A Festive 500km: Part 2, Stevie

In part one Laura has finished her festive 500km utilising her cycle commutes to work to get the miles in, but this has left Stevie struggling to get the miles in.
Without work commitments Stevie is responsible for pretty much everything else in the festive period- walking the dog, household chores and seeing family and friends, which actually left less time for riding his bicycle than expected. After a very solid effort training on the bicycle during the past two months, aided by a break from the booze, fitness is certainly not the issue
.

But Stevie’s story shows why the Festive 500 is not gimme, no matter how fit you are!

24th December, Ride 1

Last minute Christmas preparations whilst I finished up at work left Stevie running behind on his intended longer loop out to come and “pick me up” via bicycle. Luckily I finished just about on time so didn’t leave him waiting in the cold too long, but the broken state of my legs from my ambitious running attempts meant my pace was ridiculously slow on the way back. He had already bailed me out the day before by collecting a very soggy tired me and my bicycle from the start of the High Peak trail, driven us to get a Christmas Dinner Burger from Annie’s burger shack and then essentially done all my walking for me as I was slumped on the couch after my efforts… He probably should have guessed I wouldn’t be racing anywhere today but was soon getting chilly as I ambled along the country lanes enjoying having someone to chat to instead of my usual solo reprieve after work. We were soon home so he could warm up and we had a cosy evening in, opening some presents early in anticipation of a busy couple of days ahead. (Santa said it was ok because I was at work!)

Even though he was the one not at work, Christmas and Boxing day were certainly busy for Stevie. Christmas day started early dropping me off at work for my shift, then getting everything ready to walk down with our dog to his parents who were in our Christmas bubble, although I’m sure it was no hardship being treated to his Mum’s Christmas dinner the festivities left no time for cycling. Boxing Day allowed him a later start but with still plenty to do, picking up presents and a Boxing Day dinner from his parents, walking the dog, meeting a friend who was alone at Christmas as well as the usual chores. He had also purposely “hopped off the wagon” briefly for Christmas and had a couple of drinks to celebrate on Christmas day, but followed this trend on boxing day too so I when I got home quite late he was out for the count in bed, a veritable lightweight after 2 months off and a few festive drinks, and yet again no riding done…

299.1 miles to go.

27th December, Ride 2

Despite a fuzzy head, Stevie surprised me by rousing himself early to get on the bike. He had arranged to meet a friend and was out of the house and riding before I had even made it out of bed! Certainly dedication to the cause! A slow and testing route by all accounts given the weather conditions and festive recovery. A couple of mince pies saw him through though but he wheeled back home later than expected and we failed to cross paths before I went out on my own ride. I came home later to find he had been surprisingly productive through the rest of the day sorting presents and wrapping paper and clearing up the mess I had left strewn after a few solid days at work. I had out done him again with mileage however, so he was still playing catch up.

265.7 miles to go

28th December, Ride 3

Finally we made it out together over the festive period, and not only that but on tandem. This bitterly cold ride saw us both suffer badly, but especially with poor circulation to his extremities (a downside of having such long limbs!) added an extra level of challenge whilst trying to steer the tandem through the icy lanes. I could hunker down at the back, trying to avoid the bitingly cold wind, but Ste was more exposed to the elements. His expertise in handling the tandem in tricky conditions kept us safe and I was impressed he opted to do two extra loops around the block to round our mileage up- a true demonstration of endurance when we could have just gone straight home- being on the back I didn’t have any choice in the matter!

215.0 miles to go

29th December, Ride 4

At one point I genuinely thought Stevie would bottle out of riding today as when he woke up it was the last thing he wanted to do. He had more opportunity to pick and chose the weather windows when he rides and after the past few months certainly didn’t need to get out on the bike for fitness. It would have been entirely sensible for him to stay at home, take some time to relax and worry about riding another day, the festive 500km is a completely arbitrary concept after all!
But as I started getting ready he begrudgingly joined me and after I made him a bowl of readi brek he was just about good to go.

The most suitable bicycle he had ready to go at short notice is “the Spinning Aubergine”, a heavyweight steel fixie (fixed wheel bicycle with only one gear). This left him grinding or honking out of the saddle on all the climbs and spinning his legs down all the descents as there is not freewheel options so when the wheel turns, so do your legs!
He did a great job route planning on the road with his encyclopedic knowledge of Derbyshire and was very gallant about my route choice on the way home where I unwittingly gave his legs a whole lot more climbing to do. The beauty of the peaks in the snow certainly improved both our moods and by the time we got to Kniveton he was posing in front of the moon at sunset over the hillside. We both felt this ride was a fantastic effort in conditions that would have put most people off, but with experience and good preparation we were rewarded with a rather special ride.

