Sunday, 20 October 2013
In my mind there was a kind of 'end of term' feeling about the 4th and final round of the 2013 Brownbacks race series. So, how better to acknowledge that than by racing in my lurid orange and lime green underpants? I must say that this was a far as the silliness went - I was still aiming to race.
There were 4 of us involved in the Singlespeed category. Donk had turned up on his 'blinglespeed' carbon fibre, Mick Rushton on his own build Ironworks 29er and one of his mates who seemed to be a bit of a hotshot racer. I couldn't see any of the V50 cat racers from previous events.
I took off for a recce of the course. I'd been advised to use lower gearing on the SS the night before so I was running 32:18. As it turned out I was glad that I was. The course was interesting and took in quite a few climbs and some of the 'old favourites' like the sketchy chute, the pump track but this time we did the full descent right down to the bottom and so had the full climb to do. Every lap. Doh! There was also a section across some huge, rough stone blocks. I'd ridden these in the past and found them a little tricky. After jibbing at the last minute I had to push on my recce lap. Hmm.
There was some talk of the start order being changed for this event and it turned out to be true. It ended up with every other category setting off before the V50's. All two of us...The other guy was a first timer too. On starting I charged off and pretty much blew myself up on the first lap as I tried to catch up to, well, anybody! Eventually i began to reach and pass people. The other Vet 50 was behind me so as long as he didn't pass then I had that sewn up. It was the SS cat that I had problems with. It got complicated as 2 of them were in racer category and 1 in V40. And they were all somewhere ahead of me!
I tried to calm down a bit and keep it steady rather than the headless chicken approach. Reaching the Stone Slabs of Doom for the first time I bit the bullet and rode them. No worries. Onto the long swoopy descent and then the climb. Oof. I rode it all but by heck, it was tough!
I was getting some great support on the way round from marshals and people who knew me. I had my race face on though and didn't always get chance to acknowledge the shouts of 'Go on Mr Sparkle' and 'Well done Simon'. I was also getting a few laughs for the underpant thing, which was nice.
The second time onto the Slabs and I had the back wheel slide out and had to dab before I fell off them. They had become slippy due to the number of wet tyres crossing them. I knew that I would have problems riding confidently across them from now on. Racing on, I had now settled into a good pace and was passing quite a few on each lap. The climb became a semi push, I'd get off at the gate at the bottom and run for a while and remount about 2/3 of the way up. Judging by the speed of people who were riding it I wasn't losing too much time here.
I was clocking the 'laps remaining' board in the window of the 4X4 next to the impressive new start/finish arch and was pleased that I seemed to be gauging my effort well. There was still no sign of any other Singlespeeders though! At one point somebody shouted out that I was 2nd in SS. I thought 'How do you know??'
Once again I was at the Slabs. I'd gone in pretty committed on the tail of a rider in front when 'Whoosh' his back wheel slid out and dumped him down hard onto the rocks. It must have hurt. I jumped off and managed to run round him once I'd checked he was ok. The marshals told me that loads of people had binned it there. Right, I running it every time now!
Down the swoopy bit once more and I was just thinking to myself how much I was enjoying it when I managed to lose the front and nearly did a low side. I slid the front for what felt like ages and then just saved it. If it had been deliberate it would have been really impressive! Giving myself a bollocking for not concentrating I continued.
Finally it was the last lap. I kept the pace up as well as I could and made it my second fastest lap. The climb to the finish seemed eternal and I was really gasping by the top. There is a short rise just as you reach the arch and I was straining to keep the pedals moving as I approached. On finishing I weaved off to the side and did the sort of dramatic lying on the floor gasping for breath thing that I always think looks a bit put on when somebody else does it. Not today though - I was properly shattered!
Back to the car for a quick change and a bite to eat and then it was presentation time. I always like to go the the presentation at Brownbacks - the prizes are really generous and it's good to give your appreciation to fellow racers. As this was the last race I knew that they would be dishing out lots of stuff. As well as the usual category prizes there were things like 'being polite' and 'having purple brake calipers' that won stuff. I got some Hope headset spacers for wearing the underpants!
