Posts Tagged ‘training’


Natalia with the kite at “midday”

Yesterday off we finally went to a beach near Cumbuco, just outside of Fortaleza, with our instructor Luciano Cordeiro from 30 Knots, the school we are working with in this project. Fantastic experience!

Getting there took a little while – Luciano arrived at just before 11am – he had on the preceding day say 9am, but apparently the winds were pretty poor in the morning so when we called him, he gave us a new time. At first we were a little suspicious as Ceará state, as is pretty much the entire northeast of Brazil, has a quite a reputation for the laid back attitudes to punctuality, but when we got the beach an hour later, it seemed that we were the only second group on the beach for the day.

Ben with the kite at 9 o'clock, under the watchful eyes of Luciano our instructor

Ben with the kite at 9 o’clock, under the watchful eyes of Luciano our instructor

Luciano was very methodical and straightforward – starting from the beginning, the way I guess you should: unravelling the kite and the strings, pumping up the kite, and then tieing the knots from the trapezium to the kite, and then the basic positions of the kite… from “midday”, with the kite directly above us and the wind coming from behind us; 9 o’clock, with the kite off to the left side, and 3 o’clock over to the right. We just stayed on the beach by a lagoon practicing the control of the kite in these positions, rather than going on to a board where we would have the extra concern of staying afloat. For me the easiest part was at “midday” when there was very little pull from the kite, as off on the sides, I felt it easier to move out of the right position and the pull on my body increase. Moreover, for a big kite (12 metres), it was amazingly sensitive to any adjustments from the hands.

The time we had playing around with the stunt kite was actually pretty helpful, with the principles behind the wind dynamics being very similar – when the kite was in the three positions, there was relatively little pull from it, though any forced movement from our part and we instantly felt ourselves being pulled along. This went against our natural tendencies as when we felt like we were losing a bit of control, we had to ease off on our pressure on the kite bar, rather than trying to grip it and force it back under control. This would just make matters worse, and Natalia felt the consequences of that, when she was pulled from the beach and into the water. Fortunately it was okay and when she let go of the kite, she soon came to a halt without having any damage. Quite funny to watch and unfortunately I didn’t have the camera out at the time!

The three hours sped by all too quickly, and I think we did a decent job for our first time, so here’s looking forward to the next lessons!


Beira Mar small

Walking along Beira Mara, Fortaleza… somethings never change…

Back up to the northeast of Brazil, in the city of Fortaleza. Definitely nice being back – lots of good memories from here, and difficult not to feel a bit nostalgic. We have been staying with Natalia’s cousin, Jeane. When Natalia was younger, she lived with Jeane for a year or so and I guess it has been a good 15 years or so since they saw each other. So lots of catching up there.

We got here at 3am, but decided to stay at the airport until around 8am as didn’t want to wake Jeane and her family up… slightly too early for that, but not worth getting a hotel. The hours went by extremely slowly, especially with the airport television system playing the same clips over and over and over and over again, and no comfortable places to lie down. At least we managed to break my brother-in-law’s record on the Magic Alchemist (thank goodness for the iPad!), though, so something good came out of it! At 8am, we popped over to 30knot’s Wakeboard Park  and registered for our Kite Surf lessons, and then headed over to Jeane’s…

Since meeting up with Jeane, and getting introduced, not much has happened. Have been feeling pretty tired, though last night we went for a walk along Beira Mar – one of the main tourist avenues along the city beach front. A few changes with the addition of a “Japanese Garden”, a small Japanese-style park, though much of it all remains the same as I remembered, with a huge artisanal market along the beach. Nice ice creams as well!

Today we will have our first kite surfing lesson. The guy said yesterday that we would head off at 9am, though we called him a bit ago and he said “because of the winds” we won’t be heading off until 11am. Not sure how much this is due to the winds or to the slightly laid back way of Ceará state life… but still, hopefully we will be on our way in an hour or so. It will just mean that we will be surfing under the midday sun, which is pretty hot up here just three degrees below the equator…

Photo: Rsrsrsrs!!!!

A long way to go to the 13 million score of the global first place… but on our way… who knows, with another 5 hours at an airport, we might get it a little better…!


Posted: June 1, 2013 by Ben Weber in Training
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At airport at 4am…. Easier staying here than going to hotel… Not much company around though!


Cutting expenses

Posted: May 17, 2013 by Ben Weber in English
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Neither Natalia nor myself are particularly wealthy, so financing everything we are doing is not easy. For Brazil, we do reasonably well – definitely firmly there in the middle (maybe upper middle, but a long way off the elite classes here as they just earn ridiculous amounts!). In São Paulo, if we didn’t have the project to finance, we would be able to do just about everything we would like to do for a normal life; cinema, restaurants, night-outs, internet, TV etc etc etc. I obviously can’t complain and am not complaining at all, so please don’t take it like that…!

For the project, however, we are talking about considerable investments – soon we will be starting work with a PR company to boost the presence of the project in the media (yes, we need attention!). PR isn’t cheap, either, no matter where you are in the world. We need to buy equipment that isn’t cheap (take a look at Ozone Frenzy kites and then remember that we will need five each for the overall journey, with different sizes used in different strengths of wind…) even one 6m storm kite is expensive at just under 900 pounds (r$ 3000)… cross country skiis (with wooden cores and metal edges) and bindings; boots; special harnesses for kites and sled-pulling; cold-weather clothing and equipment; the actual sleds themselves… a lot of stuff… and then finance the training projects, none of which are cheap.

