It’s the beginning of September 2020 and I have been very fortunate throughout the global pandemic. I have been able to continue working, almost seamlessly transitioning to full-time working from home. Having built an garden office some 10 years earlier, I at least had a space to work and also to put the turbo trainer for indoor cycling. The rest of the family have also been able to transition to home/remote work & school and our overall health has been good to this point (and has continued to be so since). We have been blessed.
Yet after 6 months of no commute, no travel and like many others having our plans turned upside down, (I had no fewer than 20 business, church & leisure related trips cancelled in the first three months of the pandemic), I was feeling quite hemmed in, slightly stir crazy and just a little exhausted from the constant virtual world. I needed to switch off for a couple of days and do something different.
As I am writing this post it should have been Day 4 of the Atlas Mountain Race 2021. If last years winner Sofiane Sehili was riding he would probably have completed the route, having finished in 3 days 21hrs and 50minutes. My best estimate that I can imagine for myself in the race is that I would have just about got to half way, maybe approaching the 2nd Checkpoint at Aguinane. That’s if everything has gone well, no accidents, mechanicals, or collapse with sheer exhaustion.
The global pandemic this year changed a lot of plans for families over the Christmas period. We were no exception, our normal Christmas plans were not possible due to the restrictions within the UK at the moment. Normally we travel to Devon and Scotland to spend time with our extended families.
A small consolation of not being able to do our normal travels to visit extended family this Christmas break was having a bit more time to get out on the bike between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
So I thought I would attempt the Rapha #festive500 challenge. I have attempted it in the past but never quite made it. Snow, freezing rain, sub-zero temperatures make it a tough challenge.
I have been asked this question quite a few times since completing the Haute Route Alps this last summer.Is there more to do or should I hang up my cycling shoes and say I am done.[Un]fortunately I am the sort of person that needs a purpose to motivate me so the prospect of me just calling it a day doesn’t really sit with me, I know that if it wasn’t a cycling challenge then it would be something else, I suppose I have somewhat of an obsessive personality.I don’t like to do anything half-hearted.
One of the great things about cycling as a hobby is that there are so many different avenues to go into, whether that be road cycling, mountain biking, BMX, Cross, touring, racing, etc….so there is always an option and plenty of challenges to take on.
So what about 2018, well for 2018 my attention turns to epic one day rides. At the moment there are two earmarked on the calendar.
The first is the Mallorca 312 in April, traditionally this used to be a 312km race around the island of Mallorca but was changed a few years ago to a circuit of the Tarmuntana mountains with a loop to the south eastern coast before finishing back in Alcudia.Still covering 312 km and over 5500m of climbing it will be a big day out for Scott and I.
The other epic day out will be the Vatternrundan in June,a 300km circuit around Lake Vattern in Sweden with 23,000 other participants. This one I am riding with a few friends from Rapha Cycling Club.
So I am sticking to the road cycling for now and will focus on getting ready for long days in the saddle.
Here is a final look back at my statistics from 2017 and have a wonderful, safe & prosperous new year.
What’s in the box? ……………………………………………….I get asked this a lot as I travel across the world for work with my bike in tow.
I work for the technology and strategy company Ciena. Ciena is one of those companies who everybody uses but nobody knows about. The equipment and solutions Ciena builds light up the fibre optic cables and networks all over the world that provide access to the internet and data networks. I work in a team that looks at different market segments and works out where Ciena fits and how to shape the products, solutions and technology to meet the customers needs. I specialize in the mobile world and in particular what is happening for 5G and it involves speaking to Ciena’s customers and potential customers, industry partners and bodies, standard forums and other technologists all over the world. It is fascinating, exciting and at the same time daunting. I am a firm believer that technology can be used to do so much good in the world and am excited by the possibilities and experiences that it can open up.
As I travel a lot and enjoy cycling, (I took up cycling again a few years ago to offset the spread of middle age (see this post ), I decided that wherever possible I would take my bike with me. My first business trip with my bike was a couple of years ago to attend a technology forum at Ciena’s R&D labs in Ottawa. The trip was successful in that my bike made it safely to Canada and with the early morning jet lag I also got the time to go out on the bike ahead of meetings. Since that first successful trip I have endeavored to do the same again, with varying degrees of success.
Here are some things I have learned along the way.
1. Plan Ahead, do some research. Not every business trip is going to be conducive to having the bike along. I ask myself a few questions before deciding to take the bike or just opt for the hotel indoor bike. These questions include,
Will I feasibly be able to get out for a ride during the trip?