And so the Category prizes that concerned me: I knew I'd got the V50 win and so I finally got presented with one of those really cool trophies made from a brake disc and a rock from the quarry. I was really chuffed! I was even more chuffed when I got presented with a Hope light as the guy who had won the V50 series hadn't turned up and so I got it by default. It didn't seem fair as he was a pretty good guy and had beaten me soundly each race but they had to present the prize and keep the sponsors happy so that's how it was.
In the SS category I knew that I'd be nowhere near the lad in Racer who looked pretty darned quick, but as I hadn't actaully seen any of the other competitors I really had no idea how it finished up. Donk had been hoping for a podium place as usually there are only 3 of us racing so he would have been guaranteed a place. Unlucky for him for the first time this year there were 4 and he was 4th. I felt for him. Mick Rushton got the 3rd spot and I was 2nd. Carl Draper deservedly won it with a fine 6 lap performance.
I made sure that I had a word with Paul, one of the organisers of the series, to let him know that I thought they had done another fantastic job and how much I'd enjoyed the whole series.
The prizes are nice but the racing and just the loads of great people at the races are what Brownbacks is all about. I hope they continue the series for years to come.
Saturday, 12 October 2013
Sunday, 22 September 2013
Cath's been training for an upcoming tri and has been riding to Bolton Parkrun, doing the 5k and riding home. It seems to have been working pretty well and I thought I'd have a go at this just to see how my 3 Peaks training affected my general fitness. So, one Saturday morning we set off. Well, I say 'we' but actually I was a bit underprepared and so set off about 10 minutes after Cath. Doh. My goal was to hammer it and try to catch up before she got there. Not an easy task believe me. I just saw her pulling into the park as I approached.
Which leads us to the next day...
Brownbacks mtb race series race 3. I signed up for the series of 4 races with the intention of doing well in the Vet 50 category. I'd had 2 3rd places so far, which was ok but I felt like I was a bit fitter now. Could I improve on it? Cath and Will came along to marshal on what turned out to be a lovely day. The course had been billed as being fast. I pre-rode it and my initial thought was 'I don't like this'. Too many short steep uphills and no respite just what you don't need on a singlespeed! So, I rocked up on the start line to discover that I was competing on two fronts - there were only 4 in the V50 but (gasp) there were some more singlespeeders! First time this series I wasn't going to have it all to myself. Good news - I hate feeling such a div standing on the podium for the singlespeed prize on my own. Every time... The bad news was that one of them was in the v40 class and so set off before me and - even worse - t'other was in Racer class and looked the part, despite his protestations that he wasn't really a Racer.
Eventaully we set off and I had a stinker. Couldn't get any grip setting off and I had to get on and off about 3 times while everybody else buggered off up the hill. Finally I was off and fired up. I was soon up to speed and right with the guy in 2nd V50. The leader (and winner of the previous two races) was away in the distance. I was having a good race with V50 number 2 - guy in a Lyme RC shirt. I was right with him on one of the aforementioned steep little climbs when he had a bit of a stall at the top off it meaning I had to stop and get off. I guessed he had missed a gear and carried on. Further on there was a little rock step up through a gate, Again I was right behind him and again he did a bit of a stall and I had to get off and lose time. I now realised he was doing it on purpose and I wasn't a happy bunny. I passed Cath's marshalling point and told her what was happening. As we climbed the next section I went to get a good line of traction on the inside and as I 'undertook' we clashed bars. I had to get off on this hill anyway as my bike was geared too tall to get up it. So I ran. Ran!
The race continued and I was settling in. I was a bit behind Lyme RC by now but still in sight. After a while I glanced up to see him and a guy from the Racer cat on the floor. The Racer seemed pretty unhappy. he picked his bike up and then threw it down in disgust when he realised it had been damaged. I shot past while they were arguing the toss. I knew there wasn't much chance (read none) of catching the V50 leader so all I had to do was keep in front of my 'mate' from Lyme.
