August 18th, 2008
3 days to go
August 18th 2008
Not long to go now, and it’s lovely to see that it’s raining in both Scotland AND Cornwall (where apparently it has rained pretty much continuously for the past 6 weeks). When Will and I started planning this challenge, we talked at length about whether the end of August was a good time to do it given the likely hot summer sun. Even as late as last week Sarah bought us some “sweat resistant sun-cream”, which I would wager will be a largely unused and irrelevant addition to our supplies at this rate.
Will’s brother and his wife Lisa have kindly done a cash-and-carry run for us to get much-needed food and drink for the ride. Having been round to Will’s yesterday, I would say that the Townrows’ are going to have to exercise 72 hours’ worth of extreme self-control not to dive into the 50 packets of dry roasted peanuts, 48 Mars Bars and countless cans of coke.
One last cycle ride yesterday round Richmond Park (where else) - just a single lap to make sure the bikes are okay (Will has a gear issue which will get rectified today or tomorrow).
We are going to be recording podcasts at the end of every day and these will be posted onto the website by Andy and Wayne at Netcommunities (well done lads - fantastic work so far!). I recorded the first such podcast on Friday with Wayne, who asked me about the challenge, why we were doing it, what we expected etc. Wayne is clearly very good at this sort of thing and very professional. Unfortunately, not even Wayne’s professionalism could overcome my ability to insert “er” after every single word.
On Saturday I visited the neonatal unit at St. George’s Hospital. The Friends of the unit are one of the two charities that we are sponsoring as part of the challenge. I was shown around the ward by the Sister Veronica Sim, who was absolutely charming and answered all of my questions. As I finished the tour, two nurses were wheeling a mobile incubator unit out of one of the wards. Although it was covered with a towel, I looked into one end of the unit and saw two tiny legs with feet on the end of them poking out of a small blanket. Other than the fact that everything was incredibly small, everything was also incredibly red and the thought that went through my mind was “that cannot possibly be a human being”. The sight of that baby will stay with me throughout this challenge and if it can’t act as motivation for me to climb the toughest hills then I am at a loss to think what can.
The charity raises between £80,000 and £100,000 per year for the unit. I would like us to reach £8,000 for the unit so we have contributed 10% of the annual spend. It is a small charity supporting a vital unit; St George’s neonatal unit treats upwards of 500 babies per year and there were 32 babies in the unit when I went in - 35 is the maximum they can take. Unlike many of the neonatal units at other hospitals, it is also conducts surgery which makes it even more important. I left the unit knowing that this, like the Royal Marsden, is a great charity and an unbelievably worthy cause.
August 14th, 2008
10 days to go
August 11th 2008
10 days to go
Will and I managed 80 miles round Richmond Park on Saturday. This will be the longest ride we do before the event itself. I comfort myself by remembering that marathon runners only run 20 miles maximum in one run before they do a marathon. However the cycling equivalent for us would be to cycle for 100 miles for around 7 consecutive days. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
Highlights/lowlights of the ride included;
(a) the irritatingly cheery “Morning!” from the London club female leader as she and her male cycling harem cruised past us both. Whenever anyone overtakes us, Will always says to me “leave it Matt - they’re training for something different”. He says that line a lot.
(b) on lap 3 I almost killed a squirrel. Or he almost wrecked my bike. Or both I suppose. I’m still not sure who was more scared. Probably me - I bet this happens to him a lot.
(c) on lap 8 (some 61 miles in) it started raining. It didn’t stop for the remaining 19 miles. I’m not saying it rained a lot but if someone had thrown a bucket of water over me when I got home I would have been drier. Will and I made a note to make sure we avoid the rain whilst cycling from now on.
(d) after lap 5 we stopped for a break, during which I got snack-envy watching Will tuck into his KP dry roasted peanuts. The envy subsided as I squeezed the last remnants out from my blackcurrant carbohydrate gel and positively vanished as I drooled over my almond, raisin and cranberry Alpen bar.
My cycling gloves have still not dried out and it’s now Monday night. Perhaps we need to take a hairdryer with us?
Today I went to Evans to arrange to have a triple gear set put on my bike, which will give me a wider range of gears. The guy who served me was so drugged up he looked like something off Trainspotting. By way of explanation (at least I think it was) he told me he was into mountain bikes.
The good news was that they had a triple gear set in stock. The bad news was this would cost me £300 (new shifters as well you see?). This seemed a little expensive (what with the fact the whole bike only cost me £800). I tried to look like I was considering it for a few seconds and that this piece of news was utterly unsurprising to me before casually telling him I would go away and think about it. By the time I’d reached the door of the shop I’d completed my thinking time. When I am struggling to cycle up a mountain in Scotland I’ll remind myself of this foolish decision but console myself that at least my bank account is £300 less in the red than it would have been.
August 7th, 2008
14 days to go
Will and I had an End to End committee meeting this week. Issues resolved included the much debated “Minibus versus people carrier” support vehicle matter (for the record the mini-bus won) as well as dietary requirements (covering snack selection, mid-morning drinks (having nobly gone for “cold spring water” I admit to changing when I saw that Will has gone for “very cold Coke” - though I am nervous about the impact of the bubbles…).
