Sunday, 9 April 2017

The long run from Cambridge 

18/03/2017 - There's a great charity that provides volunteers that visit people in their homes who are suffering with Cancer or life limiting illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons and Motor neuron disease. They offer friendship, support, and advice to them and their families, They also give their carers much needed respite. They are Respite at Home Volunteers and my wife is one such volunteer. She was only able to do this because of the training she received through the charity but this costs money and with funding being ever harder to find without support they are finding it increasingly hard to fund the training these volunteers require.So I decided to take a train to Cambridge and run home from there. I'd calculated the mileage to be around 26 miles but with my track record for getting lost who knew?

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/respiteathomevolunteerswestmidbedsandivelvalley?utm_id=106&utm_term=Y7PdBRb3k

Saturday morning on the 18th March and having been dropped off I'm on the platform at Hitchin train station waiting for my train to Cambridge. I take a seat on the platform next to a young man, hunched over and seemingly asleep. I start reading the paper when movement to my right catches my eye and I turn to see the young lad flop off the bench and onto the floor. I get up and go to check on him. First hing I notice is the can of Fosters lager that's disgorging it's contents onto the platform floor.  So I right that and check on the lad. He's so drunk he's out cold. Cue check he's not in immediate danger then pop him in the recovery position and get him some help. Got the help of a couple of train station staff and as my train rolled in I left him in their capable hands.


On the train to Cambridge
On arrival at Cambridge train station I decided to start the day with a coffee and some breakfast. I went for a bacon sandwich which was a mistake, nothing wrong with the idea just the execution. A horrible plate of bread and pork inspired in-edibility which I struggle to beat into submission. So far not the start I was hoping for, but the sun had come out and it was looking like a good day for running.


Lovely - Not!
So a quick stop at the nearby Sainsburys saw me stocked up with chocolate bars, cans of coke and doughnuts - nice. With my energy needs sorted I set off in the direction I hoped was correct. For once I fluked it correctly and was heading out of Cambridge in the direction I needed to be heading.


video


 After a few miles I came across a sing to Trumpington, which made the 4 year old in me giggle so I took a picture.



Leaving Cambridge I got to run alongside the A10 for a while. The path was fine but it was a little noisy with the cars but not nearly as busy as I thought it might be. Still I was used to running across quiet fields so this was still too busy for my liking and I hoped that I'd be leaving the A10 sooner rather than later.


video


Having run through the town of Foxton I eventually I came to a turn off the A10 that took me in the direction I needed to go, away from the noise and into the countryside. I was finally where I wanted to be, running in the woods and fields on my own. But I got carried away and missed a turning if you watch the following video you'll see me run straight past a wooden bridge, that was the point where it went a little wrong and I got rather lost.


video

After about ten minutes of running I realised I'd taken the wring route, my phone mapping software was flapping about and next to useless. I made the brilliant decision that instead of turning back I'd use my amazing sense of direction and keep going. That was a mistake.


video

So I kept going, into the countryside, under a bridge, down pathway after pathway thinking I was heading in the correct direction.


video

I was wrong. An hour later and I arrive back at Foxton, the little town I'd left an hour before. I had managed to do a full circle and put myself the wrong side of Foxton - genius. So once again I run through Foxton and come to the turning off the A10 where I went wrong previously. Taking the turn I see the bridge I missed the first time round and crossing it finally head off in the correct direction.


video


Finally I make it to Bassingbourn and stop for a beer and a bacon and brie sandwich - bloody lovely it was too.


Beer - carbs are important
Having "carb'ed up" with a pint I set off again. By now the weather was getting a little less pleasant. Still enbiggened by the beer I put my head down and run on .... in the wrong direction. Thankfully I noticed this quickly and only lost about ten minutes. Once I was back on track I recognised where I was and knew the way without the map. Lovely run across the fields toward Liddlington. 


Little houses in Liddlington
Out of Liddlington and onto Ashwell. Ashwell was going to be my second refuelling stop of the day. By now it was raining and a fierce wind was blowing so I was keen to get into the warm and dry. Finally I get to Ashwell and head into the Rose and Crown. I needed to carb up so I went for a Moretti, a nice Italian larger that would carry me the last 7 miles home.



