Friday, 7 May 2010

As ready as I'll ever be.

I can hardly believe we're already in May, or that my last update here was from the middle of February! The weekend after my last update I had a terrible time on the bike, being so stubborn I went out on the bike despite the sub-zero temperatures first thing on the Saturday and fell off on black ice in the middle of Billinge. My poor bike hit the deck as hard as I did; luckily it was ride able and again, being so stubborn I carried on. I got as far as Up-Holland towards Ashurst Beacon then fell off again, this time on my right side.

Even I got the message then and trundled off back to my Mum's with my tail between my legs to lick my wounds. I felt such an idiot, when I got back ice had formed on my helmet and across my handlebars just to remind me how cold it was. My legs were a bit of a mess too I had a good case of road rash on both hips plus my knees were gashed, as I warmed up they really started to sting.

Anyway once the sun had come out and most of the ice cleared I went back out and did the rest of the route bandaged up, finishing on the mast road up Winter Hill which became impassable towards the top due to the snow. I always seem to learn my lessons the hard way and I won't be taking my bike out in that sort of frost again.

It took about three days for the sores to stop weeping and about a week for them to stop hurting! My poor cross bike needed some patching up too. I did the Kentish Killer at the end of Feb which was a sportive on the roads across some of the North Downs in Kent and it was typical for me that the day before there was gale force winds and torrential rain forecast. The 100Km route had unfortunately been shortened to 70Km when I registered but by the end I was glad, the only time I remember being so wet with clothes on was at the end of the Ben Nevis race last year! I was quite tired too even though I had only been out for about 3 1/2 hours. My first ever sportive and I really enjoyed it, gaining some good experience on the roads with other riders and also showing me what a difference a good road bike makes; with my cross bike and 'road style' tyres I struggled just to keep up with the groups on full road bikes, pedalling like buggery to stick behind other riders who appeared to be freewheeling!

I spent March running a couple of times a week and cycling much more, my Sunday rides getting steadily further; up to 5 hours and by the end of the month I was really fed up of getting numb feet from the cold even though I had 3 pairs of socks on.

Over Easter as Mark mentioned we spent the week back up north, I brought the bike with me hoping to do some of the Fred Whitton route while we were staying in Wasdale. I wanted to get back into the running though as well so I went out early Good Friday morning to test out the knee (and the fitness!) over Winter Hill way. I always find it odd going up there when the burger vans are setting up smelling all that grease cooking first thing. My knee felt ok though and all the cycling seemed to have helped with the uphill running.

Rivington Pike Race

Easter Saturday I couldn't make my mind up whether to do Pendle or The Pike race. I have done Rivington Pike a few times but never done Pendle, in the end with some pressure from Mark I decided to do Rivi Pike. I started towards the back and decided to pace myself, it would have been good to match last year's time but considering that last year I had been doing about 30 miles a week leading up to the race and this year only running twice a week I can't complain. In fact I reckon I reached the top quicker but lost it on the way down, I have lost lots of leg speed. Main thing was the knee felt ok.

Junk food at the Sammon's that night then we arranged to meet at my Mum's for nine the next morning. My plan was to get out for seven and do a couple of hours on the bike, then head up to Horwich with Mark to meet up with Albert & Tony for a couple of hours running in the hills. I had a good morning but I probably should have eaten a bit more before heading out; I was getting tired on the way back through Horwich to Tony's house. The great thing about running in a group with people like Tony & Albert is you get to see routes and paths you didn't know existed; including some you might not usually take, like running on the concrete bricks alongside Belmont Reservoir (don't ask!).

We headed up to Wasdale Easter Monday and I went for a ride Tuesday morning from the farm, it was so wet and windy riding out of the valley and felt a bit odd; I'm so used to running on the fells when we come up here I felt I was missing out on something. Over Irton Pike and up through Eskdale I saw a couple of other cyclists going the other way then as I got to the bottom of Hardknott pass just before the cattle grid another cyclist caught me up and said: "Here we go". I really wasn't planning on going all the way up but I couldn't resist, I mumbled a reply to him along the lines of: "I dunno I might just chicken out here" but carried on anyway. I quickly realised that the gearing on my bike is not set up for these kind of hills, I'm pretty sure the lowest gear is a 38 tooth on the front with 26 at the back and I had hardly reached the first set of bends leading up past the fort before I was breathing out of my arse. The other guy was already past the fort and I had to stop, my cadence was just too low to get anywhere. After a few more attempts I reached the less steep section where I could see the other guy on the skyline, taking a last look back at me struggling before he disappeared down the other side. I gave up trying to cycle all the way up when I nearly fell off just trying to get going on the final steep bit, the wind was blowing down from the summit of the pass and it was quicker to walk with the bike. At the top I stopped for a bite to eat before heading back the way I came, this turned out to be even tougher with my dodgy brakes. The front ones judder and really need replacing, they just weren't safe on those gradients so I ended up walking down most of the way! It was a nice ride back with the wind behind me but the rain came back and I was glad when I finally got back to the farm.

