Monday 31 August 2009

Job Done

At the start of 2008 I decided that I wanted to do a 12 hour mountain bike race, solo (i.e. ride for 12 hours without stopping). I tried twice and lasted 9.5 hours the first time, 8.5 hours the second. My third attempt just didn't happen as I missed the race, which led up to yesterday.

Yesterday was the Torq 12:12, a fairly small, quite local 12 hour event. I did it last year (the 8.5 hour attempt) so I thought I'd have another try. The conditions this year were much better, as it all got a bit gloopy last time, but my fitness was a unknown quantity. Training up to mid-June went well, but very little since then - in essence, I trained hard for a fortnight, then took a week to rest and eat.

The course was dry and dusty, mixed with constant drizzle. I have no idea how that could be the case, but it was. Imagine a cloud of black, peaty dust for 8 miles, and a damp sweaty body. Repeat for each lap. Now imagine an 18th century chimney sweep, wearing a bike helmet. The two images should be the same. Now imagine the hilarity of finding the showers weren't working.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Chronology is important, it stops everything happening at once.

So, race starts. As usual, I go off slightly too fast. The cramp fairy starts to tickle my right hamstring after about two and a half hours. I slow down. I drink Torq juice, eat Torq bars. I feel sleepy. I have a Torq caffeine gel.


Now, the ingredients mention guarana (a natural source of caffeine), but they must have left off all the other substances that must have been in there, in order to turn me from a cramping riding zombie into Bruce Lee on a bike. I swooped. I saw things before they happened. I was at one with the forest.

Off course, it wore off after a couple of hours. But what a couple of hours.

I rode, I rode more, I didn't fall off. I got dark. I had another gel. Then... after ten and a half hours... pssssssttttt. PPPPSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTT!

Flat. Tyre. Flat tubeless tyre with sealant in. Sealant not working. Try can of sealing foam. Pump up tyre. Pssssssttttt. Big cut in the tyre.


People kept coming past me, asking if I needed any help. Sadly, none of them were willing to give me their back wheel. You see, the thing with tubeless (or at least the version I have) is that it's a bit of a faff to fit a tube as you have to take the tubeless valve out. In the dark. With failed sealant foam everywhere. I started to run with the bike as it was only a mile to the finish of the lap and our pit area.

So, it's 10:30pm, I've been riding for 10:30, and I reckon I've only got one lap left in my legs. The plan was to have 15 minutes rest then go out for the final lap at about 11pm, finishing just on midnight. I didn't factor a run/walk into the plan, and quite frankly, when I get back to the pit it's going to take something special to get me out again.

At this point, I should mention Darren. His main reason for attending (as well as racing pairs) was to make sure I didn't quit. Still, when I rock up with a broken bike, what's he gonna do?

At that point, he rides up behind me. And points out that he has a spare wheel that he can set up and I can use for another lap. And then he rides off.


I arrive at our pit to find him finishing the transfer of a disc rotor that fits my bike onto his wheel.


I really, really have to go our again now, don't I?

So I go, and I ride very carefully and very slowly for the last lap, walking a couple of potential death traps. And at 12:05, after probably 11 hours 50 minutes of total ride time, I finish my first 12 hour solo.

And that is why you should always have a Darren in your pits.

Going to sleep some more now....

Post ride

7 hours after the 12 hours, and i'm starting to feel hungry. BLT and coffee. Nom nom nom. I'll explain the 12 hours later!

Saturday 29 August 2009

My first tomato!

Home grown, that is. I've eaten tomatoes before.

Monday 24 August 2009

Cheese Fest 2009

As I'm on a rest week I thought I'd review the "80's Rewind Festival". In theory, a celebration of 80's music, but from where I was sitting, a celebration of badly dressed drunken slappers wearing day-glo t-shirts that might have been baggy in 1985 ago but now barely cover twenty five years worth of accumulated chicken nugget grease.

Firstly, the stage.

Note the clearish sky, bright sunshine. Remember the tendency for British people to strip to the minimum and toast themselves to a crisp at the slightest hint of UVA? Recall the growing obesity crisis driven by lack of nutritional and culinary education, easy access to cheap calories and a national obsession for slumping in front of the TV instead of moving around a bit?

