Local Legends

Cyclists love a bit of Strava and now there’s a little bit more to love with the introduction of ‘Local Legends’.

‘Local Legends’ are individuals who have cycled a stretch of road (segment) more times than any other Strava user in the previous 90 days. ‘Local Legends’ are awarded a golden crown for each segment they lead.

It’s not about speed, it’s about repetition. After the Raid Local, I figured I must be in with a chance of being a ‘Local Legend’ on Cleeve Hill at least.

Not so. Apparently there are others who have cycled it more times than I have in the last 90 days, although I doubt anyone has done it more times in a single day! However, my disappointment was short lived, and my excitement rekindled when I discovered that I was the ‘Local Legend’ for Harp and Ham Hills combined and for 25 other segments.

Just as I was beginning to enjoy my ‘Local Legend’ status, I received a message from Strava that my title had been taken from me and I was no longer the ‘Local Legend’ for one of my awarded segments.

I feel I like an olympic champion who has just been stripped of a gold medal, although, clearly I need to get some perspective. I’m not sure the short-lived elation is enough to withstand the disappointment whenever one is taken away from me!

And Counting……

24 Days

A few days rest after The Raid Local and already we need a new challenge. A ‘Covid Compliant’ Alpine Adventure …….in 24 day’s time.

777km

Cycling 777km from Lake Geneva to Nice.

13,000

13,000 metres of climbing

Six Cols

  • Col du Telegraphie
  • Col du Galibier
  • Col de L’Iseran
  • Col d’Izoard
  • Col du Cormet de Roselend
  • Col de la Bonette

Five Cyclopaths

A Sunday Cycle

Great to be out with the Sunday Cycling group again.

A lovely route out to The Old Prison at Northleach. The company was great, the rain held off until the last ten minutes and the bacon sandwiches at The Old Prison were fabulous.

After two weeks away from my bike, the hills felt hard, so it was a pleasant surprise to find my Strava stats showed twenty-three personal bests and a new ‘Local Legend’ crown. Oh the joys…….and the pressure to keep this one!

Lighthearted Learning from Lanzarote

1. Uphill is Hard, Downhill Terrifying!

2. The Heavier We Are, The Harder It Is

3. Regular Rest Stops are Essential

4. The Cycle Tracking App Relates To Your Menstrual Cycle Not Your Bicycle!

5. Rehydration is Vital

6. Team Kit = Team Work

7. Style is a Personal Thing

8. You Can Never Carry Too Many Jelly Babies

9. Months More Hill Training Ahead………

10. It’s All for a Good Cause

Team Training

For the first time today, twelve of the Raid Alpine team are getting together for some training in Lanzarote, many of us meeting for the first time.

After an easy journey, we arrive at the resort reception and only half an hour later, with our hire bikes fitted, we were ready to cycle together.

With a route already prepared, we set off together and stayed together for 50km. It was great to see the team beginning to work together and interesting to battle the very strong winds on our homeward bound leg of the journey. It was however so reassuring after my last training ride to feel on top of my game again today and to keep up with the group in fact, leading the group for a brief spell. John’s competitive gene is clearly rubbing off on me!

A big meal and a few more beers than planned, we thoroughly enjoyed our first time cycling with some of the larger group.

Tomorrow promises more winds, more training and more team building. Oh, and of course it’s very lovely to cycle in the warm sunshine.

Guest Blog

TRAINING & TEAM-BUILDING by Ewan MacLean

The Cyclopaths have all been training in our own way: individually, in pairs and in a variety of groups. We are only one small part of a much bigger ‘Raid Alpine’ group who have all been doing the same across many different UK geographic locations. Between us, we have been cycling indoors and out, through some of the worst conditions a British winter can throw at us, as well as undertaking a huge variety of other types of exercise to support our training. Each week, we cover very different distances, do different types of exercise with different frequencies and speeds, tailored to our individual fitness needs.

Most of us know some of the group members, and indeed a number of the group did a similar challenge last year, The Raid Pyrenees, but many of us have never met each other. However, this week, some of us are getting together, many of us meeting for the first time, in a very different location with a very different climate and some very significant hills to climb. It will be the first big step towards us all becoming a β€˜team’ this summer with one common goal: to raise funds for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

We will of course let you know how it goes………

One of Those Days

Cold, wet, windy, hailstones, headache, hangover, tired, torturously slow…….