Will it be dark in the morning before meetings and get dark early in the evening after the working day which means cycling would be hazardous.
Is this a city/place where cycling is feasible ? (this doesn’t always stop me)
What will the weather be like while I am there? (is it going to be persistent wet, windy, snowy, 45 deg Celsius etc)
Am I staying in one place or doing a multi-city/country visit? This means will I have to pack/unpack the bike many times.
Will I be able to transport the bike box from the airport? (many “intermediate” rental cars especially in the US don’t have fold down seats)
Do the airlines that serve that country/city allow bike transport? (this is a blog piece all of itself). Being a frequent flyer with airlines helps.
If all that works out, then I also try and plan a few rides using information from the web or local sources. I then save these rides in strava and load them onto my bike computer (Garmin 810) with an updated basemap created from the openstreetmap project on the web. I’ve written another blog piece on planning routes and the sources I use, click here to read it.
2. Use a hard shell bike case. I use a Polaris Bike Pod, which is supplied by my local bike shop, The Bike Centre. Previously I have also used the BikeBoxAlan. Both are great hard cases which I have found protect my bike and the contents really well. Both are lightweight which helps with the airline baggage weight limits but sturdy. I have a slight preference for the Polaris bike pod as it is a bit more streamlined than the BikeBoxAlan and so fits in cars better and is a little easier to tow around the airport. I have found these hard cases to give just a little more resilience to the sort of travel I do.
3. Add extra bubble wrap and padding to whatever is supplied. It will keep your precious stead from getting scratched or worse. I normally add a generous amount of bubble wrap around the rear derailleur , seat post, drivetrain and around each fixing/attachment/strap point to give a little extra protection. Also when packing my helmet, shoes and clothing I put them in bags that I don’t mind getting a little oil on if they become in contact with greased parts of the bike.
4. Pack a spare rear hanger – It’s good practice anyway regardless of traveling but it can save a bike trip.
5. I include a bike towel, I don’t feel comfortable getting grease and stuff all over the hotel towels or hotel room carpets when building or packing my bike.
6. I pack my bike computer in my laptop bag.
7. At the airport take the carry/tow handle off the bike box when handing over to baggage handlers and carry the tow handle in hand luggage. The bike box I use has a detachable pull handle to help when wheeling the box around the airport. Unfortunately this can get snagged in the baggage systems of airports. I had the misfortune to have this happen to me when the baggage ticket was attached to it on a trip from Atlanta to the UK via Toronto. The handle was snagged in the machine which broke one of the latches and the baggage tag slipped off at Toronto meaning they had no idea where to send it on to for the connecting flight to London. It took 8 days to find and ship back to the UK the bright green bike box with distinguishing stickers on it. This leads me on to the next two points.
8. Have the check-in clerk attach the baggage tag to the side of the box and not the handle (if the box has one). Also then take the individual little stickers that are on the baggage tag (there are normally at least two more) and distribute them around the box. Just in case the main baggage tag gets ripped off by something. For the consequences of not doing this see the previous point.
9. Customize the bike box, to make it easily identifiable when explaining to a baggage clerk. The one I use has stickers on it from all the places I have visited with it and it also has my rider details on it. Just in case it ever doesn’t make it onto the connecting flight then at least it can be described and identified. (See previous points)
10. Be prepared to wait a bit longer at the baggage claim carousel. Invariably the oversized luggage area is not near the carousel that your flight has been assigned too and the quality of the oversized luggage areas & service varies immensely. The longest I have waited and the bike box has arrived has been 65 minutes. (That was at Sydney airport).
I think being clad in lycra head to toe pushing my bike through the hotel lobby at 7.30am in the morning getting back from a morning ride gave the game away. “Yes “ I answered, “good” said my colleague, “make sure you keep the 21st -25th September clear, we are sponsoring our clients annual charity bike ride and we need to put a team together.I need you to be in that team. “
That brief conversation back in February in a hotel lobby in Barcelona was how I landed the opportunity to ride for Ciena as principal sponsors for the annual Colt Technology Charity bike ride. The event in 2017 was to be their 6th edition as they rode from regional office to regional office to raise funds for charities linked to their various regions. Previous years they had ridden from London to Paris. Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Munich and Marselle to Barcelona. The route for 2017 was from Barcelona to Valencia over 4 days.
And so fast forward 7 months and having completed the Haute Route Alps a couple of weeks ago, once again my bike was in the back of a van and making it’s way to the Mediterranean coast line for another multi-day event to join 4 other Ciena colleagues and 120 other riders from Colt and their partners.
