Wear and tear

Nice new shoes turn into best shoes, turn into old shoes, turn into really should replace shoes, turn into should have been binned long ago shoes.




These New Balance Minimus are brilliant, and still have life left I’m them, but are beginning to show signs of wear.

I need some new race SPD shoes. My trusty Mavics have been relegated to commuting duties, and are not holding up very well in retirement. The Lake shoes I got to replace them have never felt completely comfortable. Heavy, stiff in the wrong places, not very stiff in the right places, and I’m tired of the Boa lace system seizing up. And the tread is falling off.

At least my body feels like it is holding up reasonably well at the moment.


Not only has January snuck up on me, but it is now nearly the end of the month.

I’ve not raced since an ill fated Rapha Supercross in October (sticky mud and wide tyres in the CX bike were not good bedfellows). This was all part of The Plan. A rest. Time off from racing. Riding for fun. Not riding so much. This has been a mixed blessing. I’ve enjoyed some rides with mates that I might have missed out on otherwise. I’ve been doing more running (see post below). But, occasionally I have struggled mentally. I’ve missed long rides, yet not felt motivated to do them, yet beaten myself up for not riding more. Telling myself it is part of The Plan doesn’t always help.

Post Christmas and I have gradually been getting back into things. A few more miles, more regularly. A mystery New Years bug and a cold haven’t helped, but I’m slowly but surely getting fit again. I’ll need to, I’ve got some fun plans for this year.

-Hit the North… 2 hours intense riding. Crashed out last year. Lots of Good People going. Will be fun.

-City Cross… Not yet decided whether I’ll race, but should be a laugh
-Edale Skyline fell race

-No races planned yet, but an Easter break on Skye will involve lots of riding

-12hr solo champs – only two weeks before the biggie
-Highland Trail – 400+ miles of Scottish wilderness. Brilliant. Bit scary.

-Brisol Bikefest – so much fun in a team last year, back to do it solo this year
-Mountain Mayhem – only a week after Bristol. Maybe another team ride?


TBC… Summat big

-Scotland Coast to Coast. Did it two years ago. Fancy another crack
-3 Peaks CX

The ultra that wasn’t

After a Christmas break in the Lake District, with the bike left at home, but running shoes packed and used every day, I thought I might as well use the little bit of condition that I had earned and enter a race.

I like the simplicity of running. Even when compared to riding a bike, which needn’t be a complicated sport (although we often seem to do our best to make it so), I love that all I need is a pair of trainers to run. I also find it much easier to up the intensity when on foot. I really struggle to do an intense 45mins on the bike, but when running, I find it relatively “easy” to push myself to the point of exhaustion.

Having said that, I didn’t enter a short race. In fact I decided to enter my 1st ultra marathon. An ultra is technically anything over the regulation 26andabit miles of a marathon. My choice of the Anglesey stage of the Coastal Trail Series was 33 miles. Fairly short in terms of ultra distances, but a good 5 miles more than I have ever run in a day before. It was also 75% off road, much of which was on undulating and tricky coastal trails. The kind of race that needs suitable training and preparation. I signed up with 3 weeks to go. Then got injured. Ace.

I managed a pain free 5k run into work on the Thursday before the race on the Saturday and declared myself fit and ready to go. The weather forecast made for “interesting” reading, but our (Jenn was coming across too. Originally planning to do the marathon, a late entry meant that she ended up on the ultra course too) main concern was whether we would be able to drive to Anglesey; heavy snow was predicted for the North. I took the most sensible approach and tried to ignore it.

The drive to Anglesey turned out to be beautifully easy. Little traffic, and no snow. It was surprising when a friend posted up a picture of a heavily snow covered Holyhead on twitter. It was literally only as we crossed the bridge over the Menai Straits that the snow started to fall, and we almost immediately got stuck in a queue of traffic on the A55. It took over an hour to drive the 15 miles to Holyhead, but we got to the B&B, and started eating and faffing with gear and eating in preparation for an early start on Saturday. Again, I tried my best to ignore the foot or so of snow outside. At 8pm the cancellation email arrived. Frustratingly late, but the organisers had been working hard all day trying to mark courses, only for the markers to be covered by fresh snow. By way of compensation to those who had travelled up, they were still running a “fun” 10k course around and up and down Holyhead mountain. Not quite the ultra I had been psyching myself up for, and I was thoroughly deflated.

Luckily a big breakfast helped cheer me up… Never one to stay grumpy when food is on offer.

