Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Stats & Pics

I usually stat in November but this year I didn't, I was so taken with completing RRtY.  So here's how my, very different, 2018 went.

Swimming - one swim - Harthill - about 200m in skins. (2017 -  50km)
Cycling - Too many to count - 12375 km (7734 miles), 165,313m elevation, 891 hours (2017 - 8,900km)
Running - about 23 sessions - 145km, 9000m elevation, 21 hours. (2017 - 20,000km)

January - had its daylight rides but a lot of them ended up like this.
February - some amazing sunny days and a few trails to break in the new bike.
My long distance journey really started in March but I couldn't omit a selfie with one of my heroes, Emily Chappel. I bumped into her in Rapha in London when I should have been working.
The redeye of my first 300k Audax including 10 hours of snow.  Bite me, I'm entered for 2019.  We have business to settle.
April found me on a successful 300k ride, credit to the glorious weather and flatlands of Lincolnshire and chips at 160km.
In May we loaded the bikes and headed out for a practice ride.  It was the first of many sunset shots which I promised myself every day on the Transatlantic way
June: Which picture to choose? This isn't a great photo but the peace of this place on the Ring of Kerry after my epic battles with Storm Hector had my heart in my mouth.

Well, I can't ignore this one. This was the day I knew I was going to finish.

In July - no really, it was

In August I carried on the roll with a 400 in which these two lovely chaps were my saviours in humour, company and snapping me out of the snoozles at 4am.

The Pistyl Packin' Momma was a lucky charm of weather in September.

I shouldn't be surprised by a wet day out in Wales in October but storm Callum made the Clwydian extra specially windy and wet with floods up to my hubs.  But at least there was somewhere for a seaside brew.


In November, leave was due so me and TSK set off on a mission to Blackpool.  I got up the courage to enter the Highland Trail.

I tried to give myself December off but once I knew the HT was on, and increasing number of evening sunsets were seen.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sneaky Running Training

Awareness of time and space and one's own place in it

The test of seafarers.  I left the house today without any navigation tools for I know this valley like my own hands and yet I had forgotten I do not run downhill in daylight - not in general - I just don't go downhill from my house during daylight hours on a nice day.  Every pathway was filled from edge to edge with identical people.  Bald and hatted short fat men with matching wives and daughters with bleached blonde long hair and parka anoraks with furred hoods.  The 2010s shabby chique - every one of them looking like they're waiting to catch the school bus to 1982 but that bus has sailed so now they're starting their new years resolution to lose some weight by coming for a walk in MY valley on MY paths.

I have to say, this is in preference to them going to a sweaty gym with other sweaty germy people but I forget how much I hate this fitness surge between Christmas and New Year excess. 

The reason why I'm running?  I have grown tired of not using my fell running membership.  I love running in the fells and have missed the longer races that I started to do.  I suspect it will only enhance my ability on the mountain bike (particularly the foot-based bit) so I have committed to a couple of fell races and today was my day that I start a mini-commitment to make sure I do OK there too.

I stomped through the bog on the other side of the river avoiding a family of 2 kids plus the 0.4 (labrador) and excitedly scaled the 50 degree slope of the valley side, heart racing, feet sliding from underneath me urging me higher until I am away from it and can perch on a rock to eat lunch part 1 - a banana.  A badly timed run. I think there's a path up here or I'm going to look like a knob! (there is).

I drop back down to the river and the herd of blondes have made it that far so I stay on the road for a while, now seeing the answer to my long-standing question of why on earth people run on that stretch of road when there's a perfectly beautiful path by the river.  I join at the next junction, keen to avoid traffic now and the normals have thinned out the further we get from town. 

I munch a rice crispie square to kill the time in traffic at the final road section before turning off into the Fox Hagg Nature reserve.  I always dutifully turn left at the footpath sign but today I notice a worn path to the right.  It's obvious that it runs along the road (if on the other side of the valley and 40m higher up) so I follow it.  I don't see a soul but have an, "Ahhh, that's where that comes out" moment when I reach the car park at the other end. 

No need for map part 2.

