Back in the saddle (and…in the trainers?)

So after the falling apart of my original plans due to a mixture of injury, misfortune and laziness I have now managed to organise a few things to keep me busy for the next few months.

First: I will be joining the team from the Jane Tomlinson Appeal’s Anniversary Challenge on the 20th and 21st April (Newark – Cambridge then Cambridge – London) as they finish their bike ride from Paris to London. The Challenge is, as usual, a bit ambitious, they are running the Paris Marathon this Sunday (15th), they are then cycling to London via Ze Brugge, Hull, Leeds and Cambridge arriving in London on Saturday 21st, they are then running the London Marathon on the 22nd. Brilliant, amazing and crazy all at the same time. Unsurprisingly they will be joined by people such as Chrissie Wellington (triple women’s ironman world champion). I’ll just be joining them for the last 150 miles so…easy!

Second: I’ll be the ‘runner’ (which will involve actual running) for the Salisbury to Southampton leg of the Hansel of Film 2012 Relay (http://hansel2012.org/about/hansel-of-film) – it’s about 30 miles, which I think I will split over 2 days.

Third: Tris (my brother) and I will be doing the Chester Marathon on Sunday 7th October.

Plans are good.

End to End – the tweets

Despite giving up the daily blog pretty quickly (after day 4 I was too grumpy every evening to want to tell everyone about anything) I did manage to keep up fairly regular stream of Tweets which may or may not be of any interest. If they are, here they are, if not then…ignore everything that follows…

Up at 5, now heading to inverness. When did it start getting light at 5.15!? #end2end
21 Apr

Just passed a snowplough outside Glasgow. SNOWPLOUGH!? #end2end
21 Apr

@leedsmet thanks guys :) currently in inverness waiting for train to thurso.#end2end
21 Apr

Misty, cold, lots of seagulls. About to have breakfast then set off for john o’groats #end2end
22 Apr

Two facts to shock and disturb, chamois cream is cold and mick doesnt like baked beans.#end2end
22 Apr

Cycled 20 miles, freezing, foggy, windy. Now we are just at john o groats!
22 Apr

At bettyhill, horrible day has turned absolutely amazing.#end2end http://twitpic.com/4nz7wm
22 Apr

Finished day 1, slightly longer than planned at…120 miles! Glorious weather apart from the bloody head wind we had for 50 miles.#end2end
22 Apr

Blog about day 1 at http://ashmannblogs.Wordpress.com #end2end
22 Apr

@emilyjmacaulay thanks! Currently trying to work out if we can make tomorrow shorter without having to go over any more hills. Not possible!
22 Apr

@Mike_Tomlinson ha, my arse is doing alright. Mick has started moaning about his!
23 Apr

On the a9 into inverness, suddenly there is a lot of traffic.#end2end
23 Apr

In inverness, making quite good time. Mick is looking for a pannier, think he’s jealous of mine.#end2end
23 Apr

Finished day 2, currently in grantown on spey.Got our first sight of the massive, snow covered cairngorms, uh-oh.#end2end
23 Apr

Deep heat applied. Put way too much on, it buuurns.#end2end
23 Apr

day 2 post up at http://ashmannblogs.wordpress.com – nothing very interesting to say, brain is all tired. #end2end
23 Apr

Leg spasm, bad
24 Apr

Hard day, everything creaking, bike, shoes, knees. This is where we are #end2end http://twitpic.com/4ov0tm
24 Apr

Finished day 3. Mega. Blog to follow after I’ve made myself stink less.#end2end
24 Apr

Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. Today I’m the nail.
25 Apr

Day 6. Have got to head through Lancaster at rush hour and then down towards Welshpool, its gonna be a long day.#end2end
27 Apr

150km done, 40 to go. A long day, but, we’re in Wales! #end2end
27 Apr

Have just worked out we can cut 20 miles off tomorrow AND get to cross the severn, ace! #end2end
27 Apr

About to set off for bath. Day 7 #end2end http://twitpic.com/4qf9in
28 Apr

@calebdorey our detour is to avoid gloucestershire, too many hills!
28 Apr

@calebdorey currently discovering that herefordshire isn’t exactly flat!
28 Apr

Didn’t make it to bath, ran out of legs and light. In chipping sodbury at a very swanky b and b. Today was still 110 miles tho.#end2end
28 Apr

Made up the miles lost yesterday. Just past bath.#end2end
29 Apr

The mendips, now who thought that was a good idea…#end2end
29 Apr

At taunton, hip has just seized up. Painful! #end2end
29 Apr

Near tiverton. Stopped at a garden centre for coffee and to use the facilities #end2end
29 Apr

