Monday, August 25, 2014

Part Audax - Part 3 Peaks Cyclocross.

The plan for the weekend was to ride the Old 240, a 400K Audax from Sowerby Bridge.

I could say I woke at 3:50, but the truth as I rolled out of my sleeping bag, was that I had no sleep.

I ate a couple of pastries, and a sandwich, and drank some tea. I was tired. Emma and Chris were up shortly after. Emma made a big bowl of porridge. I had a bowl full.

As we rode towards the start from Hebden Bridge, my stomach was struggling with all the food I'd eaten.

The three of us rode together for a while, but I couldn't keep up, so I told them to get on.

I felt sick, my breakfast, regularly tried to make a reappearance. I just managed to keep it down. Some 10 miles before I got to Settle, James drove past. He was planning a cyclo-cross ride, and we'd arranged to share a few miles from Settle.

At the Old Naked Man in Settle, we met again, and I drank two cups of tea in an attempt to settle my stomach.

The plan was for us to both ride to Dent together, which we did. I managed then after some hours on the bike, to once again get some food down.

The company was great, as were the views.

At Dent we were supposed to go our separate ways, but I couldn't contemplate finishing the Audax. I was knackered. Plus burying myself just before a family holiday would not have been the done thing.

So at Dent I decided that I'd follow James over the Great Wold bridleway to pick up the Three Peaks Cyclo-cross descent off of Whernside.

Traction was at times marginal on my Gatorskins.

Still 85psi got me down to Ribblehead without any punctures or crashes.

From Ribblehead to Settle seemed to take an eternity. I'd had enough when I'd got there, but rode a little further to make a round figure.

100 miles done, none of which felt easy.

Thanks also to James for driving me back to Hebden Bridge whilst I slept, and to Ali and Emma for feeding me the night before.

There's no disappointment for having not finished the Audax. I'm just grateful that a mate helped to turn a shit day into a good one.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

#Everesting Mam Tor

I was late for my arbitrary start time of 10pm. I drove carefully along Rushup Edge on wet roads, and through the low swirling cloud towards Mam Tor. I was nervous.

I parked a 1/3 of the way down the climb, and readied my supplies in the back of the car.

Time for a basecamp photo and then down towards Edale for the start.

It felt warm outside at the car, but the descent quickly chilled me. By the time I got to Barber Booth, I was relishing the idea of riding up the hill to get warm.

The first part of the climb as far as the Chapel Gate turn off is steep, I was huffing and puffing within minutes. The next section allowed me to gain my breath back, before the climb steepened again. 

I get to the car and grab a drink of water that I've left on the bonnet.

The most important job though is to mark the first lap tally on the paper that I've fastened to the passenger window. I knew that I'd need an accurate way of telling me how many laps I'd done, as Garmins are notorious for over estimating both distance and altitude. I checked the Garmin at the summit, I'd already gained 0.1 of a K and 8 metres of ascent.

I descended cautiously. The road was still wet, and even though I know this road reasonably well in daylight, in darkness it seemed I didn't know it at all.

I was full of negativity for the first 6 ascents. Bits of me hurt that shouldn't have and it all seemed much harder than it should have been. Preconceived expectations, tension and nerves I have learned are what causes such feelings, so I rode on. These feelings would pass.

After the 6th ascent there were the real feelings of tiredness, muscle soreness etc. so I just relax, ride and take in the surroundings. 

At first I thought this was some sort of monster. Turns out it was once a badger.

I didn't run over this unfortunate, and yes these aren't the hill climbers tyre of choice.

As the night continued, I was getting bored of rolling the descents. So like a car racing driver I started to learn the descent. The best lines through the bends, the optimum line through the chicane, and the smoothest lines through the straights. The ascents were for now just a way back to the top of the race.

Sometime in the dark hours of Saturday morning I managed to average 29.8 mph from top to bottom with a max speed of 36.5 mph.

On a subsequent attempt I nearly hit a rabbit at near max speed, so shelved any further aspirations on that front.

There was no stunning sunrise, but I was ready for it when it came.

Cool and a bit misty at first, soon it turned into a stunner, with great views towards the Kinder plateau.

 The only problem with daylight though is that you can see where the top of the hill is, when you are near the bottom. :)

There comes a time in these rides, when barring a mechanical or a crash that you know that you'll finish. 3/4 done, I ticked that box.

On the real Mount Everest near the top there is an area called the Death Zone.

With 5 laps to go, I entered this zone.

I had to stop just past this sign, and a couple of other times before I'd even made the halfway mark. I was spent.

Wasted I lent my bike against a gate, and lay down in the verge. Ignoring the pump tools, camera etc sticking in my back. I wasn't comfortable but didn't care, it was good to not be on the bike. I closed my eyes relishing the warm sun on my face, but seconds later was roused by a passing cyclist concerned for my welfare. Apparently lying by the roadside isn't a normal thing.