Saturday was beautiful. Blue skies, sunshine, and lots and lots of snow. We met Amy, Ali, Greg and Pauline at the event centre and set off around the course… Stopping regularly to admire the view/throw snowballs/bury Pauline. The snow made things heavy going, and despite there now being a trail trodden through the snow, it regularly came up to calf height. The first guys through had the pleasure of some waist height drifts. The full 33 miles would have been an epic challenge, and one which was rightly saved for another day.

That does leave me with an itch to scratch though. I still fancy ticking off an ultra in 2013…





I’ve not been writing on this blog quite so much recently. I’ve been keeping busy though. Issue 78 of Singletrack Magazine is on sale at the moment.

The mag have been brave enough to commit 10 whole pages to a subject that I think is important, and often not talked about: depression. A real risk for a magazine about riding bikes. Not everyone wants to read about someone else’s lows while they put their feet up with a brew. The editorial team could very easily have run another (great, as always) article about riding in the alps, or playing on bikes in the woods. They didn’t though, and the feedback from readers has been overwhelmingly positive, so I hope the magazine feel the risk paid off.

I also have a little column about building up a new bike tucked away in the cyclocross “bonus” section. If you are local to Leeds, then Garage Bikes have a few copies left, be quick though, they are selling… Fast.

Feeding the rat

Not enough riding done recently. Not even commutes. This has been balanced by the quick-fix of runs, both short and long, and some beautiful weekend away adventures, with fab company.

I need to feed the rat again though. Small beginnings. I’m already mentally calculating a commute route tomorrow. Hilly and fixed wheel. Social night ride tomorrow night. It’s unlikely I’ll see much daylight during either.

Long ride one day of the weekend and either CX or social ride the other.

But, I need more. I need something to test me, inspire me. I might be able to book Friday 21st December off and enjoy a long shortest day. Hmmm…

Difficult Decisions, easy decisions

End of the season and physically tired, but mentally exhausted. A combination of head “fun and games” and starting medication again left me needing to take things easy, be sensible. I’m not very good at sensible.

No Relentless, no Bearbones 200. I’m disappointed I missed them, but they will wait until next year.

Instead, making the most of the still-booked week off, I decided that I needed my own, personal adventure. No pressure, minimal logistics, just riding for a long time. Time to think, not think, ride quickly when I want to, slow up when I’m ready.

The ride was one that I have been thinking about for almost a year. As it was, it needed less planning than I first thought. I liked the idea of riding from Settle to Carlisle, following the route of the famous railway line as much as possible, as much off-road as I could eek out of the route. Familiar landscapes of the Dales would soften into the flatter landscapes of Westmorland. The opening of the final section of the Pennine Bridleway made route choice from Settle to Kirkby Stephen extremely straightforward. The first 35 miles or so would be almost entirely off-road. Beyond that, it was a case of dot-to-dot linking sections of bridleway in a vaguely NW direction, with the quietest looking roads possible, and maybe hunting out a few road-map chevrons along the way. Bikehike is a brilliant tool for doing this. Simple online route planning, using OS and Google maps, all for free, and it allows you to export a GPX file. Bloody awesome. The route was planned out, and came in at 104 miles. Nicely in the zone of long, but do-able in a day.

Unfortunately, the train service decided to add an interesting “against the clock” slant to the day. The last train out of Carlisle was at 18.18. Unsure of the quality of the going, and keen to avoid an unscheduled stay in a Cumbrian hostelry, I opted for an early start. A very early start. Leaving the house at 3.30am was painful, but I was awake, and excited by the time I parked up next to Settle station. Faffing was kept to a minimum and I rolled through the silent village not long after 4.30am. My USE lights creating a safe pool of light in the increasing dark, as I left the amber glow of street lights behind, I popped a headphone ear in, familiar sounds adding a welcome soundtrack to the early miles. My back wheel span on damp earth and grass, lights having a flattening effect that sadly only applied to my eyes and not my legs. I removed layers quickly, as despite the coldness of the early morning, I generated excess body heat. I remembered the benefit of the bar-mounted GPS early on, as wandering ever-so-slightly off course, my lights didn’t pick up the well signposted gate, that in the daylight would have been impossible to miss. Only a minute or two wasted.

Perfect solitude. I wondered what people in the valley below would think of the two odd spots of light moving gradually across the lower fells. Stereotypically “Yorkshire Dales”, with white drystoned walls and barns. Unfortunately, with walls come gates. Very many gates. Enough at times to really break rhythm. I looked at the clock and decided it was too early to make mental calculations. I felt like progress was too slow though. There was a different feel to the riding for a while. Valley bottom walled singletrack was a welcome and fun relief, despite an “interesting” moment where a combination of a blind corner and excess speed found me on a not-very-wide-actually stone walkway across a cold looking stream. Higher up than I might have wanted; a little closer to one edge than I might have wanted. It was far too cold and dark to get wet just yet. Continue with care.