So we have to cut down on our little luxuries in order to make things balance or at least manageable.

We are using a free application called Yupee to help us work out where we can reduce our expenses and just inputting in our normal monthly expenditure and it is incredible how much we spend at the supermarket…..! We live right next to a 24hour Pão de Açucar – one of the more expensive supermarkets in São Paulo… so we want to decrease spending on this by about half. Lunch time at the office during the week… I work on Avenida Berrini, and most of the places to eat there are all expensive, so more lunches at the office. Reducing costs like these will definitely help, plus just controlling ourselves when we have the urge to succumb to our somewhat materialistic natures and urges that have been pushed away over the last months though every now and then resurface… self-control is a must and not giving in to temptation is essential!

Naty e Ben em John O'Groats 

Antes de começar a falar do último dia, queria explicar o motivo da falta de fotos nesse post, a verdade eh que o HD com tudo da viagem quebrou e está em conserto, assim que tivermos tudo vamos colocar as fotos desse e dos outros dias nas galerias.

Foi um tanto difícil controlar a ansiedade pelo último dia. Na verdade eram tantos os sentimentos na manhã que o mais complicado era saber a qual dar uma atenção maior. A essa altura o sentimento de vitória e conquista ia tomando conta da minha cabeça mas ao mesmo tempo eu me podia me ouvir falando ao fundo que a expedição ainda não havia terminado e que por mais que tivéssemos apenas 15km a nossa frente, olhando para trás eu pude ver que não houveram dias fáceis, até nos mais leves houveram grandes desafios e aprendizados. O inverno costumava ser sempre o maior dos opositores nessa batalha por conquistar quilômetros, e mais uma vez ele se provou duro.

O dia anterior tinha sido frio mas não houve ventos fortes ou chuva ou neve, assim a expectativa para o dia seguinte era que poderia piorar mas ainda assim não poderia ser as piores condições. Olhando a previsão mostrava que o dia teria ventos de até 60m/H, mas como sairíamos cedo do hotel e a distância era curta talvez conseguíssemos chegar a John O Groats com um tempo razoável.  Grande engano! Acordamos e no quarto já dava para ouvir o barulho do vento, abrindo a cortina víamos flocos de neve ensandecidos e girando de um lado para outro, os galhos das árvores balançava forte numa dança sem ritmo definido e tudo mostrava que a jornada poderia ser curta mas também a pior em dias.

Arrumar as coisas a essa altura é algo simples e rápido, cada um já sabe o que colocar em cada alforje e o que no começo levava meia hora hoje leva menos de 10 minutos. Comer o café da manhã é sempre bom e um tanto curioso, a essa altura ainda me impressiono com a capacidade do Ben em comer English Breakfast na manhã enquanto eu fico no chá com torradas e cereais. Se eu comesse salsichas, ovos e bacon frito com tomate, cogumelos e feijão pela manhã meu dia seria com dores estomacais e diversas idas ao banheiro, mas com ele não tem problema algum. Certamente um estômago muito mais resistente!

Começar a pedalar foi apreensivo no começo, os ventos podem ser confusos, e por mais que tenham uma direção dominante eles se rebelam e acabam mudando de direção. No começo vinha do lado e para variar a luta era para que a bike ficasse num canto seguro da estrada, que não tinham muito movimento de carros, o que ajudou já que assim poderíamos ficar mais no meio da pista. O vento contra o rosto tornava a experiência dolorosa, e olhar o caminho ficava quase impossível. Era um tanto assustador ver as placas de trânsito e dos vilarejos cobertas por neve, todas congeladas; os gramados brancos e as ovelhas todas juntas tentando se aquecer o quanto podiam. As aves no céu lutavam contra o vento e pareciam perder a cada investida, era possível ver elas tentando voar para um lado e o vento as levando para outro. Cheguei a rir da insistência das pobres aves em ir para onde o vento não as deixava sem me dar conta de que eu estava na mesma situação. Mas como que se dando por vencido o vento que me segurava passa a me empurrar e percebo que depois de tantas curvas a estrada me colocou no sentido certo. Parei de pedalar e curti o empurrão, as pernas começar a tremer de frio e me dei conta que precisava manter as pernas movendo para me manter aquecida.

Ver a placa Welcome to John O´Groats!, me fez sorrir, a felicidade de ser bem vinda pelo lugar que almejo chegar há 21 dias é uma recompensa não só por todo esforço, dedicação e investimento nessa expedição mas sim uma recompensa por todo o último ano de treino e estudo, por toda a nossa mudança de vida para estar mais e mais aptos para o 360 Extremes. E passando por aquela placa, pensando em tudo isso sigo pedalando atrás do Ben e sei que ainda não acabamos, aquela placa é um sinal de estamos completando mas o Final é no marco e não na placa. Seguimos em frente, paramos em um Pub para saber onde exatamente estava o marco e olhando para fora da janela deles pude ver como o vento e a neve pareciam ganhar força. Menos de 1 km nos separava do nosso pódio, então com um sorriso largo subimos nas nossas bikes, clipamos nossos pés e pedalamos. Olhando em frente ansiosos em avistar algo parecido com o que deixamos em Land´s End. Não vou mentir falar que ver algo simplesmente pintado no muro foi um tanto decepcionante, mas mesmo assim descemos das bikes pulando de alegria. Aquele era o nosso momento, emocionados nos abraçamos, rimos, gritamos. Comemoramos do nosso jeito, e o frio estava ali a toda a nossa volta, se mostrando o parceiro inseparável dessa aventura. Eu bem que queria ter uma garrafa de champagne na hora para imitar os corredores da F1. Mas o jeito foi tirar a foto com o rosto gelado e banhados pelas gotas da chuva.

