Saturday, October 26, 2013

3 Peaks 2013 (28th September) ride report

The night before the 3 Peaks is often one of my favourite camping trips of the year, not only is there a beautiful location but I am also surrounded (literally) by friends
This year was no exception as we arrived in the sunshine and I went out for a run whilst TSK thrashed his bike up and down the same road in the start of his furious Monsal Hill Climb training.

We eventually closed the doors on the corral campers at about 6:30 in favour of food and warmth over light conversation.

8 hours later we were awake for registration and porridge and last-minute faffing before the start and the start was its usual mix of chatting with friends, strangers and... turning around your front wheel.  We applauded those lost in their training for the 3 Peaks this year.  One man killed by a vehicle, another who fell whilst mountain biking in the Alps and away we went.  Andrew told me that dad had started right at the back so there was little point in me looking for him or waiting so I rushed off with everyone else, gradually slipping back through the ranks until we got to the bottom of Ingleborough.

There were still too many people around me though.  I slipped around behind slower riders when I normally would have ridden over obstacles in one go.  I felt tired as I started to walk and knew I wouldn't be on for a particularly fast time.  Still, the calf muscles felt OK going up Simon Fell.  There didn't seem to be many people around and I really couldn't figure out if it was a quiet year after last year' biblical weather; if I'd been extra slow on the bike or if I was ahead of the usual rush.  There didn't seem to be many behind me either though so I supposed I was just having a bad day.

At the top of Ingleborough I started to ride past slower riders with less bike handling experience, eventually settling in behind someone from Matlock who I knew would be OK.  Usual assistance provided to ladies travelling sideways on the top, using their bikes as a parachute rather than a sail.  At least the summit was rideable this year.

The descent felt kind of tough though and my legs started to cramp up on the way down.  I took on board large amounts of food and drink and headed on to Whernside, stuffing food in my face as I went.  I still hadn't had enough water and my leg cramps continued.  I stopped for a hug from Po before leaving the road then drank 3 cups of water at the bottom of the climb, explaining to the marshals that I was suffering from a chronic case of what we call, "Going out too fast".

The steep climb of Whernside was was long and hard but I just kept my head down and carried on going at the same speed all the way.

The wind got tougher and tougher and by the time I reached the ridge I could hardly stand, never mind ride my bike.  I tried and perfected riding along the edge of the footpath at around 20 degrees to vertical.  I leaned all my weight on the wind and prayed that it wouldn't drop and send me hurtling over the edge.  My prayers were answered until one extreme gust blew my front wheel (consider: with me still on it!) from underneath me.  Fortunately it only lifted a couple of inches before I managed to crash it back down to the ground - thankfully not onto a sharp rock.

When I had to get off to walk the steepest and rockiest sections I was fighting the wind every step.  My brain saying, "you shouldn't be working this hard just to stay upright".  I could feel the pain of exertion in my hips and in my ankles.  An extra hard gust blew me sideways again.  This time I struggled not to fall over my own feet and to make sure that my feet didn't land on or twist over any rocks.  I didn't dare hop from rock to rock for fear of being blown as far as Sellafield so I stumbled unceremoniously, stamping my feet down wherever there was clear space.

Deciding it was all a fucking joke, I chose to walk next to the stone wall - applying the engineering principles of boundary layer technology, in the ditch next to the path.  This ditch is around 8-10 inches deep and sometimes completely full of water.  Thankfully, given the summer we've had, it was empty and my feet stayed dry and relatively upright from thereon.  I later realised that not one single person had escaped being blown about on Ingleborough though I like to think that at 59kgs and 5'11" I had it harder than anyone.  I checked in at the top and started my tentative descent back down the hill - engaging my previous technique of riding sideways on the edge of the cliff.

I did the best I could to avoid both boulders and pedestrians - one of whom glared at me furiously as I was blown sideways towards him at 30 mph, clutching the brakes.  Thankfully we didn't engage anything more dangerous than an angry stare.

Maddie from Tod came hurtling past me, happy to be on the make after I'd caught her in the middle of two mechanical failures.  She promptly went over the handlebars and hit a rock.  Me and the chap alongside checked she was OK.  She seemed happy enough so we continued on, only later to find her at the fnish line, retired and in a sling.

