All quiet on the Western front

No wars going on, as such, just not too much worth blogging about.

I did have a fight with a cars bumper followed by the floor a few weeks ago mind. They were very much victorious in this fight, although the odds were stacked against me. In the end it wasn’t too bad, all I lost was skin, the ability to unclip with my left foot, a wheelset and confidence in metal box wielding road users.

Prior to this incident however I was building my fitness back up, for most this year I’ve been so-so with training, been riding my bike but wouldn’t really call it training, mixtures of distractions and knees not being quite right quashing anything that I would call consistent, quality training. Been doing enough to keep me ticking over though.

Even entered a 8hr race down in Thetford a few weeks ago, was great. Perfect for the single-speed and my slightly overly insulated human frame at the moment (I’m a bit fat). I struggled with energy drink that was too concentrated, headache and sore hands but end result was second so I was happy to stand on a box for the first time in a while.

podium

There are some developments going on at the moment in regards some great people wanting to support me and other cycling projects I’m getting off the ground. Hopefully will mean some content worth blogging about!

Until then.

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It’s about the journey and the taking part that counts

Trying to explain to a non-event partaker who knows me about how I entered a race, didn’t finish but still really enjoyed the weekend seems to confuzel them and to be fair, it did with me for a little bit. ‘How can you enjoy failure when it’s seemingly the main thing you care about’. They didn’t quite word it like that but it was along those lines and for the first time clichés seemed to help me justify seemingly failure and happiness in the same breath.

I don’t usually like clichés as it usually means the person spouting it can’t be bothered to think for themselves or in the case of competition they can be used as an excuse. ‘Pick your battles’ being a good one for someone who totally tanked in a race. This was my thought process regarding clichés anyway but the older I get (a wise, old 26 now) the more truthful they’re becoming.

8months ago I decided I wanted to go for the Singlespeed title at 24hrs of Exposure. All was going pretty well but then I did my knee in. I couldn’t walk down stairs 4weeks before the event. Seemingly racing it was totally off the cards. 2.5weeks prior the event however I had a day off work and chose to go out on my singlespeed, for fun more than anything. Singlespeeding didn’t seem to aggravate it and I felt pretty good too. A glimmer of hope it would seem. I pushed it and set about getting things in place about possibly taking part in Exposure. Was a frantic but exciting few weeks and felt confident enough to enter it on the final day possible. A few more frantic days followed but eventually got down south surrounded by like minded people. Ace.

The race itself I think I summed up pretty well in a tweet;

‘Started. Felt good. Gazebo blew away. Still felt good. Pissed it down. Stopped for a bit. Started again. Knee gave way. Game over. Beer.’

It probably sounded a bit blunt but I see it as being concise as actually the weekend was great. Not laughed and smiled so much in a good long while.

So basically from no chance of racing weeks before to actually taking part and having a great weekend despite being under prepared on most levels didn’t matter and as such the two clichés that make up this blogs title pretty much hit the nail on the head.

It’s how I got there and that I actually managed to turn the pedals for a bit – The realisation of why I (and most people I guess) like racing bikes so much.

But to end on another cliché; live and learn.

The next 24 I do, I wont be so under prepared. Promise.

See you at Relentless.

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Divine Intervention (Enduro6 write up)

So yeah, that knee issue I’ve been banging on about; well, long and short of it, it ain’t right but it would seem I can single-speed without aggravating it – Winner. About the time that I realised this I also found out that the 24hr European Champs isn’t being held next year but this years was still a good few weeks away… Pretty obvious where this is heading.

I wanted to make sure my knee (and various other ailments I’ve seemingly picked up, including a strained moob) were okay to race on. Did some short sharp rides and knee seemed good as were the times I was setting. I then took part in the Malham Tarn Attacked, which was a figure of 8 but I only lasted 1 of the loops as I froze in the horizontal rain and got lost in a bog but my knee held so then entered Enduro6.

In the lead up to the weekend the weather changed dramatically for the better and come race day morning and the course was rock hard, which is a first for me at Catton. Met up and chatted with some good friends and then line up on the start line for one of those crappy le-mans starts I love so much. Wasn’t too bad but was happy to get on my bike to spin my single-speed legs off to make up a more than a few spaces.

No real plan for pace but a semi-hard first lap and I have to say the lap was great, obviously helped massively by the fortune of good weather but yeah, damn good fun. Back off a bit at the end the lap and settled in.