Entramos na lojinha e compramos uma caneca para simbolizar o nosso troféu.

Mas depois de todo esse sentimento de vitória tivemos que subir de novo nas bikes e voltar para o pub para pedir um táxi. Pedalar de volta aqueles 600m finais, subindo na bicicleta eu já realizei que isso seria muito, mais muito difícil mesmo, só não percebi que seria doloroso. O vento incrivelmente forte me jogava para trás e parecia uma parede que não me permitia sair do lugar, mais uma vez senti tapas do vento contra meu rosto e olhar para frente era impossível. As gotas acertavam meus olhos por cima dos óculos e me obrigava a fechá-los. Pedalei com força, tentando me guiar pelo asfalto da rua o quanto pude, olhando para baixo. Avistei o pub e o Ben pedalando em frente, o vento me batia com força e parecia não me querer de volta aquele lugar que me parecia quente, protegido e seguro. Uma hora desci e empurrei a bike. Chorei aqui, chorei de dor, meus olhos doíam por causa do vento e da neve. Subi na calçada do pub e o Ben veio me ajudar. Entrei no pub e lá ele me abraçou e me confortou. Quanto frio, quanta força um simples sopro pode ter.

Essa expedição acabou, depois fomos para Orkney Island ver as paisagens, continuar na companhia dos ventos mas com menos oportunidades de pedalar. A jornada em busca de experiência e preparo físico e mental para a grande expedição continua e esse ano com ainda mais aventuras, treinos e aprendizado.


The end is in sight. Almost

The end is in sight. Almost

Ao acordar de manhã passo a me sentir um pouco mais matemática do que comunicóloga, tudo isso porque inconscientemente me pego fazendo contas de quanto percorremos e de quanto ainda falta, e nessa manhã a resposta da equação me fez sorrir mas também me fez pesar. 100km para o nosso objetivo ser alcançado, tão pouco para que toda essa rotina de desafios e aprendizado se encerre, nessa pequena equação vejo mais que números, porque nesses 1400km percorridos vivi cada metro, suei cada subida, superei cada vento, me aqueci a cada mudança de tempo e cresci como pessoa, como ciclista, como cidadã. Tantas pessoas nos receberam com tantas histórias, conselhos e uma mão estendida para qualquer duvida ou problema. Curiosos pelo caminho nos chamavam de loucos e perguntavam sempre no porque de encararmos a LEJOG nessa época do ano. Os únicos a fazer isso agora, os únicos vistos por aqueles que nos acolheram, por aqueles que nos atenderam nos cafés e lojas de conveniências. O motivo talvez seja mais claro hoje do que quando saímos, é simples: aprender a lidar com todas as surpresas que as mudanças climáticas podem nos pregar. Acredito que isso conseguimos: lidamos com ventos de todos os lados, chuva forte, granizo, neve, icy, tudo isso junto, o dia de ameno e sem ventos se transformar em questão de segundos numa tempestade… Tivemos dias longos, semana inteira sem descanso, melhoramos nosso ritmo, melhoramos nossa potência, criamos uma sinergia e uma rotina nossa. E chega a todas essas conclusões de manhã, ao fazer a simples equação de quanto foi e o que falta, me entristece um pouco, porque parece que estou mais perto de parar de aprender, de parar de melhorar, de parar de conhecer.

The route to Keiss

The route to Keiss

Puxo meu pensamento para o fato de que hoje o dia não será fácil, a rota é montanhosa e promete uma subida interminável logo nos primeiros 20km, o clima dá pra ver que não está o mais amigo e se no dia anterior já não havia opções de parada, nesse então teria menos ainda. Pelo menos sair do Inn era algo um tanto motivador, o lugar era péssimo e eu não via a hora de chegar na próxima parada.

A ideia inicial era pararmos em Wick, mas resolvemos percorrer a maior distância possível porque o clima ia piorar ainda mais no dia seguinte. Sair de Brora foi bem tranquilo, a montanha lá no fundo com uma subida constante, longa mas não muito profunda. Agradeci o hotel ficar há uma distância razoável da subida porque consegui aquecer antes. O nosso ritmo estava tranquilo sem muita pressa. Essa seria uma subida bem longa de mais ou menos 15km, superado isso descemos uma ladeira de graduação 13% por uns 3km e no fim um curva fechada e uma subida nada amiga de 13% por mais 3km. Mais uma vez me vi pensando “porque não construíram uma ponte ali!”. Eu parei parar tirar fotos logo na curva e fazer vídeos do Ben, o problema depois foi subir na bike e encarar a subida, a estrada pra variar não tinha acostamento e era mão dupla, e com os ônibus passando ficava um tanto inseguro subir e começar a pedalar. Empurrei a bike até depois da curva e dali pedalei. Paramos no topo, depois de comemos umas barrinhas, tomamos água e combinamos de parar no primeiro serviço para tomar algo quente. Mas quanto mais norte estamos mais difícil fica de encontrar paradas. Passamos por diversos vilarejos, em Helmsdale acreditei que acharíamos algo por parecer um lugar maior que os outros, mas nada tudo fechado, entramos em Lybster e a cidade era super pequena e parecia um tanto abandonada, quase ninguém na rua os café e restaurantes fechados mas por sorte um mercadinho estava aberto e lá comemos e bebemos café. Dali em diante o desafio foi o frio mas sem muitas subidas significativas.

