As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Monday, April 29, 2013


The day after Talkin Tarn Du' I had an easy cycle ride of 20 odd miles. Incredibly windy though! So much so that conversation was difficult. Luckily, nobody had owt interesting to say anyway.

Then Tuesday arrived, and another race to run!!

Keswick Acs Round the Houses is one of my favourite road events. Ive been doing it for 13 years or so (though not continuously). It's now been extended in distance to make it an actual 10k. Unfortunately this makes it rather easy to know when you have ran a crap time - previously you needed a calculator to work out what your time meant over the 5.3 mile course.

Beforehand, I was chatting to Sam Ware about my hoped for result. I said I'd be disappointed if I didnt beat 6 minute miling.

I was disappointed!

My time of 37:12 is exactly 6 minute milling.

Perhaps the slowest 10k I've ever done, but understandably so I think, as I wasn't really letting my body recover from the rigours I was putting it through. Theres a good reason for that - it's to get used to having to keep going on tired legs and body - BGR training.

The day after the 10k I was off work and drove through to the Lakes intent on a decent long day in the fells. The weather was poor though - even just as high as Kirkstone Pass the visibility was scarcely 50 metres. I know I should be getting out there and doing it whatever the weather, but I've recently been struggling to enjoy much of my BGR training and I figured a better option would be to run the low level route from Ambleside to Coniston as used in the Lakes 50 Ultra.

It was really nice to be on this route again almost 9 months since I won the race. My pace was dire though - I was running slower than I had done in the race itself with 30+  miles in my legs. With a noon start and something I really wanted to get back to Carlisle for later, I had a maximum of 6 hours running time available. (late start due to site visit in Winderemere for work purposes). But  as I neared Coniston I realised that I would struggle to do the full route back again in time. Then on the final climb up from Tilberthwaite I also realised I was much too knackered to too. (too to toot - is a train coming?)

In Coniston I stopped the clock and enjoyed a few miles walking, eating my lunch in the sunshine. Alongside the busy main road between Consiton and Ambleside runs a series of trail routes, which were much more pleasant than keeping tight at the side of the road.

At Skelwith I resumed jogging, and at Chesters Cafe I climbed the steep road hill to regain the 50 route, in reverse, over the fellside to the Under Loughrigg road, where I had parked.
23 miles in 4hrs 45mins, a bit shorter than Id planned but a really enjoyable run wi ma dawg.

On the Thursday I felt tired all day, and didn't train at all. I didnt train on Friday either, because I had spoken to Craig Smith and arranged a big day in the fells with an early start, on Saturday....

Duing it all over it again

I finished the TWA event at approx 1345 on Saturday. Nineteen and a bit hours later on Sunday morning I was standing on the start line ready to begin the Talking Tarn Duathlon....

As soon as I started running my legs felt BAAAD. After one mile I was running alongside lads who I had never ever ran with before. The bike was OK but it was a course with plenty of long straight bits of road where tri-bars were certainly of benefit, so, on my road bike, I got passed by half a dozen more lads. The last three passed me very near the end of the bike and as I neared transition I considered that if I could have a super quick changeover I might catch them on the final run. So I kept on my mountain bike boots (I dont have any cycling shoes) and ran the mile and a bit in them, catching those lads who'd recently overtaken me, and finishing in 10th place for the event.

I was only 13th after penalties though - 2 minutes added to my run 2 for not displaying a race number on my back during the cycle section. Reason? I hadn't enough pins in the van to attach both numbers and it didnt seem like a terribly important point. Rules is rules though and I accept the punishment - just like I accepted the 2 years on remand for kneecapping the race referee who DQ'd me in 2005.

It was an excellent day out and provided some short intense training on a day when I could never have done any justice to fellrunning and may otherwise have done nothing at all. I was lucky to be given my entry from the organisers following a couple of wee favours I've done for them, and I even blagged a quid off organiser Phil for the carpark.

I have to say though that the coffee from the Tarn cafe was the most complicated affair I've ever known. Tasted nice though.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's rude to Stair

I entered the TWA a few weeks ago thinking it would be good BGR training, but only 3 days prior to the race itself I made an attempt at a recce of it and didnt even get to the top of Causey Pike, such was the direness of the weather! So I wasnt looking forward to the race itself very much at all. On the day the weather was almost perfect however, dry with clear skies and not too hot or cold.