On reflection I was wise to go out alone, I wouldn’t have kept up with the Sunday morning group today. Today’s effort is definitely not one to dwell on, so, I got to thinking……

So far this year, I have cycled 1060km, burning approximately 34,000 calories. It sounds like a lot but as I haven’t shed a single pound in weight since Christmas, I started to wonder what 34,000 of my favourite foods might look like!

150 Mars Bars, 56 Bottles of wine, 1554 jelly babies, 455 Lindt chocolate balls or 113 Slices of cake!

I suspect it was the regular cake stops and the emergency jelly babies!

I could have done other activities to burn the same calories:

596 hours talking, 59 hours in the gym, 53 hours boxing, 60 hours dancing, 81,000 hours sleeping, 167 hours walking, 130 hours walking and talking!

But none as fun as cycling…….

I clearly need to exercise more and eat less to get ready for The Alps, 119 days to go and counting and every one of these days will count.

Mountains to Climb……

After each training session, I check my Strava data – distance cycled, elevation climbed, maximum speed, overall time spent out, time spent moving, etc, etc. Yes, I know, I’m turning into a geek!

This time, I also reviewed my stats since January 1st this year. As of 10th February, I had ventured out 17 times, cycled 809km, climbed 9333m and this has taken me 46.5 hours to complete. Some of these rides have felt extremely long and extremely hilly BUT for The Raid Alpine, over six consecutive days I’ve to cycle the same distance with twice as many hills. No rest days, no excuses and no recollection of why I ever thought this was a good idea!

Mountains to Climb

Bad weather and curiosity got the better of me last weekend and so I subjected myself to an indoor training session on the turbo trainer.

Let’s be clear, I have absolutely no desire to train on a bike indoors. There is no company, no scenery, no breeze, the dog wants to join in and every minute seems like an hour. Let me out on the open roads any day!

Well, maybe not ‘any day’, 50mph winds rendered the weekend too dangerous to venture out, so I spent a hard hour taking the ‘Sufferfest 4DP Challenge’ in the hope that I might prove to be fitter and faster than the last time I tried it.

Despite giving it my all, my weighted average power increased only from 120w to 127w and I peaked at 36km/h rather than 35.3km/h. Figures that are hardly going to propel me up the Alps any noticeably quicker or easier!

Further analysis shows that I had more power on the short sharp bursts (anaerobic power), on my maximal aerobic power and on my functional threshold power. I can only imagine that this must be a good thing!

My neuromuscular power however has dropped a little. My immediate thought was this was perhaps not surprising, given that I’m training with a degenerative neurological condition. The power of the mind to create a story that is not based on anything factual! My detailed report suggests that I simply wasn’t paying enough attention and mis-timed my bursts of power!

I breathed a short sigh of relief before realising my report essentially said ‘needs to pay more attention and must try harder’.

Image Source: Cyclinglocations.com

No excuses, I know I have a proverbial mountain to climb as well as 24 actual mountains!

From the Heart

Yesterday, I received a message from Ewan who is training hard for the Raid Alpine challenge. Despite being hundreds of miles from the other Cyclopaths and therefore having to do much of his training alone and with the added challenge of the harsh winter weather on the east coast of Scotland, his enthusiasm and enjoyment of cycling warmed my heart.

From Ewan:

I’m trying to remember but I think πŸ€” today was only my 5th or 6th ever ride over 50 miles (just slightly over 50 I hear you say!! πŸ™ˆπŸ˜‰πŸ˜†) and definitely my first πŸ’― + miles week!! πŸ‘πŸ»πŸŽ‰ This cycling lark is definitely getting obsessive! πŸ€“


To be honest, I think it’s also very good mentally; it slows me down from the daily dashing around running the business; gives me space to think about all sort of random yet important stuff that I might not otherwise have allowed time for; gives me space and pace to enjoy the local environs; makes me appreciate how lucky I am to be where I am in life; and the feeling of β€˜satisfaction’ tiredness at the end certainly enhances that overall feeling of positive well being.


