Sunday, January 08, 2017

Middle of the night contentment

It's 3:18am to be precise.

I'm sitting on my kitchen floor although - unlike many sessions sitting on my kitchen floor at 3am recently - this isn't a sad thing.  To my right is a banana which I am eating to refuel after the National Cyclo-cross championships which took place today in Bradford.  I didn't have my greatest race - those came last week for some reason - but I did have an OK race.  I am still to figure out whether it was faster than last time or not.

To my left side is a mug of valerian tea to help me get back to sleep in a bit.  The effect of valerian tea on cats is similar to catnip.  To the extent that I start to think valerian is actually catnip.  My large cat is therefore rolling around by my side - stoned, slightly mesmerised, playful and flirty.  Typing is difficult for me because I've got one eye on my tea bag tag to make sure she doesn't just tug the mug over.

Despite being awake at 3am I am in a really happy place.

Yes it was work that woke me up but I have let things go this week and once awake, the best thing for me to do was to get up, get properly awake and remind myself that none of this is a problem.  It has all been fixed.  I am moving on.

So I started thinking about what is next to look forwards to.  There are two cyclocrosses left in Yorkshire over the next two coming weeks but only one is a league event so next weekend we are having a break from that and instead, disappearing into the welsh hills to take on an extraordinary bike packing adventure.

I wholly can't wait and am looking forwards to spending tomorrow planning the whole thing - whilst obviously being completely incapable of planning for weather conditions because WALES and because it's a whole week away yet.

I am happy because I have a home, I am just about holding on to my job (erm...) and because I have adventures to look forwards to.  I feel freer and more positive now than I have in a while  and I don't actually feel like I need much more.  I can sit on my kitchen floor and feel content.  The house feels more like a cabin now than it ever has.

Monday, January 02, 2017

2017 in numbers and photos

70 miles swum
3095 miles on a bike
481 miles run
200 miles of other things


I took a lot of pictures of the canal to wash away the dubious nature of winter training.


In stark contrast to February which turned into the most glorious and beautiful ski trip I have ever known.


 We went to Kielder to recce an Ironman course.  I love making this post every year because although we went to Kielder on 29th March, this picture makes the spring seem so close.


Stockton and my first race in GB kit where I was relieved to find out that it works.


Goes down as the second best month of the year.  The training, the sun, representing my country and a great holiday.


Kielder was back in full Iron-distance force.  I did the best I could.  There is little more to say.  Chuffed beyond belief to have finished a second one - proving the first wasn't fluke and exercising the demons that this is not my distance.



With all the endurance of an Ironman in me I set about enjoying everything, including my ride out to run the Great Hucklow Fell Race, The inaugral Legend Half Triathlon (which sowed the seeds of intention for 2017) and the Holme Moss Fell Race.


I was back to standard distance racing with a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the European Championships 2017 again.  At first I thought I'd qualified and then it transpired that a junior (in the 35 - 39 category) was moving up next year and had pushed me out by 24 seconds.

Far from being angry or disapointed at this, I took it in my stride - mostly because triathlon racing is purely empirical.  Rules are rules and if you're not fast enough, you're not fast enough.  Opinion doesn't come into it.


Best month.  Best holiday ever. Torino Nice Rally broke me but filled my heart.

Annual pilgrimage to the Yorkshire Dales.  Less than annual pilgrimage closer to breaking the 5 hour mark this year spurred me on to do bigger and better things next year.


As Britain voted to exit the EU I chose exactly the wrong time to enter the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon next year.  Sometimes when you need a goal you gotta get a goal but potentially, I paid more for my entry fee than anyone else in the UK.

Oh, and cyclo-cross started.
which is fun because I get to play with the big girls (all of which are smaller than me).


Must have been a slog as I have few nice photos to show for it.  TSK went to help with pedal cars and I got one nice MTB ride done and had an early, tentative tri training kind of a run (which then got abandoned as the 'cross season hotted up).


Work got silly, I got silly, everything came crashing in on me and then I made Christmas happen.  I ignored all the shit.  Built a life and lived it.  All I have to do is keep the momentum and keep my calm.  Keep hold of life.