Black was beginning to fade to inky blue in the east, as I climbed again, Ingleborough directly north of me, just over a week since I was climbing the now innocent looking Simon Fell with a CX bike over my shoulder. I rode over rubbly track, then grass; the local sheep doing a superb job of buzz-cutting it to closely-cropped, easy riding ground. Inky blue was stained orange and yellow, silhouetting Pen-Y-Ghent. It felt colder than it had two hours ago. This was autumn.

 Bombing back down to the B6479 and straight across the other side of the valley, I afforded myself a smile. I was enjoying this, although my head still felt clouded with extraneous thoughts. I couldn’t leave them behind like I normally do.

 My memory of the next section is mainly climbing. Not nose on stem, gritted teeth climbing, but steady height gain, fairly easily won, wandering east away from Ribblehead for a while, before almost doubling back and riding above Dent, just able to spot the viaduct low in the valley. More gates. So many gates. Going was slower than I wanted, and I did start making mental calculations. Average speed, distance covered, distance to cover, 18.18. Hmm. I knew that things would get quicker after Kirkby Stephen, as the gradients eased and the route used progressively more tarmac. But, I would be tired. And what happened if I punctured, or had a mechanical? Keep riding.

 At least the sums kept unwelcome thoughts at bay for a while.

 Puncture. Sealant bubbling. Quick toot of CO2, and back rolling. I don’t have time for this, ah well, keep riding.

 Tyre has deflated again. Stop. Tube in. I don’t have time for this. Back riding, having taken the opportunity to eat. Mental calculations. 18.18. Crap. Time for a decision. I had the option of another 5 miles or so of what looked like more gate purgatory, or a slightly shorter route via back lanes that would spit me out back on course with minimal effort. I didn’t want to leave the blue line on the screen. It wasn’t what I had planned to do. Stubborn. Common sense won over though, and it was pleasant to sit on top of a big gear, feeling the air quickly flowing past my face. There was no more off-road until after Kirkby Stephen. I didn’t actually go all of the way into the village, but turned directly north, into, what was for me unknown territory.

Some bridleways were a pleasure to ride, some were churned up clag-fests through more cowshit than mud. Time was still moving quickly, but I was moving quicker. I didn’t need to clock-watch any longer. But I wanted to ride faster. The scenery was pretty. The weather was good. I didn’t want to be “not riding”, but I wasn’t particularly enjoying riding. It is what it is. Keep riding.

The peril of planning a route entirely using maps, is that if you aren’t paying attention, you may miss significant obstructions on the ground, that your pen (or pixels) skips over without an issue. My track lead me to the River Eden, just south of the A66. My assumed bridge wasn’t there though. The river was a good 20 metres across, and looked like it was probably knee deep water. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It turned out that knee deep was thigh deep, and quite quickly moving thank you very much. Careful foot placement and some strong shuffling saw me on the other side, with a note to self to reroute that section if I ever tried the ride again.

The villages of Westmorland are extremely pretty, with a Dales like feel, but constructed out of local red sandstone, rather than the more familiar limestone and grit of further south. I continued in my own quiet world, uncomfortable with my own company, but relieved to be alone.

I spotted the first sign pointing me to Carlisle. Destination in sight. No sense of “nearly there”, just an acknowledgement that this ride would nearly be over. No fatigue, I had been riding comfortably within myself. I was aware that it had been a long time since I turned my first pedal stroke though. The last miles stretched out. Time became elastic. It wasn’t until the last mile that I actually felt like I was in a major town. Talking to the ticket assistant felt alien. We joked about the mud on my face. I’d just missed the earlier train and had an hour and a half to wait. I didn’t care. I was in no hurry. Coffee and real food bought, I sat quietly. The odd one out in muddy lycra and hastily added layers, while commuters and locals hurried past me. It felt like after a whole day of moving through a static world, the tables had been turned. Now it moved around a static me.

Could I have ridden further? Yes. Could I have raced over the longer distance? Yes. Would I have enjoyed it? Maybe not. Did I have that needling desire to travel as quickly as I could, and the mental strength to see it through to a result I would have been proud of? Unlikely.


Yet, a few weeks after the ride, I sit writing about it. I’m already excited about races and adventures next year. I already have the itch to ride quickly again. I will continue to rest and ride purely for fun for a little longer, until I feel the need to start pushing myself harder again. The fact that I’m smiling while writing this says more than anything else. Riding bikes remains part of me.

Here is the route, if you fancy checking it out.