Things were going well, legs felt good, back and knee were okay, pretty sure I was doing pretty well, decent craic with other riders, was great. Up until I got a punctured. Bastard. Lost more time than I should have but was back on it within 10min (love mini hand pumps, me..). Well that was until I soon realised that I mustn’t have check my rear tyre properly for another thorn. Pshhhhhhhhh. Balls. Changed that one too and was away again.

I wasn’t angry as I was enjoying myself too much but a result was out the window, so just backed off and enjoyed it so that when I got the 3rd puncture (!!), on the front this time I wasn’t too put off aside from the fact I had to ride part of the lap on the flat as I’d already used the two tubes on me. Got around to the pit, sorted that flat and then two last laps to finish of a good days riding!

So body check; everything’s okay! So much so that the entry has gone in for next weekends 24hrs of Exposure/European champs and I can’t wait. I was a little bummed out with multiple punctures at Enduro6 seeing off what was probably going to be a good result but having said that if I did race hard for 6hrs I would still be feeling it next weekend so I see those punctures as divine intervention stopping me from digging too deep. Lets hope its that anyway!

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Broken Knee + Belly = Form

I remember a few years ago reading a story about a pro Belgium cyclist on Sean Kelly’s team, a name somewhere along the line of Eki Brussels*. Names not important, what I remember reading was that although a man of 40 or so he had form in the legs to stay with the youngun’s in major classic road races but sadly for him, he revealed that he had been racing with cracked vertebra not wanting to let his good form go to waste! Crazy I thought at the time, however I feel I’m currently in a similar situation (albeit on a much smaller and less server scale)

Sunny, muddy singlespeeding :)

Sunny, muddy singlespeeding :)

My last blog was how I killed my knee but I was hopeful of taking part in Exposure 24hr in mid-May but soon after that blog, when I tried to ramp up the training my knee pretty much said ‘No thank you’ and as such I drew a line on taking part in any long races any time soon.

Few weeks past with me pootling into work but with no real riding but then it started to happen, ‘nice’ weather was looming and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun so I saddled up yesterday in the sun and did a quick singlespeed session, not a good idea for someone who couldn’t walk down stairs a few weeks before but not only was there no ill affects, I actually took a few Strava KOMs, and was much of the same today too.

I was quiet surprised but it sort of made sense, months of pretty consistent riding and then a good few weeks lay off, looks like muscles recovered and I’ve found some form, even more so impressive when I was besting times I set in Nov/Dec when I thought I was going well and was over a stone lighter!

So what now, it appears that intense stuff doesn’t aggravate my knee, my theory is that my issue is related to a patella tacking issue (as it has been in the past) and intense riding in forcing the VMO to fire pulling the patella back in line so no discomfort or after affects (but will wait for the physio to confirm, hopefully!). Winner. So can I race? Well I’m going to do a 40k one next weekend around Malham, which should be good fun and will see how I go, if it goes well I might enter Enduro6 the following weekend. Will be shame to let this form go to waste but I defiantly can guarantee I wont be doing Exposure or Mayhem. Going to save myself for the latter part of the season I reckons.

I’m liking how things are looking :)

*His actual name’s Niko Eeckhout, wasn’t even close, ha!

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Dead knee

As per title really.

Managed to destroy my left knee a few weeks ago. Rather annoyingly, I’m almost certain it was caused from exercises I started doing intended to make them stronger! It’s right behind the patella and feels tight and uncomfy. Can’t quite work out whether it swelling or scar tissue, regardless means I can’t really ride my bike. I long for my usual patella tracking issue as they’re well easy to sort but hey-ho.

Spent a few easy weeks hoping it would improve but nothing. Seeing a specialist this week and going to be forcing rehab like a git. Before a few years ago I would have thought that that was at least half my racing season written off but having similar feeling after doing in my achilles and then coming back to do two 12hr solo and a 24hr solo, I’m more than hopeful, so much so that I still fully intend to take part in 24hrs of Exposure/Nationals/Euros in some six weeks time.

Luckily it being a 24 there are a load of elements to succeeding, true that having good legs is extremely important but so is a strong core and upper body (especially for singlespeeding!), being mentally ready and having your equipment and strategy sorted for it. So that’s what I’m going to be focusing on until my knee is back to normal, in addition to getting back to race weight, which will be easier said than done given I won’t be riding much!

Just call me fatty.

