Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Bunnies

So, I must get better at updating this thing more regularly, huh? I've become a 'binge blogger', big spurts of activity during January and June (for the 'Athons, obviously enough) and naff-all between times. Oops. Sorry! So, for now, a short blog to let you know what I've been up to.

I dropped out of Janathon, unfortunately. Just carrying too many niggling injuries and lacking any motivation. I've been known to have "off days" like most people, but honestly, January and February were "off months" - whether it was just Winter blues, the weather, living where I am, lack of natural light or what I don't know, but it took a while to shake off. Since then there's been a few things going on. I've got back into climbing a wee bit - only indoors, and nothing very serious, but once-a-week-ish sessions at the Leeds Wall have been awesome. I've started building the paddling back up as well, and while I'm still fighting some confidence demons on that front, I've had some awesome days doing simpler stuff and just pulling the basics back together. As far as I can tell, I'm shaking the twenty-odd years of bad habits!

I ended up pulling out of the Deerstalker, my standard start-of-season test piece, suffering from a chest/throat/respiratory-of-some-form infection. Let's just say sore throat + cold air + 14km trail race is not a good mix. And I like being able to breathe. An annoying start to the season, really, though my winter fitness regime has been... well... rubbish. For all of the reasons in the second paragraph.On a slightly positive note, I did end up subbing in for R&R Photography as the finish line shooter of the Deerstalker after dropping out, so at least something positive came out of the whole experience. And Ross and I had a good, chilled out days riding at Glentress on the Sunday, so it wasn't as bad a weekend as it could have been.

The latest big adventure, strangely, wasn't running, climbing or kayaking, but biking. Last weekend I raced (although I use the term in its loosest possible sense) at the 12hrs of Exposure at Newcastleton, which also encompasses the European and UK Solo MTB Endurance championship. Since I'd only got a confirmed entry at short notice (one week!) I'd had no time to train, so it really was just a case of go out and see what happened, and then write an article about it - see said article on this little link to SleepMonsters - so I did.

I can't say I was taking it very seriously, but I was determined to do what I would term a 'respectable distance' - no going out for a token one lap then sloping off with a camera. As we set off on the ceremonial lead-out from Newcastleton village I was absolutely frozen, seemingly the only rider not wearing a long sleeved baselayer (not wearing any baselayer in fact, just bike shorts, jersey and leg warmers), so I wasn't sure how long I'd last, but the early climbing soon got us warmed up. The atmosphere was awesome, plenty of chat between riders, elites encouraging rookies and pit crews yakking to pit crews (Thanks Dad for being my pit crew, by the way. The hot cross buns were excellent). The course was awesome: long hard climbs but mainly on forest road to let the big boys get past easily; fast swoopy descents on excellent singletrack to keep you awake and get the adrenaline up again. And the weather was good, not too hot but not that cold either!

Air! (Pic by Joolz Dymond)

There's more info in that SleepMonsters link if you want to try and follow the course, but in the end I pulled out after 4 laps and about 7 and a half hours of riding with my left knee tightening up badly.  At 11 miles a lap plus the lead out, that 45 miles was the lower limit of my 'respectable distance' and 20 miles more than I've ridden in one go in the last 6 months at least . The disadvantage of the long climbs is wanting to sit and spin the pedals to save energy, but when your ITB is tightening - as it tends to when you go into something like this completely cold - it just builds into hurting more and more. The last climb across the soggy grass of Priest Hill (and past a Trig pillar! I was overjoyed, but never got a pic next to it due to 'racing'... at least that's my excuse...) was murder on my last lap as the ground was just sucking at the wheels enough to make it one of the few truly unpleasant experiences of the race. I backed off to preserve myself for the rest of the season, and while I'm disappointed that the knee blew, I'm not surprised. More than that, I'm certainly not displeased with my own riding. In fatigue terms, both physical and mental, I reckon there were another couple of laps in the tank, so long as I'd paced myself and kept plodding. Maybe that's something to aim for for next year, with a bit of training over the winter, a 6 or 7 should be feasible, I reckon.

Anyway, enough from me. Hope all's well wherever you are and whatever you're doing. See you on a hill/trail/river somewhere soon, eh?