Thank you again for getting me involved, I’m sooooo enjoying the journey πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ˜ŠπŸš΄πŸ»β€β™€πŸš΄πŸ»β€β™‚πŸš΄πŸ»β€β™‚πŸš΄πŸ»β€β™‚

Thank you, Ewan, we are sooooooo enjoying having you in the team

I loved your message, and am delighted that you too have discovered the many joys of cycling.

A Second Wind!

Rarely have I ever cycled and not enjoyed it. Yesterday, however, was one such occasion. Despite a beautiful, hilly and carefully planned route during which we thoroughly enjoyed the first 40km, the homeward bound route was tough. After the trauma of cycling in winds strong enough to knock me over, we eventually made it home safe but exhausted. Desperately keen to replace these negative feelings about cycling, with my usual positive ones, I ventured out again today.

The wind had dropped from fresh (not recommended) to moderate (hard work but without the threat of being toppled over).

What a beautiful ride. A gentle 50km in spring-like temperatures. No hills, windy enough to be a little harder work than usual but an easy pace. One puncture, easily repaired. Made even easier when we stopped to change the tyre outside the house of a cyclist, whose track pump saved time and effort pumping up the replacement tyre. Thanks Rob!

Still feeling a little competitive, here’s the good news for this week:

Distance

Elevation

Despite the colds weather in Scotland and a weekend away from home, Ewan managed a very respectable 6th place.

The Cyclopaths!

Against the Wind

The plan:

  • Early start
  • Lots of kilometres (90)
  • Lots of hills (1,000m+)
  • A brief coffee stop
  • Fast(ish)!
  • Back by 2pm

The Weather Forecast:

  • 7-10 degrees (‘Toastie”)!
  • A ‘fresh breeze’

The Reality:

  1. Early start
  2. Lots of kilometres (76) – many of them slow due to head on wind
  3. Lots of hills – 1,166m of them with segments of up to 20%
  4. For ‘fresh breeze’ – read ‘overpowering gusts’, head on slowing us down, side on knocking us over, unpleasant at best, dangerous at worst
  5. Fast(ish) – No chance, thwarted by the wind
  6. Home by 2pm, another training ride completed

Saturday’s ‘Sunday’ Cycle

We did our usual Sunday morning cycle on Saturday as the weather forecast was much more favourable!

The Cyclists

Jackie, Caroline, Al, Nigel, Roland & John

Highlights

Good company and the essential cake and coffee stop

Beautiful countryside

Amazing Wildlife

We spent a few minutes watching Fallow Deer running across fields and at one point, across the road ahead. There must have been 30 of them and it was such a beautiful sight.

Lowlights

The condition of the roads.

The winter roads can be treacherous. Although not icy today, it was slippy in places. I managed by some miracle to land safely and upright in a hedge after sliding uncontrollably and scarily downhill.

Fog

Visibility was really poor at times. Cycling at the rear, it was interesting to observe the visibility of the rest of the group when it became foggy. Hi vis clothing helps but bright, flashing, rear lights make the biggest difference. Many new lights purchased after today’s ride.

New Skills Needed

A problem with her chain within the first five minutes, meant that Jackie couldn’t carry on. No amount of medical, dental or veterinary expertise amongst the group, could fix the problem! A bike maintenance course for at least some of us looms ahead…..

Summary

Distance: 73km

Elevation Gain: 983m

Maximum Speed: 118km/hr. I can only assume it’s an error!

Enjoyment: undefined

Jolly Nice

A clear day when we left Cheltenham, by the time, we had cycled up Leckhampton Hill and out towards Winstone, the fog was setting in.

It was lovely to meet up with John and Chris, two friends who we had cycled LEJOG with.

LEJOG With Chris and John

Under time pressure to get back, Roland headed home, while the rest of us enjoyed a coffee and cake stop at one of our favourite haunts – The Jolly Nice at Frampton Mansell.

I’ve cycled to and from The Jolly Nice a number of times and was pleasantly surprised to find the ride home easier than before. Easier, except for the shortcut to avoid the notoriously busy Air Balloon roundabout on the A417. By this point, we had all gone our separate ways, so, on my own, I took a familiar off road shortcut, only to be met by a dozen very large cows grazing alongside the route I needed to take. I fleetingly considered returning to the A417 as the safer option!