I kept hold of the threads of actually managing to combine business and pleasure a few times this year and started to find that the more I rode towards 2017, the better 2016 got.  Now I'm hoping to carry it all forward in the ethos of never stop trying.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The end of week 52 of 2016 and the first day of 2017

Y'know, when things look bad, it's often best to kick them up the ass with a run.  I tried to remind myself of that on Friday when I was feeling down in the dumps and still didn't get out for a run.

I couldn't let 2016 disappear off the radar without one final trip outdoors and with friends with a bad back between them coming over to visit in the afternoon, I decided a run would be the best tonic for my mood and most expedient form of exercise before our guests arrived.

Fortunately TSK decided to join me so we were able to kick 2016 out together.

We ran up the hill first, along the top of the Rivelin Valley.  I forget how technical it can be in places but my new muscles are firing well and TSK doesn't disappear into the distance as I had expected.  I don't have much control over the new muscles yet so it's fast or nothing.  TSK (who has run more than me this week) decides to head downhill sooner whilst I declare I am feeling good and deign to carry on.

After we've parted company I am passed by a lithe young thing with bells on her shoes and a white-blonde ponytail.  I'm not sure if she's santa or a lady from Banbury Cross looking for her white hoss.

For a while I chase her along the trail and then she doubles back above me and I know not where I am.  It takes me a moment of standing still then spinning on the spot to figure out I am on the "steep" climb which usually reduces me to walking / scrambling pace but somehow this nymph has had me prancing and dancing up the cliff-face of mud without even realising where I am - she's obviously santa then.  And like that, she is gone.  Majic!

I am suddenly not feeling as good as I was.  This is my second run in AyyyyyyGES and I am racing tomorrow.  So I retrace my steps about 10m and head down the hill on a sneaky mountain bike trail, through the trees and back onto the A57.  I join the Rivelin River path and soon pick up TSK who has chosen the boggy route off the hill and has been up to his knees in mud several times.

It's a really pleasant run along the valley bottom dodging dogs, kids and strollers, chatty people and en-headphoned-miseries until we're finally back at the bottom o' our hill and walk to the top as a special Christmas treat.

10km, 40 effort kms.

We're slightly tired, quite hungry but ready to receive guests.  What a great way to end the year (*only to be superseded by excellent smoked meat, cheese, olives, salmon, handmade Gin... etc. chez Hawkins).

Unfortunately, my alcohol tolerance is non-existent at the moment.  I was doing OK until I poured midnight champers onto the rich and delicious food listed above and then walked home in fresh air.

My body rejected a lot of the food I've eaten in the last 24 hours.  Though only by going to the loo (not throwing up), it kept me awake until around 2:30am when I finally propped myself up on ALL the pillows to settle my stomach and support the neck pain that had been dragging me down in the late evening.  The alarm was not welcome at 8am.

Still, food and coffee consumed, I managed to dress myself in cycling clothing, get to Knaresborough and subscribe to the race I entered weeks ago.  My bad planning meant I didn't get to reconnaitre the course before the start - I should have left 30 minutes earlier but TBH, there was no WAY the alarm was going to be set 30 minutes earlier.

Somehow I had accrued enough British Cycling points to put me on the front row of the grid and I duly shot off the front before realising I resolutely had no frickin idea where I was going.  This is not a problem with cyclo-cross as the route is taped-off.  I just kept expecting Ali or Marie to pass me as I hunted on each corner to see which way it turned.  All I knew is that TSK had told me that straight after the bridge I was to run and run and run... no point in getting on the bike.

Finally Ali drew alongside and I called out, "I don't know where I'm going Ali!".  To which her response was an un-reassuring, "Neither do I!".  They both came past me and then re-mounted their bikes.  As instructed, I just kept running and running and running and somehow passed them both back until we got to the first riding section again where my strength waned and they continued.

Marie later said, "I had no idea what you were doing out there on the front going so fast".  I do, I was having a LOT of fun and only wish I had made the time to check the course out first.

Soon enough, two more women came past - Nicky and Ruth.  They stuck together and I dropped back until Ruth had trouble with her bike and I passed her in a fit of trying to de-gunk.  She didn't get me back.  I momentarily congratulated myself on my bike spec which carried me through the race without a change of my machine and meant that TSK could ride the men's race at the same time as me racing the women's.