I have had the bike serviced at Evans. for some reason they charged me £25 when I left the bike with them - initially I thought this may have been a deposit before it suddenly dawned on me that my £800 bike (plus hand-held Blackburn pump) might constitute an effective deposit against a £55 service. When I picked the bike up they took a further £30 off me. Other than a receipt wrapped around the top bar saying “Service Complete” there is absolutely no discernible sign that anything has been changed or even looked at. Maybe I should have punctured the back tyre before handing it over to them as a test.
The only mechanical issue that remains is that of the gears. I have spoken to three different people at Evans now and each one of them has given me a different piece of advice. This would not be so much of a problem if I had the first clue about gears, but in truth I know as much about the gears on a bicycle as I do about the inner workings of the motor car (which is nothing. My comments on cars are limited to “Top Gear is rubbish” and “other than serving a useful carrying function, the motor car is a fast depreciating asset”. Spot the accountant).
August 4th, 2008
17 days to go
Quote of the day (attributed to H.G. Wells):
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race…
I went up to see some friends on Friday and Saturday but as any semi-professional road cyclist will tell you (!) you can’t let leisure time get in the way of a cycling challenge like the End to End. So I packed the bike in the car so I could do some cycling. Our friends live just outside Corby (Fact 1: one of the largest populations of Glaswegians outside Glasgow owing to the steelworks; Fact 2: the largest town in Britain without a railway station - that should be enough for you to play with if the subject of Corby ever comes up at a dinner party…) so I ended up cycling to Rutland Water and back twice plus another halfway there and back, a run totalling 50 miles. Lots of climbs (which I enjoy almost as much as I enjoy root canal work) but it’s all good practice (apparently). If anyone needs to know the way to Rutland Water from Gretton I am an expert.
Then on to see my parents on Saturday night and Sunday and this gave me a chance to cycle some of the actual End to End route (the first 12 miles of day 8 to be precise!). As it transpires, Richmond Park bears little or no resemblance to the rest of the UK’s highways and byways - there are more hills in the real world for starters.
The bikes are going in for a service on Tuesday and Will and I are both having some alterations done to our gears (more of them I think, so we can cycle up steep hills without slipping off the back of the bike).
T minus 17 and counting.
July 27th, 2008
25 days to go
Will and I did 45 miles yesterday (around somewhere I like to call Richmond Park) and 25 miles today from Clapham to Bromley (round a deliberately circuitous route). Both rides went pretty well, although today was the hottest day of the year in the late 20″s - a taste of some of the more likely conditions for the real thing. Will was suffering from a hangover and swore from now on he will on line casino never get drunk the night before a cycle ride. I believe him. I believed him last time he said that as well - you must have faith in your cycling companion!
Apparently the guy with the artificial leg who overtook me the other day lost his real leg in the first Iraq war and is known as a fitness freak who still exercises loads. What a relief - as far as I am concerned this means I was overtaken by the cycling equivalent of Oscar Pretorius. No shame in that!
Someone asked me today how many times we will have cycled 100 miles in a day prior to attempting to do ten such days in August. Er….none?!
July 23rd, 2008
29 days to go
This time in four weeks we will have done the worst bit, the 10 hour drive to John O’Groats in a mini bus.
Back to training after the holiday, with 25 km before work; not sure if Matt ‘Hills’ Green has done anything today; still basking in the glory of his weekend ride.
July 21st, 2008
33 days to go
Good evening London; this is Menorca calling.
Holiday training going as well as can be expected-very little. (Well, I ran for twenty minutes yesterday before the most enormous meal!)
Taking a well earned break following a good week in the saddle, and but already looking forward to getting back on the road again next week.
‘Another SanMiguel please’
Will report back to training next week, hopefully with less work to do than a pre fight Ricki Hatton!
July 20th, 2008
34 days to go
With Will taking a mid-season summer break in Menorca (where I believe he will be training at altitude), I cycled on my own round Richmond Park and covered 66 miles. It went reasonably well (mainly because I chose to cycle with inflated tyres), although as I commenced my sixth lap (having covered some 40 miles by that point) I was overtaken by a bloke with an artificial leg. The following things went through my mind as he cruised past casino spiele me:
- I”ve just been overtaken by a man who has half the number of legs I have.
- How does he manage to get his artificial leg out of the cleat?
Morale dipped briefly, but recovered when I overtook a wheelchair cyclist halfway up a hill.
Hills are proving to be somewhat of an issue for me. Infact as Will says in my profile, it”s actually any incline whatsover. I”m looking forward to Scotland and Cornwall.
We”re doing a lot of training round Richmond Park - I hope the UK looks like Henry VIII”s hunting grounds or we”re in deep doo-doo.
July 16th, 2008
38 days to go
At the end of last summer, Will & I were sat in the Eco pizzeria on Clapham High Street and agreed to do this cycle ride. If I knew the importance of the power to weight ratio at that time, I would have passed on those pizza slices.
Training has gone okay - but we need to do more. We are up to 55 miles but we have yet to do two consecutive days of serious mileage. We have just 5 weekends left and at least one of those is out for each of us.
Will has managed to convince Science in Sport to give him huge discounts on their cycling products. They have given him an Elite Athlete password on their website. Every time I try to go in using the password it throws me out with a “Do not recognise” error message. Curse the intelligence of e-commerce!
I think the Evans cycle store in Clapham has taken out a restraining order on me because I go in there so often, so I have switched to going into the West End shop instead. Once they’ve seen me for the eighteenth time this week they might be less friendly but I’m enjoying the honeymoon period.