Tuesday, 31 August 2010
For one thing I actually heard myself utter the words..
"its more important than riding"
and that made me feel slightly sick as so far in my life nothing as made me feel quite like I do when I ride my bike (I know... not even that :-)
Being made redundant in September last year I was looking forward to being able to ride more... but it didnt quite work out that way!.. funny how life does that eh.
Moments to myself as the tarmac slips away under me, thinking about which way my life is pulling and where is it I am meant to be.
Messages sent to me at just in the nick of time. Hearing a very dear friend of over 20 years has been paralysed in an accident the day before I was supposed to be throwing myself willfully off the top of Pic Blanc maybe just saved me for something yet to come.
Last weekend I had THE most relaxed fun ride at the "12:12 TORQ in your sleep" sadly my last race for 6 months, 2nd place with great company on my local trails and a huge grin on my face.
I will miss you all but there is somewhere else I need to be for a while.
See you all in March. I am going to Haiti to work for a medical relief agency for 6 months. If anyone is around over Christmas and fancies coming riding to laugh at how stupidly unfit I have become I will be looking forward to it........
enjoy the winter
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Last night, a group of locals (Scottish Cycling, Edinburgh Road Club and the Tri Centre) put on a 48 minute dirt crit on a local(ish) country park. It was a 7.15 start, so we had a bit of a mad rush to get there after work, but we made it in time to see the end of the under 14's race and have a quick practice lap before we set off.
The format was pretty much like a cross race.... as many laps of a short course as you can do in 48 minutes. In hind sight, my cross bike might have been a better bike choice, but the Spot's at the top of the heap at the moment, so it was the first one to hand in the mad dash to get out the door.
It was a fast, swoopy, grassy, muddy, steppy, uppy, downy course, some short sharp ups, some fast, lumpy downs (with some hucks if you got it right) and no respite at all! It was fab! I managed to make 3rd place in the ladies race which was great, but the two girls in front of me were, well...I was old enough to be their mother, which was less great!
Chris managed to win a tub of cookies for riding the steps on the course and we got some beer from our friend Andy, so all round, not a bad Tuesday evening!
Roll on the cross season (I might have to do some fettling with the bike this weekend though).
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
I am camping in my own flat. Or that's how it feels. I have just got back from the Trans Wales (rain, sun, mud, climbing, sheep, old friends) and am packing for the Terrex, a 4 day non-stop expedition adventure race in the Lake District. There are piles of kit all over the flat and friends in the AR world are posting pictures of their houses on Facebook, covered in equal amounts of kit. Eventually each bit will be pared down and split into stuff sacks, labelled and stored in a massive duffel.
I am excited. I've been ill so still have the slightly shakey remnants of an undiagnosed virus but nevertheless am excited. I've never raced for 4 days non stop before. 250k biking, 100k running/trekking and 65k paddling. And Other Stuff. Climbing, abseilling, Other Stuff. Can't wait.
And the best thing about this race is that I get to do it in a team of 4. 3 boys, one of whom is my fella. The feeling of shared excitement, shared pain, shared exhaustion and shared experience is so valuable. Sunsets are always more beautiful when you have someone to gasp with, and tiredness always more bearable when you have someone who understands just what it feels like to not sleep for 3 days.
I'll let you know how it goes. Better get on with decanting the 12 tins of rice pudding and 8 tins of spagetti hoops into plastic jars.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
busy busy busy of late. no bad thing, but the last thing on my mind as i drag myself out of bed in the morning and through a day's work is getting on a bike at the end of it.
still, though, i find myself thrown into the company of a particular band of folks, and loving it. all good riders, all enthusiastic and encouraging, and all thoroughly possessed of the stoke.
1. to poke, stir up, and feed (a fire).
2. to tend the fire of (a furnace, esp. one used with a boiler to generate steam for an engine); supply with fuel.
spend enough time in the presence of the right sort of stoke and it has a habit of rubbing off on you.
so yes, the weather has been shit. yes, it has greyed, rained. poured. and yes, apart from a brief cold-stops-play hiatus, i've been riding trails every single day and loved every minute of it. even the bits where my legs are filled with acid and concrete and my vision has blurred with sweat or tears and i simply cannot get in enough food to stop the spots dancing because i really, really should be at home having a rest.
i love the trails that i have come home to. i love that in the brief time i was away i learnt new methods of approach and have a new belief in what i can do. what i want to do.
i love that the thought of riding my bike tomorrow makes me smile.