We gathered on Thursday afternoon to check-in, register, get our ride numbers, attend the pre ride briefing and get to know each other a little bit more.Each rider taking part was split into groups based upon rider ability and experience.I had previously elected to go in the group that would average 25kph on the road.Turned out later that I had been Strava-stalked but the ride organizersand pushed up into the fastest group, which turned out to the best decision as they were a great group to ride with.
On Friday morning the 12 groups gathered outside the Barcelona offices of Colt and one by one groups headed out to split the peloton up and not cause disruption on the road.
The ride each day consisted of a base route that would get the riders between the “host” venues for each day with an excursion route attached into the ride for those who wanted to add a little more challenge to their riding.This was a very successful set up as it allowed riders of all abilities to get involved and stretch themselves according to their abilities.
Then each day all the riders luggage would be transported from hotel to hotel along with a day bag that would be available at each of the feed stations along the route.The remarkable thing about this though was that the whole event was staffed by Colt employees.Whether it was the team moving the luggage, or the team moving the day bags, or the team that stocked and staffed the feed stations along the route, each person was a part of Colt and they did an excellent job.One of the really appreciated features was that all of the riders bags were taken to their hotel rooms and left inside their rooms so that riders didn’t have to haul their bags up to their rooms after finishing the ride.Such a small detail but so significant.I greatly appreciated this, as this was not done on the Haute Route.
And the feed stations were excellent, There was no chance of losing weight during this ride as the food at the lunch stops was so good.The Colt volunteer team did a fantastic job.
Day 3 Tortosa to Castellon – 180km 2,000m climbing and a dip in the lake…..
Day 4 – Castellon to the finish in Valencia 125km.
The total route length for the 4 days was just over 600km with 7000m of climbing, so a good few days in the saddle.Also our team 12 managed to take the top three places in the King of the Mountains competition. (I placed second)
Each of the local regions of Colt that participate in the charity bike ride nominate and raise money for those charities.In the UK this was the charity Place2be. ,the UK’s leading children’s mental health charity.
On the last day of the ride they posted a tweet sharing that over £20000 had been raised so far and that this was replicated across each of the participating Colt regions. Our five person Ciena team was able to add a further £2000 to that total.
Those that know me, know that I really enjoy cycling, it provides me with a great way to free my mind, recharge, think, test and challenge myself.This year I have had the great pleasure also to do that and along the way raise a bit of money for charities that help others.
It’s been a few weeks now since I completed the Haute Route Alps and I have been contemplating how I can adequately sum up the experience. The fundraising hasn’t stopped, the justgiving page remains open till the end of October to collate donations. Hopefully this post will try and articulate what was for me without a doubt the toughest physical and mental challenge I have undertaken and help put a few more dollars/pounds into supporting the sustainable diabetes program through Team Type 1 foundation.
Let’s start with the official review video created by the Haute Route Team which gives an insight into the event. I was interviewed during the event and they used a bit of that interview in the voiceovers.
I arrived in Nice ahead of the event and met up with Joe and Manuel who I met via social media in the lead up to the weekend to grab something to eat. This meeting set the tone for a great week, making new friends, sharing amazing experiences together, enjoying great company, helping, encouraging & assisting each other.
Rather than a blow by blow account of each stage I thought I would share what a typical day on the Haute Route looked like.
5-6am Wake up, get up, shower, kit up, breakfast, pack day bag for drop-off at the start. Pack some food, make a sandwich for eating in the first two hours. (thanks Ben for the tip)
Around 6-6.30am Pack transport bag for pick up at the hotel. Gently roll down to the start village and drop off day bag for collection at the finish.
7am – Stage start. Along with 300 other riders, we roll out for anywhere between 5 & 8 hours on the bike.
8-9am – Within the first hour or so, we would have hit the first mountain climb of the day. In a normal stage, described here, the race organisers would put in a minimum of three big mountain cols, which in and of themselves would be a decent day out in the mountains on a bike. This first col of the day would be to warm up the legs and prepare for the next big climb which normally was a monster.
A feed Station would be placed normally at the top of the first climb of the day to allow a quick rest and replenishing of supplies. For me, this meant grab some cut oranges, sugary drink, salted crackers and eat another of my veloforte bites.
Anywhere between 11am-1pm – Hit the big climb of the day. The list of these second climbs of the day read like a who’s who of the famous mountain cols. Cayolle (2326m), Izoard (2360m), Sarenne (1999m), Madeline (2000m) & Colombiere (1618m). Normally these ascents would be between 9-32km in length meaning that in some cases we were climbing for multiple hours at a time. Climbing the Cayolle on day 1 I cramped up towards the top making me really worried for the rest of the week. I made sure I replenished my salt intake better during the week and adjusted my re-fuelling strategy to make sure it didn’t happen again.