This is the runners equivalent of riding out to the start of an Audax.  I have been hankering after the run up Wyming Brook every day since I've started off-road riding and here I am, at Wyming Brook and I didn't even touch the car. 

I love the steepness of the Brook, its waterfalls and treacherous scrambles over the rocks (not really that scary) and the deafening noise of the bounding stream.  The walkers here are more adventurous and bounce out of my way with good day cheer.  At the top, a feisty old lady refuses to have anyone offering to hold her hand over the stepping stones.  I waver over the idea of running through to Stanage Pole or Headstone but instead decide to retreat to home and save my legs for a ride tomorrow.  I'm pushing my distance as it is.

I follow a pair of mountain bikers for a while and keep them on their toes as they have to keep stopping for walkers as I just skip by, running at pace with a biker doing the occasional push. 

The posh people on the other side of the wall are playing golf whilst I stick some gloves on to protect my hands from the biting wind, otherwise wearing only a pair of leggings and long tee against the breeze in comparison to their body warmers and thick leather gloves and flat wool weave caps.

I toy with the idea of a teashop lunch at the garden centre but push on for home.  My legs have been sore since 10k and I don't like the idea of stopping and trying to get moving again.  I'm having the occasional walk and then feel better so run the last of the route home.  A couple of near-misses - a trip and then a rolled ankle remind me I am not invincible and still a little wobbly. 

A little walk through the stables - so as not to frighten the horses - of course - then I run it home. 

A run after a rest day is exactly what the physio allows.  Now let's see if I can back it up with a ride tomorrow!

Friday, December 28, 2018

HT7 - Not the Festive 500 and carrying a mountain bike

Boundaries of the old ways
On 1st March I pushed my reasonably underused, yet moderately aged mountain bike into the snow to commute to work.  What miles we have done together have been hard - 1200kms and 42,000m of climbing in the Alps and 1500km of riding and racing off road duathlons - a run-exhausted athlete at the bars. 

As I made my way home from work that day, I decided to see if I can carry my bike the way the people in the picutres do.

I'm an expert at bike-carrying - 30 years of cyclo-cross will testify but Mountain bikes are different - the frame is too small for it to be comfortably "worn" over a shoulder so nowadays, bike hikers have taken to carrying their steeds across their backs, one hand holding the front forks, the other the frame, like a modern day milkmaid returning from the fields.

I had taken a "shortcut" through the park with the intention of doing a few slalom turns in the deep snow.  Once bored of this, I set off straight up the hill to attain the road ride home but first I had to hike out of there.  Somehow I hoofed my semi-loaded, snow-logged bike onto my shoulders and wham! The heavy Jones Bars swiveled around and smacked me squarely in the helmet.  Thanks to the thick polystyrene shell I was uninjured but it hurt like hell.  I dropped the bike then and there and pushed it to the top then rode it home the steep way (like a boss by the way).

I promptly parked the poor thing in front of the radiator for 9 months to rot.

The state that bike was in when I took it to the shop for repair was embarrassing but when all is said and done, I'm OK at off-roading.  Or shall we say, I enjoy it a lot - even more than roading.  So this year, I have decided to dip more than a toe (thank you Braunton) into the off-road pond and signed up for a race which has had me captivated and tempted with gradual tidbits for a number of years - since I first heard about it in 2014.

This Christmas period has all been about training for that.

I had a notion that I would attempt to ride the Festive 500 off-road but it was only a notion.  In this "new" world of mountain biking, EmVee and I are rediscovering eachother and our limits together and pushing them further.  Much to her dismay, I am hitting obstacles full on, relearning what will go and what will not and trying anyway to bring both me and the bike up to some sort of speed and fitness and to improve our skills.  Whilst this holiday period has been about distance and long days in the saddle, it has mainly been about Highland Trail training and so its lines have taken few prisoners.  It has been uppy and I have pushed my bike more than I would have like and won a QoM (Queen of the Mountains) for passing 300m in 10 minutes, simply because no other woman has been daft enough to take a bike up a hill that steep so no, my festive 500 (to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve) will not be completed (it hasn't even been registered).

