Here we go again!!

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Howdy folks!

Been a while huh? Well it’s safe to say that cycling has most definitely NOT taken priority over the last few months, in fact at all this year. My Masters degree, babysitting and working have kept me plenty busy, and any spare time I’ve had has been used trying to keep on top of everything else or actually, occasionally having some down time. But, it’s paid off as I have been able to bash out some pretty good exams and assignments and I’m rocking a very pleasing average so far!

But, what brings me back to this blog? I’m at it again.

As I clearly don’t have enough to do over the next 4-5 weeks (writing a 12,000 word dissertation, a 2000 word report, a poster presentation, house/cat/dog sitting for 2.5 weeks AND moving house, as well as trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life post-uni) I’ve decided to add an 80 mile cycle event into the mix. I’m a sucker for a challenge eh? (Or maybe mad, not quite sure which yet, answers on a postcard please).

Now, as mentioned above, to say that my schedule is hectic and my stress levels are high would be the understatement of the century. But, cycling was a good stress reliever last year and I’m hoping it can be the same this time around. Albeit working towards an event 20 miles shorter than the century last year but with about quarter of the time to get some level of fitness back.

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Up until about 2-3 weeks ago I could probably count the number of ‘decent’ (i.e. 10 mile+) rides that I had done so far this year on both hands. So when I set out last Sunday to cycle 30 miles with no idea of my fitness levels I was rather chuffed to roll back in to Bath with 41 miles under my belt. Despite no training rides during this week (working on it!) I managed to get out today and bump that up to 48.5 (was aiming for 50 but a mapping error mucked that one up).

I think I’ve got an 80 in the tank. With all the doubts surrounding dissertation and my future, I’m feeling pretty solid about this one. However, dissertation, the report and the poster presentation are due on September 5th. This ride is September 7th, in Oxford. Whilst I am gunning for the 80 miler, there is every chance I may have to bail and go for the 50 miler instead, although I know it is highly unlikely I’d allow myself to do that because I know I’d be gutted.

So there it is. 80 miles planned for a ride in just over a month with a sh*t load to do between now and then.

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Whilst this is not going to be a huge fundraising effort like the Wiltshire 100 was (I quite simply don’t have the time) I have set up a justgiving page and if anyone would like to donate to the worthy cause for which I will be riding then please, do feel free.

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The Charity is the Lullaby Trust. A charity providing specialist support for bereaved families and anyone affected by a sudden infant death. In the last year to 18 months I have met numerous people and families both through day to day life and also my cycling who have gone through what I can only imagine is the ordeal of losing a child. The number of people I know personally is scary, and I wanted to ride for a different charity this year, and this one seemed fitting. Until recently I didn’t know very much at all about this charity and I am still learning and researching, but I hope to share some of their work with you like I did for LLR last year in a blog post.

As I said, no big fundraising push this year, perhaps some training updates, but please do donate HERE if you can/would like to.

I’ll try and keep you updated amidst the madness about how training is coming along 🙂

It’s good to be back in the saddle.

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September and October Update.

So, it’s been a little while since I last posted (best bits of my training), let alone updated! I could say that is because there hasn’t been much happening, but that would be a lie. I’ve been so busy over the last month. So much so, that cycling has had to take a bit of a back seat and I most definitely haven’t been getting out as much as I would have liked. I started my Masters degree in late September and things have been all go since, especially as I am working quite a bit too! I have got out occasionally though, and there has been an exciting addition to my cycling 🙂 Notice anything different/new in the picture below?

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Something different? (Apart from my abnormally sized head and seeming lack of feet?!?)

After lots of looking around and test riding, on September 25th I bought my brand new trusty stead! A beautiful Cannondale Synapse. I bought her from the guys at a shop called Cadence in Bath and absolutely love her. Being on a road bike is such a different feeling. My first few cycles were just getting used to the new position, then a few cycles later my miles per hour have gradually crept up. The bike is wonderfully light and comfortable to ride. I’m so glad that I decided to wait to buy this bike, and complete the 100 on my hybrid (Nezzy) because it has made me appreciate this one SO much! Especially as I had to scrimp and save a lot over the summer to be able to justify it! I am yet to name her, any ideas? Nezzy has now returned back to Cornwall and I am assured she is being looked after – was very sad seeing her go – after all the hours and miles I spent on her! I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of her properly if I can help it!

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Pretty new bike (mine has pedals – helps with the cycling part!)

On September 28th, I headed up to Birmingham for ‘The Cycle Show’. A huge convention in the NEC. I drove up with a few friends from Twitter (Rob who is a fantastic cycle help, his wife Lucie and their little girl). It was a great atmosphere to be in, with everyone chatting about how much they loved bikes. I bought a few things, namely this sports nutrition pack which was being sold rather cheaply – so I’m well stocked up!

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Stocked up for a fiver!

I picked up lots of freebies and information and lots of the leaflets helped me make my collage that I had been meaning to do for ages, to keep motivation up over winter!

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Cycling Appreciation

I also got to see Atherton Racing Team talk about their racing – was pretty inspirational to hear, especially as they talked about their injuries and experiences, even though they are downhill and not road bike, a lot they had to say was relevant!

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Inspirational Atherton Racing Team

I entered lots of competitions whilst I was there and manage to win a new cycling Jersey worth £45. Representing Great Britain! Looking forward to wearing it soon.

