Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Forest Half Marathon 'Race' Report

Sunday saw me bimble my way around 13.1 miles of beautiful Forest of Dean scenery for the Forest Of Dean Half Marathon..

This is the second time I've completed the event, last time I suffered an injury which curtailed my training, I ran it anyway and enjoyed it enough to promise myself a re-run at some point.

At the end of last year, with a season of triathlon events in mind, I signed up again with a view to giving myself that excuse to get out and train through the winter.

It's safe to say that the route is thought of as tough, seasoned runners generally react only by wincing when you mention you're doing it.  Good reason too.. take a look at this bad boy..

that's 2768ft of elevation over the 13.1 miles..

I'd be lying at this point if I said I wasn't damned proud of my performance on the day.  Off the back of far less training than I wanted to have done, I managed a very respectable time (for me, given that I ain't a runner) of 1hr 47.. giving me a placing of 579th out of 1834 runners.

Doing the event having done a 13 mile run during the training for the event gave me a massive mental boost, I knew I could do it, even if my training had tailed off during the last 6 weeks.  I tagged onto the back of two runners at around mile 6 who were aiming for 1hr 45 finishing times after they had admitted their target to me, I'd made note that I was aiming for 1hr 59. 59 if it meant I came in under the 2hr mark.  Being told I was well inside that marker gave me confidence and I made damn sure that I kept them in view for the remaining miles.

For some reason the miles passed easily, far more easily that during my last attempt at the race and I felt as though I was running within myself for the majority of the distance - hovering between 7,50 and 8.30 min mile pace felt comfortable and I'm confident that carrying on from this point will give me a cracking base for summer events that I'm now looking at

Friday, 25 March 2011

Name Change..

I'd say that nothing which remains static for long periods of time remains at the top of its game.. change is the only constant as the old saying goes.

Something which was at the forefront of y mind when I set this blog up was that I was planning on competing in Triathlons from 2011 onwards.

Well, life has changed as I've already mentioned on numerous occasions and with it, I feel the blog address should change to reflect that.  So, gone is thatswimbikerunthing.. hello to abr-biking.  The blog is dead, long live the blog..

So.. abr-biking.. wtf? you may be asking.. well, it sums me up.. Ambitious But Rubbish.. abr.. clever huh? and after that particular moment of inspiration I may have to go take a lie down.

Hell, I sometimes wonder if I overthink these things ;)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Still Alive..

First of all, before I start wittering, take a look at this...

 The total of climbing was just over 7000ft.. talk about squeezing 2lbs into a 1lb bag..

So since the Goshawk what have I been doing? well, I've had a few rides and I've been doing some running.  As the countdown timer says, there are 8 days left until the half marathon.. Am I ready? probably not, will I enjoy it? err..

My nerves were ratcheted up another notch yesterday when I received my race pack.. Why? it's my number.. 7

Great.  To me, there is a level of anonymity to being runner 1540.. number 7 means the runner is a bit special.. or maybe over zealous with posting the entry form... but to me it'll be the former, I'm my biggest critic and the person I always compete hardest with, so any excuse to beat myself up will taken with a fair amount of enthusiasm.

Ah well, it's an event and each time I compete I'll learn something; even if it's to not sign up to another ;)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Goshawk Challenge

Sunday 6th March saw the first time out for a new event in South Wales, the Goshawk Challenge, based in the huge Wentwood Forest.

I'd heard about the event somehow and had quickly got my name down for the 50k option.

In the build up I think everyone knows just how much training I somehow managed to avoid doing, never mind though, it's only 30 miles or so.. not that tough really is it?

I think this chart sums that thought up best.

I knew that I didn't have enough long rides in my legs, but I kind of got to thinking that the running I've been doing would  see me through.

The event started with a good 3 or 4 miles of road riding to get into the forest and the start of the MTB section proper.

I have to say, at mile 9 I was unimpressed, nothing I had ridden was giving the buzz that I was hoping for.  We arrived at a feed station and I was impressed and chuffed to see piles of bananas and Torq tubs for restocking our supplies.  I grabbed a banana and inhaled it whilst Rex took a few minutes to stretch his back - he'd injured himself a week or so before and it was starting to give him a bit of stick.

Back on the bikes and we finally start getting some decent and enjoyable singletrack.  A road crossing gets us into another part of the forest and, although the seemingly continual climbing continued, the singletrack rewards were starting to get better and better.  We both felt pretty knackered and, to add a bit of extra fun to the mix, my brakes were really playing me up - no power and requiring a full hand grab rather than a subtle pull like normal.

