All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Scottish Dry Tooling Trip

About a month ago a mate Rob, a very handy climber, suggested when we where coming back from a night on the chalk that I should enter the last round of the MCofS Dry Tooling series.  He made it sound pretty good fun and I had a look online and entered. Hmmm?

Anyway, being new to Dry Tooling and never entering a climbing comp I decided that some proper training would be wise and over the next month or so put in the effort.  During this period I did notice that I was improving, stamina, strength, technique and reading of routes and problems.

Rob had also managed to convince Shelle a friend of ours to enter the womens comp, Nik unfortunately didn't have enough leave for this trip.  So on 4ht of December, Shelle, Rob and I drove through the afternoon and most of the night to get to Kinlochleven where the Ice Factor stands for the last round of the series.

We pitched a tent for Shelle and Rob and I shared the van.

The next morning we registered and waited for the start and then got going.  The format was 17 problems/routes, with 3 ice routes as well in the Ice Factor ice box.  You take your score card and a climbing partner and do the problems and score each other honestly.  Cheating and qualifying for the finals would actually be embarrassing as you flail around in front of everyone, so most are pretty honest, whilst some have lapses.

Anyway, Rob flashed all bar 2 problems and one was due to checking the setting of the problem and finding that a particular hold had to be used in only one way, so he redid the problem.  He still qualified second, nice work.

I on the other hand dropped one complete problem, that's 10 points gone and then dropped 3 points each on another 3 problems  This meant that I just missed a qualifying climb off by 3 points.  Although that would have been against the chap that went on to win it.

During the finals, we witnessed some amazing climbing from the juniors, in particular the boys.  The women were stopped in there tracks by two killer powerful moves in their final and the subsequent super final.  This went down to the supposed highest point reached after it was said that it would be the fastest time to whatever point they reached, therefore if they all got to the same point the fastest woman to the point won.

In the vet men, there was a clear winner.

Oops, Veteran Mens Final

The men's final went to a super final as well, that would be timed, after Steve, Rob and Malcolm, all topped out (reached the top of the route).  Steve came out and went first in the super final and made it to the top, then Rob.  Rob put in a great display of percise climbing and flew through once section very fast, but missed getting to the top by a few moves in the alotted time.  Malcolm was out next and looking good and moving nicely, I looked away and heard the familiar sound of a fall, only to turn back and see Mal being lowered off.

Rob, styling in the mens final

That was the end of the comp and a great day.  Rob had done very well and sets himself up for hopefully a great season and some success at the comps.  Shelle loved it and wishes to return stronger and more competitive now she is use to the horrid plastic holds.  I personally couldn't be happier, I finished 6th in the Open Mens in my first comp.

The next question was, what to do in a wet mild Scotland in winter?  More Dry Tooling, stay tuned.

Gorrick Brass Monkey 29th Nov

It had been a bad prep week and an even worse morning with several things going wrong and needing sorting on the bike at short notice.  This distracted me from my normal pre race prep of eating and drinking lots to get me ready for the impending 4-5 hrs in the cold wet November weather.

A delayed start meant more shivering in the rain and circling to keep warm.

Finally we got started and the charge down the soft wet start/finish straight set the scene for the rest of the track. Wet, muddy and hard going. By the first hill I had already gone past a number of riders, by the next I went pass a few more and settled into a good rhythm the remainder of the first lap I felt good and pick up a few more places and seemed to be holding a good race pace.

Being mindfully aware of a bad prep week I keep drinking and trying to get more food on (this track made that hard to do). Heading out on to the second lap I still felt good and was keeping a consistent pace, even if other cyclist went pass me, I knew the sections I would catch them on and did so.  By the end of the second lap I had gained a few more places.  I swapped bottles and continued, what I should have done was grabbed some more food.

Heading out on to the 3rd lap, I dropped a few guys that had been lapping at the same speed as me, had a mild and fixable mechanical and kept pushing on.  But as I hit the sand section of the course my legs immediately felt sapped of all power and I started to feel a bit rough.  I immediately drunk and ate some more.

As I pushed on I felt worse and worse, I tried and succeeded in maintaining my place and pulled past a few more riders. I stuffed some more food in, but I was now starting to feel the cold and feel very wobbly.

After a very heavy section of mud that I had ridden through previously without issue, this time had me walking I realised that I was out of this.  I got back on the bike, cleared the single track and then stumbled of my bike and sat in the wet for a while shivering, eating and drinking.  I felt bloody terrible, I had to think hard where I was, I was seeing stars and really couldn't stand for a moment.

Many of the riders going past ask if I was alright and I said yes, knowing that I just had to get back to the event village and get warm, dry and eat more.  A young lass stopped for a while chatted to me and offered me some more food that I declined, and thanked her for the offer and stopping.  But with that I got back on the bike and finished the lap and my race 2hrs earlier than planned.

The weather had been terrible and my prep just as bad for this race.  But at least I knew what I had done wrong.  After getting warm and dry after I finished, I ate loads and drunk even more and this reinforced my thoughts as I started picking up but very very slowly.

The good thing to come out of it though was that my race pace was good and competitive, I just need to prepare better, which I know I can, eat more when racing which I normally do and train more to get stronger and faster.  Well I have 2 months for that and some very good mixed training in between.

Accept, learn, move on.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Whats going on end of November and start of December?

In essence more stupidity, is the correct answer.

Firstly this weekend 29th November, sees the first of a 3 round Winter Endurance MTB series from those great folks at Gorrick, they keep coming up with goods and I keep turning up.

So with some training under the belt this time and only 4hrs to survive, I should be more interested than what I presently am, but I am sure that will change and I will start to get excited and prepared mentally.  The body is still under done and the loss of a full race the other week has left me with less race pace than expected.

It will also be a good test for PhxMet products and see if they can keep me going at full tilt for 4hrs.  guess I should also check there are still places available.

Then in some blatant stupidity I agreed to join a very skilled climbing friend Rob in a Dry Tolling Comp in Scotland on the 5th December. (See here: ).  I think my position in the comp will be court jester but lets see what happens. This will be my first climbing comp and I am actually really looking forward to this.  I have even been training (on the chalk), so this is a good motivation sign for the winter antics.

If I am lucky I should do better than expected and I am sure I will have loads of fun.  The bonus is that the Scottish weather is looking cold and snowy so we might be able to steal a winter route or two while we are there. Fingers crossed.

Will report again after the race this weekend.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Race Report - Gorrick Autumn Classic 2

Well not much to report unfortunately.

Arrived, registered, did a bit of a warm up lap, then waited for the start.

Set off at 9:45 with the rest of the Super Masters, and was keeping with the main group quite comfortably.  Then I started to labour with speed and power, which seemed odd as I felt pretty good.  I pushed on but started to lose touch with the riders in front of me.  Then my knees started to ache a bit, this was very odd as my knees have been great on the bike for a while now.

I stop to check my saddle height, it had drop an inch.  I put it back up and then sat back on the saddle and clamp bolt snap off.  I had obviously over tensioned the bolt, but the seat post was likely to slip again.

So half a lap in and I was out.  I really need to get this seat post replaced and whats ironic is I had been try to do so but it seems very hard to find the right sized lay back seat post.

Dave Farmer was doing great last time I saw him he was out onto the last lap in 7th, not far off the wheel of the chap in front of him.  Hope you finished well Dave.

Gorrick, great track................what I saw of it.  :-(

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Gorrick Autumn Classic No:2

Tomorrow, 8th November, sees the last in this two part series of Cross Country races, I'll be lining up in the Super Masters again, but this time on the Cross Country bike and not the single speed.  This course should prove to be fast no holds barred racing.  The single speed would surely mean death in my current unfit state.

Due to work commitments and a lovely chest infection that I raced with last time, but mainly work, training has been down.  On the upside, I no longer have the chest infection, so I should be able to breathe.  Same rules apply, go as hard as necessary without empty the tank to start with, I'll save that for the last lap.

Weather look cool, but nice, wish me luck.

Update tomorrow night.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Autumn Classic No:1

Headed out to race in another Gorrick MTB race today, the Autumn Classic No:1, a short course sprint around Tunnel Hill.  I had elected to race in Super Masters, which meant an early start and the first bit of scrapping ice from the windscreen.

I arrived at Tunnel Hill and met Darren and we headed out for a quick practice and warm up lap (it was still brisk), after we had registered.  The course was a good mix of fire roads and single track, some nice technical sections and a couple of small but stinging hills.  Especially when you can breathe that well, my chest infection was going to make this that little bit harder, I thought the single speed would be more the problem.

Fueling the body and chatting to Darren, Dave from Cycleworks arrived and we chatted briefly before I set about warming up again.  Dave and I would see each other on the start line in a few minutes.  Then I would only see him after the race.  Darren was racing in another category starting a bit later.

