Sunday, 21 September 2014

GS Metro Hill Climb

Last Year, GS metro’s Hill Climb time trial event was one hill. A real toughie. This year, it was a two stage-two hill affair, based again at the Feathers Pub. Over the last 3 weeks the sport and training has taken a bit of a back seat for one or two family reasons, so I was happy to be driving up into the fringes of the Pennines at Hedley on the Hill to test myself on this event.


I picked up my number (13) and didn’t have long before I was due to start. It was fair to say I hadn’t really warmed up properly. I should have known better. One thing riding up a steep hill, flat out, will do, It'll will have your heart bulging like Jim Careys eyes in ‘The Mask’, with arteries and valves playing trombones in a cartoon fashion. Bit distorted, like the cheeks of the star trek crew in a worm hole.
I started far too quickly and spent the rest of the mile in oxygen debt. It was a pitiful display of naivety. I was on my knees halfway up. No rhythm. Crawled over the line in a pool of anaerobic stew. My time was well over 6 minutes. On reflection, I might have ran up it faster.

After a cup of coffee outside the pub, we were set for the second hill up from Mickely. I rode the 2 miles to the start and decided I was just going to ride up it as I would any hill. I had to get a grip. 

There were plenty of locals watching on the bank, a good thing to get the old folk out of their modest bungalows. They were very shouty, which was good, and as I set off, I gave them a smile and a wave. Get me...Mr Casual. A stark contrast to this morning. The ride was shorter, but my effort much more measured and I finished in a much more respectable 4:17 for 0.8 miles. Gravity. Who needs it!
Tidy event organised by them lads at Metro. Next weekend is Silverhill and the week later Claybank. Might then be fit enough to run at Manor Water. Here’s hoping.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Shout if you want to go faster

He was slow; but in his mind he rode like the wind.... 
This blog kicked off in 2007. I thought a 5 year lifespan would be a reasonable stab at things. It’s now 2014. Things change. Life is dynamic. None of us have ever been Here before. As a Scot living in Northumberland, current affairs have never been more interesting. But I don’t get to vote, so I’ll just have to blog about my latest sporting exploits, instead.

The Cleveland Wheelers 10 mile time trial was my first out-and-out time trial in a long time. It’s held on a circuit around Stokesley on the northern extremity of North Yorkshire.
Part of the course was where I competed when I was a junior. A field of 40 had entered this late season extravaganza. On the day, I turned up an hour too early and sat reminiscing about the 60 minutes I could have had, unconscious, in bed. The idea is to get around the 10 miles as fast as possible. For some, that’s a touch over 18 minutes. I once did 23 minutes. Not in competition though. These days anything below 27 minutes would be fine; 26 would be good; 25 better still.
There are modest prizes for the fastest.There was also a handicap competition. In the start sheet, I found that my handicap was a generous 6 minutes. I warmed up and kicked off at 9.24 am. The course was undulating and with a slight tailwind, progress was good and I was soon in sight of the lad ahead. He had set off a minute earlier and was riding for the local club, Fiesten Tempo. Near the 5 mile mark I had nearly caught him, but held off, riding 50 metres behind. I was then caught and passed by the guy behind me.
As we hit the last 4 miles, the tarmac was as rough as it gets on an A=class road and the Fiesty temp lad in front sailed off ahead with his fancy bars and pixie helmet and all that aero-dynamic gear (you might have guessed that I had turned up with the bog standard road bike). He didn’t get too far ahead, though, and at the end, I had landed in 27 minutes. Pretty poor, I thought.
I landed a cup of tea and several slices of cake at the village hall and then; surprise...third prize in the handicap and 20th of 30 riders. The winning time was considered to be 2 or 3 minutes slower than the fastest courses. One rider described it as a sporting course. The 2nd place rider who was riding off scratch said he wouldn’t be riding it next year. Sour grapes. I was on reflection, quite chirpy with my ride.
Next season I’ll do a few more, maybe buy some fancy, outlandish looking gear and choose some faster courses. The cyclo-cross bike is considering its position after I found out it had an almost seized bottom bracket....probably didn’t appreciate being dipped in the lake at Foxbar or sprayed with a pressure hose last year. Just need to find time now to get out and start running again. It’s been a sub- 15 mile/week month on that front and I need to get my act together. Don’t want the competition, all those oldies, to get above themselves!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Epic Ride

I'm always harping on about getting on and doing stuff. My favourite line is 'life is not a spectator sport' as I turn off the television. In the early 80's at the end of term, I jumped on my bike and attempted to ride from Dundee to Guisborough.  I was in the flush of youth and no doubt didn't think the whole thing through: 234 miles in a day is a little unrealistic. However, I did get to Berwick after the wheels fell off (not literally) at Coldstream. I like to dust off the story periodically when brinkmanship in the category of 'mental things I did', arises. It was still a misguided 126 mile effort. I hiked the rest of the way in the cab of a lorry with the bike in the back. Ah, those were the days.

