Cross

I’ve taken part in the local cross series since I knew there was such a thing, about Junior age, so 7/8years ago and I have never owned a proper fully fledged cross bike, always an MTB with diddy tires. Until now.

Playing in the park

The aluminium frame with carbon stays on my road bike had been getting more creaky at the rear end of late and it was pretty old so knew immanent retirement was due and with the plan of racing cross over the winter months to keep me ticking over at a time of year were I usually struggle and get fat, it was time to build up a proper cross bike!

Managed to get a bit of a bargain on fleebay. Graham Weigh frame, Kinesis fork, avid brakes, wheels, few other odds and ends for under £150posted. Bargain. Transferred the rest from my road bike and I was good to go.

Lightest I’ve been for half a decade but that’s still a big arse!
(Taken from NECCL gallery)

Did a quick ride around a local park that I haven’t ridden in years, almost killed myself on a bollard that never used to be there but aside from that it was good, like the feeling of the bike, like a relaxed road bike in feel, doesn’t feel as ‘nippy’ with slicks on but I don’t road race so I can live with that.

With that first ride out of the way only one thing left to do. Race it. Entered a local summer evening race and it was a blast. Bike felt good. I felt good. Everyone was a winner.

I am enjoying it, honest.
(Taken from NECCL gallery)

Very happy with it. Bring on the winter!

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Strength in Singlespeeding

I briefly tried singlespeeding when at Uni a few years back when in hilly Bradford, was great fun. Managing to get up some steep, techy climbs and then have to do 200rpm to keep any sort of torque in the chain on easy descents. My back didn’t like it though.

But with my back issues behind me (touch wood), me switching up my training and Kielder100 on the near horizon thought it was about time to give it another go. I read in numerous places SSing is good for strength, which I will quite easily go along with. Some cases going down to 40rpm it’s almost a weight resistance session rather than a ride! As someone who usually likes to spin his gears and stay seated (blatantly a Wiggo in the making), SSing is pretty much the opposite to what I’m used to so in theory should make good training. I guess.

I didn’t go the whole hog though, part ‘only want it for training purposes’, part (mainly) ‘I’m too lazy’ that I didn’t actually alter my geared 29er. I just played with the limiting screws 🙂

This chucked up a bit of a dilemma. A normal ratio for a 29er SS is 32:18. My cassette didn’t have a 18 sprocket. Was either going to be a 17t or a 20t. Hmm. ‘for training purposes’. 17t chosen.

So rolling out the car park at hilly Hamsterley with plenty of torque in my chain on the flat forest road, a little bit of doubt entered my mind. Might have slightly over geared my bike for this ride…

But 2hours later, every climb was climbed on the bike, many times having almost pure disbelief when cresting the summit that I’d made it up, albeit at silly slow pace on some occasions. All good though, really enjoyable when realise that usually, on some of the climbs you’re in almost the easiest granny gear you’ve got. Awesome.

Mega sore today mind, which I’ll take as a positive. Nuts to the gym, singlespeeding is the only session you need to make you strong!

Or to destroy your knees.

 

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If you wake up with a ‘crick’ in your neck don’t ride your bike!

As I did.

Woke up yesterday and turning my head left was damn uncomfortable. Great. Looks like a lovely crick in the neck for me!

No worries though, bit of an inconvenience but nothing more, or so I thought.

Went out for my ride, wasn’t too bad, didn’t really notice it to be honest but on getting back and off my bike, bloody hell, never experienced pain like it and I’ve been in a car crash, been ran over, crashed into trees, etc, etc. This was something else!

It was like extreme cramp at the base of my skull, but it didn’t appear to be triggered by a certain movement as most cramps are and further more as I didn’t know what movement triggered it I couldn’t move in the opposite way to alleviate it, although I tried usually making it worse. I just have to freeze and wait for it to pass. I think I was on the verge of blacking out on a few occasions! New for me and truly horrid.

I thought sleeping was going to be interesting but once flat on my back and the cramp that movement induced had passed it wasn’t too bad. Don’t feel too bad today, back to a ‘crick’ but one that feels on the cusp of one of those horrid cramps.

No training for me today then. Bum.

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56mins of pain (mainly from kneeing trees)

As briefly mentioned in my previous post my next race aim is Keilder100 in mid September. I gave it ago last year but I wasn’t really in good enough shape to do it justice. Hoping that this year will be different.