The race started and was a mad dash as usual and I felt rubbish from the start, this did not bode well.  I pushed around the first lap having a few in my category pass and then a few in another category also go past.

I settled into a rhythm on the fire roads and enjoyed the single tracks, and tried to hold a descent pace for the way I felt. The second lap felt much like the first and I tried to hold my pace and enjoy the race.  But my chest felt heavy and I was coughing up lots of mucus.

The 3rd lap started to feel better, but I think this was due to a slightly slower pace and controlled riding and not getting sucked in to any games.  Just as everything was flowing, my chain popped off, it's a single speed that shouldn't happen.  I quickly sorted this and pressed on.

Coming into the 4th lap I was feeling better, mostly due to I knew this was it.  I chewed on another ShotBloc and tried to dig a bit deeper.  Coughed a couple of times which actually hurt this time. :-(  after my coughing episode this lap started to hurt.  What was frustrating was the legs feeling fine, but my lungs feeling rubbish, oh and the severe lack of race fitness.

On the few hills I dug deeper and powered past some of the riders in other categories, on a bit of single track a nice girl bailed off the track between some trees to let me pass. (Thank you, if by some strange chance you read this, I was on the red single speed in the Cycleworks top).

The last hill was bit more drawn out when I was tired on this lap, but I pushed up it hard and then did my best impression of coughing mucus filled mess to sprint the last few hundred metres to the finishline.

I finished 15th out of 18, not great, but actually better than I expected, considering my prep (none) and my chest.  There was one other in a category on a single speed that finished 6th I think, a great effort.

Gorrick once again, nice work.  Dave well done on you top ten!  Darren, glad you enjoyed the track in the end and I hope Karl did well in the afternoon races.

I have since seemed to have strained something in my abdominal region from all my post race coughing, nice!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Old News, News Update

After not climbing much rock in the conventional manner (I have been dry tooling lots, due to injury) for sometime. Nik, myself and a friend James headed off on a Uk road trip for a week, a few weeks back.

The plan was to do some climbing, some walking/scrambling (for Mountain Leader Quality Mountain Days) and for Nik to maybe get some rides done.  We headed first to Ogwen Valley - Wales, then Borrowdale, The Lakes and then finally to The Peak, Derbyshire.

The weather was its changeable self in Wales, but I did get to do something I have not done so much of there......climb.  On the first day we managed a handful of short multi-pitch routes on Little Tryfan.  The next day saw James and I head off for what was meant to be a 3hr walk in, ascent and return on a near by seldom frequented crag. This went very wrong, after giving up trying to find the start of the route in the undergrowth.  We opted for another.

We completely missed this one as well, but were rewarded with a fluttery and balancy slab with no gear for about 30ft, a heather terrace, a really nice traverse with a very interesting mantle shelf, a belay on a ledge made of heather, two love little over hangs once cleaned and an airy rock over into a mantle shelf, 30 meters of crawling through heather to a tree belay and then a walk off through yet more heather.  This may be a new route, will need to contact the climbers club.

The following day we did a very nice walk, although the winds were high and took in some ridges on the Carneddau and finished the walk in sunshine and that night drunk a 13 year old bottle of Rioja, that was amazing.

The next day we headed to The Lakes and took our time. The first day in The Lakes saw a lazy start and a short walk for Nik and I as I had hurt my knee during the walk on the descent.  James hit the Bowderstone and wasted himself.  During the walk Nik and I took in Castle Rock and the quarry at the top, a strange little spot.  We also found a Lakeland Slate Quarry called Dalt Quarry, with a good variety of short slate sport climbs.  We also found an undeveloped and not on the map slate quarry, that I shall be talking to the BMC about.  That night Nik and I wondered back to Dalt Quarry to send a couple of the routes and the slate was lovely.  The routes interesting even if short.

James joined us to have a looked at the quarry and shortly after we headed back to the camp and then to the pub.

The next day we headed to Wodens Face near Bowderstone Crag in Borrowdale.  We climbed some lovely Severe's and VS's on good rock in a great location, but we ran out of time before I could get on an E1 arete I had been eying up.  Next time, for sure it is a blunt exposed arete with an interesting looking finish, called Soxon.

That afternoon we headed off to The Peak District, it was time for some grit.  We arrived at the faithful Hardhurst Farm Campsite to bump into some friends.  We had a chat some dinner and then the obligatory pint of Farmers Blonde at The Travellers Rest Inn.

The next day James and I headed for Burbage North to get some time on the grit on a bunch of short routes.  Whilst Nik had planned to go for a ride, but her neck and a good book kept her in the warmth of the van.  James and I managed to rack up about 20 climbs each, by soloing a whole bunch up to and including VS 5b, we also added in on the lead an HVS 5b and E1 5b, before calling it a day.  This was James' first HVS and E1, nice one.

The next day we headed to High Neb on Stanage Edge, where Nik and I did a few of the nice routes.  Nik was seconding to get her head back in the game and so she didn't have to worried too much about her neck and being on the lead if it started hurting more than it has since the damn car accident back in January.  We chose some really nice routes that were more balancy than thuggy and just enjoyed the sunny days climbing.  Later in the day I got on a route called Jeepers Creepers and proved to myself how weak I am at the moment, taking 3 attempts to pull through the roof.  When I did so I found it still a struggle, I need to get stronger.

That night we headed to Glossop for Simon's pub crawl on wheels.  We had decided not to stay too late to we would not get too drunk and so we could climb the next day.  It was a great night out, however, Simon either likes walking in circles or his urban navigation is complete rubbish.

The next day was the final day of the road trip.  Froggat would be the crag of the day.  Nik went for a short ride, while James and I headed in to climb.  James had decided to get on Tody's Wall and had a fine lead.  Manchester Uni were at the crag as well, but they are a great bunch and we had a few laughs with them and encourage the freshers on.

I had chosen an E2 that looked like my type of climbing and slab arete combo with low gear, ground strike guaranteed.  :-(  After cheering on some freshers on a route sharing the first few meters and looking at the climb for a while I was hooked on the climb and really relaxed.  This bodes well I thought and off I went.  Arriving below the crux and placing a few runners, stepping down a bit I took a rest.

There were several moves at around the same tech grade making it a bit more sustained than expected. I worked out the sequence and then committed. The first few moves felt better than expected, the next one a bit thinner, the next hold a rounded crimp and very rounded edge of the arete, but I felt good.  Without warning my left foot popped, I stayed where I was, this was good news and in my head even with a couple of tricky moves left, this climb was over.  I made the next few moves carefully reached for a very rounded top, got my left foot high and moved to the top of the route.

I was very very happy with this, I bounced around on top of the crag.  A just reward for my patience, after racing to E1 several years ago when I started trad climbing, bad weather, bad timing and string of injuries has keep me off climbing on real rock for any period of time.  But the week had gone smoothly and my headed was very clear and calm on all routes and my stamina greatly improved.  I put a lot of this down to the dry tooling and chalk climbing, where you don't want to make a mistake and I have learnt to keep myself calm and focused.

All in all, the week had been nice and some rewards received.  Nik had even managed a few climbs and a ride without hurting too much, but still has a long way to go with her recovery, but at least now she knows she is on the mend.

A very happy climber, that can't wait to get back on the rock.

News Update: 17/10/2009

Gorrick Autumn Classic short course x-country tomorrow.

I haven't raced one of these for years now and I truly can't wait, even though my training has been rubbish thanks to a cold and work, for some reason I think racing on the single speed will be good fun and apparently the course is a fast one.  Hmmm, single speed really?

Anyway, looking forward to tomorrow the bike is prep with new faster gearing, will I have gone from a rear sprocket of 18 teeth to a more manly one of 16, brakes bled and working smoothly, front wheel trued, chain tensioned, bike thoroughly cleaned and lube, and ready to race.

Watch this space for an after race update.

Bring on the pain.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Endura Laser Jacket and MT500 shorts

Sometime ago I purchased a Endura Laser jacket from Cycleworks.  The jacket has been worn a few times and proved to be bit more breathable than expected, but not much and it is not why I bought the jacket.  I bought it to stay dry and warm.

The jacket in constructed from 50% polyester and 50% nylon, has easy to adjust wrist straps, easy to use baffle on the collar, large pocket on the back which it packs into when not in use.  Keeping in mind I chose this jacket to keep me warm and dry in woeful weather, so I will ignore the breathability.  I'll also ignore the fact that Endura have updated this jacket, although maybe at the detriment to the product.

The jacket is bright without being too loud and the reflective pipping, logo and dots on the arm apparently stand out quite well according to friends.