The descent of Whernside was easy this year as the limestone steps were relatively dry and my mountain biking summer had given me a bit more enthusiasm for bridging drainage gaps.  When I did walk over one I got the heel cup of my shoe caught in it and my bike and I kept moving.  Thankfully the heel released before any Achilles related mishaps but it was a close-thing involving a lot of swearing and "Gah!!!". When I could I dived off the path and rode on the grass, doing battle with fell runners who were just as quick on foot.  When I asked if one was a fell runner he responded, "I'm not even sure if I'm human right now".

The bottom of the descent was as uneventful as it could be without any Alice in Wonderland mishaps (a few years ago I did fall down a rabbit hole - overstretching and cramping both calf muscles at once).

I reappeared with shaky panache at the bottom of Whernside feeling refreshed for the large liquid intake on the other side but restocking on Soya milk and the last energy bars to be sure.  I switched bikes, just to get the lower gears on Red because I knew I'd never make it up Nemesis hill (a short, sharp road climb) without a 30 tooth sprocket.  My ploy for riding a higher gear in races to build my strength did not apply to 5 hour long events.

I was surrounded by encouragement on the road section to Pen-Y-Ghent and two of us resorted to riding together - at least as far as nemesis hill.  All others passed me by with shouts of, "Come on, we've got to make the cut off".

I arrived at 1:50, with only 10 minutes to spare to cut off.  By the long corner, my legs had had it for riding and I got off and walked about 400m earlier than last time.  Far from being disappointing, this meant I could enjoy the encouragement from spectating Norton Wheelers and my team mates coming back down the hill, over an hour ahead of me.

I was surrounded by other walkers and gradually picked them off.  My marathon legs were clearly still managing something.

I checked with a descender to find out what the wind was like on the top.  "Not as bad as the others" he shouted over the roar.  "You're very kind" I said, not quite believing him but he was right and at least I was able to walk upright.

I checked in at the summit then stopped when I had turned around to add the windproof layer for the descent.  It's become a bit of a ritual for me.  By protecting the body from the cold, you protect the brain from the fuck up.  I picked my way across the hillside, open and grassy, way above where the walkers are taking the easiest line up through the rocks.

Somehow I managed to get myself very high up on a grassy bank and did have to make some quite impressive bike dumping manoeuvre to prevent myself from doing a 10 ft tumble head first but to be honest I can't remember the detail. No matter how inelegant, I just remember being chuffed I was still in one piece.

Gradually the riders coming up the hill became fewer and far between until there were no more.  My heart sank as I realised that my dad had DNF'd again.  I really didn't think he was that far behind me although I hadn't seen him all day either.  I was glad of the new surface on the path down Pen-Y-Ghent which rendered the descent 5 minutes faster than in previous years.  All the more frustrating that Pa hadn't made it onto the hill.

The crowds were still cheering when I came back down and TSK shouted, "your dad's quit" as I went past.  I didn't mind, I was too busy trying to shove an entire slab of Kendal Mint Cake into my mouth to get me up the last two climbs without cramping.

It didn't work and as I heard someone come up along side me I sprinted through cramp to try and make the pain be stop sooner, in favour of less pain for longer.  After that I pretty much resigned myself to free-wheeling the last 4 miles to the finish although thankfully the cramp released after half a mile and I was able to pedal again.  There was no racing for the finish line this year, just glad to be down alive.

When I got my result I wasn't very happy with it but then I realised later I managed 5:54 on a year where it was intensely windy.  My best result in 3 years and best result since I've been doing long events in Triathlon through the summer, or maybe I should quantify that with "since I have had a life-changing event every single summer for 3 years".

Ingleborough: 1:15:44 - my second fastest ascent since timing chips were brought in. (see previous comments about going off too fast)
Cold Coates (descent & flat) 23:22
Whernside 1:27:11 - third fastest since timing chips introduced
Ribblehead descent: 42:26 Despite impressions on the day - pretty slow
Pen-Y-Ghent top: 1:29:20 Where things went pear-shaped
Finish: 35:50 Third fastest time - though given the 5 minutes this took off my time in the last two years, I suggest I need a lobotomy to be able to descend PYG at the speed of my golden days sub5.5hr PBs.

Looking forwards to the next one already.

