Twinkly Dave – Mud splattered bicycle and pizza enthusiast Growing old disgracefully

September 29, 2010

cheeky little snot nosed bugger (The 3 Peaks 2010)

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 2:08 pm

Go.
Go now.
Engage ‘redlining’ mode and attack.

pen-y-ghent
(This pic courtesy of Rich at Qwertyphoto – he took loads of other pics that sum up the race brilliantly, go have a gander!)

My attempt to get away from Alan Dorrington had started back on Whernside. I’d spent what seemed like hours focussed intensely on the next rock step in front of my face, cleats ‘klacking’ on the unevenly angled cobbles and upended slabs that made up the ‘stairway to heaven’ as one competitor behind me had – sarcastically – called it, following him.

He was on for a sub four hour time and, in my snot drenched state, I’d decided that would do for me too, so in order to get it I gave myself a target – get to the finish before him. Race him. Have it!
As race strategies go it was a bit simplistic, but given that thinking hard seemed to hurt (due to the cold I’d woken up with, I hasten to add, I’m not thick…) it was the best I could come up with. I didn’t tell him that was what I was doing, of course, that would just be daft…and he seemed to be stomping his way up the hillside with enough gusto and motivation without me adding to it, so I kept my fiendish plans to myself and got on with hanging onto his coattails as we climbed higher and eventually reached the ridgeline path that meant a return to riding our bikes, rather than lugging them around on unhappy shoulders.

My strategy went somewhat awry on the fast descent down to Ribblehead when, while mincing down the side of the main path, he came flying past me, skimming over the ruts and rocks while I bobbed and wobbled around slowly. He’s not slow down the hills and it was pretty stupid of me to think I’d just cruise away from him, but in a way it helped me pull myself together a bit on a part of the course I’ve hated ever since, on my first attempt at this race, I’d faceplanted on the stone slabs and freaked myself out quite a bit. I grabbed the bars and, in what felt like a heroic attempt, managed to catch him back up.
I’d tried to get away from him again as the race rejoined the road between Whernside and Pen-Y-Ghent, remembering how I’d caught and dropped several people along it last year I threw the bike into the biggest gear I had and set about trying to spin out a 50×11 gear. Sadly I didn’t have the legs or lungs for it this year and after a few miles the sound of a snatched gear shift behind me told me I’d been recaught by Alan and Belgian #2 (who’s name I don’t know – but they were both on the same team) working together. Never mind. As it happens we seemed to all work together quite well on the final few miles to the Pen-Y-Ghent climb, although the polite conversation that had helped break up the climb on Whernside had long gone as our thoughts turned to the ‘one last effort’ to the final summit of the day.

We’d turned off the spectator lined road onto the cobbled still together and I knew that if we got to the top together, I’d lose out on the descent back to the finish line in Helwith Bridge, leaving me only one real option: Go.
I glanced further up the climb at a rider a minute or so ahead of me, lowered my head and started to rock the bike underneath me as I pushed everything I could through my legs. The sounds of spectators screaming encouragement began to disappear as the pounding of blood in my head reached near explosive levels, snot flowed freely down my face (sorry!) and my gasping for breath began to burn my lungs and throat. Tired eyes locked down on the rocks in fronI, face contorted as the initial effort gives way to a more sustained hurt. I tried to keep my pedalling as smooth as possible over the uneven surface. Loose rocks would spit the back end around underneath me as I pushed as much force as I could through the cranks . Concentrating as much on getting into a rhythm as on giving everything I had left created a distraction from the horribly uncomfortable feelings thrashing a body that would have rather been curled up in bed full of Lemsip created and as I got my pedalling and heavy breathing synchronised I dared to glance upwards again.

That gap of around a minute had gone, the next rider was right in front of me and, as I lurched the bike to the right to pass him, seemed to have no answer to my pace. Good. A quick glance up towards the next rider on the course, then head back down and do it all over again. Look up only as I reach his back wheel and only long enough to pick my next target. The theme tune to Jaws is playing over in my head as I close in again and again on people ahead of me and grind past up the climb. I’m nearly an hour down on the winner (in fact he’s already finished) but right now I’m the fastest thing this hill has seen for a long while. And it’s working.

