Friday 27 December 2019

December PAM

Oh man, my running this year has been relatively rubbish. I set myself the challenge of completing 12 consecutive monthly ParkRuns. My ParkRun just gone (Christmas day 2019) completed my challenge. Woo Hoo, one might say, but I have no result recorded to prove I ever ran this event. Grr, last ParkRun of my challenge and I forgot my bar code. How irritating to hear the words 'no bar code, no result. I know what position I finished, I have the GPX track recorded on Strava. 'No bar code, no result'.

My 'unofficial' results were that I finished in 226th place out of a field of 451. My time was 30:05. A slow run - hey, I was wearing an elf hat, had just eaten a fried breakfast and it was icy too!

On reflection, as stated above, this was a rubbish year of running. My last ParkRun, in effect, didn't count. The previous run saw Phil B cross the line before me. My only ever AV handicap ParkRun saw me finish last. Hmm.

Well, I've since ordered some funky barcode tags like those in the picture above. I'm prepared to forget about the Phil B incident. I'm determined to complete another handicap run and not finish last. Will I aim to complete (another) ParkRun-A-Month (PAM) in 2020, hmm, let me think on that...

Saturday 14 December 2019

December BAM - Challenge completed!!

Woo hoo! I completed my Bivvy-A-Month (BAM) challenge on Friday 13th December 2019. Aces! On Friday 13th what could possibly go wrong? Ha! (I'm not in the least superstitious). Dr Peppers....
Can now wear this roundel with pride
It always feels great to complete a challenge and I’m so pleased that I completed this one. It nearly didn’t happen as virtually all my wild camping buddies (we dub ourselves the ‘wild campers’) became 'wild bailers' at the last minute for one reason or another. Only my bro ‘Rob Dog’ ventured out with me on this classy finale.
Before the off
Ok, so I’ve completed a whole year of wild camping (camping at least once monthly) and raved about it lots and blogged about it too. However, just in case anyone else is considering giving this a go, here are the rules:

1. Sleep out at least one night during every calendar month (using a tent, tarp, bothy, bivvy bag, wigwam, cave, shopping trolley, etc). You can start any month you like, just as long as you tot up 12 consecutive months.
2. No paid-for accommodation ie campsites or hostels.
3. A bike must be involved – it’s bikepacking, the clue is in the name.
4. Your own garden doesn’t count, although next doors does – if you must.
5. A multi-night trip that takes in both the last calendar night of one month and the first night of the next month will count as two months.

Hmm, let me review each of the rules above in turn:

1.       Oh man, I only ever slept out using a tarp. I could have used a tent?! Ha, some likened my hooped bivvy to a tent but pah, what would they know? I like the idea of a bothy or a wigwam. On one occasion, I slept in a church porch but hey, was still inside a bivvy bag.
2.       Check!
3.       Yup, but I don’t like this rule. Walking requires effort too and many a wild camp spot can be found by wandering. Wild camping does not keep a bike clean!
4.       Next door? Know you tell me!
5.       Ah, does that mean I could have reduced my wild camps by 50% and still completed my challenge?

Anyways, back to this December camp. It was a cold, breezy night with rain in the mix too. Rob Dog and I decided we would go and camp in the 'Woods of Doom’ which incidentally is the place where we both had our first ever wild camps (I think). The woods on this occasion had been hacked big time by the Forestry Commission and provided less shelter and protection as a result and we were clearly more visible. Oh well.

The near full moon made it relatively easy for us to find a suitable camp spot. We did move on from our first pitch though as fox poo was evident. At the second spot we faffed for ages trying to rig up a tarp due to the wet weather. After an age, the tarp was up and Rob Dog set about cooking whilst I set up my bivvy.
SJ considering a camp
Tea was delicious – bacon, egg and spicy cheese baps followed by pork and apple sausage. This delight was washed down with a shot (or 2) of whiskey. I had been in the pub just prior to this trip with SJ and thought I nearly convinced her to camp to. Hmm, maybe another beer and she would have?!
Rob Dog - the cook
After eating, I soon nestled down. Rob Dog faffed a bit and set up his bivvy. Next thing I knew, it was the middle of the night and I needed to wee – too much cider. Slept relatively ok, however, the wind was whirring at times and on occasions the hoots of owls could be heard.

