Saturday, 6 October 2018

Pilates, Wild Camping, Psycho and the CotsDURO18

Last few weeks have been filled with much adventure. Indeed, lots of new challenges and happenings. Guess I'll start this blog post by talking about Pilate's.
So, what is Pilate's? Well, in a nutshell, it's a form of exercise that concentrates on strengthening one's core. Essentially, its aim is to improve general fitness and well being and considers the mind-body connection. It concentrates on posture, balance and flexibility and involves controlled breathing. Anyone reading this will know that Pilate's is not inherent in me. In fact, I believe my core is rotten, my posture sucks and I have poor core strength. 

My wife (SJ) was initially delighted when I agreed to join her at Pilate's class - she had been telling me for years that I needed to concentrate on my core. After 3 classes, I think she wishes I never started. Sadly, I'm a bit of a comedy act - I appear to be the only one who ends up facing the wrong way or losing my exercise ball! I've ordered an exercise mat of my very own, maybe that'll help?!

Another adventure involved another wild camp which was pretty awesome. My brother Rob, my buddy Ron and I decided we would camp out and chose an 'open' spot as opposed to a forest, just for a change. We headed to our secret destination under a moon-lit night. Our open eyes could see many starts and the planets Mars and Saturn too. Awesome. As far back as Biblical times, the constellations of Orion and Pliades were spoken about.
Pretty camouflaged despite being in the open (can you spot 2 sleeping bodies?)
Before bed, we had our usual supper of sausages and alcohol. Rob cooked the sausages - delicious! Ron poured the whisky (great stuff) and the Icelandic vodka (filth - tasted like medicine). Then we swiftly dozed until about 4 a.m.
Sure enough, around 4 a.m. I needed to relieve myself. Amazingly, our bivvy bags were covered in frost. Toasty warm on the inside though, that DIY down sleeping bag that SJ made is ace and coupled with my Alpkit one, a real winner. When I returned to my bivvy, menace struck. Bang! Oh no, my wonderful inflatable pillow that Jamie had gotten me for our TAW adventure had just burst. This popping made Ron and Rob laugh and laugh - I still don't think it was funny! (Ah, poor Tim). Getting back to sleep was difficult now, especially when coupled with Ron's snoring. However, we all managed a few more winks. Then, I woke everyone up again...
I just had to show the guys the sun starting to rise. It was truly awesome. It always is. Breakfast was pretty ace too - more sausage! The sausages took longer to cook, presumably because the gas didn't like the cold. We were changing gas cans like crazy, warming them up in between changes.
Rob's cooking gear was proper frosted over. Maybe next time we'll take an alcohol stove. Maybe we'll invest in hooped bivvy's too.  A hooped bag would maybe allow a little more room for my head and prevent the top of my sleeping bag getting wet with dribble and condensation. Ron needs to change his zipped bivvy as a seam has gone. Research suggests that our closed bivvy's may contain high levels of CO2 - I worry more about the methane levels! With all this excitement of bivvying, Ron and I decided we will try and complete the 'bivvy a month' challenge. So, thus far, September bivvy completed - 1/12.
Cycling adventure was also had. I recently got a new bike (did I mention this in my last blog post?), that I have named 'Psycho'. SJ feels I should have named the bike after her and called her 'Sexy Sarah'. My bike is sexy and I've taken her on some psycho routes.

