Monday, February 25, 2019

Train like a pro day 4 - La Rentrée

OK.  I didn't quite manage the Monday morning ride or gym, with a ton of stuff to take back to work, a little tired from yesterday and an urge to get in early so I could get out early.

This I did manage and took my new ride out for a spin this evening.  Without a team mechanic to get my bike ready it took me a while to get the tool bag, pump, lights and Garmin mount on.

I also couldn't decide what to wear.  On account of it being February in the bottom of the valley and June at the top of the valley where the sun had been shining.

I had an abrupt warm up Hollins Lane then pootled along one side of the valley and back along the other, messing with cleats, saddle height, position and more cleats along the way.

I think I nailed it but I'm sure I didn't.

A very enjoyable evening out, despite the mid ride freezing from time to time.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Train like a pro day 3 - Mates ride

Not the traditional pro today (and yesterday) but I did take all kit loaded out to the peak along with my trusty companion, Mr Landslide.

There was a fair quantity of haze around as we left the city on Saturday afternoon.
The Eastern Moors

We dawdled through the peak, dicking about taking pics and visiting stone circles before heading to The Robin Hood Inn, dined on fine lasagne and beer then went in search of a place to stay.


A poorly framed stone circle
 The accommodation was fine - flat, dry, comfortable. The company quiet, companionable and well organised.  We compared bivi notes.  I started off swathed in layers and had to de-layer in the night.  He started off delayered and had to add layers in the night.  My 1996 bivi bag really does give a fab night's sleep (not yet tested in the wet) as it is both snuggly, breathable and perfectly shaped for my form.

We went to sleep about 9pm then I got up for a faff, in search of allergy tablets, my outdoor allergies having been suppressed for some time by the virus, finally came to the fore of my failings again.  Sadly no allergy tabs on board so I went for a pee and that seemed to sort my chronic sneezing fit - an odd repair!

I slept through till 6:30 when birdsong and squawking pheasants woke me up.  The sunrise was fine, when we got up and got riding, the temperature inversion finer.  We brewed porridge and coffee then set off on day 2.

More stone circles and burial grounds were visited.  Once we dropped into the valley, temperatures plummeted and gloves were added.  Second breakfast was served in the Edensor caf at Chatsworth.  Very fine heated building with Pork Products.  After we climbed again, we had third breakfast at Longshaw sitting outside eating ice-cream and having more conversations than we'd bargained for.

We went out separate ways at the Foxhouse Inn as I set off for Houndkirk and Landslide headed over Blacka to do family time.

There may be no pro's in this sport but that's the best value training I've had all week.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Train Like a Pro - Day 2

Well, I did declare today a rest day but when I got pissed off with it I decided to try that gym thing out again.

I walked over which is a warm up in itself.  I also got some cash out the machine and yet, all the way there, I never addressed the issue of feeling hungry.  So I arrived in the foyer and popped open a pack of crisps and a cereal bar that lurk in my rucsac.

I looked like a right food addict in front of all the lovelies.  

Still don't like the running machine thingy, nothing like the real thing but after my sit-down snack, I had to get the heart rate up to deal with the air conditioned cool inside the room.

Maybe I don't like the running thingy because I was digesting my snack.  Still, quick stretch then back to the machines.

I took notes this time, made it count for something.

It was all just... satisfying.  I arrived around 4:30 and left at 6.  I am nothing less than super-inspired for when I go back to work.

With steak and top quality veg for dinner, this training like a pro lark is really suiting me.

Train like a Pro - Day 1

No not drugs.  There's no budget for r-EPO in this household - get ahold of your misrepresentations.

The new way forward in work life balance.  Up early every day to make that journey from sofa to gym before work.  By car or bicycle to make the rest of the work day recovery before returning home via a longer ride - or run - spent enough to sleep before doing it all again the next day.

Picking Friday or Monday (or both) as a rest day to prepare for the weekend's excitement or recover from it.

I did my first weights session yesterday at the actual gym.  I was pretty much dreading it.  I haven't been in for 2 years or more, I'm sure and they have refurbished it - probably moved things around.  I didn't enjoy it back then and I went out and bought some free weights of my own but they're a bit shit and I'm too nervous about falling through the loft floor into the bedroom ceiling.

On first pass at the gym, I hated it some more.  Of those still working out beyond 8:30 am on a work day there were lithe and pumped students in UnderArmour leggings and bra tops, sweating with tiny glistening gems and not at all pink or breathless.  Their pony tails bounced to the lat pull downs they were doing.

Then there were the ripped and wiry middle aged women knocking out reps or running avidly on the machines.  Sweating fully under the effort, their short hair spiked by the sweat.  Their winter suntans only vaguely rose-tinted as their defined glutes barely moved in run stroke.

I was entirely dressed in cotton, having come straight from a gentle yoga class in a well ventilated room.  I had no intention of getting a sweat on resulting in the wonderful soggy-bum look of cotton.  I was there to go through the adaptation movements and remind my body of the wonderous joy of weight training.

It was also a reconnaissance mission to establish:
  • Do I want to do this here or at home (requiring investment in more kit)?
  • Is everything still where it used to be and what's new?
  • What is here and where are all the things?
  • What did I forget that I need to bring next time?
  • How do the things work and what do I like / want to use?
I didn't even take a notepad in to write down what I was doing.  I should have, for as it turns out, I really enjoyed myself.