I ‘dib in’ at the summit checkpoint and set about trying to get back down the hill with some semblance of style and speed. I fail at the first objective within a few hundred metres, losing control on a deceptively tricky bit of moorland track (‘oh, that’s why the bloke in front got off and ran this bit’ I thought as the bike went one way and I stumbled helplessly off in another) right in front of Jase, who was nearing the end of the final climb and who couldn’t resist pointing out what a quality crash it was (before following suit and wiping out on the same section himself!) and it’s not until about halfway down the fellside that I begin to ride with any real speed. But, teeth clenched, I manage to skim over the stones and drainage channels, wrestle the tyres over the gravel as it writhes underneath me and dodge the riders making their weary way up the path and even catch a couple of racers in front (and the annual ‘poor bloke who’s bike has snapped in two’) before rejoining the road, suffering cramp, ignoring it and rolling over the finish line in a slightly-slower-than-last-year-but-still-respectable sub four hour time.

Success! Of sorts. You can’t be over enamoured with a time an hour slower than the winner but, given that I wasn’t even sure I’d get over the first hill as I drove to the start earlier that morning, not a bad result at all.
And I’d got away from Alan (who also finished in under four hours, leading many to speculate that his snow white tyres had somehow helped), who had no idea I’d been using him as a big target for two thirds of the race. Ha. I imagine he’ll repay the favour next time though :-/

September 7, 2010

Kielder 100: A fair, if unspectacular result

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,Racing — dgpowell @ 11:49 am

I’m pretty sure I got my bad luck out of the way the night before the race while cowering in my tent as billions of midges lurked at the door; two bulbs in my nice little camping light went ‘pop’, as did the bulb in my headtorch, leaving me groping around in the darkness, trying to eat lots of carbohydrate rich foods & mix energy drinks by the light of a mobile phone. Suffice to say I went to sleep wearing most of it.

Dawn dawned, as it often does, but by the time it bothered to do so I was already up, dressed for a day in the saddle and had shovelled down a big bowl of luke warm porridge (my gas stove ran out of gas as I grovelled around in the dark trying to cook, leaving me uttering sarcastic comments towards anyone and everyone listening (ie no-one)). Pre-race faffage was done under a slowly brightening sky and by the time Phil, Jase and myself had ‘dibbed in’ and taken up residence on the start straight it was as light as you could hope for silly-early-AM.

NOT that silly-early-AM was a problem; the series of Daft Rides Jase and I had undertaken over the course of this year and last meant that I was almost used to being in the middle of nowhere on a bike before the sun came up and, as an unexpected side effect, meant that riding for long periods of time was fairly normal too, which made for a nice relaxed start-line attitude. In fact it as easy to forget what we’d be doing all day, nattering away while waiting for the nutralised lead out to the start of the race proper.
Around us, the growing crowd chatted, gossiped, told tales of last years race and mapped out the day as they hoped it would unfold to each other. Kielder castle was dwarfed by the stationary peloton, the race had attracted a massive number of people, from the whippetiest of whippets, silently building themselves up to a day of flat out hammering at the front of the queue right through to the baggiest of short-ed, flat pedal using unknowns, trying to make light of the task ahead of them with good attitude and piles of pork pies waiting for them at each food station on the route.

In the middle of it all I had high hopes for us. Jase, Phil and I were fit enough to get round the course (I believed) in a fast time, long days out were becoming our forte and this was to be a long day out with added pace. I resisted the temptation to shout “bring it on” loudly as the lead out car quietly pulled away through the still-sleeping village…just, and instead set about working my way through the field towards the front as we made our way into the wilderness.

As the lead out car pulled off and the pace suddenly shot up I found myself a bit further down the field that I would have liked, but over the first few miles I got into a group, working well to close the gap on the bunch ahead of us as we flew up the fire roads and swooped through the first sections of singletrack. I was able to work my way across to this slghtly faster group as we closed in on them and sit with them for the first 20 or so miles, feeling comfortable and hapy with how I was riding.
Unfortunately, I’d made the mistake (it turned out) of not carrying many gels or much drink with me, choosing to rely on the feed stations on the course and pick up more as I went. As a result I had to stop to grab some more from the bag I’d prepared the day before, after rummaging around trying to find it in the pile of remarkably similar looking bags, while watching the group disappear off into the distance.

I wouldn’t make contact with them again.

The next few miles contained some of the best tight-through-the-trees singletrack I’ve ridden in ages, I pushed myself a bit on the climbs to see if I could get back to the group, knowing that working with others on the long, wide open sections would be much faster than sitting alone, but didn’t want to go flat out so early on so I forced myself to take occasional glances at the scenery and chill out a bit. It was worth it, around me clouds hung low in the valleys as I rode in the morning sun, hiding the hundreds of riders behind me and letting me imagine I was totally alone in the hills. Ace. Just me, the bike and a whole day of flying round the countryside. That’ll do. The only additions being a heart rate monitor and a desire to stay ahead of anyone behind me.

