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.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

White Stuff.....

no not the company, the ice and snow.

As other friends have commented, Ramon and Rob.  So far this winter is turning into a bumper and the Christmas pudding hasn't even been covered in brand and set alight.

The UK is gripped by a fantastic winter and whilst others complain and find it hard to deal with, I am pinning for the horrendous walkins, the spindrift and the hot aches.  I have seen friends posts about some great success (Rob) and have many things to look forward to, like 5 days away with Nik seeing what is in, accessible and climable.  Then Jan is a law to itself, watch condition and try to get a couple of weekends, pulling, scrapping and teetering up some challenging fear inducing routes.

As others head for the comfort of Christmas' eating, drinking and relaxing, it is likely the training for a certain trip to Kandersteg will increase, both in and "around" the home and at un-disclosed locations across the South of England.  Then end of Feb and March are bound to bring further bounty in the hills and mountains of the UK.  I am getting very excited!

So I cross my fingers for the cold conditions to remain, to my friends off to comps - wishes of great success and to all safe and uber winter climbing trips and adventures.

It is so close now I can feel the spindrift trickling down the back of my neck and into my jacket.


Brass Monkey Rnd 1

A quick round up.

It was cold as expected as I arrived and found Phil (who dived smartly for the warmth of his car to await his race) and then Roly, racing the 4 hrs also.

My chosen weapon was the SIR 9 SS, which would be a mistake.  Perfectly warmed up and organised I lined up and we were soon under way.  The course was frozen solid in mant parts and had far too much bitumen and fireroad for a SS to be competitive.

Having said that the course was still technical in parts and well designed, maybe the course design was due to the disaster of the frickin wet and wild first round last year.  Disaster is mabe a bit strong but it was a tough race.

It was apparent this was going to be a fast race and it certainly turned out that way.  Whilst the first 1.5 laps went well, a recurring problem reappeared.  The curse of the sinking seat post, frustrated I stopped tightened and promptly snapped the seat pin. Half a lap out of the saddle was bound to hurt.

As I lost time both from the incident and the repair, I lost contact with the other SS races, in total about 15 minutes was lost and the repair had not done the job, twice I had to raise the saddle and gingerly tighten the pin.

During my chaos Roly and I passed each other a few times, but both managed to finish within a few minutes of each other on 6 laps a lap down on the winners.

Whilst a bit frustrated, 29th with the problems I had on a fast track isn't too much to complain about.

Next race 28th and should be a SS 29er dream, but just in case te guys at Cycleworks and I have a backup plan.  Fingers crossed for a better result.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Brass Monkey that Funk Monkey

Temperatures have dropped and winter seems to well and truly here, it must be time for the Gorrick and Army Cycling Union Brass Monkey series Rnd 1:

Myself and a few friends will be heading over here to take on the weather, course and other competitors in what is generally a tough series even though each race is much shorter than I am use to.  I'll be doing the 4hr race whilst others I know are doing the 2hr race.

Good luck to all, lets just see what happens.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

How to get better.

They say to get better at something you should train with people who are better than you.


With my climbing I have this covered with my trad partners, my sport partners, my winter/ice and alpine partners.  With my mountain biking I also have plenty of people to get out and ride with, who push each other and offer loads of encouragement.

The gap would be with my road cycling and with this in mind and a mate Steve sending me a link to an informal training session, just down the road from me, I thought why not.  If it doesn't make me a competitive roadie it will help improve the MTBiking.

So I headed down to the second of the Mint Training Session organized by Justin from Felt/Colbornes. It was dark, some of the corners on the lanes the route took weren't great and it was getting colder.  On arrival I met Justin, big Steve turned up with some goodies from Mavic (Thanks Steve!), another chap Kevin turned up and that was the it.

The 3 of us set off and with a few easy laps, which I found hard, go figure, the pace started to slowly creep up, but seemed more manageable. The course wasn't too hilly at all but had one hill that for whatever reason seemed to bight the same amount no matter the effort put in.  The course wiggled and turned and had a few corners that one needed to take care on.

After several laps of the pace creeping up and some chat getting to know each other, Justin suggested two laps a bit harder and one easier to finish on.  So at the bottom of the hill, off he went, a turn of pace like a Schleck is all I could compare it to at the time.  In a bit of time myself and then Kev caught Justin's wheel and we kept the pace higher than previous laps.  The next lap would prove to play the same scenario out.

However, on these two laps my legs finally felt good, my lungs, well another question chasing Justin up the hill, recovery was better and quicker than expected.  We rolled around for another easy lap enjoying the crisp clear night.

In all it was a great session, great easy going company and I'll certainly be back over the coming winter months.

Now for the first of the Brass Monkey's 4hr enduro's, possibly in the snow.  :-)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Night Riding

What is it about mountain bikers and night riding? I was pondering this fact on the way home in the dark and wet the other night. As I slipped and slid around the trails, the back end drifting in corners the front wheel slipping of hidden roots. I smiled all the way home, even when the boggy trail sucked at the rear wheel and the climbs were made more difficult and technical by the greasy surface, which in turn made my thighs burn.  I could help but think about how much I enjoy this particular type of riding.