Painfully, I stood up, got back on the bike, and wobbled up the road back to the car.

2 cans of coke, a doughnut, and 1/2 a pork pie and I figured it was time to get on with the last 800 metres to the top.

I regained some composure on the bike. It was now all about conserving energy and getting to the end no matter how slowly. 44 ascents of Mam Tor, and it was done. The height of Everest from sea level ridden in one ride.

Was it boring? No!

Some thoughts on Everesting.

Hills tend to be windy places, pick a route, and a weather forecast that has a wind with you going up the hill.

Make sure you have enough gears on your bike, you may need them towards the end.

For a no helper ride, stash your food at the bottom, or halfway up the hill, not at the top. I cooled off a lot when I stopped, and wouldn't have wanted to descend cold from the top.

Do your math from Strava and or maps before you leave home, don't believe your Garmin.

The steeper the hill you find the shorter your ride. Though under 4% and you may find yourself pedalling up, as well as down the hill, and riding ~300 miles.  

The current steepest hill everested is 18.6% in under 60 miles.

I rode as much in the dark as I could thereby avoiding traffic. Watch out for the wildlife though.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lakeland 200 - Mountain Bike ITT.

The Lakeland 200 is another of Alan Goldsmith's bike ITT challenges. The 200 kilometres and 7000 metres +/- route has a time limit of 40 hours within which to complete it.

Fresh from a 24hr race the preceding weekend, I receive an email from Alan, saying he'll be leaving Staveley at 4am on Saturday morning. The weather forecast was excellent.

Friday came and I had a low level stomach bug. Fine preparation for a weekend's bike riding.

Friday night, and I  was in bed for 9. A few hours of kip, then a 1am reveille to drive up to the start.

Alan was readying himself when I arrived in Wilf's car park. Gone 4am, and our 3rd man Craig had not shown up. At 10 past we set out, to see Craig (who needs a better alarm clock) getting ready.

At 4:14 am on the bridge, Alan says "GO".

I ride with Alan for all of 5 minutes. He was on a mission to get a good time, and was travelling much lighter than I. I couldn't keep up.

I did my own thing,took a few pictures, and enjoyed the easy riding as far as Coniston.

Then for the first big climb of the day,Walna Scar Road.

Unsurprsingly I was a lot slower  up here than when I rode it last on my cross bike.

But I was a whole lot faster down towards Dunnerdale.

The next section past Stephenson and Stanton ground down to Seathwaite was unusually dry. I have had a bike go axle deep in the bogs round these parts but not this time.

 The last drop into Dunnerdale.

At the Newfield Inn, I stopped for a coke and crisps. Also I put some ibuprofen on my left knee which had started giving me some gyp.

So far, things had been easy, now for the proper hilly bits, ie the rest of the route.

Past Harter Fell, down into Boot. Then up towards Burnmoor Tarn which I recall being much more rideable than it was for me that day.

Down in Wasdale I forego the pub (most unusual) and I take aim for the Black Sail pass, which heads first left, then, right round the shoulder of Kirk Fell pictured below.

I descended the same route, over 30 years ago on foot, of which I have no memory. The horrors of dragging a laden bike up over the top and down the other side are likely to stay impressed on my mind for at least a short while though.

Some 15 hours in, I eat a sandwich at the Black Sail YHA. My knee is really rather sore. More gel needed.

Here's the view of the drop down to the YHA. (Ridge running R to L)

After a while enjoying the evening's rays I dragged myself up to continue my journey. In my tiredness I'd forgotten what exactly the next section to Buttermere entailed.

Oh yes, Scarth Gap, hike a bike up the hill, and mostly hike a bike back down it. What a joy that was.

At the bottom my knee was screaming at me. In a moment of lucidity, I checked my leg extension on the bike. Ah, nowhere near fully extended. My seatpost must have slipped down, I raised it hoping to alleviate some off the pain.

It did to some extent but even with the saddle raised the climb up Honister pass was painful. Damage had been done. I may have even walked the top bit of Honister, but as there were no witnesses I may have just dreamt that bit.

Nearing the quarry it started to rain and the temperature dropped off. 71 miles and 17.5 hours would have to do. I put up my tent and got some kip.

The alarm went at 4am, and I was away for 4:30.

Some easy miles to Keswick, and then a bit of a climb round Lonscale Fell,before a blast down to Threlkeld.

As I started the climb out of Threlkeld 3 dogs came charging towards me. One of which bit me. Thankfully I had my protective leg warmers on over my socks, so no blood. I had a four letter word conversation with the owner.

The next section to Pooley Bridge felt harder than it should have done. I'd not budgeted my food very well, and had eaten all my butties the day before. I was now sick of sweet stuff. So was in need of proper food.

