Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Open 12: The good, the bad and the ugly

Just had a fantastic weekend of racing up in the Dales, the Open 12, with Steve Hutton (MEng). Steve's first multisport race, and my first in a while, so a good tester for both of us! Next races are Porage and the Coast-to-Coast for me, London Rat Race for Steve.

Big thanks to Steve for putting up with me, waiting for me on foot and following me on the bikes. Thanks also to Dave, Portia and Mark for the swim safety and banter. And to Open Adventure for such good organisation and fun.

Day 1 - 7hrs - 18km trek, 1km canyon, 22km bike, pool dive.
Day 2 - 5hrs - 60m abseil, 11km trek, 600m swim, 23km bike.  

The good:
The special stages - Hell Gill canyon, Hardraw Force pool dive and abseil, and the Semer Water swim. Especially the Semer Water swim.
The scenery - jogging across stone slab footpaths through fields of clover and buttercups, the view from Wild Boar Fell. All awesome countryside
The running - a slow plod, perhaps, but run/jog/tabbing further than I have in a long time, and the legs not feeling too bad for it. And to the bloke on the fell who joined in the banter, which lifted the head quite nicely, thank you! The scene: traversing, dropping from the trig pillar down to the tarn:
CA: "Fell running will never suit me."
SH: "Me neither."
Other racer: "You're not doing too badly at it at the moment, boys"

The bad:
The midgies  - at the overnight camp. Note to self: buy a midge net.
The heat - fighting dehydration for the weekend. Thank you Nuun...

The ugly:
My legs! - the three big climbs that show just how little hill time I have in my legs: To Wild Boar Fell summit, up Mallerstang, and from Burtersett to the West Cam road.
Flats - the three punctures that cut us short on the descent from Addleborough - one more CP would have put us 4 places higher!

Anyway, it feels like a good benchmark to me, and gives me a few ideas of where my fitness is, what I need to work on, and what I can do to improve. Getting more hill time into my legs would be very beneficial, since I suffered more than I feel I could have on the climbs. Trekking poles were of some benefit but perhaps only limited, since I didn't use them on day 2. Other than that, I'm happy with how I did on foot: I'm slow, but the endurance is still there. Maybe time to get in more orienteering to help both the nav and the pace work.

Mechanical problems like the punctures are annoying but not something we could really anticipate or affect. I may go tubeless in the not-too-distant but it's dependant on money rather than need! That said, we only had one tube each, Steve running Schraeder valves and me with Prestas, so when I flatted my rear after Steve had flatted both his tubes we had to do an emergency patch job, which only just held to the finish. Something to note and watch in future races. More racing on bikes - Trailquest/MTBO/etc - could be useful, again as speedwork and nav-while-riding training.

Lastly, I can't express just how much I enjoyed the swim. I think both Steve and I were a little nervous about it, and 600m with a pack on is quite a long haul for people who don't swim train. We were glad of the bouyancy aids and I think the choice to do a steady breaststroke was a good one - saved energy and kept the head up (physically and mentally). The water was quite warm, which helped a lot, and it was good to have a craic with the Extreme Care crew as we went.

All in all, a good one, a learning experience, and a place from which to progress.



Friday, June 25, 2010


So, I'm slowly going crazy trying to get all my kit together for the Open 12. As always happens the night before a race, the kit-geek in me runs rampant: "Shall I take this? Will we need that? Ooh, that might be useful. Is that too much gear?"

D'you think I'm compensating for something?*

Anyway, race strategy is to go out and have fun. Start slow and taper off. Enjoy the sun and have a giggle. We should manage some of that, I reckon.

Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast...

*I meant my lack of fitness. Wash your mind out...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Double discipline day

So, a run and bike day, a week before the Open 12. Carrying a full race pack, as practice.

13.5km run, about 1:35. Trails are nice and dry, got the trig pillar in (keeping with my traditional mission!). A little more time on tarmac than I would have liked, but you can't really get in any distance without road running a bit, eh?