Since Mountain Mayhem I’ve recovered pretty well and have started my build up towards K100. Over the last few years its became apparent to me that although I’ve always had the endurance I don’t really have the power to use it to good affect. As such I’ve altered my training, I say altered, what I mean is that I am actually training. Long rides work but not as well as structure and that’s what I’m moving towards. Essentially volumes downs and specific high intensity workouts are up.

One of my sessions is a threshold session were you essentially go as far as possible in 40-50min. Well, I could go out and kick my head in on my todd for this session or I could take advantage of a new series that is damn local to me, the North East XC Mountain Bike League . The choice was pretty simply really 🙂

I took part in the 2nd round, 3 weeks after Mayhem. My legs didn’t want to work, neither did my guts and I struggled on what was a surprisingly technical course. This time though for the 4th round I was feeling a lot better, I have been training pretty well and although tired I was looking forward to a nice race to kick off my weekend.

I rolled up to the course just outside Ferryhill in Co. Durham and was really quite amazed at the course they’d put together, it was great. Lots of dead stops, off-camber, u-turns, fast sections, plenty of singletrack and it was dry! We lined up with a relatively small field but a number of big hitters were still there and I set off pretty conservatively, just trying to find my rhythm.

I worked my way past a few people who were struggling with the dead-stop turns. I was trying to make them as round as possible until I knelt too much on a left hander and proper smacked my knee of a tree, oh pain! Luckily it was short lived as a right hander soon after lead to me smacking my right knee too. Bugger me! I was pretty worried that I may have totally screwed them up, but a bit of MTFU and pushed on. I eventually found myself on a wheel of a young’un*.

I sat on his wheel for a few laps. He was strong on the climbs but I could stay with him elsewhere. After a few laps I went to the front and tried to push on (read; got in front to try and slow him a bit) but on the last drag of the lap he got past me again and made a bit of a gap and my legs were screaming so couldn’t react. I slowly realed him in over the next two laps, dying but managed to get within a few bike lengths off him going into the final 6min lap.

We stayed together for most the lap until the final drag were he was pushing, I could just about stay within 5length of him and knew that the grass field to the finish I could take him! Well, aside from the right hand turn onto said field that saw me have a slide out and fight with some course tape. Balls.

Ah well. Finshed 4th in 56min in the end, which I was pleased with, is nice having had a right ol’ battle and getting some good training out of it also is always a plus. Felt so much better than the previous round too and my banged up knees didn’t feel bad either. Bonus!

Looking forward to the next one I can make, which is at Hamsterley forest, which should be great and give me a good gauge of how I am going into K100 a week later!

*I thought he was like 17/18, turns out he was 14! Pesky (fast) kids.

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On the cusp

1.3% doesn’t sound like a lot, to quantify would seem marginal to some but a difference it is. If I was 1.3% quicker one Thursday I would have broke the 5hr Century barrier I was aiming for but alas, I covered the 100miles in 5hr 3m and 47s. I was a bit gutted being on the cusp achieving the goal I set out with but at the same time I was pretty close now, wasn’t I? But no, being on the cusp of something and not achieving it is lame. Being on the cusp is part of everyday life. A fine line between failing and achieving.

Riding is a big part of my life and will be as long as I can pedal but other areas are gathering momentum and it’s in these areas were I feel truly on the cusp. Teetering back and forth having mixture of doubts followed by a wave of determination. I’ll be damned if I teeter towards the side of failure. Lets have it!

But anyway, this is a riding blog so let me bring it back! I won’t be trying break that 5hr Century barrier any time soon (especially with me imminently moving back to hilly West Yorkshire) and the next century I’ll be riding will probably take almost twice the time but regardless of that fact I’m looking forward to the Kielder100, and this year I will finish (hopefully get a top20 too).

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Mountain Mayhem additionals

In addition to my race report a lot of other stuff and stories have been rattling around in my head in regards to the event so thought I’d share.

At some point during the night I started hallucinating. I saw monkeys jumping, trees waving and more bizarre still, car mats draped over fences.

The only time I fell off was on the last lap. The course was very porridge like by that point and on one corner the mud failed to release my front wheel. I fall over onto soft mud. Distinctly remember sitting there thinking ‘damn, this is comfortable’ before the moisture started seeping through my shorts and another rider crashes into me.

