Friday, 29 May 2009

Tee Pee

Some of you will already know that Dark Chris and I have decided to ride the Trans Portugal this summer. After months of preparation, “training” (in true Jac and Chris style of just going out for rides rather than any of the fancy training stuff Andy talks about) and, of course, stressing, the last few weeks seem to have flown by and tomorrow morning we head off to Portugal.

We fly out to Lisbon early tomorrow morning and then join up with the rest of the riders to be transferred by coach to Braganca, the start point for the race.

For those who don’t know what the race is all about, it’s a solo, 8 day stage race which starts in Braganca in the north of Portugal and finishes, 1,000km later, in Sagres on the Algarve (yes, where the beer is). The race is a bit different to other stage races in that there are no course markings at all and we don’t know the exact route in advance. Instead, the route is downloaded onto GPS’s each evening and we follow our GPS each day. Throughout the day, we’re unsupported, so the GPS has water fountains and café’s marked on it so that we can refuel throughout the day, but we have to be sure to leave and return to the route at the same point (kind of like most other unsupported stage races).

To get to Sagres, we’ll be riding parallel to the Spanish border until day 7 when we hang a right and head towards the coast and then day 8 sees us ride down the coast to Cape Saint Vincent and round the corner to Sagres, finishing up on the beach. Our average day will be 125k with 2,500m of climbing (with one whopper of 160k and one “easy” day of 95k). So, it’s fair to say, it’s quite a big bike ride. On the plus side, the race organisers have organised nice hotel accommodation each night and our luggage will magically be transported into our hotel rooms each night.

I’ve had lots of great advice and tips from other more experienced endurance riders (Jenn Hopkins, Andy Wardman, Dan Darwood, Dom Perry, Stevie Lockhart, Jacqui Phelan and, of course, Andy Cathcart) on training, nutrition and mental preparation. So there’s not much more I can do now. So, on Sunday morning I’ll set off with a little ginger angel placed firmly on my shoulder to shout at me and tell me to keep riding whenever my legs and head start telling me to stop (and probably smiling and nodding knowingly whenever I ride the nice techy sections). I’m sure he’ll also remind me that it’s not really a race and to be sensible – of course the bully bangles will be there too to give me a kick in the pants whenever I get too girly!

So, now the bags and sun cream are packed, bikes all checked (and re-fixed after I managed to mangle my brand new chain and chainrings on Tuesday night!). There’s not really much more to do now except settle into a long journey tomorrow, avoiding getting too psyched out by the nervous chatter of other riders, then just hope that my legs remember what to do when I roll up to the start line at 08.10 on Sunday morning.

Jac (the visiting Minx)

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Back to Basics

It's very strange not riding my bike.
I haven't ridden for various reasons for seven weeks now.
Sometimes I miss it but then other times it feels like it was only yesterday when I last rode.

In that time I've moved house, taken up car-boot selling and received physiotherapy on my ankle.

The house is more demanding that I ever would have thought. It's taken us 677 days to renovate to a what could be considered 'liveable' state. (By liveable I mean we have hot and cold running water and a bed and sofa).
I know the delays were our own fault, it seemed that for every day we spent working on the place there were another 5 we spent messing around with bikes!

Car boot selling has for the time being replaced my Sunday racing (not too bad timing actually - more about that in a min).
As long as the 5am start doesn't offend you (well, no more than the smell of some of the punters) and you have enough crap to get rid of, there's some good money to be made, which lets face it is most welcome right now!

As for the physio, she advised me not to race downhill for a while. Probably for the best as I don't physically have enough strength in my ankle to stand on one leg but frustrating all the same, especially with the National series now in full swing and Championship races coming up soon.

So anyway, the races have been cancelled and I'm doing my strengthening exercises and although the walls of my new house are begging to be painted, I'm going riding this weekend.

Thanks for reading.
SJ. x

Monday, 11 May 2009

Weekends are for....

Weekends are for getting out on the bike with friends. Life is good.


Friday, 1 May 2009

the blame game.

I crashed my bike a couple of weeks ago. It was a big, fast, rock/sky/rock/sky/sky/rock/sky tumble-drier of a crash and as well hitting every bit of me from my liitle toe to the back of my head on the way down, I pretzled my front wheel so badly I had to jump up and down on it so that it would turn in the fork (scuffing the paint off the brace as it went). So I sat out the ensuing race to scrub grazes and offer encouraging hecklement and then we went to the pub as nothing was hurting that much (and certainly not enough to keep me from the Pippin). Needless to say, once the adrenaline and then the beer had worn off, it did hurt, quite a lot actually, and I now have a few more scars, strong painkillers, an irritating cast and a nice bit of metalwork holding my left scaphoid together whilst it slowly, slowly heals.

C'est la vie.

This is what we do, we ride bikes, and sometimes we get it wrong, and ninety-nine percent of the time we walk away from the getting it wrong with only a few bruises whilst the other one percent bites a little harder.

As I said, c'est la vie.

But people seem to want to know why I crashed. What was at fault. And really, there's nothing to blame. A multitude of things might have contributed to it happening. I was tired from the Saturday's road ride and just a little bit hungover after a good night at the pub with friends. I was on a trail that had switched from damp and velcrogrippy to dusty, ballbearingsonateatray dry in the 48 hours since I'd last been there. I'd hopped straight onto the Anthem after a month of riding much longer forks and slacker angles without so much as a by your leave, and fitted nice new tyres the night before too as well as wearing an untested 'lucky' jersey. I'd gone out for a practise lap late because I'd been left hanging around whilst the marshall briefing went on, and on (and on and on). I'd read an unwelcome text just before heading up the hill whist I was waiting, and drank all of the very strong coffee in the flask, too. And then I'd been held up by a few slower riders, so I was in a hurry, worried that I was going to miss my start. And - probably - I was looking at the view, instead of the trail, because how often do you get to look at a big fat swathe of the Pennines bathed in April sunshine with a heat haze shimmering over the top?


But none of those things are reasons for crashing. I've been doing this for long enough to know that they'd all have been negated by a little bit of concentration applied in the correct place. Looking for something to pin the blame on, when you've nobody to blame but yourself, doesn't solve anything. Rant about tyre choice and fork pressure and trail surface all you like but the buck still stops with you. Because you're the one at the controls.


And sometimes, for no reason at all, bad things do happen.