Lager drunk I set off for the last leg of the journey. I'd planned to get the the Chequers pub at 6pm and realised that I was pretty much bang on for that. Picking up the pace a little so I would not be late.

video


I walked in through the pub door and two minutes past - excellent. Straight to the bar and ordered a Peroni and found a table to wait for my wife to join me. My wife arrived a few minutes later and some of my friends a while after that and I had a number of recovery drink followed. In the end I'd run 29 miles so not too many off the plan - I could have got much more lost than I did, believe me. Next day I had a bit of a hangover, an athletes hangover.


No more running for me today.
Please if you can give a little to the Respite at Home Volunteers via the link below - thank you, it's greatly appreciated.

Respite at Home Volunteers

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

New Bike - Boardman Team Carbon Review

09/10/2016 - Having owned a Carrera Virtuoso since 2013 it was time for an upgrade. Now don't get me wrong the Carrera has been a brilliant first "proper" road bike. Three years of faultless riding, triathlons, sportives and some long rides where it's never let me down and always performed has given me a lot of respect for the Carrera. If you have a limited budget I think you'd find it hard to find a nicer bike for the money.All that aside I wanted to move to carbon and the Cycle2work scheme meant I had a £1000 to spend so the Carrera was going to be relegated to a winter hack.


Carrera - sweet first ride
So what to buy. Well the £1000 budget was going to limit the field if I was going to go for carbon, and I was because I wanted carbon damn it! I had a few weeks after applying for the vouchers to look for something. The bike I fancied, a Specialised Roubaix, was well outside my budget and there was no way I was going to be given permission by the sensible one in my marriage to spend more than £1000. In the end based on a whole list of things from looks, components, availability and of course price I eventually narrowed it to two bikes. A Boardman Team Carbon or a Focus Cayo Tiagra. After a lot of googling the Boardman was coming out on top in the review stakes and coupled with the very upgrade-able frame and that the price had dropped at Halfords to £799 it was a clear winner.


New Boardman Team Carbon
Decision made, voucher received it was off to Halfords. I ordered the bike, spent the difference (£200) on accessories and left a happy man. Two days later I get the call to pick the bike and accessories up. Best not go into the collection process as it's an hour of my life that I'll not get back unlike the £1000 that was incorrectly charged to my Connect card which I did get back only after it had put my account into the red. Anyway got the bike home, popped off the supplied caged pedals and put on my Shimano SPL's, adjusted the seat height, removed the wheel reflectors, pooped on my new Lezyne lights and gave it a kiss. Sadly the first ride would have to wait as I was off to Birmingham for the weekend.

Eventually it became first ride day, well evening. Kitted out in my new gear (|Boardman jacket, Boradman Helmet, Boradman gloves - went a bit Boardman crazy) I set off. First thing I noticed was the geometry, knees much closer to the handlebars than on the Carrera and I felt taller on the bike. It really suited me being in the drops, which is where I prefer to be so that was good. Second thing I noticed was that it was jumping out of gear. Another Halfords set-up success. So off the bike,a quick visual and the rear deraillier looks miss-aligned so give the adjuster a quarter turn. Better but still not quite there so another quarter turn. That seems much better but a few miles down the road it's obvious it needs a bit more. Another quarter turn seems to have it. After 25 miles it still not perfect. So next day off out again, still not quite right so another 1/4 turn on the adjuster and bang, I've found the sweet spot. Off I ride for another 25 miles of faultless gear changes.


So after 50 miles of cycling what's my feeling on the bike?


Looks:


The pictures don't do it justice. It looks class in the flesh. I was not sure if I'd like it until I saw it for real and I know looks are subjective but I love it. 


Geometry:


Seems to fit me especially when down in the drops, comfortable from the get go and after a medium distance ride.


Gears:


Well the Carrera had Sora gearing which to be honest are OK as long as you look after them but the Tiagra's were definitely smoother (once correctly set-up) and very confidence inspiring - I like them.


Brakes:


Very good if a little sharp, I'll change the pads to a softer compound as I feel that will give me more progressive braking. 


Frame:


Compared to the Carrera, which is in no way a heavy bike, for someone with my limited experience it feels it's as light as a feather. From review and speaking to friends who are much, much more experienced at this sort of thing than me it's a frame that will allow me to upgrade the components when and if I want to.


Ride:


This is where I really found the biggest difference between the Boardman and the Carrera. The ride was so much more comfortable on the Boardman, the frame softening the bumps in the road and giving a much less jarring ride than the Carrera on poor roads. 