137.3 miles to go

30th December, Ride 5

When I swanned of on my morning loop before work, Stevie opted to stay in to spend half an hour or so fixing Pauline’s (my work bike) bottom bracket. She has been a reliable steed on the whole but her bottom bracket has consistently been playing up and coming loose despite Stevie’s previous work on her. Knowing I had a week of commuting to and from night shifts on her he set about making sure she was in tip top condition, but often as these things go a half hour job was only just finished a couple of hours later when I got back from my own ride. Yet again I eyed up Stevie suspiciously, trying to gauge whether he would be going out or not having been tied up for so long… I dared not ask I felt slightly responsible that the mechanical work with my bike had put his Festive 500 in jeopardy while I merrily carried on with mine!
But, he stuck to his guns again and went out on the same route I had just ridden, which also meant he got back in time to see me off before work. This meant it was another short day ride for him, but this mileage meant he still just about had the festive 500 in his grasp…


He got back in just in time for us to have one last catch up before I become the semi-nocturnal grumpy beast I am on nights only to find his Strava hadn’t recorded. His disappointment was palpable, we had already endured enough and if his efforts today were not counted he would almost certainly fail to get the rest of the miles in. Thinking quickly, I realised we had ridden the same route- albeit me a lot slower, so I was able to add him to my ride. He was still in the running!… Just…

110.1 miles to go. One day left.

31st December, Ride 6

I arrived back from work in my usual dozy state after a night shift and after making me tea, cooking me brunch and tucking me up in bed Stevie set out again. On his way out of the bedroom, he encountered another unexpected hazard and I suddenly heard a scream and a bang!

Jumping back out of bed I found Stevie on all fours from where he had landed heavily and a rather irate looking Doxy the Cat glaring at us from across the hall. “Is she ok?” Stevie asks, “check her over!”. It transpires she had settled comfortably in one of her favourite spots on top of the hot pipes leading into the bedroom and as Stevie had put the heating on at an unusual hour ready for my return home had forgotten she might be there. A quick veterinary examination revealed the cat to be pissed off but unscathed, infuriated that we could possibly intrude on her nap time, but unfortunately my husband had fared less well landing heavily on his knee whilst trying to avoid a flattened feline. There was little more I could do and while Doxy relented enough to come and sleep directly on my head while I napped, Stevie went out to brave the cold.

Doxy the cat: unharmed and in prime postion!

The ice had not really melted overnight and although the sun was shining it was due to be a cold day. He set out North hoping for a headwind out and tailwind back whilst speeding up the A6, the winter weather got the better of him however and a ride that should have been straight forward was extremely trying in the cold winter air which seems heavy and dense. It was so cold his water bottle froze and he was unable to drink properly. He still managed to time getting back home to see me off to work and turned up damp, tired, cold and with icicles in his beard.

He was still over 50 miles off finishing the 500km, it was 5pm at night and I could see all he wanted was a quiet night in front of the fire watching the darts. “You don’t need to do this Ste” I say, “It’s completely arbitrary and not one cares anyway” (except Mr Inevitable who had been tracking our progress on Strava). He looks shattered and with the roads getting icier as it gets colder I’m really not sure it’s a good idea for him to go back out. He knee is still sore form the cat incident earlier and he has every excuse to pack it in.


His resolve shines through though and he says he has a plan riding loops of the estate to get the mileage up- this sounds like madness to me! I can’t think of anything worse that riding the same loop over and over and over again as the night gets darker and colder and more bitter. But I have to go and leave him to it, a kiss good luck and I leave his with the ice melting in his beard as I ride off into the night.

Beardcicle anybody?!

Hours later I find just enough to time check Strava to see how he is doing, the ride that pops up is suspiciously short looking and I initially worry he has run out of steam or run into ice. And then I look closer and remember what he said earlier about riding loops and I get a buzz when I see the total mileage: 57.2miles!


He has somehow completed FOURTEEN laps around the village and not only that but on fixed wheel too has done almost 2750ft of climbing, significantly more that his foray into the peak district earlier in the day!! He finished at about 9:45pm, probably not the latest on record but certainly a close call and has hit the 500km distance on the nose!


Our experiences and rides have been quite different and both with their challenges, but I really think Stevie pulled it out of the bag with his last tremendous effort on very arduous ride. His disadvantages came from his duty to others: looking after me, fixing my bike and spending valuable time with friends and family. It was not necessary for him to do the Festive 500km for fitness but he chose to do it anyway and I think this shows (along with a degree of madness), the other side of endurance; the fortitude that is needed in those dark times when there seems no point, no hope just the will that says “go on”.