Looking over Berriedale, just north of Helmsdale; pausing for a break up the hill

Looking over Berriedale, just north of Helmsdale; pausing for a break up the hill

Um pouco antes de Wick o vento ficou mais intenso e vindo pela lateral, dava pra ver as ovelhas todas amontoadas tentando se aquecer e se proteger, mas nós não tínhamos muita opção além de pedalar. Chegando em Wick a cidade era bem maior, um mercado logo na entrada e não resistimos de parar para comprar algo para comer. O triste dessa parte é que na hora de continuarmos o Ben deixou o óculos cair sem perceber, parou uns 5 metros depois sentindo falta mas deu pra ouvir o som do carro atropelando e destruindo o seu óculos. Ele ficou bem chateado, mas pelo menos isso aconteceu agora e não há 17 dias atrás.

Seguimos até Keiss onde ficamos num Inn. O dia seguinte seria curto, mas olhando a previsão na internet não era nada animador, era certo que no dia seguinte encararíamos as piores condições da viagem!


São Silvestre - Paulista

With the all-round aerobic training, and as having enjoyed running (though never too seriously) since high school, I thought that it would be good to enter in to the São Silvestre 15km/10 mile race that occurs in São Paulo on 31 December every year.

Sao SilvestreThe route, in summary, leaves from Paulista Avenue – one of the main tourist roads – goes downhill to the Pacaembu football stadium, before going around the old centre to Republica, and finally going on a steady climb uphill (from 765m to 838m) for around two kilometres up Av. Brigadeiro Luis Antonio back to Paulista. A nice route.

I was entering, certainly not to win as I have neither the slight physique nor the serious running experience, but to test myself to see how I got on mentally and physically. I thought before the race that if I managed to complete it at 100 minutes (9km per hour), I would be happy, though from my time on the treadmill and occasional runs outside I believed it could be possible in 90 minutes (10km/hour) – though of course running outside is considerably different to running inside the gym.

The day before the race, Sunday, was calm. We just had a walk to register for the race and pick up the kit, and then walk for a few hours through São Paulo to Casa de Pedra where we had an hour or so climbing just to make a break. Nothing at all exhausting or strenuous. Added to that some good high carb (pasta!) meals, and it was a nice day. An early rise at 7am on the day of the run.

And so to the start of the race at 9am… there were just masses of people. Great atmosphere. I think in total about 25,000 people, who generated lots of noise as they waited for the start to sound. Lots of banners, lots of fancy dress. Lots of Corinthians football team supporters as well, who weren’t shy in making it known about who they actually supported. And lots of people watching and cheering us all on. I was somewhere in the middle of them (probably managed to get about 400 metres from the actual start line before I couldn’t move any further forward; it was impossible to see how far the masses stretched back), and when the start sounded, it took about five minutes for me to shuffle along to get to the start line, and probably about ten minutes or so before I could actually run freely without being stepped on and not stepping on others.

Past RepbulicaWith the 9am start it meant that the city hadn’t heated up too much, and over-night rain had helped refresh things: São Paulo can get extremely hot, even that early, so we were a bit lucky (I probably would have preferred it to be slightly cloudier, though the shade from the tall buildings helped as well for a lot of the time). There were six water/Gatorade supply points along the course as well, which helped keep us all refreshed.

The run went surprisingly well for me. I was able to keep my own steady pace – didn’t try or even think about running faster. The drinks at the points were helpful, though I didn’t in any way feel like I was desperate for hydration. When I came to the final two kilometres with that long climb up Brigadeiro to Paulista Avenue, when lots of people were stopping or walking, I was able to keep going and actually accelerate and manage to well, not quite sprint, but rather run much faster to the finish line. Pretty proud of myself, especially as I got a final time of 1h25m28s (or 85mins 28second) – 15 minutes quicker than I hoped – and, out of 16,253 male athletes, I was 4,483rd

So yes, quite happy with the morning’s work… it just meant that I was exhausted for the rest of New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day… and a bit of the day after..! But back to the gym now, as I want to take part in a couple of half-marathons this year (and hopefully the São Paulo or Rio marathons in 2014… but we shall see about this!).

I am a great fan of seeing the elevation profile of routes, so here it is for this run...