When morning proper came (at 5:58 a.m, Rob Dog reporting it was time to get up) it felt chilly. I layered up and soon warmed up once Rob Dog had cooked a breakfast almost identical to our tea last night. I brewed some Jasmine Green tea to accompany breakfast. It is quite awesome having a cooked breakfast in the great outdoors.
Simply delicious!
Breakfast devoured. Camp cleared. Off to work for me!

Woo Hoo! BAM challenge complete!

Saturday 30 November 2019

November PAM

On a cold and icy morning, I ran my 30th ParkRun to date and completed my 11th consecutive monthly run for purposes of my PAM (ParkRun-A-Month) challenge. Managed to keep this challenge going just in the nick of time, as this was the last day of the month and my only ParkRun this month. Met Phil Brown at the start and boy did he annoy me! Can you believe it - he finished this run ahead of me?! We both finished the course with the exact same time of 24:14, however, Phil was in 69th place and I was a place behind in 70th (out of a total of 336 runners). I told Phil at the start that I had lost my running mojo and I think this fuelled him to pip me to the post. Well done Phil, grr!

Sunday 17 November 2019

Moonrakers & Sunseekers 300 (2019)

This weekend saw me complete the 'Moonrakers & Sunseekers' 300k audax. This was a great event and only the second time it has ran. This was my second audax on my new bike 'Rainbow Dash'.
The start was in Bristol, in a rather funky bicycle cafe shop called the ' cafe' located at 'Business as Usual' business unit. Lots of cyclists all met here to fraternise, get ready and eventually set off. I think something crazy like 130 people entered. The place was full, but I'm not sure 130 left.
It was dark when we all left. It would be - it was 10 o'clock at night. The weather was probably best described as drizzly - raining at times and not at others. The roads were flooded here and there but no real problem as I took due care. The first section reminded me of cycling PBP, as there were plenty of red tail-lights to be seen. Heading out through Bath, I passed through Devizes and cycled past 'The Crammer' to stop at the 'Moonrakers' pub. All the while I had been cycling under a waning gibbous moon.
The Crammer is the town's pond and it's famous for a local legend. This legend has been dubbed 'the Moonrakers' and goes something like this: A group of Wiltshire smugglers heard that the Excise Men were heading into Town. The quick thinking smugglers knew that they had to hide the contraband barrels of brandy they were carrying and decided to roll them into the Crammer. After the Excise Men had passed through Town, the smugglers recovered the barrels by using rakes. The Excise Men were some-what suspicious and returned to Town to take a second look. They saw the smugglers with rakes and questioned what was going on. Smartly, one smuggler pointed to the reflection of the moon in the water and said they were trying to rake the cheese from out of the water. Oh how the Excise Men laughed, thinking how stupid the Devizes folk were. The smugglers laughed loudest being the folk that had the last laugh - their quick thinking had stopped them being caught. Wiltshire people to this day are known as 'Moonrakers'. I felt like a honorary Moonraker cycling this event.