We are sad to spend New Year apart but as I listen to the fireworks going off around the practice I am filled with a sense of pride and positivity that this year of all years we have done what we set out to do and both got our Festive 500kms.

A Festive 500km: Part 1, Laura

The truth is there will never be a “training starts here” for our Round the World Challenge. “Training” is an ongoing process and has been going on since we first learnt to ride bikes. Winter is a tricky time to be motivated and finding reasons to ride is key to getting the winter miles in. The Rapha Festive 500 is a cycling challenge to ride 500km (~312miles) between Christmas Eve and New Year (8days) so is a perfect way to get us in the saddle… however, it is not without plenty of obstacles and this year we were both hoping to complete it… (Only Laura did last year!)

24th December, rides 1 & 2

So after a rather ambitious run in the Peak the day before, I think it could be said my legs weren’t exactly on form to start the Festive 500 winter cycling challenge…

But I had been desperate to eek out what little time I had in the outside before the busy Christmas period and was paying for it the next morning. Hoping to loosen up on the bike I overcame my first challenge of taking the long way round to work despite my grumpy legs and headed out to the lanes of Radbourne. Unfortunately, my self talk that the risk of frost was just an excuse to take a shorter route turned out to be wrong and I carefully navigated the descent of the “Col D’Radbourne” past the hoary verges with a suspicious twinkling to the road. I have come a cropper on black ice a couple of times, luckily from minimal speed but there is nothing quite like the feeling of going from vertical from horizontal in a split second, feeling like you’ve left your stomach where your heart was… luckily my caution paid off but it cost me vital commuting time that my creaking legs were struggling to make up.

Then, in an unexpected turn of events a road closure! Usually inconsequential the the leisure cyclist who can merrily potter around, for the flustered commuter it posed and unexpected obstacle and I clattered through in my cycle boots, nodding thanks at the helpful workmen whilst trying to make sure I didn’t go flying on the ice. Riding the rest as fast as I dared I arrived at work a bit flustered and just about on time! Just over 7 miles done… 305 to go!

Early morning commute

A busyish day on my feet helped loosen my legs and plenty of Christmas treats from Etwall Vets and their clients helped fuel my recovery. Delightfully Stevie was waiting to collect me on his own ride and after a false start where I realised I’d almost forgotten to Strava we wheeled back through the lanes at dusk.

26th December, ride 3 & 4

A full day at work and present opening and Christmas dinner eating duties precluded commuting to job #2 on Christmas day. I would have loved to ridden my bike, but with a 11 hour shift I needed to make time for family too. This I feel is a much a part of the challenge as the weather and conditions outside as finding the time to ride the requisite number of miles during such as busy time is no easy task! I was very much spoilt by Santa though and a late night Christmas Dinner wonderfully plated up by my amazing Mother in Law sustained me for an early start on Boxing day.

Christmas Dinner to go! An no, the cat did not get any!!

A 6:15am get up on Boxing day was less than ideal and I queried my sanity slightly whilst downing a mug of tea. Not overthinking things I bundled myself on the bike and started turning the pedals- Stevie had offered me a lift again, but I knew I would feel better for cycling and was pretty sure I would drop too far behind on the challenge without todays miles. I also had a new toy to play with in the form of an action camera (Balco action cam from Aldi- a stingy girl’s Go Pro!) and had my first attempts at taking some cycling footage as I road in.

The commute was wonderfully peaceful, especially in the tranquility of the Derby River path. The roads were empty and I very much enjoyed my ride, I even heard owls hooting to each other approaching Sandiacre. I always feel a good commute sets me up better for the day, and feel much more relaxed than if I was stuck in a little metal box! Just as well, with the day I had ahead of me…

By the time I finished my shift at 7pm, I was pretty knackered. It had been non-stop all day and I had only managed to stop to grab lunch at 4pm! I bundled myself into my layers and started to roll home. But if only it was that easy! A stonking headwind from the West was straight in my face and I seemed to barely make any progress. My head and legs were exhausted and I desperately battled to get my pace up, to make progress, to just get home… my speed dropped and dropped and in what a I believe is a new record it took me about 2.5hrs. By the time I got home, Ste was already in bed after his own busy day and I soon followed suit.

27th December, Ride 5

I begrudgingly started stirring much later than usual after my busy Christmas shifts. Stevie was planning to meet a friend for a ride at 10am and what had originally seemed like a good idea to join them, now turned out to be the last thing I wanted to do. I rolled back under the covers as Stevie got ready and only ventured out just before he left to acquire a cup of tea and settle down with a book. I just wanted to stop.