25km MTB ride, 2:25, started off as the Meanwood Loop as well, but then became a bit of a "Ooh, I wonder where that trail goes?" womble up to Eccup, Harewood, the Emmerdale set and back trying to find another trig pillar (failed - just above it, I think. Missed by yards!).

All in all, a rather pleasant day out in the sun, dry trails, a good giggle, and now sore legs to match the sore arms from Thursday. Yey!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meanwood run

GPS track of the Meanwood run route I've been doing a couple of times a week recently - well, one of the many variations on 'route'. There are so many small trails in that section of woodland that you can create as many variations of the theme of 'route' as I can on the theme of 'running'...

Run anticlockwise, the blobby bit at about 3 o'clock is a little quarry where I run short hill reps.

To also do some shameless promotion for a friend, my increase in running recently has been helped a lot by a good gait analysis and shoe advice from Stuart Hale and the team at Accelerate down in Sheffield. I'd been having big issues with blistering in my arches during runs, which is not what you need when you're wanting to up your mileage. Stuart ran the gait analysis for me, talked about my normal running style, terrain and mileage, explained (very patiently, in words of less than 3 syllables) what was causing the problem, what the possible solutions were, and then produced a stack of shoes that might help. A stint running in each one narrowed it down gradually, and I finally emerged from their shop (over an hour later) with a pair of Saucony Xodus trail shoes. The last couple of weeks running a couple of times a week has bedded them in, and I have to say, they're a great fit and I've had no further problem with blistering. Which is nice.

So - Run route above, shameless plug below. Thanks for reading this far!


Pyro and his ever-diminishing beergut.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Part inspiration, part perspiration...

...Part motivation. The last one of the three is usually the hardest to muster.

So, Bristol Rat Race marked the start of the summer season, both working- and racing-wise. A fantastic weekend was had by most, the water crew especially, who had a wonderful time kayaking at Redcliffe, pontoon-rafting by the Cottage, and paddling and abseiling at the NADC quarry at Chepstow.

Today's sermon kind of follows on from the weekend activities, and it's a tricky one. Motivation to exercise can be hard work, harder than the exercise itself when it comes down to it. There's been lots of great phrases that have come up over the years, lovely snippets and soundbites that we can all quote. We use them to make ourselves feel better, or to justify our own actions, or just to divert attention from the fact that, as smug as we are in quoting them, we haven't had much motivation ourselves. Some can become a mantra, words to get us through the bad patches. Some become a target, words to aspire to, a level of glory to attain. And some become a stick, words to whip ourselves into shape, a shadowy nemesis to mentally spar against. Whatever the processing method, if the end result is increased output and activity, all good.

I'm often short of motivation. I can find innumerable excuses not to get out for a run, not to go biking, not to get on the river and paddle. Injuries, kit to be repaired, lack of time, etc etc ad nauseaum. It's difficult to set a routine, difficult to remember to eat at the right times, difficult to squeeze in those sessions between work, food, sleep and slobbing out in front of the PC. I have targets, and they are myriad: This race, that race, to lose that much weight, to do at least one 10km a week, to ride a couple of nights a week. But the sofa is comfy, and my legs hurt, and it's raining, and I've had a bad day...

A song lyric, from some time ago, says "Do one thing every day that scares you". At the weekend, for one of our water crew, that was doing a 62 metre abseil. For some, it was crossing the pontoon raft we rigged in Bristol harbour. For more, it was lining up on the start of their first Rat Race. For me, it's sometimes just putting on my shorts, jersey and jacket, and walking out of the door. Hesitancy can be overcome with a gentle prod, some mild verbal abuse, and the encouragement of others. Perhaps the best way to encourage motivation is a) to be scared all the time and b) to cultivate a small group of inner voices to encourage/abuse you a lot.

For me, there will always be many sets of words rushing around my head. Song lyrics, inspirational speech and mild abuse in equal parts. But to quote a good friend, and to paraphrase a large sports clothing manufacturer, perhaps the best logic is to "Jist dae it"...