Monday, September 30, 2013

3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross. 5th time Lucky?

I had ridden the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross race four times before this year.

2006  4:50:39

2008 4:54:31

2009 4:42:00

2011 5:07:40

From the second attempt onwards, as I've signed up in July, I always think that this year all will go according to plan. Plenty of training before the race, peaking at just the right time, and no mechanicals or big crashes on the day. To date all these elements haven't been present together on that last Sunday in September. The last time most everything went wrong other than some sort of fitness.

2013 has been a good year on the bike for me. Fitness with six weeks to go was probably the best it has ever been. Then on a night ride I came off my bike and broke my arm. I'm sure it's no surprise but for the first few weeks, any sort of training just didn't happen whilst my arm started mending itself.

After a couple of weeks, tentatively I started doing the miles again. The kids were back at school now, and as most parents know, a new year at school comes with a number of illnesses that your children bring home. So another couple of weeks laid low first coughing my guts up, then secondly expelling the contents of my guts.

Two weeks to the race start, and I'm more or less healthy, but efforts show that I've definitely lost a good wodge of speed. Hard gained, and now lost without time to get it back.

Still to the start line somewhere in the first couple of hundred riders I stand prepared to give the race my best efforts. The heart rate is quickly up to 170 bpm which it stays near to for the rest of the race.

The "neutralised" start seemed much slower than in former years, and I easily kept up with the folks around. At Gill Garth there wasn't the usual traffic jam, and I rode all the way to the foot of the wall of tussocks.

Simon Fell wasn't as long as I'd remembered it, and Rawnsley's Leap quickly came.

It was then time to push on. I took a number of places for the first time during the day. Confident now I took a number of cheeky lines to take my advantage.

Impatient I took a chance.  A drop down into a sheep hole. If it'd gone to plan the two foot drop down wouldn't have been worthy of mention. However the front wheel didn't roll out, it just stayed there. I knew what was coming next. The riders behind going "Oooh" confirmed that.

Over the bars and a big crunch from my neck as I landed on the ground. Pins and needles pass from my neck down my arms to my fingers. Dizzy and I don't mind saying a bit shaken I lie there not sure of what to do next. A few seconds taking stock and I try and move. I feel no sharp pains,  and I can move my neck. My arms are somewhat numb, but hey they still move.  This the second time in six weeks I've landed on my head. What I did next was probably not the best course of action. I got up and made sure the bike was still fit for duty.

Back on the bike I look at my Garmin. My heart rate has dropped to 150 bpm. If I was racing it should be faster. Better crack on then.

The rest of the race passed without incident. There was wind and technical riding, but I focussed on the racing. I continued to pick up a few places and especially enjoyed Pen y Ghent both on the way up,  riding loads more ascending than in previous years, and the down where in spite of traffic I made up a good bit of time.

2013 4:26:17

A PB but again my planets weren't all in alignment.

Thanks to all those who shouted encouragement on the course.

Sorry I didn't catch up with everyone afterwards.

Thanks to the race organisers and the marshalls.

Finally a big thanks to my Family and James for providing drinks, bananas and encouragement.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pennine Bridleway and not the MTL.

I wanted to do  at least a 40 odd mile ride at the weekend, with a plan of tapering thereafter for the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross. I'd noticed that Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue were organising their Mary Towneley challenge and that would fit the bill nicely. Also I am toying with the idea of doing another 24 hour mountain bike event in October, so thought maybe riding a little further, and at night would be good.

So a plan of sorts. I'd ride from home up the Pennine Bridleway and get to event HQ in Waterfoot for 8am. I'd take it nice and easy on the way there, then stash my bag and lights, and bomb round the MTL.

The picture above was taken on the obligatory pre-big ride test ride. Everything worked as it should and my light's batteries were fully charged.

I'd estimated that it was about 43 miles to Waterfoot, so at 2am I left Hayfield. 7mph was all that was needed to get there for 8ish. A steady pace.

I'd not got the top of Lantern Pike, and I had to stop and raise my saddle, then raise it again, then straighten my saddle. Ahh, the seatpost is slipping down. That grease earlier I'd applied eh. So stop again and tighten the clamp up properly. A few minutes behind schedule already. No worries, nice and easy to make that up.

Just as I ride off the top of Lantern Pike, niggle number two. My light gives the low battery indicator. When the battery was new it would last 3+ hours on full power. Now within 30 minutes it was already low. I had 3 batteries in total but this was a bit of a blow. If they all had the same sort of capacity I could be in big trouble if I tried running them at full power. I did think about turning round and going home, but reckoned if I rode on the lowest power setting I may be lucky. Worse case scenario was turning round later on the road with my back up flashing light.

