Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! Hopefully everyone is happy and healthy, and raring to go in 2017. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to do a long “Review of 2016” (I think the moment for that has passed), but I am going to have a quick backward glance over my shouder, and then blow my own trumpet just briefly.

I started the year injured and grumpy. I spent half the year still injured and grumpy. By the autumn I began entering off road races because I love them (and they’re easier on my foot), met up with lots of other Chippenham Harriers and rediscovered my love of running. I learnt how to swim front crawl, and now need to work on completing more than a length at a time. I got out more on my road bike, and completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge of 2016.

My coffeeneuring patch. Very proud of this

Brace yourself – here comes the trumpet blowing.

As at the end of 2016, after running in 4 races in the Wiltshire Athletic Association Off Road League I found myself currently 3rd in the ladies league (out of 90 runners), and first in my age group! This is glossing over the fact I actually came last in the tri-counties XC race – that was a hard slog! Just two more races in the league to go, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I’m dreaming of trophies (no idea if they actually give out trophies, but don’t shatter my dreams just yet). Oh, and Chippenham Harriers are leading both the Mens and Ladies Team competitions as well. Toot toot!

The last day of 2016 started with parkrun. A lovely atmosphere there, despite the drizzle and slippy mud. The new year started with volunteering at the same parkrun, not easy in torrential rain and with more runners than I’ve ever seen there (but not quite a record apparently!) My first lesson of 2017 was that the bar code scanners don’t work well in the cold and wet. My second was that some people don’t deserve a free run totally staffed by volunteers. I mean, we were all getting cold, wet and frustrated that the scanners weren’t working, but to throw your soggy paper bar code and finisher’s token at me shouting “Oh just take it then!” isn’t on really, is it?

Anyway, enough wandering down memory lane. Today I’ve run* my first parkrun of the year, last week I made it to my first ‘Efforts’ session of the year (probably my first since 2015), and I’m planning on going to my first swimming lesson of 2017 on Monday. Bring it on, 2017, I’m ready for you!

* staggered, slipped, wobbled

Coffeeneuring 2016. A round up and a question 

For the benefit of the poor soul who has to read through everyone’s blog posts and Facebook entries to check to see if we’ve completed the 2016 Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’ve put together a compilation of my rides.

Ride 1. 21st October 2016. The spontaneous one. Instantly inspired by a friend’s Instagram posting about something called “coffeeneuring”, the short ride to my closest coffee shop at Allington Farm Shop. 5 miles round trip.

Ride 2. 26th October 2016. The one with the veggie breakfast and the too-warm cycling gear. 18 mile round trip to Merkin’s Farm.

Ride 3. 30th October 2016. The one with my husband and the lovely lunch. 31 mile round trip to The Birdcage, Malmesbury.

Ride 4. 9th November 2016. The one with the peacock and the soggy saddle. 5.2 mile damp ride to Grounded, Corsham.

Ride 5. 16th November 2016. The one with the china crockery. Folly Row Cafe, Kington St Michael. 10.9 miles.

Ride 6. 18th November 2016. The one that felt like cheating (but wasn’t!) Costa Coffee, Chippenham. 7.6 miles.

Ride 7. 20th November 2016. The one with the flood and the flask, where an aborted ride was saved with a “coffeeneuring without walls” trip. 2.5 miles around my own village.

7 rides done in 7 weeks, in fact in 4 and a half weeks (due to my late start). A total mileage of 80.2 miles. This is waaaaay more than I would normally do on my bike, especially at this cold and wet time of year! It’s wonderful what a challenge will push you to do.

The more observant amongst you will notice that my last 3 rides all seem to be done within 7 days. If you’ve read the rules (you have read the rules, right? You’re not the sort of person who just ticks the box that says “I have read the terms and conditions” without actually reading them, are you?!) you’ll know that rule number 6 states “Two Rides Max Per Week”. Okay, I’m not trying to cheat, but this challenge did originate in the U.S. where a new week starts on a Sunday. Soooooo, technically today’s ride was in next week, whilst Wednesday’s and Friday’s rides were in last week.

Have I convinced you? Have I successfully completed Coffeeneuring 2016?

If I have, that’s great because I’d love to officially complete the challenge and get my patch. If I didn’t, well I’m happy I finished the challenge unofficially and that it’s got me out on my bike for 80.2 miles that I probably wouldn’t have done without Coffeeneuring.

So thank you, Chasing Mailboxes – see you next year!

Bike and cafe. Nuff said.
Bike and cafe. Nuff said.

Coffeeneuring #7. A Flood and a Flask.

It is the final day of the Coffeeneuring Challenge (which is basically to take 7 cycle rides to 7 different cafes in 7 weeks*).  Squeezing in my final ride on the very last day was cutting things a little fine, but I’ll explain why in another post.

I decided to pedal over to Corsham again but this time go to the very lovely Methuen Arms. We’ve eaten here before (and fabtastic it was too) but I’d never popped in just for a drink. Husband decided he had a bit of a tickly throat after his big ride yesterday, so I wrapped up warm and set off alone.

