The List

The off season adventures of Sam and Flic

“Yeah, I’m not sure disco lights are going to cut it”

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There are many things that Sam and Flic are good at. Sam, for example, is a talented and funny writer (ahem), Flic can turn your body into an efficient, effective whatever you need it to be. There are also many things that they are not good at. Like following instructions, like wearing appropriate clothing, like being prepared. But where’s the fun in that?

The return to The List had to be something worthwhile. We thought about fun sporting activities around London we could do. But our return after a year off had to be something big. And there is nothing that we like more than a road trip. But the Rollerskate (our trusted chariot to many of our adventures) is sadly no more. Hmmm. Ride trip?

And so the plan to cycle from London to Paris was born. First we thought we’d do the traditional three day route, covering around 100 miles a day. Then, because we didn’t want to carry too much, we thought we’d do the 24hr challenge. But we didn’t want to do it like everyone else – and perhaps because it is the only proper bike Flic has – so we decided to do it on TT bikes. Like you do.

So, we meet at the Shard on Friday at 4pm. We’ve decided to start here instead of Tower Bridge as it seemed more fun to ride from London’s newest phallus to one of Paris’s oldest.

The first stage of our ride goes pretty well. Well, we have to stop after 6km with the first mechanical. Someone (no names) hasn’t quite attached a rear water bottle cage to their seatpost properly. A few turns of an allen key later and we are back on our way. Sam has nailed this route this time and we don’t take a single wrong turn. We’re riding along at a decent pace. Slowling down to take in funny place names – our favourites being Woodcock, Little Woodcock, the beaver farm and Juggs Lane – and stop for a drink and wee stop about 60km. It’s then just a short 40km to Newhaven where we catch the ferry over to France. We make it at about 8.30pm just as the light starts to fade. This is good as the lights we have on our bikes might not be the most effective – more on that later – but also bad because it means we have to stand around in the cold for hours waiting to get on the ferry.

As we stand in a line with quite a lot of other cyclists we start to notice a few things. One; most people have touring bikes, not time trial bikes, two; most people have now put on a lot of clothes. Flic and Sam have put on all of theirs but are still not anywhere near appropriately dressed. Hmmm. Three; everyone has a lot, A LOT of kit with them. It’s panniers a go go. We have tiny rucksacks. Flic’s is so tiny, it’s probably been borrowed from a Borrower. Four; quite a lot of them have those map-holdy things on the front of their bikes. Old school. We’ve got technology. The batteries won’t die, right? Five; everyone has lights. Big, bright, illuminate the way kinda lights. We have a couple of led lights. Sam can’t fit hers to her bike so attaches them to herself. They light up a maximum of an inch in front of her. Flic has about 400 Knog lights on her bike. All flashing independently of each other, turning Ferg into a travelling disco bike. But we’ll be ok, right?

After what seems like an age, with nonsense already creeping into our conversations we finally board the ferry at just before 11pm. Loading the bikes is a little primitive. Ferg and Fanny are not cheap bikes. One chap tells us he bought his tank for £50. Erm. We might put our bikes somewhere else….They all get tied together with string and we tentatively head upstairs to find a seat to attempt to sleep in for the short four hour crossing. Of course, instead of sleeping we tweet, eat and giggle. There’s the odd bit of interrupted chair sleeping but nothing that you could call a good night’s sleep.

Before we know it, it is 4am and time to disembark. Ferg and Fanny are safe and unharmed. Thank goodness. We untie them and then head outside. Within two minutes the heavens have opened and it is absolutely bucketing it down. Argghh. We hastily put our waterproofs on and then follow the other cyclists. Remember, we’re totally unprepared so have no shame in following the crowd. Except the crowd is all huddled under a canopy trying to stay out of the rain. Sod that, we’ve got a time to hit. Off out into the rain we ride. “Do you know where we are going?”Flic yells at Sam. “Yes”’yells back Sam, full of confidence after the first smooth leg down to Newhaven.

Oops. Wrong way. Course says do not go over first bridge. We go over it. Twice. Once to go wrong, and again to put it right.

Suddenly we are plunged into total darkness. The disco lights and single chest LED we have mean that people can see us but we can’t see a thing. And seeing as the roads are completely deserted having lights with the single function of allowing you to be seen are pretty useless really. Add to this the fact that both us are reasonably blind and have had contacts in for the best part of 12 hours now and you have a combination that causes us to squint in vain out into the darkness in front of us and drop our speed. Pretty sure we see a snail overtake, but who knows what it was in this blackness.

But, we are on route and doing okay. We only miss the entrance to the Avenue Verte by about 500m. It’s amazing anyone finds it in the dark really. Unless they have working lights of course. Now, the Avenue Verte is probably very nice in the daylight, but at 5am it is pretty scary. You cannot see where you are going. You are in the middle of the woods. Anything could jump out at you.

We see some red lights ahead of us and some bright white beams in front of those red lights. No shame again so we jump on their wheels and start following. This works out quite well until they keep going the wrong way, culminating in climbing a hill for no reason whatsoever. Although it does allow for a wee break. And we see the moon. Kinda.

Back down the hill we roll – still in the pouring rain – and we get back on the Avenue Verte. The boys have carried on. We wonder if they ever make it to Paris.

Rolling along, freezing and deathly silent. The odd giggle escapes as we laugh at our own stupidity. Who doesn’t bring proper lights for a night ride? Idiots. Then a cockerel starts to holler that the sun is going to rise soon. Hurrah. A morning cock will always put a smile on your face. We start talking again now that the light is finally coming through and our eyes have adjusted to the dark. Pee stop number two. By a field filled with massive cows. They don’t look impressed and have started making some strange noises. At least, Sam assumes that’s the cows, as she stands in the dark holding Flic’s bike.