The Boardman's lightness and the gearing making climbs considerably easier and it accelerates much quicker than the Carrera. This showed itself when at the end of the first ride, without trying and the initial gearing issues, I'd stuck 1 mph on my normal average for a gentle ride out. I also pushed it on one climb and one straight as comparisons and in both cases I set PB's that blew my previous PB's for the same sections on the Carrera. 


One thing though is that it is much "twitchier" than the Carrera. Any body movements on the bike translated into a much bigger effect on the bike than the Carrera - I nearly veered off the road and rode into a bush just because I looked down at the chain. I'm over cooking it in the corners at the moment as well as the Boardman steers in so much quicker than the Carrera. I'll get there.


Summary:


I love it. I bought it as an upgrade to the Carrera and it is. Now for the money the Carrera is a cracking little bike but the Boardman feels like an upgrade in every department. The only other bike I have to compare it with is the Cannondale I rented in France which I rode for 4 days in the Alps. The Boardman is better. I can only see me upgrading it over the years not replacing it and I can't wait to do some serious miles on it and show it off to my mates, most of which really could not give a shit.


I just need a hybrid now, and a cyclocross and and mountain bike and ...............






Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Since the Spitfire to another Spitfire

12/08/2016 - After the Spitfire Scramble in August 2015 I avoided any more races and just run and cycled for fun for the rest of the year. So did anything happen between then and now for me? Well there was a  couple of trips and nearly a couple of marathons in the early part of this year.

The year pretty much finished with a trip to Prague for a long weekend. It was my first time there and it's lovely city and being so close to Christmas had Christmas markets littering the city. Was somewhat pissed the whole weekend having made good use of the outside bars. Going back this year for sure.


Then it was a couple of weeks in St Kitts and Nevis, which was very nice, deffo going back there,

Fat lad beaching it (well beached)
Beached again - ribs were amazing here.
Then I needed to lose some weight so started upping the training including a week cycling, and unhelpfully eating brilliant food, in the French Alps where I cycled up Col de joux Plane - one of the toughest climbs on this years TDF (oh yes - I nearly died), another cracking time was had. The Tasty Ski Company did an amazing job - deffo use them again as I'm deffo going back.

Half way up
At the top - beer never tasted so good.
After climbing the mountain on day one I went out cycling for the next couple of days with my wife following on an electric bike .... well except up the hills where she went flying past laughing. She now wants an electric bike. Amazing time and an amazing place.

Ahhh coffee.
Also did the Manchester marathon ...... well nearly. I messed up badly. I decided it was "only a marathon" so had a slice of toast in the morning and decided I could leg it round. So I did. After 15 miles I was 45 minutes ahead of my previous PB. After 19 miles I was walking and wondering if I was going to perhaps die, well shit myself first and die - I just know that's how I'd go out. By mile 23 I was sitting on the pavement waiting for my brother to rescue me. Plonker - me not my brother. Felt gutted seeing everyone with their lovely big medals.

So the following weekend I did the Milton Keynes marathon. Loved it. Just chilled round, chatting, helping people with cramp etc, just enjoying it. Even sprinted the last 1 mile and 1/2 like a nutter as I knew I could not mess it up this late into the race.

Shiny medal
Oh I also went up North to ride round Yorkshire with a good friend and showed what an amazing cyclist I am. More accurately we did 50 miles where he dragged me round the flat bits, killed me going up the hills and terrified me going down. Keep in mind I did an 86 mile ride the week before in Cambridgeshire without breaking sweat I think highlights that Yorkshire miles after much much tougher than Cambridgeshire miles. Still a brilliant ride, next year I hope to be better :).

After the ride the beer in my mates home pub - sooo envious.
Then we get to the Spitfire Scramble 2016. I was hoping to get into the top ten this year, hope over reality entirely but we can but dream. Sadly, due to very good reasons, my support crew could not make it which would proved to be critical deep into the race. So Billy no Mates settled in Friday evening, downed a few beers and a couple of shots of JD and an early night.


Had a lovely sleep and got up, bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast and got ready for the race. One of my mates, Neil, arrived who was also solo'ing the race and after a promised hug (bit grabby but I'll let him off ;) ) we strolled to the start line.

