Saturday, 15 December 2012

Xmas Pudding Dash...

...or roughly translated a 5 mile cross country run through the grounds of Ashburnham Place near Battle in East Sussex, with the option to wear appropriate Christmas clothing. That was not on my list of priorities as I arrived 10 minutes before the start, grabbed my bag out of the car and legged it down to the registration desk having only decided to do this race an hour earlier this morning.

One thing with being in a mad panic trying to get to the start is that you end up having to park the furthest away so you get a nice warm up en route to signing on. So a quick signing on, removal of clothes (I had at least put my running gear on underneath my clothes before I left home to save time!), caffeine gel downed and shot outside to make my way to the front just before the off. Lined up around me were a mixture of Santas, angels, reindeer and some bloke in a tutu.

From the off it was a quick loop around the stately home, then off up the very steep drive before diving off into the woods. About six of us formed a group at the front as things started getting very muddy and then the others around me seemed not to notice the direction sign up ahead and veered off to the right. A quick shout at them and they got back on track. This let me take the lead briefly before one of the juniors caught back up with me. Having now pulled a gap over the others I decided to let him take to the front and tuck in behind. Crossing the line for the second and final lap I felt good and thought I would go for it on the climb up the steep drive. However my legs had other ideas and it was as if someone just drained all the energy out of my legs and I started drifting back. Hanging on as best I could with first place getting away, I then had two more of the juniors closing in behind. I hung on till about 50 metres to go but with a short sharp hill just before the finish one of them caught me at the top on the last bend and then his brother, as I found out afterwards, decided to sprint as well for the line. don't think so, I tried but then realised it's a long time since I could do that, so with no one else coming up behind me I slowed to a stroll across the line.

So 4th place, was I happy? Not really when I was that close. I was a minute ahead of the next place so I should be happy at that and being a minority mountain biker surrounded by pure runners. To quote Scooby Doo "it would have been first if it hadn't been for those pesky kids". Very well done to them though and a really strong finish from them. As for what happened to me, I'm not sure, to lose power just like that it could be I'm still not over my "virus" as the local paper put it or looking back I didn't drink much this morning so that didn't help......or it could just be I'm getting old. Veteran category is just around the corner!
Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Fritton XC Sprint Duathlon a brief report

Due to the work commitments of the other half the local Thetford MTB series was off for me after doing every year for the 4years I have been racing.
I looked at alternatives to get my teeth into and Duathlons came on my radar, so I set about a short training schedule of just over 4 weeks and mostly involving 5km runs and a few shorter bike rides.
I entered the local sprint Duathlon series, and about 2 weeks before the event my knee started playing up no doubt due to the road running. however rested up and considering not competing the but in true rule #5 style I rocked up on Sunday to give it a go.
Off the mark my running was considerably slower than most but then probably expected given my experience. but after a pretty poor transition period I got on the bike, unfortunately the only bike I had handy was a steel rigid singlespeed inbred so despite the knee had to spin it out.
This was by far my best leg and finished with the 3rd best bike time overall, so only one run leg to go which again wasn't setting any records.
Ended up 8th overall and first in my age cat, but its important to note that there was some vets and Juniors ahead of me.
I was happy with my performance and will rest the knee up and attempt to get back out there and train before the next in January.
I'm no Mark Goodman but with a bit a focus I can improve on this im sure.
Any riders out there sticking their nose up at this Duathlon lark should get out the and give it a go as forget the distance its lung busting all the way.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Run Forrest!

Aside from cycling in lycra it is now that time of year when I can justify being able to run in lycra, although I tend to keep the full lycra skinsuit for race days only to avoid scaring people when I go running at the local forest. There's a time and place for everything!

Since September I have been slowly getting back into duathlon, both offroad and on the road, including a couple of road running races in the mix as well. This has all culminated in taking up membership with the British Triathlon Federation with my aim of competing at the British Age Group Championships at Oulton Park next year. Finishing well enough to obtain a place at the Age Group European Championships would be a bonus, but one thing at a time. My entry is in for that so I am some part of the way there. There is also news of an offroad championships next September as well. Anyway back to my round up of events and going ons.

First duathlon for me this season was a road one at Crowborough not too far away. The race format was 2.5km run/20km road bike/5km run. If you have never been to Crowborough it basically sits at one of the high points in East Sussex, so basically you will be going uphill at some point. The run was a simple 2 laps around the local houses, albeit totally uphill for the first half of the lap. I went into the lead from the off and got passed halfway round the lap by another competitor and decided to sit in behind him. By transition we had pulled a gap on the rest of the field, until I made the schoolboy error of not being able to locate my bike, costing time and giving an advantage to the chap just ahead of me. I managed to keep a steady gap to the leader until we got over the first hill and then the difference of my road bike and compact chainset versus his TT bike kicked in and he was gone, and that was the last I saw of him until the finish despite trying to go as hard as I could over the last run. I finished 2nd and 2mins down so I can't grumble, although the podium was only for 1st place.

Next up was something completely new for me and that was taking part in a local 10km running race around a local village on a very hilly course. I did some research on the previous year to see who won and in what time. That winner was on the start line this year, so in the pouring rain we set off and I decided to follow him and stay with him. About 1km in to the race and thinking he must have a train to catch I decided to settle into my own pace with another runner for company. On the second main hill I managed to pull away from him, and with the leader now out of sight ahead of me that was the last I saw of any other runners until the finish. I managed 2nd place, 5 minutes down on 1st place (he broke the course record in the process). Free cake afterwards was well received, along with the bottle of wine as my prize. That went straight to my wife as I don't drink, so she was happy

Back to the world of endurance mtbing and it was a team meet up at Dusk till Dawn in Thetford. Not a great race for me with the effects of a heavy cold, a new job and not much training for this event all adding up to me calling it a day, or night, about 6 hours in to the race whilst sitting in the top 20 in the solo category. Great to see Team Cycleaid pick up a podium in the mixed team event though!

Bitten by the running bug I entered another local 5 mile race in a village where I lived a few years ago and where my Dad lives also. It was a small field for the race and once again it was chucking down with rain. A group of four of us went away from the rest of the field after the 1st mile an it was then I decided to put the presssure on, this being a home race for me! I started to go dizzy so stopped, started again, went dizzy again and then turned around to start walking back. Faced with the prospet of being passed by all the runners coming by me and putting the dizziness down to an ear infection I decided to try again and this time felt ok. The other three runners had by now gone up the road so I had to get a move on. I knew there was a long steep hill coming up and knew if I could be close to them at the bottom I should catch them going up. The plan part worked and I had caught and passed two runners by halfaway up the hill. Up ahead but in sight was a young lady from Tonbridge Athletics club. I managed to catch her on the 4 mile mark but if I thought I had the race in the bag she had other ideas. Coming into the last 400m I could hear her footsteps behind me so I launched into what I would like to think was a sprint finish but by then my legs were like jelly and the last uphill drag was painful, but I managed to hold her off by 8 seconds I later found out that she is a pretty good cross country runner so I was pleased with my result. Another bottle of drink as my prize, this time champagne....and more free cake, and all over in just over 30 minutes. Great to have my family watching at the finish and my Dad and also a great effort by my sister in finishing her first ever race. I even made it in the village newsletter.

