Final Preparations

This weekend was my last chance for some training.  But then I thought, it’s all pretty pointless now.  Cycling a few miles this weekend isn’t going to help in the long run cycle.  I’ll just have to take it at a plod in the first couple of days.  The only problem is the first two days are the hardest!  Still, it will be easier after that, right?

Anyway, no time for cycling really: I’ve got to get everything ready for the off and this weekend is the only time to do it.

This morning I put my bike on the maintenance stand and debated whether or not to fiddle with the gears that are slipping just very occasionally.   I pumped up the tyres and oiled everything instead, figuring that if I started finagling then I would be there all day and the gears would be worse at the end, probably needing to go into the bike shop for various spare parts.  On my last LEJOG in October I was having to shift up 2 and down 1 to go up 1 most of the way and it did me no harm.  I decided not to change the tyres to thicker, bullet proof schwelbe marathons as I did last time and stuck to my Mavic Askium slicks (23mm) to see if they could withstand the canal paths etc. and prove the route can be ridden on a true road bike set up.  We will see if that was a good idea or not.

I have just been packing parcels ready to send to the B&Bs on route.  Each one contains a pot noodle (or similar) 18 cereal bars, protein recovery powder and energy powder for making up drinks.  All a boy needs to keep him going.  That and whatever I can find to eat along the way.

I’m now off to gather all my kit and see if I can cram it in my bag…

Training Finished (me off)

On Saturday I set off on my final training ride before the start of my LEJOG at the beginning of June, now only 2 weeks away.

I let Google chose my route between Ivybridge – Barnstaple – Tiverton – Ivybridge.  It was interesting.  I went on many roads I had never cycled before.  And a few rough rocky paths I never want to cycle again.  At one point the route had me pedalling across open moorland, through shallow rocky streams and thick but thankfully largely dry mud.

I went awry between Lydford and Okehampton, believing the route followed the Granite Way.  I took my eye off the ball and only realised in Okehampton that my route didn’t go there.  Rather than retrace my tyre tracks I took an audax route for the Old Roads 300 which I have ridden a couple of times in the past. However, not wanting to add extra miles to the trip I decided not to go all the way to Barnstaple but to nip the corner off the route.  This led to a lot of ad lib routing and an endless succession of 15-20% hills.  At one point I rounded a corner to see a 33% gradient warning sign staring at me with a grin on its face. Fortunately I turned just before it onto a much gentler 20% slope.

The day was hot, with temperatures off the tarmac at about 27 C and there were not enough shops so I managed to get dehydrated a couple of times and by the end I was felling much like I did on the final day of my LEJOG last year.

Nearly a week later I am still feeling energy-less, which is not a good sign.  However, the lack of recovery could be due to hayfever, from which I am suffering badly.  When planning I had forgotten that I suffer a lot for hayfever, being at its worst in June!

Whilst not boosting my confidence that I am fit enough to ride LEJOG without a lot of suffering it has shown me that I can manage 145 miles over hillier terrain than any day I will face in the ride.  It has also proved that my new bike is capable of tackling worse off road paths than I encountered last time around.  The slick 23mm tyres held up without punctures and I am tempted to leave them on to prove the route can be ridden on a true road bike set up.

The ride also highlighted a problem with my sat nav set up.  The battery lasts about 8-10 hours at best so for longer rides I carry an external battery on the bike, attached to the sat nav by usb cable.  This arrangement will give up to 40 hours of continuous use.  However, when I came to fit the cable to the sat nav there was not enough space between the unit and the handlebars on my new bike for the cable to attach.  I have now purchased, at great expense, a special cable with a right-angle head that fits snugly in the gap.  I would have been stuck if I had only found out the day before the ride though.  Always a good idea to have a test ride!

So to summarise:  great to show I can cycle longer and harder than I will need to for any individual day but a little worrying that I am still feeling drained of energy.

Training Interrupted by Plague of Guinea Pigs

Sorry, slight typo in the title.  Training has actually been interrupted by plague and Guinea Pigs.

Plague has infested the house with everyone dropping like flies.  Youngest son fell asleep on the sofa at 5pm on Friday and only woke up 7am next day.  Totally unknown before.  Everyone else is suffering in one way or another except me.  I seem to be keeping it at bay but I can hardly disappear for a whole day on my bike.

