2020 and the road to recovery

You know, it really was a shame that I didn’t keep up with this blog. The month after my last post, I rode Pivot 24/12 and got a podium place! Third! With a trophy, and everything! Admittedly, there were only four women in my category (12 hour solo, under 40s) – something like eleven had dropped out due to the horrendous weather, which also ended up curtailing the 24 hour race. It would have been a great post. Really uplifting. Look, here I am with my trophy – sadly not on the physical podium, as the wind made it too dangerous.

Instead, I’m posting in 2020. Now, I’m sure everyone’s aware by this point that 2020 has been a bit shit, but I’ve found it particularly… trying. Let’s tick things off the list, shall we?

  • Global pandemic: Got to say, didn’t see that one coming. Here in Blighty we’re currently riding our second wave. Yay.
  • My mom died: OK, we did see this one coming. She was diagnosed with cancer last year, which had already spread, and she actually had relatively good health until the start of this year. I still can’t believe that she’s gone though, and despite our occasionally fractious relationship, I miss her like crazy.
  • I broke my ankle: First time I’ve broken a limb, and I did it on my bike! I tried to peg it up a hill as fast as possible to beat my previous Strava time. It didn’t end well.

Fortunately things are coming around a bit now, and I’m riding more than ever. I’ll possibly detail my recovery a bit more in future posts, so I can look back cheerfully at this amazing year….

Post-natal Blues

I had a pretty easy pregnancy, all things considered.  I managed to get out on the bike a couple of times during the first two trimesters, but being fairly risk averse at the best of times, I took it very steady. I even got a heart rate monitor to make sure that I didn’t go over the oft-cited 140 limit.  This gave me two options:

  1. Flat, easy routes such as Draycote Water and the Stratford Greenway
  2. Riding an e-bike

I generally stuck to 1, but I did get the opportunity to demo an e-bike at the Leisure Lakes Demo Day last year. It was glorious – it was the first time I’ve ever been able to ride up a hill with no knee pain whatsoever. It also created the (probably comical) sight of five month pregnant woman sailing past a load of other riders. I was doing 11mph. Uphill. To put this in context, my Garmin normally autopauses on the same hill because I’m going so slow…

But, just as summer was cranking up, so was my girth, lack of balance and pelvic girdle pain, and it was getting increasingly difficult to ride. One of the hardest things was the feeling of restriction and desperately missing the woods, especially whilst the weather was glorious.

Fortunately my relatively easy pregnancy was followed by a relatively easy birth – unlike his mother, my son was a speedy little fellow (less than four hours, I’ve had longer bike rides!).  Six weeks later I got the OK from the doctor, and went on a short ride down the greenway.  I managed just under ten miles of flat riding without too much grief, but was a bit tender afterwards.  Which isn’t hugely surprising, really.

Since then, I’ve been gradually increasing my riding. It’s been slow going, as I’ve been breastfeeding, so it’s been hard leaving the little fellow, but he takes a bottle well so I’ve been able to get out a bit.

Since he hit the six month mark, I’ve gotten a bit more adventurous and started ‘proper’ riding again. I was hoping to have an ebike when I got back riding, as it make it easier riding through winter, with dodgy knees and baby weight, but after a sensible look at our finances we decided against it. Maybe next year. 🙁

So, it was just me and Devastator. I was a bit worried – it’d be my first real test of fitness.  What if my legs crapped out on me?  What if I couldn’t cope cardio-wise?

I won’t lie, it was tough – I was only doing the blue route, but it was the hardest I’d found it in years.  I loved being out though, although it was cold, and miserable, and my knees hurt.  Happily though, my woes were more muscular than cardiovascular – I hadn’t lost too much fitness, but my joints were still knackered from longstanding injury, pregnancy (hello, relaxin!) and the excess weight I still need to shed.

I’ve been out a few more times over Sherbrook Valley, and once over Dalby blue.  Dalby blue is massively improved since the last time, with more single track added. Again, I struggled a bit – I found the initial climb very tough, and the final descent (hooray for flat bits!).

It’d be so easy to get demoralised, as I have been in the past, but I just loved being out, unperturbed by my shoddiness. Ultimately, I’m in a better place than I was when I first started biking, so I’m sure I can get back to where I was!

An update!

Right, WordPress updated, spam comments about handbags and the Middle East dealt with, and back to the blog!

So, what have I been up to?  Well, some of my racing schedule has been determined this year – I’m giving Mountain Mayhem a miss, sending Mr Toast out to be some sort of giant mountain biking guinea pig at the new venue.  He’s racing with the Chase Trails team of four (Ian, henceforth known as Crazy Ian, is soloing again). Three fifths of the intrepid Chase Trails chaps can be seen here, stalking Pat Adams’ house late at night, which isn’t weird at all.

img_2225Photo taken by famed event photographer Rob Crayton, who hangs outside Pat Adams’ house late at night with a camera.

