Sunday, 28 October 2012

Exmoor Beast 2012

6.00am it's dark and I can hear the rain on the conservatory roof which makes it sound ten times worse. Should I go back to bed, I slept well and the bed was lovely and warm or should I cycle around Exmoor in the rain with 1600 others ? Who talked me into this ? It must have been me having a momentary lack of sanity or that's what it felt like as I headed out into the dark and neon lights. Handy that it's just a five minute spin to the start for me with the event being held at Butlins once again. Lots of cars were still arriving loaded with bikes but I had the luxury of registering yesterday so just waited the ten minutes or so to start. Marcus who organises the event did the usual safety brief but emphasised the be safe on descent bit after having a very serious accident on the Beast's sister event the Beauty back in April.

7.00am and off I went, determined to take it steady and not get swept up in the testosterone which is usually flying around at these events. Around town and the drag to Luccombe and the first big climb of the day up the hill towards Dunkery. I had to de-layer a bit as I was a bit hot, it was raining but not particularly cold and I would no doubt get a bit warmer dragging myself up this beauty. The promised matting on the cattle grid was there but sadly it wasn't doing the job. I think the bit they had was too small and kept slipping, just as I approached there was a three man tangle in front of me as they crossed. No one hurt thankfully and all taken in good humour which was nice to see. I tried riding up and was passed by people walking so joined in the traipse up for a bit but got back on.  Down to the ford at Cloutsham were I also joined the masses by doing the cyclo-cross bit around it rather than through it and said hello to the nice man from Sportive Photo. The long drag up onto the moors now, a steady line of fluorescent jackets and flashing rear lights stretched into the distance in front of me, it looked quite cool, should of took a picture! Once on top it was wet and windy but had the chance to turn some bigger gears as the route took me back towards Porlock. This was probably the worst bit for me, driving wind and rain, I've never ridden this far west before and it took a bit longer than I thought it would. The descent to Lynmouth wasn't has bad as I thought it would be but I had a twitchy bum moment near the bottom when I felt my rear slip a little on a drain cover.

Lynmouth and the first feed stop and it was very busy, you got a bag with a bit of flapjack, malt loaf and a banana and soup was available but there was a bit of a queue. I started getting a bit cold as I refuelled, I'd left my feet somewhere on the moors so made a quick exit for the climb up Watersmeet. This is my kind of climb, a nice gentle gradient, sheltered in the valley as it winds it's way up, pick a gear and spin, I'll have to come here again, when it's sunny. The road ramps up a bit when you turn up towards the moors but not for too long. Wet and windy again as the route headed over the moors but pretty flatish and some good downhills as you make your way to Simonsbath where the route splits, straight on or right for the hundred perhaps not, this year ;) Steady climb out of Simonsbath and and the chance to get the bigger gears turning as I made my way to Exford, nice and flat and sheltered but it was still raining. I stopped at my bus stop in Exford to put my buff and hat back on as I was starting to get a bit chilly and grab a snack. Up the hill and out and along to Wheddon Cross and up the last biggish hill of the day to the crossroads. The side of my right leg by my knee was starting to ache now, I think it was the cold, but it was downhill to the second feed stop now and a chance to rest it. Same fare again but I got some soup this time, the warm drink was really welcome, I think it was vegetable, well that's what it said on the box next to the containers. I spoke to a nice young man as I admired his Van Nicholas which he said was very nice to ride, I must start saving :) Should one covet another man's Van Nicholas ?

It was then a loop back up to the crossroads and the descent of the day down to Timberscombe which I've ridden before and pushed it a bit. I might of been going a little too quick but took it steady on the leafy bends but someone in front of me took a spill but he was OK. I found that if I pedalled quicker my leg hurt less ? So I pedalled as quick as I could onto Dunster and the last little climb which some missed but I didn't and back along the road to the finish at Butlins. An indoor finish and your name announced to make you feel special, a bottle of water, a glass tankard and a voucher for a free half. I had my half and toasted absent friends, I even saw one of my twitter followers and said hello and had a chat with the organiser about next years Beauty. There was quite a good atmosphere in the venue which was probably helped by the bar being open and there was lots of friends and families there greeting riders as they finished.

Here's the Strava bit...

