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I started my 2011 cycling year today.  I am glad I waited until today as it was a much brighter day in that there was no mist or fog around.  I felt much happier about todays ride than last Thursdays.  I deliberately chose a circuit about 5 miles longer so that whatever happened I was going to have to stretch myself.  It was a previously ridden circuit of 38.6 miles that I last rode in August last year when I was probably at about my peak.  I was one mile per hour slower today than I was then, so not so bad I guess, making allowance for the cold as well, compared to then.  This time I rode into Bedfordshire instead of Northamptonshire.  Although I live in Buckinghamshire it is the very northern tip of the county and the Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire borders are very close.  There is a wood just up the road from me that is appropriately named ‘Three Shires Wood’ as it spreads into all three counties.

I had my usual morning regime of a cup of tea when I wake followed by a breakfast of orange juice, hot porridge oats, I use Oat So Simple, Quaker Oats as they are microwaveable and quick to prepare followed by a hot croissant and a cup of coffee.  I have this every morning whether cycling or not.  In the summer I have a cold cereal in place of the porridge.  As most of my riding starts in the morning this is usually enough to sustain me for 40 to 50 miles of non-stop riding.  I did take provisions with me in the form of a Mars Bar and some water.  Neither of which I touched as I didn’t need the energy boost and the water was very cold but after Thursday performance I took them just in case.

I prefer not to stop if I can when I am riding alone unless it’s a really long ride as I don’t like to get cold and go through the warming up process again, todays temperature was around 2c.  Plus it helps to build up the stamina I think.  I am now mostly riding over old ground all the time so it’s all quite familiar to me so there is no need for stopping for sightseeing or photo opportunities.

Items of note on todays ride were few and far between.  I did come upon a back of Beagle dogs being taken out for a training run themselves along one of the country lanes, accompanied by four handlers, each with four or five leads in each hand making a total of around 30 -40 dogs I guess.  I came up behind them and as they were spread right across the road I gave them a warning shout.  In response to which they drew them in close and I gave them a wide berth and went on my way.  It did occur to me to wonder what they were actually used to hunt as they are quite a bit smaller than the usual hunting hounds.  It appears they are used for hunting hares and rabbits and the occasional fox.  The other difference being that huntsmen usually follow on foot and not horseback

I also noticed how bad the road surfaces are getting now.  The back roads and lanes and even some of the more major roads are full of pot-holes.  A lot are still left unrepaired from last winters frost damage and they have been joined by a lot more from the recent spell of bad weather.  Some holes were just hurriedly repaired last year due to the sheer number of them and where the water has penetrated the cracks and frozen they have just broken out again.  It makes life treacherous for a cyclist, having to take avoiding action.  Fortunately most of the country roads I ride are fairly traffic free.  They are also a source of pinch punctures should you unknowingly drop into one and pinch the tyre and tube against the wheel rim as you hit the exit ridge.  The other point of interest I noted was that the rivers are very high with flood water from the melting snows I guess as we havent had too much in the way of rain.  I also noticed the roads were even dry in some places.  Its been a while since that happened.

I have set myself a target of 10,000 kilometers riding this year which equates to about 6250 miles.   I will do it month by month but not the same each month.  This months target is 450 miles as I am expecting more bad weather to come yet with 600 – 650 miles being attainable through the better weather going by last years performance.   I have started to classify some routes that I will use over and over as training rides by adding R1, R2 etc to the title so they are easy for me  to pick out and make comparisons to check progress ( or as is the current case, lack of progress).  For example last Thursdays ride was R1 and todays was R2