Miles became blurs of swoopy singletrack goodness, sometimes through the shaded trees, where still cool air and clouds of midges reminded me that it was still the morning and I was still in the Scottish borders and sometimes flowing across open moorland where hidden ruts kept things interesting and made me glad I wasn’t mid-field with hundreds of others, stuck wheel to wheel. Throughout it all climb after climb on featureless fireroads reminded me that this was an ‘epic’, pulling at legs muscles and giving me something to get my teeth into (metaphorically; I saved the face planting for a couple of tricky corners where marshalls could see and, once they’d checked I was OK, offer a bit of ribbing about my lame riding style).

Sadly, the featureless-ness of some of the fireroads meant that Jase, when he was sent the wrong way at a cross over point (where the course looped back over itself) didn’t realise at first and lost loads of time before getting back on track (that wasn’t the end of the misery for him, but he can tell you how crap everything turned out better than I can over on his site).

As the heat of the day burned off the last of the mist and cloud under which we’d begun the race I hit the boardwalk sections high up on the hills, a section I recognised from the reconnaissance ride Jase and I dd back in winter. well, I say recognised, last time it was covered in snow and surrounded by a blizzard, this time it was dry, grippy and fast.

jason-under-brooding-skies

I loved it. The trail through the trees that had been a long walk back in February was easy enough to spin over this time round, apparently a lot of people hated how it was rocky and loose, I was just glad I didn’t keep sinking up to my waist in snowdrifts as I rode past the scottish piper, ceremoniously piping me into Scotland.
I noticed that I’d not eaten anything (with the exception of a few gels) yet on the ride, despite already having passed the 50 mile point. I wasn’t overly worried, I still felt OK and wasn’t having any real trouble on the climbs so decided that to stay just suing gels rather than start trying to eat ‘properly’ and risk upsetting my feeble excuse for a stomach as I continued towards the next feed station at Newcastleton.

Somewhere along the way to the 7 Stanes trails at Newcastleton, that were included in the race route I must have hit a rock a little too hard and punctured the rear tyre. It didn’t deflate quickly so rather than lose time fighting the tyre off the rim and changing the tube I decided to push on and figure out what to do with it while at the checkpoint, which also contained a ‘tech station’ (ie some incredibly hard working mechanics fixing bikes as they came in – top work guys!).
By the time I’d swigged a couple of cups of water (having noticed that I’d barely drunk anything in addition to not eating and realising that this could hit me very hard later in the race) and picked up a ham roll becuase I couldn’t resist it, my chain had been relubed and the now soft rear tyre had been pumped back up to somewhere near a million PSI.
As I thanked the mechanic, Ant White and Rich Rothwell (who I’d been secretly feeling pretty smug about being in front of 🙂 ) came into the checkpoint, stopped for somewhere ner a nanosecond, said hello and promptly buggered off again at a fantastic pace.
I stood around for a minute or two, trying to cram ham roll down my neck as quickly as I could, gave up as my innards had decided that eating wasn’t on the cards today and rode off up the hill to the start of the red route hoping to catch a glimpse of them. I didn’t (in fact they rode right up into the top ten over the second half of the course) but kept my pace nice and fast along the cross border route, wishing I was in a group so we could share the workload but at the same time glad I had the countryside to myself. I kept an eye out for deer as I headed back to the England/Scotland border, remembering the last time I rode this section of trail with Jase, watching the wildlife and spilling energy food all over ourselves, and crossed the bridge back into Englandshire in high spirits about how the race was going (I was pretty sure I was still in the top twenty and wasn’t feeling too bad despite the calorific deficit I must have been at).

Annoyingly, as I arrived at the final feed station and grabbed my last couple of gels the wheels came off my wagon – not the bike, that was fine…even the slowly deflating rear tyre had only needed a couple of brief stops to pump back up using CO2 canisters, losing me very little time, but me.
There as a climb straight from the checkpoint and as I rode up it I just got slower and slower. I knew there was around 20 miles left, so had no worries about getting to the end but I began to realise I wouldn’t be able to pick the pace up at all to get there. I began to grovel as the fireroads continued, buoyed by the marshals encouragement and reminders that the end was getting ever closer as I passed them, but falling back into a bit of a funk on the seemingly endless climbs through the trees. A couple of people rode past me and I didn’t bother to try and jump onto their wheel, realising that I’d do better staying at my own pace rather than blow up completely. I began cursing myself for not being smarter with nutrition – my legs felt fine but I didn’t have the power to use them properly and my attempt to squeeze down a couple of gels nearly ended in course-side retching. I passed the “10 Miles To Go” sign and realised that it was going to require a hefty dose of MTFU to get to the finish in any sort of shape. Head down and get on with it. Ignore the marshal telling me that there was only one climb left as I knew deep down there wouldn’t be and look up only when I find myself back on the singletrack trails surrounding Kielder castle itself.
This stategy worked quite well. I was passed by a couple more riders as I stared down at my front wheel while climbing and manage to offer a some slightly slurred encouragement to them before getting back to chuntering to myself about “bloody well eating something next time, you pillock” and making a right hash of what does actually turn out to be the final climb, slipping about on loose rocks and sand that make up the trail, causing me to dab my foot a couple of times.