I did a little warm up to top up the warm from yoga.  I adjusted and tweaked the settings, taking all the machines out of tiny girl mode and switching into grown up sizes then dropped all the weights down into tiny girl mode.  Surprisingly some of the weight went back on  - after steering a 21kg mountain bike my arms are in good shape.  My glutes and hamstrings are fooked - which is what I expected and why I was there.

Big red admission flag: I got one machine completely wrong - sat on it the wrong way, tried to pull instead of push.  Tried it three times before I realised I was being an idiot.  Nobody saw me - at least nobody said anything and after that, I made sure to take a discrete look at the instructions before getting any machine I thought I knew.  Clearly they were out to trick me.

It took me a while but I did eventually start to relax and enjoy myself.  I stayed completely within myself both mentally and physically.  For the first time ever I didn't look around at what others were doing - either to tuut knowingly or worry for their safety.  I rested between sets, I enjoyed the freedom and challenge of movement and I relaxed contentedly in effort well done.

A number of times I got up to leave thinking, "That's enough, I'll just..."but then found another machine to re-familiarise myself with or a new bit of thing that I wanted to have a go at.

I didn't consciously avoid the free weights area or play on the mats with my own body weight because I'm not motivated to do those exercises right now.  I have my yoga and honestly, I'm bored of training without props.  A mixture between too much effort or guessing if I'm doing it right.  Instead I'm enjoying the focus of the weights room.  Put me in the stocks with the frames, cogs, pulleys and clanging metal and bizarrely my brain felt freer, more relaxed, less concentrated.

I left with a clear head and went in town to source myself a form of outdoors aerobic exercise to offset my new affection for indoors based training (a new bike).  Something light to do some audax on but also, in the meantime, something light to get some aerobic training on up and down the valley.  My mountain bike leads me to do whatever is asked of me.  I'm hoping the road bike gives me chance to spin the legs faster and speed up the progress I make with all this strength.

Once I got home I set out for my afternoon ride - leaving home at 1:30.  The Peaks were alive with half term holiday makers doing cool stuff like flying kites and mountain biking with their kids.  It made me very proud and happy to live here.

I rode till 7:30 in the evening. 

Didn't quite make the Edale cafe yet - I always faff too much en route and don't leave early enough.  I did get over 50k in and enjoy every second. 

It was just the right length ride and I ate then hit the sack straight after again.

Today, training like a pro was easy.  Same again tomorrow?

Monday, February 18, 2019


It's been a strange few weeks.

Thanks to a strange (yes I'll use that word twice) allegation at work, I was evicted from the office at the beginning of February.

In the first week off, I spent a lot of time writing down statements of turns of events, trawling through the history of things.  Trying to second-guess the random curse. 

I went to an interview about the random curse.  I couldn't decide between making an effort or turning up looking as tired and haggard as I felt.  I went for the former.  I showered, shaved my legs, wore a suit (that fitted!) and even put on some make up.  Pow, subtle eyes, tarted up my brows, mascara, tinted lip gloss.  A bit of blusher.  I looked ridiculous.  I rubbed at my cheeks and my eyes.  Ah, blended, that looks better.

Finally I found out about the random curse and was able to let go and enjoy myself.  Clearly it was important to someone but I can't get upset about it.

It's been remarkably rebalancing.

On the one hand, most importantly, I have had quite a lot of time to ride my bike.  This means that, following the really nasty sinus infection had, I have been able to get in to see the GP and to recover my fitness.

I got new glasses to correct my vision.  I'd been so busy I'd hardly noticed that my eyesight had drifted.

I also learned to appreciate work.  Whilst I would obviously rather be riding my bike all the time (that's why we call it a hobby), I simply can't. I remember that's why I'm not a ski instructor anymore either.  So what to do in the days off? 

You'd think all the annoying little jobs that you don't normally have time for.  The thing is, they're still annoying little jobs and I have no more time for them now than I normally do.

Exercise - of all kinds has been a life saver.  Walks in the park, into town, yoga, even a few weights in the loft.  Otherwise I don't really do "out".  I went into town and sat down in Nero to drink coffee on my own.  A toothless old lady came and sat with me and we chatted.  I wasn't in the mood but as she started to talk I thought, "what the hell, I'm lonely and have nothing better to do" so I listened to her and told her stuff about me although she didn't really listen to me.  I was the lonely middle aged lady listening to the lonely old lady.  She took a lot of listening to - without the teeth.

I went for a short ride that left me hacking with a cough again.  A few days later, a longer ride filled with terrain to take my mind off my job.  I got back as it fell dark, absolutely spent.

Time spent in town is unproductive.  I look at things.  Things that I would like but I don't want to buy because I have nowhere to put them and OH GOD what if I lose my job and I don't have any money and all the things! It's stupid.  My walks into town are long though - especially if I do lots of laps looking at things I can't afford / accommodate.

On my way home from town I headed for some benches to take a seat. I noticed a pen on a bench and make a bee-line for it.  It's a good pen.  Not in a Waterman "my mother bought this for me" kind of way but in a Uniball gel roller kind of way.

Students are everywhere but no-one is looking for that pen they just dropped.  Except I'm too middle class to go around picking up lost pens so I sit on the pen like I never noticed it was there and put my hand on it like I'm keeping my fingers warm.  I have a read from my note book and then my phone... for quite some time.