This time around, 32 years later, I was up to my old tricks again. With a day off work, and the forecast good,  I checked out the train times and booked a ticket for £12 to Waverley. An hour and a half later, I was good to go and went. I had made some brief notes as to the route the previous night and knew I didn't want to ride on the A1 at any time. I had no cereal bars in the house, but there was a packet of Sainsbury's 5 oatmeal and raisin cookies. I went to get one, and then reconsidered... I took the whole packet.

I made good progress past Musselburgh and Cockenzie, but had my first run in with a blue corsa who thought it was good sport to try and accelerate past me at an island in the road. My language was blue, even as I saw the donkey pull in to the caravan park just past the pans, but I didn't stop for a spot of confrontation. Before I knew it I was asking for directions in Haddington but was soon moving on to East Linton and Dunbar with Traprain ahead of me. A sneaky wee climb around the front of it. I began to see sign posts for cycle route 76. I began to deviate a little from my notes in favour of the signs, not fully knowing the terrain that this route crossed. I began to wonder however, if this was a sensible strategy as it took me around the back of the Cement works and landfill site on a gravelly track. The new road bike was not designed for cross country and I prayed that I didn't get a puncture.

I had had a cookie going up in the train, then another after one hour and a third after two hours, where I had covered around 40 miles.

After getting back on the road at Torness, the route takes you down Pease Bay. The road was good, but it sure was lumpy as the road takes you up a short steep hill, then a long steep hill to the huge windfarm. I was still clipping along but short of juice. I knew I was getting a dehydrated and took a wrong turn arriving at Coldingham where I got some more directions and was soon back on course.
My fourth cookie came out and without water I was beginning to tire of the available victuals. However, I was pretty happy to have brought them.

I by-passed Berwick altogether and crossed the A1 to get to Spittal. I had ridden 65miles by then and knew I was in for a longer ride than anticipated. The track from Spittal to Goswick was very poor; alright I suppose if you had a mountain bike. A bloke out for a walk commented 'you don't want to take that bike on these tracks'.
 'Tell me about it', I said, relying on my cyclo cross experience to get me back on track at Holy Island. I had begun to follow signs for Cycle Route 1.

I knew I had to stop to refuel, so stopped at the first sign of civilisation, which was the Barn at Beal. Soup, cake, juice and tea. £9. and lots of free salt which I lathered onto everything.

After half an hour I was off again and moving well. There was a light wind coming in off the coast as I continued south past Bamburgh, Seahouses and Howick. My left tricep began to cramp a little, and then later both of them. My hands were a bit sore as well, but the legs happy as larry. I had ditched following the Cycle Route signs sometime around here.

It was now all plain sailing as reaching Alnmouth, I knew all the roads south of here. I stopped at Amble for some juice and as the early evening sun began to wane, I put the lights on and got to 'Peth after 8 hours of riding, 133 miles and 4500ft of climbing. Epic.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Hartlepool Festival Crits 2014

What?...He's not off the back again?! 
The field was smaller today and I had hopes of improving on my 19th place mid-week. For some backward reason, British Cycling only see fit to publish the top ten finishers according to the organiser for the previous race at Bishop Auckland, but he sent me the full results by email.  I said to him that any result for me was a good result.

Todays event was for half an hour of racing within the Hartlepool headland. Manageable. The place looked very presentable today and there was a good crowd out, many in fancy dress. I suppose that included me in my pink top and lycra. The circuit included a small climb, but it was generally flat and apparently the roads had been closed. This was news to some residents. There were a few close shaves as the occasional car and pedestrian wandered down the road, oblivious to would-be-Wiggins bearing down on them at up to 40mph. I got talking to one or two of the locals who seemed in high good humour and were readily making recommendations as to which pubs to visit for my return trip.
With only 21 in the field and all over 40 (masters), we got off to a easy start, a neutralised lap behind the motorbike. The second lap arrived and I almost hit the front, sailing along with a huge tailwind. However, the 3rd lap saw two go off the front and the pace lifted markedly. A couple were already off the back. Soon me and two others detached, and then it was just me and the Manilla Cycling Club man (I think they are the local club there). We watched the compact peloton creep ahead, but once there's a gap into a headwind, its tough. We spent the next 20 minutes working together and finished without being lapped, so encouraging progress on that front. With an average speed for the race of 22 mph, its near my top end. The bad news is the fast lads in the next race were travelling at an average of 25mph, so evidently much work still to done. I celebrated my 30 minute adventure with a ninety nine, and another 25 miles on the bike when I got home. Not sure what the next event is, but it would be a pity to lose the initiative. The forecast's pants tomorrow.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bishop Auckland Crits 2014

My adopted life of leisure came to an abrupt end tonight when I lasted almost 25 minutes of a 45 minute city centre bike race at Bishop Auckland. They call it a criterium (or crit). A kermesse in Belgium.

With the rain lashing down all tropical like this morning, I was happy that it remained that way in the vain hope that the race field would be smaller and slower, but it was a bonny night in the old Durham town.

