Monday, July 13, 2020

Northern Myth

Northern Myth is a route I plotted last year, whilst sat at my desk on a Friday with a fully-loaded bike waiting for me in the carpark.

My aim was to ride North to Mytholmroyd then East to Todmorden and home on the Pennine Bridleway, amongst other things.  I wanted to do as much offroad as possible but ran out of time to plot my route beforehand and so I let Garmin make my choices after work based on the heat-map function. This left me with mostly a road route (although some great, tiny roads).

On the Friday I went to the pub for dinner, slept in a wood then continued through a big day on Saturday, battling the map all the way to make it more interesting, beautiful and less roadie.  I slept near a reservoir just outside Tintwistle before dragging myself back over the Transpennine trail to home on Sunday early afternoon.

I used lockdown as an excuse to re-route it from home back to home and to fix the roadie sections to make it more mountain bike fun.  The original was 200km on the nose with the ride to work a part of it (8km).  The new route was 187km.  I left home, after spending Saturday morning packing, at about 12pm and stopped for lunch at my favourite local spot, overlooking the Rivelin reservoir.  Due to the Covid, I was mostly carrying all the food I needed for 36 hours plus three litres of water but my bike was lighter and I was packing less kit.  The weather report hinted that a stove would not be of any comfort but I did still pack my Oh-Shit coat, full waterproofs (to stop it raining) and all the clothes I love to sleep in.  To offset, I didn't bother with any other layers for riding in - adopting the all-or-nothing approach to any extra warmth required.

I freestyled the ride from home to the A57.  Rather than following the random route that Garmin plotted, I took the steep ride through the allotments and "the Rock Garden", getting some highland trail Hike-a-bike training in - confirm can now lift loaded bike - though it was somewhat ungainly.

I wobbled up and down the side of the valley and over to Stanage pole where I dropped down past the bird watchers looking out for the lammergeier.

I rode past all the motorists out for a spot of parking frustration by Ladybower and even stopped to let one nice Indian family know that if they stayed where they were they might get a ticket just like all the other inconsiderate people parked opposite double-white lines and half on the bike/footpath.

Finally onto my favourite bridleway where, as ever, I saw only two other people until such time as I needed a wee when, no matter how well I tried to hide and pretended to stop to eat an apple, a constant stream of people kept walking past so I gave up and carried on riding all the way to the A57 at Alport Farm.  A brief flip over the other side of the river to edge ever further up the A57, yielded beautiful sunny views of Alport Castles and a pretty shoddy game of football at the Alport junior FC.
Alport Football Cows

Alport "Castles"
Further along the A57 was "Mad Woman Stones".  Another of my favourite places due to its absolute solitude and it did not disappoint.  Within 100 metres of the main road between Manchester and Sheffield I had enough peace and quiet to creep between two ponds away from the path and enjoy the quiet of the scenery for a while.

The trail is maddeningly stony and totally un-rideable without full suspension or dislocating every ligament in your body.  Old cobbles that do not seem to have ever been worn down by anything.  It crosses the perfectly paved Pennine way at 90 degrees part way across and despite the motorway pedestrian traffic walking East West, no-one seems to venture North-South except a couple of hardy runners and - on this day - a rather exquisite and lovely French lady on a full-suss Juliana, recceing the route.

We had a chat after I had sauntered down the steep drop off into the valley and she was on her way up.

After the joy of sitting by a bridge over a babbling stream with nothing but boulders and beautiful French women for company, I had to endure Glossop but that was OK because it was nearly time for early dinner and Glossop has a petrol station. 

As I emptied my re-useable food wrappers of the spoils of the day - crisp wrapper, crumbs, apple core, banana skin, I felt a bit annoyed that I had to carry my sustainable choices all the way home.

My potato salad, onion bhaji and milk-based desert went down OK supplemented by coffee, though I crammed the last onion bhaji into a pot to take-away as everything was a bit too dry.  The sauce for the bhaji came along too for the ride and I was now thankful for my sustainable food packaging. 

My route through Glossop disappeared behind the shops for a while and I joined it for the pure intrigue.  I found myself on a railway trail I never knew existed and arriving at a pump track I never knew existed where the local kids had a good laugh at my kit and I joked out of getting involved, preferring to stay "on the bunny tracks".  Sadly, my path went to a big metal fence that kept people away from the *actual* railway and I had to literally stick to the bunny track to get back out again. 