I realise I'm stuck.  I'm now paranoid I'm the subejct of a sociology experiment.  Students are watching me from a window somewhere to see if I walk off with the pen.  Jeremy Beadle is going to jump out of a bush somewhere on "You've been shamed" for stealing a shitty fucking student pen.  I eyed the University gardeners - none of them had curly black hair or  horrible goatee.

A phone call gets me an excuse.  I hurriedly pick up the pen with my book and stash it in my bag like it was mine all along as I take my call and set off walking.  The sociology students have won a bet and I am both scared, exhilarated and ashamed all at once.

Back at home it's no better.  I renewed my van insurance and saved 50% last week.  Yes 50%.  I know this is normal but, given the current state of my life is it not inevitable that I somehow screwed this up?  Have I claimed 20 years NCD?  Have I claimed my van is actually a fiat panda?  Have I told them I only drive 200 miles?  Of course everything is fine but the day peters into a continuous electronic mash of games and social media. 

Occasionally I look up and acknowledge that whilst you're resting, it's OK to do nothing.  How on earth is my cough going to go if I don't do nothing?  How will my muscles grow?  Yet there's a black dog on my shoulder reminding me I should be outside in this weather.  I've eaten too much so when TSK brings me food, it doesn't go down well.  It takes hours for my brain to actually go to sleep. 

On Wednesday I promise myself a proper care day.  I plot bike routes for future training.  I do some job admin and clean my bike and pack ready for a better day on Thursday.  Finally, I write.  I write to the boss to thank him for my latest emails and ask, "What next?"

I think about what's wrong, what's right.  The balance is missing.  I allowed myself to become a dish cloth and a mother and stopped being an engineer... though I did a reasonable job of holding up that end too and in doing so, I wore myelf out.

I'm keen to get back to work but at the same time I see an immense need to recover from what as happened so I did whatever makes me stronger and took myself out for a long ride.

Beautiful things happened.  I was washed over with exhaustion, made progress where I shouldn't have been and slept when and where I needed to.  I enjoyed sun set and sun rise and stars - twice.  The next day was a write off, mind.  I walked around in a daze all morning and then went to bed a lot.  On Saturday I was still recovering but still managed to sleep well and then on Sunday I managed to ride again.  I was getting good at this. 

Sunday's ride was another peach.  A wibble up to Stanage which was windy.  Descending to my sleep spot to look for a lost sleeping bag stuff sac and then back around the Derwent reservoir which ends in a steep push.  I had been heading to ride down to the Ladybower but as the sun set I thought of my doctors' orders to get more Vitamin D and stayed on the sunny side of the hill.  It didn't do my vitamin D that much good as the sun set behind Mam Tor but it did my heart the world of good.

This had been a ride for stopping and soaking up the atmosphere as well as eating and I could have camped any one of the places I stopped but decided to go home, spend the evening with my husband and sleep in my own bed if only to improve my changes of getting rid of the hacking cough that had still haunted me down the final off road descent. 

Reaching the A57 this time, it was rush hour and there was no way I was riding along that road on a loaded bike so I got as far as the Ladybower pub then diverted off road and rode / pushed my way to the top.  A brief road section back off at Manor Hall then off road to Rod Side, hit Rails Road and then climbed up the Byway to Crookesmoor.  After dinner I fell asleep at 8:30.

Today I was back to not knowing what to do.  At least the routine, the necessity of going to work forces me to take that bike out (in whatever weather) or gives me the excuse to take 30 minutes of sitting in a car each way if I need to - and I relish it when I have to.  Finally my brain accepted that doing nothing may be necessary and I can fail to enjoy it but sometimes it needs to be done.

After a whole morning though, I'd had enough.  Forcing myself wasn't getting me anywhere mentally.  There had been a few squally showers that put me off going out on my bike so I decided to turbo.  When your wheel drops out of the turbo to "Omen", you start to doubt yourself.  When the tyre goes down after 33 minutes you just get off and give up. 

It did at least persuade me I was warm enough and capable enough of doing some shopping on the bike.  That first brrr on leaving the house was out of the way - I was already sweaty.  I did a few trips - first to get human food, then cat food.  I did a longer loop carrying 4kgs of cat food to take the steepness out of the final climb and then I went up into the loft to lift some weights.  FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER!

Not such a restful afternoon then but I am quite fed up of being mediocre.  In fact I'm quite keen to get better - and just a little bit will do.  Some legs to match the enthusiasm maybe.  Not just big days of training but one after another after another.

Last year I made mistakes.  Clashing my attempt at an SR with the RRtY meant I packed too much into a short period of time.  This year can be different - I can train consistently but I can avoid exhaustion.  I can rest when I need to and exercise when I don't and being off work is a perfect start to a new regime.

Dreams - chase them while you still have them.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Februbivi - a Specsavers tale of rights of way and beasts that move in the night, mountain bike scrambling and class wars

By way of brief intro, I am currently out of work and enjoying every moment I can to ride my bike.  Having vowed to do one bivi ride a month this year (into next), I started with Bearbones in January and decided that a clear day mid-week in February will be the perfect opportunity for my next ride before I return to work and become enslaved to the Monday to Friday routine.  When better than the day before results from the doctor's office may put paid to any further intentions for winter outdoor pursuits?  Oh, and I'm waiting for new glasses.

