My boss during my 4 week internship, Fraser, will soon be turning 40. Most years since 1993, he has organised an annual bike ride with friends, which they call Mud vs Sheep vs Bike. This year he organised to hold the event in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, for the weekend of September 5, 6, 7 and invited me to join him and his friends. One of his friends lent me a decent bike with front suspension and we hit the trails. Having had knee surgery at the start of June, this was the point at which my new Anterior Cruciate Ligament should theoretically be at its weakest strength as it has lost its original strength (from when it was actually 2 lengths of hamstrings before the surgeon turned them into a single ACL) and is just now establishing a blood supply with the bones against which it is held by screws. So, while my knee feels fairly good, I have to be even more careful right now to avoid injuring it.
I took it quite easy on the ride as a result, walking when the uphill or downhill slopes were too difficult or risky. It’s been years since I’ve been out on trails, and I had a tonne of fun sliding through mud, fishtailing along slippery tree roots, and not falling off any of the cliff edges. The stuff I used to do with my brother Dan in Vancouver was tougher in terms of jumps and stuff, but this was more difficult in terms of endurance, as we did something around 44 km on Saturday which was 3 hrs 40 mins of movement (felt a lot longer than that) with 524 m of total climb. On Sunday, what was supposed to be an easy, one hour trip, turned out to be 2 hrs 40 mins of movement (this is the figure from Fraser’s wristwatch GPS, but I actually spent a lot longer than this as I wasn’t with Fraser the whole time) covering 34.6 km (in fact, I went approximately 6 km farther than Fraser as I was at the front of the pack following two people who took a wrong turn, so the three of us had to turn around after a long time and find the correct way; I’d say I cycled about 42 km on Sunday). The total climb that day was 459 m for Fraser, but that extra 6 km I did was a tough 19 m of extra vertical climbing!
All in all, the weekend was a great success and I got a helluva workout for my legs and lungs. My knee held up well, and it only took 4 days for my shoes to dry after I cleaned the mud off them in Bristol on Sunday afternoon.
Well, wasn’t that interesting. Photos might be a little MORE interesting, so here they are:
This is the map of our Saturday ride. The yellow bit is where everyone else went, the red is where I went (I was going too fast for the others on the way home and they had told me to just keep going straight, which turned out to be wrong hehe).
Info from Fraser’s wristwatch GPS:
Ready to start off into the trails after a few miles of road cycling:
High up somewhere, looking westward, we could see the bridge from England to Wales from here but it doesn’t show up in this pic.
There were around 20 people riding the first day.
Getting started again after a short break:
At the end of our trail riding, about to enter the pub where I ate two plates and two drinks to replace all the energy I’d lost on the ride! The mud was worse than it looks in this pic:
Adam’s legs show the mud a bit better:
That evening we had a bit of a birthday celebration for Fraser, as he’ll soon turn 40. This is the cake his friends got for him, showing a photo of him on a Mud vs Sheep vs Bike many years ago:
Here’s our Sunday trail map. The bit between the two yellow spots is the extra 6 km (3 km each way) that three of us did accidentally on our way home. We nearly went to Gloucester!
And the info from Fraser’s GPS:
Starting out, it was pretty easy going on the roads, but it got nearly impossible soonafter and I had to walk up a steep road for about 10 minutes as I just couldn’t manage the hill.
You’ve seen mud, you’ve seen bike. Here are the sheep:
On top of Frocester Hill:
Cliché, but I was never strong enough in the past to lift a bike over my head like this so I had to do it! As it is, I barely could hold it up there!
Adam posing with the scenery:
More scenery of Gloucestershire from another hilltop:
Just before we finally headed back down to the hostel, someone spotted an ice cream truck and Sandeep kindly bought us all ice cream cones with chocolate sticks in them. Fraser definitely enjoyed his. See the look of happiness on his face?
Whew. All done.