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Always nice to win competitions,especially when cycle related!

Talking about cycling pretty much the whole way there and the whole way back was great too (Thanks Rob and Lucie!).

The 3rd of October saw me hitting my ultimate fundraising target of £750. A huge achievement and I am so proud to have raised such an incredibly amount for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. Plans are in the pipeline for an official handover of the amount – which I’m looking forward to – once things settle down a bit. A HUGE thank you to everyone who donated – I cannot express how much I appreciate it!

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100% of my target reached – AMAZING!

Aside from university and lots of working, I have managed to get out on a few rides. A couple of days after getting my bike, my friend and I enjoyed a hungover ride to Bristol along the railway path.Stopping at Roll For The Soul for some food and drink. If anyone from the Bath/Bristol area is reading this and you haven’t been to Roll For The Soul (cyclist or NOT!) please go! It’s delicious vegetarian/vegan food at an extremely reasonable price, made with love, exceptional quality and the staff are a great bunch. It’s a not for profit organisation who are basically Bristol’s main cycle hub. It’s incredible – go!

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Warming cuppa at Roll For The Soul Bristol.
(representing with my LLR cycle top!)

Whilst Leandra and I were sat drinking our tea and filling our tummys, we suddenly realised that the night was drawing in. We’d completely forgotten that it would get dark! So we set off, with only Leandra’s front light to guide us. It was a bit hair-raising at times, cycling along the railway path in the dark, but the sky was incredible, it was really exciting, albeit scary at times! We stopped for a picture too!

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Bikes casually chilling in the dark!

I also have been out on two club rides with the University Cycling Club since the new semester started. I’m still trying to find my niche. I’m definitely not in the slow group, but the intermediate is a challenge. So I’m trying to figure it out. After my training for the 100, I’m used to rolling hills and a steady pace in order to tot up the long mileage. So it is difficult getting used to a club who storm up massive hills, and keep their speed up. I’m going to head out with them occasionally though, and hope they don’t mind me trailing along at the back!

As a result of my slow hill climbing I have been trying to incorporate some hill repeats into my cycling. It’s quite a good thing to do when you want to work hard and only have an hour or so. I had a study break a few weeks ago and hit North Road which leads up to the uni. I did a few reps (literally up and down and repeat). Was good – I’ll definitely try and keep that up if I can find the time!

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Hill repeats will be the death of me (but worth it)

I also had another social ride along the Bath to Bristol cyclepath with Talitha, who I met when I was a cycle marshall for the Bath Half this year, and have since talked to a fair bit on twitter. She hadn’t tried the food at Roll For The Soul, so we set a date and time and headed there!

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Start of the Bath to Bristol Cycle Path.

The weather was a little deceiving, sunny and almost warm in the morning, then drizzly in the afternoon – so I was rather muddy when I got home. But I really enjoyed the cycle and the pace – it was good to chat to someone else who loves cycling and know they won’t get sick of hearing about it.

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Delicious feed at Roll For The Soul!

I had cake this time too – so yummy!

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Amazing Lemon and Polenta Cake!

I also decided to purchase a cotton t-shirt. I spotted it the first time I was there and couldn’t stop thinking about how soft and snuggly it was! Representing the local (ish) cycle scene!

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Super soft Roll For The Soul t-shirt!

Some other non cycling but cycle related attire has been added to my wardrobe. I found these awesome PJ bottoms in Primark and snapped them up straight away – even though they are 3 sizes too big!

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Best PJ bottoms EVER.

I spent a little time totting up my stats for the year so far and was pleasantly surprised. Whilst I know my mileage is nowhere near as much as some people who cycle ALL the time, I am extremely proud of this year and my efforts over the summer. It’s great looking at the numbers and seeing it all add up! So far this year Ive cycled 1770 miles, an average of 147.5 miles a month (however I didn’t cycle in January and only once in Feb). My highest mileage in a month, was August, when I cycled 538 miles. My highest mileage in a week, was August 19th – 25th, when I cycled 167 miles. My longest cycle, was the Century Ride I did in September (100 miles). I would like to break 2000 miles this year. Which is somewhat achievable provided I manage my time and actually manage to get out on my bike more than I have the last few weeks!

Looking forward. I have just ordered some decent bike lights so that I can go on evening rides without having to worry. So I’ll hopefully be joining some of the twitter people for some after work cycles which will be good! I’m going to try and get out with the University Cycling Cub when I can, however I now work on Wednesday’s which makes it somewhat impossible! Now and again though maybe! Ive also been meaning to head out with VC Walcot, a Bath based cycling club. I sadly can’t make their easy riders on a Sunday morning (work again) but I may try their steady ride on a Saturday morning. I’m also going to spend the next few months working on my base fitness levels, looking for events to take part in, building on my cycling gear/accessories and possibly cross training with swimming. Stretching and Pilates are also hopefully going to be put into the occasion!

This update has taken me forever – I’ll definitely try and keep on top of it in the future 🙂

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Reminiscing – Best bits!

