Tag Archives: hills

A Sporting Weekend – The Yorkshire Tour

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On Sunday leafy Yorkshire was invaded by the French for the first time since the Norman invasion.

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Even our local newspaper was taken over, with a commentator yelling “speciale edition of ze Yourkshe post!”.

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A mannequin on a roof.

We arrived early in the morning in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. There were ancient stone houses and farmers’ fields everywhere and the smell of cut grass lingered in the air.

Parking spaces were already filling up on verges of the narrow country bridges and pavements. There was a festival atmosphere with many of the crowd in yellow, many already lining the route including the BBC.

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Quite a lot of people had camped overnight to get the top spots. Copyright literarylidi

We walked up one long steep hill. I pitied the Tour de France riders who would have to climb it. If it was me I would certainly get off and walk.

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We passed a field with numerous food stalls from hog roasts to Carribbean food to the local brewery stalls and then on to the Portacabin cess pits, although at this early stage they were still fairly hygienic.

Any stalls advertising coffee had lines of caffeine addicts desperately awaiting their morning fix. My boyfriend’s friends spent about an hour in it for theirs.026

A sausage sandwich was necessary for the wait. We found a bit of the verge that had been left as it was narrow and established our territory. With just crisps and chit-chat we whiled away the hours until lunch – a picnic. All the while spectators streamed past up the hill, desperate for a patch of grass to claim.

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A lot of people had cycled there including a lady in a polka-dot dress. A mother produced giant chalks and her children drew all over the road with them, including her. She seemed to be enjoying it more than them.134

Then just half an hour before the event began a large lady with small dark eyes close to her nose, her skinny older husband with parchment skin from years of nicotine abuse and their whiny little boy were walking in the road and stopped at us.

The mother eyed us up and decided we were soft targets.

“Do you mind if we stand here, we’ll stand behind you and won’t cause any trouble” she said aggressively.050

It was more an order than a question and without waiting for an answer she shoved herself and her family between us. We ignored them so she continued her tirade:

“don’t see why they mind, we’ve got as much right to be here as they have, it’s a free country, it’s not like they own the land. Anyway I don’t see why they’re sitting down” she glanced at me indignantly “there’d be a lot more space for other people if they stood up.”

Her husband timidly intervened “they might have been waiting here for many hours.” She relented slightly “well they may have but why shouldn’t we stand here as well, we’re standing behind them and we aren’t gonna cause any trouble are we?” she said to her offspring, who about ten minutes later started whining “is it gonna start yet? mummy when’s it gonna start? it’s been aaages! I’m bored!”

“Play with your sword then” the space offender suggested and her son started thrashing his plastic sword and shield about at spectators.

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The procession of police and gendarmes began at around 3 with continuous sirens and beeps. Then came the marketing cars and floats throwing out freebies. They were not as generous with them as I would have liked and of 121course most of them went to the boy beside us. But I imagined to get a cow keyring with some French on it. They were mostly floats for French companies but some were international. One had massive drinks on and ice cubes, a car sported a plastic bottle of wine the length of the roof:

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and there was a gym van with people on exercise bikes racing away.

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There was a van covered in cheese and one with meat advertising a French supermarket that we also shopped at in Turkey of all places.

Then there was a constant stream of police landrovers, motorbikes and cars with thin dainty racing bikes on. I started to feel a little sick at the amount of taxpayer money inevitably funding all those police, who were more needed along the route. Occasionally our stewart shouted “get behind the white line” but often forgot, so some people were nearly taken out by wing mirrors.

The crowd became more and more excited, with Mexican waves rippling about.

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Three generations in eager anticipation. Copyright literarylydi

Finally it was the race we’d all been waiting for. A helicopter swooping low overhead heralded their arrival.168

We heard the cheers rippling further and further up the hill as the police escort heralded the arrival of the leanest meanest cycling machines in Europe if not the world.

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I was expecting them to look exhausted but their matchstick muscle legs seemed to propel them effortlessly past, with not even a drop of sweat flying off onto us in the front row.They were almost sitting back in the saddle admiring the crowds, who surged forwards almost into the road. There was no steward to be seen and one guy stepped into the path of a competitor and he had to swerve around.

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I was absorbed in the atmosphere and in my camera, experimenting with the different effects.

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Then came the middle group really working, most standing up and leaning forward, smiling as the spectators shouted and screamed.

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The crowds were going crazy for it! Copyright literarylydi

 

 

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It was a Lycra line of calf muscles bulging out like biceps. I was unaware that the British cyclist had already passed as no one had acknowledged him in the fly-past.

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Then came the stragglers and this time I could just make out rivers of sweat running down their face in the 20 degree humid heat, having climbed at least 500 metres of torturous hilly bends. An ambulance whizzed past with its lights on.