I’ll be providing moral support… or pointing and laughing.  Time will tell!  At least there will be less chance of rain if I’m not riding…

I will be riding Sleepless in the Saddle though, and I have to confess to contemplating the Wiggle 6 Hour Enduro, which is also at Catton.  After all, six hours is only slightly longer than it took me to do one lap at Mayhem last year! \o/  I’d be soloing it, as Mr Toast is rather bogged down with work at the moment.

I’ve done a bit of riding this year, mostly getting used to..


TEN TON TESS! Also known as Tess of the Hurr Durrbervilles – a Scott Scale Contessa 910 29er. I’ve not taken her on a full ride of Follow the Dog yet, preferring to put the miles in on the tamer fireroads just to get used to her ridiculously large wheels and her quite frankly preposterous wide bars.  I’ve done a bit of FtD on her, and some off-piste-probably-shouldn’t-talk-about-them trails on a group ride.

I’ve also become an aunt twice in the space of two months, so I’m plotting to buy two balance bikes in about 18 months for my nephews.  I’m totally going to live my gnar radcore biking dreams vicariously through them – it’ll be awesome.

Aaaand I’ve also been keeping up with my resolution to get back into drawing more, with my project “A Benny a Week”.  The aim is to produce one piece of art a week featuring my dog, which will hopefully improve my artistic skills.

I should be fairly good at drawing Tibetan Terriers by the end of 2013 at the very least.

So, here’s to more biking, more drawing and more nephews.  Huzzah!


Rather tragically, I’ve still not managed to get biking over the Chase this year.  I’ve been over the Chase a couple of times, but it’s normally to allow Mr Toast to ride and me taking t’boy for a walk.  I’m  hoping to get over there tomorrow – I was considering today, especially as it’s bright and sunny (at least, it is here…), but it’s also very cold and I’m a bit phlemgy, and I’m a bit worried about it being icy!

Still, I’ve managed to get some bike time in commuting backwards and forwards from work – with my sister-in-law away for the week, I’ve also been popping back at lunchtimes to check on t’boy.  Getting to work is easy – a five minute ride down a hill.  Getting back home takes a little longer, as obviously what goes down has to lumber back up at some point.  I feel slightly smug though, as a lot of people don’t even bother riding that hill (I’ve even seen people pushing down it… :S), and I’m feeling a lot more confident road riding now.

I’ve got a new pair of biking trousers, so hopefully they’ll get their first outing tomorrow.  We’re also demoing some Orange 5s next week. Interestingly, the 14″ Orange 5 has more standover than The Professor, but is a little longer – I’m interested to see how that would work out for me.  Mr Toast is interested in the new 22″ – he’sbeen pondering a replacement for the Meta for a while, so let’s see what happens.

14/01/12: Pah!

I’ve still not managed to get biking this year, as the dreaded lurgy has struck once more.  Fortunately it’s more of a headachey, passy outy nauseated sort of lurgy rather than a chest infection, so hopefully it’ll pass.  It’s been lingering for two weeks now, stopping me from getting over the Chase. 🙁  We’re hoping to get over there tomorrow, albeit with me on two legs rather than biking.  Benny seems to be calming a bit around other dogs, but is still obsessed with crows, magpies and squirrels.

In a bit of good news, I’ve started Weight Watchers again, despite their buttock clenchingly awful efforts at ‘gamification’, and am pleased to report that I lost 3.5lbs in my first week.  According the NHS’s BMI calculator, this takes me down from being clinically obese to being merely overweight.  Yay! \o/

Only 26lbs to go…

It’s Chriiiiiistmaaaas!

Well OK, it was a few days ago, but I’ve still got a few more days off, so it’s time for an update!

I actually went biking for the first time in two months a couple of weeks ago.  As Mr Toast had been biking the previous time, it was my turn to ride merrily around whilst he walked young master Benny.  Before setting off, I got The Fear – the raging paranoia that I’d lost what little skill I had and end up sliding around on my face.  I get this pretty much every time I’ve had more than a couple of weeks of biking.  And, as usual… I was fine.  Better than fine.  Although my fitness has taken a hit (with the fireroad hill up to section 8 being particualrly brutal), technique-wise I was pretty much as good as I’ve ever been.  It was a bit soggy and muddy, but although I found the boggier sections a bit of a slog, I seem to actually ride faster when it’s a bit wetter.  It seems to a bit gripper than when it’s very dry and dust, and I feel more comfortable going faster.