Still, in doing so I dropped down through the old railway workings of the site, finding all kinds of buildings and service-tunnels along the way.  Probably not safe to camp out at night but all the same, weirdly attractive.

Rolling Stock Service shed in there somewhere

Cue several other diversions through Glossop - none of which I knew existed, all of which were pleasant - as I bounced around little suburbs of Glossop / Greater Manchester all the way up to Dovestone Reservoir where the sun was rather satisfactorily setting and I could look across the Cheshire plains and see both Alderly Edge and North Wales and quite possibly the Isle of Man.

Sunset over Gtr Manchester
 I inadvertently found myself misguided onto a cheeky footpath more than once - entirely through gawping at the view and paying no attention to the Garmin.  The lanes were perfectly rideable, the old lady motorist that passed was perfectly wavey and friendly and the descent off it into a little village was satisfyingly technical. 
The sun setting through the trees on this path was all that I really came for

The old mills and cottages and this wind turbine nacelle without it's blades made me smile with reminiscences for my time spent living on the West side of the Pennines.

To be honest, I wouldn't have left the footpath except it didn't go where I wanted to be so I dropped down.  The drop-off brought me out into this cute little lane on the edge of Oldham with it's own bin nooks built into the wall.  Shame we have so much waste nowadays they need two more bins to be sustainable but the principal is still charming.

I had to pinch myself at this point and remember that last time I rode this route in the opposite direction I found myself in a less-than welcoming area filled with bad-lads throwing something (I didn't stop to find out) at eachother, wearing hoodies and masks (before the days of the Covid).  I just thanked my stars that cyclists are invisible and rode on through, hoping they wouldn't give chase (because I was knackered and wouldn't have stood a chance in a sprint).

This time around, my excellent e-navigation skills seemed to have worked the trick at avoiding any potential confrontation with the dark side and I pedalled on proud of the great work I had done.  I didn't mind that the light was fading, I would carry on until I dropped, then find somewhere nice to stop... at which point, most places would be nice places to stop.

I skirted the edge of Saddleworth moor this time, my aim being to plot the route entirely on legal PRsOW and not across the Pennine Way footpath.  I wanted it to link, not hop about so I dropped into Denshaw then climbed up to the Ram Inn to join the Pennine Bridleway part way up.

Before leaving the minor roads, I checked the map.  Maybe Denshaw was where things got scary last time... maybe not.  I risked it and Denshaw turned out to be an OK little village.  The close passes on the A road were a bastard though and it was all I could do not to give up and ride on the pavement.  I was wearing bright orange, a bright blue lid and had two red flashing lights but it didn't work for me and I was relieved to get off the road, onto the PBW and go in search of the ghosts of children. 

Their spirits clearly blew through me as I heaved the bike through the gate and I realised my saddle clamp was incredibly loose.  I fumbled for the allen key in my bag and tightened the bolt up as my body, sweaty from the climb, cooled down in the breeze.  The sun had completely gone but the after-glow was still enough to ride by with the slight assistance of my dynamo light which was now dead due to the lengthy stop.

Around the corner, I relented, got a mat out to sit on and donned leg warmers and my waterproof coat over the top of my gilet to warm up a bit.  It was instant respite and the dynamo fired back to life as soon as I started the downhill to Piethorne reservoir.

Having just decided I was OK and could keep going and should make the most of the twilight whilst it was still there, I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to sleep.  A slight paranoia that something nasty would be waiting for me in East Manchester made me think that sleeping with the ghosts of children might be easier than dealing with whatever was "down there in the valley" - the spirits of living children. 

As soon as I'd left the noise of the Manchester road behind, I started to keep an eye out for any shelter that might be about.  I was still pretty high up and the temperatures were dropping, the elevation would put paid to any concept of a cozy night.  Still, I didn't really feel like descending - and definitely not into "civilisation".

Whilst the car noises had faded, ahead was the rushing of water.  Just as I'd decided I didn't need to get closer to that, a few walls appeared.  There were no other structures around - huts, cabins, shed or shelters but a path through the grass which led to a series of very gently sloped "terraces".  I could be hidden from the road and the main track, overlooking the reservoir and Manchester lights and away from noise sources.  It might've been exposed to the elements but the breeze here was marginal and coming from what would be my "back" if I camped facing the view.