From 2pm to 4pm (or later). The last big climb and avoiding the time cut for the day. For each stage there was an official cut off by which we as riders must finish in order to be categorised and receive an official finish time. My goal of the week was to make the time cut each day and not receive the dreaded DNF (did not finish).
FINISH THE STAGE – Pick up day bag, shower, change, eat, massage, find hotel and prepare for next day. Hand wash kit, pin on race numbers for next day.
Find a good place to eat and get those carbs and proteins in for the next day as well as a good debrief of the day.
Without question the lows came when doubt came into my mind about whether I would be able to complete the climb/stage/race/section * delete as appropriate. As Chris said to me on Stage 3 the mind always goes before the legs and essentially he was right. A couple of these darker moments stand out.
∗On stage 1 I cramped up on the climb to Col de Cayolle, as we climbed 32km from Ascros to the first big summit. At this point I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make the time cuts and finish the race and all sorts of doubts came into my mind. Had I trained enough, had I bitten off more than I could chew, was this simply something that was beyond me. I realised that I wasn’t replenishing the salts I was losing through sweating and the effort and so made some changes to my refueling strategy that involved more crackers and included a bit more salt in my food. It made a difference, no more cramps.
∗Towards the end of the day on stage 2 we climbed the Col d’Granon a dead-end climb of 12km to a gravel car park. After spending a little too much time on the top of the climb at Izoard I was running out of time getting close to the time cut and put myself under pressure. It was a tough climb which tested my mental capacity as I had to dig deep to finish ahead of the cut. I made it by 30 minutes but I hurt. I can with complete confidence say that I have no desire to ever go back to the top of the Col d’Granon, the road that leads nowhere.
∗On the Col de Joux Plane, with just 7km to go to finish the day the road went up into double digits, after so many climbs and kms that week I wasn’t sure that I had the legs left to get up these 14-18% ramps which although they lasted just a kilometre or two seemed to drag on and on. There was a reward at the end of it though. (See the highs section below)
∗On the morning of day 2 we gathered at the ski resort Pra Loup, there I met Jerom Grilhot also riding for Team Type 1, but he is a board member. He shared with me the incredible strains that Diabetic athletes put themselves through to compete. He said something very poignant, “for me the pain stops when I get off my bike and lie on my bed, for these guys (athletes with diabetes) it is never ending”
∗Seeing my son Scott at the top of Col d’Izoard on stage 2 as he and my brother had travelled across to spend some time on their bikes in the mountains and cheer me on. Scott took this shot as I made it to the summit.
∗On day 5, which was the queen stage I had just summited the Col de Madeleine and taken a break to refuel and get ready for the last segment of the day. As I restarted on the descent, I was on my own with this amazing descent opening up ahead of me with Mont Blanc in full view. An exceptional moment on the bike
∗Similarly on Day 6 climbing up the last climb of the day on the awesome Col de Joux Plane. We had passed the early ramp and as the road snaked up the mountain there was a moment where the sun was shining beautifully with absolutely no wind, perfect silence with only the sound of my drivetrain moving along. For a moment everything was perfect. Ironically within just one km I also had one of my lows of the race as Joux Plane ramped up to double digits but then I was rewarded with a switchback looking over the Mont Blanc Massiv that brought back the beauty of this magnificent climb.
∗Finishing the time trial on Alpe d’Huez (stage 4), completing it in my best time ever and finishing with friends at the top.
∗The finish... being congratulated by my brother Chris (in the shot below) and my son Scott (behind the camera).
The Haute Route for me would not have been possible without the incredible support of my wife Lisa and my family. They allowed me the time to train and get ride fit and where there cheering me on all the way.
A huge shout out and thank you to the all of the riders, support crews, Police, mechanics, volunteers that made the week happen but especially to Joe, Manuel, Monika, Lukas, Joe, Greg, Sean, Gernot, Ian, Chris and Scott who rode at various times with me and made the days fantastic.
I am currently en-route to Nice from my latest work trip in India and the Middle East. 5G training sessions and customer meetings interspersed with the odd ride in very hot and humid conditions. Not the most ideal last week of preparation for the mountains but that is how it is. I have been careful with what I have eaten and not indulging too much in the local cuisine despite wanting too. I am real fan of both indian and arabic food and so that has been really tough but I cannot afford to add anymore weight. Unfortunately I have not been able to get down to the same weight as I was for the marmotte in 2015 when I was at my leanest. Which means those first two days in the mountains are going to be really tough. By the end of the week I should meet the target weight, sigh…..