Lessons learned:
Pacing to the end
Don't fall asleep on the descents and think they're surprisingly easy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Milford Haven to Seascale

On Monday night I went to see Ned Boulting talk at the Showroom cinema in Sheffield.  We left at around 8:30 then I headed home to pickup my passport for my site visit on Wednesday and I drove down to Newport in South Wales.  This took me until midnight at which point I spent around 1 hour faffing and trying to wind down from the drive, getting to sleep about 1:30am.

On Tuesday morning I left the hotel at 8 to get to Milford Haven for 10:50 to allow myself enough time for a site induction.  I arrived in town 45 minutes early then my head shut down and I spent the next 50 minutes making myself late.

After my meeting I started the long drive to Seascale to attend my Wednesday site visit.

The meeting didn't finish until 3pm so I had to eat lunch and dinner on the road.  I damn well decided to take some of my life back and stopped for a short run on the North Pembrokeshire coastline where it was pretty windy and I could only just see the sea.

I didn't feel like running at all on account of the raging headache and intense breeze but run I did - to a certain extent.  I didn't manage to run over to the very tempting crag on the other side of the valley but I promised I would visit it next time and ran around my particular hillock instead.  With all of these things, the trip back to the car is always shorter as you know where you are.

Despite the howling wind, it was pretty warm and I stood around next to the car luxuriating in the warm breeze and sitting out on the still-hot engine of the audi wishing I'd packed coffee before retreating inside to change out of my wet shoes and hit the road again.

The drive North from then was pretty depressing - especially when it got so dark I couldn't see what was going on around me.  I just concentrated on the traffic and drove until I needed more fuel then drove some more until I reached Lymm truckstop - last refuge before the M6.  At least I didn't need to worry about the sweaty runner look.

3 hours later and I checked into my hotel at Seascale complete with sea-view (well I can hear the ocean and I understand it is located on the other side of the road from my darkened hotel window).  It's still midnight by the time I've showered and gone to bed.

Morning comes and I am exhausted.  So exhausted that I turn my early morning run alarm off in my sleep and instead get up at 10-to-breakfast time.

I eat breakfast with my colleague. 

I go to site and discuss projects and measurements and I say reassuring things.   As the meeting draws to a close, I am starting to wish everyone would be quiet because I don't want anyone to say anything important because there's a high likelihood that my tired brain will miss it.  I escape unscathed, have my second 3pm lunch in as many days  which I eat watching 2ft waves crash into the sea wall, thinking about the Whitehaven killings as the stark memory of the police cars lined outside the caf where I'm eating my lunch comes to mind.  There's now a memorial in the park to all the lives which Derrek Bird stole from the villages in 2010.

I slink off back to my hotel, which I've checked into for another night and attempt to sleep-off 2 days of long driving evenings  in 1.5 hours.  I wake up groggy but have to get outside and do some exercise.  It's a day for the gym really, with the wind blowing so hard but nature's gym will have to do today so I set off on the bike after much faffing with bikes and clothing and my new light.

It's tricky staying upright but I hide behind sheep and undergrowth and I get 20 minutes of riding in  before the light goes on.  I've ridden out of the village and set off down a trail through a farmyard, field and along track.  I can see the iconic image of site on the horizon but unfortunately it's a bit too dark for the camera to capture it clearly.

We cross a hay field diagonally which is odd because the hay has been mown down to stubs which are just long enough to skim the bottoms of my cycling shoes every time my foot reaches the bottom of its stroke.  I can also hear the tyres crushing the stems as I ride in a steady rhythm of the tillered rows.  The lake district is tucking itself in under a cloudy duvet beyond.

My path stops at a meeting of the ways… and none of the ways are passable.  They're all massively puddled (not in the mood for wet feet), consist mainly of mown brambles or are made up of chossy grass-covered rock lumps which stop me with every pedal rev.  I give up and retreat to try another route. 

I ride along a bridlepath towards the coast line in the hope of picking up a trail which passes along boundary of open access.

I am riding alongside the Drigg storage facility and get the feeling I am being watched by some uniformed fellows in charge of CCTV somewhere.  I think of taking a picture of the "nuclear facility" signs but think better of it and ride straight through to the beach, just in time to see the last embers of sunset.

The expected tracks don't appear and I'm not for picking my way across the heathland in what is now quite serious darkness, no matter how strong my new lights are.

I've not been out for long and the hardest part of my ride was opening gates.  The most rewarding was this view and the most benefit I got from it was finding out how bright my new lights are.