The last long ride which might have set me back on a track to complete (leaving me 71km to do per day up to new years eve) was cut short due to lack of electronic devices.  I did get home, didn't die but did fall asleep on the sofa straight after dinner so it's probably a good thing that I didn't try and push through the last 30km.

The HT7 long ride was also cut a little short by my own parents making last minute plans to drop by, ergo placing a deadline on my time out.  I tried not to be grumpy about this and instead set off to have a hard but shorter ride and to get out early.  So unusually I was out of the house by 9:20 am and as the ride progressed well against my deadline I started to adjust its route into the unknown.  I mean I had a map and I knew where stuff came out but I did not know the terrain or the condition of the surface in between although these were paths I had chosen to ease some of the worst climbs - like the one up to Hagg Farm on the A57.  I made a decision to follow that route, held the gate for some approaching riders and as they dropped down to the Hagg Farm road, I ploughed on up the hill, eventually pushing EmVee over the rocks and thinking, "This will end soon".

Actually, I stopped first to contemplate life over a cereal bar, staring into the forest and ignoring some other bikers as they pushed on past me, chatting.  At least I wasn't the only one.  It might have been worth me trying to carry my bike again here but I didn't, instead, strengthening my legs and upper body by pushing (god I feel woefully weak right now).

The elevation gained was much higher than my alternative route and the surface just as bad and it did not ease off enough to make it worth while, still, as I have been saying all week, "Good training for Scotland".

Finally onto the descent to Rowlee Farm.  I struggled to ride down it but damn I did my best.  I didn't have much choice.  A group of 4x4 drivers at the top were ignorant of me as I passed so damn I rode it as far as was safe to and more.  I felt their eyes burning into the back of my head, willing me to fall off - or maybe that was my ego talking.  Eventually when the boulders became so loose that both me and the bike bounced and skidded 90 degrees to the direction we were supposed to be travelling, I had a little walk, eventually setting off rolling again once a side-path emerged to avoid the 45 degree slopes of sodden gritstone. 

That one, up there on the right.

The side path was cruisable and deposited us at the bottom in one piece and so began the alternate climb up to and from the A57 - solidly cat AAA climbing up at 60% (yes you heard) at the A57 briefly before steadying out to 30% on each of the switchbacks higher up.  It is at least tarmac but I yearned for the short sharp hike a bike and interaction of the climb to Hagg Farm.  I say interaction because in the opposite direction it is a sweet and renowned Downhill Route for those of a bouncy persuasion.

After my long hill climb I was finally rewarded with a summit ridge ride I have never done before until arriving at the Hagg Farm junction.  For the third time I almost fell as I attempted to ride over one rock step too many, ran out of momentum and instead, executing a quick dismount.  It was only ever my feet sliding away in the mud that brought me down, my boots designed a little more for North American tundra than Yorkshire Gritstone but still... I was getting a bit fed up of courtseying in front of hikers.

I decided I'd struggled enough and deserved an easy descent so I waved good bye to Hagg Farm and continued along the ridge of Hagg side and Bridge End Pasture  to drop down to the reservoir via Crookhill Farm track.  It was 3pm and yet, I held open the gate for an approaching rider, thankful to see me as a guide past the farm.  I hoped he'd have a nice ride and not get lost and thundered down to the A57 again.

My planned valiant attempt to ride up the bridleway next to the Ladybower Inn was ruined by the food delivery vehicle parked across the entry to the path leaving me blind to any lines - there aren't many to choose from and they change every day as more riders move or dislodge rocks.  There's bits of this track that are rideable, once the steep bit is over and it has been finely reworked by trail builders to make it wonderfully useable.  The end however, is only rideable by the Steve Peats and Danny Macaskills of the world but clearly I had forgotten how bad it was, for it was now that the thought dawned on me that I could have another go at carrying my bike like the people in the pictures do.

My bike was in the perfect position for picking up - around 2 ft above my feet at this stage, as I had already begun my heady descent off the rocks.

I grabbed my forks, grabbed a handfull of frame and lifted with all my strength.  The bike pivotted around my lower back in my grip, peeled backward, eventually bent me over so far backward I had no choice but to go with it and just for good measure, it stabbed me in the back with my chin ring.  At least now that I'm on a single ring, the damage was minimal as we both lay in the heather - me like a beetle on its back until I remembered to let go of the bike and sit up on my own.