I recognise the final descent from the February trip and try to keep the bike upright as my brain looses the ability to stay focussed on what’s going on. I hear the slap of a chain hitting chainstays behind me and put everything I’ve got into speeding up a bit to stay ahead of at least one person, sketching my way round corners and off drops until the bloke behind me shouts “it’s alright mate, I’m a marshall” just as the trail evens out and I spot the finish line a couple of corners ahead.

I pretty much slump my way over the line and don’t stop, desperate to get back to my tent and get some food and drink in me before heading back to the race HQ to pick up my finishers goodies and find out my final time.

8hrs 52minutes isn’t an earth shatteringly fast time (the winning time being nearly an hour quicker!) and my inability to race over the last 20 or 30 miles meant I ended up in 16th (I’d hoped for something in the top ten) but the result wasn’t aawful and, in a strange way, I’d sort of enjoyed having to battle on at the end – it made what was meant to be an ‘adventure’ exactly that.

It also gave me something to kick the arse of next time 🙂

September 1, 2010

Kielder 100 Weatherwatch (and a sort of round up)

Filed under: bikes — dgpowell @ 9:44 am

Starting at the end, it’s the Kielder100 this weekend. Eek. Well kind of “eek” anyway, I mean, it’s ‘only’ 100 miles off road, that’s doable eaily enough. But it’s not a ‘Daft Ride’, or even a social ride, it’s supposed to be a race. Races are hard. This one’s too short to sit at 24hr pace and waaaay too long to do at normal-XC race pace…and no-one knows what the course is like yet, so it’s not like you can work out any real sort of strategy, so it’ll be hard to guage and no doubt hard to ride in places too. Eeek.
I’m sure it’ll be a great event though, so lets check the weather’ll be playing ball:

BBC
UK Weather
Met Office

Crikey, that looks lovely!

OK other stuff I’ve been up to since SITS. Erm, cheered myself up the week after by rebuilding the Bullit, throwing it in the back of the Berlingo along with Wayne and driving up to Glentress to do nothing but play out in the woods. It was ace. We flew round the place with no agenda other than “grin” and had loads of fun in the freeride park pretending to be 13 again on the jumps and drops.

I’ve found a nice steep (and big) hill to crawl up the side of, with the cross bike on my shoulder in preperation for the 3 Peaks race in a couple of weeks:

simon-fell-practice-hill

I’ve only done it a few times, so I won’t be in any real shape to go storming past the leaders, but it has reminded me how much it hurts, which is good, right?

I’ve done a couple of long rides to get my base fitness back – I can happily ride for 10+ hours without feeling it again now (which is why I reckon getting round the Kielder course will be OK). I’ve still not got any real ‘pace’, but hopefully I’ll get that back in time for Relentless24.

Wayne and I went and checked out the mini-trail-centre that is Healey Nab last week and discovered that it was ace. There’s not really enough there to make it a destination on it’s own (unless you’re in the mood for some baggy-shorted ‘sessioning’ of the black run…) but it’s right next to Rivington and has a nice pub near it, so job’s a good ‘un!

Last night Angela and I rode over to Blackpool to cruise down the prom looking at the illuminations, as the people behind the SkyRides had closed the main road to everyone but cyclists. We had the weather on our side for the ride over there through various little villages between Preston and Blackpool and, for the most part, the countryside to ourselves. Until we got there. there must have been thousands of cyclists, of all types, thundering/cruising/bimbling up and down the seafront. Kids, families, ardent-dyed-in-the-wool-types, first timers, all flying up and down under the lights until 10pm. Ace, if a little scary – that many not-normally-a-cyclist’s in an enclosed space made for some exciting riding, even at 10mph…it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the Manchester to Blackpool ride though 😉

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