Reports on my recent offroad duathlon races at Black Park and Whinlatter to follow very soon.....Yes I know I have been slacking!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

This Dusk 'til Dawn 2012 Race Report is brought to you by the word Podium!!!!!

This is going to be the shortest race report I will probably ever write. Managed to wrangle together a team of chums to slap on the shiny new CycleAid kit and get it very dirty in Thetford Forest. They didn't turn up, so I got another team together ;) We started, first two riders back hated the conditions, Kim loved it, then it was my turn. I loved it and devoured the pan flat 10 miles course as quick as my little legs would carry me. Best race feeling I have ever had. Finished, transitioned, rested, and refuelled. My next lap wasn't for a few hours, so I made the most of it. 2nd lap was pretty much like the 1st, except I was passed by one person - but I think by then they were rocket-fuelled elite XC racers lapping us, so it was to be expected.

The third lap was accompanied all the way round by sheer cramp. I tried pedalling it out on the first few miles of fireroad, but that didn't seem to do the trick. So I just pushed through it and managed to find that I could ride at a similar speed to the previous laps, assuming I could shut off the pain. By this point it was getting pretty cold and foggy. By this point, some of the team mates were beginning to suffer, so myself and Lewis took turns on each lap. I managed to drink away the cramp before my final lap, and pushed hard. When I got to transition, I saw my team mate waiting next to the chap on the 2nd place team! Thinking that I had passed their rider out on the course and we were now up into 2nd place, I was somewhat excited and suggested my team mate should get riding "very" quick. At least I am pretty sure that was the word I shouted at him in front of a large crowd of people ;) Within 10/20 minutes, it dawned on us that the chap was waiting for his rider who was a lap up on us. Darn! However, he didn't know that, and was waiting in the transition area looking ready to go like a coiled spring.

Anyway, we had done enough to secure 3rd place, and onto the podium we went. A fantastic race and a fantastic team effort. Quite possibly the hardest I had ever pushed and in similar conditions to XC, which really isn't my usual stomping ground. The next day at work, a new contractor had started - as I got out of my seat to shake his hand, I was overcome by leg pain and looked like I was having a seizer  My boss said "Oh, don't worry about Ian, he likes to hurt himself."

Since then, I haven't really ridden much, due to reccurant asthma problems. More on that next time...
Sunday, 16 September 2012

So...Kielder 2012!

So there I was, having puffed, cramed and generally bludgeoned my way through 98 miles of testing racing, with just a few miles left - a few miles of sweet, singletrack and for a change, gravity was on my side. On the entrance to the 3rd from last singletrack section, there was a sign that said "Enjoying your ride?" - I thought about that for .000001 of a second, and conjured up the articulate response "F*** OFF!!!!". The ride was an absolute brute! I am not sure if rose tinted glasses made me think that last year's race was enjoyable and not so hard, but this year, it was an utter brute of a race.

Having destroyed my immune system at the start of the year with the evil Strathpuffer, I was forced to have about 2 months off the bike, then I was planning to mount a comeback for the Thetford Summer Enduro, but that was cancelled. Various factors conspired against me to not do Trail Masters, then plan B, the Brighton Big Dog (not the slabable singer) was already sold out. All in all - a bit frustrating! However, I trained! I practiced singletrack technique with serious dedication, got my hill reps in and did plenty of intervals - basically the past 4 months of my life was essentially a training montage from Rocky.

For a change, we decided to do split the journey up, so we weren't thrashed on race. Norwich to Doncaster on Thursday after work, then on to Kielder Friday (with a little stop off in Hexham). Despite having one of the wettest summers since Noah built his arc, the forecast for the race was sunny. I had been watching the weather forecasts with baited breath for a few weeks. Initially, it was predicted rain, but a few days before the race, the forecasts changed and we were predicted good weather! When I see a bad forecast, I tend to look at different forecasts until I find one that says what I wanted - but this time, they all "Sunny"!! Hurrah. And...they weren't wrong!

I managed to get some quality sleep leading into the race, which has never happened to me. 7 hours Wednesday, 10 hours Thursday and a good 7 hours on Friday night (despite the alarm going off at 4AM). Before we know it, we were on the start line and I was really pleased to bump into some fellow Iceni Velo chums Alex, James and Alex's glamourous assistant, Olly (the sensible option).

Kicking off at 6:30AM, we rolled through the first neutralized few miles behind the lead car and I was just getting my warm up following the wheels. Within the first 5 miles there was plenty of frantic passing, but I wasn't really getting involved. If I saw some little gaps, I jumped through, but I was keeping my powder dry (to use a cycling commentators' cliche). The first ten miles seemed to roll by without much incident. However, as the climbs started to kick off, it felt like I was pushing some hard gears. It took me about 20 miles to realise that my rear mech wasn't shifting up to the 4 biggest cogs on my cassette. Hmmm....with all the climbing, that wasn't exactly ideal. I tried twiddling my shifter and only managed to get the 4th smallest cog, but the "friendly" gears weren't wanting to play. Bit rude. Fortuantely the Bradley Wigginsesque Matt Williams from Run and Ride was on hand at the 31 mile tech zone to reindex my gears. He is awesome and he made them worked rather lovely (and they still do).

However, riding in some bigger gears had started to induce cramp (despite refilling bottles with energy drink at every possible stop), and then I had to ride the horrific loop 6 mile loop between 33 and 39 miles. Last year, that loop destroyed me. This year, I didn't let it destroy me, but it certainly gave my average speed a thrashing. Painfully, I was dropping a lot of places on the climbs. However, I had noticed quite early on, when it was coming to the singletrack and the fire road descents, I was doing some serious damage (and clawring back a lot of the people who had passed me on the climbs - felt a bit like Vincenzo Nibali, just nowhere near as fast or Italian. As time passed, my average speed was going down on the climbs, but then giving it a hard kick on the descents, I was able to get it back up again. It became an addiction to look at the aveage speed during the descents, and taking the risks to eek out as much as possible. Loved it. Well I say loved it, it was preferable to the climbing nastiness.

The miles between 30 and 65 have always been horrific in Kielder, and this year was no exception. The low point for me was the rocky singletrack after the Stairway to Heaven boardwalk. It was horrific, and when that ended, we were in the open fields with gale force winding lashing at us. My aveage speed was plumenting and my usually bulletproof enthuasim had disappeared. I spent the next hour contemplating what I could do instead of endurance mountain biking - even toyed with the idea of road racing, "testing" or maybe I could get back into oil painting again. Hmmmm. Anything but riding 100 miles around the Scottish borders getting cramp and covered in mud....on a dry day. Basically, I was a bit ratty with myself and feeling quiet jaded. This feeling lasted pretty much until the last 10 miles when I realised if I kept pushed on, I could get a personal best.