I laid my bike in the grass, made it an integral part of my pitch and set up the Tarp and groundsheet.  I seemed to have my head at the downhill end but was beyond caring.

Had a wee, changed clothes and crawled into bed. 

As usual I lay awake for a while - drifting in and out of snooze and adapting to the noises around.  The tarp moved occasionally in the gentle breeze but there was no wildlife noise to wake me.  I could see the plough from my bed and if I turned my head I could see the high-rises in the city centre lit up in red lights.  It was all far enough away that nothing seemed to move.

I shivered a little but at 2am got up for another wee then went back to the warm cocoon and fell soundly asleep until the sun woke me up at 5am.  It was still below the hill behind me but was illuminating the clouds in the sky above the ridge where the plough had been last night. 

It was 5am and the skylarks were starting to sing. 

Piethorne Reservoir with Manchester behind

I sat in bed and ate 2 pieces of malt loaf and the ginger cookies I'd saved from yesterday to the sound of the water gushing over the fish pass that I could hear last night.

I dressed without getting up then finally, reluctantly let down my mat and enjoyed the luxury of the groundsheet leaving me a dry bivi bag to pack up and somewhere dry to kneel to do so.  The tarp was not so dry.  A heavy dew had saturated it and when I packed it into its stuff sac, water oozed out the seams of the bag.  Well this would be a good test of how dry stuff stays in my bar bag.

I finished dropping down the hill to Piethorne reservoir as the sun popped up from behind the hillside.  It was all just too overwhelmingly beautiful.  It was an obvious push up the other side since I'd got nowhere near warmed up and it was steep and rocky. 
My camp spot - half way up the slopes on the opposite side of the valley

I stopped for another wee and the second breakfast of the day on a wall overlooking the reservoir before heading for - what I assumed would be East Manchester. At 6:55 two other mountain bikers passed.  The second, an old chap on an e-bike stopped for a chat and to check I was OK.  "Just having a second breakfast".

"Oh! You were up early then?... "

It was 6:55 and we were in the middle of nowhere.  I think we were all up early.
A fox, up early and hunting for birds on the wall.

When I told him I was going to Todmorden he checked I was taking the canal and nodded approvingly when I confirmed, then he walked on down the hill, "now he'd lost his momentum".

First stop was the pass under the M62 - threshold motorway crossing.  I realised I'd ignored my route yet again and stuck to the downward pointing farm track instead of labouring up a 30% grassy slope at the back of the farm that cut off a corner and led to the Pennine Bridleway.  The farmer was out exercising his dog by the river. 

I contemplated turning back but a) couldn't be arsed and b) decided it would be nice to see Hollingworth Lake in the daylight.  Last time I did the route I sat with some other BearBoners outside the pub and ate my dinner.  The campsite was full of tents and caravans but this time the water was flat and serene and there was no-one about but a few early morning joggers.  It was quite nice but next time it would be good to do the Pennine Bridleway a bit more and at any other time of day I'd take avoiding the crowds over anything else.

In Littleborough I admired the floral displays and little boats, all honouring the canal and the lake, then dropped onto the canal for the flatish trudge into Tod.  It's not that flat in that there are plenty of arch bridges and lock gate climbs to complete.  Again, it was still relatively quiet and passed quickly on what could have been a very busy day later on. 

If this is the Great Glen Way of the Northern Myth route then it knocks the socks off the Scottish version for scenery.

Before I knew it I was in Todmorden and feeling a little guilty about it being so easy along the canal but things were about to change. 

I photographed this massive wall because I found it amazing.  At the time I hadn't even noticed the beautiful clarity of the reflection.

When I plotted the route from the comfort of my sofa I threw an extra sting in the tail.  Rather than flipping on and off the road between Tod and Mytholmroyd, I added some extra off-roading to the North side of the Calder Valley.  Having remembered this, I started to doubt my ability to finish this ride within the day and suspected I'd be crawling out of my bivi on Monday morning to roll over the TPT into work.  That was OK though.

Street art, if you can ignore the union-jack flag-waving bullshit in the background.

Some of the route I had done before, and some of it was new to me.

The first climb out of Tod was definitely new.  Straight up the hillside on an old pony track.  It had me pushing from the bottom and even if I could have ridden it, physically, my tyres would have spun out on the slippery cobbles.  For every 2 steps up, I slid back half a step. 

