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 again.....you 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 in...in 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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