With the light on the lowest setting it was a real struggle moving at any sort of speed. I was having to push harder than I would have liked on the uphills to try and keep up any semblance of speed, whilst dragging the brakes on the downs.

Even though I'd ridden the section as far as Uppermill recently because of the lack of light I managed to miss the PBW signage on a few bits. I swapped to battery number two at Diggle as from here on it was unknown territory. I tried running on medium power on a couple of downhill bits, but again I got the red light of low power much sooner than I had hoped for. So back to slower than I should be going speed.

In spite of the issues I was having an ace time. I have a mate who overuses the word special, but it was special, riding through the night on my own with the moon and stars offering nearly as much light as my bike had.

I'm not a get up early person so it's very rare I get to see a sunrise like the one above.

With morning came relief. No more worries about battery life. I also started to lift the speed.

At around 7:30am in spite of not knowing the area well I did know that I should have been much nearer to Rossendale than I was. My GPS said I had done 41 miles, and my GPS map showed that I was at least 10 miles away.  I had been 10 miles out with my estimate.. I was going to be lucky to get there for the 9am start.

Rushing I missed a couple of turns which cost me more time. Oh and the promised wind and rain started.
I made it to Waterfoot about 9:30 as the weather worsened. I'd missed the event start.

I sat in a bus stop ate some food and pondered my next move.

I could have ridden the MTL, but was aware that the last three hours of efffort had put some hurt in my legs. Oh an looking up towards the hills I could just see thick mist. I knew I could do it, but it wold have been messy. Though I did fancy doing a few more miles. A phone call to home and I found out I could get on the Rochdale Canal at Heywood which would take me into Manchester.

Getting to Heywood was horrible. Lots of busy roads. The canal was well a canal. I was bored and wanted to be home. I picked up the road back into Manchester after a while and took my chances with the Sunday drivers and the head wind.

At Manchester Piccadily 10 hours and 22 minutes after leaving Hayfield, I ate Burger King and took the train to New Mills. I'd lost an hour of time faffing with things.

80 miles and 7000' of climbing. I was tired when I got home, but not battered. Good to go for the Three Peaks.

Lesson learned. I have 2 new sets of bike lights ordered.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross Training - It was all going so well.

This year the plan for the 3 Peaks was to aim for a good time. No heavy steel fixed gear bike this year, but instead a nice light carbon bike with lots of gears and good old canti brakes. Training, I  rode my bike a fair bit.

By the end of August I'd done 4000 miles. Mostly on the road in the first half of the year, but with a bias towards off road as the trails turned dusty over the summer.

All year I have tracked my progress on Strava, and month on month I have got faster and faster.

I was definitely going to get a PB as long as a mechanical didn't spoil the day. There were even thoughts of going sub 4 hours.

They were my preparations and dreams.

On the 21st of August at about 10pm I get a call from a worried friend to say that her husband who went for a run at 7pm had not returned. She'd already set off to look or him. I offered to head up from the other side of the hill on my bike to see if I could find him too.

I grabbed all my usual bike stuff together plus a first aid kit and survival bag. I was swinging my leg over my bike on the road outside the house when my phone rang. Good news, I could stand down our "lost man" was now found.

Instead of going back in the house to watch some more rubbish telly. I thought, it's a nice warm evening, I'll just go for a short local spin. An hour of well known local trails that's all.

Good front bike lights and familiar trails must have caused a bit of complacency.

I was looking well ahead as riders do, except somehow a small dropdown on a left hand corner had not registered at all as requiring evasive action.

Over the bars I went with my helmet taking the full impact or at least so I thought. I lay on the floor for a few seconds. Slightly dazed with a sore neck and head for sure. No major pains though, I'm OK I think. Ride over. Time to go home.

I push a short section, then hop back on the bike and head down a rooty descent towards home. I don't exctly crash again, but my bike gets away from me on the descent. My right hand doesn't seem to want to assist in controlling the bike. I push down to the farm and it's metalled track below.

I remount the bike, but every slight bump in the track is causing my right wrist area PAIN. Thankfully I am less than a mile from home. I manage with my good arm to ride home. No need for rescue. Phew.

Once home it is clear that something is not right with my arm.

Lumpy Bit

So a £30 taxi to the hospital, an X ray and a diagnosis of a non-displaced radial fracture.