Whenever I get out for a night ride, by myself, with Nik or the crew it always seems to be more fun than riding in the day.  At night or early morning, the trails are alive with dear, pheasants, the occasional badger and owls hooting, how can you not enjoy this is more the question.

The fast rides with the crew ultimately have you riding out of the comfort zone.  Pushing as fast as you do in the day, trying to hold the rider’s wheel in front of you as you twist turn, dart, drop, jump and try to stay upright.  These rides will be a few hours long, but seem to only last for ½ hr or so, a sign we are having too much fun.

Add the fact that the winter curtain is drawing in, longer nights are upon us, and the autumnal blanket is leaving the greasy roots and boggy puddles hidden it has become even more alluring, challenging and fun. Even when you are shivering at the end of the most brutal ride in the wet, cold and dark you seem happy in yourself of what you have done.

Night time is a good time to ride!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Psycho Vertical

Seeing a talk by Andy Kirkpatrick is always a great thing to do with an evening and Psycho Vertical was no exception.  A brilliant show and great to hear so much more about Karen's feats, challenges and utlimate triumph on El Cap.

Andy is a truly remarkable guy and has certainly given so much to quite a number of people over the years.

Nice one Andy!

Monday, 1 November 2010

October Climbing

Lately my focus has returned to climbing and I have headed to the grit stone edges of The Peak District and the chalk cliffs down near Brighton with the ice tools to get strong for the coming winter.

A couple of weeks back, Nik, Rich and I headed to The Peak for me to get back on rock, for Nik to get some climbs under the belt and for Rich to have his first experience on the grit.

 Rich on his first VS.
(Photo: Scott Swalling)

Meeting up with Wayne and being blessed with good weather some nice routes where completed over the few days at first Froggart and then Burbage South.  With Wayne pointing us in the direction of some great little routes and all having success on these, the weekend delivered what we hoped.

Overall a great weekend was had and I was happy with adding Chequers Buttress to the tick list on a fine day of climbing.

The following weekend I headed to chalk with the crew to pull on the ice tools properly for the first time since winter. After a short but tough session inspired by Rob and Ramon, I was spent and knew I was weak and have some work to do.

Me dropping froma Fig 9 to Fig 4.
(Photo: Tommy Harris)

Another session the following Wednesday night was much better, but even harder and I was still feeling spent when I arrived at the wall Thursday night for a short sharp session, before having a day off the climbing.
The following Saturday morning I was Peak bound again, with Rich and Daniel, but minus Nik as she was not feeling too well.

We headed for Burbage North, to meet Si and Charlie, and Wayne and Rachel. With two routes on my tick list in sight, Now or Never E1 5b and The Sentinel E2 5b, the later a proud standing prow of rock on the Burbage North edge and one I have had my eyes on for some time.

The day started and continued brilliantly, with me soloing up to HVS 5a happily and steadily.  I soon found myself stood at the base of Now or Never, making short work of the lower section and took some time (yo-yo’ed several times, about 15) to unlock the crux move (with many different inputs form those watching) in a style that suited me and after finding a suitable way through it cruised to the top happy.

Daniel and Rich had done a few routes and Rich followed me up Now or Never on the back of following Dan up The Sentinel.  Soon I was working out how to place the only gear worthwhile on The Sentinel myself, found a good rest, shock out and prepare to climb the jutting prow.  I set off from my rest, and found the climbing suited me surprisingly well (thanks to the Craggy overhang I think).  I soon stood on top, very happy with nabbing to ticks on my list Onsight and was happy with the day’s work.  Dan jumped back on The Sentinel and this time cruised to the top in style and Rich second it yet again.

The next day we decided to head to the famous Black Rocks, famous for two very hard routes, Gaia and Meshuga, both that feature in the DVD Hard Grit.

We looked for less death defying routes to try, and Rich made short work of the surprisingly strenuous and polished Curved Crack.  Nice one Rich!

Dan and I looked at a few routes and struggled to find something not green like a billiard table that we fancied to climb. We soon settled on a short technical E2 5b called The Sprain.  Daniel had a good lead on this route Onsighting it with apparent ease, Rich made a good second on his second attempt.

Next I moved quickly to the crux move but seem to suffer from incompetence with my feet and my right arm feeling like it had been injected with lead. I feebly sat on my gear after not being able to shake it out. After a moment I pulled back on a got to the top.  Quickly abseiling after Rachel had a go having a chat with the crew I found myself placing the last bit of gear again, placing my foot where I wanted to and cleaning the route comfortably on the second attempt.

Next we selected an E3 6a and after Dan had a couple quick goes and nearly landed on my head.  I thought I have ago even though my arm was dead still. I pulled on to the route, placed two bits of gear, got to the crux moved and was promptly hit by gravity.  Oh well, next time.

Another good weekend in The Peak and the climbing seems to have not suffered too much from a lack of climbing outside this summer.  Maybe one more cheeky rock trip before Christmas and after the house move in early December, we will see.

But thoughts and training are turning to winter, ice and snow, the sharp ice tools and suffering that is climbing in winter. Bring it on!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Relaxed Lakes

Not much climbing has been done since getting back from the Alps other than pulling on the plastic in at my local wall Craggy Island.  With this in mind Nik and headed for The Lakes for a few days.