I started my ride up the Mayfield valley, a short road ride from home. I can join the Endcliffe park trails through to the Forge Dam where it feels like you join the countryside proper.  First you ride alongside woodland then the fields open out and the track turns skywards for a short distance… but a long time.  A little fluffy dog at the top of the road wanted to cheer me on, or eat me.  I rode on by to Lady Cannings Plantation, taking the upper byway onto the moor, resisting the urge to go and play in the trees and continued across to Houndkirk moor.  The views were exceptional.  A little hazy but that all added to the aura.  Peaks layered through blue and grey light as far as the eye could see, contrasting with near-sight heather, orange/brown in its winter colours.  There was no-one else there.

At the end I joined the Longshaw trail where old walkers who don’t look before stepping into the road tutted when I made them jump, as I travelled carefully at 2 miles per hour to avoid trying to make them jump.  Everyone else I met was happy and friendly and I enjoyed crossing this permissive bridleway, signed now with bike-friendly access signs. 

I joined more of the same at Curbar Edge, where only one guy said (very loudly so I could hear), “I think someone took a wrong turning”.  To which I said (very loudly so he could hear), “Ooh I do love a shared path” and left him to discover the joys of the signs himself.

Image result for be nice say hi

It was time for lunch and so I sat with the climbers above Curbar edge to eat my cheddar and Marmite sandwiches and advise 2 riders passing not to try and descend where I was sat.

Someone’s kids screamed with delight in the distance.  A couple of dogs came looking for scraps and otherwise I sat undisturbed.  It was in stark contrast to my last crossing here on new years’ day.

Pretty much then and there I decided to do the new years’ day ride again.  When else would I have such a clear run at the trails than a cold school day in February (presumably not far away from “half-term-soon-anyway” when everyone stops making an effort to enjoy themselves because they’re about to have to be on holiday).

From Curbar onto Baslow edge then the drop into Baslow to skirt Chatsworth via the road, still not knowing what the access is like around Chatsworth.  The two riders I had seen earlier crossed my path as I hoofed down the road so I guess the access is good.  I finally turned off onto the legitimate bridleway that crosses the deer field and delves into the trees where I sneaked a tree selfie in my adopted new jersey (picked up on the roadside on the last day of the TNR with the intention of reuniting it with its owner one day).  If anyone out there knows its owner, they can have this jersey back - it's too big for me but I do like it for bike packing.  It's actually Decathlon hunting gear but great for discrete bivis - so long as I lose the orange helmet!
Can you see me?

At Haddon hall I took an annoying diversion from my route into Rowsley before realising my mistake and retraced my steps to get back on route.  I didn’t want to miss anything this time. 
Unfortunately I’d done this bit before and it was a bugger of a climb last time but all rideable so good training for *actually* riding my bike.

A short interaction with motorists is often enough to leave me feeling very smug at turning off a road and onto a brown stripe, streaking out across a green grassy field and the crossing of Haddon Fields was no different, as a white Luton van brought a hailstone shower of branches down off a tree because he couldn’t be bothered to wait for an oncoming vehicle to pass. 
Crocuses are flowering on the banks of the Lathkill river
I re-joined the road at Alport, for a quick swing around to Youlegreave to photograph the river before a quick off road diversion to enjoy passing Robin Hood’s stride on the road climb before delving back onto the underworld of Gratton Dale.  A place where I never see anyone walking and would make the perfect bivi spot, yet I am always there in broad daylight – or at least, just-about-still-daylight.

Tonight was no exception.  4:30pm and time for a sit on a dry rock and the remainder of my last ride’s Bombay mix.  The crossing of the trail didn’t disappoint again.  It was almost over too soon and I stumbled out onto the road to hack quickly over to the Midshires way. 

A long, straight railway section follows.  Time to ride easily and quickly on my legs and gain some time.  As the sun started to set, I checked the distance and my watch. It was 5pm.  I’d been riding for 6 hours and still had the same distance to go again.  I’d inevitably slow down but the next section was the fastest mileage I would do so I could foresee only a slight drop in average speed.  In theory I would be home by midnight or 1am but then I did need to stop and eat.

A flaw in my 2-day ride plan was that I needed to be back in Sheffield by 9am for a doctor’s appointment – so really 8am to allow time for a shower and a walk over to the GP’s office. I wanted to sleep as close to home as I could so that I knew that the final ride was as do-able as possible. 

When I last did this route in January I cut north at Pomeroy.  I was determined to do a bit more of it this time before bailing out onto roads and heading home in a Northerly direction – at least to figure out what was good and what was shit.  Parsley Hay visitor centre arrived in good time for me to consider my options. 

Last time I passed here, the station building all looked locked up but this time I realised that what I considered to be wooden security shutters, were actually decorative wall fittings, being the back rests for the benches on the old station front.  This time I went investigating around the back of the building and found the toilets proper. 

Amazed they were still open “after dusk”, I wheeled my bike inside to avoid the inconvenience of locking it up and pee’d with the door open whilst keeping an eye on my lovely bike.

I filled up my water bottle so I’d have enough to make dinner – I almost considered using a signal-box building a little further along – and set off back into the darkness.  I felt a little guilty as I heard people moving about outside, thinking it was a cleaner and I was about to get told off for taking my bike in the loo.  However, it was another mountain biker having a rest stop so we exchanged surprised hellos.