A moment of clarity

I saw a photo. I had a moment of realisation, of clarity, a miniature epiphany. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad yet.

My head is rinsed with anti-depressive drugs. Like a dash of milk to espresso, they don’t make things clear, just less dark.

Risk and reward. Adrenaline slices through. I can empathise with people who cut themselves. Self harm. Primal reality. Release through pain. Like pinching yourself to check whether you are dreaming. The first gasp of air after a nightmare. Oxygen flushing through. Heightened heart rate. Hot tears.

I saw a photo. A future. Risk. Reward?

3 Peaks, my alternative report

Sorry for the swearing.

I have written up how the race went for Kinesis, over on their website. It’s a description of a race. It’s true, but on reflection, it isn’t a description of my race.

I looked at the skies at the start. I knew what the weather forecast was. Good. I wanted to suffer. The clouds were as black as my mood has been recently. It’s hard to describe, but I am trying to climb out of a self-created pit of negative thoughts and feelings, of anxiety, confusion and hopelessness… illness, mental illness. Emotions carry an extra weight at the moment. Every emotion. What makes this harder is that it becomes harder to distinguish what is “real” and what is a misfire of my tired, confused brain. I needed something to cut through the shit cloud. Something real.

Pain and suffering feel real. The hills are real. The weather is real. There was a beauty in suffering through doing something that I could have chosen to stop at any moment. I revelled in the futility of it all. I could channel every lingering emotion into one simple goal of survival.

A sense of total elation overcame me when I topped out over Simon Fell, and felt the full force of the wind for the first time. Fuck you comfort zone. Fuck you being sensible. Fuck you wind. Fuck you anything that isn’t about moving forward.

Into the calm of the road stretch to Whernside. An opportunity to stop fighting. To recoup. To eat and drink. To think. No… to fight thinking. To play mental games, and perform calculations. Average speeds and maximum speeds and projected times.

The descent off Whernside (the ascent was nothing. It was just steps. I didn’t need to play mental games; I could just feel free from thought). The first time that it clicked that reality isn’t a game. I can’t choose when to press pause. I’m cold. I’m tired. Deep play. The best kind. I’m in control. I’m making the right decisions, I’m being conservative. I don’t need to take risks, there is enough thrill to be found from walking the tightrope of being “safe”, no need to try and do it backwards, while blindfolded.

Pen Y Ghent, and my body is letting me down somewhat. Cramp is hindering progress, I should probably have another gel, but I am too focused on just getting this done. I know I am too cold and empty for this to be sustainable. I also know that I will be home in less than 30 mins.

And finished. Beautiful silence. Sitting in the car warming up. A calm head. Empty. Sheltered. Free, for the time being.

3 Peaks Cyclocross… not long now

Rarely does a mass-participation race have so much history. This Sunday will see the 50th running of the Three Peaks Cyclocross race. 38 miles of tarmac, wet tussocked fell side, limestone, millstone grit, steps. Much, much more than a “just” a bike race, it isn’t an overstatement to say that it has reached iconic status. It is fair to say then, that it was with a mixture of giddy excitement and trepidation that I received my confirmation-of-entry email a few months ago. Twitter had already begun to bristle with similar statements of relief/panic/joy as I checked my hotmail. This seems to reflect the entire feel of the race; a sense of community. Maybe, it is because for many, it is less a race than a personal challenge. Against a psychologically daunting course. And, while, on the day there will be spikes of competitiveness, for the time being the event itself is enough.

Never have I witnessed so much discussion around “what tyres”, “what ratios”, “what fuel”, “what strategy”? I’ve even been sucked into said discussions, and spent longer deciding on kit than I have for 24 hour races, or multi-day adventures. Perhaps it is down to that course, and the sheer variety of the terrain. There are points at which it would appear that the following would be the ideal choice:

  • A road bike
  • No bike and fell running shoes
  • An actual cyclocross bike (you know, as per the name of the race)
  • Stiff gearing
  • Spinny gearing
  • A full suspension mountain bike

This inevitably leads to compromise. Especially for someone like me who doesn’t have the resources to bring spare wheels, or a spare bike (check out Alan “Crossjunkie” Dorrington’s plans here). Where the compromise falls, seems to depend on budget, preference and maybe experience.