I should point out perhaps that the TWA is an accompanying race to the famous Anniversary Waltz fellrace (AW). Its much longer though at nearly 16 miles and visits higher summits too. The distance and height are what give it the name Teenager With Altitude. This was to be my first AL category fellrace. (A for the amount of ascent-per-mile and L for long). 

Famously disorganised, I only arrived at Stair village with just enough time to get my number, pin it on then leg it up to the start. But then it turned out that it began at 10:15, not 10am so there was time for a little catch up with a couple of folk I hadnt seen in a while.

One or two lads were running in a vest, but I thought it better to wear something extra and had on a long sleeved top with my Keswick vest over the top. Most of the race I felt too hot and wished I'd gone lighter, but there were a couple of occasions I was pretty chilly too. 

Faffing about with bumbag just before the start I'd inadvertantly left my drink bottle in the van. Luckily there were several stream from which to grab a slurp of Cumbria finest and on Robinson Jackie Winn was waiting to dole out bottles of water  to his Ellenborough teammates. I'd been running with  a couple of the Ellenborough lads and was pleased to also get some of Jackies supplies.

Nick Ray is to be my BGR leg 1 navigator and seemed happy enough for me to stick with him today thus getting many great lines and shortcuts I would otherwise not have known of.  A little later in the day we were apart heading off High Snock Rigg and he took a different line up Robinson than I used. I never saw him again, apparently he ran out of everything and walked the last 6 miles. Cheers for the help though Nick - I'd have been a lot longer out there if not for sticking with you early doors.

At Robinson the TWA joins the Anni Walts race and suddenly there are runners everywhere and as far as you can see ahead the route is marked by splashes of colourful vests and bumbags. Initially I flew past folk coming off Robinson but then I was walking far sooner than most of these fresher legged people as we began climbing Hindscarth.

Dalehead descent was tough on my tired legs and after crossing the stream and a final drink I started to feel cramp starting on the last few climbs.  Catbells eventually came and I pathetically dropped off its summit - the finish in sight.

I beat 3.5 hours (and therefore Penrith Stu's time for this event 2 years earlier (but we'll not mention how poor the weather was that day)). Plenty of room for improvement then, but not a bad showing either - a grand day out.

I got into the river soon after finishing, in attempt to help my legs repair for what I was about to ask of them not very much later in the weekend.....

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Doin' the Du'

Encouraged by my cycling performance in Majorca, and finding my Tuesday evenings were taken up running with Plucky and Sparky on the run route, I entered the Newlands  Duathlon.

Run 1 was just over half an hours worth of fell/road/trail. Ideal for me. Run 2 was less fell and more road/trail. The bike was to go over Whinlatter and Honister passes, which, with all the rough twisty roads and lumpy hills between them was ideal for riding on a road bike, thus eliminating much of the advantage my competitors using aero bikes would have over me on my standard road bike.

The day came  - so did the rain. The forecast said a greater then 95% chance of rain - it was very heavy rain too and the winds also incredibly strong. The event organisers opted to change the bike course and instead send us out over the Catbells road to Grange, then down the valley as far as Seatoller where we turned and retraced. This was a very sensible move - the winds even on these much lower roads were strong enough to blow riders right across the road and even off their bikes!

Run 1 went quite well for me. I settled into the pace alongside Plucky. Sparky was just ahead of us with another lad, and there was a lone leader. Unlike in the training runs, I wasnt able to pull away from Plucky on the uphills - annoyingly, he can always manage to find an extra gear for racing.

At the top of the climb (which is the low point of the saddle between Catbells and Maiden Moor (yes, I know, but these are mainly Triathlete types remember), our positions were unchanged but we were immediately overtaken by a lad going hell for leather down the track. He looked like he was only just managing to stay on his feet and sure enough he soon fell over and was sprawled on the floor in front of me. I asked if he was OK as I jumped over him. He was fine and immediately  set about continuing his crazy descent. At a small narrowing of the path between rocks it is only possible to stay right - I knew this but he didn't and he went high and left. I left him behind then (and Plucky and one other lad who's been running very close to us), but Plucky reported he fell over twice more before the end of the run.

Once we were off the fell section and onto a track, the true power of the wind made itself known. It was pushing me so hard from behind that I was scared to run properly and was actually making the braking action as you might on a steep dangerous descent. Apparently Sparky was blown completely off his feet on this section! I glanced at my GPS at one point - I was running at over 13mph on only a gentle downhill gradient.

