Sunday, 19 November 2017

Badgers, Gorilla's and Garmin

Oh you handsome badger...
Started the week with a cycle commute. On the way to work I saw the sun rise. On the return from work I saw the sun set. Lovely.

Tuesday was a nice day too. In the evening, a pedal with Ron (the Phantom) took place. Hadn't cycled in the evening with Ron for so long. It was great to catch up. We cycled a reverse 'Deer Route'.

Wednesday was another commute cycle affair. That feeling of annoyance when you leave work, only to return, because one has forgotten their keys. Grr!
Only one further cycle took place, and that was Friday night. After work, I cycled to the Gorilla cafe in Kings Heath to meet a couple of monkeys. Jamie and Trev were already there as I rocked up. The plan was simple - listen to a cycle coach / Dr give a lecture on training whilst drinking beer. The beer was toxic - 'Badger', I believe. Nice tasting stuff, ginger aroma, 5.2%. My head didn't thank me the following day. From the lecture, I learn't that I should focus on my weaknesses (climbing, sprinting, endurance, recovery). The best advice really, was that I need to complete back to back rides if TAW is going to be my goal (which it is). I know I'd also benefit from a better core, eating healthier and weight training but I'm a Doo and Doo's don't do what they should do. The lecture ended, 3 Badgers later, and an interesting cycle home was had. It was dark and a few comfort breaks were required...
Doo, Mac, Trev
Over the weekend, I played around with plan's for TAW. Sadly, my Garmin had issues with large files and kept going wonky. The Garmin would cease to work and hard re-sets had to follow. Most annoying. RidewithGPS was proving menace too. Then I purchased a months subscription and all was fine and dandy again. I now have a daily schedule prepared for Jamie and I.
Day, distance, climb, hmmm
The Master Plan
Completed schedule with GPX files (all safely downloaded onto Garmin). Better yet, I have maps and now daily distances and hilliness profile including the climbing figures too. Also plotted and booked is accommodation (nearly alternate days) in hostels along the way (the other days will be wild camps). As can be seen by my prep notes above, we plan to cycle over 200k most days and one day has over 2,800m of ascent.

TAW, argh, only 30 weeks away. I think Jamie may have had too many badgers - he sent me a text stating 'coach said start training 6 weeks before, 24 weeks of partying!!'. Hmmm.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Spinal Tap

This past week started great after a cycling lull spanning about 2 weeks. Indeed, Monday saw me cycle 3 different trips using 2 different bikes. One of these bikes was 'Eleven', the new addition to my stable.
Eleven's first ride was a trip from mine to my buddy Rogers domicile. Eleven performed just fine on her 25k debut. Since Eleven was so shiny and new, decided to keep her that way and cycled only on road (as opposed to off-road options).

Once at Roger's, I swapped Eleven for the front seat of his tandem 'The Beast'. We cycled a familiar route to Whitlenge Tea Rooms and back. Whitlenge Tea Rooms provided the most awesome breakfast at about the half way point. This was a good route and formed a 'half-pipe' looking hilliness profile (see pic below). The heavier climbing on the outward bound route. In the cafe, Rogers nose was bleeding quite bad - gushing with bright red blood. Roger couldn't see his blood as he has been blind for as nearly as many years as I have been alive. However, Roger was not born blind and has seen colour. Better yet, Roger remembers colours quite vividly and red is his favourite colour. Red, like the blood from his nose and like the colour of 'The Beast'. Roger is a legend.
Once back at Roger's, I quickly changed bikes again. Decided to cycle Eleven home by climbing up and whizzing down the hill by the Lickey's. Eleven climbed just fine. Her brakes weren't bedded in yet and I hope they prove better than the BB5's I had on my previous Cannondale! Felt kinda different riding a biking with 37mm tyres. Hmm, now not sure whether to cycle an audax (200k) using same fat tyres or swap to something like 28mm. I wonder how much difference it would make?