The most crazy route my new bike has travelled so far was a rendition of the CotsDURO 18. The CotsDURO is a route I stole from the racing collective. As the website states, CotsDURO is a 100km self-supported no frills road-gravel.  It is a gentle gateway into the national XDURO trials.
The route showcases the wonderful variety of singletrack and doubletrack, highways and byways of the Cotswolds across its rolling countryside and the saw-tooth profile of the Cotswold Edge.
This ride was pretty awesome and as can be seen by the map above had 5 'race segments'. Being the idiot I am, I didn't race any of the segments because I cycled the route the wrong (i.e. reverse) way around. D'oh! Funny thing is, I was still near tops on a couple of segments, just saying...
I wasn't racing this event to be fair. My plan was to test the ride out and then invite a group of my mates to cycle this same route with me at the end of the month. My hope is that all will like this route. Hmm, I enjoyed it. However, this route was very hilly in places and contained some hike-a-bike sections.
Must have cycled about 2,100 metres. If this were cycled the correct way around that would reduce the total amount of climbing by about 300 metres. Are folk convinced to try it out yet?
The most difficult sections were at the start. These difficult sections would obviously be at the end if cycled correctly. They also offered the best views.
Some sections were closed. Allegedly. Closed to some, I guess.
Psycho performed well throughout. Well enough anyway. Psycho, despite being new, is far from a top-end bike. She has an aluminium frame and relatively low-end (Tiagra) group set. I ran 33mm tyres which were ok but I felt fatter tyres would be a better option.
Pretty awesome how the route passed through Nympsfield long barrow. I love stone circles and such like. I also passed Hetty Pegler's Tump (another burial chamber) that perhaps can be looked at more closely on the group ride?
The pic above was probably at the highest point. This was a ring-twitching descent for me. I guess an impossible climb the correct way around.
Much track ran through forest. These tracks were pretty ace. Running parallel to a lot of the forest tracks was tarmac road. A road option would allow folk to speed up should they so desire.
Some sections were clearly off-road and off beaten track. I tucked into my sarnies here (about half-way around). I'd advise anyone doing this route to take a packed lunch as there is little in way of food stops the whole way around.
A long section (about 13k) was pure flat and relatively fast gravel. Easy to navigate and completely traffic free. These were by-ways and they crossed over several main roads. If I had cycled this route the correct way around then essentially the first 55k or so would be relatively flat (except a little climb almost right at the start). Once at the 55k point there are options to battle the hills, or take a tarmac road back to the start or miss odd sections of off-road by cycling tarmac. I enjoyed this ride though consider it tough. It must have taken me about 9 hours all in, I was initially guessing around 7. I wonder what difference a group ride and cycling correct way around might have - anyone want to join me and find out?

Adventurous times for sure. And, adventure awaits! If anyone wants to join me on another rendition of the Cotsduro18 (planned for end of month) or a bivvy in any given month, then please contact me. As for Pilate's, well, that's a me and my Mrs kinda thing.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Beer and bikes aka Purity Mad Goose Chase / SIKA

Cycling the Sika 70
The past week was all about beer and bikes. I know I keep saying I need to drink less and cycle more but it just so happened I couldn't do one without the other. Seriously, beer appeared to be a major feature of the bike events I entered.
Doo, Ron and beer at Purity Brewery
The first event was Purity Brewery's Mad Goose Chase. Not exactly sure what this event was all about. I thought the idea was for random cyclists to cycle any route of their choosing and rock up at the brewery. Once at the brewery, cyclists would fraternise, drink beer and celebrate the end of the summer cycling season.

Ron and I cycled our Reed route and got to the brewery not long after opening time. We weren't the first there but just like the others that were there - we ordered beer and drank. I had a Purity Gold and Ron opted for a Maverick. On top of beer, we ate burgers, flap-jacks and banana's. We were photographed lots and Ron was interviewed at one point. They asked if he was aware what this event was all about and questioned if we knew the story about the mad goose - he didn't and we never found out. Our photo was published on their Twitter page.
The bikes of Jamie, K and Toll
Short while later and Jamie, K and Toll rocked up. Was great to see these guys and we had a lovely evening. Many beers later, we were the last to leave and all cycled back to my village. Jamie, K and Toll had to cycle to Birmingham too. Crazy folks! The Birmingham bunch of bikes was featured on Purity's FB page - pretty cool eh?!