There was of course still the singlespeed category to contest. I saw the V40 bloke ahead. He was on a blue 29er that he had told me was 'homebrewed'. I started to reel him in and eventually passed him. I was feeling pretty good now and put the hammer down to make sure he stayed behind. I was getting some great support round the course - there were some kids at a marshal point who had some bike forks they used as cowbells and shouted out 'Mr Sparkle' in a Rod and Todd Flanders stylee every lap - and I always got a good shout out as I crossed the finish line. It really spurred me on.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the Racer guy who was leading the singlespeed category a distance ahead. He turned back at that moment and saw me. I thought to myself 'I'm going to have you.' On we went, dodging round people in other categories but just focussed on each other. He was a tidy rider and smoothly pulled away on the massive berms and whoops. I would reel him back on the climbs. Finally I was on him. I really pushed on, feeling surprisingly energetic at a stage of the race I usually started to fade on.
Harder and harder I raced, my mouth wide open to hoover air in. Last part of the last lap. An uphill to the line. A kid in front of me, obviously no threat to me but I was hammering and we crossed the line next to each other. I'd done it! 2nd V50 and 1st Singlespeed! I was really made up.
I still felt good at the finish. So, thinking of the 3 Peaks I decided to ride home. It's not really that far but it felt good. 13 1/2 on/off miles in just under an hour after podiuming in a race. I felt like one of those 'proper' Enduro race heroes like Terrahawk or Twinkly Dave. Apart from the Peaks the miles in the legs would come in handy for ...
I've done the Mary Towneley Loop quite a few times over the years and I do ahve quite an affection for it. My fastest time was 5:04 many years ago when it was held earlier in the year (read better conditions) on my first SS. Thbis would be a true test to see how my Peaks training was going. It's 10 miles longer and has more total ascent (if not actually 3 mountains). I did contemplate using the cross bike to do it but ultimately decided to do it on the SS. Two reasons: I have suspension on the mountain bike and I didn't want to damage the 'crosser at this stage in the game.
The weather forecast was, frankly, dreadful. Heavy rain absolutely guaranteed. Smashing. There was a good turnout of people lined up at Fearns college despite this - over 190 starters. As yet the weather was not too bad. From the traps it was the usual sprint, after all there was only 47 miles to go. I'd got a lift there with Paul Julien and I knew I wouldn't see much of him after the start. He's in some form at the moment and won the v40 at Brownbacks the previous week. Budge was also there and I hoped that I'd be around his sort of pace. Possibly even quicker.
I'm not sure how I managed it but twice I went wrong on a route I've done at least 6 times! WTF?! I settled in and although I was finding it hard on some of the climbs into a headwind on 32:16, I churned on. Sections came back to me and I yo-yoed between riders out on the course. The weather finally set it's stall out and became worse and worse. The wind picked up and the rain set in. My core was warm but my hands began to get soaked and I lost feeling in my fingers. Damn you Reynauds syndrome.
I caught up to Budge around the half way point and we rode together along London Rd below Stoodly Pike and on towards Summit. I paused at the checkpoint to put on some dry gloves and eat chocolate while Budge carried on. I know the next stretch like the back of my hand as I've run it several times on the old Relay. Pushing hard I eventually caught Budge as we headed towards the 'Godforsaken Golf Course' as I have dubbed it.
Again we rode together. Budge was in good spirits and was keeping me going. I was starting to suffer now. The hard climbs into the wind and the cold (I couldn't actually feel the bars by now) were taking their toll. By the time we got to the notorious Rooley Moor Rd I was at a low ebb. I strained up the climbs and at times I just couldn't keep the bike moving so was off and running, at times. My arms felt like I was tearing them out of the sockets and I was hurting. I'd dropped Budge on the climb, probably due to him having access to lower gears. I neared Cragg Quarry, although it took me a while to realise due to the low cloud. It was now REALLY hard. Suddenly Budge shot past with a cheery word. On I struggled. Past the Cragg trails and out onto the highest section. The wind was howling and I actually got blown off the bike twice! Finally I reached the turn off for the last descent down to Cowpe. I was battered by now and minced down the hill. The rain continued to lash down as I whizzed down the road and on towards the final road climb on then - at last - to the finish!
