Sunday, 17 March 2013

Week 11 "Sunday Best" comes out to play

Brrrrr what a cold week
My plan to commute 2 days a week went out the window, with lots going on at work and after work, not to mention the freezing whether, although i had all my clothes sorted for a Monday commute home on my single speed and then back in again on Tuesday, i lacked enthusiasm, so it didn't happen
....... presented an opportunity for a lunch time ride, single speed still in my car, i thought i would have another go at riding to Odiham Castle along the Basingstoke canal.
The weather was kind, a little too kind, i was sweating like a P.I.G. and i had forgotten to take a water bottle with me :-( but it was great to be out and the there was a hint of spring with various plant life starting to come to life.
As usual i didn't see many people despite it being ideal for dog walking. Having progressed further than i had before i knew i was near the castle but didn't know if it was right on the canal or near-bye, a dog walker approached, assuming her to be a local, i asked the obvious question, "Is Odiham Castle near bye" she replied "ODIHAM Castle, mmmmm" seeing from her expression that she was searching her memory for reference to an Odiham Castle, i helped her out further by saying "The Ruin" so she then says "Oh you mean St John's Castle! it's just up there (pointing) you're very close, you can't miss it" so sure enough after about 100 yards, there it was with a bl**dy great sign saying Odiham Castle...St John's, bearing in mind this is only a couple of miles, if that, as the crow flies from odiham high street i thought her confusion over my titling St Johns castle as Odiham castle a little odd. I wondered if the castle was somehow in an area "posher" than Odiham and she didn't want it to be associated with Odiham in the same way that nobody ever lives in Slough, always an area outside of it, though even this is a bit of a struggle as Odiham is pretty posh, BTW i don't live in slough despite my SL postcode.
The castle has quite clearly been preserved as it is now, a ruin but it looks to have been "pointed" so as not to decay any further and was quite pretty, looking like it was made out of small stones rather than bricks.
I checked the time and realised i was low on it, so had to get a wriggle on to get back before the end of lunch, which i did, just with a couple of minutes to spare only to realise i had forgotten something else....a towel...grrrr
Looking at my calendar for some reason i was reminded that in a little over a week and a half i was to enter my very first 300K, "The Dean", which apparently is a really tough one too, my cycling buddy Tim had told me many times how tough it was in a way as to suggest that it was too difficult for me so don't even think about entering.....he then subsequently asked quite a few times if i would enter but only after his other cycling buddy Ron had blown him out :-) Fear in my bones, more rides were necessary!
After my commute home last week off road via Minley Manor i had consulted the on line OS maps and found a nice route off road from work, dug out my old GPS laps from "Torq in your sleep" and plan was formed to go for an after work ride to ride to Minley manor, do a lap, then ride back.
For this ride a figured that my single speed was ideal as it could be a quite a hard route so for the first time since October's Bear Bones 200 my "Sunday Best" Orange elite came out to play.
The chain was initially a bit stiff so copious amount of GT85 (other lubricants available) following by some Finishing Line Wet Lube (other lubricants available) the chain seemed smooth again.

Setting off, it felt strange to be back on it, i remembered it with a little disdain, possibly because Bear Bones was such an unpleasant event in so many ways, i also harboured feelings that i had perhaps wasted my money building it and should have stuck with my Evo.
But it wasn't as i remembered it, initially i wasn't changing gear, being used to not doing so, but the terrain under foot was being smoothed out like butter by the plush Roch Shox forks and the rotund free riding tyres, it was light and responsive, the wide bars and long distance grips i had fitted made it feel like i was riding a Ferrari with bull bars and land rover wheels, remembering the gears, they changed with finesse, selecting the correct ratio's giving an extra edge of urgency, this was brilliant, totally different to how i remembered, there was however a fly in the ointment, i had forgotten that the seatpost was poo and gave me trouble on Torq and Bear bones and this day would be no exception....message to self...bin the seatpost and put a new one on!
Route to Minley was good, nice fast rolling fire road type terrain and well trodden dog walkers paths, once i got to the race lap it all went a little wrong, went the wrong direction, couldn't decide what was clockwise, so it was difficult for me to recognise the terrain. I made a right hash of following the route on my gps and with the light failing and the pub calling to bid farewell to a chap from work i cut the lap short and got on my way back. Defo want to have another go at this.