Sexiest Men of the Day award winners
5,4,3,2,1 and we're off..... well myself and Neil are keeping to the back and taking it easy. After lap two I lost Neil and never saw him again in the race. Turns out he was going for the best average lap time which he won easily by only doing two laps - top winning.

Top running sexy dudes
So I started plodding round lap by lap, enjoying every lovely change of scenery from field to woods, only the suns heat an issue. It was really rather warm.

Six Million Dollar Man
As the evening wore on I was well ahead of my schedule and feeling pretty good. Lap 6 (miles 30 to 36) was a little tough due to the heat which had been beating down all day and was wearing - so after the lap I stopped to get a little more food down. So chips it was. After a decent calorie laden meal laced with fruit smoothies I felt much much better, stinky but better. Lap seven was a blast, loved lap 7, lap seven was my mate, I might have been inappropriate with lap 7.


As you'd have guessed lap 8 was a disaster. It was so hard to get round, literally hated lap 8, hated ultra running, in the words of Danny Glover "I'm too old for this shit". Got back to the tent wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. My wife was relaxing in the garden, drinking champagne in the sun, while I was running round in circles in fields. So I sat down and decided I just needed a 1/2 hour sleep to make everything right and so I set my clock and took to the sleeping bag in the tent. Four hours later I awake to realize that I'd hit to alarm and slept on. Oh bollocks - this is why I needed a support / friend with a sharp stick and a wicked temperament. So I decide "sod it" that's enough, bloody stupid idea anyway, and go and get breakfast. 30 minutes later I quite fancy a run and decide to do a recovery run so set off for another lap.

Recovery run
Having done another lap I decided I liked running again so did a tenth lap. Coming in after lap 10 I decided to have a look at the race placings. To my surprise I was in 7th place for the soloists - the heat had obviously hit people badly. So I thought unless I went out again I'd probably lose that placing, so I did. So 11 laps it was, not what I had planned and a disappointment that I only got to 65 miles but chuffed still with my placing - 7th soloist and 13th over all (500+ runners).


So apart from a small "moment" I had a cracking weekend and will deffo try to do better next time.


Oh and please if you can support my current fav charity by clicking the next link and donating via my Justgiving page to the amazing Make a Wish Foundation. Thank you.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Spitfire Scramble Ultra run

Spitfire Scramble 2015

15/08/2015 - The week started brilliantly as I'd taken the Monday and the Tuesday off work to go cycling. Monday the weather forecast said rain so I decided to go for a run instead. Backpack on I set off in the morning, running off into the waiting countryside. After a couple of hours I stopped for a packed lunch before running another hour and stopping at a country pub for a pint. After that I had a nice kip in a farmers field, as you do, and after started the journey home. The weather was actually nice so I could have cycled but still it was lovely to get out. Next day the forecast was lovely and with the sun shining I went on a 60 mile bimble around Cambridgeshire stopping at the Wimpole Estate for a packed lunch. I found loads of new and beautiful routes and some lovely countryside. A perfect day.

A gurning man lunching at the Wimpole Estate
Wimpole
So I'd had a lovely start to the week and just three days of work before my biggest race of the year, the Spitfire Scramble, a 24 hour trail ultra run held at the Hornchurch Country Park. Leaving work as soon as possible on the Friday I headed off to Hornchurch, got a little caught up in the M25 traffic but still managed to arrive just after 5pm. Set up the tent and got settled just as the rain came belting down.

All rather damp on arrival
Still I was dry and with the kettle on I could not have felt better, though I did a little later after a beer and a couple of glasses of Thunder toffee vodka.


Tea made

I cooked myself up a lovely dinner and with that gone, and a couple of drinks down me it was getting dark and there was not much to do so I settled in to my sleeping bag and read for a while before having an early night. I did not stir again until 07:30 in the morning which was nice. Cooked up a cracking fried breakfast and took a walk over to the section of the campsite I knew there would be some friends camping. Sure enough there they were and it was lovely to see them and chat for a while (Pete, Jo and Neil it was a pleasure). They were there competing in the team event for the second year so were quite relaxed about the whole thing. I wish I had more time to spend with them as other than chatting on the Interweb I'm lucky to see them once a year, in fact Neil I was meeting in person for the first time. We wished each other the all the best and I went back to my tent to prepare for the start. As is the nature of these things the start came round very quickly and not wishing to make the mistakes of the past I put myself right at the back on the starting group. At a similar event last year I'd gone off like a loon and really suffered for it later in the race. So the countdown began, reached zero and we were off, me very very slowly.