Leaving Moonrakers I sped on to the next control which was only 30k away. This section felt super zoomy. I saw lots of interesting wildlife which included at least 2 owls and a mouse. A motorist pulled alongside me at one point and gave me a 'fair play' once he realised I was planning to cycle all night. I'm sure I passed signs for Stonehenge and coincidentally, I'm sure the control was at Solstice Park. I opted for a MaccyD at the control which is my usual audax staple diet.
Didn't take so long to reach the next (information) control. Wow, I wasn't far from the Jurassic Coast. Memories about my summer holidays and family came flooding into my head. My head filled with further memories once I finally reached the Sea Scout hut in Poole. Poole has presented me with much adventure - it was here that I first lost my front teeth following a cycle accident aged 16. More recently I had cycled here with Ron (on a SIKA event) and experienced the same menace of cycling through sand covering the promenade. The Scout Hut was a fresh memory - I had never been there before. The Scout Hut was great - I was able to dry my socks on the radiator and was treated to a breakfast of baked potato and beans.
Leaving the Scout Hut and it was still dark. I wanted to send SJ a photo and say something like 'at the sea-side at last'. Oh well, should SJ read this post, the above photo is for her (this was a previous occasion when I visited the Jurassic Coast). Ha!
The stretch after breakfast felt long - probably because it was quite a distance to the next control. The sun I was seeking finally came out though which was nice. I took an unofficial stop about half-way between the controls. Lots of lanes were cycled before I reached the official control in Podimore.
The return leg was definitely more hilly and certainly more pretty (this may have been because I could now see). Pretty lanes were cycled and beautiful villages passed including the chocolate box village of Milton Abbas. I passed the magnificent Abbey and headed on into the Dorset Hills. Hard to believe how many wonderful places this route passed through including Somerset and Glastonbury Tor.
Glastonbury Tor
Much of the folk around Glastonbury were dressed as if they had just attended the festival. I must have smelled like I had been there too! More lanes, ascents and descents took me across The Levels and to Axbridge.
Moonrakers and Sunseekers, 310k
The route reminded me of the 'Cycle for Uganda' event that I had completed this year with Chris Hodge and Ben Adams et al. This was because I again cycled the Strawberry Line railway path. This path went through the end of The Mendips passing orchards to stop at the Strawberry Line Cafe. My bike was absolutely covered in muck and goo by this point as the railway path was off-road and very wet and muddy. The cafe was located on a rail platform and they provided me with a much needed breakfast of the Full English type. Delicious.
The final leg was only about 30k and returned back to Bristol. I passed through Cheddar at one point and wondered if that's where cheese was made and my thoughts shifted to raking cheese and The Crammer. Once again my head was filled with many memories of my past as I had been to Bristol on several occasions before and even studied 'Bio-Medical Sciences' there, back in the day. The suspension bridge was always a pleasure to see. And so was Felix Road adventure playground - the arrivee!

Top event! Nice one Will (organiser). Pleased to report that there was plenty of (Will's) hills and plenty of thrills. Bonus too - no spills!

Saturday 9 November 2019

November BAM

This weekend saw me complete my 11th consecutive month of wild camping. Yes indeed, only 1 month to go and my Bivy-A-Month (BAM) challenge will be complete. The Phantom and Rob dog joined me on this wild camping jolly.
Phantom chose our secret camp spot the night before and we planned on camping at dampen.overjoyed.bubble (see what3words), however, we did not. We actually found a frightening awesome camp spot about 300m away from the planned spot. This spot was really awesome.
We were neither up or down a hill, but positioned about half-way from the bottom and top. This spot was slightly flattened and enclosed by trees in front and back and to the left side and a wonderful view point was to the right. Provided great shelter from the wind and a perfect view of the night sky with the many stars shining and a near full moon.
It was a cold and wet night. We had to bike-a-hike for a spell before reaching our spot and the bikes were covered in mud. I think these were the reasons we were slightly whacked and retired to bed relatively early. Of course, we still had some sausage and chilli-cheese baps before bad and a nip of JD (or similar). During the night, we heard the hoots of an owl and realised we were sharing this camp spot with a bird.
For the first time in like forever, I didn't awake early in need of an emergency wee. In fact, I didn't climb out of my bivy until 7 a.m. which was a real lie in for me. It got cold in the night, however, I was relatively warm and snug throughout. On waking it was super cold (about -1 C) and I was real pleased I had taken my 2 sleeping bags with me on this trip.
Great thing about the morning was that we saw the sun rise and the mist slowly disappear and letting great views appear. Lovely colours this time of year. Better yet, Phantom and Rob dog both started cooking breakfast. We had more sausages, cheese, bacon and baps. Delicious!
No breakfast is complete without a hot cuppa. My job was to make the lovely jasmine green tea. Washed the breakfast down just a treat.
Rob dog and I saw the owl from the night before when morning came. As Rob dog went for a comfort break, Oliver owl flew right past him. How excellent this camp spot proved to be.
We took a lot of food with us on this occasion. So much so, we were able to have seconds. Even after that, I considered eating my bro...
As we left camp it was beautiful looking around and taking in God's fantastic creation. The colours. The shapes. The beauty of it all.
We took a different exit out to the way we entered in. Getting out was much simpler and we were on familiar tracks. We're sure to camp here again and next time, our way out will be our way in!
Already looking forward to December. Will we  actually camp here or there? Y'know, I'm happy to camp anywhere!

