Monday, 19 January 2015

2015 & Brass Monkeys Report

2015 will see me start training and competing in triathlons, with the end goal beingXterra. Since I achieved my long-term goal of completing a solo 24hr race and I felt a change in focus would help my enthusiasm for cycling. Xterra appeals to me as it will compliment my mountain bike skills and the swimming is helping my general fitness, and it will also help fill those wet & windy winter mornings and evenings. I only started learning front crawl in September, I’ve gone from struggling to swim 50 meters to regularly swimming with a Tri club… but I’ve still got some way to go! I used to run regularly as a teenager, but I’ve strayed away in the last few years, my initial experience was a strict walk/run program but this soon got boring so I did a Park Run, managing sub-20 mins on my first attempt, unfortunately I soon injured myself and haven’t run properly in a month; 2015 will be a steep learning curve!
I plan to race a select few cross-country races, particularly the Southern XC series. I have a few endurance races in mind, including Margam Madness and Erlestoke 6hr. I have a passion for road cycling but only I race selectively due to the high chance of crashes. Finally, I hope to find a few triathlon races to help start the learning process. But first I’m going back to Lanzarote to race the Club La Santa 4 day stage race!!
I Race on KTM Myroon 29er with Strada Carbon 29er wheelset and XX-1 Drivetrain with Absolute Black Oval chainring, nutrition from Torq Energy.”

Gorrick Merida Brass monkey series report

I’ve been racing the Gorrick Merida Brass Monkeys winter series since 2011, that year I raced every round on a rigid single speed and finished 5th in the series. I loved the format and the motivation they provided during the potentially tough winter months, plus the courses are ace and the organisation is great!
Round 1
I had been looking forward to the first round, it had been a goal to get fit for after a difficult few months with injuries and poor race results – post my 24 hour solo race in July. Unfortunately, on the odd occasion the weather doesn’t play ball, the first round was one of those days; I drove there in the pouring rain and my go-to winter race clothing of a Castelli Gabba jersey really didn’t provide enough warmth or waterproofness for 4 hours in the rain. I lasted well for the first 3 hours, and despite the terrible conditions the course was mostly rideable and good fun, but then it got really cold. My back brake was seizing and my will to suffer ran out when I should have ridden another lap. Finished 14th!
Round 2
After the first round issues I got a few solid weeks of training in despite picking up a nasty injury from running – luckily, it didn’t hamper my cycling too badly. The second venue was at Tunnel Hill, one of my favourite venues and the course was fantastic, almost bone dry and fast. It was cold but I had a warm bottle of Torq energy, and it was dry. I had a good race, rode a super steady but consistent pace and secured a comfortable 4th place, my best Brass Monkeys result to date. Now I know how much nicer it is to drink warm bottles instead of frozen cold it really helps keep the hydration and energy levels up in cold conditions.
Round 3
I was 4th in the series, I’d had a great month of training (clocking up almost 400 miles in the last week of December and completing Strava’s Festive 500) and the weather was looking dry. Unfortunately, on Friday I picked up a nasty sickness bug, this left me quite wiped out all of saturday, never the less I packed the van and got an early night. The sunday was freezing cold, I wrapped up warm, proper base layer and Gabba jersey. I got a reasonable start but the fast 3 of Rich Penning, George Budd and Scott Chappel were long gone, I struggle to match them on a good day! I stayed comfortable, conserving energy and spinning a nice gear. The first 4 laps went well and I felt ok in 4th place, then my stomach started playing up. Despite the warm drinks and tasty Torq gels I wasn’t feeling well, my pace dropped off slightly and I lost a place to a flying Team Rotor rider, but I pushed on for a grim 6th lap – despite the sickness, I had hoped I could finish 3rd overall in the series if I just held on. In the end I finished 5th, and 4th overall in the series, which is still a good result despite all of the issues, and good winter beasting!
Next up, I head to the (hopefully) sunny island of Lanzarote for the Club Lasanta 4 day stage race. My second attempt at this event and now I know the score I’m feeling confident!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Progress........and a change of direction