An hour or two of doing pretty much nothing I felt much better and the lure of the sunshine through the window became too much… I was also sure I would need to get some miles in today to stay on track. Our festive 500km plans have changed numerous times this season and today was the day we originally would have been “riding home for Christmas” on the tandem to my parents. Them moving into Tier 4 had recently put paid to that idea, but it had been looking fairly unlikely for weeks. My next best crazy plan had been an epic 200-250mile ride involving a series of our standard 50mile loops from the house to the local area. This was an ambitious plan to say the least, with less than 8 hours or daylight in 24 and a high dependency on the weather being good enough- a spell of icy or high winds would be enough to curtail riding for 20+hours straight. Luckily, Ste had talked sense into me as the weather looked increasingly unpredictable over the Festive period and I had settled for a much more sensible plan to split the rides up over the remaining free days I had, leaving just enough miles to be covered by three commutes to and from job #2 of about 54miles.

I hung about for a bit waiting to see if Stevie would arrive back, but it seemed he was on a longer loop than planned so I decided to set out whilst there was enough hours of daylight. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to head, but actually relished the freedom of having no set plan and being left to my own devices. The new action camera came too and although undoubtedly reduced my average speed I enjoyed trying to get some footage in the sunshine. I took the rolling B road out to Wirksworth, past the farms and fields, lapping up the sunshine on my face and feeling like the vitamin D was soaking into my bones. I pulled in to check Strava and found Stevie had uploaded his ride so must be home safe and sound so was happy to continue on my own spin. Descending down Cromford Hill revealed a minor issue in that my back brake was severely worn and the metallic scraping on the rim sounded less than ideal, cautiously using my front break only I weighed up whether to continue and decided to proceed with caution.

A steady roll along the A6 got the miles under my belt and I was still weighing up how far to go but couldn’t resist the temptation of probably my favourite hill climb in the Peak: Beeley Moor. A steady ascent from Beeley Village rises you above the houses then fields, through an almost Alpine forested section to emerge in the moorland on the tops. My timing had worked perfectly to catch a gorgeous sunset and I was quite happy to trundle up the climb, not worried about breaking any records or QOMs (Queen of the Mountains). Arriving on the “tops” put a beaming smile on my face as I breathed deeply in the crisp air and admired the rolling moorland around me, the tranquility is certainly good for the soul.

I rolled on cautious of the drop in temperature and also my lack of braking capacity as the sunset slowly in the clear skies. A small routing misdemeanor took me up a down a rough surfaced narrow lane, reminding me to pay attention and I opted for a very slow a cautious descent to Ambergate as the dusk settled. A blast back along the A6, up and over Quarndon hill while I still had strength in my legs and I arrived home feeling rather pleased with myself and my efforts for a “short spin”.

28th December, Ride 6

The weather could not have been more different from the clear skies of the previous day and we awoke to oppressive grey clouds that seemed to block out any of the weak winter sun, the house was warm and cosy and another bike ride on a murky cold day was not tempting! Ideally I wanted to cover 150miles over the next few days to stay on track, but with both of us feeling pretty tired after being so busy over Christmas we agreed a 50mile loop today and 100miles tomorrow.

We opted to take the tandem out for a spin for a change and chose one of our favourite 50mile routes out to Abbots Bromley and across Blithfield Reservoir, tactically avoiding the normal climb up Hanbury Hill. This gave me the opportunity for more fun with my action camera and self stick from the stoker seat on the back! We rode out into the cold afternoon and the sky felt heavier and heavier, the wind from the North was bitterly cold and despite putting on more clothes it soon started to creep through our winter layers. Surprisingly the temperature dropped as we headed South and there was suddenly snow on the ground, making it pretty but bitterly cold. I had soon given up any attempts at filming to try and preserve my fingers and a brief mince pie stop let my core temperature drop even further. By the time we were sailing down the descent to the long bridge over the reservoir, usually my favourite part of the ride, I was feeling distinctly chilly and determined to keep moving to keep warm. A bit of climbing raised our heart rates enough to be able to jump off the bike and throw our final spare layers on but it was still awfully cold and I just put my head down and pedalled hard to get home. Disappointingly a few miles short by the time we got back, our endurance mode kicked in and we lapped the estate a couple of times to round up the mileage. Piling back into the warm house with ice blocks for feet and hot aches in our hands we were frankly thankful the ride was over and another box ticked on our way to a Festive 500.