In almost an instant the sky turns from black to grey. No beautiful sunrise. The rain is lightening too. It’s going to be a good day. Now, if only our legs would start working. They just feel weird. It’s like we are climbing a hill but the Garmin says 0%. Sam asks Flic how slow we are going. “You don’t want to know” is the reply. Hmmmm. This isn’t like us. But there is nothing to muster. Caffeine is needed and needed quick.

Nowhere is open.

But nature always steps in to wake you up. Suddenly we are surrounded by 100s of rabbits. Its like a scene from Watership Down. They are fast little buggers, but they are also suicidal. They appear to run away from your bike and then dart in the complete opposite direction. Bunny dodging becomes a new game to keep us awake. Luckily we don’t hit any. Although we are hungry and rabbit would be good protein.

Avenue Verte comes to an end and we have our first moment of wondering where were are and what direction we are headed. We head into a town. It’s about 8am and the need for coffee is pretty desperate now. And then there it is. A café. An open café. With people in it. Halle-bloody-lujah. The locals are already on the beer but we just want coffee. Two coffees (with dark chocolate on the side. I think the man felt sorry for us). First one goes down without hitting the sides. Feeling slightly less zombie-ish. Is it rude to have another? Nope. Down it does. Ahhhhhh. Human finally.

Back on the bikes and the difference is amazing. Our average speed has picked up by more than 10kph and we are nattering away about sweat and nonsense with gay abandon. This is also the point where we are purposely off route. But we have a plan to catch it back up. For now though the open road is pleasant and we are picking up some pace and feeling human again. And the temperature has crept into double digits meaning that Flic is de-robing. Sam is still fairly wrapped up.

We power along. Knowing where we are going until we reach a fork in the road. One way will get us on track, the other way will eventually get us on track but doesn’t appear to do a big loop that the official route does. No brainer. Let’s take the other way. On we tootle.

Midday and 200km later we realise we are starving. We are two girls that like to eat. A lot usually. But so far on this ride we had a chorizo each, a tub of Total Greek with some blueberries and broken up bits of the protein flapjack that Flic has made (it, incidentally was several flapjacks but the heat from Flic’s body has turned it into porridge. It is tasty though), and a Builders bar (Sam appears to have eaten more than Flic, which has to be a first. Flic only has herself to blame for this though as she turned Sam into the incredible eating machine). Anyway. We’re hungry so the next goal is to find a town with some signs of life in it. Signs of life that aren’t just canine. What is it with rural France and dogs? Just as we approach the latest in a stream of empty towns we get overtaken by what looks like one of Dumb & Dumber on a tiny moped. Laughter follows. That image of Lloyd and Harry frozen together on a mini moped is our road trip image. This trip is bound to be adventurous after seeing that.

Finally a town with some life in it. Well, a bar-cum-newsagent and a patisserie. We stare at the cakes and giant brioche for longer than is appropriate but opt for a slice of quiche each. It is inhaled. It is salty, eggy, hammy, cheesy goodness that is gone all to quickly. Over the road to the bar for more coffee. Another two each. Buzzing. Sun is out now so we soak it up for a while. Sam de-robes to join Flic in the tanning opportunity. Could sit here all day, but we do have a deadline to meet.

On we go. Still off route but kinda headed in the right direction.

The French countryside is rolling. Up and down we go. Ticking off place names we know we need to go through. We decide to take it in turns on the front to make the time and distance pass quicker. 3km each and switch. We power through the miles.

We hit Marines. Not as in The Royal. We have around 50km to go to Paris and plenty of time to do it. But we are a little bit more off route than we think and are very low on water. But we figure out a route and on we go.

Someone has turned on a massive headwind, however, stuck some more hills in and turned our quiet country roads into something resembling a motorway. Hmmm. A couple of detours into business parks to see if there is a shop for water. Nope. Back on busy roads. Hmmmm. This is scenic. Oooh Lidl. Never have we been so happy. Until Flic has to stand in a queue for longer than wanted waiting to buy a 7c bottle of water.

We top up and move on. It is 12.30 now. And this might be where it starts to go a little bit wrong…or adventurous, whichever you prefer. Sam stupidly turns on Google Maps to direct us. Lord knows why she has done this. Last time she did, she ended up in the middle of a field with her road bike and had to hike a couple of miles to get back to civilization.

But she’s turned it on. The stupid Google woman takes us all around the houses. Up over a pedestrian bridge. “Are you sure we are going the right way?” ask Flic. “Yeah, definitely,” lies Sam.

We roll along next to a pretty canal and it looks like we are almost headed back to being on the official route. Woo hoo.

Erm. Well, almost.

Around the houses we go again. Sam might lose her temper and call the Google lady all the names under the sun. Flic steps in. Calm. Figures out a route. Back on track and headed towards Paris. It has taken us a couple of hours to travel about 20k. Hmmm.

Then we see Paris in the distance. The financial district looms on the horizon. Sam spots the Eiffel Tower. Then it disappears before she can point it out to Flic. And is disappears for a long time. As do we. Lost in La Defense. Sam’s Garmin is dead. Our phones are slipping into comas. Flic’s Garmin is almost dead. This could be fun. Every route we try to take is blocked. We can’t see the Tower anywhere. How can something so big be so invisible and why aren’t there any signs for it? The need to finish has overtaken commonsense so we end up dashing across a busy motorway and lugging our bikes up onto a bridge so that we can get ourselves pointing in the right direction.

We are so close. But so far. Mission now is to find the Arc de Triomph. Find it. Ooh cobbles. They don’t feel overly nice when you’ve been in your saddle for more hours than you care to remember and when you maybe might need a wee. The roundabout of death around the Arc looms. Take a deep breath and just go. Survive. Champs Elysee. More cobbles. How the Tour riders race over these we do not know. Leg sappers. There’s the Tower. Woohoo! Bollox. Where’s it gone. Take a side road. Finally see signs. Nearly get taken out by a French driver who thinks its okay to turn right from the middle lane when a cyclist is going straight. Get yelled at by said driver. Maybe killing cyclists in Paris is legal. Maybe it’s a crime of passion or something. Survive. The tower is so close. Take another turn. Bollox. One way. Sod it. Pavement. There she is. The Eiffel Tower in all her glory. We’ve made it. Before 4pm. Under 24hrs. A very squiggly route, but challenge complete. One big tick next to L2P 24 on #Tickingoffthelist.