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What does victory taste like? A cola Wham bar.

From the outset I must state I didn’t take victory in the conventional sense (”coming first”) but I, as did 300 other lucky souls did win by the sheer fact we were taking part in quite a unique event with its unlimited awesomeness; Hit the North. How did this winning sensation taste, well to me, giving the fact I’d just stuffed it down my neck that repeated on me for whole race, it tasted like a cola Wham bar that you got gifted after sign on!

It was a belter of a race, even more so when it appears I did all right too, 14th overall, 4th senior (how quick are them vets! trying to outrun the life that’s catching up with them, maybe? Seems to work mind =) ).

I had a great time of it, singlespeed was performing well (didn’t notice it at least), was having a good ol’ battle with a few other riders and body was feeling good. I backed off in the middle bit of the race, span around, give my back a rest, enjoyed the course, natter to the odd person and try not to be too hasty with my passes.

Into last lap though, across the ‘Field of Despair’ I could see a few racers that I knew were the places ahead of me amongst the various others, ankle deep in emotional, muddy doom. I saw it as my mission to catch and pass these riders.

Once across the FofD, pin the ace bit of man made trail, clear the steep bit back towards the start/finish area, dance over the grip-less mud, down the steep corner short-cut, squeeze down the narrow rut into almost unrideable, claggy chute that sucks up seemingly all the stones on the next section of bridleway but closing in on them!

Bit further on, fly into the stream crossing, up the other side passed one of the races in front who’s dabbed. Spin, spin, spin. Next two up ahead going onto a short, steep climb just after a tunnel. This suits me and my singlespeed. POWER! Seems to work, past the other two I was trying to catch. Spin, spin, spin. Near the end now, don’t look back, that wont help! Clamber up the steep traverse, keep on pushing, cross the line, minty ball in mouth. Happy days.

Ace day out and good way to kick off the year.

I now want another Wham bar.

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First win since 2006

and it was on a single speed.

This will be repeated in 2013.

More info to follow :)

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525 in 7

525miles in 7days.

Pleased with that effort. Most I’ve ever managed to do in that time frame, so yeah, happy.

Rode 3 centuries during the week. The first one where I decided to try and go for sub5hr time but not until 40miles in, lasted to about 75miles when my legs exploded but still got around in about 5hr 15, not too bad. The other 2 were back-to-back, which again I’ve never done before. They were all solo (no friends you see) and defiantly all steady, fairly flat miles as opposed to just plain slow ones as I averaged 18mph for the whole week. :)

Guess where I hit the wall?

Initial intention was to try and do 1000miles by the 16th of October but that isn’t going to happen, mixture of none fun things (life) but also in part I don’t really want to dig a big hole of fatigue for myself, which I reckon I could have done as my legs were feeling pretty strong, if tired (knees and arse were sore but that’s another story).

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Room for improvement

Took part in my first proper cross race (as in 60min and part of winter series. Not as in cold, wet and miserable) in many years for Round3 of CXNE yesterday and got my head kicked in.

After straightening my mech hanger after stupidly knocking my bike over and a half decent warm up were my legs felt good if unspectacular I made it to the start line. As ever, was slightly intimidated by the various carbon tub wheels and embossed skin suits as I’m sitting there on my Sora equipped slugger convinced my rear tyre was going down but looking forward to the ordeal.

Was nowhere near aggressive enough off the start but maintained my position in the group as we headed into the course, which looped around some fields and woods as well as incorporating some of the Priswick Circuit where it was based. A great cross course, if there is such a thing from a mtbers perspective.

Sat in for a bit, messed up my remount after the log jumps but was cornering well (45psi seems about right for a bumpy grassy course) and legs felt like they had a little more to give so pushed on. Made up several places on the 3rd lap but going into the 4th I pushed hard up a small rise, CRUNCH. Chain had slipped in the outer ring and jumped off. Tried to shift back on but it wasn’t happening. Jumped off and somehow the chain had looped itself twice when coming off. After sorting that loosing more than a few seconds and all my recently claimed places, I cracked on.

Noticed the zip had gone from my legs and they felt quite numb/empty in a powerless sorta of way. I kept yo-yoing off the back of a group of 3 but got a nice tow by Paul Oldam as he lapped me, which got me back on. Going into the final lap the front two pushed on, 3rd man tried to follow and I tried to follow him, woefully. Legs had pretty much gone by this point but going into last straight to the line I sprinted as hard as I dared with my worn chainring and I was rapidly closing the gap but he still got me, by 0.2 of a sec (love timing chips, me).