As I mentioned I have had the jacket for sometime and never used it in conditions that have truly tested it.  I have ridden in damp or light rain, but never an extended down pour.  However, the other week on the ride home from work this and my new MT500 shorts go their test: Drowned Rat Test, more below.

Endura Laser Jacket

Endura MT500 Spray Baggy shorts, information and picture borrowed from Endura and remains the property of Endura.

MT500 construction:

  • 4-way lightweight stretch Cordura® front
  • Waterproof 3-layer fully seam taped rear to prevent splash back
  • Integral jacquard stretch adjusters
  • Zipped thigh vents with sprung pullers
  • Rear stretch waterproof panel
  • Waterproof crotch panel in durable 3-layer Cordura®
  • Reflective thigh logos
  • Zipped front flap pockets
  • Hem adjusters
  • Clickfast™ compatible

 So these are touted as a spray short and have been tested as and are great, the leg adjustments are perfect, the leg vents well positioned, two decent front pockets if need and loads of waist adjustment.

The cordura and spandex (yes it says spandex on the label) mix is genius and works like a charm, these are super comfy to ride and do what they say on the tin.  Keep spray, puddles and light rain at bay.  So what about heavier rain? See below.

Drowned Rat Test:

Those in the south of England would know that last Wednesday was a little wet.  My normal ride home was in about 1/2 inch of constant water, even up most of the hills.  The climb up through Denbies Vinegars was a stream about an inch deep.  The rain was constant, it was one of those rides, you resign yourself to getting wet before you step out the door.

So I had set off from the office with this mind set and ploughed through the water happily, my merino X-Socks doing there job of keeping wet feet warm, the MT500's standing up to the heavy rain and wash back from the front wheel in an unexpected manner, the Laser repelling everything.

It was about the point I started up the first climb I noticed the shorts start to fail, but only on the thighs, this was expected to happen kilometers back.  The Laser was still keeping me dry and warm.

I pressed on, Exposure Max lighting the way over wet, sodden ground, slippery roots hidden by leaves around or through the puddles and mud.  My butt still felt dry and the Laser continued to work as the water steamed off the Exposure.

After an 1 1/2 hours of this in constant heavy rain and splashing through mud and puddles I arrived home.  With one very muddy bike and I was covered head to toe.  But I still felt warm and had a grin on my face.

I took off the Laser and the only dampness was my sweat, the Laser had finally been tested in the conditions I expect it was designed for and was a success.  The MT500 shorts had been pushed beyond their design specification and exceeded expectations, by cycling shorts underneath were drier than expected (still a bit wet, but they should have been soaked) and the water beaded off the water proof seat and crotch of the shorts.  I suspect that the cycling shorts had only got wet from water that had come in through the front of the shorts which are only splash/spray proof.

All round top marks to Endura on these products, an excellent purchase.  I just hope that haven't compromised the Laser jackets performance in these conditions in the Laser II.

Happy, is now a little wet, cycling.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Climbing Factory - Hog Mats

A little while back I went in search of a bouldering mat come mattress for the van.  After looking around at multiple mats and different sizes, it was decide that a Hog Mat made to measure was the way to go.

The Climbing Factory in Matlock was chosen and a mat measuring 210cm x 105cm x 10cm, folding in the centre was ordered in the same configuration as the one shown here:

So the mat was ordered and then dispatch once it was complete, I'll come back to the mat.  Dealing with the guys at The Climbing Factory after the initial communications mix up was excellent and relaxed and soon after being dispatched the mat arrived.

As you can imagine the mat is huge and can protect a small bouldering traverse without moving it, bonus.  So with such a big mat is it heavy? For its size no, the mat is a 3 ply foam sandwich.  A closed cell foam outer either side of the middle layer of foam referred to on the website as shape retaining.  This proves to be 100% accurate from having my fat arse fall onto it the foam just bounces back, but the landings are always happy.  Even a slam a friend took that I only heard but did not see, she just bounced back and was very happy with the performance of the mat.

The cover is 1000 denier Cordura fabric and claimed to be both waterproof and very durable, looking, handling and using the mat so far I have no reason to doubt this.  I think this mat will take a good battering and keep coming back for more.  The muck just seems to brush straight off as well.  Which is great considering the other you of the mat.

Getting the mat around is easy, it comes with a configurable rucksac/shoulder strap, the best of both worlds.  Folds easily in half and has 3 simple clasps to secure it.

A big bonus in being custom made the dimensions were chosen to fit the van as a mattress as well as be a suitable boulder mat, it has worked perfectly. It goes from boulder to van mattress in a few seconds and is also very comfy to sleep on.

Boulder Crid, it gets loads, mostly likely initially due to its size.  But a few other have tried it now and have been super impressed and hopefully have been in touch with Ian at The Climbing Factory.

So far I can highly recommend if you want a bouldering mat check out the Hog Mats and if you really want or need it custom made, don't look anywhere else other than The Climbing Factory.

I will get some photo's and further dribblings about the mats performance up soon.

Happy half climbing.  ;-)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

New bike - Kinesis Racelight

After much deliberation and consultation with Nick F and Dave at CycleWorks a decision was made to go with a Kinesis Racelight KR-810, with Chorus group set, Mavic Open Pro wheels with Record hubs.

Not only did the decision take sometime, but as those who have ever built a bespoke bike or anything for that matter will know, you will end up waiting for something.   Firstly it was the seat post, didn't ship with the bike, no matter,it would get here.  Then the choice of wheels caused another delay, no matter, getting what I want the way I want it.

CycleWorks kept me abreast of all the bits arriving and built it rapidly and then the wheel wait began.  I went in to the shop several times for other reasons and had to stare at it on the shop floor.  In time it would be done.

I lost track of the actual wait, but was excited to get the call that the wheels were in and they would be built soon.  In fact they were built and on the bike several days quicker than Dave suggested.

The bike was ready, that it below.

So the obvious questions now start to get asked, how light is Racelight? extremely so much so that I am surprised and smile smuggly when folks with their extremely expensive bikes pick it up.  It is very white and a bit different and has got a lot of attention at the groups rides and New Forest Rattler.

But more importantly, how does it ride?  Well I had my hopes up and I wasn't disappointed.  Dave and the guys had done a great job on the bike.  Just like the Guildford boys had done on my Single Speed.  the bike fitted perfectly and was a dream to ride.

It accelerates like a startled hare, you can't beat hand built wheels and the job done on these is second to none.  The frame, fork and crank combo wastes no energy, everything goes through the drive train and to the tarmac.  The speed has been demonstrated a few times now. :-)

Climbing, it is fast and agile, and I can dance on the pedals or sit in the saddle comfortably dependent on the gradient.  It even provides Schleck like acceleration when you gun it sat in the saddle, pitty about the rider.

Descending, wow.  I didn't expect it to descend like this, fast stable and reliable.  Responsive to every tweak of the bars and sound over the dodgy parts of a quick descent, the bars Easton SLX's, dampen the rough stuff just enough without giving anything away when I get out of the saddle and give the cranks a hammering, pulling on the bars like a mad man.

With already a few 100k's under its belt on longer rides and the New Forest Rattler and my short hilly TT loop with sprints to finish, this bike seems to be delivering in all areas.  Obviously a long sit in the saddle TT and I would not enjoy it.  But TT's are for "interesting people" to say the least, give me hills and descents please.

Top bike, love riding it!!!

Dave, Nick and the CW crew, cheers.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Cycling and Bonking (No, not that sort of bonking!)

Today I bonked on the bike, like I have not done in sometime. Proper wobbly and lack of power, even some stars at one point when lifting my bike over a fence. Several hours later and with much food in me, still not great. Fingers crossed it was just a bonk.

But it was a timely reminder of what a terrible feeling this is when it happens, it costs you a race or the fun of a ride and causes a reasonable amount of frustration as you sit there concentrating telling your legs and body to do more, but they/it can't. You need food, but it is only a short ride and what you have is gone, it is just one of those moments that your body says, "Sorry, no more, just enough to get home".

I tried to dance on the pedals out of the saddle to get some warmth into my legs as they felt ice cold as it has become quiet autumnal now and I had been caught out by this, leaving leg warmers at home, not much happened. I was also nursing a painful right knee and hip home, although this is better now, some warmth in the legs on the way home would have been nice.

So you start out, feeling Ok and then without warning bang, the speed goes from your legs, you can't react to it and you just plain slow down. In a race you get spat out the back of a group on a MTBike each incline gets harder and the technical sections you lose your flow and bounce around like an old ute on a corrugated track.

But where has it come from, I ate well and have done so for weeks/months now. Do our bodies have different ways of warning us? Bonking, is saying chill for a day, just go through the motions and enjoy the cycling. Or is it the end of a cycle of training and I am being told I need to work on speed for a while?