My imagination running riot, I couldn’t help feeling my high visibility red cycling jacket might not have been the best choice for this part of the journey, and with more than a little trepidation, I took the shortcut and (of course) made it through unscathed.

Another 55km of training enjoyed!

In case anyone has noticed the absence of my husband in training of late, he’s doing his training in the Alps!

NAD

In the medical world, amongst other things, NAD, means ‘Nothing Abnormal Detected’.

‘NAD’ sums today up Beautifully:

It was cold, wintery, foggy and wet out. NAD for January.

Despite the weather, we cycled. NAD for The Cyclopaths.

We cycled Ham Hill again. NAD, having cycled it three times this week already.

We cycled 40km. NAD, 40km is fairly standard these days.

We enjoyed it. NAD, except perhaps, a slight madness!

We had a brief coffee and cake stop. NAD, coffee and cake is a core component of our cycle rides.

The owner of the coffee shop recognised us. NAD, we frequent the same dozen coffee shops regularly.

We agreed to do it all over again on Friday. NAD, this is the way it will be until June 29th………

Too Icy (For Some but Not All of Us)

Freezing over night but the sun shone brightly this morning, so I wrapped up warm in my cycling gear with high hopes. A few steps out onto the road and it was clearly still very icy. Despite my desire to cycle, my desire not to injure myself was stronger.

Today’s Results

Miles Cycled – Nil

Metres Climbed – Nil

Limbs Intact – All

Desire to use indoor turbo trainer – Nil

Fingers crossed tomorrow is warmer……….

Made of Stronger Stuff

Ewan, living on the East coast of Scotland, is made of strong stuff, where inclement weather is concerned. Braving the freezing temperatures, the wind and the rain, he had his coldest cycle so far……….and is still smiling!

Pedalling with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a progressive, degenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. Symptoms will get worse over time and the rate of progression will vary significantly from person to person.

Amongst many other symptoms, Parkinson’s affects balance and coordination, it causes dizziness, muscle cramps, dystonia, rigidity, stiffness, pain, slow movement, tremor, problems with sleep, fatigue and posture. Symptoms I am all too familiar with. Add to this, slowed reaction times, a 50% lower power output on my right side compared to my left and an asymmetrical riding posture and I might be forgiven for thinking that cycling and Parkinson’s are not particularly compatible!

BUT – exercise has been shown to slow down disease progression and for me that’s pretty compelling motivation for me to get on my bike and ride!

The evidence that cycling is beneficial for people with Parkinson’s is well established. Recent research is described in Dr Simon Stott’s ‘Science of Parkinson’s’ article The Exergaming of Parkinson’s.

Image Source: Stuartmcmillen.com

By the time I tackle The Raid Alpine Challenge, I will have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for over 5 years. During this time I have cycled 1,000s of kilometres and become the fittest I have ever been. I cycle faster, further and hillier than I have ever done and am better than I ever imagined I might be at this stage of my Parkinson’s progression.

Others may have a different experience but for me, the Parkinson’s related challenges start when I’m preparing to go out on my bike – fiddly tasks such as attaching lights, my Garmin, saddlebag, doing up zips, helmet, shoes, and putting on gloves take longer than they used to and can be frustratingly difficult at times. Checking tyre pressure is a hit and miss exercise. On a good day, it’s OK, on a not so good day by the time I’ve attached the pump to the valve, I have no pressure left in the tyres at all. So, I pump the tyre up, only to lose all the air when trying to disconnect the pump! And repeat……

There is an etiquette to group cycling. Read Road Cycling UK’s Essential Guide to Hand Signals and Calls to learn more about this. Parkinson’s makes me a less reliable group cyclist than I would like to be. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Take my left hand off my handlebars and my right alone cannot control my bike. Signals involving my left hand are unlikely to give the desired outcome.
Image Source: Clipartart.com

2. Parkinson’s makes it difficult to project my voice so my shouts are not always as loud as I would want them to be. Those behind or in-front may not always hear my warning shouts.

3. My balance is worse when I have a lot of moving things in my peripheral vision. If I don’t talk, or if I drop behind you, or ask you to give me some more space, it’s because I’m concentrating on staying upright, not because you’ve bored me!

