Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Last Post of the Year - maybe...

I cannot believe the year is nearly over. I see from Paul's latest post that the charity donations have far exceeded our expectations. A big thank you to everyone that has donated throughout the year and helped us to achieve our goal.
Now what will the plan be for next year ? As Paul has said, we have a number of ideas but none are firmly cemented into the diary, we certainly need a challenge to keep us out on the roads for the remaining Winter days.

We'll keep you posted.

A very Happy New Year to everyone and good luck to anyone following the blog who are attempting LEJOG in 2012, I hope you have as much fun as we did.

Latest Sponsorship total....

With a couple of late donations our total raised now stands at - £7368.52

Friday, 30 December 2011

It's tough after Christmas....

With the last of the turkey diced and ready for adding to a New Years curry, the burgeoning pile of empty bottles confined to the recycling bin and my belt opened by at least two notches it was deemed a suitable time to get out for a post-Christmas, pre-New Year ride. Gary and I were accompanied by Barry the Bell, a regular Wednesday night beer-ride rider and a bellringer.

We met at the bus stop at the end of Snarestone village - when I arrived Gary and Barry were already there waiting. Gary said a group of cyclists had just gone past, one of them shouted to him - "It's okay pal - the bus will be along at midday" That gave us a giggle. We set off heading for Twycross, it was a dark, leaden sky and the anticipation was for a downpour. We made our way upwards to Twycross and then on through Sheepy Magna heading towards Atherstone. It seemed to be ever uphill to me, I was thankful we were travelling at quite a sedentary pace. We climbed a couple of lung-bursting hills around the outskirts of Atherstone. Gary knew these lanes quite well - he had worked down the pit here some years ago and he pointed out various places where his car had broken down whilst travelling to work.

The Griffin
After a couple of hours of hard graft we arrived at our destination - The Griffin Inn at Shustoke. Here is a pub that has firmly eschewed any idea of a gastropub transformation. You'll find no chrome or glass topped tables here - rather a place full of character with a cosy unspoilt atmosphere. The tables are made from converted sewing machines and the walls are adorned with scrumpy jugs. The low, beamed ceilings are decorated with antique beermats, the place has a terrific atmosphere and an extraordinary collection of cask ales on offer - there were 10 on the blackboard. We had been hallucinating about a pint for the past half-hour and The Griffin didn't disappoint. We enjoyed a well kept and refreshing light pale ale - I think it was called Hopscotch?? followed by another similar brew called Pitchfork. Our old friend John Grant joined us too - not by bike I might add, John is a man who prefers the comfort of his Audi to the trials of an Audax. We sampled the organic bacon, sausage and bacon and black pudding sandwiches from the menu. Served between tranches of fresh farmhouse bread - these are surely as good as any in the country.

We also met up with an erstwhile work colleague of mine - Jools Storer. He and I frequented The Griffin many times in years past so it was good to meet up here again and have the chance of a bit of a 'catch-up' - cheers Jools, and have a great New Year.

The Griffin prides itself on selling good bar snacks and food to take home – including local honey, pork pies and eggs. They also serve local country wines, such as Sloe or Elderberry, alongside real ciders, and it is no surprise that they have featured in countless copies of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

Soon it was time to set off for home. I felt pretty good after an hour and a half in the Griffin - we made reasonable progress for about half an hour, the wind was behind us and although there was a fair amount of climbing it didn't feel quite so hard as the outbound journey. But then I started to feel tired. The bike felt heavy. I checked that the wheels weren't binding on something such was my inability to get the thing to move. Wearily we pushed on, by now darkness was approaching and our lights were on. We split up at Twycross and I headed home via Bilstone and Congerstone - the last 3 or 4 miles were more or less at walking pace. It started hailing and the wind was howling - I checked my back wheel again - it was turning freely. When I finally made it home and after a revitalising hot shower I realised it has been quite a while since we've ridden so far - it's amazing how quickly stamina and fitness is lost - and with the added over indulgence of the festive season I suppose today's struggle wasn't really that much of a surprise. One thing though, the route today was a great one - lots of testing rises, a great pub in the middle and another test on the way back - pity we didn't find it earlier it would have been good leading up to LeJog last summer.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

It's Christmas!!!