Either way I hate the feeling of bonking, blowing up, whatever it may be called? It is that feeling of: Have I missed something? What could I have done better? Did I do anything wrong? Have I over trained? Just nice for it to happen in training rather than a race, a positive to finish on.

Off to bed full of food now, the wobble has gone. :)

Back in the Trad game

After yet another summer of injuries (see previous posts) I finally found my way back on to some trad climbs last weekend.

I headed down to Swanage with Daniel and we met Rob and Pete down there. We wondered down to Guillemont as there is a good selection of climbs.

Why Swanage, it is limestone. Last two times I have climbed on limestone I have a) had a massive fall and landed on a slab, walked away, and b) been run over by a rock the size of a flagstone when topping out in the Ruckle. I have never got on with the limestone gear placement and it really is crap for trad compared to so many other rock types.........oh, its close that's right.

Anyway, Swanage Trad is all sea cliffs with mainly abseil approaches, so it is pretty fun and committing, but the locations are great.

We arrived and soon abseiled in and I elected to climb the first route, Daniel belaying. It didn't go accordingly plan. A couple of sits (resting on the rope) to sort my head out and then a couple of falls and my head was sorted and completed the first pitch, bypassed the dodgy belay for a better option and Dan, soon followed. Then he lead the second pitch and the route was done.

Next Dan lead Spook a great E1 5b, he lead this easily and I followed with surprising easy for the amount of climbing I have done on rock this year.

Next route I had much more success on a Mistaken Identity, VS 4c, which from the ground look a bit loose, but turned out to be a very nice climb. Trad head restored I had a good play with gear and I am more comfortable now with limestone placements than ever before. The top out (finish of the climb) and belay were somewhat interesting though.

Whilst Dan followed, Pete and Rob uttered those three very bad words "One more Climb", it was 16:45.

The chosen climbs didn't go well for Pete or Dan. Pete and Rob opted for another route, next to the one Dan was on, then thought it a bit boring and were interested in the route Dan was on. After several goes Daniel back off and I had a go, a couple of rest later and two nice falls I backed off completely knackered.

We switched routes with Pete and Rob, Pete lead our route easily (he was the right height ;-) ) and I lead the rout Pete was on, and HS I think and managed to run this out from about half height as it also proved to be interesting for route finding and only had large gear placements, I had no large gear.

After these routes, we quickly sorted gear and walked out, it was about 20:00 by now, The one more climb jinx had bitten us. Will we know better next time? no, Did we have a great day? Absolutely!!!

It was great to be back on trad, even on "slimstone" and the day had turned out better than expected and it has done my trad head a world of good. Just maybe I can push up through the grades again and get on the 3 routes I really want to climb this year. Time will tell.

I'm a happy trad rat again!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

12:12 TORQ in your sleep

The Start

The 12:12 Torq in your sleep is a 12hr mountain bike race held not to far from Guildford on some military land which they have kindly allowed the organisers to hold the races on.

It was my first attempt at a 12hr race and was to be treated as a learning curve. Although I have done some endurance MTB races before back home, never a 12hr. This was to be a taster.

For a week I had eased back from the little training I had done and started to carbo load. Feeling bloated and heavy by the Thursday just prior to the race on the 30th August, I decided a bit of climbing wouldn't hurt so close to the race. But the climbing did prove that I had gained "hopefully" useful weight.

Saturday I did a pre race ride with the TriTalk crew, a flat sensible ride, was the plan. Not spanking Club ride groups and traffic light sprints, but this seemed to do the job of blowing the cobwebs out of the system.

Anyway, Sunday morning arrived Nik and I set off after packing the van to the race venue Minley Manor, thank you army and thank you Army Cycling for negotiating the use of the land for Gorrick events and for all of us riders.

I registered, set up the pit and the van and went over for the rider briefing. Stock standard rules which some would ignore and others just plain not understand, but that is racing.

So 12pm rolled around and we had a rolling start, teams edge their way to the front and so did some Solo riders (I will next time), whilst many others dropped to the back to stay out the way of the sprint at the start. We were off.

some parts of the track got jammed for the first few k's as the riders sorted themselves out and others proved that they had very little bike handling ability on what was not an intensely technical track, but it was perfect for a 12hr race. Need to remember we were going to be riding this for 12hrs not 2 and half. Too technical and half the field would be about after 6hrs.

The tracks was "excellent" I think the course designers got the mixed right, whilst the course didn't feel any tougher as the hours ticked by it clearly was proving to be for some.

More riders were found in a cloud of dust at the side of the track, clinging to a tree. Some would sprint past many of the Soloist in the pursuit of team glory on the fire roads, only to display the technical handling ability of a drunk hippo on a uni-cycle. One team member causing one girl to step off her bike and three others to heavily brake as he sprinted past with the speed of a greyhound and then ducking back in and hitting his brakes hard to make the corner. The chorus went something like "you w4nker"

My race overall was going well, even finding time to chat to the second place Solo Female as we seemed to be lapping at the same pace for a while. I was enjoying the track and the riding maybe a bit too much, rather than worrying about the race.

Even feeling as good as what I did, I enforced a 30 minute stop at the 6hr mark, this was the strategy for me to get through this race and I was sticking to it, rightly or wrongly (probably the later, but I know this now). I stopped, chatted to Nik, changed clothes ate a bit more and then headed off. Apparently I looked tired, but I did feel fine.

Out on the track I had to find my rhythm again, the biggest loss from the stop, the next lap I decided it was time to get going and had planned to push two 45 minute laps and then for the next 2hrs push a a little harder around the 40 minute mark to cross the start/finish just before 12 to grab another sneaky lap.

I went pass the pit yelled something to Nik, I don't remember now and was certainly pushing harder but finding it easier. Soon I came to the bomb holes, down and up out of the first, down .......crunch, snap, ting, rattle, tick tick tick.........a bad and familiar sound.

It was dark now and my lights had flashed down into the bomb hole before raising out, laying in wait for someone rear mech was a stick, a big stick. The damage to the bike was one removed rear derrailuer and dropout, two bent spokes. The damage to me nothing and the race was over. I was only about 3/4 of a mile from the start/finish and rules are you complete the lap you are on. 7 miles on foot in cycling shoes would take longer than was worthwhile.

The End

I trundled back to the pit to find Nik and tell her what had happened and then report to the timing team. TORQ in your sleep was over for me.

After a shower, Nik and I sat there track side cheering the riders on and trying to spot the guys and girl I had been chatting to as they went by and cheering "Go Solo" to every rider with a glow-stick, the warning light of the solo riders.

The chap next to us came in 5th in his age group, great work Richard and the other guys on the other side 2nd and 3rd in the Open Men's Solo. The girl I had lapped with, went on to a great second place in the Open Women's, whilst a lunatic (I suspect he is a very nice chap) on a Single Speed took first in the Men's Open. RESPECT!

A special thanks to my pit crew and cheer squad Nik, you rock! To all the other riders and I am sure I say this for all solo riders, thanks for the encouragement, in particular the Army Cycling Union.

Gorrick, you will see much more of me, keep up the great work.

Cycleworks, thanks for the great support and I'll stay away from sticks next time, but prepare the card payment system. ;-)

I learnt a lot and will be back, it was brilliant and my type of suffering. As for the lessons learnt, I'll keep those to myself for now.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Injuries, chalk, dry tooling and finally some rock

This year I have suffered yet another set back with climbing goals. Yet, another niggling injury, the most frustrating kind. I sustained a finger injury which is the scourge of most climbers, after a 6 week lay off, punctuated by a great trip back home and the finger was no better.

Solution, start doing more climbing with the ice tools. Problem where? Although there are, I guess one would describe them as soft tools to use at indoor walls, my local wall is very reluctant to allow them.

Solution = Chalk. The idea of climbing on a cliff which is prone to falling down after heavy rain or waves crashing against it seems a bit daft. But it is actually fairly safe as long as you pay attention to the warning signs, much like, ice, winter and alpine climbing.

Chalk Figure 4 practice

The beauty of the chalk climbing is the fact you get to use your ice tools and my injured finger takes less of a battering. Plus, you get to choose any route at the crag as most people dread the thought let alone actually climbing on it.

Result 1, I get to climb outdoors in a great location, whilst many others either play indoors or on the crud southern sandstone (MPO by the way).

Result 2, due to the nature of the chalk, your climbing head becomes more aware, focused and calm. This proving itself on the wall.

With climbing once a week on the chalk and another at the wall, the finger has had active rest. Experimenting with different strapping techniques has also found a very good option that seems to work, it just make clipping a pain. Climbing with two fingers taped and then strapped together is not easy, but seems to be doing the job.

Result 3, I am back on 7a's, not getting them clean or even getting them, but the reason is apparent and more importantly the finger doesn't hurt. Why am I struggling on the 7a's, simply put I am too weak. Something to work towards and I like a challenge.