It was worth it though.  I popped out of a woodland to a tiny fishing pond. A large tunnel tent was pitched there with one guy sitting outside, face to the sun.  We nodded in acknowledgement and I sat by the pond to indulge in third breakfast of the day.  A half cheese sandwich and the left-over onion Bhaji. Nom.  Tadpoles bounced off the shallows, desperate for their little legs to grow so they could get out of the water.

We carried on up to the top.  Somewhere along the way I remembered the route from before.  A climb up a hill that I ended up retracing last time and going around.  Either I'd forgotten to re-route it or the path's useage has genuinely changed over time.  Anyway, this time I persevered, ignoring an angry-looking mower-man who probably assumed I'd give up past his house and come whooshing back down.  He just made me more determined.

At the end of the lane I passed someone in a poncy SUV thing doing a 3 point turn and trundled past them calling, "thank you" as they waited for me to pass.

Sure enough there was a footpath sign at the bottom but I was committed.  I rode through hip high nettles and lifted the bike over a couple of narrow stiles and then joined the bridleway proper.  I must find out where it comes from.

On the moors, my Garmin started playing up.  It froze in the middle of a field so I really couldn't tell where the path was that I was supposed to be taking.  Eventually I gave up, saved my ride (thankfully it was on 99.2km, making for easy maths) and got the spare unit out of the bag.  This doesn't have OS Maps on but at least it's relatively reliable. 

The bad news was that after pushing through tussocky grass, I wasn't on the path and the path was on the other side of a wall with a barbed wire fence.  I found a low spot and lifted the bike over - getting good at this now.  The wall was too big so the bike was set down where it had to be - balanced precariously between the head tube and two spokes of the back wheel resting on a wooden post.  I followed and lifted my baby down.  We sheepishly acquired the track and the road.

Dropping into Hebden Bridge I knew it was time for 4th Breakfast.  Suddenly cyclists appeared from everywhere and one stuck to the back wheel of my bike as we descended the road.  He didn't see me looking left and right as we rode along the high street and clung to that wheel like it was his ticket to heaven.

Eventually I recognised a pub where I have seen hundreds of bikes lined up outside before.  There were people outside with drinks. I did a hasty hand signal to pull into the side of the road, only to hear a "Uh, oh, sorry" from behind.  Clearly someone was upset that his train was stopping and a little bit embarrassed about being such a wheel suck.  "It's ok", I said, "I was cafe-hunting".  He tootled off to do his own ride with a little wave.

As there were no other bikes about, I called out to the waiter if it was OK to park up and grab a seat.  "Sure, sit where you like".  I locked the bike to a barred window and took a large table next to it.  A face wash and a full camelbak from the bathrooms felt amazing.  Mashed avocado with spinach and tomatoes on toast was amazing.  Coffee and orange get the picture.

I considered a second round but it was a bit expensive and I had work to do.  I decided to replenish my supplies in the Co-op instead and leave the group of 8 who had just arrived to take over a second big table.
At the co-op, a young lad had been posted at the door to advise everyone they don't open until 11am.  It was 10:50.  It wasn't a race and it was a glorious day but I couldn't be arsed to stand about for 10 minutes so I started riding, figuring I'd get something in Mytholmroyd at 11:10.  I didn't stop.

Up on the moors above Mytholmroyd I enjoyed the views over Stoodley Pike - the way I'd come last time.  It's always busy up there on a nice day so I was glad I'd avoided it this time.

The next town was Ripponden where I was blasted at by boy racers who weren't going to let a bloody cyclist pass them on the downhills - despite the need to wait for their mates in other cars.  They then all blasted past me on the way up the other side of the hill - not that I was going fast up the 20% climb.  It was a short but horrible duration of road riding but soon over as I turned onto a tiny road that inched its way straight up the hillside before turning into a dirt trail.  Perfect.

Some bouncing about the edges of Huddersfield then over the Meltham where I had really started to think about the ride home and how many hills I had left to do. 

Last time I'd slept in a wood in Holme then climbed over to Meltham for breakfast but I couldn't for the life of me remember the climb between bed and breakfast, or what was after Holme.  I thought I'd passed a sign for Holmfirth... did that mean I'd passed Holme, I couldn't remember. 