I am a great fan of seeing the elevation profile of routes, so here it is for this run…

I have been playing with some online route planning software in order to plan for our cycle training rides in Brazil and for the tour in the United Kingdom. Why is it important to plan? Not just because of the need to know roughly how far you will be going, but also because a: it is good to know how you are going to get to your end point (particularly in countries and areas where you don’t, for safety’s sake, want to end up in the wrong place, and b: you need to have at least an idea of what the elevation profile will be. This latter point is pretty darn important, as pretty much anyone would be able to ride 100km in a day if it is just going along a nice and flat path. However, if you are going to be climbing up lots of hills and going more than +1000m and 100km in a day, you have to be in decent shape; +2000m/100km in one day: very good shape… anything more and you will have to be in excellent condition…

The software I have been playing around with is Garmin’s own Connect software ( – for when you have a Garmin device;; and As you can imagine, they all have their advantages and disadvantages…

Garmin ConnectGarmin’s Connect tool is good as, even in São Paulo, you can plot routes that will take you through parks (such as Ibirapuera park), and it will recognise these as legitimate to take, and not just the road. You can save multiple routes, and easily see where you have these routes on the world (Google or Bing) map and side-list, so it’s nice and simple. At the same time, as you might expect being from the maker of the Garmin GPS, it is nice and easy to down/upload your routes from/to the Garmin GPS units. You can get a full range of different stats (from temperature profile; elevation; speed; pace; moving/total averages/calories and, if you have the sensors, cadence and heart indicators among others) about the various rides you have gone on as well, and it is great to be able to compare the rides you have done along the same route, and easily see how things have changed.

You can also plan workouts, and keep track of your health progress, but without the appropriate sensors, I haven’t had need to try this yet. The software measures indicators such as Body Fat, Body Water, Bone and Muscle Mass, physique rating, visceral fat, metabolic age and daily caloric intake… impressive stuff, and it says that with a Tanita BC-1000 Body Composition Monitor and a “compatible Garmin watch”, the measurements can be “tracked wirelessly” using the Connect Health system. Even more impressive. Would be very curious to see how it all works, though it is certainly promising. I am straying away from the point of this post though (sorry!), so back to planning rides (though of course, your health is important in knowing the kind of routes you could be doing!)!

Everywhere but the highway

Everywhere but the highway

There are two problems I have encountered: The first is that while it is easy to simply draw lines of the route (where, for example, there is no road or trail marked on the map), here in Brazil at least, it will do everything to stop you plotting a route along a highway. This can be quite annoying as we often end up riding along the hard shoulder of a highway (such as from Nazaré to Atibaia). I guess that there might be laws about this in places, but there should at least be an option.


No elevation…?

The second problem is that, while you get a nice visual of the elevation profile, it does not tell you the total elevation gain/loss for a ride – quite a problem, especially when you are planning long distance rides. Doing 100km with +1000m of gain is one thing… doing it with +3000m is completely different, and you can’t really gauge this looking at just the profile. Maybe the problems are me not doing something right in the software, but I like to think am okay at getting to grips with these things, and if am not doing something right with it, then I imagine that others are having a few problems too!!

So overall?

The software is free… if you have bought a Garmin GPS unit. For a free piece of software it is good and it is great in the post-ride analytics, especially if you have all the appropriate sensors. But as you most likely would have forked a couple of hundred dollars or so on a new unit so as to be able to use the software, then you might expect the two points I mentioned to be ironed out – you are not going to be spending money on a GPS unit if you are not going to be going anywhere…

With this in mind, I would give it a solid 7/10, and will take a look at Ride with GPS and Route Toaster next post…

Garmin Edge 800

Another new acquisition is something that is already useful for training and will be very useful for the cycle tour of the UK and the entire journey: a Garmin Edge 800 GPS unit. We have just the unit with the bike mount – you can get it with heart and cadence monitors for it to provide a good overview of your training developments, though we will get that later. For now, just the GPS unit itself is good.

Garmin statsThe unit is touch screen, shows the map of where you are (precise city navigator maps are available for download from the Garmin website), and it is incredible as to actually how precise the location is: the unit records your journey can you can review it on the computer when you get back home – when you do, you can see even when you just headed back a metre or so to check something…

It took a while to detect the satellites when we first set it up, but after that, it has been quick. Hopefully when we are in the UK it will have no problems in picking up the different satellites up there. You can plan your route using the Garmin software, though there is other better software that you can use online – but I will talk about them in a bit (though the main problem is that in planning the course through being able to see the elevation profile – incredibly important for working out how hard a ride is going to be – distance is far less important!).

Uploading routes is straightforward enough, then you just find your route and you’re ready to go, with the route and cues showing nice and clearly on your screen. If you don’t have a route, you can start the timer and record a new one following the path you take – very simple to do.

At the end of it all, looking at the journey you have taken back on your computer, (opposed to when you are planning) you can see the elevation profile (with total elevation gain/loss) of where you have been and all sorts of nice information about the route – total time; total time peddling / total stops; average speed / temperature / pace… and as you do the same courses over time, it is great to be able to compare everything, as all is tracked. It will also show the number of calories it calculates that you burn during your training session – how accurate this is, however, is another question as many reviewers commented that the best algorithms for calculating this have been patented by other companies…

Plenty of other Garmin units out there, though definitely would recommend this if you can afford to fork out a bit more. Here in São Paulo, Casa de Pedra sells the unit along with other Garmin models – check them out on their online store.

Also, you should be able to check out the last route we cycled using the GPS at this link… São Paulo – Atibaia – 25 Nov 2012.

Garmin charts

Atibaia map

Ponte metálica Foto: Divulgação

Como falei no meu post anterior: Provas, bicicletas e treinos, agora esse final de semana vou participar do Desafio Rural.
Trata-se de uma prova no estilo Randonneur, onde o ciclista deve ser totalmente auto-suficiente. Não é também uma prova competitiva, não há premiação e nem colocação. O desafio da prova é contra você mesmo. Esse é o tipo de prova que mais me agrada. Não sou uma pessoa competitiva, mas gosto de testar meus limites.