Stop for a moment. Take it in. Turn to each other. “So, what shall we do next time?”

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We’re baaaaaack

Hello strangers. Guess what? The terrible twosome are back.

It has been a while since our last bout of sweat and nonsense but we have something up our sleeves – only one of us has sleeves, the other one pretty much lives in tiny shorts and a sports bra and her guns don’t fit in sleeves – that will see us return with style.

But first a prelude to that.

We couldn’t be further apart in our types of fitness at the moment. Flic is focused on strength and power. Sam is focused on endurance for her 1,100 miles in 15 days challenge (www.samanthamcclary.wordpress.com). But we both still love a bit of sweat and nonsense and have both missed finding new, different ways of testing our bodies.

So in just two weeks time we will be cycling from London to Paris in 24 hours. That in itself is something that has been done many a time before. But I’m not sure whether it has ever been done on TT bikes by two women who are expert at getting lost (okay only one of us is expert, but the other continues to let her lead the way at least until we’ve gotten lost at least three times. You’d think she’d learn!) .

So this weekend we decide to do a reccy down to Newhaven. You know, just to make sure Sam doesn’t get us lost and we end up missing the ferry. 

Sam has been cycling a lot. Flic hasn’t been on a bike for four months. But, hey, it’s only going to be a 200km+ round trip. Nothing like throwing yourself back in the deep end. Odd to use a swimming pool analogy when both of us are such accomplished (ahem) swimmers. 

Anyway. Flic hasn’t ridden a bike in ages (Sam’s a bit worried she might be a bit of a pussy on the bike – see below). Sam has ridden her TT about three times this year. For about 30km each time. 

Sam is in charge of directions and is feeling smug as her Garmin that died on the last trip to Brighton – in a hurricane where @higgypiggy123 almost killed some of the brightest talents in property. Kinda – has come back to life and she has managed to download a route that pretty much looks like a straight line. How hard could this be? Erm.

Sam gets us lost within about 10 minutes. She’s not really understanding how to use the Garmin. It’s telling her to go south. “How am I meant to know which way is south?” she says. Sam barely knows left from right. Flic pulls her phone out of its special hiding place (the aforementioned sports bra) and we revert to using Google Maps for a bit to get us on track. We’ve done a massive loop. Much like the massive, pointless loop Sam made her friend Sarah do last week on a ride down to the New Forest. Hmmmm.

Route starts with a bit of a busy section of road but then goes through some amazing countryside and towns and villages. There seems to be a headwind and a lot of hills. Isn’t it meant to be downhill to the sea?

We get most of the way to Newhaven but decide to go to Brighton first for food and much needed coffee. Sam’s genius directional skills come into play again and she may accidentally take us on a route that puts us on a ridiculously scary dual carriageway. Something again that happened with her last week. Anyone spot a theme?

We get to Brighton in one piece. Head to the Mock Turtle for food and caffeine. Chill out. Coffee. Tweet. Eat. Coffee. Tweet. Coffee. Check map for route home. Tweet. 

Back on bikes and roll along the coastal road to Newhaven. At Newhaven we head back inland towards Lewes and East Grinstead and see the best thing ever. 

EVER. 

Now, Miss Cole is the queen of tiny clothing but she totally got her butt kicked today. Big time. Careering towards us was a less than athletic looking lady riding her bike in only a bikini. Brilliant. That chick had balls. Well, not balls, a giant pair of tits actually, but you know what we mean!

Rest of ride home is reasonably unadventurous for us. No wrong turns. No naked people on bikes. Plenty of great street names though. We’ve never seen so much (wood)cock!

We stop for coffee, inhale our chorizos, get looked at funny. Flic offers some of her homemade energy bar, which has been warmed to a sticky mush by being in her back pocket. Sam goes to dig in but says “I’ve been wiping my nose with my hand.” Flic’s response? “I think we’ve probably shared enough bodily fluids over the years that it doesn’t matter.” Well, I guess there was that time in Miami with the jellyfish sting to the face. 

Scoff energy bar mush and ride on. 

Maybe one more slight navigational issue that takes us up a giant hill that we probably didn’t need to go up. But the end is in sight. Almost 220km of riding, getting lost and having fun. A great precursor to what is going to be a List ticking of a lifetime. 

Prepare yourself for the nonsense peeps, it’s going to be sweaty.

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The adventures of Captain Douchetard and his Doucheballs

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If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that there is nothing that Flic and Sam like more than getting dirty, filthy dirty.

Ooh, and the sun…and sweat…and nonsense.

Today all those things came together in a giant estate in the Hampshire countryside. Welcome to Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder is a 12 mile running race with 21 military-style obstacles to complete. It is attended by thousands of would-be Mudders all striving for an 80s-style dayglo orange towelling headband.

Team Sweat & Nonsense has been renamed for this event as Captain Douchetard and the Doucheballs and includes a special team member, the lovely Michael Pagnotta – one of Flic’s clients.

So apparently this isn’t a race, it’s a challenge. Good job none of us are competitive then.

Because we all need a wee we might be a smidge late for the start so begin the race, sorry challenge, at the back of the pack. Not for long though. Excuse me, coming through.

We weave through the pack, slipping through easily as we are all lubed up with coconut oil. Applied of course mainly as the real race of the year is who can be the brownest. Competition between Flic and Sam is fierce. Flic may have created a monster in Sam as the pair now go lube for lube in the grease up for tanning stakes.

Obstacle one was Kiss of Mud. Scrambling through mud underneath barbed wired. Fine if you are small and have flat hair, not quite so easy if you’ve decided to sport a high ponytail for the race – eh, Flic?

