Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Friday, 29 November 2013
It seems that an inevitable part of my job these days involves travel. Any notion I may have had that this was romantic or exciting quickly dissapated during my trip to the states last year when, instead of a road trip down 'Route 66' I spent a week rushing between meetings and spending more time than is healthy sat in various regional airports.
This weeks trip to Denmark , although not filled with multiple flights again left me with little in the way of cultural enrichment but a head and to do list straining at the seams.
Couple this with numerous issues back at the office requiring me to work into the night whilst my colleagues were consuming the entire 2013 production output of Denmarks micro-brewery industry and I can safely say that I'm looking forward to getting back to normality over the weekend.
Good intentions when packing to hit the gym or pool on a daily basis quickly faded as well. The first afternoon in Copenhagen was spent catching up with work and the regional hotel we stayed at the for the following three days (which boasted comprehensive facilities on it's website) had a swimming pool, which seemed to be 10mtrs long and closed for 23 hours a day, the one hour it was open was obviously the hour I was either sleeping or working.
Without sounding like a travel-phobe, I've not really enjoyed the food either, I've become increasingly concious of what I eat and the food in the hotels seemed heavy and made for stodging you out. Maybe that was just the lack of exercise though, I'm pretty sure that a few hours of exercise during the week would have easily burnt off the food I ate. As it was, I cut down on portions and promised myself a ride when I get home..
I've developed a love of just going out and wandering round new places, this may not be sensible but I've not had any problems and you get to see places which are fantastic. Copenhagen is a stunning city, the architecture is something that even an uneducated oaf like me can appreciate and the people are friendly. The cost of everything can only be described as eye watering though, and the first time I had to hand over 9 quid for a pint I almost ordered a second at the same time just to numb the pain of the first.
Bike friendly place though, my local colleague informed me that the order of priority in the city is Cyclists, Pedestrians, Cars. That's not bad and Danish seem to be a law abiding bunch as I didn't see a single light jumper on my wandering.
Fixies and sit up and begs seem to be en vogue for the average Dane and I spent the final evening strolling through the centre admiring the more odd bikes on display along with a colleague from England who, it appears, is another bike nut.
The first was the beauty which sat proudly in the window of the Louis Vuitton shop. All stainless, black and brown..
At the other end of the spectrum was a trike type contraption which had obviously been constructed with lumpng stuff around in mind
So I've waved Denmark off at the airport and am heading home to catch up on family life, watch Dash eye ball his advent calender with increasing excitement and plan which of the new urgent jobs is the most urgent.
I guess I better squeeze some training in there as well, god knows I've missed it!
Friday, 22 November 2013
I got out and rode Wednesday, it was good too, the call which came through 5 minutes before our meet time followed a day of heavy rain, the roads home were flooded and I admit to a certain amount of trepidation.
My response to the 'Are you riding question' was a simple "Hell Yes", in my mind sits the fact that I've missed a couple of weeks and face next week in Copenhagen with no chance of riding, I was going no matter what. Jamer was game as ever, trooper that he is and when I got to his house he let me know that we had a few other hardy souls joining us.
His demo Giant 650b sat proudly in the rain whilst last minute faffing was done and we were off.
It was cold and I quickly realised that my winter gloves need a little bit of thought, 10 minutes from home and I was already losing the feeling in my fingers.
Getting to the wood the rain returned and so did the mist, it made it ethereal and I was soon enjoying my legs moving again, no point dodging puddles, it was too wet for that and to try was simply wasting energy.
With my arse perched on a Selle Italia SLR and fit clipped into Shimano XTRs for the first time I was in for a voyage of discovery..
Loved it though, my night riding set up is finally as I want it with decent lights on both bar and head and good company with great mates.
The descents were hard earned and techy, stuff ridden countless times takes on new challenge when the water is racing you down hill and even the most innocuous roots have turned wet glass slippy. My riding felt good though and I was pretty chuffed with my fitness even after the illness. I'm a fair way off century fit, but I've a few months of turbo to work on that ;o)
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
During the past week, I've swung between closing my account and quitting the world of blogging and starting anew. I sat and thought about it though and I decided that to be honest, a name change to something which is a little more accurate would be a good starting point for refreshing mojo for sitting and writing.
So, Velo Addict it is, that sums me up, I love bikes and biking, whilst I may not have the biggest collection of bikes there isn't much time that goes by without me thinking about rides I've done or am planning on doing.
Maybe this is the digital equivalent of having kids to save a marriage, but I'm willing to try and make it work.. are you?
Friday, 1 November 2013
That's a shame because the ride was fantastic and went utterly to plan. As a natural self critic I am perpetually disappointed in my own performance, able to find the smallest issue and honing in on it until all other good stuff is lost.
