Sunday, September 24, 2017

3 Peaks Cyclo-cross 2017

The 3 Peaks this year passed by in a blur of: thinking I was doing better, not knowing how I was doing, puncturing, being average, ending with a time gain of 5 minutes over last year.

It was satisfying but a little disappointing, confounded by my dad not finishing due to a frustrating mechanical.  The official refused continuation 12 minutes outside cut off on a glorious sunny day. He worked really hard this year to get back to fitness after illness... not easy when you're 67.

Another one under my belt but no daddy daughter prize this year and no sub-5 hour for me proving that I will have to train specifically for it instead of pricking about with triathlon and mountain biking.  The legs felt slushy this morning. There's no other reason than I am knackered!

It was a beautiful sunny day. My friend Sue fed me flapjack on Whernside and I had great fun throwing stuff into people's cars (with their permission).

I wore old shoes which messed up my downhill running confidence and anyway I haven't done nearly enough of that recently anyway. Sub 5 hours is definitely possible but dedicating August to fine tuning may be required.

With my head in my next project already, it doesn't bother me too much that I didn't break any of my old records today. It matters more what I do tomorrow... or perhaps on Wednesday.
(c) Sue Thackray

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pre 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross

As I prepare for another year somewhere near the mid- to back-of-field listening to one-time bucketlisters moan about the "attrocious" weather and "infuriatingly difficult hills", I ponder that if I was a betting woman and there weren't a massive conflict of interest, I'd put money on myself this weekend... on me finally going sub-5 hours at the 3 Peaks again... after 20 years.

It's a distant wouldn't-it-be-nice which didn't really hold much muster.  More of a pipe dream than a possibility until last year when I got 5h19m after hanging around with my dad for the first road ride out to Ingleborough.  Nothing else went particularly badly to make me believe that it would have been easier to make 5hrs stick but despite finishing with the usual cramp in the last mile - I felt like the day was over too soon last year and I could have done more.

There are a few reasons I shouldn't get a sub-5-hour time.  I haven't run in 3 weeks... 

until this evening when a jog across the valley to retrieve a key went surprisingly easy as I bounced up the 20%hill across the road from us.  I've not done much running but 14 days ago I was probably pushing a (heavily loaded mountain-)bike over the Col de Peas at 2600m.  At that point I swore that it'd be all taper until today... and it pretty much was.

My race bike is filthy.  The last thing I did with it was rode it 564 miles across British Columbia to race it.  Now that we've done two cyclo-cross seasons and bonded over 7 days on the road together she is sufficiently worn in to justify her 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross debut so for the first time ever I will be riding this race on a bike that fits me.  When I was growing up they didn't make race bikes for girls and big bikes then just became what I was used to.  30 years on and my musculoskeletal system can't cope with excessive stretching so all of my limbs will be doing this year's race in the correct position.

I tentatively tugged at my new tubular wheels which might also help me towards sub-5-hour glory.  I thought the glue might, just might, have lasted long enough for this weekend but sadly it was not to be.  I was almost glad they were obviously no good, rather than being maybe good enough to risk.  SO I'm on 3-4 seasons-old tyres, hoping they won't pinch puncture and relying on my old steel steed as backup (yes the big one).  

That's two bikes I have to service tomorrow morning.

On the plus side, in the last 7 weeks I have worked 10 days and spent most of the rest either on my feet, on my bike or recovering from racing/training.  As I have said many times in the last few years, I'll either be exhausted or kick ass.  I can never tell anymore.  After hauling EmVee around the Alps, stepping onto Simon Fell with my cyclo-cross bike is going to be like splashing in the shallows after wrestling with the Kraken.

Whilst the body is heavily protesting with a stiff hip and plenty of impromptu cramps, the mind is at least willing.  And, wouldn't it be lovely to repeat a sub-5-hour finish 20 years since I last did it?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Day 1 of Many

And so one adventure ends and another begins (these two things are related).