Saturday 2 November 2019

Stink Tank / Brum 200

On Wednesday this week, the wife and I took our little bloods to Birmingham 'Think Tank' aka Stink Tank. It was a whole bunch of fun. Better yet, we had free tickets for agreeing to take part in a study.
Hard to believe that there were children with a bigger mouth than Lunar's!
Quite disturbing that the computer screens were asking whether they should let me die by stopping my food and water.
We all knew that our family was hot stuff. Here's the proof!
When Lunar was in control, we had much to worry about.
Pleased to report Lunar cooled down.
Am sure Lunar (and our family as a whole) would be happy to participate in further scientific research. Especially if it's as much fun as this was.

This week also saw me complete the Brum 200 permanent audax event. I had originally entered the calendar event but was unable to participate as it clashed with another event I was doing over the weekend. No bother, the organiser ‘Paolo’ allowed me to change my entry for the X-Rated Loop version later in the year. Was unable to complete the X-Rated Loop as my dear wife SJ, had gotten us tickets to holiday in Portugal. Louy Beasley was aware that I wanted to ride this event and invited me to ride it with her this week. I invited a whole bunch of mates and Toll signed up for the challenge!

This was my 139th completed audax to date but my very first ‘validate via GPX’. The event started in the dark on a wet morning. Toll rocked up to mine and then we met Louy at Tesco’s in Studley. From the start this felt like a fast paced ride. Louy was like a little rocket with Toll and I following. We were all using relatively new bikes too, this being the first 200 for my new machine. I think this was Tolls fist 200 this year.
My new horse 'Rainbow Dash'
Being a ‘validate via GPX’ ride, I didn’t pay too much attention to the route and didn’t know where the control points were. I knew I didn’t have to worry because I could just follow my GPX track and knew Louy had ridden this event before. I guess it’s kinda nice having the freedom to stop whenever and wherever we like. Well, our first stop didn’t occur until we had cycled some 90k! We stopped at Cannock Chase visitor centre and boy we were all soaked and wet through to the skin.

Didn’t take as long to get to our second stop in Ironbridge. The weather improved somewhat and the sun even showed his face for a spell. Ironbridge was a relative pretty place and it was nice to cycle over the bridge once we had fed our faces. I opted for an Ironbridge pasty which looked like a Cornish Pasty but didn’t quite have the same magic.
Ironbridge, of course.
From Ironbridge our route became more lumpy. The more lumps we cycled the hotter we got. It felt refreshing to move some layers and continue cycling. Much of the scenery was quite splendid and it was great to see black, dark and evil clouds some distance away knowing they were not going to shower upon us imminently. We cycled through Bewdley (which made me think of dad) and stopped at a garage forecourt in Stourport.

Our (almost) final leg took us near home and very close to Callow Hill. Crazy to consider that out cycle had taken us through five counties – West Midlands, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. By the time we had gotten close to Callow Hill it was now dark and our lights were shining bright. At this point we (Toll and I) said our goodbye’s to Louy as we all headed back to where we started.
Brum 200 (214k)

Final leg had just one mean hill to climb and then much descent. Before too long we were back in the village of Studley. A few more K’s and we were home. Woo hoo, completed the Brum 200 at last. May well ride the 2020 version (different route) next year on the basis of this being pretty fab.