There were some tired bodies in the hall afterwards. It had been a tough day. I felt sorry for the people who do it as a real challenge - the last rider home took ten hours and 40 minutes! Imagine being out for so long in those conditions! When the results went online I discovered that I'd come 16th out of 172 finishers in 4:50. Although I was a bit disappointed to not be closer to Budge (he got an impressive 4:37) but I was pretty pleased to finish so high up on a SS in those conditions. Oh and it was a new PB for the MTL for me.
Now for the 3 Peaks...
Saturday, 7 September 2013
My hands are rammed deep into the drops of a pair of wildly bucking handlebars as I try to scrub some speed and get back on the right side of control. I'm rattling down the rocky diagonal descent from Darwen Tower on the 9th of 10 reps that comprise a steep hill carry, fast descent and sprint across the 'flat' bit of the triangle. It'll take me just over 2 hours of hard effort to complete. Sweat and snot streak my face. Three Peaks Cyclocross sadomasochism.
It's my birthday. I'm 51.
Friday, 30 August 2013
I've started running again. More importantly I've started running again and enjoying it. The past few weeks I've been going up to Dashers on a Thursday night and going for a run with the dog. We've both had fun and it's worked out well. I don't really feel up to going with a group as yet, mainly because I still feel slow but also it'd be hard work with Sam.
Anyway, as I say I've had a few weeks of running offroad so, me being me, I decided to have go at the Gala race. Not only did I decide to have a go but I also stated that I would in my Editorial for the August Dash. No jibbing out then.
I'm pretty fit at the moment as I've been really putting in the bike training for the 3 Peaks cx so I knew I could get round it ok. I also knew that my legs are far from used to the battering a fell race gives but that wasn't a big worry, I'd deal with that later.
I've done the Gala race many times over the years and I tend to use it as a yardstick to see how I'm going on. The last two years I got consecutive PB's which is kind of good and kind of not. I shouldn't really be getting PB's in my late 40's/early 50's. Just goes to show how crap I was before, I 'spose!
So I rolled up for the race in a bit of a strange frame of mind - this would be the first running race of the year for me and so I wasn't expecting to do particularly well. It's only a little race and so there was no pressure on me. Plus it's a course I know well and there's lot's of familiar faces knocking about to encourage/take the piss. And, above all that, you get a free pint (or two, or...) afterwards.
I'd opted to not wear my Dashers vest as
a. it was a warm day and I have a lighter weight unmarked vest and
b. I didn't expect to do the club justice, which sounds a bit lame but nonetheless it's how I felt.
Lining up at the start I found myself next to Andy 'Gadget legs' Smith who, as well as being a top bloke, is also bloody quick on his day. as we started I told him to have a good one and said 'See you later' expecting him to leave me in his dust. We got through the lower bit of the park and I was still fairly near the front. Crossed the road and into the second climb through the park. Hmm, can feel it in my thighs but I'm keeping going. Of course I am a one trick pony and that trick is going up hill but even so I'm feeling pretty good.
up to the tower and I have a bit of crack with Jonathan B and Mark W who are spectating up there. This encourages me to push on and trot down the (for me) painful descent to the foot of the moor.
Climbing again now. Good! I see Andy a few places ahead and another 5 or so places is Des who is one of our quickest guys. I catch Andy after a while and notice that Des has had a bit of a walk. 'He's cracking' I say to Andy and press on. I think I was getting a bit carried away here, with hindsight. I spotted Paul Livsey taking photos at the top of the climb and so, just for fun, I put a spurt on and dropped the group I was with and gave the trademark cheeky grin, knowing full well I couldn't keep that sort of pace up!
One of the people I passed was Graham Schofield from Horwich. I don't think he appreciated it as, when he repassed me he elbowed me out of the way! I sarcastically said 'Oh, sorry Graham'.
Across the flat bit and then onto the technical descent which I blundered down inelegantly. I didn't want to risk turning my ankle here. It's such a narrow bit of singletrack descent that nobody can get past. However once onto the wide path back down to the park it's a different story.