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There was a pause and then everyone went into the road and started heading home, moving baby steps for about half an hour, when suddenly police cars and bikes parted the crowd and one straggler acknowledged the crowd with a wide grin as he palely inched past us in yellow.

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He even manages to raise a smile despite being crowded in. Copyright literarlydi

Then in true Yorkshire style, it began to rain as we headed to the car.

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Cyclist heading home in the downpour.

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We spent hours in a traffic queue overlooking the beautiful open countryside as Tour wannabes whizzed by.

On the way back I saw some “tourmakers” having a consultation in their frog green outfits.

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Would I go again? I doubt it. We waited hours and hours for about 15 minutes of cyclist champions but I don’t regret it because of  the sheer excitement and energy of the event.

When we got home we watched Lewis Hamilton win the Grand Prix which finished our grand day out nicely.

 

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July 10, 2014 · 9:00 pm

A Remote Rural Rave

 

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Credit: Alice Burrow

Yesterday there was a “Peace in the Park” festival in Sheffield. This community music event started as protest to the Iraq war in 2003 and last year 8,000 attended.

I walked over four miles home from work and by the time I got there I was tired so I thought I’d save my energies for Peace in the Dark which follows. The location is released on the night in a phone message, the number of which is circulated by word of mouth. It was quite vague, the anonymous voice telling us (in a very Yorkshire accent) to “get t Ladybower [a local reservoir] and it’s dahn t’yer [down to your] left”. I’d never been to a rave this unofficial and was quite excited. Although apparently times have moved on and they’re now called “free parties”.

So after a fair bit of laser raving at mine (thanks YouTube) we set off into the early morning darkness, clinging on to the sides as we hurtled about in the taxi. Luckily the roads were quiet as we tore round corners going onto the wrong side of the road. The taxi driver said he had no idea where it was but he had been dropping people off at the reservoir all night. It was cloudy so we couldn’t see anything but taxi headlights lit the way as we joined an endless stream of people heading off along what is called the “Snake Pass” because it has narrow windy roads threading through the Pennines of the Peak District through to Manchester. We soon left the grey lake behind. The road was totally unsuitable for walking and there were no verges. It was surprisingly busy with cars beeping occasionally at the rabble winding haphazardly along. A police car with flashing lights sped past. “That’ll be on the way to the rave” I declared, “it’ll be over by the time we get there”. “That’s great for positive-thinking” a spectacled girl in front said, “that’ll get you far”. I shut up.

After a while the excitement of walking in the dark with fellow revellers beside pine tree forests, with hills outlined against a grey sky wore off and I began to get frustrated. We’d been walking for miles away from all civilisation and there was still no sight or sound of any activity other than dazed drunken youths asking each other if they knew the location. I began to loudly proclaim that there were no fields around here open to the public and we were just walking out to Manchester, that it was a big joke and I was tired already. My friend stoically and silently continued, compromising that if we walked another 15 minutes and still hadn’t reached it we could turn back.

Finally we heard the dull thuds of multiple sound systems, beating drums beckoning us to ritual raving and pounding to the beat of our hearts as we picked up the pace. A police car with lights flashing was stationed at the top of a track and party-goers were streaming past it and down the hill to the left. As we went past I heard someone inside calling for back-up. We went down the dirt path and gradually the smoke of several fires, crowds and the piles of speakers could be seen dotted about in the greyness. It was quite a sight. I imagined we wouldn’t have long to enjoy it before it was broken up.

I met one of the organisers on the way down, a cheery chap with black curls framing his face. I asked him about the police and whether the party could be stopped. “Nah” he said “they’ve been here since it started at 11 and there’s nothing they can do cos they’d need at least half the number of the crowd to do anything, all they can do is random drug searches which is what they’re doing. Are they still there? Cos I don’t wanna go up if they are.”

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Credit: Lauren-Allen Warwick

After deciding not to jump over the barbed wire fence, I opted for the gate at the end of it. It was a bizarre sight walking in. There were people tripping just standing in the field transfixed by the hills above them, muttering to themselves or just staring into space. Then there were quite a lot of people dancing as if they’d been electrocuted, flapping about manically. Others were in big groups inhaling balloons and there was the sound of gas cannisters being filled everywhere and empties lining the grass. People stared into small fires or cuddled each other enthusiastically on the field. The madness was framed by hills all around with a bank of fir trees as a backdrop. We walked round the four sound-systems playing happy hardcore, trance, drum and bass and reggae.

However I was quite distracted by the swarms of biting flies which dived from every angle. I could feel my face and hands burning from multiple bites. I danced near smokers, it is the only time I have been grateful for nicotine addicts.