4. My reaction time is slower than most. I’m likely to be in the pothole by the time I’ve seen it, let alone, seen it, avoided it, taken my hand off the handlebars and signalled and shouted to cyclists behind me.

Image Source: Bikeyface.com

I shall alert everyone to the risks of cycling behind me at the team safety briefing. Fortunately, cycling behind me is not something many of the group will experience as I’m one of the slower cyclists.

5. I adjust the timing, quantity and combination of my medications for long rides. So, I like to know how far we are likely to go, how fast and how hilly, when we plan to set off and when we are planning to take a break. Inevitably things change and I can adapt to this but I like to have a plan!

If I get the timing and dosage wrong, my speed, dexterity and even my thinking, reaction time, posture and balance can all be affected. Everything becomes a slog, like wading through treacle. The tiniest incline feels like a mountain as my legs lose power and my thinking becomes slow. I struggle to remember which gear lever moves my gears up or down, and it becomes difficult to remember my left from my right and I even have to think about how to brake. On top of all of this, I could quite literally fall asleep whilst cycling and can struggle to even keep my eyes open.

If this happens during The Raid Alpine challenge, where I need to cycle 800km, whilst climbing 19,000m over 6 days, I have a problem. As one of the slower cyclists, I am already worried there may not be enough hours in the day, even on a good day, for me to complete the distance and climb. Throw in a bad day and I may need a few extra days to complete the challenge!

6. My symptoms vary day to day. The only predictable thing is knowing I will have some combination of some of the symptoms for some or all of a ride. Symptoms can be influenced by the time of day, how well I’ve slept, stress levels, fatigue, what and when I’ve eaten, time of the month, illnesses (cold, flu etc), the weather….

In a nutshell, like everyone, I have good days and bad days, they may be a little more variable and more unpredictable than most but I have had a few years of experience in dealing with these and I believe, I have it down to a pretty fine art. Time will tell.

Calm After The Storm

Yesterday threw gale force winds, relentless driving rain and cold temperatures our way all day and all night. I couldn’t imagine being able to get out and cycle today.

However, in true British weather style, the winds had passed, the rain had stopped and with true British stoicism, Roland and I ventured out for a hilly 50km cycle. There is something about facing the challenge of a lifetime in less than six months that makes us get on our bikes and ride.

Up Harp hill, which, I don’t really consider to be a hill anymore (progress indeed) with a Personal Best (PB) time. Next up came Ham Hill. Known to local cyclists as a tough climb, I have to confess that I had never actually cycled the length of Ham Hill without having to stop to catch my breath. It is on my list of ’50 things to do at 50′ and today, I did it! I can’t say it was easy but it wasn’t too hard either (progress again).

I learned from Ham Hill today, something about the importance of mental attitude as well as physical preparation on performance. I had a written goal: I wanted to conquer Ham Hill, I have trained hard on hills in recent months, it was important for the rest of my 2020 Raid Alpine training to conquer it. Ham Hill is a tiny fraction of what I will need to do during The Raid Alpine, I needed this tiny achievement to confirm I was making progress. The belief that completing The Raid Alpine is within my reach is as important as any other aspect to my training. I wouldn’t allow any ‘what if I can’t’ thoughts to invade my mind and before I knew it, without much ado, I conquered Ham Hill, with another PB.

Bouyed by the confirmation that I could do Ham Hill, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the ride through beautiful undulating Cotswolds countryside. During the ride home down Ham Hill, littered with flood water, debris and potholes, I found myself wishing I was going up and not down it. Now there’s a change in mindset if ever there was one.

As always I returned home invigorated, a little tired but pleased with my performance and thrilled to get 41 Strava Achievements! I’m becoming slightly Strava obsessed but that’s another story……..

My Ham Hill Results

Sleepless Night!

Pleased with yesterday’s cycle, I started to think about how long it might take to to cycle the first day of The Raid Alpine challenge……..

Source: Marmot Tours

My Latest Stats

Distance: 55km

Ascent: 1,100m

Moving Time: 3 hours 30 mins moving @ average speed 15.4kmh

Duration: 4 hours 30 mins

Day 1 The Raid Alpine

Distance: 137km

Ascent: 3,700m

Est Moving Time: 10 hours 30 mins

Est Duration: 15 hours

Start: 7am, finish 10pm. I need to recover, refresh, eat, blog, sleep, prepare, repeat…..six days in a row

There are not enough hours in the day!!!!