29th December, Ride 7

I woke up feeling groggy and tired and tentatively sticking my head outside the back door to let the dog out realised again it was pretty cold and with heavy skies. A quick scout of the Met Office app confirmed my suspicions and we were due snow within the next hour, but then a bright if cold day after. I stuck the kettle on in an attempt to lure Stevie out of bed…

By the time he had roused, plump fluffy snowflakes were descending on the Close and the world outside becoming gradually whiter and whiter. Stevie, who was not only feeling groggy and enthusiastic about riding in the snow was also suffering from a stiff neck overnight and clearly though a bike ride was the last thing he wanted. He was now significantly behind me mileage wise on the challenge and it was dubious as to whether he would bother completing it- after all it is a completely arbitrary thing and a bit of a daft thing to do, especially given the weather.

I on the other hand was quite excited as it is my last day of freedom – I have taken a new job which will see me working 5-6 days a week so a weekday off was an opportunity not to be missed in my book and from experience I knew riding on fresh snow would be easier than once it had mushed up and frozen tomorrow. I knew 100miles was extremely ambitious on such a day but was determined to at least go out and see what I could achieve. After a bit of toing and froing with different plans, both of us finally got out the door. After yesterday’s bad experience I had layered up… and then some! Eight layers on my top half might have been slightly excessive but I was determined not to freeze today! As we started out the weather soon brightened up and once on to main roads we were clear of the worst of the snow. The countryside was beautiful and different in it’s white covering and our spirits soon lifted, feeling pleased with ourselves for have taken a leap of faith getting out the front door. I was soon shedding layers as I warmed up, but it was still pretty chilly and I was glad to have spares in my Carradice Junior on the back of my steel tourer “Betty” the Raleigh Royale.

We rode out to Ashbourne along the A52, usually a route we avoid and I must admit the road surface alone would make me stick to the back lanes except in exceptional circumstances like today! Wending our way East from there to Ambergate and a garage stop for “al fresco” pizza slices and mocha coffees went down a treat before a blast up the A6 took us to Cromford and up the Via Gellia to Longstone. Again all roads I don’t normally ride and a bit of an eye opener as to how we become so fixed on our standard routes. I was very much enjoying the change in scenery and the snowy scenes in the Peak District were beautifully picturesque. We were making up the ride as we went along and ended up looping back around the Ashbourne, initially planning to head to Uttoxeter but the low sun in our eyes after a few 100metres heading West had us turn around to find a less risky route- if we couldn’t see the road ahead, neither could cars and therefore they couldn’t see us!

Ste was thinking to retrace along the A52 from Ashbourne, “but what about the fixed 50 route?” I said? The “Fixed fifty” is a favourite route of our which is just over 50miles and often ridden on fixed wheel bicycles (with only one gear and no freewheel), but is still certainly not the flattest route. Ste hesitated but then made the turn and I was relieved to avoid the pot holes, and also retracing which I dislike doing where possible. I had conveniently forgotten he was on fixed and had already been battering up whatever the Peak District threw at us without the luxury of my low gears… oh well it’s a lovely scenic route along Carsington and back through Wirksworth!!

The sunset arrived whilst we were on the tops having just puffed up the Kniveton dip above Carsington Water and the sky was illuminated with intense pastel shades reflecting off the snow- a beautiful day to be on the bike and the snow had caused next to no problems with riding. My calculation were correct and we had just gone over the 75mile mark which left me a doable 25miles to cover before my night shifts started tomorrow. Stevie was still trailing behind and the lack of mileage today left his attempt in even more doubt…

30th December, Ride 8 & 9

After a bit of a lie-in in an attempt to stock pile sleep I was togged up and off again. Subzero temperatures overnight mean a serious risk of frozen snow on the roads creating treacherous conditions, but having found that Derbyshire Council publish their gritting routes overnight I planned a ride based on these. I left Stevie attacking the frequently recalcitrant bottom bracket on my work bike “Pauline” who I would need to ride that evening and headed out. Another chance to play with the Go Pro and I took it easy on a familiar route through the lanes, first heading out through Hilton, Hatton and Sudbury before heading North to pick up Long Lane for a rolling ride home.

I arrived back just in time to catch Ste who had had rather an ordeal with my bike and was only just out on his own loop- a few hours behind what he intended. He said he would be back before I left for work at 5pm but I had my doubts…

Buoyed with confidence by the lack of ice on the roads earlier in the day and a shiny new bottom bracket on Pauline I was soon loaded up for my night shift. Stevie did indeed make it back to see me off, which was lovely to see him but left him a ridiculous amount of miles to get done tomorrow: over 100!!

