Saturday, January 30, 2021

January bivi 2021 - When you gotta go you gotta go

Home to Houndkirk on the mtb but ridden on the road to meet Chris. A bit of mucking about at the Norfolk arms trying to find my frend.

Another day when I wanted to ride but also, I didn't want anything to go wrong - and that's what was stopping me getting out. Eventually, I rushed late out the door.

I rode up the roads but by the time I left lodge moor with snow squeaking under my tyres I was in heaven. I rode over Houndkirk surrounded by snow-coated heather that looked like white sparkling broccoli in the beam of my bike light.

When I reached camp my buddy was sitting on a wall waiting for me. Through the trees to a clearing where his tent was pitched and there was a long, thin that spot for me set aside.

Despite my loft pitch-check of the bivi bag, l only managed to locate the sleeve for the pole with some serious hunting and swearing. Otherwise it went up fine. I pegged out the feet end but needn't have bothered as I think I pulled them out in the night and have to return to fetch the pegs I lost another time. I did peg out the guys on the hoop as an experiment.

We got ready for the morning. L brewed water while I got into my warm coat and snacked for as long as I could stand the cold then we admitted defeat and went to our separate beds. A "dune buggy" for want of any better terminology passed by, exhaust blowing and continued to bez about on the moors for half an hour. We chatted over the noise - mostly about the view I had from my bag - snow, trees, the moon, stars some lights twinkling far below in the valley, just visible over the wall. For once, having taken the 4 season bag, I was cosy & warm. After watching the outside for a while I got a little cold so pulled up the gore-tex door to keep the breeze out, leaving myself a small window of ventilation and a view of our camp.

The vehicle left and I drifted off. Another passed at 2am but thankfully, passed through the gate and pressed on. I was disturbed occasionally by the wind clattering the trees above us and that made me somewhat paranoid we were about to be invaded by a herd of deer but a quick peek out through the mesh revealed all to be still outside. Other than an owl hooting in the night and the occasional shiver that was offset by some vigorous wriggling I slept through till 7:30 waking up toasty warm with light busting through. On inspection, the sun was rising over the wall. 


I papped it from my bed, arm stretched over the wall then called out to L. At first he didn't stir and as he'd injured his back yesterday, I wondered about letting him sleep. He'd been here before, must have seen it like this already right?

As I watched things just got more impressive so I tried again and a drowsy L exited from his tent-clutching his camera. " Fucking hell!" was the awesome response. I'm glad I persevered.

I'd given myself a stiff back by only sleeping in one position so brewing up from my bivi wasn't an option. Instead, I decided to get up. One of the guy ropes had undone already. I took the other out to ease movement and sat on the porch of my bivi on my thermarest to make breakfast. Due to the fact no moisture was falling, it was a very satisfactory arrangement but I do still want to carry a porch when it's raining.


Coffee, porridge, honey, smiles.

L went home to rest, I changed the dead battery on my spot then turned the other way to ride over to Burbage. I had a chat with Caroline and her dog, another local bike packer I just met. We talked about shoes - or more specifically - winter mountain bike boots.


Over to Stanage, Nether Padley, Hathersage, Thornhill, avoiding the worst mud. I stopped at Ladybower for 2nd breakfast + got doggy cuddles from a female spaniel. 


Over the burms - direct line Hike a bike. Enjoying the snowy trees and ice formations. There wasn't much but it was enough.

 Riding past Lockerbrook farm was exciting and involved walking over the steepest ice before dropping down the fire road in preference to icy gnar. I ate my lunch on a bench, trying to share Karg with an inquisitive Robin until the female spaniel reappeared and scoffed it all. One they had gone, the Robin wasn't going to settle for that, got bold and picked up all of the crumbs I dropped at my feet.


At the bottom I debated heading straight home but I felt good, the weather was beautiful and I probably had enough rear light to get me home.

I turned away from the crowds at the visitor centre and headed on up to slippery stones where I stopped out of the breeze and enjoyed having the water to myself. The ducks were bold enough to ask for food again.