I spent my first day sat on my arse on the sofa.  Partly recovering from TNR and also shopping - bikes, lightweight gear, travel.  All I bought was a boat ride.  Everything else is in a spreadsheet.

I don't know if it was the right thing to do but it certainly cheered me up.

I also plotted a route to the start of the TAW (well, two actually) which is half of the freelance course.  So I am now 2/3 of the way to knowing what this event looks like.  Turns out the route between Dublin and Derry is mostly flattish and from what I've seen of google maps, inhabited by the worst of Scottish housing.  I'm therefore optimistic that I will enjoy it more than I expect to.

The important thing is, despite screening till 11pm, I got a fine nights sleep and woke up knowing that I want to move.

Whoever's this image is, I will be using it as frequent motivation over the coming months.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017 the 2nd Torino Nice Rally

This year's TNR feels very different to the last for many reasons. Physically it was more - longer, harder, faster, cooler. Mentally it was both more and less challenging.  In some cases we knew what was coming which made life - and planning food - easier. Other times we pushed ourselves to try new extensions and they were new to us and satisfying as we moved faster or harder, were better prepared and we came out of them in one piece.

TSK making new friends early on
On the whole we finished in a better state than we had last year - not so exhausted, still able to move all muscles and all nerve endings, tendons in tact.

What happened to us, or more specifically me, was a personal learning experience - an internal rather than externally influenced outcome. Yes I rode hundreds of miles through beautiful Alpine countryside. I climbed two score vertical kilometres (yes that's 20,000m) and rode back down them again as fast as I could and all in all enjoyed the whole thing more than I even expected to. It turns out you can go back to a race and come away more fulfilled.

What you can also do is be over 16 hours ahead of last year's schedule by day 3. You can use that to tackle one of the hardest hike a bike sections on the entire course when only one other person did and earn kudos from your peers in doing so.

It put us back onto our last-year schedule but then we added in more and the more was so enjoyable, challenging, so enlightening. We were all but alone. We were lucky that we bumped into 3 Italians who helped us along our way at the right time and then they stopped and we continued for 5 more hours. We slept well, ate well, survived happy, breakfasted, reinstated my coffee habit and finished 2 days later than last year, with more of the course complete, more of ourselves stretched and less fucked.

So what did I learn that was so special? That I am ready to race long distance bike rides again and that I am ready to do it on my own, not as a pair. That my own timeline and my own body clock is the most important thing to listen to and that I can organise myself, endure hardships, recover enough, take the right  breaks, adapt my body to life in the saddle and enjoy every moment of it with all my heart. I learned that the sounds of the wilderness keep me going and lull me to sleep when I am ready. I know that unbearable pain can usually go away, given time. Today I know that fatigue from intense effort only really happens after 9 days (at the moment) and even then, only when I stop.

I have seen respect in the form of a knowing nod across  room and it has led me to consider a distance racing future.

I  am more excited than you can know about what is to come. So I am finding it difficult to write about this TNR. it meant so much to me and yet it is just the start of a new chapter in a book, perhaps even a preamble to a sequel.

As I write it is 1am and we have just sat through 1 hr of M1 road works so tomorrow there will be
lie in and laundry and a lot of planning and the  the hard work will start - the prep, organisation, training, bike building and more training.

Things are about to get weird and if you're a friend of mine who lives some way away, you can probably expect a bicycle visit sometime in the next year.

The satisfaction of the finish line

Saturday, September 02, 2017


Things that are exciting me about this ride:

  • It's a holiday with my husband
  • I seem to have learned from last year and will be packing less stuff.
  • Other people are bringing more stuff
  • I have decided to safety blanket my footwear and carry shoecovers.  This should guarantee good weather.
  • Pondering that I'd just like to ride there... from home.  So maybe TSK will get his way and something longer will be in the pipeline next year... I mean, the boat is environmentally appropriate right?  OK not really, but kind of necessary when you live on an island.