Monday, 17 February 2014

A wander in Wales

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This week I'm spending a short break in the rolling countryside of Wales, in a small converted mill a few miles out from the hamlet of Tregaron, inland from Aberystwyth.  If you've never visited Wales, then I can highly recommend then beautiful countryside, but be warned!

If England has a few lumps and bumps, Wales has mammoth hills that will test you, whether you go out for a walk, a cycle ride or both as I did yesterday.  I set myself up for a 50 mile circular route out to the coast and back, it looked nice from the Garmin Connect site which I used to plot my route, all I had to do was upload it to my Garmin 800 Edge and it would show me the way.  Here's the ride:

I set off at 0730 on a bright morning as the rest of the cottage inhabitants were sleeping, clean fresh air filled my lungs as I slowly paced my way up the farm track to the main road as four (yes four) buzzards silently watched me from the neighbouring field, probably wondering what a lycra clad fluorescent orange person was doing cycling at that time of the morning!

There was a bit of downhill to begin with, all lined by fields full of sheep, and as the cool morning air rushed past me I began to feel fully awake.  And then the hills started.  I've never experienced cycling like it, a constant up and down steep gradients, on two occasions I had to get off and push, my bike simply ran out of gears that would allow me to carry on!

With every uphill there was a beautiful vista for miles of rolling hills, flooded valleys and a backdrop of a bright blue sky that made it worthwhile.  That and the down hill sections too!  Often these were steep, and not knowing the roads I couldn't go as fast as I would have liked, although my Garmin tells me I hit 33mph, so not bad.

I had told the gang back at the cottage that I would be 3.5hours or so, but after 1 hour I had only managed just over 10 miles, this was looking to be a cycling odyssey as the huge hill was still to come!  I pushed on to the little seaside town of Aberaeron ( a delightful little place, worth a visit if you come up this way).  The town is pretty much at sea level, but everywhere surrounding it is at about 1,000ft.  If you have ever cycled up a 1,000ft hill I can promise you, you will remember it very well, your thighs will burn, your lungs will be sore as you take deep lungfuls of not enough oxygen and your head will swim with the effort.  Wow!  It was tough, but tremendously rewarding when getting to the top.

The ride went on from there and consisted of more hills, thankfully a good deal of long downhill sections which were great.  As I rode past the fields, sheep jumped and fled from the orange monstrosity, and I began to think that the regularity of it may make an RSPCA officer suspicious, so I was thankful none were about.  Tractors and farm workers whizzed by, buzzards peered at me from hedges and soared over fast fields ahead.

As the Garmin clocked up 30 miles I began to count down how far I needed to go, 20, 19, 18, 17.  It was enjoyable ride, but incredibly strenuous and I was looking forward to finishing.  I hit 40 miles (10 to go) and then things got a little confusing, which ever way I went my Garmin told me I was going the wrong way, I guess now that I had botched the route at that point, the sensible thing would have been to check it on my phone and ride on.  Instead, I got a little frustrated and guessed that the route was to my right, so off I headed for miles in utterly the wrong direction as I discovered when I eventually stopped and did what I should have done before.  At this point time was beginning to tick away, a ride that should have been done at 11am was now dragging on past 12 and I still has a quarter of it to go!  I decided to get a lift back at this stage (although now wish I hadn't) and called it a day.  None the less, a very satisfying ride and I was pleased with how hard I had pushed myself - in 42 miles I had climbed 3,500 feet, just shy of the total climbing I had done in the 100mile New Forest sportive in October last year.

Here are a few shots from the afternoon walk (a 3 hour romp - I was tired by the end of the day).

Onwards & upwards