I did everything I normally do, and more!  Including *trumpet fanfare* the uphill steps on section 11.  Not the first steps, the tiny ones.  No, I minced over them because it looked a bit slidey.  But by the time I got to the proper steps (which I avoided last time), I just thought, “Ah, fuck it”, and ploughed into  them.  And I sailed over them with grace and style.  Well, I went over them, without stopping, and I never felt like I was about to come off or even slip slightly, so… yeah, grace and style.

Thoroughly enjoyed the ride, overtook quite a few people (admittedly it was just because I was taking less breaks between sections than them rather than going faster on the trail itself), and pulled into Birches Valley with a huge smile on my face.  Mr Toast looked slightly exasperated with Benny pulling at every passing dog, person and bird – after an afternoon of dog-sitting on the Chase, he looked more exhausted than I did!

So… Benny.  We’ve had him for over a month now, and he’s beyond adorable.  It’s not 100% smooth sailing – he’s very well behaved in the house (although a bit rude and pushy if people are eating), and we’ve started training him.  He will sit when told, generally will leave food if asked to, then eat it on command, and he’s on his way to learning ‘stay’ (it’s still a bit hit or miss at the moment).  But by Odin’s Raven, you should see him outside! Everything else is infinitely more interesting than his owners – crows, dogs, other people (especially if they have bags).  We’ve only been able to let him off his lead at Cayton Bay, as it’s completely enclosed, and he ran like a mentalist for miles and miles.  He certainly has the stamina and physique for being a trail pooch, but yeah… the training is still very much a work in progress!

So, now… good dog photos!

Benny, realising he can't drive and being concerned about that fact


Benny with Mr Giraffe, the one toy he hasn't savaged


Look at the dog, not at the cables!


Look, sometimes I don't wear biking gear!




Bailey, the fat russell


In other news, there’s a Big Build Day over at Cannock Chase on January 8th.  As usual, there’s a raffle and food, drinks and tools provided, and it will involve resurfacing the end of Tackaroo, so you’re only a stone’s throw away from Birches Valley!  Lots of people have been interested in what’s going on over Tackaroo, so if you’re one of them, now’s your chance to find out!  If you’re not, then go and help out anyway.  You might see Benny, and be able to bask in his glory.  Not a euphemism.


Written on 18/09/11:

“Move house!

But keep riding!”

Well, one of the above objectives has been successfully achieved.  After some slight panicking – we were told that our objective of moving mid-October was fine… until the first week of October, when we told it would be the end of October.  The eventual moving date left us with two days to move from one house to the other, and completely clean the previous house so we could successfully reclaim our deposit.

After claiming our house, our weekends have been taken up with visits to Ikea, assembling the rather large quantity of goods from Ikea, and accepting visits from proud parents, our quest for domestic bliss was not yet over! No, there was something missing, a responsibility that we felt we were now ready for…


 Yes, we now have a new family member in Toast Towers – Benny Lava, the Tibetan Terrier cross.  We got him from the Dogs Trust – he was sweet, affectionate, full of beans, and SWEET MERCIFUL ZEUS JUST LOOK AT THAT FACE!  THAT MOUSTACHE!  THAT TAIL!  And Tibetan Terriers are Jez Recommended (TM).  Although Jez rides luminous bikes that look like they’ve been vomited out of the 1990s, but still, we trust his dog judgement.

We couldn’t decide what to rename Benny.  There were many names mooted then dismissed – Loki (already taken by Alex’s labradoodle), Noodles (could be shortened to Noo Noo, which is horrible), Domino (that’s a girl’s name!), Fruitcake and Turbo Cat (just… no).  Instead, we watched the Benny Lava video, and decided that Benny wasn’t such a bad name after all.  Although he does occasionally get called Lava Face.  He also looks quite a lot like Hairy Maclary:



He’s settling in well – it took us a few attempts to find a suitable food that agreed with him, but he’s doing nicely now.  He needs to put on some weight, and have quite a lot of training.  Hopefully he’ll be able to join us on our biking adventures, but if not, we’ve worked out plans for alternate riding and even looked into dog trailers.  Obviously we won’t take him out if he’s unable to run alongside safely – don’t want to break the sweet little lad (or anyone who might run into him, could be a child’s face next time, etc…)

We’re planning on taking him on his first trip to the Chase on Sunday to meet the trailbuilders – hopefully he’ll cope with the car journey OK, we’ll have to wait and see!  We’re also hoping to get biking again soon, I’ve ordered some winter gear to keep me snuggly.  Fortunately my sniffles and sore throat cleared, so no repeat of the past two year’s winter illness so far (thanks to everyone who’s been concerned!).  I’ve also got a new pannier rack for my Inbred, which is quite exciting (hey, trust me on this).  Sadly the route into work from our new house isn’t as nice as the previous one down the canal towpath, but we are now quite close to the four cross course and The Bike Yard, which arranges local mtbing rides.  Yay! \o/