Experience… hmm. I’ve not done this race before, and it really is pretty unique. I’ve frequently been told that nothing will compare. Guess I’ll find out on Sunday. This does make training a little more of a challenge though. So, variety has been the spice of life for the last couple of months. Interspersed between the usual “I’m going out for a ride” type training (also known as having fun on a bike), I’ve been running a little more than normal, including all the fun of hillsets up on Ilkley Moor. Ideally I would have been doing this with a cross bike on my back, but I decided to sell my old one and buy a new one (more below), leaving me without a tool for the job for a while. I’ve done the odd fell race (including twisting my ankle at Lake District Mountain Trials after an embarrassingly short distance). I’ve also concentrated on shorter, more intense riding, after the long endurance slogs of the spring and summer. Finally, I did a recce run of the Ingleborough and Whernside sections of the route. I tried to remember a few tasty looking lines coming off Whernside. I have no doubt that I will have forgotten them all by the time I get there come race day. Will any of that make a jot of difference? We’ll wait and see. It’s been fun in a horrible kind of way already.

So. I know the course. I’ve done (some) training. I just need a bike.

My old cross bike was beginning to tire, and I was thinking about throwing some money at it to bring it back up to standard for another winter of 1 hour vomit sessions around muddy fields. As these things tend to happen, I ended up deciding that what I actually needed was an entirely new bike. I sold my previous CX bike and a road bike. I cobbled together meagre funds, and I had a chat with Garage Bikes. I decided that I wanted to go down the disc-braked route for this bike. I have used them on all my mountain bikes for approaching a decade. I love the power and modulation available, and importantly for ‘cross, the consistent performance in wet and muddy conditions. Disc braked cyclocross bikes are becoming more popular, and they seem to broadly fit into two categories. The do-it-all drop bar commuter workhorse, and the race-bred whippet. It is the later that I am interested in. I settled on the Kinesis Pro 6 frame and forks. It fits the bill beautifully, and looks rather pretty too. The frame and forks option also allowed me to spec the bike exactly as I wanted (barring no expense spared uber-bling). So, here it is:





  • Kinesis Pro 6 Frame (alu) and Forks (full carbon)
  • Hope ProII Evo/Stans ZTR Crest wheels, run tubeless with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs
  • Shimano CX70 chainset and front mech, 105 rear mech and cassette, Ultegra STIs
  • Avid BB7 road brake calipers, alligator discs
  • Deda stem
  • 3T Ergonova bars
  • Fizik Tundra 2 saddle

I’ve had the bike for around three weeks, and in that time have done a couple of longer “exploring” type rides, some CX skills practice and a single ‘cross race. It hasn’t taken long for me to feel very much at home. It feels like a cross bike. No big surprises. It is light (sorry, no idea of actual weight), it is just twitchy enough to be lively, but stable enough to not be a handful, have I mentioned that it looks very pretty? There are some thoughtful touches, like a flattened, smoothed toptube which allows for comfortable shouldering. Perhaps though, the it is the disc brakes that make this stand out still. I’ve never ridden discs on a drop-barred bike before. They were a bit of a revelation. Braking from the tops is controlled and a pleasure. Power is ample. I’ve had to learn to feather the rear in particular as it is easy to lock up. 

All in all, I like it. A lot. Sunday will be a big test, and should be a real proving ground for the brakes. We’ll see how things go!

Things have been a bit quiet on here, haven’t they?

Sorry about that.

I’ve got a few half-started posts that I haven’t had the heart or the guts to finish off and publish. It’s been a bit of a hard few weeks. It’s difficult to summarise or articulate exactly why, or how it has been “hard”, but I’ll have a go.

As some background, those of you who don’t know me might want to look here. The last year has largely been one of positive experiences. I’ve had wonderful adventures, met new life-long friends, spent more time on two wheels than I have done for the last couple of years combined. The good moments have left me on a high for days. I’ve rarely had chance to dwell on the low points. I’ve avoid reflecting by jumping to the next target, the next race, the next adventure. I started the year taking 40mg of Citalopram daily. I reduced this to 30mg, to 20mg and finally stopped taking it. Drug free. Just me, and my brain for company. The numbing affects of the anti-depressants were a double edged sword. While they took the edge off any lows, they also dulled the highs. I felt fluffy around the sides. A few weeks after taking my final tablet, there was a sharpness to my thoughts that I had not felt for years. Broken-glass-crisp. Alongside this came inevitable wobbles, but they were manageable. I was strong. I rode each one out, sometimes literally.

Slowly, and initially imperceptibly, these wobbles have become more frequent. As they have done so, other symptoms have returned. Another cloudiness has descended. A darker, heavier, cloudiness. No marshmallow fluffiness. Simple tasks feel harder, impossible. My mood has plummeted. The event-horizon of my future has reduced to a day, or hour. Further ahead feels untouchable, scary, too complicated.

Biking remains my retreat. My reason for getting up. My reason for daring to think further ahead.