I hadn't realised it had been so long since i'd written anything on here, so what have I been up to in the cycling world? I competed in my first road race, a nice hilly route in the Purbecks near Poole, I enjoyed myself, I was never going to worry the big boys but I had some fun, tried a breakaway and showed the roadies how its possible to corner on a road bike. I didn't ride my mountain bike for the whole of September, I wasn't feeling right in myself with other things that were going on and I had damaged my calf muscle from the effects of not recovering properly after Bontrager, I was ordered off the bike for 1 week, but this was really 2 weeks, but then I probably needed the rest having never really stopped riding in 3 years.
Road race debut

So i'm back in training now, I've had two races both ending with DNF's which is frustrating, first was unavoidable due to a crash caused by another racer, the second may have been avoidable but I don't want to dwell on it. Hopefully my run of bad luck is over and I get back to normal service!

My training has altered these last 3 weeks to include running and swimming.......since Bontrager I haven't felt I can apply myself to just cycling anymore, it was pretty much two years preparation and with it going so well I don't feel I need to repeat it anytime soon, so I've set myself a new challenge of trying some triathlons in 2015. This will take some work, my swimming is average at best and my running must progress slowly to avoid injuries, but I was crap at cycling to start with but now at least I'm fit and I can handle the training load and time constraints. I intend to carry on racing my mountain bike as it'll make a tri bike leg a doddle and it'll keep me sharp for Xterra in August, I don't think the lack of miles will hold me back too much, i'll just have to focus and suffer to a higher level when I do ride, instead of just going for a pootle. I'm feeling the most driven in months and looking forward to seeing what happens, but its not end of my mountain bike racing.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Post 24hr blues, Big Dog's and working out what comes next

It’s been a month now since winning Bontrager Twentyfour 12 24hr, initial recovery went well, I rode into work on the Tuesday after the race, but took the week easy, as my right foot was numb. The weekend after I rode a bit more, feet was numb, my heart would top out at 140bpm and calf wasn’t right. My calf got progressively worse, dull pins & needles was all I felt in my foot, another weekend past and my calf was still buggered, but I could pedal in circles again, ish. Went to the Physio, I had neural tension, which was stopping the nerve running across my calf properly, exercises prescribed, after a few days it felt a ton better. Good job, I had a Big Dog to race…..

I love Brighton Big Dog 6hr, it’s a great event, this was my 4th year in a row, and it was going to be dry again, yay! I was racing mixed pairs with Natasha Barry, a nice change for me, but involved riding FAST!. First lap was disappointing, some tape was missing, I had dropped off the front pack and missed a turn, we corrected our mistake only to get caught up in backmarker riders who were having a staggeringly good first lap……few minutes dropped, down to Natasha. We had a good few single laps, swapping between 3rd/4th, I did one double lap to get a buffer on 3rd, the fast laps were taking it out of me, but I wanted 3rd! I Rode our last lap, battling cramp but I’d past our 3rd place competition at the start of the lap, so we were home and dry. We got a few great prizes, and people stayed for the prize giving, which was nice.

I’ve not any big races booked for the rest of the year, I won’t be racing WEMBO 24hr World Champs, Bontrager took a lot out of me, both physically and mentally and I’m lacking the commitment needed to repeat the training required to do myself justice, and due to the high personal financial cost and my own race mentality I won’t race just to take part, it’s just not that kind of race.  

So what is next? I’m glad I scratched the 24hr itch and it went so well, I’m not sure yet whether I will commit to another any time soon. I had my second experience of triathlons recently, I wasn’t racing, just fussing, but I can see the appeal, especially Xterra, that looked a blast! But my swimming is woeful so I’m promising nothing. Next race for me is my road race debut, my form is iffy but I’ve a higher suffering threshold now, just need some legs back.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Bontrager Twentyfour12- 24hours solo

Ever since I got into endurance racing i've wanted to try a 24hour solo race, I've read enough blogs by the best in the business and it seemed to be the natural step up in my racing, i've done around ten 12hour solo racers, and I know i can cope with them well, how much harder can twice the length be!?

both bikes prepped with 1 x 11
My whole season has been working towards Bontrager Twentyfour12, i've purposely avoided racing too much, held back racing any other long races this year, instead I have spent my weekends and evenings building up to racing for 24 hours. Working with Francesca Bennett my coach we have added far more core workout and gym work, spending two lunchtimes a week specifically working on my core and leg strength, to help in those latter hours of the race.

