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I am a Primary School teacher just about to move to the Bristol area and after two years of posting very little I am going to make an effort to post a little more often.

Friday, 8 August 2014

1st post in over a year!

I have become a little bit lazy when it has come to this my blog since I moved back to reading. Things are going to change but before they do I will re-cap my last two years, fairly briefly. Being in Reading and starting a teaching career left little time for play time so had to use my holiday time wisely.

Christmas 2012 - Skiing in Villars with Kelly and some of her Aiglon colleagues.
Easter 2013 - Road biking in Spain (the start of a bit more exercise)
Summer half-term 2013 - Weekend in Italy (accidentally ran a half marathon and singed up for a half ironman)
June/July 2013 - lots of short runs, decent rides and lots of open water swimming.
Summer Holidays 2013 - Switzerland and Slovenia, more running, biking swimming and the occasional hill day.
8th/9th September 2013 - Half Ironman and damaged knee ligaments in the process.
Oct, Nov, Dec 2013 - Diddley Squat - Knee injury prevented me maintaining any fitness I might of had and became a lardy ass.
Easter 2014 - Road riding around Annecy, very painful and Kelly was on beast mode.

I have managed to do some great things but have also missed doing more of the everyday activities so I am currently really enjoying having the summer holiday to get out an play in the hills.

I have climbed for the first time in 2 years, biked lots of my old favourite trails and met up with lots of the people I used to get out with.

Highlight so far is an evening of scrambling up Idwal Buttress after driving up from Reading. Great route, brilliant atmosphere, with the clouds becoming quite moody and we had the mountains to ourselves. I also proposed to Kelly after a picnic at the top...SHE SAID YES!!!!

Monday, 22 July 2013

48 Days to go! Training and Fundraising update

It is only 48 days until I will be dragging myself around the Henley Half Ironman.

The good news is that I have made a bit of progress. Training has started and I was starting to feel pretty good about it. Then the 2nd Half of the Summer term started, work commitments meant my 5am runs and swims weren't sustainable. Training took a dive but as the end of the term struck I have had a cracking weekend with a short ride on Saturday and then Sunday saw a 3km swim followed by a 10km run. A bit of a success as I am not suffering today!

Hoping to get out Tuesday morning for a run and to the lake in the evening.

Recommend the Tri20 Swim Centre, very friendly and it seems to be well organised.

Oh yes, sponsorship! I have decided to raise money for Helen and Douglas House, a charity my family and I have been involved in raising money for sometime. I have not done much recently but this is a challenge that will push me hard. Finding time to train, to build up the distance needed and to complete the race itself.

Please sponsor me to help raise money for an extremely worthy cause! JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Oooops, what have I signed myself up for!

A Half Ironman.

When I was 14/15 I went to a swimming training holiday with Reading Swimming Club to Club La Santa, Lanzarote, We were there just before they were holding an Iron man event. I had no idea what it was but remember thinking it was a stupid name, can't be that hard. I was wrong, I discovered that the Iron man event was a hard core triathlon, 3.8km swim, 180km ride followed by a marathon. Ridiculous, but I decided that it could be good. I did some research, decided for numerous reasons that it wasn't for me and then the idea never crossed my mind again.

Until recently when somebody I have never met but rides in the same club mentioned it. It was called the Henley Challenge (http://www.challengehenley.com/), I looked it up and saw they also did a Half Iron man, still not exactly easy but manageable I thought (I hope).

I decided to do a few runs and swims before entering and having accidentally over a half marathon earlier this week I decided that maybe I could actually do it....so have paid my money and will be there on the 8th September ready to swim bike and run until I finish or get told I have to stop.

Any support is welcome but I have no idea how entertaining it will be...the Swim is in the Thames, the bike heads out into the hills and the run goes up and down a circuit on Thames shore.

More tales of training to come I am sure

Saturday, 13 April 2013

An 8 Day Road-ie-Trip to Alicante and Girona

Biking in Spain is where it's at! There is a very good reason why so many professionals live or lived there.
Chilling in a sea breeze feeling a little tired after Day 1

Kelly and I have just come back from an amazing Easter holiday road biking on the East coast of Spain. The plan was initially to be in the south of France but as the weather looked worse and worse there we changed our plans, packed up Rory (VW Transporter) and set off from cold, snowy Villars-Sur-Ollon for hot, dry Alicante. Its a fair old drive but during this time we experienced all sorts of weather including hail stones the size of ping pong balls. The photo doesnt do them justice but trust me, they were massive and they made a hell of a noise bouncing off the van. We copied others and hid under a bridge. Once we crossed into spain it was the AP7 all the way...about 600km of it. We stopped south of Barcelona and made plans to head to Segorbe, a short drive off the AP7 on a decent road to the start of our first route. We did some GPS following, and soon realised that it was taking us the scenic route, i then missed a turning which left us no where to go but straight into the turning where the Gaurdia where pulling random vehicles in for spot checks. IDEAL. We were pulled over straight away. Admittedly the bike rack was covering the number plate and we should have had a red and white board on the van. Luckily he didn't notice the 1 brake and 1 main beam light did not work otherwise we might have had a little longer conversation in dodgy Spanish and lots of hand gestures.