The sun set on my departure and I stopped to take what I hoped would be a reasonable photo later.  The shelter couldn’t come soon enough after the sun had gone down.  I was desperately cold after my stop so bailed in to the signal house to add a wool top, windproof and hat and exchange my shorts for my full length waterproof trousers as the only extra layer I had with me.  I realised the things I had not yet added to my winter riding pack – a pair of woolly socks and some fleecy leggings for night time warmth and comfort.  Determining that I would survive, I continued my ride.  Further determined to get as close to home as possible so that bailing became easier, rather than harder.

My perseverance was rewarded with a shooting star from amongst the many on offer.

No sooner had I dobbed on all my clothes than I arrived at The Royal Oak at Sparklow and it was 6:30pm.  Thoughts of “Shall I stop here?” were quickly replaced by, “I’m starving” and “I can save my crunchy boil in the bag pasta for another day”.
I scoured the trees in the car park for locking points then realised that round in the beer garden were reams of bike racks fit for locking to.  Without the lights on the beer garden (it being February), I’d forgotten that in summer, this pub is teeming with walkers, cyclists and campers enjoying the Pennine Trails.

As I went through the motions of stripping the valuables and batteried items from my bike, I remembered it was Valentines day – surely the pub would be HEAVING with couples – all tables booked out.  Still, I’d done the hard bit of locking up now, I might as well go in and ask.

They squeezed me into a table by the door that needed to be vacated in just under an hour.  Excellent – incentive for them to feed me quicker.  I ordered a pint of lemonade and a much needed coffee whilst browsing the menus amongst couples and families with teenage kids, suffering a Valentines meal out with their parents who were knocking back the Prosecco by the chilled-bottle-full.  I had plenty to watch.

As I stuffed down my main course of the most delightful Cajun salmon, I realised how cold I was as I still shivered.  More coffee was needed and did the trick.  I set off back into the cold feeling warm, insulated and fed.

Little did I know, I was about to enter the abyss of my own undoing!

At first all went well, following the national cycle network from the end of the trail into Earl Sterndale.  I then ignored the NCN signs, assuming my own route would take me to finer bridleways through rugged terrain.

Alas, no, I had missed the dots-of-god on the map and instead, plotted my own route along the more major (B) roads where I had to deal with headlighted drivers.  Y’know, the ones who stick their main beam back on at point-blank range.  Still, there were only two or three.

Then I climbed an overly steep road slope where I should have cruised on through the NCN signs on minor roads.

Then as I approached the top of said hill, I could see clouds of smoke drifting across the horizon in a bright glowing light.  What was happening?  Was a car on fire?  Was there an illegal rave?  Was someone having a bonfire and racing cars?  Was I about to be drawn off my bike, raped and thrown into a fire?

No, it was the Tunstead quarry works.  Steam billowing from the process plant and the lights of a thousand suns keeping the plant workers safe in an aura of perma-daylight. 

Once I’d managed to take my eyes off the place, I realised we had a left turn approaching fast (it was downhill here).  The path looked uninviting – a stiff gate marked with a “footpath” finger post, but I’m sure this is a bridlepath on my OS map – that’s why I use it.  So I went through.  A car passed and I panicked.  Despite all the lights around, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself so I rapidly turned off all my bike lights, reverting to my helmet light – which looks like a tall hiker’s head-torch.  I strode off up the hill, looking for all I could like a pedestrian. 

Cue an absolutely lovely crossing of the hillside that is called “Staker Hill” – just me, the darkness, the sheep and the safety signs warning me of the edge of the quarry, should I decide to stray from the fenceline of the bridlepath.  Erm, nah, yeralright.

A little mis-plotting saw me slightly lost coming off the descent into Harpur Hill, swearing a lot about extra distance to cover what could have been done in a 100 m drop from field level to roadway.  Still, the heavily fenced NCN was clearly keeping me safe from a network of quarried holes in the ground – both present and past – so I stuck with it.  No elevation was really added and the descent to the road was smooth and kind to my tired backside.

Now I found myself on the A5270 to Chelmorton at Brierlow Bar.  The bridlepath I had been intending to use was barred with a gate right next to a building and a sign indicating “No public access”.  I am oft deterred by such signs so vowed to take the next available route.  On looking at the map back home, I see it is one of those dreadful bridleways to nowhere – with access at one end but not the other – and maybe I’ll go next time and take a look so I know what I missed and see what’s so fucking special at the end of it that access can’t be allowed.
The alternative way back to my route would, sensibly, have been to retrace my steps to a minor road that would reconnect me with my pink line on the map.

Instead, I continued to the next path because, in the absence of my new reading glasses, this looked like a bridleway.  It was a walled lane and quite enjoyable for all that it was a bit out of use.  I had to force my way between rocks and the odd fallen tree which left me thinking it wasn’t worth much retracing my way back.  One could cope with a few wall climbs with a fully laden mountain bike right?

After climbing over three wall stiles and losing my Garmin twice, I found myself above Deep Dale, staring into an abyss of darkness with the only way in down a near-vertical bum-slide down mud and rocks.  A sign saying, “Alternative path” suggested that was an option and also that it was back the way I came.  However, I was feeling indestructible and fed up with this detour, brought on by some rogue land owner who didn’t want to cultivate access to the countryside for us mere plebs born into the lowly middle classes.  After 5 feet I was feeling fucking scared.  As I sat on my arse in the dirt holding my bike upright above my head with the brakes full on, I couldn’t even look at my Garmin to see what we were going to do when we got to the bottom… but there was a through route right?  That was the plan yes?

We slithered and slid along until finally we saw that the path eased.  In that it stopped being a direct 1:0.8 slope and started to be a switchback knife-edge path down a 1:1.6 slope.