We arrived in plymouth on friday lunchtime, meeting up with Scott Swalling and Nic, we rode a quick practice lap, I liked the course, it suited me, a few long climbs and enough single track to keep it fun, 7.7 miles and 700feet of climbing per lap

Saturday morning arrived, I was very nervous, we all knew it was going to be hot, so it was key in the morning to take on as much fluid as I could. I went through my usual pre race rituals, porridge, muller rice, milkshake & the toilet, several times. Dad went and waited on the start line with my bike, this gave me and extra 15minutes in the shade, still drinking!

The start was fine, I knew there was no point rushing! as Rob Lee used to tell me, you only have so many bullets, don't waste the magazine at the start. I settled into a good position within the top 10 of 24 solo, lapping steady, drinking a 750ml bottle of Torq Vanilla pod and one Torq gel a lap, making sure I took on enough units. My average heart rate was low and I was keeping cool, this was going well. Over the next few laps my lap times were consistent, within 30seconds. I caught Matt Jones who I had been worried about prior to the race, he had been struggling with the heat but had been lapping in front off me. I continued swapping positions with Russ from Traverse Bikes, but he slowly dropped back.

I swapped onto my chinese bike after 5 hours, not feeling confident in my Lefty fork, the first 8hours went quickly and It wasn't long before I was told to put on lights, I swapped helmets on my next lap, but still kept my light off, knowing the dusk is better with natural light.

Before long it was dark, but warm, I added merino arm warmers and kept tapping out the laps, I spoke to a few 12hour racers who were almost finished, but I was now leading, it was mine to lose, but I was going into my unknown now, I had never ridden a bike for this long before.
flying night stop
The night went surprising quickly, I kept occupied and consistent, I had a bottle of Torq recovery and a few caffeine gels, these helped but I still felt great.......

As the sun came up you would be forgiven for thinking the race was almost over, but there was  6 hours left, thats a long race in itself! I kept the pedals turning, I was over a lap clear now, having lapped Matt Jones during the night, but a bad lap and I could still loose the race. 
230miles and 23hrs15 later, WINNER
attack of the grey mist
Trophy from BeerBabe Upcycling
I had a bit of a wobble at 8am, after I'd ridden the previous lap thinking it was 10am, bugger! luckily it didn't effect me too badly. I met up with Martin Smith, he was going through a low point having raced the team 12hour before starting the torchbearer 12hour race, we rallied each other, but eventually he rode off. Luckily it was almost 2 hours to go, and  was going to win, the last 2 laps were hard, my feet had long since gone numb, and my hands were feeling sore due to the braking bumps on all the technical descents. I passed my pit for the last time, confident I had done enough to stay in front, even if matt took it right to the wire. I crossed the start line, so happy but broken, only my supporters knew I had won as it was only 11:10am, but I wasn't going round again for the sake of it!
amazing what a shower can do!
Well done to Matt and Alex

Now what am I doing? dabble in some road racing if my feet come back to life. Decide finally on whether to try and get to WEMBO 24hr World Champs in Fort William 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Ride report: Southdowns Way and the Pyrenees

I've been fairly quiet on here, if truth be told I haven't been racing much at all, I decided to put my xc racing on hold, I struggle to motivate myself to spend several hours sitting in the van for 1 hour and a bit of racing, so I've been training hard. 

May and June were both 1000+ mile months. One particular week saw me head back to the southdowns way for a fast one way attempt. I decided to leave Winchester early, I got there for 4:30am, rolling by 4:40am partly to beat the heat and partly to save my bike from the Friday afternoon commuter bikes on the train journey back to Winchester. I had a great ride, no mechanical issues and only minor navigation errors. I finished in 8hours 20 at the new finish at the seafront of Eastbourne, I know of a few times around 7.5hrs, I know I could have gone faster but happy with a trouble free ride.

I had wanted to fit in a riding holiday for a few weeks before Bontrager 24:12. I chose the Pyrenees due to the classic cycling history and wide array of mountain passes. I was undecided which bike to take, i settled on taking my road bike, its titanium so very comfortable, although i use Non-compact style cranks, so i was concerned i'd be over geared. 

