Riding L’Etape London

The alarm clock went off at 5am and I dragged myself out of bed after three hours of not-so-great sleep. I’d prepped my bike and everything the night before so all I needed to do were the final checks and have breakfast.

My taxi arrived at 6am. I’d booked a ‘cycle cab’ from Addison Lee, which was basically a car with a large boot so I still had to remove my front wheel. It also didn’t take nearly as much time as Google Maps had suggested so I got there around 6:30am. The road leading to the Velodrome had been closed to traffic so I was dropped off on the otherside of the park so it was a short ride to the Velodrome itself. My start time was 9am so I had quite a bit of waiting to do.

Annoyingly, my event pack never arrived but fortunately it was an easy replacement so my first ten minutes of waiting around was spent attaching all the labels to my bike, helmet and me.  The rest of time, I spen relaxing on a bench and watching the rest of the cyclists arriving. Apparently, there were 3,000 people registered! There were a lot of cycling clubs, most seeming to riding the long route (I think you’d have to be part of a club or group to get through the long route, I’m not sure it’s something you could easily tackle on your own). I was going to be riding the short route, 76km (or 49miles).

Riding a small bike means I don’t have a lot of room to put stuff on my bike so I had to use my rucksack. I’m not a fan of riding with a rucksack and it did make my ride much less fun because of it. I also made a bit of a big mistake at the start of the ride. I’m not used to riding in a group so set off at a much higher pace than I should have done as I got 25km in and started to struggle with the hills. It also started to get very warm so not only was I struggling with the hills (and there were a lot of those sneeky long ‘gentle’ gradients), I was starting to overheat.

My feet like to swell when I get hot so my Specialized 2FO shoes started out nice and comfy (but snug) but by 25km, my left foot was feeling very squashed. Lesson learned there, always buy a size bigger! I’ve exchanged them for a size bigger so any future rides hopefully won’t suffer from the squashed feet problem.

One thing you don’t really appreciate when taking on a long ride is how tough it is mentally, with each hill I struggled with, each time I noticed I was going at a snails pace or when other riders passed me at higher paces, it stuck a blow. By the time I reached the feed zone I was actually thinking about packing it all in, but I had some more food (flapjacks and cold potatoes, seriously…cold potatoes for the win!), applied some more chamois cream and just had a rest and I felt good to keep going. Luckily, there weren’t any hills in the final 44km (or at least not like the hills I’d struggled up in the first 35km!) so it was a nicer ride. I still struggled with the heat and had to stop a few times to pour water down my back just to cool down.

Finally though, I hit the final 1km throught the Velodrome and it was all over.

yay:

  • everyone was really supportive (a group of riders stopped at the top of a gnarly hill, they said they wanted to wait for me because the route went sharply to the left and they didn’t want me to miss the turning, I think they just wanted a rest :P, loads of people shouted encouraging things as they passed you and there were people out on club rides who said nice things.)
  • cold potatoes rock
  • it was really well organised and the route brilliantly sign posted
  • I did it in under six hours.
  • There was some beautiful scenary
  • I saw a pheasant.

nay:

  • Despite having done some longer rides, I don’t think I was prepared enough.
  • It was hot.
  • I didn’t have enough sleep. I should have taken a later taxi so I could have had a few more hours or taken the day before off.
  • hills suck.
  • Too many scary large round-abouts and you’d be surprised at how busy the traffic is on a Sunday morning!
  • 1 dead rabbit, 2 dead hedgehogs and a dead squirrel
  • my feet hurt

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Switching Gear

I’ve been doing a lot of courses in photography with the City Lit recently and after several professional disapointments this year I decided that I want to switch gear completely and pursue photography.

I think the universe has been in agreement (if you believe that sort of thing) because since deciding that it’s time to stop pursuing something that will never be, many more things have worked in my favour. I placed an advert on a performers Facebook group asking for headshot volunteers, so far I’ve met two absolutely lovely people and have several more shoots lined up over the coming weeks.

Not only that, but I think I’ve discovered what sort of photographer I want to be.

After my second headshot shoot, I had quite a bit of time to kill so spontaneously decided to stop by the Photographer’s Gallery near Oxford Street. They had dedicated all the exhibition space to a photographer called Gregory Crewdson, displaying photographers from his series ‘Cathedral of the Pines‘.

Not being someone who knows much about photographers, I had no expectations and went in completely blind.

All I can say is wow.

Gregory Crewdson is famous for going to elaborate lengths to set up filmscene-esque photo shoots employing many techniques and people from the film industry. His photos are detailed, atmospheric and just beautiful. Looking at the photographs and the stories they conjured up made me realise that this is the sort of photography I want to do.

This is one of my favourites from his collection ‘Beneath the Roses’

Obviously I don’t want to do exactly what Crewdson does, but I want to create images which tell stories. I have no idea how I would even go about putting a project like that in motion but I have been considering applying to study an MA in Photography and I now feel I have a much stronger idea of what it is the future might hold.

Hello 2017

2017.

My 2017 is going to start with a lovely scan in two weeks which I’m hoping will finally reveal what exactly is going on with my ovaries, or whatever it is. I’m also going to be starting a six-week course in portrait photography with City Lit.

Managed to read 19 books in 2016, which is a little embarrassing. Oops.

Theatre-wise, I saw quite a few productions but the best of the year was without a doubt ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’. Closely followed by ‘The Toxic Avenger’ and ‘Rotterdam’.

This year, I want to read more books, watch more films, take more photographs and continue going to the theatre. I still don’t feel well enough to commit to any physical activity but here’s hoping.

 

Learning the truth behind “there may be some discomfort”

I’m back from spending four days being cared for by the lovely staff at University College London Hospital. Every step of the way the staff have been professional, caring and just plain lovely. Even though I don’t have a definite answer to what happened, they have an idea and I’m in a position where I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

So what happened?

Continue reading

Operation Get Off My Fat Arse Monthly Report #3

The weather has improved and my knee is feeling stronger, so I recently got back onto the Thames Path. I’m cycling to Greenwich, then catching the Thames Clipper to Embankment. It’s awesome. I highly, highly recommend commuting by boat. I had a week off work, I wasn’t hugely lazy but I wasn’t that active during my week off.

Anyway…

Total Distance Cycled: 159.46km
That’s 140km more than last report. Loving being back on the Thames Path.

Total Steps: 270,070
I have stopped walking from Barnehurst for the moment as I’ve increased my time on the bike, I’m using my non-bike days as recovery and to do all the little jobs I need to do on the way home…like buy food.

No swimming or gym. Will definitely get back on that ASAP! Badminton is going well and I’m giving serious consideration to booking myself a squash court. I’ve always wanted to play squash but finding someone to play with and more importantly, find the time to play is difficult so I’m thinking about having a solo session.

Happy New Year!

My 2015:

  • cycled a total of 1020km (since July). Longest ride was 63km Erith – Buckingham Palace – Greenwich.
  • swam a total of 26km.
  • finished on a great show (Memphis), started another (Illusionists)
  • switched my final degree course from 19th Century Literature to Creative Writing.
  • Read 37 books (not including the 4 I didn’t finish)
  • went to Harry Potter World with my mum
  • Bea died 😦
  • I started fencing again but they stopped having Sunday sessions so that didn’t last long
  • got to see William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes

Not especially exciting…