Well almost. It is in fact Christmas Eve. Our house is looking extremely festive; there's garlands adourning the beams in the cottage, we have a tree outside the front door and another inside, both are liberally decorated with baubles and lights. We have just completed all preparations for tomorrows feast - my daughters are joining us for Christmas lunch - the table is set, the turkey is prepared and ready for roasting. Vegetables are all prepared too - I've just baked some bread which we can use with the leftover turkey for sandwiches with pickles in the evening. Our cocktail kit is out and has already been tested! (I have the hangover to prove it).

So, I think just a short ride this afternoon to sharpen my appetite would be just the ticket. I shall wear my santa hat and shout 'Merry Christmas' to everyone I see. It's quite warm here and the sun is out as I write this. It is calm and clear and seems perfect for a gentle amble around the lanes. Cycling of late has been pretty much non-existent for me. All the 'last-minute' Xmas stuff and some poorly timed work projects, combined with poor weather, left me with no time; the month has been a disappointing one in terms of mileage - I try to think of it as my 'resting and recuperation' period - hard work starts again in the new year (at least that's the theory)

It just remains for me to wish all of you: those who have followed this blog, those who have generously donated to our charity fund raising, all of our friends and families, a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

December update...

As Christmas approaches and the weather has at last shifted to something more applicable for the time of year it seems a good time to reflect on our achievements. As I write this I am looking out at a sparkling frosty morning. The sun is reflecting on the icy deposits and there is a light breeze ruffling what leaves remain on the trees in my garden. We have had over 9000 'hits' on this blog since it started and each month seems to attract new visitors. Our fundraising has come to its end and the current total stands at £7018.52 - a truly worthwhile amount. There may be people who still want to add to our funds and we are keeping the links open for anyone who feels inclined to make a donation.

As for riding - we are still getting out as much as possible - this time of year inevitably means less opportunity but so far, with the fair weather, my mileage is considerably better than during the same period a year ago. We are still pondering a challenge for next year and no definite decisions have been made - I'll keep you updated once we've decided. I've just been reading about the 'Tour Divide' a 2,745mile journey from Banff in Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico which traces the continental divide down America. It's a 100 miles per day for 27 days and takes in 200,000 feet of climbing - that's almost seven Mount Everest's!. The organisers don't pull their punches: "How well do you suffer for days on end? Are you prone to depression? Can you sleep in the dirt all night in pouring rain?" - And that's before they mention the bears. This sounds like the hardest of hardcore - check it out at

After clearing out my garage it might be possible to set up my turbo-trainer. I have to say I'm not a great fan of TT's - I know that they are a tried and tested method to keep training, especially in bad weather, but I just don't enjoy it - and we all know that if you don't enjoy something you tend to avoid it. I've decided to give it another try sometime soon - I can set up my old bike and leave it in there, plug in the iPod and try to get to grips with interval and heart rate monitors - it just doesn't attract me in the same way as being out on the roads does - we'll see. I'll keep you posted.

I have been ploughing my way through a host of cycling related books this year. I'll post a list at the end of the year. Currently I'm just finishing one about Fausto Coppi - he was the dominant international cyclist of the years each side of the second world war. His successes earned him the title 'Il Camionissimo - the champion of champions. He was an all-round racing cyclist: he excelled in both climbing and time trialing, and was also a great sprinter. He won the Giro de Italia five times, the Tour de France twice and the World Championship in 1953. Other notable results include winning the Giro de Lommbardia five times, the Milan-San Remo three times and setting the World Hour Record. He rode at a time when drug taking was the norm in cycling. The riders had to take some sort of stimulants merely to get through the incredible demands on their bodies - when asked about drug taking Coppi said he only took drugs when it was necessary - the interviewer asked him when it was necessary - "Almost always" was his reply. He died of malaria aged 40. The book is called Fallen Angel by William Fotheringham - an excellent and knowledgeable writer.