Being the first route, we chose something sensible (it was decided because it was the closest). Segorbe seemed nice enoughbut I was there to ride. quickly we set off, now almost 11 for our 107km ride with 1700m of ascent. the first half was amazing including a great climb up though some woods and out into the mountains with views all around. The descent was fast, at the time, and then it dawned on us that that was only a 500m climb. We had over a 1000m still to go. It turned out most of the climbing can with 25km to go. 14km up and the rest down! We hadn't really eaten much or drank enough and were feeling quite tired. we hadn't push to get round and had had quite a few stops which meat the time was gone 5 as we approached the bottom of the climb. The descent was certainly worth it though and the route as a whole was quite tough for a first outing in the heat and after a long drive.

After the previous long day we decided to stay wherever we could and as we still had a way to drive to Alicante we stayed in the services on the AP7 again. Actually quite a good place to stop, Spanish services are nice, clean and also usefully have Wifi (all the ones we stopped at did). We headed out on a slightly adapted route which would keep us low down and coastal. the way out was fairly dull and not very scenic as we followed a National road for 20km. Once we broke of to head for the coastline we found ourselves among orange grooves and stunning little houses. We had been climbing slightly and slowly up for most of the way which meant that when we hit the main road in to Santa Pola it was very slightly downhill for 13k which doesn't take very long when your sat at over 35kph cruising to the sea. We had a bit of a break and had a hot chocolate as the sea breeze was actually quite cold. This is when I forgot to turn the GPS back on to record the rest of the ride but please believe me, we flew along the coastal road back to Alicante and also spotted our campsite for the night.

Cruising back to Alicante on a quiet roads.

Kelly laughing at me about to ride of speed bump facing the wrong way.

Kelly doing her van duties.

Dinner of champions and I think my first time having Avocado

Gin and Tonic to celebrate a great start to the holiday.
 By the time we got the camp spot it was already getting dark but if we actually got up early enough we  might just catch the sunrise. Sure enough I woke, didn't check the time, pulled the curtain off the window and woke Kelly up. It was by far the best sunrise I have ever seen! It just kept getting better and better.

Day 3: A decent sized ride, but a there and back ride. Neither Kelly or I like these types of rides, we like a circular route where you feel your on a journey. So I was expecting to get board on the way back for sure. The way out through Alicante was on busy roads but we had no trouble from any vehicles, we were given loads of space and if we indicated we wanted to cross a lane cars actually slowed down to make room for us! Out of Alicante the orange groves began, the occasional lemon and cherry field broke the ever tempting fruit.After almost 30km in the lowlands the gradient changed and for the next 12km was up, sections of 16% just made the challenge more interesting and made you enjoy the views even more. A climb that 'squiggles' (technical Kelly term) is much better as you can look down on where you have been.It was a great climb and when we reach the top the other side opened out with views oth more mountains and a road disappearing into the distance. Our Road. for the next 10km it rose and fell, each little climb steeper than the previous on and with false summits, just as you reached the point of think 'where's the top?' It would appear and whoosh you down the other side. The final climb up into Rellau was the steepest but we knew it was the last. We stopped in an little cafe bought some juice and water. Just as we were about to set off the peaceful mountain village was insulted by a harsh English accent shouting down the road. As we got ready to leave a couple of pro cyclist and a Minibus flew around the corner, almost taking me with them. they were tanking it uphill and then they were gone. They had maybe 2minutes headstart on us and as we reached the top of the descent into the undulations they were already 3km down the road. We didn't see them again. The undualations kept coming but seeming not as bad this time, the last hill came and Kelly and i split as we both pushed up the final few turns as fast as we could go. Stupid really when you have 40km to go still. The descent towards the coast was brilliant but the flat ride back into Alicante, into a headwind (which had turned whilst we were up the mountain) was a the final challenge of the day. 

Where's he gone? Why is he stopping there?

So I could take photos across the hairpins!

Kelly at the top looking out over the undulations to come. 

Setting off on the descent. Claire this one is for you!

As we were flying down this section it opened out for this view.

Whooshing back towards Alicante

Kelly flying through the town half way down to Alicante

Stoked and hungry back in Alicante
During the ride Kelly realised that we had the ingredients for her favorite butty and mountain food. Honey and banana on bread. I can understand the bread part, but i don't like honey and Banana's are't really sandwich fillers. However, I agreed that I would try some, I was hungry so i decided i might as well eat a full sandwich and kelly obliged making me a slightly less honey'd version of hers. It was IMMENSE. OK i still don't like honey, but this was good, exactly what i needed to replace the 4500Calories burnt off.

Kelly tucking into her favorite mountain snack!