The course required that at the 25km cut off point, those doing the 50k challenge received a yellow zip tie, from here a there was a 5 mile loop to get back to the same point, where a blue tag was picked up.  Another 6 mile loop led to a red tag and from there a 7km road / singletrack descent beckoned to the start / finish point.

Arriving at the 25km point I felt exhausted, breakfast felt like an awful long time ago and I knew it wasn't long before I was going to be experiencing the dreaded 'bonk' - the horrible run out of energy feeling that runners call hitting the wall.  I felt empty and I now knew why I should have got bigger mileage rides in.  The 25km point however, was an oasis appearing out of the desert.  On a laden table was a tea urn, bananas, more of Torqs finest products and a stack of both bought and home made cakes.  Coming to a stop the look that passed between us said - 'We need to stay here.. for at least as long as it takes to empty that table'  so about 2 minutes then.

Three pieces of cake and a sweet tea later we set off again, I was starting to enjoy this now, climbs were still coming thick and fast but the quality of the descents was increasing all the time.  It was only now, during some great little gems that I was starting to appreciate how good the new Bontrager Mud X tyres were.  Far from being overrated, they were allowing me to corner like the bike was on rails, holding lines and angles that my old trailrakers would never have let me get away with.  The area has a lot more rocky sections than my usual haunts and so I normally approach such obstacles with a certain amount of trepidation, not today though, even with a lack of fitness, I was attacking trails and coming out the other side smiling.

Pulling back into the tea stop for the second time, we devoured more cake and tea before collecting our red tags and pushing on for the final 7 miles before we could get into that 5 mile descent..

From here, the trail was getting better and better, big descents, more often than not littered with caution signs were dispatched with increasing confidence.  The fun was repayed in spades though, with a few (for me) torturous climbs, the pain was lost at times due to the stunning views on offer to those able to lift their head and take in the surroundings.

Worth it.. Number + Tags
We had overheard that the final climb up to the refreshment point was a real dog, it had been sat in my mind over the past 10 miles and I knew that although I normally enjoy climbs this one may prove the exception to the rule.  Turning onto it, I was disappointed, that was steep!  Somehow I dug out that extra bit of energy and finished the final climb strongly.

A pause to chat to the ever-friendly Marshall's we clipped in and pointed ourselves downwards.  Even by halfway I knew that all the pain and pushing was worth it, what a stunner.. even a close call between me and the over sized bonnet of an X5 couldn't dampen my smiles.

Would I do it again? without doubt.. Would I do more training next time? Hell yes :o)

Monday, 7 March 2011

Perfect Ride

So what makes a perfect bike ride?  Whilst you ponder your own definition, have a read of what I think.

Look at any bike forum, read any mag or speak to any die hard biker and they'll tell you a good ride is reliant on any one of a million different variables;
Tyre choice, tyre pressure, suspension settings, hydration levels, bike choice, trail conditions - too wet, too dusty, too worn, too new, group pace - too quick, too slow, ambient temperatures, phase of the moon and so on..

It seems we really are a fickle bunch, ready to lay the fact we had a bad one at anyone or thing elses door.  Me, I think it's something a lot more subtle than that.

Take my last ride;
I'm going to make no bones about it, being made redundant has hit me hard, my mental and emotional state has been a little unsteady to say the least and I'm struggling currently with feelings of hurt, resentment and anxiety about getting a job and paying the bills.

When the text from Al came through asking if I fancied a cheeky ride I jumped at the chance.  Riding is therapy to me and we've not hit the trails together for a long while, I always enjoy Als laid back manner and love of nothing more than being out on a bike and turning pedals.

A meeting time was agreed and I was happy to see blue skies for the day ahead.  Meeting at the carpark we unloaded bikes and kit, I ummed and ahhed about shoe choice, the £200 sidi's are still untested and I thought this may be an opportunity to get them out and used.  Contemplating possible trail conditions with Al, I opted instead for the battered old faithfuls.  Heading out the carpark we quickly decided on a trail or two we wanted to ride and set about getting there by whichever path looked driest.  That's not the sort of approach I normally take, but the chat was easy and the sun shining made both of us grateful we were out.

Talk inevitably turned to my job state, explaining the last few months in as few a sentences as possible Al listened quietly before giving his no nonsense opinion on the whole shooting match.  It's funny, that advice probably didn't seem much to Al, but it helped me more than he'll ever know.  Coupled with flowing trails and well running bikes I arrived back at the car happier than I've been for a long while.  We had ridden nothing new, but for some reason I was on a high, and that high has remained.

So, back to my original question of what makes a ride perfect?.. to me, it's about matching the ride to your mental state.. if you can do that, perfection and happiness are a certainty