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.

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.