I'm sure you can put two and two together and get a king size chunkyburger meal with extra mayo wrapped in not very much at all. With cheese.

Anyway, enough of the visuals. The music.

First, Chas and Dave, cockney superstars. Without Dave. A good ol' knees up (or should that be knee up?).

The Blockheads with Phil Jupitus, who showed the crowd how to behave by keeping his clothing on, along with a jaunty hat. Well done that man, a fine example. They had more songs than I thought they did that I knew, if you get my drift. Three songs.

Then, um, The Christians. Not the religionists, the stage wasn't that big. In fact, I think there may have been some confusion as to the number of people that the stage could take, as once again there was only one Christian. He did bring along a couple of friends, and they could sing and play and were jolly in a kind of "I can't believe we're being paid for this!" way.

Was Nik Kershaw next? I must confess to having a bit of a soft spot for Nik, not just because I had a couple of his records (round black flat things, for the youth) but because of his excellent work with Chesney Hawkes, a vastly underated monohitist. Nik even treated us to his version of Chesney's song.

Midge Ure (pronounced Ma-jure) did a mix of his minor hits, Visage's Fade to Grey (which he claimed to have written) and Vienna. Ah, Vienna. It lost a bit in the transition from record to stage so was more of a Vienetta.

Howards Jones can be summarised in three words. Good but pompous. Mate, you were moderately successful a couple of decades ago, you are not Prince. You don't need an 11 piece band to play five songs.

(At this point I went to get food, so thankfully missed Carol "I used to be in T'Pau you know" Decker proving that even the the 80's they could fix poor singing in production)

Paul Young. Poor Paul Young. Can someone put him out of our misery? I felt sorry for him, used to have a good voice, must have destroyed it through overuse. I'm being kind.

Go West. I really enjoyed them, knew how to whack out a singalong chorus, can still whack out a singalong chorus. Paul, take note. Go West bloke can still sing. You used to be able to sing. The other one from Go West went on a charity trek to South America with Martin Fry from ABC and Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet a few years ago. It's like a Viz cartoon strip - 80s Pop Star Explorers.

On the subject of Martin Fry from ABC, he was up next. And... well.... brilliant. Great songs, fantastic performance, nice bloke. You could imagine schlepping up the Amazon with him. If you get a chance, go see. Appearing round a campfire at an Inca temple near you.

At this point I wanted to leave. Yes, I know Sister Sledge and Gloria Gaynor are icons of the bland 70s disco scene, but that's not a scene I've ever felt comfortable with. Yes, they were very slick, great singing and dancing, but I just don't get them. Apparently Sister Sledge are in the middle of making a reality show at the moment - they should have a word with Martin and Tony - that would be a great episode.

So, that was it. 80's cheesefest 09. I survived.

Wednesday 19 August 2009


Firstly, the good ache - legs from four rides this week, including a fast 50km to Wantage and back, with Jon. He was on his new Wilier (with 11 speed!), I was on the Orca, and it seems that my bike advantage has now been neutralised. Either that or my six week break from any kind of intense training has had a significant impact. Still, the my next race is a long slow one, so I'm not too worried. And I can always buy some Zipp 404s.

Secondly, the bad ache. Last week we had a work BBQ at a local common, and a couple of us took mountain bikes up there for a bit of a play - wheelies, bunny hops, manuals. I did my best ever manual - I managed to get the front so high.... that I toppled off the back and landed square on my arse. Cue hilarity from workmates and some deeply bruised buttocks. They're fine unless I roll back on them at a certain angle, and then it's very much a case of STOP DOING THAT!

Actually, maybe I can blame the lack of road bike speed on deep arse bruising.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Friday 14 August 2009

This week, next year

This week has gone fairly well - managed to drag myself out of bed early three times for pre-work rides, and did long rides home twice as well. Not bad, seven hours of riding. I've got Middlesex Rugby Sevens on Saturday, then going to see plastinated dead people (which really isn't my thing) on Sunday. I might be able to sneak in an early ride Sunday, but I have a feeling it won't happen.