I decided to call it quits at 7:30 and went for dinner.  Sometimes when you start work in a new area it's just about finding your way around, discovering which bridleways are good to use… and this case, which to avoid.  Tomorrow: the other end of the village.

Afterblog: In the morning, sleep and diligence got the better of me (initially) but since it was *such* a nice day, I had to stop and do this little run before I hit the M6.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Wirksworth Undulator

Lest we forget what happens when you stop training

Such was my enthusiasm to start fell running again, the last thing I did before leaving for the Wirksworth Undulator was to jog down the hill to post a new dark peak membership form through the membership sec's front door.  A tidy pile of running shoes sat on the front doorstep, welcoming me, though I wanted to get away to the race so I didn't ring the doorbell.

I ended up parked a little way away from the start of the race.  Eager to get signed on, I threw on my last few clothes, including the coveted brown vest and ran up the hill to register.  It did feel good - if not slightly cheeky - to write DPFR on the entry form.

Despite the panicky drive over, I was early so I ran back to the car to swap the kit bumbag for a rucsac before returning to the quarry and the start line where it was far too warm so I parred down to just the vest and prepared to set off.  Also prepared to put my long sleeved top back on once we got out of the hot cauldron of the quarry bed.

My new team mates pottered over for a chat.  Pretty kind on account of me having only re-joined 2 hours ago.  As the organiser called all runners to the start line there was a gradual progression of people away from the start line.  Keen to get away from the mele rather than get involved in it.  No triathlon ego's here!

The organiser pointed out the key hazards of the race: nettles, livestock, a slippery bridge.  He then asked us all to hand our numbers back as they were to be used in an artwork by one of the club's runners who wanted to paint a picture of the event.  Someone joked, "I know I'm slow but I've never been painted before at a race!"

The Klaxon went and we all rushed off then stopped, then walked, then ran a bit more, then walked a bit. Indeed we had avoided the mele.  The course went straight up out of the quarry before relenting after a small railway tunnel under the quarry access road.  Then we were out onto open land though a thick fog blanketed the hillside making it impossible to see much more than the runners in front.

A few people passed me when I stopped to tie my shoelaces (it has been too long) and I wasted a bit too much energy trying to catch them back.  I chatted to a guy who had come to race this event a second time so that he could see the scenery.  It wasn't working out for him.

I checked my watch at 25 minutes and concluded I must have another 35 to go.  I could've been more wrong but it certainly wasn't the best estimate.  I felt OK so I kept pushing and caught up another runner.  This time she stayed with me.  We summitted Carsington hill together and started the drop-off towards the factory where I threw myself over the edge and gained a bit of time but not much.  I checked the garmin.  I'd only run 5km, not as far as I thought.

As we dropped onto the Middlewood Way, my legs turned to jelly and I just couldn't cope with the flat running.  I thought of my ironman run and for a moment sped up a little but it wasn't long before pain started to creep in and I had to back off.  I suddenly felt quite claustrophobic with the railway embankments on each side and the wall of grey at the end.  As we turned off the way, the lady behind me passed me back.

Still there was nothing in the gloom but a couple of DofE parties having a slightly miserable time of it and the occasional passing dog walker.  We ran to the bottom of the grassy hill to be greeted by a marshal telling me to run down the road.  By now my legs already weren't talking to me except for the occasional exclamation of pain in the form of a cramping calf or hip extensor.  I really wished I'd worn my insoles.

Finally we turned off the road again and in an attempt at reassurance, the marshal said, "Only another 2 miles to go"!!!!


They were a lovely two miles - I have to admit.  The cloud lifted and we ran across ridings, dodging the sink holes & the cow pats.  My companions started to leave me behind.  They seemed to be walking a lot quicker than me - despite my occasional running.  We climbed up and up and up.  I knew I'd enjoy this afterwards.  I knew I'd have the best feeling this evening.  

I reached the last quarry road, desperately pittying anyone who was still out there and hoping they weren't feeling as exhausted as me.  I was also very much hoping I wasn't last but starting to think I was since I every time I looked back, I couldn't see anyone behind me.

The quarry was cruel.  I knew I was nearly back and yet the quarry road dropped right down into the basin of the old quarry before turning back up to climb out the other side.  The down hill hurt more than the up but of course the up was followed by yet another down hill to the finish line.  This descent was even more cruel than the first on account of the crowd of people at the bottom patiently waiting for us old farts to return to base.  I felt like I was being watched all the way down the hill as I winced with every knee movement and finally hobbled over the line in 1:38:04, slinking off to drink water and chat to the eventual winner who was now fully dressed and ready for the prize presentation.