But, the depression has overstepped a line. I don’t think I can fight it without help anymore (and at this point I should say thank you to the friends who I have confided in, and who have universally been utterly, utterly wonderful when it mattered). Time to bring in some support. I’m going back to the doctors tomorrow. I think I will ask to start medication again. I have mixed feelings about this. The logical, sensible part of me says part of my body isn’t working. To help it out, I can take some pills that will make me feel better. Why wouldn’t I? I happily take a paracetemol when I have a headache. Another part of me feels like I have failed, like I was stupid to dare think that I would be strong enough to cope without meds.

Ah well, better keep fighting. There are too many potential adventures to be had, too many important people to be there for to give up now.

New Garage Bikes team kit!

It has taken a bit longer than we hoped, but the Garage Bikes kit has finally arrived, and very splendid it looks too…

Here I am, sporting bibshorts, LS jersey and gilet.


And here is Joe Roberts, the Garage Bikes downhiller, and part time mechanic.


GarageGarage have got some kit for sale, so get in contact if you’d like your very own understated riding gear.

Sleepless in the Saddle. Some hard lessons

I’ve deliberately left writing this blog post for a few days. I have had a lot to think about, a lot to work out in my own head. When things don’t go right it is easy to beat oneself up. But it is equally easy to brush things under the carpet and not learn from mistakes. Not take responsibility.

I wasn’t even going to do SITS until about a month beforehand. But, in an otherwise empty month, it felt like a perfect mini-target. The fact that a big group of friends would be racing in various categories was enough for me to get an entry in quickly.

I arrived at Catton Park to beautiful sunshine, which rapidly turned to torrential rain, then blue skies again over the course of the next hour. A sign of things to come. I have never felt so relaxed before a 24 hour race. Our camp was nicely placed, next to the track, and we all sat around chatting and laughing until slightly later than I might normally have chosen to, given the exertions ahead. It was just all so lovely.

12 midday, and I jostled my way through the pack during a short Le Mans style run to the bikes. Legs felt great. I got to the bike and away cleanly enough, and well up, leaving me with loads of free space to avoid the usual first lap traffic jams. I rode fast, but within myself… and increasingly cautiously as my front tyre began to deflate. Hmm… thanks tubeless. Fortunately, I got back round to my pits ok, and got the tyre reinflated with minimal fuss and time wasted. I settled down to a quick, but comfortable pace and got on with business. But, I was bored. I didn’t dislike the course. I just didn’t love it. There were no sections that I particularly was looking forward to. No sections that I really didn’t like. No awful climbs, no technical descents.

I actually went through a period of deep self-doubt. Why was I out there? Why did I feel the need to do this? How could I have the temerity to ask friends to give up their weekend to support me? To ask companies to sponsor me? I wasn’t cut out for this. It was my first race for 2 years without being under the influence of any anti-depressants. Maybe my brain was taking the opportunity to explore the areas the drugs blocked up. It still remembered how to pull the strings. I felt mentally weak. It took a good few laps for me to battle myself, to accept the fact I would have to deal with this for the next 20+ hours.

By the time I had settled in for the challenge, something new happened. It rained. Hard. Spectacularly. Distant thunder had turned into a storm overhead, and boy did it rain. Big fat blobs of the stuff. The track almost instantly transformed. My Racing Ralph/Rocket Ron combination struggled to cope with slippy clay, and my pace took a dive. But, it woke me up. Reignited some fight, and brought a smile to my face.

A quick bike swap in the pits, and back out again, with renewed determination. Singlespeeding this time, and enjoying the more playful feel of 26in wheels. Until, inexplicably, I ploughed off the track, straight into a tree. Headfirst. Oops. Back on the bike, and I refocused again. The rain was already beginning to ease, and there were patches of blue sky visible all around. The course had so much variety, although mainly in the type of mud on offer. All the way from dirty puddles, to slithery layers, to deep plasticine trenches, and “build me a mud hut” grass/mud combination fun. There were points I had to stop and clear out the wheels, as they blocked entirely, and descending often became an exercise in blind faith, waiting for my front wheel to select which of the many ruts it wanted to follow, then hanging on.

***Gordon, my pit helper for the weekend, is a lovely, lovely man. With a lovely, lovely wife, and a lovely, lovely dog. He drove to the event in his new lovely, lovely T5 van, and looked after my every need for the race. Gordon is a bit of a foodie. He loves to cook, loves to make delicious things, and is a master baker (watch out for auto-correct) of lovely, lovely sourdough bread. This weekend, I introduced him to many new things:
-How to fit tubeless mud tyres (with help from Jenn)
-The “joys” of cheap peanut butter on cheap rubbery white bread
-How to make a Pot Noodle. It has a line that tells you how much hot water to use!