Not so this time, the 104 miles of the Malvern Mad Hatter passed under my wheels in 5hrs 49 minutes and I finished feeling bloody great. The last 10 miles were a bit of a slog as my nutrition plan of stopping only once and being self sufficient for the remainder
of the ride saw me moving on when the group I had happily stuck with for 40 miles pulled in to take advantage of the generous feed stations, that coupled with a few stinging climbs and a bastard headwind meant I was in a head down get there mindset for the first time all day.
My stretched goal of achieving a gold medal worthy time of 6hrs 30 minutes was obliterated as I rolled over the line 40 minutes ahead of it and I didn't suffer the normal issues I get from long rides thanks to a little care and the excellent products on offer from High5.
I've enjoyed the increased fitness I've gained over the course of the summer and my regular Wednesday night rides in the exceptionally hilly Symonds Yat area were all achieved on a singlespeed, not only that, I was storming away from my mates in the process up the
steepest of hills.
My last post of exile appears to have been written just before an important tipping point. On the last of my wednesday night mountain bike rides before I set out to attempt the Malvern Mad Hatter I found myself at the top of what I considered to be a nasty little drop in on a downhill trail, I reasoned that after investing heavily in both a new bike and higher levels of fitness, smashing myself up to
simply prove a point (to whom I wasn't sure) only three days before my first imperial century was a little foolish to say the least. The result of this was that I just wheeled down the chicken run and watched whilst my riding buddies ummed and ahhed for a while.
That's been an epiphany for me, rather than battering myself mentally I accepted I didn't want to do it, my mates didn't immediately dis-own me, the world didn't implode and I wasn't denounced as a coward when we walked into the pub a few hours later. Since then, my off road riding has seemingly come on, my jumping is better, my descending better and I just have my mojo back. The crisis of confidence has left these shores, at least for the time being.
Friday, 23 August 2013
Cycling has always been a social event for me, yet as my fondness for road biking grows my rides are generally solitary affairs.
The number of mountain bike miles added to my annual total since June can be counted in low double digits, whilst hundreds of miles have been covered exploring an expanding area centred around home. Local climbs and descents have been learnt and my Strava times on segments continue to improve, once happy with getting somewhere close to the top 10 or an occasional KOM off road, I have gathered multiple crowns in my Strava feed in recent weeks.
Something is missing, as I said, I'm a sociable creature, my mates are mtbers, they have seen me at my worst and best and carried me through in both cases. My road experiences have none of this camaraderie, and whilst I get an occasional enquiry I can see that the interest is surface deep, routes and distances mean nothing to them and I feel increasingly the same when descents, jumps and trails are discussed in return.
Requests for company on the road have met with refusals and excuses, the option left to me is to join a bike club, something I can't yet bring myself to do. I'm proud of my increased fitness and reduced waist, I take a passing interest in cadence and understand what my HRM is telling me during the stages of a ride but to me a club means stern chairmen and arm patches, rule books on club conduct and inevitable posturing and club politics.
On the rare occasions I have met riders on the road they are invariably going in the opposite direction and I'm too nervous to spin around and ask for company.. fearing that I'll be dropped unceremoniously on the next climb as my mouth writes cheques that my legs aren't able of cashing.
A mates brother road rides, I've seen him a couple of times and in each case we have spent 10 or so miles together discussing the world and his adventures as an ultra runner. Whilst Pat is happy to spin along at tick over however I find the pace too low and we soon part ways.
During the 77 mile Peak District Sportive however, my ride companions were a tall and powerful ex work colleague from Sheffield and a Cat 1 semi-pro bike company owning cycling monster. I was suffering a migraine and my pace was humiliatingly pedestrian in comparison to these gods of the road, they pulled me round though, dropped their pace and protected me from headwinds as we covered miles in the stunning scenery of the Peaks. I felt immense gratitude for their actions and this further fueled my love of the road, returning home though I was back to lonesome rides.
My confusion grows; too slow for Cat 1 Racers, too quick for an evening bimble, too nervous of speed and fitness and politics to join a club, too disinterested in throwing myself off gap jumps to ride off road.
For now, then, I'll continue to experience the solitude of the road.. if you see me out please say hello
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
I have to admit to a certain amount of nervous excitement in the lead-up to the day, I was feeling pretty fit*, the promise of wall to wall sunshine for the weekend helped to ease nerves and stop me texting Ad with my best Can't make it, my achilles has gone excuse. So, what are those memories I still have then?