Muddied up early on. Then run run run. Pass pass pass. Scramble over some tall fences. Run run run. Then it’s time to jump into a big muddy pool from a great height. Close eyes. Jump. Underwater for what feels like an age. Pop up to top. Contacts still in. Phew. And we’re clean. Ish. And shorts are still on. Potentially not in the right place though. Erm.

Run run run. How the hell did they find all these hills in this field? Evil.

Next up is up and over some massive logs, laid horizontally and piled high. Just too wide to get a grip on and someone naughty has slipperied them up. But when it comes to handling wood, the three of us are pretty good so we find our grip, then straddle, then slip down the other side. Under, over, under, over. Lose some skin. Love it. Run run run. Pass pass pass.

Michael comes into his element for the next obstacle – Dirty Ballerina – as he flies over the massive ditches. Flic and Sam go a bit girlie. For once. One at time but cleared. On we go.
Next up is Human Gecko and here we can use the skills we learned bouldering (see post a few blogs back). We whizz across the wall and then speed off. No problem.

Oooh. Now here comes the goodie. Arctic Enema. Skips full of ice and water. Jump in. Go under an obstacle. Come up the other side. Cold. Disorientated. Frozen bits. Exhilarated. Love it. Team high fives. Shorts still remaining in kind of the right place. World, or rather Hampshire, is not quite our gynaecologist. Yet.

Run run run.

Ooh yay! More mud. This time it’s scrambling through it under a tank. Is this all a rouse to make girls lose their shorts?

Straight out from under the tank into wet, muddy tubes, one goes down, the other goes up. This time you have to use your forearms and elbows to drag yourself along. Potentially roll sports bra up above nipples in the process. No boobage to hold it down. Readjust and run on.

More hills. Up and down we go. Each Douchetard and Doucheball taking their turn on the front.

Oh no. Monkey bars. Flic tells Sam to channel Miami where she managed to monkey bar forwards and a little bit backwards. But they weren’t covered in butter. One bar and Sam is in the water. Fail. Flic makes it further but curses not having her liquid chalk. Michael makes it dangerously close to the end before deciding to take a little dip.

Then it’s time to get really dirty. Up and over muddy peaks, down into muddy water. Over and over. Caked in mud. Love it. Run run run.

Pick up log. Or rather we stick Michael in the middle and he carries the log. Sometimes you have to play the girl card. Sam looks down at leg, which appears to be caked in muddy blood. Hmmm. Pretty standard that she would have bloodied herself somehow. The others will later too so their mocking will be punished!

Blood and mud soon washed off as we jump over a wall of fire into another muddy pool. These cold baths are super refreshing and really get your legs going again.

On we speed, overtaking all the time.

Uh oh. Balance time. Jump on to wobbly floating islands on more cold water. Flic and Michael try the run over them fast method. Doesn’t work. Splash. Sam tries the jump on each one, do the balance wiggle she has perfected while being tortured with one-legged stuff in the gym with Flic. Works for a while. Fails.

Haul ourselves out of water. Run run run.

Crawl through more muddy tunnels. Trench Warfare. Really helping to be little but we still have to scramble through mud, rocks and lord knows what else to make it to the other side. Having too much fun to feel if any damage is being done as we scrape our bodies over all these unforgiving surfaces.

Then it’s time to crawl on your belly through water while trying to avoid being electrocuted by low hanging electrodes. All of us through with ease and no shocks. Easy.

Run run run.

Hero Carry. Instead of one of us getting on Michael’s back and then finding another strong man to carry us, the McClary/Cole intelligence shows itself to be what it really is and we decide to carry each other. Stupid. But fun. And pretty sure the boys behind us are getting a full moon.

Next up is possibly the hardest of all the obstacles. The Hero Walls. They look at least 100ft tall and we have to scramble over them. Michael gives us a boost over. Not sure he’s handled a girl’s bum for a while. Make it over. Dangle on the other side. Drop. Phew. Ah. How’s Michael gonna get over? We see him through the wood slats. Hmmm. Perhaps we should have stayed on the top to help? Suddenly he pops up and over. Yay! We turn around. Bugger. Another one. Over better this time.

Run run run. Then into a water-filled cage. Pull yourself along. Totally counts as a swim set. Was pretty good at that. Expert swimmers now. First out the water in Turkey next week for sure.

Cross country running now. Loving it. Nothing better than a run through the woods. Lots more excuse mes and coming throughs (we’re terribly polite). Then it’s Everest. A slippery halfpipe you have to run up and scramble over. Sam faceplants. Flic and Michael up and over in one. Sam follows suit.

Run for home. Up over some hay bales then the final obstacle. Electroshock Therapy. Sam just runs for it. Electrocuted but just keeps running. Flic goes for it. Electrocuted on the forehead. Goes down like she’s been shot. Michael goes for it. Electrocuted to the chest. Man down. Up they get and run through. Cross the finish line together. Two very dirty on the outside, one on the inside. Three massive smiles on our faces.

Shame it wasn’t a race. Totally would have won.

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Camp Sweat & Nonsense: Day 4

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The final day. How has it come around so quickly? Don’t want to go home. Especially as it looks miserable and cold back in Blighty.

So time to swim again today and this time we are going to do it properly. Trisuit up and head down to the beach. Tentative start then we swim out to a buoy that must be at least a mile offshore do four reps between two buoys a minimum of 500m apart and then swim back to shore. Pretty pleased with ourselves. Barefoot run back to the apartment. Struggle out of wet trisuits and really struggle into dry tiny Lycra (change needed for ultimate tanning apparel on our upcoming bike). Sam sees a side of Flic that no friend should really see but after yesterday’s vistas nothing blinds anymore.

Finally squeezed into our Lycra then it’s onto our bikes for today’s set. 20 mins “easy” – its all uphill so there is no real easy. Then as if that wasn’t already hard enough the plan calls for 40 minutes in race mode. That means pushing as hard as you can until you a) vomit b) sweat buckets through your eyelids c) go blind d) dribble uncontrollably or e) all of the above.