The rest of the race passed without event except for the ins and outs of staying upright as possible, fighting the falls and keeping rider and bicycle in one piece.

Since Nicky is over 50, I took third place in the Vet 40 category (although I was 4th overall in the race) and got to stand on the podium for the third time this season.

7.5 miles. 60 effort kms.

It made a big difference to the day.  It's made me excited for the rest of the year.  It's made me feel like - with a little help from my friends - I am in charge of my own destiny again without interference from the illness I suffered a few years ago.  Training means something, gets results, isn't a waste of time and it's no longer just about finishing stuff but it's about doing stuff better than I've done it before, or at least better than it would be if I didn't try.

#Festive500 effort kms - total 466km.  So nearly there!

Friday, December 30, 2016


2016 is fizzling out like a bad smelling fart here.

What started as an epic and enthusiastic week got battered by storms. There are domesyic chores I promised myself I would do and I feel I had better get them done by the end of the year otherwise it will be back to work and everything will get forgotten till next year... maybe.

The curtain fabric for the living room has been rolled up in a plastic bag since 2013 (according to the label).  It has now reached something curtains-shaped with only the hemming and hanging to do.

Then there's the not-so-small matter of a training plan for next year. A work in progress which now needs finishing for motivational purposes following the cyclo cross season so as not to waste all that goodly gotten progress. Like a big wave of momentum crashing from the high of the 'cross nationals into 'learning to swin again' (yay!)

The plan is complicated this year. Breaks every 2 or 3 days because I have learned that I thrive on good recovery. This approach also allows me more space to juggle work commitments, though my new years resolution is to bow to those interruptions less frequently. I may even apply for unpaid leave on our flexible benefits to give me more time to train and travel to/from events. So I know my plan is too complicated and so probably wrong but there is purpose and methodology to it and it is now complete and black and white so there's another bit of 2016's chores out of the way.

Tomorrow is its last day. It's been an ok year for me, with highlights in May (Lisbon), June (Kielder), July (The Legend Tri) and September - TorinoNice (forever engraved in my heart) and a great 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross.

After that, the 'cross season was everything I needed it to be: great fun. If my reaction on Tuesday is anything to go by, "Is that it? Is it over?", my endurance on the bike is thriving.

Come and get it 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Macclesfield Supacross

Raced with Dame Sarah Storey - cycling heroine.
Came 101st... shouldda sprinted for that extra place.
Felt on fire, though tired.

22 effort kms.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Boxing Day Bogtrot 2016

2 overshot checkpoints.  8 miles (13kms) of mostly thrashing through thigh-deep heather.  48 effort miles on foot.  Not sure how that fits in to the festive 500.

Lanterne Rouge.

I will take it as a compliment that the organiser has never returned back to base in time to get soup before - meaning that although I was slower than everyone else today, I was less slow than the slow people who didn't dare race today.

The weather was still windy but gloriously sunny and it only hailed on me very briefly.

I got lost and lay in the grass to check my navigation and I had just gone out by 100m and got straight back on track so I'm pretty pleased with that aspect of it and looking forwards to the next one.

Long may it continue.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas ride

Fought up the Loxley valley.

Turned for Strines

Headed onto the A57 for refuge

Set out for King's Tree but decided to hit the Bamford Triangle instead.

Shared some chocolate with random kids on bikes... with their mum's permission.


Great Hucklow - the least windy climb in the peak... until the top.

Flowers hanging in there.

Finally a tail wind along Bretton top.

Down to Eyam then Grindleford.  Starting to get really chuffin' knackered now.

Debated whisky at the Maynard but couldn't stomach it so it's a good job it was shut.

On / off tail wind over Ringinglow.

32 miles per hour through Redmires without trying.

From 4pm sweaty cyclists to 6pm lamb christmas dinner and respectability.

Nicely done team Pamplemouse.

62 real kms, 95 effort ones.

The 2016 Festive 500

At this time of year there is the Festive 500 challenge  - to ride 500km between Christmas eve and New Year. Every year I think, 'that'd be great to do' and I never do.

Here's cycling magazine recommendations for completion of the Festive 500.