So, two weeks after the event I am missing the training and the focus of having an event to prepare for. I haven’t been out on my bike that much in the last two weeks for various reasons (tiredness, weather, time etc). I have however been researching for that new bike I am planning to buy in the near future. However, with the nights drawing in and summer seeming long gone I have been thinking about what an awesome summer I had, and I think a lot of that is down to the amount of time I spent outdoors, breathing in the fresh air and pushing down on those pedals. So I thought I would do a summary of my favourite bits from my summer of training for the Wiltshire 100.

Making it official
On June 15th I signed up for the Wiltshire 100 and committed to doing a decent job of training and fundraising for the charity Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. I remember feeling incredibly nervous announcing my plans, even though I had told a few people I was toying with the idea of a century ride. Posting on facebook, registering, creating a just giving page and starting this blog really hit home that it was a serious thing and the feelings that followed included nerves and excitement. If I was going to do this – I was going to do it properly!

Birthday Cycle – 25th June

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Lovely weather on the birthday cycle.

The day I headed out to cycle on my birthday was a sure sign that I was really enjoying my new found love for cycling. A steady ride took me through the two tunnels which I loved – although I confirmed that I am not a huge fan of tunnels! It was great to see the work that had gone into this fantastic path way and it was beautiful weather too.

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Exploring the two tunnels.

My first ‘long’ ride – June 30th

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42 miles.

Although I had (accidentally!) cycled 33 miles before (I got lost!) on June 30th I set out with 40 miles in mind. I particularly enjoyed this cycle as I met with my friend Sophie and we did a few miles together before stopping for a pub lunch and cycling back. This was also the ride where I cycled up ‘Mason Hill’ in Bradford on Avon and barely felt out of breath at the top, which was an achievement! I remember feeling so proud that I had cycled 40 miles, but also incredibly daunted by the fact that it wasn’t even half of the distance I was facing on September 8th. Looking back now, 40 miles is a ride I would consider to me mid length – which is funny in retrospect. This ride was a taster of the lovely places surrounding Bath which I would encounter throughout my training.

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Social ride to Bradford on Avon.

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Pub lunch!

Cornish roads in a heatwave -July 13th

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Water stop in a heatwave.

The week after my graduation and during the hot weather I headed home for a weekend and took the opportunity to try and break the 50 mile mark. With the horrendous heat I made sure I stopped for water and food, and had a delicious smoothie in Rock when dropping by on my brother who was at work. I enjoyed the different roads and of course, breaking the 50 mile mark was definitely an achievement and I remember my legs shaking when I got back. The driveway leading up to the house felt like a mountain and I collapsed onto the lawn right away.

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Beautiful pit stop in Rock.

Breaking the 60 mile mark – July 21st

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60 miles.

I headed out onto some different roads, still in the heat and managed to rack up 60 miles. I remember feeling good about this ride, I was past the 50 mile point and closer to 100. I was determined that I could do it and the possibility of completing was becoming more of a reality and these longer rides were starting to crush the doubts I had about finishing (which was all I had set out to do originally).

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Stopping for food just outside of Westbury.

5.30am wake up call – 3rd August

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Questioning my sanity at 5.30am.

As well as cycling on my birthday – getting up at 5.30am to fit in a cycle before work was a sign that I had caught the cycling bug. I remember waking up thinking what *am* I doing?!? But I was determined to do it. The city was beautiful as I cycled out. Not a single car on the road and the sun breaking through the clouds was a sight I normally missed due to being tucked up in bed. This particular cycle showed me (and hopefully others) how committed I was to my training and how determined I was to do well.

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Preparation was key for 5.30am.

70 mile point – 10th August

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Tea in Warminster didn’t happen due to forgetting my money (lesson learnt!)

I have mixed memories about this cycle. It was HOT and I ran low on water and I forgot money. I ‘bonked’. My legs felt like lead and I had zero energy left because I hadn’t eaten or drunk adequately. However, I remember feeling good about this cycle because most training schedules I had looked at for a century ride had recommended 70 as the highest mileage to cover before the event. I felt accomplished albeit absolutely zonked. I learnt my lesson though and certainly got the hang of hydration and nutrition after this very difficult ride.

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70 miles.

Biggest one before the ride – 24th August

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My absolute favourite ride – everything was perfect!

This ride was fantastic, and probably my absolute favourite apart from the Wiltshire 100 itself, but it’s close competition between the two. I headed out without many expectations, 40 perhaps would be good, but at 60 I had been eating well and just wanted to keep going. I think I could have just cycled on and on this day, maybe even reached 100. I felt fantastic. It was a true example of proper nutrition and drinking could be such a huge benefit and help in any ride.

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Correct nutrition played a huge part!

Just thinking about this one makes me smile and I remember I felt so so happy and incredibly after doing it. I knew that I had completed 80% of the main ride, therefore I would only have about 1.5 hours of cycling on top of what I had already achieved. This cycle was perfect timing in a down period where I struggled with my training. Helped by the fantastic suggestion of visiting the Walled Gardens at Well’s, which wasn’t intentional, however a random turn towards Frome had me heading out over some of the hills and enjoying a cheese scone and cuppa in the drizzle. I got wet on this ride but I still felt amazing. Definitely one of my big achievements and most memorable rides throughout my training, I just beam thinking about it 😀

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A lovely pit stop recommended by a friend.

