Medal of Honour

Despite my blog posting frequency dropping over the years, the number of miles I’m doing has drastically ramped up over the last two years in particular. Prior to moving to our current home in a more rural area, I was getting a rather paltry sub-300 mile average in per year. Now? It’s not even June and I’ve done 765 miles. Admittedly a good chunk of those are on the pleasant enough but distinctly un-gnar country lanes and bridleways of south Warwickshire, but they’re miles nonetheless.

My goal this year is to hit 1500 miles, which I think I’m on track to do – I’m way ahead of previous years, so barring any further limb breaks, I should be good to hit my target. But, to give me a little extra incentive, I signed up to some Conqueror Virtual Challenges – specifically, because I’m a massive Tolkien nerd, the Lord of the Rings Challenges.

Now, some people may argue that you’re basically paying for pretty medals, and… well, OK, that’s mostly true. The medals are awesome. But there’s also a rather nifty app that hooks up to Strava and Garmin Connect that shows the map for each challenge, so you can follow in the furry footsteps of Frodo and company, with markers and stories highlighting various bits of lore and where you are in the story. I’ve bimbled through the Shire…

…travelled the East Road to the Misty Mountains…

…and passed through the Mines of Moria.

I’m currently on the ‘Eye of Sauron’ challenge, which takes me from the exit of Moria to Mordor – and I’m currently sailing down the Anduin River, pursued by orcs. Three medals so far, working on the fourth, which is a 1000+km challenge.

Like I said, Tolkien nerd.

The tragic thing is, the medals are actually so much better than I was expecting when I signed up. They’re beautifully detailed front and back, and some of them have moving parts. The Shire medal has a envelope containing a replica of the One Ring on the back…

The Moria one has doors!

I know this post probably reads like a hideous paid promotion, but it’s really not. I just really like the medals, and the extra drive to put in extra miles to get aforementioned shiny medals.

Naturally, such majesty needs a display worthy of Mordor. I’d been planning on resurrecting the Map of Joy (remember that?!) for a while, but this year was the year!

It’s the first time we’ve had a Map of Joy since Mini Toast was born (which honestly sounds a lot more melancholy than intended!), so I decided we’d all get our own colour pin. Mine’s purple, Mr Toast’s is yellow, Mini Toast’s is blue, and there’s black for places where all three of us have ridden. Which will hopefully start becoming more common, as today t’boy finally got the hang of pedalling!

Mr Toast will be adding a pin to London on Monday, along with a medal, as he’s riding RideLondon 100 tomorrow.

Last weekend was a bit of a milestone for me – I rode the Monkey for the first time in nearly ten years. The last time literally has to have been pre-2013, as I have no Strava record of the Monkey on either a normal or e-bike – and as we know, if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen. There was an attempt in 2019 – but I immediately sacked it off after the Devil’s Staircase.

This time I stuck it out and… it was OK. Ish. Still a lot of stuff I’m not comfortable riding, and a lot of the downhill switchbacks have a lot of nasty loose stuff on them that I’m not a fan of, even if I was good at corners. Still, there’s some nice sections – I’m still pondering whether it’s worth it though. I’m painfully aware that I’m not the fastest downhill, so, being unfamiliar with the trail due to it being so long, spent a lot of time between sections waiting for other people to go, as I didn’t want to hold them up.

I was probably not in the best frame of mind for this momentous occasion, as I’d managed to go arse over tit on one of the optional red rock gardens on the start of the new blue trail on my second lap, less than 4 miles into the ride. I’m still not entirely sure what happened – whether my wheel caught, or whether my weight was in completely the wrong position. Either way, it was quite spectacular.

I still decided to do the Monkey though, plus the old blue to take the ride up to nearly 27 miles, because I want shiny medals. I was pretty battered though – my tights were stuck to the blood of my left knee (nothing too bad, just a nasty graze), and even a week later, I’m still covered in an array of interestingly coloured bruises, and my left hand still doesn’t feel quite right (getting better though, the swelling’s gone now!).

My poor Intrigue, fresh from its service, also took a bit of a beating, and now has a bit of play in the seatpost (which is very similar to how the first one was from the start!)

Still, medals! And I least I know from the last Intrigue that the local Giant shop are excellent at fixing droppers (and at least this one has an excuse for having an issue now, instead of being shonky out of the box!)

I got compliments on my ‘Will Ride for Cake’ jersey, and my new glasses were undamaged, so not the worst ride!