5 Years on (Reflection)

So with the main 2017 challenge out of the way its time for some reflections. I’m writing this sitting in the out patient clinic, waiting for my 5th annual follow up, so seems like an appropriate time.

 

The ride to Paris coined a few memorable phrases for us both. Firstly “Having a Sunday morning ride” will be indelibly imprinted on our memories as a catch all for “If it can go wrong, it will”. That’s not to say that it was all bad but we certainly experienced the whole Murphys Law experience as we completed the last leg. Misrouted by sat nav, cleat failures, late arrivals and missed departures sums it up.

 

The second phrase relates to the fact that the worst experiences we had with traffic always involved a car with a trailer, leading to them being given a nickname that can’t be repeated here, but if you are familiar with the TV series The In-betweeners and can recall the bus stop scene you will be able to figure it out.

 

The ride itself was a great experience, certainly harder than either of us had envisaged. The French roads and traffic were really nice in the main and apart from the unpaved road bit (another satnav malfunction), they were as we expected. They were definitely hillier than I had expected and although I’m always pretty pragmatic (some might say gung ho) I had a moment or two one day one when the size of the challenge felt overwhelming. We also had the live tracker set up so people could follow our route, although anyone watching on Sunday morning must have wondered what we were up to with our detour. We passed the time talking about all sorts of topics and occasionally Matt sang, but then what’s a road trip without a soundtrack?

 

I mentioned once before the sense of futility about the history of the area. It’s not somewhere I’ve been before but I would certainly think about going back to Normandy for a history trip. I was also reminded of its Cider heritage although we didn’t sample any (Matt went for Pomme Presse a few times) and of course it’s a great place for seafood.

 

So thats the ride done, time to start thinking about next years challenge, but in the meantime I’ve got that 5 year follow up.

 

Writing interrupted for the consultation, glad to report that all is well my CT scan shows no issues and I’m told that whilst I will continue to need an annual review I no longer need an annual CT scan. He did go on to say that 5 years is a particular milestone in terms of the plumbing joints etc. apparently there isn’t a huge evidence bank for post 5 years. Heres to the next one and perhaps time for that Bowie track.

 

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Poole to Paris Ride (419km in 4 days)

Wow what a weekend. What a great bit of the countryside Northern France is, What a challenge it was. They said it couldn’t be done, it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the lycra clad imagination, but then anything worthwhile usually isn’t easy, but it lived up to the expectation in every way. Of course we knew it would be a challenge, that’s the point. Of course there was never any doubt in our minds that we would get there but rolling up to the Eiffel Tower on a Sunny Sunday afternoon was still a relief/surprise/pleasure.

The 2017 challenge was the unlikely brainchild of Matt, the Matt who willingly took on the Ferndown Firewalk when I asked him, who semi willingly took on the Solent swim and then who reluctantly took on the London to Brighton cycle ride. The Matt who described himself as not a cyclist was suggesting that we up the ante from the 60(ish) miles of London to Brighton to the full monty of Poole to Paris and the prospect of cycling 260 miles over 4 days was planted. Its been a long journey to get here. We’ve both become a lot more knowledgeable about bikes in general, we both ditched the cap on our cycling helmets (that’s only for mountain bikers dontcha know) we both learned about cleats (me more painfully than Matt), we both started admiring groupsets, and we both started to train. If I’m honest I’m a bit obsessive about things and so I threw myself into the training a bit more than Matt did but each to their own. (and in fairness Matt threw himself off his bike to skip the last week or so of training).

And so Day one found us heading for an early ferry from Poole to Cherbourg fully loaded with bikes, Jelly babies and various other bits of nutrition and on our way to Paris. Matt was I/C arrangements and so had booked Ferries and Tunnels as well as all the overnight stops. He also had a route planned that we shared with Mrs W our support vehicle (Skippy2) driver. He had also booked Club lounge seats for the outward crossing and boy were they great, we had to evict a couple who were sitting in our booked seats when we got there, all the seats are pre booked and they just wanted our window seats, but we were a three and they were a two and while they would have preferred to stay there we needed to sit together and there weren’t three other seats together.