In the week, I completed 3 to work and back commutes. My journeys appear to take me at least 10 minutes longer each way now that I have changed my tyres (to Winter tyres). Is dark when I leave and dark when I return. Has also been quite cold but not freezing just yet.

Caught up with both my brothers over the weekend. Never saw Big Dave in person, however, he sent me photo's of his new 'bionic back' aka 'spinal tap'. Ouch!
Saw Rob in person. He didn't have a spinal tap. Rob and I ended the week with a nice cycle around the good old 'Deer Route' which I hadn't cycled in ages, so that was nice. In fact, had a lovely weekend with SJ and the kids plus Robin, Kim and Ma and Pa. The firework display we saw was rather spectacular and it was great to wish my Pops a happy birthday.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

7 - Eleven

Not an awful lot of training took place again this week. No real bother, I still ran and cycled a little. Made some major changes within the bike stable too. Indeed, poor 'Pinky' was sold. Also sold 'Winter Channel no.7' which made place for 'Eleven'.
Bye Bye Pinky :(
Bye Bye 7
Pinky was a good idea that just didn't materialise. She was a single-speed road bike that had on-going issue with the chain set / tensioner thing. I just didn't get her 'right' and she was just abandoned really. 7 served me well. She was a regular road bike which I initially purchased for use as a winter bike. However, 7 quickly became my off-road bike. Despite not being an ideal off-road bike, (could only fit a maximum size of 28mm tyres), 7 took me on many off-road adventures including the Torino-Nice Rally, Tour of the Black Country and a South Downs Expedition too. I really wanted a bike that I could use on the roads in the winter, tackle gravel in the summer and take off-road when I chose. So, pleased when Eleven arrived at the stable, as she appears to tick all boxes. We'll soon find out...
The delivery. Can you spot Eleven
Anyways, before Eleven arrived, my running and cycling activities took place. Only 2 short runs and 2 cycle to work and back commutes. Better than nowt though, I guess.
My first run was on Halloween. I ran in the day and saw no sign of gremlin, ghoul or geek. My run the following day saw no creatures of the night either, however, smashed up pumpkins were everywhere!
Hmm, next time the Mrs wants to see 'Rockabye Baby!'
Now, post Halloween and I saw a wonderful pumpkin. This pumpkin was in the sky. Aces! I see some truly wonderful stuff when out cycling on my bike.
Pumpkin in the sky
My last cycle was a real race. Well, the outward bound part of the commute anyway. I raced home as I knew Eleven was being delivered. My legs raced round and round and I got home in a real quick time, but not quick enough. The delivery folk had been and gone. Grr. All is well that ends well, and eventually Eleven was delivered to the stable on Friday.
Clean Bandit
Eleven is yet to be ridden. The weekend was spent away with the Mrs see. We went and saw Clean Bandit and rocked out to 'Rockabye Baby'. This really was a different sort of challenge... To be fair it was a lot of fun. Maybe, just maybe, the Pumpkins next time.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

A rest and a rustle in the woods

This was a relatively quiet week on the training front. I guess it was a 'rest week' really. Felt kinda out of sorts, like a mighty germ was trying to possess me or something.

Few activities were completed during the week. However, 2 work and back cycle commutes were completed. A 5k run was sandwiched in too - the first run (I think) since failing my 'runeveryday' challenge.
Lunar and Kim
Doo and Melody
Doo and Lunar
Still proved to be a challenging week. Lunar was off school on half term so she had 2 'daddy days'. We spent the first of these painting outside fences. I had to endure a 'My Little Pony' movie on the second day. Then to finish the week, I had responsibility for both my beautiful little horrors. With the help of my sister Kim, we took the rug rats for a climb of what I believe was Dovers Hill.
Bare footed wood run?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Stranger Things

''They got a ranch they call number fifty-one, they got a ranch they call number fifty-one!
Can't see it all 'less your flying by, just sitting there square, baking in the sun, beneath the sky.

They're gonna put it down, right on the strip, they're gonna put it down, on the Vegas strip,

they're gonna put it down, and step outside, into the lights, right outta that ship, saying Hi!