Anyway, the Newcastleton feed station eventually arrived. And I was greeted by Olly, as well as Alex's parents. Was really nice to see Alex's mum, as we had occasional Facebook interactions regarding her daughter's mountain biking adventures. This gave me a good boost, as well as a bit of banter with the time checking people about the lead group having only just left and if I pushed hard, I could win the race. Of course, the leaders had probably finshed by now, but it gave me a smile. And with that, I kicked off again! The first bit of singletrack after Newcastleton was hell last year, as it was pure thick mud, and a steep gradiant. Needless to say, I pushed my bike, and I am pretty sure mo(i)st other people did too. Fortunately, in the interveening 12 months, stones had been used to make it a bit more friendly - thanks ever so much to the lovely people who organised and made this happen. Once through this, I knew the rest of the course didn't really have any nasty surprised (just sloggish climbs, and some swift descents). Starting from about mile 69/70, there is a sapping fireroad climb that seems to go on for about 4 miles. Having endured some horrific head wind over the past few hours, we were now pointing in the right direction, and were able to kick it! A chap on a Giant 29er had been swapping places with me for a lot of the course, came steaming past me on this section - as it was effectively a false flat, I jumped on the back. We got chatting and he said "this is my type of riding!". "Oh no, not a roadie?". "Yeah, time trialist". With consent, I sat on as long as possible (about 3 miles) before I knew I was in the red, so I just eased off, bid him fairwell and watched him ride off into the distance. At mile 74, there are some vicious little steep climbs, but I managed to clear them for the first time in the 3 years of riding the event, so I was rather chuffed. Another little bit of climbing, then it was fireroad descents for 4 miles to the final check point. I gunned it! This managed to knock my average speed up by 0.3 mph, so I was back in the game. Got my feed bag, then pressed on as soon as possible. Downed 500ml of energy drink, then refilled that bottle (as there was 22 miles, and no more water - I didn't fancy refilling my bottles from the Kielder reservoir or any of the numerous puddles along the course). The last 22 miles were interesting. I basically was back on it. Think I've rambled enough, but managed to keep the wheels rolling and finished with the decidedly average time of 11hrs 30 minutes. Despite my disappointment, this is still just under 2 hours better than my time last year. This put me in 108th place (bit better than 177th last year, and 208 the year before.

Doing the Kielder 100 is like being in an article in Singletrack magazine. Which, obviously, is ace. Marshall were amazing, and they have such a lovely, jolly approach which really made the day for me. When you're filfty, tired and in pain, having a little joke with somoene goes a really long way. So if any of them are reading this, thanks - you're awesome people :)

Thinks I learn't today:

1) Don't loose lots of weight, then go to watch the Tour de France and reacquaint yourself with cheese and chocolate.
2) Singletrack and descending skills let you claw back a lot of time on the roadies.
3) Missing out on 4 months of training at the start of the year destroys any endurance you have. Therefore, never, ever, EVER attempt to do Strathpuffer solo. Or certainly don't attempt it as your first ever 24 hour race, unless you have an bulletproof immune system or are certifited insane.
4) The best way to start a race day is hearing owls twitt twoooing in the car park. I wonder if they made the final cut off......
5) Kielder is hard. However much you train for it, and however well you do, you go away feeling rather thrashed. Anyone who does, simply didn't ride hard enough. So well done to every sngle person who has attempted the race over the past 4 years, and anyone who managed to win it clearly has super powers.
6) Hope brakes immortal. One set of Dean's brake pads have now survived Strathpuffer, 24 hours of Exposure, Kielder, South Downs double(ish), hours and hours of muddy mountain bike miles around Norfolk. SO if you want to do endurance racing, but don't want to change your pads - get Hope X2 Evo brakes with Hope sintered pads. Mine are rather happy too :)

Things that hurt:

1) Knees - I am not sure if this is just because it was hard, or my cleats needa tweak.
2) Hands and wrists - descending fast as it's drawbacks.
3) Face! - dehydration, but I physically couldn't have drunk anymore fluids. I refilled bottles at every feed stop, used energy drink sachets to make sure my body took on the fluids, but I still got dehydration.
4) And let's just say sitting on a saddle for over 11 hours turns your skin to the hardest of leathers.

Will I be back next? Hmmmmm....
Friday, 17 August 2012

Brighton Big Dog

After missing the event last year it was a welcome return to one of my favourite endurance events mainly due to the laid back feeling of the event...and also it's local for me! One thing you hope for at Stanmer Park though is dry weather and the weather in the week before the event hadn't exactly been what you would call ideal. Lets just say that rain and chalk do not make an ideal combination for riding on as many a rider will know I'm sure, and I have previous experience of ground,sky,ground,sky crashes several years ago in a very wet and muddy S.A.M.S  race at Stanmer when attempting a pass downhill (yes I said downhill and no they hadn't stopped) whilst trying to get a podium place, then crashing big again 10 minutes later when trying to make up places.

This year I was also hoping for a top ten result after last year when I had to have treatment on my shoulder and back during the race meaning I slipped quite a way down the finishers, along with a puncture with less than a kilometre to go meaning I was 30 seconds outside the 6 hours. Stanmer Park really does not like me. Anyway this year I had to be there extra early as my son Finlay was going to have a go at his first mountain bike race at the grand age of 4 years old...about 11 years earlier than my first effort. He was quite insistent that he wanted to do my race but at the risk of him showing me up we settled on the under 8's race.......for him not me!
Big Dog-Little Dog

Number board on and he was under starters orders with the rest of the under 8's. Being the youngest there we decided that he could just do the loop round the arena whilst the older kids disappeared on their loop into the woods. 10 minutes later and 4 laps done with the help of some pushing along the slightly uphill bits and one crash into the marker posts going downhill ( ah good to see he takes after his Dad ), he had completed his first mtb race and was more than happy with his sweets in his goody bag.

Next up was my race and it was the usual frantic scramble for prime position on the start line. I was quite content with being at least under half way from the front as you can make up positions on the opening loop and also I was going to adopt my tried and tested method of keeping it in the middle ring and spinning. The first lap consisted of the usual 'form a queue' at the first few sections of singletrack but it did show a course that was in pretty good shape with a fair amount of grip as long as you avoided the roots on the corners, as I discovered towards the end of that lap.

The course has some very good technical downhill and uphill sections which I was clearing each time, thankfully in the main to swapping my Kenda Small Blocks for my Nevegals and going low on the pressure. This was also my first race proper on the On One Race 29er and I loved it, even with all the twisty singletrack that apparently isn't suited to 29ers. It's taken me a while to get used to riding the 29er but I am a definite big wheeled convert now.

I also discovered during my first lap that the chicken run avoiding the large bombhole near the arena was a much quicker route and so was able to make up places here. I set into a 2 laps per bottle strategy which worked well and made the time tick away. The riders on the course thinned out as the race progressed giving nice clear runs on the technical sections. I had no idea of my race position, only picking up on a comment from the commentator as I come through the arena with about 2 hours to go that I looked strong. Nothing like going for it through the arena then as soon as you are out of sight start grovelling along again!

Making sure you time your last lap right is key at the Big Dog as completed laps only count before the 6 hours are up, so coming in to start a lap a few minutes before the 5 hour mark and having been knocking out consistent sub 50 minute lap times I was quite happy and went for my usual last lap caffeine shot for the last lap rush.

I had been playing cat and mouse with a London Dynamo rider most of the day and decided to put a dig in on one of the uphill grinds to finally try and stay away from him which seemed to stick. Starting to cramp coming out of the woods back across the bridge over the A27 wasn't a good sign but luckily it soon disappeared. Past the point of my puncture the previous year and I was back into the finishing arena for the final time managing to make up enough places on my 7th and last lap to place me in 9th overall in the solo men category.