Originally I had planned to spend the last 2 weeks pretty much on the bike every morning whilst on holiday in Cornwall and then do a couple of generally easy rides whilst abroad on business. Unfortunately the weather and lack of road bike (it was stuck in Toronto for a week) put paid to that plan. I took my winter bike down to Cornwall, along with borrowing a helmet and using my winter shoes whilst the rest of my kit was stuck in Toronto but the weather really hampered the chances of going out each morning. If it was raining then the roads were really slippery and I didn’t want to have a big crash just weeks before the race. As it was on one of the days I did manage to get out, I did have a crash when I was knocked off by a close pass on the Lizard peninsula
I did manage to get out for a couple of rides whilst traveling which were adventures of their own. Heading out on Saturday from Guragoan outside of Delhi I picked a route that local cycling websites recommended as a decent distance ride. 70km in 38degree heat with a bit of climbing and managing Indian city traffic was good fun. It was topped off by meeting the only other cyclist on the road at the time who turned out to be from the same company I work for – Maybe only Ciena employees are mad enough to be out in the heat and traffic.
After reaching Dubai I managed to get out for a couple of city rides on the bike paths by the relatively newly constructed canal path to the beach and along to the Burg a Arab and Palm island. The heat was intense here in the mid 40s celsius which meant I didn’t push it.
So whilst the training hasn’t been ideal in this last few weeks I am still excited and looking forward to the challenge of the Haute Route event which begins on Monday. I arrive in Nice later today, over the weekend I will post details of how to follow my progress directly via my race number. Look out for updates on my facebook profile, twitter and instagram.
I am doing this ride to challenge myself and raise money for Team Type 1 Foundation who seek change the way diabetes is thought of and provide life saving medicine to those in the world who cannot obtain it otherwise. Click on this link for more detail on Team Type 1
Why 10,000 miles? Back in January 2016 when I decided I would ride the Haute Route this August, I knew I needed an intermediate goal to keep me focused. Initially I decided to ride 10,000km by the end of 2016, I reached that goal and went on to cover just over 11,000km. So with 7 months before the start of the event, I decided to add another 5000km which would make it 10,000miles. So here we are, with just a couple of weeks to go until the big event, the cumulative counter has just ticked over 16,000km or 10,000miles.
My local newspaper the Romsey Advertiser ran a piece on this milestone and a bit about the Haute Route ride in August.
To sponsor me, please visit my justgiving page, all donations go directly to Team Type 1 Foundation.
This week I have been in Atlanta for the Small Cell Forum Plenary meetings looking ahead to the advent of 5G mobile technology.Atlanta is also the home of Team Type 1 Foundation, the charity for which I am riding the Haute Route Alps in just 4 weeks time.So I popped into say hello and collect a few things ahead of the race next month.
Amber Medley who is responsible for Elite Racing and Outreach for both TT1 and the pro team Team Novo Nordisk took me for a brief tour of the offices and warehouse where they were getting ready for the elite mens participation in the Tour of Utah.She shared a little more of the work that Team Type 1 Foundation are doing in their cornerstone programs.
Sustainable Diabetes Program.
The Sustainable Diabetes Program saves lives in third-world countries by providing glucose meters, test strips and diabetes management education to thousands who would otherwise suffer debilitating complications and early death.
To date, Team Type 1 Foundation have provided the people of Rwanda with 2.2 million test strips and 1,750 glucose meters.
More importantly, the supplies and education have dropped the collective A1C of diabetics in Rwanda from 10% to 8.9%.
That means TT1 are saving lives TODAY.
Global Ambassador Scholarship Program.
The Global Ambassador Leadership Training Initiative makes heroes out of today’s university students with diabetes.
This scholarship-based program recognizes athletes with type 1 diabetes who are using sport as a platform to educate, empower, and inspire those around them with diabetes via community outreach. And, the awarded funds offset the financial burden diabetes care places on families.
Currently, 130 students have applied for the 2017-2018 school year. It is our desire to not turn any away and to ensure that we can empower each student to become a leader in their community via outreach and leadership development.
The Team Type 1 Foundation fights for the right to live through a global mission of education, empowerment and equal access to medicine for everyone affected by diabetes.
Your donations go directly to support these cornerstone programs, expanding the reach and breadth of Team Type 1’s influence for good in helping achieve global eduction, empowerment and equal access to medicine.