I had based my route on the gritted roads, diverting from my usual off road bike tracks but got fed up of traffic and potholes by Alvaston and divert to peace and icy puddles along the river until Borrowash. The diversions extended my route to over 20miles, and the percentage bar on the Challenge section on Strava was dropping in a satisfying fashion. As long as I didn’t do anything daft like forget to start Strava through tiredness or the weather stopped me riding I was well on course to complete the challenge.

31st December, Rides 10 & 11

A busy night at work and a hard frost made for a slow and brisk commute back. With daylight on my side I risked more of the off road tracks but the frozen puddles created a bit of a minefield along the river path. The sun was out however and it was a beautiful morning, this being the only daylight I would see today I made the most of it and relished being outdoors and on the bike. Stevie, the diligent husband he is, made me breakfast and tucked me into bed before setting out on a ride of his own.

The alarm went off before I knew it and I arose to a quiet dark house and set about getting ready to go back to work. After check my Strava was recording several times I bundled up for another freezing commute, this time avoiding the ice of the river track and sticking to gritted roads. A nearly full moon guided me in a I finally clicked finish to see the percentage bar reach completion and the little challenge completed logo flicker up on my news feed.

It would be the following morning before I could properly assimilate what I had achieved yet again- another commute home on the bicycle, this time with no worries of miles to add to the total!

But what about Stevie…? To be continued…

A favourite photo from 2020…

Last night on the Pennine Way

I particularly love this photo because it reminds me of waking up on the last day of our Pennine Way challenge, having walked until 10pm through the Cheviots to reach this isolated hut.

The morning was so beautifully peaceful and the sunrise over the Hills was just so tranquil, I felt very much at peace and grateful for our simple but scenic lodgings…

Fast forward about 6 hours and it’s a different story entirely. For the first time on the whole 268 mile walk it is too hot. Having had days of rain, winds in excessive of 60mph and nearing frosty mornings the last thing we expected was sudden heatwave. Most other days we would have rejoiced, but today it created another challenge, a final hurdle to be overcome before the finish at Kirk Yetholm- water.

Having wild camped we had collected and filtered as much as we could from a stream lower down on the Cheviots and carried the extra 6.5kg of liquid up the hills, but cooking dinner, breakfast and normal drinking had left us running low 24 hours later with a complete absence of streams and water sources after 13 days of bogs.

A few 100mls of liquid slosh temptingly in my bottle and I try and moisten my cracked lips with a sticky tongue. My head pounds rhythmically to my footsteps and I am caught between pressing on as fast as I can and preserving precious liquid by sweating as little as possible. I dream of taking a final swig from the bottle, but we must save it for our dog Geoffrey: we have chosen to be here, he has not.

After several more hilly miles I half think I am hallucinating when I heard a beautiful trickle and dive head first to filter and guzzle icy cool delicious, wondrous liquid. For the last few hours I had wished for nothing else and am now in bliss. The pint in the pub a few more miles down the road tasted even better…

So I have told this story before in another blog, but this time I have another point. To join in with all the other New Year commentators tonight I have decided to join the masses with my own 2ps worth.

In that moment on the Cheviot Hills I was so grateful for the basic sustenance of water, everything else was irrelevant: Food, comfort, coronavirus pandemics, whether we could go to the pub or not…

Stevie and I have been massively lucky to have had amazing times this year and completed two massive challenges: Tandem riding Lands End to John O’Groats in 10 days and completing the Pennine Way in just over 13 days, both self supported. Especially in the pandemic!

But in some ways we made our own luck, we changed our plans, bent and flexed, tried to stay positive and safe and achieved great things in 2020. We are so thankful we have our health, have not been affected as many have by the pandemic and have not lost anyone close. Sure, there have been a lot of disappointments, a lot of challenges and a lot of things that didn’t go our way- but that isn’t 2020’s fault! So many people out there are expressing such negative views about the last year, but this makes me a bit sad. 😕

I genuinely feel for everyone that has had it tough for so many different reasons, but let’s not write off 2020 yet! Focus on the positives (if there are any) and be grateful for what you do have: health, friends, family, a warm house or even a water bottle half full…

If this year has taught us anything is that we cannot predict what might happen next, but if we look at last year as different instead of a disaster maybe we can be better prepared for whatever the future might be?

Happy New Year everybody 🥳

I would love to heard what great things you did/achieved/celebrated/changed in 2020 so do comment below and in the meantime… Next year we’re ONLY CYCLING AROUND THE WORLD 🤯🤩🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️💨🌍

Why?