Strangely, I quite enjoyed it today, I took it steady the weather never helps but perhaps adds to the sense of achievement. It took me six hours and sixteen minutes in total, not quickest, not slowest hopefully but I rode with the attitude of not worrying about it which helped. Next Year ? hmmm....

Friday, 19 October 2012 is ours, we live it our way.....

I've been slacking off my road riding duties lately mainly due to hiding from the weather. I don't mind mountain biking when it's a bit crappy it's all part of the fun but I find road riding is no fun in the elements. That said it's the Exmoor Beast next week and the weather always seem to accompany it, perhaps I should do it on the mountain bike ? It was nice today though so I decided to put some miles in the legs in preparation for the Beast. I was planning to go to Lynmouth but 'er indoors didn't like the sound of that so I headed for the Toll road and made it up from there. I've also decided to treat my bike with some new tyres, Conti Gatorskin and I've changed to 25c ones to see if they make things more comfortable.

Quiet on the hill today I think I was passed by only one car but I felt like I was struggling a bit but dug in and spun up. I thought I'd avoid the easy way to Exford because that road is bad enough in the summer and I'd dread to think what it's like at the moment. So along the top on the grippy surface and the new tyres did seem to take a bit of the buzz away.

Along to Exford which is quite fun this way with a real steep kicker along the way and a fast descent down to the village and a quick breather at the bus stop. Up another hill out of the village, one I'll be repeating next week but I sat up and spun up and made my way to Wheddon Cross. A stop for something fizzy and decide which way to go which was a toss between down and home or up and another twenty miles. I need the miles so headed up, a climb I know I can do but I always find it a chore. I started to feel better and made quite good progress along the top deciding which way I could drop down. I thought I'd head for Elworthy which is great fun to go down and head back to home from there.

Not something I normally do but I headed for home along the A39 which thankfully was quiet today, I was a bit fed up of going up and fancied a bit of flat on the big ring.

Here's the Strava bit

I felt like I was struggling today and everything was hard work but looking at the stats I did quite well for me.  Perhaps it's a sign of my improving fitness ? Or perhaps when I feel it I must be trying ?

When I came out of the shop at Wheddon Cross this tune was blaring out of a car which provided me with the inspiration for the title.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

...alone inside my tiny little world.......

I had sort of planned to go out for a road ride with a friend today but with the weather looking dodgy and said friend being a very busy bee we decided to give it a miss. I decided to repair the punctures on the mountain bike, five punctures, three front, two on the back and is my chain meant to be orange ? Bike back to full health I decided to head for the hills and do the route I was going to do last week but this time remain fully inflated, hopefully. It was sunny and the skies were blue but it was very windy but as I was heading off road I didn't really mind, no traffic to get blown into just gorse! With all the leaves on the ground it was like riding through mulch on the way up under the tree line but with the grippy rear tyre now fitted I ploughed up. Still wet on top of the hill but the water wasn't running down the trails like a river unlike last week.

At least you can see the hills today...
I was so glad I didn't go out on the road bike because the wind would of been far too dangerous. I was getting blown sideways on a heavy mountain bike and when I stopped to take some pics from atop of the beacon I struggled to stay on it.

View from a beacon...
I decided to head a new way down to Selworthy, a great descent with mud, rocks and the falling leaves riding alongside the river taking the water off the hill. Past Lady Aclands hut, I must stop one day and make a visit but I was too busy concentrating on where I was going. I can see why she put it here though it's a lovely spot.

Descent to Selworthy...
A quick spin along the back road to the crossroads which possibly could have been wetter than the hills with a couple of axle deep muddy puddles to splash through. No turning right down the track to the farm today because that would be a very silly thing to do, the puncture fairy can pick on someone else today.

Puncture alley..
Across the road and up the hill, a few years back it would of took me a good hour or more with several stops but not now, straight up, no stopping, no collecting two hundred quid, thoroughly enjoying myself going up a hill. It was literally all downhill until home once on top of the hill, no punctures, no wheezy lungs and feeling good. I might of been alone and it would of been nice to have company but I really did enjoy getting muddy :)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

..... stay calm and deep breathe........