O desafio rural, está começando agora a sua série 2013, será uma sucessão de provas nas quais a dificuldade de distância vão sempre aumentando. Essa primeira prova terá 87km de extensão sendo quase todos esses kilômetros em estradas não pavimentadas e trilhas. Isso deixa as coisas bastante diferentes. Eu tenho mais experiência em andar no asfalto. A única experiência mais longa que tive com pedalar na terra, foi exatamente um desafio rural anterior, realizado em maio de 2012 que serviu como um teste para a organização ver se era viável organizar esse tipo de prova.

Foram 76km saindo de Mogi das Cruzes e depois voltando para lá. Na época eu não tinha uma Mountain Bike para utilizar e peguei uma emprestada. Essa, infelizmente não aguentou o tranco da prova. Faltando 6km para o final, o free-hub quebrou, isso fez com que a pedalada não fosse mais transferida para a roda. Eu pedalava e a bicicleta não saia do lugar. Empurrei durante 4km até que um carro da organização veio me buscar. Não terminar a prova foi bastante frustrante, ainda mais tão perto do final. Mas tudo bem, isso já foi superado e agora chegou a oportunidade de fazer direito.

A grande diferença entre pedalar no asfalto e na terra é que na terra o desgaste é maior e a aderência é menor. Também como o terreno é mais acidentado, em trilhas você tem subidas e descidas bem mais inclinadas que as existentes em rodovias. Juntando subidas acidentadas e chão de cascalho solto, os desafios são mais técnicos do que de resistência propriamente dita. E é isso que eu quero agora melhorar na minha pedalada. Saber transpor esse tipo de terreno e não me assustar com as subidas e descidas é psicologicamente bastante importante, mesmo porque oque aprenderei é “ficar calmo em frente à adversidades” e esse tipo de comportamento é importante e pode ser extrapolado para várias outras situações em cima ou não da bicicleta. É para mim, oque para o Ben e a Nati, é a escalada.

Mapa e perfil altimétrico do Desafio Rural Jacareí

O mapa da prova, pode ser visto aqui.

Agora tenho poucos dias também para tomar algumas decisões em relação a bicicleta:
•Quais pneus utilizar: Estou com um par de pneus 29×52 e um par de 29×32. O primeiro número simboliza o diâmetro do pneu e o segundo a largura do mesmo. Então tenho um par bem grosso e outro mais fino. O grosso proporciona uma melhor tração em cascalho ou lama. O mais fino possue uma rolagem melhor e vai demandar menos esforço em terra batida. Como não conheço o terreno estou com com dúvida, devo esperar a previsão do tempo para decidir. Em caso de chuva irei com os mais grossos.

•Quais pedais utilizar: A bicicleta está equipada com pedais plataforma, mas tenho também pedais clipless, que são os que se usa com sapatilha. O com sapatilha eu costumo utilizar nas outras bicicletas, e o pé preso ajuda bastante na hora de pedalar porque além do movimento de empurrar os pedais você também consegue puxar. A desvantagem é que como eu não sou um Mountain Biker experiente, esse mesmo pé preso que vai ajudar em algumas horas, pode me levar pro chão se em algum momento eu perder a tração da roda trazeira e não conseguir desclipar a tempo de colocar o pé no chão. Essa decisão é a mais difícil que tenho que tomar antes do desafio.

A prova é no domingo. Na semana que vem farei um post contando como foi.

The World is our oyster… or at least it can be, if we dare to fulfill our dreams…

So it is about a year ago since the day I first started really thinking about this idea as a whole. Time has just gone by incredibly quickly and it is difficult to really go through all the changes and developments that have happened in this year in a short post.

Depois do sim hora de comer o bolo

A lot has happened over the year since this..!

The first time I mentioned the ideas to Natalia, just about the time of our wedding, it was more about speculation – why do people, when they think about going around the world, always think about going from east-to-west? Surely going north-to-south would be, though much more demanding physically, just as (if not more) interesting? From a geographer’s point of view: extremely interesting as we get to see the full range of climates from the tropical heat through to the polar cold… and then how people and animals cope and adapt to these climates. From the environmental point of view: because of the changing climate and how the very areas we will be going through are being threatened by these changes. From the cultural aspect: how the cultures change as go through the different countries and locations… and much more.

From influential bears…

At the first discussions, it was all just a pipe-dream, based on these interests and also childhood dreams and hopes of being an explorer. Further inspired by more recent adventures in British Colombia, seeing the bears there, and travelling through the Galapagos Islands. After more discussions and a lot of research, it became evidently possible: People have crossed the poles before – you just need a massive amount training and dedication to get to the right levels of fitness and capability to cross them. People have cycled through the Americas and through Europe and Asia before… again, training and dedication to be able to do this. It was a big step putting this website up at the beginning of the year though – this was something that really committed us to this project… No going back from then on!

…to mountain tops!