Don’t worry… I very much doubt I’ll keep up the rate of blog posts over the next 18months! But a long ride yesterday gave me plenty of time to think:

https://www.strava.com/activities/4460119108

https://www.komoot.com/tour/293302769

Why on earth do we bother? This is a question I get asked a lot when I confess what crazy idea I have next or what we did at the weekend, but our ambition to circumnavigate the globe seems to have struck a chord with most. People can see the attraction of breaking a Guinness World Record while travelling through many countries at the speed of a bicycle, hopefully raising a significant amount of money for our amazing charities along the way. But apparently not everybody. Whilst asking for some route advice on a long-distance cyclists Facebook page recently I was surprise by the amount of criticism that we were going too fast, we should forget about records and we should be more “zen” and take 7 years.

Whilst this sounds like a lovely existence, it would somewhat defeat the point. I have no doubt of the validity of these people that have chosen to travel more slowly and take it all in, and hope we will do it ourselves one day as we will undoubtedly miss so much of the places we travel through on our challenge. But that is what it is: a challenge.

I have become a bit addicted to Podcasts since starting planning in earnest and am working through a back catalogue of Worldwide adventures, my favourites being: Everything Endurance, Endurance by Mark Beaumont, Tough Girl Podcast and Living Adventurously and the Doorstep Mile by Alastair Humphreys. As Mark Beaumont says “We can all go further” and Alastair Humphreys is inspirations in his ideas to choose a life less ordinary (https://alastairhumphreys.com/choosing-life-ordinary/) . And it is the buzz, the thrill, the sense of accomplishment we get from pushing our limits that we strive for.

We went out yesterday on our 3rd 200km ride of 12 of our Randonneurs Round the Year challenge, knowing that we would also be riding 7miles there and back, it would rain and we would be riding a long long time in the dark. Most of you probably can’t think of a worse way to spend the day, and on the face of it I can’t blame you!

But we planned and we prepped, we fuelled up on hot porridge and steaming tea and wrapped up in layers. We charged our lights, assessed the route and picked our refuelling stops. We packed our saddlebags with Christmas treats, samsomas and honey and peanut butter sandwiches and Stevie fitted me a new fishy mudflap.

The alarm went off a 6am, and I was still knackered less than 48hrs after finishing night shifts with an 11hour day at work in between, but two cups of tea later and we were off. the morning was dawning and it was warmer than I expected, my legs actually felt good and I was looking forward to a day where all I have to do is turn the pedals! We rolled into a drizzly mist or a misty rain and Ste robed up, whereas I risked it; knowing it would dry up later and not wanted to sweat into my layers.

The unmistakable waft of greasy spoon in Rugely lured us into a breakfast van and bacon and egg cobs tasted amazing in the rain, knowing we were fuelling for the long miles to go. A bit of unexpected off roading took us through Cannock Chase, and allowed a different perspective from speeding along asphalt, the rain had eased and the views improved. Wending our way up through Staffordshire, glimmers of sunshine started to appear through the clouds- it feels so long since I’ve seen the sun and I turned my head to try and get the sunbeams onto my face.

My legs still felt good and I was enjoying riding my bike, and after all if that is what I enjoy what better thing to do than spend the whole day doing it? I also enjoy eating and our next target was Broken Cross where we had already strategically planned our next “fuel” stop at their award winning chippy. It started to feel like a long way but the lure of chips spurred us on at the terrain got decidedly lumpier. Chips rarely taste so good as when eating during epic bike rides and we had a smug feeling watching other people collect their to slink back to their centrally heated houses and box sets on a winter’s Friday night. We however, were cycling off into the night with about 70miles still to go and the day already dusking… Lights went on and we saddled up to start the “real” climbs of the ride.

The battle out of the evening rush hour left us feeling like we had entered different world as we entered the dark on the tops in the Peak, the lights of a handful of farmhouses twinkled across the valley and the silence and peace was beautiful, empty roads, barely any cars and blissful silence. Many people balk at the thought of riding at night; but if you chose the right roads and the right lights it can be the best time to ride. The sharp climb up to Flash, the highest village in the country, had me puffing and panting though and the darkness concealing the impending gradient both a blessing and a curse! We were soon rolling above the sparkling lights below again though and gliding down to the Monsal Trail, an old railway line now a bridleway. Usually packed with families and holidaymakers it was serenely quiet in the dark and we chugged along like the steam trains of old, flying past tiny hamlets on the gravelled surface almost able to hear the ghostly whistles of the locomotives of the past.