Lovely couple at local chippy donated cost of our meal to @janesappeal, ace!
29 Apr

Bloody hell, we seem to have found cornwall’s hilliest road. Imagine a series of w’s as the profile, for 16 miles.#end2end
30 Apr

John o’groats to land’s end is a very long way. But we’ve just FINISHED! #end2end
1 May

900-odd miles cycled, knees and ankles ruined, sponsor me please WWW.justgiving.com/ashley-mann #end2end
1 May

just tallied up our mileage.992.8 miles in 95 hours of cycling #end2end
1 May

Day -1: bags (almost) packed

Have spent a fairly frantic morning trying to locate everything I need for the ride, that done I then tried to force it all into one pannier….which was never gonna happen. So, for the first time ever I’ll be riding with two panniers. and cleats. wiser people than i would say this is probably not the time to try so many things for the first time. it’ll keep things interesting at least!

Off to pick up the hire car that’ll get us up to Inverness later, I think the last time I drove anything was last summer to/from Istanbul. Fingers crossed the roads are better than Bulgaria.

Countdown

2 days to go and I’ve just fitted SPD pedals to my bike – these are to go with the new cycling shoes I got for my birthday. The process involved lots of getting covered in axel grease and swearing.

The theory is that cleated pedals mean you pedal more efficiently and god knows I need every drop of efficiency I can get my hands on, HOWEVER cleated pedals also mean you are clipped to the bike. I have spent the last hour trying to get the hang of clipping in and out of my pedals, unsurprisingly this has been a fairly spectacular failure so far – I expect to fall over on a daily basis, to anyone who knows me this won’t be a massive shock.

This is a very bad idea…

Oh, weather prediction for Friday and Saturday is currently 14-16 degrees, sunny, hardly any wind. Perfect. Let’s hope it delivers as promised!

Training, weeks 1-4

Right so apparently I’ve convinced myself that I’ve started training for the list of things I’m doing this year (details: http://www.justgiving.com/ashley-mann/). Annoyingly due to the slightly stupid way that things have worked out I effectively have to train for a 1000-mile bike ride and a marathon at the same time.

I’ve trained for a marathon before (read about it here and here), it’s no fun, it makes you hungry, tired and sore. Let’s see if cycling 100 miles a week helps that – I’ve been informed by a few people that it might actually be a good idea, cross-training n all that.

I’m yet to be convinced…

My training at the moment consists of trying to do at least 1-hour a day on the turbo trainer (bike) combined with trying to get out for a longer weekend ride on the road and trying to get my weekly running mileage up past the 30 mile mark. Which has met with mixed success thus far.

Ah well. 2 months to go…(eek)

Istanbul to Leeds is a very long way

Right as you may or may not be aware this summer I drove one of the support vehicles on the Jane Tomlinson Appeal Istanbul to Leeds charity bike ride.

I had previously driven support on the Appeal’s last ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Basically driving support means driving a big van, full of bike stuff around after a group of cyclists trying to ensure they don’t get lost and have enough food and drink and the like. I soon realised that the last ride was relatively straight forward, for a start we stayed in hotels each night whereas this year we would be camping not to mention the language and cultural differences that we would encounter whilst travelling through 10 countries.

It all started for me when I picked up the van from Rothwell in Leeds. John (the chap who was sharing the van-driving with me) and I met up with Al, Dave and Nigel who would between them be driving out the other two vehicles, a car and an RV. We didn’t have anything you could really call a ‘route’ planned although we knew the rough general direction we would be heading in, so off we went.

Despite me forgetting my wallet (idiot) the journey down to Folkestone was pretty straight forward, as was the journey as whole until we got to Austria (bar John forgetting which side of the road to drive on in France and turning into oncoming traffic…a minor hiccup). We had decided we would only be making 2 short (4 hour) stops for sleep on the way out as otherwise we’d be in danger of not getting there in time. The first stop was slightly enforced, a massive lightening storm broke over us as we entered Austria, it was nighttime and I was absolutely knackered so it seemed like a good time to stop. I slept in the van, John, Al and Dave shared the RV and Nige had the car. 4 hours later we were back on our way. The heat became noticeable as we entered Hungary and I seem to remember a sign in Budapest telling us it was 38 degrees (at about 10am) and I soon descended into a disgusting sweaty mess (the van didn’t have air conditioning).

The real cultural differences didn’t become obvious until we entered Romania, but when they did come they were pretty clear. The roads immediately deteriorated and the traffic became a mix of knackered Ladas and dusty HGVs. At one point we passed what looked like a nuclear power station being dismantled (or just falling apart), next to it was the saddest street market I have ever seen simply selling rubbish wooden carvings and giant garden gnomes – very odd. Now I’m sure Romania has some nice parts, however we didn’t see any of them. We saw the bad roads, poverty, buildings falling down, many stray dogs, prostitutes everywhere (even outside McDonalds) and numerous other things that I have since tried to forget. After Romania, Bulgaria was a blesséd relief with friendly people, less scary dogs, no obvious ladies of the night and what, at first, seemed like good roads.