I formed in my minds eye a series of rides i could do to achieve a blast of training miles in a short space of time.
thought i could go for a lunchtime ride Friday, this was thwarted by a conference at work Grrr but then i thought, a day off riding and then do a DIY audax on Saturday followed by a 100k off road ride on Sunday after church.
The 200k audax route i have at the ready is stolen from an event held in 2009 that goes past my house
The 100k off road route follows the 3 castles path route i have mapped from Windsor to Odiham castle and then back off road using my cross country commute route.

Friday night it chucked it down, no way was i going out in that, it is supposed to be fun, after all. This further cemented my cycling buddies opinion of me being "Hydrophobic".
The forecast looked favourable for an afternoon ride and with discovery that Fleet half marathon was on Sunday which would make it difficult to do my off road ride, it was game on for my 100k off road on Saturday afternoon.
Swapped old seat post for a new FSA one which i had "in stock" had a quick play at setting the bike up according to the fit on my other bikes. Sorted.

I set off at about 1:30pm expecting the ride to take about 5~6 hours. Initially using part of my commute route to join the "3 Castles path" somewhere in Windsor Great Park, this was easy enough, though i was a little perturbed by the shear volume of water that was laying around, the wearing of waterproof trousers and 2 pairs of overshoes wasn't likely to be excessive. Just before leaving the Park my GPS gave me a sign from OS that i was going the right way. It was showing me the muddy single track path i was about to get on as soon as i left the smooth tarmac of the Park, the real adventure was about to be begin.


First obstacle following my route was some fancy looking gates which lead down to Ascot race course, quick look at the GPS revealed a road which runs adjacent to the preferred path, no drama but it did leave me wondering what this wide, partly paved road/path was used for, perhaps it is just there for historic reasons.

Another part of the path appeared to be missing or at least access to, when i got to Ascot Racecourse. I expected this a little but hoped that these two incidents in such close succession were not the shape of things to come. I got into the racecourse, i knew this was available for dog walkers so i knew there would be a way in and across the racecourse, this i managed roughly following the GPS route. It was obvious that in the redevelopment they had left certain "paths" of grass which must be to preserve the "3 Castles Path" maybe not by choice but preserved none the less.
On exiting the Racecourse i ambled through a housing estate, possibly a little disparaging as all of the houses were clearly million + homes with gated entry. A few moments of confusion as i kept deviating off my course but couldn't see the turning, having gone up and down one particular road, i was giving up and about to conclude that one of the affluent residents had incorporated the path into their grounds, but then i saw it, tucked in between 2 houses and set back from the road, back on track. It was fair to say i was really enjoying the investigative part of this adventure.

Progression was good. I cut across Ascot and found myself near Lavender Park golf course and then into Swinley Forest and onto the forestry commission roads. I made quick work of this, having been on previously ridden some of these routes and before i knew it i was up by Coral Reef and "The Lookout" which is the main start point for mountain biking in Swinley Forest. Apparently short listed for the Olympic Mountain bike venue it is currently being redeveloped extensively to turn it into a proper trail centre. The constant vehicles accessing the site for this work had really churned up the ground and the ruts n holes were quite happy to store up the rainfall to catch out unsuspecting riders. It was tough going, quite boggy and i was getting incredibly filthy.

No time to explore the fantastic single track, i exited the main park area and ended up on more single track, boggy, pathways, more evidence of the preservation of the 3 Castles path, there were also little path markers, the same as i have seen marking the South Downs way, except these ones had 3 C P marked on them with permanent pen......come on...Royal Borough, surely you can do better than that!!!! Along one such path there were quite a few sty's and kissing gates, unfortunately these were really tight and meant i had to lift my bike of the barriers which was unpleasant as the bike was covered in filth. At one such gate i decided to take a piccy of "Sunday Best" whilst i took the picture a lady walked up and we struck up a conversation about the weather and tranquility of the area, it was a welcome interlude on an otherwise lonely trip.