After a surreal ride through the past we dropped into beautifully Christmassy Bakewell where a unanimous decision for hot chocolate was made! The sugar rush go us all the way back up to Youlgreave and we knew the technical section was to come. My legs were tired, but now it was simple: break it down into sections and take one step at a time, don’t overthink things. My audax experience help strong. Youlgreave to Elton: solid climb, Elton to Kniveton: more climbs techincal, Kniveton to Hole in the Wall (yes, that is a place): last of the meaningful hills, Hole in the Wall- Hatton: flat ride in, Hatton: Arrivee (finish official ride) and cycle 7miles home!

Stevie bemoaned that this was our neck of the woods and we knew much fast, flatter and better surfaced ways in. But that was not the aim of the game today, we must follow the route and we must get to the ride finish point to complete. Our total time for the official ride had to be under 14hrs34 and we were on the cusp. Finally the roads flattened our, the gravel and grass down the center disappeared and we flew down to the Salt Box at Hatton. Delighted to have made it, serious nearly there syndrome reduced my legs to jelly for the last 7 miles but walking into our warm house at 11pm felt amazing: hungry, tired and accompalished. Hot showers, warm food and cosy bed all well earnt. We had done it, against the odds and through preparing, experience and a good mindset and it had been a fabulous ride. The official verdict on our GPS is still to come but we know what we have achieved and know it was something special something a bit out of the ordinary.

So I hope that goes some small way to describing why: just for the sound of the silence of the tops of the peak I would do it all again. But, it’s not for everyone. I get that.

However, everyone can go further, it just doesn’t need to be far. Why not take a hour and go an extra few mile? Step outside the door in the cold and rain well wrapped up? Breathe the fresh air and seeing the weather and seasons change around you. It is all about adventure and challenge, no matter how big or small they are; it is the sense of accomplishment at the end, that you have done something that was a bit more than ordinary!

#wintercycling #audax #audaxuk #nightriding #markbeaumont #endurance #alastairhumphreys #doorstepmile #gofurther

Let training begin…

Pauline: a heavy bike to ride a 37mile commute on..
Punctured!

I am frantically fumbling with the valve cap on my back wheel, clumsily trying to get the hand pump attached whilst I can still just about grip through my numb, icy fingers. I am soaked through and cold, hungry and tired after only a few hours sleep and wrestling to get my rear wheel puncture fixed before things get any worse…

This may sound like part of yet another epic bike ride, but in fact I am on my way home from a night shift and my drenched situation is due to me relying on a swift blast home and throwing everything in the wash and me in the bath! But not to be…

I could have called Stevie to pick me up, left the bike and got a bus/taxi and sacked off my 37mile round trip commute, but then I won’t have a bike ready for tonight, I’ll still be waiting getting colder and wetter in the rain (I’m pretty sure any self respecting taxi wouldn’t have let me in) and I know I can fix this.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4439169463

So “training” has started, but not in the sense of a set plan, a number of weekly miles or a set distance to be covered. We are still a long way off from our challenge and we have a lot to do, I have only just launched on social media and am building up our profile, trying to learn how to work Twitter and Instagram. We have started out pleas for sponsorship, and the polite and kind rejection emails are already coming through- we know this will have to be a persistent effort. We are looking at options for our tandem and investigating the best options to fit her (or him?!) out.

So training in the sense of bicycle riding is not the priority just yet, but yet we must still maintain our fitness through this winter and the next and we are still riding our bikes. Stevie has absolutely made the most of lockdown this time round, riding almost daily on fast fixed spins and longer loops around lumpy lanes. I am somewhat more restricted but use my commute to night shifts to build my miles and also make sure I get some fresh air, I wish I could say sunshine but that has been mostly absent this week.

We are also undertaking the Randonneurs Round The Year (RRTY) through Audax UK where we must ride a 200km verified Audax event every month for 12 months. We are 2 down with the third planned for this Friday… however, warnings from the organiser that this is his toughest ride and with minimal daylight this will be no easy feat! As ever we never make things easy for ourselves!!

So we are “training” in the sense of endurance. Our ride will not be about absolute fitness on the bike, but more about the physical and mental fortitude to get us through. So by riding a hilly 200km in December and fixing a puncture in the rain on a few hours sleep we are training ourselves for adventure!!

I will occasionally keep you all up to date on our progress, but if you don’t already follow us on social media for more regular updates and if anyone has any contact/ advice / idea for sponsors please please please do get in contact!

Oh and if you have any questions, do ask in the FAQ !

Pretty sure these ads are mocking me!!
Saved by brunch! Stevie knows how to cheer up a soggy, tired wife!

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