I carried on the push out of Ripponden, rejoined the mother of all road climbs - which I remembered from the ride last time.  I'd been dreading it all day as it was a never-ending descent last time.  This time it went up and it would take me forever to climb and it would be hard.  Thankfully though, I'd re-routed around it and near half-way I turned off onto a nice flat byway which doubled-up as a farm track to a number of properties. 

Half way along, I realised I wasn't where I thought I was.  I was, in fact, only back at the M62.  I needed a rest. 

I sat on a wall, overlooking the valley and the reservoir dam at the head of the valley - over which the M62 makes its way.  It was far enough away that I didn't notice the traffic noise.  Instead, I dangled my feet over the edge and, after eating a sandwich and my remaining banana, gorged myself on sweeties that I'd packed for emergency measures late at night and actually, not yet touched.  There was a bit of a breeze and I was feeling fragile so I stuck my coat on and basked in the sunlight hitting the black fabric.

I got climbed on by an errant labrador and had a nice chat with its owner, a local structural engineer who laughingly told me about his dog's invasion of a neighbour's barbeque and how it regularly escapes.  I tried not to roll my eyes and was secretly jealous that he lives here.

The end of the bridleway met a B-road which crossed the M62 in a slightly less romantic format than my last visit but then on my last visit I spent a good 45 minutes trying to make this crossing work for me including some hike a bike through the undergrowth below the reservoir.  I was glad I stuck with the easier option although it would have been nicer to ride some of the lesser bridleways rather than the big byway I chose.

I now had the climb up the other side to do.  I could see the transmitter mast of Holme Firth to my right and decided it was definitely behind me.

Honley tower and Emley Moor

In my efforts to improve the off-roading on the route I zig zagged across the moors, constantly changing direction and perspective and confused myself.  Lovely river-crossings and reservoirs abounded between wide open byways, dodging transit vans towing trailers with diggers and families out for a walk.

I convinced myself I was on the last climb before the drop down to Dunsford Bridge and the TPT home and my spirits lifted a little - I was going to do this thing.

I reached an A-Road.  To my right was the summit - pretty much.  To my left was Meltham.  I could have ridden to the summit easily from here on an A-road then taken another A-road to get quickly home... but I hadn't come here to ride A-Roads. 

To the left, I could go to Meltham, turn off, follow the route along the bridleway and not only get home the nice way, but have a new route with less climbing AND drop into Dunsford Bridge.  Tempting as the easy life was, I selected my choice of following the route.  I just didn't realise how far down Meltham was.

I dropped into it like a stone, constantly expecting the bridleway to appear part way down the hill but it didn't.  I just kept going... a l l   t h e   w a y   d o w n.

Finally I turned off and rode the beautiful bridleway back up again as far as I could before getting off and starting to walk. 

Half way up the climb though, my body was flagging again.  I had to stop at a gate to hoof the thing open.  I shoved my bike through and it wobbled, I wobbled and we staggered across the grass.  I really needed a sit down.  I really needed a sleep.  So soon since the last sit down.

It was warm and sunny but a little breezy so I put my coat on again and lay down with the hood pulled over my eyes.  I think I actually drifted off for a bit before I heard footsteps on the path coming towards me.  I decided to wiggle my feet and fidget a bit so they would know I was still alive and not passed out.  They had a little laugh with me - they had been slightly alarmed. 

The coat was too hot so I took it off and lay back down as the grass shielded me adequately from whatever breeze was blowing.  I listened to the bees and ate more sweeties.  It was OK though, I was nearly home.

Finally, I felt well enough to move again and the rest had done me good.  I stomped to the top, got back on and rode to the summit.  There wasn't a great view from the top though, the message was: you've still got to get over Holme Moss.  This is not done yet.

I crossed the road, instantly knowing I was on the cart tracks down to Holme where I'd slept last time. It led down to Marsden where I flipped across the road before even considering food and set off back up the other side of the valley.  I just wanted to get home now.   I followed the reservoir road and again, the route took me up a Footpath and there were lots of walkers around.  Bollocks, hairy bollocks, how have I done this *again*?

It was too hot so I found myself a bench in the shade to have a think.  I dug out the original Garmin with the OS Maps on to find myself an alternative bridleway route out that didn't involve riding home on A-roads.  a bit of zooming revealed that in some point in the last 13 years, the route I had plotted had been a fully-fledged Byway.