1) The venue feels small... getting to site early I spotted two tents and a bloke playing tunes out of the back of a van, I was starting to wonder I was in the right place.
2) When you are changing a tyre and the little blighter decides that it isn't going down without a fight, be prepared for said tyre to smack you in the mouth (how this happened remains a mystery, I blame the idiot with the tyre lever).
3) Although he now runs his own business, Ad's time keeping maintains a general mistrust of accuracy
4) Ashton Court has the potential to give you a cracking day of riding, especially in glorious sunshine
5) If you buy Assos cream to protect your arse, use it.. the last two laps of the day practically reduced me to tears, I've never suffered from saddle sores before and I intend to never repeat the experience. When the race was finally done I could barely bend over to take my shoes off.
6) Applying cream to said red raw arse which says it heals should also only be done whilst biting down on a leather belt..
7) Although Ashton Court has the potential to give you a good days riding, the number of utter bell ends who are fully prepared to knock you into the undergrowth on their quest for 80th place was able to utterly ruin the day. Getting passed by a Racer Boy who was just tackling his 3rd lap when you're nearly finishing your 8th gets very tiring, very quickly. Maybe I should have been fitter, but we all experienced cockishness at some point of the day and I heard that this elbows out racing resulted in a few riders needing trips to A&E.. it's utterly pointless and enough to make up my mind to avoid mtb races again for quite a while
8) Riding with mates rocks
9) Riding bikes rocks, riding bikes round and round in circles doesn't however..
10) More bikers don't jump than do.. a small bmx jump bought from Argos and placed in the final straight before the transistion which was supposed to tempt very often got rode round rather than over.. in addition, a fair proportion who tried to 'grab some phat air' approached the final bend removed from their bikes and generally head first
* A relative term, my 'fit' is probably most peoples "By christ, I'm nearly dead, I really need to get off my arse and doing something"
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
I'll admit to some hesitation when sitting down to write this post, I've made a decision to keep the blog up to date though and I guess this forms part of the thought process which I set the site up to record.
Bike Races hold a love hate grip over me, I love the thought of something to train for (I very often find that without a date on the calender my training fades). The problem is, in the past I've got myself stressed out over fitness, weather, tyre choice, food choice and a thousand other items which really only deserve as much air time as it takes to dismiss them. Kate finally sat me down a few years ago and explained the impact this was having on her, since then, I've stepped back and taken events as nothing more than an opportunity to ride my bike surrounded by others.
Historically, admitting that I felt fit was setting myself up to be beaten down by others, this is the next step in my 'rehabilitation' and proving to myself I've changed my outlook. Yes, I'll be racing against mates, but if they win then fair enough, I've got a 7 week old baby and a 3 year old toddler who between them ensure that sleep is rarer than rocking horse shit. Getting to the event in itself is going to be an achievement. Trying to teach Dash that it's the effort and the ability to keep trying even if that means an acceptance of failure has highlighted my own past failings, so yeah, here's my own thoughts on me ahead of time, if I'm proved wrong, then I'll be proved wrong whilst giving it my best effort..
I've contemplated the Bristol Bikefest for a few years, it looks like a fun event, it's close to home and the course receives favourable comments from the biking forums. Unfortunately, it's always fallen just ahead of the Mountain Mayhem, an event which was always the big part of my biking year, more recently, it's been only a few weeks ahead of exams.
When my old buddy Ad sent a text and asked if I was free to join him as a pair for the 12 hour race I had a few minutes of contemplation, with exams a (temporary) thing of the past and Mayhem now longer holding any real interest I admit to being very tempted.
The chance to catch up with some friends I've not seen for a few years and the option of riding somewhere new sealed it. It also filled a nice space in my training diary between the Wye Valley Sportive and the Triathlon in August.
So, where am I then in terms of preparation for a race?
Whatever happens, we're going to get a top 10 finish, checking the entry list, it appears that there is only 10 pairs signed up for the Singlespeed category, see? it's all about finding positives. The Singlespeed may be an issue; I've only recently converted after a number of years as a geared rider. I remember that the events I did with only one gear went well, speed wasn't an issue but the way of riding is slightly different and that is something which I'm short on practice at.
I admit I'm getting fitter, distance is no longer a thing of concern, I'm knocking out 35-40 mile rides without issue at present and running wise, I can get out and do a half marathon distance run happily, that's an improvement on previous years; probably not quite to the level I was at 2 years ago, but life has changed since then and I'm probably fitter in a more sustainable way now.
The good thing about the increased fitness is that I feel better in myself about clicking into the pedals and rolling out onto a race track, that, along with the chilled out attitude I'm working hard to foster and I can honestly say that I'm really looking forward it.