And that feels like a fantastic memory to end on. This summer, training for the cycle made me appreciate some of the truly beautiful places that are only a few miles outside of Bath. Cycling reconnected me with nature, even when the weather was horrible or my legs felt heavy or I felt like my training was going down the pan, all I had to do was look around and take in what I was surrounding by and I always felt so humbled and lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

Cycling this summer also helped me personally – it has been such a great stress reliever and an escape from any stress (work, post grad study, finances). When I’m out on the bike I am usually beaming from ear to ear, or if I’m gritting my teeth and swearing to myself whilst climbing a stonking great hill – I am usually still enjoying every single moment of it. I’ve never really been a sporty person, I used to slave away in the gym which was great at the time, but I have never had a specific sport or hobby.

Cycling helped my confidence so much. It was something that I started doing because I enjoyed it, and then I started to think ‘hmm I’m OK at this’ and now I can happily say that I am a strong cyclist and I am good at what I do and that is a fantastic feeling. Ironically, going to the gym in an attempt to maintain a good figure never felt all that enjoyable, or at least certainly not as much as cycling.

Embarking on my cycling journey my sole aim was to train for the Wiltshire 100, the fact that my confidence increased and I actually achieved an athletic and strong body that I am proud of is an added bonus (and also ironic considering I was just cycling, occasionally swimming and eating enough to feed an army). Taking the focus away from what I look like to what my body is capable of (which is a lot by the way) is such a rewarding feeling. Setting yourself a big challenge, and then lots of little ones along the way is a great way to build confidence in your ability, and breaking those little goals one by one is a fantastic feeling.

And talking of goals – my fundraising!!! I started out with a £250 aim. I am now at £730 with a few more donations to come in. I have set myself the target of £750 which would be incredibly to meet. I have written to a the local newspaper at home and am doing a few more things to bring in some more last minute donations. So, if you want to contribute towards this aim and haven’t already, please considering donating (ANY amount) at http://www.justgiving.com/tamsyncycles100

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Wiltshire 100 – Ride Round Up 08/09/2013.

So a week after completing the Wiltshire 100 ( YES I completed!!) I am finally getting around to do the round up. I’ll be honest, this week has been pretty busy which is part of the reason it has taken me so long, but equally I have been putting it off because I am sad that the Wiltshire 100 is no longer a goal in my life! Although I am sure, soon enough I’ll find another one to focus on.

Pre-ride…

On Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5.15am. Unlike I had imagined, I didn’t leap out of bed ready to go but instead snoozed my alarm clock until 5.30a. I was exhausted – having barely slept the night before. I wasn’t feeling good and it wasn’t looking promising for the cycle in terms of my energy and motivation. In fact, getting ready and having breakfast in the cold and dark that early in the morning, the whole prospect of the cycle felt incredibly surreal.

I had my standard go to cycling breakfast which I have had many times during my training, a wholemeal bagel, hazelnut spread and a banana, with a cup of tea. It always worked a treat and tastes good too – although eating that early in the morning was certainly a challenge to say the least!

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Standard cycle breakfast!

Once I was fed and watered I jumped on my bike and cycled to my car which was parked nearby. I loaded up and got driving out to Devizes where the ride started and finished. It was freezing cold but on the drive out the sky was absolutely beautiful as the sun rised. I was going to stop and take a photo but I was quite eager to get to the start and get going! I was feeling a little uneasy about the colour of the sky, with the saying ‘red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds warning.

I arrived in Devizes, parked up my car and unloaded my bike. Got everything ready and whipped off my warm clothes down to my cycling Jersey and shorts. I made sure I had everything I needed and after being positive I did, I took a photo and headed off to the start line.

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Ready to go!

After a quick toilet stop, a photo from one of the volunteers from Bike Events and checking in, I was ready to go. 20 minutes later than my planned departure of 7am.

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About to head to the start line!

The ride…

Cycling across the start line felt very strange but it felt good to get out on the road. I followed a group of people on road bikes for the first few miles until we got out of the town and onto the more quiet back roads. It was weird, all the world was quiet and asleep except for a few crazy people decked out in lycra and ready for a day of cycling. Starting out felt quite heavy, my legs took a little while to loosen up and I was only too aware of how many hours I had ahead of me. Not long after cycling a lady also on a hybrid tucked in behind me and we were to keep each other going and well paced for the majority of the ride.

I pulled into the 25 mile rest stop after 1 hour and 36 minutes of cycling – the quickest I had ever done from what I can remember! I was buzzing and felt great – I was positive I was going to come in a lot quicker than I had planned. A quick loo break, phone call to mum, text to a friend, filling up the water bottle and a bite to eat and I was back on the road.

I quickly realised that those first 25 miles were definitely my easiest and had perhaps lulled me into a false sense of security. The next 25 miles were a lot slower, but rest stops along the way broke it up and I came into the 45 mile rest stop feeling alright, but knowing that my original pace would not be held for the rest of the ride and the hills that followed made sure of that.

45-75 miles were probably the most testing part of the ride for me. I wasn’t starting to hurt or feel like it was difficult as such, it was just the slog whereby I had done over halfway but knew I still had a long way to go. My legs were feeling heavy and I was so determined not to bonk that I made sure I ate A LOT whilst riding. There was no way I was not going to complete because I had run out of energy. Between about 60 and 75 miles my shoulder started hurting, and I decided that when I reached the 75 mile rest stop I would take a couple of Ibruprofen to relieve the pain. Now, here we refer back to when I was unloading my bike and getting everything I thought I needed into my Jersey and my bike bag. This was were I discovered that I hadn’t packed my Ibruprofen and I knew exactly where it was. Sitting in the front pocket of my rucksack in the boot of my car – 75 miles back or 25 miles ahead! There was nothing to do except eat some flapjack and just battle on!