I had next to no protein for the entire event.

I had one bottle per lap, fine if they were sub 1.5hrs. They weren’t. I was 4kg lighter than I should have been the next day.

I borrowed Robs bike, happy to see it having a rear mudguard as I took it as I don’t like having a wet arse. Half way round I start getting a wet arse. Realised the mudguard had broke off somewhere. On returning to the pits;
‘Rob, I’ve lost your rear mudguard. Sorry buddy’
‘No worries mate. It was yours’
‘aww’ 😦

Having just reapplied chamois cream, I put tub on floor without the top, rubbed gloves, mud goes straight into the tub. Idiot.

After the finish I laid on my back, tried to pick the mud out from around my eyes, gravity made sure it went straight back in.

I had zero back pain for the whole event. I thought my ankle was going to fall off though.

During the night in the heavy rain I put on an additional pair of bib shorts. I put the bib straps over my jersey and then a jacket on top of that. During the morning I took the jacket off but didn’t rearrange the additional bib straps. Didn’t realise until a fellow rider said ‘Are you a wrestler?’

I felt pretty chipper throughout – Not sure if that came across to my pit crew though.

No real mechanicals aside my spare bike being on cusp of ripping off its rear mech.

On my main bike I went through less than half a set of brake pads. Cooking them was worth it, it would seem.

In the morning of the Sunday there was a girl handing out Pringles to riders just before the u-turn ahead of the scaffolding bridge. I missed and dropped it, much to the demise of the surrounding crowd. Going around the u-turn and I see the girl running over to hand me another one just before the bridge. Her mum shouts ‘that’s too close to the bridge!’. Hmm, maybe but challenge accepted! I take the Pringle half a meter before the steep ramp up the bridge, realise I’m in a big gear but grind that sucker out, a rider then stalls infront of me but I make it around and over, just! Cheers all round! Sadly the Pringle didn’t make it.

My brothers wife said that he looked more knackered than I did.

I’m still buzzing from the whole weekend.

🙂

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Mountain Mayhem report

I sit there, in my old Peugeot, in a field surrounded by a rapidly dismantling race area. A tub of chamois cream that’s be illusive for the past day or so lies on the dashboard. It’s in sight but I’m not registering it. I’m too busy feeling dejected, ill and disappointed. My team say I’ve done well but I know I haven’t. I had amazing form for much of the season but today I felt empty from the start and 4hrs onwards was just misery. That’s it. That’s me done with 24hrs races, this is not for me this game, I quit. – My exact thoughts following Mountain Mayhem, 2006.

Fast forward 6 years and deja vu sets in. I’m at Mountain Mayhem, 4hrs in, feeling empty, still 20hrs to go, only this time it’s muddy, wet and generally horrific with the promise that it wont get any better. Still 20hrs to go, 20hrs. Is 2006 playing on my mind? Am I cursed at Mayhem? Is history about to repeat itself?

No! No it bloody well isn’t!

The run was terrible. Running is in general; terrible but I defiantly didn’t do myself any favours at the start of this race but at least the ground was soft and I didn’t roll an ankle. Finding the positives already it would seem…20minutes in to the event.

Bit Muddy. Photo by Rob Lee.

The prospect of rain doesn’t fill me with glee but I am also aware the worse the conditions are usually the better I do and with the form I should have I should on for a good ride. The form I should have…

Several hours into the event, no idea were I am, just aware I’m covered in mud and the fact I’m already walking sections doesn’t feel right. I look at my HR monitor, at least 20 beats lower than I’d have anticipated. I then start seeing other solo riders on course, the bits of course that are going to take me at least 40min to get to. Bollocks! Something isn’t right here. I start to get a bit down but plod on. 4Hrs in and I’m feeling empty. Is it 2006 all over again, just wetter? Soft git. I have a word.

I raced over that for 24hrs. Photo by Rob Lee

‘You’re here because you want to be. You knew what to expect. You can see the conditions. It’s a war of attrition. Start having a bit of crack with people. Smile. Enjoy it. Stop think about going fast and just think about going forward.’

And just like that I perked up. I wasn’t going any faster but I didn’t feel like crap and I was enjoying it. I didn’t think I was anywhere worth while in the field position wise but didn’t care. I was doing this because this is what I wanted to do! I crossed the start/finish line on that lap just at the point when the commentator was reading out the top10 solo. I was positive I was somewhere in the top20 but not threatening the top10, I listened intently, interested if nothing else.