The ride back down to the village was uneventful. I'd considered the climb up by the Ladybower inn as the quick and easy way home but it wasn't tempting & as the ground started to harden up I decided cut gate path and Doctors gate was more doable. Either way the steep bit was a hike. At the hut I enjoyed a cereal bar with a mag­nificent view and the company of John Brierly and son on their evening run. After the worst of the icy puddles across the edges I nailed the final climb out and even managed not to fall in the heather on the descent. At the doctors bridge I nailed the descent with a PB, grace to the dry, amazingly grippy conditions.

It was still light climbing up to Moscar but drivers passed too close. I was definitely going to do the offroad home. I passed the Lodge and farm then rode across Rod Side where large ice puddles crossed the whole road and I had to ride on the grass to get any purchase. On the third one I crashed my gears and had to push then as I crossed the last one my chain clipped and then snapped and lay at my feet. There were 10km to go but at least they were mostly downhill. as the gritting lorry passed, I packed the chain away and set off down the hill, plotting the most efficient way home and all the time wondering if my hands would let me get away with stopping to fix the chain.

I gave up on my offroad route, descending Onkersley Lane all the way to the A57 which would allow me the most freewheeling and long flat stretches as a worst case. On the flat I soon realised that I could use the slightly higher curb to scoot my bike with my left foot and then I remembered I had my dropper post. Sinking that down 3 inches my feet touched the floor and I scooted the bike all the way along the flats and rested on the downhills then staggered, cold and exhausted up the final hill to home.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021

Hike, to bike

Yesterday I rode my bike. Everything is upside down right now. I don't mean covid.  My running has improved. Cycling has nearly stopped. I ride my bike for 90 minutes and my recovery prediction is 60 hours. I've been in zone 4 for 10 minutes and I don't remember it.

I run 10 miles, don't get out of zone3 and my recovery is done by morning.

So yes my bike ride was hard even though it didn't feel like it. It didn't make me feel better. Though I did feel more alive for being in touch with the outdoors for that 90 minutes.

Today I went easy on myself but it was still essential to get out after spending both Monday and Tuesday wholly INSIDE.

Since it was chucking it down I dressed in full waterproofs and took the dog out. He's been dead 13 years but in my head I still walk with him a lot. I put my big-brimmed hat on so I didn't need a hood and stepped out into the rain.

As soon as I stepped outside the air started to hiss like the static from an HV pylon. I put my bigger gloves on, tightened my coat up around the neck and set off into the hail.

Rivers of slushy ice nuggets ran down the road against the slop of my boots. I marvelled at the tenacity and stupidity of people pulling away in their cars into the impending doom and plummeting temperatures.

In the trees the hissing intensified until I felt like a character in a poorly turned television, forever scrambled into black and white and audibly muted.

Somewhere amongst the trees the hail turned to sleet and then to snow and the whiteness started to settle. I had to peer over an allotment hedge unsure if a new spring had opened up or someone was just emptying their bathwater. No, it was a stream running faster than I had ever seen it. I stopped to photograph the woodland scene and a hungry robin appeared on the fence post next to me. Sadly the phone camera was not fast enough to catch him. I picked carefully down to easier terrain and watched drivers like lemmings following each other down Hagg Hill, nose to tail, hoping for the best, or worse, not even thinking. 

• • •

I passed the Lamas without remembering, bundled in my own quiet contemplations or closed observations of where I was placing my feet to avoid the puddles.

A woman ignored her nervous spaniel who seemed to permanently be asking, "is this right?". I got a nose-boop off a Whippet then dunked into the heart of a holly bush in search of a decent bivi spot but there was none to be had that was big enough.  When I emerged I realised it was too close to the road anyway.

Back on the road I left fresh tracks before turning off for the bottom of the valley. How late for work do you want to be? I guess only half an hour, go the long way another day.

• • •

Down at the river, levels were astonishing. Water flowed in laminar lumps over the weirs then broke into churning eddies where it met the natural rocks. Walking along the path between the river and the man made leet was like surfing a tidal wave as the water surged and billowed to my left and flowed lazily to my right.  The path was a wet strip down the middle

The tiny figure of a dipper flitted along the leet. He found a favourite spot, staying still enough for me to get out binoculars and watch him for a while. I stood transfixed socially irresponsibly slap bang in the middle of the path (no-one came by).