At Pooley Bridge I ate 3 ploughman sandwiches, which took some doing. Refuelled, the next section to Martindale was a blast.

Below Ullswater.

When scanning the route at home I'd completely overlooked the bit over Beda Fell and its 1000 feet of climb.

Down at Brothers Water, those butties had worn off. The ibuprofen gel was having no effect on my knee now either. 10 hours on the go, and I was tired.

Forcing more sweets in me I knew there was about 20 miles left to do. The first 3 1/2 would entail 2000 feet of climbing. Push a bit, rest a bit, lie on the ground a bit.

Looking back down to the valley floor (L).

Now, the logical conclusion of a route back to Staveley from High St, would be continue South at Limefitt Park. However this is a Goldsmith route. More hills needed.

So up Garburn Pass and over to Kentmere next.

Time for a quick cheesy selfie atop of Garburn. Then 3 involuntary dismounts, on the bouldery descent down to Kentmere.

Oh, and out of Kentmere another 400ft of climbing before the downhill back to Staveley.

I arrived back at the car, A total time of 38 hours and 56 minutes, with 131 niles and 22,500 of ascent clocked.

A much tougher route than I had anticipated.

My feet stayed bone dry all weekend though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mountain Mayhem 2014 The HOT one.

It was only 3 weeks between the end of the Highland Trail 550 and the 24 hour mountain bike race Mountain Mayhem.

Becasuse of that, I'd not intended on entering this year. My kids relentless pestering made me get a last minute entry though. They love 24 hour bike races.

The day after I had confirmation of my entry, our car's rear axle broke. So maybe we wouldn't be going after all. Then, Ann's Mum kindly offered her car for the weekend. This was great except, its less than cavernous storage would mean only taking one bike.

So, I had two choices of bike, a geared bike wih front suspension, or a singlespeed with no suspension. I took the singlespeed as I reckoned it was less likely to break. I'd not given any consideration to which would have been easier to ride in a 24 hour race......

The klaxon went at 12:00 and I jogged the run section. My race plan was merely to get to the finish. I knew that the Highland Trail would have still been felt in my legs, so I was just going to take it steady, and also it was hot. In the car on the way down the thermometer had shown over 30 degrees. How I would fare in the heat, I didn't know.

The first lap taught me that my choice of a singlespeed bike was not the best. I rode all but one climb on that lap, but I knew thereafter that I'd be doing some walking for the rest of the race.

The course though not particularly technical, had few places where I could grab a drink from my bottle. Quite often I'd get to the end of my lap and have nearly as much liquid in my bottle as when I'd started. Not ideal considering the heat. I did try to drink plenty at my pit stops though.

I was glad when dusk came, and the temperature finally dropped. At about 8:30pm I started feeling light headed and began shivering. I pitted and put more clothes on. The next lap the shivering worsened and I got waves of nausea.

I pitted again. I put on a down jacket and got in my down sleeping bag, and still shivered. I felt quite ill.

My wife who normally tells me to get back on my bike in 24 hour events told me to go to bed, and so I did. I told her to wake me in two hours. I still felt ill. I drank more water and went back to sleep with no further request for an alarm. I guess the heat and lack of liquid had got the better of me.

I woke around 7am as the sun started heating up the tent. My sleeping bag was drenched in sweat.  I felt much better though. A bacon roll and some coffee, and it was time to get back on the bike.

I enjoyed the next 4 hours riding, thankfully with no more dramas.

I even thugged my way up some hills for the photographer.

Thanks to my wife, kids and the Team JMC guys for a great weekend.

Both images courtesy of Graham Haller.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Highland Trail 550 Race Kit List.

Below is the stuff that I took with me on the Highland Trail race, with some of the reasoning behind my choices.

If you are looking for an ultralite set up, there is better information elsewhere.

It is not a money is no object set up. For the most part I used stuff I already had. I've not weighed everything individually, but my gear in bags weighed ~4kg less food.

Bike - Iro Mia 69er. This bike was a last minute replacement as the forks for my other bike were being serviced. It started off life as a singlespeed. I converted it to 1 x 9 running 34T on the front 11-36 on the back. Unless you are a very strong rider take a geared bike. I had a 29 inch wheel out front and a 26 on the back. Weight, not heavy, not superlight either.

The saddle that broke had hollow rails.

Luggage. Alpkit 13L dry bag on the bars with sleeping bag (in a 8L bag) and tent. Wildcat Seatpack with a Alpkit 8L Drybag for spare clothes and meds. Framebag made by me. 2 Alpkit Stem Cell bags for food and rubbish.

Spare luggage strap. Unused.

Tent - Force Ten Helium. I've tried bivvis and don't like them. Midges and possible rubbish weather made a tent the only option for me. There are lighter tents.