Monday, 3 June 2013
I've never adopted a revolving door approach to bike ownership, in fact, going back three generations would see a bike that was bought and ridden during the late 90's.
I can still reel off every bike I've owned and how I eagerly awaited their purchase, planning components and the trails I would try them out on. That covers the mountain bike side of things, road bikes are even rarer, my first road bike was bought for me as a ten year old, countless miles were covered until I became enchanted by the possibilities of off road biking and it was sold to help towards the cost of its muddy replacement.
The next foray into road riding came as an 18 year old, my aging car transported me and a mate 50 miles from home to buy a bike which I had read a description of in the free ads, the test ride consisted of bouncing down the curb and pedaling to the end of the road and back to ensure nothing fell off. I still remember the sweaty afternoon spent cutting off the solid rear tyre which the previous owner had fitted in an attempt to reduce maintenance requirements to zero.
That bike was upgraded and much loved, accompanying me through my early triathlon outings, a high speed crash which saw me run over and transported to hospital consigned the bike to the garden shed for a few years until I had the heart to admit the frame was beyond salvage.
A few years ago I had the urge for a return to the road, a work colleague at the time was a massive cycling fan, a member of the cycling club to which he belonged was selling his winter training bike, a few weeks passed and the bike was still for sale. Turning up at his house on a wet saturday afternoon I saw a bike which would do me fine, I stared in awe as he proudly showed me the 2k road bike which he kept for best, wondering why the hell anyone would spend that money on a bike that would only ever feel tarmac under its wheels. I handed over the money he was asking for though and a Ribble Audax came to stay.
Commutes to an old job were done on it and although the guy I bought it from had barely ridden it despite spending money on good quality components, I just didn't get it. Like the faithful puppy which, although beaten still loves its owner, the Ribble sat in the garage, never feeling the sun on its matt black paint for longer than the 16 mile round trip.
With Redundancy came the prospect of selling stuff, whilst my On One received Diplomatic Immunity from all such discussions, the future of the Ribble was uncertain; eventually being saved at the eleventh hour by the offer of employment in Sheffield.
Shortly after starting my new job it joined me early one Monday morning as I turned the nose of the car north and suddenly, it had a purpose. My car was left parked Monday to Friday and the daily cycle to and from work became extended to include 30 or 40 mile long forays in the Peak District. My Ribble was my link with home and between us we set out to get lost, find ourselves again and plan adventures for the following day.
I was still a mountain biker, but I began enjoying the tarmac again, time had healed the mental scars from the crash and endless roads through stunning scenery exorcised any remaining demons of road riding. Returning home, I settled back into off road riding, but at the start of this year I set out to complete a half Ironman triathlon. This necessitated the use of a road bike and once again my faithful pup was waiting.
The Sportive I completed last Sunday sealed it, I was officially in love with road riding again. I admit that when racking my Ribble alongside the high end carbon bikes already in place I felt the kind of shallow embarrassment normally reserved for being caught by your mates whilst kissing an ugly girl. My Ribble transported faultlessly me round the course though, overtaking many of the high cost, low speed velos of the other competitors to a silver medal time.
Since then, an accelerated purchase plan has seen a new bike arrive and the Ribble which has served me so well be consigned to an advert on ebay. I may have a brand new and high end road bike to face my new adventures on, but the bike it replaces holds a place in my affections which will take a long time to fade.
Friday, 31 May 2013
I guess now that we are approaching mid-year it's wise to revisit.
Goal One - Ride Wentwood in decent Time
hashtag fail.. Crap preparation, crap fitness, crap time, crap crap crap
Goal Two - Ride 2013 milesOk, so at the start of the year this required me to ride 39 miles a week, every week to achieve. Not a massive distance for roadies, who probably knock out 500 miles a month. For a slack mountain biker however, this is not the case. At present I have ridden a grand total of <fanfare> 358 Miles, more a wet fart than a high energy fireworks display I think you would agree. I do feel confident however, I've started ramping up the mileage and hopefully, with the persistent illness which dogged the start of the year behind me I will start catching up during the next six months.
Goal Three - Learn To Jump
Yeah, still trying, still crap.