Andy shot past and I could hear footsteps very close behind and caught a glimpse of a blue vest behind me. Surely it couldn't be my nemesis Allan Hartley from Blackburn Harriers? I thought I'd killed him off on the climb out of the park! (It wasn't and I had, it later turned out)
Spurred on now I hammered as fast as my dodgy legs could take me, down through the park, across the road, down through the park again and finally in sight of the finish line. Ah, the old familiar 'running through treacle' sensation! I gave it everything and finished without being caught and one place behind Gadget legs.
I have to say I was really surprised to have done so well. When the results came out I was about 6 seconds off my PB, 15th overall and second Vet 50 in 29:07. Results here
I think people thought I was hamming it up a bit about not doing much running training but it was all down to the bike training. My cardiovascular system is in really good shape and I got away with the crap technique.
A few beers were sunk later and I must admit to feeling pretty chuffed with myself. I'll continue with the Thursday night sessions at Dashers for the time being as it's good cross training for the Peaks. Hell, I might even do another fell race once it's over. Hmm, David Staff maybe...
Anyway next up, Ladies & Gentlemen, is the main event, the one I have trained for for 4 months solid (crazy for a race which will take about 4 1/2 hours!) - the one - the only - Three Peaks Cyclocross.
Cross your fingers for me.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
I worked hard on this project. Finding all the films by trawling through YouTube, Vimeo and various sites including the FRA. Once I'd found the ones that I really liked I had to contact the film makers and get their permission. One of the first films on the list was 'Naylor's Run'. I contacted Striding Edge films and Eric Robson's wife Annette immediately came back to me and said that they would be very happy to give permission to show their film as it was such a good cause (Bolton Mountain Rescue Team and Dashers). The Bedlamites film was another one that I was very keen to show and again the film makers gave permission straight away. The other films were Reflections on Sixty, Racing Time, the really clever cartoon Onwards and I was very pleased to get Mark 'fellephant' Birbeck on board and show a video that he managed to get finished just before the show.
Initially I wanted to have the show at Darwen Library Theatre but at £60 and hour and a minimum of 4 hours hire then this soon became a non starter. I was put onto DACA as a venue by John East of Friends of Darwen Library and this turned out to be ideal. The hire charge was £50 for the evening and I managed to get sponsorship (from Lead On, Pro Sport Supplements and the Black Horse pub) to cover this so all the ticket money went to the charity donation. As well as donating the lion's share of the sponsorship money, my mate Baggy from the Black Horse also offered to put some sandwiches on for us in the pub after.
After an appeal for a photo to use for the poster on the FRA my mate Ady Nicholls, a Sport Sunday photographer, came up trumps with a great shot of a pair of running legs splashing through a puddle. Perfect.
I publicised the event via Twitter and FB, got in contact with the Lancashire Telegraph, put posters up and, of course, put a flier in the Dash.
Once all this was in place it was game on. I must admit to be being pretty nervous. I had no idea how many people would turn up to pay their £2.50 on the night. Would it turn out to be another poorly attended event like the Toy Run? Cath, Hannah and I headed down to DACA and started to set up. To make it more fun I decided to make it look like a fell race. I had a sign up at the desk saying 'Registration. £2.50. no kit required. No safety pins.' The way to the studio was marked with red and white barrier tape and the drinks for the interval was water and orange juice in Dashers race water containers.
Seven o' clock arrived and people began to trickle in. Paul Livsey and Jonathan Stubbs from Dashers had offered to help out. Livsey took some photos and Stubbsy manned the lights in the studio.
Clearing my throat I nervously stood in front of everyone and began:
A seventy year old fell runner travels across rough terrain and extreme weather conditions in pursuit of an indefinable target... Based on a poem by Chris Woods
Finally I could get my soaking kit off and struggle into dry stuff. I found a biscuit and crammed it in. My fingers were still totally dead and I was still shivering. Eventually Dave Billi appeared. he'd also pulled out. We started the van and got the heater blasting out. When he'd got changed he went and got some of the free hot drinks that the organiser provided.
We sat in the van for a long time. It was obvious that Paul had carried on. I was impressed but I didn't envy him. Another hot drink and some food was tucked away. Much later Paul arrived. He'd had a rough time of it witht the cold and wet and some dodgy way marking had seen him go astray but he'd finished. It turned out later that about 75% of racers had pulled out so Paul had done bloody well.