I desperately started applying hair serum that I had in my pocket over my face. At least the blighters would get trapped in the goo. A guy with framed kind eyes, a shock of dark hair and a neat beard said “is that Merizalene?” “Merizalene?” I looked blankly and he took a spray out of his pocket. I assumed he was discussing some sort of drug but then he said “yeah, insect repellant”. I was ecstatic and coated my smarting face and hands in it.

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Credit: Lauren-Allen Warwick

Gradually it began to grow light but the party showed no signs of slowing. Less people were dancing now but there still hundreds milling about. We decided to call it a night at 6.30 and headed up the track with a great view of the craziness below. Luckily the taxi fare back was helped by others sharing the journey. The aggressive biting midges that hitched a ride with us too were not as welcome. One of the passengers said she was 15 but she looked older, wide-eyed and wrapped in an orange blanket, sitting next to a youth in a multicoloured woven poncho. At her age I didn’t even know what a rave (sorry, “free party”) was!

5.30am and we're still going!

5.30am and we’re still going!

It was a great morning but next time I’m taking insect repellent. My bacon bean and cheese pancakes were a perfect start to the following day.

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Dust and Delerium – My Second 10K

 

After managing to finish my first 10k last year despite going up one of the steepest hills instead of around it and stopping to tie my shoelaces, I decided to try it this year.

I intended to carb-load the night before, that is filling yourself with carbohydrates (as the Mighty Mo Farrah recommends) to fuel you through. However as I was at a barbecue for dinner I couldn’t stomach it.

The weather forecast was great if you wanted to sunbathe, but not ideal for a race. Twenty-one degree heat was predicted, which feels double that when you’re wheezing your guts out.

I hadn’t trained more than once a week, although I have been cycling to work for a week or two. You need to exercise about five days a week to really push your stamina levels up according to my doctor dad and lately I have been getting to work faster and faster.

I was already feeling tired as I had not been able to get to sleep the night before, being hot and restless.

It seemed to take an age to register. We got some gimicky freebies in a goody bag – foot cream, sweat towel and so forth.

My boyfriend and I limbered up in the dust bowl of my local farm’s lane as an athletic, macho crowd gathered. I wondered whether I was crazy. What was I doing here? The only other females were honed toned and looked rather pleased with themselves already.

My friend couldn’t contain her excitement, paparazzi-style and I was grateful for her support.

The “ready, set go” of the race wasn’t quite the shock of the starting gun I was hoping for, but off we went, long lean bodies jostling for position, elbows flying. It was almost as risky as a mosh pit.

Pretty soon we fell into line and I felt charged with the energy and vitality of the competitors. The breaths behind spurred me into action, giving it all I got with my weak legs. They felt empty of all strength and drive, the result of a couple of hours sleep and an early start. The running devil in my head wondered whether I was going to have to walk it, but I didn’t pay any attention. The voice I wanted to give attention to was the angel saying “go on, you can do it, you’ll be fine, you’re doing well”. Later on in the race I verbalised that voice and found it gave me incredible comfort and support.

We wound round country lanes and up hills, in fact almost all the race was a hill. The sun beat down us and the air was frustratingly still and warm. I found myself sweating all over and gasping for air. I felt like I was drowning. My heartbeat wouldn’t slow down, it raced and raced faster than my feet did. I tried to regulate it and at first succeeded but as it got faster it got more difficult.

Thankfully there were stiles to give a welcome break as I waited for the queue to jump it. I felt like a ninja, Ipod blaring, vaulting them with ease. But once I was off the stile I became a car low on fuel again. Without the carbs my body was almost stalling, and on the hills my pace slowed to that of walking.

But I refused to let the running devil win. I wasn’t going to walk, otherwise I might stroll round the course and it would cease to be a race.

So on I went, gasping, wheezing, with sweat sticking my clothes to me. I was grateful when we ran in shade but a lot of the track was open to the harsh rays. It was a real test of motivation to keep going. Half way round the line of girls in front began walking and I knew then that I was too far back. I was so frustrated with my body, where was the power my legs needed? I could almost hear the thud of my heart over the music in my headphones, a dull cacophony of desperation. Surely it wasn’t going to be this body-breaking all the way around.

Two runners gave me motivation. One was embarrassingly near the start, by a strangely cheerful young man. Another was towards the halfway mark. As I began to give way to the running devil and seriously consider walking, just for a little bit, only for a bit, a lady encouraged me just at the right time. There she was, running but still smiling. I had seen her walking ahead for a while but my pace had been so slow that I hadn’t been able to overtake anyone! These words of advice were just what I needed and suddenly I found myself on the right track and not just physically. I had a new determination, a new power from within. I felt like Asterix after he had drunk the magic strength potion. Suddenly I had new belief in myself and the angel kicked the devil out for good.