Every time the bike started to slide or topple ahead of (or over the top of) me I was, reluctantly, ready to let it drop, before it took me crashing to the bottom of the cliff with it – very reluctantly since I’d just spent £890 on it.

Fortunately, the back wheel always came back down to earth or the slide always turned into something more manageable and stopped – and so did I, just before I was about to let go of my precious bike. 

We arrived at said switchback path and still I had to steady my feet on wet limestone before swiftly but carefully turning the bike through 180 degrees before we could make minor progress once again.  And so we descended until we came to rest, with our lives in our mouths, at the bottom of Deep dale.

It was not a completely wasted mission.  There is an amazing dry cave down there which would make a lovely residence for the night – not with a bike though.

Right, Garmin out.  Turn left for my bridleway says the Garmin.  I seem to be hopping over a stream of stagnant water.  The way forward seems pretty barred.  It feels like no-one has been down here for decades.  I don’t even bother to go and look, I feel like a tunnel or landslide is going to be blocking my route.  I can’t even see the path the other way – there’s only one option – back up the other fucking side.

I cross the stream and head for the obvious gate.  At least it’s a gate.  Thank god, no more lifting bikes over walls.  There’s a full on street sign down here – a proper temporary road sign.  It says, “Footpath closed till 2026”!  Fuck..  No wonder I feel like the only person here in 10 years.

At least it isn’t so steep on the other side.  More switchbacks but the kind of path that requires a push of the bike, brakes on, two steps and repeat.  Over and over for minutes on end.  At least at the top there’s another gate.  Then another.  I’m getting good at this.  At least it’s too dark for anyone to see me. 

As I approach the road, beasts tear across the landscape ahead of me.  Because I need glasses now – which I haven’t got yet - in the dark they look like golden retrievers.  I fear I am going to have to deal with bouncing, barking dogs or worse, their owner whose field I have just pushed my bike through (honestly, as I am now too exhausted to ride it).  Thankfully, as I get closer I realise they are just sheep, scattering at the vision of a pushed bike, roaring steam from the mouth of its human in the dropping temperatures and sporting a helmet light… in fact, I kill all lights so as not to disturb the sleeping inhabitants of the house.

Of course the final exit onto the road is a fucking stile.  For the last time, I heave my heavy bike over the wall, balancing it precariously on the rock step as I shuffle my feet around to turn myself and then drop the bike as carefully as I can – yet still unceremoniously – to ground level.  Finally I am on a road.  You always know you’ve had a tough mountain bike ride when you find yourself happy to be on a road.

Follow up: This footpath is now closed for 10 years as of planning permission in 2015 granting the quarry right to extend and change operations as well as re-landscape the 1960’s tip and slurry lake for environmental improvements.  The blocked footpath was presumably the scene of a landslide which caused the path closure / diversion.  The 2026 reopening is 12 months after the quarry permit to operate expires.

I pedal away slowly, vowing never to be that stupid again – though I know I will be that stupid again, it is one of the things that makes life so satisfying.

At the end of the road, I remember from my map plotting, is King Sterndale.  I wasn’t sure about King Sterndale.  Last time I went down it was on Phoenix when I had temporarily converted her into a gravel bike but still had slick tyres on.  It did not go down well with either of us and I ended up walking to the bottom.  However, after what I had just endured in Deep Dale, I rocketed through King Sterndale, getting a QoM in the category of “Girls too stupid to take a bike down/up that”. 

I’m off my route now so, decisions to be made.  It’s 10pm and I’m dog tired.  Next turn: Trail head – Pennine Bridleway or Monsal Trail is the question?  By now I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was get somewhere familiar and make a beeline towards home – as much as possible for a quick Februbivi then up next morning to go to my doctor’s appointment.  The Pennine Bridleway led to a road that led to a road that led to Peak Forest and from there I had a whole plethora of bivi spots to choose from – off ground places like benches and bus shelters I could think of.  More to the point, I could potentially enjoy a traffic-free descent of Winnats pass.  For once, doing the road descent on my mountain bike as the quickest way the hell outta there.  All sense of pleasure was gone from the occasion now, I just wanted to sleep.  I looked forward to the day when this is Scotland and I can sleep legally, anywhere on a trail without fear of being disturbed… ok – much of Scotland is in the middle of nowhere anyway.  The peak on the other hand is inevitably owned by someone and inevitably by someone nearby and I was hugging the roads – so a conundrum of my own doing.

Well, I’d forgotten where I was.  After a short and lovely bimble down the river gorge, I was faced with yet another precipitous climb to the top of the valley side.  What was I thinking?  Certainly not enough to get me out of there sensibly.  It’s all good training right?  I pushed my way back up to the top of the general Peak District level.  The progress was back to push, brake, step repeat.  At least, being a legitimate bridlepath this time, there was a gate at the top. 

The gate led to a trail which led to a farm.  The farmers were still up and probably have been / will be for the rest of the night.  It’s lambing season and the fully illuminated shed bleats at me in the darkness.  I consider offering my services in exchange for some hot tea and some warmth.  Instead I try to pass as discretely as possible heading for the byway at the end of their land.

In doing so I take the wrong route into the fields and instead find myself on another track / path through the field.  I do not want to do anymore wall climbing with my bike so I navigate two fences through a woodland and quietly join the correct route.  Sheesh I am done!

