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.
5G deployments are starting to expand beyond the few city-wide showcases of the last couple of years. And new use cases for consumer and enterprises are being developed all the time. But it will take the parallel implementation of edge computing in the next few months for 5G to truly reach its potential.
What is the edge? Where is the edge? How does it benefit 5G? What is the sum of these parts? Can we have one without the other?
These are valid questions as we move from initial limited implementations of 5G towards a future where it becomes essential not just for consumers and lifestyles, but businesses chasing market opportunities. As we move into that future, the defining characteristics
I was invited to speak at the 2020 5G Techritory hosted out of Lativa. Due to the Covid -19 pandemic, the event was a virtual conference. I recorded this presentation to discuss how connectivity requirements.
What type(s) of Intelligent Connectivity is required to make 5G a reality?
In Enabling the 5G Era, Mark will share insights on the necessary steps operators and wholesalers alike need to take to provide connectivity that will provide for todays and future requirements.
The end of one year and start of another often sees people look back and reflect upon the last 12 months as well as start to think about the year ahead.
This year though, I find myself not only reflecting on last year but the decade that has now come to an end. The last decade saw the way we communicate dramatically change and mobile technology and handsets played a huge role in that. The wide-spread roll out of 5G that is said to come in this new decade will drive further reinvention – so what are the parallels between the last decade and where we are today?
As the ‘Naughties’ drew to a close, we were just a couple of years into the smartphone revolution, with the real growth still yet to come. The latest handset on the market was the iPhone 3G S, which was launched in the Summer of 2009 and ran on the 3G network with a top speed of 7.2Mbps download and only 384Kbps upload.
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.
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.