Driving home I reflected on what, for me, had been one of the worst days out on the bike for many a year. it was such a shame as the organisers had done a good job and in different conditions it would have been a cracking day out. I also kicked myself for being so complacent in not taking the right kit with me. With my poor resistance to cold and Reynauds Syndrone I had had a real mare and could quite easily have gone into full blown hypothermia. One to put down to experience and learn a lesson from, I think.
SSUK '13, Swanage, Dorset. 3rd - 6th May
I'd been looking forward to this since signing up for it. It was going to be a bit of an unknown quantity as I was taking Cath with me. her first time at a singlespeed event. She was going to use Will's bike with the seat right down. It was also her first time on a singlespeed!
We'd had to wait for Hannah getting back from a college trip before we could set off. It was about 10.30am before we hit the road south. On a Bank Holiday Friday. Smashing. Initially we made good progress but eventually our luck ran out and we hit standing traffic. The motorway had been closed due to an accident and we had to head onto A and B roads. We got stuck several times on the way down due to the sheer volume of people heading away for the weekend. Ah well, at least the sun was shining,
We couldn't get on the main campsite used for the event, which was a bit of a shame. As it turned out we were quite a way away from it and no-one else from the event was where we were. The site was nice though. We had a reasonable meal at the restaurant that night and retired.
Anyway it was a strange do for a singlespeed event. Due to us being a bit removed from it all there was no getting hammered and talking crap for hours with like minded loons. Not a complaint really as it was nice to just have a mini break with the Mrs somewhere new - and sunny! Bonus!
We headed down to Charlie's shop with the intention of us both doing the Saturday ride. Fate stepped in and put the mockers on that one. We'd driven down and had to pay for a full days parking (£8!!) and by the time we'd got the bikes out and ready to go the large throng of riders that had been hanging out on the sea front looking all niche and that, had buggered off! Aaargh! We had a guess at which way they had gone and set off in pursuit but to no avail. However, it soon became apparent that Cath wasn't overly happy on the Inbred. It was too big, she'd never ridden a SS before and then the freehub started playing up. FFS. Taking this as a sign we opted to head back into Swanage, dump the bikes back in the car and have a mooch and a pub lunch. Hey ho.
That evening we went out for a drive to check out where the Sunday event started from. It was a lovely pub overlooking the sea and the Old Harry rock. We had our tea there. As it was still quite early we also checked out Corfe Castle as I knew the route passed through it. It was in a fantastic little village and there was some sort of crazy re-enactment thing going on there. I'm not quite sure what the theme was as there seemed to be Mongol hordes, Vikings, Saxons and er, a guy in a pith helmet with what looked like welders goggles on. Hmm.
Sunday dawned and yet again we went to Swanage. The event briefing largely consisted of Charlie telling us 'Don't be a dick'. Ok then. Everybody else rode up to the headland and we went back to the car to drive up so Cath could keep up with what was going on. We had a bit of a flap when we discovered the bloody battery had gone flat but eventually I got us sorted (tip - don't buy a car with a fecking electric handbrake as you can't bump it).
Up at the pub people were milling around quaffing pints before the off. Yep, that's pretty singlespeedy, I thought. As it wasn't a race and went through some popular areas on a Bank Holiday weekend we set off in small groups. I was soon up on the Downs (pardon?) and admiring the view out to sea on what was a gorgeous day. I bumped into a guy I know from Hit the North and hooked up riding with him and his American girl;friend for a while. This guy can ride a bit and despite him recovering from snapped tendon in his wrist he was hammering along. It was fun staying with him.
Eventually we ended up as part of a larger group dropping down to the midway point where upon someone uttered the immortal line 'Where are you headed for? For Corfe!' Think about it...
The place was rammed. Loons in various types of armour mixed with loons on one geared bicycles while tourists looked on, mouths agape. I tucked into a nice pint of bitter and bumped into Keef who I'd first properly met at SSEC t'other month. He introduced me to his lot including Tazzy the tattooed beat messiah and Keefs lad who was riding a 1940's fixie!! When we set off again it was apparent that they were taking a more leisurely approach to the ride so I kicked back and stayed with them.