And so to the training… over the past year in preparation for this project, the transformation in our general fitness from pretty much average people to actually in pretty good shape now (still plenty more work to do though!) has amazed even ourselves. We have gone to Bolivia, climbing mountains of over 6,000metres – massive challenges for people who had just been used to just regular hiking at best; we are cycling at least 100km at least once or twice a week now, getting to know parts of São Paulo state where we wouldn’t have known otherwise. We are climbing at the Casa de Pedra gym in São Paulo during the week and maintaining regular fitness training at the gym there to get us into better shape. And shortly, we will be cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. In winter – to help prepare us for some of the tougher conditions we go through before we get to either of the Poles. Then next winter, we will have our polar training up in Baffin Island…

It is all exciting, but it wouldn’t have been possible without support from Casa de Pedra and our climbing, training and equipment from them, and now, with Atticmedia and the development of our new website and logo. To be able to complete it all, we will of course need further sponsors – the Poles are not so easy! Though this is a fantastic start – just plenty more work to do over the next couple of years before we leave São Paulo on this circle…!

So, the final long distance bike ride, a week before the 100km challenge to Santos, was the 115km journey to Sorocaba. While Santos is on the coast, down from São Paulo, Sorocaba is west of São Paulo, and the main route we took was the highway Raposo Tavares, through some pretty high hills, via the town of São Roque.

It was a tough ride.

At the beginning, it was straightforward enough – along the smelly cycle way by the River Pinheiros, but north this time instead of south like the Paranapiacaba ride, onto the nice and busy BR-116 interstate route that was thankfully not too busy and not too long a stretch so we didn’t have any near misses with mad bus drivers, and then at the town of Embu, off on to side roads to the city of Cotia (where one of my team at work lives – she wasn’t able to come out and cheer for us though, in spite of a message telling her to watch out of the lycra-clad fitness freaks coming her way)… a good discussion between the best ways to get on to Raposo (the good old argument between the people who knew the area and those relying on GPS… there’s only ever going to be one winner, and thankfully we did choose to trust our colleagues on the ride!)… and then yes, Raposo, one of the busiest and more dangerous highways coming out of São Paulo, which has only very few hardshoulder areas for cyclists to go along, meaning we were much more vulnerable than when we went on the Rodoanel.

The surface of the highway was decent, which definitely helped, but it just seemed that the various up-hills never ended. I managed to make them all, including a long steep, climbing section that reached a gradiant of 17% or so just outside of São Roque (after 62km), though it was pretty exhausting. Natalia hadn’t really had experience with such hills and her knee was getting a bit sore (I think her saddle had been pushed a bit lower, which didn’t help), so she walked a couple of them, but she still did reasonably well especially as we were among the first group for a long time before Natalia got separated from us – still a bit of tension there going down-hills, but no problem. I stopped to the side of the highway and waited for her to join, and we latched on to a group of three others who had fallen a bit behind the first lot due to a puncture.

Getting into São Roque at around 2pm or so, many of the first peloton were having lunch, but we just fed ourselves on the dried fruit and water we had – we didn’t want to eat too much because of the fear of our stomachs adding extra weight to carry up the hills. It was a wise choice as immediate outside the town there were some more long steadily climbing roads which we took our time getting up. Imagining doing that with heavy stomachs was not a particularly nice thought.

At least the steep climbs up were compensated by a couple of rather nice hills down – the asphalt was clingy in some parts meaning that even on the descent we had to peddle to keep going, but on other parts it was nice and smooth, and I managed to get up to 65kmph without even ducking to decrease my wind resistance, and just on a hybrid bike. Good fun, though I only did this when the road was straight and clear of traffic. We found out later that a member of the group behind us had suffered an accident, falling off when going downhill too fast – had to get taken to hospital and it looks like he will have to have some facial reconstruction surgery: a bad reminder of the risks we face and for us not to get too confident as cyclists are extremely vulnerable.

It was good getting to Sorocaba, though. A definite sense of achievement considering this was our first journey of over 100km in one day, and knowing that as we had managed this, we should be alright with the journey to Santos.

Loose stone roads… always nice (c) Paulo Filho

As I was saying, the fact that there were no accidents getting to Rio Grande da Serra doesn’t mean that the ride was easy. The long steady uphills took their tolls on our legs, though with Natalia, the downhills were also problematic as she is really not a fan of going downhill and she will be on the brake pretty much all the way down. Certainly understandable, especially given that she has not been riding seriously for very long and has only really just got used to the gears. Though at the same time, it can mean that she can become quite tense and that can make riding less enjoyable and actually could lead to increased chances of an accident. André joked that she would need at least three or four spare brake pads to take with her on the ride down to Santos. But it is important for her to go at a speed at which she is comfortable with, rather than speeding down hills and losing control through panicking as not used to going so fast.

Ben on wheels (C) Paulo Filho

A further issue we had was with punctures. I was lucky, suffering no punctures as we went across the fie kilometres of the loose rock track, but Natalia was a bit further back from me suffered. Twice. And she had no spare inner tube or a puncture repair kit at that time. Fortunately people who were with her did and were able to put a patch on the inner tube and refill the air, but it took a bit of time – I had reached the end of this track and was getting worried about her after waiting half an hour or so. So I cycled back a good couple of kilometres to see what had happened. No sign, so I went back to the end where André was waiting with a few others. A few more minutes and André went back. Eventually he reappeared with three others including Natalia with him – they had taken so long as one of the guys tried to put the wrong inner tube into Nat’s tyre, and only realised it didn’t fit properly after a few minutes… and also going over that road surface certainly wasn’t easy-going.

