Friday, 19 July 2013

Shot guns....what, like guns that fire shots?

Firstly - an apology.  Two things have happened in the last month, the first being that my gmail got hacked so I couldn't get on to here (Neil & Justin - will be emailing you shortly, sorry I've not been in contact).  Secondly, I did the Thetford Enduro which promptly put me in hospital with a disc problem.  A proper 'can't move, can't walk, can't lay down' type disc problem.  Obviously I handled it like the hard nut I am and whinged, took lots of pills and spent my time in Guildford Hospital.  Which incidentally is the worst hospital I've ever been in - God help us if that's what the NHS has become.

Anyway, socialist rants aside its not been a great month.  Well, its not been terrible but not great on the cycling front.  Firstly, the caused of all this pain, abject agony and phenomenal whinging.  Thetford Enduro took place about a decade ago and I entered for the 6 hour solo.  Strangely I didn't feel much back pain at all on the day and  had quite a good ride.  The course really was pretty good and it was lovely and warm - it couldn't have been better really.  I managed an amazing 6 laps (to the winners 9) and felt well pleased with myself.  I even managed to get out on Sunday and did 40 miles on the road bike, not mega but better than I was expecting.

Monday came and went and I decided to go out for a fairly quick road ride with some work mates.  I felt good, really good and my endurance felt much better - from just one 6 hour event! Got back to the car, put bike on car and drove home.  Then my back went and I spent the night on the floor before conceding defeat and calling for an ambulance.

All in all this has put me out for about 3 weeks, I've still not got feeling back in my right leg and I've had lots of physio trips.  On the plus side, I'm back on the bike and had a week off where I managed some decent length rides.  All on the road though and I'm still wary of getting back on the MTB at the moment.

It leaves me in a bit of predicament.  Do I continue to ride MTB or just focus on road riding?  Seems a bit drastic but I've had numerous episodes like this over the last 5 years and despite a lot of money, time and physio work it still hasn't fixed me.  I only really get it from riding the MTB so maybe its time to hang up the knobblies.  Or not.  It does feel like quitting when I've only just started - the whole thing makes me feel like a complete loser.  So maybe time to man up and get on with it.

What I will do is post a bit more (now I can actually access my account again!).  This weekend, muchos riding on the road.  Big'ish ride tomorrow followed by another on Sunday.  And probably the Royal Surrey on Monday!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

It's an unlicensed boxing match. It's not a tickling competition. These lads are out to hurt each other...*

Christ I'm fed up with working in an office.

So haven't updated this since before the weekend, mainly because it's been a bit busy at work.  Consequently its meant I've not ridden either (since Saturday) so I'm currently climbing the walls, I'm even fatter and my back hurts from not exercising.  Jesus, what did I say about not whinging?

Saturday and the ride with a couple of lads off of STW.  Well, two things - it confirmed that both Nick and Craig are as quick as I thought they would be and I'm as slow as I thought I was.  The ride was actually really good, I got shown around the Surrey hills trails such as 3 Amigo's, Barry knows Best and actually really enjoyed myself.  It's also about 6 miles from where I live so I know I can get a lot more rides in during the weekday evenings. Which is nice.  We managed about 20 miles and about a million ft of climbing before I had to call it a day and head back to base.

Since then I've done nowt.  Which is ideal preparation for the Thetford Enduro this weekend. I can't tell you my race number yet (not yet published) so you can't hunt me down and laugh at me, but I can tell you that I'm doing the 6 hour solo and will be riding round, at the back, very slowly.  I've decided to do the 6 hour mainly because it'll be my longest ride for a while and my back is still pretty bad.  If you've not ridden Thetford before then you won't have experienced 'Thetford Back' but it normally hits after about an hour and gets steadily worse.  So ideal conditions for someone with a bad back then!

On the upside my mate Flynny is taking his Tramper Van.  A tramper van is similar to a camper van, but older.  Like from the 80's old.  Its awesome, and will be a nice place to sit when its pissing down and my back hurts a lot.  I'm taking the jetwash and a bike stand so we'll look proper pro, think of it as the hospitality unit.