Plucky is excellent at running fast down the final third of a mile tarmac road to Stair village and he made up a lot of the ground I had gained on him on the earlier descent. I expected him to be quicker than me in transition and he was. I saw him running with his bike out of the field onto the road as I unhooked my bike from the rack to to the same. But then he was right in front of me - faltering and reaching down. His bike had been blown over in transition and his chain unshipped. He got sorted OK but now I was only 20 metres or so behind him as we climbed the first hill up to the Swinside Inn.

I wasnt catching him, but he was only pulling away from me very gradually and 3 miles later I could still see him ahead. I caught one rider so reckoned I was in 4th place. Once onto the main road the wind was still very strong but no longer dangerous to bike handling and I was able to glance behind. No riders in sight - brilliant news.

Through Rosthwaite I pedalled - I know this road so well - soon be at the Seathwaite road end - I wonder where exactly we will u-turn? Plucky rides past me in the opposite direction! He's in the lead now.

What seems like only 30 seconds later I see a marshal and realise the turn point is just ahead. Unfortunately I had been caught and passed by two riders around Rosthwaite, and 4 more had all passed me together more or less on the turn. So I was in about 10th place I reckoned.

The wind was now very much in our favour and I engaged the big chainwheel for the first time. Riding within sight of the final of those 4 riders I was flying now and really enjoying myself despite the cold wet conditions. Aware that 6 riders were not very far ahead of me I figured that any oncoming vehicles would already have slowed significantly, I was thus able to take a little more risk by pedalling around corners where I noted the lad ahead had freewheeled. Although it was a few miles back to Stair I was confident I would only lose seconds to these lads ahead, and I hoped that the climb out of Grange I might even gain back some ground.


Bang. Hiss. Bump

I'd punctured!

Dont know why. The road was smooth at that point, no potholes, no gravel.

My spare tube was in transition. I had neither secured it to my bike nor put it into my pocket after the run, I'd been to concerned about losing ground to Plucky and leaving it behind probably saved me 5 seconds. So my choices now were...
1) walk, pushing my bike
2) stop and hope a marshal might come along and be able to give me a lift
3) ride on the flat

Had my wheels been super duper carbon jobbies then I would never have considered riding on, but this is just my old training/winter bike with el cheapo everything on it. So I rode on, albeit a lot slower. The wind was so strong that I didnt need to pedal much. But this meant I started to get cold. Pedalling harder meant I would go too fast to safely ride what was a very wobbly bike. ( it was rear wheel flat - front would probably have seen me forced to walk). Climbing up from Grange was great - I got warm again and people passing me werent going an awful lot faster. From puncturing to being passed by the next rider must have been 5 minutes, and not very many more had passed me since, so I figured I may as well complete the bike course and then blast the final run, passing loads, as I surely would, to gain a respectable placing.

But once I was finished climbing and was again freewheeling and getting cold I changed my mind. So rather than turn right at the hairpin (the one close to the traditional start of the Catbells walk), I rode down the narrow lane direct to end of the fell track and through the gateway back down to Stair. Passing the marshal at the finish line she exclaimed "ooh where have you came from?" "Shortcut" I replied and rode slowly straight past the transition entry, through the village and up the hill where I had parked on the wide verge. (I don't believe in paying to park within Cumbria).

Once inside the van I took about 30 minutes to stop shaking with cold. I'd have gone straight home but still needed to go to transition to collect my running shoes and besides, I also wanted top see Plucky and Sparky to see how they fared......

Joint first place apparently. Reports say they skipped across the line hand in hand.

That was a long report on what was basically a non-race. Yes it was, but it was great fun which I enjoyed immensely even with the awful weather conditions. So does this mean I am going to get back in to cycling properly? No, definitely not. I know that if I decided to do that then I'd spend a ridiculous amount of money on a super duper bike, I'd end up chasing times, missing run training, and anyway,  Scamp can't come cycling with me so he'd inevitably get less exercise.

The cycling I've done so far this year (still probably less than a dozen times I've ridden a bike in 2013), has been  some of the most enjoyable since I started in the 1980's. So I'll keep on doing the same, riding my bike once a week or so, perhaps even enter some more local Duathlons.

We continue

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why are we waiting?

Several people have asked why theres been little in the way of updates here lately. The reason is that I have started a new blog HERE, all about my forthcoming Bob Graham Round. As the BGR is such a major undertaking, most of what I do is now directly related to it and so comes under the auspices of the new blog, leaving this one behind and out of date.

However, I recently went to Majorca for a training week, so the reporting thereon can be filed here....