Goal Four - Complete a Half IronmanThis is something I still really want to do. When I discussed it originally with Kate she was quick to reign in my enthusiasm and inject a dose of reality. We've got a new baby and new babies are renowned for their ability to deliver sleep deprivation with ease. Training for something as challenging as an 1800m swim, 90k bike and 21k run on minimal shut eye is going to create problems (and is possibly the reason I was struck down by so many bugs during the new year). I'm still incorporating Running, Swimming and Cycling into my weekly plans however. I've completed several half marathon distance runs in training already this year and can happily swim sub 30 minute miles whenever I make it to the local pool. In all honesty though I think that discretion is the better part of valour. I'm swapping out the half ironman for 2013 and in it's place will sit an imperial century on a bike, possibly by completing this Still a challenge to someone not used to riding that sort of distance, but something slightly more achievable. I'm viewing 2013 as a base year however, and will hope that the completion of a half ironman next year will become infinitely more enjoyable with a far increased level of fitness than I can really hope to gain in the time I have remaining before my target event.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Still, with the Muvi HD10 finally doing what I want it to, I've got out with Rex and put this together...
I'm still crap, but at least now I can show how crap I am ;)
Monday, 27 May 2013
Given I was going to be spending a fair amount of time among the 'weirdos of the black top' I thought it best I had someone who had some experience (albeit limit, but still significantly more than me) of riding in such events.
Step forward Al, already a partner of Wentwood and just crazy enough to give up half a day to not only spend it in my company but also that of several hundred MAMILs and their expensive accessories.
Al had appeared keen to join me and we had, in true Al / Ian style, spent the week running up to the event talking down fitness, talking up our game and generally not taking the whole thing very seriously.
It's fair to say that our arrival time saw us on the keen side of things and we had about 90 minutes to kill before our distance group could set off. We managed to fill this time admirably lounging in the early summer sun sipping free coffee and laughing (possibly a little too loudly) and all the fat blokes in full team kit pushing £8k road missiles whilst searching out the cake stand.
I had already owned up to some road riding (a 40 miler two weeks before) just to see how my legs would hold out and received numerous acerbic comments from Al who admitted his own preparation for the event was to pump the tyres up on a road bike which had sat unridden for 18 months and then spend 200yds of a 300yd test ride trying to clip into to his road pedals. Like I said, we weren't taking it too seriously.
If my training admission had caused Al amusement, pulling my brilliant white roadie shoes out of my kit box resulted in the piss taking being taken to a whole new level, I soon earned the nickname Liberace, and, looking around feeling a little embarrassed I could see that our MTBers attitude was decidedly unwelcome at a roadie convention.
Heading to the start, we faffed with GPS units and enjoyed the last few minutes of quiet before the exertions of the coming hours, our approach may be light hearted to most things, but riding is a serious business and we weren't about to show ourselves up. The inevitable safety briefing and careful explanation over how 'Arrows' worked and we were off, across the road from the stunning Chepstow race course and the rest of the bunch we were with pulled in to repair a puncture. We may take the piss but at least we were mechanically sorted.
I found myself out front and we pulled quickly away from the start point, miles being given up by the twisting road which hugs the River Wye. As was the case with Wentwood, Al reminded me that we need to go slow to go fast, pace ourselves right and we'll fly by the early racers in the latter stages.
10 miles in and we were at the scene of an accident, a rider lying face down and covered in blood, the obvious loser after a disagreement with a car, a large crowd had already formed and we decided to push on, too many cooks and all that. It was a sobering reminder, as a biker normally concerned with missing trees I needed to be thinking of other road users to.. especially the sunday drivers who wouldn't want to waste 20 seconds so a cyclist could pass safely.
Approaching the turn which would see us hit the first real climb of the day, a group of riders including Rob Lee (link to his blog on the right hand panel) caught and passed us, we'd been a two man convoy for some time so upped the pace and joined their chaingang, whilst they took turns in the front, we slunk around at the back, enjoying the tow and feigning ignorance to the rules of the road.
Turning onto the climb, it's fair to say I let my competitive side have the reins, I know the climb and was probably showing off a little, but I kicked down a few gears and went for it. A long couple of miles later saw me cresting the hill, I was sat up and spinning when Al pulled alongside.. I admitted to possibly making a tactical error and Al once again started banging on about heart rate zones and eating plans and saving his 'mighty thighs' for an assault on the 'monster hill at 80k'. I then made a second tactical error, with Al flexing his legs I pointed out the triple chainset sitting on my bike, it's fair to say that gave Al ammunition for the remaining 70 kilometers.
Remember that group that had a puncture? well, now it was our turn, Al's rear tyre had gone (possibly aided by him bunny hopping off every available pavement) and, pulling in to the roadside, I had to admit that the rather sexy carbon mini-pump I normally had attached to the bike was sitting in the kit box back at Al's car. Al used his one time only CO2 cannister without issue and we were soon on our way again. Me kicking myself for my terrible memory and Al sweating slightly as we had 40 miles to go and no means of tyre inflation should the need arise.