Not to be deterred - it was going OK until the toppling part - I had another go.  I mean, I didn't learn to pick my 'cross bike up all those years ago in one race did I?

This time the top tube sat snugly across the top of my shoulders, the whole thing padded by my Camelbak (separate story / question) and I felt really comfy, "I could spend time like this!" (there's a fair bit of hike-a-bike in Scotland and some that requires carrying so it will do me the world of good to nail comfort in this position).

Once I'd got there, I moved towards the edge of the boulder I had been standing on, ready to start my descent.  Chuff me! That's a big jump.  There are literally no steps.  There's no way I am jumping down there with this on my back.

Unceremoniously (yet without toppling), I lowered the bike back down to the ground, onto the path below, its saddle sitting well below my feet.  Putting all thoughts of American cowboy movies or Indiana Jones out of my head, I jumped off the boulder NEXT To my bike and led my beast down the path to hike it back out onto the A57.  There had been enough strain for one day.

Back at home after a shower, a cup of tea and exchanging gifts with the old people, I climbed into bed with a distinct twinge in my back.  Rolling around in the heather with a spiky lump of metal was possibly the most exciting thing I've done this holiday and it left its mark on my physique.

So there will be no Festive 500 in this house for once you've started it offroad, you can't really then go out and do 300kms on a road bike and call yourself happy with it.  If I'm going to spend 20 hours on a bike I'd rather do it on the mountain bike and get 200k done.  But I can't, cos I'm going out and besides which, by the end of today, it's definitely time for a rest day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

HTs 5 & 6 In which I am consumed by the Christmas/New Year time/space continuum

HT 5 - no lunch with the Queen

A flatish Surrey ride which avoided major climbs but still allowed me to ride 45km in the mud, remembering to pack sandwiches to prevent Christmas Day café fails.  Didn't see any cafés.

On the first climb up to the Hog's Back, I went to take a gulp of water from my Camelbak, only to find myself drawing on thin air.  Where the hell was I going to find water on Christmas day!?  Without my camelbak bladder, I couldn't even knock on a door and ask for a top up!

I plodded on, optimistic that the garage would be open and stopped to take my coat off to minimise sweating in case I didn't find any water.  Swung my camelbak off and lo! the bladder was full, lolling out of the side zip, hose unattached.  I clipped it together, bunged it in and was refreshed.

I thought I'd plotted a route past Hampton Court so when I started seeing Surrey Police Surveillance signs, assumed that's where I was (totally wasn't). 

45kms went quickly enough to be home in time for a quick bath before heading over to the Sissy-in-laws to consume turkey and play at shooting foam balls into a plastic crocodile.

HT6 - Attack on a big Surrey ride cut short

In this ride, I attempted to combine the best of rides 4 & 5 into one big loop adding some different inflections in the MTB areas of Surrey.  I left with a full compliment of sandwiches again but in contrast to HT5, also found a shop next door to an Inn serving coffee.

Two wild pees and a deer sighting kept my wilderness brain happy.  Plenty of re-runs of favourite climbs from the last two days plus a sprinkling of new ones.  All ready for route-tweaking.

The "really steep" climb from HT4 was replaced with a much more bike-friendly one in which I resumed my customary 9th place on the leaderboard, instead of QoM, "No other woman has been stupid enough to bring a bike up this".

Also the memorable climb that I decided to "have a go" at and just as I was about to bail noticed I was being watched by a man and his dog so had to belt out the whole thing to the top.  Trep:1 Wobbly rocks:0.

All day I had been concerned about the Garmin running out of battery but decided it was OK as I always had my phone to get me back.

All day I had been concerned about leaving home without my phone but decided it was OK as I could always borrow a phone off one of the millions of people out for a boxing day walk to ring home.

It was only when I missed a turn in Godalming so ended up heading back towards the house at 6:30pm that I realised the two were incompatible and decided I'd better head home so I didn't run out of mapping in a strange area in the dark without my phone to help... let's not even think about the chances of the light going dead!