As reward I have this "you'll not be riding a bike for a while" thing fitted. My daughter who had insisted on coming with was most impressed and glad we hadn't had a wasted journey.

A Cast

Keen not to lose my fitness, a couple of days later I did 30 minutes of nice and steady on the Turbo. It left me tired, in fact I was absolutely wiped out. Rest needed.

I was resigned to it being very unlikely that I'd be lining up for the 3 Peaks in 6 weeks time.

6 days later I return to hospital. The consultant said that as the bone isn't in two seperate pieces I can have the plaster cast off, and instead have a neoprene velcro and aluminium splint instead. I enquire if it might be fixed sufficiently to do a "bike race" at the end of September to which he replied "maybe". More good news was, that he said that exercise would be beneficial in the healing process.

Another week passed before I felt that I could have another go at the Turbo. This time I could hold the bars albeit gingerly, and managed a good hour at tempo. Things were maybe looking up. My arm was still sore.

Three more days passed, and again I set the bike up on the Turbo. I placed my hands on the bars, and my hand felt noticeably better. Not 100%,  but like maybe, possibly, it may be able to do a short proper ride.

I cranked my arm support to the max, and me and my lad went out on our bikes.

We've a disused railway trail below our house. The ambition was modest. 2 miles on an out and back on a flat and smooth surface.

I moved through the hand positions as we rode down the trail. Tops of the bars good, drops good, braking good, hoods not so good.

Ace the two miles flew by. So what of hills I thought? Next we rode up a shortish 10% hill. No problems there, except I was told off for riding much faster than I normally do (with him).

Right so maybe a little off road next. Quickly I realised that the limits of my injury for now had been found. Any bumps just like on that first night a couple of weeks ago hurt. So no point doing anymore of that for now.

We dropped back into the village and then a quick blast on the tarmac out to Kinder Reservoir, then back home. Not far, just over 7 miles in total, but no subsequent additional pain.

After a couple of weeks of being on a bit of a downer about missing this years 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross race, I'm beginning to think that I might be racing after all.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mountain Mayhem 2013 - The reprise of my 24 hour solo career.

Pic courtesy of

Six years ago at Mountain Mayhem was the last time I completed a 24 hour mountain bike event as a soloist. I attempted a second one that year, but packed after 12 hours due to the conditions. I vowed never to do another.

2013 and a brand new venue is announced for Mountain Mayhem. I had a good few road miles in the legs and was feeling quite fit. So I put my entry in as a soloist. I can't recall exactly why, as I didn't even own a mountain bike anymore, but that was a small detail.

Via eBay and STW classifieds I source two bikes. A 94/95 Raleigh M-Trax for £75 and a Marin Palisades Trail for £100. I loan some XTR V brakes and controls from Nick Craig for the Raleigh, and fit a pair of old Bombers to the Marin from my parts box. I had not one, but two "race" bikes. So Pro.

Al at the Polocini Coffee Shop sorted me out with some Torq Energy supplies.

James, Ann and the kids volunteered to be my support crew. I was good to go.

After pitching our tent on the Friday afternoon, Tom, James (on their cyclo-cross bikes) and I go and do a lap of the Gatcombe Park circuit. The going is dusty. Ace.

Saturday morning after a night of heavy rain showers the going is no longer dusty. Not quite the usual 24 hr "fit the skinny mud tyres", but the course is definitely going to be a bit more interesting than the afternoon before. I watch people come back from their recce laps with their bikes covered in mud.

12 o'clock and we're off. A short run to spread the field a little as per, and then it's the usual go stop go first lap. I make sure as I do for the rest of the race that I take no risks, and stay well clear of any potential crashes.

My crew look after feeding me and making sure I drink enough as the race goes on. All I have to do is ride, which bar a few hours when there seemed to be more walking than riding, was easy.

I did have a couple of bad laps in the middle of the night, but Ibroprufen tablets and some Deep Heat gel seemed to straighten me out. I pushed on for a few laps as dawn came. I had lots of sore bits and pieces, but my legs were nowhere near done.

As I neared the end I was well in the top 20 overall which had been my "if everything goes well" goal.

I didn't do the extra lap I could have done, and instead rode the last lap with my friend Amy at a sociable pace.

I was 4th Vet, and 16th out of 150ish soloists overall.

Strava tells me that I spent nearly 4 hours faffing, which though on the day I said I'd never do another, tells me there is some room for improvement.

We'll see eh...

Thanks to Ann, Skye, Tom, James, Nick and Al at Garage Bikes for the loan of a very bright Exposure light.