The second event was pretty awesome too. Ron asked me to join him on a Sika event. Had never heard of Sika but am now aware they are some seriously major building or construction company. They had put on a cycling event to help raise monies for the British Heart Foundation.
Ron, myself and Ron's Mrs (Deb) left for the event on Friday and had to travel long and far to the rather splendid Redworth Hall near Durham. This was really quite awesome and we had an all expenses paid accommodation for 2 nights. The first night we drank beer and then ate a lovely meal. All our food was paid for too and it was delicious. Just before retiring to bed, we attended a presentation and decided on our route option for the event. We could cycle 25, 50, 70 or 100 miles. We opted for the 70 mile route as unlike the 100 mile option, this included a big climb.
Sika, 70 mile
On Saturday morning, we had an awesome full English breakfast and more. This was just great and then we set up our bikes, complete with spot-tracker ready for the event. We could start pretty much when we liked. We had the option of 'racking' our bikes the night before but we were lazy and figured they'd be fine in the car. Come 9 o'clock (or there about) we set off!
Ron at the foot of the hill
The weather was just about perfect for whole event. The scenery stunning. The food stops were great - more bacon butties, sandwiches and energy bars. The hill was pretty great too - Chapel Hill, I think?!
Before and after the 'big hill' there were little undulations. On one such undulation there was a trigger happy photographer snapping away. I guess it made sense to slow folk down if you wanted to take their picture. The actual last 20k felt downhill pretty much all the way to the finish. What an epic ride!
Once at the finish, we were clapped and welcomed to free beer. Lot's of free beer. Lot's of Prosecco. Lots of partying.
Deb joined us for more celebrating. More beer. Was ace to watch others come in and clap and shout. A girl aged just 5 completed the 25 mile circuit.
Mary and other Sika helpers would pass round more beer, wine and spirits. Mary (in fact she was Mandy, but reminded me of Mary in Ireland) even collected the spot-trackers from the bikes. Sika had put on a very awesome event.
Sika even had their own beer. Well, a Sika beer of choice anyway. I preferred the Prosecco which I thought was champagne. Silly is a silly does.
Such a strange event. Amazing hospitality, attention to detail, generosity and support. Free beer, food and accommodation. Relative easy cycling route too. This all felt too unreal to be true.
Others were clearly having a great time also. Little did we know that there was a further (free) drinks reception at 7 o'clock that night, followed by a presentation by Mark Beamont - the dude who circumnavigated the planet by bike in 80 days. After another awesome meal the night was topped off with an open bar.

Beer and bikes, who'd have thought?

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Adventure, challenge, menace and little training

Little training over past few weeks. More fat than fit. However, the adventures and challenges continued.
A great adventure was had in our new tent. We managed to get a Vango Iris 600XL in the sales. We think it's pretty awesome. 70% off in end of season sales. Bonus!
The tent didn't take too long to pitch and was not overly complicated. It looked pretty neat from the outside. Fantastic colour orange. In the dark it lit up like a pumpkin.
Very spacious on the inside. Fits our family of four just fine. Big enough for guests too - just as well as Aid and his kids decided to hang out with us.
'Would you look at that''.
Better yet, the tent was big enough to play three player chess - now that's challenging! That kept us amused for a fair few hours. I wonder if there is a four player chess?
The bedrooms were spacious too. Allegedly room for 6 - fits the four of us just fine with space to breathe too. The bedrooms were darkened a little too which helped us sleep sound.
Tent was easy to take down and pack away. Wonderful weekend camping in Stratford. Despite having plans to run Stratford ParkRun, that didn't happen. Upcoming challenges must include ParkRun, and definitely include a wild camp and a cycle in the Pennines. Oh the joys...

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Perplexed at ParkRun 16

Holiday season is great for resting the mind. Holiday season is awful for the body though. Following my hoilidaze and the 2 weeks of excess living, I have found training and exercising real difficult.

I didn't cycle my bike even once this last week. Hard to get motivated. I did, however, complete my 16th ParkRun to date.
This was my slowest Arrow Valley ParkRun ever, a time of 24:05. Of course I was a trifle disappointed. I finished 78th out of 380 which didn't sound too bad and this was my fastest ParkRun this year (ha, the only one). My PB remains 21:39 and I wonder (doubt) I will ever beat it.
I did my usual sprint finish over-taking a few runners. I swear they moved the finish line compared to the last time I ran though. Maybe that's why my time was so poor.
This run hurt. My chest and lungs were sore at the finish. My legs, especially my thighs were sore the day after. As if things couldn't get worse - they did. As I made my way back to the car, I passed a helper still positioned on the route. She started clapping as I walked past and gave words of encouragement. I said 'no, no, I'm done' (as in, finished) and she just replied 'yeah, I am too' and carried on clapping.

I need to turn my fat back into fit....