Happy with my result  as I achieved my target, especially when the top 4 consisted of Ben Thomas, Tim Dunford, George Budd and Josh Ibbet, and even more so that there was about 4 minutes between 9th and 7th. I replenished my surprisingly not too weary body with numerous refills of my Big Dog tea mug and pork burgers ( who needs protein shakes! ) before heading off on a 4 hour drive on holiday to sunny Devon.

Another cracking race by the Morvelo team on a great course with very cheerful marshalls and I look forward to coming back next year! That veteran category is getting ever closer.
Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Etape Du Tour......I should have stayed at home!

This was my second time to be taking part in the Etape Du Tour. Having successfully passed the on line entry scramble several months earlier I was once more about to make my way down to the Pyrenees once more.
I previously did the Etape in 2005 taking in the Marie Blanque and Col d'Aubisque and loved every minute of it so was looking forward to once more going up the Aubisque and taking in the Tourmalet for the first time. The Col d'Aspin I had completed from the other side to the route we would be doing in the Etape two years previously whilst on holiday so wasn't too daunted by that.
Training wasn't too bad leading up to this with the Tour de Weald sportive and SDW (nearly) double attempt in the bag at least my legs would have some long miles in them. The best laid plans can count for nothing and it seems for me at least Friday 13th arrived early and decided to pack her bags and stay for a long weekend.
The fact that I for once arrived on time for the ferry from Dover only to be told it was delayed should have been an early warning. The plan was to catch the late night crossing, drive for a couple of hours and then get some sleep in the car before the long haul down to Argeles nestled between the Hautacam and Aubisque to meet up with friends from France from my previous excursion in 2005.
The main problem with driving on your own in France is negotiating the tolls on the peage. Its always funny how the French drivers all head to a different toll booth than sit behind the English plated driver trying to scramble across the seats to reach the pay machine. This is where I also discovered the sign on the machine was lying. The 'Visa' sign obviously didn't include debit visa cards as it refused my card then spat my peage ticket out which then blew under the car requiring a quick jump out the car and crawl under the car to retrieve it whilst having irate people queueing up!

I eventually arrived in Argeles in the evening on Thursday after leaving home the night before having sampled numerous type of random coffee flavours at the services, being stopped by the Gendarmerie on exiting the peage at Bordeaux and re-confirming previous driving experiences in France that the French do drive like nutters. After locating the holiday village and meeting up with cycling friends Johan and Akiko and downing some food it was off to get some proper sleep.

The day before
Friday arrived with clear blue skies and 25 degree heat. The three of us headed out in the bikes in different directions. Johan off to the do the Aubisque, Akiko off to stretch her legs and as for me, well I thought a part way ride up the Tourmalet was in order. A nice little spin up the road from Argeles to Luz St Sauveur to where the Tourmalet climb starts and then I carried on up to Bareges for a spot of lunch and more coffee before heading back down to Argeles once more.Everything was ready for the next day and confirmation from several people that the weather forecast was good for the big day.

4:30am Saturday morning came round a bit too quick after the worst nights sleep for a long time which was probably about 3 hours in total. Breakfast downed then on the car and off to Pau for the start. Now I don't ask for much in life but  when you have forked out a fair bit of cash for race entry and to get down to the ride I would expect more than 2 toilets for about 8000 competitors. It was also whilst waiting in my pen for the 7am off  I was looking at several riders complete in full cycling tights and long jerseys, thinking....blimey they're going to overheat in the sun. I had gone for copious amounts of suntan lotion and thin socks and mesh base layer vest to keep cool with a windproof jacket to keep the chill off if needed on the descents. Ah the irony of this that would come back to haunt me later.

The start..and the closest the sun ever came
Our pen eventually got through the start at 7:15am and we headed out through Pau en route to Laruns and the start of the Aubisque. A nice spin down to Laruns followed and several chats to fellow 'Brits abroad' before the first climb of the day. It was still really gloomy as we started the Aubisque and I was starting to slightly question my dress code for the day. A third of the way up and the misty rain had really settled in and it was at this point I made the big mistake of not putting on my jacket as i was trying to keep my momentum going. By the time I got to the top of the Aubisque I was soaked through. There are some lovely views from the top but there was no chance of that today. Jacket on, bottle re-filled I headed off down the descent. About 5 minutes in to the descent and I was starting to get quite cold. It will be ok because it will start warming up soon I thought or maybe not. The Col du Soulor is not much of a climb, merely 2km long, but when your legs are really cold it was a grind. Once over the Soulor it was downhill all the way to Argeles. It had stopped raining but I wasn't getting any warmer. My feet and and hands were feeling numb and then when I started shaking uncontrollably from the cold I knew things weren't going too well. The only cheerful bit of the descent were the two donkeys standing in the road who really couldn't care if there were 8000 cyclists coming down the mountain. I was also noticing several riders who had stopped by the emergency services points wrapped and were now wrapped in foil blankets.

The view from the top of the Aubisque
 I eventually freewheeled into Argeles pretty much a broken man. In the main square where the feed zone was the medical team were hading out foil blankets non stop. I headed straight here and had one put round me straight away as could not stop shaking and this was followed by some heavy duty coffee. There was now quite a gathering of foil wrapped riders in the square and the nearest coffee shop was full of the sound of rustling foil as riders tried to get warm. There was a British woman in the shop who had come off on the corner and slid down the road on her back when her hands had got so cold she couldn't actually feel the brake levers. I sat there and tried to get warm but it wasn't happening and the reports that it was 5 degrees at the top of the Tourmalet wasn't filling me with excitement. Still feeling cold I made the decision to abandon. At least I wasn't alone in this. One chap who I had been sitting in the shop with had done the Marmotte the weekend before, but like me doesn't do well in the cold cycling weather ( I don't think you will ever see me at Strathpuffer!). So there it was, I decided to cycle back to Pau to get my car rather than sit on the bus of shame for several hours, but not before one of the officials appeared to take great pleasure in placing several red crosses on my race number.
A quick sandwiche du jambon, a franglais chat with a local who informed me that there was good place to eat 5km in the other direction and i was off back to Pau along the flattest route possible. Even with foil blanket still wrapped up under me it took me a further 30mins of cycling to be warm enough to remove it. A good 50km later and i had made it back to my car to find my 'waterproof' case for my phone wasn't exactly that as I poured the water out of my phone and it decided to cease working. Not ideal when you have the contact number on there of the place I was meant to be staying at in the finish in Luchon and also Akiko and Johan.
I made my way to Luchon and there were plenty of riders finishing the ride, some visibly shaking from the cold. I wondered round trying to hopefully find Akiko but to no avail. After several attempts at trying to use the public payphones I eventually managed to call home to find that my wife was ill. Its amazing how helpless you feel when you are stranded 800 miles away, with no mobile phone, oh and a bank card that decided to stop working resulting in a frantic call to my bank to sort the problem. You get to the point when you wonder 'what next'. I guess the uncooked meat in my steak burger was the last straw and it was at this point i decided to write this off as one very bad weekend and get in the car for the long haul home., eventually getting back home late on Sunday after an uncomfortable sleep in the car at the services somewhere near Brive with a foil blanket and red crossed race number as souvenirs.

I've not been defeated, merely delayed and I will return to complete that route next year when on holiday down there.

Best wishes to Akiko also who i later discovered had been carted off in the ambulance on the descent of the Tourmalet after succumbing to the cold whilst trying to fix  a puncture.