I have to admit, as days in the saddle go, this was right up there, I've primarily been an MTBer for the past 10 or so years, but during my late teens and early twenties I spent a lot of time riding road bikes, I've always enjoyed the speed and ability to pass miles under the wheels with such little effort.
As the day progressed I found myself falling in love with road riding again. Whilst Al was killing me on the on the climbs, I found a lost bravery and pushed hard on the descents, reeling in riders and leaving my brakes alone well past the point other riders were sitting up for corners.
Back in Wales and we were approaching the monster at 80k, not a crap B movie from the 50's but a very real and very big bump in the course profile. I admit that upon hearing Al exclaim he couldn't even see the top of it on his Garmin, I was quietly (very, very quietly) grateful that I had a triple, I wouldn't have admitted it to Al as he'd have probably ensured I wasn't in the car when he left the car-park and headed for home at the end of the day.
Proudly informing me that his energy bar of choice was used by none other than Sir Bradly Wiggins, I asked how it felt to take a warm and soft Brad in the mouth, I may be getting my arsed kicked, but I was sure as hell not going to let Al have it all his own way, the resulting laugh caused about £2's worth of Wiggins endorsed half chewed energy to be ejected all over his handlebars.
At the bottom of the hill Al suffered cramp, we stopped and whilst Al stretched his legs I downed another Gel shot.
The hill didn't disappoint, whilst my good mate powered on ahead, I ground out the distance, I didn't humiliate myself, but I wouldn't have wanted it to be much longer. As was the case at Wentwood, the last few miles saw Al go from strength to strength and our last regroup was short lived as yet another hill separated us.
Whilst Al spent the last 10 racing a couple of lads half his age (and winning) I got my head down. Back at the start finish area with just over 4 hours on the clock, I was presented with my finishers medal and we sat drinking yet more expensive energy products whilst planning our next road adventure.
It's going to be an imperial century and I can't wait...
Monday, 8 April 2013
It also sprung to mind for me over a small piece of trail that I've recently had issues with.
I was out with Jamer for a Saturday afternoon ride, we've both got cameras to capture our riding and a few hours saw us get enough footage for this;
And that bit right at the end is what originally brought good ol' Eddie's mantra to mind.
The trail in question is called the Serpent, a snaking singletrack that drops from the highest point of Penyard hill (visible from our bedroom window) 260 vertical feet lost over the space of 1/3mile. Quick, jumpy and rewarding it's a favourite already amongst many of my mates.
The sting in it's tail is a drop, vertical at the top and exposed to the right, the run in is blind and the first thing noticeable is that exposure, quickly followed by large uncovered rocks on the left. The drop turns immediately down the trail into nothing leaving no room for error. It has already been blackballed by Strava so no leaderboard is possible, I've said it before, I ride with some fantastic riders, the fact that we all know who and who hasn't, done that final section speaks volumes over the toughness of it.
Whilst Jamer effortlessly floats down it in the video, that was his second attempt, during his first he buzzed his back wheel with his gentleman sausage and padded the rocks with his foot. Returning to where we were starting our run in, he was visibily shaking. Even after getting down it with certain style he was adamant that he had no intention of doing it again.
Each time I've ridden Serpent to date the trail has been soaking wet, as such, everyone has pulled up short and taken the 'chicken run' although this is steep and if anything even more exposed than what we're trying to avoid, it's really only doable on foot.
That's bugged me, much as I love Serpent I'm never able to ride competely in the moment due to the growing feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach, previously assuming I'm nesh I've kept quiet, but the crash appears to have loosened tongues and this feeling of "oh hell, that drop is coming up" is more common than I thought.
With the camera running I ran in twice, each time my hands pulling on the brakes without any instruction from my brain. Getting frustrated with myself I set up a third run, this time carrying too much speed, the results are there for all to see. Smiling as I might be when I sit up, I was deeply frustrated. I hauled my bike back up to the start and had another go.
This time my brain gave the STOP signal loud and clear. I had to admit it that I had beaten myself.
We carried on the ride, I was annoyed, the gnawing anger wouldn't leave, getting home I shared the results of the ride with Kate, editing the clips together only heightened my annoyance. Lying in bed that night I was replaying that 30ft of trail over and over.
By Sunday evening Kate was asking Jamer to get me back up the woods and not let me leave until I had sorted it.
My next opportunity was Wednesday, I was as nervous as a teenager on a first date. At the start of the trail I was "Yes I can"ing myself to death, I had visualised the run in, the feeling of the bike, how it would feel to be down. It didn't start well and I had a 'moment' on the largest of the jumps in the middle section, scrubbing it from memory I get back onto Jamers rear wheel, down the first drop without incident, palms sweaty and mouth dry I approach the run in, sharp left, down to the blind lip and bum back, perfectly aligned I holler my victory, down the final chute, two drops and I'm on the fire road, fist pumping.