So feeling better about the whole climbing thing and listening to Ant's words, the only way to get stronger is to climb the harder grades. I am back climbing the harder grades.

However, this lead to some plain stupidity the other day, but a hell of a lot of fun and a further turning to the dark side of climbing. I noted that a friend Rob had set some dry tooling routes in easy to get to locations. I also noted, just how damn good he is at the whole, ice, chalk, mixed and dry tooling game. So it was decided with a couple of friends to go and play in a dank quarry cave on a lovely sunny day at Winspit near Swanage.

It has to be said that 5 meters of M10 is bloody hard, god knows how hard the remaining 15 meters would be. After repeated attempts Tommy, James and I had only managed 5 meters, this include leaving the ground and climbing the starting pillar. Feeling destroyed we finally gave that game away to go and look at another cave with an aid route inside. The recent rock fall and Tommy and James' reluctance to second the route, put pay to me trying to lead it. Probably not a bad thing.

A Different Game, M "bloody hard" 10



Some sports routes were chosen and climbed in increasing wind, but sunshine. A long awaited return to real rock was ticked and without finger soreness or taping.

What's next, well inspired by the spanking from the M10, finger on the mend, Ant and Ben's willingness to climb hard and Phil's awesome Ironman Switzerland effort and his dedicated hard work over the time from deciding to do it to actually doing it, I am inspired to train.

Both cycling and climbing, training, this means I need to get my life sorted a bit more and get of my arse in the times I don't want to.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

21st June 09 - Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge day

DLMC Blue Steel

Nik and I had headed up to Ruthin in North Wales at a relax pace the day before, had arrived at the event village, registered and pitch the van and Claire's tent. Roly, Kit, Claire and Mark soon arrived whilst I played with my bike.

A bit later we had some dinner, chock full of more carbs, we sorted are ride food and wondered in to town, to find Roly and Kit in caffeine overload at their B&B. After a short bit of banter and arranging when to me we headed back to the van to get some sleep. I was amazed at how quickly I fell asleep, despite my excitement.

The morning dawned and I got out of bed and proceed to go about getting ready, eating porridge and drinking coffee, as you do. Soon Roly and Kit arrive, no Mark he was still asleep. Nik was up to see us off and take a few pics. Eventually we rolled out somewhere around 06:15 for a long day in the saddle.

I won't go in to detail of all the climbs and descents but in general it was to be a tough day. I had set myself and extra challenge by only running 39/26 as my lowest gears and with the feared Bwlch-y-Groes rumored to be 27% at it's steepest after 15-25% for the most of it and the equally feared Road to Hell long before this I had to ride tactfully. No charging along on the flat lands where my gearing gave me massive advantages. I had planned how I would ride the 250km with its estimated 5000 metres of climbing and I had to stick to this.

On the first climb I did so and Kit and Roly spun away up the road in front of me. I caught a girl who had borrowed some tape of us to fix her tent and was riding the Mega by herself, great effort.

I continued on up the road, over The Shelf and then over Horse Shoe Pass, so far no issues. The next serious climb would be up onto Worlds End, this was a bit tasty and I settled into a slow and steady rhythm turning the cranks over until I arrived at the top of the hill. A flat TT style pedal due to the wind across the top and down to the first feed stop. Where I caught Roly and Kit and Roly was kind enough to fill my water bottle with Energy Source.

This would become the theme for the day, I would sit at my controlled and enforced adverse gearing pace, whilst Roly and Kit would spin of the front, it would get steep and they would disappear and I would see them at the next feed station and the process began again. This was fine as we had already agreed to ride at our own pace.

We set off again. Eventually the guys road away again, but I would find them back tracking as we approached the road to hell. The climb of Cymau Hills, Treuddyn, Rhosesmor and Moel Arthur all went without complaint.

After meeting up with Roly and Kit, we ended up in a group taking turns (first rider rides tempo at the front, peels of the next takes over, and so on, think Tour breakaway working to stay away). After a while of enjoying these antics I reminded myself of the long and tough climb of the Road to Hell, approximate 8km with some nasty steep bits. I sat up and took it easy again, I got some more food in and then found myself passing the 5 MILES of Climbing sign. I calmly smiled.

After several kilometers of climbing, I saw Roly, dancing on the pedals out of a switch back and I saw the steep section of the climb in front of him. I soon arrived at this myself, up out of the saddle as I found my limit of my gears quickly here. I fell lazily on to each pedal as the crank passed vertical and zig-zag across the road, only straightening for a couple for chaps with a much more sensible gear option. Although finding it slow going I actually felt really good. I plodded on to the top and the next feed station. You guessed, I found Roly and Kit again.

The same pattern followed, but only after sometime together as the guys felt they might have battered themselves if they kept going so hard. We rode along, chatting and discussing the big climbs to come, one in particular Bwlch-y-Groes. After a serious comfort break for Roly, we turned onto the A494 with and found ourselves quickly in a group, thanks to some traffic lights.

The group soon split and then I fell off the back of the front group. I settled in to a rhythm after a few minutes, but found myself in no mans land. I think I had bonk and got spat out the back of the front group that had formed, but managed to to get enough food in quickly enough to recover. This road was quite straight with some gradual climbs and descents.

I settled further into my rhythm and found myself comfortably sat on 42-43kph, I looked for the second group behind me, they didn't seem to be catching me. I kept to my pace as it felt really sound, I looked for the group again, now they were no where to be seen. Damn it, I wanted them to catch me so I could sit in and enjoy a rest, I kept the tempo. At the point I started to wonder if I had missed a turn, I violent through the bike into a left hand turn, greased over some grit on the road surface and started to climb again.

The weather had been iffy all day, but now it decided it was going to get a bit wet, as I turned onto the A470 it clouded over and started to rain, but now I could see other riders and a bunch of Belgians cruised past in fine form, all whippet like climbing snakes. At the top of this climb the cloud lifted a bit and a long fun descent was further reward. I arrived at the feed station routinely found Kit and Roly, ate a bunch of food and rolled out again.

At the feed station the talk had been about this climb, I had been a bit oblivious to it all and was keen to continue on, I had set myself a road time of 10-10:30 and didn't want too much overtime in the official timing.

We set off and I really did take it easy, riding through the steep sided valley I sensed something big was coming and my legs would need everything in them and soon it loomed there in front of me with a dozen or so riders bobbing up and down on their machines strung out for about. The I saw Kit and Roly, round the corner out of the switch back that starts the climb proper.

I thought I would take it easy and zigzag when I could combine standing with sitting on the easier bits. I came out of the switch back and started up the beast Bwlch-y-Groes. It is said to go through 15-25% for the best part of the climb, with a 27% kick in the groin near the top. My planned attack was working, couple of folk went past, I encourage them on, whilst I was going slow and just falling onto the pedals on each stroke I was not struggling otherwise. My pace was quite comfortable, although very slow. Another rider went past, just as it got steeper, shortly after he had to step off his bike and walk.

I kept riding, I came to the steepest bit, you know it is steeper as it clearer looks it. I fell onto the pedals more, but my pace was now extremely slow. I had to make a decision, step off and walk or fall off. 20 or so meters in to the steepest section I stepped of the bike, walked about 80-100 metres and and got back on, rode a bit further than had to pull out the way for a car, I stuck my hand on a low post, the car past and I continued up to where Kit and Roly had just stopped.

A quick chat them and congratulations all around, we set off again. I was mega happy with my effort on Bwlch-y-Groes and new that the next climb would be difficult after it, but if I could climb that beast as well as I did, then the rest of the hills would go pretty easy, although I knew there was one tasty number left.

We tick the climb of Pen Bryn-y-Fawnog and headed to the next feed station, only The Stingers left, right!

Food, more drink, a shared banana with a stranger and most of the midget gems and I was keen to get going. We rolled on.

Bring on the Stingers, first Bwlch Garneddog, then Tyn-y-Bwlch, Bettws Gwerfil Goch and my personal favorite Melin-y-Wig. What can I say abut this climb, your legs are tired, for the last 10 kilometers the IBS you started ride with is finally having and ill affect and you have about a 25% short sharp kick in the teeth with a rough boot to climb. I bear down on it, it rears up, I dig deeper, it rears up more, I swear and curse at it and then the pedals seem lighter again. The photographer, snaps a shot and yells "Well done, 10 more miles!" I thank him and jest "Hey that's what the guy 10 miles back said".

That's it these two climbs are left Foel Fawr and Clawdd Newydd, then a long fast descent in to Ruthin, that starting point. I charged done the hill to Ruthin, over taking another rider and then trying to pass a black Audi. My legs feel more alive again, so I sprint through the streets of Ruthin. There are some kids about 10 years old, cheering me on (like they have done for all the riders) they scream "GO NEARLY THERE!" and "HIGH FIVE!" I obliged holding my hand put and dispensing 3 high fives in a row. The yell more!