Loughrigg Fell Race

Mark posing for the TV cameras:

Wednesday was the best day of the week, the weather was lovely as was the company. We drove over to Bowness to meet up with the Sammons, spent the afternoon there then headed up to Ambleside for about 5pm. I wanted to have a look round the Lakes Runner shop and also find out where the race was run from but they had already shut; luckily I spotted Ben just across the road who helps organise the race and said hello, he gave me all the details. There was quite a turnout in the park for an evening race and I spotted a TV camera filming us all warming up. My knee was still on my mind, it wasn't painful just tight around the outside of my left knee probably due to me neglecting the stretching again. The start caught me out, it's usually a sign of a bottleneck somewhere near when most of the field tear off like greyhounds and sure enough at the edge of the park there was a narrow bridge over a stream where we had to slow to a walk. Just after this we started to climb up a tarmac track where I thought it wouldn't be much fun on the way back down then the track became the usual hard-packed stone of well trodden lakes paths. I felt quite good here and started passing a few in front, the field was already quite spread out up the fell. The views further up were great; the sun was setting over Langdale and the sky was clear, we really couldn't have asked for more perfect conditions.

The leaders started passing us here on their way back down, always a nice sight but sometimes also a reminder of how far down the field you are though it wasn't that long before I started the descent too, shouting some encouragement to Mark who wasn't far behind. I really enjoyed the descent despite feeling like I should be much quicker, my legs just couldn't keep up, in fact I really enjoyed the whole evening; everything seemed perfect apart from my performance of course but I'm not particularly competitive! This is only the second evening fell race I have done, the other being Blisco Dash and I would thoroughly recommend both of them being very similar in laid-back, friendly atmosphere and typical fell terrain (well apart from the extra 1000ft or so up Blisco). I hardly had chance to get a drink and some flapjack before Mark finished, he seemed to enjoy himself too.

The family was getting cold now so we watched the presentation then left, turns out the TV camera was from and the race was going to be shown on Sky. The only disappointment to the whole day was not being able to get a table at the place we planned on eating at due to it being full so we got pizza on the way back to Wasdale instead.

Friday morning we were leaving the farm so I got up early with the intention of doing a long run round Wasdale but I woke up with a bit of a headache, probably a combination of sleeping in so many different beds the past week but also a stiff neck from cycling so in the end I just climbed Scafell instead. The clouds had come in after sunrise but as I got higher there was the telltale brightening of the mist that usually signifies an inversion and sure enough just before the final rocky section near the top the sky cleared and the view was wonderful. There was still quite a bit of snow on the peak so I had to watch my step then at the summit it was so peaceful and quiet, it was lovely. Shame I didn't take my camera but I took a few pictures on my phone then sat and ate some breakfast, it was a perfect end to a lovely week.

Back at the Sammon's that night we were discussing what we should do the day after. We fancied Yorkshire somewhere and I needed to get a long ride in so a plan was hatched for me to leave early in the morning and make my way up to Hawes. Mark was doing an orienteering event in east Lancs somewhere so the wives were taking the kids in our car then me and Mark would make our way up there mid-afternoon. It turned out to be a cracking ride on a lovely, sunny day. Took me ages though, I spent a while printing out the route at Mark's but got lost near Blackburn twice. I wanted to keep to the back roads and found some great, quiet roads over Bowland where I met loads of other cyclists on the way. I stopped in Slaidburn for lunch outside the post office in the sun and I counted almost as many cyclists as motorbikes, just after Slaidburn was a great road over to Ingleton where I hardly saw any traffic at all just lots of other cyclists. I stopped again at Ribblehead Viaduct for some more food from the old lady in her van there and Mark turned up. He offered me a lift for the last stretch but I wanted to ride it even though I was feeling a bit wrecked, I struggled but finally made it to Hawes and met up with everyone on the park.

It was the furthest I had ever rode and really enjoyed myself though it took much longer than I thought it would. Since then I decided to buy a new bike, one more suitable for sportives than my cross bike; I didn't want to spend money sorting my brakes, tyres, gearing etc. so got a Specialized Sectuer and to break it in did the 'Ups and Downs' sportive in Surrey a couple of weeks ago: 101 miles and about 8500ft of hills apparently but I was really surprised at the ascent figures. This was another really enjoyable event apart from the rain at the start but I was really knackered at the end, I think my seat was a little too low too since both my knees were sore at the top.

So that was pretty much my preparation for Fred Whitton tomorrow, I'm feeling a little apprehensive but more due to the warnings about potholes and fast descents than the distance. I plan on turning up as early as I can to give me plenty of time to get round, not really got a time in mind but anything between 8 and 9 hours would suit me. Once that's done I want to get back into the running and have a go at Duddon but that completely depends on the knee, oh and I'm entered into the Richmond 5 Dales Sportive at the end of this month.

No comments:

Post a Comment