Thursday, 31 January 2008

I'm still here.. just..

I've been a little slack with the blog recently... been a little busy lately revising for exams, taking the exams then starting the next lot of lectures... then of course training.. alot.

Training has been very much along the same lines for the past week or so... concentrating heavily on zone 2, well trying my hardest too anyway ( Honest Mark i am really really trying now).
There has been some new additions to the training routing, namely hill efforts and spin ups. Opposite ends of the cadence spectrum but both having there respective benefits.

I have found myself a nice hill, not really as long as i would like but its slim pickings in Newcastle without a serious ride, even the one i have found is a 45 minute ride from my house.. but still its 2.30min to climb in the big ring... cadence at 50-60.. then a few more minutes to spin round the block and back to the start again.

Swimming has gone from 40 minutes to an hour.. getting used to it now but very difficult to maintain concentration for an hour with nothing much to look at but the sides of a pool.. you can really feel like you've been worked after an hour of continuous swimming.

As the car i use at the weekends was out of order i was resigned to a weekend in Newcastle, after the dissapointment of not getting back to Nottingham i rearranged my training for the weekend.

Saturday was a blast from the past going out with Gosforth RC, i used to ride out with them when i was 15, even some of the same guys still riding out on a saturday morning... was a really windy day so wasn't holding out much hope but as i passed the meeting place there was a few guys there so stopped to tag along, save me figuring out a route and help me stay in zone 2 and not get carried away.
As it happened i spent most of time on the front as i was feeling great and then when the fun and games started on the road to Belsay i couldn't resist ( sorry Mark.. i promise zone 2 all the way now), i attacked then eased up, then attacked then eased up and kept doing it till there was only 3 of us left.... the guy leading the ride on his slick tyred mtb and another regular... as the Belsay sign approached the regular that had lead us out for 400m gave up leaving me and the remaining other guy to jump him for sign.. as it happened we went either side of him, not good road safety and not good riding practice but the sprint for the sign before the cafe is probably as hotly contested by riders in cycling clubs worldwide as any grand tour stage, i won in the end but its not a true victory as other guy was slicked mtb:)
Passed on the cafe stop and had a very quick ride home with the wind on my back.

Sunday was a 2 hour road ride, nothing exciting to report here.. just a strong headwind out and a great tailwind home.

Wind at the moment is insane, a little dicey at times, i have perfected riding crouched right down out of the wind and at times with a 45 degree lean to the side trying to compensate cross winds:)

Debating at the moment wether to try and get an entry for final round of Thetford, as it as turned out with a crash out and a singlespeed race i think i have lost the opportunity to podium in the overall series, maybe a race win would put me there:) We'll see....

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Thetford Winter Series Round 3

The first race of 2008.

This was always going to be a bit of an experimental race, only 4 weeks into the new training programme so a bit of a yard stick for measuring progress so far.
I know 4 weeks is a very short time but the change of routine has been so great and the new workouts introduced i was sure that i would notice some difference.

The second experimental part of this race was my first time racing a singlespeed. This wasn't particularly through choice just filling the gap between selling the old bike and receiving the new and to be fair alot of people race singlespeeds and i certainly love riding mine so i was just a little curious to see how i would get on.

The third new element to my racing was better preparation, anybody that races will know that as you go to more and more races you get that bit more prepared and organised each time, you pick up little tricks from other riders in what they bring and how they prepare and eventually ( i assume) you get to a stage where like clockwork everything runs smoothly.

Saturday was a day spent just cleaning the bike down and checking for wear, replacing the parts that need replacing and then taking it out for a spin for an hour just to double check all the work.
After looking at my tyres, conti cross country 1.5's, i had decided that swapping them over would be a good idea as my bike is mainly a commuter and the rear tyre was looking a little worse for wear. I tracked down some Maxxis 2.1's in the back of the garage that looked to be in good condition and stuck them on, also the extra cushion of air would be nice with the bike being fully rigid.
Last thing Saturday was to prep all food and bottles, bike rack and bike on car and car fully loaded.

Sunday, race day...

Got up at 6.00am, already had my clothes laid out ready to go so getting ready and eating was a straight forward quick affair. Big bowl of cereal for breakfast and a bottle of Allsports Winter Training Fuel int he car door to drink on the way there.

Got to race venue for 9.00am, unheard of that i get to a race with a decent amount of time to spare as I'm usually getting changed as I'm signing on whilst fixing my number to my bike and filling my pockets with food:).