To get Nik back into gear and I just wanted to be climbing in the mountains again so was happy to just climb and walk fun stuff, not push the limit and spend sometime climbing and walking with Nik.

Great Langdale was the destination and three thing were planned over a drink and dinner, climb Middlefell Buttress a lovely D(difficult) route continue up Curtain Wall an MS (Mildly Severe), the next day walk the Oxendale horseshoe and then pull on the Langdale Boulders.

The climbing was easy and chilled just what Nik wanted and the route was finished in good time, lots of fun and the sunshine was great.  I am pretty sure Nik was stoke to be climbing on rock again after such a long lay-off.

Oxendale horseshoe wasn't as successful as hoped, a relaxed start to the day and Nik feeling the day before a bit saw us having to alter our route.  Which took us down a lovely little valley and back to Blea Tarn for some photography and eventually back to camp.  Overall though a chilled approached was the goal for this trip and that was achieved.

The next day we awoke to rain, we lingered for a while to see how much it might dry up, but as much as we wished for the sun to come out it never did.  We left the campsite and checked the Langdale boulders out anyway, but they were still a bit too wet, next time.  In Ambleside we had a bite to eat and then made leisurely drive back home.

It was great to be back in the mountains in The Lakes, they might not be the Alps, but they are a great place to be.  It was also nice to cruise a classic climb and just trundle around the hills.  A timely break for us both and served to further ignite my fire for the coming winter, also my mountain crag tick list has just grown longer.

Some pics to follow.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Niner SIR 9

I have been meaning to write about the new addition and the retirement of my old friend for a while now.

After many years of faithful and near faultless service, many incarnations of running gear, I finally retired my 2000 Kona Muni-mula I had ridden and raced for many years, many of the most recent updates found their way on to Nik's bike or will do.  They say you shouldn't get attached to such objects and I don't believe we ever do, but stripping that bike down for the last time did remind me of some great rides and great people I met and friends I made along the singe trail.

However, a suitable replacement had been found and was waiting for all the parts to arrive and be built by the guys at Cycleworks to some exacting standards.  The Niner SIR 9 arrived originally as pictured here.

The build was:
SIR 9 Root beer
Reba RL forks
Hope Pro gold hubs
NoTubes Crest ZTR rims
Hope Mini X2 Pro
Hope Gold 90mm stem
Easton EA 70 bars
Hope BB
Middleburn Crank
Middleburn hard coated chain rings
XT rear block
XTR shifters
XT front and rear mech
Thompson set back 27.2 seat post
Specialized Alias 143 saddle
Hope gold expanding bar plugs
XT pedals

Single speed build: as above minus shifters, rear block, two less chain rings and some messy cables.

The SIR 9 was built by the guys at Cycleworks and road fantastically as a geared bike and in my first race on it carried me to 8th in Open Mens 24hr at the Bontrager Twentyfour12.

On the open trail it rides fast and covers the miles quickly and effortlessly, when I turn it to the single track I find it rides as true and nimble as my 26 inch bike.  Where the SIR might be slowed down by the track being twitchy and tight it is balance by the fact that it cruises the rough stuff that normally shake a 26 inch bike around and off line.

Having a slightly wider bar on it helps increase the advantage over the field as it reduces some of the twitchiness (is that a word?) unless the trees get very close.  I did find myself free wheeling and finding even better lines on much of the single track in recent races pulling away from the bikes with tiny wheels.  I put this down to fact the the combination of the big wheels giving you a smoother faster ride allows you more time to concentrate on that improved line and set corners and technical bits up earlier and on lines that you normally wouldn't consider.

When it does get technical and/or steep on the down I find the steel frame lively and going just where I wanted it and when in the saddle for hours it is comfortable and stable. Sure being steel it is no sprinter like a carbon or scandium frame, but neither am I.  The SIR 9 soaks up the trail and provides a positive riding response and keeps doing so, hour-after-hour, mile-after-mile, I have covered many miles on this bike in a number of 24hr and a 12hr race and the steel frame and geometry have delivered me to the end each time with some great results.

I have run the SIR geared for the 24hr races and single speed for the 12hr and will do so from now on (it just feels natural that way).  Running the bike in both options gives you so much choice and allows you to ride a great bike configured just the way you wanted.

The Bio-centric BB is genius, I can change a single speed rear sprocket in about 15 minutes from putting the bike in the stand to taking it out, it truly is brilliant compare with my Voodoo Wanga, which I fiddle with the sliders and multiple bolts to drop the wheel out.  Simply loosen the Bio-centric BB bolt give it a twist and release the rear skewer and sort the rear wheel out.

What can I say about the craftsmanship from Niner, you obviously request a high level of attention to detail from you manufacturer and they are delivering, the frame was finished beautiful and the finish bike seems to turn heads even of the most avid 26 inch geared rider.

A finally note has to be said about Niner's customer service, I have had one slight issue with the frame and that was the seat post slipping.  After getting in contact with Niner customer service (Drew Rhode) the suggestion of some friction paste and the problem is solved.  Brilliant, a simple solution to a problem.

SIR 9 from Niner gets a big thumbs up from me.

Three races on the SIR have netted an 8th (24hr Solo) and 7th (12hr Solo, single speed), I look forward to more good results and fun riding.

