*** I’ve spent an hour messing around with the formatting of this and it’s still rubbish. I’ve given up.***
The crank arms for the pedals on my bike are around 170mm long. My pedals, therefore, operate in a fixed radius of around 340mm. This should make locating them an incredibly simple affair and would leave anyone unable to complete such a straightforward task open to ridicule and a weekend of bullying. It’s ok though, I’m over it now.
The weekend sounded like an absurd one when BenT first suggested it – 270km, the back way through the mountains from Hue to Danang. Split over two days. On bikes, without drugs. It was a ride that Phil (badly dressed) and Em (smiley) had done some months before and we were assured that not only was it possible, but it might also be enjoyable. I think it speaks volumes for the sort of company I keep that most of the idiots I train with felt it was a marvellous plan and happily signed up.
It was only after I’d forked out the cash for the flights that Phil mentioned that, due to the massive amounts of climbing on terrible road surfaces involved, it’s not the sort of ride you’d want to do on anything other than a road bike. Being the owner of a shiny carbon time trial steed, I opted to ignore this advice and hope for the best (not easily done when you’ve got Damo whining continually about the potential trauma involved in taking his Planet X up into the mountains). Luckily, our minds were put at ease over performance enhancing beers during the wait for our delayed flight up to Hue on the Friday evening, with Darryl and Wayne going out of their way to point out the massive hills on the handy laminated maps that had been provided (this enforced drinking binge also bought with it some other interesting revelations – Wayne’s obsession with hay barns and former colleagues being the most jaw-dropping).
Day one got off to a relaxed start – Phil, the self-styled expert on the trip, insisted that we had plenty of time for breakfast and we didn’t need to be on the road until mid-morning (Remember this, it may explain event s later on). Plenty of time to bid farewell to an injured Darryl – off to explore the real
fatdanironman tops – a proper bunch of cyclists. And Phil.
Vietnam on his own – and pose for pictures in our magnificent fatdanironman bike tops (a very late birthday present, but one gratefully received – for the first time we actually looked like a bunch of serious cyclists. Apart from miserable Phil – he requested a sponsorship free top in protest at having his wardrobe roundly mocked by everyone on the internet). The cycling was, for want of a better word, brutal. The first day saw us tackle 146km, with around 4,000m of climbing, spread over 3 massive hills that led up to and then followed the Ho Chi Minh Trail along the Vietnam-Laos border. The first two were bad enough, but the third, a horrible 10km or so was so bad it left our weaker riders spread out on the floor, weeping quietly to themselves (the picture shows this very clearly, with the group’s strongest – and fattest – rider stood up at the back, full of athletic intent). The final climb
Hills – good for separating men from boys.
also pushed Ben over the fragile mental precipice he had constructed for himself – his arrival at the top saw him throw his bike down in a childish temper tantrum before unleashing a volley of abuse at the hapless tour guide Phil. Not that Phil was entirely blameless – he had described the final climb as ‘not that long’, an outright lie supported by Stewart’s flawed pre-ride assessment of it being a painful, but manageable ‘5km’. It was only after regrouping at the top that we realised that we had a rather large problem looming – thanks largely to Phil’s absurdly relaxed start time, we only had around 30mins of daylight left and around 35km to cover , most of it downhill on roads that were potholed but lacking any form of street lighting. Splendid. We got as far as we could in the growing darkness before things started to get perilous. At this point, rather than stopping and establishing a plan B, we decided to fall into formation behind the only person with a bike light and crawl along like toddlers out on their first trikes. Not only was this entirely unsafe (you know when you’re on dodgy ground when Simple Wayne claims that this is ‘easily the most reckless thing I’ve done’), but it also meant our progress was painfully slow – around 8kmph, plus frequent stops to regroup/find pedals/not get run over. Finally, thankfully, it got too dark to see
Too dark to continue – finally calling it quits, 15km short.
even silhouettes and we were forced to stop 15km short, on a hillside in the middle of nowhere and hitch a ride in the back of a truck. Despite the ignominy of a first day DNF, we weren’t all that bothered as A) we were all shattered B) it meant we weren’t going to die and C) it was all Phil’s fault anyway. Day two, from the cultural hotspot of Prao to the airport in Danang was much nicer – an 80km that consisted of a lot of downhill and the promise of decent food ensured that the misery was kept to a minimum. My only complaint would be the shocking state of the roads – while the boys on the road bikes could fly downhill faster than the speed of sound (117kmph was clocked by a clearly faulty Garmin), those of us on the time trial bikes clung desperately to our bars as we hit every bump, pothole and
Phil may have mentioned something about terrible road surfaces. I didn’t listen.
stray dog on the way. My hands are currently blistered and my bike’s currently in the shop – I’ll be amazed if nothing’s broken on it. More expense. Hooray. The trip finished with a
Post-race nutrition, Mmm.
gluttonous stop off at a pizza parlour (two pizzas and chips each please. And more beer.), before flying back to Saigon and bed. Overall, despite Ben’s Tourette’s, Phil’s poor timings and outright lies, and climbing 5 times the height of Snowdon, it was a splendid trip – a great combination of training and sightseeing and much better than hanging out in Hoi An with Darryl criticising backpackers. The data (courtesy of Damo’s GPS):Day 1 – 146.7km covered, 5,326 elevation, 6hrs 55mins of cycling, 6,213 calories burnedDay 2 – 78.7km covered, 836 elevation, 3hrs 06mins of cycling, 1,986 calories burned
Training totals for the three weeks since my last post:
Week 28 – Swim Plan: 2 hours Actual: 1 hour
Bike Plan: 4 hours Actual: 5 hours
Run Plan: 3 hours Actual: 3 hours
Week 29 – Swim Plan: 2 hours Actual: 1 hour
Bike Plan: 4 hours Actual: 5 hours
Run Plan: 3 hrs 30 Actual: 3 hrs 30
Week 30 – Swim Plan: 2 hours Actual: 1 hour
Bike Plan: 4 hours Actual: 10 hours
Run Plan: 3 hours Actual: 1 hour
Stupid training things I have done this week:
# 6 in an occasional series
A (fat)man in girls clothing.
Reckless jumper shopping – our overnight in Prao was chilly. I went to the shop next door and bought a jumper for about 5gbp. Turns out it was a girl’s jumper which only served to highlight my paunch. I left it behind. It kept my arms warm though.# 7 in an occasional series
Hurt my shoulder drawing bar graphs with my class of Year Two kids. Maybe linked to the weekend’s exploits, maybe not – they were pretty big bars. Either way, it’s prevented me from training and made me sulky.