Saturday afternoon. Curse at bridge toll. Arrive Wales, dump bags in Builth. Drive to Cwmsomethingorother and pedal back to Builth.
Saturday evening. Drink one to many.
Sunday to Wednesday. Pedal lots. Up, down, up, down, rain, sun, rain, sun, sleep, eat, sleep, eat. Laugh lots. Nice photos. More fun memories. Forget. All. About. Work. Locate car in Cwm-s-or-o. Drive home.
Thursday. Remember all about work again. Feel like we've been away for weeks.
Friday, 6 August 2010
The Open 24 took over our house. My boyfriend Andy was the ‘planner’ and I was racing it. He had to keep the details secret so I was often banished from the room as he schemed with Open Adventure boss James about what the 62 pairs of racers would get up to. 24 hours is a long time and a lot of adventure could be had.
As it happened, 24 hours wasn’t enough and there was a prologue to the 2010 edition of the Open 24; a swim across Rhoscolyn bay followed by an hour of exhilarating coasteering. “Look at the horizon. Cross your arms. Then jump into the swell”. Horizon. Rock. Spray. Sea. Plunge.
At the end of the coasteering course we were ferried by speedboat (RIB) across the waves to Rhosneigr. Gripping hard to the handles on the boat. “Don’t let go”. Heart thumping in your ears, fixed grin, involuntary squeals, teeth chattering against the chill and the excitement.
And the race hadn’t even started.
We stripped off our wetsuits in the drizzly slipway, stirring quite a few bemused looks from the kitesurfers and dogwalkers. Andy battled against the wind and his distracted audience to deliver the pre-race briefing. “It’s Plan B. Plan A has been cancelled due to the weather, so it’s plan B. Does everyone understand?” Yes. No sea kayaking. More cycling. We packed our race bags and then lined up for an underwhelming chasing start on the beach.
The exhilaration of the prologue faded fast as we hit the lanes of Angelsea for the hastily organised ‘lane quest’ of Plan B. Pedalling into Newborough Forest we were pleased to get off the bikes and enjoy a trail run through the trees and out across the sand to the lighthouse. But then it was more bikes, more lanes, more drizzle.
The kayak spiced things up. Rarely is there kayaking in UK adventure races, and even rarer is there kayaking when the weather puts paid to Plan A. The Menai Straights may not be the most exciting stretch of water, but it was lovely being in the boat, feeling the waves underneath the hull and resting our leg muscles.
Far too soon it was biking again and a full 9 hours after the start we crawled up the final hill to Ogwen Cottage and the evening transition. Plenty of racers were milling around, gearing themselves up for the night, going through kit check and contemplating their route. Andy and James were nervous about the night trek, and with good reason. They had returned from putting out checkpoints earlier that week drenched through, exhausted, sore and tired. They were scared that racers would feel they were just nipping up the Glydrs and that it ‘must be safe, it’s a race’. Them Glydrs is big, and at night and in the clag, can be treacherous.
The night trek was by far my favourite stage. After a steep and sweaty climb up Ygarn and into the dusk, we wrapped up against the penetrating cloud and settled into a steady pace, concentrating on our torch light and picking clear and sensible lines through the rockfall and then boggy grass. 5 hours of trekking, 4 hours of total darkness. We stumbled upon other racers, held brief conversations and then were left alone with our own breathing. Slipping and jumping down Devil’s Kitchen took all concentration and focus, then another steep climb up towards Tryfan, slurping water from the streams as we went. Night made the mountains bigger and the race didn’t matter. It was fresh and empty and beautiful.
I realised we were faring well at the next transition. We jogged in and quickly changed back into bike kit, snatching a shake and a sandwich. In the light of my Maxx D I could see racers sitting on the gravel floor, tending bruised and blistered feet, looks of broken exhaustion on their faces. It had been 14 hours now since the start. Still 10 to go. Let’s keep moving.