I was driving doing nothing on the shores of Great Salt Lake, when they put it on the air I put it in the hammer lane, I soon forgot myself and I forgot about the brake, I forgot all laws and I forgot about the rain, they were talking on the 9 and all across the amy band, across the road they were turning around and headed south with me, it got so crowded on the road I started driving in the sand, my head was feeling scared but my heart was feeling free, the desert turned to mud it seems that everybody heard, everybody was remembering to forget they had the chills, then I heard the voices on a broadcast from up on the bird, they were getting interviewed by some goodman whose name was Bill. I'm almost there to Vegas where they're puttin' on a show, they've come so far, I've lived this long, at least I must just go and say hello.'' (Pixies, Bossanova, The Happening)    

'Stranger Things' summed up this week quite nicely. That's the latest Netflix series that has gotten my attention. All things weird and wonderful. What a weird and wonderful week I've had.

The training week started great after what looked like menace. Awoke on Monday morning to a real heavy down pour, so decided not to cycle to my buddy Rogers, but left later and drove over. Once at Rogers, the rain had stopped and despite everywhere being cloudy, it was super warm. We took out Rogers recently serviced tandem for a relatively long ride. We first cycled to Redditch Prison and then on to Long Lartin Prison to create a 'jail break' kind of theme. We had a head wind going out, but that was fine as we were mostly descending. On the hillier return route we were being pushed by the wind. Lunch stop was at Hillers cafe which was ridiculously expensive and not overly substantial. The day was weird - it started cloudy and turned real dark before lunch and looked like heavy rain was going to pour but it didn't. A red orange sun was in the sky, super bright, and looked more bright and orange than the pumpkins located outside all the shops we passed. SJ later informed that the sun was orange due to dust being picked up from the Sahara Dessert. Anyways, after lunch, the darkness turned to a brightness. The hills ahead were easy as the wind was now pushing us. We cycled past my home and back to Rogers via country lanes and much more hills. I've said it before, but I'll say it again 'Roger is amazing'. Roger is my only friend that is blind and my only friend in their 70's, yet he cycled 88.8k with me with no problem at all. Amazing!
Totally Tandem, 89k
Continued with my #runeveryday challenge. Run 16 was a cross country affair in super windy weather. Run 17 was a run into work. Each time I have ran to work my time has gotten slower and slower - what do you think that's telling us?! Ha! Run 17.5, (yes, 2 runs in the same day) was a menace. Run 17.5 was the outward bound run from a work commute (first out and back since starting this crazy challenge) and had me running back and forth because I left without my phone, ran a bit, remembered, and returned, ran more. This forgetfulness proved helpful as it saw me run some cross-country (where there be dragons) to try and save some time and find my car. Found my car and was told I'm not allowed to park here any more. Run 17.5 saw an end to my challenge too, as no further running took place his week.
Despite looking ready for action, the action stopped here
Midweek saw me complete another audax event (perm). This event was the 'Horseshoe Pass'. I initially thought I had cycled this pass before but am now thinking perhaps not.
Horseshoe Pass Audax 206k
The day started in a too familiar wonky style. I set off early doors to pick up my buddy Jamie and then had realised I had forgotten my cycling shoes. D'oh! After a quick trip home, we then ventured to Codsall to meet up with Avril and Phil for the start of our adventure.
Phil, Jamie, Avril
The audax started fine with a relatively flat route leading to the first control in Wem. We stopped here for breakfast (chips, eggs and beans). After fuelling, we donned our rain jackets (as it had started to drizzle) and continued towards Welsh Wales.
The next stage of our adventure took us to the spectacular Horseshoe Pass. Real pretty scenery and some seriously tough climbs. Phil and I had left Jamie and Avril at the climbs so we could climb to the summit at a faster pace. Breath taking views.
After the summit followed a ring-twitching descent where I had to negotiate my way past 2 sheep and a mountain biker! At the bottom, I faced signs to the Horseshoe Pass and Phil informed another ascent had to be climbed.
This second major climb was seriously more hilly than the first. Awesome climbing led to the summit where the visibility just disappeared and we were in rain, mist and drizzle. Luckily the cafe at the top was still open (we had made it with like 10 mins to spare). Phil and I had a little feast, collected stickers (proof of passage) and waited for Jamie, then Avril, to rock up.
Descending the Horseshoe Pass was super zoomy and it felt great to be cycling. This was a long stretch and we stuck together initially, however, soon Phil and I were cycling as a pair and it had gotten darker. The more we cycled, the faster Phil seemed to get. We got to Shrewsbury control and neither of us were feeling hungry. I checked the time and man, it was later than I thought. Figured I should phone my Mrs and let Jamie know I was gonna speed on but my phone had died. Phil was happy to wait for the others, so off I left on a solo mission.

