I’m 50!!! Today, Wednesday 6th July I turned 50 – it seems weird to feel so young and yet be…..quite old. Of course turning 50 is why I’m here on this blog and celebrating with my 50 events. But I wasn’t actually expecting to do an event this weekend…..
Early in the year Ian told me to keep one weekend free near my birthday so that we could celebrate together, it was then known as the “Mystery Weekend” I was pretty sure he wouldn’t organise an event for me, in fact I thought we were probably going to Devon to a fancy hotel for a bit of relaxing and champagne drinking…..er not quite.
On Thursday Ian woke me up at 6.30m, surely I didn’t need to get up this early to go to Devon? Then he sent me down stairs to find my present… and there at the bottom of the stairs was very shiny, very new, RED BIKE!!! I’ve always wanted a red bike. I cried, then I couldn’t breath, then I cried again. I really couldn’t believe that he had bought me a bike….in fact I wasn’t totally certain that he wouldn’t buy me a bike because it was so close to my Ironman in fours weeks and bikes need to be the right size and all that. I was in shock.
As I got closer, it got even better. It was the same bike that Ian has, which is a good bike, a really good bike but this one had a custom paint job….there was an IM symbol, a little 50 – for my events (and age) a target (for all my targets achieved) a little crown ( Strava QOM) and GO PAULA GREEN painted on the chain stay. Deep rim wheels and electronic gearing, the works…and it was red, did I mention it was red!!!!!
I was a very happy bunny. Ian also got me a new helmet, some cool bike kit and a lovely Castelli ruck sack which I would need for my trip. We were off to the Pyrenees to test out the new bike. France here we come!
Col du Tourmalet
On Friday afternoon we arrived at our little hotel just outside Lourdes, a place that Ian has stayed many times so knew it was a good location for our rides. The early morning wake up call on Thursday was so that we had time to test the bike on a quick one hour ride, pack it up in the bike box and drive to Standsted. We stayed over Thursday night and flew out Friday morning – almost an exact re-run of our Swedish trip two weeks ago – but with less packing time lol! Another short ride on Friday afternoon into Lourdes and we were ready for the big climb on Saturday.
Col du Tourmalet is the highest mountain pass in the Pyrenees and is often seen on the Tour de France, in fact the Tour goes up the Tourmalet next Saturday and the signs were out and the villages were ready with their decorations. The climb is 18km with an average gradient of 7% Every km has a marker with the distance to go and the average gradient for that km.
The day we did it was cloudy and drizzly, a good temperature for climbing but not so good for the views, in fact I saw nothing at all on the way up or the way down….maybe I was in Devon after all lol!
Ian rode with me, shouting out encouragement and also carrying most of my stuff, he didn’t want my new bike covered in little bags, at least not for this outing. I was climbing well, I like climbing and although every km was getting harder and harder, the last km being an average of 10%, it was very doable. I made it from the bottom to the top in just over two hours which I was very pleased with, and also the time I predicted 🙂
All the way up I could hear cowbells….not my sister though, real cowbells on actual cows! I found it very motivating. I even saw my name in chalk on the road, just like on the Tour.
It was a great experience and I felt very excited to have climbed my first proper mountain. I have done long climbs before but with a gentler gradient. This really was quite tough. At the top we stopped for photos and got some food. There were quite a few cyclists up there, although not many tourists, the weather was too awful for a casual visit and there were no views. One of the cyclists came over to look at my bike. Turned out he knew the guy who had painted it and had already seen a picture of it on Instagram – my new bike was already famous 🙂
The descent was interesting…it’s not my favourite thing, I would rather be going up than down and not being able to see more than 20ft in front made the hair pins pretty scary. It was also now raining heavily and was really cold. After 3km we had to stop to warm up and found a little cafe and got some hot coffee. We set off again a little warmer but soon we were both shivering again, I was trembling with cold so much my bike was wobbling. Fortunately it wasn’t for too long and soon we were back in the valley and although still raining we were out of the cloud and the temperature had risen.
On Monday we went back up the Tourmalet but this time in the car. I wanted to see where I had been and also get some nice photos. This time the sun was shining. I didn’t really enjoy the hairpins in the car, much too close to the edge for my liking. I was actually quite grateful that I hadn’t been able to see much when I’d been on my bike.
Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque
On Sunday we set off again, this time in glorious sunshine, to climb another mountain. The plan was to climb Soulor and if I felt strong enough carry on up to Col d’Aubisque. It would be a similar climb to the day before … just hotter.
After just 3km of gentle cycling we started climbing and this was only the climb to get to Arrens where the real climbing began. It was definitely a different experience in the sunshine, the views were better for a start but it was hard going.
The climb to the top of Soulor starts at the village of Arrens, we stopped briefly for a quick banana and then Ian decided to give me a ten minute head start to see if he could catch me up. He did of course, 1km from the top, but he was pleased with how far I had got.
This climb was very tough in the heat with some steep sections thrown in. But my new bike felt great. At the top we stopped for a quick lunch, and then had to decide if we would continue up to the top of Col d’Aubisque. It wasn’t a hard decision, I still felt good and I’m really glad to we carried on as the views were spectacular. The road wound round the mountain and often went through little tunnels cut out of the rock, it was very beautiful. We also saw lots of eagles swooping around. At one point we were high enough that they were below us. You could really see just how huge they were, an amazing sight. Again the last km was pretty hard but we made it. We saw the same guys that we had seen at the top of the Tourmalet again…small place the Pyrenees!
It was a fabulous weekend and a really special way to celebrate turning 50. I can’t thank Ian enough for making it happen. I love my new bike….it was the perfect outing for it and the perfect way to do Event 32….The Surprise Event!!!