I dug out the old Condor and clipped myself in for what we were about to receive...mostly pain, racing heart rates and breathlessness; a bit like climbing the stairs with your shopping.

There were around 40 riders and a good crowd in attendance. The 3 streets forming a flat circuit was fenced off and we even had a motorcycle outrider. Men squeezed into impossibly shiny, dayglow lycra and riding bikes that cost more than half the cars on the road.

My best lap was the first, as it was neutralized, and I lapsed into a casual swagger, if such a thing is possible on the razor that goes by the name of a saddle. The commentator was giving it some over the speakers and after a handful of laps I was not at the front, but not at the back. It was around lap 12 or somewhere that one of the two others I was with said 'here comes the field' as the motorbike came past; but a lap later they still hadn't caught us. And then, at the chicane, rider 1 overcooked it and came down clattering on the flagstones, rider 2 followed and I realised I was rider 3 and had nowhere to go but eat some pavement. I was soon up and off though leaving the other two to sup some dust. I was a little disappointed when I got myself together that I was not bleeding from the arms and garnering the sympathy vote or the prize for gutsiest rider.

After 9 miles, 23 minutes and who knows how many laps, my luck ran out and the twelve man peleton came past. Lapped, I had the good grace to pull up and cash in my transponder and numbers for my racing licence. Not to be put off, I'm having another crack at the weekend; this time it'll be through the mean streets of Hartlepool. I'm in pretty good shape; just not twenty one. Let's crack on anyway.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Saddle up

Its been a busy few weeks in the life of me. We had a week in Normandy in great weather. Took the bikes as the injured hip was still on the mend. Running has dropped off the face of the earth at the mo'.
The spiders web of quiet lanes between the villages dotted around the region south of Dieppe made for some great (and generally flat) hour or two hour rides. Young 'un junior has moved into one of my road bikes so that was a bit of company on the roads. She's handy enough in the hills. We'll have to get up to Meadowbank velodrome next month for one of their track tasters.
The gite we were staying in was an old barn and although it had a TV, it wasn't hooked up to the aerial, so we spent an hour around 5pm at random café-tabac's sipping café crème or cidre watching Le Tour.
I tried a 6 mile run late in the week, but while the hip was fine, I pulled a calf muscle and hobbled back to base.

Spent a weekend in the Surrey Hills before attending the youngsters graduation which made me a proud dad (again).

Tried again to run last week, but the calf was having none of it after 3 miles and another miserable week of no running awaits me. However, that said, the biking is going well and I'm pretty sure the more I ride, the more my tendons are shortening and so making potential injury in the running stakes more likely. Someone mentioned something called 'stretching'??

The track cycling at the Games has been good and Australia's marathon win was epic.
Its touch and go now how the remainder of this running season is going to go, but life's dynamic and things change so I am pretty relaxed about getting back. It would, however, be good to get a couple of fell runs in before the end of the summer, which has been cracking... And of course there's the duathlon career which has yet to kick years world's are in Adelaide; Maybe a continent too far.  One week at a time I think.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pit Stop 10k: Run like Martin

When I first ran the Pitstop 10k in 2004, my running was on an upward trajectory. I was carving modest, frugal slices off my times as a new 40 year old. I recall then, I was hoping for a 38 minute outing at this 3 lapper which takes place at Croft motor racing circuit just in Darlington. It's a little wind swept, but flat...well, flattish.  It attracts around a couple of hundred runners. My abiding memory of that race was watching Martin Scaife, a Teesside runner who had joined Morpeth at that time, floating like a gazelle on his own at the head of the field, across the circuit and on his way to an elegant and unassisted 29.50. Truly inspirational to watch.

Last night, as I started with two hundred others, I wondered how I was going to fare. I was soon in with a crowd of eight or so and as we hit the headwind along the windswept straight, the NYM lad at the front complained that he didn't want to be dragging everyone else along the course. I joined him and after 2km we were clear, but after 3km he had opened up a gap and I was on my own. The second lap was no different and as I came up the long straight for the second time, two came past and off they went. its difficult to maintain concentration in a state of distress, which, for me describes running in the red zone, and the sweat between my fingers and the occasional slapping from my sweaty bingo wings (..too much information by half) were a distraction that I now recall I must do something about. The arms aren't flabby in any way, but I'd best get down the gym.

I had to stem the flow and as entered the final lap, I grappled with the headwind. How was I to motivate myself as the pace continued to drop and another three came past? I imagined myself as Scaife and tried to gather some technique. If nothing else, as I concentrated, it took my mind off the last 2 km and I fell over the line clocking in at 39:20 and 21st. Snaffled 2nd v50. There was no chance of 1st v50. That bloke ran 35 something. Bulman won this one and Rosie Smith 1st Lady and well up in the field.
Still much work to do, but at least the hip injury seems to be no worse. Reasonably priced tea and cake at the end and some generous prizes from up and running made it a worthwhile night.