Pretty easy then. Erm. Then what should be the fun bit. The descent. But the descents are hard, especially if you don’t have any brake pads left (Flic). But the love for the speed takes over for Flic. Speed + fear + clamped on claws = fun times. For Flic.
Sam, not so much. A little. Maybe.
Back down in just 25 mins. Not as much wind as Thursday so the wind wobbles are controllable. Still a vibrating road though. Not so enjoyable this time.

Then it’s sunbathing and bike packing time. This means finding any wind-free slither of sun we can and lying in it. Oh and lathering yourself up with either Coconut Oil (Flic) or Baby Oil (Sam). There is still a competition going on remember!

Time for more chorizo. Not sure how many we’ve eaten. Wonder if there’s horse in it? Tasty nonetheless.

Sunbathe some more and start thinking about checking out. Please don’t make us go home.

Final session of the day. 45 mins of running. First we deposit our bikes and bags with the lovely Susanne. She looks at us.
“Are you going back to England like that?”
We are in tiny shorts and sports bras.
Er. Maybe.
Run first though.

Somehow it seems we are running back towards the nudest beach. How’d that happen? Oh well. We’ve seen it all now.

15 mins easy. And we actually are running easy for a change. But that’s because we know what’s coming next. 15 mins of sprints. 30 secs hard, 30 secs back into the wind. Love it. Nice to get some speed back. Apart from when we run out of road and start having to do the hard sprints into the wind. Arggghhhh.
Not even any dingle dangles to distract us. Blessing? Maybe.
Then the “cool down” is 15 mins running head first into the beeping wind. Urgh. Won’t be sad to say goodbye to that, but we love it hard so wouldn’t have it any other way really.

Can’t believe that’s it. All over. Maybe a quick five mins more in the sun.
Good job too.
Guy at the airport: “Where were you two staying?”
Us: “El Medano”
Guy: “Remind me to stay there next time. It was only 28 where I was so no tan.”
Us: “Er. It was 22 (minus five with the wind) where we were.”

If there’s one thing we know how to do well. It’s tan.
And sweat.
And do nonsense.

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Camp Sweat & Nonsense: Day 3

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Swim day. Oh no. Not our favourite. But on go the trisuits. In goes a sharp intake of breath and we head down to the beach. And so the excuses begin. First off. The waves are too big and dangerous. Second. There’s rocks so we can’t even get in the water. Third. There’s no other idiots swimming. Ah, bollox. There’s some people. Hmmm. Fourth? Windsurfers and kitesurfers might decapitate us? Right. Let’s just do this. We almost rode up a mountain with absolutely no fuel. We can do a little swim in the sea surely.

And there it is. The first of many sightings of nakedness today that we really don’t need to see.

Right. In we get. Slowest race start EVER. Cue one or two girly squeals, mainly from Sam.
Eventually we get going. No bashing into each other, which is an improvement. Water clear, not entirely warm and not entirely flat but we swim for what feels like a long time. In fact it’s probably only 5 mins. Stop. Chat. Keep going. Stop. Turn around. Go back. Hard to know how far you’ve gone when you don’t know times and there’s no real distance markers. We’ve had enough so easily talk ourselves out of the water and back to the apartment for a second breakfast and some competitive sunbathing.

Competitive sunbathing is actually competitive wind resisting. Covered in goose pimples as the wind makes the 22 degree heat feel like minus 5. We battle on though. A race is a race.

Big run of the day coming up so the sun (wind) bathing has to come to an end at midday.

Shorts on, trainers on and out we go. No racing today, 90 minute run. Steady Eddie. Lovely gentle run out to Montaña Roja. Then it’s time to climb. Being us, we find the steepest elevation and start scrambling up that. It’s not advisable to do a run on loose volcanic rock in your Nike Frees. Not awesome for grippage but at least our feet are working hard. Get almost to the top and see a track. Ah. Carry on up it to the top. Awesome views. Decide to do hill reps. Down the track we go. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee. All the way to the bottom. Turn around. This will be easier than the scramble. Off we set. Ooh this is fun. Ah. Actually this is hard. Legs don’t work. Hmmm. Pause. Giggle. Pull ourselves together then push on up. Hurrah! Down we go again, weaving in and out of hikers. Getting a bit busy so we carry on off road exploring. And boy oh boy do we see some sights. Quite by accident. Honest. First off is the brownest of bottoms hidden away in a little cove. We take a pic. Busted. Giggles must carry in the wind! Run on. Sam face plants. Obviously distracted thinking back to the naked man. On we run. Ooh this is nice. Flat. Ah. Sand. Ouch. Run a bit more. Turn around. Holy moly wind. Can. Not. Move. Struggle on. Arggghhhh. Our eyes. Another naked man. This time a massive Buddha style chap, luckily for us just about covering his bits. Run on. Arghhhhh. Naked old man. Sam gets a full frontal. Flic gets the saggy behind. Note to selves: Do not run through naturist beach again.

To calm our nerves from all the nakedness (we’re terribly innocent after all) we decide we better do a bit more sunbathing. Not a great deal of sun on the roof though and even less that is out of the wind but we find a tiny slither that is sheltered. Not enough room to sit or lie so Flic being the pro tanner she is stands up against the wall pretending she’s lying down. Genius.

Sunbathe and faff for a bit then it’s time for a strength session. Flic’s specialism. Find a kids playground. Boot the kids out and then get to work.

Warm up with mobility, balance and dynamic stretching. One of us is good at this. The other looks either like your dad at the school disco or someone having a mild epileptic fit.

Quite a lot of these involve bending forward and sticking your ass out which Flic potentially should not being doing in a kid’s playground in the ridiculously short shorts she has on.

Then it’s on to the main set. Five trisets of lower, upper then core exercises using the playground equipment.

Seesaw – had to have faith in each other that we wouldn’t let go and knock each other out. Surprised that worked!