Finally received a reply from Jeremy Wright MP.  The reply was surprising in some respects, less so in others.  I guess I’d already resigned myself to it being a fairly cut and paste job – there were a few insults thrown at the Labour party (they did it first, but worse!), and general reassurance that selling off the forests was the correct thing to do because they’d be better managed and it’d reduce the conflict in interest in having the FC regulating the timber trade whilst also being a producer. I really don’t know if that’s his genuine opinion, or if he just puts the party line ahead of constituents’ concerns.

Surprising was his guarantee that all access rights were going to be preserved, so that people could continue to walk, cycle and ride their horses in their forests exactly as they had before. He claimed this was in the consultation, and I should fill it in.  Which is funny, because I’d already filled it in, and it hadn’t really made me think they’d given much thought to permissive rights of way.  He didn’t respond to my questions about what would happen to businesses currently located on Forestry land (bike shops/hire, cafes, riding schools, skills tutors, etc), although maybe it’s because it’s a moot point if all access rights were to be guaranteed.  I did kind of get the impression that he didn’t actually know the difference between permissive and CRoW routes though…

The other surprising thing was he replied by mail.  As in, ‘letter on paper through the letterbox’ mail.  Blimey.  I would have preferred an email – it’s how I contacted him, and I was always told that responding in the same format as one had been contacted in was preferable etiquette.  Not to mention that emails save paper and ink, so is better for the environment, and also saves money on customised stationary.   MP stationary is HEAVY.  The paper quality is Proper Posh (TM) – weighty, nice finish… you could paper a room with it!  And maybe an email would take slightly less than two weeks to arrive.

But all that is fairly moot, as two days later the government did a much-welcomed U-turn.  I guess having the majority of voters (regardless of political persuasion) hating you is probably a bad thing. In a way I hope it might turn out to be a good thing – the government have seen how far and wide opposition to the plans are, they’re now going to have to ensure access rights to the smaller amount land they do sell off or lose face… and most importantly, people are now more likely to be aware of any future sales, and know that people power and community concerns can work for change.


1) Still having a cough.  Still.  “It’s just viral, you’ve just got to sit it out”.  I’ve been sitting it out for three months now…

2) Online retailers who have a rubbish returns policy.  Two weeks before our holiday, I ordered three pairs of 3/4 length shorts.  The day before our holiday, the package arrived.  It didn’t contain shorts, oh no.  It contained three pairs of skinny leg jeans.  Three pairs of UK size six skinny leg jeans.

I am many things, but a UK size six is certainly not one of them, and certainly not when it comes to the hips department. Now, the online retailer who shall remain nameless have a curious returns policy – they have a courier come and pick up the parcel.  In theory, that’s great.  Except they’ll only pick up from the delivery address, and don’t turn up when they’re supposed to.  We’ve wasted two Saturdays waiting in on the courier, which was particularly bitter this weekend just gone given how nice and sunny it was.

So in short, they sent me the wrong stuff late, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get them to pick it up.  If they start whining about how it’s outside the 14 day return period, I’m going to be very miffed!  Very miffed, I say!

3) Jeremy Wright MP.  Oh Jeremy, why must you play so hard to get?  It’s been two weeks since I contacted you, and you’ve not even bothered to fob me off with a generic reply about why the government is right in selling off the forests.  You just ignore me, Jeremy, and it hurts a girl’s feelings.  I even went to extra special effort to make sure I was civil, and used paragraphs and punctutaion and everything!


My cough has now been stomping Godzilla style over my lungs for nearly a month now.  Haven’t been out on the bike as I’m currently incapable of going two minutes without a massive coughing fit, and I imagine that bike handling would be somewhat impaired as I ride one handed, the other hand covering my mouth with a dainty hankerchief.  Waiting for the doctor’s appointment, where the doctor can look at me dismissively and say, “We don’t really like handing out antibiotics”.  WELL FINE THEN, I’LL JUST HAVE A 6 MONTH CHEST INFECTION LIKE LAST YEAR, SHALL I?

My already foul mood is somewhat exacerbated by today’s news that Kotaku got itself hacked.  Been manically changing passwords all over the shop, and fortunately Facebook picked up on the fact that someone tried to access my account in LA but there’s not been anything odd come up from that so far.  If I try to sell you viagra, a degree, acaia berries, watches or a Russian Bride – that’s not me, that’s an oik with too much time on their hands.