However. Al and Dave had, throughout the trip to that point, unswervingly followed their sat nav – a tactic not to be mocked as it hadn’t lead us wrong until then. They suddenly decided to turn off the nice, smooth motorway that we were on and that seemed to go all the way to where we needed to be. The road we turned onto went through a forest, we were the only vehicles, or people, for miles around and this road was one of the most potholed pieces of tarmac i’ve seen in my entire life. It was more pothole than road for long stretches. Our average speed dropped to about 6mph as we crawled along being shaken from side to side by these gargantuan craters. Then we had a bit of an incident, the RV stopped. It’s hazard lights came on and Dave stepped out to sum up the situation, “it’s buggered”. Cue a couple of hours spent trying to find shade in the scorching Bulgarian sun whilst on the phone to the AA, the RAC and the company we’d hired the RV from. It eventually turned out that due to the amount of potholes the RV thought it had been in an accident and had turned itself off as a ‘safety feature’. Luckily there was a simple reset button and we were on our way again.

The rest of Bulgaria passed fairly uneventfully until we reach the Bulgaria-Turkey border. This border was pretty ramshackle and isolated and I think the guards must’ve been bored, or at least that’s the conclusion i’ve come to explain why we spent the next 5 hours there. A long story for another day but a word of warning, if your hire company says you don’t need printouts of your vehicle documents because ‘everything is done electronically these days’ then don’t assume that’ll actually mean anything to bored and slightly irritable border guards in the arse end of nowhere.

The final story of note on the journey out there (and there are a million other stories i hope to get around to retelling at some point) involves the drivers of Turkey. Now I loved Turkey, the people were amazing. But bloody hell, they’re absolutely mental drivers. I’ve no idea how we managed to make it into Istanbul and to our hotel in one piece, i involved avoiding some of the most ridiculous driving i’ve ever seen, and yes, i’ve been to India! The drivers, combined with it being at night and only about 6 hours sleep in the previous 72 meant that the last part of the journey passed in a weird dreamlike state. Probably not very safe.

But we got there, 2500 miles, 3 days, 9 countries, 1 van. Istanbul to Leeds. I’ll write up a bit of a summary of what happened on the bike ride when I get some time to gather my thoughts, it was quite an experience!

Istanbul to Leeds – 30 days to go (i think)

If my slightly bad maths is anything to go by (i didn’t have enough fingers and toes to count accurately), then it is just over 4 weeks until I leave as part of the convoy of support vehicles to drive out to Istanbul ready for the start of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal’s latest madcap challenge, the Istanbul to Leeds bike ride (www.istanbultoleeds.co.uk).

I’m having my final innoculation this evening (this one for tick-born encephilitis – which sounds pretty horrible) and then I’m pretty much good to go. My job will start on the evening of 21st July when I’ll meet up with the other drivers (there are 6 of us driving the vehicles out there) and the vehicles – an RV, a car and a transit van – to drive down to Folkestone and then across the whole of mainland Europe to Istanbul. It’s just shy of 2,500 miles and we hope to make it in about 3 days. Each vehicle will have 2 drivers and we’ll take turns driving, then sleeping. I think we’re hoping to be in Istanbul on Saturday 24th with the ride starting on Monday 26th July – the riders will have flown out on the Friday evening.

I’m not sure how prepared the riders are, I know the Miller family (Mike Tomlinson’s sister’s family) have been training pretty well since early this year and I have, on more than one occasion seen John (Mike’s brother-in-law) riding a tandem on his own – which must take a certain level of dedication! Mike has been cycling to work and back (a journey of about 10 miles each way) so will probably be in much better shape than he was on the last challenge (2008’s end-to-end ride), the Hinde family all seem to be fairly fit and I’m sure Stuart has been getting them out and about and Becca Tomlinson is mega fit anyways and has been subjecting herself to spinning classes at the gym. So I’m sure everyone will be more-or-less ready…a bit.

4 weeks to go…it’s going to be an adventure.

I’ll be blogging about it all quite regularly here and also on the ride’s site. You can sponsor the riders here http://www.justgiving.com/Istanbul-to-Leeds-2010. It’s an incredible challenge they’re all taking on and your support would be hugely appreciated. If you can’t afford to donate then the riders will be (hopefully!) arriving back in Leeds on Bank Holiday Monday 30th of August – it’d be great if there were some people out to welcome them home!