The next few miles took me out through Marlborough, and rumours had been spreading amongst the cyclists that this was where all the hills began. Thankfully, my training on big hills such as Bathwick, Widcombe and those down in Cornwall had prepared me for these climbs and in comparison were rolling hills as opposed to massive hills. I managed them OK. Around the point that the hills started – so did the rain. It was slightly unpleasant but didn’t last long and was in some ways quite nice to cool off.

About 12 miles before the end I texted my friend Nadia who was due to meet me at the finish line and also had something else to eat as I was starting to feel tired. In either of those moments I failed to see a sign and missed a turning – meaning that a few miles down the road I was facing a huge hill that I didn’t remember seeing on the route map. Sure enough, after looking at my route map I realised I had cycled a few miles out of my way and had lost the main route. Before heading over the hill I decided it would be a good idea to pop into a pub right next to me and ask for directions. The staff at ‘The Bell at West Overton‘ kindly obliged and wrote down some directions for me and offered me a water refill which I was incredibly thankful for. (A side note – if you are ever out there – it’s a lovely looking pub and on any other occasion I probably would have stopped for a drink but the finish line was so near!)

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Kindly written directions to get me back on track – note ‘over hill’.

My detour to get back onto the main route involved a horrible climb which normally would have been fine but after nearly 90 miles of cycling my legs certainly didn’t appreciate it. I was strong though and was beginning to be fueled and powered by the sheer determination to just finish this event. A couple of miles later I was back on the main route, about a mile away from where I had missed the turning, meaning I had added a few extra miles to my ride and also a big hill I hadn’t accounted for – doh!

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The route map – which I followed for most of the way – doh!

I was so glad to be back on the right road and the relief gave me so much energy to just keep going. I joined back into the ride behind another female rider who had a fantastic pace and road very similarly to me in terms of gear changes and standing up whilst climbing hills. I followed her in for the last ten miles or so (she refused to let me return the favour of a tow!). It was in these last few miles that I spotted a man in a hedge and wondered to myself “Hmm, I wonder what he’s doing there”. Thankfully I quickly saw his camera and put on my smile for a photo – which I have subsequently purchased from the event photographers (I figure it will be the first of many, but it is the first which is important!).

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Beaming from ear to ear and loving every minute of it.

Those last few miles I think I pedalled faster than I have ever pedalled before. I could feel the emotion and elation building up in my throat and my chest, I was excited and I suddenly had all this energy and power to get me to the finish line. I was beaming from ear to ear.

The end & post ride…

At this point I knew that my very good friend Nadia would be waiting for me at the finish line and I was greeted by a wonderful homemade sign. As I came around the corner and crossed that finish line I literally could not see through the tears. I was so relieved, happy and proud to have achieved what I set out to do. A lovely lady from work called Megwen also kindly met me at the finish line and after lots of hugs, tears and photos I was treated to a wonderful massage in the massage therapy tent which was superb and really helped my shoulder. Interestingly, my legs felt fine after the ride but it was my neck and shoulder that were giving me problems.

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Megwen’s snapshot of me coming across the finish line 8 hours and ten minutes after going the other way.

I finished in about 7.5 hours. My heart rate monitor recorded 8 hours ten minutes, however that was about 5 minutes before starting and would have included my rest stops, detour and the time I spent in the pub getting directions. Therefore, I am certain it was sub 8 hours, but am estimating about 7.5. I hadn’t told anyone, but I had secretly been aiming to do it in less than 8 hours, so I was extremely pleased with this time. I realised something out on this ride. During my training I had noticed that so many (8 out of 10 – at least) of the cyclists I see on the road never ever smile or strike up conversation, it seems to be this unwritten rule. As anyone who knows me will know, I’m a pretty friendly chatty person and I ALWAYS smile at other cyclists no matter what and very rarely I am greeted with a smile and not a steely gaze. However, on this ride I discovered where all the friendly smiley cyclists are – HERE doing these rides! Everyone was so friendly, chatty and keeping up such a good atmosphere – it was really wonderful and has definitely made me keen to do more events.

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Tears of joy and elation at the finish line.

After my massage I walked to my car whilst giving mum a call and packed up my bike. Devouring the chocolate soy milk I had bought especially for my post ride recovery drink. I had a wonderful Bath at Nadia’s flat, followed by champagne, wine and chinese take away. The perfect post ride celebrations that didn’t involve moving from the sofa.

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The proof!

On Monday morning I woke up and braced myself to get out of bed. Amazingly I felt no aches or pains (except for in my head which I think was probably due to celebrations) and was very glad to not be stiff at all. I spent the whole of Monday on an absolute high and was buzzing the entire time. I wanted to tell everyone what I had done and was beaming from ear to ear!

On Tuesday, the tiredness hit me. Starting my new residential warden job which involves running up and down lots of stairs as students arrived wasn’t ideal, but luckily I still didn’t get achy legs – just a little fatigued! I felt incredibly drained though. A few days of good food and early nights put me back on the right track and I’m feeling good now a week later as I would expect!