Home in time for a bath and boxing day curry.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

HT4 Always a surprising recluse

From the busting streets and aggressive drivers of Guildford on to the rat runs around posh housing estates of Victorian replica detached houses with Audis parked in the driveway, thinning to country lanes with a blend of stone-fronted mansions and Grand Designs boxes with saunas and Ferraris parked in the driveway, I passed a couple running and, like me, she couldn't resist peering into every gateway for a glimpse of how the other half lived.  I wonder if these people have enough time and friends to spend sitting at their cedar and glass-topped dining table on the deck overlooking Guildford city then turned off on to a bridleway offering just enough traction to trace a wobbly line across the North Downs to Newlands Corner.  That was better.

I crossed the A25 twice, the busiest road on the route, but otherwise had no clue where I was as I followed a pink line on the map, up hill and down dale.  I stopped to adjust my saddle once and consume a banana.

I've just moved to single chain ring gear on my bike so I have a 32 tooth chain ring and a 11 x 46 block on the back wheel.  Testament to how suitable this range is (I'm rather pleased with my selection), I never once reached for the left hand shifter and where a climb demanded I shift into the bottom gear, it went in cleanly and when the climbing was over, the next gear up was just perfect for what I wanted to do without frantic shifting up. 

With the suspension fixed and a new set of brakes, I was riding like I did 5 years ago when the bike was new because whilst I might be older, less fit and stiffer, the bike is now 300g lighter.

As I rode through ancient woodlands though, I couldn't help but wonder where all the people on bikes were.  The obvious answer to this is from my friend Simon who always tells me, "but Trep, you do weird shit cross-country stuff.  That's old school.  No-one is riding that anymore".

As I push up yet another roaring downhill, I'm glad no other riders are on it and a hawk sweeps through the trees and settles on a branch to eye me from above.

Finally I recognise that I am in Peaslake.  A semi-muscular, semi-flabby mountain biker is standing by his car in baggy shorts and no shirt, getting ready to go home after his morning ride.  Steam is rising off his back.  Down in the village I think I'll look for a shop but before I reach it I find 20-ish similarly steaming men (and one woman) hanging around the bus shelter outside the Peaslake store and pull the breaks on and lock my bike to the railings.  I haven't got any mates to look after my bike whilst I'm in the shop.

I leave the bike in the company of three teenage boys playing in the leet and fetch myself a sandwich and fresh percolated coffee. I join a couple of walkers, huddled in the bus shelter with their dog.  Asking if there's room for a skinny muddy one (there is), he glowers at me so I sit down and start up a conversation with the mountainbiker on the other side from Buckingham.

When he goes, I revert to the couple with their dog who, rather than being grumpy, are a bit overawed and think that we're all super-fit and riding "hundreds of miles".  I try to make us sound more normal and point out that we do have mechanical assistance.

I use my fingernails to help some riders retrieve a drawing pin from the notice board for one rider to reset his Garmin that his freaked out on him.  They're worried about me "breaking my nails before Christmas" till I ask, "have you seen me?", covered as I am with muddy spreckles from head to toe.

I leave the boys to their up-and-down routes and pedal across towards Holmbury St Mary, over increasingly wide motor-way paths which cross ditches and other motor-way paths at 90 degress to my direction of travel.  I repeatedly try out the suspension by rocketing down them super fast to get back up the other side still on the bike.  Finally, my route takes me down one of the classic descents that came from the Surrey Moutain biking website.  I am lost to trees and sweeping burms and occasionally worry that my Jones Bars are going to get snagged between two saplings. 

I drop out in a carpark and ashamedly pick my way down some narrow steps, having no idea if it's a footpath or what as I seem to have become lost in myself and gone off route.  I cross the road then a short time later flip off it again over to Abinger common to photograph a well. 

Some more classic trails - I'm being spoilt here before the slog up to Leith Tower.  A tiny child says hello to me then her sister - about 5 starts to tell me about her bike - which is just like mine.  She's only allowed to ride it with her daddy at the moment but when I say, "one day you will ride it on your own" she deftly says, "yes".