‘1st…2nd…3rd…4th…5th…6th…7th Nathan Judge’…

Hahahahaha WTF?! No way?! Awesome! I’m roll around to my pit with a massive grin on my face, they almost look surprised to see me looking so cheerful, ‘7th!, ha!’.

From then on it was just a chase of plodding on. Bit of banter on course, in the pits, with myself. I was happy as a pig in proverbial, which I could relate too given the state of the course. It was constantly changing mind, which kept it interesting. There was a period in the night when it well a truly threw it down for quite a long period. It looked awful, I bet it sounded awful in tents too, on the bike though, it was great. I was warm so didn’t mind plus it turned the course from porridge into soup and so easy to cut through, which meant most of it was the most ridable it had been all day!

Dawn rose and I had progressed into 5th! Just had to keep tapping them out. I couldn’t believe how slow I was going and yet was still actually racing and racing for a good position, the position I wanted. Was hard to get my head around but as I say, I just plodded on.

By late morning I was still 5th , feeling tired and sore but solid. Nothing was going to stop me, well aside form the drying course where in sections it would clog you bike within seconds! Part and parcel of the beast I suppose.

I went out for my last lap, ready to finish but happy to do one last lap. I crossed the line in 5th positon. 5Th! 5th at Mountain Mayhem, I could feel my eyes welling up. Goal achieved. Job done. Time for sit down.

The End. Photo by Rob Lee

Happy.

Big thank you to my pit crew, my Dad, Fred, my brother, Matt and my good mate, Rob Lee. It gets said quite a lot but it’s so true; A solo rider is nothing without his pit crew. I’m the only one riding but it is a team sport, especially in the biblical conditions seen at Mayhem this year. Thank you, your support means everything to me! Also like to thank Exposure for lending of some great lights and to Weldite for powerwasher support. Cheers ya’ll.

Now, what race to do next?

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So, Mayhem…

Many months ago Mountain Mayhem was a dot on the horizon, lots of time to train, get fit, get light etc. Was feeling pretty good about the whole situation.

In a lapse of judgement I posted the below blog;

Nailing my colours to the mast

Hehe 🙂

Full report to follow.

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Contenders Ready!

No, I’m not John Anderson announcing the inevitable battle between participants and Gladiators to an audience in a distinctive Scottish tone. No, I’m a humble mountain biker who is about to go up against some of the best 24hr soloers in the country in the simply legendary annual event that is; Mountain Mayhem.

What I’ve done is gone through the mens start list and picked out those who I’m familiar with(/afraid of) and others who upon a little bit of research looks like they may be in the mix this weekend for top Solo honours.

If there’s a name missing below and you reckon they’ll be up there I’ve probably just missed them but regardless, hopefully they’ll see it as an opportunity to prove me wrong!

So, here we go;

James Braid (Wiggle.co.uk)
Aware of two good wins this year for this up and coming rider, the first being Enduro6 (open) and the later being Britsol Bike Fest 12hour just the other week, a perfect tune up for Mountain Mayhem? We’ll see.

Nic Gharbaoui (COCO RACING)
I read but very rarely remember names of the people who’ve placed well at endurance races but I remember Mr Gharbaoui. As well as his memorable name courtesy of his Irish Moroccan heritage he is a seasoned endurance racer with very reputable results at events such as Twentyfour12 and the European 24. His name will be up there again, I’m sure.

Richard Holmes (Cyclescene)
Another rider I’m not too familiar with but winner of Twentyfour12 in 2011 (and podium the year before) speaks volumes about the level of this rider.

Nathan Judge (Naffriding.com)
Me! 3
rd place last year at Sleepless in the Saddle and been building my fitness slowly this year, backed by a very (very) experienced pit crew I reckon I’m on for a good ride.

Jason Miles (Team JMC/On One/ Clif)
Winner of Relentless 2011, Two time podium finisher at Mountain Mayhem and just last month, 2
nd to possibly to best ever 24hr solo racer at the Worlds in Italy. This guy knows how to push it and I’m sure he will once again at Mountain Mayhem.