Last night, Storm Angus came through over most of southern England, and the ground was really wet and full of fallen leaves. Nothing my “Happy Shpper” couldn’t handle, I thought!

Half a mile out of the village, I came across this:-

img_0384
Flood not puddle

On closer inspection, this was a very large puddle, or even a flood. Large, and very murky. I dithered for a short while, then decided to turn back. The only other road to Corsham is another small, twisty lane but much busier with cars. I don’t like cycling on that road at all as it doesn’t feel safe so my Meuthen Arms trip would have to be postponed. However, I still had to fit in my final Coffeeneuring trip.

Thinking on my feet (wheels) I headed back home, and quickly made up a flask. I then set out in the opposite direction and headed for my allotment. Another first – Coffeeneuring Without Walls! (Yes, this IS allowed in the rules!)  Not surprisingly, there were no other people at the allotments, and I quickly mixed up my packet hot chocolate.

img_0388
Allotment, not prison camp

Standing at the deserted, sodden allotments, drinking quite frankly horrible hot chocolate, whilst thinking of the lovely surroundings I’d missed out on, I had to admit to myself that if I wasn’t trying to complete this challenge I wouldn’t have bothered. Still – that’s what these challenges are for, pushing you to do things that you wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Anyway, 2.5 miles done around and about the village, and my 7th Coffeeneuring ride in the bag! I would recommend my allotment as a coffee stop on beautiful sunny days. There is plenty of bike parking (the hedge is huge!), the locals are friendly but I’ll need to rethink my choice of beverage.

A round up of my Coffeeneuring Challenge experience is coming up in the next post.

 

 

* For the full rules see here:- Chasing Mailboxes Blog

Coffeeneuring #6 Costa coffee, Chippenham 

Friday 18th November 2016.

On a morning that started with snow on our velux windows and roof, knowing I had to squeeze a ride in was not a delightful prospect. I had planned a short route to a Costa Coffee which felt like a cheat because it’s a cafe I visit every Monday morning between my swimming lesson and my Italian lesson. I have never been to it by bike though – so it still felt like a worthy challenge.

The cafe is on a small retail park just outside Chippenham and as I cycled around the car park I saw there was nowhere to lock my bike up by the cafe, but there was some cycle parking right over on the other side.

My bike at Bath Road Retail Park
My bike over here, cafe all the way over there!

It might have been a distance away, but it had the rare luxury of a roof. It was immaculate so although the park has been open for several years I think I was the first cyclist to use it!

Luxury bike parking with a roof!
Luxury bike parking with a roof!

I had a hot chocolate and sat in the window anxiously watching the dark skies before pedalling hard and fortunately beating the weather home.

Compulsory 'helmet and drink' shot
Compulsory ‘helmet and drink’ shot

7.6 miles on the trusty “Happy Shopper” bike, and just one more Coffeeneuring trip to fit in before the end of the weekend.

Coffeeneuring #5 Folly Row Cafe, Kington St. Michael

Wednesday 16th November 2016.

Another day combining running an errand with a cafe trip – multitasking at its finest!

Not a promising view…

Despite the view outside, a planned short car trip to the post office in the next village became a cycle ride on my trusty “happy shopper” bike followed by a circuitous route home via the Folly Row Cafe in Kington St. Michael.

Folly Row cafe, Kington St. Michael
Folly Row cafe, Kington St. Michael. That’s my bike parked behind the bins

Last time I cycled here I forgot my bike lock and just propped my bike up against the window where I could see it. This time I was prepared and as I wheeled my bike down the side I saw this sign:-  

There was a handy fold-away hook attached to the wall which was great but I did wonder how you would manage with more than a couple of bikes.

All safely locked into the solitary bike ‘tether’

Inside it is most definitely a china cup and saucer kind of place (I was even given a saucer with my mug!) which contrasted sharply with the fry-up breakfasts most people were eating. I carefully ate my raspberry crumble cake with my cake fork, and stirred my hot chocolate with my Isle of Wight commemorative spoon. Even with the tiny cutlery it all went down rather quickly (blush).

The rain had started spitting when I came out of the warm, dry cafe, and as I cycled home the wind had got up as well. Great unanswered questions of our time – why is it always a headwind?! Anyway 10.9 miles done! *

  • yes, of course if I had spotted that on my Garmin I would have gone round the block to round it up to 11 miles

Coffeeneuring #4. Grounded, Corsham.

A dithery moment after lunch on Wednesday 9th November 2016 which went like this:-

I ought to get out and do something.

I could go for a cycle ride.

I could go for a coffeeneuring trip!

But…

I have things I need to do.

I have things I need to buy.

I don’t want to walk around shops in my “clip clop” cycling shoes.

Light bulb moment!

Pop to my closest small town on my shopper bike and in normal clothes so no problems with clip clop shoes, no worries about leaving my bike locked up on the high street (well, less than if I was leaving my Trek) and I even had a basket to put my shopping in!

Simple!

