal’ life but my god I’m partial to an LED. My current evening ensemble comprises: a flashing helmet light; a 20cm strobe pinned to the seat stay; 2 further flashing appendages; and a flashing LED and a ‘dim your headlights please’ 300 lumen powerhouse for the front. If you miss me then you’re beyond the reach even of SpecSavers. There are people out there that don’t like to wear helmets because they fear looking stupid. Well in my lycra clad, day-glo, reflective, flashing glory I am proud to be taking looking ‘ridiculous on a bike’ to a new level.

Being warm and cosy is only fully appreciated when preceded by being soaked to the skin/ frozen to the bone/ caked from head to foot in mud (delete as appropriate)

We’ve all been there, sitting in that halo of post-ride smugness inside our toasty houses watching the sheeting rain on the windowpane and saying to ourselves “Well at least I managed to get something out of the day”. Who cares if your shoes smell of dead animal for the foreseeable future or your washing machine is sulking over the latest damp and smelly onslaught, there is nothing quite like savouring a hot chocolate and a bath in the wake of a truly brutal encounter with the great outdoors.