At least 15 gazillion million types of jumpy exercisey thingys. Picked out especially for Sam as she loves them so much and is so graceful and was never called an elephant ballerina when she was little.

Lots of fun on the swings. Quite expert swingers it seems.

Lots of giggles and hard work. A perfect end to another fun and sweaty and nonsense filled day on our awesome camp.

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Camp Sweat & Nonsense: Day 2

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Some how we managed to sleep for almost 9hrs. How did that happen? Sam only ever sleeps between 4 and 5hrs and Flic never any more than 6.5. Still, we needed it for what today would bring.

Today is Mount Teide day.

Bikes and Giant ass packs fully loaded with eats. Spare inner tubes. Tools. Map. Water bottles full. Everything we could possibly need. Off we set.

Out along the coastal road. Flat. Ish. Wind behind us. This is more like it. Then at about 10k the climb starts. Back into the lowest gear and grind it out.

About a third of the way up the climb, Sam says to Flic: “Shit, I’ve forgotten any money.”
Flic to Sam: “Shit. Me too.”

Hmmm. What now? Too far up to turn back but we will need more water and knowing us, more food. And we were looking forward to the much hyped coffee stop at Vilaflor. Hmmm. We decide we’ll just have to tough it out. Idiots. Standard.

Climb some more. Mostly it’s awesome. The views are stunning. But every so often a dark moment washes over us. We both go very, very quiet. Not something that happens much, especially if we don’t have Twitter to be messing around on.

Relentless climbing. 6% feeling like flats again but 9% somehow feels like 20%. Urgh. How much further until our first stop at Vilaflor?

See a sign. 6 more km. Someone told us it was only 40k to Mount Teide. Hmmm. We are already at 34km. And the sign that said 6km to Vilaflor also said 33 to Teide. We try and come up with reasonings for this not to be a km measurement. Fail.

Suddenly feeling very sleepy and out of water. Major dark moment. But then see 1km to Vilaflor sign. Hallelujah. Ah, but we’ve got no deniro. Surely someone will just fill our water bottles? Nope. Apparently not. People in the cafe at Vilaflor not as nice to cyclists as the guys at the top of Box Hill. Sent on our way.

What to do? We won’t make it to the top on nothing. Are we stupid enough to try that? Potentially. Then, as if sent from heaven, a group of lovely Scottish people come and talk to us to find out what these two mentalist girls are doing. We say we are climbing to the top of the mountain but have forgotten all our money so might not make it. They start handing over all their change. We say, we can’t take your money. They insist. Actually fallen in love with them. They may have quite literally saved our lives.

Like children that have just been given their pocket money we head off to the nearest shop to see what we can buy. Flic comes out with a 5 litre bottle of water.

“What?”, she says when Sam looks quizzically at her, “it was only 90 cents.”

Next stop coffee. A language mistake sees two white coffees ordered. Error and €3 wasted. Sam downs both as milk goes nowhere near Flic. Two black coffees ordered and two oranges. Almost human again.

Now time to get back on our bikes and continue climbing. Steeper now. Gradient seems to hover between 7% and 12%. Legs are ruined. But at least we’ve got some fuel in our bodies and on our person now so it’s time to use today’s mantra – Shut up legs – and just keep climbing. Start seeing lots of cyclists heading down the mountain. Jealous. Altitude also starting to have an effect. Hard to take big deep breaths and we are feeling sick. Flic’s superior strength and power sees her pull away a bit while Sam continues to grind it out (Sam: I was totally just looking at the scenery not struggling. Honest.)
We regroup at a vista point that puts us above the clouds. Glorious. A quick couple of mins here to comfort each other that we are both feeling sick, seeing stars and are in a generous amount of pain. Brilliant. Shall we carry on up then? Yeah.

Off we climb. A few more dark moments and then we see it. A sign that says we are on El Teide. Big smiles break out across our faces. We’ve bloody done it. But the challenge is to go all the way to the cable car station. So on we go. Ooh. Some flats. Ooh and some descents. Ah, some more climbing. Then after 61km and 4hrs 18mins of almost entirely climbing we pull in at the cable car stop. Whoop whoop. High five big hug. Smug feeling. Amazing.

Like celebrities up here. Photos taken, someone asking if we are Team Sky and another not believing Flic’s done it on a TT. Ha.

Spend 10-15 mins soaking up the sun and views. And enjoying the mildly vibrating road.

Now it’s time to head down. But there’s a bit more climbing to do first. It seems to go up for longer than it went down but eventually we are ready to descend. Hmmm. Better put some clothes on as it is bloody freezing. Off we whizz.

Trip back down to Vilaflor takes about a 10th of the time it took to go up. We still have some of the lovely Scots’ money left so buy a chorizo (our second of the day. Oops) and two more coffees. Warm up then back out on the road for the whizz down. Head back to El Medano through Granadilla. Descent is cool. Lots of switchbacks but it is ridiculously cold and quite scary. Gripping on for dear life. And there’s that bloody wind again that rattles us around on the road. It causes us to physically wobble on our bikes. Flic uses the super quads to stop the wind wobbles. Sam just gets a fit of the giggles. Not quite as effective.

48km of descending. 1.32 hrs to get back to sea level. Almost as difficult as climbing. But finally we are home. We delicately clamber off our bikes. Ruined. Hug. Wonder what the Hell we are doing. Broken. Then reminisce. Giggle. How on earth do we get ourselves into stupid situations but always come out the other side having survived it all?

This time we have those four great Scots to thank. And perhaps our sheer bloody mindedness.

Already looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure.

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Camp Sweat & Nonsense: Day 1

Ridiculously early start even for us. Is it appropriate to have eaten four breakfasts before 8am? Hmmm.
15 visits to the sports luggage man before eventually being able to put our overstuffed bike boxes on the flight at Gatwick Airport.