In the words of Big Chris from Lock Stock.......its been emotional!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

24/12; The story of a Broken man

If I’m honest the build up for this race was somewhere between shamble and completely chaotic; through no fault of my own on the Monday before the biggest event so far this year I had a bike with a crack in it, no gazebo and no kit. Thankfully the most important element of the preparation was getting loads of miles in and feeling really strong on the bike. Errrmmmm no can’t really help you there either…

So all in all between trying to maintain a normal life, working two jobs and organising a third Bontrager 24/12 had somehow sneaked up on me and was now a little more than a week away. Gulp.

I knew I had the mileage in my legs, having recently ridden the length of Wales in the midst of an extreme weather warning I was pretty confident I had the head for it too but as is always the case with endurance racing, and indeed riding, the proof is in the pedalling.  With my legs held together by Scott Cornish and his magic rock tape and some work on my knee with any luck I had the pedalling sorted...
Thankfully the help and support side of things was covered; not only did I have what has to be the best support crew in the business, Heather and Mark, but the usual suspects were to be racing as well meaning that there would be an abundance of friendly faces on top of the usual lovely people this sort of event attracts.  Looking back im not sure what I was worrying about, as Loco’s Gareth kept saying, its all just ridding your bike ‘innt?

Luckily working in a bike shop does have its advantages, a hasty late night call to one of the most helpful people in mountain biking, Brant @ On One promised to dispatch a new frame the very next morning, this still left it all a bit close – a chance conversation with Jez @ Trek secured an ex demo Superfly 100 that with any luck would arrive the week before the even. No chance to test the bike off road but from what I had heard they were simply stunning bits of kit and let’s be honest, I had 24hrs to get used to the thing!

Working Friday and then driving down in the evening had its own bag off issues, not least the timing involved in getting three people from across the country to one point on a Friday night – it was late by the time we set off and the rain was getting biblical, honestly I was wondering whether I should have brought the canoe rather than a bike.  Thankfully by the time we had reached Plymouth it had calmed down. We quickly put up the gazebo, tent and emptied as much of the car as we could and then headed off to curl up in a warm bed for the night, this as it would turn out was possibly the best decision we made all weekend.

Apparently there was nearly a decision made to evacuate the campsite as the weather was so bad, this we only learned when arriving back on site after a warm shower and a nice breakfast, suffice to say we were not flavour of the month among those who had been woken up by streams of water running through there tents.

Lining up at the beginning of 24hrs is always an odd experience, a strange calm descends as your brain try’s to comprehend what you are about to make it do.  The first lap was as always a challenge in not getting caught up in the mad dash to the singletrack, slightly slower than usual due to the mud but strangely the sky had cleared; after all the issues it was finally riding a bike.

I sometimes wonder why I write these things as to be honest I really cant remember anything about the race, it was sunny, then it rained and then it was dark. Then it rained some more… I’m guessing it got light again at some point although I cant really remember when; all I can remember is that it got REALLY hard at about 8 in the morning. 

Last time I raced a 24 solo at Newnham I went out far to fast and blew up after about 8 hours – as you can imagine I was pretty paranoid about this happening again, especially with all the support and effort people were putting in around me.  Throughout the 1st 12 hours of the race I was making a point of spinning and being as smooth as possible and honestly I felt great, worryingly great.  Without warning this ended as the end of the race drew near.

Im not going to lie, im no Matt Page, I was broken with four hours to go, I was holding on by a ledge and that ledge was getting smaller – the fire roads instead of being a distraction from the fun singletrack were now becoming lifelines allowing me to regain composure, eat and drink before the next bit that I had to be alert for. With two laps to go i was not only counting down the laps but the puddles – I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the support of Mark and everyone else on site I wouldn’t have felt comfortable riding those last few hours.

As they say a photo tells a thousand words, I think this one has a book in it…

All thats left are the thank you's of which there are many
Mark and Heather, possibly the best pit crew in the business.
Gareth, Alex, Scott Zoe and Mark, basically all at Loco Tuning.
Scott Cornish for creating art out of Rock Tape and generally holding my legs together for 24hrs
Simon, Bethan, Clara and the Bikeshed Wales lads
Jez @Trek.
Jon @ Scimitar.
Mud Dock Cycleworks
Oh and Matt Carr, although my helmet does still smell of beer...
And many more that i have doubtless forgotten (And in some cases remembered ...) but you know who you are :-)
Saturday, 30 June 2012

South Downs Double......nearly!

Ever since reading about the south downs way a couple of years back, I have wanted to ride it. This became more of a possibility when Mark joined the team as he lives close to the start at Eastbourne.
So with about 6 months of planning last weekend saw my first ride and Marks first attempt at a 24hr ride.
Mark is by no way a endurance virgin but he mostly rides 12hr events and he had rode parts of the SDW but only as part of a BHF ride, of one way split over two days.
We planned way back to do the event on the longest weekend of the year and as a result this meant missing Mountain Mayhem (given the mud not a bad year to miss) and a planned early start of 4/5am was planned but in true "King of Faff" style Mark was still building his bike at 11pm on the Friday night. Those who Know Mark wouldn't be surprised by this as he has even had the start of races delayed for his benefit.
So with a later than planned 9am start we parked up at Eastbourne and with a bit more faffing we were ready to roll. A quick photo opp from a local who proceeded to advise us that her husband was planning the same ride but over "5 days" this did start alarm bells ringing......
And off straight into one of many climbs it was slowing going due to a massive crosswind, so strong that I was able to lean into it and it pushed me back upright!. With a average speed of about 9mph and it was about 3hrs plus until we had reached Brighton which was about 30miles in and this then showed the enormity of the ride as we had another 70 to go until we reached Winchester the halfway point.
I had decided to not use any energy gels or drink on the ride and stick to zero tabs and real food, which lead to a noticeable lack of speed and the difficulty of keeping fed but was much easier on the stomach.
Ian had kindly leant me his small block eights and these were the perfect tyre for the ride as very fast rolling and a godsend of the hard-pack/tarmac sections, Mark was also running these but in their 29er guise.
Just outside of Brighton we found a BP garage with a Marks and Spencer's and a wild-bean cafe, this was a awesome refuel stop and was only metres of the trail, a great spot for pasta, sushi and a coffee and muffin!
We plodded on and eventually came closer to Winchester but the heavens had now started to open and by time we reached the town centre we were soaked. Mark had researched and found a Subway about 50m from the finish so this was our goal. So bikes outside and inside I go to order to foot long meal deals. It was most amusing being on Winchester High Street eating subway and dressed in racing lycra with all the party-goers leaving the the pubs! but oddly no comments maybe too shocked or used to such nutters.
We sadly decided at this point not to ride on has we didn't have the waterproofs/kit to ride safely back for 12hrs in the mud and torrential rain. We tried to get a hotel but decided this would be near impossible given the state of us. So luckily Marks brother who lived nearby picked us up and gave us a bed for the night and we planned to ride the return leg in the morning.
With a few hours sleep and more faff we finally got going about 2pm missing a 20mile section out. As soon as we started we were confronted by loads of riders nearing the end of a 42mile Wiggle ride on the trail and they looked knackered/mud caked from that!
Over the weekend we also saw many riders from "company85" who were completing a 2day event on the trail riding from London to Brighton.
We rode on and managed to get back to our garage to stop for some more real food at a late teatime, this time scotch-eggs is what I craved!
As the light faded we used our Hope LED 4 Epic lights and were really impressed by the spread of light even on the lowest setting on such a open trail.
Lots of strange sights were witnessed over the hills including a couple eating their sandwiches in a transit van in white chemical suits at 10pm, Mark dubbed them "GM crop terrorists" and also a few vehicles grouped together with one having steamed up windows!?!
We eventually arrived at Eastbourne 11:30pm got changed and headed to the McDonald's drive through and enjoyed a late supper with the Chav's.
Drove back to Marks and it was 2am Monday morning and the Goodman family had to be up for the school runs and work at 6:30am.
Shame we didn't manage the Double in one shot but Im sure we will be back soon for another attempt ;)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

South Downs Way - Technology, eh?!