The organiser announced over the tannoy we were waiting for two more finishers before doing the prize presentation to a very unsportsman-like, "Yesss, not last" from me.

Friday, October 18, 2013


So *meant* to go running when I got in tonight.  Thought of it all the way home.

Got in, got straight in the shower then thought, "bollocks".

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going back to running.

It's only 4 months since I ran a marathon distance yet I can't find the motivation to run again.

I've been out for a few runs since - possibly one or two a month - and I enjoy them when I do them.  I want to go running and have regularly taken my running kit all over the place with me... but when it actually comes to putting the shoes on and placing one foot in front of the other, I haven't run since the 28th September, the evening before the 3 Peaks.

When I sit here on the sofa, I really want to go for a run but my dinner is heavy in my belly and it's dark outside.  It's 9:30 pm and really, I'd be better off in bed.

Maybe tomorrow I'll find my way home.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Poor Progress

1 week and 24 hours ago I gave myself 4 weeks to get fit enough to go out training with my team without embarrassing myself.

1 week and 1 hour ago I crashed and wrote-off the rest of last week.

I managed:

Monday - Sod all
Tuesday - a 36 minute ride to work and a 1:51 ride home at a bit of a leisurely pace taking in the bike polo course and chips on the way.
Wednesday - A trip to the Sheffield Tri Club committee meeting on my moutain bike and home again - total 36 minutes again
Thursday - A 1:25 long ride to work taking in 327m of climbing (150m of this were in one go).  It took me 44 minutes to come straight home but then last week (straight after the 3 Peaks) it was taking me 49 minutes.
Friday - Took the tourer for the first time in the wind and going over potholes with my still-bruised shoulder took me 41 minutes to get in and 55 minutes to get home - though I was carrying the behemoth laptop.

On Saturday I started with a rest day and trying to decide whether or not to do the 13.5mile Windgather fell race.  I end up galavanting around town then doing a ton of stuff on the house and being quite tired-out actually.

By 4 am I have made my mind up that I will definitely do the fell race but then I'm so excited I can't get back to sleep and end up sleeping-in in the morning.

Today I get up and find that Cat Faux is world age group Champ.  I feel measly.

Question is, do I reset the clock on my 4-week limit or leave myself 3 weeks to haul-ass up to some sort of fitness level?

I think that only turbo will tell.Rollering in a new house... absolutely terrifying but found a new spot eventually, lost my head in the music and ended up mashing the pedals like never before. Satisfying.

Friday, October 11, 2013

You know you've had a good ride to work when:
- the hill is so steep you have to turn your light on incase drivers behind can't see you into the sun
- you find yourself on "that road" you use when the A57 or the Woodhead road is closed... on your way to Manchester.
- you have to turn to the compass screen on your Garmin to navigate to work
- you feel relieved that the traffic lights give you a clear run at that pinch-point over the old railway bridge
- you ride 4 miles with one foot out of the pedals incase you "fall off the edge".

Yesterday was a good day.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Crash test dummy

So today I was supposed to be training.  The first day of training for the next 14 weeks leading up to the cyclo-cross nationals and the first day of a 4 week programme where I have promised myself I will get out on the road with my club again (and not be a complete embarrassment).

Instead I am creeping around the house like a half-crushed insect having crashed phoenix sideways into the ground at Temple Newsam this weekend.

My first lap time was 12 minutes when I crashed, my second, 10:20, 10:36 when I decided to stop and pick up my Garmin off phoenix who was lying in the pits and then finally 10:04 and 10:17 when I actually got moving.  I still wouldn't be able to beat my arch rival with those times (although she didn't do the 3 Peaks) so I really want to get back on my bike.

At least I managed to find a comfortable position to sleep in last night and am feeling better.  I probably shouldn't but I really am toying with the idea of riding to work today... just to get moving again you understand.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Winter 2013-4 begins in earnest

I have been delaying the start of full on cyclo-cross training until after the 3 Peaks & after recovery.  I closed it all off with a massage last night during which Jackie pummelled the side of my back that had been subjected to bike-carrying and windy gusts last week.

I should do a pre-race run today but I really have to clean my bike first.  Not sure I'm gonna make it.