The plan worked well. I enjoyed my ride, even though my shopper bike (called my “Happy Shopper”) is very heavy and takes a lot of work to cycle up even the smallest of inclines. Never mind carbon fibre or steel, I swear this bike is made of lead. I did my shopping and pushed my bike up the pedestrianised High Street without clip-clopping and locked my bike up in front of some shops.  I don’t like leaving my bike in this particular bike rack, because it’s right by where the ‘youf’ of Corsham tend to hang out, but it was in front of a barber shop so I hoped the two bored barbers would keep an eye on it for me. It seemed a fair swap after they’d got to laugh at me struggling to unwind my bike lock and have it “twang” out of my hands more times that I care to mention.

“Grounded”* was a haven of peace. A converted chapel, you have to pass through the old graveyard to get to it The sight of a peacock poking around the grave stones makes for a bewildering experience if you don’t know Corsham.

Just an average Corsham resident

Its high ceiling makes an impressive setting for a cafe. I sat down, had my drink brought to me (which was delicious and VERY HOT! Excellent!) and  relaxed. Ahhh! As I left, I told the waitress it had been the best part of my day – and I wasn’t lying.

I stepped out into the gloom, feeling revived and content, only to find it had rained heavily whilst I had been inside and although my bike was still locked up safe and sound, I now had a very soggy saddle to sit on for the ride home. Humpf!

Anyway 5.2 miles cycled, #coffeeneuring #4 done!

* Grounded, in Corsham

Coffeeneuring #3. The Birdcage, Malmesbury


Sunday 30th October 2016

Coffeeneuring with my husband home for the weekend. He’s a good cyclist so our trip was longer than it would have been on my own, we ended up doing a round trip of 31 miles to the local town of Malmesbury. A cycling club from Swindon had got there just before us so the two cafes were full. What was a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary to do, but go to a nice new Italian restaurant and have lunch there?!

Lunch with warm dough sticks
Lunch with warm dough sticks

Lovely lunch, disappointing mocha, great ride.

Coffeeneuring #2. Merkin’s Farm Cafe

Wednesday 26th October 2016.

Bouyed up by my first successful (if short and somewhat wussy) Coffeeneuring adventure, I planned a trip to Merkin’s Farm for half term, when I presumed I’d be able to drag my teenaged son with me. The promise of one of their homemade bean burgers will normally prise him away from his computer and onto his bike. Unfortunately, this time I obviously wasn’t persuasive enough, so a solo trip it was.

It looked cold and grey, so I dressed up in my new (and highly attractive) winter cycling gear.* What’s not to love about fleece-backed black and hi-viz yellow lycra? (Shall I start a list??)** Anyway, it’s warm and visible which is what matters. I planned a route and set off. Route just happened to go past Great Chalfield Manor – anyone spot Poldark there? No, just a van.

Great Chalfield Manor
Anyone seen Poldark?

I arrived, ignored the suggested cycle parking,

Bike parking
Bike parking

 

parked in front of an (unfortunately)  pink bench,img_0185


 

and headed inside for my veggie breakfast.

Veggie breakfast
Veggie breakfast

An uneventful ride back home (no falls this time!) completed an 18 mile round trip. The only downside to this ride? It wasn’t as cold outside as it looked and I was sweltering in my winter cycling gear especially on the return journey with a warm, full stomach. It was worth it though!

*Maybe, just maybe, that’s why my son didn’t want to accompany me

**You’ll be glad to hear I have no photos of me wearing this attractive outfit

 

Coffeeneuring #1 – my kind of challenge!

I was sat reading a very boring text book today, grumbling that I hadn’t made it out on my bike this week, and thinking that I now wouldn’t manage it, but that I’d have liked a ride today but I couldn’t quite motivate myself but but but… then as a distraction I looked on Instagram. I saw one of my friends (a proper triathlon Ironman!) had posted about a cycle ride which included a cafe stop, with the hashtag #coffeeneuring2016

coffee what-ing? 

A quick google told me “Now in its sixth year, the Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is a relaxed cycling endeavor for people everywhere. If you like riding a bike and enjoy drinking coffee or tea (or even hot chocolate or cider), consider this challenge.”

Sounded like just my kind of challenge, but I thought I’d better read on to make sure there were no catches. No compulsory 100 mile rides. No double espressos. No failing if you fall off. I read on, and no, it all seemed fine.

There are some rules of course, like in all good challenges, but they’re pretty straightforward. 7 rides, in 7 weeks, no more than 2 rides in one week, a round trip of at least 2 miles, a drink of some description, coffee or not, hot or cold. You can even take your own drink and drink (or brew it) outside as long as you go to 7 different places. 

Totally inspired, I immediately leapt onto my lovely “happy shopper” bike and pedalled the two and a half miles to our local farm shop & cafe* and enjoyed a lovely mocha. 

I’m going to enjoy this challenge, and it will definitely make me get out on my bike. 

For more information have a look here:-coffeeneuring

*Allington Farm Shop, Allington, Chippenham SN14 6LJ