Dean and Mark are off on a bit of a ride today. The plan was to include their Endomondo logs below, but in classic endomondo fashion, the site doesn't appear to be streaming them yet! Guessing the put their phones into airplane mode BEFORE starting Endomondo. C'est la vie.

In the mean time, if it does come up, this is where you'll see it:

Mark -

Dean -

They may be some time....
Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Definition of sensible...

You know what would be the most sensible thing to do the weekend after riding nearly 200 miles in then rain? Yeah that’s right rest, have a lie in and generally chill out.
So how Scott from Niner, Gareth and the rest of the Loco tuning boys managed to convince me that racing in the 4hr solo event at Bristol bikefest was a good idea I’ll never work out? Anyway the entry was all to readily excepted by a frankly far to chirpy Matt Carr (Again wearing trademark flip flops) and it was time to head home and try to work out how i was going to manage, or more precisely how a bike i hadn't looked at since Belgium a few weeks previously was going to manage!
Loudly it turns out.
The race was more a exercise in staying power rather that actually racing, the first half lap was defiantly powered by Gels and adrenaline - thankfully i had Nay from Bristol mountain bike club to remind me that there was a skirt waiting for me back at the tent if i should decide it was all to much. I’m not sure quite how but i managed to pull off a 15th place finish which honestly surprised me, as Gareth has said it proves that the hard work is now paying off...

Oh i forgot to add, congratulations to Team Mud Dock (James and Nevil) who both rode brilliantly to complete not only their first mountain bike races but looked to be having a gret time doing it, well except Nevil, im not fast enough to see anything other than his dust...

Team Mud Dock, Nevil on the left and James on the right.

Nevil on the top step of the podium after winning the three hour event.

A brief reminder.

Continuing my plan to not only do interesting things but actually write about them welcome to the next instalment of ‘Shergie’s completely random series of events thinly veiled as life/training/riding’.
 I’m no going to lie I got back from Belgium and was a little bit broken, the new Lurcher is very fast and incredibly direct but even with the addition of a carbon post and what is possibly the most comfortable carbon saddle in the world it is still incredibly stiff, to give my back a rest I reluctantly left the on-one at home and headed up to Snowdonia for a week in a damp field.  Luckily I had managed to hide the road bike in a Canoe (No seriously, I’m not joking…) and so once all the scouts had become tired of being cold, wet and being marched up and down the closest thing we have to a mountain it was my turn to get cold and wet…

 I had originally planned the route from just outside ffestiniog to Bristol at just under 160 miles, a big day in good conditions. Unfortunately a week without comms had rendered me unaware of the front coming in and the severe weather warning that had been issued for the whole of wales. To be honest if I had know it wouldn’t have stopped me id have just gone back and collected my overshoes from the tent that they were lying in…

 The route look something like this, I wont go into it too much but suffice to say it took just under 11hrs to ride 180 miles. By Dolgellau I was wet, by Rhayader I had third degree pneumonia and by Chepstow I was suffering.

Its not the longest time I have ever spent on the bike, nether is it the wettest but the combination of the two combined with the solo nature of it has certainly reminded me of the mindset I need to be in one month from now.

Hard. Hard as nails.
Monday, 4 June 2012

£5 road tyres....

Having had a set of Michelin Speedium 2 on my training bike for about 5,000miles and not punctured once, until I decided to use them on a turbo trainer and basically flattened off the tread which then caused a piece of flint to pierce the carcass for the first time, I was mildly impressed!

I had picked up another set for £5 each on CRC (no before you ask they haven't got any more) and had planned to put them on the training bike. But whilst building up my new road bike earlier in the year I thought given the weather these will do instead of spending another £40 on tyres.

In 25c width and a folding kevlar bead they weigh in at 280g which is respectable, a nice fast rolling near slick tread.
They are on and have completed on average a 1000mile a month and are yet to puncture, even given the bad mud covered farm roads which most of my miles consist of.

It always makes me laugh when on club rides, the guys with their £40 ultremo's are puncturing every ride and replacing them in a few months.

So I ask unless you are crit or road racing do you really need more?
Sunday, 3 June 2012

One gear?

I have been threatening to build a single speed bike up for some time and when I spotted a Inbred "blue Waffle" with a headset fitted and both sets of swapouts for £99!!! I had to have it.
I guess given current trends it should be a 29er but hey im a short guy and that's means another set of wheels so will stick to the 26er.
A near new set of Nuke Proof forks were found on ebay, which I must say are rather nice but funds are hard at the moment as the missus is sapping them at the moment for a garden project :)
I haven't ridden a steel frame since my custom Fuquay back in 1992 and I am somewhat excited to get out there on it.
As for the rest of the build I will be actively scouring Ebay for some bargains in the next couple of months  and likely to use use a set of Hope XC-3 I have for the wheel set.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Getting back up to speed

Well I admit its been a while since my last blog, and yes it may be due to forgetting but I’m going to blame it on doing the stuff, its not like I forgot to write about it, I just figured well anyway I don’t know…
Anyway excuses over, in the same way that if you cant remember something it didn’t happen (Drinking rules #1) I’m just going to pretend that I haven’t been slack and bring you up to speed as quickly as possible so we can all put this ugly mess behind us, so in no particular order…

Turbo training
Sufferfest DVD’s
New Lurcher build
Less Turbo Training
Old Friends
New Friends
Ride’s with friends
The best race I’ve done for a good long while
Dried strawberries
975 miles (Of driving)
A ferry or two
7500 meters of vertical assent
Blue Flashing lights
Tea Stops
Pit Stops
Lots of Pedalling

Under way
Massive admiration for Mike Hall’s circumnavigation of the planet
(And near certain record)
Tan lines
Planning more adventures

To do
More tan lines
More Pedalling

So there you go, I am going to try and be a little more regular from now on but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Norwich 200