A little climb, no time to change gears, out of the saddle and charge up this hill, swing into the car park past the helpfully stopped 307 and under the finish banner. 11:02 official time, 10:12 road time. Bloody chuffed with that!

I see Roly, Kit, Nik and Claire, and roll over to them. Nik and Claire had done the Mini and turned in some bloody good times. Especially Nik when you consider she is still plagued by a bad case of whiplash from a car accident, she has done a bloody brilliant job.

We all congratulate each other and are really happy we did it and I state that I will be back, with a better geared bike next year.

Next blog, the new bike, it was this or the Alps, not true actually.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The wait for the DLMC is nearly over.....

Legs primed, carbs loaded, bike wearing new shoes, retarded stripy socks ready, power bars, gels and drinks, check, check, check........

Is there anything I have forgotten? Nik, van – check, check.

..........right where was I? Yes, that’s right, the wait is nearly over. I am currently sat on a train returning from Paris for a two day business trip tying this and the previous post furiously. As I need to sort my DLMC food into hourly allotments and fit 2 exhausted rubbers to the van, hug Nik and get some sleep, time needs to be used wisely.

Tarte Rhubarbe is also on route to Nik, massive brownie points there.
Distracted again, sorry! So the days have got longer, the training tapered and the carbs have been all but loaded. The training talk has ebbed to an eerie silence and contemplative thought, interrupted with “have we got this?” “no” “shit can you get.....”. This means one thing, the wait for the DLMC is nearly over, a casual drive to Ruthin in Wales, a light pedal in the afternoon, pasta and relaxation a final tweak of the blue beast and bed.

Not much more to say here other than, I am no longer nervous. My mind is set to you can or you can’t, if you can’t dig a little deeper and you can. So it is fair to say I am finally excited about the ride, I am looking forward to riding with Kit, Roly and the crew and enjoying a beer and the war stories and the inevitable agreement to do it again next year along with the Cent Col Challenge.

So for now, I plan to keep it up right and enjoy/endure 250km’s, 5000m’s of climbing and one day, the longest day of the year in the UK. It will be one hell of a day!

Ride Hard!

New Wheels = Hope Open Pro's

New wheels are a funny thing to a cyclist, you want them to be light, stiff, fast rolling, agile and you don’t want to compromise any of these traits in your new wheels. If money is no object then you don’t have to.

However, most of us need to find a compromise, weight is something I am willing to compromise as I am not the lightest of riders and I am somewhat aggressive on the bike. So what is important to me in a wheel? They need to be stiff, a stiff agile wheel can climb and descend the most technical terrain giving me confidence.

So with research and questioning of the Cycle Works team complete the new Hope Open Pro III’s where selected for the new wheel set to adorn the less than light weight Ribble, ready for the DLMC this weekend (I’ll write a little on this soon).

Two test rides have been completed on these wheels and in a nutshell they are awesome. A tiny bit lighter the AskiumRace that I had previously, but so much stiffer. The first ascent on the OP’s started slowly, but I really wanted to know just how stiff these wheels were, so I got out of the saddle and did my best the flex the rims and create that unfortunately familiar brake rub the Askiums had provided. Nothing, I dug a little deeper and all that occurred was a quicker acceleration up the climb. Climbing, CHECK!

Settling into the saddle at the top of the climb I was chuffed with the performance so far of the wheels, they rolled quickly on the flat, the trusted Hope bearings inside those wurring hubs inspiring confidence as they do on both my MTBikes.
The rough roads around Surrey provided a test for the ability of the new bike set up to demonstrate the absorption of the bumps. The area you expect a stiff wheel to perform poorly in, but trusted the stiffness removes the twitchiness of a less stiff wheel. The roads felt as rough as normal, but the Ribble felt more settled, but always ready to pounce.

A stiff wheel is meant to be agile right. The OP III’s are no exception here, the acceleration on the ascents suggested they would be quick sprinting wheel, so agility and speed should go hand in hand. As the first descents of the day arrived and the corners racked up, I realised I wasn’t being overly cautious in the corners. The OP’s go where you point them, the small bumps and pot holes whilst felt don’t shake the bike from it’s line. And when riding in a group you don’t always have the chance to avoid the bigger bumps and pot holes, the OP’s are right at home performing that bunny hop at speed. Descending and handling, CHECK!

A couple of test sprints and it is confirmed if I wasn’t so slow and fat, these would be awesome wheels for a sprint, quick enough to out run a hungry cheetah. Sprinting, CHECK!

If you are in the market for a new set of hoops, and prefer stiffness over lightweight and money is restrictive, these are the wheels for you. I have already decided that these will grace the new lighter faster steed, only to be displaced when a ride is extremely hilly, say Mont Vertoux.

If I were to give these wheels marks out of 10, 9/10. A point deducted for being a bit chubby (if they lost weight they wouldn’t be so affordable though) and for not looking quite as cool as those flimsy radial spoke hoops, but they do sound awesome with that familiar Hope wurr.

Thanks Cycleworks, Nick and Steve.

Hope thanks for blurring the line between dirt and tarmac!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

TriTalk ride today

Once again I decided to head out on a ride with the TriTalk crew, that is organised by my mate Phil.

The morning was a bit overcast, but dry and warm. Once everyone had arrived he headed of at a nice pace for everyone to warm up. As we started up Cold Harbor Hill it was me who darted of the front, new wheels and eagerness from following Dr's orders for the last few days thanks to developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and from an uncomfortable A&E visit :-(. This kinda of set the pace for the start of the ride, with my rest and stomach and bowels feeling betters and this being the exercise ordered by the Dr's I was going to ensure it was a good days rid ein the sun.

We wound our way up and down the Surrey Hills towards Peaslake, as the sun started to come out and brighten up the day. We pushed on with a nice steady pace and some chatting as you do until we came to the long descent of Peaslake.

Phil got a jump on us and headed off down the hill with me first in pursuit. I caught him 100 meters before the first blindish corner swept back in line and continued on with Phil hot on my tail.

We descended with me keeping a keen eye on the road for on coming traffic, MTBikers and walkers crossing the road, its a busy stretch of road. With about 300-400 meters of the descent to go I saw a Pugeout 307 Estate coming up the final corner (about 150 meters away) I called car, as a warning to the crew following.

I could clearly see the car and he could see me also, there was no way he couldn't. I eased the brakes on a bit, sitting up slightly but not enough to signal that I was stopping (I was still on the drops and tucked), he started to indicate a turn to his left and then swung right out of view for a moment ( I was about 50 meters away at this point), I feathered the brakes some more, thinking he is not going to turn is he?.

As I came to the conclusion of that thought, the 307 re-appeared and started to turn across in front of me, some how I swerved heavily right then left again, almost laying the bike down, I straightened and screamed CAR!!!!!!, a second later I heard a sickening crunch and then nothing. I came to halt about 30-40 meters past the car.

Turned to see Phil slumped upside down (feet on the roof of the car head on the edge of the bonnet), I bolted back up the road. The driver stood there stunned, I screamed at him to go call an Ambulance. I screamed at him again and he came to life.

I returned to screaming at Phil who was out of it, blood coursed through his veins on his temple and he continually twitched, I kept yelling at him to wake up as a couple other of the group arrived (Dom and Bob, I think) we didn't dare touch or move him.

I yelled again, "Phil, wake up!" "You are OK!". Suddenly he woke up, looking at me and saying "You F***ing C***!" the last thought in his head before impact. He spun himself around, stepped off the bonnet and headed for his bike to check it out, he was still out of it, adrenaline pumping.

We got him sat down as the driver returned. He approached me and said "I saw you, indicated and thought you would stop" "I said I slowed, but didn't think you were going to don't turn across traffic, it f***ing illegal and dangerous" His son arrived and got involved and got especially arsey. At which point the driver change his mind and said he hadn't seen me, until I had passed. This came as no surprise to any of us. Shortly after this he clammed up and said I don't want to say anything else until the police arrive. Fair enough and it shut his son up as well.

The ambulance arrived after a little while, whilst Phil sat on the side of the road and Bob and I took some pics of the car, the road and the PX (a write off for sure being carbon)

The para's checked Phil over and decided he seemed Ok, but he was off to A&E for further tests and some observation. The para's were great as usual (that sounds bad we don't see them that often), so it was into a lovely neck brass and on the a back board for Phil, we have photo's. Just before the ambulance headed off, the police arrived.

I will not go into any detail here as that is for the police records. He had a quick chat with the driver and then the car was moved. Whilst the car was moved the officer had a word with our group. I had just ducked down the road to grab my bike. As I came back the police officer and I had a quick chat. He then interviewed the driver, whilst we waited.