I felt my legs charge up, my heart-rate slow and my body relax. Stamina had arrived.

The motivational runner, who had said I would “overtake her at the next stile” found her prediction come true and tried in vain to catch up, keeping the pressure on for some time as I wound through woodland, now almost alone. I could dimly see my competitors in front. I aimed for them, not taking my eyes off them. I would not be beaten. I would not.

We were through the woods and I had caught up to the dim figures. I began to run into the downhill slope, whereas they ran in a lop-sided careless fashion. This enabled me to overtake them on the hill, I was perfectly balanced this way, bending my knees more and taking the hill in my stride literally.

They tailed me for a while before I managed to gain some ground. Finally I saw the first man I had seen in the race for a while up ahead. I felt like I was improving – there had only been one man walking further back. I took advantage of the shade from the trees and my new slower heart beat to allow myself to go faster.

It took much longer this time, but I closed in on my prey, a long-limbed man in a black shirt and shorts. The wrong colour for hot weather. He tried to quicken his pace. I finally passed him, but he overtook me and stayed just ahead for some time. Shortly after him was my first motivational speaker. He had run too fast at the start and was running in a manner which said “let me finish NOW!”. At this point the elevation went up and down with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. He looked exhausted. As I passed him I returned the encouragement. He instantly brightened up and a smile returned to his face. I saw power return to him in the way which I felt when I was spurred to success.

But I was not going to let him win now, that would be embarrassing. The first man I had passed, dressed in black, was just ahead as I went up the hill, telling myself to come on as I controlled my breathing.

As we went over the last hurdle (or stile) and went through a funnel of trees before the finish, I was tantalisingly close to my prey. One last push and I could beat him. He tried to accelerate but he was too exhausted. The tunnel vision kicked in and I sprinted past him to the finish line.

In the end I was a minute faster than last year! Completing it in an hour and six minutes and on the hottest day of the year, in the high 20 degree heat. It was thrilling to finally beat the guy in front. I then enjoyed a free burger and sports massage, just what I needed!

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The Driver vs Cyclist Dispute

This picture is not of the subjects referred to below

This picture is not of the driver or cyclist referred to below.

It seems the two-wheeler versus four-wheeler “war” has erupted once more. This time it’s a motorist bragging about hitting a cyclist. 

It appears that Emma Way boasted on Twitter “Definitely knocked a cyclist emma way_bloody cyclistsoff his bike earlier. I have right of way – he doesn’t even pay road tax! #Bloodycyclists.” It went viral and Twitterers were quick to alert Norwich police, who tweeted back: “We have had tweets ref an RTC with a bike. We suggest you report it at a police station ASAP if not done already & then dm us”.

This was especially affecting today as I did my second cycle commute. Why should we pay tax on this when potholes in bike lanes force us to dodge round them onto the road? When many roads still do not have red lanes? When we can’t use them as cars park in them? When they end without warning? When there is glass on them?

As blogger Reid of ipayroadtax.com points out, the reality is that there is no “road tax”. Road construction and maintenance is paid for by everyone through taxes. The Vehicle Excise Duty that motorists pay is levied according to engine size or CO2 emissions.

The negative sentiments of motorists towards two-wheelers was apparent when a friend said “sorry but if a bike even grazes my wing mirror I will go bat sh** crazy”. She didn’t relent even when I pointed out that this would probably happen because she hadn’t left the cyclist enough space.

As for the claim that two-wheelers should have lessons on rules of the road, I actually agree with this. I learnt from asking others, but there needs to be compulsory training in schools. Some in my city already run courses. This would encourage more people to use this green method of transport, as they would feel more prepared and confident.
I only had one problem today – a flashy hatchback wouldn’t let me get past him to the front of the lights. This meant I had to work a lot harder to cycle up a slight hill before they changed again. Let a bike get ahead of you to the front of the queue. They need the extra time.
On the plus side though, I have found red lanes that run through town! It takes me down quieter roads, I just have to be careful of the numerous side roads leading on to it. This time buses left me more space, and I took care to look behind me when coming out from bus lanes or parked cars.
Yes, both sides flout the Highway Code. But I believe the majority do not. Isn’t it about time we put share the roadaside our differences? Lets share the road and make both our commutes less stressful.
Most people admire my preferred method of transport, dicing with death and attacking hills deters them. Yet it is not as risky as they think – I have had no trouble. In fact, these challenges are the very reason I get a thrill from pedal power. Once you have conquered the gradient and potential danger you know that nothing at work can hold you back.
Cycling-to-work

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