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 4am and the realisation of what I had planned for the day suddenly slapped me around the face like a large cartoon fish.
Had I seriously agreed to ride 200 miles for charity in one day, oh yes!
With a fair amount raised already and endurance pride at stake there was no backing out now! So slapped on a heavy dose of nappy cream got the kit on and loaded the bike in the car and drove the short distance to my work in Norwich centre. If it wasn't early enough being dark, having to drive through the drunks piling out of the nightclubs added to a almost surreal experience.
This got stranger as I cycled from my office down the main strip of clubs in full race Lycra.
I found the BHF crew setting up their tents etc but it was still to early for any of their staff to witness my start so I gave my feed-bag, bottles etc to one of the workman to pass on and I set endomondo to start and I was off.
I had decided to do the a loop of the 50mile route first in order to return to the start to join the main 100 route riders and this first lap was of course quiet with barely any traffic and of course no cyclists, it went reasonably quick and I was back in well under 3hrs to stock up on bottles and food, ditch the gillet and arm-warmers and join the front of a 100 miler group.
Got a nice shout out from the MC and the other riders when it was announced that I had already completed 50 and had another 150 to go!
The weather had hotted up now and it was possible to save a bit of energy and draft some bigger groups in order to save some energy, I was getting a few looks whilst doing this and really wanted to tell them my plans for the day but thought better of it.
I had planned not to stop at any of the feed-zones and just use my water/food on-board and this was true to form except for a toilet break at 70miles, which was the only one allday!
The worst point of the day for me is when in the 100 group I reached the mid point of 50 miles or 100 for me and realised I was halfway there.
The hundred was done sub 6hrs and seeing a lot of friends drinking pints of adnams at the end, made it all the harder to get back out there and do another loop of the 50mile route.
This last leg was made a little harder as the organisers had assumed no more riders out there so had removed the marshals and directions but I could recall most of this from the dawn ride.
Lots of gels and another 3hrs later I was back at the start/finish and my missus and kids were waiting for my arrival along with a ice cold pint of Adnams bitter! Would I contemplate doing something like this bet so watch out there might next year be something even bigger!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

FC Open New Trails in the Forest of Endor

The Forestry Commission has recently opened a new set of trails in the Forest of Endor. The 24km red graded route contains some excellent sections, including the dual slalom section "Two Suns", the steep Tatooine, and the lumpy Jabba's Palace.


I stumbled across this bit of north shore a month ago on my local trails, and was somewhat scared of it. Massively off camber, narrow and with at least 2-3 foot either side. But the fall is fine, as the tree stumps will break your fall. I remember turning the corner, and seeing it for the first time. The look of fear firmly planted on my face. I took the picture for inspiration, and said "One day, but not today". Four weeks later, and some serious skills practice under my wheels, we rode some good bits this morning, then ended up on a trail that lead to the start of the "bridges"! There was a quick exchange of glances, then we said "shall we?!". I was on the front - feeling the pressure, I kept the speed flowing, trying to avoid the increasingly-overgrown greenary. I turned the corner, got the race face on and locked my eyes on the other side of the ditch and I floated across. Felt great. The more I improve, the more I enjoyed it. Time for carbs, cinema, then time to take over the roads of North Norfolk for the Norwich 100. Or if you are Dean, the Norwich 200.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

EACH Ride for Life

Another weekend, another set of ace mountain biking. This weekend, we did skills riding on Saturday at Bacton Woods, and today we did a very rapid blast around Thetford all in aid of the East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH). EACH as possibly one of the most popular charities in Norfolk, and I was really up for giving them some money all in the aid of a little cruise around the forest.

Expecting it to be a small affair, we were pretty shocked when we turned up and found the whole village buzzing with people up for some bicycle action! It was the sort of event I love - no pretentions and everyone having a go on all sorts of bikes. We had everything from tandems, cross bikes, tourers, supermarket-brought full sussers, little kids on BMXs, a very funky retro orange GT, and a middle aged lady doing the dirt tracks on her road-tyred Brompton! In fact, the BB has been "unwell" on my On One Whippet, so I have borrowed a mate's 150mm full suss trail bike. Probably not the ideal bike for 30 miles of fire roads, but when it's all you have, you just have to pedal harder!

Started off in a group of friends and friends of friends, so I was behaving an riding at a conversational pace. Then about half way round, it all got a bit rapid, so off we went. There was one open section where the headwind became a major factor. Never really had that in an MTB event. So we quicked away, and just kept kicking! Having spent the last 5 months struggling, I felt elated to be pushing a 2 hour XC race pace and still have enough power left in the tank to see it back to the finish line. In typical small charity ride style, the 26 mile route came back at well over 30 miles, so we felt it was great value for money!

A very medal, followed by some good recovery food and we hit the road back home. Having just ordered an On One Lurcher, I have a bit of bike planning to do. That's if I can stay awake.......zzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Going all Roadie

When  the lighter evenings eventually arrive its the time of the year I start putting the mega miles in after work. And with the arrival of the New Planet-X RT-57 this year has had a new twist.
For me road riding has come after my first love mountain biking, and for me this is the first carbon frame I have owned, so the power transfer and lightness is quite a surprise.
Also new this year is the Strava app on my Android phone which is proving a great motivator as I cant wait to get out there and become top of the leaderboard on the KOM & sprint segments.
I have even found myself buying armwarmers and a gillet, and thinking how have I managed so long without these!
Entered My second time trial of the year tonight and knocked the best part of a minute of the previous time. The main events for my road riding will be my attempt of the Norwich 100 (twice) on the 27/5 and then the Boudicca 100 10/6.
But all these road miles despite how enjoyable, are still just training miles for the MTB stuff coming up later. This starts with mine and Marks attempt at a South Downs Way Double on 23/6. And then a little rest after that.
Friday, 11 May 2012


Had a bit of a rubbish week this week, but came home on Friday night to find the lovely people from Privateer had delivered their lastest collection of loveliness.

Funny how things like that can make a day. In a world where bad taste and throw-away-quality appears rampant, it is reassuring to see that the rebel alliances are fighting back. On the subject of mediocrity, I think I may just have a crack at racing this Sunday. The Mud, Sweat & Gears series is hitting Thetford. Will be my first 2 hour race in a long, long, long time! Quite excited.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

It has taken a while, it's been emotional but after three weeks of trying to buy another bottom bracket for my Race Face cranks (see previous blog), trying to find the correct disc brake adaptors, waiting for wheels to be built, the list goes on, I at last had a complete  On One Carbon Race 29er bike to use last weekend for the Gorrick 100 on the Sunday. Unfortunately what I can only put down to one squat too many at the gym last week had resulted in a very painful back, a trip to the osteopath to be told I had damaged the ligaments in my lower back and a ban from racing at the weekend. Now you can choose to ignore their advice but it just means you end up back there the following week with more pain being inflicted and a lighter wallet. On the plus side I was also told my planned decorating was not allowed either so sofa, ice pack and Giro D'Italia it was.

Bank holiday Monday came and by the end of the day my back felt sort of okay for a road ride on the 29er in the evening on what would be my 3rd time on a bike since Exposure, and one of those rides was down into Newcastleton the day after the champs.

First time proper on the wagon wheel bike as my son called it, the initial out the saddle getting going felt strange but I put that down to the narrow bars I run. Once I got going the increased rolling speed was very noticeable even with my chunky Kenda Nevegals on. I know it was only a road ride but I was already impressed. The dulcid tones of the Hope Evo freehub clicking away when freewheeling and the stiff, responsive feel to the On One Race 29er frame when I tried some out the saddle moments.

I will put the bike fully to the test on my next offroad ride. My component build up on the bike at the moment is Stans 355 on HOPE EVO hubs, HOPE Race Evo disc brakes, Race Face cranks, SRAM XO gripshifts (yes I said gripshifts), SRAM front and rear mechs, FRM post and headset, Race Face bar and stem, some stubby bar ends and Selle Italia Flite Flow. Likely changes will be a 2x10 chainset, 2x10 gripshift, USE bars and post.