Finished 19th, content with that, was a good ride out and legs felt good after Kielder100 last weekend. There’s loads of room for improvement with a little practice and new rings (which finally arrived today, gits!)

Next one should be in Leeds in a few weeks, hopefully.

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Kielder 100. The fear to fart*

DNFs are rubbish and as such Kielder100 was again on my radar this season. I wanted a decent ride and trained as such. Pretty structured sessions (for me, anyway), mixing it up, a lot more intense stuff than usual trying to push up my p p power and I managed to drop a few pounds too. Bring it.

Carbo loading innit

Everything seemed shipshape come race day, it was dry, forecast looked good (if windy) and I was good to go. Got to the start line a little later than planned but I was a lot closer than last year as I could actually see the starting arch. Not before the local wildlife had had its fill we were off. I made quick work of getting near the front of the pack in the neutralized section and getting to about the top50ish I was content.

Once the race was under was the usual array of darting lycra ensued up the first forest road climb amongst the already swaying pine trees and I’m not going to lie, I was one of them too. Starting conservatively is how I used to race but nuts to that, I’ve trained differently, I’m going to start differently, so I pushed on. This was until I was out in the open and on my todd. A small group caught me and I worked with them for a bit. One guy did an amazing somersault into some soft grass but aside from that it was pretty uneventful.

Hmm. Think I’ll be retiring my forks, if not most my bike from racing after K100

2nd in wheel I could feel the lead guy trying to push on. I followed and we left the rest of the group in pieces on the climb such was our raw, amazing power but then sadly on the first granny ring climb we encountered, down shifted, instant chain suck. Bollocks! Although on the whole the course was dry, there were a few wet muddy forest sections, which weren’t to my grannies taste. Ah well, middle ring it was. Up until the same thing happened to that. Oh dear. Less than 40miles and no little or middle ring? ‘Well at least I’ve passed where I got to last year’. Every cloud and tha’.

Luckily I think the singlespeed sessions I’ve done recently helped me manage riding most things in the big ring but it defiantly wasn’t manageable for another 50+ miles! Next water stop I dumped the energy drink from one of my bottles, filled it with water, doused my transmission down, refilled and go on my way. Idea was that I could spray my chain every time it looked a bit claggy until I got to the tech zone in Newastleton. I lost some energy drink but me and my knees were happy it worked and we’d got use of the middle ring again.

Gels on the top tube. Just like a pro.

Heading over the moors to Newcastleton wasn’t the most fun experience I’ve encountered. I was on my own again, riding/crawling into a block headwind on some of the roughest trails known to man! Dalby’s got nothing on this place. Can’t quite work out how Kielder managed to make sections this rough when Newcastleton, a mere few miles away consists of a lovely flowing and most importantly smooth network of trails. I was just glad I knew this was where I was heading.

After climbing another relentless hill I approached the Newcaslton food/tech stop with almost excitement. Much needed pit stop for both me and bike but alas only my bike left this stop satisfied. I had a nicely lubed chain but my guts were not happy! This knocked my motivation for the next few miles until a rider went by and wanting to get to the end as soon as possible I did what ever racer should and reacted.

The next 20miles followed a continuous theme. On almost exclusively lonely (boring?), fairly quick fireroad I’d gap him, settle in, he’d then appear, go past and gap me and so on until about mile 90. Noticed he was a bit slower on a small section of single track while on his wheel. ‘Only 10mile to go, right, next singletrack section, I’m having him’.

Kielder 100 Swag

I followed this plan, got in front, got a gap but hell, my body was hurting. Ticked down the miles, only a few to go, keep pushing, almost there, he won’t catch you OoO what’s that? Another rider up ahead looking like his legs are about to fall off. ‘Shut up legs’ I thought as I’d tried to carry momentum past him but it seemed to work. Got into the last bit of singletrack to a marshals announcement ‘all downhill from here!’ (lies). Crossed the line. Finished.

9Hrs 11min 14seconds. 22nd overall. Pretty pleased with that I guess.

MTB season; done.

Right, time to start saving for a new bike.

*From start to finish I needed to evacuate my bowels, badly. I’m used to stomach issues but over 9hrs of holding it in almost broke me! Nice, ey? ;-)

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