I re-traced my tracks to the ominous looking fully welded bar gate with extra welded struts across it and gave it a shove.  It opened freely.  The route was clearly a pony-track - cobbled and wide enough to tow a cart up.  We set about the trudge.  Eventually it widened up into the Ramsden Road - which I would have reached had I just stayed on the reservoir road but there you go - that's what a sugar-free brain can do.  I rode bits, I pushed bits.  It was such a short part of my journey but it felt so epic.  It was already getting on for 6pm and so most of the people I had just seen were all heading home.  I had this place to myself again.

One thing was reassuring, in a few miles, I had to reach Dunsford Bridge.  I slogged on and took no prisoners on the descent.  I was starting to struggle to pedal and then, there it was - I've never been so happy to see a car park.  A couple of rides have ended at Dunsford bridge but this time I knew I had made it.  Dinner would be waiting at the other end of the TPT.

I almost skipped past a bloke with a touring bike, calling out, "I've made it!" as I bunny-hopped the metalled drain and stormed off down the 3% descent like the trains of yore.

The whole way home as per my previous post my backside and ankles ached and it was, I promise, a bit of a slog.  After a fair bit of walking the climbs on a big wide open smooth trail, I did my fastest descent out of Wharncliffe woods over the rocks and tree-roots because I wasn't using the brakes for anyone. 

The ride through the trees between Oughtibridge and Hillsborough was a joy in the lowering sun and even Hillsborough was obliging as no-one pissed me off which is good because I had neither the power or co-ordination to punch anyone in the face.  One close-pass on the A57 on the way to my house had me screaming "Thiiiiiirrrrrrrteeeeee" at the speeding driver as he roared by and then just to top it off a Transit van felt the need to pass me on the wrong side of the bollards just as I was turning off anyway.  Apparently he wasn't braking for anyone either.

Only 20ft up the steep road I waved for the oncoming motorist to proceed towards me because I was getting off to push.  I literally sauntered up the whole hill, stopping to rest from time to time.

Cy from Cotic was walking his dog down my street.  We had a very brief chat - I don't remember much except for the words "too long", "too hot" and "too hard".  I do remember telling him where I'd camped and he didn't sound impressed.  I'm not sure he knows where I'd been.  I'm sure he rushed home to look it up on the map.

Sure enough, when I got home the first word I heard was "Stew" and the first word I said was "yes".

I had the challenge of unpacking wet gear before showering - odd given the conditions but that's what you get when you camp on a moor after two weeks of rain.

As a 1.5 day trip it was simply wonderful and could only have been improved by some more icecream stops and a little more co-ordination on the footpath avoidance.

100% will do again.

Northern Myth - the Morning after

I have to be a little careful with my training plan about being complacent for long distance. 

In theory I should be consistent - steadily building up to big rides.  Nothing to put me off the plan, moderate weekends lead to successful weeks.  That's how I've been working...but this weekend I couldn't resist.

A brief window of good weather, an opening for my July bivi and a need to ride somewhere for a whole day.

Last weekend, a plan was hatched for a route I've been working on since last year.  I originally did it from work, finishing at home and stayed out for 2 nights.  This time I decided it was doable from home and back in with 1 night out and the same-ish distance.  In credit to me, where last time I left at 5pm, this time I left at 12 pm (lunchtime), so basically I have shaved 19 hours off the time it took to do.

Self-congratulations aside, that is not what this post is about.

Big rides on the mountain bike are big rides on the body.  They need accustoming to and that's not something I've been doing in my training plan to date.  Whilst I'm not going to go out there and ride a full 550mile week in training, 60-70 km isn't good enough either.  The last few weeks have shown that. 

My bivi rides have been short, my day rides have been short.  Punchy, but short.  So yesterday all my contact points with the bike were in trouble by 6:30 pm.  It didn't help that the last 25km are all on a railway line - so a long, slightly bumpy, sitting down slog. 

My ass hurt on the saddle, my ass hurt to get up off the saddle and my ass hurt to sit back down again.  This was slightly caused by it being at slightly at the wrong angle but also it's so very harsh and my bum has got so very soft.  Changing the angle on the saddle isn't easy with my bag in place so when the saddle clamp came loose at the top of Saddleworth moor in the dark, I merely tightened it and rode on what I'd got instead of twiddling about to get things right.  Perhaps that's what I should have done but it was soon bedtime and there wasn't really a problem until 19 hours later when things started to ache like hell.