At the start I'm second from last.
First lap was definitely going to be a lap of discovery as I had no idea what to expect though I'd read it was reasonably flat and a real mix of surfaces. I was actually finding it hard to keep it slow, the plan had been to run slow and steady and walk up any hills but I found myself running everything and constantly having to check my pace. I was actually surprised how nice the views were being so close to Romford/Ilford, sure there was the occasional geeza sitting on a park bench with a few cans of cheap beer, his bull terrier at his feet while on the phone to "mate", but that just added a touch of urban colour to proceedings. The first part of the route goes through more open fields with expansive views and ends running through some lovely woodland, my favorite bit. I think that I finished in about 1:13 ish which meant I my pacing about right. I popped over to my tent for a water bottle refill, a glass of fruit smoothie, my new best friend in the race nutrition stakes, and set off again. Second lap was pretty much a carbon copy of the first but I stopped a little longer for a toilet break and to add in a couple of tiny scotch eggs and a toffee yum yum into the nutritional cocktail. After five laps I took time out for a meal before heading off out.

At the marathon point - yay!!

By lap 7 it was getting dark so the headtorch had to go on. The place looked quite different in the dark and at one point I took a wrong turn but fortunately I realised pretty quickly and turned round. There is something quite haunting about sitting on a dark hill in the countryside, alone, removing a stone that had got into my shoe and looking down at the bright lights of London - should have taken a picture.

By the end of lap 8 I needed a break so I decided to take time out to have a snooze. So I set my alarm for 90 minutes sleep and went to bed. 90 minutes later I'm awake and pulling myself out of a lovely warm sleeping bag to take my now aching body outside in the cold to run again. Not an easy thing to do. Still I managed it and off I went out into the cold dark night like a hero, a grumbling stinky hero. As it turned out the rest did me the world of good and lap nine, though it will show as the slowest on my timing sheet because of the sleeping was probably the fastest lap I did on the day. I went round the course route feeling great. I reached the 50 mile mark during this lap, a major milestone for me as I set it as the minimum target for the weekend.

50 Miles, bloody cold but actually happy (no really)
At the end of the lap I went through the process that had worked so well for me, refill water bottles, drink some fruit smoothie, eat a toffee yum yum and a couple of tiny scotch eggs. If running 50 miles was my base target then doing ten laps was my pre-race goal and as soon as I started I knew I'd do it. I came in at the end, cheered on by my mates who gave me great support and decided sod it I'll do another lap. So after the usual drink refill etc and a toilet break I headed out for lap 11 and my next milestone and one I was not expecting to get today, 100 kilometers. I got round and crossed the finish line to applause from other runners waiting for their team members and called it a day. I had enough time to go out again but I'd already achieved more than I'd thought I would so opted for a bacon and egg roll instead.


A knackered me with my lovely new medal

After getting rather messy with runny egg from the breakfast roll I went over to check my confirmed laps just to be sure I'd not miscounted and sure enough there it was, 11 laps. That's 65 miles or 105 kilometers in new money. I was officially very pleased.

So would I do this event again. Quite simply yes. It was well organised, the marshaling was great as they both informed and encouraged us runners round. One took my name as I passed and cheered me by name every time I passed by him after that. The location is also much prettier than I'd expected, and relatively easy for me to get to, the M25 willing. Also it's a good and mostly flat route though you need to be used to running on multiple surfaces as it switches from grass to tarmac to gravel, to mud to soft woodland trails. I'd say that this event is actually hardest on the feet and mine were no exception. So if you want to try a fun, friendly, well organised 24 hour running event near London then this is the one for you. Oh yes and the t-shirt was one of the very best I've ever got and the medal is cracking, though my daughter's trying to steal it off me as she wants it. \Lastly because you get actual Spitfires doing flyby's, bloody Spitfires - bloody brilliant.


UPDATE: Results have been published as I was 13th in the male solo category and, if I can add up which is debateable, it seems 18th overall - very very pleased.



Monday, 22 June 2015

Nottingham Cycle Live

21/06/2015 - One week after the Blenheim Triathlon and I'm booked to do a 50 mile ride at the Nottingham Cycle Live event. I'd persuaded a good friend, James, to come along and keep me company. He's only recently got into cycling so I guessed 50 miles might be a bit daunting for him but knowing James I was also confident that he could do it without issue. So I softened him up a bit by letting him know that I'd be round his house to pick him up at 06:00 am. I was half expecting "what! you're bloody joking!" but disappointingly he was absolutely fine about the early start.