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Good food getting me back on track!

I haven’t been on my bike since the big ride. But I can’t wait to go out for a cycle. This week has been hectic and I am looking forward to getting back to university with a schedule where I can pencil in rides. In terms of where I am heading next, I am going to be extremely busy with the residential warden job, other paid work and of course my masters which starts in a week or two. However, as my first ever cycle tan begins to fade, my love for this wonderful sport (it feels weird to call it that because it is so much more) most definitely will not and cycling will continue to be a huge part of my life.

I am currently in the process of researching and testing out road bikes in order to upgrade to something a little lighter and more high-performance than my lovely hybrid. I will be sad to see Nezzy go, she has served me so well and I have definitely put in plenty of miles. She will be going to my mum though – so I’m keeping it in the family (and she WILL be looked after – right mum?! Think Travis!) Future challenges that I have in mind include a yearly mileage aim, more cycle events for sure (I have the bug), a cycling holiday and perhaps, if I can get over my utter hatred for running, a triathlon. Most of all though, I am super excited to get a lovely new bike and start another wonderful relationship with a beautiful piece of kit!

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Research begins for a shiny new bike.

With regard to fundraising, I am currently in the process of collecting offline donations in order to see where my total stands, I am hoping it will be in the region of £650 at present. If you would still like to donate (now that I have actually done it!) you can find the link at http://www.justgiving.com/tamsyncycles100 for the next month or so. I plan to keep this blog going now with any cycle adventures or updates, and I will love looking back over the highs and lows of my journey to cycling a century!

Here’s to many more miles in the future and the continuing of a wonderful relationship with cycling!

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JOB DONE! BIG Thank You to everyone 🙂

(Also, big thanks to everyone who supported me in one way or another over the last few months. Friends, family and of course all the cycle gang on Twitter who have also been super helpful with any of my worries or queries, not to mention their words of encouragement, support and advice!)

The night before!

So, it is currently 8.30pm as I start writing this, less than 12 hours before I start the ride I have been training for all summer, and this time tomorrow I will most definitely have been long finished, with hopefully a roast dinner in my tummy and champagne in my hand.

Everything is laid out ready to go, the bike is all checked over and I have some carbs in my belly. I’ve been trying to keep hydrated the last few days and make sure to eat sensibly to fuel me as best as possible. I’ve had my very good friend Leandra (who also cycles) with me for a few days and she has done an excellent job of keeping me distracted and stopping me from losing the plot altogether.

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Leandra was also subjected to my carb loading last night!

This week has involved taking it easy with cycling, with just a few short rides and one easy ride before a few rest days off the bike (although Leandra and I did plenty of walking the last few days so I’m not sure how rested they really are! I’ve been eating carbs and I also attempted some cycle themed nails for the big day!

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Messy attempt at cycle themed nails!

My shoulder, which has been playing up of late seems to be doing ok. I’ve been using a hot water bottle on it as much as I can, particularly when I go to bed and I had a fantastic physio session on Tuesday from the wonderful Adeleine Blackman from Back on Track Sports Injury Clinic. I’ll definitely be returning to her after the cycle to get my shoulder sorted once and for all. I definitely don’t want it holding me back on future cycles and now I know what is going on – hopefully it’ll be easier to look after it!

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I can highly recommend Adeleine Blackman at Back on Track!

So the final things to do are to get my shorts out of the tumble dryer once they are dry, get my hot water bottle on my shoulder, have a banana and update my ipod with my stellar cycling playlist that the folks on twitter and facebook have helped me with this week! Then it is off to bed ready for my 5.30am start. The plan is to get up and have breakfast, get dressed, load my bike etc up and then drive out to the start line. I’m aiming to start at about 7am and the weather is looking promising after lots of rain being forecast so please all keep your fingers crossed!

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Ready for my 5.30am start!

I’ll be honest – I’m feeling nervous and a little shaky – perhaps from adrenaline – but I can only think that is a good thing to be powered up on!

So until tomorrow evening when all this will be done – bye for now!!!

Where your money is going.

So, as people know – I am riding this event for the incredible charity, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (LLR) , the UK’s only charity dedicated to improving the lives of those diagnosed with all types of blood cancer. They truly believe that ‘together, we are unstoppable‘ and ‘we will not stop until blood cancer has been beaten‘, and my cycle is just a small contribution to that aim.

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Those of you who have donated so far may have a general idea of what Leukaemia and Lymphoma is and an even more general idea of what LLR actually do to help people diagnosed with these conditions. To those of you who have already very kindly donated to my fundraising efforts, I hope this post can remind you of why you parted with your hard earned cash by showing you where exactly it is going. Furthermore, to those of you perhaps a bit reluctant to sponsor me and support this charity, I hope by seeing the work they do and how far even the smallest of donations can go – it might encourage you to donate. 

What Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research do…
As the name suggests, this charity’s main work is research, however this area is by no means limited and the work they do is incredibly broad and expanding. The main focus is on finding the causes of blood cancer, improving diagnosis an treatments and running groundbreaking clinical trials – all vital in order to support those with blood cancer. 