The bike stage was short and fast through forestry tracks and down into Dolwyddelan. Easy points clocking up. The regular beep of the dibber. Satisfying. Then the final trek stage was upon us. We knew this would hurt the most. Tired feet trudged up through endless logging tracks and fireroad, cool grey morning draining the colour from the landscape. We pushed just hard enough to move quickly but never fast enough to feel like we were really racing. Another final push up a steep rooty track, overtaking other teams, half asleep and pushing down on their knees with gloved hands. We were out on the moors and enjoyed a tussocky descent through deserted slate mines into the deep mine special stage at Rhiw Bach.
How did our forefathers work down mines? We slipped down into the belly of the earth, freezing water rushing over our numb feet, hands feeling for grip along the slippery tunnel walls. The pick marks and the metal rails were still there, echos of an industry not long died out. For half an hour we rushed around underground searching for checkpoints, before being spat out the bottom of the mine into the tropical heat of a Welsh Sunday morning.
One stage left.
4 large hills loomed on the final bike leg before we could roll over the finish line at Betws-y-Coed. Hill one hurt. Snickers. A gel. Some water. Either the sugar intake of the descent on Penmachno’s rocky singletrack trails did the trick. Climb 2 was easier. A final orienteering special stage had us ripping through deep undergrowth for an hour, giggling at the bramble scratches round our ankles. We shared a grin with friends racing against us and then pushed off. One hour left.
Tiredness had come and gone that morning. When we left the mine, my eyes were gritty
and red-ringed. But as the heat of the day picked up, so did my energy levels and with an hour to go I felt like I could carry on all day. With fifteen minutes to go, we rolled under the finish banner, greeted by a sheepish looking Andy and an exhausted looking James. Racers were lying on the grass all around us, sipping tea, munching on sandwiches, swapping stories. Eagerly awaiting the results.
I lay my bike down on its side and knelt on the warm grass. I stripped off my sweat-soaked top and wiped some mud from around my eyes and the sweat from my cheeks. The journey was complete. We had run, paddled, biked, explored. And I felt the warm comforting feeling of my eyes closing as I lay on the grass.
Series Results (The Open 24 was the last race in the 3-race series):
Female Pairs ::
1st Barbara Lonsdale/Jackie Scarf
2nd Jenny Allen/Judith Hughes
3rd Liz Barlow/Sally Ozanne
Male Pairs ::
1st Tom Gibbs/John Houlihan (Adidas Terrex)
2nd Andy Mitchell/Phil Scarf
3rd Kim Collison/Neil Hamblin
Mixed Pairs ::
1st Steve Fisher/Fi Spotswood (Team For Goodness Shakes! AR)
2nd Chris Morgan/Anna Sloan
3rd Emily Brooks/Jake Morgan (Planet Fear)
Thanks to: For Goodness Shakes! USE Exposure Lights, Squirt Lubes, Spoke Shirts, James Kirby Photography. www.openadventure.com.
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
so: to the alps. an open week, bookended by a flight to geneva at one end and an appointment with alp d'huez at the other. what to do, what to do...
find panniers, fettle steed. buy maps, twice. dispatch work and family crisis. overly complicate journey to airport. board plane. heave big sigh of relief.
except, as ever, it took two grey, humid, windy, miserable days of difficult navigation and lakeside traffic and struggling to make my thoughts heard above the din to realise that i really wasn't in a holiday sort of mood. plans were only developed as far as a line on a map. cols cou, perret and colombiere fell rapidly and it was only afterwards i realised i'd been there before and it wasn't much fun then, either.
so, a day off - sleeping, eating, drinking, reading - then resume.
calmer, quieter. hot days demand early starts and so the rhythm comes. up with the blue skies, pack up, climb a mountain, take a picture, ride down the other side to breakfast, and repeat. the beauty of point to point riding, covering any amount of purposeful distance under your own power, is not in the achievement at the end of it, but the peace attained whilst in the midst of it. ride, eat, sleep: it's that simple.
i think i've mentioned this before.
experiences aren't remembered as a convenient narrative. at least not in my head, anyway. instead, they become a collection of snapshots, as much to do with touch and feel as sight and sound. words and pictures.
more travels. more adventures. time rides on.