As it turned out due to a rather busy weekend involving a lot of driving and a works party it was me that would struggle with the early start. Anyway four thirty in the morning my alarm went off and like a insomniac dogger I sneaked out of the bedroom trying not to wake up my wife, slip into my Lycra and head out to the car. The bike already stowed away in the car and, as I'd had it serviced that week, I was hoping it would do me better than it did at Blenheim. I'd dropped it off, slightly embarrassed to be handing in my little old Carrera in sight of all the lovely carbon beauties in the shop. My mate asked what was involved in the "basic" service I was having done, "Urinate on it I suspect" was my initial response, followed by "I paid for something to be done, what that something was, whether it needed doing or was actually done I don't know. Same thing I've had to do for everything I've ever got serviced in my entire life". So in other words I was just having to trust it was going to be sorted. Service completed I picked it up and tried the "that's not my bike!" line. They asked what my one was and I panicked, could not remember an expensive name, so blurted "one of those expensive carbon ones". They reckon I might have got away with it had I been better prepared.

Where were we, oh yes, driving to pick up my mate. Well that went fine, but when I got there it was clear he was a tad under the weather. He'd not been feeling well and had been debating whether or not to even do the ride as recently as the night before. Still he was keen to go but worried that he might have to bail out or even not start but was determined at the very least to be there. So we put his bike into the car next to mine a set of for Nottingham.

Arrived!

When got there without issue, got parked, hit the toilets, twice, went back to the car, got out the bikes and got ourselves ready for the 09:00 am start.

Preparing for the start.
It's always surprising to me that no matter how early you get to these things the start comes around so quickly. It seemed like we'd only been there a matter of minutes before we were waiting to start. Still there was time enough for James to marvel at just how well prepared I was and how professionally I treated the whole thing, from the snickers bars in my pockets to my grossly under inflated tyres. Apparently a tiny portable emergency tyre pump does not count as a "proper" tyre pump, "That cost me a tenner!" I cried indignantly. James showed his amateur status by turning up on a much nicer bike than mine, smart Cannondale cycle gear, tyres pumped to the max and gels and bananas filling his pockets - sad really.

You should play your favorite love song at this point.
Called to the start line we trundled over and excitedly got ready to set off. As this was a cycle event rather than a race with possible distances of 25, 50 and 100 miles available there was a real mix of bikes and obvious abilities. From the iron calved, carbon investing fitties to the steel buying, basket fitting chubsters - I fitted somewhere in the middle, though rather closer to chubster than I'd have liked.

Behind us
Me and James
In front of us.

The countdown began, 5 4 3 2 1 and we're off, then we're not, then we are again, then we're not, the we are. Finally we're actually riding. The weather was just about perfect. The sun was out but it was reasonably cool and apart from a bit of wind towards the end it remained glorious. After a short ride though Nottingham cities roads we were into the countryside. I was pleasantly surprise not only by just how pretty it was but how light the traffic was. There was still the odd idiot that seemed to feel they owned the road and would decide to fly past the cyclists horn blaring to scream their outrage for being slightly inconvenienced on their not doubt deeply important journey. They were normally met with a seemingly choreographed raising of the middle fingers of the numerous cyclist. In general though the traffic was light and well behaved.

Worried about James and conscious of how ill he'd been feeling I didn't want to push it out on the bike.We had had a talk about it and agreed to just take it easy and enjoy the ride, that I was very happy to just cruise along and that we would ride at whatever pace James felt comfortable with. Chatting away, me nagging his ears off as is my want, we progressed happily along. Just before 25 miles James asked if I minded if we stopped for a break so that he could stretch his legs. So at the 25 mile marker we pulled over. I felt we'd been plodding along at about 12 or 13 miles an hour, but when James checked our average pace was a surprising 16 mph. After about 5 minutes, stretched and refueled we set off again. Over the next 25 miles, mile by mile, James started to tire. I'd check he was OK, by this time I think I was the only one talking to any extent, he'd say yes and I'd wonder if we were getting close to having to stop when he'd come flying past, chasing down someone who'd gone past us.