Monday, 20 August 2018

Holidaze.Book Worm.RRTY

At time of writing this blog post, I am probably the chunkiest I have been this year. A recent holiday was to blame. Despite vague thoughts and plans of running on holiday, it never happened. Not sure why I even bothered taking my running shoes and sports gear, it was never used. Instead, I had 2 weeks (give or take) living the life of excess. Much food and much fluid and little in the way of worries.
S'pose this could be called Wild Camping with these monkeys
Ah, cousin Aid was slightly fatter than me!
Lunar enjoying the life of excess too.
No, not a dirty protest...
Does zapping wasps with an electric zapper count as tennis?
Pair of beach bums
Lunar watching the sun set
Awesome food
Pretty ladies
My holiday was great and it was so nice just chilling out with my homies. My parents were on the campsite too, plus my bro (Robin) and his kids, my cousin Aid (and his kids plus his brothers kid), oh and my Aunty Chris too. Already plans are taking shape for a holiday next year.
A life of excess has it's down side too
Tried to exercise but it just wasn't gonna happen
With time away from work, I was able to finish reading 'Pedal the Planet' by Breifne Earley - the guy who interviewed Jamie and I on our TransAtlantic Way Race. At time of writing, I have nearly completed 'Me, my bike and a street dog called Lucy' by Ishbel Holmes too. I seem to have a growing number of cycling related books by different folk and 3 of them are signed copies!
The first book (of this collection) I read was 'This Road I Ride' by Juliana Buhring. Probably the best read here. My mate Gary held a book signing in his shoe shop in Geneva and forwarded me a signed copy. Pretty cool eh?!
I found 'The man who cycled the World' by Mark Beaumont difficult to read. It just wasn't exciting enough for me, I guess. Ron and I have a planned charity ride (SIKA) next month and I believe Mark will be there as a kind of special guest. Hope he doesn't read my remarks here! Lin gave me my signed copy of this bike (which was actually signed for my children).
My 'Pedal the Planet' book is not signed. Who cares? Funny thing is, this was the only author I have actually met in person thus far! This is a good read and the story is great.
My copy of 'Me, my bike and a street dog called Lucy' is a signed copy and a limited edition. I follow a number of blogs and the authors of this book is just one. Am finding this a great read and should be finished by the time I post next.
It's not all been holiday and book reading though. No indeed. I have since returned to work (doom and gloom). Despite the sorrow of re-starting work, I managed to complete my Randonneur Round the Year (RRTY) challenge on the weekend. Ron, Andy and I completed another rendition of my 'Wot no Cross' 200k audax which was my 12th consecutive 200k in a 12 month period. I have now completed 4 x RRTY awards to date and will be eligible for the 5 x RRTY award should I complete another one. I think I will have a few gap months before considering chasing this challenge and award again.
Another 'Wot no Cross' audax (220k)
It was great cycling this audax with Ron and Andy again. We had only cycled the same audax about 3 weeks ago. This version had a lot of variation though. For one, I was fatter and struggled more. We kept the same controls (obviously) but I made a lot of changes with the route. About 99% of the route to the first control differed to the previous jaunt and was more lanesy and rural.
3 rather splendid bikes and 2 regular guys
We took a rather splendid route to reach Winchcombe and even passed George and his dragon (I knew there be dragons). The descent down sleeve hill was ace - reached speeds of 72 kph and then we took the cycleway option to reach Cheltenham. Sure, there was a little dodge the ParkRunner but nothing to hectic.
After dragon we saw lots of rabbits or hares? Not sure why but Cirencester was littered with them. I guess they do breed at quite a rate...
We had our usual stop at a greasy spoon type cafe in Cricklade where strangely, I had a smaller breakfast but my companions ate a massive one. They'll never be as fat as me! This proved to be an ideal cafe to fraternise with other cyclists.

Witney was the next control where we enjoyed tea and a spot of people watching. Folk appeared less weird and wonderful compared to our last spotting session. Maybe that was because we were more in Witney and less round the edge.

Penultimate stop was at Shipston, although this wasn't a control. Interesting folk were here too including a scantily dressed girl and a busker making an awful sound on his fiddle. A disabled guy went into the shop to change his tenner with the plan of giving the fiddle player a fiver, only he had departed by then. I think the fiver was only to stop him playing anyhow.

With much huffing and puffing on my part we cycled on and through Stratford. A little push more took us through Coughton and then finally back to Studley. We finished the day by celebrating at the Lark.

Next big ride will hopefully be the SIKA challenge. I'm sure a few cycle commutes and the odd 5k run will continue to make appearances on my Strava training log. Am hoping a fitter me scribbles my next blog post!

Pilates, Wild Camping, Psycho and the CotsDURO18

Last few weeks have been filled with much adventure. Indeed, lots of new challenges and happenings. Guess I'll start this blog post by ...