Mountain Bike Round Up - After Summer

This year I got back into my Mountain Bike racing, some might say in a big way.  Anyway, with a number of endurance races from 100km to 24hrs, it promised to be a long and difficult learning curve and I did not expect much.  Knowing a few folks which have done these events before and quizzing them was key to knowing what to expect and to helping me approach them prepared but humbly.

Being use to suffering climbing winter routes in Scotland and having long days in the alps would help the mental games.  Riding as much as possible even just short loops and 30 minute turbo sessions along with some pretty decent road rides and single speed mountain bike rides would build the strength and stamina.

But that is about as close as I get to talking about training, as it bores the hell out of me.  I'd rather know how people get on if they are competing, wouldn't you?  Their experience and how they found it, if they do well even better.

So with some sort of plan that would also be interrupted with a trip to the alps to climb, with Nik and the Cycleworks crew in support I entered and achieved the following results in my first full year of endurance MTBike racing.

Gorrick 100, 7 laps - 2nd Open Men 
(Single Speed)

24hrs of Exposure National UK Solo Champs - retired 8hrs30minutes in...
due to tendons torn in my left wrist in the ride to second in the Gorrick 100.

Bontrager Twentyfour12 - 8th Open Men Solo 24hr
(First race on the new SIR 9 Niner)

On my way to 8th in the Twentyfour12

Sleepless in the Saddle - retired 10hrs 30 odd minutes a broken man
(I entered after the disappointment of the 24hrs of Exposure) Rob Dean was right, two weeks was too close to the Twentyfour12.

Gorrick 12:12 TORQ in your Sleep - 7th Open Men Solo (Single Speed)
The SIR 9 Niner as it should be, boy this bike is good.

So overall a pretty good first season, but it has set the bar high for next year and the races are selected, just not entered yet.  It won't be long, but there is a small matter of the Gorrick Brass Monkey series and an all out SIR 9 single speed assault.  I better get riding.

Thanks Nik and Dave and the crew at Cycleworks.

See you on the trails.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Gorrick 12:12

 Well as the bikes gleam after a good wash to remove the grease, dirt, mud and energy drink from their sleek steel frames.  A quick bit of reflection on the Gorrick 12hr race and my 7th place and several others great first efforts.

I'll only go a little way to setting the scene, myself, fired up by Nick and Clive, entering the Gorrick 12:12, were joined by 3 others, Tommy (Solo) and Phil and Dom as the other pair.  Clive, Hudson and I had arrived Saturday set up the pit and camp and as the others started to arrive Saturday morning, the venue started to buzz.  I was for once fairly relaxed and more so when Nik arrived a few hours before the race, I can't do a enduro without here calmly over seeing things.

I had set myself a descent target of a top 20 on the single speed, I guessed tough target.  Arriving at the start line later than I planned I wiggled my way forward and then waited, the quick opening lap and then we were off.

The course was brilliant, nothing too technical, nothing to hard to climb, not at least until hr 8 or 9 and the gearing worked well and the plan to change around the 5th hr was about as good as expected and allowed me to put in some quicker laps, before needing dial it back for a bit.

A wobble about the same sort of time saw a slightly longer stop of about 5 minutes, a feeding frenzy and then a charge down the pit straight, that nearly ended with my stomach contents on the track.  But fortunately not.

Some ice cold rain for a period of time gave those with good bike skills an advantage and I caught and passed quite a number of riders in different cats as well as Solo men.  A shout from Clive now and then helped and the support from the pit was great.

Soon, I like Nick and Clive, would be in my element, the dark, on a course that changed each lap. As more riders pulled them selves out of bushes, picked themselves of the ground, I moved further up the standings.

With 3 hrs to go I had started to pick the pace up again and push on, if there was a crash in front of me and they responded to my enquiry to their well being with "I'm fine thanks", not another thought was given.  Even the lass that bailed into a small tree to get out my way was only given a cursory "Are you Ok?", but a cheery "Thanks a lot" when she said "I'm OK", I wouldn't want anyone to hurt themselves getting out my way, but at the same time I was quite focused on the job at hand.

I stopped briefly and lost 7th spot, but with another time to do two more laps, I took off and caught the chap.  He stuck to my wheel, so on the first climb I dug in and he popped, I wasn't going to win, but I was going to be the highest place single speed.

My final two laps, were all about finding the next rider and chasing them down and not being caught by anyone, this would surely ensure my place or another step up the standings.  Every glow stick I saw I put in an extra special effort as it was another soloist, but most I had past already, damn!

I swung past the pit one last time redlining, and yelled to Nik and Clive, see you at the finish and proceeded to bury myself and at 12.12 I crossed the line.  Found Nik and thanked her and fell on the ground mainly to stretch my legs and to get off that damn saddle.

7th in Solo men on a SS, I can't complain too much about and I also learnt a couple of extra lessons, already for next years assault on the 24hr circuit.

Super big thanks to Nik, Rob and Steve, for keeping me fed, watered and the spanner turning.
Nick/Clive, Phil/Dom, nice work guys top bombing.
Tommy, totally gutted to hear about the knee and sorry I didn't seem more concerned, but I was.  Heal string and fast dude.