I'm still undecided about what to do about fueling.  I've always raced for no more than two hours with the exception of D2D which I've consistently got gloriously wrong.  The first year my girlfriend at the time made me a stunning array of foods, homemade chocolate brownies, home made soup - loads of stuff.  What I didn't bet on was my weak guts not being able to handle rich food while riding and it made my stomach cramp with the obvious results.  Believe me, a trip into the bushes on a 12 hour through the night ride isn't fun for anyone - least of all the marshals that had to witness it, especially as they use the local Cadet corp as they're cheaper than fully grown adults.  I'm pretty certain those two teenage girls will never recover from the image of me running through ferns trying to get out of my bib shorts.  My thoughts go out to their friends and family.

The second year I panic bought a load of pre made pasta from Tesco, chosen for its high calorie content.  I don't know how they cram 1000 calories into a small pot of pasta but I do know that they use a lot of fat to lubricate its way into the pot.  So another night of projectile shitting in Thetford forest ensued.

The third year I did as a team, the weather was so bad we pulled at about 3am.  The solo rider who won it, won with 8 laps having gone home at 4am so you know the conditions were bad.  Last year I made a fine selection of sandwiches featuring peanut butter, nutella and banana.  However by this time I was well into my turning up and quitting after an hour phase so most went in the bin.

So what to eat for this 6 hour slog? My original idea was just to make six bottles of Torq up, have a few gels and a some bars.  However as this is all training for TD (eventually) I figure I should maybe run with just water and go for proper food.  I need to get used to not having carbs via my drink and its easy to become quite reliant on them.  So 6 bottles of water and maybe more sandwiches.  I've got the Dr Allan Lim book which has some amazing recipes for food you can carry with you.  I recently saw on Neils blog (read abaaaat it here) that he's made some of them and they look awesome.  However at the moment said book is stopping my spice rack falling over and I'm not nearly well organised enough to have made anything in preparation.  Sandwiches it is then.

Tyre choice I hear you ask? Well, I've recently converted to 29er and only have one set.  So that choice is easily made.  They're a posh french brand called Clement which are suitably Euro in specification.  That being they're narrow, don't like being run tubeless and have bugger all grip.  I like this type of tyre though, you know its predictably shit in all conditions so nothing to take you by surprise.  There's nothing I hate more than a tyre that grips and grips then lets go.  I just like to crash early on and get it out the way.  Clements therefore are the tool for the job.  Forks will be a fine set of X-fusion slides run at the appropriate pressures. Bars will be a carbon riser bar and I like em wide so 780mm.  I'm still undecided as to whether the fine folk of Norfolk deserve the image of me riding round in lycra or whether I'll wimp out and wear baggies.

So - the aim of this is to just 'get round'.  I need to do a longer ride (or at least start doing them) and this could be ideal.  Not much climbing and fairly interesting route will help and it'll also tell me whether the position of things (bars, saddle, cleats) suits me for that distance.

Fingers crossed, I'll report back on Monday!

Friday, 21 June 2013

I just felt like runnin...*

So, did 'The all New and improved' Swinley last night.  Which was....well both good and bad.

It's good to see a group putting resources into building sustainable trails.  Gone is the 5 meter wide trail of sand and damp bits and in its place is an all weather trail that will stand up to the volume of traffic that a trail center close to a London will get.  They've put a huge amount of effort into building two decent trails that make use of some of the old with some new stuff.  Its fast, challenging in places and pretty good fun.  I do wonder about the placing of some of the jumps, one of the big BMX/4X type bits has a few kickers with no landings and some of the doubles are a bit ambitious but on the whole, its been well built and is a good addition.

However, I also think some of the charm of the place has been lost.  I had quite a good loop of about 10 miles that joined all types of trail together that was both technical but still a challenge from a fitness perspective.  I can't do this any more, a lot of the routes have either gone or been made one way.  I understand why this has happened and I know that, my selfish needs aside what they've done is a GOOD THING.  Its just not (for me) quite as good as it was.  However, I'm in the minority so I'll just leave it as is.