After a long drive down the first day was a gentle ride, enjoying the scenery, i had been awake for 20hours! the next day I was keen to ride the Tourmalet, it started 20km from our B + B which gave me a chance to stretch my legs. The official Strava segment was 10.7miles, just over 4000feet elevation change, as it stands i'm 64 out of 2496, which i was happy with as a first attempt! 

The next few days were spent exploring local Cols, including Col Du Soulor, Col d'Aspin, Horquetter and The Hautacam, on the last day I rode three Cols in a day, around 13,000feet of climbing, but I felt in my element, improving on my climbing and descending techniques. By the end of the week I had ridden 360miles with 50,000feet of climbing, happy and feeling strong.
it is less than two weeks until Bontrager 24:12 and my first 24hour solo, usual mad rush to get bikes finished and kit sorted.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Double header: Erlestoke 6hr and Dorset Gravel Dash 100

Back to my local endurance race, Erlestoke 12 has been blessed with awesome weather for as long as I can remember, unfortunately it wasn't to be this year. A wet week in the run up then torrential race just before the start meant it was going to be a tough day. Being a local i'd pre-empted the mud and set up my spare bike with awesome Maxxis Beaver mud tyres, they are grippy yet fast, just a great tyre, turned from my spare bike, to the bike I rode for the whole race!

I didn't get the best start, being held up, but I was top 10, George Budd, last years winner,  was riding his awesome Salsa Beargrease carbon fat bike, was gone, never to be seen again, but I expected this.

I made steady progress trying to conserve energy through the sections which were unrideable, I was around 5th or 6th, not great but it was a 6hr race, i had time to close them down. Each lap was taking around 50minutes which was reducing my time to catch people, luckily i was getting faster!

I was up to 3rd place with one lap to go, I knew I could catch 2nd, he is a good friend but a competitor, I caught him halfway through the lap, and made sure I kept my pace high. I finished 2nd which i was pleased with, a lap behind George on his fat bike of shame.

I'm glad I raced in the challenging conditions, it disappointments me when people bail because its muddy, running the right tyre make a huge difference.
I got back to my parents, had dinner then got back to Poole. The day after we headed to Swanage for Charlie the Bike Monger Gravel Dash 100, the inaugural 100mile gravel race. I was feeling ok, so i knew i just needed to eat lots and turn the pedals! I rode with my friends for a few hours then left them on the longest climb of the day, I spent the rest of the ride by myself, keen to get back to Swanage. The route was nice, great views and fun terrain, not much single track but it wasn't about that. In all it was 92miles and 6300feet of climbing, just under 8hrs. It given me lots of ideas for new routes and it was nice to hang out with a different type of racers. 14hours of racing and riding in 2 days, the bank holiday was useful for recovery! 
Vacant look after 14hrs of racing in 2day
Trusty chinese 29er, 2500miles old

Friday, 9 May 2014

Gorrick 100 - 7laps

Gorrick 100 is a classic race, it moved from the Swinley Forest to Deepcut barracks last year and to one of my favourite courses at Windmill Hill, but it still starts too early!

With the XC Nationals taking place on the same day a few top riders were missing, but enough fast riders remained! I got a good start off the front row, but I let the front 6 riders go, and was caught by another 2, but I was riding nowhere near my limit, Heart rate was low, knowing it was at least a 5hr race.
The course was great, last years loamey sections had been replaced with well ridden singletrack, which flowed together nicely, I was pedalling a lot, at least 80% of the lap was pedalling!!!

The first 3 laps went without issue, my housemate was also racing had stuck to my wheel, seeming to trust my pacing, at the beginning of the 4th lap I caught a glimpse of a rider in front, so I sped up to make the catch, and proceeded to gap him and my housemate. Later on I caught another rider, so I was upto 4th, feeling ok, with no back issues which everyone else seemed to complain about, maybe my gym sessions do help!?!

Beginning of the 6 lap I just managed to miss the start of the 3 lap race, although I did get caught in their shoddy overtaking, I kept up with a few, but let the fast boys go. By the 7th lap I felt in my groove, the course was still fun and it was quiet. I finished in 5hours 44minutes, and 3rd place, chuffed! finally a good result at the Gorrick 100. My housemate had a good race finishing 6/48. Chapeau to Scott Swalling, 19th on a fat bike!!