Finally I joined the road that led to the road that led to Peak Forest.  I started to think about potential places to sleep.  A romantic winter bivi in the wilderness was no longer really on the cards unless I made it so close to home I could sleep near Wyming Brook.  I was more thinking: quick hard snooze in a bus stop / visitor centre.  I considered the bench at Peak Forest – too close to busy traffic lights.  The church yard – still can’t bring myself to sleep with the dead. The bench at the Blue John mines – too much jewellery, I’m bound to be on CCTV.  The Castleton visitor centre – too bright.  Bamford toilets – possibly?  Basically, I was too tired to pitch my tent and too tired to be woken up by someone and asked to move on, shivering my exhausted way into the darkness.

I endured the roller-coaster road towards Sparrowpit, walking occasionally to ease the legs, getting back on to soothe sore feet.  I very much enjoyed the Winnats descent until I remembered to grab the brake in case there were any sleeping sheep in the road.  There weren’t but better safe than sorry.

My traverse though Castleton and Hope passed quickly enough.  A few late-night pub goers shocked to see a bike out so late – never mind a loaded one.  I swiftly realised that all low level camping bets were off as a thick freezing fog filled the valleys where the top of the peak had still been relatively warm and above zero degrees. In fact the temperature chart of my ride actually reflects the elevation chart quite well.
The first peak is my dinner, the second, my sleeping bag - topping out at 9 degrees Centigrade

The temperatures in the valley were noticeably sub-zero and sparkling ice was starting to form on every surface.  I’d need to get up high to be warm. 

I cruised past all the potential bench / bus stop bivi spots, heading for higher ground.  Eventually I ran out of steam so hard that my search turned to desperation and then there it was, a little dog / fox track leading to nothing but a flat, treelined area with a fence to lock my bike to.  I checked for dog poo and brambles, cleared away a branch and settled.

I still didn’t dare pitch a tent as I was very close to a public thoroughfare but instead, I spread the tent out on the ground to crawl inside like a bivi bag and to act as a ground sheet for my sleeping mat. I took the expensives and essentials inside, the rucsac for a pillow and stuffed batteried items into my chest pocket.  My feet had been frozen for some time so with relish I pulled off my boots and damp socks and stuck the feet in my down sleeping bag.  I was still wearing all my clothes underneath my synthetic down but I didn’t care anymore: I just needed to sleep – and eat that toffee crisp that had been burning a hole in my backpack for the last 2 hours.

After an hour though, I was still awake and intermittently shivering.  I should have taken off my wet layers and just gone with one that dried easily and my synthetic down but I didn’t and I couldn’t be bothered to fix it.  I’d pulled my tent over me to keep any freezing fog from falling on me but as such, my breath was condensing inside the tent and running onto my sleeping bag.  I had anticipated this and was supposed to be breathing through the mesh wall – not into the tent - but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t keep the canvas from falling over my face so I was either waking up shivery with the cold condensed breath dripping on me or I was waking up stifled and unable to breathe, sometimes coughing harshly as the remnants of my cough started to freeze dry to the back of my throat.  Still, I was so tired that lying down was just preferable to anything else – preferable to putting my tent up, preferable to packing up and going home, preferable to fixing the problem.  When that situation changed, I’d do something about it.  If the worst came to the worst, I’d brew up some water and eat pasta, pea and ham from a dehydrated bag.

Eventually, I started to feel like my feet were encased in soggy down and as cold and clammy as death.  A feel with my (reluctantly) un-gloved hands confirmed that this was a very real situation and not just my imagination.  I stuck out my tongue and licked drips of wet breath off the inside of the tent.  Time to take action.

I sat up, peeled off the wet tent layer and felt through every bag on the bike to see if, miraculously, I had stuffed some hand warmer pads into one of the bags without knowing it.  Alas no, today was not my day.  As I thought about the temptation to pack up and go home, I noticed that most of my sleeping bag was actually quite warm compared to the rest of life outside it.  Perhaps I could survive the night in just the bag?

I moved my damp socks up into my groin area so they weren’t pulling heat from my feet and so they’d be dry to put on when I did set off.  I folded the tent underneath the mat and the rucsac and stuffed my hands in my pocket and pulled down all the hatches on my sleeping bag.  I lay down and stared at the beautiful beautiful stars and the branches of trees, although un-leaved, offering me some cover from the harsh skies.  The half moon had set behind the hill somewhat, which probably helped.  In the distance, I could still hear the rumble of quarry – assuming it was the Earl Sterndale one in the distance and not the more local Hope Valley works which I couldn’t imagine operating at night.  It was a small, city dweller’s satisfaction that we don’t have to listen to that all the time… (like we don’t have our fair share of noise distractions like drunk drivers, sirens, burglar alarms and police helicopters).

At some point I stopped feeling cold and amazed and resorted to sleeping.  I woke at 0420 to the sound of the first commuter of the day driving down the road in the valley below.  My alarm was set for 0430 to get me back into town in time so I was relieved to have gotten my quota of sleep but although no longer shivering, I was ready to get moving.  The act of packing up camp always gets me good and warm – the general stepping, bending flexing and stretching of taking down camp, rolling up kit, stuffing things into bags as tightly as possible. 

I sat up and admired the sparkling sleeping bag, like a children’s drawing of a sleeping bag – a child that has access to lots of glitter.  It was mostly dry.  My feet were finally warm.  The socks had dried off.  Some of the sweat from my boots had evaporated before the remainder froze.  I blew out the dust from the previous days dirt and put the freezing boots on loosely in the hope the exertion of the pack-up should warm them through.  It worked.