The other downside to all the new trails and the broadcasting of them is the influx of new riders.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not the sort to be all precious about stuff and they're not my trails - hell I'm not even that local.  I also don't have issues with people turning up with full on DH bikes and full facers to ride stuff that frankly you don't need much more than a hard tail for (although it does make me smile - see young gentleman in full on Monster gear, a Redbull painted helmet and a carbon demo 8 as an example).  This is Surrey/Berkshire after all and people have muchos disposable cash.  Nope, thats all good with me, the more people that ride the better.  What REALLY grips my shit are people that don't say hello.  Moody bastards who ride past you who you say hello to and they just ignore you.  What school of charm they attended I don't know, but clearly they were behind the bike sheds smoking B&H when the 'how to be pleasant to each other' lesson was being conducted.  I witnessed the same at Thetford the previous weekend, the normally friendly locals replaced by a bunch of ill mannered pigs.  Seriously, how much effort does it take to say 'hi'?  The bloke parked next to me getting his bike ready to go for a ride who when I said 'have a good ride' to just looked at me like I'd shot his dog (had it been there, I probably would have).  This isn't just limited to the bicycle shaped object riders careering round with no helmet and addidas trackie bottoms on either.  Two blokes done up in full lycra on very nice looking 29er race bikes both rode past with an expression like something had just crawled up their noses.  Yeah, you know who you are Mr BMC - it wouldn't have killed you to say hello would it.

We're already hated by ramblers and horse riders, lets at least try to get on with each other.

Anyway, excluding the above the ride went well.  3 hours in total, I did both the red and the blue routes, then rode round the fire roads just to get the mileage up.  To be fair, I think just banging out laps of the fire roads at Swinley would be good training for the TD, decent'ish climbs (although obviously not as long) and enough variation to stop it becoming too boring.  Maybe I need to plan a ride there.

My current level of fitness is still pretty rubbish however, I seem to hit the wall pretty heavily after about 2.5 hours and that's with torq in my bottles and an energy gel.  By the time I got back to my car last night I was eyeing up the grips on my bars wondering what the nutritional content of a set of lizard skins is.  I then promptly ate my own bodyweight (so a lot) in shit food on the way home which was not the idea.  Not the idea at all.  I've no idea what's causing this, maybe I need to eat less but more often or just man up and let my body adapt.  Either way, I'm eating like it's going out of fashion at the moment and this needs to stop.

Tomorrow I'm out with a couple of local lads for a ride round The Surrey Alps.  Having lived in Surrey for nearly two years I'm ashamed to say I've only ridden there once and therefore my knowledge of the area is pretty rubbish.  One of the lads soundly thrashed me in the nationals at Sherwood last year, the other is an expert racer that weighs about as much as my breakfast so it's going to be a day of pain.  However 3.5 hours at a pace I'm not used to is surely a good thing and I'll also gain knowledge of trails that are just outside my door.  Doesn't mean I'm not off to bed at 8 tonight after a dinner of pasta and more pasta though....

Have a good weekend y'all

*Forrest Gump

Thursday, 20 June 2013

This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time....*

So, planning the events/rides I want to do over the course of the next year.  I like this bit - it feels like I'm actually doing something.  And it's more interesting than the report I need to write, but then so is watching Airport Live....(seriously?)

So, I shall list these in chronological order because...well, it makes me feel more organised and hopefully covers up the inability to book the correct flight in the correct year and month.

Thetford MTB Enduro - 29th June 2013

South Downs Way in a day - 31st August 2013

GB's Surrey 100 - 14th September 2013

D2D - 5th October 2013

Bearbones 200 - 12th October 2013

Highland Trail Race - 24th May 2014

Tour Divide - 14th June 2014

I need to decided on whether I can do D2D and the BearBones 200 back to back, what distance I do for the Thetford MTB enduro and whether the HTR is too close to the start of the TD.

I think the Thetford Enduro will probably be the 6 hour one, mainly because I'm still getting quite a bit of back pain and...well...its less than two weeks away.  But it'll just be nice to get a decent long MTB ride in and the Thetford lot always puts on a good course round the forest.