So we’ve got ourselves a charity that assist every step of the way. By focussing on the causes LLR can aim to have a positive impact before a diagnosis is even made. In cases where diagnoses are made, the charity’s research enables early diagnosis and appropriate care during this stage. Following diagnosis, LLR’s research assists in providing effective treatments in order to overcome the illness as effectively and quickly as possible. Following this, after care proves to be a vital component in the fight against blood cancer. Prevention, diagnosis, treatment, free information provision (for patients and carers) and cure – this charity does it all.

Through charity donations and fundraising like I am doing – LLR are able to fund research all across the UK, to ensure that all blood cancer patients receive the very best care at a leading local hospital. For example, once upon a time, living in Cornwall and requiring treatment involved a trip to Bristol – the prospect of which must be horrible when feeling so unwell. Now however, treatment can be offered at Treliske hospital in Truro, and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. A great advancement in only a few years.

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So what does your donation actually go towards?
LLR do a fantastic job of ensuring you know where your money is going and that it is being well spent. When I send out pleas for donations – and say that *really* ANY amount is greatly appreciated I really do mean that, as you will see below.

£5 – can provide a newly diagnosed patient with a supply of blood cancer information books – vital information at a time when faced with the enormous challenge of fighting their illness. So those of you who can only afford £5 – you could give someone some guidance when things feel very frightening.

£25 – can pay for one sample of DNA to be analysed using a micro array test – which helps LLR in their fight to identify genes linked to blood cancer and thus work on finding a prevention for the illness.

£50 – funds a PHD student for one day on a vital research project which builds on a network of expert blood cancer scientists for the future. Without study, learning and students – experts cannot be born and thus groundbreaking research cannot be carried out. 

£100 – supports a research nurse for one day to provide new treatments to blood cancer patients taking part in life-saving trials. For these individuals the contact and care provided by a nurse can be a huge lifeline during treatment, restoring hope and ensuring the best quality care is delivered.

£250 – provides a week of essential laboratory supplies which are absolutely neccessary in order to conduct the vital research to improve treatments.

£300 – can pay for a blood cancer patients DNA to be screened which provides a more accurate diagnosis – which in turn allows more specific and targeted treatments, reducing the time spent in treatment.

£1000 – helps to buy specialised, sophisticated equipment needed in order to understand blood cancer and thus aid the fight against the illness.

But is it really going there?
I know what some people are probably thinking – but how do I know where that money is going? Is it not spent on letters in the post etc etc. Well, this charity provide a detailed break down of their spending at the end of each year. As you can see below, a HUGE proportion of their funding really does go to the patients diagnosed with blood cancer.

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And as you will see below, this charity depends a HUGE amount on voluntary donations and fundraising for it’s income.

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So where are WE at?
As of today, my fundraising total stands at about £600. So depending on how we look at it, we’re over halfway towards one of those special pieces of equipment, or we’re paying for a detailed screening of a patients DNA, or we’re providing two weeks of laboratory supplies for vital research, or we’re funding 6 nurses for the day treating numerous patients in clinical trials, or, finally we are providing over one hundred newly diagnosed patients with information about their illness and subsequent treatment. All in all, we’re doing great and I cannot thank you enough for your kind donations no matter how big or small – you can see they really are having a huge impact. If it’s £2.50 – if two of you donate that much, we’ve got out £5 for information books. Every little truly does count.

Final comments…
Alongside doing all this research, this charity are absolutely fantastic at looking after their fundraisers. You may remember me mentioning in one of my early blog posts that only a few hours after making my Just Giving page I was contacted by someone who works at the charity and provided with support and advice about my training and fundraising. I also know that I can get in touch with them at any time should I need too. Many charities of course rely on donations from fundraisers such as myself, but I feel the LLR really do look after their own and truly appreciate the work that people do in order to raise money for them.

If this has made you more inclined to donate to the amazing charity I am riding for, whatever the amount (really I mean that!) then please head over to my justgiving page

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You can visit the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research website for even more information about the charity and their work. The ‘patient stories‘ page is truly a humbling read and demonstrates what individuals fighting blood cancer go through and how the charity supports them.

(Final!!) Weekly Round Up 25/08-1/09.

So this week has been nothing short of frustrating in many ways! Numerous people have suffered the brunt of my very annoyed moods and frustrations after facing multiple hurdles and irritating things this week! I had planned to lower my weekly mileage quite considerably this week in order to keep active but start resting for the big ride, however due to numerous circumstances my weekly mileage has come in a lot lower than I had hoped for!

At the beginning of the week (bank holiday) I took a day off to go and explore Glastonbury nearby.

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Bank Holiday Monday exploring in Glastonbury (The Abbey ruins)

 

I did tons of walking and climbed the for, as I have said many times before it was great to be active in a different way to cycling. I was surprised to wake up on Tuesday with rather sore calves from walking up the tor especially as I had no problems walking up it at all. Just goes to show, these legs are made (or at least trained) to be cycling up those hills not walking up them!

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Glastonbury Tor.

It was really nice to have a day off from work and training and just enjoy the lovely weather and lots of yummy food and some beautiful sights!

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The joys of cycling – guilt free indulgence!