Next it was my turn again, as I was first on the road and had narrowly missed being hit myself. All this took a while and then that was that. Rob had been called whilst Kim headed to hospital to be with Phil. Rob arrived and picked Phil's bike up, we had a quick chat and then he headed off. I suggested we continue on as Phil is the sort of guy that would be annoyed that even if his being hit by a car stop the group from riding on.

So we headed off on a slightly shortened route, but at a frantic pace, the descents, were a bit slower, the flat hard bunch riding and the climbs assaulted rather than climbed. We added in Box Hill and I attacked it like a mad man, we regrouped at the top and the group started riding as if they were possessed. We hammered it across the top of Box Hill, drop down Pebble Combe and from the round about at the bottom turned right for Dorking and the pace went up again. We arrived back at Dorking Leisure Center, discussed the last 30km's and put it down to adrenaline. However, it is worth noting that the rest of the ride did not go without incident, more than one or two cars pulling out in front or across the group, we blamed my top.

I tried to call Kim again to find out how Phil was doing, if he was still OK from the last time I spoke to her. I couldn't get through, so we headed off with Dom saying he will pop something on TriTalk once he heard from me. He heard from Phil, before I saw Phil at Robs house.

Phil is OK, which is bloody amazing when you consider the crash. I don't think the stress of that helped my IBS, but writing this is calming me down again. But Phil is OK! Yay!

(All words in this post are a summary of the event on the 13th June 2009 and are in no manner in detail, statements where given to the police at the time and the words only reflect my memory of events. All details of the driver shall remain closed.)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

DLMC and Training

I don't ever talk too much about training for anything. I do it, but don't talk about. But anyone who knows a tri-athlete knows they are obsessed by training and talk of training. Ok, maybe not the later. ;-) It does make for interesting conversation and in the case of my mate Phil (see the blog link "I must try harder" to the right), I hope it pays off for him in July as he goes for the Switzerland IronMan Tri. So feeling a little inspired to share some training outcomes, here goes.

With the stupidity of what could only be measured against the Dodo I accepted the offer of "do you want to do the Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge?" from my mate Kit. I think I said yes before even looking at the web link properly. 250km - 5000m of ascent/descent - 1 day - North Wales.

This was not going to happen without "training". So far I have spent a huge amount of time on the bike over the last few weeks and the result are showing. I rode with the TriTalk crew on Saturday (a ride Phil organises). This weekend it was broken into to different laps, 65km with a number of hills and a good crew to ride with and then a further 65km with less hills, but one I feared as I normally come down it tipping just over 80kmh, this would be taken on by only 6 all from the original group.

Most of my training is done by myself, but I do like getting out on these rides with this group, they are always friendly and there is generally no willy waving. It is also nice to break the solo riding up a bit.

Both loops were good, but some punctures slowed us down on both, but that's life. Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride, even Phil even though he was having a few stomach issue. But he hung tough for nearly all of the the 130km a bloody brilliant effort despite how ropey he looked. It was also nice to make a few new friends that are keen to get out and ride.

From a personal training perspective the ride went really well, I am not a fan of stop start riding and it messes with my rhythm massively, but you weigh this up with some good company on a ride and it balances out. But I do know I ride better if I sit in the saddle and just turn the cranks over.

Having said that, I felt the strongest I have felt in a while on the bike, although not quick up the hills (I blame my fat arse), they seemed to pass without too much trouble and each stroke was a step closer to completing the DLMC, so the motivation abounds. The flats I seemed to have something in the legs all the time and by the end even a little sprint with James up a slight gradient, only displayed that the leg speed had dropped.

The solo training has been far too much fun to be honest. Riding around the Surrey Hills on a MTB or roadie during Spring and Summer is fantastic. The number of deer, green woodpeckers, robins, finches, etc... that I have seen is amazing and the fact that they offer a brilliant distraction when the legs are stinging has made it a pleasure. The majority of pleasant and polite drivers. However, it is fair to say these rides have not been without incident, a list to read:
Nearly hiitng a deer;
Nearly hitting a woman who froze like a deer in the headlights in the middle of a shared track;
A few too many two wheeled drifts on the road bike;
An idiot in a Red CRV, the TriTalk crew know the one;
An selfish VW Passat driver and his son;
The chain popping of the SS in traffic, nearly very bad. :-(

But the most noteable experience has been the return of the pure pleasure of cycling, there was something I always liked about cycling and I still can't put my finger on it. It is likely to be many things and not being able to isolate one thing is most likely the thing that I enjoy about it.

So I need to thank Kit from one perspective for firing me up about cycling again, Phil and his TriTalk friends for being ace and great to ride with, Cycleworks Leatherhead and Guildford for great advice, nice bike bits and being super nice and Nik for telling me to go for a ride or that I am looking a bit fat and baking the best banana muffins known to hungry man. ;-)

Fingers crossed for an enjoyable DLMC and the racing season that will follow, but don't expect me to write too much about training and certainly don't expect me to be explicit about it if you ask. But if you tell me about yours I will listen and will honesty be interested.

Happy training folks and best of luck in those events you are working for.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Climbing Hurts

Before heading home to Oz for two weeks to introduce Nik to family and freinds (happy to say she survived) I had suffered the climbers dread pulley injury 1 and 2 pulley of the left hand useless finger (surprisingly) useful to a climber. I had battled on with it up until about two weeks before heading home, then decided to rest it.

After a fantastic trip home and 4 weeks of full rest from climbing it was time to test it again. First night back and 5th route in, fully warmed up, pop goes the pulley. Not badly but enough to make others who know the sounds cringe.

So finger is not so well, summer is on us and shaping up quite well and one want's to stay quite strong. There is only one solution...................chalk climbing. Surely the finger can't hurt stuck in a glove, strapped to another finger and pulling on an ice tool.

So off to Slatdeane with Nik, Darren and Cat it is then. Oh and Patsy!

Anyway, the weather at Saltdeane is perfect as usual, if a little warm. So no holding back Darren and I get geared up and start having a boulder and traverse. After an hour or so of this the tide had retreated and we headed to the sector we want to climb on. I convinced Darren it was time to do a route and Fornication C4 was choosen and promptly dispatched by us both.

Previous routes I had climbed no longer existed due to the cliff collapsing, so new routes are available. So some new traversing rounded off the day.

Drinks and food at the Badgers Rest and home for tea and medals.

The good news being the finger was fine and that C4 has been confirmed and the C5's and C6's I like the look of could well be completed by the end of the year.

And chalk is official cool but don't tell everyone.

More from the beach soon.

Summers Here

Unfortunately so are some of the old climbing injuries, the bright side is that I need to focus on cycling anyway so the injuries have not slowed me down too much.

Cycling has more than filled the gap by the enforce rest from climbing and I have been racking up time in the saddle on both the road bike and single speed in preparation for the Dave Lloyd Mega Challange (see the link).

What has been fantastic about this is the re-ignited love of cycling and the perfect commute to work that I have from Guildford to Leatherhead for the single speed. Not only do I avoid the traffic and get a great 30km's done, but I often see deer, green woodpeckers, loads of finches, some big fat cows that look curiously as I pass, the occassional owl and the other day a very large red kite flying craefully through the open pine forest. Finally the views from the top of the north downs continuely put a smile on my face. The retrun leg adds a hill loop and then follows the rest of the route in reverse.

My road rides are either a group ride with my mate Phil, who organises a fairly regular ride with the TriTalk crew or my solo get the hell on with the suffering. As on the 21st of June a great amount of suffering will be experienced.

The people I have been riding with a great company and the banter lighthearted, the routes vary greatly with the group rides, which is a nice change as my solo rides I generally try to kill my self.

The next few weeks will see the rides increase in length and intensity with the next two weekends planned to incorporate some long rides on both days.

But the bug is back and those who know me, now it isn't that long before the call of competition on two wheels becomes too much and I cave and begin to race again. I actually already have.


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Wintery ride

In Feb in Surrey, there was some proper snow for once. A foot or so of what could only be described as powder. In Surrey of all places, land of the wet shitty 1 inch of snow normally.

So what to do in a foot powder snow.............ride you mountain bike of course, so an extended lunch was taken, being a Monday and all and off I set on my normal quick blast loop of an hour, 2 hours later and I was still on my way back.

The deep snow had made for hard work and many great photo opportunities and therefore it had taken longer than expected. But it was great to see so many people out and having fun and kids being kids.

In a few places the snow was well over a foot deep and at Newlands corner, snowboarders had taken the opportunity to have some fun before heading to the Alps.

The single speed performed awesomely as usual and came back a lot cleaning than when it headed out.

New tracks

I hoped for more snow, but it never arrived, so made the most of riding in what was left for the following week.