Istanbul to Leeds

On Friday I was at the launch of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal’s latest challenge, the Istanbul to Leeds bike ride. Mike, Steven and Becca Tomlinson along with several other family members and friends will be riding the 2,500 miles from Istanbul, Turkey to Leeds, England over the course of 5 weeks. They’ll average about 80 miles a day and travel through 12 countries.

I will be reprising the role I played on the last ride (John O’Groats to Lands End) in 2008, which mainly consists of driving a van filled with bikes and gatorade and taking lots of photos and video footage.
As well as driving support I also put together the ride’s website www.istanbultoleeds.co.uk which I’ll be updating throughout the build up to the ride and then (hopefully) every day of the ride.

The ride is taking place to raise money for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal (full info here www.janetomlinsonappeal.com) and you can sponsor the riders here, www.justgiving.com/Istanbul-to-Leeds-2010.

It really is a pretty mega undertaking and any support you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

M-day

Right, with the marathon now less than a week away I thought I’d do a little bit of a last-minute assessment.

Injuries:
Nothing too bad to report so far (touch wood). My right hip and left knee will start to ache after 15 miles but I’ve come to realise that is just a fun thing that my body likes to do.
The blisters that flared up on my last long run have calmed down now, I imagine those parts of my feet will be sore after the marathon but hopefully won’t cause me too many problems on the way round.

Fitness:
I think training has gone ok. I could possibly have done more long runs but i did get round for one of 20 miles, a few of 17 miles and a lot of 10-14 miles. I think it’s still realistic to aim for my original target time of 4hrs 15mins.

Fundraising:
Thus far have raise just shy of £600 (although this also includes funds raised by the bike ride i did last autumn – which you can read about here http://ashmannblogs.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/coast-to-coast/) which I’m pretty pleased by, if you still fancy sponsoring me (I’m raising money for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal – www.janetomlinsonappeal.com) then it’s very easy to do via my justgiving page – www.justgiving.com/ashley-mann.

Final plans:
Anyways, we’re getting the train down on Friday afternoon – hoping to get to the Expo to register on Friday as the DLR is all closed or something on Saturday.
Will probably go for a couple of short (5-8 mile) runs this week just to check the legs are still working. Have also decided I’m going to be catching the bus to work for this week only – and leaving the bike at home.
So, wish me luck!

Mid-season stumble

Righty dokie doke, an update, in diary form. I hope to post something of worth later in the week.

Marathon-training has been going especially badly this year, I’ll blame it partly on the snow but I’ve not been getting out and about on a regular enough basis. Although the runs I have been doing have all been 8+ miles I really need to get back into the swing of things, haven’t cycled to work since December…lazy bastard.

I had a brilliantly productive week last week, took time off from work (at Leeds Met) and did my very best to get my house ship-shape again. Luckily my limited flirting with DIY was a resounding success and not a disaster-causing catastrophy.

I also managed to put some serious hours into web work (with my ‘big things and little things’ hat on www.bigthingsandlittlethings.co.uk) and as a result have pretty much finished the redesign of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal site (hopefully it will go live this week or next), finished the site for the brilliant Sunshine Bakery (www.sunshinebakeryleeds.co.uk), wrote a preposal for the redesign and development of the Northern Dales Farmers Markets website and have also been working with Run For All on their digital marketing campaign.

If you are, or know anyone, who needs some web work doing then I am undertaking work at reduced rates until the summer to build my personal portfolio. Hopefully I’ll also be doing some work with/for the fab people at Oxygen (www.oxygenate.net).

I plan to write a bit of a post on my bread-making experiments (vastly improved thanks to a paving slab) and my plans for foraging. I bet you can’t wait…

Words and Pictures and Work

So as you may or may not I do an occasional podcast (www.tapes-online.co.uk) with a chap called Cameron who also happens to be an exceptionally good illustrator/designer/drawer of ace things (http://twoducksdisco.blogspot.com/).

As you also may or may not know I also do web design outside of the 9-5 (under the title of ‘big things and little things’) and am currently doing Cam a website, I’m also working on a new site for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal (you may remember a mention from an earlier post, but probably not so here it is http://ashmannblogs.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/bike-rides-and-vans/) and a site for my brother who does things like talk about sport (http://tristanmann.wordpress.com).

If anyone else wants a web site doing then drop me a line, i’m an (x)html/css/php chap really.

Oh I am also going to try to keep up my music recommending, today it’s mirador by efterklang from their album ‘parades’ http://hypem.com/track/968772/Efterklang+-+Mirador+Live+ which is bloody lovely, it’s joyful, orchestral, beautiful and generally ace.