Monday, 27 September 2010

I done a race

Or more correctly, I competed in a race last Sunday.

On a bit of a whim, Darren and I entered the XTM Enduro, a four hour mountain bike race organised as part of an off-road tri/du/mono-athlon weekend. Clearly as I'm not tri or du, I was only interested in the mono side of things - the mountain biking bit.

The main attractions of this race were twofold - it was pretty close (about 40 minutes drive away) and there was a free gold water bottle for all finishers. I'll do a lot for a free gold water bottle. The course was slightly odd, only being 5.5km. Almost like an off-road velodrome. I was concerned about getting dizzy.

The race itself was not unpleasant. The course was moderately interesting with a couple of fun descents and sharp climbs each lap, plus a mix of noodley singletrack and fireroad. It was mildly confusing though as the shortness of the lap kept surprising me - "What, that bit agin? Already?" - was my mantra. I started fairly fast, but not so fast that I'd suffer later. Darren started very fast and I made it my goal not to be lapped by him. I was lapping at about 17-18 minutes, so he'd have to make that up over four hours to catch me.

Round and round... I was overtaking far more than I was being overtaken, and I felt as well as could be expected. Towards the end my legs were teetering on the edge of cramp but they stayed on the edge without leaping over. About 8 minutes before the four hours were up I had a little chat with the guy behind me.

Me: "If we get in before the four hour mark, can we do another lap?" (this is fairly standard for most races)
Him: "No, only laps completed before the four hours count"
Me: (and I quote) "Thank fuck for that"

I crossed the line, had a slightly more interested chat with the other rider, then hunted out Darren, who somehow hadn't managed to lap me.

Darren was broken. Threatening to vomit. Shivering. Not making much sense, even less than usual. Not completely broken, he could still walk to the car to put on more clothes before having a little lie down across the back seats. Apparently he'd slowed down at the two hour mark, and then really slowed down for the last couple of laps. If he ever learns to pace himself properly he'll good at this bike racing business.

We collected our free water bottles.

They weren't real gold.


It's that time again...

Allez is back on the turbo trainer.

Sent from my HTC

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bike Seasons

As I dug the singlespeed out of the pit I buried it in last March, I started thinking about how my bike usage tends to vary throughout the year. Clearly, as it had been encrusted in sweet, sweet clay for the past six months, I don't ride the singlespeed much in the summer. And I kind of know that the Orca only has a few rides left until being sealed in the time-locked badger guarded vault, before emerging like a playful bear cub in the spring. The others tend to be used depending on the time of year too.
  • The commuter (or as I shall call it, the exception). Used all year. It's nice to blow a theory in the first bullet point.
  • The singlespeed. Off-road, mainly October to March. Big mud tyres, neoprene mudguard, one gear. Does not require cleaning.
  • The hardtail. In the depths of winter, when the weather is really, really crappy, this is set up as the ultimate winter road bike. 1.5" road tyres, disc brakes, carbon rigid fork. Lights that stop traffic. In the spring, this has been the training camp bike, with summer tyres and a bit of bounce up front. For the rest of the year it doesn't get used much - apart from the occasional summer blast.
  • The full-sus. Spring to Autumn, long off-road rides. Most of my races are long, so this is the race bike too.
  • The Allez. Slightly less ultimate winter road bike. Road racer crud guards, a slight pattern on the tyres. Lights that hesitate traffic. Also, the turbo bike, for those days when it's horrible outside or I want to watch a bit of Buffy.
  • The Orca. Dry, summer use only. If there's a puddle on the road I'll pull to the side and wait for the sun to dry it up.
  • The track bike. Given I've only used this a couple of times, I'm not sure yet. Probably winter indoor training.
I know what you're thinking.

I need a Christmas bike.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

I am being stalked by the press

Do you remember this?

Cycling Weekly Cotswold Spring Classic

I thought it was a random picture, a happy coincidence, that out of the hundreds of pictures they could have used, they used one containing Jon and I.


They are following me. It's the only explaination for this.

Their coverage of the Magnificat, an event with about 1500 people, includes another picture. Another picture where I'm mysteriously in the background, slightly blurred.

If you doubt me, here it is a bit bigger.


I'm struggling to understand why they are doing this, but I hope that they continue.

All this in the same week when the Bridgwater Mercury finally found space to print the story on our LEJOG. They have a lot of news down there, so we're just glad we made it into such an esteemed publication.

Can you spot the three mistakes? I'll reveal the results later...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Planning is overrated

A few weeks ago I outlined my plans for August and September. From what I remember, these were
  • Go to Afan with Jon and ride all the waymarked trails in a day
  • Ride the off-road coast to coast with Darren
  • Do a 12 hour solo at the Gorrick 12:12 Torq in Your Sleep
  • Ride the South Downs Way in a day, again with Darren
These have turned into
  • Fours hours of local biking, as Jon was ill
  • Tick (minus 30km in the middle. And lots was walking rather than riding)
  • Rode as part of the Torq Development four man team at the Gorrick 12:12 Torq in Your Sleep
  • 100km road ride
The last two probably need a little explaining. I was all set up to ride the 12 hour race - to the point of signing in and collecting my race numbers - when I was grabbed by one of the Torq riders to fill in a last minute gap. I didn't really have any expectations about the 12 hour solo (I only entered solo as I couldn't get a team together) so I accepted. There are a couple of differences between riding solo and riding with a team of fast people.
  • Solo: Ride slowly for 12 hours.
  • Team: Ride as fast as you can for 45 minutes, rest for two and a bit hours. Repeat four times. This hurts, especially when you haven't riden like this for about 18 months.
  • Solo: Be self suficient. Have 10 litres of energy drink made up, an organised box of food, a bike that is comfortable for 12 hours and plenty of tools and spares.
  • Team: Hang out at the team truck, under their gazebo, with all-you-can-eat energy bars, gels, drink and recovery. Watch the really good riders warming up on rollers and the mechanic fix all the bikes
  • Solo: Let almost everyone overtake. Only overtake other soloists. Be very keen on pulling over to let others past.
  • Team: Rarely get passed. Be accused of riding faster uphill than people ride downhill (hard to believe, but true). Be very very polite in asking people to make space where convenient.
  • Solo: Carry on through fatigue and finish sometime after midnight
  • Team: Finish your last lap at 1030, and be munching on a sausage, fried onion and brown sauce bap by 1045.
I could get used to it.

The South Downs Way ride has been postponed due to Darren's dodgy knee. If anyone has a spare (preferably right, but I'm sure we could make a left one fit) let me know.

So, various unexpected things have happened. One extremely positive one is that I've ended up with a new track bike - one that fits better, is a kilo lighter and has gold bits on it. All for not very much more money, thanks to Darren and Banjo Cycles. It's clearly way better than I am, and came with several warning stickers, two of which are now on my toolbox.

It also has a ma-hoosive chain, clearly needed to cope with the 35 watts of power I'll be putting through it.

Finally, in all its glory:

Overall, it's been an interesting month. I'm not planning anything for September. Let's see wht happens.

Friday, 3 September 2010