Thursday, 5 March 2015

MSG Round 1 - Shouldham Warren

Renvale and Newdales lock out the elite podium.
It feels a bit early to be talking about the start of the summer race series, but it was officially the end of winter just a day before the MSG series kicked off at Shouldham Warren, Norfolk.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

National Marathon Champs

So it was a touch muddy in places...
Some (most?) people might think I'm crazy but I love marathon racing. Proper single lap marathons, not the usual multi-lap events around a course which is only really fun when you're riding flat out. You get a chance to ride in spectacular countryside where you have to rely more on yourself than on the quality of your pit crew. Unfortunately, these events are rare in the UK and the ones that do exist take some getting to. With the demise of Kielder I think the National Marathon Champs at Selkirk is the only single loop marathon which can actually call its self a race. That, along with the oppoirtunity to ride some great local trail centres, makes it worth the 6 hour drive.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Dyfi Enduro and Lots of Fish and Chips

Perfect bike for the job: Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5
 This weekend was my 7th annual raid on Machynlleths finest fish and chip shop, along with pillaging the local shops for welshcakes and taking in some terrible excuse for comedy. In the middle of this, almost by conincidence, is the Dyfi Enduro. This 'event' (apparently it's not a race...) pre-dates the fashionable enduro racing that fans of heavy bikes and gnar druel over and the top placings are generally dominated by people in lycra on XC bikes. That being said, there is a substantial amount of time to be gained by descending quickly over the frequent slate-scatterred white-knuckle descents. Although fast and loose isn't usually an accurate description of my descending style, my Giant Anthem with it's 27.5" wheels did its best to flatter me allowing me to enjoy the descents. (Edit: Looking at Strava it looks like I posted a PB on every descent). Obviously, because it isn't a race, there is no queue for the start line an hour before the start, there are no elbows and jostling for position behind the neutral leadout car and you don't get to the top of the first 5km long climb with your legs so full of lactic acid that you can taste it in the back of your mouth. That is, of course, unless you are in the other 90% of people who have made the journey to North Wales, in which case it is a bloody race. I can't imagine 'no, i insist, after you old chap' was heard very often at the top of the final decent throughout the day.
The neutral lead out through Machynnleth town center and out to the trails was nice and fast meaning the front of the race was reasonably strung out and by the time we were released and I was sitting 3rd wheel beihind reigning national marathon champion Neal Crampton. About half way up the climb I backed off a bit to save energy for later but the front was still in sight when eventual winner Dan Evans made his attack towards the top. I managed to keep Matt Page in sight until after the highest point of the race over the moorland climb before he suddenly dissappeared. Turns out he went the wrong way and lost a hat full of time. Breaking from tradition i didn't get lost and continued climbing and descending relatively well. I didn't actually ride with anyone for the rest of the race but did manage to make up a couple of places on the technical singletrack climbs. Without having anyone to bottle for me and with me refusing to wear a cammelback I had to stop to fill up a bottle at the feedstation which cost me a place to someone who didn't stop. Although I decided to forgo the sausage rolls and flapjack I may as well have sat down for  a 3 course meal with the ammount of time I lost. I refuse to go anywhere near High5 so I had to find a sachet of Torq powder in my back pocket and add it to the water but it ended up more like throwing my bottle at a girl dressed as batman and chucking my remaining gels and powders on the floor under the table. Perhaps more planning is required to perfect the technique for future editions! It was enough to allow him to get out of sight which is crucial on a course like this.
At the foot of the final climb there is a free bar but they didn't seem to be open when i came through and just told me to pedal faster when I requested a refreshment, although I now find out that Neal Crampton stopped for a cheeky half so maybe I just miss-understood the welsh dialect. On one of the switchbacks on the following climb I spotted a group of 3 closing on me so I knew there would be no gentle ride to the finish. I still felt strong pushing to the end.
The final descent was the only dissapointment of an otherwise fantastic course. with about 1km to go we dropped into the woods down a muddy steep track with huge ruts from MX bikes which was just about un-ridable. we were spoilt with the old finish which was a 1km flat out narrow descent. this has been washed away now and unfortunately the new alternative pales in comparison. I managed to hold on to 6th overall, 5 minutes back from 3rd and about 30 seconds ahead of a fast finishing Scott Easter. It's not a bad result, especially considering it is the first time I've climbed a hill that is longer than 2 minutes, but I still feel like I was hoping for more. Hopefully it will be just what I needed in my legs before this saturdays National Marathon Championships in Selkirk.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

MSG Round 2 - Carver Barracks

First podium of the season, and grinning like an idiot
By the time this weekends race arrived it’s been about a month since I last lined up on a start line, and in that month I couldn’t exactly say I have been able to do the highest quality training. A Stag do (my own to make it worse) and illness combining to make sure any confidence I had from my ride at Rendlesham was long gone and I was lining up at Carver wondering if I could avoid being the lanterne rouge. I had a reasonable amount of home advantage for the race because the hosting club is Walden Velo and I have had the opportunity to ride every one of the 999 iterations of the course set out by Andrew Riley prior to the big day. Before Thursday I was happy with the course but when I turned up for my final practice I was confronted with Andrew grinning from ear to ear and a new gap jump! Jumping has never been my forte so I was slightly concerned about the prospect, especially with Callum riding it and showboating. After a bit of coaxing I finally grew some balls and managed to ride it. To my surprise it was actually far easier than it looked; I actually enjoyed riding it and was disappointed when the MSG organisers asked for the big hole to be filled in!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

MSG Round 1 - Rendlesham Woods

What better time is there to write about the first race of the MSG Eastern series than 2 days before the second, it’s only a month late after all. From what I recall, out of the depths of a fairly miserable winter appeared some perfectly timed sunshine resulting in a bone dry course around Rendlesham Woods. I arrived in good time for the lunchtime practice session to a cloud of doom and gloom. No-one seemed to have a good word to say about the course. Even the usual source of eternal sunshine, Chris Harley (EHF) said he was considering not bothering to race! I actually happened to quite like it. Kind of like Thetford only slightly different. Lots of twists and turns, some big ruts to negotiate and a one or two tame bombholes and a couple of long fireroad sections. The key was to ride smooth in the woods and ride clever on the open sections which seemed, generally, to be into a headwind. It turns out the kids and women had bedded the course in a bit through the morning so most people had cheered up by the time it came to our race.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Thetford Winter Series Debrief

This weekend was the final round of the Thetford winter series. I find this greatly concerning as it means it must be the end of winter and the real racing season is just around the corner. It is the first time I have ridden the whole 4 hour series and on the whole it has been a success. The weather has been miraculously kind throughout, nothing too wintery and only one mud-bath. The organizers have done a great job setting the courses considering the amount of rain we have had recently!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Dusk Til Dawn Solo

It’s been 3 years since I last stood on the start line of an ultra marathon. The mentality is completely different to any other race I have done. Very few can start fast, finish fast and ride all night for 12 hours. My plan was simple; start steady, keep motivated and hope that come 4am I was in contention for a podium and try to pick up the pace. The longest ride I had done in the build up to the race was a 60 mile road ride and about 3 hours off road. I had tried to fit in some hill intervals in the last few weeks to make up for the lack of real time on the bike. However, 12 hours was always going to be a big step up, especially when played out in complete darkness (8pm-8am).