And then I read that there are only 23.934 hours in a day!

Image Source: spaceplane.nasa.gov

And then I remember how exhausted I was after my most recent cycle!

Before panic sets in, I remind myself that the hills yesterday were extremely steep in parts, the roads wet, slippy, with potholes, debris and few passing places. This made even the downhill slow!

Fast forward 175 days and I’m hoping all of the following will make a difference:

  • A lighter bike
  • A lighter me
  • Better road surfaces
  • 175 days more training
  • Improved nutrition
  • Optimising timings of meds during long cycles
  • Beautiful scenery
  • A new experience
  • Plenty of pace setters
  • A positive mental attitude
  • Group support

There is no time to waste, I must get faster and fitter…………but first, some sleep!

Image Source: Clipart

Sunday Morning

As is becoming a regular for a Sunday morning, I cycle up Leckhampton Hill to meet the Sunday morning cyclists at Cowley. It’s lovely for Al, Caroline, Jackie, Ric and Nigel to welcome us into their well established Sunday morning group where Al plans a different but invariably hilly route each week, with the essential coffee and cake stop. We rely on Caroline to check the route to ensure Al hasn’t got carried away with the hilly component of the cycle! It was drizzly and dreich for most of the cycle but a welcome stop at The Chedworth Farm Shop, helped energise us for the ride home.

The weather may not have been kind but the company was great and we managed 55km and over 1,100m of hills. (I’ve to climb 3,700m on the first day of The Raid Alpine over 137km!)

2019 Statistics

The last ride of 2019 made me reflect on the cycling I have done during the year, before turning my attention to the challenges that lie ahead in 2020.

My Strava Statistics for 2019

The Strava statistics tell only the numbers, so here’s a little personal reflection on the experiences.

I cycled nearly 4,000km, predominantly throughout the beautiful, hilly, Cotswold countryside. Ventures further afield included a challenging but fun weekend cycling in the Brecon Beacons and later in the year, a week long cycle from Boston to Bar Harbour on the east coast of the USA.

Both, the Brecon Beacons and Boston to Bar Harbour proved to be hillier than almost anything we had experienced nearer to home and both proved to be a physical challenge as well as great fun. For Boston, the LEJOG Cyclopaths: Caroline, Paul, Paula, Julia, Marianne, Steve, John, David and myself were joined by friends from the USA and Canada.

For the Brecon Beacons, The Cyclopaths were joined by numerous friends and we had a wonderful weekend with long, challenging cycles along beautiful routes meticulously planned by Linda. As always, the company was fantastic and we enjoyed great food and wonderful hospitality at the lovely Foyles of Glasbury hotel.

I also enjoyed cycling Central Park in New York with friends, during one of my 50th birthday celebrations.

I loved cycling around Kyoto and Gion in Japan with Paul, where we both attended The World Parkinson’s Congress.

The rest of the miles were shared with many wonderful ‘Cyclopath’ friends and latterly with our friends, the Sunday morning cyclists who have welcomed us with open arms as we ramp up our Raid Alpine training. Thank you for letting us infiltrate your group – we thoroughly enjoy our Sunday morning cycles with you all.

Thank you to everyone who has shared some cycling miles with me over the past year. I have loved every minute of your company, your enthusiasm, your support and fantastic camaraderie. I couldn’t have done any of this without you all. I look forward to many more adventures during 2020.

Last Ride of 2019

No longer able to use Christmas as an excuse to put off training for The Raid Alpine challenge, I head out for my last ride of 2019 and a gentle re-introduction to my training following the festive period. It was cold but dry and great to have some new cycling companions (James and Jess) as well as Roland, for the morning ride.

Our brief was 20-30km, with a coffee stop around 2/3 of the way round. Never one to be constrained by a brief, we actually cycled 50km, with a coffee stop at 32km!

Despite the initial cold temperatures and a longer than anticipated cycle to our stopping point, after warming hands and feet by the fire at the Royal Oak in Gretton, by the time we were returning home, the sun was out and we were pleasantly warmed by it. A climb over Cleeve Hill helped keep us warm too. A great last ride of 2019, thank you everyone.