First person i see there is Paul West, Transportugal 2007 fellow competitor and all round teller of some very amusing tales:) After a leg stretching walk and a chat back to the car and get kitted.
Still 45 minutes to go till start, excellent.
All kitted bike off car i stuck on the ipod and found a quiet corner of the field we were parking in, mixed it up with some general riding and some race efforts to get nice and warm whilst listening to some motivational music.. mainly thrashy metal, no eye of the tiger here:)

Back to the car and final check of food and tube/inflator etc... ride over to starting area in time for another 10 minutes ride before entering the 4 hour starting pen.
I was nicely positioned just behind the front row but just behind some familiar faces from previous rounds.
With 2-3 minutes to go i got to meet Charlie Wigfall for the first time, my team manager for next year, nice to meet him finally after so many emails and a few calls... looking forward greatly to this year and having some great support.
With one ear on Charlie and the other on the starter came a big shock when the horn sounded, everyone in pen instantly jumped for there bike to then realise it was the start of the women's 4 hour:) false alarm

After longest minute in history start sounded and we were off, well everyone else seemed to be off as i spun like crazy on the singlespeed... people were passing me left and right and the first section of fire road seemed to go on forever till we dived into the first section of singletrack and i could start to work my way back up.
Course on the first lap was pretty awful, it was a dry day but the previous week of rain had created some epic mud... tyres were not doing there job well clogging up and leaving me sliding around.. the thing with singlespeeding is it relies on a good amount of traction at all times as it is possible to turn big gears but only when your tyre can grip the surface and actually move your forward.
I think it was on the first lap that i could see the back of Luke Smith (Whyte Racing) and a faint hope that i was catching up to a well positioned group as Luke is no slouch and always resides in at the top of field.. unfortunately it was Luke Smith but it looked like he was having a bad day and well off the pace... saw him for the rest of the race in the feedzone obviously supporting the Billy Jo Whenham (Marin), how much support Billy Jo needs is debatable as the guy is an absolute machine.

After a few laps the course had packed down in alot of places due to the volume of riders but there was definitely not the usual flow to the course that Thetford usually as and i was relying on having only one gear.. i think i touched my brakes once a lap to make turn into bombhole and the rest of the time if you stopped pedalling you just ground to a halt.
There was one particular section that after 4 laps i just opted to get off the bike and run the 100m or so as it was quicker than the slow motion grind that i had adopted to try and gain some traction through the mud.

On lap 5 i saw that friend Matt (Barton) and Paul (West) were catching me up.. working together no doubt:) and on lap 6 Matt with my scent in his nostrils went for the kill and got up to me bringing Paul with him.
I managed to ride with them for a short while till we got to my running section and then i could just see them for the remainder of what turned out to be the final lap.

Just as i was in the final 300m i got caught my another competitor and although i jumped onto his wheel so i could nip back my place on the line i had to watch him simply changed up a gear and put a few metres into me leaving me spinning helplessly:)

6 laps of the 7.1mile circuit completed in just over 4 hours, Paul (West) just nipped inside the 4 hour deadline and could have done another lap but opted against it as gains would have been nil for the extra 45minute effort.

All in one of the hardest races i have done to date... put alot of my training to good use though and bought me some valuable experience.

A 10th place finish, more than happy with this result and looking forward to getting back to geared racing.

Pictures can be seen a Joolze Dymond's site listed on my blog.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Leaving my mark.

Back to basics, as the end of the week was a race this week which was down as a base week was reformatted by Mark (Forgy) so as to leave me feeling fairly fresh at weekend.
Amongst new workouts including a particularly good pyramid interval session on the trainer was a low speed skills session.
I'll be the first to admit that my bike handling is sketchy at best but i aim to work on this weakness and hopefully by time the big races come i will have some ninja like skills on the trails:)
The picture shows the many passes i did up and down a field pushing the limit of how far i could lean Forward, Backward, Left and the right.. just a real confidence builder to see how far you can shift your weight and still stay in control. After about 30 minutes of these skill exercises i moved onto a trickier set..
Setting 2 water bottles out 5m apart.. ride along and first of all aim to knock them down with your hand.. no cheating by using 750ml bottles.. only 500ml bottles:)
Alternate left and right hand.
When you have the hang of this then try and pick them up..
Set myself the task of picking them up first left then right hand and vice versa and i couldn't go home till i did it.. really puts to the test your low speed bike handling...
So after cutting up the local football pitch it was 20 minute warm down ride and head home.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Big Opportunity on Big Wheels...

Big news in the world of Shoestring Racing..

not sure i can even call the blog shoestring racing after this..

In my search for supportive companies to help my progression in the world of racing i put in an application to ride for the XC team way back in November.

I got in!!!

I think helped to a degree by my ramblings on this blog as i will be expected to come up with inspiring race reports from some of my outing this year.

The team is backed by the website who have put together a great deal using Gary Fisher Bikes this year.. full details are on the site along with a great forum full of like minded racers.