It was our last day riding in the Alicante region as the weather was going to turn a little, we headed for a start up in the mountains, we shortened the route a little as we weren't sure which forecast to believe. Castalla is a tiny village about 2 minutes off the A7 so has fantastic access.the route was instantly into the orange groves and we were soon on our way down a mountain pass towards Agost. The descent just kept on coming and coming, turn after swooping turn. It was just at that speed where I had no more gears to use and my legs span to quick to pedal. It eased off as it entered a small town but we split of the main road and up over a small hill which caught us both out in top gear scrabbling to drop down. What followed was the longest section of the entire trip. The headwind was so strong we were barely able to pedal into it. The section went on and on before taking a sharp turn across a magnificent bridge and some ideal camping spots. the road continued up into the mountains where the road began to deteriorate. The first signs of poor tarmac we had seen, we were on a single lane mountain road that had probably just taken a hammering over winter. The scenery was nice and it empty, nobody about, we stopped for some food and to take a photo on self timer. All of a sudden whilst we are sat in the road, Kelly with her eye on the camera lying on the road and me laid back enjoying the n, a big 4x4 hared around the corner causing us both to scrabble to the side, water bottles and food still lying on the road the driver stopped to let us pick them up then told me, in Spanish, in many words i didn't understand to not lay in the road and look out. I assume that's what he said. the climb continued and the road got worse, the wind picked up and at one point i was trying to pedal up the steepest part against the wind and the GPS's 'autopause' kicked in. It thought i had stopped so stopped the timer. hearing the beep of that forced me into getting to the top without dropping into granny. i managed it but was suffering when I got to the top...and it wasn't actually the top. The road turned to a dusty stone track and the climbing continued. then the descending started but you could let rip as the track was pants. It opened up on to tarmac and the descent turned from left to right at times feeling as though the turns were 'helter skeltering'. Elda was a short pause for food and drink before a very gradual 20km climb to the bottom of a steeper section. At this point I had decided I loved the place and sadistically pushed hard up the last sections. The descent down from here to Castalla was fast, exciting and pretty scary at times. It was tight and twisty with long straight sections that dipped into a tight hairpin. on one of these sections I reached over 70kph. Quite pleased with that.

Heading into the distance.

Bored of the wind.

The spectacular bridge.

Attempt 2 after nearly being run over!

The most random car park I have ever seen. It is possible to camp here too, the warden said that it was not allowed but he didn't mind so it would be fine.


One of many hunks of rock.

View over Elda

Hows about that for a posed photo?

At the top.

No the track didn't get this bad it was just out of the wind. 
Helmet Hair
We moved north after a rest day and managed to find the most amazing campsite, the facilities are basic but what do you need, a shower? Tick. A toilet? Tick. oh and all for 8euros which compare the the 30Euros on the coast was a bargain. In fact one campsite wanted almost that for showers. the campsite is Casa de la Foya. They are a dutch speak English and are lovely. the site is amazing, you rock up and you either park or pitch among the cherry trees which at this time of year are blossoming bright pink. 

In the morning we drove to the Planes to start a day I was really looking forward to with a climb over the Valle D'Ebo. There was a short 5km gradual climb from Planes where we then turned down to head to Pego, maybe we should have gone right instead but anyway teh next 27km are downhill. brilliant but fairly chilly. The route then turns sharply up hill with some more of the those 16% squiggles. it was a fantastic climb, the sadistic part of my brain kicked in and after sorting out a gear problem set on up after Kelly trying to hold a steady 13kph. It was ok most of the way, as it got higher I started to see Kelly on higher up squiggles, the 'chase' was on. She wasn't racing, just me. We rode the rest of the way together until i saw that we had 1.3km to the top which was exactly 40km and  the time was ticking on to 2 hours. Almost made it following a sprint for the summit, 40km and 02.00.21hours. The rest of the route was fairly easy butwith 30km still to go and a fair chuck of climbing it wasn't over. It was very quiet and excellent riding.

The top of Valle D'Ebo.

Girona is and has been home to a fair few professionals, now I understand why. We did two days of riding here before making the journey back to Switzerland. The first was a fairly short circuit going over from Girona to Sant Sadurni de L'heura and then back over the Cassa De la Selva. This was a cracking route which believe the Pros do laps of as part of there training. It has two climbs, both steady, continuous and enjoyable but it is all about the descents here. This is the type of terrain where you are held up by cars. Catching them on the twisting corners as you drop down to the towns either side of the national park. The afternoon was spent on the beach but Kelly decided she wasn't going swimming after dipping her feet in.

After a late start, we set of on a 130km route with more ascent that any other route too. It was are last day and our eyes where bigger than our stomachs  the climb back over yesterdays descent passed quickly and yesterdays climb made for a massive descent with swooping corners and long straights. it wasn't long until we had racked up 30km odd and in record time, then another hill, this time was a short but punchy ascent, passing a fat old man felt good. The only other person we passed was a lady who was a triathlete. She didn't do hills very well but made for good company until Kelly sent her packing when she hit the gas as the route steepened.The descent from here leads you right down to Cologne but it is not long before the down becomes up and your back into the national park, wiping sweat from your bro as more professionals hurtle down the road. At the top of this hill we dicided we had had enough for the day and had had a great time so headed back towards the van near Cassa de la Selva.

Now it's over I am absolutely gutted but I know I'm going to be back, it's too good not too. I may mountain bike next time as it looks like their is some fantastic trails just waiting to be ridden. I love it...I might even try and get myself a job out there.

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