So this year I said I would and then it dawned on me that in the 8 days of the Festive500 I have 2 hardcore cyclo cross races which, although they tire me out only count for 12km and leave me without the time or inclination to do anything else.

I also like to go out for a mountain bike ride with Glyn and TSK and this year we combine with the extra pleasure of meeting Glyn's new laydee. So I won't be missing out on that. Mountain bike rides are, by their nature, shorter and mostly harder than road rides.

Cycling Weekly recommends that I avoid hilly rides to churn out the kms. Fortunately I live in Sheffield so avoiding climbs isn't a thing. Apart from being pretty bad at climbing, I actually really like it. The challenge, the warm, the rhythm, the change of position on the bike, the focus.

Thanks to my japanther boots, the cold is no longer an issue. I am hoping that yesterday's wind fest was the worst of it so I have already ridden through the toughest, riskiest day of the 8.

When there's cyclo cross on the cards though, pacing myself isn't going to help. When I was passed yesterday by Sheffrec's 22mph pace group there was nothing I could have done to jump on the back for a lift due to being half way through a strength training regimen that leaves me a little more tense and more exhausted everytime I do it so I will have to settle for what pace I get and with my legs and the storm, yesterday's was 10.5mph.

A day off. Well. Based on doing reasonably well in one of those cross races, a day off is essential but does reduce the number of days available to ride kms.

So how do I do the Festive 500 then? Well, I don't. With maths though, I will find a way. Whether I double my off road miles as 2 wheeled chick suggested or multiply my miles by their training zones or count every 100metres elevation as 1km (giving me an extra 24km yesterday). I might somehow achieve my own Festive500. Whether Rapha send me a cloth badge through the post or not is not something that I will not lose sleep over in 2017. Will I have had more fun on a bike than someone ploughing through Cambridgeshire lanes in he dark and pissing rain? Maybe so.  All we can be sure of is I will have ridden more different bikes in more varied conditions with a wider selection of friends from Britain's quiet cycling elite to work colleagues who go back 20 years.

I am happy that's going to fulfil my Christmas wishes.

The little cabin

I've been reading Jill Homer's books and dreaming of Alaskan wilderness, life on the bike and out of a bivi bag and every time I put the book down I have to return to my own drudging life of city scapes, life in an engineering office and from a stone-fronted terraced house with a draughty loft and a minor stream running through the basement.

I just started to read 'Arctic Glass'. Page 2 on the kindle recounts a return home from work to their 'little one-room cabin' and I look around me and finally feel like I am lucky to live here. Not because I have 6 rooms (if you count the drafty loft and a the basement with its trickle) but because this is my one room cabin. To have more than this we would need to work harder, gamble more on loans, pay more interest and do / spend less time / money on bikes.

Our 6 rooms - living, kitchen, bed, spare (just big enough for a single bed and a clothes horse), loft and basement mean that the only people who visit are hardy or close family and therefore the only people who understand our overflowing home of bikes, muddy fell shoes, excessive outdoor gear and wetsuits hanging from every corner of those spare rooms. And Sheffield is our perfect city. It provides our jobs and gives us somewhere serviced from which to access the Peak. It is our basecamp.

The only thing I'd change? Our noisy neighbour but really, he's a dickhead less than 1 in 20 days of the year.

And so the trudgery continues of working to support the cabin, gradually, very gradually turning it into somewhere more cosy and less cruddy - give or take a few damp spots - as, after 4 years of being here we finally get around to 'sorting the house out'.

Note to visitors: it's still going to be a hovel by your standards

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Ride - Solo


Yorkshire Bridge

Hope and the Adventure Cafe for tea and scone... and cream and jam.

Fought to get to Mam Nick.  Elderly lady plus dog suggested I ride the other way.  Blown up Mam Nick - feel like I cheated.

Feign wobble along Rushup edge to discourage motorists passing too close in the wind.

Put on a sprint to set off down Winnats ahead of all remaining motorists.  Rewarded with having the descent to myself until well after the bottom cattle grid.  Small cheer.

Turn up Pindale.

Can't face the headwind again at the top so turn down the quarry instead which is steeper and rockier than steep can be.

Spat out back in Hope and rejoin main road all the way to Hathersage.





Total 72 real km. 1259m climbing. 201km effort kms.