So, next year. I've a few options to play with.
  • Torq training camp in Spain. I've done this twice now, and it's been very good for my fitness. More "lots of riding" than a holiday though
  • Lands End to John O'Groats. Some plans are coming together with a few friends, including a support crew who are offering to drive, do food, put up tents and be rolling pit bitches. This would be probably be nine days of riding, 110 miles or so a day.
  • Bhutan. A couple of people I know are interested in the Saddle Skedaddle Bhutan trip. I kinda like the idea, especially as I've not had a proper mountain biking holiday for a couple of years now. Expensive though, and would be a couple of weeks.
  • "Rome to Home". Some people at work are thinking about a bike long charity road ride, from Rome to, er, Home. Home being Newbury. I can imagine this being great fun, but again would be a couple of weeks.

So that's about six weeks of potential trips. Then there are races, other training rides, sportives.... oh, and work. And non-biking trips. Visiting Mum a bit more.

I think I need a clone.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Back to normality (sort of)

The past six weeks have been a bit difficult really, as you may have seen from my previous posts. I'm now trying to think a bit more about getting back into my usual routine - ride bike lots, get tired, ride more, do event, that kind of thing. I'm entered in the Gorrick/Torq 12:12 on August 30th as a soloist but I don't really expect much from that. All I'm trying to do is to get some decent zone 2 rides in over the next couple of weeks, with maybe a few intervals scattered in too.

After that - possibly the Kielder 100 (unlikely in all honesty), then a couple of weeks holiday, then suddenly it'll be October - where did the summer go? I'm in planning for next year already... hopefully a couple of really special things (although the one I really wanted to do has sold out already, I've just discovered. Bah).

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Seven Days

Seven days since I got up at 0615, went out on my bike for a pre-work ride, and received that phone call.

So, today I got up at 0615 and went out on my bike for a pre-work ride. It was a little emotional - wistful is probably the best word - but I'm glad I went. Another hour and a half of solid thinking time, which I doubled by riding the reverse of the route on the way home.

Tomorrow is the big party for my Dad (I'm not thinking in terms of the "F" word, or the "W" word). We've got flowers in the shape of a helicopter and a pint of lager, Frank Sinatra, the RAF March, and £500 behind the bar. I'm sure I'll be in bits for the first part of the day (the part where everyone will be quite tearful) but the second part should be much better. We'll see.

Saturday 1 August 2009

It's not about the ride

Some times, a bike ride is far more than just a bike ride.

Three days ago, my Dad died of a heart attack. He'd had a minor one about two weeks ago, followed by a stroke, and had been in hospital for about ten days. He was discharged last Tuesday as he seemed to be doing really well. Then Wednesday morning, about 6:15am, came the heart attack that killed him - pretty much there and then. He was unconcious immediately, the paramedics arrived within minutes, but despite working on him (both at home and in A&E) for over an hour, there was nothing they could do. He was probably dead before the paramedics arrived. At least he was at home, and went quickly and painlessly.

As you can imagine, things have been difficult. On Wednesday, I had just left the house for an early ride when Elaine called my mobile - my Mum having rung the house. I was back within minutes, and we were at the hospital before the ambulance. Then... stuff happened. Nothing I'm putting down here.

Wednesday was unreal, strange, shocking, confusing. Thursday was slightly better, as was yesterday. It still hasn't really sunk in though. Yesterday the family discussed arrangements, music, catering, flowers, guests. We also ate cake, drank beer, wine and brandy, and laughed a little (OK, a lot, especially when I introduced my Mum to LOL Cats).

This morning I went out on the road bike, in the rain, hurting myself for a couple of hours. On the bike I can focus, think, clear my head of the thoughts that go round and round. I wouldn't have been able to write this yesterday.

That's one of the key things I love about bike riding. I've used it in the past when my mind has been all over the place, when I've been too stressed to think, but can still take a singlespeed bike out to the woods and exist in the moment. It strips everything away that isn't "right here/right now", and afterwards it feels like your brain has been washed, 40C, with fabric softener. Most of the bad stains will be gone - some shadows will remain but that's all they are - shadows of something that's was there before but is now much less significant.

The next few days won't be easy, but they'll be easier.