The route was nice, and the weather made it even better. We had an extended stop to mend a couple of punctures and then we were at the finish. Surprisingly enough it was at a pub! We sprawled about in the sunshine and quaffed pints of bitter and cider and suddenly it was your typical SS do.
There was a hog roast and a Scottish poet (??) and eventually there was the presentation. Charlie had asked everyone to bring something with them to put in the prize stash - a belting idea, I thought. The 'winner' of the 'race' was eventually decided on and a very surprised looking girl got to choose something nice from the pile. Various other things were awarded prizes - worst tattoo being a particular standout! Eventually it ended up with 'help yourself to whats left'. I think pretty much everybody got something.
Cath eventually dragged me off before I got totally wasted - I had been in deep conversation about drugs with a couple of mates from Brighton - and we headed back to the tent. It had been a great day.
After a bracing walk up a nearby hill in the morning we packed up and wended our way home. It only took 5 1/2 hours to get home!
It had been a great weekend away and Charlie the Bikemonger had put on a great event. Fair play to the big fella.
Thursday, 2 May 2013
'So it's a race then?' 'Er, there is a race but it's not really a race' 'Right, so it's a bike meet?' 'Well, kind of, but not really.' 'Party?' 'Sort of.' 'Sigh. So WTF is it then??' 'Er...'
A lot happened on this trip. So much so that it would take me forever to blog it all. Suffice it to say we had one of the best weekends ever. Here's a few tasters of what went on.
Catalonia is quite a long way away from Darwen. You're talking 16 + hours driving and several tanks of juice. So we flew to Girona which is right next to the town of Sant Gregori where the event was held, and hired a car to carry the 3 of us (Will, Paul and me) and our bikes and camping stuff. It was a bit of a logistical nightmare but Paul proved to be pretty adept at sorting stuff so it was all good. We'd arranged to arrive on the Thursday, the day before the event actually started. I got permission from Carolina one of the organisers, as it was supposed to be Staff only on the site then. We rocked up and got the tents up. We'd had the foresight to stop off at a supermarket on the way in and stock up on the essentials - largely San Miguel. This was to be a theme for the whole trip.
The weather was lovely - shorts and t shirt weather. Remember that? No, I'm struggling to as well. The camp was on an area of wooded parkland behind a sports complex who's facilities we had access to. Real toilets and hot showers. Luxury! As we arrived we met Carolina and Marcal and it was immediately obvious that they were both just really genuine, salt of the earth, lovely people. This proved itself time and time again over the time we were there.
Quite a few other had turned up early as well and set up camp. These included a group of Dutch lads. I knew them by sight but hadn't really spoken to them much in the past. I recognised Toby Fallon and a lad called Thijs. They went off to socialise and returned later once we had gone to bed. I was pretty knackered after the early start and the travelling and once the Cloggies rolled in in the early hours and then started shouting and carrying, on my patience was sorely tried. After what felt like many hours of them keeping me awake I could stand it no longer and shouted out 'OH, WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!!!'
The next day was the official start of SSEC and more and more people rolled in.The Norn Irish lads had turned up in their amazing £100 caravan. It had had a respray since we last saw it in Floressas at SSEC '12.
Saturday, 30 March 2013
The bike riding is keeping me sane. I've been riding to work 3 - 4 times a week and trying to get out every Sunday when the weather has been good enough. The snow has been bloody amazing. We've had some properly heavy falls. Crap for mountain biking in but fun to trot round in.
Anyway here's some pics.
The other Saturday I went out for a run on t'moors with Cath and Livsey and various mutts. It was great!
Me looking happy:
Sunday, 10 March 2013
Video here. Me at 8 seconds and here. Me at 2 mins 7 seconds. And my ass here at 11 seconds!
Thursday, 28 February 2013
The Dark Un has been and gone. The focus of so much of my attention for the last couple of months is over. How did it go? Well, I must say it went pretty darned well again. I had a few on-the-night glitches which had the stressometer bouncing off the rev limiter but they were soon resolved. They did make me realise that I need to factor in a few contingency plans for next year.