So who's for some Brass Monkey 4hr action?  Single Speed anyone?  Make mine a steelie!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Gorrick 12:12 (The last endurance race of the year)

Well until the Brass Monkey series, but they aren't that long.

Gorrick 12:12 does was it says on the tin, starts at 12 and finishes at 12.  I am yet again Solo, but this time single speed, the SIR 9 as it should be and the reliable Wanga is ready as normal.

The lack of gears might have something to do with my experience last year in this race, the unexpected removal of my rear mech or the fact that up until the point I crashed and broke my lovely road on Saturday I was feeling strong.  A quick ride on the SIR on Sunday confirmed nothing broken, but Monday and Tuesday have been lost to work and the bruising coming put on the grazed and battered hip from the crash.

Not ideal prep, but I can't complain as I have friends who have had similar accidents and not got off so lightly (fortunately they are all back riding now). So there is sometime left for a couple of light rides and play with the gearing on the SIR 9 and then game on.

Several friends have entered this year and some support will be on offer as well and my seasoned pit crew Nik, will have some company this time round.  Predictions are me to suffer in to the top 20 Solo men, with top 10 as my actual goal, Clive and Nick K, to do very well in the Male Pairs a podium place, Tommy to do better than most will do as a Solo first attempt and Phil and Dom, to ignore the "we are not competing" statements they have both made and do very well for their first 12hr MTB  race as well in the Male Pairs.

If things go according to plan, when my folk arrive from Australia on the following evening of the race I shall be broken and rubbish company (asleep).

Yours in riding,

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Never rush into things

Every now and then we all make rush ill thought out decisions.  I never do this on a mountain (that would be a bad thing) but when it comes to mountain bike racing I occasionally make such a decision.

After the wrist injury pushed me out of the 24Hrs of Exposure and possible qualifying for the worlds in Australia in October, I was a bit deflated.  I was keen, trained well and knew I would have done well and possibly made the cut.

So to make up for this in a moment of madness I entered the Sleepless in the Saddle 24hr event Solo as you do.  Not a problem in itself, other than this is only 2 weeks after the Bontrager 24/12 (which I would finish 8th in the men’s 24hr Solo, I was a bit chuffed).  These two races so close together was going to be a tall order and I knew it and some very seasoned 24hr riders Jason and Dave and their legendary pit crew Wayne reminded me of how tough this would be.

So with my awesome pit crew, Nik, camped next to a few other soloist (James, Stuart and Simon and Stuart's family) I was set or was I?

The race started Le Mans style, bikes lined up in the start finish area, riders ready to run half a mile in cycling shoes (why?).  The run over, I started to work my way through the field using my normal tactic of a couple of quick laps and then settle into my rhythm.

Le mans style start. Photo by: Nik

The fixie legend of SITS
The course was hard and fast, with a good mix of single track, fire road and double track and some tracks being laid across open farm land.  There were a couple of steep sharp climbs and the others were all at a descent gradient for the length of the climbs.

My knees had started hurting within the first lap, but this proved not to be seat height problem, I was just still tired and recovering from the Bontrager, this did not bode well.

I pressed on, eating well, but my energy seemed to be getting sapped at an alarming rate and I could not eat anymore without the threat of throwing up and that would be extremely bad considering what I was putting my body through.

Photo by: Joolze Dymond
From about lap 5, it was a real fight and this really did sound the death bell for this race, to be feeling this bad this early was a very bad sign.  Out on lap 11, and things weren’t going well at all, seeing stars is never good, wobbling on the straights isn’t so great either.  I had been riding conservatively for the last 5 laps and out on this lap there was not change.  As I still passed pair and team riders as well as other soloist, but I knew I was cooked.

I arrived back at the pit short of the 11th lap, thought I would sit down, get warm and eat a bit and get back out there.  Nik, suggested I looked terrible, hence why I wasn’t forced back out again (the standing agreement).  I remember eating, once I was tucked into the sleeping bag and that was about it until about 6am.

On waking I knew that even going again after 5 hrs off the bike wasn’t an option.  I resolved myself to pitting for James, Stuart and Simon, starting to recover by eating lots of food, with a fair amount of protein and drinking lots of water.

I yelled encouragement at the guys and also at the other soloist and as the event was finishing at every finisher.  I wanted to check in on how Jason and Dave had gone and learnt that they had found the course hard on the body, with the track being so hard under the wheels.  These guys do race a lot and had other races lined up.  So it is about the good with the bad and they seemed ok with what they had decided and so did I, in fact I felt still quite happy with what I had achieved.

On return to our pit, I learnt that Stuart had emptied the tank and finished in the top 10 doing so.  Awesome work! James and Simon had achieved what they set out to do and seemed very happy.

Once again, even with a fail, I was happy to be racing and also happy I could help some others out.  Nik, you are awesome and sorry I have entered the Gorrick 12:12. I promise last long race for this year.

To Provelo, nice event and great course and Cycleworks, sorry I couldn’t top 10 again, but I flew the CW flag on and off the bike, guys thanks again!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Short Trip to Chamonix

As was planned for a long time, since last year basically, the annual FB group event, Alpine Raid lifted off.