I planned a couple of rides during the week but a wrist injury that was eventually tamed by some painkillers and ice gel meant I could get out on my bike on Thursday for the first time since my 80+ miler on Saturday – I was starting to get withdrawal! I cycled to and from work each day and every morning I came down to my bike to be faced with a completely flat back tyre. Very frustrating!! I changed tubes, visited the bike shop, checked my tyre and had to visit the gym on one occasion as by the time I had it sorted it was nearly dark! On Saturday morning I thought I had cracked it and headed out for what I had intended to be a 40 miler – and you’ll see what happened with that one!!

Thursday 29/08 – 4 miles (on turbo trainer) and 12.4 miles on the road.
Arriving home from work on Thursday I was feeling frustrated and very dispirited after my battle with punctures and being barely able to move my wrist. I jumped on my turbo trainer thinking that not having to bear the weight of myself on the bike would allow my wrist to rest but I could also get some miles in. I set myself up with my laptop and desk fan ready for a workout and started pedalling away. A few minutes later I was 4 miles in and looking out the window to blissful sunshine. The pain killers I had taken had started to kick in and I whipped my bike off my trainer and got myself outside for another 12 miles or so. My wrist felt fine during the ride and some ice gel and pain killers when I got home sorted me for the rest of the evening.

Friday 30/08 – 20 stationary miles (gym)
After finishing work a little later than normal and meeting a friend in town it was early evening before I got ready for a cycle, my tyres were playing up again and the weather was not looking promising – so I headed to the gym armed with a towel, lots of water and a book. I did 90 minutes of cycling fairly hard to get in 20 miles whilst watching The One Show, a cooking show and EastEnders (can’t say I’m a fan of the latter!). It was a great atmosphere up on campus as the Special Olympics are currently being held there. The vibe was amazing and there were so many amazing people around, the energy was incredible and everyone seemed to be having an awesome time.

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Special Olympics come to Bath!

Saturday 31/08 – 36 miles.
I set out feeling good around midday for what I had planned to be a 45 miler, my last long (ish) ride before my big ride. The tyre had stayed up overnight and things were looking promising. However 6 miles into my ride, and just a few miles out of town I was plagued with ANOTHER puncture. After throwing a strop (I was ready to throw my bike in a ditch and be totally done with it!) I called mum and we decided I needed to take a visit to a bike shop and potentially get a new tyre. I cycled back into town, pumping my tyre up every few minutes and eventually made it to the bike shop.

After talking to the guy there he recommended puncture resistant tyres. I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly getting all these punctures on my rear wheel when I have been relatively puncture free for the majority of my training. By this point I was so infuriated and fed up I just said ok to a puncture resistant tyre and had it fitted there and then. Cycling back to my house to drop off my old tyre and tube the new tyre wasn’t feeling all that great, it felt heavier than my old tyre and was seeming to pick up every single bump in the road which certainly wasn’t pleasant.

Another call to mum which involved lots of tears (this training business is by no means always fun and positive – sometimes it absolutely sucks!) and I had decided that I just needed to get out and make the most of the time I had left in the day and try and get some miles in whilst getting used to the new tyre. I wasn’t feeling positive at all, and was quite frankly ready to never have to sit on a bike again.

But I persisted and went and cycled another 27 miles on top of the 9 I had already cycled before. I got used to the tyre but have now had to alter the ways in which I use my gears, particularly on climbs which seem to be the most difficult. As I noticed when riding home, the tyre does indeed pick up every single bump in the road but I am hoping the organisers of the event have been kind and picked relatively nice roads for us to cycle on. My overall verdict was that the new tyre wasn’t ideal, but to not have to worry about punctures – I’ll just have to make it work! 

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This picture sums up a lot of frustration and tears -hopefully solved by a puncture resistant (albeit harder to ride with) tyre.

The final week of preparations…
So this week is really about making sure I am ready for the ride on Sunday. I’ll be cycling minimal miles with one cycle involving hills early on in the week and then another couple of easy flat cycles throughout the week, with a full rest day before the big ride.

My main focus this week is going to be on as early nights as possible, hydration and on Wednesday I will begin carb loading. I will be checking over the bike, making sure I am stocked up on yummy food to eat throughout the ride, familiarising myself with the rules of the ride, making sure my kit is all ready and the main thing I am looking forward to is a physiotherapy session on Tuesday – to try and work the niggly tight muscles out of my shoulder – ready for me to power through those 100 miles.

Fundraising…
I am absolutely overwhelmed by the support I have had and feel incredibly humbled by how many of you have parted with your hard earned cash to help me in my efforts to raise money for the incredible charity I am riding for. My original target of £250 has well and truly been blown out of the water. Online donations currently stand at £500, I have collected approximately £60 in cash and have many other people to collect from once the ride is completed. I feel absolutely fantastic about the amount of money raised so far and can only hope it keeps climbing in the next week and the few weeks following the ride (I know some people are holding out for a finish before parting with their dollar!).

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So here is to the final week before the cycle, after a really difficult week and a battle with my confidence, I am hoping this week will be a chance to get (and stay) even more focussed on the goal and keep believing that I CAN do this. Words of encouragement are greatly appreciated – so please know that whenever you send me good luck wishes or anything else I really am grateful.

I’ll hopefully do a couple of updates this week if I can with how I’m feeling about the ride – but I’m moving house (again!) so I might be otherwise occupied. 🙂

Thank You again to everyone for their support, whether it be through kinds words or donations – I really am so grateful.

My Just-Giving Page