My poor feet were suffering similar levels of hurt but for them there was no let up except for sitting on my sore arse and doing nothing with my feet.  My feet hurt when I stood, when I sat, when they were clipped in, when they were on the flat side of my pedal (in fact I found, surprisingly, they hurt more on the flats than they did in the clips). 

By the time I got into Wharncliffe Woods, I did most of the downhills sitting side-saddle on my bike with as little pressure on my feet as possible, which leads to the remaining contact point - hands / wrists.

Now I've got serious bling in the handlebar department so hands aren't ever really an issue for me so far and my wrists weren't screaming last night like everything else but this morning they ache and they're weak.  I also admit that yesterday evening my arms and upper body were getting ready for a big long rest.  On the railway trail I felt like ducking onto the aero position (except the ass wouldn't let me) and the closest respite I could manage was riding with the heels of my hand on the tips of the handlebars and my arms rotated outwards to get some respite from the normal pedalling position.  This worked but after only 189km, getting up today and doing it again?... not so sure. 

The only relief I can take is that, over the shorter distance, this ride is HARD.  It's not quite Peak 200 hard or BB200-2019 hard but it's still fucking hilly.  It doesn't quite have the bogs of the HT but it outstrips the elevation by 6m/km and due to Covid, there were probably as many rest stops as the average HT - one shop, one breakfast - the rest was carried.

So the point of this post is to remind me not to be complacent about the big ride. 

To update my plan for training this out because without the big ride I'm not going to finish. 

This thing isn't possible on some short, fast, hard, well thought out training rides - although they will hep, it needs big fat monsters in there to spoing my joints, batter my soft skin and harden my ligaments into something representing a distance machine. 

When I train my body changes shape.  Through lockdown my shoulders and  back have weakened through less mountain bike miles.  This morning I found dimples in my knees where muscles have tightened and maybe fat has gone from where it used to sit.  I don't know and I don't care how aesthetic it is, I only care if it makes me go further - and possibly a little faster. 

So there we are, reminder set down.  Reconfiguring the training plan is a tomorrow job for when the brain works.  Today, I have to sit at a desk and sound clever.


Thursday, July 02, 2020

Week 7 - Wood, trees, what?

8 weeks ago I realised I was in trouble.

The event I'd been training for, and everything else around it, was cancelled due to Covid.  Following a short recovery period of doing nothing, I was falling into bad habits, eating at my desk, not training and generally gaining weight and losing fitness fast.

I needed a plan.  The old plan (which went up to 25th May) went in the bin and I drafted a schedule to get me through to a rescheduled race (still on as far as we know), the 3 Peaks (now cancelled), the rest of the cyclocross season (tentatively cancelled), a race I couldn't ride before (but might be able to now) and a race I should have entered yesterday (but whose entries have now been delayed till later to see how it goes).  Finally, my plan came out of the other side of the 'cross season, into February, March, April and next year's May event. 

Pretty heavy stuff.

But damn it worked.  I've not stopped training.  It took me a while to get going and consequently I missed a few sessions.  That shows how much I had lost.  I was looking at this plan which seemed tame at the time and thinking, "How the hell did I use to manage this?"

After week 4 I had started to catch up on the sessions I'd missed which was really satisfying.  My approach of using short runs (strictly short) to keep running through my bike training meant that I could manage a 3.5km run and then a bike ride to catch up on something I'd missed.  When I finally did catch up, the feeling was amazing.  The sessions were just starting to get hard again and so keeping on top of them became essential - and I'm managing it. 

It makes me stop working at the right time.  It makes me get up early.  The benefits to my mental health contribute further to those associated with the exercise itself - which are already massive.

I occasionally am overwhelmed by the urge to tweet furiously about the benefits but fear it would just be boring to most - so it's retreated here, to my lair.  To what was - originally - purely intended as a training diary for me.

So be it daily, or weekly, I'll try and be here from time to time.

And this weeks thoughts - how is it Thursday already?

I was supposed to train on Monday but a bikepacking trip at the weekend took more out of me than expected - because I took all the things.  So I rested Monday instead and have been riding / running ever since.  That's all well and good but I still have an intervals session and a 6km run to do and my Parents are coming on Sunday for dad's Birthday so, I have to do Sunday's session on Saturday on a straight-through basis.

At least it's raining this morning so I can sit in a chair until it's stopped and I can climb on a bike this afternoon.  Again, an excellent excuse to stop working.