Anyway, the weekend has been taken up organising guinea pigs for number 2 son’s birthday at the end of the month.  Saturday was spent obtaining cages, runs, food, hay, sawdust, bowls and various other accoutrements, including guinea pig snuggles (?).   Today was the trip to get the guinea pigs themselves, amidst great excitement.  The excitement has died down now since the guinea pigs have spent the last few hours hiding in the hay at the back of the cage.  I’m sure they’ll stick their noses out some when, most likely when we’ve all gone to bed – the dogs will probably let us know by barking the house down.

So, no training.  But, having missed a lot of sleep in the last week or two with youngest son suffering first from conjunctivitis and then tonsillitis I had a long lie in this morning in place of training.  That will have to do.

I’m planning a 160 mile ride for next weekend but I think that might be the only opportunity left, unless I can squeeze another ride out of somewhere.

Worried About Fitness

When I started contemplating riding LEJOG in June I had the mind set that when I rode it last October I had done so with very little training.

For my JOGLE in 2009 I had completed an extensive training program which totaled 5,000 miles.  Indeed, in my book about preparing for an end to end ride (the text of which is set out here) I advocate a training plan based on how far you want to cycle each day.   The plan has a gradual increase in duration in the saddle and distance covered to bring you to a ride ready fitness peak.

My training in 2013 was quite different.  I rode to work 3 times a week, a total of 66 miles, but other than that only rode 7 other rides.  In order these were 300km, 400km, 200km, 600km, 170km, 810km and 180km.  The first 5 were in preparation for London-Edinburgh-London, a ride I was fated to not complete (I was knocked off my bike by a lorry 10 days before the start and damaged my knee).  The 810km ride is the failed attempt.  The last ride of 180km was a local sportif over Dartmoor to test out the strength of my knee before embarking on LEJOG.  So a completely different training approach brought about by lack of time.

In thinking about LEJOG this June I had in my mind that I had only done a few rides before LEJOG 2013 so I could get away with very little training this time as well.  What I had forgotten was that each of those rides was longer than my shortest day on LEJOG, 4 of them were longer than my longest day and 2 of them were about half the total distance.

This year I had only completed one ride over 100 miles so yesterday I thought I had better try and put in another one.  I managed it but have to report that today I feel battered:  I have a stiff neck, sore shoulders and lower back and feel generally washed out.

I have 4 weekends left before the start.  I do not want to do a long ride the weekend before I set off – I would rather conserve energy than gain an insignificant amount of fitness – so that leaves 3.  One weekend is son 2’s birthday so nothing doing then.  So that leaves 2 potential training opportunities to bring my fitness to a peak.

I think I am going to have to ride myself into fitness on the event.  I’ve heard you can do that.

LEJOG 2014

When I cycled lejog last year I cycled the route suggested by Google Maps at the time.  I say ‘at the time’ because routing for bicycles on Google Maps is in beta testing and therefore being altered and updated regularly as problems are discovered and improvements are made.

The route proved to be 90% excellent and 10% rubbish.  nearly the whole trip was spent cycling along quiet lanes, canal tow paths and cycle ways along disused railway lines etc..  But some of the trip was on completely contrasting, manically busy main roads, normally transitioning between quieter sections.

In a quest to find as quiet and safe a route as possible I have re-routed to avoid busy roads where ever possible and plan to ride the route in June to test it.  If I am happy with it I will split it into 50 mile sections and make GPX downloads available through my website www.landsend-to-johnogroats.co.uk.

I will be riding in support of War Child.  War Child provide life-changing support to the most vulnerable children whose families, communities and schools have been torn apart by war. You can find out more about them here.

If you would like to donate you can do so here.

Travelogue of LEJOG 2013 – Halfway There (almost)

Over the past few weeks I have finally found some time to start writing up a travelogue of my LEJOG in 2013.  I have written up as far as the end of day 3 so have reached Stafford.  I started out stormingly but ran out of steam, or at least time, at the school half term and have just got back to it to complete the last few miles down the canal path to Stafford.  Just like cycling the real thing that last stretch took a long time.

Whilst I’m hoping to finish the draft soon I imagine it will take a back seat for a while because I have the small matter of riding the route, or at least a slightly revised route, again in June.  More of that later…