I could see the last five miles were tough for James especially as it seemed the steepest and longest hills had all been placed in that five miles. Eventually we were back into Nottingham city, pass the football ground and across the finish line. We found a free patch of grass and relaxed, 52.4 miles completed. James lay down while I went for a beer. We sat a chatted for a while before grabbing a bite to eat and getting the car home. I'd had a brilliant day, the ride was fantastic, the weather just about right and the company great. Looking at James it knew he'd had a good day too and I was so impressed that he'd completed the whole thing feeling nowhere near 100 percent. In fact looking how fresh he still looked I reckon fully fit the 100 miler would not have been beyond him.

James - Just leave me here for a while.
Beer o'clock
As we were putting the bikes back into the car James noticed that I'd not tightened up the front break when I'd put the wheel on that morning, oops. I did wonder why the front break had felt a bit spongy and the back was sooo much better. That aside the good new was the service I'd had done proved to be well worth it, none of the gear issues I'd had at Blenheim. The gears clicked into place without a fault during the entire 52.4 miles and the bike felt if anything better than when I'd first bought it. Thank you Kinetic Cycles of Hitchin - http://kineticcycles.co.uk/kinetic-cycles-hitchin-now-open/

So great day and I'd do it or something like it again like a shot. In fact next year I'm going to do a few. Thanks to James for being amazing, making me laugh and keeping me company (no easy feat to do without getting all stabby).

My medal

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Blenheim Triathlon 

14/06/15 - Been a little lazy since the Manchester marathon so the Blenheim triathlon was a good way to kick me back into training. My wife offered to come along to support so what was a trip there on race day became a weekend in a lovely 5* spa hotel, not that I'm complaining. So after work on the Friday we set off to the Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel in Minster Lovell in the Cotswolds where we were watched as we parked the car by Parker the cat. He watched us park then came over for stroke and to do his job of welcoming new guests to the hotel.

Parker the cat

Having a sleep after a busy day
We got settled into our room that had a lovely conservatory at the front and a small garden at the rear then went for a meal.
Morning coffee.
Next day we went for a walk, I got us a little lost, we got very wet but managed to find a really nice pub for a beer..... or two.


Having got back to the hotel soaked we dried out, had a massage and cracked open a bottle of Processco. Which was nice. So suitably refreshed I was up early for the race on Sunday. Nice full breakfast, car loaded and we were off. To be honest I was not looking forward so much to this race. I'd done very little swimming since last year and not as much cycling as I'd have liked. Also I'd decided that this was my last triathlon as I was not doing the swim training and was a bit fed up with the faffing about on race day. Still I was there and I'd paid for it. I got set-up in transition chatted a short while with a mate whose wife, Sam, was competing and also in my race wave before I walked round to the swim start. In the water and before I know it we're off. The swim was OK, I placed myself outside the group so that I could have a clear swim and I pretty much did. It seemed a lot further that last year and the swim from the last buoy to the exit definitely felt a lot further than last year. Reading some posts on Facebook it seems many people were saying the same thing and people with GPS were recording distances of 840 to 860 meters. This would explain why I was 2 minutes slower (that and my lack of training).

Swim stage complete, off to T1, Sam chasing my tail.
Came out of the swim was powering (stumbling) up the hill when I hear "Stuart!" and look behind to see Sam just behind me. I wave and storm (stumble) on. I hit transition determined to do better than the woeful 6 minutes 48 seconds it took me to complete T1 last year. 6 minutes and 48 seconds later I exit T1 and mount my bike. 

Very very fast ..... honest.
I set off and immediately have issues with the gears. The derailleur must have been misaligned or something, like I have a clue, as the chain would slip, gear would jump etc. Bloody annoying but hey ho I was quick on the downhills (small and heavy wins downhill).

Struggling with the gears.
Finished my 3 laps feeling OK and I was out on the track for the last 5.8k run. I decided just to enjoy this last bit and not to push too hard. The weather was lovely and the views stunning so it was easy to enjoy the run.
Up the hill
 Two laps done and a sprint to the finish, a drink, a bite to eat and the chance to buy some merchandise.

Winner - probably.
Had a great day, it's a great event and though I'll not do it again for a while it as good fun.

My medal
Just the Spitfire Scramble to train for in August, and I really have to step up the training and a 1/2 marathon back at Blenheim Palace in October and that's it for the year. I need to start planning next years events :)