I can't wait to try again...
Friday, 8 March 2013
What is the best preparation for a challenging 50k?
I say 'I guess' because my preparation for the first event of the year consisted of illness, pitiful amounts of mileage off road and a three day business trip to Germany.
Sitting in the taxi as it screamed down the autobahn at well over a hundred miles an hour I had a short opportunity to contemplate the irony that as a rare amount of sun dried the trails in the UK, I was due to be sat several countries away unable to swing a leg over my bike to get some last minute training in.
Irony squared dictated that upon my return to Blighty a bloke with a beard will be collecting animals in pairs and starting sea trials of his newly finished Ark.
Wentwood sells itself as a tough event, when Al asked me what tyres would be good I suggested that if it rained tyres wouldn't make a difference as the whole thing would be an utter bastard. A few days of sun got me hoping that low levels of bike time would be countered by dusty trails.
You know I mentioned irony? He's got a big evil brother, who seems particularly happy when handing out colds, usually to the poor suckers who really don't want one (or even three, which, for those of you who may be keeping score is the number of colds i have currently had to date during 2013, that omits the fortnights worth of chest infection, in fact, whilst I have your attention and haven't as yet closed the brackets which is giving me this chance of an aside, I'm considering changing the miles ridden for the year to 'quantity of snot produced', number of the times I have said 'I hate being ill' or telling a cold to piss off and bother someone else, but, I digress, monumentally).
My previous blog entries to the event will attest to the toughness of the course, a good showing on the day would set you in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the year (although this is a theory, as I am still waiting my 'good showing' at Wentwood).
I started the year with plenty of good intentions and goals, one of which was to arrive at Wentwood, storm round the course and finish in around 3 1/2 hours What actually happened was slightly more painful;
I lift shared with Al, and, on the morning of the event awoke to find sub zero temperatures embracing the countryside. En-route to the event car park I made sure Al was well aware of my current ailments in what I like to consider an essential pre-ride ritual when not on top form. Al meanwhile looked fit and healthy, brimming with confidence and proudly telling me of his ride strategy.. start slow, ignore his normal Jeremy Clarkson attitude of screaming 'POWER' and giving the first fifteen minutes full beans and to eat regularly, when he started talking heart rate zones I began contemplating whether he would notice if I opened the door and jumped from the moving car, rationing that it was likely to hurt less and be over quicker.
The car park was filling quickly when we arrived, the event's already legendary organisation was clear as helpers were laying straw in the carpark entrance to prevent cars later becoming stuck.
The car thermometer read -2 and, once we had registered we both made a beeline back to the car and its heaters to delay the inevitable freeze your nuts off bike prep that is essential regardless of how organised you are upon arriving at any event.
I love riding with Al, we don't do it often but every meet leaves me laughing far more than should be allowed when surrounded by fat middle aged blokes dressed in far too much lycra, he has an acerbic wit and happily drops into rant mode at the slightest excuse. Whilst we both sat watching bikers wrestle with kit and clothing we both complained about the weather and our decision to ride, to misquote Shakespeare, me think these riders doth complain too much.
Deciding that any race* strategy involving us requires a place on the starting grid just behind the bloke responsible for picking up rubbish we waited in the sub zero temperature, Al switching up another gear with excitement over the alarm set to chime every 20 minutes to remind him to eat the pre-prepared bite size energy bars and me to wonder whether I was wearing enough layers considering I had already lost the feeling in my legs below the point my 3/4 bibs ended and trying to calculate how many 20 minutes there were going to be in 5 hours.
With the starting gun came the 5 mile road warm up and the realisation from both of us that we should have had a piss before lining up. Al proclaimed he had the prostate of a 40 year old and I had to agree I did too, well, I would of had I not been wondering exactly why I didn't visit the little boys room considering every time a crank reached the up position my thighs compressed my bladder enough to make my eyes cross.
Getting to the start of the off road section and it was quickly apparent that the organisers had swapped things round heavily. My mental map from 2012 was quickly outdated and I consigned myself to hanging on and enjoying what was in front of me at that moment, rather than trying to second guess what I would ride round the next corner I felt good hitting the first sinewy sections of singletrack and made good use of the undergrowth in overtaking manoeuvres best described as iffy.