I did my first competitive event ever on a bicycle on Sunday when I took part in the cycling club's annual hill climb. Yeah I know, a race up a hill ! Well it was up the first part of Porlock Toll road which I know all too well. It was a lovely sunny day but there was a definite chill in the air. We all met up at the village hall car park and gathered our numbers and start times. 11.01am second off, one minute intervals, I was dreading getting passed by everyone but in the end only two other riders passed me. I set off puffing my way up, the cold air was really affecting my lungs and by the last bend I was really feeling it as I neared the finish. 14.03 minutes for my attempt, nowhere near the quickest but not the slowest. The cold air set off my asthma a bit and I had a bit of a cough after and I wish I'd packed my inhaler, will know for next time. Sixteen of us took part in the end and the winning time was a new course record of 8.07 for the roughly two mile course. A great turn out as lots of other members came to watch and help but I couldn't hang about as I had to get home to have a siesta before my night shift !

Next year it's going to be the whole Toll road, better start getting some practice in.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

...a punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate.....

Well it wasn't actually desolate but the bicycle was certainly punctured. A track I regularly take has obviously had a trim and as I descended I could see the thorns and was waiting for the inevitable. Both tyres, more than once, brilliant, I changed one tube and thought one was a slowy but in the end it was Shanks's pony home. A shame really because I'd been having such great fun splashing my way along the hills.

The day had started wet and grey so I waited and waited a bit more but in the end I thought just get on the bike and go. While I waited I took off my summer rear tyre and put on my chunkier tyre to give me some grip in the no doubt to be wet and slippery conditions.

It was quite atmospheric as I rode up the hill, the mist was in the trees and it was just me, the squirrels, a deer and the odd Exmoor pony for company. Once on top of the hill the track turned into a river, I've ridden and walked up here for years but I don't think I've ever seen it so wet.

I was quite enjoying myself, it must be that childhood thing of getting wet and muddy and I also like the solitude even in the rain. The cloud had rolled in as I made my way up to Selworthy Beacon so the view was well er well there wasn't one.

Five minutes and a great wet and rocky descent later the sun was out in Selworthy, weird or what ? Dunkery looked dark and moody in the distance though and the cloud was hanging on the hills.

Along the back road with a plan of doing more miles but then I went down thorn alley and my ride ended. The endorphins I'd awoken had worked though and I quite enjoyed the stroll home, must of been the best part of two miles pushing a bike but it must of done me some good. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

.......October...and the trees are stripped bare......

I had been thinking about doing a big ride and with the weather set fair I thought I'd give it a go. I woke on Monday feeling slightly rough and after a too many trips to the bathroom I set off anyway. I didn't feel good heading along to Porlock every turn of the cranks felt like hard work and any incline was a slog. As I made my way up the Toll road my lower back started to ache on my left side something chronic making my progress slow. I spun on in the hope the pain would subside as I warmed up but to no avail and to put a cherry on my misery cake I felt the rear tyre going down as I passed the Toll house. It was a slow one and I really couldn't bothered to change the tube so pumped it up turned myself around and headed off for home.

Here's the strava bit...

There's a of couple factors I could put my lethargy and pain down to probably. It was the day after I've finished my night shifts so I was lacking some sleep, I like sleeping. I also spend most of my days facing backwards driving fork trucks using my left foot to accelerate which I think causes the tightness in my left side. I've found some stretches to do so will give them a go. After I got home and changed I headed down the beach with my retired friend to clear my head, which worked.

So today after stretching my gluteus maximus I set off up to Wheddon Cross to banish yesterdays ride to the bin of bad days. I felt better and pushed myself a bit more but I still had a little niggle but not as bad as yesterday. I got to the bus shelter at Wheddon Cross and looked at the dark skies and pondered if I should head over Dunkery or head back down. Going back down was the easy option so I headed for Dunkery and the pain disappeared, was it all in the mind ?

It was eerily quiet on the hill today, no walkers, no cars, just me the odd crow and some hardy sheep hiding in the heather, all I could hear was the tyres rolling and my breathing. I had that magic cycling moment spinning along, the wind on my back enjoying the view and I was feeling good :) It even started to rain but that seemed to add to the solitude and enjoyment.

Well today certainly made up for yesterday, it might not have been the longest ride but I didn't really care I just wanted to ride. Strava bit....