Gordon. Thank you. For everything. You were brilliant***

Back at the pits. Gordon handed me my Pot Noodle. I took out the Dirty Harry with nice skinny Mud Xs. I rode. I laughed, I slid, I gripped, I looked forward to the dark. I loved it. I probably burned a little more energy than I should.

I got back to the pits. I had a few mouthfuls of peanut butter sandwich. I fitted my lights. I declined the offer of a gilet, despite being drenched. I headed out into the dark, ready for action. I rode through the first wooded section, and I collected mud. And more mud. I cleared it out, and carried on riding. The bike clogged again. I didn’t feel too great. The entire lap continued this theme. After consistently hitting 50min laps, I drifted out to over two hours for a single loop. I was pedalling in granny gear, downhill. I could hardly lift my bike, it weighed so much. I ended up walking sections that I could have ridden, as I didn’t have the will to clear the wheels again and swing my leg over the bike. I forgot to eat my gel, and my drink was making me queasy. This isn’t what it was meant to be like.

My memory of what happened in the pits is hazy. I got off the bike and laid down. I tried not to throw up. Gordon and Jenn were lovely and looked after me. I was sat down in a camping chair, being fed crisps and tea. I was in my tent and eating a few mouthfuls of jacket potato. I fell asleep.

7.30am. My race was done. The sun shone. It was getting warm already. I climbed out of my tent. I didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t escape my thoughts. I was trapped in a loop of worrying about letting people down, not being good enough, being thoroughly stupid and naive. There is only one cure that always works when I feel like that. I swung my leg over the bike, and headed back out onto the course. I was still oh so empty. Weak. But it was fun again. I was stupid. I was naive. I have let people down. But, it would be ok. It was mistakes, and I would learn, then come back better and stronger.

12pm. I crossed the finish line, beer in hand, thanks to the Singletrack lurkers’ bar. It wasn’t meant to be like this. But, it was really quite fun in the end.

A huge, huge thank you to:
“Evil” Gordon.
Tim K
Everyone else at our pits…

Big congratulations to:
Singletrack Gritty Kitties for getting 1st in their category
Singletrack girlies for all doing 3 laps, with smiles on their faces, despite a baptism of fire (mud?) for their 1st 24hr race.


So… how many bikes is too many? N+2?*

Well, I currently have 7. Or 8, if you include the mountain bike I bought for an ex, which now lives in the cellar, one of the only reminders that I used to share my house with someone else.

Now, I firmly believe that 7 is a perfectly reasonable number of bikes. In fact, I could list numerous other bikes I would love to own, all of which are slightly different to the ones I currently own.

But… I’ve had a specific hankering for something specific for quite some time.

I love my cyclocross bike. I love exploring with it. I love racing it. I love my road bike, but I’d like to upgrade it. I love the pretty old Ribble that is propped up, looking sorry for itself at the back of the “bike room”.Image

So. I’m doing the logical thing. And selling all three (plus the ex’s, she’d want it that way…). And using the funds to spec up my dream CX bike. It will be light. It will have disc brakes (I’m a mountain biker at heart). It will be light, functional, and it will be ready in time for the 3 Peaks CX in September. In fact, it needs to be ready in time for me to use it to train!

I’ve spent quite a while mulling over what bike/frame to go for. Despite the relaxation in UCI rules, allowing discs on cyclocross bikes for racing, there are relatively few options in the UK. I narrowed my decision down to two. The On One Dirty Disco, and the Kinesis Pro 6 frame.

Garage Bikes have access to Kinesis, so it rapidly turned into a no brainer. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the company. And, while buying the frame and speccing it up may work out slightly more expensive, I will be able to make some personal choices about kit, to suit me.

While I ponder the spec, here is a video of Jo Burt riding the bike

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/31864242″>Race or Escape</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user7938556″>Upgrade Bikes Ltd</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

It’ll be strange being without a road bike for a while, but I’m sure I’ll find that next n+1 once my bank account recovers from this purchase.

*Perfect number of bikes = n + 1 (where n=current number of bikes)

Endless cycle

I might feel like I’m failing at everything else at the moment. Losing it. But, every little bit of negative feeling. Every sense of injustice, every death wish, every tear, every kick in the stomach, every “maybe my head will feel better tomorrow”, everything will go into turning pedals next weekend. If I can’t be good at the other stuff, I can hurt myself trying to be good at riding my bike. 