This list isn't currently complete.  I've got the 'Ride to the (semi) North' planned at some point which will be an out and back to my Aunts in Lincoln.  I think this should probably be done in deepest darkest winter so I get used to feeling the nastiness.  Also got numerous Thetford Winter series and Gorrick races that I want to do.  I might try to do the MSG race at Haleigh farm too, just because of the venue.

I'm also reading up on gear.  I've got the bike sorted (I think) but there will be more to come on that as and when I start doing some proper distances.  In fact, that's a total lie - I've no idea what bike I'll use, be it one I've already got or something I might purchase at some point (rather than food - I'm good at that).  I need to ask someone who has done the event whether a cross bike would be better suited as I've heard it's not particularly technical and I get more hand positions with a drop bar.  Anyway - exciting stuff and I LOVE buying new bikes.

Kit choice (sleeping/clothing) is still an area I know very little about so that's going to need lots of reading.  My last bike packing trip was about 5 years ago with lots of AlpKit bags lashed to my Turner 5-spot.  The tent leaked, I spent the weekend eating pot noodles and there were a lot of midges. So I need some new kit.  The Salsa site is proving pretty useful although slightly scary, talk of swollen legs, painful knees and sore mouths from having to eat constantly.  I'm also on BearBones which seems pretty awesome and particularly helpful.  I need to get signed up on there and maybe start asking some newbie questions.

Riding to Swinley tonight - it looks like its going to piss it down so that'll be nice.

*Fight Club

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Details, details. Things to do. Things to get done. Don't bother me with details, just tell me when they're done*

So the planning begins.  Or at least it would do if I knew where to start.  Procrastination and masturbation they say....

First things first, the point of no return.  Booking time off work and more importantly - flights.  I booked a flight today, then I cancelled it.  Not because I'm having second thoughts but because I'd booked it for July this year and not June 2014.  Not the best start to be fair.  When I tried to move it, they told me I couldn't book that far in advance so tomorrow I'm off to the holiday shop to see if they can do me a special deal.  I have visions of 'computer says no' and some choice coughing but its worth a try.  Otherwise it's a case of leaving it nearer to the time which I'd rather not do.

The flight out there is the easy bit.  The flight back not so much.  Sat here now in front of the laptop its very easy to say 'yeah, 20 days - piece of warm fluffy brownie' (cake free day today - can you tell?) but when I'm 3 days in and I can still see the warm glow of Banff illuminating the sky behind me I may not be feeling quite so cavalier about it all.  What I might do is book a return flight and get my brother to change it if it looks like I'm going to be late, or even better, early.  HA!  However Ben being Ben (thats brother Ben or Ken to his mates) he'll forget and I'll be stuck in the land of the free.  Hmmm, needs work does that bit.

Also - getting the bike there isn't a biggie.  Get cardboard box from my mate Rob's shop (LifecycleUK in Bildeston - its mega, go there and spend money), bike in box, box to Canadia, unpack bike and throw away box.  At the other end however it might be more difficult so maybe I need to befriend a local (in NM) bike shop and maybe ship an empty box out there.  Or maybe I'll be so sick of riding it that I'll just set fire to it and walk off into the middling distance.  It's what Steve McQueen would do...

Something slightly more productive happened in the form of me booking my holiday.  I've booked 4 weeks, but have the option to extend it which is nice.  It also means the holiday comes out of next years entitlement which leaves me plenty this year to have some long trips away to get some training in.

Tomorrow I'm going to put together a calendar of all the events I want to do prior to TD.  Thanks to the helpful folks on SingleTrackWorld I have quite a list, but it goes along the lines of Bear Bones 200, Highland Trail race, Dusk 'til Dawn and I also want to do the South Downs way a couple of times.  I've also got a ride from my mum's house in Suffolk to my Aunt's house in Lincolnshire.  Not the most fascinating of rides but it's something I've wanted to do for years and never got round to it.

Oh yeah, and at some point I need to get out and ride my bike.  Tomorrow is meant to be pretty grim but I'm going to ride from the office in Guildford, do the red route at Swinley then ride back to the office and pick my car up.  Not much but its a start....