For the most part i had followed trails and paths that i had not been on before but i had a rough idea where i was, this comfort had now gone, i was following the route blind as i went from woodland area to fields and paths, along the odd bit of road, even over a railway. I have been over an unmanned crossing before but this still shocked me. I wondered if this was kept open again as a hark back to the ancient path i was trying to follow.

Wasn't long before i really ended up in the middle of nowhere, through a housing estate down a narrow path then a small bridge, just as i was thinking and actually saying out loud what a dirty trick it was to put a really tight kissing gate at the end of a narrow bridge, BANG! bike was over and in the water and I was scrabbling to grab hold of the hand rail. The bridge was like ice, a film of algae or something else green, it was incredibly slippery, obviously not frequently used.

I was to find out why this bridge wasn't used frequently, after slowly slogging through a fairly water logged field over another bridge then a decision had to be made. The water ahead looked pretty deep, i was not even half way and the thought of wading and then having soaking feet wasn't desirable, tried to get through but after consulting the GPS i could see that by going back i would be back on track  in a only a few minutes, defeated, i headed back, this time i was very careful over the algae bridge!

Nice tracks were just around the corner, still clueless as to where i was, some of the views were quite pretty, but the skies were getting greyer and the sun on its way down, it was plainly obvious i was massively behind schedule, i hadn't got to Odiham Castle yet and it was some 3 or 4 hours since setting off. A plan change was required. :-(

I was near Hartley Wintney, this was indeed a way off of my "Half Way" destination and the rain started to pour. It had rained on and off all day but this was the first time it really felt like i should be at home in front of the telly. I stopped and fitted my crash helmet lights and consulted the GPS. It was a shame but it was 5 o'clock ish (the time i wanted to be back home) and i knew i had at least 3 hours of riding ahead of me....Odiham Castle was not going to happen.
I took to the roads, which were so flooded that there was no avoiding the tidal waves of water from the cars. and riding through the puddles myself, soaked through in no time. 
I was on roads i knew from driving home from work different ways and as i got closer to Fleet i recognised place names from lunchtime rides.
6 o'clock i was one road away from my work, originally my plan was to go to Odiham castle then ride back along the towpaths as i have at lunchtime, then connect this with my cross country route home, thereby staying off the roads. Having abandoned going to Odiham castle i just wanted to get home so i just went the fastest route i knew, which meant i could get home in about 2 hours rather than at least 2 1/2 hours for the off road ride.
I ate the miles up well, i had deliberated whether to use some of the off road route but once i had decided to stick with the roads i pretty much zoned out and kept the pedals turning.
Alone with my thoughts i reflected on the tough training schedule and the prospect of "The Dean" 300k in a weeks time and then of course "London Edinburgh London" 1400K that this was all building to. I talked myself in and out of the whole thing several times, with the raining throwing it down.
10 miles from home the idea of Fish and chips popped in my head, this kept me going, i assumed the family to be at the in-laws and for them to already have eaten so fish and chips it was, i had my emergency £10 note in my pocket.
Part way through "Windsor Great Park" whilst in a lull of rain a Warden spotted me, the park is closed from dusk till dawn. He had me bang to rights and i had talked my way in to the park a couple of times previously when it was getting dark, but this was pitch black, top chap, he pitied my plight and let me continue and told me not to do it again, I agreed and continued. Note to self, don't take the mick again!
After the park i cut across Windsor, massive puddles but i was beyond caring, i was so close I could almost smell the salt and vinegar. 8:10 mission accomplished Eton Wick chip shop, like an oasis in the desert. At first they didn't recognise me, the owner looked initially in horror and then said "Is that Chris" having grown a beard and head to foot in mud, i am not surprised she didn't recognise me.

Paid my money cycled home and it hailed on me in the last 500 metres but i didn't care, i was home. checked the distance....100k exactly

No more cycling this week which means i fell short of the target :-(

Target for the week: 200K
Total distance achieved: 156.8K

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