I promised myself a brew and some breakfast when I got to higher and warmer altitudes.  It was, after all, only 3 hours ago that I had eaten a toffee crisp.

The first climb up to reservoir level had me off and pushing the bike and feeling hungry.  The question now: Stanage push, Cuthroat Bridge push or A57 risking the need to push up a busy A-Road (not just degrading but potentially dangerous).

I decided my feet couldn’t bear Stanage’s long haul.  As soon as I saw the grade at the ladybower pub I knew I had to risk the A57.  Thankfully the legs kept working and it wasn’t as steep as I think it is when I’m going down it.

To celebrate my achievement and give my body something to work with I decided to stop at Cutthroat bridge car park for a packet of twiglets – today was a new day so another dose of Marmite was totally in order.

I lay on the wall at Jarvis Clough with my twiglets on my chest and looked at those stars again.  Even more of them here.  The twiglets tasted bad – I had to remove a glove layer to stop eating the dirt from me lifting my mountain bike over walls.  A satellite passed silently overhead.  Cars passed by, oblivious of my location – only my Spot tracker lights blinking into the darkness, my thoughts for the conversation the satellite was having with my spot -  neat huh?  Those little pings of data reaching out into space.

I didn’t bother to brew up.  I was carefully balancing not getting too hot on the way up (so I didn’t freeze sweat on me on the way down) against turning into an icicle whilst I was stopped.  Instead, I thought of a 45 minute kip I could get before going to my doctor’s appointment.

The last push of the climb was a bit dogged by the inevitable influx of a bunch of HGVs trying to get a head start on the rush-hour traffic.  There were a few poorly planned decelerations which almost had me leaping for the undergrowth but once they had actually slowed enough and then waited nicely for the opposing traffic, they gave me lots of room and pulled back in carefully.  One large van driver also gave me hazard flashes of encouragement after I gave him a thankful wave for waiting for a safe overtake.

Finally the descent of the Rivelin Valley was just warm enough, just quick enough, just easy enough.  I was under no illusion how far I would ride up the road to our house – none of it.  I almost looked forward to the turning so I could get off straight away. Of course my feet hurt so it wasn’t that pleasant but at least it was quiet.  Zero of my neighbours saw me so that’s OK.

The living room light on was a welcoming sight.  The husband brought me a hug and the toast went in the toaster.  The Nutella jar was out.  I was in domestic bliss heaven.  I stripped off the damp and slightly frozen, still-got-Deepdale-muck-on-it clothes and fell into the bed stinking and sticky.  After 45 minutes of sleep, getting out of bed was torture but the shower after was hot and stinging, the walk to the doctor’s office was loosening and the news was good.  My bloods showed only a vitamin D deficiency though he handed me a prescription to make sure I got rid of my chronic cough once and for all.

Yesterday just got nailed.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

At least we're riding again.

I am, quite impressively, knackered.

Pretty much since my last post from Bearbones, I have not been riding my bike.  I got a cold which turned into a sinus infection complete with (skip to the next paragraph if you're squeamish) solid green bogies the size of cornflakes and eyelids glued together with custard-like concrete blocks.

It was very unpleasant and debilitating and yet it clashed with one of the busiest weeks in my project time line and so I worked through it.

I finally got the medical help I needed last week in the form of antibiotics and recovered relatively quickly although there's a toussel of a cough remaining.  I've been on a couple of gentle rides this week to help me deal with some real stressful situations at work.  Less training, more, recovering rides.  I did a fair amount of pushing and struggling.  Before that, I did some hiking which also involved a fair amount of scrambling up and down steep stuff I probably shouldn't have been on.

I didn't feel super-pumped this weekend and with severe winds yesterday, I decided to stay home.  By 4pm, though, I was itching for some exercise and to get back on a bike so, for the first time in months, I got on the turbo trainer.

For 20 minutes I pedalled rather aimlessly and faffed (situation normal).  I started to wonder whether I would ever make it through to zone 3 heart rate but persevered. Then the good music started and I found myself sprinting the beats as usual, doing some hard pedalling, some one-footed pedalling.  Then I climbed off and stretched, did some strength exercises and achieved yoga balances like never before.  It was immensely satisfying.

Not so good in preparing myself to go out for a ride today.

When I finally got out at 11am it felt good to be moving but things were clearly going to be slow.  I started heading for the Trans Pennine trail but as soon as I saw the car wash depot, I realised I'd left my camelback at home complete with water, food, money, cards so I threw a u-turn and headed home.  No longer inspired, feeling super tired, I decided to go home, have a sleep and try again later.

The only problem was, getting to the bottom of the hill up to my house, I couldn't even find the energy to ride my bike up to the house so I carried on up the valley, slowly pushing a tiny gear, to take myself on the path of least resistance back home the long way.

The advantage of doing so was I felt slightly better about the whole thing so diverted off a few minor bridleways to make the thing more enjoyable and get further away from the road.

It worked.  I got home still tired but happy.  Had some delicious lunch and flopped back into the sofa.   So, perhaps recovery is not going to be as glorious as I hoped but, at least it has started and that is really all that matters.

Thanks to modern technology I can reassure myself that this week I have done three times as much exercise as the week before and over half of what I did on Bearbones.  It's not time to pull the plug yet.