Following event, Louy messaged stating what a great ride she had. I very much liked cycling alongside Louy and Toll. Toll messaged to say he was ‘knackered!!! Just brought up my Ironbridge pasty, my alcohol levels must be getting low'. Ha!

Sunday 27 October 2019

October PAM

October's ParkRun was more of a swim than a run. Yup, the weather was the pants. The course was flooded and everyone got very, very wet. Hey, who cares? - Only 2 runs left and my ParkRun-A-Month (PAM) challenge will be complete.
The puddle of doom
Park Swim
Usually, following a ParkRun, results are emailed to each participant detailing lots of information and facts. For whatever reason, I wasn't emailed following this event. Maybe the weather was to blame?! Anyways, I finished 62/285 and my time was 23:52.

Friday 25 October 2019

SIKA 2019

On a real wet and windy October, Ron, myself and our lovely wives (SJ and Deb) headed to beautiful Bournemouth for the 2019 SIKA cycle event. Woo hoo! Ron and I (and Deb) had such a wonderful time last year 'up North' at the 2018 SIKA cycle event, we just had to ride this years edition. So nice having SJ with me this time around.
The wives - SJ and Deb
The Loons - Ron and Doo
Our accommodation was the lovely Highcliff Marriott Hotel. I'll try not to brag but the luxury was neat, the food delicious and the never ending supply of free beer quite awesome. We had to take the good with the bad - the weather was awful.

The actual cycling event was relatively easy. We (that's Ron and I) opted to cycle the 60 mile route option. Our wives went shopping. Cycling took us firstly along a bike path close to the sea. The menace winds and rain had driven much sand upon this bike path and cycling was slippery, hazardous and frightening. About 3k further on and we had left the 'beach' and were cycling nicer roads.
Much of the new forest was cycled through and this was just beautiful. We saw lots of wild creatures including horses, donkeys and pigs. I thought the wild pigs were particularly amazing. The wildest creature we saw was an angry motorist who first tried to drive Ron off the road and then told me I was very close to death in a threatening manner. Hmmm.
Thankful to report that the angry motorist didn't kill either of us and we happily cycled away with a whole bunch of others cycling the same event. The mean weather never gave up being a torment and we felt slight torture having to cycle 70k before our first break point (goodness knows what happened to the planned earlier stop).
Angry motorist not far from here
Do we look fazed?
Nice to stop and have a cuppa tea and some soup at the 70k rest spot. Would have been nice to dry out but not much chance of that. I think we ate a bap of some sort here too.
Back in the rain and just a short 30k or so cycle to the finish. The ride was undulating in nature but no real menace hills were encountered. We avoided the sandy section on our return choosing to cycle slightly higher roads instead.
At the finish line we received claps and were welcomed back with the sound of a cow bell. A quick change of clothes and then we celebrated further with the never ending supply of food and drink. Cycling finished early but the event continued all day and well into the night.
The evening program included some top nosh. David Millar was a guest speaker and spoke about his racing history. Drugs are bad... Action for Kids was a charity that was sponsored by this event and they collected more money than their target which was great. After such a full on day and night, it was nice to retire to our big comfy beds.
When (Sunday) morning came we had a further full English breakfast. Sadly, this is where the party ended - ha! Our bikes didn't look too healthy, they were covered in sand and grime, rusting here and there and creaking. As I took my bike apart, I reflected on what a great machine she'd been over the years and what a great event for her to finish on (as I plan to replace my road bike). 
(Last pic of my hat, which sadly went AWOL after the event)
Top event. Cheer's Ron, Deb and SJ. Nice one SIKA. Hope to ride next years event in Ireland!

Happy New Year 2022

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