After this, more dust and loose rocks and stones on the road and with the buses passing us we were occasionally engulfed in clouds which choked us all and left us with very little visibility – we were all thankful when we got off this and on to the normal asphalt. Caught up with the rest of the group and had a bite to eat, and then off again, along a highway this time. Again the group split apart and I was among the first lot, though we stopped at a point where the group would divide into two – those who would go along a grit and rock trail and others who would take the highway to Rio Grande de Serra. We waited quite a while and it turned out that Natalia had suffered another puncture – the patch had come loose from the previous mend. Delayed us all a bit, but no worries.

We decided to take the highway to our final destination – We didn’t fancy getting any more punctures on the loose rocks. Paulo took the longer trail which looked like it would have been pretty good fun. The total distance we cycled was around 75km, so still quite a distance, and we were suitably tired. The people at the station would only let six cycles on any train at any time, and there were only trains every twenty minutes. Fortunately we were close to the front so didn’t have to wait too long to sit down.

Thanks Paulo for taking the photographs!

More cycling adventures have been coming thick and fast – during the week, we have been doing training such as riding up and down hills leading up to Avenida Paulista, and 50km rides through the city at night, just getting used to more and more riding. We have been slowly getting more and more things for our bikes as well – extra inner tubes, pumps, puncture repair kits, stands, speedometers – and we will need to get a whole lot more: spanners, keys, baggage racks, cycling shoes and pedals with clips (makes riding soooo much easier, though need a little while getting used to), oils… and plenty more.

But in the mean time, the cycling with the Bicicreteiro group has been going well, and the weekend before this last one, we went to Rio Grande da Serra, a nice 75km cycle ride away from the city on a route that would see us cycle there and get a train back. This week Paulo, who has relatively better experiences riding longer distances, joined us. At the meeting point by the smelly River Pinheiros (about 8km away from our house), there was a group of around 30 of us, though as the day drew out, the group split into a number of smaller pelotons as we went along the cycle path at our different paces, and tried to not get lost as there were parts where we took a little while to cross-reference what André had written in the route plan and with the different road names around us.

Though shorter than the previous routes, this was definitely harder (though again, quite picturesque, with us going by lakes outside of the city and taking short trips on the car ferries over these lakes) mainly due to more the different surface types – we went along gravel roads this time as well as the smoother asphalt highways. Incredible the difference it all makes – average speeds of around 30km+ per hour along the flats on the highways, with my maximum speed getting up to just over 60km going downhill on the smooth, well-made surfaces, whilst the steep cimbs up hill on these same highways saw people reduce to around 7kmph. Many got off their bikes on the gravel tracks. I managed to make it staying on the bike (much to my happiness!), though not without a good deal of aching in my legs and, with the hybrid tyres , I occasionally felt the bike slipping in the gravel and the bike losing grip.

Am definitely not a fan of falling off bikes: the thought of the pain in my chest when I landed on top of it after falling head-over-heals in Bolivia is somewhat off-putting, as is Natalia’s experience inBolivia when she suffered a similar fate though a few more cuts than myself; as a kid riding along I also had a good few bad experiences losing control, not being able to make the turns on roads and going into ditches and walls… not nice. So losing grip and falling off on the rough surfaces of these roads would definitely not have been very healthy. I think the actual speed you go needs to be a careful balance – though this is just my opinion: you go too slow and you are tense, your bike is more easily affected by the grit and stones in your way, whereas if you go a little faster, these stones will just pop out of your way. If you go too fast, however, and you do lose control – the loose stones are too big to budge, from under your tyre or you are stuck going into a turn, then you are that much more vulnerable to doing serious damage to yourself when you are fall.

Fortunately, we did not suffer any accidents like that, though the journey to Rio Grande da Serra wasn’t without problems… (to be continued)

Thanks to André for the photographs!

Fortunately no accidents like that for us this time, but there were other problems… (more to come)

Patagonia – Near Ushuaia (c) Arangoa – Beautiful but perhaps not the most challenging of environments

The other ride we are considering, after John O’Groats-Land’s End and Buenos Aires-Santiago is my personal least favourite of the lot – from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas.

It should be… spectacular with the scenary. Going through the Patagonian landscape is not something one does every day. There are plenty of beautiful mountains to pass through and plenty of side trips that could extend this relatively short journey (approximately 700km if we did it direct), which go into areas like the Tierra del Fuego, and islands such as Cape Horne… To make it more challenging, we could go in July, the winter in the southern hemisphere, so we get to experience colder and windier conditions. We could also extend it to make it longer by cycling up to Puerto Deseado – something that would make it almost on par with the distances that we would otherwise cycle in the UK or in going to Santiago.

But in comparison to the positives of the other two trips, with the altitude gain going into the Andes; the longer distances involved in those journeys; the weather conditions in the British winters… this just seems inadequate and won’t prepare us as well for the worst that the roads could throw at us. Though we would be going through mountain valleys, there would be relatively little in terms of altitude gain and loss by doing this route, and the routes would be largely flat. And finally, although we are in South America, getting around the place still isn’t the easiest task in the world, and neither the cheapest – and going down to Ushuaia could be as costly as going to the UK, and even take considerably longer due to the connections we would need to take.

So I will take some convincing to choose this route instead of the others. If you have some ideas about the route that I might not have considered, however, I would be eager to hear. As I say, going to Patagonia isn’t something we do every day…