• • •

The little bird scuttled between the river bed and bank, diving in after dollops of snow that dropped, coming up every time with something in his beak which he ferried to the bank. He dived back in, submerged, surfacing seconds later in a splash of silver, gleaming through the dull brown flow, all a flurry of feathers. He bounced on his stick legs before going back for more. Sometimes his belly was white, sometimes stained brown from the muddy waters. 

He stood stock still when I passed but I stared too hard and his nerve broke and he flew away. Then I felt guilty and hoped he would find his stash again.

Time to shift now. Got to get into work. One last look at the wave of standing water in the park. A dog the colour of dirty snow playing stick in dirty snow, almost as invisible as my dog. I threw someone else's poo bag in the bin. Only 20 metres from the bin FFS.  Said good morning to the toilet cleaners from the council. At the end of the park the driver of a horse van was concluding Hollins Lane wasn't feasible without snow chains. I watched him reverse back out onto the main road to make sure he didn't cause a pile up then set about powering up the hill to home, laughing with incredulity at the bloke driving uphill into the snow from the security of his driveway eyes affixed firmly to the traffic report refreshing on the screen of the mobile phone clutched precariously between his left index finger and steering wheel.

I wondered how far he'd get as my footsteps faltered and I reached for the handrail to haul myself over the steepest lump, feet losing traction.

I dusted the life off my coat and hat took of my wet boots and put the kettle on ready for the drudgery of the day.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Weighty Overhang of Christmas

I sat in all morning completing the dubious task of sending belated seasonal greetings cards, then ate lots of good energy food and set off with an ambitious target of finding out what I'm capable of on a run. 

Basically I'd have been happy with another 10km so soon after the last one but it was so beautiful out there. I got onto footpaths I don't usually use and the sun was still out, glinting off the remaining snow and a fresh sprinkling of new dust. I just kept going along the lane of puddles, down Onkersley lane then onward towards Wyming brook. I had a tiny wobble at the road. Would it be wise to carry on up or should I retreat to the reservoirs? I persevered.

At the point I needed a short walk, I checked my watch - 7.7km. 5 days ago that would have been my longest run in ages. I couldn't run on hard surfaces any more but the icy leaf mulch was ok.

The lower path at the junction in the woods won out over Lodge Moor and I stuck to footpaths in preference to the bridleways for a change of scenery.

As I scrunched across Fox Hagg a massive grin spread. I got that ski hill feeling. Despite what my brain thinks, my body really does function well in a harsh cold environment, especially with the sun on.

Talking of which, it only started to set over the golf course so by the time I had dropped down to my local park again small clusters of folk were out in the icy fields watching the sunset and drinking tea from flasks or smoking joints on the edge of civilisation.

More were heading out along the narrow bridleway so I adjusted (extended) my route to avoid them, zig zagging back through the allotments, the open field then communing with the dead at the cemetery. 

An angel on my shoulder said, "you ran 10 miles today". A devil on the other shoulder said "yes, but you walked a bit". "Yes," said the Angel, "but when did you ever run 10 miles and not walk a bit"?

Strava said it was my longest run ever on Strava. True but only my 40th ever longest run. I haven't run this far since 2018, the year I first gave up triathlon but still had some random fits of off-the-bike activity.

At least mountain racing gives me a reason to keep running as hours on my feet equal practice and strength training benefit. It's exciting though.

I have new places opened up to me now. Footpaths to places I have not been in over 4 years - and all within 150 minutes of home.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

First ride of 2021

 All bloody morning I mooched around the house.  Not being a consumer of news I missed that Derbyshire is now tanking into tier 4 so I sulked that I can't go to most of my usual haunts in the Peak.  This is particularly crushing since I really fancied a night out with my mountain bike and had a route in mind.  I packed the bike anyway.

The only ride I plotted for this SouthYorkshire island philosophy was a 235km loop around our borders.  I didn't want to do 235km on the road on knobbly tyres - or on ice for that matter.

Eventually at about 11:45, I looked through the living room window and saw occasional flakes of snow starting to fall.  I wasn't going to mess about and miss out on this.  I've missed out on enough snow this year.  Bizarely I decided to stick to the plan, ride the route on the MTB and maybe take two whole days over it.

The route flew out the West of Sheffield as far as it could to loop back into town through Totley then pick up the border between here and Chesterfield and head East.  At least, I thought, I could do the off road bits that I know so I set off up the Rivelin Valley. 