I was going to say that the hardest part was starting (but it probably wasn’t) after four hour ferry crossing and early doors start it would have been really easy not to then get in the saddle for (what turned out to be) a 4.5 hour ride. But as they say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and so why wouldn’t a cycle of a quarter of that start with a turn of the pedals. Day one was intended to get us off the peninsular and onto the North coast of France. The ferry docked a bit late and by the time we had got off we were behind schedule, nevertheless we covered the planned route and made it to all our RV points and our overnight stop before they shut up for the night. That first day was a nice relatively short leg that introduced us gently to cycling on the right, the French countryside and their love of all things hilly and at the end of the day we had a third floor flat that was home to us and the bikes. (Carrying a bike up three flights isn’t a lot of fun but it doesn’t hurt as much as carrying it down in the morning)Image-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 Stats for the stats nerds: Distance 81.7km Elevation 556m Avg Speed 18.3kph

 

 

Day 2 was always planned to be our longest day at 130 km. It was also our first experience of cycling a long consecutive day (something that neither of us had done much of in training). The plan was for an almost coastal road crossing Normandy and reaching Honfleur. Not the most direct of  routes to get to Paris but our route planner had an affinity to Honfleur and decided it was worth the detour. What should have been obvious and very quickly became apparent was the nature of roads near to the coast as having plenty of steep hills. Day 2 though has gone down in my record of the weekend as the best day. The scenery was spectacular, but what really struck me was the history that is so ingrained in the region, the sense of pride held by an area that saw some of the worst of the conflicts of world wars, that humanity could turn such beautiful areas into swathes of senseless slaughter. We passed  a cornfield that had poppies growing in it and we visited Omaha beach to stare at the vast open space that still looks desolate and dangerous. It was extremely moving and it puts a sense of perspective into life. It also added a short additional loop that was not only a few KM but a serious uphill one. Not for the first, nor for the last time on our trip we had a navigation issue on arrival but that was soon resolved and we checked into our second overnighter, once again the bikes were ushered into bedrooms and wrapped up for the night. Honfleur was planned to be our one night out and despite a  long day in the saddle and a late arrival we did venture into the town to eat out and had a lovely seafood meal and a walk around the harbour. It’s a lovely place worthy of a visit.

 

Day 2 stats for the nerd stats: Distance 130km Elevation 711m, Avg Speed 14kph

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So onto day 3, as we started to head inland with the longest ride of the trip over (and a little over half of our total distance covered) it had felt as if it ought to begin to be a cruise toward the end of the trip, with two shorter days left we had hoped to finish earlier each day and relax. It wasn’t to be, as we headed inland the hills seemed to get steeper and more frequent. We made good time and racked up miles, we saw some beautiful scenery as well as some lovely French houses, but still we didn’t arrive until about 5pm. On this night we were booked not an air BnB owned by Sebastian. It was fantastic a lovely property with all sorts of gadgets and an air of organisation verging on obsessive. By now we were three quarters of the way(ish) and an early night beckoned.

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Day 3 Stats: Distance 87
km Elevation 334m Avg Speed 14.7kph

Day 4, Up really early as we had a fairly long day planned but also wanted to get into Paris so that we could spend some time and then leave for the return Eurostar. It was going to be the second longest day of the trip but with an 8am start pretty doable. There was also the fact that Matt’s brother had decided to travel across to meet him in Paris. His trip had got off to a slow start when the coach he was on missed the Ferry on Saturday night and had to overnight in Dover. He joked with Matt about it becoming a Top Gear challenge to see who could get there first the coach or the bikes. We got off to a great start, on the road at 8am we had a glorious and fast first hour. we racked up a little over 20km in cool, slightly damp weather and there was no traffic at all. Matt and I hadmanaged to talk about all sorts of things in the course of about 17 hours in the saddle, and we discussed which had been our favourite days so far. Day 2 had been mine so far but if day 4 continued in the way it started it was going to be a tough choice. I needn’t have worried, it didn’t! and the course of events relegated it severely. We were going so quickly that we got to RV point one before our support had left the overnight stop, not an issue we were rolling well, could do with a water top up and some jelly babies but at his rate RV point two wasn’t far and we could wait. And then it started to go wrong. A sat nav malfunction sent us off onto some “unpaved tracks” that eventually cost us about an extra 20km and meant that we were severely overdue at RV point two and beginning to get really tired. Added to that a cleat came off my shoe in the middle of some town traffic and generally we were both not in  great frame of mind by the lunch break. we needed tomake up some time and so lunch was a quick break, running repairs then back on the road.