Sleazyjet flight average. Bit of nodding dog action. But hoo bloody rah, here comes the sun. Touch down in Tenerife. Bright sunshine, 20 degrees. It is clear that Flic is itching to reduce her clothing levels to near minimal.

Bit of a palaver getting the bikes back. Last lot through the system. Eventually we get them. Didn’t help that it was in the basement and we were desperate for sun. Did help that the lift we were in had been graffitied to say 69 – a special reminder of Team 69 in Monaco (Sam, Flic and Troy).

The lovely Susanne comes and picks us up from the airport and insists on dragging Flic’s heavy bike box. Er has she not seen Flic’s guns? What about helping Sam out!

Get to the apartment and oh my god. We have lucked out. €55 a night for a beautiful apartment with roof terrace and hot tub. Boom!

Roof terrace is only accessible by a spiral staircase but that doesn’t stop us from hauling our bikes up there in bits to build. The sun is out after all!

Good news for Flic as Ferg is filthy and there’s a shower up here. We decide its a bike shower, not person shower.

Bikes being built. Sam’s almost done but then starts pacing around. The idiot thinks she’s lost a bit of her bike because her saddle won’t stay up. Half an hour of combing the apartment on her hands and knees follows. Flic soaks up the sun. Taking the lead in the tanning comp. Maybe she’s hidden the supposed missing part. Some time later, Flic points out that Sam was just putting the screw in the wrong hole…again.

So after discovering free wifi and the obligatory tweeting, Facebooking and more tweeting. Then maybe one more tweet. We stop faffing, get our bikes and head out onto the open road. When we say open we mean uphill. The training plan says 1-2 hours easy spin. Hmm. Well we are in our easiest gear. Start climbing. Nice and steady. The climbing is relentless but when the gradient drops to 6% it’s amazing how it feels like a flat road. Today’s route is out of El Medano, through Castro San Isidro, then up to Granadilla. Stop here for a quick drink break and photo opportunity. Mild error in judgment as now we have a hill start. Keep on climbing and then turn off towards San Miguel and some welcome downhills. The scenery is amazing. Not all downhill back to El Medano though, a few sneaky climbs, then the bloody wind hits. From all directions. Cue some horizontal riding, serious core training and literally white knuckle riding. So it turns out even if we do want to take it easy we’ve managed to pick the windiest place on the island to stay.

Back to our awesome apartment. Straight up the spiral staircase to the roof terrace. There is one small square of sunlight left. Two chairs. Two sun worshippers. It’s not that warm. Goosepimples. But the sun is out and there is a tanning competition going on here.

But we also have a run to do so we better get our asses back into gear.

Sam to Flic: “That’s disgusting.”
Flic to Sam: “I’ll sort my dirty bucket afterwards.”

Er. We’ll leave you to decipher what that means (note: read back to the dirty Ferg bit you dirty buggers).

So, shorts on. Trainers on and out into the streets we head. Training plan says 30 mins easy run. Now you see the problem with that is that both of us think the other is running easy and deep down inside we are probably trying to out run each other. That’s great for training. Not so great for sticking to the plan. That said, the run is awesome. Out along the boardwalk then into the sand and over some moon-style sand dunes. Turn around at 15 mins and there’s that bloody wind again!

Battle on. Turn to each other.
“Is this you running easy?”
“No, I’m trying to keep up with you.”
“Er, I’m trying to keep up with you.”
“Oh. Shall we slow it down?”

We didn’t.
Run to supermarket. Choff chorizo.
Eggs.
Now what?
Hot tub?
Oh, go on then.

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RIMS, NIPPLES AND WET LUBE

The List doesn’t always have to involve some sort of extreme pain or risk of death. The point of The List after all is to provide us with extra strength, power and nous for when the new season begins.
So, while both being pretty independent kinda of gals who like to achieve things ourselves, when it comes to bike maintenance/repair both of us have been known to happily play up to the damsel in distress role.
But no more (or at least not much more), for on Friday we rocked up to Cadence Performance in Crystal Palace for a two-hour introduction to bike maintenance.
After a big cup of coffee (vital for mental clarity), the course begins.
It starts off seemingly innocent, but after a very short while things start being said that begin to make us wonder whether we are on bike course or something very, very different.
Initially, we wondered whether learning how to take a wheel off and change a tyre might be a bit simple. But then things like nipples, pumping, how important it is to keep your rim clean, and how great a certain allen key is because it has a ballhead started being talked about. Ballheads, incidentally, are very, very useful, especially if you knock your hood (no idea what that actually means by the way as was too busy sniggering to learn.)
For Sam, this is like heaven. Every word uttered plays up to her juvenile sense of humour and ability to find filth in anything. Flic is not far behind, but really innuendo is the one thing that Sam can pip her partner in crime to the post on. Just.
After changing tyres – and picking up a few new tips as you always do from the pros – we move on to changing your brake pads and taking your brakes apart to give them a good clean to stop any stickiness.
And this is where it almost gets too much. Cue the world’s greatest question. Made even greater by the fact that the poser of this question had no idea how brilliant a question it was.
Here it is. Brace yourself.
“What lubes would you recommend for certain parts?”
What follows next is uncontrollable shaking from Flic and Sam as they use all of their strength not to burst into inappropriate laughter.
That is made harder still by the reply to the question.
“For this? [the brake system] Wet lube.”
Oh no. Hold it in. Do not laugh. Stop being childish. It’s not that kind of lube. Please lord don’t let him keep talking about it. Please. Uh oh. Here it comes. The reason you should use that kind of lube.
“Wet lube is still going to be there at the end of a three-hour ride.”
Can’t look at each other. Daren’t. There will be an accident. Actually, all this trying not to piss ourselves laughing is doing our pelvic floor the world of good. See, there’s always some sort physical gain to be found!
Thankfully, things get serious again when we start learning about gears. This is something that is going to help us in the upcoming season. Looking after the mechanism that powers us forward is tremendously important. If things aren’t running quite as smoothly as they should we now know some simple ways to fine tune our gears to get the ride we are after (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
And suddenly two hours is over.
So, what have we learned from this List ticking?
Not only have we had a giggle (which we always do), learned how to control ourselves (kinda), we have picked up some great tips of how to keep our numerous steeds in good health.
And, spotted another potential for The List. This time one that will get us sweaty and potentially bloodied….
THE BIKE NEEDING MAINTENANCE (AND LOTS OF LUBE)
bike
THE LUBE
wetride
THE COURSE
cadence

NYC: The List

As Flic has a fractured ankle, being able to tick something off the list was posing some challenges. Despite Flic desperately wanting to run and jump and skip etc for once in her life she is being a good girl. Kinda.