The team is officially title 29ers and as you can guess from the name we are the first and only UK race team to be exclusively using 29ers this year.

No bad thing when you take a look at the teams weapon of choice.. Gary Fisher Super Fly, expect to see alot of these about.. or at least as Gary Fisher can make as demand at the moment is so high its out stripped supply.. not surprising when you consider that this is the lightest frame bar none that Fisher has ever made and the lucky guys in the States that have recieved their bikes have already with some sensible part swaps brought weight of the bike down to 20lbs!!!!! Big wheel bonuses without any weight penalties.

I'm so excited about getting this bike.... i just know that its going to be one of those bikes you jump on board and it makes you feel super fast.. i feel quicker just looking at the pic:) no way the machine could be blamed for anything this year.

At the moment the bike has not been delivered but as soon as i have my grubby little mitts on it be rest assured it will be tested as soon as humanly possible...

A big thanks to Xc Racer and Gary Fisher, let the racing begin.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Bike and Hike... then Bike somemore.

Over a week now since my last blog post, time has been spent travelling and training.

The new year was seen in with a trip to the Lake District with Rachel, we had this booked for a long time and as always stayed at our favourite B&B in Keswick.. Yew Tree House.. run by some great people who really go out of there way to make sure that your stay is as good as it can be. They never seem to mind storing my bike as Robert there is a rider himself and he never minds my unusual start times in the mornings to squeeze the most out of the time spent there.

New years eve was an early morning trip to the pool.. followed by a drive to the Lakes, a mooch around the shops then a quiet meal in the evening with Rach.

New years day we met up with a friend from my Uni course who was there with his girlfriend and we made our way to Glenridding to tackle Helvellyn...

A great bit of walking to be had here, for the first time i wasn't going up with a bike so got to do the proper route up striding edge and down swirral edge. Striding edge is a good bit of scrambling and with promise of snow on top we made our way up..

Once on top visibility was not good... pretty foggy so no spectacular views to be had here... plenty of snow though..

After making the top we descended via swirral edge.. got back to the car after 5 hours of walking.. excellent day in the greatest part of England ( in my humble opinion).. pictures courtesy of my good friend Richard Holland.. together with his girlfriend Shona i think all had a good day out.

January 2nd, 2.5hr mtb ride.

I managed to pick up a route from the local bike shop.. Borrowdale circuit... about 27km apparently with some downhill sections detailed as deadly.
I got away at 8am as first light was breaking.. something extra special about riding at this time when everything is a little quieter and stiller.
I took my fully rigid single speed to the lakes and had left the conti 1.5" tyres, big mistake, every heard the saying 'never bring a knife to a gun fight'? this was totally applicable as i tried in vane to pick my way down some sections that would have made a fully armoured downhill rider whince.. alot of sections had to be walked as its way too early in the year to suffer a major injury:)
As it turned out i made a few navigational errors but deinately got a good feel of this route and will be revisiting it when i get chance.

January 3rd, one leg drills

as always one leg drill for 2 minutes a leg.. thought last week that these were getting easier must have been having a good day.. ouch. fell like they do some good though.

January 4th, 4.5hr steady road ride

Used a very similar circuit to that i did with Darren out towards oakham, this time was riding with another rising star Blake (Cowley) from Nottingham Clarion club.
We mixed it up a little with a variation on the route but still managed a solid 70+ miles... weather was foggy but not the biting cold it has been so was comfortable.. really enjoy this run out and i think it'll get some use over the next few months.

January 5th, back to Newcastle. Bikes and all packed up and back at the parents awaiting first lot of exams... managed a good 45 minutes walk on the beach with my brothers dog libby:)

January 6th, 3.20hr mtb ride

Good thing about being back in Newcastle is that i can ride out to trails from my doorstep.. although it take sover an hour to ride here its a good route along the banks of the tyne.

Another early start just as it was getting light... rode with ipod for first time in a year and it made a refreshing change to have a soundtrack.
Wasn't in Chopwell woods for 2 minutes before i had a comedy fall... traction was low and hill was steep so couldn't get up a slippy climb.. stopped.. tried to start again slipping the pedal and not being able to unclip other foot hit the floor, possibly in front of the only other guy in the woods at that time... what can you do but laugh at yourself:)
Weather was good.. not cold at all.. enjoyed the long climb all the way to the top to a rooted section of singletrack/downhill which i always stall badly on seeking the perfect line as the trees are staggered on the trail making you make some left to right turns while negotiating roots..
Todays experiment was the effect of music on riding:) first run at it was with the beatnuts for some hop hop flow.. not bad, second run was with Deftones for some out and out thrash.. nailed it, definately fastest i've got through the section.
Nice ride home with wind on my back..

This is my recovery week so i don't think there will be much of note happening this week but we'll see