With their eyes on me I made a valiant effort to ride as far up the very steep, rocky, tree-rooted trail as I can and make it to the third tree root step before sliding off sideways and pushing to the summit.  There's a cafe in the tower so a teenager makes me a tea whilst keeping his eye on his friend to make sure she doesn't cheat at chess behind his back.  Teens these days!

Whilst most people sit and look at the view towards the south Downs in the distance, I move around the North side of the tower towards London and St Albans distant to get out of the stiff breeze. I can drink by tea without putting a coat on.

On the descent from Leith Tower I see the only other weirdo doing cross-country, say hello then disappear down an uncomfortably steep muddy horse bridlepath and onto a road.

My next turn off is towards Holmbury Hill viewpoint but I miss the turn so decide to take the mountain bike path around the corner instead.  At the bottom is the UCL institute of space and climate studies then I am rocketed up a steep path.  Oncoming walkers shout hello as I throw myself and my bike up the slope, hopping off quickly because it all gets too sudden and rocky. 

There's a sign in front of me about 80cms wide which says,

Caution, Extremely STEEP"

Yes, they went to the effort of using red paint.  

After a few metres, the couple have joined the path and he's striding up, shouting, "Hi there, hi, just to warn you, this path is extremely steep".  

"Hi" I say, panting.

He's jogging now, "Hello, hi, just to let you know, it's really steep up here".

"Yes, thanks, I know", 

"Oh, do you know it here?".

"No, but I can see it's really steep and I've seen it on the map".

"It's just that it's really steep".


Eventually I give up, "Good training for Scotland then".  

"We do a bit of mountain biking, what are you doing in Scotland?" by this point his wife is behind him, hiding her face and thinking, "We don't really do any mountain biking".  

"550 miles this summer" 

Him:"I'm doing an enduro race, moto cross for 6 days", I've got him now.  "Ah, that's cheating I say", 

"I don't think so, it's 'ENDURANCE'".  

"How far is endurance?" I ask.

Proudly, "About 100 miles a day".  

"Cool, that's about what I'll be doing."

"Yeah, but it's, like, up and down waterfalls and stuff".

They leave me alone whilst I push my bike up the 30% mud grade.  The track is worn to a narrow wedge section.  There's only just enough space for my tyre at the bottom and any attempt to walk on the side-walls of the vee results in my feet sliding sideways and either me or the bike lolling on our side and falling over.  I'd pick it up but I'd have to carry it on my back, touch it and when I was near the bottom I noticed I'd rolled through something Orange and sticky. It could have been earth but it could also have been dog poo.

Thankfully the wedge was narrow enough that I could just about push the bike dead ahead of me, the front wheel bouncing from side to side against the walls of the track to keep it upright so I could concentrate on putting my head down, choosing my foot placements and pushing with all my might.  I have to perfect a technique for carrying my mountain bike but today, in front of him, wasn't the place. 

Thankfully they didn't have time to wait at the top of Holmbury Hill to admire the view as they would have seen me toying with the idea of descending the wrong way (almost back the way I came) before choosing the right path in completely the opposite direction.  Something about the altitude had done my head in.

I skirted around the edge of Hurtwood on a mixture of bridleways and lanes, looking forward to getting away from the carparks and downhill routes and back on to cross country trails that roll on and on.  Just as \I thought I was going to make it, I passed some walkkers, assuming that was a footpath but ended up at a farm gate, obvously not a through route.  

As I retraced my steps a posh but friendly female voice called out, "Where are you trying to get to?"

A difficult question to answer when you're following a pink line on a screen.

I explained that my map said to veer to the right but it was obviously not a through route.  In fact one of the "walkers" was on the other side of the gate and the lady explained that I had been heading into "Duncan's property".  I complimented Duncan on his beautiful home.

We realised that my straight line had missed the sweep around Duncan's house and they guided me "up towards that castle" although then said I would be suicidal to ride up it - people come down it, they don't go up it.  Given my last encounter I was getting a bit fed up with people from Surrey telling me what I could and couldn't do.

"You should see the stuff I've been up - and down - today".

She squinted at me, "but you're... a girl, and you're covered in mud!"