So, what to do?
On one of our many wanders around manhattan, we come across a tri store. Of course we go in. Buy some cool t-shirts and then spy a sign saying tandem bike hire. Done. List ticking found.

Now, the tandem we hire isn’t exactly made of carbon, most definitely does not have its tyres pumped to 130psi and is about as aero as Humvee. In fact, it has quite a bit in common with a HV. It’s bloody heavy, wants to always veer left and is turning a lot of heads. That may be because its December in New York and we are prancing around in our One Triathlon trisuits of course.

So, time to saddle up. It’s fair to say that we are not known for our grace, but as seasoned cyclists one would have thought that we could mount a bike pretty well.

Hmmm.

Ever tried mounting a tandem with a basket on the front and getting it going? It’s bloody hard. Cue many many funny looks, numerous finger points and a “you should get your money back” but after around 15 mins of huffing and puffing and deciding who will pedal when, switching positions, another 10 mins of almost getting going before wobbling, stopping and seriously contemplating giving up, will, determination and sheer bloody mindedness meant we eventually (after a few squeals) got the bike moving.

Now we just had to hope we didn’t have to stop.

For some reason Sam is at the front of the tandem steering. Why we have chosen this position we don’t know. Then Flic pipes up and says its for Project Get Sam Faster, otherwise known as Project Flic’s Got A Broken Ankle So Move Your Lazy Ass Sam & Use Some Power.

So off we wobble. But after about five mins of slalom riding we get into our groove. And although we are on the slowest of all bikes, like anything we do together (or really just anything in Flic’s case) this is a race, so we have to start overtaking people.

A loop of the park is 10k. We do a loop. It takes about 5 mins. Turns out that was the inner ring not Project Get Sam Faster already kicking in. Then we do the 10k loop. Turns out there are hills in the park. Hills on a heavy tandem with two Builder Bar stuffed girls on it are quite tough. Especially when you don’t really understand the gearing and have no idea if you can get up out of the saddle without falling off. Oh well, all about that leg strength. And we can only push down on the pedals as they are flats not clipless. Thank goodness for that though. Trying to get the tandem going and clipping in would have meant certain death, or at least another couple of broken ankles.

Anyway, now we are flying along. But who put all the bloody traffic lights in the park? Do they not know we don’t know how to stop? Thankfully, we don’t kill anyone.

People we pass tend to stop and stare or give a double take. We assure them this is only our training bike, and that the race bike is much nicer. Oh, they are staring at us because we are in tiny Lycra on a winter’s day in New York. Ah.

So, what are the off season training benefits of riding a tandem around one of the most famous parks in the world in blue Lycra in December?

Leg power – especially for Sam when Flic decided to stop pedalling on the back of the bike.

Team work – apart from when Flic stopped pedalling on the back of the bike.

Confidence – rocking it and overtaking despite being on a hunk of junk.

Working those abs – laughing out loud for an hour non stop has gotta be worth a good core session.

So there we have it, another one checked off The List.

Bring on the next.

Xx

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BIG JUGS – NOT A TERM WE’RE OVERLY FAMILIAR WITH

Most normal folks would probably think running up and down muddy hills and through stinky bogs would be enough mullering for their legs in one day. But, let’s face it, we’re not normal.

Cue The List target number 3.

We had thought we were going rock climbing but it ended up that we had booked in for bouldering. While a little upset that we weren’t going to be strapped up like Anastasia Steele in the lamest of so-called raunchy hits 50 Shades, much talk of jugs and holds soon had our innuendo juices flowing.

After signing a form warning us of our potential death, we don rather fetching, yet rather small rubber shoes.

The group learning to boulder today includes two quiet girls (not us), three Chelsea boys who are sure they’ll get ripped if they do this a lot yah, and us (bouldering can be competitive right?).

Chalked up we first have a go at traversing. Easy. We whizz across the wall. Then it’s time to climb. Grey to start. Easy. Then green. Green suddenly gets hard. The holds are smaller and farther apart. And our legs are starting to feel the Hellrunner we’d smashed just a few hours earlier (see Pure Filth).

After struggling with green – but of course getting higher than the others – we have a go at the endurance wall. A 22 step climb. It’s hard. Flic completes it, but it even looks hard for Miss Superstrong, Sam gets almost all the way before losing her grip at 16 and falling only to be caught – ass first – by Flic.

Given the situations we’ve gotten into before – let’s just say one involved a jellyfish sting to the face followed by an awkward conversation about pee – ass-cradling is pretty tame.

Instruction is now officially over. Much like the velodrome, we may have got a little competitive at times but we totally showed them how it was done. Even the falling off.

A few more attempts at the runs that had defeated us, but grumbling tummies, tired legs and burned out guns (peashooters for Sam) told us it was time to call it a night.

The benefits of bouldering for the off season?

It’s all about your legs. All the power to push you up those boulders comes from those big muscle groups. An ideal session for power on the bike and in the run (not so ideal if you’ve already run up and down hills for 10-12 miles).

The session also served to reinforce a mantra that we both live by – don’t try, do. See the hurdle in your way and get round it. And hey, if you fall, someone’s got your back (ass in this case) and you can do it again. And again. And again until you get it done.

Ticking off the List number 3 done.

Bring on number 4.

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