Day 1. 
I helped myself to a extraordinarily large breakfast in prep' for what was proposed to be my longest bike ride in many a year. Handily, there always seems to be a selection of cakes and doughnuts available at Spanish breakfast times and several of these were stashed into napkins for taking with me on the ride. I really was concerned I would blow to pieces after 30 miles. The roads in Majorca are superbly smooth and gently rolling, allowing for easy passage of the miles.  
Going up the 5km climb to San Salvador I took it very easy indeed as it was still early doors. I was nowhere near the last up but do now I wish I tried harder  - I'd forgotten how much I love the competitive side of group riding - battering each other to be first up a climb.
After a lunch stop at marina Cala Dor it was a speedy ride home taking turns on the front to keep the pace high. I was very much in the pacesetting group rather than the holding on at the back group and had no problems at all completing the 55 or so miles for the day.

Day 2.
We rode 11 miles from the resort and organised ourselves into suitable groups for a Team Time Trial back along the same route we had ridden out. I felt superb in the time trial and had to be continually asked to ease up a fraction as the other lads were struggling to hold my wheel. Appleby Stu will tell the story differently and insist he was calling me to ease up for Craig, but, as we discovered a couple of days later in the holiday, sorry, the training camp, I was in some seriously top form on the bike. Notwithstanding the waiting time, we crossed the line with a new course record, smashing the old figures by a good minute. Later in the day I ran about 5 miles along the sea-front path and boardwalk. At good pace too - about 6:35/mile. Happy days.

Day 3. 
Stu took us out for an easy 20k spin the bikes to show us hte exact course we were to use on the Mini Triathlon  later in the week. Right away after this I ran 5 miles in the local trail area - a kind of farm I suppose with tracks leading off in every direction. I ran this hard and got 6:50/mile. Very soon after this we had a min Triathlon including sea swim. It was really an exercise in transition practice as the distances were only about 50m swim, 1k bike and 400m run. Luckily for me the sea swim was shallow enough to wade waist high but I did actually do 3 or maybe even 4 strokes of actual swimming before getting a mouthful of salty water and resuming wading. This raised a huge cheer from the gathered crowd ashore as I was the only 'non swimmer' on what was after all a Triathlon warm weather training camp.

Another long day on the bikes was planned and I would have liked to have done it but it was also essential I did a long run whilst I was away. It was never going to be possible to do any proper Bob Graham worthy climbing so I decided that  20 miles would be a suitable alternative. First I ran 5 miles on the same sea path route (at 7:15 pace) then 15 more on the trails. Although it was only mid teens temperature, the sun was fully out and thus I was probably running in well over 20 degrees C - much too hot for me to operate at my best. I was determined to run a negative split if possible (I always try to and nearly always do in long runs for marathon training) and at 13 miles the average pace had improved to about 7:13 pace. I ran really hard for the next 4 mile loop of the trail and then added a short loop, still fast, to get the average down to 7:09 for the 20 miles. Great running.

Day 5.
The culmination of the weeks training and instruction. A timed mini Triathlon of 750m pool swim, 20km bike and 3km run to end. I did a Duathlon- when the rest of them began swimming I ran 10 mins alone then waited at transition. I was at transition just as Stu came out of the water and it was frustrating to stand idly by and watch him bomb off on his bike. ButI had said I would begin cycling at the same time as the slowest swimmer. After what seemed an age I was off on my bike, keen to catch as many as possible.  The course was super fast initially - I was doing 25mph uphill!! Back at transition again and onto the final run. Another couple passed and I finished in 3rd place. Later in the day the results were calculated, ratified, and rechecked by a team of experts. I was well chuffed to be the fastest cyclist by over one minute.....
But well peeved that Appleby Stu beat me in the run by the same margin (and it was only 2 miles!!) I can only put this down to my having ran 20 miles the previous day. Later on in the afternnon I ran the trails as hard as I could and was stunned to not only feel great but also make 6:35 pace for 5  miles including crossing the sandy beach twice.

Day 6
An easy 50 odd miles on the bike. One small climb (1.8km) saw me and Appleby Stu battle it out for the honours. Obviously I triumphed. (If not then I would have omitted it altogether from this report)

Day 7
An early outing onto the trails before breakfast. Two big laps were planned but after the first I felt I'd done enough. My legs were trashed after a week of tough training.

This had been a great week. Trained hard. Got back into cycling. Got a decent suntan. And met 12 new folk, all top lads and lasses.