Someone from the Adventure Syndicate probably has a really good retort to this statement but I was damned if I could find one after 45km hard riding so I just shrugged but she carried on

"Where is your car parked?" "I'm going back to my in-law's house in Guildford".

"But it's 4pm and Guildford is 9 miles... That way" (gesturing straight up the hill in the direction I was going).  Then she had an even more outrageous thought, "So you are married then? And what is your husband doing?"

"He's gone out for a ride on the road". 

Not understanding she reverted to the time of day, "It's going to be dark in an hour".

Me: "This light is very bright". 

"And do you have a horn on your bike".  I dinged my bell - thankfully for once, it rang out crystal clear instead of a pathetic "dunk" noise that it sometimes makes when caked in mud.

"... but you're on your own".

"I don't have to worry about anyone else then do I?" suddenly we were on common ground.  If she knew the phrase, "I hear you sista" she would have used it.  Instead, her face used it.

Conversations reverted to the normal ones around dogs and houses and where are you from?  Taking her point about the time of day I took my leave and set off to climb towards the castle except on attaining the castle driveway I was met by high fences surrounded by snarling Rott Weillers and a big sign saying, "no riders private road" so I hopped back on the bike (I'd been pushing some time) and descended to the trail turn-off that I had missed.

I really was on my own now.  I didn't see another walker the rest of my ride except on crossing the canal at Bramley, a major dog-walking area.  A highway bridlepath along the A281 brought me much joy as I sped along in my biggest gear separated from the traffic by a house and a a garden at least, all the way along its length.  The busy shoppers being oblivious to my existence and my wonderful day out. 

Through Chilworth I embarked on one more crossing of the North Downs, curving through trees.  It was now starting to rain so I checked the map to make sure I was nearly home and texted TSK to let him now I was making the last pedal revolutions back into town.  There was one more push to avoid a precipitous bridlepath drop onto a main road. I took it, extending my link to nature by about 5 minutes before joining the most expensive lane of edge-of-town property.  I stopped part way down to take a photo of Guildford Cathedral at night, startling a woman walking into town for a night out.

The great joy of spending time here is knowing how to get out of Guildford without dying now.  For some reason the Sound of Music had been in my head for some time and I wobbled my mountain bike over the "NO Cycles" railway bridge over the A33, singing, "Doe a deer, a female deer, Ray a drop of golden sun," My range ran out at "Tea a drink with jam and bread" and I rapped it as I waited patiently behind a walker, finishing "that will bring us back to doe" as I cycled down the ramp when he turned off to take the stairs. 

Even the residents of Park Barn were accepting of my appearance as I wiggled through the council properties to spit out on the "other" side of town.

In order of preference I jet washed the bike, my saddlebag and rucksac, my boots and then, my leggings whilst still wearing them.  I rinsed everything in the kitchen sink then put it straight in the washing machine, all whilst trying to appear socially acceptable.  With the help of TSK and a towel, I think I managed it although I spent the rest of the evening surreptitiously clearing up muddy puddles in the conservatory. 

On Christmas eve I will be dedicating the day to somewhat catching up on Christmas... before I do it all again.

Photos to follow

Sunday, December 16, 2018

HT 3 - Better weather still got soaked.

Finally, I did a bigger ride!  I did a bigger ride!

Got very excited.  Once I'd achieved my target of riding to stanage I didn't know what to do with myself so I headed to the reservoirs and rode around 1.5 of them including a little trip over Hagg Farm in the dark.

There was quite a lot of walking involved.

By the time I was getting to the final route-call I was getting tired so I headed back to the road but took the Bridlepath to Cutthroat bridge and avoided a lot of traffic.  Cue more walking as I decided to do without the traffic so walked the footpath to Moscar top before rejoining bridleway all the way over to Rails Road and finally rode down the Rivelin Valley on Rodside Road.

With 20 minutes to go the heavens opened but I just about managed to stay warm enough by riding up Hagg Hill (2/3 of the way) at which point I bonked so rode back along the bridlepath instead to save my legs a few metres of 1:3 climb. 

I got home 5 minutes later, dripping wet and in desperate need of tea.

What a brilliant day.