Iceclimbing - Rjukan

Long time between posts. But there will be more but shorter to encourage me to do them.

So climbing in Rjukan what's it like? Well it was great, when we arrived it lived up to our expectation. A deep cut valley with high steep valley walls and it was cold.

The first day of climbing we headed to Ozzimosis area unfortunately the name sake of this area was a bit brittle and unusually for the temperatures (-6) seeping runoff behind the curtain of ice. This was a bit annoying as it was one of the routes I wanted to try and it looked like a nice line.

Anyway, not to waste time I decided to make my first ice waterfall lead a sensible WI2, Minidisken which turned out to be quite fat and at the crux, it pushed you back a bit more than expected. It was good option for my first route and let me play with the placements and get use to moving on the ice and learning to reading it.

Nik followed quickly, a quick absail and we were down.

Next was Anakje, a WI3, also fat for thick ice and on the wrong side of not being vertical, with some suspect ice lower down making the first placement quite high of the ground. At points I had to chip away at a cruddy layer of surface ice to find a nice compact layer underneath, before continuing on.

Once at the top and safe on belay Nik started up, put in a great effort on the steeper bit of the route and the photo below shows the unexpected steepness near the top. A quick absail and another little extremely thin scrambly route and we had to head for the bus.

That night we celebrated Claire's birthday and hope that despite feeling cold, that she had a great day.

The next day, the temperatures had risin to 0 degrees and the area we had choosen, Susses Veil, proved to be an interesting choice considering the conditions, but was choosen to allow my toes a chance to recover and to teach Claire, the fundamentals of multipitch climbing, belay setup and dismanteling, absailing techniques.

After a short walk in and soe winding through deep snow and trees above the Vemork power station, we arrived at Sessues Veil. Grab some gear and scrambled to a flatter section a few meters higher up the hill. At this point I had a play and discovered that infact the snow and ice had been layered here. Creating a 2-3inch layer of ice, over a 2-3 inch layer of snow and this layering was repeated to the depth of about 10 or so inches. The ice on the columns proved to be soft from the warmer temps that had clearly gone up since arriving. So we decided to have a play around on the large leadge we were on with the gear placement and belays stations and absail rigs and then headed off to look at a couple of roadside routes.

These were wet and soft also, so discretion was determined to be the better part of valour, we headed back for tea and biscuits. Then a lot of alcohol, which Tim decided we needed to finished there and then, he paid the penalty.

The next day was a trip to the famous Vemork power station and the permanent exhibition, which if you have a half day or a rest day is worth the time and very interesting. Then after this, it was the long drive back tot eh airport and home.

Rjukan is a great place to time and I came back with a tick list a mile long, but two key routes being, Ozzimosis and Sabotorfossen and I can't wait to go back.

But next years ice is Chamonix, Peglers Ice Fest and it is already booked. :-)

Monday, 9 February 2009

Norway Dog Sledding 08

We had decided that we would go dog sledding one day.

So off we set to the creatively named "Hemsedal Huskies", a little family ran business in a beautiful part of the Hemsedal area, in the forest and bordering a number of frozen Norwegian lakes that we would soon be sliding across under the power of our 6 dog teams.

We arrived and got fitted out in ridiculous looking clothing that not only protected us from the cold, but also the dogs wee and flying poo. Johan the owner/operator was fantastic and very funny with a sharp wit and easy going manner about him. He put us all at easy and then introduced us to the 38 barking huskies. Their all mad I tell you, take a look for yourself.

"You can't touch this" and "Look deep into my eyes, you are..."

As Johan proceeded to sort the teams he would pick a dog and ask one of us to get them. He asked Nik and I to get two dogs, I had spotted the brute of the pack earlier so Nik let me go and grab him. He turned out to be quite a calm animal once he knew he was going for a run. Nik's was also calm, so calm in fact that he took a very tactful pee on Nik's leg. Thanks to Johan for the suits.

Tim and Claire were getting to know there team and have the dog with the devil's eyes, but he actual is a bit soft, like the rest, just excited.

We were soon fitted out with a full team, 6 dogs per sled. I tucked in under the blanket with the camera and we were pretty much off.

Its starts of with the continued barking and carry on from the dogs that had started the moment we arrived. But soon as we enter the forest proper they calm down and start doing what they and run and run.

The forest is a wonderful place to be and what a way to travel, it beats snow mobiles and cross-country skis any day, plus the dogs are good company and the pee master and the brute, lean on each other nearly all the time. Which keeps me amused, how lazy are they? As we weaved through the forest Nik has mastered the driving of the sled and I have almost got use to the jarring bumps and occassional drops that the passenger experiences.

I have the camera so I snap away, forward, back, left and right and managed to get some good shots and one of Claire, Tim and their team as well.

After a few short stops and a few little lake crossings we enter a large lake crossing and the view is amazing, the next lake crossing is even more so (picture below). It is at this point that we stop for a chat about the area and the ice and Johan show's us how to break through the ice. We all succeed, fatty here does it first time. But we are only breaking through the first few centimeters, there is then a layer of water and then even thicker layer ice below. So we are told anyway.

We change drivers and head off, now I get to see what the driving of a sled and 6 dogs is like. These dogs really just do their thing when they have a lead team, it is your job to keep the sled upright and at the right pace. No free rides here, up hills you get off, run and push, downhills you keep tension on the ropes, but don't slow the dogs down and you don't run them over.

We bounced, weaved and slid our way across the lake crossings and back into the forest. It was starting to get dark now, but I really didn't want this to end. But the track got a bit twitchy now and I managed to hold what could only be described and power slide, my mind focused a bit more as I didn't want to hurt any of these dogs or Nik.

After some more bouncing, a branch in the face and a lot of weaving we returned to yard. It had been an amazing 3hrs, I knew I would enjoy this, I knew we would all enjoy this, but as much as we did was an extremely pleasant surprise.

We gave the dogs lots of big thank you hugs and pats, the dogs returned the hugs and started barking lots again. We thanked Johan, climbed out of our fetching outfits and headed off back to Hemsedal, with massive grins on our faces and ready for a nights skiing and with a memory that will last a very long time.

Ice climbing Norway 08/09 Part 1

As previously written, a few of us went skiing and ice climbing in Norway of new years 08/09.

After skiing for several days in Hemsedal, it was time to turn our minds to ice climbing. Nik and I have done some Scottish winter climbing, but this is different to winter ice. Picture a waterfall snap frozen and you have a pretty good idea of winter ice, it has a wide and varied grading system and the grade of routes is based on their condition in optimum conditions. This does however mean that the route can change grade in thick or thin conditions.

The first day we climbed we had hired a guide, Lelsie Ayres. We meet Leslie just down the road from Hemsedal in Gol, and he took us to an amazing little ice crag, which only saw 3 other climbers visit why we were there.

The reason why we hired Leslie was to teach us more about the characteristics of this type of ice and what to look out for good and bad. He also instructed Claire and Tim and some of the more basic requirements of ice climbing and ice gear and it's uses.

We top roped a WI4 and then a M5, which had a bit more ice on it than normal, so this must have drop the grade to M4. Whilst we all hung around at least for second or 2 on the long WI4, I managed the M5 clean, which surprised me more than most. Everyone had climbed both routes better than expected and had enjoyed the day. Claire had continued her battle with the cold, but seem to be on the winning end this time.

This was New Years Eve, and a cold day at that. We returned to our apartment, ate and started some light drinking. We tried ever so hard to stay awake but around 11:20pm we decided it was New Years somewhere in the world at that minute pop the champagne, consumed it and feel into a deep and well deserved slumber. The skiing had ruined us all! :-)

The next day we headed off to Rjukan, the heart of ice climbing in Norway, with easily over a 100 ice falls to climb. We took a route that would take us over the eastern edge of the Hardangervidda. The Hardangervidda are the disolet highlands North West of Oslo and North East of Rjukan and Vemork. This is the area where many Norwegian soliders hid from the Germans during WWII, especially those that supported or carrried out the attacks on the heavy water plant at Vemork, just up the valley from Rjukan. Google "Heroes of Telemark" and ignore the movie references. ;-)

At one point on this slow but beautiful journey, I asked Tim to stop the car so we could admire the beautiful scenery and read a memorial. The memorial shows the map with the path that a number of the Norwegian soldiers used to escape across the Hardangervidda and regions between here and the border of Sweden to safety, a distance of 600km's after the attack on the Vemork plant. Many others chose to stay behind, they not only avoided capture but played havoc with the German's until the end of the occupation.

Hopefully this picture here shows the map clear enough to understand the magnitude of this feat in the depths of winter.

We continued on to Rjukan with a few other stops to enjoy the magnificent scenery that this part of Norway has to offer.

Part 1, end.