I'll say it now, Wentwood is a bloody gem, the trails are fantastic on the whole and appear to have survived the harsh winter without significant damage, the only thing spoiling it for us were the riders we were amongst who hadn't realised that mountain bike events tend to consist of off road trails, we aren't xc racers but both of us are able to more than hold our own on trails and we found it frustrating to have singletrack spoiled by slow riders up front who seemingly have no understanding of the people behind them, seriously, what idiot would just randomly swap from one side of a steep muddy chute to another without at least some form of check over their shoulder? In my defence though, I couldn't see Al at the time and did apologise straightaway.
I have a hill in Wentwood which is my mental nemesis, this thing is a long drag up fire road followed by a brutally steep road section to finish, its held a place in my head since last year when I approached it with 45km in my legs. This year it marked the final run in to the 25km marker and as soon as I realised where we were and what was to come my mind defeated my body. Arriving at the feed station a minute or so behind Al I was beginning to realise that my endurance had been severely affected by the seemingly endless rounds of colds, the full 50k wasn't in question but I knew that to get to full distance was going to involve a fair amount of pain.
I read a cracking two part mantra recently, 'No matter how bad you feel, keep moving forward', the second part goes 'When you can't race, repair yourself'.. in other words, eat and drink.. the stuff we ignore when the competitive juices are flowing freely and you are chasing down the riders in front. Now was that time, I made an effort to eat the bars and gels I had in my pack, washing them down with water laden with nunn tablets. Al was waiting at the end of the section and pulled no punches in his summary of the trail, I seem to remember a willingness to slam his wedding tackle in a heavy door before roding it again.
Pain is inevitable, as the saying goes, suffering is optional. I was determined to keep on smiling but I could tell as the miles racked up that Al was being generous by dropping his pace to match my own. At around 35k I finally relented and entered the dark place which waits for us all during times of tough exertion. A long traverse across deep mud which seemed impassable sapped me of positive thoughts, reaching the halfway point I came across several riders who had simply stopped to rest. This filled me with confidence so I took heart and plodded on.
The 50k had 1600m of climbing in it, the first 25 accounted for around 1200 of that. Technically we had broken the back of the climbing, I think it had returned the favour and I found myself reduced to a crawl on many of the climbs. This years course kept on giving though and more singletrack repayed the struggle.
I had urged Al to go on, I could tell he wanted to test himself and I was feeling increasingly guilty about holding him up. He showed the chasm in fitness which separated us and quickly pulled away. Now left to my own thoughts I was determined to finish in good spirits.. 15k.. 9 miles.. I was running that a few weeks before and not feeling it the following day.
I was going to feel this though.
2013 for me has been plagued by illness, I had a similar few months after starting my last new job, I put it down to living in two areas of the country and being exposed to so many bugs, now I think it was down to tiredness and stress.
Wednesday, 6 February 2013
I know what I said, no easy outs and plenty of structure.
Thing is, the man with the plan has decided to have a little fun and its seemingly at my expense.
As the saying goes though, if you fall six times, you must get up seven.
The tight chest I mentioned in my last post was diagnosed as a chest infection. A course of antibiotics later and I am starting on the road to recovery-ville. That is until the follow up cold made itself known anyway, gained fitness was lost, then gained and lost again and before I can say pissoffcoldyouareboringmeknow three weeks as passed with only a few miles of running under my belt.
I got out for a ride last weekend and actually felt pretty good. Reading my Wentwood 50 partners tweets about new bikes and reucing waistlines did little for either my confidence or mood however and a piss poor 9 miles in the saddle is unlikely to have Al worried about keeping up. More likely that he'll be packing the emergency oxygen tent and ensuring he has the number of the local air ambulance in his phone just in case I get a relapse.
This week I have managed a few runs, including a session of hill reps and a long run yesterday which saw me ticking off just over 10 miles in an hour and 20 minutes. Something has to be working because that is quicker than I was managing a few weeks out from the last half marathon I ran.
So, I may not be completely doomed to failure for my quicker time for Wentwood, I just need a few good weeks of training without succumbing to the next bug that is doing the rounds, wall to wall sunshine and for everone else to get the date wrong.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Friday, 25 January 2013
Sunday, 6 January 2013
As is always the way, as soon as I make a plan and commit it to virtual paper something comes along to kick sand in my face. In this case it was the cold which I managed to hold off throughout the Christmas period.
Multiple cold and flu capsules and enough Vitamin C to shock a fair sized elephant appears to have worked so far.
With a return to the day job, poor sleep and the aforementioned cold, training has been lacking this week. I did get out for a 3.5 mile run Friday but my legs and body grumped enough afterwards to make me question whether the run was not 5 times that amount. A rest of sorts over the last two days (if two days looking after dash whilst Kate is at work can be considered any form of rest) should see me right for a restart tomorrow.