Luke Morris (Salsa Cycles/Halo/Ison Dist)
A very familiar name when talking 24solos. He was taking part in 24hr solos when I did my first one way back when and he continues to put in the solid performances. Multiple Mountain Mayhem finisher and multiple Puffer24 podium placer means he’s a hard nut.

David Powell (Team JMC/On One/ Clif)
Give this man many hills and he will stomp all over them from dawn to dusk and then go and win an endurance race the following day just for good measure. Just about anyway! Made the podium in the vast majority of 24hr solos over the last few years (including twice 2
nd at Mountain Mayhem) but most recent achievement is the European 12hr title. This guy’s good.

Mark Spratt (Cardiff JIF/One Industries)
Speed and endurance built up over the years gave Mark an European title in his first ever 24hr solo, which h
e then went on to retain this year, yeah, Marks quick and will defiantly be up there.

Dan Treby (Brotherton cycles)
Another
seasoned soloist but this guy does them on a single speed, which he used to get onto the European podium in 2011. Think he uses gears these days mind, which sucks for the rest of us.

Ant White (Cannondale MT ZOOM racing)
Do I really have to say
anything? 4 times Mountain Mayhem winner. Nuff said.

That’s who I reckon will be up there, no doubt one or two may blow up, crash and burn, go the way of the dodo in the same way that I bet  one or two unknowns (to me at least) will be up there too but in my opinion, come noonish on Sunday 24th the top3 will be as follows;

Top3
1
st Ant White
2
nd David Powell
3
rd Mark Spratt

As for me, top5 was the aim prior to rider analysis, hmm, top10 will still be an achievement but I’ll still stick to my guns!

So,
“Contender ready!?”
“Yeah, why not, I’ll give it a crack”

🙂

Suppose I better go and build my bikes…

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Sunrise. Sunset. Sunrise. Sunset.

BOOM and its June. Time flies, ey?

Along with June comes Montain Mayhem and my big aim for the year. Phrasing it like that make its sound as though it’s all eggs in once basket sort of thing but that gives me mixed emotions. Yes, I want to do well but desiring that too much might take the fun out of it and I ain’t good enough (yet) to take it too seriously. Bit of a balancing act to be had I reckon but if I ride it as I plan to I should enjoy the challenge of the task rather than the battle with the competition. Have previously stated that I wanted a top5, that’s still the aim and think is achievable if I ride consistently and to a level I know I should be capable of.

Training’s been going pretty well. Vast majority of my training is at the weekend using the week to recover. Done a number of fair sized weekends. Took part in the Selkirk Marathon. That was a great day out. Big terrain, decent weather, some annoying hike-a-bike section but I didn’t expect anything less! Felt solid if unspectacular. Spent the following day bashing Inners trail centre, a lap with Exposure supremo Josh Ibbett (see the vid here!; http://josh-ibbett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/road-trip-day-2-innerleithen.html ) and then a few more laps just to get my days worth.

Had another solid weekend of a few laps of Dalby and then a solid road ride, event if it did involve numerous punctures, a dud tube and an all-or-nothing tube repair, that just about held!

Weekend just gone was going to be huge! Got wind of a 7hr race around Glentress last year but was taking part in 12hr at Gisburn so told myself I’d do it this year and so glad I did. 7hrs around one of my favourite trail centres, what’s not to like? It was on the Saturday, which was perfect. Race Saturday, train sun, mon and tue. Cheers Queeny!

Race went well, started pretty much at the back, which meant red lining it at the start so not to get caught up after the ‘neutral’ start. I saw it as an aggressive warm up. Aside from almost loosing my saddle bag, twice on the first lap it was great. Essentially one big up and then one big down. Involved bits of the trail centre, some in reverse and some natural sections, which we pretty damn technical. In the wet, like last year I can’t imagine how hard it would have been.

I tapped out the laps in my consistent manner, feeling okay, not great but not bad either. Getting lapped by Greig Brown within 5hrs kind of sucked but I’ll live with it 😉 . Had my usual last lap surge, caught a few people and finished 11th overall. Great day and good training.

I was pretty rinsed but looking forward to the next 3 days of training but, alas they weren’t to be. Managed 4hrs around Glentress on Sunday but had caught some sort of bug that really wiped me out so haven’t done any training since. I think I’m just about over it now, just in time for one last solid weekend of battering my body into shape before tapering towards the big day! Can’t wait.

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