The plan was that the support vehicle would park and ride just outside of Paris so this was our last chance to stock up on nutrition and water before we parted ways. All of our spares were in the car so we now needed a smooth run. Luckily we got it but our navigation remained a little unreliable, our devices were all running low on battery and it took us a while but eventually we rounded the Arc de triumph and got our firstglimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Parisian traffic on a bike isn’t as much fun as the countryside and it even threw in a hill as we neared our final point and then we were there. Since my last visit and probably for security reasons the Eiffel Tower these days is fenced off and it was a bit of a disappointing surprise but hey goal achieved and we stood by the tower for a few pics, Job done. And then it got a bit worse still. With Skippy out of town we had the challenge of getting the bikes out of Paris, there was nothing left in either of us to ride another kilometre much less the 20 or so back to the car park, we had half planned to take them out by train, but that didn’t seem to be working out and so plan b was a taxi. Some forums we had seen had suggested that the larger cabs would take bikes but we couldn’t find one that would so plan c was for someone to go by train back to the park and ride to collect skips and come back for the bikes. That took about an hour and it was getting on for 7pm by the time we eventually left Paris. (an hour behind schedule). We had had a text saying that the euro tunnel trains were running late so an hour behind didn’t feel like a big deal. It was! Despite using the toll road back to Calais, we missed our tunnel reservation by about 45 minutes and the next available slot for a vehicle with bikes on top wasn’t for another 9 hours. We did manage to change to a ferry crossing due to depart in about an hour and we made it with about 1 minute to spare, I’ve never seen such a slow passport control line and then to get pulled over for  vehicle check didn’t help. We finally got home at 3am Monday, I think that despite the elation of the achievement I’m still ranking day 2 as my best of the weekend.

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Day 4 Stats: Distance 124km, elevation 701m, avg Speed 14.9kph Temperament – Elated Top Speed 52kph

PS thanks to Caroline who did a great job driving Skippy, getting supplies plying us with athletes cheese and bread each day.

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5 Years time

As this years challenges rushes ever closer, I’ve started thinking this time next week and we will have beaten it. That also means that in a few days time it will be August and it has just dawned on me that my Planets journey actually started 5 years ago this August. Who would have known then what this 5 years might bring.

A routine trip to the blood donors session in Poole and a rejection from them for being “a bit anaemic”, go home have a nice steak dinner and some red wine and come back and see us soon. That “little bit anaemic” triggered a whole load of stuff and set me off on the path to some major surgery. It’s not necessary to re run that story but it is probably appropriate to say that in my quest to get back to pre op levels of fitness, I’ve taken on things I would never previously have considered and as well as the huge sense of achievement that comes with each of them, and the opportunity to put something back into the planets pot I’ve proved plenty of things to myself. I’m a huge Bowie fan and the first track that springs to mind is 5 years from the fantastic Ziggy era, but in the circumstances I think this little offering from Noah and the whale is a bit more upbeat and appropriate. Enjoy.

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Raise your aim

Seriously counting down now with the plan to just keep the wheels turning until Thursday. This morning the dogs woke me up quite early and after laying awake listening to the rain hammering down overnight, I was quite surprised to see that it had stopped. I wanted to test out the way the GXP maps that Matt sorted worked on the phone so I thought that as I was up and it wasn’t raining I’d slip out for a quick loop or two.

It often happens when I’m on the bike that my mind wanders and odd words spring mind that then turn into an ear worm, an irritating loop of a song (often not even one i especially liked), but todays was pretty special. The sun came out and as I added a bit of distance to the planned loop I found myself on the outskirts of Poole (about 4 miles or so from home) when the heavens opened and I found the word that popped into my head was “Stupid”. I’d done a few loops close to home, I’d tested out the sat nav stuff, I could have gone home and had a cuppa and that Bacon bap that my tum was telling me were a great start to Saturday morning. Instead my heart had said to me just a quick scoot down to Poole and get a glimpse of the sea. I love just sight of the sea, it always puts life into perspective. Theres a line from Lee Ann Womack in “I hope you dance” that goes “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the Ocean” its a great sentiment and works for me every time, come to think of it that’s a song I quite like for its lyrics, but no today my head punished me with hat word stupid, why are you still out getting soaked and then there was my ear worm “Shoot that poison arrow” from ABC, “you think you’re smart, STUPID STUPID” round and round in my head as I got wetter and wetter, but to be fair there are a few better lines in that song and as I got closer to home I focused on the better,  “Lower your sights, but raise your aim”. Paris is definitely in the sights now, I’ve hosed down the Ribble and I’m ready for the off.