As for my next races.....after some good results in the Asics Offroad duathlon series I am doing the Eastbourne Road Duathlon at the Eastbourne Cycling festival, Hellrider 8 hour mountain bike duathlon (run then bike and repeat for 8 hours) and hopefully the Erlestoke 12 hour endurance mtb race. The one sticking point with the Eastbourne Duathlon is lack of a road bike....minor detail I know. I will be doing my best to beg and borrow one for the 20km road section up and back over Beachy Head!
Saturday, 5 May 2012

12 Hours of Exposure

Better late than never, at last, here is my account from the 12hour side of the Exposure Champs.

Good planning is the key to success some might say, well that went out the window  in my build up to the 12 Hours of Exposure. Training hadn't been going to bad leading up to the race with it mainly consisting of taking part in the Asics Offroad Duathlon series over winter. Quite a lot of running and few 3 hour rides thrown in as well was the basis of my training. I would have liked to get a lot more longer rides in but as they say 'quality not quantity'.

A few days to go and I was still needing parts for my new On-One Carbon Race 29er to get it built in time for the race with the rest of the parts being taken off my 26" bike. A box of bike goodies arrived at work on the Wednesday from On One for me to finish the build. It was on opening the box that panic set my haste to order things i had ordered 26" wheels and not 29". A quick call to On One and a plan was made to make a small diversion en route to the race the next day to their premises in Rotherham to swap them for 29" wheels, sorted.

Heading up to our stop over in Darlington, my 29" On One XC wheelset was collected and then it was off for a visit to Dalby Forest (no cycling for me) to let my two sons burn off some energy in the snow after 5 hours in the car. Now things not to do before a big race should also include 'do not try and show your kids how to go really fast across a snow covered wobbly balance beam in the children play area'. Less than 2 feet across I slipped with my legs going in separate directions and twisting my back and knee in the process. Lesson learnt we headed off for our stopover in Darlington.

We arrived at Newcastleton mid-afternoon the following day, found our lodge and also that the course ran right by the door! Car un-packed I set about finishing off the build on the 29er. Unfortunately the BB92 bottom bracket couldn't be found anywhere. The car was searched but no luck. I had left the bracket sitting just inside the boot and it was then my wife informed me that while I nipped into the supermarket in Darlington to stock up on food she had opened the boot to get some things out for the kids, meaning that my bottom bracket was now sitting in the car park at Darlington. With no way of being able to finish the build on the 29er it was a good job I had my 26" bike with me to use the next day!

Race day...I met up with Dean and we made our way down to the race start in Newcastleton although I had to do a quick sprint back to the lodge when I realised that i didn't have my timing chip on. All signed on we waited for the traditional bagpipe start through the village and then we were off.

No sooner has we started and disaster struck once more. Someone rode into the back of me snapping my rear mech hanger in two. After a two minute rant about what else could possibly go wrong I ran off to my lodge to see if I could fix it some how. While I searched around the race village for anyone with a hanger for a Moda, the chaps opposite our lodge from M Steel cycles set about trying to fix it for me. With no hanger to be found but several kind offers of loan bikes from people I returned to my bike to find that they had managed to get the bike working again by using a trailpack repair hanger bolted through the skewer. A quick thanks and I was off having lost a good 45 minutes of time.

Tactics came into play, rather than hammering it and burning myself out I kept it in the middle ring and span the pedals. The only advantage of being right at the back was lots of clear singletrack. I passed riders halfway round their lap on the double fire-road section, some of who had a bemused look of 'blimey is he leading'.....I wish. I kept at a steady pace for the next 6 hours, getting through my least favourite part of the course through the winding up and down switchbacks knowing that there was a nice long uphill section afterwards, and trying to put up with a saddle that kept slipping due to the saddle clamp deciding it had waited until this race to decide to no longer stay tight.

Over halfway time done and it was time for a quick 10 minute stop to down my concoction of porridge oats, protein recovery milk and nuts.Fuelled up once more I headed back out cheered on by my wife and two sons. I managed to slowly work my way up the field to 14th place approaching what would be my last lap. The last lap caffeine gel was downed as I tried for one last surge. I was starting to suffer now and this kicked in on my least favourite part of the course as riders started coming by. I got to the bottom of the long uphill and the gel at last kicked in and I was off passing riders who had just gone by. It was an all or nothing big ring approach now in the hope that I could squeeze in another lap. I crossed the line at just before 11pm and with my last lap at about 1hr20m I decided to call it a day. Ironically for me I ended up with 13th place! If not for all the problems then a top ten would have been on the cards, but such is bike racing.

Total food consumed was several Eat Natural bars, trail mix, porridge mix, several bottles of Inifinit Nutrition and one caffeine gel. Another great race from SIP Events. I finished and got top 20 which was my aim in my first race proper in Team Cycleaid kit. Cheers Ian for the use of the jersey. Thanks to Joolze Dymond for a great photo as well and my wife and boys for the support. A very big thanks though to the M Steel Cycles crew though for getting the bike going.

Hopefully by the next race I will have my 29er. A blog about the new bike coming very soon.
Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Reborn Mountain Biker

Frankly, my start to the racing year has been completely rubbish. Strathpuffer delivered the grand adventure and endurance challenge I had been looking for, but it also killed my immune system. I have been suffering from chronic colds, sore throats, eye infections, and a nasty case of costochondritis which made breathing extremely painful. I had a month of solid training sometime between February and leading up to the Cheshire Cat at the end of March, but I've since been forced off the bike for a prolonged period, so only faded memories of that fitness linger. So, you can't train as you would like, you see all your friends riding faster and making exceptionally patronising comments about your fitness, and when you do try to ride, you have to come to terms with not having the power you had only a few months ago. It's demoralizing and makes you think about trying something else...for about a second.

I refuse to be beaten, and I have been doing everything I can do to make myself a better mountain biker. In the past few years of racing my focus has been on power and speed. That was a bit stupid! So I have been doing as much technical riding as I can possibly fit in, and I am loving it. I am now excited to see descents, jumps, super nasty sharp climbs and just trying to find more and more challenging terrain to attack and conquer. We had a fantastic play in the woods with some mates last night, and the old legs were starting to come back. Maybe the power is still there, just waiting to be jump started? This is a little video from my mate's Go Pro of our session last night at Bacton Woods:

Getting my skills sorted, I have been having some excellent coaching from Kate & Ian Potter at A Quality Ride. They have also been exceptional helping me sort out my health and rebuild my nutrition from scratch. Avoiding dairy and sugary foods/drinks is a challenge, but I am getting there. As a massively positive side effect, this morning, my scales said I was now below 76kg! They haven't displayed that number in a long, long time.

Events have been off my radar for a while, but I am planning to have a low key crack at the Thetford Summer Thunder Enduro at the end of June in a tag team with my cousin. Long term, Dean recently pointed out that the 24 world champs are in Fort William in 2014, which we are both really excited about. The Iditarod still remains the ultimate adventure to me, and I am finding myself thinking about it more and more. But first I need to get my health back, keep improving my technique and getting that grin only mountain biking can give.

But be assured - if you patronised me earlier this year, I will drop you and return the favour - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon ;)

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