 View from the col before the climb on to Domes de Miage

Les Grand Jorasse

Nik, Duncan and I, traveled to Chamonix.  Where we had planned to do mixture of a few different routes and hope that my sister and experienced friend would join us on some routes later in the week.  Things don't always go to plan and a day of rock climbing in the week would be the closest we got to this.

Duncan and I did manage to complete Domes de Miage and long but beautiful and not difficult snow/ice ridge line in amazing conditions. But the walk out in old boots for both of us would prove to be agony (new boots required all round).  So a couple of days of rest, boot hunting without success and then a day on the rock in Vallorcine, for Duncan and I this was done in approach shoes.  Nik and I did an easy multi-pitch that was superb.  Whilst Duncan and Kath, climbed single pitch routes as Duncan's feet were still a mess.

 Domes de Miage

Duncan on Domes de Miage

On Friday Nik, Duncan and I headed for Arete des Cosmiques as early as we possibly could.  Whilst Nik is experienced with ice tools, Scottish Winter routes, Norwegian and French ice, it was a first for her Alpining and as the planned acclimatisation hadn't panned out, it was going to be tough.

The softening snow and Duncan's and my ability when leading to find every bit of AD ground and exposed bit of the route added (that is to say we never got lost, just kept avoiding the crowds) to the first time experience for Nik.

Nik and Duncan Arete des Cosmiques

We chatted and laughed with some French guides and their clients at the ab station, crossed the loosening rock and melting snow and enjoyed an exposed alternative finish, which had me casually walking across a slab with an abyss directly below, this was only noticed as I was half way across.  It focused my mind a bit.

Top of Aguille du Midi

All 3 of us stood on the balcony of the Aguille du Midi and Duncan and I congratulated Nik for her shere determination and good skills on the route.  Next time, we will make sure we "all" acclimatise correctly.

An afternoons riding on the Saturday was the best we could muster and the Sunday saw the long return journey.  In short a great little trip, with only a couple of ticks missed, they will be there next year, this winter or the year after................Denali now beckons!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Bontrager Twentyfour12

This weekend an man of less than normal brain capacity was joined by many others at Newham Park near Plymouth.  The site of this years Bontrager Twentyfour12, one 24hr MTB race and two 12 hr races, one starting at 12pm with the 24hr riders and the other at 12am in the middle of it all, the Torch Bearer.

I had signed on in the ranks of the 24hr soloist, second 24hr attempt, would turn out to be second time lucky.  On what would be a great course, the rain started to full only an hr or so before the race start.  It stopped but it would only be briefly, over night it had rained heavily, but the track had stood up to this.  A few final tweaks, a successful and very rapid tubeless conversion, food and drink prep'ed, Nik with the plan in her head and loads of encouragement ready to be dished out as I needed it and it was off to the start line (half an hour earlier next time).

The race started, a sneak starting change to the course, made it easy to work through the bike hikers and wobblers (one of which most 24hr soloist become during the race), the course started to clear and flow well, the first two big hills would sort the riders out and the racing for the rest of the bunch would begin.  The lead soloist and teams had already shot away.

Enjoying the new bike the course and the occasional chat and the encouragement form most pairs, teams and all the spectators it is easy to see why the soloist can keep going during the day, evening and into the night.  The rain had come and whilst warm the rain made the course very technical, many crashes were starting to happen due to the exposed wet roots and rocks, but so far only a few dabs from myself.

I found it strange to find myself at 10pm after some pasta and varying other foods, passing some pairs and teams, as many as were passing me, well that's the way it seemed, I'll have to check the results.  Each lap, Nik offered food, encouragement and a measured amount of abuse, gotta love her!  Each lap I turned the pedals, watched the light fade into the now heavy mist as my tyres squelched through the mud, rode over the rocks and routes, two sections had become extremely cut up and technical and only the strong riders from the pairs and teams could muster the power and speed to get through these now.  Skill was no longer enough, walking was quicker and safer.

As time pushed on, I found myself singing along to "Always look on the bright side of life" with a lass that had started in a mixed pair in the Torch Bearer, we chatted a bit and I can't recall if I rode off or she did, yes it was about to start getting a bit hard.  Then a chat with Nik and the chap (Sheldon) who had set his pit up next to us and I found some spark.  I sang (as headphones are now band, someone obviously had a crash recently in a race and their headphones were to blame), so yes I upset the owls and god knows what else at points during the night.

3am soon arrive and I started to feel bad, very bad, at 4am I decided to finish this lap and some food a sit for a moment and see if the body would recover.  After this a bit of a keep and toilet stop, I was on the road (trail again), Nik thinks this was about 45 minutes for this stop.  I had wrapped myself in a rug, then Nik tucked me in with a pinic rug, I recall the conversation not the event, the event I do remember was sitting on the toilet feeling cold and like I can't go on, but on leaving the toilet, I was wide awake and super psyched, methane poisoning???

I remounted my nolbe and new Niner and head out, it had only failed me briefly and the faithful Wanga Single Speed had been on hand to complete two laps on. The track was still wet, but the rain had eased and the mist was thinning, the light was up as well (good less weight without the lights on).  Off I set.