*Layer Cake

The Start...

Now then chief

Today's the day.  On the 19th of June I've made the decision that I'll be turning up on the second weekend in June 2014, in somewhere called Banff, to start racing the Tour Divide.  All 2745 miles of it (or 4418km but no one really knows how far a KM is - however it sounds further which can only be a good thing).

Tour Divide?  Yep, a self supported single stage race that basically races from Banff in Canadia (how 'bute that) to Antelope Wells in New Mexico (hombre).  Racial stereo-typing aside that's a flipping long way.  For those wanting a more detail explanation see here.

There are two questions here that need answering.  'Why?' and 'How'.

The 'Why' is a little easier to answer.  I've raced XC and road races for years now, starting out racing time trials when I was 'just' old enough to be allowed to enter and moving to XC MTB races later on.  In between I've raced in road races, cycle-speedway (I KNOW!) and DH events, I've even turned up to a round of the Essex bike trial where it turns out that just doing a few skids and wheelies isn't really enough to win the event.  Who'd have thought....Anyway, I've got bored of it all.  Riding around in circles for an hour and a half on what amounts to little more than a field year after year has lost its charm recently and I've all but stopped racing.  In the last year I've got especially good at turning up to races only to pull out after a lap or two.  My training has pretty much stopped and combined with a bad back I've just got...well rubbish.  More rubbish than I was.

Don't get me wrong, I still love bikes and cycling.  But the racing side of it has got old and with that, the OCD act of repeatedly training on the same routes week in, week out has stopped.  I need a new challenge.

So, the Tour Divide (TD).  I've been watching the event from my computer screen for about three years now.  As the ever diligent IT worker I've spent hours scanning different websites for info and sat day dreaming about racing it as I've typed out SQL code and got fat on the company Kit-Kats (yep, free Kit Kats here).  I've done the standard thing of wanting to do it but put it off, over and over again until June rolls round each year and I've missed it again.  Bouts of depression (I'll not bore you with details), the breaking up of relationships and work have always provided ideal excuses to not do it.  I've slowly become an armchair biker, collecting mountains of gear that I'm never going to use but looks nice hung on my garage wall.  At one point I even had an Audi and an Orange 5 - that's how bad it got.

Recently I've just started riding routes I haven't ridden before, both on and off road and its got me excited about riding again.  Even riding the Red route at a trail center that I haven't done before, normally because I think I should be doing the Black has just made everything more enjoyable.  The riding of a trail I've not done rather than taking the easy option of a familiar route is something that I get a buzz from.  Exploring if you will.  This, combined with the amazing efforts of a Mr Mike Hall (he who rode round the world) have inspired me to look at this event and not only day dream about it but actually do it.

So on to the 'How'.

Currently I'm fat, I've got back problems and I struggle to ride anything over about 3 and a bit hours.  I also drink waaay to much coffee, have the occasional ciggie and yes - at weekends I do drink to excess.  I know what you're thinking - Athlete.  So not a good start.

However, I'm single and have a LOT of time on my hands.  I've also got a stable full of bikes and with no fixed agenda I can go and ride them as and when I like.  Experience wise I've consistently pulled out of Dusk til Dawn for the past 4 years - a fine record I'm sure you'll agree.  I've also bike-packed around the Isle of Harris which was a miserable experience due to midges and...well it being Scotland.  So as you can tell this race is the obvious choice.

The TD is currently underway and as I type Mr Hall is about 50 miles behind the race leader.  So realistically I've got about a year to turn flab into speed and become an all round machine.

The purpose of this blog is to document my training and preparation over the next year.  I'll try to make sure its mostly facts and has as little whinging as possible.  If you've seen the film Ride the Divide you'll remember that bloke that cries a lot and talks about how emotional he is all the time.  I'm not that bloke.  Honest.

Think of this as a Dear Diary.  Like Adrian Mole but more cycling based and less romance.  I doubt anyone will read it but at least I'll have something to read as I'm waiting for the Air/Sea Rescue helicopter..