HT Ride 2

I went to bed late last night because I was working through my planning for the HT.  Still, I woke at 7am this morning, eager to go out for a ride.  I fed the cats and ate my own breakfast but made the mistake of sitting down with the computer, the HT route and resting a hamstring that's been giving me pain and stress.  Before I know it I was hungry and it was 11:30.  We walked for lunch on my suggestion and I though my hamstring was going OK so I decided to go for a ride.

If nothing else, I'd test my bike out and keep moving.  By the time I was ready to go I was enthursed for a long ride.  It started raining but I smiled up and set off into the valley.

The first few ups and down were fine.  I rode with confidence.  Then I started to feel my back wwheel skitting about - shortly before the whole bike went sideways across the road.  I headed for the right hand side away from the most oary cold wind and set my square section tyres flat on the road.  I managed to ride square to th ground for 30m to the top of the hill then, rather than the tempting longer route I decided the most sensible thing to do with this day was my own thing - keep it short, enjoyable but mostly safe.

I turned off onto the trail to take the same route I rode last week.  It became obvious where the ice came from, despite it raining not snowing.  A vicious Northerly / Westerly.

On the descent from the Farm a woodpecker rewarded my intention to continue on.

Within 2 minutes of setting off up Wyming Brook I had to stop and put the air back in my tyres.  Suddenly in the shade of the trees I got some momentum back and every rock I bounced off punched at my rear wheel  and threatened a pinch puncture.

I finally realised why my pump is leaking – it’s amazing what a bit of jeopardy will do for the logical reasoning.

A few moments of believing I was the only person to be out there on my own, I came across a couple and few dog walkers, mostly oblivious to my existence until I was past them.

Despite my tyre-stop waving goodbye to any hillclimb records, I pushed on over the rocks and leaves to the carpark, distinctly quieter than last time I was out.  I climbed the wet bike over the styal.

Back on the road over Lodge Moor, a bloke coming out of the pub asked, “How have you not crashed your bike?” I assured him I had tried.  I braked between the rivulets of water and the half-frozen slush and got off and into the field to join the bridleway along the top of the Rivelin Ridge.  It was enjoyable, except for the occasional slide. 

The worst part is the descent down to the road – around half way up the valley side.  I’m not sure I’m going to be able to ride it today but I’m damned if I’m going to walk it.  The bike humms royally, the brakes full on and the back wheel skids away as the front wheel thankfully holds us upright. 

At the end of the trail, the rain falling and running off the road had been scoured into an ice slick.  Now I was all for walking.  I hoped the council had been out and gritted the road that I had to descend around 100m to the next bridlepath.  So long as I was on rocks and leaves, I was happy.

There were no cars thankfully and I sketchily made my way across the road.  I walked over the steps then rocketed down the leaf-filled rock gully that I accidentally descended too fast last week. 

Better this week – not surprisingly – I was more gingerly.  The final drop offs were still worked.  There’s only so much I can do with skinny tyres.  I pushed onto the up-path that avoids the final climb of the A57 into Sheffield and pitied the freezing ponies

I saw my final climb and my final dog walker ahead.  By now I’d been riding for around and hour and 45 minutes.  “Mind the ice out there”.  I couldn’t find anything else to say except, “I KNOW!”.  It wasn't the ice on the hill I was worried about, more the road beyond.  Thankfully it was still raining hard, not snowing.  The worry was the salt would be washed off the road as I realised it had stealthily started lashing it down.  On the main road I went to turn my light on but really struggled.  The light was frozen so solid into a block of ice that I couldn't get the soft button to press under the hard caisson of ice around it.  The light flickered into life, the Garmin screen in a similar state.  I held my breath and hoped that the freezing rain wouldn't bring me down before I got home.  

The ride back was a mixture of local main roads until I realised there was no grit left, back roads - still covered in snow, and parkland.  I couldn't resist taking the park.  It drops me out by my house and is a nice traverse, even if I do have to walk it on the skinny tyres.

It took 10 desperate minutes at home to rewarm the hands.  As a training ride it was character-building. I don't think it was particularly muscle-building though.  Some more HT training may happen on the turbo going forward.