I might come last, I might do well. I don’t care. I want to cross the line, barely able to turn another pedal. Unable to see. Unable to think. Before I get to that stage, I will have had 24 hours of fun. I will have smiled at the start line. I will take pleasure from the initial lung burning run. I will focus on every single opportunity to carve a corner, to pop a little jump while I still have the energy. I will then enjoy the sheer mindlessness of riding around in a circle for the coming hours. I will embrace the oncoming darkness. Relish the thought of switching on my light, and shrinking my world even further. I will be thankful that my mind only wants to contemplate the next calories, not the failings of my life, relationships, dreams. I will treasure every moment I gain the company of a friend out on course, whether I know them already, or never see them again. I will appreciate the definition of being solo. By myself. Most importantly, I will just feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to ride my bike until I can’t anymore.

Today is the first day that I haven’t stepped over some form of two wheels for well over a week. Most days, I’ve been riding twice. I’ve grabbed the opportunity of being the Cairngorms for a few days, and explored. Jinking forest singletrack, trail centre jumps and drops, high mountains. Sweat dripping on my top tube, hairs standing on the back of my neck. I’ve needed this more than I dare admit. I don’t want to think about how important these things are to me, because then I will have to contemplate what will happen if they go. 

As soon as I stop. As soon as I climb off, then the other thoughts come. For now, I don’t even feel strong enough to face them head on. So, instead, I’ll climb back on, and batter them into submission. 

Bit of a catch up

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here. Same old excuses… busy doing other things, etc. But mainly, I haven’t felt in the mood to write much.

A quick run down of the past month or so:

Mountain Mayhem memories

  • Mud
  • Mud
  • Mud
  • Laughs
  • The gazebo of dreams
  • Wonderful friends
  • General silliness
  • Laughs
  • Mud

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon

  • Wasdale always takes longer than you think to get to
  • Despite being one of the wettest places in the UK, we avoided the rain while the rest of the country was drowning
  • I’d forgotten how much I dislike contouring on steep ground. With tussocks. And bog.
  • I’m lucky that I can share time outdoors, and racing with my family. It was great to catch up with my uncle over a weekend.
  • I met Joss Naylor. On the fells! A lovely man, and it was an honour to share 5 minutes chatting about the mountains.

I’m really excited about the coming four weeks

The Cairngorms

  • Can’t wait to return to the home of my favourite ever adventure.
  • Just a long weekend, but will be taking my Dad along some of the same trails. It will be a pleasure to sit up and take my time in the scenery

Settle to Carlisle

  • I’ve got a week off work. An entire week.
  • Rather than a long trip, I’m planning a few micro adventures. One of which will be riding from Settle to Carlisle in a day, then getting the train home.

Sleepless in the Saddle

  • Mayhem was great fun. I loved the friendly atmosphere. I loved having a lot of friends around.
  • I wanted to ride more though
  • Back to 24 hour solo. But there will be lots of friends around, both supporting, and out on course.
  • Best of both worlds!

Take a pew

Saddles are one of those items on the bike that are so vital to get right, especially when riding for durations of longer than a couple of hours (so, pretty much all my riding).
I’m relatively lucky, in that there are few saddles that I absolutely can’t get on with. The Planet X number that came with the Dirty Harry has done a fine job on some long, rough rides. But it hasn’t been perfect. After a while, it generates pressure at points you don’t really want pressure. The length of faux suede provides some grip which is unnecessary and I think probably contributes to some discomfort as I am less able to micro-adjust my position without slightly lifting my weight.
But, what saddle to choose? From a seemingly unending range of choices. There were two obvious requirements:
-comfortable over long durations
It is possible to read any number of reviews, but, put bluntly my bum isn’t the reviewer’s bum. I could go out and buy lots of saddles and try them out, but given my criteria above, saddles aren’t cheap. Lots of saddles are down right expensive.
Garage Bikes to the rescue. As a Fizik (or should that be Fi’zi:k?) test centre, they will loan out a Fizik saddle for anyone to try out. They have a range of them in store, and some guidance to help you decide which is most likely to fit you. Armed with this, I plumped for the Tundra 2. So, I fitted the saddle and went for a little test ride to see if it suited me. Well, no…
I arrived at Bristol Bikefest late on Friday. It was cold and wet and I couldn’t be bothered with bike tinkering, so 1hr before I was due to start racing I fitted the saddle and had a spin round the camping field. Felt ok… And it continued to feel ok during the race. In fact, it was a bit of a revelation.
I could move fore and aft, and around the saddle more easily. The slightly shorter shape enabled me to drop off the back more comfortably, and the slightly broader nose was infinitely better for steep in the saddle, thrutchy climbing.
After another few rides I’ve fitted a (slightly less garish) saddle to ‘arry for the long term.