Some of the pairs and teams were flying, two other soloist where also flying when they went pass, then on a technical section one had to get off and walk, we walked it and chatted, discussed the race and the track and wished each other well.  The spectators that had yelled at us most of the the night, continued to keep us motivated, one group giving the soloist Jelly Babies and Team Singular cheered me on as I cheered them on, our this is why people do 24hr MTBike races.

With morning comes hope, they say.  In a 24hr race, it is joy and a certain smugness, that you are going to make it.  As time closes in, you now start the tactical game, Nik checked the stats, positions and lap times, I was in 8th, with 4o minutes to 24hrs being done, did I need to go again to hold on to 8th, 7th was too far ahead, he would have to stop or have a mechanical or accident, you don't wish that on another competitor and John is a top bloke as well.

Nik ran the maths, I ran what I could of the maths, then Nik checked that if I crossed the line now, did I have to do another lap, the answer was now and I crossed the line with 20 or so minutes left until the 24hrs was complete, in the SUN.  :-)

The reason for this decision was several crashes on the last two laps, I was all over the shop at this stage, but had to concede that 8th in my second 24hr and the first one I have completed in some pretty terrible conditions was great, but was 8th safe, a top 10 was assured.  If I had to go again, I would have done, but I am not a hero, most hero's are dead and I have another 24hr race in 2 weeks.

All in all, a great bloody race, great course, great organisation, great spectators and the best support team ever.

Right recovery time.

Massive thanks to Nik and

Monday, 17 May 2010

Single speeding and snarling my way to 2nd in the Gorrick 100.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The difference a week can make. Cycle Kingdom Circuit Series

Last week I went in my second road circuit race and like the first one once I got lapped by my category I pulled off and DNFed as it gets to chaotic out there.

This week was a different story, feeling tired, but keen I arrived, early enough to have a chat and then get warmed up properly.  I had eaten well all day and loaded with banana's and a couple of gels before the race.  But I felt different, more determined maybe, this is not as big as the 24Hr Solo coming up, but it was time I rode well.

We lined up the whilst went and the E/1/2's left then us shortly after, I settled into a good rhythm and hope the new bike setup would work, I was doing my best to sit about 10-15 from the front and at 20 minutes felt good, the pace had ebbed and flowed, but it hadn't affected me at all, this was good.

Around 40 minutes I noticed the time again and still felt good and I was riding much nearer the front and still managing to free wheel now and then.  With about 4 minutes to go and 5 laps (in total 7 laps) I got a biting cramp in both calves, I think I might have even yelped slightly.  I thought no, this is not happening, I stood up out of the next corner and it hurt a bit more, back in the saddle it eased and so did the pace which we (a group of about 7 riders, me included) had been setting as we had caught a chap who had been away for most of the race.  The drop in pace allowed the pack to come back together and my calves to recover slightly, but they still hurt.

Heading up the finishing straight with 4 laps to go the pace quickened again and I closed an attack, "What the hell?", but this pace felt better for me and it caused the bunch to string out again, this is good I thought.  But sadly it slowed again and I thought about attacking and maybe should have, but the calves still stung.

A massive bunch swung out of the last corner and stood hard on the pedals, my calves weren't having any of it so I ignore them, I took a few places and got taken by a few, but I think I finished about mid bunch.  A great improvement on the past two weeks.

I watched as the Elites and 1/2's sped around the circuit and was very impressed by the power and pace of these guys.  Makes you realise just how good the pro's really are.

Gorrick 100 Enduro Challenge

2nd May, saw the first real Endurance race of the year, the Gorrick 100 (km) at Swinley Forest.

I turned out on the Single Speed and planned to use this race as training for the up coming 24Hr Solo race.  7 Laps of a mud heavy, wet, tyre sucking sand, sharp hills, twicthy descents, flat out fire roads and sweet as a kitten single track was the target.

63 men started in my category and the conditions would play a part on bikes and legs.  A small number of women had turned out for the 7 laps

The whistle went and so did we, the first lap was about sorting the field out on the track and then peoples strategies take affect.  By the 3rd lap the track was cut up a treat as there was one hill that was compulsory to walk thanks to the mud.

My plan was to keep ticking over an try to keep the laps at a comfortable speed, the lack of gears tends to keep you honest to such a plan, the plan was to finish the race.  At the completion of the 3rd lap people had already started to retire due bike, condition, plain too hard and not much fun.  But  many continued on, many of the 7 Lap girls making it a 4 lap race considering the conditions this was a great effort and a sensible decision.

As we continued the track got heavier, but the SS remained pretty much unaffected apart from the back brake pads disappearing, this made the twitchy descents interesting, but retiring never entered my mind, today had become about being string in the mind, even if that meant having to run/walk the bike up some hills.

On the 5th lap nature enforced a comfort break and would do so on the 6th lap, slowing my lap times.  But what had been impressive was the fact that I had been overtaking other racers in my category, this had bouyed me on.  Out on the 6th lap, I was thinking cool only one lap to go after this.  It was going to be a long hard day in the saddle, but it was worth it, I had put loads of hard k's into the legs.

Dipping into a deep bit of mud off a small embankment, the front tyre submerged up to the hub and a super many into 12 inch deep mud was experienced, this actually only added to the fun and didn't make me any muddier.  As I jump back on the bike, I realised that I had not seen many other riders in my category in a while and the riders I was passing or being passed by, were either 3, 4 or 5 lapers, and there weren't many of these left.