Sleeping Bag. 800 fill down GoLite. Not the lightest, but I sleep cold. I do not operate after a poor nights sleep.

3/4 Bozeman sleeping mat. I put my riding stuff in a drybag as a pillow.

Cotton cycling Cap.

Rapha SS full zip jersey.

Castelli Nano Flex arm warmers.

Biopace Shorts

Adidas Leg warmers.

3 pairs of Merino socks (one for evening wear).

Castelli Gilet - Semi waterproof.

Waterproof shorts (cut down from some overtrousers) you do not want a wet bum.

Montane Waterproof -  light but not that waterproof in driving rain, coupled with the gilet I stayed dry though.

Giro Junction Shoes - This is not the place for rigid disco slippers.

Rapha Silk Scarf - For panache.

Montane Primaloft smock

Mountain Equipment mid weight fleece

Aldi compression leggings.

Thin fleece hat.

Midge head net.

1 750ml bottle - Water was everywhere - No purification.

No stove - The theory being you can get a hot meal most days. If I did this again though I'd reconsider. It was a nuisance eg on day 2 trying to coincide with cafe opening hours.

Chamois Cream

Ibuprofen Tablets and gel.

Diarrohea tablets.


Strapping tape.

Suncream - Not used.

Toothpaste and brush.

2 Dakota GPS (one spare)

12AA lithium batteries. I was going to use a dynamo setup, but had not trialled it sufficiently. The batteries were also lighter.

Spot Satellite Tracker + a spare set of batteries.

Road atlas overview map - 5 sheets of A4 - No detailed paper maps.


2 Tyre Levers

2 spare tubes a 26 and a 29.

Topeak Pump

Some spare chain and quick links.

Chain Oil.

Puncture Repair kit.

Tenacious Tape.

Mini Leatherman.

Zip Ties.

Waterproof Lumix camera - The picture quality, as a photographer is fairly poor, but I wanted something I could keep in my jersey pocket that didn't need cosetting.

Food  - lots of - Pies, cheese, sweets, nuts etc. Two gels as they were in my cupboard, but no other fancy stuff.

Waterproof phone case which doubled as my money stash.

I should have taken some strong thread and a needle, and a tick remover.

I was happy overall with the equipment I took.

Highland Trail 550 Race Day 6.

Another lovely morning.

Some fine singletrack to potter down on the way to Poolewe. I'd now taken to riding my bike like my Mother drives her car. Slowly and with caution. In spite of this the hub was deteriorating. I'd started to accept it may break, and tried not to worry about it too much. Though with the constant noise, this was a difficult thing to do.

At Poolewe I grabbed Coke, pie and phoned my wife to tell her of my bike woes. It was good to talk to her.

Then to plan what the rest of the day was to entail.

Strathcarron, via Torridon. That'll involve some hills then.

There had been a death on the trail.

Onwards and upwards though.

Then I notice this.

I have never ever torn a tyre sidewall. What a time to get to grip with repairing one. I wondered if rips propogated, not that it mattered as I'd not brought thread to stop it doing so.

I cut a piece of plastic from  the hanger tab on my waterproof phone case, that and a couple of layers of tenacious tape, and I have a repair of sorts.

Ahead one of the steepest climbs of the route.

Once on the road to Loch Carron the front wheel of possible doom made more noise than ever. It was so frustrating throttling the speed to a max of 15mph when I knew I could have done nearer 30. Near dark, I was tired, and the wheel really didn't sound as if it would make it to the end. I was resigned to its fate.

As darkness fell I called it a day a few miles before Dornie.

Highland Trail 550 Race Day 7

There is a time limit on this event of 8 days. Which meant when I awoke at 05:20 that there were just over 50 hours left to complete 140 miles. These were relatively easy miles too.

Still shit could still happen so I packed up and got riding.

Last year me and Minipips rode passed here in the rain during our summer holidays. No rain today though.

My little local knowledge of the route secured me some Rum and Cranberry biscuits.

Then towards the falls of Glomach.

Time for a rest.

I savoured the views. Hot sun meant for a lazy descent, that is until the tree lined boulevard with midges forced some speed. 

Near Tornich there was a diversion due to forestry works. 

From there I could see the last hill of the day.. Once over the top there would be pizza in Fort Augustus.

It's a steady climb, rideable, I've got time in hand.

I stop, to put some ibuprofen gel on my knees and to check out my sore feet. My knees had hurt from day 2 as I had expected then to when I had signed up to do this in January. My feet though were not part of my plan.

6 days of constantly wet or damp feet had given me the beginnings of trench foot. Painful. I rubbed in some chamois cream. My feet liked this. Be grateful you can't smell the picture.

Just before Fort A, a different metallic crack.

I couldn't be bothered looking at it until the next morning.


A few more miles down the Gret Glen then bed.

Surely I'll get to Tyndrum next day.