Next control was only about 20k away. Navigating was a little tricky as I didn't bring a helmet light and reading my Garmin proved a little menace. Once in Ironbridge I struggled to find an ATM, so stopped at a pub and brought a drink for receipt purposes.

Last stage took me back to the control in Codsall. Started to feel quite whacked before the finish appeared and felt quite pleased when ride was completed. Oh man, how am I gonna cope with cycling these distances (and more) everyday for 12 days when I cycle around Ireland next year?! 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sleepy Week / Pack

High-light of this week was a pack. Not a bike pack, but a particular Pack(wood) House. Funny thing is, I didn't even go in the house. Packwood House was a rather splendid National Trust site where me and my family hung out over the weekend.
Lots of forest, dens, trees and places to eat picnics. Weekend also saw my lovely daughter dress up as a soldier at Sunday School and both my kids received prizes for being great scholars.
The training front was less exciting this week. Kept up with the #runeveryday challenge and am now about half way through. If truth be told, am kinda getting bored of running every day. Only 2 (plus) weeks to go...
Only cycled twice in the week. Completed two to work and back commutes. Have put my Cannondale on eBay and I'll be excited if it sells for big bucks!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

#XDP17 menace

This week saw me complete much running and much cycling. The RonHill #RunEveryDay challenge ensured running was regular. A couple of commutes to work and back plus the CrossDuroPennines (#XDP17) race made for a great weeks cycling. Even had a couple of nights camping for good measure.

Sure enough, ran every day this week. Some runs were short (5k) and some were shorter (less than 5k) but each run was at least 3k (my rules). Some runs were on road and some were cross country. Ran some in daylight, ran one in harvest moonlight. Ran a total of 24.5k and am now 8 days into the challenge.
My commutes were regular, run of the mill affairs. Usually cold dark mornings followed by warmer lighter evenings. My commutes were at the beginning of the week because I wanted to save my legs for the #XDP17.