At the top of the hill I couldn't get my foot out of my cleat.  I'd have to deal with that sooner or later.

On the first of the rollers through Bole Hills, the chain I fitted two days ago pinged off leaving me lurching across the road and fighting to get that foot out of my pedal.  Thankfully I stopped upright, patiently reversed to the chain lying in the road then hauled it into the undergrowth like a live snake screaming, "FUCK YOU!!!!!"

I could take this as a sign and just go home.  But I didn't want to just go home.

Two mountain bikers appeared out of the trail behind me and stared.

I explained the melt down and they worriedly asked "Oh no, have you got far to go?" - looking at my fully loaded bags. 

"No, I've just left home - that's the annoying thing".

I threw everything at the nearest gate, pulled out my toolbag and sourced a random quick-link, hoping it's the right size.

It seemed to fit OK (though I'm still not sure if it's the right size) and I carried on.

Deciding to take the road climb with some shiny new gear ratios instead of hiking up through the quarry, I took a seat on the road in a layby in a patch of ground that wasn't covered in snow to tighten up the cleats on my boots.  I haven't worn my 45N boots since last year so the position needed adjusting too.

Sadly, the bolts were cranked tight already so the failure to release seemed to simply be down to very very worn cleats not releasing from the pedals - but just on the one side!

I adjusted them anyway and had a chat with a runner who stopped to make sure I hadn't just crashed.

I took a slightly different route to Lodgemoor than usual - for variety and ease.  Someone called me brave as I rode into the pelting snow flakes and I did think "stupid" was more appropriate.  I was a little gutted I hadn't brought my goggles.  I'd never go out skiing in these conditions without goggles.  Still, I had glasses on and two sturdy peaks to shelter my eyes.

I rode through the play park near the flats and over the road to the steep climb out of the valley.

I thought of the cosy snuggliness of my sleeping bag when I got to my final destination and then it dawned on me that I hadn't packed my sleeping mat in with me.

Bollocks!  What to do now? 

There was nothing else for it really than to do a loop to home and then, if I still wanted a sleep-out, pick up the sleeping mat head back out.  Otherwise, crash on the sofa.

My mind flitted between that and the unfathomable challenge of keeping going on the route, riding through the night and doing an emergency bivi on a wooden bench if I really needed it.  The prospect of Andrew coming out in the van to rescue me gradually diminished with every falling flake of snow as he'd never actually get the car out of our road.

I couldn't remember exactly where the border of Derbyshire is but since there were no border patrol guards at the Houndkirk road checking South Yorkshire passports I decided to cross anyway.  

At the other end I realised I'd probably over-extended my reach so cut back across towards Blacka moor and bounced across there.  A few hike-a-bikes were had as the path through the heather was too tight for both me and the bike.  I was pleased to be able to lift Midnight over my back without any elevation assistance.  The gym work is paying off in small, almost undetectable ways but they bring me a lot of joy when I notice them.  In scotland I only managed about 9 steps like this with the bike loaded but last night, I made about 50 very positive steps before the heather ran out and I was able to ride the single track all the way down to Shorts lane.

A lot of cutting crisp snow with my tyres was had.  It made me extremely happy and woke me up to my wild side again.  

My layers of cotton wool were penetrated.  No route actually mattered anymore as I made up new routes from the bridleways in my own back yard. 

Descents were adorable.  I'd finally got my dropper post to start working again - down anyway.  I still had to stop to hitch it up by hand with the bag on.

Across Whirlow farm where a luminescent sign shouted "PIGS" at me across the farm track.

Through Whitely woods and along the finishing straight of the cyclocross course for old time's sake.

I rode along Porter Brook in the dark, not a dog or small child in sight then climbed up the back of Endcliffe flats to Ranmoor and over Crookes to home.  As I climbed the last hill my energy stores ran to zero and I realised it was dinner time.

By the time I got in the door, my gloves were starting to leak and my leggings were soalked through.  The option to go back out again dwindled into CBA as I sat on the sofa eating the food I had originally packed as my lunch, for my dinner.

The snow turned to rain and I was relieved not to have been out getting soggy and cold as I snuggled down under a duvet and a bed spread wearing whatever the hell I liked - rather than waterproof trousers for an extra layer of insulation.

Some other time, bivi bag.  Some other time.