Climbing the last hill in the wheel sucking sand, I decided this would be the point that I was going to lift the pace, for the final lap.

As I headed for the Start/Finish, I noticed that they had re-routed the finish, as I crossed the line I commented that "I thought you might do that" to the stewards and thanked them, 6 laps was still long enough.  They all responded with big smiles and congratulations and the sponsor grabbed a bag and shook my hand and handed me a bag congratulating me on 2nd  Place, I questioned this "What?", and he said you have got 2nd Place.  I smiled broadly and thanked him and the small party of race organisers left and Rory the winner came over and we congratulated each other.

What a surpising race and a great result I thought, but it still didn't register as a great effort until seeing Nik at home.  I had enjoyed the race, suffered the conditions, managed a poorly bike, made my target, loved the track and chatted to some other like minded people as we suffered together.

Next stop 24Hr Solo Champs.

Scotland ina Weekend - Central Grooves and a dirve through the night

Sunday Rob and I were on the hill early, probably should have been a bit earlier.  We found ourselves at the base of Central Grooves (VII, 7) the route I had backed of Saturday morning, today we were going to climb it and I was up first.

I started up the first pitch with more confidence, but after reaching a higher point than Saturday, my confidence ebbed away and I soon back off, thinking of the time and the fact I didn't want to let Rob down by not getting this route down.

Me just below my high point on pitch one on a very lean route.
(Photo: Rob G)

Once I was on the ground, Rob set to work and climbed this very difficult pitch in fine style, picking his way through the thin edges and fine cracks to a belay of sorts.  I apologise at this point as I was to nervous (focused if I lied) to take photo's, sorry Rob.

I started off up the pitch and no everything is not easier on second, it still proved to be tricky and as I arrived at the belay congratulated Rob on a great lead.  I was up again and there was no way I could not, not lead this pitch.  The pitch started off easily enough, but shortly above the belay, it got a bit stiffer.

I found this tough mentally and doubted myself more than once or twice, a bad thing to be doing.  Rob encourage me from below and was great, glad I was on the route with him.  I pushed on, got some more gear in. (The gear seemed to come in clusters with run outs in between.) I made an airy step and then went to move up and lost my nerve and had to sit on the gear, booo :-(

I collected my thoughts and encourage by Rob, I pressed on, but this seemed a tough pitch.  I started up a vertical wall and near the top struggled to find good axe placements.  I decided to down climb for a rest, at this point my left axe slipped a bit and my feet popped, but I managed to stay there.  I wedge myself into a crack and had a few words with myself and made few silly comments.

Rob continued to encourage me and showed great tolerance ;-) , but it was getting cold and time was matching on.  Whilst I was having my moment, I think his patience (rightful so) ran out a bit, the next thing I hear from Rob was "There's no need to cry about it!".  This made me chuckle to myself and I new he was right, his comment and making me laugh seemed to help me focus and clear my thoughts.  I manned up as they say and got on with the job at hand.

I was soon over the wall in front of me, next a little run out to a suspect bit of tat, some discussion about if this was the belay. It all seemed a bit rubbish, so I pressed on thrutching my way up a series of cracks, placing my axes blindly and relying on feel and trusting my ability as Rob had told me to do several times.  I arrived at yet another suspect belay, I hammered the peg back in until it made a solid sound, placed a size 3 nut and called for Rob to start up.

Rob soon arrived and commented that that was a tough pitch, I thought so.  :-)  But I had not bricked myself since I got going again after the slipped so things were good.  I suggested that maybe Rob lead the next two pitches as one as they were a bit shorter and would save time on rigging belays and my faffing on the lead.  He agreed and headed off on what looked to be a bit easier ground, IT WAS NOT!

Rob climbs very well and when you see him thinking about something, it means it is tough, soon I would find out what was causing the thinking, but not before having a few spindrift showers.  After sometime Rob called for me to climb, I asked what the belay was like, "Not great came the answer", oh well what can you do, don't fall off!

I started up, through some difficult moves, eventually rounded the corner to see the slab of death, no ice and patchy snow and no gear between and the corner above the slab.  I thought fecking awesome lead Rob.  I passed this and the corner and the little steps above, collecting gear and feeling very tied and my arms felt dead.  I arrived at the belay and congratulated Rob and clearly the boldest pitch on the route, with some tough moves.

I grabbed a few bits of gear and started up the easier (Grade IV, 4) snowy ground above whacked one bit of gear in above a cornice I had just climbed and headed for the top of the buttress and finally to a bomber belay, woohoo, just when you don't need it.  Bloody Scotland!  Rob soon joined me and we congratulated each other.  I also thanked him for his encouragement and patience.
We made away down to the coire floor in rapidly fading light and then down to the car park in a very rapid time in the dark, I think we were back at the van around 2000.  Giles had already left and Nik and Dan waited for us with hot tea.

We sorted our gear and headed south again.  A long drive through the night, with Rob doing the lions shares and arriving in time for us to have showers and head straight to work.

This rounded out my winter, but what a great way to finish up.  I'll do it again next season as well.