Left for the Pennines on Friday to ensure I could camp near the start for #XDP17. Hastily got all my gear together - took me a while to find my tent as my Mrs had re-homed it. Made sure bike was cleaned and Lin had kindly equipped Winter Chanel no. 7 (i.e. My bike) with some new 28 mm Vittoria Rubino tyres with graphine plus slime tubes. These tyres looked thinner than my previous 28mm  Panaracer Gravel Kings but was happy to test them out and hoped their puncture resistance would be better. Most folk will probably use suggested 35mm tyres but 28mm is the max I can fit.
Made it to the Pennines just fine. Camped out at Holme Valley Camping and Caravan Park. The park was ok but the ground was soggy, too many creepy crawlies about and took ages to get there. Should have checked my kit prior to getting here - I didn't and had to eat soup out of my titanium mug that was covered in rust at the bottom (was housing a rusty gas cylinder - had covered it in a plastic bag but rust had eaten through it). Eat my rust - I did! Took a quick spin to the #XDP17 start, less than 10k away, perfect. Noticed I was in, or at least very near to, Kirklees. Kirklees was the only spur I missed when I cycled the Trans-Pennine Way a short while back. Bonus.
For those wondering what the #XDP17 is, the website describes as thus: CrossduroPennines #XDP17 is a challenging 170km mixed on and off road loop of the Calderdale and Dark Peak areas taking in some of the finest climbs in England.  The route is made up of sections of the Trans Pennine and Pennine Bridleway, two Tour de France climbs and numerous local trails combining to a hearty 3,000m (plus) of climbing. The above sounded great, but my experience was not so awesome if truth be told. I was mostly under prepared for this challenge. I had checked the weather and the forecast promised a dry day. However, it was wet from the start and cold and windy. When I arrived at the start, I stood out like a sore thumb. My bike was the only one with skinny tyres. About 20 folk had met at the start all with awesome looking machines with fat tyres and curved forks. A serious lot of bling. No matter I told myself, the bike I was using completed TNR. Anyways, after a quick brief, we were off.
The race set off fast and I was soon at the back of the pack. We started on a bit of road which quickly turned to tow-path that was seriously bumpy and very wet. Within minutes I was caked in mud and my chain set was making awful sounds. After about 5k I was cycling alone. No bother I told myself, I'd ride my own ride. Before long, I was cycling some rocky single track, cobbles, gravel sections and big wet slabbed sections where hike-a-bike was the only option. The views were breathtaking. This race I had started consisted of 5 Strava segments and un-known to me (until after the race) I raced up the first segment which was a 3.5 mile, 844 feet climb - with mixed terrain including road, steep cobbles and reservoir supply road. Little kudos for me, I hiked the serious cobbled bits. My Garmin was not informing me when the sections came (despite me having the sections enabled).
Many people look, only a few see
The second segment looked familiar, it was a 4.7 mile, 888 feet up and over road climb of a Holme Moss with a tricky off road start (that had me on my feet, deep loose gravel - this off road was actually closed). The climb was tough as the rain was belting down, the wind pushing me to the side and my fingers were numb. My Garmin had gone onto locked screen mode too which was annoying. Once on the descent, things were no better. It was too wet and windy to race down. Also my brakes were pants and causing me the fear. The brakeset I have gets rave reviews, however, I must have a dud set - these brakes have never worked great and in the wet they were now even worse.
So under prepared was I, that my fingers were starting to get real cold. I figured I'd continue anyhow. Continue I did cycling off road tracks. These tracks were super fast when descending and my brakes just didn't help with my control. I flew down a stepped section and bang! There went the front tyre. Snakes and spiders! Never expected my tyres (tubes) to pop. It was a cold lengthy repair swapping the tube and then I realised how unprepared (and stupid) I had been. The replaced tube was the only spare I had taken and I had no patches on me. Sure, I expected my new tyres and tubes to be indestructible but should have taken precautions all the same. I decided to abandon here.
Getting back to the campsite was only like 15k or so away, however, it meant I had to climb back up Holme Moss summit. Two climbs of this summit (from both sides) in one day. Tough climbing from either side but at least I tasted some hills.
Took pictures at the top from both sides, had definitely gotten brighter (but I thought bleaker) as the day wore on. Another scary descent and a wet, muddy miserable cycle to the finish, well my finish anyway.
Was a trifle disappointed to DNF, however, if I'd have continued and punctured - I could have been stranded in the dark, been cold and wet and who knows, maybe even eaten by wolves. I had a challenging ride and saw a beautiful rainbow (not to mention the awesome scenery). I was safe and well and injury free. The website informed I had missed out on the following:
  • XDP-3 - 1.8 mile 868 feet Alpine style closed road climb up the Chew Valley reservoir road to a dead end finish. Cat 3 climb
  • XDP-4 - 7.9 miles up the longest continuous climb in England and then down to Baitings Dam
  • XDP-5 - 0.7 mile mixed terrain climb to finish off your legs for the next week
All in all a great week. One challenge beat me. One challenge continues....

Badgers, Gorilla's and Garmin

Oh you handsome badger... Started the week with a cycle commute. On the way to work I saw the sun rise. On the return from work I saw th...