Well, things are rolling along. I managed a good ride last week, 327km of mainly dirt. It took longer than I hoped, but I still have six months to train (at least I did, when I did the ride)! Still, my basic plan at the moment is just to gradually do more longer rides, with maybe a bit of light touring in a couple of months.
Right now the long rides are all happening on my mountain bike. This is reinforcing a few things to me, including the fact that weight is actually a consideration, despite what some people seem to claim, and that saddle choice is critical. Since the day I bought that bike I have been meaning to swap the saddle, and given that I am likely to be doing quite a bit more time on it over the coming months I think the time is now.
I thought I had sorted out my accommodation, but things are not that simple. I really want to be able to pull up and be in bed very quickly – I figure if I have eaten on the bike then all I should have to do is get my accommodation set up, spend 3 minutes servicing the bike and 7 minutes brushing my teeth and taking care of any physical issues that have come up during the day (which will include a bit of stretching). That should mean that I can be in bed within 10 minutes of pulling up, assuming that it takes zero time to set up my accommodation. I’m pretty well on the way to this goal at the moment – I’ve got my trusty ultralight sleeping bag that has accompanied me on a few adventures already, and I now have a fantastic “Alpine Cocoon” bivy bag from Macpac. This thing is light, durable and packs up to be nice and small. The only thing missing is a sleeping mat, because frankly I’m getting older and sleeping on the dirt sucks. But sleeping mats are huge and heavy. Well, most of them are. I did find one though that promised to be a bit smaller, a bit lighter, and even a bit quicker to set up. I even found a shop that stocks them. The only problem was that they only had one single example, and it had been sitting on the showroom floor for quite a while. It had been subject to the whims and rough treatment of any number of passing punters. It is a fairly light weight model mind you and I had my doubts about the comfort levels it would provide, so I tried it out in the shop (just like the rest of the punters had). It was all good there, and it wasn’t until a few nights later when I went to use it in anger for the first time, quite a long way from anywhere, that I realised that it actually went down after about 5 minutes. Yep, somehow while on display it had acquired a hole. So that was a bit of a let-down. Anyway, the shop is a pretty good one, so I am sure I will be able to take it back and swap it without a problem, at which time the accommodation should be sorted. 10 minutes to be in bed will be pretty reasonable (the mat only takes three breaths to inflate it, when it doesn’t have a hole), and this set-up should pack up small and light in pretty good time, so I think 20 minutes to be back on the bike is a reasonable target.
The other key issue to be addressed is that of the bike I will race on. I’m pretty clear about what I want from this bike, the only problem is that I am not sure if I can find someone who will be able to make it for me, and even harder will be to find someone who will make it for me in time. I’m still looking at options at the moment, but am well aware that the clock is ticking!