Its custom to include some music, take your pick from ABC or Lee Ann (I just watched both, I know where I’m going)

 

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Green for Go!

So you will be aware that the campaign had a bit of a wobble, well not so much a wobble as a tumble when my bike buddy Matt had an incident that demonstrated his inability to stay upright on two wheels and led him to experience the fine services of the Royal Bournemouth’s A&E dept. Long story involving Dr’s, Nurses, pain, stitches etc, the upshot being that today was a self-imposed D-day for if he was going to be able to do the ride. The good news is its go, go, go. So it’s now only a week to go before we head off at the crack of sparrows and head off to gay Paris. There was a bit of a last-minute panic today when I wasn’t sure that our new rescue Dally was fully jabbed up (or more likely sniffed up) in terms of Kennel cough, as he and Bella will be spending a few days on a holiday of their own. A few frantic calls and a trip to the vets and it’s problem sorted. Matt has used his downtime constructively and created a Facebook page for the adventure, I’m not really sure what that means but you can see it here

He has also been busily route planning and day 1 looks like this. I think all the little white dots are where he wants to stop and rest.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 18.40.41Just time now for a few more decent cycles and then it will be time to ease up, get packed and get going.

 

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Getting close now

Well two weeks today and it will be here. Time for a few more decent blasts and probably need to get round to the logistics. At the moment I know when we are supposed to be where (roughly), so I know its a ferry from Poole to Cherbourg and that our first night is at Grandcamp Maisy (wherever that might be), followed by overnights in Honfleur, Acquigny and then Paris. Mrs W in Skippy 2 as support probably needs a map, come to think of it we probably need a map. Still yesterday saw two significant steps one positive and the other positive (if you look hard enough for the silver lining in that particular cloud). So step one me, me, me. My official Planets cycling vest arrived, so now I’m all logo’d up and look the part (Pretty in pink, thanks Doug).

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The silver lining issue is that my cycle buddy, we are still calling him Matt, (but perhaps will be changing that to Paul) took a bit of a tumble yesterday whilst mountain biking. The series of texts I got from him yesterday ranged from “Took a tumble off to A&E” through a whole range of “bored waiting”, “looking a bit more serious”, “Off to surgery”, “Too late to cancel now”, “May need to borrow your exercise bike”. All of which don’t sound good but at least he now has time on his hands which he can put to use setting up our Facebook page (looks like he has started), working out a route, oh and getting well soon Matt.

Oh and as I like a bit of a song heres Pretty in pink. Enjoy! (I didn’t know that it was a film too)

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Odd Shoe Shuffle

What a great weekend, its been a real scorcher, I’ve got two decent rides in, we had a great afternoon at a barbecue (note to self though Burgers and Baps are probably not ideal athlete food) and today has been a real chilled day with the dogs who are too hot really to do anything.pier

The only downer is that I still haven’t managed to ditch the odd shoe shuffle of my riding kit. You will recall that I didn’t have the nerve to go out with both feet cleated into my pedals and so I’ve been wearing odd shoes to gain my confidence. The confidence was upped a lot today as I spent time practicing and I’ve now got the hang of unclipping (the key seems to be in moving the shoe and not just the foot inside it). I don’t think I had a single incident this weekend that was shoe related so I promise that my next ride will be bi cleated. I just need to find the very small amount of time to swap my pedal over.

Which brings me to a different topic, in another of my pass times I have a motorbike, the motorbiking fraternity always acknowledge one another onthe road and I thought that two wheeled etiquette might extend to human powered two wheelers, but apparently not. Now I’m not sure if the fact that I commit a major fashion faux-pas by cycling a road bike and wearing a mountain bike helmet has anything to do with it or if its my baggy boy shoe that does it but either way I’m frequently ignored by the roadies when I acknowledge them. that I don’t mind too much, if they are too fixated on their pedalling to notice thats not my problem. Im more bothered by the number of cars who seem to not notice, or worse don’t think bikes should be on their road. I had one today with a  lady driver in a Ford Escape, there aren’t too many of those on the roads here (although this one was one too many in my view), who managed to pull across me from a side road, then swiftly indicated left to cut back across me for a parking space, and then for her hat trick when there was a queue for that space just swung out again without looking, nearly clipping me three times in the space of less than a minute. Once I’d avoided her for the third time though it was down onto the front and a reminder of what a gorgeous place this is to live. 65Km down this weekend and less than three weeks to go.

