Sunday, 4 November 2018

CotsDURO 18 re-visited

Oh man, finally managed to get the bike out after my last bout of man flu! After a week and a half of no exercise at all, I figured the CotsDURO 18 route would be just the ticket. I had hoped to cycle this the previous week with a group of friends and family but had to bail out due to 'the bugs'. This week, no friends or family were able to join me. I had cycled this route one time before but accidentally cycled it the wrong way around. What could possibly go wrong this time?!
CotsDURO 18, 122k, 2,158m elevation
It was very cold when I first set out but soon warmed up. The first 10k was quite a struggle and so much phlegm and snot was produced. Sadly, there was bike-a-hike section almost straight away. I like the idea of blaming illness, however, I think I would have struggled with some of these climbs anyway.
Lots of mixed terrain on this route and mostly off-road. As I was cycling up some single track I met a guy who was walking his dogs and flying his big bird of prey. That was pretty cool!
Wrongness happened at about the 35k mark. Psst! Both my tyres punctured - what a menace! Worse still, I had only 1 spare tube and no patches. (I would normally put slime in my tubes, however, being a new bike this was fitted with tubes that had valves which did not unscrew to add said slime). Thorns were the culprit for both tubes. I replaced the front one with my spare tube and scratched my chin what to do for the rear. I had little in the way of tools (no zip ties, no cutting tool - so no cutting the tube and tying) but did have some gaffa type which I thought would be worth a try. Yup, I gaffa taped the puncture and it worked just fine - for a bout 10 minutes... Bummer. I checked my phone and could see I was only 3k away from a bike shop in Malmesbury. I started the slow walk and was passed by 2 cyclists who asked if I was okay. They kindly donated me a tube (it was for a racing bike 23mm, my tyres were 33mm) which I fitted pronto and sped along to the bike shop.
The donated tube worked just fine but I was paranoid that it might be over-stretched. The bike shop was able to sell me a couple of tubes and I replaced the donated tube. The new tubes I fitted had decent valves (so once home, filled tubes with slime) and the bike shop lent me their pump to blow up my tyres to a decent pressure. Yay, all fixed.
Continued my journey feeling confident I could fix any further potential punctures. I passed the above monument and wanted to take a closer look - but couldn't! This monument is private and is located in someone's garden with no access to the likes of you and I.
Continued along much single track and open fields before stopping to eat my lunch. The sheer rattley nature of this ride had caused a screw from my water bottle holder to go AWOL - no problem, the tape I was carrying came in use again. The tracks were way more muddy/soggy compared to my last trip and the bike would get heavier as the mud clogged. Once in the wooded parts however, the mud would shed and sometimes the fallen leaves were so red in colour that I though I was cycling on Mars.
Some of the views, especially at height were spectacular. Just as well having cycled bike-a-hiked long sections to get there. So nice seeing patch-work fields and being away from motorised traffic.
The route this way around (i.e. the correct way) was way better and easier than reverse way round. Either way, the route is tough. Not to be underestimated this one and regardless of how fit I might be, there would still be definite hike-a-bike sections.
One of my favourite sections was the Uley Bury CW loop of Bury Fort. This was relatively easy, fast and felt wild. Just a menace having to open and close gates.
Made sure I stopped at Uley Long Barrow (aka Hetty Pegler's Tump) this time around. This is a partially reconstructed Neolithic chambered mound. Maybe I'll explore the chambers in more detail on another trip?

Leaving the mound and heading to the finish became a bit of a race against time. The light had started to fade and it wasn't long before it was real dark. It was great to be at height and see Stroud so lit up and the many fireworks were awesome too. What wasn't so awesome was the fact that I fell off my bike twice and cut up my legs. It was nice to finish after a final stretch of climb and off-road down hill littered with rocks.

All in all, a relatively great ride. I think this ride could be improved if some sections of bike-a-hike were removed. Maybe the whole experience would be better if I cycled this on the last Saturday in June (when the 'official' race takes place) as there'd be more light and the ground would be harder ensuring the bike rolled faster. Maybe a lighter bike and better gearing would help too. Pah, I'd ride it again, in any season, and on my commute bike - who's game?!

Saturday, 27 October 2018

A mighty creature is the germ...

Sick Boy
Everything right went wrong again. Everything falls apart. Nothing (good) lasts forever. And so are the musings of a sick boy suffering with man flu.

Things are never as bad as they could be and looking back on the past 3 weeks there has been some good stuff to report. Indeed, about 3 weeks ago I had a 'run only' week and must have ran at least 5 times that week. Better yet, SJ joined for one run and ran 5k! Better still, SJ has continued to run the odd 5k.

Had 2 weeks where I cycled but didn't cycle long or far. Just 2 there and back work commutes each week. Had planned for further. Bugs, yeah.

Have continued with the Pilates. Still quite difficult but have attended most weeks since I started. Only missed the 1 week due to child cover. Still waiting for my mat too.

My planned group Cotsduro cycle got cancelled and I didn't bivvy in October (so there goes my bivvy a month challenge for now). This was because I got and remain quite poorly. No major concerns though, just a change of plan. Ok, the plan - get well, complete Oxduro and Cotsduro before Christmas and start bivvy a month challenge form next bivvy. Simples. Sniff. Sneeze. Cough. Splutter.

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...

CotsDURO 18 re-visited

Oh man, finally managed to get the bike out after my last bout of man flu! After a week and a half of no exercise at all, I figured the Cots...