At the risk of sounding like one of those tedious American style over emotional types the thing that struck me yet again was - how many people 'got' it. I put a lot into this race, both time and effort. I like people to know what's going on, I like to inject some fun into the proceedings, I like to have a couple of social recce runs in both daylight and darkness so that people know what to expect and, you know, I really believe that people pick up on this.
There are some truly nice folk doing the race and there are a whole lot of bloody good people helping to make it what it is. I have been even more aware this year of the kindness and generosity that people have shown - donating presents, marshalling, helping mark the course, lending walkie talkies and much more. It's been quite humbling.
On the night we got 62 runners taking part, a bit down on the 75 limit but not to worry. I had been marking out earlier in the day and had a look at two areas of the course with ice on. The night before I had a sleepless night worrying about this - should I re-route, or even cancel? On inspection I opted, correctly I feel, to make sure that everyone was well appraised of the danger and put extra marshals in the problem areas.
Shortly after 7.30pm they all charged off into the darkness and then it was all pretty much out of my control. Last year there was a bit of a lull at this point but this time it seemed to be pretty headlong immediately - setting up the finish, getting the fire bin lit(!), getting the water station sorted and all the timers and finish line crew sorted and in place. It flew by. Last year I'd had at least one pint by this stage and was far more sanguine and relaxed about things. I definitely make a mistake in doing without - note to self for next year: get some pints paid on beforehand!
Once we were set up and organised my phone rang. It was Will up at the moortop Acid House Disco (what? Doesn't every fell race have one?) to say that the leader had just gone through. Blimey, it was going to be a quick time! Soon, away up the field, a little twinkling light became brighter and brighter and then Mark Russell flew across the finish line for a comfortable win in a new record time. He won it last year too and seems to be making the race his own.
After a short while the second placed runner arrived and then the flood gates opened and it was pretty much a stream of people coming in. I tried to give everyone a quick 'well done, thanks for doing it' and a handshake. I still couldn't relax and kept checking with the timing crew that all was well. They were fantastic and had no problems at all. Very organised and efficient.
Soon they were all home and heading off to get changed. I cleared the finish line and put the fire out before heading to the marquee that Mark and Alison of the Royal had kindly put on for us. Inside there was a great hubub of knackered runners swapping tall tales, supping beer and queueing up for their chip butties.
Paul Livsey put me out of my sobriety by furnishing me with a pint that barely touched the sides and then it was time to do the presentation.
Forcing back my natural shyness I had to become Mr Sparkle, race organiser. I balanced unsteadily on a bench in front of a table laden with prizes and did my 'Thank you's'. Alison and Mark had provided bottles of wine for the age group winners and everyone got something off the table too - sweets, beer and Body Shop stuff. I also gave a prize for best reaction to the disco because ... well, just because it amused me I suppose! Then some spot prizes and a couple of throw outs until everything went. Phew! I could relax at last.
Back into the pub and the beer began to flow. It turned into an excellent night with loads of banter. There's few things better in life than a good Dashers piss up! Eventually it was time to get home and so we packed 7 people into a 5 seater car and set off for Darwen. Gifford in the boot, Linda across the back row knees and Vikki with her head out the window, throwing up.
As I've said before a lot of people gave a lot of help for the event and I am really indebted to them all. You know who you are. By the time I'd finished clearing the last of the course markers away on Saturday I was receiving emails from people who'd taken part thanking us for putting it on and especially thanking the brilliant, enthusiastic marshals.
Will it be on next year? If Alison and Mark will have us, if Untited Utilities give us permission, if the FRA will insure it, then Hell Yes! See you there!
The Royal - chip butties, prizes and venue
All Dashers and friends who helped in any way.
Sweatshop for race numbers and vouchers
Sport Sunday for attending and loan of walkie talkies http://www.sportsunday.co.uk/mr-sparkles-dark-un-2013
Frank Barnes for loan of skip lights
Lancashire Telegraph for helping promote it and sending a photographer/ reporter
Bolton Mountain Rescue Team
Every single person that took part.