 

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Flying by

Wow! the year is racing by, it’s already July with over half of 2017 gone already, which means that Poole to Paris is this month. Yesterday saw the fantastic Seahorse Swim over at Studland. Despite the crack of dawn start, it was a glorious summers day, on the chain ferry at around 7am, arrived at Studland around half past and found the sea pancake flat. The swim was as well organised, if not a bit better, than last years and although I was well out of medal contention I was well pleased to do my 2k in 41 minutes (quicker than I usually manage in the pool). Now that the swim is done I can turn my full attention to getting miles under my belt. The bike is back from her service and the next few weeks will see me working on my fitness. I’ve got a small nagging pain on the lower outside of my right calf, which I could do with sorting.

I also need to bite the bullet as far as my cleats are concerned. I can’t recall if I’ve fessed up to this before but I’ve spent the last few months riding with odd shoes and pedals to get my confidence levels up on the cleat front, I really need to start using cleats on both feet, a prospect that scares me witless.

It also looks like I may have been able to get hold of a Planets branded cycling top. If that comes off it will be great to be able to fly the flag while on the bike.

 

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Spots stop play

Well they didn’t exactly stop it but they have disrupted the training schedule just a bit. The Spots in question is a new Dalmatian that we have given a home to. Charlie is a 9 year old Male who needed a new home as his existing owner is unwell and couldn’t give him the care, attention and time he needed. We have been thinking since we had a few house guests recently that we could have a second dog as company for (the Princess) Bella. So after a few e mail and telephone exchanges it was agreed that we would take Charlie on. So far it has gone really well with both dogs accepting a sharing arrangement. Charlie was (still is) a little timid, and Bella is busily establishing her place as top dog in the household. We have taken full advantage of the summer evenings to get down to Poole to walk along the prom. The dogs make a magnificent pair and attract lots of attention and strokes. The arrival has disrupted the training schedule a little but its back on track.

It is now just four weeks to go until we embark on the journey and the training runs are getting longer, but there is still loads more to do. The Ribble is in for a tune up and service this week so hopefully it will be running smoothly and the logistics bit now needs some attention. we havent really thought through the luggage/spares/nutrition bits of the trip, although I’ve been experimenting with fruit, nuts and jelly babies.

In a bit of a break from the cycling, this weekend (weather permitting) see

s the Seahorse swim, a (for me anyway) 2km, wetsuit swim in Studland bay, the male 2km wetsuit category seems to be the least popular class and that helped me to get about 6th place last year, well out of prize territory but respectable and enjoyable. This year I’m aiming for a medal, (which isn’t too ambitious as everyone gets one).

Once the swim is done it will be time to pump up the volume on the bike training and really get on it for these last few weeks. Looking forward to it.

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Skippy 2 on Tour

Well its now 6 weeks to the day before our road trip and the time seems to be flying by. Got a bit of trip admin sorted today as my (or more properly, Skippy 2’s) CRIT’Air Air Quality Certificate arrived today. I only found out about this by chance but apparently to drive into Paris you now need to be showing this on your vehicle. I just need to decode the instructions on the verso. Skippy will be our support vehicle and so will be carrying our spares and food as well as going into Paris to retrieve the jubilant riders from under la Tour Eiffel.

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Training is going well and we are now both pretty comfortable at racking up 40 km rides. that still leaves us a long way to go but after yesterdays Ebenezer route (Strava draws a picture of the route and yesterday portrayed a rather portly Abraham Lincoln/Ebeneezer Scrooge lookalike to depict our cycle),

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I’m feeling pretty confident. We can usually rack up those 40km in a couple of hours so its just a matter of doubling that, and then repeating it for 4 days and it will be “jobs a goodun”.

 

 

 

We turned our thoughts yesterday to upping our game in terms of riding kit. Apparently a peak on your helmet is a bit of a no no for road bikes, so goodness only knows what they must think of my current practice of wearing one mountain bike shoe (cleatless, on my right foot) and one road bike shoe complete with cleat on my left foot, I don’t really care it helps me get used to the whole unclipping debacle that has in the past dumped me on the road a few times. I will get my act together and sort it within the next few rides.

 

 

 

We have also been experimenting with nutrition. Gels are a bit sticky, although the isotonic drinks are ok. The Snickers protein bars are a bit so so, and so its time to find something nice to recharge ourselves with. A small portion of mixed nuts was nice, next time it will be a tropical mix, hopefully matched by the weather.

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